At ArtInsights, we have as many fans of Beauty and the Beast as we do for The Little Mermaid, and that’s saying something. Since we’re heading into Valentine’s season, the season of love, as it were, I thought I’d talk about the history, art, and fun facts about the tale as old as time.
IT’S A WINNER:
Disney’s 1991 new classic Beauty and the Beast is not only beloved by fans all over the world, it also represents a number of important firsts. The film was the first fully animated feature ever to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, and is a stunning example of what historians call the Disney Renaissance.
The film lost the Best Picture Oscar to, umm, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, a film that had the distinction of being one of only two film in history (along with It Happened One Night in 1935) in which Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Picture all went to the same film, so at least Beauty and the Beast lost to a worthy adversary. Composers Alan Menken and Howard Ashman DID win, though. Alan Menken won for Best Original Score, and he and Ashman were nominated for a Best Music Oscar for their songs “Belle” and “Be Our Guest”, and won the award with the unforgettable tune sung by Angela Lansbury, “Beauty and the Beast”.
The germs of the tale seen in Disney’s feature come from a tale written by female French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot, who included it in a collection called “La Jeune Américaine et les Contes Marins” (The Young American and Tales of the Sea), published in 1740. The Belle et la Bete segment is believed to be, in part, inspired by the life of Petrus Gonsalvus and his lovely wife, Catherine. Petrus Gonsalvus was born in 1537 with hypertrichosis, also known as Werewolf Syndrome, in which copious amounts of hair grow on all surfaces of a person’s skin. He began his life as an enslaved person, and at just 10 years old, he was given as a gift to the King of France. Gonsalvus lived in Henri II’s court for over 40 years, during which he was given the education of a nobleman, learning everything from Latin and poetry to military tactics. It was at court that he met his wife Catherine. They had 4 daughters and a son, several of whom shared their dad’s disorder, and were painted many many times by artists of the day. A few years after Barbot’s version was released, Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont condensed her story and turned it into largely what we recognize as the basis for both Jean Cocteau’s 1947 live-action romantic fantasy film, and Disney’s 1991 animated feature.
You can actually see the direct inspiration Gonsalvus provides for the Beast in Cocteau’s 1946 gem La Belle et la Bête. If you haven’t seen this version of the story, it’s a French film classic that critic Roger Ebert called “one of the most magical of all films”. Here’s a trailer where you can see the Beast’s design:
The Disney version was developed as far back as the 1930s, when Disney was looking for other stories to adapt into a feature. It was shelved back then, but in the late 80s, they brought the idea back and started working on a non-musical version of the story—another first, though, was the film hiring a screenwriter, rather than the film being developed via storyboards. Linda Woolverton wrote a draft and then worked with the story artists. They then shifted and retooled the story, hiring first-time feature directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, and Alan Menken and Howard Ashman to write songs and make it a musical, and Wise, Trousdale, Menken, Ashman, Woolverton, and producer Don Hahn collaborated to make what we all see onscreen.
Here is an interview with Kirk and Gary about their careers:
Angela Lansbury was, as you all know, the voice of Mrs. Potts, and to be honest, that was one of the main reasons I was excited to see the movie when it was the theaters for the first time.
Here she is, singing it live in concert 2001, and though she’s not in her voice’s prime, it’s pretty impressive at 76.
This amazing performer had an EGOT before it was cool, meaning she has been nominated for an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. For her first film Gaslight in 1944 she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, then again for The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1945, and The Manchurian Candidate in 1962 (losing, if you must know, to Patty Duke’s performance in The Miracle Worker. Fair enough..) They gave her a lifetime achievement award, which I always think is sort of too little too late. Her work on Broadway was even more impressive. She recieved 7 Tony nominations, winning 5, including for Mame in 1966 (OMG i wish i’d seen that!!) Gypsy in 1975, and Sweeney Todd in 1979. Here she is performing as Mrs. Lovett showing just how fantastic she was and what stage presence she had:
As Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote she was nominated for an Emmy nominated 12 times in a row but never won. Philistines! Anyway, I enjoyed the rabbit hole I went down looking at videos of Angela Lansbury performances, and you might, too. There’s a treasure trove out there of her work.
Meanwhile, talking about great Broadway performers, you might only know Jerry Orbach, the voice of Lumière, as Lenny Briscoe on Law and Order. He was actually on tv way back in the 60s, starred on Broadway, even winning a Tony Award in 1969, and for all you Gen X’ers out there, of course played Baby’s dad in Dirty Dancing. Nik Ranieri, who also worked on Meeko in Pocahontas, Roger in Roger Rabbit, and Hades in Hercules, was the supervising animator for Lumière.
Broadway performer Paige O’Hara was chosen out of over 500 hopefuls to play Belle. What I think is really cool about Paige is she has loved art and painting even longer than she loved singing and acting. Inspired by her architect dad, she started drawing and painting as a child. She even sold her art to help support herself when she first got to New York as a starving actor! O’Hara was added to the Disney roster when a Disney art scout saw an original painting of Belle she brought to one of her signings. You can see all her Disney art HERE.
The poster for Beauty and the Beast was created by none other than famed campaign artist John Alvin. He had worked on only one other Disney movie at that point, though he went on to create posters for Aladdin and The Lion King, and the term “Alvin-izing” would be coined by a Disney executive about his magical imagery. It was the first time that a Disney movie campaign had 2 key posters, one geared for children and another, John’s poster, for adults.
We have one limited edition from the extremely sold out limited edition based on the alternate finish which was very nearly used as the key art for the adult movie poster. The piece, which is an Artists Proof from the Alvin family, isn’t on the site, but you can contact us via email if interested!
In terms of art used in the making of the film, there are no production cels from Beauty and the Beast. Though it was drawn in 2D, the drawings were scanned into a computer and colorized in there, so no cels were used. They did have an auction, as they did with a number of films from the Disney Renaissance, at Sotheby’s, where they sold original drawings with cels created by the ink and paint department especially for the auction. There were also hand-drawn limited editions from the movie created for the collector market. When I was touring the ink and paint department once back in the 90s, the ink and paint artists were working on the Beauty and the Beast limited edition set of two. I met a woman who had been working there since the 50s and had worked on Sleeping Beauty. I bought the cels she was inking that day, and those limited editions belong to a very happy fan of both movies! I currently don’t have any cel art created from Beauty and the Beast for sale at the gallery, but we do have lots of interpretive pieces created by official Disney artists.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s lovely to know there continues to be interest and love for Beauty and the Beast. That’s in no small part because of the Broadway Beauty and the Beast musical stage play, which is yet another first, the first of many subsequent Disney Broadway productions. A number of famous stars of stage and screen have performed in the show, including Debbie Gibson, Andrea McArdle, and Toni Braxton as Belle. Then of course in 2017, the live-action adaptation was released directed by Bill Condon, starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, and tons of other great performers, Ok, let’s be honest, though…we came for Emma and stayed for 6-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald, who stole a movie that also starred Josh Gad, Luke Evans, and Emma Thompson. Here are cast members talking about their experience:
Director Condon has had a number of successful releases, including Chicago, Dreamgirls, and Breaking Dawns part 1 and 2 of Twilight. He’s always coming up with the next big thing, and I’m sure he’s going to announce whatever that is soon!
The most recent permutation of Disney’s B&B was Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration, which just aired in December of 2022, and starred H.E.R. , Josh Groban, Shania Twain, and David Alan Grier. You can get a tiny taste of what that was like here:
Feeling romantic yet? Hopefully this blog has taught you a thing or two or allowed you to see something new or unexpected in Beauty and the Beast. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in interpretive Disney artists’ takes on the original feature, GO HERE, but here are a few examples of available art:
The holiday season is upon us, once again! It’s time to watch some Christmas cartoon shorts to get us all in the mood. There’s much trouble in the world, of course, but this year it seems we can actually spend time together and celebrate love and light, whatever that might mean in terms of belief, be it Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Pagan, Wiccan, Buddhist, or whatever else helps you make sense of why we’re all here. We bring in the new year with those we love most, whether they’re relatives or found family.
To put everyone in that joyful place, we at ArtInsights thought we’d offer some suggestions of a few of the sweetest Christmas cartoon shorts, some of which will be familiar, others of which may be entirely new to you. You don’t have to be Christian to love Christmas and Christmas cartoons, whatever they say. Yule, Santa, and all the beauty of the holiday can be enjoyed by anyone. It’s all story, after all! So here are 10 Christmas cartoon shorts from a variety of animation studios and productions for you, as we offer season’s greetings!
Mickey’s Orphans 1931
This early black and white Mickey short features the famed mouse along with his beloved Minnie Mouse and faithful pup Pluto. It takes place during Christmas time, features the voice of Walt Disney, and is Mickey’s 36th short. It’s a remake of a 1927 Oswald cartoon Empty Socks, which was only recently found in a library in Norway in December of 2014! (That cartoon is still not available to the public, or it would be on this list!)
The stage is set at the beginning of the short, with Minnie playing Silent Night, and Pluto sleeping by the fire. When someone leaves a basket on their doorstep, Pluto brings it in, and the household discovers it’s filled with orphaned kittens. Though Mickey and Minnie are determined to make the kitties feel at home, the babies go about destroying to place. This storyline will resonate with anyone who has a cat, especially a kitten who has toyed with carefully appointed holiday decorations!
Santa’s Workshop 1932
Also an early Disney short, Santa’s Workshop is part of the Silly Symphonies. It centers on Santa’s preparations for the night before Christmas, aided by his trusty elves. It also features Walt’s voice work, this time as an elf. It’s directed by Wilfred Jackson, who went on the direct Snow White in 1937, and Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan in 1950, 1951, and 1953, and won the Winsor McCay Award in 1983. Notable about this cartoon is it features prominently in the Scandinavian version of the Disney compilation featurette From All of Us to All of You, played every year just before the holiday. It is part of, in effect, the Scandinavian version of A Charlie Brown Christmas. It is a short of its time, and as such has a few racial stereotypes that have been since scrubbed from the cartoon.
The Night Before Christmas 1933
The sequel to Santa’s Workshop, The Night Before Christmas is also directed by Wilfred Jackson, and it’s one of the more joyful Christmas cartoon shorts ever released. As you might imagine, it’s based on Clement C Moore’s famous poem from 1823, originally released anonymously as Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas”. Moore’s work had an enormous impact on the perceptions and traditions of the holiday, and Walt Disney created this short to lean into those traditions. In it, St. Nick delivers toys to sleeping children, whereupon they come alive, dance, and have fun.
Alias St Nick 1935
This short was produced by Harman-Ising Productions and released by MGM as one of the Happy Harmonies cartoon series. It features a tough, skeptical baby mouse named Little Cheeser who makes clear his doubts of the existence of Santa Claus as Mrs. Mouse is reading A Visit from St. Nicholas to her whole brood. A cat overhears the mice and dresses like Santa to trick Mrs. Mouse and make a meal of her and her babies, but Little Cheeser thwarts his plans. Little Cheeser goes on to have a cartoon named after him, released in 1936.
The Pups’ Christmas 1936
Also released by MGM as a Happy Harmonies short is the very sweet cartoon in which two puppies experience Christmas for the first time. They get up to a lot of mischief in a script co-written by Bill Hanna of Hanna Barbera fame. The stars are the “two little pups”, who were introduced earlier the same year in, you guessed it, “Two Little Pups”.
Christmas Comes but Once a Year 1936
Here’s a cartoon short from Fleischer Studios as part of its Color Classics series. I absolutely love this cartoon. It features the character from Betty Boop Professor Grampy in his only appearance without Betty. Grampy discovers that kids in an orphanage have gotten worn out and broken old toys on Christmas, and sneaks into the kitchen of the orphanage to assemble new toys from household appliances, furniture, and other kitchen paraphernalia. Then, dressed as Santa, he changes Christmas for all the orphans.
Frosty the Snowman 1950
In 1950, just after the first release of this Christmas classic tune, the UPA (United Productions of America) Studio created a 3 minute cartoon short in the style of their most famous cartoon, Gerald McBoing-Boing. It was directed by Robert Cannon, known for his work at Warner Bros. famed Termite Terrace, and won the prestigious Winsor McCay Award in 1976. Filmed in black and white, Frosty premiered on Chicago tv station WGN-TV on December 24th and 25th, 1955, and has been playing every year since.
The Star of Bethlehem 1956
As much as most folks think Snow White is the first full length animated feature, Reiniger beat him by 11 years when she created The Adventures of Prince Achmed in 1926. She is known for using delicate silhouettes in creating her animation. This 1956 film retells the story of the nativity through her unique and artistic lens. You can read more about it HERE. (https://www.bfi.org.uk/features/lotte-reiniger-star-bethlehem) ..and here’s a great short film with Lotte that shows her process and art.
Christmas Cracker 1963
This Oscar-nomationed short is a mix of live action and animation, with segments directed by animation legend Norman McLaren (oscar-winning Scottish Canadian), Jeff Hale (famed for creating animation inserts for Sesame Street and founding the SF animation studio Imagination Inc), Gerald Potterton (best known for directing Heavy Metal and sequences in Yellow Submarine) and Grant Munro (Canadian animator known as a pioneer and animator of paper cut-outs). There are three segments: Jingle Bells, which uses cut-out animation, Tin Toys, which uses stop-motion animation, and Christmas Tree Decoration, (my favorite) which features a man working to find the very best and most inspiring topper for his tree.
Une Vieille Boîte (An Old Box) 1975
This is a charming and slightly more minimalist animated short by Dutch animator Paul Driessen. Released by the National Film Board of Canada, it tells the story of an unsheltered man who discovers a box that turns out to be magical and full of Christmas spirit. Driessen’s animated films have won more than 50 prizes all over the world, and he also won a lifetime achievement award at both the Zagreb and Ottawa animation film festivals. He is famed professor and two of his students have won Oscars for their work.
I hope you enjoy these shorts and they get you into the Christmas spirit! If you’re looking for art that can bring spirit to your wall, check out our HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE or consider a few of these gallery favorites:
You can see lots more snowy imagery that celebrates the coming of winter HERE, but for Star Wars fans, this evokes love, warmth (brought to you by the guts of a Ton ton) and found family:
One last suggestion, just to get you ready for all the sweets, the candies, cookies, and pies of the holidays, with this limited edition by movie poster artist and former animator Andrea Alvin:
The Story behind Tim Rogerson’s New Art: “Bros in Business” and “Making Movie Magic”.
I asked Tim Rogerson to give us a little insight into the new pieces just released that made a huge splash at D23 this year, Bros in Business, featuring Oswald and Mickey, and Making Movie Magic, starring Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto. Below, in his own words, are his inspirations and ideas behind them:
– The very first D23 Expo in 2009 was the event that changed my life and career. I had the honor of being the official artist and painted, “In Company of Legends”, which the original sits in the Disney archives. It’s still surreal to me that I have a piece of Disney history in my portfolio. Every D23 Expo since, I always try to up my game and paint something better and more special. This recent D23 Expo 2022 was no different. I wanted to paint something that celebrates the 100 years of the Disney Studios.
