The Walt's People series is an oral history of all things Disney, as told by the artists, animators, designers, engineers, and executives who made it happen, from the 1920s through the present.
Walt's People: Volume 22 features appearances by Ferdinand Horvath, Izzy Klein, Eduardo Solá Franco, Campbell Grant, T. Hee, Ken Anderson, Bill Cottrell, Ken Anderson, Herb Ryman, Andrew B. Beard, Treb Heining, Harriet Burns, Valerie Edwards, Gary Goldman, Tad Stones.
Among the hundreds of stories in this volume:
The entertaining, informative stories in every volume of Walt's People will please both Disney scholars and eager fans alike.
The Letters and Autobiography of Eduardo Solá Franco
The Letters of Campbell Grant
T. Hee by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston
Ken Anderson by Robin Allan
Bill Cottrell, Ken Anderson, and Herb Ryman by Jay Horan
Andrew B. Beard by Jim Korkis
Treb Heining by Jim Korkis
Harriet Burns by Michael Broggie
Valerie Edwards by Didier Ghez
Gary Goldman by Didier Ghez
Tad Stones by Didier Ghez
I was looking recently at a photograph of story artists Joe Grant and Dick Huemer working on Dumbo. They are in their office at the Disney Studio, surrounded by piles and piles of written documents, and are reading story-meeting notes, which we can assume are linked to the production of Dumbo. And yet, we know today of only one set of Dumbo story-meeting notes. In fact, until only a few years ago, most Disney historians were convinced that no story-meeting notes from Dumbo existed. Looking at this photograph is a little depressing: It shows clearly how many documents have not made it to us, how many pieces of the gigantic jigsaw puzzle are probably lost forever.
On the other hand, a few weeks ago I received an email from a historian who shared with me one of his recent discoveries: a thirty-page letter from Disney artist Ferdinand Horvath, in which Horvath discusses his whole life. I have written a long and detailed chapter about Horvath for the first volume of They Drew as They Pleased, I own Horvath’s diaries and his correspondence from the 1930s, and yet the recently rediscovered letter sheds new light on Horvath’s life, as you will find out for yourself by reading this volume of Walt’s People.
You will also be able to read the draft of the autobiography of Izzy Klein, which my friend Todd James Pierce unearthed a few months ago, as well as the full Disney-related correspondence of Ecuadorian artist Eduardo Solá Franco, translated from Spanish by yours truly, and the correspondence of artist Campbell Grant.
I have to admit that I love to help fill these historical gaps. After all these years, I remain as fascinated as on day one by the history of Disney. In fact, I was working over the past few days on the fifth volume of the They Drew as They Pleased book series, which focuses on the 1970s and 1980s and specifically on the careers of Ken Anderson and Mel Shaw, and was stunned by the amount of new information that was still to be brought to light.
In the context of my research for that volume, I was able to interview both Gary Goldman and Tad Stones. In They Drew as They Pleased I use a few quotes from those two interviews, but I have the feeling that you will enjoy reading the full transcripts here.
In other words, this volume of Walt’s People, like its predecessors, has a great ambition: to fill some historical gaps that span from the 1930s to the 1980s.
And our first guide on this long and winding road is the Hungarian Ferdinand Horvath, who takes us back to the early twentieth century and its troubled history.
Didier Ghez has conducted Disney research since he was a teenager in the mid-1980s. His articles about the Disney parks, Disney animation, and vintage international Disneyana, as well as his many interviews with Disney artists, have appeared in Animation Journal, Animation Magazine, Disney Twenty-Three, Persistence of Vision, StoryboarD, and Tomart’s Disneyana Update. He is the co-author of Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality, runs the Disney History blog, the Disney Books Network, and serves as managing editor of the Walt’s People book series.
If you have a question for Didier that you would like to see answered here, please get in touch and let us know what's on your mind.
About The Walt's People Series
GHEZ: The Walt’s People project was born out of an email conversation I conducted with Disney historian Jim Korkis in 2004. The Disney history magazine Persistence of Vision had not been published for years, The “E” Ticket magazine’s future was uncertain, and, of course, the grandfather of them all, Funnyworld, had passed away 20 years ago. As a result, access to serious Disney history was becoming harder that it had ever been.
The most frustrating part of this situation was that both Jim and I knew huge amounts of amazing material was sleeping in the cabinets of serious Disney historians, unavailable to others because no one would publish it. Some would surface from time to time in a book released by Disney Editions, some in a fanzine or on a website, but this seemed to happen less and less often. And what did surface was only the tip of the iceberg: Paul F. Anderson alone conducted more than 250 interviews over the years with Disney artists, most of whom are no longer with us today.
Jim had conceived the idea of a book originally called Talking Disney that would collect his best interviews with Disney artists. He suggested this to several publishers, but they all turned him down. They thought the potential market too small.
