Song of the South

With all the hoohah over the Disney Company ever re-releasing "Song of the South" it seems odd that I wrote stories about these delightful Disney characters more than a decade ago. Of course, I had to compromise with my editors. Only the animal critters were allowed to speak with a southern dialect. The old former slave, Uncle Remus ended up speaking like a graduate from Oxford, but no matter. I was pleased to bring my favorite Disney characters to life again.

Of course, if the old Disney animators were still around they'd tell you the same. Even the irascible Milt Kahl said he never had more fun animating a character. This feature film boasts some of the finest cartoon animation you'll ever see. That is - if you can see it. It appears the PC police at the mouse house won't allow this movie released on DVD. The whole thing is totally disingenuous of course. I doubt Disney has plans to shut down Splash Mountain at the theme parks anytime soon.

Writing comic stories for Disney was just as much fun. How can you go wrong with entertaining characters like Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear? The tall tales are whimsical, fun and not the least bit offensive to anyone. Anyone that is, but a bunch of wimpy executives hoping not to rock the boat.


Madame Mim

We had a ball doing this character. This is Mad Madame Mim from Walt Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone,” and it was a delight to spend the whole time on this wonderful animated film with Disney Legend, Milt Kahl.

I was just finishing up my chores on a short film over in A-Wing when I received a call from my  boss, Andy Engman. Andy informed me my next assignment would be on the upcoming feature film based on the T.H. White novel. And he added, I would be assisting Milt Kahl. I’ll admit the news came somewhat as a shock. I had worked with Kahl briefly on “Sleeping Beauty” back in the late fifties and the master animator was not always the easiest guy to work for. Even though it was a plum assignment I wondered what I was in for.

Well, my worries were all for naught because Milt Kahl must have mellowed somewhat because he turned out to be a great guy to work for. Not once in our two years together did I ever catch the wrath of the directing animator. Milt was legendary for his temper tantrums and many a Disney artist had the misfortune of disappointing the master. Kahl did not mince words when he felt you had done a shoddy job. Milt never once admitted he was the best. “I just work harder than the rest of those lazy bastards,” he would often reply.

When I returned the pencil test of Madame Mim to my boss, Milt laughed his head off. Even though he was looking at his own animation on the Moviola, he was having a ball. I gotta admit - so was I.


Joe and David

This is a photograph I took of our dear friend, Joe Ranft on a special evening some years ago. He and David Silverman are clowning for the camera, and it was the last festive time I had with my Pixar pals in the Bay Area. We were all gathered at a posh San Francisco hotel for the wedding of Jeff and Anita Pidgeon. 


In the summer of 1999 I returned to Pixar to work on “Monsters, Inc.” The film was being directed by Pete Docter and David Silverman, and Bob Peterson was head of story. I especially remember the fun stuff we did together on the Scare Floor sequence. Since office space was already getting limited at the growing studio I moved into a vacant conference room and used it as an office. Not long after, Joe Ranft returned from a few months off. He had given up his office to another worker so Joe moved into the conference room as well. In time, writer, Dan Gerson also moved into the space. Now, there were three of us working together.


However, I remember even more fun stuff. Story man, Rob Gibbs brought his little daughter, Mary into Pixar to audition for the role of “Boo.” Sure enough she won a starring role in the movie but I doubt it really mattered to her. She was only about two years old.


I still have many fond memories of Pixar when it was “The Little Studio that Could.” They’re a successful enterprise today, but I still miss the fun little place trying to complete their fourth movie. And of course, it turned out to be another hit.



Don Albrecht

It's break time at the Walt Disney Studio in Burbank and the artists take a much needed break from the tedious yet enjoyable task of creating the thousands of drawings for the ambitious animated feature, "Sleeping Beauty." Don Albrecht works down the hall in B-Wing and he's made the trek down the hallway to chat with Freddy Hellmich and Jim Fletcher. Knowledgable and well read, the two are always up for a discussion of art, politics or movies. You could grab a cup of bad coffee from the machine and settle back in the comfortable Kem Webber chair and enjoy a fifteen minute discussion. It would be brief yet enlightening as always.

In those days, our crews enjoyed private offices instead of today’s cubicles. Our unit probably took up a good portion of G-Wing and we were located on the north side of the wing. Our offices faced a portion of the Disney back lot where movies were often filmed. This gave us a front row seat should something interesting be going on in movie magic land.

Anyway, break time is coming to an end and Don will be heading back to his B-Wing drawing board. He may even stop in to see the attractive young woman working in Andy Engman’s office on his way back to his office. Janie happens to be Andy’s secretary but not for very long it appears. One day in the near future Don Albrecht will marry the young woman and the two of them will bid a fond goodbye to their Disney careers and find something more interesting to do with their lives.