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How Rough Were "Fergy Ruffs"?

A Picture Essay

It's a given, in writings about the great Disney animator Norman Ferguson, that he worked very roughly, but the question is sometimes raised, how roughly? As you can see from these seven "Fergy ruffs," the answer is, sometimes very roughly indeed.

These drawings were probably for The Pointer, although I haven't been able to identify the scene. Along with some other Pointer drawings and a few other "Fergys ruffs," they were saved for decades by the late George Goepper, one of Ferguson's assistants. George lent the drawings to Milt Gray in 1977, when Milt interviewed George for Hollywood Cartoons (and, as it turned out, The Animated Man), and I had most of them photographed.

George told Milt at the time, as Milt explained to me, that although Ferguson put more work into held poses, he cared less about action extremes "and therefore would leave [them] to his assistants to finish. ... These drawings have not been retouched by assistants—the clean-ups were made on separate sheets of paper. These originals have survived because George used them as examples to show the trainee inbetweeners when he taught at Disney's in the late '30s. The Disney morgue kept only the final production drawings from the films."

The pictures below are lacking in more than one respect. The 1977 photos captured the easy swing of Ferguson's line reasonably well, but despite my coaxing with Photoshop, I haven't been able to bring out that swing in these digital versions. In addition, I can't swear that the drawings are in the proper order. Numbers are not visible on the photos, and I have to assume they were not visible on the drawings, either.

What you have here is not a perfect reproduction of Ferguson's work by any means, but simply some evidence of how extraordinarily loose and free his animation often was.

Fergy Ruff 1

Fergy Ruff 2

Fergy Ruff 3

Fergy Ruff 4

Fergy Ruff 5

Fergy Ruff 6

Fergy Ruff 7

[Posted April 12, 2007]