Wednesday, 17 October 2018


I thought I knew most of what there was to know about the associations between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali – but, somehow, I must have missed the fact that, in 1967, the artist included Walt in a suite of etchings entitled FIVE AMERICANS (the other four being George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). So, here's Dali's salute to the Dream-merchant...

Wednesday, 4 July 2018


Celebrating 156 years since Lewis Carroll first told the story that became Alice's Adventures in Wonderland...


Thursday, 17 May 2018


A batch of new books celebrating Disney past and present...

Yesterday's Tomorrow: Disney's Magical Mid-Century
by Don Hahn, Disney Editions, 2018, pp.176

This feels like the book that many of us Disney aficionados (especially those whose childhoods coincided with the 'fifties and 'sixties) have long been waiting to read. Don Hahn chronicles that explosive decade that followed WWII as reflected in the vision of Walt Disney and the work of his studio.

Born at the turn-of-the-century and raised in an age and culture that was just taking its first tentative towards a new tomorrow, Walt had an abiding love for the nostalgia of the past, but he also embraced change and looked to a future of ever-expanding possibilities and opportunities – as can be seen from the fact that Disneyland not only celebrated the lost age depicted in the park's Main Street USA but reached out towards a new dawn in Tomorrowland.

Don Hahn presents a masterly tour of the Disney's futurism as it impacted not just on the creation and development of Disneyland but on film and TV, leisure and hospitality (The Disneyland Hotel, Celebrity Sports Center and the unrealized plans for a Ski resort in the Sierra), education (CalArts, the New York World's Fair and educational films and programmes) and Walt's final bid for a utopian future with the concept of EPCOT.

The book's large format has allowed it to be sumptuously illustrated with a visual feast of photographs (many unfamiliar) and artwork by, among others, Eyvind Earle, Mary Blair, Ward Kimball and Rolly Crump.

There is a tendency in Disney Circles to focus on the achievements of the so-called Golden Age – understandably, since those achievements were truly astonishing – but Yesterday's Tomorrow is a timely reminder that the mid-century was a period in which new technologies and ever-expanding prospects were reflected in new movements in popular art and entertainment along with ambitious hopes of a better world.

Travels with Walt Disney: A photographic Voyage Around the World
by Jeff Kurtti, Disney Editions, 2018, pp.152

From his earliest years Walt's life was peripatetic but was also essentially parochial in scope; so much so, that when he found himself in the big bad city of New York for the first time in the late 1920s struggling to sell his cartoons and add sound to Mickey Mouse it was a time marked by loneliness and homesickness. However, he would, later, discover the joys of travel and those expeditions and explorations impacted not just on the development of his personality, but also on the work of the studio.

Jeff Kurtti traces Walt's excursions (to France during the last days of WWI) his travels by trains (of course!), boats and planes, his great adventure South of the Border, his visits to Europe which fired his imagination, inspired films and had an influence on Disneyland and other projects. The book also shows how Walt's ever-widening perspective on the world helped shape series such as the 'True Life Adventures' and plans for creating better world communities.

The book is literally stuffed with official and family photos charting the itineraries of a busy life and full career.

Disney's The Lion King: Twenty Years on Broadway and Around the World
by Michael Lassell, Disney Editions, 2017, pp.224

This lavishly-conceived volume from the indefatigable Michael Lassell (whose Disney Aladdin: A Whole New World I reviewed last October) celebrates the creation and international longevity of a show that has become a landmark in the history of musical theatre.

In words (including quotations from those involved in the show's creation) and breathtaking pictorial spreads, Lassell takes us from the movie's success, via Julie Taymor's extraordinary vision for a theatrical re-presentation of the animated story and the complex challenges of creating sets, costumes, masks and effects to the show's exhilarating global triumph.

The Lion King has also inspired...

My Pride: Mastering Life's Daily Performance
by Alton Fitzgerald White, Disney Editions, 2017

Broadway's longest running portrayer of King Mufasa, Alton Fitzgerald White, shares his experience of creating daily magic on stage (over 4300 performances) and telling the story of his career – overcoming the difficulties of his early years to become a successful singer and actor – and sharing some of the valuable life lessons he has learned that readers can adapt and adopt to living their own lives. A spirited and inspiring read.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Saturday, 4 November 2017


Having recently posted a roundup of recent Disney books, I discovered I had missed one – or, rather, had not bothered to find out about one...

Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food 
by Marcy Carriker Smothers
Disney Editions, 2017 $35.00, discounted prices online.

