Like so many of my old colleagues, he's been gone a number of years. I last spoke with Tom Dagenais in the parking lot of Hanna-Barbera where he was working as a writer. I recall his young daughter was with him and she seemed very shy. Quite different from her energetic dad who was far from being a low key kind of guy.
This photograph of Tom was taken during the summer of 1956 when we had just moved into new quarters in Disney's Animation Building. The space we were given was in F-Wing on the building's first floor. As you entered the wing, you made a quick right turn into this space Tom Dagenais occupied. To the right was a larger area filled with animation desks and became the home of new employees to the mouse house. Tom chose this smaller space because he liked to keep his work area dark. You probably can't see it, but the picture Tom is gazing at happens to be a sexy pin-up. In case you're wondering, the men often had spicy artwork on the walls of their office. This was long before the days of HR, and most female employees simply shrugged off such juvenile male behavior. And of course, there was hardly a need for an HR Department to protect young women. Should a male artist exhibit naughty behavior, he might soon be served a “knuckle sandwich.” They might have been called, “girls” in the old days, but the young women were more than capable of taking care of themselves. But, let's get back to Tom.
I wouldn't call Tom a “ladies man,” but I did meet a number of attractive young women in his office. A good looking guy, Tom could easily have been called, tall, dark and handsome. He could have played a romantic lead had he chosen to become an actor rather than an animator. However, Tom Dagenais did drop the animator dream once he became privy to some very important information at the Walt Disney Studio. Eager to move up the production ladder, Dagenais learned one day that writers earned more than artists at the Disney Studio. Well, that was it for Tom. From that day forward he determined to put the art aside and become a writer because they took home a larger paycheck.
Nearly twenty years later I found myself at ABC Television Studios meeting with the producers and directors of a new television show that Tom and his colleague had created. I eventually worked as a writer on five shows for the network, and it was a kick to know that my old pal had created the show. Several more years passed, and in the seventies I had eventually made my way back to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. On that first day back I actually saw the former Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello and her children in the hallway of the Animation Building. However, there was an even bigger surprise. Tom Dagenais and his partner had returned to Disney to work on a new television show. Once again, it seems Tom and I had been reunited.
Some years later, we had our final conversation in the Hanna-Barbera parking lot. Tom was now older, and appeared gaunt and gray. No longer the young kids we had been when we first arrived at the Disney Studios decades ago. We had climbed the show biz ladder and worked on shows both great and terrible. It had all been great fun, and we didn't regret a day of our careers. Tom and his young daughter hopped into his snazzy sports car and drove off the Hanna-Barbera lot. Tom Dagenais turned waved goodbye…and I never saw him again.