Those commercials from the '50s are simply unbelievable. I believe there is one with Alice. I wish I could find it online.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
This might explain how Walt met Mann and how Mann visited the Disney Studio around 1939 and commented on The Sorcerer's Apprentice storyboards.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
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.
[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 http://www.ellenshaw.com/peterellenshaw.htm. You might want to announce that on your website since I don't believe you can get them anywhere else.]
Monday, February 26, 2007
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 :-)
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.]
Thursday, February 22, 2007
The Aida project?? Would anyone have more info about this?
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
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.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
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.
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: email@example.com
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
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 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).
But we saw the most impressive animals close by and personal on the walking trail, thanks to
the keen eye of our guides:
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.
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...