Saturday, April 24, 2010

Newport Beach Film Festival

Today I went to the Disney Rarities panel as part of the Newport Beach Film Festival.  Living in Southern California I'm sorry to say I have missed this the last 2 years.  I will definitely look for it in the future.  (Thank you to D23 on twitter for alerting me of the event and giving a discount.)  
The panel was to be hosted by "Oscar Nominated film producer Don Hahn and Disney Creative Director David Bossert."  Don Hahn was double booked and was at a Waking Sleeping Beauty screening in Denver (great documentary).  We were joined instead by Roy Patrick Disney.  (The Film Festival rep was quick to point out that Roy E Disney was a host two years ago.)
The presentation started with a short tribute to Roy E Disney and a few words from Roy P Disney.
In all there were seven items shown: "I'm No Fool with Electricity," "How to Have an Accident at Home," "How to Catch a Cold," "The Grain that Built a Hemisphere," "How to Have an Accident at Work," "Litter Bug," and "Goofy's Freeway Troubles."  David mentioned that two of these films had to be requested from vault storage in Pennsylvania and one had to get the legal department’s clearance, but more on that in a minute.
"I'm no Fool with Electricity" featured Jiminy Cricket and that fabulous song.  The part of the short that made everyone laugh was when Jiminy encouraged the fool to take his turn demonstrating the incorrect way and using lots of synonyms for fool that you don't expect to hear from a Disney character – at least now days you don’t.
"How to Have an Accident at Home" and the subsequent "How to Have an Accident at Work" featured Donald Duck and JJ Fate.  Donald, in his typical fashion, showed us how easy it was to have an accident.  JJ Fate lamented that these careless mistakes often lead to people mistakenly blaming Fate.
My favorite showing of the afternoon was "How to Catch a Cold."  This was made in 1961 in conjunction with Kleenex.  In this film Common Sense, a small little man, talks to The Common Man about his foolish idea to go into work while he has a cold.  The Kleenex product placement is evident but it really was a fun little short.  And, speaking as a teacher who has had many Jr's show up a school spreading around the colds, this film certainly could be shown today!
“The Grain that Built the Hemisphere” was done in January 1943 as part of the efforts to be neighborly with South America.  As World War II built up, the United States Government became increasingly worried about the influences on South America and thus this short was done to encourage the relationship between South America and United States farmers.  It was nominated for an Academy Award.  (For more on this time period check out the documentary Walt and El Groupo or the book South of the Border with Disney.)  It was fun to watch for the repurposed animation from Bambi and from “Farmyard Symphony”.
In order to show the 1961 “Litter Bug” David had to get the permission of legal.  He found this so entertaining that he brought the email to share with us.  According to the Disney legal department “Litter Bug” showed Donald in a “negative light.”  You see, Donald is a litter bug in the short.  This point is pretty funny because while Donald is a good Duck at heart, he’s never been the model citizen.  However, legal went on to say that the pest eradication methods discussed in the short are no longer appropriate (the film shows getting rid of mosquitoes with oil and the pest control book was written by one Dr. D. D. Tee.)   Needless to say, permission was granted for a one time showing provided it was shown in conjunction with other films and explained.  The legal rep went on to say that the theme song sure is ‘catchy.’
The last film shown was a Goofy feature that David remembered seeing in a Driver’s Education class.  Roy P. related that this reminded him of his first job on the lot in 1973 working at the gas station and parking the animators’ cars in their designated parking spaces.  I wonder why legal didn’t want a disclaimer with this one as Goofy demonstrates why alcohol and driving don’t mix.
There was time for some questions and answers.  The film festival representative asked why Disney does not include shorts on front of live action movies anymore.  The answer was fundamentally about economics but they did point out that Lasseter has brought back that tradition with the Pixar releases.  At any rate, the suggestion was to write theatre owners and encourage them as they only pay for the movie to be shown, not shorts.
Another question was asked about why voice credits are not shown.  The discussion that followed was that Walt didn’t want to deter from the characters ‘realness’ and that it was before the strike in the forties.  Although, after the strike, only key animators got credits.  David noted that as a producer that credits are his least favorite thing because even the person who “plugs in a DVD in the conference room” wants a credit.
Someone asked what else was on the restricted list.  While I heard many mutter Song of the South under their breath, the answer was that the majority are WWII films.  David did tell a story about a German film festival asking to show many of these films.  When he was asked his opinion on whether to do this or not, he said that Disney should do it, provided they send a studio rep to set up each short (He wanted to visit Germany!)
“Goofy’s Freeway Troubles” used stop motion animation and a question was asked regarding what else used that.  During some WWII training films it was used as well as a 1970 Ward Kimball effort titled “Dad Can I Borrow the Car?”.
The next question regarded the cleaning of acetate to reuse.  Roy P. answered this one as he remembered working on the lot and watching a forklift dump scenes from the Fox and the Hound in the dumpster.  He also related that it’s very difficult to store them because if they are stacked the paint is so heavy that they sag and then stick together.  David related that in the 40’s there where shortages of supplies so the position of ‘cell cleaner’ was added.  He also noted that Chuck Jones was a cell washer for awhile.  Working on the restoration of Bambi they had to remove tons of scratches.  These scratches were on the original print because of the cell washing.
The final question was is Disney returning to hand drawn animation.  The answer was yes; Princess and the Frog and the upcoming Winnie the Pooh.
I really enjoyed the panel and it went by very fast.  This was basically the same format as the one at the D23 expo but on a much smaller scale (and I had a seat!).

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