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Thursday Treasures

February 3, 2011 by Kelvin Cedeno

      What do you think of when you hear the phrase "Disney book?" Does your mind hearken back to those Little Golden Books of yesteryear? Classic read-alongs? See-and-say books? Any and all of those have a certain quality in common: they're aimed at children. Of course, if you're like me, you may still buy your fair share of Disney books for the sake of checking out the artwork. If you didn't want anyone to know that, then it's too late. Disney may be in on your little secret, for they've decided to cater to adults with "Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Archive Series."


The series, which was launched December of 2008 and is steadily adding to itself the same time each year, focuses on various aspects of film production. The first volume, Story, takes a look at the storyboarding process.

For those unfamiliar with the filmmaking process at Disney, scenes are mapped out using small thumbnail sketches called storyboards. These drawings help in preparation of the staging and editing that comes later on, and they give the crew an idea of how the final product will flow.


This handsome 272-page first volume presents a few select storyboards from 25 feature films and 33 short subjects. Those familiar with Disney's history will immediately notice that these are all presented in chronological order starting with 1928's "Steamboat Willie" and ending with 2002's Lilo & Stitch. An introduction by chief creative officer of both Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios John Lasseter explains the storyboarding process and how his trip through the Disney Archives convinced him to bring about this coffee table series.

It's remarkable to see the variations in styles. Some storyboards are quite minimalist in nature (such as The Little Mermaid ones done by Joe Ranft) while others are shockingly detailed (David Hall's Alice in Wonderland pieces). Some of these bear a close resemblance to their final film counterparts (Eric Goldberg's Aladdin boards) while others veer off in a completely different direction (the Cinderella ones done by an unknown artist). No matter what the approach, they're a fascinating glimpse into the studio's production history.


Have you forgotten what some of the films presented in this book are about? No need to fret as Disney has supplied a handy glossary at the end that lists all of the titles, corresponding plot summaries, the pages on which storyboards from these appear, and even the story artists whose work you're witnessing. In the margins of these are production photos showing different story teams through the ages doing what they do best: crafting tales that will forever resonate with those who receive them.

The same can be said of Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Archive Series - Story. It presents a satisfying collection of genuine works of art. Everything about the presentation exudes class and has obviously been culled together with love. Now that you Disney fans out there who hunger for studio-related artwork have something to really whet your appetite, there's no longer a need to pretend that illustrated chapter book you're picking up in the children's section is really for your niece.


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