Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Legends: Marc Davis

It is perhaps fitting that we end this month’s look at The Legends the same way that we started it; celebrating another of the “Nine Old Men.”

“I love them all in different ways.” This was Marc Davis speaking about the women in his life. You will know them as Cruella De Vil, Maleficent and Tinker Bell. His pencil brought them to life.

Marc Davis was born in Bakersfield, California on March 30, 1913. His father worked in the oil business and the family moved frequently as new oil fields were developed. Consequently, Davis attended over 20 different schools growing up. Following high school he attended Kansas City Art Institute, California School of Fine Art and Otis Art Institute.

He started as an apprentice animator with The Walt Disney Studios in 1935 working on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He was involved in character design for Bambi and his studies of animals are still considered to be some of the finest drawings created at the Studios. Like the other “Nine Old Men”, Davis worked on a number of the feature animation classics.

Later in his career Marc joined WED Enterprises and was one of the original Imagineers. His story and design concepts helped to form some of the most beloved attractions in the theme parks. Ask most people and they will admit to Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion and others that Davis worked on as being among their favorite attractions.

Marc Davis retired in 1978 after 43 years with the company. But even in his retirement he would occasionally add his experience to help in the creation of Epcot and Tokyo Disneyland.

Marc was honored as a Disney Legend in 1989. He received his recognition along with Walt’s other “Nine Old Men.” He died on January 12, 2000.

Where In The World

Andy, from The Backside of Water, correctly stated that this is a tangle of wires that you would see as you browse the gift shop while existing Expedition Everest.

I must give an honorable mention to my friend Bill S. Bill, the study is pretty cluttered now and knee deep in Disney memoribilia. But please, give me some credit. I know that I should never load a standard strip plug with no more than 10 (okay, sometimes 12) electric devices.


In the words of Monty Python, "And now for something completely different."

Disney World After Dark: Sorcerer's Hat

As part of the 100 Years of Magic Celebration, the Sorcerer's Hat took up its place in front of the Chinese Theater in 2001. Now It is considered to be icon of the park.

Instead of debating the merits of "the hat" and whether it should remain as a permanent fixture in Disney's Hollywood Studio, I would like to relate the story behind the photo.

In October 2007 I made a "research" trip to Walt Disney World. My primary goal was to photographic specific elements of the parks for pen and ink drawings that I do. I also wanted to work on my night time photography with my new d-SLR camera.

On October 22nd I was in Disney's Hollywood Studios (then Disney-MGM) with my camera and my tripod. I had worked my way through several areas of the park and came to the intersection of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards intent on getting a nice photograph of "the hat". Oh, and I should mention that earlier that day in Disney's Animal Kingdom, I purchased a safari vest to carry my lenses, notes, and other things in. I felt that it would be easier than carrying a backpack, and it was.

What I didn't think about was how much this looked like a Photopass Photographer; me with my Nikon, my tripod, and wearing my safari vest. As I was setting up for my shot I was approached by several couples, families and a few solo travellers, all with their Photopass cards out and ready. "Excuse me, could you take our picture?" After a while it became easier to take their picture with their cameras than to explain that I was not a Disney cast member. It took me a good half an hour to get a reasonably good photograph.

I have long wanted to be a Disney cast member and may live that dream sometime in the future. But that is another post. For now, I have the memory of that October 22nd knowing that for a short window of time, I was a cast member. At least I was mistook as one.

Oh, and I hope the picture turned out alright.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Legends: Carl Barks

“I want to thank all the kids that bought my comic books for a dime and are now selling them for $2,000.” This was Carl Barks speaking at the ceremony recognizing him as a Disney Legend.

In his “Four Color Fun” Department, Jeff Pepper of 2719 Hyperion, has written extensively about Carl Barks and his comic book creations. I would refer you to Jeff to learn about the life work of Barks. But in honor of his 107th birthday I would like to share just a little about the man.

Carl Barks was born on March 27, 1901 in Merrill, Oregon. Growing up, he held several different jobs. He also developed a hobby of drawing. As a self-taught cartoonist, he sought to improve his skills by copying the drawings from favorite comic books. He was also influenced by a particular Mouse whose cartoons ran in newspaper comic strips.

In 1935 Barks headed to Hollywood to apply at The Walt Disney Studios and was hired for the animation department starting as an in-betweener. In 1937 he moved into the story department and worked on stories for Donald Duck shorts, and played a part in the creation of Donald’s nephews.

By 1942 he was developing comic books for Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck. He continued to do this for the next 25 years. Following his retirement from comic book work he began working in oils and became quite an accomplished fine artist.

Carl was honored as a Disney Legend in 1991. He died on August 25, 2000.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Legends: Ub Iwerks

We are all familiar with the quote by Walt Disney, “I hope that we never lose sight of one thing, - that it was all started by a mouse.”

Much has been written about Ub Iwerks and at best, I can only rehash what has already been said. So instead of the usual micro-biography that makes up The Legends” series of posts, I simply want to say thank you to Ub Iwerks.

He was with Walt at the beginning. Before there was a Mickey, Ub worked on the Alice Comedies and animated Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. When Mickey arrived, it was Ub that was credited for first sketching him, while Walt shaped his personality. Iwerks animated the first silent Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy, on his own. During the three weeks that he worked on the short, he would at times complete as many as 700 drawings in a day.

His career is fabled and legendary. Because there was a man named Walter Elias Disney and he happened to strike up a friendship and partnership with a man named Ubbe Ert Iwwerks, we have Mickey Mouse. And because we have Mickey Mouse, we have so much more magic to enjoy and to dream about. Because after all, as Uncle Walt said, “It was all started by a mouse.”

Ub was honored posthumously as a Disney Legend in 1989. Although Iwerks was not known as one, he was honored along with the other “Nine Old Men.”

(Photos: Ub Iwerks from The Disney Legends website, Iwerks window on Main Street U.S.A. from the author)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Editor's Note: Verification

I am not a big fan of the squiggly letters and numbers that I sometime have to add to my comment in order for it to post. And like the brothers over at Imaginerding, I love to receive comments. When your live with the reality that few comments are left on your blog, you don't want to do anything that makes it harder for a reader of The Disney Obsession to leave a comment. And, believe me, I don't. But...

Recently I have received several spam comments telling my to either "See here or here" or "Please push here." Don't worry, there are no links on this page, except to our friends at Imaginerding. The first time I received one of these, I, thinking I received a comment clicked on "here". A few hours later my security protocol finished all its scans and discovered that nothing had gotten in. But since that morning I have received a half dozen or so comments that fit this same description.

So, I have added the verification procedure to my comments page. It was a tough decision and I hope that this measure will prevent the spam from showing up, but not you! Please take that extra step, tilt your head back and forth until you figure out the characters and then please enter them onto your comment. But more importantly, decide first to leave a comment. We bloggers need those displays of appreciation and support to know that what we are doing has some merit.

I apologize for the inconvenience and on behalf of all bloggers out there, thank you for taking the time read our work and to leave your comments.

Disney World After Dark: Grauman's Chinese Theater

Before there was a hat, there was a theater.

There was a time when you would enter the then Disney-MGM Studios, and looking up Hollywood Boulevard, you would see Grauman's Chinese Theater. Or at least a replica.

In his book, Since the World Began, Jeff Kurtti shares that, "The Imagineers used the blueprints of the original 1927 Meyer and Holler building for reference, and the facade is built in full scale, rather than in the interpretive scale of the rest of the theme park's Hollywood Boulevard."

The park has been described as "The Hollywood that never was and always will be." I like that. I describes a place that usually can only live in our minds. But the Imagineers are gifted in making what dreams we have into reality. The Grauman's Chinese Theater is part of that. It is symbol of the Hollywood that lives in our imaginations.

Let's take a moment to use our imaginations.

Where In The World

We had a few suggestions for last weeks Where In The World submission. My personal favorite was from an anonymous reader who suggested it was the "Winkiekeller" in Germany. I know who the anonymous poster is and I know about the origins of the winkiekeller. That is story for another post. But, let me just say to L.A.S., "No, it isn't the winkiekeller." One of our regular readers, Ryan, proposed that the picture comes from a "more spirited exit." That's correct. If you look up slightly to your left as you exit the Haunted Mansion you would notice this window.

This week, I present for your viewing pleasure, and perhaps a guess, this entry.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Legends: Milt Kahl

“Aw…you’re full of it!”

That is what Milt Kahl thought of Wolfgang Reitherman’s assessment of his work. Reitherman said, “These things look so beautiful, they could hang in a museum.” This is reference to Milt’s rough drawings of Merlin for The Sword in the Stone.”

Milt Kahl was born on March 22, 1909 in San Francisco. He attended high in there but left school early. His desire was to become a magazine illustrator or cartoonist, and he set about fulfilling that desire. Later, in business for himself, he saw the Disney short, “Three Little Pigs” and became captivated by the art of animation.

He was hired by Disney in 1934 and began work on Mickey Mouse cartoons, including the Academy Award winning “The Ugly Duckling”. Reading through his contributions to Disney feature animation is like reading a Who’s Who of memorable characters. His pencil helped to bring life to Pinocchio, the Fairy Godmother, Alice, Peter Pan, Tramp and others.

Kahl retired from the studio in 1976 and returned to the bay area. Milt Kahl passed away on April 19, 1987. He was 78 years old.

Milt was honored as a Disney Legend in 1989, along with the other “Nine Old Men.”

(Photo: The Disney Legends website)

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Legends: Ken Anderson

He was a good man to have around. If there was a new direction that Walt wanted to go in, chances are Ken Anderson was able to bring one or more of his many skills to bear.

Anderson was born on March 17th, 1909 in Seattle, Washington. He began college at the University of Washington and through a scholarship was able to study in Europe. Upon his return to America, he settled in California and began working for MGM Studios.

In 1934 he started what would be become a 44 year career with Walt Disney Studios. He began by working on Silly Symphonies, including one, "Three Orphan Kittens" which won a best cartoon Academy Award. From there he became an art director for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. His ability to wiggle his ears served as inspiration for Dopey’s ability to do the same. He also provided art direction for Pinocchio, Fantasia and others.

Like many of his contemporaries at the studios, Anderson’s contributions to the canon are numerous. In addition to art direction, he created characters, made story contributions, layout and production design. He also provided the occasional technical innovation.

When Walt decided it was time to build a place where both young and old alike could enjoy themselves, he brought in Anderson and utilized his abilities as an architect. Peter Pan’s Flight, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and others bear marks of his conceptual design.

Ken was honored as a Disney Legend in 1991. He died on January 13, 1993.
(Photo: from the Disney Legends website)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Legends: Joyce Carlson

“it's a world of laughter, a world of tears.
its a world of hopes, its a world of fear.
theres so much that we share,
that its time we're aware,
its a small world after all.”

These words were written by the Sherman Brothers, but they were very dear to Joyce Carlson. It is played throughout the ride that she helped to create.

Joyce Carlson was born in Racine, Wisconsin on March 16, 1923. When she was 15 years old her family moved to Southern California where she graduated from Santa Monica High School. In 1944 she began work in the traffic department of the Walt Disney Studios.

After six months delivering supplies to animators she was hired for the Ink and Paint department and for the next 16 years worked as an inker. She worked on such films as The Three Caballeros, Cinderella, Peter Pan and others. The use of a new Xerox process at the Studios facilitated Carlson’s move to WED Enterprises. There she worked with miniature prototypes of attractions that Disney planned to install in the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

Of these, It’s A Small World is the attraction most associated with Carlson. She is credited with creating the characters for the attraction. Carlson was one of the team that was sent to New York to install the attraction, and she was involved in the brining it to Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland.

Asked about her favorite scene, she said, “Though I’ve always liked the Europe scene with the balloon kids, can-can dancers and Eiffel Tower, they’re all my kids. I couldn’t choose. You might say I’ve got a big family in ‘It’s a Small World.’”

