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Marty Sklar honored with Window on Main Street

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Marty Sklar honored with Window on Main Street

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Early this morning, Martin A. Sklar’s friends & family gathered at Disneyland. Where this Disney Legend was then honored with his very own Window on Main Street.

And it was kind of appropriate that Marty spent his last official day as a Disney employee at the very place where his career with the Company began back in the Summer of 1955. Just a few doors down from where – as a 21-year-old recruited straight out of UCLA – Sklar used to churn out copy for the Disneyland News.

Marty Sklar of Walt Disney Imagineering
Walt Disney Imagineering Ambassador Martin A. Sklar.
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Now you have to understand that – by staying with The Walt Disney Company for 53 years – Marty was a member of a pretty exclusive club. By that I mean: Only a handful of employees managed to stay on at the Mouse House for 50+ years.

“And just who was the first to achieve this milestone?,” you ask. Well, I had to dig through a pile of old Disney Newsreels (i.e. the official in-house newsletter for Walt Disney Studios employees) before I finally uncovered the answer to that question in the June 10, 1983 issue.

And – as it turns – Disney Legend Eric Larson (who – at that time – was Animation Training Director at the Studios) was the first person to work for the Company for five decades plus. In recognition of this achievement, studio employees on June 1st, 1983 all wore buttons featuring Larsen’s caricature.

A caricature of Disney animator Eric Larson
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There was also a special luncheon held in Eric’s honor in the Studio’s Gold Room. Where then-Walt Disney Productions president Ron Miller presented Larson with the Company’s first-ever 50-year service award.

Eric Larson receives an award from Ron Miller
Eric Larson (L) is presented with a 50-year service award by Ron Miller.
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But you know what else was interesting about this particular issue of the Disney Newsreel? Check out the cover story:

Experimenting with Computer Generated Graphics

Disney’s animated cartoons have been extremely popular in the past, focusing strictly on drawn animation in a carefully realistic style. The release of “TRON” last summer has indicated that Disney artists are beginning to experiment with new animation technologies and techniques.

“TRON” was the first motion picture to incorporate an extensive use of computer-generated graphics. At the time of the production of the film, the state-of-the-art images that the computer produced were too metallic and precise. Because of these characteristics, the computer’s application was ideally suited for the “environment” of “TRON,” but totally inappropriate for the organic and “dreary” look of “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

One of the challenges presented to Disney animators today is to create computer-generated images with a human or animated element. It is the challenge Glen Keane and John Lasseter are accepting.

Pencil sketch by John Lassete of Max's room from "Where the Wild Things Are" r
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Based on Maurice Sendak’s award-winning children's book, “Where the Wild Things Are,” Glen and John are combining drawn animation and computer images in a series of film tests.

The “Wild Things” test is done by encoding characters’ and background perspectives and the changing position of the camera into the computer. MAGI Sythavision Inc. (Mathematical Applications Group Inc.) artists and technicians create simple groups of geometric shapes that represent the basic form of the characters and put them in a computer-generated model of the set. This is all done according to the position of the camera as it follows the action in the film, and these resulting images are photographed. Drawings are electronically encoded back into the computer which places them in the correct positions within the set in each frame. The computer will also color the animated drawings, adding shadows and highlights according to the animator’s instructions. This entire image is photographed on film by the computer for the final product.

The entire process gives the perspective of a three-dimensional cartoon, with the camera moving in and around obstacles in the environment.

Wire frame of Max's room from Lasseter's version of Where the Wild Things Are
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The “Wild Things” test is being done to determine the success of both animator and computer interacting with one another. Disney animators want to see if this technology can be incorporated to enhance or even re-design the traditional “animated cartoon.”

According to the head of Disney’s Special Visual Effects, Lee Dyer, “[Motion Picture Production Vice President] Tom Wilhite is encouraging us to try different things.”

John, Joe Ranft and Brian McEntee are developing “The Brave Little Toaster,” which in its final form could become a 70-minute full-length feature film. “Basically, ‘Wild Things’ is a test piece, “ explains John, “ but we would like to use this technique for ‘The Brave Little Toaster.’ “

Final rendering of Max from Where the Wild Things Are
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Part of the problem with expediting the film’s production is the limited ability Disney has to create computer-generate images. All work in the past has been done by outside computer imagery firms.

The combination of computer-generated graphics and Disney animation is in its very basic stages of what it could eventually become. John reports that, “In five years these tests will seem so primitive, they’ll look like ‘Steamboat Willie’ does today.” But just as “Steamboat Willie” gave Disney the recognition as a forerunner in animation technology some 50 years ago, “The Wild Things” test and “The Brave Little Toaster” have the potential to give Disney similar recognition in the future.

Now I have to admit that I find it a trifle bizarre to come across this particular story just a week before Comic-Con. Where Warner Bros. will be hyping Spike Jonze’s live-action version of “Where the Wild Things Are.” More importantly, where Walt Disney Pictures will be talking up its sequel to “TRON.”

John Lasseter and Glen Keaneat Walt Disney Studios in the Summer of 1983
(L to R) John Lasseter & Glen Keane at Walt Disney Animations Studios in the Summer of 1983.
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

But you know what really gets to me? How young John & Glen look in the above picture. Here’s hoping that some enterprising animation fan is able to print out this image and then persuade Lasseter & Keane to sign a copy of this picture at their respective panels in San Diego next Thursday.

Oops … Sorry … I guess I got distracted there for a moment. Today’s story is supposed to honor Marty Sklar. Who – during his last official day as Walt Disney Imagineering Ambassador – definitely deserves some pomp and circumstances. A little song and dance.

And speaking of dance … I wonder if – as Marty thinks back on what Disneyland was like on Opening Day – he ever recalls the work that Miriam Nelson did.

Dancers at Disneyland Opening Day
The Mouseketeers perform at Disneyland's opening day.
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Miriam (for those of you who don’t know) was the official choreographer for the “Dateline: Disneyland” TV special that aired on ABC on July 17, 1955. And in the years that followed, Ms. Nelson choreographed a lot of shows & ceremonies for “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Most noticeably the Golden Horseshoe Revue. (To learn more about Miriam Nelson’s career with the Company, I suggest that you swing on by MouseClubHouse.com today. Where Scott Wolf has just posted a terrific interview with this show business veteran.)

Getting back to Marty now … Here’s hoping that Mr. Sklar enjoyed that ceremony earlier this morning. Given that – for years now – Marty was the guy who decided which longtime employees would receive a Window on Main Street … Well, it’s only appropriate that Sklar now be singled out for this honor.

Anyway … Happy trails, Marty. Thanks for all those years you put in at the Company. Here’s hoping that – when you finally get around to writing that book of yours – you can look back fondly at all the time you spent in the Mouse House.

Marty Sklar
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

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  • Does anyone know what the window says, where it's located and whether it's going to be at just DL or will Marty get more windows at some of the other parks too?  Thanks kindly.

  • It might have been nice to get some information about Marty Sklar, the supposed subject of this article.

  • The window is above City Hall and is inscribed:

    The window inscription reads:

    ID SOMNIATE ID FACITE

    Main Street

    College

    of Arts &

    Sciences

    Est. 1852

    Martin A. Sklar

    Dean

    Inspiring the Dreamers and Doers of Tomorrow

  • Thanks SeaWoof!

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