– First up was “Bros in Business” inspired by an old photograph of brothers Walt and Roy Disney standing out front of their new studio on Kingswell Avenue in Los Angeles. The studio was called, “Disney Bros Studio” and was the very beginning of the Disney company. I love staring at this photo and imagining if these guys had any idea of what that little studio would become. I knew right away, I had to paint Mickey as Walt and Oswald as Roy which took some convincing during the approval process we go through at Disney Fine Art. I’m thrilled everything worked out and I was able to bring this painting to life.
Tim Rogerson, 2022
– Next was “Making Movie Magic” which I wanted to show the studio in action. The first production at Disney Bros Studio was the film, “Alice’s Day at Sea.” The poster from that film is iconic with Alice riding a jumping fish and I thought it would be amazing to show the Fab Five creating that moment 100 years ago. What I love most about this painting is the whimsy of it all as it captures that good ‘ol Hollywood backlot studio feel.
I’ve talked a lot about Snoopy Come Home here on this blog, especially HERE. If you read my blog regularly, you know it’s one of my favorite cartoons. It has a lot going for it, and is unique a lot of ways, in terms of Peanuts animated history. For one thing, it’s one of only 4 Peanuts cartoons that don’t mention Charlie Brown in the title. It’s also the only Peanuts animated feature with music composed by Disney Legends Robert and Richard Sherman, known as the Sherman Brothers. It’s also the debut of Woodstock, a Peanuts fan favorite, and Snoopy’s best fine feathered friend!
The main story of this feature is based on a series of cartoon strips created by Charles Schulz for publication in August of 1968.
2022 is the 50th anniversary of Snoopy Come Home. I’d say it feels like only yesterday, but a lot has happened in the last few years, and quite frankly, I think it might have aged ALL of us and wrecked our sense of time. This charming Peanuts feature film does feel like comfort. It feels like a celebration. It’s a plot as old as time: Boy gets dog. Boy loses dog. (To Lila, who is sick and needs comfort. Snoopy is a good dog!) Boy missed dog. Dog misses boy. Dog and bird-bestie return to boy. Time for a celebration!
In fact, Snoopy Come Home premiered in August of 1972, so I figured it was the perfect time to talk about this wonderful film. The Peanuts folks have been releasing Snoopy Come Home art all year, exceptional art (as you see right above) and some incredibly cute scenes. Now I’ve watched this cartoon many many times, so I know exactly where each image is from in the movie. It’s almost like the way I know Sleeping Beauty or 101 Dalmatians or any number of other Disney cartoons. I grew up with them, I’ve sold a lot of cels from them, and I love them completely. To be honest, I love Snoopy Come Home a lot more than some Disney movies. (now I guess is the time some of you will sign off. If you don’t get how awesome Snoopy is, go off and try to live your best life without him!)
In the last week, I’ve gotten some great new images I’ve really excited about from some of my favorite scenes from the cartoon, which brought me joy given 3 out of 5 of the pieces arrived exactly on the day of the 50th anniversary!
First, though, here are a just a few of the other originals and limited editions from Snoopy Come Home I sold this year:
As many of you know who collect or love Snoopy and Peanuts, I specialize in and am a huge fan of cels of Snoopy and Woodstock. Finding good images of the two of them together brings me a simple joy I can’t describe. Well, below are the ones I’ve jumped on, and am now offering here for the first time (click on the images to learn more or buy)! :
You might not know the scene with Snoopy crying and Woodstock consoling him, or Snoopy offering a smooch to Lucy. That’s the beauty of the internet. Enjoy:
There’s nothing quite like seeing the exact moment where the cel was used in animation. It’s so exciting for collectors, and even casual fans who just enjoy seeing the production art and how it was used! This film has been watched by millions over the years, and has been played in countries all over the world. Snoopy is understood in all languages, and that’s one of his best qualities. He’s Joe Cool, Charlie’s Best Friend, and Woodstock’s pal in ways people relate to everywhere across the globe.
I’m thrilled I’ve been able to mark what I think is a special movie on its anniversary by finding great images for my clients and seeing each of them in person. If you love Snoopy Come Home or are curious about it and want to see it, it’s available for rent right now, or of course you can buy it and have it to watch whenever you want! (we at ArtInsights are very much believers in physical media!)
Charles Schultz gave us all such a gift when he created Peanuts. Bill Melendez and the wonderful artists who worked with him at his studio added to that gift by creating animated features and specials we can watch on our own or with loved ones. Let’s celebrate that however we can!
Time sure goes by fast for Disney fans. It’s the 20th anniversary of Lilo & Stitch! It seems like only yesterday Disney put out their 42nd feature film, introducing the world to the blue alien “Experiment 626” and the concept of Ohana. Stitch, as Experiment 626’s human friend Lilo Pelekai calls him after adopting him as a dog, has been genetically engineered to cause chaos. (Isn’t that what lots of puppies do, though?) Through the sweet story centered on found family as well as some pretty frenetic action, Stitch ultimately chooses to stay with Lilo and her sister, making the narrative a beautiful nod to larger groups, or wider nets of loving friends and blood relations. Lilo and Stitch was met with positive reviews by critics, and enthusiasm from Disney fans, and was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2003 Oscars. It had the misfortune to be up against one of Hayao Miyazaki’s best, Spirited Away, which walked away with the award.
The film was directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, which is 8 years before DeBlois brought us the first in the wonderful How to Train Your Dragon series as both screenwriter and director. He went on to direct HTTYD 2 and 3, both of which are glorious, and in their way also celebrate found family. I interviewed Dean about HTTYD2:
Lilo and Stitch was developed by Michael Eisner, inspired by 1941’s Dumbo, which was famously less expensive than the studio’s first 2 films. The original story was based on a children’s book pitch that Sanders had in the mid-80s, featuring the character of Stitch. It was decided early on to center the action in Hawaii, the look and feel of which went on to color the entire film. DeBlois had co-written Mulan with Sanders, so he invited him on to co-write and direct Lilo and Stitch.
It was on a research trip to Kauai that DeBlois and Sanders learned about Ohana. DeBlois said the tour guide seemed to know someone everywhere they went. That guide went on to explain the idea of family that extends way beyond blood, encompassing close friends and neighbors who support and love each other unconditionally, as is the case in many parts of the Hawaiian islands. The voices of Nani, Lilo’s beleaguered and responsible big sister, and David Kawena, Lilo’s boyfriend, are played by Tia Carrera and Jason Scott Lee, actors who both grew up in Hawaii.
Sanders supplied the voice for Stitch, who was animated under the supervision of Alex Kupershmidt. Kupershmidt also had a hand in the design and animation of Khan and General Li in Mulan, and the Hyenas in The Lion King. He also worked on technical animation for Zootopia, Moana, and Raya and the LastDragon.
It was the great animator Andreas Deja who was the supervising animator for Lilo, which, he once told me, was quite a departure for him. He’s often more connected to villainous or dramatic characters like Scar, Jafar, and Gaston, but he also lended his expertise as supervising animator of Roger Rabbit. Lilo was by far the calmest, sweetest character he’d ever worked on.
Here is an interview I did with Andreas:
The backgrounds in Lilo and Stitch were done in watercolor, a technique that hadn’t been used in decades, but one that created a look that was both detailed and drenched in color, perfect for evoking the sharp light and richness of color specific to Hawaii. It was also another a throwback to 1941′ Dumbo, which used watercolor for its backgrounds. You can see the specificity and richness in this limited edition based on an original background created by Lilo and Stitch background and concept artist William Silvers:
I spoke to Silvers about the deleted scenes he worked on that were cut from the original film. Originally in the 3rd act Stitch flew a Boing 747 jet through Honolulu, but after the September 11th attacks, the filmmakers decided to change that scene to have Stitch fly a spaceship through the mountains of Kauai. These changes postponed the release of the film by 7 months. You can read about Bill Silvers, his career, and his experience HERE. We carry limited editions from Lilo and Stitch by Bill Silvers, and you can find them all HERE.
A Lilo and Stitch live action film in the works, with Chris Sanders reportedly lending his voice to Stitch once again.
There are some wonderful images available by Disney Fine Artists available to all you Lilo & Stitch art fans. The art of Lilo & Stitch really blends the beauty and color of Hawaii with the strong character design for which Disney artists are celebrated. You can find all our Lilo and Stitch art HERE.
If you’re a huge fan of Lilo and Stitch, you’ll love watching this interview celebrating the 20th anniversary featuring Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders:
I can’t believe after more than 30 years selling Disney art, this is the first time the art Disney’s Haunted Mansion has become available. It inspired me to write about my favorite Disney attraction.
In the many times I’ve gone to Disney World and Disneyland for work or for fun, the Haunted Mansion has always been a highlight, and I’d even say one of the main reasons we’ve gone to the parks. There was one visit in which Disney Studios had closed the park for us to wander around unimpeded, and we went through the mansion repeatedly at near midnight with only friends surrounding us. Those experiences only enhanced what is a magical experience even after waiting hours to ride it, and I should know. I’ve done that, too. That made me curious. What was the process the famous artistic and engineering geniuses at Disney Imagineering that resulted in a ride that has withstood the test of over 50 years and multiple generations? What secrets does it hold?
The Haunted Mansions for both Disneyland and Disney World were built at the same time, in 1969. By then, they already knew they’d be opening Disney World, so they made two of every element of the attraction.
The idea for it came before Disneyland, way back when Walt was going to create his park across from Disney Studios. The first illustration that included some version of the attraction was drawn by Disney artist Harper Goff, then Disney assigned Imagineer, director, and animator extraordinaire Ken Anderson to create a story, which he did, based on a dilapidated antebellum manor styled after those in and around New Orleans, which he studied copiously in the process of his designs. His house had swarms of bats, boarded up doors and windows, overgrown with weeds. Walt rejected it, thinking a run-down house inside his park sent the wrong message. Instead, he suggested as inspiration the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, and Anderson took that and ran with it, writing stories about former residents turned evil ghosts. Two imagineers known as integral to the design and engineering of the attraction, Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey took his stories and brought them to life for the park. The Haunted Mansion was expected to open in 1963, and construction started in 1962, with the exterior finished by 1963.
It was largely inspired and modeled after a Victorian Era manor called the Shipley-Lydecker House in Baltimore Maryland.
Famed animator and background artist Marc Davis and Claude Coats partnered in the feel of the ride’s interior, with Coats contributing the scarier elements and Davis bringing a comedic and less spooky quality. Plans for an opening stalled first because of the New York World’s Fair, then because of Walt’s death in 1966. After Walt passed, there were a few major changes to the ride. They scrapped an idea for a “Museum of the Weird, which would include a restaurant like the Blue Bayou at the Pirates of the Caribbean. What was once going to be a walk-through attraction became one with what became the famous “Doom Buggies”.
The Haunted Mansion at finally Disneyland premiered opened with a press event at midnight on August 12th, with an opening for the public later that morning. It was an immediate success. Within a week of opening, Disneyland celebrated its highest single-day attendance.
One thing that makes the attraction special is the wonderful Ghost Host. Foolish mortals are welcomed to the mansion by a disembodied voice, originally supplied by one of the most famous voices in animation, Paul Frees. Even legendary voice artist Mel Blanc called Frees “The Man of a Thousand Voices”. Not only did Frees have a long and storied career with Disney, he also provided voices for Rocky and Bullwinkle’s Boris Badenov, was featured in nearly every Rankin Bass stop-motion cartoon, he was also the voice of Mr. Granite in The Flintstones, and played both John Lennon and George Harrison in a Beatles cartoon. The Ghost Host is also known as Master Grace, named in tribute to Yale Gracey.
Here is a vid with some early outtakes of his recordings as the Ghost Host:
As to the features of the attraction itself, there’s so much to love. A friend of mine bought the original stretching portraits from the Haunted Mansion a few years ago when Disney was foolish enough to get rid of them and that made me curious about their origin. There are four portraits, including a balding man, an old woman, a brown-haired man, and, my favorite, a tightrope walker. In an early script for the Haunted Mansion, the balding man was an ambassador named Alexander Nitrokoff. The old woman stretches to show her late husband’s bust. The brown-haired man is identified in the comics created in 2005, he and the two men sitting on each others’ shoulders are gamblers called Hobbs, Big Hobbs, and Skinny Hobbs. The tightrope walker has many alias, with Disney cast members calling her Lillian Gracey and the comics dubbing her Daisy de la Cruz. They say she’s a witch who turns men into crocodiles. I LIKE IT! Madame Leota might be the most popular character inside the mansion. She is a psychic medium originally voiced by Eleanor Audley, who voiced both Cinderella’s Lady Tremaine and Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. Her face is based on imagineer Leota Toombs.
Of course one of the best moments on the ride is the ballroom dancers, usually called the Waltzing Dead by fans. There are a total of 12 dancers, 6 women and 6 men, that dance as couples. In the Ghost Gallery, which is a notebook written by cast members at the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion in which they created biographies for all the attractions’ characters, the ballroom dancers are meant to be souls of folks who attended a party at Gracey Manor, only to be cursed by Madame Leota for neglecting her.
Lastly and perhaps most memorable, the ride features the groundskeeper, his mangy pup, and the hitchhiking ghosts. The groundskeeper is sometimes referred to as The Caretaker, and there’s some question as to whether the shovel he holds is for his grounds work or for a second career grave robbing. In the comics, he is identified as Horace Fusslebottom.
The hitchhiking ghosts have become a thing of their own legend. They are referred to as Gus (The Prisoner), Ezra (The Skeleton) and Phineas (The Traveler), but those names are believed to have been invented by cast members and subsequently spread by visitors to the attraction. The Ghost Gallery imagines them as three cellmates at the Salem Asylum for the Criminally Insane.
It was a thrill when I was surprised a few days ago with what felt like, after so many years without any art, an avalanche of interpretive images of The Haunted Mansion was released by Disney Fine Art.
Click on any image above to find out more about the art, or you can see all the Haunted Mansion images by going to our Haunted Mansion art page HERE.
I’ll leave you with a wonderful clip from a 1970 Wonderful World of Disney episode in which Kurt Russell guides us through the Haunted Mansion at Disney:
The Jungle Book was my gateway drug into the addictive world of Disney feature films. I had always been a movie geek, from the first time I can remember watching a movie. As a Gen X baby, I was generally unsupervised in my viewing, often to my detriment, but I was also a very stubborn child, so if one of the actors I loved was featured in a film, I’d watch it no matter what the subject matter. Starting at the tender age of 5 or 6, I accrued a number of early and persistent favorites. Watching Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid taught me, even at 6, that I very much liked boys. Gene Kelly and his physical style of dance taught me that too, I I fell for him when I watched Cover Girl, but not nearly as hard as I did for Eve Arden. She taught me being a wise cracking dame was an option. Sidney Poitier was just grace personified, and super cool in my introduction to him in To Sir With Love. Roman Holiday brought Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck into my life, but then I watched Wait Until Dark to see Audrey again, and it scared the bejeezus out of me. One of the weirder crushes of my 6 year old self was on George Sanders. He played Simon Templar in 4 or 5 The Saint movies I watched over a period of only a few days. I mean..the accent! His suits! His savoir faire!
I watched Wile E Coyote and Road Runner and Bugs shorts from infancy, but how many animated features did I watch as a young child? Probably none. Honestly I don’t remember any before I saw The Jungle Book at age 8. I had recently been accidentally introduced to the horror genre when my oldest sister Pam was babysitting me and had friends over to watch The Night of the Living Dead. I’m pretty sure that’s the same weekend I saw the a French adaptation of Murders in the Rue Morgue. I have vivid memories of this black and white scene of a detective finding a woman stuffed up a chimney. I. WAS. SEVEN. Needless to say, I was primed for some more positive, joyful cinematic fare. It came in the form of the newest movie I found that featured George Sanders. Jungle Book not only had him, it had JAZZ!
Along with being a little kid that loved movies, I was also obsessed with jazz. I don’t remember how or when I saw the trailer for The Jungle Book, but it really sold the jazz element of the movie.
Since my first record was by Louie Armstrong, and my second was an Ella Fitzgerald album, I was all in when it came to that musical genre. So here was a movie that not only had George Sanders, one of my favorite actors, who I’d seen at this point playing villains in Rebecca and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, but it had The King of Swing, Louie Prima! Interestingly, Disney’s original choice to play King Louie was Louis Armstrong. Wiser heads prevailed, (since a Black performer playing the King of the Monkeys would have rightly been seen as..uhh..problematic?) and Prima does a wonderful job.
Basically, The Jungle Book gave me a bit of a respite from what I thought were permanent night terrors and dreams of zombies twirling intestines. I wanted more, and that led me to watching all the Disney movies I could find. I must have seen The Jungle Book on a military base, because I saw it in English. The first time I saw Cinderella and The Aristocats, they were in French. All I know is The Jungle Book opened up a whole new world of film for me, one where there were no spilled guts, and happy endings were a given.
There’s something about The Jungle Book though that has always stuck with me in a way none of the other Disney movies could. I know they say you always remember your first, but it’s more than that. The Jungle Book is about friendship and sharing joy in music and caring for each other.
As an adult, I’m aware one can definitely rip the movie apart for its connection to Rudyard Kipling, the book’s original author. He was the colonialist and racist who wrote the poem “The White Man’s Burden” in 1899, in which he encouraged the American annexation of the Philippine Islands. Interestingly though, Kipling began writing The Jungle Book while living in the US. Though it takes place in the jungles of India, it was in part inspired by the wilderness of Vermont, and had as one of its themes the personal growth through adventures in the wild. That aspect of the story led to a friendship between Kipling and Theodore Roosevelt, then a civil-service commissioner in Washington. Abigail Disney has decried the film’s racist overtones. Developed in the mid-60s during desegregation in America, Disney’s The Jungle Book was sending a message about sticking to your own kind. When I rewatched it on Disney+ a few days ago, it carried a pre-screening warning:
You can find more information about the advisory council and their work towards inclusion HERE.
All that being said, there’s a reason it was the 4th highest grossing film in 1967. Released in December of 1967, the reviews at the time were almost universally effusive. Charles Champlin of the LA Times said, “It is a labor of patient love (nearly four years in the making) as remarkable in its visible man-hours as a wall-sized tapestry and mosaic. It is beautiful to see.” Howard Thompson of The New York Times said, “A perfectly dandy cartoon feature, “The Jungle Book,” scooted into local theaters yesterday just ahead of the big day, and it’s ideal for the children. Based loosely on Rudyard Kipling’s “Mowgli” stories, this glowing little picture should be grand fun for all ages, for in spirit, flavor and superb personification of animals, the old Disney specialty, the new film suggests that bygone Disney masterpiece, “Dumbo.” Life magazine said, “The story men, forgetting all they may have picked up about mythology’s relationship to mankind’s collective unconscious, have given the artists first class low-comedy gag sequences to work on and there are some simple bouncy songs to further enliven the proceedings.” In Time magazine, one reviewer explained its appeal this way: “The reasons for its success lie in Disney’s own unfettered animal spirits, his ability to be childlike without being childish. In his Jungle safari, he obviously aimed for the below-twelve market by stuffing his scenario with pratfalls and puffing it with the kind of primitive tunes that can be whistled through the gap left by a missing front tooth.”
The financial success of The Jungle Book was probably bolstered by a nostalgic remembrance of studio founder Walt Disney, who had died only 6 weeks after a lung cancer diagnosis in December of 1966. Still, it is beloved and appreciated to this day, and had a huge influence on the animators of the New Golden Age of Disney. It is Scar, Afar, and Roger Rabbit animator Andreas Deja’s favorite Disney movie, and Pocahontas director and animator Eric Goldberg, character designer for Aladdin’s Genie, calls the work on the film “possibly the best character animation a studio has ever done”.
Watching The Jungle Book in the last few days to find screen caps for our new production cels and concept art, I am once again drawn to George Sanders. Shere Khan is by no means my favorite character in the movie. That honor is shared by Bagheera and King Louie. Even in animation, Sanders is magnetic, stealing his scenes just as he did in every live action film he was ever in. In his Oscar-winning role as critic Addison DeWitt in All About Eve, he has Marilyn Monroe on his arm, and your eyes still follow Sanders. Speaking as one of his legion of fans, we are indebted to fellow thespian Greer Garson, who had been a secretary working at the same advertising agency as Sanders. She’s the one who suggested he could have a successful acting career. If you love George Sanders as much as I do, you’ll enjoy knowing he also tried his hand at singing and songwriting. Here he is singing a song from his 1958 album The George Sanders Touch: Songs for the Lovely Lady:
I was so excited to get some Jungle Book original production cels that hadn’t been restored and were in good condition! Most production cels from the film were sold as Disneyland mat setups, that is, they were sold at the art corner at Disney back when the movie was released, and so they are all stuck to their backgrounds. It’s inherent to the era. I think no one should restore Jungle Book production cels unless they are so damaged they can’t be enjoyed as they are. This is rarely the case for Disneyland mat setups, so I do wish dealers would just leave them alone. Isn’t it better to have the entirety of the art intact as photographed in the making of the movie? Anyway, here are the Jungle Book production cels we just got in, which, along with the realization that Jungle Book turns 55 this year (!!) inspired this blog:
10 THING YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT DISNEY’S THE JUNGLE BOOK
1 – With Shere Khan, George Sanders became the first Academy Award-winning actor to voice a Disney character. He had become friends with Walt after starring in 1962’s In Search of the Castaways, and got the role after Walt saw him in early concept drawings of the character.
2 – The Jungle Book was Verna Felton’s last movie. She died a little less than 2 days before Walt. Playing the elephant matriarch Winifred, Colonel Hathi’s wife, she bookended her experience with Disney studios with elephants, since her first vocal role was the elephant matriarch in Dumbo.
3 – The music for the film’s opening overture was written for the 1964 World’s Fair.
4 – The Jungle Book was rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America. It was the last Disney animated film to include the 1945 MPAA logo, and the last animated Disney film to be released during the Hays Office Code before its elimination in 1968.
5 – The Beatles were supposed to voice the vultures and sing the song That’s What Friends Are For”, but John Lennon refused. Lennon was quoted as saying: “There’s no way The Beatles are gonna sing for Mickey f*cking Mouse. You can tell Walt Disney to f*ck off. Tell him to get Elvis off his fat arse, he’s into making crap f*cking movies.” Tell us how you really feel, John!
6 – Gregory Peck, the president of the Academy at the time, lobbied heavily for The Jungle Book to be nominated for Best Picture, as well as the inclusion of animated features for consideration in Best Picture nominations. It didn’t happen, and he resigned over it. (Go Gregory!)
7 – Legendary story artist Bill Peet was originally the one who suggested The Jungle Book to Walt as an animated feature. Peet actually created the character of King Louie, who wasn’t in the original stories. His version of the story followed the dark tone of Kipling’s book. Walt insisted on script changes, and Peet refused. Dramatic and intense arguing ensued, leading to Peet quitting Disney altogether in January 1964.
8 – The Bare Necessities, the only song in the movie not written by The Sherman Brothers, was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to “Talk to the Animals” from Doctor Doolittle, “sung” (or spoken, really) by Rex Harrison. Rex Harrison never did voice acting, but Friz Freleng tried to hire him to voice Pink Panther. He demured, and Rich Little was hired to do an impression of him for two cartoons, 1965’s Sink Pink and Pink Ice.
9 – Louis Armstrong was the first choice to voice King Louie. Phil Harris, the voice of Baloo, improvised most of his lines. All the scatting by both Harris and Louis Prima was entirely improvised during recording sessions.
10 – The wolf cubs in The Jungle Book are all based on the puppies from 101 Dalmatians.
In the just-released HBO Max releasing Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: A Return to Hogwarts, Harry Potter film franchise production designer Stuart Craig is mentioned and called up fondly by a number of cast members. For good reason! Apart from the cast, Stuart Craig, who worked on the entire series, is one of the players that kept the continuity and look of the films consistent from beginning to end. A 3-time Oscar winner for Gandhi, Dangerous Liaisons, and The English Patient, Craig has been in the film business since he started in 1967 on Casino Royale as an assistant, bringing tea, running errands, and studiously avoiding Peter Sellers. Needless to say, I’ve loved having Stuart Craig Harry Potter art in the gallery.
He was hired from the very beginning of the Harry Potter series, designing the look of Hogwarts and the extended world of the boy who lived, interpreting and bringing to life the spaces and environments as written by JK Rowling.
Now here we are, 20 years after the first film’s release, and Warner Brothers celebrated by releasing a new documentary featuring all the major players from the film (though sadly missing Alan Rickman, Richard Griffiths, and Richard Harris, and Helen McCrory, among other cast and crew no longer with us). Neither Stuart nor any other below-the-line artist was interviewed, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of their contributions to these magical movies.
One of the subjects around the reunion that created controversy was whether it would include Rowling herself. In recent years she has, to put it mildly, put repeatedly her foot in her mouth on social media by clearly being trans-exclusionary. You can read all about it HERE. Ultimately, they used about 2 minutes (out of 2 hours) of footage from 2019. This brings us to why my post is titled “last available Harry Potter art”.
Since the books were released, I’ve been a champion of Harry Potter art. I’ve even been a panelist on several Harry Potter fandom panels at San Diego Comic-Con! (Here’s one video of us talking HP from 10 years ago, and yes, that IS a pre-Glee, shaggy-haired Darren Criss sitting next to me!)
I have definitely sold more Mary GrandPre and Harry Potter concept art than anyone else. I even got to release two exclusive limited editions. Regardless of how much of a fan of the art, the books, and the movies I might be, when Rowling started her row with the world about what is and isn’t male and female, and why, I had to reconsider my stock, and think about whether I wanted to put another penny into her pockets. The answer was no. At the time, I was well-stocked with official limited edition art from Harry Potter, both the books and the movies. Though until now I’ve done it below the radar, I slowly sold off what was available through ArtInsights, and vowed to myself I would stop selling the art when all the Harry Potter art in my current inventory was gone.
Should one of the artists I know who worked on the films and has original art comes to me, I’ll still be willing and able to promote and find great homes for their art, but the days of supporting the limited edition market are over, but for the last remaining pieces I have, which are all pieces I’d put aside by Stuart Craig, many of which are Artists Proofs.
So: If you’re interested in the movies, and love the characters and the movies as much as I do, check out all the Stuart Craig Harry Potter art HERE.
A large part of why I fell in love with the Harry Potter movies was the look and feel of them, and that’s entirely to the credit of Stuart Craig.
I interviewed Stuart in 2011, before the release of the last Harry Potter movie. I spoke to him about how he got started, artist’s block, his inspirations, and advice for aspiring production designers, among other things. You can listen to it on the video below, or scroll down to read the transcript.
Stuart Craig interview transcript
So, how did you get started? What led you to becoming a production designer? Did you love movies as a child?
It wasn’t movies, specifically. When I was in school in my hometown, there was a tradition of doing musical operettas, Gilbert and Sullivan particularly. I wasn’t a great academic student and I was always, you know, hanging around the art room. My mother discovered quite late on in her life that she had a talent for painting. She was 65. Anyway, there was a Gilbert Sullivan thing, and I was painting scenery, painting the stone wall of the Tower of London, and somebody behind me admired it, and, I was totally surprised, really, that I created any interest at all from anybody else, and that was a little trigger. Later on in my school life, I did some amateur theater work painting scenery for two complimentary tickets a week. There were two theaters in my hometown, and I work in both of them. At the same time, I pursued my art, went to the local art school, then went to a London art school, and did work in London theater. My day work was as a student at London art school. As art school students do here, at the end of my course, I looked for a kind of postgraduate course, and the Royal College here in London had a course in film design. I thought, ‘well, I can maximize my chances of getting in here just using my theater experience.’ So that was it. I was being pragmatic, really, in going to film school thought that is the way to develop the experience I have possibly, even a way to have a slightly better paid career, so that’s what I did, and it was film forevermore after that, really. When I left the Royal College, I got a job on the first Casino Royale film, the one with everybody in it. Peter Sellers, David Niven, Woody Allen, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it.
I think I’ve seen almost everything you’ve ever done, with the exception of Saturn City that I have not seen.
As a quick introductory course to film technique, it was pretty good. I have to say it couldn’t be better, in fact.
You were doing art direction for that?
No, I was very, very junior. I made the blueprints and made the tea. There’s very much a tradition of that in the movie industry, that you start in one of these junior positions, and serve an apprenticeship, and then you kind of work your way up.
Making tea for Peter Sellers, that’s kind of entertaining though.
I didn’t dare go anywhere near Peter Sellers. I was making the tea for the art directors and the guys in the art department.
So then from there, you got involved in terms of working with Richard Attenborough?
Yeah. Well, I served in quite a lot of apprenticeships, for about 12 years. From that tea boy to draftsman to art director was about a 12 year process. I worked for RIchard Attenborough actually on Gandhi in that period, but it was one of those false starts that he had. I mean, he tried to make that movie for 20 years. We set up an art department, and did some work. I was working for another designer called Michael Stringer at that stage. It fell through, it didn’t happen, so I went on, did other things, and then eventually, 12 years later got to design the first film of my own. I think either the second or third film I did was Ghandi, which was huge for one so green and comparetively new as a designer, That was a big challenge.
When you got the job of doing Gandhi, did you feel like you had built up enough knowledge and experience that you felt like you were ready for it? Or did it feel just enormous at the time?
Over my 12 year apprenticeship, I did begin, towards the end, to think ‘I can do this’, so was ready for it in that sense. I was also smart enough to choose two very, very good art directors to go with me, both of whom were older than I, and had more experience than I had. Looking back on it it was a pretty smart move.
What’s your take on the way you use color? Because for instance, in The Elephant Man, I see a lot of shadow and light, and almost using your gray tones as color. But then you also do definitely use color almost as a character in your movies.
I think that’s true. I think there’s a tradition here in England, maybe here more than in America, or certainly more than in California, of kind of limiting the palette. Maybe it’s because we live in a gray, rainy place. You know, our sensibility is just different. But with Stephanie McMillan, the decorator, I consult all the time on matters of color. We do have this technique of limiting the palette, very, very severely, so that the subtlest of color changes register quite strongly. I also do love, obviously, to have built sets with potential for dark shadows, and consider initially each set as something abstract, and as a piece of sculpture, literally, pieces of abstract sculpture, with a lot of thought given to how it might be lit. Now obviously, it’s a communal activity, and I need to talk to the director of photography about that. So I have tried, as well as consulting with the director right off, then the cinematographer as soon as they are available, becomes an essential part of the plan.
