Thursday, 30 December 2010

Bill Peet on Alice in Wonderland

Recently, as I've completed my Alice in Wonderland mosaic, I still feel the need to tell a bit more about Alice, although this time it's about Bill Peet's involvement in the film, and talk about his involvement in this post. So, you thought that this was the end of Alice, well it's the end of the mosaics, but not the end of "blabbing" about it. ;)

Bill Peet is a very good story man who worked for Walt Disney for 27 years, and was probably one of the best storytellers at the Disney Studios. He started out in 1937, when jobs were difficult to find, and then Peet manged to find a job at the Disney Studios, but started out with a tedious job as an "in betweener", he was at the bottom of the line, and he got the least interesting jobs to do, and he disliked it a lot, he said it was like "drawing robots". He eventually gave up and stormed off the Studios, and was then transferred to the story department, and remained there from Pinocchio until his departure at the studio. He eventually became really successful in the Story Department, and he was given to privilege to write and storyboard the entire 101 Dalmatians film, and the same on The Sword in the Stone. He left Disney in 1964, and went on to become a children's author writing successful children's books.

But, in-between that period he was one of the many people in the Story Department working on Alice in Wonderland, and there are photos to show that he did do work on the film, and also the fact that he received screen credit.

Bill Peet with child-actress Kathryn Beaumont, who voiced the title character.

Here is a bit from Michael Barrier's 1978 interview of Bill Peet, which is from Bill Peet's website (and the pictures):

"I worked on it for quite a while actually, and some parts of it were kind of fun to work with, but the whole thing was a hodgepodge. Different storymen kept re-doing different segments of it, and the last version was the one they used. It wasn't the best version, it was just that they kept doing it over and over until Walt said, "[Hell], get the thing out of here.' That's one he didn't want to do, either. He said once, "That's one we had to do," and I thought, well that's great reasoning. He wanted all the classics under his belt. I think he wanted his name on top of all the classics; he wanted to gobble them all up!"

That was a pretty interesting talk about Peet's involvement here in Alice in Wonderland, he says that a lot of different storymen kept on re-doing the sequences, and changing versions. Probably they were trying to do the best sequences, and Bill Peet thought it was really annoying. I'm not sure if Peet meant that Walt Disney felt that he had to make the film and wasn't keen on it at all. What he does mention, is that Walt would like to be greedy and get his name on ALL the classics, even if he didn't much involvement in it. I think Peet also meant a bit about that he felt the Disney crew weren't getting enough credit for their work, or not recognized for their work by the public enough, and to think that the public always thought that Walt Disney did everything in the film, and even animating! Peet also mentioned the fact that Walt Disney couldn't "write or draw", and it is that Walt Disney was dyslexic.

Here is another interview from Hoagan's Alley who interviewed Peet, and he talks a bit about his involvement in Alice in Wonderland:

PROVINCE: One of my personal favorites that came out some time later but was not one of the most popular was Alice In Wonderland.

PEET: I worked on just about every part of that. The strange thing is that the person who worked on it last received credit for a lot of my things. I developed the Caterpillar stuff, the Mad Tea Party, the “half a cup” gags and things like that. We wondered if it could have been a little better in many little ways. We all disagreed with the way it ended; with a montage. I didn’t like it. I had developed a labyrinth, and I was fascinated with the idea of the guards chasing Alice through this thing. It could have been a hell of a thing with the music, like trying to escape from a bad dream. but they decided to have everyone jump into the tea pot in a montage. Montages don’t do anything, and you don’t want to end with a conglomeration. You want suspense, where she’s beating on the door with just a minute left and just barely gets out of there.

Ah, so is this another Peet claim, eh? We got that in Dumbo. This time, his story here was different from the other interview that we heard. He claims that all the other story artists received credit for MOST of his stuff. But, didn't he say before that different storymen kept on repeating and rewriting the different sequences of the film? Maybe Peet first planned the sequences, and then the additional storymen re-did them, and Bill had storyboarded the final ones.

He also talks about his works on the chase sequence, and that he created a labyrinth of Alice running through the maze from the chasing guards. It's certainly different from the previous interview when he was being interviewed by Mike Barrier. He doesn't mention Walt Disney here, and the fact that the storymen re-did the story sequences in the film. So here, he has two different stories about the film. Although, they don't really sound like much claims to me, as he did claim to have re-animated a Bill Tytla scene in Dumbo, but here he really concentrates about him being a story man in the film. Was it probably because Dumbo was a much more better film than Alice and he wanted to claim that he did an important role in the film, or am I going completely different directions.

Let's here about what you think!

Here is a completed storyboard for the "Tulgey Wood" sequence, there doesn't seem to be any change with the dialogue here. It pretty much matches the film film here, except maybe the actions are different.


Eric Noble said...

I think his claims are a bit tainted by his bitterness of his last experiences at the Disney studio. I'm sure he worked on a lot of the film, contributing a lot of ideas. I doubt everyone outright stole from him.

Steven Hartley said...

Yes, it's not like Peet written the whole film, and he's got to think about the other story artists who worked on it as well.

Torgo25 said...

Interesting post. I'm curious about his statement concerning Disney's determination to stamp his name on all the classics.

Also, where could I find more storyboards for Alice in Wonderland? I found some at Michael Sporn's blog. Is there any other website with storyboards for the film?

Steven Hartley said...

I'm not too sure Torgo, but there were a few at Bill Peet's website - although I don't know much links with the storyboards.

I'm sure that the Disney Archives have a lot of storyboards, transcripts, and studio drafts there.