Tuesday, July 8, 2014

About Special Effects and Old Men

Do you ever get the feeling that a certain commercial project by somebody was actually made for you? 
There are a couple of items that fall into this category, and I’d like to bring them to your attention. Two significant milestones in documenting Disney Animation history.

John Canemaker just came out with a book that deals with the techniques and behind the scenes of Disney’s Golden Age. The title is “The Lost Notebook-Herman Schultheiss and the Secrets of Walt Disney’s Movie Magic”.
Amazon writes:
“Discover the secrets behind Fantasia, Pinocchio, Dumbo, and Bambi-all through the lens of early animation’s most enigmatic and fascinating character, Herman Schultheis.”
This is a coffee table book full of never before seen photos, artwork and technical charts that take your breath away. You find out about live action reference for “Dance of the Hours”, how the oversized snowflakes at the end of the “Nutcracker” made it to the screen, and so much more. Schultheis’ own life story, which took him from Germany to Burbank and beyond reads like a script for a Hollywood film. All I can say is: Must have!

Here is the Amazon link:

Next up is a terrific documentary by Frank Thomas’ son Ted, called “Growing up with Nine Old Men”.
It is included in the bonus material for the BluRay of Peter Pan (North America), and The Jungle Book (Europe and other terriories). During the 45 minutes film you find out what it was like to grow up having a top Disney animator as your dad. Ted’s previous feature film documentaries include “Frank and Ollie” and “Walt and El Groupo”. This film is very personal, we follow Ted’s journey to meet up with other children of the Nine Old Men, some he knew from childhood, others he had never met.
You’ll find out from Milt Kahl’s daughter Sybil, what her dad’s daily routine was after work. 
Who knew that John Lounsbery raised his kids in the country, and that he liked getting his hands dirty pouring cement and taking care of livestock? And wait to find out what life was like in the Kimball home. You get to know these giants of animation from a private angle. 
The film led me to invite the Nine Old Men’s kids to my last Christmas Party. And wouldn’t you know…most of them showed up. What an evening.
This is Miri Weible, the daughter of Les Clark.

Check out the film’s trailer:

An interview with Ted Thomas about his film:

To purchase the film as a part of the Peter Pan BluRay, go to:


  1. Ted Thomas is a fantastic film-maker! Frank & Ollie was a wonderful documentary, probably this is excellent too.

  2. Had recently seen the Herman Schultheiss bonus feature on I think the recent Fantasia Blu-Ray and right after that Amazon was suggesting this new book to me. It immediately went to my Wish List. Good to see it's now been released.

  3. Can´t watched that trailer on Finland via that link but found it on Youtube, and it looks so interesting.

  4. I always wondered how the made the "special effect" of the Sun.

  5. Great Stuff! To think that the notebook was stuck in a murphy bed across from the studio for years and years makes the information that much more valuable. Without his notes, many of those old camera tricks and mechanical solutions would have been forgotton. Truly a treasure. I really enjoyed the Thomas film as well. Great insight into the private lives of the masters.

  6. For those of us near San Francisco, the other thing to know about the Schultheis notebook is that it's on display at the Disney Family Museum and that the entire notebook is digitized, so that you can look through the digital copy,which is on display next to the original. If I'm remembering correctly, the digital copy is also interactive beyond just being able to turn the pages: it's annotated so that you can look at stills and clips that Schultheis is referring to in the notebook. The only drawback, of course, is that it's in a museum and you may want to have the whole thing to yourself for a few hours…

  7. I saw that documentary on Peter. I was amazed with Les Clark's daughter and how there were amazing pieces of art he made. By the way I heard rumor from one of my friends who is a movie blogger heard that they are trying to make a live action version to Dumbo, if that was going to be a production do you think it would mock what Walt and his team worked on their storytelling of the book?

  8. weiß man woher aus Deutschland der Hermann Schultheis stammte?

  9. Way back before computer animation, (1981?) I took an Animation class from an ex-Disney guy (at Parsons in NYC). Not sure if he was one of the Nine Old Guys, but he sure looked it! He spoke wistfully of his time in the Disney studio, like he really missed working there. ...I wish I could remember his name!

  10. Replies
    1. Definitely not. (His name was a more common one.) I believe he later worked for either DC or Marvel comics. ...I might hafta try to look him up.