Monday, September 23, 2013

The end and a beginning...

I finished my last day as a Walt Disney employee on Friday, September 20, 2013.  This culminated 38 years at the Mouse House.  Beginning as a Trainee in 1975, working my way up through in-betweener, breakdown artist, assistant animator, animator, and then supervising animator and working on such titles as Rescuers, Pete's Dragon, Small One, Fox and Hound, Black Cauldron, Great Mouse Detective,Oliver & Co., The Little Mermaid, Rescuers Down Under, Aladdin, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, Atlantis, Fantasia 2000 and Treasure Planet before moving on from the animation world into the publishing world and working as a  Character Artist for Disney Consumer Products.

As I reflected on my time at Disney and throughout my career as an artist, I realized I'd collected not only memories, but mementos that I'd love to share beginning with photos and tons of stories.


 
 
The above photos are of the beginning and ending of my first job after graduating from UNLV. Actually, my very first job was at Eubanks in Monrovia, CA on Duarte Road. It lasted one week. I had several resumes out at the time and was extremely desperate for a job. My wife LaVonne, sons Mikel and Jai, and I were living with my Mom at the time and to get on my own two feet and take care of my family was top priority. I took the first job offered, Eubanks. In the middle of the week Honeywell in West Covina called and offered me a job in their Technical Illustration Dept. I took the job and the second day there, June 26th, 1973 I covered the top of my desk with a large piece of illustration board and wrote in the lower left hand corner ..."a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step"and that circle is a penny (since lost) from my first cashed paycheck. Not knowing where my journey was to end, I had at least started. My duties at Honeywell consisted of making block diagrams and flow charts and plenty of overtime. This allowed me to move my family to a just completed apartment complex on Highland Ave. across from the Duarte post office. This leg of my journey lasted until February 1975. I had gone to school training to be a commercial artist, illustrate books and magazines, or at least be able to draw in some capacity. Making flow charts with a technical pen and ruler, though it paid the bills, did nothing for my creative streak. So, I took a night class at Art Center College of Design in LA.  Mr Sam McKim, the instructor, encouraged me to take my portfolio to the Disney animation department trainee division, headed up by Eric Larsen. My interview with Eric went fine as he looked over my portfolio which was filled with slick, commercial art pieces.  I could tell by the look on his face that he was not at all impressed, even with the Pinocchio I had put in...he asked me,"Do you have any sketches?" Sketches are things I failed to include in my portfolio, not realizing how important they are in the field of animation. I was applying for admission to be trained in animation, though I knew nothing about animation and had not even seen a animated feature in probably a decade.

Fortunately back in high school, before I was kicked out of my art class, my teacher encouraged me to keep a sketch pad with me at all times. I took her advice and by this time had built up a small supply of filled sketch pads. I went home, gathered three pads, put them in an envelope addressed to Eric and dropped them off at the guard gate on Buena Vista in Burbank and headed back to Duarte. Disney called a few weeks later and invited me into the program. I did not know at the time that the trainee program was started a few years earlier to train young artists to be animators in the Disney style, before the older animators Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl etc. retired (more on this later)....I took a lower salary but gained a whole world of creativity and learning through this new path on my journey. This last photograph is from the going away gathering at Honeywell, once they knew where I was going, they ran wild with the Disney theme.   They made me wear the mouse ears to cut the mouse cake... Afro hair style was in for black men in 1975 and here I am with a shaved head and fu manchu mustache, forty years ahead of time.
Stay tuned for another leg of my journey.

19 comments:

  1. Mr. Husband

    My name is Kevin Schweizer. A long time ago while you were working on Fantasia 2000 you were kind enough to give my father and I a tour of the studio and an opportunity to see what you were working on. For years I looked for a way to contact you and thank you for that opportunity, and finally I have. At the time all I wanted to be was a Disney animator, and being able to talk to you was an wonderful experience. I still remember the huge amount of sketchbooks that you had, and you telling me to draw everyday. Unfortunately, I could not over come my lack of confidence in my drawings, and I did not achieve my dream of becoming a Disney animator, but I still draw everyday. I just want to thank you for for taking time out of your day, and sitting down and talking with me. I can't wait to get your new book and starting implementing your technique into my drawings. Thank you again.

