Mike's Bookshelf

Currently showing posts tagged Disney

  • Sweet Dreams, Jack-Jack by Meredith Rusu Book Review

    Sweet Dreams, Jack-Jack by Meredith Rusu

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Inspired by Disney/Pixar’s anticipated Incredibles 2, Sweet Dreams, Jack-Jack snuggles up with the youngest of the heroic family as Mr. Incredible attempts to read him bedtime stories to sleep with hilariously unsuccessful results.  Returning to the living room only to continuously find the toddler out of his crib, Jack-Jack’s fascination with a crime movie eventually motivates him to use his own super-powered skills to take on a trash stealing raccoon.  Surprised and giddy by the adorable baby’s seemingly limitless powers, Mr. Incredible struggles to contain his excitement while searching for a way to explain this unexpected development to his wife.  An excellent sidekick to any child’s before bedtime rituals, Meredith Rusu’s Sweet Dreams, Jack-Jack is indeed a sweet and funny mini tale for the adorable, pointy-haired character with gorgeous illustrations from the artistic team of Gurihiru whose talents truly standout in this sleepy time tale.

    Available now from Disney Press, Sweet Dreams, Jack-Jack can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Read-Along Storybook and CD by Suzanne Francis / Olaf’s Frozen Adventure - Olaf’s Journey: A Light-Up Board Book by Brooke Vitale Book Reviews

    Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Read-Along Storybook and CD by Suzanne Francis

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Adapting the anticipated return to Arendelle scheduled to premiere before Pixar Animation’s Coco this Thanksgiving season, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure finds reunited sisters Queen Elsa and Princess Anna ringing in the holidays by prepping an extravagant surprise event for their kingdom.  Surrounded by friends and loved ones, Elsa and Anna are just as quickly perplexed when the townspeople scurry home to enjoy their own family traditions, leaving the girls saddened by a lack of their own holiday customs.  Determined to bring joy back into their lives, the adorable snowman Olaf and the faithful Sven chart a journey to learn of others’ seasonal practices in hopes of introducing them to Elsa and Anna.  Marking another heartfelt chapter in the Frozen saga, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure will warm the hearts of all who fell in love with these memorable characters several years ago while the short storybook’s colorful illustrations and delightfully cute recorded narration will keep young readers returning to its text many times this holiday season.

    Available now from Disney Press, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Read-Along Storybook and CD can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

    Olaf’s Frozen Adventure - Olaf’s Journey: A Light-Up Board Book by Brooke Vitale

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A far more truncated take on the animated short film, this rhyming rendition of Olaf and Sven’s pursuit to bring the heart of the season back into Anna and Elsa’s lives is tailor-made for particularly young tikes who will find the illuminating lights in glowing windows, the eyes of the ferocious wolves Olaf encounters on his journey and the crystalized Christmas tree created by Elsa most enjoyable.  Furthermore, the enchantingly unique illustrative work by Griselda Sastrawinata-Lemay makes the brief read a lovely sight for the eyes.

    Available now from Disney Press, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure - Olaf’s Journey: A Light-Up Board Book can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Lead the Way by Ace Landers Book Review

    Lead the Way by Ace Landers

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Inspired by Disney/Pixar’s upcoming high-speed installment of the popular Cars franchise, Lead the Way takes young readers along for an inspirational ride with Lightning McQueen as your guide as he makes pitstops on cherished moments gone by.  Sharing wonderful life lessons acquired from mentor Doc Hudson about the true meaning of winning, working hard and appreciation for those who helped you along the way, Lead the Way encourages all to believe in the impossible.  Introducing Cars 3’s Cruz Ramirez as McQueen’s latest protégé, skilled Pixar artist Garrett Taylor provides colorful illustrations of Radiator Springs’ favorite talking cars as they take to the open track of their adventure-filled lives.  Ultimately learning that the friends and memories made along the way in any situation are the greatest rewards, Lead the Way is a charming storybook urging passengers to put their pedal to the metal in following their dreams.

