Books &Commentary 24 Mar 2011 07:15 am

Disney books

- Lately, Disney’s book divisions have done some wonderful work. The Archive series: Animation, Story, Design and soon to come Layout & Bg are all stunningly attractive books. These are top of the line items from Disney Editions. John Canemaker‘s Two Guys Named Joe also comes from the same division, and it’s a beautifully designed and attractively produced book.

But what about the lower end of the Disney Publishing empire? In the bygone days the animated features would be made into Little Golden Books utilizing artists from the studio. Mary Blair, Al Dempster, Bill Peet, and Eyvind Earle all contributed to books for the Western Publishing offshoot. Today there are still some Little Golden Books being made from Disney material. The Pixar product, such as Toy Story and Wall-E, as well the Disney Princesses and The Princess and the Frog all have editions.

However, I came upon something even lower down the pipeline. Here are three books that were produced for Walgreen’s pharmacy megastores. Heidi bought them 3 for $3.98. None of the books gives a hint of illustrator or writer. The illustrations, on a very cursory glance, look as though they might have been frame grabs pulled from the movies.


Bambi’s cover. It’s a nice watercolor evocative of the film. Though one
wonders why they played with the logo’s type. The “m” now has a
little swoosh on its lower right. Not part of any other version of this title.

Our first interior illustration looks like it might
have been a frame grab from the film, itself.

This tries hard to look like it might have come from the film.
But all the characters are moved around differently.

They do a nice job of layout using this iconic image against the type.
Looking at this book, I’m amazed how many well-know still images there
are in the original feature. Those old guys knew what they were doing.

Here are a couple of double page spreads. I like the way they
handle them in these books. You can see that there is a plan.

By now, the illustrations look more like Bambi 2 than the original.

The characters were obviously done on separate levels. Notice the
mother’s leg doesn’t match the background. She’s out of place.
Something you might have seen back in the days with the use of cels.

Two pages covers the climax of the film, Faline’s encounter
with the dogs and the fire rates one illustration.

The final illustration takes us into “Bambi’s Children” and
has nothing to do with the original film, anymore.

Peter Pan

Peter Pan gets off to a bad start with a RED cover
and an action illustration. Not quite the film.

Get to the title page, and Peter is WAY off model.
Oh well.

When I think of that beautiful opening shot in the film, it isn’t
quite this. I’m afraid, the Bambi book will be the best of the lot.

The double-page spreads do still play a bit with the form.

Not much magic left in this Neverland.

Some nice action.

Most of the book is done in Long Shots. I’d say that’s
not the best choice for smallish illustrations. And the
airbrushed white is too opaque to work as a border; it
gets to look like a virus in the air.

The book is too much on the red side. Everything here is
violet and yellow. Not quite the colors invoked by the
orinal designers.

101 Dalmatians

Uh oh, we’re in trouble.

The title page makes for a good composition with bad colors.
The technique, using gouache starts to peek through.

They’ve captured the pose and lost the film.
Where’s that beautiful cut-glass rose in the door?

Too bad they’ve ignored the wonderful background styling
of Ken Anderson and the painting of Walt Peregoy.

A lot of action. Not a bad image though Cruella’s been simplified.

We’ve ignored the great design of the film and have gone to “storybook 2009″.
(The books were done in 2009.)

The two page spread makes use of its format, I have to say that.

Gone the xerographic look, this is how they end this book.

All in all, I’d have to say it’s probably not a bad deal for parents looking for cheap books to entertain their children. The Bambi book holds up nicely. Peter Pan wastes a great story and 101 Dalmatians works hard to reduce their story into a small book you’d buy in a drug store.

The art and delicacy of the Little Golden Books is gone. Take a look at this, or this, or this. They all varied wildly from the film, but with a sense of originality and design. These three Walgreen books all try doggedly to resemble the film while losing the artistry in the book.

7 Responses to “Disney books”

  1. on 24 Mar 2011 at 7:52 am 1.Stephen Macquignon said …

    How hard could it be to create picture books at a low cost that doesn’t look like it was just thrown together?

