When I was a kid my first ambition was to be a cartoonist.Walt Disney’s Magazine printed tips on how to draw his most famous characters, which always began with a perfect circle. I found this challenging, which is one reason I never became a professional artist, or even a good amateur.
Still, I retain a fascination with drawing and treasure my copy of Walter Lantz Easy Way to Draw, which Mr. Lantz graciously signed for me many years after I’d marked up its pages with bad renderings of Woody Woodpecker and Wally Walrus.
I also got to meet Preston Blair, who created the first manual for aspiring animators in 1948 for the venerable Walter Foster publishing company. (In his much-sought-after original edition he used examples from Disney and MGM cartoons, which he was forced to “paraphrase” for subsequent printings.)
That same Walter Foster company has now published a delightful hardcover volume called Learn to Draw Mickey Mouse & Friends: Through the Decades. The reason I’m calling it to your attention, is that it’s not just for would-be artists: it is also a lively mini-history of Disney animation featuring a number of rare pieces of artwork culled from the Disney Archives.
This is primarily the work of Disney expert and aficionado David Gerstein, a Mickey Mouse savant who wrote the text and thrives on digging up rare studio artifacts. He was immensely helpful to me on the last round of the Walt Disney Treasures DVDs…and if you’re not already familiar with his definitive multi-volume collection of comic strips, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, from Fantagraphics, you ought to be.
With colorful, eye-appealing illustrations by John Loter, and an ongoing “animation timeline” that runs through the book, this volume also serves as a wonderful way to introduce children to Disney history, as it reveals the sometimes-subtle ways Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, and others have changed over the years.
I still can’t draw for beans, but I do recommend this book, especially for sharing with your family. (For more serious aspiring animators, I urge you to check out Richard Williams The Animator’s Survival Kit and Eric Goldberg’s Character Animation Crash Course!)