To be honest, the title, Eat Like Walt had struck me as a bit gimmicky: in fact it sounded like one of those peripheral publications that would be very unlikely to render up anything particularly new or worthy of note beyond, probably, a handful of Disney-themed recipes – something along the lines of 'Snow White's Apple Pie' and 'Alice's Unbirthday Cake'.

How wrong can you be?!

Trusting the judgement of a couple of wise Disney friends who had read the book, I took the gamble and chanced an investment of £22+ to see what this volume actually had to offer...

And I could be more agreeably surprised and delighted: Marcy Carriker Smothers has produced a book that is far-reaching in its scope and offers a new perspective on Walt Disney, culinary life at his studio and how food figured in his planning of Disneyland.

Smothers' book begins with Walt at home: his favourite food and drink, recollections of his family about the domestic staff who cooked for them and various stratagems to tempt the palette or overcome objections of a man who had spent his early years of struggle subsisting on hash and beans and little else.

Later chapters explore the food options provided in the custom-built studio in Burbank from its elite Penthouse Club and the inkers and painters' Tea Room to the restaurant where Walt could some days be spotted standing in line to collect (and pay for!) his Chili con carne and fruit salad and the dining and snacking experiences that were a major part of any Disneyland visit.

All those Disney restaurants you remember (depending on your age) are fondly described and depicted: The Carnation Ice Cream Parlor, The Tahitian Terrace, The Chicken of the Sea... There are venues now long-gone, like Aunt Jemima's Kitchen and Swift's Red Wagon Inn, to places that can still be found on the Disneyland map such as The Candy Palace and the Golden Horseshoe.

There's mention of those places that Walt didn't live long enough to see: The Blue Bayou Restaurant and Club 33, a peep inside the Disney family hideaway over the Main Street Fire Station and mention of some of his favourite LA eateries, among them Chansen's (now closed) where he met Leopold Stokowski and discussed a project that became Fantasia and the Tam O'Shanter that is still in business and remembered as one of Walt's favourites. The book ends with a handful of recipes popular with Walt personally or by diners in the park.

The book is liberally illustrated with vintage artwork, facsimile menus and a great many  period photographs – some unseen for years, if ever. It seems mean to quibble about what is a delightful, enlightening read and a valuable addition to Disney history, but some of the rare images in this volume would have benefited from captioning – even as notes at the back of the book. Otherwise, this is a hugely satisfying repast!

Sunday, 29 October 2017


It is a sign of how old I am that I can remember a time when the number of books on Disney and animation could just about be counted on the fingers of two hands. Nowadays, anyone interested in the life of Walt Disney and the achievements of his studio has enough books to chose from to fill a reasonably shelved room –– and there's always new volumes coming! Here's the most recent batch of titles: many or all of which Disney fans will undoubtedly want to add to their wish-list for Santa...

INK & PAINT The Women of Walt Disney's Animation by Mindy Johnson
Disney Editions (Deluxe), 2017 $60, discounted copies online.

With this weighty volume, Mindy Johnson has contributed a long-overdue contribution to the chronicling of Disney history by turning the spotlight on the largely overlooked work of women in the development of both the studio and the art of animation.

For too long animation has been portrayed as a medium that was solely the province of the male of the species ('The Nine Old Men' and their cohorts) with an occasional, condescending nod to the army of women of the studio's Ink & Paint Department who painstakingly transferred the animators' drawings onto celluloid – in the 'Golden Age' using an astonishing range of coloured inks – and then completed the labour-intenssive process by painting in the characters on the back of the cels. Johnson has now put names and faces to these women and given them the honour – long theirs by right – as being far more than just mechanical, assembly-line workers, but rather a group of artists (not unlike those who worked in the studios of the Renaissance Masters) whose skill and patience created the visual richness of the Disney classics.

The work of one particular woman concept artist, Mary Blair, has become widely recognised and appreciated in recent years, but as this book reveals, there were many other women who brought a feminine sensibility to the telling of story and styling of image. The book also shows how (as in many other walks of life) WWII provided women with the opportunity to take on roles within the studio that had formerly been 'male only' territories.

Meticulously researched, engagingly written, smartly designed (with numerous features and side-bars) and lavishly illustrated, the book also features the women in the Walt's life from his mother and his wife to his Hollywood connections such as Mary Pickford, the writers whose work he brought to the screen and the voice talents who helped bring his characters alive.

No serious scholar of Disney animation should be without this authoritative volume.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit - The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons
by David A Bossert, Archival Editor David Gerstein
Disney Editions (Deluxe) 2017 $40, discounted copies online.

Here is the tale of Walt's first animated star: how he was created and helped establish the Disney name, how he was lost to his creator and handed over to others and how unexpectedly, in 2006, Oswald was finally brought back into the Disney family.

