Walt Disney Animation is considered a titan of industry when it comes to animated feature films. Their movies span decades and have reached all over the world.
In recent years the Disney art departments have been more relaxed about releasing their animation art to the public in official art books. These books show rendered character sketches, storyboards, illustrations and everything you’d want from a behind-the-scenes look at their animated features.
And with so many new movies releasing every year it’s tough to know which art books have the best material. That’s why I’ve collected this gallery of the best Disney art books from years of animation history.
They’re perfect for aspiring artists and animators, or even folks who love the beautiful artwork produced by Disney’s talented animation team.
The blonde female lead in Tangled is still memorable all these years after the film’s release. This was an incredibly popular movie and proved to be one of Disney’s biggest hits, eventually leading to a massive art book full of production work.
Every character in the movie was enchanting with beautiful fantasy worlds and environments. And Pascal the chameleon was a riot as Rapunzel’s trusty sidekick.
It turns out this was Disney’s 50th feature animated film and the art book goes all out to show it. The art book totals 160 pages full of production art like sketches, color keys, storyboards, and environment paintings.
You’ll also get a few written pieces explaining how the film was created and who worked on which aspects of the feature. But in my opinion the sketches are the true beauty of this film. They stand out against Disney’s emotive animation style and immediately capture your attention.
Another loveable Disney feature with a female lead is Frozen. The character designs for Anna and Elsa are featured prominently in the Frozen art book along with all the supplementary characters.
The binding is tight and it feels like a very sturdy book. I like the quality prints of each characters which seem to radiate off the page. You can easily make out colors, tones, textures, and lighting from the glossy page material.
The Art of Frozen would be perfect for aspiring entertainment artists who want to mimic quality work and learn from professionals. Everything in the book is very high quality and it goes far beyond what you’d expect from a production team.
Most of the content focuses on interiors and exteriors with interviews talking about “setting the mood” of the film. This is vital information for a visual development artist to understand, so it’s perfect for anyone curious to learn more about the animation process.
The Jungle Book
One of Disney’s newest remakes is the Jungle Book 2016 movie featuring more CG animation with realistic background renders. This plays like a live action film but it did have a large art & design department.
Naturally the team released a Jungle Book art compilation with 156 pages of environments and character renders. You’ll also see real photos of animals used as references for creating creatures on the big screen.
I will say this movie does not have the traditional Disney feel. If you’re looking for old school Jungle Book animation art then you’ll have to make due with online resources.
But this can be a fun addition to your collection if you’re a big fan of Disney or the new Jungle Book picture.
Big Hero 6
This weird mix of robotics, superhero/adventure and comedy blend together nicely in the Big Hero 6 movie. It was released in late 2014 with a brilliant animation art book to follow the film.
Anyone can appreciate the art but true fans of the movie will enjoy this art book even more. There’s so much to look through and context really helps. Big Hero 6 is a strange movie and there are lots of characters & environments to absorb.
This book introduces you to the world of San Fransokyo and the characters inside it. You get lots of visuals explaining how these characters were created, plus some dialogue with special features of the film.
But this is another Disney feature that gets a little “out there” in the realm of design. It’s certainly a fantastic art book by all means. However it’s something that’ll be truly appreciated by fans of Big Hero 6, and maybe not just fans of Disney in general.
Visual development artists and story artists come together in The Art of Wreck-It Ralph to share their process working on this creative feature film.
You’ll get a host of incredible production resources like color scripts, storyboards, vis dev paintings, and some interviews with the 3D animators. This movie brings a lot to the table for video game artists as well.
This film broadens the gap across animation to include characters from so many different titles. Wreck-It Ralph is a brilliant piece of animation history and the artbook is well worth the money if you’re into the crazy game worlds in the film.
Each world has its own unique section in the book so you get to see production work from every unique artistic style.
The Princess and the Frog
When I first saw posters for this movie it seemed like an odd concept. But after watching the film I fell in love and still really appreciate the quality of 2D animation on this film.
Since Disney doesn’t do any 2D feature films anymore this is one of the newest art books you’ll find with that artistic style. The Art of Princess and the Frog is exquisite and it shows how much effort went into constructing the characters.
Disney’s animators have a way with motion, and their artists have a way with creation. Environments, costumes, characters, everything is designed on point with just the right amount of polish.
