11/06/2014 04:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Involved Was Walt Disney in the Classic Disney Animated Films?


How involved was Walt Disney with the classic Disney animated films?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.


Answer by Brandon Cordy, Animator, Designer, Artist, Studying Filmmaker, Devotee of Film, Animation, and Music History

During the earlier Disney animated shorts and animated feature films made before 1943 (these would be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi) Walt Disney was a very hands-on film producer, directly involved in every aspect of the production process and concerned with the most minute details in the animation. He also essentially served as the head of story (despite whoever was credited as the head writers or heads of stories in the film credits), providing the story frameworks for all of the films save for Dumbo (which Dick Huemer and Joe Grant outlined themselves) and actively participating in most, if not all, of the story meetings. As Ms. Thompson relates, Disney was often at the studio very late at night, looking over people's work and suggesting edits to be fixed in the morning (Disney would sometimes remain at the studio late enough to where he'd sleep in his office) .

Disney's time and attention were reduced from 1941 forward by a number of events -- a bitter union strike in mid-1941, the military's takeover of much of the Disney studios from late 1941 to 1945 to primarily produce military training and strategy films, and the studio's expansion into live-action films, television, and theme parks during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Disney still devoted as much time as he could to the story meetings for films like Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland, but he began to defer more of his responsibilities to a brain-trust of animation directors he'd dubbed the "Nine Old Men" (a reference to the Franklin Roosevelt-era Supreme Court): Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Les Clark, John Lounsbury, Eric Larson, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Woolie Reitherman, and Marc Davis. Disney was still the stopgap for story approvals and some artistic approvals on the animated films, which meant that, if he was unavailable due to work in the other parts of the studio, approvals could take weeks for him to get through. This is why films like Sleeping Beauty and The Jungle Book took several years longer than they otherwise would have to produce: in addition to watching dailies and approving storyboards, Walt Disney also had a weekly TV show to host, a theme park to maintain, a resort in Florida to plan, and a full slew of live-action films and TV serials to produce.

Walt Disney remained an active, if infrequent, force in the animation department until falling ill and eventually dying from lung cancer in 1966.

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