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.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year's Eve!

Here's some Muppet merriment to usher in the New Year. This cover from the Winter 1988 issue of Muppet Magazine features Kermit, Miss Piggy and "special guest star" Jason Bateman (lately of Arrested Development and Juno) all dolled up for New Year's Eve. Miss Piggy may have diverted her Christmas gifts from Kermit to Jason but we all know who she'll kiss (or try to) at midnight. Happy 2008 everyone!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"The Only Society That Brings Disney Magic Home"

Here's a page from the Summer 2007 issue of NewsFlash, the quarterly Newsletter of the Walt Disney Collectors Society. Full of news, inside info, announcements and Disney fun (and written by yours truly), NewsFlash is just one of the many exclusive benefits available only to Society Members. There's only a few days left to join for Society Year 2007, but even if you join on the last day (Monday, December 31, 2007), you still get a full year of Society benefits. For more information on joining the Walt Disney Collectors Society, go here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Here We Come A-Wassailing

In this lavish panel (click on the image for a larger view) from the magnificent Pogo Sunday page written and drawn by Walt Kelly for Christmas Day 1955, Albert the Alligator ponders the meaning of wassail at Pogo's carol singing party. I'm betting that even if you, like Albert, don't know exactly what wassail is, you know the Christmas carol the Okefenokee Swamp gang is singing (the lyrics are on the bottom of the panel) so why not join in, as we indeed ask God to send us a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Don't You Kind of Love December?

I've always imagined the wintery happenings of "Once Upon a Wintertime," a stylish segment of Walt Disney's "package film" Melody Time (1948) as happening in the days following December 25. We know from the lyrics of the lush title song (written by Bobby Worth and and Ray Gilbert, and sung by Frances Langford) that the fun and unexpectedly adventurous sleigh-ride-and-skating jaunt of Jenny and Joe takes place in December, and their romantic excursion seems just the thing for a quiet Yuletide afternoon. The stylish design of "Once Upon a Wintertime" is courtesy of Mary Blair, and the charming 1950 Little Golden Book based on the animated short was illustrated by the equally stylish Disney artist Tom Oreb. Blair and Oreb are a treat for any fan of Disney, design or illustration, so have a cup of cocoa and enjoy the artistry of this Little Golden Book cover.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

For Christmas 1971, Newsweek commissioned Charles M. Schulz to draw a holiday cover and here is the very merry result. Joy to the World!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve with Pogo

This Pogo strip (or as much of it as I'm posting here) by Walt Kelly was published on December 24, 1949. The continuity concerned Pogo trying to throw a Christmas party for local orphans. Porky Pine hears tell Pogo has no Santy Claus so he slides down the chimney and gets stuck in the potbellied stove. Luckily, Pogo informs Porky he is welcome to the party anyhow as he's the guest of honor...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Animation Treats

Over at his Animation Backgrounds blog, Rob Richards has posted many festive Christmas production artworks including background paintings from Gift Wrapped (starring Tweety and Sylvester; the cozy pan background above is from this gem), The Night Before Christmas (starring Tom and Jerry) and of course many Disney films, including Mickey’s Good Deed, Pluto’s Christmas Tree and The Small One. There are also the deluxe Christmas cards (pictured here) that open the famous Disney TV episode “From All of Us To All of You.” Visit Rob’s blog and you’ll treat yourself to a Yuletide visual feast.

Friday, December 21, 2007

December 21, 1937

This magnificent poster (art by Gustaf Tenggren) heralded the release of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Premiering a matter of weeks after the final animation was completed, Snow White was an unqualified hit, and became the most popular movie ever released up until that time. In numbers of actual tickets sold on that first release and on its many reissues over the years, Snow White has probably been seen by more people than any other feature film.

Hip Hip Pooh-ray!

Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day was released on December 20, 1968. Though the featurette was released two years after the death of Walt Disney, it had been developed under Walt’s supervision, along with the first Pooh production, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966). With the addition of Tigger and Piglet (these characters had not appeared in Honey Tree), the second featurette was even more popular than the first, and was awarded an Oscar for Best Short Subject (Cartoon). In accepting the Oscar on behalf of Walt Disney on April 14, 1969, from Tony Curtis and the Pink Panther, director Woolie Reitherman called Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day “another memorable moment we’ve all shared with Walt.” (Interestingly, another animation nominee that same year was John and Faith Hubley’s similarly titled Windy Day.) To celebrate the release of Pooh’s Oscar-winning featurette, here’s a charming Sticker Fun book from Whitman. Issued alongside coloring books, tray puzzles, storybooks and other memorabilia as part of the merchandising bonanza accompanying the film’s original release, this sticker book and the other publications by Whitman was drawn by the same talented artists who drew the Golden Book line, as Whitman and Golden were both imprints of Western Publishing Company, which also produced the Disney comic books.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas in Disneyland

Here’s a delightful Giant Comic from December 1956 all about Christmas in Disneyland. The Disney characters on the cover are drawn by Tony Strobl, who also drew the interior wraparound story of Santa Claus taking Timmie and Taffy (no, really) to Disneyland as a Christmas treat. What I really like about the cover is the photograph of Sleeping Beauty Castle with the colorful Christmas tree nearby. One of my favorite Yuletide Disneyland images featured silvery Christmas trees displayed in Sleeping Beauty Castle moat. This Christmas, Disneyland presents a holiday makeover of the iconic centerpiece of Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle. I was concerned when I first heard about this idea, as I’m leery of any plan to “enhance” the beautiful theme park castles. I’m sure you all remember the fiasco that resulted when Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle was transformed into a giant birthday cake, although you have tried to forget it. But I was pleasantly surprised with Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle. During the day Sleeping Beauty Castle is capped with snow but at night it’s transformed into a crystalline ice fantasy. Though I certainly wouldn’t want Disneyland's most important symbol obscured like this for long, it’s a nice wintry touch for Christmastime.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Walt Disney's TV Christmas Treasure

On December 19, 1958, “From All of Us To All of You” made its debut on the Walt Disney Presents TV series. Repeated every few years after that into the 1980s, the holiday-themed show, hosted by Jiminy Cricket, became a Yuletide favorite of many. Last Christmas I wrote an article about the show for the wonderful television history and culture site, You can read "From All of Us To All of You: Walt Disney’s Merriest TV Christmas Celebration" by Jim Fanning here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

More Merriment From Pogo & His Pals

Walt Kelly drew this festive scene in 1964, and it’s difficult to imagine a more fun-filled holiday celebration—or a more beautifully conceived, composed and executed work of cartoon art. One of its many joys is the number of cast members from his Pogo comic strip Mr. Kelly fit into the festivities, and how each character is conveyed with such personality. Take a look at Porky Pine—even though his face is partially hidden, Porky’s uncertainty and discomfort is communicated through the sheer artistry of Kelly’s drawing. The more you feast your eyes on this merry revel, the more you want to join in Pogo’s jolly song.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Super Christmas

Did the kids on Krypton hang their stockings by the chimney with care? We may never know (unless DC prints a flashback story) but in this 1941 comic book portrait, Superman gives Santa Claus a hand. Drawn by Superman cover artist Fred Ray, this was the cover of a specially produced comic giveaway designed by DC for department stores to hand out free to young customers (all the better to lure the youngsters—and their parents—into the toy department) at Christmastime. Note that the white square could be printed with the name of any store participating in the giveaway, in this case Robertson’s of Indiana (proudly proclaiming that all their toys were made in America, on a comic published [since it had to be printed and distributed before December in order for stores to have it in time for the holiday shopping season] on the very eve of the U.S. entry into World War II).

Walt Disney TV Treasures

“Disneyland Around the Seasons” was the episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color that aired on Sunday, December 18, 1966, just three days after Walt’s death on December 15, 1966. Walt not only presented a look at his Magic Kingdom throughout the year (including the classic Christmastime Fantasy on Parade), but also gave glimpses of It’s a Small World and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, both of which had moved from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair earlier in 1966. “Disneyland Around the Seasons” is just one of three Wonderful World of Color episodes presented on the new Walt Disney Treasures DVD, Disneyland: Secrets, Stories & Magic, the other two excellent entries being “The Golden Horseshoe Revue” and “Disneyland Goes to the World's Fair” (one of the best behind-the-scenes episodes ever produced for the Disney anthology series). You can get this DVD treasure just about anywhere, as well as here .

Saturday, December 15, 2007

“It’s Kind Of Fun To Do The Impossible”

Walter Elias Disney, December 5, 1901-December 15, 1966

Friday, December 14, 2007

From The Peanuts Gallery: 5, 3 and 4

His full name is 555 95472 but you can call him “5” for short. The spiky-haired little boy (shorter and theoretically younger than either Charlie Brown or Linus) was introduced into the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz on September 30, 1963. “My dad says we have so many numbers these days we’re all losing our identity,” as 5 himself explained it. “He’s decided that everyone in our family should have a number instead of a name.” 5’s father became “completely hysterical one night,” driven over the brink by the Zip Code, the number that he adapted as the family name. (95472 is the Zip Code of Sebastopol, California, where Charles Schulz lived when he wrote and drew these strips.) 5’s sisters, identical twins named 3 and 4, entered the strip on October 10, and though they pretty much disappeared from the strip almost immediately, 5 became a regular member of Charlie Brown’s baseball team (sometimes with a "5" on his shirt, making him a bit easier to identify), and he was often seen in strips featuring the entire team, ensuring him panel time well into the 1970s. However, it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas that 5, 3 and 4 have to thank for true immortality. These obscure characters are featured in the beloved 1965 TV special in the famous dance scene, in which the Peanuts gang dances with abandon to the famed Vince Guaraldi composition, “Linus and Lucy.” In the frame pictured above, 3 and 4 are in the purple dresses and white boots, while 5 is wearing the orange shirt. The millions who watch the special on its annual TV airings may not know the numerical names of these all-but-forgotten Peanuts cast members but they know their hip dance steps by heart.

He Sees You When You’re in Sleep Mode

Mac maniac and world-class friend Russell Miller clued me in on a new “Get a Mac” ad (Apple calls it a Christmas card) that delightfully salutes the Rankin/Bass holiday specials. The caricatured stop-motion puppets are a joy to behold, what with a classic Santa Claus, John Hodgman’s outsized nerdy glasses and Justin Long’s hip goatee. Russ is so up on all things Mac that he notified me about the fanciful stop-motion homage (directed and animated by Drew Lightfoot, designed by Shane Prigmore) before Jerry Beck posted about it on his always-excellent Cartoon Brew blog. (Too bad I wasn’t as quick to post.) Thanks, Russ!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

From the Pages of Sketches Magazine: Bedknobs and Broomsticks

On December 13, 1971, Bedknobs and Broomsticks opened in major, first-run theaters throughout the U.S. as the first phase of its release. (The Disney musical-fantasy had been playing at the prestigious Radio City Music Hall as the center of its Christmas Spectacular attraction since November 11). Starting on December 13, the lavish film—Bedknobs was the most highly-budgeted film ever produced by Disney up until that time—was the holiday attraction at Anaheim, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Coral Gables, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Louisville, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Providence, Rochester, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Jose, and Washington D.C. Then for Easter 1972 the bewitching, bedazzling live-action-animation combo played in neighborhood theatres. To celebrate that magical December when Bedknobs and Broomsticks was brand new, here’s an article I wrote about the making of the film for the Winter 2006 issue of Sketches, the Official Magazine of the Walt Disney Collectors Society. Sketches is only available to Society Members. Go here for more information on joining. And you can get Bedknobs and Broomsticks on DVD here.

Our “Cinderella Year” Draws To A Close

There are only a couple of weeks and change left in 2007, the 15th anniversary year of the Walt Disney Collectors Society. Our Society Membership Gift Sculpture (seen here) is Cinderella, so naturally we have called this very special 12 months our “Cinderella Year”. Even though the clock is about to strike midnight (figuratively speaking) you can still join the Walt Disney Collectors Society for 2007. As long as you sign up by December 31, 2007, you can be a part of our Cinderella Year—and no matter when you join up through that date you still get a full year of Membership. You’ll get this Wistful Dreamer sculpture, a subscription to Sketches Magazine and to NewsFlash newsletter, plus all the other Society benefits. For more details visit the Society website or you can also join (or renew if you are already a Society Member) at But hurry, act before the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2007.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Muppets Mess Around With Mistletoe

Thanks to Ricky Schroder (shown here in his child star days, long before he became Rick Schroder, star of such productions as Lonesome Dove, NYPD Blue and Scrubs), Miss Piggy is puckering up under the mistletoe, making Kermit less than merry. This is the cover to the Winter 1984 Muppet Magazine, a fun-filled publication that ran from 1983 through 1989. Despite his young age, Master Schroder should know that Miss Piggy and mistletoe don’t mix—or more likely, he’s just being a Christmas mischief-maker.

'Tis the Season for Rankin/Bass

Back here I wrote about the beautiful Christmas TV special, The Little Drummer Boy from Rankin/Bass Productions. As the purveyor of some of the most popular holiday specials ever created, Rankin/Bass has a strong Christmas connection, so if you’d like to learn more about this studio and its classic creations, head on over to Rankin-Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt’s excellent blog and his website where Rick tells of Yuletide treasure, Rankin/Bass style. Nobody knows more about Rankin/Bass than Rick, so don't be a misfit— be sure to also check out his delightfully extensive Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer rundown at

Life Upon the Wicked Stage

That irrepressible impresario Jeff Kurtti has been at it again. Together with Disney Broadway producer (The Lion King, Mary Poppins, and the new stage production of The Little Mermaid) Thomas Schumacher, Jeff has co-written How Does the Show Go On? An Introduction to the Theater, published by Disney Editions. Though the book is touted as being for children it is also for anyone who loves the theater and wants to know more. The 125-page hardcover is much more than a book. It’s a beautifully designed (by Kasey Free of becker&meyer!) interactive experience, complete with artifacts, including a Broadway show ticket, a reproduction of The Lion King Playbill program, pages of the Tarzan script, costume designs and much more. There is also beautiful photography of all aspects of stage production as well as a splendid text. (Naturally the writing is splendid—I already said Jeff Kurtti is the co-writer. Aren’t you paying attention?) Over at the excellent 2719 Hyperion blog, Jeff Pepper has an interview with Mr. Kurtti about the book. Of course How Does the Show Go On? makes a terrific gift for anyone who doesn’t get to Broadway all that often or for anyone who does. You can get this fantastic volume here. P.S. Thomas Schumacher and Jeff Kurtti will have book signings on December 12 (in New York) and on December 13 (in Los Angeles) and will also be making more appearances. For more information and even more about the book go to its official website.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Debut of a Christmas Classic

On December 9, 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas debuted on CBS. Sponsored by “the friendly people in your town who bottle Coca-Cola,” the special was a smash hit and has been broadcast every Christmas season since (for over 30 years on CBS, now on ABC), making it the second-longest consecutive run ever for an animated Christmas special (the record holder is the Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which made its debut in 1964). The book shown here was published concurrently with the premiere of A Charlie Brown Christmas on TV. Peanuts cartoonist and creator Charles M. Schulz drew the delightful cover, but the interior illustrations were loosely based on art from the animated special. You can see the original A Charlie Brown Christmas TV special just as it aired on December 9, 1965 (minus the onscreen references to the show being sponsored by Coca-Cola) on DVD, available here.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Authentic Americana via Mid-Century Slides

Have you jumped on the Charles Phoenix bandwagon yet? Christmas is the perfect season to sign up for his Slide of the Week email, in which Mr. Phoenix gives us a candid glimpse into the American scene via actual slides from the 1950s and 1960s. There's very little that can put you in the holiday mood as merrily as his Christmas-themed images. I’m showing this priceless slide of those Mickey Mouse Club superstars Annette, Tim Considine (he’s mostly hidden, unfortunately—look for Tim's flattop behind the girl in the blue sweater) and David Stollery in their “Further Adventures of Spin and Marty” costumes signing autographs at Disneyland during Christmas 1956 because of the obvious Disney connection, but the slides Charles sends out each week are usually much more down home. For instance this week features a lady showing off her homemade Christmas Tree skirt in 1957 Southern California. He’s the author of several books about mid-century design and culture including Americana the Beautiful: Mid-Century Culture in Kodachrome but his Slide of the Week is free. To learn more about his books (they make great holiday gifts) and his slides (search "Christmas" and you'll hit a feast of festivity) and much more, visit Charles

We Need A Little Christmas…

…and here are Tom and Jerry (and Tuffy) to make us a little more merry. Tom and Jerry’s Merry Christmas boasts illustrations by Tom and Jerry master Harvey Eisenberg and Samuel Armstrong (Disney background artist, story artist and director), including this jolly cover. Let’s be honest, though. How many of us would really feel merry to discover a mouse (let alone two mice) in our Christmas tree? This festive Little Golden Book was published in 1954 and was in print for decades.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Speed Racer, Can I Borrow The Car?

The great Jerry Beck reports at that the new live-action Speed Racer feature film by the creators of The Matrix is lookin’ good (so far). The film stars Emile Hirsch (pictured here). A good live-action adaptation of an animated production, which shouldn’t even be attempted in the first place? I know, I know. But while we lament sequels, remakes, CGI and animated-productions-that-should-remain-animated, check out USA Today’s article (and way-cool photos) here.

A Disney Family Tribute to Bruce

The Walt Disney Family Museum website has a new tribute to Disney Imagineer, author, historian and producer Bruce Gordon, who I wrote about here and here. The tribute is wonderfully written by the president of the Walt Disney Family Foundation, Walter E. D. Miller (we all know who he was named after) who worked with Bruce on the forthcoming Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. Personally I like how Walter notes what a good friend Bruce was to my friends Jeff Kurtti, Paula Sigman Lowery, Hugh Chitwood and Ed Squair, and indeed to all who knew him. Read Walter Miller’s tribute (there are photos, including the one pictured here of Bruce and Diane Disney Miller at the Walt Disney Family Museum site, and video of Bruce too) and you’ll know why Bruce’s friends miss this colorful Disney “character” more each day.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Walt Disney’s Hans Brinker

In my previous post I mentioned St. Nicholas Day and this feast day's importance in other countries. Before December 6, 2007—otherwise known as St. Nicholas Day—is over, let’s take a look at Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates. The classic book by American author Mary Mapes Dodge was adapted for Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, and colorful story that it is, it was showcased on the NBC TV series during its inaugural season (1961-1962) on January 7 and 14, 1962. Famously set in Holland, Hans Brinker features a key scene centering around a visit from St. Nicholas, for as Santa Claus (the name is of course derived from Saint Nicholas) visits American children on Christmas Eve, so St. Nicholas leaves gifts for Dutch children on St. Nicholas Eve (Dec. 5).
Walt Disney’s version of Hans Brinker was filmed on location near Camperdin and Volendam in Holland, and at Rembrandt’s Amsterdam home. Incredibly, the climatic skating race was filmed in Sweden near the Arctic Circle when the earliest Spring in 200 years melted the Netherlands’s frozen canals, and windmills were built at the Swedish location to make the snowy surroundings seem authentically Dutch. The authenticity of the settings was augmented by young Rony Zeander who was an artist himself and in, playing aspiring artist Hans, the actor did his own onscreen canvas work. The production was written and directed by Disney TV stalwart, Norman Foster, who had directed Disney’s Davy Crockett and Zorro, and this highly budgeted TV production was of such quality that it was released to movie theaters outside the US. If you’d like to enjoy Hans Brinker this holiday season it’s one of the few vibrant treasures from Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color available on DVD , although this version is the somewhat abbreviated theatrical release.

Have a Golden St. Nicholas Day

December 6 is St. Nicholas Day, a major Christmastime holiday in many parts of the world. To celebrate, here’s a real St. Nicholas goodie: the classic Little Golden Book, Santa's Toy Shop, first published in 1950 and still available today as a Big Golden Book. Inspired by Walt Disney’s 1932 Silly Symphony Santa’s Workshop, the charming illustrations are by Golden Book artist Al Dempster. Like many of the Golden artists, Al was also a Disney animation artist, specifically a background artist, who painted backgrounds for many of the great Disney features, including Fantasia, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and The Jungle Book. As a Disney background artist, Al knew everything there is to know about staging, color and conveying story in an illustration. The art is in fact superior to and far more appealing than the style of the original cartoon, which was produced as Disney animation was still very much evolving. For this simple volume, Al designed a Santa that is pure Disney. Hope this Christmastime treat makes you as jolly as Santa Claus himself.

A Disney Calendar For Every Day of 2008

The New Year is just a few weeks away but don't panic—there's a Disney calendar that will make every day a Disney Day! The Disney Days 2008 Day-to-Day Calendar features a classic Disney image for every day of 2008, featuring just about every animated star from Mickey Mouse to Remy from Ratatouille, and each page of the calendar boasts a fun fact or quote sure to intrigue the most ardent Disney fan. Best of all the images were selected and the facts written by Ed Squair, Disney Photo Library supervisor and all-around Disney expert. Ed is also a major player on the Sketches Magazine team, consulting on image selection and otherwise lending his Disney insight and expertise, as he does for many Disney publications and projects. If you see Ed's name on a book, documentary or magazine you know it will have that Disney "plus", and that certainly goes for Ed's calendar too. Ed has been image-selecting for this popular calendar since the first edition in 1995 and writing for it since 1998, and the 2008 edition is another winner. You can get the Disney Days calendar for yourself or as a timely holiday gift here .

