Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Disney's Dogs is a book that I am really looking forward to getting when it gets released in October of this year. Its author, Tamara Khalaf, who works for Disney's Animation Research Library, was kind enough to answer a few questions I sent her.

Didier Ghez: Why did you decide to work on that book? Can you run us through the genesis of that project?

Tamara Khalaf: The talented minds at the Animation Research Library (a department within the Disney Animation Studios which houses all the original animation production artwork) came up with the theme of selecting various cats and dogs artwork represented in Disney animated films to hang in the main Disney Animation Studios Building for an art display in 2003. The exhibition was intended to provide inspiration for the Bolt production. The art represented dogs and cats from several early shorts and feature-length Disney animated films.

In 2005, I was asked to design an 8-room gallery exhibition for Tokyo Disneyland. With the success of the show at our studio, our team pitched the idea to Disney Imagineers who loved the family-friendly theme. The final exhibit contained over 500 reproduction images of cats and dogs from several Disney animated shorts and feature films, including Bolt and Lorenzo.

As an avid dog lover, I wanted to see this show live on, and when the opportunity arose for our group to pitch various book ideas, my director, Lella Smith, encouraged me to pitch the concept that I had become so fond of.

At the time I pitched the concept, I thought it would be a perfect complement to end the book with a chapter devoted to our newest hero, a canine named Bolt.

DG: What is the most exciting material you have unearthed for Disney's Dogs?

TK: I think the unearthing process was truly my favorite part of designing the book and working closely with my talented coworkers, researchers: Fox Carney, Ann Hansen, Doug Engalla and Jackie Vasquez. In particular, Ann was amazing and would continuously pop in my office with new and better artwork for the book.

Sometimes when a spread wasn’t quite working for me, I would ask Ann if she could dig further into the stacks to find something to complement the vision in my head. Time and again, she rose to the occasion and presented beautiful artwork from the company’s legacy – artwork that hasn’t been seen in decades.

A favorite moment was when Ann discovered a cel set-up from Alice in Wonderland from the sequence Garden of Live Flowers during the song “All in a Golden Afternoon”. In the scene, a “cat-erpillar” (a cat’s head on a caterpillar’s body) sleeps curled up on a vine while an excited “dog-erpillar” jumps up, disturbing the cat-erpillar’s nap. Needless to say, that definitely made it into the book!

Another favorite story is that one evening when John Lasseter was here to research Dumbo material for our story book, they stumbled across an image of a darling little Daschund sandwiched between two buns – like a hot dog! John simply adored the visual gag, so of course I needed to find the dog a home somewhere in the book. I believe the dog is currently in the index, as I had already completed designing the book at that point.

DG: Did you conduct any interviews with former Disney artists for that project or special research within the Disney Archives?

TK: I did not conduct any interviews for the book, as it is really more of an art book than an historical retrospective. However, I believe this book to be a fairly comprehensive list of dogs that have appeared in Disney feature films and shorts.

The special research involved time and patience in carefully wading through archival boxes of development artwork, story sketches, and animation to ensure that we had the very best images to support each chapter and some never-before-seen images from some favorite films.

We do have a special introduction written by Roy Disney, and some fabulous family photographs of Walt Disney and various dogs which have also not been published before (thanks to the Disney Family and Diane Disney Miller).

DG: As Disney historians and enthusiasts, can we expect any "revelations" or surprises in this book?

TK: There are two wonderful components to the book that will hopefully be a fun surprise.

The first surprise is a chapter in the book which is entitled “Off the Leash” which humorously captures all the Disney dogs which aren’t quite dogs. This chapter came about as a result of two dilemmas: Addressing the inevitable question of what to do with Goofy – Is he, or isn’t he a dog? Although there is a definitive line between Pluto, whose characteristics are clearly more canine, and Goofy, who walks upright and is a close friend of Mickey and Donald’s, the question remained – where do I place Goofy in the book? The second question I encountered during my early research pertained to the anthropomorphic dogs, such as the enchanted footstool from Beauty and the Beast, and the sweeping broom-head dog from Alice in Wonderland. Clearly, I needed to set these “dogs” apart from the others. Therefore, a new chapter was birthed to highlight the not-dogs of Disney animation.

