Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's the Great Halloween!

No Halloween would be complete without watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" Watching the film is even better when you have a pumpkin to carve at the same time. I love the Peanuts gang, even though Disney does get it's generous share of airtime on this blog. There's something really nostalgic about watching Schultz's creations around the Holidays. The Peanuts family has been around for over 40 years, always making appearances on prime time TV during the holidays on ABC and other family channels. You no longer need to hope and wait that the Peanuts gang shows up on TV now thanks to the recently released Peanuts "Holiday Collection" DVD which features all three major Peanuts films: "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!", "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving", and, of course, the classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

I've posted some stills from the movie just to get you into the Halloween spirit. As I was grabbing some of these images, I couldn't help but marvel at some of the great color styling. Now, the Peanuts cartoons aren't exactly high tech or chock full of special effects or even, at the most basic level, believable. But that's where the charm is. The story lines are sweet, the characters are lovable, the lessons are endearing. The movements and motions of the characters are not meant to be realistic, by stylized in the familiar Schultz form. That doesn't make the films any less enjoyable. In fact, as I was saying before, the color choices are what are really phenomenal. I particularly love the scene above that takes place at the Halloween party. The use of pink is entirely novel and it compliments, almost too perfectly, the orange and the black.

So often we get locked into the concept that palettes are limited to only one or two colors. Often ir's the one or two unexpected yet complimentary colors that make the main color scheme really pop. Schultz's film provides a lovely example of good color styling, and as ever fits perfectly with the childlike and endearing theme of the Peanuts cartoons. Afterall, Halloween's spooky frights should always be sprinkled with some childish delights!

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Very Mary Weekend

For those of you readers who haven't yet heard (I almost don't know how you couldn't have at this point, especially if you frequent this blog), San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum opened its "Art and Flair of Mary Blair" Exhibit Saturday! Gallery Manager Andrew Farago was kind enough to send an e-mail my way announcing the exhibit and if you haven't figured it out by now I'm absolutely thrilled to see it as soon as get back to California this holiday season (what a great Christmas present!). Mr. Farago has an enjoyable live journal up, with a recent post dedicated to the Mary Blair exhibit and some tantalizing images (above image courtesy of Mr. Farago's live journal). According to the journal entry, the exhibit will showcase over 50 pieces of Ms. Blair's original work, many of which have never been available to the public before. I'm encouraging readers who have seen the exhibit to give a lively review here. I will most certainly be doing the same once I see the exhibit in December. While much of Blair's work can be seen in the well-known John Canemaker book, "The Art and Flair of Mary Blair", nothing compares to seeing an artist's works up close and in person. I really do hope readers will make a special trip to see the exhibit and show Mr. Farago and his team over at the Cartoon Art Museum some appreciation for this long overdue tribute to my favorite queen of concept.

A Half-baked Addendum

I'm thrilled to post this addendum to my original "Half-baked" post below. Reader Scott Teresi was kind enough to upload the "Boogie Woogie Bakery Man" segment from the Symposium on Popular Songs to YouTube for us to enjoy! If you haven't already dug up your copy of the Disney Treasures Rarities and other Shorts DVD to see it, you can view the segment below. Thanks again to Scott Teresi!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Half-baked Idea

As a little girl growing up in Southern (okay, central) California, I went to Disneyland. A lot. What little knowledge I had about Disney World stemmed from but one sacred treasure: My "Disneyland/WDW Official Album" on cassette tape. I can't tell you how I wore this tape out. The concept that I could be transported to that most magical of places just with the push of a FischerPrice radio play button enthralled me as a child. But as I was saying, what little knowledge I had of Disney World came from my own imaginative machinations when I heard songs that were from Orlando's magic kingdom. One such song that I loved was the "Boogie Woogie Bakery Boy" segment from the Kitchen Kabaret (part of The Land at Epcot, as I later discovered). The concept was brilliant and entirely clever: a reincarnation of the Andrews Sisters Boogie Woogie Bugel Boy but with a new and goofy meaning. The first part of the lyrics are below to give you an idea of the cleverness:

We'd like to sing about a friend who has really gone far
He started with some dough and then he rose to be a star
He's hot when he uses the bread and cereal group
An oven-right trooper he can never be duped
It's known that he's no clown
The boogie woogie bakery boy the bread with the sound -
He's cute, he toots,
Toodle-oodle Toodle-oodle, Noodle-Noodle
He's fast, He's fast
Pasta pasta, pasta pasta
(Say spaghetti)
He bakes with so much fun
With a hey bagel bagel and a hot crossed bun.

