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Student: Valentina Buzuk

Professor: Rajko Petkovi


American Animated Film
Department for English language and literature
University of Zadar
30 March 2015

Hyperion: The Explosion


The Walt studio firstly occupied in 1926 was a small building which could receive, at
most, twenty men. The studio continued to occupy the buildings in surroundings and enlarge
its space up until the point when Walt, in 1931 decided to build a whole new working space in
which every animator and his assistant would have its own office and the directors would
have two rooms. In the end, the studio was spilling out in all directions. The studio continued
to sprawl, spread and cover the whole area in a slow-motion eruption. When every inch of
open space had been filled, buildings in the neighbourhood were purchased and converted.
The artists who werent on the main lot felt left out and isolated. Their goal became stepping
up their game to obtain a place in the main building. That main place was always crowded
and people were sitting close to one another so the flow of the ideas was constant. They used
daily gags as an inspiration and although it often looked like a waste of valuable time, in these
moments they learned the most about the staging and communication. Gags were also a good
way to release the tension and let off the steam, so they would just sit down and start drawing
gags. Exciting new things were happening all around them and this close personal contact and
crazy associations kept them stimulated. Their drawings were believable because every

animator knew the core of personality of the characters they were drawing. E.g. if they were
drawing Donald Duck short, immediately everyone knew what kind of gags to use, what
situations would be funny. Walt would hire colour experts and engineers and he had been
experimenting with new ways of lighting and a multi-plane camera. He was keenly aware of
the creating process and did not criticize anyone for taking time off to do gags. He would just
eventually suggest putting some of those gags in the pictures. Important name that was
working on the picture was Claude Coats. Each new picture contained improvements: the
animation had more life and effects were also much better.
There were not enough hours in a day for one person to keep up with all the new ideas,
inventions and procedures. But Walt made it. Someone had said that Walt would be at least
remembered for bringing together thousand artists and storymen and controlling their work
because no one in history before has ever done that.
Animations had been done before, but stories were never told. Now the animator could do
more than just entertain the audience but also make them believe in his characters. To bring a
character to life it is necessary to make the single drawing come alive because life and vitality
dont come from the movement or timing itself. Animation was beginning to mean something
different for each of them. Everyone was surprised at the definition one employee found in
the dictionary. Most people think that animation means movements, but it actually comes
from the word animus which means life or to live. E.g. the great animation on Figaro in
Pinocchio, the dwarfs and the little ugly duckling were all exciting steps ahead in this
development. People responded to these characters through their feelings, something that
hasnt occurred before in the animation. Animator now became a kind of creator who lived
inside the little person on his drawing board. If it was a shy Bambi on his first meeting with
Faline, the animator had to live every minute of it or it wouldnt be in his drawings. The

whole conception of a scene became different. Storymen had to invent situations that would
draw the audience into the picture.
The arrival of the latest test film was the high point of the day for animators. There was a lot
of discussion before scene was done and high interests in what new experiments might be
seen in each others scenes. They could hardly wait to see the film of what had been tried.
Walt liked to have people around him who could build things, make and create with tools. E.g.
if he had an idea of how to use better some space in a building, he would call a man and try to
use the space. He would always respect the men who had skills and while people in the studio
were called after their first name, he would always show respect by calling them as Ms. In the
late thirties, other specialists were added to the staff like mechanics and engineers who
couldnt be assigned to any particular job. On the other hand, Walt liked to have these skilful
people near him if he had any special request or ideas. Eventually the studio had eighteen
skilled engineers headed by Bill Garity, designing, building, creating and experimenting the
capabilities of the animated cartoon to reach new achievements. Walt personally directed their
creating and experimenting to areas he found important and fitting to their talents. He would
visit his workers; bring them presents for Christmas because he knew they were all working
really hard.
The art of animating was very difficult. Firstly, becoming committed to your way of doing the
scene, then combining all elements that give it life: the drawing, acting, staging, timing while
being sure that it all adds up for entertainment for someone beside yourself. At times, it was
very hard dealing with Walts demands. Not just criticism, but the lack of compliments could
also hurt ones feelings. The majority of them had become accustomed to having their work
criticized, but they were never before in a situation where they cared so much.

