Frames of Time...
003_05 - Caricatures and Cartoons...
The recent issue of Disney Magazine, which Rachel and I seem to get now that we are again annual passport holders, features an article on the Disney Studio annual caricature show. It reminded me that I was in the first show back in 1979! The caricature featured me, studio archivist David Smith and his assistant, Paula Sigman. (I do have a copy of that somewhere.) It was flattering to be noticed by the many artists at the studio. Disney aready had a gallery that constantly featured the work of one artist or another as inspiration and recogniztion. In 1979, when there was a gap in the schedule, the studio filled it with a collection of caricatures done by studio artists. The caricature show proved so popular, it became an annual event.
However, what the Disney Magazine article did not state was there were a number of executives and artists who were NOT flattered. Some were quite insulted at the way their facial features had been exaggerated. At first, it was suggested the show be pulled, but others feared it would hurt morale. Then it was suggested that the offending pieces be removed. But that was dropped since those complaining would be revealed by the sudden absence of their images. The final decision was that before each new show, a committee would review the caricatures. Those deemed "too harsh" by the committee would not be used. The new rule caused many artists to no longer submit their art. In fact, one year, there were so few, the studio requested additional caricatures from a few artists to fill the room.
In production, artists have been using their co-workers and family for inspiration since the beginning of animation. Some of these caricatures actually show up in the final product, as seen in this illo. And it can even be more than just a physical likeness. John Pomeroy once had me walk back and forth in the hallway to study my walk. He said I had an unusual "bounce" in my step that he wanted to use for a character in one of the video games. It is said that Daffy Duck's speech pattern was based on studio head Leon Schlessinger.
Generally such personnel placement in animation was taken in good humor. Sadly as animation went more "Hollywood" in the 1980s, you found more and more people in the business had less and less a sense of humor. Legal and network standards' departments began to take a dim view of such use of studio personnel. One employee threatened to sue Warner Brothers based on an "unflattering" caricature in one of their shows. The word went around to reduce, and even at some studios, to eliminate the obvious use "real" people in production.
It also made studios add a line to most of their hiring agreements that makes the employee "agree" to let the studio use their image in any way they want. I call it the "this allows us to make fun of you" clause. How sad is it, that in a business where a majority of the folks are trying to make the world laugh, there are those who cannot even laugh at themselves.
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