Posts in Fun and Fancy Free
The Disney Afternoon
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This block of syndicated programming, which aired nationwide and in countries across the world, became the touchstone of an entire generation of kids. So entrenched are these adventures in the collective subconscious that today you could approach most people ages 20 to 30-something and—even if they’re not a huge Disney fan—find they can instantly summon up a trademark DuckTales “woo-hoo!”
— Brittany Bell

That ‘91-’92 two hour block of afternoon television: Ducktails, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, TailSpin, and Darkwing Duck, may have been the peak of civilization. History will be the judge, I guess.

Nostalgia junkies click here for historic details, theme songs, ring tones, tee-shirts.

The Eras Of The Disney Canon
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As we converse through the Disney Animated Canon in chronological order sometimes we refer to the Silver Age, or the Dark Age (in the image above more charitably called the Bronze Age). Other than the wartime/package films era being a pretty clear line between the Golden Age and the Silver age, the rest of the eras are more debatable. For example Michial said during our 101 Dalmatians episode that he thought we were entering the First Dark Age, although many people put the start of the Dark Age after Jungle Book and Walt Disney’s death. Although honestly, Walt had definitely lost interest in the animation for several years before his death, and it may be a better delineator to call this the xerography era. Those debates are all part of the fun of looking at these movies. Either way, this graphic from Network 1901 is a pretty good one, and the video I grabbed it out of ain’t bad either if you’re looking for a nice overview of the entire canon. I disagree with a few of the narratives presented in the video, but it’s an overview so there’s not a ton of room for nuance.

And, if you’re just looking for a list of the films in the canon - Wikipedia is your friend : )




The 1986 Disney DTV Valentine
Recorded Feb. 14, 1986 in all its grainy ELP VHS glory.

Michial and I sometimes talk about parts of the movies that were cut up and repackaged. This was one such package that I watched regularly.

So far the memories from this special that we mentioned in the show have included:

  • The twitterpated scene from Bambi cut to Stevie Wonder's I Just Called To Say I Love You. (Although I think I was conflating it in my mind with the Lionel Richie's Hello which is a little later in the program)

  • The animation from All The Cats Join In with the music replaced by Stray Cats' Rock This Town.

  • Ludwig Von Drake hosts

Hat tip to my mom for finding this on YouTube.

 

 

Flâneur and Fancy Free

If like me, you became interested in the flâneur after Michial mentioned it here is a rambling post titled Baudelaire, Benjamin and the Birth of the Flâneur from The Psychogeographic Review. I didn't know anything about Flâneur, and so this seemed as good an introduction as any. As Michial pointed out in the episode, there is something more than just being cheerful and lazy in the hobo, or the flâneur- there is a spiritual quality they are pursuing. 

The concept of the flâneur, the casual wanderer, observer and reporter of street-life in the modern city, was first explored, at length, in the writings of Baudelaire. Baudelaire’s flâneur, an aesthete and dandy, wandered the streets and arcades of nineteenth-century Paris looking at and listening to the kaleidoscopic manifestations of the life of a modern city. The flâneur’s method and the meaning of his activities were bound together, one with the other. Indeed...the flâneur is trying to achieve a form of transcendence
— Bobby Seal

And, in our own way Michial and I are picking up the baton of the flâneurs, although instead of wandering through Paris, we're wandering through the Disney Canon. I particularly like this idea:

Benjamin believed that one of the main tasks of his writing was to rescue the cultural heritage of the past in order to understand the present; not just the cultural treasures of the past, but the detritus and other discarded objects...Thus, we create a history which is not just that of the victor.
— Bobby Seal

Certainly we are wandering the cultural treasures (Bambi, Pinnochio) and the detritus (The Three Caballeros). And charitably (assuming you take the heroic view of the flâneur) maybe you could argue that is what Disney Animation Studios was doing in it's own way as well: picking through the stories of the past and repurposing them for their current moment. Making sense of the world through cultural heritage.

