The New Era of Mickey

It was December 1983 and once again I found myself unemployed. Searching for a job was nothing new in the cartoon business but this time around I was in for a surprise. Would you believe the jobs came searching for me? Before I could even put my portfolio together the phone calls began. It appeared several studios around town had heard I was available and they were eager to hire me. After years of making the rounds hat in hand this animation artist found himself in demand. Who knew?

The offers were many and several cartoon makers wanted me on their team. However, the offer I finally accepted paid the least amount of money. I had decided to return to Walt Disney Productions and be given an unusual new title. The powers that be decided to call me a writer. After years of bouncing around town and going from studio to studio I knew it was time to settle down. What better choice than the studio where my career had all began so many years ago. It’s difficult to explain the particular feeling I had that day. Walt Disney Productions simply felt like home. On a cool December day I reported to work in the very location I had already spent a good deal of my career. My new boss, Greg Crosby, hired me as an editor in the publishing unit of Disney’s Consumer Products Division. My writing assignments would vary and I never knew what the next challenge might be. The first script I wrote was a silly little Goofy story riffing on hi-fi equipment, and then I was asked to write some gag ideas for the daily Donald Duck comic strip. In time I was handed all kinds of writing assignments involving the Disney characters. It was becoming clear I had made the right career choice. My new assignments were enjoyable and my colleagues were talented, friendly and fun. I was given a name badge, a silver pass to Disneyland and a parking space on the Disney Burbank campus. It would appear the prodigal son had found his way home.

   The holiday atmosphere at Walt Disney Productions managed to create a false sense of security and well being. The animation artists put on wacky holiday shows and musicians roamed the studio hallways singing carols. There was a warm, friendly ambiance that clouded a harsh reality. The studio had not done well in the post Walt Disney era and the film product was at best, lackluster. Worse, the entire Disney board of directors had grown old, stodgy and completely unable to compete in the new Hollywood. While George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were enjoying success as family filmmakers, Walt Disney Productions seemed totally out of touch with a market they once owned. Green mailers were hammering at the studio gates and for a time it looked as though the house that Walt built might be dismantled. In the companys’ darkest hour a sudden ray of light came shinning through. Hollywood film bosses, Michael Eisner and Frank Wells arrived at 500 South Buena Vista eager to rescue Disney from itself. However, the cure would not be easy. The house that the mouse built would need a heavy dose of strong medicine and that was not going to be pleasant. Michael Eisner and Frank Wells strolled around the studio lot observing and taking notes. It was more than clear that everything was about to change and I warned the faint of heart to prepare themselves for some sleepless nights. Overnight, broad cuts were made and whole departments were dismantled. Employees who had been with the Disney company thirty years or more were given pink slips and shown the door. Small time “Family Disney” was coming to an end and what would take its place no one could even imagine. BMW’s and Mercedes Benz filled the studio parking lots and fast talking studio executives dashed down Mickey Avenue headed for a meeting. Legions of Rockers sporting tatoos and freaky colored hair wandered the Animation Building as old time Disney employees looked on in horror. “My god! what would Walt think,? they muttered to themselves. This was not the Disney they knew. Perhaps it wasn’t, but wise employees might be advised to get on board. Clearly, we were never going back.

To be continued.

My gag book, Son of Faster, Cheaper tells a good deal of the story in a series of gag cartoons. It would appear the best way to handle pain is to laugh about it.

My gag book, Son of Faster, Cheaper tells a good deal of the story in a series of gag cartoons. It would appear the best way to handle pain is to laugh about it.