Photos By Fritz Reyes
Photos By Fritz Reyes.

The Hans Bacher Collection: Inside the production design of Disney’s Mulan

Take a gander at the creation of one of Disney’s most well-loved films, Mulan.

By Casey Delvo | Tuesday, 21 May 2019

For the first time in the Philippines, the works of Hans Bacher, one of the world’s most acclaimed animators and production designers, is now on display with The Hans Bacher Collection. Spearheaded by the Benilde Center for Campus Art (CCA) and the AB Animation program, the exhibit opened last May 16.

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Photos by Fritz Reyes

Held at the 11/F Animation Hallway of the School of Design and Arts (SDA) Campus, this exhibit centers on the production design of one of the most well-loved animated films of all time—Disney’s Mulan. A simple yet impactful tale of a girl in Imperial China who breaks away from the standards of tradition and forges her own destiny, it’s no surprise that Mulan, which was released in 1998, continues to capture the hearts of countless generations.

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Photos by Fritz Reyes

The exhibit opened with remarks from Patrick Astilla, the Animation Department Chair, Arch. Gerry Torres, Head of the CCA, Benilde President Br. Dennis Magbanua, FSC, and finally, legendary production designer Hans Bacher himself.

In his message, Bacher said the featured pieces were a mere sliver of his collection. “I think there’s enough material for probably an exhibition every two weeks for the next 10 years. I always had that dream for the last, probably 15 to 18 years to share what I have with students who want to learn —[who] want to profit from the work of the past.”

The exhibit consists of concept sketches for characters, paintings of the scene locations, clay models, notes, and everything in between, giving the audience a glimpse of how the individual parts of Mulan were developed. The overall style of the film was Bacher’s own idea, conceptualized in within the span of a few hours, as said in his opening message.

After working on visual development for about two years, Bacher and his team of some 20 artists still didn’t have the final look, until it came to him one night.

“I had the idea and I painted the first three paintings, one after the other, and I knew when those three designs were finished – that’s the look of the film. After that, the director fell from his chair and said ‘oh my god, that’s it!’ I was happy that the whole thing fell out of my brain and onto paper,” he said.

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Photo by Fritz Reyes

Bacher, who has also worked on films such as Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, The Lion King and Atlantis to name a few, has had a passion for animation from a young age, inspired by films such as 101 Dalmatians and Bambi.

In an interview with The Benildean, Bacher said “I think I did the first animated tests when I was only 10 or 11 years old, and I made my first animated short when I was 14 [or] so. I always knew I wanted to do it. [But] it took about fifteen years until I finally entered feature films.”

In the time that he was not working on animation, Bacher became something of a jack of all trades on the creative side of film and television, creating everything from advertisements to character designs.

Of his vast repertoire of work, Mulan was the one he was most proud of.

“It nearly looks like what I had in mind. And the translations from the very first designs to the final film is pretty well done. There’s only a very small amount of criticism that I have. But yeah, in general it is the one that I’m proud of.”

The Hans Bacher Collection can be viewed at the 11/F Animation Hallway of the SDA campus and runs from May 17 to August 31, 2019.

Last updated: Monday, 28 June 2021