  2. on 24 Mar 2011 at 8:54 am 2.Gene Hole said …

    oy, some sorry work here.
    why would they go to the trouble of re-drawing the illustrations when there are previous incarnations of these stories with much stronger illustrations? They could have re-used the old illustrations and saves money and had better art to boot!

    one minor point of order: there ARE previous versions of the bambi title with the m swoosh, even if it’s only from the 1997 vhs release of the film-

  3. on 24 Mar 2011 at 9:59 am 3.Scott said …

    Most of Disney publishing of late is an embarrassment. While they do have some very talented artists, the mandate to unify brands (make everything supposedly “look like the movie”), and utter lack of respect for the original source is corporate, to say the VERY least. The reason being–as blindly and lazily believed by the Disney publishing people–the same as why so many trailers tell so much about what’s in upcoming films: the customer wants to know what it’s buying. The newer Golden Books or imaginative other styles are being actively eliminated, as are artists who make waves or attempt to buck the system. And input from the artists on the films has been severely limited, as they are seen as impediments to achieving the head of publishing’s goals.

  4. on 24 Mar 2011 at 10:15 am 4.David Nethery said …

    The colors are really garish (over-saturated) on those book covers. Colors inside the books look a little less over-saturated, but still pretty bad. (and those airbrushed BG’s for 101 Dalmatians , totally missing the style of the film) The same thing seems to be happening in the current crop of “digital restorations” of the films , where the restoration process mostly involves getting rid of dust, film grain, and totally over-saturating the colors , thereby flattening everything out to make it look more like a “clean” digital illustration done in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. I don’t mind seeing the cel dust removed , but there’s a point at which they can make the digitally tweaked frames too clean.

    On the other end, I’m loving the Disney Archive series. Very eager to get the Layout and Background edition.

    My only beef with Animation edition is that none of the clean-up artists were credited for their drawings. In the case of the older films sometimes that information has been lost (but not always : a little careful detective work by looking carefully at the scene folders in the ARL might reveal who was the lead clean-up artist on a scene). With certain well-known Lead animators like Frank Thomas we know that he had a long term working relationship with master Key Assistant Dale Oliver from at least the late 50′s – late 70′s , so it’s likely that those clean-up drawings of the extremely rough King Louis drawings attributed to Frank Thomas in one of the spreads are the work of Dale Oliver. For a serious art book which is part of an “Archive” series this kind of research could have and should have been done. In the case of the modern-era films (from Mermaid through Princess and the Frog) I know for a fact that the assistant animator’s names are well-documented on the scene folder information and in most cases could be verified by people who are still alive who were there at the time if there are any doubts about who did a drawing.

  5. on 24 Mar 2011 at 1:14 pm 5.Charles Kenny said …

    It’s a bit of a shame. Selling price should be no excuse for poor quality in a product, especially a book that have a knack of lasting forever.

    Of course, there are little if any names on what is posted above so as a consequence, no one to take the blame. You can bet if someone were staking their reputation on it things would be much better.

    A sad reflection on the life and times of creative corporations.

  6. on 25 Mar 2011 at 9:46 pm 6.Bruce said …

    “The art and delicacy of the Little Golden Books is gone.”

    That isn’t entirely true. I remember my friend lending me the Rapunzel picture book that Brittney Lee did, and I thought it was a smartly designed (and cute) rendition of the film.

    It’s true that the gems are far and few between, but they do exist.

    From an aspiring animator/cartoonist

  7. on 28 Mar 2011 at 8:28 pm 7.Floyd Norman said …

    I feel the need to clarify things here. A lot of the books you’ve shown are licensed by Disney by publishers around the world. Many produce books cheaply without the love and concern we give them here at Disney Publishing USA.

    We have an incredibly talented team here in Glendale California, and the Archive series is only a sample of the fine work being done. While I know there’s a good deal of slipshod work out there bearing the name “Disney,” please don’t blame us for all the 2nd and 3rd rate stuff being done.

    Our talented team still creates “Little Golden Books” with the same love and concern given the product by the old Disney guys such as Al Dempster, John Hench, Mary Blair and others. There’s a lot of good product on the shelves. You simply have to look for it.

    As a Disney “Old Timer” I continue to ride herd on the kids, and they’re all doing a great job.

Trackback This Post | Subscribe to the comments through RSS Feed

Leave a Reply

eXTReMe Tracker
click for free hit counter

hit counter