Disney Archives: Story

by Disney Editions

The Disney Archive Series: Story (Amazon)

In a nutshell

Part of the Disney Archives series of books, this focuses on Story, and showcases a number of storyboards taken from Disney films over the years.  At the back is an index of credits for all the drawings, and a short synopsis for each film.


 Instruction  n/a
 Technical  n/a

Key quotes

“There are literally thousands of story sketches made for each feature film, none of which will ever make it into the finished product.  But the spirit of the storyboard artist’s work is just as present and just as visible in the final film as the work of the animators and background artists.” – John Lasseter

My thoughts

I was lucky enough to hear Matt Luhn, a Pixar story artist, talk a few years ago in London, and since then I’ve really taken an interest in what goes into creating a story for a film.  These artists have to come up with hundreds of ideas for plot points and gags, and draw thousands and thousands of images, only to watch most of them get binned.  But ultimately, the very best get used and they are responsible for all those great little moments in the films that stay with you.  So I loved that Disney did a Story version as part of their Archive series and you get a glimpse at what went into the making of some animation classics.

It’s great seeing drawings here that are well known scenes from the movies, many that I watched as a kid.  I love knowing that these are the original drawings – this is where that idea was explored first, and these are the images used as a foundation for the film.  Things like Dopey with diamonds in his eyes, Dumbo sneezing to reveal his giant ears, Bambi struggling to stay upright on the ice and Cruella De Vil’s spectacular entrance.  There’s something special about seeing the very first pencil drawings that created these memorable scenes.

It’s also interesting to see all the different styles used.  The first one, from Steamboat Willie in 1928, has text beside each image, describing in detail the camera angle, and exactly what happens in the shot.  All of the other storyboards mostly just consist of drawings, with the odd note here and there.  The ones from the 1930s are very detailed drawings – some are even painted, whereas by the time you reach The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, the style is much looser, with just a few scribbled lines to convey the action.  It’s great to see the progression in style and how it has varied from the 1920s to Lilo and Stitch in 2002.

There are some styles that jump out as different to the others, and could be artwork or illustrations in their own right – not just blueprints for a film.  Mars and Beyond could easily be a comic strip, with very stylised characters drawn in profile, that actually look quite different from the finished animation.  Then there’s the dark and brooding images for the sequence in the rain in Dumbo, or the coloured ink drawings from Alice in Wonderland and Mufasa in the sky from the Lion King.

At the back of the book is a list of credits for all the drawings shown, along with a one or two sentence synopsis for each film.  The synopses are cool, as it’s fun to see these films condensed down into just a few words (known as a Hook).  I also enjoyed seeing storyboards from people like Eric Goldberg, Glen Keane, Brenda Chapman and Chris Sanders who are now generally more known for the animation or directing that they do today, but who have all been involved in storyboarding to some extent in the past.

Not essential reading, but a nice overview of the art of Disney storyboards.

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