Sunday, December 06, 2009

Snow What?

If you love Christmas songs of all kinds - even the oddball ones - ask Santa to bring you the new home-made double-CD compilation from
Snow What? A LuxuriaMusic Holiday Happening is 39 tracks of vintage audio weirdness pieced together by the music-geeks at my favorite internet radio station.

A $25 donation (which entirely helps Luxuria keep the turntables spinnin' into the new year) will introduce some rare gems to your record shelf, including: Lem the Orphan Reindeer, Indian Santa, Beatnik's Wish, Santa's Italian Wife, Candyland Christmas Ball, and more.

I've been listening all week in my car and can't get enough of The Day Snowflakes Were Born. It's ... indescribable.

Get it here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Emporium Windows - Part Three

Behind the Glass
Every now and then comes a rush project that is so crazed I just want to get it finished and move on. Then after it's all over, I usually kick myself for not taking pictures!

In 1991, I was one of four artists making figures for Disneyland's Main Street windows. It was the year of Beauty and the Beast, and the miniature displays debuted the same day the film arrived in theaters.

Belle, book and sheep by me.

None of us had yet seen the movie or were even very familiar with the characters, but we had reference sketches provided by Disney Feature Animation. Figures with movement were sculpted directly over internal mechanisms, and doll-sized costuming was added last. Disneyland's decorating department dressed the characters and was responsible for the beautiful miniature sets.

Rich Collins sculpts a large figure of the Beast.

Apparently there wasn't time to spend making molds, so our "one-and-only" handmade sculptures were painted and placed in the windows without back-ups. Artist Rich Collins created a little Gaston (in the first photo) that had an unfortunate mishap. We didn't know it at the time, but the Emporium windows are constantly changing temperature. The alternating warm days and cool damp nights actually caused Gaston's wrist to crack, and after a month on display, he performed a fatal swan dive off the roof leaving his hand behind - still attached to the building! The pieces were sent back for repairs, and we all learned a valuable lesson on the importance of a well-made armature.

The famous dancing figures of Belle and the Beast were sculpted by Jackie Perreault (Gonzales), and can be seen today as part of a display of historic Emporium figures at Disneyland. Considering that beneath the clothes and flocked "fur" are Jackie's actual sculpts, they've held up surprisingly well over the years.

Jackie Perreault with dancing couple in progress.

Jackie, herself, has also held up extremely well! After Disneyland, she went on to sculpt full-scale dinosaurs for the Jurassic Park films, and movie creatures for Stan Winston. In recent years, her exquisite sculptures for the Walt Disney Classics Collection have attracted a devoted following of fans - me included!

Big Potts by Jackie... little Potts by me.

The final figures created for the windows were two versions of Mrs. Potts for different scenes in two scales. Jackie and I worked straight through the day and night before the windows were to debut the next morning. We speed-dried the paint with a hair blower, attached the false eyelashes, and delivered them to the park an hour before opening.

The images above, blurry and grainy, are the only record I have of Disneyland's Beauty and the Beast windows. Jackie believes she may have a few more stashed somewhere, and I'll share them in a future post if any turn up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Emporium Windows - Part Two

Nose Prints on the Glass
Disneyland, Summer 1986

After setting up the windows for the Manhattan Bloomingdales in 1988, our team travelled to Chicago with two more units for the Bloomingdales located at "Miracle Mile". These were bigger as they had originally been designed for Walt Disney World's larger Emporium windows. Housed inside giant rolling "shadow boxes" the units consisted of a Snow White scene (with the Old Hag at her cauldron) and a scene from Pinocchio.

Here's another display that I believe had been created for Florida in the early 80s:
This scene from Mickey's Christmas Carol is so large that, you'll notice, it's TWO-stories -- with a chair and bed upstairs! These scenes had toured around a bit, as well, including a trip to New York in 1984 or 85.

And if you still can't get enough of this, here's a magazine article from 1974 about the ultra-deluxe windows promoting the theatrical release of "The Island at the Top of the World." The windows were better than the movie!

Click for Part One

Click for Part Two

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Emporium Windows - Part One

Deck the Mall!
A waaay younger me in New York, 1988

I'm playing the Ghost of Christmas Past this week and taking you with me to revisit another holiday season that happened twenty-one years ago. (Ready? Touch my robe!)

We've traveled backward in time to this exact week in November, 1988. I was a skinny kid working with a few other creative "kids" from Disneyland's Entertainment division on Christmas windows for New York's famous Bloomingdales department store in Manhattan.

