Thursday, August 31, 2006

One more image from the mysterious Chicken Little project.

More Serbian comics, this one from the magazine Koprive, from January 15, 1937.
Reading advices of the day: Ever wonder what a toon funeral might be like? by Jim Hill and Mosquito Fleet insignia on Toons at War.

Crazy day today. Do not expect too many posts.

However, here is the fourth part of Jim Korkis' series about Walt and polo.

"Walt Disney captained the "Mickey Mouse Team" when it came to polo matches. However, many Disneyphiles may be unaware there was also a "Donald Duck Team".

Disney producer Harry Tytle was quite a polo player in college but in the depths of the Depression there were few slots for polo players. However, he did get to play with Will Rogers in August 1935 (which turned out to be Rogers' last game).

He also knew Harold Helvenston who was a professor of Dramatics working at the Disney Studio at the time. One night at dinner, through the kindness of Helvenston, Tytle met some Disney employees including George Drake and Perce Pearce and found himself hired at the Disney Studio in the traffic department.

Once at the studio, Tytle was introduced to Walt as a polo player and found himself invited to play with Walt at the Victor McLaughlin Arena. Walt must have liked the competitive spirit of the young man because Tytle also found himself playing with Walt at the Riviera Country Club against Spencer Tracy and his family.

Tytle, who didn't have the artistic skill to compete with other aspiring animators at the studio, found himself pinch hitting in many different departments at the Disney Studio.

However, he still had time to teach polo to a group of editors and cutters from other studios, played polo for the Junior Chamber of Commerce and formed the "Donald Duck Team". The "Donald Duck Team" (including people like Mel Shaw and Larry Lansburgh) played a wide area as far off as Arizona. They once took the group down to Mexico City in 1938 and won their match.

Tytle thinks the team won because they were constantly being underestimated because they had a portrait of Donald Duck emblazoned on their shirts. "A clever touch suggested by Walt," remembered Tytle in his autobiography.

What do Shirley Temple, Cock Robin, Charles Laughton, Clarabelle Cow and Jack Holt have to do with Disney and polo?

The story concludes tomorrow....."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Marathon (1989)

This is probably the most moving tribute to the Mouse I have ever seen. I dreamed for years of seeing it again and thanks to Ross Anderson I have now been able to post it on YouTube. It was created by Russian animators Mikhail Tumelya and Alexander Petrov for Mickey's 60th birthday and shown to Roy Disney during his trip to Moscow.

It was produced by I Boyarsky and A. Zalessky at The School for Advanced Studies for Screen Writers and Directors Beyelorusfilm, with Soyuzmultfilm Studios in Moscow.

"Really, quite literally, we all wound up hugging each other with tears coming down our faces... it was one of the more emotional moments that I can remember in my life." Such was Roy Disney's reaction when he and a group of Disney executives first saw The Marathon.

Here us the third part of Jim Korkis' great series about Walt and polo (yes, that is Walt on the right):

"In 1934, Roy Disney bought four polo ponies. At one point, Walt had over a dozen horses in his stable.

Walt was neither athletic nor coordinated. One Disney employee wondered aloud how Walt was able to stay on the horse and swing the mallet at the same time.

Unlike other young boys, Walt never played sports. For most of his childhood, he got up at three o'clock in the morning to deliver newspapers and then rush to school. At lunch time, he ran across the street to a local business to do errands and cleaning up in exchange for a hot lunch. After school, he would have to run home to deliver the evening edition of the newspaper and then come home to do homework, eat dinner and get ready for the routine to begin the next day.

Walt compensated for this lack of learning sports skills by being a focused competitor. Actor Robert Stack who was a teenager at the time remembered that Walt would "run right over anybody who crossed the line." At his home, Stack still has some trophies with Walt's name on it commemorating some of the matches they won while playing together.

Will Rogers was even more aggressive and lost a few fans with his attempts to hog the ball all the time.

However, by 1938, Roy Disney was becoming worried that the combination of Walt's aggressiveness and the inherent danger of the sport itself might rob the Disney Studio of its visionary. Walt resisted that suggestion to hang up his mallet even after he had been in two matches where fellow horsemen had suffered fatal injuries.

