Monday, October 30, 2006

Tomorrow will mark Ollie Johnston's 94th birthday. To celebrate, here is an excerpt from an interview conducted with him in 1972 by Christopher Finch and Linda Rosenkrantz that will appear in a future volume of Walt's People:

"George Sanders: I thought he was just fabulous as Shere Khan. He’s so aloof. We tested him for Prince John too, you know. Woolie tested him over in England, but he wasn’t near as good as Ustinov.

Did you hear about here at lunch, when he was recording for Shere Khan in Jungle Book. Towards the end of it Larry [Clemmons] asked him if he'd like to have a picture or a drawing of the tiger. He said that would be all right. He went on eating and then Larry says, “Would you like to have Walt sign it?” And he says, "How utterly absurd!" Nobody was important to him, that's the only way I can see it.

We heard that same day, when Terry was telling that story, somebody else was telling us that his brother had been living destitute in Venice, California, and Sanders was living in Beverly Rills or Bel Air. And when Tom Conway died they got in touch with Sanders and said, “Why didn't you help him?” and Sanders said, “Oh, we haven't seen each other in years.” He couldn't have cared less.

Eva said that he was the coldest person she'd ever known and knew him fairly well through her sister. She said he was just absolutely cold. But he fitted that part so perfectly. I think we've had awfully good casting. And Sterling Holloway was so good as Kaa."

Neal Gabler's biography of Walt, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, has started shipping on I have not read it yet, but considering the quality of Gabler's research this book promises to become THE reference about Walt. A "must read" if you are a regular on this blog, even if it proves to be underwhelming, which we will all know soon enough.

I was wondering last week about The Art of Winnie the Pooh: Disney Artists Celebrate the Silly Old Bear. Ask and you shall receive.

First this email by one of the blog readers:

"I have seen this book in Barnes and Nobel - they had a ton of them available. The book is basically interpretations of Pooh via art pictures that Disney artists have drawn for the book. Another words it is almost all pictures and no real text. When I first heard of this book I thought that it might actually be a history of Pooh - or rather a history of Disney's history with pooh - but alas I was very disappointed. Basically unless you want pictures of pooh you can steer clear of this book. No history to speak of. One thing I did notice with the book is that it looked like to me that it would be very easy to cut the book in pieces to remove each page if someone wanted to frame a few of the pages to hang in a child's room. The design of it makes it almost ideal for that."

Then here is the other side of the coin through an excellent article on the subject by Floyd Norman.

Friday, October 27, 2006

This info sent by Dennis Books for those of you who will be in Seattle next week about The Music behind the Magic through this link.

Here is one bit of news for our Swedish reading friends coming directly from Are Myklebust:

[The Norwegian book Donaldismen (“Donaldism”) from 1973 written by Jon Gisle, which sparked of a fan interest in Disney comics in Scandinavia and Germany, has been republished in Norway 33 years after its first publication in a partly updated version.

So what is “Donaldism”? Jon Gisle gives this explanation himself; “Donaldism is the research of Disney comics and/or the fan culture that is found among Disney comics aficionados.” (The term itself refers off course to "Donald (Duck)" + “–ism”, and was first used in an article by Jon Gisle in 1968.)

The book is not about the publication history of the Disney comics or the artists behind them, but a study of the society (read: “Duckburg”) as described in these comics, special the Donald Duck comic book stories from 1940s to 1960s. Ironical enough the book was not meant to be a book about Disney comics in itself, but to be a parody on academic studies of literature and society.]

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Has anyone actually seen this new book? If so, could you send me a description of it and a review if you have time?

From the Serbian magazine Mikijevo Carstvo number 9 published on March 23, 1939.
By the way, I forgot to mention that I updated the Disney Books Network this weekend.

Ray Pointer from Inkwell Images Ink is about to release this DVD about Walt's famous Laugh-O-grams. I admit that I've already got all of the shorts that are included on this upcoming DVD through another source that can be accessed here, but I will still order it, as it will contain an interview of Rudy Ising that I was not aware of.

While I was away, quite a few articles were posted on various sites that I consider as "must-reads":

An article about the book Disney Dossiers by Jim Hill containing great concept art is first on the list. I would follow this by checking the new posts on Toons at War by David Lesjak and Michael Barrier's post about Walt's church (October 23, 2006). I would then end the morning by checking Steve Hulett's post titled A Day with Walt and conclude by reading the latest instalment of Wade Sampson's series about WDW and Charles Ridgway: Walt Disney World's First Press Event, 1969.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I will be travelling to Cadiz most of next week for work. The blog will therefore be silent at least until Thursday (save if I manage to find a good broadband connection at the hotel).

