Wednesday, December 31, 2008
From the 2005 Fall Issue of Sketches, the Official Magazine of the Walt Disney Collectors Society, here's a holiday treat: a behind-the-scenes celebration of Walt Disney's Babes in Toyland (1961). Starring Disney darling Annette, this colorful musical-fantasy has become a Christmastime favorite of those who overlook its flaws in favor of its delights. Sketches is sent only to Members of the Walt Disney Collectors Society. You can find more information about becoming a Society Member here.
Monday, December 29, 2008
In these quieter days following December 25 (otherwise known as the 12 Days of Christmas) I really enjoy listening to Christmas music, especially the gentler, more reflective selections. Gentle and reflective definitely apply to one of my favorite holiday albums, the soundtrack music from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Featuring the now classic but eternally contemporary jazz score by the great Vince Guaraldi, the album was first released in 1965, the year of the TV special's debut (appropriately enough on the Fantasy jazz label, the home of Guaraldi's earlier jazz recordings), and the recording has never been out of print since. It's only too bad that the proclamation of the Gospel of Luke's account of the angel's announcement to the shepherds ("That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown") by Chris Shea as Linus was not included. (How differently might faith be lived if scripture was proclaimed as simply yet passionately in our churches as it is in this animated cartoon?) But here, from the 2006 re-mastered CD release, is Fantasy's re-do of the original 1965 LP cover complete with the original art drawn by Charles M. Schulz himself (he later redrew the art for a newly redesigned cover, apparently for the mid-1980s issue of the album on compact disc) also including the original liner notes from the album's back cover.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
As we can tell from this holiday-centered cover art (pencils by Francisco Rodriguez Peinado, inking by Enriqueta Perea), there are still some surprises under the Christmas tree. This comical cover is from issue no. 697 (October 2008) of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories (still available wherever fine comics are sold), and is a delight as Donald (wearing his nightshirt complete with some not-too-hidden Mickeys) is caught trying to guess what's inside his gift box. The issue itself is bursting with fun Christmas stories, including a tale starring Bucky Bug. Speaking of guessing what gifts are in store, issue number 700 of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories is coming up in 2009. What surprises are in store in what will surely be a special issue of Disney's long-running flagship comic book? Perhaps if David Gerstein or someone else at Gemstone is reading this, they could drop a hint or two...
Friday, December 26, 2008
According to the old Christmas carol, Good King Wenceslas set out on his miraculous mission of mercy on the Feast of Stephen, which is today, December 26. In honor of that good king, here's some good art featuring the Little King, the cartoon monarch created by Otto Soglow, first in the pages of the New Yorker and then in his own comic strip and comic book. The Little King never spoke but always acted with a gentle childlike nature, giving the comic its own special air of quiet humor. Here's some Yuletide artwork from a 1951 Christmas card for you to enjoy while the snow is deep and crisp and even. The silent sovereign was also the star of several animated cartoons produced in the 1930s by the Van Buren Studios and you can enjoy the Little King's Christmas cartoon at the excellent Cartoon Brew blog. Perhaps the Little King's humorous humility will lift our hearts to another Good King, whose birth we supposedly memoralize during this season of the year.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
I post this in the darkest hours of Christmas Morning, 2008, so to help scatter the darkness, here is some resplendent art by Alice and Martin Provensen (Martin was a former Disney artist, in case you didn't know it) that opens their 1953 Giant Golden Book, The Golden Bible: The New Testament. (Please click on the image for a larger view of the art.) Isaiah 'twas foretold it, indeed. Merry Christmas!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
For the waning moments of Christmas Eve, here is one of my favorite Christmas comic book covers, one of my favorite Disney comic book covers—well, it's one of my favorite comic book covers, period. Created for Dell Giant, Walt Disney's Christmas Parade, Number 7, published for Christmas 1955, this cozy artwork portrays Mickey and Donald trimming the tree and Minnie and Daisy wrapping up some Christmas goodies, while Huey, Dewey and Louie and Morty and Ferdie and Uncle Scrooge snuggily sleep, visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads... or maybe in the case of Uncle Scrooge, it's visions of dollar signs. Whatever visions are dancing through your heads this Christmas Eve, I hope they are very merry indeed.
As it gets to be time for you to hang your stockings by the chimney with care, here's a few more surprises stuffed in the Christmas stocking that is Tulgey Wood. These are some of the concluding pages of Charlie Brown's Christmas Stocking, the charming little booklet written and drawn by Charles M. Schulz for the December 1963 issue of Good Housekeeping. To put it in perspective, Charles Schulz's holiday entry in his "square little book" series for Determined Productions, Christmas is Together Time, was published in 1964 and the animated special A Charlie Brown Christmas debuted on CBS in 1965, so this little stocking-stuffer of a book was Schulz's first true non-strip exploration of the Christmas theme. (For the first few pages of this delightful little booklet, please visit here.)
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Uncle Scrooge really should be the Christmas comic book poster child, as he was of course originally created for the 1947 Donald Duck comic story, "Christmas on Bear Mountain." Since then Scrooge has appeared in more than a few Yule-themed comics over the years, as celebrated in Duck artist Don Rosa's art, which served a salute to the 70th anniversary (which was acti of the World' Richest Duck. Here from Issue 383 (November 2008) is a Christmas "poster" (the front cover, also by Don Rosa, is seen here too) celebrating the Yule roots of Scrooge McDuck.
Over the next few days I hope to post a few pages of a rare Yuletide treat: A Charlie Brown Christmas Stocking by Charles M. Schulz. Very much in the spirit of Schulz's classic Peanuts "little square books" such as the first and most famous title, the bestselling Happiness is a Warm Puppy, this delightful little volume was created expressly for the December 1963 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, and was never published again, so today most people don't even know it was ever created. The little yellow book, printed on paper just a notch or two above newsprint in quality, was bound in the middle of the magazine's semi-glossy pages as the publication's Christmas present to it's 12 million readers. (I have the feeling the magazine's current circulation is not quite that high.) I won't be publishing all of the book's 16 (counting the cover) pages but I will feature the highlights. Here's the beginning of A Charlie Brown Christmas Stocking, in which Charlie Brown finds out his friends' (including the seldom-seen [or remembered] Shermy) views on the contoversial subject of hanging up a Christmas stocking...
Monday, December 22, 2008
Back here I mentioned Ronald Searle, so I thought I'd post a few screen grabs from the main titles of the 1970 musical film version of A Christmas Carol entitled Scrooge (no exclamation mark). British illustrator and cartoonist Ronald Searle created the very Dickensian but also Searlesesque pen-and-ink-and-watercolor illustrations for the film's main titles, as well as drawings for the elaborate program issued for purchase at theaters screening the film. One of those illustrations is featured here, but if you want to see the program and all of Searle's main title art—plus plenty more of Searle and his illustrations (including his TV Guide Christmas covers) visit Matt Jones' terrific blog, entitled Perpetua: Ronald Searle Tribute.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Here's a great and timely Peanuts strip from December 23, 1970, reprinted in Fantagraphics' super-spectacular hardcover publishing project, The Complete Peanuts: 1969-1970, the 10th volume of the 12 year-long endeavor publishing every single daily and Sunday installment of Charles M. Schulz's comic masterpiece. (Be sure and click on the image above for a larger view.)
Once upon a time TV Guide not only ran articles of in-depth analysis and journalistic reporting on the TV scene, as opposed to purely puff pieces, it also featured artful covers that went far beyond simplistic portraits of celebrities—including an annual Christmas cover. This special cover rarely had anything directly to do with television, being instead a celebrational work of art. Illustrious artists were often commissioned including Ronald Searle and Charles Saxon, and the cover featured here from the issue covering the week of December 19, 1964 is by famed New Yorker cartoonist William Steig. The artist's specialty at one point in his long career was children, so in this delightful and suitably snowy (for this day in 2008) Yuletide art, he spotlights kids crooning Christmas carols. And not a TV in sight.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
The NBC series Chuck gets better with each episode, and the most recent episode, "Chuck vs. Santa Claus" was no exception. A unique hybrid of action, adventure, espionage, heartfelt drama, and character-centered comedy, Chuck is part of the current "geek chic" trend happening now. (You can read more about that here.) Zachary Levi gives a pitch perfect performance as the super-smart but somewhat-downtrodden Nerd Herder who's plunged into a world of spies, secret missions and constant danger and excitement. As "Chuck vs. Santa Claus" made abundantly clear, Chuck's Best Buy-like Buy More electronics emporium is located in beautiful downtown Burbank, specifically at 9000 Burbank Blvd. New episodes resume on February 2 and in the meantime you can see full episodes at nbc.com, so be sure and check out Chuck.
Here's another Christmas gift in the form of a comic book—and unlike most of the holiday-themed comics posted by me (or other bloggers) this is a Christmas comic book you can actually buy right now at a comic book store. That's right, Gemstone, the present-day publisher of Disney comic books, has issued their fifth annual Christmas Parade special, combining reprints of vintage comic stories and never-before-published-in-the-U.S-comics. The front and back covers were drawn by Mickey Mouse master Paul Murry and were originally published in issue number five (of the original series) in 1953 (and without the UPC code you see on the back cover pictured here). These two works of art work hard (but delightfully so) to make us merry.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Disney's audience-pleasing film Bolt is still pleasing viewers in movie theaters, and the story and characters are entertaining audiences in book form too. I was lucky enough to write one of the book adaptations, pictured here. (Check out the middle image for my byline.) This particular format is called the Pictureback Book and is issued by the publisher Bennett Cerf built, Random House.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
In an earlier post I noted the favorite aspect of Christmas for comic-book character and girl-crazy teen Archie Andrews had to be mistletoe— and now here's all the proof you need. It's the Yuletide cover of Archie's Christmas Stocking No. 10 from 1954. During this period Archie was still wearing his traditional wardrobe of bow tie, letter sweater vest ("R" for Riverdale High, of course) plaid pants and saddle shoes— a costume Archie would wear well into the 1960s. Whatever his style, Archie is still lots of fun to look at, especially at Christmastime.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Today is a date writ large not only in musical and cultural history, but also in the lore of the Peanuts comic strip. As pint-size piano virtuoso Schroeder would be the first to tell you, Ludwig Van Beethoven was born on this date in 1770. To celebrate the great composer and his role in the world of Peanuts, the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center is holding a special exhibit. Schulz's Beethoven: Schroeder's Muse will run at the Museum through January 26, 2009. You can learn more about the exhibit at the Schulz Museum's website.
Monday, December 15, 2008
You know your favorite television series has arrived when The Wall Street Journal takes notice, and Big Bang Theory has indeed been so covered, as you can read here. How appropriate that this article (thanks, LaToya!) should center around Big Bang's Christmas episode, being broadcast tonight on CBS. (If you missed this Yuletide Theory, you can catch it on CBS.com.) But Spoiler Alert! the article gives away plot details. The above photograph shows Big Bang co-creator/producer Chuck Lorre and series stars Johnny Galecki (Leonard) and Jim Parsons (Sheldon). Don't miss the article and don't miss the show, and also be sure and catch today's Big Bang posting on the blog of fellow Big Bang Headbanger Ed Squair. (Ed's post will be up at 8:00 pm Pacific Time, concurrent with the broadcast of tonight's episode.) PS Thanks to intrepid field reporter Russell Miller (thanks, Russ!), I've been notified that Chuck Lorre did indeed name the lead Big Bang characters after legendary TV comedy producer-director-creator Sheldon Leonard, according to Parade magazine. Were he ever to meet Sheldon and Leonard, Sheldon Leonard would undoubtedly say, "Out you two pixies go, through the door or out the window!" And that, as some Tulgey Wood visitors will already recognize, is another Christmas reference.
In honor of the man himself, here's the 1968 Disneyland Park Guidebook. This wonderful photograph was originally run in the 1963 issue of National Geographic that featured a cover story about Walt, and shows the great showman in his element, with happy guests in his Magic Kingdom.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Donald marches on... and so does 2008! There are a precious few days left to the year...and that means only a short time left to join the Walt Disney Collectors Society for 2008. The Membership Gift Sculpture is Donald Duck in scout master-mode from Walt Disney's cartoon classic, Good Scouts (1938). Follow Good Scout Donald into the Society and you'll not only get his fun sculpture but also a subscription to Sketches, the Official Magazine of the Walt Disney Collectors Society, among other Society benefits. Pictured here are the front and back of the 2008 Walt Disney Collectors Society brochure (written by yours truly). For more information on joining the Society, please visit here. But pick up the pace, scouts, Good Scout Donald is only available through January 31st.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
In addition to several live-action films including The Strongest Man in the World starring Kurt Russell (and Joe Flynn), Turner Classic Movies is presenting today (Sunday) a new documentary on the under-explored subject of Disney's live-action productions. "The Age of Believing" (the title is a twist on the Oscar-nominated song, "The Age of Not Believing" from Bedknobs and Broomsticks) will be cablecast today at 4:00 pm, Pacific time. In the meantime, enjoy the poster for the third and final film in the Dexter Riley trilogy, complete with its Jack Davis-inspired art.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Here's another touch of Christmas cheer in the form of a comic book cover. This is one of the fun covers created for the annual holiday giant comic, Bugs Bunny's Christmas Funnies, in this case, Issue No. 9 from 1958. There's something about holiday-themed comic books that just make it seem more Christmassy. Apparently I'm not the only on who thinks so as there are a number of bloggers who are not running just the occasional comic cover like me but are running (at least) one every day until December 25. Check out the blogs of Brendan McKillip here, Rick here and Jon K here and be prepared for a feast for the eyes, a Christmas comic treat.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