Joyce Carlson retired in 2000 after spending 56 years with the company. She was the first woman to reach the 50 and 55 year milestone with Disney and continued acting as a mentor to new Imagineers through 2007. She died at her home in Orlando on January 4th of this year.

Joyce was honored as a Disney Legend in 2000. Her window on Main Street U.S.A. reads, “Dolls by Miss Joyce, Dollmaker for the World.”

(Photos: of Joyce Carlson, The Disney Legends website; of the Main Street U.S.A. window, by the author.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Disney World After Dark: Test Track

Sadly, Mrs. Doc and I were planning to move to Europe in mid 1996, so any plans to visit Disney World in 1995 were abandoned in favor of saving the money. Had I known that World of Motion would close its doors on Janaury 2, 1996, I would have found some way to make one last visit. But, I didn't. That whimsical look at the history of transportation and the image of the future represented in CenterCore are now just memories. Albiet, memories that are often refreshed with video tape every now and then.

In its place stands Test Track. After missing at least two scheduled opening dates, Test Track offically opened on March 17, 1999. It quickly became a favorite of park visitors, especially thrill seekers. With banked turns and a top speed of 65 mph, it does not dissappoint.

Yes, I still miss World of Motion. But, I have enjoyed more than a few turns on Test Track. I hope you enjoy this nighttime few.

Where In The World

If it is the weekend, it must be time for another edition of Where In The World. Congratulations to Ryan, editor of the Main Street Gazette, for correctly identifying last weeks entry. It is the Coca-Cola sign that adorns the exterior wall of the Backlot Express in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Now, for this weeks entry into Where In The World.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Legends: Joe Ranft

“I don’t know if people really understand what I do…” Those were the words of Joe Ranft in a 1998 interview. “I do story for animation…I’m kind of a writer…I draw…I’m the voice of Heimlich.”

Joe Ranft was born in Pasadena, California on March 13, 1960 and grew up interested in movies, drawing, theater and magic. Following his graduation from high school in 1978 he enrolled in the California Institute of the Arts. After two years he left Cal Arts and went to work for Walt Disney Studios and set about establishing his credentials as a story artist. Once at Disney he received training from one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men”, Eric Lawson. Of Lawson, he said, “Eric always reminds me of…the fundamental things.” And it was a lesson well learned as his time was spent mostly drawing storyboards. His contributions for Disney included work on Oliver & Company, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty and the Beast, and others.

While at Disney he met John Lasseter. In the early ‘90s, Joe left Disney and joined Lasseter at Pixar where he was story supervisor on Toy Story. This earned him an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay. He played a role in all of the Pixar feature animation projects providing story supervision on Toy Story 2, story material for Monsters, Inc., and story on Cars. He contributed vocal talent to both Toy Story projects, A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Cars.

Joe Ranft died tragically in an automobile accident on August 16, 2005.

In remembering their colleague, John Lasseter said that “Joe had a great passion for telling stories, and he told them better than anyone.” Pete Docter said, “Joe was really a major part of Pixar’s soul…” The movie Cars and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride are dedicated to him.

By now, many of us are familiar with that first preview of WALL·E which begins with the story of four men setting in a cafĂ© talking about stories. One of those men was Joe Ranft and one of the stories was WALL·E. When we rush out to the cinemas on June 27th, we will witness a portion of the storytelling legacy of Joe Ranft.

Joe was honored posthumously as a Disney Legend in 2006.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Disney World After Dark: Mission: Space

During Christmas 2003, my wife, my mother and I decided to make a quick visit to Walt Disney World. My wife would enjoy the time away, my mother would love the parade, and I, well there was new ride to ride. Mission: Space opened on October 9th and I was eager for a new Future World experience. I wanted to feel the G Force, experience the effects of weightlessness, and learn how they would provide the illusion of hibernation.

