Friday, November 30, 2007
[This Mary Blair painting of the Indian Village in Peter Pan not only has her exceptional flair and use of color but also wonderful movement in the body language of Indians and the smoke from the fire.
It's also quite large at 9'' x 12''.]
I have to agree that this is probably the most beautiful piece of Blair art I have seen to date (to my taste at least, of course).
This just in from Jim Korkis:
[Walt Disney was quite a salesman. Previously, you showcased him promoting DeSoto cars. My favorite Walt advertisement is Walt promoting a ball point pen with the ad suggesting that Walt animated all of "Bambi" by himself using the ball point pen. Here is an ad from 1941 with Walt promoting a watch and despite the ad's statement that Walt's personal watch was a Longines, I can't confirm that fact. For those who can't quite read the teeny-tiny type at the top of the ad, here it is:
Walt Disney who created a new form of musical entertainment in "Fantasia", the masterpiece of animation says, "Time is of the essence in motion picture production." Because scenes are measured in seconds and dialog, sound effects, and music are tailored to fit by precise time measurements, motion picture producers have made extensive use of Longines Watches from the earliest days.
Mr. Disney's personal watch is a Longines "Hall of Fame".]
[Last week, in the italian TV magazine TV Sorrisi e Canzoni an article appeared about Mondadori Publishing Company's 100th Anniversary (Mondadori Editore). Mondadori has published Disney books and comic books [since the '30s and] until 1988 here in Italy.
Arnoldo Mondadori has been honored Disney Legend in 1997. Here is a 1935 photo portraying Walt Disney and Arnoldo Mondadori taken close to the Maggiore lake.]
Thursday, November 29, 2007
"This could well have been the poster of the compilation of shorts that Walt saw during his trip to Paris in 1935 and that convinced him that the audience could accept a full-length feature. This would be wonderful."
- Disney Cartoons That Aren't Disney by Wade Sampson
- In a post that Jim Korkis sent yesterday, Ruthie Tompson is wrongly identified by Variety (and us) as Ruthie Johnson. This is now corrected thanks to Don Peri. By the way: is the right spelling Tompson or Thompson? The Disney Legends site say "Thompson", the book Walt in Wonderland spells it Tompson.
- While checking the interview of Floyd Gottfredson by Arn Saba in Walt's People - Volume 2, I realized that I quoted 1907 as Floyd's birthdate instead on 1905. Grrrr...
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
[As a child, Ruth Tompson lived right down the street from Disney Brothers Studio on Kingswell Avenue. She would hang around the Studio and saw Roy Disney filming cels. Along with other neighbor kids, she was in a group scene of at least one of the Alice Comedies. She remembers being paid a quarter and using it to buy some licorice candy. She was made a Disney Legend and that information is at this link.
From Daily Variety November 20, 2007, here is Tompson (strangely identified as Ruthie "Johnson") who is now ninety-seven years old talking about her time at Disney:
It was a different era when Johnson got her start in animation, when a "nosy kid," as she laughingly refers to herself, walking by the Walt Disney studio would be invited to come in and observe. As a child, Johnson was a neighbor of Walt Disney -- in fact, he used to film her and her friends playing for animation studies.
As a young adult, Johnson was working at the Burbank stables, where Disney and several of his animators came to learn to play polo. "All of a sudden this guy looks me in the eye and says, 'Ruthy Johnson, what are you doing here?'" Disney suggested that Johnson come work for him, and when she demurred, telling him that she couldn't draw, he insisted. "'You don't need to, we'll teach you,'" she recalls him telling her. "And if you do it, we'll give you the job, and if you don't, goodbye."
Johnson began night school to learn how to ink animation cels. "I didn't know how to draw, and they used these delicate little pens," Johnson explains, noting that if you did it wrong, the tip would break and splatter ink all over. The second night, the instructor tactfully suggested that Johnson switch to painting. She was called in to work on some Christmas shorts, and later she joined up full time, staying until forced into retirement in 1975.