In fact, Benjamin also drew a parallel between the experinence of being a flâneur and theatrical entertainment, and I do not think that is coincidental. In a very real sense theater and movies are always collecting, cutting, pasting and remixing life in order to make sense of the world. This is why they possess a deeper truth; they are a distillation of truth. And the process by which we access that truth is our collective imaginations.

By describing the flâneur’s vision of the city as phantasmagoric, Benjamin seems to suggest that it is a dream-like vision akin to that provided in theatrical entertainment. He also reminds us of Marx’s metaphorical description of the commodity as having the power of a religious fetish; an item that owes its magical status to the imaginative power of the human brain which confers magical powers upon it, at the same time as venerating the fetish, as an autonomous object. Phantasmagoric experiences, therefore, are created by humans, but have the appearance of seeming to possess a life of their own.
— Bobby Seal

Not unlike Happy Valley coming to life through the combined work of both Edger Bergen as the story teller and Luana's imagination, which of course does lead to Willy having on a life of his own beyond Edger's conception. 

Archie Comics

I'm not a big Archie fan myself, so this collection seems as good a place as any to start to me, but if you have a better suggestion please join the conversation.

I do know that the series was rebooted. Although, if you ever need to fake your way through a conversation about comics a good starting point is "well what did you think of the latest reboot?" So, knowing that there was a reboot doesn't mean much in itself, but the reason I know there was a reboot is because my current all time favoritest comic book writer, Ryan North, was writing on the rebooted Jughead for a little while. I haven't read them yet, but I cannot recommend highly enough Ryan's work on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. I could gush for days, as evidenced by the fact that I really didn't need to go down this tangent at all. Do yourself a favor and get started at the beginning.

Jughead Vol. 2
By Chip Zdarsky, Ryan North
Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis
Elmer Gantry
By Sinclair Lewis

How one of Sinclair Lewis's short stories ended up at Disney, and in a film called Fun and Fancy Free, when Sinclair Lewis himself was none of the above, is a great mystery. If you have any information, please join the conversation.

Sinclair Lewis is best known for three novels: Main Street (1920), about stifling conformity in a Minnesota town, Babbit (1922), about a morally bankrupt business man, and Elmer Gantry (1927) the original crooked telemarketer. He was the first writer from the U.S. to win a Nobel Prize in literature.

President Obama and Third Culture Kids

Bongo may be the most famous Third Culture Bear in the world, but certainly the most famous Third Culture Kid of our time is President Obama. As I mentioned in the episode, there are some fascinating articles about this. This opening line by John H. Richardson in a 2010 piece on Obama for Esquire sums it up perfectly: "America just doesn't understand President Obama." Richardson's piece does an excellent job of breaking down just what a TCK is, and why it is important, but here is the pertinent passage when considering Bongo:

People laugh at you for getting important social markers like dating rituals or slang wrong, and that's when you realize how deep culture really goes — because when people realize you don't share all their habits, they suspect you don't share their values either.

As Richardson says talking about President Obama, but it applies just as well here to poor Bongo: "Sound familiar?"

Another more recent piece (2017) by Ryu Spaeth, appropriately titled Barack Obama, Forever a Third-Culture Kid, sums up a part of the TCK experience in lovely terms, while also highlighting some more of the famous TCKs you may not have known:

This is the legacy of being a third-culture child, like a toll one pays for happiness. Yet the great irony of this life, one so improbable that it makes me laugh, is that of the very few public figures who share this condition—Uma Thurman, Timothy Geithner, Steve Kerr, Kobe Bryant—of the luminaries in this world who, just by existing, make me feel less alone and insubstantial, one of them is the leader of the free world.

If you are interested in the topic of third-culture kids, as I am, I'd recommend the book Richardson quotes extensively in his article: Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by Ruth E. Van Renken, Michael Pollock, and David Pollock.

