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Newport Beach Film Festival 2008: An Evening of Disney Animation Rarities with Roy E. Disney and Don Hahn

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The Newport Beach Film Festival not only provides an outlet for new emerging filmmakers, but they also honor the past as well. An Evening of Disney Animation Rarities with Roy E. Disney and Don Hahn presented rarely seen cartoons from the Disney vaults. The two men were joined by animator/producer Dave Bossert, and they all offered revealing details about the shorts that were screened.

After brief introductions, the evening began with a video tribute to the recently deceased Ollie Johnston, the last of Walt’s Nine Old Men. The newest short was “How To Hook Up Your Home Theater,” which had been paired with National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Starring Goofy, it was very funny and captured the essence of the “How To…” series from the 1940s and ‘50s.

“Oilspot & Lipstick” had been shown at the 1987 SIGGRAPH conference. The short demonstrated computer graphic character design. The main characters were dogs made out of junk. Although the story was weak, that wasn’t the purpose of the short.

Four of the shorts presented were to be part of a third Fantasia film that was unfortunately cancelled. “One By One” featured singer Lebo M., whose tenor voice will be familiar to fans of The Lion King, and the title song was cut from that film. It showed children in a South African town flying kites in vivid colors. It was released on The Lion King II: Simba's Pride Special Edition DVD.

“Destino” is the legendary unfinished collaboration between Salvador Dali and Walt Disney from 1945. In 1999 Roy wanted to use some of the artwork for a sequence in Fantasia 2000, but the lawyers explained the Disney Company didn’t own the rights because the film was never completed. Roy got the ball rolling to rectify that situation with the help of John Hench, who had worked on the project with Dali. The cartoon has some fabulous imagery. It screened with the films Calendar Girls and Triplets of Belleville, has been a part of Dali museum exhibits, and will be included as a special feature on a DVD of a documentary about Dali, Disney, and Surrealism.

Based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale, “The Little Matchgirl” was a beautiful, touching piece of work. The short’s somber tone met with some resistance from former CEO Michael Eisner, which led Roy to point out that they “shot Old Yeller.” As the speakers talked about it, they were bittersweet as this farewell to hand-drawn animation was the last project by many talented artists who are no longer with the company. The cartoon is a special feature on the The Little Mermaid Platinum Edition DVD.

Based on designs by Joe Grant, who wrote and drew many Disney classics, “Lorenzo” is a very funny cartoon about a large blue cat that has to fight his tail as a result of a hex placed on it. Software was used to add brushstroke textures to the designs and it looked great. The cartoon appeared before the film Raising Helen.

“Redux Riding Hood” was the oddest of the bunch because it didn’t seem like Disney animation at all with its odd sense of humor and incorporation of 2-D collage. It was supposed to be part of a series directed towards adults entitled “Totally Twisted Fairy Tales” that got cancelled. Created by the Disney Television Animation department, Michael Richards voices the wolf who invents a time machine in an effort to fix his one great mistake in life. The short has many funny moments, but goes on a little too long. At 15 minutes, I believe it was the longest one of the evening and it wears thin as the gag gets repeated.

The evening closed out with “Runaway Brain” starring Mickey Mouse whose brain gets switched with a monster’s. It appeared with A Kid in King Arthur's Court, the live-action George of the Jungle, and A Goofy Movie, and is available on DVD in the Walt Disney Treasures collection Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Vol. 2.

Roy and the other speakers were having as much fun sharing these cartoons and their backstories as the audience was watching them.  It had to be one of the best events the Newport Beach Film Festival had during this year’s run.  He suggested “maybe next year” they would return with other cartoons from the vault. I would highly recommend fans of both Disney and animation seek this presentation out if ever they repeat it.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS