[That 1952 "Mohawk Tommy" commercial, animated by Bill Justice and Blaine Gibson (who designed the statue of Mickey and Walt sited in the Disney parks' central Hub), has multiple links to Disney.
The head of Hurrell Productions, photographer George Hurrell (seen here in a self-portrait), attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, as Walt once did.
From 1943-1954, Hurrell was married to Phyllis Bounds (Detiege), Lillian Disney's niece, and one-time head of Ink & Paint at the studio. Phyllis later worked at Disney as a TV commercial coordinator, so she may have helped produce the Mohawk Tommy ad.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly: from the late 1930s into the 1950s George Hurrell shot scores of portraits of Walt Disney (also Mary Blair, seen here posed in a wicker chair). Hurrell's photos of Walt were used for promotional purposes, and many of them are familiar to Disney aficionados.
An exhibition of more than 50 specimens of Hurrell's portrait photography drawn from the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate Archive will open on February 3, 2015 at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. The show will run through July 13th. Alas, precious few pics of Walt and none of Mary Blair will (apparently) be on display in the show.
Pancho Barnes, incidentally, was a pioneering aviatrix and quite a character. She was played by Kim Stanley in The Right Stuff, the 1983 motion picture based on the Tom Wolfe book. If you saw the film you'll recall that Barnes ran the Happy Bottom Riding Club, a dude ranch and restaurant in the Mojave Desert frequented by rowdy military test pilots like Chuck Yeager.]
I hope this letter finds you well. I've lately been working extensively with my local New York friend Tom Stathes, an animation scholar I know I've discussed with you before. He's a younger, twentysomething guy with an extremely impressive collection of silent cartoons on 16mm and 35mm - and here are a few of his websites - http://www.tommyjose.com http://brayanimation.weebly.com/
Right now Tom and I are busy helping a British film scholar, Andrew Smith, with a potential documentary on silent animation, in which Tom's library would play an integral part. It's a Kickstarter project that hasn't built up quite the head of steam that we hoped: http://tinyurl.com/cartooncarnival
We're only two days away from the end of this campaign, but about $2000 down on the goal. If you could circulate the http://tinyurl.com/cartooncarnival address as far as it could possibly go - and hopefully get some healthy support from people outside my own New York scene, I'd be really thrilled. Note that this isn't a Disney-related project... but any fans or scholars of early Disney films should look forward to what we hope to do here!
I just received a few days ago the latest Theme Park Press newsletter, which officializes some great news. One of the volumes they will release next years is
[The memoirs of Pinto Colvig, the voice of Goofy (and so much else). This book was written by Colvig in the early 1940s, making it perhaps the first book ever about the Disney Studio written by someone who worked there.]
The document was unearthed by my good friend and fellow Disney historian Todd James Pierce who is also serving as editor on the project. No better way to end the year than with news like this one.
English artist and self-promoting entrepreneur Damien Hirst is best known for his 17-foot-long shark floating in formaldehyde — exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007-2010 — a work that will long live in esthetic infamy. The chi-chi Paris-based créateur de mode Marc Jacobs is currently marketing a "limited edition" Mickey Mouse tee-shirt designed by Hirst.
The image emblazoned on the shirt was created originally at the behest of the Disney Company in the form of a six-foot-high painting on canvas using ordinary household gloss out of a can. The picture was sold at auction in February by Christie's for more than $1.5 million. A portion of that sum was donated to the British inner-city charity Kids Company.
Hirst's Mouse is an abstract, geometric distillation of a silkscreen design by Andy Warhol from 1981, itself a re-working of a 1933 United Artists poster presenting Mickey in one of his early iconic poses. Though surely not to everyone's taste, the pricey Hirst/Jacobs threads might make a nice holiday gift or stocking stuffer for that special Disney fan in your life who won't mind seeing Walt Disney's graphic alter ego deconstructed and dumbed down into a dozen circular daubs of color.
The shirts are sold in kids' sizes at $58 a pop, on white fabric only. The adult model comes in black only ($98), which is strange — if not an outright gaffe — since Mickey's ebony ears against the black background are virtually illegible. (Did Disney Brand Management actually sign off on that?) Also: unlike its two prototypes, Hirst's Mickey has no tail. Ouch.
"100% of the proceeds" from all sales are earmarked for the Kids Company charity, according to the Marc Jacobs website. That may cushion the pain in your purse if you shell out $98 (plus tax and shipping) for one of the tees.
Anyway ... here, for the stout of heart, is a link to the kids' model.]
[Each of Pixar Animation Studios’ films begins with the artists in the story department throwing ideas around to see what works best. This fun, collaborative process often results in hilarious scenarios, inside jokes, and illustrated gags, some of which will never make it to the final cut of the film. The Art of Funny features inspired gags from the creation of all of Pixar’s films to date, from Toy Story to Monsters University, bringing together never-before-published illustrations and doodles from the depths of Pixar’s archives.]
We are still working on a comprehensive index of the Walt's People book series, but in the meantime, if you are wondering which volume contains which interview, wonder no more: Harald Nast has integrated all that information in his excellent Disney Resource Index.
Once again, not really Disney-history related, but those who read French will want to know that the third volume in Sebastien Roffat's astounding series about the history of French animation has just been released and is available on Amazon.fr.
This has become a tradition. Here is the list of what I feel are the best Disney history books of 2014, in no particular order. As always, I have refrained from including the latest two volumes of Walt's People (volumes 14 and 15).
A few years ago I wrote a series of articles for the magazine Tomart's Disneyana Update which discussed the history of Disney magazines all around the world before 1947, including those from Italy, France, Spain, the UK, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Sweden and even Palestine.
I realized yesterday, when I discovered the above photo, that I had overlooked one of them, the Polish magazine Gazetka Miki, which released 22 issues in 1939.
I would love to understand much more about its history. Do we have any Polish readers here? Could you help me extract the relevant information from the article which can be found at this link?
Granted, this is not directly Disney-related, but I stumbled a few weeks ago on this in-depth thesis about Paul Terry and I know that some of you will want to read it since it contains a lot of information I had never-seen-before about the early days of US animation.
Not sure when that shot was taken (mid-'60s obviously, but that's about it) or what Walt was doing. The only thing we know is that he was paying a visit to Saint Joseph Hospital to check some of their equipment.
[Currently on the D23 website is an interactive map of "Walt Disney's Hollywood" with pop-up pics of sixteen structures or places intimately associated with the master. Among Walt's "old Hollywood haunts" are three of the four houses he lived in between 1923 and the early 1950s. The fourth and final Disney domicile on Carolwood Drive, in Holmby Hills, has been torn down. But "Walt's Barn," originally situated on the estate, is on the map (#16).
The artwork includes a nifty caricature of Walt and one of the better modern-day, studio-sanctioned, "on model" images of the classic Mickey Mouse. The drawing on the map (#11) standing in for the Burbank studio depicts the whimsical, post-Walt Team Disney Building, designed by Michael Graves, and featuring caryatids (as on an ancient Greek temple) in the form of the Seven Dwarfs.
Here's the link: http://cdn.media.d23.com/html/waltshollywood/html/index.html]
I just discovered last week this catalog of a 2011 exhibition of Disney cels and thought that some of your might want to know that it exists. Really not a "must have". Only cels in here, nothing more exciting.
[This year marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
On November 10, 1989, one day after the Wall was first breached, a young American physicist, James Le, who was studying in Germany at the time, spray-painted Mickey Mouse on the barrier near Checkpoint Charlie, one of the most chilling symbols of the Cold War. The picture bore the caption, “Willkommen in Ost Berlin.”
The next day — by happy coincidence, the anniversary of Armistice Day, November 11th — something extraordinary happened in terms of the intersection of global politics and culture. With James Le’s Mickey looming over his shoulder, the Russian émigré Mstislav Rostropovich celebrated the historic occasion with an impromptu performance of Bach’s Suites for Cello, culminating in the solemn fourth movement or Sarabande from Suite No. 2.
Rostropovich must have delighted in the company of Walt Disney’s cheery exemplar of freedom. He could easily have repositioned his chair if he didn’t wish to be seated or be seen near that iconic emblem of America and the American spirit, Mickey Mouse.
Further proof of Rostropovich's affection for the United States came just three months later. In February 1990, the maestro was invited to conduct concerts in Moscow and Leningrad. As reported in the Washington Post, the program at the Moscow venue was “filled with sad music, including Shostakovich’s anguished Fifth Symphony, which was written at the height of the Stalinist purges in 1937.” For Rostropovich’s
"final encore, he chose an American classic, John Philip Sousa's rousing 'Stars and Stripes Forever,' the traditional finale of the National Symphony’s annual Fourth-of-July concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol in Washington. The Moscow audience responded with a standing ovation. Later, amidst bear hugs and vodka toasts at a post-concert reception at the U.S. Embassy, Rostropovich was asked why he’d picked the 'Stars and Stripes Forever.' The idea, he said, came 'from the heart.'"
Just as, one may suppose, the idea of combining Bach and the liberation of East Berlin with Mickey Mouse came from the heart.
Below is a photograph of Rostropovich at the Wall. For video of the performance, see: http://vimeo.com/35946240
As you will see by checking out the table of contents below, it contains some extremely exciting interviews! Whether you are fan of animation, of the comic books or of the parks, I believe you will all enjoy it.
