Download The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney PDF

TitleThe Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney
PublisherUniversity of California Press
ISBN 131615141312111
CategoryArts - Film
File Size3.7 MB
Total Pages414
Document Text Contents
Page 2

the animated man

Page 207

The Three Caballeros performed indiªerently at the box office, its returns
to the studio falling almost $200,000 short of its cost.83 A third Latin Amer-
ican feature, Cuban Carnival, was in the works throughout 1944, but it fell
out of the studio’s plans after Three Caballeros’s disappointing results. Disney
himself smarted under reviews that compared his new films unfavorably with
the features he made before the United States entered the war. “I had a lot of
people just hoping that it was the end” of the Disney studio, he said in 1956.

Throughout the war, Disney could do no better than assign a few people
to work briefly on stories for possible films that had long figured in the stu-
dio’s plans, like Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland. (Story work
on Peter Pan was halted “to make room,” an internal Disney publication said,
for Victory Through Air Power.)84 Of Alice in particular, Disney said in 1943
that production might be postponed until, in a contemporary report’s para-
phrase, “further development of methods which would sharply reduce” pro-
duction time—and thus keep costs under control.85

Any return to full-length animated features of the Pinocchio or Bambi kind
would require financial muscle that was simply not evident in the studio’s
annual reports to its stockholders. The idea of making cheaper features at
the Dumbo level, with budgets under a million dollars, never quite died, but
Disney continued to regard such projects with little enthusiasm. In May 1943,
one possible cheap feature dropped away when Disney and RKO canceled
the dormant distribution contract for the Mickey Mouse “beanstalk” feature.86

By 1945, the Disney studio had begun to devote “substantially all of its fa-
cilities to entertainment product,” as the company’s annual report for that
year said, because of the “general lessening” of the government’s demand for
training films.87 But, for the moment, Disney had embraced the idea that
animated educational and training films could be a mainstay of his studio’s
operations in peacetime, too. Such films could speed up training, he said,
and help trainees retain more of what they learned. “The screen cartoon,”
he told a writer for Look early in 1945, “has become so improved and refined
that no technical problem is unsurmountable [sic].”88 Disney had set up an
industrial film division by November 1943, when he visited Owens-Illinois
Glass Company in Toledo, Ohio, on what the Wall Street Journal called a
“preliminary investigation . . . of the place of motion pictures in the post-
war industrial world.”89 Five large corporations contracted for Disney train-
ing films by November 1944.90

In September 1945, as the Disneys emerged from the war’s hard grind, they
hired two professional managers to share some of their responsibilities. The

1 8 8 “ a q u e e r , q u i c k , d e l i g h t f u l g i n k ”

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move made sense, given the nature of the postwar studio as the Disneys en-
visioned it. John F. Reeder assumed Roy’s titles of vice president and general
manager. Reeder had been vice president of the Young & Rubicam adver-
tising agency, and he was thus accustomed to dealing with big businesses of
the kind that were the likeliest customers for the studio’s industrial and ed-
ucational films.

Fred Leahy, the new production manager, had worked in “production
control” for eighteen years at MGM and Paramount, the biggest and most
prestigious of the Hollywood studios. He would in eªect serve as Walt’s stand-
in during work on films that inevitably would be, when measured against
the prewar shorts and features, too dry and routine to absorb much of Walt’s
interest. Walt himself gave up his title of president, surrendering it to Roy.91

He was going to devote himself to new features.
“Commercial work answered our prayers,” wrote Harry Tytle, who man-

aged Disney’s short subjects, “as it not only supplied badly needed capital
during the war, but also because the companies that were our clients gave us
greater access to film and other rationed materials. . . . But while the studio
made money with this type of product . . . it was not a field either Walt or
Roy were happy to be in. Their reasoning was sound. We didn’t own the prod-
uct or the characters we produced for other companies; there was absolutely
no residual value. If the picture was successful, the owners of the film got the
rerun value. If the films were unsuccessful, it could be detrimental to our
reputation. Worse, we were at the whim of the client; at each stage of pro-
duction we had to twiddle our thumbs and await approval before we could
venture on to the next step.”92

Disney himself said years later that he rejected the idea of making “com-
mercial pictures,” saying to his investment bankers, “I think that doing that
is a waste of the talent that I have here and I can put it to better purposes by
building these features that in the long run pay oª better.” He made only a
dozen commercial films, for clients like Westinghouse Electric (The Dawn
of Better Living) and General Motors (The ABC of Hand Tools), before de-
livering the last of them in 1946.

The rationale for hiring Leahy and Reeder thus evaporated within months
of their hiring. In early 1946, Harry Tytle has written, “Reeder wanted the
[production schedule for a feature cartoon, apparently Make Mine Music]
moved up so that it would fall on a more marketable release date, like Easter
or Christmas. An earlier release date meant Walt would have less time to make
what he felt was an acceptable picture. Reeder was circumventing Walt—and

o n a t r e a d m i l l , 1 9 4 1 – 1 9 4 7 1 8 9

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Western Printing and Lithographing
Company, 245, 278

Westinghouse Electric, 189, 307, 308
Westward Ho the Wagons! 261, 265
�Wheels a-Rolling� pageant, 211
White, Stanley, 172
Whitney, John Hay, 174, 175
�Who�s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf ?�

(song), 96, 97
Why We Fight (series), 186
Wickersham, Bob, 113
Wilck, Tommie, 286, 287
Wind in the Willows, The (un�nished

feature), 171, 180, 181, 199
Winecoff, Nat, 237, 245, 366n7
Winkler, George, 49, 55
Winkler, Margaret J., 36�37, 40�41, 49
Winkler Pictures, 49, 50, 55
women at Disney studio, restricted roles

of, 130

i n d e x 3 9 3

Wood, C. V., 257
Wood, Cornett, 147, 151
Wood, Sam, 200
Woodward, Marvin, 121
Woolery, Adrian, 154
World�s Columbia Exposition of 1893,

Wright, Ralph, 198
Wynn, Ed, 229

Ye Olden Days, 91�92
York, Jeff, 261, 264

Zamora, Rudy, 84
Zander, Jack, 74�75, 92
Zanuck, Darryl, 136
Zermatt, Switzerland, 267, 304
�Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah� (song), 194
Zorro (television series), 261n, 269, 271
Zorro building, 237, 238

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Compositor: Integrated Composition Systems
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