For art director Alan Bodner, working on animated special “Mickey the Brave!” (premiering July 16 on Disney Junior) was a chance to pay homage to “The Mickey Mouse Club,” which he grew up watching as a child.
“You felt as if you were in a storybook,” Bodner reflects as he remembers the beautiful sets. The styling and whimsical feel of the series were ideas that he pointed to when it came to creating the special episode that kicks off the “Mickey Mouse Funhouse” series. The primetime special sees Mickey Mouse and his friends Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Pluto go on an adventure to the funhouse forest to find out if dragons are good or bad.
The fearlessly bold colors and fantastical world of Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” served as an influence for “Mickey the Brave!,” but the new episode wasn’t simply a copy. “We wanted to look at what was the feeling that made those films so special in the design, so we took that and built the world,” he says.
For a scene in a pie shop that bursts with color and warmth, Bodner drew on the idea of being in a diner on Disney’s Main Street, U.S.A. To complete the shop’s rooftop, he ditched the standard red brick and animated a pie, with frosting on top. The idea was for the viewer to feel as if walking into the store was like “opening up this jewelry box, and the rooftop made from pie was just magical.”
One sequence sees the characters atop a mountain, fighting off the dragon, only to learn that the creature is not such a baddie after all. “I got the biggest charge out of the dragon squirting water from the river at Mickey,” says Bodner.
While the art director didn’t have physical locations to enhance, he still had to create worlds — including a refreshing waterfall sequence. He prioritized color and emotion, considering the water as a character and making the vegetation a warm, earthy tone and the sky a baby pink so the green-blue of the water would stand out.
As a tribute to Disney style, the art director kept characters like Minnie Mouse in her hallmark pink with white polka dots. The dragon was a vibrant purple that was appealing to children. “We went for that color and made him nonthreatening in his shape and curves,” Bodner says. “He’s not fearsome.”