Animation and Films

Ub Iwerk’s father was 57 years old when he was born. His father had a reputation for abandoning the children he fathered as well as their mothers. Ub was also abandoned and dropped out of school to support his mother.

Ub was talented artistically and got a job in an art studio. This was where he met Walt Disney. Ub and Walt decided to start their own commercial art business. When Walt Disney decided to focus on animation, Ub joined him. Their initial effort failed, but they didn’t give up.

Their initial cartoon venture was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Ub did all of the animations. The distributor of the cartoon, Universal Pictures, started insisting on changes in the design of Oswald. Walt Disney took offense at the interference and most of his staff was hired away. Ub remained.

Ub and Walt were desperate to find a new animated character. Nothing seemed to work until Walt Disney drew a rough draft sketch of a mouse. He asked Ub to make a more polished version of the mouse. The result was Mickey Mouse.

Ub and Walt then developed the original Mickey Mouse cartoons. Ub did the complete animation. As the cartoons became successful, Ub became upset that he wasn’t being given credit for the success.

Ub and Walt parted ways and Ub decided to set up his own studio. Ub’s studio was not a success although it did work on a series of Looney Toons cartoons.

Ub decided to return to the Disney studio. Rather than being an animator, he began to use his creative talent to bring about innovations in film production. He developed the process for linking live-action humans with animation characters in the Song of the South film. In addition, he developed more efficient production techniques for animation processes. When Disney started its theme parks, Ub helped in the design of many of the attractions.

Often hidden heroes are the silent partners of a more well-known person. We know Walt Disney, but few of us know Ub Iwerks. Often the partnership is very fragile. The lesser-known partner must have an ego that accepts their hidden role. That’s a challenge that rarely succeeds. Often the role of the hidden hero only becomes known at a later point in time.

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“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford

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