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Ottawa International Animation Festival offers a trio of panels that are sure to delight Disney & Pixar fans

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Ottawa International Animation Festival offers a trio of panels that are sure to delight Disney & Pixar fans

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"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 lot shorter.

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 musical
scores during the production of "Fantasia." Copyright Disney
Enterprises, 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."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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").

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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 he
won for his 2006 film, "The Moon and the Sun: An
Imagined 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.

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  • Jeff Twiller and Randy J. Johnson also had a panel at Ottawa which was awesome -- www.youtube.com/watch

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