Readers curious to see what this segment was like can now be transported back in time and experience the Kitchen Kabaret though the craze that is YouTube (In order to get to the Cereal Sisters singing the Boogie Woogie Bakery Boy segment fast forward to 4:40). Sadly for me, I never was able to make the journey to Disney World to see it myself before the show was was yanked like so many other Yesterland memories. But the song stuck with me.

Fast forward - September 2007. There I was soaking in every detail of my Disney Rarities and Celebrated Shorts Disney Treasures DVD when I came upon the Symposium on Popular Songs (1962) hosted by Ludwig Von Drake. Suddenly before me came a familiar and entirely NOT politically correct segment meant to awaken the sounds of the wartime era with yet again, the Andrews Sisters. The segment, like the other songs in the cartoon short, was done in stop-motion animation - a form of animation where otherwise innatimate physical objects and shapes (mostly paper cut outs in this instance) are moved slightly and captured frame by frame.

The Andrews Sisters reference was obvious (see the screen capture above), and there they were again singing in that Boogie Woogie, Beat Me Daddy Eight-to-the-bar style about the "Oriental Bakery Man". The gist of the lyrics (and please I beg you, as hard as it is, try not to be shocked and offended by them and/or the animation which are entirely insulting to persons of Asian descent, bearing in mind that this did come out in the 1960's when people were still ignorant to the concept of political correctness, or were maybe just plain ignorant) are below:

He's my boogie woogie, chattanooga, sentimental, oriental, fortune cookie bakery man
And he bakes a sentimental oriental fortune cookie
in a boogie woogie bakery pan
Look Look Look Looky Looky Looky
Nice fresh hot oriental cookie
No one bakes then better than the sentimental, oriental, fortune cookie bakery man.

Wait - you ask, so that segment is an Andrews Sisters imitation of a boogie woogie sung about a guy who bakes things? Hmmm... where have I heard something like that before?... Well it seems there's not too much of a "which came first, the chicken, or the egg?" quandry here. In my opinion it seems entirely likely that the concept for the Epcot show was totally swiped from the Symposium on Popular Songs, however with the offensive language about "orientals" dumped and replaced with the more generic (and clearly less derogatory) bakery man.

I really wish I was technologically savvy enough (probably my 11 year old brother could do this) to rip that segment from a Symposium on Popular Songs onto my computer so it could be uploaded to YouTube for your viewing pleasure. I might find a way one day, but for now it appears you'll all have to be content to put on (or go buy it if you haven't already because it's a MUST HAVE) your Disney Shorts DVD number 2 and watch the Symposium on Popular Songs segment in order to compare it to the attached YouTube clip from Kitchen Cabaret. Interestingly many people have poo-pooed the Kitchen Cabaret show (I'm sure it was no Captain Eo), saying it was a cheesy attraction that needed to go. This almost always seems to be my reaction to Disney rides/movies that have been completely ripped off from another film or idea that has previously proven successful. In the end it usually ends up being half-baked. (heh. pun intended.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mary Blair is Everywhere!

I know folks, it seems like you just can't escape the wonderful world of Mary when you come to this blog, but Mary Blair fever has spread (to my utter delight) across the net and the latest blogger to give homage to my favorite leading lady of illustration is Rob Richards over at Animation Backgrounds. I have been thrilled to no end over these last few days with Rob's focus on my favorite animated feature (and no less because Ms. Blair had such a huge hand in the concept), Alice in Wonderland, in his background series (above picture must be credited to Rob, and I hope he will allow this as my post here serves to bring him due praise for his work and to encourage readers to make their way to his blog).

