Preview: “The Lost Notebook: Herman Schultheis & the Secrets of Walt Disney’s Movie Magic”

Imagine this: A mysterious, dashing German émigré shows up at the Disney Studio on the eve of World War II. He works there for a little over two years on Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi, and keeps a meticulous secret notebook of how the studio achieved its propietary special effects. He never works in animation after that, instead pursuing other interests as a photographic chronicler of mid-century Los Angeles and an ingenious inventor (he serves himself drinks with an automated push-button and his home office has switches and buttons that control “over a hundred circuits”). A decade-and-a-half after leaving Disney, while adventuring in Central America, he disappears in the jungles of Guatemala. Nearly forty years after his disappearance, the Disney notebooks are found hidden in a Murphy bed in the Los Angeles home of his widow.

That’s the unbelievable—and completely true—premise of John Canemaker’s upcoming book, The Lost Notebook: Herman Schultheis & the Secrets of Walt Disney’s Movie Magic (Weldon Owen, 288 pages, $75, May 2014).

The book attracted a fair bit of attention when we mentioned it in our 2014 book preview so here’s a little bit more to whet your appetite: the book’s cover, provided exclusively to us by the author, and some preview pages from the book. I had the privilege of reading a draft of the book a few years back, and can assure you that this will be one of the most unique and informative animation history books ever published.


  • Gulzar Junaid

    All is not lost in the Disney Archive…am so glad that greats notes like these are available to us today.

  • Roberto Severino

    Fantastic premise! I am going to buy this when it comes up. Thanks for the heads up, Amid!

  • CRM

    I cannot wait to read this. I’m sure it will be excellent; it certainly looks spectacular. Too bad “Disney Editions” doesn’t publish things like this anymore, but I guess that would require them in showing some interest in editions… about Disney.

  • Matt Jones

    Cannot. Wait. Perhaps the WDFM will do an exhibition to tie in with the book’s release?

    • Paul N

      The notebook has been on display at the WDFM since day 1. They turn it to a different page every so often, and as Hankenshift said, you can check out the whole book digitally on the adjacent touchscreen display.

  • Hankenshift

    The book was offered to the Disney company, but they turned it down. Diane Disney Miller personally bought it for inclusion in the Walt Disney Family Museum, where you can peruse it, digitally, since the museum opened. It is truly one of the great finds in animation history.

  • Carolyn Bates

    Looks incredible and what a hook!

  • Hankenshift
  • Uli Meyer

    That’s a great story that would make a fantastic movie. I’d rather see that than ‘Saving Mr. Banks’.