Dumpster Diving

Perhaps this art belongs in the studio dumpster because that’s exactly where I found it. No joke. Back in the seventies, another Disney animator and I climbed into a trash dumpster sitting on the Walt Disney Studio lot. The other animator was a guy named, Don Bluth. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. In any case, the dumpster filled with Disney animation cels was too tempting to resist. Don and I climbed into the trash filled dumpster and that’s where I found this particular animation painted cel.

I should explain before going further. You see, back in the old days of Disney (I’m speaking of the seventies) the studio simply didn’t regard animation art as all that precious. Plus, there was so much of it once a film had been completed, there was simply no place to store it. A few key cels were archived, but most of the production work was simply thrown away. Of course, the Disney studio might protest and say this was not the case. If so, then how does one explain the huge trash dumpster filled to the brim with painted cels?

What’s even cooler is the fact that this animation cel is actually a drawing I did back in the early sixties on Walt Disney’s feature film, “The Sword in the Stone.” I immediately recognized the scene animated by the Disney Master, Milt Kahl. Amazing as it may seem, I cleaned up this particular scene for Milt. Even though years had past, I recognized the crappy drawing as my own. Not that Milt’s work was substandard. Milt was awesome as always. It’s just that he had me as one of his assistants, and that’s why I knew this drawing immediately when seeing it in the trash filled dumpster.

Anybody remember the scene? Sir Ector and his son, Kay are enjoying a meal in the castle. One of the guys tosses a bone and a few scraps of meat to the dogs nearby. The large Mastiffs make a dash for the food and fight over the scraps. I cleaned up another scene for Milt Kahl involving the same dogs. In this particular scene the Mastiffs pounce on Wart licking his face as the kid laughs. Not surprisingly, our director, Woolie Reitherman found a way to reuse some of this footage in another Disney film we would make a few years later. Anybody remember the reuse of this scene in The Jungle Book? This time around, Wart has been swapped out for Mowgli, but the animation was pretty much the same. The reuse of animation drives some Disney fans nuts because they hate to see a prestigious studio like Disney resorting to such crass, cost cutting measures. To be fair, these reuse scenes never did save any money. They were often a pain to do. It would have been far easier to animate the scene from scratch than trying to “adapt” some earlier bit of animation to fit the new scene. In any case, no one ever managed to change Woolie’s mind and he continued to use older animation whenever he could get away with it.

Our boss, Ken Shue, over at Disney Publishing matted and framed this “Sword in the Stone” scene for me. It was generous of Ken to take time out to frame this rather unimportant piece of Disney art. It’s not a reproduction but an actual animated cel that was photographed under the Disney camera. You can probably see the old Disney paint beginning to crack and flake off. Yes, boys and girls, this is an original piece of Disney art. Even if the crappy Disney art happens to be my own.

This is a scene from Walt Disney's The Sword in the Stone. Believe it or not, the drawing in the frame is actually my own. Milt Kahl animated the scene ... and had to make do with my crappy clean-ups.

This is a scene from Walt Disney's The Sword in the Stone. Believe it or not, the drawing in the frame is actually my own. Milt Kahl animated the scene ... and had to make do with my crappy clean-ups.