David Koenig in Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks tells the story of Disney animated films from Snow White to The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The book is divided into periods of Disney animation history, with Koenig providing an overview of developments within Disney animation during each period. Koenig outlines the original source material of each animated feature and describes how each story was transformed during production to the films we know today. He also includes sections in each chapter on topics that include plot holes, bloopers, audience reaction and how the movie was translated into the parks as rides, shows or landmarks. Interspersed throughout the book are text boxes that provide additional facts that readers are likely to be interested in such as identifying hidden Mickeys, the comparison between The Lion King and Kimba the White Lion, and a statistical orphan rating (The Orphan-O-Meter) for animated characters.
I found this book highly informative. What I really enjoyed was a better understanding of the original stories and how they were updated to make the Disney feature. Pinocchio, you are a jerk! Koenig helped me understand how the original Pinocchio stories were a morality play where our favorite puppet misbehaved in ways we would not imagine in a family Disney film. For example, Pinocchio killed the Talking Cricket with a mallet in one of the original stories. This is just one example of how Koenig’s summary of the original stories gives additional depth to the movies. And the comparisons between the original tales followed by an analysis of Disney production that helps one understand what is required to take print stories and transform them to the silver screen. And who doesn’t want to know plot holes and bloopers to amaze (or bore) their friends?
The biggest negative to this book is that Disney animation moves on while books are a snapshot in time. This review is based on the 1997 hardcover edition. Since then Koenig did update the text with a 2001 paperback which is also available as an eBook. However, that edition also is just a snapshot and concludes with Tarzan in 1999. Just like one updates apps to get additional content and levels, this is the kind of book that readers may wish could be updated with every new Disney animated feature.