Friday, August 11, 2006

Who knows what Fantasia means, anyway?

Here's a fun Blast from the Past... You might be wondering what the above Disney memo is. Well, it's a "joke" Disney memo, on actual Disney memo-paper. It's twenty years old, and has had a looong half-life. Here's its story: Back in 1986, a few months after Peter Schneider was installed as a pooh-bah at Disney Feature Animation by Eisner-Katzenberg-Disney, it was decided by the corporate chieftans to change the title of "Basil of Baker Street" (then at the tail-end of production) to "The Great Mouse Detective." Many in the story department weren't pleased with the new name. And story artist Ed Gombert, then as now a puckish wit, grabbed some blank paper and dashed off the above. And shared same with his fellow animation employees. (Here's the text, in case the image above is hard to read): To: Animation Department From: Peter Schneider Along with the new title for "Basil of Baker Street" it has been decided to rename the entire library of animated classics. The new titles are as follows... "SEVEN LITTLE MEN HELP A GIRL" "THE WOODEN BOY WHO BECAME REAL" "COLOR AND MUSIC" "THE WONDERFUL ELEPHANT WHO COULD REALLY FLY" "THE LITTLE DEER WHO GREW UP" "THE GIRL WITH THE SEE-THROUGH SHOES" "THE GIRL IN THE IMAGINARY WORLD" "THE AMAZING FLYING CHILDREN" "TWO DOGS FALL IN LOVE" "THE GIRL WHO SEEMED TO DIE" "PUPPIES TAKEN AWAY" "THE BOY WHO WOULD BE KING" "A BOY, A BEAR AND A BIG BLACK CAT" "ARISTOCATS" "ROBIN HOOD WITH ANIMALS" "TWO MICE SAVE A GIRL" "A FOX AND A HOUND ARE FRIENDS" "THE EVIL BONEHEAD" And of course our latest classic destined to win the hearts of the American public... "THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE" Since most of the story department hated the new title, much merriment ensued. And ANOTHER animation employee (who I won't name because he hasn't given me permission), mailed a copy of the fake memo to Katzenberg. It turned out that Jeffrey K. was neither merry nor amused when he read it. In fact, he was angry. In fact, he asked new executive Schneider just what the hell was going on. Peter S., of course, had no idea, since he hadn't written the thing (even though his name was on it) and in fact knew nothing about it. There was an attempt to find out who the author of the memo was, but no culprits turned up. And there the matter would have ended, except that an EX-Disney employee, over the objections of his wife, mailed a copy of the memo to the L.A. TIMES, which instantly published a story about it after asking various embarassing questions of Disney execs. And there the matter would have ended, except several years after THAT, the game show JEOPARDY picked up the article about the memo and used the above for a series of questions about Disney. When we track down the LA TIMES article from '86, we will put it up here for your amusement and edification. In the meantime, the specimen above is amusing enough, don't you think?


Unknown said...

Oh, I remember that meeting in the theater...boy, was Schneider livid!!
He let loose a string of expletives and the entire audience gasped. I think it was probably the first time many of the Dsiney personal were introduced to true 'Hollywoodese' in such a public forum. Several of the artists that had never worked anywhere but at Disney looked as if they had taken a wrong turn and stepped into Hell.

Anonymous said...

"Basil of Baker Street" is by far a better name than "The Great Mouse Detective". By far!.

Some executives simply can't recognize that they are not all that creative. Or fail to see
the merits of ideas and concepts coming from artists.

I find it ironic that executives rely on audience screenings so much. More often than not, a film gets changed based on these audience screening, rendering the films safe and edgeless!...The irony being that they hire a director, and a group of story artists but in the end they end up listening to the audience.

Jerry Beck said...

I had always thought THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE was the worst title for a Disney feature... until THE EMPREROR'S NEW GROOVE was released! Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

It's a funny gag too.

Why can't some people just lighten up. A studio is supposed to be fun. It's not a convent. If I wanted to work at a convent...anyway

The fun you have at work, is gonna reflect on the screen. If a studio's atmosphere is somber, that also will reflect on the screen.

Anonymous said...

I remember this well! I was at another studio, and we laughed our asses off, cheering whoever it was that did it(I think the disseminator knew, but he didn't out Gombert). Sheer brilliance!

We also heard how furious Peter S. was about it. Feh! Get a life.

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