I will not share the full play-by-play of that first ride. You have all been on the ride so you know what goes on. I will share though that on December 26th, I skipped breakfast (taking precautions) and headed straight to Epcot and immediately to Mission: Space. My wife and mother waited for me at the Electric Umbrella. The ride was thrilling! It was at about the four and a half minute mark that I started feeling a little uneasy. I didn’t become ill, but I knew that having had the experience, it would be awhile before I printed a FastPass for this ride. Now, a few years on, I am happy for Mission: Space Lite. I can enjoy the images without taking chances of something far worse happening.

So there you have it. A little more Back Story from Doc.

All of this has been to lead up to a new group of Disney World After Dark pictures. Those wonderful people at Imagineering have given us many architectural gems and Mission: Space is a gem. The sweeping spans reach out as if to draw you in. It is visually inviting. It is as though the building is embracing you as you walk into the queue.

And, as it is with other areas of Disney, when the night falls, a whole new magic emerges. Here is Mission: Space After Dark.

(Editor's Note: Having paid this photographic tribute to Mission: Space, I must also express my appreciation for Horizons. I will often put in a VHS tape from eariler trips and revisit this extinct attraction. It was one of Doc's favorites.)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Legends: John Lounsbery

Today, we celebrate another of Walt’s “Nine Old Men”.

John Lounsbery was born on March 9, 1911 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Early in his life the family moved to Colorado where he was raised and was introduced to drawing. Following his graduation from high school he enrolled in and received his diploma from the Art Institute of Denver. In 1932 he moved to California to work as a commercial artist while attending courses at the Art Center School of Design. At the School of Design he was introduced to his life’s work.

In July of 1935 Lounsbery was hired as an animator by the Walt Disney Studios. His early days were spent working on “Pluto” shorts and assisting with animating the Witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Later he was promoted to directing animator on Dumbo.

His pencil gave life to Honest John in Pinocchio, Timothy Mouse in Dumbo, Ben Ali in Fantasia, Tony in Lady and the Tramp, and many others.

If you review the Disney Canon, you will see the name John Lounsbery attached to almost every film of the first Golden Age of Disney Animation. He was still contributing to Disney, working on The Rescuers, when he died on February 13, 1976. He was named a Disney Legend, along with the other “Nine Old Men”, in 1989.
(Photo: Disney Legends website)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Where In The World

The Composite Challenge is over. For this Where In The World challenge I offer this this single image. No hints just yet.

As the sign says, enjoy!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Legends: Ward Kimball

Ward Kimball was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 4, 1914. Following high school he enrolled at the Santa Barbara School of Art with the hopes of becoming a magazine illustrator. After watching a matinee showing of Disney’s Three Little Pigs, Ward packed his portfolio bound for Hollywood. He joined the Walt Disney Studios in 1934 and rest, as they say, is history.

During his time at Disney he took part in most all of the classic animated features. His contributions include Jiminy Cricket, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Lucifer the Cat, and others. He directed two Academy Award winning short subjects; Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom and It’s Tough to Be a Bird. The latter featured both live action and animation. Ward produced and directed three space films for the Disneyland television show. In the 1960’s he helped to write the story and script treatment’s for Babe’s in Toyland.

Along with a few select others, Ward became known as one of Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men”.

Kimball once remarked that as long as it didn’t interfere with his animation work, Walt permitted his “second career”; that of trombone player for the Firehouse Five Plus Two. Along with Danny Alguire, Harper Goff, Clarke Mallery, Monte Mountjoy, Ed Penner, and Frank Thomas, the group produced at least 13 albums and played various venues between the 1940’s and early 1970’s.

Like Walt Disney, Kimball also had an enthusiastic love of the railroad. He had a full size locomotive that he operated in his three acre backyard. His railroad was called the Grizzly Flat Railroad. He also helped build the Carolwood Pacific Railroad in Walt’s backyard.

Kimball retired from Walt Disney Studios in 1972 and was honored as a Disney Legend in 1989. He died in Los Angeles on July 8, 2002.

