Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Charles Phoenix, The Retro Holiday Man!

Charles Phoenix's laugh-out-loud retro holiday slide shows are a Christmas season favorite here in Los Angeles.  I've known Charles for over 15 years and I'm always proud to tell people that Jody and I were at his very first show back in 1998. Each year, as his heap of Kodachrome eye-candy from the past grows bigger, his performances get better - and FUNNIER!

My original concept for the Charles Puppet. 

A few years ago, I proposed doing a stop-motion animated segment for the Charles Phoenix Holiday Jubilee at the REDCAT theater in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex.  Starting late in the year, we ran out of time to film the animation, but stills of the 16-inch puppet and paper backdrop were used for publicity and as the cover of the program.  The project was a sheer delight.

Last week Charles appeared on the Conan TV show with the ultimate yuletide snackable - the Astro-Weenie Christmas Tree.  It's pure Charles Phoenix brilliance.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Paint Like It's 1930!

Above is a sketch for an unused Walt Disney Studio greeting 
card created by an uncredited artist in the early 1930s. 

Over 70 years later, Jody completes the final painting which, in turn, is published by Disney as a boxed set of greeting cards. 

 It's not easy to mimic vintage paint techniques, but I think Jody did a very convincing job, making it look as though the final art had actually been completed in the 1930s.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Happy Birthday Walt Disney

He would've been 109 today.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Down By The Station, Early In The Morning...

On November 13th, bright and early, Jody and I will be down at Disneyland for the release of our newest collectible based on a classic attraction:  The Nature's Wonderland Mine Train.  From 1960 to the mid 70s,  these bright yellow little trains carried passengers on a scenic adventure through the "unspoiled wilderness" of Frontierland.

Traveling over creaky wooden trestles, through cool rock caves, and beneath a natural arch bridge, passengers viewed over 200 animated animals and birds representing "almost every specie still roaming the North American continent", according to the original press release.

The unpainted, first prototype

Although Jody and I both can say we have ridden through Nature's Wonderland, we were too young to remember anything about our experiences. Our model, on it's own trestle base, is carefully copied from stacks of photos and the original vellum draftings stored in a big flat drawer at Walt Disney Imagineering.

Creating the realistic Olympic Elk figures for the attraction.

Legendary designer Bob Gurr (that's him above in the green shirt) built mechanisms for many of the realistic animals that inhabited the ride.  "Nature's splendor" culminated in the colorful Rainbow Caverns, a florescent watery-wonderland of underground stalactites, stalagmites...and, of course, black lights.

Spoiler alert!  (Although, really, how can we spoil something that doesn't even exist any more?) Here is a RARE view of a portion of the Rainbow Caverns during a routine refurbishment in the 1960s.  The water is drained, work-lights are on, and a workman's power cord stretches across the tracks, ruining the illusion, but allowing us to appreciate "how it was done"!  

Rocky cut-outs obscure rows of lights, while electric fans mounted on the walls create a refreshing breeze for passengers still warm from their trip across the arid "Living Desert".

We dearly love the Mine Train and wish we could still take a trip through Nature's Wonderland today (although Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of our favorite Disneyland rides, and retains several of the effects and scenes from its predecessor.)  

Tomorrow mornin', if'n you're in our part of the wilderness (that is Anaheim), why not mosey on down to the Disneyland Gallery on Main Street and visit for a spell? Jody and I will be there, along with Bob Gurr, to sign Mine Trains and shoot the breeze from 9am to 11am.  Hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hell on Wheels

Another of Jody's paintings...banned from Disneyland!

CRASH! BANG!  All that reckless driving has apparently done us in, but the kid in the striped shirt isn't phased.  He's still merrily on his way, in spite of the little devils laughing at his predicament in this original acrylic painting by Jody Daily.

Sadly, you'll never see this fabulous art piece for sale at Disneyland because Disney's legal department gave it the axe.  Why?  Your guess is as good as mine, but this glowing red creation of Jody's is one of my utmost favorites.  I love the gaping --but subtle-- "Mouth of Hell" at the top of the painting, with the mangled train tracks and, just beyond, the cool moonlit countryside where moments earlier, we were enjoying a wild ride in Mr. Toad's motorcar.

The "Mouth of Hell" welcomes us with fiery blacklight in 
this 1955 photo taken inside the Disneyland dark ride.  

The Victorian-era "Cabaret de l'Enfer" (Hell Cabaret) was a popular Paris nightclub in the 1890s.  To my mind, it was the direct inspiration for Disneyland's version of the underworld.

 Cabaret de l'Enfer in 1952, not long before it closed forever.  Note the metal roll-down gate.

The "Cabaret de l'Enfer" was located in the Montmarte neighborhood of Paris, not far from other more famous nightspots such as the Moulin Rouge and the Gran-Guignol. 

In Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, we encounter devils and demons gleefully reaching out at us with pitchforks in a subterranean cavern...

...and in the above 1910 photo of the interior of the Cabaret de l'Enfer, it's obvious a similar theme was carried out even then.  This is fascinating stuff to me, and if you'd like to learn more, please check out the EXCELLENT "Long Forgotten" Blog.

A maquette for one of the devils in Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, circa, 1982.

Images from an eBay Auction, circa 2002.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How To Make a Replica of Walt Disney's Car

So, here's all you have to do.  First, drive up the 5 Freeway to Walt Disney Imagineering to request the original blueprints for Walt Disney's personal "Runabout" (making sure you have a valid project job number or you will get nowhere). After a full day spent searching their computer data bases, flipping through slide binders and rifling through old folders, try not to be too downhearted when you discover there isn't a single blueprint of Walt's car anywhere to be found.