You start out with a limited palette and then you add color based on what calls for it and where it makes sense?
Well, certainly in Hogwarts, almost every color is muted, or has a lot of gray. So we work in sort of gray greens, gray ochre, and it’s limited in that way. Occasionally, you might go for sharp color, or go for reflective color. In the Harry Potter films, we’ve used a lot of gold leaf, or actually brass leaf, because gold is fairly expensive. We’ve used brass leaf but it gives it a kick, and it has a quality that gold spray paint could never have.
So even if you pull out all the color, you’re still going to get a slap of color by using the brass?
Yes. But it’s more for its reflective qualities than for yellow gold color. Well, I guess it’s a combination of both.
So it’s playing with light as well as color.
When you’re doing all of these projects, you’ve got the the producer and the director, and then in the case of Harry Potter, you’ve got the author, how does the involvement work? Who gets called in first? And how do you figure out the process and the collaboration with all those people together?
There was a promise made by David Heyman, the producer, to JK Rowling, that we would be faithful to the spirit of the books, but she understood that we could never include everything. There had to be huge omissions. And I think she was very brave in allowing the films to be their own separate entity. She quite accepted from the beginning that books and movies could be separate, and so we consulted her initially. She literally gave me a map of Hogwarts, a map of the world. She did the drawing over the first meeting in a hotel lobby, and that became a massive aid or a starting point from her. We consulted her throughout the series when there were questions. As to the director/producer relationship, the designer would always address the director first, and have an initial conversation to understand his priorities, and then I would prepare a sketch or model in the art department, and go back to him and show it, and then at that stage, maybe introduce the producers to the idea, so that they were up to speed on what was happening. But it’s really that dialogue between the director and the designer, which is essential and you follow that path wherever it leads.
This is after the script has been written, and you’re reading over the script. Do you go back, whether it’s Harry Potter or some of the other movies you’ve worked on that are based on books as well, or novels, do you read the novels over and over so that you get a sense of some of the elements in the novels, or do you try to stick strictly to the script that’s written in the screenplay?
I think the background information is important as well. Quite early on the Harry Potter books were issued as spoken books on CDs, so that helped. I would read the novel, and then listen to it in the car on the way to the studio several times.
Stephen Fry’s version of Harry Potter?
Yes! It’s essential, and not just that and reading the novels, but then there’s a researcher, Celia Barnett, who worked with us on all the films, and I find that process important too. She was researching things like medieval clock mechanisms, because in the Prisoner of Azkaban this clock is important. She would research medieval architecture, and the tapestries in the common room. Celia found the tapestry for the Gryffindor common room, those bright red tapestries, from a museum in Cluny, in Paris.
In terms of the Harry Potter movies, has there been something where you’ve done everything and it’s been filmed, and then you look at it and you realize it just doesn’t quite have what you’re after, and you have to go back and change something?
One big thing. In the beginning, the Sorcerer’s Stone or the Philosopher’s Stone, we were obliged to use existing locations quite a lot, because we didn’t have the time or the money to build the entire world. When we then cut to a big exterior of Hogwarts, those are real places, like Gloucester Cathedral, Durham Cathedral, and Christ Church College at Oxford, all had to be incorporated into the complex which was Hogwarts School. This gave, I must say, a not a very satisfying silhouette, and I was at pains in subsequent movies. Fortunately, the script made different demands anyway, and required different geography. You know, if we had had all seven books from the beginning, then certainly those early decisions would not have been made or those early choices of location, because they didn’t fit with the action in later books. But anyway, we didn’t have that. So we used bits of cathedrals, and bits of Christ Church college. Then, when obliged to make those changes in subsequent movies, I did use take that opportunity to improve the silhouette of Hogwarts, just to make it more magical. It was confused. Although it was always huge and complicated, it did progressively get more elegant. Nobody seemed to mind, they seem to expect that it was just part of a magical world.
I would imagine, though, not having all of the books at once was a source of excitement for you, since you have worked on all of them.
What would you say in the last book were a couple of the elements that you were really excited about getting an opportunity to express visually?
Absolutely. I mean, the ministry suddenly appeared, and that was a huge challenge. Every book produced something new. In the last book, the seventh book, which we split, as you know, into two two movies, the challenge of the first part is that we don’t go to Hogwarts at all. The entire film takes place with the kids on the run from Voldemort. The ministry has turned bad, and they’re hunted, and on the run, so it’s a series of locations, physical locations, and sometimes built sets. There’s a frozen forest with a frozen pool, and the sort of gryffindor at the bottom of the frozen lake. That’s a set on a soundstage here in London, which has to be integrated with a bit of real forest that proceeds it. So, that was a challenge there. Something we were quite unfamiliar with really was traveling to distant locations for landscapes. Specifically. In part two, the great challenge is the destruction of Hogwarts. And you don’t just knock holes in what you’ve got, you really have to consider that as a new set. And again, this all important idea of strong profiles making strong images.
and all that fire, and the light coming through, and all these big sections of the castle that are knocked down.
The sun rising behind the smoke, all those considerations. But as I say, the big big challenge was these massive remains of destroyed walls, the entrance hall, the front of the Great Hall, part of the roof of the Great Hall, completely gone. So, yeah, a big challenge, and an enjoyable one, too, really. Maybe it helped help me and the guys in the other departments prepare for the end. We we demolished it before we had to strike it completely.
That might have been good catharsis. When I think about the two last movies, I was trying to imagine what would be really fun to design. The Lovegood house, and the wedding, and then at the beginning at the manor with the body hanging.
I think you’re right. Malfoy Manor is a very strong architectural set. The exterior is based on an Elizabethan house here In this country called Hardwick Hall, and it has massive windows and these windows are kind of blinded out, the shadows are drawn, and so they’re like blind windows, which have a real kind of ominous presence. So that gave us the basis of a good exterior. There’s an extraordinary magical roof added and surrounded by forest, which isn’t there in reality, but again, this is one of our devices to make it more threatening, more mysterious. Tthen the interior, two floors, two sets on stages, very, very muscular architecture, very strong architectural form. So that was great to get into that. The Lovegood house is a tower. JK Rowling says it’s a black tower in an empty landscape. That’s exactly what it is. But we took great care over the sculptural shape of that tower.
The interior is fantastic.
Luna and her father certainly both have eccentric interests. We asked Luna, Evanna the actress who played her, to actually help us with this, that she would have painted or decorated the interior with, like decorations on the wall murals.
Evanna painted for you?
She proved herself very good at this in Harry Potter six, where she wore the lions mask, or the lion headdress. She designed that, and so we thought, ‘ha! we’ll harness this ability again, this talent again, and ask her to do these wall paintings, and so she did designs for them which we then reproduced.
And Xenophilius Lovegood is new to that movie, right? So it’s exciting to be able to create the world of a new character.
Exactly. And he prints with his printing press, and one floor of this black tower is entirely consumed with his printing operation for The Quibbler, the magical world magazine. The press was good, and all that printing apparatus was great fun for Stephanie, the set decorator.
Did you make all of the furniture in curves?
Not exactly. There is a sort of spiral staircase, and some sort of fitted bits are made to fit the curved walls, but it’s it’s eccentricly furnished.
One really interesting aspect of the film is juxtaposing the wedding against the beginning of the movie, with its sharp contrasts and the dark and the shadows. There’s this little joyful moment in the book that takes place at the wedding, which is beautiful, and there’s a lot of light. And so how did you work that contrast?
We decided with the wedding that the wedding reception, as they often are, should be in a tent or a marquee, and that marquee should sit in this flat, marshy, weedy landscape outside the Weasley house. The big question was, do I make it the same, an extension of the Weasley house with the same kind of eccentricity, the same kind of rather amateurish, homemade feeling about everything, or do we do something different? Well, obviously the fun thing is doing something different. Since Bill Weasley was marrying Fleur Delacourt, we could say that her parents had a big influence on this wedding. In fact, that Monsieur Delacourt would probably pay for it as the father of the bride. That permitted us a French influence, and so we really went for that. There’s a soft, very refined interior, painted silk the tent is lined with, there are floating candles in little French 18th century candelabra, and so the whole thing has a very elegant and quite un-Weasly look about it.
How much would you say of your own artistic aesthetic gets put into the work that you do, specifically Harry Potter, because that’s what we’re talking about right now, but also on the whole?
I think in different categories, there’s probably a different answer. Everything architectural, I have a great deal of, not just control of, but it is what I’m passionate about, and reflects my interests and input. Along with Stephanie McMillan, the set decorator that we’ve already mentioned, we’ve worked together as a team for a long time now, since Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin, I think was the first time. So there’s already understanding that of the architectural part and the decoration of that thereafter. There are a team of concept artists working in the art department with me. Two and three of them sometimes were concerned exclusively with creatures, a lot of magical creatures in Harry Potter, like Thestrals and Hippogriffs. so, these guys, Rob Bliss, they have a fantastic facility for designing anatomically correct and credible, but extraordinary magical creatures. In the case of creatures, I am the facilitator, you know, as you say, the head of the department that in which they work, but it’s their creative input that that gets us there. They draw absolutely spectacularly well, you know, they draw like Raphael like Leonardo, they do. So, beautiful drawing. There’s another illustrator who is Andrew Williamson, an architecteral illustrator. I will do a rough doodle of a set the Lovegood House or the Malfoy Manor, and we’ll also do a plan and an elevation, quite a rough preliminary one, but nonetheless to scale, because I love to think I imagine it from with dealing with real dimensions right from the beginning, knowing exactly how big it is and exactly the size of one thing against another. And I give those early pencil sketches and plan and elevation to Andrew, he will then build a digital model in the computer and together we will spin it, walk through it, choose an angle, and say ‘okay, that it’, and render or illustrate that. Over the 10 year period, he started with pencil drawings and watercolor washes, but you know, technology has changed so fast. He does these amazing renderings which become so well finished that you can barely tell them apart from from stills directly from the movie. You can mistake some of these concept sketches for shots from the movie.
Does he still create analog art after you’ve gone through and seen all of these digital images? Or is it pretty much all inside the computer?
It’s all inside a computer now.
When did that switch completely?
It didn’t switch suddenly. In the beginning, he would take my things and then apply a pencil drawing to watercolor paper and put watercolor washes on it. Then, having gotten a computer, there was a period in the middle, where he would make the drawing on the computer, print it out onto watercolor paper and still do the sort of the washes. and then took the big leap and then the whole thing was on the computer. Also, I think, what Andrew took from us, and from the movie tradition of art director sketches, designer sketches, the idea of lighting, he came from architectural practice, helped architects do these overviews of architectural schemes, but the lighting in those traditionally is fairly bland, whereas lighting on movie sets is often dramatic and spectacular. And you see, from the first film to the last film, the lighting in these concept sketches has changed enormously, and has gotten much stronger and better and more exciting.
Do you as a film goer or somebody who appreciates movies, are there some in particular that you go back to just in terms of being a fan and using them as inspiration?
I have design heroes like Ferdinando Scarfiotti, he worked for Bertolucci. I think Scarfiotti was certainly the best designer of my generation. He died tragically young and didn’t get to do so much, but that Italian classicism that he was born with, and it was in his blood. He just had such a facility for doing things beautifully and elegantly.
Is there a particular movie that you love the most of his?
The Sheltering Sky is beautiful, and The last emperor. There’s a quirky movie called Toys, which he did to Barry Levinson, which wasn’t a successful movie, but it was very beautifully designed.
That’s a little bit like the beginning of the series with Harry Potter underneath the stairs. Those shots are really tight.
There’s a great American designer Dean Tavoularis, who worked for Francis Ford Coppola. Tavoularis has as a kind of great classical way of doing things and has a great eye and he’s all about making pictures, making sculptures, and he’s another hero of mine. There’s a movie about Las Vegas, that Coppola did. He took over a studio in Hollywood called Zoetrope, and I was working in a building, in an empty shop, next to Zoetrope, preparing for a film with Mel Brooks, and Tavoularis was working, and I remember walking onto one of their stages one day, and just seeing that he was using the most theatrical techniques, I mean, painted ground rows, painted backing, forced perspective, all these things which I tried to do in my work, but he is certainly a master of that. I remember that and taking encouragement from that. Okay, if you can do, perhaps I can do that.
I was just going ask you about that Kings Cross Station scene at the end of the movie. Did you have to think about that for a while? Sometimes when you’re creating a scene or a part of the movie, do you have to sit on it for a while and think about it?
Absolutely that. I think flashes of inspiration for me are quite hard to come by. I often sit in front of a blank sheet of paper and struggle and struggle and use the eraser a lot, but eventually something will form. Something like that is a very difficult concept. I mean, you’re talking about the thing with Harry between life and death?
At least in the book, there’s not a lot of direction in terms of how this scene is meant to look.
It was quite a protracted process, really. But we did experiment. W had the sense of it e being very burnt out. We experimented with underlit floors, and with different kinds of white coverings, white paint, and white fabric. The cameraman was involved. We needed to figure out how much to over expose it, so a series of camera tests were done. So we got there, but with a great deal of preparation and research.
Did it take way longer than any other scene to work out?
Given that the end result was really a very simple set, a very simple white platform surrounded by whiteboards, and there’ll be some visual effects enhancement there, the architecture will be put in, but there was there was a sketch that Andrew and I prepared, which became the kind of template, and after that, all these materials were experimented with.
And you just were touching on a little bit, but do you get a form of artists block?
Is it hard to take yourself to the drawing table and sit in front of a white sheet of paper. It’s really hard to do that. But what I’ve learned over the years is, once I do it, something will come. It will, and it always has, and I pray that he always well. You can get an idea in your head, and just the act of making marks, and then the marks become very simple forms, and the simple forms become architecture. And then the architecture has a texture, has an antiquity, is lined with book,s or is lined with paintings. The initial one or two stages are the important ones that get you going, and then the thing starts to flow faster.
Do you recall any particular flash of inspiration?
I think Picasso, and there was a famous Hollywood designer John DeCuir, certain very, very lucky people can see an image in their head complete, fully formed, fully rendered fully colored. And all they have to do is just reproduce this picture in their head. I think that’s a very rare talent. And I don’t have it at all. John DeCuir, by the way, is legendary for taking plane trips, and setting off with a sheaf of letter sizede regular paper, and he would sit on the plane, and he would start drawing in the top left hand corner, and work his way down to the bottom right hand corner, and take the next sheet of paper, start in the top left hand corner, and draw down to the bottom right, and would step off the plane with maybe 12 small sheets of paper, walk into his art department in the studio, give it to the junior assistant and say, ‘stick those together’, having made the most wonderful pencil drawing of this big panoramic scene, and all the 12 images fit together beautifully. I’m sure that’s exaggerated, but essentially, true, what he was what he was able to do.
If you get to the same place, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a flash of inspiration, or it takes sitting at a blank sheet of paper and building it slowly. If the end result is beautiful, it doesn’t matter which way you come from.
I think that’s true. Absolutely. I think that it is gratifying that if you work at it, it does come.
I think of production designers as being perfectionists. Do you think it can be difficult creating work that is seen over and over again, especially when in film there can be so many compromises in the process of production, and as an artist there’s often something that in retrospect you feel you could do better or differently?
