Saturday, August 19, 2017

Reminder of Geezerhood

There's nothing that reminds a person how much time has whirled buy than some e-mail asking questions about long-ago events. Like for instance:

From: christian renaut

To: Steve Hulett

Sent: Saturday, August 19, 2017 11:02 AM

Subject: questions "Fox and the Hound"

Thank you so much for your quick answer, I'm so glad. Here are my questions, feel free to take your time.

1/ It seems you had such a hard time convincing the old timers in story to be more modern and daring. However, it seems Vance Gerry and Burny Mattinson were more on your side, weren’t they?

As I recall, Vance didn't take any position on the overall shape of the story. He was in and out of the studio during that period, working part-time, devoting a chunk of each week to his small business "Weatherbird Press" where he created limited edition books (printing, illustration and typesetting were passions of his. He had a house in Fallbrook that was three-fifths print shop).

Burny could have been involved, but my memory is that Ron Clements, then an animator, and Pete Young (a story artist) were pushing for changes. Pete would usually lie back in the weeds and wait until the directors were at a dead end and more open to suggestions. "You can't tell 'em anything until they're ready to hear it" was one of his mottos. Ron would be more pushy. I know that he and I raised the idea of having Chief killed. Pete? He could have been involved, but he was fighting his own little battles at the time, getting his story ideas put into the first half of the film.

2/ I know Larry Clemmons had written the dialogues that Frank and Ollie animated to launch the film, did he quit after that, or did he have an input on the whole film before retiring?

Larry retired up to Friday Harbor in '78. He was torn about leaving, but his wife had already retired and was pressing him to wrap things up, sell their Glendale house, and join her up in the Puget Sound. After he left, he had no further connection to the movie. He wrote on a lot of sequences before he retired, but many of them were changed after he left. The dialogue he wrote for young Tod and Copper was used. He penned a bunch of dialogue and Frank Thomas cherry-picked what he wanted to build his puppy sequence near the start of the movie. There were no storyboards on that, per se.

3/ Can you remember at what stage in the production Woolie was more or less dismissed from directing by Ron Miller? Early pre-production? Story-writing? Later?

Woolie was on the film for the first few years. He supervised lots of story sessions and storyboard reviews. The overall shape of the picture was his, but details and final results should be credited to others. Woolie was pushed out because Ron Miller kept asking him to step back and let the younger guys run with the picture, but Woolie found that difficult to do. Getting him off the picture was the only way to give everybody else air, I think.

4/ Would you say his famous sequence between Charo and Phil Harris that he planned was the last straw?

Woolie was pretty much gone from "Fox and Hound" at that point, then he asked Miller if he could develop the Charo sequence, and was given permission to do so. Art Stevens was upset about the sequence, felt it didn't fit. Art worked hard to make sure it wasn't used.

On the other hand, Woolie was right about the picture sagging in the middle, and that there needed to be SOMETHING besides what we had. It's just that dumping Charo into the proceedings was the wrong solution.

5/ (main question) Which sequences did you principally contribute to? Any anecdote? Difficulties?

I worked on most all of them, one way or the other. Sometimes I contributed bits, sometimes I wrote dialogue, or rewrote dialogue. Some stuff was used, other stuff not. The most interesting challenge was re-writing dialogue for one of the lead characters (I think it was Tod when he's a young fox but it was a long time ago and the mind plays tricks...) when Big Mama's dialogue had already been recorded and was locked in stone. I ran from story room to story room with multiple options for Tod's dialogue, getting directors Ted Berman's and Art Stevens' approval.

The long story sessions for the picture (of which there are many, and which I detail in MiT, is here (and there's nothing much to add):

6/ Can you remember sequences or scenes that were abandoned and you wished they hadn’t?

There weren't many sequences (if any) jettisoned. There were plenty of sequences that were changed, altered, beaten to death. Dave Michener worked on the burrow sequence -- where the hunter and Copper are attacking -- for a year, and Woolie dragged it this way and that. After a year, it was within 11 drawings of where it started out.

Oh. Ollie Johnston did some scenes of Chief in the cabin with a broken leg that never got past the pencil test stage (it was early in the project, was test footage, and didn't fit). I'm sure there were trims, exploratory animation I don't remember/know about, but I wasn't involved in that stuff very much.

7/ Finally, how useful was the novel by Mannix since so little is left of it?

Never read the book, was never asked to. (I think Woolie and maybe Larry read it, but I'm guessing). I don't know who else in the story department read the book but I never asked. If I'd had my wits about me I would have taken it on myself to read the thing, but I was too caught up in banging sequence scripts out in my office, pleasing Larry and Woolie, going to story meetings, etc. (I did read some of the "Catfish Bend" books when I worked with Ken Anderson on that project. It should have helped, but with Ken and his towering ego and paranoia, nothing helped.)

When Katzenberg got to the studio, he wanted everybody to read source material. But that was later.

Hope this helps. ...

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