Disney's The Fox and the Hound: The Coming of the Next Generation
The Exodus in Mid-Stream The Next Chapter
By 1979 the field was clearing for the Young Turks, but factions had developed in their ranks. It's one thing to give complete obedience to a silver haired legend who created Captain Hook, quite another when someone who sat in class next to you is now a supervisor demanding the same unquestioning discipline.
There was a group devoted to Don Bluth and his vision for revitalizing the studio. They worked after hours in Don's garage on an independent short Banjo the Woodpile Cat. Another group worried about his influence. Bluthies vs. Mouseketeers. The room where Bill Kroyer, Brad Bird, Henry Selick and John Musker worked was dubbed the "Rat's Nest" by their detractors. They had a meeting with Ron Miller about the future of the studio that Bluth may have interpreted as a challenge to his authority.
Finally, Don decided the films he desired to make couldn't be done at Disney. On his birthday, September 13, 1979, Don Bluth, Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy entered Ron Miller's office and tended their resignations. One third of the staff followed suit. Miller was outraged. He felt personally betrayed by these artists, all of whom had been nurtured and painstakingly trained to take their role as Disney lifetime employees.
Miller ordered all of the resigners off the studio property by noon that same day. Gathering the remaining staff he began a speech with: "Now that the cancer has been excised..." The Bluth group went on to build their studio and be Disney's chief competition for the next decade.
Miller pushed the release date for The Fox and the Hound back from Christmas 1980 to summer 1981. New artists were hired and promoted to fill the ranks. To make up for the lack of experience of the new animators much of the quality control would rely upon a corps of veteran assistant animators (clean-up artists) -- Tom Ferriter, Walt Stanchfield, Chuck Williams, Dave Suding and more. Like master sergeants their solid reliability would bring the project to completion.
Still more young talent not associated with Bluth but tired of the infighting left the studio. Andy Gaskill, Bill Kroyer, Dan Haskett, Brad Bird and more. Animator Glen Keane began a reputation for himself by re-storyboarding and animating the bear fight sequence. I've been told the original storyboards were even more dramatic but were toned down by the directors for fear of losing their family "G" rating. However, even Keane left the studio for awhile.
Will Finn was an inbetweener who was let go after animator Linda Miller left to go with Bluth. He asked the personnel director who was firing him, "Are there ever cases of someone who was fired ever coming back?" The old man smiled, "Well, yes, but I don't think so in your case." Despite that he did return eight years later as a master animator, creating Cogsworth, Iago and Gimsby for Disney. He is currently co-directing DreamWorks' El Dorado.
The Fox and the Hound finally opened to not spectacular, but good box office and critical acclaim. The studio moved on to Black Cauldron which at one point was slated to be the directorial debut of John Musker and Ron Clements, however the older directors Art Stevens, Ted Berhman and Richard Rich convinced Miller and producer Joe Hale to keep them as the directors. Musker and Clements went on to develop Basil of Baker Street. Black Cauldron failed disastrously in 1984.
Disney Chairman Ron Miller was ousted in the famous 1984 takeover that spawned the Roy Disney-Eisner-Katzenberg era. Today, Miller and his family own Silverado Vineyards in Napa Valley and make a nice chardonnay. Richard Rich opened his own studio and created The Swan Princess in 1995.
The Exodus in Mid-Stream
The Next Chapter