"Dumbo" may not be the shortest animated feature that Walt
Disney Animation Studios ever produced ("Saludos Amigos" is actually shorter.
This 1942 release clocks in a mere 42 minutes long). But if Walt had gone with
his original gut feeling on this project, this movie might have been a whole
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
"When Disney Studios originally bought the film rights to
'Dumbo, the Flying Elephant' in 1939, they were thinking about using this
material to make an animated short," said animation historian and author John
Canemaker. "Which is understandable. Given that there wasn't really a whole lot
to this children's book. Just 16 pen-and-ink sketches by Helen Durney and a
scant storyline by Helen Aberson and her husband, Harold Pearl. And then when
you factor in that 'Dumbo, the Flying Elephant' was initially published as a
Roll-a-Book, which was this short-lived gimmicky format that was used for
publishing children's books ... Well, it's easy to see why people at the Studio
might have initially been dismissive of 'Dumbo.' "
One of Helen Durney's original illustrations for the 1939 Roll-a-Book version of "Dumbo."Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
But then - almost on a whim (or was it a hunch?) - Walt
tossed "Dumbo, the Flying Elephant" to Joe Grant and Dick Huemer. Who - at that
time - were the star writers at Walt Disney Studios.
(L to R) Walt Disney, Dick Huemer and Joe Grant go over some musicalscores during the production of "Fantasia." Copyright DisneyEnterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
"That turned out to be a very smart move on Walt's part.
Between January and March of 1940, Joe and Dick wrote this really charming
102-page outline for a feature film version of 'Dumbo.' Which - in another very
smart move, this time on Dick & Joe's part - they'd only give to Walt a few
pages at a time in order to whet his appetite for this project," animation
historian John Canemaker explained. "By the Spring of that year, thanks to the
strength of that outline, 'Dumbo' was officially in production. But not as an
animated short. As a full-length animated feature. And it was all because of
Dick Huemer & Joe Grant's efforts."
Given that Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released
the 70th anniversary edition of "Dumbo" on Blu-ray and DVD this week ... Well,
it's only appropriate that Canemaker will be presenting an illustrated lecture
tomorrow evening at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. One that looks
back on the career of the guy who helped save "Dumbo" from becoming a short
(not to mention also paying tribute to another legendary animation storyteller,
Joe Ranft. Whose life & career John also celebrated to his 2010 Disney
Edition book, "Two Guys Named Joe").
Mind you, Ranft is mostly known - these days, anyway - for
all the great story work that he did on many of Pixar's films ... And speaking of
Pixar and shorts: This Sunday at 1 p.m., the Ottawa International Animation Festival
will be presenting a panel on the making of "La Luna." Enrico Casarosa, the
director of this charming short film (which will be popping up at a multiplex
near you next June in front of Pixar's next full-length feature, "Brave") will
be on hand to discuss how this very personal project actually came together.
Copyright Disney Pixar. All rights reserved
And speaking of charming animated shorts that have been
shown / will be shown in front of feature films ... Walt Disney Animation Studios
is also doing something really special at this year's OIAF. Not only are they
bringing Stephen Anderson and Don Hall (i.e. the directors of "Winnie the Pooh")
up to Ottawa to talk about they used the "Pooh" featurettes from the 1960s & 1970s
as the artistic inspiration for this feature-length film, but producer
Dorothy McKim & supervising animator Mark Henn will be at this event as
well. Only McKim and Henn will be there to talk about Disney's charming new
animated short, "The Ballad of Nessie."
(L to R) Steve Anderson, Don Hall, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet from Walt Disney Animation Studios' latest feature-length production, "Winnie the Pooh."Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
This "Winnie the Pooh / The Ballad of Nessie" panel will be
presented in the Museum of Civilization from 1 - 3 p.m. on Sunday. Which is the
exact same venue where "The Making of Pixar's 'La Luna'" will be presented on
Sunday morning from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
And (since we like to make things convenient for JHM readers) it's worth noting
here that John Canemaker's "Two Guys Named Joe" illustrated lecture will also be
presented at the Museum of Civilization. Only in this case, Canemaker's panel
will be from 9:15 - 10 p.m. on Friday.
John Canemaker with the Academy Award that hewon for his 2006 film, "The Moon and the Sun: AnImagined Conversation." Copyright AMPAS.All right reserved
And if you're really, really impressed by John's
presentation on Friday night and then want to purchase your very own copy of
"Two Guys Named Joe" ... Well, please be aware that - on Saturday morning
starting at 10:30 a.m. - Canemaker will be on hand at the Arts Court Studio to
sign copies of his latest book.
So if you're a Canadian animation fan and would like to
learn some more about Disney history and/or Pixar & WDAS' latest production
... Well, don't be a Dumbo. Wing your way right away to this year's Ottawa
International Animation Festival. Which runs now through September 25th.
Jeff Twiller and Randy J. Johnson also had a panel at Ottawa which was awesome -- www.youtube.com/watch