Interview with Jeff Ryan, Author “A MOUSE DIVIDED”

Jeff Ryan is the author of A MOUSE DIVIDED: How Ub Iwerks Became Forgotten…and Walt Disney Because Uncle Walt.

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Podcast Transcription

sleon live where we interview authors speakers anyone in the entrepreneurs space and to give you an update what’s going on today we have a special character Jeff Ryan he is author of a mouse divided how OOP I works became forgotten and Walt Disney but because of uncle Walt Jeff welcome to this Lian live podcast Thank You Santiago and congratulations on saying goo’bye works correctly a lot of people stumble over that name because it’s a unusual one sounds like a Star Wars alien yeah it does well obviously this is about the the the business partner of up I works if you guys don’t know the story we know Walt Disney started back in the 20s but we’ll have Jeff Ryan talk a little bit about why it works tell me a little bit about yourself and and and also about your book okay I book about Super Mario a few years ago and Super Mario is the Mickey Mouse Tendo so I wanted to see how Disney made Mickey Mouse in the first place so I had never really watched in Mickey Mouse cartoon so it took me six or seven years of research and watching far too many old timey black-and-white cartoons but I found that there was this real story that even Disney historians hadn’t really looked at which was that Walt Disney and his best friend created Mickey Mouse and and they had a fight and broke up and one of them stayed with a company Walt Disney one of them left the company and became a competitor and Walt kind of erased his friend out from the public record and the competitor fell fell down his company stopped working but he still remained erased so no one knows who by works is other than a handful of animation diehards well actually I watched a movie about a couple of months ago I don’t remember the exact name of the movie but it was about Walt Disney and the guy that played Walt Disney was the guy from American Pie I’m not sure if you seen oh that move is Walt before Disney yes back before Mickey yes would you say like that movie is pretty accurate of what happened it’s based on a very very well researched book by Timothy Sutton and that that book goes into meticulous detail about everyone who was involved back in Kansas City before he moved to Hollywood Walt Disney and who live works worked out of Kansas City that’s where they got their start now obviously you know these secondhand characters or you know these founders don’t get recognized as much um tell us a little bit about oh I know obviously he’s a cartoonist but how did he came to be one of you by works his great abilities was that he was fast and in the animation world it doesn’t matter if you spend two hours making the world’s perfect drawing of a cartoon you need to make 24 of them in order to get a single second of animation so speed is of the essence so Lou was incredibly fast but you also teach you how to begin credibly fast and to make a drawing that looked exactly like his animation is collaborative and that means that everyone is drawing different different cartoon mice but they all need to look exactly the same so one of his tricks if you have some change in your pocket and put it down on the ground you can make a circle by by tracing a quarter or a nickel or a dime so if you look at Mickey Mouse his belly is a quarter and his head is a nickel and then in close-up his head becomes a quarter and his ears become dimes yeah that’s something that you know back then was cartoons a big innovative innovative part of American history back then was that something that was brand-new that you know it was like a startup back then wasn’t it it was and in fact people thought cartoons were dying out in the 1920s because people had a lot of innovators to come in and there were a lot of also-rans who were making not as good cartoons so when you went to the movies before you watch the actual feature you wanted to watch you had to sit through it second-rate cartoon so Walt was not in a a blue ocean as we would say now he was in a space that had a whole lot of competitors and what he thought would make the difference wasn’t the quality or Mickey Mouse as a character but sound which is why Steamboat Willie the third Mickey Mouse cartoon is considered the big standout because that was the one where they found a way of adding sound to it would you say obviously every every star let’s go pull him back to basketball you know Michael Jordan needed Scottie Pippen to win championships what’s up I work so vital for Disney that if it wasn’t for him there will not be any worldwide of Disney yes and he he has a much bigger influence and even on Disney the first cartoon star that Walton had was Alice in cartoonland and Walt had asked for a way of putting a live girl in a cartoon world and what Walt came up with or what rube came up with was called chromakey compositing we know what today is green screening so he invented green screening back in the early 1920s just to make this one cartoon character that Walt came up with work so well when you wouldn’t have a fantasy movie or even a weather broadcast without who by works now obviously I’m referencing towards the movie I know there was a certain part like at the beginning where I think half his staff left and Anna and I don’t know that up up ooh stayed he sticked around how long did he stick around with Disney like when did he like you know like veer off from him he and Walt were together for 10 years and in 1928 or so that’s when Disney’s staff left because they were rude away by their distributor who thought that Walt was kind of dead weight and he wanted to hire the animators directly and cut Walt out because he thought Walt was a middleman who stuck by Walt side but warned him that this was going to happen and Walt had his blinders on thought now that’ll never happen no one would would ever leave me because I’m such a pleasure to work with that was not the case these Walt could be really mercurial he could be mean to you day and then nice to you the next me to you one second nice to you the next so it was very hard to please him and it was also very hard to be his friend at times what did you like what did you do afterwards after Disney so after he left and he had about three thousand dollars in start-up fees or a startup money he built a competitor studio which was called celebrity pictures but that name kind of fell apart everyone quickly called it I work studio and he made the world’s first color cartoon called fiddlesticks uh and his character was flip the Frog but flip the Frog wasn’t as popular as the Disney cartoons because Disney just had more money Mickey Mouse was a merchandising powerhouse even back then and Walt took all of that money and put it into the cartoons lube couldn’t compete even though he could make cartoons cheaper than Walt Walt whole thing was to make the most expensive elaborate looking cartoons you could imagine and everyone else went broke catching up with that including lube eventually yeah that’s quite fascinating you know it’s um you know cuz back then you had to rely on investor money or outside money to get these productions going yeah oh and and listen to this so I said that boob had three thousand dollars in seed money he got that by selling his 20% stake in Disney the man owned one-fifth of Disney he’d be worth thirty two billion dollars today if he had stayed man which is very similar to the guy from Apple like the third guy for his name but he he sold off his stocks he could have been a millionaire maybe a billionaire by now yeah yeah sometimes sometimes when you decide to be an entrepreneur it it can bite you in the butt in the worst way possible but who was he um had the opportunity to work with with like Warner Brothers he did work with Warner Brothers uh his studio was was open for business and he made to Porky Pig cartoons for Warner Brothers and Looney Tunes but they already had a stable of great animators like Chuck Jones working for them so this was a one of the low points of his life where they said we don’t need you to make our cartoons for us we simply need your desks and you can stay home and we’ll just rent your desks and bring our animators in that’s my style yeah a style of animation had gone by the wayside because everyone was trying to make more expensive elaborate looking cartoons how many like how much staff members do you needed back then to make a cartoon Walt found a an interesting way around it he set up what he would called an animation college and college was just a way of saying you’re gonna work for me eight hours and I’m not gonna pay you that’s quite interesting of course you know if you watch the movie or read his biography and also read this book how things kind of pan out back then it was tough I kit was it because all this happened during like the Great Great Depression yeah yeah Mickey Mouse became popular right as 1929 dropped the world into into the Great Depression and cartoons and films somehow stayed popular because no matter how bad things were you could always scrounge up a nickel to go see a movie and back then you could stay into a movie theater all day long some of them were air-conditioned you could get popcorn and expensively so it was a way of forgetting your troubles after you BA left do you think this thing kind of contact them a little bit or stay in touch or you think they just completely they would send a tack I wanted to say emails but back then it was telegrams so when sleeping or when Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came out boobs and Walt congratulatory message saying congratulations you did it you’ve made the world’s first feature cartoon that one thought that this could be done or if it was done it would be any good but Walt made one of the greatest accomplishments of all time and it’s the world’s biggest piece of collective art at the time it was it was quite quite inspirational how many characters did that yuba I guess designed or created back then which is well known right now there’s still you know known right now let’s see people don’t really know Alice or Julius the cat from the olden days some people remember Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Lee Harvey Oswald was nicknamed Ozzie rabbit because enough people in the 50s remembered Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Mickey Mouse is the big one he also designed Clarabelle cow and horace horsecollar are very very obscure Disney characters I don’t think you’re gonna find too many people who know about them and then he went on his own and made people like flip the Frog and really whopper and you’re not gonna know those guys either but designing the characters wasn’t ever the wasn’t ever the hard thing to do because if you look at Mickey Mouse he looks almost exactly the same as Oswald the rabbit what Oh what makes a character connect is what the character does and how the character moves interacts and the the sole that the character has and that was really boobs where Belle flat because he could draw all day long and draw faster than anyone else but he didn’t have anything to say Walt had something to say all of his characters acted very similarly they acted like Walt or the way Walt saw himself so that’s why when Lou blessed and Walt stayed Walt was the one who found success because he could have other people implement his ideas and who could draw incredibly well but he didn’t have anything to say ultimately you think you’ve left any regrets before he died by leaving Disney that’s a good question who’ve actually returned to Disney in 1940 and was very instrumental behind the scenes for for the last 25 30 years of his life if you’ve ever seen Mary Poppins or or any of the other Disney films that that still have a lot of like old what they call Disney magic a lot of that is is credited to you by works but I I think he knew that he didn’t want to be a business leader he wanted to be an employee he wanted to do his work and not worry about the profit and loss sections he just he just wanted to be an artist and waltz allowed him to be an artist like going back to work for him yeah this is very similar to Steve Wozniak obviously he wasn’t much of a business guy but was more on creating computers and everything else have you received any reception from the Walt Disney Corporation or yeah no I wrote this unofficially I contacted Disney I would have loved to go into the Disney vaults but the vaults have a massive number of documents and they’re not very well organized so it takes a a full Disney employee to stand by your side all day long as you’re doing the research and I could have spent months in there and that that meant that someone would be paying for months just to watch over my shoulders to make sure I didn’t walk off with something extremely valuable so there they decided that unless you work for Disney you don’t get access to the Disney vaults must be very and I found other ways yeah it must be very hard to get into that would you think that you might you know would be impressed of what’s going on today I know that you know Pixar has kind of taken over that animation role right now but do you think he would have been like pretty satisfied of what he you will see right now yeah I think he actually would be interested in what’s going on with video games I I think he would see that as the next level of interactive entertainment he was working on on building the Haunted Mansion when when he eventually died and a lot of the haunted mansions best little bits are thanks to who by works so I I think he would have been very interested in videogames and new ways of interacting I think he would have loved portal for instance what did you learn in this book that you did not know before specifically about Disney there was a war of her Donald Duck that I did now there was a guy named Clarence Nash he went on the radio in Los Angeles and did this incredible funny duck impression of him talking I can’t do it Donald blood compression but you can imagine what it sounds like and Walt I knew both heard that on the radio it’s like oh we got to get this guy we got a we’re gonna make a duck cartoon we’re gonna put this guy in and it’s gonna go but gangbusters and they both had the same idea which was the Little Red Hen the old fable or yeah it was a little redhead and who won the first battle of this war which was to register the cartoon name of the Little Red Hen Walt had to rely on something called the wise little hen which is not the name of Fable and then Lube 1 round 2 also which is that he got was able to look the voice artist first but then his mics weren’t working that day so he would need Donald Duck footage or Donald Duck audio then Walt wins the whole war by saying don’t ever go to work for come work for me I will hire you full time just as duckville and so we put him on the payroll you know so he’s getting a 40-hour a week paycheck for once every three weeks coming in and quacking but but that was a huge success because Donald Duck became the second biggest character in Disney history other than Mickey Mouse yeah it’s definitely he’s like the number-two guy what who is your favorite character that UI works created it probably he would be Mickey it’s hard to say that flip the Frog is anyone favored yeah I think Mickey Mouse is definitely one of the well the greatest the character Disney ever created which I which I believe that named Mickey I believe was Walt’s wife that came up with the name right yeah chapter 1 of my book details all the the legends Walt told over the years because people always want to know how he came up with Mickey Mouse and the answer is oh my friend drew him and it took 30 seconds that’s not a good answer that people walk away disappointed so Walt who’s a boring story teller kept coming up with a better and better and more elaborate story and it began with little bit of truth because he probably came up with the idea of Mortimer as a name because it lines up but the other funny names like Oswald and Julius and his wife said you can’t call this guy Mortimer give him a better name than that but then the story grew and grew and he invented this family of mice idiot adopted and he invented a nice that he would send cartoons of the mouse family to and all of this was to backdate Mickey Mouse’s creation to to the very beginning of when Disney was an artist