Please note: if an earlier link doesn't work, it may have changed following an update! Check the Category Labels in the side-bar on the right! There you can find animator drafts for sixteen complete Disney features and eighty-six shorts,
as well as Action Analysis Classes and many other vintage animation documents!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The First Hyperion Ave. Studio

I used to wonder where precisely Walt Disney's first 2719 Hyperion Ave. studio was located, and what it looked like. Since reading about it first in the 1970s in Dave Smith's article in Michael Barrier's great Funnyworld, I spent hours looking at photos, aerial photographs, maps etc, until I found I had a pretty good impression.
My aim here is to pass some of that on to you, as I have found there was an interest in this since I posted this image of the staff with their new Charlotte Clark dolls on my Facebook page:
Looking through Cecil Munsey's Disneyana, it appears to me that the "funny looking" Mickey with the button eyes is actually an example of the 1930 British-made pose-able Mickey by the Dean's Rag Book company of London.

First, the WHERE. Here is the front of the Gelsons parking lot, with the original plot of the studio indicated in a blueish hue. We see the very small building, the back yard that has a car shed does not even reach the current Gelsons entrance.

Some years ago someone posted a link to some images taken in the neighborhood, and this perceptive person spotted the studio in the area at the time. The wide avenue is, of course, Hyperion.

A plan of the building was included in Dave Smith's article in Funnyworld. It did, however, not completely follow the real outlines which I found in aerial photos from this area in 1927, so I pushed and pulled it a bit in Photoshop.
[Addition 4/1/2015: After reexamining the floor plan for years, I am now certain there was no gangway between I&P and the animation dept. Relative sizes of the different rooms and departments are also...relative.]

So let's see it up close:
The entrance is in the middle of the building. The map in Funnyworld, created by Floyd Gottfredson and checked by Wilfred Jackson, if my memory serves me right, shows Walt's office to the left of the entrance, Roy's to the right. After entering the main door, though, there is a small partition entrance to the left that leads to the animators working on the Mickey Mouse shorts. (Dick Lundy, Norm Ferguson, Jack King, Burt Gillett, Merle Gilson and Ben Sharpsteen).
If at the place where this photo is taken, we glance to the right, we see, next to Ben's desk, the glass door leading to Walt's office. If we move to the left, however, we find the Silly Symphonies unit.
Notice the arc in the background? Let's walk around to the left of Cannon and Cutting's desks and have a look.
It's the ink and paint department! Same ceiling arc we saw previously, see? The big window on the right - it's the right of the facade windows, with the scalloped awning seemingly pulled up. The old wooden house that is still there on the other side of Hyperion can be seen through it. Through the east windows we see the hill on the other side of the Avenue. What we do not see is - Roy's office. Was he there before but they knocked out the wall? In his place, in the front on the desk on the right in black is the supervisor of the department, Lillian Disney's sister Hazel Sewell. If we go to the left, we meet her husband, Bill Cottrell, at the camera.
Now, there is some time between these images. The negative numbers are only maybe 50 or 100 apart. (Do the others still exist? Will anyone show me?) But where we met Ub Iwerks between the animators (thus being before February 1930), here we see a Mickey short being shot around what must be August/September 1930, because - it is The Gorilla Mystery. The draft is from September 1930, it was released 10/10/30. Here's how I found out:
A frame grab from the film with a part of the above photo that I corrected for perspective to see what it was inlaid. But: the back of the photo is dated 2/14/31.
We do know another image of an early Mickey animation camera:
Possibly this one was situated where the "Gotffredson map" indicated "camera." [I have a hard time fitting it in, however!] A fun note: this image shows a calendar of July 1930. The image is found in Finch, The Art of Walt Disney, as from 1929. Some of the cells seen in this image are from the film The Shindig (CM-5) that premiered 7/29/30.

The other camera room, where the opening title card for The Gorilla Mystery was being shot, we saw looked out onto the same hill that the ink and paint ladies looked out onto, and we can see their inking and painting tables through the door on the right, so it must have been located in the area that the "Gottfredson map" called "storage."

[Addition, 7/1/2017: I have now been able to establish that BOTH these camera images were taken in the same camera room in the 1,410 sq.ft. rear 2nd. addition to the first building, built April-June 1930! So these photos were "look at our fine new camera room" images! The storage/camera room in the Gottfredson floor plan did not exist in the original building!]

Finally, there is one more interesting occurrence that captures everybody's mind: the first screening of the first scenes of Steamboat Willie. Well, on the map I have indicated in dark red, where I deduce Roy was operating the projector outside the back of the building, where the audience must have been (around where Johnny Cannon's desk was) and where the curtain must have been stretched. This must have been around where the divider between the Mickey and the Silly units were. The noise-making animators were behind the glass door in Walt's office, playing through a telephone system that Ub had "fixed."

Here is the floor plan again, but with in green an indication of the camera angles for the images shown above.

