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Didier Ghez uncovers the hidden art of Disney’s early renaissance – Animated Views

After the demise of Walt Disney in 1966, the absence of the prolific founder left the animation workforce with out artistic leadership, forcing them to redefine the inventive course of the studio.

Animation legend Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman spearheaded this age of renewal with two key objectives: training the subsequent era of artist and animators, while additionally creating enduring characters and tales. He positioned this latter duty in the arms of two chief “concept artists”, Ken Anderson and Mel Shaw, who together turned two of Disney’s most influential visual improvement artists.

Every guide by Didier Ghez is an event in itself. However this one is definitely his most private one. Full of dozens of never-seen-before ideas for such classics as The Jungle Guide, The Aristocats, Robin Hood and The Rescuers, the guide shouldn’t be just one of the most lovely ones of the collection, but in addition – by means of Didier’s in-depth research, vivid descriptions and illuminating interviews – one of the most touching ones.

It presents a rare view of the Disney Legends who helped form the nature of character and story improvement in the 1970s and 1980s, and put together for the Disney animation renaissance of the 1990s.


AnimatedViews: Your books wouldn’t be that magical when you hadn’t a special reference to Disney history, art, and artists. However this one seems much more particular, and much more private. You evoke that in your introduction, but can you tell us more about your personal hyperlink to the features of that point, the ‘70s and early ‘80s?

Didier Ghez: I was born in 1973, the yr Robin Hood was released. Once I was a child (earlier than VHS and method earlier than DVDs), my father purchased 16mm reels which featured scenes from The Jungle Ebook, The Aristocats and Robin Hood. My brother and I grew up watching these. At Christmas, we might also watch the particular Disney packages, together with the one targeted on the upcoming function The Rescuers. For sure, I have all the time had a delicate spot for the animated features of the 1970s. This may additionally clarify why, thirty years ago, the first two Disney idea artists who caught my attention have been Ken Anderson and Mel Shaw, males who largely defined the type of Disney’s animated options in the 1970s and early 1980s. As a young teenager, once I found Ken Anderson’s character designs for Robin Hood in the first version of the e-book The Art Of Walt Disney by Christopher Finch (Harry N. Abrams, 1973), I sensed that one of my life objectives can be to see all the art that Ken had created for that film. And once I first noticed Mel Shaw’s idea sketches for The Black Cauldron in the numerous articles that had been written at the time, my curiosity in the movie, not yet launched, instantly doubled. In the mid-1990s, I started amassing paintings by Ken Anderson, who, along with Mel Shaw, has remained my favourite concept artist to today.

Which explains why scripting this specific quantity of They Drew As They Happy – The Hidden Art Of Disney’s Early Renaissance, has been my life-long objective. There isn’t a volume in the collection I’m prouder of.

AV: How do you clarify that the features of that time are thought-about less profitable than the others, that being truthful or not?

DG: One of my most enduring frustrations over the years, whereas reading books about Disney history, is that the majority of them talk about the Disney features until The Jungle Ebook (launched in 1967 — the final function that Walt personally supervised) then leap to The Little Mermaid (1989), with nothing in-between. The authors seem to assume that the Disney features from the 1970s and early 1980s usually are not even value mentioning.

When Walt passed away in December 1966, near a yr before the release of The Jungle E-book, the Disney Studio had to find a new chief. Director Woolie Reitherman, a former pilot throughout WWII, was a born leader, and he was the one who took the helm. He had some robust selections to make, nevertheless. The prices of producing animated features stored going up, grasp story artist Invoice Peet had left the Studio during the making of The Jungle Guide, and the workforce Woolie had at his disposal was principally a workforce of very robust animators. All these parts pushed him to simplify the tales and to start out relying mainly on endearing characters. In any case, inside the staff that remained at the Studio in the 1970s, he had Ken Anderson, a jack-of-all-trades, who was the greatest character designer the Studio had ever seen since the time of Jack Miller, and, in Animation, veteran animators John Lounsbery, Eric Larson, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and Milt Kahl. So, in the absence of Walt, focusing on very robust characters and on their interactions, as an alternative of making an attempt to develop very robust tales (Walt’s forte), made sense.

