Thursday, August 02, 2007 08/02/07-Disney Art

In today's encore excerpt--the driven, endlessly inventive Walt Disney, only 29 years old, deals with the challenge of improving the quality of his animators' work. This problem is only a problem in Walt's eye, as his cartoons are already enormously popular and sufficiently profitable. Consumed with a need for improvement only he can see, he takes the innovative step of enrolling his animators in 'fine arts' classes--which takes the company on a path that eventually leads from Steam Willie to Snow White:

"The staff continued to grow, but Walt realized that simply adding more animators and background artists and story men would not achieve the quality he sought. ... In 1931, Walt arranged with the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles for his artists to attend night classes, with the studio paying the tuition. Since many of the young employees couldn't afford cars, Walt himself drove them downtown to the school, returned to the studio for an evening's work, then picked up the students when the classes were over. When the United Artists contract assured a greater flow of funds into the studio, Walt decided to establish a school at the studio. He asked a Chouinard teacher, Don Graham, to conduct classes two nights a week on the studio sound stage. ...

"Graham was admittedly unschooled in animation, and some of the students resisted his instruction. Scornful cartoons appeared on the studio bulletin board, depicting Mickey Mouse with an anatomically detailed pelvis. But as time went on, each side learned from the other. ... The art school began to fulfill the function that Walt had designed for it: to develop the talent that would carry animation to heights that only he envisioned."

Bob Thomas, Walt Disney, Disney Editions, 1994, p. 115-6.


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