Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Burny Mattinson has probably worked longer at Disney Feature Animation than anybody now living. He started there in the mid-fifties and just kept on going ... and going ... and going.

I worked with him on several projects, some that got made and others that didn't. He was a producer and director on The Great Mouse Detective, and handled both jobs well. He's always been a charming, sunny guy with an infectious laugh. And he's still at Disney Animation Studios after fifty-plus years, contributing design ideas and storyboards. Here he recounts the trials and tribulations of working on Sleeping Beauty

(What Burny doesn't mention is that he worked as both an artist and a production person in management during the making of the film. The gestation period was ... ah ... lengthy. My background artist father worked on the film, went off to Europe for a year, then came back and painted production backgrounds for two more years. Like I say, SB consumed a lot of production time from start to finish.)

Q: Did anything of Maleficent make it into Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective? Or was Vincent Price enough of a lead there?

MATTINSON: Actually Vincent Price’s performance in Champagne for Caesar influenced us in getting Vincent Price to do it. We showed that to all the animators and they said, "that’s our Ratigan." Actually, to begin with, Ratigan was a really small, very crotchety type of character. But, when we saw the performance of Vincent Price in that film, he was very broad shouldered and very eccentric in that character and we knew we had our character. When we went on the stage to record him for Ratigan he asked, "How should I do this?" and we said, "Like Champagne for Caesar*!"

A quarter-century ago, Burny was John Lasseter's boss. But here in the 21st century, those roles have reversed.

* Champagne For Caesar, a 1950 live-action comedy, had Price playing a larger-than-life corporate top-kick who ranted and raved in many of the same ways the animated villain Ratigan did thirty years further on. Price's CFC role is unlike any other villain he ever did ... with the exception of the Big Rat in the Disney picture.


Tim said...

Great interview Burny!!
I had heard that Ratigan's design was also inspired by Ron Miller's football player physique. Any truth to that rumor?

Floyd Norman said...

Burny is a cool guy, and a real survivor.

I was around during "Great Mouse Detective," however I never worked on the film. Ratigan was indeed derived from the CEO, Ron Miller.

I met another guy while hanging out with Burny. His name was Jeffrey Katzenberg.

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