I think years ago, what was captured in camera was it. It was there forever, and you’d see that movie 20 years later, and you would see the thing you hated and it would be just as painful as when you compromised in the first place, for whatever reason. Now it’s not as painful. I think you get smarter as you get older. Fortunately, you get smarter about spotting and heading off the compromises. But also, the tools are different. Visual effects have certainly in the Harry Potter movies have such a big part to play that they are able if something does go wrong, something I regret even, they are able to change it for the better. That’s quite an expensive process. But also digital grading can make a huge difference. I would be able to say ‘I just think that wall there is just receiving too much light’ or ‘the color of that piece of furniture is particularly ugly’, Andit can be adjusted relatively easily. So technology has made that process easier. And so is now very gratifying to be able to work with the digital grader and the DP and be part of those decisions.
Do you see the sketches in the art that you do in the process of making these finished visual scenes as fine art, do you see them only as a means to an end, or do you see them as both?
I think they are just a means to an end. I think they are really part of the craft. I think somebody like Rob Bliss who designed the Thestrals, designed Dobby, is able to draw. so beautifully, that it does lift off into something slightly more sublime.
You see yours more as directions?
Mine are pencil sketches. They are sketches. I mean, I love drawing, and I love fine art drawing as opposed to architectural drawing or as well as architectural drawing. So I do, take that passion with me into the work, but these guys that sit and draw all day long and draw human anatomy, creature anatomy all day long, they start out extremely talented, and they refine their talents to such an extent the results are absolutely exquisite.
And you would add Andrew Williamson as well in that list. But you do infuse a little bit of your own artistic sensibilities in your drawings.
On two levels. I consider it initially as a piece of sculpture, as a piece of art, of architectural form, that is sculptured in an abstract kind of way, and then I’m also very keen on architecture, architectural detail, I’ve enjoyed studying it all these years, I enjoy getting it right, and it frustrates and annoys me when I see it being gotten wrong about other movies. On those two levels, I am definitely trying to put my stamp on it and, and hold on to it, too, as it goes through the process. Technical draftsman draw the blueprints, then go to the craftsmen that make it. There are several stages, in which something could go wrong, something could get changed, could get compromised. So I absolutely sit on that. And make sure that those things don’t happen.
So many film artists don’t see their work as ‘real art’. I just did an interview with the curator of the Norman Rockwell show in Washington, DC, and she was talking about the fact that Norman Rockwell never sold his art because he didn’t see it as art. He gave it away. To him it was a means to an end, because it was advertising art.
I think it isn’t quite clear cut, is it? I think because it’s storytelling, that there’s a significant difference between fine art and the kind of art we’re talking about, this art serves the purpose of the story and tells the story, this narrative art, in a way that fine art can be, but it doesn’t have to be. A fine artist can start painting and can end up anywhere. It doesn’t matter where it takes him. But these guys have to end up having told us a specific story and represent a specific place, so it is illustration as opposed to fine art in that sense. But nonetheless, they get so good at it, that I think the responses to their own work are the same as they would be for fine art, because they’re so damn good at it, and because what they do is kind of exquisite.
There’s an argument to be made that the fact they have to arrive somewhere specific, and they’re still able to imbue the work with their own beautiful skills and talent, I think that’s even more a statement of their talent, and their flexibility and creativity.
I agree. Absolutely would agree.
So what would you say to artists, new filmmakers, and people who want to do what you do for a living who are younger, and just getting into it? Do you have any advice to impart?
I could do, given an hour or two, but in a sentence or two it’s pretty difficult, isn’t it? The world is changing so fast. I think visual effects are a bigger and bigger part of modern moviemaking. I know there are a great deal of inexpensive documentaries made because video equipment so inexpensive. Hollywood films, though, by and large, are more and more driven by visual effects, and the effects themselves are becoming cheaper. It will go on doing so, and the physical set will become more expensive than the virtual one. Those guys come from a different tradition. They’re computer technicians. So I think there’s something to address there. I think designers coming up have to get a double education, and make sure that they’re equally proficient in both.
Specifically too, to not neglect or forget about the history of art, because without that, then you can be incredibly proficient on the computer, but without that kind of knowledge, then you don’t have anything to back it up.
That’s exactly it. In the 18th 19th century, any builder could build an elegant house, in that it was a tradition. He followed traditional methods, traditional aesthetic, traditional proportions, it was part of him and he grew up with it. Nowadays, there’s been a great sort of rupture in that continuity of tradition, with modernism, but also with computer programs that kind of does it for you. So now, the ordinary builder isn’t able to build an elegant home at all. Only good architects build good buildings these days, it seems to me. That, in a way can, can and is happening in the movie industry. Those guys who studied classicism and the history of painting, the history of art, if they’re not careful, they’ll kind of fall off a cliff as as technology takes over, or has already taken over. So the technicians need to get a fine art background, and designers and artists need obviously to understand the technology and maybe grow closer together and become the same department eventually.
We’re so excited about our Alex Ross Black Panther and Catwoman art! On November 24th, just in time for the holidays, and perfectly timed for the official release of the new Black Panther #1 created by Oscar winner John Ridley and Juann Cabal, ArtInsights is releasing the gorgeous cover art by Alex Ross as a giclee on canvas called “Wakanda Forever“, which it’s a worldwide holiday exclusive! Also, in honor of Chadwick Boseman’s unforgettable portrayal of King T’Challa, and in the spirit of the season, $50 from each Wakanda Forever sale will be donated to the Colon Cancer Alliance.
Also as a worldwide exclusive, we have a sexy, playful, and girlie-in-the-best-way image of Catwoman originally used at a variant cover for Batman #50, the wedding issue, called “Catwoman: Meow“. It comes as a giclee on paper, and shows the feline femme playing with her kittens. Wakanda Forever features T’Challa, as well as the art debut of some of the best and most powerful Black female superheroes in Marvel, including Nakia, Ayo, Shuri, Aneka, Okoye, and other members of the Dora Milaje, who are appearing in an Alex Ross art release for the first time.
Catwoman: Meow is one of the only images used as covers for Batman #50 (the infamous wedding issue) that presents Selina Kyle without Bruce, surrounded only by her feline friends. I absolutely love that, and as art, it makes a wonderful feminist statement about self sufficiency, and speaks to the power of animals to comfort and heal.
Pre-orders begin November 19th at 12am. Here are the images, which you can click on to buy the art, or for more information:
Here is the official press release, which offers lots more information about the art:
ArtInsights Gallery Releases Exclusive Alex Ross Limited Edition Art
“WAKANDA FOREVER” Based on the Black Panther #1 Cover
To Coincide With First Issue Release of the New Marvel Series Written by Oscar winner John Ridley
Reston Town Center, VA – ArtInsights Animation and Film Art Gallery commemorates the new Marvel Black Panther comic series by releasing a worldwide exclusive limited edition by artist Alex Ross called Wakanda Forever based on the image used for the cover of Black Panther #1. Black Panther #1 is the first in the new Marvel comic book series written by Academy Award-winning writer John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) and drawn by Juann Cabal. Both the comic book and the exclusive ArtInsights limited edition will be released on November 24th. For every piece of art sold, Alex Ross Art and ArtInsights will partner to donate $50 to the Colon Cancer Alliance, in honor of Chadwick Boseman’s unforgettable portrayal of King T’Challa, and to help the fight to end colorectal cancer in our lifetime, a disease that disproportionally effects our Black and Brown communities. Wakanda Forever is a giclee on canvas sized at 31 x 24 1/2 inches and is priced at $995. It will be signed by artist Alex Ross, and is limited to 50 in the edition, with an additional 15 each of Artist Proofs, Printers Proofs, and Executive Proofs. Also on November 24th, AtInsights will be releasing the worldwide exclusive of an Alex Ross image of Catwoman called Meow, perfect for feline fanciers and lovers of women who kick ass. Meow will be released as a hand-deckled giclee on paper for $395 in an edition of 50, also with an additional 15 each of APs, PPs, and EPs, and will be signed by Alex Ross. Both images will be available for preorder on Friday, November 18th on the ArtInsights website.
Discussing the release, gallery owner Leslie Combemale explains, “We’re very proud to have a worldwide exclusive of an image that includes a number of Avengers characters in addition to Black Panther, but really puts Black superheroes front and center. It is also the first limited edition to feature some of Marvel’s most compelling and powerful Black female superheroes, including Nakia, Ayo, Shuri, Aneka, Okoye, and other members of the Dora Milaje. This piece isn’t just about the drama and strength Marvel superheroes are known for, it’s also about representation. Honestly, it’s about time. Of course King of Wakanda T’Challa, aka Black Panther, is awesome, but these women are spectacular, great role models, and equally deserve to be celebrated.”
Combemale believes Wakanda Forever offers a unique opportunity this holiday season to give and give back at the same time. “If giving a gift to a Marvel fan this holiday season, knowing part of the sale goes to make a difference in the fight against colorectal cancer makes giving them Wakanda Forever all the more meaningful.” As to the Catwoman limited edition, Combemale relates, “The image is based on a variant cover for Batman #50, the famous wedding issue. This image is one of the only ones created for that issue that features Catwoman, aka Selina Kyle, without Bruce, surrounded by her feline friends. For folks who know how that comic ends, they’ll recognize this art is making a powerful feminist statement.” Combemale ends by saying, “I’m such a Black Panther fan that I have a black cat named T’Challa, and I’ve always loved Catwoman, so these exclusives both hit a place in my heart, and I suspect others will feel the same, for their own reasons.”
ABOUT THE NEW BLACK PANTHER SERIES:
On November 24th, Academy Award-winning writer John Ridley and Marvel’s Stormbreaker artist Juann Cabal launch an all-new BLACK PANTHER series with an action-packed espionage story that will upend everything in T’Challa’s life and have ramifications for the entire Marvel Universe. About the new series, John Ridley told the New York Times, “It’s a hybrid espionage-superhero thriller, but at its core, it’s a love story, and I don’t mean just romantic love, although there’s some of that as well. It’s love between friends. We’re coming out of a summer where we saw Black people fighting for our rights, standing up, fighting in ways that we haven’t had to do in years,” Ridley added. “And it was really important to me after the year we had where we can have these conversations with Black people and we can use words like love and caring and hope and regret and all these really fundamental emotions that everybody has.”
ABOUT ALEX ROSS
Considered one of the greatest artists in the field of comic books, Alex Ross has revitalized classic superheroes into works of fine art with his brilliant use of gouache paint. Ross has transformed comic books by building on the foundation of great artists who came before him. His paintings have revolutionized the comic book industry and transcended the newsstand origins of his profession. The prolific award-winning cover artist has created images for some of DC and Marvel’s most recognizable comic series. The art of Alex Ross is part of permanent collections in museums around the world.
Since 1994, representing a wide range of film and animation art at the gallery in Reston Town Center, ArtInsights focuses on original film production art, and proprietary projects and artist representation relating to the history of animation and film, and the celebration and examination of popular culture by artists working in the film industry. With production art representing films as diverse as Fantasia, Beauty and the Beast, Blade Runner, and Star Wars, and representing 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 on www.artinsights.com.
Here are a few great videos with Alex Ross:
Alex Ross, talking Black Panther:
On Chadwick Boseman’s legacy:
Here is Alex featured on CBS This Morning:
And lastly, I leave you with Alex’s take on how to stay inspired, something we all struggle with when news or the pandemic gets us down, or holiday plans overwhelm:
It’s almost time for Halloween, and if your family is anything like mine, it’s at least equal to Christmas in importance and excitement. In our house, we have The 31 Days of Halloween. We watch a horror movie or a movie with a great villain, listen to soundtracks like Psycho, Halloween, and, of course, songs from Disney’s The Headless Horseman. This seems like a perfect time to consider a few of Disney’s villains. Villains have played an important part in my love of animation and appreciation for Disney films, and I’m sure some of you can say the same!
I remember back some years ago, before the folks at Disney figured out there were lots of villains fans like me. I would comb the stores all over the parks looking for merchandise featuring Chernabog (not a morning demon), The Evil Queen (a misunderstood crone), Cruella De Vil (I’ve got nothing. She’s bad. She wanted to make a coat out of puppies..) and Shere Khan (voiced by George Sanders, so of course I love him. Don’t be mad at him just because he’s a hungry tiger.) It was extremely rare for me to find anything. Then Nightmare Before Christmas became retroactively popular, and Disney figured out there are scores of fans who loved all the (supposedly) bad guys and gals.
Ever since I started selling animation in 1988, I’ve had loyal fans of villains. Some of them aimed to collect cels or drawings of every single one of them. Others had very specific favorites, and only collected them. Over the years, I’ve sold hundreds of cels and art of Disney villains. It became my specialty. Over the years, they’ve become highly prized, (as I expected), and finding good art in great original condition has become very challenging. Of course, I still try!
What makes the Disney villains such a big deal? For one thing, they are always the character that gets the most story told in the least amount of time. These characters aren’t in a lot of scenes, but the ones featuring them are always some of the movie’s most important moments. In both storytelling and visual quality, they are always the most memorable.
In Snow White, the scene when the Queen turns into the hag is a stunning piece of animation.
The hag isn’t in Snow White for very long, but she’s a gorgeous example of character animation.
The witch, or the Queen as an old hag, was designed by Joe Grant.
The witch was chiefly animated by Norm Ferguson, who was a supervising animator on the film. She was voiced by stage and screen actress Lucille La Verne, who also voiced the Wicked Queen. As someone who had been performing since 1876, performing Juliet and Lady Macbeth back to back at 14, it was her final film performance.
Chernabog steals the whole movie in his sequence Night on Bald Mountain in Fantasia.
Chernabog is perfect for Halloween, because he is based on a Slavic god who rises from the top of Bald Mountain on Walpurgis Night (The Witches’ Sabbath) which might be on April 30th in Europe and Scandinavia, but the holiday mimics Halloween in the US. It is celebrated by dressing in costumes and conducting rituals to keep evil spirits at bay. In Finland there is much drinking, especially of sparkling wine, and the towns have a carnival-like atmosphere.
In Night on Bald Mountain, clearly there isn’t enough going on to ward off evil, since Chernabog calls forth his minions from the fiery pits of hell. He is definitely Disney’s most purely evil villain. The Night on Bald Mountain sequence was animated by Vladimir ‘Bill’ Tytla, one of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and my favorite Disney animator. Conceptualized by a mixture of talented artists including Heinrich Kley, Albert Hurter, and Kay Nielsen, who created the model sheet for Tytla’s animation. The animator was Ukranian, and well aware of the character’s mythology. He was once seen working on the animation in total darkness other than the fluorescent light of his drawing table. Bill Tytla, by all accounts, was an intense, serious man, and captured great emotions in his characters, which also included Yensid, Stromboli, and Dumbo. His last work was directing the animation on The Incredible Mr. Limpet.
Just watch a video of his work, and you’ll understand why he’s a fan favorite:
Cruella is one of Disney’s ‘funny’ villains, but she’s still terrifying, not least because she thinks nothing of killing over a hundred dogs to make a coat. She is immediately unforgettable when makes her first entrance in the film, barging into Roger and Anita’s house.
