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Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation [Hardcover]

John Canemaker
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Disney Editions (1 Mar 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786864966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786864966
  • Product Dimensions: 31.1 x 23.7 x 3.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,933,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Meet the Team Whose Combined Genius Defined the Art of Character Animation; A fantastic collector's edition for Disney fans everywhere! Think of your favourite moments and characters in Disney films from the thirties to the seventies and chances are most were animated by one of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men". Through the span of their careers, these nine highly skilled animators, with widely differing artistic gifts, viewpoints, personalities and ambitions, exhibited an unparalleled loyalty to their employer. In this gorgeous full-sized gift book, noted film historian John Canemaker explores these men's artistic breakthroughs, failures, rivalries, and their individual relationships with each other and with Walt. This candid narrative of their lives and contributions to a very special form of artistic cinema illustrates why the work of the "Nine Old Men" will continue to be a significant source for study and inspiration for years to come.

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First Sentence
In the summer of 1925, Leslie James Clark served Walt Disney ice cream at a confectionery located on Vermont Avenue at the eastern edge of Hollywood. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The core animators at Walt Disney Productions 12 April 2010
By Diana
John Canemaker is an animation historian, animator and professor of film animation at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He is a very successful author with seven books (three just about Disney animation) and 100's of essays and articles to his name. Mr. Canemaker is also noted for several award-winning short films.

Mr. Canemaker begins the book with a look at the Nine Old Men's formative years: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Most of the Nine Old Men were hired at the Studios in the mid-1930's. Before them, were legendary men that were mentors and friends to the new artists. Vladmir Tytla, Grim Natwick, Norman Ferguson, Hamilton Luske and Fred Moore were put in charge of various departments and sections of Snow White. As time progressed, many of the Nine Old Men were mentored by these animation pioneers. For many reasons, the previously mentioned animators left Disney or found they could not keep up with the younger crowd. Mr. Canemaker touches on the influential animator's lives throughout the chapters on the Nine Old Men.

Disney's Nine Old Men:

Les Clark (November 17, 1907 - September 12, 1979)
joined Disney in 1927. His specialty was animating Mickey Mouse as he was the only one of the Nine Old Men to work on that character from its origins with Ub Iwerks. Les did many wonderful scenes throughout the years, animating up until Lady And The Tramp. He moved into directing and made many animated featurettes and shorts.

