You know their names: Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Marc Davis, Milt Kahl, Eric Larson, Wolfgang Reitherman, Les Clark and John Lounsbery. They're the Nine Old Men and, in this book, Andreas Deja (another name that should be familiar to fans of Disney animation) profiles each of them.


The book is naturally divided into nine chapters, each one giving the highlights of one man's body of work. The main characters that each one animated are listed as well as the challenges associated with them. For example, with Pinocchio being a wooden puppet, his drawings couldn't incorporate any "squash and stretch," as nearly every previous animated character did. Of course, that's nothing compared with the Singing Harp from "Mickey and the Beanstalk," who was completely immobile from the waist down. All of her expression had to come from just her arms and head.

Sometimes the difficulty came not from the character but the situation, like Alice in Wonderland, whose body takes up an entire house in one scene. Her arms, legs and head had to be drawn sticking out from the house in a way that would feel real to the audience. The penguins in Mary Poppins had to dodge the real dancing legs of Dick Van Dyke by jumping or ducking.

The differences between the men are also well documented, with Milt Kahl excelling at drawing the straight characters like Anita from 101 Dalmatians, while Ward Kimball loved animating the zanier ones like Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

At the end of each chapter are several pages that show the drawings of a character going through a single scene, which can be used as a textbook for aspiring cartoon artists for how to draw people and animals expressing all kinds of emotions. You can see Pinocchio's facial expressions as he realizes that he's slowly turning into a donkey, in one particular delicious example.

I would recommend this book for anyone who's a fan of the classic animated Disney movies and shorts or who is interested in the technique of cartoon animation. Unquestionably, the work of these men will continue to inspire animators for generations to come.

Incidentally, this is my first full article for Laughing Place, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. I certainly had fun writing it, and I look forward to many more.

Nine Old Men by Andreas Deja is now available on Amazon.