It'll never be this good again, will it? This marvelous footage was being shown on a video display as I entered our Disney office this morning. It's a sequence from the Walt Disney classic, “Sleeping Beauty.”
It was 1958, and my second year on the feature length animated film. The project had begun development while I was still a kid in school. I could not have imagined I would one day work on this Disney classic. I visited Disneyland in its opening week in 1955 and had my first look at the incredible Eyvind Earle backgrounds that were on display. My dreams of working for Walt Disney were rekindled and I became even more focused on the subject of animation.
Apparently, back in 1956 dreams did come true because I luckily made the cut and suddenly found myself employed by Walt Disney Productions. I began my career on the “easy stuff” before moving on to the more demanding work of feature animation. I was blessed to have a mentor like Freddy Hellmich who took me into his “Fairy Unit” where I would eventually acquire the skills of a professional animation artist. You might say I served my apprenticeship inside this fairy cottage because that's where I would spend most of 1958. The footage we had to generate that year was considerable and it also had to make it pass the demanding eyes of directing animators, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. I do not joke when I say we did most of our scenes again and again until we got it right.
As I said, It'll never be this good again. No animation studio, with the exception of Walt Disney Studios could ever attempt this level of hand drawn traditional animation. Sure, others will imitate and some may even come close. However, there will never be another animated motion picture such as Sleeping Beauty or the other notable Disney classics. It's clear, Disney has already made their decision. Sure, they'll continue to make “digital cartoons” but with all due respect to my CGI colleagues I consider that stuff, “animation light.” Why, you ask? It's because these are CG rigs not drawings. And, as my old boss, Milt Kahl might say, “If you're not drawing, then what the hell are you doing?” Well, they've decided not to draw anymore at Disney's animation studio. Honestly, I don't know what the hell they're doing.