We just got two gorgeous Cats Don’t Dance original backgrounds. I knew John Alvin did Cats Don’t Dance production art. He created the movie poster, so I started researching about the history of the flick when we found the backgrounds. I watched the movie, and read up on this poor under-appreciated cat-centric cartoon.
This overlooked animated feature from 1997 is so much fun! I decided to write about this week on the Artinsights blog. By the end, you’ll want to watch Cats Don’t Dance, whether you’re already a huge fan, or you’ll be seeing it for the first time…
The coolest thing about Cats Don’t Dance is the original idea for the film came out of the semi-feral cats that have roamed around the Warner Brothers lot since the beginning of the studio.
Scott Bakula as a singing cartoon cat in 30s Hollywood is something that sounds best to his obsessive fans, most of whom know that he started as a performer on stage in New York, and has quite the singing chops. So it should come as no surprise that he starred in the oddly under-the-radar cartoon geek cult favorite Cats Don’t Dance.
Need confirmation that Scott Bakula can sing? He was chosen to perform at the Kennedy Center Honors for Stephen Sondheim in 1993:
Cats Don’t Dance is a highly entertaining animated feature from 1997 that should have been a hit, but was released at the worst possible time, when Turner Feature Animation merged with Time Warner. During the last gasps of Turner Feature Animation, head management kept rotating in and out, and every transition meant drastic changes in the movie. Ultimately, it just got lost in all the upheaval and studio noise.
The story is of optimistic, fresh faced (or whiskered) cat named Danny (Bakula), who dreams of fame in Hollywood, and arrives from his hometown in Indiana with stars in his eyes. He lands a small role in a movie called Li’l Ark Angel, that stars Darla Dimple, a super creepy animated parody of Shirley Temple, which sort of morphs Temple with Tiffany, the bride of Chucky. He plays against love interest Sawyer (voiced by Jasmine Guy, sung by Natalie Cole), a white cat that could be the feline version of any number of human actresses like Judy Garland or Ginger Rogers. Darla is determined to keep Danny, Sawyer and their animal actor colleagues in the shadows and away from her spotlight, so trouble ensues.
Here is a trailer for the movie:
The list of performers cast as the animals is impressive. It includes Kathy Najimy, Betty Lou Gerson, voice of Cruella de Vil in 1960’s 101 Dalmatians in her last role, Hal Holbrook, Don Knotts, and René Auberjonois, who won a Tony Award for the musical Coco in 1970, way before voicing the chef in The Little Mermaid. Director Mark Dindal did voice duty with Max, Darla’s muscle-bound valet and enforcer.
Fans of Emperor’s New Groove should know Cats Don’t Dance’s director Dindal also helmed the new Disney classic, and is currently working on an animated feature about Garfield. Clearly cats are a thing! (Maybe you recall that Yzma turns into a cat. Not only did he animated that, he was the cat’s voice for about a split second..)
Also notable is that the film was originally meant to be a Michael Jackson vehicle, who was going to star, produce, and help with the choreography. At that point, it was going to be a live action and animation hybrid. All the musical numbers were written by Randy Newman, who was hot off of 1995’s Toy Story and 1996’s James and the Giant Peach. Song and dance legend Gene Kelly acted as choreography consultant. The movie was his last project and was dedicated to his memory.
Our pal, cinema artist John Alvin did the movie poster for Cats Don’t Dance, and he was with the project from the very beginning. Alvin and Associates, which included both John and his wife Andrea Alvin, created some wonderful concepts along the way. Says Andrea of the experience, “It’s basically a Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movie. I really liked it, and had a great time designing one sheets that looked like those old movie musicals from the 30’s and 40’s. It was one of those that I had a lot of design influence, and John refined and painted.”
Here are some images of John Alvin Cats Don’t Dance concept art, many of which are being shown to the public for the first time:
I had known the art from Cats Don’t Dance was in the Warner Brothers archives for a while, since I’d seen some of it when I visited the studio years ago. At that time, the art hadn’t been available. When someone inside WB offered me two Cats Don’t Dance original production backgrounds of iconic Hollywood landmarks, I leapt at it.
Who doesn’t want their own Hollywood sign? Click for more info or to buy!
This great piece is from the opening sequence of the movie, and is shown at 1:18 in Danny’s Arrival Song:
We also got a Cats Don’t Dance production background that captures those famed iconic movie openings at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre:
So much of Hollywood history happened there. Here are a few premiere videos:
And one more, because any excuse to post a video of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell…this is the two gorgeous bombshells putting their hands in cement…
Isn’t it time you checked out this charming little film about optimism and working together that deserves more than being forgotten?
You can watch it here for $1.99, and probably on lots of other of your favorite streaming services:
Mickey has been a classic draw for Disney fans since 1928. Strangely, the fascination in terms of collecting started to wane in the mid-90s, and only in the last few years has he started having a resurgence. Now, since the 90th anniversary of Mickey Mouse in 2018, collectors are snapping up the oldest Mickey Mouse drawings and cels of the character they can find. They are especially keen on art from cartoons where Mickey was voiced by Walt Disney between 1928 and 1947. The exceptions are Carl Stalling, who voiced Mickey in 1929’s The Karnival Kid, and Clarence Nash, for 1934’s The Dognapper.
Though Mickey Mouse appears in 130 Disney cartoons, Mickey didn’t have any official shorts between 1955 and 1983. He was one of the stars of The Mickey Mouse Club, but for over 25 years there were no Mickey shorts created for theatrical release.
Mickey was created in 1928 by Ub Iwerks as an underdog that appealed to all those looking to pull themselves up by their American bootstraps. It may be that his first words, uttered in 1929’s Karnival Kid, were “hot dogs! hot dogs!”, but with his exclamations of 30s slag words “swell!” and “gee whiz!” that made him beloved by fans around the world.
Based on the swashbucklers of the silent era, Mickey Mouse was always getting himself into trouble, and appealing to folks who were feeling low from the financial strain of the depression, playing characters from all walks of life, from swanky tuxedoed mouse-about-town to mouse of the people firefighters to intrepid explorers like prospectors and world travelers. Always a lover of dogs, shorts with his pal Pluto appeal to pet lovers, just as the shorts where he and his lady love Minnie have romantic adventures appeal to couples who seek an innocent representation of their partnership.
Steamboat Willie premiered at Universal’s Colony Theater in New York on November 18th, and was an immediate hit. By 1932, there was a fan club, the Mickey Mouse Club had a million members. By 1934, Mickey merchandise brought in $600,000 a year. The financial success of the character really is responsible for building the huge media empire we all know today. It’s true that, as Walt said, “It all started with a mouse”.
To me, some of the best and most affordable animation art is the graphite art from early Mickey Mouse cartoons. To be honest, those have always been my Mickey Mouse cartoons. Early characterization of Mickey Mouse was much edgier, and more interesting. From the late 20s to the mid-30s, Mickey Mouse was rubbery, while the animators were experimenting with squash and stretch, and working out how to express action and character through animation.
Finding beautiful Mickey Mouse production drawings from the late 20s to mid-30s is exciting for Disney fans, and one way you can tell the really old Mickey Mouse drawings is by the number of peg holes in the drawing, with 2 holes being prevalent up until 1935. You can read about the evolution of the peg HERE.
How cool is it to get Mickey Mouse drawings from back when he was in his first formative years? Those drawings are in the hundreds, not the thousands, unlike drawings from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia, which go for thousands of dollars. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is one of the most recognizable cartoons from the character, but is also right after the character’s redesign by Disney animator and member of the 9 Old Men, Freddie Moore.
This one original drawing is interesting in that it was used for both 1930’s The Shindig and 1932’s The Whoopee Party.
The joyful character Mickey is dancing with is a pig, in case you wondered. Here is a video from 1930:
Here are some freaky elements of the most desirable animation art images and Mickey Mouse drawings and cels: the best are when you can see both ears laying side by side on his head (and that goes for Minnie Mouse, too!). An animated expression, like one of shock or surprise, or that famous determined look he did so well, is also very important.
Many folks want drawings and cels of Freddie Moore Mickeys. Moore who was known at the resident Mickey specialist. In 1938 the famous animator redesigned Mickey’s body away from looking as much like what Ward Kimball called Mickey’s “rubber hose, round circle” design, or what made when they used squash and stretch on him look so noodle-like. Mickey’s eyes have changed a lot through the years, but Freddie Moore ultimately gave him the smaller white eyes with pupils you see in more recent cartoons.
Here’s an original Mickey drawing from 1937, as he is changing:
And here are two drawings from 1939 and 1941, both from very famous Mickey Mouse cartoons:
Still, the Mickey cartoons from the early 30s have a truly vintage feel and represent a time when the Mickey Mouse Club was new and animation was influencing kids just coming out of the depression. At the time, Mickey was a cheeky rogue. Minnie Mouse from that era is also fascinating, as she was stronger, more opinionated, and seemed an equal part of their partnership, pre-polka dot, and pre-bow, when she still sported a hat with a flower on top.
They gave her a makeover in the 1940s, and she’s looked almost exactly the same since then. The way both she and Mickey were drawn and characterized in their early cartoons is what created the love for those two from fans all over the world. It was in 1932, after all, when Walt Disney got an honorary Oscar for his creation.
Whether you are more a fan of pre-1935 Mickey (before Freddie Moore started altering his design) or post-35, when he starts looking more like the Mickey we see today, Mickey represents classic, vintage America in a way that little else can.
To see the collection of all the vintage Disney Mickey Mouse drawings available, GO HERE.
Michelle St Laurent has made an indelible mark on the Disney fine art scene, and over her career has become one of the artists whose work is the most sought-after by Disney collectors. It’s plain to see why. Read on for more about Michelle St. Laurent and for an exclusive interview!
There are few artists I’ve enjoyed working with more than Disney interpretive artist Tim Rogerson. He is not only one of the most successful artists in the Disney Art Program, selling out his editions and originals at the Disney parks and around the world, he’s one of the most joyful, optimistic people I’ve ever met, and he’s been a friend for over 15 years. We’ve worked together on dozens of commissions over the years, including pieces that wound up becoming his most popular sellers as limited editions, like one of his earliest piece, ‘L’Amour‘ from Lady and the Tramp, the Alice in Wonderland art ‘Dreaming in Color’, ‘Fantasia’, and ‘All Their Wicked Ways’, which had so many villains, it took almost 2 years to get approval from Disney!
A few Tim Rogerson limited editions based on ArtInsights commissions:
As to commissions, here we are 7 years ago, as he is painting Dreaming in Color with Alice in Wonderland, talking about his ideas and inspiration:
There are so many more I sold but didn’t commission. I feel like I sold ‘Micasso’, but I can’t remember who wound up with it!
In any case, it’s one of the favorite paintings he ever did, and altered the trajectory of his career and cemented his aesthetic. I love all his edgier Disney art, as do many of his avid collectors. Disney fans know Tim Rogerson. For those of you who don’t, you can read his bio HERE.
For those who already know and appreciate him, as much of a fan as you might be of the artist, there are probably some things you don’t know about Tim Rogerson. You also might be wondering what he’s been doing during the pandemic, and what some of his favorite Disney art pieces he has done recently. We’ve got you covered there! We spoke to Tim about all that, and more.
First, some basics: How did you get your start at Disney?
TR: “While I was attending Ringling College of Art & Design, I would drive up to Disney World on the weekends, to work in the main street gallery of the Magic Kingdom behind the register. It was a sweet part-time job that allowed me to be surrounded by art, with front row seats to the light parade and fireworks every night. I would stare at paintings by Peter Ellenshaw and James Coleman all day. Funnily enough, they would become great friends 4 years later. At the end of my first year at Ringling, we had a signing event in the gallery, with Disney Legend, Ralph Kent. He worked with Walt back in the day, and was the official, “Keeper of the Mouse”, which meant every piece of art with Mickey had to go through him for approval. You could draw the perfect Mickey, and he still would draw over it to make it better. At the signing, I told him I was going to school at Ringling, and wanted to work for him one day. He put me on the spot right there, and asked me to draw Mickey for him. He told me he can read everything about an artist by the way they draw Mickey. The pressure was on, my hand was shaking, and there I was, about to draw Mickey for a Disney Legend. As soon as my hand touched the paper, it was muscle memory, the drawing I’ve been practicing since I was 4 years old. Still to this day, it’s one of the best Mickeys I’ve ever drawn, and it was perfect timing to do it for Ralph.”
So that’s how you first got hired?
“Yes! He hired me right there, I trained with him the whole summer, and it was an experience I’ll cherish forever. Ralph was like Mr Miyagi, but instead of ‘wax on, wax off’, he made me draw 10,000 circles on my first day. His office was on the 2nd floor of the animation building, and I would always take the long way around to peak into production of Lilo & Stitch. I was the last artist Ralph hired and trained before retiring. After training, I went back to the gallery, but now as a character artist behind the animation desk, drawing characters for guests to purchase. I did that and designed close to 1000 t-shirts for the parks before graduating from art school in 2004.”
“Upon graduation, it was devastating when 2D animation closed it’s doors before I could start my internship, but another opportunity walked through the front door of the Magic Kingdom gallery. It was Michael Young, with Disney Fine art. We hit it off right away, and I sent him some paintings as a tryout. Most of the other Disney fine artists were landscape painters, with tiny characters off in the distance. I was the complete opposite, painting the characters larger than life, filling all four corners of the canvas with bright bold colors. That was 16 years ago, and it’s been an amazing journey ever since, painting for Disney Fine Art!”
How did you get the D23 official artist gig?
“It still amazes me to this day that I had the honor of painting the official art for the first ever D23 Expo in 2009. I was just starting to create really complex cubist pieces, combining lots of characters together in interesting compositions. I had completed ‘The Enchantment of Snow White’, ‘Of Mice and Music’, and ‘Strings of Temptation’, which had caught Disney’s eye, thinking I would be able to combine all these elements of D23 Expo into one painting. I’ll never forget the infamous conference call, with 18 executives, that spanned the whole Disney company from Feature Animation, ABC, Radio Disney, and ESPN, to Disney Channel. They all wanted their own thing in this epic painting, and at the end of the call, I had a huge list that took up multiple pages.”
Did you feel pressure or start freaking out at that point?
“The crazy thing is that I was never nervous about it. If I had known how big D23 Expo would become, and that this painting would hang in the Disney Archives forever, then I would have been a nervous wreck. Instead, I figured out early on that the concept behind the painting would be the simple idea, that it all started with a mouse. Everything at D23 Expo exists because of the success of Mickey Mouse, back in 1928. So I drew a big classic Mickey to fill the composition, and then intertwined with Mickey, were all the elements of D23 Expo. It was like putting a puzzle together, and everything clicked into place. That painting and that event changed my life. Seeing 100,000 Disney fans wearing my shirt and buying my art, while fans put together a 15 foot tall mural of my painting out of legos, was surreal! I was the official artist again for D23 Expo in 2013, and have been the official artist for the Winter Olympics, Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, Disneyland 60th, and Mickey’s 90th.”
How does music play a role in your creative experience?
“I can’t paint without music, and you can easily tell how a painting is going by the music I’m listening to. If you hear classical music, that means I’m struggling, and trying to summon the renaissance masters to show me the way. If you hear Red Hot Chili Peppers, that means all is good, and I’m having a blast painting. I can’t wait to hear their next album with John Frusciante’s return. My favorite music to listen to are film scores, especially Thomas Newman, who has a rhythm and mood that’s perfect to paint to. If it’s raining outside, it’s gotta be Miles Davis or Norah Jones. But honestly, I listen to all good music, it doesn’t matter what genre, just as long as it has soul. Just discovered Jacob Collier the other day, and I truly think he’s Mozart reincarnated.”
What are your favorite recent paintings that have been released as limited editions?
90 YEARS OF MICKEY MOUSE
“This was an official piece celebrating Mickey’s 90th Birthday since his debut as Steamboat Willie. I choose 9 different Mickeys, with each representing a different decade and era of the mouse, from sketch to paint. Mickey has always been a big part of my life, from the first drawing I did at 4 years old while watching my father draw Mickey, to drawing Mickey at 18 years old for Disney Legend, Ralph Kent, who hired and trained me as a character artist for Disney. My first painting for Disney Fine Art 15 years ago was of Mickey, and even my good friend from art school is now the official voice of Mickey! Walt once said, “It all started with a mouse”, and it’s so true for me, too. It was an honor to be able to paint a piece for Mickey’s 90th, and give a gift back to the mouse.”
CAST OF TOYS
“Toy Story was released almost 25 years ago, and changed animation forever. As I was drawing this piece, and figuring out how to compose all the main characters, I found an interesting layout showcasing the old into the new. On the left side, you find all the old vintage toys, from Woody’s round up and the Potato heads, that generations have played with. On the right side, you find all the future galactic toys from outer space. And in the middle is Andy’s room, where both worlds collide. In a way, it’s also the story of animation. Woody represents the old school 2D, vintage, hand made way of animation, and Buzz is the shiny new 3D way of animation.”
MOANA KNOWS THE WAY
“I find I always paint my best work when I make it personal. To most people, this looks like a painting of Moana and Maui, but for me, this is a painting of my daughter growing up and becoming a strong leader, as I help steer the way as a father. If only I was as cool as Dwayne “The ROCK” Johnson! When people ask me who’s the hardest character to paint, I now answer Maui, because of the tattoos. Each tattoo has a meaning, and you can’t mess those details up.”
What have you been up to since the pandemic hit? How has it impacted your creativity or painting?
“I’ve been joking with my wife for years that I wish I had a pause button, where I could stop time, and finally catch up with commissions and projects. I’m always struggling to keep up. It’s a good thing for an artist to be busy, but you also don’t want collectors waiting two years for commissions. This pandemic is not what I had in mind, but it has given me the opportunity to finally catch up. I had close to 30 commissions in March, and now I’m down to 8. I’ve also had the time to experiment, and try new techniques that I’m really excited about implementing in my next works. For my fans, I hope it’s something to look forward to in the next releases!”
TEN THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT DISNEY ARTIST TIM ROGERSON:
1. He loves wine.
He doesn’t drink it to excess, but as a celebration. We used to come visit a friend that lived only a few doors down from his house who had an insane wine cellar. He could literally pick dozens of bottles of wine for any year of the 20th century, and would open them in honor of a birthday, a special event, or just to mark a gathering of friends. Tim would walk down to our friend’s house, and we’d sit by the pool and drink champagne or wine so expensive that most of us would never even dream of buying it, and talk about movies, music, and art.
2. He loves movies.
Of course he does! Several times he’s been at ArtInsights for events or shows and we’ve had an evening of movie watching. He and my husband Michael and I have seen lots of movies for the first time together. If you are a film lover, he’s one of those guys that will be a kindred spirit. It’s rare when he can’t find something to love about a movie, and he loves all genres. I remember telling him about the movie “Tigers Are Not Afraid”, by Issa Lopez, knowing he would love it. It’s a terrifying, moving, gorgeous film, and I just knew he’d dig it. That’s the thing about him, and lots of artists that paint Disney. They see the whole picture: the good, the dark, the sad, the joyful…and it all goes into their work, no matter what they are painting. His favorite movie-watching experience was in Rome.
Tim relates, “Sitting in the coliseum in Rome with my iPad watching Gladiator was an absolutely EPIC experience! It was like being surrounded by genius filmmaking and the ghosts of the past at the same time.”
When I asked him to name 5 of his favorite movies, he said:
“Oh boy, that’s impossible! I’ll just tell you what they are as of today:
Indiana and The Last Crusade (Greatest film ever made)
A New Hope,
Road to Perdition,
Superman the movie,
The John Woo masterpiece, Face Off!”
Of course I had to make him explain why The Last Crusade is his favorite.
“I love Raiders, but Last Crusade humanized Indy. Plus: The River Phoenix intro! Never being able to impress his father Sean-freaking-Connery! The epic tank battle! And the powerful ending to save his father, who finally calls him by his name Indiana! Literally as I was typing Last Crusade, I heard “You have chosen…………….wisely!”…so it must be true.”
3. He is obsessed with Nicolas Cage.
He explains, “I was a nick cage junky as a 13 yr old. I was obsessed with The Rock, then Con Air. Had to sneak into Face Off, which was R-rated, not knowing anything except John Woo and Nick Cage. It blew my brain!!”
He also loves television shows, especially those with complicated stories and anti-heroes. He took inspiration from one such show for a piece of art:
4. Peter Pan is his favorite Disney animated feature film.
“Peter Pan always fully captured my imagination as a kid, and it’s still my favorite Disney animated film. To fly, never grow up, and spend your day fighting pirates…Sign me up!”
5. It all started with a mouse. Again.
It might be that Disney said, “It all started with a mouse.”, but that is literally true for Tim Rogerson. His dad Danny was a director at Disney and worked closely with Don “Ducky” Williams, who taught his dad to draw Mickey. He would watch his father draw Mickey all the time. When Tim was 4 years old, Danny went to Tim’s class for a parent day, and he taught the whole class how to draw Mickey Mouse. He followed his dad’s directions and drew his first very own Mickey Mouse, and from that day on, he was hooked. Tim knew his calling was to become a Disney artist.
6. His sketchbook is his diary.
Tim Rogerson never goes a day without drawing sketches in his notebook. He takes it everywhere, including Paris, Riyadh, and everywhere else he has traveled. Entire series have been created out of his daily drawings, like his Food and Wine fine art images. It goes all the way back to when he was a kid. Some people have diaries, Tim documents his experiences and speaks his own truth through art, and he does it with pen and pencil on paper. He has lots of filled notebooks all lined up in chronological order in his studio.
7. Lately, he’s been inspired by Pixar concept artists.
At Pixar, the concept artists are free to create in any medium. Whether they are moved to do watercolors, or use cut paper, or paint in oils, inside Pixar, the folks in charge believe that kind of unique, personal exploration will be invaluable to story, and the finished film. Many of them have looked back at the Disney artists of the 50s, like Claude Coats and Mary Blair. It’s all about shape and color. Tim has found inspiration for his art from both those old Disney artists, and the new artists creating designs inside Pixar.
8. He’s a night owl.
Not least because Tim Rogerson always has at least a dozen commissions lined up, he’s always very busy. Still, he finds he does his best work at night, especially when just everyone else is asleep. He is also a dad to a little girl, and he wants to enjoy her childhood, so he spends lots of his daylight hours with her. Night is for art. Around 11pm, he cranks up the music and gets to work. Many is the time I’ve gone over to his house at 11am and he’s still working. Usually he’s discovered some new music at some point during the night, and added some inspired element to the art that wasn’t there the night before.
9. He loves all genres of music, but in his soul, he’s a jazz cat.
When I asked him his favorite music, he immediately had an answer. His favorite album is Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis. It’s a go-to when he truly wants to look inward for inspiration while creating. A Love Supreme by John Coltrane is a close second. As to his favorite song, it’s been the same a long time: Crash by Dave Matthews.
