Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Festivities at Disney's Florida Cartoon Studio

A wee bit of nostalgia: Here's a shot of the Disney Florida Animation Studios, brought to you from the collection of Carl Bell.

It's the opening ceremony of some big, sparkly building at the Disney-MGM Studio in Florida, back in the go-go eighties. Roy Disney is officiating in the back there, with Ward Kimball (in the black ball cap) Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, and Frank Thomas.

Also a lot of balloons.

And down front is Mark Henn, Barry Temple, Dave Stephan, and two animation artists whose names I should know but don't. (Arrrgh.) ...

The Disney Feature Animation facility in Orlando was a nifty little studio that, at its peak, wasn't so little.

It started as a small production shop attached to an amusement park attraction. Nothing fancy. Early on, it produced some Roger Rabbit shorts and did a bit of support work for the features being produced in Burbank, California. Its staff and ambitions were small.

Over time, both grew. Disney Animation Florida was creating its own features in the latter half of the nineties (Mulan, Lilo and Stitch.) By that time, Burbank was giving support. But after Brother Bear was rolled out, the studio was shuttered, and a large and talented staff went its separate ways. My Peoples, the CG-hand-drawn feature that was in mid-flight at the time of the studio's closing, was never completed.

Over the years, I hopped down to the Florida Studio quite a lot. There was always a great vibe in and around the place, with lots of tropical sunlight streaming through large windows. The artists working there were enthusiastic about their work. Disney Animation Florida might have been a sideshow to the Burbank operation, but it was a facility that produced quality product.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Florida animation family was one of the best experiences of my animation career. Amazing artist there and a wonderful environment that you had to be there to truly understand. Many, including myself came in with a certain perception and was immediately won over and didn't want to leave that family. Have not seen anything like what they had at that studio. Maybe it was the clean air and tropical skies all mixed together with veterans and some of the best young talent from around the world.

yo said...

Worked there as well. It was fun, but it was not all rainbows and bunny rabbits either. Like most studios there was a fair bit of politics going on and clikes, which reminded me of highschool for some reason. However, it was not as bad as the studios in california. Someone used to call it the Disfunctional family, with fondness. Many who worked there are now at the new Digital Domain studio, and many others ended up at Tiburon.

Tim said...

I believe the other animators in the photo are Mark Kausler (the redhead) and Alex Kupershmidt (blue shirt & glasses). I'm not sure who is wearing the white hat on the far right.

Floyd Norman said...

It goes without saying that no studio is perfect. However, my time at the Orlando studio was always great and I look back on my visits with fond memories.

Anonymous said...

Many more are still in Orlando and continue to contribute to films and other projects. The depth of talent in central Florida is still very strong.

Anonymous said...

Just to show that all good things must come to an end. And it shows that life is totally unfair. Who would have thought that the studio would close after producing Lilo and Stitch, not to mention Mulan, a couple of Disney's biggest animated hits in the Post Lion King-era?

And yet... Pixar is able to open their Canadian studios to churn out Cars shorts.

Pete Emslie said...

I'm quite certain that the older fellow on the right in the white cap is veteran Disney PR man, Charlie Ridgway. I didn't work in Disney Florida Animation, but as a character illustrator for nearby Disney Marketing Art, so I enjoyed visiting the Animation building and getting to know some of the crew there a little bit. Yes, it is tragic that the Disney honchos pulled the plug on it, as it really was a special place brimming with lots of young talent.

Anonymous said...

Everyone looks miserable. Florida is a SH**TY place to live, too.

Tim said...

Yeah, there was a good vibe at the studio. No place is perfect, but that was a great work environment, and a great group of people to work with. I sat next to the tour window for several months. (Fun for awhile. Happy to get a desk reassignment). I have a lot of fond memories, and only a few sour ones. Made a lot of great friendships, and we still keep in touch.

I remember during one of Frank & Ollie's occasional visits, they said it felt like the early days in Burbank.

Of course, Ward was quoted as saying, "Walt is dead. You missed it."

Anonymous said...

The Florida studio and the location was amazing. Lots of great artist still there in the sunshine state. Money certainly goes further there too.

Anonymous said...

Tim said...

"I believe the other animators in the photo are Mark Kausler (the redhead) and Alex Kupershmidt (blue shirt & glasses)."



No, the "redhead" is definitely Dave Stephan , not Mark Kausler. Mark Kausler is not in this photo.

Not sure who the guy is with the long hair (in the black Feature Animation jacket, between Dave Stephan and Alex Kupershmidt ).

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