Let's take another trip back in time to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank and get to know another artist you've probably never heard of. The year is 1956 and once again we find ourselves in 1F-1 on the first floor of the Animation Building. It's lunch time and the halls are quiet. Most employees have already headed over to the studio commissary. Our older colleagues have headed over to their favorite “watering hole,” but that's a story for another time.
That's John Leslie slouched at his desk reading a magazine. You'll notice John has a lunch bag on his desk. The young apprentice in-betweeners were not paid a great deal of money. Even though prices at the Disney commissary were hardly pricey, it was still more than most of the artists could afford, so they often “brown bagged” it. However, people didn't come to Disney because of the money. Leslie traveled all the way from Glascow Scotland to take a position at the famous Mouse House. For most, a position at Disney was considered top of the line. If you wanted to work in the animation business you couldn't do better than Disney.
John Leslie bore an uncanny resemblance to the famous teen heart throb, James Dean. The Disney artists were notorious pranksters, and spread the word that the screen idol was now working on a “secret live-action project” at the Disney Studio. John Leslie was often stopped by attractive young women wanting his autograph. Imagine their disappointment when they eventually realized he was not the actor, James Dean.
Being true to his Scottish heritage, Leslie continually sought ways to save money. John was probably one of the first Disney artist to invest in an odd little vehicle that was known for its excellent gas mileage. He parked his little car in the Disney parking lot and everyone gathered around the bug shaped little car because it was such a curiosity. In time, more people would see the value of the little German car called, Volkswagon.
The Feature film, “Sleeping Beauty” was beginning to gear up and many artists left F-Wing to find a home in other animation units. John Leslie seemed more at home in the shorts unit and had little interest in working on the feature. Even avoiding the feature motion picture failed to provide protection for John. Like all the others, he was victim of the infamous “Sleeping Beauty” layoff in late 1959. While many of our colleagues found work in “outside animation studios” such as UPA, Hanna-Barbera and others, John Leslie decided one layoff was enough for him. He left the cartoon business and found work elsewhere. As far as John was concerned, if you weren't working at Disney, why bother to work in animation at all. We were sorry to John leave the business, but I hope he found success in his other endeavors.