Evolution of the Disney shorts
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Author:  Rumpelstiltskin [ Sat Mar 30, 2019 10:58 am ]
Post subject:  Evolution of the Disney shorts

Before Snow White, Disney was only making shorts. And they continued to do so also after the completion of their first feature. Walt was known not to take any shortcuts if possible, and wanted quality and craftsmanship in everything the studio released. The shorts were still used as a way to test new technology and push the medium forward.

And from December 1939 to January 1940 they all moved to a new studio, and the old atmosphere changed after having settled in the more sterile new building (except from the familiar characters like Mickey, Donald and Goofy, and the Silly Symphonies, only three shorts were made at the Hyperion Studios: The Hot Choc-late Soldiers which was produced for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Ferdinand the Bull and The Practical Pig, which would later be included in the Silly Symphonies the same way Dinosaur was included into the features canon).

Screenshot from Neal Gabler's book about Disney. I have some problems with the book, but a lot of the information in it is actually very interesting. Even if the screenshot doesn't say which year, we are talking about 1940 (I meant to post a picture here, but I just get the message "Sorry, the board attachment quota has been reached". It get that most of the times I try to post a picture. Since posting a picture doesn't work, it had to be done the hard way):

As it turned out, March 1 was a historic day not only for Bambi but for the entire studio: the beginning of a changing of the guard. What Walt had come to realize through Bambi, Dumbo, Fantasia, and even The Reluctant Dragon was that there could no longer be a Disney style since no single style could fit all the various projects that Walt had in mind. For years Walt had trained his artists in a method of drawing that kept inching closer to realism, and he had tried to impose that technique and goal on everyone; accepting these standards had become a condition of working at the studio. He had always felt that animation had to evolve, and in Bambi Walt clearly felt he had finally found something different, something exciting, even if he couldn't quite put his finger on it. “This is opening up something here,” he enthused to the Bambi animators. “This is a new style,” one to which he said he would assign his very best animators like Davis, Thomas, Kahl, and Larson. “I think this is going to be one hell of a big step forward,” he told them.
At the same time he had come to understand that a film like Dumbo and certainly the shorts didn't require the subtlety of Bambi, demanding it would have been not only expensive but counterproductive. The less experienced animators and the animators who didn't evolve and whose technique wasn't as refined could be assigned to these pictures. By introducing the idea of different styles rather than a studio style, Walt had also created a pecking order not just between the supervising animators and the rest of the staff but between the first tier of supervising animators and a second tier. Bright young animators would now be in the studio vanguard. Some of the old-timers, including Norm Ferguson and Fred Moore, who had been the stars of Walt Disney Productions just a few years earlier, when the studio first embarked on realism, were relegated to a secondary role because they couldn't master the Bambi style. As Walt now said of Ferguson, the man who had practically invented psychology in the animated cartoon, “He needs broader things.”

It would just have been interesting to know which short was the last one they were working on when they received the message, and if it is possible to see some changes in the quality after that.

And of course, when the U.S. Army moved into the Disney Studio lot on December 8, 1941, and they started producing war propaganda, they had no choice other than making shortcuts. Everything else would have been too time consuming.

Also found out a lesser known reason (at least for me) for the strike during the production of Dumbo:

http://time.com/4326360/walt-disney-wor ... i-excerpt/

The Disney organization reluctantly went public in 1940, selling stock to meet its mounting losses.
Suddenly employees knew what the boss was making: at least five times that of his top people. And the women in the lowly Ink and Paint Department (pretty much the only place where women were allowed) were paid a pittance.

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