Walt Stanchfield started at the Charles Mintz Animation Studio in 1937. He also worked for 2 years at the Walter Lantz Animation Studio. In 1948, he went to work for the Walt Disney Animation Studio and with the exception of 4 short retirements, has worked there ever since.
Walt worked on every full-length cartoon feature between The Adventures of Ichabod Crane and Mr. Toad (1949) and The Great Mouse Detective (1986). About half of that time was spent as a Clean-up artist and half as an Animator. From then until the present, he has been active in a teaching capacity, including 3 trips to the Walt Disney Feature Animation studio in Florida, to teach some drawing classes and 1 trip to London to help on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, as a hands-on animation consultant and a conductor of drawing classes.
When not involved in studio matters, Walt is a painter of landscapes, seascapes, still-lifes, and people. He writes poetry and spends an inordinate amount of time at the piano–that is, between caring for his vegetable garden and playing tennis.
Was this a life, or what?!
Walt appeared in one of those “Tricks of the Trade” shows they did for the Disneyland TV show in the Fifties, one of those behind the scenes looks at the Disney animation studio. Only they couldn’t call him “Walt” in the footage. He told us why. He was informed by the show’s producer, “As far as the public goes, there’s only one Walt at this studio, and his name is ‘Disney’!”
Well, it was lucky for me, and for many other artists, that there were OTHER Walts at the studio and particularly Walt Stanchfield. As Dan Haskett’s great caricature illustrates he was the teacher, tutor, and mentor to many of us back in the Seventies, our very own Obi Walt Kenobi, showing his charges how to use the “force” of squash and stretch and expressive gesture drawing that was incisive and bold as a laser sword.
When some of his contemporaries had become jaded or dulled by being kept on the fringes by those in power, Walt brimmed with youthful enthusiasm. He had a spark. He was restless, endlessly inquisitive. His classes taught me to look closer but not to miss the big picture.
Some of my most prized possessions are the Walt sketchbooks that were sold after his death. Whether painting with watercolors or coffee, whether drawing with a gnarly pencil, or a grease pencil, or a stick dipped in mud, Walt reached out to the world and put down his feelings about it in sketches so lively, so well observed, so Walt.
When they were looking for animators to help out with the human characters on Fox and the Hound, Walt, who had seen some of my drawings in the in-house caricature show, stuck his neck out for me and told the Directors that “he could draw his ***.” I don’t really know how valid that comment was, but I still cherish it as a gift from a good hearted and talented artist, mentor, and role model.