10. Don’t ask him what his favorite color is. (Tim explains why:)
“I get asked all the time what my favorite color is. It has become a hilarious mind trip that I can never answer. It’s like asking a writer, ‘what is your favorite letter?’ or a musician, ‘what is your favorite note?’ You have to combine letters to make a word. A musician has to combine notes to make music. That’s how I see color, so to pic out one as a favorite is impossible.”
*Tim Rogerson also does commissions, although he is always working down a 20-30 commission requests, so it does take some time between when you order a piece and completion. If interested, contact the gallery via email at email@example.com.
We were thrilled when, this week, we happened upon a gorgeous little collection of Batman original production backgrounds. These are from The New Adventures of Batman and Batman Beyond, and they are exquisite. One of them is over 28 inches long…
Holy Priceless Collection of Etruscan Snoods!
We’ve been working to find key set-ups and original backgrounds from the Batman tv series since starting our gallery nearly 30 years ago. We found very few from the first season of Batman: The Animated Series, which is what started it all, but we have had some from the second season, and been on the lookout for backgrounds from The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond. While the look of the characters changes, the style and design of the backgrounds remained much the same, and is one of the ways the various shows have some continuity.
Before Batman: The Animated Series was suggested, created, and introduced, there weren’t cartoon series that looked like them. You’d have to go back to one of the inspirations for Warner Brothers cartoon, the 40s Superman cartoons from Fleischer Studio to find animation that looked remotely like the new show.
The critically acclaimed 85 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series (or BTAS as the cool kids call it) prepared the way for The New Batman Adventures (often shortened as TNBA), which allowed the existence of Batman Beyond, and then Justice League and a host of direct to video releases. Each series has its diehard fans and its great qualities, but it is BTAS that created the hardcore following that continued to watch continuations and other incarnations of the caped crusader’s story. It also created Harley Quinn, which has launched a thousand comic books and even her own feature film.
Thought this collection of backgrounds is from TNBA and Batman Beyond, their aesthetic is anchored in the original 1992-1995 series. Batman: The Animated Series was created by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, and won several daytime Emmys and one Nighttime Emmy (for Robin’s Reckoning, Part 1). Timm and Radomski did an early, minute and a half animation test to show what they had in mind for a Batman show, and the producers loved it.
Here is a great primer about BTAS, TNBA and Batman Beyond, from Comics Explained:
You can also find out a lot more, if you haven’t already seen it, from the video released with the BTAS home edition, which has all the major creative players interviewed.
Interview with Background Designer Don Cameron:
I spoke to background designer and layout artist Don Cameron, who worked on the first season of Batman: The Animated Series, and asked a few questions about his experience and the aesthetic of the show.
Working for WB and especially on Batman is a really big deal. How did you wind up there?
“I was aware of it because I knew someone at Warner Brothers who had gotten a tape of the test that Bruce Timm did. I saw that tape and was just blown away by it. I thought it looked amazing, and I immediately thought of the Fleischer Superman cartoons. The guy mentioned to me that they were looking for background people and he could get me a test. I took the test and got a call from Bruce Timm later that day asking if I was available for work. I got hired, and I was one of the first people, but there were a bunch of us hired on the same day.”
Other than the Fleischer Superman and the pulp magazines and book covers of the 30s and 40s that Bruce Timm had pasted up all over, what additional inspiration do you remember was part of building the look of the show, and since you worked on the backgrounds, that specifically?
“As to the backgrounds mostly we were told to look at the work of architect Hugh Ferris. There was also a comic book out at the time called Mr. X. Those were the two main sources to look at, as well as the Superman cartoons, obviously. Ferris was huge, especially with the early versions of Gotham, they were taken straight from his work.”
Hugh Ferriss was an architect from the early part of the 20th century who considered the psychological conditions of urban life and was a huge influence on other architects of his generation. He architectural drawings are famously dark and moody, often presented at night, light by spotlights, or surrounded by a mysterious fog. He is so famous as his craft, that every year the American Society of American Illustrators gives out an award in his name for architectural rendering excellence.
Mr X was created by Dean Motter. Mr X is an architect of a dystopian place called Radiant City. He believes he must fix errors in its construction, so he rarely sleeps and stays awake thanks to a drug he engineered. His design theory is called “psychetecture”, which leads its citizenry to go mad. It is influenced by Bauhaus and Friz Lang’s Metropolis.
Mr. X, in turn, influenced Tim Burton’s Batman, which was also an inspiration to Bruce Timm in creating the look and feel of Batman: The Animated Series.
How many designers were there? How many folks working on your part of the project?
“I think as far as background designers, there were 5 or 6, and then background layout was probably another 4 people, then maybe 4 more people working to turn them into production backgrounds. It’s so different now, but we were drawing on the old animation wheels and we would draw on animation paper, and then they would take those drawings and transfer them onto black board, and then they would airbrush the final image onto the black board. To have 4 people making all those backgrounds, that impressive. Batman backgrounds, when you see them in person, are pretty spectacular.”
how you were directed in terms of creating? What kinds of guidelines were you required to stick to?
“One time in particular I did was a warehouse, and Bruce really liked the design that I did. Basically, we were told to look at the inspiration, and then you had a lot of freedom. ’We need a warehouse, it’s gotta have a skylight and a door right here.’ That was about it. You were left to just take off and do whatever you wanted, as long as it fit within the style. I never remember feeling really confined with anything.”
How did you learn what you wanted to do, since architecture requires a very specific type of drawing?
“I actually wanted to be an architect when I was younger. I tried it, and then soon discovered the artistic aspect was sometimes secondary to regulations and rules that you’re required to follow when you’re designing. I had done some study of it, though. I also worked as a machinist for 8 years so I was very 3D oriented, having worked on blueprints and that sort of thing. The Batman stuff came very naturally to me, because it was very geometric.”
“I did a pan on the very first episode, that was the “On Leather Wings”, the scene with a couple of policeman in a blimp, and they’re drifting over the city, and you cut to a shot from their POV of the buildings passing by as they drift over. I actually did the layout for that scene, and it was 3 fields wide. The field would basically be the image that’s on your tv when you look at it, so 3 fields is 3 tv widths across. I drew the city from the angle that they would see it, which was a 45% angle. I remember it took me a week to do that one shot.”
“We had a lot of freedom as long as it looked like it belonged in the city. I was taking components and maybe flipping them around or turning them on the side. You do whatever tricks you can to create entirely different buildings. You’re basically working with shapes and how you arrange them, and the rest is up to you, and your ideas.”
You just worked on a feature film for Bob’s Burgers. How was that different than your experience on Batman?
“I was a background designer on that, too. It was far more difficult. I thought it would be easier. The thing with Bob’s Burgers, you have to draw everything from real world and you have to draw it to scale. Since they’ve had a show that’s lasted 10 seasons, it’s important when you design a room, that it’s perfectly to scale, so that it can be used somewhere down the line. You can’t change the scale of doorways from one scene to the next, because over time that problem will compound and become more obvious. There has to be cohesiveness to everything. These are very very detailed backgrounds. It was difficult but it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it.”
At least it’s digital, though, so if you make a mistake, it’s a lot easier.
“Yes, it’s all digital. I got into 3D as well about 10 years ago, and I did a little clip on YouTube. It’s just a few seconds. I actually built a 3D version of Gotham and I did a little scene and I was able to draw it, animate it, and color it all within a few days. That was just my little test to compare the old ways with the new ways. It’s pretty amazing what can be done with the technology.”
You said you have a cool and special story for my readers, that few know about on Batman. Do tell!
“On one of the episodes, a character layout artist on the crew, his name was Charlie Bean and he came to me and said he was leaving the show. I thought he was crazy, because he was on one of the biggest shows around. He said he was leaving to do a show about a cat and a chihuahua. I thought, ‘You’re leaving Batman to do a show about a cat and a chihuahua?” He thought it looked cool and he wanted to try it, and of course it was Ren and Stimpy. His final episode is one with the Scarecrow called Nothing to Fear. There’s a scene in which Batman gets one of Scarecrow’s grenades thrown at him, and Batman starts to hallucinate, and he sees a bat appear in front of him. That was the final scene that Charlie worked on before he left for Ren and Stimpy. If you look at it very carefully, for a few seconds the bat looks like Ren from Ren and Stimpy!”
What are you left with in terms of your memories of the show in retrospect?
“The thing that was cool about Warner Brothers is you’d get off the elevator every morning and there was the shield. I got to meet Stephen Spielberg because he was around the studio a lot, working with Tiny Toons. That was so great. I was really young when I worked on BTAS, and I got to be really free in creating and I loved that, but I think it was only later that I realized just how lucky I was to have been on the show. It’s got a huge following, and people just continue to love it. I am so glad to have been able to be part of that, and even now I’m really glad I get to do this, do art, for a living. There are thousands of people lined up who would love to do this job, and I still get to do it every day. I know I am very lucky.”
In terms of Batman original production backgrounds, we have one key-set up with Joker and Harley from Joker’s Millions (which, by the way, Don Cameron actually worked on) which is gorgeous:
“The Joker’s Millions” is both a comic book story and an animated TV series episode where the Joker suddenly inherits a massive fortune, only to find out too late that he has fallen victim to an elaborate scheme to humiliate him.
We also have several hand-painted production backgrounds from Batman Beyond.
The first is from Rebirth, which is episode 2 of Batman Beyond.
“Rebirth” is the two-part premiere of the show. It depicts Batman‘s retirement when Bruce Wayne steps down, and later rebirth as Terry McGinnis years afterward. After Bruce becomes aware of his declining health and lays down his mantle, Gotham City is without its protector for twenty years until Terry discovers the secret then takes the batsuit to avenge his father’s murder, which revives Batman in Gotham City.
From episode 6 Heroes, This background is around 20 x 10 inches. Doesn’t this remind you of Blade Runner? That film was also inspired in part by the designs of Hugh Ferriss.
“Heroes” is about The Terrific Trio, a group of scientists who became superheroes after gaining powers in an experiment gone awry, who make their way into Gotham and become media sensations. But Magma, Freon, and the 2-D Man soon learn that the accident that gave them their powers was not really an accident. The Terrific Trio were based upon the Fantastic Four, a superhero group created by Marvel.
“Dead Man’s Hand” is the eighth episode of Batman Beyond. It depicts the first time that the Royal Flush Gang fights the new Batman. After learning that Batman is back in Gotham, the Royal Flush Gang returns to take revenge. Meanwhile, Dana breaks up with Terry but he finds a new girlfriend: Melanie Walker. Unbeknownst to Terry, Melanie is actually the Gang’s “Ten”. Now, both of them must deal with their dual lives while trying to be with each other.
“A Touch of Curaré” is the twelfth episode of the show. It depicts the first appearance of the assassin Curaré. Gotham City District Attorney Sam Young has been marked for death by the Society of Assassins, who have sent their best member: Curaré. Now Batman must face off against one of the world’s deadliest fighters. Making things worse, is the fact that Commissioner Barbara Gordon, Young’s wife, isn’t as liberal as her father was when it comes to costumed vigilantes, despite having been one herself.
“Mind Games” is the tenth episode of the second season of Batman Beyond. It depicts Terry‘s first encounter with people wielding psychic capabilities. After saving a supposed family from a car accident, Terry starts receiving strange messages from the family’s daughter. He soon learns that she’s contacting him telepathically and that she’s been kidnapped by a group called “The Brain Trust”. Now Terry must fight to save the child from super-powered individuals.
I love getting pieces I wasn’t expecting. This is the most fun part of owning an art gallery that specializes in film and animation art. I can’t wait to see who winds up with these beauties!
I’ll leave you with the opening sequence from Batman Beyond, which I love:
It is said often online, or really anywhere where people talk movies, that the movie Hook is beloved by anyone who was a kid when it came out in 1991, while adults were less enthused by the film. Here we are, almost 30 years later, and those kids are now adults, and they are loud and proud about their fandom. There are websites and wiki pages and fan Facebook pages, all celebrating Steven Spielberg’s riff or extenuation of the story of Peter Pan. There’s even a famous, award-winning song by the musician Skrillex called ‘Bangarang’, inspired by the famous battle cry uttered by the Lost Boys.
SHOUTS TO ALL MY LOST BOYS!….
In case you aren’t one of the enthusiastic fans of the movie and don’t remember that quote, here it is:
There are so many interesting aspects of the Hook movie that not everyone knows.
So it’s particularly cool that we have Hook movie art! We are so excited to have an exclusive piece of movie history direct from the John Alvin estate, that occupies a unique place in movie history, in that it is both a prop and movie campaign art. There is a map, the original of which is 40 x 60, that was used in the making of the teaser trailer for Steven Spielberg’s Hook. I was talking to John Alvin’s wife about the piece, which we have in his archives. She mentioned, off the cuff, that she had all of the printed versions of the map. They were created on special paper, so that at a particular time during the trailer, the map could catch fire. We have partnered with Andrea to sell these great images, which are also 40 x 60. There are only 6 of them available!
Here is a video of the trailer that uses John Alvin Hook art nearly the entire time, and switches to live action right after the map goes up in flames:
I spoke to Andrea Alvin about the John Alvin Studios working on Hook, and she relayed a few interesting tidbits fans would love to know. John Alvin was hired, initially, to do a treatment as a potential movie poster. He came up with a design of Wendy’s window, with curtains and Wonderland in the distance. He only did one graphite, and one full-color image that was 20 x 30 inches. Eventually, as most people know, the finish was illustrated by Drew Struzan. However, John Alvin also worked on the advance poster for the film, which was just a single hook. The marketing people had created a large image of the hook used by the captain, but the image looked flat. So they sent a large print of it to John, and he “Alvin-ized” it, adding light flairs and reflected light to give it a more dramatic, compelling look.
John Alvin called what he did “the promise of a great experience”, which included creating curiosity in potential viewers, often by using iconic imagery imbued with light to add a mystical, ethereal quality. He certainly did that with this Hook image!
Around the same time, the studio came to John and asked him to create a map that would include Neverland and part of the real world to be used for the entire teaser trailer, and John came up with the now-famous map, meant to look mysterious and centuries old.
He knew the map had to be big, because to use it for the whole trailer, the camera would have to pan across it. He also knew in the trailer it would be burned through. So he made the 40 x 60 map, and they printed copies on special paper that burns easily.
Explains Andrea Alvin, “We had a layout that we had to follow, for what the actual map would be, for example, where Wonderland would be. We had to follow that, and design it to look like an old map on parchment. A lot of the painting was done in thinned-out acrylics, and sponged on, to make it look like parchment. Then he drew the little locations over the top. He had to find a good compass rose to put on it to make it look old and original, so he did copious research in books, because this was before the internet had everything anyone would ever need, and he finally discovered the perfect image. John hand-lettered all the words on the map, too, which was unusual. Nearly no illustrators would do hand-lettering or design their own for their posters, but John did.”
Both John Alvin and his wife Andrea went to the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, where many other famous artists and directors have gone, including Ralph McQuarrie, Syd Mead, Eyvind Earle, Bob Peak, Drew Struzan, Zack Snyder, and Michael Bay. For those focusing in illustration and fine art, taking hand-lettering classes was mandatory. John Alvin had not only a love but an affinity for it, and you can see the expression of his talent on many of his one-sheets, including Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, E.T., Victor/Victoria, Gremlins, Willow, The Princess Bride, and The Phantom of the Paradise, just to name a few.
Andrea Alvin continues, “Most movie poster artists hire a lettering artist and then drop it in. You can’t go buy at typeface that looks like that, and it’s essential to the art and the look of the poster.”
As to how John felt about the movie Hook, Andrea says she remembers he loved it, even though many critics panned it. “To John, it was like a musical without the music. John liked fantasy movies and he loved popcorn movies made to be entertainment. The goal wasn’t to make great art, it was to make a great movie that entertained, and that it did.”
It’s interesting that John felt that way. Originally, Spielberg wanted to make the film as a musical. His interest in the story went all the back to his childhood, and in fact he directed a story based on Peter Pan in school when he was only 11 years old. He had worked on various versions of the story in the early 80s, even considering creating a musical.
At the same time, award-winning composer John Williams and lyricist and composer Leslie Bricusse were working on a Broadway play of Hook, and wrote a number of songs, which could have been used for the movie, since Spielberg had hired Williams as the composer for the film score. Ultimately, there were two songs used in Hook, “When You’re Alone”, which went on to be nominated for an Oscar, and “I Don’t Want to Grow Up”.
The script needed some help, and one of the script doctors hired but uncredited for her work was Carrie Fisher. Here she is talking about being a fixer, and being hilarious, as usual.
Since its release, Hook has remained a favorite to many who saw the film as kids, and has expanded its fandom since then, not least because of all the quirky elements to be enjoyed. There are many star cameos, from George Lucas and Carrie Fisher playing a couple kissing on the bridge at the very beginning of the film, to Jimmy Buffett, David Crosby, and Glenn Close playing pirates, Gwyneth Paltrow playing a young Wendy, and Phil Collins playing a police inspector. Check a few of them out here:
Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Bob Hoskins are all in top form, although for Williams, another film he starred in around that time eclipsed this one, and for good reason. It was the following year, in 1992, that Disney’s Aladdin was released, with Williams as the Genie. The other high-profile cast member was a 24-year-old Julia Roberts, who was badly miscast, and also had a horrible year that led to so much tabloid talk, she had to do an interview only weeks before Hook’s release. To capture a female superstar early in her career who is clearly a novice at damage control, you can read the 1991 interview in Entertainment Weekly HERE.
In 2017, Dante Basco, who played fan favorite Lost Boy Rufio, executive produced an unauthorized short film, “Bangarang: The Hook Prequel”, that was funded through Kickstarter. It’s about how Roofus, a bullied Filipino kid, finds his courage and becomes a Lost Boy. This short is a testament to the power of the Hook fandom. The campaign raised nearly $69,000 when the goal was only $30,000! You can watch it here:
For those who are looking for a really rare, exclusive piece of film history, we can’t think of anything better than a map of the ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ world that comes directly from famed movie poster artist John Alvin’s estate. The art will also come with a certificate from Andrea Alvin designating it as one of 6 pieces that belonged to the Alvin family.
To see Hook, you can go to any major streaming service, or look for listings on your cable schedule. It’s playing repeatedly for free on mine this June, and I’ll be watching it soon. Join me. Maybe we’ll hear each other screaming BANGARANG!
We’ll end by posting part of my interview with John 11 years ago at my gallery. You’ll notice as usual, he’s wearing his iconic red shoes!
It’s that time again, for San Diego Comic-Con 2020 and the very impressive collection of new releases that makes the Alex Ross Art booth the go-to magnet of thousands of fans and collectors that swarm SDCC every year! This year, though, the San Diego Comic-Con Alex Ross experience will be a virtual experience. That might not be the same as pushing through the throngs of geeky cosplayers like cattle, but it will be a helluva a lot safer! It’s called #SDCC@Home, and the fact that it’s virtual means you have all the more access to the work you love, through SDCC and Alex Ross Art-connected moi!
Who is Alex Ross? Here’s a segment from CBS This Morning featuring Alex:
Those of you not interested or not in the market to buy any art, skip to below the line, where you can read more about Alex Ross and see some videos with him talking about his work, inspiration, and career.
THE CURIOUS CAN CONTINUE TO SCROLL DOWN AND SEE ALL THE GOODIES…
All the planned releases are going forward, and as usual, I’m working to get #1 and AP1 of every edition. Soooo, if you’re hot for that special highly-desired number one or Artists Proof #1, you should contact us immediately via our email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s coming out? Well, one we can show you, and the rest you’ll have to contact me to see an image. We would ask you not to share online in any way before the official release date of July 22nd. Don’t get me in trouble with one of the foremost figures in illustration! Let’s get to it.
First, the gallery has AP1 of this new Black Widow image, which is one of those heroines that both men and women have grown to love with surprising ferocity. Why not? She’s complicated, gorgeous, brilliant, and lethal. It was meant to be released in tandem with the live action film, slated for earlier in the year, but postponed because of the pandemic. That’s all the more reason for us to celebrate the powerful character. Ross used her original costume, as he most fondly remembers her, and injects a pop art aesthetic in the background, using the title graphic from some of the most classic and wonderful comic titles in history.
edition size of 50, with 15 APs, PPs and EPs, size is 20 x 30 inches, and the price is $825 for the regular edition, $925 for #1, and $1025 for AP1.
Here’s the image. Contact us to snap up the AP1!
Black Widow signed giclee on canvas:
DC Comics Shadows Series signed giclees on paper
Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Shazam!
Edition size is 75, with 25 APs, PPs and EPs. Retail is $475 each for the regular edition, with APs at $675.
Each piece has an image of 13 x 25.75 and paper size of 16 x 28.75.
The first 50 are set aside for sets, as are #1-#15 of the APs.
The sets are $1725 for the regular edition, $2425 for #1 and the APs.
CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO BUY (email@example.com)
We’re very excited about the new Alex Ross David Bowie image, which has been in the works for a loooong time. In fact, he had been in talks with David Bowie and his representatives way before he passed away. David Bowie himself saw the sketch for the new release and loved it. One of Alex Ross’s favorite memories of listening to Bowie was his narration of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, which he did because he wanted to give it to his then 7-year-old son Duncan for Christmas. It was one of Bowie’s favorite projects ever.
The dramatic image is of David and his magical two-colored eyes, but with hooves as legs, and ode to his beloved project. We can send images of these out, but please don’t share them online before the release date on July 22nd.
Bowie by Alex Ross signed giclee on paper:
Edition size is 50 regular edition, 15 APs, PPs and EPs.Retail is $425 regular edition, with APs at $595. (AP1 is $695)
Image size is 12 x 25.75, paper size 15 x 28.75.
CONTACT ME FOR AN IMAGE AND TO PURCHASE (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We have access to the AP editions for the signed lithograph on paper of Original Seven, which is a continuation of the Originals series that includes this piece, Avengers Assemble, and The X-Men.
The X-Men signed lithograph on paper:
The X-Men: Wolverine, Night Crawler, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Storm, and Colossus
Signed by Alex Ross, APs reserved for galleries, we have AP1.
Edition size is 295, with 25 APs, PPs, and EPs. Retail is $495 for APs, with AP1 at $595.
Image size is 14 x 28, paper size 18 x 32. Contact us through email for more information.
The Original Seven signed lithograph on paper:
Justice League of America:
Green Lantern, Flash, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter
Signed by Alex Ross, APs reserved for galleries, we have AP1.
Edition size 295, 25 APs, PPs, and EPs. Retail is $595. AP1 is $695.
Image size is 39.5 x 17 image size, and 42.5 x 20.5 paper size.
