I never got to know Ham Luske. I did speak to him occasion and he seemed like a cordial person. I nearly became part of his crew back in the sixties but that’s a story I’ll save for another time. I must have worked for Ham on a number of projects during my time at the Walt Disney Studios. Probably the most important movie was “Mary Poppins,” a film we did back in the sixties. Ham was our animation director and his role on the film was probably as important as the live-action director, Robert Stevenson.
Ham’s unit was located in A-Wing on the second floor of the Animation Building. By the time I arrived at Disney as a young, green animation apprentice, Ham Luske had several Disney features under his belt along with a series of successful short cartoons. Ham was a pretty darn good animator, but Walt thought he had potential as a director. The Old Maestro, who was then The Young Maestro - had a knack for spotting talent in people. Often times, a talent they didn’t even see themselves. Walt Disney decided that Ham should put down his animation pencil and take on the reins as a director. As usual, Walt was always right, and Ham Luske continued as a director for the remainder of his career.
Don’t you love this old photograph of Walt Disney and Ham Luske laughing away at something they’re watching on the Movieola. They were still young men back then and Walt is even sporting a T-shirt. And this photograph has been left untouched because we can see the cigarette in Walt’s hand. The two of them seem to having one heck of a good time. What must it have been like to work at the Mickey Mouse Factory back in the old Hyperion days when everything was exciting, fresh and new? If time travel were possible, that would be the Disney Studio I’d most love to visit.
For now, we have this special moment captured in time. It was a simpler time long before Walt’s little film company would morph into a mega-corporation. A time of silly cartoon making instead of chasing profits and dancing to Wall Street’s tune. It’s a time I long for, but it’s also a time that will never be again. The nineteen thirties have become ancient history and I doubt any of today’s Disney staffers would even have a clue who this man was.