    Kevin Schweizer

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    1. Kevin, you are truly welcome, I count it a privilege to encourage others to seek their dreams and in your case being a better artist by exercising the talent you have, you build up confidence in your drawing by drawing, think of the guys who aren't afraid to take off their shirts to show off their muscles but they do that sfter many trips to the gym, sketching is the same, after many filled sketchbooks, you won't be afraid to show off your sketches. The book I've written is designed to encourage and inspire artist such as yourself.
      Ron

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  2. Dear Ron,

    Congratulations on your amazing 38 year career as a Disney artist ! Your work as an animator and an artist has been an inspiration to me and many others. Even more so your kind and gentle demeanor as man of Faith , an example of what it means to walk the walk, not just talk the talk . The studies that you and Tony D. led during lunch breaks at the Studio meant so much to me as a young and oftentimes stumbling Christian. (now I am an older , but still oftentimes stumbling Christian ) Many fond memories of those times.

    Sincerely,

    -David Nethery

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    1. David, thank you for your kind words.
      Ron

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  3. Congratulations Ron. i will definiteley be following your blog. Its always great to hear another brothers story

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    1. MJ-thank's for taking an interest in my blog, there is more to come...

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  4. I am glad you are sharing your story. I am always excited to hear about the African American veterans of Disney. I am looking forward to following this blog. Fell free to check out my work at http://www.facebook.com/turtledustmedia
    Congratulations!

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  5. Dear Ron Husband,
    I want to say thank you for your inspiration. When I was around 14 years old I saw a article with your in it in Disney Adventures magazine and you were one of the only African American animators featured there. I wrote a letter to Disney feature animation addressed with your name on it and to my surprise you received it! I still have your reply letter that was filled with sketch drawings and information on school to attend.

    Since then I always wondered about how you were and your career. I still love animation and I am now a cartoonist working on my own projects and learning about the business. I cant believe its been almost 20 years since I wrote that letter to you.

    Thanks for replying to a silly girl from the midwest with a dream of being a artist and giving inspiration for so many years after. I been drawing ever since!

    ~Arie Monroe (drawlikecrazy)

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    1. Arie-I do remember you by your unique name, I am so glad to hear you are following your dream and turning it into a reality...over the years I've spoken to many young people and the vast majority do not follow through in exercising their talents but you have and that has made my day, thank you for letting me know of your progress...perhaps the book I've written will add another log to the fire that is already burning within you-see 'ron husband focal press'
      May the Lord continue to bless you
      Ron

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  6. Dear, Mr. Husband,
    It's so great to see this blog! Looking forward to seeing more stories from your days at Disney. You were also a hero of mine growing up, and I always hoped someday I'd be working for Disney as well. Now I work as an animator and storyboard artist in TV animation, and I'm still working on my dream, so thanks so much for being a great influence!

    --Leisl

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    1. Leisl-you have a great start as you work on that dream of yours, animating and doing boards will take you a long way, soak up all you can from the talented people around you for one day in the future there will be younger artist looking at your accomplishments and seeking your direction.

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  7. https://www.facebook.com/groups/socalbloggers/

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  8. Dear Ron Husband,
    I never knew of your great accomplishments at Disney. Congrats and much success on your next venture. My son enjoys drawing and loves animation. I will make sure I let him know about you and get your book.

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  9. How intriguing! All of us had dreams of working at Disney so this is great. Thanks so much for sharing your journey. I look forward to reading more.

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  10. Thank you for doing what you do Mr. Husband! You're an inspiration to young artists like myself!

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  11. Congratulations to you and best wishes for the future! God bless.

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  12. Mr. Husband, congratulations on your many achievements and on now your first feature film. My 8 yo son is a Disney fan and draws quite well. He will be excited to learn of you. I will look for your book, and look forward to future posts.

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  13. Hello Mr Husband,

    A great inspirational story you have there. I'm a self starter cartoonist, in an industry where there are few African American names, so I look for and really appreciate stories like yours. Illustration and animation is an industry that could use more diversity and lagging behind Hollywood. You and other greats like Dwayne McDuffie, Robb Armstrong, Darrin Bell, Aaron McGruder and a few others stand out.

    So where do you go from here? Does someone like yourself still have dreams?

    Thanks for sharing,
    Ervin L Johnson

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  14. Erwin-it may seem that I have accomplish much, from my perspective I've only scratched the surface... the last four years have been spent writing my book thus my normal activities of personal artwork, freelance, teaching and commissions have been put on hold as I worked my regular job, now in retirement I have all this and more to look forward to...I don't have a particular dream, my philosophy has been to do what I can with what I have making a reality of any 'dreams'...as the Bible says, "to whom much is given, much is required".

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