The outcome was that the films are weaker narratively that those of Walt’s period, however pleasant when watched sequence by sequence. The characters are unforgettable and lots of scenes are etched endlessly in our minds. The rationale I really like them a lot is as a result of I completely adore the characters that they function and since I discover many of the sequences that they include to be absolutely timeless, like “Everybody Wants to be a Cat”.

AV: Your e-book focuses on the lives and art of two major Disney artists, Ken Anderson and Mel Shaw. How would you characterize their art?

DG: In the 1960s and 1970s, Ken Anderson was initially a master at character design. From The Jungle Guide to The Rescuers, he drew lots of and lots of of characters, most of whom did not make it into the last movie. The incidental characters that he designed for Robin Hood, and whom you’ll discover in this ebook for the first time, are notably memorable and I might have liked to see more of them included in the movie. By the method, the packing containers at Disney’s Animation Research Library that contained those drawings had not been opened since 1973. I had dreamt of seeing what they contained since I used to be an adolescent. When the first one was opened and once I noticed all the masterpieces it contained, I began crying. I had been ready for this second for over 30 years.

As to Mel Shaw, his paintings can conjure up an entire scene in just one drawing. In some ways, it has the similar power as the drawings Marc Davis created while at WED (now often known as Walt Disney Imagineering): the composition is so robust and the characters so expressive that they seem to be alive on the page. And Mel’s use of pastels makes these drawings much more special, of course.

AV: What’s fascinating about them is that they didn’t have just one job at Disney. They took on so many various roles, with the similar talent. Are you able to tell us about their versatility?

DG: You’re right. Each Ken and Mel started as animators in the 1930s but quickly moved into different instructions for which they have been more suited.

Mel started as an animator at Harman-Ising; but when he joined the Disney Studio, he was already a narrative artist. At Disney, in the 1930s, he additionally drew a proposed adaptation of Track Of The South in comic ebook type, which was ultimately shelved. He left the Studio in the 1940s and got here back in the 1970s, by which era he turned a visible improvement artist.

Ken’s profession was even more various. There is a cause why Walt referred to as him a “jack-of-all-trades”. He was an animator, then a format artist and a character designer. He additionally labored on the theme parks (from Disneyland to EPCOT!), and even on the first animated cartoons produced for the Disney Channel in the early 1980s. Whenever you take a look at all the Disney artists, his profession is probably the richest and the most fascinating.

JN: You revealed not solely magnificent art used for Disney classics, however other pieces made for tasks that didn’t make it to the display. Can you tell us about some of those?

DG: The extra I conduct analysis about Disney historical past, the more I understand that you simply really can’t perceive how the films that made it to the display have been developed for those who don’t have an in-depth information of the tasks that have been ultimately shelved. All these tasks are intently interconnected.

Catfish Bend is an effective example: all through the 1970s, Ken Anderson was making an attempt to adapt this collection of books by Ben Lucien Burman to the display. So as to take action he developed dozens of lovely characters who lived in a Southern bayou. When the venture was shelved, many of those characters turned protagonists in The Rescuers!

One other of my favourite tasks, among the ones that have been shelved, is Chanticleer And Reynard The Fox, which each Ken Anderson and Mel Shaw tackled sooner or later or one other. The character designs by Ken, as soon as again, bounce out of the page, and the musical sequences featuring bugs that Mel dreamt up are amongst the most memorable in the guide.

Lastly, you’ll not be stunned to listen to that I am fascinated by Musicana, the proposed “Fantasia sequel” that Mel Shaw and Woolie Reitherman have been championing in the early 1980s. I really like the items of music that that they had selected and couldn’t stop observing the art items that Mel created to pitch the undertaking. I really wish that one had made it to the display. By the method, one of the most beautiful discoveries I made while researching the guide (in phrases of written documents) was that of a story conference between Mel Shaw and Woolie Reitherman about Musicana. This is the solely recognized story conference on the topic and I had the pleasure of unearthing it in the assortment of one of Woolie Reitherman’s sons.

