Thursday, November 14, 2013

I have just received a review copy of Mark Arnold's new book, Frozen in Ice, and I wish I could say good things about it. Unfortunately there is not much on that side of the equation.

The author is clearly passionate about his subject and has enjoyed (or suffered through) all the movies produced by the Disney Studio since Walt's death and until 1985. But the result is problematic, to say the least.

Needless to say, both the cover and the title are horrendous. As to the content of the book... it is comprehensive, in the sense that all the movies are there and that their synopses are explained in great details. But do we really need a book of synopses, when one could actually watch the movies?

What would have been useful would be a book with a great wealth of information about the production of those movies, details about the creative process, etc. There is very, very little of this in there and unfortunately this leads me to recommend that you do not bother picking this volume up.

5 comments:

Jerome said...

thank you for your review. We definitely need a book about the production of these Disney movies during the 70s and 80s.

Bruce M Bohner said...

Agreed. I was really looking forward to this book. It arrived and I read a few pages. Then I donated it to the library. Live and learn.

Mark Sonntag said...

Thanks Didier, this is the second time you've stopped me from wasting money. Maybe one day somebody will write a book about Disney's direct to video and TV animation. Happy to answer questions if it ever happens.

Mark Arnold said...

I was just curious what you fellows thought about Leonard Maltin's "The Disney Films" of which my book was inspired.

Michael Kirby said...

With my copy of “Frozen In Ice” in the mail, I can only speculate between Didier’s review and the author’s bewilderment on the responses.
Based on one of the author’s previous books "Created and Produced by Total TeleVision productions…” I was originally expecting good things. That book appeared to be well researched, with good interviews and much behind the scenes information, in addition to the obligatory episode guides.
However alarm bells rang loud during Didier’s interview with him on this blog a couple of months ago.
When asked if he had interviewed anybody who worked at the studios during the time, Mr Arnold’s response was that “there were so many interviews and commentaries in existence, most of that work was already done for me”. He tried to justify this lazy approach by saying that “I didn't think that the living stars would shed any new light on what they've already said elsewhere by me interviewing them again”. He then listed about half dozen stars that he had talked to, including Jon Provost whose only Disney work was a small role in “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969).
Firstly, if the living stars are saying the same thing all the time, it’s because they are being ASKED the same thing all the time. There are only so many ways one can answer a question like “What was Fred MacMurray like to work with?”
The questions that should be asked including the casting process, auditions, the length of the film shoot, day-to-day conundrums, questions about individual scenes, the film’s premiere etc. which a researcher should be asking remain unanswered.
Also Didier’s question related to behind-the-scenes people.
The only person the author tried to get was the misunderstood Ron Miller.
According to www.imdb.com, the following is but a small sampling of people involved with Disney films between 1966-1985 who are still alive (there are many others). People like Vincent McEveety (Director) (20 productions between 1966-1985); Robert Butler (Director) (6); John B. Mansbridge (Art Director) (100); Hal Gausman (Set Decorator) (30); Emily Sundby (Costumes) (40); La Rue Matheron (HairStylist) (60); Evelyn Kennedy (Music Editor (60).
The stories of people like these sadly contimue remain untold, in favour of asking an actor “Is Tim Conway funny to work with”
Mark Arnold also suggests his book is similar in formula to Maltin’s “The Disney Films”
In that book for each live action film, the credits and plot amount to less than 50% of each entry. The rest is made up of review, behind the scenes, NEW INTERVIEWS with directors & Assistant Directors (read the Introduction) and critical reaction.
The period of 1966 -1985 for Disney live action is a fascinating period :
Of how the studio was almost on autopilot after Walt died, because he had his studio producers, writers, directors etc thinking a certain way.
And let’s not forget those Hugh Attwooll English productions.
And how it all started to unravel in a short period between 1975-1978 when producers Bill Walsh, Winston Hibler and Bill Anderson , directors Robert Stevenson, Norman Tokar, writer Joseph McEveety and others either died or retired.
Their replacements such as producers Jerome Courtland & Tom Leetch, writer Don Tait and directors like Bruce Bilson and Vincent McEveety (who ended up with all the major directing jobs).
The influence of playing Hollywood by (mis)casting bigger names like Ricky Schroder, copying James Bond (Condorman) and Animal House (Midnight Madness)
To the dying days of Popeye and Trenchcoat.
There is a fascinating book there that could and should be written.

Michael Kirby