John Lasseter and Dumbo

The UCLA Film&Television Archive held a special event Monday in a series entitled "The movie that inspired me." John Lasseter was on hand to show a newly struck print of Dumbo made especially for this screening. It was a beautiful print to see up on the big screen. I had grown up only seeing VHS or DVD versions, so seeing the resolution of projected film was a unique experience. Afterwards, John talked about the film and why it was truly his favorite film of all time. Although he mostly talked about the "Baby Mine," "Roustabouts," and final climax of the film, he did mention the Casey Jr. sequences.

"I was always inspired by Dumbo with that perfect, beautiful combination of the cartoony world but everything is done so exquisitely. That scene with Casey Jr. making it over the hill, 'I think I can,' and then those last shots of him going across with the reflection, there's something so beautiful about these little moments. Ken O'Conner, one of the great layout artists at Disney and an instructor of mine at CalArts, brought in layouts on a number of the scenes he had worked on. You dont realize the sophistication of the staging of a lot of things in this film. Its so appealing. The film making aspect of this film is very, very special. Its not just a cartoon. There's really some dramatic staging in this film that sets up the storytelling so beautifully."

"Its so satisfying at the end when they get that really cool private rail car, I always loved that. Even the subtlety of that, Ward Kimball worked that scene and he was such a train nut, he even got the bounce of all the train cars except their car is just perfectly still. Its the little touches like that you just know that he made it."

Casey Junior, the ride

From early on, Casey Jones Junior was put on the design table during the development of Disneyland.  Although these pencil sketches by Bruce Bushman show a ride vehicle slightly different from what eventually was built, the essence of that original ride is still present.  I am, of course, speaking purely of the Casey Jr. Circus Train ride rather than the Storybook Land elements that were later added.
The train shown here has children sitting in open-topped cage cars rather than enclosed cages as well as passengers riding in the locomotive cab and tender.  The tender depicted here is still shown as a separate car rather than attached to the rear of the locomotive as one unit.  Now if only they could have found a way to make those perfect smoke rings.

Even though the volcano never made it through to construction, the hills and tunnels did.  That station also looks suspiciously similar to the Fantasyland Skyway station.

By the time Bruce got to creating this drawing of the station the ride is looking very close to what we all know.  The "TO THE TRAINS" sign you may recognize from the top of this blog, the indication of the two hills in the background, and the locomotive design very close to the final design with the attached tender.  This version still shows children riding in the tender, but with what looks like a ride operator actually in the cab itself.

You can find these images and more in the highly recommended book The Art of Disneyland

Courvoisier cels

I thought I'd post some examples of animation cels that survive to this day.   Most often they are referred to as Courvoisier cels, after gallery owner Guthrie Courvoisier.  He convinced Walt to sell the otherwise destroyed cels as artwork rather than a byproduct of the animation process.  Most of these early cels are nitrate and painted with water based pigments, before acrylic cels and paints were introduced, and are therefore very fragile and deteriorate easily.

The scene from the film

a Courvoisier cel in excellent condition

One in not so good condition.  This particular example may have been varnished as a method of paint preservation.  Over time the varnish has clouded and the cel has split just below the engine.  Its so sad to see cels deteriorate in this fashion.

How long is that train?

The off model colors make me think that this was actually created for the poster or other promo art. However it does give a good depiction of how many cars poor Casey had to struggle with to get up that hill.

Dropped scene

This amazing convoluted background painting was from an unused scene for Dumbo.  Even though I can easily imagine Casey puffing in and out of those tunnels, just how exactly it would have been done remains a mystery.  Its almost as if I'm looking at model train layout just begging to be played with.