Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection: Interviews with the Filmmakers

There is something so special about a Disney Short. Every time a new short comes out before a movie, I get excited, for I know if it made the cut, it’s going to be pretty special. I can’t think of a better collection to have on one DVD/Blu-ray than the one that Disney put together in the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection. And what better way than to share this with you than to chat with some of the filmmakers and share with you some of their movie making stories.


From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes the Shorts Film Collection, an extraordinary new collection of award-winning and beloved short films featuring Disney’s Frozen Fever, starring Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Sven and Kristoff, and the Oscar®-nominated Lorenzo. It will be available early on Digital HD/Disney Movies Anywhere August 11 and you can bring It home on Blu-ray™ August 18. Enjoy this must-own collection with all-new extras including an inside look at the Disney Animation shorts, featuring introductions and interviews with the acclaimed filmmakers themselves.

Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection

Photo credit www.raisingwhasians.com
(L-R) Peter Del Vecho, Mark Hen, Dorothy McKim, and Mike Gabriel Photo credit www.raisingwhasians.com

Interviews with the Filmmakers

Joining us for the interviews was Peter Del Vecho, who is the Producer for Frozen Fever, Mark Hen, the Director of John Henry. Dorothy McKim is the Producer of Get A Horse!, The Ballad Of Nessie, Tick Tock Tale, Prep and Landing, and Operation Secret Santa. And then Mike Gabriel is the Director for Lorenzo.

Mike: It was a short career. (Laughing)

Yeah, don’t let Mike fool you, he also directed Pocahontas as well and was an art directors for Wreck It Ralph. He is also the art director for Dorothy McKim’s film she’s producing, Gigantic.

Dorothy, out of all the short’s you’ve worked on which is your favorite and why?

Dorothy: Oh my goodness. I love each of them for a little different reason. I lean a little bit towards Get A Horse! To be able to continue Walt’s legacy and his dream of doing shorts and using his voice in that short. Everything authentically was Walt in that short.

Mickey Mouse (voiced by Walt Disney himself), his favorite pal Minnie Mouse and a host of friends delight in a musical wagon ride in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Get A Horse!” The black-and-white, hand-drawn theatrical short opens in theaters in front of “Frozen” on Nov. 27, 2013.
Mickey Mouse (voiced by Walt Disney himself), his favorite pal Minnie Mouse and a host of friends delight in a musical wagon ride in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Get A Horse!” The black-and-white, hand-drawn theatrical short opened in theaters in front of “Frozen” on Nov. 27, 2013.

One quick little story with that. When we screened it for John Lasseter and he asked, “Everything is Walt? Great. I’m so excited.” We screened it, and we finished John said, “No there’s one word in there. The word “red” is not Walt.” I’m like, “How did he pick that out?” Of everything, he picked that out, and he was right. We could not find the word red anywhere in the library. So we worked about 3 months with our Sound Designer and he found an ER-EH-DE from Walt. 3 syllables and we put ‘em together. So it’s 100% Walt.

Is there a particular place you pull for inspiration?

Mike: Different places. I got mine from one of the earliest Walt Disney super stars of the studio, Joe Grant, who was Walt’s right hand man. You know he was really tight with Walt. They had a little cocktail at the end of their evening you know. After tea from 5 o’clock. So Joe had this idea for Lorenzo the cat made back in the 40’s. He left in 1950. So he’d been there from ’33 to ’50. 17 year run, he left for 40 years. He came back in 1989. He still had this Lorenzo idea in his head and he put it up in the drawings. He kept it alive.


When Don Hahn started doing a Fantasia 3 – and didn’t get finished, but he was developing Fantasia 3. Joe kept those drawings out in front of his office and Don said, “Mike you wanna’ check Joe’s idea with the cat and the tail thing and put it to a tango for this Fantasia 3?” And I said, “Hell yeah I do.”(laughing) So you know that’s sort of where the idea came from and I was the lucky to be one that was asked to do it. Gold, golden hand.

John Henry

Mark: Oh for me The Legend of John Henry is something I think most of us have all grown up with at some, some level or not. But what I found interesting is the fact that Disney and some of their short films involved American Tall Tales and Legends it actually alluded to John Henry. It is mentioned twice in the title sequence to Johnny Appleseed and Paul Bunion, but they never did anything with it as far as I knew or could find.

