on 16 May 1998
John Grant's "Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters" is, beyond doubt, the single most useful reference volume about Disney's animated films ever printed. The original edition, published in 1983, was phenomenally complete -- it seems Grant *saw* every Disney animation ever made, and listed them in two sections: "The Shorts" and "The Features." It was up-to-date for its time; the "Features" section ended at "The Great Mouse Detective," and information on what were then Disney's only animated TV series, "The Wuzzles" and "Gummi Bears," was included in the "Shorts" material.
The first revision, published in 1993, brought the "Features" section up to date as of the summer of 1992, including a short entry on "Aladdin," still in production when the book went to press. It also added a third section on Disney's animated TV series. Unfortunately, the new material showed signs of having been hastily assembled. The television section included more promotional art than still frames; information was duplicated between the "Shorts" and "TV" pages; and there were a few noticeable inaccuracies (most egregious of all, a picture of the malignant asylum keeper from "Beauty and the Beast" was inexplicably captioned, "The old witch whose curse condemns the vain Prince to become the Beast").
First Net-rumors of a new revision were heard in the summer of 1997. The new edition was finally officially announced, with a release date of "November 1997." Now, nearly six months later, the third edition is available. The errors have been rectified, and don't seem to have been replaced by new ones. The TV section has been updated to cover, albeit briefly, the entire "Disney Afternoon" syndication lineup, as well as Saturday-morning shows. The "Features" section now fills two-thirds of the book's 460 pages.
This is a large, thick, h! eavy volume. It is massively indexed, and gorgeously illustrated with still frames -- literally hundreds of them, most in color. And best of all, it's great fun to read. The section on "The Shorts" includes not only such classic characters as Mickey, Goofy, and Donald, but the nameless "lithe young male sapling" and "Garbo-esque lady sycamore" from the first Technicolor cartoon, "Flowers and Trees"; specific names for the Three Little Pigs; and sympathetic comments on Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow, co-workers of Mickey's from the early 1930s, who remained "perennial extras" as later characters soared to stardom. The huge section on "The Features," includes every animated Disney feature from "Snow White" to "Hercules," with plot outlines, character lists, voice casts, complete credits, and even release dates. What were the names of the ballet dancers in the "Dance of the Hours" segment of "Fantasia"? (Mlle. Upanova, Hyacinth Hippo, Elephanchine, and Ben Ali Gator.) Who was Namontack? (The Native American shot and wounded by Governor Ratcliffe in "Pocahontas.") What were the names of the elephants who ostracized Dumbo? (Prissy, Matriarch, Giggles, and Catty.) How about Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters? (Lady Tremaine and her daughters, Anastasia and Drizella.) How many Dalmatian-spots appear in the animated "101 Dalmatians"? (6,469,952.)
For the true Disney fan, this book is absolutely indispensable. I recommend it with no reservations.