The Early Days

"At first the cartoon medium was just a novelty, but it never really began to hit until we had more than tricks . .. until we developed personalities. We had to get beyond getting a laugh. They may roll in the aisles, but that doesn't mean you have a great picture. You have to have pathos in the thing." Walt Disney

Walt Disney Early Cartoons

When Walt Disney first came to Hollywood he had no intention of continuing to make animated cartoons. He had done that kind of work in Kansas City, achieving only meager success with his Laugh-O-Grams and none at all with his first film. Alice's Wonderland. Now he wanted to try something that offered a greater outlet for his continuous stream of creative ideas: Walt intended to be a movie director in one of the big studios. It was only after his money ran out and he was yet to be appreciated by the major producers that he was forced to return to the one thing that previously had paid his bills. Disappointing as this must have been for Walt, it was extremely fortunate for everyone else. Although he was interested in many different aspects of the entertainment world—as he demonstrated in later life—animation was truly the perfect outlet for his special imagination and sense of fantasy. Still, the year 1923 was a particularly bleak one to be entering that field.

As a showcase of his work, Walt had one completed film, Alice's Wonderland. and when he sent it off to a cartoon distributor he was surprised to receive, in return, a contract for twelve more films. This was a startling beginning, and if one planned films carefully, watched expenses, and cut every conceivable corner, it was possible to make a profit. But Walt was not interested in cutting corners. It was typical of him that anything he went into had to be the best, and not just the best of what was currently being done, but the best it was possible to do. This always made the job of pleasing him very difficult, since the drawing that had been praised on Tuesday was regarded as only a stepping-stone to something better on Wednesday.

All his money went into films and the development of a studio, as Walt began collecting a staff likely to

Early Disney Animation

grow along with him. Ben Sharpsteen.1 first of the animators to come out from New York, said, "I needed a job with a future, and I did not see a promising future at these other studios. But Walt was different. His high regard for the animation medium and his determination to produce a superior product greatly appealed to me." Walt had no idea then what those superior pictures miglit be or how he would go about making them; he had no plans and no specific stories, just the conviction that they were going to be the best cartoons anyone had ever seen.

Of course, this was not a new or unique aim. Many of the men in New York had tried constantly to improve the quality of animation. Art classes in the evenings were furnished by Raoul Barre at his studio to help improve the drawing ability of his artists. Occasionally. an animator would have an opportunity to study a specific action carefully, and everybody would be awed by the animation that followed. Still, it was difficult for the average cartoonist really to know how to improve his work. The fun of animating, of doing gags, of

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