Did I ever tell you about the time I was booted out of the Walt Disney Studio? It’s one of my favorite stories and it’s a reminder that getting sacked is no big deal. Since that time back in 1972 I’ve managed to get myself fired any number of times. The important lesson you learn is - it’s no big deal. I’ve advised my young colleauges not to worry about it. If you’re anywhere near my age you’ve already learned that losing your job is usually not a loss at all. Rather, it’s an opportunity for a new beginning.
I had returned to the Walt Disney Studios in the early seventies with the hope of getting another shot at animation. You might find it strange that a story artist who had worked with Walt Disney on The Jungle Book would even consider such a change. I never thought returning to animation was a step backward. In fact, I never lost my love for this amazing medium and being able to garner the title of, “Disney Animator” was still a pretty big deal. However, this time around things were not going to be as rosy in the “post Walt” Disney Studio. One afternoon I was called up to the third floor of the Animation Building for a meeting with our production boss. When he finally returned, Don apologized for being late for our meeting. It seems he was attending a memorial service for a friend and that had held him up. As we settled down to business I assumed maybe I might be in line for a promotion. Perhaps that position as an animator. However, I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Don began speaking about all the opportunties that awaited me outside of Disney. While it’s true animation was picking up at the outside studios, I found his approach truly unique. Was Don hinting I should pack my bags? Did he really believe he was being subtle?
To make a long story short, a month later I was called into the office of producton manager, Ed Hanson and given my “walking papers.” I’d love to spin a dramatic tale about studio intrique and sinister back stabbing, but such was not the case. My seventies departure from the Walt Disney Studios turns out not to be all that dramatic. Had you been around in 1972, you might have thought differently. The animation department had been split into three divisive factions and I decided not to join any of them. I was also known to bag on the feature film currently in production. I clearly made my feelings known concerning “Robin Hood’s” lame story line and the El Cheapo approach Disney had taken in producing their animated film. Perhaps these things might have gotten me on management’s wrong side and hastened my departure. The truth is, I was let go because I could easily be replaced by a younger, cheaper animation artist. Since this was an opportunity to save a buck, the decision was an easy one. Especially since our animation boss was the studio’s former accountant. I halfway expected some of my colleagues to come to my defense, however such was not the case. I guess I can’t blame them. Nobody wanted to lose their jobs either. No love lost. Before the week was out, I was already working on a new motion picture down in Hollywood.
My odd, quirky departure from the Walt Disney Studio takes another twisted turn. You see, after receiving my walking papers from the personal department, I noticed the reason I had been sacked. The reason given on the form read, “his work no longer meets our requirments.” What this rather ambiguous statement means, I have no idea. All I know is, a few weeks later I received a phone call from the Walt Disney Studio asking if I would help them finish the motion picture from home? Yes, boys and girls, all this is true. I went back to work on Walt Disney’s “Robin Hood” after being fired off the film.