Mike's Bookshelf

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  • 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.

  • Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film by Mel Brooks & Rebecca Keegan Book Review

    Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film by Mel Brooks & Rebecca Keegan

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Puttin’ on the ritz for over forty hilarious year, Mel Brooks’ love letter to the Universal monster movies of yesteryear lives on through its well-documented creation in Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film.  Serving as its scripted shot caller, Brooks warmly recalls his childhood experiences watching the original Frankenstein and being equally terrified by Karloff’s performance and transfixed by James Whale’s gothic direction.  From the project’s earliest origins during the making of Blazing Saddles, Brooks discusses the writing process with Co-Writer and Star Gene Wilder before 20th Century Fox’s interest in the property ushered it before cameras.  Through Brooks’ own memories and interviews, both new and vintage, with the film’s talented cast and crew, Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film covers in-depth the timeless collaboration between Brooks and Wilder, the selection of the film’s many kooky characters, the bittersweet completion of filming and its well-executed marketing campaign.  Featuring passages from the screenplay, rare behind-the-scenes photos and an adoring foreword by Writer/Director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up), Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film wonderfully encapsulates the significance and comedic genius of Brooks’ greatest effort while, also serving as an affectionate tribute to the late and eternally talented Gene Wilder.

    Available now from Black Dog & Leventhal Publishing, Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai by Kevin & Susan Neary and Vanessa Hunt Book Review

    Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai by Kevin & Susan Neary and Vanessa Hunt

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Highlighting six magical decades and counting of Disney Park experiences, Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai showcases the evolution of Disney’s domestic and international resorts through the dazzling and ever-changing art of cartography.  Providing brief introductions on each section, Kevin and Susan Neary recall the humble beginnings of Disneyland and Walt’s own attention to detail on its map development in selling the concept to investors.  Although understandably limited on writing with its central focus on visual aids, the maps, curated by Vanessa Hunt, cover early site plans, aerial views and finished brochure ads for Walt’s original park and its impressive growth leading up to its maker’s death in 1966.  As years passed and more developments were made including, the incredible Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida and parks in Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong, the gorgeously painted guides to their kingdoms are collected for guests to better appreciate their craftsmanship and each park’s evolving history.  Leading up to Disney’s California Adventure relaunch in 2012 and the grand opening of Shanghai Disneyland in 2016, this nostalgic journey through the years displayed through the beloved keepsake of all park guests beautifully highlights the overdue appreciation to the beauty of Disney’s maps.  Charmingly presented with a front cover that opens up like the gates to Sleeping Beauty Castle and pages bursting with vibrant colors, Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai is the perfect solution for fans anxiously awaiting their next Disney resort adventure.

    Available October 18th from Disney Editions, Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Art of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Leah Gallo Book Review

    The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Leah Gallo

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Documenting the creation of eccentric filmmaker Tim Burton’s (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Frankenweenie) latest opus, The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children details the discovery and acquisition of Ransom Riggs’ bestselling novel and the author’s joyous approval of Burton attaching himself to the property.  Deconstructing Riggs’ coming of age tale and aligning it even more so with Burton’s visual sensibilities, Screenwriter Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass) discusses her approaches to remain faithful to the source material while, ensuring an effective adaptation keeping within its spirit.  From the casting of his Dark Shadows collaborator Eva Green in the titular role alongside up and comers including, Asa Butterfield (Hugo) and Ella Purnell (Maleficent), Burton’s newest feature centered on uniquely gifted outsiders adds Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight), Judi Dench (Skyfall), Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) and Terence Stamp (Big Eyes) to the time-looping festivities.  Exploring every conceivable stage of its development from casting, location scouting, set building, costume & makeup, the intensive filming schedule and post-production, Gallo’s detailed account leaves no stone left unturned with interviews from key participants both in front and behind the camera while, the behind-the-scenes passport is also beautifully furnished with glossy onset photographs, Burton’s personal production sketches and gorgeous concept art.  

    Further complimented by a warm introduction by the director and foreword by Ransom Riggs, The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children covers the wide gamut of Burton’s insistence on using practical effects and melding them with today’s VFX capabilities.  In addition, as seen in the film, Burton’s lifelong love for stop-motion animation and Ray Harryhausen continues as the all-encompassing companion explores the technical approaches in bringing reanimated creations and battling skeletons to fruition.  Notably absent for only the second time in Burton’s career is Composer Danny Elfman whose obligations to Alice Through the Looking Glass withheld him from joining the production.  Welcoming the talented duo of fellow Burton collaborator Michael Higham (Corpse Bride) and Matthew Margeson (Kingsman: The Secret Service) to the shoot, Gallo explores their unique musical approaches to the film and their initial fear in trying to live up to Burton and Elfman’s previous works.  An exceptional counterpart to Burton’s visually arresting and emotionally adventurous feature, The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children stands as one of the more detailed making-of accounts for the Beetlejuice maker in recent years.

    Available now from Quirk Books, The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children 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.

  • 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.

  • Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters - Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections by Britt Salvesen and Jim Shedden with Paul Koudounaris, Keith McDonald and Roger Clark Book Review

    Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters - Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections by Britt Salvesen and Jim Shedden with Paul Koudounaris, Keith McDonald and Roger Clark

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving as a glorified companion piece to the exciting exhibits debuting at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Minneapolis Museum of Art centered on the work and influences of Guillermo del Toro, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters - Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections delves into the fantastical passions of del Toro, guiding readers through his massive Bleak House that holds his vast collection of artifacts, art pieces, books, pop culture collectibles and movie props.  Littered with several essays and an exclusive interview with the visionary director on his moviemaking techniques, influences and obsessive collecting habits, the scholarly compositions cover a multitude of subjects including, the perception of monsters throughout history as well as the evolution of freak shows and fictional, misunderstood characters in latter-day centuries.  Akin to its exhibits, the text is broken into several sections ranging from innocence and childhood to magic, alchemy, and the occult, where select passages from del Toro’s personal notebooks are included alongside personally selected pieces of art that speak directly to the artist’s unique, wide-ranging sensibilities.

    Presenting gorgeous photographs inside Bleak House that showcase del Toro’s many different, genre associated libraries, the jaw-droppingly gorgeous and gigantic reproduction of the Frankenstein monster’s head that towers over the house’s hall entrance and his life-size sculptures of noted authors H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, the visual layout of this entryway into del Toro’s mad imagination is second to none.  Serving as an invaluable introduction to countless other artists and works that have shaped del Toro’s creativity, the imagery filled volume concludes with an appreciative reference guide of literature, visual art and cinema that surges through the writer/director’s works.  A true treasure trove of unique sights and overwhelming inspiration, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters - Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections is a thematic necessity for appreciators of one of cinema’s most unique souls.

    Available now from Insight Editions, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters - Inside His Films, Notebooks and Collections can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.