In observance of the passing of Walt Disney on Deecember 15, 1966, we asked Academy Award® winning Pixar director Pete Docter to share his thoughts about Walt's enduring influence and legacy.
The Wonderful World of Disney!
To this day, those words increase my heart rate. I didn’t care much for the Lawrence Welk show, but I’d routinely sit through a half hour of The Lennon Sisters to be certain not to miss a minute of what was to come. Once Tinkerbell appeared over the Disneyland® castle, I would start the incantation: “Please be animation, please be animation, please be animation… Aww, ‘Charlie, The Lonesome Cougar’? Part one of two?!?” Of course, I watched and loved Charlie anyway, but it was animation I was waiting for.
Back in those pre-VHS days, the only way I had to preserve what I’d seen was to tape record the audio for playback throughout the week. This operation required strict silence from my sisters and parents, since the microphone dangling in front of the T.V. speaker would also pick up room chatter. Thus, I conditioned my family to a strict code of silence during animation – none of that unnecessary laughing or clapping! – a habit they, unfortunately, continue even today as they watch my own films.
Come summer, my family would drive from Minnesota to California to visit relatives, and the trip was never complete without a stop at Disneyland. After one such visit, I discovered my grandparents had bamboo growing in their backyard. Somehow I talked my dad into hauling a bundle on the roof of our van back to the Midwest so I could recreate “The Tiki Room” in my bedroom.
I doubt I’d have become an animator if it weren’t for Walt Disney. I remember seeing Dumbo and Pinocchio at the movie theater and marveling at the amazing craftsmanship. It was only after watching non-Disney films that I realized what Walt brought to his films beyond that amazing technique: compelling stories and engaging, entertaining characters that stuck with me long after the lights came up.
There’s something almost mythic about Walt’s vision and confidence in what he was after. He had an uncanny ability to understand what audiences would enjoy, while challenging them to keep up as he pushed the medium to levels of artistry.
I’m still learning from him today.
Academy Award winning director for Pixar's "UP"