September 2, 2015 posted by

Reviews, Plugs and Appearances

Time for another round-up of reviews for books and videos (strangely, most of them Disney-related this time around). But before we get into that I want to plug a couple of personal appearances this month – some local to Southern California, and a couple back east.

Were-on-way-rio-250First off, I’ll be attending Cinecon 51 this weekend (Sept. 3-7) at the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Blvd. It’s mainly an oasis of classic movies – mostly uber-rare titles (like Universal’s rarely seen Myrt and Marge (1933) with Ted Healy and The Three Stooges). However, this year the Con is giving Steve Stanchfield an hour to dazzle us with new restorations (like Ted Eshbaugh’s Sammy Salvage and Ub Iwerk’s The Caveman) and rare Technicolor 35mm prints (like Famous Studio’s Popeye W’ere on our way to Rio and Columbia’s Color Rhapsody A Boy and His Dog). I’ll be there – and if Steve can’t make it I’ll introduce the program. It’s gonna be good. That’s Saturday morning at 10am. More info on Cinecon programming here.

puppet-tulipsThe following week at the Egyptian, I’ll be hosting a program of George Pal Puppetoons. It’s part of a four day tribute to the films of George Pal. In addition to a big-screen showing Arnold Leibovit’s The Puppetoon Movie we will screen several other rare George Pal shorts – including the uber-rare Radio Valve Revolution (1934) which may be Pal’s first animated cartoon. It’s not stop motion, it’s hand drawn and really cool. Not on DVD. I’ll also do a Q&A with with Arnold Leibovit about all things George Pal. Gonna be fun.

popeye-boop-jpgNext, I’ll be a guest at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention September 17th-19th, at the lovely Hunt Valley Wyndham Hotel in Hunt Valley, Maryland. I’ll be giving a talk devoted to Betty Boop (on Thursday 9/17 at noon) and Popeye (on Friday 9/18 at 10am). Frankly I’m going to this con just to hang out with several east coast buddies and attend screenings by Ed Hulse (who’s giving a talk on Republic serials on Thursday at 8pm) and Thad K. (showing Warner Bros. cartoons on Saturday at 1pm). I’ll be signing copies of my Worst Cartoons Ever dvd while I’m there – with proceeds going to St. Judes charity. Drop by and say “hello”!

woody-knockOn October 1st I’ll be in Columbus Ohio to give a screening at the Wexner Center on the campus of Ohio State University. I’ll be introducing a tribute to Walter Lantz cartoons! This screening is in conjunction with Comics Crossroads Columbus, a three-day comic art event on campus at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum (and if you haven’t been there – that place is a must-see). “Art Spiegelman, Jeff Smith, Kate Beaton, Craig Thompson, Jaime Hernandez, Bill Griffith, Jeff Lemire and Francoise Mouly headline a group of 15 special guests and 45 exhibitors appearing at the first year of a new annual, city-wide comics literary festival focused on reading and enjoying comics, cartoons, graphic novels and webcomics.” I’ll be there all three days. I’ll just be hanging out, watching panels and reading comics. Join me!

Well that’s all for this month… let’s get to the reviews.

micky-7-zombieDisney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 7: “March Of The Zombies” edited by David Gerstein and Gary Groth.

David Gerstein is going for the record; The record of having a new book published almost every time I’m ready to post a review round up. Volume 7 of Fantagraphics superb series of Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse reprints was published in June, and these never fail to surprise and delight me. As much as I’ve come to appreciate Gottfredson’s humorous adventure serials of the 1930s, this volume is set during an interesting transition period over the wartime years (1942-44), when the strip begins to move from its traditional continuities to a gag-a-day.

Gottfredson’s later style emerges, much looser and funnier than his earlier (yet expert) “on-model” strips; the gag strips are now both funny and topical, the remaining serials are particularly timely and inventive. Much involves new technology or fantastic (and fanciful) new inventions. And of course there are Nazis. And Japanese. No more time for rival rodents or the Phantom Blot – now, with Pete aligned with the Germans, Mickey becomes a secret agent, an aircraft factory worker and an air-raid warden.

