This book is about Disney character animation, an art form that created such world-famous cartoon figures as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Disney animation makes audiences really believe in those characters, whose adventures and misfortunes make people laugh – and even cry. There is a special ingredient in our type of animation that produces drawings that appear to think and make decisions and act of their own volition; it is what creates the illusion of life.
No other studio has been able to duplicate this most important (but least understood) element in our films. It cannot be produced by money alone. When a producer says he is going to make a “Disney-type” film, he may think that full animation, nice color, and a large budget are all that is needed. But Disney animation is more than drawing, or animating, or story telling. or painting – it is what this book is all about.
In tracing the development of character animation rather than the studio or the men in it, inevitably we will leave out the names of many fine artists. We regret slighting anyone, but we regret even more having overlooked a key scene in animation history or a special sequence in a picture that would have helped explain and clarify our meaning. It is, perhaps, misleading to credit specific artists with the drawings we show in the book, since this might imply that both the idea and the style came from one person: for this was seldom the case. So much of our own work appears here simply because it was all that was available after so many years. Animators usually do not save the thumbnail sketches, character drawings, and experimental plans that reveal the most important stages in developing a personality or piece of business. In any case, the emphasis here is on the research rather than the people who did the drawings.
One of the most rewarding parts of this project has been the interviews with old friends and colleagues.
to gain perspective and insight on events that had gone whizzing by back when we were too busy to notice or appraise. Occasionally one individual disagreed with another over interpretation and even recollections, but, then, arguments were always daily occurrences when we were making the pictures. That was an important part of the team effort.
Many will look to this book to teach them the secrets of Disney animation so that they can become instant successes. Unfortunately, this craft cannot be learned by just reading a book, and not overnight under any circumstances. Our original intention had been to write a book on how to animate, hoping we could offer inspiration rather than something to copy, but as we did our research it became obvious that there was a greater need to record just how this special kind of animation had developed. Those times were unique and will never be duplicated; yet much of what was learned had been valid in the theater for several hundred years and continues to be valuable wherever there is communication with an audience. We felt that this wealth of knowledge in animation should be preserved.
Ron Miller, executive head of all production at the Disney Studios, hoped to double the staff of animators by 1981, but he found, even after an intensive search, that “. . . there just aren’t that many people capable of doing animation in the Disney style.” What is the Disney style? Can it be explained? We hope so.