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Buck Sergeant Duck and other tales of Donald’s 50th birthday celebration



So what are you going to do with your Memorial Day Monday?
If you’re out in Southern California and looking for a really spectacular patriotic
event to attend … I’m afraid that you’re about a week late at this point.

You see, the City of Torrance’s 52nd Armed Forces
Day Celebration and Parade was held last weekend. With the branch of the service
being honored this time around being the United States Army.

“And why should I care about an Armed Forces Day parade that’s
being held in Torrance, CA?,” you ask. Well, some 27 years ago, a similar sort
of celebration was held in this same city during the month of May. One that
honored a longtime Disney star who also happened to be a U.S. Army veteran.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Maybe you’ve heard of this character? Donald Fauntleroy

Seriously, folks. The City of Torrance turned out on masse on May 19, 1984 for
a parade and retirement ceremony for Donald Duck. And – yes – I said “retirement
ceremony.” The Duck had supposedly been inducted into the Army with his May
1942 cartoon, “Donald Gets Drafted.” But the Studio  had never produced a cartoon or a comic strip that
showed Donald being separated from the Service. Which meant that – by the late
Spring of 1984 – the Duck had been on active duty for 43 years.

There was plenty of media on hand
as Donald – in his WWII-era uniform – arrived
for his retirement / promotion
ceremony. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Well, as part of Walt Disney Productions’ year-long
celebration of Donald Duck’s 50th birthday, the U.S. Army decided to
do something to acknowledge this cartoon character’s long time in service. Which
is why they sent a four star general – Lt. Gen. Arthur E. Brown, Jr., director
of the Army staff – out to Torrance, CA. to preside over a ceremony. During
which Donald would simultaneously be promoted and retired.

“And what rank was the Duck promoted to before the Army
then retired him?,” you query. Appropriately enough, E5. Which made Donald a
Buck Sergeant. Buck Sergeant Duck, to be specific.

Lt. Gen. Brown pins Donald’s new
E5 patch on the sleeve of his
uniform. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I’m told that Walt Disney Productions really pulled out the
stops from Donald’s combination promotion / retirement ceremony. Which means
that they raided Disneyland‘s costume department and unearthed every single
Duck-related walk-around character that had ever appeared in that theme park.
Which is why – as Donald was being honored – not only was Daisy looking on, but
so was Scrooge McDuck, Ludwig Von Drake and Huey, Dewey and Louie. They even
reportedly put a cast member in Disneyland’s seldom used Grandma Duck costume.

But you know who was not there for Donald’s promotion /
retirement ceremony in the City of Torrance? The Disney Legend who had been the
Duck’s speaking voice for the past 50 years, Clarence “Ducky” Nash.

Clarence “Ducky” Nash and his
longtime feathered
friend. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All
rights reserved

Though – to be fair – the only reason that “Ducky” wasn’t on
hand when Donald was separated from the Service was because Nash had a previous
engagement. You see, on that exact same date (i.e. May 19, 1984), “Ducky” was down
at Walt Disney World.  Where Nash was
serving as the Grand Marshall for the very first presentation of the Magic
‘s Donald Duck 50th birthday celebration parade.

And those who were in the Magic Kingdom on that day remember
this parade well. Given that it featured a cast member dressed in a Donald Duck
costume who was followed by 50 live Peking ducks. Who waddled after
Donald as he was their Momma … or Poppa, I guess.

Donald and his 50 friends rehearse
for their big moment. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

This particular publicity stunt was the brainchild of
longtime WDW PR guy Charlie Ridgway. Who – when he heard that Disney Corporate
was planning a Company-wide celebration of Donald Duck’s 50th
birthday for the Summer of 1984 – hatched this promotional scheme.

