Wednesday
Nov092011

Bill Peet

On occasion I would sneak upstairs to Bill Peet's office. Back in 1965 it was located in B-Wing on the third floor of Walt Disney's Animation Building. I honestly never intended to work on the movie Bill was developing but I enjoyed studying his inspired story sketches. I knew time wasn't an issue. The old Disney story guys were known for their long liquid lunches. Bill and his cronies would be gone for at least two hours. More than enough time to study his sketches.

The funny thing is, I had no ambition to follow the talented Mr. Peet in a story career. I loved his story sketches but I had plans to become a Disney animator. Not long after, Walt Disney and Bill Peet exploded in a bitter dispute over the handling of the story and Walt demanded changes. Peet thought his story was just fine and if Disney didn't like it he could get somebody else to write the film. Well, Walt decided to do just that.

It was not long after that fateful decision that I found myself forgetting about plans to animate. I was now part of Walt's new story team charged with fixing the story. Since Bill Peet had already done such a brilliant job of adapting Kipling's novel I wondered how hard could it be?

So a question was asked of the boss. What parts of the movie don't you like, and what parts would you liked changed? Walt Disney's answer was gruff and direct. "All of it!" he said. And, with that I began my first assignment as a Disney story artist on a film called, "The Jungle Book."

Tuesday
Nov082011

Life with Joe

Disney Legend, Joe Grant shared an office with Burny Mattinson on the Animation Building's third floor. Joe and Burny regularly had lunch together but on occasion Burny was out of the office so I would join Joe for lunch. Can you imagine what a delight that was. We spoke about young Walt Disney and how the new Fantasia movie compared with the original version. These were special lunches I'll always treasure.

I did get in trouble, however. After returning from lunch, a young Disney executive confronted me in the hallway of the studio. "I heard Joe Grant had ham and eggs for lunch," she complained. "How could you let him do that? You know it's bad for him." I couldn't help but laugh to myself. What was she thinking, I wondered? Did she really think that ham and egg lunch Joe ate was going to shorten his life? He was already ninety two!

Anyway, there were other lunches with the Disney Legend and they were all great. And of course, I let Joe eat whatever he wanted. Hell, he was probably old enough to make his own choices, don't you think?

Monday
Nov072011

Free Ride

This is the brand new, completely renovated DisneyToon Studio in Glendale. I’ve been to the facility a number of times in the past few weeks and I can say it’s a pretty cool new studio. The old building next to Disney’s Sonora facility was completely gutted, renovated, and this is the impressive result.

 

I remember a meeting with Michael Eisner back in the eighties when the Disney boss wanted to make the move into television full time. Walt had always resisted doing TV full time because he knew he could never maintain the quality he demanded. On occasion, Disney’s animation department created animation for “Disneyland” or the “Mickey Mouse Club,” but we never maintained a full time television unit. By the eighties, Disney had new management and the new CEO was ready to jump into television full time.

 

Naturally, Disney’s feature crew had their hands full with several films in development and couldn’t spare any of their talent for a television show. So, a handful of artists and writers in Disney’s Consumer Products Division simply took on the task of being a TV studio along with our regular duties. We developed two shows for Michael that were mainly his choosing not ours. “The Wuzzles” was based on a line of toys and “Gummi Bears” became a show because Eisner’s kids like to eat them.

 

We designed characters, environments, styling and even wrote several scripts for the new TV series. Not only were our efforts completely forgotten once Disney finally had their own television department - we never got paid a dime for our efforts.

 

Why should I be surprised? We worked for Disney.

Sunday
Nov062011

It's a Crazy Business

I'd like to introduce you to my talented colleagues. The hardworking, underpaid creatives of Disney's Publishing Department. These kids manage to turn out dozens and dozens of storybooks each year. I remain in awe at the amount of work they accomplish in an incredibly limited time frame. On occasion I work with them and they do this remarkable job with few complaints and not much in the way of incentives. Being a grouchy old veteran I'm not as patient. I doubt I could deal with the continued stress each day. Hell, at least in the film business when we worked our asses off we actually made money.