    Available now from Disney Press, Lead the Way can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.  

  • Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book by The Topps Company & Lucasfilm Ltd. Book Review

    Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book by The Topps Company & Lucasfilm Ltd.

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Arriving just in time to celebrate the home video release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the original franchise starter’s 40th anniversary, Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book marks the first-ever collection of its kind, repurposing many of the popular stickers that sent anxious fans on the hunt to collecting them all several decades ago.  Packed with over 250 stickers featuring the beloved characters of the original trilogy and memorable scenes from each film, Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book also includes several pages of alphabets with images encased in them for young fans to create their own intergalactic phrases.  Ensuring maximum nostalgia for first generationers, five reversible pullout pages displaying mock backgrounds for readers to create their own sticker collage are presented, with their flip sides donning the completed puzzle posters best remembered from the original card series lines.  Rounding out with 18 bonus stickers displaying many of the saga’s newest characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens including, Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren, Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book is tailor-made for young ones yearning to decorate their walls or school binders with the heroes and villains of the galaxy while, elder diehard fans of the Force will be equally appreciative for the trip down memory lane.

    Available now from Abrams, Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book can be purchased via AbramsBooks.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia by Tricia Barr, Adam Bray & Cole Horton Book Review

    Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia by Tricia Barr, Adam Bray & Cole Horton

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    An impressive display of every artifact and event taken place in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia leaves no stone left unturned in its 200 pages that catalogs and descriptively details the map and geography of the series’ many planets, the vast array of creatures inhabiting its aquatic and dry lands plus, an extraordinary breakdown of the franchise’s extensive timeline.  Presented with striking visuals across every glossy page, major and minor examples of Star Wars’ culture exploring the unique attires, armor, music and food consumed gets notice while, every character from marquee players like Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Han Solo are prominently spotlighted with more overlooked creations from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels also rightly earning their place.  The combined efforts of Barr, Bray and Horton do sensational work giving readers deeper looks into the leisurely activities such as, gambling games and holochess that our favorite characters indulge in with equally intriguing looks at the currency from Republic credits to Wupiupi coins that they deal in.  Meanwhile, a personal favorite section of the pictorial tome tours the technological tools that populate the series ranging from its many different droids and cyborgs to comlinks, bio-equipment such as Luke Skywalker’s mechanical hand and of course, the multitude of weapons from blasters, lightsabers and mammoth destructors like the Death Star that the forces of good and evil do battle with.  Befit with a foreword by Industrial Light & Magic’s Senior Creative Director Dennis Muren, Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia is an intergalactically fun and flashy overview of everything that makes the series a sight for the ages and essential for all fans’ coffee tables.

    Available April 4th from DK Publishing, Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Mike's Bookshelf Spotlight: Disney's Moana Book Reviews

    With Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 56th feature continuing to make a splash in cinemas, we set sail on a series of Moana based books well worth exploring ahead of its home video release.

    The Story of Moana: A Tale of Courage and Adventure by Kari Sutherland

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Adapting the animated film with equal heart, The Story of Moana: A Tale of Courage and Adventure provides young readers with a wonderfully constructed version of the film and the Pacific Island folktales that inspired it.  Spanning 300 pages and gorgeous cover art, this hardback edition, accompanied with bonus tattoos familiar to those seen on the brave Maui, will make Moana’s adventures a treasured source of reading for those in love with its feature.

    Available now from Disney Press, The Story of Moana: A Tale of Courage and Adventure can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

    Art of Coloring Moana: 100 Images to Inspire Creativity

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Perfect for young artists and artists young at heart, Art of Coloring Moana: 100 Images to Inspire Creativity is tailor-made with art of your favorite characters from the film, tribal patterns, tattoo designs and other beautiful imagery based on the Pacific Island setting awaiting their black-and-white pages to be brought to life.  Both for fun and relaxation, countless pages of creativity awaits those hungry to add their personal touch of color to them.

    Available now from Disney Editions, Art of Coloring Moana: 100 Images to Inspire Creativity can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

    Read-Along Storybook and CD: Moana by Bill Scollon

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Condensing the film version for ages 3-6, this charming storybook interpretation of Moana recalls the spirited teenager who along with demigod Maui dares to trek the ocean to restore the heart of Te Fiti.  Joined by a CD counterpart narrated by Rena Owen and featuring thrilling sound effects, this perfect nighttime read and its lovely illustrations will easily capture the imaginations of young dreamers.

    Available now from Disney Press, Read-Along Storybook and CD: Moana can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

    Moana and the Ocean by Heather Knowles

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Told from the perspective of the sea who has watched over the titular character since birth, Moana and the Ocean is a lovely picture book that celebrates Moana’s enduring spirit and courageousness.  Featuring gorgeous illustrations by Annette Marnat, this simplistic storybook, although brief on text, is an essential addition for its inspiring artwork alone that seamlessly captures the color palettes of the film’s picturesque environment.

    Available now from Disney Press, Moana and the Ocean can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Josh Kushins Book Review

    The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Josh Kushins

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Dominating the worldwide box-office, the first sensational spinoff to George Lucas’s original films chronicles its full artistic splendor in Josh Kushins’ The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  Featuring forewords by the film’s Co-Production Designers Doug Chiag & Neil Lamont and Director Gareth Edwards, this visually arresting volume celebrates many of the six thousand pieces of concept art, both unused and brought to life on the big-screen, developed for the prequel, spotlighting the production’s blue sky explorations for its many environments, droid and ship designs, costume choices and weaponry.  Committed to recapturing the lived-in appearance of A New Hope brilliantly realized by legendary concept artist Ralph McQuarrie while injecting a flavor all its own, the inspirational art found within its 200+ pages is nothing short of astonishing and beautifully captures the collaborative efforts of Lucasfilm’s arsenal of artists.  Appreciating the ever-changing development of character appearances and climactic sequences, the richness found in matte paintings, concept boards and digital mockups will surely inspire a new generation of artists while, longtime Force wielders will find themselves further entranced by the stunning artistry brought forth in Edwards’ rebellious adventure that set the events of the beloved 1977 feature into motion.

    Available now from Abrams, The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story can be purchased via AbramsBooks.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series by Russell Merritt & J.B. Kaufman Book Review

    Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series by Russell Merritt & J.B. Kaufman

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Celebrating the tenth anniversary of its original publication, Russell Merritt and J.B. Kaufman’s Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series returns in a newly revised and updated edition.  Combining their efforts, esteemed Disney historians Merritt and Kaufman honor the innovative and artistically groundbreaking series of short subjects that advanced the techniques and storytelling traits that would prove invaluable in feature length works such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and Dumbo.  Originally conceived as music based one-reelers, Walt Disney’s followup series to his popular Mickey Mouse shorts would ultimately push the boundaries of his artists and what could be made possible in animation using cutting-edge technology.  Debuting in 1929 with the mesmerizingly eerie The Skeleton Dance, the Silly Symphonies became a constant testing ground for new advancements and abstract tales that relied minimally on reoccurring characters and insistently on splendor, dramatics and forward thinking character animation.  Embracing Technicolor photography, the spectacle of Disney’s Symphonies would continue to impress audiences and critics for their decade run, with higher society praising their artistic richness with endless nominations and Academy Awards for their deserved efforts.

    Improving where their phenomenal first printing left off, Merritt and Kaufman’s voracious research through the Disney Archives have built upon the proper credits and rarely known details into the making of all of the short features.  Detailing the Symphonies distribution history from Columbia and United Artists to eventually RKO Radio Pictures, the animation loving duo expertly cover the constant changes, stylistic formulas and emerging talent that brought their wide range of skills to a series so tonally and aesthetically different than the Mickey Mouse shorts.  Including brand new stills, pencil sketches and clean up animation examples, the stunning visuals only reinforce the scholarly research put forth by both Merritt and Kaufman.  Presenting a full filmography of the shorts assembled in production order, all information of interest including, credits, negative costs, opening dates and photos accompany each in exquisite detail.  Far more accessible than ever, Disney’s Silly Symphonies are some of animation history’s treasured gems that unfortunately find themselves unknown by younger audiences or too commonly undervalued as mere predecessors to Disney’s feature length classics.  Much more than the building blocks to Disney’s golden age films, this newly revised offering of Merritt and Kaufman’s Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series serves as a prized addition to any Disney historians library and the perfect gateway to uninitiated audiences unaware of the visual magic sandwiched between Mickey Mouse’s comic exploits and Snow White’s groundbreaking debut.

    Available September 27th from Disney Editions, Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Art of Minnie Mouse Book Review

    The Art of Minnie Mouse

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Celebrating Mickey’s lovable leading lady, The Art of Minnie Mouse spotlights the beloved impact of Disney’s cute and independently-minded character from her debut in 1928 to the present as generations, young and old, continue to cherish her charm and sunny optimism.  Divided into three distinct sections, Minnie’s animated filmography credits and their respective release dates have been painstakingly collected along with descriptive write-ups on her career milestones from her first appearance in the silent short Plane Crazy to her first full conversation with Mickey in 1929’s Mickey’s Choo-Choo are appropriately covered.  In addition, Minnie’s cameo role, alongside other famed Disney characters, in 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit and her crowd pleasing appearances at Disney Parks in costumed and balloon float forms are touched upon with her more recent spotting in the Academy Award nominated short Get a Horse! bringing readers right up to today’s speed.  Finally, Disney’s talented artists, using various mediums, honor the polka-dot donning mouse with their own uniquely styled interpretations with praiseful quotes from the likes of Fashion Designer Marc Jacobs, Television Host Sharon Osbourne, Singer Ariana Grande, Media Personality Kim Kardashian and countless others.  Breezy with greater emphasis on its art gallery, The Art of Minnie Mouse may not be as comprehensive or bursting with revelatory history as other Art of volumes but, its inclusion of the animated star’s complete filmography and career milestones in forms outside of film makes it a welcome, if not imperfect, inclusion for Disney book lovers.  Furthermore, stills of vintage movie posters, Mickey Mouse Magazine covers and story script pages from some of the studio’s most memorable shorts subjects nicely make up for its lack of depth.

    Available September 27th from Disney Editions, The Art of Minnie Mouse can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Three Little Words by Amy Novesky Book Review

    Three Little Words by Amy Novesky

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Inspired by Disney-Pixar’s upcoming Finding Dory, award-winning author Amy Novesky’s Three Little Words submerges young readers into Dory’s aquatic world of wonder where lessons of perseverance and optimism are taught to the cheery rhymes of the blue tang’s favorite motto.  Beautifully illustrated by the talented Grace Lee, Three Little Words is a charmingly simplistic read that channels the emotions of Pixar’s under the sea features while dazzling readers with its gorgeous watercolor based visuals.  Also introducing some of Dory’s newest friends from her adventurous journey, Three Little Words is a delightful prelude to her big screen return this summer that will undoubtedly have Pixar enthusiasts, young and mature, swimming back to this charming storybook time and time again.

    Available now from Disney Press, Three Little Words can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit by Garry Apgar Book Review

    Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit by Garry Apgar

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the first fully realized biography of Walt Disney’s greatest creation, Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit recalls Disney and Ub Iwerks’ development of the spunky mouse to his worldwide impact through his many cinematic adventures.  With a legacy spanning nearly 90 years, Mickey Mouse’s influence on the culture, his place in the annals of art history and of course, his equally iconic and sometimes controversial role as an American icon are exhaustively covered in Author Garry Apgar’s detailed study.

