April 25, 1953 – Animator, Director, Producer, and Screenwriter Ron Clements is Born
“I think John [Musker] and Ron [Clements] are really great storytellers. They understood the essence of a great Disney animated movie.” – Jeffrey Katzenberg
On April 25, 1953, Ronald Francis Clements was born in Sioux City, Iowa. He began his animation career at Hanna-Barbera; soon after starting there, he was accepted into the Disney Talent Development Program, working under legendary animator Frank Thomas. He began full employment at Disney in 1977, working as a character animator on the films The Rescuers and Pete’s Dragon. Clements would then become the animation supervisor on the 1981 film The Fox and Hound, with future collaborator John Musker working under him as a character animator. Clements and Musker would then pair up as story artists on the film The Black Cauldron in 1985. In 1986, the two would make their directorial debut on the film The Great Mouse Detective.
In 1985, there was what was called a “gong” show, which was a way to call for story ideas from the staff. Clements brought forth the idea The Little Mermaid, writing a two page treatment for the story. At first, Clements’ idea was “gonged” because a sequel to the hit film Splash was in development, but the next day, Jeffrey Katzenberg told Clements that he liked the treatment, and the studio was willing to go forward and create the film. Clements and Musker then wrote and directed The Little Mermaid, which became a huge success for the studio, revitalizing the animation department. Clements and Musker would repeat their success in 1992 with Aladdin, which they both wrote, directed, and produced. The two would then direct the modest success Hercules in 1997. In 2002, the pair directed Treasure Planet, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but it was a commercial failure. The two were reunited as directors for the 2009 film The Princess and the Frog.