As Ridgway recently recounted during his appearance at D23‘s
Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th‘s “Making the Magic Happen”

Donald gets introduced to 50
Peking ducklings in the
Winter of 1984. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
rights reserved

According to Charlie Cook – who was Disney World’s bird guy –
the only way that we could train the Peking ducks to perform this kind of
behavior was if Donald was introduced to them at birth. Which is why we then
arranged to have a cast member dressed as Donald Duck to be on hand at a Miami
hatchery when these fuzzy little duckling initially hatched out of their

Then – to further re-enforce the bonding between these live
ducklings and the costumed Donald Duck character – when these animals were finally
moved on property in the early Spring of 1984, they were always fed by a cast
member wearing the Donald Duck walk-around costume. Which is why these ducks
then began to associate the costume with the reward of food.

Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck
creator Carl Barks visit with the 50 Peking Ducks in
their holding pen at WDW’s
Fort Wilderness Campground. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights

Which isn’t to say that this Donald Duck 50th
birthday publicity stunt went exactly as Charlie Ridgway had hoped. This Disney
Legend still regrets his decision to bring Donald & all 50 of those Peking
Ducks up to Cinderella Castle for a photo op.

We had made this giant birthday cake out of frozen corn that
the ducks were supposed to nibble at. But as soon as those ducks saw the water
in that moat around the Hub, that was all she wrote. It took us hours to
collect them all up again, fish them out of the water.

This picture was taken just
seconds before all those live ducks made
a break for the Magic Kingdom’s moat.
Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

This episode taught the folks at Walt Disney World that – no
matter how well an animal may have been trained – its natural instincts are
eventually going to kick in.

Which is why – after that initial photo op of those live
ducks following a costumed version of Donald up Main Street, U.S.A. – the parade
operations team opted to go  for a far more manageable solution. Which would still allow
the public to get a peek at these 50 Peking Ducks over the course of Donald
Duck’s 50th birthday celebration parade. While – at the same time –
give these fowls far fewer opportunities, as this parade rolled around the Hub
and/or past the Rivers of America, to take like a duck to water.

These Peking Ducks rode in style aboard
Donald’s 50th birthday float,
penned inside of clear acrylic
circles. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“But what became of all those ducks after Donald Duck’s 50th
birthday celebration was wrapped up?,” you ask. Not to worry. Once this special
promotional event was wrapped up in August of 1984, these Peking Ducks were
broken up into pairs and donated to zoos all over the country.

And speaking of traveling … Borrowing a page from Walt
Disney Productions’ highly successful promotional campaign for Mickey Mouse’s
50th birthday back in 1978 (which involved putting Disney Legend
Ward Kimball and a cast member in  a
Mickey Mouse costume on the Southwest Limited. Where – over the course of a 5
day train trip – Ward & Mickey retraced Walt’s fateful trip from NYC
to Hollywood in 1928), the Company persuaded Pacific Southwest Airlines to dub
one of its Boeing 727s Duck One.

Here’s the prototype for that custom
paint job which Walt Disney
Productions officials wanted PSA to do on Duck One. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

In mid-May of 1984, Duck One then zoomed around the country, visiting 14 different cities in just 4 days. Starting its journey
(appropriately enough) at the Burbank Airport, this 727 then flew to San Jose,
Sacramento, Eugene, Oregon and Seattle. After an overnight stop in Seattle,
Duck One then zoomed to Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago and New York City. After
spending the night in NYC, this flying birthday party then took off for Boston,
St. Louis and Orlando.With the final leg of this journey going from Disney World to Atlanta to Camp Pendleton in California, followed by a special nighttime parade at Disneyland.

Which brings us back to Clarence “Ducky” Nash being the Grand
Marshall of Donald Duck’s 50th birthday celebration parade on May
19, 1984 at WDW’s Magic Kingdom. You see, “Ducky” and his wife Margaret were on board for the full
four days of this whirlwind press tour. If you look closely at the photo below,
you can see those two in among the crowd posing in front of Duck One during one
of the stops on this trip.

Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

And each stop along the way, this 80 year-old did what he
could to help promote Donald’s 50th birthday. Be it doing a radio
interview with NPR and/or making an appearance at a New York City movie theater
which was – at that time – screening a retrospective of the Duck’s 150 shorts
and 5 feature-length films.

