IMG_2824On Wednesday November 5th, D23 hosted a special panel celebrating 30 years of Disney Television Animation.  Held at The Disney Studios in Burbank, the night was filled with fun, laughter and nostalgia as we looked back at some classic shows and looked forward to the upcoming slate.

Disney Television Animation kicked off in 1985 with the premiere of Adventures of the Gummi BearsBack then the animators weren’t allowed to touch existing Disney properties of their vault of classic characters.  Thus it was Michael Eisner’s idea to make a TV show based on his kid’s favorite candy: Gummi Bears.  After Eisner gave the animators this marching order, several thought he might have even been joking.  As Rob LaDuca joked, “You eat the main characters every week?”

The animators for Gummi Bears first tried to find inspiration by attaching packages of the candies to the wall, but later looked to some Disney classics.  Since the candies were Bavarian, they based the a lot of the style of of Gummi Glen on the worlds seen in Pinnochio and Snow White. 

Bringing a legendary studio into the world of television animation was not something the team took lightly.  Jymn Magon shared that once a coworker asked him, “Are we doing the Disney thing? Are we doing this properly?”  Magon replied, “Whatever we do is the Disney thing.”

Luckily Adventures of the Gummi Bears took off and lead to DuckTales, Tale Spin, Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers and many others.  These cartoons got to incorporate some Disney characters but still no “all-stars”.  That’s why many of the animators on the panel were jealous of Paul Rudish.

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Rudish went from doing storyboards on Tron: Uprising to executive producing the new set of Mickey Mouse shorts.  Phineas and Ferb co-creator Dan Povenmire praised Rudish by saying, “What Paul has done with Mickey is really really extraordinary”  He went on to explain the tough spot Rudish was in by adding, “Every several years they want to try to update Mickey to make him relevant for a new audience and there as so many way that can go wrong.”  Jeff “Swampy” Marsh piled on the praise by saying, “It’s been a pleasure losing Emmy awards to you.”  Rudish was a little more humble on the subject telling the audience, “We didn’t have to overthink how to make it new because the groundwork was already so solid.”

As successful as the new Mickey short have become, there are still no match for the phenomenon that is Phineas and Ferb. Over the course of four seasons the show has been so popular that Disney has allowed the characters to play in the world’s of their acquisitions.  Getting to do both Marvel and Star Wars crossovers was a dream come true for Povenmire and Swamp.  In fact, Povenmire joked that upon hearing of the news of Disney purchasing Lucasfilm, he sketched out a drawing Dr. Doofenshmirtz as Darth Vader and set it to a Eric Coleman (Senior Vice President, Original Series, Disney Television Animation) with the tagline, “I smell crossover.”  Surprisingly, Coleman responded saying, “That’s a really good idea!”

Their foray into the Marvel universe wasn’t quite as smooth.  As Povenmire explained, “Our original sort of rough pitch to them had the characters switching powers.  And so Iron Man  was running around with Thor’s hammer since he had Thor’s powers.”  This lead to an instant “no” from Marvel.  As Marsh recalls, “They said, ‘It’s about about worthiness, not about strength.”  Instead of getting discouraged, the creators decided to lift their conversion with Marvel and inserted it into the episode.

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Before Disney owned the superheroes of Marvel, they had one of their own on Disney Channel: Kim Possible.  As fathers of young girls, co-creators  Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle came up with the idea to have a girl’s action show.  “The challenge was to do a girl’s action show that boys would watch because the reputation back then was no boy will watch a show with a girl as a lead and we kind of took that as our challenge,” said Schooley. McCorkle explained that once they had that idea down the rest came easily.  He says the main character ideas came to them in an elevator when he turned to Schooley and pitched,  “Kim Possible: She can do anything”  to which Schooley replied, “Ron Stoppable: He can’t.”  And the show was born.

Prior to working on Kim Possible the duo worked on many Disney series included Aladdin, Hercules and Goof Troop.  It was on the latter that they got to work with Disney Legend Bill Farmer who voices Goofy.  Much like the challenges Rudish faces when adapting a classic character, Farmer spoke to some of the challenges of working on Goof Troop explaining, “We all know Goofy but we don’t know him as a father... How do you add those layers to this character without jeopardizing the integrity of the character?”  On top of that, Farmer says the show was usually created very quickly so he’d have to read his lines cold.  Ultimately, Farmer says, “We had a great cast and it was a great show and it was such an iconic one for me.”

Of course the panel wasn’t just all talk;  What would an animation panel be without some clips?  During the show the audience was treated to a look at the Aladdin and Hercules TV cross over that happened in the 90’s  as well as a brand new Minnie short in the same vein as the recent Mickey ones.  Attendees also got sneak peeks at 2015 Disney shows Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero and Star Vs. The Forces of Evil as well as The Lion Guard which will air on Disney Junior in 2016. But, perhaps the highlight of the night came as Farmer and Povenmire created their own Doofenshmirtz/Goofy crossover for the audience.

TV is considered the most intimate medium. We may only get one or two Disney animated feature a year, but with television we get to know our shows on a weekly or daily basis. It is no wonder, that as we grow older we become nostalgic of the TV shows of our youth. For those of us that grew up in the Eisner-era and beyond, Disney Television Animation has left a mark that will never be forgotten. Someday, Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero and Star Vs. The Forces of Evil will be fondly remembered by the youth of today. I hope they have the chance to remember their shows at a celebration of 60 years of Disney Television Animation