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The Disney Afternoon
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.

How Ub Iwerks Ended Up Back At Disney

Ub Iwerks is a fascinating character in the history of animation and with Walt Disney Studios. Co-creator of Mickey and inventor of the xerox style of animation would be enough, but the personal drama with Walt makes the story more human, tragic, and interesting. Plus he built his own version of the MultiPlane camera out of car parts and scrap metal?!

The Walt Disney Family Museum has a biography and overview of Ub’s contributions to the company.

Ub Iwerks was a man of many talents. He was a prolific animator and a brilliant technical mind. He was Walt’s Swiss Army knife, a man who was to Walt whatever he needed him to be. He was as necessary to the beginning of Walt’s career as he was to the end. He left The Walt Disney Studios at a critical juncture to pursue his own career, but eventually found his way back to the company he had once animated into success to engineer it to new heights.

Kind of a lot glossed over in that “left…at a critical juncture…eventually found his way back”

Creative differences with Walt wore on Ub and when offered the chance for artistic freedom and financial backing to run his own animation studio in 1930, he took it. Unbeknownst to Ub, this deal was through Pat Powers, one of the co-founders of Universal Pictures who had a complicated relationship (to say the least) with The Walt Disney Studios. Powers distributed and provided sound equipment for Disney’s cartoons starting with the seminal Steamboat Willie, but soon after, Walt and Roy became suspicious of his business practices and hired their first company attorney, Gunther Lessing, to protect themselves and satisfy their remaining obligations to him.

Where Powers was the saving grace for Mickey Mouse and The Walt Disney Studios in 1928, by the next year he was in the middle of a legal quarrel with Walt over box office receipts, and then the following year, he had signed away Walt’s best friend and animator and ceded the right to distribute Walt’s cartoons to his company’s parent distributor, Columbia Pictures. Upon learning of his new employer, Ub went through Roy to explain to Walt that he did not mean to take a job from Powers, and had he known who he would be working for, “he would never have gone into this.”

So heartbreak for Walt who at the time was still trying to build a utopian studio. But not much on how Iwerks eventually ended up back at the studio. We get to see his name in the credits once again for Make Mine Music, which is a fun surprise if you’re following along in chronological order. Here’s what Neal Gabler has to say about the reunion:

Perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of his regard for the ghosts of his past was his treatment of the man who had committed what was, in Walt’s mind, one of the worst betrayals: his old partner, Ub Iwerks. After leaving the studio abruptly in 1930, lured by the blandishments of Pat Powers, Iwerks had fallen on hard times. His own studio had failed, forcing him to subcontract with Warner Bros. and then Columbia, but these arrangements were ultimately terminated too. “He was one of the first—if not the first—to give his characters depth and roundness,” animator Chuck Jones explained. “But he didn’t have any story capacity, and I don’t think he knew very much about humor; he wasn’t a funny man at all.” In 1940 he was teaching animation at a local vocational school and had gotten up the nerve to write Walt that July about the possibility of opening a school of his own, presumably to help train Disney animators. Walt referred the letter to Vern Caldwell in personnel, who dismissed the suggestion. Meanwhile Ben Sharpsteen, hearing about Iwerks’s plight, phoned him, said that starting a school would be “belittling,” and offered him a job checking animation, which Iwerks gratefully accepted. Sharpsteen was obviously trying to broker a rapprochement between Iwerks and Walt, and when he told Walt that he had asked Iwerks back, Walt said it was Sharpsteen’s prerogative to hire whomever he liked. But on August 9 Walt and Iwerks had lunch at the studio, over which, as Iwerks later told it, Walt asked him what he really wanted to do there. Iwerks, always more interested in technology than animation, said he answered, “Prowl around.” Overlooking their past dispute, Walt assigned him to help develop a new optical camera for special effects, illustrating both Walt’s commitment to anything that would help his studio regardless of his personal feelings and his attachment to his old colleagues now that he presided over an increasingly impersonal bureaucracy.