Now you have to understand that “Ducky” had officially
retired from Walt Disney Productions back in 1971 and was only doing Donald
Duck’s voice part-time at this point. But given that Nash felt that he owed his
career to the Company, when Disney officials asked him to take part in high
profile publicity stunts during the late Spring / early Summer of 1984, this
octogenarian immediately said “Yes.”

Please note the Mann’s Chinese employees who are pressing the
feet of this Donald Duck character costume into the cement. Photo
by Con Keyes of the Los Angeles
Times. Copyright Tribune
Newspapers. All rights reserved

Take – for example – the photo above. Which shows Ducky and
Donald at Mann’s Chinese Theater on May 21, 1984. Which is when Donald Duck
became the 150th performer to have his feet immortalized in cement in
the forecourt at this Hollywood movie palace.

Given that Nash had
spent so many decades working in the shadows at Disney Studios, it was kind of
a thrill for all of his friends at the Company to see Clarence suddenly getting
all of this recognition. Sitting on the couch next to Johnny Carson on NBC’s “The
Tonight Show.” Getting a plaque from President Reagan during a special ceremony
in the White House’s East Room in recognition of all those years “Ducky”
visited kids in hospitals and then entertained them with his Donald Duck

Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, what people didn’t know during the late Spring /
early Summer of 1984 was that Clarence “Ducky” Nash was already sick with
leukemia. But because he didn’t want to put a damper of Donald Duck’s 50th
birthday celebration, Nash always put on a brave face and showed up for every
event Disney asked him to do. Be it the ceremony in June 9th when
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley – in honor of the 50th anniversary of
Donald’s first on-screen appearance (in the 1934 Silly Symphony, “The Wise
Little Hen
“) declared it to be Donald Duck Day in LA. Which was then followed
by Clarence taking part in a ticker tape parade through Disneyland.

Or – better yet – Nash’s trip back to his old home town of
Watonga, Oklahoma. Where – on December 7, 1984 – Governor George Nigh declared
that date to be Clarence Nash Day in all of Oklahoma. What’s more, Watonga
renamed a street Clarence Nash Boulevard in Ducky’s honor.

Clarence “Ducky” Nash (1904 –

As it turns out, Nash’s trip back home to Oklahoma was basically
his last public appearance. Though Clarence has been selected to be the Grand
Marshall of the 1985 Tournament of Roses parade, when January 1st finally
rolled around, Ducky was just too ill to take part in those proceedings. As he dealt
with the end stages of his leukemia, Nash was in & out of St. Joseph’s
Medical Center in Burbank multiple times over the next few weeks before finally
succumbing on February 20, 1985.

But even then, Clarence was still trying to do right by The
Walt Disney Company. In the weeks and months that led up his demise, “Ducky”
identified an ambitious young animator – one Tony Anselmo – who seemed to have
what it takes when it came to voicing Donald Duck. And in the limited time
that he had left, Nash shared with Anselmo his many secrets when it came to the
proper way to perform this irascible character.

Tony Anselmo with (L to R) Diane
Disney Miller and Clarence Nash’s
daughter & granddaughter during Anselmo’s
January 2011
appearance at the Walt Disney Family Museum. Copyright
The Walt
Disney Family Museum. All rights reserved

And given that Tony’s done a stellar job of safeguarding
Donald over the past quarter century (not to mention always going out of his way
to acknowledge Clarence “Ducky” Nash as the originator of this Disney character’s
voice), I think it’s safe to say the Duck is in good hands.

And given that I actually started out my career of covering
The Walt Disney Company back in June of 1984, when – as a reporter for the Fort
Devens Dispatch – I was assigned to write an article about Donald Duck’s
promotion / retirement ceremony in the City of Torrance …

Buck Sergeant Duck salutes Lt.
Gen. Arthur E. Brown, Jr. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights

… Well, I was somewhat pleased to learn recently (from a
friend who works for the Department of Defense) that the Duck didn’t actually
retire from the Service 27 years ago. That – if you check the U.S. Army’s active
duty roster – you’ll see that Donald’s current status is listed as “inactive.”
Which means that – in time of war, if need be – this cartoon character could
actually be called up once again.

