You’ve wandered into the topsy-turvy world of Tulgey Wood, the blog of writer and historian Jim Fanning. Tulgey Wood celebrates artistry and creativity (and sometimes just plain madness): movies, animation, TV, books, comics—and of course Disney, lots and lots of true-blue, through-and-through Disney, including D23 and Disney twenty-three Magazine, and Sketches Magazine and the Walt Disney Collectors Society. Tulgey Wood is so fun, fascinating and full of frolicsome photos and facts, it’s scary. So wander through the wonder of it all, and enjoy.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Leapin' Lizards!

Today is Leap Day, so how could Tulgey Wood let February 29 (which after all will not be around again for another four years) go by without mentioning something wild and wonderful? And very little is as wildly wonderful as the classic comic strip Little Orphan Annie. Today remembered as the inspiration for the famous Broadway musical Annie or for the conservative politics of Little Orphan Annie’s creator Harold Gray, the actuality of the strip’s incredible adventure and graphic narrative transcends those oversimplifications. Gray both wrote and drew Annie and he tirelessly devoted himself to the strip, spinning out complex stories of compelling adventure, populated by a Dickensian cast of colorful characters. Fortunately, as part of this wonderful era of appreciation of the comic strip as an art form, Little Orphan Annie is being reprinted in its entirety (it started in 1924) so all may experience its remarkable qualities firsthand. The first volume,pictured above and available here, was released just a few days ago, on February 25. Some of course may recall the famous scene in A Christmas Story in which Ralphie receives a send-away Ovaltine premium from “Little Radio Annie.” What? Annie was the star of a radio show? You bet, and that adventure show was wild and wonderful in its own right. Someday I’ll have to blog about Annie’s radio program. Tomorrow? Naw. How about February 29, 2012?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar-Winning Birds

Brad Bird won an Oscar tonight (technically last night as of this posting) for Ratatouille as Best Animated Feature, but at the 1970 Academy Awards (held that year on April 7), another bird took home the golden statuette. Disney’s It’s Tough To Be A Bird won the Oscar as Best Cartoon Short Subject of 1969. This 22-minute cutting edge featurette employing collage, live-action, and animation, was directed by the ever-eclectic Ward Kimball. The fun, pun-filled poster reflects the short’s “mod” status. I especially enjoy how the traditional “Technicolor” credit (complete with the registered trademark symbol) is portrayed as a tattoo on the yellow cat’s forearm. Poor M. C. Bird is given short shrift even on his own poster: by design, he’s practically the smallest image on the poster and of course he’s inside the mouth of the delightfully designed feline. Anyhow, congratulations to Brad Bird for another Pixar triumph. (And Chris Buck, all I can say is, I wish you had won. I’m sure your acceptance speech would have been much better.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

And The Oscar Went To…

The always informative Cartoon Brew blog recently reported on a wonderful DVD 3-disc set that collects many of the cartoons that have won or been nominated for Academy Awards. The Warner Bros. Academy Award Animation Collection presents all the Oscar winners and nominees for which Warner Bros. owns the rights, including Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, Superman and Popeye cartoons, all of them uncut and remastered. Bonus material includes audio commentary on select shorts and, best of all, a documentary incorporating clips from other cartoons (such as those produced by Disney) not otherwise included. This must-have DVD set is available here.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Great Moments With The Lincoln Memorial

To tie in with Tulgey Wood’s Lincoln’s birthday post, here’s a recommendation to listen to last Sunday’s installment of Public Radio International’s Studio 360. In this fascinating and entertaining audio documentary, host Kurt Andersen explores the history and impact of the famous sculptural work in Washington, DC. Guests— including the articulate and always-intriguing historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and idiosyncratic commentator and writer Sarah Vowell—discuss the creation, cultural impact, and ongoing and expanding relevance of the monument to the man who many consider our greatest President. Stories include the appearance of the Lincoln Memorial in films where it inspires the idealism of plucky characters, singer Marian Anderson's historic concert in its shadow, and the role the Memorial has played in the Civil Rights Movement. You can listen to this excellent radio program here. (And if you’re wondering why this post is illustrated with more images related to Walt Disney’s Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and not with an image of the Lincoln Memorial… just remember, this is Tulgey Wood!)

