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Monday, December 15, 2008

STORY by Disney

I've just received a copy of STORY the first new edition in the Walt Disney Studio Archives Series. This is a heavy, impressive looking book. It was so heavy, in fact, that copies that reached a noted Canadian fantasy and comic bookstore were damaged in shipment--so my copy is a bit bumped in the corners. Since I don't mind a little cosmetic damage, I got it a bit cheaper and well in advance of the web bookstores that appear to have it on backorder.

STORY is just that. There is no 'finished' artwork here. What you see are the bare bones of storyboard. The artwork has no captions except for the names of the films. The storyboards are the main attraction here, and the artwork is presented exactly the way it survived...punch holes, erasures, and all. Story is the most dyamic and interesting part of animation in my estimation.

So it is very instructive to see how the drawing style on the Disney boards changes over the years. The early drawings from the Thirties shorts are well staged but the character designs sometimes are a bit primitive. Check out the drawings of Claribelle Cow and Clara Cluck from MICKEY'S AMATEURS (1936) to see how the art lessons at Disney started to affect the artists. The drawings of Clara are solid, with an excellent line, but the character is distinctly dated.
Similarly the boards for some of the Goofy shorts look like they might have come from a different studio than the one producing the exquisite Bambi and Pinocchio storyboards done at the same time period. Disney's studio had different expectations from the short and feature film units, and it shows.

My one complaint about this book is that the artists' names are printed in an appendix at the back of the book, rather than on the same page as their illustrations. The book is huge and heavy, and if you want to find out who did what, you have to flip from the front to the back. Perhaps this can be remedied in future editions--there is more than enough room on each page for the artists' credits.
I was genuinely surprised that the CLOCK CLEANERS layouts were listed as 'artist unknown'--they were done by Ken O'Connor, and he mentioned this in the interview I got with him that is printed in the appendix of PREPARE TO BOARD!

Much of this material has not been printed before, although some of it was on DVD releases of the films.

I was puzzled at some of the choices of illustration: the surviving ROUSTABOUTS sequence boards from DUMBO include a splendid scene of lightning illuminating a camel that is represented with two alternating boards on the DUMBO disc, yet only one of the two boards has been published here, eliminating the illusion and feeling of motion. Some Disney pictures are not included in the book or are underrepresented. THE JUNGLE BOOK has relatively little artwork, there is nothing from THE RESCUERS, ROBIN HOOD, THE ARISTOCATS, THE SWORD IN THE STONE, HERCULES, or TREASURE PLANET; and some of the selections are open to question. I'd far rather see Eric Goldberg's boards for the flamingo ballet in FANTASIA 2000 than the FIREBIRD drawings.

But this is an important and beautiful book that would be of interest to anyone who wants to work in animation story.

1 comment:

Floyd Norman said...

I think each of us would probably end up doing a different book were we in charge.

Choosing the artwork is pretty subjective. I wouldn't have made the same choices, and that's cool, I guess.

Your suggestion of the artists name on the same page is well taken. That would have been a huge improvement.