Animator, Rick Farmiloe makes a good point concerning master animators at the Walt Disney Studios. Awesome talents such as John Lounsbery were often eclipsed by high profile artists. Guys like Milt Kahl were almost always in the spotlight. It was well deserved, of course because Milt was an incredible talent. However, John Lounsbery was no less a talent. This recent color sketch of Merlin the Magician is a good example of a wonderful character he brought to life. Clearly, Milt Kahl did a fair share of Merlin in Walt Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone.” However, you might be surprise to learn how much of Merlin was animated by John Lounsbery. His stuff was as dynamic as Milt’s work and it was darn funny as well. John Lounsbery was no less a master animator.
Here’s another color sketch of Merlin the Magician I did this morning. I had done an earlier sketch of Merlin, but I remembered one of Merlin’s lines from the movie. In this particular scene Merlin turns toward the owl, Archemedes and says, “I’m not guessing Archemedes, I know where he is!” Of course, Milt Kahl animated this scene and I did the clean-ups. It was early on in the production and we were all getting warmed up. The animation department, now under the new austerity program, was trying to reduce production costs. An edict was handed down from animation boss, Andy Engman. We would now have to crank out twenty five feet a week. I guess that doesn’t seem like much by today’s standards, but back in the early sixties that was a considerable amount of footage. Especially since we had to meet the rather high standards of Disney’s “Nine Old Men.”
It was the early sixties, and I had just moved out of A-wing to 1D-1 in coveted D-wing. I placed my desk near the window in the large room and began my clean-up duties for Milt Kahl. Naturally, I continued to wonder how long I would last before the very exacting master animator would boot me off his crew. Stan Green had worked with Kahl on “Sleeping Beauty,” and now Stan had returned to act as key clean-up for Milt. More often than not, I picked up my work from Stan, not Milt. Naturally, I thought Stan would do a few of the key clean- ups in Milt’s scenes - but he didn’t. He would simply give me the scene folder along with the exposure sheet and say, “clean it up - you know what to do.” Initially, I was awestruck that I would even be trusted with a Milt Kahl scene, but Stan seemed confident in me. Perhaps because we had worked together briefly on “Sleeping Beauty.” Anyway, I managed to hang in there for over two years. It was one of the few Disney motion pictures that I actually worked on from start to finish. From the first scene where Sir Kay turns his head and says, “Quiet, Wart!” to the final scene where the young King Arthur pulls the sword out of the stone. Yes, I worked on that awesome scene as well and it was beautifully drawn and animated by Milt Kahl.
So, the color sketch down below is a reminder of the glorious Disney days back in the sixties. It was a time when we created animation by hand, Walt Disney still walked the hallways and animation was the best job in the world.