The Nine Old Men: Book Review

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Focal Press was nice enough to send me a review copy of Andreas Deja’s new book, The Nine Old Men: Lessons, Techniques, and Inspiration from Disney’s Great Animators. As you would expect, each of the nine men (Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Wolfgang Reitherman, Eric Larson, Marc Davis, Ward Kimball, Les Clark, John Lounsbery, and Milt Kahl) has their own chapter which details their personal history at the Disney Studios. Some of these men started as in-betweeners while others were able to skip that step due to their early potential, most notably their impressive draftsmanship. Each chapter talks briefly about each animator’s most notable assignments, and follows with several examples of their animation to study.

I’ve been familiar with these men and their art for many years, but looking at their work never ceases to amaze me. I was beside myself studying some of the examples in this book; Simply in awe. These men operated in a time and creative environment that’s likely never to be rivaled, and they did so for decades. They fed off each other, pushed each other, and all of them ended up marking their place in history and collectively shaping the animation industry forever.

Having read Canemaker’s book on the same subject, I was particularly interested in what Andreas could reveal about these men that I didn’t already know. Well, rest assured there’s plenty of of new information and art to feast your eyes on. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Andreas is easily one of the most passionate animation artists and historians in the world. If anyone should write another book on these men, it’s him.

There are a number of great animation books being released in time for Christmas this year, but I would say this one has to be at the top of your list. There’s a wealth of inspiration, and at the same time it feels like Andreas struggled to edit the book down to the size it is due to the amazing output of these men over their careers. One can only hope there are future volumes in store, but for now this one should keep the creative juices flowing.