Claude Coats: Walt Disney’s Imagineer-The Making of Disneyland From Toad Hall to the Haunted Mansion and Beyond by David Bossert is an excellent addition to the history of Disney Imagineering. The text balances images with narratives and gives this legendary Imagineer the chronicle he deserves.
The text offers exactly as titled. Bossert works through Coats’ career from birth to the completion of one of his most famous projects, The Haunted Mansion. The book outlines his early career from art student to animation. Bossert follows with discussions of his transitioning to work on Disneyland, moving beyond design to actually painting backgrounds to get the work done. The discussion of the Grand Canyon Diorama is one of the most in-depth that I have seen. Chapters provide details on his collaborations for the fan-beloved Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. But along the journey, the book includes interludes on presentations to NASA and painting for the U.S. Air Force. The text is well-balanced with Coats’ images and text providing historical context to Coats’ work.
The text is really well done overall. Bossert helps us understand Coats as an artist as he was someone who unlike Marc Davis did not work alone in his office. But instead would often work outside working on models and collaborating with other artists. Bossert frames Coats, not as someone who would be adversarial with other artists. But instead, someone who was a team player, mentor, and project management. Additionally, the chapter on the Air Force paintings demonstrated Coats as an artist outside of his Disney work and makes it clear that he truly was a respected Califroonaia fine artist. The biggest gap I see in the books is a lack of discussion after the Haunted Mansion. It would be interesting to be able to compare the frustrated Marc Davis after the Mansion with Coats and how he navigated being creative as the next generation grew into their own.
Claude Coats: Walt Disney’s Imagineer-The Making of Disneyland From Toad Hall to the Haunted Mansion and Beyond by David Bossert is a great inclusion to the Between Books bookshelf. It is well written and illustrated. And it clearly left me wanting more. Maybe we needed a two-volume set here!