Please note: if an earlier link doesn't work, it may have changed following an update! Check the Category Labels in the side-bar on the right! There you can find animator drafts for sixteen complete Disney features and eighty-six shorts,
as well as Action Analysis Classes and many other vintage animation documents!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Food for Thought

"If the audience becomes conscious of the quality of your drawings,
it means that you have lost their interest in the scene."

--Ollie Johnston, in a letter to my old mentor Børge Ring.

Think about it for a while...

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ralph Wright, the Oregonian

Little over a month ago, Didier Ghez pointed us at a photo for sale on eBay, of Disney story man Ralph Wright. Just before that, my Alice collecting friend Matt gave me copies of this article in the July 8th, 1951 Sunday Oregonian Magazine, featuring Wright using the same picture of him. Here is the article...
Ralph Wright (his personal data seem obscure, and even on IMDb the dates are said to be wrong) worked for Disney from December 1938 to 1945, then from 1950 to 1958 and again from 1966 to 1971. In 1945 he was located in room 3B-4, in 1957 in 3D-5 and in 1967 in 3B-8 in the Animation Building. Somewhere in there, from 1946 to 1949, he had a stint working with Dave hand at Rank's British Cookham studio, but the article obviously does not mention this. Nowadays, of course, he is most known for being the voice of Eeyore...

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Everybody's Little Friend

A visit to an antique mall some time ago yielded these photos of a kid at a studio microphone in the 1940s. At first, he seemed unknown - but a look at the text on the back told me otherwise. There seems to be very little info available about Paul Bryant (not the football coach). He was already at an early age a little radio star, though, when he became the voice of the George Pal Puppetoon character Jasper!

Hungarian-born Pal, seen holding the Jasper puppet in the image on the right, had very little contact with people of other race before he came from Holland to the USA, so he did not find anything offensive in the antics of this little innocent, but stereotypically naive African-American character. It seems to have come as a surprise to him that a group of people took offense to this series. Be that as it may, little Paul Bryant was a movie star in his own right.

The writing on the first image reads "To Miss Dolares [?] who thought I was good enough for radio. Sincerely, Paul Bryant." and "Everybody['s] little friend Paul." On the back of that first image is written: Paul Bryant, Ce.26052, age 11. Plays piano - classical + Boogie Woogie. taps - Sings. Picture Ex[perience]: "Knickebocker Holiday" United Artists [1944 with Nelson Eddy and Charles Coburn], "Jasper" in George Pal Prod., "Everybody Happy" Columbia [Actually "Is Everybody Happy?," 1943 with Ted Lewis, the entertainer with the "licorice stick" and high hat that Mickey Mouse portrays in the 1931 short Blue Rhythm - Paul Bryant's role was "Snowball"(!)], "Underdog" [probably "The Underdog" 1943] Talisman[?].

Crossed out is "Kitty" Paramount [1945]. Maybe he ended up on the cutting room floor? Other credits on IMDb: "Urchin" in "Saratoga Trunk" 1945 with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, and "Black Caddy" in "The Senator was Indiscreet" 1945 with William Powell.

Now, if Paul Bryant was 11 in 1945 or so, he would be 74 today, and thus he COULD still be around...
Paul Bryant Fan PhotoPaul Bryant on the airGeorge Pal holding Jasper


Monday, May 26, 2008

Two Years Passed...

Something just occurred to me: this blog had its second anniversary four days ago, and I forgot to celebrate... What was there to celebrate, you ask? Well, I was pretty happy to be able to explain the timing to a musical beat using different kinds of original Disney bar sheets, with click track examples - and I made a little pc metronome for just that. Then there are the Who is who's, by way of animation drafts for 62 short films, four whole features (Pinocchio, The Three Caballeros, Alice in Wonderland and One Hundred and One Dalmatians) and parts of several others; 14 Action Analysis Classes and Technical Manuals of the 30's; photos and articles. I suggest that new visitors browse the archives! In the mean time I go look for more skeletons to drag out of the closet...

