Long before “Tangled” and “Frozen,” Disney artists complained about the silly title of another Disney film—”The Great Mouse Detective.”
Steve Hulett recounts his experiences working on “Oliver & Company” and the unexpected tragedy that happened during its production.
Steve Hulett remembers the time when Disney artists were told they were being moved to a warehouse off the lot, and the animation division’s first “gong show” pitch session.
Michael Eisner lounged his six-foot-four frame in a conference room chair. He was wearing jeans and sweatshirt, but why not? It was a Saturday morning.
Walt Disney Productions changed forever when two guys named Mike and Frank showed up.
When the Disney strike of 1982 ended and the story artists returned to their respective work spaces in the animation building, “Basil of Baker Street” was still running along two sets of tracks. There were storyboards filled with gags and character bits, and boards filled with plot points.
Steve Hulett on everything from “Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore” to “Katy Caterpillar.”
“Basil of Baker Street” by novelist Eve Titus was an illustrated children’s book centered on a mouse who fancied himself an ace detective. The mouse resided (naturally enough) inside the walls of 31 Baker Street in London, home of a human-sized ace detective, the name of whom escapes me.
Steve Hulett recounts his role in the the confusing and chaotic production of Disney’s most un-Disney-like feature, “The Black Cauldron.”
“Chief has to DIE,” Ron Clements said. “The picture doesn’t work if he just breaks his LEG. Copper doesn’t have enough motivation to hate the fox.”
Don Bluth and his troops were gone, but the studio still had an animated movie to get out. Art Stevens, now lead director, was slowly pulling the picture together with the animators and layout artists who remained loyal to the Mouse. But the animation department was still in flux.
Don Bluth smiled at me. “I wouldn’t worry about being laid off from Disney’s, Steve. Nobody gets laid off around here. When somebody messes up, the studio just sends them to WED.”
Before I got hired at Disney Features, I sold a few magazine articles and developed a love of writing for print, where there was nothing between writer and reader but words on a page. When I became a Disney employee, I realized I was surrounded by animation veterans with vivid memories of the rambunctious days at the old Hyperion studio, and the creative struggles that went into making “Snow White,” “Pinocchio,” and the other early features. Talking to older Mouse House staffers, it dawned on me they could provide great source material for articles.
My wrestling match with Ken Anderson now over, I returned once more to Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman and Larry Clemmons, working on the story end of “The Fox and the Hound.”
I was back in Don Duckwall’s office, exchanging insincere smiles with him. I had been on “The Fox and the Hound” with Larry, Woolie, and everybody else for half a year. But now Don wanted me to go on another assignment.
Larry had me writing sequence scripts for “The Fox and the Hound,” which turned out to be my assignment for the next six months. Part of the package was attending Woolie Reitherman’s marathon story sessions, which often left me drained and dazed. There were also Woolie’s marathon take-selection meetings, which left me drained and bewildered.
Disney’s head animation writer in 1977 was cartoon veteran Larry Clemmons, who had first been hired at the studio in 1930. At the time of his hiring, he was a Yale graduate with a degree in architecture, but an Ivy League education was of little value in 1930 when the economy was collapsing…and few buildings were being erected.
The first chapter of Steve Hulett’s memoir about working as a writer at Disney in the late-Seventies and Eighties.