Monday, October 7, 2013
In 1978, I shared a corner office at the end of the hallway (1A-13) with Glen. You had to go through my room to get to his. We were working on 'The Small One.' I was doing Gary Goldman's inbetweens and animating the Boy, Donkey and a Roman soldier. Gary put a piece of tracing paper over my drawing and showed me how to do it right and then he took me out at lunchtime to show me how to do it right again, beating me on the tennis court. This was a growing time...both for me and the studio. As a young animator getting better at my craft.
On my way home from work I would often stop off and run around the track at a local school to stay in shape. After running, I was tired as usual. I thought I'd catch my 'second wind' as athletes refer to it, but my second wind never came. I was tired and never seemed to recover from that point on. Soon I lost my appetite, started to slur my speech, and loss of equilibrium followed. I went to a doctor who, after examining me said disdainfully, "I'm not going to write you a note to get off work." After that, I did not take my condition seriously, after all the doctor didn't. I just tried to push through, thinking it would soon pass. I made accomodations to help get me through the days. I drove to work on the freeway using only one lane, as turning my head left or right made me dizzy. I would tap my hand against the wall as I walked the hallway to maintain my balance.
Another doctor gave me a prescription to settle my stomach so I could eat. But the medicine made me drowsy which made animation virtually impossible. I thought by taking a week off and staying in bed to rest, I'd regain my strength. But by the end of the week my energy had not returned. I did get a phone call from Ed Hansen informing me I had been promoted to animator. I said "thank you" pulled the covers back up over my head and dozed off.
I went back to work the following Monday. Ron Miller spotted me staggering down the hallways, and inquired "What's wrong with Ron?" He involved himself in my situation. He had his secretary make appointments to see a group of specialists - Dr. Line, (ear-nose & throat) squirted ice water in my ear which made the room spin. After the same procedure in the other ear, I was pronounced 'ok' in the ears-nose-throat area. A few more appointments followed. Finally, I was sent across the street from the studio on Alameda to Dr. George Gruner, a neurosurgeon. I thought he was going to jump out of his skin as he examined me. He ordered me into St. Joseph's Hospital right then and there. Don't go home, go straight to admitting! The diagnosis was a 'silver dollar' sized cyst growing on my brain, at the base of my skull. It needed to be operated on immediately. We wouldn't know if it was malignant until they got in there.
Eight hours later, a successful surgery performed, and the cyst was pronounced 'Non-malignant.' But, post brain surgery, I still had a long way to go. It took me three months to walk without a walker. I had to learn to do simple things again, like brush my teeth etc,. Eventually, I went to work half days and built up to full time. The Lord was not through with me at that time.
Next up was 'The Fox & the Hound.' I got a chance to work on Chief and Tod. Ollie did some great scenes of Chief recovering after he got hit by the train and on the back porch with Amos, but they did not sync with the way the story was going and they never got in the film.
After the production I participated in our first 'wrap' party. Above is the official invitation from Ron Miller and Card Walker. Those two guys were imposing figures, walking together down the narrow halls of the animation building, as they were both well over six feet tall.
The back lot was decorated in red and white checker board table cloth style and a boxed chicken dinner was served.
Disney animation continued to recruit talent to build the department. From word of mouth to this brochure (below, left), which was produced a few years after I had been at the studio.
The photos above on the right was another promotional piece. We all went in to Eric's room, stood by his side while he put a piece of paper over our drawing and showed us how it could be better if we did this or that. Eric really cared about animation and the people who made animation.
The bottom photo is Frank going over a scene with me at the moviola. He is pointing out what I could do to make the scene better. In those days it was about 'making the scene better.' You never heard a compliment, not directly anyway. What you did hear from the 'old guys' was, "Let's see what we can do to make this scene better." At least that was my experience...
A word about the moviola. Once a scene was animated, the drawings were sent out to Camera to be shot and put on film. It took a day or two before it came back on film to be looked at on the moviola.
The image to the left is the invitation to the crew who worked on the Black Cauldron - The final animated feature done on the original Buena Vista Studio lot. The drama that unfolded during this production is covered in Don Hahn's documentary, "Waking Sleeping Beauty." If you haven't seen it, check it out...
The 'wrap' party was 'over the top.' Chasen's was the restaurant at the time. The parking lot was tented and the festivities rolled - though the picture did not.
Early in the production Art Stephens, Johnathan Winters and I had lunch in the cafeteria on the lot. Johnathan was being considered to voice King Eidilleg. As always I had my sketch book with me. Johanathan takes it and drew this picture in it. Priceless.