Always pushing himself, Walt eventually wanted to play with the better players. There was a South American team (known as "The Argentines") who were practicing on a field at the Riviera and Walt wanted to practice with them. Even then, it was almost impossible to tell Walt "no" so Walt took the field. One of the players hit the ball just as Walt on his horse was turning around and the ball hit Walt hard enough to knock him from the saddle.

Walt had four of his cervical vertebrae crushed and was in tremendous pain. Instead of seeing a doctor, he went to a chiropractor who manipulated Walt's back. Sadly, the injury might have healed if Walt had been placed in a cast. Instead, it resulted in a calcium deposit building up in the back of his neck that resulted in a painful form of arthritis that plagued Walt for the rest of his life.

In his later years, Walt required a couple of shots of scotch and a massage from the studio nurse in order to get home at night. When he went into St. Joseph's Hospital for the final time, it arose no suspicion when employees were told Walt was taking care of an "old polo injury".

Both Walt and Roy sold their polo ponies although Actor Fess "Davy Crockett" Parker has said that during one of the early parades at Disneyland, he and Walt rode on Walt's polo ponies resulting in the extremely tall Parker having his feet dangling over the side of the horse.

Believe it or not, the story continues tomorrow...."

Is there really no one out there who would be able to tell us something about this mysterious project?

From Veseli Cetvrtak (Joyful Thursday) 18 from May 5, 1932.
Good reading this morning: Bright as a Disney Penny by Wade Sampson.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Major event. I have been aluding to it for weeks. Here are the details: A major exhibition of Disney art, at least 70% of it never seen before, is about to start in Paris.

IL √ČTAIT UNE FOIS WALT DISNEY, Aux sources de l'art des studios Disney will open at Galeries nationales du Grand Palais Paris on September 16, 2006 and will last until January 15, 2007. It will then travel to Museum of Modern Art Montreal where it will open on March 8, 2007 and close on June 24, 2007. There are rumors that it might then travel to other major museums around the world.

Make no mistake, this is a multi-million dollars exhibition taking place at a museum in Paris that is almost as important as Le Louvre. I do not recall that Disney art was ever exposed in such a presitigious venue in France in the past.

The basis for the concept of the exhibition is Robin Allan's book Disney and Europe that explores the European artists and European works that influenced Disney movies until The Jungle Book.

I will attend the inauguration on September 14th and (if photos are allowed) will provide a fully illustrated report about it the following week.

Andreas Deja, Charles Solomon, Robin Allan and Pierre Lambert will attend. Will any of the readers of the blog be there to? If so, please let me know!

As promised, here is the second part in Jim Korkis great 5-part series about Walt and polo:

"The popularity of Mickey Mouse in the early Thirties was a mixed blessing for Walt Disney. The stress of running and expanding his studio and the demands being made in other areas as varied as merchandising and publicity as well as stress at home with his wife Lillian suffering through two miscarriages drove Walt to one of his infamous breakdowns.

Walt's doctor suggested that Mickey Mouse's father take up some form of exercise to help relieve the stress. Walt tried wrestling, boxing and golf but each attempt only frustrated him further rather than releasing the tension. Walt had always loved horses and he took up horseback riding and joined a local riding club.

Walt was a great multi-tasker and it occurred to him that he could combine his love of horseback riding with his desire to integrate with Hollywood society by taking up the then highly popular port of polo.

Originally, Walt enlisted Jack Cutting, Norm Ferguson, Les Clark, Dick Lundy, Gunther Lessing, Bill Cottrell and even his brother Roy to participate. They studied the book "As To Polo" by Cameron and had lessons and lectures by Gil Proctor, a polo expert. Eventually, they did riding practice in the San Fernando Valley from six in the morning until they had to report to work at the Disney Studio at eight.

Walt even built a polo cage at the studio so that during lunch breaks, the men could sit on a wooden horse and practice hitting the wooden ball into a goal. Finally, they started participating in matches with similarly inexperienced teams at the stadium on Riverside Drive. Walt and Roy would play regularly with their employees on Wednesday mornings and Saturday afternoons.
In addition, Walt and Roy joined the prestigious Riviera Club where such Hollywood luminaries as Spencer Tracy, Leslie Howard, Darryl Zanuck and others held court on the playing field. Roy Disney was a fair player but Walt was highly aggressive.

One of the major players in these matches was Will Rogers. Walt liked the folksy humorist and had been in discussions with him to star in Walt's first full length animated feature film, "Rip Van Winkle".

"Snow White" was not the first choice of a feature project for Walt. He had developed several possibilities including "Alice in Wonderland" featuring a live action Mary Pickford interacting with animated characters. When that project fell apart, Walt considered using the same concept but with Will Rogers as Rip Van Winkle interacting with animated characters.

Disney historian J.B. Kaufman discovered that group of Disney animators including Art Babbitt, Grim Natwick and Bill Tytla had been taken to Will Rogers' ranch in Santa Monica to make sketches of the comedian in action. Although this session might have been for another Disney cartoon that never featured Will Rogers.

The story continues tomorrow..."

One more Ken Anderson drawing from the mysterious Chicken Little project.

From Veseli Cetvrtak (Joyful Thursday) 18 from May 5, 1932.
Three interesting posts to read this morning: All About Charlie (Charles) Byrne on Cartoon Brew, Walt Disney's Volunteer Army and Donald Duck - "What's Cookin'??" on Toons at War.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Thanks to Jim Korkis, we are starting today a 5 part series about Walt and polo. Do I feel really stupid now to have spent all those splendid photos of Walt and polo that David Lesjak had sent me last week. Oh well, patience has never been my strongest quality and I was way too eager to share those.

So without further ado or remorse, here is the first part of Jim's new series.

"It always surprises me when people talk about the Golden Age of Disney Animation and fail to mention how athletic the Disney animators were. From Boxing to Baseball to Beyond, Walt's boys were not just voyeurs of sport but active participants.

Those rough and tumble experiences influenced not only the selection of topics for animation but infused that animation with a power that is often overlooked. The spare time of these now famous animation legends was spent doing everything from playing baseball on a dirt lot next to the Hyperion Studio to working out in the Penthouse Club at the Burbank Studio to playing polo.

Polo is an unbelievably intense physical sport. Many think it originated in Persia (now Iran) over 4,000 years ago. In India, the game has been played for over 2,000 years. When Lt. Joseph Sherer (known today as the father of English polo) saw the game being played in Manipur, India by local tribesmen, he felt the British had to learn how to play the game. The Manipurs called
their game by two names: Kanjaibazee and Pulu (meaning wooden ball). It was that latter name that inspired the present name of the game.

In the 1930s, there were over 25 polo fields in Los Angeles including such popular spots where Walt Disney played as the Uplifters Polo Field (now bulldozed and replaced with a street) and the Rivera Polo Field (now the home of the Paul Revere High School).

In Hollywood, the strongest champion of the sport was humorist Will Rogers who was introduced to the game in 1915. During the Twenties and Thirties, Rogers popularized the sport among the elite in Hollywood from Hal Roach to Darryl Zanuck to Walt Disney.

Walt had a personal friendship with Rogers. In fact, he was negotiating with Rogers to appear in Walt's first full-length animated feature film. Grim Natwick, Art Babbitt and Bill Tytla journeyed to Rogers' Santa Monica ranch to sketch him in action."

The story continues tomorrow…..

Here is a mystery for you!

A few years ago, I bought a series of drawings by Ken Anderson from Howard Lowery. They seem to be from a proposed short or featurette about Chicken Little.

Unfortunately the Disney Archives do not seem to have any record of this project and it is not mentioned in The Disney that Never Was. I will be posting other images of it this week. Some of them include Mickey, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and even Jiminy Cricket!

It looks as if it was created in the late '40s or early '50s.

Would any of you possess additional information on this strange project?

From Veseli Cetvrtak (Joyful Thursday) 16 from April 21, 1932.

