Walt Disney: The Original Master “Imagineer”
Full disclosure: when I was a kid, I didn’t like Disney cartoons. My family took me to all of them, new and the regularly re-released: Pinocchio (1940), Bambi (1942), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Lady and the Tramp (1955). And we went to see the live-action Disney flicks, too: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), The Shaggy Dog (1959), The Absent-Minded Professor (1961). I watched Disney’s short cartoons on his Sunday night showcase, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, and on reruns of The Mickey Mouse Club. Yeah, I saw it all…but I didn’t particularly like a lot of it.
Disney – the brand, not the man – was cute. It was nice. It was sweet. So much so, it made my cavities hurt.
When it came to cartoons, even as a kid I preferred the classic Warners shorts from the 1930s-1950s. They were made for less money and on shorter schedules than the Disney cartoons, but they weren’t interested in being cute. In fact, according to Chuck Jones, one of Warners’ best animators, they knew they couldn’t match the adorability of Disney’s stuff, so they didn’t even try. Instead, they went another way. They went for funny. And not nice funny, but funny in a kind of sharp-edged, street-savvy, wise-ass way that really clicked with a kid growing up in Newark.
Even later, as a film student, while my appreciation for what Disney had accomplished with animation – elevating it from a novelty to an art and big-money business – I still didn’t like his stuff much. And because of that, I never gave the man the credit he deserved, not as an animator – although he deservedly stands as one of the giants in the field – or for, well, you’d have to say his vision.