"What impressed me when I first went to work at the studio (was) here I am a peon, basically, and the first thing they did was give me the script for 'Fantasia' and said, 'Take it home and read it and if you have any suggestions, please let us know,'" she recalls. "Fantasia" won an honorary Oscar in 1942 and is considered to be a groundbreaking film.
Employees also got paid for any gag that made it into a finished film. Johnson once suggested a different tune for a Pluto short, earning herself $5.
At lunch, rough cuts of animation were shown and bits that got laughs stayed in, while those that didn't were cut. Johnson remembers Disney overhearing her humming "Baby Mine" from "Dumbo" and deciding, on the basis of that, to keep the song. The song was nominated for an Oscar.
She went on to work in different departments, including scenery planning, before ending up as head of the department. Her less-than-stellar inking came back to haunt her when a batch of cels she'd proudly signed were thrown back at her when she criticized a newcomer's inking skills. She was one of the first women in the cinematographers society: She didn't actually handle a camera, but her job involved plotting camera moves. It was more than a year before she got paid the same as her male predecessor, thanks to an employee who complained on her behalf. "I got a big check after that," she smiles.]
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Who was Janet Martin? I suspect she might have been Studio publicist in the late '30s and early '40s, the equivalent of today's Howard Green. Could anyone confirm this?
[While researching an article that will include some information on the Carthay Circle Theater, I ran across these photos of the theater in the 1930s and 1940s around the time when "Snow White" and "Fantasia" premiered at the theater. Here's a photo of a premiere at the theater on September 13, 1937 of "Life of Emile Zola" . This is from the UCLA library.]
- Extinct Attractions has just released a DVD of interviews with Imagineer Rolly Crump. I do not have that DVD but it sounds interesting.
- A must have that is now offered for sale on Amazon is Don Peri's upcoming book Working with Walt: Interviews With Disney Artists. That one should not be missed.
- Hey Kids! No School Tomorrow! by Jim Fanning
- Interviews... And Ideas posted by Michael Barrier on November 26, 2007
- Your Charm article about Disney by Amid Amidi (interesting coincidence there that I will explain in my last post today). Would anyone have access to the complete article?
Monday, November 26, 2007
- News about Walt's People - Volume 6: I have received this weekend the last corrections on the manuscript, which I will integrate within the next few weeks. Pete Emslie is working on the cover (but we are missing video footage from Roger Broggie to get 4 caricatures instead of three). Provided we can solve this remaining issue soon, I am hoping to get this volume to the publisher by early January and have it ready by March at the very latest, a bit later than I had hoped.
- I received last week some wonderful new interviews for future volumes of the series, especially an extremely in-depth interview with Art Stevens by Pete Docter and a fascinating "best of" from the exchange of letters between Göran Broling and Frank Thomas that spans from 1979 to 1996.
- One last thing: I bought a few months ago on ebay all the issues of Sketches Magazine from Volume 1, number 4 to Volume 8, number 2. Would any of the readers of this blog have any of the missing issues for sale?
Here's a Matching 'Pinocchio' Setup, from 'I've Got No Strings', that I have that I think you'll enjoy seeing.
About 2 years ago I purchased a collection of original Disney artworks that were part of the personalcollection from Mr. Guthrie Courvoisier of the Courvoisier Gallery in San Francisco.
After he closed the Gallery in 1947 he went into another business manufacturing plastic Service Ware for the home.H is managers in this new business were given gifts by Courvoisier of original Disney Art for special Holidays or as Bonuses that he retained for himself after closing the Courvoisier Gallery.
I was able to purchase a number of pieces, both Courvoisier Setups and Setups on Disney Production Backgrounds from the films, from one manager's wife.
Here's a 16 field Matching Production Setup of 'Pinocchio' on Stage with his Trumpeters. It is in Mint original condition and the background looks like it's never seen the light of day.
All of the artwork that I purchased were sealed in a box in their garage since the late 1940s.
Emru and I have some items that may be of interest:
Art of Disney Japanese exhibit catalogue, Art of Disney Japanese exhibit DVD, Once Upon A Time/Il etait une fois Walt Disney Montreal exhibit posters.
