INK & PAINT: THE WOMEN OF WALT DISNEY’S ANIMATION by Mindy Johnson; foreword by June Foray (Disney Editions)
The size and weight of this volume is matched only by its scope. Disney scholar Johnson, whose previous book detailed the history of Tinker Bell, has outdone herself this time around. I daresay no one knows, or fully appreciates, how many women figured in Walt Disney’s early career (like his first distributor, Margaret J. Winkler) or how many played a significant part in the continuing development of his studio. To place all of this in historical context, Johnson provides a timeline of women’s roles in American society, decade by decade. Fortunately, her reach does not exceed her grasp. This is an exhaustive study that even acknowledges women who worked in the animation business outside the Disney realm. Although the story comes up to the present day, with female screenwriters, directors, and artists at work on major studio projects and technical developments, I must confess that I find the early days most compelling. Winkler, for instance, was not just a groundbreaking businesswoman; she gave Walt meaningful feedback on his first short subjects (and thanks to the studio archives, Johnson is able to quote these missives word for word). A great deal of attention is paid to the ladies of Ink & Paint and the crucial work they did to translate animators’ drawings to cels—under the watchful eye of Walt’s sister-in-law, Hazel Sewell. If ever a book could be called definitive, this is it, a long-overdue tribute to the unsung women of Disney history.
OSWALD THE LUCKY RABBIT: THE SEARCH FOR THE LOST DISNEY CARTOONS by David A. Bossert; archival editor, David Gerstein; introduction by J.B. Kaufman (Disney Editions)
For decades, the 26 cartoons Walt Disney made in the silent-film era, following his Alice comedies and preceding Mickey Mouse, have been little more than a footnote in most surveys of his career. Then in 2006 the Disney company regained rights to Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit and a worldwide search began for prints of the films. Since Disney never owned these short subjects the company had no reason to seek them out or make efforts to preserve them. Bossert documents this rescue and recovery effort in great detail, after providing a history of Oswald and the way he was wrested from Disney’s control. It’s one thing to read about Walt’s fateful showdown with distributor Charles Mintz in New York City, but here you can see reproductions of the actual telegrams that passed back and forth between Walt and Roy at this fateful turning-point in their lives. Fortunately, the studio has also saved a number of animation drawings, thumbnail sketches, preliminary scripts, and other documentation that fills in the gaps where the actual cartoons no longer exist. (My favorite illustrations are the original one-sheet posters.) Oswald may not be a great character in the grand scheme of animation but he dominated Walt Disney’s career for several years. This book finally tells his story as it should be told.
THEY DREW AS THEY PLEASED VOL. 3: THE HIDDEN ART OF DISNEY’S LATE GOLDEN AGE – THE 1940S, PART TWO By Didier Ghez; foreword by Andreas Deja (Chronicle Books)
The third in Didier Ghez’s extensive survey of concept artwork for films from Disney’s golden age is another treasure-trove of beautiful drawings, along with intimate profiles of six artists: Eduardo Sola Franco, Johnny Walbridge, Jack Miller, Campbell Grant, James Bodrero, and Martin Provensen. These talented individuals worked in the Story Research and Character Model Department that Walt initiated in the late 1930s, and enjoyed tremendous freedom to experiment and initiate visual ideas. Some of their work wound up onscreen but much of it did not. Ghez discusses the politics that made other artists and animators jealous of their coterie. His deeply researched essays are, for the most part, studies in frustration and don’t paint a very happy picture. On the other hand, the artwork itself—in a variety of media—is bursting with imagination and often breathtaking. Like Ghez’s other work, this valuable book is aimed at the true Disneyphile.
A KISS GOODNIGHT written by Richard M. Sherman and Brittany Rubiano, illustrated by Floyd Norman and Adrienne Brown Norman (Disney Editions)
Richard Sherman is a bona fide Disney Legend. For Disneyland’s sixtieth anniversary, he composed a song based on something he remembered Walt Disney saying about the evening fireworks display at his park: he wanted to give his visitors “a kiss goodnight.” Another Disney Legend, animator and story man Floyd Norman, was inspired to illustrate Walt’s journey, from humble Midwestern beginnings to world-famous storyteller and entertainer, culminating in the creation of Disneyland. Sherman and Norman’s combined efforts make this slender volume a charming addition to any Disney bookshelf. Best of all, the hardcover includes a sleeve with a CD of Ashley Brown (the gifted performer who played Mary Poppins on Broadway) singing Sherman’s lovely song.