The Real Truth About Disney’s “Recycled Animation”

by Jim MacQuarrie

Recently, many news and entertainment sites have circulated this video showing how “Disney animators reused animation from old movies.” In every report, whether from The Huffington Post, Time, E! or dozens of smaller outlets, the story is invariably told that this was done to save time and money.

In accordance with modern journalism standards, nobody at any of these sites could be bothered to go to the effort of actually asking anyone who might know for sure. Each one repeats what the others said, without ever citing a source; apparently they are all guessing at what happened. Since nobody else was going to do it, I went ahead and asked somebody who was there.

My friend, Disney Legend Floyd Norman, actually worked on many of the films in question; he started at Disney as an in-betweener on Sleeping Beauty, became part of the story department with The Jungle Book (he created the sequence in which Kaa hypnotizes Mowgli), and worked on dozens of films for Disney, Pixar and many other studios. If anyone would know the truth, it would be Norman. So I asked him, “what’s the deal with all those recycled scenes?”

He nodded, laughed and said, “That was Woolie Reitherman.” A quick check of Wolfgang Reitherman’s IMDB page confirms that nearly every Disney film shown using recycled footage in these videos is one he directed, most notably the Jungle Book, Robin Hood, the Sword in the Stone, Winnie the Pooh, 101 Dalmatians and the AristoCats.

“It’s actually harder and takes longer to redraw an existing sequence,” Norman told me, “it’s a lot faster and easier to just do new animation, and it’s a lot more fun for the animators. But Woolie liked to play it safe and use stuff he knew would work. That’s all it was.”

Yes, Disney did recycle animation, but it wasn’t done to save money or time, and it wasn’t animators being lazy, and it wasn’t company policy. And now you know.

About Jim MacQuarrie

Jim MacQuarrie is a comics and animation geek, a professional cartoonist and graphic designer, professional balloon animal twister, a certified archery instructor (and yes, his arrows are green), former homeless person and occasional gadfly. He has three children who are all grown up, and an incredibly patient wife who is waiting for him to do likewise. Together they co-write the lifestyle blog Blue Collar, Black Tie.