    Unlike any cartoon character before or since, Mickey Mouse’s meteoric rise to prominence cannot be overemphasized.  Tracing Walt Disney’s earliest years in the midwest to his popular character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit being swindled away, Apgar’s biographical overview of Disney’s famed mouse showcases his creator’s desperation on a long train ride home from New York to deliver a new, unique creation that would lead to the salvation of his studio.  Separating fact from fiction, Apgar goes to great lengths to set the record straight regarding Mickey’s origins that range from Walt, during truly desperate days as a struggling artist, feeding a friendly mouse that supposedly planted the germ of his eventual idea to the routinely retold, although factually inaccurate, tale of a chance encounter with child actor Mickey Rooney influencing Disney’s decision to name his character after the future Pete’s Dragon star.  As the pieces come together in Mickey’s creation, Apgar traces the many phases of his enduring career from his popular headlining appearances in the studio’s short subjects to his dazzling turn in 1940’s Fantasia.  With the arrival of The Great Depression and World War II, Mickey blossomed into an image of bravery for the struggling country before transitioning into the sunny mascot of Disneyland.  While Mickey’s optimism and good-natured personality were viewed as a controversial image during the difficult days of Vietnam and an extension of forceful American propaganda, Disney’s alter ego endured rising to the ranks as a timeless creation where modern artists such as Andy Warhol and the power of nostalgia cemented his deserved place in the world and as a beacon of American iconography.  

    Extensively researched and containing countless rarely seen stills, Garry Apgar’s Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit is a scholarly analysis of Walt Disney’s enduring creation that continues to delight audiences of all ages.  Never shying away from the outcries of Mickey’s harshest critics, Apgar’s essential volume is exquisitely balanced with insight from a multitude of sources that allows readers to fully absorb all facets that make Mickey the valued image he has become.

    Available now from The Walt Disney Family Foundation Press, Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Phil Szostak Book Review

    The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Phil Szostak

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the purchase of Lucasfilm by the Walt Disney Company in the fall of 2012, the power of the Force was reignited by fans worldwide at the prospect of new adventures carrying on George Lucas’ sci-fi legacy.  With famed producer Kathleen Kennedy (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park) steering Star Wars’ future, Director J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Star Trek) was selected to bring viewers back to a galaxy from far, far away.  Aided by the industries most creatively talented artists, Phil Szostak’s The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens pulls back the curtain on the challenging three year journey of development that took place to realize the many new worlds, characters, costumes and set pieces designed for the long anticipated Episode VII.

    Accompanied by a foreword from the film’s Co-Production Designer Rick Carter (Forrest Gump, Avatar), The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens unsurprisingly focuses on the design aspects of the film beginning with stunning inspirational art establishing early looks for the new characters and imaginative possibilities for new planets.  As the book progresses with production nearing, more refined design work is showcased on the evolving costume choices for the stormtroopers and our heroes while, several unique considerations for the appearance of Jedi killer Kylo Ren is displayed.  While Szostak’s behind-the-scenes hardback is relatively slim on text, interesting insight is revealed as Rey and Finn, the young heroes of the film, were originally named Kira and Sam.  In addition, artwork by Concept Artist Iain McCaig (the Star Wars prequels, Guardians of the Galaxy) suggests that the ghost of Anakin Skywalker was at one time considered for inclusion in the film.  As anticipated as the latest film is and with several episodic sequels and spinoffs currently being prepped, The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens may not be the definitive making-of account for the franchises rebirth but, still provides readers and fellow artists with an incredible look into the awe-inspiring artistry that has made the film an immediate success with viewers.

    Available now from Abrams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens can be purchased via AbramsBooks.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Olaf's Night Before Christmas by Jessica Julius Book Review

    Olaf’s Night Before Christmas by Jessica Julius

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Just in time for the holiday season, Olaf, the warm-hearted snowman of Disney’s Frozen, charms readers with his own rendition of the favored Christmas Eve bedtime tale.  Following its originators simplistic setups melded with Olaf’s own adorable curiosity, Olaf’s Night Before Christmas traces the snowman’s investigation of a nighttime clatter leading him to the discovery of jolly St. Nick.  Through laughter, warm hugs and beautiful illustrations by Olga T. Mosqueda, Olaf’s Night Before Christmas reinterprets this timeless story in a new heartfelt light with Anna and Elsa’s lovable friend guiding the way to the merriest day of all.  Accompanied by a CD featuring narration by Olaf himself, Olaf’s Night Before Christmas will continue to make the magical retelling of this poem all the more enjoyable for young fans of Disney’s popular fairy tale.

