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Author Topic: question for MR.FUN
sykohyko
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I just watched a 6 part documentary on Walt Disney. I've read interviews with people who have worked for him and they seem to paint a pretty positive picture of him, but in this video the people being interviewed talk of him as if he was crazy and evil. What was he really like from your experience yof working for him?

Here are the parts

part 1

http://youtube.com/watch?v=UXA2hWgvZKo

part 2

http://youtube.com/watch?v=pWkfUPSB9ag

part 3

http://youtube.com/watch?v=feiKLMSLscI


part 4

http://youtube.com/watch?v=INTdfSZw3ok

part 5

http://youtube.com/watch?v=zbIdPWDgMsg

part 6

http://youtube.com/watch?v=1HfnT3ST8gU

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Mr. Fun
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Hey, thanks sykohyko. I enjoyed watching those wacky videos.

What was Walt Disney really like? Ask ten different people, and you'll get ten different answers. Famous people always captivate the public. That's why we've recently had two new biographies of Walt Disney, and we'll probably have a few more before its over.

Like most successful men, Walt Disney was a complex individual. I can liken him to another guy I'm worked for in recent years. His name is Steve Jobs.

Jobs, like Disney, is a visionary. Add to that -- there's only one way to do things -- and that's his way. Not necessarily a bad approach. Both men have been quite successful. Though from different generations, Disney and Jobs had a way of getting things done. I admire that, and wish I had even a tiny fraction of those abilities.

Bottom line, what's my opinion of Walt Disney? Tough, driven, taskmaster who settled for nothing but the best? Correct!

Sincere, plain spoken, and fair? Correct.

Human, with all the shortcomings of any human being? Correct, again.

Yet, compared to some of the rogues I've worked for in this business over the years I would have to consider Walt Disney nothing less than a saint.

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sykohyko
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very interesting, thanks Mr. Fun

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Floyd Bishop
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I've been told that he was very moody and could give you two different takes on the same topic depending upon what kind of mood he was in at the time. One day he would like something, the next day it wasn't good enough. The joke was to ask the guard at the gate which Walt came to work that day. I guess that's how it goes when you have more than just production on your mind.

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Greg B
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Wow! A documentary that really begs for answers to many questions.

The most remarkable accusation is that Disney employed a known mafiosa. That is alarming to say the least.

History ain't made quietly.

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Jasen
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Interesting videos, Tom Sito used to talk about all this stuff in some of the many lectures he gave. BTW if anyone has the Sweatbox video. Please post them on YouTube & give us a link when you do. [Wink]

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Mr. Fun
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Yeah, the more time goes by -- the more the bulls*** increases. Everybody has a secret story to tell. Everybody has the "inside scoop" on Walt Disney.

However, if you never knew Walt Disney or worked with Walt Disney, you probably wouldn't know what to believe, I guess.

I was thinking about Walt today as I walked down the hallway in one of Disney's buildings. The "Old Man" wouldn't recognize his company today because so much has changed.

Remember Ward Kimball's famous comment to a group of new kids? "Walt's dead, and you missed it!" In a way I feel sorry for the young animation artists of today. They'll probably never experience what we had -- and sadly took for granted.

To be able to work on great projects at a great studio, led by a terrific leader. To work a normal work day because the boss felt it was important to spend time with your family, and not burn yourself out working ungodly hours. No big shot accountant telling you how much money we need to make this year. No studio can match that today. No, not even Pixar.

An old guy I talked to yesterday put it best. "Back then," he said, "it was my life. Today it's just a job."

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katsat
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Mr. Fun, do you consider working for Pixar "just a job?"
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DISNEY WAR is a wonderful book. It's mostly about the reign of Eisner, but the early part of its 580+ pages deals with some Disney studio and amusement park ancient history which hasn't been written about elswhere, at least as far as I know. I thought about synopsizing the book here at AN, but it's too long and too good for that. Get a used copy at Amazon for as little as nine cents plus $3.99 postage. You want Walt D ugliness? It has the ugliness. Personal family schisms. Bad feelings. Walt treating the company as his personal piggy bank and pulling out millions, almost killing it. A son-in-law groomed for power, only to fail with epic shame. Fun! I don't know if it's all true, but it doesn't matter at this point. Such is mythology... and the Eisner details are pure Disney-geek-porn.
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Mr. Fun
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Good question, katsat.

