They Drew as They Pleased The Hidden Art of Disney’s Late Golden Age (The 1940s – Part Two)

They Drew as They Pleased The Hidden Art of Disney’s Late Golden Age The 1940s – Part 2

They Drew as They Pleased The Hidden Art of Disney’s Late Golden Age The 1940s – Part 2
Is the third volume in the series. There is a part one for the 1940s, because a lot interesting projects were started in the forties. In this volume some amazing artists are featured. They all worked at the Character Model Department and the Story Research Department.
cover They Drew as They Pleased The Hidden Art of Disney's Late Golden Age (The 1940s - Part Two)

This book is available as a hardcover, but I bought the ePub version on Apple Books. The ePub version is not available anymore.
The book has 248 pages and is published by Chronicle Books. It is written by Didier Ghez. It has a foreword by Disney Animator Andreas Deja.

Story Research Department

During the making of Snow White whole sequences that were already animated got deleted during production. Walt Disney wanted to streamline the production. After completion of Snow White two new departments were setup for further development of stories. There was the Story Research Department and the Character Model Department. The Story Research Department task was to read hundred of stories and secure copyrights to books. John Rose was the head of that department and secured story titles such as Alice in Wonderland, Uncle Remus, Chanticleer, Cinderella, Don Quixote, Jack and the Beanstalk, King Arthur, Peter Pan, Wind in the Willows and Robinson Crusoe. Apart from Story Research the Department also handled, Comic Strips, Publicity, Promotion, Radio and Fan Mail.
CharacterModelDepartment-Walt Disney Studios

Character Model Department

Joe Grant had to setup the Character Model Department. In this department artists would work on rough ideas, storyboards and character design. Also sculptors were hired to make models of the characters, so that animators could see them from every angle. The animators were jealous of this department, because all the ideas and models of the characters were developed and approved by Joe Grant before the animation began. The animators would have no say in how the characters would look. Sometimes Walt Disney approved a wonderful character design in watercolours or pastel that would be impossible to animate. There also was rivalry between the Story Research Department and the Character Model Department. One artist that fell victim to this rivalry was Eduardo Solá Franco.

Eduardo Solá Franco

Eduardo Sola Franco-Don Quixot
The first artist featured in this volume is Eduardo Solá Franco, a talented artist from Ecuador.
An artist I have never heard of before. That is so great about this book series. The author Didier Ghez went out of his way to discover art and artists that worked at Disney that are unknown. Eduardo Solá Franco was born in Guyaquil, Ecuador in 1915. Before his teens he traveled to Spain, France, Belgium and Italy. He studied in New York and Warsaw in 1939 he moved to Hollywood. In the same year he started at the Disney Studio. Thanks to many letters that were saved you will get a nice impression on his thoughts about working at Disney. He was a loner and did not understand that working in animation was a collaboration. He was hired by the head of the Story Research Department, John Rose, to work on a secret project: Don Quixote. Franco was secretly hired by John Rose to work on Don Quixote under false pretences. Visual development belonged to the Character Model Department. At that time the old Disney Studio at Hyperion was too small and several apartments around the studio were rented. In one of these apartments Solá Franco would work on the script and story sketches. He made around 850 drawings and 3 drafts of the Don Quixote script. At some point Joe Grant got a hold of the project and the Don Quixote project got shelved. Solá Franco was devastated as he told in the many letters he wrote to his mother. He worked on some story sketches for the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor sequence of Fantasia and some sketches of Captain Hook. He left the studio in 1940 and moved to New York and worked as a freelancer for the publisher Condé Nast. He roamed the Americas and Europe in pursuit of artistic challenges until he moved to Santiago Chile. There he would become a prolific artist.

John Walbridge

JohnWalbridge-Fantasia Fish
Johnny Walbridge is a Disney artist I have heard about. He was hired by Disney in 1935. He was assigned to draw character models 2 years before the Character Model Department was founded. He worked on the Mickey Short ‘Through the Mirror’ and came up with some great ideas for the animation. He would work on a lot of the Silly Symphonies. Around 1938 he joined the Character model Department and started working on ideas and visuals for Pinocchio. The most memorable designs he made were for Fantasia. Look at designs of the fish he made for The Arabian Dance sequence of The Nutcracker Suite. Or this Modelsheet he made of the Russian Dance sequence. For Dumbo he created dozens of designs of the clowns. For the Tulgey Wood sequence of Alice in Wonderland Walbridge created hundred character designs. It shows his boundless imagination. He also worked on a Coca Cola commercial called The Mystery of the Green Valley that was never made.

Jack Miller

Jack Miller - Baby Weems- Reluctant Dragon
Jack Miller started working at the Disney Studio on December 1934. He first started out as an inbetweener, but his talent was soon discovered and he became an assistant animator to Grim Natwick who animated Snow White and before Disney designed Betty Boop. But the true talent of Miller lied elsewhere. Around the time of the Silly Symphony short Tobey the Tortoise (1936) he carved a model of the tortoise out of wood. Joe Grant acknowledged his talent and Miller was hired to the Character Model Department in 1937. He started making designs for Fantasia and early designs for Lady and the Tramp. He also made model sheets and character designs for several character for Pinocchio. His most artistic highlight were the storyboards he made for the Baby Weems sequence in The Reluctant Dragon. For Dumbo he created this early model sheet of the Stork, the ringmaster and Timothy the Mouse. Jack Miller was also one of the artist that joined the team to go on a goodwill trip to South America. In the documentary South of the Border with Disney from 1942 you can see Jack Miller at work on a design for Joe Carioca for the movie Saludos Amigos. He also made some story sketches for the movie. For Peter Pan he made early character designs of Captain Hook, some pirates, Nana, John, Tiger Lily and the Lost Boys. Despite the fact he was one of the best character designers at Disney, he did not like his drawings very much. In 1942 he left the studio to work as a Children’s Book illustrator.