In an early screening of Snow White, during the questionnaire, someone had written Stick to
Shorts touching Walt in the most sensitive spot. That remark haunted them for three decades.
It indicated to Walt that there is a rotten apple in a barrel. Through the years, the term Stick to
Shorts represented a synonym for poor judgement. Walt felt that the key was how you used
the material to express your own work, so he was never concerned about where an idea came
from. There was one time when he complimented young artist on his drawing of Pinocchio
and said that he didnt give a damn where he got it but to just continue doing it. He tried to
make best use of what talents his employees had. Walt was continually searching to get the
maximum effort from everyone. Efficiency is better built through dedication rather than speed
for its own sake. Very often, confusion was caused by not knowing what was expected from
you. Anxiety over this lack of communication caused people to scramble around, looking for
ways to protect their jobs. So, some of them started building walls of people around them and
they were called Empire Builders. They wanted to multiply the number of subordinates, not
of rivals. They gradually developed separate units of directors and layout personnel that there
was a constant traffic jam on the recording stage, in inkers, in camera and so on. These men
started each day with a meeting where they would represent the work schedule of their units.
Everything was adjusted in the morning meeting in case Walt changed his mind or some unit
failed to get an approval. The unit managers often slowed down the work, yet on the paper
they looked like a perfect solution to their chaotic cross-purposes.
All through the thirties and forties, Walt would bring new groups of experts trying to find the
way to studio most efficiently. He knew there was a better way than the current one. An
organizational plan says that all employees will stay in their own spots doing just what they
were supposed to do in a way that had been selected for them. This approach was foreign to
Walt, especially in his constant shifting of men, asking them to do completely different things
every day.

The end of phenomenal growth of animation can be linked to the constant attempt to establish
some kind of order for the production of the pictures. It was impossible for any of the
animator to know what did Walt have in mind without hearing his ideas firsthand.
The emphasis now was on the new elements such as effects, mood, music, story, style and so
on. It is said that the tragedy was that animation wasnt recognized for what it was- the heart
of the business. Excellent animation was still being done and some discoveries were still
being made, but they tended to be in the areas of refinement rather than in bold uses of the
medium. Animators thought of safe ways to do scenes rather than exciting ones.
By 1939, the expansion of the studio had forced some units to work miles away in buildings
that could be leased in Hollywood. The whole Bambi unit was in a complex that once had
housed another cartoon studio. The moving of these units to other quarters didnt help release
the tension in the main building where all the animators were squashed together. But, soon
they left the jumble of buildings on Hyperion Avenue, full of memories, stories, great
achievements, but also failures. They were sentimentally attached to those structures that
contained magic, the rooms that had seen the development of so many ideas. Still, they were
all still excited and eager to be under one roof again. In 1939, they moved to a new studio
called Burbank.
As the number of employees increased, Walt had less and less time for the personal contact
that had been so important to the guidance and stimulation to his personnel. His time was
concentrated on new ideas, innovations, and planning for the future. He would spend many
hours in the projection room, known as Sweatbox 4. In the studio Burbank, elite meetings
were held in projection rooms called 3C-11 and 3C-12. The second one was more
important because it was close to Walts office. Consequently, animators were now only one
closed door away from the knowledge of what Walt was expecting. They even made a song

saying that in this job, not only that they cant win, but they cant get out of the game either.
Through this song they wanted to express how they felt under the constant pressure of not
knowing what was expected from them. Finally, they wanted to show how they were also in a
constant fear of losing their job that was very stressful. Although there was always a lot of
work to do, everyone was so excited and proud to contribute that no one would ever complain
or say it is too demanding.

Citations from: Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston- The illusion of life (Disney animation);
Hyperion 1995.