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They Drew As They Pleased Volume 5: The Hidden Art Of Disney’s Early Renaissance: The 1970s and 1980s by Didier Ghez (book review).

September 4, 2019 | By | Reply More

For the fifth volume of ‘They Drew As They Pleased’, Didier Ghez only covers two designers at Disney and, as he points out in the introduction, this late period in Disney history hasn’t really been covered before. With the old guard retiring and Walt Disney himself dead in 1966, they needed some decent all-rounders to be heads of the design department.

They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Early Renaissance, The 1970sand 1980s by Didier Ghez, Foreword by Don Hahn, published by Chronicle Books (£35)

Ken Anderson (1909-1999) was originally a trained architect looking for work and urged by his wife to apply to Disney. The fact that he knew perspective quickly moved him away from being an inbetweener and into design. The fact he worked on ‘Snow White’ belies his age but he also recruited new animators including Don Bluth and John Lassiter in the 1970s and ensured that CalArts had a traditional character animation program to train students.

Anderson’s forte was character development but could do it all and some gusto and had his hand in everything Disney animation feature up to and including ‘Pete’s Dragon’ (1978). What is interesting is seeing the aborted projects and his falling out with Disney for a year but not losing his job. Even so, a couple of strokes in one week were the result of that.

Even after retirement, Anderson was called back to give guidance on special projects. Seeing his body of work here, it quickly becomes apparent that the final product follows Anderson’s designs than merely be a starting point and you get a terrific display of his work.

Page 149c: Like Ken Anderson’s, Mel Shaw’s Disney career began in the 1930s.
They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Early Renaissance, The 1970sand 1980s by Didier Ghez, Foreword by Don Hahn, published by Chronicle Books (£35).
© Disney Enterprises Inc

Mel Shaw (aka Melvin Schwartzman (1914-2012)) was a sculptor as well as an artist, specialising in pastels. His history is a bit more chequered. He originally worked as an animator for Harman-Isling until they lost their distribution through MGM and he ended up at Disney and into the development department.

Shaw started off in ‘Fantastia’ but really made his mark in ‘Bambi’. If you thought studios contracting other studios to help them was a new thing will be surprised to discover that Disney did this back in the 1950s. Ultimately, Shaw left Disney in 1941 to co-form his own company up until 1970 and contracted to help Disney working on ‘The Rescuers’ up to and including ‘The Lion King’, after his formal retirement. The many samples of his work do include some in water colour.

In some respects, I wish some pictures of his sculptures were included. There is one photo of Shaw at his desk but the sculptures are facing him so you don’t get the full benefit for all but a dog.

Page 81a: The design of Shere Khan was initially based on actor Basil Rathbone, although George Sanders provided the character’s voice in the movie. (Ken Anderson).
They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Early Renaissance, The 1970sand 1980s by Didier Ghez, Foreword by Don Hahn, published by Chronicle Books (£35)
© Disney Enterprises Inc

This 5 volume book series has been some eye-opener into the inner workings at the Disney animation studio at the ideas stage and with some spectacular pieces of art. The animators might bring it to life but without these early designs there would have been nothing to work from. A tip of the hat to these remarkable people.

Page 81a/b: The design of Shere Khan was initially based on actor Basil Rathbone, although George Sanders provided the character’s voice in the movie. (Ken Anderson).
They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Early Renaissance, The 1970sand 1980s by Didier Ghez, Foreword by Don Hahn, published by Chronicle Books (£35)
(c) Disney Enterprises Inc

GF Willmetts

August 2019

(pub: Chronicle Books, 2019. 208 page illustrated indexed oblong hardback. Price: £35.00 (UK), $50.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-4521-7870-7)

check out website: www.chroniclebooks.com

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Category: Books, Illustration, Movie books

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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