I'm not knocking Pixar. I had a ball working there. I'm just saying the world has changed, and business has changed. The Walt Disney studio of years past can never be that way again.

Today, all studios serve the bottom line. They have to. That's the way business is done. I'm simply remembering another time when creating animation was more than just a job.

As far as the book, "Disney War" goes, I've read it. It's mostly about the events of recent times. You won't find the "ugly stuff" happening until after the passing of Walt and his brother, Roy.

Personal piggy bank? Pulling out millions? That's bull! Walt had no interest in money. That's what nearly drove his brother nuts. Walt was always striving to do greater things -- not aggrandize himself.

If you believe that crap, you certainly never knew Walt Disney.

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Greg B
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Watching the documentary and seeing a glimpse at how Pinocchio was made was a mind blower. Pinocchio is a masterpiece bar none. It's the one Disney feature I have to steady myself before watching. That island of kids traumatized me as a kid. I'd only seen the movie once. I need to see it again.

Anyhow, I'm sure Walt had his good days and bad days. Melendez's recollection of Walt is disturbing. My main concern is did Walt truly hire a mobster? What info did he give the SAC? Did he use one of those words we can't say regarding other ethnic groups?

The McCarthy era was an unfair and evil use of the government against it's citizens. We're in a similar air now.

Well, all said the documentary is a rare glimpse into the animation industry and why my mom used to tell me as a kid to never work for Disney. Every cop and government agent and politician always told me that. The reasons they gave are some of the topics in the documentary. Always disturbed me.

Well all that's water under the bridge.

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Charles
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It's communist propaganda.

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Charles
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Thanks for posting the links sykohyko. Watching the video made this a more interesting day.

Like the recent topic about Ghandi in the Side Topics Forum, there's a tendency to forget that the greatest of world changers are only flesh and blood like everybody else. Everyone's got their strengths and weaknesses of character. What it comes down to at the end of the day is, was there more good that came from these people than bad. And I think that in the case of Uncle Walt, there was far more good that he left to humanity than the shortcomings portrayed in the video.

And it's good that the bad about Walt should be addressed so we can get a more complete picture of a complex man beloved by the world.

As far as the documentary itself is concerned, most of what was featured in the film really wasn't about a secret life. What's so secret about publicly appearing in front of a Congressional committee or the way he handled a very public strike.

There were a lot worse than Walt in Hollywood at that time. For every one person commenting in the video I'm sure there were dozens who would love to describe his positive traits such as Mr. Fun is doing here.

The documentary falls short in getting to the heart of Walt's upbringing and how his character was influenced by his surroundings. Born in Chicago, raised on a Missouri farm, living in Kansas City, that's the "Show Me" state folks. Missouri people have their own mind about things on top of the American midwest character. He was a man of his own and a man of his times, passionate and enthusiastic about what he was doing like no other but with personal flaws none the less.

The part I like the best is when they mention that he jumped out of his car to go at it with a striker and had to be restrained. Right on Walt. Why the hell would these guys yell at him while he's driving into work. They could at least be cordial. He kept hundreds of people employed during the Great Depression.

Enjoyed it very much. Great footage. Nice to see Walt Disney as a human being. Buena Vista Street in Burbank sure was open back then.

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Mr. Fun
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Thanks, Charles. Well said.

As far as the famous Disney strike, I've talked to people who were on both sides of that issue. Those who walked the picket lines -- and those who crossed them. In some cases, even families were divided on whether to continue working for Walt. Here's the odd thing. I agree with both sides.

You bet, Walt handled some things poorly. You bet he made mistakes. Yet, down deep he was a good guy. Not perfect by any means, but I would work for him any day, and there are a lot of us old timers who feel the same way.

Don't be too quick to judge a person you've never met.

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devourax
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I just watched a video of Bill Peet where he describes his days working with Disney. He says mostly what everyone else says, "You tried desperatley to please him (Walt), and when you did get a positive comment, you floated for days.....however, he was also good at ruining your weekends and sleep"

He also thanks Walt for pushing him further than he ever would have on his own. Walt made you dig down deep.

-dev

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sykohyko
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I would love to see a movie based on Walt Disney's life. I'm surprised no ones attempted to make one already.

