Saturday, December 31, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Every Christmas Card I Write...

I'm a push-over for Christmas cards - specifically wonderful old cards. They're the best ones. We never purchase new cards each year, but instead send out used vintage cards, even if they're already written in. Simply sign your name under the previous sender just like you're endorsing a check. "Season's Greetings from Clyde and Flossie Humperdinck ... but mostly from Kevin!"

After years of mailing beautiful old cards out, never to be seen again (by us), we've begun scanning them first. Our Virtual Vintage Christmas Card File is looking mighty fine right now. I've just shared twenty of our favorites on the Miehana Flickr gallery. Check them out here.

Merry Christmas from Great-Grandma Schmickle - and me!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A-Frame Doll House

A perfect gift for the cool kids on your Christmas list: a miniature mountain lodge you can build yourself! From Sunset Magazine, December 1961.

Both sides of the roof open out flat on the floor, and fold up for storage.

Built of 1/4" plywood, and pine molding, with a sheet of heavy clear plastic for the windows. The roof is painted with one thin coat of brick-red paint, and the shingles are simply drawn in with a soft pencil and a T-square. So easy. I seriously want one of these.

(And you can get the perfect furniture for it HERE... including a teensy Hemisphere Chair!)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Disneyland's Unknown Muppet Parade

"Here Come The Muppets" Parade models, 1990.

With the Muppets' recent comeback for a new generation, I was reminded of my brief brush with Muppetdom in early 1990. "Here Come The Muppets" was the title for a proposed Disneyland parade that would have featured giant inflatable characters rolling down Main Street on floats, similar to the balloons in the Pardi Gras parade (also 1990). Disney had just purchased the Muppets from Jim Henson for an estimated 150 million dollars, and the company was speedily making big (and wild) plans for Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.

Disneyland President Jack Lindquist had an idea of sending Mickey and the other Disney characters  on a year-long "vacation" away from the Park while the Muppets took over for the duration. Some of the concept sketches we saw at the time included draping the Disneyland marquee on Harbor Blvd with a big banner reading "Muppetland", painting the Matterhorn green, and replacing the Mickey flower bed in front of the Train Station with Kermit's face.

Thankfully, none of this came to pass, but the Disneyland Art Department certainly enjoyed working on several Muppet parade models. In the photo above, Kermit, Sweetums, Dr. Teeth, and Animal were all sculpted by Rich Collins. I did Fozzie and Beaker. Miss Piggy was done by Scott Sinclair, and Jackie Perreault sculpted Swedish Chef. One other model I'd started but never completed: Gonzo in his super-hero cape and red tennis shoes.

Beaker and Fozzie sculptures in Plasticine. In the final ver-
sion, Fozzie sat on a steamer trunk full of vaudeville props.

On May 16th, 1990, Jim Henson died unexpectedly of pneumonia. I heard the news on KCRW while driving to work that morning. It was a terrible shock, made even more surreal because of the project we had been immersed in for months. With Henson gone, Disneyland's Muppet deal immediately floundered, and we were told to stop working on the parade. Any artwork that we had done featuring Muppets was packed onto a truck and taken away (possibly to the Henson company?) Maybe there's a warehouse somewhere with all our models packed away in crates. At any rate, I'm glad we snapped a few photos while we had the chance!

TV's "Magical World of Disney" welcomed the Muppets to the family. (1990)

Friday, December 02, 2011

STUDIOS Photo Shoot

Hey, we're in a magazine! The current issue of Studios Magazine has a feature article on the Kevin & Jody Co. studio -- and with some very pretty pictures. Sure wish our workplace was this tidy all the time...

This is where I work. The radio is always on.

The ever-changing Wall O' Projects. (Yep, we have no ceiling!)

Jody's Paint Headquarters.

Some beautiful stuff happens at this table.

