By: Karlie Harris
To celebrate and honor the Walt Disney company’s 100th anniversary on Oct. 16, directors Dan Abraham and Trent Correy wrote the short film “Once Upon a Studio” as a self-described love letter to the Walt Disney Animation Studios.
The heartfelt, nostalgic, 14-minute film can be viewed on Disney+.
One of the scenes includes Mickey Mouse dressed in—that is designed to look like—Walt Disney’s old-fashioned attire. Mickey walks by a portrait of Walt and after Minnie Mouse shouts that it is time to go (indicating that the reunion is starting), Mickey removes his hat out of respect and tells the portrait of Walt, “Gotta go, but thanks…on with the show.”
Ranging from the first Disney short film, Steamboat Willie (1928), and first animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), to Elemental and Wish (2023), the creators managed to bring back all the magic within every Disney character.
This kind of work isn’t easy to accomplish. This team managed to capture 100 years of stories and magic in a cast of 543 characters from more than 85 feature-length and short films.
Creators of the well-made animation found a way to bring back Robin Williams’ Genie for the reunion without the help of artificial intelligence. To do this, the Disney team listened to “outtakes from the original recording” and selected clips that they could use for the incredible feature.
Not only did the Disney team find a fascinating way to incorporate Williams’ voice, but they also included Disney’s original Peter Pan to make this film as authentic as possible. Walt Disney once said during his time, “It’s kinda fun to do the impossible.” Who would’ve thought one could come up with a way around artificial intelligence and find their own way to do such a thing?
It looks like the Disney crew knows how to work some magic.
Seeking a way to truly honor the studio’s legacy, directors had the film take place at the end of a work day (for humans/non-animated peoples, that is) at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California. In the film, Disney characters come to life from pictures hanging on the walls of the Roy E. Disney Animation Building. The short’s art style combines computer graphics, traditional animation and live-action.
Disney Legend Burny Mattinson, who worked there for 70 years on films such as Lady and the Tramp (1955) and One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), was paid tribute in this heart-warming creation. Mattinson was the company’s longest serving Disney employee. He appears in the short, but died eight months before its release.
“Animation is 75 percent thinking and 25 percent drawing,” Mattinson once said. “Everything must be carefully thought out first. Our animators not only have to think like actors but also figure out how to get that performance across on paper and on the screen. Our characters pause to think and connive. You can see it in their eyes.”
The film took approximately eight months to create. Considering the positive reviews from critics calling it an “emotional and nostalgic experience,” the time and work paid off.