October 16, 2023 marks Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 100th Anniversary – a huge milestone made possible, in part, by the animated characters we have taken into our hearts. Mickey, Minnie, Tinker Bell, Robin Hood, Flounder, and more. What if those characters could pop out of their animated cels and take over the Walt Disney Animation Building in Burbank, CA? How would they interact? What would happen?

These questions are answered in an all-new animated short – ONCE UPON A STUDIO – that will make you laugh and cry simultaneously. Here are some fun and emotional behind-the-scenes facts gleaned from directors Dan Abraham and Trent Correy that will help you appreciate ONCE UPON A STUDIO even more.

All facts come from a Q&A session with the directors and producers, Brad Simonsen and Yvett Merino, on September 21st, following a screening of the short.

ONCE UPON A STUDIO contains 543 characters from over 85 Disney films!

TRENT CORREY: We knew from the get-go we wanted to represent everything from Snow White to the upcoming Wish in shorts in between, so we had a lot to choose from.  

The first cut was 13 minutes long.

DAN ABRAHAM: When Jennifer Lee said we need to make this, then Trent and I, we threw every idea we had into a big thing and we edited it all together.  We knew we were gonna have to cut some stuff, so we were hoping that the best things kind of rose to the top and stayed on the screen. 

DAN: Every person that’s ever worked at this studio should be in the credits because we’re standing on the shoulders of greatness. There’s so much history and there’s so many people. So, we focused on the characters, but we tried to also pay homage to the artists, as well.

TRENT:  Eight-minute short, 60-minute credits!

 While the credits are not that long, the final short comes in at eight and a half minutes.

Over 40 original voice actors reprised their roles.

TRENT:  Truly, we were so lucky that everyone we reached out to that’s still with us came back. 

Listen for Jodie Benson (voice of Ariel), Jason Bateman (voice of Nick Wilde), Bill Farmer (voice of Goofy and Pluto), James Woods (Hades), and so many more. You can now view all the voices on IMDB.

The short is set in the current Walt Disney Animation Building on Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, CA.

If you’ve ever wondered where favorites like FROZEN and TANGLED are made, look no further than this short. The building entrance, hallways, and commissary are featured heavily!

There was no AI in the making of this short! Instead, the directors relied upon archival audio footage.

DAN:  And you know, some of the folks have passed on, right?  So, we got our best soundalikes that we possibly could, and Trent and I were so persnickety about making them sound right. ‘Cause we realized you only get seconds with each character.

YVETT MERINO:  And there are some lines in there that are actually taken from the original film.  So, whenever the line was exactly the same from the original film that it came from, we picked that line out. 

DAN:  Like, I really wanted Cliff Edwards for Jiminy Cricket at the end.  I didn’t want to get a soundalike.  So, they had to strip away the music from his original recording digitally.  Some scientist masterminds were able to figure that out.

And Peter Pan saying, “Come on, everybody, here we go,” we wanted Bobby Driscoll to get that exact same recording, so we pulled that from Peter Pan.  There were certain moments that we wanted to be nostalgic audio cues.

Any animation you see is all new.

TRENT:  Yeah, the animation is a hundred percent all new.  So, even the ones, like the dalmatians sitting in front of the TV, that’s made to look like it’s from The Dalmatians. In fact, that whole time period, the ’60s, we went to a lot of effort, our cleanup team and animation team, to ensure it had that xerox, kind of sketchy quality.

DAN: Even though it’s new animation, they studied the old thing, because we wanted it to harken back to the original, to take you kinda back to when you saw it the first time. 

“Feed The Birds” on piano is played by Disney Legend Richard Sherman and recorded in Walt’s office.

Perhaps the most profound moment of the short is Mickey looking up at Walt Disney. The soft piano underscore references “Feed the Birds” from MARY POPPINS. This newly recorded track was played by Richard Sherman in Walt’s office on a Friday afternoon. The Sherman Brothers famously played “Feed the Birds” for Walt, at his request, every Friday afternoon.

YVETT:  Being in Walt’s office and recording with Richard Sherman was probably [the most emotional moment].  There’s a lot of favorite days, but that was a big one for me. 

Look for Disney Legend Burny Mattinson.

The elder gentleman at the beginning of the short, Burny Mattinson, worked at the Studio for 70 years. He is an animator and Disney Legend and passed away in early 2023.

TRENT:  At the beginning, when we see Burny Mattinson walking out with young intern, the purpose of that shot is to show that there’s a tradition at Disney to pass the torch from generation to generation. And we knew making this short that we’re standing on the shoulders of greatness for the last hundred years.  Everything from the Nine Old Men to Mary Blair and all the past movies.  So, that shot was just meant to be Burny passing the torch to the next generation, celebrating the past and the legacy and looking towards the future with this and films like WISH.  

ONCE UPON A STUDIO makes its broadcast debut on ABC on Oct. 15, 2023. Let us know at @skywalkingpod which moment made you cry first!

(L-R) Brad Simonsen, Yvett Merino, Dan Abraham and Trent Correy speak onstage for “Once Upon A Studio” at the Long Lead Press Day & In-Person Presentation for WISH and ONCE UPON A STUDIO at El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, California on September 21, 2023. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

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