I may have written about this before but it’s probably worth revisiting. When planning my book, “Animated Life” I wanted to give readers a view of the Walt Disney Studio and the effectiveness of the physical plant. I initially thought of explaining Walt’s plan on a series of yellow notepads that would include descriptions, sketches and photographs. In time, this concept was abandoned but the ideas remain worth repeating. So, let’s take another look at the marvelous facility and why it worked so well.
Let’s begin with the storyrooms where the Disney animated films were developed. The story artists worked in large offices that doubled as a meeting room. This is where Walt Disney and his story team would hash out a sequence in an animated film. There was no need for assistants to drag storyboards down the hallway to a conference room. The sessions took place in the same room where the boards were created. Next, let’s consider the famous sweat boxes. Each wing of the Animation Buildings second floor included a small projection space known as a “Sweatbox.” No reservation problems since each directorial unit had its own screening room. This proved to be very effective during the production of an animated film. You’ve probably never heard of the “Music Room,” so named because of the ever present piano back during the thirties. The “Music Room” was a directorial unit and these spaces were located next to the story and the layout offices. Should the films director have a question about story or production, his team was only a few steps away. No need to send an email because he - or she could simply walk next door.
So far, we’ve discussed the Animation Building, but the Walt Disney Stuido was a good deal more than simply a single building. The recording studio was easily within walking distance from the Animation Building. Of course, the same applied to the other important buildings on the studio lot. Ink and Paint, Camera and the Editorial deparments were also within walking distance. Think of the time saved because no one had to drive across town to get anything done. Walt Disney had designed a state of the art facility where producing an animated motion picture was pretty much “one stop shopping.”
Of course, I could go on about other significant aspects of the Walt Disney Studio of the forties and fifties. Remember, back in the “old days” lead artists managed their own departments or units. This made perfect sense because the artists understoond the work they were managing. It made a good more sense than the way things are managed today. But, then again - what the hell do I know? Yes, the incredible enterprise once known as Walt Disney Studios was a marvel of efficiency. Sadly, today, not so much. But on the other hand…they do own Marvel.