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Working at Disney: being on the outside


The first 'in'. Working on 'Fantasia': the importance of dance
Jules Engel Film-maker
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The first job, I think, I would say, was Disney, the Fantasia, and they wanted me to do a storyboard on the Chinese dance. What happened, that some… some of my friends are working at Disney and they knew my love for animation because it has something to do with the world of dancing, you know? So I did that kind of approach even to my drawing. Instead of having one drawing, I made maybe three or four drawings and actually, you know, it ends up, it looks like animation. But primarily it was because I was in love with movement, and because of that, it propelled me into animation. And… and so that was the beginning of drawing. But when they promoted me to Disney and Disney saw my drawings, they hired me to do the storyboard on the mushrooms… on the mushrooms. 'Course that led into a lot of trouble because, by that time, Disney was almost finished with Fantasia, about 85%. So they had a couple of things here and there like the Russian dance, the Chinese dance, the mushrooms, you know? Whatever that was. So I had some drawings, so they hired me to do a storyboard on the Chinese dance, which was the mushroom. The mushroom was drawn but the people who were working that time on that aspect of a film, they never saw ballet. They just never saw ballet and they worked at Disney on Fantasia and that was a problem for me, with them, because we talked two different languages - the ones who have seen and one who have not seen. But the ones who have not seen, run the shop on… on this segment of Fantasia. So when I got into that world, naturally there was a certain amount of animosity because these people have been together for all these months and months and months and here they bring in a new guy - was me, to do this, because they had problem with the mushrooms, to create really a kind of choreography that would enhance Fantasia. So that was the first in into that world, you know?

The late Hungarian-American film-maker Jules Engel is best known for his contribution to the field of animation. His work includes the dance sequences in Walt Disney's 'Fantasia' and the creation of 'Mr Magoo'. His films and lithographs are housed in museums all over the world and have won many awards.

Listeners: Bill Moritz Tamara Tracz

William Moritz received his doctorate from USC and pursues parallel careers as filmmaker and writer. His forty-four experimental and animation films have been screened at museums in Paris, Amsterdam and Tokyo, among others. He published widely on Oskar Fischinger, James Whitney, Bruce Conner, the Fleischers and 200 pages of animation history for an AbsolutVodka website. He wrote chapters for the "Oxford History of Cinema", appeared in several television documentaries, curated art exhibits and received a lifetime achievement trophy from the Netherlands Royal Academy for his work with visual music. He has served on film festival juries and received an American Film Institute filmmaking grant. His poetry and plays are also performed and published. He is a leading expert of Oskar Fischinger and recently published a biography of him. He teaches at The California Institute of the Arts.

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Tags: Fantasia, Walt Disney

Duration: 2 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008