This coming Friday we’ll be treated to another three day celebraion of all things Disney. It’s the eargerly anticipated, D23 event and Disney friends and fans will once again converge at the Anaheim Convention Center conveniently right across the stree from Disneyland. And, as always, we’ll have a new group of Disney Legends join us in the Friday morning ceremony hosted by Disney CEO, Robert Iger.
One of our new Disney Legends this year will be Andreas Deja. He is the gifted master animator who has lent his considerable talents to several Walt Disney animated feature films over the last two decades. This year, Andreas will become a Disney Legend and I for one, can say it’s well deserved. I first met Andreas Deja back in the eighties when animator, Retta Davidson introduced me to the young artist just beginning his career at the studio. In time, Andreas would prove himself a Disney animation superstar much like his favorite animator and mentor, Milt Kahl. Andreas spent as much time as possible with the iracible Directing Animator who was even then, on his way out. Kahl had grown continually disenchanted with the Disney Studio after the passing of the Old Maestro, Walt Disney. Milt felt the studio, without Walt, was beginning to slip into a rut. The work was no longer inspiring and the company politics was even worse. Before long, Milt Kahl announced his retirement from the Walt Disney Studio and began to pack his bags. In truth, I don’t honestly think Milt wanted to leave. Sure, the studio without Walt was a different animal and the challenges awaiting all of us appeared to be daunting. Still, I think the Master Animator would have stuck around if only someone has asked. However, Disney’s senior management failed to act. Not only did they not implore Kahl to stay - they almost seemed to be glad he was leaving. That was the final straw. Milt Kahl said, “The hell with it,” and headed out the door never to return. It was almost like the departure of storyman, Bill Peet. Except this time around there was no Walt Disney to deal with.
Things were never the same once Milt Kahl left 1D-1. In fact, D-Wing was hardly the magical space it once had been. This was the famous home of Walt’s Nine Old Men and incredible work was created in these hallowed halls. Ward Kimball had long since moved upstairs and Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston would soon be leaving to concentrait on their new book. With the departure of Milt Kahl those many years ago, we truly had closed an amazing chapter on Disney animated art. With the departure of the grand old men, animation would be left to the kids who would begin the seventies “fight for turf” in Walt’s animation department. The years that followed would be filled with politics and I’m sad to say, a degree of treachery. Such was the new Disney of the nineteen seventies. I might add that I didn’t survive either. I was booted out in 1972 when Disney’s animation department was run by nothing less than a self-important “bean counter.” The years that followed this sad period were pretty lackluster. However, in early 1983, the Walt Disney Studio would gain new management and the animation team would be blessed with an unlikely leader from Paramount. In a few short years, Disney’s caroon department would suddenly be on fire creating a whole new series of animated classics and nothing would ever be the same.