Walt Disney And Friz Freleng

Final quotes from Walt Before Mickey.

Friz Freleng became a legend in animation himself. But as a Disney employee, he never had a happy time. Walt could be immature (he was still just in his mid-20s) and Friz said he was often a target from both Walt and fellow employees.

But Friz knew his stuff. Even in the early days of animation and Disney he showed he was meant for bigger things.

I remember one scene that Walt liked very well that I did, and it wasn’t written into the script or anything. He said, “A mother cat is bathing her little kittens. Do a scene with the mother cat bathing the kittens.” So I did the scene, and I added one little kitten crawling out of the tub, and he’s hanging — he was so small he had to hang on the edge of the tub and then drop down. And then the mother grabbed him and put him back into the tub, and a couple of them were trying to escape. This was just ad-libbed in there, because all the script said was, “A mother cat bathing the kittens.” And then Walt called that to everybody’s attention. He says, “I want you to see this scene.” He says, “That little kitten didn’t just jump out of the water, he climbed up and hung there and dropped down like a little kid would do.” He says, “Friz did it this way and made him act like a little kid. That’s what I want to see in the pictures, I want the characters to be somebody. I don’t want them just to be a drawing.” And he was the first guy that recognized that you had to put personality, build character into it, and they weren’t just drawings moving around.”

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Friz was the first animator to give Disney a glimpse of what he, Disney, wanted animation to become. He was a one-man Xerox PARC to Disney’s Steve Jobs.


Just as Walt, thanks to Freleng, could see what animation could be.

Friz and Walt were more alike than either one would think or ever admit.

In assessing his difficult relationship with Walt, Friz recalled, “Walt and I had personalities that clashed.” As a result, “I couldn’t take him any more and decided to quit.” Friz felt that “Walt was just a hard person to work for. I think a lot of people have said the same thing, you had to please Walt, you couldn’t please yourself. I guess I was one of those people who just had to do my thing, you know, and I couldn’t do his thing. That was in the back of my mind all the time, I guess, I just couldn’t do the other guy’s thing.”

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Despite creating the Alice series and working on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt had ownership of neither. He was basically a contractor (one who was also ripped-off and played for a hick sucker). After negotiations broke down in New York City over Oswald, Disney was — in his own words — “out of a job.” He also had a mutiny on his hands back in California. The Winkler company managed to woo away most of his animators to do Oswald.

However …

Lilly [his wife] remembered Walt saying that he was glad about what happened, “because he would never again work for anybody else.”

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.


[…] Lilly told a reporter that Walt was like a “raging bull” on the train ride west [from NYC back to his studio after the Oswald betrayal]. Lilly recalled, “He had gambled everything we had — which wasn’t much, but seemed a lot to us — on the Oswald series. All he could say, over and over, was that he’d never work for anyone again as long as he lived; he’d be his own boss.”

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Which, at its foundation, is the same sentiment Friz Freleng expressed with, “I just couldn’t do the other guy’s thing.”

Despite the dryness of the text, the book is worthwhile. The amount of detail is just incredible.

But something puzzles the hell out of me. There’s no mention of the pet mouse Disney himself is quoted as mentioning in other biographies!

That mouse is in the movie adaptation of the book too:


So why wasn’t the mouse in this book? And how did it get in the movie when it’s not in the book?

Previously here:

Shoeless Walt Disney
The Book Walt Disney Read
Movie: Walt Before Mickey

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