December 26, 2014 posted by

In His Own Words: Ken Anderson

kenandersonelliotKen Anderson’ official credits list such titles at Disney as art direction, art supervision, story, color, styling, layout, production, character development and more. That made him a challenge to interview because he had so many credits as an animator and as an Imagineer on the theme parks.

Specializing in character design in later years, he designed such characters as Shere Khan in The Jungle Book and Elliott the Dragon in Pete’s Dragon.

I had the opportunity to interview Ken at a The Mouse Club fan convention in 1985 in Anaheim.

Jim Korkis: I understand that throwing push pins was quite a sport for animators at the Disney Studio on Hyperion.

Ken Anderson: I was in Ducky Nash’s office. Ducky was there before I was hired in 1934. These animators were throwing push pins. They learned the certain way to hold the push pin and rifle it to the storyboard to get it to stick. They had a target on the storyboard.

I even tried it. The door opened and in came Walt and everybody quit. Walt went over and said, “What are you fellers doing?” He picked up a pin and he was holding it all wrong. He had it just on the end and he tossed it. It went end over end and right into the bullseye.

“Let that be a lesson,” he said and turned around and walked out.

JK: I had heard that someone even created a blow gun to shoot these pins.

Bill Cottrell

Bill Cottrell

KA: One of Walt’s better employees turned out to be a relative, Bill Cottrell, his brother in law. He had not too much to do that day and he had learned to roll a long celluloid up, two field cel, and make a shooting tube out of it.

He found that pins would stick in the ceiling with more force if they had a tail on them. He was leaning back in his chair and shooting the pins into the ceiling. They would stick to the ceiling and then he was timing it to see how long it would stay up there. They only stayed for a minute and ten seconds was the longest any would stick up there.

He had just shot one up and the door opened and in comes Walt. Bill tried to get him out from underneath this thing. He moved around here and there. It didn’t work. Walt would stand right underneath this thing. Walt was annoyed at Bill because he was moving around so much while Walt was talking.

He was there for two and a half minutes and that thing just stayed up there. It didn’t come down until Walt went out and shut the door. A real good thing.

JK: There seems to be some real characters and funny pranks at the Hyperion Studio.

Ken: Here’s a story I love. Roy Williams was a legend. Roy was a 320 pound former All American high school football player. He was a little baby. He was a child.

He was a naïve child in this great body who could throw people around. An enormous gag man. He just churned out these cartoons like you wouldn’t believe. Walt decided that Roy should be a little more dignified so we helped Walt out.

roywilliamsWhen Roy was made a gag captain we made it an important thing. He had to wear a suit, tie, and a vest….and socks. Everything.

Then he came over to this new building. They were really just a couple of apartments we had gutted and made into rooms for the storymen.

We had Roy all dressed up. I got Ethel, who was his wife, to make sure Roy wore the suit and everything. It didn’t really fit. Nothing buttoned. Nothing really worked.

As gag captain, one of his jobs was to go around and “pass” on the gags that everyone had done. He came into the room.

We took this little guy, Joe Sable, who was a new guy who was maybe five foot two and weighed all of eighty pounds. We took T. Hee’s pants. T. Hee was a big man in those days. He lost over three hundred pounds. We took his pants and wrapped them around and around Sable and tied it up with a belt.

So Joe is saying, “Mr. Williams, is this gag acceptable?”

And Roy is going crazy. “Are those your pants? For crying out loud, are those your pants? Have you been on a diet?”

Joe says, “Yes, sir but what’s good for one person isn’t necessarily good for another.”

Meeter's-Kraut-Juice-749093Roy is getting desperate. “Never mind that. What have you been on?”

Joe says, “I hate to tell you but it was sauerkraut juice. You should probably check with your doctor. Now about this gag…”

Roy bolts away and calls his doctor. At least he had that much sense. He got the nurse and asked her if sauerkraut juice is good for diets and she says “yes, but…” and Roy hangs up before she finishes and runs across the street and got a gallon of sauerkraut juice and drank this whole can.

The meeting with Walt on gags is due to come up in less than ten minutes. This whole business began to work on poor Roy’s insides and there was a lot of Roy to work on.

Have you ever heard elephants trumpet? That was the sound coming out of him. Roy would come in to the boards and these sounds are starting. Boom. Boom.

He runs down the hall to where we had a lavatory and we hear “Bang! Bang! Bang!” We had the doors all locked.

Then we had the next building fixed the same way. Wherever he went there was no chance for him to get any relief.

Walt comes in and sits down on a camp chair and he is already drumming his fingers and saying, “All right. All right. What have you boys got here?”

Roy tries to start telling Walt the gags and he just can’t take it any more. Roy bolts out of the door and knocks over everyone in his way and makes it across the street to the main building finally.

JK: That’s a great story.


  • As you mentioned, in another article on Mouse Planet, Anderson also helped developed early plans for what would become “The Haunted Mansion” at Disneyland. In the early plans, he also plan what would become a common part of theme parks where the attraction exit would lead to a themed gift shop. I don’t know wheather to thank or blame Ken on that.

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