Friday, March 31, 2006
Pete Young was, at the start of the seventies, a young effects animation assistant trying to break into the Disney story department... (That's Pete on the left there, circa 1985, in Disney's Flower Street Building. Not the greatest picture, but what I've got.) Pete managed to get a 'try out' with the story department. He took a book the studio owned entitled The Small One, and worked nights drawing it up. The powers-that-be decided the board had possibilities and gave Pete a shot at developing it further -- mentored by Vance Gerry, one of the seasoned vets of the Disney story department. The Small One was greenlit for production, assigned to a director, and left Pete's and Vance's hands. Pete wasn't happy about the direction the story later took, but he was in the story department and finally off and running. Over the next several years, Pete worked on The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron, and The Great Mouse Dtective (original and better title: Basil of Baker Street). On Fox, Pete boarded some of the most effective 'relationship' sequences: a sorrowful widow Tweed dropping her small pet fox off in the forest so the hunter wouldn't kill it, also the young hound dog Copper being introduced to the older hunting dog Chief near the start of the picture (This was put in late in the story cycle. Pete thought there needed to be more character development up front in F & H and he was right. But he was cunning about putting it in. As he once related to me: "You can never introduce a new story element into your boards before the director's ready for it. Otherwise, it's probably going to get rejected." He was right about that, too.) Pete, along with Ron Clements, pushed Basil of Baker Street as an animated project; Ron Miller greenlit it and Jeffrey Katzenberg okayed its continuation in production. At the first 'Gong Show' -- a big pitch meeting presided over by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner -- Pete brought up the idea of doing Oliver Twist in New York City with dogs and a cat. Eisner and Katzenberg immediately took to it, and gave it a nod for further development. (At the same meeting, Ron Clements pitched The Little Mermaid and Treasure Island set in space. Fairly productive pitch meeting, wasn't it?) In a half dozen years, Pete climbed from the bottom of Disney Feature Animation's story department to the top. But you won't read much about him, or see his name featured in Disney histories. He died suddenly in the Fall of 1985, at the age of 37. I think about him a lot.
Posted by Steve Hulett at 3:38 PM