Have a good look at the floor plan. It fills the left Gelsons parking lot entrance pretty well precisely. Then tell yourself: it is less than two cars wide - four parking spaces deep! Here were made Alice films from 1926. ALL of Disney's Oswalds. And all Mickeys and Silly Symphonies until somewhere in 1931 with only a few additions until then: the little building filled out the space towards the organ pipe factory (1929) and grew six feet towards the street and stretched about 50% in depth (1930). But otherwise it remained relatively unchanged.

Of course, in 1931 the expansions began for real, with a whole new building with its eight-sided turret, Walt's new office overlooking the courtyard, new wings, etc. etc. Then, of course, the studio moved to Burbank 1939-40. The last remains of this earliest building was finally destroyed with all other buildings on the lot in early October 1966. Two and a half months later - Walt Disney himself was no more.

David Lesjak has told me he is writing a complete history of the buildings and the area, and I am very much looking forward to it, for if it is anywhere near as well reserched as his great blog postings, it will be a must-have doozy! In the mean time I hope the above brings this important era in the Walt Disney studios history a bit to life.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sleeping Beauty Another Way

Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen moved from his native Copenhagen, where he was born in 1886, to Los Angeles in 1936, and worked for the Walt Disney Studios from late 1938 to 5/23/41. His most well-known work was, of course, done for Fantasia.

Later in his life, in 1953, he returned for a short stint on Sleeping Beauty, but in the end, the styling of Eyvind Earle was chosen for the film. Nielsen died, forgotten, in 1957.

For a long time, only one of his Sleeping Beauty pieces was known to exist, in the ARL. It is pictured in John Canemaker's beautiful book "Before the Animation Begins" (Hyperion 1996).
The caption reads: "The only example of Nielsen's art made during his brief return to Disney in 1953 to work on Sleeping Beauty (1959)."

Since then, however, a number of Nielsen's pieces have appeared on the market, sold through the reputable Van Eaton Galleries. They became available when a high profile Disney artist passed away. Over the years, I have collected the images from Mike's site, and I thought you might like to see these. The pastels are done on black paper on which the standard storyboard "Form P-212 B-4" is printed in white.

If you click a picture you'll see the actual image that I downloaded (without my color corrections). There is a big difference in quality: on some you can see the photographer's reflection in the protecting cell. Some of the pastel color was transferred onto these, but in all their state was pretty good.

First we have Seq. 08.0, "Boy Meets Girl."
Here, the boy meets the girl, and he asks "Will you be here tomorrow?" I actually acquired this one, so here is another view.
The caption reads "She's a princess."

[Addition: this one was sold by Hake's in August 2013]

Then Seq. 13.0 "Kings at King Stephan's Castle."

Called 13.1, this is Seq. 14.0 "Girl Pricks Finger."

Seq. 17.0 "Prince Captured."

Seq. 20.0 became Seq. 19.0 "Fight."
Above image is most reminiscent of Nielsen's wonderful stylings for the Night on Bald Mountain sequence in Fantasia.


Finally a few other images I found through the magic of Google:
[In the comments, David Lesjak points at the original page for the above image.]

So there you have it - 17 images so far...

For those who just tuned in, there are two Danish artists with similar names. Kai Nielsen (1882-1924) is a famous sculptor, while above Kay Nielsen is famous for his wonderful early 1900's book illustrations and his work for Disney. A book about his work was slated for release "next month" since 2009.

Remember that another famous Dane needs YOUR support!

(I know this posting is a bit of a different format, but I felt the art was worth a better look!)

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

More of Walt in the Snow

Looking through some old files, I stumbled over these images of Walt on skis and skates. I thought you might like to see these.
We have recently seen our friend Paul F. Andersen post an image of Walt and Mickey on a sled in January 1933. The left image above is described by Paul in his caption on the DHI blog. What I find interesting is, that it had, hand-written, on the back the text "Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse at Mickey Mouse Snow Party at Lake Arrowhead for Mickey Mouse Club members."

The left image is a picture I took of a photo that was up for auction a few years ago - the right image I found on the web many years ago...

[I admit to this posting being rather half-hearted, as I have been incredibly busy these days. David, in the first real comment in many weeks (!) noted that he has posted about this three times, here,here, and here! He shows the left picture, while the right one is similar to one from 1935. Check out his links, where there is lots more explanation!]


Friday, February 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Børge!

Today, my old mentor Børge Ring turns 91!
Want to send him a present? Then please visit the donation page dedicated to restore some kind of normal life for his wife Joanika and himself after the terrible fire that destroyed their home and all their belongings on Feb.1st! All my best wishes for a speedy recovery to Børge, who currently is in hospital.

For the occasion, I found a few images that I shot in 1981 at the animation festival in Annecy, France. This was around the time we started to seriously work on Anna & Bella.
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The left image shows, left to right, Marv Newland (of Bambi vs. Godzilla fame), Dutch-Canadian film maker Paul Driessen, Børge and Kaj Pindal, Børge's old apprentice and life long friend.

