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DisneyWard Kimball

Ward Kimball on CinemaScope

Several years ago I curated a program of CinemaScope cartoon shorts from the 1950s, which I screened at the Ottawa Animation Festival, the Museum of Modern Art and several other venues. While researching the subject, I came upon a small article by Ward Kimball, from Films In Review (March 1954), in which he discusses the subject.

Kimball makes several interesting points referencing his work on Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom and shows the thought Disney’s animators put into using this unique, new screen shape. Kimball notes how wide shots and longer scenes play better in wide screen and how, in CinemaScope, “cartoon characters no longer perform in one spot against a moving background, but are moved through the scenes.” He also makes note of the use of directional Stereophonic sound used in these shorts. (Grand CanyonScope will be released letterboxed and in stereo on the forthcoming Disney Treasures: Donald Vol. 4 later this year).

Kimball’s piece is preceeded by an overview by writer Ed Lubin entitled “Disney Is Still Creative”(!) which touts the studio’s relevancy during the changing animation scene of the early 50s. Click on the thumbnails below to read both articles.

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  • top cat james

    What will be the other Treasures titles this year, Jerry?

  • I wonder who was the first to misidentify the music in “Skeleton Dance” as “Dance Macabre”? It seems to be one of the most tenacious errors in animation minutia.

    Did that mistake originate with Disney PR?

  • buttmess

    It is interesting that as late as
    1954, Walt Disney was still
    depicted in magazines with
    a pen in his hand sitting at a
    desk with a completed picture
    of Mickey Mouse or other Disney
    characters in front of him.

  • steve w.

    I’m sure you already know this, but just for the record, “Grand Canyonscope” is on Disney’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” DVD in letterbox and stereophonic sound. The reason they put it on that DVD is because the cartoon accompanied “20,000 Leagues” in its original theatrical release.

  • Widescreen Ryan

    Will the other 5 Donald Duck Cinemascope cartoons being released on Vol. 4 have the original Stereophonic mix as well?

  • Paul J. Mular

    In addition to THE CHRONOLOGICAL DONALD DUCK VOLUME 4, there will only be two other Disney Treasures released this November 11th.
    DESTINO which will pad out the short with documentaries, and
    ALIAS DR. SYN, THE SCARECROW a live action story from Disney’s TV show.
    I am guessing this could be the end of this DVD series, there are few other Walt-produced cartoons to include which are the big sellers. As I understand the criteria for inclusion in the Disney Treasures DVD series, the film had to have been in production during Walt’s lifetime. Since Destino was started by Walt himself, it falls into that catagory. I was hoping for more Alice Comedies this year.

  • Fred Cline

    From the earliest days of sound and color, Disney embraced new technologies and thrived. The moment they dropped the ball (i.e. with the advent of computer animation), they lost their market position as well. Some may say that they did incorporate computer animation early with their use of alias/wavefront technologies in the mid-eighties, but that amounted to more of a “fondle” than a full embrace.

  • Dan

    I kind of agree with you there Fred. They certainly seemed to stagnate from that point onward, and then fell way behind in the realm of 3D. I actually disagree with what Ed Catmul said in his interview with the “Spline Doctors”. I don’t think that integrating CG and traditional hand drawn is necessarily a bad thing. Look at Iron Giant, Triplets of Belville or Long John Silver. They (Disney) were on an interesting track that would have allowed new stories to be told in new ways. When it’s done well, the two worlds integrate nicely. There are plenty of poorly realized CG and 2D films that would seem to counter his viewpoint. The kind of attention paid by Disney as Kimbal described when it came to incorporating new technology seems underestimated often these days. Maybe because we’re dumber than they were. I know I’m “dumber” than my dad on the technical issues.

  • I don’t have my copy of 20,000 Leagues handy, but my memory of the copy of Grand CanyonScope included on that disc was that it was a horrible compression job, and I don’t remember if it was in stereo or not.

    This is a great opportunity for a remaster (which appears to be the case).

  • PaulBunyan

    I think there is still a lot that could be put on future Disney Treasures. One could be another Rarities with animation which for various reasons will not be released as part of DVD features such as the animated segments of “Song of the South” and ‘The Martins and the Coys “ from “Make Mine Music”. There also is a lot from the Disneyland TV program that has not been seen for years. There are animated programs such as “The Coyote’s Lament” featuring Pluto and “The Adventure Story” and “Holiday for Henpecked Husbands” featuring Goofy. Also live action such as Texas John Slaughter.