Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mickey's Birthday Party



Here's a mystery that I hope someone can solve. The animator draft lists Shafer, but there was nobody at Disney that I'm aware of whose last name was spelled that way. There was Armin Schafer and Milt Schaffer, both of whom animated at Disney in the 1930's, but Albert Becattini doesn't list either of them animating into the 1940's. Did either of them work on this cartoon, or is it somebody else?

I'll write more about this film in a future entry.

29 comments:

Thad K said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Thad K said...

Mark,
I'm thinking it probably is Milt Schaffer. A 'Milt' is credited on the animators' draft of "Fish Fry" (at Lantz, he is credited as co-writer with Ben Hardaway on the same short), so he could animate!

- Thad

Pete Emslie said...

Wow, have I ever been under the wrong assumption all this time! I always believed that Freddy Moore and Ward Kimball masterminded this cartoon, only to find out now that neither of them worked on it at all.

Seems the scenes I had assumed were Freddy's were mostly done by Marvin Woodward and that terrific, wacky little dance I'd attributed to Ward was done by Ken Muse. I'm actually rather ashamed to confess that many of the animators credited on this cartoon I've not heard of before, and Ken Muse I've always associated more with his work at MGM, not Disney. Again, thank you Mark and Hans for bringing out all of this great info.

Hans Perk said...

I am pretty sure it is Milt Schaffer who did the Goofs. But I could be wrong, as with Don and Roy Williams. Interestingly, the June 1946 studio phone directory mentions a 'Schaffer, Milt' and a 'Shaffer, M.' - in two different rooms. No Shafer, though...

Peter, I'm glad we finally get to meet the animators. I wish the studio would officially release this info some day - I see no political reason not to - only that it wouldn't make heaps of money.

Hans Perk said...

By the way, who is Tim Cohea?

Mark Mayerson said...

Tim is an animation historian/fan who hangs out a lot at the Termite Terrace Trading Post.

Mark Mayerson said...

Armin Schafer animated on The Country Cousin according to Albert Becattini. It's quite possible that it's Milt Schaffer, but having been burned on the Roy/Don Williams identification, I prefer to leave it ambiguous unless somebody can supply some other evidence.

Hans, is there a draft from the same time period that includes a Schaf(f)er who is spelled differently so that we'd have a clue?

the spectre said...

"I always believed that Freddy Moore and Ward Kimball masterminded this cartoon, only to find out now that neither of them worked on it at all."

Maybe they acted as animation supervisors without animating any scenes on their own but still making their mark on it?

Hans Perk said...

Sc. 2 of Brave Little Tailor is credited to "Schaffer." I'll have another look in my other drafts...

I mentioned Tim Cohea, as it seems I am more vain than I would admit to, and I noticed you credited him with "studio records courtesy of..." ;-)

Galen Fott said...

I"ve got a question about this cartoon: I've got a production drawing from "Mickey's Surprise Party" that could absolutely be from shot 18 of "Mickey's Birthday Party" except that Mickey is wearing his two-button knickers. I seem to remember reading somewhere that some of the animation in "Surprise" was recycled for "Birthday." What then does this mean in regards to the animator identification here?

Hans Perk said...

A quick look at my drafts show no "Schafer", but "Schaffer" is credited for four scenes in Society Dog Show (the first scene of Mickey inside the building and the following three scenes), roughly around the same time. There are often spelling errors - like Frank Onaitis spelled Onatais in Nifty Nineties, remember?

Mark Mayerson said...

Galen, there is no released cartoon called Mickey's Surprise Party. That may have been a working title for the 1931 cartoon The Birthday Party. Mickey's Birthday Party is a very loose remake, re-using the situation and a few gags, but there is no animation that is lifted from the earlier cartoon.

Galen Fott said...

