Wolfgang Reitherman Production Drawing (1937)

This pencil-sketch by Wolfgang Reitherman was used in the production of the 1937 Disney animated short Hawaiian Holiday.

Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman (1909-1985) was one of Walt’s famed Nine Old Men, beginning work as an animator at the studio in 1933. The German-born Reitherman had originally intended to make a living as an aircraft engineer, but turned to painting after only a few years in the field. He enrolled at the famed Chouinard Institute in LA and met an instructor who also taught classes at Walt Disney’s Hyperion Avenue studio, an encounter that led to his eventual hiring. He left the studio briefly for service in WWII, but then returned to an illustrious career that lasted until his retirement in 1981. Throughout his time at Disney, which spanned nearly five decades, Reitherman helped animate over thirty animated shorts, as well as many of the studio’s most beloved features, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Saludos Amigos, Fun and Fancy Free, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, and Sleeping Beauty. After sharing directorial duties in 1961’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians, he was the first-ever of Walt’s animators to step into a solo directorial role with 1963’s The Sword in the Stone. He then went on to helm such features as The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, Robin Hood, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Rescuers, and served as co-producer on The Fox and the Hound. He also earned an Academy Award for his directorial work on the 1968 short, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. Coincidentally, his son Bruce, provided the voice for Christopher Robin in another of the Pooh shorts (Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree), as well as for Mowgli in The Jungle Book. In the years following Disney’s death, he was appreciated by staffers as a unifying force of sorts that helped ease the transition to a post-Walt studio. Eight years after his retirement, he and several other of the Nine Old Men, became some of the earliest recipients of the Disney Legend Award at the 1989 ceremony.

Reitherman’s production sketch which features a bathing-suit clad Goofy, fresh off a tumble from his surfboard—a sequence that takes place roughly halfway through the eight-minute Hawaiian Holiday—Is labeled as Drawing 671. The short features Disney’s entire “Fab Five” cast of characters, Mickey being voiced by Walt himself. The film marked the ninety-fourth theatrical appearance of Mickey Mouse and the first to be distributed by RKO Radio Pictures. It would be the second-to-last Mickey short before the field of animation was to change forever with the premiere of the first full-length feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

This sketch by Wolfgang Reitherman, one of Walt’s most trusted and talented animators, is a well-preserved artifact from Disney’s Golden Age. Dating back to early 1937, the drawing provides a glimpse of the animation production process at an exciting time for the studio: enjoying the continued popularity and success of their go-to characters, but poised on the cusp of a breakthrough that would forever change the art form.


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