Sep 16, 2007

Fantasia "Dance Of The Hours" storybook

This is an interesting little book I just acquired.

It's dated 1940; 20 pages, a first edition--although I'm pretty certain there weren't any other, later editions. If I remember correctly, this was published for a specific purpose.
Way back in 1981 I was visiting the Disney Archives, hosted by Dave Smith(still there, I believe). Then as now the Archives were filled to bursting with all kinds of rarities on display. There was no Frank Wells building then--but there was a much bigger backlot instead(all the much-filmed Disney homes were there: Fred MacMurray's, Hayley Mills', Zorro's street, etc.).
The archives were on the first floor of the Roy Disney Building that also housed Buena Vista and other corporate divisions.

Things were awfully quiet on the lot then. It was easy to wander around the manicured grounds, meeting no one save the occasional "traffic boy" on a bicycle delivering interoffice mail, and daydream about the great animators of yore as younger men and women.

So back to the archives: I'd look throught the tip of the iceberg of material there, bookshelves with all sorts of rare volumes of Disney publications. There was a series of slim picturebooks, each with a title relating it to one of the segments of "Fantasia". I believe Dave told me these were published to establish the copyright to Disney's version of what were public domain musical compositions. The book itself wasn't meant for big sales, just to exist in the marketplace as token objects. Without them, presumably, any producer could have rushed out a short with elephants and alligators, say, dancing to ballet music(after all, those animals were public domain too--and Henrich Kley's drawings were available as freely to anyone as they were to the Disney Character Model department)...but with the book, the exact actions and look of the whole thing could be protected. And thus the books are all filled with lovely character art too.

I'd never owned one of these books before now, and reading the text I think I remember the story correctly. This isn't so much standard storybook style at all--it's a literal recounting of the sequence--exactly the way a story man would pitch it to Walt. The resulting writing makes for curious reading.
A sample:

The chorus forms a semi-circle around the pool. One elephant comes to the center, dips her trunk in the water and drinks deep. Then she lifts her trunk high and blows a bubble of tremendous size, far larger than any of the others. Gently she breaks it from the end of her trunk, and then, as it floats slowly across the stage she runs quickly after it, leaps in the air and lands astride the bubble. It carries her gently about the stage as the other elephants blow it from one side to the other. Suddenly the bubble breaks, and the elephant lands on the floor, as gracefully as possible under the circumstances.

It goes on like this--loads of minutely descriptive text while the accompanying pictures seems almost randomly chosen from the film's visual development. There's also (as you can glimpse in the text reproduced here) a hint of what may have been originally intended to be animated, but was cut. It was ever thus!

If there's interest I'll post more of the pages, adding them to this entry.
EDIT: Okay, here's more:

There's plenty more, but it's the weekend and the day is waning. Later!


Glen said...

Puh-leeze post some more. The ones shown exhibit a freshness and an honesty that copies from the film cannot.

mark kennedy said...

I'd love to see more. Those drawings are great.

Vanwall said...

Please do post more of these! Fascinating find, and like a fancy sketchbook.

Anonymous said...

There were several "Fantasia" story books with fantastic art: "Ave Maria," gold-foil stamped and with Rachel Field's lyrics, and the concept art of the cathedral and stained glass version of the sequenc, published by Random House; a Harper & Brothers "Pastoral," with a lot of the more robust and tough-looking centaurs; "The Nutcracker Suite," from Little, Brown and Company, with concept art including the early, more "Silly Symphony"-style "bug orchestra" and six special piano arrangements of the score; and a cumulative Random House "Stories from Walt Disney's 'Fantasia,' with six of the segments retold and illustrated with concept art.

Dave Smith is still very much at the Archives, in fact, he will be named a Disney Legend next month.

Ben Balistreri said...

Great Post Jenny! Well played!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

These were a lot of fun. Imagine getting paid to do stuff like this!

Lainey Schallock said...

Jenny- I'm beyond thrilled with your post and hope you may have more images to come as these are just fantastic. I love that you can still see some of the layers of the underdrawings in these illustrations (I'm noticing the red pencil marks on the bottom most elephant illustration). Thanks so much for putting these up.

Michael Sporn said...

These images were all in the Deems Taylor book, Fantasia, which tells the stories of all the segments of Fantasia illustrated with appropriate art. However, almost all of the images, as they appear in that book, are flopped. The writing is different.

I've posted the art from The Dance of the Hours section on my site.

Nikolay Popov said...

Fantastic ;)!

Mim said...

this is the coolest thing I have ever seen!

Bill Benzon said...

wonderful stuff!