Next go track down Bob Gurr, the retired Imagineer who, when only in his twenties, designed all of Disneyland's Main Street vehicles, Autopia cars, monorails, submarines, bobsleds and omnimovers, and buy him dinner and drinks, during which you strategically steer the conversation to be all about blueprints.  Try not to be too downhearted when Bob explains there never were any blueprints drawn for Walt's Runabout (because back then they could just build things without blueprints because they were all geniuses.)  But prepare to cheer up quickly when Bob magically brings forth a tattered piece of vellum with a beautiful pencil rendering of the car that he drew in 1960!

Bob's rendering and photos of Walt and Lillian Disney, and their grandchildren.
Notice the car's fringed roof was sometimes on—and sometimes off.

Now, head on down to Disneyland to study Walt Disney's car in person.  There were actually four of them built, and two still reside in Anaheim.  They don't appear in public much anymore, although when Bob Gurr received his Window on Main Street last year, he was escorted to the event site in one.  Make sure you are at that event, too, and take tons of pictures.
Realizing you need to get much more personal with the thing if your replica is going to turn out any good at all, hunt down the car in its parking spot backstage and photograph every detail you see.

If possible, climb up onto something really tall, like an electrical parade float or something, and photograph the car from above.

Special things like headlamps and tail lights should be photographed from every angle. Front, back, sides, top.

Crawl under the car and photograph the entire undercarriage, axles, drive chain and shaft, and those crazy old-fashioned shock absorbers.  (Gasp in amazement that the tires are actually from Italian motorcycles!)
After taking almost 100 photos and taking measurements of everything with the measuring tape you almost didn't remember to bring with you, go back to your desk and create a whole book of diagrams that explains everything you saw.  Don't leave anything out except for the details that are too miniscule to sculpt.
That goes for the paint details, too.  

Finally, go back to Bob Gurr and ask him what color you should make your replica since, after all, there were four cars with four different color schemes. He will tell you that his personal favorite was the maroon version seen in the 1960 photo below.  (Thank you, Daveland.)

So you make your little car maroon. 
And you think it looks real snazzy.

Our "Walt's Car" replica was released on October 16, 2010 for Disneyland's 55th Anniversary.  Bob Gurr himself joined us at the signing event at the Gallery on Main Street.  It was a fun, nostalgic morning at Disneyland that we'll never forget.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Original Swiss Family Robinson Tree FOUND!!!

Okay now.  Everyone take a deep breath.  This is really big news.  
The tree of our dreams has been found!   

The wonderful treehouse built by the shipwrecked Robinsons in the 1960 movie fired up my childhood imagination like nothing else. (Ironically, as I got older, the treehouse continued to have special significance for me!)  I'd drop everything in a heartbeat if I could build a bamboo home in the branches of an enormous tree, with a waterwheel turning in a little creek, and the excitement of the jungle all about.

So, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you Mr. Lennox Straker Jr., a resident of Tobago (where the film was shot) and, miraculously, a reader of my blog!  After I posted about the Swiss Family Robinson's tree a few months ago, Mr. Straker decided to take it upon himself to seek out and photograph the giant living Samaan tree used in the movie fifty years ago.  And he did it!

"Kevin, I stumbled upon your post of March this year "Some Really Big Roots" which mentioned the original Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse from the movie of 1960. I live on the island of Tobago in the Caribbean and did research on the tree and actually found it still very much alive in Goldsborough! 

"The tree has fallen into obscurity; only a few of the older people knew of its significance. As a matter of fact, not many people know of the film Swiss Family Robinson much less that it was filmed here in Tobago. Acting on info I found online about it being in Goldsborough I went up there and saw two possible suspects.  They were both close to the road at the end of what was once a playing field. I identified this tree only after realising the stream that ran in front of it (also visible in the movie) and then an old gentleman came around and I asked him where is the tree located and he said "you are looking at it." 

"The tree is on private lands and there are old appliances at its trunk and some of the branches have been cut, there is no physical evidence of anything in the trees but I did not go up close to see if possibly there were carvings or subtle evidence of the movie. 

"I do intend to go again though because, like you, this fascinates me. I think a plaque or something should be placed on this tree."

1959 movie treehouse concept by Art Director John Howell

John Mills and Dorothy McGuire reenact a scene from"Vertigo".

But that's not all!  Mr. Straker also identifies the swimming hole where the Robinsons  have their first "public holiday" in their new island home...

The two-tiered Craig Hall Waterfall is just off of the side of a road, and, apparently, easy to find.  The first tier falls into a large  pool, which then spills over the rock face into the river below.   Sounds like heaven!

A big heartfelt THANKS to Lennox Straker, for his excellent detective work, and for sharing his discoveries with us.  I'll be getting my passport in order and heading to Tobago ASAP!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"We're the Mouseketeers! We Want to Say Hello!"

So cute, it practically squeaks. These are details from a brand new painting by Jody Daily... 

"Hey there, Hi there, Ho there! You're as welcome as can be!"

The Leader of the Club!

It's ROY!

Jody's one-of-a-kind tribute to the 55th anniversary of the Mickey Mouse Club television show can be seen (in its entirety!) at the upcoming D23 "Destination D" Event in Anaheim, September 24-25.  Several of the original Mouseketeers will be there in person (all grown up now, shockingly!)  Jody and I will be there, too, with some new collectibles just perfect for the occasion.  See you there?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Snack Time!

Original illustration by Jody Daily, Acrylic Paint

It's everyone's favorite chip-lovin' cowpoke,  Frito Kid!