It's one thing to write a book about Mickey Mouse...but to dress up as him?
That's how I felt, though, wearing oversized white cotton gloves. The gloves were because I was going to be handling historical documents, and the best way to preserve them was to never let the oils of grubby human fingers touch them. Hence the gloves. (I also wasn't allowed to use pens or markers: accidents happen.)
I was at Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, and in front of me was information no one had seen for 50 years. Locked away in two extra-long cardboard boxes were thousands of pages of research material about Walter Elias Disney.
The boxes were from the Richard Hubler collection: Hubler was a biographer who donated his papers to BU. In 1967, Hubler interviewed all of the recently deceased Walt Disney's friends and family for an authorized biography. That book never got published -- you can read about about what happened in the introduction to A Mouse Divided. (Log-rolling over, I promise.)
I found many a great quote there, including many I wasn't able to put into my book. I'm sharing the best of them here. As far as I know, only a few of these historical quotes have ever been made public before. Some of them are from Hubler's interviews, others from letters he was allowed to read.
If nothing else, this saves the Disneyphile fan a trip to Boston! Although it'd still worth the trip: Hubler's book is a marvel to read: he understood Walt better than many other biographers. If for no other reason, those oversized white gloves are very slimming...
Quotes from Lilly Disney (Walt's wife)
"He was so much more a director than an artist." --4/16/68
*"Walt and I were going to was [to get married] but Walt didn't like to be alone." 4/16/68
*[On acting out stories] ""he was never embarrassed about it."--4/16/68
"His back injury may have dated all the way back to the days when he carried papers."--4/16/68
"But I can sure see a lot of improvement in the synchronization of The Opry House -- it is almost perfect compared to The Barn Dance. (undated by Hubler)
"The Strand has a big cutout of Mickey Mouse in the lobby, and gives it as much space as any of the other sound shorts."(undated by Hubler)
"Mickey Mouse is getting to be a very familiar character on Broadway -- he is what is known as a "HIT!"(undated by Hubler)
:I don't think he ever read a novel in his life, but he was crazy about history."
Quote from Wilfred Jackson
"You know he was gentle and nice whenever we were in real trouble. He only got impatients and upset over little things."
Quotes from Roy Disney
"In our 43 years of working together, that really showed Walt's the character and determination and inventiveness; [but] I think probably looking at it on the overall the most important one was early in the game -- 1929, 1927."(undated by Hubler)
"We had a series called Odwalt the Lucky Rabbit and through some Hollywood chicanery we lost out on it."(undated by Hubler)
[Regarding Mickey Mouse] "We were trying hard to sell series. They were silent. [The Jazz Singer] started the whole industry, but it didn't startle anybody more than Walt."(undated by Hubler)
[about Walt in 1923] "He was skinny as a rail from his harrowing experience in Kansas City, where he spent everything on the shop and not on himself." (undated by Hubler)
"There have been several times in our background when Walt would remember a situation differently. But you must remember I was 8 1/2 years older than the kid was." --6/18/68
"I always shared his outlook, I was just more practical about it."--6/18/68
[on if Roy hadn't joined the company] "I really believe...that Walt would have gotten mired down with crooks."--6/18/68
[On running a business] "I was just a normal guy and I learned it at the company's expense."--6/18/68
[on the Kansas City days]"[Walt] didn't go broke. They had receivables they couldn't collect on."--6/18/68
"They ultimately paid off, and the $28,000 came back into Walt's defunct company, and paid all his debts and even his stakeholders got part of their money back."--6/18/68
[on a copycat competitor, Van Beuren] "We finally got down to court with big blowups of his characters and out characters, right out of the film....we didn't ask for any damages. We even let him finish marketing his pictures. We just stopped him [from making any more]...we wanted to establish our copyright."
*When he was back in New York and getting the real lowdown on Powers, and where he stood, he never transmitted any bad news to me, except "I need more money for this or that." But as I said, it was always optimistic."--6/18/68
"He and Ubbie made a great team together. Ubbie is not only a good artist but a mechanical kid of genius."--6/18/68
*[On the Mickey Legend] "But he really didn't have anything. And then on the train he sweated out some plans. That was typical of him." --6/18/68
*"Carl [Stalling] came out here but wasn't very happy here, and he started to lose his hearing, he got very bad. A musicians that's def, you know, is mot much use around."--6/18/68
[on waiting with angry Bank of America bankers] "It was quite obvious the best thing we could do was keep our collective mouths shut."
