First Encounter with Walt Disney

Parents First Exposure to Animation December 7th, 1941 Father’s Optimism Tanforan Assembly Center Dusty Weather at Topaz, Utah Mother in Camp Father making shell brooches at Topaz Father’s Postwar Barber Career First Encounter with Walt Disney Disney Drawing Tests His mentor, Iwao Takamoto The Dopey bank that survived the war

Transcripts available in the following languages:

I felt a little intimidated because I’m going to leave home. I’m going to leave my Japanese American community. All my Japanese friends. Outside of a few hakujin friends I had in high school, I thought, “Oh, I come down here, I’m going to be virtually in the white world.” So it was a little scary. But when I started at Chouinard’s Art Institute, it was Jimmy Murakami, his brother James Murakami, Roy Morita. So I saw other Nisei, and we were all interested in the same thing, and we were all making a pursuit to come into the animation business. So I felt much more comfortable.

But the first day I went to Disney Studio, I didn’t have any intentions of being hired. I just wanted to see the inside of the studio, and I happened to have my student portfolio with me, so using that as a ticket, I called the studio and they invited me to come in for an interview. And I thought, oh my goodness, this is scary. I’m really intimidated.

So I go to the studio. I step into the elevator. The elevator door is closing, and then suddenly it swings open, and standing in front of me is Walt Disney. He’s with an associate. And they’re deeply in conversation, but as they step into the elevator, I’m in the back there. Just kind of like this. And he acknowledges my presence with a polite nod, and then they both turn around and they continue their conversation. That was the longest elevator ride to the fourth floor.

Date: August 26, 2015
Location: California, US
Interviewer: John Esaki
Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

animation Walt Disney

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