Disney’s new “Once Upon a Studio” short film is now streaming on Disney+. The short originally debuted at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival and then on ABC on October 15.
Once Upon a Studio
It uses a mix of 2D and 3D animation, on top of live-action footage to bring together dozens of Disney characters. Disney brought back more than 40 voice actors to reprise their roles, plus pulled audio from the archives to use dialogue from actors who have passed, like Robin Williams as the Genie.
The film takes place at the Roy E. Disney Animation Building, beginning when employees leave for the day — including Disney Legend Burny Mattinson. Mattinson filmed the sequence in August 2022, and sadly passed away in February 2023 at the age of 87 and the short is dedicated to him. He was the longest serving Cast Member in the history of The Walt Disney Company and would have received a 70th anniversary service award (the first ever) this year.
Dan Abraham, co-writer and director of “Once Upon a Studio” said in a recent press release that Mattinson loved being included in the film. “When I storyboarded this, in the very first frame, I drew, ‘Burny Mattinson walks out of the door with a young intern.’ And that was all about handing the baton on to the next generation. He was in the storyboards for months and months before Burny even knew he was in them. When Once Upon a Studio was greenlit, we went to Burny and asked him, ‘How would you feel about being part of this?’ And he was really, really into it! I don’t think he had done any on-camera work up until that point. But Burny is an animator and a story artist, so he’s an actor with a pencil; he has been his entire life. When he delivers his line—’If these walls could talk…’—there is a sparkle in his eye. It is just undeniable the things that Burny has seen in his 70 years at the company: Walt Disney, the death of Walt Disney, the emergence of computer animation, all the different people who were in charge throughout the decades. And he just rolled with it all.”
Clark Spencer, President of Disney Animation, said of Mattinson, “For 70 years, Burny was such an important part of this studio. His career spans everything from working in the mailroom to being an animator and story artist to directing feature films to being the best mentor anyone could ever ask for. His smile lit up the Studio, and the joy he brought to every room was infectious. Simply stated, his influence on the people and the films of Disney Animation was extraordinary. For those of us who had the honor to work with him, he inspired us to truly be the best that we could be.”
In the short, after Mattinson and the other employees leave, the animated characters of the studio come to life to take a 100th anniversary photo. Of course, Mickey and Minnie are heavily featured, but they’re also joined by beloved characters like Mirabel from “Encanto,” Anna and Elsa, the Three Little Pigs, Milo Thatch from “Atlantis,” Hades, Baymax, Merlin from “The Sword in the Stone,” Winnie the Pooh and friends, Cinderella and Prince Charming, and many more.
Watch the trailer for “Once Upon a Studio” below.
“Once Upon a Studio” is also set to play in front of “Wish” when the movie opens in theaters on November 22. The main character of “Wish,” Asha, appears briefly in the short film.