It didn’t take long for associate producer/producer Hugh Attwooll’s name to become synonymous with Disney motion pictures shot on location in England and Europe. In 1978, after lending his expertise to more than 20 motion pictures, he recalled, “Because I’ve been with Disney for so long, one associates me with the company. In fact, I’ve never signed one piece of paper with Disney, except to state that I’m a British citizen.”
Born in Scotland in 1914, Hugh was a mere 14 years old when he stepped into the motion picture industry, working as a “gopher” at Worton Hall Studios in Isleworth, England. What began as a temporary job during the school holidays led to his promotion to “runner,” followed by camera assistant.
Hugh subsequently dropped school, later recalling, “So I was hauled before the headmaster, who said, ‘You’ll never be anything more than an errand boy all your life.’ And he was quite right, of course. I’ve been a highly paid errand boy ever since.”
Among Hugh’s early motion pictures was Downstream, starring Harold Huth, which brought him to Ealing Studios. Then, in 1932, he joined Gainsborough Studios as a gaffer until 1938, when he left to make newsreel films.
World War II interrupted Hugh’s career, during which he served in the London Scottish Regiment as a major. He eventually attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.
After the War, he rejoined Gainsborough; there, he worked on such films as The Root of All Evil, My Brother’s Keeper, and Good Time Girl. Hugh eventually made his way to Hollywood, where he worked at RKO as a technician for five months. While there, he visited most of the major movie studios except Disney.
Returning to England, Hugh worked at Pinewood Studios. He was concluding a contract with the Rank Organization when Disney production head Bill Anderson recruited him for the 1959 classic Kidnapped. By completion of that film, Hugh received a personal call from Walt Disney saying, “I want you to go down to Spain because we’ve got a thing going for us down there called Von Drake in Spain.”
Over the years, Hugh contributed to myriad Disney motion pictures, including Greyfriars Bobby in 1961, In Search of the Castaways in 1962, The Moon-Spinners in 1964, Candleshoe in 1978, and Watcher in the Woods in 1980. Among his favorite Disney projects was The Littlest Horse Thieves in 1977, which he described as “beautifully mounted in every direction.”
In between Disney projects, Hugh also contributed to such non-Disney fare as David Copperfield starring Sir Laurence Olivier, Persecution with Lana Turner, and Jane Eyre starring George C. Scott.
After more than 50 years in the motion picture industry, and more than 20 years with Disney, Hugh Attwooll retired in 1981. He passed away on April 29, 1997, in Harlow, Essex, in England.