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Kurt Russell Reflects on Mentor Walt Disney: I Learned 'How to Make Movies' from Him

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Marc Piasecki/Getty. Inset: GAB Archive/Redferns.

Kurt Russell learned about the movie business from a very special person.

The actor got his start on a 10-year contract with the Walt Disney Company in the 1960s — and he has plenty of personal anecdotes about the man himself.

Russell appears in the latest issue of Disney Twenty-Three, which celebrates Disney legends. In it, the actor pens an essay recalling his days as a child actor on set and what he learned from the animation and movie pioneer.

“What I learned at Disney was how to make movies, and I learned that from Walt,” Russell says, adding that Disney spent personal time with him. “Mr. Disney took me around and introduced me to many of the animators. I look back on it now and I realize I was this kid, and he was taking the time to pick my brain, because I think that was an important thing for him to do with young people.”

He adds, “And in return I got to listen to him talk about arcs of movies and characters. The process of building an audience’s expectations. The process of creating a character that the audience really cares about and attaching it to life, so that we can all relate to it. So, in that regard, I was getting lessons that I had no idea I was getting.”

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Russell also recalls a time when, as a 13-year-old trying to balance his time between baseball and movies, he once left the set early to make it to a baseball game. After hitting the game-winner, the actor came back to set the next Monday expecting to be in trouble for ducking out early. Instead, he was greeted with enthusiasm from Disney.

“I’m wondering how much trouble I’m in. Everyone is nice. The crew is great,” Russell recalls. “And here comes Walt Disney. And I thought, ‘Oh-oh.’ And he came over and he said, ‘Well, young man, I hear you got the game-winning hit. Way to go! Have fun today, guys.’ And it was like from that moment on, I knew that guy was cool. He got it.”