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Mr. Fun
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Many years ago, they built a set of an animation studio on stage 3 at the Walt Disney studio.

As I walked through the set, I couldn't help be reminded of the old Disney studio on Hyperion in Silverlake. I could almost see a young Walt Disney come walking down the hallway.

A movie on the life of Disney would be fantastic. What a life the man had. The success, the drama, the turmoil. You can't make up this stuff.

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Greg B
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Ummm, bottom line:

Did Walt Disney employ the services of the Mafia.

Yes or no.

If he did those are serious charges that should have been addressed at the time and then some.

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SNAKEBITE
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Fight fire with fire, Greg.
this whole business is run by crooks. Friggen unions IMHO are a bunch of crooks too.

If I started a business from the ground up, bailed loads of people out of a depression and made the company successful while giving people stable jobs I would want to reserve the right to continue to do it my way and anyone that didn't like it was free to go. But if people stayed and tried to force me into doing it their way then
thats when I would have a problem and would fight
for my rights too.

Man, I could imagine in those hard times that I would probably attack a picketer too. Seems kinda like a slap in the face to me.

Ulitmatly without Walt there would be no jobs for people. Yes the people are what makes up the company, but the people without walt at the time would be jobless.

I dunno, I always quit the jobs I didn't like so I don't see the problem...and I've never seen anything in the art world that makes me feel like
Unions are the end all be all of answers to job stability...I hear their insurance plans are pretty good, though.

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Charles
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The documentary implies that he did hire a mob strong arm, and if it's true, my guess based on what was presented is that he took bad advice from someone. In any case, it was 65 years ago, nobody was hurt, the union won the strike and life went on.

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Mr. Fun
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"In August, the Teamsters Union joined the boycott. All the bad press increased the pressure on Walt Disney so much that it brought him close to another nervous breakdown. One time a secretary saw Walt sitting in his office crying uncontrollably."

from Tom Sito's book, "Drawing the Line."

Sounds like a real badass, right?

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Tobias A. Wolf
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The amazing thing about the man to me:

It wasn't about how much you could give to people and still make money or become rich for your efforts, it was about how much you could give and survive/thrive to give even more the next time around. Always pushing to give more in service to others.

After all that's all any of us will leave behind, and thus mean something to anyone beyond ourselves or generation. It's in what we give, and it's measure, not what we take. That's all any of us will be measured by. As this thread is a testament to for a man that died some 40 years ago.

To reach people, enrich their lives, and have our message endure - that is the ultimate goal of art. Commercial or otherwise.

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Mr. Fun
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I was at Disneyland the first week the park opened back in 1955. I believe I paid less than five bucks to get in. Walt wanted to keep the ticket price low enough so that even families strapped for cash could enjoy a day of fun.

Can you imagine any executive thinking like that today?
Walt was always focused on continually giving more.

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Greg B
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Okay, I'm done. I'm puttin' a fork in it.

Walt Disney hired a mobster.

I'm done.

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Steve G
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Well $5 was worth a lot more in those days...
The average home price was $22,000
A Ford automobile could be bought for $1,600 - $2,900
And the average yearly income was just over $4,000 or $77 a week.
So, according to the $5 price quoted by Floyd (I assume this might include multiple ride tickets and food?), for a family of 4 it would only cost $20 to go to Disneyland or approximately a quarter of a week's salary.

The current average income is approximately $44,00 so that would work out to be equivilant of spending over $200 for a day at Disneyland - for the average family. Of course, that's probably a little on the low side these days especially with food factored in.

The actual Main Gate price in 1955 was only $1 for adults, but you did have to purchase individual ride tickets for 10 to 35 cents.

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Animation Co-op
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quote:
do you consider working for Pixar "just a job?"
Working for ANY studio is "just a job". And if you manage to convince yourself otherwise, you may be in for a rude awakening one day. [Wink]
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Eric Hedman
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Amen Brother.

Be Happy.

Keep Making good stuff. [Smile]

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-FP-
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DISNEY WAR just materialized at my side, fresh from its place of honor leaning up against my terlet.

