Friday, December 21, 2012

A Rememberance of 2012

We can't end this year without noting some of the wonderful people that have unfortunately left us. I know Ronald Searle passed away last year, but since it was on December 30,  I felt he should be a part of this group. 

I apologize for not including every single person but there simply just wasn't room in one video. For personal reasons I concentrated on those I knew personally either at from meeting them or having worked together on a project or two. To paraphrase a quote from George Elliot, "Our friends and family never leave us, until we have forgotten them." May they all rest in peace and always remain in our hearts.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

From All of Us to All of You, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Christmas Card opening by Xtencio

"From All of Us to All of You" is a very popular Christmas special that was shown for the first time on December 19, 1958 as a holiday treat on the "Wonderful World of Color". As usual Walt Disney was the host introducing the show although a chirpy Jiminy Cricket took over those chores quickly as the segment moved into animation.

Mickey Mouse, brought to life with wonderfully expressive character animation provided by Les Clark started the musical ball rolling with Tinkerbell applying just the right amount of pixiedust to open the curtain. We were led through memorable sequences from many of the Disney classics from "Snow White" to "Lady and the Tramp" presented as Christmas cards with new animation bridging with the vintage clips.

More of X's wonderful artwork

Over the years as this special repeated, it would include new footage of films and projects that were upcoming from the Disney Studio. It was directed by a good friend of mine, former animation teacher and First Dean of the Character Animation Program at CalArts, Jack Hannah who directed most of those classic shows that featured Walt introducing the episodes from his "office". That "office" by the way was a near perfect re-creation, yes re-creation of Walt's office which was about a 10 minute walk from the soundstage and up 3 floors in the corner overlooking the backlot. It was easier to do that than disrupt the operation and privacy of Walt's real office which was also brimming with confidential memos, notes from meetings and project ideas not the least of which were future attraction suggestions for Disneyland which had recently opened a bit over 2 years earlier.

Hazel "Gil" George Walt's nurse and songwriter
By the way, I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts holes that  you don't know who wrote the lyrics for the title song, "From All of Us to All of You"?. The credit listed from the original airing is "Gil" George but a few of us will recognize that as an alias of sorts for Hazel. Hazel Gilman, later married as Hazel George wrote quite a few very memorable songs during this period from feature films like "Old Yeller" to bouncy songs like "Talent Roundup" for the Mickey Mouse Club. She pretty much gave up her song writing career in the early sixties although Hazel continued on as Walt's personal nurse, a position she had held since first treating his neck pain due to a polo injury from 1938. I wanted to mention her song writing career primarily because it seems to be largely unknown and ignored by Disney historians to this very day which is unfortunate when you consider her valuable contribution to the musical history of Disney Studios. It is also rather a significant responsibility in particular to this creation of this Christmas special.

Over time, the special "gained weight"  (don't we all? sigh) as they expanded it from the original 60 minutes in 1983 to 90 minutes and retitled it to "A Disney Channel Christmas". Unfortunately we don't see this special in this country for some reason as often as they do in the Nordic Countries of Sweden, Finland and Norway. In fact almost half the entire population of Sweden enjoys this holiday treat which is broadcast every Christmas Eve as their most popular and most watched show of the year.

Over yonder in that land known for meatballs, IKEA, and Ingrid Bergman, they call it "Kalle Anka och hans vanner God Jul" which is Swedish for "Donald Duck and his Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas!" Kinda roles off the tongue like lingonberry jelly doesn't it? And imagine, Donald getting top billing over Mickey! This delightful delicacy is still not available on DVD but here's wishing the Disney Studio will release it, the original 1958 version please, someday as part of a Holiday Collection so that new generations can enjoy what we have these many years.

So from All of Us to All of You, a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Happy Birthday Uncle Walt!

Wonderful World of Color
1963 Christmas Show
Today we celebrate the birthday of a man who grew through his creativity, hard work and leadership to become a legend and inspiration to "children of all ages". His life overflowed with many "firsts". The first animated film with complete sound, starring Mickey Mouse of course. The first animated film to be produced in full color, the first full length animated feature, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", first major Motion Picture Studio to embrace television as a alternate production outlet and so on. And the name that comes first to so many minds when you think of good solid entertainment for the entire family... Walt Disney!

His "Three Little Pigs" gave Americans a jaunty little tune to help get them through the Great Depression and "Donald Duck's antics in "Der Fuehre's Face" offered much needed laughs during the second World War. Rather than attempting to place my own words into Walt's mouth as a few film historians will occasionally do, I'm simply including a few quotes below from Walt himself to offer a bit of insight into his mind and heart.

"We are not trying to entertain the critics. I'll take my chances with the public."

"You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality."

"You're dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway."

"To all that come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America... with hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world."

"Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world."

"I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse."

As much as I would like to, I am going to stop right here. I won't go into a biography of Walt's life here for this birthday posting, as previous authors have accomplished that already at book length and most were well written and informative. I merely wanted to remind everyone of a very special man who never grew up thankfully and went on to touch many lives around the world.

As Eric Sevaried reported on the evening news while summing up Walt Disney:

"He was an original. Not just an American original, but an original. Period.  He was a happy accident, one of the happiest this century has experienced. And judging by the way it’s behaving, in spite of all Disney tried to tell it about laughter, love, children, puppies, and sunrises, the century hardly deserved him. He probably did more to heal - or at least soothe - troubled human spirits than all the psychiatrists in the world. There can’t be many adults in the allegedly civilized parts of the globe who did not inhabit Disney’s mind and imagination for at least for a few hours and feel better for the visitation.

"It may be true, as somebody said, that while there is no highbrow in a lowbrow, there is some lowbrow in every highbrow. But what Disney seemed to know was that while there is very little grown-up in every child, there is a lot of child in every grown-up. To a child, this weary world is brand-new, gift wrapped. Disney tried to keep it that way for adults." 

"People are saying we will never see his like again."

Walt Disney, born this day, December 5, 1901.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Walt kicking off the annual "Toys for Tots" drive
Every year as the Christmas Season approaches, we can find a "Toys for Tots" sign or banner  heralding holiday solicitations to provide gifts for the disadvantaged children of America. When you placed that doll or game in the box, did you know that the Walt Disney Studio had a part in helping bring this worthy cause to fruition? Well it all began back in 1947 when a Major Bill Hendricks along with group of fellow Marines Reservists took it upon themselves to collect and ultimately distribute over 5,000 toys to children in need. Bill's wife Diane actually came up with the original idea when she asked her husband to hand out raggedy ann dolls she had hand crafted. She wanted to give them as gifts to needy children facing a bleak Christmas so soon after the war when many were still attempting to put their lives and financial future back together.

Familiar sign at the parks
Bill couldn't find an agency to help with the cause so he did what he had to do... create one!  So in 1947 "Toys for Tots" was born and became so successful that it spread its magnificent mission across our nation. One of the "perks" Bill had in his favor was that besides being a Marine Reservist, he also held an important post in civilian life as Director of Public Relations for Warner Brothers Studios. In that role he was able to garner support from many of Hollywood's celebrities to help with the campaign.

The celebrities of those days just seem a little different to me than some of the ones we see today on the five o'clock news. Maybe because they had suffered through the great depression and a second "war to end all wars" so they knew what real suffering was all about and were ready to lend a hand to help their fellow Americans.  Bob Hope, John Wayne and Doris Day and many others volunteered their services and vocals were supplied by legends including  Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee. No wonder they are referred to as "the Greatest Generation."
Early Disney Studio design
The second year of the program they all realized something was missing and that what was really needed now was a recognizable logo. Something bright and cheery that would immediately grab the attention of the public and at the same time encourage people to donate without coming off too pushy. That is precisely where Walt Disney stepped in. In 1948 Walt instructed his publicity artists at the Disney Studio to create the memorable design we all know today.

The jolly red choo-choo was inspired by Walt's love of trains and in fact the early drop off points for "Toys for Tots" were set up as large bins attached to one another to resemble the unique Disney railway design. This arrangement kept everything "on track" regarding the creation of a recognizable look the public would respond to and remember. Since its beginning back in 1947, "Toys for Tots" has distributed 450 million toys to 200 million needy children. So please give generously when you see a "Toy's for Tots" sign. That simple gesture on your part will brighten the Christmas season for a child in need of a little hope and little cheer in the shape of a toy from you.  -MP