Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Remembering Diane, one last time this year, thanks to this great photo sent by Jim Korkis.

[The wedding of Diane and Ron on May 9, 1953 in a little Episcopal church in Santa Barbara.]

Monday, December 30, 2013

The cover for one of the most expected books of 2014 has been revealed. Can't wait.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Xmas to all of you. The blog will be updated again next week.
There were too many great Disney History books on too many very different subjects in 2013 for me to select the best one. Howevr, here are the key books of 2013 - those you really should not miss - in no particular order:

Johnson, Mindy: Tinker Bell - An Evolution published by Disney Editions; 2013.

Gennaway, Sam: The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream published by Unofficial Guides; 2013.

Gerstein, David (editor): Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: Color Sundays Vol. 1 "Call Of The Wild published by Fantagraphics; 2013.

Gerstein, David (editor): Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Color Sundays: "Robin Hood Rides Again" published by Fantagraphics; 2013.

Sherman, Robert: Moose published by AuthorHouse; 2013.

Lambert, Pierre: La Belle au Bois Dormant published by Editions de L'Ecole George Méliès; 2013.

Korkis, Jim: The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse published by Theme Park Press; 2013.
Korkis, Jim: The Vault of Walt: Volume 2 published by Theme Park Press; 2013.

Ghez, Didier (editor): Walt's People - Volume 13 published by Theme Park Press; 2013.

Ghez, Didier: Disney's Grand Tour published by Theme Park Press; 2013.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Do not miss this great report about Walt's visit to the Cleveland Zoo in 1961, courtesy of Bruce Bohner and Tom Livingston.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Help Needed - Again

Dear all: Our good "friend" Douglas Stone (A Glass) has done it again: he just posted a 1-star review about Disney's Grand Tour on Amazon. As you know it is especially ironic since no one has even received the book yet. Could I ask all of you who ordered the book to most a review on Amazon ASAP after reading it?

Thanks in advance!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Do not miss those amazing photos of Walt which have just been released on CartoonBrew!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It took me a month to accept the fact that Diane Disney Miller is gone.

As explained yesterday in the introduction of Disney's Grand Tour, the whole project began thanks to a question I received two and half years ago from Diane. Michael Barrier had been kind enough to introduce me to her by email in 2007, which led to a face to face meeting in New York a few months later. I had presented to Diane a project linked to Disney history preservation and told her that I would be in New York for a short vacation which might give us an opportunity to meet via video-conference. In what I later came to realise was Diane's typical enthusiasm she stunned me a few days before the trip by telling me that she had decided to fly from San Francisco to discuss the project face to face with me in New York. I had the pleasure to meet her on two ulterior occasions, both times in California, once a year before the inauguration of the Museum and once the day of the inauguration. Each time she struck Rita (my wife) and I as a bundle of energy and enthusiasm sharing candidly with us her passion for the Museum, her enthusiasm for new Disney-related projects, her frustrations with whatever was in the way and her millions of ideas. To say that she was full of life is the understatement of the century. She loved her parents, she enjoyed those who really cared, and she was immensly generous with her time and her memories.

It hurts to know that she won't see the book. It hurts to know that her enthusiasm is no longer there to move mountains. It hurts horrendously to think of the stupid accident. And yet her energy and passion were such that her light still shines bright in all of us, and that her youthfullness is still alive.

She became for a few years the bearer of the flame when it came to preserving Disney History. The burden is back on our shoulders. It is only justice.

Rest in Peace.

As promised, here is the introduction I wrote for Disney's Grand Tour:

[For more than twenty years, I kept hitting a brick wall.

The official history of Disney in Europe seemed to start after World War II. We all knew about the various Disney magazines which existed in the Old World in the ’30s, and we knew about the highly-prized pre-World War II collectibles. That was about it. The rest of the story was not even sketchy: it remained a complete mystery. For a Disney historian born and raised in Paris this was highly unsatisfactory. I wanted to understand much more: How did it all start? Who were the men and women who helped establish and grow Disney’s presence in Europe? How many were they? Were there any talented artists among them? How did the businessmen operate? Where exactly did Disney have offices? How were those offices structured? How did Walt and Roy interact with them?

I managed to chip away at the brick wall, by learning about the existence of Disney’s first representative in Europe, William Banks Levy; by learning the name George Kamen; and by piecing together the story of some of the early Disney licensees. This was still highly unsatisfactory. We had never seen a photo of Bill Levy, there was little that we knew about George Kamen’s career, and the overall picture simply was not there.

Then, in July 2011, Diane Disney Miller, Walt Disney’s daughter, asked me a seemingly simple question: “Do you know if any photos were taken during the ‘League of Nations’ event that my father attended during his trip to Paris in 1935?” And the solution to the great Disney European mystery started to unravel. This “simple” question from Diane proved to be anything but. It also allowed me to focus on an event, Walt’s visit to Europe in 1935, which gave me the key to the mysteries I had been investigating for twenty-three years. Remarkably, in just two years most of the answers were found.

