Many of you may recall that when Disney's Hollywood Studios opened in May of 1989, there was a working animation department on the property. Some of you may recall the film Back to Neverland. In it, Robin Williams and Walter Cronkite provided an overview to the art of animation before guest would tour the studio. Photography was not allowed in those days because you were witnessing the creative process that gave us Mulan, Lilo & Stitch and Brother Bear. There was a once a time when you could track the progress of Roller Coaster Rabbit, a Roger Rabbit short, on a larger that life Roger Rabbit on the wall of the Ink and Paint Department.
But that was some time ago. Sadly, Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida was closed in 2003.
It has been years since I visited this part of the park. So this past April I decided to see what became of the production complex. It was sad not to see the animators at work on what would be a new classic Disney film, but I couldn't help but smile as I remembered the (what seemed like) hours I would spend watching them work and wishing I was one of them.
In the courtyard of the studio is a tribute some of the great men that made the tradition of Disney animation something that we all respect and appreciate. There, on three cement tablets, are the names of four of Walt's Nine Old Men. They are Ollie Johnson (1912-2008), Frank Thomas (1912-2004), Ward Kimball (1914-2002), and Marc Davis (1913-2000). Sharing the tablet with Marc Davis are Ken Anderson and Ken O'Connor.
The next time you find yourself in Disney's Hollywood Studio and the lines at Toy Story Mania or the Great Movie Ride are too long, wander over to the animation studio and visit the legends gave us so much magic.
Ollie Johnson, Frank Thomas
Marc Davis, with Ken Anderson and Ken O'Connor