Like this one. Yes, that is Les Clark with the little moustache, looking down. And I believe the older gent in the front is Earl Hurd, the legendary inventor of cels, who was at Disney's until he passed away in 1940. Which makes me think that this scene was probably shot in the Hyperion Annex. Note that there are 17 gentlemen and
no fewer than 13 (thirteen!) ladies attending this class!
Art class...< Click on it!
Of course, I am most proud of my own studio's endeavors, some of which can be seen on our homepage. I am a bit surprised nobody commented on our Three Little Pigs commercial for Volkswagen...

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Out to Lunch (II)   -- Counter Service

There was counter service, too! The special menu can be seen in the holders...
Counter Service...< Click on it!
Do you recognize anyone in this picture?
I seem to have seen the gentleman at the back left of the first counter (with the striped shirt) before, but where?


Friday, May 23, 2008

Out to Lunch (I)   -- Restaurant with Waitress Service

Once in a while a menu turns up on eBay from the Walt Disney Studio Restaurant - I bet most of you have seen it.
But what did the restaurant - "The Commissary" look like, back in the 40's? Well, part of it looked like this at 12:22 pm...
Waitress Service... Waitress Service... Waitress Service...< Click on it!
I don't have my menu close right now, but I actually found one just now for sale, so I added its pictures to give this post some color.

Clearly visible in this picture is John Lounsbery (right under the right "pipe"). I think that the top of then-lay-outer and later Imagineer Herb Ryman is seen in the left-front of the front counter, and
I believe a gentleman in the back center staring straight at us is background painter (and also future Imagineer) Claude Coats. In the very back, left of center possibly Milt Kahl, looking screen left... Others?


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Post Pictures... CPRR & Ollie's Depot

I liked the images that accompany an otherwise not too interesting story in the Saturday Evening Post of October 31, 1953. This is the reason I only scanned the two pages with pictures, and for good measure, I descreened them, so they are quite a lot clearer.
I especially like the casual shots around Walt's Holmby Hills house, the red barn and the image of Walt making his caboose...

This brings me to an event that took place this Saturday the 17th
at Walt's Barn, care of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society,
in Griffith Park (on Zoo Drive off Forest Lawn Drive).

First a few interiors of the barn and a few layouts of Walt's Carolwood Pacific Railroad. It is certainly worth visiting if you are interested in Walt's history. There are also plenty of Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnston memorabilia on display. How about becoming a member of this worthy organization?

The event was the inauguration of Ollie Johnston's Depot at the Carolwood Society's location on the grounds of the Southern California Live Steamers club. Here is the depot from the front, a side shot, and a group photo of all the folks who made it possible. Ollie's family was not able to attend, but I was happy to see Jeanette Thomas and her son Ted (co-director of "Frank & Ollie" and "Walt and El Groupo")!
And now: off to see Indy IV!


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Painted Pluto

My old mentor Børge Ring asked to revisit this painting, done by his hero Norm Ferguson. I happened to have copied it off Van Eaton Galleries' site in 2004 before they sold it...
Fergie's Pluto...< Click on it!
"Paul" was obviously an editor. But what's his last name?

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Kay Nielsen Book Update

I was surprised to see a "Buy" button (in Danish "Køb") on the publisher Vandkunsten's website for the new Kay Nielsen book by Colin White. It was originally slated for last year - then changed to Spring 08. So I wrote the publishers for info on the English version. This is the disappointing answer I just received: "Don't let the Buy button fool you - it [which I believe to be both the Danish and English versions] is now slated for a late Fall 2008 publication."

[Nov. 2009: date now shows as February 2010.]
[Jan. 2011: date now shows as March 2011.]
[Apr. 2011: date now shows as October 2011.]

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Next after Snow White: Bambi...

Here is a little article from Liberty magazine of November 26th, 1938, "What Snow White's Father is Doing Now - Walt Disney's Startling New Plans." It tells, among other things, of Bambi as the follow up to Snow White, followed by Pinocchio. It announces the Sorcerer's Apprentice, and tells of the new studio that ultimately cost over two million, and not the $750,000 as Walt estimates here. When I read this, I could wonder why the strike ever even happened...
Liberty Nov 26,1938 A... Liberty Nov 26,1938 B...
Interestingly, the featured article in this magazine is "Why Russia is Powerless" by Leon Trotsky - an answer to an article in a previous Liberty magazine...


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On The Tenggren Cover of the Post

The Saturday Evening Post of 11/17/1956, Vol. 229 Issue 20 featured the beginning of the story "My Dad, Walt Disney," by Diane Disney Miller as told to Pete Martin. The cover was masterfully painted by none other than Gustaf Tenggren, the inspiration for the drawing style of (among other films) Pinocchio - but until I stumbled over this article, I only knew the feature story that later was reprinted as the book The Story of Walt Disney (Henry Holt and Company, New York 1957 - and Dell paperback).

Here now is the story of the cover, with a self portrait of Tenggren.
I added a small image of the actual cover, as well...
The Story of the Cover... Post Cover...< Click on it!
In the foreword to the latest re-issue of the book, Mrs. Miller tells how she hardly had any hand in the book. Her father would only have Pete Martin do the book if it was in her name. On the other hand, she was present at all the interviews, and interjected some questions, which in itself is not an unimportant contribution...

Read more on Gustaf Tenggren on Robert Cowan's blog here...


A 1930 Mickey Daily Cartoon

Here is a cartoon I happened upon at a paper show. It was printed in the Oakland Post Enquirer of Thursday, March 13, 1930...
The End...< Click on it!
Written by Walt himself, drawn by Win Smith (See the comments).


Monday, May 12, 2008

Fortune August 1942     "Walt Disney: Great Teacher"

Since Mike Barrier is posting about El Gaucho Goofy, I thought it might be nice to show this August 1942 article in Fortune magazine, in which this film is mentioned...
I especially like the quote about Walt's relation to the dollar...
This reminds me that I am looking forward to seeing Ted Thomas' film "Walt and El Groupo"...


Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Home and Garden of Walt Disney

Here is an article from the Better Homes & Gardens magazine of January 1940. It features photos of Walt's Woking Way home in the Los Feliz/Silverlake district overlooking the Hyperion Avenue studios, where Walt and Lillian lived since they left their Lyric Avenue house in 1932, until February 1st, 1950 when they moved into their Carolwood Drive house in Holmby Hills.

The $50,000 twelve-room French-Norman style house on Woking Way was built in the summer of 1932 in a mere two and a half months, to be in time for a baby that never arrived. The happy occasion finally occurred in December 1933 with the birth of daughter Diane Marie Disney. The text in the article is very general, but I still thought this interesting enough to post here.

By the way, all three houses were built by Walt himself. The 355 North Carolwood Drive mansion was incomprehensibly destroyed quite recently by the new owners, but like the $8,000 house on 2495 Lyric Ave, Walt's 4053 Woking Way house is still there, as seen on the Google Earth grab. Don't go bothering the owners, though!


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

More on Synchronizing Mickey

In this Readers Digest (August 1934) version of an article from the July 1934 Woman's Home Companion, we find on page 108 a simple description of the bouncing ball system to record Steamboat Willie...
We also find mention of "the three raids on Disney's staff."
Now - the first was Mintz' Oswald take-over in early 1928, and the second was Pat Powers' Iwerks/Stalling maneuver in January 1930.
But what was the third that this article refers to?

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Cowan Collection

As all of you have seen recently, here and on other blogs, collectors Robert and Jenny Cowan have been very kind in sharing images from their amazing collection, including the Ingeborg Willy scrapbook (retracted, at least temporarily, due to possible legal issues).

To give us his own thoughts and back stories, Robert has started a blog of his own, Cowan Collection: Animation in which he highlights some of the amazing pieces. Todays goodies are some gorgeous Eyvind Earle paintings from Sleeping Beauty. I especially like that the blog and its creator do not pretend to be purely historically oriented, but also give an insight into collecting for the beauty of the art's sake, and this includes the very interesting choices that the Cowans have made as to the framing of the pieces. A Tenggren in a two-sided frame is something we should see more of, and the Just Mickey cell on a Haunted House background makes for a good conversation piece in any house, however historically misplaced.