Of course, given that Donald appeared on 400 military
insignia during World War II, one might argue that the Duck has already done
enough at this point to serve his country.

Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

Anyway … Here’s hoping that you and yours have a safe and
happy Memorial Day. Just please make a point sometime today to remember all
those who have served our country. Including one Donald Fauntleroy Duck.

Your thoughts?

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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From toxic gas leaks to the triumph of ‘Finding Dory,’ Lindsey Collins has loved every minute of her time at Pixar Animation Studios



When it comes to “Finding Dory” producer Lindsey Collins, she takes “going-with-your-gut” to a whole new level.

To explain: This Occidental College graduate joined Walt Disney Animation Studios straight out of school in 1994. And after working as a PA on “Pocahontas” & “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” Lindsey had just been made assistant production manager on “Hercules” when she began hearing people talk about Pixar.

“I was working at Disney with Ron & John (Author’s note: That’s Ron Clements & John Musker, the acclaimed animation directing team behind not only “Hercules” but also “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin” and WDAS’ soon-to-be-released “Moana“) and was really enjoying that experience. But just before ‘Toy Story’ came out, there was a brief blurb in the company newsletter about Pixar. And I was like ‘Well, who are these guys?’ And then I got to meet John Lasseter and was just totally blown away by what he and his team were doing,” Collins recalled during a recent phone interview.

Lindsey Collins. Copyright Disney Pixar

“Anyway, Disney liked what I was doing at Feature Animation and really wanted me to stay on there. So they offered me a contract. And I was like ‘I’m fine. I can stay here.’ So I signed that contract. And then I went home and threw up all night,” Lindsey laughed.  “The very next day, I went back into Disney and said ‘I’m sorry. I can’t do this. I really have to go.’ Then I went up to the Bay area and basically pounded on Pixar’s door & said ‘please, please, please hire me.’ “

Luckily for Ms. Collins, Pixar Animation Studios was just in the process of gearing up to do “A Bug’s Life.” More to the point, Sharon Calahan – the director of photography on that production – saw lots of potential in this recent Mouse House escapee.

“Sharon was hugely involved with Pixar’s decision to hire me. And part of that was because I had worked with background painters while I was at Disney Feature Animation. So even though I had no clue how CG worked at that time, I could talk with Sharon in the terms of painting. And she was like ‘That’s exactly how I want people around here to start thinking when it comes to how we light our scenes,’ ” Collins continued.

Sharon Calahan. Copyright Disney Pixar

“Mind you, I was the one who kept telling Sharon ‘I don’t know how helpful I can be to you guys. Because I really don’t understand a lot of what you’re saying when it comes to CG.’ But she wouldn’t give up on me. Sharon kept insisting that – because I had already worked with artists and knew how to communicate a vision for a painting – I was also going to be able to communicate with software engineers. It was just a matter of learning a new language. Sharon was instrumental in convincing me that I had any right to be at Pixar,” Lindsey stated.

Which isn’t to say that life was initially easy for Collins at Pixar. First there was that steep learning curve which came with her new job (“When I first got here, I had no idea what a render farm was. I was like ‘There’s a farm? Like a petting zoo?’ “). Then there was the fact that the Port Richmond office park which housed this animation studio at that time was downwind of a Chevron plant (“Sometimes – because there’d be explosions or gas leaks at that plant — we’d then be told to shelter in place or to not come into work at all that day. We used to call those toxic snow days”).

But even under these somewhat stressful & occasionally toxic conditions, Lindsey thrived. Largely because she really loved her new co-workers at Pixar (“They were people who could really make me laugh. In a way I didn’t know that real adults / professionals could make me laugh. And I feel like I haven’t stopped since I got here”).

Copyright Disney Pixar

But it hasn’t all been big laughs. Take – for example – what happened when Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar Animation Studios, approached Collins (who was producing “Finding Dory” at that time) about a change that he wanted to make to that Andrew Stanton film.