you might have mentioned this before ready in the interview but has he created characters that have not been like released in the public do you know of most of Lube stuff is all in the public domain because his company went bankrupt so everything everything out there is is easily accessible if you go to youtube and type it in some kind souls have uploaded them all that’s quite interesting now things are so you know these characters and everything else are becoming so much less I mean are very legendary you know where you see a theme park surrounded by one character and and who would have known but well uh we were able to find out if he was in favor of creating like theme parks or yeah and one of Walt’s original ideas back in the 1940s was something called Mickey Mouse land he wanted to open up in a vacant lot across the street from Disney Studios and that that idea blossomed a lot into what we know this Disneyland and then Walt Disney World but originally it was just because people would stop by the Disney Studios and they’d want a tour and they just see a bunch of middle-aged men sitting at desks drawing and it wouldn’t be as fun as they hoped Disney Studios would be so he wanted to build a place that seemed as as fun as the cartoons were have you had some thoughts of writing another book about Disney or maybe a another topic similar to this I think I’m tapped out on the early years of animation I’m not sure if I have anything else to say or another great old character to say it about but I am working on on other stories involving other fictional characters and the real-life people behind them the reception have you gotten more like reception for people that are huge Disney fans like what like what type of people are you getting very interested it’s really hard to judge because someone will say oh I’m a huge Disney fan and then I’ll ask would you know who Roubaix works is and sometimes they’ll say oh yeah I know all about who and I can talk to them on one wavelength and then sometimes they’ll say no I’ve never heard of who by works but I’m a massive massive Disney fan so then I’ll be able to talk to them on a different wavelength so so most people don’t know who loob is so there’s a there’s a lot to read about and luckily you’ll still enjoy Walt Disney and still loved a guy after you read the book they had a tough friendship and it was tested a number of ways but Walt wasn’t the villain in in this piece he was just a complicated guy would you think that Disney might create and I mean I like I know they created the the Mary Poppins with Tom Hanks even mr. banks do you think they might create like the origins of Disney and everything in the future or you know think Disney company would be interested in that I don’t think they would but if they ever did and they wanted to have like Walt Disney around age 40 Edward Norton would be perfect he already looks a fair amount like Walt Disney and you can really see him diving into this role and and switching emotions on a dime and being you know your best friend one minute and then the guy breathing down your neck the next yeah that’s definitely you know it’s funny because I can see like Vince Vaughn playing of Iwerks you out you my works okay yeah like I can I can kind of see that too he’s a little taller than Huub was okay well I mean according to what I solved from the movie Walt before Mickey um he seemed pretty tall but maybe he wasn’t that tall in real life um has it been any other movies you know close to this I mean of course it’s Walt before Mickey but is there any other type of movies that you’ve seen that tell us the disney story no disney is one of the biggest movie studios on the planet so they don’t want to tell their own story no other movie studio wants to tell the story about how great their competitor is yeah that’s something that of course there’s I mean they’re in like the top like the big five movie studios in the world maybe number one I know they’re coming out with Disney Plus and they’re buying Star Wars and Marvel but it’s quite interesting how Disney has gotten this far as in it yeah they’ve they’ve definitely changed especially in the last 15 years or so they’re they’re more like the way the pharmaceutical companies work now you don’t have a company like Pfizer that that makes drugs so much as Pfizer find smaller companies that are making drugs and then purchases them and that’s what Disney is doing they can make a lot of great intellectual property but what they can do when no one else can do is purchase intellectual property of others and then use it to their best advantage I don’t think Disney I mean they haven’t done any cartoon movies lately haven’t they well they have frozen – coming out in a couple of weeks okay well there you go that’s a very popular movie as well so Jeff how okay here’s Yakko here’s a bit of trivia for you involving business what is Disney single biggest revenue stream okay to give you five guesses and you may not get it right okay let’s see they got the theme parks they got the movies if you’re not Dean parks if not movies they got the merchandise you do not merge some type of a licensing deal that people get from them it carriage rates from ESPN anyone who has cable yeah is paying about $5 a month into Disney’s pocket that’s term like their biggest revenue stream yeah for a long time it has been Wow I mean I know ESPN is probably like one of the most important cable channels on cable so and they’re hard to find through any other