Saturday, January 31, 2009
Before the first month of 2009 ends, I wanted to mention another Disney TV anniversary in January, and that’s the debut of the syndicated series The Mouse Factory on January 26, 1972. Produced and directed by Ward Kimball, the most iconoclastic member of Walt’s Nine Old Men (or of any other group of people Ward happened to be in), this program is perhaps best described as a Disney version of Laugh-In, using “wild” comedy and oftentimes quick clips of animation, as well as presenting entire shorts and featurettes. Each weekly episode was guest-hosted by a live-action actor or comedian (always billed as “Mickey’s Friend”), including Don Knotts, Phyllis Diller, Jonathan Winters, and Disney favorites Annette Funicello and Dexter Riley himself, Kurt Russell. A scattering of merchandise was issued to celebrate the show, including this LP record album, using art that mirrored the opening animated titles of the show. The use of the vintage “pie-eyed” Mickey and his appearance on a pocket watch echoed the nostalgia craze of the 1970s, which seemed to have started at least to some degree with the sudden popularity of the 1930s Mickey Mouse watch, beginning in about 1968. The show itself was named after the old-time nickname for the Disney Studios. Please check back as I plan on posting one or two more Mouse Factory artifacts soon.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
January 24, 1965, marked the debut of the series of shows centering on “Gallegher” on the Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color TV series. Disney favorite Roger Mobley (who I wrote about here and here) stars as Gallegher, an early-1900s copy boy at the big-city newspaper, The Daily Press. By tirelessly following up clues, hunting down suspects, and putting himself in harm’s way, Gallegher continually proves himself a better reporter than any of the adult journalists who get the page-one bylines. In a photo (which incidentally misspells Gallegher's name) from Part II of this comedy/drama, Roger is shown with Jack Warden, just one of the many great character actors who appeared in the “Gallegher” episodes, including Bruce Dern, Anne Francis, Peter Graves, Dennis Weaver, Beverly Garland, and of course Edmond O’Brian and Harvey Korman as Gallegher’s newspaper co-workers. I’m at work (and have been for some time) on a behind-the-scenes account of the making of this Disney TV series-within-a-series. Watch this blog for more details, coming soon, and like Gallegher himself, you’ll be getting the news.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
On Tuesday, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States (or hadn't you heard?). An Audio-Animatronic figure of President Obama will be added to the line-up of Chief Executives in the Hall of the Presidents in Liberty Square in Walt Disney World Resort. Reportedly, the President will be recording a new speech to delivered as part of the attraction, in what has become a tradition started by Bill Clinton and followed by George W. Bush. An original 1971 attraction at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, the Hall of the Presidents was closed in November 2008 for an extensive renovation, including a state-of-the-art updating of the projection and lighting systems. Master Imagineer sculptor Blaine Gibson, now 90, will not be sculpting the new figure as he has done for all the other Presidential figures in the show, but he will be a consultant for Walt Disney Imagineering Director of Sculpture Valerie Edwards (who by the way has sculpted some of the Walt Disney Classics Collection pieces). The revised version of the Hall of the Presidents (which was originally heralded with this magnificent poster, above), featuring a new and history-making President, is scheduled to reopen on July 4, 2009.
Friday, January 16, 2009
From the pages of Sketches, the Official Magazine of the Walt Disney Collectors Society, here’s an article (from the Winter 2001 issue) written by me to celebrate that wonderful TV series, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. Among the delights highlighted is “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” starring the wonderful and, sadly, recently departed actor Patrick McGoohan. Recently released on DVD as part of the must-have Walt Disney Treasures series, "The Scarecrow" is one of Walt Disney's most unusual live-action production and it’s not to be missed. More to the point, this article features Roger Mobley, the young Disney star of the 1960s who I call the Wonderful World of Color Kid for his many appearances on the TV series. Here, this terrific actor is seen in his defining role as Gallegher, the sharp-witted turn-of-the-century copyboy more skilled at getting the news than his adult employers. Be sure and keep your eyes on this blog, because soon I will be announcing the launch of my website which will, before too long, feature the complete behind-the-scenes story of this all-but-forgotten Disney gem, starring the Wonderful World of Color Kid himself. Happy Birthday, Roger—I promise it won’t be too long now!
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Here's a card drawn and signed by Paul Coker, Jr., the artist who designed many of the Rankin/Bass holiday specials, including Frosty the Snowman (1969), and which is available at the Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass blog. . Why am I posting about Frosty now rather than at Christmas? Maybe because the "Frosty the Snowman" song is a winter song and not a Christmas song despite its inclusion on just about every Christmas song collection ever. Of course, the Rankin/Bass special transformed Frosty's tale into a Yuletide story so that doesn't help, but it's a marvelously charming holiday-themed teleplay. One of it's most delightful aspects is how the jolly snowman says "Happy Birthday!" every time he magically comes to life, hence the inclusion of the greeting in Paul's drawing. You can see much more about Paul Coker, Jr., Frosty and other Rankin/Bass delights at Rick Goldschmidt's aforementioned blog. . Check it out, and in the meantime, as Frosty himself might say to anybody having a birthday today (or yesterday, for that matter): "Happy Birthday!"
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
In 1974, Charles M. Schulz, the cartoonist who wrote and drew the Peanuts comic strip was the Grand Marshall of the 85th Annual Tournament of Roses Parade, the theme of which was "Happiness Is..." You can see the parade program over at Ed Squair's excellent blog, and more importantly you can see Schulz's autograph. Snoopy and Sparky just seem like a great way to kick off the New Year.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
For January 6, the traditional date for Epiphany, here's a behind-the-scenes photo showing the making of the wonderful Rankin/Bass TV special, The Little Drummer Boy (1968). The imaginative "Animagic" production intertwined a story suggested by the famous "Carol of the Drum" about Aaron the little drummer boy with the story of the Magi traveling only by night in order to follow a bright star. Unusually serious, this very special special features sterling vocal performances by the Vienna Boys Choir, Jose Ferrer and, "as our storyteller, Miss Greer Garson"—and as is evident in the image pictured here, the production also boasts intricate sets and wondrous stop-motion "puppets". The photo is from Rankin/Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt's blog, The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass. Be sure and check it out for lots more Rankin/Bass goodness.
Monday, January 5, 2009
To get 2009 off to a super start here's a great cover from the 1980 Superboy Spectacular. I've always liked Superboy better than Superman, one reason being that Superboy is slightly more vulnerable than his unstoppable super-adult self, and so he's just more interesting. But the main reason is Krypto, the super dog. That's just a fun idea, and good ol' Krypto looks like he's really having fun in this emotive cover art by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano. Yes it's a typical boy-and-his-dog scene, except that these two just happen to be in flight and are susceptible to Kryptonite. So whether you live in Smallville, Metropolis or the Bottled City of Kandor or anywhere else, here's hoping that your new year is truly super and totally Kryptonite-free.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
What better way to start off a New Year here at Tulgey Wood with something that's classy and classic, vintage and yet contemporary? Here are the wonderful Mary Poppins felt ornaments designed a few holiday seasons ago for the Disney Catalog by that "practically perfect" artist/historian/writer and all-around awesome guy, Kevin Kidney. These handmade felt ornaments represent the four major costumes worn by Mary Poppins in Walt Disney's musical, from left to right: the "Jolly Holiday" dress; the "Spoonful of Sugar" nursery ensemble, complete with apron (and robin); the iconic "flying outfit"; and the rooftop "Chim Chim Cher-ee" suit, in which Kevin portrayed the magical nanny with a saucy wink, neatly adding an extra "element of fun" worthy of Mary Poppins herself. On his online portfolio Kevin reports he was attempting a Little Golden Book-like look with these stylized designs, and I have to say he really pulled it off, as you can see for yourselves. I'm both proud and pleased to say that Kevin is now writing for Sketches, the Official Magazine of the Walt Disney Collectors Society. While you're on the lookout for his next article in Sketches, be sure and check out Kevin's blog, full of all sorts of Disney artistry and artifacts, such as his recent posts on the various Disneyland Christmas Parades, some of which were designed by Kevin himself. Happy New Year!