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Class Act

For the past few months, GSN (the cable network formerly known as the Game Show Network) has been showing episodes of the classic and classy CBS panel show, What’s My Line every night as part of their After Midnight lineup. (Check your local listings. I’ve always wanted to say that.) This long-running show (it aired weekly on CBS Sunday nights [for most of its run] from February 2, 1950 to September 3, 1967) famously featured challengers with unusual occupations which the celebrity panel had to ascertain that by asking questions that could only be answered by yes or no. What’s My Line was also famous for having a Mystery Challenger, often a big-time movie or television star. Mystery Guests recently featured include Judy Garland, Danny Kaye, Angela Lansbury (at the height of her Mame triumph on Broadway), Jane Fonda, Woody Allen, Mia Farrow (they were not on the same episode, but Mia’s then-husband Frank Sinatra was a guest panelist on that show) and Andy Griffith, who stumped the panel with a killer British accent. One interesting episode featured the panelists (Kitty Carlisle, Orson Bean, Peggy Cass, Tom Poston) from one of What’s My Line’s sister shows, To Tell the Truth, as a collective Mystery Guest. But much of the show’s success was due to the intelligence and wit of moderator John Daly and the regular panelists: publisher Bennett Cerf, newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, and actress Arlene Francis (pictured here on the cover of a fascinating history of the program, written by the show’s producer Gil Fates. Thanks to What’s My Line mega-fans Doug Prinzivalli and John Carrozza for loaning me this rare book.) Their charm and manners (the ladies are in gowns, the gentlemen wear tuxedoes, they often refer to each other as “Mister” or “Miss") seem like something from another planet compared to much of what’s on TV in 2008. An element of the show I particularly enjoy is the ritual of the panel’s introductions and good-byes. That’s right, the simple gesture of saying hello and good night in a polite, clever and civilized manner is a highlight, as well it should be. GSN is currently showing episodes from August 1967, meaning they should be going back to the beginning of the show’s run in just a few nights. That should give you a chance to see this vintage classic right from the beginning of its extraordinary run, as well as the opportunity to know there was a time when network TV could represent class, not crass.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy Presidents’ Day, Mr. Lincoln


In honor of Presidents’ Day, here is the spectacular cover for the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln LP album, painted by acclaimed illustrator Neil Boyle, whose artistry has been commissioned by such disparate showcases as The Saturday Evening Post and the U.S. Postal Service. Originally released in 1964 to accompany the opening of Walt Disney’s Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction at the State of Illinois pavilion at the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, this splendid recording, produced by James Algar, includes the soundtrack from the attraction, with narration written by Mr. Algar and a stirring score composed and conducted by Buddy Baker. The long-playing record also includes additional material not experienced in the attraction, including the Lincoln-Douglas Debate and the Gettysburg Address. With typical Disney showmanship, the LP was encased in the elaborate album cover pictured here, which included a booklet in the classic Disney Storyteller tradition. In addition to transcripts of some of the Lincoln material heard on the recording and more masterful illustrations by Neil Boyle, the booklet also incorporates the Gettysburg Address in nine languages, including Hebrew and Latin, with the English language version in Lincoln’s own hand. The Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln album in content, scope and scale is, while certainly child- friendly (or at least student-friendly), no kiddie album, and was very appropriately eventually released on Disney’s prestige label, Buena Vista. Also included on the inside cover of the album is an introduction by Walt Disney (most probably ghostwritten, perhaps by James Algar, but undoubtedly approved by Walt and reflective of his thoughts and feelings), featuring these words: “Most Americans will agree with me that no man has had more of a positive impact on a nation than Abraham Lincoln has on our country.... Yet I have always felt that too few people realize that Lincoln’s concepts and philosophies are as useful, as necessary, as applicable today as they were when he pronounced them [years] ago. His analysis of freedom and its true meaning, his approach to justice and equality, his own courage and strength—all are as vital [today] as they were in the mid-1800s.”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

