Philip Glass’s new opera, The Perfect American, imagines the final months of Walt Disney’s life. Here, animation director Joseph Pierce explains how to avoid a lawsuit from the House of Mouse.
“We looked at techniques Disney used in the Fifties heyday. They used very painterly backgrounds without using any of the iconography. We wanted to reference it to a degree, so we used the three circles that make up Mickey Mouse’s head.
"They reoccur during the opera, morphing into an animal and multiply into cancer cells during the part of the story Disney is dying. We haven’t heard yet if we’re in trouble for that. I don’t think you can, strictly speaking, copyright three circles.
"There’s essays on Disney eyes and what they reveal. It takes so long to animate, so you just animate the eyes to bring it to life. There’s a sequence we’ve drawn which is just eyes.
"We then incorporated ideas like this into the staging, so on his deathbed Disney is surrounded by these eyes. There’s a demonic owl that haunts Disney in his final days; I liked taking the ideas and fucking around with them.
"But no, I didn’t cry at Bambi. I didn’t watch to the death scene.”