Friday, December 22, 2006

Present at the Creation

I'm guessing that anybody interested in Disney has already bought the new Walt Disney Treasures DVD More Silly Symphonies. Besides the fact that there are extremely rare cartoons on the set, there are also commentaries by Disney composer Richard Sherman as well as Ross Care and Daniel Goldmark, both of whom have written about music in animation. Other commentators include Leonard Maltin, David Gerstein, Jerry Beck and J.B. Kaufman, all of whom know their Disney history.

For me, though, there was a totally unexpected pleasure on the set. Called Animators at Play, it's basically a home movie of a lunchtime softball game at the studio from the winter of 1930-31. While it dates from after Ub Iwerks left the studio, it's the crew that put the studio on the map.
Roy Williams

Fred Moore

Ben Sharpsteen and Les Clark

Dick Lundy

Norm Ferguson with Frenchy de Tremaudan

Floyd Gottfredson

Wilfred Jackson

Dave Hand

This artists are young, riding the success of Mickey Mouse and bursting with enthusiasm for making animated cartoons. They're happy to be working together (and being the Depression, they're just happy to be working). While they have great hopes for the future, could they imagine what they'd be doing just seven years later? Could they realize how far they'd go as a group and how much impact they'd have on the future of animation? Could they possibly imagine that we'd look back at them 76 years later, envying their youth, their high spirits and their opportunities?

Watching this film is like being a witness to the Big Bang. We're still feeling the effects of these artists and we're privileged to get a glimpse of them at the beginning of it all.

5 comments:

Michael Sporn said...

Isn't it time for one of these discs to include commentary from you!

Thanks for identifying the people in the film. There are a lot of good films on the disc.

Pete Emslie said...

Neat analogy, Mark! It is interesting to look back at when it all started and those who helped give birth to what became a major American art form. It's also so nice to see Walt himself out there with the guys just having fun. That toothy grin of his is great.

I hope you've also picked up the other set, "Your Host, Walt Disney", as it too has wonderful material. Last night I watched "I Captured the King of the Leprechauns" and was amazed at how well Walt handles himself through an extended appearance, really as more of an actor alongside Pat O'Brien and Albert Sharpe than as merely a host. The Disneyland 10th Anniversary show is terrific too, as it shows Walt in a particularly playful mode as he escorts the pretty Disneyland hostess through his workshop at WED Imagineering. He genuinely appears to be enjoying himself like a young boy showing off his toys.

Jenny said...

I'd read about these newest releases and was futzing about trying to avoid buying them as long as possible(xmas burnout/poverty, you know)--damn! Now I have to get them!

I read detaiiled escriptions of the supplements, but nothing yet about the home movie until your post. Thanks! You've sold me.

Jenny said...

I second what Michael Sporn says--you would be perfect to do commentary.

-And about the "King of the Leprechauns", Pete: it's also on the recent Darby O'Gill DVD--and I agree with you--Walt's great in it. In fact, he WAY outdoes Pat O'Brien, who drives me right up the wall with some terribly-paced scene-chewing; He's(Walt)the best thing about the thing--he and "King Brian". A different and more relaxed Walt than almost any of the shows present.

Anonymous said...

Mark,
Did i not mention this before?.... One evening at disney, in 98 0r 99, there was an evening of archival footage screened at work. it was stuff that had come to light during the big cleanup and reorg at the ARL, that was restored. it was hosted by scott mcqueen, who had a desk there at the time.Very sparsely attended, too. This was one one the pieces. Mcqueen spoke at length about it. What is the it was truly incredible, as you say, seeing these guys young and vital and not at all like the typical stuff one sees of them at work.I 'll tell you more next time we meet. What else does the disc release say about this piece? how do you know i'm writing this?
scott