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 WithProvince: 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.