Every year beginning at Thanksgiving, the store-front windows at Bloomie's (as women with designer sunglasses and gigantic handbags call it) are as much a part of the New York tradition as slush in the winter. In 1988 the retailer had asked Disneyland for assistance in coming up with something unique.

For the first time in history, several of Disneyland's original Main Street Emporium window displays, featuring hand-made scenes from Disney animated films, went on a road trip.

Click to Enlarge.

Each set of miniature figures and scenery was carefully cleaned and restored (some were decades old even back then) and shipped to the East Coast for a month-long engagement along Lexington Avenue.

We installed the displays in full view of people passing by in the street outside, attracting crowds of lookie-loos, as you can imagine. It was a lot of fun!

Bambi scene made in the early 1970s

(Say, how much are those doggies in the window, anyway?)

This scene with Peter Pan and the kids flying off to Neverland was actually kind of a headache for us, I remember. The monofilament that suspended the animated figures would get wound up in the mechanisms (located above the arch) and sometimes break. If the characters didn't end up dangling by their ankles over the London cityscape, then they had dropped completely onto the buildings below. We were constantly rescuing them.

Peter Pan figures from the late 60s.

Robin Hood and the gang
from the animated film's initial release, 1973.
I really liked that Allan-a-Dale figure.

And lastly, here's a scene the public never saw...
The backside of the displays! The windows at Bloomingdales were a lot bigger than those of Disneyland's Emporium, so custom prosceniums were built to narrow the openings down to the edges of the miniature sets.

There were a few more scenes, as well, including one with Captain Hook and the Crocodile, but I wasn't able to photograph everything. Maybe some New Yorkers out there have more pictures??

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Future Bright

Artist Sam McKim has long been one of my idols, not only for his immense creative talent, but for being one of the finest gentlemen I've ever met.  His positive, enthusiastic nature was so uplifting, so encouraging, especially to a young artist like myself in awe of this man.

Here's a stunning 1957 illustration by Sam for a short story titled "Butch and Jan Meet the Atom".  Chock full of hopeful visions for the year 2000, the narrative promises a world of power, health and peace through atomic energy.  In Sam McKim's hands, "tomorrow" certainly seems like a good place to be. 

Click to see the published spread. 
Walt Disney's  Mickey Mouse Club Magazine, April 1957.

Monday, November 09, 2009

And now, a toast!

Today this blog is exactly two years old, and to mark the occasion, I popped open a whole bottle of champaign all for myself.  
So, here's to me! (gank...gank...gank...gank...)

This oddball illustration, created in 1955 for an LP of Disney songs by the Lawrence Welk Orchestra, bubbles over with cut-out paper heads glued to a painted background board (Yup, that's Davy Crockett there, but did you recognize Captain Nemo?!)  I love the way this artwork tickles my nose.

"ah-one and ah-two..."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Hot Car

Hop in, Blog Reader, and we'll go for a jolly ride!  Down the open road, over the dusty high-way, and through every hammy hamlet by the sea, disobeying signs and cops, taking every wrong turn, and all the while merrily, merrily text messaging.  Wheeeee!

There's no better way to traverse the "roads perpendicular" than in this sporty little conveyance right here. Why some guys would hand over their entire estate to a flock of weasels for one.

Toady's "hot looking car" in the film "The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad" is comparatively different from the attraction vehicles down at Disneyland, as you can see in this 1940s animation model sheet.

Click for Full-Size.

The cartoon motorcar's design includes the parts and pieces of  an authentic 1906 Autocar Roadster:

For Mr. Toad's wild little dark ride down at Disneyland, designer Bruce Bushman combined the rich luxury of the Roadster with the charm and floating fenders of a 1904 Glide:


And as Cyril Proudbottom would say, "Lumme Guvnor, it's a motorcar!"

Hot off the 1955 assembly line.

The twelve original Disneyland Toad Cars were hand-made of sheet metal and fiberglass by Arrow Development and for the first few years, the cars had no built-in safety bar.

By 1961, bars were added to ensure that wilder riders 
remained in those cushy upholstered seats at all times.

"Pull down on the lap bar, please."

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, 1960s

Now hold on and give your steering wheel a spin, as we bang through the doorways of Toad Hall and out to the English countryside.  Tally Ho, and keep off the train tracks.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ichabod and Mr. Toad Fan Card

One of the most fun studio fan cards ever, promoting the 1949 debut of two fabulous characters in one fabulous film:  The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.   So full of action and excitement, it's hard to resist these 7"x 9" cards for fans who wrote the Walt Disney Studio.

Unlike the flat painted animation cels seen in the movie, promotional materials like this allowed for the characters to be more fully rendered to a higher level of detail.

