They Drew as They Pleased is a six-part book series by Disney Animation Historian Didier Ghez and the most recent addition to the collection shines a spotlight on an often overlooked era of Disney Animation. They Drew as They Pleased, Vol. 5: The HIdden Art of Disney’s Early Renaissance: The 1970’s and 1980’s celebrates two decades of films that include The Aristocats, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Robin Hood, The Rescuers, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Pete’s Dragon, The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron, and The Great Mouse Detective.
Unlike the previous installments, the fifth volume selects just two artists to shine a spotlight on. But at the same time, the level of depth to each section is far expanded and readers are offered a more comprehensive biography on two well-known artists who helped shape the look and feel of the films of this era. The stories of Ken Anderson and Mel Shaw come to life in a whole new way, with page-after-page of artwork from each luminaire from their entire career at Disney.
Not a big fan of Disney Animation from the 1970’s and 1980’s? You should still check this volume out because both Anderson and Shaw started their careers at Disney in the early years, with their biographies featuring lots of information about their interactions with Walt Disney, as well as artwork from some of the earliest animated features, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Dumbo, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, and The Jungle Book.
I’m always fascinated by what could’ve been, which is part of the thrill of this series. Disney Animation fans get to learn more about some shelved projects, which span from some unproduced shorts to feature films. Some rare concept art from projects like Chanticleer, Musicana, Reynard the Fox, The Rainbow Road to Oz, Catfish Bend, Hamster Hamlet, Scruffy, The Little Broomstick, and The Hero from Otherwhere. More information on what each film could’ve been like can be found in the chapters, backed up by developmental artwork.
Both Ken Anderson and Mel Shaw made significant contributions to Disney Animation during their decade-spanning careers at Disney. In the case of Mel Shaw, his impact even extended into the renaissance ushered in by The Little Mermaid, which some of his artwork for Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King on display at the end of the book. This volume also includes a forward by Don Han, who produced both of those films.
There are so many great Disney Animation anecdotes to be found in They Drew as They Pleased, Vol. 5, in addition to all of the incredible artwork. If you’re a fan of Disney Animation, you owe it to yourself to invest in this entire collection. And if you’re looking for the perfect gift for the diehard Disney fan in your life this holiday season, look no further.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.