Together for the first time, 12 animated short films from Walt Disney Animation Studios are being released in one extraordinary collection, the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection.
Shorts appearing in the collection include: Frozen Fever (2015), Feast (2014), Get A Horse! (2013), Paperman (2012), Tangled Ever After (2012), The Ballad of Nessie (2011), Tick Tock Tale (2010), Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa (2010), How to Hook Up Your Home Theater (2007), The Little Matchgirl (2006), Lorenzo (2004), and John Henry (2000).
We had the opportunity to have breakfast with the lustrous team of Walt Disney Animation Studios animators including: Peter Del Vecho, Producer of Frozen Fever; Mark Henn, Director or John Henry; Dorothy McKim, Producer of Get a Horse!, The Ballad of Nessie, Tick Tock Tale, Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa; and Mike Gabriel, Director of Lorenzo, as we learned more about where they find inspiration for their shorts, what drives this animation direction for each short, the only feature film to be created from a short , and the highest compliment the animators have received for one of the their animated shorts.
Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection is available Early on Digital HD/Disney Movies Anywhere (DMA) on August 11, 2015, or you can bring it home on Blu-ray™ on August 18, 2015
Q & A with the Animators from Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection
Q: Let's open it with Dorothy. Out of all the shorts you have work on, which is your favorite and why?
Dorothy McKim: I love each of them for different reasons. I really love ‘Get A Horse!' To be able to continue Walt's legacy and his dream of doing shorts, and using his voice in that short, everything authentically was Walt in that short.
A quick little story with that, we screened the short with John Lasseter and John said, ‘No, there's one word in there. The word red is not Walt.' We couldn't believe he picked that out of everything, and he was right. We could find the word red anywhere in the library. So we worked for about three months with our sound designer and he found an -r, -e, -d from Walt, three syllables, and put them together so the short is 100% Walt. We made sure.
Q: Where do you find your inspiration for shorts?
Mike Gabriel: I got mine from one of the earliest Walt Disney super stars Joe Grant, one of Walt Disney's most talented artists and story men. Joe had this idea for Lorenzo the cat back in the 40's. When he left in 1950 after a 17 year run, and came back in 1989, he still had this Lorenzo idea in his head. His drawings kept it alive.
When Don Hawn was developing Fantasia 3 which didn't get finished, Joe had his drawings outside of Don's office and Don said ‘Mike, do you want to take the Joe idea with the cat and the tail thing and put it to a Tango for Fantasia 3?', and I said ‘Hell yeah I do!' I was lucky to be the one asked to do it.
Mark Henn: For me, the legend of John Henry is something I think most of us have all grown up with, at some level, and what I found most interesting was the fact that Disney, in some of their short films involving American tall tales and legends actually eluded to John Henry. He is mentioned twice in the title sequence of Johhny Appleseed and Paul Bunyan, but they never did anything with him as far as I knew or could find.
I thought thought this is great, we should do something with him. That was my main source, was those two ideas.
Peter Del Vecho: For us coming off of Frozen the movie, the idea that we get to explore a different side of Elsa and find sort of a comedy in her. That appealed to us. We started the short not that long after the movie, about six months after the movie, but we had just released the movie. The movie was very fresh in our minds, but it was really the idea of exploring a different side of Elsa.
Q: With Frozen Fever and Tangled Ever After the short came after a larger movie. Has anyone ever done a short and then said, I want to take this short and make this into a movie?
Peter Del Vecho: That's a good question, but I'm not aware of the reverse happening.
Mike Gabriel: People tell me they want Lorenzo to be a feature.
Mark Henn: What has happened often times is that shorts, from a technical side, were done specifically to test out some new process that was implemented into a new feature. The Old Mill for example was playing with the multiplying camera back in the 30's and 40's. There's a little short called Goliath 2 that is about a miniature elephant, but they were basically testing out the Xerox camera process with replaced ink and painting, or inking, at that point in the studio's history. Those kind of things get their birth or get launched in a short, then implemented in a feature.
Peter Del Vecho: The work done in the Ballad of Nessie really helped us when it came time to do Princess and the Frog, because you were really pioneering new technology.
Mike Gabriel: I did think of one that was a short before it became a feature. Can anyone remember which one? It's a full feature, back in the prime, classic 40's.
Fantasia. It started as The Sorcerer's Apprentice. It turned out so well they decided to make a feature out of it.
Q: In addition to having all the different stories and basic ideas being pitched, I noticed all shorts are stylized very differently. Whether it's CG, more towards the animation side, lyrical, story telling, or no voices at all, how do you decide which angle to come from?
Mark Henn: It's often up to the filmmakers. In fact, that can often can be the impetus to drive a short. With Mike's own Lorenzo, that look, that painterly look that Mike was doing was what he wanted to see on the screen. Often the art direction does drive the shorts quite a bit. That's the fun of them.
Mike Gabriel: That is the fun of them. They're employee driven really. In funny ways they get started and once the dominoes fall they can often get made.
I was doing all these paintings of Lorenzo with his fat brush and one of the tech guys decided to try to animate that painting to make it look like it, so the pencil drawing could look like the loose painting. He devised a way to move the paint strokes around and it was a really cool look. The executive at the time said, I want to make this short because look how cool that looks when paint strokes moving in space like that.
