Even though I was a member of his clean-up team I rarely spent much time in Milt Kahl’s office back in the sixties. Actually, I avoided the Master Animator and was more than happy to let our clean-up key, Stan Green go over the scenes with Kahl on his Moviola. For the most part these sessions with the Disney Master went well. However, If things didn’t go as expected, I preferred that Stan take the heat. For some reason Milt loved to intimidate his assistants. Clearly, Kahl was well known for his insistence on the best in every scene he animated. Lucky for all of us things seldom went wrong and the fearsome animator was usually satisfied.
We had been working on Walt Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone” for a number of months before we finally got around to this remarkable character. Her name was Madame Mim, and she and young Wart would eventually meet in the forest. While we had our fair share of fun sketching Merlin the Magician, Archemedes and Sir Kay, this new character was a delightful change of pace. Working from Bill Peet’s inspired sketches, Milt Kahl refined this zany character in his own special way and the animated scenes were filled with fun. I usually avoided Milt Kahl’s moviola sessions, however this time around I actually watched the scenes with Stan Green and Milt Kahl as he laughed his head off over his own animation. “Was Milt entertaining the audience,” I wondered? I couldn’t help but get the impression the master animator was entertaining himself. Perhaps Milt was amused by his own special jokes and the personal stuff he added to his animation. After all, he had designed the grouchy wizard, Merlin after the boss, Walt Disney. Once the usually unattractive Madame Mim transformed herself into a sexy babe she bore a remarkable resemblance to a tall, leggy redhead who worked upstairs in the Animation Building. Of course, I loved working on this sequence in “The Sword in the Stone.” If I had my way there would have been a lot more of Mad Madame Mim in the story.
Maybe you got a chuckle out of Madame Mim’s antics as well. She turned out to be a very engaging character and it’s a shame “The Sword in the Stone” was somewhat of a disappointment for audiences back in the sixties. No matter. The Old Maestro, Walt Disney was never one to dwell on the past and he simply moved on to his next project. As expected, this movie would be adapted and developed by his top storyman, Bill Peet. It was an engaging story by Rudyard Kipling and would feature a little boy named Mowgli and a host of jungle animals. I would work on this Disney motion picture as well. Only this time around, I would work in a totally different capacity. The sixties continued with more surprises ahead.