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The Tad Stones Interview — Part 1

Joe Strike talks to Tad Stones about his thirtysome years in animation, from Eric Larsons training program at Disney, his work on EPCOT, the influence of Jeffrey Katzenberg, Disney TV Animation and now his new project, Brer Rabbit, at Universal Cartoon Studios.

Tad Stones, seen above during production of The Black Cauldron, was part of the group that inherited the Disney animation mantle from the Nine Old Men.

Introduction

In the mid 1970s, the reign of Disneys fabled Nine Old Men was nearing its end. The team of master animators who had been by Walts side since Snow White was nearing retirement age, and it was time to recruit and train a new generation.

These days, the young artists who joined Disney during that period could be referred to as the Middle Aged Mob. Their names are familiar to any student or fan of Disney feature output over the last 20 years: Ron Clements, John Musker, Burny Mattinson, John Lasseter and so many others. One name may not be as familiar, even though his contribution to Disneys overall animation efforts quite possibly equals or surpasses that of his peers.

Thats what happens when you wind up working for Disneys TV Animation division instead of on the companys high-prestige, higher profile animated features. In Tad Stones case, however, it just might have been the perfect match of man and material. A lover of silver-age comic books and related pop culture, with a restless energy always looking for fresh challenges, Tads name may be most familiar to fans of the daily Disney half-hour animated adventures syndicated to local channels from the late 1980s through the mid-90s.

Those shows broke away from the toy product-based G.I. Joe and He-Man series that preceded them, and set the stage for the character- and creator-driven shows that fill todays first-run animation channels. They also revitalized the funny animal genre and brought anthropomorphic cartoon characters, a staple of animation since the mediums birth, back into the spotlight. The sheer volume of Tads work as an animation writer/producer/director outpaced the studios feature production long ago, while still delivering the characterization and first-rate storytelling that is the hallmark of Disneys best work.

Like Zelig or Forrest Gump, Tad had the knack of being there as the Disney studio, and the entire animation industry went through a series of transformative changes. Unlike those fictional characters who were spectators to history, Tads talent and vision helped to shape those times.

In late March 2004, I called Tad Stones at his new home at Universal Cartoon Studios to find out what hes been up to after ending a close to 30-year association with Disney and to learn why Darkwing Duck keeps a statue of the Great Mouse Detective on his end table

Brer Rabbit

Joe Strike: What are you up to over at Universal?

Snow White marked an end of an era for Disney as the Nine Old Men reached retirement age. © Disney.

Tad Stones: Im producing a direct-to-video feature about Brer Rabbit. We go back to the folk tales via a series of books by Julius Lester that dropped the southern dialect. We have an all black cast thats just fantastic Danny Glover, D.L. Hughley, Wayne Brady, Wanda Sykes they did a great, very funny job. Byron Vaughns is the director.

Its a great transitional project for me because the script was done and handed to me. I gave a few notes for rewrite. It wasnt until I actually got the storyboard that I said, Gee Id really like to rewrite this, but only because the script was great, they had these great animal characters but they were icons. Now in storyboard were going in and giving them more unique personalities.

Were using the actor, and drawings and gags to add more to them. Brer Fox thinks hes the smartest and most sophisticated guy, and wears an oversized coat that he thinks fits him but obviously doesnt. D.L. Hughley does Brer Fox, and Brer Wolf is played by Wayne Brady, who came in and did this kind of hillbilly/surfer dude from the backwoods, a very likeable character, but several degrees of intelligence lower than Brer Fox.

The movie isnt one story, its several Brer Rabbit stories, but what the writer, John Lloyd did was brilliant. He actually arranged the stories in an order that simulate a character arc of a feature film. In the early stories hes this poor guy that everyones trying to eat him. Then you see how good he is at getting away, and then he gets too full of himself, and then everyone turns their back on him, and he realizes, Ive got no friends, nobody trusts me because Ive pulled tricks on everybody. Then he redeems himself, but right when you think its a happy ending, a couple of bad guys team up and the big finish is the tar baby story. Well use music, direction and whatnot to make the sequence grimmer maybe thats a harsh word, but itll seem a more serious threat, even though by nature of the folk tales, every folk tale is basically someone is smart enough to catch him and dumb enough to be fooled by him.

JS: So itll be a happy ending but no, no spoilers please.

TS: Lets put it this way, we hope that this is the first of another franchise.

JS: A direct-to-video franchise?

