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Tag Archives: Director

August 10

August 10, 1914 – Director and Disney Legend Ken Annakin is Born

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“Ken was an important part of the Disney legacy and made several memorable films for my Uncle Walt.” – Roy Disney

On August 10, 1914, Kenneth Cooper Annakin was born in Beverly, England. He began his career in films with the RAF Film Unit, working as a camera assistant to create propaganda films for the war effort after being injured in the blitz. In 1947, Annakin had his directorial debut with the feature film Holiday Camp, a comedy set at a summer holiday camp. This was then followed with the film Miranda, a comedy about a mermaid, which became a blockbuster in 1948; this film also starred fellow Disney Legend Glynis Johns, who would go to star in Annakin’s second film for Disney, The Sword and the Rose.

While working for England’s Pinewood Studios, he was approached by Disney to direct a series of films. After World War II, a policy was passed that money made in England during the war was not allowed to leave the country. To use these funds, Disney decided to create a series of live-action films, with Annakin directing a few of these later classics. The first film was The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, based on the classic legend. Annakin’s work for the studio was followed by the successful films The Sword and the Rose, Swiss Family Robinson, and Third Man on the Mountain. While working for Disney, Annakin picked up the technique of storyboarding, which had mainly been used only for animated features, but Annakin continued to use this long after his work with Disney. In 2002, Annakin was honored as a Disney Legend, the second director to receive this honor. The same year, Annakin was awarded with an Order of the British Empire, and an honorary degree from Hull University. He passed away on April 22, 2009, at the age of 94.

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June 26

June 26, 1909 – Animator, Member of Disney’s Nine Old Men, Director, and Disney Legend Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman is Born

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“I just felt [animation] was a twentieth century art form, probably the most unique of anything that had appeared on the art horizon for decades since perspective. I was just fascinated because you could move those things. You can’t move a painting.”

On June 26, 1909, Wolfgang Reitherman was born in Munich, Germany. His family moved to California when Reitherman was an infant. Fascinated with airplanes from a young age, he attended the Pasadena Junior College to study aircraft engineering, and later got a job at Douglas Aircraft as a draftsman. Reitherman changed his career path in 1931 to study his other passion of art, enrolling in the Chouinard Art Institute, studying watercolor. As fate would have it, Reitherman met an instructor who taught at the Disney Studios, and in 1933, Reitherman joined the company in the animation department. When World War II began, Reitherman served in the Air Force, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross for his services in Africa, China, India, and the South Pacific. He returned to the studio after the war, and contributed to more than 30 Disney short films throughout his career, including Water Babies and Donald in Mathmagic Land. Reitherman also contributed to several feature animated films, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and One Hundred and One Dalmatians.

Reitherman’s first foray into directing came with the animated feature film Sleeping Beauty. In 1961, Reitherman was named co-director of the film One Hundred and One Dalmatians alongside Hamilton Luske and Clyde Geronimi. In 1963, Reitherman was named the director of the film The Sword in the Stone, a first for an animator in the studio’s history. He would continue to serve as an animator of Disney features, which include The Jungle Book, The Arisocats, Robin Hood, and the cartoon feature Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. A trademark in Reitherman’s films was the reuse of animation, as evidenced in Robin Hood’s “Phoney King of England” scene, which borrowed heavily from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In 1981, Reitherman retired from the Disney Studios, having dedicated nearly 50 years of his life. Unfortunately, Reitherman died in a car accident on May 22, 1985, in Burbank, California. As a tribute to his life and his work at Disney, he was honored as a Disney Legend in 1989.

April 25

April 25, 1953 – Animator, Director, Producer, and Screenwriter Ron Clements is Born

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“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.

April 13

April 13, 1954 – Animator Glen Keane is Born

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“I am convinced that animation really is the ultimate form of our time with endless new territories to explore. I can’t resist its siren call to step out and discover them.”

On April 13, 1954, Glen Keane was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to cartoonist Bil Keane (known for Family Circus) and Thelma Carne Keane. The family would soon move to Paradise Valley, Arizona. Inspired by his father’s work, Keane developed an interest in drawing from an early age. Keane applied, and was accepted, to the Califormia Institute of the Arts, where he worked under animation teacher Jules Engel in the Program in Experimental Animation. Keane joined Disney in 1974; his first assignment, alongside Ollie Johnson, was animating the characters Bernard and Penny for the 1977 animated feature The Rescuers. After this film, Keane animated Elliot in Pete’s Dragon, and the climactic showdown in The Fox and the Hound. In 1982, Keane and friend John Lasseter were inspired by the new film Tron, and the two collaborated on a 30-second test sequence based on Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Although the sequence was not well received at the time, it has since been considered revolutionary for the time, thanks to its experimentation of digital and hand-drawn animated characters.

