Thursday, May 28, 2009

I will be back in Madrid on Monday. In the meantime I am having a great time at Paul Anderson's place. As I mentioned in one of the comments to the previous post Paul and his family are finally doing much better and we should be able to expect some great news from him in the next few months.

Those of you who know Paul, also know that his Disney "archives" are simply outstanding. One of the many documents I discovered during this trip is the internal magazine from the '60s and early '70s The Disney World (pictured above). Would any one of you own any copies of it? If so, could you please email me.

More on Monday.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

We are flying out tomorrow to Salt Lake City for a 3-week vacation in Utah and Arizona. We will be staying for the first few days at the home of legendary Disney historian Paul F. Anderson. So while there should be few postings during those upcoming three weeks, I might manage to have a surprise for you on Monady or Tuesday next week.
As promised, here are a few more documents related to layout artist Don Griffith thanks to his granddaughter, including some photos of his retirement party. Could anyone identify some of the artists on the photos?

Do not miss today:

- Muse of the Weird and the Wonderful by Kevin Kidney
- Van France's Thoughts On Walt Disney World Leadership by Wade Sampson

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

This just in from Jim Korkis:

[Yale Gracey was one of those many Disney Imagineers who passed away before he got to be interviewed extensively. Imagine my surprise when I was paging through a coverless copy of the magazine "Famous Monsters of Filmland" from 1970 that was covering the then new Haunted Mansion at Disneyland and found that the writer had talked to Yale about the project and here are the only words I have seen of Yale talking about the mansion:

“Often I simply don’t know that something couldn’t be done. I would develop a concept and gather various gadgets and materials and keep trying until it worked. When we built the illusions we were surprised to find how effective they actually were. People enjoy being frightened but we couldn’t make the attraction too scary because of the droves of children that would be coming. We decided to add the element of comedy. It’s like adding a wink of an ey e to the end of a ghost story. Someday I would like to design a real scare house. Some of the illusions that weren’t used in the Haunted Mansion would send chills through anyone I know."]
Do not miss today:

- Rolly Crump, One Special Imagineer by Bob Welbaum
- Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair” is a must-have for Mouse House music fans by Jim Hill

Tuesday, May 05, 2009 just unveiled this book cover. Can't wait.

This just in from Gunnar:
[Enclosed a little news item from Los Angeles Times, Feb 3, 1924. Anyone who knows of something older than this one concerning his cartoon production in California ?]
Do not miss today:

- Marc Davis Art Show by Jerry Beck

Monday, May 04, 2009

Jim Korkis Meets the Muppets

Attached is a photo opportunity the exhibit had in the lobby where it looked like you were sitting with Jim Henson and Kermit. If you decide to run it on the site, you might want to crop it along that bottom line of the Henson picture so it looks more like I am sitting with them rather than running off the bottom of the picture.

Disney Historians Jim Korkis and Michael Lyons (along with Disney enthusiast Lonnie Hicks) attended the Orange County Regional History Center's travelling exhibt from the Smithsonian "Jim Henson's Fantastic World" in Orlando, Florida shortly before it closed. Jim Korkis thought it was exceptionally well done but regretted there wasn't a catalog/program book available for sale. In the educational area of the exhibit, there were several hardcover books that were prepared only for the exhibit including one on Henson's early works (commericals), the muppets, puppetry, and "Dark Crystal" which apparently was a favorite of Henson's (so much so that he only agreed to do the movie "Great Muppet Caper" for the opportunity to make "Dark Crystal".)
The exhibit included examples of Henson's original sketches, video of early commercials (Henson made hundreds that sometimes lasted as little as eight sections), video of his Oscar nominated live action short in 1964 "Timepiece", some of the muppets, a twenty minute video overview of Henson's career, examples of never produced projects including "Johnny Carson in the Muppet Machine" (a half hour special) and a project for the 1964 New York World's Fair (Hmm. How would the world have been different if Walt had seen the Muppets at the World's Fair and met Jim Henson? Sesame Street didn't debut until 1969 and up until that time the Muppets were just occasional infrequent guests on a variety of shows like Ed Sullivan.)

The entire exhibit made little if any reference to Disney (other than it was the last project he was working on and Henson's affection for early Disney feature animation) and the following information: "Jim Henson and his family first visited Walt Disney World in 1973 and at breakfast Jim was especially taken by the costumed characters interacting with the guests and how the characters related purely physically and without using a voice." The exhibit also pointed out that the tv special "Muppets Visit Walt Disney World" aired ten days before Henson's death and that Henson had bought a house in the Windermere area, an upscale community about fifteen minutes away from WDW..where Roy O. Disney once had a house as well..and was re-modelling it just before he passed away.

When I got to briefly ask Heather Henson, Jim Henson's youngest daughter and a puppeteer herself who happened to be there when we visited, about the Muppet connection with Disney, it was obvious that she was sticking to the propostion that everything was fine and that Jim worked closely with Michael Eisner primarily but didn't go into any further details whether Jim enjoyed the process and what were other Muppet-Disney projects that were being worked on.

The exhibit featured some very motivational quotes by Jim Henson himself including some historical insights including: "We did use the term Muppets before we got the show 'Sam and Friends'. It was really just a term we made up. For a long time I would tell people it was a combination of marionettes and puppets but, basically, it was just a word that we coined." (Heather Henson agreed with that quote, saying that is what her dad and mom told her as well.) Also, Oscar the Grouch was orange not green for the first season of Sesame Street and Henson laughingly reveals in a video clip that when they didn't know how to end a Muppet skit they would have one eat the other or blow up the other. Lots of fun stuff like that as green three toed web footprints on the floor direct you around the displays.

The exhibit is very well done with alot of work by the Jim Henson Legacy and the Smithsonian with contributions from the Biography Channel. Well worth seeing if it comes to a city near you. Again, sad there wasn't some sort of program book to document and of course, wanted to know more about Henson's final work with Disney. Both Michael Lyons and I were also surprised by how large some of the muppets were in person, easy to see why it would take two puppeteers or more to manipulate them.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida, Lou Mongello invited Disney Historian Jim Korkis to be a guest on his podcast and Jim gave an hour long tour of the studio and its history, trivia and fun facts.

You can listen to it here:
Do not miss today:

- "The Animation Michelangelo" by Michael Barrier
- On the Other Hand... by Michael Barrier