Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It's Out! "They Drew as they Pleased," The Artists of Disney's Golden Age.

They Drew as they Pleased, by Didier Ghez. 

Anyone who's ever been a kid will want to get a copy of the new book by Didier Ghez, They Drew As They Pleased, available on September 8th 2015. If it's true that there are no straight lines in Nature, then Getz's book is artistic proof. The golden light and billowing forms of the Disney universe defined childhood and the shape of the world for generations of grown up children.

Pinocchio's theater sketch, by Albert Hurter

Concentrating on the concept art of four early Disney artists, Albert Hurter, Gustaf Tenggren, Ferdinand Horvath and Bianca Majolie, Ghez pieces together a picture of the Golden Age through rare interviews, letters, diaries and other published sources along with copious illustrations.

Tin Soldier sketches, by Bianca Majolie

Incidentally, I wonder if Ghez's inclusion of the lesser-known Majolie might be to silence criticisms of sexism in the Disney camp from the likes of Meryl Streep, whose impassioned slamming of the Disney name was roundly denounced in Animation Magazine.

Sketches for Pinocchio, by Albert Hurter
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs sketch, by Albert Hurter 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs sketch, by Albert Hurter

Albert Hurter was born in Switzerland in 1883, but came to the U.S. in 1913. A spotty career saw him more-or-less hidden from public view until finally, at the ripe old age of 48, he caught the eye of the man himself and ended up working for Walt as one of his key concept artists (or "inspirational sketch artists" as Canemaker calls them) on projects such as Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Snow White.

Hurter at his desk, Disney HQ

Indeed, Hurter became so successful at embodying the spirit of the Disney universe that many of his drawings were used as inspiration for films made long after he'd passed away, including those for Peter Pan and (one of my favorite pieces of animation) Lady and the Tramp.

"Instantly they lay still, all turned to stone," by Arthur Rackham.
Early work by Gustaf Tenggren;
Sven the Wise and Svea the Kind, illustrated in 1932

Another focus of Ghez's book is the phenomenal Gustaf Tenggren. Born and raised in Sweden, Tenggren was steeped in the dark European style of Arthur Rackham and Scandinavian mythology. His twisted Rackham-esque landscapes can be spotted in the forest scenes of Snow White, and in the detailed architectural townscapes in the backgrounds of Pinocchio. Tenggren's work was very much in the winged helmets and blond damsels vein for much of his early career, until in 1936 he took a stylistic u-turn when he joined the Disney team.

Some of Tenggren's work for Disney

Little Red Riding Hood, by Gustaf Tenggren

Artist Proofs of the new book, from Didier's own blog
Ghez has written two other titles about Disney, Disney's Grand Tour and Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality, and is the writer of Disney History blog.

Ferdinand Horvath, forest sketch

Horvath, The Raven

Further sources:

Michael Sporn Animation blog
Hans Christian Andersen on Disney Wiki
The Happy Undertaker


  1. do you know tenggren's tales from the arabian nights? the illustrations in that are sumptuous, and in an entirely different vein from his work that you've posted. lovely post! thanks.

  2. or that Disney hired as collaborators the likes of illustrator Kay Neilsen and avant grade filmmaker Oscar Fischinger?

  3. Thanks for the kind words about the book. To answer your question: Majolie is one of the artists selected, not so much because she is a woman, but because she was actually one of the 4 key concept artists from the 1930s. There were in fact quite a few women working for the Story Department in the '30s, '40s and '50s. Volume 2 in the They Drew As They Pleased series will feature chapters about Sylvia Holland and Retta Scott (who was first and foremost a story artist) and will touch upon the career of Ethel Kulsar. Volume 3 will probably discuss briefly the career of Fini Rudiger. And Volume 4 will obviously contain a chapter about Mary Blair.

    1. Glad to point people towards your great work, Didier! And thank you for clarifying that point for us.

  4. Great!!. I really like your entrance. Thanks a lot!!

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