TS: This is a big step for Universal because theyve never done a direct-to-video that isnt based on a feature film. Its a challenge because we dont have any bigger budget than any of those other ones do, yet we dont have a feature film to take the model packs, the art direction or the color design from. We basically have to do all that on the fly.

Along with Stones, John Lasseter was one of the “Middle Aged Mob” that preceded the Nine Old Men. Photo courtesy of Disney.

JS: Is it a 2D or a CGI project?

TS: Its in 2D.

JS: I assume youre going to make people forget about Song of the South.

TS: Were more self-conscious about that than anybody else, because when you think about it kids havent had a chance to see it at all its been several generations since theyve released the film. If youre a collector maybe you have the Japanese laserdisc or the British video.

It had some of the nicest, liveliest animation that Disney ever did. Unfortunately, its buried under this practically unwatchable movie.

JS: The live-action story does not hold up very well.

TS: and if it wasnt for Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah fewer people would know the film; that song really kept it alive. When you look at how much animation is in the movie, its surprising how little there is; I doubt if theres even 15 minutes. Theres like three sequences and theyre not that long.

JS: It also has some combined live-action/animation scenes that puts a lot of their later work to shame in that area. This is going to be a more edgy version?

TS: I wouldnt say edgy; were just staying to the folk tales. Disney basically did their thing with their characters. I can see why they made choices like combining characters or making Brer Bear very, very stupid because he played off Brer Fox better. Our Brer Bear is back to the folk tales: hes not that dumb; hes kind of a gentle guy. We obviously cant copy the Disney film in any way. We put on our hat, go back to the source material heres the script youre given I didnt develop the script at all. Lets make this the most entertaining little thing we can, and as we work with a certain schedule and a certain budget, we go back and put a little extra effort, a little more personality and stuff. Its something brand new for me.

Personally, the way I like to work, what I really enjoyed back in the prime days of TV animation like the Disney Afternoon, it was great having a staff of talented people you worked with. So I would do a drawing, but then Im going to hand it off to this guy who is better at that particular kind of drawing. I would add a color note, but, okay, this person colors much better than me.

I was like a kind of renaissance man I do everything in a mediocre way. My main talent is recognizing talent and encouraging talent. Thats exciting for me to develop them and push them forward. These days when business is done on a project-by-project basis, I dont get to take the new artists and develop them along. I need somebody whos going to hit the ground running on this, somebody I trust, who can do this in this amount of time, for this amount of money and out the door.

Whats great about the Universal management is theyre very artist-oriented. Theyre very at least so far supportive. You make them understand the direction you want to go, youre clear about it, you discuss it and then its like, great, do your job, thank you. They look at rough animation, rough storyboards and they understand what it is. You dont spend all your time cleaning up, coloring, adding music, doing temporary sound effects, something thats become very common in the industry. Its as if everybodys afraid to make a decision, so they want it as close to the final product as possible so theres less guesswork involved. But, of course, youre spending all sorts of money thats not going to get on the screen, whereas back in the old days you just pointed at pictures on the storyboard, and that was it.

JS: How did you wind up at Universal working on Brer Rabbit?

TS: Tom Ruzicka, the head of Universal Cartoon Studios knew me from Disney Television Animation. Tom was in charge of production in the very first days of the Disney Afternoon. When he left he said, I want to work with you in the future. As soon as he heard I was free of Disney he immediately brought me over here for any number of projects. I interviewed for everything from Van Helsing direct-to-video half hours, which John Kafka is producing, Curious George and, finally, Brer Rabbit came up, which obviously fit me.

JS: Whats your specific role on the project?

TS: Im the producer. I keep watch on the overall tone: I work closely with Byron on the direction. I did the key character designs because Ive done it before, and other people are following me up. I look over every storyboard. Basically I operate as I did when I had a series with three directors under me.

JS: Thats going to keep you in one place for a while.

TS: Its an ongoing thing Ive been doing for a year-and-a-half now. The new way the industry works is you dont look to stay in any one place anymore. Instead of term contracts, we all work project-to-project, so no matter how much you love a project while youre working on it, youre always making phone calls, youre always talking to other people about projects. There are some other things I have in the hopper that I would love to come to fruition. They may overlap this job, because by design theres a very slow time when youre creating a direct-to-video, and thats when it goes overseas for animation. During that time you make yourself useful. I hope to pitch some projects to Universal and be looking elsewhere too.

Post-Disney, Tad got to work with Stan Winston (above) on Robot Revolt.

