Book Review: “Pencils, Pens & Brushes: A Great Girls’ Guide to Disney Animation” by Mindy Johnson

Hi everyone!

When I first heard that Mindy Johnson would have a new animation book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. She wrote the massive tome Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation, which was one of my favorite books of 2017 and certainly one of the most exhaustive as far as Disney books. Her upcoming (August 13th, 2019) book, Pencils, Pens & Brushes: A Great Girls’ Guide to Disney Animation is smaller at 80 pages and geared toward ages 8-11 but older teens and adults can enjoy it too. Many of the women who are profiled in this book are less familiar or not as well known, although Mary Blair, singer Mary Costa, Lillian Disney and Edna Disney are talked about. There were a lot of strong, influential women who have worked for the Walt Disney Studios. This book can be an inspirational one for girls, and not only if interested in animation.

In the first page of the book, Johnson says that “Many of these Great Girls also did remarkable things in addition to their time at Disney Studios. From aviation to opera, chemistry to dance, their accomplishments knew no bounds”.

The book profiles Dorothy Ann Blank, who founded the Story Development Department and was an important part of telling the story of Snow White, so much so that the artists even modeled her after The Queen. She was the first woman to receive a credit for writing a Disney feature-length animated film.

One of the profiles is on Elizabeth Chambers, who was an inker on movies such as Dumbo and Bambi. She didn’t do that for long, though, as her husband died in the war and she became a WASP. She was one of the first pilots in the program, where female pilots were trained to transport planes while men served in combat. Chambers did all that while she had a small child, later becoming a commercial airline pilot. President Barack Obama gave each WASP flyer a Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.

There are about 20 women profiled in the book, all with unique stories.

There are beautiful illustrations in the book by Lorelay Bové.

I received Pencils, Pens & Brushes: A Great Girls’ Guide to Disney Animation as a folded and gathered book, not yet in a hardcover form. So I can’t talk about the cover or binding yet except that the dust cover illustration is very colorful.

I enjoyed this quite a lot and recommend it to anyone who is interested in (female) Disney history but in a much smaller form than Johnson’s last book.

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