Program Recap: The Disney Revolt

December 7, 2023
by Rebeca Miller

This program was held in-person at The Center for Jewish History on December 6th, 2023.

The Disney Revolt author Jake Friedman joined us in discussion with John Canemaker for a dive into the 1941 Disney animators strike, a labor dispute that changed animation and Hollywood forever. Jake described the labor intensive process of animation in 1941, the different roles in the process and output required to meet deadlines. He illustrated the conditions that led up to the strike, such as the lack of a union or representation for animators and the enormous pay discrepancy between top animators and other craftsmen, as well as the financial urgency that Disney felt to complete films. The influence of top animator Art Babbitt changed the technique of animation that informed a key style change, and he is credited with introducing modern storytelling to animation from Stanislavski’s Method. Jake described the partnership as well as ideological differences between Walt Disney and Art Babbitt, and how the difference in opinion over unions led to the demise of their relationship.

Jake Friedman is a New York–based writer, teacher, and artist. He is a longtime contributor to Animation Magazine, and has also written for American History Magazine, The Huffington Post, Animation World Network, Animation Mentor, and The Philadelphia Daily News, among others. For ten years he was an animation artist for films and television as seen on Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, Saturday Night Live, and 20th Century Fox. He currently teaches History of Animation at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and previously at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (NYU). His books include THE ART OF BLUE SKY STUDIOS, THE DISNEY REVOLT, and the upcoming THE DISNEY AFTERNOON: THE MAKING OF A TELEVISION RENAISSANCE. The rest of his time he specializes in mental health for creative folks. Visit his website to learn more about The Disney Revolt and to purchase a copy from the publisher visit Chicago Review Press.

John Canemaker has won an Academy Award, an Emmy and a Peabody Award for his animation and is an internationally-renowned animation historian and teacher.  A key figure in American independent animation, Canemaker’s work has a distinctive personal style emphasizing emotion, personality and dynamic visual expression. His film, The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation, won an Oscar in 2005 for Best Animated Short, as well as an Emmy. A 28-minute autobiographical essay about a troubled father/son relationship, The Moon and the Son marked a personal and professional breakthrough in animation storytelling. Canemaker is also a noted author who has written nine books on animation, as well as numerous essays, articles and monographs for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. For those who enjoyed this discussion on The Disney Revolt he recommends his book The Art and Flair of Mary Blair.