It seems only yesterday I was examining this amazing animation art with Walt Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller. While on this particular visit, Diane took us to another facility directly behind the Walt Disney Family Museum. From the grassy knoll in the expansive Presideo we had a magifient view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Bay Area icon glistened on this clear afternoon in usually foggy San Francisco. Once inside the facility, we headed down a hallway to a special room where the Disney treasures were archived. Once inside, Diane Disney Miller opened a wide drawer in a special cabinet. What the cabinet revealed nearly took my breath away.
This was artwork I had not seen in decades. Even the Disney Animation Research Library didn’t have these special pieces and I feared the original art had long since been lost. For a further look inside this story, we’ll have to take a trip back to the sixties Walt Disney Studios and a time when the Old Maestro, Walt Disney remained very much “hands on” in his animation department. We had finally wrapped production on Walt’s latest motion picture. An animated adaptation of T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. With the film completed, the entire animation department eargerly anticipated our next project. Upstairs on the second floor in 2-F, Marc Davis, Ken Anderson and their creative team worked hard on their presentation of “Chanticleer.” Meanwhile, on the third floor of the Animation Building, Walt’s story guru, Bill Peet began work on his next project. The smart money bet on the Marc Davis project because it was fresh, new and different. Something the Walt Disney Studio needed to lift the studio out of its doledrums after the rather weak reception to The Sword in the Stone. The Walt Disney Studio was still feeling the financial pinch and the money man, Roy O. Disney made it clear only one motion picture could move into production. I can’t help but have the feeling Walt Disney had already made up his mind when he walked into the Chantecleer meeting. Although many were disappointed, it was clear Walt’s next film was going to be an adaptation of Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
It was the nineteen sixties and color stylist, Walt Peregoy already had two Disney films under his belt. His first, The 101 Dalmatians was praised for its creative styling and bold use of color. Pushing Disney in a new direction, Walt Peregoy was determined to do even more on The Jungle Book and he began working on a series of color scripts that were pinned to large storyboards hanging in the hallway of 2-D. Naturally, when we heard Walt’s work was on view, we headed upstairs to see what was in store for us on The Jungle Book. Unfortunately, Walt Disney didn’t agree with Peregoy’s contemporary color stylings and replaced the bold, audacious paintings with the more conventional paints of veteran background artist, Al Dempster. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the new direction Al Dempster took the animation art. As you can see by the cel setup down below, the motion picture is still a delight to view and the rich, lush jungle environment looks like a place you’d love to visit. Of course, I had no idea how Diane Disney Miller had found these wonderful paintings she was eager to share. Perhaps, from the artist, himself? I didn’t dare ask. Although I couldn’t help find it fascinating that Mrs. Miller had purchased the very art her Dad had given the big “thumbs down” so many years ago. I did ask Diane if I could take a quick photograph of the Jungle Book art and she said it was okay. I’m sharing that special photograph with you now.