Tad, Stan and Revolting Robots

JS: What else have you been doing since The Disney Afternoon wrapped?

TS: My last day at Disney was February 26, 2003. I did one small development project for them that didnt get too far. Then I did a direct-to-video Scooby-Doo script Scooby-Doo and the Anime Invasion. I think it needs a title change, because evidently kids loved the concept but moms werent sure about it. In the past Id worked on parts of scripts, or storyboarded parts of my direct-to-videos. This was the first one that I sat down and top to bottom and wrote from blank page to final script. It was a lot of fun to work with those characters.

Then I did some jobs I would normally give to somebody else: some art pitching materials and a half-hour script for a Disney show called Super Robot Monkey Force Go!

Meanwhile I had some interesting opportunities. I think I got to meet everybody in the industry I didnt know. I met and worked with Stan Winston that was really neat. Suddenly Im talking to somebody whose work Ive always admired. I was sitting in a room with dinosaurs and aliens and the man who made them, and Im thinking this is pretty darn cool. He showed me what were in essence action figures that had no story. Rather than tack on a preconceived idea or something out of a trunk, I looked at everything that was unique about the figures and tried to create a story that explains why they look the way they do. Its basically written for videogame- age viewers, mid-teens or later. It wasnt about trying to fit a market; it was about whats right for these sculptures.

JS: What genre are they?

TS: Actually, theyre on Stans Website look for Robot Revolt and youll see the figures. Stan and I developed it and Japan is very interested in it; theres a studio thats talking about doing at least a pilot, a toy line and all that. What we gave them was a science-fiction adventure set in the future - the solar system under attack. Its in the vein of shows like Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5 or Star Trek. They may choose to go a different direction, we havent gotten a lot of feedback yet. Well see what happens.

Back to the Past

JS: Lets jump in the Time Top and go way back to the beginning. How did you wind up in animation?

TS: I always loved animation, I loved cartoons and comic strips and comic books. I remember being very young and buying the original Bob Thomas Art of Animation book at Disneyland that was all about the making of Sleeping Beauty. It was actually the second edition of the book; in the first edition Walt had kind of an epilog that as I remember was pretty damn depressing: Well, animation is getting so expensive and now were experimenting with audio-animatronics. It was kind of like how people talk today about CGI replacing 2D animation.

Then the Xerox process was perfected [permitting the animators original drawings to be transferred directly onto transparent cels] and suddenly animation was cheaper to do again. Suddenly the epilog was a lot more optimistic. Thankfully I had that edition.

My interest in animation went way back to that and the Walter Foster/Preston Blair book, which was also every animators bible. Even in the professional industry I could walk down halls and see the old tattered copies of that.

I got the idea the place you want to work in animation is Disney, but theyve got their guys and theres not going to be any work until they die off which, amazingly, though, was kind of accurate. As far back as Bambi, Roy Disney Sr. was saying, Weve done enough of these, we can keep re-releasing them. There was always this thing, Are we flooding the market? There came a time when Walt was very interested in theme parks but he said No, I started the business with these guys; lets keep it going for them.

stones06_littleMermaid.jpgstones07_BeautyBeast.jpgstones08_Aladdin_stare_Lamp.jpg

In Stones opinion, The Little Mermaid (top left), Beauty and the Beast (top right) and Aladdin (bottom left) all exemplify great story, strong themes and great visual gags. From left to right: © The Walt Disney Co.; © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved; and Courtesy of Disney Pictures, © Disney Enterprises Inc.

We were told by some of the Nine Old Men [Disneys legendary team of original animators] that when Walt died they figured their walking papers were going to follow soon. But The Jungle Book turned out to be a huge hit; suddenly they were asked, Well whats next? so they kept on going. Finally I think it was when Card Walker was president of the company they said Are you guys making any plans to train new people? and the response was kind of like Uh, err... .

Eric Larson created a training program for them. It just so happened that the girl I was dating in college, whos now my wife, her roommate was the daughter of [Disney animation artist] X Attencio and she knew about the training program, which at that time was just starting up at WED division of the company, which is now known as Imagineering. I called up just trying to get information and the head of the program said, Can you come in next Thursday? Uh-uh-uh-uh. and we want to see your portfolio. Well, I wasnt an art major at the time, so I had to go back and do new life drawings, new sketches and all that and I brought that stuff in.

JS: What time was this?

TS: This would be 1974.

JS: I assume living out in L.A. you were sort of surrounded by the entertainment industry to start with.

