While browsing through my files this morning I came across this old photograph of Al Stetter and Chuck Williams at the Walt Disney Studios taken back in the sixties. If you ever wanted to feel the vibe of Disney when the Old Maestro ruled the roost this is exactly what things were like. Plus, I love the old black & white photographs I took back then. There’s a vitality and an immediacy you don’t always get with color pictures. There’s a graphic sensibility much like the photographs that often appeared in Life Magazine. Anybody old enough to remember Life Magazine?
Let me set the stage and give you some sense of what things were like the day I took this photograph. I had recently returned from a military stint in Korea and I brought home two cameras I had purchased in Japan. I’m not sure which camera was used to take this photograph but one of them was a Nikon. A real favorite of mine. Anyway, on this particular day we were taking a break in B-Wing on the first floor of the Animation Building. I shared an office with Chuck Williams in A-Wing and we had recently completed work on Walt Disney’s “101 Dalmatians.” Unlike today’s crazed film business we weren’t sitting around counting box office receipts. Hell, we had no idea how much money the movie was going to make. Our boss, Walt Disney simply wanted to make a darn good film that would entertain audiences here in America and eventually around the world. Walt never spoke about box office and making money. That’s a shame, isn’t it? All studio bosses talk about today is making money. With the completion of every movie we make today, the filmmakers sit around opening weekend biting their nails and hope that their movie “opens well.” My beloved animation industry is so layered with BS today it’s not even funny.
However, this was another time and a Walt Disney Studio we can fondly remember from photographs like this one. It was a time when staffers could enjoy break time knowing we had done our best work and that was all Walt Disney needed to know. We didn’t live in fear of layoffs and we never gave a thought to box office numbers. Our only concern was doing the best job possible because we knew that was what the old man required of us. In the next few weeks we would be moving onto a new Walt Disney motion picture and new and exciting challenges would be awaiting us. No worries. We knew we were already working at the finest animation studio in the world and the Old Maestro, was still full of fresh and exciting ideas. It was 1960 at the Walt Disney Studio in Burbank and the future was never more promising. Exciting projects awaited us in the wings. Films such as, “The Sword in the Stone,” Mary Poppins” and “The Jungle Book.” You better believe, we couldn’t wait to get started.