Saturday, 21 April 2012

Mickey Mouse on Strike

Far be it from me to try to get into Walt Disney’s head. All kinds of books have been written about him by people more interested in his films than I am. But, as a casual observer, it seems like Walt decided he went about as far as he could with animation and started moving in other entertainment directions.

Bob Thomas wrote Walt Disney: An American Original in 1976. He wrote about Disney 30 years before that for the Associated Press. And in the lead item in his column of June 6, 1946, he hints the same sort of thing.

Disney likely approved of the idea floated in the story about being a live-action mogul. But I doubt one wound had healed, and he probably winced a bit about Thomas’ first line about strikers picketing the studio.

Disney Planning To Use Live Talent In His Next Pictures
HOLLYWOOD, June 7—(AP)—The day may come when Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and other cartoon characters will be picketing Disney studios. Reason: the cartoon wizard is hiring live talent.
Walt has used live action before, but now he is going all-out, or almost. Added to his stable of pen-and-ink actors are three very much alive individuals — wry-faced Bobby Driscoll, seven-year-old cover girl Luana Patten and the Negro actor, James Baskett.
They are appearing in Disney’s first postwar feature, “Song of the South”. The film will be 70 per cent live action; the remainder will be a treatment of the Uncle Remus stories. Studio workers assure that you will hardly be able to tell where the human talent ends and animation begins.
The two children will also appear in “How Dear to My Heart”, which will also star Beulah Bondi and Burl Ives. This one will be 80 per cent live action.
But rest assured, Mickey, Donald and Goofy, your old man has no plan for 100 per cent live action films. Not yet.
A non-cartoon Disney character showed me more of the Disney plans in the Animation Building. Pinned on the wall were “tentative” plans for Wendy, Captain Hook, Nana, Nibs and other Peter Pan characters. They didn't look so tentative to me.

“Peter Pan” didn’t come out until 1953. It had been in the planning stages before the war. The long gestation wasn’t uncommon for a number of Disney projects.

There isn’t much to be said about “Song of the South” that hasn’t been said before. The B’rer Rabbit cartoons contained in it have fine, expressive Disney animation. About the only place you’ll likely ever see it now is on bootlegs of non-North American video releases for reasons which have been debated to death.


  1. Eventually Walt did succumb to non-animated films 4 years later; the evets that followed really should have inspired Mickey and Goofy to picket.

  2. Evan after Disney's late 30s-early 40s successes, the studio still knew that animated cartoons carried a big danger if they failed than studios that had failed live-action features, and Walt's personal sensibilities constricted the types of stories his short subject directors could get away with, while the payback to the studio for a successful short was low, especially since Disney didn't have his own distribution system in the 1940s.

    So it's no surprise that someone who was a bit of a control freak eventually would shift towards projects he could still control, but with less of a downside if they failed (though at the same time his desire to have control over new things would turn Walt's attention from live-action films to a live theme park by the early part of the next decade).

  3. Maybe Mickey WAS picketing. He was certainly off-screen for a lot of the 1940s.

  4. He was spending all his time in a bar, lamenting how Walt wanted to stick him with Nick Nichols and a seal.

  5. About the only place you’ll likely ever see it now is on bootlegs of non-North American video releases for reasons which have been debated to death.

    *yawn* we don't have to go there!