    Available now from Disney Press, Olaf’s Night Before Christmas can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars: Moving Target - A Princess Leia Adventure by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry Book Review

    Star Wars: Moving Target - A Princess Leia Adventure by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set between the events of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, this newly conceived adventure centers on freedom fighter Princess Leia as she leads a rebel crew on a risky decoy mission to combat the ruthless Galactic Empire.  With the Empire actively building their second Death Star, Leia initiates Operation Yellow Moon to attract Imperial attention in order for the Alliance to gain defensive momentum in the war.  Aided by ace pilot Nien Nunb, communications specialist Kidi Aleri, tech specialist Antrot and veteran resistance fighter Major Lokmarcha, Leia travels aboard the Mellcrawler to distant planets such as Basteel and Sesid, encountering supporters of their cause and familiar threats.  Still reeling from the carbonite-freezing and capture of Han Solo, Star Wars: Moving Target expands on Leia’s determined personality and her commitment to the Alliance against oftentimes impossible odds.  Hunted by the novels evil female antagonist Captain Khone and her surge of stormtroopers, Leia’s mission comes with great sacrifice and nonstop action.  Complimented by illustrations by Phil Noto and intriguing links to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Castellucci and Fry’s Leia based saga excellently delivers the excitement of the films’ original trilogy while, solidifying the Alderaanian as one of science-fictions strongest female characters.

    Available now from Disney-Lucasfilm Press, Star Wars: Moving Target - A Princess Leia Adventure can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The Tim Burton Encyclopedia by Samuel J. Umland Book Review

    The Tim Burton Encyclopedia by Samuel J. Umland 

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Chronicling his nearly 35 year career and impact on pop culture through his uniquely dark and whimsical tales, The Tim Burton Encyclopedia by Samuel J. Umland provides readers and film enthusiasts of Burton’s colorful career a detailed overview of the artist, his many works and frequent collaborators.  Organized alphabetically, The Tim Burton Encyclopedia spares insight into the relevance of CalArts’ A113 homeroom class, Burton’s earliest and seldom seen projects including, Hansen and Gretel (1982) and Aladdin and His Magical Lamp (1986).  In addition, Umland delves into the backgrounds and impact of Burton influences such as Dr. Seuss, Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) and Roald Dahl while, surprisingly lacking a formal section for stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen.  Covering each of Burton’s film projects in great detail, this reference guide also shines light on Burton’s many collaborators dating back to former Disney executive Richard Laurence Berger who green-lit production of Burton’s live-action short Frankenweenie (1984) to more commonly associated artists such as Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands, Dark Shadows) and Composer Danny Elfman (responsible for musical contributions to all of Burton’s films minus 1994’s Ed Wood).  Although sharing more scholarly asides pertaining to the inclusion of monsters in Burton’s works and a foreword from Production Designer Bo Welch (Beetlejuice, Batman Returns), The Tim Burton Encyclopedia treads familiar ground covered in more enthralling efforts from Burton biographer Mark Salisbury.  While not meant to be absorbed cover to cover, The Tim Burton Encyclopedia serves its purpose as a solid reference of the Beetlejuice director’s eccentric career with countless sections of enlightening material for Burton’s most informed appreciators.

