On Saturday, September 13 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (yes, that Academy) hosted a special evening of presentations entitled “Animation Masters”.  John Canemaker, author of The Lost Notebook: Herman Schultheis & the Secrets of Walt Disney’s Movie Magic lead the talks.

Prior to the “Lost Notebook” and Walt Disney presentation, the audience was treated to a look at the work of animator Windsor McCay.  From what is arguably his most famous property Little Nemo in Slumberland to his vaudeville classic Gertie the Dinosaur (which turns 100 this year), Canemaker showed how McCay’s work might have influenced the films Disney made some 20+ years later.


Before delving into the Schultheis notebook, Canemaker declared that if he could go back to any time and place in history he would visit The Walt Disney Studios in Glendale, California circa 1939.  More specifically he would want to observe the work of Disney’s Process Lab and Special Effects departments that helped craft some of the most impressive shots in animated classic such as Pinnochio, Fantasia and Dumbo.  As Canemaker explained, many of these techniques remained a mystery for many years until a detailed notebook belonging to studio employee Hermann Schultheis was discovered.

Schultheis meticulously noted and documented the problems presented to the Special Effects department as well as their multiple attempts and eventually solutions for each.  His photos and notes showed behind the scenes of some of Disney’s most complicated sequences including the snowflake fairies in Fantasia and the fly-over of Pinnochio’s village in the “going to school” sequence of that film.


After showing in detail how these shots were achieved, Canemaker showed clips of the finish product to the audience.  In fact the evening was concluded with a screening of Fantasia, the production of which was heavily featured in the notebook.

In you missed this fascinating presentation, Canemaker’s book is available for purchase including annotated pages of Schultheis’ notebook.  The full notebook can also be viewed in digital form at the The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, CA.