The Disney Era of Little Golden Books

Do you remember your favorite Little Golden Book?  That familiar golden spine meant you were about to enter into another world.  And not just for me, but for some of the leading artists and illustrators of the Disney world of animation today.  Glen Keane who did both Beast and Pocahontas for the big screen shared, “When I’m doing a storyboard, I think of it like a book, like you’re turning a page.  I lead the viewer to see certain things, through composition, expectation, and rhythm.  I think about what’s between the lines, and I look for the words that inspire me.  That all comes from the Golden Books (p.113).”

Walt's own words about the importance of books
Walt’s own words about the importance of books

Pete Docter who directed my favorite Pixar film UP added his own insight, “They were rigid, but not too thick.  You could build forts or little houses out of them for your stuffed animals.  They were multipurpose (p.19).”  And Wreck-It Ralph art director Ian Gooding said, “The cover of my copy of Bambi has deep impressions all around the characters because I’d put tracing paper over it and draw them.  I must have tried twenty times to paint that thing (p.94).” What I love about Disney Editions’ The Art of the Disney Golden Books are the stories it tells about the long-lasting relationship between these two companies and more importantly how some of the most beloved animation of today has been influenced by these early works.

The cover of The Art of the Disney Golden Books captures some of the iconic images from these historical treasures
The cover of The Art of the Disney Golden Books captures some of the iconic images from these historical treasures

Title: The Art of the Disney Golden Books
Author: Charles Solomon
Cost: $35.00 (but Amazon is selling it for $24.14 as of 2/4/2017)
Age: 12 and up
Publisher: Disney Editions (DPW)
Genre: Non-fiction, art

Many of Walt’s key artists also contributed to the work in those early Little Golden Books including Disney Legend, Mary Blair.  It’s easy to forget in today’s digital age what kind of work went into producing these tiny treasures, but Lion King producer Don Hahn reminds us. “Mary Blair lays down a sky and puts in clouds with dry brush – something that any artist today would do in Photoshop, where you can redo it ten times.  She didn’t have a second chance, and there’s not a misstep anywhere. She makes it look easy, and it’s really hard.  The simpler the painting gets, the harder it is to keep it clean and under control (p. 49-50).”

 Mary Blair did the cover artwork for the first official Disney Golden Book - Walt Disney's Surprise Package featuring rare pre-production art including a Hans Christian Andersen film that was never made

Mary Blair did the cover artwork for the first official Disney Golden Book – Walt Disney’s Surprise Package featuring rare pre-production art including a Hans Christian Andersen film that was never made

For those of us who grew up without a VCR let alone a DVR, Little Golden Books and the like were a window into these beloved Disney classics.  John Lasseter, head of Disney animation shared, “Before home video, Disney would rerelease their animated films theatrically every seven years.  The Golden Books were one place you could experience the stories of the Disney films when you couldn’t experience them any other way, besides going to Disneyland – and not every film was represented at Disneyland (p.96-97).”

Even Disney Legend John Hench contributed to the history of Disney Golden Books with his rendition of Peter Pan
Even Disney Legend John Hench contributed to the history of Disney Golden Books with his rendition of Peter Pan along with artist Al Dempster

There are so many other great stories about the art and the artists involved in the creation of these gems.  If you’re a fan of Little Golden Books and Disney this is a great tome to add to your collection.  It is so rich in both Disney history and beautiful art from some of the most classic Disney artists.  What better way to celebrate 75 years of little book magic than with this addition to your library.

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