“Once Upon a Studio” is a tribute to the 100 years of art and artists from Walt Disney Animation Studios. The new short features 543 characters from more than 85 Disney feature-length and short films. Dozens of voice performers, including many voicing their original roles, recorded new dialogue. And Disney Legend Richard Sherman returned to Walt Disney’s office to play piano exclusively for “Once Upon a Studio”.
We were invited to the press conference for “Once Upon a Studio”, which featured writer and directors Dan Abraham and Trent Correy, along with producers Yvett Merino and Brad Simonsen.
The filmmakers were asked about whether AI was used to recreate voices of actors who are no longer here. No AI was used. Abraham answered, “So, we got our best soundalikes that we possibly could, and Trent and I were so persnickety about making them sound…”, with which Dan chimed in, “We were. We were. Because we realized you only get seconds with each character”. Dan continued, “So, they needed to look and sound exactly how you remember them. And that was very, very important to us.”
One voice performer who has passed that was added to the short is Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket. Abraham explained, …I really wanted Cliff Edwards for Jiminy Cricket at the end. I didn’t want to get a soundalike. So, they had to strip away the music from his original recording digitally. Some scientist masterminds were able to figure that out.” He said that it was very important to them to have his voice.
Surprisingly, the animation is all new. That includes the dalmatians from “101 Dalmatians” sitting in front of the television. Correy says that for the 1960s time period, “we went to a lot of efforts – our whole cleanup team and animation team – to make sure that it had that xerox, kind of sketchy qualities”. For example, he notes that the characters from “The Jungle Book” are all new, but they are made to look from that time period.
The filmmakers were asked if they had a favorite moment or character from the short. Merino answered that her favorite was the elevator moment. “One of my all-time favorite characters is Baymax, so when he just comes in at the end, just to put the cherry on top, to upset Donald, I love it.” Simonsen answered, “And the Bambi moment for me, I literally giggle every time. I giggled today. Like, it’s just so cute and so fun and it was so brilliant.”
The group was asked about how they would explain the magic of Disney. Correy answered, At the beginning, when we see Burny Mattinson walking out with young intern, the purpose of that shot is to show that there’s a tradition at Disney to pass the torch from generation to generation.” He expounded, “We knew making this short that we’re standing on the shoulders of greatness for the last hundred years. Everything from the Nine Old Men to Mary Blair and all the past movies. So, that shot was just meant to be Burny passing the torch to the next generation, celebrating the past and the legacy and looking towards the future with this and films like “Wish”.”