Cruella originates from the 1956 children’s novel by Dodie Smith, which was originally serialized in Women’s Day as The Great Dog Robbery, with Perdita being called Missis. The animation of Cruella for the original animated feature was done by Marc Davis, from designs by Davis, Ken Anderson, and Bill Peet. Cruella’s half black and half white hair, black dress, and oversized mink coat are all from Smith’s novel. Her skeletal shape and a chain smoking were added by the Disney artists building her look. Her cigarette holder was modeled after the one Marc Davis himself used. The bright red of her coat was an Allusion to her demonic nature. Her character was inspired by actresses Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis from All About Eve, and Rosalind Russell from Auntie Mame.
Here is a great little video profile on Marc Davis.
She was voiced by the gorgeous Belly Lou Gerson, known for her voice work in the 40s and 50s, including on Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, and Lux Radio Theater. She was in the 1958 horror classic The Fly and guest starred in The Twilight Zone. Fans of the under appreciated animated feature Cats Don’t Dance will love knowing she provided the voice of Frances for the film.
These characters resonate with us for a reason. They represent archetypes known all over the world, many of which were examined and studied by psychologists and philosophers throughout history. Carl Jung is most famous for exploring and explaining archetypes, which allow us all to understand life through symbolism (and put people in neat little categories which can be damaging, especially to women.) He believed the path of life makes more sense and can be walked with more understanding and finesse if we know these timeless, recognizable categories in which the human psyche is driven to place everyone they encounter in their daily lives. Knowing what they are allows us all to play with them, lean into them, or mix and match them, should we so choose. They include The Innocent, The Everyman, The Hero, The Rebel, The Explorer, The Creator, The Ruler, The Magician, The Lover, The Caregiver, The Jester, and The Sage. These archetypes can even be leveraged or manipulated in branding and marketing, as explained HERE.
Joseph Campbell talks about the eight types of characters in the hero’s journey in The Hero of a Thousand Faces. They include the hero, mentor, ally, herald, trickster, shapeshifter, guardian, and shadow. You can read more about there HERE. I’m sure you already know Star Wars was cribbed almost entirely from The Hero’s Journey, which you can see HERE. Most of the Disney villains represent the shadow, but might also have a second archetype, as the hag, who is both shadow and shapeshifter, does.
One of Disney’s first focuses on the villains as a team was in 1981, for a special in The Wonderful World of Disney, which included the Evil Queen’s mirror, Captain Hook, Edgar from The Aristocats, Wille the Giant from Mickey and the Beanstalk, Kaa from Shere Khan, The Evil Queen, Cruella, Madam Medusa, and Maleficent. Disney has created more than 127 villains in films, sequels, tv, video games, books, and theme parks. The more recent villains franchise is a collection with villains that have primary members, which includes the Evil Queen, Chernabog, Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook, Maleficent, Cruella, Ursula, Jafar, Scar, Hades, and Dr. Facilier.
We have this piece, which was the basis of an early incarnation of the villains ‘team’, before Dr. Facilier (Disney’s first Black villain) had been introduced. It’s the color model for the Disney sericel, “Dungeon of Doom”.
Of course there’s a sub-franchise called Disney’s Divas of Darkness, (folks in the know call it DDD for short). That includes Evil Queen, Lady Tremaine, Queen of Hearts, Maleficent, Cruella, Madam Mim, Madame Medusa, Ursula, Ysma, and Mother Gothel (who was inspired by Cher!). Now THAT sounds like a garden party I’d love to attend.
In my research for this blog, I found there is also a sub-franchise called Disney’s Sinister Cats. It includes bad kitties Lucifer, the Cheshire Cat, Si and Am, Shere Khan, Felicia (from The Great Mouse Detective) and Scar. Who knew? Now I need to find some merchandise from this.
Of course there is a lot of of art created by Disney fine artists celebrating villains. You can find our collection of villains, from Disney and elsewhere, HERE.
This weekend Reston Town Center is hosting the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival from Friday through Sunday, with over 200 artists displaying and selling their original and limited edition art and craftwork. Straying from the usual date in May because of COVID, this weekend promises to be great weather, and since the entire event happens outside, will be sure to limit the chance of sickness for those who attend.
As part of supporting these artists and the sale of their work, ArtInsights is offering 20% off of all framing while the festival is happening.
Come by, find some new art at the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival, (which you’ll be buying directly from the artists and thereby supporting their artistic endeavors), and bring it in for framing at our gallery. Of course you can always just stop by and say hi! on the way in or out of attending the fest!
Hope to see you this weekend. Those concerned about safety or coming in for a visit, remember to bring your mask.
Friday / Saturday / Sunday 10am-5pm
From sponsor Tephra Institute (formerly Greater Reston Arts Center):
Now in its 30th year, the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival will take place on September 10–12, 2021 and will highlight more than 200 artists who are creating unique, handmade works in the fields of fine art and craft. Drawing upon a robust exhibitor and collector base coupled with Tephra ICA’s contemporary art foundation, the Festival has become one of the region’s most anticipated events, attracting approximately 30,000 people to the unique, outdoor environment of Reston Town Center. The Festival is comprised of one-on-one experiences, performances, and special events leaving an exciting, thoughtful mark in the region. Scroll down to learn more about this marquee event.
Safety precautions will be implemented this year including but not limited to, hand sanitation stations; vaccination requirements for Festival volunteers; and encouragement of social distancing and face mask-wearing in artist booths.
See all the artists coming to the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival HERE.
See all the events and children’s activities happening at the fest HERE.
Peppermint Patty is not just a quirky kid with, as she herself puts it, ‘hair full of split ends’, she’s an icon, and rightly so. In this Peanuts Profile, we take a look at the art of Patricia Reichardt, or as she’s better known, Peppermint Patty.
Here’s Peppermint Patty, coming in hot from the very beginning, showing she is casual, comfortable with herself, and a great but competitive athlete:
Let’s start by getting one thing clear. Though at the very least, we know that Peppermint Patty is gender queer, Charles Schulz himself said that Peppermint Patty and Marcie were not lesbians. That doesn’t mean they can’t be wonderful, inspiring icons for feminism and queer pride. After all, at her debut on August 22nd, 1966, tomboys and girls who were wearing more butch (read comfortable) clothing, were often mocked and ridiculed, or even arrested for wearing predominately men’s attire. It was only the 1969 Stonewall Riots of June 28th through July 3rd that helped end that kind of discrimination. Though we are all used to it now, a comic strip character that spoke her mind, wore what she wanted, could best both boys and girls at every sport she played, and had a clear feminist agenda, was groundbreaking at the time.
Arguably the most well-developed character outside of Charlie Brown and Snoopy, it was through Peppermint Patty that Schulz took a committed stance on gender equality for women in sports and elsewhere.
Peppermint Patty, or Patricia Reichardt, is a Peanuts anomaly. She is being raised by a single father, is the only character in Peanuts to wear sandals, which she is passionately committed to because her dad gave them to her, and she can beat everyone, boy or girl, in every sport she plays. Initially, freckle-faced Patty was inspired by Charles Schulz’s cousin Patricia Swanson. Her last name was taken from his secretary Sue Reichardt.
In the cartoons, she was voiced by both young male and female actors. For Peppermint Patty’s appearances in animation, Vince Guaraldi created a theme specifically for her. Peanuts Producer Lee Mendelson, who wrote the lyrics to Christmastime is Here, was particularly fond of her theme.
Schulz often mentioned his friendship with Billie Jean King, which began in the early 1970s. King was a strong proponent of equality for women in sports, and was instrumental in getting Title IX passed, which prohibits sex discrimination in all federally funded school programs, including sports. It had a huge impact. Since Title IX passed, female participation at the high school level has grown by 1057 percent, and by 617 percent in college. As Schulz had always believed women could do and should be allowed to do anything men could do, he got behind Title IX and equality for women in sports, in his strip and, by extension, in animation, chiefly through Peppermint Patty.
In 1974, King started the Women’s Sports Foundation. Within a few years, Schulz became a member of the board of trustees. In terms of their friendship, King said she always knew when ‘Sparky’ wanted to talk to her, because he’d put her name in the strip. He was fearless enough to have played doubles with King at the Snoopy Cup tennis tournament in 1984. Though Schulz already felt strongly about equality for women, his longterm friendship with King inspired him to mirror his beliefs in Peanuts. With over 300,000,000 readers at the height of its popularity, the Peanuts comic strip was a powerful tool he could wield to help normalize female athletes.
Here is a series of strips from October, 1979, which was, in part in reaction to the continued backlash against Title IX, and to help push the public towards acceptance of gender equality in sports. Peppermint Patty goes full advocate, sometimes even using actual statistics, and it’s a glorious thing:
Also unique to Peppermint Patty in pop culture and certainly in comic strips is the fact that she has a loving single father (we are never told her mother is dead, but its inferred), who celebrates her for exactly who she is. It’s the reason she is so hell-bent on wearing her sandals every day. She asked him for them and he got them for her, calling her a ‘rare jewel’. Though Patty has a few issues around how she looks, she knows she is lovable because of her dad. Schultz’s wife Jean also said Patty sleeps in class because she stays up late waiting for her dad to come home from work. Awwwww.
Although, as mentioned in his Peanuts Profile, Franklin was a character that Schulz wasn’t entirely comfortable representing because he himself was not Black. He had a daughter who loved sports, however, and spent a lot of time with Bille Jean King, and both were inspirational in bringing Peppermint Patty authentically to life. She is a character that has always been and continues to be a symbol of independence, equality, and self expression. If she can wear her beloved Berks every day, we can let our own freak flags fly, whatever they may be.
Ah, the art of Franklin…When Franklin made his first appearance in a Peanuts comic strip on July 31st, 1968, he did it without any fuss. He showed up at the beach, having found Charlie Brown’s beach ball. “Is this your beach ball?” were his first words. He notices Chuck is attempting to make a sandcastle, but, as Franklin says, “It looks kind of crooked.” to which Charlie replies, “I guess maybe where I’m from I’m not famous for doing things right.”
The next day, on August 1st, 1968, the second strip appeared. In it, Franklin and Charlie Brown are building a better sandcastle together, creating a nice metaphor I hope we can all get behind.
On August 2nd, the third day in a row Franklin makes an appearance, Charlie asks if Franklin can come over and spend the night. Friendship officially started!
In all the years between that first appearance and the last time an original Charles Schulz Peanuts comic appeared in print on February 13th, 2000, Franklin never made fun of or said a bad word to Charlie.
This blog is called The Art of Franklin, not just because ArtInsights got some great original art from the Peanuts specials featuring Franklin (shameless plug but also rare art! yay!!), but because there is definitely an art to Franklin. He may not be the most verbose member of the Peanuts gang, but he is beloved by children and former children all over the world. The fact that he’s entirely positive as a character, smart, a good athlete, a great friend, inquisitive, and self-assured, is the subject of some discussion. Is he too perfect to be interesting? As one of literally millions of Franklin fans, I’d say absolutely not. Though he would have been more three dimensional with some foibles, it’s no surprise Franklin, or as we learn many years later, Franklin Armstrong, was a pillar of the Peanuts community. Charles Schulz was very much a supporter of civil rights, but he had serious reservations that, as a white comic strip artist, he could do justice to a Black character.
In 1968, at the time of Franklin’s debut, had been a very difficult year for America, and this is especially true for Black Americans. Martin Luther King had been assassinated on April 4th, leading to widespread riots across the country. Robert Kennedy, a huge proponent of civil rights, was gunned down on June 6th. The Vietnam War was in the news every day, and the news wasn’t good.
It was in the midst of all that a retired LA school teacher and mother of 3, Harriett Glickman, appealed to Charles Schulz in a letter to the Peanuts creator.
She explained her inspiration for the letter in an interview at the Charles M. Schulz Museum: “It isn’t something that you wake up and decide to do just one day. My sister and I were both raised in a home where our parents, just through the way they lived, kept us understanding our role in the world and our sense of responsibility for others. It was the kind of thing we took into our consciences without having to be taught. It was just the values we had, the respect for other people, and all of which we learned from our parents. In the early days, our parents marched in demonstrations for the rights for workers and for unions. There were so many issued throughout the years that needed my involvement. Then I had small children. Writing a letter was what I could do at the time. However, that letter was the result of my whole life. It was seeing racism in this country, knowing that no matter what there was ugliness and violence, and my letter was nothing compared to the little girl who stood in the doorway to integrate a school with crowds of people spitting at her.”
Schulz wrote back to Glickman, and his response was that he didn’t think he was qualified. He doubted he could write a Black character without unintended condescension.
Seeing he was hesitant, she enlisted two Black friends and parents, Ken Kelly and Monica Gunning. Here’s the letter from Ken Kelly, who was a space engineer who worked on the Surveyor lunar vehicle, and later became an important LA housing advocate. He died on February 27th, 2021 at 93.
It was the combination of these entreaties that led to Schulz creating Franklin. He let Glickman know he’d gotten the other letters, and that she’d be pleased with an upcoming Peanuts story. When United Features Syndicate questioned whether it was a good idea to run the strips, Schulz told them to run the strips as is, or he’d quit. On July 31st, 1968, they ran Franklin’s debut.
The addition of Franklin to the Peanuts gang was not without controversy, and it has continued to this day. The way the characters in the strip speak has a sort of old world charm and simplicity that can be taken entirely the wrong way, or just doesn’t work when dealing with the complex issues of racism, privilege, and inclusion. There’s argument around some of the depictions in the animated specials, famously, when Franklin was seated on his own side of the table at Thanksgiving in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, or the fact that he leads the kids in a dance to a rap song in It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown. In the case of the Thanksgiving special, the animators say it was a practical matter of making it so all the kids could be seen, but perhaps it would have been better to put Snoopy by himself? The dancing in Spring Training, (which was released in 1992) made the special a product of its time, and was meant to appeal to all kids of the era.
Based on the repeated backlash that began in 1974 and continues to this day, Schulz was right about the difficulty of white artists representing a Black character, but he knew the power that 100 million readers could have on systemic or societal change. Although he always said he just wanted to make a funny strip, he tried to make a difference when he could. There’s no denying the power and influence of seeing a Black child represented in print and onscreen to the many many Black kids who read the comic strip, or watched the TV specials.
In fact, one such kid, Robb Armstrong, who saw the first strip in 1968 as a 9 year old, was inspired to a career in comic art from seeing a Black kid that looked like him in print. His comic strip Jump Start has become the most widely syndicated daily strip by an African American in the world. When his strip was first syndicated, he learned he was in great company, as Peanuts was also published through United Feature Syndicate. He asked to meet one of his artistic heroes, Schulz, and was turned down by the higher ups at the syndicate. Several years later they did meet, and became very good friends. In the 1990s, when a video was being released in which all the characters needed surnames, Schulz asked his then longtime friend Robb Armstrong if he could give his surname to Franklin, who was honored, and thus the iconic comic character became Franklin Armstrong.
In the new documentary about Charles Schulz called Who Are You, Charlie Brown?, a number of well-known personalities, including Al Roker, talk about Franklin’s influence, and the importance of seeing a Black kid as part of the Peanuts gang. A comic strip that over a hundred million people read every week had the potential to have a huge influence over how kids saw the world, and each other. Schulz knew he could make a difference, and even over his own concerns, he created Franklin as the cool, smart, talented, kind Black kid who deserved being treated with appreciation, respect and love. To both Black and white kids who grew up reading him in the funnies and watching him in the specials, he had an enormous impact.
Here are all the films in which Franklin makes an appearance:
As with all art, in which sometimes it takes a while to get the nuances exactly right, the art of Franklin as a character continues to be a work in progress. Speaking of progress, times change. The creation of Franklin was something to celebrate in 1968, but in both print and animation there were bound to be growing pains along the way, especially, as Schulz himself said, when a white artist is bringing a Black character to life at such a volatile time in US history. In the latest feature, 2015’s The Peanuts Movie, Franklin is just one of the gang. He’s as smart as ever (he’s in the student council) and organized (he’s running the school talent show), but he isn’t singled out, and his ‘Blackness’ isn’t part of the story. Regardless, he’s the favorite character of many a Peanuts fan, and is a legitimately important figure in the civil rights movement.
With all the Father’s Day gift guides out there, I thought it was time to create a Father’s Day gift guide specific to animation and film. Dads love movies and cartoons, so we’ve curated a collection of fun images of superlative cartoon dads and great characters the whole family will love.
Pulling those images together got me thinking about some of my favorite dads in cartoon and film. Some are decidedly dysfunctional, while others set the bar very, very high. Not all are dads in DNA, but all help shape those in their care, for better or worse. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Bob Parr aka Mr. Incredible
In the Operation Kronos database, Mr. Incredible is given the threat rating of 9.1, the highest of all the supers, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a beleaguered dad just trying to get through the day without one of his kids burning the house down or another disappearing into an existential crisis from which there is no recovery. He shows great respect for his wife and partner Helen, stepping up when she gets chosen as the face of the superhero legalization campaign. Bob is voiced by Craig T Nelson, who has played a number of classic dads in film and TV, including Steve Freeling in 1982’s Poltergeist and Zeek Braverman in the small screen version of Parenthood.
Goofy and Pluto
In various spots on the internet (including official Disney sites!) it says Goofy is the only one of the fab five, which includes Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto, to have a son, but that’s not true. Pluto and Fifi have puppies in 1937’s Pluto’s Quin-puplets. This very sweet and pup-tastic short shows a dad who isn’t quite up to the task of watching his little ones, but what parent with 5 babies wouldn’t find wrangling them a challenge?
Goofy, on the other hand, has a long and storied relationship with his son Max, who first appeared as ‘Goofy Jr’ in 1952 in Fathers are People. Imagine one of those ‘How To’ shorts like How to Ski or How to Have an Accident at Work that starred Goofy, but call it ‘How to Father’. It’s a spoof on the many classic live action shorts that capture life in the 50s. They couldn’t seem to decide on the name for Goofy’s son, calling him George in 1953’s Father’s Day Off (This short is the one time Jr/George/Max is voiced by voice artist extraordinaire June Foray). Max finally became a permanent name for Goofy’s son in Goof Troop. Max has his dad’s laugh and is as often as accident prone as Goofy. What’s special about Goofy’s fatherhood is we see an arc in which he and Max deal with father/son issues and grow from them.
Bruce Wayne appears to have been a busy guy in terms of building family, and it’s no wonder after the losses of his childhood. Is he a great role model? Probably not, but he definitely has a strong work ethic, and even as a vigilante he does have an unbendable moral code. What skills as a father he does possess are probably from Alfred, who is not only his butler, but a genius and father figure. There’s a long list of adopted kids in Wayne’s history. First is Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing, who arguably surpassed his mentor/adopted father in skill and positive public perception. Jason Todd, aka Robin and Red Hood, became Wayne’s second son after he met the street kid trying to steal the tires off the Batmobile, but their relationship is complicated. Tim Drake, aka Red Robin, is also adopted by Wayne, after Jason Todd is killed (but before Todd is resurrected. Ahh, comics…). Wayne also has several biological children, including Damian Wayne aka Robin, and Helena Wayne, who is the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selena Kyle (aka Catwoman). Whether or not Batman is a great dad, he certainly tried to show acceptance and love of a sort to many a lost child. As to whether all things Batman are great as Father’s Day presents, that depends on the dad in question. Most fathers I know would love anything from a Batman c, to a coffee cup, to the original Batmobile, which sold in 2013 for 4.2 million.
Probably the best of all cartoon dads, Mufasa (which means king in Swahili) is king of Pride Rock, and loves his son with all his lion-heart. He has a great relationship with his son Simba, teaching him how to be respectful of all things, show courage, and understand the circle of life. He also sacrifices himself to save his son. His appearance as spirit is inspirational to those who believe their lost loved ones are looking over them. It’s interesting to note that James Earl Jones, the voice of Mufasa in both the animated feature and the live-action film, also has one son, Flynn Earl Jones, who has followed in his father’s footsteps as a voice artist. You can find some of his work on Audible.
Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi
Perhaps you thought I was going to choose Darth Vader. Vader really is one of the most famous fathers in film history, and probably the best of parental cautionary tales, but I’m going another direction. I submit that Yoda and Obi Wan are better and stronger father figures to Luke, teaching him self-reliance, strength of character, courage, and the power of the force. Luke was lucky to have two masters of the force as mentors, and not all those who inspire are parents. If we could only learn and live by Yoda’s words, ‘there is no try’, the world would be better off.
Finally, my very favorite animated dads are from Finding Nemo. Crush watches over his baby boy, Squirt, but also chooses to help even random strangers, as he does with Nemo and his dad Marlin. Teacher, Australian current surfer, and all around rad dude, the 150 year old green sea turtle is all about doing good and bringing joy. That might explain why he’s voiced by Finding Nemo’s writer/director Andrew Staunton. Marlin, as neurotic, pessimistic, and overprotective a clownfish as he is, is still a great dad. His love for his son sparks a fearlessness and determination that leads to powerful change in himself, and also leads the way to his lost son. Marlin and Crush are polar opposites showing all kinds of dudes can be wonderful parents to their sons and daughters.
Another Memorial Day is here, and it’s always a good time to celebrate our brothers and sisters, both veterans and those actively in the military with Memorial Day cartoons.
At first I was going to write about the many really impressive propaganda cartoons of WW2, because I’ve always been fascinated by propaganda of all eras. The problem with propaganda cartoons is they are invariably racist to one group or other, the worst being the representation of the Japanese and Chinese. There were Japanese-American soldiers fighting in World War II who came back to find their families in internment camps. Actually, our friend and animation legend Willie Ito experienced the horrors of the Japanese internment camps, and you can hear his stories about that HERE. There is also, as far as I know, only one cartoon representing Black soldiers, released during WW2 on January 16th, 1943, which is Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs, written and directed by Bob Clampett. Unfortunately it has such stereotyped characters that in April of 1943 it was protested by the NAACP, who called on Warner Bros. to withdraw it. It became one of WB’s “Censored Eleven”. I went through all eleven cartoons, and… yikes! They are a strong argument for why people of color have always needed and still need to have positive representation onscreen.
I also thought about posting some anti-war cartoons, but again, that doesn’t really highlight how lucky we are to have people in the military who have in the past or who are protecting and defending our country or standing for those around the world needing to be protected, as the military did in World War II. What’s happening right now, and how much politics enters into who we help and who we don’t, doesn’t lessen the importance and value of what the individuals who serve do.
That being said, if you DO want to watch several of the the most famous anti-war cartoons, there are three that immediately come to mind:
Peace on Earth (1939): This is an MGM cartoon directed by Hugh Harman which has become a yearly Christmas staple in my house. It is a gorgeous and poignant short which features Mel Blanc as the voice of Grandfather squirrel, and captures a post-apocalyptic world in which only animals exist. War destroys man, and the animals, inspired by a book that speaks of loving one another, rebuild the world as non-violent and peaceful. Peace on Earth was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to The Ugly Duckling.
Mickey Mouse in Vietnam(1969): Originally titled Short Subject, this underground animated short was directed by the Whitney Lee Savage, father of Adam Savage of Mythbuster fame. It’s short and sweet, coming in at a minute and ten seconds. An award winner at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen in 1970, it’s not a happy flick, but you can watch Mickey Mouse do his brief military duty below.
Graveyard of the Fireflies (1988): Although director/screenwriter Isao Takahata is an anti-war advocate, he vehemently denies his film, which is based on the 1968 short story by Akiyuki Nosaka, is anti-war. Arguably the most depressing piece of animation anyone could ever watch, (name another if you have a sadder one, by all means), the story takes place at the end of World War II, and tells of a brother and sister who die of starvation after Kobe is firebombed. Watch at your own peril, and with your anti-depressants close at hand.
For the main substance of this Memorial Day Cartoons blog, instead of writing about pure propaganda or anti-war shorts, I wanted to find cartoons that in some way celebrate or highlight the sacrifice of those in our armed forces, but also speak to the importance of supporting them and each other in hard times, such as we’ve had during the pandemic. I also wanted to include really 2 really important cartoons that literally changed the course of World War II.
With that in mind, here are some cartoons that will keep your attention and capture a moment in America you can watch in honor of Memorial Day:
Let’s start with a great featurette released in 1983 on Memorial Day as a prime-time special, and was introduced by Charles M. Schulz.
What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? (1983): If you’ve ever watched Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (1980), you know that Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy, Woodstock, Peppermint Patty and Marcie took a trip to France. This adventure takes place during that trip, though it isn’t mentioned in Bon Voyage. Schulz explained, “I kept thinking how interesting it would be if they should somehow get lost on this little trip and end up at Omaha Beach and envision the scenes of the famous D-Day Invasion of World War II. I even thought that they might pass through Belgium and we could show some landscapes affected by World War I, and how emotional it could be if one of the characters somehow could be made to recite the immortal poem, John McCrae‘s In Flanders Fields.”
Of course Linus does indeed recite the poem, and here’s a clip of that:
You can see the whole featurette on Daily Motion, complete with Marcie giving motorists a piece of her mind in French. It’s pretty great, especially if you’re a fan of everyone’s favorite philosopher, Linus.
Then there are two cartoons released by Disney I especially l love, one that promotes buying war bonds, and the other than asks us all to use all our brain and heart power, and not succumb to bigotry and hate when at war (or, I might add, at any time).
All Together (1942): Walt Disney created four educational and propaganda shorts in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada. They were part of an attempt to keep the studio afloat, after the outbreak of the war in Europe lost them an important market for their films. This 3-minute cartoon was released theatrically, and asked Canadians to support their troops by buying war bonds. Directed by Jack King, it features Walt himself voicing Mickey Mouse, which is the only time Mickey is in a WW2 propaganda film. It shows a parade of Disney characters including Pinocchio, Donald Duck, the Seven Dwarfs, and Pluto, carrying banners about buying bonds. The cartoon was later used in the US theaters, after it entered the war.
Reason and Emotion (1943): Nominated for an Oscar upon its release, you’ll recognize this Disney propaganda short as a major influence on Pixar’s Inside Out, as confirmed by director Pete Docter. Essentially the message is the US version of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On”. Animators Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnson worked on this cartoon, which argues it is essential to use both your head and your heart, not just your heart, or rather your emotions, lest you be manipulated by Hitler’s fear-mongering. The film is also trying to make people aware of how propaganda works, so they could better recognize it when faced with it. You can watch Reason and Emotion on Daily Motion.
Representing all the armed forces wasn’t possible, but I do have three out of four, with the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and apologies to all the Marines out there. I guess the Marines didn’t need cartoons?
The Mighty Navy (1941): Popeye’s 100th theatrical short made him an iconic member of the US Navy, and gave him the white uniform he would often wear in the future. Onboard a Navy training ship, Popeye encounters challenges, especially with the stringent rules and the complicated equipment. When the ship gets surrounded by the enemy, Popeye takes matters into his own muscled hands. In the end he is honored by being adopted as the official insignia of the Navy Bomber Squadron. Reality followed fiction in this case, as images of Popeye started being used on insignias and as nose art.
Donald Gets Drafted (1942): Released on May 1st, 1942, this famous WW2-era Donald short is a favorite among Donald fans and animation art collectors, and is the first time we hear Donald’s full name, Donald Fauntleroy Duck. The short shows Donald enthusiastically heading to the draft board after getting his draft notice, and although he wants to join the Air Force, it is the Army that takes him. After he runs the gauntlet of a number of tests during basic training, Donald winds up in a room full of potatoes with KP duty. What is most interesting about the cartoon, though, is that pacifist Carl Barks, who co-wrote the cartoon, infused it with anti-military messages. He was against the US’s involvement in the war. Barks wanted to show the difference between the reality of wartime Army experience, and the recruitment propaganda that glamorized the life and heroism of military service. Donald was a wartime star, and the most famous of his cartoons from that era, Der Fuehrer’s Face, won an Oscar.
Victory Through Air Power (1943): Based on Alexander P de Seversky’s 1942 book of the same name, this short is extremely important to the outcome of the second world war. Financed personally by Walt, the New York Times devoted a half page to pictures and captions from the film just before its release. The studio had converted itself to a propaganda machine after Pearl Harbor, and the main target of this film was to gain the attention of people in power and realign their way of thinking. It was a success in that way. It influenced both FDR and Winston Churchill in significant ways.
We can’t forget our four-legged veterans and military ‘personnel’. Dogs have been essential during both times of peace and war.
War Dogs (1943): MGM, by way of Hanna and Barbara, celebrated dogs on duty with a short that features one of the less intelligent of the pups in service. Though it does have a brief, unfortunate caricature of a Japanese soldier, the rest of the cartoon is quite sweet in how it explains, even in the midst of the comedic elements this mockumentary uses, the true value of canine recruits.
Lest you believe even a small percentage of pups are as daft as the one represented in War Dogs, I’ll leave you with a live action short released by the Department of Defense as part of the “Big Picture” series, which highlighted aspects of the armed forces. It was filmed in the 50s, and shows the uses and training of Army dogs in Korea and Germany.
That’s it for today’s blog! I’ve had World War II and wartime animation art before, and if you’re interested in this wartime cartoon art as a collector, let me know and I’ll be on the lookout for art from this historic era. Happy Memorial Day, my friends!
As part of our 40th anniversary show for It’s Magic, Charlie Brown, we are giving original drawings by Larry Leichliter that are hand-dedicated by the artist with purchases of any Peanuts art. Pick well.. it’s one drawing per family, not per piece of art purchased!
Order now, and you can choose one of these three drawings:
Snoopy and Woodstock Happy Dance:
Charlie Brown and Snoopy: Suppertime
Snoopy and Lucy: Dog Kisses
This awesome Peanuts art be hand-drawn with or without a dedication (as you prefer) by Larry Leichliter.
You might think about getting the new limited edition just released for the 40th anniversary of It’s Magic, Charlie Brown. MAGICIANS TAKE NOTE!
Leichliter’s career in animation began in 1974 when he worked on BE MY VALENTINE, CHARLIE BROWN. This was followed by numerous other Peanuts specials that he was a crew member of throughout the late 1970s and 1980s. Since then, he has worked on many animated television series, particularly those made for Nickelodeon, which includeHey Arnold!, ChalkZone, The Fairly OddParents, CatDog, SpongeBob SquarePants, The Mighty B!, and Catscratch. Leichliter more recently was a director for the Cartoon Network original series Adventure Time, for which he directed 114 episodes and the original short. Adventure Time also garnered him three Primetime Emmy Award nominations in the category “Outstanding Short-Format Animated Program” in 2010, 2011, and 2012. He is now retired and creating limited edition designs for Sopwith Productions. You can read about Larry HERE.
