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Encyclopedia of Walt Disney Animated CharactersReview of Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters - From Mickey Mouse to Hercules
Review by Joe Tracy

Book: Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters - Mickey Mouse to Hercules
Author: John Grant
Year: 1998
Foreword: by Dave Smith & Roy E. Disney
dFX Review Rating: 7 out of 10
More Info from Amazon.com

Sections:

Section 1: The Shorts
Section 2: The Television Series
Section 3: The Features


dFX Book Review Rating

The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters is a huge oversized book that is split into three sections that track the history Disney animated films, shorts, characters, and TV projects in great detail. The book is a massive reference compilation that is well researched and very insightful. Because of its "Encyclopedia" approach, the book is split into sections versus chapters: The Shorts, The Television Series, and The Features. The Features is the bulk of the book.

Here is how the information in the Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters organized:

1) A list of characters and credits.
2) A detailed description of the movie with production information and film facts.
3) A detailed description of the story with plenty of spoilers.
4) A detailed description (and picture) of every main character.

There are generally 6 - 10 pages dedicated to each movie (and remember, these are huge oversized pages). It's very thorough to say the least.

While the book title says it is an "Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters,"
it sometimes reads more like a "Review of Walt Disney's Animated Characters." In general, an encyclopedia is a book that is filled with references and facts versus opinions. The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters, however, contains many opinions. Here are a few quotes:

"…The Lion King, however, seems very much more to have been made up by the team as it went along..." - page 388.

"Pocahontas is certainly one of the most emotional moving Disney animated features since Bambi, and possibly of all time." - page 400.

"[referring to The Black Cauldron] There is also the fact that several times in the opening few minutes, for the first time from Disney since the 'shimmering' Prince at the end of Snow White, there is some downright sloppy animation." - page 312.

Following The Black Cauldron comment, the author states, "Obviously such things are a matter of opinion…" Yes, it is, which is why I believe it shouldn't be in an important reference guide.

Also, sometimes the sentences aren't very easy to read or understand. Take for example this excerpt from page 321 - the first sentence that describes Dr. Dawson from The Great Mouse Detective:

"If Basil is himself, rather than a mouse version of any human actor, Dr. David Q. Dawson, late of Her Majesty's 66th Regiment in Afghanistan, is modeled to a great extent on that doyen of screen Watsons, Nigel Bruce."

Some of the writing is not only a bit confusing, but also seems to go on forever. Take, for example, this one sentence on page 346 that is suppose to describe Sebastian from The Little Mermaid:

"With the exception of Ariel - and possibly not even with that exception - the star of the whole show is Sebastian, or (to be fittingly pedantic) Horatio Felonious Ignacious Crustaceous Sebastian, the little crab who is Triton's Court Composer and then Ariel's reluctantly conscripted Jiminy Cricket."

That's quite a bit to say in one sentence. But wait; you haven't read the sentence that immediately follows that one! Here it is:

"The animation of Sebastian is a delight, and that surrounding him during the performance of his two brilliant songs - the calypso/reggae 'Under the Sea' and the smoothly crooned 'Kiss the Girl' - is devastatingly good, but the foundation of the character and the reason for its overwhelming success in the film is undoubtedly the outstanding vocal performance turned in by the actor Samuel E. Wright."

Luckily it's not this way through the whole book and there's some well researched information to be found here, including information on what studios animated particular projects. For example, say you wanted information on Disney's A Goofy Movie. The following two sentences (out of several paragraphs) in the section on A Goofy Movie contian some valuable insight to what studios worked on the project:

"Character design, art direction, and storyboarding were done at Burbank, but most of the animation was done at Disney's new French studio. On initial release the movie had only limited success; in the United States it was very swiftly issued on video, although viewers in the United Kingdom had to wait nearly two years for the video."

It's insight like this (and that's just a minor example) for each movie that gives the reader a real bang for his buck as The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters becomes a valuable reference tool.

Here's my list of pros, cons, and annoyances for The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters - From Mickey Mouse to Hercules.

Pros:
- Largest collection of information that you can find on Disney Characters.
- Huge book (over 450 oversized pages).
- Artist/Cast/Crew credits listed.
- Lots of pictures including all main characters in past animated Disney projects.

Cons:
- Some sentences are too long and hard to understand.
- There are too many of the author's opinions spread throughout the "encyclopedia".

Annoyances:
- Pixar's Toy Story is covered in the book. This should be classified as a "Pixar" movie in the same way that Chicken Run is classified as an Aardman movie.
- The book is "From Mickey Mouse to Hercules" but the coverage of Hercules is poor and the following excuse is given: "At the time of this writing the Disney team was still hard at work on their newest animated feature, Hercules, scheduled for release on June 27, 1997."

Despite the cons and annoyances, the simple fact is that there is no larger reference tool on Disney animated movies, characters, shorts and TV shows that is available today. John Grant has done an amazing job at a near impossible task. It's no wonder that Roy E. Disney writes in the Foreword, "This marvelous book brings back to me a whole flood of memories, as I'm sure it will to many people."

While the book's writing is sometimes confusing or opinionated, the shear size of the book and insightful information earns it a 7 out of 10 rating.

dFX Book Review Rating


You can order the Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Characters by clicking here.
Note: This book only has limited availability.

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