The Disney history unpleasantness starts on page 40 with the phrase, "...first serious breach between Walt and his brother Roy O.". This is followed by some contentious boardroom shenanigans, which leads to: "Employees at Disney were soon divided between 'Walt men' and 'Roy men'." The painful episode ends with Walt selling the use of his name to the corporation for $60 million 1950s dollars. Then: "...the rift between the families never fully healed. The huge payment by Walt Disney productions to Walt, which ended up making the Walt side of the family enormously wealthy, rankled throughout the Roy side."

Then comes some painful memories of the Roy who, much later, helped "save Disney". An associate of Walt dubs him the "idiot nephew". Much bad stuff happens. Roy bails out of Disney, with some hard feelings, in 1977. The epic Eisner story begins and goes on for 488 more exhaustively researched pages, Roy steps in at the end and you know the rest. Get the book. It's a cheap thrill. It was done with Eisner's permission, with lots of personal interviews with Eisner, yet it makes him look like a lying, backstabbing, petulant, petty, power-mad maniac who also happens to be a fairly bad guy. There's lots of fun, awkward Katzenberg stuff in the mix.

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Mr. Fun
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Sounds like this material might make a good gag book.
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KevinO
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Do we see another book in the future Mr. Fun??!!
Let's hope so!! Right on!!

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Jasen
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The video had a scene about the strike, Those picket signs were funny & clever. Might have been worth something today if they were kept in storage somewhere.

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C W Oberleitner
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quote:
I would love to see a movie based on Walt Disney's life. I'm surprised no ones attempted to make one already.
It would make a far better mini series since it needs to cover over 50 years. Casting would also be a problem since several of the main characters would have to age significantly.

Then there's the "Freudian" matter of Elias Disney and how abusive he may or may not have been and how much of an effect that may or may not have had on Walt.

As for the rest of the stuff in the videos, I highly recommend that you read Neal Gabler's recent Disney biography. While this documentary skips across historic tidbits of fact Gabler does an excellent job of filling the details of what was going on at the time around Disney to influence him.

For example, Walt Disney Productions senior legal counsel Gunther Lessing is credited with putting the "Communist" bug in Walt's ear. And the Bank of America was the reason Roy shipped Walt off to South America and quickly settled the strike.

Bioff the mobster, was also a product of Lessing,s doing more than Walt's and as the film briefly touches on he was brought in by the heads of the other major studios, most of which ironically enough were run by Eastern European Jews several of whom Walt once played polo with contrary to the view of his being anti-semitic.

Also check out, if you haven't already, Tom Sito's excellent history of animation unions. As far as the Disney strike goes Sito's account is remarkably similar to Gabler's and both accounts are far more detailed than this video.

Keep an eye out for our upcoming podcast interview with Neal Gabler.

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C W Oberleitner
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More on Bioff

He originally came to LA to run IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) which was very keen on organizing the entire film industry. Reports vary on how closely tied he was to either Al Capone or "the Capone family." He was, however, well known as a thug and willing to make sweetheart deals with the studios to win IATSE dominance of the labor side of the film industry.

As such IATSE was in direct conflict with SCG (Screen Cartoonist Guild), which was trying to organize Disney's.

In Walt Disney the Triumph of the American Imagination Neal Gabler disagrees with Bill Littlejohn, seen in the Channel 4 documentary. Both men agree that Bioff virtually kidnapped the Disney strike leaders and took them to his ranch in the San Fernando Valley, however, Gabler says they were greeted by Roy Disney and Gunther Lessing not a bunch of hoods with machine guns. Art Babbitt was even offered a $50 raise.

Check it out pages 356 to 370 in the Disney biography.

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knowledge
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Does anyone think that thug tactics still happen in Hollywood??

I was told an incredible story by an Animation person, which could have come right out of a movie.

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Jasen
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quote:
Does anyone think that thug tactics still happen in Hollywood??

Not animation but Wasn't there a story about thug tactics for the crew of "Back To the Future 2" It might be mentioned in the commentary section of the film.

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dermot
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Not sure which book I read it in way back....but the feeling I got was that the number of folks interested in helping Walt out with his strike problems were not necessarily welcome . I can't remember the name of the animator ( assistant ? ) who got was very active in the rebellion....and got tipped that some heavies were planning to ambush him at the train station....and he in turn ambushed them and beat them up.

I seem to remember a few unusual car accidents as well .

But then all this reminds me of the EA situation a while back over long hours and no overtime pay....where many were having accidents and getting sick etc .

