On Wednesday November 5th I had the opportunity to attend an event on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank to celebrate 30 years of Disney Television Animation. The event was hosted by Disney D23 and the International Animated Film Association (ASIFA) and held in the main theatre on the lot.
The event started off with this sizzle reel looking at Disney Television Animation over the years
Followed by a brief welcome and introduction by Eric Coleman (Senior Vice President, Original Series, Disney Television Animation) before the panel took the stage. After the panel we were given a sneak peak at some upcoming series from Disney Television Animation to close out the evening.
The panel was moderated by Jeffrey Epstein from Disney D23 and consisted of (going left to right in the pictures):
- Paul Rudish – Executive Producer, “Mickey Mouse” cartoon shorts
- Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh – Co-Creators/Executive Producers, “Phineas and Ferb”
- Jymn Magon – Writer, “DuckTales,” “Darkwing Duck”
- Bill Farmer – Disney Legend, voice of Goofy
- Mark McCorkle – Co-Creators/Executive Producers/Writers, “Kim Possible”
- Rob LaDuca – Executive Producer, “Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” Storyboard Artist, “The Adventures of the Gummi Bears”
- Bob Schooley- Co-Creators/Executive Producers/Writers, “Kim Possible”
The first series discussed was the Gummy Bears. This series grew out of a brain storming session at Michael Eisner’s house shortly after he became CEO. They were at Eisner’s house and his sons were eating breakfast. They saw the candy the boys were eating and Michael Eisner turned to the team and said they should make a show out of it. So they team went to work to try and figure out a series.
In the development process they looked to films like Pinocchio and Snow White for inspiration.
Originally the “big” Disney characters were off limits for Television animation. For example it took a Major act to have Donald in one scene to kick off the Duck Tales series.
As the discussion continued there was a common thread running between many of the panelists at their connections to Star Wars. For example Rob LaDuca worked on visual effects for Return of the Jedi, Paul Rudish talked about working on the Clone Wars and how it was an opportunity to visit the dreams of his 7 yr old self. Jymn Magon spoke about an early collaboration Disney had with Lucas to do the story records for the Star Wars films and his role in that process. Dan Povenmire shared how he was the first kid in line for Star Wars at the Mobile Alabama theater where he grew up. He also shared a story about the creative spark for the Phineas and Ferb Star Wars Cross Over. He was in a creative meeting for the show and received word of the Disney – Lucas deal and instantly the cross over popped to mind and was asked about.
Dan Povenmire spoke about the challenges to bring Mickey Mouse back to television through the series of shorts. He wanted to pick up where Mickey left off back in the 1930s with the fun more open character.
The “overnight success” of Phineas and Ferb took 13 years of pitching before Disney picked them up. They wanted to make a show for each other and not just for kids.
Bill spoke about the honor to be Goofy over the years and how Goof Troop was his first series. He was able to explore and define a side of Goofy that the shorts did not. When he voices Goofy for shorts he plays up the “dippy dog” side more.
After an initial pass at through the panel Jeffrey asked if they would do an improve skit for the audience of what would happen if Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s wanted to create a Goofinator. Here is a video clip of Jeffrey setting up the scene and Dan and Bill performing.
The panel concluded with a couple questions open to all. First up their favorite/most memorable/film.
Dan – Jungle book and he spoke about the importance of songs. Saying no one remembers the dialog but everyone leaves the theater with the songs stuck in their heads forever.
Bill – Pinocchio and the Absent Minded Professor
Swampy – Mary Poppins
They were asked what’s the most important aspect of creating a television series. The panel agreed that it is character. You have to have well defined and thought out characters. Once you have that you create the world for them to inhabit and the stories will flow from there.
Eric Coleman took the stage to speak about some upcoming series. We were shown the opening credits and the first several minutes of two series that are slated to premiere in 2015 on Disney XD – “Star vs. The Forces of Evil” and “Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero”. The premise for the first series is Star is a princess and not quite ready to fulfil her royal duties so her parents sent her to earth to grow into the role and protect her. Penn Zero is about a boy who is a regular child/student by day but after school teams up with his sidekick Sashi to battle a evil part-time villain and save the world.
Then we were showing an advanced look at an upcoming “Mickey Mouse” short titled “Clogged” featuring Minnie Mouse. To close out the evening Emily Hart (Vice President, Original Programming, Disney Junior) shared a first look at early animation for Disney Junior’s “The Lion Guard”. This series is about Simba’s son Kion who assembles a group to protect the Pride Lands.