When I was a kid one of my earliest memories was being ushered into a darken theater where Walt Disney’s “Bambi” was being screened. The images onscreen seemed to glow magically and I was instantly swept into a wondrous world of talking animals living in a glorious watercolored forest. Even though I was a child I knew the images onscreen were not real. No matter. I was totally entranced by the magical world Walt Disney and his remarkable artists had given us.
Yesterday, I spent part of my afternoon sitting in front of a camera on set introducing scenes from the amazing Walt Disney motion picture that began its story development journey decades ago. Walt Disney was a master story teller and when he sat with his story team at the old Hyperion Studio in Los Angeles, there was a good deal of work ahead. I’m fairly well acquainted with the story development process and well aware that in scripting an animated feature film it’s easy to venture off in the wrong direction. Sometimes we get so involved in a clever bit of business we stray too far from our main storyline or we begin to neglect our lead character. Walt Disney had a laser like focus when evaluating a storyline and when things began to go off track he knew immediately when to make a change. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to view deleted sequences from the classic Disney film I saw as a child and share all this with the audience. I won’t be telling you about the material we shared just yet, but you’ll be seeing it soon enough when the new storyboarded sequences are made available.
It’s interesting for an old storytelling guy like myself to know that the same mistakes we make today were made back in the thirties as well. Like the old seasoned Disney veterans, we’ll tend to get caught up in an interesting bit of storytelling that is not crucial to the main plot. I’m sure you’ve notice sequences in today’s animated films that make you wonder, “why did they put that in there?” Or, why was that bit of business needed? It has nothing to do with the character or the main storyline. Lucky for the story team on “Bambi,” the story artists had a master story editor like Walt Disney to keep them on track. Walt Disney always believed in a lean, clean storyline and I learned this firsthand when working with The Old Maestro on “The Jungle Book” back in the sixties. Walt Disney was a master storyteller because he never lost focus. A lesson todays young story tellers might want to consider.