Correspondance from the Disney Studios

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First a tribute

I would like to thank the Adams family for their lovely message1.

Douglas Adams not only was one of the most brilliant science fiction writers of the past 25 years, he also wrote the most moving book about animal conservation that I have ever read (Last Chance To See). It was this book that served as an icebreaker when I asked Mr. Adams to visit the Disney Studio for a tour three years ago.

I have just received an email from a colleague at Disney's that I would like to pass along to you.

'Life is full of unexpected surprises. I've been lucky
enough to enjoy my share. One of them
was the day I met Douglas Adams. He was nice enough to
chat with me for a bit in my office at Disney Feature
Animation. I never forgot that day. I saw Douglas
Adams some months later at MacWorld Expo in San
Francisco. I wanted to say hello, but the crowd of
eager fans around him was so thick I gave up. I walked
away realizing I already had more time with Mr. Adams
than those fans eager for an autograph would ever

I regret that Douglas Adams will never make his movie
at the Disney studio. I will miss his wonderful sense of humor.
I'll miss those great articles he wrote for computer
magazines supporting the much maligned macintosh
computer. Most of all, I'll miss Douglas Adams.'

Floyd Norman

I can't add anything more to that. I thought that you might like to read it.

With Best Regards,

N. Beiman

Supervising animator, Walt Disney Productions (formerly)
now Professor of Animation, the Savannah College of Art and Design
aka Fred, the Incontinent Hamster

The Visit to Disney Studios

Dear Friends,

I was shocked and horrified to hear of the loss of this wonderful man.

Here is an account of his visit to the Disney Studios, at my invitation, in 1998. I am sorry that none of the other things I mention in the letter ever came to pass.

I wish to extend my sincere condolences to his wife and daughter.


September 29, 1998

After months of email and phone conversations, Douglas Adams
agreed to visit Disney's as my guest today. He's been making
frequent trips to Los Angeles because of the live action
production Disney is doing of The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The
. For the record, it will be released in 2000, which
sounds appropriate. Adams is writing the screenplay and the guy
who directed Austin Powers is directing. Sounds promising, and
it doesn't compete with Treasure Planet either.
I waited nervously by the phone. Suppose my directions from
Beverly Hills were defective?

My worst fears were borne out when the phone rang.
'I seem to be lost,'

Adams said.
'I can't find the sign that says Glendale/Pasadena.'

This was because he had gone the wrong way on the freeway and
was nearly into Ventura County. It seems he was so fond of Santa
Barbara, he told me later, that he just automatically turned the
car northward.

Eventually Mr. Adams arrived at the studio and directors John Musker and Ron
Clements, Ian Gooding
(art director) and myself accompanied him
to The Rotunda, the executive dining room where they serve
decent food (as opposed to what you get in our cafeteria.) Here
we were wowed by funny anecdotes about British and American
cartoonists, and one very comic story about James Cameron (with
whom Adams was having dinner later that evening.) It seems that
Cameron and Adams shared a whitewater raft a few weeks ago, and
Cameron turned to Adams and inquired whether 'two Titanic
authors should attempt to steer a boat?'

There were other stories, including one about an $8 million dollar party thrown by billionaire Paul Allen, who reportedly was the only person at the party without a date. I said that if he needed an
'extra woman' for the next one I was emphatically available, and
I'd even bring a caricature pad if they needed entertainment.
Adams was a terrific raconteur and I noted that he was able to talk with people about subjects that interested them on the slightest of introductions. It helped that we were all artists, but he seemed to find a common thread with everyone. He was mesmerizing and all the Disney hard cases were eating out of his hand.

I walked Adams all through the studio. He towered over me, and some people recognized him and doubted that they were seeing what they were seeing.
'How did you get him to come here?'

I was asked.
'I asked him to!'

I replied.

Adams asked me the cost of an animated feature. I said that Hercules had come in somewhere near 75 million dollars.
He came to a complete stop.
'Good god,you can't be serious!'

he said, a horrified look on his face.

I explained that another producer claimed he could make an animated film for $2 million, and that reality was somewhere in between.

I think I was able to show the sheer amount of work that goes into one. Movies are expensive. Animated films, doubly so.

Adams was particularly impressed with the preproduction work of English artist John Watkiss, who wasn't able to make the connection with The Book when I introduced them.
'I can't match the name to the title,'

John told me afterward, when he asked me 'who that English guy was.' Of course he'd heard of the books, everyone has. Not everyone at Disney has read them, which I think should be required for everyone on Treasure Planet.

It was strange that many of the artists knew people who were
friends of Mr. Adams, which of course helped to break the ice.
He himself suggested we contact the owner of Kai's Power Goo
computer graphics company about creating a distinctive look for
our film. I can bring up the matter with the producer tomorrow,
but being ignorant of these things, I am bringing Floyd Norman
along to explain why this could be a good thing. Floyd is a
story man with a good knowledge of the computer graphics world.
Floyd and Adams also rhapsodized about the MacIntosh. Adams was
so eloquent it almost made me wish I had bought one.

He also mentioned that the commuting from England to L.A. was so
taxing that he and his wife were probably going to move to Santa
Barbara. He hated L.A. when he lived here (can't say I blame him
for that.)

Most of the animators and story people were over the moon to be
meeting a famous author. Brian Ferguson was the only one tall
enough to look Adams in the eye. All the rest of us were nearly
a head shorter. Brian said nothing, stood with a rhapsodic grin on his face and we all pretended that he was all right!

There are plans to have Douglas Adams do a LunchBox lecture at
the studio. At lunch the young man who arranges such things
tapped me on the shoulder and I gave him an introduction. Adams
seemed very excited about the prospect at the end of the tour;
and much mention was made of his sole nonfiction book, Last
Chance To See
, a wonderfully moving book about endangered
'What if I did a presentation on that?'

he asked me.
'I think that would be ideal for Disney, and the studio would
really appreciate it.'

I said.

So we will certainly be hearing from him again and it was a very
exciting and interesting day at work for me and many other
people at Disney. And Mr. Adams enjoyed his trip and managed to
get down to Beverly Hills again afterward without incident.
Friends at Dreamworks naturally wanted Adams to visit them too,
but I explained that I couldn't arrange that for them! They can
reach Douglas Adams, as can anyone, at his homepage,
And check out the Starship Titanic game when it comes out on Mac
next month!

Cheers for now,


The Post is indebted to Fred, the Incontinent Hamster for allowing them a small insight into the welcome DNA received at Disney

17.05.01. Front Page

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