Thursday, February 16, 2012

Milt Kahl - Disney's Nine Old Men

Milt Kahl (March 22, 1909 - April 19, 1987) started at Disney on June 25, 1934. Like most of the "nine old men," he began as an in-betweener. It wasn't long, though, before he became an assistant to Bill Roberts, then a junior animator on Ben Sharpsteen's Mickey's Circus. Milt is pictured below with his first wife, Laura. Photo dated 1934.

During the production of Snow White, Kahl animated the forest animals, an assignment which he shared with fellow "old man" Eric Larson, as well as animators James Algar and Louis Schmidt. "We had one big room," he recalled, "where all of us animal boys were." Marc Davis would say about Milt's Snow White work, "His animation of the little turtle has always stood out in my mind."

To coordinate the timing of specific sequences, such as the turtle falling back down the cottage stairs, Kahl would confer with the film's musical composer, Frank Churchill. According to Milt...
He was the best musician we ever had in the place. He worked out a musical pattern for [the turtle sequence]. He helped me decide. You know, I said, the guy ought to pick up speed down stairs. And we've got a thing at the foot of the stairs where he slides across and hits the wall, so we can make it as long as we have to, to get the proper length into the timing. John Canemaker's Nine Old Men, p. 137

In addition to the forest animals, Milt also drew some of the animation for the Prince. "This was the beginning of many such assignments because of his great skill in drawing the human figure..." Marc Davis quoted in Nine Old Men, p. 137

Milt Kahl photos via John Canemaker's Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation, 2001.
Snow White image scans copyright Disney.


  1. Is that the ex wife that inspired Medusa?

    1. It's been said that he based the mannerisms of the Madame Medusa character in "The Rescuers" on his ex-wife. I'm not sure, but I don't think it was Laura. His 2nd wife was Phyllis Bounds Detiege who he divorced in 1978, the year after the film was released.