Cool Stuff: Walt Disney’s 1935 Animation Manifesto

On December 23, 1935, Walt Disney wrote an eight page letter to a gentleman named Don Graham at the Chouinard Art Institute (now Cal Arts) asking him to help train new, and improve old, Disney animators. Walt felt that many of the men he employed weren’t working up to their potential and that by focusing on a few simple things, the studio’s output would improve exponentially. Well, after this letter, the studio released – in order – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi. So, it seemed to have worked.

The letter is a fascinating look into the genius mind of Walt Disney, as it details the unique way he looked at movies, humor, drawing, running a company and much more. He details the minutia – such as body type and rhythm of movement – of animation and implores animators not to ignore these incredibly important things. Animators, or just fans of Disney, should really enjoy this. Check out scans of the letter and link to the full transcript after the break.

Thanks to Michael Sporn Animation for unearthing the letter and Letters of Note for the full transcription. Click here to read it typed out.

Here are a few of my personal favorite quotes, just as a taste.

I am convinced that there is a scientific approach to this business, and I think we shouldn’t give up until we have found out all we can about how to teach these young fellows the business.

The first duty of the cartoon is not to picture or duplicate real action or things as they actually happen – but to give a caricature of life and action – to picture on the screen things that have run thru the imagination of the audience to bring to life dream fantasies and imaginative fancies that we have all thought of during our lives or have had pictured to us in various forms during our lives. Also to caricature things of life as it is today – or make fantasies of things we think of today.

If the animators get the groundwork right, that is, the action underneath all these trimmings right – then what they add is going to be twice as effective. It’s a very important point that we must impress on the new men and the older men.

And here’s the letter as it appeared on Don Graham’s desk just before Christmas in 1935.

How smart and insightful is this letter? And isn’t it incredible the string of hits that it pretty much started?

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