Jim’s idea, however, awakened long forgotten dreams, dreams that I had of becoming a publisher of Disney history books. By doing some research on the web I realized that new "print-on-demand" technology now allowed these dreams to become reality. This is how the project started.
Twelve volumes of Walt's People later, I decided to switch from print-on-demand to an established publisher, Theme Park Press, and am happy to say that Theme Park Press will soon re-release the earlier volumes, removing the few typos that they contain and improving the overall layout of the series.
To locate them, I usually check carefully the footnotes as well as the acknowledgments in other Disney history books, then get in touch with their authors. Also, I stay in touch with a network of Disney historians and researchers, and so I become aware of newly found documents, such as lost autobiographies, correspondence with Disney artists, and so forth, as soon as they've been discovered.
Yes, some interviews and autobiographical documents are extremely difficult to obtain. Many are only available on tapes and have to be transcribed (thanks to a network of volunteers without whom Walt’s People would not exist), which is a long and painstaking process. Some, like the seminal interview with Disney comic artist Paul Murry, took me years to obtain because even person who had originally conducted the interview could not find the tapes. But I am patient and persistent, and if there is a way to get the interview, I will try to get it, even if it takes years to do so.
One funny anecdote involves the autobiography of the Head of Disney’s Character Merchandising from the '40s to the '70s, O.B. Johnston. Nobody knew that his autobiography existed until I found a reference to an article Johnston had written for a Japanese magazine. The article was in Japanese. I managed to get a copy (which I could not read, of course) but by following the thread, I realized that it was an extract from Johnston’s autobiography, which had been written in English and was preserved by UCLA as part of the Walter Lantz Collection. (Later in his career Johnston had worked with Woody Woodpecker’s creator.) Unfortunately, UCLA did not allow anyone to make copies of the manuscript. By posting a note on the Disney History blog a few weeks later, I was lucky enough to be contacted by a friend of Johnston's family, who lives in England and who had a copy of the manuscript. This document will be included in a book, Roy's People, that will focus on the people who worked for Walt's brother Roy.
That is a tough question. The more volumes I release, the more I find outstanding interviews that should be made public, not to mention the interviews that I and a few others continue to conduct on an ongoing basis. I will need at least another 15 to 17 volumes to get most of the interviews in print.
About Disney's Grand Tour
DIDIER: The research took me close to 25 years. The actual writing took two-and-a-half years.
The official history of Disney in Europe seemed to start after World War II. We all knew about the various Disney magazines which existed in the Old World in the '30s, and we knew about the highly-prized, pre-World War II collectibles. That was about it. The rest of the story was not even sketchy: it remained a complete mystery. For a Disney historian born and raised in Paris this was highly unsatisfactory. I wanted to understand much more: How did it all start? Who were the men and women who helped establish and grow Disney's presence in Europe? How many were they? Were there any talented artists among them? And so forth.
I managed to chip away at the brick wall, by learning about the existence of Disney's first representative in Europe, William Banks Levy; by learning the name George Kamen; and by piecing together the story of some of the early Disney licensees. This was still highly unsatisfactory. We had never seen a photo of Bill Levy, there was little that we knew about George Kamen's career, and the overall picture simply was not there.
Then, in July 2011, Diane Disney Miller, Walt Disney's daughter, asked me a seemingly simple question: "Do you know if any photos were taken during the 'League of Nations' event that my father attended during his trip to Paris in 1935?" And the solution to the great Disney European mystery started to unravel. This "simple" question from Diane proved to be anything but. It also allowed me to focus on an event, Walt's visit to Europe in 1935, which gave me the key to the mysteries I had been investigating for twenty-three years. Remarkably, in just two years most of the answers were found.
DIDIER: Yes, I believe that casual readers, not just Disney historians, will find it a fun read. The book is heavily illustrated. We travel with Walt and his family. We see what they see and enjoy what they enjoy. And the book is full of quotes from the people who were there: Roy and Edna Disney, of course, but also many of the celebrities and interesting individuals that the Disneys met during the trip. And on top of all of this, there is the historical detective work, that I believe is quite fun: the mysteries explored in the book unravel step by step, and it is often like reading a historical novel mixed with a detective story, although the book is strict non-fiction.
DIDIER: Those books provided massive new sources of inspiration to the Story Department. "Some of those little books which I brought back with me from Europe," Walt remarked in a memo dated December 23, 1935, "have very fascinating illustrations of little peoples, bees, and small insects who live in mushrooms, pumpkins, etc. This quaint atmosphere fascinates me."
DIDIER: There are still a million events in Walt's life and career which need to be explored in detail. To name a few:
The list goes on almost forever.
Didier Ghez has edited: