Drew Graham's Reviews > Disney's Art of Animation #1: From Mickey Mouse, To Beauty and the Beast

Disney's Art of Animation #1 by Bob Thomas
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Apr 14, 11

Read from March 09 to April 13, 2011

I received this book as a gift more than ten years ago, and had glanced through it a few times, but never actually bothered to read it until now (I've recently decided I should get more out of my collection of art/animation books). It took me a while to read because I read it during down time at work. This book is divided into two parts. Evidently an update from a book Bob Thomas originally wrote in the late 1950s at Walt's request, the first 120 pages is a concise history of animation, specific to Walt Disney's indelible contributions to the art form. The last third or so contains a section devoted to the making of Beauty and the Beast, which was the newest Disney animated film at the time of publication.

This was an interesting book, taking a whole lot of information and presenting it in a manageable and engaging way. It had a lot of really nice artwork, including production and rough animation sketches, finished colored movie stills, photographs of people who worked at the studio, and some really old animation artwork. It wasn't a complete history of Walt Disney or the art of animation, some elements of the studio or art form's respective histories are glossed over with a brief mention or omitted completely, but it gets through a lot of years and relevant points of interest pretty well. A lot of the information won't be new to someone who is really into Disney's body of work, but for the casual reader it gives a nice overview. There was even a brief history of the art of animation before Disney ever came on the scene, setting the stage for his innovation in the field, which recalled many of my notes from animation history classes. For some reason I expected a little more insight to the other elements of Disney's films, such as music or TV projects or ties to theme parks, but then I realized this book was more specific to animation itself. The second half was centered on the making of Beauty and the Beast, and was a little more in-depth regarding all aspects of the filmmaking process, and contained a lot of nice information on the film, some of which even surprised a Disney nut like me. I was also a little surprised to find some inaccuracies regarding facts and names, but I guess the movie probably wasn't even quite finished at the time the writer was doing his research and collecting artwork and illustrations. Naturally, as Disney Animation has produced several animated films since this book's time, the information seemed a little dated, and pointed to Beauty and the Beast as being the be-all end-all of the studio's work, which, I guess, at the time, it was. It's not up-to-date, but it's interesting insight into the feeling regarding the studio and the art form at the time.

I should also mention that some of the writing seemed a little awkward (do we really need these odd and irrelevant physical descriptions of the animators and crew members?), and there were a few puzzling typos. I might have rated it about 3 1/2 stars, as there were a lot of redeeming factors and an impressive span of information that covered several decades, even though it had some flawed facts. (Also, production-wise, the paperback binding kind of fell apart as I read it, and the cover is in danger of coming unglued and falling off completely.) Still, this was a fairly interesting and pretty fun read about Walt Disney's work and the legacy he left at his passing, and how, even though there were some bumps along the way, the studio continued to strive to be the best at what they do.
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