Many of you know we’ve been selling the art of Alex Ross for some time now, and we even exclusively represented him at the New York Comic-Con and other cons around the country. Ross is one of the most recognized, lauded comic book illustrators in the world, and is collected across the globe, from China to Chattanooga Tennessee.
An artist represented in museums like The Louvre, The Andy Warhol Museum, The Norman Rockwell Museum, and many others, he has brought a new spotlight and acceptance to comic books. His iconic realism and intricate, tight illustration style, which of course is inspired by the work of Norman Rockwell and his contemporaries, has a visceral, nostalgic quality that resonates with comic fans and collectors of comic book art.
He’s also been a bit of a muse to the filmmakers who built the Marvel and DC cinematic universes. In fact, did you know Alex Ross did the opening credits for Spider-Man 2? opening credits: Of course you did, but you want to watch it again, don’t you?
Speaking of San Diego Comic-Con, we get asked a lot if Alex will be at the convention. Almost without exception, the answer would be no. The reason is he is one of the only illustrators working today that creates exclusively in the traditional way. He does not do digital illustration. Here he talks about why:
“creating art is a tactile interaction so I love the fact that i get to work with real materials. I’m still working with paper and with a brush and paint. That to me is very stimulating. I’m completely ignorant of the modern tools. I’ve never taken to using computers. But for everybody else that has, there’s really no difference between them and I, in terms of what drives us. There’s no superiority in one way of working versus another. It’s all about creating something and getting it out there because however the audience absorbs it is what matters.”
I’ve contended that there is something about physical painting, or physical art created all by hand, that creates a connection between the creator and the collector, as if there’s an exchange of artistic energy. It might sound ‘woowoo’, but there’s so much attention, passion, and drive on the part of the artist during the act of creating, it seems obvious to me that the canvas or paper and whatever was used as a medium would be infused with that intention and creative energy. That’s not to say that digital art doesn’t have power. It can convey as much to the viewer as any image done traditionally. It’s just in terms of being in the presence of the physical painting, as a collector, that I believe there is a marked difference in terms of magnetic visual appeal.
Here is a video about some of his techniques within his artistic process:
So the fact that Alex Ross works by hand, and is committed to continuing to do so, speaks to his love of the history of illustration, expands his reach back to those who influenced him, and excuses him from personal appearances in the potentially 100s of cons that happen around the world every year.
He will, from time to time, appear at an Alex Ross exhibit museum opening, as exampled by his being at the first day of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, which is only about an hour from my gallery. Folks who wanted to meet him started lining up 8 hours before the museum opened that day. He stayed 3 hours after closing, and still didn’t meet every of the thousands of people in line.
Perhaps you want to hear Alex talk about his life and work on, say, a podcast. I have just the thing. Comic Book Central, is hosted and produced by Emmy Award-winning producer Joe Stuber, has been called “the Actors’ Studio of comic books”, and has an episode with Alex. Start 18 minutes in after all the commercials, and you’ll enjoy their chat. He talked about the influence the show The Electric Company had on him as a child. Here’s the very first Spidey Adventure episode, which stars Danny Seagren as Spidey (he worked for Jim Henson as a puppeteer and played Big Bird on The Ed Sullivan Show), and is narrated by none other than Morgan Freeman! (interview: https://13thdimension.com/tvs-original-spider-man-breaks-his-silence/)
The work of Alex Ross is not for everyone. There are some who prefer the more 60s-styled work that feels more like what classic comic books looked like, as in the art of Jim Lee. If you’re a fan of superheroes and iconic characters that help us aspire to be more fearless and more courageous in our lives, a reminder in the form of one of his images may be the perfect thing to add to your world. Wouldn’t it be delightful, if you are working from home, to have your favorite superhero looking back at you as you do what you do?
How about Alex Ross’s Batman? He is known for how he draws the caped crusader, and his art of that character has had a huge influence on his popularity. Here he is talking about the tortured, driven, and in-need-of-therapy Mr. Wayne.
I’ll leave you with the fact that despite the desire by the powers-that-be to keep Alex Ross as apolitical as possible, he has always found subversive ways to express his opinion through his art. As anyone who knows the history of comic books will tell you, the characters represented therein are the first “social justice warriors”. It has ever been thus. Comic superheroes defend the weak, tend to be aliens or immigrants of some kind, and stand up to oppression and bullying.
Here is a perfect example, loaded onto his YouTube page a few weeks ago. Note the fact that nowhere does it say anything except on his YouTube page itself. It’s titled “Comic Heroes”.
It’s only if you go onto the YouTube page that you see this (a message that states simple “black lives matter”. WE AGREE, ALEX.
We are selling cartoon and film art masks. Why? Because we are 100% in on wearing them and 100% in on supplying the most awesome ones we can, to inspire people to wear them.
As a small business owner, I’ve been impacted by the shutdown, to be sure. Not only were all the stores in my center shut for more than two months, the fear and dread shared by the whole world made sales difficult. Although apparently there are some people who still don’t know someone who has either gotten very sick or died from COVID, people in the service and retail industries will tell you, we all know someone. So, as someone in retail, it has been difficult. Even so, I supported staying at home for everyone. I would do the same thing again, and indeed may do the same thing again if the record numbers of infection happening in places like Texas reach to Virginia.
As a small business owner, I also get to know many of my clients. We’ve been in business for over 27 years. Some of my clients have become close friends. I don’t want to see those friends sick or suffering through the loss of family members, and I certainly don’t want to be the one that spreads the disease to them and those they love. I also, as a gallery owner of film and animation art, have a number of older and high risk clients. Perhaps it’s because, for example, if someone has MS or very bad asthma, they are more likely, as they stay inside to find fascination in film.
Those are all very good reasons for me to pay attention to what’s happening with research, and to follow as many guidelines that will keep both me and clients safe. That includes wearing masks.
There are so many magic-filled, fantastical films and stories we in the US watch and read. Imagination has always been one of the seeds of our best classic and contemporary cinema. I didn’t think that meant, however, that there wasn’t also room for science and common sense. There are many studies by respected experts that have shown wearing a mask makes a difference in the spread of COVID-19. There’s the article on the MAYO CLINIC WEBSITE about why masks protect us. There’s also an article in which Dr. Steven Gordon, Chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Infectious Disease and pulmonologist Read Dweik, Chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Respiratory Institute, explain the science around why wearing a mask is important. Of course, as they say, masks need to be used in conjunction with social distancing to be most effective. Because so little testing is done, we have no idea how many people are wandering around spreading the disease. I want them covered, so I don’t get sick, and I want to be covered so I don’t spread it to anyone else. Do you know how many people discovered quite accidentally they had COVID? D.L Hughley is just one example.
I could list articles all day explaining and proving that efficacy all day.
I’m no doctor, but It seems pretty simple to understand that if someone is coughing and sneezing into a mask instead of into the air, the mask will catch a lot of that before it gets to anyone else. It’s not a complicated concept. The point is, if you want to go out into the world and go shopping, or out to eat, or spend time with someone, you wear a mask in case you have the virus and don’t know it. So I, as a business owner, wear a mask. I wear it out of respect for my clients, friends, and all our loved ones. I also wear it because maybe it will help us all get back on our economic feet while saving lives.
With that in mind, I contacted my childhood friend Julie, who is making lovely, very well-designed masks, and asked her if she could make them for me to sell in the gallery. Julie had been working as a driver for UPS, but because she has some high-risk folks in her inner circle, she had to stop so she wouldn’t put them at risk. Making masks is her new way of breadwinning. I’m so happy to partner with her! These aren’t just any badly made, cursory bit of flimsy fabric. Her masks have adjustable ear straps and filter pockets. They are swank!
I have been wanting face coverings that represented some of my favorite movies and tv shows, whether they be cartoon or live action. So…we got together and started seeking out cool fabrics featuring Marvel, DC, Disney, and other hot properties. So far, we’ve found Mulan, Maleficent, Harry Potter, Avengers, Snoopy, Dr. Who, Nightmare Before Christmas, Scooby Doo, Winnie the Pooh, and Aquaman, and we’re finding new fabric every day!
All our cartoon and film art masks are $12.00. If you need them shipped, it’s an additional $1.00-$3.00 or more, depending on how many you order.
All the proceeds go to Julie, so when you buy them from ArtInsights we just have you send her payment via PayPal. We are also donating $2.00 from each sale to Oxfam America, which is working through US partners to fund programs that offer direct, immediate support to marginalized communities in some of the most distressed parts of the country struggling with the disease.
YOU CAN NOW ORDER DIRECTLY FROM THE ETSY SHOP, AND HAVE IT SENT TO YOU!
It’s interesting that when we started looking around for fabric for cartoon and film art masks, we ran up against the fact that lots of enterprising folks are buying up all available fabric and then selling on Etsy, small amounts they’ve cut up into what’s called a “fat quarter”, which is just enough to make 2 or 3 masks, at 4x the cost of the fabric if you can get it in the stores. That’s quite the mark-up!
As those who know me are aware, I’ll get all the fabric I want eventually. I always find a way. So we WILL be getting Batman (there’s a particular fabric I have in mind, and it will be OURS!) and Wonder Woman. I’ll also find Star Wars, but of course all these have to be 100% cotton. That’s the best and safest to use.
Whether you buy a mask by Julie through ArtInsights that features Scooby or Hermione or whatever character you love, or you go the none-more-black route, we hope you’ll protect those you love, and even those you don’t know, when you’re in close proximity. It might keep stores from closing again, and it might even save someone you love.
Lady and the Tramp was released June 22nd, 1955, making this June its 65th anniversary. The film was so popular, a live-action version of it came out in 2019! The original movie has so much history, and such a strong fanbase, we at ArtInsights thought it would be a great idea to pull together a collection of original art available for sale to our Lady and the Tramp collectors. Check out all the art, then read on for my own experiences as an animation art gallery owner selling Lady and the Tramp art for over 32 years, as well as videos and trivia about this classic Disney film.
I have some vivid, lasting memories of my experience with selling Lady and the Tramp production cels as an animation art gallery owner. I have several clients that I’ve known nearly the entire time I’ve been in the business, who have been collecting Lady and the Tramp cels for over 25 years. When I started in 1988, you could find Lady and the Tramp production art, including cels, for as little as $200. Although the Spaghetti Scene production cels have always been the most expensive, and have never been cheap, there was always cels and drawings you could get for very little.
I have had some wonderful key set-ups in my time selling Lady and the Tramp art. Because of these longterm clients, they usually never make it to the general public, and that’s ok. Gratefully, most of these folks are willing to let us show the art in the gallery for a few months before they take it home and it’s never seen again.
CALL IT PUPPY LOVE
Some years ago, there was a poll done for the most romantic films of all time, (this was pre-The Notebook which I’ve never seen, by the way) and Lady and the Tramp was 2nd on the list. At the time, I thought it was odd, but if you’ve looked at any of those “Most Romantic Movies of All Time” lists, they are full of really depressing choices, and very unhealthy relationships: Gone With the Wind? Casablanca? Love Story? and Brokeback Mountain is so sad I could never watch it again. So, yes, I’m onboard with Lady and the Tramp being one of the most romantic movies of all time. It has since been one of only two animated features added to the AFI’s “100 Greatest Love Stories of All Time”, landing at 95. Once again, however, you’ll see lots of very depressing, fatal or extremely toxic relationships on the list. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Last Tango in Paris are #89, #67, and #48…I’ll stick with Lady and the Tramp.
DISNEY ART CORNER AND RESTORATION GEEK SPEAK
The problem as always been that Lady and the Tramp falls during the Art Corner era of Disney art. Most of the cels from the movie were trimmed down, put against a litho background or colored mat, sealed into that recognizable Disneyland mat, and sold at the Art Corner at Disney. As I’ve mentioned before in other blogs, that means they are all stuck to their backgrounds. That the art is stuck to the background does not inherently reduce the value of the art. If you’re buying a full cel, or even if you get a Disneyland mat set-up, a few bits of separation are no big deal, and you shouldn’t restore any piece that just has a bit of flaking. Only restore art that is impossible to enjoy as it is.
GIVING VOICE TO A CLASSIC
Some of my favorite voice artists worked on Lady and the Tramp. You may find it’s more than a coincidence, as an animation art collector, that your favorite characters from wildly different movies are all voiced by the same artist. For example, Barbara Luddy, who voiced Lady, also gave voice to Merryweather in Sleeping Beauty, and Kanga in Winnie the Pooh. *She is also in the Primal Scream episode of 1975’s The Night Stalker! Verna Felton, one of my personal favorites, lends her voice to Aunt Sarah. She’s also the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella and the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. *For fans of I Love Lucy, she’s in two episodes from 1953.
My favorite characters in Lady and the Tramp, including the two lead stars, are all pound dogs. I love Jock, but my favorites are Bull, Toughie, Pedro, and Boris. Voice actor Bill Thompson, who had a long and successful career, played both Jock and Bull. You might find it fun to know he voiced another Scot, Scrooge McDuck in 1967’s Scrooge McDuck and Money. He’s also Mr. Smee in Peter Pan, the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Bearing that in mind, it won’t surprise you he voiced Droopy and Ranger J Audubon. The voice of Pedro and Toughy, both of whom I LOVE, are courtesy of Dal McKennon, who was a very successful character actor on TV in the 50s and 60s. I love that IMDB says he was the voice of Max in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but he’s uncredited!
Tramp was played by Larry Roberts, who has just the one screen credit, having been discovered onstage by a Disney insider. Before that, he had fought in World War 2 and performed for the troops during the Korean War. He was a popular guest on variety shows, but retired in the late 50s. He then turned his interests towards clothing design, which he did till shortly before his death by AIDS-related causes in 1992.
Here’s a great video about the voice artists, including an interview with the voice of the Gopher, Stan Freberg:
A PART OF ANIMATION HISTORY
Some of the greatest animators of all time worked on Lady and the Tramp. Hamilton Luske, who won an Oscar for Visual Effects in Mary Poppins, directed Lady and the Tramp with the same directing partners he worked with on Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland, Clyde Geronimi and Wilfred Jackson. It was scored by Oliver Wallace, who won an Oscar for his score for Dumbo. He also scored about a million Disney shorts, including 1939’s Society Dog Show, and Der Fuehrer’s Face. If you love the music to Cinderella, Peter Pan, or Alice in Wonderland, you can thank Oliver Wallace. The backgrounds were done, in part, by famed artists Claude Coats and Eyvind Earle.
I remember going to the Disney Animation Research Library when Lella Smith was in charge. It was a tour set up for members of the Disney Advisory Board. She had laid out a bunch of backgrounds, layouts, and storyboards from Lady and the Tramp. Most of the folks walking through didn’t know as much about the vintage stuff as I did, nor did they recognize the work of both Claude Coats and Eyvind Earle, as I did. I literally had to hold back tears seeing all this beautiful art. Lella saw me getting overwhelmed, and we talked for quite some time while the other members kept walking. I really believe the fact that the art moved me so much is why Lella and I became friends.
My friend Willie Ito worked on Lady and the Tramp as an in-betweener. It was one of the first jobs he had at Disney, and he got to work on the spaghetti scene! He remembers it fondly.
Given that Lady and the Tramp artist Willie Ito spent part of his childhood in a Japanese Concentration Camp in the US, maybe we should talk about Si and Am.
A WORD ABOUT THE RACISM IN LADY AND THE TRAMP
Depending on where you fall on the ‘we learn from history’ continuum, you either believe the Si and Am, the Siamese cats that wreak havoc at the Darlings, blaming it on poor Lady, are an abomination, an important reminder of the history of racism against Asians in the US, or just a silly, ill-advised part of an otherwise great movie. To me, the part of the characterization that is most problematic (apart from the song) is that Siamese cats in general are portrayed as evil creatures up to no good, AND they’re voiced as Asian. I’m strongly on the side of never cutting anything out of any movie, even the blackface in Holiday Inn. Our country, as we all know, has a history of racism still showing itself today. We have to acknowledge where that comes from, recognize it, note it, and learn from it. I spent my whole childhood hating Siamese cats because of Lady and the Tramp. I don’t think I internalized that kind of judgment on Asian folks, but racism is an insidious thing. I mean, people stopped going to Asian restaurants because of COVID, somehow making a correlation there, however stupid that is, so….
The original pair of cats was drafted and designed in 1943, and was meant to suggest the yellow peril. They were called Nip and Tuck. In Ward Greene’s novelization, written during the production, Si and Am actually offer a tearful and genuine apology to Tramp for hiding a rat’s body in the nursery as a joke.
The 2019 live action version of Lady and the Tramp changed the cat breed to Rex, calling them Devon and Rex. What I think should happen for the original, is the film should have an introduction by a scholar of Asian cultural anthropological studies, who can frame that part of the film for today.
Here’s a video of Peggy Lee working on the song, and performing it, which is, no matter how you look at it, fascinating.
THE STORY BEHIND THE CHARACTERS
Lady was designed after story man Joe Grant’s cocker spaniel Lady. She had been sidelined when Joe’s baby arrived. He showed Walt some sketches he made of her in the late 30s, who found them intriguing so he asked Grant to work up some storyboards. Walt didn’t like them, so the idea was shelved. In 1943, Walt bought the rights to a story by Ward Greene called Happy Dan The Cynical Dog, and the studio started working on some version of that, which kept including Lady in some fashion. Grant left the studio in 1949, and never got the credit for his part in making Lady and the Tramp a classic. Watch Disney historians and animators talking about the original story here:
A BOX OFFICE SUCCESS
When Lady and the Tramp came out, it was the most successful movie since Snow White, even though originally it was panned by critics. That only goes to show how wrong we movie critics can be.
I know from personal experience just how beloved the film is, especially by Disney fans. It’s for this reason that I thought I’d bring together a collection of Lady and the Tramp original production cels and drawings for sale on this special occasion of the film’s 65th anniversary. None of these pieces are listed on the gallery website. For more information, prices, and to inquire about purchasing any of the images, email me at email@example.com.
It’s a wonderful collection of Lady and the Tramp art actually used in the making of the film. Using the numbers listed for each image, please contact us immediately to find out about availability!
ArtInsights is so excited about the new release of Peanuts animation art, which celebrates the long history of collaboration between Peanuts and NASA. This new collection includes “Mission Control: We’re Ready for Assignment” The NASA Space Station limited edition of 50, and original production cels from the Peanuts animation featurette, which is the 4th episode of This is America, Charlie Brown, originally released in November of 1988, way before what was ultimately the International Space Station was up and running with a crew. I guess you could say that Charlie Brown, his friends, and his dog Snoopy were technically the first to man (and dog) the Space Station!
Even with all the darkness of the pandemic and police brutality in the news and on our minds, the anticipation and thrill around the SpaceX launch was high, and offered a brief respite from our country and world’s formidable struggles. Elon Musk has a goal to decrease the cost and improve the reliability of access to space, and as anyone who watched the Falcon 9 rocket with a Crew Dragon capsule take off, orbit, and dock at the International Space Station, which is only the first leg of their journey. This test flight was to certify that SpaceX spacecraft is safe to start making routine trips to and from the space station for NASA, which as relied on Russia for that task since 2011, when space shuttle flights ended. At this moment, astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are on the space station with current commander and NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy. This new mission will be considered a complete success when Behnken and Hurley come home in the Crew Dragon. If all goes to plan, the next mission will be to carry 3 NASA astronauts and one astronaut from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency to the space station.
It started in the 60s, when Charles M. Schulz allowed Snoopy to become the mascot for the NASA’s spaceflight safety initiative. Schulz also created comic strips of Snoopy on the moon, to excited the public about the US space program. Then Charlie Brown and Snoopy became mascots of Apollo 10. They named the command module Charlie Brown, and the lunar module Snoopy. The NASA website explains, “In May 1969, Apollo 10 astronauts traveled to the Moon for a final checkout before lunar landings on later missions. Because the mission required the lunar module to skim the Moon’s surface to within 50,000 feet and “snoop around” scouting the Apollo 11 landing site, the crew named the lunar module Snoopy. The command module was named Charlie Brown, Snoopy’s loyal owner.” In fact, when the lunar module rendezvoused with the the command module, astronaut Thomas Stafford said, “Snoopy and Charlie Brown are hugging each other.”
Even now, NASA astronauts give an award to employees and contractors for outstanding achievements in human flight safety or mission success called the Silver Snoopy. The award includes a sterling silver Snoopy lapel pin that has been flown during a NASA mission, a commendation letter which includes on what mission the pin was flown) and a signed and framed Silver Snoopy certificate. It is a high honor for those who receive it.
In 2019, NASA and Peanuts Worldwide celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 10’s launch with a collaboration that ‘shared the excitement of science, technology, engineering, and math with the next generation of explorers’. NASA provided support for new Peanuts programs that focus on modern-day Astronaut Snoopy and space themes.
Most notable is the new show on Apple TV+ “Snoopy in Space”, which had its release on the premiere day of the streamer in November.
If you have AppleTV+, you can watch the whole 1st season now, which, by the way, got a score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been nominated for 4 Daytime Emmys. Here’s a trailer:
There’s also a 10 minute documentary short, directed by Oscar-winner Morgan Neville, and starring Ron Howard and Jeff Goldblum called Peanuts in Space: Secrets of Apollo 10. It features archival interviews of two of the three Apollo 10 astronauts, Tom Stafford and Eugene Cernan, as well as an interview with current NASA flight director, Ginger Kerrick. It too has been nominated for a Daytime Emmy!
So, for many reasons, this is the perfect time for a release of Peanuts animation art celebrating Snoopy in Space, Space Exploration, and the ongoing connection between Peanuts and NASA. This new art is from the 1988 featurette, This is America, Charlie Brown: The NASA Space Station.
In This is America, Charlie Brown: The NASA Space Station, the plot is based on Linus having a dream about being part of the Space Station after working all day on a school project about it.
In it, Linus imagines the Space Station commander as Lucy, (showing once again the progressive side of Peanuts) with Space Station operations run by Snoopy, Linus himself as the official scientist onboard, with five spacecraft specialists including Peppermint Patty in charge of exercise, Charlie Brown as cook and photographer, Sally and Pig Pen as experiment specialists, and Franklin as social scientist researching how the crew reacts to living in space for 90 days.
The NASA Space Station Peanuts limited edition is made with 22 paint colors and 3 ink colors and special wash effects to recreate Pig Pen’s dust, and it takes days to complete each individual piece of art. The background is a reproduction of an original background used in the original featurette.
This new limited edition was designed by animation director, Larry Leichliter.Using artwork from the studio archives, including publicity drawings, original key pose sheets and anoriginal background, Larry designed the Character Layout drawing for the animation celsand the Key Pose Model Sheet.
You can find buy or learn more about the new NASA Space Station Peanuts limited edition “Mission Control: We’re Ready for Assignment” by going HERE.
What is fascinating about Charles Schulz and his strong, long-lasting connection with NASA is how he was so committed to space exploration, and getting the public involved. Not only did he create the space-related comic strips that sparked his collaboration, then allowed his characters to be used for Apollo 10, he got involved in promoting the NASA project to construct a permanently crewed Earth-orbiting quite early. Reagan approved the Space Station Freedom project in 1984, and This is America, Charlie Brown: The NASA Space Station premiered in 1988. That was a lot of faith in the project coming to fruition. Basically, he was following the philosophy of “If you build it, they will come”, only the animation came first, and the space station followed… but then again, everyone follows Snoopy!
Lee Mendelson spoke about Schulz’s commitment to the project:
“They were building the station when Bill and I visited there in Houston. Nasa warned me that it might never work. I asked Sparky if we wanted to take the chance to do a show about a subject that might not ever happen. He said, “Absolutely. We have to back the efforts of these people.” He had great confidence as was proven earlier when he let Apollo 10 use Charlie Brown and Snoopy with the great risk involved If it failed.”
After budget cuts that put the project on hold, several times when the whole project was almost completely scrapped, the Clinton Administration announced the transformation of Space Station Freedom to the International Space Station, with Russia becoming part of the project. The first components of the ISS were launched into orbit in 1988, with the first long-term residents arriving in November of 2000.
The Peanuts characters worked on the space station all the way back in 1988, a full 12 years before NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko of Roscomos began their residency on the orbiting laboratory. In a way, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Peppermint Patty, Pig Pen, Franklin, and Snoopy were the space station’s ‘real’ first residents!
There are also a very few great This is America, Charlie Brown: The NASA Space Station Peanuts production cels available. Here are a few we have right now, and please contact us via email to check availability for all Peanuts animation art.
I love knowing that Schulz and his wife Jeannie went to NASA in the late 90s for the opening of an exhibit on Peanuts and NASA that was proudly on display there. The Space Administration genuinely loved Charlie Brown and the whole Peanuts gang.
Perhaps it seems odd or even in bad taste to think and talk about cartoons during such troubled times. For some, that may be true. But I’ll finish this blog about space, NASA and Peanuts with a very personal story. Many of you know I’ve had the gallery for over 27 years. Earlier in our time being open, my 16-year-old sister was killed in a car accident. She died right in the car, before she could even be taken to the hospital. I was at the gallery at the time, and my father had to call me and tell me the news. It was one of the worst days of my life. For a while, it was really hard to come into the gallery, and sit surrounded by animation and film art. It didn’t take very long, however, to discover that these pop culture references, these nostalgic, joyful images put things in perspective. I could look around and be surrounded by joyful memories, and it helped. It really did. It’s in the joyful living that we express why it is so important to be free, be healthy, and be safe. The fact that we can and do actively reach for joy is why it is important to stand up for those who can’t. Whether it is the risk of sickness or the risk of bodily harm, we owe it to folks at risk to stand for them. We owe it to those who are no longer here to embrace joy wherever and whenever we can. If that’s watching a Snoopy cartoon, or the SpaceX launch, so be it.
With that in mind, here is Snoopy doing the happy dance at the COVID Comfort Cartoon:
Looney Tunes and Bugs Bunny are forever entwined. His 80th birthday is coming up, and we must start celebrating early! But once again this week, I am unexpectedly and accidentally timely with my subject matter. The premiere of HBO Max on May 27th means the release of their new show Looney Tunes Cartoons coincides with my release of exclusive original Looney Tunes production art. I had no idea!
I had in mind Bugs Bunny’s 80th anniversary, which would be officially o July 27th, since it was back in 1940 in July that the rascally rabbit first made his appearance in Tex Avery’s A Wild Hare.
Always wanting to get a jump on all things birthday, I had planned the animation collection release of more recent Looney Tunes original cels a few weeks ago, for this week, with an accompanying blog. My pals who officially wholesale the Warner Brothers cels and I came up with a cool thing where we’d get Eric Bauza to give a signature with the art we sell. Eric is a Canadian voice actor extraordinaire and, as of 2011, he has been a member of the Looney Tunes family, voicing Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, and many others. His former work includes shows like Ren and Stimpy, Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, Lego Star Wars, Steven Universe, SpongeBob Squarepants, and The Loud House, and, as it turns out, he is now voicing Bugs and other classic characters on Looney Tunes Cartoons! According to Warner Brothers,Eric is actually their official voice of Bugs, Daffy and Tweety.
Oddly, I hadn’t been on the marketing radar for the folks promoting their new animated series, I mean, at least sometimes my two lives of film journalist, and animation historian and art gallery owner converge, and you’d think this would be one of them. Then my editor at the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, Jennifer Merin, asked me to review Looney Tunes Cartoons for that site (which you can find HERE.) Conflict of interest alert, I thought! Upon reconsideration, I figured if the show was no good, since the cels in this collection are from earlier shows, it wouldn’t really matter, and if the show was great, all the better. Then I watched the new series and not only breathed a sigh of relief, I was thrilled for all involved, especially the fans of these classic characters. Looney Tunes Cartoons is, in a word, spectacular. (Here is a link to my review on the Alliance of Women Film Journalists)
You, however, may groan at the idea of once again bringing Looney Tunes characters to life, thinking the WB folks (who, by the way, own HBO) are going to try to “update” and “reboot” the classic characters and cartoons that you love.
As we all know, they don’t need updating, they’re perfect.
Gratefully, the producers and creators involved with this new iteration clearly love the 40s and 50s originals, and they bring that love to every moment of these new shorts. Geniuses like Bob Clampett, Bob McKimson, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery may no longer be with us, but their influence is in evidence. Classic Looney Tunes music, like Carl Stalling’s ‘What’s Up Doc”, gets a modern adaptation by composers Joshua Moshier and Carl Johnson, which just adds to the immersive feeling fans will get as they watch.
Take a look at this short example of Wile E Coyote and Roadrunner. Notice the animators of Looney Tunes Cartoons keep Chuck Jones’s traditional look for the characters, while giving them little touches, like his protruding fang:
Just for fun, here’s a vintage clip from Chuck Jones for comparison. When you watch them side by side, you can see the loving attention to detail for each character and the loyal throwbacks to the original the team for this new show considered. Here’s a teeny bit of Chuck’s first Wile E and Roadrunner cartoon, 1949’s The Fast and the Furry-ous.
Says creator Peter Browngardt of the Looney Tunes Cartoons designs, “Our characters are more rounded, more squat. We gave Bugs yellow gloves, and Daffy has the longer, thinner bill. Porky is Clampett’s version, with the bigger eyes and head. We definitely did a lot of homework!”
“The people who made the original shorts invented this art form. They took the baton and ran with it.”
Here’s another Looney Tunes Cartoons short called Pest Coaster, featuring 80th birthday boy, Bugs Bunny, and Yosemite Sam. Eric Bauza’s voice gets some getting used to, but only because he stands on the shoulders of Mel Blanc, a giant. The inklines are designed to be very thin, which is a callback to the way they were inked in the very early days. There are a few subtle differences like the gloves, but Bugs’s head is exactly the way it was drawn in the early 40s at the beginning of his ‘career’.
You also may have noticed influences from the design aesthetic of iconic Warner Brothers cartoon background artist Maurice Noble. That just adds to the nostalgic quality of the show.
About stepping into the role of Bugs, Eric Bauza rightfully says, “It’s one of those characters that’s like the holy grail of cartoon voices.” He has some pretty impressive tools in his arsenal of vocal tricks, and I think we’ll all get used to his style, especially since he’s also contributing his talents to Tweety and Daffy cartoons. Eric actually started out in the animation industry as a layout artist. He explains. “I came to the US to study animation. I worked at a couple of studios, not the big ones, but some of the smaller animation houses around town. One of them was 6-point harness, and they actually allowed me to leave in the middle of the day to audition for voice work and then come back and finish what I was doing. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help. All the artists and creators that I met, knew that I wanted to do voices, and offered me to do voices for their pilots, and I took those opportunities.”
He has great appreciation for the man he calls the ‘Looney Tunes godfather’, and knows his great fortune in picking up the mantle. Eric explains, “When you do a voice-match of a classic character there’s definitely an essence to the character that has to be there for the audience to latch onto. As far as the character, maybe you want to bring them into modern day, if it was from the 30s or 40s. There’s some room to make it your own. In fact, you have to make it your own, because in the originals, the Looney Tunes godfather, Mel Blanc, set the bar so high. I don’t even think anyone was expecting those characters to carry on, but companies like WB have these amazing characters that deserve new audiences. I think the WB cartoons are the best, and I grew up on watching the reruns. I grew up watching the cartoons of the 90s, too, and everybody jokes about them, but I adore them. I grew up watching classics, and remakes, and now in the present day, I get to be a part of that. I think it’s awesome.”
Here he is, talking about voicing characters:
With all that in mind, it’s pretty cool that we just scored some gorgeous original production cels of everyone’s favorite Looney Tunes characters, like Bugs, Elmer, Daffy, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, and Tweety and Sylvester.
Cooler still is the fact that for every piece sold, we’re getting a signature from vocal artist Eric Bauza! Some of the pieces in the collection are from before his time as an official Warner Brothers voice, but we figured that fans who love Looney Tunes would like having his signature anyway, so we’re putting them on cards instead of him signing the art. Frame the art with it or without, as you see fit.
I did a lot of research into the shows these Looney Tunes production cels come from, and it was all fascinating work, but my favorite part was learning new things about my favorite Looney Tunes characters. For example, Carrotblanca is one of the only times Tweety plays a villain, or is the character that appears in the end sequence. I also knew nothing about The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, which are actually quite good! I have already had two tuxedo kitties, and both were scaredy cats like Sylvester, so I’m a fan of Sylvester for sure. Here’s a great Sylvester production cel on a pan background from the cartoon:
I’d never seen a lot of the corresponding cartoons, like Box Office Bunny, Blooper Bunny, Quackbusters, and Carrotblanca, which I especially loved. Way to cross pollinate the film and animation properties at Warner Brothers! If you love both Looney Tunes and Casablanca, you’ll find this spoof particularly funny. I loved Tweety taking on the signature qualities of Peter Lorre!
I guess it’s not best to consider the cross-species relationship between Bugs Bunny and Penelope Pussycat. It’s funny, regardless. All’s fair in love and cartoons!
I hope you find something great for your animation art collection with these new images. My favorites, probably because images of these characters are so hard to find, are the Tasmanian Devil, the Tweety cel, the Tweety, Granny, and Sylvester cel, the Foghorn Leghorn cel, and the Daffy Duck drawing and cel of him trapped by hunters. There is also some great Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny art. All classic images!
So let’s end this blog, as I’ve been doing lately, with a COVID Comfort Cartoon. This week, it’s a full episode from the new Looney Tunes Cartoons, which includes a new Bugs Bunny cartoon, so we can properly start celebrating the Bugs Bunny 80th annivesary! Hopefully it will give you and your kids something fresh and new to do together, solidifying their membership in the Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies fandom.
For Father’s Day, an interview with Ruth Clampett about growing up with Bob Clampett, plus a vintage collection of Beany and Cecil art!
We have the incredible luck to have gotten just a few of the extremely rare Beany and Cecil original production cels from the original 1960s show. These Beany and Cecil originals come directly from the animator Bob Clampett’s estate, which is overseen by his children. With Father’s Day right around the corner, and knowing from my friend Ruth Clampett how wonderful Bob Clampett was to have as a dad, I thought it would be a wonderful time to ask Ruth a few questions about her experience, both about growing up the child of the renowned animator, and as someone who has kept the artistic legacy of her dad alive, and promoted the art of animation and film as the owner of Clampett Studios.
Born and raised in California, not far from Hollywood, Bob Clampett is well-known to many animation fans. He worked at Warner Brothers during the creation of some of the most classic Looney Tunes cartoons, directing 84 of them, some of which are deemed the best in their history. He designed some very iconic characters, including Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, and Tweety. Porky Pig is a character that was originally created by Friz Freleng, but fleshed out and made popular when Clampett pinned down his character in the late 30s. The animator was known for his wacky, outrageous animation, best expressed in his surreal classic which featured Porky Pig, 1938’s Porky in Wackyland. That animated short is a singular example in which artistry, animation, and humor blend perfectly. It is only because of the obsessive love of all things Disney at the time (remember this is right around the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) that it didn’t win an Oscar at the time. Actually, it wasn’t even nominated, but 4 Disney cartoons were, with Ferdinand the Bull the winner.
Beany and Cecil was created by Bob Clampett after he left Warner Brothers in 1946, some would say, at the height of his creativity as an artist. The cartoon was based on Clampett’s own earlier show, 1949’s Time for Beany, which featured puppets of a captain named Horatio (Or “Uncle Captain”), his nephew Beany Boy, as they travelled the high seas aboard the Leakin’ Lena. His best pal was a seasick serpent named Cecil. They had run-ins with a baddie named Dishonest John (or DJ for short). Watch a bit of it below:
After Time for Beany ended, Clampett revisited the characters by developing the Beany and Cecil cartoon show, which premiered in 1962.
That series was considered the first fully creator-driven television series, and announced itself as “a Bob Clampett Cartoon”. He and his team created 26 shows, which included 78 cartoons, and were repeated on Saturday mornings for the next five years.
One notable, and valuable aspect of the show was in the opening, where Cecil sings “A Bob Clampett cartoon!” It was a way that Bob Clampett got recognition for his work and creation. Working for other studios, the directors were not recognized, with the studio head getting prime billing. As someone who sells art by animation and film artists, many of whom remain relatively unknown, it is a pleasure to see.
All these years later, there are still fans who remember watching and loving the Beany and Cecil characters have a strong cult following. This show paved the way for lots of other animation, as did all of Bob Clampett cartoons.
Ruth Clampett, Bob’s daughter, owns the art business that represents most of the official Looney Tunes animation, all the art from Hanna Barbera, as well as art from Harry Potter, and all animation from DC Comics.
I asked her if she had any Beany and Cecil art she could ask her family to offer through ArtInsights, and I was thrilled that she prevailed upon them to give me some rare original Beany and Cecil art from the 1962 cartoon.
I asked Ruth a few questions about her experience growing up with these iconic characters, what the art itself means to her and her family, and what made Bob Clampett a great dad:
What are a few really great memories of Beany and Cecil you remember that stays with you from when you were growing up?
Growing up a Clampett meant that I was growing up inside a cartoon…there was always a sense of wonder and magic. There was very little delineation of my dad’s work life and home life. Dad had a great sense of humor and would always come up with stories or ways to entertain us. We would hang out at my parent’s studio in Hollywood where his office was full of art and toys, and then come home to a house where Beany and Cecil toys and our art abound. At school our friends would sing to us, “A Bob Clampett Cartoo-o-o-on!” It was an animated life for sure.
When did you discover these cels, which are from your father’s estate? Can you talk about your perspective on the pieces themselves?
My dad kept everything he could on projects that he had loved in his career, so my brother, sister and I were always aware of Dad’s archives and understood how meaningful it was to him. The Beany and Cecil art is an important part of that archive. We naturally have respected and preserved it as best we could. ..those cels are sixty years old!
Meanwhile my brother, Rob, has overseen art and photos being loaned for books, museum exhibits and such. It has always been our dream to have the collection in a museum and many images in a book about his career. We won’t stop until that dream is realized.
As for the Beany and Cecil cels, I do think they capture that era where characters weren’t overdone, but had engaging and unique personalities. How can you look at a Cecil cel and not smile along with him?
What makes Beany and Cecil so special as a cartoon?
I think what was special about Beany and Cecil was their friendship and how they always looked out for each other as two “best pals” would. Cecil was big-hearted, but also gullible and often Beany would be the one to look out for Cecil. But if Beany was ever in trouble, Cecil would charge ahead and save his little pal. Other important aspects were that despite the limited TV animation of that time, the shows were very story driven. They were always on an adventure to unusual places where they would meet every kind of creature and character. There was always excitement and lots of laughs in every episode. We were also entertained with spoofs on popular movie studios or Disneyland (as in the episode “Beanyland.” And exposed to hip characters like Go Man VanGogh, the Wildman of Wildsville, who was ahead of his time.
Dad was always at the forefront of animation and character basedentertainment, whether puppets or cartoons. He worked on the first Merrie Melodies cartoon at 17, and at the age of 15 helped his aunt, Charlotte Clark, design the first Mickey Mouse Doll. He was truly destined to have career in animation. Years later when he learned about the advent and possibilities of television at the World’s Fair he knew he wanted to be part of that new frontier in entertainment.
His puppet show, Time for Beany was a sensation and won three Emmys. The immediacy of puppetry on television was very exciting for a storyteller like my Dad. So later when the idea came about to do limited animation for television, Dad was inspired to take his popular puppet characters, Beany and Cecil, and immerse them in the animated world.
Did you dad ever talk about the characters or reference them to you, in terms of art or as an animator? How and when did you connect to your dad as an artist and animator, and realize he was important to animation history?
Dad was always coming up with new ideas and would often share them with us. When MTV first came on the air with all music videos we talked about how he would do a video with a band and have animated characters as part of the video. I loved that idea.
From one artist to another I learned from him to look for inspiration everywhere. Dad was passionate about music, movies, and happenings in the news. We grew up around art books, museums and shows. He and my mom always encouraged us to follow our passion and be willing to try new things. They gave us a lot of freedom, both creatively and making our own decisions and I will always be thankful for having such an inspiring environment and encouraging parents. They always made me believe that I could achieve anything I truly set my mind and heart to.
What would you want people to know about your dad? What made him special?
I know many animation fans must wonder based on Dad’s Looney Tunes cartoons that this guy must have been pretty wild with how energized and wacky his cartoons could get. What they don’t know is that he did have a great sense of humor and loved to laugh, he also had a big heart and was very kind. I never heard him speak bad of anyone, even people who had treated him badly, and as an adult I realize how unusual that is. He didn’t care about money or fancy things. Instead nothing made him happier to hang out with a group of young animators and fans, find out about what they were working on or inspired about, and then sharing stories they asked to hear.
This has all been wonderful. Thanks, Ruth. Can we finish this interview with you telling us one great memory you have of your dad that stays with you?
I think when I was about nine my Dad had the idea that it would be fun to have a family puppet show. He and my Mom put a series of numbers together and then he directed us using the Time for Beany puppets (mainly obscure secondary characters) for the show. We had a lot of fun and ended up performing at a number of events. I credit that experience also for making me never be afraid to get up and speak in front of a crowd. That comes in handy every year when I present the Humanitarian award in his name at the San Diego Comic Convention!
You can read a bunch more about the making of Beany and Cecil in a story by a storyboard artist who worked on the show, Robert Story, by going HERE. Here is a video where Sody Clampett, Bob’s wife and Ruth’s mom, talks about Bob’s career:
It’s too bad the dvd of the complete 1962 Beany and Cecil cartoon show are so incredibly hard to come by, but it’s no surprise. Even some Oscar-winning Bugs cartoons cost a fortune, if you can find them.
Lastly, check out a bit of the panel I did at San Diego Comic-Con featuring Ruth Clampett and Linda Jones, called “Looney Tunes Legacy”. Ruth talks about her dad:
As part of my blogging about animation and our animation art collection during the pandemic, I have been ending with a COVID Comfort Cartoon. This week, I’m using the Beany and Cecil cartoon Harecules and the Golden Fleecing, because I thought it might amuse the many, many parents who are having to home-school very smart kids.
Zoinks! We have Scooby-Doo original production art this week as our Wednesday Wonders, and I’m happy to day we are SUPER timely for once! Let me explain…(and then let me relay some fun facts and info on one of my favorite cartoons, Scooby-Doo!)
This May sees the online release of the computer-animated feature SCOOB!, direct to streaming. It features the voice of Frank Welker as the title character, who is a member of the original 1969 Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! voice cast. Rounding out the Mystery gang are Will Forte as Norville ‘Shaggy’ Rogers, Gina Rodriguez as Velma, Zac Efron as Fred, and Amanda Seifried as Daphne. Riding in the wake of the On Demand success of Trolls World Tour, which broke all digital records when offered for $19.99 for home viewing, Warner Brothers is following suit. They have decided to stick to their May 15th opening date. The movie had moved its opening date several times already, so now they’re gambling on its potential to capture a quarantine audience looking for fun family viewing.
Here’s the trailer:
THE SCOOBY-DOO ORIGIN STORY
When you think of scary cartoons, Scooby-Doo is almost always the first that comes to mind. The character and the cartoon shows, which originated in 1969 with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, followed friends Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and his pup Scooby-Doo on adventures where they’d drive around solving mysteries in dark, creepy locations around the country, though in the end the monster, creature, or ghost wound up being a trick by the local town’s often high-profile crook.
Originally, creators Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, who were writers at Hanna-Barbara, came up with a show called “Mysteries Five”, where a dog named “Too Much” was just a sidekick. The names of the kids and what they did were different, too. They were musicians in a band, Geoff, Mike, Kelly, Linda, W.W., and a bongo-playing dog, who solved mysteries when they weren’t playing gigs.
Then the name changed to “Who’s S-S-Scared?”. It was CBS head of daytime programming Fred Silverman who renamed both the show and the character to Scooby-Doo. Though the story put out by Ruby and Spears is that Silverman was inspired by Frank Sinatra, which made good press, the likeliest origin story is from a song by the fictional band The Archies, “Feelin’ So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y-D.O.O.)” which had been released in 1968. At the time, Silverman had been deeply involved in overseeing The Archie Show as the head of children’s programming for CBS. The Archies are most famous for Sugar, Sugar, which was the top single of 1969!
Here’s the song that (likely) inspired Scooby-Doo!:
Scheduled opposite ABC’s The Hardy Boys, the original show became a ratings success, and led to a rash of copycat shows produced by Hanna Barbera with a team of kids and a sidekick solving crimes, including Josie and the Pussycats, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, Speed Buggy, and Jabberjaw, just to name a few!
SCOOBY-DOO: THE CHARACTER
The character, designed by one of the most famous character designers in cartoon history, Iwao Takamoto. Knowing it was a cowardly Great Dane, he asked help in creating Scooby from a colleague at Hanna-Barbara who was a Great Dane breeder, and added as many elements that would be considered undesirable for a show dog: spots, a sloped back, and to be honest, Scooby looks like he has hip dysplasia! Scooby was originally voiced by Don Messick, who was an integral part of all the shows from 1969 through the 90s, and then passed away in 1997. Messick is also known for Astro on the Jetsons, and Muttley in Wacky Races, Boo-Boo Bear in Yogi Bear, Poppa Smurf in the Smurfs, and tons of other famous characters.
