Here’s a favorite photograph taken at the Walt Disney Studios in the fifties. Of course, the picture could never be called stellar. The lighting is hardly the best and the focus is rather soft. However, the candid shot captures a pensive moment with my Disney friend and colleague, Rick Gonzales. It’s late in 1958 and after nearly two years work on “Sleeping Beauty” the animated motion picture is finally winding down. I wonder what’s on Rick’s mind this quiet winter morning? I suppose he might be pondering whether he’ll be moving on to the next feature production or maybe headed back to a television or shorts unit? There’s been nervous talk about a major studio layoff and naturally that’s a real concern.
For many of us, “Sleeping Beauty” was our first big Walt Disney animated feature film. After nearly two and a half long years at the drawing board maybe a break is exactly what most of the staff needs. Bob Reese is thinking about a possible trip to Europe. He was encouraged by veteran traveler, Jim Fletcher. Fletcher insisted that it’s always best to travel when you’re young. You don’t want to be wheezing as you struggle up a long flight of stairs on your European jaunt. Jim has already seen a good deal of the world, and he’ll be off on another journey when the film comes to an end. However, Jim Fletcher is hardly worried about the future. It seems he has a job with Ward Kimball’s prestigious unit waiting for him when he returns.
As for myself, I’ve been digging up a few old magazines. Magazines with photographs of Dalmatians and I’ve been trying my hand at drawing the spotted dogs. I’ve also been snooping around upstairs and I’ve noticed that character designer, Tom Oreb has his drawing table filled with these special doggies. Up on the third floor of the Animation Building, production designer, Ken Anderson has been filling his storyboards with several color sketches of British illustrator, Ronald Searle. Perhaps our next animated feature motion picture might have something to do with Dalmatian puppies. It’s a crazy thought - but it could happen, couldn’t it? Whatever happens in the next few months is hardly a cause for concern. We’re just a bunch of kids in our early twenties finishing up our first Disney feature movie. Luckily, we’ve got our whole career ahead of us.