Frozen Fever

Peter: I think for us coming off of Frozen, the movie, the idea that we get to explore a different side of Elsa and find certain comedy uh in her really appealed to us. And we started the short not that long after the movie. About 6 months after the movie, but we had just released in some of the foreign territory. So the movie was very fresh in our minds, but it was really the idea of exploring in a different uh part of Elsa.

With Frozen Fever and Tangled Ever After, the short came after a larger movie. Was a short ever made and then the thought of  “I wanna’ take this further” ever happened?

Mike: I can think of one that actually was a short first before it became a feature. Can anyone remember which one? It’s a full feature back in the prime classic 40’s, Fantasia. It started as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. That’s a short.

Mark: Oh yeah that’s true, that is true.

Mike: And it was turning out so well they decided to make a feature of it.

Mark: What has happened oftentimes, the shorts from a technical side were done specifically to test out some new process that was implemented into a feature. The Old Mill, for example, was playing with the multiplying camera back in the 30’s and 40’s. I’m thinking of there’s a little short called Goliath II.


It was about a miniature elephant, but they basically testing out the Xerox camera process which replaced inking painting. Our inking at that point in the studio’s history. So those kind of things know get their birth or get launched in a short and often get implemented in a feature.

So what is your time frame roughly like to pitch a Short to animation?

Dorothy: They all vary. I mean sometimes with our shorts they start and they stop because what you’re doing is, you’re using some people. You’ll borrow people that are working on features ‘cause you have a very small crew. I mean we finished Operation Secret Santa in 5 months. And Get A Horse! Was done in 18. So they’re all a little different.

Peter: Frozen Fever was about 8 months.

Mark: Yeah I think with John Henry, we had about a 9 to 12 month production schedule.

What appearances have you made in the Shorts?

Mike: Oh Oliver and Company, there’s a scene where there’s the butler looking at a wrestling match on the TV, but toward the end of the film I’m one of those wrestlers.

Mark: I’m a polyp– I’m a polyp in Mermaid. (laughing) I’m a polyp with a mustache and glasses. That’s me.

Peter: I tango across the dance floor in Princess and the Frog.(laughing)

Dorothy: In Beauty And The Beast when they’re going to the Beast there’s a little girl waving out the window and her name is Dot

Does she look like you?

Photo credit www.raisingwhasians.com
Photo credit www.raisingwhasians.com

Dorothy: Yeah a little–

A little Dot.

Dorothy: Yeah a little Dot.

We all know there’s usually a lot of Easter Eggs in the shorts. Is there any that the public doesn’t know about?

Dorothy: Do you guys knows the Easter Egg in and Get A Horse? Oswald. Peeks through right at the end.


Peter: If you look carefully at one of the Snowgies it will reflect a movie that came after Frozen. I’ll just leave it at that. A big movie. A big movie. Big, big. There’s still one Easter egg in Frozen and no one has ever found.

In the feature or the short?

Peter: In the feature.

Dorothy: In Frozen. And we’ve narrowed down these two scenes.

Peter: And you know I’m gonna’ stay away from that just ‘cause we’re very, very curious to see if anybody ever figures it out.

Dorothy: We’ll put something in Gigantic.

Mark: Well you know, you don’t want it to be a distraction and that’s the key. It’s just there’s little inside jokes for us and that goes way back. That’s kind of an old tradition, but yeah you don’t want it to be a distraction.


Your films obviously touch people differently. What for you would be the highest compliment or the best feedback?

Mike: I had 2 great highlights. Eric Larson was one of the Nine Old Men and when we did a scene from The Great Mouse Detective, the dog Toby was my character and he snooped around the room and came up under a tablecloth and just running around, but Eric Larson came by my office, knocked on the door. I’m thinking, “Eric is here?”

Photo via cinderellascarriage.wordpress.com
Photo via cinderellascarriage.wordpress.com

It was like Eric was usually in his own office, but he was a very hallowed revered figure and he came and said, “Mike I saw that scene today in dailies. That’s the best scene I have seen in a long time. I would be proud if I had done that scene myself. That’s the level of animation I’m trying to get to happen again, right there.” So that was a great highlight moment. I was like I’m still up in a cloud from that one. But with Lorenzo, when it was finished, Vance Gary was one of our top most, again, revered and respected story men. He’d been there since the 50’s at least. And he was probably 70 or something like that. And he was just sittin’ on the side leaning against the wall of the theater and he watched it. And he just said, “My when I just saw that I remembered why I came to Disney in the first place. That’s why I came.”


