Lecture 08: "ENDSPEC - SCENE 01" ~ In the beginning...

Title: "Walt Disney dedication"

Original inspiration: I freely admit that, when much younger, I was pretty much creatively hostile towards Walt Disney and his ultra commercial Disneyland activities. I suspect that this was more a matter of both "ignorance" and "familiarity breeds contempt" - rather than a true understanding of what Walt represented and had really achieved. Also, in London during the 1960's and 1970's it certainly wasn't "cool" to like Disney or his films when you were a teenager!

Walt, as I pictured him at the time!

I had of course seen (and was always secretly in awe of) the great classics of the past… "Snow White", "Pinocchio", "Fantasia", "Bambi", etc… but by the time I arrived as a raw rookie in the animation industry the Disney studio had long peaked with the "Jungle Book", its leader had died and Walt’s continued absence and the studio's gradual transition to a corporation had marked it’s painful creative decline. Films like "Bednobs & Broomsticks", "Mary Poppins" and last but most worst, "The Black Cauldron", were all examples of the lesser films I was now associating as "Disney films" in my mind. Somehow I foolishly assumed that these were all the kinds of films that Walt would have approved of in his more focused days in his studio - and consequently my mind was soured by the whole thing. The latter films were without a doubt far removed from the kind of films I believed deserved respect by the animation community I was associating with - specifically apprenticing at the award-winning powerhouse, Richard Williams Studio, as Dick's personal assistant - them being such pale imitations of the amazing and inspired movies that Walt had initially put out!

The Richard Williams Studio building at 13 Soho Square in London.

However it was many years later, when I began to teach animation (and specifically the "History of Animation") that I began to look at things with fresh eyes, gaining a renewed respect for the outstanding leadership, artistic encouragement, creative vision and technological innovation that Walt had infused in his amazing artists and filmmakers. I equally began to realize that the philosophy of the "corporate’Disney" studio of today was far, far removed from the courageous innovation that Walt had instilled in his team in those early days - something that his nephew Roy E. Disney sought to restore. 

Walt's nephew: Roy E. Disney

I therefore increasingly felt the need to redress my previous prejudices by actively paying a personal and heartfelt tribute to Walt’s incredible achievements and influence on the industry, through my film "Endangered Species". By building it around his historic legacy and dedicating the film to his memory here, up front, I discovered the perfect way of redressing my earlier disrespect for what he did. It is hard of course to encapsulate decades of the man’s inspired genius - as well as the influences he worked under and the subsequent effect he had on the entire animation world - within a short film like this. So much has to remain unsaid. Nevertheless, I have done the best I could possibly do with the resources I had to respectfully encapsulate the "Walt effect" in the animation world. I do believe that I have at least made ammends for my earlier disrespect, now dedicating several years of my creative life and paying due respect to a man who ultimately become my hero and a role model for me in these autumn years of my career. Walt was never a perfect human being but as a huge powerhouse of influence in the industry he has my undying respect.

Walt, as I ultimately saw him!

Biographical note: There are of course countless books out there on Walt and his legacy and many are very good reads. However, one I've found very worthy of reading is "WALT DISNEY: An American Original" a fine, official biography by Bob Thomas. (Disney Editions/ISBN 0786860278.)