Saturday, October 12, 2013

Walt's Naughty List

Last week I did a podcast interview with one of the last Snow White animators. I'll put the talk up in due course, but in the meantime, here's one of the stories he shared ...

I was hired at Disney when I was nineteen. I worked with Eric Larson on "Snow White," did a lot of the little animals. (I was known as the "little animal" guy.) We worked a lot of long hours to get the picture out. ...

In '41, I went out on strike because of the low pay. ... I was making $87.50 per week. We didn't know exactly what people were making at Warners or M-G-M, but it was more than at Disney. After a few weeks I was out of money, and I went up to Big Bear where a friend let me work in a liquor store he owned, and gave me a place to stay. I was making more money in the liquor store than I was at Disney.

After the strike ended, I went into the marines for three years. After the war, I went back to Disney as an animator, and was making $125 a week, which was a lot better than the $87.50. My wife, who I married just before I went into the Corps, had been a secretary at the studio. She worked in personnel, and one day after the strike ended she was given a list of artists and told to go upstairs and transfer their personnel records from one set of files to another.

She didn't know why she was moving the records, didn't know what it was about. Walt came by and she asked him. Walt told her, "That list has the people who went out on strike. After awhile those people won't be working here anymore, and won't work here again."

I was one of the strikers and I got laid off in 1960. For a lot of years my name was on the list of people to be laid off, but Eric Larson always crossed my name off and I stayed on. Eventually Eric couldn't do that anymore, and I was let go. ...

The day I left Disney's I came home in the afternoon, which surprised the neighbors, because they could set their watches by the time I arrived from work, which was always 5:15. My wife drove up and saw me, and she said: "You were let go, weren't you? I asked her how she knew and she said "Because you're home early and there's a big smile on your face." ...

The animator (anybody care to guess who it is?) worked in the cartoon business another 33 years, retiring in the early nineties.

I never knew this story, but it doesn't surprise me much. Studio moguls hold grudges. Big whoop. And truth to tell, a few people who carried picket signs up and down Buena Vista Street -- guess they didn't make the Naughty List -- remained at Disney for decades.

Many of '41 strikers who didn't stay went on to lengthy careers outside of Walt Disney Productions. There were, it turned out, plenty of cartoon studios in which prosper outside of the House of Mouse.

5 comments:

Floyd Norman said...

Okay, I'm guessing the animator was Don Lusk. Am I right?

F. Kousac said...

Was what Walt did illegal?

Steve Hulett said...

Yup. Don Lusk. He'l be 100 in two weeks. I interviewed him on the phone ... on the fly. I want to do an additional interview now that I've done some research.

As to whether the naughty list was illegal, probably. but it was long ago, and there's not much anyone can do about it now, is there? All the players have gone to their reward.

Christopher Sobieniak said...

"As to whether the naughty list was illegal, probably. but it was long ago, and there's not much anyone can do about it now, is there? All the players have gone to their reward."

Yeah it's like beating a dead horse there.

Steve Hulett said...

Mr. Lusk had a long and happy career at Hanna-Barbera after Disney. He told me he wanted to direct, and at H-B he got the chance.

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