Thursday, April 30, 2009

Muse of the Weird and Wonderful

Sun illustration by Rolly Crump, 1966

Artist Rolly Crump was honored this week at Disneyland with a special window on Main Street (it's about time!) and I couldn't be happier for him.
Rolly is a swell guy, and one of my favorite artists in the whole world, not only for his Disney work -  which is groundbreaking - but his independent art as well.   Actually, I'm inspired by everything I've seen him do.
Rolly with his Tower of the Four Winds model
for the 1964 New York World's Fair

In Disney circles he is known for his designs on the Enchanted Tiki Room, It's a Small World,  the Haunted Mansion, the Adventureland Bazaar, and to a lesser degree for his legendary unbuilt "Museum of the Weird" - macabre and witty concepts that were decades ahead of their time...and Tim Burton.

Lighting Fixture for The Museum of the Weird, 1966

I love his drawing style of the 1960s: bold, ragged ink line, textured and angular, with colors kept to a minimum. Much of it borders on the psychedelic.  Even more, his art has a sly sense of humor that I'm simply crazy about.

Pride Creations "Push Down" Toys, 
concepted by Rolly, 1960s.

According to Rolly, even while at Disney he always had cool projects going on the side. 
In 1960, a chance meeting with West Coast rock poster pioneer, Howard Morseburg, led to a new venture in printmaking.  Rolly's satirical designs poked fun at Beatnik culture, the coffee houses and jazz clubs of Greenwich Village, Seattle, San Francisco, and the East Bay.  

Poster for Pete's Poop Deck Jazz Club
Seattle, Washington, 1960

His easy-to-read graphics satirized big issues of the era, from drug use to the human rights record of revolutionary Cuba and the Soviet Union.  Though they apparently weren't made in extremely large quantities, the hand-pulled prints were popular with artistic young musicians and hipsters, and were influential on poster design that later dominated the Sixties.

"Green Gasser Kauphy House" Poster

In 1959 Rolly became a show designer at WED (now Walt Disney Imagineering) after Walt saw some of the propellers and mobiles he had created.  

Rolly's Rongo Tiki God concept, 1962

I met Rolly for the first time when Jody and I were co-curating "Tiki: Native Drums in the Orange Grove" at the Anaheim Museum in 1996.  Rolly gave a 2-hour presentation describing the inspiration for his Tiki designs and his other work.  An unforgettable evening.

Jody Daily, Rolly Crump, & Kevin Kidney
 Anaheim Museum Tiki Show, September 14, 1996

In our own projects for Disney, Jody and I have welcomed the opportunity to more fully geek out over Rolly's designs by translating several into merchandise, including his 1967 Tomorrowland Ticket Booth,  Small World Clock facade, and, of course, his Tiki characters.

New Disneyland Tiki Room Rongo Bowl
Rongo Tiki Drink Bowl at Disneyland, 2009

Cheers for Rolly, on his very-deserved tribute down at Disneyland this week. We can't thank him enough for sharing his creativity and utter coolness with all of us.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Birthday Wishes

Small World Figure #1250 - Spanish Dancer

Our friend Alice Davis celebrated her birthday this week, and we'd like to dedicate this post to wishing her much happiness and good health!  Happy Birthday, Dear Alice!

Small World costume designer Alice Davis and Mary Blair in 1964.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Toad in the Hole

We've just received word that Mr. J. Thaddeus Toad, the fabulous motorcar-stealing amphibian from Kenneth Graham's classic Wind in the Willows, is deceased and buried in - of all places -  the Haunted Mansion's pet cemetery at Walt Disney World.  Gosh, we didn't even know he was sick!

Reportedly, the graveyard statue (seen in the gloomy photo above from is Disney's tribute to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, the much-loved WDW attraction which closed forever in 1998.  

But wait a minute!
That's our Mr. Toad Big Fig,  painted over to look like moldy stone (kinda) and stuck amongst the weeds!  Well, I suppose a tribute's a tribute (even a cheesy one done on a zero budget) and Jody and I are nonetheless strangely flattered by WDW's gesture.

 Our Mr. Toad was released in 2004, and though we pushed the sculpt through seemingly endless revisions to get his likeness on model,  Toad is my personal favorite of all the character figurines we've done...and the only one displayed in our home.
Mr. Toad Big Fig Sculpt Revisions
As for Toady's appearance at Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion, let's hope, as Mark Twain once famously said, "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

Tally Ho!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Papua in Paper

This is a paper sculpture I recently made for a friend, representing a carved agiba from Papua New Guinea (inspired by the stunning photograph below.)  It's part of a series of embossed paper art I'm currently working on for myself.

Photo by Paul B. de Rautenfeld, 1925.  
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I love New Guinea art and have managed to collect a few authentic pieces over the years, but artifacts from this fragile and endangered culture are difficult to find.  Luckily there are some great collections to see in museums across the country, most notably New York, Chicago, Massachusetts...and here in California.

The de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, is currently home to over 400 masterworks of New Guinea art from the collection of Marcia and John Friede.  I was there last week and spent well over an hour exploring the gallery with my jaw hanging open.  

Wednesday, April 08, 2009