Four representatives of Walt Disney's animation department came to George Washington University recently to show films and, hopefully, recruit new blood for their film company.
There were four of them: Animator "Woolie" Reitherman, one of the "Nine Old Men" Disney employed on his most ambitious early cartoon projects; John Culhane, cartoon historian, (and voice of Mr. Snoops in "The Rescuers"); Tom Wilhite, a 28-year-old vice president for creative development; and 22-year-old Disney animator John Lasseter, winner of two student awards for animation.
Lasseter, outlining details for prospective animators' portfolios, said, "We don't really want pictures of fuzzy bunnies. If you can't draw, but are a good artist, send us your best work, or a photograph of it. We may be able to use you, even if you're a sculptor."
Wilhite cited Steven Lisberger, the director of the cartoon film "Animalympics," as an example of the studio's receptivity to fresh ideas and talent: "He came to us with an idea for a movie called 'Tron' and some film clips, showing a very original cartoon drawing style. It's a science fiction/fantasy involving computers set in the future . . . but it could happen tomorrow. The animation style and the story plot are closely integrated; he's using an overlay of computer-animated drawings on real people. In fact, this will be the first movie combining those two techniques, live action and digital computer animation."
Reitherman told of one memorable night when he had just finished animating the soundtrack of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" for the dinosaur segment of "Fantasia."
"At Disney," he said, "we usually had pretty good Christmas parties . . . they started on Christmas Eve, and usually stretched out to New Year's . . . and I had a tape recorder up there in my room, and I was running the "Rite of Spring" track backwards . And you know the thing about that music, it has that stretch; you know there's a melody there, but there, but there is a very dynamic mood and force to it, a recognizable one. So, anyway, there's a knock on the door, and someone goes over to answer it, and standing there is Walt . . . with Igor Stravinsky.
"But, he [Stravinsky] was very nice. He said, 'Sounds good backwards, too.' and left."