The two older gentleman visiting our studio were wearing the pastel colored garb sported by retirees living in the nearby beach community. Who were these old codgers, I wondered? And, why would they have any interest in an obscure little cartoon studio located near the beach?
I could tell by their comments the two men were hardly novices when it came to the production of animated films. Could they have worked in the cartoon business at one time, I wondered? And, what would prompt their interest in our little animated venture? Since the two appeared low key and soft spoken, it took me a few minutes before I recognized the Disney veteran who had once been my boss at Walt Disney's creative hive many years ago. His name was Clyde Geronimi but friends and colleagues knew him by the nick name, “Gerry.” Gerry Geronimi wasn’t just another Disney employee, in case you’re wondering. He had been a major player in Walt’s animation department for decades and directed many of the classic Disney films I saw as a child.
It had easily been two decades since I last saw Gerry Geronimi at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. In the sixties, I remember Geronimi had traveled to Europe on a film assignment for the old Maestro. Though Gerry had spent most of his career directing animated projects, Walt Disney had decided to trust his supervising director with a live-action project this time around. I never did see the completed television show Gerry supervised for Walt, and I was somewhat surprised that the Disney veteran suddenly departed the studio where he had spent so much of his career. Not long after Gerry’s departure, Walt Disney passed away and the studio had been changed forever.
However, the kids in the studio had no idea who the old gentleman was and the incredible accomplishments he had achieved while working for Disney. I still kick myself for not grabbing a tape recorder and asking the animation veteran and few hundred questions. However, we still had work to do and I was reluctant to impose on our visitor’s time. Perhaps he had a golf game or whatever retirees do with their leisure time. After the two gentleman said their goodbyes and headed out the door, I felt it was important to inform my studio colleagues who they had just met. As so often happens, Gerry Geronimi was sadly forgotten once he left the Walt Disney Studios and began his retirement. There were no awards or accolades given to the departing Disney Master for his many years of service. Although he did receive the Windsor McKay Award some years later. Adding icing to the cake, the coveted award was presented to Gerry by Cartoon legend, Walter Lantz.
Clyde “Gerry” Geronimi passed away in Newport Beach California at the age of eighty seven. His stellar career in the cartoon business reached back to the thirties and he wrapped up his Disney career in the sixties after completing work on “Sleeping Beauty.” Ironically, it was the same decade the Old Maestro left us. If you’ve ever seen a Walt Disney feature animated film it’s more than likely you’ve seen a film directed by Gerry Geronimi. The quiet, aging gentleman who visited my Newport Beach office that morning many years ago was a true Disney Legend. Sadly, few people besides myself were even aware of that.