Quotes from animator Ward Kimball
"You would be doing the same work as someone else for three years going, and you found out you were making half as much." -- 5/21/69
"Well, you know, I say if you have a genius who is giving you a certain thing that is unusual why should you want the rest of him to be according to the rule book? For instance, he had to be different to do this -- to conceive of this -- so, all right, so he's cranky, so he's a superego. I say that you have to accept this because it's apart of it. Don't get mad about it.
One of out favorite pastimes -- used to be everybody -- used to be sit around and talk about the crazy things Walt would do. Like, my God, why doesn't he do this, and why doesn't he do that? If he changed it at all, maybe we wouldn't have this big Disney Empire." --5/21/69
Quote from Jimmy McDonald (sound technician/voice artist)
[regarding him taking over Mickey for Walt]"Somewhere in the middle of that I guess Walt was tied up in a meeting, I think he was getting too busy to really get down and do it, and he was a little hoarse, possibly, so the director on the picture -- you know, being here so long you wear many hats -- so, you jut bounce from one thing -- and whenever he wanted me to do something I'd give it a try. So I did." -- 8/13/68
Quote from Herb Ryman
[to a striker]"Do you consider this democracy?" [The striker reportedly replied "No, i consider it expediency -- We're going to win."] -- 4/9/68
Quotes from Edna Disney (Roy Disney's wife)
"He never thought of anything, I think, except his work and Lilly. Lilly was already working for him when i came out here. And he and Lilly were talking abotu getting married,a nd eh just thought about her and about his work."
"When he [Walt] came out here...he was very young. And his mother and father had moved to Portland. And he had none of his family there, so he used to come over to our house."
"To the day he died I think he was always the same."
"We [her and Lilly] used to talk about the Disney Disposition, kiddingly."
"They can flare up so easily, but they get over it quickly."
[on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs]"A little harder for him to be optimistic when he could see the payroll going up and up."
[On creating a family] "She [Lilly] seemed to have difficult carrying them. My trouble was getting pregnant. We only had one."
Quotes from Diane Disney Miller (Walt's daughter, then known as Diane Miller)
"I mean, he was the man the public saw." --6/11/68
[on misperceptions] "The fact that he could not draw...this is horrible and I think is almost ground for libel. that he could not draw Mickey Mouse...my children said 'Mommy, one day at Palm Springs he was showing us how to draw Mickey Mouse with just one line." --6/11/68
"What really hurts is where critics say he couldn't even copy his signature, the well-known Disney trademark. Dad's autograph was a work fo art. I think he really felt he was giving people something. he would begin to wind up his hand before it even his the paper to make it good."
Quotes from Frank Reilly
"Ub Iwerks, who is still here, did most of the drawing at that time." --6/11/68
"About the first thing he had me do when i came here was to start on Mickey's tail, which had been nipped off during the war. No one knows why."--6/11/68
"It used to be Donald Duck by Walt Disney, now it's Walt Disney's Donald Duck. "Walt Disney's" in the sense of General Electric's so and so, Maxwell House's Coffee, so and so."--6/11/68
"They felt that newspaper editors and newspaper readers, if they were to see Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson, will think 'well, Walt has lost interest and he has farmer this out to somebody else.' So it was just the importance of the name of Walt Disney."--6/11/68
Quote from OB Johnston
[On merchandising] "Well, Walt had almost nothing to to with it...he left it to Roy and myself to run this merchandising. This is one phase of the thing that really, to my knowledge, he never entered into it."--7/8/68
Quote from Harry Tytle
"In order to keep the Mouse alive, we did an awful lot of subjects, mostly Plutos, where we would have an opening couple of scenes of Mickey, the dog would go and do something, and then then closing of Mickey. We'd call it a Mickey."
Quot from Mac David
"Though he [Walt] had this great suspicion of women, it probably does not account for the nonexistent women animators. He didn't discriminate against them. It takes a long time to be an animator."
Quotes from Ub Iwerks
[on Mike Marcus, Plane Crazy's cameraman] "he was one of the nicest kids you've ever seen, except that he was an incorrigible criminal. he simply had to cheat and steal and do things that illegitimate way. We used to play cards with each other, mostly poker and penny ante, and we always caught Marcus cheating."
"It was a peculiar thing now the Depression hit the motion picture business after the Great Depression had passed. In 1930, about the only businesses int he country that were doing well were connected to the movies. That ten years later the movies start to slump, just before World War II. I had been doing all right, but my profits fell off sharply -- and besides that, I found that my eyesight was going from doing too much animation and staring into that bare electric light bulb beneath my drawing board. I gave up my work simply to executive producer of the film I made, but that was no good."
