Saturday, July 26, 2014

Haunted Mansion's 45th Anniversary!

"Welcome Foolish Mortals ... " to a celebration of Disneyland's horribly humorous hair-raising Haunted Mansion. As most of you know, there are multiple versions of this spooktacular attraction at Disney parks around the world with each one celebrating their unique differences from the architecture outside to many of the ride elements inside. The one located at Disneyland is of course the ominous original, opening it's creaky doors to the public on August 9,1969. This year celebrates its 45th year of happy haunting. I was asked to create some eerie original artwork to celebrate this tombstone... I mean milestone, and so I'm unveiling part of my ghostly gouache. Before I get to the painting however, a bit of history of the Haunted Mansion is in order, and for goodness sakes don't you dare pull back on the safety bar, we'll do it for you! Disneyland's Haunted Mansion 45th Anniversary artist Mike Peraza HAUNTED MANSION, 

Harper Goff's early rendition of the attraction
Walt Disney first considered a haunted house attraction in Disneyland two decades before the first shovel was turned to lay the attraction's groundwork. The original sketches by Harper Goff for the structure included drawings for a gothic mansion resembling (at least to me) the one that would be built years later in 1960 for Hitchcock’s Psycho with a graveyard and church sharing the plot.

However when Disneyland lowered its drawbridge and opened its magical castle to the public on July 17, 1955, it did so without the benefit of a spine tingling creepy crypt. In 3 short years however, Walt's never ending park expansion created a new land named “New Orleans Square” (being a native of the "big easy" I certainly like the sound of that) which would provide literally lay the foundation for the spook house in 1962. HAUNTED MANSION 45TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTOR ART

Ken Anderson's original design
Sam McKim's color interpretation
Although early concepts by Ken Anderson portrayed the mansion as an old dilapidated haunted house, Walt Disney thought that might be a grave mistake and wanted it to have a pristine look to match the rest of the park. As numero uno imagineer Walt himself put it, "We'll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside."

It then stood empty for years while the Disney company concentrated on its responsibilities for the 1964 World's Fair. When Walt Disney passed away in 1966, the imagineers were in the midst of planning the new attraction. They were suddenly at a loss of whether to make the attraction scary like Claude Coats had wanted or funny like Marc Davis had planned. Actually "loss" is not accurate when recounting those times.

One of many Marc Davis concepts
The imagineers I talked to, including Marc and Claude themselves (and they o'uta know, ya know ) described the situation a bit like going into battle without a commanding general to coordinate the troops. In the end of course they combined both directions into an eerie entertaining experience that people line up for to this day.

Haunted Mansion 45th Event
Mike Peraza
As many of you may know who have read my blog over the years, two of my mentors: Disney Legends Ward Kimball and Ken O’Connor used to advise me in essence to be a chameleon. In other words, don’t just create in one style or medium but be open to many approaches but try to do each well. In this respect I created my newest piece to celebrate the Haunted Mansion’s 45th in a style I like to refer to as “retro ” and  let me tell you, it was a hoot to work on. I wanted to avoid doing the "stretches" or just limit myself to the "hitch hikers" and hoped to include as much of the ride in the image as possible without getting too complicated. I solved the problem by using a whimsical approach and starting with a simple base composition to build upon. The end result is almost a companion piece to my "Seasons of Magic" painting that was very well received by Disney fans and was subsequently showcased in the Disney Gallery vault for many months.

As my wife Patty put it, It’s an advertising style that was being used when the original attraction opened, so it’s fitting to return to that stylized look to celebrate it 45 years later!" She has so many good ideas and of course if you want a happy life- you keep a happy wife, so I used her suggestionAnd once again I'm also using the medium of choice from the old Disney Studio of the 1930s through the 1960s which is gouache with the original illustration measuring 18 x 24 inches. You can see it within the ad poster to the left. The look was decidedly different from my previous pieces for the Disney Gallery Steampunk Show . Once I had finalized my thumbnails, it was frighteningly fun adding little hidden treasures among the Haunted Mansion many points of interests. Mike Peraza Haunted Mansion 45th Anniversary collector poster. HANTED MANSION

Yale Gracey and "Hat box"
Yale Gracey with chip off the old block
I even included cryptic characters from the ride that were removed from the attraction  like the legendary “Hat box Ghost" although he is making a "spirited" return . Here's a photo of Yale Gracey working on that original problem child that never seemed to come off the way they had hoped. Before he transferred to WED, Yale was a brilliant layout guy for Jack Hannah back in the day doing Donald Duck shorts among many other projects at the old studio. When Jack introduced him to me I had no idea he was an imagineer at that time because the discussion was mainly centered on animation and layout from his work at the old Disney Studio. When he eventually got around to sharing Disneyland stories I was even more blown away by Yale's accomplishments.

The original design of the Hatbox
Ghost by Collin Campbell
He was a nice guy and is missed to this day by everyone who was fortunate to know him. If you ever wondered if there was a real "Master Gracey", well this is the amazing gentleman who was honored with that title.

