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Currently showing posts tagged Mickey Mouse

  • 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 Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember by Steven Clark & Rebecca Cline Book Review

    The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember by Steven Clark & Rebecca Cline

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Returning to 1923 and the formation of Walt and Roy’s Disney Brothers Studio, The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember by Steven Clark and Rebecca Cline guides readers through the remarkable history and evolution of the magic factory that has dazzled audiences since opening its gates seventy-five years ago.  After years of hard work and intense struggle, Walt Disney and his talented artists saw the fruits of their labor pay off with the runaway success of their Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies short subjects as well as worldwide acclaim for the first full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  With the heavily employed studio bursting at the seams, relocation was not only necessary but, essential to contain the endlessly imaginative desires of its leader and all future avenues of creative expansion.  Trekking to a vast and desolate lot space in nearby Burbank, California, Disney would realize his spacious vision in 1940 with the completion of his studio plant containing an animation building with individual housing for the invaluable ink and paint, layout and background departments plus, several soundstages, orchestral recording spaces and much more.  Exploring well-documented events in Disney history including, the arrival of World War II and the animation labor strike of 1941, Clark and Cline’s viewpoint of how studio operations were specifically affected with insight from those who were there offers refreshingly new perspective into such gloomier days.  Through the resounding success of Disney’s Cinderella and their commitment to live-action entertainment with such hits as Mary Poppins and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the historic yearbook of sorts provides readers with incredible behind-the-scenes photography of said productions and details the technical dilemmas capturing the underwater sequences of the Verne adaptation and dimensional trickery utilized by the studio to bring 1959’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People to life.

    Appreciatively exploring the much forgotten but no less, important television productions of classic series including, Zorro and Davy Crockett and, their makings on the beloved backlot, The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember never misses a beat in capturing milestone achievements conducted on the tremendous space to introducing unbeknownst readers to lesser known facts such as Disney’s perfective insistence to incorporate original music for the weekly Zorro, a costly and unprecedented measure in 50s TV making.  From Disneyland’s virtual making and building of attractions, riverboats, models and monorails within the confines of its working studio space, vintage photography of Walt seen with newly painted hippos for Adventureland’s Jungle Cruise and overseeing schematics for the Sailing Ship Columbia that would eventually coast the Rivers of America captures the embodiment of the master dreamer in his element.  Leading up to Walt and Roy’s passings and the evolution of the studio through shakier times, the onsite productions of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Pete’s Dragon and the ahead of its time Tron are given notices before an animation renaissance and new leadership regime would redeem Disney as the world’s leader in family entertainment.  Beautifully showcasing the latest advancements and expansions to the studio through their acquisitions of ABC, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel and Lucasfilm, Clark and Cline’s The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember gives Disney lovers a fascinating guided tour through the rich history of the magical moments and immeasurable productions brought to life on the ever-changing lands that Walt built.

    Available now from Disney Editions, The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember 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.

  • 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.

  • Disney Movie Posters: From Steamboat Willie to Inside Out by Kevin Luperchio and All Aboard: The Wonderful World of Disney Trains by Dana Amendola Book Reviews

    Disney Movie Posters: From Steamboat Willie to Inside Out by Kevin Luperchio

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Highlighting the lush history of Disney’s most memorable promotional materials, Kevin Luperchio’s Disney Movie Posters: From Steamboat Willie to Inside Out provides readers with a look back at the art and advances made in the crafting of Disney’s infamous posters.  Collecting over 135 posters from Disney’s earliest short subjects including the Alice Comedies, Steamboat Willie and the groundbreaking Silly Symphonies to golden age milestones like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and Dumbo, domestic, international and various rerelease posters are on full display over lavish spreads.  Also documenting live-action highlights from the productions of Treasure Island and Mary Poppins to more recent fare like Hocus Pocus, Pearl Harbor and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney’s successful collaborations with Pixar from their classic debut Toy Story to the recently released Inside Out are also included.  While Luperchio’s effort can hardly be considered definitive, Disney Movie Posters: From Steamboat Willie to Inside Out gives art lovers a sizable introduction to some of Disney’s most beloved images of the last 90 years for fans to appreciate on a large canvas.

    Available now from Disney Editions, Disney Movie Posters: From Steamboat Willie to Inside Out can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

    All Aboard: The Wonderful World of Disney Trains by Dana Amendola

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From his early beginnings in Marceline, Missouri, Walt Disney’s passion and enthusiasm for train culture has been well documented.  Serving as a news butcher on the Missouri Pacific at an impressionable age, Disney’s love affair with all things locomotive would remain an enduring part of his legacy in the formation of his famed studio and enchanting theme parks around the world.  Sharing a personal appreciation for steamers, Dana Amendola’s All Aboard: The Wonderful World of Disney Trains guides readers through a tour of their important place in Disney’s history beginning with Walt’s earliest fascinations, Mickey Mouse’s inspired creation aboard The Chief and the well-researched appearances of trains throughout Disney’s vast film history.  With each section accompanied by “inside track” extended notes and littered with gorgeous still photography, Amendola traces animation legends Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnson’s infatuation with their own backyard railways for reigniting Walt’s love for trains and establishing a close knit bond with their boss over their shared love.  As Disney’s magical flair expanded into the world of theme parks, Amendola covers the unique visual history of the various locomotives circling Disney parks from California to Hong Kong with exquisite concept art on display.  Accompanied with a warm introduction by John Lasseter, All Aboard: The Wonderful World of Disney Trains is a fabulous read for devoted train enthusiasts while, casual fans will be treated to a splendid crash course through the steam powered history that continues to chug along for Disney.

    Available now from Disney Editions, All Aboard: The Wonderful World of Disney Trains can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.