Throw back to 1979. I’m sure most of you have seen this over the years. Taken in front of Don’s home in Culver City for the news article of our departure from Walt Disney Productions on Don’s birthday September 13, 1979. There are twelve of the 17 artists and technicians here. from the front row, left to right is Don (in the driver’s seat) Sally Voorhies, Diann Landau, Linda Miller, Emily Jiuliano, Vera (Lanpher) Pacheco, Lorna (Pomeroy) Cook. In the back row, Gary, John (Pomeroy), Skip Jones, Heidi (Guidel) Smith, and Dave Stafford. The other 5 joined us over the next four months. They were Carmen Oliver, Dorse Lanpher, Dan Kuenster, Will Finn and Dave Smith.
It was here at Don’s house where we produced “Banjo the Woodpile Cat”. Starting a script in March 1975 and in May started animating, thinking we could do the short film in a year working nights and weekends, while working days and Disney. By the end of summer of 1979 we had about 70% of the film in color, all the character animation done, most cleanup done with some special effects to be finished. In the end, it was this little film that convinced the investor to put up $5.7 million to produce “The Secret of NIMH”, and another $110,000 to finish Banjo. We worked seven days a week for the next 13 weeks to get Banjo into at least two theaters for at least one week in order to qualify for a short film to be considered for a nomination in the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. We finished the negative cut on December 19th. During those 13 weeks, Don, John & I had agreed not to shave until it was done as an annoyance to get the film done as fast as possible. It worked.
Some trivia, the window behind Gary and John was Don’s living room where we once had a film viewing room that transformed into an animation overflow with six or seven animation desks with office chairs sharing the room with Don’s upright piano. It was a two-bedroom house, the second bedroom was the editing room with two editing tables with sound readers and all the editing equipment we needed, a two sounded-headed movieola with a large screen and a 1931 movieola projector with three separate sound-heads and the shutter mounted in front of the lens, (not between the film and the lens. It looked like an airplane propeller. The two windows in the middle were in the kitchen where we took turns preparing lunches. The windows on the far right was once a one-car garage but was turned into a family room. It was where we set up the rostrum camera and tables for shooting our scenes. There was only one bathroom, to service up to 26 of us during those last weeks. The main studio are was the large garage which was a detached building in the backyard. There we had tables and animation desk, including Don’s Disney Layout desk. Don mixed paints and washed the1oz paint jars daily to provide paint kits for those who would come by and pickup the cels with the characters line art and take the kit and cels home to paint. There were about 15 or 16 people that did that plus all of us working there painted too. What a great group it was, hard working and dedicated to the cause. Make it Happen!