Monday, August 31, 2009
[Didier - Thanks for posting Mom's obituary on the Disney Blog August 10th.
FOR THE RECORD:
Dave Smith at Archives reviewed the obit and had some minor changes that I would like to include as a specific correction message and not within the present text because it wouldn't be noticed. Dave was correct in changing the title to ARTIST WAS OLDEST SURVIVING DISNEY EMPLOYEE, SUPERVISOR ON "SNOW WHITE" - She was not the oldest employee when she was working here as the current title implies.
And, big surprise! They have a record of her hire date - 3/28/31 - not 1932 as she had always told me. This puts her even further back in animation history, before color.
Last two things. The correct title is "Three Little Pigs" not "THE..." And also, there is a question mark at the end of "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?"
Alan Coats apologizes to all Disney fans who may have caught these mistakes. And thanks to Dave Smith for his thorough knowledge of Disney history.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
But what makes things even better, of course, is that the items selected are consistently interesting and often surprising. Those from The Pixar Treasures are no exception. A case in point is this hilarious early Christmas Card from the Studio.
Don, Pam Burns-Clair and Scott Wolf also launched a web site to keep us updated. Can't wait.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs illustrated by Tenggren is definitely not a very good book. If you have the Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland books illustrated by Mary Blair, you know what the format and concept of this book looks like. It worked well with Mary Blair and made those previous two books "nice-to-have" if not necessarily "must-have". (And I look forward to Peter Pan that will be released at the end of October).
Unfortunately, for some reason, the Tenggren book is not up to par: it seems to contain a bit less artwork, but most of all the quality of the reproductions is problematic to say the least. Since the book is relatively cheap it might be a good idea to get it if only to have all of those Tenggren illustrations easily available in one place, but that's about all I can say in the book's favor.
Thankfully, Disney Editions has other great suprises for us in store before Christmas, which I will cover in details tomorrow and especially next week (I will be travelling on Thursday and Friday this week).
Monday, August 24, 2009
[I am thrilled to share with you the news that my documentary, Waking Sleeping Beauty, will be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) next month.
Below is a synopsis of the movie along with screening information for TIFF.
I am so excited about this movie and hope that over the coming months you have the opportunity to see the film as it plays at film festivals around the country and ultimately, in theatrical release in the spring of 2010.]
From 1984 to 1994 a perfect storm of people and circumstances changed the face of animation forever
Directed by Don Hahn
Produced by Peter Schneider and Don Hahn
By the mid-1980s, the fabled animation studios of Walt Disney had fallen on hard times. The artists were polarized between newcomers hungry to innovate and old timers not yet ready to relinquish control. The conditions produced a series of box office flops and pessimistic forecasts: maybe the best days of animation were over. Maybe the public didn’t care. Only a miracle or a magic spell could produce a happy ending.
Waking Sleeping Beauty is no fairy tale. It’s the true story of how Disney regained its magic with a staggering output of hits - “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” and more – over a ten-year period.
Director Don Hahn and producer Peter Schneider bring their insider knowledge to “WSB”. Hahn was one of the Young Turks at Disney who produced some of its biggest sensations. Schneider led the animation group during this amazing renaissance and later became studio chairman. Their film offers a fascinating and candid perspective of what happened in the creative ranks set against the dynamic tensions among the top leadership, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy Disney (the nephew of Walt).
The process wasn’t always pretty. The filmmakers bring a refreshing candor in describing ego battles, cost overruns, and failed experiments that others might prefer to forget. During times of tension, the animators’ favorite form of release was to draw scathing caricatures of themselves and their bosses. Director Hahn puts several memorable ones on display and marshals a vast array of interviews, home movies, internal memos and unseen footage.
Announcing the world premiere of “Waking Sleeping Beauty” at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival (http://www.tiff.net), the festival’s documentary programmer Thom Powers said, “’Waking Sleeping Beauty’ celebrates the rich history of Disney animation and honors the many writers, artists, and composers who created the Disney magic. The treatment is so thorough that it includes key figures who famously left Disney such as Don Bluth, John Lasseter, and Tim Burton. At one time, children imagined that Walt Disney’s signature meant a film was the creation of one man. This is a more grown-up portrayal that reveals the collaborative, often contentious, experience in all its complexity.”
WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY
September 12th at 9:30am Press/Industry 1, AMC 9
September 16th at 6:00pm Press/Industry 2, AMC 9
September 15th at 6:00pm Public Screening 1, AMC 7
September 17th at 3:00pm Public Screening 2, AMC 9
September 19th at 10:45am Public Screening 3, AMC 5
Friday, August 21, 2009
[Imagine going through your relative's old home movies and discovering images of Disneyland in 1956 and your grandmother shaking hands with Walt Disney. Imagine JUST discovering this treasure and posting it at: http://vimeo.com/6016945]
Thursday, August 20, 2009
I wished there were books like this one about all the key Disney Legends (knowing me, Ken Anderson comes to mind immediately, of course).
I interviewed Gene Sands a few months ago about the book at this link.
Can't tell you how excited I am each time I have to review a book like this one that really brings something new to some aspect of Disney History.
[UPDATE. Gene Sands says: "Despite what the link says, The "Collector's Edition," which has been signed, can be purchased for $68.00 which includes tax, handling and postage. The "Standard Edition," which is not signed, can be purchased for $45.00 which also includes tax, handling and postage.]
This just in from Sebastien Durand:
[I have just watched the complete first season of The Muppet Show that was made available in France recently. I have always loved Jim Henson's creatures and I regret that, with the exception of one excellent 3D attraction, Disney has never been able to develop the franchise as it deserved. However, one early hint of the difficulties that would arise between the two companies may have sufaced in an episode of that first season (1976-1977). This is the episode with Ethel Merman. The legendary Broadway Lady sings "YOU'RE THE TOP" to Kemit the Frog and, as in the original Cole Porter lyrics, she says "You're Mickey Mouse!". Kermit interrupts "Is that a compliment?". "Well, you just called me a Coliseum". "Well, sorry about that!".Thought that funny moment could be of some interest to your readers.
In the Youtube video, that moment happens between 5'40-6'00 mn.
PS. Another Disney reference in that first season : a funny sketch adapting the "NEVER SMILE AT A CROCODILE" song.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
[I enclose an image of Gustaf taken on a combined painting and vacation trip to Catalina Island in 1936. Documents I have copies from prove that Walt Disney actually bought a landscape painting Tenggren made 1938 on one of these trips. Rumour has it there was a conflict between the two large egos of Tenggren and Walt Disney, but maybe it wasn't so deep after all?
I'm also enclosing two images that may give a hint about why Disney chose to hire Tenggren for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The first one is an illustration for "Bland Tomtar och Troll" (Among Gnomes and Trolls), a Swedish fairy tale compilation from 1924. The other one is the well known illustration from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" from 1938. I think it's pretty obvious where the inspiration came from. ]
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
[It has been claimed that on President Nixon's historic trip to China in 1972, he took along some Disney costume characters thanks to the connections of this guy. I don't remember that being the case and I don't remember any photos of that happening (especially since it would have been pretty notable) and in my research haven't been able to track down any confirmation. The Nixon Library has no record of Disney characters accompanying Nixon but libraries don't always have all the information. So, can anyone supply information whether Disney costumed characters accompanied Nixon to China in 1972? I am trying to help out a friend on this project.]
Can anybody help?
- Remembering Virginia Davis (1918 - 2009) by Jim Hill
- Peter Pan models à la 1940 by Michael Sporn
- Animated Film Techniques by Michael Sporn
- Timothy Elbourne, 65; Former Aide in Nixon White House by Dennis McLellan
- Comic Strip Artist's Kit (Redux) by Mark Kennedy
Monday, August 17, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
[1935 - The Americans, the "war of patents" having ended a while back, take advantage of the 40th birthday of the cinema to officially recognize Louis Lumière's fatherhood of the invention. During the celebration dinner, he meets and receives thanks from Walt Disney.]
Thursday, August 13, 2009
[I found this photo on the net some weeks ago (don't remember where). I can't remember having seen it before, but it must have been taken the same day as the photo on page 85 in Walt in Wonderland.
Based on the indentification of the guys in the other photo, they must be:
Bottom row: Walker Harman, Rollin Hamilton, Roy O. Disney, Hugh Harman,
Top row: Thurston Harper, Ub Iwerks, Rudy Ising
This photo must also have been taken by Walt Disney.
Can it have been published in a book ?]
[UPDATE: Just a little note re. the photo you posted today. My friend Are Myklebust pointed out to me that you had a photo taken the same day on your blog a couple of years ago: http://disneybooks.blogspot.com/2007/03/talk-about-great-entry-to-disney.html ]
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Didier Ghez: Bob Thomas already wrote a Making of Beauty and the Beast (as part of one of his Disney's Art of Animation books). What will be new / different in your book?
Charles Solomon: Bob Thomas devoted about one-third of the 1991 reissue of his classic The Art of Animation to Beauty and the Beast, but his space was limited. That edition was not in print very long, as it was replaced by the one devoted to Hercules in 1997. As I have more space, I've been able to go into more detail about how the film evolved, including some false turns and discarded ideas.
DG: Why did you decide to work on that book? Can you run us through the genesis of that project?
CS: My initial reaction was that there have already been too many books that tell readers too little about how a film actually gets made: they present a rosy scenario in which everyone has only good ideas, the artists all get along, and the project sails through production. Don Hahn, who suggested doing the book, promised that would tell the real story of making Beauty and the Beast, which was an interesting challenge.
DG: What is the most exciting material you have unearthed for this new book?
CS: Hans Bacher had trove of his beautiful drawings which he made available to us, and Glen Keane allowed us to photograph pages from one of his sketchbooks. The ever-helpful staff of the Animation Research Library found storyboard drawings that show the evolution of various ideas: e.g. "Be Our Guest" was originally sung to Maurice, rather than Belle, and we're able to juxtapose the boards from the two versions.
DG: To write this book did you conduct a whole new set of interviews with Disney artists?
CS: While I had extensive interviews with many of the artists from pieces I wrote when Beauty and the Beast was released, I talked to as many of the artists as time allowed. Everyone I contacted was extremely generous with their time, and it was interesting to hear how they looked back on their experiences. Nearly everyone said, "We were kids working on that film!" Even executives as busy as Dick Cook and Jeffrey Katzenberg made time to speak with me.
DG: As Disney historians and enthusiasts, can we expect any "revelations" or surprises in this book?
CS: Not many people know Beauty and the Beast was originally going to be produced in London and that it was going to be a darker, more conventional retelling of the story with no songs. I was able include an account of that version of the film with artwork, and discuss how and why it was changed.
DG: What are the main chapters of the book?
CS: The 10 chapters trace development of the film from the origins of the story, through the Imax and 3D re-releases of the film.
DG: Any other details you can give us about it?
CS: One interesting thing I discovered is that Beauty and the Beast is one of the most widespread of all fairy tales or legends. Versions exist all over the world and can be traced back to The Golden Ass, the second century novel of Lucius Apuleius, and the story wasn't new then. It had already been filmed at least 30 times before the Disney artists tackled it. The earliest known film is a French version by Pathé Fréres from 1899.
DG: What other Disney -related book projects are you currently working on?
CS: I'm finishing a book on the making of Toy Story 3 for Disney-Pixar, which will also be out next year.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Sadly Evie Coats passed away on July 13. Here is the obituary that Alan sent me about his mother:
[EVELYN HENRY COATS 1910 – 2009
ARTIST WAS OLDEST DISNEY EMPLOYEE, SUPERVISOR ON “SNOW WHITE”
Evelyn “Evie” Coats, one of the unsung heroines of animation’s past, has died. She was 99.
The Burbank resident, the oldest employee to have worked with Walt Disney, died of natural causes July 13th at her home, said her son Alan Coats.
Hired by Disney in 1932 as an “inker” to trace animators’ drawings of cartoon characters onto clear sheets of celluloid, she joined the small staff at the Hyperion Avenue studio in East Hollywood. Coats soon began work on “The Three Little Pigs,” a box office success when released in 1933. Its theme “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” became a hit song during the Depression.
More than mere tracing, inkers were true artists whose work required an ability to translate the emotion and movement of the animators’ characters. The cels were then passed on to the painters to fill in the lines with the various colors of custom made paints.
Coats worked on the “Silly Symphony” series of musical shorts and numerous Disney cartoons including the first Mickey Mouse cartoon in Technicolor “The Band Concert.” She also applied her steady ink line to the classic shorts “Ferdinand the Bull” and “The Old Mill.”
Promoted to department head during the production of the first feature length animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, Coats supervised a team of women working late nights and Saturdays to complete the film for its December 1937 premiere.
Ink and Paint art was a laborious part of the animation process and solely the domain of women. “Walt appreciated the work of the girls,” Coats recalled. “He would come around with special little gifts for each of us every Christmas.”
During a brief break in the “Snow White” schedule, she married studio background painter Claude Coats, whose 54-year career was acknowledged in 1991 with a “Disney Legend” award for his background and color styling on Disney features and his Imagineering show designs for the theme parks. He died in 1992 at age 78.
Coats continued her work on the next feature “Pinocchio”. Claude Coats remembered in a 1978 interview, “That was probably the most complicated inking we ever did. The little character of Jiminy Cricket was particularly challenging. “I remember Evie inking 22 ink lines on Jiminy. Later on (during television production) it was just obvious we couldn’t have that many colors. It got down to where it was six or seven.”
In 1939, Evie retired to raise a family, and she and her husband designed a house near the new studio being constructed in Burbank. She turned the reins of the Inking Department over to her colleague and close friend Disney Legend Grace Bailey. Grace took over the vacant supervisor’s office that Evelyn never used. “I would have been kind of lonely in there,” she said in an interview. “I wanted to be out with the girls in the Inking corridor. I was at the head of the desks. If I wanted somebody, I would just yell ‘Helen’ or whoever, ya know. It was very informal.”
Retirement was interrupted as her talents were requested during the disruption of production caused by the bitter animators’ strike in the spring of 1941. She inked animators’ drawings for “Dumbo” while pickets marched at the studio gates on Buena Vista Street. “I was glad to go back. I crossed the lines. I didn’t support the strikers,” she said.
Evelyn Henry was born June 14th, 1910, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Her father, originally from Indiana, moved the family to San Diego in 1913 and later to Los Angeles, where his daughter studied art at Los Angeles High School. She became proficient in the art of silk screen, a unique way of applying pigment to paper for posters and advertising sheets.
Following her Disney career, Coats was active in various Southern California charity organizations, including the Braille Institute, Goodwill, and the Assistance League. She volunteered for many years in the photo library of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In addition to her son Alan, Coats is survived by daughters-in-law Holdine Coats of Trabuco Canyon, California, and Ann Arens of Venice, California; six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Her son Lee died in 2004.
A private memorial service is planned.]
The cover story by Ed Squair about the Haunted Mansion is in-depth and contains a lot of truly new material, JB Kaufman's article about the upcoming WD Family Museum is thoroughly enjoyable, the tribute to Wayne Allwine is touching, the article about the upcoming Toy Story 3 is fascinating and contains a beautiful tribute to Joe Ranft, the article about the Blue Bayou contains some spetacular artwork that I had never seen, the article about Snow White by Canemaker is beautifully written (what did you expect from John?) and full of new interviews, the article about Disneyland 59 is a strong one, the piece about the creation of the Obama AA for The Hall of Presidents has a lot of material about the succesor to Blaine Gibson, Valerie Edwards, and the photo spread is much better than in the first two issues.
Way to go! I think this magazine found its marks and is becoming a must-have.
Friday, August 07, 2009
Thursday, August 06, 2009
[I'm enclosing a fun youth image of Gustaf playing chess, probably with an unknown artist collegue. The picture should be from around 1920 – 1922. He might be around 25, just arrived in Cleveland from Sweden. It's not common to see him smiling later on. It would be interesting to know who his friend is...]
Any idea of who the other man might be?
Foreword: Paula Sigman-Lowery
Dave Smith: Ruth Disney Beecher
Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston: Les Clark
Richard Hubler: Harry Tytle
Milt Gray: James Bodrero
Robin Allan: Theo Halladay about Sylvia Holland
Robin Allan: Retta Scott
Jim Korkis: Retta Davidson
Floyd Norman : Retta Davidson
Steve Hulett: Mark Kirkland about Moe Gollub
Richard Hubler: Ben Sharpsteen
David Tietyen: Lou Debney
David Tietyen: Jim Macdonald
David Tietyen: Charles Wolcott
Richard Hubler: Bill Cottrell
Richard Hubler: Herb Ryman
Richard Hubler: Donn Tatum
Richard Hubler: Card Walker
Richard Hubler: Bob Sherman
Richard Hubler: Dolores Voght
Richard Hubler: Tommie Wilck
Richard Hubler: Welton Becket
John G. West: Bill Anderson
Richard Hubler: Robert Stevenson
Christopher Finch and Linda Rosenkrantz: Don Griffith
Jim Korkis: Floyd Gottfredson
Tony Fischier: Floyd Gottfredson
Jim Korkis: Al Taliaferro
Jim Korkis: Jack Hannah
Jim Fanning: Carl Barks
Paul F. Anderson: Blaine Gibson
Scott Wolf: Harriet Burns
Charles Solomon: Roy E. Disney
Göran Broling: Correspondence with Frank Thomas
Didier Ghez: Bud Hester
Didier Ghez: Ken Southworth
Didier Ghez: Dale Bae
A quick thought I was having recently about the upcoming opening of the Walt Disney Family Museum. The Disney Company was established in 1923. Walt passed away in 1966. That's 43 years of Walt's leadership. And when the Museum will open the Company will have been led by someone other than Walt for another 43 years almost exactly.
No wonder the memory of Walt as an individual is in some ways fading (outside of the circle of enthusiasts). It was indeed high time for this Museum to open.
- Victor Haboush (1924-2009) by Amid Amidi
- D23 EXPO to celebrate the past, present & future of The Walt Disney Company by Jim Hill
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Through CartoonBrew we learn today of the death of Vic Haboush on May 24.
Along with Ray Aragon, Walt Peregoy, Tom Oreb and a few others, Haboush defined the style of Disney's animated productions in the mid-'50s... what Amid calls the "Cartoon Modern" look.
Thanks to Amid Amidi I had the chance of interviewing Vic in July of 2007. That interview was one of the most enjoyable of the past 3 years and will appear in Walt's People - Volume 9.
This is another sad day.
It is a massive 451-page long. I really went overboard this time!
To celebrate, let me offer you below the introduction I wrote for this volume.
[Disney history can be compared to the exploration of a creative universe, whose center is Walt and whose countless planets are the creative worlds of the artists that surrounded him or were inspired by him.
I have often pictured myself as visiting each of those planets, one by one, in a Star Trek-like quest. The best way to undertake this exploration is through first-hand testimonies and documents about those various creative worlds. Interviews, autobiographical notes, story-meeting notes, creative memos, concept art, storyboard drawings, photographs, and video footage are the key vessels that allow us to discover those worlds. Disney historians, collectors, and the artists’ heirs are the main guardians of this historical wealth. Which explains the waves of happiness that strike me each time I manage to get help from one of them, be they old friends like Jim Korkis, JB Kaufman, or Michael Barrier, or new contributors like John Culhane, Alan Coats (Claude and Evie Coats’ son), Theo Halladay (Sylvia Holland’s daughter), Julie Svendsen, or John Debney.
There is one catch, however. I would really like to be able to visit every single one of the known creative planets and I know this will not happen. Granted, day after day, I get access to more fascinating documents, but through this ongoing process I am also bound to learn of treasures that have been irretrievably lost. Such is the case of the autobiographical tapes of Hal Adelquist (head of the Story Department from the mid-‘50s on); of Eric Larson’s notes for his planned autobiography, 40 Years at the Mouse House; of Jack Speirs’ autobiography; of some of Bob Thomas’ interviews with Disney artists, family members and friends. And on it goes.
All the more reason for me to remind you of one key message: If you know Disney “old-timers,” Disney artists’ heirs, or Disney historians that I have yet to approach, please put them in contact with me. Every bit helps and leads to new discoveries; every initiative ensures that key documents will be preserved and shared.
My greatest joy, while introducing this new volume of Walt’s People, is to be able to welcome back my Disney history mentor and friend, Paul F. Anderson. The joy is particularly intense since Paul and his family had been fighting life-threatening diseases for the last three years and finally won.
You may have noticed that most of the past volumes of the Walt’s People series contained a thematic keystone: World War II in Volume 3, Dick Huemer in Volume 4, live-action productions in Volume 5, sound effects and character voices in Volume 7.
Volume 8 tends to focus on a few key Disney women: From Walt’s sister Ruth to story artist Sylvia Holland, animators Retta Scott and Retta Davidson, Imagineer Harriet Burns, and two of Disney’s most memorable secretaries, Tommie Wilck and the formidable Dolores Voght.
Volume 8 is also notable for containing the last of the surviving interviews conducted by Richard Hubler for his aborted biography of Walt. If you enjoy interviews that focus on Walt himself, you are probably already looking forward to Walt’s People – Volume 10, which will be entirely dedicated to Bob Thomas’ interviews.
And to calm your anxiety, thanks to Disney Legend Dave Smith, we invite you to meet Walt’s sister Ruth Disney Beecher immediately.
Madrid, November 2008.]