Thursday, January 1, 2015

Defining The Mouse

Mickey Mouse was born in 1928 out of economic desperation  and went on to far exceeded the humble dreams of his creator Walt Disney. Mickey put Walt on the map and allowed him to fulfill his potential has a creative and entrepreneurial genius.

Mickey is more than a cartoon star, he's a cultural icon who remains the corporate identity of the studio he made famous. Although there were Disney cartoons before Mickey, Walt was certainly on the mark when he said "It all started with a mouse." Quite frankly, with Mickey's success it did.

But what made Mickey so special? What's his story? What is the appeal? Writers since day one have asked that question, Walt himself often seemed to struggle to define his greatest breakthrough. Garry Apgar opens up the vault as it were, on the discussion.

In A MICKEY MOUSE READER you will hear from Walt Disney himself  to contemporary journalists, artists and historians about Mickey's appeal, his history and his future. You will journey through time and very literally witness the cultural evolution of the greatest cartoon star of all time. It's an entertaining journey, one to savor.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Walt the Polo Player

As we all know Walt was very passionate about polo in the 30s as were many male Hollywood producers and stars. I recently stumbled on this photo at auction:

Written on the reverse:

Here y'are Ma - our

(signed off by) NORMAN

I'm not sure but could that be Norm Ferguson(the author) next Walt?

The photo came with a copy of #14 of the RIVIERA CHUKKER dated August 25, 1935. Inside is an article about Walt:

Friday, December 19, 2014

Walt and Staff - c.1933

Walt and staff pose for a staff photo holding Post Toasties Cereal boxes, sometime in 1933.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Walt at the Colonel Swope Memorial

 It's been a long time since I've posted, I've been busy working on storyboards and squeezing time into my film inbetween leaving me with very little time for anything else.

A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about Walt's early days and got to thinking about the photos I have and which we've seen many of him and the Laugh-O-grams staff clowning in Swope Park Kansas. I typed Swope Park into the e-bay search and immediately found the above 1919 post card of the Colonel Swope Memorial also the grave site of Colonel Thomas Hunton Swope (Kansas real estate magnate) who passed away in 1909 under mysterious circumstances and was finally laid to rest in Swope Park (land which he donated in 1896) on April 8, 1918.

Here was an easy landmark to identify from the Laugh-O-gram photos which would have been taken around 1922 probably the fall since the trees are bare yet no snow is visible. The photos look like they've been inscribed with a date April 1922. Seems kind of odd to be playing on what's essentially a tomb, yet I've seen photos of weddings being held on the tomb itself which is at the foot of the plaque.
 I'm still not sure who is sitting on the lion which  is to the left of the memorial. My guess is Red Lyon.
 Here's Walt, I'm not sure if this is at the memorial, seems like it could be.

 My favorite photo with Walt and Mary? (unknown) on the forth step from the top in front of the plaque.

 Walt with friend  up high, possibly somewhere near the memorial which I should add is on a hill overlooking the Swope Park Zoo.
Walt stands on the left side urn.

Looking at some of the photos I found on Google it's easy to imagine, Walt, Red Lyon, Ub Iwerks, Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising playing and posing around the place on a long forgotten afternoon before any of them were ever known to the world.

 THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH, now this is utter speculation but could the photo below be the location? The slope of the ground behind the boys could be a clue, there is also a trail visible behind them which can be seen in the modern day photo. There are trees nearby as in the modern photo, obviously 90 years of history would have seen them grow.

It's possible, the modern day photo would have been taken from the right side of the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH photo. Fun to imagine.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Happy Birthday Walt - Thanks For The Joy

One the many facets of Walt beyond his accomplishments that I find enduring was his genuine love of animals. This nice photo was taken in 1954 by photographer Tom Blau shows Walt in Paris feeding pigeons. A tender image to mark Walt's 112th birthday.

A few days ago I was thinking about how would we have made it through the 20th Century without Walt and the many talents who joined him? Sure somebody would eventually have lifted animation to an art form, but would it have had such joy as Walt's work gave to Depression weary audiences? or would it have been cynical like much of today's stuff?

There is so much that followed Mickey, the growth of Looney Tunes and MGM Cartoons which along with Walt's films  helped audiences through the dark years of World War II. We take so much of our culture for granted now, much of it has been a direct and indirect offshoot of Walt's push to elevate animation to another level as well as the creation of family entertainment and indeed the all important theme park which every conglomerate wants these days but cannot really duplicate.

Walt's work, his animated films were genuine, not corporate. To watch Snow White, to watch Bambi and many others you get a glimpse at Walt's soul. He lives through his work.

Happy Birthday Walt, thanks for the magic and showing dreams come true.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Happy 85th Birthday Mickey

Walt Disney once said, "That it all started with a mouse", while the studio actually started with the Alice Comedies it was very true in what Walt and the studio became. For Walt, it ushered in more money than he ever dreamed which gave him the ability to expand the art and language of animation culminating with the classic features. His dogged determination to hold onto Mickey, something all us creative types could learn from, gave him that rare freedom to control his destiny and take Mickey beyond movies and into TV and theme parks.

But Walt's words have even more meaning when taken into context with where we are today. While I believe that eventually somebody would have done something with animation, it may have taken decades had it not been for Mickey and for all intents and purposes may have ended up relegated solely to art. More astonishing to consider is how through Mickey, Walt changed the entertainment landscape and how people view pop culture.  Not only that, since 1928 millions have grown up with childhood memories of Mickey and other Disney films, remembering fondly the first films their parents took them to see. Everything since 1928 owes some debt to Walt's belief in a little mouse.

So in honor of "the mouse that roared"enjoy these sequential drawings from his first official cartoon STEAMBOAT WILLIE.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Happy Belated 90th

The Walt Disney Company celebrated it's 90th anniversary last Wednesday. The company is a far cry from what it was on October 16, 1923 and indeed anytime under Walt and Roy's control. While I am a Star Wars fan and grew up on Marvel comics, and am a stockholder I feel something of Walt has been lost. Even the classics which he made no longer carry his name on the repackaging. That's marketing I guess.

Here are a few stills from WALT'S movies Bambi and The Three Caballeros to honor the company's rich legacy.