What a wonderful discovery! A large sketchbook of quality art paper filled with vibrant character sketches by the finest Disney animators passed on from hand to hand, decade upon decade, across more than eighty years.
From Mickey Mouse – an aggregation of interlocking circles – perkily making his way up-river in Steamboat Willie to Rapunzel with a swirling tangle of graphite hair, this new-found volume is a treasure trove of legendary characters – animal and human – that we have encountered in some of the best-loved animated movies of all time. Well, not quite... Whilst, in truth, there never was such a sketchbook – a single collection of the work Disney's master animators bequeathed from generation to generation – the Walt Disney Animation Research Library's rich archive (in a sense, a very tangible version of the imagined sketchbook) has enabled the compilation of this sumptuous facsimile of something that didn't, but ought to have existed! Published by Disney Editions, designed by Tim Palin and Alfred Giuliani with an introduction by noted animation historian, Charles Solomon, A Disney Sketchbook is,
in the words of Disney Publishing's Ken Shue who contributes a
Foreword, 'more of a visual "romp" than a "read"'. And what a romp it
There’s a multitude of styles: crisp, sharply-delineated
sketches; wispy half-finished drawings that are scarcely more than ghost-traces
on the paper; pictures swathed in heavy cross-hatching; drawings with a
multiplicity of lines as the animator sought the best pose, the most
convincing expression; sketches with the assuredness of artists confident of
their characters, others that are searching to define the shape of figures, the
position of action and the shade of emotion.
The book gives us the playful cavortings of Pluto; the gay abandon with which
hippos and elephants embrace the ballet; the charm of Snow White on encountering the Dwarfs or Prince Philip's first glimpse of Aurora;
Alice captured in her wonderment of Wonderland; Bambi's amazement during his first exploration of the Forest...
...and Beauty’s Beast in mid-rampage...
Among the many graphic gems in the book's 152 pages are Hades schmoozing, Baloo laughing, Jaq and Gus scampering, Tigger
bouncing and Tinkerbell preening...
...not to mention the classic sneers of Captain Hook, Shere Khan, Scar, Ursula and Jafar, the vast terrifying eye of Monstro the whale...
...and Maleficent as a dragon rearing and ready to attack with a torrent of hellfire...
A romp? Yes! But also a lavish testament to the graphic precursors to the figures we've come to know and love from cinema and TV screen. One quibble: since many purchasers of this book will be Disney/animation buffs a discrete note of who-drew-what would have been welcome. I took an educated guess at quite a few, but it would have been nice to know whose handiwork I was admiring – as well as being a deserved compliment to the artists.