Pick up the Winter 2011 issue of Cloth-Paper-Scissors' Studios Magazine at any Barnes & Noble books, or at a Michael's crafts store near you.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I Speak For The Tree

Diagram of Disneyland's Plaza Pavilion mural, 1962

A warning. Today's blog post ends with a tragic account of loss and oblivion. So, if you're blissfully content with the aesthetics of your world, and wish to remain so, you might want to skip this one. Otherwise, read on!

I write a lot about Disneyland on this blog, and for many of you, that's why you come here. Disney doesn't pay me to do it. I'm passionate about the art and artists that interest and inspire me, and the classic Disneyland of the 1950s, 60s and early 70s was something very special and unique. There was nothing on earth like it. There were no "DisneyParks®" or global "Where Dreams Come True" marketing initiatives back then - there was only Disneyland. That's the Disneyland that I like, and spend time thinking about. A great deal of "classic" still exists in the park today, in quiet spots, still undisturbed by corporate synergy or the inappropriate placement of Pixar characters. But the best bits of Disneyland exist now only in photographs, old audio recordings, in vintage paper ephemera, and in our memories.

Growing up with Disneyland has been an inspiration to me my whole life, and not just for the obvious things. The inspiration to travel, to explore, to read, to paint, to sculpt are all things that I can attribute back to Disneyland visits. The sounds emitted by the Penny Arcade's antique music machines, the lush greenery of Adventureland and the Rivers of America (a particular novelty to me growing up in the Arizona desert), the folk songs heard in America Sings, and the tingly excitement of voyages through Inner Space and "liquid space" electrified the fine hairs on the back of my neck.

And there were also beautiful hand-made works of public art all through the park that made me want to become an artist myself: from Mary Blair's splendid ceramic tiles that gift-wrapped the corridor of Tomorrowland to the original dioramas in Sleeping Beauty's Castle. But my favorite work of art, by far, was a magnificent cooking-themed mural on a wall inside the Plaza Pavilion restaurant.
Do you remember it??

The exterior of the Plaza Pavilion, presented by Stouffer's. 1962

Finding a good color photograph of the mural is like tracking down Bigfoot, despite the fact that it was in full-view right there in the serving line, with millions of people sliding their cafeteria trays past it for over thirty years.

It's right through those doors. See it?

Well miraculously, on just a regular day in 1993, I happened to have the great foresight to take a picture of it. One solitary picture with my old beat-up Polaroid camera. It was such an afterthought on my part to take a photo that day, since the mural had been there my entire life and , of course, would always be there forever. Right?

And here it is. This photo does not do the mural justice.

Painted against a blazing metallic gold 'foil' background, the mural depicts a tree with its branches carrying an exotic array of foods from different regions of America and Europe. There are teapots and soup tureens, strings of sausages, Danish coffee cakes and a wedge of gooseberry pie. There are frog legs and crawfish, strange cheeses, aspics, and seafood in green gelatin, frothy steins of German hefeweizen, a coffee mug with a sour cream doughnut, and a silver dish of ice cream with a peach-half and a green candied cherry. Behind the food, in evocative dark brown silhouette, are cast-iron stoves and beer kegs, a slaughtered wild turkey and a flintlock blunderbuss, the disembodied head of a steer, a wooden ice cream churn and other archaic culinary implements and imagery that I can't even identify.

The subject matter and the obvious research involved in gathering together this panoramic smorgasbord of gustatory glories is breathtaking. No matter that the Plaza Pavilion, featuring a menu based on Stouffer's popular restaurants, did not offer any of these dishes. The mural conveyed to patrons the idea of fine dining and abundance. Two well-worn English expressions adorn a ribbon trailing through the tree's foliage: "Cooking is the oldest of all arts" and "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

According to the Imagineering research library, the mural was created by a small team of Disney's finest. The penciled signature of art director Ken O'Connor (who among many contributions created the magical coach in "Cinderella") is on the back of one of the concept sketches. Paul Hartley, another revered art director responsible for many of Disneyland's famous attraction posters is also credited.

And speaking of attraction posters by Paul Hartley, the Stouffer's Pavilion had a great one. A popular image today purely for its inclusion of the Tahitian Terrace and the Enchanted Tiki Room (also intended to be a restaurant initially), the final poster actually references the tree mural!

(Left to right) Two "Stouffer's in Disneyland" poster concepts and the final design.

The tree with coffee and tea pots - and the sour cream doughnut.

In 1997, at the end of the summer, the Plaza Pavilion restaurant closed forever, but the building reopened sometime later as an Annual Passholder sales center. Stopping in to look at the mural, as I often had before, I was alarmed to see that it was gone! The wall was now covered with embossed wallpaper and there were a few framed posters and a cake mold nailed to it.

I expressed my horror to a friend at WDI who informed me that the mural was considered to be a treasure, and had not been removed or painted over, but was actually safe and sound behind the new wallpaper. There had been no budget for the removal of the painting, and not wanting to confuse people coming in to renew their annual passes, Imagineering had carefully placed a cut-to-fit cushion of foamcore board over the painted surface before the temporary outer covering had been put up. Someday, the hope was, either the Plaza Pavilion location could be reborn as a restaurant, or the mural would be rescued. Have no fear.

The AP Center in 2009. The mural sleeps.

And now - the rest of the story.

Fast-forward to this summer, August 2011. After over a decade, the AP Center is finally gone for good, and word goes out that the historic Plaza Pavilion will once more return as a fabulous food service venue. Construction barriers surround the building's facade in preparation for its transformation into a Mary Poppins bakery! Hurrah! Jody and I start talking about the mural to all our Imagineering friends. The WDI art library expresses interest in preserving the mural in their permanent collection if it's not to be included in the Poppins renovation. I toss around the notion of dedicating a blogpost to the mural's history as soon as it's unearthed. My old Polaroid photo now looks especially grainy and discolored as I consider the beautiful new photos I'll take once I finally see my favorite Disneyland work of art again.

On September 1, Jody and I are in the park for an evening event and peer for the hundredth time through a quarter-inch gap in the blue construction wall, and we gasp. There it is!!!

Captured with my iPhone. The mural's final photo.

We can just make out a small portion of the art...the top of the tree, the old familiar coffee cup, the sour cream doughnut...visible above the foam wall board! We jump for joy and I immediately text a photograph of it to everyone we know.

A week and a half goes by, and we don't hear anything. Anxious, I make some calls up to WDI and leave messages. "Heard anything? Can we go over to the park and see it??"

Finally, a friend calls me back, and the news is horrible. The demolition crew on the project were told to remove a wall, and remove it they did. In the process, they uncovered the mural, but not having received any official instructions on what to do with it, totally destroyed it. Something about a concern for asbestos in the walls required all pieces to be deposited into biohazard bags and discarded.

I wish I had a happy ending to this story but I don't. It's taken me several months to digest it myself. As an artist, you go through your whole career hoping to create something beautiful, something that lasts, and that has an impact on those who experience it. The time, effort, and care that goes into creating something, whether for a commercial end or not, has a value. The mural would have been so easy to save, had someone in charge of this project not been so out of touch. You could say "Well, so what. It's just a restaurant mural of food. There are bigger problems in the world." Yes there are. But small losses like this and the attitudes that allow it tend to extend out in a wider arc. I know Disney values their past, even if only to package the past into ways to earn revenue from the most loyal portion of their audience. I don't believe that anyone purposefully intended for the mural to be demolished, but I believe it happened because no one cared to follow up on it, or bothered to put it on the 'to do' list. Budgets are only assigned to new stuff coming in, rarely for the preservation or documentation of old stuff going out. The Plaza Pavilion mural is destined for obscurity, and I can't shake my personal feeling that Disneyland is a lesser place without it.

So, art lovers, I turn to you. There's no hope to document a work of art that no one can take a picture of, unless pictures were already taken. Do you remember the Pavilion mural? Were you freaked out by the frog on the cutting board, as I was? Do you have a shot of the mural tucked away in your old vacation slides? Disney doesn't seem to have any good documentation of it in their official files, and all I've got is this one crummy Polaroid.

*Note: This post is the result of years of searching to find out more information about this artwork, and the long wait for the mural to be uncovered and rediscovered. Now that it's gone, this post and the pictures shared are all that I have. I hope someone out there has a better image of it, or more information on its creation, so together we can keep this lost piece of history alive and accounted for.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

How I Make a Poster

Paper illustration © Kevin Kidney

Earlier this year I was hired to create a promotional campaign for a holiday entertainment company using paper sculpture. I love Christmas and everything about the holidays so I was really excited about this project. Above is a scene that I put together for a poster. People often ask me to show more "behind the scenes" in making and photographing one of my illustrations, so this might be a good time to do it.

The first thing that I do, after talking things over with the client and doodling in my sketch book, is the layout:

A layout is simply my pencil drawings placed in a digital mock up, with a bit of shading and value. I try to figure everything out during this stage so I won't have problems to fix later. For this project, I experimented a bit with colors...

For me personally, choosing colors is the most difficult part of the whole thing.

Once I get the "go ahead" to continue, I start building my image. I had a very specific idea of how I wanted the "Holiday Village" typeface to look, with lots of whimsy and beveled edges:

Every part of the picture, including the lettering, is cut out of colored paper with an x-acto knife and assembled with strong tacky glue. I like to work very clean, so I keep a dampened dishcloth nearby to periodically wipe off my hands and fingers. Dirt, oil or glue will smudge the paper and ruin everything. Grungy is not my style, anyway.

Some of the paper bits are LITTLE and the slightest breeze will send them flying off my table like tiny leaves. I won't tell you how many times I had to search the floor for Santa's eyebrows.

Finally, it's all assembled like a miniature theatrical set, and carefully lit like one, too. It's very important the shadows fall where they're supposed to. This year I bought an excellent new camera that takes hi-def images, so conceivably, I could create artwork for a freeway billboard, if necessary!

I can fudge details in photoshop later (for print work) but I strive to keep that to a minimum. CG imagery is not as exciting to me, and part of the magic of making something look hand-made is to avoid over-polishing it in the computer afterwards.

And that's about all there is to it. Merry Christmas everybody!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Peg-Legged Legos!

We recently discovered the amazing work of Henning Birkeland, a digital artist in Norway who specializes in 3D visual effects and animation. He also happens to be a wizard with Lego bricks! Henning has built just about everything with them, from a Back To The Future Delorean to this familiar guy based on our Pirate Parrot replica for Disney.

"I had a lot of green and orange bricks that I never use so I thought I would try something different... I found out that a Parrot would be perfect for the colours. When searching for reference I found a great model made by Kevin Kidney & Jody Daily:
I did a quick model in 3D and converted it to Legobricks..."

Wow, Henning, it looks fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

View more of Henning Birkeland's work on his website, and while you're there, be sure to watch his show reel. Good stuff!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mary Blair!

The Indian Chief from Peter Pan, 1953

Artist Mary Blair would have been 100 years old today, and to join in this week's love-fest for her incredible body of work, I would like to present a few of my personal favorites. Each of these pieces - whether done in pastel chalk, watercolor, or ceramic tile - display the brilliance of her design and color magic. Mary Blair was awesome.

Background study for the "Jesusita en Chihuahua" sequence,
The Three Caballeros, 1945

"You Belong To My Heart" sequence, The Three Caballeros, 1945

"Zandunga" sequence from The Three Caballeros, 1945

"Zandunga" sequence from The Three Caballeros, 1945

Old Saint Nick, Christmas Card

Mermaid Lagoon, Peter Pan, 1953

A nine-tile "test" for the Jules Stein Eye Institute mural, 1966

Mary Blair shares a tandem bicycle ride with her boss in 1941, Rio de Janeiro.

