January 30, 2016 posted by

A Few New Reviews: Mickey Mouse, Pink Panther, Private Snafu

mickey-emblem-book250Mickey Mouse: Emblem Of The American Spirit by Garry Apgar

A little over a year ago I recommended Garry Apgar’s A Mickey Mouse Reader with much enthusiasm. Little did I realize that tome was a warm-up for Apgar’s larger work, his latest book, Mickey Mouse: Emblem Of The American Spirit.

You can now add Mr. Apgar to the ranks of Canemaker, Barrier, Kaufman along with our own Messrs. Korkis and Gerstein as one of the finer Disney historians writing today. I didn’t think another book based around Mickey Mouse was needed, but this new work – published by Weldon Owen, under the Walt Disney Family Foundation imprint – is the definitive history.

Apgar is an art historian – and he combines social history, art history and cultural studies, along with a healthy dose of new research, to cover everything leading to Mickey’s creation, his popularity and his long lasting social impact on America and in the larger world.

We’ve all read Disney’s history and about how popular the Mouse was and how important the character still is to the studio. But Apgar’s writing style is so breezy (and informative) and such a joy to read, it all sounds fresh. Packed with smart new insights, he breaks the Mouse’s life into four eras: first from 1928-1940, then post-Fantasia till 1955, next post-Mickey Mouse Club till Walt’s passing, and finally the later years as corporate icon, park mascot and his influence to fine artists internationally.

The book is beautifully designed and contains numerous images of Mickey (from films, comics, posters, storyboards, and multiple other sources) that fill the pages to supplement, remind, inspire and delight. My only quibble with the whole production is the small postage stamp size of some of the images along the page borders… but I got used to that and enjoyed their inclusion nonetheless.

Intelligent, detailed, thorough and important. The final word on the subject and a great read. This is a must-add to your library.

think-pink-250THINK PINK: THE DEPATIE-FRELENG STORY by Mark Arnold

At 622 pages, Mark Arnold’s new book is perhaps too much of a good thing.

DePatie-Freleng Enterprises is certainly worthy of a historical survey. In some ways the studio was the 1960s/70s parallel to the saga of Paramount’s Famous Studios. DFE was to Warner Bros. Cartoons what Famous was to Fleischer Studios – a pale reflection of former glory for the principal artists – both creating memorable well-known characters, with handsome production values early on, before falling into a rut of cheap repetitious pictures of lesser importance.

Arnold tracked down numerous studio personnel, interviewed animators and enthusiasts, and reproduces (in black & white) every still photograph, advertisement, production art, video box and merchandise image he could find. The text pulls together the story of the studio and their shorts subjects, TV series, commercials, titles, TV specials and incidental bits of animation. All of this is posted with equal weight in the book – and for those who know what they are looking for, or those who are just fans of all things DePatie-Freleng – its great to have all this amassed in one place.

My only complaint is that Arnold doesn’t know when to stop. There is a wealth of material here, most of it excellent raw research, but a good editor would have helped shape the narrative and organize it to better effect.

Nonetheless I do recommend you purchase Think Pink for your library. Lord knows, someone had to take on this studio at some point (I did my part with my authorized Pink Panther: The Ultimate Guide To The Coolest Cat In Town (2005), available used at Amazon for 47¢). Arnold certainly did his homework – and I’m glad he’s shared it all with us.

snafu-blu-250PRIVATE SNAFU GOLDEN CLASSICS (Thunderbean Animation) Steve Stanchfield

What can I say – this is another Thunderbean must-have. Regular readers here need no introduction to Private Snafu or this blu-ray set. Most of the vital statistics for this set are listed here.

I’m plugging it again because I feel so strongly about this collection – and it is one of the best and most important of all the Thunderbean releases (and that’s saying something). In case you don’t know: It’s the Ultimate Snafu collection – 30 rare World War II era cartoons made by Warner Bros. for the U.S. Armed Forces, starring Private Snafu (directed by Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Frank Tashlin and Friz Freleng).

These are newly restored from 35mm elements – now in HD – Even if you’ve seen these before, you haven’t seen them like this. A vital companion to the Looney Tunes Golden (and Platinum) collections. Bonus features and audio commentaries by Eric Goldberg (who also drew the cover, above), John K., Mike Kazaleh, Mark Mayerson and yep, me. It’s not just a must-have, it’s an absolute military requirement! If you haven’t already – buy it now!


