Drawing—And Admiring—Mickey Mouse

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.

Learn to Draw Mickey Mouse

by Disney Storyboard Artists (Walter Foster)


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.

Steamboat Willie by Ub Iwerks-680

A rarely-seen promotional poster for “Steamboat Willie.”

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!)

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024