As we will see, Walt’s trip to Europe with his family proved to be one of the most influential journeys he ever undertook. It took place in the midst of the Golden Age of Disney animation, at the height of Walt’s international fame and professional success, and had a tremendous impact on his sources of inspiration and on his understanding of the world. The itinerary of the journey (United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy) was reminiscent of the one young aristocrats from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century would follow during their Grand Tour, the traditional initiatory trip of their youth. No history of Disney would be complete without a thorough understanding of what happened during Disney’s Grand Tour and what it meant to Walt and to those who surrounded him.

It was therefore with pure delight that I read Roy and Edna Disney’s diary of the trip and that I explored Walt and Roy’s correspondence from the months of June and July 1935.
But what made the journey even more special from my standpoint is that the mystery I had struggled with for so many years started to unravel: I finally understood the history of Disney in Europe before the Second World War. I discovered who was who; I understood how the Disneys had set-up their operations in Europe and how those structures had evolved during the ’30s; I understood how their European creative and business ventures operated and how they interacted with them. In other words, following a thin thread, I was able to peek behind the brick wall.

Why did it take so long? In short, because solving the mystery meant reaching a very high level of maturity in terms of Disney knowledge and personal knowledge, as well as being helped by tools which did not exist even a few years ago.

From a personal standpoint, I had to be able to read documents in French, English, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, and to get help when it came to translating those in German, Swedish, and Danish. The mastery of those languages took years to achieve.

From a Disney-knowledge standpoint, I had to thoroughly understand the business history as well as the creative history of the company, I had to know who was who within the Disney corporate structure in the ’30s, and I also had to locate many documents that were extremely well hidden, like the never-released autobiographies of O.B. Johnston, Jimmy Johnson, and Mel Shaw, or the Robert Hartman Papers. Each of them contained key pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, which shed new light on the entries in Roy and Edna’s diary and on Walt and Roy’s correspondence, all of which led to a cascade of new discoveries.

Finally, I was lucky to have access to tools that historians of the past did not have at their disposal. Although researching the origins of Walt Disney – Mickey Mouse S.A. at the Registre du Commerce is still done the old-fashioned way and involves physically getting there and being locked up in the room for several hours without any digital tool, there were many instances in which access to online archives proved to be a game-changer: from the Open Library, to Gallica.bnf.fr, to the online archives of the Daily Mirror and The New York Times. In one instance, the old and the new merged in astonishing ways: when I tried to locate the address of the 1930s Italian Ministry of Press and Propaganda (to find out if Walt had actually met Benito Mussolini), I had to rely on some 1934 footage which had been posted online, in an excerpt from a 1936 book quoted in an online forum, and on Google’s StreetView! None of these tools—old and new—alone would have done the trick.

In the end, the brick wall crumbled, and I am able to lead you to the other side. I thought I was just following Walt’s footsteps—I ended up discovering a whole new Disney History continent.]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Disney's Grand Tour is now available for pre-order on Amazon and should start shipping later this week. The Kindle version should also be released in a few days. In the meantime I wanted to share some information about the book.

You have probably already guessed this by now, but I am extremely proud of this book. I consider it as my most important contribution to Disney History to date. It is a small hardcover book (6' x 9' - 162 pages) but every single page is full of new information about Walt's trip and about the early history of Disney in Europe. In fact I would say that about 80% of the text shares brand new information. Many of the photos had also never-been-released in a book before today. And the 215 endnotes, if you take time to read them carefully, will take you to another dimension of knowledge alltogether. The book will be priced at $35, due to its high production costs.(The Kindle version will cost $9.99.)

To say that I am passionate about this book is an understatement. It is THE Disney history book I had wanted to write all my life.

Here is what Paul F. Anderson, John Canemaker, J.B. Kaufman and Jim Korkis had to say about Disney's Grand Tour:

[I am proud to say that I was present for the genesis of this magnificent book. Some years back I asked Didier to write a guest essay for the Disney History Institute. Didier and I had talked about possible subjects, and he decided that Walt’s 1935 trip (the Grand Tour) would be perfect; moreover, it was something we had discussed before and he was extremely passionate about it. If you know Didier (and I am proud to say he has been a dear friend for over twenty years) you know that when he encounters a story about which he is eager, enthusiastic, and emotional he will leave no stone unturned to find absolutely every historical fact available on this planet! With this desire to “find it all” burning in him, this essay, as I suspected, turned into a book—his magnum opus, a true genius work of Disney history. Never before in our field of studying Walt, has something been so brilliantly researched, expertly stitched together, and lovingly written! This work is an amazing testament to who Didier Ghez is and to the dedication he has to Walt Disney’s legacy. It is for this reason that I believe that this is the first of many amazing works from Didier, that prove what I have always known—he is the historian that will set the standard for Disney history and research for the next twenty-five years. If you want to see what that future will be like, then you start with this book. You won’t be sorry!