TS: I was actually born across the street from the studios maybe it was destiny. The training program was basically Eric Larson in one room and all of us in the other. When I entered I shared the room with Andy Gaskill, Ron Clements, Alan Huck, who left Disney and worked in the industry at several different studios. In the next room was I think was Jim George, John Pomeroy, Dick Sebast was there. That was when I was accepted and met all the guys. They were currently working on Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. By the time I came back from the training program they had all gotten offices and become inbetweeners.

That was in 1974. Basically it was an eight-week training program. You did four weeks of animation and showed a test, and hopefully you survived into the second four weeks, did a test and then started as an inbetweener. What was strange about this is actually Don Bluth was there at the time and said what was strange about that is youre trying to learn and do it at the same time. Imagine trying to learn the trumpet: somebody teaches you where to put your fingers and at the same time says, OK, now were going to play a John Philip Sousa march. How are you supposed to learn like that? But we kind of had to do it at the same time. Luckily I knew a lot about animation from the Preston Blair and Bob Thomas books and I felt I had kind of a leg up on some of the guys coming in.

JS: You could tell that The Jungle Book and a lot of the later films were missing Walts story sense. They did not have that fantastic story construction that he was so good with.

TS: Theres a side of animation and animators that really enjoys the performance, the gag but doesnt necessarily know how to craft a storyline. Ron Clements once said to me about Woolie Reitherman that Woolie was great at making what was on the screen at any given moment fun, enjoyable, but a couple of hours after you left the theater you werent sure what you had seen.

Thats what was really missing. It didnt really come back in a major way until Jeffrey Katzenberg came in and kind of shook up things. What I really appreciated about that transition is that when people talked about animation within Disney, even from management, youd always get this, animated films are a different kind of thing, theyre not like movies. Don Bluth used to say theyre like plays or silent movies. Ron Clements was one of the people whod say Its a movie, that gets projected up on the screen.

When Jeffrey came, he was looking at footage from The Black Cauldron and he asked, Do you have this from another angle? Everybody laughed and said, We could draw it from a different angle, and he laughed too. But everybody was kind of, Boy, the guy didnt know it, hes kind of ignorant. But what I loved about the story that people didnt get was Jeffrey was looking at it as a movie the shot would work better from another angle. In his mind it was on film, it goes thru a projector, it plays up on a screen in a movie theater Guys, thats a movie. I want a story arc, I want a solid script.

You can argue that that system has been abused by how its interpreted. If you do it wrong you lose the visual strength that animation should have. But you also gain things with it. If you do it correctly, as in my opinion, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin did, youre getting the best of both worlds; youre getting a much stronger storyline, a stronger theme and youre getting great gags and great visual set-ups because at the same time you kind of developed the story in the traditional way of putting sequences together for their visual storytelling.

A lot of times I talk to people and they dont understand how we did the story before we had a script. Well, you kind of had a storyline that got hashed out in talking and in meetings, and they even put a drawing down that represented each sequence: you would say, This is the sequence that represents the fox and the hound meeting, or playing hide and seek or one of them in a house and one trapped outside. Then somebody comes in and has a meeting. They say, Oh that hide and seek game looks interesting lets expand that. Then you think of every hide and seek gag you can do.

Then they say, I like these gags, I like that gag, I dont like this. Then you start crafting a sequence together. Because of the way you did it, it is very visual. You can now go in and layer in dialog, real character moments. But youve constructed the story visually.

The weakness of that process is that initial outline that youre starting with. As long as you have a strong person at the top, whether its Walt or the writer who is constructing the overall thing, man, thats the best way to develop a picture.

JS: You worked a lot in features before you went over to TV.

TS: The feature that was going on when I came was the original Rescuers. How you got ahead after surviving the training program, you were just an inbetweener and you would stay there forever until you showed a personal test that you did in your spare time.

Well, its a young mans medium, preferably an unmarried young man.

JS: Yeah, Its 4:00 am and Im still working on my test.

TS: For my second test I actually did a kind of a Black Cauldron thing that went over well, but I showed it with Ron Clements third test. He had been there something like six months, and he did a Cruella DeVille test that was absolutely amazing. He was told that by some of the Nine Old Men not in front of Marc Davis, of course that it could have been in the feature film. Ron told me, I didnt want to hear that, Im just starting out. Nobody knows because he went into story and then directing, that he was an incredible animator. On The Fox and the Hound he was given Big Mama. By nature of the story and her design it didnt give him a chance to show off. But had he gotten a human, he wouldve it was just amazing how good he was. I remember Frank and Ollie coming into our room and saying, Heres the two master animators and of course they went right to Ron.

