Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wildlife in Wire

That was the name of my second exhibition of wire sculptures at Disney.
Originally I had no plans for a show like this one, my mind was on animating King Triton in early 1989.
Then one evening a news report on TV got my attention. It was announced that a day ago the last five remaining Black Rhinos in Kenya had been killed and poached for their horns.
I couldn't believe it. First I got angry, then an idea came to mind. I looked around my little home studio, I saw three or four new wire sculptures I had just finished…..so, what if I produced a whole bunch more and sell them as a charity to benefit the World Wildlife Fund. I found out that they were involved in efforts to help save the Black Rhino.

So on the evening of March 6, 1989 I invited guests to a proper reception in one of the conference rooms of Disney Animation in Glendale.
Here is the link to an earlier post about some of the sculptures that were offered for sale :

There were a total of about twenty pieces, and later I was thrilled when I found out that all of them were sold. I recall the total for the WWF was $17.500. 

The guest list included many Disney old-timers, and it was an honor to welcome them to this event. Many hadn't seen each other in years.

Look who arrived first, Ollie and Marie Johnston, followed by Frank and Jeanette Thomas. Receptionist/clean up artist Lauri Benson-Noda signs them in.

Here are Alice and Marc Davis. Effects master Dorse Lanpher is holding a glass, and that's animator Jacques Muller on the right.

In conversation with Marc and Frank…somebody pinch me. I remember Frank asking me:" So how do you get started on one of those?"
Simon Wells is way in the back.

With Mel Shaw and Ollie, James Baxter is serving champagne in the background.
(Thanks, James, all these years later.)

On the left is Background artist/Imagineer Claude Coats, then Alice and Marc.

I am trying to contain my excitement while talking to Bill Peet.
That's comic strip artist Daan Jippes on the right.

Still listening to words of wisdom from Bill Peet. In the foreground is my long time clean up assistant Kathy Bailey.

Front row from the left: Mel Shaw, Harry Tytle and his wife, then Alice Davis, Tony and Alexandra Palazzola (Milt Kahl's stepdaughter) and Carla Fallberg.

In the front from the left: Tom Sito, Susan and Eric Goldberg, Charles Solomon, Ollie, Dave Spafford and from the back Roger Chiasson.

Should have gotten a haircut.


  1. Wow! what an amazing assembly of talent!! Would have given anything to be in that room!

    .....I sure wish I could own an original Deja wire sculpture one day!!!!

  2. What is your take on James Baxter's animation? None of his work was in The Animation (Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Archive Series) book. I went to high school with Simon Wells daughter, we were good friends.

    1. Don't know why that is. James' stuff is great.

  3. Wow - what an event! And such a great and worth cause too. I loved reading all the excited quotes under each photo and then when you get to your own with those amazing sculptures in the background you can only comment about your haircut! Haha!

  4. This is so much fun, Andreas! I love the photos with you an Bill Peet. It's great to know that he still found time to come back to the studio for events. I'm huge fan of his work and yours. Keep these historical blogs coming.

  5. Great pictures. Ollie Johnston always looked younger than Frank Thomas. It was probably the form of their heads :)
    Was this for studio employees only or for everyone?

  6. James Baxter serving champagne?! Oh well, everyone starts at the bottom of the ladder. ;) Today however, James' animation is fine champagne in itself, as well as yours, Andreas. :)

    Too bad Milt wasn't still alive in 1989 to see your wire sculptures. I bet he would've gotten a real kick out of it.

    I really want to try wire sculptures myself. Any recommendations on how to get started?

    1. Look at the wire as a black line. You can turn it in all direction, including toward you and away from you. It's drawing in the air.
      Start with the head. connect a piece of wire on the back of the head and define the main body profile with one line. Then add the limbs on the side.

  7. Wow, that was great! Great cause, great photos, great captions – can't stop smiling :D I echo the comments above: 1. haircut haha! And 2. how do I (attempt to) make wire sculptures of my own?

    1. See above reply. Any hardware store has these spools of wire in a variety of thicknesses. Very inexpensive, too.

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  10. Dear Andreas Deja-san

     私は、Mel Shawという方について調べています。
    彼の「ファンタジアの、The Flight of the Bumble Bee」のための図面は本当に素晴らしいと思います。
     Bumble beeのデザインは素晴らしくて、影により迫力もあり、図面にスピードを感じます。
     Mel Shawさんはアニメーションに対してどんな考えを持っていたか、御存知でしょうか?

    Dear Andreas Deja-san

    I examine one called Mel Shaw.
    I think that the drawing for his "The Flight of the Bumble Bee of the fantasia" is really splendid.
    The design of Bumble bee is splendid, and there is the force by a shadow, too and feels speed in a drawing.
    I want to know his drawing more deeply.
    Will you know what kind of thought Mel Shaw had for an animation?

    Wataru Arai

    1. Mel Shaw was a story man and visual development artist.
      He only did as little bit of animation during the early 1930ies,
      but not for Disney.

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  12. I have to tell you Andreas, you are such an inspiration to me! I adore your work and you seem like such a nice guy :) thank you so much for sharing your talent with the world! No words are beautiful enough to describe your work.

  13. Beautiful sculptures! And don't be so hard on yourself, Andreas. After all, by 80s standards, you were looking rather dapper!

    Thanks for the great blog.

  14. WOW !these absolutely blew my mind awaaaay ! utterly AWESOME !

  15. So amazing! I would kill for one of your wire sculptures! Also so much talent in that room! I'd have fainted haha. I have an image in my head of you talking with Mr. Peet just smiling and nodding trying not to nerd out. hehe

  16. I think that what you did was really great! Unfortunately, the Black Rhinos were on the news last week, they have been declared extinct, even if there are still a few in the wild.