The magic of Disney left its mark on students and staff when former Disney animator Phil Young regaled his audience with stories about the legendary company.
Young, who worked on the animation teams of films including “The Fox and The Hound,” “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid,” spoke in the SUB ballroom on Friday about his memorable times as a proud member of the Disney animation team.
“I had a good time for about 25 years,” Young said. “When you have a room full of artists, there is always something interesting going on.”
Hired in 1977 as an “inbetweener-trainee,” his first screen credit as an animator was with “The Fox and the Hound.” Luckily for him, he said, when he was just starting out, various big names in the business such as Tom Byrd, Jim Selleck and Tim Burton were just starting out as well.
Despite this, he said, at the time, Disney animated films seemed to be in decline. Massive cutbacks at the end of the first golden age of animation would see more than 500 animators laid off, he said.
It wasn’t until “The Little Mermaid” brought Disney animated films into recovery that things started to change.
“Once ‘Mermaid’ was released, the journalistic and public acclaim said ‘Disney’s back,’” Young said. “It was a quality piece that had that emotional attachment that the audience had to have and that Disney was known for until that time.
Victoria Velarde, a junior strategic coordination major and member of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico who was partially responsible for reaching out to Phil Young, said ASUNM thought it might be fun to add some ‘90s nostalgia to the spring semester lineup with a Disney movie.
The Southwest Film Center, one of the eight branches of ASUNM, asked its Facebook fans which Disney movie they would like to see on the big screen again. They selected “The Little Mermaid,” which also just had its 25th anniversary.
“Someone mentioned Phil Young in the comments and that he lives here in Albuquerque … so we Googled him,” Velarde said. “Lucky for us, Phil was gracious and sweet about the whole thing.”
Audience members such as Jeannette Arroyo, a senior interdisciplinary film and digital media major, were inspired by the presentation. Arroyo, who hopes to pursue a career in animation, said Disney movies have inspired her desire to be creative. She said she was excited to hear from someone who had worked on some of her childhood favorites.
“They made me want to draw since I was little,” she said. “Ever since, art has been a major hobby.”
Young said he remains passionate about the time he spent at Disney, but has since moved on to explore other facets of his artwork and design.
“The Fox and The Hound” is his favorite credit because, in those days, film credits ran at the beginning and scrolled slow enough to read the names, Young said.
“My big rush was being able to animate part of the big grizzly bear fight at the end of “The Fox and The Hound,” where Todd and the bear are going at it and they go tumbling down the waterfall,” said Young
He is most proud, though, of working on “The Lion King.” He said his work on Mufasa challenged him as an artist, because he had to create scenes combining traditional animation and the emerging digital format.
“I was really proud of Mufasa; I got to animate him along with Simba in some of those father-son scenes,” he said. “The first work I got for that film was to work out the scene that Mufasa gets killed in the wildebeest stampede.”
Young said he now teaches animation classes at the Southwest University of Digital Arts and paints in his spare time.