The Anonymous Disney Artist

I found this photograph on the web and immediately recognized the young man at the drawing board. Of course, we were all young back then. Since that time, many animation artists have since moved on to other careers. All are pretty much forgotten, of course. Sadly, nobody remembers the legions of talented artists who created the Disney magic over a series of decades. Even when a rare photograph does turn up, few, if anyone recognizes the anonymous artist. That’s just the way things were in the old days. While a handful of artists received a screen credit on the Walt Disney feature films, the vast majority did not.

Yet, oddly enough you had to have considerable talent to apply for a job in Disney’s animation department. Even getting an appointment or interview was not always easy. The studio had no signage visible in the old days. Walt Disney preferred remaining invisible in Burbank and the cartoon factory could easily have been mistaken for a local school or hospital. There was not even an image of Mickey Mouse on the water tank towering over the Disney lot. How well do you draw? That was question number one when a young man or woman was being considered for a position at Disney Animation. Is that question still being asked today? I can’t help but wonder how important drawing happens to be in this digital age. Perhaps the question is still being asked. I would like to think so. Drawing ability was certainly a consideration back in the nineteen sixties when animation teams were being organized for the production of Walt Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone.”

That’s when the photograph was taken. This was during the production of Walt Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone.” The time was the early sixties not long after the completion of “101 Dalmatians.” After introducing Professor Ludvig Von Drake on Disney’s first television show in color, most of us moved back to feature film production just getting underway. Naturally, most of the key animators and their assistants would be located in D-wing on the first floor of the Animation Building. And, that my friends, is where I shared space with this smiling young man seated at his drawing table in the coveted wing occupied by Disney’s finest. We would labor on Walt Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone” for the next two or so years before wrapping the movie. Then, as always, a number of the Disney animation artists would depart the studio and begin a new career elsewhere. This was pretty typical in the old days. Few rarely stayed on feature after feature film. Should you not decide to leave on your own, you would more than likely be downsized, and your Disney career would be over. Sadly, that’s just the way it was.

The young man in the photograph was one of those who moved on. I was lucky enough to survive the cut and stayed on for our next project which would be the live-action, animated film, “Mary Poppins.” Of course, I would stick around for upcoming films such as, “The Jungle Book,” and … well, you know the rest. However, the talented young man at the drawing board would leave the studio for other things, and I guess that’s why nobody knows his name today. However, I was there and I do remember. I remember because he was my pal and my colleague. He was one of the talented young artists who spent and year or so at the Walt Disney Studio and was never heard from again. In any case, it’s important you know his name if only because of his contribution to Disney animation. He never received a screen credit, of course. So, consider this a very personal Walt Disney screen credit from me.

His name is, Jerry Behar. And, now you know.

One of Milt Kahl's team members on Walt Disney's "The Sword in the Stone. You should know this guy.

One of Milt Kahl's team members on Walt Disney's "The Sword in the Stone. You should know this guy.