If you were to somehow travel back in time what would life be like in Walt Disney's fifties animation studio? For starters there would not be a computer in sight. These amazing devices were still a couple of decades away so the process of producing an animated motion picture was pretty much a hands on job. Of course, I mean this seriously because pretty much everything was done by hand.

Of course, back then drawing was celebrated and the first question veteran animators would ask concerning a young assistant was, how well can he draw? Naturally, drawings were everywhere and we often walked room to room and desk to desk soaking in the amazing artwork on the artist's disk. Yes, I said disk because that's what we worked on when animation was traditional. Rigs and rendering were terms nobody knew. What mattered was damn good drawings and no matter how hard we worked we never quite measured up. At Disney in the fifties the bar was set high and I mean damn high.

Of course all this matters little today where animation has pretty much been reduced to high tech puppetry. We're not knocking the many talented CG animators who are currently doing some solid work. More often than not their animation is  brilliant and they're becoming masters of their craft. I'm sure even Walt Disney would be amazed at the technological strides animation has made. Having said that, I continue to lament for the unique Disney art form that captivated audiences for decades and inspired a generation of artists who created movie magic using only a pencil and paper. However, animation remains a business today and business has determined that traditional hand drawn animation is a better fit for a European film festival not an American multiplex.

Perhaps you'll understand why fifties Disney remains overwhelmingly nostalgic for this old timer. When you entered the studio for the first time you encountered the fragrance of animation. Yep. Even the smell of paint, pencil and paper enhanced the art experience and made you keenly aware you were in a place where art was being created. My younger colleagues tell me they feel the same about todays work environment. Somehow, I find that difficult to believe.

Fifties Life at Disney

Fifties Life at Disney

AuthorFloyd Norman