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Friday, March 3, 2017

Hal Adelquist - my 103rd choice as a Disney Legend

My 103rd pick for the Disney Legend is Hal Adelquist, producer of the the famous, original Mickey Mouse Club. This bio and more can be found on his page on the website The Original Mickey Mouse Club.

A long-time Disney employee, Hal had worked in Production, Personnel, and the Story Department before being assigned to the Mickey Mouse Club. He and producer Bill Walsh were charged by Walt Disney with designing and developing the show. Despite the show's overwhelming success, Hal subsequently fell out of favor with Walt Disney, and was demoted to talent scout, before leaving the studio in 1956.

Harold Williams Adelquist was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on July 11, 1914. His father, an accountant, was from a family of Swedish immigrants living in Iowa, while his mother, Francis Williams, was from Utah. The family came to California before 1920, settling first in Oakland, then a few years later, Los Angeles.

Harold Adelquist attended Los Angeles High School, where his skills as a cartoonist were evident in the yearbook. He served in student government and on the Publicity Committee, a body that organised and sponsored student events, a foreshadow of his role at Disney. He also sang first tenor in the Boy's Glee Club. He graduated in early 1932 and went to work for the Disney Studio within a year. Whether he attended Chouinard Art Institute at studio expense like so many other Disney animators is unknown. His early career at the studio seems to have been built around the production side of animation.     Harold Adelquist's 11th grade photo from high school

Hal worked as an assistant director on Snow White (1937), though he didn't receive screen credit for it. He was also tasked with leading training sessions for new and experienced animators alike, where they would work on character development and train animators in the technical skills necessary to film demos of their work. In 1938 he was moved to the Personnel Department. Among his lighter duties was organizing the employee picnics. By 1941, during the acrimonious strike against Disney by the junior animators and in-betweeners, he was in charge of all studio personnel.

From Personnel, Hal was moved to head-up the Story Department. One of his more important, though lesser-known, roles during this tenure was to serve as a liaison between Walt Disney and his famous "Nine Old Men" of animation. Ward Kimball, in a 1980's interview with Michael Barrier, revealed the animators had chosen Hal as their spokesman, even though by position he was studio management.

When Walt Disney first agreed to do the Mickey Mouse Club for ABC, he made two vital personnel decisions. He assigned Bill Walsh to produce it, and Hal Adelquist to act as general coordinator. In essence, Bill made the decisions (with Walt's approval for hiring and firing) and Hal carried them out. But Hal was much more than Bill's hands and feet. He sat in on every planning meeting for the show, developed ideas for Bill and Walt to greenlight, communicated and coordinated decisions throughout all the studio departments, and oversaw the talent scouts and casting directors in recruiting the Mouseketeers, guest stars, circus acts, and the Talent Round-Up Winners. He worked with costumer Chuck Keehne to develop the "mouse ear" caps from Roy Williams initial sketches. He also served on the editorial committee that planned and controlled the launch of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Club magazine, and selected and organized the technical crew that would actually produce the show.

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