So much has been written and said about the Disney studio and its resultant empire that there isn’t really much I can add. And that’s all just as well, because I’ve never been as into Disney, or fascinated by the whole aura that built up around what’s now just a brand-name, as many others.
I liked seeing the kindly version of Walt Disney on camera and watching on Sunday nights (what else was on?) only if some funny cartoons were being shown (or Ludwig Von Drake). And, once in a while, I’d tune in the opening of the Mickey Mouse Club to see what happened to Donald Duck and the gong. By that time, the commercials would be over on Channel 12 and I could turn there and watch Bugs, the Fleischer Popeye and the really funny cartoons.
Disney himself has been analysed to death by people expert on the subject so there’s no point in me doing it. Instead, let me pass on this wire service story from 1950. It provides a bit of insight from Walt himself about why he turned away from cartoon shorts and on to other interests.
Yes, Disney Has Trouble With Animal Actors, Too
By Bob Thomas
HOLLYWOOD, Sept. 6 (AP) — Alfred Hitchcock, the director who has called actors anything from children to cattle, once remarked that Walt Disney has the ideal relationship with his stars: He can erase them if they get out of line.
When I told Disney this, he replied: “We have trouble with our actors, too.”
For instance, there is Mickey Mouse. The famed rodent has been brought back more times than Sarah Bernhardt. Several times Mickey has faded and his sentimental creator has revived him in a new vehicle.
“The trouble is,” Disney explained, “that Mickey isn’t funny himself. He has to be surrounded with comic situations. That takes a lot of trouble.”
Minnie Mouse has suffered an eclipse for the same reason. “There’s no action connected with Minnie,” the cartoon man said, "and we have given up the subtle stuff.”
“The duck (Donald) and the dog (Pluto) are funnier characters in themselves, but even they can get out of line. We get so busy with what we’re doing that we lose perspective. We have to stop and see what is happening to the characters.”
Disney has taken on a new set of actors who are even more unmanageable than his film veterans. He has started a series which he calls “true-life adventures,” starring the wild life of North America.
The first of the series was called “Seal Island” and it chronicled the life of seals on an Aleutian island. It won an academy award. The second is “Beaver Valley,” which is currently winning much praise throughout the country. Among the fan letters Disney has received is one from a justice of the U. S. supreme court.
“Beaver Valley,” as you might suspect, stars the Beaver. “He is a fantastic animal,” Walt said. “All he does is eat, sleep and work. He never seems to play at all. The work he does is of utmost importance in conserving the land in the western United States. The government even transports beavers into areas that needed conservation.”
Supporting the dam-builders are a lively bunch of otters, who believe in all play and no work. They are as funny a set of comedians as Disney has ever offered. The rest of the cast includes the villain—a coyote, plus various moose, crickets, frogs, salmon, ducks, bears, etc.
The films run a half-hour and are Disney’s answer to the double-feature. He feels audiences will get more enjoyment out of watching nature’s actors than in sitting through a B picture that accompanies the major film.
“These pictures aren’t cheap to make,” he told me. “They cost at least $100,000. I have to send a cameraman into the wilds for about nine months in order to get what we’re after. I now have a man on the Olympian peninsula in Washington filming the elk. Coming up is what I call ‘Nature’s Half-Acre.’ A study of every living thing on and under an average half-acre of land.”
He is also contemplating a starring vehicle for the otters. I highly recommend it. They’re as funny as Donald Duck.