Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A Conversation with Willie Ito (Part II)

Caricature of Willie Ito by Jim Franzen.

Following his Disney stint, Willie found himself working for every major animation studio in town ...

TAG Interview with Willie Ito

Find all TAG Interviews on the TAG website at this link

A six-year run at Warner Bros. Animation (where he labored at the old "Termite Terrace" for the last twelve months of its life) was followed by a turn at Snow Ball Productions and and then fourteen years in design and layout at Hanna-Barbera. Finally wearying of the animation grind, he veered into character merchandising work with the Disney Co. in the late 1970s. And there he spent twenty-three years designing toys and collectibles, with only one trip back into animation as a key player of the small artistic team that launched Disney Television Animation.

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"Hello, Maggie!" by Shigeru Yabu, with illustrations by Willie Ito.
The above link points to the only source we could find to purchase the book.


Chris Sobieniak said...

Hmmm, another one for "Metamorphoses"! It's certainly nice to get some good insight into this financial flop. The whole film itself really doesn't work given the subject matter and stories used. Sanrio, and especially it's founder Shintaro Tsuji, had this weird bent at the time of wanting to do animated feature films in the spirit of the Disney studios that would be somewhat world-renown classics in their own right, yet many of them often end up with very warped, allegorical concepts interspersed with cute, cuddly characters such as the boy used in "Winds of Change". The only few good films to recommend out of that small library might be "The Sea Prince & The Fire Child (now out on DVD domestically) and perhaps the two "Unico" movies (based on an Osamu Tezuka creation that Sanrio had published back then in a magazine). Everything else was pretty much Fantasia and tragedy.

I suppose the three studios picked for the pilots that Ito saw for Disney's new TV division was Toei Doga, TMS (Tokyo Movie Shinsha) and Hanho Heung-up (I think this was Steven Hahn's company at the time in Korea). It was probably great that TMS cheated the way it did through it's US satellite office to get what it needed here, and for that, enticing young viewers like us with shows like Mighty Orbots, Galaxy High School and the Little Nemo feature they had high hopes for (still, unlike Metamorphoses, it has it's fans). Those my age would attest to TMS's handling of such shows for both Disney and later Warner Bros's TV dept. as top-notch for consistency and approach. I think it became a thing for us to know a good episode from a bad one if we could spot TMS's hands on something within the first minute.

Interesting to see how the idea for a Disney store came to fruition the way it did. I kinda miss what it use to be when I first went into one in the late 80's at a mall in Dearborn, MI. It impressed me to see a framed cel on the wall of one of the dogs from "Oliver & Company" (and original production type over a laser background I believe) being sold for a lot of money and wishing I had it on my wall. By the time one came to my hometown in the 90's, that sort of novelty was wearing off and I wasn't seeing the cels on the wall at all and it just didn't have the same impact it made on me as a kid while I was now a teen. No doubt that exclusive collector's market certainly bottled up.

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