On this day, December 5th in 1901, Walt Disney was born. Though he may not have invented film animation, Walt Disney, more than anyone else, took it from being a mere novelty to an artform of the highest level, as well as a major American popular entertainment medium. I'm not going to attempt any history here on either the man or his legacy, as you'll find much more authoritative assessments by the likes of Mike Barrier, Leonard Maltin and John Canemaker, but I do want to offer up this one thought. Walt Disney has been called a "genius" by many and I am not going to dispute that in the least. However, I've always felt that much of that genius was due to Walt's basic common sense and good judgment. I am certain that the main thing that directed Walt was his own personal taste in art and entertainment. He likely believed that anything he enjoyed and found appealing would likewise be enjoyed by many other people the world over. I doubt that he spent much time trying to second guess the viewing public or by conducting demographic studies, as so many of today's studio brass do. As such, all of the films that were produced by his studio during his lifetime seem to convey much of what Walt personally believed in. I don't think we see that kind of personal sensibility at work very often in today's films.
On a personal note, I must credit Walt Disney and his filmed animation legacy with being the catalyst that started me on the straight and narrow path to my own career as a cartoonist. Though I have many artistic influences, it is the Disney classic animated features that remain my first love. Though the stories are always well crafted, for me it is the sense of characterization that I associate with the classics that I most respond to on an emotional level. There is still nothing more magical to me than a cartoon drawing that seemingly comes alive up on the silver screen. This thrill has never waned in a lifetime of viewing the work of Walt's talented animation staff. My favourites include "Pinocchio", "Fantasia", and of course the film I recently wrote about, "The Jungle Book", which was the last film to bear Walt's personal stamp.
Here's a clip from the Disneyland 10th Anniversary show, where Walt plays tour guide to Julie, his latest Disneyland ambassador. What I love about this show is how playful Walt is as he shows off his latest attractions concepts. You can see that Walt is so happy showing off the handiwork of his WED Imagineers including, in this clip, Mary Blair. As one of the lucky kids who grew up with these shows, this is how I like to best remember Uncle Walt: