Break Time at Disney

Here’s one of my favorite photographs that will be appearing in my new book, "Animated Life" due out in a few weeks. This picture was taken in Animation 1-G at the Walt Disney Studios. It's break time and it's our second year on Walt Disney’s animated classic, “Sleeping Beauty.” That’s animation artist, Fernando Arce on the left. In the years to come, Fernando would leave the drawing  board and begin a new career as a background artist on animated films. The guy on the right is my room mate, Chuck Williams.

It’s ten o’clock and break time at the Walt Disney Studio in Burbank California. Fernando is working upstairs in Dale Barnhart’s unit doing the final clean-ups on the evil fairy, Malificent. Fernando and Chuck were old pals so he would often wander downstairs for a break time chat.

Back in the fifties, break time meant a bad cup of joe from the horrific  coffee machine in the lobby of 1-F down the hall. If you wanted something that actually tasted like coffee you’d be advised to head over to the tea room in the Ink&Paint Building. Entering this “No Man's Land” was okay as long as you kept your visit brief. God help you should Grace Bailey find you loitering in the hallway.

I remember the directing animators being very demanding during this period of production. We often had to do our scenes multiple times. Three separate passes on one scene was not unusual. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on an animated motion picture where the artistic demands were as high. If you managed to pass muster on a film like Disney's “Sleeping Beauty,” the rest of your career would be a cake walk.

Today, Chuck and Fernando seem relaxed enough as they enjoy their coffee break. In a few minutes they’ll be back at work at the drawing board trying to satisfy guys like Marc Davis, Milt Kahl and Frank Thomas. Three demanding guys who will probably have you looking forward to your afternoon break.

Fernando & Chuck.jpg