On December 15, at the Taschen bookstore in Beverly Hills, a reception and signing was held to celebrate the release of one of their latest releases, The Walt Disney Film Archives: The Animated Movies 1921–1968. Taschen, for those unfamiliar, is a publisher of art books, founded in Germany in 1980.
The store is a bit small and not the most conducive for a cocktail party type of reception. I have no way of knowing for sure, of course, but I'm also guessing that most people there were more Taschen fans than Disney fans, although there were plenty of the latter.
The book's editor, Daniel Kothenschulte, and film historian Leonard Maltin made an appearance at the window and talked briefly about the book and Disney in general. Kothenschulte praised Maltin, saying that his book The Disney Films was an inspiration for this new book. Maltin, in turn, described his book as a functional look at Disney's movies, while this book was much more about the art involved in making them. He also pointed out that the day of the event was also the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney's death, and noted that books and events like this are what keep him very much alive for his fans. After they spoke, they were joined by some other authors and Disney notables, including Floyd Norman, Mindy Johnson, Andreas Deja, and Richard Sherman, for a book signing at the rear of the store.
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The book itself is simply stunning. Physically, it's very impressive. It's a large book, made from quality paper and other materials — a true coffee-table book, as befitting an art publisher. Each animated feature has its own chapter, written by a selection of noted authors, such as Charles Solomon, Didier Ghez, and others mentioned above. The highlight, of course, is the artwork. The authors and editor worked with the Disney Archives and the Animation Research Library to find art representing every phase of film production, from concept sketches and storyboards, to final images from the movies — over 1500 illustrations in total. There is also a collector's edition of the book, limited to 2500 copies, which includes facsimile reproductions of cel setups from the Silly Symphonies, and of color sketches from The Sorcerer's Apprentice segment of Fantasia, all contained with the book in a clamshell case.
All this comes at a price, of course. The standard edition retails for $200, while the collector's edition retails for $500. It sounds like a lot, but I think it's comparable to other art books of this quality. If you're a fan of Disney animation and the art and stories involved in making those films and are looking for a bit of a splurge, definitely consider this book.