Millions of kids and parents know the characters. But most audiences have no clue about the core group of artists whose pencils gave life to all those princesses and villains and cute animals in Pinocchio, Bambi, Dumbo, Cinderella, 101 Dalmatians, and the rest of Disney’s golden-age features, produced from the early ’30s through the late ’70s. That’s why historian John Canemaker’s sumptuous act of detective work, Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men & the Art of Animation (Disney Editions, $60), makes for such an eye-opening corrective. Once you meet the highly idiosyncratic fellows behind so many great scenes (each gets his own chapter), you can see how and why Walt matched certain shots to certain sensibilities—and easily distinguish, say, a Milt Kahl sketch from a Ward Kimball gag. Big bonus, even if animation isn’t your thing: more uncensored behind-the-scenes bickering, scheming, and rampant egomania — as the artists battle for prime assignments and Walt’s favor — than an episode of The Larry Sanders Show.
Posted February 22 2002 — 12:00 AM EST
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