Happy Birthday, Mary Blair, and thanks for all the beauty you gave us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's Andy Anaheim!

The original Andy Anaheim model sheet, drawn by the Walt Disney Studio, early 1954.

Of course, you know all about Andy Anaheim, right?

If you just happen to be in Anaheim this Saturday, I'll be hosting a presentation about Andy at the Anaheim Historical Society CITRUS CELEBRATION in Founders' Park. It'll be old-fashioned home-towny fun.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ghoulish Delight

Jody and I will be traveling to Walt Disney World for the resort's 40th anniversary on October 1, and Disney asked if we might create something special for a Haunted Mansion themed auction that takes place the night before, on September 30th. We decided on a unique interpretation of the Hatbox Ghost - a one-of-a-kind maquette based on artist Collin Campbell's original painting for the famous 1969 Disneyland Record, "The Story and Song from The Haunted Mansion."

For decades, old Hattie's legend was kept alive for thousands of kids lucky enough to own a copy of this LP, with its "magnificent full-color illustrated book." There was (and still is) something deliciously disturbing and exciting about Collin Campbell's illustrations, and the very best page was the the one that showed "a cloaked man whose head disappears from his body and glows hideously from within a hat box."

As far as we know, we've never seen a three-dimensional figure based on Campbell's Haunted Mansion illustrations, so this may very well be the first. Our 8-1/4" tall ghost was cast from my sculpture and then hand-painted by Jody in Campbell's illustrative style, with "hair" fibers added on as a final touch. The maquette is displayed on a wooden base made of antique weathered barn wood, under a glass bell jar. When viewed through the wavy glass, the figure takes on a mildly distorted appearance that makes him even more ghostly.

Hope to meet some of you in Florida.

Here is where we'll be...

Friday, September 30, 2011 -- WDW's Contemporary Resort
Signing at the Contemporary Resort gift shop from 10am-12pm

Saturday, October 1, 2011 -- WDW's actual 40th Anniversary
Diamond Horseshoe in the Magic Kingdom from 1pm-3pm

Monday, September 05, 2011

September Song

So, how was your summer? Wonderful, I hope.  Mine was outstanding.  

This summer Jody and I went to a bunch of great parties (and threw a couple of really good ones, ourselves), we took some memorable road trips with friends, enjoyed countless bicycle rides on both U.S. coasts, finally landscaped the backyard, and still found time to hang out as much as possible with all our neighbors at the Anaheim Brewery.

But this doesn't mean we goofed around from May to September.  We also worked our tails off.  The Soundsational Parade opened at Disneyland in May and we were part of the promotional hysteria at the beginning.  (As a birthday present from the Disney team, I got to be a chimney sweep in the parade's premier!) We debuted new collectibles throughout the summer, for Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and D23.  We contributed to the new Trader Sam's enchanted tiki bar (and designed a line of custom drinkware that will appear at Sam's sooner or later). We built a pirate parrot, and now we're tackling an exciting project for Tokyo Disneyland.  All in all, one of the best summers of my life.

But one other thing happened this summer that on the surface might seem small, but for me is huge.  I fell in love with the city I live in.  So did Jody!  Anaheim is a uniquely American city with an amazing history, though it has always struggled to find an identity of its own. Except to those who actually live here, most people consider Anaheim to be synonymous with Disneyland, but I've discovered there is much more to this town than that.

In July I had the unbelievable good fortune of being elected vice president of the Anaheim Historical Society.  It's a 35-year old organization of enthusiastic folks who help preserve the history, public art and significant architecture of the city for future generations.  Anaheim's Historical Society is especially vital, and a fantastic organization to be a part of. 

We're about to have our annual kick-off event on Saturday, September 24th and I sincerely hope everyone reading this will come.  The "Citrus Celebration" in Founder's Park will be a wonderful little "small town" event with tours of two historic houses, the gigantic living tree that inspired Disneyland's Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse attraction, orange soda & vanilla ice cream floats provided by Ruby's diner, fresh Anaheim-grown lemonade and presentations on the agricultural era for which Orange County is named.  We're putting a whole lot of effort into this so I hope you can come down and experience an Anaheim I'll bet you never knew existed.

And I hope you'll consider becoming a member of the Society, as well, even if you don't live in Anaheim!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Parting is such sweet sorrow....

Pirate Parrot concept art by Marc Davis

Marc Davis, himself, with an early version 
of the Pirate Parrot animatronic.

Our replica of the final WDW figure for the D23 Auction tonight.

By tonight, our little parrot figure will have a new owner and be off on exciting adventures that the rest of us landlubbers can only imagine.  Jody and I became pretty attached to this little guy while we had him in our studio.  So much so, in fact, that Thursday night we carefully snuck him with us into Trader Sam's where some surprised folks lifted their "Lost Safaris" and "Shipwrecks" in his honor. (Several people took pix, which I'm sure we'll discover on facebook sooner or later!) 

At any rate, he's now in the hands of D23 and will go on the auction block at 8PM this evening.  If you happen to wind up being the lucky bidder, Jody and I will divulge to you the secret of what's inside the sealed barrel that he stands on! 
UPDATE:  The auction results are in.  Our salty ol' parrot sold for $5000.00 worth of solid gold doubloons.   Not too shabby for a bird with only one leg!  

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Art in Anaheim: Sculptor John Edward Svenson

1970 Downtown Anaheim, Home Savings 

Near a busy sunlit intersection in Anaheim dominated by the sounds of traffic and the occasional air-brake hiss of city busses, a young child is going for a joy ride with a trio of dolphins. His arms outstretched like a rodeo bronc buster, the youth seems barely capable of keeping his seat, as the creatures slip over and below the waves of an imagined sea.

Plaster presentation model for "Child on Dolphin," 10" high.
John Edward Svenson's sculpture celebrating the joyful spirit of childhood has enhanced the southwest corner of Harbor Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue (one mile north of Disneyland) for over forty years.  The bronze cast was commissioned for Anaheim's Home Savings of America branch in 1970, to accompany Millard Sheets' brilliant tile mosaic depicting the early years of Anaheim history.  Through his association with the Sheets Studio from the 1950s through the early 1970s, Svenson produced more than twenty sculptures for Home Savings and the Ahmanson Corporation all over Southern California.

1970, the original full-scale plaster pattern in Svenson's Studio.


Whenever I walk downtown and encounter the sculpture, I'm always drawn in by the pleasing flow of its shapes and the illusion of motion.  More idealistic than realistic, the piece has a magical "far away" quality that I like.  It seems to exist in a completely different world from its urban surroundings.

Chase Bank now owns the building and the artwork, and sadly the reflecting fountain has become an unkempt planter with the addition of a scraggly bougainvillea and a large rock resting on the fountain's original nozzles.   Someone (probably well intentioned) placed plastic pots of flowers into the basin at some point, but the plants have long since died and dried up, and the pots have become just more litter among the trash tossed in by people passing by.

Besides the obvious neglect and lack of stewardship on the part of the current owners,  there is no apparent signature or credit given to the artist, who still lives and works today from his studio in Upland. (Perhaps John Svenson's name is buried somewhere beneath all that landscaping bark?)

A beautiful new book "Exploring Form: The Life and Sculpture of John Edward Svenson" by the artist's son David is now available and is an enjoyable way to become re-acquainted with Svenson's amazing body of work.  Wouldn't it be fantastic if the city of Anaheim and Chase Bank would restore the fountain and Svenson's sculpture with the care and respect that it deserves?

UPDATE!  Art in Anaheim (Part Two): Sculpture Finally Gets Some Love!