In 1983, Keane left Disney to become a freelance artist, working on the character of Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective, and on sections of the animated film The Chipmunk Adventure. He rejoined Disney to work on the characters of Fagin, Sykes, and Georgette in Oliver & Company, and was soon named Lead Character Animator. For the 1989 film The Little Mermaid, Keane designed and animated the lead character Ariel. From the moment he heard Jodi Benson (voice of Ariel) sing “Part of Your World,” Keane knew he had to animate Ariel. “I got the video of the recording and watched Jodi sing, and it was…just seeing it in her eyes, she believed it just like I believed it in listening to it,” he said. “There was this connection, it was just, ‘I’ve got to make that character as real as it is in my head.’” Keane would work as a supervising animator for Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Pocahontas, and returned to his role as lead animator for Long John Silver in Treasure Planet. In 2003, Keane was named as the director of the 50th animated feature film Tangled. However, due to personal health issues, he stepped down from the role of director, but remained on the film as executive producer and animating director. After 37 years at Disney, Keane retired from the Disney Animation Studios.

March 9

March 9, 1911 – Animator, Member of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and Disney Legend John Lounsbery is Born

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“…very quiet, gentle guy, and what was surprising is the person seemed so reserved and very encouraging in his comments about my drawings, and then I’d look at his drawings, and they were bold! Powerful! I mean, this guy drew with such conviction…” – Animator Glen Keane

On March 9, 1911, John Lounsbery was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. When he was five, his family moved to Colorado. Lounsbery’s talent for animation was evident at an early age, and he was well known in high school for his caricatures and cartoons.  After attending the Art Institute of Denver, Lounsbery attended the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles. An instructor there sent him to interview with Walt Disney. Lounsbery was hired on July 2, 1935, to serve as an assistant animator on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and was paired as an assistant to animator Norm Ferguson, who became his mentor and great inspiration. The team would be assigned to the plum role of the Witch in Snow White. After this, Lounsbery animated Honest John and Gideon as part of Ferguson’s team. Lounsbery’s skills flourished under the next animated feature, Fantasia, where he animated the “Dance of the Hours” sequence; his work is particularly noticeable on the animation of Ben Ali, the main alligator. Lounsbery was then named as one of six animation directors on Dumbo, where his focus was on the interaction scenes between Dumbo and Timothy Mouse. During World War II, Lounsbery stayed at the studio and animated feature films including Victory Through Air Power and The Three Caballeros, and once again served as an animating director on the animated sequences of Song of the South.

In the 1950s, Lounsbery continued to serve as an animation director on animated feature films, including Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. He also animated several memorable characters in these films, including the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, and George Darling in Peter Pan. His work on the partnership of Honest John and Gideon in Pinocchio would be seen again in Lady and the Tramp with his work on the characters Tony and Joe. “John Lounsbery was a brilliant draftsman. In Lady and the Tramp he did Tony and Joe and brought these guys completely to life,” animation director John Musker said in an interview. Truly, Lounsbery was considered a wonderful draftsman who could do justice to any scene that was considered “slapstick,” such as the “Scrumps” scene in Sleeping Beauty, where the minstrel gets drunk on the celebratory wine. “[He] simply had a way of drawing that was as sophisticated as a New Yorker cartoon, and yet he loved slapstick,” said animator Will Finn. “He’s an unsung animator in some ways because people don’t hear his name mentioned as often, but his work on the jester [in Sleeping Beauty] is really one of the highlights of the film for me.” In 1970, Lounsbery was promoted to director for Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too!, and then co-directed The Rescuers with Wolfgang Reitherman and Art Stevens. Unfortunately, Lounsbery died before the films’ release of heart failure during heart surgery. He was named a Disney Legend in 1989.

February 27

February 27, 2005 – The Pixar Film The Incredibles Wins Two Academy Awards

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“Animation is about creating the illusion of life, and you can’t create it if you don’t have one.” – Brad Bird at his acceptance speech

On February 27, 2005, the 77th Academy Awards were held at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, California. Nominated for four Academy Awards, the sixth Pixar film, The Incredibles, walked away with two, including Best Animated Feature, beating out DreamWorks’ Shark Tale and Shrek 2. The Academy was also awarded the Best Sound Editing Oscar to Michael Silvers and Randy Thom, who were nominated against Paul N.J. Ottosson for Spider-Man 2 and Randy Thom and Dennis Leonard for The Polar Express. This would be director Brad Bird’s first Academy Award; he would win again three years later for Ratatouille.

January 11

January 11, 2009 – WALL-E Wins the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature

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“…my group of animators represent your cast of actors that are your invisible actors, your shy actors, and they are a huge part of the charm of WALL-E.” – Andrew Stanton

On January 11, 2009, the 66th Golden Globe awards were held in the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Pixar’s WALL-E was nominated for three awards: Best Original Song (“Down to Earth”), Best Animated Film, and Best Score. The film took home the award for Best Animated Feature, beating out DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda and Disney’s Bolt. After receiving the award, WALL-E director Andrew Stanton said of the film, “What’s interesting is that on [Finding Nemo] it was so huge that I didn’t think that would ever happen again, so it gave me sort of a courage to go, ‘Well, I’m going to make something really eccentric to my tastes that will probably speak to a minority,’ and it’s just ironic that was probably the smartest thing I could have done as far as getting more acclaim and more attention. It was made out of such pure love of cinema, and it’s just really fulfilling for me to see so many people like it for the same reasons I wanted to make it.”