In 1938, Frank Tashlin left Leon Schlesinger’s studio after his second term there. It was triggered by an argument with Schlesinger’s assistant, Henry Binder. Tashlin later said in an interview, “I think what I really wanted all the time was to go to Disney's.” As opposed to the salary he made at Warners at $150 a week, he made 3 times less at Disney at only $50 a week.
On January 9, 1939, Tashlin reported for work at the short subjects division of the Walt Disney Studio on Hyperion Avenue. He only spent two years at the studio, toiling on stories and gags for various films, all without receiving a single credit (storymen were not credited there until 1944). Therefore, his period at Disney has not been well researched.
Only a few shorts have been identified as having Tashlin's input, but only through a 1971 interview and a December 1939 letter, Tashlin wrote to his good friend Fred S. Niemann (the writer of "Now That Summer is Gone"). In his letter to Niemann, he lists Mr. Duck Steps Out (released in June 1940) under its working title, Donald's Date, and says: "Pulled this one out of the red - was a mess - was started before I got there." The gag structure certainly feels like something Tashlin would work on, but it is still uncertain.
Tashlin recalled in an interview having done (with artist Sam Cobean) a complete storyboard of Peter and the Wolf, which was then photographed as a "Leica reel" (a test film using only the storyboard drawing). The film was later released into a compilation feature, Make Mine Music, released in 1946. Tashlin also worked with Sam Cobean on the very first development of Lady and the Tramp, around 1940. The film was released in 1955.
He also claimed to have done crucial story work on "Mickey and the Beanstalk," a scrapped Mickey Mouse vehicle that was eventually released as half of Fun and Fancy Free, released in 1947. However, the surviving documents make it uncertain of his contributions.
Tashlin contributed a great deal to the climatic mine cart chase between Donald Duck and Pete from Timber (released January 1941). As the scene plays, note the oblique angles that are used during the chase that Tashlin often used.
Tashlin left the Disney studio in March 1941 after Walt Disney refused to give him a raise. From there, he returned to the Warner Bros. studio for a few years, then left the animation department for good to work on live-action films.
Tashlin once told Michael Barrier in a 1971 interview that one of his favorite things to do while he worked at Disney was throwing Clarence Nash, the original voice for Donald Duck, out of the window:
- “They didn’t know what to do with a fellow by the name of “Ducky” Nash—Clarence Nash, he was the voice of Donald Duck—because when they weren’t recording Donald Duck, what do you do with the fellow who’s the voice of Donald Duck? Ducky had an office in this building, a little tiny office where he would come over and go to sleep. These were hillside places, and the ground beneath his window was maybe twelve feet. Roy Williams, this big fellow, and I, when Ducky was asleep—and he slept just like a duck, he made funny sounds—in this big wicker chair, we would take this chair, with him in it, and we would hold it out the window, and drop him. This chair would hit, and because it was wicker, it sort of had a recoil, you know, the legs went out like this. He’d start quacking away down there, and he’d come up, dragging this chair with him. This happened many times, and it was a high point of humor—you know, you want to talk about low humor, that’s what we thought was funny.”
- Living Life Inside the Lines p.71