Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bill Peet

You may not know his name, but certainly you know one or two of his books. If nothing else you'll be familiar with his artwork and animations done for the likes of Walt Disney.

I've wanted to give him some focused attention for some time, the more familiar I became of his work. For the longest time, the only title I ever associated him with was The Wump World, which I was introduced to when I was in law school. (Odd story, that.) I started paying more attention to the name when I started looking into books that Disney films were based on and I realized that he had quite a connection to the Classic Disney empire! A remarkable man. A remarkable talent! I simply cannot and will not do him justice in this post, but at the very least I can introduce him to you!

From what I can tell, Bill Peet wrote and illustrated 36 stories for children and participated in the making of at least 12 full length animated feature films as well as several short films. I think the movie that most shows off his particular style is, without a doubt, 101 Dalmatians. I am no longer able to watch it without appreciating the artistry and comparing it to his children's books. Peet created the entire storyboard for 101 Dalmatians as well as for The Sword in the Stone.

His stories for children are frequently fantastical, often told in rhyme, and can easily be identified on sight as belonging to him. He had a very unique style.

Peet began drawing very early on in life. He particularly enjoyed drawing animals which I suppose made him a perfect match for Walt who loved presenting animals to children through film. (That said, they were apparently both brilliantly creative with strong opinions which frequently caused clashes between them.)

Peet wasn't much of an scholar (failing all of his classes except for phys ed, apparently) and so he pursued art courses through Arsenal Technical High School in Indiana. It was there that he met his wife, Margaret. Eventually he received scholarships to go to John Herron Art Institute, also in Indiana, and graduated from there. Post-graduation he heard that Disney was hiring and sent them some samples of his work. Peet made it through a one-month audition process (no pressure there!) and was hired on. He worked on earlier Disney films, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and also worked on war films during World War II. He left the Disney company after quarreling with Walt over The Jungle Book. After that he began writing and illustrating children's books. (We have been in the process of collecting his children's books for the majority of this year and I hope to share some of our finds in a post tomorrow.)

Peet said once that he learned to tell children's stories simply by doing so - to his own children first and foremost. He honed his skills on his own family and I think that just makes him pretty wonderful right there! (Not to mention the fact that his stories are very entertaining and appealing to adults as well.) I rather consider him a lesser known Suess who should absolutely be more well-known than he currently is!

Peet lived to be 87 years old, leaving behind an illustrated autobiography and good, meaty stories to delight the masses. (You can read Janet from Across the Page's review of Bill Peet's autobiography HERE.)

Here is a list of his book titles, as collected from Wikipedia:

  1. The Ant and the Elephant
  2. Big Bad Bruce
  3. Bill Peet: An Autobiography
  4. Buford the Little Bighorn
  5. The Caboose Who Got Loose
  6. Capyboppy
  7. Chester the Worldly Pig
  8. Cock-a-doodle Dudley
  9. Countdown to Christmas
  10. Cowardly Clyde
  11. Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent
  12. Eli
  13. Ella
  14. Eleanor the Elephant
  15. Farewell to Shady Glade
  16. Fly Homer Fly
  17. The Gnats of Knotty Pine
  18. Goliath II
  19. How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head
  20. Hubert's Hair-Raising Adventure
  21. Huge Harold
  22. Jennifer and Josephine
  23. Jethro and Joel Were a Troll
  24. Kermit the Hermit
  25. The Kweeks of Kookatumdee
  26. The Luckiest One of All
  27. Merle the High Flying Squirrel
  28. No Such Things
  29. Pamela Camel
  30. The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg
  31. Randy's Dandy Lions
  32. Smokey
  33. The Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock
  34. The Whingdingdilly
  35. The Wump World
  36. Zella, Zack, and Zodiac

The more we read of Peet, the more we like him. The more we read, the more entertaining the films on which he worked. If you haven't yet made the introduction, waste no more time! Get thee to a library and snatch up every title you can find! I can't help but think you'll be delighted. I know we are and will continue to be for many years to come.


BubblesandMoney said...

We love Bill Peet in our house. Thanks for this post on him.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Wow! I didn't know Peer worked for Disney! Thanks fir enlightening me! I can't wait for your post tomorrow! (Could I possibly use more exclamation points?)

Annette W. said...

We love Bill Peet, but I had no idea of the Disney relation. We only have three books. I highly recommend The Ant and the Elephant and definitely How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head. M recommends Ella.

I should borrow some from the library!

Bluerose said...

How sad is it that I had never heard of him?! Probably no surprise from me, though! ;)

Barbara H. said...

That name sounds so familiar, but none of those books are ringing a bell. Maybe I've just seen his name on film credits. I love the style of animation in the films you mentioned -- so much better than a lot of what is cranked out these days.

Ronnica said...

His autobiography was one of my favorite books as a kid.

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