The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story (1999) Poster

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Outstanding documentary of Ub & Walt
This production is outstanding throughout. At the start, much needed time is spent on making clear Ub's and Walt's earliest endeavors into the field of commercial art and animation. The video is 90 minutes long, but I could have easily watched double that time. The quality is excellent, though the video cautions that "this film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit your TV." (This is confusing since my TV is 16:9!) In any case, I could find little missing from a 1.33 cropping. Two of Ub's earliest animation shorts for Walt, Plane Crazy and Steamboat Willie, are windowboxed. I would have liked to see the explanation of why Ub changed his name from Ubbe Iwwerks to Ub Iwerks. Some of the documents presented in the film and at least one reader use the older form, but the story is never acknowledged in the production. We know he changed his name, but I'd like to know more details as to why and when. Included are comments by Roy E Disney and the always effervescent Leonard Maltin. (We sure miss your thoughts around here!) It's good to hear a brief testimonial by Chuck Jones about how UB inspired him. There is little video of Ub, though; the short clip at the Academy Awards presentation is about it. Walt never recorded much about Ub but all I've ever seen is included here. Overall, this is a "must" for the collection of a Disneyphile or animation lover. A companion book is also available.
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An Absolute Must See
dbborroughs7 August 2004
The story of the real man behind Mickey Mouse is must see viewing for anyone who wants to know where Mickey Mouse, Warner Brothers or any of the other classic cartoons came from.

Iwerks was Disney's "go to" guy who could figure out how to do anything, first with animation,later with work behind the scenes that brought Iwerks and the Disney Studios several Oscars.

Using dozens of clips and interviews this documentary makes the work and life of Iwerks wonderfully alive. We see how he went from the "simple" doodles of the 20's with Disney to the more complicated spectacles of the 30's at his own studio. We also see how the task of running a studio began to make his work suffer. And we see what magic he worked when he went back to Disney.

The joy of this film is seeing the mostly long forgotten cartoons and realizing where many of the gags that we take for granted came from. (Although if you want to see the magic in all its glory there are two DVDs worth of Iwerks non-Disney output available cheaply and they make for a great couple of evenings of viewing)

In some ways this film is more satisfying than the companion book, which often sent me scurrying to my video collection to see the cartoons they were talking about. Here what you see is what they are talking about.

This is simply one of the best films on animation and our cultural history. It fills a need that needed filling.

10 out of 10 for the gee whiz factor alone.

A personal comment. Despite the fact the Disney Studio financed and released this film, it was only released on VHS tape (granted DVD was coming in as this was first released) and has only been occasionally run on the Disney Channel. Its a grave injustice since this film deserves to be seen many more people. Search it out on tape or cable, its worth the effort.
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It's really nice to see the Disney company giving Ub his due
MartinHafer27 August 2008
When I was a kid, I just assumed that Walt Disney drew all the early Mickey Mouse cartoons and was THE force behind it in every sense. Later, I learned of Ub Iwerks' important contributions to the studio and the fact that he created the iconic mascot of the studio--though still too few people know the origins of this beloved character. Well, this Disney Studios-produced documentary tries to correct this myth and shows how influential Ub was to Disney as well as all the many great inventions he later contributed to in order to improve the quality of animations and even films like Hitchcock's THE BIRDS--that sure took me by surprise.

As for the way the documentary was arranged, it was generally excellent though it's a shame more footage of Ub himself wasn't included. I assume like most behind the scenes staff, there really isn't much footage of him or recordings of his thoughts and recollections. For what it is, it's excellent--but it also seemed a bit distant emotionally--partly due to the paucity of Ub in the film and partly because of the style film. I felt I did connect well with his work but didn't particularly connect well with him as a human being. Still, a fascinating film and a must for fans of animation.
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Fantastic documentary of a formerly unsung talent
MissSimonetta29 November 2014
In more recent years, animator Ub Iwerks has been given more attention, especially with the resurfacing of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in media such as the Epic Mickey games and the Walt Disney Treasures release of the silent Oswald shorts which are still in existence (save for Hungry Hoboes, which was only recently rediscovered). However, for years he was an unsung artist, his influence on the origins of Mickey Mouse and animation and special effects at large rarely discussed.

This feature-length documentary does a fantastic job giving viewers the details on Iwerks the artist and the man. We see his childhood and the impact of his father's desertion of the family to his heyday as an animator in the 20s and 30s to his involvement in the special effects realm with some of the 1940s Disney features and even Hitchcock's The Birds (1963).

A must-see for animation geeks.
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Must see for any animation fan
jamesbobo626 July 2007
Finally, Ub Iwerks gets his due. I caught this on the Ovation channel on July 5, 2007. It will be repeated so watch it if you can. Direct TV carries Ovation, so does Verizon Fios. My one gripe about the film: while Flip the Frog is mentioned and shown it does not tell you that the first Flip cartoon was made in color. This was very rare for 1930 and two years before Disney's first color cartoon. To be fair, only a two-strip color film was available at the time. Disney's cartoon used a newly developed three-strip color process. Other than that it is the most accurate film I've seen on the subject. I'm old enough to remember seeing Flip and Willie Whopper cartoons when they were shown on TV in the 1950's and I enjoyed them a lot. Now, they are all but forgotten.
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