Third Culture Kids 3rd Edition: Growing up among worlds
By Ruth E. Van Reken, Michael V. Pollock, David C. Pollock
Virginibus Puerisque by Robert Louis Stevenson
Virginibus Puerisque (annotated)
By Robert Louis Stevenson
Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity. There is a sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation. Bring these fellows into the country, or set them aboard ship, and you will see how they pine for their desk or their study. They have no curiosity; they cannot give themselves over to random provocations; they do not take pleasure in the exercise of their faculties for its own sake; and unless Necessity lays about them with a stick, they will even stand still. It is no good speaking to such folk: they cannot be idle, their nature is not generous enough; and they pass those hours in a sort of coma, which are not dedicated to furious moiling in the gold-mill. When they do not require to go to the office, when they are not hungry and have no mind to drink, the whole breathing world is a blank to them. If they have to wait an hour or so for a train, they fall into a stupid trance with their eyes open. To see them, you would suppose there was nothing to look at and no one to speak with; you would imagine they were paralysed or alienated; and yet very possibly they are hard workers in their own way, and have good eyesight for a flaw in a deed or a turn of the market. They have been to school and college, but all the time they had their eye on the medal; they have gone about in the world and mixed with clever people, but all the time they were thinking of their own affairs. As if a man’s soul were not too small to begin with, they have dwarfed and narrowed theirs by a life of all work and no play; until here they are at forty, with a listless attention, a mind vacant of all material of amusement, and not one thought to rub against another, while they wait for the train. Before he was breeched, he might have clambered on the boxes; when he was twenty, he would have stared at the girls; but now the pipe is smoked out, the snuff-box empty, and my gentleman sits bolt upright upon a bench, with lamentable eyes. This does not appeal to me as being Success in Life.
— Robert Louis Stevenson (From Chapter 3: An Apology For Idlers)
Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
Main Street
By Sinclair Lewis

How one of Sinclair Lewis's short stories ended up at Disney, and in a film called Fun and Fancy Free, when Sinclair Lewis himself was none of the above, is a great mystery. If you have any information, please join the conversation.

Sinclair Lewis is best known for three novels: Main Street (1920), about stifling conformity in a Minnesota town, Babbit (1922), about a morally bankrupt business man, and Elmer Gantry (1927) the original crooked telemarketer. He was the first writer from the U.S. to win a Nobel Prize in literature.

 

Babbit by Lewis Sinclair
Babbitt
By Sinclair Lewis

How one of Sinclair Lewis's short stories ended up at Disney, and in a film called Fun and Fancy Free, when Sinclair Lewis himself was none of the above, is a great mystery. If you have any information, please join the conversation.

Sinclair Lewis is best known for three novels: Main Street (1920), about stifling conformity in a Minnesota town, Babbit (1922), about a morally bankrupt business man, and Elmer Gantry (1927) the original crooked telemarketer. He was the first writer from the U.S. to win a Nobel Prize in literature.

The Complete Carl Barks Disney Library by Carl Barks

Carl Barks is a legend in the history of Disney and of comic books. As Michial mentioned, he's particularly beloved in Northern Europe. For example, The Carl Barks Collection, is what looks to be a gorgeous academic set of his works, that was only published in Norway, Denmark, Germany, Finland, and Sweden. Too bad I only read English! 

Thankfully, if you are an English reader like me there is Fantagraphics. They are putting out the complete Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck works that were written and illustrated by Barks - although they are not releasing them in chronological order, which is a little confusing. Also, no commentary as far as I can tell.

And, in great news for me, they are now being released through kindle and comixology, so mea-culpa. Last I checked that wasn't true, but I'm happy to be wrong on that one.

Donald Duck’s Family Tree

There are a couple very similar Donald Duck family trees floating around the interwebs, both illustrated by Don Rosa and based on the work of Carl Barks. The top image below includes Ludwig Von Drake, whereas the bottom one doesn’t. Don’t ask me which one is canon. Comicsalliance has some more interesting information on how the origins of the second image.

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Imagination and Idealism in John Updike's Fiction by Michial Farmer

Sure Michial says not to buy it and that he hates it - but Stravinsky was also busy selling the rights for Renard, Fireworks, and The Firebird to Walt Disney as he panned Fantasia - so, you know, words aren't everything. As far as I'm concerned, it is THE book on John Updike.