(donated by me and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, respectively)
The Danish Poet
(donated by the NFB)
Although not all books were received in time, so we couldn't list them, we received a handful of coffee table books and our first donation for this year's auction is a 1926 edition of EG Lutz's Animated Cartoons, donated by J.J. Sedelmaier. Apparently J.J. has another book that will go in the mail this week for the 2008 auction. Talk about ahead of the curve!
A full list of items is available here.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
... The Adventures of Sir Tom Thumb....
I would not be surprised if it were the German equivalent of the infamous How to Read Donald Duck and only contained left-wing political analysis of Disney but I would be curious to know more about it.
Jim Korkis has sent me the following two links to help you start your day of celebration:
- Comic Book Urban Legend Revealed, number 127
- Way Cool Music blog
Also do not miss today:
- Walt Disney's Last Live Action Film by Wade Sampson
[Bruce and His Books
I was fortunate to have worked with Bruce on several of his book projects. For those of you who knew Bruce, his books were as much a part of him as his Disney work, theme park design, and love of technology.
Like so many of Bruce's projects, he had an idea, was told by many people that it could not be done, so he went out and did it himself, relishing both the accomplishment of his goal, and proving time and again an old adage of Walt Disney's, that "It's kind of fun to do the impossible."
His first book was co-written with fellow Imagineer David Mumford, the now-legendary "Disneyland: The Nickel Tour," a 368-page history of Disneyland told through postcards of the park.
The idea was hatched in 1983 when David found Bruce leafing through a collection of old Disneyland postcards in his office. David had his own collection, and they thought that it would be fun to amplify the postcards with information behind what each card showed.
They had a draft of their massive manuscript completed by 1990, but Disney and several other publishers thought that it was too large, would be too expensive, and had a limited appeal.
They didn't count on Bruce, his doggedness, and his knowledge of the most sophisticated desktop publishing—and the fact that it was either clever or foolish to tell him something could not be accomplished.
Bruce spent nights and weekends designing the book on his computer, he and David found financing, mortgaged homes, and raised $100,000 to have an Italian printing house produce 3,000 copies.
"Disneyland: The Nickel Tour," which sold for $75—and weighed nearly five pounds—is today regarded as the most authoritative book about the Magic Kingdom.
I learned on this project the Bruce so many of us knew: bossy, obstinate, flinty, arrogant, and curmudgeonly.
He was also one of the smartest, most sensitive, warm-hearted, generous, caring, and funny people that ever graced my life.
He was the creative engine behind A Brush with Disney: An Artist's Journey by Herb Ryman, and the story of Disney matte artist Peter Ellenshaw in Ellenshaw Under Glass. Bruce wanted a "glass painting" on the cover: Peter Ellenshaw posed in one of his own matte paintings. He was told it was impossible. He got it done.
Bruce worked on many other books, including Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real, The Imagineering Way and The Imagineering Workout, and Disneyland: Then, Now and Forever.
He designed a companion book for the film America's Heart and Soul, and worked with Peggy Van Pelt and John Hench on Designing Disney.
He even designed the companion book for The Sounds of Disneyland CD set in 2005.
Together, Bruce and I worked on The Art of Disneyland, Walt Disney World: Then, Now and Forever, The Art of Walt Disney World, Walt Disney's Imagineering Legends, the Disney Insider Yearbook 2005, and even a book that was created only for Cast Members, The Magic Begins with Me: A Golden Anniversary Keepsake for the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland.
During this time, I realized how close Bruce and I had become.
We were doing a presentation at an NFFC meeting in Garden Grove, doing a little show about "The Art of Disneyland." As usual, the wisecracks and one-upsmanship was flying fast and furious, when I hit Bruce with an especially potent zinger. He let the joke hang the just long enough in the silence before he replied, "You know, David Mumford was a lot nicer than you."
And in some ways, I was the "road company" David Mumford, a willing companion, accomplice, and co-conspirator, sometimes even a stooge who would do Bruce's bidding. All I can say is that I was happy to fill in when Bruce's co-star left his show.
Along the way I found Bruce to be one of the smartest people I've ever known—not only informed, but also clever, and often wise, especially when giving advice.
