“Marc Davis Goes to WED” Talk with Pete Docter and Chris Merritt at ILM
“Marc can do story, he can do character, he can animate, he can design shows for me. All I have to do is tell him what I want and it’s there! He’s my Renaissance man.” – Walt Disney
On Saturday, June 30, as part of the overall celebration of Walt Disney’s Directing Animators: The Nine Old Men, The Walt Disney Family Museumis hosting a talk with Oscar winning Pixar Director Pete Doctor with Imagineer and experienced chronicler of Theme Park experiences, Chris Merritt at the Industrial Light & Magic facility in the Presideo of San Francisco.
The program,entitled Marc Davis Goes toWED, is presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men: Masters of Animation. Currated by Disney film producer and prolific author Don Hahn, the centerpiece exhibition devotes an area in the Diane Disney Exhibition Hall to each of Walt Disney’s Directing Animators, in a holistic approach that includes not only their art, but also personal interests and pursuits . As Hawn stated recently, while the animation of each of the “Nine” was exemplary, “it was the lives they led that made them special.”
The famed nine were: Les Clark, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Frank Thomas.
Marc Davis started at the Walt Disney Studio in 1935, working on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He went on to develop and animate characters of including Bambi and Thumper, and some might say, his specialty, female characters including Maleficent, Aurora (in Sleeping Beauty), and Tinker Bell, among others. He also animated Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians. After his work on that film he moved down Riverside Drive to Walt Disney Imagineering.
Marc’s ability to inhabit his subject matter was enabled by his fondness for travel to to exotic locales. He also collected indigenous artwork from his travels to far flung places such as Papua New Guinea. Marc began his Disneyland work with an expansion on the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland, he added completely new scenes with a deeper sense of place, and a stronger narrative. The same approach was then taken to Adventureland where Marc worked on The Enchanted Tiki Room and new scenes for the The Jungle Cruise (The African Veldt, The Lost Safari) that inexplicably added humor and realism to the attraction. Davis also worked on all of the Disney exhibits for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair.
Informed by his film work, he exhibited a strong gift for what might be called a one-panel sensibility. The Lost Safari scene on the Jungle Cruise. Hitchhiking ghosts. A dog guarding imprisoned pirates, with the key hanging from his mouth. These images “read” immediately, with no ambiguity.
His final WED project was America Sings in 1974. Davis was the only of the Nine Old Men to shift his full time concentration to Theme Park design where his work on Disneyland and Walt Disney World and the international parks is indelible.
Beyond anecdotal experiences, Doctor and Merritt will exhibit never-before-seen photos and rare video footage, collected through years of research for their new book Marc Davis Goes to WED: Designing the Disney Theme Parks (scheduled for release in 2019).