I already felt like an old man when I returned to Walt Disney Productions in the early seventies. Absent for years, I had bailed out of Disney in 1966 when Walt passed away. Now a cadre of young kids most still in their twenties filled the offices of the Animation Building. I felt washed up. I was a grizzled old timer past my prime. I was in my thirties.
Worse, I encountered factions in the post Walt animation department. The Old Guard pushed back against the Cal Arts Kids and the Bluthies were busy playing their own game. I wanted no part of any of them but I did meet a young man I really liked. His name was Pete Young and he's already kind of a legend in this crazy unpredictable business. Pete is no longer with us and I wish I had taken the time to have gotten to know him better. One evening, I gave him a ride home and it didn't take me long to find that there was more to this young man than met the eye. Not only was Pete knowledgable about the cartoon business he seemed to have a gift for Disney story telling. I do not exaggerate when I say Pete Young could have been the next Vance Gerry or even Bill Peet. Trust me, he was that good.
Unlike the other young scoundrels at Disney Animation, Pete seemed calm and mild mannered. But, don't let that fool you because he was extremely knowledgable about the workings of the Disney Company and should you want to know what was going on behind closed doors upstairs, Pete Young was the guy to go to for “inside information.” On our drive home we chatted about the future of animation and where things were headed. Pete was eager to push the company forward and he hoped that CEO, Ron Miller would perhaps give him the opportunity. And, it may very well have happened because Pete Young, along with George Scribner were set to co-direct a little film called, “Oliver and Company.”
Life is seldom fair and the unthinkable sometimes happens. Pete Young passed away and the Disney Studio was suddenly in shock. It was natural to expect the old timers, many of whom had already retired to leave this temporary abode. It's the order of things, after all. But, Pete Young was just a kid. A talented kid ready to inspired us all with his storytelling gifts. Somehow, it just didn't seem right he should be taken away so soon.
I wish I had spent more time with Pete Young that evening. I wish we had talked a bit more about Disney animation and what a privilege it was to follow the animation masters who had inspired us. I wish a lot of things, I guess. Then, I look up and realize things are not so bad after all. He's probably in a meeting with Walt now. Wouldn't that be cool?