Mr. Leon Schlesinger, Mr. Max Fleischer et al, make most of the animated cartoons produced in the U. S. Of the man who makes the rest and the best, Mr. Schlesinger recently observed: ''We're businessmen. Walt Disney's an artist. With us, the idea with shorts is to hit 'em and run. With us, Disney is more of a Rembrandt."
Even artists say that Walter Elias Disney is an artist. Some go farther, say that he is a great one. Certainly his works are better known and more widely appreciated than those of any other artist in history. Three weeks ago, his Mickey Mouse created a minor government crisis in Yugoslavia. Last year, as "Miki-san," he was Japan's patron saint. In Russia the works of Disney are appreciated as "social satire," depicting the "capitalist world under the masks of mice and pigs." The late George V, it is said, would not go to a cinema performance unless it included a Disney film.
But Disney, the Artist, is nothing like as widely known as Mickey, the Mouseor any of Mickey's score of charming fellow players in the Disney zoological stock company. In fact, when some art historian of the future sets out to chronicle the rise of the animated cartoon, the quest for original drawings by the man most responsible for it will be about as difficult as it is now to locate additional authentic Rembrandts. Walt Disney has not drawn his own pictures for nine years. To turn out the mass production issued nowadays under his name, he would have to have 650 hands. And 650 hands he has. With slim, 36-year-old Walt Disney as the guiding intelligence, his smooth-working cinema factory produces an average of twelve Mickey Mouse films and six Silly Symphonies every year. Were Disney to undertake the involved processes of drawing, coloring, photographing the 15,000 sketches that go into one of these shorts, the feat would approach Michelangelo's job on the Vatican ceiling. Released this week was the latest Disney venture, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the most ambitious animated cartoon ever attempted. It took Disney's many hands over three years to make.
Snow White, like Mickey Mouse, was a creature of necessity. After sound came whooping in, Disney needed a character to replace silent Oswald The Rabbit. From a night of heavy thinking in an upper berth in 1928, Mickey Mouse was born. When the bulging double-feature movement began three years ago to crowd out the Disney shorts, Disney resolved to enter the feature field himself.