For my undergraduate History of Animation class, I’m obliged to give a pretest to judge my student’s knowledge of the topic. A favorite question is, “Who was the director of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Bambi?” Alas, no one has a clue, even though almost every student has seen these films and director David Hand gets prominent screen credit on both films. My query is meant to be a teaching moment, rather than a trick question, as it brings up a name that tends to be forgotten in animation history.
Now, the Savannah-based Animation Hall of Fame (I’m on their Advisory Board) has announced that David Dodd Hand’s son, David Hale Hand, has donated a collection of “art and artifacts” representing his father’s life’s work. The announcement gives a quick rundown of his career:
First working for Bray Studios; then Fleischer Studios in New York City, [Hand] quickly rose through the ranks at the Disney Studios to become the Supervising Director of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Bambi, and Production Supervisor, answering only to Walt, a stellar achievement. He had his hand in the development of all films at Disney from 1930–1944. Then he impacted Europe by heading the GB Animation Studio with J. Arthur Rank, the major British animation studio and school of the time. Before he retired, he went on to producing and directing for the Alexander Film Company in Colorado.
For more information on Hand, see Bob Egby’s David Hand the Moor Hall Collection website (where I got the photo above), the Disney Studio bio here, and Michael Barrier’s wonderful interview here.
The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archives has recently been posting a slew of wonderful material from their Clair Weeks collection, including this entry on Weeks’ role in jump starting the Indian animation industry. Weeks’ career is a fascinating one, as after 16 years at Disney (where his credits ranged from Snow White to Peter Pan), he went to India as part of the American Technical Co-Operation Mission, where he set up the country’s first animation studio for Information Films of India. The image above shows Weeks at work during the production of the studio’s first effort, The Banyan Deer. The posting also includes a Quicktime version of a silent film showing the studio (and Weeks) at work on the film.
Weeks was born and raised in India the son of missionaries; and because of this he apparently felt more at home there than in the United States. Given this background, it is probably no surprise that:
What started as a one year project expanded into almost a decade of service abroad working for the US Agency for International Development. Weeks toured Southeast Asia and headed up a [communications] office in Katmandu, Nepal. He made films and audio-visual programs that aided in the social development and economic growth of third world countries.
The Joe in question is my father, Joe Deneroff, and the drawing by cartoonist and illustrator Gilbert Bundy was apparently done in 1943 when both were working in the US Army Air Force’s fabled First Motion Picture Unit FMPU), based at Fort Roach (i.e., the Hal Roach Studio, Culver City, California). My mother said my father was hired by the Unit to work at their New York City facility in 1942; in 1943, both units were consolidated in Culver City and my father moved out there, leaving his family behind. He only stayed for six months for reasons which are not entirely clear; a letter written during the time he was there indicated he was somewhat homesick for New York, but I suspect his health problems (which eventually led to his death in 1946) were a major factor in his return.
When he returned to New York, he became an animator with Famous Studios (he had previously worked for Fleischer from 1932-40), where he worked alongside his friend Jack Ozark. When he died, Jack kept the drawing, which my father kept in his desk, and gave it to me when I got to know him in the 1980s. Jack said that my father and Bundy worked together at the FMPU and that the drawing perfectly captured the way my father acted and dressed.
In doing some admittedly cursory research. I could not find anything on Bundy and the FMPU; for instance, David Apatoff’s Illustration Art blog does note that:
… when World War II came along, Bundy decided for some reason to leave it all behind and volunteer to work as an artist in the South Pacific for Hearst newspapers.
In 1944, Bundy was accompanying the Marine invasion of Tarawa when a Japanese shell exploded in his small landing craft. …
Bundy returned to the U.S. but never recaptured the joy in his pre-war art. On the anniversary of his ordeal Bundy committed suicide, thereby rejoining his fallen comrades.
I would, of course, be delighted to hear from anyone who has any additional information on the matter.