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Working with Walt Disney: 'You want to see the frog?'


Walt Disney
Jules Engel Film-maker
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When Walt was in the studio, everybody high-walked, you know? It was all... I remember first time I bumped into him and I said, 'Mr Disney, how...' He said, 'No, it's Walt' .Well, that's nice, you know? 'Okay, Walt.' You know? But the point is that he lived, he ate, he drank, whatever else there is about animation, that was his gut. He was not even a real person, he was so involved with that... that world. Everything was a dream world, you know? Or his dream... his dream. And at the same time, he's still was a nice person, he had his friends, you know? But... but in as much as he was responsible of all those early, good films, you know, still he never really took that big credit: 'Film by Walt Disney'. It was always a film of whatever but never 'by Walt Disney', it was something else. And also the... the people that he... see, when he came into the room to look at the storyboard and stuff, and he had three or four people with him, and they were all head... heads of department. But none of them ever said anything, all the time that I was there and I experienced that when he came in with his entourage, the four others, you know, they just sat there, they never said anything. Or nor would they dare to say, 'No, Walt', you know? So and… and you have to realize that this man, Walt, he really lives that world.

And he also did a lot of... look into what this is all about. In other words, what is the movement about? What is all this about? That... that the Disney films, at that time, projected. But as the majority of the talent who came there, they were just talent but they didn't have this love or feeling for movement, of what film is about. But Walt did have, he looked into it, he looked into it, he was thinking about it, you know? And so he was able to help the new people who came into the studio. He never hurt them, physically. I… I don't mean physically. He never hurt them with a word, or 'you're stupid', you know? That didn't take place. He simply explained to that person what this scene is all about. And so... so he had that going and he know where he is going. The majority of talent was just people who'd picked up a piece of something and they worked on it something and they put it in a pot and eventually it was a feature. But... but while they were working on that little piece, whatever that was, Walt would eventually look at the material, it was a yes or no or how it can be better. So... so he was meanwhile teaching them. But that was very interesting because very few people realized what he was doing. He was teaching them. He didn't bawl them out, he didn't have any bad words or anything like that. But he was teaching them and they learned from him. And this is very important to understand, they learned from him. And... and although some of the people that he visited their... their work, he never got angry or ugly with words or anything like that. If he really didn't like the damn thing, then the whole damn thing came off the wall, put it in a box and put 'em away someplace and let's start the whole damn thing again, up from all over... from the very beginning. That was Walt.

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: Tamara Tracz Bill Moritz

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

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.

Tags: Walt Disney

Duration: 4 minutes, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008