Mark Henn: There's a lot less risk involved with a short so you're free, you have much more freedom to explore and experiment without putting a full feature out there with the commitment and money behind it.
Mike Gabriel: Paperman was so impressive with the technique and the look of it. I heard that when John Lasseter first saw the finished scenes together with the full look, he really wanted to do a feature with that.
Q: Dorothy made an appearance in one of the shorts, and I was wondering if any of the rest of you have made an appearance as well?
Mike Gabriel: Not in a short, but I'm in a feature.
Peter Del Vecho: Same thing. Not in a short, but in a feature.
Mark Henn: I've been in the features, but not in a short. Although, in John Henry, Byron who is one of the directors of Zootopia, was one of the lead animators and he's one of the background characters. He's in there.
Q: Which features are you in?
Mike Gabriel: Oliver and Company. There’s a scene where there’s the Butler looking at a wrestling match on the TV, and towards the end of the film I’m one of those Wrestlers.
Mark Henn: I’m a polyp in Mermaid. [LAUGHS] I’m a polyp with a mustache and glasses. That’s me.
Peter Del Vecho: I tango across the dance floor in Princess and the Frog.
Dorothy McKim: In Beauty And The Beast, when they’re going to the Beast, there’s a little girl waving out the window and her name is Dot.
Q: When you look at the Collection of what’s on this release do you guys have a favorite?
Mike Gabriel: I was asked that earlier too. I looked at the full rack and even though it’s politically dangerous to pick a favorite, to me Paperman was the most exciting visually, and the storytelling was just beautiful.
It blew me away that the shots, you know the staging, the acting, the action, I just thought that was a great piece of work. Some of the most gorgeous cinematography I’d seen in live action or animation. I think it’s just stunning work. So I love that one.
Q: There’s usually a lot of Easter Eggs in the shorts. Is there any that the public doesn’t know about?
Dorothy McKim: Do you guys knows the Easter Egg in and Get A Horse? Peeks through right at the end. Oswald.
Peter Del Vecho: If you look carefully at one of the Snowgies it will reflect a movie that came after Frozen. I’ll just leave it at that.
There’s still one Easter egg in Frozen and no one has ever found. We’re very, very curious to see if anybody ever figures it out.
Q: What for you would be the highest compliment or the best feedback. We heard so many amazing people talk about, ‘Wow this meant so much to me when I heard this and these are babies that you're creating to bring out into the universe forever.' What would be, for you, something amazing to hear from feedback?
Mike Gabriel: Eric Larson was one of the nine original men and when we did a scene from ‘The Great Mouse Detective', the dog Toby was my character, and he snooped around the room and came up under a tablecloth and just running around, but Eric Larson came by my office and knocked on the door.
Eric was usually in his own office, he was a very hallowed revered figure, and he came and said, ‘Mike I saw that scene today in dailies. That’s the best scene I have seen in a long time. I would be proud if I had done that scene myself. That’s the level of animation I’m trying to get to happen again, right there.' So that was a great highlight moment. I was like I’m still up in a cloud from that one.
Dorothy McKim: Mine is actually during Meet The Robinsons, a story about adoption. Steve Anderson, the director, was adopted and his adopted parents gave him a letter and said, ‘When you turn 18 open this letter and we’ll give you all the information about your mom.' That was when he was about 6.
For a few years he just like, ‘I couldn’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait. I can’t wait till I’m 18.' One day he was 24 and he never opened up that letter, and when we made that movie so many people that been adopted connected with that.
To have somebody that comes to you and say it really changed my life, it really helped me, that’s my ultimate thing, When we reach out to the entire world and we can help people, and just give ‘em a little lift.
Mark Henn: I had a young man come up to me yesterday and say, ‘Aladdin saved my life.' I’m gettin’ chills now just talking about it. That’s kind of the fun and the joy of being an Artist and creating something with your co-workers.
Peter Del Vecho: For me, just coming to D23 and seeing the people who took the time to actually make their own costumes. Even the new Ana dress, they’ve had people create that. The You Tube videos, all of that. But certainly for the movie there were many, many stories we’ve heard. A lot of them centered around the song ‘Let It Go.'
The one who sticks out to me the most was a guy who fought in the Gulf War and lost both his legs. He said that the song ‘Let It Go' made him realize that he needed to accept who he was and become who he is. Stories like that are extremely powerful and it’s not the norm, but when they happen they hit you really hard.
About Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection
From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes an extraordinary new collection of award-winning and beloved short films featuring Disney's Frozen Fever, starring Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Sven and Kristoff, and the Oscar®-nominated Lorenzo (Best Animated Short, 2004).
The Short Films Collection includes contemporary shorts starring classic characters, such as the groundbreaking 2013 Mickey Mouse cartoon, Get A Horse! And the holiday treat Prep & Landing: Operation: Secret Santa, as well as celebrated Oscar winners Paperman (2012) and Feast (2014). Enjoy them together for the first time in this must-own collection with all-new extras including an inside look at the Disney Animation shorts, featuring introductions and interviews with the acclaimed filmmakers themselves.
Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection will be released August 18th, 2015 in Disney Movies Anywhere, Digital & Blu-ray formats.
Portions of the material and expenses for this event have been provided courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.