Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Mouse in the Seventies -- Part 4

Once more into the jaws of memory.

Chapter Four -- And Then There Was ... Ken!

I was back in Don Duckwall's office, exchanging insincere smiles with him. I had been on "The Fox and the Hound" with Larry, Woolie and everybody else for half a year. But now Don wanted me to go on another assignment.

"Ken Anderson is working on a project based on a book called 'Catfish Bend," Don said. "He needs a writer. I thought this would be a good chance for you to show us what you can do."

I wasn't keen to leave the "A" feature in the midst of production, but after eight months of employment I knew it was a better career strategy to do what I was told and go where I was kicked than to argue. So I widened my phony smile.

"Sounds like a fun project, Don. I would love to do it." ...

You can read the rest of the adventure here.

Ken Anderson was, in the 1970s, one of the pillars of Disney Animation, not one of the exalted Nine Old Men, but the next best thing: A talented, hard-working artist who came to the studio in 1934 and had a hand in all the Disney animated features from Snow White to Robin Hood. He is probably best known today as the art director on the ground-braking 101 Dalmations.

Ken designed characters, conceptualized environments, worked on story. And he was productive. Pete Young told me once that when Ken was home sick during Pete's Dragon, Mr. Anderson did more work than Pete or Vance Gerry did. A big manila enveloped filled with Ken's new drawings would show up in the mail almost every day. And Pete and Vance would, good co-workers that they were, pin the drawings up on storyboards.

Until three of four storyboards were filled. (This was while Ken was away sick.)

If you were a visitor to the studio, or a visitor from another department of the studio, Ken was one of the nicest guys going. He would welcome you into his office, and sit you down in a comfy chair. He would give you hot tea, and then show you what he was working on. Which was (usually) boards and boards of Disney cartoon characters and cartoon environments. One of my long-time friends got this treatment, and was impressed and flattered.

But if you were working for him or with him? Then a different Ken Anderson emerged. Which is what this post is about.

A sterner, clean-shaven Ken, in the days of "The Aristocats."


Christopher Sobieniak said...

I really need to read these since I had put it off too long!

city said...

thanks for share.

Floyd Norman said...

Thanks for sharing, Steve. Mr. Anderson was a very interesting fellow to say the least. We had the opportunity to work with Ken on "The Jungle Book." As expected, he could be a pain in the ass on occasion, but we always got along.

Clearly, the man was a hard worker and always a Disney Legend in my book.

Christopher Sobieniak said...

It's a shame "Catfish Bend" didn't make it past the drawing board, but then, I suppose it would give the Furry community something else to praise alongside Robin Hood. :-P

Site Meter