I was lucky enough to be around when many of animation's old timers were still at their drawing tables or attending social occasions. I often took the opportunity to sit and talk about the good old days of the business when life was simpler. Of course, it wasn't always simple even in the good old days.
These old veterans had pretty much seen it all and done it all and they enjoyed sharing their stories with me and my colleagues. I remember many a party where I was privileged to sit with a Disney, Warners or MGM veteran and talk about the past. I found their stories fascinating and wondered why so few of them ever took the time to write a book. Apparently, tackling a book is a task too daunting for most. They simply said, they'd think about it, but most left this mortal coil without ever putting pen to paper.
I strolled the streets of Pasadena with an old Disney writer who had been with Walt during the Hyperion days. He joked about Disney's “barnyard humor” and Walt's offering him a drink to celebrate the premiere of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” I spoke with another talented artist who had to endure a family feud during the famous Disney labor action in the nineteen forties. He stood his ground with the Disney strikers while his wife crossed the picket lines to help Disney complete the feature animated film, “Dumbo.” How his marriage managed to survive that stressful ordeal I'll never know. These stories and more is what fascinated me as a kid. Just being able to talk with the men and women who were a part of animation history provided enormous insight for this green young kid.
I guess that's why I consider it a shame that so few of these wonderful stories were ever written down. Of course, we have a number of books provided for us over the years that include everything from Robert Field's “Art of Walt Disney” to Bob Thomas' “ Art of Animation.” That book was written during the production of “Sleeping Beauty” and I watched much of the book happen. On the lighter side there's always Jack Kinney's lightweight but very funny book on the early days of Disney and and the more comprehensive book on the mouse house by Christopher Finch. Then we were blessed by several books by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johston once they retired from animation.
However, we've only scratched the surface here. There are so many wonderful stories to tell had only these talented veterans taken the time to write them down. I think that's what motivated me to write my book on my time at Disney. No way I'm competing with the books that preceded mine. This is not a competition, after all. The animation business has a rich history and the more we know about it the better.