 Mike Peraza whimsical take on Hat Box Ghost
By the way, the original design for the "Hat Box Ghost" was by another old friend, Collin Campbell and is included here. Speaking of "Hatty", here is my retro rendition of that ghastly ghost. I have also planted multiple “hidden Mickeys” and other treasures throughout the graphic graveyard so have fun unearthing them. Before you pull down on the safety bar even though we told you not to, come on down to the Disney Gallery and join our spirited celebration of the Haunted Mansion's 45th!

Part of the crowd waiting outside to get in,
while there was just as many inside waiting to get out.
If you're looking to pick up fine art prints signed for you by their apparitional artists celebrating the Haunted Mansion's 45th but worried your walls are too full, let me paraphrase the last line you hear when leaving the Haunted Mansion, "...there's always room for one more." So come on out August Saturday 16, 9:00 AM to the Disneyland Gallery located on Main Street, on the right when you enter the park. I'll be there along with a ghoulish group of extremely talented and terrifying artists just dying to meet you.

UPDATE: The signing event was huge success and sold out of all of my paper prints, canvas prints and the original painting before it was even half over. I had the pleasure of meeting so many incredible folks who came by to pick up a print and then stuck around to talk and share some great times while I signed. Of course that is wonderful news but what is also exciting is that prints are again available at the Disney Gallery for my "Happy Haunts" in both formats and will continue to be offerred for all of the Haunted Mansion fans out there.

#hauntedmansion45th #mikeperaza #disneyfineart #YaleGracey #Disneyland #Disneygallery #Disneyfineart

Monday, July 21, 2014

Amazing Al Dempster

A stunning John Hench and Al Dempster collaboration
There have been many amazing talents that have worked in the Disney background department and created stunning concept pieces over the years. Of course names like Mary Blair, Eyvind Earle, Claude Coats, Walt Peregoy and others spring to mind but there are others equally deserving of credit due their talented offerings. One that comes to my mind is Al Dempster

He was born July 23, 1911 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. After relocating to Los Angeles he got a job with the Disney Studio in 1939 and when Walt saw his painting skills first hand, he was quickly transferred to the background department. Those skills benefitted the studio on classic like Fantasia, Dumbo, Saludos Amigos, Victory Through Air Power, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music and Song of the South

Bill Justice-pencils, Al Dempster-paint
L-R  Don Griffith, Al Dempster
He left the studio in 1945 but came back in 1952 to create more lovely backgrounds for Walt’s Peter Pan. He stayed on to contribute to Lady and The Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred and One Dalmations, Sword in the Stone, Jungle Book and more. He left a lasting mark when he teamed up with close friend Don Griffith to create the look for all of the Winnie the Pooh featurettes.

Al's take on Johnny Appleseed
At Walt’s personal request, Al translated many of the studio’s films into lavishly illustrated children’s books, usually with pal Bill Justice providing the pencils. He retired from the studio for various reasons but agreed to return to help with The Rescuers in 1973 which is how I met him albeit briefly.

I wasn’t working on that film but was attending the CalArts Art School (the Character Animation Program had not yet been created). Don Duckwall introduced me to Al and the rest of the small background department. His time on Rescuers was not an enjoyable one as there were a few bumps in the road during production and soon the same reasons he had left the studio before reared up again. Since Al had only committed to 6 months or so on that production, when the time was up, he skeedaddled back into retirement and did his own paintings, this time in oil. 
Al creates more magic with Alice

Walt choose Al's version of Jungle Book
Years later I did have a chance to spend more time with Al during our regular Thursday lunches at Sloppos with Don Griffith. I was a huge fan of his work and had a few of his spectacularly illustrated books for Disney. Al eventually signed my books and gave Patty and I a couple of his original oil paintings as a wedding present which we have hanging to this day over the stairway to the upstairs studio. 

So check your old Disney story books. If the illustrations have an extra special feeling of Disney magic like the images here, you may just own an Al Dempster collection. Happy Birthday Al!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pinocchio loses his voice

Very sorry to report that Dickie Jones passed away today. To those of us in the Disney family he will be fondly remembered as the voice of the puppet who wished to be a real boy, Pinocchio. 

He was Texas born in 1927 to a newspaper editor. Being a Texan, he naturally learned to ride a horse and at the age of 4 was billed as the "World's Youngest Trick Rider & Roper". Around this time his family moved out to Hollywood where friend Hoot Gibson was able to land the young lad parts in low budget westerns. 

From there as he matured, he graduated to many roles through his long and distinguished film and TV career and was rightly named a Disney Legend in 2000. We would run into each other over the years at various Disney events and it was always a treat to listen to his stories. 

This picture was taken of the two of us a few months ago after I had just pulled a gag at our table when we attended an event together. Dickie had a great sense of humor. We're really going to miss you dearly my friend.