[Foreword: Mindy Johnson
Dave Smith: Bob Cook John Culhane: Grim Natwick Michael Barrier: Clair Weeks Bob Casino: Willis Pyle Didier Ghez: Charlene Sundblad about Helen and Hugh Hennesy Göran Broling: Preston Blair Cartoonist PROfiles: Preston Blair Steven Hartley: The Life and Times of Cy Young Michael Barrier: Lynn Karp Autobiography of Basil Reynolds Alberto Becattini: The Life and Times of Riley Thomson John Culhane: Ward Kimball John Culhane: Wilfred Jackson Jim Korkis: Ham Luske’s children Michael Broggie: Stormy Palmer EMC West: Guy Williams Jr. EMC West: Buddy Van Horn EMC West: Suzanne Lloyd George Sherman: Roger Broggie Jim Korkis: Karl Bacon & Ed Morgan Dave Smith: Bill Martin Jay Horan: Bill Evans John Culhane: Card Walker Didier Ghez: Mike Peraza]
The weirdest Disney-history-related book that I have heard of in recent years must be the new French novel Constellation by Adrien Bosc, which recently won the very prestigious Grand Prix du Roman de l'Académie Française. The novel is centered around the crash of the Air France plane Constellation on October 27, 1949 and the passengers that were on board. One of them, of course, was none other than Kay Kamen (with his wife). I have not yet read the book, but I will do so, obviously. (Thanks to Sebastien Durand for the heads up).
HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 16.—Numbers from seven of the latest Walt Disney Silly Symphony cartoons have been recorded in Spanish at the RCA-Victor studios on discs for the foreign market. The Disney Spanish recordings hit a high volume in Latin-American sales.]
The long awaited biography of Gustaf Tenggren by Lars Emanuelsson (in Swedish) will finally be released in two weeks. I can't wait to get it to enjoy the illustrations. An English version might be released in a few years, but there are no concrete plans for the moment.
I will be discussing quite a few off-the-beaten-path books this week, starting with George Gallup in Hollywood. You can't study the history of Disney from the '50s onwards without encountering the concept of research about upcoming movies conducted for Disney by ARI (Audience Research Institute). A good friend made me discover recently George Gallup in Hollywood, which contains a 20-page chapter about the history of ARI and Disney based on documents that I had never heard of before. This is clearly a book for specialists, but if the subject interests you, this is a "must-have."
Another really beautiful day with the release by Michael Barrier of his second interview with Frank and Ollie. Getting access to Mike's interviews is revolutionary and promises to help us understand Disney History as never before.
I also had the pleasure of getting Animation Anecdotes by Jim Korkis and was delighted to find in it a long chapter filled with Disney stories. The book is a real treasure and a must have from my standpoint. One key frustration however (as in all of Jim's books) is the lack of endnotes to identify the sources of the information.
I had the pleasure of receiving last week my copy of The Vault of Walt Volume 3 by Jim Korkis, released by Theme Park Press. I wrote the foreword for that volume, so instead of reviewing it, here is what I had to say about it:
roads lead to Jim Korkis.”
have been conducting research about Disney history for over twenty five years
and that truth is unavoidable. Whatever the subject matter that you are
investigating, Jim Korkis has already written about it.
some point I became interested in understanding more about the highly stylized
commercials that the Disney Studio produced in the ‘50s and soon discovered
that Jim Korkis had already discussed this obscure subject in one of his essays.
Reading Jim’s article led me to interview artist Bob Carlson in order to learn
even more about those odd cartoons.
few months later I was trying to get a better sense of who Walt’s secretaries
had been. You guessed it: Jim had written about this too, which helped me understand
several internal Disney memos I was reading at the time.
then, there were instances in which Jim made me aware of a field of research
which I never even knew existed, as was the case with the Disney comics drawn
in the mid-‘30s by artist Fred Spencer for the DeMolay youth organization.
Thanks to Jim’s article, fellow Disney historian David Gerstein and I were able
to locate, for the first time, a complete run of those rare comic strips.
I find fascinating about Jim’s articles, aside from the tremendous scope of the
subjects he explores, is the fact that they contain elements of interest both
for the in-depth historians and for the casual fans. They are the best bridge
between those two worlds which confers them a very unique value. We desperately
need new generations of Disney historians and Jim’s highly readable essays are
the perfect tool to intrigue, excite and motivate enthusiasts who through hard
work, dedication, and focus could become historians. After all, I know this is
the case since I once was one of those Disney enthusiasts.
essays are critically important for another reason: they help preserve little
known nuggets of Disney history, rare interviews, obscure articles and other
gems that would be lost forever or extremely difficult to access without his
top it all, Jim has been a friend for over ten years. He is the godfather of
the Walt’s People book series, which
saw the light of day thanks to a long exchange of emails between the two of us.
