ILLUSION OF LIFE Plugged on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson

Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life is a book by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two Disney Legends of animation counted among the famous group of Walt Disney’s  Nine Old Men. The book topped the list of “best animation books of all time” in a poll at AWN, and is still used as a reference for inspiration on character animation.

Illusion of Life Cover

I have this book and can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who wants to better understand the animation process. After reading it, my own drawing skills improved noticeably!

In 1980, they appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to plug the book and chat about animation. Here they are on stage:

Illusion of Life On Stage

During the interview, Carson mentions that they are almost unknown, despite the fact that they had worked on some of the most famous animated films of all time. They replied that they liked it that way!

Illusion of Life Frank

Frank Thomas

They mentioned that when they would sit in a theatre to watch their films with children, they would almost die. Why? Because children could be so cruel! No wonder they preferred to hide back in the studio.

Illusion of Life Ollie

Ollie Johnston

Carson asked about the rumors that Walt Disney was a cold man and hard to work for, among other things. Both men answered that he was all of those things. However, they clarified that it was also a great pleasure to work for Walt because he was so inspiring, albeit awfully tough! Perfection was expected at all times.

Carson next marvels at how animators are able to give life to even inanimate objects, so Frank and Ollie pulled out the following drawings to illustrate the point:

Illusion of Life Sad SackIllusion of Life Happy SackIllusion of Life Nosey SackIllusion of Life Tickled Sack

And last but not least:

Illusion of Life Tired Sack

Who Wouldn’t Be?

It was great to see these Disney Legends chat about their passion for animation. But it almost wasn’t to be! Frank wanted to be a landscape artist and Ollie was heading towards a career in magazine illustration. But Disney put out a casting call and both answered, arriving at the studio to become lowly In-betweeners before rising in the ranks to full-fledged animators.

Illusion of Life Wrap Up

The Interview Ends

Look to the left in the above picture and you’ll notice another Disney Alumni, Suzanne Pleshette (January 31, 1937 – January 19, 2008). You may remember her for her roles in The Ugly Dachshund, Blackbeard’s Ghost, and The Shaggy D.A.

Also, if you look to the far right in the above picture, you can see Carson holding up the book in question (blurry though it is).

For the full interview (5:54), please take a listen. It’s well worth it:

Frank and Ollie on Carson

Paul McCartney – The Music and Animation Collection

Everyone knows Paul McCartney from his time in the Beatles, and afterwards, his own efforts and popular work with Wings. He has also dabbled in scoring movies and writing classical music. Enough for anyone, right?

Enter the Paul McCartney – The Music and Animation Collection:

McCartney DVD Cover

Enchanted Animated Tales with Original Music

This set contains three original animated tales featuring one famous bear (who is not named Pooh), one book adaption, and one completely original effort (my favorite!)

But before we go on, below is some information about the two men who led the teams that created these wonderful pieces:

McCartney McCartney McCartney Dunbar

The Collaborators

McCartney was definitely the man behind the music but equally important was the man behind the animation, Geoff Dunbar. Between them, I believe they produced some Oscar-worthy material!

McCartney Title Page

Introduction Screen

Here you can select to play all three animated films in sequence, or select them one by one. There are also many extras to choose from, which we will touch on later.

McCartney Menu

Main Menu

You can choose from Rupert & The Frog Song (1984), Tropic Island Hum (1997), and Tuesday (2002).

Let’s have a look at each in turn:

McCartney Rupert Title Card

Rupert Bear is a children’s comic strip character created by the English artist Mary Tourtel. He first appearing in the Daily Express newspaper on 8 November 1920. Rupert was a childhood favorite of McCartney and a natural selection for his first foray into animation.

McCartney Rupert Bear

Rupert Bear

Perhaps not as well know outside of the British Isles as Winnie the Pooh or Paddington Bear, Rupert is still a very popular character.

McCartney himself introduces the tale:

McCartney Intro

The book he is dusting off is presumably his own childhood copy of the original children’s book.

