Q&A with Filmmakers
12 Animated Short Films from Walt Disney Animation Studios
Disney Short Films have always been near and dear to my heart. One of my favorite memories of childhood was going to my grandmother’s home in Long Island and watching shorts that would pop up on the Disney Channel. Among my favorite series were Mickey Mouse’s Steamboat Willie, Laugh-O-Grams Fairy Tales and Silly Symphonies. My mother couldn’t afford to pay for the Disney Channel when I was a child, so seeing these were a real treat. They enriched my life and warmed my heart. Thirty years later, Disney Animated Short Films still have the same effect. So, when I was asked to join the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Breakfast with Filmmakers for the DVD/ Blu-ray, HD Digital release of their Short Films Collection, I was elated and honored.
The collection includes:
- Frozen Fever
- Get a Horse
- Tangled Ever After
- The Ballad of Nessie
- Prep & Landing: OPeration Secret Santa
- Tick Tock Tale
- How to Hook Up Your Home Theater
- The Little Matchgirl
- John Henry
Mike Gabriel director, Lorenzo
Mark Henn director, John Henry
Peter Del Vecho producer, Frozen Fever
Dorothy McKim producer, Get a Horse!, The Ballad of Nessie, Tick Tock Tale, Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa
Meeting the Filmmakers
I was halfway through my scrambled eggs when Director Mike Gabriel (Lorenzo), came to our table. He was personable, charming and intelligent. One of the things he spoke to us about was the atmosphere in a room when John Lasseter brainstorms pitches with his team. He said,
John just sits there, quietly analyzing the ideas. He doesn’t make much of anything until something hits him. When that moment of inspiration comes, you can just see him light up and from there he just runs with it. All the magic happens right there in those moments when he’s running with an idea. John is an incredibly brilliant man who has something you can’t teach. What he has you’re just born with.”
Talking to Mike was surreal. I guess you could say it’s like seeing a shooting star in a perfect evening sky. I couldn’t have planned that conversation, but it happened and I’ll never forget it.
Talking with the filmmakers of some of these shorts was an absolute honor. There were a lot of really great questions which shed light on the matters of production, inspiration, favorite shorts, easter eggs and more.
These were my favorite highlights from the Q&A.
Dorothy McKim describes, Get a Horse! as one of her favorite Disney Shorts because of its legacy to Walt Disney. She added in an interesting story which explains that during production John Lasseter pointed out one word that was not Walt Disney. The word “red” was not from Walt Disney’s voice. So Dorothy went back to her sound designer and spent about three months putting together an “ER-EH-DE” from Walt Disney’s library. With the three syllables they were able to make the word “red” so it is in fact 100% Walt.
I found this very interesting, the whole production of the voice. It really amazes me how far technology has taken us. Walt would be proud…
Peter Del Vecho described the research for Frozen Fever at the Ice Hotel in Canada. He told us about how he went for the day and that it was freezing! That having set the short in springtime, it allowed the trip to influence the story.
Mark Henn described the research for John Henry in Talcott, West Virginia. He spoke about his trip to Talcott, and how it really inspired him during the production of the short. Talcott is where the Big Ben tunnel is which is what John Henry supposedly had dug. He said they spent a few days there at the John Henry Festival.
it’s such a small town. It’s just like a big church social, which was a blast. We had such a great time there you could actually see the real tunnel and that was a lot of fun.
Mark said he also went to Washington D.C. to the National Gallery where they pulled out art work related to John Henry which most people don’t get to see.
Mark Henn highlights the Legend of John Henry as an inspiration.
It’s something I think most of us have all grown up with at some level or not. But what I found interesting is the fact that Disney and some of their short films which involved American Tall Tales and Legends actually alluded to John Henry. It is mentioned twice in the title sequence to Johnny Appleseed and Paul Bunion, but they never did anything with it as far as I knew or could find.
From here he described how he knew this would be great to do something with and I’m happy he did. I don’t think there’s enough of our heritage in film. There’s so much in the way of fairy tales but little about our own folklore and legends. I hope Mark is inspired to develop more of our American Tall Tale heritage so we can carry the story telling into decades to come. It’s so important.
Dorothy on the big picture and connecting with the audience.
I mean that’s my ultimate thing is when we just reach out to the entire world and we can help people. People who are sick or are going through certain situations and just to help ‘em and just give ‘em a little lift.
Mike Gabriel described Paper Man as the most visually exciting and stunning with beautiful storytelling.
It blew me away. The shots, the staging, the acting and the action. I thought that was a great piece of work. Some of the most gorgeous cinematography I’d seen in live action or animation.
We learned that Mike is a real “old fuddy duddy on any Easter eggs” he doesn’t like to pollute the message or the emotional moment with these things which I can appreciate. As for existing Easter eggs I learned that one the Snowgies in Frozen Fever resembles Baymax from Big Hero 6. Dorothy McKim told us that in Get a Horse Oswald comes out and peeks through in the end. In the Frozen feature, Peter Del Vecho told us there’s an Easter egg that’s never been found! That was a shocker, challenge accepted Peter!
A cool niblet I found out is the animators like to put themselves (and others on the project) in the films as characters. That is intel I’ve never known! In John Henry Byron Howard (Director of Zootopia), is one of the railroad workers. Mark Henn also makes an appearance in The Little Mermaid as one of the polyps (the one with the mustache).
I thought to myself, “now that’s awesome”. I mean yeah, being a part of the production team on anything for Disney is awesome, not mention a lifetime career in animation, but being in the films as sort of an insider baseball thing… now that’s just outright awesome. It’s just the right amount of added magic that Disney brings to our hearts.
A special thank you to Walt Disney Pictures for flying me out and hosting me as their guest as part of the D23 EXPO blogger team. This in no way shapes my opinions, they are all my own. For a cool read on this Q&A check out my friend Tessa’s take.