Book Review: “They Drew as they Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s New Golden Age” (Vol 6)

Hi everyone!

We received “They Drew as they Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s New Golden Age” (Volume 6) by Didier Ghez to review. I’ve reviewed a few of the books previously, this is the last in the series and I had purchased the first two. This is a wonderful set of books, so thoroughly researched and with rare concept art. Ghez never skimps on text, which I love about the books. The last volume runs from the 1990s through 2020, which makes it different than any other book in the series in that many of those mentioned in the book are still living today.

Copyright Chronicle Books

Disney Legend, animator Burny Mattinson writes the foreward and talks about another Disney Legend – Joe Grant. Mattinson worked with him for about 15 years after Grant returned to Walt Disney Studios (after 40 years away). Mattinson talks about how Jeffrey Katzenberg had doubts about Grandmother Willow, and in the end, Grant wrote the lines that kept her in the movie.

Didier Ghez handles the preface, and talks about there being a challenge in trying to choose who to represent the new Golden Age – one where so many iconic Disney films have emerged. Ghez chose Joe Grant, as well as Hans Bacher, Mike Gabriel and Michael Giaimo. And unlike in the previous volumes, there are current interviews with several of them. The first profile is of Grant.

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Joe Grant started freelancing for Walt Disney in 1933. He was a very good caricature artist and later that year, Walt asked, “How would you like to stay on?” – so even without a “great financial reward”, Grant was excited about the opportunity and left the Los Angeles Record to take it on. Grant became the “idea man” for Walt, sitting next to him and asking for his thoughts on projects. Joe Grant eventually found a working partner in Dick Huemer, and one of their biggest accomplishments together was taking the story of Dumbo and bringing it to the big screen (as oppose to a short).

Grant also had given his wife a Springer Spaniel dog in 1936 named Lady, and for years that was a thought to make it into a project (which eventually did become Lady and the Tramp). Joe left in 1949, in part because Walt was interested more in the parks. And when Lady and the Tramp was released into theaters, the opening credits said, “Lady and the Tramp from the story of Ward Greene” but didn’t mention Grant.

Grant left Disney for 40 years, and then came back and worked on Beauty and the Beast and other films. He left a drawing of Mrs. Potts with Beauty and the Beast director Don Hahn, who said, “At first I would think, ‘A teapot, this will never work, she’s just a hopping head’. But slowly and methodically the idea would fester in our brains until we couldn’t live without the idea of a talking teapot in the movie”.  There is a page of concept art in the book for Mrs. Potts.

I won’t go through the other three profiles, each one is detailed and Ghez always writes about some of the personal and of course, the professional lives of his subjects. It gives a rounded look at each from early life until death or in this book, until more current times. There are fun stories, like when sixteen-year old Andreas Deja showed up at the door of Hans Bacher with a portfolio. He ended up being one of Bacher’s first students when he taught animation at Folkwang School (in Germany). Andreas had been exchanging letters with some of the Nine Old Men since he was 14 – and he eventually moved to the United States, works for Disney and was named a Disney Legend in 2015. There is some lovely artwork in Bacher’s section, especially his concepts of Beauty and the Beast.

Copyright Chronicle Books

There are – as always – hundreds of pieces of concept art in the book, many I have not seen. If you are more interested in concept art than stories, this is a great book too. The last piece of art in the book is also the cover, from Michael Giaimo for Frozen. The book – and his chapter – ends when he is working on Frozen 2. If you take off the dust cover, you will also see a different front and back cover – concept art of characters from the book.

They Drew as they Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s New Golden Age” is a worthy final book in the series and I hope we will see more similar books from Ghez in the future.


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