McCartney Frog Song

Shush! ‘The Frog Song’ is about to begin…

The Frog Song, actually called We All Stand Together, happens only once every 200 years or so, so listen now for you won’t have a chance to hear it again! It was released and  reached number three in the UK Singles Chart in 1984.

This animated film about Rupert stumbling upon the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of hearing The Frog Song is animated in a simplified style but with beautiful imagery. The highlight of the film, however, is the music.

McCartney Imagery

Psychedelic!

One scene of the frogs swimming to the music is reminiscent of some of the work done for Disney’s Fantasia. Given how both collaborators praise Disney in the Special Features section, this homage is not surprising!

I just wonder why McCartney never did any more of the Rupert Shorts?

The next film is:

McCartney Tropic Title Card

McCartney TIH Intro

Disney-like Animation

A squirrel is saved by a hot air ballooning frog and taken to a tropical island where animals of all sorts have gone to escape slaughter by man. Upon arriving, the two new friends are welcomed with a song.

McCartney TIH Elephants McCartney TIH Cake McCartney TIH Villain McCartney TIH Love

Love

Tropic Island Hum is a catchy, imaginative, animated musical romp! By far my favorite of the set. The single of the title song reached #21 in the UK. The animated Short accompanied Disney’s Hercules movie in theaters in 1997.

The final film in this set is:

McCartney Tuesday Title Card

This film is based on a children’s book by David Wiesner but contains no words, only images to convey the story. Other than croaking and a few comments from confused humans at the end of the story, and a final piece of narration by Dustin Hoffman, the film pretty much follows that storytelling device.

McCartney Tuesday SC 1 McCartney Tuesday SC 2

Flying Lilly Pads

The story takes place on a Tuesday around 8pm. Frogs are lifted into the air, much to their surprise, and enabled to fly. They do so, right into town, where they cause all sorts of mischief.

McCartney Tuesday SC 3

Like knocking on windows…

McCartney Tuesday SC 4

… and crashing houses to watch TV.

McCartney Tuesday SC 5

The town is left littered with debris and lily pads. The mystery is never solved. But this is not the end! It seems that this occurs every Tuesday, but not just with frogs:

McCartney Tuesday SC 6

Even pigs get a turn to fly!

And why now pigs? The closing narration tells us:

The events recorded here are verified by an undisclosed source to have happened somewhere, U.S.A.. on Tuesday. All those in doubt are reminded that there is always another Tuesday.” So… why not, I guess?

The Special Features are interesting:

McCartney SF

This is a nice collection of extras that round out the DVD collection. The set comes with a 16-page booklet with details about the production:

McCartney Booklet 1 McCartney Booklet 2

COOL FACTOR: 5/5

I love Paul McCartney’s music. I love animation. So having the two together is just amazing! The quality of animation is Disney-worthy and the soundtracks and original songs are obviously good. McCartney himself provides most of the voices for all three films with an assist by wife Linda for one female character.

If you are a Disney fan, an animation fan, or a music fan, this collection is for you! If only to hear Tropic Island Hum. Man, that’s one catchy tune! See for yourself:

Walt Disney’s Cinderella Special Edition DVD Gift Set

I’d like to start by saying that the promises of Blu-ray have been overstated and under-realized. The claim of better picture quality and sound along with increased storage capacity were supposed to bring a whole new world to home entertainment.

The reality has been a marginal increase in presentation quality and, in most cases, less extras than we previously enjoyed on DVD. Much less if you compare today’s Blu-ray releases with yesterday’s Platinum 2-disc DVD Editions! And as you will see in this post, there simply is no comparison when you look at the Collector’s DVD Gift Sets:

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 003

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 002

Cinderella Collector’s DVD Gift Set

  • 2-disc Special Edition DVD (Platinum Edition)
  • 8 Exclusive Character Portraits
  • Collector Book
  • Film Frame from the movie

I have three of these Disney collectible DVD sets and I continue to be amazed at the value they yield. Let’s start with the Platinum Edition DVD:

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 004

Remember when the DVD case came in a cardboard sleeve with an opening cover? Remember that once you opened the DVD, you found a booklet inside describing what was on the discs, with navigational flow charts? Remember when ‘hours of extras’ meant hours of extras, not just 2 hours, if you were lucky? Then you remember the Platinum series of DVD’s!

