On this Tuesday morning I thought I might introduce you to three young Disney artists you’ve probably never met. There were so many talented young men and women working at Disney during the fabulous fifties. Most left the studio after the completion of “Sleeping Beauty,” and the studio went through a severe downsizing. However, this color photograph was taken at break time during the height of production. It’s a moment frozen in time and it’s an opportunity to introduce you to a few of my friends and colleagues.
The guy on the left is Gus Depace. Gus was a member of the “Malificent Crew” on Sleeping Beauty and worked with team leader, Dale Barnhart. Barnhart was a renaissance man whose many talents included painting and composing music. The rest of Dale’s crew included, Fernando Arce, Ruben Apodaca and Bob Longo. Think of Gus Depace when you see those beautiful drawings of the evil fairy on screen. The guy in the red sweater is animation artist, Gordon Bellamy. Brash and outspoken, Bellamy could often rub his fellow artists the wrong way. Because of his glib tongue we knew his stay at the mouse factory would probably not be lengthy. After leaving Disney during the infamous 1959 layoffs, Gordon became a top art director in the Bay Area, and I remember seeing his animated commercials on television back in the sixties. I could always spot his work because Bellamy had a very distinctive style. A style not welcomed by Disney because many saw it as edgy and progressive. Finally, the guy in the middle is my old pal, Jim Fletcher. Jim was quite a guy and I once wrote an article about his career for a European publication. Fletcher had a long career in animation and was best known as the producer, director of the Hollywood Museum film, “Concept.” Jim was also a gifted storybook artist and illustrated children’s books and many Disney comics for Western Publishing. Never opting for marriage, Jim Fletcher dated a number of tinsel town movie actresses, and his Encino neighbor was no less than the “King of Pop” himself, Michael Jackson. Yes, I mean that Michael Jackson. You can’t make this stuff up.
By the sixties, all these guys had moved on leaving Disney behind. Unlike my colleagues, I couldn’t seem to tear myself away from Walt’s magic factory so I kept returning year after year. Still, it’s odd to look back on these special days when we were all young kids. This photograph was taken many years ago and most of my pals have since departed. Yet, I continue to stick around the Walt Disney Studio and I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's simply to tell you these stories that took place many years ago.