Ken Anderson – The Tenth Old Man

by Sam Vlas

One of my favorite Disney artists is Ken Anderson. While he doesn’t enjoy wide-spread acclaim like, for instance, Marc Davis, he contributed a lot to the films and theme park rides we know today as classics. Continue after the page break to find out more about Walt’s “Jack-Of-All-Trades”…

Ken Anderson began is Disney career in 1934 as an animator. He worked on the Silly Symphonies-shorts “The Goddess of Spring” and “Three Orphan Kitties”. But his first major job was with the first animated feature film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, where he was art director. He built models of the Dwarfs’ cottage to help the animators set the stage in the movie. Dopey’s wiggling ears were inspired by Ken’s own ability to do so. He would also serve as an art director on “Pinocchio”, “Fantasia”, “The Reluctant Dragon” and even “The Sword in the Stone”. He contributed technical innovations related to the film’s combination of live-action footage and animation while working on “Song of the South”, which he would later perfect for “Pete’s Dragon”.

His animation creations are, among others, Shere Kahn from “Jungle Book” and Elliot from “Pete’s Dragon”. In almost every film released in the 1950’s through the 1970’s, there is an element of Ken Anderson, whether it was story development, production design, set design, screenwriting or character animation. Walt Disney referred to Ken as his “jack-of-all-trades”.

Around that time, Ken was asked to join WED Enterprises as an Imagineer. His expertise in many different fields made him one of the key players in the early development of Disneyland and its attractions. Mainly in Fantasyland, where he made designs and sketches for such classics as “Peter Pan’s Flight”, “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” and “Storybookland Canal Boats”.

But perhaps his most famous, most praised contribution to the Disney theme parks is probably “The Haunted Mansion”. He proposed four (!) different attraction treatments before it would eventually become what it is today. The legends of Captain Gore, the Bloodmere family, a ghostly wedding or The Headless Horseman… all were Ken’s proposed versions for the ride. He made ride layouts and scripts, but also did many, many sketches. By the time the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair rolled out, he left the Haunted Mansion-project to pursue other projects in the company. Many of his unused sketches for the Mansion were later realized in Hong Kong Disneyland, as part of their “Main Street Haunted Hotel”. For more information on the early incarnations of “The Haunted Mansion”, visit http://www.doombuggies.com/

Ken Anderson retired in 1978, but remained active as a consulting Imagineer. His last project was the Equatorial Africa-pavilion for EPCOT Center’s World Showcase. Unfortunately, it was never realized. However, you can read a great article on the pavilion and what it had to offer on Disney And More (http://disneyandmore.blogspot.nl/2014/02/epcot-equatorial-africa-pavilion-world_18.html).

Ken Anderson died of a stroke on January 13, 1993 at the age of 84.

I dare you to take a look at Ken Anderson’s Disney credits and not be impressed by the sheer scope of things and projects he did. The man truly was a jack-of-all-trades and an invaluable part of the golden days of Disney animation and Imagineering. He is one of my many heroes whose example I want to follow. He is the symbol of an ideal artist: expert at many things and with many creative innovations and ideas. I call him the Tenth Old Man; I think he deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence with such titans as Ward Kimball and Marc Davis. Ken was right on that golden spot between Animation and Imagineering, a spot that I hope to fill in the future. Until then, Ken will always be the Tenth Old Man.

 
 
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