After 40 years, Don Bluth returns to Walt Disney Animation Studios. This was something for the history books. I am extremely grateful that I got to be part of these moments & talks of the future. Why was Don Bluth at Disney Animation you ask? Well, some of that must remain a SECRET! However, I can discuss some of the experiences we had and include some photos!
Upon entering the Roy E. Disney Animation Building through the Sorcerer’s Hat, we met with Steve Anderson, the director of Meet the Robinsons and Winnie the Pooh. We came upon the front desk and in huge letters it reads Walt Disney Animation Studios. In the main lobby, you see artwork from every era of the Walt Disney Company, which was amazing to see such great history.
We continued walking the halls with Steve, he showed us around the walls where they placed Disney Animation art from the past. We couldn’t spend too much time here because we had appointments, but next time I hope we can!
Once through, we came upon the production of Frozen 2 (we can’t show any of this, sorry!), then continued to the directors’ offices. There we met with Disney director Ron Clements. I took a picture of Ron and Don and, I just had to ask for a picture too. 🙂
After meeting with Ron Clements, we continued down the offices and ran into Burny Mattinson. It was great listening to the stories between Burny & Don and their time together working for Walt Disney himself. Burny has been at the Walt Disney company the longest out of all the animation artists. He was very humble and nice to talk with. He had to run, but said he would join us later for lunch.
We continued down the hall and met with Howard Green, Don spotted him right away and said, “Howard!”. We chatted for a bit and Howard insisted we go downstairs where they were animating “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2”. None of us were going to turn down that invitation! We went downstairs through the common area (small cafeteria), to a hall where it said, “No Unauthorized People Beyond this Point”. We just walked right through with Howard & Steve and could hear all the animators clicking away at their mouses animating scenes for Wreck-It Ralph 2.
We walked down the halls to some of the offices and met Mark Henn! To our SURPRISE! Mark was working on a Disney Traditional Animation desk! This was a sight to see! Nothing makes me more happy to see hand-drawn animation still being done at Disney in some shape or form.
We continued (I sure use this word a lot..lol) down the halls of Wreck-It Ralph 2 and went in to one of the animation rooms with some of the animators. Bert Klein the creator of “Pups of Liberty” a hand-drawn animated short series was there said, “Hey, it’s Lavalle Lee!”. To my surprise, I finally get to meet Bert in person! Bert gave Don the rundown of CG animation, and showed the scene he was working on and how they use live-action reference when animating digitally in CG.
It was time for LUNCH! So we headed over the the executive building to eat at the Rotunda surrounded by the suits. Again, being a fly on the wall listening to all the stories between Burny & Don working for Walt and being trained by the 9 Old Men. I can’t even explain how awesome this was. The waiter serving us remembered Don from his time there, which I thought was pretty funny. We all posed for a picture afterwards.
On our way out we took a photo of Burny and Don infront of “The Legends Plaza”.
Once we were all done with lunch, Howard invited us to take a tour of Walt Disney’s original office. Everything was in it’s original place and you could just feel in the atmosphere and the history.
I will just place these here:
Now I must tell you, if you ever and I mean EVER get a change to visit Walt Disney’s original office. DO IT! To think this was the office where Walt met with so many talented people, made decisions that changed American history and so much more. This is something I will never forget and always cherish.
Once we finished visiting Walt Disney’s office, we had a few very important things left to do. But we will save that for another time.
Wow! What a great time you both must have had. I know Burny did animation of Rabbit on “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too” and Don did as well. Beautiful stuff! I hope Don felt some of that old Disney magic.
That is terrific. I love it that Don had a chance to go back and take a walk down memory lane…literally.
Very excited to see this wonderful man there.
Don had given him a lot of creativity in this place
A trip down memory lane! Disney was very fortunate to have you as part of their team. You have been blessed with Incredible talent.
Thank you for sharing the tour.
It is nice to see some pictures where Walt Disney and Roy Disney worked. Also Don Blyth and his return I would love to go see the studios and some your art work and get met you guys. I just to say thank you for sharing and seeing great people and what you people do to bring happiness in all are lives. Thank you Don
This was awesome!
I can’t imagine how much you couldn’t wait to let your readers know of your amazing tour. To take in all that majesty had to be fulfilling. What an era Walt hath wrought! Thanks for sharing.
I wish Eric Goldberg should quit Disney just like Glen Keane.
Lavalle, so great to see this happen as you might recall that Don reconnecting with Disney was one of my desires from our days online in the Don Bluth forums. The break away from Disney was historic and so very important to animation but to be able to see the loop close like this… perhaps even more important. I’m glad you were there as witness to the event. Keep up the great work.
I have a feeling he’s going to try to form some sort of partnership with Disney to restart the 2d animation industry, and the 1st project will be Dragon’s Lair : The Movie.
As it is a classic fairy tale, it may very well be the start of a new beginning, Like Snow White (1937), The Little Mermaid (1989) and hopefully Dragon’s Lair will be the catalyst for a new generation of animation.
Of course, that’s what I’m hoping for, it’s only a guess, but who better to help produce this?
I love Don’s the Small One!
@ROB SOJKOWSKI: My god, I hope so! I find cu to be joyless both in the creation and viewing, and pray every day that 2d will come back despite all the efforts of corporate America to bury it! Everywhere I go, I hear more and more people clamoring for hand drawn animation, while being told by corporate fanbases and cgi professionals that “literally no one wants to see that crap”. When they’re not disingenuously portraying it as an art lost to the ages, and they’d just love to bring it back but there’s simply not a single person left alive who knows how to do it!
Getting rid of hand drawn was the biggest mistake Disney ever made (I was going to make “torpedoing Treasure Planet” as the second, but since they very clearly did that as an investment to justify dropping 2d (seriously, it got nominated for an award but no one ever heard of it? this is Disney, the kings of saturation marketing, they don’t fail to advertise their products by accident), it fits in with the first biggest mistake.). It lost them their branding. Back in the day, you could tell exactly what studio did what by the artists they hired. I knew at a glance whether it was Disney, Dreamworks, Don Bluth or WB. There was no mistaking Disney for anything but Disney. Now I can’t tell their work apart from any other studio. I was stunned to find that Coco was Disney, as I thought it was Dreamworks, I thought Ferdinand was Dreamworks but it was really Blue Sky Studio, and that is par for the course now! And by losing their visual branding, they lost their dominance–used to be only Disney could really make money with movies, with the only real challenge coming from Don Bluth. Then they went to 100% cg and now there are tons of studios able to keep pace with them. It’s also why I forgettable frantically buying up everything under the sun–if they can’t bury the competition (anymore), may as well own them.
Walt Disney was a businessman, but he was a good enough businessman to understand that he was in the business of making art. His successors chose instead to buy into the untrue old adage “it’s not an art, it’s a business” and ruined their branding and their monopoly.
Btw, by “corporate fanbase” I mean fans of corporate America and all it does or says, not canvases of corporate brands.
[…] Lee and Bluth; Lee’s Blog can be found at https://www.traditionalanimation.com/2018/don-bluth-returns-to-walt-disney-animation-studios-after-40… […]