"When I left in 1930, the company was in debt, under pressure, making good pictures at a low price. It had good prospects as a small organization operating with only thirty people.
When I came back in 1940, it had 800 people and was moving into a new studio. It had a lot of enthusiasm. It was still informal and relaxed; Walt was still the same guy. it was at the end of Fantasia and Bambi. The Reluctant Dragon with Bob Benchley -- who was a hell of a funny guy, incidentally - was in the work."
[on a lack of red tape] "I just got Walt's OK for spending and asked the comptroller to give me a number to list the expenses against. That was all there was to it."
"Walt was a cartoonist, not an artist. His biggest ambition in those days was to have a comic strip of his own."
[On His and Walt's earliest paying jobs] "It was enough to pay one man, but not two."
"We did pretty crude stuff."
[On The Galliping Gaucho]"As a matter of act, it was pretty awful."
[On animating a greyhound] "It was the best animation scene I ever did, before or since."
[On Mickey's creation]"We just sat around and talked. Everybody had ideas and each of us knew that the compeitors -- such as Max Fleischer and Paul Tterry -- were using all sorts of dogs, cats, and rabbits. We knew it had to be an animal of some kind. I suppose somebody thought of the very cute mice, which Terry had created in Aesop's Fables."
[on testing sound animation] "We started soon as it got dark -- about 8 in the evening -- and continued with encore after encore until 2 in the morning. Everybody tried everything, from cranking in camera to making the sounds effect. But poor Wilfred never got to see the film right side forward during all that time because he was the only one who could blow the mouth organ."
[on testing sound animation] "Walt kept saying 'This is it, this is it. We've got it,' in a paroxysm of delight."
"Walt virtually never put pencil to paper after I came west to work for him in 1924."
Quote from Tee Hee
[After being pitched a Mickey Mouse story] "[Walt said ]'It was funny as hell but you have murdered my characters...you have destroyed with this one film--if I made it--what I've been working years to build up. I've got my audience and they expect a certain thing of my characters, and this isn't it. And he was absolutely right."
Quotes from Walt Disney
(These are taken from Hubler's book: some are from recordings, and others secondhand quotes taken from interviews with others. But who gave which Walt quote to Hubler remains a mystery)
[On the greatest moment of his life] "The whole God Damn thing!"
[On Ludwig von Beethoven] "Bert Hoven? Never heard of him."
[On Richard Wagner, who died in 1883] "Well, let's hire him!"
[On signing a contraact he hadn't read] "What the hell; I wanted the equipment!"
[oh what he said to bring Ub Iwerks back on board in 1940] "Just come over here and look around and see what you can do."
[On Ub--note Walt said this in 1932, after Ub has left] "Iwekrs had plodded along, learning the game, and was considered a fair animator."
"I could write a book on all the things we have done wrong, and hardly a pamphlet on the things we have done right."
"I think people work too hard. By this I mean the people of the creative or industrious type. They strive all their lives to accumulate a lot of money and achieve success, and when they have finally reached that success they find their physical condition is such that they cannot enjoy it."
[On voicing Mickey] "The kids might notice the difference if we gave the job to somebody else. Maybe Mickey isn't as popular as he once was, but I want to give the kids something to hang onto." [note: Walt by this point has stopped voicing Mickey, and the kids didn't notice.]
[On not having fun at the 1942 Oscars] "that's the last time they get to make a God Damned monkey out me me."
[On pitching a Mickey strike cartoon] "We could use the opening business where Mickey, Don, and the Goof are protesting -- they're going on strike -- they want to work in features. Have the drawn characters working with the human figures. 'Disney Unfair to Short Subject Actors.' Then they start to tell their ideas -- all of them talk at once, then one does the narration. They have the book there, and they drag it out."
[on WWII] "it's difficult to say something good about a war, but this one did provide us with a wonderful opportunity to experiment in our medium."
"Some of the most interesting people I have ever met have been animals."
"I have a ham for a heart."
"Somehow I've got separated from my name. I'm a corporation, a mouse on the screen, a flicker in the theaters. People don't believe it when they meet me int he flesh and blood."
[on Presidential robots] "Lincoln does five shown an hour and never takes a coffee break."
"I hide behind the mouse."
"Sometimes I try to figure out why Mickey Mouse appeals to the whole world. Everybody's tried to figure it, too. As far as I know, nobody has.
He's a pretty nice fellow and never does anybody any harm. he gets into scrapes through no fault of his own, but always manages to come up grinning. Why, Mickey's even been faithful to one girl all his life. Mickey is so simple and uncomplicated, it's so easy to understand that you can't help liking him."