Paul F. Anderson. Disney historian and co-editor of the Disney History Institute

Didier Ghez's amazing new book on the grand European tour of Walt and Roy Disney and their wives in the summer of 1935 is so meticulously researched and written in such vivid detail that the reader will swear they were actually there, too!  The way the Disneys traveled, the celebrities they met, their intimate reactions to places, people and events is recreated in prose that is as illuminating as it is entertaining. The impact of the trip affected in a positive way future Disney movies, artists hired at his studio and designs for the theme parks.  This is a major scholarly addition to our knowledge of Walt Disney during one of the most crucial periods of his career.

John Canemaker
Academy Award-winning animation director, author and NYU professor

It’s no secret that Walt and Roy Disney and their wives visited Europe in 1935, but most of us haven’t known much about the trip. Now, thanks to Didier Ghez, we have a definitive account, and it’s a fascinating story. This was more than a vacation; here the Disneys engaged with European cultures in ways that would have a lasting impact. Didier’s passion for Disney history is well known, and here he combines it with his own European background, and a wealth of meticulous research, to bring this story to vivid life. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for this book.

J.B. Kaufman

Disney historian Didier Ghez is a persistent, patient and passionate researcher who has uncovered the real story of Walt's 1935 European trip.   Using first-hand accounts, this outstanding book allows Disney fans to accompany Walt and Roy on an always fascinating moment-by-moment visit to England, France, Germany and Italy. Even after decades of research, I learned something new on every page of this incredible story.

Disney historian Jim Korkis, author of "Vault of Walt"]

Come back tomorrow to read the Introduction, which explains why the book is so special in my mind and shares some of what it took to research it and to write it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sold recently on Howard Lowery: Roy in Mexico, January 1951.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Robert Sherman's autobiography is now available in physical format. I just ordered my own copy today.

David Johnson has just posted online the 2nd chapter of his outstanding book about Snow White. Enjoy!

Do not miss today:

- Walt's First Park Part 1 - After Polo by Todd James Pierce and Paul F. Anderson (Outstanding essay!!)
- Saving Mr. Disney by Mark Evanier
- Mary Poppins' Soundtrack by Jim Korkis

The Disney History blog has been updated yesterday.

Friday, December 13, 2013

I received yesterday the proof copy of Disney's Grand Tour and have approved publication. The book looks absolutely great and it should be released by early next week. I will keep you updated, of course. More soon...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Didier Ghez: Why did you decide to release an updated edition of your biography of Paul Frees?

Ben Ohmart: Perhaps from the time I finished the 1st edition, I knew there would be a 2nd edition. More and more info kept coming in and I had to put a stop to it sometime, or else the book would never get out! And then when the family of Paul's first wife found me and said they had letters to and from he and his first time from WWII, that's when I really started working on the 2nd edition.

DG: How much of the new information is related to Paul's Disney career?

BO: I'm afraid Disney fans who already have the 1st edition aren't going to be impressed with extra Disney info. There is none. But. If you're a True Disney fan, like me, you're going to want to know more about Paul Frees, the Person. And this book has more personal info about Paul the man and husband than the 1st edition, by a long shot.

DG: You are rumored to be working on a biography of composer Buddy Baker. How is that project progressing?

BO: My part has been done for probably 2 years now. I'm afraid I've been waiting on Disney composer Tish Eastman to finish her part - on the Haunted Mansion and Disney music. I did everything else. But I can't get responses from her, and I know my contract with her has run out. So maybe I should try to find someone else now. Someone with a great knowledge of Disney music, to work with.

DG: Any other projects linked to Disney that you are working on at the moment?

BO: Not personally. But we have new books coming out monthly, so I'm sure there will be Something. I hope to have something related to The Black Hole next year. I love that movie.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

David Lesjak is sharing with us very generously this wonderful and extremely rare photo of Walt:

[June 26, 1934. "Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse film cartoons, will lead the grand march of the fifth annual DeMolay conclave to be held in San Diego this week-end. Disney is president of the International DeMolay Alumni Association. He is shown at left, with Charles Emory Wright, member of the grand council in Southern California, and Mickey Mouse."]

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

World-famous Disneyana collector Mel Birnkrant has just released a spectacular series of 4 ebooks documenting his whole collection. These ebooks are truly a treasure trove for colletors like myself. Don't waste time: download them ASAP.

Monday, December 09, 2013

 This just in from Bruce Bohner:

[I ran across these photos taken at The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo back when it was the city-owned Cleveland Zoo. Walt's visit to the zoo was on August 13, 1961.]

Friday, December 06, 2013

If you already own all the other "Art of" books released in recent years by Chronicle Books, as I do, you already know exactly what to expect with The Art of Frozen. It's beautiful, very professionally produced and features marvelous concept art. My only regret, as always, is that the text is so short. Since I always enjoy reading Charles Solomon's prose I am especially sad that he was not given a little bit more space to explore the creative process behind this movie. That being said, I loved the book and was especially seduced by the art by Jean Gillmore, Claire Keane and Mike Giaimo. 

Do not miss today:

- “Walt”: The Disney Biopic That Never Was by Mike Bonifer
- A Chance to Step Into Disney’s Childhood by Brooks Barnes (Thanks to Michael Goldberg for the heads up)
- Walt Disney's Leadership by Jim Korkis

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Is there a better way of celebrating Walt's birth than to check out never-seen-before photos of Walt recently posted online by Andreas Deja?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

This just in from Garry Apgar:
[Diane, her dad, and “What Would Walt Do?”

