Thursday, March 16, 2006

Disney In the Seventies (Part Fore!)

LARRY CLEMMONS Larry Clemmons and Woolie Reitherman spending their last evening together. March, 1985 (TAG'S "Golden Award" Banquet.) Larry Clemmons, in the second half of the sixties and the seventies, was the principal scribe for Disney animated features. He wrote on "Jungle Book," "The Aristocats," "Robin Hood," "The Rescuers," and "Fox and the Hound." He was the guy who crafted a large chunk of the dialogue for these flicks, and his sequence scripts were what a lot of the other story persons (i.e. storyboarders) started with when boarding sequences. Larry graduated with an arhitecture degree in the early thirties, but times being what they were, he soon came to Disney as an inbetweener and assistant. (You got the jobs you could get, you know?) He was in Ward Kimball's unit for a time, and he and Ward became friends. Always interested in story, Larry worked his way into Disney story development by the early forties. He departed the studio at the time of the strike in 1941. By 1945 Larry had found work as a writer on Bing Crosby's network radio show, and stayed with it until it left the air in 1954. Then he found himself back at Disney writing segments of "Disneyland" (Walt Disney's hour network show on ABC) and "The Mickey Mouse Club." Larry's specialty was writing Walt's spoken intros -- about which there will be more further up the blog... In the early sixties, the Writers Guild of America was on strike, and Walt asked Larry -- just before the job-action started -- if he wanted to write animation and go under The Animation Guild (we were then called The Motion Picture Screen Carttonists.) As Larry said to me, "When Walt asked you whether you wanted to do something, if you wanted to stay employed, you did it." So Larry found himself back in animation for the first time in over twenty years, and he made the most of it. Starting with "Jungle Book," he teamed with Woolie Reitherman as principal writer on a half-dozen features, finally retiring in '79 and moving to Friday Harbor in the Puget Sound. I spent a lot of afternoons with Larry in his third-floor office. Larry wasn't overly interested in living in the past, but he did have interesting tales to tell. One day, after some other employee had rhapsodized about the "Golden Age" of animation in the thirties, Larry snorted: "Golden Age? Hell, those days weren't MY 'Golden Age'! You slaved away Monday through Friday drawing Goofy or Pluto or one of the other characters, then Friday afternoon the production manager would come in and shout 'who wants to work tomorrow?!' Back then, you worked Saturdays for free and they gave you a sack lunch, but it was the damn Depression and if you wanted to hang on to your job you jumped out of your chair waving your hand saying 'Oh! I do!' Some of these kids around here think it was some damn wonder age, but I can tell you it wasn't."

5 comments:

Floyd Norman said...

I worked on "The Jungle Book" with Larry back in the sixties. Indeed, he was a story teller, and not just the ones on screen. Larry would give us outlines, and just let us go. It was a great way to work, and I sure miss it today. He was a great old guy.

Anonymous said...

Wow can't believe I found this blog....Larry was my Grandpa...the craziness is I was just posting my own blog about him and I thought I'd find some cool things to post and this is by far the best thing I've found in ages. You obviously knew my Grandad well. He was an old poop. God I miss him.

Julie Clemmons said...

http://blog.myspace.com/infinitekid

you can see some pretty cool cartoons and great pictures, plus learn a little personal trivia about this incredible man at my blog.

Roewan said...

Mr. Clemmons actually gave my great grandfather a Mickey Mouse and Pluto drawing about my grandfather after he painted Mr. Clemmons ceiling. I just asked him today who gave him that, and what the man's name was. I never expected to find this!

Julie Clemmons said...

Love it!

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