(Editors Note: Kimball also worked on one of my favorite extinct attractions, The World of Motion. I did not know this. The next time I am in Epcot and look at the Test Track building, I will pause for a moment and be thankful for people like Ward Kimball. He, and those like him, have given us all so much joy.)

(Photo credit: The Disney Legends website Wikipedia)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Disney World After Dark: Canada

We now come to Canada, the last country on our evening stroll around Epcot's World Showcase. Like some of its counterparts along the Promenade, Canada gives us so much of the flavor of this country in such a small space.

"Canada is the last pavilion in the World Showcase, combining the several traditions and geographic regions of the country into a setting that is at once startling in its diversity and inviting in its verticality. Towering above is the distinctive French Gothic architecture of the Hotel du Canada (modeled on Ottawa's Chateau Laurier). Alongside and beneath the chateau is EPCOT Center's Canadian Rocky Mountain, which houses a Circle-Vision theater. The Northwest Coast atmosphere is heightened by enormous totem poles and a native log house. There is also a miniature replica of the famed Butchart Gardens, a 30-foot waterfall, a restaurant, and the woodsman's haven of Salmon Island."

From Since the World Began, by Jeff Kurtti, page 114

Honestly, Canada is not one of my favorite pavilions, but it is near the top of the list. What strikes is the grandeur of the area. And this, from Disney's exquisite use of forced perspective. The Hotel du Canada, and the Rockies, appear to be so tall from a distance. It is only once you are in the pavilion that you realize just how much you have been taken in by the illusion. For me it represents the art of perspective at its finest.

I hope you have enjoyed our nocturnal visit to the World Showcase. Disney After Dark takes on a whole different magic and I hope these photos give you just a taste of it. Next week we will stay in Epcot and visit a few sites in Future World. Until then, enjoy this view of Canada.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Where In The World: The Rest of the Composite Challenge

It is time to bring The Composite Challenge to a close and say thank you to those who participated. In my last Where In The World I noted that all but four of the photos had been correctly identified. But those four were somewhat perplexing. So that we can close the chapter on this challenge and move onto other Where In the World subjects, I offer you the answers to pictures 5, 6, 7, and 10.

Photo number 5 takes us to China in the World Showcase to visit a dragon. The area used in the challange is the "Eye of the Dragon".
Norway, actually, the shingles on the roof of the outdoor dining area at the Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in Norway provides us with the subject in photo number 6.

You have to look up and over Mrs. Doc's right shoulder to see where we drew inspiration for photo number 7. My lovely bride is posed in front of the wall fountain in the Cantina De San Angel.
And photo number 10 will take you bayside at Downtown Disney Marketplace. If you decide to take a moment to rest and perhaps in engage in a little people watching, you may also notice Mickey in the tables and chairs.
Again, many thanks to those of you who picked up the gauntlet. Other challenges are not far off. So, in the words of Sherlock Holmes, "The game is afoot."

How Do You Do!

Mighty glad to meet ya. It seems as though I have been away for so long. While I had the opportunity to check other favorites blogs from time to time, I was hard pressed to actually do anything on The Disney Obsession. I hope that I haven't lost many of you during my time away.

What have I been up to you ask? Well, quite a bit actually. And too, I have had ongoing trouble with my computer and our household network; which makes one wonder how did we ever manage just ten short years ago. But that is another thesis entirely.

But February has been eventful in that I have been waging a war against a cold or flu for over two weeks now. Not much fun there. During this time and for the month or so leading up getting sick, I was involved in a local production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

What does this have to do with Disney? Nothing actually. Well, the film version did star a certain pirate that we have all become familiar with. Oh, and the director of the film is currently working on a version of Alice in Wonderland for Disney. So I suppose there is a small connection.

At any rate, thank you for coming back and visiting the Obsession. And for your viewing curiousity, I offer you a photograph from Sweeney Todd. Yours truly is on the left in the role of Judge Turpin. On the right is Dan McGeachy in the title role.
Sweeney closed last Sunday, but the cast has been called back for an encore performance this coming Tuesday. So, once more into that good night.