French author Christian Renaut is not only a distinguished English teacher, a fantastic singer, drum kit and keyboard player, an appreciated painter, a great comedian and playwright and a beloved husband and father (did I forget anything?)…
…he’s also a passionate and respected Disney historian.
As such, he is well-known for his first book, From Snow White To Hercules, published by Dreamland in 1997, with a foreword written by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas. The congratulations he received from Roy Disney and Michael Eisner opened even more doors for another project, The Disney Heroines, published in 2000, with a foreword by Glen Keane. He was also one of the main authors of the booklets for the Walt Disney – Figurines de collection series by Hachette, published in France, Belgium and Canada.
Now, thanks to in-depth research, hundreds of personal exclusive interviews of artists from several generations, the help of renowned experts, and several visits to the Walt Disney Archives, he’s working on a one-of-a-kind series of books analyzing the most memorable scenes from all the Disney Classics. The second part of this intriguing project has just been published.
We asked Christian to tell us more about this new volume.
Animated Views: Christian, now that volume 1 has enjoyed a great success, can you tell us about volume 2?
Christian Renaut: My Volume 1 of The Best Of Disney’s Animated Features (with foreword by Andreas Deja) had concentrated on 10 legendary sequences from Snow White, Pinocchio, and Fantasia. This time, the reader will be behind the scenes of 10 more: Dumbo (2 sequences), Bambi (4 sequences), Saludos Amigos, Make Mine Music, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland. Who has never cried when watching Dumbo being cradled by his jailed mother? Who has never laughed at Bambi sliding on ice but cried when his mother was nowhere to be found? Who has never been carried away by the magic of a Fairy Godmother turning a ragged outfit into a ball dress? The point of the book is to discover who did what and how they came to such achievements. Thanks to hundreds of interviews, the reader will be within the studio in the 1940s.
AV: Your book features plenty of quotes you collected from the Disney artists, but as many of them have passed away, how did you get such incredible information?
CR: Besides the many anecdotes by the artists themselves, I could get in touch with the sons and daughters of the wizards who made them: Testimonies by Bill Peet’s son will tell you more about how his dad seemed to easily identify with the God-forsaken Dumbo for instance. The 4 chapters on Bambi were supervised by Frank Thomas’s son himself, adding many unknown details and writing the foreword. The reader will see the lengthy process that led to that masterpiece, but the artist everyone was looking up to when it came to drawing stags and deer would soon face a harsh reality… Besides, no one had ever been able to get in touch with the son of Helene Stanley, who was the model for Cinderella.
AV: Among the features you cover, we find Saludos Amigos and Make Mine Music, which are not so often explored by historians.
CR: Saludos Amigos and Make Mine Music were made during troubled times and we will explain the demise of two animation giants, as Bill Tytla and Fred Moore collaborated for the last time. Fred Moore was struggling to be up to the task, but he found himself challenged by the very talents he had taught the trade to. The South American films or the so-called “package films” are being rediscovered and they have more than a gem to offer, like the upbeat “All The Cats Join In,” where Moore seems to hand the baton over to Milt Kahl. As to Alice In Wonderland, the British world specialist Brian Sibley brought his insight regarding that world-known story.
AV: What can we hope for in Volume 3?
CR: Volume 3 is already underway, focusing on films of the 1950s and the 1960s, with rare interviews once again and more never-before revealed information about Peter Pan, Lady And The Tramp or The Jungle Book… Your collection will be complete when all Disney’s animated features are studied, but it will come in time!