August 24, 2013 posted by

BOOK REVIEW: “The Noble Approach”


We have here a strong candidate for ‘Animation Book of the Year’.

I just received a copy of Tod Polson’s long awaited book on his mentor – animation layout master Maurice Noble. Boy oh boy, is this a great read – and a visual delight. It is a 176 page “coffee table” art book about Noble’s life and his philosophy about his art. The full title and credits on the cover say it all: The Noble Approach: Maurice Noble and The Zen of Animation Design by Tod Polson based on the notes of Maurice Noble. Preface by Chuck Jones (from a 1987 Asifa-Hollywood Awards presentation), Foreword by Maurice Noble.

Polson trained under Noble and compiled his notes, and material prepared by Noble for a potential book, mixing this together with eye-popping visuals of Noble’s lifetime of layouts and backgrounds (mainly from Warner Bros. cartoons), rare photographs, and personal work from throughout his career. It’s quite a presentation.


The first chapter goes over Noble’s career, with images from his work at Disney including Snow White, The Old Mill, Dumbo and Bambi; the war years with art from Private Snafu and then Warner Bros. in its golden years. It follows Noble’s story through his freelance work at John Sutherland and later Chuck Jones productions at MGM and beyond. Maurice ended up at Warner Bros. (Tiny Toon Adventures) and with Chuck on his final shorts. It’s all here.

The following chapters recount Noble’s approach to designing an animated film with sections devoted to story, design, color, layout, inspiration and research. It’s how they made Looney Tunes, meticulously described by one who was there. Polson takes us behind the scenes with loving care. It’s one thing to fall in love with Noble’s work on screen behind the antics of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck; it’s quite another to experience Noble’s work laid bare in this book, in all their full frame glory.


I’ve used the term “must-have” before – but I compel every one of you reading this site and this review to order this book immediately. You will not regret it.



  • My review copy of this arrived from Chronicle Books yesterday, and I have not had time to read it yet, but I am really excited about it! It looks like a visual treat; it’s encouraging to know that it is a solid factual treat as well.

    Hmmm. Look at the cover pictures on; the basic book entry and the “Look Inside” entry, and see the appearing and disappearing “the” in the book’s title. I wonder why the variation?

  • “The Zen of Animation Design” is certainly an apt subtitle. Noble was a great, and creative, artist.

  • In spite of it being narrowly focused on a single artist and unit, it may be the best book out there on the making of the Warner Bros. cartoons, period.

  • This looks great! I’d love to see his work from “Dumbo.” I might ask for this for Christmas!

  • Now we just need a books for designs from Tom O’Loughlin, Richard H. Thomas, Hawley Pratt, Phillip DeGuard, William Butler. 🙂

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