Ub Iwerks

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This excellent documentary by Leslie Iwerks (grand-daughter of Ub) is about the legendary animation pioneer Ub Iwerks, the man who not only created Mickey Mouse and single-handedly animated the mouses‘ first few cartoons, but made so many other technical contributions to movie making in general. This documentary was included as an extra on the Walt Disney Treasures’ Oswald The Lucky Rabbit dvd box set.

The documentary rightly concentrates mostly on Ub’s contribution to animation, thoroughly examining his first meeting with Walt Disney, his work on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey Mouse and the Silly Symphonies, and then his branching out onto his own away from Disney. It gives a fascinating insight into the animation industry at its beginning, and about the relationship between Ub and Walt. It also examines the underhanded way that Charles Mintz stole Oswald and most of Disney’s animators from Walt, although with the exception of Hugh Harmon, none of these other animators (Rudy Ising and Friz Freleng) are mentioned.

One thing that I was a little disappointed with was the way in which it skipped hurriedly through the technical innovations Iwerks made, such as the development of the multiplane animation camera, developing the processes for combining live action and animation, the xerographic process adapted for cel animation, the work he did to develop the rides at Disneyland, and the special effects work he did on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. These are mentioned briefly but get nowhere near as much time as his animation career does.

Overall it is a great documentary with a lot of information about one of the greats of animation. It is narrated by Kelsey Grammer and is a must watch for anyone who is interested in how the Disney story all began.

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