The strip reproductions are crisp and clear and – as usual – Gerstein packs the front and back matter with “bonus material”, icing on the cake to be sure. This time around Tom Andre provides a historic overview of the strips in this volume, explaining the context of the stories, the contributions of writer Bill Walsh and more; “Casty” Castellan, the Italian Mickey writer/artist writes a heartfelt appreciation; Alberto Beccattini and editor Gerstein spotlight artist Bill Wright, writers Dick Shaw and Bill Walsh; Gerstein digs up Gottfrtedson’s rare 1930s gag-a-day strips (done for Europe!); foreign editions of collected versions of the strips in this volume; background on Mickey, Minnie and nephew Morty and much much more – all illustrated with rarely seen art and photos.

You should be buying these all along, as they come out. If you haven’t, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 7: “March Of The Zombies” is actually a great one to begin with. Classic comics and expert cartoon research. What more can I say? Buy it.


American Experience: Walt Disney – PBS

disney-PBSPBS’ long-awaited two-part four hour American Experience documentary on Walt Disney will be telecast over two nights, Monday September 14th and Tuesday September 15th. They sent me an advance copy, so I guess I’ll give you my opinion.

My first thought after screening the entire four-hour telecast was that four hours isn’t enough. Walt Disney needs to be covered in a 20 two-hour parts, or perhaps a mini-series for Netflix. There is too much left out of the PBS show. Let me be clear, most of what is here is factual, accurate and important. But there is barely a mention of Dumbo, or of important stepping stone productions in the Silly Symphonies series; the war, the strike and the South American tour are given the short shrift.

Much emphasis is placed on negative reaction of Song Of The South, without the context that this film was a product of its time. Much emphasis is on Disney’s HUAC testimony, and his creation of Disneyland (though that subject alone is worthy of a far more-in-depth dedicated special). The film – by Sarah Colt, who previously did the American Experience doc on Henry Ford – tries to have it both ways: safe enough to please Walt Disney Studios but critical enough to give the film some teeth.

I was so happy to see friends Mike Barrier, Floyd Norman, and Tom Sito lend their expertise on camera. Our Tommy Stathes provided silent animation clips from various studios to represent Disney’s various competitors during the 1920s. Many other reputable folks, some colleagues of mine, loaned archival materials and research to the film – and as I said above, I heard nothing amiss. The factual data is solid. My only real disappointment is in what was left out. There is so much more to Disney’s story, additional facts that explain the “why’s” and “wherefores”. This show does indeed “scratch the surface” – but only that.

I certainly recommend that all readers of Cartoon Research watch this special. I’ll be curious to hear what you think.

From Mister Magoo to Papa Smurf by Gerard Baldwin

baldwin-bbokGerard Baldwin is one of those guys who’s worked on everything, starting as an inbetweener at UPA, an animator at John Sutherland, and becoming a director at Jay Ward. He was the director of Ralph Bakshi’s Heavy Traffic for two weeks, he later produced Super Friends and then supervised The Smurfs for Hanna Barbera… I could go on, but why not have Gerard tell you about it himself?

Baldwin has just published a 198-page memoir From Mister Magoo to Papa Smurf that fits neatly on the bookshelf between Keith Scott’s The Moose That Roared and Shamus Culhane’s Talking Animals and Other People. Like Culhane’s autobiography, Baldwin tells a version of his life story – almost stream of consciousness, from his point of view – and tells it like it is (or was), warts and all.

This is good stuff. The bullshit and the bullshitters. His ups, his downs, his insecurities, his successes. For us, who have only seen his name flash by on hundreds of films and TV shows, here’s the other side of the story. And the story behind the stories. Baldwin goes off on tangents from time to time, but the effect is of one listening to man tell his story with passion – and occasional frustration. For those of us interested in animation history, this is gold.

After I read Shamus Culhane’s book 30 years ago, I wished more animation veterans would write similar memoirs. Baldwin has done his. Baldwin illustrates the book with drawings and several rare photos. Darrell Van Citters contributes a Foreword. Check it out. Methinks you’ll be happy you did.

hidden-art-disneyThey Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Golden Age by Didier Ghez

Didier Ghez has emerged over the last dozen years as one of the leading Disney historians (up there with Canemaker, Barrier and Kaufman) – and one of the most enthusiastic proponents of research into animation history I’ve ever met. His Walt’s People volumes are particularly vital.

They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Golden Age is, I believe, Didier’s first “art book”, but its more than that. It’s an important examination of Disney’s key concept artists of the 1930s. The fact that it’s also lavishly illustrated, well-written (loaded with new information) and entertaining is icing on the cake.

