Saturday, June 30, 2012

They Made the Magic: James Algar

James "Jim" Algar was born June 11, 1912 and grew up in Modesto, California.  After graduating and attending Junior College, Algar attended Standford where he became known as a campus cartoonist working on the school's humor magazine.  After graduating in 1934 with a Master's Degree in journalism, he joined the Disney staff.
A friend of Algar's had gone down to Disney with a copy of the magazine that they both had worked on.  Ben Sharpsteen looked through it asking who did particular work, so Algar's friend gave Sharpsteen the contact information and later that summer, Algar got a letter to come down to the studios and try out for 2 weeks.  In fact, Alger was the one who hopped on the red car to where Frank and Ollie (Standford classmates) were living and suggested they come on out to Disney.
Alger employment card was 207 (or at least that is what he remembered years later) and his first assignment was on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Working under Ham Luske, he animated some of the animals; his favorite being the mother deer and her fawn.  When asked about the people who inspired Walt Disney during the making of Snow White he related Dave Hand, Perce Pearce, and Larry Morey.  He also recalled that Albert Hurter would draw little posts with faces on them; it wasn't his job to figure out how they were used, he just created the furniture.
He was later animation director on The Sorcerer's Apprentice and sequences in Bambi.  In 1948 Algar started writing and directing the True-Life Adventure episodes.  He lived among the lions in Kenya, whitewater rafted in Ten Who Dared, and filmed a buffalo stampede in The Vanishing Prairie.  He then went on to work on The Wonderful World of Disney tv show and The Gnome-Mobile feature film.  In 1964,  she worked on attractions for theme parks including Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Circle Vision 360, and Hall of Presidents.
Alger retired in 1977.  He was named a Disney Legend and passed away in 1998.

Friday, June 29, 2012

They Made the Magic: Jim MacDonald

John James MacDonald (Jim or Jimmy) was born May 19, 1906 in Dundee, Scotland but grew up in Philadelphia.  In 1927 he moved to California and worked as an engineer.  His first career was in music as a drummer on the Dollar Steamship Lines.  This lead to an interest in percussion instruments and then in sound effects using musical and non-musical sounds together.  He received a call between cruises in 1934 to record music for a Mickey Mouse short at the Disney Studios and his career with Disney lasted over forty years and is mostly notably known as the voice of Mickey Mouse, beginning with Mickey and the Beanstalk.
He provided the yodeling for The Dwarfs Yodel Song, the whistling, and the sneezing.  MacDonald related in  Funnyworld number 18 to Michael Barrier:
In the early days, way back onto Snow White, they had the Fraunfelder family, a Swiss family, and they did a lot of the yodeling for the Dwarfs.  I played in the band; I played jugs and ocarina and different things.  We had a little five-or six-piece group, and I remember that Art Smith played the clarinet without and mouthpiece and all these oddball things, and we made the sound of that organ.  It was a very cute and funny sound for the organ, and when Walt hear it, he said, "That's great.  Now, this is a hpapy little group, they should be signing.  Maybe they could yodel." And he looked at me.  "Have you ever yodeled?" I said, "No, Walt."  He said, "Go on down to the stage and try it." - Walt's People Volume 7
He did the test yodel and the Fraufelders did the official cut, but when scenes changed, rather than bringing in the Fraufelders, MacDonald would fill in.  The same thing happened with Sneezy's sneezes.  Billy Gilbert did the Sneezes but when they needed to make a change, they called MacDonald.
MacDonald was the head sound effects man.  When asked what the most difficult sound he had to make was, he replied it was the sound of a spider web shimmering.  He also voiced chipmunk, Bruno and Gus/Jaq in Cinderella, Dormouse in Alice, Wolf in Sword and the Stone, Bees in Winnie the Pooh, and Humphrey the Bear.  You can 'see' MacDonald in Fantasia: his silhouette is visible playing the timpani.  Additionally, he was the drum player in The Firehouse Five Plus Two.
He retired in 1976 but returned to help with several projects including the rerecording of Fantasia and voicing the dragonfly in Rescuers.  MacDonald passed away in 1991 and named a Disney Legend in 1993.