“Pixar had this new renderer that it wanted to try out. And Ed felt ‘Dory’ would be the perfect project to try this new technology on. The only problem was that – when Ed approached me – we were already well into production on this ‘Finding Nemo’ sequel. Which meant – if we were going to take full advantage of what Ed was offering us – we’d then have go back and redo a bunch of stuff we’d already done on this movie,” Lindsey said.

“But the good news was – because “Dory” was a sequel to “Nemo” – we weren’t discovering a look for this movie. We were just trying to improve on it,” Collins continued. “And that was the handshake deal that Ed was offering. That – if we agreed to use this new renderer plus some new lighting & shading tools. Basically reinventing the entire back end of the Pixar production line – we’d then end up with a far better looking film that was still set in the same world as ‘Nemo.’ As long as the studio delivered on that promise, Andrew was willing to go for it. Mind you, it would be another full year before Andrew would then actually get to see any footage that this new renderer produced. So it was a huge leap-of-faith on his part. But Andrew was incredibly excited when the redone ‘Dory’ footage began coming in and it all looked so great.”

Copyright Disney Pixar

Another technology challenge that Lindsey had to deal with while producing this “Finding Nemo” sequel was Hank the septopus. But in this case, as soon as Collins saw this character described in an early draft of  Stanton’s ‘Dory’ script, she immediately got Pixar’s character department involved.

“When you’re working as a producer, you get to see pages a lot earlier than the rest of the crew. And as soon as I read that first scene with Hank, I turned to Andrew and said ‘Just how big a character are we talking here?’ And he said ‘I think it’s a pretty big role.’ And I was like ‘Okay.’ And I then went down to the character department and told them that Andrew wanted to add an octopus to the cast. And they all went kind of pale,” Lindsey said. “I think what they knew right-off-the-bat that – if we were going to do an octopus in the ‘Nemo’ / ‘Dory’ world with all of the realism & beauty that entails and then have that character fit in – it was going to be incredibly difficult if not kind of impossible to pull that off. Largely because the character of Hank couldn’t be super-cartoony.”

“I mean, on ‘Finding Nemo,’ we had had Pearl, the little octopus who was in Mr. Ray’s class. But clearly the whole point of a character like Hank was that he needed to be a jack-of-all-trades. That this character was going to have to be able to get in & out of everything. So the character department knew – right off the bat – that this was going to be something that would kind of break the bank, if you will,” Collins continued.

Copyright Disney Pixar

“Now what you have to understand about Pixar is that we play ‘Chicken’ a lot here. By that I mean, we see how long we can let something sit on the page before we then have to finally move it into production. But when it came to Hank, that just wasn’t an option,” Lindsey stated. “Based on this character’s needs, Hank was going to take every minute we had, all the time between when he first appeared in Andrew’s script and when we’d be in full production on ‘Dory’ to build this. So we needed to commit very early on this character. But the good news is that I think we bet right on Hank. He actually wound up being a far bigger character in this film. And I think that was partially because the technology which drove this character was so cool.”

So how did it feel – after five years of hard work – to have “Finding Dory” become this hugely popular motion picture? The fifth animated film in all of Hollywood history to earn over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office? Collins – the mother of three – put a somewhat maternal spin on her reply.

“You have to understand that – when you work on projects like ‘Dory’ or ‘John Carter‘ for as long as Andrew and I did – these movies are kind of like your kids. In that they then go off & have their own successes & failures which are kind of beyond your control as a parent,” Lindsey said. “But as you’re finishing up working on a film, emotions do sometimes well up at the weirdest time.”

Thomas Newman (L) and Andrew Stanton in the booth during the recording sessions for “Finding Dory” ‘s score. Copyright Disney Pixar 

Take – for example – what happened while Collins & Stanton were sitting in the recording booth as Thomas Newman rode herd on “Finding Dory” ‘s scoring sessions.

“We’d had this huge orchestra for four days. And then – on the last day – Tom cleared the stage and recorded the scene where Nemo, Marlin & Dory reunite in the pipes under the Marine Life Center. Now you have to understand that this is one of the only times in his score for ‘Finding Dory’ that Tom reprises a cue from “Finding Nemo.’ And he has this single clarinet – or was it an oboe? – play that cue,” Lindsey recalled. “And as this was happening, Andrew got really quiet. He was just sitting there, watching.”