“Delicious” is the word that comes to mind to describe the rare artwork, paintings, sketches and doodles unearthed herein. Breathtaking, inspiring and, I guess, historic are these rare pieces; illustrations that are essentially the earliest spark in the visualization of several, soon-to-be classic animated features (essentially Snow White, Pinnochio and various Silly Symphonies).

Ghez tells the stories of Albert Hurter, Ferdinand Horvath, Gustaf Tenggren and (lesser known to me) Bianca Majolie (the first woman hired in the Disney Story Department) using, as best he can, their own words – culled from rare interviews, autobiographies, surviving correspondence, diaries and testimonies of their colleagues. Staggering new detail here – as assembled by Ghez, its also a joy to read.

The book is meant to be a companion to John Canemaker’s earlier (and highly recommended) Before The Animation Begins – and a worthy companion it is. Pete Docter writes a heartfelt Foreword. No more talk – buy this book.

An Animator’s Gallery: Eric Goldberg Draws The Disney Characters by Dave Bossert

bossert-goldberg250I reviewed this on my Animation Scoop blog last week as part of my report on the recent D23 fan event in Anaheim. That’s where this remarkable book made its debut. An Animator’s Gallery: Eric Goldberg Draws The Disney Characters (by Dave Bossert) is a must-have if you are a fan of Eric Goldberg (full disclosure: I am a longtime personal friend of Eric’s), and can be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone who admires great art and the classic Disney characters.

Imagine the history of Disney cartoon stars – from Oswald and Mickey to Frozen and Big Hero 6 – all drawn by one artist, Eric Goldberg. Shanghai Disney Resort in China approached Disney Animation Studios Special Projects (Dave Bossert) about creating a series of framed caricatures of Disney animation characters, similar to the type that graced Hollywood Brown Derby back in the Golden Age. 144 individual images were required to fill the walls of the dining room – and though it was first considered a job for a large group of artists, it as decided to hand the assignment to the one artist who could handle such a scope of character designs with relative ease.

Bossert begins the book with a bio of Eric and details of how this art came to be – with much interesting and rare Goldberg art and photos (including model sheets from Get A Horse!). The bulk of the book are the drawings – and they are incredible. Every animated character and feature gets the Goldberg treatment – and you’ve never seen the characters from The Black Cauldron, Dinosaur or Cars look so appealing (Miraculously, Eric even makes Mater look good). These pieces are gorgeous and the book itself is my idea of what a great coffee table art book should be – 192 oversized, glossy pages that will hold you in awe of Eric’s artistic gifts.

Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection – DVD and BluRay

disney-short-dvdCollecting classic Disney cartoon shorts on DVD and blu-ray may become a thing of the past (though not in this household) – so that makes this latest release from Buena Vista Home Entertainment a doubly important addition for your personal archive.

Disney has collected here twelve recently created theatrical shorts (produced between 2000 and 2014) and made them available on this new compilation – each with a brief introduction by a member of its production team (usually a producer and director – but sometimes an animator or other). Feast, Get A Horse! (with Mickey and the gang), Paperman, How To Hook Up your Home Theatre (with Goofy) and Lorenzo alone are worth the purchase price alone – and I recommend buying this collection simply for those. The Ballad Of Nessie, John Henry and The Little Match Girl have much to admire as well.

The obvious question is, where is Glago’s Guest (2008), Destino (2003) or, heck, the Oscar nominated Redux Riding Hood (1997)?? It’s hard to knock a new video collection in this day and age – especially one that includes two (count ’em, 2) new theatrical shorts with Goofy. If only for that, the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection earns a place on your video shelf.


  • The one I’m most excited about (and already own) is the Disney Short Film Collection DVD. It was always a difficult to justify purchasing an entire movie just to get a single short as a Bonus Feature (especially when I already owned an earlier DVD release of the film).

    Can you ask Arnold Leibovit if he’d agree to license Thunderbean to do a “Complete Puppetoons” release?

    • I’d like to second the idea of a Complete Puppetoons release between Mr. L and Thunderbean.

      Just don’t hire Whoopie Goldberg to introduce the ones starring Jasper.

    • Me three! I “third” the idea for a complete Puppetoons set!

      Arnold Leibovit made The Puppetoon Movie and controls the trademark to the Puppetoon name and logo (per an arrangement with the Pal estate). He does not own the actual Puppetoon films himself. Paramount owns them again (having merged with Republic/NTA years ago, regaining all the Paramount shorts they sold to UM&M in 1956). Bruce Venesia, who produced the recent Puppetoon Movie blu-ray, sub-licensed the use of the Puppetoon films from Paramount for this release (that’s why several still under copyright appear as bonus material). The American Cinematheque is showing Pal’s Puppetoons at the Egyptian in two weeks with the appropriate license from Paramount.

