Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Gobble, gobble...

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends from your neighbor north of the 49th.

Today's post features the original "rough" art for the November 1947 issue of Western Family magazine. The art was created by legendary Disney Publicity and Merchandise Department artist Hank Porter. Porter created well over a dozen different covers for Western Family.

An October 1947
note from Western Family Editor, Audree Lyons regarding this particular cover read in part: “Dear Hank. Just a note to express thanks from all of us over here for the fine job you did on our Thanksgiving cover. We...are very pleased with the looks of the cover...thank you – again – for an excellent job.”
A letter from the editor published in the Thanksgiving issue read, “We’re always being asked to use more Walt Disney characters on our covers. Seems that many of our readers save the covers, frame them for the walls of their children’s rooms. It’s an idea, if your child sighs for Mickey Mouse. Our friend, Hank Porter, of the Disney Studios, drew this Thanksgiving cover for us.”

Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

In the Service of the Red Cross

My new book documenting Walt Disney's time in France as a volunteer driver with the Red Cross at the end of World War I has just been released in soft-cover and e-book formats.

 

Check out my publisher's information page at this link for more information.

The book contains a lot of new information and photos including:

  • five never-before-published photos of Walt in his Red Cross uniform
  • the contents of a scrapbook of art Walt sent home to a school chum
  • two photographs of famous Parisian landmarks snapped by Walt himself
  • five postcards sent to friends back home
  • the contents of dozens of letters exchanged between Walt and his former canteen boss following the war, when they renewed their friendship
  • extensive use of journalist Pete Martin's landmark 1956 interview with Walt Disney - "hear" Walt speak about his many overseas adventures including the "charge of the cordwood brigade," the court martial that almost happened, doctored souvenirs, the picnic with a famous general's son, and much, much, more.

Join Walt as he celebrates his seventeenth birthday in a small French bistro, and learn about this exciting and formative time in his life that closed his childhood and set him on the path to the man he would become.


Walt stands atop an abandoned British tank overlooking the Hindenburg Line, a defensive barrier built by the Germans that ran across northeastern France. This image and many other never-before-published photos and research items make their debut in the book.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Disney and the war


My book on Disney's involvement in World War II is now available in both print and e-book formats on Amazon and through my publisher at ThemeParkPress.com.

The book is a revised edition of Toons At War, which I self-published 13 years ago! The title of the updated and revised edition is: Service With Character. The Disney Studio and World War II.

The second edition contains a lot of new information on Disney's contributions to the home front, military training films, propaganda films, life at the studio during the war, and the Studio's creation of over 1,200 combat insignia. This book covers a huge variety of topics related to Disney during World War II.

FYI, the print version of the book does not have any images, while the e-book has over 300 images.

Click on this link to check it out.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Diane Disney Miller 1933 - 2013

I received the horribly, sad, news, today that Walt Disney's surviving daughter, Diane Disney Miller, passed away on November 19 at the family home in Napa Valley. Reports indicate the cause of death were complications due to a fall she had suffered in September.

This is devastating news on so many fronts.

I got to know Diane and her husband Ron Miller through my involvement in The Walt Disney Family Museum, which was built on the grounds of the Presidio in San Francisco. My friend Jeff Kurtti was one of three creative consultants working with the family on the Museum (the other two being Paula Lowery and the late Bruce Gordon). In 2007, Diane and the others were wondering how to approach the Museum gallery that dealt with the war years. Because of my knowledge of the topic and my related collection, Jeff recommended me to Diane.

Shortly thereafter, I received an email from Diane inviting me down to San Francisco to see what they were up to and see if I wanted to participate. Needless to say, I accepted on both counts.

I will never forget that first visit with Diane and Ron, (and their son Walter), in the family condo overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. After a glass of Silverado wine, which came from the family vineyard in Napa, the trio took me for dinner at a great little restaurant around the corner from the condo. We proceeded to spend a wonderful evening together talking about the Family Museum, and Diane's father and some of the people he worked with and whom she had come to know.

The following day I received a tour of  a small museum in an old wooden warehouse on Gorgas Avenue - the old building housed the family's collection of artifacts and mementos. The items on display were amazing. Walt Disney's Academy awards and other personal awards, the Lilly Belle train that Walt had ridden around his Holmby Hills backyard, posters, letters, and much, much more. These items would become the foundation for the new Museum, under construction at the time.

This first meeting led to a loan of 48 items from my collection for inclusion in Gallery 6 of the Museum.

That first trip also led to a wonderful friendship. Over the course of the next six years, Diane and I exchanged literally hundreds of emails and many phone calls. I sent her information related to her father and his studio covering the years 1925-1945. She always graciously responded by saying she appreciated the work I was doing for her and the Museum.

I also located items for her I thought the Museum should have in its collection and on occasion she  took my advice and purchased what I had recommended. The last item I brokered a sale for was the Mickey Mouse coat of arms that had been painted on her father's Hyperion Studio office door circa 1933. This artifact had been owned by the son of the man who had purchased one-half of the Hyperion complex, after Walt and Roy had moved their operation to Burbank in 1940.

