Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Donald and the 1955 Hudson Hornet

Those commercials from the '50s are simply unbelievable. I believe there is one with Alice. I wish I could find it online.

Here is one more photo from Mark Sonntag's collection, featuring Walt receiving his honorary degree from Yale University in 1938. Notice the presence of German author Thomas Mann (1955 Nobel Prize winner) in the same photo.

This might explain how Walt met Mann and how Mann visited the Disney Studio around 1939 and commented on The Sorcerer's Apprentice storyboards.

Two things to check out this morning:
FPS Magazine is organising a contest to win two pairs of tickets for the exhibition Once Upon A Time Walt Disney (in Montreal) that can be used any time during its run of engagement.
Wade Sampson has just released an excellent article about the genesis of Disney's version of Peter Pan.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Why do we do it?

Michael Barrier, Michael Sporn and especially Hans Perk have posted on their blogs over the past few months some extremely rare and very specialized documents related to Disney history: animation drafts and lecture notes. Michael and Hans have been wondering recently if making the effort to do so is actually worth it, considering the lack of comments on their blogs related to those posts.

Thankfully, quite a few readers on those blogs have expressed how strongly they feel about the importance of those posts and if one considers - like most marketing departments would – that one comment from a specific reader actually represents 1000 readers who have remained silent, there are actually quite a few people who do care.

I just wanted to add my take on the matter, as I would definitely no want the two Michaels or Hans to stop posting (in fact, as every dedicated blog reader, I would love the pace of the posts to always accelerate, but that’s another story).

First, one thing is certain: the number of people who have enough knowledge to even be able to comment on those very specialized documents is extremely limited. To comment on an animation draft, you not only have to understand very well the animation process, you also have to know quite a bit about the artists who created the movies, their art and life at the Studio, which means having read a fair amount of books and magazines on the matter. Even then, you might not have anything specific to say about those drafts, save if you had been in touch with those artists yourself and are aware of some unknown aspects of their careers or if you have been studying the history of the making of a specific film in great details, which will allow you to comment on the involvement of specific artists on specific scenes. As for animation lectures, only animation professionals (for the most part) would be able to discuss those.

You will indeed find a larger audience if you post a note about the upcoming script of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel or the upcoming closure of an attraction at the Magic Kingdom.

But - and this is the point that I am leading to – while getting lots of immediate reactions is hugely gratifying and motivating (how often have I posted notes on this blog asking you to comment on my posts), I believe it is much less relevant to what we are doing (be it through our blogs, or the books and articles we are writing or editing) than the long term impact it will have. What am I talking about? Two things, in practice:

- The impact our work will have on yet-to-be-born animation historians and enthusiasts.
- 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 two years ago 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 for a future volume of Walt’s People. Lecturers included Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Maurice Noble and others. But more importantly, attendees included John Lasseter, 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 post comments about them on the web? Probably not. Will they 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. Thankfully Michael, Michael and Hans seem to have been convinced that their doubts were unfounded even before this post. I had to contribute my two cents though.

I am being selfish: I love this stuff so much.

I will post more photos from Mark Sonntag's collection tomorrow. But I could not resist showing first this unknown shot of Walt during his trip to Chile in 1941.
This photo was sent to me by Chilean journalist Jaime Huerta and shows Walt surrounded by the team of the comic-book magazine Topaze, which used to be the most popular comic-book magazine in Chile.
I mentioned yesterday that the first thing I did when receiving Neal Gabler's book about Walt was check the bibliography. One of the articles I had never heard about is actually available online. Called The Master of Marketing, it's an amazingly complete article about Kay Kamen. A great read.
Two quick updates: The Disney History blog has just been updated and Jim Korkis sent me the following note yesterday that should interest all Ellenshaw fans out there:

[The Ellenshaw family is still selling editions of ELLENSHAW UNDER GLASS as well as THE GARDEN WITHIN (both of which I thought were out of print) at You might want to announce that on your website since I don't believe you can get them anywhere else.]

Monday, February 26, 2007

Articles and heirs

I have finally received last week Neal Gabler's biography of Walt. I will start reading it soon, of course, but what I could not help doing as soon as I got it was jump to the bibliography to check if it contained material I had never heard about. It did and I was wondering if:

1. Would anyone be able to send me scans of the following articles:
- The Walt Disney Comic Strips by Frank Reilly in Cartoonist Profiles (Winter 1969 - p. 18)
- Art Babbitt by Klaus Strzyz in The Comics Journal (Fall 1969)

2. Would anyone know how to contact the heirs of:
- Robert Foster Price

He wrote unpublished memoirs of his career at Disney and I would like to attempt to get the rights to get those in print.

It's a long-shot, but worth the try :-)
Disney History Competition

Would you like to win a copy of my now-hard-to-find art book about Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality? Here is an "easy" way to do so.

