Some Thoughts on Our Business

20 years ago, in January of 1991, a very critical 28-page internal memo — written by the then-head of Disney’s film studios, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and distributed to his fellow executives in an effort to refocus their approach — was leaked to the press, and instantly became talk of the industry. The recent release of the big-budget Dick

SEVEN LITTLE MEN HELP A GIRL

When, in early-1986, Disney executives decided to change the title of their upcoming animated feature from ‘Basil of Baker Street’ to the less ambiguous ‘The Great Mouse Detective‘, its production team were less than pleased. One animator in particular, Ed Gombert, harnessed his displeasure to comical effect by creating, and circulating, the following: a fake memo

There is no way to replace Walt Disney

On December 15th of 1966, less than two months after the discovery of a malignant tumour in his left lung, Walt Disney passed away. Hours later, his brother Roy sent the following memo to all employees of the company. In the following days, Roy Disney announced the postponement of his retirement; he then spent the next

I am not afraid of robots. I am afraid of people.

In 1974, English author Brian Sibley wrote a letter to his favourite science-fiction novelist, Ray Bradbury—the man responsible for writing, most notably, Farenheit 451—in which he spoke of his deep admiration for Bradbury’s books and posed some questions related to Disney, a subject close to his heart. “If I remember rightly,” explains Sibley, “I expressed

This little girl has her Walters crossed

Thanks to the endearingly confused efforts of a young cartoon fan in 1964, we have the following charming sequence of letters to enjoy. The fan in question — Wendy — fancied acquiring some pictures of Woody Woodpecker and the character’s creator, and so attempted to ask him directly. Indeed the request reached Walter Lantz, but not

Doctors always know best

The publication of Blaggard Castle – a 1932 comic book featuring Mickey Mouse and sidekick Horace Horsecollar, in which three mad scientists (Professors Ecks, Doublex and Triplex) claimed that X-rays, if fired at someone, would burn their brains – caused so much unease amongst young patients in Pennsylvania that a Dr. Reuben G. Alley was

To All Potty-Mouthed Inbetweeners

At the risk of featuring too much Disney-related correspondence within such a short space of time, here we have an intriguing inter-office memo passed on to all members of the studio’s Inbetween Department in 1939 due to an influx of ‘gross language’ amongst certain artists. It seems the management were concerned about the impact of

How to Train an Animator, by Walt Disney

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the following eight-page memo. Written by Walt Disney in December of 1935 to Don Graham — a highly respected art teacher from Chounaird Art Institute tasked with helming art classes for Disney animators — this missive signalled the birth of a structured training program that would subsequently enable

Walt Disney’s 25 million reasons to re-release Snow White

Here’s a quick, easily digestible business lesson, brought to you by Walt Disney. It was 1952, and a recent visit by Walt to a local hospital had inspired one of the young patients to subsequently send him an inquisitive letter. The child, Blaine, simply wanted to know why Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – originally

Disney, Day 1

On October 16th of 1923, just hours after striking a distribution deal with M. J. Winkler, near-penniless brothers Walt and Roy formed the company we now know as Disney. On the very same day, 21 year old Walt desperately wrote the following persuasive letter to the mother of Virginia Davis, a 5 year old girl

The creative work is performed by young men

Back in 1938, women who applied for animation jobs at Disney were destined to receive a visually attractive but ultimately depressing rejection letter like the one below — a missive in which it was advised to instead shoot for a lower star in the tracing department; a place where, it seems, ladies could be trusted with ink. Interestingly,