Thursday, January 10, 2008

More Peet

Walt Liked The Live Action Process and Wanted Respect

Province: You feel his interest in animation waned after Disneyland opened?
Peet: He always held up Disneyland and, later, Mary Poppins as being great. It was something tangible that he could see; the cameras filming, the sets being built and the special effects. Everything happening right then and there. Animation took too long. Walt would have to wait forever to see the results, and then you don’t dare watch it because if there’s a mistake there’s nothing you can do about it because you’ve spent the money. You can’t just cut out pieces because it costs so much. Live action, you just shoot again tomorrow and you can tell the actors what to do. Walt could control live action, too. He always wanted to compete with the big shots and make a Gone With the Wind or something.

Mary Poppins – a Movie About People You can’t Identify With

Province: Mary Poppins was definitely Disneyfied because she certainly isn’t a warm character in the original book.

Peet: It’s about a wealthy British family that no one can identify with, let alone a nanny. I thought Mary Poppins was an icky, sweet nothing.

Province: I understand that Mrs. Travers, the author, did not part with the rights easily.
Peet: She came to the studio and was tougher than hell. She tried to oversee it and insisted that she be involved in some advisory role. They wouldn’t let her do it because she would have raised hell every day. She was a witch of a woman and a real pain in the ass.

The Nine Old Loyalists

Province: What kind of relationship did you have with the “Nine Old Men”?

Peet: That name has always bugged me because it gives people the idea that there were only nine animators and that they did everything.

There sure weren’t nine old storymen because it’s the most precarious job in the business. When I left the studio, I was the only one left from the story department from Pinocchio. Yet the Nine Old Men were there the entire time and they could do no wrong.

Story men are replaceable, Animators Are Not

They knew Walt wasn’t going to fire them because of some piece of animation that didn’t work. But a storyman was only as good as his last story. Walt always figured he could get a storyman, but he respected the animators and didn’t want to mess with them. He figured they were the special talents. They had been there the longest, but that didn’t mean they were great. There were two or three that were pretty mediocre, but they carried the load on the features. The storymen aren’t given any credit or seen as being important in any of the Disney books. They never gave me any credit for any of my work on The Jungle Book.


Joseph said...

Wow! In the book about Ub Iwerks "The Hand Behind The Mouse" Ub said when Walt first came to Hollywood he wanted to become a film director and leave animation behind.
This live action being faster for Walt reminds me of Robert Zemeckis today, doing motion capture for one month instead of shooting a real movie for several months.

Weirdo said...

Great interview. I actually like "Mary Poppins" but hey, to each their own. Fascinating interview; obviously Bill held some resentments towards "Uncle Walt". A lot of his other former employees do to, like Bill Melendez, and Dave Hilberman. It's sad the way that story people were treated back then. I'm not sure what goes on now.

John, check these out.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I'm reading a Walt biography by some guy named Neil Gaman, and it has alot about how much of a control tyrant old Uncle Walt was.

Although Steve Worth says some of the information is skewed, I think it's a pretty good book. It doesn't glorify Walt as a wonderful whimsical minstrel of magic, just as a real guy...who's obsessive compulsive and had a generally crappy life.

I know you probably hate the guy, but I respect him for what he accomplished, if only as a boss, visionary and instigator, not an artist. Even though he couldn't and didn't make the stuff himself, alot of cool things wouldn't exist if it wasn't for him.

Mr. Semaj said...

Seems like when when Touchstone was established, they were unknowingly fulfilling something on Walt's posthumus wish list.

Bitter Animator said...

Yeah, I'm with you on that, Josh. There always seems to be a concentration on what Walt Disney couldn't do.

And I've seen that same thing from top animators down to the smallest Flash studios. Anyone in just about any position looks at the guys above them and think 'I could do what they do and yet they can't do what I do'. Sometimes they're right. But usually, they're wrong.

Walt Disney gathered the right people around him and he found the right ways of getting the results he wanted. That alone is a skill most people don't have. And I've seen very few animators who give any impression they could do that regardless of talent.

He got results. Not always results I personally love, though there are clearly some classics. But people loved, and still love, the work he produced. And not just in an 'appealing to the lowest common denominator' sort of way that is rampant now. His work has lasted in a world that moves on mercilessly.

Benjamin De Schrijver said...

Just to keep anybody from saying "nobody in the industry would dare to say such things now", I'd like to add that at the time of this interview, in 1988, Peet had long left Disney, had a steady career and reputation as a children's book author, and a lot of the people he talks about had already passed away for a while (Disney, Tytla, Moore), and the rest were probably retired. So a) take everything with a grain of salt, and b) he might speak his mind, but it's not like he's standing up against the establishment. The only standing up he's doing is against things of 25 (or more) years earlier from a different industry than he's in.

But of course, he WAS an incredible artist.

Dume3 said...

"Interesting. I'm reading a Walt biography by some guy named Neil Gaman, and it has alot about how much of a control tyrant old Uncle Walt was."

Are you sure you don't mean Neil Gabler? Michael Barrier says his book is filled with factual errors. He has a list of them on his site.

Larry Levine said...

I semi-agree with Peet on Mary Poppins, the first half was way too sweet for my taste (way too many perky songs & the pointless animated sequence), but I do like the second half where the story becomes more somber & focuses on the redemption of George Banks.

As for the Nine Old Men, IMO Ward Kimball was the lone true genius among them & the only one who would have stood out at any studio. Ol' Ward was a maverick which is why he was the only 'Niner' on Walts [bleep] list.

Stephen Worth said...

I'm afraid I've never read anything by Neil Gaiman, Mr Hez. You must have mixed that up.

See ya

Hector G.M. said...

"She was a witch of a woman and a real pain in the ass"


In my animation classes, whenever the teacher brought up disney films, we heard constantly about the nine old men. It totally gave me the impression that Peet talks about. So I see his point.

Scott said...

A lot of what is in that documentary is slanderous non-sense. When mentioning that there were “no women in the animation department” I guess they conveniently forgot to mention animator Rhetta Scott ?

Walt Disney (from Jenny Lerew‘s site):

..."The girl artists have the right to expect the same chances for advancement as men, and I honestly believe that they may eventually contribute something to this business that men never would or could. In the present group that are training for inbetweens[sic] there are definite prospects, and a good example is to mention the work of Ethel Kulsar and Sylvia Holland on the "Nutcracker Suite", and little Rhetta Scott, of whom you will hear more when you see "Bambi".

...if a woman can do the work as well, she is worth as much as a man"

And he said it in a speech, no less.

Also, the doc conveniently leaves out all context of the times that it is referring too. An animation department mostly consisting of men in the 30’s and 40’s? Yeah, never heard of that before…

How many woman animated at Termite Terrace? Metro? Let’s keep it all in perspective people.

Bill Melendez, while a great animator that I have respect for, is pushing his agenda again in this picture and is a coward to do so, considering that Disney himself isn’t around to contest his allegations. Bad show.

Ted said...

Steve, if you've watched Mirrormask (or the "Day of the Dead" episode of Babylon 5), you've at least seen something written by Neil Gaiman...

Anonymous said...

Sorry folks, I meant Neil Gabler, not Gaman.

Nick R said...

You know, it's odd that Neil Gaiman should be mentioned in this discussion (even if it was in error), because a while ago I found on his blog a link to an interesting article about P.L. Travers and her opinion of the film version of Mary Poppins.