    Available now from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, The Tim Burton Encyclopedia can be purchased via Rowman.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • An Animator’s Gallery: Eric Goldberg Draws the Disney Characters by David A. Bossert Book Review

    An Animator’s Gallery: Eric Goldberg Draws the Disney Characters by David A. Bossert

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Highlighting the artistic abilities of famed Disney Supervising Animator Eric Goldberg, David A. Bossert’s latest opus gives readers a brief history into Goldberg’s earliest attractions to animation and his lifelong appreciation for iconic caricaturist Al Hirschfield.  Perfecting his skills at Richard Williams’ New York and London studios before beginning his career at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, Goldberg would ultimately bring to life the memorable characters of Genie in Aladdin, the Danny DeVito voiced Phil of Hercules as well as lending his directing abilities to 1995’s Pocahontas.  Invoking the Hirschfeld touch, Goldberg was selected to draw many of Disney’s iconic characters for placement in the halls of the Roy E. Disney Animation Building in Burbank, California.  Presented in their entirety, Goldberg’s brilliantly crafted caricatures from Disney’s Golden Age classics and Pixar’s finest to characters from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas showcase the exquisite detail and emotional value these enduring creations continue to have on audiences, all from one remarkably talented hand.  A visual feast and well deserved celebration of Goldberg’s distinguished talent, An Animator’s Gallery: Eric Goldberg Draws the Disney Characters is an essential volume for animation enthusiasts.

    Available now from Disney Editions, An Animator’s Gallery: Eric Goldberg Draws the Disney Characters can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic by J.B. Kaufman Book Review

    Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic by J.B. Kaufman

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Considered one of the finest achievements in Disney’s revered animation history, Author J.B. Kaufman’s Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic takes an extensive look into the making of this monumental effort that continues to thrive 75 years after its original release.  Containing never before seen art and countless original concept sketches, Kaufman’s in-depth research and obvious passion for this Golden Age classic will educate lifelong admirers and deeply enrich future viewings of Disney’s finest animated film of all time.

    Following up Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first and deeply praised feature-length animated film, Walt Disney and his talented team of artists had their work cut out for themselves formulating their followup.  With Bambi in active development and originally planned as Disney’s second feature, several challenges including, the additional prep work required for such a project shifted gears within the studio bumping Pinocchio as the top priority.  Riding high on the financial riches of Snow White’s success, Walt Disney saw the tale of Author Carlo Collodi’s wooden puppet longing to be a real boy as a remarkable concept, bursting with imaginative opportunities for his artists to push their talents to soaring new heights.  Far from a simple undertaking, Kaufman presents the early origins of Disney and his staff hammering out story details, many of which omitted from its final presentation, that took liberties from its source material to capture a scaled down adaptation without sacrificing the Disney standard.  Culled from interviews and recorded internal conferences with Disney veterans including, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas, T. Hee and of course, Walt Disney, Kaufman’s painstaking fieldwork provides an expert documentation of the struggles and artistic triumphs the Disney studio encountered on their journeys.

    Collecting over 200 pieces of art ranging from the film’s gorgeous background paintings and other never before seen gems, Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic visually demonstrates the film’s perfectionist style, revolutionary effect techniques and refinements of existing innovations including the multiplane camera crane that preserves its timeless majesty.  From its earliest developments through its rigorous animation process, Kaufman provides added insight into the film’s Academy Award winning music, its vocal performers and promotional campaign.  In addition, although regarded as a classic and landmark achievement in Disney’s history, Kaufman also shares the troublesome release of the film that was critically praised but, stunted at the box-office due to the arrival of World War II closing film distribution in countless European territories for many years.  Through its magical years of creation to its premiere at Rockefeller Center’s Center Theatre and WWII’s ominous cloud darkening its full potential, Pinocchio, with assistance from countless rereleases and such, has endured, capturing the hearts and imaginations of audiences young and old since 1940.  

    75 impressive years later, Disney’s Pinocchio arguably stands as the studio’s finest artistic achievement where rich storytelling and skilled artistry came together in perfect harmony.  Unquestionably considered one of animation’s most inspiring feats, J.B. Kaufman’s fascinating achievement provides the definitive statement on Pinocchio’s treasured history.  With a foreword by Academy Award winner John Canemaker and a special final chapter by noted professor Russell Merritt, Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic is the result of wishing upon a star and receiving one of the most exceptional celebrations of an animated classic.

