When I saw Mark Henn at The Lion King panel at D23 Expo, I immediately knew I wanted to meet him, so when I learned that he would be meeting my blogger friends and me at The VOID for the Ralph Breaks The Internet Premiere Event, I was in awe.
We were one of the first groups to experience Ralph Breaks VR, which was so revolutionary and fun!
Mark Henn is a veteran supervising animator, animator, and director at Walt Disney Animation Studios serving as the 2D animation supervisor for the studios’ Academy Award®-nominated feature film Ralph Breaks The Internet and we were going to be walking the red carpet that night.
Mark Henn gave us a personal lesson on the process for drawing Vanellope von Schweetz and making Ralph Breaks The Internet, and we were also surprised with a special treat: drawing Ariel for us, too!
Ralph Breaks the Internet is NOW AVAILABLE instantly on Digital 4K Ultra HD™/HD/SD and Movies Anywhere and will be physically on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 26 with a wide range of exclusive extras, including behind the scenes at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Easter eggs, and never before revealed deleted scenes.
I’m going to share some interesting and fun facts about Mark Henn, who is affectionately labeled as “the princess guy” because of his work on so many Disney Princesses!
Interesting Facts From Disney Animator Mark Henn – The Disney Princess Guy
Mark Henn is super friendly. The first thing he said to me was “I love your shirt!” and I hear Mulan may just be his favorite princess. He also mentioned that his sisters were born in Waco, which is a short drive away from where I live in Fort Worth, TX.
Mark Henn joined Disney in 1980 and animated Mickey Mouse in Mickey’s Christmas Carol and worked on Oliver and the Artful Dodger in Oliver & Company.
Mark Henn wears a 20 year Mickey ring, it’s the 20-year service award, which they don’t make anymore.
Mark Henn has been hand drawing and animating at Walt Disney Animation Studios for almost 39 years.
In 2000, Mark Henn directed the award-winning short John Henry, based on the popular American legend. He refers to this experience as “a real treat” and told us “I would love to do that again.“
Mark Henn animated Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Belle in Beauty and the Beast, and young Simba in The Lion King.
Mark Henn was a supervising animator on The Rescuers Down Under, Aladdin, Mulan, Home on the Range, Winnie the Pooh, The Ballad of Nessie, The Princess and the Frog, and Lilo & Stitch, and an animator on Pocahontas, The Emperor’s New Groove, Enchanted, Frozen, Get a Horse!, and Saving Mr. Banks.
In 2018, Mark Henn painted a new official portrait of Mickey Mouse, titled “Spreading Happiness Around the World,” for Mickey’s 90th anniversary.
Mark Henn works with directors, animation supervisors, and animators to bring what he has learned from the previous generation.
Mark Henn considers that, even though hand-drawn animation is different than computer animation, the thought and the philosophy of Disney animation haven’t changed, and he brings his years of experience to teach that.
Before working on Ralph Breaks The Internet, Mark Henn served as a lead 2D animator, a resource, and mentor for Academy Award®-winning “Big Hero 6” and “Frozen.”
Mark Henn carries a little notepad with him as he sits in dailies, so he can make little sketches and doodles that might suggest a better pose, a stronger expression, or different ideas.
On Moana, Mark Henn was part of the team that animated the tattoos in “Mini Maui.”
Mark Henn is still doing a lot of hand-drawn animation. He belongs to a group called The Legacy, which does a lot of work primarily for the park and redid the Firework show at Walt Disney World in Florida, where he “got to bring Tiana back to life.” The Legacy group worked on several shows for Tokyo, the Christmas show, their 35th anniversary in Tokyo, all of which required new hand-drawn animation that would be projected onto the castle.
And speaking of Florida, Mark Henn (originally from Dayton, Ohio), moved to Florida In 1989, to help establish the feature animation studio there.
Mark Henn has a nameplate in the Orlando Studio that says, Julia Roberts:
I went to New York to do a pre-press event for Beauty and the Beast with my friend Glen who animated the Beast…I did Belle. We were introduced as the Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts of animation.
Mark Henn is currently working on Frozen 2 in the capacity of animator mentor resource with Tony and Becky, who are animation students.
Mark Henn met with the animation crew on the new The Lion King live-action. They did a Skype question and he answered the questions they had.
