Saturday, July 05, 2014

Grand and Glorious "America On Parade" Models

Four paper people in rectangular frames, looking like minimalistic strangers on a train, could be something you'd expect to see in a museum of modern art. But this small three-dimensional model made of cardboard, white paper, and plastic toothpaste caps is actually a piece of rough concept art created for one of Disneyland's most famous parades.

"Television and Movies"
America On Parade ran daily at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World during the 1975-76 US bicentennial anniversary. Consisting of fifty units and 150 performers, it was by far the most elaborate parade ever staged at the Disney parks.

Here are some very rare images—most of them shot by myself in the late 1980s using a Polaroid instant camera—of the wonderful scale models that Disneyland kept in storage at the time. Back then, the Disneyland Entertainment-Art Department preserved a treasure trove of artwork for Park shows going all the way back to the early sixties and Walt's lifetime. When I was just starting out as a young parade designer at Disney, I became fascinated by these fragile hand-made miniatures and assembled a file of snapshots for my own personal reference.  Around 1999, shortly after I had transferred out of the department to a new position in Glendale,  I learned to my horror that nearly all of the Anaheim model shop's archive had been destroyed or discarded in order to "free up precious storage space for other things." I've come to believe many of the photos I had taken might now be the only existing record of this (mostly vague) corner of Disneyland history.

"Thanksgiving Turkey"

"Betsy Ross"
The A.O.P models were made in 1974 by Clare Graham and a small team of artists under the creative direction of Bob Jani, who had also led the creation of the Main Street Electrical Parade. Built from simple materials, such as colored felt, paper, wire, and illustration board, these models guided the construction of the final full-sized parade floats.

The Transcontinental Railroad
I love these, and refer back to them often.  The stylization was a great inspiration to us in designing the "paper sculpture" look for Mickey's Soundsational Parade.  The model, above, of the two steam locomotives coming face to face at the completion of the first transcontinental railroad is one of my all-time favorites. It's a stunning unit, and I just wish the image were sharper.

"Wagons West"
"Industrial Revolution"
Some of the models from the section of the parade dedicated to "America's favorite pastimes"…playing sports and eating ice cream.  Some high-concept ideas here!

"Popular Sports"
"Ice Cream"
The Capitol
These "transportation" floats, depicting the 19th and 20th centuries are pretty fantastic, as well.  Some of the models shown here were photographed for a 1975 souvenir book (by David Jacobs) sold during the parade's run, but most historic Disneyland parade art is unpublished, lost, and unknown.   I'll try to share more photos in the coming months, even the out-of-focus ones!  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Another One That Got Away: The "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" Master-Folio

"Giant squid astern, sir!"
I've got a whale of a tale to tell you, lads.  Another title for our proposed Walt Disney Master-Folio series would have been 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, the epic 1954 Disney adaptation of Jules Verne's classic science fiction novel.  The film is a favorite of ours, and three years prior, we had designed the 50th anniversary collectibles assortment for Disney, (including the most faithful replica of the submarine Nautilus ever mass-produced.)

Here were some of the riches we aimed to include:

In the years since we put together this proposal, the soundtrack recording was eventually released, first on iTunes and later as a CD by Intrada (which you can purchase today! ) We had long been pushing for the recording's release, and the Master-Folio package seemed like one more good reason to pester Disney about it again.

Serious "Leagues" fans will have noted that the Image Album was to include stills from the lost "South Pole scene" not in the final motion picture:

And there was more.

And one of the most exciting elements of all: a flip book of the unused pencil animation done early in the film's production--for the Giant Squid!  In the finished movie, an enormous articulated puppet attacked Captain Nemo's submarine and fed our collective childhood nightmares, but did you know the monster was first planned to be flat cel animation combined with live action?

The "squid animation" was an exciting discovery for us in Disney's Animation Research Library, with 115 graphite drawings on long CinemaScope paper. It amounted to only a few seconds of animation on screen, but it was dramatic to see, with the tentacled monster abruptly rearing backward in a blast of black ink.  Sorry I'm unable to show it to you here, because the sequence remains in Disney's hands. Hopefully someday it will surface!  In the meantime, you can see some of the other animated sea life that would have been spied through Nemo's wondrous irising window—here: on youtube.

Will the Walt Disney Master-Folio Collection someday come to pass?  Maybe, as James Mason's Captain Nemo says, "In God's good time."

Friday, June 13, 2014

Once Upon A Dream

Throughout the past 20 years, Jody Daily and I have created concept art and pitched our own ideas for a heap of Disney merchandise, and yet only a fraction of our pie-in-the-sky dreams actually ever see fruition.  Our favorite ideas are for items that we would happily fork over our own hard-earned money to buy, if only such things were available.  

In 2007, after leaving Disney and starting our own company, we came up with an idea for a collectible "folio" that could be the ultimate "thing to have" for serious animation aficionados, like ourselves.  We called it the "Walt Disney Master-Folio Collection" and imagined an entire series of beautiful book-like boxes chock-full of surprises and treasures.

The artful packaging would open up to reveal a myriad of compartments and sleeves containing booklets, figurines, audio/visual multimedia, and other goodies...

If you're an animation fan on par with us, you probably have your checkbook and pen in hand right now.  Well, of course, the "Walt Disney Master-Folio Collection" never happened. Two things led to its demise.  For one, the licensee we hoped could handle a project of this scope, Master Replicas (who had manufactured our Disneyland Monorail Replicas in 2005), shocked us all by suddenly and inexplicably going out of business!  Secondly, and maybe most tellingly, the Disney Studio seemed uninterested because they were busy developing their own secret project that would reportedly become the sole outlet for all Disney collectible merchandise on this level—a little project with the bafflingly cryptic name of "D23".  Ah well... enough water has gone under the bridge by now that we thought we'd share one of our favorite passion projects that "might have been".

So what do you think?  Would you have bought one?
I still want that flip book.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Birth of a Snow Globe

Most of our merchandise concepts start with detailed sketches like this, which are rarely ever seen by the public. Here is Jody’s original pencil drawing for a Jungle Book snow globe released by Disney in 2003 for the 35th anniversary of the animated film’s release.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Secret Dragonfly

Disneyland’s Soundsational Parade has some hidden surprises for those who look carefully. One of our favorites is Evinrude, the dragonfly who buzzes around in circles behind Tiana’s row boat on the Princess and the Frog unit.

Our idea to include Evinrude began as a last-minute joke between me and Jody during the parade’s dress rehearsals. Watching the big riverboat come down Main Street reminded us of a favorite Disney movie from childhood—The Rescuers—and we thought it could be fun to insert a subtle tribute to the 1977 film somewhere in Tiana’s bayou.

I constructed Evinrude in our studio practically overnight, from simple wooden shapes to match the float’s playful style. Wings were hand-cut from sheets of tinted polypropylene plastic, and the insect’s body was attached to a motorized support inside a giant waterlily.

As it turns out, the character fits perfectly with the parade’s theme as a tribute to legendary Disney sound effects artist Jimmy MacDonald. Jimmy provided sounds for hundreds of Disney films, including Evinrude’s distinctive buzz.

Sound effects genius, Jimmy MacDonald 
Related story:  Rescue Me!

Monday, February 03, 2014

This Is Henry

Henry in 1958

Just a stone's throw from Hollywood is Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. Final resting place for hundreds of celebrities from Walt Disney to Sammy Davis Jr., the sprawling cemetery is also home to "Henry", a thirty-one inch Moai head from Easter Island. Although the figure hasn't been authenticated, it was obtained in 1954 by park founder Dr. Hubert Eaton who affectionately named it after his friend Henry Wendt. On a trip to Easter Island, so the story goes, Wendt and Eaton received the head in a legal transaction between Rapanui fishermen who were using it as ballast for a boat.

See Henry for yourself at the Forest Lawn Museum.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Plastic Paradise

The wait is finally over. Awhile back I was Art Director on Plastic Paradise: A Swingin’ Trip Through America’s Polynesian Obsession, a new documentary by Common Machine Productions. It will air on select PBS stations starting in Philadelphia TONIGHT Jan. 23 at 9PM on WYBE. For the LA crowd , KCET has pushed its airing to March 4 so they have more time to promote. Make yourself a Miehana cocktail while you wait...