You get previews of artwork from set designs to storyboard samples and everything in between. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, fans of 2D animation and aspiring 2D animators will glean a lot from this one-of-a-kind artbook.
The wacky hijinks of a crazy animal city are captured beautifully in Zootopia. The film’s related artbook is full of incredible animation artwork showing that Zootopia was crazy even during production too.
Running at the same size as other art books, The Art of Zootopia comes printed with 160 glorious pages of production art. You get character art ranging from basic sketches to full color designs. You’ll also find environment paintings and quality storyboard work fleshing out the storyline.
The artists on this film were simply amazing. Matthias Lechner was the art director and his vision helped put together not just an beautiful movie, but also a lovely compendium of production art to go with it.
Released back in 1998 is the dynastic animated feature Mulan. Alongside this beautiful picture is The Art of Mulan, a companion art book spanning 192 pages of beautiful reprinted production art.
Opinions on this book seem to wane back and forth. It does catch your attention and the book is a really interesting piece of work. But a big portion of the book is filled with stills from the movie rather than concept art or animation art.
But what’s most interesting is the story process from the writing team. Story artists and writers share their progress creating Mulan and bringing it to the big screen.
Also there definitely is a lot of behind-the-scenes artwork to accompany the stills. You’ll find color scripts, storyboards, and rough character sketches littered throughout the pages. But some readers may expect more from a 192 page book, especially compared to modern art books.
If you’re a huge Mulan fan this is a must own piece of merchandise. There won’t likely ever be another art book for this film so what you get here is the best you’ll ever get.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The 75th anniversary of Snow White brought the release of a beautiful Snow White artbook publishing rare concept art from the Disney archives.
This was one of Walt’s biggest pictures and certainly his first film before ever becoming a household name. Snow White is a road marker in the history of animation, and this art book offers the kindest remembrance anyone could ask for.
It’s a great book for anyone who loves Disney, Snow White, or animation in general. Just getting into the world of animation can be tough. This book has a lot of cels and production art to help you understand how a movie like this comes together.
And with this artbook clocking in at 250+ pages you couldn’t possibly ask for any more rare archival content from Disney’s golden era.
We’re lucky that so much has survived decades of production like 1995’s Pocahontas. The Art of Pocahontas is a 200 page hardcover art book with production art out the wazoo.
Everything in the Pocahontas art book gets split into chapters. You get early concept art, storyboards, character designs, animation cels, environment paintings, and lots of color scripts. This was a classic 2D animated feature and there’s so much to consume in this book.
Almost every piece of artwork has a small description next to the design. This helps you understand how environments & characters were used to advance the story of the film.
If you love Pocahontas or just want to see more about the film then this art book will not disappoint.
The Lion King
One of Disney’s best selling 90s animated features was The Lion King. It was a critically acclaimed movie and is still appreciated by kids today.
The Art of The Lion King is another 2D animation compendium that’s perfect for every aspiring animator. It has an incredible collection of pre-production and post-production artwork scattered across 193 pages in full color.
It’s a decent sized book measuring about 11” tall by 14” wide. This extra size gives much more room to feature artwork and written content explaining how the production art was pieced together.
Lion King is one of the great Disney animated features and the art in this book is perfect for every illustrator or animator looking to break into the entertainment business.
Beauty and the Beast
There’s a lot you can learn by studying the work of other professionals, and this rings especially true with the Beauty and the Beast artbook.
Story artists share lots of storyboards and explain their writing process for the movie. You’ll also get concept art for characters and background paintings. There are pieces of artwork for every step of the animation process.
It also has a large commentary section explaining the history of this classic Disney tale. You’ll learn more about the movie’s background and its reception after being first released. It even features a small chapter discussing the stage adaptation of Beauty and the Beast on Broadway.
Admittedly this book doesn’t have as many storyboards as other books. However it does offer a deeper glimpse behind-the-scenes of the movie’s history and it’s a brilliant compilation for anyone interested in the film.
I can’t recommend enough art books for aspiring entertainment artists. Video games and animation both have their own unique styles and pipelines for completing projects.
These Disney art books provide a look behind the scenes of animated features to help new artists familiarize themselves with the process.
If you didn’t see anything particularly interesting in this list then try browsing Disney artbooks on Amazon to see what else is listed. Newly released Disney movies often get artbooks published in the same month as the movie release so there’s always new content being put out each year.