Illustrated with animation sketches, posters and facsimiles of telegrams that chart Oswald's rise to fame and his split from Walt that would, in turn, prompt the creation of the star that eclipsed the Rabbit's fame – Mickey Mouse.

In addition to providing this vitally important historical perspective on Oswald's life and times, the book recounts the equally fascinating story of the quest to find the 'long lost' episodes of his film career.

They Drew As They Pleased: Volume 3 – The Hidden Art of Disney's Late Golden Age: The 1940s (Part Two) by Didier Ghez
Chronicle Books, 2017 $45.00, discounted copies online.

With two volumes already in print, Didier Ghez's They Drew As They Pleased series has created high expectations and they are fully realised in this third installment which examines the Disney careers of six more artists. Once again the book is crammed with stunning original art (story sketches, layouts, storyboard drawings and concept art) the majority of which is previously unseen.

From the days of yore when – as a youngster obsessed with Disney films – I read R. D. Feild's seminal The Art of Walt Disney, I have had an insatiable appetite  for the drawings and paintings that formed the genesis of the studio's  movie classics – especially since there are not only so many examples of brilliant interpretations that never made it onto the screen but also highly elaborate explorations into stories that never got beyond the development stage. This art provides a portal to an amazing parallel universe where unmade Disney films and variants of the films we know are screened in our imagination.

What wouldn't we have given to have seen Walt Disney's take on Cervantes Don Quixote as interpreted in dramatic designed by the Ecuadorian artist Eduardo Solá Franco? Or those abandoned stories of Hootsie the Owl and Roland XIII (an acrophobic carrier pigeon) as depicted by famed illustrator Martin Provensen. Work by other artists in this volume includes Campbell Grant's Bald Mountain demons and James Bodrero Pastoral creatures for Fantasia, Jack Miller's witty sketches for the 'Baby Weems' section of The Reluctant Dragon, and Johnny Walridge's cavalcade of clowns for Dumbo.

Didier Ghez's impeccable research into the careers of these often uncredited artists makes this another historically important – as well as visually exciting – Disney book.

Tale as Old as Time: The Art and Making of Disney Beauty and the Beast
by Charles Solomon
Disney Editions, 2017 $50, discounted copies online.

Charles Solomon has revisited his 2011 book on the making of the animated Beauty and the Beast, thoroughly remaking it to bring the story up to date.

Beginning with the mythic and literary origins of the fairy-tale, the book follows its Disney evolution, first to the screen as what proved to be a totally 'new' style of animated film with the feel of a big Broadway musical, through its natural adaptation for the stage before focusing on the most recent transformation of Belle and the Beast's romance as a lavishly conceived and realised live-action movie.

Disney Pirates – The Definitive Collector's Anthology
by Michael Singer, Disney Editions 2017 $50, discounted prices online.

Who knew – without a good deal of thinking – just how many Disney pirates have swashbuckled their way through the studio's history? I presumed this would be a volume devoted to the phenomenally successful Jerry Bruckheimer Pirates of the Caribbean  franchise (especially since the book's foreword is by Johnny Depp) but those films only account for about a third of the 145 pages.

The story begins with a resume of Disney pirates before Jack Sparrow took to the high seas beginning (I bet this will come as a surprise to most of you) in 1927 with Alice Foils the Pirates! There's a fleeting reference to the 1932 Silly Symphony, King Neptune, and then – avast and belay! – it's 1950 and Robert Newton is giving his unforgettable performance as the one-legged Sea Cook, Long John Silver, in Disney's first British live action movie, Treasure Island – a tale subsequently revisited in the Muppet Treasure Island and the animated feature Treasure Planet with its cyborg Silver.

Captain Hook is here in Peter Pan, Return to Never Land and (news to me) Jake and the Never Land Pirates and The Pirate Fairy. There's also the low down on Davy Crockett and the River Pirates, the buccaneers encountered by the Swiss Family Robinson and that roistering nautical spectre, Blackbeard's Ghost.

There's an extensive history of the pre-movie, theme-park lives of the Pirates of the Caribbean before the book focuses on the adventures (and misadventures of Jack Sparrow and crew) and wraps up with a feature on Treasure Cove at Shanghai Disneyland. All in all, a total joy!

Disney Aladdin: A Whole New World – The Road to Broadway and Beyond
by Michael Lassell
Disney Editions, 2017 $40, discounted prices online.

