Sunday 3 March 2013

Munir Reviews Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men: The Flipbooks

By Munir Abedrabbo.

The Nine Old Men are arguably the most revered group of people in all of Disney Animation, and one of the most famous in animation history. They have been responsible for creating many of the most indelible characters in the Disney canon. From Tinker Bell to Aurora, from Maleficent to Shere Khan, their animated creations are nothing short of spectacular. Their legacy has not only enchanted moviegoers throughout the years, but also influenced many animators that are now considered legends in their own right. It's also very important to remember that not only were they exceptionally talented animators, but they excelled at innovation too, creating many techniques that are now standard in the medium. With all these accolades, an homage was long overdue and, fortunately, the Walt Disney's Nine Old Men: The Flipbooks collection is a wonderful way to celebrate their beautiful art.

The fifth release in the 'Walt Disney Animation Studios - The Archive' series (following previous excellent releases Story, Animation, Design and Layout & Background) and assembled by Pete Docter (director of Pixar's Monsters, Inc., Up and the upcoming Inside Out) this collection of flipbooks offer a nice glimpse into the Nine Old Men's brilliance by presenting a complete animated shot by each animator. The shots are easily recognizable as coming from classic movies like Fantasia, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, Lady and the Tramp, Bambi, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland. The fun of flipping through these is that now you can appreciate how a certain shot came to life, and observe the level of effort and care that each animator put into their respective work. It's very interesting and fun to study each animator's drawings, to see the minuscule changes that they made in each subsequent drawing to achieve a cohesive shot.

Additionally to the flipbooks we get a nice booklet with a foreword by Docter and short biographies for each of the Nine Old Men. The best thing about this though is that it also comes with reminiscent pieces for each of the Old Men, by animators and influential critics that knew or were taught by them (among the contributors are famous animators Glen Keane, Andreas Deja, Ron Clements and others). This not only is a touching tribute, but also enhances our appreciation of the legendary animators, offering a glimpse of how it was to work with them via first-hand accounts by people who were fortunate enough to have got that opportunity. This is a must-read for any animator or Disney fan. The last section of the booklet is devoted to explaining the animation process (from concept to inking and painting a cell).

The flipbooks come in a beautiful thick box with big golden letters on the top. When you open the box, the books are perfectly aligned and each one features an animator's name in golden letters; the flipbooks are very sturdy and resistant. The booklet also is included inside the box, but is made of a more flimsy material, so be careful getting it in and out of the box - it's easy to wrinkle.

One word of advice though: if you’re seeking for a comprehensive view of the Nine Old Men's life and art, this is not it. The flipbooks are a great tribute that celebrates as well as remembers these artists' talents and mastery, but they are not biographies of any sort. If you're looking for that here, you'll come out disappointed. For anyone else, this is a great and fun way to glimpse the Nine Old Men's work.

John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Marc Davis, Milt Kahl, Les Clark and Eric Larson were all truly gifted people, who gave us some of the best characters and animation in all of the extensive history of Disney. Together with Walt Disney, their movies have become unquestionable classics that are still fondly remembered today and endlessly watched by generations of moviegoers, still enchanted by the magic these men helped create. This new edition in the 'Disney Archives' series presents a snippet of their mastery, so it can be analysed, dissected and enjoyed. Presented in a beautiful set, these flipbooks are a must-own for any animation or Disney lover. They may not be as profound or comprehensive as previous books in the series, but are nonetheless essential to understanding the animation process and the countless effort and love that the artists put into their creation. For Disney fans, this set is a godsend.


Walt Disney's Nine Old Men: The Flipbooks, by Pete Docter, Disney Editions. [11th October, 2012: £42.50 (UK); $35.33 (US)].

Note, all images and artwork used here are property of The Walt Disney Company and any other respective owners, and are used here for illustrative purposes only and in accordance with the fair use policy of copyright law.

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