8.24.2009

The Disney Villain / Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston : 3 of 5

This is one of those giant hardback books that I've owned for years, but never actually got around to reading until now! Frank & Ollie were two of Disney's top animators (known as the Nine Old Men) who wrote The Illusion of Life (the best book on Disney animation ever), but in this book the focus is less on animation itself and more on the motivations and philosophy of a true villain. At times Frank & Ollie even try to make a distinction between malicious intent and simple nature (is the rampaging bear in The Fox and the Hound really a villain, since it's only acting from natural impulses?). The book begins with extremely early villains like Peg Leg Pete and then methodically looks at every animated feature, accompanied by huge pages of movie stills and illustrations (the sketches are beautiful, but there's nothing new or earth-shattering to see). I was most interested in their honest discussion of the Disney "dark years" when animation was truly floundering, and they frankly discuss the total failure of The Black Cauldron (without insulting the animators who worked so hard on it). There's lots of Katzenburg quotes that make me cringe, but I can't complain since he did help bring masterpieces like Beauty and the Beast to the big screen! I also enjoyed the comments from great modern animators such as Glen Keane and Andreas Deja (especially his design comparison of Jafar to Malificent!). The Disney Villain is a beautiful book (with a great hologram of the Queen from Snow White on the cover), but definitely not essential to anyone's animation library. But I still really enjoyed reading the thoughts of Frank & Ollie, some of the best animators who ever lived!