The last three artists that are featured in this book were also called the Three Musketeers. They Drew As They Pleased. At some point the even lived in the same house. The artists were Campbell Grant, James Bodrero and Martin Provensen. Apart from the work they did for Disney, they would make caricatures of each other and other artists.

Campbell Grant

JohnWalbridge-Fantasia Fish
Campell Grant was hired in 1934 at the Walt Disney Studio. As most artists, he started out at the in-between Department. This was the starting point at the studio. He worked there for 2 years and also did some animation on Snow White. His heart wasn’t in animation. He started making gags of the dwarfs and Walt Disney took notice and Grant soon became a story man. In 1938 he joined the character Model Department and made designs for Pinocchio and Fantasia. With these concept designs for Night On Bald Mountain, you can see the versatile draftsmanship. In 1946 he was fired together with 300 other artists due to trouble with the union at the studio. Later he worked for Little Golden Books on some memorable titles: Pinocchio, Bongo, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Donald Duck in Disneyland.

James Bodrero

James Bodrero Fantasia
I am very excited that James Bodrero is included in this volume. I admired some of his work in the book Before the Animation Begins by John Canemaker. I even made a study of one of his pastel drawings of Bacchus. I found some other photostats of that same sequence. But in this book the author Didier Ghez discovered some missing art. James Bodrero was born in Spa Belgium in 1900. At an early age he had great drawing skills. He traveled from the world before he settled down in Santa Barbara, California. Bodrero was a very social man and knew a lot of Hollywood celebrities. The conductor Leopold Stokowski would come over for lunch and he would watch movies at Samuel Goldwyn’s house. Leopold Stokowski worked on Fantasia and invited Bodrero to work at the Disney Studio. He was hired and started working at the Model Department. He worked on visuals for Dance of the Hours and the Pastoral Symphony for which he designed Ben Ali Gator together with Martin Provensen. He had a remarkable talent of drawing things by memory without a sketch. He would see the picture before he started drawing. The same as Kim Jung Gi. Here are some wonderful pastel story sketches he made of Bacchus for The Pastoral Symphony. James Bodrero, Campell Grant and Martin Provensen became best of friends. Because Bodrero lived in Montecito he had to drive two hours to get to the studio. So they rented an apartment together in Los Angeles. In 1941 he convinced Walt Disney to do an adaptation of the book Wind in the Willows. He started making designs and a Leica reel, but the project was put on hold because of the strike at the studio. Bodrero was also part of the goodwill trip to South America. Here you can see him with animator Frank Thomas and Larry Lansburgh. He made story sketches for Saludos Amigos. Story and character sketches for El Gaucho Goofy. For Melody time Bodrero worked on storyboards for Blame it on the Samba sequence. In 1946 he got layed off with 300 other Disney artists, due to troubles with the Union.

Martin Provensen

Martin Provensen Lady and the Tramp
The last Disney artist featured in this book is Martin Provensen. He was born in Chicago in 1916. He grew up in an artistic family. As a teenager he studied at the Chicago Art Institute and the California School of Arts and Crafts. In 1936 he was hired at Disney as an inbetweener. He did not like and left the studio to work at a rival studio Harman-Ising, founded by two former Disney animators. Harmen-Ising lost their contract at MGM and Provensen returned to the Disney Studio in 1937. He was hired at the Model Department and started working on concepts for the short Ferdinand the Bull. In this picture you see Martin Provensen on the left together with Campbell Grant in front of early model sheets of Fantasia, Bambi and Song of the South. He made concepts for an abandoned short called Hootsie the Owl and story sketches for an abandoned short called Roland the XIIIth . He worked on model sheets and character designs for Dumbo. And also on story sketches for an early version of Chicken Little. A total different version of this movie was released in 2005. He made concepts for Peter and the Wolf and Lady. An early version of Lady and the Tramp. In 1942 Provensen left the studio and worked as a successful freelance illustrator of Children’s Books.

This book shines a new light on the development of many Disney classics. The many personal letters and interviews that Didier Ghez gathered make this book series unique. The book is available on Amazon.

Author: Didier Ghez
Publisher: ‎Chronicle Books; Illustrated edition (October 10, 2017)
Language: ‎ English
Hardcover: ‎248 pages

This book is available on Amazon. Here are some affiliate links to different Amazon stores. When you click on them and buy the book, I will get a small percentage of the sale. It does not cost you extra.


I have made reviews about the other five books in the series. You can find them here:

Volume 1:  They Drew As They Pleased The Hidden Art of Disney’s Golden Age The 1930s

Volume 2: They Drew as They Pleased The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years (The 1940s) Part 1

Volume 4: They Drew as they Pleased. The Hidden Art of Disney’s Mid-Century Era the 1950s and 1960s