They Drew as they Pleased. The Hidden Art of Disney’s New Golden Age.The 1990s to 2020

The Hidden Art of Disney’s New Golden Age

They Drew as they Pleased. The Hidden Art of Disney’s New Golden Age.The 1990s to 2020 was published in 2020 by Chronicle Books and is written by Didier Ghez. It shows the art of Disney artists Joe Grant, Hans Bacher, Mike Gabriel and Michael Giaimo. It has a foreword by Burny Mattinson and has 208 pages.
They Drew as he Pleased The Hidden Art of Disney’s New Golden Age The 1990s to 2020

Didier Ghez

I have read a lot of interviews with Disney artists in another series of books compiled by Didier Ghez called Walt’s People. It is a series of 21 books with in depth interviews. So if you really want to dive in deep into the history of Disney animation these books are real gems. It also shows the dedication of Didier Ghez for researching the art of Disney animation. 

However this last book in the series They Drew as he Pleased The Hidden Art of Disney’s New Golden Age The 1990s to 2020 is not heavily filled with backstories, and quotes The main reason being that most of the artists are still alive. Didier Ghez interviewed the artists directly and let them talk about their art. Nonetheless it is interesting that this last book in the series starts with an artists that should have been in the first volume.

Joe Grant

Joe Grant concept design Snow White Witch and Raven
Joe Grant started at the Walt Disney Studios in 1933 as an idea man. He was good at drawing caricatures of Hollywood stars and Walt Disney needed someone from outside to draw the caricatures for the Mickey Mouse short Mickey’s Gala Premiere. He was first hired as a freelancer but soon became Walt’s idea man. From 1933 until 1936 he worked on many shorts like Gulliver Mickey, Pluto’s Judgement Day, and my personal favourite Silly Symphony Who Killed Cock Robin?. For Snow White Grant designed the witch and raven. A few months before the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Walt Disney asked Joe Grant to set up a new department to develop ideas for new features. During the production of Snow White a lot of animated sequences were never used in the movie, They were already fully animated. The Character Model Department would provide new ideas and designs and reduce these costs. The department quickly became a story department as well and ideas and storyboards were made for Pinocchio, Fantasia,  Dumbo, Bambi Alice in Wonderland and Lady. They all had the be approved by Joe Grant. The 1940s was a tough time for the Disney Studios. Disney lost the distribution in Europe and all of the movies after Snow White did not make enough profit. In 1941 there also was a strike at the Disney Studios, because the artists wanted more money. As a result the Character Model Department was closed. Joe Grant worked designs and ideas for Lady and the Tramp and also for Peter and the Wolf that was featured in Make Mine Music. In 1949 he left the Walt Disney Studios to work as an illustrator for greeting cards and make ceramics.

After 40 years he was hired at the Disney Studios again in 1989. He worked on ideas for movies such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules,  Monsters Inc and Home on the Range. A story he developed in the 1940s Lorenzo finally was made into a short in 2005 and got an Academy Award nomination.  Joe Grant died in 2005 sitting behind his drawing board hard at work.

If you want to know more about Joe Grant and see more art there is a great book called Two Guys Named Joe by John Canemaker.

Hans Bacher

Hans Bacher Mulan concept Art
I first saw the work of Hans Bacher in the Dutch comic Alfred Jodocus Kwak. Written by the Dutch theatre performer Herman van Veen. Together with Harold Siepermann Bacher drew the comics and later made the character designs and storyboards for a successful TV series. Hans Bacher was born in Germany and attended  art school. After his study he had is own animation studio and worked on commercials. Andreas Deja also worked for him. In 1986 Bacher got a call from Richard Williams who asked to work on designs for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. 

Two years later he was asked by the Disney Studios to work on concepts for Beauty and the Beast. After that he started to work on concept designs for Aladdin.  He made designs of the palace and the palace garden. He also worked on concepts for the Lion King. Bacher could produce 20 concepts a day using felt pens, markers and gouache. He worked on Hercules and Mulan. For Mulan he was the production designer and created these wonderful concept paintings.

