Walt Disney's Field Day
July 28, 2022 1:21 AM   Subscribe

Following the release of Snow White, in 1938, Walt Disney organized a Field Day. "Walt foresaw a leisurely outdoor event, one that would appeal to middle-aged family men, similar to the social festivities held by other studios," however it would be the craziest party Walt Disney ever threw. After working late nights on Snow White, being informed that the party was their bonus, the young animators had other ideas. Walt "and his wife drove home that next morning. He never referred to that party again, and in fact, if you wanted to keep your job, you didn’t mention it either.”
posted by geoff. (26 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
The first rule of Disney Field Day...
posted by fairmettle at 1:41 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


The video from DefunctLand - is great. I liked the way they re-created the witness accounts into "I was there" (or more often "I was not there myself, to be clear, but I heard..." accounts. It is interesting to talk about the party as a key marker of the end of Disney as a cosy family business under "uncle Walt" and towards something both larger and more caustic.

I am also reminded of a story told to me by an animator, that they would consider pre-alerting the paramedics for the parties at the end of animator's conferences. After months of concentrating on frame after frame after frame - there is a lot of steam that needs to be let off.
posted by rongorongo at 3:31 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


Disney's bum got so tight that it wasn't able to let out any of the profits to the animators.
posted by clawsoon at 4:23 AM on July 28


Wait 'til you see what those Ghibli dudes did to the catbus.

A guy stole a horse, led it into the lobby, up the stairs, and galloped up and down the hallways of the second floor. Probably not great for the horse, but now you know the party has started.

But seriously, the party is only the start of the story of Disney's wretched union busting. Some of those strike placards the animators made? Works of art! They belong in some kind of labor rights museum. I hope some of them are still around.

Since I mentioned Ghibli I'm reminded of this video of Miyazaki making ramen for the Spirited Away crew. He cares enough to personally make a meal they can eat at their desk, because it's crunch time. But the deadline is completely artificial. Do you think no one would watch Spirited Away if it came out a week or a month later? Maybe the film would benefit if the people making it ate meals with their family?

That seems more like Disney in the early days before this party and the unionising. Then he turns into a union bashing asshole, and while this video seems to blame political poison being poured into his ear, that doesn't excuse the crunch to make Snow White. He expected his animators to eat at their desks before all that.

Miyazaki has some problems, but Disney was into some nazi shit. They're not in the same bucket.
posted by adept256 at 4:24 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


that doesn't excuse the crunch to make Snow White.

He definitely was running out of money and had to take out a large loan from Bank of America to finish the film. So if he wanted to keep paying the staff he needed to get it finished, even if there wasn't a hard deadline. I assume Ghibli had similar restraints.
posted by geoff. at 4:49 AM on July 28 [8 favorites]


The article says that the stories of Disney arguing with the (fake) police officer and saying "I'll have your badge" doesn't match the footage of Disney laughing with the officer, but I think the video makes sense of it: The first thing Disney does in the footage is point at the officer's badge, and the video talked earlier about how Disney would often disguise threats as jokes. So I'm thinking that the people hearing him joke with the officer knew how serious Disney's jokes could be.
posted by clawsoon at 4:50 AM on July 28


It’s almost as if Walt forgot that he had hired artists. Protip: Never, ever, ever, ever invite a building full of artists to a big party if you expect gentility. Doubly-so for animators. Goddamn, those folks can party.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:07 AM on July 28 [5 favorites]


I want to hear about WB's Termite Terrace people when they partied.
posted by Paul Slade at 5:41 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure those records are still sealed.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:02 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


I want to hear about WB's Termite Terrace people when they partied.

While not partying per se, when Disney animators finally struck, a guillotine was marched along the picket line. The man leading the display was one Charles M. Jones, better known to others as Chuck.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:12 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


(And if you're curious about the history of Warner Brothers storied (and abused) animation division, KaiserBeamz' Merrie History of Looney Tunes is worth checking out.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:15 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


They mention the animator Ruthie Thompson still going at 109 years old. Since the YouTube video, she died at age 111 in 2021.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:32 AM on July 28 [5 favorites]


He definitely was running out of money and had to take out a large loan from Bank of America to finish the film. So if he wanted to keep paying the staff he needed to get it finished, even if there wasn't a hard deadline. I assume Ghibli had similar restraints.

He didn't have a realistic budget for labor - I can excuse that to an extent, it was the first time anyone tried such a thing. That loan - Bank of America only existed by that name since 1930. It was formally known as Bank of Italy. This is actually a cool story.

