There is no time to waste in the movie industry. Once American Tail was released Steven Spielberg was eager for the next movie. He and George Lucas had long ago “hatched” (no pun intended) a plot to make a movie about dinosaurs. I was not really excited by the idea but I listened. He had a vague plot about baby dinosaurs being born and getting separated from their families by an “earthshake” (earthquake) I thought this sounded a lot like the story of American Tale.
We met with both men in Lucas's apartment and hammered out a few ideas and then began the process of designing the five main characters. At this point Steven left for Japan to work on a live action movie. Communication
became more difficult. Without an approved script we started by animating the dinosaurs hatching and set it to music.
At the same time Universal studios announced that they would not be funding us any more money until they had seen the receipts from American Tale and could be sure of what it had grossed. The legal term was “pack or play” It was a while before those receipts would all be in and in the mean time we were once again in financial trouble. We couldn’t make our salaries.
We had a CEO named Morris Sullivan, a little white haired, soft spoken man. He sat us down and said,
“There are countries out there that will subsidize you and make it more affordable for you to create this movie. He began contacting governments and eventually came back to us with the news that Ireland was indeed willing and exciting for us to relocate there. They would fund us and even pay us to train their Irish artists.
It seemed like a long, long way away and it was, but it was our best option at the time. So, in 1984, ninety artists and about 25 pets arrived in the middle of the night to the coldest Irish winter in a hundred years. I remember being scared and thinking how safe it had been at Disney’s … maybe we all should have stayed. Just how did this happen to us?
One can never really predict what lies around the corner but there was a strange twist to the Morris Sullivan story. At the time that Secret of Nimh failed to make any real money and with Universal Studios holding onto their funds in “wait and see” mode, Lorna Pomeroy, wife of John Pomeroy got really scared. In her desperation she sought out a psychic.
One day Lorna came into the studio in California and said,
“I’ve just had the strangest experience.”
The psychic had calmed her fears and assured her that she would be financially taken care of. Then the psychic told her...
“There will be a little grey haired man, probably in his 70s, who will come and take you all to a foreign shores. Trust him; he will make your company successful.”
That was long before we had ever met or laid eyes on Morris Sullivan. I don’t go to psychics but it does give one pause. There are forces for good out there and perhaps when all the stars are aligned a truly serendipitous moment occurs. Morris did take our company far beyond our expectations.
I took my children and visited Don when he lived in Dublin. What a fun experience and what a beautiful country. I came home with Irish lace curtains for my windows and the forever dream of building a rock walls.