The third volume of Didier Ghez’s They Drew As They Pleased series is a direct follow up to volume two, completing the topic of Disney’s late golden age in the 1940’s. What’s amazing about this series is that it shines a spotlight on some of the talented artists of this era whose names you’ve no doubt seen before, but you likely didn’t know much about. As Disney animation fans, you tend to read a lot about the Nine Old Men and little else is published. That all changes with this series and in They Drew As They Pleased, Vol. 3 – The Hidden Art of Disney’s Late Golden Age: The 1940’s – Part Two, you get to meet six artists who made significant contributions to Disney animation.
In the Acknowledgements section, Didier Ghez explains how he always wanted to write a book about the Story Research and Character Model Department. The Forward provides a great overview of both departments and some of the key players that created it. Throughout the rest of the book, you will meet some of the talented individuals who were part of this department.
The six artists you meet are Eduardo Solá Franco, Johnny Walbridge, Jack Miller, Campbell Grant, James Bodrero, and Martin Provensen. In addition to their well researched biographies and commentary from other studio artists, each section features a gallery highlighting their artwork. You’ll get to learn their styles and contributions to character design, which includes characters from Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, the package features, and shorts.
As a Disney history buff, I often think about what could have been with some of the abandoned concepts. This volume will give you a great look at what Disney’s attempt to make an animated version of Don Quixote might have looked like. The film was first being adapted and designed by Eduardo Solá Franco working independently, who wasn’t necessarily trained in the “Disney style.” In Jack Miller’s section (Miller designed Figaro, Timothy the Mouse, Jose Carioca, Nana, and Tiger Lilly), you get to see what the character could have looked like after being transitioned to Disney’s more iconic look.
Other abandoned projects revealed through this artwork include a short with a Norwegian figure skating sensation called Sonja Henie Fantasy, a short based on The Emperor’s New Clothes that would have featured caricatures of Disney artists as the main players, and shorts called Hootsie the Owl, Roland the XIIIth, The Lady and the Red Pompom, The Magic Bolas, How to Get Hep, an abandoned war short called The Ever-Normal Granary, and a project with Coca Cola called The Mystery of the Green Valley. There is also lots of artwork from Lady, an earlier version of Lady and the Tramp with a very different artistic direction.
During the biography sections of each artist, you also learn that Campbell Grant, James Bodrero, and Martin Provensen were an inseparable trio that became great friends after working together at Disney. Think of them as like Frank & Ollie with a third caballero, although they were unfortunately disbanded after the animation strike. Their sections feature caricatures they drew of each other, which further highlights how these kindred spirits had fun at work.
While it’s the third volume in the series, this was actually my introduction. While reading this has inspired me to seek out the previous two releases, Disney fans should note that you can start here without feeling like you’ve missed out. If you’re interested in learning more about the Story Research and Character Model departments, or the abandoned projects or artists highlighted, then you won’t want to miss this.
They Drew As They Pleased, Vol. 3 – The Hidden Art of Disney’s Golden Age: The 1940’s – Part Two offers a wonderful Disney History lesson on six artists who are mostly unknown to even the most well read Disney animation fans. Didier Ghez’s research in creating this book is fantastic, with resources from the descendants of each artist and art collected from various institutions and private collectors. Not only does this volume make a great holiday gift, but Ghez is working on at least three more releases and this could become your gifting tradition to the Disney fan in your life.
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.