WHAT’S BOB GOT TO DO WITH IT?
Our friend, Hanna Barbera concept artist Bob Singer, worked with Takamoto on the original 1969 show, Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? and designed a number of the monsters, villains, and creatures in the Hanna Barbera character design department. He started with Hanna Barbera before Scooby-Doo was developed, and was part of the crew of animators and concept artists who built the show from the ground up. He worked in layouts, character design, story development with storyboards, and a host of other duties in the tight group of artists, and he has the stories to prove it. Some of your favorite secondary characters were designed by him.
This Scooby-Doo animation art collection was pulled from the first two animated features created at Warner Brothers, (Hanna Barbera became part of Time Warner in 1996, when Turner merged with Time Warner) Scooby-Doo! on Zombie Island (1998) and Scooby Doo and the Witch’s Ghost (1999). It includes both Scooby-Doo original production cels and original production backgrounds. There are some great moments capturing Scooby and Shaggy together, and we’re excited about the Mystery Mobile cel and background and Scooby gang production cel.
We wanted, though, as you’ve seen lately, to incorporate as many folks who could benefit from this collection as possible in terms of small businesses and artists, so all the Scooby-Doo production cels will come with a Bob Singer signature and remarque drawing of Scooby. So not only will you have an original production cel from Scooby-Doo, you’ll also have an original drawing of Scooby’s head done by Bob Singer, who worked at Hanna Barbera from the beginning, and worked alongside Iwao Takamoto on Scooby-Doo! Where are You?, which means this time, when you buy these this Scooby Doo production art, you’re supporting our gallery, plus the small business that sells all the official Hanna Barbera art, as well as legend of animation Bob Singer, during the pandemic. Everybody wins, and it doesn’t get better than that!
You can also buy a rare original layout from Scooby Doo! Where are You and an original layout drawing of Scooby-Doo himself. Check out all Bob Singer’s art HERE.
ABOUT THE SCOOBY-DOO ORIGINAL PRODUCTION ART COLLECTION
SCOOBY-DOO ON ZOMBIE ISLAND HAS REAL ZOMBIES?
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, a direct-to-video animated ‘horror’ film came out in 1998, after the popularity of Scooby Doo soared in the 90s due to reruns being aired on the Cartoon Network. What makes both Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island and Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost particularly cool is both cartoons feature real supernatural characters instead of someone like the sheriff or local real estate mogul dressed in a costume. In fact, the basis for the story is Daphne, Fred, Velma, and Shaggy, the members of Mystery Inc. have gone their separate ways because they are bored by all the fake ghosts they catch. No worries, this story features voodoo dolls, zombies, and even were-cats! This feature was nominated for both an Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Animated Home Video Production, and a Motion Picture Sound Editors Best Sound Editing Award.
One of the best trivia stories about Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is that Casey Kasem, who originated the voice of Shaggy, was offered the role, but had recently gone vegan, and demanded that they remove all meat and dairy from the character’s diet. They recast the role with Billy West, famous for his voice acting on Doug, Futurama, and The Ren & Stimpy Show. He also provided the voices of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd for Space Jam.
You can watch the trailer for it here. Notice the tagline “This time…they’re real!” Also notice Shaggy is already eating meat and cheese in the trailer…and lots of cats! (would cats survive in the bayou? or would they be gator snacks?)
SCOOBY DOO AND THE WITCH’S GHOST HAS REAL WITCHES, BOTH GOOD AND BAD?
Soon after the great success of Zombie Island, they released Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghostin 1999, which got nominated for the same Annie award and Motion Picture Sound Editors award. Once again, this featured real ghosts instead of masked crooks. They once again replaced the voice of Shaggy, this time with Scott Innes, who was already voicing Scooby-Doo, because Billy West was busy with Futurama. Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost features an eco-goth band named The Hex Girls, and, happily for any wiccans reading this blog, both good and bad wiccan practitioners are represented in the story. The Hex Girls band and characters, it’s worth noting, became huge fan favorites, and appeared in a number of other Scooby-Doo movies and episodes thereafter!
*Note: This cartoon features the voice of the incomparable Tim Curry as Ben Ravencroft, reason enough to give it a watch!
In the time of a pandemic, it’s great to be reminded that our pets, whether dog, cat, fish, or fowl, are our best friends, our comfort, and a part of our family, and they always have our back!
For this week’s COVID Comfort Cartoon, I’ve picked the Hex Girls performing live, with special guests that come onstage: Scooby and the whole gang! No, it’s not Halloween, but it IS a scary time. Yes, it’s cheesy, but it’s fun, silly, and distracting from our new-usual daily scares! And seriously, The Hex Girls are famous to folks who were coming of age or were questioning their sexuality in 1998 through the early 2000’s as great affirmation of innocent yet positive individual expression. Hit it, sisters!
After all is said and done, Harry Potter is about love. It’s about tolerance and hope and acceptance and teamwork.
One of the things that has struck me in the last few days, with HARRY POTTER DAY (the anniversary of The Battle of Hogwarts), is how inspiring the stories of Harry Potter are right now, as it relates to how we deal with and get through this horrible, challenging time of the pandemic.
I thought of how we can approach it all, and how can can help each other heal…Many have heard about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s success at “doing what few countries have been able to do”, and contained the spread of COVID-19. The country has had far less than 100 deaths from the virus, due to a number of measures, ones that the entire country committed to and supported, as well as the clarity of the message coming from the government. Unlike other countries that declared “war on COVID-19”, the message was about coming together, and “unite against COVID-19”. The prime minister called the country “our team of five million.” When speaking to the country, she almost always ended her appearances with “Be strong. Be kind.”
That reminds me so much of the way Dumbledore spoke to Harry. In remembering and looking at some of the brilliant wizard’s quotes, he has so much to teach us about how to approach, survive, and maybe even thrive during this pandemic.
The headmaster knew that how a leader speaks to his or her followers can make all the difference:
“Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”
Dumbledore knew the importance and power of kindness.
“Just like your mother you’re unfailingly kind … a trait people never fail to undervalue, I’m afraid.”
On patience and compassion for those who are vulnerable as we move forward in the coming months:
“Dark and difficult times lie ahead, Harry. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”
On the universality of the whole world dealing with this pandemic and the profound losses it has created:
“While we may come from different places and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one.”
“… we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided … Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”
On the challenges we are all facing, and staying positive:
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
On the issue of disagreements about testing, mortality rate, and how the president is doing:
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends”
There are so many other quotes from the books that resonate right now, but perhaps it’s Sirius Black who captures how we must all proceed, both in terms of how we treat others around us, and how we find a way beyond our own despair:
We’ve all got both light and dark inside of us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
Sure, there’s an actual battle, which is part of a war against the forces of darkness, that leads to the climax of the series. I would argue the fight, or the war, is not on the virus itself. It’s on the apathy, despair, and hopelessness the pandemic has caused. People showing compassion and concern for those on the front lines, for the most vulnerable among us, the poor who are more at risk: that’s the new Dumbledore’s Army. It is based in kindness and love, just the kind the Jacinda Ardern has shown in her leadership as New Zealand’s Prime Minister.
With all that in mind, we decided to offer, as we so love to do and are inspired to do right now, a charity donation for all sales of Harry Potter art to the HOUSE OF RUTH, a charity that empowers women, children and families to rebuild their lives and heal from trauma, abuse and homelessness.
As you may have heard, domestic abuse during the pandemic and in quarantine has been on the rise, and we want to help those who are put at risk. The spirit of Harry Potter and Dumbledore’s Army, seems perfectly suited to that challenge.
For every sale, we will donate to HOUSE OF RUTH, through July 31st, Harry’s (and J.K. Rowling’s) own birthday. Harry had to deal with domestic abuse. Let’s help some people get past it in the real world.
Artinsights continues to celebrate the art of Harry Potter, with Mary GrandPré book cover art, Jim Salvati Harry Potter concept art, and Stuart Craig art of the Harry Potter production design, all official Harry Potter art. (Harry Potter art is the only art program that has steadfastly required art that is sold be only by artists who actually worked on the film or illustrated the books. Fan art is another matter, but you all know that!)
We’ve spoken about Harry Potter book cover art with Mary GrandPré on a number of occasions. When we first focused on it and released the first official images, only a few books had been released. It was great fun going through the next 4 books or so, and then the movies, talking to her from time to time. She had a few favorite images, and they changed, of course, as the story of Harry Potter expanded and the boy grew older and, sometimes, sadder. When you look at the collection of deluxe book covers, (and it’s not as easy to do when you just have the books) you can see how she worked with JK Rowling to go from bright colors of The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, to a more and more monochromatic palette in Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire to Order of the Pheonix and Half Blood Prince and finally to a very adult-looking cover for The Deathly Hallows.
Mary GrandPré told me the last cover was her favorite, although she told me she loved the special images released as Escape From Gringotts and Number 12 Grimmauld Place so much that she wished those two images had been used as Harry Potter book covers.
As for the smaller images which were the first released as official art, she also said she had particular favorites.
Counting the Days, with Harry and Hedwig, Diagon Alley, which captures Hagrid and Harry’s found-family friendship, The Enchanted Car, and Battle with the Dragon, and Mirror of Erised were all images she mentioned to me by name. We also talked about A World of Infinite Magic, which she did early on and had chatted with Rowling about. GrandPré wanted to create an image where you could stare at it for a long time, and still see new things.
Notice a lot of elements are in different locations in this art. Rowling changed some of the places things were as the books went along, something that concerned Stuart Craig as he was designing the environments in the later movies. Rowling said that as the world of Harry Potter is magical, it would make sense for things to change! Magic is your continuity friend!
Speaking of Stuart Craig, when I spoke to him about his career and his work on the Harry Potter film series, I got the sense of his pride in his work for the movies. He knew, rightly, that his impact on the consistency, his ability to weave a visual magic through all of the films, made them something fans could return to and celebrate again and again. It wasn’t easy getting Stuart Craig Harry Potter art added to the official roster of images available to collectors. Doubt of the story with the boy that lived, and its longevity, once again reared its ugly head. He’s someone who just thought Harry Potter film art wouldn’t sell, especially his. We are so grateful he was able to be persuaded to the contrary!
Here is the interview I did when with him when the film series was coming to a close:
The Stuart Craig art released based on his work on the films were created from his original drawings and the full-color images created by architectural artist Andrew Williamson, showing once again that the finished product we see as fans is built from many artists’ hands. What we see in the theaters is the result of an impressive creative community made up of hundreds of talented people working together..but beyond the director, someone, an artistic leader with a singular vision, has to lead, and that someone is two-time Oscar winning production designer Stuart Craig.
Jim Salvati worked on the the first few films, when Rowling wanted to have some concept art that felt painterly.
Jim was and still is one of the last concept artists working in the industry who works that way, and often worked on Warner Bros. projects, he was the go-to for Harry Potter concept art.
Interestingly enough, he was recently contracted again by Warner Bros., to create an entirely new style guide for Harry Potter, and worked on over 80 new digitally painted pieces for them, to be used as art, reference, and in any other way that they needed specific art-based images. They hadn’t kept good reference materials on a lot of characters and environments from the movies, so they had him do just about anything and everything you can think of. Jim Salvati is still in high demand as a movie concept artist, but the Harry Potter art project took over a year to complete, so that kept his hands full!
To me, the art of Harry Potter really does celebrate in visual art, the spirit of tolerance, hope, acceptance, and teamwork. Despite John Krasinsky, we don’t have enough good news right now. If all this blog does is remind you of the power and magic of positive thinking, I’ve done at least part of my job.
So. Let’s pivot to Darren Criss, which seems like a turn into left field, but it isn’t. Why? Well, first off, as many fans of both Harry Potter and Darren Criss know, without Harry Potter (and StarKid) he would not be famous. Darren got his start with a little thing called “A Very Potter Musical” (or AVPM) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Very_Potter_Musical Along with his pal A.J. Holmes, he wrote the music and lyrics to the parody, and it made him Harry Potter-famous. How famous is that? Famous enough to get hired on Glee, which made him a huge star. Just listen to all the squees on the “Future of Harry Potter” panel from 2010…(Yup. That’s me, right next to him..)
Darren has a new miniseries from Ryan Murphy called Hollywood! Here’s the trailer:
It connects well with Harry Potter, because, let’s be honest. Harry Potter, regardless of what has happened since the release of the series, is about inclusivity, and that’s the subject of the new show. There’s also a connection between Darren Criss and animation (apart from his famous love of Disney songs).
He’s just been announced as the new voice of Superman, in Superman: Voice of Tomorrow coming this summer, with Zachary Quinto as Lex Luthor! It follows Clark Kent working as an intern at The Daily Planet, and features villain and anti-hero fan favorites, Parasite (Brett Dalton of Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.) and Lobo (Ryan Hurst, who plays Beta on The Walking Dead).
For all those reasons, and because there are lots of kids all over the country and the world who didn’t get to celebrate their graduation and haven’t seen their friends in way too long, and, of course, to celebrate Darren Criss’s continued success, this week’s COVID Cartoon Comfort is being replaced with COVID Criss Comfort, through two videos, that go together wonderfully!
The first is his opening song in A Very Potter Musical in 2009. The musical, all told, has over 100 million views on YouTube.
The second is his performance of the same song at a concert in 2018. OK FANS, SING ALONG! (everyone else is!)
We hope you have found this little blog about hope inspiring. If you’re looking to find some artistic joy, maybe you’ll be inspired to add to your Harry Potter art collection. Either way, stay safe, be good, and remember,
“It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” <3
I love finding vintage cels. I loved even more finding vintage Donald Duck production art. As much as I enjoy a Disney cartoon, I’ve never much been a fan of Mickey Mouse. Friendly, funny, and sweet, he just didn’t resonate with me. Donald Duck? The grumpy Disney duck in Navy uniform (of sorts) is another story. I could relate to his anger management issues, and his often hollow attempts to find joy. When he did find happiness, we all knew it was real.
Last year on June 9th, It was Donald Duck’s anniversary. He turned 85. We thought now is as good a time as any to celebrate the character with Donald Duck production cels. Let me tell you the story of how we came by this great original art:
A friend worked at Disney in the 70s. There was research going on for the art program, and every day they pulled art from the Disney morgue (what is now known as the Animation Research Library) and every night they planned to put it all back, and the folks in charge said, “Oh, just keep it if you want it. It’s more trouble to put back.” These were very VERY different times. This friend completely forgot they had the art. It sat in boxes for decades. When they were finally moving after many years, they stumbled onto the box of art. Interestingly, a number of them were laminated. As you all may or may not know, I don’t sell laminated animation art (see my blog about that HERE.) so I offered to sell the unlaminated animation art they had. The art included a Briar Rose and a Philip and Samson Sleeping Beauty production cel (in original condition, full cels, which is rare, since they are mostly trimmed or laminated!) a few Mickey Mouse production cels, and these lovely, iconic images of Donald Duck, which was one of their favorite characters.
I haven’t found where these cels are from, and I’m not likely to track them down. I am guessing they were for TV. A number of them are hand-inked (with a thin ink-line to boot), so those are definitely from before 1958. What I do know is they are one step away from Disney, and have only been in three places: Disney, my friend’s house, and my gallery. No damage, no restoration, no trimming. Just great, affordable Donald Duck production cels, perfect for Disney fans who love the character!
Why DONALD DUCK? I mean, it did all ‘start with a mouse”. Well, Donald Fauntleroy Duck, in a lot of ways, represents Walt Disney Studios in ways that Mickey Mouse never did. Most notably, Donald was the cartoon character of choice when it came to the war effort.
During World War II, Donald was the one that Walt Disney used in all the propaganda cartoons. In fact, Disney won an Oscar for perhaps the most famous Donald Duck cartoon, Der Fuehrer’s Face in 1943, only a year after the studio won its first Oscar for a Mickey Mouse cartoon with Lend a Paw in 1942. You can read a bit more about Walt Disney’s support in the war effort on the National Museum of American History blog, HERE. Due to the fact that Donald was in so many wartime cartoons, he wound up on the nose of nearly every kind of US combat aircraft at the time. He was also the mascot for a number of fighter squadrons.
It’s interesting to note that there was a long stretch of time when there were very few Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts released, whereas they were releasing tons of Donald Duck cartoons. While 1942-1950, Mickey made only 12 appearances, Donald was in a whopping 67 cartoons!
The most interesting thing I discovered when researching about Donald Duck, was that he is incredibly popular in Germany. Comic books in German featuring the character sell hundreds of thousands of copies, half of which are over 16. In part that’s to the credit of Erika Fuchs, who began translating Disney comics into German in 1951, and did so until her retirement in 1988. Her choices of translation led to a character far more erudite, in fact quoting classic German literature, and even injecting political subtexts into the stories. There’s a fan club called D.O.N.A.L.D that celebrates “Donaldism”, conventions celebrating him, serious lectures on his philosophies, and a museum that opened in 2015 dedicated to Erika Fuchs in her home town, Schwarzenbach an der Saale.
I know a lot of collectors who fancy Donald and are avid collectors, but a lot of Donald Duck production cels from the older cartoons are very expensive, and few are in very good condition. Cels from the 50s and 60s are almost all Disneyland mat set-ups sold at the art corner at Disney, which means they’re stuck to their background or restored. These pieces are unusual in that they are full, untrimmed cels from an era when Disney cut their art down to smaller sizes and stuck them on litho backgrounds, making them all 9 x 12 inches. This Donald Duck production art is inexpensive, and has a great story!
Meanwhile, why Donald Duck now, in the time of COVID? Because Donald Duck perseveres. He may lose his temper, or act the prankster, but he always chooses to be optimistic and hope for the best. That’s a message we can all take to heart, even if it does come, or maybe especially because it comes from a cartoon duck.
Here is the COVID Cartoon Comfort for this week’s Wednesday Wonders: It’s a clip from the fantastic“Aquarela do Brasil” from 1943’s Saludos Amigos. There’s so much joy and friendship in this cartoon. It seems perfect as people around the world join together to show compassion and concern for all those affected by the pandemic. You can see the whole cartoon on Disney+.
Over the years, and there have been many, (we’ve been selling animation since 1988), we’ve sold a LOT of Little Mermaid production cels. So many, in fact, that there are lots of cels that go at auction (and for a pretty penny) that are framed in what I call “The Little Mermaid frame”, which sadly doesn’t exist anymore, but was a gold frame with waves on it. All of those Little Mermaid cels came from ArtInsights. There’s also that telltale sign of our sticker on the back of the art.
Back in 1990, during the first release of Little Mermaid original production cels, I sold something from nearly every scene from the movie. Back then, there really weren’t very many animation galleries. We shared the bounty with lots of Disney stores, who at the time also sold art. I remember some of my favorite scenes, and thinking they’d be very popular over time. Also, I remember selling as many as 30-50 cels to one collector. In fact, there are some pretty impressive Little Mermaid collections out there that we’ve built! There was one collector, (a guy, lots of avid Little Mermaid collectors are men!) who wanted to buy a cel from every scene in the film, including what I called “Ariel Flashdance”, which is where Ariel comes up for air, and she is in shadow:
Over the years, I’ve sold many hundreds of cels from
, but it has gotten harder and harder to find good images, especially ones with seals.
This reminds me of the story of when I went to a Sotheby’s Auction, and went into a hotel room beforehand where someone in the business was selling Little Mermaid production cels out of a box, where there were hundreds of stolen cels with no seals. That guy got busted a few years later…
There is only one scene I’ve never been able to find or sell: The scene with Ariel and the seahorses. I’m still on the hunt for some of those…
Anyway, one of my longtime clients came to me recently wanting to sell some of their collection. I had sold some wonderful images to this friend who lived in Europe. There they lived for many years, and now this friend was wanting to do something else with the money they would bring. YAY!
Included in the collection were images from “Kiss the Girl”, and the scene where Ariel is picking at an underwater flower…. “He loves me, he loves me not”, a scene from which they made a limited edition! There are some charming images of Ariel and her underwater friends, the first time she “talks” to Eric, and one wonderful cel from “A Part of Your World”.
A collector friend of mine showed me that this image was actually used for the back of the sheet music of Kiss the Girl. How cool is that?
All these images come with seals and certificates, of course. For those wanting to bring them home, they’ll be coming from one loving household to another.
One of the most wonderful things that I guessed a lot time ago that actually came to pass is that the last hand-painted Disney animated film, The Little Mermaid, was not only historic in that way, but also became a huge hit with collectors, and is really one of the most collectible movies in all of Disney.
What do Vin Diesel, Sylvia Plath, Gun Control, Pete Townsend, John Alvin, and The Sixth Sense have in common?
They are all connected in some way to cult classic and critical darling The Iron Giant, which was famously successful Pixar exec Brad Bird’s directorial debut, back in 1999. At the time, it was a flop. In fact, after sitting through the film on opening day surrounded by only 6 other people, producer John Walker stood outside an LA theater and offered to buy people tickets to see the film.
While wading through all the wonderful art in the John Alvin art collection, we found original art he created for The Iron Giant movie campaign. Ever since I saw the giant make a dramatic cameo in Ready Player One, the big sweet robot has been more in my thoughts, so it was doubly exciting to find work by John representing the movie, especially since art from the film is so hard to come by. As with some of the best film flops like The Princess Bride, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Blade Runner, and Fight Club, The Iron Giant has grown in popularity and appreciation year after year, as more generations and savvy movie lovers get to see it and fall head over heels with it.
However, as I discovered researching The Iron Giant for this blog, there is much sadness surrounding both the original story and the film. I guess somewhere in the deepest recesses of my collective unconscious mind, I must have sensed it was the perfect film to highlight while our global family is struggling with the sadness and shock of a sweeping pandemic.
The story is based on a book called The Iron Man: A Children’s Story in Five Nights, by poet Ted Hughes, who wrote it to cheer his children through the loss of their mother Sylvia Plath, who killed herself by sticking her head in an oven, having sealed the room between herself and her children with tape, towels, and cloths. That’s a rather dire start, I’ll admit, but it came from a place of a parent’s desire to comfort, which resonates right now. The book was published in 1968, though for US publication, the name was changed to The Iron Giant so as not to confuse it with the Marvel character.
Vin Diesel was the voice of the title character, and he was hired for the role very early in his acting career, having only been really landed on Hollywood’s radar through playing Private Caparzo in Saving Private Ryan. The Iron Giant also featured the voices of Jennifer Aniston as Hogart Hughes’s mom Annie, Harry Connick Jr. as beatnik Dean McCoppin, and Cloris Leachman as Hogarth’s schoolteacher Mrs. Tensedge.
Pete Townsend took the book and turned it into a musical. This is where it gets awesome. It STARRED NINA SIMONE! (and John Lee Hooker, and Roger Daltrey..) On the strength of stage version mounted in 1993 at The Old Vic, Warner Brothers bought the rights to the story, and that’s how the making of the movie got its beginnings.
Here she is, singing “Fast Food”, one of the songs from the musical:
Here’s a music video with Pete Townshend made for the breakout hit from the musical, A Friend is a Friend:
Since John Alvin had done work for the previous animated film by Warner Brothers, Quest for Camelot, Alvin Studios was brought in early on, to work on logo designs. They are some of the only images from the film out in the world. We are thrilled to have the only John Alvin art from The Iron Giant, all of which, if purchased, comes with an official certificate of authenticity from the estate of John Alvin.
Most of the production art resides, bizarrely, 650 feet under the ground in a salt mine that’s been in existence since the 20s, where Warner Brothers archives many of their films. The art is beautiful. (and you can buy a book on The Art of The Iron Giant HERE.)
One of the many reasons why the film didn’t do well in initial release, is the fact that other surprising films came out at the same time. Both The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project came out at the same time. Still, those films certainly don’t have the obsessive fanbase The Iron Giant has built since 1999.
As to gun violence? When Brad Bird pitched the idea after reading the original book, he said he wanted to make it a bit different, and offered, “What if a gun had a soul?” This came out of mourning. Brad Bird’s sister Susan was shot to death by her estranged husband.
“Maybe because I was still trying to draw together my own pieces after the death of my sister,” he said, “I had an epiphany: What if a thing developed a soul and what if that thing found out that it was designed to kill, but didn’t want to kill? What if a gun had a soul and didn’t want to be a gun?”
About his loss, he said, “When you shoot somebody, you’re not just killing that person. You’re killing a part of all the people that love that person.”
There’s a quote in the movie by Hogarth to his gigantic friend, “It’s bad to kill. Guns kill. And you don’t have to be a gun. You are what you choose to be. You choose.”
Brad Bird dedicated The Iron Giant to her.
The message of the film is about sacrifice, and, as the quote “You are who you choose to be” says, it’s about embracing who you are, not who others wish you to be, or what a hard life, or challenges, (like the ones we are experiencing now!) have allowed you to become. These are all so powerful, given the current state of the world. For most of us, nothing we are doing right now is easy. There are many sacrifices. However, we can go beyond the idea that we are just about money, and power. The world community can show right now that it is more than that. We can show love and compassion to each other.
Heroes have generally meant one thing in comics, cartoons, and film. They are the people from other worlds with superhuman strength like Superman, or tortured souls with dark pasts who choose to keep crime-ridden streets safe like Luke Cage and Batman, gods and goddesses like Thor and Wonder Woman, or people thrown into the role by a series of unfortunate events, like Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, and Black Panther.
There’s a lot of talk about heroes these days, and what it means to be one in real life. We’ve always thought of firefighters and those in what we used to call “the front lines”. The COVID pandemic has opened the world’s eyes to the bravery of doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, ambulance drivers, grocery checkers, teachers, mail people, and a host of other folk who are risking their lives to save others, help people stay food secure, and getting us all through this chaotic, unfortunate, very bad, not so good historic experience.
Some chose those roles long ago. There’s no denying running into a burning building is a fearless, heroic thing to do. Doctors and nurses care for the sick with unwavering compassion and commitment, often working more hours than any human should be expected to work. The grocery clerks, teachers, mail people and many others around us didn’t realize they’d have to put their lives on the line just to keep food on their own tables. They are the Spider-Men and Captain Marvels of our new reality.
With all that in mind, we at ArtInsights decided we’d like to donate 10% of sales of all superhero art, now through June 1st to COVID-19 relief efforts and support.
In addition, this week’s Wednesday Wonders will be a sale of 10% off of select heroes art!
This includes Alex Ross limited editions. This includes a number of sold out Artist Proofs (or APs) and exclusive images you can’t get anywhere else. So our clients and friends get 10% off, and we also donate another 10% to relief and support to REAL LIFE HEROES who are helping the fight against this pandemic, and who are keeping us safe.
Whether or not the art is ‘on sale”, which will only be from Wednesday to Friday at 11:59pm, we will be donating 10% to charity.
Our choices are:
DIRECT RELIEF : Direct Relief is a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay. They are coordinating with public health authorities, nonprofit organizations and businesses in the U.S. and globally to provide personal protective equipment and essential medical items to health workers responding to coronavirus (COVID-19).
NURSES HOUSE: Nurses House has partnered with the American Nurses Foundation to help nurses nationwide affected by COVID-19. Through July 31, 2020, Nurses House will be accepting applications from RNs, LPNs and LVNs who are unable to work due to a COVID-19 infection, caring for a family member with COVID-19, or are under employer mandated quarantine. In order to help as many nurses as possible, they desperately need our support.
*If you’d like us to donate to another cause that relates to the pandemic, please let us know, and we’ll send the donation there.
As many of you know, we’ve had a good relationship with the Alex Ross representatives, and have been fortunate to get many artist proofs of Alex Ross releases, as well as exclusive Alex Ross art in our gallery. The artist has always celebrated heroes, with his visually dramatic imagery, and love of comic book history. We love his Thor, and all his Marvel superheroes. We especially love the Alex Ross Avengers art, but we also have a soft spot for Alex Ross Batman images.
If you know us, you also know we love the aspirational quality of Jim Lee’s personal story, and his very vivid, compelling art. We all know Jim Lee does it for the love of comics. Who else would make a mint selling a comic company only to keep working in the business? They didn’t name him one of the leaders of DC Comics for nothing!
The Jim Lee art we are offering at 10% discount between Wednesday and Friday night are our favorite Jim Lee Hush art and a release of Batman’s 80th Anniversary Jim Lee art, as well as Trinity, which celebrates Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.
**A WORD ABOUT ALEX ROSS APs and JIM LEE APs**
There is a reason so many fans clammer for Alex Ross and Jim Lee AP1s. APs, in and of themselves, are no longer intrinsically worth more than a regular edition. Originally, when limited edition art was created, it was done by hand, and the lower the number, the more paint there would be on the paper, so getting a lower number would mean a better image. Now that limited editions are made through the giclee process, there’s no difference between #1 and #100.
HOWEVER: If a collector is buying a piece from a series and they can get either #1 or AP1, if they ever want to sell it, it will be FAR easier to sell than any other numbers in the series. Also, when you have an edition, the APs are a smaller subset (there are usually 5, 10, or 25 artist proofs in any edition). So that makes them a bit more special. I don’t believe getting AP2 through any other number is a big deal, or even worth buying for more money, unless the rest of the edition is sold out and you are able to at least get an image. Then it makes a lot of sense. If you can buy AP1 or the #1 in any edition, though, that’s pretty great. It might cost a bit more, but as mentioned before, it will be a lot easier to sell later if you (or your progeny) should ever want to sell.
Also part of this assortment are a few special pieces. We have ONE original production cel of The Powerpuff Girls signed by the creator of the show.
We know Disney would approve we are offering some SOLD OUT images of Anna and Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. We thought we’d add them for folks who like their heroes on the softer side, although, needless to say, Elsa can be pretty fierce! Honestly, we included Anna and Elsa because one of our friends is a nurse who also cosplays Elsa, so it is a tribute to her, as she is currently living apart from her family and working around the clock at hospital, helping COVID patients.
(She hasn’t sung “The COVID never bothered me anyway”, because there’s not much joy where she is right now.) To her, it’s all in a day’s work, even if it’s scary work without proper equipment. Still, we want to recognize her bravery, even if she doesn’t. Lastly, we included a piece by John Alvin, because he was always very supportive of charity partnerships, and he’d want to do all he could to support our heroes. Andrea Alvin feels the same way. The Cold of Hoth is great John Alvin Star Wars art, and it will be discounted from Wednesday to Friday night and included in the heroes assortment.
As to our COVID Cartoon Comfort? This week, we are sending you The Powerpuff Girls singing “Love Makes the World Go Round”, but with Icelandic subtitles. Iceland is a heroic country right now!
The country has done more testing of their population for the Coronavirus than any other country, and they’ve discovered that at any given time, half the population that has the disease aren’t showing any symptoms.
So this cartoon is also a reminder that loving each other means keeping each other safe! All the best to you,
Well this is a fine mess the world has gotten into, no? All politics aside, it’s terrifying to imagine our loved ones, or ourselves at risk to Corona virus, so we at ArtInsights love that people are staying home for as long as is necessary to get this pandemic behind us all. It has brought many people together and shown the best of who many of us are, and for that we are lucky.
We are a retail gallery, it’s true, but we’ve always had a strong internet presence, and we’re focusing on our website until the world is safe for all of us again. What does that mean?
Well, in concrete terms, Virginia has requested (legally..so really, demanded) that we limit activity in the brick and mortar store until June 10th. We want all the people we enjoy, love, and/or celebrate to stay safe, so ArtInsights is shifting ALMOST exclusively online. For those who want to pick up art, we can do that, albeit while adhering to the strictest social distancing measures. If anyone buys art online that lives in the DC area (in a house, or in an apartment complex we can drop the art off at the concierge or security desk where there is proof of delivery) we will drop off the art. Any of our clients elsewhere in the US will get free Fedex ground for any unframed art costing more than $200.
Further, we will be having surprise deals, specials, and events as we continue to navigate the time we are all inside, and I’ll be writing blogs with exciting art that will relate to special pieces or collections we’ll have, but they will also educate, so that those who aren’t in a position to buy anything for now will still enjoy reading them!
We have lots of events up our sleeve. Many of them involve multiple companies or artists, so that more people can benefit and feel bolstered. Artists are definitely hurting now. If you’ve seen some of the memes about how we are all enjoying art and it’s keeping us sane, that gives you an idea of just how important these artisans are, and how important it is to support them. For now, you can read about our first event, which celebrates Bob Singer, and offers exclusive art from his estate and directly from the studio. READ ABOUT THIS HISTORIC ARTIST AND HIS ART HERE.
Please, if you have any questions or requests, or art you’re looking for, please let us know. We’d love to find it for you! If you haven’t signed up for our newsletter or to be part of our Facebook gallery page, please do that. Many of these specials will only be 24 hours. You won’t want to miss them!
Retail is challenged right now, no question. But we believe we can weather the storm and come out the other side changed but better. The most important thing is to make sure we are all safe and finding comfort and joy.
We are in this together! Stay sane, find joy, and celebrate art!
When the weirdest, and I’d even say craziest thing that’s happened in our lifetime happened, and a disease started sweeping the world, as an art gallery and small business owner I started thinking about how we’d weather the storm, yes, but I also considered all the artists that we work with who also survive and even thrive on selling their art to fans around the world. I also considered the wholesale companies and representatives I love, (and I don’t love them all. I love several, because they are awesome human beings). How could we help not only ourselves, but the friends and collaborators we’ve known for dozens of years?
First up, I thought of Bob Singer. An old, brilliant, and I’d say formidable 92-year-old codger who has been part of the history of animation since the 50s. I’ve known him for over 10 years, and have had him on several of the ASIFA: Hollywood panels I’ve produced for San Diego Comic-Con. Luckily for me, for ArtInsights, and potentially for fans, we were able to get an exclusive collection of original art by this very important artist.
Bob Singer is an animation artist, character designer, layout and background artist and storyboard director for a wide variety of shows and studios. He wound of choosing art in a sort of random way. He says, “When I was in high school, I loved art and I also loved music. When I found out I had to buy my own instrument and we couldn’t afford it, I said, ‘all right, I’ll become an artist’.”
He graduated in 1955 from the prestigious Art Center College of Design in LA, started working in the television animation industry after spending a few years in the advertising industry. Yes, he was briefly one of those “Mad Men”.
Starting in 1956, he worked for Marvel, U.P.A, Shamus Culhane, and Warner Brothers, and continued to take projects from nearly every studio through his career.
It was at Hanna Barbera at which he spent the better part of 27 years of his animation career. He has worked on most of Hanna Barbera’s best shows, and you’ll see his indelible mark on The Flintstones, Scooby Doo, Hong Kong Phooey, Jabberjaw and so many more cartoons that continue to be loved around the world.
He has said that his favorite tv show he has worked on is Scooby Doo. From Bob Singer himself:
“My favorite was far and away Scooby Doo. Those were some great shows that were designed in 68 and released in 69. And after so many years, it’s still running all over the world. I was part of the presentation crew that put it all together, although the characters were designed by the great Iwao Takamoto. My part was running the layouts on the show. I laid out the first Scooby.”
He was responsible for a lot of characters at Hanna Barbera, in part because he was tasked early on to start and run the character animation department. He explains:
“In the early days of animation in the 20s and 30s, most of the animators designed their own characters. At Hanna Barbera, the layout artists would be asked to create the incidental characters, like the cop, or housewife, and props like cars but they got so busy that it became a burden to the layout men, so that’s when we started the character design department. It was started with just two, and soon had 15 artists, doing all the characters for 7 different shows, making model sheets and it helped the studio run more efficiently.
everything was compressed as far as production, so sometimes we would work from a script, and other times from storyboards, but then the storyboard artists wouldn’t know what to use for incidental characters, so we’d do a quick sketch and give it to the artists to create the storyboard. Then we also had to get approval from the producer, so I’d design 3 to 5 different versions of the same character, and they’d pick one for us to draw and do turn-arounds on.”
Bob Singer also has a major soft spot for Pebbles, Bamm-Bamm, and the whole Flintstones gang, in part because Wilma reminds him of his wife Harriet, and the babies remind him of his grandchildren.
Singer says he loves drawing them, and it gives him a feeling of connection to his fans who also have families they love, and kids who are either babies now or are all grown up but parents and grandparents remember as little kids.
Many of the original cels we have gotten for this cyber show, which are from the later Flintstones cartoons, (as well as those from Scooby-Doo and The Jetsons), are signed by both Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. We have a lot of pieces that come with original backgrounds. When you purchase any of them, we’ll send the art to Bob Singer, and he’ll be hand-drawing a little image of Fred Flinstone, George Jetson, or Scooby-Doo. For fans and collectors, that’s a lot of cool in one place!
There are so many more images available than what i’ve included in this blog. I’m sure you’d enjoy checking them out!
Basically, Bob Singer has done just about every job that relates to design, character, and background in cartoons.
Here’s a short list of the many times shows on which he’s been a layout artist:
Johnny Bravo (1997-2001)
The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972)
Scooby-Doo Where Are You? (1969-1970)
Space Ghost (1966)
The Man Called Flintstone (1966)
The Secret Squirrel Show (1965)
Mister Magoo (1960)
A Storyboard artist/director or story director:
Droopy: Master Detective (1993-1994)
My Little Pony ’n Friends (1986-1987)
Pink Panther and Sons (1984-1985)
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? (1970)
A design supervisor:
The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries (1984)
The Smurfs (1981-1984)
SuperFriends (1984) and Super Friends (1981-1983) World’s Greatest SuperFriends (1979)
The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show (1983)
The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (1980-1981)
Laverne and Shirley in the Army (1981) **(also character designer)
Scooby-Doo and Scrappy Doo (1979-1980)
a character designer:
Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels (1977-1980)
Laverne and Shirley in the Army (1981)
Scooby’s Laff-A-Lymics (1977)
The All New Super Friends Hour (1977)
A production designer:
The Scooby-Doo / Dynomutt Hour (1976)-1978
The New Tom and Jerry Show (1975)
The Great Grape Ape Show (1975)
Hong Kong Phooey (1974)
Partridge Family 2200 AD (1974)
Inch High Private Eye (1973)
The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo (1964)
Gay Purr-ee (1962)
a background artist:
The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show (1978)
Mad as a Mars Hare (1963)
Mice Follies (WB Honeymooners Bob McKimson spoof in 1960)
Crocket Doodle Doo (WB Foghorn Leghorn/Eggbert Bob McKimson cartoon in 1960)
A Witch’s Tangled Hair (1959)
The Mouse That Jack Built (1959)
So basically he’s done work on many of your favorite Hanna Barbera shows, (and a number that seem the result of protracted drug trips), and some very classic Warner Brothers cartoons!
It’s a great time to get an original by the historic artist, and the original graphites come directly from him and the cels are signed are remarqued by him with characters that are some of his favorites from his career, means you can be assured he is benefitting from the sale, and you are having an interaction with someone responsible for some of the greatest cartoons ever made. (Scooby-Doo, I’m looking at you!)
We hope you’ll take advantage of this great collection of art, and the exclusive signatures and remarques by this animation legend. If not, we hope you enjoyed learning a bit about animator Bob Singer and the crazy cartoons he had a hand in!
Visit ArtInsights for our special Gallery Opening on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday!
There’s such a storied history for Bill Melendez and his 1965 classic A Charlie Brown Christmas. Not only have we seen it generation after generation, it remains one of the most watched specials every holiday season. Yes, it is Christian at its core, but cartoon fans of all faiths (including Atheism) love it and can’t wait to tune in, even as they have it on dvd, downloaded, or whatever newest version is available.
In 2015, I had the great pleasure of going out to LA and meeting a number of animators who had worked on the original special, and we all gathered together to toast the 50th anniversary of a great holiday tradition.
During and around that A Charlie Brown Christmas Anniversary event, I was able to interview several key artists involved, including Lee Mendelson, which you can see HERE. I also got to see some rare Charlie Brown Christmas art from their archives. As a fan myself, I was thrilled. It has been a show my family watches together since as early as I can remember.
This year, as always, I had requests throughout the year for various images from my Peanuts art and Bill Melendez art fans. In my research for great images, I discovered something. (I’m always learning something new..) Somehow I had never learned that Woodstock was named after the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival! That led to a great release from the people that run the animation art program at Bill Melendez Studios that was in honor of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. We got big Woodstocks, little ones, recognizable art from Snoopy Come Home and less identifiable but charming Woodstock art from commercials and other TV specials. We sold a bunch of them. They also stumbled onto a very few images from the original Halloween special, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. We sold them in minutes, then begged for more, but they were all gone, of course!
Cut to now… In asking for some images from Charlie Brown Christmas specials or commercials, the Bill Melendez folks found some great, very rare art, and offered me a special show. We’d had such a wonderful year full of collectors embracing these beloved characters, they wanted to show their appreciation. Of course we said yes!
The result is a collection of art spanning from originals by Bill Melendez himself, to A Charlie Brown Christmas art from the book and record, to cels and drawings from I Want a Dog for Christmas as well as Christmas themed commercials to limited editions that had sold out so long ago, I didn’t even have them at our own store or had just opened, so that would date to being released around 1995-2005. a LONG TIME AGO!
The Charlie Brown Christmas art from the record and book is so exciting because all the images were actually used to make the official one and only read-along book for the Peanuts Christmas special.
Someone made my life really easy by posting it in its entirety on YouTube:
I was floored when I saw these for the first time. I mean, we all recognize exactly what’s happening during each image and they’re from 1977!
We also got the official limited editions that had been released decades ago, including this one:
The thing about getting this collection, is we are requested to sell the art for only 10% more or less than their suggested retail. The above piece is $8000, which is exactly what they have as retail, and I haven’t seen any at all online, but even if I did, that piece would have been at a home and being resold. This is coming directly from the studio. It just doesn’t get any more classic than this!
other sold out A Charlie Brown Christmas limited editions include the below images, Tree Lot, Dog Gone Commercial and Snoopy’s Audition, all sold out but we have one of each!
We also have I Want a Dog for Christmas art. That special is a new classic played during the holiday season, and features Rerun, Linus’s brother. By the time they made this cartoon, cels were not being used, so the studio created model cels that are completely done by hand to accompany the original drawings or layouts or color model drawings from the special. My favorite is a great cel and drawings from a scene with Schroeder, Lucy, Snoopy and Woodstock:
The most surprising part of the collection is the original marker and graphite originals by Bill Melendez himself they sent. These have to be released by the Bill Melendez estate. We’ve only had a few in our entire span as dealers of Peanuts art. I truly wish I could keep one myself. They come directly from the source, so fans and collectors who buy them feel like part of the Peanuts family! (and, I’ll say it again and reiterate what everyone I’ve ever interviewed has said. Bill Melendez was the nicest man ever to work in animation.)
There was a show called The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show that ran between 1983 and 1985. We got Snoopy, Lucy, Charlie Brown, Linus, and Sally art from Sally’s Sweet Babboo, the one episode that featured a Christmas play and Lucy and Snoopy skating!
The Charlie Brown animation art oeuvre would not be complete without mentioning the commercials these characters appeared in, and we have charming images as part of this Charlie Brown Christmas animation show!
Have you been to our gallery in Reston Town Center since it’s been renovated? We have a new floor, new windows, a new door, and a new lobby! and of course it’s gorgeous in Reston Town Center at the holidays. Stop by and ask to see our Charlie Brown Christmas specials animation art collection.
Our Charlie Brown Christmas art show will be having an opening weekend on Black Friday, November 29th, Small Business Support Saturday, November 30th, and Christmas Special Sunday, December 1st, with refreshments, art exclusively available that weekend, and special surprises! Call or email us with any questions.
When a future sci-fi classic and an sci-fi-loving art geek collided
ArtInsights Gallery just got the last two original paintings representing Blade Runner created by the campaign artist who designed and painted the official movie poster in 1982. John Alvin is the illustrator for the iconic image used to promote what would become one of the classics of the science fiction film genre. He made only a few paintings featuring the characters from Ridley Scott’s film, and we can now proudly say we have or have sold every one of them. The last full color mixed media images of Blade Runner art are in the gallery right now.
A DUSTIN HOFFMAN DECKARD?
Imagine Dustin Hoffman as Deckard. It’s hard to do, and yet, he was one of the major actors not only considered but attached to the film early on. Also in play were Paul Newman, Al Pacino, and Gene Hackman. When Hoffman left the project over artistic differences, the filmmakers settled on Harrison Ford, who was just finishing Raiders of the Lost Ark at the time.
JOHN ALVIN & RIDLEY SCOTT SHARED A LOVE OF ARCHITECTURE
John Alvin wasn’t the first choice to make the movie poster, either. It’s not that they had someone else in mind, but rather, that the marketing folk had ideas they wanted to use. Alvin was in on an early meeting that included Ridley Scott, at which point he told Scott that he thought the architecture was really important to the poster and needed to be a major feature. Scott stopped what he was doing and saying and turned to John Alvin, asking him to explain what he had in mind. He explained what he had in mind for the poster, which would include Harrison Ford as Deckard, replicants Roy Batty and Rachael, with the architecture and gear featured in the film figured prominently. He would use what he called “heavy light” (what Disney executives would later consider part of “Alvin-izing”) to add a bit of film noir atmosphere. Though ultimately Roy was not part of the key art for the movie poster, the rest of John’s ideas can be seen in the famous finished poster image.
He would revisit the idea of Roy Batty as an essential part of the poster later, when he created an anniversary image that made Roy the dramatic central focus of the art.