Mr Fun quoted in another thread about how an old friend used to say "it was his life...but now it's just a job ".......I worry sometimes that with all the software , the execs now expect anyone can be plugged into a workstation and just keep rolling that ball along / I think it's certainly true in the series stuff.....the key designers and board artists are all "short-term-as-possible" hires while some very decent but humble low paid artists can eventually be found and burdened with a lot of the heavy work .

Kind of reminds me of that scene from "On the Waterfront"......maybe one day we'll all gather round the front doors with our stylus and wait for the call : " OK I need 2 Flash artists today....2 only.....all the rest of you go home....come back tommorrow "

yechhh

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Greg B
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I would really like to say why I in particular know so much about thug tactics in American culture but that's for another day.

Let's just say I ain't no where near a fan of organized crime. I grew up around it and sure did know the big shots. The bosses all had estates in and around my neighborhood. They didn't resemble anything you've seen in Hollywood movies. You wouldn't have known who they were until the indictments in the 80's and 90's came along.

The amount of ruined lives and misery is unfathomable. America's got lots of dirty laundry but the gangsters own the laundromat.

Robert Montgomery the actor had his run in with organized crime. Quite heroic. Study up on what really happened to Capone's enforcer Frank Nitti.

Hollywood like any industry has it's gang thing. Now you have street gangs as well as well heeled mobsters. You have to watch your back.

We'll never be rid of this menace until we get so fed up with it we start handling it the only real way.

You can't negotiate with gangs and mobsters.

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Mr. Fun
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My colleagues and I once took a meeting with a big shot producer back in the seventies. It was in the penthouse of a Hollywood high rise.

We had our storyboards and cute little cartoon characters pinned up all over the room. However, before the executive came in -- he had his "boys" sweep through the office and check things out. I knew the "boys" were packing heat. It was like being in a movie.

Very scary. Wherever there's big money -- there's gangsters.

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monkeydad
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I'm surprised no one's mentioned the "Walt's People" series of books. If you want to know what people who worked with Walt think of him, you can't get better information than going to the source, as these volumes do.

Volume three has a couple of interviews with Art Babbitt and Bill Peet, neither of which could be accused of being a Walt sycophant, yet they come nowhere close to casting Walt as an evil guy.

Volume 3 also contains a terrific interview with our own Mr. Fun.

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Greg B
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Some days I just wonder why I keep at it.

I've spent most of my life fighting gangsters. Now that I'm an 'old guy' I can look back and see the good done yet realize the root cause is within all of us.

Evil flourishes when good men get comfortable. Sort of like the tortoise and the hare stories.

Dealing with despots, gangsters, bullies let me give you a recent example of how I handled one.

Our neighborhood had a bully. Notice past tense. This person was abusive and domineering and just a pestilence for years. Then one day recently they made the mistake of trying it out on me. They made the mistake of taking kindness for weakness. The person weighed about 180lbs. Got into a shoving match with me. After I started laughing at them I realized they stopped. Reason they stopped was because I hadn't realized I had picked them off the ground with one arm. I'm a strong guy and had been in the gym everyday for 2 months and a fortnight. I didn't even feel me pick them up I was just trying to keep them from shoving into me. Normally in the gym I do a one arm curl which is when you lift a weight with on arm upward like lifting a can or glass. I use 70lbs on that exercise. Mega bodybuilders can do 150lbs easy. I realized that my adrenaline was running and that's why I lifted them so easily and they too realized they had screwed up. I saw their feet dangling like when a Hanna Barbera cartoon character is running in suspension before taking off.

Needless to say that was the wake up call for that nuisance. Since then it's been a whole new day in the neighborhood. A joyous time for all. Know why? Because the troublemaker came to the realization that they came 'that' close to having their ass handed to them in a hard way.

What's that say? All the negotiation, talking, demonstrations etc. did not one bit of good. The ONLY thing they understood was the reality of the potentional of a good ol' fashioned asskicking.

I've noticed over the years how this works so effectively. I can't count how many times me, my friends and cousins would literally have to kick someone's ass to Sunday in order to resolve a problem. That's why I'm all for people carrying guns to protect themselves. I'm all for carpet bombing of countries with crazy violent people in them.

It's been my lifelong experience that when a simple 'no' doesn't get through to a guy a more simpler foot-in-ass does wonders for the soul.

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