Here's an interesting question for Disney afficionados: when did Disney the businessman who flirted with the idea of bailing out and going into real estate, become Disney the visionary? According to Barrier's "The Animated Man" it came about as a result of a nervous breakdown sometime in 1931 at the new (well fairly new) Hyperion studio (above).
Up until 1931 Disney was a hands-on producer who did a lot of nuts and bolts jobs at the same time he was agonizing over the cost of the films. By this time he'd acquired heavy hitters like Freddie Moore, Art Babbit (actually Babbit came on in '32) (both shown below), Norm Ferguson, and the like. Thanks to guys like this and relentless pounding from Walt the whole tone of the studio had begun to change. The word got around that you had to be good to work at Disney's. This should have made made Walt deliriously happy but instead it made him miserable.
I think I can imagine how he felt. Think of the awesome pictures he must have seen on the walls, of the conversations he must have had! Everybody else seemed to have the interesting jobs. He's the guy who had to worry about quality and deadlines and the cost of paperclips. It got to the point where he'd cry on the telephone. Finally he walked out and took a trip with his wife across the continent.
Apparently the new Walt came out of what he saw and thought of on that trip. Nobody knows the details. What we do know is that he returned full of enthusiasm and energy and with a new conception of himself as a kind of coordinator and full-time visionary. He delegated everything that could be delegated and threw himself into "conducting" the artists. This meant intense sweatbox sessions which stimulated immense creativity among the artists. Rudy Zamora came up with overlapping action, Ferguson with moving holds, and Moore with big improvements on squash and stretch.
The culmination of this effort can be seen in "Three Little Pigs" (1933). To see how far Disney had come in a short time compare that film to "Steamboat Willie" which was done only four years earlier. While we're at it lets compare Steamboat Willie (1929) to Fantasia which was on the drawing boards in 1939. That's a difference of only ten years!!!!!
To be fair to Fleischer fans I have to add that Betty Boop's stunning "Snow White" was done in 1932 and was also the result of an amazing evolution of technique. Why the Fleischers caved into Disney's less funny and cartoony style is hard to understand. Was it the Hayes Office? Did the Hayes people make it difficult to use jazz soundtracks? I don't know.
Thanks to Jenny Lerew for the photo of the animators and to Fred Osmond for the caricature of Disney.