The other fun surprise is that I have included a double-sided flipbook section at the back of the book. Readers will be able to turn the book with the spine is at the top, binding the pages of animation, and the viewer can flip through to see two different scenes of dogs in action. As to which two scenes they are, I will leave that element of surprise to those who buy the book… but I thought it would be a fun and different device to include, and one that is not usually seen in a 7” x 7” bound book.

DG: What are the main chapters of the book?

TK: The main chapters of the book are as follows:

Chapter One: Old Dogs, New Tricks
Highlights the dogs from the company’s early history from the 1930s – 1950s, including early images of Pluto.

Chapter Two: Hot Dogs
Shows images from animated features including: One Hundred and One Dalmatians; The Fox and the Hound; Oliver & Company, and Lady and the Tramp.

Chapter Three: Their Bark is Bigger Than Their Bite
Showcases sidekick dogs that have left a place in our hearts. These include: Bruno from Cinderella, Nana from Peter Pan, Toby from The Great Mouse Detective, Percy from Pocahontas, Little Brother from Mulan, and a cast of many others.

Chapter Four: Off the Leash
This is a whimsical look at dogs that may (or may not be) dogs. These include the strange broom-headed dog of Alice in Wonderland, Stitch (as a dog) from Lilo & Stitch, the enchanted footstool from Beauty and the Beast, Slinky dog from Toy Story I and II, Zero from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the most controversial of all dogs, Goofy.

Chapter Five: Bolt
This chapter will pay homage to our future canine hero, Bolt, who will blast his way into theaters in November 2008.

DG: Are you thinking of writing any other books about Disney history in the future?

TK: Our department is collaborating on writing and selecting artwork based on Disney fairy tales, focusing on the anticipated release of Princess and the Frog due holiday season of 2009. The catalogue will be designed for the New Orleans Museum of art in conjunction with an exhibition our department is curating for the museum, which will open in November 2009 (for any fans traveling or living near New Orleans, Louisiana).

Additionally, I have two more ideas for books I would like to design (one is another art book, the other more historical). The first idea Jody Revenson, my amazing editor, is already aware of. The second I have not officially pitched to Disney Editions. As neither book has been officially approved, I am not at liberty to mention as of yet, but stay tuned.

Here is one small hint to leave readers with -- suffice to say that if Disney’s Dogs does well, there could possibly be a follow-up featuring felines…


David Gilson said...

Thanks a lot Didier for this interview.
I can't wait for this book as a Disney fan, but also can't wait for a possibly feline Disney's book as a cat lover that could already include Pinocchio's Figaro, Alice's Dinah, Lucifer's Cinderella, Si & Am from Lady and the Tramp, Sergent Tibbs from 101 Dalmatians,all the Aristocats, Rufus from Rescuers, Dalben's cat in Black Cauldron,bad fat lady cat in Great Mouse Detective, Oliver, Snowballs in Hercules, Yzma as a kitten, Milo's cat in Atlantis, Captain Amelia, of course Mittens in Bolt and maybe other feline types such like all the lions in Lion King, Robin Hood and Tod the foxes and Tarzan'Sabor...
Well, hope so that Disney's Dogs will do well!! Personaly, i really want one for me for sure! ;)

Unknown said...


Thanks for sharing the interview.

I can't wait to get my paws on that one! (sorry, pun intended!)

Anonymous said...

My friend works for Disney and I heard about some artwork that is going this book. It sounds like a great gift book, especially if you're a Disney fan and a dog lover. I thought I knew my Disney dogs pretty well, but it sounded like they have a few I had never even seen before. Hopefully the animation department will go through their archives and make this an annual project!

Anonymous said...

I am also a big fan of Disney animation! Can't wait to see the book. Sounds like a lot of research was involved.

Anonymous said...

What a terrific interview! I am a big fan of Disney and I absolutely adore dogs, so I can't wait for this book to come out! I noticed it was offered as a pre-order by Amazon--I'm ordering a few copies today.