Looking like an artifact from the Cave of Wonders – all gold-edged pages and padded silk cover – this sumptuous volume, created by Welcome Enterprises (responsible for the previous book on the making of the Poppins musical by Michael Lassell and myself), takes the reader, as the title suggests, on the theatrical journey that led Tom Schumacher and his creative colleagues to bring the popular animated film with its Broadway-style score by Menken, Ashman and Rice to Broadway itself.

Lassell introduces us to everyone involved in the process from the set, costume, make-up and lighting designers via the wizardry responsible for a magically-appearing Genii and a flying carpet to the cast who brought Aladdin and his friends and foes to life on stage

Poster Art of Cars: Collecting more than a hundred posters and graphics from Pixar Animations Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering
by Victoria Saxon
Disney Editions Deluxe, 2017 $40.00, discounted prices online.

I have to start with a confession: I am not really a fan of the Cars franchise (heresy and blasphemy!) but this collection of 'posters' – for and from the movies (as well as for the theme park attraction) – is a complete delight. The rich detailing of Pixar films is well known and justly appreciated and the opportunity to study these examples of incidental and background art is most rewarding.

Many of these posters are lovingly conceived pastiches of various styles of vintage poster and advertising art that – by their sheer wittiness – surprise and please.

This is a book that will obviously be a 'must-have' for the millions of Cars fans, but it will also amuse and entertain anyone who admires classic poster art – especially that of bygone decades.


The Art of Tennessee Loveless 
The Mickey Mouse TEN x TEN x TEN contemporary pop art series
by David Bossert
Disney Editions Deluxe, 2017 $50, discounted prices online.

Tennessee Loveless is a Los Angeles-based contemporary pop artist noted for his dynamic use of bold colours and vivid patterns to create images that celebrate cultural icons from Marilyn, Judy and Bowie to Mickey Mouse who is featured on the 100 paintings on 10 x 10 canvas  collected in this book.

What makes Loveless' achievement so remarkable is that the artist is severely colourblind and only understands colour from a formulaic concept based on color theory as opposed to the actual colours themselves.

As this deluxe volume makes clear, Tennessee Loveless – despite the numerous obstacles he has had to overcome in his life and career – has heroically pursued his art, motivated by a passion for painting people and fictional characters such as the Disney Mouse in a ways that make a strong connection with our nostalgic memories using the power of colours unseen by the artist who painted them.

You may feel that 100 Mickey Mice is a few dozen more than you truly need, but the cumulative effect of this extraordinary array of paintings – many of them with an ironic tip of the mouse-ears to, among others, those celebrated Mickey-takers Andy Warhol and Keith Haring – is an unquestioned artistic tour de force.

And here's one just for the Brits!


A Kiss Goodnight
Written by Richard M. Sherman and Brittany Rubiano Illustrated by Floyd Norman and Adrienne Brown Norman
Disney Editions, 2017 $19.99, discounted prices online.

An entrancing gift from Richard M. Sherman (one half of the legendary Sherman Brothers song-writing partnership) and veteran Disney animator, Floyd Norman: a delightful song and story about Walt Disney's determination to end every day at his Disneyland park with an unforgettable firework display that would serve as a loving and rewarding 'kiss goodnight'.

Richard explains the motivation for writing his song with a recollection of an end of the day conversation with Walt as the last visitors were leaving the park after the firework display and Brittany Rubiano narrates the back-story of how Walt came to fall under the spell of firework magic, illustrated with charming illustrations by Floyd Norman and Adrienne Brown Norman.

The book will be treasured by Disney families and the song will be enjoyed again and again by all with the enclosed CD recording by Broadway's 'Mary Poppins', Ashley Brown.
"A kiss goodnight
Is the doorway to Dreamland.
A kiss goodnight
Is where memories begin.
Just close your eyes,
And you’ll see where your fantasies dwell.
To your surprise,
What a fabulous tale they tell.
A kiss goodnight
Is the start of a journey
To deep in your heart,
Where your memories shine..."

Tuesday, 10 October 2017


Poster for Disney's October 1955 release, Music Land: comprising four sequences from Make Mine Music and five from Melody Time.


My mother gave most of my childhood toys away to visiting cousins and the 'deserving poor' and, as a result, has much to answer for: whenever I see an item like this (currently up for auction), I so want to own it ––– in order to recover a few fragments of what I once had but have no more!

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Monday, 25 September 2017


A beautiful period French poster for Bambi...


A fascinating wartime poster created by Disney for the War Manpower Commission featuring an unpleasant relative of the genial fiddle-player in The Grasshopper and the Ants and J. Cricket Esq.

Friday, 15 September 2017


'Disneyanity' isn't an "official" religion, despite having legions of followers! Jody Jean Dreyer who worked for the Walt Disney Company for 30 years and who holds to somewhat older form of faith, has written, in Beyond the Castle, an engaging and, frequently, thought-provoking book that explores the desire for happily-ever-afterings that have been deeply held within the human heart for millennia.

