WDFM Blog Club: Legends in Animation

Posted on Thu, 04/16/2020 - 14:30

Need something to do while you are stuck inside? We have compiled ten articles exploring legendary Disney animators for you to read, and are starting a Blog Club on our Facebook page to foster discussion on these topics.

Read any of the articles that interest you, and join the Blog Club conversation on our Facebook page each day as we explore the articles.

Legends in Animation

Eric Larson: The Animator's Animator

While Disney fans know Larson as one of Walt’s famous “Nine Old Men” of animation, his path to get there was hardly a straight line. In fact, during an interview not long before his retirement, he was asked how he ended up with Disney. His reply: “This is the last place I expected to be.”

Make Believe: The World of Glen Keane

“As Tarzan looked into Jane’s eyes, I imagined him seeing his reflection in the face of another human for the first time. I wondered when I had experienced such a thing, and I remembered holding my daughter Claire—looking into her face and seeing myself. I told Claire years later: ‘When you see Tarzan looking into Jane’s eyes, that’s really me looking at you for the first time.’”

Josh Meador: Walt's Animation and Special Effects Master

As Josh was coming up to his 20th anniversary with The Walt Disney Studios, he wanted to dedicate more of his energies to his fine art painting. Walt prized Josh's services, and did not want to lose him. In 1955, Walt called Josh into his office and negotiated a compromise. Josh would be free to paint full-time, but when Walt needed him, Josh would remain under contract on an “on-call' basis. Both men grew to like the arrangement. Under it, Josh did some of his most memorable work.

Milt Kahl: Master Puppeteer

Walt was known to peek his head into Milt’s office and ask “Where’s the genius?” Kahl was one of the few who had the courage to openly disagree with Walt on some of his ideas, so confident was he in his knowledge that he was indispensable to the Studios. And he was right.

From Sketch Artist to Animator: Inspecting Some Pieces by Retta Scott

Though Scott's work was considered conceptual, meant as inspiration for the other artists, it seemed all too clear that no one would be able to convincingly animate the dogs as well as the artist who first gave them life in charcoal form. “When the time came, there was no question but that [Scott] would somehow have to do the animation herself,” Thomas and Johnston would say. And so The Walt Disney Studios would welcome its first officially credited female animator.

“The Best Education I Ever Had”: Mel Shaw at The Walt Disney Studios

Walt, ever on the lookout for the best talent, soon hired Shaw to come work at his studio. After Shaw arrived, Walt said to him, “You like to draw animals, would you like to work on this? We just got the rights [on] Felix Salten’s Bambi.”

Celebrating Burny Mattinson

It was sometime around 1940 when young Burny Mattinson's mother took him down Market Street in San Francisco. They were going to the Orpheum Theater, built in 1926 by famed theater owner Alexander Pantages. The downtown movie palace was a jewel of its age in architectural design. As Burny stepped inside, he would have gazed up in awe at the vaulted ceiling, evoking an old cathedral. The theater had passed into the ownership of RKO Pictures, which, in 1940, was busy distributing Walt Disney’s newest animated feature, Pinocchio.

Animated Contrarian: Celebrating Ward Kimball's Centennial Year

In a conversation between Diane Disney Miller and Pete Martin, Walt could be heard making a comment that has remained oft-repeated since: “Ward is one man who works for me I am willing to call a genius. He can do anything he wants to do.” Walt recognized Ward’s multifaceted style, whilst also recognizing Ward’s profound independence. Ward was his own man, as was Walt.

Marc Davis: Style & Compromise on Sleeping Beauty

Marc Davis was a renaissance artist, capable of all manner of style and character in his art. He proved one of the greatest animators who ever lived, but always approached his craft as an artist first. As Disney animator Iwao Takamoto would say, “[Marc] leaned far into the fine arts approach to making a drawing statement…he was not an animator at heart.”

Painting Dreams with Mary Blair

Despite the fact that we rarely get to see true Mary on the screen, her concepts were profound enough that today she continues to be one of the most remembered and respected artists that came out of The Walt Disney Studios.