Professor Owl has quite the pedigree. Imbued with the creative energies of Disney Studio veterans such as Ward Kimball and Bill Thompson, he found his way into two Disney cartoons, both of which remain critically celebrated and historically significant: Adventures in Music: Melody and Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom.
The two cartoons, both released in 1953, are largely credited with infusing the then emerging cartoon modern style into Disney animation. In addition, each short represented an animation first; Melody was the first cartoon presented in 3D, while Toot was the first cartoon to stretch across the widescreen Cinemascope format. Toot would also be honored with that year's Academy Award for Animated Short Subject.
In many ways Professor Owl became a stylized incarnation of a similar character that was featured four years earlier in the film So Dear to My Heart. The Wise Old Owl of that movie delivered morality tales via animated vignettes to film's young protagonist played by Bobby Driscoll. In Melody and Toot, Professor Owl replaced morality with music education and taught his lessons within a birdhouse schoolhouse, populated with the likes of Bertie Birdbrain, Penelope Pinfeather, Suzy Sparrow and the Canary Sisters.
Kimball provided Professor Owl with his more minimalist but still dynamic aesthetic design while Bill Thompson supplied the character's personality rich voice. Thompson's resume at Disney had also notably included the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland and Ranger J. Audubon Woodlore from both Donald Duck and Humphrey Bear cartoons.
Professor Owl was certainly a non-traditional design and a clear departure for animators such as Kimball. Colored in shades of blue with large oversize spectacles, he was a stark contrast to the studio's prior canon of animal characters, and his two star outings ushered in Disney's 1950s era of cartoon modern-influenced productions.
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