St. Valentine's Day With Devilish Dennis

Dennis has his own special way of giving a Valentine gift, especially to ol’ Margaret, as seen in this marvelous cover for the Dennis the Menace comic book (#50, dated April 1961). Though former Disney artist Hank Ketcham created the famous newspaper comic panel, the comic books were drawn for many years by Al Wiseman, including this unconventional (except by Dennis’s standards) Valentine cover.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Award-Winning Canemaker


Filmmaker, historian and author John Canemaker has won a lot of awards, including an Oscar and an Emmy. On Friday, February 8, at the 35th Annual Annie Awards, John received another award for which he will have to make room on his already crowded mantle: the prestigious Winsor McCay award from ASIFA Hollywood: International Animated Film Society. Awarded for career contributions to the art of animation, this esteemed honor is certainly deserved by John, who, among his many other accomplishments, has for years researched, documented and written (beautifully) about animators and the films and art they created, long before many others similarily toiled in these fields and certainly long before most considered animation an art. It's difficult to single out just one of the many Canemaker volumes published over the years but as I just posted about Mary Blair I’ve pictured his wonderful book on Ms. Blair (on whom John is certainly the authority), which you can get here. You can also visit John’s website and learn more about his extraordinary work. Yes, John Canemaker has won a lot of awards and he has earned every single one.

Mary Blair On Display


On her always-interesting blog, story artist Jenny Lerew recently posted photos of the Mary Blair exhibit at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco which runs through March 18, 2008. The exhibit not only celebrates Mary’s joyful use of color and exuberant imagination but also allows visitors to view the actual works of art (many of them created for Disney productions), a privilege few of us are blessed enough to have very often, if ever. If you are going to be in San Francisco before March 18 be sure to visit the Museum and be dazzled by the colorful work of Ms. Blair (in addition to the Museum’s other exhibits, of which Jenny also gives us a taste). And be sure to read Jenny’s insightful thoughts on Mary’s continuing influence.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

More Turner Classic Movies, More Disney


That indispensable paragon of cable channel excellence Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is at it again. Today at 3:00 pm (Pacific time) TCM presents Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). The Oscar-winning (for Special Visual Effects) musical fantasy is being showcased just as it should be, even though TCM is not a Disney venue. I might only wish that TCM was presenting the restored version to which over 20 minutes of footage excised before the film’s premiere was skillfully reinstated, and which was unveiled on September 27, 1996, by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. (You can get that extended version on DVD here.) But who’s complaining, especially as TCM is also presenting The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) at 1:00 pm, not to mention Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) at 5:00 pm.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Party Gras!

In honor of Mardi Gras (today being Shrove Tuesday and all), let’s take a look at Disneyland’s parade spectacular, Party Gras, a parade so big it’s “Disneyland Big!” This colorful, one-of-a-kind pageant was the signature attraction of the 35th anniversary celebration of Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom, and this portable party traversed down Main Street, U.S.A. each day from January through November 1990. The centerpieces of this unique parade were the towering, balloon-like floats featuring Disney characters in colorful costumes. Soaring 40 feet high over Main Street, these six inflated floats included Mickey (as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice), Minnie (wearing a Carmen Miranda-like fruit-festooned hat), Pluto, Donald, Goofy and Roger Rabbit. (Roger’s hit film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, had premiered a mere two years earlier in 1988.) The inflatables were all concepted by art director Scott Sinclair, and the 22-1/2" character models in these photos (except for Mickey) were sculpted by artist/writer/historian Kevin Kidney.