Dorothy: Mine is um actually during Meet The Robinsons, you know a story about adoption and Steve Anderson, the Director, was adopted. I’ll tell you this really quick story. He was adopted and his adopted parents gave him a letter and said, “When you turn 18 you can open it and we’ll give you all the information about your mom.” That was when he was about 6. And so for a few years he just like, “I couldn’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait. I can’t wait till I’m 18.” And one day he was 24 and he never opened up that letter. So many people that been adopted connected with that. And to have somebody that comes to you and said that really changed my life, it really helped me. I mean that’s my ultimate thing is that when we just reach out to the entire world and we can help people. And people that are sick or people that are going through certain situations and just to help ‘em and just give ‘em a little lift.


Mark: Oh boy, that’s hard to follow, but uh actually I agree completely with them. I mean we make these films, first for ourselves and what we believe is gonna’ be really fun and entertaining. And yeah, you put ‘em out there in hopes that the audiences are going to embrace ‘em as much as we have. And I mean I had a case yesterday. I mean coming for an event like D23 is just fabulous you know? People are just so amazingly kind and you know sharing how these films have affected their lives. But I had a young man come up to me yesterday and say, “Aladdin saved my life.” And I’m just like…You know how do you…I mean….You know I was like, “How are you doing now?” And he says, “I’m doing great, but I just wanted to let you know that.” And I’m you know I’m gettin’ chills now just talking about it. But you know you just don’t know and that’s kind of the fun and the joy of being an artist and then creating something with you know fabulous you know co-workers. And Artists putting it out there in a world that can be pretty tough and to put something out there that hopefully entertains. Maybe take you out of the world for a few hours or whatever. I mean that’s the fun of what we do.

Peter: I mean for me, just coming to D23 and seeing the people who took the time to actually make their own costumes. Even the new Ana dress, they’ve had people create that. The YouTube videos (fans make) and all of that. But certainly for the movie there were many, many stories we’ve heard. A lot of them centered around the song Let It Go. You know kids who you know felt they were getting too much pressure from their parents to be something they weren’t. But the one who sticks out to me the most was a guy who fought in the Gulf War and lost both his legs. And he said that the song Let It Go made him realize that he needed to accept who he was and become who he is. So stories like that are extremely powerful and it’s not the norm, but when they happen they hit you really hard.

Mike: Beautiful. Can you imagine Inside Out? I mean that’s really unbelievable. Pete Doctor – You gave a gift to the world, beautiful.

Awesome right? Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection on Blu-ray now as well as on Digital HD & Disney Movies Anywhere 8/11.

Here’s the list and a look of what you will find on the release –
Shorts (and filmmakers appearing in each Shorts Introduction):
Frozen Fever (2015) – Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho, Aimee Scribner
Feast (2014) – Academy Award® Winner, Patrick Osborne, Kristina Reed
Get A Horse! (2013) – Academy Award® Nominated, Dorothy McKim, Eric Goldberg, Adam Green
Paperman (2012) – Academy Award® Winner, Kristina Reed, John Kahr
Tangled Ever After (2012) – Nathan Greno, Aimee Scribner, Mark Kennedy
The Ballad of Nessie (2011) – Kevin Deters, Stevie Wermers-Skelton, Dorothy McKim
Tick Tock Tale (2010) – Dean Wellins
Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa (2010) – Kevin Deters, Stevie Wermers-Skelton, Dorothy McKim
How to Hook Up Your Home Theater (2007) – Kevin Deters, Stevie Wermers-Skelton, Ian Gooding
The Little Matchgirl (2006) – Academy Award® Nominated, Dave Bossert, Tom MacDougall
Lorenzo (2004) – Academy Award® Nominated, Mike Gabriel
John Henry (2000) – Mark Henn


*I was invited to attend D23 on behalf of Disney. All opinions are my own.
Trippin with Tara
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