Snow White 75th Event - WDFM

With Snow White's 75th getting closer, the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, CA has announced two Snow White themed events as part of their Animate the Night program:

Friday, November 30, 7–10pm – Snow White Opening Celebration
Come celebrate the opening weeks of the Museum’s major exhibition Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic. We’ll be serving Poison Appletinis!
Friday, December 21, 7–10pm – Snow White Old Hollywood Red Carpet Premiere
Animate You Night in old Hollywood style with a special 1930s 75th anniversary premiere party for Snow White. Join us for a soiree of glitz and glamour.
For more information see the Walt Disney Family Museum website.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

They Made the Magic: Adriana Caselotti

Adriana Caselotti was born May 16, 1916 to an opera family in Connecticut.  The family moved to Italy so her mother could tour with a company, so her early education was completed in Italy.  Upon returning to the states, Caselotti didn't speak English, so she began learning the language and began singing lessons.  She had a few small roles before being chosen over Denna Durbin as the voice of Snow White.  149 girls auditioned for the part and she was surprised that, being older (18), she was given the  role.  Her high pitched voice was very popular in keeping with the operatic qualitiy valued at the time.
The story goes that the studios called Adriana's father, a voice teacher in Los Angeles, to ask if he had any girls that might be right for the part.  Caselotti had answered the phone and interrupted the conversation suggesting herself and singing a few bars, and the studios man said to come on in.  Upon arriving at the audition Caselotti found out Snow White was about 14 years old, so she 'adjusted' her age and claimed to be just 16.  Frank Churchill was convinced after hearing Caselotti sing Someday My Prince Will Come by sight reading the music.  Walt Disney agreed but was worried that things didn't just happen that easily and wanted to hear other girls (he didn't see the girls in order to avoid influencing his decision).  After this audition, it took a whole year before Caselotti was casted.
In order to gain some experience, she voiced a small part in the Tortoise and the Hare.  She was paid $960 dollars for the role.
Caselotti recaled years later that Harry Stockwell (voice of the Prince) had called her and suggested they go to the premire.  They didn't have tickets but they figured it wouldn't be an issue.  After arguing with the girl at the door, they ended up sneaking in!
This role however, became a professional burden as Walt Disney had her under contract.  She wasn't to preform other roles, in order to not spoil the effect of Snow White.  For example, Jack Benny requested her as a guest on his show, and Caselotti happily agreed, but the studio denied the show permission to have her appear.  In 1938 she appeared on Lux Radio Theatre as Snow White and did have a line in the Wizard of Oz soundtrack and a brief appearance in It's a Wonderful Life.  By the 1950's she was voicing the character in theme parks, television, and promotional events.  In 1983 she was recorded for the wishing well in Disneyland, recreating that same magic from 40 years earlier.
By 1987 she began to receive recognition for her work (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 50th anniversary).  However when Snow White received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she wasn't invited.  She like she had before she showed up anyway.  This time she began singing those famous songs earning the cheers of the crowd until she was ushered into the ceremony.
She passed away in 1997.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

They Made the Magic: Moroni Olsen

Happy birthday to Moroni Olsen born in 1889.  A busy character actor in over one hundred movies, he was the voice actor for the Magic Mirror in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  In order to get the correct effect for the mirror, Olsen had his head inside a box with an opening for the microphone, thus creating an echo chamber.
He was born in Ogden, Utah.  His career began with his own touring company and he eventually ended up on Broadway but would return to California to perform in the the Pasadena Playhouse.  For a complete list of roles, see IMDb.  He passed away in 1954.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

They Made the Magic: Wolfgang Reitherman

Known as Woolie, Reitherman was born in Munich, Germany on June 26, 1909.  By 1911, the family moved to Kansas City and then on to Sierra Madre, California.
As a child, he wanted to be a pilot and did fly all his life.  His career with Disney began in 1933 after training at Chouinard Art Institute.  He worked on Silly Symphonies and a few some Mickey cartoons. He rose quickly through the ranks working on the well loved Clock Cleaners and Hawaiian Holidays Mickey shorts.
On Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Reitherman drew the Magic Mirror.  He also helped work on the bed-building sequence which was not used.  He attributes a lot to Ham Luske for working on Snow White and getting the best out of the model.  Reitherman also credits Luske with figureing out interesting things to do with Snow White, like having her put her hands on her knees.  Reitherman related that naming each of the dwarfs and having the personalities consistent really made the film stand out.  
His career continued working on Monstro in Pinocchio, Goofy for several How To cartoons, Timothy in Dumbo, and appears in person in The Reluctant Dragon.  He was part of the South American good will tour know as Walt and El Groupo.
He left Disney in 1941 to join the army and returned to Disney after the war.  His career continued on and eventually he began directing.  Other animators noted that Reitherman was a strong leader after Walt's passing.  
He retired in 1981, passed away in 1985, and became in Disney Legend in 1989.