I spent part of this weekend updating The Disney Books Network. One of the books added is the catalogue of the exhibit Il Etait une Fois Walt Disney that will open in Paris on September 16th. This is a tremendous event and I will come back to it later this week.
If there is only one article you were to read this week about Disney animation, my strong advice would be to select The Secret Walt Disney Commercials by Jim Korkis. I had never, ever seen the subject discussed in so much detail before. Maybe it's just me, but dicsovering this great piece of Disney research this morning thanks to Cartoon Brew just gave me a quick.

The Disney Vignettes posted by Steve Hulett on the TAG blog are also a nice way to start the day.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I also found in my mail yesterday the press release and cover image for Pierre Lambert's new book.

The book is 296 page long and contains 335 illustrations, 75% of which had never been published before. 172 backgrounds and cels, 36 storyboard drawings, 25 animation drawings, and 102 layouts, model-sheets and concept art drawings.

It covers all the full-length animated features that Walt personally supervised (but not the package movies).

Can you read happiness on my face?

Following up on my post from yesterday about his new book, Robert Tieman just send me a link to his new site that also contains the cover of the upcoming Mickey Mouse Treasures.

From Veseli Cetvrtak (Joyful Thursday) 16 from April 21, 1932.

And you thought some of the Gottfredson strips were politically incorrect!

Kids day (October 1st) is a huge event in Brazil. Since my good friend Fernando Ventura knows how much I love (and miss) Brazil and how much I enjoy a piece of Disney nostalgia that I have never yet seen, he sent me yesterday this add for the Mesbla bookshop in Sao Paulo which in 1959 during two weeks was offering to kids free comics and candies. The Mesbla bookshop no longer exists, unfortunately.

Having just finished reading Adrienne Tytla's huge book about her late husband, Disney's Giant, a friend of mine found out that the first printing of the first edition of The Illusion of Life seems to contain a picture printed upside down. Would anyone have this version of the book? This friend is trying to find out on which page the mistake happened and I promised to try and help.

Here are the remaining images about Walt and polo, as sent by David Lesjak. Speaking of whom: David just posted a new interesting article on the Toons at War blog.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ok, this is clearly not Disney related, but I will give myself the right to post some things about Warner on this blog on an exceptional basis if they focus on the Golden Age of animation.

Here is a post that has appeared last week on the ASIFA Animation Archive site. I really hope that one of the readers of the Disney History blog will be able to help (please do let me know if you were to contact Steve as I would also really love to read those transcripts).

"Reg Hartt in Canada was kind enough to send us CDs of over 8 hours of interviews with Bob Clampett where he discusses his entire career. We need volunteers to transcribe the interviews to text files. The audio quality is a bit dodgy, so it's going to take some careful listening with headphones to transcribe everything. This is a project that could be done anywhere in the world by email. If you have some time available, and would like to help out, email me at"

You know it's definitely a special day when you discover on ebay two David Hall concept paintings you had never seen before and countless others by Mary Blair. If you are a serious Disney art lover, checkout the auction organized by Morphy Auctions on ebay to understand my excitment.

Exciting news from Robert Tieman at the Disney Archives (the image above is the last one in the Pilgrim Mickey series):

"I noticed that you said you were a particular fan of story sketches from cartoons that never got made. You'll be interested to know that I just finished my third book in the "Treasures" series : The Mickey Mouse Treasures. It's ALL Mickey this time, and I think this book will be the best of them all. Anyway, one of the chapters is "The Mouse That Might Have Been", and it's six pages full of illustrations of never-made Mickey shorts. I'm especially proud of this chapter, and I think you will enjoy it a lot.

The book will be coming out in February or March 2007 as a "park exclusive" at Disneyland and WDW; and then released to bookstores and Amazon in September or October."

I love to start a day with these kinds of news (aside from the parks' exclusive bit, of course).

From Veseli Cetvrtak (Joyful Thursday) 14 from April 7, 1932.

From David Lesjak's collection: Walt's polo team. Walt is 4th from the right.

Got the following email from Dennis Books yesterday about my post from a few days ago about Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories # 58, July 1945:

"I have attached a copy of a poster (1939 assumed by copyright) found with other items, all dating to the early '30s in old motion picture house files. The background pictures scenes from American conflicts. Here Willard's painting is featured with Disney's."

