Don Bluth is one of the most prestigious animators in the industry and one of the strongest voices in support of traditional hand-drawn animation. Bluth designs all the characters in his films, serves as key storyboard artist, and has been known to write clever songs to accompany his lively and amusing characters.
He was born into a family of seven children in El Paso, where he became interested in drawing as a boy. After watching a 1944 reissue of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Don decided he wanted to work for Walt Disney. He later grew up on a farm in Payson, Utah, and completed high school in Santa Monica, CA. After high school, Don landed a position in the Disney animation department as an in-betweener. He worked for Disney from 1955 through 1956 on the classic motion picture Sleeping Beauty (1959).
Gary Goldman was born in Oakland and raised in Watsonville, CA. He studied piano and enjoyed model-making and drawing as a boy. He served as an electronics technician in the United States Air Force (1962-1967). He received his Associate of Arts Degree (1969) from Cabrillo College near Santa Cruz, CA, and two years later graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Life Drawing and Art History from the University of Hawaii.
After his initial stint with Disney, Don spent 30 months as a Mormon missionary in Argentina, then enrolled at Brigham Young University, spending his summers working for Disney. He returned to animation as a layout artist for Filmation Studios, a television production company, where he soon ran the animation department. In April 1971, Bluth joined Walt Disney Productions as an animator, beginning what would be considered a skyrocket ride to the top of the field. Goldman joined Disney in 1972 and they became fast friends, sharing a desire to restore the heritage of classical animation to today's films.
Don started as an animator on Robin Hood (1973) and was promoted within two years to directing animator on Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974) and The Rescuers (1977). Gary worked as an in-betweener for Disney animation legend Frank Thomas on Robin Hood, and was an animator on the Winnie the Pooh short. Bluth and Goldman were directors of animation on Pete's Dragon (1977). Later, Bluth produced and directed the short The Small One (1978), on which Goldman was director of animation.
Inspired by many of Disney's classics and filled with a desire to restore that quality to animated films, Bluth began a short project in his garage with Goldman and fellow Disney animator John Pomeroy. They worked on Banjo the Woodpile Cat (1979) for more than four years in their spare time. It aired on ABC three years later, won the National Film Advisory Board Award for excellence and the Golden Scroll Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.
In September 1979, the trio resigned from Disney to start their own independent animated production company, Don Bluth Productions Inc. Three years later, they released The Secret of NIMH (1982), based on Robert C. O'Brien's award-winning novel, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H. It won the Saturn Award for Best Animated Feature. Their follow-up effort, An American Tail (1986), ushered in a new era of success for the full-length animated feature, becoming the highest-grossing animated film of its time. The film's theme song Somewhere Out There, received two Grammy Awards and an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
Bluth and partners ventured into the video game world, creating the first interactive laser disc game, Dragon's Lair (1983), and two more titles, Space Ace (1983) and Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp (1991). Dragon's Lair received the Inkpot Award for the First Interactive Laser Disc Arcade Game and an Arkie Award for Best Arcade Audio/Visuals. It was a Top 10 best-seller through 1999.
In 1986, they moved their entire operation to Dublin at the invitation of the Irish government. Their third feature film, The Land Before Time (1988), was their first created entirely in Ireland. Released by Universal Pictures during Thanksgiving, it achieved a record-breaking opening weekend gross for an animated film. Their subsequent efforts include All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), Rock-A-Doodle (1991), Thumbelina (1994), and A Troll in Central Park (1994).
Bluth and Goldman left Ireland in 1994 to lead the Fox Animation studio in Phoenix. The first production completed by the studio was the hit animated musical Anastasia (1997), which received two Oscar nominations and inspired the recent Broadway musical. They also released the direct-to-video musical, Bartok the Magnificent (1999) and the animated space opera Titan A.E. (2000). In early 1999, Bluth formed a new company with Goldman, Pomeroy, Rick Dyer, and David Foster to develop a 3D version of Dragon's Lair, which was released in 2002.
Don continues independent filmmaking with Gary, establishing their new company Don Bluth Films Inc. in Phoenix. They have begun work on a movie version of Dragon's Lair and recently launched Don Bluth University to teach animation online. Don has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1976. Gary joined in 1978.
