Today, we'll discuss one of my favorite projects at the Walt Disney Studio. Back in the sixties, the old men of D-Wing were discussing what Walt Disney might be up to next. A few projects we had in development had not gone well and some were wondering what our next assignment might be. That is, if there was even going to be a next assignment. The old guys said not to worry because Walt had already set his sights on bringing Rudyard Kipling's famous novel to the screen. Only this time around the story would be called, “Walt Disney's The Jungle Book.”
I've been asked more than once why my name is not listed in the screen credits of the motion picture. First of all, I have to remind people that credits were not generously doled out in year's past. Usually, screen credits went to department heads and supervisors not the rank and file. Then there was always the matter of politics. Knowing the right person or being tight with the producer or director could get your name up on the big screen. Knowing this, many artists working at Disney in decades past had absolutely no expectation of a credit on the film they may have labored on for years.
If you're a Disney geek you may already know the famous names on the Disney Jungle Book screen credits. The names listed under the story credits are, Ralph Wright, Ken Anderson, Larry Clemmons and Vance Gerry. I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Wright although I had heard of him. I think he had already retired by the time I came onto the film. Ralph had done an early treatment and I think that's why Walt gave him a story credit. Ken Anderson was the conceptualist on the film although I don't recall seeing any storyboards Ken had done. Not that Ken couldn't do boards. He was actually darn good at creating storyboards and his work on Sleeping Beauty provides a good example. Ken did create a number of beautiful concept sketches that kicked off many a great story idea. Larry Clemmons was a real writer. That is, he was the one guy who actually used a typewriter. Larry's job was to knock out rough outlines that we would take and embellish. Once the storyboards were completed, Larry would return and do what he called, “a dialogue polish.” Finally, Vance Gerry was the guy who did it all. He was not only a great storyteller, but my mentor as well.
In a perfect world, the Disney screen credits should have included the guys who created the wonderful storyboards for the film. Nobody knows them, of course. However, I know them all because I worked with them on the motion picture and now I'm going to give you their names. First of all, two veteran Disney animators could also do boards as well. They were Eric Cleworth and Dick Lucas. By the way, Eric animated that awesome dragon in Sleeping Beauty just to give you some idea of his ability as an animator. Then there was the amazing, Al Wilson. Al was one of the funniest guys I've ever had the pleasure of working with. That wild and crazy sequence with Mowgli and King Louie is the work of uncredited story man, Al Wilson. Finally, there was some new kid who was added to the story crew. His name was, Floyd Norman, but I have no idea what the hell he did.
It goes without saying that my pal, Vance Gerry was probably the most important guy on the movie. Soft spoken and self effacing, Vance Gerry's contribution to The Jungle Book still astounds me. And, naturally Vance continued to insist even years later that his work was marginal at best. So, perhaps things worked out after all. Vance Gerry's name is in the film credits and honestly, it's the name that truly belongs there.