Walt and the Disney Package Features. Walt talks about the package films in the British annual Film Review 1948-1949 by F. Maurice Speed. The series of books began in 1944 as a way of producing a “more or less complete annual record, in picture and story, of his year’s filmgoing in the UK” and this volume included an article by-lined by Walt Disney:
“An important period in the history of Disney product will be marked by the release of our new feature-length fantasy Melody Time, and, since it may seem to signalize a departure from such productions as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi and other similar features already announced for our forthcoming program, our new film musical prompts an explanation as to its origin and technique.
“In the first place I want to stress that the multiple-episode cartoon fantasy will not replace the classic fable picture on the Disney schedule. From our standpoint the Melody Time formula is as essentially ‘Disney’ as any other kind of screen entertainment associated with our name, the one type merely offering a change of pace from the other, and keeping our products from crystallizing around a set specification.
“The literary archives of the world are filled with screenable riches, with tale and anecdote, fable and fantastic folklore. Wonderfully amusing and dramatically potent, they are often so concentrated in form as to be entirely unsuited for feature-length film treatment.
“Ordinarily, changes in form and material come slowly in popular diversion, this applying to screen and stage alike, but occasionally there are circumstances which dictate swift innovation, and then we discover, to our amazement, that the public has been ready and waiting for some recipe we have been too timid to propose.
“It pleases and encourages me to learn that ‘Disney’ style is not so fixed and limited in the public mind as to preclude further exploration in the field of entertainment.”
Kurtz Talks Animation. In Variety July 19,1982, Gary Kurtz, who at that time was identified as the producer of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back announced he was going to produce two animated features concurrently, Little Nemo and The Spirit, through his company, Kinetographics. Kurtz said, “The biggest problem up until now is that people have pigeonholed (animation) as Disney and most of the recent attempts in the field haven’t been very good. I don’t think animation should be conceived of as being that separated from live action, although it’s different enough that it shouldn’t try to imitate it.”
Home Alone Takes Back Seat to The Rescuers. In Entertainment Weekly November 13, 2015, director Chris Columbus talked about his movie Home Alone (1990). “If you’ve see an early poster for Home Alone, the credits read ‘Music by Bruce Broughton’. As we were getting closer to finishing the film, we got a call from Bruce saying that he was under a deadline to finish the score for The Rescuers Down Under (1990). Spielberg ultimately helped us land John Williams to replace him.”
The Simpsons Secret. In TV Guide magazine (November 23-December 6, 2015): “There’s not a day in the writers’ room that we’re not gnawing our teeth off,” said executive producer James L. Brooks who developed the series with Matt Groening and the late Sam Simon. “We’re always pushing ourselves, policing ourselves, staying on our toes. If you dropped by our offices, you’d never know The Simpsons is a twenty-seven year old show. We act like it’s Year One. The trick to staying fresh is to keep holding hands with innocence. We’re always getting into new arenas: mobile games, theme park lands, a Simpsons night at the Hollywood Bowl – anything we’re absolutely stupid at. It keeps us vital.”
Cambria and The Computer. Margaret Kerry recently wrote me with the following information: Cambria Studio (creators of Clutch Cargo) was asked by General Electric to try out their brand NEW Genegraphics computer. Eric Norquist and I were given the task of producing a Demo reel for Cambria which contained animated comedy bridges using Genegraphics … the very first time CGI was ever tried. I still have the piece on ¾ tape … It’s funny. I worked side-by-side with the GE engineer who didn’t have a clue about animation. Now that’s a story … I was supposed to train him as we went along! By the way, you know the ubiquitous phrase, ‘That’s awesome’? That is the catch phrase in our demo … an advertising agency we showed the reel to picked up the phrase for one of their big automobile client commercials … the rest is history and Eric and I are to blamed.”
Making Woody Allen an Ant. Producer Jeffrey Katzenbrg had originally intended to release the animated feature Antz in 1999 but the artists at Pacific Data Images polished off the film much earlier than expected and it was released in 1998, beating Pixar’s A Bug’s Life (1998) by over a month.
“Jeffrey kept telling us, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are. Animated movies never happen in two and a half years’,” said co-director Tim Johnson.
Just the designing of Woody Allen’s doppelganger ant character took ten months. “The first versions looked exactly like Woody,” said lead character designer Raman Hui to Entertainment Weekly August 21, 1998. “Thick glasses, hair from Sleeper (1973), long face, big eyebrows.” To make the character more organic, Katzenberg insisted on a less slavish caricature and more “ant-like”. “You want people to relate to these ants as characters, not celebrities with six legs.”
Katzenberg claimed Antz came from a 1991 story pitch by Johnson that was related to Katzenberg in October 1994 but it is also true that John Lasseter had told Katzenberg the detailed story of A Bug’s Life to get feedback in 1995 because he trusted Katzenberg’s story sense. Reportedly, Katzenberg offered Pacific Data Images significant bonuses if they finished befor Pixar.
Lasseter on Frank And Ollie. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences paid tribute to Disney Legends Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston in an event in April 2003. In attendance was John Lasseter who said he sought advice from the two of them when he was just starting out at Disney: “They taught me even when I turned to computerized images that it’s not how something moves. It’s why something moves. Software can’t make an audience cry through pure movement. If computer-generated characters make you cry. If computer-generated characters make you think. That is what Frank and Ollie brought to computer-generated animation.”