Tomorrow, December 5th, will mark the 112th anniversary of the birth of Walt Disney. Two weeks from today, December 18th, the late Diane Disney Miller (and her many friends and admirers around the world) would have celebrated her 80th birthday. 

Over the last two decades Diane’s great public passion was her dedication to preserving, researching, and promoting the achievements and legacy of the man she referred to quite simply as “dad.” Diane, her husband Ron Miller, their son Walter, and other members of the Miller family turned that passion into action in 1997 by establishing the non-profit Walt Disney Family Foundation, whose first major project was an interactive biography on CD-ROM called Walt Disney: An Intimate History of the Man and His Magic (1998). Three years later, the Foundation released a 90-minute documentary on VHS (Walt Miller, Executive Producer) entitled Walt: The Man Behind the Myth. (A 2012 version of the film on DVD is 2 hours long.)

After the release of The Man Behind the Myth, Diane and the Foundation embarked upon a far more ambitious and more complex project: the creation of The Walt Disney Family Museum, located on the grounds of the Presidio in San Francisco, overlooking — as seen from the grand picture window in the back of the museum — the Golden Gate Bridge. 

The Walt Disney Family Museum, which opened on October 1, 2009, houses a fascinating and visually delightful array of art and artifacts, video, and other displays. In addition, under Diane’s leadership, the Museum initiated a program of exhibitions, the high point of which so far has been Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic, curated by Lella Smith, Creative Director of the Walt Disney Animation Research Library in Glendale. The Snow White show ran from mid-November 2012 through mid-April 2013 and traveled in June to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.

In tandem with the creation of the Museum, the Walt Disney Family Foundation launched The Walt Disney Family Foundation Press, which published two Snow White books in 2012. The first of these, an oversize 320-page volume, The Fairest One of All, is a definitive history of the film. A smaller, 256-page book, Snow White: The Art and Creation of Walt Disney's Classic Animated Film, was designed to serve as a “catalogue” or companion publication to the show curated by Lella Smith. Each of these handsomely produced books was written by the distinguished film and Disney historian, J. B. Kaufman, who is now working on a book for the Press on the making of Pinocchio, originally intended to serve as the companion volume to a second major exhibition, devoted to Walt’s second feature-length cartoon masterpiece, and planned for 2014 at the Disney Family Museum, but which for the time being has been taken off the schedule.

There have been a number of eloquent and heart-felt tributes to Diane since her death on November 19th, most notably, I think, those written by Leonard Maltin, Andreas Deja, and Charles Solomon

Today, however, to celebrate the memory of both Walt and Diane, I believe it might be nice to take a more light-hearted approach and reproduce the two images below. These images address, ironically (though that was not the intent, I’m sure, of their makers), the question that ever since Walt’s passing in 1966 seems to surface whenever a particular problem would arise at the Disney studio, or whenever the future of the studio itself appears to be at risk: “What Would Walt Do?”

The first image, posted online on March 23, 2009 by “Juanma”, is a spoof on the idea of what a Disney treatment of Lord of the Rings would be like. The second drawing is by the great caricaturist Robert Grossman, published around 1996 when the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame came out. Diane Miller loved Bob Grossman’s work. I don’t think she ever saw this particular image, but I am pretty sure she would get a chuckle out of it.

“What Would Walt Do?” ... Now that Diane is gone, anyone concerned about cultivating Walt’s legacy is entitled to ask, ”What Would Diane Do?” The answer is clearly two-fold. Remain curious about all things Disney, and keep fighting the good fight to get the word out about everything her dad did and the kind of man he really was.

Walt Disney was not just a genius and a visionary. He was a good man, a good husband and father, and an inspiring leader whose accomplishments were the result of hard work and perseverance as well as innate artistic talent. Walt Disney was, as I like to say, the tent-pole of modern American popular culture. And because popular culture is American culture, Walt’s impact on our lives has been more profound, and will be longer lasting, than that of any other artist, writer, or film-maker in our history.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

There is a new Carl Barks magazine in town and it is well worth picking up for the most serious fans among you.

Monday, December 02, 2013

The long awaited autobiography of composer Robert Sherman, Moose, is finally available in Kindle format and will be released as a physical book in the next few weeks. (Thanks to Joseph Titizian for the heads up.) Can't wait (well actually that is not completely true since I will await the physical release).

Friday, November 29, 2013

Not sure if this book is worth picking up, but I would love to find out...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Two spectacularly rare Disneyana items which recently sold on ebay. The Paragon China plate sold for $525 and the French postcard below went for $158. I had never seen those two items in more than 25 years of collecting.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Maurice Chevalier, Carol Channing and Walt Disney. Probably circa 1966. Thanks to Emmanuel Bourmalo for the heads up about this photo.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This just in from Jim Korkis (Do not forget to pick up Vault of Walt Volume 2 and The Book of Mouse!):

[The slogan for the 1935 version of the “Mickey Mouse Magazine” was “A Fun Book for Children to Read to Grown-ups.”   Roy O. Disney told publisher Hal Horne that the slogan was accurate because his young son (Roy E. Disney) spent an entire evening at a polo match reading the first issue and pestering his father by reading him the jokes.