      Bruce has been looking into the idea of doing a complete Puppetoon blu-ray. Unfortunately there are many issues as to why this won’t happen anytime soon. But know that people are looking into it – and trying to make it happen – just don’t hold your breath.

    • These things do take time, Jerry. I’m glad we’re getting Puppetoons at all.

  • I hope Gerard Baldwin brings up his brief time on Tiny Toons in his book. I would be very interested to hear what went down there.

  • Well…….I’ll be going to Cinecon dealer’s rooms Saturday and Sunday browsing for stuff I really don’t need, but what the Hell, It’s a short walk down the street for me. If you venture in the hotel on either day in the afternoon and see you I’ll say “hi”.
    If there’s a Thunderbean booth that would be really nice.

    ‘Pat’ Ventura

  • We need events like this in Austin, TX. Maybe some tie-ins at SXSW, or maybe screenings at Alamo Drafthouse and/or Flix Brewhouse in Round Rock, TX.

    • And HOPEFULLY that good quality copy of We’re On Our Way To Rio makes it into the Famous Studios Popeye DVD set if it will happen within the next few years.

  • I agree with you on Disney needing a much longer documentary to catch the true sweep of his incredible life. I felt the same way after seeing Robert Downey in ‘Chaplin’. I took a fantastic Chaplin class at Indiana University and the movie seemed like a train rushing through the stations, trying to get to all the main points. Disney, like Chaplin, deserves a massive documentary. And there are still people alive who knew both men.

  • I wish Steve much luck with his personal appearance, especially after watching TCM last night and seeing his “PRIVATE S.N.A.F.U.” restorations. Wow, and wow again!! Oh, and I’m in there, too, for wanting a COMPLETE PUPPETOONS set…in fact, after watching the amazing documentary on the Blu-ray of THE PUPPETOONS MOVIE, I’d give anything for THE COMPLETE GEORGE PAL on Blu-ray or standard DVD. There is so much to this man’s work, and so much that hasn’t been touched and would be truly collectable!

  • I’m very much looking forward to the broadcast of the American Experience biography of Disney. I’m heartened to hear that guys like Michael Barrier, Floyd Norman, etc. are interviewed. Over at the web site Disney History Institute, Todd Pierce is upset by this preview:
    In which woman named Susan Douglas discusses” how Disneyland, in the 1950s, inculcated guests with ideologies of racism and classism.” I wonder what your take is about this and whether there is a lot of this type of social science blather in the film.

    • Geez, who invited her to participate in this documentary? Is she more important than talking more about “Dumbo” instead? I hate to see her at the Family Museum.

    • Well that takes it down a notch!

    • Walt’s vision was pre-postmodern, and of course we don’t live in that sort of world.

  • I just got the animation shorts DVD(/Blu-Ray Combo) and am enjoying it. However, I was wondering when is Donald going to get his own new short? I say he deserves one. Maybe an adaption of a Bark’s 10 page comic from “Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories”.

  • And whatever became of the early Disney CG short Oilspot and Lipstick? I’d love to see that released. Also add me to the list of Puppetoons eager to buy the complete set.

    • I wish I knew, but apparently this shorts compilation only goes back as far as 2000. For something like Oilspot & Lipstick, Disney needs to do a similar release with their unreleased shorts produced back in the 80’s and 90’s. I’d personally love to have such a release be made, perhaps begin it with 1969’s “It’s Touch To Be A Bird”, and throw in stuff like “Fun with Mr. Future”, “Sport Goofy in Soccermania”, “Off His Rockers” and perhaps end it off with the Totally Twisted Fairy Tales shorts “Redux Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs”. There’s at least enough material for a second volume, but I feel (like what Jerry had said in another post here on this blog) that there may not be any real star power the studio could use to promote this release as they have used characters from “Frozen” on the first (since that short was included). Still would be nice to see something happen and Oilspot & Lipstick lives to see another day.

  • Jerry, that puppetoons show you did at eh silent movie theater was one of my favortie screenings i have ever been to. I can’t wait for you next puppetoon installment . IF you can I hope to see more shorts that were still not released on the blu ray (which was fantastic )

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