For those of you who haven't discovered the treasure trove of visual delights on Rob's blog, I urge, no, beg, you to stop by and take a good look at the hours of tedious laboring he's done to digitally recreate some of the most spectacular animation backgrounds (many of which are never fully visible by simply watching the flims alone). Fortunately for me, the latest focus on Alice has lead to some great discussion of Mary Blair's influence over the color styling for the movie and the likeness to her original concepts. In Monday's post, Richards observantly points out Mary's penchant for using two hues or tones of the same color in her own dress attire! (A lady who brings her sense of color and fantastic design to her own fashion - now there's a woman to love!) So please stop by Rob's blog (and send him well-wishes as he's in the recovery stages of minor surgery) and indulge in the Alice backgrounds that were strongly influenced by Ms. Blair's palette.

Jantzen - Something to Remember

Why don't they make them like this anymore? Remember when bathing suits were fashionable? Typically my blog posts don't wander into the realm of clothing and fashion, but in that these ads have some fantastic illustrations and great colors, I'm posting about them today. Further, great design need not be limited to the fantastic and intangible realms of fantasy and animation. Great design should extend to all areas of life, including, as it were, the every day swimsuit.

A bit of a tangential remark here, I spent months searching desperately for an attractive, fashionable, vintage-esque one-piece bathing suit before the summer this year, with very little success. Evidently, skin is in, as it seems is the constant trend. In my opinion, the "less revealing" one piece Jantzen suits of the 1940's and 1950's are far more flattering and sexy than the barely there string bikinis that have deluged today's beach scene. But it may have a lot to do with the way these ads portray the product - the catchy colors and slogans (and maybe also the 18 inch waists of these bomshell models) - that makes them so appealing. Vintage ads have so much charm and the potential to lend valuable insight to graphic designers of today.

The above ad is credited to illustrator Pete Hawley. More information about this artist and his work abounds at Today's Inspiration blog. The pictures posted come from two fantastic sites that I'm just having a love affair with lately: AdClassix.com, a great website that sells original vintage magazine ads and Plan59.com, a company originating just a few miles away in Fairfax, Virginia, that also features mid-century ads and illustrations. Ads are copyright of the Jantzen clothing company.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tricks and Treats from Mary Blair

The crisp Autumn air, leaves crunching underfoot, all things culinary revolving around that heretofore underappreciated vegetable: the pumpkin, cozy wool sweaters, hot apple cider... who knew October could bring more thrills? Evidently it does...

I had put some of these Mary Blair concepts in a post draft with the intention of utilizing them to some degree in the spirit of October and Halloween and then was ecstatic to find Didier Ghez's (Disney History Blog for those of you who are unfamiliar) post announcing the Mary Blair Exhibit planned for October 27, 2007 - March 18, 2008 (Coincidence the last day is my birthday? I think not...) So now I have a great reason to merge these two great ideas into one post for today.

"The Art and Flair of Mary Blair" exhibition will be a retrospective of my favorite artist and yours, Mary Blair, held at The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. According to the Disney History Blog post,

This once-in-a-lifetime exhibition includes an array of Blair's groundbreaking concept art for classic Disney feature films... and theme parks and attractions... The Art and Flair of Mary Blair showcases the full scope of Blair's career as an artist and illustrator, including early watercolor paintings, commercial illustrations for such clients as Hanes, Pall Mall, and Baker's Chocolate, a selection of Blair's fine art, unpublished family photographs, and children¹s book illustrations, including pages from the classic Little Golden Book I Can Fly.

Could I be more excited? I think not. This occasion definitely calls for a special trip up to San Francisco this Christmas, making the elation of Christmas in California that much greater. But for now anyway, the fruits of fall are ripe for the picking. In that spirit, I have posted these fantastic concept paintings for The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad by Mary Blair available for sale from the Wonderful World of Animation Art Gallery. (This website, by the way has a great collection of Mary Blair concepts, but not without the price of a pretty penny.) As usual, Mary Blair delights us with a much darker side of the imagination - equally whimsical yet frightening. This just goes to show you her ability to tap into a variety of styles and moods was unparalleled. I'm sure the paintings are stunning in person. If you have a spare 10 grand lying around you might be interested in buying. The rest of us will have to get our fill by visiting The Cartoon Art Museum this Fall.

Addendum: The Cartoon Art Museum's Live Journal has updated its announcements to include the description of the Mary Blair exhibition here.