Tuesday 28 September 2010


Matthew Parris' guest on this week's edition of Great Lives (BBC Radio 4 today at 16:30), is the cartoonist Gerald Scarfe who nominates Walt Disney as his life of greatness.

Gerald, who later worked on the Disney Studio's Hercules, fell under the Disney magic when, as a young boy in 1940, he saw Pinocchio. An aspiring artist, he copied the film's characters and says that the villains later influenced his own, often savage, satiric style.

The expert 'witnesses' on the programme are veteran animator, Richard ('Dick') Williams (the man behind Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as well as the wonderful, Oscar-winning animated version of A Christmas Carol) and Yours-Truly.

Dick and I go back a long way: as a young man with ambitions to be an animator I used to visit his studio (then in London's Soho Square) where I met several of animation's elder statesmen: including Ken Harris (responsible for among other cartoon creations, Warner Bros' Wile E Coyote); Grim Natwick who animated both Betty Boop and Snow White; Art Babbitt who gave life to the Three Little Pigs and Snow's nemesis, the Wicked Queen; and Shamus Culhane who animated Miss White's dwarfs and, later Woody Woodpecker.

I had not, however, realised just how far back Dick and I went, until he recalled our first meeting when he had asked me how old I was and I had owned up to being –– fifteen! Where the heck did those intervening forty-five years go...?

You can hear Gerald, Dick and I talking about Walt Disney – exploring some of the facts, exploding some of the myths – on Great Lives on BBC Radio 4 at 16:30 this afternoon. The programme will be repeated on Friday at 23:00 and can also be heard, after its initial broadcast, via BBC iPlayer.


Chuck Munson said...

Hi Brian,

I am very much looking forward to this program. I see that I have much from your blogs to catch up on that I have missed (my Internet browsing time has been scant due to summertime family and work obligations).

That Gerald Scarfe nominated Walt Disney for the Great Lives program seems to me quite timely, at least considering some of the events that have been taking place on this side of the pond in the last year or two. Things such as the opening of the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco and the establishment of D23 with which the Disney Company for really the first time set up a sustaining connection to its fans and which appears to take our respect for the man and his work seriously, and also the recent documentary "Waking Sleeping Beauty". I hope that I am interpreting the implications of these things all correctly.

Once again, looking forward to the discussion.

Brian Sibley said...

I am also looking forward to hearing it and really hope that it is good and balanced – unlike so much that has been written and said about Disney over the last few years.

I must confess to being a little nervous about programmes that are over-recorded and then edited (we taped probably 50 minutes for a 30 minute show) because a necessary selectivity then comes into play. I much prefer appearing on a live programme, simply because I am then solely responsible for any errors and distortions I commit!

Anyway, fingers crossed.

Sheila said...

It was a good programme. I am a fairly regular listener to this series and think that it doesn't quite work on some occasions when there doesn't seem to be any empathy between the guest selector and the expert on the person being selected. But it sounded as though the three of you got on well with each other and that made for a relaxed and interesting discussion.

Brian Sibley said...

I think it helped that I have known Richard Williams for so many years and have met (and interviewed) Gerald Scarfe on various occasions. Most importantly, for me, it was reasonably balanced and didn't just present Walt as a monster.

Good Dog said...


That was a great show, just a shame it couldn’t have been much longer. Oddly enough I watched Hercules again when it was broadcast on Sunday. Met Mr Scarfe briefly when he came to the studio one day when we were animating certain sequences for the film, like the prophesy of the Fates or Hades being rowed across the Styx and throwing the raw meat to Cerberus.

Whereas on the Fantasia sequel we were given tee-shirts (with Fantasia ‘99 written on it), an umbrella, a watch and frames from our Pomp and Circumstance sequence encased in Perspex, and tote bags, for Hercules they company only sent over a baseball cap. Pah!

Brian Sibley said...

Thanks, GD! Fascinating to learn that you worked on both Hercules and Fantasia 2000: I didn't know that! All of which reminds me that we need to get together for dinner so I can elicit some of your Disney memories!

Andy Latham said...

Thank god for the iPlayer! I would have missed this as I've been away for two weeks. I now have something good to listen to while getting over jet lag! :P