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[ART BOOK REVIEW] They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years

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They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years

Last year I reviewed the first volume in Chronicle Book’s They Drew as They Pleased series, They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Golden Age (The 1930s). The first volume focused on the forgotten artists of Walt Disney Animation Studios in the 1930s, Disney’s golden age. The second volume in this series just came out, They Drew As they Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years (The 1940s – Part One), which is the first of two parts that focusses on the forgotten artists of the 1940s, Disney’s musical years. 

The 1940s were an era of musical experimentation for the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Artists from all over the globe came to the studio to work and influence animated classics like Bambi and Dumbo as well as develop later classics such as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. In this second volume of the They Drew as They Pleased series five artists are showcased who were part of that process and hundreds of pieces of their work, from early sketches to polished pieces of finished concept art, are showcased in this book. The 1940’s were known for its focus on musical projects and the heyday of Disney’s character model program, this volume focuses on those musical projects while the third volume in this series showcases the 1940’s character model program.


The book opens with a foreword by legendary Disney director, John Musker. Musker introduces us to and sets the stage for all the work that went into finding all the information on these rather unknown Disney artists that were so vital to the success of Disney’s early years. He continues to introduce us to the 1940s and what that decade had to offer for the studio with not only World War II’s consequences but also the infamous Disney strike. The book continues with a preface by the book’s author, Didier Ghez, who gives a little introduction to Disney in the 1940’s but also the five artists we follow in this book.


The book follows a similar setup as the previous volume, after the foreword and preface we get a chapter that in-depth discusses the history of Disney’s musical years before we dive into the first artist of the book. This book features the art of Walt Scott, Kay Nielsen, Sylvia Holland, Retta Scott and David Hall. Each artists’ chapter starts out with a little biography on the artist after which it goes into pages filled with their art. The book features unreleased art from classics like Fantasia and Alice in Wonderland, but also unreleased art from cancelled projects or early development work for projects that in some cases weren’t released until decades later like Mary Poppins and The Little Mermaid.

An interesting difference between the first two volumes is a distinctive shift of art styles from all the artists alongside completely different types of art that are showcased in the books. Where the first volume featured mainly a lot of rough character sketches in the distinctive classic Disney style we all recognize from the early Mickey Mouse shorts, this book featured mainly finalized concept art paintings and stuff that had a much more finished look to it.


They Drew As they Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years (The 1940s – Part One) is a fantastic second addition to the They Drew As they Pleased series. The book introduces us to five new Disney artists that were very vital to the creation of some of the most beloved Disney classics. The book gives us a great look into their lives as well as the amazing art that they created over the years and it’s great to see the distinctive differences in the art from the first volume. This book is just like its predecessor one you cant miss out on and I’m truly excited to see what the future volumes will have to offer. 

Purchase: They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years

Amazon: US | UK
Book Depository: Worldwide

A special thanks to Chronicle Books, who provided a review copy of the book.

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About Max

Max is an animation addict from The Netherlands. His favorite animated movies are Beauty and the Beast and Ratatouille, and he is a big fan of everything Disney, Pixar or DreamWorks related. He loves reading and collecting art books and one day he hopes to work for a major animation studio. Follow his art blog: