Thursday, January 31, 2008
When the comic book adaptation of Walt Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians (Four Color 1103) was published in 1961, the inside back cover consisted of a feature of special interest to animation aficionados. Drawn by Al Hubbard (who also drew the book-length comic adaptation of the then-new animated film), “Dalmatian Animation” is a simplified explanation of the very complicated animation process. In eight illustrations the page attempts to explain animation production to its audience (mostly children, no doubt) and does a credible job. A few misrepresentations creep in, including one endemic to general “how do they make cartoons” elucidations: the impression that the voice artists record their performances after the animation is completed. And sadly no mention is made of the fact that the “idea” for this particular animated feature came from a book, The One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith (although Ms. Smith’s book is dutifully credited in the comic book’s indicia on page one of the story). But let’s not belittle this fun attempt to remind readers young and old that talented people made (literally hand-made) the film on which the comic is based.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
I’m sure you’ve seen the TV commercials ominously informing one and all that “Cinderella is going back into the Disney Vault on January 31.” This could be a good time to check out the Cinderella Platinum Edition Collector’s DVD Gift Set. In addition to the 2 Disc DVD of the animated feature and accompanying bonus features and a set of lithographs, the Deluxe DVD also includes a book written by me. Walt Disney’s Masterpiece Cinderella: A Dream Come True was first published as part of the deluxe VHS and laser disc (sounds primitive, doesn’t it?) video release in 1995. The current volume is much smaller than the original version but it retains much of the art and all of my text: both the retelling of the film’s story and the historical creation-of-the-film account. Displayed here are the original cover, title page and some of the text, covering a few behind-the-scenes tidbits on Cinderella’s mouse friends, Gus and Jaq. Remember, just because the Cinderella DVD is “going back into the Disney vault” it's still available here and elsewhere.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
On January 29, 1959, Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty was released. The most expensive (six million dollars) animated film ever made up until that time, Sleeping Beauty was a roadshow release—the film was exclusively showcased in one theater in each metropolitan area, with guests buying tickets for reserved seating showings, much as a stage spectacular might be. Walt wanted his 16th animated feature to be the ultimate in animation and to be so strikingly beautiful that each frame could stand on its own as "beautiful picture." Much of the film’s striking styling came from production designer Eyvind Earle, who designed the film in what the artist termed “stylized, simplified Gothic,” which actually ended up becoming extremely intricate, at least in the backgrounds. Because of its intricate design (it took at least a week to paint each of the elaborate backgrounds) Sleeping Beauty was in production for six years. When Disneyland opened in 1955 its signature fairy-tale castle was dubbed Sleeping Beauty Castle, in honor of the soon-to-be-released (or so it was hoped) animated feature, but Sleeping Beauty would not be released for close to four years. The Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through attraction (designed by Eyvind Earle) was officially dedicated on April 29, 1957, two years before the film would be in theaters. A handsome program (seen at left) featuring Earle's conceptual art for the attraction's dioramas was issued in conjunction with the castle attraction and to also promote the forthcoming feature. Today it’s a collectors item, a work of art refecting the unique style of one of Walt Disney’s most unique animated films.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Seems like it was just the other day I was posting about Roger Mobley. In fact it was just the other day, on Roger's birthday. But today we celebrate another Mobley-centric birthday of sorts: On January 24, 1965, Gallegher made its debut on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. Starring young Master Mobley as the quick-witted copy boy who continually proved himself an ace reporter on the streets of a big turn-of-the-century city, Gallegher became of the most popular mini-series to run on the series, and one of the longest running for ran for eleven episodes between 1965 and 1968. Co-starring Academy Award-winning actor Edmond O’Brien as Jefferson Crowley the blustery editor of the Daily Press and Harvey Korman (then the second banana on The Danny Kaye Show) as the continually befuddled reporter Brownie, Gallegher mixed comedy, mystery, suspense and drama (and also boasts a smashing Sherman Brothers theme song), and even though now it is largely forgotten in some circles, these fun-filled episodes remain a Disney delight. As I’ve mentioned before, watch for news (coming, while not necessarily soon, sometime) of a major article I’m writing about Gallegher, “that sharp as a thorn, natural born newspaperman.”
In celebration of the 70th anniversary of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Walt Disney Classics Collection presents this charming sculpture version of that iconic moment when sweet Snow White lovingly kisses the lovable Dopey. The first of Disney’s princesses together with one of the most popular Disney characters…it’s a dream come true for Disney fans. You can learn more at DisneyShopping.com.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Today, January 16, is the birthday of Roger Mobley. During the 1960s, Roger (a child actor who was already known for co-starring in the TV series, Fury) became one of the most popular stars to regularly appear on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. In 1964, Roger made his World of Color debut in For The Love of Willadean, a two-part comedy about a group of kids and their countryside misadventures. (Roger is seen in the still above [a black-and-white photo, unfortunately] on the far right, with his Willadean co-stars, including Lost in Space’s Billy Mumy on the left and Disney favorite Ed Wynn in the center.) That same year Roger starred as Gustav in the theatrical release Emil and the Detectives (below), which was telecast on World of Color in 1966. Later in the decade, Roger was the hero of the action-adventure The Treasure of San Bosco Reef, which debuted in 1968. But the young star’s biggest Disney TV success was as Gallegher, the clever, ever resourceful “boy reporter” who outwitted not only criminals and cheats but also his adult betters at the newspaper where he works. Debuting in 1965, Gallegher ran for eleven episodes, climaxing in 1968 with The Mystery of Edward Sims. So Happy Birthday to my friend Roger, the Wonderful World of Color Kid... and to everyone else, watch this blog for news on an upcoming, in-depth article all about that “sharp as a thorn, natural-born newspaperman,” Walt Disney’s Gallegher.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Back here I posted about the Internet era as a great time for appreciating the art of Floyd Gottfredson, the legendary Disney artist who drew the Mickey Mouse newspaper comic strip. Gottfredson’s superb graphic storytelling is now more accessible than ever. Over on the always-interesting Classic Cartoon blog a full-length Gottfredson continuity was posted back in September 2006 (scroll down until you reach the posting for September 18; the story is printed in three parts: parts one and two on September 18 and part three on September 19). Originally published March 26 through June 23, 1951, “Dry Gulch Goofy” tells of Mickey and Goofy “going Hollywood” when the Goof finds unexpected stardom as a singing cowboy. This comedic adventure, also featuring Goofy’s horse, Myrtle Sue, and a bevy of California beauties, was written by the extraordinarily talented Bill Walsh. Known for his wit, sharp satire and wildly imaginative storytelling skills, Bill started writing the Mickey comic strip in 1943, and incredibly continued penning the feature for years after becoming one of the most successful screenwriters/producers in Hollywood. Bill stepped down from scripting the strip in 1964, after he had already written and produced such movie hits as The Shaggy Dog (1959) and the Oscar-nominated The Absent-Minded Professor (1961). Before he signed on as the Mickey writer, Bill had been a Hollywood press agent (among other jobs) so one can imagine Bill incorporating some first-hand observations into his Mickey-and-Goofy-Go-Hollywood continuity. Incidentally, the Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted on January 13, 1930—so Happy Birthday to the Mickey comic, and to anyone else celebrating his birthday today.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
On Christmas Day John K posted the entire Little Golden Book, Once Upon a Wintertime (which I mentioned back here) on his blog. Take a few moments out of a January day and enjoy the artistry of this charming storybook, based on one of Walt Disney’s most stylish animated productions.
This poster for the 1967 re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs spotlights one of the most iconic moments in animation history: the little princess kissing Dopey atop his bald head. I like the way the poster artist added an extra, delightful touch to this famous pose by having Dopey give a backward kick. Walt Disney’s first feature-length animated film was originally released on December 21, 1937, so the re-release cited above celebrated the film’s 30th anniversary and also served as a salute to the late Walt Disney.
Appearing on last night's Late Show with David Letterman to promote Charlie Wilson’s War (the poster is at left), Tom Hanks reported that “fist fights at drugstores” count as exercise. That’s right up there with Tom’s classic Late Show story about Slappy White which included the deathless phrase, “Stop bending the shaft! Stop bending the shaft!” PS Dave had the strike beard shaved off (thank God) with very little blood shed.
Monday, January 7, 2008
Back when I posted about Walt Disney’s Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates—and for that matter when I posted about Hallmark of Hall of Fame’s prestigious history—I forgot Hallmark of Hall of Fame presented its own musical adaptation of the famous story by Mary Mapes Dodge. Directed by Sidney Lumet (fresh from directing the feature-film version of 12 Angry Men), written by Sally Benson (the author of the original stories on which Meet Me in St. Louis was based) with songs by Hugh Martin (who co-wrote the Meet Me in St. Louis songs with Ralph Blaine), the Hall of Fame's musical version of Hans Brinker starred Basil Rathbone, Olympic ice-skating champion Dick Button, and renowned Czech soprano Jarmila Novotna. Tab Hunter, who could carry a tune and was an accomplished ice skater, played the title role. Presented on NBC (in living color, of course) on February 9, 1958, Hans Brinker was the highest-rated Hall of Fame episode, a record the production would hold for the next 14 years. So here’s just the thing for a wintry January day—the TV Guide cover featuring Tab Hunter and Peggy King from Hallmark Hall of Fame’s presentation of Hans Brinker.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Today, January 6, is the traditional feast of Epiphany, the storied 12th day of Christmas. Instead of 12 drummers drumming, here are three kings, courtesy of the Gasoline Alley Sunday comic page drawn by Jim Scancarelli for December 23, 2007, depicting the Magi arriving in Bethlehem. "Star of Wonder, Star of Night...Lead us to the Perfect Light." Happy New Year!