I guess the Christmas season got hold of me the other night, and I found myself like an uncontrollable salmon in heat going through my DVDs and Blu-rays for a classic Disney fix, finally settling into Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The optional commentary track for the film is mostly of Walt himself, taken from various interviews about the making of the picture -- that alone's worth the price of admission!
I've had a Disney jones all my life going back to al least when Disneyland hit TV. Not the well-oiled marketing machine Disney we've all come to know and, uhhh, love... but the man, Walt Disney. There he'd sit on the corner of his desk in that expensive sharkskin suit, sun-tanned and talking to us in that squeaky happy voice of his while Donald ran amok on the desk. Along with the Ricardos and the Mertzes driving to Hollywood for Ricky's movie deal, it was to me -- even at eight years old -- somehow California all the way. Walt was my first hero, and still is.
Walt Disney was in many ways the Steve Jobs of his day. He changed things profoundly with ideas and innovations made possible by astounding risks he took over and over again throughout his life. His explanations for such risks seem to obvious to us now. But up to 1938, for example, others in Hollywood felt that making a full-color feature-length film the likes of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the dumbest thing they'd ever heard of. Let alone doing it as such an expensive gorgeous jaw-dropping work of art.
Snow White took about two years to complete at a cost of about $1,500,000. Interesting thing is, Disney and his brother Roy had at times the same doubts as the others as to whether the little studio should ever have tried it. But Walt got them out in the deep water, and everyone just kept swimming. The Disney Studios' experience was limited to turning out short funny animal cartoons using proven "squash-and-stretch" animation techniques. Animating realistic humans was another thing all together.