Diane and Ron were extremely gracious to my family and I. On two separate occasions Diane arranged for comp admissions to the two Disney theme parks in California and several other perks, including a private tour of her father's apartment above the Main Street Firehall in Disneyland.

I was fortunate to have been invited by Diane to the Museum on four separate occasions. My last trip was in March of this year for a presentation I gave on the history of 2719 Hyperion Avenue - the location of her father's studio on the eastern edge of Hollywood in Los Feliz. On the second day of that trip, Ron and Diane took me out for lunch. I always enjoyed my private time with them. She always had fascinating stories to tell about her father or someone he had known or she had come to know because of him. Ron, too, always had an interesting story to tell about his father-in-law or the company he had overseen in the early to mid-1980s. Sometimes I would throw out the name of one of her father's associates and Diane would relate anything she could recall of that person. It's funny because on every trip she would ask me when I was going to bring down my wife and children for her and Ron to meet. She once remarked that she looked forward to watching our children grow up. Sadly, the rest of my family never had the opportunity to meet her, although the kids did send her home-made cards, which she said she loved receiving.

So many memories have come flooding back to me since I learned of her death this evening. I was not the only Disney researcher who had a friendship with her. I was not a confidante or a close family friend. I was just someone who had an appreciation for her father's accomplishments and who had information to share with her. And because of that, she took an interest in me. She didn't have to. But she did. And for that I will always be forever grateful.

Diane Disney Miller was gracious, humble, intelligent, and witty. I will miss all of those things about her and much, much, more.

I once read that when someone you know passes, you should not be sad that they have gone. You should be happy that they had lived. I can tell you I am happy that she lived and that I had a chance to meet her. But right now I also feel horribly sad.

Thank you, Diane, for everything you did for me and the legions of Disney fans who admire your father's accomplishments.

My condolences to Ron and the rest of the Disney-Miller family.

Here are two image of Diane I snapped on my second visit to the Museum, which was still under construction at the time. If I recall correctly, the first image was taken on the Museum's second floor - the big display case with all the Mickey Mouse memorabilia would be on the right side and when you walk through the brick opening you'd be in the gallery where the Silly Symphony cartoons are showcased and where the Ink and Paint samples are on display. The second image was taken in the basement - we were going down there to look at the theater that was under construction.








Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Walt Disney Family Museum

This image was taken two years ago on one of my first visits to San Francisco. Walt Disney's daughter, Diane Disney Miller, stands amidst the renovations in barracks building 104 on the grounds of the Presidio, which now houses the new Walt Disney Family Museum.

I have been very fortunate to have been involved, in a very small way, with the new Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. Last week I had the opportunity to attend two preview events that included entrance to the Museum as well as a reception.

The back courtyard of building 104, taken two years ago. A basement and new ground level glass infill building would soon occupy this space.

The back courtyard of building 104, with the newly installed glass infill building, as of September 24, 2009.

The view from the glass infill building, looking out towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

I was going to write a gallery-by-gallery review, but have instead opted to just list some of my favorite artifacts, followed by a description of some of my favorite technical / audio-visual displays. There are so many neat items to see it's hard to choose, but here goes, in no particular order:

The reception area. The awards display cases are visible in the background along the walls.

1) past the reception area you'll find nine huge display cases filled with just a sampling (just under 250 by my quick count), of the many awards, plaques, certificates, medals and sculptures given to Walt Disney over the course of his lifetime.

One of nine display cases.

2) one display case features his Academy Awards including 15 Oscar statuettes, six Award(s) for Outstanding Merit, and four Distinctive Achievement Certificate(s). Included in this case are his first two Academy Awards, given in 1932: the Honorary Special Award for the creation of Mickey Mouse, and the Certificate of Honorable Mention for the first color Silly Symphony Flowers and Trees. Also on display is the specially made Academy Award for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which features one large and seven smaller statuettes and his Irving Thalberg award.

This photo, taken on one of my earlier visits to the original museum, shows the Academy Awards on display in the new museum.

3) the three page letter written to the mother of Virginia Davis in October 1923. Virginia was the little girl who starred in the so-called "Alice" comedies. In the letter, Walt asks Mrs. Davis to bring young Virginia to Hollywood so work could resume on the Alice Comedies.

4) there are several dozen three-dimensional maquettes on display in various galleries: Mickey, Pluto, Goofy, Dopey, Pinocchio, Gepetto, Stromboli, Vulcan, Ben Ali Gator, Hyacinth Hippo, Bacchus and Jacchus and even Casey Jr.

A Pinocchio maquette. Animators would refer to these models during production. This pose of Pinocchio, made in the Studio's Model Department, is believed to be the first three-dimensional maquette design to have been created.

5) a display case filled with Snow White related memorabilia including a Snow White book autographed by Walt Disney to his young daughter Diane...part of the inscription read, "from your daddy, Walt Disney."

