40. The Assistant Animator Part 5
The final artist I’m honoring for spot #40- the Assistant Animator is someone who’s work I personally very admire and someone whose career has really inspired me. He’s done about every job in the studio you can think of- inbetweener, checker, traffic boy, assistant animator, animator, director, producer, and most of all story man. Along with versatility comes longevity too and this person is the longest continuously employed person in possibly any of Hollywood(he’s worked 58 years at Disney without getting laid off.) His name is Burny Mattinson and I feel honored to tell you his story today.
Burny Mattinson was born inSan Francisco,Californiaon May 13, 1935. His father was Bernie Mattinson, a jazz drummer who was part of the big band Horace Heidt. When he saw Pinocchio at the age of 6 he knew that animation and creating characters was what he wanted to do. After graduating from high school in 1953 Mattinson interviewed for a job at Disney and started as a traffic boy before being moved to the position of inbetweener on the 1955 classic Lady and the Tramp. Among the scenes he worked on where those involving the human characters and Eric Larson’s Peg scenes.
Most of the inbetweening crew was laid off after Lady hit the silver screen but Mattinson was lucky enough to be recruited by Johnny Walker to work under Marc Davis on Sleeping Beauty. Beauty proved to be a very long and grueling production. Berny worked on scene 31, the first scene animated that has Aurora and Phillip meeting, for so long that Marc Davis brought in a cake saying Happy Scene 31. Although Mattinson has said that inbetweeningDaviswas relatively easy to follow the drawing was very complicated because of the animator’s draftsmanship abilities. Eventually after Beauty Berny quit working with him and moved on to being a checker on Dalmatians. Even when Mattinson asked to come back to work with him on Cruella de Vill Davis wouldn’t take him back. At this point he started to have a career making golden books and that really helped propel his career. After escaping the layoff after both Beauty and Dalmatians Eric Larson brought Burny Mattinson in to be his assistant, where he would stay for 12 years.
Over the course of Mattinson’s time with Larson the studio hurdled many obstacles. These included the death of Walt Disney himself and the anxiety that the studio might close down. However after the features began to show they still made money at the box office they studio started to try to bring people up to the status as animator so the studio would continue going after the old guys retired. Berny was one of the ones that moved up and he got credit as an animator on Robin Hood as well as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, the later in which he did the scene of Tigger and Roo ice skating. However, eventually Wolfgang Reitherman brought him up into story on the Rescuers, a medium in which he still today is one of the best in the business.
When unhappy about the way things were going on the Black Cauldron Burny decided to work on his idea of doing Christmas Carol with the Disney characters. In the end his vision became released as Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which he directed and produced. After this he would be one of four directors on Basil on Baker’s Street, controversially renamed the Great Mouse Detective. After Basil Mattinson began to focus strictly on storyboarding on almost every picture from then to now, most recently on the new Winnie the Pooh movie. Also for many years he shared a room with the legendary Joe Grant who came back to work at Disney after a 40 year absence at the age of 81. From my knowledge Burny Mattinson is currently developing projects related to Mickey Mouse and the Disney characters.
Burny Mattinson really inspires me in his understanding of the character relationship and the character’s feelings in a particular scene in a picture. I love to take my Disney Animation Archives Book and just study his boards for hours. Pure genius and talent! Story is very complementary with animation and it’s very important to understand both if you’re working in one of the two. Thank you Burny Mattinson for being an inspiration to me and for your dedication to making high-quality work as well as devotion to Disney and what it stands for.