Amadeo Giannini founded the Bank of Italy in 1904 in San Francisco to serve the migrant community, just two years before the great earthquake. As the fires approached he loaded all the money into a garbage wagon and led it out of the city. While other banks were waiting for the vaults to cool down before they could open them, Amadeo set up business on two barrels and a plank, handing over unsecured loans on a handshake.

This was at a time when access to credit was only something for the elites who all knew each other. This guy just starts giving out money on a handshake - no paperwork, at a time when people had all their shit destroyed in an earthquake and fire. He got it all back with interest. People honored these loans, they were extremely grateful for them. He was a hero banker, not words that go together these days.

He followed that success with a broader practice of making small loans to middle class people without collateral, he was the first to do this. This led to the merger with Bank of America in 1928 and the name change in 1930.

It's this guy, Amadeo Giannini, who gave Walt Disney the loan to make Snow White. He was probably the only banker in San Francisco that would put that much money into a cartoon. He had faith in people. He would have met Walt, seen how earnest he was about this film and shook his hand. Done deal.

In a round-about way you could say there'd be no Snow White if there were no 1906 earthquake.
posted by adept256 at 7:39 AM on July 28 [78 favorites]


adept256, that right there should be a FPP.
posted by adamrice at 8:23 AM on July 28 [14 favorites]


"This theory [on workplace harassment being due to men not being used to women in the workplace] has been dis-proven every day for the last 80 years."
posted by kittensyay at 9:44 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


adept256, that right there should be a FPP.

Well it's a good story, but none seems to be true. Certainly not the banking stuff (consumer banking has existed for a long time), and per the Snow White stuff, Disney apparently showed them a rough cut. It also apparently was Joseph Rosenberg, who is famous for Hollywood Financing, who approved the loan.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:17 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Is the Wikipedia article about Amadeo Giannini substantially untrue, or are you specifically referring to a supposed personal connection with authorizing the Snow White loan when you say “none of it is true”? Because a lot of it seems to be true.
posted by thoroughburro at 10:24 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


I suppose I should cite where I learnt that story. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and A.P. Giannini. It conforms with what you see on wikipedia. I'm not here for an epistemological debate.
posted by adept256 at 11:21 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


The History Guy is notoriously a bad resource FYI, but in this case he seems to be reading from the Wikipedia article. The Treasury Dept gives pretty much the same story except hiding the money under oranges instead of trash and does away with some of the storytelling elements but it doesn't really matter it is still much the same. BAC literally bankrolled Hollywood and Silicon Valley so talk about being at the right place at the right time.
posted by geoff. at 11:56 AM on July 28


Preamble to Wally Wood's Disney Memorial Orgy?
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 12:03 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Bank of America had a relationship with Disney into the 1990s, operating a branch inside Disneyland and sponsoring it's a small world after its relocation from the New York World's Fair.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:05 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


He didn't have a realistic budget for labor - I can excuse that to an extent, it was the first time anyone tried such a thing.

I work in the animation industry, and it seems like things are still that way a lot of the time. All it takes is one optimist...
posted by clawsoon at 2:14 PM on July 28


Some of those strike placards the animators made? Works of art! They belong in some kind of labor rights museum. I hope some of them are still around.

When I visited the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco a few years ago, I was pleased to see that they didn't gloss over the strikes entirely. And while they were more generous to Walt than I might have been, they do include the animators' positions pretty clearly, and here's a photo I took of replicas of their strike placards.
posted by Inkslinger at 2:23 PM on July 28 [9 favorites]


Charles M. Jones, better known to others as Chuck

Pro tip: there's a rough correlation between the Looney Tunes' creators being credited with more formal names and the quality of the cartoons (with some exceptions).

"Directed by Charles M. Jones" = more likely to be good.

"Directed by Chuck Jones" = more likely to be not quite as good.

The same goes for other Looney Tunes directors. Budgets at Warner Brothers Cartoons started getting smaller in the late '50s because of reduced revenues from cartoon shorts at the movies. Backgrounds started getting more abstract and less detailed.

Knight-Mare Hare (1955) was the first time he was credited as Chuck.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:39 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I love seeing people's names in credits before they started using the version of their name under which they became famous. Jerrald Goldmsith, Johnny Williams, and Frank Oznowicz spring to mind.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:25 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Larry Fishburne
posted by kirkaracha at 7:43 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


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