6) animation art: spectacular production drawings of the Hag from Snow White and Chernabog from Fantasia were some of my favorites. There are also dozens of pieces of conceptual art: great watercolors of Mickey as the Sorcerer's Apprentice, two Old Mill watercolors by Tenggren, Kay Nielsen pastels from Ave Maria; pastels from the Nutcracker Suite; and watercolor backgrounds from Pinocchio and Snow White. What are believed to be one of the earliest Mickey Mouse drawings are also on display.

Old Mill watercolor conceptual art by Swedish artist Gustaf Tenggren.

7) the Herman Schultheis Camera Department Process Lab notebook. This notebook is filled with photographs and notes and documents many of the special effects and film processes used in the creation of several of the golden-age classics. This notebook is a treasure trove of information, much of which was previously unknown.

The Schultheis notebook.

8) a huge display case filled with 1930s memorabilia - items related to the 1930s Mickey Mouse Club including a rare child's vest and fez, Campaign Book and pinback buttons, a merchandising rep Herman "Kay" Kamen catalog, dolls, storybooks, advertising items, bisques and more - this case is a visual treat for the eyes.

9) rare posters from the Alice comedies and the Oswald series.

10) selection of items from the strike including several issues of the trade magazine Variety.

11) three display cases filled with rare war-related items including original insignia art and home front related pieces.

12) Walt Disney's train, the Lilly Belle, and rare paper items related to his backyard railroad the Carolwood Pacific.

The Lilly Belle, as seen in the first museum.

13) a huge animated model of Disneyland, not as it was completed, but the one envisioned in Walt Disney's mind. This model is amazing and has many, many moving parts.

The detail in this model is exact and amazing!

14) Eyvind Earle conceptual art for Sleeping Beauty.

15) a display case filled with Zorro memorabilia.

16) the sculpted model bust of President Abraham Lincoln, which was used in the audio-animatronic, as well as the audio-animatronic tube frame of the President's upper torso.


17) A small gallery with display cases featuring personal objects - Walt Disney's watch, money clip, Lillian's perfume bottles, jewelry, a case of miniatures from Walt's own collection and a handwritten note from Walt detailing the types of food he enjoyed eating, complete with the remark: "Only one vegetable" with each meal. What was Walt's favorite meal you ask? Two cans of Hormel and Gebhardt's chili mixed together. Lemon Jell-O was one of his favorite desserts. Elias Disney's fiddle is also on display and there is a small vignette in the awards gallery that features pieces of furniture from Walt and Lillian's Disneyland apartment.

18) hundreds of photos and 16 mm film of Walt Disney - family pictures as well as professional images catch Walt Disney at work and play. Perhaps the most touching image was one taken by his son-in-law Ron Miller on the last family vacation - the photo shows Walt Disney sitting on a log on a beach on the coast of British Columbia, Canada. Walt has a movie camera on his lap and is tipping his hat. A very moving and poignant photo before one of the last galleries, which documents the world's reaction to news of Walt's death.

This image is found in gallery one and shows Walt with his sister Ruth.

Some really neat audio-visual related notes:

1) a decision was made early on in the project to use Walt Disney's own voice to tell his story. This was one of the best decisions made. Who better than Walt Disney to tell his own story? Clips are used from many of Disney's television appearances, as well as various radio interviews, including the over 12 hours of tape captured by Pete Martin and Walt's daughter Diane for the series of articles that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post.

2) There are many additional audio clips to listen to: you can hear Disney employees speak on a wide range of topics.

3) There are three neat shows to see in Gallery 1 - the three separate vignettes have Walt telling the story of a) his childhood on the farm; b) growing up in Chicago; and c) volunteering for duty as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross in France. Each uses paper cut-outs in an amusing and entertainingly whimsical fashion!

4) The elevator ride to the second floor has a neat angle - it's made out to be a Santa Fe railroad car and has Walt speaking about his journey west to Hollywood.

5) The Schultheis notebook has been digitized. The original notebook is on display in a cabinet with the digitized version avalable for viewing - this was a very cool display!

6) A couple of reactrix displays (at least I think that is what they are called)...a flat horizontal screen in front of the guest displays various small images. You point and press the circle you want more info on and a detailed image appears in front of you on a vertical screen.

7) A fanciful recreation of a Moviola, where you can control the speed and forward or reverse direction of a sequence from Snow White. Very, very cool!

8) A two-storey multi-plane camera. Just an amazing piece of equipment. The camera punches up through the second floor of the Museum and gives guests an idea just how large this mechanical wonder really was.

These are just some of the wonderful things that await you on your visit. I had the opportunity to spend two very brief evenings at the Museum. I believe 4 1/2 hours is what Museum staff have calculated to be the minimum amount of time needed to see most of the exhibits. One could easily spend the whole day there.

Photography is not allowed in the Museum. The images in this post have come from photos I was allowed to take on previous visits at the old museum and other sources on the internet, including Roger Colton and his great website: http://www.theblueparrot.info