He was intuitive about things, and had a great "compass" about what was right or wrong, what would work or not, and most of all, what would make whatever you were doing just a little bit—or a lot—better.
He had an amazing ability to see both things and issues from many sides, and a talent for visualizing, and being able (in most cases) to communicate his vision.
On book projects on which he did not function as the author or co-author, Bruce was never "just the designer." He was also an editor, conscience, contributor, and supporter of the work. As with everything, he simply wanted it to be the best it could be. We often discussed that each book had to be one that we would gladly go and buy for ourselves.
At the same time, Bruce never let you forget where the line of collaboration was. No matter the argument about text, illustrations, caption, or colors, you were never quite sure whether what you had asked, demanded, or begged for would appear in the final book. Bruce never let the author "outrank" him.
After all, he said on more than one occasion, "I'm the guy that sends the finished files to the printer."
We have three more books that will be coming out early next year, and I find it hard to believe that we won't be doing another one.
I miss Bruce.]
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
[I thought you might enjoy seeing this very rare Walt Disney poster of an 'Oswald' Cartoon.
There are very few Disney 'Oswald' posters known to exist.]
To say that I loved this email would be an understatment. It is the first time that most Disney historians have ever seen this poster and Pete promised to share even more unique items from his collection in the future. Can you perceive my grin from ear to ear?
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Bruce, a former Imagineer who spent 25 years working in a variety oftop creative capacities for Disney theme parks and authored/co-authored definitive books on a wide range of Disneysubjects and legends, passed away suddenly at his home in Glendale,California on November 6. Bruce wrote and designed books about Disney parks and such famous Disney figures as the Sherman Brothers, Peter Ellenshaw and Herb Ryman. Since leaving his WDI post in 2005, he had been serving as show producer and creative consultant for TheWalt Disney Family Museum. He also appeared frequently as a speakerat Disneyana conventions, often paired with his initial co-author and fellow Imagineer, the late David Mumford.
Bruce began his career as a model designer at WDI in 1980, and mademajor contributions to such popular attractions as Splash Mountain, Tarzan's Treehouse, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. More recently, he helped develop the concept for the Finding Nemo SubmarineVoyage, which opened at Disneyland earlier this year. Among his earliest assignments for WDI, Bruce produced show set pieces for anumber of Epcot attractions and was also a member of the installation team for Journey Into Imagination in Future World. At Disneyland, he assumed the same responsibility for New Fantasyland, which opened in 1983.
Gordon is survived by his father, Walter E. Gordon of Placentia,California, and his sister, Nancy M. Gordon of Washington D. C.]
[At its best Walt’s People is an ongoing celebration of the artists who created the movies, comics and parks we love. At its worst it’s an endless battle against death.
As if this were not enough, some historians whose talent and kindness I had come to appreciate through my interactions with them for Walt’ People, Bugs’ Buddies and other book projects, also disappeared during the last few years. What made things worse in this specific case is that David Mumford, Leon Jansen, or Tim Onosko were way too young for their death to even be forecast.
Why did I decide to open this volume on such a terribly grim note? First because I wanted to pay homage to people like David, Leon and Tim, whose research we are still building upon. Second, because this overwhelming presence of death should really make us realize that if we have the opportunity to interview great Disney artists or preserve their work, we should do it today instead of tomorrow, and even more importantly that we are ourselves mortal and should start thinking about how to best preserve our research and accumulated material, to anticipate any “worst possible scenario.” I mentioned a few times in the past, through various forums, that spreading this accumulated research through books, magazines and the web appears to me as the nest solution currently in existence, above and beyond libraries and museums. But the important thing is to start planning for it at an early stage, despite our life expectancies.
Which leads obviously to the second theme of this introduction: “Why are we trying so hard to preserve Disney history?” I once distinguished two intimately linked motivations, on the Disney History blog, in the following terms:
“The impact our work will have on yet-to-be-born animation historians and enthusiasts and the impact our work will have on yet-to-be-born artists.