The last of the Crtani Film magazines I received last week: issue 26.
Do you remember the drawings by Ken Anderson from the mysterious Chicken Little project that I posted a few weeks ago (see the August blog archives)? Do you also remember this post which mentioned that Swedish reader Joakim Gunnarsson remenbered having read a Disney book when he was a kid that told the Chicken Little story and featued Mickey, Donald and Goofy wearing the same costumes?

Joakim managed to send me a copy of the book!

Of course, in it the character of Chicken Little...
... was replaced by the Wise Little Hen,...
Jiminy Cricket and Daisy who appeared in Ken Anderson's drawings...
... were replaced by the Big Bad Wold and the Three Little Pigs.

But the costumes are clearly the same and it really looks as if Tony Strobl who designed the book had seen Ken Anderson's drawings earlier on. Intriguing, wouldn't you say?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

From Crtani Film issue 25.

This morning's recommended reading: How long did it take to write the definitive Walt Disney biography? by Jim Hill about Neal Gabler's upcoming biography of Walt, Walt Disney - The Triumph of the American Imagination; and the second part of Steve Hulett's interview of Eric Larson.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Finally!!! The long, long, long awaited new book by Russell Merritt and J.B. Kaufman, Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies, has been released last week by La Cineteca del Fruli.

Thanks to CartoonBrew for this scoop. No info yet on how to buy it.

From Crtani Film issue 24.

It looks as if quite a few of you would like more information about the DVD that is available at Le Grand Palais in Paris. So, here it goes:

The DVD contains a 46 minute movie about the European origins of the art of Disney (no filming of the exhibition as the exhbition was not yet ready when the movie was created) as well as the 1916 version of Snow White (63 minutes) by J Searle Dawley. It costs 24 Euros, has English and French tracks and should work all over the world according to the information at the back of the packaging.

It is only available at the Museum, unfortunately.

A few goodies to start the day with a smile:

Good reads: An interesting interview of Charles Ridgway by Wade Sampson on Mouse Planet and the first part of Steve Hulett's 1978 interview with Eric Larson. Unfortunately this is also the last in the series of interviews that Steve conducted in the '70s.

Original art: The catalog of S/R labs next auction in now available online. I find the selection of pieces offered this time around frustratingly weak. But that is probably just me: I have no interest in cels and really care mostly for great concept art. The catalog is worth checking out anyway.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

From Crtani Film issue 23.

A few Disney books related news.

To start with, University of California Press now has a page that reveals more about one of the books I am most looking forward to read next year, Michael Barrier's new biography of Walt, which promises to be both extremely well researched and controversial.

I also received yesterday an email from Shaun Finnie who mentioned that his book, The Disneylands That Never Were, is now available on Amazon. Please check the What's New section (August 4, 2006) of the Disney Books Network to read a quick review of this book.

Finally, if you browsed Amazon recently in search of new Disney related books, you might have stumbled, like one of the readers of this blog on an upcoming book Directing Animation by Eric Goldberg. Don't get excited: we spoke to Eric and he does not have time to work on this proposed volume so the project has been abandoned.

Monday, October 16, 2006

This just in from Are Myklebust:

[Re: What would Walt have thought about your "Disney History" blog?

The answer is:
Walt would have loved your "Disney History" blog!
The enclosed scan of a letter written and signed by Walt Disney from 1958 proves it!]

And Are gave me a smile this morning...

From Crtani Film issue 22.

This morning do not miss: all of the great new posts on Toons at War, Steve Hulett's interviews with Ward Kimball (part 6) and Ken O'Connor, Jim Hill's A special what-might-have-been version of Why For and Wade Sampson's article about the Japanese Art of Disney exhibition.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I will be travelling to Greece and Turkey this week and am therefore unlikely to post much more until next monday.

This image comes from Kaya Ă–zkaracalar's upcoming article about Disney-related Turkish publications before 1945, that should start appearing in my column about vintage European Disneyana, in Tomart's Disneyana Update in just a few weeks.

Here is the information I gave about Crtani Film in a column released in a past issue of Tomart's Disneyana Update: "On April 25, 1935 and until September 30, 1936, Mickey travelled to Zagreb, capital of Croatia. The magazine Crtani Film that would last little more than a year, had been created by Ivan Zrnic, distributed in both Serbia and Croatia and carried Mickey Mouse Sunday pages on its cover – recreated by little known Serbian artists."