The items posted range from historically interesting to absolutely beautiful, and make this blog worth visiting often - and adding to your RSS feeds. Remember to check the earliest postings, too!

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Synchronizing Mickey

Without a doubt, the single most important event for Walt Disney's success was the success of Mickey Mouse. "Let's not forget, it all started with a mouse..." And the most important reason Mickey was a success? Synchronization! Steamboat Willie is considered, not as the first sound cartoon, but the first cartoon with a character that is perfectly synchronized to the sound track, when this was still a novelty. When the Colony Theater in New York opened its doors on November 18th, 1928, theatergoers were excited because they watched a cartoon character seemingly have a life of its own, with sound. That was Walt's big breakthrough, and the reason his company is still around. So... How did they set about it? Ok, here goes, off the top of my head...

After Walt was unable to secure distribution for his first silent Mickey cartoons Plane Crazy and Gallopin' Gaucho, he decided that the breakthrough he needed was sound. But he did not know how to do this. Wilfred "Jaxon" Jackson, at the time mainly Ub Iwerks' assistant who had a little musical knowledge, suggested using a metronome, and breaking the soundtrack up into musical beats. It could then be established easily, how many frames of screen time there would be between the beats. They set about animating Steamboat Willie, and had a projection of the first scenes at the Hyperion Avenue studio, with Roy Disney projecting this reel through a back window, while the animators made sound effects etc. This is all very well established and documented. Then, when the film was finished, Walt went to Kansas City to have Carl Stalling score the two previous silent films, and then off to New York to have this score recorded with an orchestra, conducted by a Carl Edouarde. The first recordings were a disaster. The conductor could not figure out to follow the action on the screen well enough to have the orchestra stay "together," and the result was cacophony.

When Walt wired reports of this back to Roy Disney on the West Coast, a system was devised to give the conductor a visual aid: a bouncing ball was drawn in the side of the film, in the sound track area. As Walt said later, in a 1963 CBC interview: "We had a little thing, a little ball that went up and down... and they were all musicians working for me, see, and they would follow this thing, and they would go AAH! or they would go BENG! or they would pop one of those pop guns. And it would always fit!"

Steamboat Willy was finally recorded using this system, and they must have been excited about the results, because before the opening of the film, the system was already patent-applied-for, in the name of Roy O. Disney...
Obviously it wasn't all about drawing funny drawings: without the technology, they would not have amounted to much.

Now - saying it would ALWAYS fit was seemingly a bit of an overstatement. For after this, they devised ways of having lines in the picture areas, and finally they hit upon one of the most universally used devices in the world of cinema: the Click Track! The patent, which outlines the history, as well, was applied for in the name of engineer Bill Garity, who had several patents to his name already, for vacuum tubes and the like, from before he came to work at Disney's Studio. The click track has often been ascribed to Ub Iwerks, but he left the studio several months before this patent application, so who knows...
Note the spelling mistake in the reference to the (previous) companion application, where the inventor is mentioned as Roy E. Disney. At the time of filing, Roy Edward was four months old...

To top things off and to corner the market, Walt, Jaxon and Garity applied for an all-inclusive patent that outlined the system of musical beats and how this related to the recording stage. To simplify matters, they tell of exposure sheets in stead of bar sheets, but the principle is the same. Then it shows how the orchestra will be able to hear the beats - or feel them, through some ticking bracelet...
The rest, as they say, is history. Musical timing--to the beat--started as being the only way of synchronizing the films, and it has been a very important part of cartoon production all the way up to the 50's, where more often it was abandoned because some directors felt it was a crutch. If used correctly it is more a backbone than a crutch, and it certainly is worth getting back into the director's bag of tricks!

Check out more about bar sheets here on this blog. I have written a little metronome program to go with the bar sheets, so you can try this out yourself, which you can find here. As I stated earlier, I'd love to hear comments, and it would be great if readers would try to make bar sheets based on some of the early Disney shorts, or at least try to analyze the beats used. Not all directors worked in the same way, and this could be an interesting area for study!

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