Monday, December 26, 2011
What did Mickey and Donald and Pluto find under the Christmas tree for Christmas 1961? Toys, toy soldiers to be exact, marching their way straight out of Babes in Toyland, Walt Disney's big holiday release for that year. This art adorned the front cover of the annual Disney Christmas card for that year, and since we are celebrating all things Babes in Toyland here at Tulgey Wood, I thought I'd include it here in honor of any treat large or small we might have found under our own trees Christmas. For another Yuletide-type treat, don't forget to read my Babes in Toyland article on the free D23 website.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
I have already posted some of the art from the deluxe program for Ben-Hur (1959), Painted by Ben Stahl, the distinguished artist who both wrote and illustrated Blackbeard's Ghost, this glowing artistic interpretation (click on the image for a larger view) of the Nativity adorned the Ben-Hur program, and now here it is to celebrate this Christmas Day. As you enjoy this art, consider the words of the prophet Isaiah: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, "Your God is King!" Merry Christmas.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
"Amahl and the Night Visitors" has already been featured here in Tulgey Wood but Christmas calls out for another look at this wondrous TV special. In December 1953, one year after the opera (the first ever to be commissioned especially for television) was presented as the first installment of the Hallmark Hall of Fame, Life magazine ran this spectacular full-color spread. Posted here at the right is a unique glimpse (in color yet) of the original production. Since its first live telecast on Christmas Eve 1951, Amahl had been re-presented on NBC once again, broadcast live with the original cast on Easter Sunday (April 13) 1952. That same month Rosemary Kuhlmann (Amahl's mother) and Chet Allen (Amahl; the boy soprano was proclaimed a star on the historic page-one New York Times review of the original broadcast) reprised their roles in a New York City Opera production, conducted by Thomas Schippers and sets by Eugene Berman (both from the first telecast); it was this stage production of which Life took the photographs for the article reproduced at the right. Enjoy these historical and very rare photos (click on the images for a larger view) of Gian Carlo Menotti's TV opera as a Christmas Eve treat.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
As mentioned back here, Boris Karloff brought his considerable acting skill to his vocalizations in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, which made its debut on CBS this night, December 18, in 1966. The great Karloff was born on November 23, 1887, so the Grinch special debuted less than a month after the master actor's 79th birthday. (By the way, Karloff's star-making triumph, Frankenstein, turned 80 in 2011.) To celebrate Karloff's uncannily good voice performances in this Christmas classic here's the TV Guide Close-Up listing celebrating its December 1966 debut. (Click on the image for a larger view.) It's interesting to note that Thurl Ravenscroft is credited here whereas he is not in the special itself. Both Dr. Seuss and producer-director Chuck Jones felt terrible about this accidental omission so we can assume they made sure Thurl received mention in TV Guide. (And by the way, watch Tulgey Wood for more about Frankenstein—or at least one of its many related productions—sometime in the future.)
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Walt Disney's Babes in Toyland (1961)not only inspired toys; it also featured toys such as the pretty doll Annette and Tommy Sands play with in one of the film's loveliest numbers, "Just a Toy." The doll seen in this charming scene was designed by Uneeda Doll Company. A Disney licensee of the time, Uneeda created the doll as both as a prop and as a toy that would be available in retail stores. Crowned with not only with, well, a crown but also with pink (not blonde) hair and wearing a tutu and ballet shoes (for isn't every princess a dancer?), the Princess doll had the same body as the Disney Pollyanna doll Uneeda issued just a year earlier. (Interestingly, the Princess doll hangtag was was designed as an alphabet block, in keeping with the Toyland theme, and the letters shown are "U" (often the only "name" stamped on Uneeda's toys along with the trademark info) and "D" (for "Disney," we can assume). Wonder how many children received the Princess doll for Christmas in 1961? As the Disney Character Merchandising Division said through one of its signature "Hustlegram" news releases, "Every little princess will want to own the 'Princess' doll."
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
On this day, December 14, in 1961, Walt Disney's Babes in Toyland was released to theaters nationwide. The movie musical played at the "Nation's Showcase" Radio City Music Hall as part of the mammoth theatre's annual Christmas spectacular. To commemorate the date, the D23 website features today in its daily This Day in Disney feature the Babes in Toyland debut. You can read the D23 article above; click on the image for a larger view. And while you're at it, don't forget to read the article I wrote for D23 all about Walt Disney's first live-action musical.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
When Walt Disney's Babes in Toyland was released in 1961, it was accompanied by what the Disney Character Merchandising Division described as "the best co-ordinated merchandising effort that we have ever staged at Christmas"—and no wonder, for Babes in Toyland is all about, well, toys. The promotional campaign for the musical fantasy started in September with $718,000 with of TV commercials publicizing the film, including those broadcast as part of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (then its first season on "the color network," NBC). There were 367 separate Babes in Toyland playthings and other merchandise manufactured by 45 companies in what Disney called "the giant Christmas promotion." These licensees included Dolly Toy Co., Parker Brothers, Louis Marx and Company, and Hassenfeld Brothers (now known as Hasbro). Colorforms was also in on the action, presenting an Annette Dress Designer Kit (available in two sizes, including the deluxe version seen here). The spread at top from the 1961 Sears "Wish Book" Christmas catalog also boasts some Toyland toys (naturally Sears was part of the big push), including the classic Gund hand puppets. To read more about Walt Disney's Babes in Toyland check out my article on the D23 website.
Monday, December 12, 2011
In yesterday's post I mentioned Christmas cards as big business, and there's no bigger greeting card business than Hallmark. The Hallmark website has a slide show of some charming Christmas cards featuring Santa Claus —not the one here, from 1945 featuring a feather for Santa's beard, but an amazing se;action from the 1920s through 2010. See them here—and for vintage Hallmark cards you can actually obtain vintage Hallmark cards here, the website at which I found the Santa card pictured here.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
We may not think of beautiful covers when we think of Fortune, but years ago, the famous finacial magazine featured elaborate covers that were often art for art's sake. Here's a seasonal example from Dcember 1936 by influential designer and illustrator Erik Nitsche. Though the Fortune holiday covers often have nothing to do with Christmas, this one more than qualifies, as Christmas cards are big business.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
The New Yorker magazine has a long tradition of delightful Christmas covers, and here's one from Abe Birnbaum. This prolific artist painted nearly 150 covers for the magazine from the 1940s through the 1970s, with an additional 500 black-and-white drawings and paintings for the interior starting in the 1930s. Enjoy this cozy Birnbaum charmer from December 23, 1961.
Friday, December 9, 2011
What better time than Christmastime to feature some Christmas art from Carl Barks? Here's a classic cover from Uncle Scrooge # 16 December 1956. In creating the character of Scrooge McDuck, Barks of course was inspired by Ebeneezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, using the Dickens character's last name as Donald's uncle's first. The difference between E. Scrooge and Uncle Scrooge is that, as seen in this cover art, Uncle Scrooge enjoys Christmas as long as it's done right. Speaking of Carl Barks, Peter Kylling's extensive Barks website has posted an interview I conducted with the "Good Artist." It's not necessarily Christmastime reading but then again 'tis always the season for the creator of Uncle Scrooge.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
To both celebrate and promote the release of Walt Disney's Babes in Toyland (1961), the Sunday comic page Walt Disney's Treasury of Classic Tales showcased an adaption of the film. However, unlike most installments of the Sunday newspaper comic in that era, the Babes in Toyland pages were not drawn by regular Classic Tales illustrator Jessie Marsh but by veteran Disney artist Joe Hale. Joe spent more than 35 years at Disney, as an animator, special effects artist, story artist, layout man, and producer, spanning everything from Sleeping Beauty (1959) to The Back Cauldron (1985). Apparently Joe was enlisted as the artist for the Toyland installments of Classic Tales because the broad fantasy of the film called for a cartoony style for the strip. Enjoy this fanciful installment (click on the above image for a larger view) from November 12, 1961—and don't forget to check out the Babes in Toyland article, written by Jim Fanning, on the D23 website.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Here is the album cover the original soundtrack recording (in stereo, no less) from the television holiday "spectacular" The Story of Christmas, originally broadcast (or colorcast, I should say) over NBC on December 22, 1963, this was one of the few (in fact, it was reportedly the first) network specials ever broadcast without commercial interruptions. The very special TV special was sponsored by General Mills, which opted to dispense with commercials entirely so as to avoid interrupting the content—especially the magnificent eighteen minute animation segment retelling the Gospel Nativity accounts (the Christmas story, in other words) conceived and produced by Eyvind Earle, the artistic mastermind behind the styling of Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959). Eyvind's distinctive art adorns this album cover, making a fine reminder of what the season is all about. The recording itself boasts the stirring vocal arrangements written and conducted by choral master Roger Wagner, and the vocal stylings of "Tennessee" Ernie Ford, whose lifelong dream this reportedly was. The Story of Christmas is as regarded one of the highest rated, critically acclaimed Christmas specials ever broadcast, and although all but forgotten today, we can glimpse a bit of the Eyvind Earle magic here...and long for the days when great showmanship even extended to take-home treasures such as this soundtrack LP.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
What better way (in a sort of opposite way) to celebrate St. Nicholas Day (today, December 6) than to spotlight that outrageous anti-St. Nick himself, the Grinch? The fake-Santy Claus of the classic animated TV special Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is everything good ol' St. Nicholas is not—until of course his Scrooge-like conversion at the end of the tale. Can we take a moment and appreciate how creatively impressive it is that Dr. Seuss created his own character and his own story, rather than doing something lazy and lame like producing another adaption/parody/version of A Christmas Carol—and in so doing, created a character that is equally well-known as Dickens' Grinch? This article from the December 1966 issue of Jack and Jill both celebrates and illuminates the creation of the then-new animated special. What color should the Grinch be in a sparkling new color TV special? The Grinch had been nobly portrayed in black-and-white book, published in 1957—but, as this article reveals, the ant-Santa could only be portrayed as a Grinchy-green.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Originally broadcast on December 23, 1962, "Holiday Time at Disneyland" is one of the most delightful Disneyland-centered episodes of the Disney anthology series. First shown on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, this colorful (naturally) episode showed off holiday celebrations at Walt's Magic Kingdom, kicked off with a simultaneously surreal and altogether appropriate meeting between Santa Claus and Walt. Did I say "meet"? Walt and Santa greet each other as if they are old friends. Well, why wouldn't they be? First off, Walt made Santa into a Disney character in two Silly Symphony cartoons, Santa's Toy Shop (1932) and The Night Before Christmas (1933). Secondly, in the conversation between the two magic-makers, Walt clearly expresses his dominion by stating that while Mr. Claus has one day a year, Walt has the other 364—an incredible statement when you think about it. Even Santa is impressed when Walt calls upon Tinker Bell to turn off the unusual Southern Californian snowfall and she obliges with a flick of her magic wand. After all, who is more important in the world of childhood than Walt Disney? I say this as someone who firmly believes (as I'm sure anyone who regularly reads this blog also believes) that Walt Disney is not just for the kids. And neither is Santa. I post all of this (including this still from "Holiday Time at Disneyland" taken from the Storyboard blog of the Walt Disney Family Museum) as a birthday tribute to Walter Elias Disney, born this day in 1901. Surely a bit of Christmas magic must have rubbed off on this December-born baby who would grow up to rival even Santa Claus as a master magic-maker.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
It's the Disneyland Challenge book (written by me) I mentioned back here. Still available, still on sale, I'm proud and thrilled to say, at the Disney Gallery on Main Street, U.S.A. at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom (in other words, Disneyland).
Saturday, December 3, 2011
The witty, tuneful songs composed for Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! are one of the many reasons the TV holiday special has been a Christmas classic since its premiere on CBS on December 18, 1966. The Seussian lyrics are authentic Seuss, written as they were by the good doctor himself; the wonderfully melodic music, a perfect match for Seuss' satisfyingly strange lyrics, were composed by Albert Hague, who later gained onscreen fame as the music teacher in both the movie and TV-series versions of Fame. The songs were recorded with a thirty-four-piece orchestra and twelve-voice-chorus—and surely lyrics such as "Fahoo fores yahoo dores" from "Welcome, Christmas" were the most unusual words those studio singers were ever asked to sing...except for the rest of that song's lyrics...and the lyrics to the other Grinch songs. (Dr. Seuss later explained that the "Welcome, Christmas" lyrics were penned to resemble a Latin chant.) As with the ultra-popular A Charlie Brown Christmas TV special, the first half-hour prime time animated special ever (and the success of which CBS obviously hoped to duplicate by bringing the classic Dr. Seuss book to the small screen in half-hour animated form) an original soundtrack recording was released by the time the special aired, as evidenced by this ad (above; click on the image for an enlarged version) for the LP that ran in TV Guide the week in which Grinch made its debut. The soundtrack album was released on King Leo Records (a subsidiary of MGM Records, MGM having produced the special) in 1966, the same label incidentally on which the You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown concept album (which inspired the 1967 off-Broadway stage hit) was released that same year. The Grinch LP was issued in mono (LE-901) and stereo (LES-901), and featured the complete soundtrack of the special (approximately 15 minutes per album side). No surprise that Seuss's own favorite of the Grinch songs was "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." One can only speculate at the delight Dr. Seuss would have taken in how that tune, with lyrics expressing how appalling the anti-Christmas creature is, has been adopted as a Christmastime standard.
Friday, December 2, 2011
What's Christmastime without Babes in Toyland? Walt Disney's 1961 classic has become a Yuletide classic over the years, and to celebrate this "50 and Fabulous" fantasy film, I've written a behind-the-scenes article that's now up on the D23 website. There's Annette and Ray Bolger, Ed Wynn and Henry Calvin, Tommy Sands and Tommy Kirk... and of course those unmistakably Disney Wooden Soldiers. Be sure and read "A Very Merry Musical: Walt Disney’s Babes in Toyland" by Jim Fanning. It's marching your way on the FREE D23 website.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
We've seen lots of Kermit the Frog lately here at Tulgey Wood, but now it's time to let someone else of a different shade of green entirely take center stage... and I'm afraid he's not quite as warm and fuzzy (though he is fuzzy) as Kermit. Check in here at Tulgey Wood all through Christmastime and find out just who this guy (who would be the first to agree it's not easy being green) is.
Tulgey Wood's Christmas celebration gets off to a merry start with this rarely-seen ad from 1970. Once upon a time, Sears was the sole purveyor of just about everything related to Winnie the Pooh—and it was their desire to promote their Pooh line of merchandise and (especially) clothes that led Pooh to become a television star. as you can see from the newspaper ad reproduced here, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day made its television debut on Monday November 30, 1970. "Pooh-ites" everywhere rejoiced as this Oscar-winning featurette brought Pooh's "frolics, songs, and fun, fun, fun, fun" (that last bit of the list undoubtedly a nod to Tigger's line from the Sherman Brothers' "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers") came to TV, just in time for Sears (the sole sponsor of this Disney special) to display all their wares for the Christmas season. Disney animation on TV in 1970 was rare indeed (especially when broadcast outside the regular Disney Sunday night showcase), as was the elaborate newspaper announcement. (Click on the image for a larger view. This unique advertisement, with its charmingly somewhat-off-model drawing of Pooh was, I would guess, not prepared by Disney but by Sears, which was the Pooh powerhouse behind this holiday treat.