Mark --

The IMDb lists it as from 1939. It was produced for Nabisco for the 1939 World's Fair. It's also listed in John Grant's "Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters".
Here's another drawing from it:
http://www.animationartgallery.com/WDDSM8.html
And I'll be glad to send you a jpeg of my drawing (which is rougher than that one) if you wish. I got it from Gallery Lainsberg, a very reputable (now defunct) source. It's got a pose very clearly identical to one in your shot 18.

Galen Fott said...

Sorry, that link doesn't seem to work directly, but do a Google image search for "Mickey's Surprise Party" and you'll find it.

Mark Mayerson said...

Galen, you're right and I'm wrong about Mickey's Surprise Party. I was checking the list of theatrical Mickey cartoons and forgot about Mickey's Surprise Party which was done for Nabisco for the 1939 World's Fair.

The scene of Minnie putting on lipstick seems to be the only animation that was lifted from the Nabisco film for Mickey's Birthday Party. Mickey has a hat and cane, but he does no dancing.

Is your drawing an animation drawing or a storyboard drawing? If it's a board drawing, maybe there was material developed for the Nabisco film that wasn't used, and then it was revived for Mickey's Birthday Party.

Now at least I know why the Music Room is credited with scene 4.1, where Minnie puts on the lipstick. There was no new animation done for it as it was lifted from the Nabisco film.

Hans Perk said...

More Schaffer:
- 4 scenes in Donald's Ostrich
- Ants in Beach Picnic
- Goofy (!) in The Fox Hunt
- Goofy (!) in the last scene of The Whalers (rest is Babbitt)

No Schaffer by any other spelling on any of the other drafts that I have of this period. I'm quite sure the Schafer spelling is by the secretary hearing the name and thinking it was spelled this way...

(Encountered a lot of Eugster scenes, too...)

the spectre said...

What does "re-fielded" refer to?

Galen Fott said...

Mark -
Here's my drawing:
http://www.grundoon.com/images/mickeysurprise.jpg
Definitely an animation drawing on animation paper. I had it professionally framed years ago and don't really want to open it up, but I remember it is numbered.
Apparently "Mickey's Surprise Party" is on DVD on "Mickey Mouse in Living Color," which I don't have. Does he really not do the dance? Then what's up with this drawing?

Hans Perk said...

Re-fielded is what Mark calls what was used to be called a Camera Cut. The animation in the scene is as normal, but the camera changes position in one go, not gradually as in a truck or pan. Somewhere in the middle of the exposure sheet, there was a marking in the camera colums that read "Camera Cut to 4F 1N 1E" or something like that...

The pencil lines on that Nabisco animation drawing (e.g. the lines over the feet etc.) look very much like Freddie Moore drew that one...

Mark Mayerson said...

Galen, your drawing is from Mickey's Birthday Party, not Mickey's Surprise Party. I checked Surprise Party again and there's nothing remotely like your drawing.

The good news is that you have a Ken Muse rough. Congratulations! I'm guessing that after Muse animated the scene, somebody decided to change Mickey's wardrobe and an assistant animator was given the job during the clean-up phase.

Galen Fott said...

Well, I was all excited about having a Freddy Moore, but I guess a Ken Muse is pretty good, too! Thanks for checking on this, Mark. I guess someone at Gallery Lainzberg saw the hat, cane, and knickers, and so misattributed my drawing to "Surprise."

Mark Mayerson said...

Hans, thanks for checking on other drafts for Schaffer mentions. Unfortunately, the closest cartoon in your list of other Schaffer credits is 1939. I'm willing to admit that it's probably Milt Schaffer here as we know that he handled Goofy in other cartoons, but there's still some room for doubt.

Hans Perk said...

A bit more on Milt Schaffer: born Nov. 11th, 1917, died March 12th, 1993 (Encino, CA). Which means he was 19 for most of 1937, working on Donald's Ostrich.
From IMDB: worked as writer & director for Lantz from 1942 (left during strike?), back at Disney's 1946 as writer. More Lantz from 1956.

Sogturtle-Tim Cohea said...