Plastic Paradise Trailer from Common Machine 


In the 1940s and 1950s, the return of American GIs from the Pacific helped launch a postwar Polynesian craze that lasted more than three decades. Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki expedition, James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, and Hawaiian statehood all fueled the phenomenon. This “tiki” culture — so named after the large, wooden sculptures found throughout Polynesia — included candy-colored, rum-infused cocktails with names like the Zombie and the Missionary’s Downfall, crazy Hawaiian shirts, exotic instrumental music fused with space-age pop, and a nonstop party scene inhabited by self-styled nonconformists and swingers.

Today, the spirit of tiki endures among a new generation of Polynesian popsters, including musician Denny “King Kukulele” Moynahan, cocktail anthropologist Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, artist Kevin Kidney, and tiki historian Sven Kirsten.

Plastic Paradise explores this fascinating, little known, and surprisingly enduring subculture. Making stops in Los Angeles, New York City, and South Florida, the film culminates with a visit to Hukilau, the largest gathering of tikiphiles on the East Coast, held every year at Fort Lauderdale’s famed Mai-Kai Restaurant.

"Ink & Bean" Coffee Maker for a Day

And now for something completely different.  

"Careful, it's hot."

I made a resolution this year to break away from my desk, now and then, and do something totally new to me—and then write about the experience.  Things I've always dreamed of doing, such as playing guitar in a Mariachi band, or traveling to the Antarctic on a submarine.  Or maybe working as a barista for a day.

Recently the least-complicated of my pie-in-the-sky wishes was granted.  I took a non-paid, one-day-only job at the beautiful new "Ink & Bean Coffee Saloon and Wordshop" in downtown Anaheim. 

Ink & Bean is highly photogenic!

Ink & Bean is our brand new local hangout that feels like it's been around for about eighty years.  It's the kind of place I absolutely love, with a creative vibe that makes me want to just sit and read or draw for a whole afternoon.  The "Ink" in Ink & Bean refers to writing, and the theme is carried out in every detail.  Antique typewriters decorate one wall—black Underwoods, Royals and Smith-Coronas—with room for more.  The central table is illuminated by a 1950s 8mm film projector re-born as a table lamp, and they have a working rotary dial telephone.  

Among the well-stocked merchandise shelves are some vintage books for sale (cheap!) and parked outside is a little silver Airstream trailer with books for exchange (free!)  There are plans for writer workshops, author readings, and poetry contests.  I hear they're going to play old radio shows here!   Even the baristas, dressed in thick grey-green aprons and caps, resemble a team of old-timey typesetters in a print shop.

Me trying to blend in with the pros: Pam Hamidi, Amy Wilcox, and CodyBarczak 

Ink & Bean proudly serves Stumptown coffee roasted in Portland and brewed hot and fresh throughout the day.  There are chilled dark bottles of "Cold Brew" in the fridge, as well as toasty bags of whole Stumptown beans to take home (my favorite is the Rwanda Muyongwe, with hints of vanilla, plum, port wine and maple—it's mighty good!) 

 When I arrived at the shop on a Tuesday morning, a Stumptown trainer was intently walking the crew through the fine art of brewing perfect espresso shots and "polishing" steamed milk to a beautiful white gloss.  I was issued a hat and apron and put to work carefully measuring and grinding beans for espressos, lattes and cappuccinos. I felt like a scientist.  The aromas, including those of the fresh-baked scones and brioches (and a gift from the gods called a "black widow tart") from Blackmarket Bakery, inspired me to pack a sack of goodies to take home at the end of the day. 

I enjoyed being a barista for a day, and if I do it again sometime (before I forget everything I learned), I'll let you know.  And when I play guitar in a Mariachi band, I'll let you know about that, too.

In the meantime, if you're in the Disneyland area and simply craving a hot cup of exceptional coffee on a real hometown "Main Street", this is the place.  Ink & Bean is tucked between THE GOOD Californian Haberdashery and Center Street Cheese Shop on the newly refurbished Center Street Promenade.  Take my word for it and GO!

Ink & Bean Coffee Saloon and Wordshop