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Terry Naughton: teacher, Olympic weightlifter, Disney animator

He animated 18 Disney movies over two decades

The art and the artist.
The art and the artist.

“We’d start off most days with rubber band fights. We were 12-year-old kids stuck in the bodies of 30-to-50-year-old men.”

This is Terry Naughton, teacher, Olympic weightlifter, and Disney animator (think Hercules, drawing Hercules), and now, an independent San Diego artist known for doing crazy things like painting portraits on one side of vintage vinyl LPs.

I’ve called him to find out if his post-Disney business is hanging in there in these covid times. Because artists, even commercial artists, are often the first to feel any downturn. “Surprisingly, better than ever!” he says, “People have more time to look at my stuff on social media.”

Naughton animated 18 Disney movies over two decades.

“I worked on all the real famous ones, from Beauty and the Beast to the Fantasia remake. Did we work hard? Ninety-hour weeks during a crunch was not unusual. I can’t tell you how many times I had pizza at my desk at two o’clock in the morning. At the same time, when you’re working really hard, and everybody else is there with you, it’s not as bad. We did not have the luxury of missing a deadline. If we missed an opening day, it cost the company some crazy number like a million dollars a day.”

And the arrival of the digital age?

“That’s probably why I’m not there today, because when we talk about being a dinosaur, I really didn’t take to the digital animation. We animated the way Walt did back in the day, with just flipping the paper, and drawing with pencils, and then they would paint on the cells.”

He’s not against digital. “There’s good and bad. I couldn’t imagine Toy Story, which was digital, as a 2-D film, and I couldn’t imagine Snow White as a 3-D. Two different types of story, two different types of feel. The digital stuff they’re doing today is absolutely brilliant. But the old-style stuff still holds its charm.”

The [2000] Fantasia remake was animated in the old way. He says it was an odd feeling, to actually go to work on a movie that Walt himself originally directed. “I was good friends with Roy Disney, his nephew, when he was running the company. I got to do story pitches to Roy. He was an old school kind of gentleman. I loved him to death.”

Naughton and his colleague Francis Glebas pitched a Fantasia remake piece to Roy Disney — A Donald Duck story, because Michael Eisner felt Donald was always being stiffed. “Roy was an interesting person to pitch to, because he didn’t have much of an expression on his face. And we were pitching this comic add to Fantasia, really funny, and Roy’s sitting there, expressionless. He’s looking and he’s smoking and looking and smoking. And then we’ve finished the pitch and we’re waiting for a response. And Roy sits there in silence. And then he claps his hands and he goes ‘Well now that’s the funniest damned thing I’ve seen in a long time. Let’s pitch this to Michael!’”

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“I knew you since you were a teenager”
The art and the artist.
The art and the artist.

“We’d start off most days with rubber band fights. We were 12-year-old kids stuck in the bodies of 30-to-50-year-old men.”

This is Terry Naughton, teacher, Olympic weightlifter, and Disney animator (think Hercules, drawing Hercules), and now, an independent San Diego artist known for doing crazy things like painting portraits on one side of vintage vinyl LPs.

I’ve called him to find out if his post-Disney business is hanging in there in these covid times. Because artists, even commercial artists, are often the first to feel any downturn. “Surprisingly, better than ever!” he says, “People have more time to look at my stuff on social media.”

Naughton animated 18 Disney movies over two decades.

“I worked on all the real famous ones, from Beauty and the Beast to the Fantasia remake. Did we work hard? Ninety-hour weeks during a crunch was not unusual. I can’t tell you how many times I had pizza at my desk at two o’clock in the morning. At the same time, when you’re working really hard, and everybody else is there with you, it’s not as bad. We did not have the luxury of missing a deadline. If we missed an opening day, it cost the company some crazy number like a million dollars a day.”

And the arrival of the digital age?

“That’s probably why I’m not there today, because when we talk about being a dinosaur, I really didn’t take to the digital animation. We animated the way Walt did back in the day, with just flipping the paper, and drawing with pencils, and then they would paint on the cells.”

He’s not against digital. “There’s good and bad. I couldn’t imagine Toy Story, which was digital, as a 2-D film, and I couldn’t imagine Snow White as a 3-D. Two different types of story, two different types of feel. The digital stuff they’re doing today is absolutely brilliant. But the old-style stuff still holds its charm.”

The [2000] Fantasia remake was animated in the old way. He says it was an odd feeling, to actually go to work on a movie that Walt himself originally directed. “I was good friends with Roy Disney, his nephew, when he was running the company. I got to do story pitches to Roy. He was an old school kind of gentleman. I loved him to death.”

Naughton and his colleague Francis Glebas pitched a Fantasia remake piece to Roy Disney — A Donald Duck story, because Michael Eisner felt Donald was always being stiffed. “Roy was an interesting person to pitch to, because he didn’t have much of an expression on his face. And we were pitching this comic add to Fantasia, really funny, and Roy’s sitting there, expressionless. He’s looking and he’s smoking and looking and smoking. And then we’ve finished the pitch and we’re waiting for a response. And Roy sits there in silence. And then he claps his hands and he goes ‘Well now that’s the funniest damned thing I’ve seen in a long time. Let’s pitch this to Michael!’”

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