“On the walls inside the (Hyperion) studio, in private offices as well as in conference rooms, are framed drawings of Mickey Mouse in every conceivable pose.  Painted on one door in red and gold is a shield bearing Mickey’s Coat of Arms.  The mystic words ‘Ickmay Ousmay” are inscribed on this heraldic emblem and they have puzzled studio visitors a good deal.  But guests who recall a jargon almost universal among American children grin and translate the gibberish into ‘Mickey Mouse’.  This was the language whereby dark secrets were kept from inquisitive adults.”  McCalls magazine  August 1932.
On November 17, 1978, the White House President Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy Carter hosted Mickey Mouse’s 50th birthday party for handicapped Washington, DC children. President Carter was there and joined in the singing of Mickey Mouse Club theme song.  Also in attendance was Disney animator Ward Kimball who whipped out seemingly endless drawings of Mickey Mouse for the President, Amy, other guests and even Secret Service agents dressed as clowns.

Emperor Hirohito of Japan was a huge fan of Mickey Mouse. He was given a Mickey Mouse watch as a gift during his special tour of Disneyland in 1975. For years, even on formal occasions, His Majesty was observed wearing the watch. In 1979, there was panic when the watch stopped ticking, and a concerned palace chamberlain rushed it to Tokyo experts specializing in American timepieces.  Fortunately, the watch merely required a new battery.   When Hirohito died in 1989, he was buried at his request with the Mickey Mouse watch.
In 2012, Disney donated more than 100,000 Mickey Mouse plush to the Red Cross to give to children affected by disaster, who have lost everything. “The Mickey Mouse plush bring comfort to those impacted by disaster, which brings a sense of normalcy back into children’s lives,” said Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the Red Cross.]

Don't forget to check out this exhibition if you live in the area.

Monday, November 25, 2013

I still can't manage to write a proper homage to Diane, so in the meantime here is a small story that I believe you will enjoy.

Photoplay Magazine - October 1934

[My revered Walt Disney was at a cocktail party the other five o'clock with his charming, little wife. Such simple, genuine people, pet. You'd adore them. Mr. Disney hung  over the penthouse balcony by himself, admiring the Hollywood hills, so I slipped over and
commented with reverent voice on said scenery. That got us started. Pretty soon the  subject turned to wallabies. Wallabies?

Aren't you an ignoramus, though! Miniature  kangaroos, my child. And these were sent from some Australian admirers. (Pooh, that's nothing. You ought to see the elegant stuff he gets from Indian potentates!)

He keeps the wallabies in the yard and has a great time watching them. Even Diane Marie is crazy about them and she's only a baby with a rocking complex.

Papa Disney told me with a grin that the tiny dotter was going to have her picture taken in the garden, sitting in her focker, only she wouldn't stop rocking long enough. Mama Disney waited, Papa Disney waited, the photographer waited, but Diane Marie rocked on her non-stop flight. Suddenly, a baby wallaby popped out of its mother's pouch and skipped across the lawn. Diane Marie stopped dead still. Snap, went the quick-witted photographer, and now Papa Walt has gone back to drawing funny little pigs and bunnies with a relieved heart and a nice new picture of the Disney heiress.]

Friday, November 22, 2013

This just in from Jim Korkis (Do not forget to pick up Vault of Walt Volume 2 and The Book of Mouse!):

[On September 13, 1929 at the Fox Dome Theater in Ocean Park, California (managed by Harry Woodin who was the originator of the Mickey Mouse Clubs in the 1930s), it was announced that at the noon matinee “In Person.  Mickey Mouse’s Daddy, the man who originated the world’s most popular sound cartoon character: Walt Disney assisted by Carl Stalling at the piano and U.B. Iwerk (sic), cartoonist.  They’ll show you how they do it, and introduce ‘The Mickey Mouse Theme Song’.  Mothers and Fathers are urged to attend this program.”   Yes, this was just a children’s matinee.

Since 2006, Janet Esteves of Celebration, Florida has held the Guinness World Records book honor of the largest documented Mickey Mouse memorabilia collection in the world.  In 2006, it was 2,100 items and in 2013 the collection was officially 4,127 items that filled her 1,900-square-foot condo. Esteves actually estimates her collection at nearly 6,000 items, but many of them were packed away and unavailable for the final official count.

A survey of American children during the Great Depression uncovered that many kids thought Mickey was a dog or a cat, even though his last name was Mouse.  A 1935 “Time” magazine article stated: “Anyway, a current survey shows that children don’t think of Mickey as a mouse.  A good many of them were asked whether Mickey Mouse is a dog or a cat.  Almost half of the tots answered brightly, ‘A cat.’”

In 1969, it was reported that comedienne Carol Burnett once refused an offer of $500 for her classic 1930s Mickey Mouse watch, a gift from her husband Joe Hamilton.

The 1935 Romanian authorities banned Mickey Mouse films from cinemas after they feared that children would be "scared to see a ten-foot mouse in the movie theatre".

In the film "Bringing Up Baby" (1938), when Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn are mistaken for bank robbers and ordered to name their accomplices, Grant replies: "Mickey-the-Mouse and Donald-the-Duck".]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Help needed in London

I am looking once again for a volunteer in London willing to go to the British Film Institute to get access to a few great documents which shed light on the early days of Disney in the UK. A first volunteer already helped me a lot with this. But there are still a few great documents to extract and he is now too busy to go back one last time.

Could you please email me at didier.ghez@gmail.com?

 This just in from Jim Korkis. (Do not forget to pick up Vault of Walt Volume 2 and The Book of Mouse!)

Thanks to Timo Ronkainen for the heads up about this new book about Carl Barks. Not at all certain what it is worth.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A few tributes to Diane by:

- Leonard Maltin
- Floyd Norman
- Brian Sibley
- Jim Hill
- David Lesjak

I still cannot believe that Diane is gone and probably won't be ready to stare the reality in the face for a few more weeks or months.

Do not forget to read Remembering Diane Disney Miller by Jim Korkis for a wonderful tribute to a truly special woman.
Help Needed

I am working on the introduction for the "lost" autobiography of a Disney story artist of the Golden Age (I can't reveal the name yet) and need your help.

Could readers of Walt's People or of Don Peri's books, send me quotes from Disney artists or people who worked for Walt (not Disney's family members) which present Walt in a very favorable light? I am looking for "Walt the caring human being," or "Walt the marvelous boos" not "Walt the genius." Quotes from other books are fine too as long as you tell me exactly where they come from and as long as they are quotes from Disney artists or employees.

Please email me at didier.ghez@gmail.com
From Jim Korkis (Do not forget to pick up Vault of Walt Volume 2 and The Book of Mouse!):

[A witch doctor in the Belgian Congo reportedly used a homemade mask of “Mikimus” to provide a little extra magic.  When actor Doug Fairbanks went on a world tour, he showed Mickey Mouse movies to head-hunters of the South Seas Islands to keep them friendly. 

At the 1939 New York World’s Fair, A.W. Robertson, Chairman of the Board of Westinghouse, and Grover Whalen, President of the 1939 New York World’s Fair, placed a Mickey Mouse wristwatch into a sealed time capsule not to be opened for five thousand years (the year 6939) and buried fifty feet deep.  Also included were a kewpie doll, a pack of Camel cigarettes, a Gillette safety razor, a dollar in change, copies of “Life” magazine and more.

Excerpts from Mickey Mouse cartoons appeared in movies from other studios. A short clip from Mickey Mouse’s “Ye Olden Days” (1933) is seen at the beginning of the Fox Films, “My Lips Betray” (1933). Republic Pictures Corporation film “Michael O'Halloran” (1937) features an excerpt from “Puppy Love” (1933).  In Paramount’s “Sullivan’s Travels” (1941) is an excerpt from “Playful Pluto” (1934).

When a United States commemorative stamp was released in 1968, it featured the smiling face of Walt Disney but not Mickey Mouse.  Postal regulations at that time prohibited the placing of a Disney copyright notice on its stamps.  However, other countries around the world did not have similar restrictions so Mickey first appeared on a ninety lira stamp from the tiny republic of San Marino in 1970 with an appropriate copyright notice.

The October 7, 1932 “San Antonio Light” reported that one of Mickey Mouse’s birthday parties (celebrated that year on October first) was held at the prestigious Coconut Grove nightclub housed in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, with "Walt Disney cutting Mickey's birthday cake."]

This just in from Dan Lund:


Aria For A Cow, an animated short based upon a song of the same title by the award-winning team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, the men behind the music of Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and The Beast, is about to find its voice.

A multi-generational and multinational team of talent will enter a Santa Monica recording studio On December 6, to give voice to a cow to whom attention must be paid.

On Tin Pan Alley, great songs never die; they just wait around for the right moment to arise.   When veteran Disney animator, Dan Lund, contacted Sarah Ashman Gillespie - webmaster of Howardashman.com, a website about the work of her late brother, lyricist, director and writer, Howard Ashman – the moment was right for Aria For A Cow.

Lund took the reins of the project, bringing in Nikitha Mannam and Amos Sussigan - talented young filmmakers straight out of school - and veteran producer, Connie Thompson.  Singer Kate Pazakis soon signed on.

Working with great enthusiasm and talent and little money, the Aria team has created a kind of crowd-sourced, guerilla-filmmaking style,  which Thompson believes is the future of the art.   “We’re a small group of passionate people from all over the globe, working in new way, finding new solutions with limited resources and using technology to leverage talent from across the globe.”

It is a style of filmmaking that has garnered Sussigan and Mannam much attention and numerous awards for their first two animated shorts, Broken Wing and Swan Cake.

“I believe Howard would be thrilled to be contributing to the development of talented young people,” Gillespie says.  “Although his first love was theater, he loved animation – and he specifically loved seeing his words come to new life through animation.  For me, seeing Aria spring to life in the hands of such enthusiastic young talents is an absolute gift.”

Dan Lund, the mastermind behind the project, is particularly excited about working off the grid,  "I wanted this production to be fun and gather momentum that could transcend the lack of budget and studio support. The only way to get that forward motion is to surround yourself with people with something to prove."

In keeping with the way they worked on their first two shorts, Sussigan and Mannam have opened up the animation work on this project to a virtual world of creators.  Eager animators – set designers, model makers and background artists from Burbank to Bombay are now on the Aria team.  “Crowd sourcing can be challenging in terms of getting your point across over the Internet,” Mannam says.   “However, when we told people we were putting on this show, they immediately grabbed their toolboxes and marched into our global barn.”

A welcome surprise to the "Global Barn" is the recent inclusion of Linda Bel and the San Francisco Academy of Art University.  “Seeing Linda and her students showing up and ready to put on a show makes me feel like Linda and I did back in the day”, says Lund. Bell and Lund started their career together at the Disney studios animating on  "Beauty and the Beast" and remember fondly their time animating to the songs of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.

For Amos Sussigan, the project’s art director, working on Aria For A Cow is both a professional and a personal milestone, “Howard Ashman made my childhood a little more magical.  Beauty and the Beast is one of the first movies I ever saw.  When I go home to Switzerland, my grandparents and I still watch it together.  So I am both honored and excited to be able to work on such an ambitious and creative project.”

Production on Aria For A Cow has just begun.  With the good will and talent of artists around the world, a new song from Ashman and Menken will be brought back to life – through the magic of animation – in the spring of 2014.]

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Diane Disney Miller (1933 - 2013)

A terribly sad day. Still in shock. More later this week.

See this link for a little more info.

In celebration of Mickey Mouse’s 85th birthday coming up next Monday (November 18), our good friend Disney Historian Jim Korkis, a long time fan of Mickey Mouse, went deep into his personal archives and  will be supplying some “mouse-sized” anecdotes over the next few days (Do not forget to pick up Vault of Walt Volume 2 and The Book of Mouse!):

In 1932, there was a “Mickey Mouse Birthday Party of the Air” celebrated on NBC radio on the night of September 29.  The morning of September 30, George Rector, internationally known restauranteur, went on WJZ and NBC network to announce in honor of Mickey Mouse’s birthday a special (cheese) sandwich that would be featured in all A&P stores.

Mickey's fifth birthday was celebrated on September 30, 1933 with a Hollywood testimonial party where the speakers included Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Will Rogers.
On Mickey’s eighth birthday in 1936, it was released to the press and printed in “The Literary Digest” (October 3, 1936) that 468 million tickets were sold to his cartoons in 1935.

In 1937, on his ninth birthday, The Boy Scouts of America bestowed upon Mickey membership in the Cub Scouts.

In 1953, Capitol Records produced a "record-reader" entitled "Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party" (DBX 3165) to celebrate Mickey's Silver Anniversary of being twenty-five years young.

A "record-reader" was a two-record set accompanied by a storybook and some cue, like the sound of a bell or a horn, to let a child know when to turn the page so that the sounds on the record would match the story in the book (in this case, Mickey Mouse coaxed Donald Duck to give the signal to turn the page). The voice of Mickey Mouse was provided by... Stan Freberg.

Mickey Mouse was the first animated character to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in November 13, 1978 in honor of his 50th birthday that year.  It is located at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Coming soon to a bookshop near you. (Thanks to CartoonBrew for the heads up about this upcoming book).

Do not miss today:

- HAPPY HALLOWEEN~The Disney History Way by Paul F. Anderson
- Disney Vis Dev II by Andreas Deja
- Disney Vis Dev by Andreas Deja
- The Disney Comics Story (1990-1993): Prologue by Dan Cunningham
- Mickey Mouse in Giantland by Jim Korkis
- Mickey Mouse at the Oscars by Jim Korkis

Monday, November 18, 2013

To celebrate the release of Jim Korkis' The Book of Mouse, I conducted a quick interview with him last week.

Didier Ghez: When and why did you decide to write this book?

Jim Korkis: Several years ago, I found myself frustrated when I was writing an article about Mickey Mouse and I had to go through dozens of books, magazines and websites to find the information I wanted. I felt there needed to be one reliable resource book with all the important information and so I started a file folder that just kept growing over the years.  In addition, I wanted to debunk the flood of incorrect information that is out there on the internet.  So, I have been working on this for years and fortunately it all came together in time for Mickey’s 85th birthday. 
One site I found last week (and this is an exact quote) wrote that “Steamboat Willy (sic) debuted at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on June 29,1929”.  I think the only things correct in that sentence are “at” and “on”. This was part of an authoritative four page article with a long list of comments from readers complimenting the author on listing all this information.

DG: What are the key chapters of the book?

