Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Disney Legend and One of Walt’s Nine Old Men ~ Milt Kahl

Disney Legend and One of Walt’s Nine Old Men

º ~ Milt Kahl ~ º

September 3rd, 1909 ~ April 19th, 1987

Worked for Disney

1934 ~ 1976

Two of Kahl’s renowned colleagues, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, write in Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, “Unlike many irascible temperaments who have filled the halls of history, Milt had a very sweet helpful side, when he chose. He gave unstintingly of his time and talent when it was to help the picture and almost as often to help a fellow artist who had a problem. However, he expected everyone coming for help to have worked hard and tried everything – to have done his best before coming.”

Brad Bird, who was his protégé referred to Kahl as "tough", but in a gentle way, as he often gave Bird advice on where he could improve in animation whenever he came up short.

As a young man Kahl cut his high school education short to follow his dream of becoming a magazine illustrator or cartoonist. He worked for several newspapers retouching photos and pasting layouts. He then started his own commercial art company that limped along after the depression. It was during this time he saw a screening of Disney’s The 3 Little Pigs and was intrigued by the new art form called animation.

In 1934 Kahl applied at the Disney Studio and was hired as assistant animator. He received high praise from all his colleagues. His draftsmanship was unequaled and his attention to detail unparallel.

From the very beginning he was assigned the tasks of animating the hardiest characters.  From the Prince in Snow White to Madam Medusa in The Rescuers. When "The Sword in the Stone" director Woolie Reitherman saw Milt's first rough drawings of Merlin the magician and Madame Medusa, he reportedly turned to Milt and said, "These things look so beautiful, they could hang in a museum" to which, Milt responded with a characteristic "Aw...You're full of it!" Kahl was often given the assignment of finalizing the character design for movies.

After nearly 40 years with Disney, Milt retired from the Studio, in 1976, and returned to his native California Bay Area to pursue other interests, including sculpting delicate wire into human figures, such as dancing ballerinas.
14milt kahl.jpg

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