Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Between Books – They Drew as Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Golden Age The 1930s


Book cover showing Dwarves from Snow White

I had heard a lot of good things about Didier Ghez’s They Drew as They Pleased series. But I had not pulled the trigger on a copy of this art series due to price and time. But recently the Between Wife purchased me a copy as gift. And if anything has given me joy during this pandemic it appears to be art books.

They Drew as Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Golden Age The 1930s by Ghez introduces readers to four important early Disney story artists. These artists in the Story Department did not animate or put Disney characters directly on cells. Instead they were the artists that modeled the tone, mood, models and even worked out scenes in their early stages before animators were asked to create the story. They were the draftsmen and draftswomen that created the look and story which then would be turned over to the army of animators, inkers, inbetweeners and other artists who worked directly on screen. The book is fairly simple with four main chapters crafted around one artist from the 1930s. Ghez introduces his readers to the four artists; Albert Hurter, Ferdinand Horvath, Gustaf Tenggren and Bianca Majolie including their educations, pre-Disney careers, Disney highlights and then post-Disney lives. The biographies which run around 10 pages each are then followed by pages and pages of concept art that the artist provided Disney including projects which became films and shorts along with those which were never realized.

Let me be honest, the art is gorgeous. It is presented well and allows one to dive into these story creations. And with the art being the bulk of the pages, it should be and Chronicle Books succeeds. The biography to me were fairly interesting as they showed me some trends among the artists I was not fully familiar with. First, many early Disney artists had European roots and sensibilities, which then had a large impact on his early fairy tale films. Also, while we may thing of animators who stayed on for years, the early story artists appear to have had relativity short careers at the studio. Additionally, I really enjoyed reading about Majolie who had ties to young Walt in Chicago and how she was able to grow into the story artist role as a woman in a very male dominated department.

They Drew as Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Golden Age The 1930s is likely a must for Disney art history fans. The pages are pleasing, but I personally could use a few additional context captions being more word based. And I have read, even written, history in this short biography format. But some may balk at a $30 price tag for this style of book. For one, I really like it as an addition to the Between Books shelf and will likely add more in the future.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Between Books – 2020 Hyperion Historical Alliance Annual


Cover of 2020 Hyperion Historial Alliance Alliance

As someone who has a history degree and been part of history associations, I have some pretty high standards for what content should be from these professional groups.  Then tie in Disney and the contributors who are participating in the Hyperion Historical Alliance, well a fairly high bar is set.  With the “2019Hyperion Historical Alliance Annual”, I found a concern or two.  Would the Alliance’s second annual correct the concerns I had?

In his introduction, Hyperion Historical Alliance President Didier Ghez notes that the first Annual appeared to really focus on production and artists.  And for this volume they attempted to provide a wider array of topics.  I am not sure that they fully hit with this stated goal as five of the six essays are really based on filmed productions and only one theme park based article.  However, I never really noticed the focus on production.  Instead I found myself caught up on an unintentional theme, Disney female pioneers.  Of the six articles, three have a focus on female contributions in Disney history and unearthed to me some unknown interesting Disney figures.  And Ghez’ article on Mickey Mouse productions also adds additional female contributions.  And on a whole I found these articles interesting and engaging. 

The “2020 Hyperion Historical Alliance Annual” consists of six articles.  The first two highlight the contributions of two female creators in the 1930s and 1940s giving an overview of the careers of Betty Smith-Totten and Grace Huntington.  Both articles make it clear these women were trailblazers in numerous areas of their lives and the impact of women at Disney.  “A Preview of Disney’s World” chronicles the Walt Disney World Preview Center, with a focus on staffing and the Center’s impact on promoting the future theme park.  “Wise Dwarfs and Thrifty Pigs” outlines the use of Disney animation to promote Canadian War Bonds during World War II, which really shows the innovative ways Disney reused animation for new purposes.  And finally, “Mickey’s Revivals” discusses the attempts to get Mickey back on the big screen from the 1970s to the recent past. 

One of my complaints of the earlier volume was adapted work that I had seen elsewhere and in multiple forms.  To me these articles were all fresh and new research.  The one that likely worked the least for me was the Mickey article, as it felt like it was the one which could have been written without special access to unpublished documents or interviews.  And it just reminded me that I wish the Hyperion Historical Alliance was less exclusive and a path for those who are interested in Disney history to have more active participation.

And I can guarantee, I will purchase next year’s annual especially after the quality of the articles in the 2020 edition.