I will be running an Disney History competition until the end of March. To enter you can send:

- Scans of concept drawings or storyboards.
- Scans of old Disney annual reports.
- Scans of rare or unusual material related to Disney history.
- Interviews you might have conducted with Disney artists.
- Information about upcoming books on Disney history.
- Never-seen-before Disney photographs.
- Never-heard-before stories about Disney history...

You get the idea. I will select 3 winners at the end of March. The big winner will get the art book about Disneyland Paris. I have not yet decided what the others two will get. Let's hope many of you participate though.

To email your entries, please use:
Mark Sonntag was kind enough to send me three new photos from his outstanding collection. This first one shows artist RudyIsing and Adolph Kloepper (Laugh-O-grams' manager) within the LAUGH-O-GRAMS office. It was published in Funnyworld #19 back in the late '70s.

The other two photos will follow later this week.

Some beautiful art are being sold on Van Eaton Galleries this week, including with little concept drawing by Albert Hurter for Music Land.

Speaking of which, blog reader Rob Richards is trying to start a blog focusing on animation art collecting and is looking for contributors.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Some pieces of information are both good and frustrating. I just heard yesterday from Jim Korkis that a book titled The Making of Hong Kong Disneyland by Mel Malmberg (Roe Rohde's wife) had been released a few weeks ago by Disney. That's the good news.
The bad news is that it was given away to Cast Members and is not sold anywhere. Oh well...
[More details from Jim Korkis:
The Making of Hong Kong Disneyland: Magic at Work by Melody Malmberg (author of The Making of Disney's Animal Kingdom and wife of Imagineer Joe Rohde).

Designed by James Barkley, a former Imagineer. 150 pages. First edition 2005. Hardback. Color and black and white photos and concept sketches. Copyrighted by Disney Enterprises. No publisher listed. ISBN 988-98709-1-9. Introduction by Marty Sklar and Tom Fitzgerald.

Five chapters: Beginnings, Fifty Years of disney Design, A Disneyland in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort: An Appreciation and Beyond Opening Day.

Reportedly given to cast members who helped with the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland. One hundred additional copies were available through Imagineering's Mickey's of Glendale company store in Southern California where they sold for forty-five dollars a copy plus tax. They disappeared within days of being listed.]

This just in from Jim Korkis:
["I can't keep up with all the new Disney related sites and more that are cropping up. Check out and check out some of the sections like the Mickey Mouse Circus where they scanned in the entire program or some of the book/magazine sections."]
Definitely worth a visit.
I would also recommend checking out Jim Hill's Why For? this morning.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

One site I do check every day is Michael Sporn's blog. Michael posted two days ago a large series of model sheets and linked to The Disney Informer for more. While visiting that site, I stumbled upon some great concept art from the abandoned Disney project Don Quixote, as well as this character presentation from the Aida project.

The Aida project?? Would anyone have more info about this?

Don't miss this article about Hirschfeld on Disney posted on the Hobotopia blog.
The cover of the book The Making of Meet the Robinsons has been released on For some weird reason the book is not yet available on

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A beautiful 1938 photo of Walt with Robert Taylor that I had never seen before, for your enjoyment.
From blog reader Cindy Bowden following my request to get a photo of Hazel George:


I am curious about Hazel George as well. Do you have any other information about her? Do you happen to know if she was married in the 1930’s or [where she lived]?

Here is a site where I was able to get more information.

I will be writing to the webmaster of the site to see what his sources were.


Two slightly out-topic sites I have discovered recently and that are worth a visit for animation historians (more than for Disney enthusiasts): the Misce-Looney-ous blog and the Cartoononfilms blog. I will permanent links to those here (separate from the Disney ones).
Also worth the visit this morning are Wade Sampson's tribute to Peter Ellenshaw and Jim Hill's review of Walt's People - Volume 4 (blush).

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Great news: Walt's People - Volume 4 is now available on
By the way, the manuscript of Volume 5 is complete and undergoing the last revisions. It will be finalized by the end of May and the book should be released by July if all goes well. Believe it or not, I am now hard at work on Volume 6!
CartoonBrew, ASIFA, Michael Sporn and a few others have been posting recently some fascinating documents released by the Studios in the late '30s and early '40s (The Ropes at Disney, the Bulletin newsletter,...).

I could not stand to stay behind ;-), so here is an item I picked up on ebay a few years ago: the 1944 Annual Report to Employees. One can clearly see the influence that the 1941 strike had on the information presented and the tone of the presentation.

I find reports to employees and shareholders equally fascinating and was wondering if some readers of the blog owned any from the '40s, '50s and early '60s, in which case it would be great if you could send me scans that I would post for all to read.

This will be my last off-topic post of the week (I hope).

As some of you may know, in parrallel to the Walt's People series, I have started work on the book Bugs' Buddies which borrows the format of Walt's People but focuses on Warner Bros. artists of the Golden Age.

While researching this project, I stumbled onto three excellent publications by Reg Hartt whose covers are pictured here. They collect long interviews and conferences that Reg organized in the late '70s with Friz Freleng, Grim Natwick and Bob Clampett.