AV: How useful have been their families in your research?

DG: The households of each Ken Anderson and Mel Shaw have been immensely helpful. Ken’s three daughters allowed me to scan all the paperwork their father had stored and so did the family of Mel Shaw. And it was not simply Ken’s or Mel’s paintings. Among Ken Anderson’s collection was a collection of early character designs by Tom Oreb for Sleeping Beauty, many of that are reproduced in the 4th volume of They Drew As They Happy, as well as several idea drawings by Tyrus Wong for Bambi.

The huge Mel Shaw assortment contained tons of of pieces of paintings, but in addition a three-page written doc from the 1930s which listed a collection of abandoned Disney shorts, together with the story artists who had steered the ideas for these shorts. Pure gold from a historical standpoint.

After which there was Bruce Reitherman, one of Woolie’s sons. Bruce had ready some lovely drawings by Ken Anderson and Mel Shaw for me and my pal Joe Campana to scan. At the finish of the session, I asked him if his father had preserved any written documents by any probability. “You are interested in written documents?” he asked. “I have four boxes full of them.” Once we started opening these bins, I couldn’t consider my eyes. They have been full of paperwork from the 1970s and early 1980s that didn’t exist anyplace else, including this story convention between Mel Shaw and Woolie about Musicana, early remedies for a proposed Mickey Mouse function and rather more. However the spotlight was a document from the 1930s: a 66-page doc from Disney’s Story Department which listed proposed story ideas for Disney shorts, full with the dates once they have been submitted and the names of the artists who had submitted them. I virtually fainted once I realized what I was holding in my palms: I knew that this doc did not exist anyplace else and that it was bridging lots of of essential gaps in our understanding of Disney historical past.

AV: I couldn’t assist noticing that many of the tasks Ken and Mel labored on have been based mostly on music, like Fantasia and Musicana. Also, Mel Shaw was driven by music when drawing the opening of The Rescuers, and played Carmina Burana during a story presentation of The Black Cauldron. Can you tell us extra about their hyperlink to music?

DG: Greater than Ken, it was Mel whose profession was particularly linked to music. His very first challenge at the Disney Studio was “Flight Of The Bumblebee” a proposed sequence for the venture that may later one turn into Fantasia. And you’re right, one of his last tasks was the 1980s proposed Fantasia sequel, Musicana.

What I discovered notably fascinating, whereas researching Mel’s profession, was that I noticed that we knew virtually nothing of the Disney Studio’s early work on Fantasia. We knew that Walt and his artists have been creating “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” at the end of 1937; and that by the finish of 1938, Dick Huemer and Joe Grant have been serving to Walt choose pieces of music for Fantasia; but what I had not realized is that, as early as February / March 1938, the Studio was already very actively researching and creating sequences for Fantasia (which was not yet referred to as Fantasia at the time), starting with “Flight Of The Bumblebee.” In truth, I am nonetheless making discoveries in that respect. I simply discovered, for instance, that in early 1938, Disney’s Story Analysis Department was pitching the risk of using Wagner’s “Rite of Nibelungen” to tell the story of The Hobbit!

JN: How is Volume 6 coming along at the second?

DG: The ultimate quantity in the collection, They Drew As They Happy – Quantity 6 (The 1990s to the 2010s), will give attention to the art and careers of artists Joe Grant, Hans Bacher, Mike Gabriel and Michael Giaimo. The chapters are written, and the paintings has been selected. If all goes properly, the format shall be created earlier than the end of the yr and the ebook shall be launched in August 2020. As all the time, more than ninety % of the paintings has never been seen before in e-book type. And the chapters about Hans Bacher, Mike Gabriel and Michael Giaimo are notably energetic since I was capable of converse with all three of them. As to the Joe Grant chapter, it can reveal so much about some of the most obscure tasks he labored on, and since Joe began working at the Studio in the 1930s in the similar workplace as Albert Hurter, we could have come full circle.



They Drew as They Pleased – The Hidden Art Of Disney’s Early Renaissance is out there to order from Amazon.com!




With very particular because of Didier Ghez and April Whitney.