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Working with Disney

Working with Disney: Interviews with Animators, Producers, and Artists

Xavier (X) Atencio
Sharon Baird
Joyce Belanger
Bobby Burgess
John Catone
Marc Davis
Gilles “Frenchy” de Trémaudan
Lou Debney
Van France
Dave Hand
Ollie Johnston
Bill Justice
Walter Lantz
Lance Nolley
Frank Thomas
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Working with Disney
    Book Description:

    In this volume Don Peri expands his extraordinary work conducting in-depth interviews with Disney employees and animators. These recent interviews include conversations with actors and performers rather than solely animators.

    This book offers Peri's extensive interviews with Marc Davis, Frank Thomas, and Ollie Johnston, three of Walt Disney's famed "Nine Old Men of Animation." Peri interviewed two Disney Mouseketeers-Bobby Burgess and Sharon Baird-from the original Mickey Mouse Club Show, providing valuable perspectives on how the Walt Disney Company worked with television. Lou Debney, a Disney television producer, discusses the company's engagement with television and live-action film. Walter Lantz talks about his work in the animation business, especially with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. And Dave Hand discusses his legendary work on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

    Taken together, the interviews inWorking with Disneycreate an enlightening perspective on the Walt Disney Company as it grew from its animation roots into a media powerhouse.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-941-1
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxii)

    As a child of the Baby Boom, I grew up in an America that was experiencing a wave of unprecedented prosperity in the 1950s. My early years were spent in San Bruno, California, where we lived in what I think of as a quintessential Baby Boom neighborhood. Almost all of the families had World War II–veteran fathers and stay-at-home mothers who had moved from nearby San Francisco to the new suburbs near the start of the decade. Chestnut Avenue teemed with children of all ages, so we never had to stray from our block for any kind of kid...

  5. Explanation of Terms
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  6. Note about the Interviews
    (pp. xxv-2)
  7. Frank Thomas
    (pp. 3-16)
    DON PERI and Frank Thomas

    Frank Thomas was born on September 5, 1913, in Fresno, California. Interested in art at an early age, he attended Fresno State College and Stanford University, where he met Ollie Johnston, who would become a lifelong friend and a fellow animator. Frank subsequently studied at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. On September 24, 1934, Frank joined the Walt Disney Studio as employee 224, thereby beginning what would be one of the most celebrated careers in animation. After working on short subjects, Frank joined the team on Disney’s first feature-length film,Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, where his animation...

  8. Ollie Johnston
    (pp. 17-30)
    DON PERI and Ollie Johnston

    Ollie Johnston was born on October 31, 1912, in Palo Alto, California. He attended Stanford University, where his father was a professor of romance languages and where he met Frank Thomas. Just shy of graduation, Ollie came to Los Angeles to take classes at the Chouinard Art Institute. He followed Frank and other Stanford alumni to the Walt Disney Studios, joining the staff on January 21, 1935. After learning the ropes of animation on short subjects, Ollie received his big break as an assistant to Freddy Moore onSnow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Ollie would treasure his time with...

  9. Marc Davis
    (pp. 31-53)
    DON PERI and Marc Davis

    Marc Davis was born on March 30, 1913, in Bakersfield, California. Marc’s family followed his father’s career in the oil fields and moved frequently. After high school, Marc attended the Kansas City Art Institute, the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, and the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles before joining the Walt Disney Studios on December 2, 1935. He began as an apprentice animator onSnow Whiteand served as a story sketch artist and character designer onBambiandVictory through Air Power. Another of the Nine Old Men of Animation, Marc created some of the...

  10. Dave Hand
    (pp. 54-58)
    DON PERI and Dave Hand

    Dave Hand was born on January 23, 1900, in Plainfield New Jersey. He attended the Art Institute of Chicago before returning to the East Coast and beginning his career in animation at the J. R. Bray Studio. Hand later worked for Max Fleischer on the Out of the Inkwell series. He came to California to consider live-action filmmaking but returned to animation, this time with the Walt Disney Studios. He joined the staff in 1930, animating on more than forty shorts, includingThe Chain Gang(1930),Traffic Troubles(1931), andFlowers and Trees. He began directing in 1932 withTrader...

  11. Walter Lantz
    (pp. 59-68)
    DON PERI and Walter Lantz

    Walter Lantz was born on April 27, 1900, in New Rochelle, New York. He began his animation career at sixteen, working with Gregory La Cava at the studio set up by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst to create cartoons from popular comic strips. After two years, the studio closed, and Walter joined the J. R. Bray Studio. At Bray, Walter also worked as a producer, creating films that combined animation with live action with cartoon characters Dinky Doodle and Colonel Heeza Liar. But Hollywood beckoned, and Walter arrived in 1927, working first as a gag writer for Mack Sennett and...

  12. Gilles “Frenchy” de Trémaudan
    (pp. 69-72)
    DON PERI and Gilles “Frenchy” de Trémaudan

    Very little seems to be known about Gilles “Frenchy” de Trémaudan. He was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, of French descent. He attended the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, where he was a classmate of Wilfred Jackson (whose interview appears inWorking with Walt: Interviews with Disney Artists). De Trémaudan was hired by Walt Disney and became an animator as well as a story man and sketch artist. He animated through most of the 1930s at Disney on short subjects, among themThe Picnic(1930),Pioneer Days(1930),Frolicking Fish(1930),The Birthday Party(1931),Traffic Troubles(1931),Mickey Steps...