Six months later maybe more than that the manager of the department says, You know how much everybody likes your second test. I said, Well actually, no. Everybody was so excited about Rons, nobody told me about mine. He hadnt shown my first test because he didnt want to blow it for me.

Thats a side story. You got ahead by doing personal tests. I was doing personal tests, but I always had a better idea, I thought. So I would put what I was working on aside, and do a little more, then wonder, What if I do this one? Finally there was one day, I had done a pretty elaborate test, I think, with Madame Mim and Merlin. I had done it and Ed Hansen, who was the manager of the dept. stopped in. I asked him, I was thinking about going back and finishing this up. Do you think theres any point to it? He looked at it and said, Thats great! God, we had just about given up on you. My heart practically stopped. I was like, Did no one think to tell me this? Gee Tad, we havent noticed anything from you.

The Fox and the Hound

I finally moved up to assistant animator, but at the same time I took stock of where I was going. I realized I enjoyed creating characters or deciding what they were doing more than making them do it. I was telling someone this morning that one of the most magical parts of animation that I love is rolling the drawings on an animation desk to see actually see your drawings coming to life five pages at a time. Ive never lost that I have the fun of a playing with a flipbook like a little kid. However, as much as I love that, when it came down to doing a test it wasnt as much fun. I think thats the definition of a story guy, so I was able to move into story on The Fox and the Hound, although I didnt get credited which is a sore point because they credited the worm as Himself, but -

JS: The worm?

TS: There is a worm in that movie, and he actually gets a credit, I forget his name, something like Wiggles. Someones trying to eat him, its a running gag and I didnt get a credit after doing the story on it. While they were determining credits the directors had changed on the movie, I did all my work for Woolie Reitherman, the new directors came in and, meanwhile, I had moved onto Imagineering.

Anyway, I moved into story on The Fox and the Hound. I worked closely with Mel Shaw and all the story guys. I took some sequences that were already done, tried to save the animation as we steered the sequences in a whole new direction. There was some great animation by Frank Thomas, but the story had been changed. They had this great animation and they said, If we took the story this way we could save some of that animation.

I remember it being between Copper and Chief after Chiefs accident. The older dog was trying to use the accident as a way to turn Copper against his friend. I forget whether that was before or after the decision had been made to have Chief live; for a while they were going to kill him.

JS: A major subplot of that film is the old dog resenting being replaced by the young one. I wonder if that reflected something going on at the studio about the younger generation of animators coming in around that time?

TS: Its interesting that at a certain point Chief teaches the younger dog to do things his way: Youre not friends with this fox, you carry on a vendetta. This is second- or third-hand, but I was told that in the days the Nine Old Men were the kings of the studio. It didnt matter how talented you were, there were only a certain number of key spots you were going to get up to; you got to a certain level and that was it. There were a number of people who were held at that second level and that was it. Not because they were held down, but because thats as good as they were.

By the time the new training program was started in the 70s, the guys were looking toward their retirement years and suddenly they were everybodys uncle, everybodys grandfather. I look back on that and Im sorry I didnt take more advantage of their knowledge. I always felt like Im bothering you if I knock on your door and chat. I shouldve they wouldve been happy to do that.

I never got anything signed by the guys because I felt like I was working with these people; I shouldnt be bothering them for autographs. But at the end of the day, my Art of Disney book is not signed and all my friends have theirs signed.

JS: You mention Woolie Reitherman was the original director on Fox and the Hound, but Ted Berman and Richard Rich are credited as the films directors.

TS: And Art Stevens.

JS: Was there a creative decision when Woolie left, or was it when he died in a car crash?

TS: It was before that they switched over. The studio was worrying that he wasnt handing things over to the younger people they had been training. What they wanted was for him to open it up, but outside of Rich Rich, they gave it to these guys whove been around, from our perspective, a billion years; how is that a change? Ironically, I think Fox and the Hound was Woolies strongest picture outside of the Charo sequence.

JS: Which sequence?

TS: Charo? I dont know if I told you this before. Fox and the Hound had some really strong elements and it was very dynamic.

JS: I remember the bear fight at the waterfall.

TS: That was one of the things that was added later. Everything that was the weaker side of Woolie Reitherman pictures Phil Harris, a dance sequence... Literally there was a dance sequence. When the two foxes are falling in love they hear music and they part some reeds and they see a disco sequence.

