Monday, March 31, 2008
In tribute to Walt Disney’s Gremlins—and their triumphant return to comics, as mentioned in the last post—here’s a classic cover from the July 1943 issue of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, attributed to the great Walt Kelly. This issue, Number 34, also included a comic story written and drawn by Walt (Kelly, not Disney) entitled “Gremlin Gus and the Widgets,” one of a handful of short Kelly Gremlin stories, but this is the only comics cover on which the little guys appeared (until 2008, that is).
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Dark Horse Comics has just published a primo new comic book, The Return of The Gremlins. Drawn in high-style by Dean Yeagle and written by Mike Richardson, this comic brings back Walt Disney’s wonderful version of the Gremlins—created by acclaimed author Roald Dahl when he was an RAF officer serving in World War II—and also reprints one of the few Disney comic book stories published in the 1940s. Check out your local comic book store for this new-and-vintage Disney delight—but watch out for those Gremlins!
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Gracing the cover of the brand-new issue of Sketches, the Official Magazine of the Walt Disney Collectors Society are three of my favorite Disney characters, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, featured as part the spectacular new the Walt Disney Classics Collection sculpture of the elaborate and ornate gift box in which the miniaturized trio ensconce themselves to plan exactly how they will protect Princess Aurora from the evil Maleficent. This issue includes an article about the Good Fairies and this magnificent new piece by Stephen Matzke, as well as articles about Elliott the Dragon, Bacchus and Jacchus by Barbara Layman, and a fun look at the other Silly Symphonies starring the Three Little Pigs by Kevin Kidney. We are currently completing the next issue of Sketches and about to start the issue after that, and there are plenty of surprises, announcements and behind-the-scenes stories in store, so you won't want to miss another issue. Published exclusively for Members of the Walt Disney Collectors Society, Sketches is a magazine for every Disney fan. For more information on becoming a Society Member please visit here.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
...for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God.” For Easter Sunday here’s a remarkable work of art profound in its simplicity. You can read the story of how Lorriane Schneider created this folk art-like print (the logo of the Another Mother For Peace organization) here and learn more about Another Mother For Peace here. Happy Easter everyone… and Happy Birthday, Mom.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Backstage Pass, the newsletter for Disneyland Annual Passholders, recently ran this article (pictured) about the new Pixar Play Parade that just opened last week at Disney’s California Adventures Park. In this interview Steven Davison, Vice President of Parades and Spectaculars for Disney Creative Entertainment, rightly and accurately praises the parade’s scenic designer and artistic inspiration, the great Jody Daily. Check out Kevin Kidney’s blog (scroll down until you see Kevin's Pixar Play Parade) for more whimsical Jody Daily art.
Friday, March 21, 2008
As part of the magnificent Giant (not Big, mind you, but Giant) Golden Book series, The Golden Bible: The New Testament was published in 1953. Beautifully illustrated by the great husband-and-wife team of Alice and Martin Provensen in a wonderfully stylized mid-century “modern” design that also evokes sacred iconic art and stained glass windows, The Golden Bible: The New Testament is quite simply a work of art. The Provensens illustrated many Golden Books (Martin was a former Disney artist, an elite member of Joe Grant’s Character Model Department), producing many brilliant illustrations, such as the one seen here from The Golden Bible: The New Testament. This beautiful adaptation of the Gospels and selected other New Testament writings justly won the 1953 New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award.
Monday, March 17, 2008
I just couldn’t let St. Patrick’s Day go by without some notice beyond encouraging the abuse of green-colored alcohol, as I did in the previous post. So here’s a wonderful cover by the artists of Disney Publishing for Donald Duck No. 310, December 2003, in which Donald has discovered a not-so-lucky four leaf clover. Our lucky Duck should have stuck with the traditional shamrock for his comic book unfortunately suspended publication in 2006 with issue No. 346. Luckily (on the other hand) Donald continues to make comic book appearances a-plenty in the monthly Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories.
As I mentioned back here, I was lucky enough (thanks, Ed and Debbie!) to be in the audience for the February 26 “taping” (filming, actually) of the great first season TV comedy The Big Bang Theory. It was a wonderful experience seeing this terrific show unfold before my eyes. (“Mild” spoiler alert.) Entitled “The Cooper- Hofstadter Polarization,” the story concerns a disagreement between best friends and roommates Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons), a sticky sitcom situation, especially considering Sheldon is actually so dependent on Leonard. The cast was terrific and even funnier in person. One of the most fascinating aspects was seeing how the show’s signature talking-while-walking-up-the-four-flights-of-stairs was filmed: the crew actually re-dresses the hallway/staircase set for each floor, right down to changing the numbers on the apartment doors (which are almost always not even seen in the shot). The filming had an added emotional kick, as it was the first episode out of the gate after the strike. Co-creator/co-executive producer Chuck Lorre spoke to the audience before the show and thanked the fans for making it a hit that is coming back for nine new episodes to complete this season and also has been renewed for next. (I’m not really sure exactly how many real die-hard fans were in attendance—new shows often rely on groups that may not even know the show—but there were two real fans in front of me who were watching a previously aired episode on their iPod as they were waiting for the filming to begin.) The show truly had a family feel among the cast and crew and they all seemed to be elated to be back on track, and also to be performing and filming an excellent episode. At one point Johnny Galecki clambered up onto the "fence" in front of the audience to introduce his great aunt from Chicago who was in the audience. Also, we were served pizza, something that not every show provides for its studio audience. Pictured here is the cool program everyone received, and you’ll note the back cover reads, “The Big Bang Theory family thanks you for joining us.” Be sure and tune in tonight at 8:00 pm (the show’s new time) and enjoy this great episode (take it from me, it’s terrific)—you don’t want to miss the YouTube spectacular that ends the episode. And if you happen to be drinking green beer, chug it when you come across the killer reference to the bottled city of Kandor (“It’s a lot cooler when there’s not a girl looking at it.”).