And “prowl around” he certainly did. Here’s a summary from Michael Ruocco at Cartoon Brew:

When Ub rejoined the Disney studio in 1940, Walt Disney gave his old partner free reign to do as he wished. With Disney’s resources, Ub developed special effects techniques for animation, live-action films and Disney’s theme parks, much of which is still in use today. He helped develop the sodium vapor process for live-action/animation combination and traveling mattes, which he won an Oscar for in 1965 after utilizing it in Mary Poppins. He adapted the Xerox process for animation, which eliminated the tedious task of hand inking every cel. For Disneyland, Ub designed and developed concepts for many of the park’s attractions, including the illusions in The Haunted Mansion and the animatronics for attractions like Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney even loaned him out to Alfred Hitchcock to help with the effects needed to create flocks of attacking birds in The Birds.

And Iwerks desert years weren’t a total bust either. His failed studio was a bit of a Forest Gump of the animation world :

Many animators got their start at Ub’s studio in the early 1930s, including UPA co-founder Steve Bosustow and Warner Bros. director Chuck Jones. Manga and anime pioneer Osama Tezuka was also greatly influenced and inspired by Ub’s work.

The Disney Animation Strike of 1941

A very brief summary of the strike, told by Tom Sito, President-Emeritus of The Animation Guild. In other words, not Walt’s side of the story.

Walt felt personally betrayed when Art Babbitt, his highest-paid animator, resigned as president of the Disney company union to join the Guild. Three days after Disney brazenly fired Babbitt, the Disney strike began on May 29, 1941.

The strike lasted for five weeks, forever tearing the social fabric of the studio.
— Tom Sito

Pink Is A Boys Color
For example, a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”
— Jeanne Maglaty

It seems gender neutral was becoming the fashion at the time of 101 Dalmatians in ‘61, and remained so until 1985!

When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?

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. 

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
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.

The Elizabethan Fool

Could Timothy Mouse also be characterized as a fool in the Elizabethan or Shakespearian sense?

More about the fool as common archetype here.

Pop quiz: what is one character archetype that appears in almost every Shakespeare play AND Disney movie?
I’ll give you a hint by listing some characters: Bottom, Puck, the Iguana in Tangled, Dori in Finding Nemo, the Clown in All’s Well That Ends Well, the Carpet in Aladdin. Got it yet?
The fool acts as the hero’s conscience. I realized this when I remembered Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio. “Remember, Pinocchio,” says the Wish Upon A Star Lady, “be a good boy, and always let your conscience be your guide.”
Since the fool is already unfashionable, they have the freedom to always speak the truth, even when it is awkward or even dangerous to do so.
However, he also understands it’s often his humor that allows him to speak truth. As Oscar Wilde said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”
— Joe Bunting
Breaking Down Media Stereotypes of Persons With A Disability

If you are interested in going deeper on the topic of media representation of persons with a disability, Colin Barnes' report is an excellent jumping off point. He breaks down twelve commonly recurring media stereotypes. I noticed Dumbo fits a couple of the categories: Disabled Person as Object of Ridicule, Disabled Person as Pitiable and Pathetic, and Disabled Person as Super Cripple. 

He also attempts to "formulate a set of principles which will enable all those who work in the media eliminate disablist imagery and so redress the balance." For example, he nails Dumbo with this one: "Resist presenting disabled characters with extra-ordinary abilities or attributes. To do so is to suggest that a disabled individual must over compensate and become super human to be accepted by society."

Knowing and thinking through these common representations helps us guard against the media inappropriately shaping our own imaginations about persons with a disability. And for those of us who are creators, it's a good checklist to avoid disablist imagery in our own work.

Lots more resources in the Appendix as well.

Read the whole thing here.

