The Grumpy Funnyman

Have you ever heard of Al Wilson? Grumpy Al was one of the most talented story guys I ever worked with. And, he was one of the funniest. Do you want proof? He worked on this very funny sequence in Walt Disney's The Jungle Book. Al Wilson worked on a fair share of Disney feature films over the years. However Al was one of those guys who was in and out of Disney so he was often difficult to keep track of.

I first met Al Wilson when I was supervising layout at Hanna-Barbera. Al's beezy and effortless drawing style seemed to work for the Saturday Morning cartoon dreck we were often tasked with. I think Al picked up work at the rival studio because he could do it quickly and it was a paycheck. Al Wilson preferred animation writing and production at a cross town studio most were familiar with. Jay Ward was noted for producing some of the funniest work on television and Mr. Wilson was part of Ward's team. Of course, the stories about producer Jay Ward are legendary. Al enjoyed telling one funny story about the wacky producer. One day he stormed into the boss's office to demand a raise. Al ranted for nearly five minutes about how hard he was working and how little money he was earning. Jay Ward sat quietly at his desk the whole time and when Al had finished his rant, Ward simply looked up and said, “okay.”

Eventually, Al returned to Disney in the sixties to join Woolie's unit on The Jungle Book. When the Old Maestro demanded the animated film be more entertaining this was all Wilson needed to hear. Although Al often appeared to be grumpy and sullen, he was actually one of the funniest guys in the room. He breezed through sketch after sketch complaining the whole time. Once Al's story sketches were pinned to the board, he would usually stomp away disgusted with the whole thing. However, the sequence Al storyboarded was almost always hilarious. Funny guys it would seem, just naturally do funny stuff.

As expected, Al Wilson received no screen credit on Walt Disney's The Jungle Book. Screen credits were doled out meagerly in the old days and the names on the screen had more to do with politics rather than the work. However, if you've enjoyed the sequence with King Louie and Baloo the Bear in the Jungle temple just remember you're enjoying a good deal of Al Wilson's work. As I said before, Mr. Wilson was an often grumpy individual. However, he was one helluva funny guy.


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