P.S. Check out Ed Squair's own post about this episode (I attended the filming with Ed) over at his blog.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Over at his wondrous Disney history blog, Jeff Pepper recently posted an excellent report on the great Goofy cartoon The Art of Skiing (1942) and Walt Disney’s connection with the Sugar Bowl ski resort. In the Winter 2006 issue of Sketches, the Official Magazine of the Walt Disney Collectors Society, we ran an article by Stephen Matzke covering some of the same snow-covered ground. The springboard (or ski jump) for the article was the cool (as in wintry-cold) sculpture of Goofy as he appeared in The Art of Skiing (before he bashed into a tree). Since the first day of spring is a week away there’s plenty of time to enjoy that dippy downhill racer slipping on the slopes. For more information on the Walt Disney Collectors Society, slide on over here. (Incidentally, The Art of Skiing was not the first of Goofy’s “How-To” shorts. How To Ride a Horse was the first produced, though it was not released as a short but as part of the 1941 feature, The Reluctant Dragon. Goofy’s Glider, in which Goofy demonstrated how not to fly a glider, was produced next and was released in 1940, making it the first “How-To” seen by audiences.)
Both Mark Evanier (at his long-running blog) and Ed Squair (at his brand-new blog) have posted about that terrific cereal spokes-cat and all-around wonderful cartoon character, Tony the Tiger. First stop over at Mark’s neighborhood and see an actual Sugar Frosted Flakes animated commercial (Mark rightly points out the cereal should always be referred to as Sugar Frosted Flakes, no matter what Kellogg's says) and you’ll not only see Tony (and Tony Jr.) but you'll also hear the great singer/voice artist Thurl Ravenscroft (a vocal favorite in more than one Disney production), and then drop by Ed’s place and see the Tony cel from a similar commercial Ed actually has in his collection—each designed in that sophisticated Cartoon Modern style. Both Mark and Ed have good blogs. Good? They’re G-R-R-R-R-REAT!
Saturday, March 8, 2008
The Internet brings us another wonderful forum for comic book fans and historians alike. The Hey Kids! Comics blog (just one of several comic-related blogs of an illustrator and comic book scholar named Rob) features reminiscences by avid comic book readers about comic favorites from childhood or another point in the past, often detailing vivid memories of the first comic that ignited a lifelong passion. (You are invited to send in your own story.) Most delightfully, there are often photos of these young urchins reading a funny book epic or two, as well as other historic photos (a 1938 newsstand with rows of freshly-printed copies of Action Comics No. 1, for example) . Pictured is the heading from this must-read blog. But don’t let the round glasses fool you—that is not a photo of me.
Friday, March 7, 2008
After a mysterious and worrisome delay in late 2007 and early 2008, the flagship Disney comic book Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories is back on the newsstands (well, in comic book shops, at least) and available via various online emporiums. After rocky periods of non-publication for this venerable funny book over the years I always grow concerned when something seems amiss, but the dedicated folks at Gemstone Publishing persevered, and both the December 2007 (No. 687) and January 2008 (No. 688) issues are now available. The January issue (seen here with a Michel Nadorp-drawn cover) is particularly desirable as it features Part One of “The Gleam,” the rarely-reprinted Mickey Mouse newspaper comic strip adventure from 1942. Drawn by Mickey master Floyd Gottfredson (and written by Gottfredson and Merrill De Maris), this superb story is reason enough to snap up this issue of the indestructible Disney comic publication. Parts Two and Three will of course follow, and we are also promised more stories drawn by Paul Murry and Tony Strobl in forthcoming issues. If that’s true, I can’t wait! You can get Issue 688 of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories here.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
I’ve mentioned the legendary Mary Blair so much here lately I thought I’d include an article I wrote about Ms. Blair for Sketches, the Official Magazine of the Walt Disney Collectors Society. For this brief piece I interviewed Marc Davis and Frank Thomas, who both were generous with their time and thoughts, as usual. In fact, Frank had the flu at the time I called him (of course I didn’t know that when I dialed the telephone). When he came to the phone I asked him if he was sure this was a good time. “It’s as bad a time as any,” he laughed. Frank’s voice was weak but as soon as he started talking about Mary Blair, his voice was suddenly vital and full of life. Needless to say, Marc was also full of enthusiasm as he talked about the stylist and her artistry, as Mary was a close friend of Marc and his wife, Alice. We regularly feature historical articles celebrating Disney art and artists in Sketches. Remember, Sketches is a members-only magazine. For more information about joining the Walt Disney Collectors Society, please visit the Society’s official website.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
I have been remiss in not recommending the excellent book Disney's Lost Chords sooner. Written by Disney artist and historian Russell Schroeder, this fine and unusual volume features the music and lyrics of many songs (77 to be exact) composed for but ultimately not used in Disney productions such as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book and many more. The book not only contains these fascinating compostions but some wonderful history on the creation of the songs and the films in which they were at one point intended to be heard. Also included is some great Disney art, much of it never seen before, and not the least of which is the piece used as the book's cover (seen at left): a marvelous Mary Blair artwork created for the program of a 1948 veteran's fundraising event. I love the whimsical Blair take on Minnie dancing on the piano, Jose Carioca (certainly a 1940s era star) on the trombone, and Pluto on the bass. (It's not often you see Blair art featuring Mickey and his pals.) This unique book and all its art for ear, eye and mind can be ordered via this website.
What other FM radio show can you think of that not only plays Broadway music but also opens with Kaye Ballard singing “My Son the Druggist” from So Long, 174th Street? That’s exactly how a recent broadcast of the Thursday night radio program, Two On The Dial with Peter and Miriam started. That same recent episode also featured such enjoyable oddities as the Doodle Town Pipers singing “Never My Love” (produced by Snuff Garrett) and a selection from Wicked performed in German. (By the way, the hosts also play plenty of “mainstream” Broadway hits, such as the original Sweeney Todd (pictured above), Hello, Dolly!, and movie musicals too.) Though this is an LA-local broadcast (Northridge, actually), thanks to the Internet, you can listen to this unusual and freewheeling celebration of musical theatre wherever in the world you are. (Unfortunately the show is not archived so you have to log on as the show is actually being broadcast in California—but Two On The Dial is worth any lost sleep involved.) When the hosts say this “Broadway our way,” they ain’t just whistling “I Whistle A Happy Tune." Recent performers have included Julie Andrews, Carol Burnett, Ruth Etting, Louis Armstrong, and Mama Cass singing with her pre-Mamas and the Papas group, The Big 3. And then there’s the final hour of this three-hour extravaganza. Called "Curtain Up," this segment features an entire cast album. Last week’s selection was the brand-new original cast recording of The Little Mermaid, while other recent albums have included the Sweeney Todd soundtrack (played on the show before the movie opened or the CD was released), and the new edition of Forbidden Broadway (the highlight: “Don’t Monkey with Broadway,” supposedly sung by the Winged Monkeys from Wicked). What Broadway gems and buried treasure will Peter and Miriam spotlight this Thursday? Tune into KCSN.org at 9:00 pm (Pacific time) and discover Broadway musical mayhem.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
…be sure and check out 2719 Hyperion for Jeff Pepper’s fun look at the 1953 tie-in campaign for Admiral television sets and Walt Disney's Peter Pan. In this age of HD, it seems quaint to see an ad trumpeting the value of a TV that is “ready for UHF stations.” Not to mention seeing Princess Tiger Lily and Foxy (one of the Lost Boys) in advertisements for television sets in the first place.
As everyone knows by now, the Writers Guild of America strike is over, having ended on its 100th day. One of the best things about the strike’s end (aside from the return of so many to gainful employment) is that many favorite television series will soon return. A series I was concerned might be adversely affected (i.e., never be seen again) is the freshman comedy The Big Bang Theory, which I mentioned way back here, and which I was really rooting for. Fortunately, CBS has stuck by the show, endlessly re-running the eight episodes that had been completed pre-strike. With the strike over, the network has ordered nine more episodes. It’s encouarging to see this well-crafted, beautifully played, offbeat series succeed. Jim Parsons, certainly an amazing comic find, portrays the breakout character, the strangely unsmiling, oddly endearing genius-IQ physicist Sheldon (astute moviegoers will remember Mr. Parsons as Zach Braff’s friend-in-the-armor-suit in Garden State). Johnny Galecki, who is always terrific in everything he’s in, from TV’s Roseanne to the indie film hit The Opposite of Sex, is fellow physicist (and somewhat more self-aware) Leonard. Sheldon and Leonard (apparently named in honor of the great Sheldon Leonard, producer of such great TV comedies as the classic shows starring Danny Thomas, Dick Van Dyke and Andy Griffith) make a top–notch (to say nothing of eccentric) comedy team. The new post-strike episodes start airing March 17, and in fact, The Big Bang Theory has been picked up for a new season, the only new 2007-2008 show renewed by CBS. With this smart comedy having survived the strike, there’s hope that smart may indeed become the new sexy.