Don Bluth and Gary Goldman will appear with The Secret of NIMH at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, August 13 in the Plaza Theatre. They also will appear for a Filmmaker's Brunch Q&A at 11 a.m. Sunday, August 14 in the Foundation Room.
British rock icon Morrissey refuses to watch films released after 1970. Laura Emerick, digital content editor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and formerly the arts editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, agrees in principle with that philosophy, if not to that extreme. Her all-time favorite films all predate that watershed year: Vertigo (1958), The Leopard (1963), Sweet Smell of Success (1957) and The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Golden-era films are among her passions, and that's why the Plaza Classic Film Festival has become one of her favorite annual destinations. At the Sun-Times, she served for 20 years as the editor for film critic Roger Ebert, who used to insist that "if a movie is in black and white, there's a better than 50 percent chance it will be worth seeing."
Laura Emerick will introduce several movies at this year’s Plaza Classic Film Festival.
Scott McGee is in his third year of sharing his extensive movie knowledge with Plaza Classic Film Festival fans. Scott is the director of program production at Turner Classic Movies and for the upcoming streaming service, FilmStruck, releasing this fall. As part of the team behind the TCM Classic Film Festival and the TCM Classic Cruise, he has programmed and introduced films and interviewed special guests at both events. He serves as host of the TCM Podcast, and has spoken at the George Eastman House, the Plaza Classic Film Festival, the Atlanta Film Festival, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, as well as various universities and civic clubs. He is currently researching a forthcoming book on stunt work in movies.
Scott McGee will introduce several movies at this year's Plaza Classic Film Festival.
Writer, director and animator Zach Passero is an El Paso native who, from a young age, knew he wanted to make visual stories — an inkling fueled mainly by cartoons and Jim Henson. Zach attended the USC Cinema School, focusing on production and animation. He has been working as a director, editor and animator for films, television and commercials. He frequently collaborates as editor for Lucky McKee’s films (Red, The Woman, Tales of Halloween and and PCFF 2014 inclusion All Cheerleaders Die). He also edited horror sleeper Jug Face and NBC/Universal’s Brian Keene’s Ghoul. His animation sequences have been featured on Showtime’s Masters of Horror. In 2008, Passero’s directed the feature film, Wicked Lake. It and his Motel, Glimpse have been shown at the Plaza Classic Film Festival. His animated shorts, created with his wife Hannah, have been touring the world in film festivals.
Known as one of America’s premiere concert and theater organists, Walter Strony has performed at five Plaza Classic Film Festivals, having accompanied The Phantom of the Opera in 2016, The Mark of Zorro in 2015, Safety Last in 2014, The Thief of Baghdad in 2013 and The General in 2010. Walter, a protege of organist Al Melgard, made his public performing debut at age 18 with films and symphony orchestras all over the world, and is frequently featured at conventions of the American Guild of Organists and the American Theatre Organ Society, which twice voted him its Organist of the Year and inducted him into its hall of fame in 2011.
Bart Weiss is an award-winning independent film and video producer, director, editor and educator from Dallas. He is mostly known as the director and founder of the Dallas VideoFest. He produces the TV show Frame of Mind on KERA TV in Dallas, and is the artistic director of 3 Stars Cinema. He has traveled to Nigeria, Pakistan and China to show American documentaries for the U.S. State Department. He has taught film and video at Texas A&M's Visualization Lab, Southern Methodist University, UT Austin, and West Virginia State College, and is currently an associate professor at UT Arlington. He is a former president of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF), former (and founding) board member Dallas Artists Research and Exhibition (DARE), past vice president of the Texas Association of Film and Tape Professionals (TAFTP), founder and past president of the West Virginia Filmmakers' Guild, and co-founder of the Dallas Video Festival and the Video Association of Dallas. He has been a video columnist for the Dallas Morning News, Dallas Times Herald, and United Features Syndicate. Bart received an MFA in Film Directing from Columbia University in 1978 and a B.A. in Radio TV and Film from Temple University in 1975.