Directing Animator, Milt Kahl was not simply a presence in D-wing - he was a force. His arrival each morning was evident by sound of the wing's hallway door slamming open and the sound of heavy footsteps as the tall Dutchman stomped down the hallway to his office. Not much was heard from Milt until coffee break when his key assistant, Stan Green fetched coffee and a select few artists joined the master as he held court in his spacious office. Once break time ended, it was back to work until lunchtime when Milt enjoyed a game of chess with fellow animators, Amby Paliwoda or Freddy Hellmich. Milt was demanding in every area of his life and loosing a chess game was no exception. Loud, colorful language echoed through the wing and the sound of chess pieces flying across the room was a sure indication that the master animator had lost another game.

Should you find yourself lucky enough to work in D-wing you had better know the rules. Rule number one. Never, ever disturb Milt Kahl while he was working. Milt focused in on his drawings like a laser. The slightest sound would likely prove a distraction and the irascible animator would soon visit those who talked too loudly or dared to crank up the radio. I still remember the sight of an annoyed Milt Kahl standing at our office door. His tall hulking frame filled the doorway as he shouted, "Where's that blankety blank noise coming from?" From then on, music lovers in D-wing were advised to invest in headphones.

Milt Kahl's approach to work was as unique as everything else in his life. I would often pass his office door and see him sitting at his desk staring into space. Hours would pass and Milt would not have made a single sketch. Then as if by magic, he would pick up his pencil and create several feet of inspired animation. It was as though the scene was already completed in his head. All Milt had to do was transfer those images to paper. He worked with incredible efficiency and wasted not a single drawing. Even the lines on his paper were chosen carefully. At the end of the day, young scavengers would raid the animator's waste baskets for discarded drawings. A late night visit to Kahl's office would often prove fruitless. Milt's waste basket was usually empty. One might be tempted to conclude the master animator simply never made a bad drawing.

Milt Kahl continued to animate brilliantly throughout the seventies, but it was clear he was growing disenchanted with studio after the passing of the Old Maestro. Stan Green continued to fetch coffee and a new group of artists included Andreas Deja and Glen Keane. The youngsters eagerly sought Milt’s council at break time and hung on every word uttered by the master. The Walt Disney studio was now moving in a new direction and Milt Kahl had finally had enough of the "new Disney." The seventies’ leadership vacuum hardly helped, and arrogant young animation upstarts began to make their move to control the studio's  animated product and Milt Kahl was having no part of this nonsense. He eventually gave his notice to CEO, Ron Miller and headed out the door forever.

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AuthorFloyd Norman