  • I just reserved the new Mickey Mouse book at the library. However, I would like to know what’s the difference between this and the similar 2001 book “Mickey Mouse: The Evolution, The Legend, The Phenomenon!” which I own a copy of.

    • I have no complaint with the earlier Mickey Mouse: The Evolution, The Legend, The Phenomenon. The difference is that book was more a celebration of Mickey Mouse history and emphasized the “eye candy”. Apgar’s new book is more a written history and analysis with a larger outlook on Mickey’s influence on our culture. The two books have different purposes – both attain their goals with style.

    • Very diplomatic answer, Jerry. I’m nominating you for president. Maybe Olive Oyl can be your running mate but I think she’d much prefer the top spot she tried for in 1948.

    • Nic – Garry Apgar sent me this response to your question:

      Regarding “The Evolution, The Legend, The Phenomenon!” (2001) from Disney Editions: it is a fine book, chock full of pictures. It was one of several sources of inspiration for my “Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit.”

      However, the Disney Editions book is just 192 pp. long, and the text is minimal. It’s basically a coffee-table book, whereas “Emblem” contains 323 illustrations (most in full color) and is 336 pp. long. “Emblem” is also less anecdotal. It offers a true history and illustrated critical overview of Mickey’s life as an pop culture icon, something no other book has ever attempted or accomplished. On Amazon it costs less than $27.00, which, I’d say, is a pretty sweet deal!

  • I have the PRIVATE S.N.A.F.U. GOLDEN CLASSICS collection and also can strongly recommend it; the sound on the Blu-ray edition is fantastic, and the shorts are more complete than I’d ever seen them, this time with complete fanfare closing to each toon where available. There are selections here, too, that certainly sound as if they came from the other studios like MGM and Walter Lantz. If you have no earlier editions of this series…or even if you have purchased earlier compilations, this is a vast improvement over those. As for the news of history of the PINK PANTHER cartoons and others, well, I’m awaiting the DVD series that I hear is soon to come. I don’t mean to slight the books, but they’re not at all accessible to me.

    • “I’m awaiting the DVD series that I hear is soon to come.”

      Will you expound upon this statement?

      I know there was that DVD set from 2006 (The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection), but I didn’t realize something new was in the works.

      Related to Arnold’s book, I’m looking forward to reading it (despite its suggested overreaching efforts). I just want the price to drop a little first…

    • Kevin is referring to Kino-Lorbers forthcoming series of DVD/Blu-Ray sets that collect the DePatie-Freleng theatrical cartoons. For more information click here:

    • It’s great to see more Hollywood cartoons collected on Blu-ray (even if I personally don’t have much interest in these DFE series), but the incredible irony here is that the DePatie/Freleng cartoons that the most people will be interested in – the Pink Panther shorts – have NOT yet come out on Blu-ray, and yet these lesser-known series are. When will we get the Panther himself on Blu?

  • I enjoyed the Think Pink book as I got it on Amazon, but for the debut TV special of DF, “Golidlocks“(1970), he failed to illustrate the gist of the story (last year, Greg Ehbar did, of the Three Bears plus a bobcat/animals protest against the humans. Also it seems that the 1980s staff at DFE/Marvel seemed to like My Little, Muppet Babies, etc. whcih really made me scratch my head, and not for the reason that Oliver Hardy did. I still agree with jerry, it’s a very well reccomended book.

    • DFE has always had some headscratching ideas for series. “Hoot Kloot” has already been profiled in a previous article. There was also “The Houndcats,” which ran on NBC, yet was based on the short-lived CBS series “Bearcats”; and “Baggy Pants and the Nitwits,” featuring a feline Charlie Chaplin (if the show focused only on him, it would have been OK) and the park-bench characters from “Laugh-In” (inexplicably turned into superheroes).

    • I consider “Muppet Babies” to be one of the better cartoons from 1980’s (it’s helps that Jim’s fingerprints were in it).

  • Hey Jerry, maybe you could change the ad on the home page that says “Pre-Order Snafu Now” to “Buy It Now”?

    And, yes, I highly recommend it also! The prints are essentially pristine! What a great set!

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