Walt Disney and Europe by Robin Allan

“We don’t cater to the child but to the child in the adult — what we all imagined as kids is what we’d like to see pictured.” — Walt Disney

There’s a very old saying that I live by: when you find something that inspires you, learn about what inspired that, and then in turn what inspired that.  As an unabashed enthusiast of Star Wars and George Lucas, I’ve come to find continued inspiration over the course of my lifetime in the works of his inspiration, Walt Disney.  The deeper I explore the stories and art that influenced Walt, the deeper my love grows for the art and storytelling that Walt put into place.  If these words describe you as much as they describe me, this book is your express ticket to awesome.

Walt Disney and Europe is the result of a decade of study.  It relies on archival research, interviews with those involved, European history and travel, and zero secondary resources.  The result is an exploration of the animated films released in Disney’s lifetime and the source material that inspired all of it.  These films are, of course, the foundation for everything the studio has done since.  From the art of Gustave Doré and Moritz Retsch, to the stories of Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, to silent films such as Metropolis and Nosferatu, this book covers it all and then some.

It’s one thing to be told in passing how things connect together.  It’s something else entirely to be guided from point A to point Z, stopping at all points in between to see how things developed from source material to concept sketch to layout to final design.  The sheer depth and breadth of the material Walt pulled from is mind-boggling and oh-so-satisfying, as is the opportunity to see more concept art from inside the studio.  Suffice it to say, this book is not to be approached lightly.  It plays to both the pop culture enthusiast and to the animation historian in equal measure, but it is a dense book that will demand time and effort.  In return, it will reward you in ways you can’t possibly imagine, and I can guarantee you won’t look “those princess movies” the same way again.

I respect this book.  I respect the work that went into it.  I respect the presentation.  In a lot of ways, it’s a lot like the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  You see it, it’s gigantic, and there’s a lot to explore.  The more you learn about it, the more you realize how much more needs uncovering.  This is where the rabbit holes start forming.  This book offers what I’d consider a starting point.  And then you end up tracking down source material for yourself, then you revisit the films, then you find all the artwork, and the music, and… it’s just the gift that keeps on giving.  I’d definitely love to have more of this.

5 stars

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