Reclaiming "Crip" as a Badge of Pride
Selective use of “crip” or “crippled” by people with disabilities is a conscious act of empowerment through “reclaiming” a former slur as a badge of pride. “Selected use” means we don’t use it all the time, in every situation. We exercise judgment in when and where it’s appropriate to use.
— Disability Thinking

Thoughtful, nuanced, argument on the use of "crip." More here.

A Breakdown of Medical vs. Social Models of Disability
The social model of disability says that disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. It looks at ways of removing barriers that restrict life choices for disabled people. When barriers are removed, disabled people can be independent and equal in society, with choice and control over their own lives.
The medical model looks at what is ‘wrong’ with the person and not what the person needs. It creates low expectations and leads to people losing independence, choice and control in their own lives.
— Disability Nottinghamshire

More information and some practical examples here.

Journey Into Imagination - Our Key to Unlock the Hidden Wonders of Our World
At the end, Dreamfinder told Figment and the guests that Imagination is our key to unlock the hidden wonders of our world. The guests then entered the final show scene as their picture was taken. In the following room, Figment stood in the center of a giant film canister, surrounded by several movie screens of him being a scientist, a mountain climber, a pirate, a superhero, a tap dancer, a ship captain, a cowboy and an athlete. Dreamfinder, sitting behind a movie camera, gave one last inspiring message and told guests to use their newly-found sparks of inspiration in the Image Works and the on-ride photo was shown to the guests on a screen next to Dreamfinder.

The ride closed on October 10, 1998 to the dismay of numerous fans.
Our Understanding of Dinosaurs Has Changed Since The Rite of Spring - But Imagination Was and Is Still Totally Involved.

During our conversation on The Rite of Spring, I mentioned reading an article at one time that discussed how the mounting of dinosaurs in museums has effected our imaginations. (I didn't find it - but this FAQ on dinosaur mounts is fascinating). I would still love to reread that article; if you've seen it send it my way! However, in my process of looking for it, I found some other really interesting things I can direct you to. What's interesting to me is how the art has complimented the science, and the imagination has even outpaced the science. Sorry, Deems Taylor. 

Artistic Depictions of Dinosaurs Have Undergone Two Revolutions

More than any other single person, Greg Paul has had a major influence on how Mesozoic dinosaurs are imagined by other palaeoartists, by scientists, and by the public.

Darren Naish's article in Scientific American discusses dinosaur's move from "flabby" (as in Rite of Spring) to "sprightly" and from there to feathery and soft.

Paleoart Shows Dinosaurs Weren't the Terrible Lizards of Your Fantasies

Naish's article also mentions paleoartist John Conway.

Dinosaur fossils have been catching up with paleoart — and that’s quite nice, that the fossil evidence actually is lagging behind the art,
— John Conway

Conway spoke to Jacqueline Ronson at Inverse. Ronson gives a nice rundown of the interaction between art and science.

if you want to come close to the truth, you’d better bring your imagination.
— Jacqueline Ronson

Walt Disney's Dinosaurs: The Story of the Rite of Spring

Which brings us back to Disney and the work he and the studio were doing to advance science through their work on Fantasia. 

From the very start of preproduction on Fantasia in September 1938 Disney wanted to include a prehistoric sequence that would serve as “a coldly accurate reproduction of what science thinks went on during the first few billion years of this planet’s existence” (Fantasia). So he brought on Julian Huxley, Barnum “Mr. Bones” Brown, and Roy Chapman Andrews as scientific consultants for the project, along with Edwin Hubble.
— Jillian Noyes

Noyes posits that the accurate art ignited the imagination and inspired more people to join the field of paleontology.

Mickey's PhilharMagic - Walt's dream of a fully immersive and sensory experience realized at last!
As the lights dim, Donald Duck is fast asleep. Mickey Mouse appears with music in hand and wakes Donald before rushing offstage to ready the show. As Donald prepares the orchestra for Mickey, he comes across the conductor’s baton and decides to work a little magic by donning Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat. But things get out of control fast and Donald is unexpectedly plunged into a 3D dream world of classic Disney animated musical sequences.