Reg sells those fanzine like publications along with the full set of CD-Roms containing the recordings of the conferences for $100. While quite a few of you will consider this expensive, I thought that it might interest the most serious historians of animation and that it would be worth at least mentioning the existence of those documents.

You can contact Reg at:

Reg clarifies:

[About "expensive":

There are a huge number of cds and dvds included in that package which means hours and hours spent listening to men who really know their stuff.

[...] Add in the fact that it is now impossible to hear those men the value of the package is priceless.]

I agree, which is why I posted the information in the first place :-)

Monday, February 19, 2007

I love those weird Disney commercials from the '50s (because they are so weird) and am hoping to get more information about their making after having completed an interview with Paul Carlson who worked on them at the time.

I have a feeling that the blog The Sacred Tree of the Aracuan Bird which I discovered today will soon become one of my daily stops. We will see. For now it contains scans of quite a few excellent articles.

The best books released about Disney parks and attractions released in the last few years have all been written either by David Mumford and Bruce Gordon or by Jason Surrell. No wonder I feel excited about the upcoming The Disney Mountains - Imagineering at its Peak that will be released in September 2007 and whose cover has just been revealed

This post is absolutely off-topic, but so many of you have asked me about the trip to Africa that my wife and I undertook recently that I felt compelled to share a few photos and to give you a very quick idea of the highlights. We first spent 3 days in Cape Town (above) where I had a bit of work to do. Beautiful and very relaxed city where one could clearly walk around without worries. Unfortunately the wind prevented us from accessing Table Mountain or Rhobben Island, the prison where Mandela was detained for most of his 27 years of captivity. We did manage to visit the Muslim part of the city, though, Cape Malay (above).

We then drove from Johannesburg's airport to the small city of Pilgrim's Rest, which used to be a gold-mining city. It now centers mostly on tourism and the marvelously preserved architecture, the stounding sceneries and the friendlyness of its people made up for the long and complicated road we had to travel to get there. Unfortunately, as we were pressed by time, we were not able to discover the falls and canyons that surrounded the place and are among the most oustanding natural wonders of the region.

We were pressed by time, as we had to be by 15.00 the next day in the Kruger National Park to enjoy what would definitely become the highlight of the trip: the Bushman trail. If you go to Kruger, I would definitely recomend visiting the park by booking one of those two-days-three-nights walking trails throughout the park. You are protected and guided by two trained and armed rangers in a group of only 8 people and your group is absolutely alone in an area of more than 150 hectares. Compare this with the experience of the 3-hour drives in the park, packed in buses of 30 alaways-talking tourists and guided by rangers who are more interested in going home than in admiring any of the animals and you will understand our strong preference for this way of discovering the park. The trails are complex to book (as there needs to be at least 6 people for them to be confirmed and as they only go out on Sundays and Wednesdays) but they are relatively cheap and not reserved to extremely fit people (I am ashamed to recognize that I am an extremely sendentary person).
Throughout Kruger we were able to admire...


Elephants, giraffes, buffalos,....

... baboons...

... Kudus (my wife got "addicated" to Kudu dried meat - biltong - in Johannesburg)

... zebras, hypos,

But we saw the most impressive animals close by and personal on the walking trail, thanks to

the keen eye of our guides:


lions fighting against a hyena (we were on top of a rock and far away, of course, but close enough to enjoy the intricacies of the fight),

and a lepard... close by, very close by!!!

The last part of the trip involved 5-days in the country of smiles, Mozambique, where we spent some time relaxing on pristine beaches. As ever, we found out that it is in the countries that endured the worst hardships (30 years of civil war in Mozambique) that people seem to seize life with most optimism.
We then drove back to Johannesburg where I reacustomed myself to a bit of work. We loved the cultural mix and vibrancy of Jo'Burg that shares a lot of characteristics (including problematic ones) with one of the cities I love: Sao Paulo in Brazil.

I hope this report was short enough. I will now focus purely on Disney matters :-)

I first started admiring Michael Barrier's work in the mid-80s when I discovered his - by that time deceased - magazine Funnyworld which gave me an idea of how fascinating Disney and animation history could be, how precise and serious about it one could get (in the best sense of the term) and how beautifully it could be written about.

Even when I disagree strongly with him, I have never ceased to admire Michael and his work. I believe he is at his best when publishing in-depth research like Funnyworld or his books Hollywood Cartoons and the upcoming Animated Man.

All of this to say that I was delighted (the word is probably too weak) to see him release this weekend an article by Donald Draganski about Paul Hindemith (pictured here) encounter with Walt Disney. This is the kind of piece I adored in Funnyworld and that I appreciate even more today. I hope that now that he has completed his biography of Walt Michael will find more time to release such outstanding material... and maybe quite a few of his groundbreaking interviews...

Don't miss this post on CartonBrew about the rlease of a new Alice in Cartoonland DVD containing 4 shorts that had never appeared on DVD before.

Those two beautiful storyboard drawings are currently on sale on ebay. I was wondering if one of you knew which short they are from...