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Disney’s timeless battle between the young punks and the old guard

Disney’s timeless battle between the young punks and the old guard

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You probably already know the story. A group of young guys move into the establishment and begin to shake things up. The old guard naturally has issues with the young punks, and they begin to push back. It’s a story we’ve all heard before, and I find it amazing that it remains a story that never really ends.

Disney's old guard animators did not eagerly embrace the pushy new youngsters and often found them a pain
Disney's Old Guard did not eagerly embrace the pushy new
youngsters and often found them a pain

You know the place well. It’s the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank where the Old Maestro, Walt Disney has been creating animated masterpieces for decades. Disney’s creative team was the cream of the crop, and for years they defined cartoon film making for the rest of the animation universe.

Suddenly, a gang of new kids invades this little creative sanctuary. Most of them just out of school and getting their feet wet in the cartoon business. They brought with them radical new ideas, and a fresh approach to animated film making. Sure, they respected the “old school,” but it was also a new decade and things were rapidly changing in the fields of painting, architecture and music. Clearly, it was time animation saw some changes as well, and this new team of animation artists were determined to lead the way.

As you can imagine, Walt’s established veterans were not all that pleased with the kids encroaching on their turf. And I regret to say some even turned on the eager young guys. “Who do they think they are,” grumbled the Disney old timers. “We don’t need any snot nose kids telling us how it’s done!” However, the youngsters persisted. They even had the audacity to come in on weekends and quickly turn out storyboards and other development art. Their approach to layout was unique, and the radical ideas suggested by the new background artist puzzled many.

However, not all the Disney veterans were resistant to change. Forward thinkers like Ward Kimball, Tom Oreb, Bill Peet and Don DaGradi refused to maintain a closed mind. They encouraged the young guys, and talked them up. They even looked forward to working with them because -- even though they were new to the business – the next generation still had much to offer. I’ve always especially admired Ward Kimball for his approach. His unit was a mix of old Disney veterans, and eager young kids. Ward was smart enough to know new ideas and approaches were needed, but they had to be built on a solid foundation.

Walt, a rather conservative boss seemed open to new ideas and let the young guys push animation ina bold, new direction
Surprisingly, the rather conservative boss seemed open to new ideas
and let the young guys push animation in a bold, new direction

In time, the new kids proved their worth, and they in no small measure helped launch a revolution at Disney. Today, they’re highly regarded as Disney veterans, and masters in their chosen field. Most have profoundly influenced this amazing medium, and I’m proud to have worked with many of them.

Several names are already coming to mind, right? You’re thinking of John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Tim Burton, John Musker and Henry Selick. Sorry, but you’d be wrong. You see, these things happened long before. This talented group of “Crazy Young Kids” arrived at the Walt Disney Studio in the fifties. You can see their influence in many of Disney’s animated films such as “Melody,” “Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “101 Dalmatians.”

That’s right, boys and girls, the kids I’ve been talking about include Eyvind Earle, Walt Peregoy, Victor Haboush, Tony Rizzo, Ray Aragon and a number of others who upset the status quo. Something studio managers would do well to remember should they plan to keep the animation business alive and vital.

Vic Haboush, Tony Rizzo, Walt Peregoy & Tom Oreb. Some of the guys who led the "New Wave" at Disney in the 1950s
(L to R) Vic Haboush, Tony Rizzo, Walt Peregoy & Tom Oreb.  Some of
the guys who led the "New Wave" at Disney in the 1950s

Did you enjoy Floyd’s column today? If so, I should probably let you that Mr. Norman currently has three books on the market that talk about the joys & perils of working in the animation industry.

These volumes include Floyd's original collection of cartoons and stories -- "Faster! Cheaper! The Flip Side of the Art of Animation" (which is available for sale over at John Cawley's Cataroo) as well as two follow-ups to that book, "Son of Faster, Cheaper" & "How the Grinch Stole Disney." Which you can purchase by heading over to Afrokids.

And while you're at it, don't forget to check out Mr. Fun's Blog. Which is where Mr. Norman postings his musings when he's not writing for JHM.

There are only 17 more shopping days ‘til Christmas? Yikes!

Well, if you’re thinking about doing some of your holiday shopping on Amazon.com, could you do JHM a favor and click on the banner above before you begin bargain hunting.

If you do that … Well, Jim Hill Media then gets a teeny tiny chunk of whatever you spend. Which would be an awful nice way to show your appreciation for all the great stories that you’ve read on this site over the past year.

Happy Holidays!

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