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Thursday, February 10, 2005

DREAM ON SILLY DREAMER: ROY DISNEY

When Roy Disney and his daughter Abigail walked into the room minutes before auditorium lights dimmed, an audible cheer went up from the section that saw his entry. Giving respite to the warnings on his web site RE: Minnesota COLD!, dressed in a red crew neck sweater and casual summer weight slacks Disney looked like he just walked off the golf course in Le Merigot and not off Hennepin Avenue in February.

As a kid, remember Uncle Walt coming on the tube at the beginning of the World of Disney, sitting on his stool, his hand waives over the drawing table, inked lines with splashes of color leap from the paper with flying Princesses and fairy jumping into the air?

Screening Dan Lund and Tony West's DREAM ON SILLY DREAMER, after all that presentation, it is hard to imagine the studio that Walt built would outsource the animation department. Without the animation department, what is Disney, a bank, a loan department, a financial holding company?

The 40 minute DREAM ON describes a guilty pleasure, an animation studio where the employees labored long hard hours and believed what they were doing was play. And they got paid for it. At one point, with the success of ALLADIN and THE LION KING animators got bonus checks resembling an executive weekly salary -- as one animator put it, you could buy a Mercedes or BMW with a bonus check.

For Walt Disney, it all began with the artist and colored pencils. The studio Walt built was at the core a passionately friendly work environment for animators. Disney had an utopian vision of life, vocation and work. Work was play. Afterall, the original dreamer at 'Disneys' was the man who imagined EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) an utopian live/work community inside a theme park. The magic of such wild visions (or delusions) is implicit in the understanding that fantasy can emerge so fully from paper and pen. Ink, line and brush. Work. Magic. Not for Michael Eisner.

If you read "Walt Disney and the Quest for Community" author and urban planner Steve Mannheim or Harrison Price's "Walt's Revolution" you can understand why the suits in the accounting department were distressed and needed to vacate Walt's dream at Disney. Suits are suits afterall! Their dreams aren't candy colored rainbows set to music with fairies dancing on the ceiling. The suits were embarrassed no doubt with Uncle Walt's brood.

In response to Dan Lund and Tony West's film Roy Disney said, "I have to say how very human a face [the documentary] puts on an institutional tragedy ... the slow, cruel and insidious death of Disney animation over the past several years."

Outside the Crown theater Disney told the filmmakers "There are many people in that room tomorrow who love Disney and appreciate what Walt Disney built." The shareholders for Disney will be meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center to hear about the transformation from Mickey and Mini to "Desperate Housewives."

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