There’s a timeless quality about the original Animation Building on the Walt Disney Studio lot. We were reminded of this when the film, “Saving Mr. Banks” was being filmed in this same location. It could easily have been any decade one would choose. And, honestly the nineteen fifties doesn’t look all that different from 2014. Let me introduce you to three young Disney artists as they take a break outside the Animation Building. This photograph could have easily been taken last week but the apparel probably reveals this is the nineteen fifties. There were so many talented young men and women working at Disney during the fabulous fifties. Most left the studio after the completion of “Sleeping Beauty,” and few people even know these gifted Disney artists.
The guy on the left is Gus Depace. Gus was a member of the Malificent Crew and worked with team leader, Dale Barnhart. The rest of the crew included, Fernando Arce, Ruben Apodaca and Bob Longo. Think of Gus when you see those beautiful drawings of the evil fairy onscreen. That’s talented Gordon Bellamy in the red sweater. After leaving Disney in the fifties, Gordon became a top art director in the Bay Area and I remember seeing his commercials on television back in the sixties. I could always spot his art direction because Gordon Bellamy had a very distinctive style. Finally, the artist in the middle is Jim Fletcher. Jim was quite a guy, and I recently wrote an article about him for a European publication. Fletcher had a long career in animation and was best known as the producer and director of the Hollywood Museum film, “Concept.” Jim was also a gifted storybook artist and illustrated children’s books and many Disney comics for Western Publishing. Never opting for marriage, Jim Fletcher dated a number of tinsel town movie actresses, and his Encino neighbor was no less than the “King of Pop” himself. That’s correct. Jim Fletcher’s neighbor was, Michael Jackson. You can’t make up stuff like this.
Unlike my colleagues who all eventually departed the Walt Disney Studio I kept returning year after year. For some odd reason I simply couldn’t stay away from this amazing facility that was once a home to Disney artists. As I approach Disney’s Animation Building today it’s difficult to believe the year is 2014. With the blink of an eye I suddenly return to break time on a sunny morning in 1956. In a very real way, Walt’s Animation Building is a modern day Time Machine.