The animation community is a lot smaller than many people suspect, and that fact was certainly true in the early days of animation when animators frequently moved from studio to studio.

The Disney Studios employed so many people over the years that it is quite easy to make a connection between Walt and just about any animator during the first three decades of the Disney Studio. In fact, the connections between the Disney Studio and the Warner Brothers Studio are particularly close.

Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising who were responsible for producing the very first "Looney Tune" cartoon had learned their craft working with Walt in Kansas City. (Hugh's brother, Fred, worked briefly for Walt as well but left animation to create the popular Western themed comic strip, "Red Ryder".) They joined Walt out in California to work on the "Alice Comedies" and "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit."

Harman and Ising recommended to Walt a young animator they had worked with in Kansas City, Isadore "Friz" Freleng, who was promptly given a job at the Disney Studio. Freleng, best known as the inspiration for "Yosemite Sam," became a successful director of Warner Brothers cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny and Tweety Bird.

Unfortunately, the only "Walt" story that Freleng seemed interested in sharing in later years was how he was unfairly fired by the Disney Brothers. Freleng had phoned in "sick" because of a boil on his rear end and that same day Walt caught a glimpse of him sitting on a bus.

Even fabled Warner Brothers director Chuck Jones known for "Roadrunner and Coyote" and "Pepe Le Pew" worked briefly at the Disney Studio during the production of "Sleeping Beauty" after Warners had closed its cartoon studio. For awhile, Jones was teamed with Ward Kimball.

However the closest connection between a Warners Brothers cartoon director and Walt has to be Bob Clampett.

Bob Clampett was born in San Diego, California on May 8, 1913 and his early life was influenced by newspaper comic strips and movies featuring Harold Lloyd, Lon Chaney, Douglas Fairbanks and similar classic actors.

Officially Bob began his professional career as an animator on the very first "Merrie Melodie" made by Harman and Ising in 1931 for Warner Brothers, "Lady Play Your Mandolin." For a time, he was teamed with the legendary Tex Avery.

Yet his connection with Disney precedes his work in animation.

Charlotte Clark thought that there would be a big market for a doll based on a new cartoon character, Mickey Mouse. However, since the character had just debuted she couldn't find artwork on which to base her pattern. So she sent her high school nephew, Bob Clampett, to the Alex Theater in Glendale, California to sit and watch the latest Mickey Mouse cartoon over and over and do sketches in the dark.

From those sketches, she developed a pattern for her stuffed Mickey Mouse doll that caught the attention of Walt Disney who set her up in a house near his cartoon studio to produce the dolls and work on other Disney characters. For a time before his high school graduation, Clampett worked at the "Doll House" as well.

At Warners, Clampett was responsible for two short cartoons that parodied Disney feature films. "Corny Concerto" (1943) parodied "Fantasia." Clampett replaced noted musicologist Deems Taylor with an unshaven Elmer Fudd who introduced two segments. One featured Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig in a woodland setting set to the music of "Tales of the Vienna Woods." Porky, accompanied by his hunting dog, are hunting Bugs and all three are shot by a squirrel who has been hit by Porky's rifle. While Porky and the dog mourn a supposedly dead Bugs Bunny, they pull aside Bugs's hands from his expected wound, and it is revealed that Bugs is wearing a brassiere.

The other segment set to the music of "Blue Danube" features a young Daffy Duck playing an ugly duckling joining a flock of swans. The mother swan does everything she can to get rid of the little black duck but when her babies are taken by a vulture, Daffy goes to the rescue and is eventually accepted as a member of the family.

Clampett was also responsible for "Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs" (1943), a retelling of the Disney version of the timeless classic with Afro-American caricatures. The wicked queen sends the seven dwarfs to murder "So White" but the dwarfs are charmed by the young girl and join the army instead. When "Prince Chawmin's" kiss can't awake "So White" after she eats a poisonous apple on a stick, it is Dopey's all-American pucker that makes her pigtails stand up, unfurling into small American flags. Like "Song of the South", this cartoon has become so highly controversial that it is nearly impossible to find a copy.

In an interview with animation historians Milt Gray and Michael Barrier (And make sure you check out Michael's website to read the entire interview), Bob Clampett revealed a very special Disney encounter during the time his "Time for Beany" puppet show (featuring Cecil the sea sick sea serpent and his propeller-hatted pal, Beany Boy) was highly popular:

"I was good friends with Walt's niece, Margie Davis. She invited Uncle Walt and me to one of his grandnephews' birthday parties. I brought a basketful of Beany and Cecil toys and merchandise. And Walt walked in with an armful of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck toys. It so happened that Walt's own grandnephews were such great fans of my Beany and Cecil TV show that they ran around all day wearing Beany caps, playing with Beany balloons and games, with Cecil and Dishonest John puppets on their arms, giving the D.J. laugh, 'Nya ha ha!' Well, Walt's eyebrow went sky high. But, of course, it was no time at all until he went on the air with his Mickey Mouse Club and wonderful Disneyland TV program. And I'm sure that his grandnephews thereafter wore nothing but Mousekeeteer caps."

On the animated version of "Beany and Cecil," Clampett decided to parody the popular "Disneyland" television program. (The story later appeared in one of the "Beany and Cecil" comic books as well and the comic book showed that in one of the lands there would be a "Rock and Roller Coaster".)

The story premise was that Beany and Cecil were going to the moon to create a perfect theme park with "20,000 Leaks Under the Sea" ride, a Matterhorn, a train ride and much more. Their nemesis, Dishonest John was already on the moon in hopes of making a fortune shipping the moon's cheese back to Earth. Of course, wherever there is cheese, there will be mice, who are the residents of the moon.

When I interviewed him, Bob remembered:

"ABC got very upset about 'Beanyland' because of course, they had been running the 'Disneyland' television program and other Disney programs and they didn't want to make Walt mad because there were some legal things going on where Disney was leaving ABC. 'Oh, you can't have a caricature of Walt Disney in there saying, 'I'll make this my Dismal Land'!' I'd answer, 'Where's Walt Disney in there? The character with the hook nose and mustache is my long time villain Dishonest John. Everybody knows who he is.'

My original version of "Beanyland" was very, very funny because it was such a tongue-in-cheek satire on Disneyland even as to the way they worded their advertising. Beany would say stuff like 'Look, what he's doing to my creamy, dreamy Beanyland!' and that made fun of those peanut butter commercials. I had Dishonest John packaging the moon as cheese and bringing it back to Earth to sell it. On the package, I had the word 'Krafty' and ABC was afraid the Kraft Cheese Company would sue them. It was those kinds of things they censored and so much more for seemingly no reason. As Captain Huffenpuff said about Beanyland: 'This place wasn't built by a mouse; it was built for mice!'"

I know that Bob Clampett held Walt Disney in high esteem and used him as a business model in creating a brand. That's why those "Beany and Cecil" cartoons had in the song "A Bob Clampett CartooooOOOooon!" so that people would associate those cartoons with Bob just as people associated Walt with Mickey and the gang.