Wolfgang Reitherman (June 26, 1909 – May 22, 1985), also known and sometimes credited as Woolie Reitherman, was a German-American animator, director, and producer who was one of the Nine Old Men of core animators at Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS). Reitherman emerged as a key figure at WDAS in the 1960s and 1970s, a transitionary period which saw the death of Walt Disney and the onset of the studio's "Bronze Era", with Reitherman serving as director and/or producer on 8 consecutive Disney animated films from One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) through The Fox and the Hound (1981).
Reitherman in 1940
|Died||May 22, 1985 (aged 75)|
Burbank, California, U.S.
|Other names||Woolie Reitherman|
|Alma mater||Pasadena Junior College|
Chouinard Art Institute
|Occupation||Director, producer, animator|
|Known for||One of Disney's Nine Old Men|
Janie Marie McMillan
|Children||3, including Bruce Reitherman|
While studying at Chouinard Art Institute, Reitherman's paintings had attracted the attention of Philip L. Dyke, a drawing and painting instructor. Impressed at his artwork, Dyke showed them to Disney, in which Reitherman was invited to the studio. Reitherman initially wanted to work as a watercolorist, but Walt Disney suggested he should be an animator. Reitherman was hired at Walt Disney Productions on May 21, 1933, and his first project was working as an animator on the Silly Symphonies cartoon, Funny Little Bunnies. Reitherman continued to work on a number of Disney shorts, including The Band Concert, Music Land, and Elmer Elephant. He animated the Slave in the Magic Mirror in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). His next assignments was animating Monstro in Pinocchio (1940), the climactic dinosaur fight in Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" sequence in Fantasia (1940), and several scenes of Timothy Q. Mouse in Dumbo (1941).
By 1942, Reitherman had left the Disney studios to serve in World War II for the United States Air Force, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross after serving in Africa, China, India, and the South Pacific. He was discharged in February 1946 having earned the rank of Major. Reitherman rejoined the studio in April 1947, where he animated the Headless Horseman chase in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" section in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949).
Around this same time, he had claimed he was instrumental in helping Walt Disney commit to producing Cinderella (1950). Upon looking at rough storyboards, Reitherman recalled, "I just went in his office, which I rarely did, and I said, 'Gee, that looks great. We ought to do it.' It might have been a little nudge to say, 'Hey, let's get going again and let's do a feature'." On Cinderella, he was the directing animator of the sequence in which Jaq and Gus laboriously push and pull the key up the stairs to Cinderella. On Alice in Wonderland (1951), he animated the scene in which the White Rabbit's home is destroyed by an enlarged Alice. On Peter Pan (1953), he animated the scene of Captain Hook attempting to escape the crocodile. For Lady and the Tramp (1955), Reitherman animated the alley dog fight sequence and Tramp's fight with the rat in the nursery room.
During the late 1950s, Reitherman served as the sequence director of Prince Phillip's climatic fight against Maleficent as a dragon in Sleeping Beauty (1959), and directed the "Twilight Bark" sequence for One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961). Beginning with The Sword in the Stone (1963), he became the first sole director of a Disney animated feature, which was in direct contrast to having several directors over an animated feature. Animator Ward Kimball had claimed it was because Reitherman's work compatibility and willingness to accept any project "with a smile" while animator Bob Carlson said Disney had trusted Reitherman's decision-making before he would embark on a film project. He would continue to direct The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), Robin Hood (1973), and The Rescuers (1977). Additionally, he would direct several animated shorts such as Goliath II (1960) and the first two Winnie the Pooh shorts, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966) and Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968), which had won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
While directing The Jungle Book, Reitherman followed the procedure to keep production costs low, in which he recalled Disney advising him to "keep the costs down because [feature cartoons are] going to price themselves out of business. So with that piece of advice, and with the way he pointed to Jungle Book into entertainment and character development rather than complicated stories that needed a lot of production qualities, he set the course for ten years after his death." During his tenure, he frequently used "recycled" or limited animation from prior works, presumably because it was a safer method for a quality product, though it was in fact more labor-intensive, not because it was supposedly cheaper. Reitherman's use of recycling animation proved to be controversial within the studio as animator Milt Kahl lamented its use stating "I detest the use of—it just breaks my heart to see animation from Snow White used in The Rescuers. It kills me, and it just embarrasses me to tears." Note this is similar to, but not the same as, rotoscoping.
Following The Rescuers, he was initially slated to direct The Fox and the Hound (1981), but following creative conflicts with co-director Art Stevens, he was taken off the project. Reitherman later moved on to several undeveloped animation projects such as Catfish Bend based on the book series by Ben Lucien Burman, and Musicana, a follow-up project to Fantasia in which he co-developed with artist Mel Shaw. In 1980, he developed an adaptation of the children's novel The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, but work was discontinued due to the studio's desire for ambitious films such as The Black Cauldron (1985). In the following year, he retired.