“So I went up to him and said ‘What’s going on? How are you feeling about all this?’ Because we were finishing this film up at that time. And Andrew looked at me and he was really emotional. And then he said “I remember the first time I wrote Dory’s name on a piece of paper. I can’t believe how far she’s come.’ And that’s when I started getting emotional too, ” Collins said.

Andrew Stanton & Lindsey Collins. Copyright Disney Pixar

And speaking of ” … how far she’s come,” one might say the same thing about Lindsey. Who – it should be noted here – when she was studying at Occidental College 25 years ago, didn’t major in business or film studies. But – rather – diplomacy and world affairs.

“Those diplomacy skills do actually come in handy when you’re working on a movie. But you want to honestly know the very best thing you can do at college if you eventually hope to become a producer? Work as an RA,” Collins concluded. “Katherine Sarafian – who’s also a producer here at Pixar — also ran a dorm while she was in college. And the two of us agree that that job was great training for becoming a producer. When you’re constantly dealing with people and have to get answers to ridiculous questions like ‘Okay, who pooped in the closet?’ “

The Blu-ray & DVD version of Pixar’s “Finding Dory” hits store shelves today.

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Women in Animation panels prove that there’s more to San Diego Comic-Con than just promotion of pop culture



Thanks to Comic-Con International, now through Sunday, San
Diego is the white-hot center of the pop culture universe.

Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, there’s more to this four day-long event than
those high-profile presentations in Hall H. Which is where various movie
studios will be parading celebrities & showing exclusive clips. All with
the hope that those 6000 early adopters who have (some of them, anyway) been
camped out in this cavernous convention center for hours ahead of time will
then hop on social media and start evangelizing about how cool that footage
from next summer’s would-be blockbuster looked.

But if you can look past those long lines for
limited-edition merchandise and/or the tens of thousands of people who are
cosplaying, you’ll see that there’s another, more serious side to Comic-Con
International. And that’s the part of this four day-long event which allows a lot
of creatives to reconnect with one another.

Take – for example – Marge Dean, the general manager of
Stoopid Buddy Stoodios (i.e., that Burbank-based operation which is responsible
for “Robot Chicken,” television’s longest-running stop motion series, as well
as Sony’s just-about-to-begin-production-on-its-second-season-for-Crackle
superhero spoof, “SuperMansion”). Over the past decade, she’s made at least
eight trips down to San Diego for Comic-Con International. And what Marge loves
most about this four day-long event is all of the old friends she invariably
runs into as she’s coming & going from the convention center.

Photo by Jim Hill

“Whenever I’m down in San Diego for Comic-Con, I just love
the experience of getting outside the hall, walking down the street and then
suddenly going ‘It’s you ! A guy I haven’t seen in three years ! How are you
!,” Dean recalled during a recent phone interview. “Even though I really don’t
like driving to Comic-Con – which is why, these days, I always take the train
down from LA – I really enjoy strolling around San Diego and then running into
people that I haven’t seen for a long, long time.”

Mind you, Marge is sure to run into a lot of people that she
knows / has previously worked with today in Room 24ABC at the San Diego
Convention Center. That’s because this is where Comic-Con’s “Cartoon Creatives:
Women Power in Animation” panel will be held starting at 4:30 p.m. PT. And
joining Dean at this gathering (which will be shining a spotlight on Women in
‘s goal to have a 50/50 workforce by 2025) will be a veritable who’s
who from the worlds of television & feature animation.

