On the day of my test I was ushered into a small room in C-wing. In case you’re not familiar with Walt Disney’s Animation Building back in the nineteen fifties, this wing was home to the animation special effects unit. Disney animation effects masters like Josh Meader, Jack Boyd and Dan McManus worked in this wing. However, today I would be spending my morning at a Disney drawing table in this very small room. Disney veteran, Johnny Bond chomped on his cigar and handed me my assignment and it was a simple one, or so it would seem. I was given two Donald Duck sketches and my assignment was to put a drawing in the middle. Or, to be more specific, in-between the other two drawings. I was momentarily taken aback. I expected a Disney drawing test, but this was one I never anticipated. An in-between, I wondered? What the heck was an in-between?
Let’s go back in time for a moment. A time when I was a young aspiring artist with the dream of one day working for the Walt Disney Studios. Information regarding animation was not easy to come by in those days. Yet, I somehow managed to find a magazine article detailing the requirements for a Disney animator. The article spoke of a test given by the studio to test the skills of aspiring applicants. Of course, the requirements were demanding and young animators would have to prove their drawing and performing abilities. If I recall correctly there were at least five or six assignments requiring the animator to draw his or her character in specified situations. One such was a Disney character pushing a large boulder up a hill. The drawings had to give a sense of weight and the pull of gravity all the while keeping your character on model and with the right attitude. There were other equally demanding situations. I was just a kid in middle school but I took this Disney test seriously. Knowing that I would be required to fulfill the same assignment one day, I began sketching away at my make shift animation drawing table. I constructed this table based on information provided in the Walter T. Foster book, “How to Draw Cartoons,” or whatever the book was called back then. The final page of the book detailed how to build your own animation drawing board complete with a light bulb underneath a plate of glass to illuminate your sketches. I was diligent, of course, and I determined to be ready to take my Disney test one day.
You can imagine my surprise when I arrived at the Walt Disney Studios back in the nineteen fifties ready to take my first animation test. Surprisingly, the test was nothing like the test described in the magazine I had read so many years ago. Rather than a series of animation tests, it appeared I only had to complete one Donald Duck drawing. Of course, that drawing happened to be an “in-between,” and this was something I had never anticipated. The idea of putting one drawing in-between two other drawings seemed a bizarre assignment and it took awhile to get my head around it. Luckily, after a hour at the drawing board I managed to create a fairly decent in-between of Disney’s famous duck. My instructor, Johnny Bond took a puff on his cigar and said, “Not bad. I guess you’ll do okay.” And, that, boys and girls is how I took my first animation test at the Walt Disney Studios. Looking back, I have to laugh at my wacky situation. I arrived at the Disney Studios that day prepared to animate several challenging scenes and all I had to do was create one simple drawing. Clearly, I had over prepared - but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Even as a kid in middle school I had prepared myself for a tough assignment. That means I took my initiation into the cartoon business seriously and I did everything I thought was necessary to succeed. This lesson has continued with me throughout my career. Never face an upcoming assignment underprepared. Do what I did back in the fifties when I walked into Walt Disney’s C-wing. Walk in knowing you’re overprepared and ready for anything they throw at you.