by CARL NATER
Director, Non-Theatrical Division, Walt Disney
On January 1, 1953, the Walt Disney Productions entered the non-theatrical field with a package of some entertainment and some educational subjects. Mr. Disney's approach to education is here informally discussed in excerpts from letter by Carl Nater, in response to correspondence addressed to him by FILM NEWS' editor. Mr. Hater joined the studio in 1938 as a messenger boy, has worked in all departments since then except animation and background. During World War 11 he was Coordinator of War Films between the Studio and Armed Forces on the training film program carried out for the government, and has stayed with the 16mm phase of things continuously since then, except for a three-year leave of absence (1947-50) to inaugurate and direct the film program of the National Education Program of Harding College at Searcy, Arkansas
THE DISNEY TOUCH
You have asked me for a little something about Disney himself, and about his attitude toward the educational film. ... Let me give you a few personal comments, from the point of view of someone who has worked here at the studio for 15 years, of which ten have been in close contact with Walt himself. Over these years I've heard him state his point of view on the kind of things you are interested in.
First, with regard to the so-called "Disney touch" and what it is. ... Your question intrigued me, and I put it to different people. No non-professionals can answer it readily. My own hunch is, that Disney is fundamentally blessed with the knowledge of what people like, of what entertains. Another aspect of this whole thing is production quality.
There are no secrets to the technique of animation in itself, no special formula is involved. We all know the same mechanics that go into putting animation on the screen, everybody in it uses the same kind of equipment. Disney pictures are different because, in the first place, Walt himself makes the final decisions on almost all questions of policy, with regard to how a picture should be made. The approach that's taken to the story idea, the way the characters will be handled, all the basic questions of quality that must be settled early in the game, and many more that go into a creative effort like a motion picture – all are decided by Walt personally. Naturally, there are many people here at the studio who follow through, once the picture gets into production; but the point is that, by that time, Walt has stamped it with his own thinking, taste and disermination. The fact that he controls this kind of thing might be extremely unfortunate if it weren't that he is such a capable and talented man.