Sunday, 29 October 2017

ON THE DISNEY BOOKSHELF

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!


Finally...


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

MAKE MINE MELODY

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




A MERE BAGATELLE!

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