The gift sets gave you this version of the DVD along with exclusive extras, like:

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 005     Cinderella DVD Gift Set 006

A Dream Come True ‘making of’ Storybook

As you can see from the picture above right, the illustrations in this publication are amazing! You’ll also find behind-the-scenes pictures and stories of production.

Next, this set has something truly special:

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 008

Film Frame: Cinderella on the staircase

But wait, that’s not all! You also get:

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 011

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 012  Cinderella DVD Gift Set 013

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 014  Cinderella DVD Gift Set 015

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 016  Cinderella DVD Gift Set 017

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 018  Cinderella DVD Gift Set 019

8 Exclusive Character Portraits by:

Ollie Johnston and Andre Deja

This set sold for upwards of $50.00 CAN when it first came out, and they are hard to find today, even on eBay. And when you do, the price is usually quite high. I’m glad I picked this up when I did!

So the next time you hear a commercial extolling the virtues of Blu-ray, remember this post, and the great Platinum DVD and Collector’s Gift Sets of yesterday.

Top Five Things We’ve Forgotten About Disney

The Walt Disney Company has embarked on so many projects over the years, it’s pretty hard to remember everything that they have ever done. Some things are best forgotten, but I would like to put forward five things that I think are worth remembering!

REMEMBERING     NUMBER     FIVE

ENGLISH     LIVE-ACTION     MOVIES

Treasure Island Poster

Due to some obscure law in England that I don’t fully understand, Walt Disney couldn’t get the profits from his movies off the British Isles. So to make the best use of these locked resources, he started making movies over there!

You likely well know the first one, Treasure Island, made in 1950. But it didn’t stop there. In 1952 The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men followed, with The Sword and the Rose coming just a year later in 1953. Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (1954) was one of the last efforts, if my research is correct.

These films aren’t forgotten, as my title insinuates, but the facts that they were filmed in England, and the reason why, may be forgotten for most Disney fans. Just think: If that little tax law hadn’t existed, we would have missed out on an entire chapter of Disney films!

REMEMBERING     NUMBER     FOUR

TRUE-LIFE     ADVENTURES

Ture Life Adventures

This series was a collection of fourteen full length and short subject documentary films produced between 1948 and 1960. It was an Academy Award winning series that really paved the way for such shows as Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom (1963-1988), among others.

This series may also be remembered by older Disney fans, but with the theatrical release of the Disneynature films, which started in 2007, a younger generation may not realize that documentaries and nature aren’t new concepts to the Walt Disney Company!

For a full list of the films in this series, visit the Wikipedia page here.

REMEMBERING     NUMBER     THREE

ALICE     COMEDIES

Alice Comedies

When Walt Disney famously said: “It all started with a mouse!” he was not quite telling the truth. First came a little series called the Alice Comedies which were followed by a successful run of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. Then came, and it continued with, Mickey Mouse!

Laugh-O-Grams started this series, but made only one demonstration reel before going bankrupt. It had to wait until Walt started The Disney Brothers Studios with his brother, Roy, to truly come to life and have a successful run.

Few may remember little Virginia Davis who starred in the first 15 cartoons. Margie Gay followed her and starred in an additional 31 episodes. Dawn O’Day (1) and Lois Hardwick (10) also took the role. But when we think of famous Disney ladies, we don’t often remember Virginia Davis, who started it all for Walt Disney!

REMEMBERING     NUMBER     TWO

FIREHOUSE     FIVE     plus     TWO

FF plus 2

The Firehouse Five Plus Two was a Dixieland jazz band consisting of members of the Walt Disney Studios animation department. The band was active from 1949 to 1972, playing and recording while never giving up their day jobs as animators and artists with the Walt Disney Studios.

