Life of a Stick


Disney’s Art of Animation

I’ve been reading a book: Disney’s Art of Animation. It covers the history of Disney from Oswald (the pre-Mickey Mouse rabbit) to Beauty and the Beast. Well, the entire last half of the book appears to be Beauty and the Beast. The first half is the rest.

I wanted to put down some interesting things I found in the book.

First, Walt Disney started with Oswald. He was a rabbit that looks a little bit like Mickey Mouse. He was a loved character, and Disney did not properly read the contract, and because of the publisher’s legal work, the publisher owned Oswald and all its success.

Mickey Mouse was almost named Mortimer.

Steamboat Willie is the most famous and what people think of as the “first” Disney cartoon. But the first was Plane Crazy, and was met with mediocre reception. Steamboat Willie was the first Disney cartoon with sound (but not the first cartoon with sound), and was not simple, clean, nor cheap to make.

Art of Animation, Page 17, third paragraph.
“Hench compares Mickey’s appeal to twelve-thousand year old fertility symbols that central European tribes carried with them. “They were small stone objects, but they were built on Mickey’s formula of hooking together a series of circles — in Mickey’s case, spheres — in a dynamic way. He expresses simple ideas: that life is dynamic, that it isn’t static. He has this remarkable way of recalling these feelings in people everywhere.”

Pluto’s original name was Rover. His first appearance was a guard dog chasing an escaped Mickey Mouse. He was almost named either Pal orĀ Homer the Hound.

Goofy started life named Dippy Dawg. His first appearance was a laughing audience member.

It was the mid 1930s when Disney discovered that animation has to be better than real life, after referencing film actors and having the animation appear lifeless.

The biggest revelation to me about the history of Disney is that he WAS the father of animation (as is so often repeated). Not little cartoons, but feature length films. The business climate did not support such a vision, and it was against conservative logic to try to make an animated feature length film. You had to have a vision to create something that didn’t even exist yet and enough money to pull it off. And he nearly didn’t.

Besides justĀ 2D and even 3D CGI films, if it weren’t for Disney, the CG we’ve been using for live action films would likely be decades behind where we are now. The vision and drive of one can do so much.

Disney made “Three Little Pigs,” and it was a success. Then the publishers kept asking for “more pigs.” They made Snow White and the publishers kept asking for “More Dwarves.” This is like Ford, inventor of the automobile said, where if he had asked people what they wanted they would have said “faster horses.” And explains the current state of the game industry.

Jiminy Cricket was originally quickly crushed by Pinocchio. End character.

After the success of Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi were all box office losses. Dumbo broke even, but it was designed to be super economical.

Lady and the Tramp was a success. Sleepy Beauty was not. But by that point they had Disneyland, live action movies, and other adventures going on.

101 Dalmations was the first film to use Xerox copiers to duplicate the dogs and save redrawing them so many times. So many dogs. So many.

The Jungle Book was Walt Disney’s last film. He died one year before it was finished.

Tim Burton was a concept artist for the Black Cauldran. Due to poor management and organization, none of his concepts were used, and the film was a disaster. Burton then left to direct his own films.

I’ll read the last half about Beauty and the Beast later. Maybe it’ll warrant its own post.


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