Wolfgang Reitherman (June 26, 1909 - May 22, 1985)
joined Disney in 1935 as an animator and director. He directed all the animated Disney films after Walt's death until his retirement. Some of his work includes the Crocodile (in Peter Pan), the Dragon (in Sleeping Beauty), and the Rat (in Lady And The Tramp).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
79 of 81 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Discovering the Genius Of Exactly What Made Disney "Disney" 2 Nov 2001
By rhettwickham - Published on
John Canemaker has given readers the Disney animation book that's been missing for decades. Only it's the Readers Digest version. Canemaker is forced to compact nine amazing biographies into one book. Each of his nine subjects - the core group of gifted animators who defined the look and feel of Disney animation from the 1930's through the 1970's - is deserving of far more time and space than a single volume can deliver. Nevertheless, he's done an amazing job, and he introduces us to these men with the same careful critical objectivity he did in "Before the Animation Begins", Canemaker's marvelous 1996 book focusing on the great Disney visual development and story artists.
The author gives us the best un-fairy-dusted glimpse of the real day-to-day workings of Disney's shop since animator Jack Kinney's 1988 "Walt Disney And Assorted Other Characters" (admittedly limited in objectivity, but still enormously entertaining in its candor.) It's impossible not to feel the same admiration and passion as the author. Even in his harsher analysis of temperaments and turmoil the author is writing about the best of times among a group of very real artistic heroes who were such extraordinary people that you'd have treasured any time you could have spent in their company. Sadly, Canemaker only gets to brush on topics such as how the old generation influenced the new. Many of the current generation of Disney artists are interviewed for this book and they have a great deal of insight to contribute (both Andreas Dejas and John Lasseter in particular)and one wishes that the author had been afforded the luxury of a more critical analysis of the older generation's influence on this generation -- both by their presence and their absence; e.g. - in the best chapter in the book, Milt Kahl is characterized as having had the greatest influence on the look of Disney characters. Questions about what affect Kahl's abrupt departure in 1976 had on the next generation - whether by way of his absence or his reluctance to be a true mentor - deserve more space than alotted. Similarly, the reader wants to know more about how veteran Eric Larson was treated by Disney executives who handed over "The Small One" to the ambitious Don Bluth, who later broke ranks and left the studio to start his own production company leaving the studio talent pool seriously decimated.
Canemaker is both the obvious choice and greatest risk for authoring this important animated version of "The Lives of the Artists" (Cainmaker states it was his hope to emulate Vasari's work) as he is admittedly very close to two of his subjects - animators and authors Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. Similarly, Ward Kimball and the late Marc Davis were friends of the author's, but he pulls fewer punches in his sharp but loving focus on the latter two. Even so, it would be hard to imagine any other author would have such an unprecedented level of trust from his subjects and their parent company, and thus such privileged access. And though his focus seems less sharp in the chapters on Thomas and Johnston, any biographer suffers from similar lapses when focusing on a living subject, particularly one whom they and the vast majority of the public hold in great affectionate esteem.
The book makes it clear that the memories of the living affect a much harsher view of the dead from among this old boy's network of disparate personalities who helped to define something as far reaching in popular culture as Disney's animated characters. Withered rivalries and carefully aged egos still pepper the perspective here and it only adds to the books ability to evoke something real, and not just the Halceon days of animation. The fact that the dead can't defend themselves even through living relatives and numerous ex-wives is a minor and admittedly unavoidable flaw, and in his preface Canemaker attempts to acknowledge it with a quote from a letter from Thomas to the author re undertaking the project. Even with obvious affection personal favorites, the author has done a terrific job of sharing insights into the passions of each of these nine men whose personalities were made immortal once filtered through such old friends as Captain Hook and Cruella DeVil.
It's to Canemaker's credit that we long for even more on each of these animators -- particularly Kahl and Larson -- and more examples of what made them great animators. Which brings us to the book's only glaring flaw: the illustrations. There simply aren't enough examples of scenes and sequences attributed to each artist -- particularly raw pencil drawings -- and the quality of photo reproductions from finished film frames and other archival material seems oddly yellow or green in tint and not up to the usual Disney publishing standards. e.g. a series of frames showing the Duke from "Cinderella" rolling his monocle between his fingers is so dark that you can barely see the referenced movement it serves to illustrate. This is greatly disappointing. Granted that many such sequences are found in Thomas & Johnston's "The Illusion of Life", but the book is out of print, and the vast resources of the Disney Animation Research Library as well as Mr. Canemaker's personal collection must be able to yield fresher and more fitting illustrations than what's found here. Again, Kahl's chapter gives us more to feast on than others, but it still isn't enough. After all, this is a visual medium we're discussing and a picture here only serves to give us reason to read another thousand written words. But, be that as it may, the book is both a MUST READ and a MUST HAVE for anyone interested in film history, animation, acting and/or Disneyana, and one hopes that Mr. Canemaker's upcoming book on Disney artist Mary Blair heralds a series of more extensive and more intimate (and hopefully much better illustrated) biographies on Kahl, Davis, Reitherman et. al. A long awaited and fine accomplishment, and easily the best book from Disney's publishing arm in 2001.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nine Lives 12 Jan 2003
By J. D Suggs - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
So much has been written and said about several of these nine legendary Disney animators that I very much doubted a lot of new ground was going to be broken, especially in a Hyperion release, but Canemaker rises to the task here, and then some. I was most interested in artists like Les Clark and Johnny Lounsbery, who have received less attention than some of the others. Canemaker not only brings them vividly to life with meticulous research, but he also manages to bring new information and fresh insight to all nine of his fascinating subjects. No matter how well you thought you knew the Nine Old Men and their work, there's plenty here for you. This book reveals the lives and personalities of these men, analyzes their contributions extraordinarily well, and also their working and personal relationships with each other, and presents great new visual material from their lives in and away from the studio. The Kimball stuff is a special treat.
Who could have imagined that Marc Davis' early life was as interesting as his work? Or that Kimball and Kahl were even crazier than you thought (and even more brilliant)? Ot that the master, Frank Thomas, actually struggled with his draftsmanship? Canemaker captures the promise of each of these men's pre-Disney careers and the spark in the work that caught Walt's attention is always evident. He also captures the human quirks that played a tremendous role in the golden age of the studio and often found its way onto the screen as well.
Much of this information and all of Canemaker's excellent insight would not have come to light without his diligent effort and research, and the result is a well-written, revealing, tasteful, and very visual masterpiece.
PS We lost the great, one-and-only Ward Kimball recently...only Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas are still with us now. God bless you both.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Artbook and biography of your favorites 29 April 2011
By Stop Motion Maniac - Published on
This is one of my favorite Canemaker titles. It's a large book with a little over 300 pages on thick paperstock and beautiful printing. I grew up with the Disney of 70's and also watched everything before so this book is especially nice because it contains the biographies and artwork of the nine animators responsible for those early Disney animations. In addition to wonderfully written text, you get photos of from each artist's life and many many images of the artwork. This could have been one of those hardback biographies printed on cheap paper, some grainy photos, and a middle section with maybe 6 pages of glossy artwork. Instead this is a gorgeous artbook in its own right. A wonderful tribute to the people who brought us the early beloved Disney animations. A must for the Disney library.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Old Disney Animation Prrocess 13 April 2009
By Nicholas A. Lujan - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A very nicely put together book. If you are into animation, this book is for you. Beautiful illustrations, there are some parts that drag a little bit. A good book for any person who wants to know how Disney put together their masterpeices.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Story of Nine Legends 19 July 2014
By V - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Each chapter in this book is a mini biography on each of the nine old men, Walt Disney's personal favorite animators. The nine old men were: Les Clark, Eric Larson, Marc Davis, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Ward Kimball. Each of these men had a unique style and approach to animation. All of them were with Disney from the 1930's until their retirements (or deaths) in the 1970's.
Each chapter talks about their early lives and families, how they came to Disney's, how they developed their style, their relationships with Walt and other animators, other accomplishments, and what they did after retirements.
It's nice that there's a book that talks about Lounsbery's and Clark's contributions to Disney.

Canemaker has written two other books about the storymen and sketch artists at the studio, much in the same fashion as this book. What I would also be nice is a book about the directors (such as Wilfred Jackson, Dave Hand, and Ben Sharpsteen) and the animators who influenced the nine old men (such as Vladimir Tytla, Art Babbit, Hamilton Luske, and Fred Moore).

If you can find this at a good price, pick it up.
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