Friday, November 7, 2014

First Thirty are the Hardest

There was, apparently, some back-patting being done at the midweek.

The mood was jovial and nostalgic at Wednesday’s Disney Television Animation’s 30th anniversary fete at Burbank’s Walt Disney Studios’ main theater.

The event, hosted by the International Animated Film Association (ASIFA) and Disney’s official fan club D23, featured an enlightening panel discussion moderated by D23’s Jeffrey Epstein with the studio’s award-winning creative talent: Bill Farmer (the voice of “Goofy”), Paul Rudish (executive producer of “Mickey Mouse” cartoon shorts); Jymn Magon (writer of “Duck Tales” and “Darkwing Duck”); Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh (co-executive producers of “Phineas and Ferb”); Rob LaDuca (executive producer of “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”); and Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle (co-creators/executive producers of “Kim Possible”). ...

I was working in Disney Feature Animation when Disney tVA got launched.

It was the middle of 1984, and starting the division (which was Michael Eisner's brain wave) made perfect sense. Lots of money was being made by other studios in TV animation. There was no reason that Disney, the king of cartoons, shouldn't jump in and do the same.

Except some people in feature animation thought it was a terrible idea that destroyed the Disney legacy of quality animation. (My friend Chuck Richardson, who worked in Disney publicity, dug up an old Saturday Evening Post article that quoted Disney saying he had no desire to get into TV animation. "I turned out crude shorts back in the twenties," Walt said. "I have no desire to go back to doing animation like that."

But Michael Eisner did.

The purists weren't happy, but the division was profitable from the get-go. Gummi Bears, Duck Tales and a plethora of other series were being turned out hand over fist. The division expanded, then expanded again.

Ten years after it started there were forty writers on staff, and lots more production board artists. Disney Television Animatino was housed on the main lot and off the main lot in multiple buildings in three different Valley cities.

Today Diz TVA lives in two buildings in Glendale and Burbank, and cranks out solid animation performers that make the Berkshire-Hathaway of entertainment conglomerates steady profits.

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