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Memories of Walt: A Conversation with Legends - Recap!....

Discussion in 'Walt Disney: The Man Behind the Mouse' started by WDWmazprty, Dec 10, 2010.

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    WDWmazprty Well-Known Member

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    Memories of Walt: A Conversation with Legends - Recap!

    [​IMG]Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 12:00PM
    [​IMG]On December 5th, what would have been Walt Disney’s 109th birthday, the museum hosted “Memories of Walt: A Conversation with Legends, Featuring Alice Davis and Marge Champion.” Diane Disney Miller joined the lady Legends and moderator Charles Solomon on stage in celebration of her father’s birthday.
    The discussion commenced with introductions of each woman, following an enthusiastic round of applause for Diane Disney Miller. Alice Davis was a successful designer of ladies’ undergarments before marrying Disney animator, Marc Davis. She is most famous for creating the costumes for Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Carousel of Progress. Marge Champion is a stage and film actress, as well as a dancer and choreographer. She was the model for the animated Snow White, as well as the model dancer for Fantasia’s dancing hippo and ostriches, and several other animated films. Solomon went on to introduce Diane Disney Miller as the hostess, patroness and “all around nice lady!”
    After the introductions the moderator asked each of the ladies to recount the first time she met Walt Disney. Alice described meeting him right after she married Marc Davis. She had been remodeling their house, doing much of the work herself, so one evening she called Marc and said, “You’re taking me to dinner because I’m too tired to cook!” While they were dining out, a hand appeared on Marc’s shoulder. When she turned around it was Walt Disney. “I about swallowed my glass,” she recalled, laughing. Walt greeted Marc, asking, “Is this your new bride?” He then turned to Alice to ask what she did before she got married. Alice responded, “I supported myself,” matter-of-factly. She described the conversation the two proceeded to have about women’s clothing and elastic (her expertise), and as Walt left he said, “You’re going to work for me one day.” Alice remembered thanking him but thinking, “Yeah, sure.” Shortly after, she was astounded when Walt’s secretary contacted her about doing the costumes for Small World.
    Marge recounted a talent scout taking her out of class in 1933 to audition as the live-action model for the animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and being most excited about skipping school! Marge spoke very highly of “Mr. Disney” who insisted she call him “Uncle Walt,” since she was too young to call him “Walt.”
    Both ladies were asked about their experiences working for Disney. Marge described both the innovation and the creative process. At the time they were creating Snow White, the idea of an animated full-length feature film was unheard of. She remembered Walt having to ask the bank for another loan to fund the movie. The bank insisted on seeing the progress before agreeing. Walt was hesitant because he didn’t like unveiling material before it was released, but he conceded. At the end of the “preview,” the banker exclaimed, “That thing is gonna make a hat-full of money,” and authorized the loan. Marge remarked, “Snow White was an instant success,” and described how viewers were laughing and crying through the animated film. She went on to talk about the creative process in Fantasia. While she was modeling as the live-action dancer for the hippo and ostrich scene she remembered seeing Vera Zorina emerge from the water dancing in the film, Goldwyn Follies. She suggested, “You gotta see this movie because I think the hippo can come out of the pool!”
    [​IMG]When Alice was asked about working with Walt Disney, she answered enthusiastically: “Working with Walt was a joy!” She told a story about asking Walt if there was a budget for the Small World costumes. He responded that he had other people there to deal with finances; her focus should be designing a costume that every child from age one to one hundred would want to dress their dolls in! Later, when an audience member remarked on the incredible detail in her costumes, she quickly responded with a giggle, “You should thank Walt for that because he paid for them!”
    Both Marge and Alice had a wonderful sense of humor. When Marge was asked if she sees herself in Snow White, she responded, “Of course I can,” but then added, “we all see what we want to see,” with a smile. Alice had the audience laughing with her off-color stories about Pirates of the Caribbean. Solomon asked her about costuming for the pirates. She explained that the sculptors made the pirates “anatomically correct” which was a problem for the fit of the costumes.
    Alice also joked about Walt’s good memory and attention to detail. “Walt would ask you a question and then two years later he would ask it again and if the answer was different he would say, ‘Well why are you saying that? Two years ago you said this…’” Then Alice turned to Diane, remarking, “That must have been hard to grow up with!” Everyone laughed.
    Throughout the discussion there was a big focus on Walt’s love and support of art education. During the making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt wanted his animators to have more instruction on drawing human characters. Alice shared the story of how he approached several schools about training his animators, but most turned him away because he couldn’t pay upfront. Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles was the only school that happily took him, saying they supported his project because he was creating real “American art.” Years later when Chouinard was struggling financially, Walt rescued the school by merging it with another to create the California Institute of the Arts. Alice remembered him saying, “I’m giving back to art what art gave to me.”
    As the discussion came to an end, an audience member asked both Alice and Marge what their secret was for their long, healthy lives. Marge responded, “Refuse to be like everyone else.” Alice laughed, saying, “Just keep breathing!”
    The afternoon went by very quickly and there was never a dull moment. We all laughed along with their stories, and really got a sense of what it was like to work for Walt Disney. As the program concluded, I think it’s safe to say that we all felt we knew “Uncle Walt” a little better, along with these bright, talented, entertaining and forever-young lady Legends! Happy Birthday, Walt Disney!
     

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