John Kennedy

I’m posting late today. A meeting at Walt Disney Studios and other rushing around ate up the time. So, forgive me for being a little late.

Let’s talk about John Kennedy this afternoon. No, not that John Kennedy. This guy happens to be a Disney animator and a good friend. If you check the animation screen credits on Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty you’ll see his name listed with all the other Disney big shot animators. John never talked much about his animation in the Disney classic. I think he simply considered it another job he was given to do. Back in the fifties it was considered to be a very big deal if you were chosen to animate on this prestigious Disney motion picture. John didn’t seem to be into that kind of baloney. He simply did the job he was given and never gave it that much thought.

Even though John Kennedy was animating back in the fifties, I didn’t even meet him until I moved to D-wing to assist Milt Kahl on The Sword in the Stone. Kennedy was right across the hall from me and I couldn’t help but notice the odd sign on his door. The sign read, “The Horny Old Timer.” Initially I thought the sign referred to John but I was wrong. John had moved into the vacated office after the previous tenant moved upstairs. The wacky sign was referring not to John, but to one of the Nine Old Men. Can you guess who it was? The legendary, Ward Kimball.

While working on The Sword in the Stone the silver haired animator would often join us for coffee. Keep in mind that in the old days at Disney, geeky kids like us regarded animators as royalty. Today, animators appear to be a dime a dozen, but back then they were god like. We were surprised that the Disney veteran was willing to spend so much time with us. We were just kids after all, and the old Disney veteran had seen it, and done it all. Over time, he became our Merlin. A grey haired advisor to a bunch of young geeky kids.

John Kennedy was a lover of old Hollywood and vintage motion pictures. Keep in mind that in the sixties we didn’t have Turner Classic Movies and other sources to the films of Hollywood past. John raised our awareness of actors, writers and directors we scarcely knew. It was as though we attended a master class in Hollywood history. Each day we would gather and learn about the great film makers of the past. We would learn the names of the marvelous character actors such as Misha Auer and Reginald Owen. When Walt Disney cast silent star, Pola Negri in one of his new films, John was ecstatic.

John Kennedy often spoke of his retirement plans and his eventual move to Mexico where he planned to settle down with his lady friend. He had already purchased a home south of the border and he looked forward to a leisurely life drinking tequila and napping under a cactus plant. Whether John Kennedy achieved those goals I’ll never know. Like so many Disney animators when John moved on he simply vanished forever.

I’ll never forget our fun conversations and sharing our love of movies. John was a good guy who never let his big shot animator status get in the way of our friendship. He was extremely modest, soft spoken and never thought of himself as anything other than another unknown Disney animator. However, this is one Disney animator I think you should know.