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Oscar Tour LA Day 4: We’re Going to Disney

The final day of the 2011 Oscar tour was the busiest of all – morning at the Disney ARL, lunch, 2 screenings and several tours throughout the afternoon, followed by the AWN-Acme Oscar party Friday evening. You could sense the animators were getting a bit antsy, greeting the same questions with the same answers for the umpteenth time, their smiling faces showing traces of exhaustion and anxiety as they silently counted down to the Oscars on Sunday. No rest for the weary however as things really were just getting started.

Looking across the Disney Legends Plaza to the 7 Dwarfs holding up the roof of the Eisner building.

Written by Dan Sarto

The final day of the 2011 Oscar tour was the busiest of all – morning at the Disney ARL, lunch, 2 screenings and several tours throughout the afternoon, followed by the AWN-Acme Oscar party Friday evening.  You could sense the animators were getting a bit antsy, greeting the same questions with the same answers for the umpteenth time, their smiling faces showing traces of exhaustion and anxiety as they silently counted down to the Oscars on Sunday.  No rest for the weary however as things really were just getting started.

Deb Stone, who marshaled us around the ARL, took over again when we reconvened at the Feature Animation building.  We knew the schedule by heart – introduce a lunchtime screening, tour the studio during the screening, take photos of forbidden concept art, circle back to the screening for Q&A, eat, continue the tour, get a VIP glimpse of something cool (in this case, crowding into Eric Goldberg’s office for a personal screening of some finished Winnie The Pooh feature footage on his computer) and then soldier on to the next studio. 

However, the tour stop at Disney is always enjoyable and this year was no different.  2 screenings, not just 1, were scheduled – for feature animation as well as for Disney TV.  We bumped into and got a chance to talk a bit with Ed Catmull, who sack lunch in hand sat in on the first screening.  We talked a bit with Andy Hendrickson, the CTO, who I met last May at FMX in Stuttgart.  I met Dan Candela, Disney’s Director, Technology, who works for Andy – we talked at length during lunch about Open Source cg production software and some of the challenges faced in managing and planning ahead for the requisite infrastructure and support needed for feature animation.  Later in the afternoon we met up with Eric Coleman, head of TV animation, who I met years ago when he was at Nickelodeon. 

Of course, we met up with Dawn Rivera-Ernster, Disney’s Director of Talent Development, one of the truly nicest and helpful people I’ve met in 15 years in this business.  She’s been a big supporter of the Oscar Showcase Tour as well as the annual Animation Show of Shows and this year is no different. 

Our tour took us all through the feature animation studio, the Frank Wells building, some of the backlot, the Disney Legends Plaza, steam-pipe filled underground halls which lead to the old Disney archives, nicknamed “The Morgue” and a number of other stops. 

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the main production offices, but not everything was verboten. Take a look…

A poster on wall trumpets the Showcase Tour stop at Disney.

The lunchtime screening was packed as usual. Even Ed Catmull was there.

Deb Stone and group, outside The Morgue, before wandering through the maze of steam-pipe adorned halls.

Deep within the bowels of the studio lies the old Disney archive, known as The Morgue.

Q&A after the Feature Animation screening.

Meals were more talking than eating, which was common at every stop. Lunch at Disney was no exception.

The post-lunch glow - (left to right) Ron Diamond, Geefwee Boedoe, Max Lang, Jakob Schuh, Julie, Bastien Dubois, Deb Stone and Dan Sarto.

Bastien, Max and a mostly hidden Jakob join Walt and Mickey, standing front and center at one end of the Legends Plaza, overlooking the Eisner building and the 7 Dwarfs Disney made famous.

A statue of Roy Disney and Minnie looks over the Legends Plaza. This is an exact replica of the original at Disney Paris.

Pillars surrounding the Disney Legends Plaza are adorned with handprints from the famed inductees.

Jakob, Max and Bastien meet up at the corner of Mickey Ave. and Dopey Drive.

The famous Disney water tower gazes down upon the group as we tour the back lot.

The Disney Archive sits right off the lobby of the Frank G. Wells building.

Scripts, books and memorabilia adorn a long wall within the archive.

A shelf of macquettes from various Disney feature films.

A beautiful old zoetrope, circa 1860, alongside a praxinoscope, circa 1879.

Bastien Dubois and his girlfriend Julie peruse one of the many archive displays.

A model of Pinocchio.

Max snaps pics of a particular macquette.