This strip comes from issue 21.

A few more documents from the exhibition at Le Grand Palais: from Frankenstein to The Mad Doctor...

Monday, October 09, 2006

On Friday last week, I had the pleasure of receiving new, stunning material from Serbia and Croatia that I can not wait to share.

The above magazine is called Crtani film which means "Animated Cartoon", although it is a comics magazine. Along with the local artist's rendition of Mickey and Minnie on the front page, which is part of the logo of the magazine (Mickey says: "This is a magazine for everyone to read!"), each issue (along with non-Disney comics and articles) contains an installment of a comic titled Mikijeva zenidba ("Mickey's Wedding"), created by an unknown local artist, who once signed his work as Belsky.

This strip comes from issue 20. I will publish the next 6 issues during the next few days or weeks.

Two great posts this weekend by Jenny Lerew: one about women animators and the other about Freddy Moore. Nice way to start the day.

On the bad news side of things, unfortunately, is an email sent on Friday by Disney Online informing us that the Disney Yearbook 2005 will be the only one in the "series". A shame: it contained some excellent material by excellent authors. Let's just hope that efforts to revive the Disney Magazine will be successfull at some point.
Here are some more documents that can be discovered at the exhibition from Le Grand Palais. The image above comes from the 1924 German movie Das Wachsfigurenkabinet by Paul Leni and Leo Birinsky.
I would also recomend reading this morning two excellent articles linked directly or indirectly to the exhibition. One is about the Animation Research Library on, the other one, written by Alain Littaye, deals with the exhibition itself.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A glimpse at what you can admire these days in Paris: From the fairy by Gustave Moreau to Tinker Bell by David Hall and the Blue Fairy by Gustaf Tenggren.

More next week...

From the Serbian magazine Mikijevo Carstvo number 6 published on March 12, 1939.

Of interest today: has added the Art of Ratatouille by Karen Paik to its list of upcoming books and Steve Hulett has posted part 5 of his 1978 interview with Ward Kimball.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A fun new book by Disney Editions having just been released last week containing quite a lot of rare Disney artwork, I have asked its author, Jeff Kurtti (well known to most of you) if he would accept to write a short "making of" article for this blog. He was kind enough to do so.


Disney Dossiers: Files of Character from The Walt Disney Studios is a collaboration between Disney Editions and becker&mayer! (they're the publishers of Disney archivist Robert Tieman's Disney Treasures and Disney Keepsakes books.) They brought me in for my Disney knowledge and off-kilter world view. ;-)

The idea was straightforward, but the solution was complex.

There was a desire to put out a volume that dealt with the wide-ranging stable of Disney characters, but in a way that was not as structured and scholarly as John Grant's classic Encyclopedia (which has already seen three editions), that had some humor in content, and the always-clever b&m! design approach.

Although for obsessive folks like us it seems second nature, there are a lot of dyed-in-the-wool Disney fans (and new generations coming up) who don't know as much about the canon and characters as they want to, and to whom a consolidated entree to this information is a little daunting.

Our idea was to create an informative and intelligent book, but one that is accessible, unintimidating, and fun. A primer on the characters for the uninitiated, a new take on them for the fan, and most of all something that celebrates the characters and their stories in a way that invites the reader to explore, and has a tone that is both irreverent and respectful.

Easy, non? ;-)

In approaching the illustration, we had access to the wonderful database of images from Disney Publishing's decades-long history, which have been organized under the loving care of Ken Shue, vice president and global creative director of Disney Global Books. There is wonderful stuff in there from Golden Books, Whitman books, and the like, dating back to the 1940s, maybe even before. (The key front art of the Pinocchio Golden Book that I grew up with is on the lower left of the Dossiers cover).

In addition, we called on fellow Disney writer/historian and longtime pal Jim Fanning to bring his unique eye for unusual and rare art work to the project. He was our man in the Walt Disney Feature Animation Research Library and the Walt Disney Photo Library, and his instruction was to avoid the cel set-ups and publicity images that are always floating on top for the easy grab, and to find the less-seen (and frankly oddball) art, as well as character poses and uses that are less-seen.

Lella Smith and Fox Carney in the Walt Disney Feature Animation Research Library did the heavy lifting in actually getting us the data files. Ed Squair and his staff at the Walt Disney Photo Library did their typical detective work in turning over rocks and opening dusty files to find us cool images.