Read and enjoyed this morning: The Animation Mouseketeers by Steve Hulett and Disney Employee Wartime Identification by David Lesjak.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Walt Disney Family Museum site was updated today with three great articles about El Grupo's trip to South America in 1941 (above a concept drawing of the Sugar Loaf in Rio de Janeiro by Mary Blair). As if I did not miss living in Brazil enough already!!

Two things worth reading today from my point of view. Remembering Joe my Mark Kennedy and The Problem with Pooh by Wade Sampson. How much I wish we lived in an alternate reality where the first of those two excellent articles did not exist.

This just in from David Lesjak:

"Hello Didier.

As you know, I have been collecting vintage Disneyana
since about 1981. I particularly like early paper items. I had time tonight to scan some rather esoteric items from my collection, which I’d like to share with you and those who read your blog. According to Bob Thomas’ book – Walt Disney An American Original – Walt Disney began playing polo in 1932. Walt kept a stable of ponies at the Riviera
Country Club. Here are two interesting trivia questions: what were the names of Walt Disney’s polo ponies and what number did Walt wear on his game jersey?

Walt was able to convince several Studio employees to
be on his polo team including: his brother Roy, Les Clark, Norm Ferguson, Jack Cutting, Dick Lundy, Bill Cottrell and Gunther Lessing. I also believe Dave Hand (Supervising Director, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs also played). By all accounts Walt loved the game and the social interaction. Disney played as often as time would permit in those early days, taking on the likes of Spencer Tracy, Will Rogers, Darryl F. Zanuck, and James Gleason.

Walt eventually quit the game on the advice of his brother Roy. Walt was too valuable to the organization to be playing such a potentially hazardous game.

As a sidenote, Walt did suffer a serious injury, damaging several vertabrae after a fall. The injury caused him chronic pain in later years.

Anyhow, here are the answers to the trivia questions: according to an inventory list for Walt’s stable at the Riviera Country Club the ponies were called June, Slim, Nava, Arrow, Pardner, Tacky and Tommy. The answer to the second question? Walt wore the number 4 on his jersey."

I will post the other 3 photos that David sent within the next few days and also hope to get Jim Korkis to write a short article for the blog in the same subject.

I spoke with French author Pierre Lambert yesterday who mentioned that his next art book Walt Disney, l'Age d'Or should be released in France within the next few weeks in time for the launch of the prestigious Disney exhibit that will happen at Le Grand Palais starting on September 14 this year (more about this in a few weeks).

This is obviously exciting news, as Pierre Lambert's art books through their quality and sheer size have been favorites of Disney art enthusiasts for years. If you love fantastic Disney artwork and do not yet own his Pinocchio, Snow White and Mickey books, you are really missing something. They are very expensive, but one understands why when one sees them.

From Pilgrim Mickey again.

One more scans from Serbia, this one from Veseli Cetvrtak (Joyful Thursday) 14 from April 7, 1932. For more information about Disney comics in Veseli Cetvrtak check my article in Tomart's Disneyana 48.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Speaking of comics, here is a great email I received yesterday from Are Myklebust:

"Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories # 58, July 1945, had a very special cover. A part of the cover was a flag with a text inside addressed to the American People, signed by seven U.S. military leaders.
I was wondering who they where, so after some research I have identified them all;
1) George C. Marshall (1880 - 1959), general. U.S. Army (and later secretary of state).
2) William D. Leahy (1875 - 1959), admiral, U.S. Navy.
3) Douglas MacArthur (1880 - 1964), general, Commander in chief in the Pacific.
4) Ernest Joseph King (1878 - 1956), admiral, USN.
5) Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 - 1969), Supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe (and later U.S. President).
6) Chester W. Nimitz (1885 - 1966), admiral, USN.
7) Henry Harky Arnold (1886 - 1950), general, U.S. Army Air Forces.

The cover itself, drawn by Walt Kelly, was inspired by Archibald M. Willard’s famous painting “The Spirit of ’76” and /or the cover of Mickey Mouse Magazine, July 1939 (Vol. 4, # 10)."

And as promised yesterday, one more originally created story from Serbia, as published in Mali Roman u Stripu number 3.
One more in the Pilgrim Mickey series.