Mark (and all)~

Wellllll since I've gotten mentioned by name here already (twice)) ;o)I THINK I can clear up the whole "Shafer" controversy for you once and for all...

Milt Schaffer's job description from early 1937 till he was fired in Fall '41 was "story crew". Soooo any animating by him (like in the Sept. 1938 release "The Brave Little Tailor" or 1939's "Society Dog Show") can be seen as irregular and or merciful.

And Disney has down that the REAL spelling of Armin Shafer's name was indeed SHAFER... Additionally, he was an assistant animator from AT LEAST Jan. 1938 until he was canned in Fall 1941. As such the REASON why we don't see his name turning up as animator except on a couple of shorts (including this one) is because he was just an assistant... But that Riley graciously gave him some actual scenes to animate in "Mickey's Birthday Party", shortly before Shafer was fired. Armin shows as never being employed at Walt's after that, which is why he's not in the 1946 studio phone directory. Later on he turned up at John Sutherland's as a full animator.

Shafer and Schaffer were fired from Disney the same day!!!

Lastly, Milt Schaffer was only a director (with the great Emery Hawkins) on one cartoon. His usual Lantz job was drawing the storyboard for Ben Hardaway, though they were both of course listed side-by-side as storymen.

Hope your vacation is great!
Sogturtle- Tim Cohea

Hans Perk said...

Very, very interesting, Tim! Thanks for the info! And it seems that Armin Schafer was there already earlier, for Alberto Bacattini refers to him thus: "Animator: DISNEY 36 (Silly Symphony 36 [The Country Cousin])."

It also explains why Alberto only credits Milt Schaffer for "Animator: DISNEY 34-37 (Donald Duck 37 [Modern Inventions, Donald's Ostrich], Mickey Mouse 38 [The Brave Little Tailor])."

You have to admit that Disney's didn't make things easier for us by firing them on the same day... ;-)

But that is not as crazy a coincidence as Mark posting his mosaic based on your papers, at the same time as my posting the drafts on my blog! After 66 years of no info on this film... What are the chances of THAT ever happening again? Slim at most, I would say...

Sogturtle -Tim Coha said...

Hans (and Mark)

Glad to have helped! And yeah, according to Disney records, Armin Shafer did indeed join Walt's in 1936, June 1 to be more exact.

Interesting part is that for the first year and half of his employment they DON'T have down what his job was!! And THAT'S extremely irregular... And furthermore, that June '36 date would appear to conflict with him working on "The Country Cousin" which was released a scant four months later...

There's two ways to resolve that... One is that there is an error somewhere, either in his working on "Country Cousin" or in his date of employment... I HAVE found that in SOME instances Disney had evidently thrown away former-employee's personell cards when they had quit in the mid-Thirties. And then when they returned a new card was created... This I think would explain things.
Orrrr maybe he was hired as an animator and given scenes in "Country Cousin" and then demoted to assistant...

Now that I've rattled completely off the topic of "Mickey's Birthday Party". ;o)

And you're right, the two of you posting the draft and screen-grabs at the same time is more than a little freaky... Was evidently just meant to be. :o)

Sogturtle -Tim Cohea

Lisa said...

Mark,
I'd be willing to bet it was Milt Schaffer. He was my uncle and I know he specialized in Goofy. Since all the "Shafer" frames are of Goofy, I think it's a safe assumption.

Lisa L.

Jill Eppler said...

Hi. Just adding my two cents here, which I hope is okay. :-) My sister used to be married to Don Schaffer, Milt Schaffer's son. :-)

Jill

Steve Waller said...

@Pete Emslie
>that terrific, wacky little dance I'd attributed to Ward was done by Ken Muse...

Pete, I was under that same misapprehension, maybe because Ward used the animation of Mickey blowing on his cane (like a party favor) on the end credits of his "Mouse Factory" TV show. But please note, the wacky part of the dance, where Mickey makes faces and stick out his tongue (shot 18.2), is animated by director Riley Thomson. Ken Muse only did shot 18, which is the beginning of the dance.