Only four full color John Alvin Blade Runner original paintings were painted later representing Blade Runner. All are shown in the book The Art of John Alvin:
JOHN ALVIN DID VERY LITTLE BLADE RUNNER ART
The world and look in Blade Runner was very much influenced by futuristic architecture, as well as what Ridley Scott called, “medieval meets electronics”. He felt validated in this blend of aesthetics in seeing the harbor in Hong Kong, which had both junks and skyscrapers.
BLACK & PEACH WITH A PURPOSE
Of course another major influence was film noir. As Ridley Scott said, “The hunter falls in love with his quarry.” Rachael is not strictly a traditional femme fatale, though Deckard falling in love with her certainly could lead to his downfall. In John Alvin’s Blade Runner movie poster, the image of her hovers just below Deckard’s gun-filled hands, the smoke of her cigarette drawing the eye to both the lead character and the architecture featured in the poster.
FILM NOIR STYLE SAVES THE DAY
Alvin’s Blade Runner poster is as far off model as he could have gone without losing the spirit of these characters. John Alvin himself talked about that. When he was painting Harrison Ford as Deckard, the only source material he had was a postage stamp-sized image of him in costume. He had to get a jewel’s loop and a magnifying glass to draw him. He determined that utilizing the stylized yet gritty representation so popular in film noir movie posters, with their sharply lit faces and angled light, would be a way of problem-solving or working around the lack of good images of the actors in costume. Even the shards of light in the Blade Runner art are an updated take on the way light was used in the early days promoting film noir.
Once the go-ahead from Ridley Scott happened for the John Alvin Blade Runner key art, there were only a few detailed graphites drawn before they chose a finished design. There are often many stages required to get to the final look of a poster. Collectors and fans, no doubt, wish there were more original images. John Alvin wished that, too, since Blade Runner was one of his favorite movies of all time. Though we aren’t 100% sure, we’ve been told people have seen the original art for the poster, and it’s with Ridley Scott. The original art for the 10th anniversary image, which features a much larger Roy Batty in the poster, went at auction over 20 years ago, for almost $100,000, a record for the time.
Once photoshop made traditionally illustrated movie posters largely a thing of the past, John Alvin and his wife Andrea moved to across the country to be nearer to their daughter, who was building a career in theater and around Broadway. He started creating images for the fine art market, and became quickly very much in demand to movie lovers who knew his work and new collectors who were just starting to see the value of illustration art as “real art”, and original movie poster art as an important aspect of film history.
Since George Lucas had been one of his biggest collectors for years, and had commissioned a Star Wars art collection that John entitled, “The Force of Influence”, there were lots of studies for that work that art galleries were able to access and buy to offer to collectors.
JOHN ALVIN REVISITS A CLASSIC
Blade Runner was a different story. It was only because John loved the film so much that he decided to revisit the film and create a few images to develop ideas he wasn’t able to play with when he worked on the Blade Runner movie poster. One of the things he wanted to do was design a poster image that had Roy Batty as the biggest figure in the art, while still incorporating the architecture. The original Blade Runner art we now have in the gallery on display and for sale includes this piece, and as you can see, John was able to use better source material. This allowed the characters to be more on-model. He wove the architecture into Deckard’s jacket, but also used points of light to draw the eye across one of concept artist Syd Mead’s famous “spinner” crafts so recognizable from the film.
There was also interest on John’s part to create image that included Pris, played by Daryl Hannah, who is not only a fan favorite, but represents a strong female character, albeit a replicant known as a “basic pleasure model”. He also loved the character Eldon Tyrell, who he felt expressed the quality of hubris, especially as he was playing God in experimenting with Rachael in creating her, using memories from his own niece, but not telling her she was a replicant. Alvin saw Tyrell as a tragic figure, and wanted to create an image with Tyrell and his “children”, including Roy Batty, his prodigal son. Unfortunately, he never got a chance to finish this graphite in full color.
In addition to the conflict between Deckard and Batty, John believed the fascination Deckard and Rachael held for each other, though doomed from the start, was one of the aspects of the film that held the story together the most. Much like the film noir plots from the earlier 20th century, he felt their magnetism for each other is part of what made good on what he called the “promise of a great experience”. John always said that’s what he strived to deliver as a movie poster artist.
The love scene from which John Alvin got the name for the below original, called “Kiss Me”, is accompanied by music by the great score created by Vangelis, with the tenor sax solo performed by renowned British musician Dick Morrissey. The plaintive notes on the sax express the mix of idealism and fatalism in their relationship. John Alvin, who loved Vangelis’s score and played his hard-to-get copy of it often, strived to capture that duality. He also believed their story was inseparable from the world they lived in, so he wanted that expressed as well in the art.
The Blade Runner art itself is like all of John Alvin’s original art. It has a way of breaking apart close up and coming together when seen from a distance. Seeing the art in person, it is exciting to be able to dissect how he achieved the emotionally intimate quality for which his illustration art is most well-known. He was someone who did not like to paint in front of others, keeping secrets about how he reached his artistic goals, both big and small. He used any and every tool and medium at his disposal to translate what he had in his mind into physical art. It’s a shame there isn’t more Blade Runner art by John Alvin out there. He passed away over 10 years ago, and even with the release of 2017’s Blade Runner 2049, the 1982 film only becomes more of a classic. Though the film didn’t win a lot of awards, cinephiles did have the good sense to give it a Hugo Award fro Best Dramatic Presentation in 1983. Stop by ArtInsights while the art is still in the gallery to see some of John Alvin’s masterwork. If interested in the only original official Blade Runner piece for sale created by the movie poster artist, CHECK THIS PAGE.
Read an interview with Ridley Scott about Blade Runner
Snoopy's best friend, Woodstock, the Peanuts character, was named after the Woodstock Music Festival. In celebration of the 50th anniversary, Sopwith Productions is releasing original art used in the making of the Peanuts cartoons! Read all about it here, and see the rare, great Woodstock production cels and drawings on offer!
We are thrilled to announce Warner Brothers has offered us Hush and Detective 1000, two exclusive limited editions based on the art of Jim Lee, the nicest man in comics, and the co-publisher of DC Comics. Can you believe one of them is a worldwide art exclusive coming out right when they are releasing a feature film??
“HUSH”, is based on the 15th anniversary of HUSH, which is considered one of the best graphic series released, featuring Batman and Catwoman! It was rated #10 of the top 25 Batman graphic novels by IGN. Our art release is purrfectly timed to the release of the new animated film Batman: Hush!
In July 2018, an animated adaptation was announced during San Diego Comic-Con which will feature a “gauntlet of Batman villains including Poison Ivy, Ra’s al Ghul, the Joker, and, of course, the bandage-faced mystery villain Hush”. The film is set to be released next month, on July 20th.
This adaptation of the seminal DC classic tale, Batman: Hush centers on a shadowy new villain known only as Hush, who uses Gotham’s Rogues Gallery to destroy Batman’s crime-fighting career, as well as Bruce Wayne’s personal life – which has already been complicated by a relationship with Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman.
Here is the trailer for this new release:
We are also excited about our worldwide Jim Lee exclusive of the Batman: Detective 1000 fine art giclee, which comes on both paper and canvas. You can’t go into a Barnes and Noble or comic book shop without seeing this spectacular cover, celebrating Batman Detective #1000. The image has every important villain and superhero in Gotham, even Alfred!
The editions are on paper, (numbering 250) and on canvas (only 100 available), and will make a commanding statement in Batcaves all over the world!
This image captures so much action and subtext, you could stare at it for hours and keep seeing new things, which is one mark of a truly great piece of art. Artist Jim Lee brings both darkness and light, creating visual flow from the left bottom corner, up through the characters, but landing on the haunting glow that is Joker’s visage, before drifting off the bottom right with Scarecrow. There’s more genius in this art than some non-comic fans might imagine, as future art historians will prove.
Detective Comics has remained in publication longer than any other DC Comics title, and indeed, the very name DC was taken from its initials! However, since Action Comics was published weekly for a short time in the 1980s, and Detective was bi-monthly for a period in the 1970’s, Action has a higher issue count. Nonetheless, in March 2019, Detective became only the third American comic book in history – after Action and the Four Color series of the 1930s-60s by Dell Comics – to publish a 1,000th issue.
Detective Comics #27 (March 1939 with a printed date of May 1939) featured the first appearance of Batman. That superhero would eventually become the star of the title, the cover logo of which is often written as “Detective Comics featuring Batman”. Because of its significance, issue #27 is widely considered one of the most valuable comic books in existence, with one copy selling for $1,075,000 in a February 2010 auction!
“Batman is one of the most enduring characters in popular culture, and his debut in DETECTIVE COMICS represented a pivotal moment in comics and pioneered a new type of superhero that would appeal to every generation,” said DC Publisher Dan DiDio. “Batman continues to have an impact on entertainment worldwide and the 1,000th issue of DETECTIVE COMICS is a testament to the creative genius of Bob Kane and Bill Finger and is a fitting tribute to Batman on his 80th anniversary.”
We are so loving our new, updated gallery space, and it was wonderful of our friends at Warner Brothers official DC art and Jim Lee to celebrate our many years as an animation and film art gallery with us. Come visit or buy these images online!
Michael Barry is a master framer, and has been framing since 1979. Now it’s very clear we do custom framing, because says it on our new sign! Until recently lots of people new to the gallery didn’t realize we do framing. We get it. Our vintage Disney art, Star Wars art, Marvel and DC art, Harry Potter… It’s magically distracting! Now we’ve got a new sign, and more new frames, and moved them so it’s clearer to folks walking by…
You may not know this, but Reston Town Center had been built with the pavilion taking the place of a spot in which, in the 70s, hippies, it is said, had bonfires. There was always great energy here. So we moved into a spot in the lobby of Two Fountain Square, where before us there was only a dirt floor.
It all started about 26 years ago, back when Mobil owned Reston Town Center. They had concerts and lots of other free events. Mobil, it seemed, had money to burn. They promoted all the stores here. There was a marketing budget, and they loved talking about the small businesses here.
The sign for our gallery was approved, after much ado, by both the folks at Mobil, and the Reston Architectural Review Board. But small and succinct, it just said, “ArtInsights”. We put a real hard wood floor in (that was four floors ago..), and got to work selling animation art, which at the time was only just becoming popular as a collectible. There are only a few galleries that specialized in it. But we ALWAYS did framing, and..in point of fact, for no more and often far less than Michael’s down the street from us…Michael had been framing since the 70s, and people followed him from Alexandria, driving from there, DC, Arlington, and parts of Maryland to avail themselves of his talent. Anyone who has framed art knows how important framing can be to interior design.
Over the years, we’ve had renovations, new floors, new walls, and the like, but every time we tried to get a larger, more interesting sign, we came up against whoever owned the center. We never even GOT to the architectural review board. We could just never get anything approved.
This year, to our great pleasure, Boston Properties gave us approval to put a far more interesting, more dramatic sign in front of our gallery! (and it says ART AND FRAMING!)
We also finally got a front door, which is something we’ve wanted a long time. Fresh air is important!
We also got new windows into the lobby, which gives us lots more light and a better view for people walking by.
Everyone who comes in thinks we made the gallery bigger, but it’s just little things like our moving the frames to the front and getting much bigger windows that have made the store feel bigger!
We added a bunch of new frames, and we’re pretty excited about them! Do you have some treasure, or funky thing, or a piece of art you’ve had sitting around that should be on your wall? Now’s a great time to come by and let us partner on some custom framing to beautify it for your home!
We have been grateful that all the major studios and many of our collector friends have given us rare art, special exclusives, and new releases to present in our new space to our clients.
Curious about some of the cool images (Batman, the Avengers, Star Wars, the Beatles, vintage Disney art from Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Lady and the Tramp, Fantasia, and Mary Poppins, just to name a few..) stop by soon!
In the near future, we’ll be adding some music and special events to our roster, so check back often to see what’s new.
Lesson? There’s always something that renews enthusiasm in small business, no matter what the retail environment. My advice to other small businesses who have been around a long time is find something that will bring both you and your clients joy.
We all saw the colossal success of Avengers: Endgame coming, didn’t we? Maybe how fast it has succeeded took us by surprise, but we all knew a huge blockbuster was coming..so imagine our glee when we scored the exclusive international premiere of Avengers: Invincible, the only official and licensed Avengers: Endgame Marvel art release!
Alex Ross’s Avengers: Invincible has been a piece that collectors have been clamoring for for years. There’s a reason, beyond the characters represented, that the art appeals to Marvel fans on both a visceral and artistic level. In his composition, Alex Ross uses light to move the eye from one side of the image to the other, creating a sort of visual heroism, especially as they are all turned in one direction, facing their future together. The colors he uses, too, are calming: bright without being frenetic, complimentary to each other that creates a subliminal message of teamwork.
The Avengers: Invincible Larger than Life is big enough to be the one dramatic image in anyone’s collection, especially if they are superhero fans, but also this kind of art brings whole families together to smile, geek out, argue who is the best/worst/strongest, as Marvel fans of all ages are inclined to do…(obviously, it’s T’Challa/Black Panther..says the girl with a cat named after him)
People who are new to all things Marvel as of the films remember the time when most of us only knew the names of a few Marvel superheroes, and only from our comic-book loving friends. Kevin Feige has changed that forever, I’d say. Avengers: Invincible features Quicksilver, Thor, Wasp, Hercules, Giant Man, Black Panther, Captain America, Hawkeye, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Iron Man. These characters are becoming household names, along with the actors that play them. How cool that we can have an artistic, authentically comic-book-based image that celebrates them? Museums are buying up originals by Alex Ross for their collections, along with other famous comic book artists that celebrate pop culture, and it’s high time!
There are only 25 in the edition. We love that. It means true fans will wind up with this image. Come by the gallery if you live in the area, so you can see this piece in person. Or you can trust us when we say it’s evocative in a way that will keep on giving to Marvel fans as it sits on the wall looking heroic.
Stay tuned for the next big release we get an exclusive on, it makes us happy to bring these pop culture images into your lives to bring a smile to your days!
In the 30+ years I’ve been selling vintage Disney art, I’ve largely avoided photostat model sheets. I mean, they are copies. They are copies created 50 years or more ago and used by character animators as a roadmap for the artists working under them of how to draw some of the most iconic characters in history, but copies nonetheless. Whenever I’ve been able to score an original graphite model sheet, it’s my absolute favorite thing to sell. They are incredibly rare, and knowing a model sheet with great provenance is in the collection of one of my clients thrills me. So there’s a huge difference about how I have felt about the original vs photostat models.
That being said, over the years, original graphites and concept art have become very expensive, and people have started collecting photostats more and more. Obviously, though, it’s very easy to fake them. I’ve seen countless images on Ebay for sale, often framed, for very little money, but that are also clearly not authentic.
Lately, I’ve become more interested in offering original photostat model sheets. They may be more expensive than they used to be, but they still have great history, and the images are so exciting. Who used them back then? Where did they keep it? (for example, often you see they have pinholes where they were put on the wall for the animators to follow)
I know with absolute certainty that the model sheets I have access to are authentic. This person has only ever bought from animators, and they are super tied into that crowd and have been for decades. Also, the collector who has them has had them for so long that they supersede the advent of giclees on paper, and copiers that could do the sort of fake they make and pass off as authentic nowadays. Granted, they are generally a lot more money than the fakes proliferating the auctions and sites now. It all comes down to how much it matters to you that the piece you’re buying was there then, a part of the history of creating the cartoon for which they were utilized.
With that in mind, there are a few rules you might want to follow when buying photostat model sheets:
Know your seller. I can’t stress this enough. This assumes you’re actually after an original, not a copy of a copy. If all you care about is the image, not the history, it doesn’t matter. If you’re wanting to get a photostat model sheet that was used by animators working on that character, you have to get it from someone who traces everything they ever sell all the way back to Disney. I say this in part because there are many people with integrity who buy pieces that have changed hands many times, and they just base their buys on what the seller is telling them. It’s a bit like “Telephone”. If the seller you bought it from got it from someone who was duped, that’s several layers away from the criminal who has faked model sheets. Stick with highly rated, well-versed dealers if you want a model sheet used by Disney animators.
If you buy from Ebay, or any other auction, limit your spending to under $300. To my mind, this is actually true for any sale on there. If you get a fake for under $300, at least you have an image. For over $300, and it had better be real. You’ll never know if aren’t buying it from someone with a pristine reputation who has been in the animation world a long time.
As always, only buy characters you love. Original model sheets represent a part of that character being brought to the screen. There are literally many millions of fans all over the world who love them. Don’t add something about which you feel mediocre to your collection.
Don’t buy them framed. If you are buying them from someone who will be framing them, look at them unframed first. There are many obvious signs of a fake model sheet, not least of which is the paper it’s printed on.
How much should you spend? I’ve seen vintage photostats from $150 to $650. Beyond that price, you might just save your money and be on the lookout for an original. It will be much more, but as I’m always teaching my clients, it is better to have fewer pieces of higher quality.
We almost always have at least one original graphite model sheet in the gallery. If you’re wanting to get some photostats, we have some available right now, and we can also try to track down ones that show your favorite characters. Here are a few photostats we have at present, but contact us for availability or to have us find specific characters.
Above are two photostat model sheets of Snow White.
These Bambi and Thumper photostat model sheets really capture how they are drawn and their expressions for the animators using them.
Here are two from Dumbo, showing Dumbo and Timothy, two best friends, from all angles.
Two classic secondary characters that are fan favorites from Cinderella, Lucifer and Jaq.
Here are two of the most fragile, beautifully rendered characters in Pinocchio, The Blue Fairy and Cleo, both of whom required translucent paint.
Who can forget the characters that populated The Song of the South? I’m sure plenty of folks at Disney would love you to, but Briar Fox and Briar Bear stick with you like a briar from the patch.
If you’re interested in adding some photostat model sheets (or for that matter, some original graphite ones) to your collection, let us know and we’ll set about finding exactly what you’re after or add it to your wish list!
Premiering live on March 2nd at Mindy Johnson’s Ink and Paint: The Women at Walt Disney’s Animation is a collection of vintage Disney concept and character drawings that will fascinate and excite fans and collectors of Disney art! ArtInsights already has them on-hand, but will be unveiling them at the event, which is from 2-5pm. Come see them in person!
We will be showing and selling drawings from Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Dumbo, and some fantastic shorts like Canine Caddy, The Picnic, Mickey’s Elephant, and more!
The above drawing from 1932’s Mickey’s Good Deed (also called Mickey’s Lucky Break) has two pegholes, as was the case in the earliest Mickey cartoons. This is an early example of a cartoon where Mickey’s voice was supplied by Walt Disney, and is one of the most charming Christmas-themed Disney shorts.
This concept art piece of a pegasus baby from Fantasia has an official Walt Disney Productions stamp in the corner, usually used as part of the Courvoisier Galleries releases!
This wonderful original production drawing of Mickey from Fantasia has a perfect expression of the trouble-making apprentice, and some great notes and extras on it!
See the Sorcerer’s Apprentice section of Fantasia here:
When Mindy does her presentation, she’ll take you through the exciting and historic elements of some of these drawings, like the color key notes on the Geppetto from Pinocchio, the influence of women on the work created for Fantasia, and how the history of women in animation plays an important role in your favorite classic Mickey cartoons from the early 1930s!
This original drawing of the Queen from Snow White is not only exquisite, it also shows the complexity of creating images for animation. Disney envisioned the character as a mix of Lady Macbeth and the Big Bad Wolf. She is the first character to ever speak in a Disney feature film, and the first character to die in one, as well. In this drawing, you can see her reflection in the mirror, a close-up of her face, as well as the drama of her costume. The screen cap next to the drawing shows what was finally put onscreen as part of the film. The notes about the production and scene, as well as the notes near her face are just the sort of special additions fans and aficionados are looking for their collections!
In all the time I’ve been selling and writing about animation, I’ve only seen a handful of graphites from Night on Bald Mountain that I could trace back to the studio. A friend of mine has one of the only cels of Chernabog in existence, and wow is it a beaut! The character was animated by Bill Tytla, who had meant to be inspired by the poses of Bela Lugosi, who had been brought in for visual reference. Instead, he used Night on Bald Mountain director Wilfred Jackson’s shirtless poses to create the images he needed.
Both images from Dumbo have added notes and color as part of their drawings. The film won an Oscar for Best Original Score. For folks who love both Dumbo and Lilo and Stitch, they do have something in common. Both used watercolor backgrounds extensively as part of their artistic aesthetic.
We hope any who are interested in great original art from Walt Disney that carries significant historical significance will contact us about acquiring these lovelies. Remember that these images are subject to availability, so check with us! Meanwhile, we hope to see you this Saturday between 2-5pm!
When Mindy Johnson started out writing her book Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation, her plan was to make a compact little tome that celebrated what many thought must have been a very small percentage of those in the Disney’s workforce responsible for the experimentation and advancements for which the animation studio is known. After, as Alice might do, “going down the rabbit hole” of research and discovery, Johnson wound up writing a book with quite a bit of heft, at 384 pages and sized at 10 x 2 x 13 inches.
We were curious, since Mindy is coming for a lecture and book signing, to get a few thoughts from her on what she discovered early in the course of her research. Of course she’ll be talking about it all in greater length when she’s here in the gallery, but we figured our friends all across the globe might enjoy knowing what got her so curious about the subject.
5 THINGS THAT MIGHT SURPRISE YOU ABOUT THE HISTORY OF DISNEY ANIMATION:
1. SO MANY WOMEN!
“Most books out there would lead you to think there were only a handful of women animators or artists who contributed to Disney’s animation, but it turns out there were thousands of women whose remarkable artistry inspired, defined and contributed to Disney’s classic animated titles.”
2. MEN INKED! MEN PAINTED!
“We’ve been lead to believe that it was only women who did the inking & painting on these films, but men were involved at various points throughout the history of Disney Animation.”
3. SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST LINES
“People thought Inkers were simply tracing the pencil drawings of the animators, but truthfully, Inkers are translating the line with tapered starts & stops, and specifically defined line widths for each character and scene — very calligraphic!”
4. THEN, NOW AND FOREVER
“Women were at the forefront of the various technologies that advanced animation – xerography and Digital technology.”
5. IMAGINE THOSE PICTURES OF ROSE FROM TITANIC, ONLY IN ANIMATION…
“Many remarkable women worked within Disney Animation whose accomplishments went far beyond animation – including several record-breaking pilots and ‘firsts’ within aviation, a world renowned opera star, and the founder of an international club for tall people!”
