Monday, March 03, 2014

Mr. Hellmich

Floyd Norman writes of one of the unsung creators on a Disney Princess Movie from long ago.

... Freddy Hellmich is not someone you'll read about in the Disney history books. He, like so many talented animators at the Mouse House during the fifties, sixties and seventies never shared the limelight with the "big guys." Though his name appears on a number of Disney shorts and feature films, few animation fans know that much about him. However, I count myself lucky to have been a member of his crew on "Sleeping Beauty" for nearly two years. He was my friend, my mentor, and a damn good Disney animator. ...

Fred Hellmich was like many talented artists who passed through Disney's in the 1950s and later. The top spots in the animation department were filled by Walt's Nine Old Men, and anybody who worked as an animator, existed in their shadows.

As a Disney veteran (not Floyd) explained to me long ago:

"There were some high-powered animators at Disney's in the forties and fifties -- Hal Ambro was one -- but they were never going to break through to the top, because the chairs were filled by Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and the rest of Walt's chosen few. All those guys were highly competitive, very talented, and none of them were going to give up their high seats for some newcomer, no matter how well the new artist drew.

"Most of the really good animators who showed up at Disney later, like after the 1930s, eventually moved on. They were never going to be directing animators on Disney features, and they could make better money working elsewhere."

Fred Hellmich was in that camp. He worked for Hanna-Barbera. He worked on outside features. Fred moved around to where the work and the money was.

That's what almost every animator did who wasn't in Disney Feature Animation's golden circle.


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