disneystrike disneystrike

New Disney Strike footage

The folks at the John Basmajian Collection have just unearthed – and posted – a reel of rare 8mm film footage of the infamous 1941 Disney animators strike. This is new stuff and incredibly rare. They even did a nice job of adding sound effects to bring it to life. Tom Sito points out, when watching the footage, to look for these highlights:

• The first man shown speaking on a microphone is Animator Art Babbitt.

•We see a shot of Walt Disney standing in the guard shack, hat on head and white shirt open at the neck, watching the strikers outside his gate.

• The second closeup of a man using a microphone is actor John Garfield, a matinee idol of the 1940s.

• The next shot is Walt Disney going through the picketline in his fashionable Packard.

• The next person driving his car through the disapproving pickets is director Ham Luske.

• The group carrying the Guillotine is the Warner Bros unit, led by picket captain Chuck Jones- the young man to the left in the black shirt. The effigy in the Guillotine was supposed to be of Disney’s attorney Gunther Lessing.

The footage is posted here.

  • Walt kinda looks like Don Fanucci “The Black Hand” in Godfather 2!

  • uncle wayne

    Wow! Incredible footage! My fave is the Donald-picket….who is animated yet!!

  • Agreed. That Donald picket sign was great. So clever!

  • Whittaker Chambers

    The footage is great but why all the flickering? No need for the distracting iMovie fake ‘old time movie’ illusion, unless that 8mm camera’s shutter was broken and the original footage really looks like that. The effect detracts from the important stuff we should be looking at here, and those very well drawn signs should be readable. That severe a flicker was engineered out of even home movies by about 1930.

  • Unfortunately, the original 8mm footage was not projected with a variable speed projector when captured to video and resulted in a slightly exaggerated flicker. The film itself is pristine for its age and the flicker is not as apparent when viewed; although it is still there. Eventually the footage will be recaptured.

  • I have a 16mm copy of some of the same footage plus other shots. No flicker. It was shot by John Hubley as part of the feature documentary he put together about the strike.

  • Michael,

    Thank you for identifying the source of this footage as John Hubley. John Basmajian had said that he got it from a participating studio friend.
    Does any of the footage here differ from the 16mm copy you have? Have you had the footage captured to video?

  • I can’t help but find this footage heartbreaking because it ended forever the special relationship Walt Disney had with his staff.

    Sure, life when on, but Walt Disney Productions was never the same. I was too young to have been around during the strike days, but when I arrived in the fifties I couldn’t help but be aware of the distance Walt had put between his artists and himself.

    A sad, sad story that should have had a better ending.

  • Chev

    What’s with the flicker gripe? It’s amazing footage! This site just gets better and better.

  • Don Peri

    I am very sure that the driver of the second car going into the studio is Wilfred Jackson. What sad footage. I wonder what was going through Walt’s mind as he watched the strike from the guard house?

  • mike Gabriel

    Floyd says it all. Well said, Floyd. Nothing more poignant than seeing a good man watch his own effigy get hanged in front of the studio he built with his brother from the ground up and every one of those people hanging his effigy and mocking and ridiculing him he hired and schooled, cajoled and inspired to be the best they could possibly be all for the sake of making great animated films. His passion was for the art form not the monetary rewards. A tough, demanding studio head that was not fully appreciated or valued by that volatile branch of his illustrious staff who only saw a rich man getting rich off their sweat and labor.

  • I also found it sad to watch. We are witnessing on 8mm film the end of the real golden era of animation. What Walt and his staff built before that event would never be duplicated, here or anyplace else.

  • Wasn’t aware members of Warner picketed.

    Did any other animation studios artists participate?

  • ButMess

    Sorry, Mike.

    It is true that great works of
    cinema came out of the Walt
    Disney Studios during the pre-
    strike years (as well as afterwards)
    but what must be faced is that Walt
    Disney ran the studio like a tyrant.

    Disney always gave off the air of being
    unapproachable despite studio publicity.

    The mock drawings some animators
    drew of him depicting him as dictator
    or some other unsympathetic character
    reflected their feelings toward his
    stand-offish character.

    Disney had to be convinced to include
    proper credits on his films.

    His reason for not previously including
    them was that the public just needed
    to know that they were Walt Disney

    The striking animators were for the most
    part idealistic types.

    True, their grievances had some merit,
    but eventually their demands would,
    in the long run, cause more animation
    to be done offshore.

    The true heroes in the bitter strike
    were Disney’s Nine Old Men: Les
    Clark, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston,
    Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson,
    John Lounsbery, Wolfgang “Woolie”
    Reitherman, and Frank Thomas.

    They realized that despite the shouting
    and discontent outside the studio gates,
    there was still work to be done.

  • Jim

    I’ve come across this entry about a week or so after it was posted, only to find that all the links to the footage of the Disney picket line have been broken. Any reason for the removal?

  • Yes, for some reason the whole site is gone. Very mysterious. I have no idea what happened.

  • The John Basmajian website has had incredible traffic and our servers took a hit. We are currently increasing bandwidte and the complete site (video included) should be restored within 24 hours. There is still alot of the collection to unveil. Thanks for your interest and support.

  • peg luske finefrock

    hi, just left the studio today, had a wonderful tour with my son, given by a screenwriter that is presently working there. he told us about the discovery of this footage of the 1941 strike. i tend to agree with what don peri says, that the driver of the 2nd car is wilford jackson, as my dad was ham luske and it sure doesn’t look like him. however, he did not strike and he did cross the picket line and went to work, and said to me many years ago that that strike changed walt’s relationships with many of his animators.

  • Didier Ghez

    Any idea if the site will be up again at some point?

  • Florian

    The site is still down :-(. Does anyone have a copy of that footage and can provide it? Thanx.