June 18, 2014 posted by

In His Own Words: Jack Hannah Remembers Some Disney Shorts

jack-hannah-bwJack Hannah joined the Disney Studios in 1933 and spent five years as an animator, another five years in the story department where he was teamed with Carl Barks as a story team, and then close to twenty years as a director of animated shorts.

He worked on well over a hundred cartoons with Donald Duck, Chip’n’Dale and Humphrey the Bear among many Disney characters. Eight of the cartoons he directed were nominated for Academy Awards.

He also directed fourteen hour-long Disney television shows, many of which featured Walt Disney interacting with Donald Duck. He left the Disney Studio in 1959 and worked briefly at the Walter Lantz Studio where he was also responsible for directing the live-action openings of the WOODY WOODPECKER television show.

Jack returned to Disney in the 1960s to work as a story consultant on live action films. In 1975, Hannah was asked by the Disney Studios to develop and take charge of the School of Character Animation at the California Institute of the Arts. He worked there for eight years.

Jack was the very first animator I ever interviewed and it was a pleasure to interview him several times over nearly twenty years. Here is an excerpt from my interviews where Jack offers some insight into a few particular Disney shorts he directed.

Jim Korkis: NO HUNTING (1955) seems to be a different kind of Donald Duck short.

Jack Hannah: I recently showed that short to a group of my students at Cal Arts and the reaction was very favorable. Thirty years later the laughs and dull spots still came in the same places. People don’t change much. Good basic comedy never seems to change.

no-hunting-posterI used to go hunting with my dad when I was a kid and this short was a great takeoff on these hunters and fishermen. They really are this way. They are as dangerous to themselves as to the game they’re hunting. I’ve heard there are more hunters shot on opening day than deer. It shows how timeless these shorts are because it still spoofs hunters and fishermen. They’re still that way.

My students especially enjoyed the joke where all the trash cans are coming down the river and I stuck in Bambi’s mother who says, “Man is in the forest. Let’s dig out.”

There was sort of a subtle feeling in the short that Donald wasn’t himself which is why he doesn’t talk. Hunting didn’t mean a thing to him but it was the spirit of his grandfather that came out of the painting off the wall that got into him and now made a monster of him. He was possessed. That’s why he didn’t speak. Donald just wasn’t himself. I never thought of that later as being one of my better shorts but after seeing it recently, I’ve changed my opinion.

Several times when we needed incidental lines from minor characters, we found talent right within the unit. Milt Schaeffer was a storyman at Disney. We used his voice when the usher said, “Two down front” when the hunters were trying to find room for camps. I don’t think he got story credit but I know he did work on that story.

Talking about this particular short, I stuck my voice in several times. Remember where the spirit of the Duck had antlers on and a moose was down in a hole with him and the moose says, “Hmmm, you’re a cute one”? That’s my voice! The animator I was working with on that sequence, John Sibley, got a big kick out of the way I said it so I finally said, “Hell, I’ll record it.” And I did. In several of my shorts, I did those kind of things. Little one liners.

double-dribble-250JIM: There seems to be an inside joke in one of the Goofy shorts you did, DOUBLE DRIBBLE (1946). The basketball players are named Kinney, Berg, Lounsbery, Hannah, Sibley, etc.

JACK: It was done by the storymen as an inside joke. Obviously the audience wouldn’t have found it funny because they didn’t know the names were all Disney storymen. It was probably done to relieve the boredom of doing a story. By the way, we were thinking of Dick Kinney, who was Jack Kinney’s younger brother, and in the Story Department at the time. I really can’t recall any more inside jokes off hand. We didn’t go out of our way to put them in but in this story it just seemed to fall into place. I mean, you had to use some names and “Kinney” was just as good as “Jones” or “Brown”. If Walt had had some objection to it, you can bet we would have heard about it but we didn’t. We didn’t put ears on the characters so it would be clear that they were just “Goof” characters and not Goofy himself. Naturally, I welcomed having a change after directing one character (Donald Duck) for most of my life. I enjoyed working with the Goof.

JIM: Did you ever use rotoscoping in any of your shorts?

JACK: Once. You know the girls in DUDE DUCK (1951)? Bill Justice animated those girls using the rotoscope as a guide only. We had a set built and filmed the girls as they left the bus and ran toward the camera. We didn’t really need to do it that way but it gave us a chance to look at girls in sweaters. The problem with rotoscoping is that you’re really disappointed if you can recognize it is rotoscoping. A lot of people have had that problem with rotoscoping.


  • The more Walt was off building Disneyland in the final years of the theatrical shorts, the more Hannah’s shorts moved away from the normal Disney cuteness and towards the Warners-MGM type of gag-filled efforts. It’s interesting to compare “No Hunting” with Avery’s “Field and Scream”, since both were released at almost the exact same time.

  • Rank heresy it may be to say, but NO HUNTING is a far more biting satire of “the sportsman” than Avery’s FIELD AND SCREAM. Really enjoying the Hannah posts, Jim, keep them coming! The DUDE DUCK story is one of my all-time favorite tales from animation history, ever since I first read it in your excellent piece in the Barks Library.

  • An excellent post, Jim! Jack Hannah often doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves, he and Jack Kinney directed the most entertaining shorts at the studio.

    “No Hunting” is one of the few laugh-out-loud Donald shorts. “Double Dribble” wasn’t his only outing with the Goof characters: “A Knight for a Day” (1946) was also directed by Hannah, with deft comedy and timing that matches the Warner Brothers unit at the time.

    Perhaps one day you can fill us in on the Donald short “Share and Share Alike”—long ago a magazine interview said it was in production phase and shelved, because Jack felt it was a thin plot, worn even thinner in seven minutes. I’m curious if any art or reels survived, like the materials that were recently uncovered for “Plight of the Bumblebee.”

    • What was “Share and Share Alike” going to be about? I never heard of that shelved cartoon before.

  • Was it normal for Disney directors to pretty much stick to one character, the way Jack Hannah did with Donald Duck? Seems like it would have been to the studio’s benefit to let their directors mix it up a bit. I imagine it would have had to have gotten somewhat numbing, working with the same character year after year after year, and that there would have been a risk of boredom setting in and showing up in the cartoons.

    • According to “Of Mice and Magic”, Hannah said there were times where he got tired of “the damn duck’s voice”.

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