Tribute to Iwerks

From Mickey Mouse to Hitchcock

FFF2009 pays a tribute to Ub Iwerks (1901 – 1971), one of the most pivotal figures in animation cinema history. Iwerks became famous for creating, together with Walt Disney, the character of Mickey Mouse. Nonetheless, he actually invented a full range of original, unforgettable characters such as Flip the Frog, Willy Whopper and Osvald the Lucky Rabbit.

This tribute approaches the most relevant moments in Iwerks’ career: from his “Golden Age” at Disney, to the years of his productive independence, when he founded the Iwerks’ Studios, concluding with his return to Disney’s.

The tribute will focus in particular on the last part of Iwerks’ career, when he dedicated himself to the development of special effects, becoming one of the greatest innovators in the field. Iwerks contributed with his work to many of the most important Disney’s masterpieces, such as The Three Caballeros (1944), Mary Poppins (1964), Bed Knobs and Broomsticks (1971). He also worked with Fred M. Wilcox for his Forbidden Planet (1956) and with Alfred Hitchcock for The Birds (1963).

For these films, Iwerks developed a range of innovative technical and artistic solutions that permitted live-action characters and animated characters to coexist. By means of his works, Iwerks was able to express his passion for special effects, a passion that even led him to realize some of the attractions for Disney’s Theme Parks.

Among Iwerks masterpieces it is important to highlight two slapstick cartoons, featuring some horror elements: The Skeleton Dance (1929) and Cuckoo Murder Case (1930). The first belongs to the Silly Symphonies series, an original Disney’s musical animated production, while the second is a rare example of a comedy without the usual happy ending.

All along his career, Iwerks aimed to reach beyond the limits of traditional representation, daring to experiment even if producers tried to impose him their own point of view. Nevertheless, he has been able to leave his mark in the history of animation, following his ideas, irrespective of the laws ruling reality, crossing the borders towards the realms of fantasy, absurd and surreal.

FFF2009 tribute hosts an interestingly rich programme of Iwerks’ works, providing brilliant examples of his activity as an animator as well as an inventor and innovator. The Festival will also present The Reluctant Dragon, a live-action/animated film coming from Disney’s Archives, produced by Disney in 1941. The first third of the film is in black-and-white, while the remaining two-thirds are in Technicolor. Most of the film is live-action, with four short animated segments, directed by Iwerks himself, inserted into the running time.

Two very special FFF2009 guests will tell the story of Ub Iwerks’ extraordinary life: Leslie Iwerks, director and Ub’s grandaughter, and Mike Iwerk, Digital Media Designer for Walt Disney Imagineering’s Theme Park Productions and Un’s grandson.