Who Framed Roger Rabbit may have been the biggest event in Disney animation in 1988, but Oliver & Company, the animated feature the studio released in November, was also a major success. ‘Reaching theaters the same day as Don Bluth and Steven Spielbergs The Land Before Time, Oliver went on to have the most successful initial U.S, release of any animated feature, Disney or otherwise, in history. (The previous champion had been Bluth and Spielberg's An American Tail.)
George Scribner, who served as an animator on Disney's The Black Cauld ron, made his animated-feature directorial debut with Oliver & Company. A native of Panama and graduate of Boston Univerity and Emerson College, Scribner has also worked at studios including Hanna-Barbera and Chuck Jones Productions. In December, Harry McCracken interviewed him about Oliver & Company in specific and his approach to animation in general.
MCCRACKEN: How did Oliver & Company get started as a project at Disney?
SCRIBNER: I was an animator on Black Cauldron, and I always wanted to get into story, because I had done some direction in little theater in Panama, which is where I was from. I got into story with a guy named Pete Young, and we started together.
At the time, Jeffrey [Katzenberg] and Michael [Eisner] and the new management team had started, and they were having lunches with all the people who were involved in story, and they asked for three ideas. Three ideas were submitted by everybody, and one of the ideas was just a paragraph: "Oliver Twist set in New York City, present day. Fagin is a rat, and he's got a gang of animals to steal for him."