Ventura Townehouse Resident Paul Carlson Discussed Career as Disney Animator
Our mission at Ventura Townehouse is to build a community which provides a charming, comfortable, and genuinely happy place for retirement. Of course, the foundation of our community is highly skilled senior care services, including assisted living and memory care, provided by a respectful and caring staff of experts. That being said, we feel that part of the challenge of providing the best senior living experience is creating a genuine community of individuals who are able to enjoy their retirement community and sincerely feel at home at Ventura Townehouse. This quality in a senior living community is difficult to define, and many retirement communities fall short in this area, but when it’s there it’s obvious to everyone involved. What makes our senior living community special is all of the interesting people who choose to make it their home. We’re very fortunate to develop relationships with our residents. Our residents have lived through many different experiences, adventures, and careers. It’s quite inspiring to discover their unique histories and accomplishments, and when our residents bond by sharing their experiences, they form friendships, and through this interaction a community is created in which everyone feels at home. This is the goal of senior living and we feel extremely rewarded when we can provide this for our residents.
Paul Carson is one of our senior living residents with many interesting accomplishments and experiences from his career as an animator at Walt Disney Studios.
Fantasy flows through his fingers. With just a few well-judged pen strokes, Paul Carlson can summon up a whole gallery of animated characters from the world of Walt Disney. "I can draw Mickey and Donald and Goofy and Pluto, almost like writing my name. I've done it for nearly 50 years. I draw Mickey on a napkin and people don't believe it.” But Paul’s contribution to Enchantment is not confined to one-off sketches of Tinkerbelle and Jiminy Cricket. It’s also Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians and Sleeping Beauty, since in the 1950s, Paul worked on all three Disney masterworks. Half a century of his handiwork is still on display.
Disney Studios was enjoying a golden age when Paul signed on as a mail boy in 1953. He recalls: “That studio, when I started, had 3900 employees ... I carried mail for about a year and got to meet almost everybody. I went up and down in the elevator with Jack Webb, who was in Dragnet. Met James Mason, Kirk Douglas and Peter Lorre, who were working on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
Paul met "all the good artists" at Disney, known affectionately as Walt's Nine Old Men.
“They were probably only in their 50s and 60s, he says, but being 21 at the time, I guess they seemed old to me. Those guys taught me how to draw and within a year and a half, I started working on Lady and the Tramp.”
“Remember the scene where the dogs go into the alley and eat spaghetti? I worked on that.”
Disney's "house style" was well established by then. It emphasized charm and gentle humor, storybook sentiment and realistic backdrops. Exaggeration and irony were hallmarks of rival studios at Warner Brothers and UPA, but soft, frolicsome creatures were still favored in Walt's Magic Kingdom. Paul saw it all for himself when he was assistant director of animation on Sleeping Beauty.
"We used to show Walt everything we did at least once a month," he says, "and because he knew all his characters so well, he'd sometimes say, “That doesn't sound right. Who did the voice on that?”
Disney’s perfectionist impulse extended to education, and in 1955, around the time Disneyland was taking shape as America's favorite Shangri-La, he asked Paul to illustrate a series of books about drawing Disney characters.
"Walt checked every page and they sold them at Disneyland for a dollar a piece. Jiminy Cricket was the hardest to draw ... dunno why. I just had an easier time with Goofy and Pluto.”
Paul went on to manage his own animation business, employing 30 artists and producing commercials and educational film strips for Disney.
"I'm still drawing pictures, doing this and that," he says. But those fabled studio days in the '50s hold a special place in his heart. There was the time in 1958 when Paul got an unexpected phone call from head office. Walt Disney said "Paul, I'm sending some friends of mine down to see you ... show 'em what you're working on and give them a little history on animation." In about 10 minutes, the tour guide brought them in ... a man and his wife and their eight-year-old boy. Well, that boy stood right by me as I drew Jiminy Cricket and said, “Mr. Carlson, can I have that picture?”
I said, “Sure you can. I'll autograph it. What's your name?” He said, “Mitt ... Mitt Romney.”