He also worked on projects that never made it to the screen like, My Peoples and Wild Life. Then he worked on environmental concepts for Brother Bear. 

Before he left the studios he worked on concepts for Fraidy Cat and I Am. You can see a total different approach in design, more graphic. In 2001 his wife died of cancer and he was totally lost. He took a break and visited the Philippines and gave some lectures. Two years later he moved to the Manila and started to teach art and design. In 2011 he joined the staff of Nanyang Technological University of Singapore where he teaches and still inspires new artists. 

If you want to learn Production design for animation and see more samples of his work you can buy the book Dream Worlds on Amazon.

Mike Gabriel

Mike Gabriel concept art Lorenzo
The next artist is Mike Gabriel. I have never seen any work by him. That is what I like about this book series. To see art you have never seen before. Mike Gabriel started to work at the Walt Disney Studio in 1979 as an inbetweener on The Fox and the Hound. He animated the opening credits for the life-action movie Condorman. After that he animated scenes for The Black Cauldron. On that project he also became close friends with Tim Burton who did the production designs. For The Great Mouse Detective he started making character designs. He also worked on animation for that movie. For Oliver & Company he made storyboards and the Rescuers Down Under he directed. Gabriel came up with the idea to make an animated feature of Pocahontas and became a co-director on the movie together with Eric Goldberg.  He also worked on early concepts for Home on the Range, that was then called Sweating Bullets, but he was taken of the project. Next he made designs for Brave and came up with the bow and arrow for the main character.  He directed Lorenzo, the project Joe Grant developed. He also designed the new intro to all the new Disney movies with the castle. Here are some designs for an early version of Bolt and designs for Frozen. He also worked on designs for Gigantic a movie that never got made. Mike Gabriel now works at Imagineering  making designs for the Disney theme parks.

Michael Giaimo

Michael Giaimo concept art Walt Disney's Frozen
The artist I’m most excited about is Michael Giaimo. His art is also on the cover of this book. His art reminds me of the work of Mary Blair and Eyvind Earle. Giaimo started at the Disney Studios as an inbetweener on The Fox and the Hound in 1981. He loved making character designs and soon was hired at the story department to work on storyboards for The Black Cauldron. He briefly worked on designs for a TV series to promote EPCOT. Because he had a more cartoony approach he was  assigned to do storyboards for an early version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. In 1986 he left the studio to work at a division of Hana and Barbera and for Warner Brothers  Classic Animation. Here he became an art director. In that period he started to develop his own style with drawn inspiration from artists such as Mary Blair, Eyvind Earle and Walt Peregoy. In 1992 he was hired at the Disney Studios again to work on visuals for Pocahontas. He started working with acrylic paint. His art was heavily influenced by the stylization of Eyvind Earle. He also developed as a colorist.  After Pocahontas he worked on an early version of  Home on the Range. After five years of work the story did not work. Devastated by this failure Giaimo left the studio for the second time in 2000. He worked for Cartoon Network on the TV series Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi 

In 2010 he was back at he Disney Studios again to work on the project Snow Queen that would later become Frozen. At that time the movie was planned as a 2D animation. He made character designs and got his inspiration from Norwegian designs. After a brief period the project was on hold, but got green lit as a CGI movie. Giaiomo worked as an art director on the movie and also paid close attention to the wardrobe of Elsa and her sister. Frozen became a smashing hit and   Giaimo also did the art direction for Frozen 2. 

This concludes all of my reviews of the They Drew As They Pleased book series. Didier Ghez has made a wonderful and insightful series about art you have never seen before.

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 book reviews about all the books in the series They Drew As They Pleased:

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 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

Volume 5: They Drew as they Pleased. The Hidden Art of Disney’s Early Renaissance The 1970s and 1980s