Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Studio Divorces

Mr. Steve Moore speaks some truth and wisdom.

Starting out, we all fancied our careers taking the Frank and Ollie trajectory. Working at a studio for life. Meet another lifer and fall in love. Get married on the studio lot. Buy a house and fill it with studio memorabilia. Maybe a studio themed swimming pool. ... In reality, most of us have had a series of Wile E. Coyote trajectories - flying along, feeling confident, then "PAF!" Rock face. ...

I never bought the studio-as-family thing, and certain directors and producers need that. Showing love for the project isn't enough, you have to love them as well. Doing your best work is not enough, you have to be a great pally pal. Today, more than ever before, the big studios take on artists with a trial period, during which you are judged not only by your work, but by your fit. I know an excellent veteran artist who did not make the cut somewhere because some wimp felt threatened by his strong opinions. ...

Imagine Disney without Ward Kimball, Milt Kahl, or Bill Peet. They and many more like them were artists unto themselves, not just company men. They spent their whole careers at one studio and STILL had hard feelings about it. Not a bad studio ex, but a bad old studio marriage. Would they have survived the studio today, or been tossed aside for better fits? ...

Kimball, Kahl and Peet left Walt Disney Productions (as it was then called) angry and/or under a cloud.

After years of service, Bill Peet had a lot of control over feature projects. He did the boards and supervised the recording sessions until Walt hoisted Woolie Reithermann into the pilot's seat and Mr. Peet was made co-pilot. This didn't sit well with Mr. Peet, and he stormed out.

Ward Kimball got into a spitting match with Disney's upper management over an ugly granite portrait of Walt Disney that was displayed in a studio hallway, and got pretty much got shoved overboard from the S.S. Mouse.

Milt Kahl felt he was being undercut by some of his peers, and left the studio in a bit of a snit. In the late seventies I asked him on the phone how he liked retirement and he snarled: "I didn't retire from Disney's, I quit!"

Richocheting around animation studios, I've noticed that it takes an enlightened executive to know how to utilize strong talents who might also be a touch ... eccentric? Quirky? But enlightened execs are in short supply.

In this ferociously corporate age, where most egos are insecure and artists who don't "play well with others" are quickly gone, it would be hard for creative artists like Ward Kimball, Bill Peet and Milt Kahl to flourish, let alone survive.


Floyd Norman said...

Hopeless. Play the role of studio whimp and they boot your butt out anyway.

No one can survive.

Unknown said...

Give 'em hell Floyd!

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