Personal life and deathEdit
Born in Munich, German Empire, Reitherman's family moved to America when he was a child. After attending Pasadena Junior College and briefly working as a draftsman for Douglas Aircraft, Reitherman returned to school at the Chouinard Art Institute, graduating in 1933.
Following his discharge from the Air Force, he married Janie Marie McMillan in November 1946. All three of Reitherman's sons—Bruce, Richard and Robert—provided voices for Disney characters, including Mowgli in The Jungle Book, Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, and Wart in The Sword in the Stone.
|1934||Funny Little Bunnies||Animator|
|The Wise Little Hen||Animator|
|The Goddess of Spring||Animator|
|The Band Concert||Animator|
|Mickey's Service Station||Animator|
|Cock o' the Walk||Animator|
|Mickey's Fire Brigade||Animator|
|1937||Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs||Animator||Slave in the Magic Mirror|
|The Worm Turns||Animator|
|1939||Donald's Cousin Gus||Animator|
|Goofy and Wilbur||Animator|
|Fantasia||Animation Supervisor – Segment "The Rite of Spring"||Dinosaur fight|
|1941||The Reluctant Dragon||Animator|
|Dumbo||Animation Director||Timothy Q. Mouse (several of his scenes)|
|The Art of Skiing||Animator|
|Saludos Amigos||Animator for El Gaucho Goofy|
|How to Fish||Animator|
|The Vanishing Private (short)||Animator|
|How to Swim||Animator|
|1947||Fun and Fancy Free||Directing Animator|
|1949||The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad||Directing Animator||Headless Horseman (chase)|
|1950||Cinderella||Directing Animator||Jaq and Gus (scene in which they push and pull the key up the stairs to Cinderella)|
|How to Ride a Horse (Short)||Animator|
|1951||Alice in Wonderland||Directing Animator||White Rabbit (scene in which the White Rabbit's home is destroyed by an enlarged Alice)|
|Cold War (Short)||Animator|
|1952||Two Gun Goofy||Animator|
|1953||Peter Pan||Directing Animator||Captain Hook and crocodile (scene of Captain Hook trying to escape the crocodile)|
|Ben and Me (Short)||Animator|
|1955||Lady and the Tramp||Directing Animator||Alley dogs (fight sequence) and Tramp and the rat (Tramp's fight with the rat sequence).|
|A World is Born (Short)||Animator|
|1957||The Truth About Mother Goose (Documentary short)||Director|
|1959||Sleeping Beauty||Sequence Director|
|Donald in Mathmagic Land (Short)||Sequence Director|
|1960||Goliath II (Short)||Director|
|1961||One Hundred and One Dalmatians||Director|
|1963||The Sword in the Stone||Director|
|1966||Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (Short)||Director|
|1967||The Jungle Book||Director|
|1968||Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (Short)||Director|
|1970||The Aristocats||Producer and Director|
|1973||Robin Hood||Producer and Director|
|1974||Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (Short)||Producer|
|1977||The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh||Producer and Director|
|The Rescuers||Producer and Director|
|1981||The Fox and the Hound||Co-Producer|
|1985||The Walt Disney Comedy and Magic Revue (Video short)||Director – Archive Footage|
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- Canemaker 2001, p. 47.
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- MacQuarrie, Jim (June 2, 2015). "The Real Truth About Disney's "Recycled Animation"". Medium. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
- Visser, Nick (May 15, 2015). "Apparently Disney Used To Recycle Animation Scenes, And It's Blowing Our Minds". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
- Coggan, Devan (May 15, 2015). "See Just How Often Disney Recycled Animation". Time. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
- Milt Kahl (March 30, 2011). "Milt Kahl: An interview by Michael Barrier and Milton Gray" (Interview). Interviewed by Michael Barrier and Milton Gray. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
- Harmetz, Aljean (July 27, 1978). "Disney Incubating New Artists". The New York Times. p. C13. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
- Hill, Jim (January 17, 2018). "Where Disney failed, Studio Ponoc succeeds with its debut animated feature, "Mary and the Witch's Flower"". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
- Canemaker 2001, p. 53.
- Canemaker 2001, pp. 32–33.
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- "Wolfgang Reitherman". D23. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
- Folkart, Burt (May 24, 1985). "Wolfgang Reitherman, 75: Disney Animator Dies in Car Crash". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
- Barrier, Michael (1999). Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-802079-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Barrier, Michael (2008). The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520256194.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Canemaker, John (2001). "Wolfgang Reitherman". Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation. Disney Editions. pp. 31–53. ISBN 978-0786864966.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)