For the month of December, Turner Classic Movies is presenting a festival of classic Disney live-action film, which started yesterday. Today, the cable channel—which truly knows how to present well-chosen movies as they were intended to be seen—has already screened two of Walt Disney’s finest, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Old Yeller. Right now, TCM is showing The Parent Trap and later will screen Pollyanna, certaily one of Walt's finest live-action films. (After that will be The Barefoot Executive, which, while not one of the Studio's best, has it's own odd charm, and also stars the always-watchable Kurt Russell. Oh and Joe Flynn.) Next Sunday, TCM will present something I'm really looking forward to: a new documentary exploring the under-celebrated subject of Disney's live-action films.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Let's celebrate St. Nicholas Day with this fun cover from one of the best of the Disney Christmas-themed Little Golden Books. Santa Claus and Donald Duck. First published in in 1952, this volume features art by Golden Book favorite and Disney animation background artist Al Dempster. His truly jolly and lovable Santa is a delight, and—judging by his halo—even inspired Donald to be good. The seasonal storybook, with a charming tale written by prolific (she wrote over 200 books) Golden Book author Jane Werner Watson under the pen name of Annie North Bedford, was even recommended by the New York Times, a rarity for a Little Golden Book. Since then, this book, especially its irresistible Disney art, has continued to delight year after year, much like jolly old Saint Nick himself.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Seems there are a lot of significant Disney dates in the last months of the year, everything from the founding of the Disney company (October 23) and Mickey's birthday (November 18) to the opening of Walt Disney World (October 1) to, most importantly of all, the birthday of Walt Disney himself, today, December 5. To mark the occasion, here's something a little different: the inside front cover (click on the image for a larger view) of the program for the 1973 edition of the Disney on Parade arena show. Along with a photo of Walt at Disneyland Park, there's a salute (written, I believe, by Marty Sklar) not so much to Walt as to the Studio and the company he created, as this was Disney's 50th anniversary. (You'll note the inclusion of the awesome 50 Happy Years that I've featured before.) Happy Birthday to Walt, and here's to all the happy things created under his name since that December day in 1901.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
When I published the last post about the 1950 Little Golden Book Christmas in the Country I didn't realize that not only the cover but also the entire book had just been published on another blog. The blog of Barbie Miller, Golden Gems features tons of great illustrations from Little Golden Books and other books, magazines and additional sources. As Barbie herself puts it, her blog is a "collection of little golden books and other vintage & modern illustrations meant to inspire and delight." The Christmas in the Country art Barbie has posted is a delight indeed. Pictured here are several of my favorite images from this nostalgic tale, in which little Betty and Bob visit their grandparents on an old-fashioned farm for a glorious Christmas in the countryside. To show all my favorite illustrations from this entrancing book I would have to post every artwork in the book (but no need, as that's what Golden Gems has done), but certainly on the top of my list is the family (including Grandfather with his Santa-like beard) gathered around the organ to sing carols. Be sure to set aside some time (say a day or two) to explore Golden Gems—it's like Christmas morning every time you visit.
Many a charming Christmas tale has been told in the pages of Little Golden Books over the years, and one of my all-time favorites is the heartwarming Christmas in the Country. Published in 1950, this timeless story overflows with nostalgic art by Retta Scott Worcester. Renowned as the first full-fledged female Disney animator for her work on such classics as Dumbo and Bambi, Retta also contributed beautifully stylized illustrations to several Golden publications, including various editions of Walt Disney's Cinderella and Happy Birthday (1952). Here's the entrancing cover of this gold-standard Golden Book, a little volume all the more precious to me as it was a Christmas gift from my friend and a "golden" award-winning artist (Disney and otherwise) in his own right, Michael Giaimo. (Thanks, Mike!) One look at this utterly appealing cover and one can't help feel a little more Christmasy.
Monday, December 1, 2008
The wholesome fun of the Archie comic books makes a good match with Christmas so it's fitting that special holiday stories and issues have long been part of the Archie mix. Archie's Christmas Stocking began in 1954 as part of the Archie Giant series, and later started as its own series in 1994. To get December off to a good start, here's a fun 1957 cover showing the famous freckle-faced teenager doing what he does best: being lovestruck (if not lovesick) over those two beauties, Betty and Veronica. Archie is so girl-crazy that we can be sure mistletoe is his favorite part of Christmas. Happy December!