    Available now from The Walt Disney Family Foundation Press, Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • John Hughes: A Life in Film by Kirk Honeycutt Book Review

    John Hughes: A Life in Film by Kirk Honeycutt

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the first illustrated celebration of the late icon, John Hughes: A Life in Film traces the early beginnings of Hughes’ career at National Lampoon before taking Hollywood by storm with a string of hits including Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Featuring new interviews from close friends and frequent collaborators, Author Kirk Honeycutt’s retrospective love letter to the enduring impact of Hughes‘ films is also complimented with rich visuals throughout the auteur’s extensive career.

    Synonymous with capturing the feelings and heartaches of youth like no other, Writer/Director John Hughes defined a generation with his endless streak of comedy hits.  Since his untimely death in 2009, Hughes‘ legacy has only increased with time, influencing audiences and fellow artists alike.  Author Kirk Honeycutt’s John Hughes: A Life in Film guides the reader through Hughes‘ career from his early days in advertising before abandoning ship to write for National Lampoon.  A heavy chain smoker who often worked late through the night, Hughes churned out gold at an alarming pace that  quickly caught the attention of Hollywood.  A devoted husband and father firmly rooted in his midwest surroundings, Honeycutt pulls back the curtain on the generally private family man who just so happened to capture the teenage voice of the 80s.  Detailing his screenwriting efforts on Mr. Mom and National Lampoon’s Vacation before stepping up to the directorial plate, Honeycutt rightfully spends considerable time on the genesis and production of Hughes‘ landmark opuses, Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.  From the discovery of his muse Molly Ringwald to revealing behind-the-scenes stories, Hughes‘ ear for music and marketing genius is also well documented.  As the young at heart creator’s popularity increased and his empire grew, more hits including Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Planes, Trains and Automobiles followed, allowing Honeycutt to detail Hughes’ friendship and working relationship with the late John Candy.  In addition, other Hughes productions including Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful are covered that shed light on the sometimes difficult relationship Hughes shared with fellow collaborators.  

    While Hughes’ career achievements are expertly detailed, Honeycutt tends to jump the gun in several areas to discuss films that will ultimately be covered later in the book.  In addition, Honeycutt spends a mere two pages discussing Hughes‘ rejuvenated interest in the Vacation franchise that gave way to 1989’s Christmas Vacation.  Long considered a holiday classic and arguably the best sequel of the series, Honeycutt unfortunately dismisses the charmer as a “tepid affair”.  Fortunately and appreciatively, the later half of the book spends considerable time exploring films under Hughes’ producing eye including Home Alone, Dennis the Menace and the fascinating nightmare production of Baby’s Day Out.  Furthermore, Director Patrick Read Johnson (Spaced Invaders, Angus) provides insight into the rewarding and tumultuous relationship shared with Hughes that makes for some of the book’s most intriguing stories.  Hughes‘ partnership with Disney birthing the live-action redo of 101 Dalmatians and Flubber is also covered along with unrealized and ahead of their time concepts including The Bee leaving readers curious at what could have been.  

    With a heartfelt forward provided by Director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire), John Hughes: A Life in Film is an excellent companion piece to Hughes‘ cinematic offerings.  Author Kirk Honeycutt provides ample information on the late icon’s works with countless interviews from Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Jeffrey Jones, Steve Martin, Jon Cryer and many more.  While high profile titles like The Breakfast Club are covered at great length, lesser appreciated works like Curly Sue and Hughes‘ many producing credits are thankfully given their time to shine much to the delight of film enthusiasts.  Honeycutt’s insight into Hughes‘ loving family life and tearjerking friendship with John Candy make for some of the book’s more humanizing moments.  Bursting with colorful photographs and fueled with genuine passion for its subject, Author Kirk Honeycutt’s John Hughes: A Life in Film nicely captures the complexities and genius of the eternally youthful Hughes.  

    Available now from Race Point Publishing, John Hughes: A Life in Film can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.