We organized the material in an intentionally non-chronological fashion, more by types and sub-types. Our thought was that the fans already know the chronology, and the casual reader doesn't know--and quite probably would be puzzled by a rigid chronology.

The concept we hit on was simply to (as we should) treat the characters as real personalities, and (as the Archives has with real humans), present a simple file folder full of assorted materials. That way we could present a variety of complexity of information, but in digest form, often as "notes" that are "clipped" to the files, asides, and brief data.

The overall conceit of the material, then, is that you are in receipt of a set of dossier files on a broad assortment of Disney's great animated stars (we even got Dave Smith in on the joke--the introduction is a "letter" from Dave, explaining to the reader--or "researcher," in this case--what these files are for).

Finally, in the hands of Senior Editor Jody Revenson and Editorial Assistant Jessica Ward at Disney Editions and the becker&mayer! editor (Amy Wideman) and designer (Megan Noller Holt) all of these ideas and material were brought together in a rich presentation that I'm sure even the most scrupulous Disney fan will find refreshing, entertaining, and really out-of-the-ordinary.

I am really proud of the finished product, and hope that die-hards and newbies alike enjoy the book as much as we enjoyed making it--and as much as I still enjoy leafing through it time and again!


Don't miss today: The second part of Steve Hulett's interview with Wilfred Jackson and Wade Sampson's article Emily Bevar Spills the Beans.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

From the Serbian magazine Mikijevo Carstvo number 3 published during the year 1939.

Steve Hulett has posted the 4th part of his 1978 interview with Kimball. Definitely worth reading. It deals with Norm Ferguson.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Unfortunately Walt's People - Volume 4 will be late by at least one month. I never release any volume before the "founding fathers" of the project send me their detailed revisions, and one of the most important members of the group (as far as revisions are concerned) is hard at work on various book projects and was understandably unable to give me his feedback on time. I take the news very positively as Volume 4 should not be delayed later than December or January apparently, but even more so because the reason it is late is one of the best that could be: we will soon see a few more in-depth, well-researched works about fascinating aspects of Disney history.

To reward your patience, here is my introduction to this upcoming volume.