And we have teamed up often to interview Disney artists and other Disney
there is joy when I hear that a new volume of The Vault of Walt is in the works, there is delight when I read
Jim’s latest online column and there is hope that The Vault of Walt series will one day fill a whole bookshelf.
the time being, however, I am simply glad to be able to read a few pieces from
this volume which I know will fascinate me: Letters
to Ruth, Walt Disney Early Feminist,
Saving Mr. Banks: Fact or Fiction, Voices of the Disney Theme Parks and Remembering Diane Disney Miller, among
others. I have a feeling they will motivate me to conduct still more research
on rarely explored aspects of Disney history and that, while doing so, I will
become aware once again that “all roads lead to Jim Korkis.”]
I love Chronicle Books' "art of" series (no wonder they were the ones I approached to release my own book series They Drew As They Pleased) and The Art of Big Hero 6 is no exception. It's a gorgeous book filled with - to my eyes - wonderful artwork. I love the concept of a mix between San Francisco and Tokyo and I admit that I am now more curious than ever about this movie, although the upcoming animated feature I am most looking forward to seeing remains Inside Out by Pete Docter.
In summary: If you liked the other volumes in Chronicle Books series, you will enjoy this one too.
I can't wait to pick up this book, which will be released by Tomart Publications in a few weeks. According to Tom Tumbush it will contain tons of new information about the history of Disney merchandizing in the '30s.
In addition I just learned that unbeknownst to me issues 77, 78 and 79 of the magazine Tomart's Disneyana Update have been released over the past few months. I just gor my copies and they are as good as always, especially issue 77 which contains a profile of Kay Kamen's artist Lou Lispi.
Seven years ago, I posted about a Mickey Mouse comic book written and drawn by a French POW during WWII. Since then I had always wanted to read that comic book. Thankfully we will be able to do so soon, since it will be released in book form next month. I love those off-the-beaten-path documents and am extremely excited about this one.
I had the pleasure of getting a review copy of the book Disney Destinies released recently by Theme Park Press. It's a good book, but it is a light book and a book aimed at "beginners", not at Disney historians. Not a lot was new from my standpoint but I especially enjoyed the short biographies of George Kalogridis and Vesey Walker who were Disney people I had not heard about before.
This new book, in French about the history of the Journal de Mickey has been released today. I have not had a chance to see it as my plane left Paris for Miami yesterday. I will order it on Amazon.fr and let you know what it is worth when I get it.
[Almost three years ago now, a post on this blog related a story, originally sent to Jim Korkis as a follow-up on an article about the Snow White premiere.
The content was this: for the Snow White premiere, Gustaf Tenggren was presented with an envelope with two tickets. But his wife Mollie didn’t like the seats they were given so she didn’t attend. Years later Gustaf had given the envelope and ticket to a friend in the children’s book trade. The e-mail sender had acquired the ticket but had since sold it.
As a Tenggren biographer I was quite moved by this story. Gustaf had attended the Snow White premiere without his wife, and he had kept the remaining ticket as a token. He was not as discontent with his time at Disney’s after all, I thought.
I was really curious of who the person was that had received the ticket from Gustaf. With the tremendous and kind help of Jim Korkis, I finally got hold of the previous owner of the ticket, and wrote to him to ask who he bought it from. The seller proved to be a person I had known since 1990, when I first started my Tenggren research. His report of the events changed my idea totally.
The parents of the seller had met the Tenggren’s while travelling in Mexico. After Tenggren’s moving to Maine, the seller’s parents worked for Tenggren around the house for some years. After Gustaf’s death, the seller visited Mollie several times. At one of these visits, Mollie presented him with the ticket and told him the story about it: Gustaf didn’t like the places, so he didn’t want to go. Apparently she must have attended herself, since there was only one ticket left. The seller kept it for a long time but later, reluctantly, sold it to a friend, who then sold it on E-bay years later. Unfortunately, none of the owners had a scan of the ticket.
After hearing this last version of the story, my previous image of Gustaf was turned upside down, and in a disappointing way. It indicated that he was just as grumpy as I had suspected after all. Just to think that he participated in this historical and fantastic production without going to its premiere, just because he was discontent with their seating. What a grouch!
If the present owner of the ticket and its envelope reads this, and would like to share a scan of it, I would be truly grateful!
The Kindle editions of both Animation Anecdotes and Vault of Walt Volume 3 are now up at Amazon. And on Saturday, November 8, Jim Korkis will be the guest speaker at the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco speaking about Walt Disney's work with Wernher von Braun on the three Disney outer space television shows produced in the 1950s for Walt's weekly television program. You can find out more information at the museum website.
For more info about Animation Anecdotes, check this article.
Good news: Walt's People - Volume 15 was sent to the publisher last week and should be available at some point within the next two months. Once again, I love the caricatures that John Musker created for the cover!