Heres this very shy crane all alone, and they feel sorry for her. Theyre just watching this for the most part. And then this goofy crane comes out, he was Phil Harris. Once he gets her to dance she blossoms, and shes played by Charo. They go into this dance and then the foxes are up on hind legs, the fireflies look like a disco ball. Then the sequence ended and reeds went back together and they went on with the story.

When Art took over one of the first things they did was just cut that sequence. There are people who still love that picture they love what got up on the screen. I thought the previous incarnation was really strong, the only thing that got stronger was the bear fight, which was John Lasseter, he worked on that.

EPCOT Days

After I did an educational film called Health and Alcohol Abuse, for the studios education division they said, Wed like you to try going over to WED [Disneys theme park design department]. Were doing this thing called EPCOT, which is entertainment and education. That was the fun part of the Disney organization that it did entertainment in all these different forms. It was nothing I ever thought Id be going into, but I loved the old, behind the scenes episodes of the Disneyland TV series and heres the Jungle Cruise, and heres the Small World model, and whatever. So I go over there and a lot of those people who were in those old TV shows were sitting there in the model shop.

The major project I did there, which ironically is no longer in the park, was The World of Motion, kind of an audio-animatronic tour through history. The best part of that was for about nine months I was in an 8x12 room with Ward Kimball, which was like sitting with a time machine. He was quite a storyteller, not only about Walt, but about his childhood, which he was drawing from in his work: This is the way the old ice trucks looked, this is how we used to do a go-cart.

In the early ‘80s, Stones was pulled from animation to work on special projects for EPCOT. © 2001 The Walt Disney Co.

So that was a lot of fun again, learning entertainment from a whole different direction. You still had a sense of whats Disney, but there was a whole different way of thinking about your audience. You may think you have a sophisticated group coming through, but in reality its like that little kid with ice cream around his mouth pointing at something on a ride, Look mommy thats fun, its got to work for that kid, for the whole family. It was a very interesting time, although I left it right when we were getting to the fun part of actually constructing it and seeing it come to life. I worked on the Imagination pavilion for Kodak, they signed off on everything and thats when I was called back to the studio; this was in 1982, the year EPCOT opened.

I did a little stint in live action, and for the life of me there was a good year where I have no idea why they were giving me a paycheck. I gave advice to the TV division when they did anything relating to traditional Disney animation. I worked on a Donald Duck 50th Anniversary special with Dick Van Dyke that combined live action and animation, that was fun.

I was originally called into live action to do EPCOT specials. Management told the companies that had built pavilions, Give us another million and well have a network special on the theme of your pavilion the week EPCOT opens.

Well, management was living in dreamland. They were thinking back in the days when the networks were begging Walt to do anything for them. Walt went to ABC back in the 50s and said, Ill do a show for you, but its got to be called Disneyland and every once in a while Im going to promote my park. They said, Fine, fine, anything.

Management had that in mind, they had some great documentary guys working on it and I came in to kind of Disneyfy it. The specifics dont matter because it never happened. They went to the networks and said, The first week of October were doing this huge promotion when we open EPCOT, and five days that week youll have hour specials on Transportation! The Land! Energy! The networks looked at them and said Yknow, we have our own news divisions to do low-rated documentaries. I finally headed back to the animation department and was there right when Jeffrey [Katzenberg] and Michael [Eisner] came in.

They had me and a couple of other guys come in to pitch ideas. I had two full storyboards in color on two different subjects. One of the writers just kind of put his pad down, because he was in the stage of saying, What if... Mickey buys a house, or something? One of my boards was Mickey in Outer Space and the other was Sport Goofy. They thought it was great and put it in development and started doing story reels. Darrell van Citters and his crew took it over, because at the time it was thought Darrell and his crew would do Roger Rabbit. This was way before Dick Williams came in. They did a pencil test where the characters were totally different, including an animated human detective a totally different project.

Darrells crew included Mike Giamo, Joe Ranft, whos now a key storyperson up at Pixar, Brian McEntee, who was an art director on Beauty and the Beast. It was a great group and Darrels a very creative thinker. They also did a little short subject, again for the EPCOT specials. Because there was going to be animation in them, we started production on it early before we knew the network was going to laugh at us. The plug was pulled and Tom Wilhite, who was in the Disney movie side let us put it together as a short subject called Fun with Mr. Future.

Joe Strike is a NYC-based writer/producer with a background in TV promotion and a lifelong interest in animation. He is writing a childrens novel.

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