  13. Lance Nolley
    (pp. 73-85)
    Lance Nolley and DON PERI

    Lance Nolley hailed from Texas. After a stint as a newspaper artist, he was working as a commercial artist in Dallas when he received the call to come to the Disney Studios. He joined the staff right after work was completed onSnow White. Lance has credits as an art director onFantasiaandThe Reluctant Dragon; on story forFun and Fancy Free,Football Now and Then(1953),Paul Bunyan(1958),The Saga of Windwagon Smith(1961),The Litterbug(1961), and severalDisneylandepisodes; and as a layout artist onMake Mine Music,Melody Time,The Adventures of Ichabod...

  14. Xavier (X) Atencio
    (pp. 86-98)
    DON PERI and Xavier (X) Atencio

    Xavier (X) Atencio was born on September 4, 1919, in Walsenburg, Colorado. He moved to Los Angeles in 1937 to attend the Chouinard Art Institute. He began his career at the Walt Disney Studios in 1938 as an inbetweener onPinocchio. He became an assistant to Wolfgang Reitherman onFantasiaandDumbobefore leaving for four years of service in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He returned to the studio and worked on short subjects, includingToot,Whistle,Plunk,and Boomand the innovativeJack and Old Mac(1956),Noah’s Ark(1959), andA Symposium on...

  15. Bill Justice
    (pp. 99-116)
    DON PERI and Bill Justice

    Bill Justice was born on February 9, 1914, in Dayton, Ohio. After studying at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, Bill joined the Walt Disney Studios in 1937. Bill animated on such Disney classics asFantasia,Bambi,Saludos Amigos,Victory through Air Power,The Three Caballeros,Make Mine Music,Alice in Wonderland, andPeter Pan. Bill is also well known for his animation of Chip ’n Dale, stars of many short subjects.

    Bill directed several experimental films, includingNoah’s Ark,A Symposium on Popular Songs, andThe Truth about Mother Goose(1963). With X Atencio and T. Hee, Bill...

  16. Lou Debney
    (pp. 117-131)
    DON PERI and Lou Debney

    Lou Debney was born on January 3, 1916. He and Les Clark, one of the Nine Old Men of Animation, knew each other and Walt and Roy Disney from the Kingswell Avenue studio neighborhood before Lou and Les came to work for the studio. Lou joined Disney two weeks after his eighteenth birthday, working first in the Cutting Department at the Hyperion Studio and then becoming an assistant director onSnow Whitewith Ben Sharpsteen. Lou worked as an assistant to a number of directors on both features and short subjects. After work on the live-action filmPerri(1957), Lou...

  17. Joyce Belanger
    (pp. 132-135)
    DON PERI and Joyce Belanger

    Joyce Belanger began working at Disneyland before the park opened in July 1955. Her first job with the Mark Twain Riverboat led to a long career with Walt’s first Magic kingdom. When I interviewed Joyce by telephone on March 13, 1985, she was working at the Disneyland Hotel Monorail. She completed her long tenure at Disneyland as a ticket seller at the main entrance, where I am sure her warm engaging personality set just the right tone for many guests as they began their day in Disneyland.

    DP: How did you happen to go to work at Disneyland?

    JB: A...

  18. John Catone
    (pp. 136-140)
    DON PERI and John Catone

    John Catone, a native of Girard, Ohio, applied for a job at Disneyland in March 1955. On opening day, July 17, 1955, John was working on the Autopia attraction. His greatest claim to fame came when he donned a space suit and wandered through Tomorrowland to greet guests. When I interviewed John by telephone on March 13, 1985, he was the manager of communication Services at Disneyland. John died on April 7, 2005. His contributions to the Disneyland story are memorialized by a window bearing his name over the Mad Hatter shop in the town square on Main Street U.S.A....

  19. Van France
    (pp. 141-144)
    DON PERI and Van France

    Van France was born in Seattle, Washington, on October 3, 1912. After a series of jobs that provided training and experience in the fields of labor and industrial relations for General Dynamics and Kaiser Aluminum, Van joined Disney in March 1955. He worked at a variety of positions with Disneyland but is best known for founding the University of Disneyland, which over the years has turned Disneyland employees into cast members who exemplify Walt Disney’s philosophy of creating happiness for park guests. Van retired in 1978, served as a consultant to the parks, and wrote an autobiography,Window on Main...

  20. Bobby Burgess
    (pp. 145-159)
    DON PERI and Bobby Burgess

    Bobby Burgess was born in Long Beach, California, on May 19, 1941. He started dancing as a young child and made it his life’s work. He appeared in many amateur events and contests before an agent brought him to the Disney Studios for what became a series of auditions, first for the Spin and Marty serial and then for the role of a Mouseketeer onThe Mickey Mouse Club. Bobby was featured for the entire run of that program, frequently partnered with Sharon Baird, Annette Funicello, and Jimmie Dodd in dance routines. After the show ended, Bobby returned to public...

  21. Sharon Baird
    (pp. 160-172)
    DON PERI and Sharon Baird

    Sharon Baird was born on August 16, 1943, in Seattle, Washington. Like her frequent Mouseketeer partner, Bobby Burgess, Sharon began dancing as a young child, and her skills as a dancer defined her show business career. After winning the Little Miss Washington State contest, she came to California with her parents for the Little Miss U.S.A. contest. Sharon remained in California and turned professional, with television appearances onThe Colgate Comedy Hour,The Damon Runyon Theatre,Death Valley Days, andThe Donald O’Connor Showas well as movie appearances, most notably dancing with Dean Martin inArtists and Models. Sharon...

  22. Index
    (pp. 173-183)