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

From The Pages of Sketches Magazine: Walt’s Boyhood Hometown

To celebrate the anniversary of Walt Disney’s birth, here’s an article I wrote for the Spring 2001 issue of Sketches, the Official Magazine of the Walt Disney Collectors Society. From 1906 through 1910 Walt lived with his family on a farm in the small community of Marceline, Missouri, an experience that strongly influenced Walt and his future projects. I hope you enjoy reading this article from Sketches, a quarterly Disney magazine that's for anyone who loves Disney. Sketches is available exclusively to Members of the Walt Disney Collectors Society. For more information about Society Membership, go here.

Happy Birthday, Walt

Walt Disney was born December 5, 1901, so to celebrate today's anniversary of Walt’s birth, here’s a wonderful photograph of the exterior of The Walt Disney Story from the cover of Disney News magazine (Winter 1975/1976). Housed in Disneyland Park’s Main Street Opera House, The Walt Disney Story opened on April 8, 1973, during Disney’s yearlong 50th anniversary celebration. Quite appropriately, Mrs. Lillian Bounds Disney (Mrs. Walt Disney) officiated at the grand opening of this salute to the man behind the Magic Kingdom and his creative legacy. This attraction was a mecca for hardcore Disney fans as much memorabilia and many historic photos were on display. There were also recreations of Walt’s two Studio offices—working and formal—but more importantly The Walt Disney Story featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (the attraction’s full title as in 1975, by popular demand, the Mr. Lincoln attraction was combined with the Walt attraction, which had displaced Mr. Lincoln from the Opera House) was a tangible reminder that Walt Disney was a real person. In an era when more and more people are unaware of the historic Walt, it’s a shame that Disneyland has not yet returned The Walt Disney Story to the Opera House after the Disneyland 50th retrospective replaced it in 2005. It's not all bad especially as Walt is actually a part of the First 50 Years show, but one hopes that The Walt Disney Story will actually return one day, perhaps even as a newly-Imagineered attraction. Just imagine: Done with taste, respect and true Disney showmanship, an Audio-Animatronics Walt figure could be both a tribute to Mr. Disney and also an exciting way to introduce new generations who already know the Mouse to the Man who really started it all.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

One Star in the Night

Certainly one of the best Rankin/Bass Christmas specials, The Little Drummer Boy debuted on NBC on December 19, 1968. Reminiscent (in theme, at least) to Amahl and the Night Visitors (see here for more about that historic program), this Animagic special is based on the famous Christmas song written by Katherine Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone in 1941. As is typical of their finest productions, producer/directors Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass, animation director Takeo Nakamura, composer Maury Laws and writer Romeo Muller did an impressive job of spinning a new story out of a well-known song. The tone is more solemn (though no less entertaining) than most of the Rankin/Bass holiday specials, befitting the use of the scriptural Nativity story as its background. Narrated by “Our Storyteller, Miss Greer Garson," The Little Drummer Boy is the story of Aaron who—because of the cruel tragedy that left him an orphan—has a deep hatred for all humanity. Aaron and his only friends, Joshua the camel, Samson the donkey and Ben Baba the lamb, encounter three kings who are traveling through the Judean desert, following a great Star that eventually leads to Bethlehem and a newborn King. Despite the cruelty he has experienced, Aaron discovers the power of love in offering a simple gift to the Infant—a song on his drum. In tandem with the special’s TV debut a View-Master adaptation of the show, with three-dimensional scenes created by View-Master master Joe Liptak, was released. For some reason The Little Drummer Boy is the only Rankin/Bass special to have been adapted into a View Master set (although Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was released as a View-Master set a few years ago). The puppet-like three-dimensional figures used in the “Animagic” stop-motion technique are obviously ideal for the three-dimensional View-Master format. In adapting other TV or movie productions (Tulgey Wood visitors are of course aware of the many Disney and Hanna-Barbera sets released by View-Master), figures and sets had to be constructed but much of that work had already been done for The Little Drummer Boy , which is one of the most charming, touching—and in-touch with “what Christmas is all about”—TV specials created by the legendary Rankin/Bass.