Two nice articles to start the day, both written by my friend Jim Korkis, both from the Animation World Network: An interview with Floyd Gottfredson and The secret cartoon life of animators.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Another beautiful storyboard drawing from the never-released Pilgrim Mickey. This was sold a few weeks ago by Howard Lowery on ebay.

A few years ago I wrote "a history of Disney comics in former-Yugoslavia before WWII" for Tomart's Disneyana (issues 44 and 48). I have decided to start posting on this blog scans of all the locally created Serbian Disney stories that can be found in the Serbian comics magazines I own. I will post one each day for your enjoyment. One thing though: don't ask me to translate.

Here is a one page gag that was released in Mali Roman u Stripu number 1.

This weekend I was working on an interview of composer Buddy Baker by Jon Burlingame for Walt's People - Volume 5 and found this small story about fellow-composer Oliver Wallace that I thought you might enjoy:

"Ollie was a real character, a natural character. He would do funny things and he liked to play jokes on people. He had a great sense of humor. I remember one time I could hear him working, playing something over and over on the piano. I just copied it down and kept it for a couple of weeks. Ollie said to me one day, "You know, kid, if you get any ideas, let me hear them because I'm running out of ideas." So I waited until he said that to me the next time and I took this thing in and put it out there. I said, "Ollie, I came up with this. I thought it was okay." Then he played me some of the music. He got into it about six bars, then he turned around to me and said, "You son of a bitch!" [Laughter]"

David Lesjak is one of the few worldwide experts on the history of Disney during WWII (the only other historian I can think of that tackled the subject in-depth is Richard Shale - that is until Paul F. Anderson releases his special issue of POV on the subject).
A few years ago he published a small book called Toons at War that he is in the process of updating.
So you can imagine how delighted I was to get an email from him this weekend informing me that he had just launched his blog, Toons at War. My, as if I didn't have enough great blogs to check daily already. Oh well, there is nothing that I love more that great Disney research done by serious Disney historians.

A great way to start the day this morning, if you have not already done so, is to check the 20 photos from the collections of Ray Aragon that Amid Amidi posted on Flickr this weekend and that depict life at the Disney Studio in the '50s.
Speaking of which interviews of Al Dempster (right on this photo) and Walt Peregoy will appear in Walt's People - Volume 5.
With both his seminal book Cartoon Modern and the latest issue of Animation Blast being released this month, it is really Amid's month and one can only rejoice at this.

Friday, August 18, 2006

I found one more in this great series of drawings by Horvath. This will be my parting gift before the weekend.

To understand better some of the links between Disney's and Warner's animation history, no better way to spend the day that read Wade Sampson's article about Friz Freleng's career at Disney and Christian Ziebarth's new interview with Eric Goldberg.

While checking which sites had decided to link to the Disney History blog, I stumbled upon the Stuff from the Park blog, which I had never seen before and that I highly recommend to fans of Disneyland history.

Here, a photo of Walt with one of the executives from the Van Camp tuna company in the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship restaurant, from a posting from May 20, 2006.

Howard Lowery recently sold on ebay a series of beautiful storyboard drawings from Pilgrim Mickey. Aside from concept art, my other passion in terms of animation art are drawings from never-released Disney projects. It will therefore not come as a surpise that one of my "bibles" is Charles Solomon's book The Disney that Never Was.

Again: if you have access to unpublished drawings of never-released Disney projects, I would love to share them with other readers of the blog.
I posted last week a series of caricatures created by Floyd Gottfredson. Dennis Books guessed that the people caricatured are Walt Disney, Roy Williams, Carl Barks, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, and Ward Kimball. Maybe.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

To end the day with a smile, this irreverant (and obviously un-authorized) cover from the Mexican magazine Paquito, which used to be published in the '30s.

I just received a scan of this original concept of Sir Giles from The Reluctant Dragon that Van Eaton Galleries is selling these days and could not resist sharing it.

By the way, I am not receiving any money or any sort of compensation for mentioning Van Eaton so often on the blog: they just happen to handle some of the best pieces of art on the market these days.