Among those who are scheduled to appear today are:

Daron Nefcy, the creator / executive producer of “Star vs. the Forces of Evil.”
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved 

  • Lauren Faust (the creator of “My Little Pony:
    Friendship is Magic”)
  • Brooke Keesling (the director of animation
    talent development at Disney TV Animation)
  • Katie Krentz (the senior director of development
    at Cartoon Network)
  • Lauren Montgomery (the co-executive producer of
    “Voltron: Legendary Defender”)
  • Daron Nefcy (the creator / executive producer of
    “Star vs. the Forces of Evil”)
  • Gina Shay (the producer of DreamWorks
    Animation’s “Trolls”)
  • Stevie Wermers-Skelton (the co-director of
    Disney’s upcoming “Frozen” holiday special)

Dean (who serves as the co-president of WIA) views this
hour-long session (which will be moderated by Leslie Combemale of Animation
Scoop) as a great example of a lesser known aspect of Comic-Con International.
Which is the many ways that this four day-long event educates the fan
community. Gives them a clearer understanding of what’s really going on in
today’s entertainment world.

Marge Dean, co-president of Women in Animation, speaking at a WIA event 
honoring Nickelodeon’s contributions to television animation. 

“I mean, did you know that women hold only 20% of the
creative roles in today’s animation industry? While the landscape has obviously
changed over the 20+ years that I’ve worked in this field, women still predominantly
work on the management side of animation. Not the creative end of things,”
Marge continued. “That’s a big part of what the Women in Animation organization
is all about. More to the point, why we’re doing outreach to the fan community
at Comic-Con this week. We’re looking to shine a spotlight on this disparity in
the industry and hopefully create some opportunities for more women to break
through creatively in the future.”

Of course, in order to know where you are (more importantly,
where you’re headed next), it helps to have to have a firm understanding of
where you’ve been. Which is why WIA will be holding a second panel at Comic-Con
International, “She Made That? Nickelodeon hosts Women in Animation.” This
presentation (which will also be held in Room 24ABC from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. PT on
Friday, July 22nd) will honor some of the real pioneers of
television animation. The women who helped create such memorable Nicktoon
series as:

  • Vanessa Coffey (“The Ren & Stimpy Show,”
    “Rugrats” & “Doug”)
  • Mary Harrington (“Invader Zim,” “Hey Arnold!”)

Television animation pioneer Margaret Loesch

Of course, Coffey was quick to credit the woman who gave her
a leg up when she was just getting her start in animation in the early 1980s.
And that was Margaret Loesch, the then-President and CEO of Marvel Productions.

“At that time, Margaret was the only woman working in
television animation. I was just this intern, working down the hall from Stan
Lee. But Margaret took a chance on me,” Vanessa remembered. “And Margaret not
only mentored me, she genuinely inspired me. I mean, here she was running this
huge production company in a field that was mostly run by men. Margaret proved to
me that not only should women in the animation business but that they could be
these huge successes.”  

You see? That’s what’s really great about Comic-Con
International. If you can just get past all of the hype (not to mention handle those
super-crowded conditions you’ll encounter out on the show floor), you might
then discover that some real education has been mixed in with your

(L to R) Vanessa Coffey, Stephen
Hillenburg (the creator of
“SpongeBob SquarePants”) and and Butch Hartman (the
creator of “The Fairly Oddparents.” 

Comic-Con International is running at the San Diego
Convention Center now through Sunday, July 24th

This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post’s Entertainment page on Thursday, July 21, 2016.

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Books & Print

It’s Jim Hill in the Restaurant with the Book – The Jungle Book – and You Can Join Him June 5th



It’s a Jungle (Book) Out There

For more than 50 years, The Walt Disney Company has been reimagining the writings of Rudyard Kipling–taking his tales of Mowgli the man-cub and his animal friends and then turning them into hugely popular films and television series.

Let Jim Hill take you from Bill Peet’s far-too-dark take on this tale (which Walt Disney just hated) to Jon Favreau’s photo-realistic box office smash (for which the Studio is already developing a sequel).

You’re sure to go ape as you listen to all of these great behind-the-scenes show business stories.

Join us June 5th, 2016 from 11:30 AM-1:30 PM at HB Burger, 127 West 43rd Street in New York City

Tickets are $62.00: Each ticket includes lunch at HB Burger, the program, and a special souvenir.

Buy tickets now on line here –> Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish site  or here –> e.t.c. (events — tailor made & customized)

Get your tickets now!

email with any additional questions.

Nancy Stadler

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