JK: There are several major sections and each section has sub-sections or chapters or both. Mouse-ce-llaneous covers where Mickey lives, how tall he is, who Ub Iwerks was, an exclusive interview with Floyd Gottfredson, the birth of Mickey Mouse merchandising and more.  Mouse-ka-Tales is twenty pages of Mickey Mouse anecdotes.  Mickey at the Movies has chapters on the making of Plane Crazy, Steamboat Willie, Runaway Brain, Sorcerer’s Apprentice and more like UnMade Mickey Mouse cartoons, Mickey’s Oscar appearances, etc. Mickey Mouse Annotated Filmography includes a listing of every Mickey Mouse theatrical film (including ones for other studios and cameos) and Mickey’s television appearances with additional notes. Mickey at the Parks covers the Mickey Mouse attractions, the history of the Mickey Mouse costumed characters, Mickey Mouse ears and more. Speaking of the Mouse is almost twenty pages of quotes about Mickey from celebrities like astronaut Buzz Aldrin to animators like Ward Kimball. Final Word: Walt on Mickey is ten pages of quotes by Walt about Mickey that don’t appear elsewhere in the book.

DG: Do you believe that even serious Disney historians will discover new information by reading it?

JK: Absolutely. Adolf Hitler was given a Christmas gift of 18 Mickey Mouse theatrical cartoons in 1937 because he loved the cartoons so much. There is the biography of Paul Castle who was hand selected by Walt Disney himself to be model for a costumed Mickey Mouse character. The song “Steamboat Bill” was not in public domain and Columbia Pictures (who were distributing the Mickey cartoons in 1931) had to pay a licensing fee of $150 to cover the rights of that music for re-releases of Steamboat Willie. Walt called the Mickey Mouse cartoons where Mickey had no tail the “Bob-tailed Mickeys”.  Mickey Mouse helium balloons sold for thirty-five cents apiece in 1956 at Disneyland.  Guests shouted at the balloon sellers “I can buy an entire bag of balloons for thirty-five cents. You should be giving those to the kids for free.”

4. What are some of the most interesting discoveries you made while researching this book?

JK: One of the most amazing things I discovered was in the rough draft of YOUR new book Disney’s Grand Tour that Walt and Mickey Mouse did NOT receive a special award from the League of Nations.  Lillian Disney in a 1953 interview said, “At this late date, I have no idea whether Mickey is a better name than Mortimer. Nobody will ever know.”  Or Walt said in an interview in 1951, “I’m tired of Mickey now. For him, it’s definitely trap time. The Mouse and I have been together for about 22 years. That’s long enough for any association.”  Every day I worked on this book, I loved it. I discovered something new every single day and it is all in the book.

DG: Are you working on other Disney History-related projects at the moment?

JK: I am gathering material for Vault of Walt: Volume 3. I am also working on two other Disney related books but I never talk about my books until they are done. There were maybe eight people who knew I was working on The Book of Mouse and they only knew because I needed their assistance on something related to the book like the foreword by Ducky Williams. I consider you one of my very best friends and I didn’t even tell you.  IF this book sells well, I do have enough material I couldn’t squeeze into the book to write a sequel called More Mouse. If people want to see that book, they will have to vote with their wallets and buy this book. And don’t forget Vault of Walt: Volume 2!

Friday, November 15, 2013

If, like me, you love what Jim Korkis' writes, then you are really in for a treat. Not only did Jim recently publish The Vault of Walt - Volume 2 (which is a page-turner), today also marks the release of The Book of Mouse, just a few days before Mickey's birthday. I have not yet read this book, but it looks like a volume I can recommend sight-unseen (and I love the cover).

That's not all of it: To celebrate Mickey's birthday next week, Jim will be taking over the Disney History blog from November 18 to November 22, with a great series of exciting posts.

[UPDATE: I have received a pdf review copy and have started reading it. This is truly a "must-have". The best starting point ever if you are planning to spend time studying the career of our favorite mouse in details.]

Great Animation Art auction coming soon at Heritage Auctions. The highlight from my standpoint are all the items coming from the estate of Roy Williams. No real trace of his rumored autobiography, though, unfortunately...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I have just received a review copy of Mark Arnold's new book, Frozen in Ice, and I wish I could say good things about it. Unfortunately there is not much on that side of the equation.

The author is clearly passionate about his subject and has enjoyed (or suffered through) all the movies produced by the Disney Studio since Walt's death and until 1985. But the result is problematic, to say the least.

Needless to say, both the cover and the title are horrendous. As to the content of the book... it is comprehensive, in the sense that all the movies are there and that their synopses are explained in great details. But do we really need a book of synopses, when one could actually watch the movies?

What would have been useful would be a book with a great wealth of information about the production of those movies, details about the creative process, etc. There is very, very little of this in there and unfortunately this leads me to recommend that you do not bother picking this volume up.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Do you have a Disney-related book that you would like to release? Theme Park Press is looking to sign authors with strong Disney stories to tell for release in 2014 and beyond.

As you know, I have only good things to say about Bob McLain, the owner of Theme Park Press. He can be contacted at bob@themeparkpress.com.

So keep those great Disney books coming!