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

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

This is a review about the book They Drew as They Pleased The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years (The 1940s) Part 1 It is the second volume in the series They Drew As They Pleased

The author Didier Ghez has made two books about the 1940’s, because in this time the Walt Disney Studio produced the most animation. There was too much art and too many great Disney artists that could not fit in one volume. This book was published in 2016 by Chronicle Books and has 208 pages. It has a Foreword by Disney director John Musker. The artists featured in this volume are: Walt Scott, Kay Nielsen, Sylvia Holland, Retta Scott and David Hall. Their art influenced such classics as Dumbo, Bambi, Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

Walt Scott

Walt Scott Bug Orchestra
The book starts out with a segment about a scene from Fantasia that never saw the light of day: The Bug Orchestra. What I love about this book series that it shows art of sequences that would never end up on screen. Walt Disney was always looking for the best story to tell and this sequence just did not fit in Fantasia. This sequence would be set to the music of the Nutcracker Suite. There were several artists that worked on this sequence but the art of Walt Scott is featured here. It shows an orchestra of bugs playing the music. As endearing this art is, it would not fit into the overall movie. This sequence was shelved and replaced by the Faerie sequence.

Kay Nielsen

Kay Nielsen art Night on Bald Mountain
In 1939 the Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen started working at the Walt Disney Studio. He was at that time one of the most famous children’s book illustrators around. He illustrated a A Thousand and One Night and Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales. In 1936 he moved to California to dodesigns for the theatre. He only had a working visa that was extended for 2 more years. The Great Depression made it hard for him to keep working. Desperate for work he went to the Disney Studio to apply for a job. He was hired at the spot and started working on The Concert feature Fantasia. There was a lot of anticipation among the artists at Disney.Kay Nielsen was born in Copenhagen Denmark in 1886. He was brought up in an artistic family, both his parents were actors. He studied art in Paris and apart from his Children’s book illustrations he made designs for the theatre. When he started working at Disney the timing was perfect. They were already in production for Fantasia and Nielsen made designs for the sequence ‘Night on Bald Mountain’. His dark and eerie style was perfect for this sequence.He also worked on visuals for the short The Reluctant Dragon. Here you can see the Chinese influence. He also worked on early concepts for the Little Mermaid. Nielsen also made studies for Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries that was never produced. Nielsen left the studio in 1941 and work was sparse. In 1946 he moved back to Denmark where he could get work again. Nielsen returned to the Disney Studio for the last time in 1952 to work on visuals for Sleeping Beauty. This was only for 6 months. In 1957 he sadly died in poverty.

Sylvia Holland

Sylvia Holland art for Bambi
Sylvia Holland started working at he Disney Studios in 1938. She was born in England in 1900. She studied architecture in London and met her husband there. In 1925 they moved to Victoria, British Colombia. They had two children, a daughter and a son, but her husband died of an ear infection in 1928. She never married again and was determined to be independent. Before Disney she shortly worked at Universal Studios. When she was hired by Disney she started working in the Story Department. She was one of the most versatile artists, working on the Pastoral Symphony and drawing a lot of centaurs. Holland thrived at the studio and also started working on the Nutcracker Suite. Especially the Waltz of the Flowers sequence. Here you see the amazing color studies she made. Just look at this astounding concept drawing. Holland also worked on the Little April Shower sequence for Bambi. The initial idea for Fantasia was that new segments would be added. Here are several projects that never got made.In the late forties there was a strike at the Disney Studio The Union demanded a 25% raise for all the employers. Disney lost distribution to Europe and Fantasia and Bambi were a failure. In 1946 a lot artists at Disney were fired , also Sylvia Holland. After Disney she worked for MGM and became a successful commercial artist. She passed away in 1974.

Retta Scott

Retta Scott
Retta Scott was the first woman Disney animator. Beside her work as an animator she also worked as a story artist. Together with Bianca Majolie, Sylvia Holland and her friend Mary Blair they were the influential women in the Story Department. Scott was born in Oak Washington in 1916. She was very creative at a young age. She studied at Chouinard Art Institute. Scott had her mind set to become a fine artist, but it was at the end of the Great Depression and work was hard to come by. In 1938 she was hired at Disney and started to work on storyboards for Bambi. She boarded the scene with the hunting dogs. The director Dave Hand and Walt Disney were so impressed by her strong drawings of the dogs and deer that they wanted her to animate the scene as well. She made a test animation and that was used in the movie. She also animated some scenes of the centaurs in Fantasia. She can also be seen in this scene of the movie ‘The Reluctant Dragon’ with Robert Benchley.
After the strike at Disney she was laid off and later re-hired. In order to survive Walt Disney Studio began to make instructional movies for the government. Scott was re-hired and did some backgrounds. After the war she worked on a sequence called On the Trail that would be included in the package movie Melody Time. It was a feature based on kachina sacred spirits of the Hopi Indians. Together with James Bodrero she made these wonderful designs. She thoroughly studied the subject and incorporated that into her designs. Scott was best friends with Mary Blair and the influence on the style is evident. She worked on other projects like Penelope and Toinette’s Philip, but these features never got made. She got married in 1946 and left the studio to work as a freelance illustrator.

David Hall

David Hall Alice in Wonderland
The last artists featured in this book is David Hall. An inspirational drawing he made of Peter Pan is on the cover of this book. David Hall only worked for a few months at Disney. David Hall was born in Ireland in 1905. In the twenties the family moved to Los Angeles where Hall studied art. In 1928 he started working at the art department at the Fox Film Corporation. In March 1939 he was hired at the Walt Disney Studio Story Department at the old Hyperion studio. His studio was located in an apartment outside the main building. He made some sketches for Bambi but soon started working on Alice in Wonderland. Here are some inspirational sketches he made for Alice in Wonderland. A movie that would be made 13 years later. His art is quite expressive and comes close to the original illustrations of John Tenniel. He mainly used ink and watercolours to make these illustrations. After Alice in Wonderland Hall also worked on early concepts for Peter Pan. With lush brushstrokes and an eye for detail these drawings are quiet exceptional. They could be illustrations for a picture book. These drawings were not cartoony enough and David Hall Drew a little but too much as he pleased. His drawings or illustrations could not be adapted to the animated movie. They would be better suited for the Pirates of the Caribbean. Nonetheless these drawings are a true treasure. David Hall Left the Disney studio in 1940 and continued to work for other studios as a visual developer.

Author: Didier Ghez
Publisher: ‎Chronicle Books; Illustrated edition (August 30, 2016)
Language: ‎ English
Hardcover: ‎208 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 3: They Drew as They Pleased The Hidden Art of Disney’s Late Golden Age The 1940s – Part 2

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