Friday, January 11, 2008

Peet and Disney's Unique Story Process

From everything I've read by anybody who worked on Disney stories and animation, it seems that Disney had a really unique way to write the stories for their cartoons. They didn't write it first and then animate it. They had a "story department" that constantly changed and revised everything.

It seems to be an ongoing process, like the story isn't finished until the animation is finished.

Here, Bill Peet talks a bit about it.

I also have a book called "Too Funny For Words" by Frank and Ollie where they say the same thing. I'll post some of that soon.

Marc Davis and The Illusion Of Life

Province: Marc Davis has personally described you to me as the best story man in the business.

Peet: Well, that’s OK, but I wish he would tell someone else. All the publicity went to those people. The biggest problem for me was that I was so creative, and other people would grab hold of my stuff. When Illusion of Life came out, I called Ollie [Johnston] and gave him hell.

I told him it seems strange to me that he never mentioned that there’s a storyman and a creative end to this thing. The public probably thinks the animators sits down and starts doing it from scratch. I did storyboards, thousands of them, and character design; I would direct the voice recordings.

The Personalities of Dalmations Were developed With Drawings

Then guys like Marc Davis, Ken Anderson and Woolie Reitherman would take credit for my Cruella deVille and all of the personalities. Those personalities were delineated in drawings, and believe me—I can draw them as well or better than any of them. Marc Davis told Charles Solomon, the animation writer for the Los Angeles Times, that he created Cruella deVille from scratch and had his picture taken with the girl who did the voice.

Peet Wrote The Screenplay for Dalmations

I wrote the screenplay and every bit of dialogue. I found the woman who did the voice and I wrote all her dialogue. I don’t have any of my Dalmatian drawings because I left the studio in a hurry, but after I was gone they took credit for everything. They might be down in their morgue, but those people made damned sure there was nothing left of mine because it would prove what I am saying. I had it all cut and dried for them. These are the types of things that drive you nuts.

How Do You Pinpoint Who “Created” What?
Storyboard Man Works The Story and Personalities Out For The Animators

Province: But in an assembly-line product like animation, where literally hundreds of hands touch it, how can you be exactly sure who did what?

Peet: There has to be a brain. The humor rarely comes from the animation. It has to be on the boards. Illusion of Life doesn’t even suggest any thought behind it. For a feature to hold together as a drama and have a continuity with personalities, it has to be very carefully worked out. Then you get the soundtrack recorded, right down to the gnat’s eyelash.

How Long To Do A Feature – The Animation Overlapped The Story!

Province: How long would it usually you to work through a typical feature?

Peet: Usually around two years. The animation would overlap because they would pick up scenes as I moved them down. In other words, the first three scenes of Sword in the Stone would be underway in animation while I was working on the next fifteen minutes of the film. Then that piece would go down to the animators until finally I was down to the last sequence and they would still be animating the first half of the film.


Eddie wrote a great post concerning the controversy that isn't a controversy:


Larry Levine said...

Bill Peet was the best--he told it straight, warts & all!

Just as Chuck Jones needed Michael Maltese, Marc Davis needed Peet, too bad he kept that realization to himself.

Rodrigo said...


It's amazing to see so many creatives that I've read about and met who've become so disillusioned with animation because at the end of the day they get shat on by the big machine.

It seems like human nature to be drawn to an ideal/entity that they picture is bigger than themsevles and want to follow; be it religion, the military, or *ahem* Pixar. It's this human tendancy that big studios milk your soul with.

Bill Plympton, Mike Judge, John K, Don Hertzfeldt . . . I think your souls are a little more at peace for retaining some of your individuality.

Kaseem said...

Hi Mr. K!
I'm sure this is probably the wrong post to say this on, but I just wanted to say a big 'Thank You' for this blog, your construction lessons have helped my drawing tremendously in a really short amount of time.
I'll donate whenever I have some spare money! Your words are inspiring, please take care.

Tony C. said...

I agree, Bill Peet does not get the credit he deserves. Great posts!

Off topic, but concerning something that you have mentioned quite a bit in the past; There is an artist and animator named Pascal Campion who draws directly into flash and puts forth some amazing results that still maintain many of the qualities of a sketch and hand drawn animation.

His latest awesome animation is here and his blog is

boootooons ltd. said...

wow. i'd seen peet's name before, but i had no idea how incredibly involved he is.

hearing him rant makes me think that's how you sounded when nickelodeon stole ren and stimpy.

but he, like you, have reason to be upset. it's like when stan freberg had to deal with people thinking mel blanc voiced baby bear and pete puma.

- trevor.

/\/\ikeB said...

Yeah I've seen his sketches, they're amazing. I'd be happy to draw half as good as him. And that guy (apparently ) didn't even get a place to sit!

But does anyone else back Peet up on some of his claims? I've heard from multiple people Disney couldn't draw; but Peet writing screenplays, designing characters, I question the truth in that just as much as Walt, Frank or Ollie.

It'd be interesting for a little cross-referencing.

PARKER.- said...

Some day I would like to meet you!!!
Good luck!

Camari Xela said...

I'm so happy you've finally posted something about Bill Peet. His influence is so undermined by these damn legacy pundits. Also....please, oh, please! post something on Joe Ranft!

Bitter Animator said...

"The humor rarely comes from the animation."

Poor Peet - the people above him took credit for everything and gave the people below them no credit at all. Because most people involved are dead, we can't possibly know but I suspect he's full of shit.

Taber said...

Amazingly unfair.

Elliot Cowan said...

"but Peet writing screenplays, designing characters, I question the truth in that"
A quick glance at a few of his books should reveal that Peet was a terrific character designer and an great American author.