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Entries in Walt Disney (3)

Monday
Aug162010

"Buzz" Price, Walt's economist--R.I.P.

Harrison “Buzz” Price, the market forecaster and analyst extraordinaire on whom Walt Disney relied to find the optimum locations for Disneyland and Walt Disney World, passed away yesterday at the age of 89. From 1953 onward, Walt turned to Buzz time and again for studies that would subject Walt’s visions to rigorous analysis of their economic feasibility.

Walt also gave him a lead role in the founding of the California Institute of the Arts. “Before he entered the hospital, Dad had placed a stack of notebooks in Buzz’s hands, saying, ‘Here, take care of my school for me!’ Dad knew the hands to place his dream in, that Buzz would see it through—and he did,” Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s daughter, remembered.

I’m not related to Buzz (though he does have a son who’s also named David A. Price). I had the pleasure of interviewing him for The Pixar Touch and found him enjoyably opinionated and generous with his stories.

For more on Buzz’s work and life, see this announcement from his family and the video below.

Wednesday
Sep302009

Walt Disney Family Museum

The Walt Disney Family Museum, devoted to Walt’s life and work, opens tomorrow. The museum is run by the Walt Disney Family Foundation, not the Walt Disney Co. (It’s located at the Presidio of San Francisco, itself a historic location, a major Army base converted in 1994 to a park.)

The exhibits include drawings that Disney made as a young man; early drawings of Mickey Mouse; a multiplane camera (a multi-story device used to create an appearance of three dimensions in Disney’s 2D animated films); the narrow-gauge train he installed at his home in Hollywood, which inspired his thinking about an amusement park and ultimately Disneyland; and an early model of Disneyland.

Timed-entry tickets are available at the museum’s web site. Also see this preview.

Tuesday
Nov182008

Happy 80th birthday, Steamboat Willie

Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie, the first “talking” animated film, premiered eighty years ago today on November 18, 1928. (View it here or here.)

True, the humor hasn’t aged well. What the film represents for me is Mr. Disney’s spirit of adventure as an artist and businessman. He and his brother, Roy, staked everything on it—“mortgaged to the hilt,” Walt would remember years later.

They hoped Steamboat Willie would separate Mickey Mouse, and their studio, from a crowded field of competitors’ animated characters. About two months before the film came out, Disney exhorted Roy in a letter not to fret over “a few little dollars,” adding, “We can lick them all with Quality.” They did, and laid the foundations of an entertainment empire.

I saw much the same spirit of adventure in the early years of the future Pixar Animation Studios team in the mid-to-late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The members of the small group dedicated themselves to the idea of computer-animated feature films at a time when that idea was considerably more distant on the horizon than synchronized-sound animation had been in 1928. Walt, I think, would have understood.