Bill Scott Story Bill Scott Story

Why execs should refrain from being “creative”

Bill Scott

This is an amusing anecdote from Rocky & Bullwinkle writer Bill Scott which took place back in the early-1950s while he was working at UPA. The story provides a good example of how throwing a lot of talent at a project doesn’t necessarily guarantee success; creative people need a solid foundation to work from and should be assigned projects that are suited to their particular skills. Fortunately, Bosustow was smart enough to recognize that he was more of a businessman than a creative (which is more than can be said for the majority of execs working in animation today). For this reason, he had placed director John Hubley in charge of the studio’s day-to-day creative decisions to avoid situations like the one described by Scott:

Another time, you know Steve Bosustow was close friends with Ted Geisel—Dr. Seuss—since they’d worked together during the war. They were having lunch together, and Geisel says, “I have a great idea for a film about eyebrows. You start with some guy’s face, and see how his eyebrows move up and down, and furrow and knit and all the things eyebrows usually do, and then suddenly the eyebrows manage to move away from the face and just keep on dancing on their own.”

Steve thought it was great, and bought it. I mean, he pulled out his checkbook right there at the table, and bought it on the spot. Then he passed it on to Phil [Eastman] and me, and said, “Here’s a new film we’re going to do.”

We looked it over, and said right away, “Wait a minute. Where’s the story? What happens?”

Steve said, “Well, can’t you figure something out?”

So we worked on it for a while, but basically it isn’t the idea for a film; it’s a gag that has to fit into some other context. When Steve finally realized that, he went back to Geisel and asked for his money back. And he got it.