David Hand (1900-1986) was an animator and director who began his animation career in the 1920s working on the Out of the Inkwell cartoons. In 1930, he went to work for Walt Disney Productions. He worked mostly on Disney’s Silly Symphonies shorts and, by 1932, had become regarded as one of the top Disney animators (he and Disney even became close friends). Hand would soon be chosen by Disney to become the company’s third director (behind Burt Gillett and Wilfred Jackson). In the next few years, he would become Disney’s right-hand man. Hand was also tasked with being the supervising director on Disney’s very first animated feature (it would also be the very first American animated feature). For this latest installment of Animation Corner, I’ll be taking a look back at the only two animated features that were directed by Hand, the Oscar-nominated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the Oscar-nominated Bambi.
Directed by Hand, 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, centers on a princess named Snow White who is being hunted by a wicked queen and receives help from a group of dwarves. Featuring the voices of Adriana Caselotti, Lucille La Verne, Harry Stockwell, Roy Atwell, Pinto Colvig, Otis Harlan, Scotty Mattraw, Billy Gilbert, Moroni Olsen, and Stuart Buchanan, this critically acclaimed film grossed $3.5 million domestically on a budget of almost $1.5 million (it added another $7.8 million internationally for a worldwide total of $11.3 million; this was during its original theatrical run). A good number of subsequent theatrical re-releases over the years has raised its worldwide total gross to $416 million. Although it wasn’t the very first animated feature film, it was the very first full-length cel-animated film as well as the first animated feature to be produced by Walt Disney. Disney went to a lot of trouble to get the film made, even going so far as to mortgage his own home (the movie industry started to refer to the film as “Disney’s Folly”). The film went through a long production period, where concepts and sequences were either changed or dropped. While most of the animators disapproved of rotoscoping, some scenes of Snow White and the Prince were animated using rotoscoping. Paul J. Smith and Leigh Harline provided the wonderful score while Frank Churchill and Larry Morey wrote the memorable songs. This was also the first American film to release a soundtrack album featuring the film’s music. Among the film’s accolades are the Grand Biennale Art Trophy from the Venice Film Festival, a Special Award from the NY Film Critics Circle, and an Oscar nod for Best Music Score (Walt Disney was given an Honorary Oscar for the film; he received one statuette and seven mini statuettes).
Directed by Hand, 1942’s Bambi centers on a young deer named Bambi, charting his growth from a young deer who’s deeply attached to his mother to his ascent as the Great Prince of the Forest. Featuring the voices of Bobby Stewart, Donnie Dunagan, Hardie Albright, Paula Winslowe, Peter Behn, Tim Davis, Sam Edwards, Stan Alexander, Sterling Holloway, Will Wright, Cammie King, Ann Gillis, and Fred Shields, this critically acclaimed film cost $1.7 million to make but initially only grossed $1.64 million domestically (largely due to World War 2 and mixed reviews at the time). A lot of people complained about the fate of Bambi’s mother, and hunters complained that the film was anti-sportsmen due to the dramatic nature of the story in which animals struggle against human interference. Thanks to several theatrical re-releases, the film became profitable, eventually grossing $267 million worldwide. The film, which was based on the 1923 Austrian novel Bambi, A Life In the Woods by Felix Salten, was the inspiration for Paul McCartney’s interest in animal rights (particularly the sequence involving the hunters). Walt Disney had the film’s animators learn more about the structure and movement of animals in order to help them animate more realistic-looking animals. The film’s backgrounds were inspired by the Eastern American woodlands. Frank Churchill and Edward H. Plumb provided a memorable, Oscar-nominated score. Among the film’s accolades are three Academy Award nominations (for Best Sound, Best Original Song, and Best Original Score).