Artist Hank Porter created the illustration of Toad in his motorcar racing alongside Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, and here is the original sketch!  I think it's beautiful.

Spirited Away by the Headless Horseman

"Next morning, Ichabod's hat was found... and close beside --a shattered pumpkin...
 but there was no trace of the school-master."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Shopping for Tikis?

Our fresh assortment of Enchanted Tiki Room items are on display in the beautiful new Disney Gallery.  If you're making a visit to Disneyland, be sure to stop in and see the new space located in the original Bank of America on Main Street, U.S.A.  

If you can't get to Disneyland but would like to purchase anything from the Gallery, you can call Disneyland's DeliverEars Service (800) 362-4533 to have any item delivered directly to you.

Thank you.  That is all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Will Burtin's Incredible Six-Foot Cell

If, like me, you're enthralled with mid-century science and classic Disneyland, no doubt you've come across this odd 1950s Upjohn postcard for the Basic Cell display at the pharmacy on Main Street.  Hardly anything has ever been written about this curious exhibit, so I think it's time to change that right now.

Head Cellsman, Will Burtin

German-born designer Will Burtin was a graphic designer for Fortune magazine and the Upjohn Company, specializing in "scientific visualization."  He had designed Upjohn's entire product line of medicine bottles, ointment tubes and packaging - and even the company letterhead.  In 1957, Burtin convinced Upjohn's president Jack Gauntlett and Dr. Garrard Macleod, director of special projects, to fund the construction of a large-scale scientific model, a human red blood cell 24 feet across and 12 feet high.  It was so big, folks could enter and walk around inside...on carpet!

Built of plastic tubing, wires and colored lights, the soon-to-be-famous model would be a tactile representation of a virtual human cell.   Not an actual representation of a cell, since too much was still unknown about cells, but a "giant, physical manifestation of a designer's vision" of how a cell functions.  

The walk-thru model, one million times larger than life, was unveiled in September 1958 at the American Medical Association's meeting in San Francisco.  It was a sensation, and would eventually pave the way for Burtin to create four more fantastic scientific models for Upjohn during his career.

cellular spectacular!

The full-sized Cell was an instant smash hit with scientists and non-scientists alike, but it was too huge to be easily moved, so Burtin designed a smaller version.  The new Mark II model was 6-feet tall and made its debut at a special reception in the foyer of the Los Angeles County General Hospital on August 12, 1959.  Like its larger predecessor, the new Cell was a marvel, described in a full page article in the Illustrated London News as "a glowing and mysterious hemisphere."

The Cell comes to Disneyland (1958)

For the opening of Disneyland in 1955, Burtin had designed the interior for the Upjohn Pharmacy on Main Street U.S.A.  Burtin and his wife Hilda had spent months collecting antique medical paraphernalia, period glassware, patent medicine powders, weigh-scales, and pharmacological books to furnish Walt Disney's turn-of-the-century drugstore.  Now Burtin's 6-foot "Basic Cell" would be added to the exhibit in a small room adjacent to the Pharmacy (today's jewelry counter in the rear of the Fortuosity Shoppe.)

Carol Burtin and the Cell (1958)

 It's estimated that two million people saw Will Burtin's Six-Foot Human Cell during its brief stay at Disneyland.  Certainly Upjohn must've felt they got their money's worth of publicity value, as visitors  left the exhibit with pieces of Upjohn literature, including a color souvenir postcard of the model with Burtin's teenaged daughter Carol, by photographer Ezra Stoller.

Will Burtin (right) with Dr. A. Gerrard Macleod in the Cell exhibit

From Disneyland, the cell traveled to the San Francisco Academy of Sciences, and pictures of it appeared in magazines, text books and science films throughout the 1960s and into the 70s.  Will Burtin believed that designers had a responsibility in the age of science to attempt to make complex scientific problems easier to understand.  In Burtin's mind the role of designer and teacher were interchangeable, and he hoped to inspire through his craft.

If you found this interesting, there is a wonderful new book available on Will Burtin's design work and his beautiful scientific models.  
Design and Science, The Life and Work of Will Burtin by R. Remington and R. Fripp is available from Amazon.  Order your copy here now!

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Knotts & Conway Period

It's rated G! 

A tip of the hat to my mom today who just unearthed this little masterpiece from God-knows-where.  I don't remember doing this at all, but I do recall that at age nine, I was enthralled by Don Knotts and Tim Conway.  With that criterion, The Apple Dumpling Gang was cinematic perfection.

Plus I'm sorta proud to admit it kinda looks like them!