The Art of Random Willy-Nillyness: Short Talk with the Filmmakers behind the Walt Disney Short Films Collection!
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Short Talk with the Filmmakers behind the Walt Disney Short Films Collection!

What always amazes me about short films is that you have to create an entire story in a short amount of time. In a feature film, you have over an hour to tell your story. That gives you time to develop characters and plot lines. A short, however, does not have that time so the filmmakers, writers and animators have to tell that story in a few short minutes.

This is what they do in the new Walt Disney Collection Short Films DVD available today. The collection features 12 short animated films. Besides having a sneak peek before the release, we were able to speak with some of the filmmakers of the shorts.

In our panel session were Peter Del Vecho the Producer for Frozen Fever, Mark Henn the Director of John Henry. Dorothy McKim the Producer of Get A Horse!, The Ballad Of Nessie, Tick Tock Tale, and Prep and Landing, Operation Secret Santa. Also there was Mike Gabriel the Director of Lorenzo.

We had an exclusive Q&A session with them. Here are some of the highlights:

Dorothy McKim talks about her favorite creation

Q: 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! It [was] just to be able to bring a continued Walt’s legacy and his dream of doing shorts um and using his voice in that short. Everything authentically was Walt in that short. Also one quick little story with that.

We screened it for John Lasseter and he said, “Everything is Walt. Everything is Walt, great. I’m so excited.” We screened it, we finished, and 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, 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.

Mike Gabriel, Peter del Vecho and Mark Henn talk inspiration

Q: What do you guys use for inspiration?

MIKE: Different places. One of the earliest was Walt Disney superstar of the studio, Joe Grant, who was Walt’s right hand man. His story idea man and Character Design man, Joe Grant. 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 back in the 40’s. He left in 1950. 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 Joe kept those drawings out in front of his office and Don said, “Mike you wanna' check the Joe 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.” [LAUGHS] 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. [LAUGHS]

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.

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.

The panel also discussed how long some of these shorts took to make. Dorothy McKim noted that Operation Secret Santa was done in 5 months. And Get A Horse! was done in 18 months. Peter said Frozen Fever took about 8 months. And Mark thought John Henry had  a 9 to 12 month production schedule.

The session was pretty amazing especially after watching them before interviewing the people behind the shorts. I found it interesting that the filmmakers felt they had a lot more creative freedom working on shorts vs. feature films. But that made sense because the investment is smaller so you don't have to be as careful.

The Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection includes the following shorts:
John Henry (2000)
Lorenzo (2004)
The Little Matchgirl (2006)
How to Hook Up Your Home Theater (2007)
Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa (2010)
Tick Tock Tale (2010)
The Ballad of Nessie (2011)
Tangled Ever After (2012)
Paperman (2012)
Get A Horse! (2013)
Feast (2014)
Frozen Fever (2015)

We watched the shorts together and we loved them all. Tom was leaning toward How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, Tick Tock Tale, Paperman and Feast as his faves. I loved the Little Matchgirl because my mom used to read that story to me all the time and the work on that short was stunning. I also love Lorenzo. Lorenzo is about a cat who gets cursed after he is being a huge brat. He is cursed to dance the tango with his tail. It drives him crazy to the point of him trying to kill his tail. It was a little dark and I like dark.  I loved Paperman and Feast as well. Our other favorite was definitely Get a Horse. It had that old Disney Classic cartoon feel but it is a contemporary film.

The storytelling is amazing. It is hard to tell a story in a short format but all these shorts are completely developed and all tell stories that people want to see. Every short is a little masterpiece all its own. If you enjoy shorts or any animation, I recommend buying this. I already know that I have 2 friends who love Disney and this will definitely be going under their trees!

Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection is available August 18 on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Disclosure: I attended the #D23Expo and my expenses: flight, accommodations, transportation and some meals were be covered by Disney. All opinions, however, are 100% mine.


  1. My niece loves absolutely anything that is "Frozen". She really like the short that was shown at the theater about one sister being sick and the other taking care of her. This is great that Disney is now releasing the short films. I think this will be a big hit.

  2. What a fascinating interview. Love to hear about behind the scenes stuff.

    slehan at juno dot com