Mark Henn’s passion as an artist is getting better at what he does – hand-drawn animation.
Mark Henn loves working in a group.
I was in swim team, band, and theater, working with a team towards a common goal is exciting. That is what animation is about. It’s very rewarding.
Mark Henn has never had a muse per se, but after animating Ariel, and Belle, he hit an artistic block in coming up with Jasmine, and here’s what he did:
I had to find her. At one point, I was animating, and I remembered my younger sister’s graduation photo in my wallet, I pulled it out and thought it could work. I made a copy, blew it up, put it on my desk and got over that hurdle to find Jasmine.
Mark Henn describes trying to turn Tiana into a frog as a big challenge. Tiana was the last princess he worked on.
Mark Henn did some of the hand-drawn animations in Ralph Breaks the Internet on the Oh My Disney sequence (also known as The Princess Scene) so make sure you look for those Easter Eggs.
Out of the 14 princesses in the Oh My Disney sequence, Mark Henn has been responsible for half of them, so his biggest challenge in working on the Disney Princesses is making sure they are all unique characters people react to.
According to Mark Henn, the greatest challenge of an animator, whether traditionally or in CG, is to act and create a moment that is strong and emotional on paper or computer that any live actor can.
Mark Henn got to meet with the voice talent for the Disney Princesses along with the animation department:
We talked about their character, what it has meant to them, how it’s affected their career and their lives, as a way of sharing information with the animators who would eventually be animating these characters.
It’s fun to get a different fresh perspective It was eye-opening to hear how much these characters meant to the voice talents. It was a unique opportunity.
Mark Henn warned us that it’s sometimes hard for him to draw and talk at the same time. It’s super hard!
Mark Henn spent almost 2 years working on Ralph Breaks The Internet, after coming off of Moana. Ralph Breaks The Internet was put aside to work on Zootopia, so then they were able to pick it up and carry on.
Mark Henn told us that human characters are always considered the most difficult characters to animate. The more you do it, the better you get.
Mark Henn has an appreciation for CG animation:
The philosophy and idea of acting, creating a character/performance doesn’t change whether it’s hand-drawn or CG, it’s about the performance, you remember those characters and fall in love with them, even if it’s computer generated image or a painted cell, you forget all that and get into the stories, which is the magic of animation. There clearly are advantages with computer that would be extremely difficult or tedious for hand-drawn, but there are aesthetics in hand-drawn that you don’t get in animation. If we had CG animation available when Walt was alive, he would have embraced it!
Mark Henn said the number of crowds, and some details towards the end of Ralph Breaks The Internet would have taken 10 years to hand draw!
Mark Henn did animate on Meet the Robinsons, a CG film – and one of my favorites of all time.
It was hard, but I approached it the same way I did anything else. It’s always about the character, it’s not just moving the character, it’s how the character moves an audience. It’s acting – this is my means to an end, is the performance, my animation drawings are also rough and scribbly, and a clean-up artist takes out all those lines, and when you see that character come to life and affect an audience the same way or more than live action, that is a good day.
If you want to start animating, Mark Henn’s advice is to focus on developing an artistic eye, then you can get your hands on books on all aspects of animation and acquire computer skills!
Ok, that was a lot, but I mean, Mark Henn is a BIG DEAL and he totally deserves the spotlight, although, he is exactly the kind of Christian man who doesn’t seek it or desires it. It would be a disservice not to share it with you, though.
I’m so grateful for my new Mulan lounging wear and for the amazing opportunity of drawing with the one and only, the Disney Princess Guy, Mark Henn.
What was the most interesting fun about Disney Animator Mark Henn you learned? Share with us in the comment section below.
Don’t forget to get your copy of Ralph Breaks The Internet and to stay connected to all things Ralph Breaks The Internet by liking WRECK-IT RALPH on Facebook, following WRECK-IT RALPH on Twitter, following WRECK-IT RALPH on Instagram, and visiting the official RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET website and YouTube Channel. The official hashtag is #RalphBreaksTheInternet, and #RalphBreaksTheInternetBluray!
Elayna is a homeschool educator, single mom of 4, founder of the Positive MOM Community, award-winning Storyteller, Story Strategist, and Student of Pain. She’s a bestselling author, internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, and 3x TEDx speaker. To receive a gift from Elayna, click HERE.
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