Disney+’s new series “Sketchbook” aims to discover why Disney’s animation has achieved so much by looking to the people who, well, draw to tell their stories. It’s a unique take on the docuseries genre by blending both a traditional documentary format with a drawing masterclass to highlight the people behind the magic of the Walt Disney Animation Studios.
“If you ever get to walk the halls of the Walt Disney Animation Studios, you will quickly realize that you’re in a very special place,” said Jason Sterman, executive producer of the show and partner at Supper Club (the same production company behind ‘Chef’s Table’). “And that’s because of the creative people who are here.”
Like ‘Chef’s Table,’ Sketchbook points the spotlight on various Disney Animation artists, new and older, to show off their craft – drawing Disney’s iconic characters. For example, you’ll see famed Disney animator Mark Henn doing one of his many how-to-draw sessions of Young Simba. During the 20+ minute episode, the cameras will then turn to Henn himself sharing why he got into the business and why he feels connected to the character he is drawing by using personal pictures and anecdotes.
“The magic is seeing all of the different stories and all the different paths [it took for people to work here] because everybody here had the same passion of wanting to work here,” said Henn responding to what made the series unique. While some of those stories from other artists like Henn are more of a dream come true, some other Disney Animation artists highlighted have even more personal stories that drove their passion.
Gabby Capili, who identifies as gender-nonconforming and decided to draw Kuzco from “The Emperor’s New Groove,” wanted to show that Disney Animators can come from anywhere. “I didn’t know what the artists looked like. I later found out that they were painters from the 19th century and only white guys with floppy hair. So I was thinking of this opportunity as a way to show the world and myself that getting into animation and making a career of it is possible for anyone,” she said.
As one might imagine already, Disney’s “Sketchbook” series certainly uses drawing some of the most iconic characters in the world as a platform, and you can bet that you might be encouraged to pull out your own paper and pencil to draw them yourself. However, the strength and more engaging part of the series is arguably seeing and hearing the Disney artists themselves.
“I think the thing that really hit home with me about the series is that [it’s inviting the thought that] anybody can draw, and anybody can have fun with drawing,” said Disney animator and Legend Eric Goldbeg (who drew Genie from ‘Aladdin’ for the series). He added, “I often think that it’s fascinating that human beings are the only animals who were compelled to make a mark on a piece of paper. You know, there are no other creatures on the planet who do that. And so, all of our stories and our talents showcased in this series should make it a natural [love] for everybody.”
Disney Sketchbook is set to debut on April 27 exclusively on Disney+.