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Sleeping beauties

August 31, 2008|Carmela Ciuraru

There's animation as cartoon, and there's animation as art. Classic Disney films such as "Snow White," painstakingly created in a pre-CGI era, fall into the latter category. In the gorgeous illustrated "Disney Lost and Found: Exploring the Hidden Artwork From Never-Produced Animation" (Disney Editions: 128 pp., $30), renowned historian and critic (and Times contributor) Charles Solomon honors the studio's unique, labor-intensive devotion to both storytelling and visual concepts. (As Warner Bros. animator and director Friz Freleng notes, Walt Disney "spent more on storyboards than we did on films.")

Disney employed renowned painters and book illustrators of the era in his art department, and the author describes the intricate process of depicting subtleties in tone, color and character gestures in each film.

Countless stills never made it on screen, and Solomon reprints many of those marvelous drawings and sketches: red pencil drafts of Dopey and Sneezy; discarded pastel sequences from "Sleeping Beauty"; an early rendering of Timothy the mouse with his ear pressed against Dumbo's trunk (before the artists decided that the title character wouldn't speak).

Some stories were developed but seemed too weak or lacked mainstream appeal, and were subsequently abandoned. (Four teams tried to adapt "Don Quixote" to animation.) There's plenty of interesting trivia included: Disney scrapped the first few months of work on "Pinocchio" after deciding the puppet was too much of a "sarcastic wise guy"; a team of artists spent nine years perfecting "The Rescuers."

Somewhat less compelling is the inclusion of material from two more recent full-length features ("Wild Life" and "My Peoples") that were never produced. Both incorporated digital art, and those pictures are noticeably flatter on the page. But this is a treasure for its beautiful "lost and found" images (works of art in their own right) from beloved films and for the author's historical insights.

-- Carmela Ciuraru

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