Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Official Milton Quon Fan Club

Over 1,000 artists worked on the 1940 Walt Disney film Fantasia.  The 75th anniversary of its theatrical release is nearing in November.  One of those artists is an Angeleno, Mr. Milton Quon.  His family and members of his church (a place he attends regularly on Sundays) organized a program celebrating his accomplishments the past Saturday evening, June 13th.

There is not an actual fan club...but this post expresses admiration for the second-generation Toishan Chinese American, which is what I have in common with him.  A 2005 Los Angeles Times article "Through a native son's eyes" posed the question whether Milton's artistic style was influenced by his ethnicity; the writer, Scott Sandell, concluded that "Quon's story remains quintessentially L.A."

Milton Quon chatting with filmmaker Arthur Dong on May 13 in Little Tokyo
at a screening for The Curse of the Quon Gwon
I bumped into Milton and his son and daughter last month at a program in the series Big Trouble in Little Tokyo.  That evening we enjoyed watching the restored circa 1916 silent film "The Curse of the Quon Gwon", the earliest known feature film by a Chinese American.  Come to think of it, Milton would have been a toddler, 3 1/2 years old when that film was made...

It had been three years since I first met Milton and members of his family at the Vincent Price Art Museum in 2012 when his work was on exhibit in a Pacific Standard Time Exhibition "Round the Clock".

Getting back to the June 13th event, the evening highlighted Milton's animation work on the "mushrooms" in Fantasia and Mr. Stork's delivery in the 1941 Disney film, Dumbo.  In Fantasia, he helped bring to screen life Hop Low and the Mushroom Dancers, performed to the soundtrack's Nutcracker Suite - Chinese Dance.

The souvenir program listed Chinese Dance
(Image courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research)

Jeff Quon, one of Milton's sons, told the audience last Saturday that his father remembered vividly attending a staff screening; it was extra special because the film employed a unique new sound technology "Fantasound", which later evolved to the widely-used stereophonic sound.

Before the event, Milton is shown preparing a sketch

During the Q&A session, many in attendance were already familiar with his life story, and some prompted him about his acting roles and his friendship with fellow Disney animator Tyrus Wong.

Milton recalled playing one of the passengers aboard bus 2525 in the 1994 film Speed starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves.  Milton explained that he was required to audition, and happily he got the part.  There were some dangerous rides -- and he got extra pay for it, he said in a rather dead-pan delivery characteristic of Milton, which brought chuckles from the audience.  He was 80 years old at the time according to a 2014 revisit with all the "bus passengers" written by Kristopher Tapley.

Milton explained his role in the 1994 film Speed
As for his friendship with Tyrus Wong, Milton immediately said, "He's a couple of years older than me".  Milton said Tyrus had a sporty car, and he had his eye on a girl Ruth (she later married Tyrus.)  He and Tyrus used to go to the beach and fish -- bonita fishing.  At some point, Tyrus decided he wanted try kite flying. 

Milton will be celebrating his birthday number 102 in August. 

Update July 18th:  Milton is mentioned in a recent New York Magazine article The Triple-Digit Club:  Meet 5 Centenarians Who Don't Act Their Age.

[Update July 17, 2019]  Mr. Milton Quon passed away peacefully on June 18, 2019, surrounded by his loving family.