On the right, on the terrace of Hotel Trésoms, we find, similarly left to right, Børge's long time animation partner and fellow Dane Bjørn Frank Jensen, then the back of Joanika Ring, Harold Whitaker (Halas & Batchelor: Animal Farm, also the book Timing for Animation), Børge and renowned Japanese filmmaker Yoji Kuri.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lost Memories (III)

Here are some more items that never again will see the light of day because they went up in flames in the terrible fire in my old mentor Børge Ring's house two weeks ago. First one of the most delicate drawings of Wendy I have ever seen.
This photo I made in 1983 does not do the original justice at all!

Børge also had two other Wendys in his scrapbook. As far as I remember, these and the earlier one were sent to him by Marc Davis after Dave Hand conveyed him Børge's best wishes back in 1951.

In the fire, Børge and his wife Joanika lost EVERYTHING, so please visit the site set up for donations!

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lost Memories (II)

While speaking with old mentor Børge Ring's daughter Anne-Mieke,
I suggested posting some more Lost Memories - images from his scrapbooks, now gone forever. We agreed that this might get more attention to the devastating event of February 1st, only 11 days ago, when the 300 year old farmhouse that was Børge and his wife, artist Joanika Ring lived in was completely destroyed by fire.

Børge had lots of mementos dating from his time in Denmark, pre-1952. Animation done by David Hand in Denmark... A great scene by Børge of a cow being scared running off screen that to me was an action scene that ranked with the best of John Sibley's work...

Also among them was the early storyboard for the 1950 film "Fest i Skoven," in English "Party in the Forest" that I showed you earlier. Here are the first six panels, sadly the only part that I photographed around 1983 for use in the Danish magazine Carl Barks & Co. They - and the rest of this storyboard - are now lost forever.

Anne-Mieke posted a few images on Facebook which I show you here, for I am sure not everyone uses Facebook. First, she took a picture of her proud father with his Winsor McCay award, which Anne-Mieke received in his name just three days after the fire.

The second image brings home the devastation of the fire. Joanika surrounded by - nothing. Her art, her past, her livelyhood - all went up in flames.

Anne-Mieke told me that Joanika, who normally travels through Holland on a regular basis, has been sheltered in a hotel nearby, while Børge enjoys the hospitality of a neighboring friend, where he is well cared for. The Dutch Animated Film Institute (NIAf) has graciously loaned him a laptop, and I hope to hear from himself soon. Of course, nothing can bring back what was lost, but you can help soften the blow a little with your donation!

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Monday, February 06, 2012

Lost Memories

I posted this before, but it has new relevance:
Makin' Whoopee! played by Børge Ring in 1978.
His guitar - also lost in the blaze, together with his uncle's double bass and all his other musical memories. Børge played these instruments on his award winning shorts Oh My Darling and Anna & Bella.

I have many memories myself, of hearing him play his bass downstairs while I was drawing in his attic, and of him practicing his guitar before recording Anna & Bella - and of the recording sessions, of course.

Visit the fund-raising site for Børge and Joanika, created by their daughter Anne-Mieke, where you can donate to help them.

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Friday, February 03, 2012

39th Annual Annie Awards live!

ASIFA-Hollywood's 39th Annual Annie Awards ceremony at UCLA’s Royce Hall, hosted by actor/comedian Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille), was streamed live here, Saturday February 4th, 2012 at 7 p.m. Pacific, 10 p.m. Eastern, which is Sunday February 5th at 3 a.m. in England or 4 a.m. in central Europe.

For me a highlight was the reception of Børge Ring's Winsor McCay Award by his daughter Anne-Mieke. As you read earlier, Børge's house burned down to the ground only two days ago, so I hope he will find some consolation in this support from the industry.
Three screen grabs of Anne-Mieke's accepting her father Børge's Award. Note in second image (click on it!), Jamie Bolio wiping away a tear - really the only emotional moment in the entire show. Not one word about the fire, though. Let me remind you to please visit the fund-raising site that Anne-Mieke produced for Børge and Joanika, where you can donate to help them in their hour of need!

Being a member of ASIFA-Hollywood myself, I was proud to be able to bring this feed from my blog! On the other hand, some of the presenters did make a bit of a mess of things, but in all it was interesting to say the least, with Rango coming out on top. (All winners can be found here). Would have loved to have seen more support for Børge, and I would have liked to have seen more support for hand-drawn animation and the great work of Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers (Prep and Landing! The Ballad of Nessie!)

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Fire devastates home of Børge Ring!

The devastating news just reached me that the home of my old mentor, now 91 year old Oscar winner Børge Ring and his wife Joanika has been completely laid in ashes by fire only some four hours ago! A fire in the chimney ignited the thatched roof of their old farm in the south-east of Holland.

Børge and Joanika are safe and cared for, but they have reportedly lost EVERYTHING. Art, memories, even the Oscar went up in flames. A fund is being set up to help them. Check where you can find information on how you can help. In the mean time I wish them all the strength in the world!

[News: Donations can be made through the new fund-raising site!]

Børge is recipient of the Winsor McCay Award at the Annies on Saturday, and throughout this ordeal Børge and Joanika have insisted that their daughter Anne-Mieke not change her plans to receive the award in Børge's name. (The award ceremony will be available to watch on computers as a streaming feed, including on this blog!)

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