Thursday, June 22, 2017
A lot of animation fans don't know that Milt Kahl, one of Disney's greatest animators, was actually laid-off by the studio for a number of years. This is how it happened.....
Kahl was a well-known discontent and once every six months or so he'd throw his pencil down, storm into Walt's office and threaten to quit. "None of those idiots can animate! I help them with their scenes and then I have no time for my own. They're just a bunch of bums! I'm in there holding up the whole damn animation department by myself! I don't need this aggravation! I'm outta here! I quit!" Walt, who'd been through this many times, would just look at him sympathetically.
Finally, when Kahl was at the height of his rant, Walt would discretely hit the intercom button and whisper, "Bring me the envelope." His secretary would come in and quietly slip it to him. Meanwhile Milt would still be fulminating: "Those #$&@ lard asses couldn't do a thing without me! This whole stupid studio would crumble without me!" Walt would listen attentively while slowly nudging the envelope across the desk.
"Huh," says Milt,"What's that!? A bribe!??? Oooh no you don't! You can't buy me off! I mean it, I'm outta here!" More ranting then something green was added to the envelope and it was nudged across the desk again. This ranting and nudging would go on and on until finally Kahl stopped in mid-rant, stared at the envelope, looked inside, then grabbed it and went back to work for another six months. This went on for years and it was a marvelously effective system.
Eventually Walt died and his son-in-law Ron Miller took over the studio. One day Kahl pushed past the secretary and stormed into Miller's office threatening to quit. "I've had it," says Milt, "I'm the only one around here who knows what he's doing! I'm tired of this %@#& hell hole! I quit!!!" Miller was shocked. All he could think to say was something like, "Gee, Milt! I'm sorry you feel that way. We'll all miss you very much!" Do you see what happened? No one told him about the envelope!!!
Kahl was dumbfounded. "You think I'm kidding, don't you? I really mean it, Ron! I'll walk out that door and never come back!" "Yes," said Miller almost tearfully, "I know. It's very sad!" Amazed, Kahl turned his back and stormed out of the office. He was gone for years!
Well, that's the famous "envelope story."
This story was told to me over lunch by John Kimball. Pictures thanks to Creative Capers, Mike Pelensky and Andreas Deja.