“Those models were used to create the balloon patterns by an amazing company called Aerostar in South Dakota which produced the final balloons,” reports Kevin. “The design for the Mickey balloon kept changing—notice the model of Mickey sitting on a Conga drum which was made by a talented young sculptor named Rich Collins, but never used. I especially like the push unit models which were constructed by Scott Sinclair and myself, even though everybody mainly remembers the big balloons.” Many thanks to Kevin for this “hot, hot, hot” trip into Disneyland history and especially for the images pictured here. Party Gras was a spectacular way for everyone to celebrate “35 Years of Magic” at Disneyland. C’mon, everyone sing! “Now we’re thirty-five and countin’…”

Monday, February 4, 2008

Tut-Tut, It Looks Like Rain

February 4, 1966, saw the original release of Walt Disney’s “all-cartoon featurette” Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. This was the beginning of Disney’s Pooh “franchise,” and what a beginning! The Disney animation team took both A. A. Milne’s funny and whimsical writing and E. H. Shepard's distinctive, sharply personalized pen-and-ink drawings and translated them into Disney animation without losing their flavor or character, as Walt directed. (Story artist Vance Gerry recalled Walt telling the story men to “be sure and not lose the whimsy.” “Then,” said Vance, “we had a meeting to decide what ‘whimsy’ was.”) Gracefully animated with vivid characterizations, Honey Tree is in many ways a showcase for Disney’s “second string” character animators, those animators who were not on the short list known as the Nine Old Men. Though John Lounsbery and Eric Larson were animators on the featurette (and it was directed by Woolie Reitherman), the triumvirate of directing animators—Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston—did not come aboard until the second Pooh featurette, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968). Hal King, John Sibley, Eric Cleworth and other animators whose names are not as well known as those of the famous Nine had the film pretty much to themselves. These unsung artists really shine in this gentle, low-key film, bringing some unusual characters to engaging life and firmly establishing the Hundred Acre Wood cast (with the exception of Piglet and Tigger, who did not appear in this production, even though they are on the original theatrical poster, pictured above) as they appear in the Disney universe to this day.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Pixilated


As Cartoon Brew points out here, Turner Classic Movies is presenting the Oscar-nominated live-action short, Stop, Look and Listen (1967) in a couple of hours (Saturday morning, 1:15 am pacific time). This unusual film, featuring drivers zooming around city streets without cars (the actors playing the drivers sit directly on the pavement) employs pixilation—a sort of live-action cartoon technique using stop-motion animation to amusing and at times mind-bending effect—and was created by Chuck Menville and Len Janson (who also play the two main drivers). At the time, Chuck and Len were two young Disney animation artists who were encouraged by Disney animation legend and resident iconoclast Ward Kimball to produce this little film. Ward reportedly convinced Walt Disney to loan out editing facilities and the Disney Studios sound effects library for the film, even though it was not a Disney production. Later, Menville and Janson (perhaps through their Disney connection?) produced some pixilation Stop, Look and Listen-like TV commercials for Gulf Oil, which were regularly showcased on The Wonderful World of Disney when the weekly series was sponsored by Gulf in the late 1960s-early 1970s. (Ironically, Ward Kimball related that his own Oscar-winning short, It’s Tough To Be a Bird [1969]—originally conceived for the Disney TV hour— was forbidden to include the subject of bird-endangering oil spills because of pressure from Gulf.) You can learn more about the pixilation films of Chuck Menville and Len Janson here at Cartoon Brew, and if you miss TCM’s screening you can catch Stop, Look and Listen here. (By the way, tomorrow on TCM you can also see Them! [8:00 am], the 1954 film in which Walt Disney spotted Fess Parker in a small role and selected him to portray Davy Crockett for the Disneyland TV show, and also Disney’s notorious 1979 science fiction flop The Black Hole [11:30 am].)

20,000 Leagues Q & A


Question: What non-Disney cable channel that features classic films (shown uncut with no commercials in their original aspect ratio) is showcasing Walt Disney’s Academy Award-winning live-action epic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) as part of their annual 31 Days of Oscar tomorrow (Saturday, February 2, 2008, at 1:15 pm (pacific time)?
Answer: Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
Question: What Disney-owned-and-operated cable channel will not be showcasing Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea tomorrow or anytime in the foreseeable future?
Answer: Disney Channel.
There. Wasn’t that easy?