Ward Kimball (leader, trombone) and Frank Thomas (piano) might be the most recognizable names from the original lineup of talent. Although the original group consisted of seven players, four other men joined in over the years.

This great band guested on the original Mickey Mouse Club, marched in Disneyland parades, played on Disney television specials, and appeared in animated form in the 1953 Goofy animated short, How to Dance. They also appeared in movies for other studios. The reference you may have missed comes at the end of The Princess and the Frog when the alligator Louis is playing his horn with a group called The Firefly Five with Lou.

They released thirteen albums of which I am proud to say I have eight! Although many have probably seen them in the background of Disneyland specials and heard their music on Disney soundtracks, I’m sure most don’t realize that they were a big part of the Disney experience, especially in the 1950’s. Gone now, but hopefully never forgotten!

REMEMBERING     NUMBER     ONE

WARTIME     PROPAGANDA     FILMS

Propaganda Films

Now we get to the forgotten thing that the Walt Disney Company would most likely want us to forget. Back in the 1940’s, film studios weren’t known for their tact or for being politically correct. Of course, this made for some amazingly uninhibited films, but also for some very embarrassing product filled with negative stereotypes and nasty prejudices!

With the war effort first and foremost on the minds of the public, studios took liberties and got away with them by wrapping them all up in the flag of patriotism. Contemporary audiences back then ate it up and cheered. Modern audiences find it all a bit hard to watch!

Kudos to the Walt Disney Company for releasing all of the propaganda films in the Disney Treasures series of DVD’s. They are a part of our history, and as such, should be remembered.

Is there a forgotten piece of Disney history that I’ve missed? Please add it in the comments section below!

Book Review: Disney-Pixar Comics Treasury

I was going to be away from home for a while and wanted something to take with me to read. So I went to my local Chapters and found this book in the discount section:

Comics Treasury 001     Comics Treasury 017

HarperCollins Publishers Inc. 2014

It contains 14 adaptions of the Pixar films with 1 extra bonus story involving Wall-E. I’ve read about half so far and have found a pattern developing, even though different writers are responsible for some of the titles.

Comics Treasury 002     Comics Treasury 003     Comics Treasury 004

Being as I know the stories inside-out, I can follow the edited versions presented in the book reasonably well. But for first-time readers, many panels would not make sense, as crucial details are left out. It is obvious that these adaptions were not penned by seasoned comic book writers, individuals with a consummate knowledge of conveying a bigger story into the sometimes limiting space of comic book boxes.

Comics Treasury 005     Comics Treasury 006     Comics Treasury 007

Now is as good a time as any to mention the bonus story entitled Wall-E: Recharge. As you would expect, there is no dialogue to help you understand what is happening, and because of the aforementioned inexperience of the writers with this medium the story is all-but incomprehensible!

Comics Treasury 010

Comics Treasury 008     Comics Treasury 009     Comics Treasury 011

The best part of this treasury is the artwork! Every artist brought a great sense of the original story to each title with some truly breath-taking visuals. As a comic book fan from way back, this was a treat to read based only on the pictures (yup, I’m a picture guy).

Comics Treasury 012     Comics Treasury 013     Comics Treasury 014

Not to be too tough on this treasury, it’s still a fun read with good work done by all of the creative talent involved. I would definitely recommend it to any Disney parent who would like a nice book of bedtime stories to share with their little Disney fans-to-be!

Comics Treasury 015     Comics Treasury 016

Drawing Instructions for Goofy in Just Fifteen Easy Steps

I bought a folder that said ‘Art of Animation’ and was delighted to find this model sheet inside showing how to draw my favorite anamorphic dog, Goofy. So let’s start drawing:

Media Animation Celebration 2 +

Heyuck!

I also found these two sheets of Fun Facts about animation and Disney Animators. They’re a great piece of ephemera and so I’m happy to get the chance to share them with you:

Media Animation Celebration 3 +     Media Animation Celebration 4 +

Enlarge and enjoy!