I like to write Walt’s People introductions while traveling, be it on business or on vacations. This time I am on vacation, on the small Greek island of Amorgos. What makes this a special occasion, though, is the fact that this trip marks an important break in my life: After having worked for 10 years for The Walt Disney Company, I have decided to move to Warner Bros. No worries, though. I will carry on working on Walt’s People during my free time; this project was never linked to my professional life. It was and remains a “labor of love.”
The move to Warner, however, becomes meaningful when it makes me seriously think about launching a new book series, in parallel to Walt’s People: Bugs’ Buddies (my thanks to Steve Schneider for suggesting this title), which would focus on Warner animation artists. Will I find an editor for this project as passionate about Warner animation as I am about Disney? Or will I end up launching this project myself someday? We will see.
What is certain is that this project is also long overdue and would serve as a crucial complement to Walt’s People. We already saw in past volumes that understanding the creative life of Disney artists like Grim Natwick, Friz Freleng or Frank Tashlin is close to impossible without taking into account their experiences at other studios. In addition, the links between Warner’s animation history and Disney are many and are often fascinating: From the creation of what would become the Warner animation studio by Walt’s pre-Mickey Mouse artists, Rudy Ising and Hugh Harman, to the brief stint of Chuck Jones at Disney in 1953, and through the various references to Disney within Warner cartoons, like the caricature of Ward Kimball in Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt (1941).
Once again, time will tell if I manage to find an enthusiast editor for Bugs’ Buddies. Regardless of what happens, however, the momentum is there, as more and more serious animation historians have recently caught a surprising new wind. Something extremely exciting is going on. CartoonBrew’s editor Jerry Beck summed it up: “There is a quiet revolution happening in the animation community, and it's all thanks to the Internet. With the explosion of blogs in the past year, a wide range of difficult-to-find historical material is becoming publicly available for the first time. The availability of this material, which includes artwork, documents, films, and analysis, doesn't only benefit historians; it also benefits artists in all parts of the world, who now have open access to examples of quality animation.” A few years ago Michael Barrier, the godfather of animation history and my main influence when starting Walt’s People, launched his blog; just over a year ago Clay Kaytis started Animation Podcast, a site solely dedicated to great interviews with animation artists; a few months ago, Animation Blast’s editor, Amid Amidi, created Cartoon Modern, a blog that complements his book of the same title and offers extremely in-depth insights into the lives of many key animation artists, quite a few of whom worked for Disney.
And then things went wild! Animator Jenny Lerew posted more amazing Freddy Moore artwork (from the collection of James Walker) than I had seen in years (and that screams to be collected in book form), along with rare “animator drafts” that give an idea of which animator worked on which scene within Disney shorts and features. Danish director Hans Perk, from A. Film,[released many more of those “animator drafts,” and animation historian Mark Mayerson used them to analyze the shorts and features in an unprecedented way and shed fascinating new light on the work of many of Walt’s people. In other words, the more information released, the more people decide to release new information, leading to fresh understanding and knowledge. Of course, this also allowed us to identify new sources of unpublished interviews with Disney artists that will soon appear in Walt’s People: Freddy Moore’s assistant Ken O’Brien by Jenny Lerew, Art Stevens by Pete Docter…
The “quiet revolution” that we see happening on the web brings me to a similar process experienced by Walt’s People. Many key Disney historians have recently given me the authorization to publish their work, as they see this as a way to protect material that was at risk of being lost or irrevocably damaged—some interviews were even preserved in reel-to-reel format! In this volume, Charles Solomon, author of one of my favorite books on Disney animation, The Disney that Never Was, is one of the new key historians joining the Walt’s People team.
Another new participant is Joe Adamson. His oral history with Dick Huemer is the keystone of this volume. I had admired this interview for years after having read excerpts of it in Funnyworld and had always dreamed of releasing a Disney-related uncut version in Walt’s People.
Of course, focusing on Huemer’s career would not have been complete without tackling in-depth the career of his creative alter-ego Joe Grant. Who better than Michael Barrier to draw interesting and surprising answers from such a notoriously tough interviewee? The Huemer focus also allows us to welcome the third of Walt’s People’s new contributors, Brian Sibley, who appears in this volume as both interviewer and interviewee.
There are many more exciting features in this volume, including a surprising new look at the career of Peter Ellenshaw; the seminal interview with Roy Williams by Don Peri (another important new member of the Walt’s People team), who shows us who the Big Mouseketeer really was; another foray into the world of Disney comics with Dick Moores and Roger Armstrong, thanks to comics expert Alberto Becattini; the second part of Celbi Pegoraro’s interview with Floyd Norman; an interview with Eric Goldberg; and a look at the abandoned project Mary Poppins Comes Back.
My own favorite from a historical point of view, however, is Dave Smith’s chat with Lou Debney, as it gives us a first glimpse at the Disney Studio during WWII, a subject that we will explore in much more detail in Walt’s People - Volume 5.

Not enough scope yet for one single volume? So before surrounding ourselves, once again, with Walt’s people, let’s meet Walt’s first star…

Didier Ghez
Amorgos, June 2006

An unusual series of 6 posters from the 1951 Disney project How to Catch a Cold created for Kleenex is currently being sold on ebay.

I was wondering if any of the readers of this blog knew whether any of the characters on the poster are actually caricatures of Disney artists.

I bought last week on the internet this very astonishing book from Mexico, published in 1944 by Ediciones Modernas.

What makes it weird, of course is the fact that, as far as I know, no Almendrita (The Small Almond) project was ever produced by Disney and that the book appeared however under the Disney label in a series that is clearly authorized by the company.

One more mystery added to the list.

One day late (on my side), this just in from Dennis Books:


Perhaps this date will cause controversy ? I have Disney Studio records showing that throughout the years Mickey's birthdate has been celebrated on various days in September and October. HOWEVER I recently found a letter written by Walt Disney in which he stated "He was born on Oct. 1, 1928. That was the date on which his first picture was started so we have allowed him to claim this day as his birthday". I guess I will have to go along with Mickey's father.]

Of course, today Mickey's official birth day is recognized by The Walt Disney Company as November 18, the day of Mickey's screen debut.

A lot of excellent reading this morning. Steve Hulett has posted two more of the interviews he conducted in 1978. One with Ward Kimball (part 1, 2 and 3) and one with Wilfred Jackson. I am happy to say that Walt's People played a small part in getting those interviews back to the surface.

Toons at War has a whole series of great new posts, including one about Hank Porter that I particularly loved to read.

The site of the Walt Disney Family Foundation was recently updated and contains great new material including an interview with James Algar and one about Walt appearance in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). Not one of Walt's most inspired moments.

A Films published two nice images from Walt's commercial ventures (image 1 and 2 can be found here).

Amid Amidi created Tom Oreb's MySpace page.

Finally, I should mention that the Disney Books Network was recently updated.