On August 11th and 12th 2012, D23 (The Official Disney Fan Club) presented the third Destination D event. The theme of this one was “Celebrating 75 Years of Disney Feature Animation.
The event was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Disneyland Hotel.
I’ll be recapping the event over the next several blog entries — in this first post, I’ll cover the two Saturday morning presentations, which covered different eras in the history of Disney animated features.
Walt and the First Golden Age of Disney Animation
The first presentation of the day covered the earliest days of feature animation. This panel was hosted by Disney Archives director Becky Cline, and included panelists:
- Disney Legend, animator, writer, storyboard artist, and director Burney Mattinson
- Layout artist and producer Joe Hale
- Documentary filmmaker Ted Thomas, son of Disney Legend Frank Thomas
The discussion started off with anecdotes about working with Walt and generally what it was like to be working in animation during that era. Then the discussion focused on each of the nine old men, with anecdotes about working with them, and discussions of specific films and scenes that each man was responsible for.
Anyone who has an interest in animation is familiar with how storyboards are used to present ideas for the story; we were treated to a video of Burny doing a story pitch using storyboards for the “Eeyore loses his tail” segment of the new Winnie the Pooh movie.
Overall the panel was very informative and did a great job of setting up the history of the animation studio.
Roy and the Second Golden Age of Disney Animation
The second panel of the morning moved on to the Second Golden Age of Disney Animation, a period that started with the Little Mermaid. This period of studio history is very well chronicled in Don Hahn’s Waking Sleeping Beauty.
The panel was led by Tim O’Day and included panelists
- Roy Patrick Disney, son of Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney, who was head of animation.
- Don Hahn, director (Waking Sleeping Beauty) and producer (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King)
- John Musker and Ron Clements, directing team of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, and The Princess and the Frog
(No photos were allowed during this session so I can’t show the panel)
The panel opened with a film called “Mickey’s Audition”. Although it wasn’t identified as such I’m pretty sure this used to play as part of the Backlot Tour at the Disney-MGM Studios park (as it was then called). Very entertaining with cameos by Angela Lansbury, Mel Brooks, and other stars. The significance here was that it featured the acting debut of Roy E. Disney, portraying Walt (and there is quite a resemblance).
The second panel was far more energetic and lively than the earlier one. Don Hahn is always entertaining, and moderator Tim O’Day kept things moving along and frequently injected a bit of humor (not that it was lacking otherwise). It seemed to be generally agreed among everyone, as Don Hahn stated, that Roy E. didn’t just save animation at Disney, he saved the company.
There was an amusing anecdote about a scene in a True Life Adventure where a scene of a duck sliding across the ice was cut short by the cameraman before the inevitable collision with another group of ducks just standing around. When Walt was shown the sequence, he insisted that they had to “find” the “missing” footage of the collision, but it didn’t exist — the cameraman had stopped filming. But Walt was insistent, so eventually Roy E. and a crew had to head back out and get the footage — bowling with ducks.
We also got to see, courtesy of Roy P., some candid family photos of the Disney family. A favorite was a shot of him and his siblings standing in front of a nondescript pile of dirt — a pile of dirt in the spot where Cinderella Castle would soon be built.
Overall, this was less of an animation history lesson and more of a tribute to Roy E., and that seemed an appropriate and fitting way to conclude our first morning.
Would love to hear from other attendees in the comments — what were your favorites in the morning sessions?