Working for Walt Disney

When asked recently how often Walt Disney visited the 'Robin Hood' set at Denham Studios, Ken Annakin replied that the great man didn’t stay very long. It was no more than half a dozen times, sometimes in fact, less than two or three hours, while they were shooting a scene.

It was Perce Pearce, Walt Disney’s chosen producer, who interviewed Ken Annakin at Denham, for the job of director, on the movie. Annakin finally met Disney when shooting had begun. He had already, according to Annakin, set the overall key of what he wanted. Disney was never looking over his shoulder, but the whole movie was sketched out by artists, the way he wanted, and approved by him. Something Ken Annakin had never experienced before.

Disney trusted Perce Pearce as the producer, Annakin said, he came to trust me as the director. He had a great, great trust in Carmen Dillon, Annakin continued, Disney was, dead right in choosing her, his reliance was one hundred percent.

Carmen Dillon was given the responsibility of designing and checking the historical accuracy of everything from props and costumes to the huge historical sets. She would stand quietly and have her say, only, if a prop was used wrongly. I had the final say as director, Annakin said, but one couldn’t have done it without her. Carmen Dillon went on to work for Disney and Annakin a year later, on ‘Sword and the Rose’.

Annakin was also asked if he was concerned about previous films about Robin Hood. We didn’t have Errol Flynn he replied, but no, he wasn’t. All the things we had in the picture were very British and very true. They went up to Sherwood Forest and Nottingham, he said and the script was written, as accurately as possible from all the records. After all, Annakin continued, Walt was making his picture, his version. I think we came up, with Walt’s insistence on truth and realism, probably as near (to the real story) as makes any matter.

At the end of shooting the film was taken back to America, where the whole of the post sync work and post production work was done. As director, Annakin said, he was not called in to help with that. It wasn’t in fact, until he made his fourth picture for Walt Disney, ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ that he was allowed to do anything with the editing or say anything about the music, or anything! Once you had shot it, that was your job as director!

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