stream like like only sling has them that’s it yeah I don’t know if I don’t think ESPN is going to be included in Disney Plus that’s kind of weird well if they did that I’ll have to charge more but that’s quite interesting interesting to say that because I know ESPN is a very valuable asset in sports there’s no competition with Fox Sports or with NBC Sports so I could definitely see that well any other trivia like that no my book mostly focuses on the on the past instead of the present and plug but I’m I’m looking at what the future is going to bring for for Disney right now because Disney Plus means that they’re going to lose about four billion dollars in licensing revenue this year you know Avengers end games should be a Netflix film but it’s going to lose that money Netflix would pay for it so that end game shows up on Disney Plus first and foremost and only yeah that’s quite interesting because you think Netflix has been a great asset for Disney it’s been paying them a lot of money yeah but when as Disney is creating a competitor service it’s going to lose that money for a number of years while it builds up its subscriber base yeah I know because they’re charging five bucks I think per month for Disney Plus and eventually they’re gonna go up slowly and it’s funny because I saw a short segment on CNBC earlier today about it and and yeah we’ll see we’re sooo where this like the streaming thing is gonna go do you think like this whole Disney Plus might work out for them or I I think they’re playing the long game and they can afford to keep doing this lots of other mid-sized streaming services that you’ve already forgotten the name of have launched and then closed down because they were hoping that people would flock to them and people haven’t flocked on because there’s just too many there’s about two dozen different streaming services and you can name Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime and then your brain stops remembering all the the rest of them but for each little niche of entertainment there are at least one it’s not two or three streaming services for it yeah there’s more we’re coming in in the pipe in the next year or two yeah all I have is you know he’s using FUBU obviously just to watch television and then I had ESPN plus I took it away because I didn’t really watch it as much Hulu I used to watch it but I’m not into TV as much as before and of course Netflix but if you’re like a die-hard next flick series guy which I know that flicks is it’s creating great original content and then you got Apple TV Plus which is like another five bucks I think it’s free for the first year if you’re a I phone holder or something people have made jokes that there were so many streaming services that people are going to start creating a bundle where you can buy the rights to multiple streaming services all at the same time for one price of about 70 or 80 dollars and then congratulations you have just made cable TV exactly and it’s interesting how people are sticking with cable because they’re realizing that like because it can get like all the channels and I don’t know the other streaming services so we’ll see how these things pan out but content is king and we’ll see what happens how can people find this book Jeff and how can people buy it it’s on Amazon there’s an audiobook version available on audible anywhere books are sold you can go to a bookstore and request for them to buy it if they don’t have it in stock you can also get my first book Super Mario the same way and hopefully the next year or two there’ll be a third book to come out alongside the other two any title not yet I’m I’m still trying to shop it around have you changed your point of view towards Disney after writing this book I thought Disney was going to have some dirt about him I thought because everyone seems to deify this guy and and pupu anyone who says anything bad about him that there must be a deep dark secret but there’s not they he he was the person that people thought he was has his family kind of reached out to you or anything no he’d uh there are one or two Disney grandchildren but the his wife and who’s he kids have all moved on it’s no longer a family company it’s a fortune 500 oh no I mean like the family from you buy works oh they have their own book on Lube coming out his granddaughter Leslie Iwerks who’s a filmmaker also she has a seemingly great documentary series I only say seemingly because haven’t seen it yet called uh the Imagineering story I believe that’s gonna premiere on Disney Plus next week and she wrote a book on and the family has another book on hoob coming out just in a few weeks and there you have it you mind works Jess how can people reach you online I’m at Jeff underscore underscore Ryan on Twitter it may be easier to just type Jeff Ryan in search there have it Jess you can find this book and mouse divided how up UI works became forgotten on Amazon you can see the link below of this video to buy the book you buy an audible paperback or hardcover and and yet read that you know the history it wasn’t all Walt Disney you know there was a number two guy out there that helped him out and yeah but hey you know he he’s popular now because of you Jeff well I think a guy named Mickey is something to do with it too true hunter you go Mickey is the middleman anyways Jeff any closing words nope there you have it Jeff I appreciate you coming on to the podcast Thank You Man

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