Anyone who’s a Baby Boomer or older, remembers. We remember what it was like to grow up with Walt Disney in our lives. I’m not referring to the studio or any of the theme parks, but the man. Mr. Walt Disney himself.
We watched “The Mickey Mouse Club” and I wanted to be Annette. I learned to spell my very first words by watching this series every afternoon.
Remember the catchy tune?
Sunday nights meant “The Wonderful World of Disney.” As soon as we saw Tinkerbell flutter across the TV screen and heard the words, “The world is a carousel of color,” our hearts would soar with anticipation.
Walt Disney would introduce the episode and the anticipation and exhilaration of watching was immense. My favorite episodes were the animated ones.
If you visited the 1964 New York World’s Fair, as I did many times, you got to see Walt’s vision for the future. “It’s a Small World After All” made its debut there. So did the GE World of Tomorrow, which was designed by Disney. It was all simply magical.
Disney aficionados have at least one animated film that is near and dear to their hearts. Maybe even two or three. For me it was “Sleeping Beauty” and “One Hundred and One Dalmatians.”
Walt Disney knew how to capture our imaginations (and night terrors). We fell in love with his world, but how many of us knew about the Nine Old Men that helped bring that world to life through their artistic talent?
They were dubbed Nine Old Men by Disney himself, because that’s what FDR called the nine Supreme Court Justices.
Collectively, Disney’s Nine were responsible for animating everything from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to “The Rescuers” in 1977. They were pioneers, visionaries and ground-breakers. They were passionate about their work and helped make dreams come true for boys and girls all over the world.
Last week, the California Center for the Arts invited me to again serve as moderator for a panel on animation, and when I heard the topic would be Disney animation I nearly passed out.
In case you don’t remember the last time I moderated a panel and suddenly became an expert on comic strips, or maybe you weren’t reading my blog back then, check out my post, Excuse Me–is My Comfort Zone Showing?
But what I was asked to do it this time, I didn’t hesitate. For I am a diehard Disney fan.
Disney is part of who I am, for better or worse. As a child, I was traumatized when Bambi’s mother was killed. I was shocked by Cruela De Vil’s unfathomable desire to make a fur coat out of puppies. Maleficent made a very menacing dragon and Cinderella’s Stepmother, well, I wouldn’t wish her on anyone, except maybe the Isis terrorists.
Some Disney films I never liked. I’m talking to you, “Alice in Wonderland” and “Fantasia.” If you ask me, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice was the original crazy clone artist and Alice’s world was just too topsy-turvy for my tastes. I’m convinced that the White Rabbit must’ve worked for Bernie Madoff on Wall Street.
But Disney taught me to believe in happily ever-after’s, although where that got me I’ll never know. I learned, too, that lying makes your nose grow long, and true love can only be capped by sharing a bowl of spaghetti. Finally, it instilled in me a desire to stay young at heart and never grow old.
Walt, with his comforting smile and American spirit, was the uncle I wished I had. Through his shows, he’d talk directly to us, never “down” to us, and there was something honest and appealing about him. Maybe it was his slow, measured, no-nonsense way of chatting.
The panel that I moderated consisted of the following guests:
Before the discussion, we watched a documentary that Ted Thomas, had produced, titled “Growing Up with Nine Old Men.” Then, I took the podium and asked these men a slew of questions before opening it to Q&A. It sure was exciting to hear their memories of their dads and what it was like visiting the Disney Studio, where Walt knew each of them by name, and didn’t seem to mind when he was hit by one of their slingshots.
But of all the things we talked about—from how Disney films were made back then and synced to the voice tracks, to the kind of birthday parties these kids enjoyed (train rides on a locomotive track set up around one of their homes as well as private screenings of Disney movies for their friends) I kept hearing one refrain over and over:
That’s what their fathers gave them. A charmed life.
And to the rest of us, they gave us so much more.