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Starburst interviews veteran Walt Disney animator Wolfgang Reitherman, whose latest fantasy the Fox and the Hound, opened in London last month.

Of all the top men in the field of animation, one name that stands out for a lifetime's dedication to the art is that of Wolfgang Reitherman, the co-producer on the latest Disney feature-length animated film The Fox and the Hound.

Wolfgang Reitherman, affectionately referred to as "Woolie" by his friends, was born in Munich, Germany on June 26th 1909. His family moved to the United States a short while afterwards first settling in Kansas City, Missouri, and then Sierra Madre, California, where Reitherman grew up.

As a youth, he had an ambition to become a pilot and soon developed a love for flying. After leaving Pasadena Junior College, he took a job with Douglas Aircraft, but by 1931 had decided he would rather be an artist than an aircraft engineer. He enrolled at the Chouinard Art Institute, where he met an instructor who taught art lessons at the Disney studio. Through this association came the chance to work at the studio as an apprentice animator. This was to be the start of a brilliant career in film animation. His colleagues at the studio described him as having unlimited energy and dedication to his work. He was the only animator to become the sole director on a number of the studio's features.

Now at the age of 72, he is still undecided about retirement and on his attitude to animated films is still quoted as saying "You much keep your belief in the picture and your faith in yourself. For a picture to end up good, it must be treated like it was the very first one you ever made."

Starburst: When you joined the Disney studio in the thirties, how long was the apprenticeship period?

Reitherman: I was fortunate in that I didn't have to go through the so-called apprenticeship programme at all, which usually involved starting as an inbetweener's assistant and then working up to a fully-fledged animator. I spent a short time animating a Christmas cartoon, but within a week or two of that, I became associated with the Silly Symphony series.
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