The author examines the creative ethos of Walt Disney and the company he founded; exploring the messages found within the Disney films and theme-parks, she offers answers - or at least valid choices and informed options – to some of the Life Questions (large and small) with which we daily grapple.

This is not just a book for Disney fans, but for anyone aware of the need for a 21st Century equivalent of 'The Power of Positive Thinking'.

Thursday, 20 July 2017


An example of celebrity product-endorsement with a decidedly Disney association...

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Wednesday, 1 March 2017


It has long been known that Roald Dahl (author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, Matilda, The BFG and many other best-selling children's books) wrote his first book in 1943 while serving with the British RAF.

Entitled The Gremlins, it was a story about those legendary imps whom wartime pilots blamed for any problems they encountered with their planes – taking the reader into the world of this diminutive, devilish saboteurs.

Walt Disney bought the story and was determined to bring it to the screen as a major wartime animated feature.

In his latest book, the indefatigable Jim Korkis takes up the tale of one of the most fascinating film projects to never see the light of a projector lamp. The full saga unfolds in Gremlin Trouble! The Cursed Roald Dahl Film Disney Never Made with an Foreword (penned Before his death) by veteran Disney artist Bill Justice, who had worked on the ill-fated project.

As with every Korkis book on Disney, this is a rattling good read: crammed with facts, but told with the lively engagement of a born storyteller.

Thursday, 24 November 2016


Disney greetings for a very happy–––



Monday, 23 May 2016


Each year brings, it seems, a new batch of Disney books on an increasingly diverse range of topics.

Just out from Disney Editions...

As the new Disney Alice through the Looking Glass is about to plunge headlong through our movie screens, Tim Burton biographer and film historian, Mark Salisbury, gives an engaging account of Walt Disney's long and passionate involvement with Lewis Carroll's 'Alice' books.

In Walt Disney's ALICE IN WONDERLAND: An Illustrated History Through Time, Mr Salisbury chronicles the Disney-Alice story form the early silent, black-and-white 'Alice' comedies that helped establish Disney's reputation in the 1920s, via the celebrated 1951 animated classic, through to the 2010 Burtonesque adventure in Wonderland and its current sequel.

There are also interesting side-excursions with Mickey Mouse Thru the Mirror, Donald Duck (in Alician drag) in Donald in Mathmagicland as well as TV shows and commercials featuring Wonderland characters and Alice's appearance in Disney theme-park rides and attractions.

The promotional stuff (puff?) on the new film is pretty bland – though it does contains some stunning visuals of the Looking Glass settings that combine grandeur with what might be called Middle-earthiness. But the book (sadly only available in paperback) is worth the admission price for the historical sections that comprise an important piece of Carrollian-Disney history.

Among other titles coming from Disney Editions over the the next few months are...

Who doesn't like Disney dragons and villains? Both obvious musts for every Disney aficionado!

I've been intrigued by the process of mapping Disneyland and the other parks since I first pored over the fold-out map in the August 1963 issue of The National Geographic

Years later I had the privilege of meeting Herb Ryman who mapped 'The Happiest Place on Earth' for Walt Disney before it was even built (!) and Sam McKim who created many of our treasured Disney maps.

To look at a map of a Disney park is to relive visits past and dream of visits yet to be... 

This book promises to satisfy those twin emotions!

But perhaps the book I am most looking forward to seeing is this...

Back in 1988, Richard Holliss and I wrote The Disney Studio Story. When we wrote, the Studio was on the cusp of a transformation with the arrival of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells. 

In the 28 years that have followed, the studio has undergone a great many more changes than any of us could have imagined, and the story we started recording is long overdue for an update which, hopefully, this book will provide.

Also coming later this year, from Chronicle books, is the next volume in Didier Ghez' They Drew As They Please series: The Hidden Art of Disney's Musical Years (The 1940s - Part One). It's cover features a previously unseen piece of concept art for Peter Pan by David S Hall – whose preliminary art for Alice in Wonderland is featured in Mark Salisbury's Alice book I was discussing earlier.

Monday, 4 April 2016


"I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream
I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam
And I know it's true that visions are seldom all they seem
But if I know you, I know what you'll do
You'll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream..."
On the eve of her 86th birthday, the wonderful MARY COSTA, whose melodious voice spoke and sang for the Princess Aurora in Walt Disney's 1959 classic, Sleeping Beauty, has a message to her many fans and friends around the world...

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Thursday, 24 December 2015