ArtInsights is celebrating Women’s History Month with a signing of the book Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney Animation and a lecture from the author, leading historian on women in animation and film, Mindy Johnson. Accompanying the event, which is from 2 to 5pm, will be the premiere of a collection of vintage animation, as well as illustration art by famed Disney concept artist Lorelay Bove, who has contributed images for Johnson’s upcoming release Pencils, Pens, & Brushes: A Great Girls’ Guide to Disney Animation. Scrawl Books (our indie bookstore neighbor in Reston Town Center) will be partnering with ArtInsights for book sales, and refreshments will be served. Entrance is free, but RSVPs have first priority. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ArtInsights at 703-478-0778 to secure your spot!
About Ink & Paint:
From the earliest origins of animated imagery, the colorful link between paper and screen was created by legions of female artists working on the slick surface of celluloid sheets. With calligraphic precision and Rembrandt-esque mastery, these women painstakingly brought pencil drawings to vibrant, dimensional life. Yet perhaps as a reflection of the transparent canvas they created on, the contributions and history of these animation artists have remained virtually invisible and largely undocumented, until now.
Walt Disney’s pioneering efforts in animation transformed novelty cartoons into visual masterpieces, establishing many “firsts” for women within the entertainment industry along the way. Focusing on talent, Disney sought female story specialists and concept artists to expand the scope and sensibility of his storytelling. Upon establishing the first animation-training program for women, ink pens were traded for pencils as ladies made their way into the male-laden halls of animation. World War II further opened roles traditionally held by men, and women quickly progressed into virtually every discipline within animation production. Disney’s later development of the Xerox process and eventual digital evolution once again placed women at the forefront of technological advancements applied to animated storytelling.
About Pencils, Pens, & Brushes:
Based on Mindy’s critically acclaimed Disney Editions title, Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation, this nonfiction picture book is a fun and inspiring look at many of the amazing women who have worked at Disney Animation over the years—from Story Artists, to Animators to Inkers and Painters, all with unique personalities and accomplishments, such as becoming a record-holding pilot, or designing Hollywood Monsters, or creating an international club for tall people!
This timeless treasure features the whimsical and inspiring illustrations of noted Disney artist Lorelay Bové, whose visual development and design artistry defined such animated classics as The Princess and the Frog, Prep & Landing, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia.
About Mindy Johnson:
In her latest landmark book, Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation, author Mindy Johnson pulls back the celluloid curtain on the nearly vanished world of ink pens, paintbrushes, pigments, and tea. From the earliest black-and-white Alice Comedies to the advent of CAPS and digital animation, meet the pioneering women who brought hand-rendered animated stories to vibrant, multicolored life at Walt Disney Studios and beyond. Extensively researched with the full support of the entire Walt Disney Studios archival resources, plus a multitude of private collections, firsthand accounts, newly discovered materials, and production documentation, as well as never-before-seen photography and artwork, this essential volume redefines the collective history of animation.
Award-winning author, historian, filmmaker, educator, musician and more, Mindy Johnson’s creative accomplishments reflect the diversity of her talents and experience.
A leading expert on women’s roles in animation and film history, Mindy frequently writes and speaks on early cinema, animation, women’s history, and creativity. Her ongoing research and groundbreaking discoveries continue to cast light on the invisible narrative of women’s presence within the first century of the motion picture industry.
Mindy has produced record-breaking global campaigns, creative content, exhibitions and events for a growing list of clients including: The Walt Disney Company, AMPAS/Oscars.org, WNET/American Masters, The Walt Disney Family Museum, Bing Crosby Enterprises, SiriusXM Radio and Horipro Entertainment.
In addition to her film expertise, literary efforts and consulting, Mindy is also an award-winning playwright, songwriter, composer, and contributing artist on several internationally acclaimed recordings and published compositions. Mindy teaches cinema history, aesthetics and intercultural film within the Los Angeles area, including a first-of-its-kind course on the history of women in animation, based on her ground-breaking book, at CalArts – California Institute of the Arts. See more about her on her website by clicking here.
About Lorelay Bove:
Born in Barcelona, Spain, raised in the principality of Andorra and part of a family full of gifted artists (her father is renowned painter Quim Bove) art has always been a way of life for Lorelay. Educated at the prestigious California Institute for the Arts, a school founded by Walt Disney to foster young creative talent, this exciting young artist has made an impact on the art and animation world almost immediately upon her arrival.
After making her entry into the business as an art intern at Pixar Animation Studios, she quickly transitioned into her current role as a Visual Development Artist at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
As a visual development artist for Disney, her conceptual artwork has been extremely influential in the visual direction of films such as ThePrincess and the Frog, Tangled, Winnie the Pooh, and Wreck-it Ralph. Lorelay is also known for providing the illustrations for the Little Golden Book The Princess and the Frog title, as well as Toy Story:Ride ’em Cowboy! Her work is also featured on the cover of The Art of Wreck-it Ralph.
Her work is often compared to the work of Disney Legend Mary Blair, although Lorelay confesses that she did not become aware of Ms. Blair’s work until her college years. Her own visual signature and style had already been well established for many years at that point, however, she finds the comparison flattering. “It’s quite a compliment!” she says.
So many changes in Reston Town Center, and this time they are for the better! For one thing, we are excited to hear the award-winning restaurant chain True Food is coming to the center, as is Peet’s Coffee! It will be a while, but we’re excited there’s new blood coming, and it’s fresh, hot, and trendy.
The lobby of our building is getting a complete makeover, and it will be all done at the beginning of April. Of course, our gallery is going to be in a bit of upheaval until then, but ultimately it will be so good! We are looking forward to having much larger, cleaner, more modern windows facing the lobby. You can see the new look below:
While they are doing the work, we’ll be starting to make changes inside and outside the gallery, some of which we’ll want to be a surprise for our clients, but one thing we want to let everyone know is we’ll have lots of new frames- (Come see them! They are SUPER DUPER COOL, and in all styles and sizes!)
They’ll now be across from the new door out to the street, with the table and samples more easily seen from the outside storefront. Our new door out to the street will be the new way into the gallery, but we’ll also have the lobby entrance back at the end of the renovation. Lots of pretty changes will also be happening, but you’ll see them as they develop. Bear with us, stop by and see them in progress, and come celebrate with us when they are all done!
We’ll be having some events in the meantime, and we have a few special collections we’re looking forward to announcing soon.
Some of the exciting announcements for new stores and restaurants in Reston Town Center include:
Andrea Alvin, is known for capturing a moment, a piece of nostalgia, or a remembrance. Her work evokes the feelings that “I remember having that,” or “that was my favorite”…Now she is blending her love of nostalgia and her passion for tolerance with a new series called “Hearts With No H8”.
Her recent designs based on candy hearts, which are now (sadly) nearly impossible to get, have been a great success. Not only do they capture the romance of February’s romantic season, but they capture the sweetness of the first time a childhood crush reciprocated by handing you a candy heart or a paper valentine. Who can forget Sally reciting Elizabeth Barrett Browning from her candy heart in 1975’s “Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown”?
Exclusively at ArtInsights, we have Alvin’s Hearts With No H8 images, both the originals and limited editions, just in time to give to your favorite pal or loved one, whether they are an ally or a member of the LGBTQ community, and for every purchase, 20% goes to The Trevor Project, which is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25. It’s also
Now more than ever, it’s important to support and celebrate our LGBTQ youth, and help them feel safe, seen, and celebrated. Because:
We have limited editions at $65 each, signed and numbered by Andrea Alvin herself, in an edition of 195. We also have the originals, which are $500, tastefully framed and ready to gift to the most openhearted of your tribe, chosen family, or cherished loved one, (even if that loved one is you!)
We have some other heart candy original paintings, and for any that are sold during the month of February, we will donate a portion of the proceeds to The Trevor Project.
Check out The Trevor Project and see all the amazing work this nonprofit, which is rated 4-stars on Charity Navigator, does!
AND HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY TO ALL, whether you have a sweetie, are your own sweetie, or both! It’s high time for a little TASTY TOLERANCE!
And just for fun, here’s the cartoon that everyone should see in February:
We were saddened by the passing today of a Broadway, film legend, and certified character Carol Channing, who died at 97.
Known for her raspy singing voice, her huge smile, she is most remembered for her role as Dolly Levi in the musical Hello Dolly, but she was nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar when she brought her sass to the 1967 film Thoroughly Modern Millie, which starred Mary Tyler Moore. She won a Lifetime Tony Award and was inducted to the American Theater Hall of Fame.
For a new show called Lorelei, in 1973, Channing reprised the role of Lorelei Lee, which she originated in the 1949 play Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The now famous classic film where Marylin Monroe sings Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend was based on the play, and Channing sang it first. Subtitled Gentlemen Still Prefer Blondes, it picked up with Lorelei, now a wealthy widow, setting sail on the SS Ile de France. It proved a popular show, often selling out, but it was more about Channing’s charm and star quality than it was about strong songs or plot, but at 51, she made it work.
John Alvin was hired to create the original play poster for a special charity engagement of Lorelei that happened as they were working out the kinks in the play early on, and he was told she absolutely loved the image he created celebrating her. He was a big fan of her work. He loved strong, engaging women on and off the screen, as anyone who has ever met his wife Andrea would attest.
We spoke to Andrea about the art, and she wrote, “John had graduated from Art Center College of Design a year earlier, and was just starting a freelance illustration career. He met a designer named Anthony Goldschmidt at a trade show, and Anthony had a job that he thought perfect for John. It was a poster for a production of Lorelei starring Carol Channing. John had done one other play poster with Anthony for Dori Previn’s “Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign.”
The technique that John used was based on a series of paintings he did his last semester of Art Center. It was highly influenced by the Art Nouveaux poster artist Alphonse Mucha. He did a very refined drawing and then had a sepia toned print made of it. For this particular image, he used some of the handmade crow quill paper for the background. He then used transparent dyes to paint the image with his airbrush. It is a very subtle but pretty technique. He also designed and hand lettered the title art. “
As an early example of the art of John Alvin, who was already creating beautiful work in his mid-twenties, and as a lasting monument to the talent of Broadway legend Carol Channing, Lorelei certainly fits the (play)bill.
From the first moments of Mary Poppins Returns, there is reference to the genius artistry that was a part of creating the original. The opening titles, which are fanciful paintings which one assumes are concept work used to build the magical nanny’s London, are a mix of art by Oscar-winning concept artist Peter Ellenshaw created in the 60s, and images influenced him created by one of the concept artists who worked on the new release. They speak to the rich colors and evoke an atmosphere redolent with fog, mist, and chimney smoke, that places us squarely in a London of distant memory.
Many fans of the original 1964 Disney live action classic, Mary Poppins, are well aware that film won five Oscars, including a Best Actress win for Julie Andrews, who had been passed over for My Fair Lady, but won the year both films were released against Audrey Hepburn, who had played Eliza Doolittle. The song Chim Chim Cher-ee and the impressive score meant two Oscars for the Sherman brothers, who both literally and figuratively became legends in their own time. Editor Cotton Warburton, who put together many of the wackiest, most beloved family-friendly live action films, including The Happiest Millionaire, The Absent Minded Professor, and The Love Bug, garnered his only Academy Award for Mary Poppins. Artists Eustace Lycett (who worked on some of the best rides at Disneyland), Hamilton Luske (who co-directed Cinderella, Pinocchio, Lady and the Tramp, and a host of other Disney animated features) and matte background painter Peter Ellenshaw, shared an Oscar for Special Effect and Special Visual Effects. Ellenshaw, Andrews, Luske, and the Sherman brothers all became ‘Disney Legends’, an honor bestowed on people who make extraordinary and integral contributions to the Walt Disney Company.
Peter Ellenshaw was already known for his artistry, having been in the film industry since the late 30s. His first project was assisting on 1936’s sci-fi wonder Things To Come. He apprenticed with one of the most successful, renowned matte artists, W. Percy Day. Standouts of films on which he assisted Day are 1940’s The Thief of Bagdad, and 1948’s The Red Shoes. His first film for Disney was Treasure Island, continuing with beloved classics like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Old Yeller, and Swiss Family Robinson.
Though he lived in the US from 1953, he grew up in England, making him perfect to capture the atmosphere and visual majesty of early 20th century London. For Mary Poppins, Ellenshaw was responsible for the gorgeous matte backgrounds that made up the skylines and rooftops of London.
There is, in his work, the perfect expression of the magic of film and the importance of collaboration in creating a movie with lasting power and beauty. One cannot imagine Mary Poppins without remembering his wonderful scenes of London through which Mary flies, or the rooftops where the chimney sweeps dance. So evocative are these images that when Mary Poppins Returns director Rob Marshall began the task of world building for his new movie, he and his cinematographer Dion Beebe and production designer John Myhre found inspiration from his paintings, even to the point of using his actual concept paintings to bring the audience into the world of London, giving Peter Ellenshaw thanks, and a screen credit. They wanted to get away a bit from the storybook, fantastical look of the first film, but there’s no question that the panoramic views of London used to set mood are heavily influenced by his work.
I never met Peter Ellenshaw, but I visited his studio with his son, Harrison Ellenshaw, and saw huge matte paintings from Mary Poppins and 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. They were spectacular. Harrison Ellenshaw followed in his father’s footsteps and also became a well-regarded concept artist in the film industry, being nominated for an Oscar for his work on The Black Hole. He also worked on Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Tron. and was also Though there are still artists like William Silvers, who is still working in concept art art and creates backgrounds both digitally, and (though rarely) by hand, matte background paintings done by hand are a thing of the past.
The pieces above are available as limited edition giclees on canvas, signed by Peter, who passed away in 2007. It is one case of Disney appreciating an important figure in the history of film and trying to raise awareness of his work, and we at ArtInsights celebrate that and him!
We loved Mary Poppins Returns, and believe many fans of the original will see that Rob Marshall created the film in the spirit of love for not only the books of P.T. Travers, but also the 1964 classic. Now when you see it, you’ll be all the more aware of the Peter Ellenshaw art, and his influence of the look of the new film!
The three images above, by Peter Ellenshaw, are called Practically Perfect, Chimney Sweeps Dance on the Rooftops, and Smoke Staircase, and are available for purchase through ArtInsights. For all art celebrating Mary Poppins available at ArtInsights, GO HERE.
For my interview with Sandy Powell, the costume designer for Mary Poppins Returns (who is already a three-time Oscar winner) read about it on The Credits: GO HERE.
For my review of the film for Cinema Siren, GO HERE.
Movie Lovers Gift Guide from Film Art Gallery ArtInsights Offers Film Fans
Art Celebrating Cinematic Anniversaries and Releases
All By Official Studio Artists
Reston, VA -You’ve seen “alternative posters” and “minimalist posters”, but what about art by the folks who actually helped you fall in love with the movies in the first place? Somebody has to champion them, and that would be you and us! That’s right! A movie lovers gift guide that is all art by the folks who make movies and promote them! Artinsights certainly has perfectly timed for what’s happening in pop culture this holiday season, all with art that is not only officially licensed, but created by studio artists.Steamboat Willie has its 90th anniversary on November 18th, and Yellow Submarine turns 50 on November 13th.Both Disney and Warner Bros. have highly-anticipated tentpole films releasing in December, with Mary Poppins Returns landing in theaters December 19th, and Aquaman swimming to screens on December 14th.ArtInsights Gallery has art representing all these properties, makingholiday gift giving easy for the loved ones of fans who search in vain every year for something special and unusual to make the season bright.Prices range from $150 to a king’s ransom, with several highlighted pieces in the lower range to keep budgets in mind.
Fans of Mickey Mouse and the Beatles have been celebrating all year. Yellow Submarine returned to theaters this summer, and there’s a new graphic novel release of the story.Disney is having what they’re calling the “world’s biggest mouse party”, and have a new exhibit in New York called “Mickey: The True Original Exhibition”.ArtInsights is ready for those with friends and family who are fans, with official art by Alex Ross featuring the Beatles called “The Fab Four “ in a limited edition mini canvas for $150.
Mickey Mouse as Steamboat Willie reminds Disneyphiles where it all began.For them, the gallery suggests one of two limited editions by highly-collectible Disney artist Tim Rogerson, one a giclee on canvas featuring Mickey through the years called “Mickey’s Creative Journey” priced at $150, the other a hand-signed giclee on paper capturing the character in a grey-toned piece called “Mickey at the Helm” for $350.
Mary Poppins, starring Emily Blunt, directed by Rob Marshall, promises to be a huge hit, especially with fans of the Oscar-winning 1964 classic.The gallery has a limited edition signed by Tim Rogerson called “A Mary Tune”,that shows Mary and her cohorts painted against the sheet music for Feed the Birds, written by the Sherman Brothers, who won an Oscar and Grammy for Mary Poppins. It is priced at $495.Also offered, for the fans who have everything, is art by matte background painter Peter Ellenshaw, who, indeed won an Oscar for his work on the film. “Practically Perfect”, which is signed by Ellenshaw, who passed away in 2007, is $1100, and would be a highlight of any Disney film fan’s collection.
For Aquaman, the gallery has an image created by famed DC and Justice League Unlimited animation director Bruce Timm, which includes not only Aquaman, but many of the members of the Justice League, including Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, all of whom have been making news in live action studio news this year, called “Guardians of Justice”. Also suggested is a giclee on canvas by DC comic book cover artist Alex Ross that features Aquaman with the lead members of the Justice League called “JLA”.Both retail for $150.
There are a number of other pieces corresponding to film art news, including art from Pinocchio, which was recently announced as a property Guillermo Del Toro will reinterpret with a new stop-motion film. Whether purists strictly stick with the original Harry Potter series, or love the newest releases written by Rowling, art from the Harry Potter book and film series is alway popular, and coincides withFantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.Many are created by Stuart Craig, the production designer for all the Harry Potter movies as well as the new Fantastic Beast series.
There are a number of images by Star Wars production artists, including the limited edition “The Cold of Hoth” by John Alvin, an exclusive giclee on paper for $150 from everyone’s favorite film in the saga, as well as images representing DC and Marvel characters.Of course, there is a veritable parade of Disney princesses represented in art, which is perfectly timed with the release of Ralph Breaks The Internet, in which the Disney princesses figure prominently, (including the use of the voices from the original feature films!)You can find all these options on the gallery’s new blog.See the bottom of the press release for links or contact the gallery for more information. Images of available art sent immediately upon request.
Since 1994, representing a wide range of film and animation art at the gallery in Reston Town Center, ArtInsights focuses on proprietary projects and artist representation relating to the history of animation and film, and the celebration and examination of popular culture, all by artists working in the film industry. With artists like iconic movie poster artist John Alvin, studio concept artists William Silvers and Jim Salvati, and Marvel and DC cover artists Alex Ross, the gallery builds collections of original and limited edition art for their growing worldwide collector base. See the work and read the blog onHYPERLINK “http://www.artinsights.com” www.artinsights.com. For more information about ArtInsights’ 2018 gift guide, go to https://artinsights.com/the-artinsights-2018-gift-guide-celebrates-film-anniversaries-and-new-releases/
RESTON TOWN CENTERPARKING, ARTINSIGHTS HOLIDAY HOURS, GIFT WITH PURCHASE, AND GALLERY UPDATE!
As many of you know, with the changes in parking at Reston Town Center, we have had a number of clients avoid the center and only come on the weekends, so we’ve committed to being open on Sundays, and have seen a lot more of our clients on the weekends. For those of you who have avoided the center altogether…
Now Balducci’s is open across the street!How does that help us apart from the traffic?
Balducci’s offers 2 hours free parking without any apps or parking kiosks.Now, we don’t advocate you parking there and walking out without supporting the place, but who among us won’t find something awesome there? They are all decked out for Christmas, with lots of hard-to-find items and specialty foods all in one place.
I spoke to the head of produce there, and told him his produce was a might pricey.He told me there’s a reason.and it’s a good one!He says they go through the fruits and vegetables multiple times a day to make sure it’s all fresh and perfect, and that he personally checks every box as it comes in off the truck.So that means if you (or your loved one) wants something that isn’t going to go bad in a day or two, or you don’t find has mold on it the minute you get home, Balducci’s is the place!
I go there often for things I can’t find anywhere else, like tarragon mustard, imported chocolates, and swanky cheese. The holidays are the time to splurge on swanky cheese!
Anyway, you can park there and walk across the street any time! Also, of course the parking is free in all the garages Saturdays and Sundays. and if you just need to run in and pick something up or drop off framing, remember you can always park right out front, as it has 15 minutes grace period.If any of our clients ever get a ticket for being there, we get it taken care of, so just pop back in and i’ll take it to the parking staff.
HOLIDAY SPECIAL HOURS:
Black (Panther) Friday, we’ll be at the gallery starting at 8am!
We’ll have cider and snacks to fortify our friends and clients. We will have a few costumed pals out at the tree after the parade for pictures with the kiddos, and we’ll be open to 6pm.
The rest of the holidays, our hours are:
Monday through Friday 10 – 6pm
Saturday 10 – 6pm
Sunday 12 – 5pm
We’ll be open on Christmas eve, from 10-2pm, for last minute pick ups and late shoppers.
We’ll be closed from December 31st to the 2nd of January to celebrate the new year.
Reston Town Center is actually a wonderful place to do your Christmas shopping! Parking is always free in all the garages on the weekends, there are great places to eat, and not only is there not the crush and crowds you find at the traditional malls, it’s also beautifully decorated during the holidays. They’ve gone the extra step this year, as they’ve been doing the last few years, to make it lovely and charming, especially at night, so come visit us.
Remember if you need to plan for coming in outside regular hours, you just need to let us know and we’ll try to arrange it. We are here to help and make the holidays as easy and fun as we can for all.
GIFT WITH PURCHASE!
We are gathering fun and exciting items to give to those who make purchases during the holiday season, so from November 17th through December 31st, you’ll get a little something geeky and art-related with every purchase! What is it? You’ll have to come in to find out, but we know it will make your season a little brighter.
As those of you who saw our newsletter and our gift guide blog might have surmised, we have lots of new art, and the gallery is all decked out in holiday finery, so it’s definitely worth a trip.
What else is happening? We are about to get a door out to the front of the building.After 26 years, we thought it was time! With all the permit headaches, it’s probably going to be finished at the coldest time of the year, but we’re still excited. We won’t be using it during the winter, but we’ll have lots more air and a great feeling of openness when it’s warmer out. We want to be able to be open when we want, including outside the hours that the building doors are locked.We aren’t sure yet how this will effect our hours, but we’ll write again and let you know when we decide.We are imagining Friday or Saturday night events with music and new art releases. We will have an event to celebrate our new door and other special changes to the space in the spring.
ARE YOU ON OUR NEWSLETTER LIST?
We have a newsletter we send out to our clients.We don’t send them very often, but when we have new art, or events, or something cool is happening, we let you know.So it might be bi-monthly? Why don’t you give it a try if you want to keep up with us, read about and see all the latest releases or gallery scoops? Just go to the front page of our website and the popup will show up where you can sign up.Facebook and blogs can only do so much!