Let’s start with animation historians and enthusiasts: I would never have started Walt’s People if I had not discovered 15 years ago Michael Barrier’s groundbreaking magazine Funnyworld… which by the time I discovered it had already ceased publication. And Walt’s People seems to have inspired quite a few other projects related to Disney history with only two years of existence. That’s just mentioning one example of someone who was inspired by Michael Barrier’s magazine. Talk about a snowballing effect when you add all the other current historians and enthusiasts who were inspired by it and will inspire others in their turn.
As for animation artists: I have been working for the last few weeks on a series of conferences from CalArts that Darrell Van Citters sent me and that will be released in Walt’s People – Volume 7. Lecturers include Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Maurice Noble and others. But more importantly, attendees include John Lasseter, Brad Bird, John Musker, Nancy Beiman and quite a few other heavyweights of the current animation galaxy. They were lucky to be able to study with the masters of the Golden Age, but the new generation will not have that opportunity, unless we give them access to those conference transcripts, those lecture notes, those handouts (like the ones from Walt Stanchfield that have been available on the web for quite a few years). Will those upcoming artists study them at home over many years? Yes, the smarter ones probably will. If the next John Lasseters, John Muskers, Nancy Beimans or Pete Docters (Pete is both a hugely talented director and an animation historian) do get something out those posts, will the effort of posting them have been worth it?
I often joke that our passion for Disney history or animation history is unlikely to change the world. That’s a reality, of course, and our passion for history, our excitement with new discoveries, our pleasure at building on each others research is its own reward. But then I think of the emotional impact that Monsters, Inc. had on me; I remember that Pete Docter studied Disney’s animation history in depth before directing what I consider a masterpiece, and I find myself hoping that part of the knowledge that we contribute to spread might have a small impact beyond the historians and the fans, through the artists, on the quality of the animated movies themselves.
I believe it is worth the effort. I am being selfish: I love this stuff so much.”
You will notice a few things in this volume: I am trying to gather more interviews with imagineers than in the past volumes. No less than six of them are featured this time around: Dick Irvine, Marvin Davis, Joe Fowler, Roger Broggie, Fred Joerger, and Ken Anderson. As promised in past introductions, I am also starting to release hard-to-find material from Cartoonist PROfiles—by I. Klein in this volume, by Grim Natwick in volume 7—and interviews with Walt’s family members.This introduction would not be complete, however, if I did not mention the star of this volume, Disney historian and animation writer Steve Hulett, who takes us from the Pinocchio days, with his interviews of Wilfred Jackson, Ward Kimball, Ken Anderson, Ken O’Connor and Claude Coats, to his days as a Disney kid, son of Disney background painter Ralph Hulett, and to his career at the Studio in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In other words: quite an eclectic selection, as ever, which starts with... music!]
I did manage, however, to keep up from time to time with the Disney related news, some wonderful, some absolutely tragic. Before jumping to those news, here is a summary of the best content that was published about Disney history during those last three weeks:
- Walt Tells Why He Always Loved Trains by Wade Sampson
- Happy Birthday, Mickey Mouse by Wade Sampson
- The November update of the Walt Disney Family Foundation site includes an exciting interview with Don Peri, author of the upcoming book Working with Walt: Interviews with Disney Artists,to be published in March of 2008
- What Do You Know About Disney? by Michael Sporn
- Ben & Me II by Michael Sporn
- Hans Perk posted the animator drafts of The Chain Gang and Donald Golf's Game
- Clay Kaytis has posted the first part of an excellent interview with Dale Baer
- Happy Halloween! by Amid Amidi
- Book Review: To Infinity and Beyond by Amid Amidi
- New Disney Oswald Merchandise by Jerry Beck
- Toon Tuesday : The Failure Factor by Floyd Norman
- Disney honors its own at the 2007 Legends induction ceremony by Brian Gaughan
- Interview of Carl Stalling by Michael Barrier
- The Return of the Scanner by Michael Barrier (posted on November 5, 2007)
- Interview with Floyd Norman by Jeremie Noyer (in French)
- Gottfredson letters by Joakim Gunnarsson (do not miss that post)