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Peanuts animated special “It’s Magic, Charlie Brown“, which first aired on April 28th, 1981, ArtInsights is having a (virtual) special event! It will feature Peanuts cartoon animator and director Larry Leichliter.
We will have exclusive original animation art from It’s Magic, Charlie Brown as well as rare production cels and drawings from the history of Peanuts animation, and premiere the new limited edition from the Charlie Brown special!
There will be an interview with Larry Leichliter via Zoom, which will be posted on our ArtInsights YouTube channel, with links on our website, and a collection of art available for purchase, with hard-to-find scenes and art from your favorite Peanuts cartoons.
The new It’s Magic, Charlie Brown limited edition and the exclusive original production art will posted and available starting at 7pm on April 28th.
We’ll send out an email blast at 7pm EST on the 28th, so make sure you’re on our mailing list, or set your Snoopy alarm clock for 6:59pm!
If collectors are interested in particular images, they can contact the gallery via our email with inquiries. The collection will include some cels with original backgrounds, as well as rare original illustrations from the book versions of various Peanuts specials.
The limited edition will go live and be available at 7pm EST on April 28th. There are only 50 pieces in the edition, and it’s the first in a series, so you’ll want to snap it up if it grooves you, because it will only get better as the releases continue!
It’s Magic Charlie Brown tells the story of Snoopy as he finds a book of magic and becomes fascinated, learning to do tricks, which he first tests on his pal Woodstock. He then performs for the Peanuts gang, which is met with mixed results. Charlie Brown is called up to the stage, Snoopy does a magic trick that makes him disappear, which is successful. A bit too successful, it turns out, because he can’t seem to bring him back. Cue the lit sign saying “METAPHOR” above the poor guy’s ‘block’head.
The rest of the special is about Snoopy TRYING to bring Charlie Brown back, and failing that, giving him a way to be recognized as present, like caking him with mud so he can be seen. The special has a wonderfully classic scene involving Lucy and Charlie Brown and a football. No, he never ever learns. The beauty of Charlie Brown is he is an eternal optimist. I don’t want to ever see him lose his trust.
Today I’m going to discuss Pepé le Pew and the controversy around the classic cartoon character, who won an Academy Award for 1949’s For Scent-imental Reasons. a cartoon we’ll talk about in this blog. I’ll also drop the images of art available for sale representing the character, since purchases have gone through the roof, in case ‘ardent’ fans of the skunk want to add an image of him to their collection.
It all started when New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow caused a stink about Pepé le Pew saying he adds to rape culture, proving once again anyone can get attention even if they know very little about the history of animation.
“blogs are mad bc I said Pepe Le Pew added to rape culture. Let’s see. 1. He grabs/kisses a girl/stranger, repeatedly, w/o consent and against her will. 2. She struggles mightily to get away from him, but he won’t release her 3. He locks a door to prevent her from escaping.” It’s true … Penelope Pussycat was often in Pepe’s clutches.”
While some of that may be true, there’s much more to the story.
First off, and this may be a nitpick, the kitty in early Pepé cartoons wasn’t named Penelope. That name was created and retroactively applied to what the classic WB cartoons called “Le Chat” or “Le Cat” by the Warner Brothers marketing department.
Secondly, there are multiple scenes within the Pepé le Pew cartoons in which the tables are turned, and le Chat becomes the aggressor.
In fact, that occurs in the aforementioned 1949 Oscar winner, as you can see in this video that shows the beginning and end of the cartoon:
That’s not to say that aggression from either side is acceptable, it’s just that ‘Penelope Pussycat’ is still included in the next WB release, and Pepé is not.
For my own part, I saw For Scent-imental Reasons in French, which I’d have to say in retrospect is a very interesting experience. French culture has been, without question, behind the curve as it relates to consent, but to this day French women definitely shrug off inappropriate advances as par for the course, creating hard lines in the sand for anyone wanting to cross them. I have given this whole discourse serious consideration, because I am and always have been a strong proponent of consent.
The thing is, Pepé is a cartoon character. He was created in the 40s, (not an excuse) but he was modeled after Charles Boyer, who played abusive characters on more than one occasion, as well as Maurice Chevalier, who was one of the stars of a film that celebrated a teenager becoming a courtesan for a man dozens of years his senior (1958’s Gigi).
There are so many classic characters that could be retired or should at least be reevaluated, but a cartoon character, especially one created by an animator that is no longer alive to defend him, can easily be cancelled.
Since Chuck isn’t here to speak for his creation, here, from Emma Award winning producer Linda Jones, are thoughts on her father Chuck Jones and his Oscar winning creation Pepé le Pew:
From Linda Jones:
Pepe Le Pew is, I think, more than a lothario… like many of the other comedic characters, both animated and live, I think the underlying theme is one of exaggerating those characteristics we all (or those of us who are honest) recognize to some degree in ourselves. That’s much of what comedy is…. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
If the Pepe cartoons were currently being made, I would say they should and would be considered inappropriate. Whether Warner Bros. decides to shelve the cartoons, as well as the character appearing in new movies, that is a decision they have every right and responsibility to consider… These are changing times and changing mores. Pepe’s pursuit of an unattainable goal was (and still is) a well-used story line…the pursuer, the object and the venue vary, but the underlying idea is classic and will continue to be used and, perhaps, overused.
I don’t know what my father would say about this now…but I know for certain that his career was devoted, entirely and always, to entertainment…to helping us all to laugh. Many have assigned motives and messages to his films…political, societal, even religious. None of them are correct. He was an animated film director and he spent his professional life in the pursuit of entertainment.
There has been reference to these particular cartoons contributing to a “rape culture.” Does this infer that “rape” is a current or recent phenomena? Another discussion for another time, but I have a great deal of difficulty believing that anyone, anywhere was so influenced by watching Pepe Le Pew cartoons that they pursued a life of debauchery. Sorry, it just doesn’t make sense to me. However, as a life-long supporter of women’s rights, I believe it is time to re-visit the past policies, arts, norms, behaviors and make sure we are not making mistakes as we move forward.”
All this fuss has led to WB removing Pepe from all future Looney Tunes storylines and productions. Or did it? Apparently the script was already problematic as it relates to Pepé: In Space Jam: A New Legacy, ascene reportedly involved Pepe hitting on a human character played by Greice Santo and her in turn slapping him away and pouring a drink on him. Then LeBron James was meant to teach Pepe about consent. As Deadline writes, “Pepe then tells the guys that Penelope cat has filed a restraining order against him. James makes a remark in the script that Pepe can’t grab other Tunes without their consent.” There’s no question that’s unacceptable, but it’s also not in keeping with Pepé true character. I suppose if WB isn’t going to stay true to or expand Pepé, it’s better he is left to history, no?
Meanwhile, for fans of the Pepé le Pew character, here are some limited editions created by those who love his history, and you can find them all HERE.
Also, it seems worth mentioning, that a cartoon and real life often bear little to no resemblance. For example, if you think this cartoon ‘mating ritual’ is bad, you should read about the mating of both CATS (which involves teeth and pain and such) and SKUNKS (not much better, to be honest).
What do YOU think about the character being cancelled? It’s a complicated subject, to be sure. I’ve read a number of posts saying American women were uncomfortable with Pepé le Pew as children. That’s not good. I’m sure if that had been my experience, I’d be more inclined to agree with his removal. I do remember thinking I’d have smacked him hard on his little black and white nose. On the other hand, questioning what is consensual, what is crossing the line, and how to be clear about our own boundaries is something we should all learn to do, and early. Perhaps the cartoons could hold a warning, like films that include copious amounts of smoking, or, for that matter, Gone With The Wind (a film I can barely watch, as visually beautiful as it is)?
Many of our great friends who also happen to be clients have been supporting ArtInsights gallery since last March when the Covid Pandemic effectively shut down the country (or it certainly should have..), and it’s not just heartwarming but an honor for that to be the case, but we’ve been asked many times by them, by folks online, and by friends how ArtInsights and how Michael and I are faring in what must be the worst time for small business since The Great Depression. That’s almost 100 years. Bummer for us to be part of this time in the economy, but since we’ve been in small business for over 30 years, we can’t be completely shocked. The short answer is that we’re hanging in there and doing ok up to this point, and that’s not a little because of our loyal clients, old and new. I thought I’d share our experience, and how we’ve found new clients at a time when so few are spending money at brick and mortar small businesses.
First, I’ll say something I’ve said many times to friends and clients. Very very few people get into owning and running an art gallery expecting to make a living at it. Even in the world of animation (and I’d say film art, but there are so few of us out there, there’s nothing to compare us to) nearly all the galleries are owned by people who don’t need to make money. Mostly it’s something people who don’t have to work and come from a trust fund or a family with money do because it seems like fun, or charming…or maybe a place to drink wine and chat? We are not those people. We can’t really afford to make many mistakes, at least not big ones. For example, the one time I misunderstood how advertising on YouTube worked and spent $800 in one week, I barely slept for days. (Lesson learned there!) Our time is our currency, and that’s what we spend instead of a big budget for advertising and marketing. We’ve had to learn how to do things ourselves. That includes what art we offer here in the gallery.
Our focus has been film art and animation for the 25+ years we’ve been in Reston Town Center. We have had to, during that time, shift and change with what we see in the marketplace. Here are a few examples:
We noticed about 20 years ago there was a lot of restored animation art showing up at auction, so we started trying to only represent production art that was in original condition.
When Disney kept switching the companies they had representing their art, stopped selling production art, and started only selling ‘Interpretive Disney Art’, we started focusing on the artists that actually worked for Disney, rather than those randomly chosen for their style. We have amplified Michelle St. Laurent (art directed for Disney production designer at the theme parks) , Tim Rogerson (graphic designer for the theme parks), Toby Bluth (art director for The Tigger Movie, etc), Lorelay Bove (visual development/concept artist at Pixar), Peter and Harrison Ellenshaw (Oscar winning matte background painter and special effects artists, respectively), James Coleman (background artist for many Disney films, including The Little Mermaid) Jim Salvati (concept artists for multiple studios), Bill Silvers (concept and background artist for multiple studios, worked on Lilo & Stitch & a bunch of other Disney movies) and John Alvin (movie poster artist who worked on over 250 posters, created Lion King, The Little Mermaid, & Aladdin posters for Disney).
When artists who had spent a large part of their careers at Hanna Barbera and Warner Brothers started selling their art, we started commissioning art from them, (other galleries followed suit, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and more commissions mean more money for these wonderful people!), so we have exclusive art by Bob Singer and Willie Ito.
When artists went out on their own or approached Disney directly to sell their art, we found ways to amplify and represent their work, leading to exclusive art from them, so we have art from Bill Silvers you can only get at ArtInsights.
When auctions started selling more and more animation art that had been restored, we carried less animation art, but focused on more exclusive, rarer images like key set-ups and concept art.
We saw that Warner Brothers, Disney, and Hanna Barbera limited editions were being overproduced, so we limited our inventory of them, guiding our clients to original art and only the most iconic limited editions, and only when the price was right.
We’ve had a good internet presence since the beginning of our business. Let me tell you, that’s been interesting. Anyone who had to have a good website that represents original art but couldn’t spend $10,000 on creating it had quite a time in the 1990s. What that meant was doing a lot of blogging and a lot of updating ourselves. We’ve also had about 10 completely new websites over the years. That got us used to adding inventory and writing about animation and film art. You know that website Marvel designed as a cool way to center the story in 1994? Our website looked almost exactly like that:
It’s the fact that we always focused as much on our website and selling online as we did in the brick and mortar store that has, in part, saved us during the pandemic. We literally see nearly no one that isn’t a longterm client or ours, or someone who has searched us out online right now in the gallery. (at the moment, I’m quite glad of that, because I don’t want some random, vaguely interested lookie-loo giving me and mine Covid)
We have had to use Facebook, twitter, and Instagram (free, not paid) to get our message out as well. That worked better before they made it impossible for anyone to see posts without paying for them. Occasionally we still make a sale through social media, but it’s not usually from someone just seeing a post. It’s mostly from being part of secret groups. Facebook and all the other social media sites should have offered free advertising and marketing to small businesses during the pandemic. They said they were going to, but I never saw any proof that it actually happened…this has been a problem for small businesses since 2016, when political pages and advertising took over Facebook et al.
So, how have we found ways to be ok through Covid in 2020? It really started with my ability to write (see my work on: TheCredits, and The Alliance of Women Film Journalists) and my concern for other folks who were FREAKING out about their loved ones or themselves dying of a horrible virus. Early in the pandemic, we shut the gallery to in-person visits. I tried to think what I could do to help people feel better, and how I could help artists and wholesale companies I wanted to support. Since I’ve been in the animation and film art business for longer than most folks, I figured I could write about what I knew, and I could interview artists and figures in animation that might distract and entertain. I talked to Bob Singer, (and got exclusive original Hanna Barbera art directly from him) Talked to Don Cameron about his work on Batman: The Animated Series
As to my dear friend John Alvin, I wrote about his work on Hook, in part because *MIRACLE of MIRACLES!* Andrea Alvin found 5 copies of a production used image from the film used for the opening sequence from the film. We sold them all as a result of the blog, but you can always check with me to see if she finds any others.
Andrea Alvin’s closets are like the door to Narnia. She keeps finding things and calling me with exciting news. I keep hoping she’ll discover more production art used for Blade Runner or some such, but that’s just a dream I have (that also includes electric sheep..).
I also wrote a blog about the art from Cats Don’t Dance, from which we found two original backgrounds. John Alvin did the movie poster for that movie. I had no idea there was such an obsessive fanbase for art and information from Cats Don’t Dance. I had never watched it, and once I did, I had a better idea why so many people love it, especially dancers.
I had a wonderful chat with Ruth Clampett, the daughter of Bob Clampett, about Bob’s tv show Beanie and Cecil, and got some exclusive art from the original cartoon. That blog was a big hit, and we sold most of the art we got from the Clampett estate because of it. I can tell you Beany & Cecil fans are the best! After all these years, they still just love those quirky characters!
Sopwith Productions, the company that sells all the art from the Bill Melendez Studios, is my absolute favorite wholesale company. They are always willing to connect me with animators and artists for interviews, and that makes me, and the Charlie Brown TV animated specials and Peanuts art collectors so happy!
It was through them that I got the art from the MetLife commercial featuring all the Peanuts characters together as an orchestra. They are some of the most beautiful cels I’ve ever seen, and since Snoopy is my favorite character and I grew up watching Charlie Brown cartoons, I loved learning about why these cels are so gorgeous. Bill Melendez got paid the same amount for a 15-30 second commercial as he did for making a 30 minute Peanuts cartoon special! I talk about this in my Beethoven’s 250th Birthday Peanuts animation blog.
Early on, I included something called the “COVID COMFORT CARTOON” or “COVID COMFORT CLIP” at the end of every blog, which was just a clip relating to a cartoon or film mentioned. It was fun finding something appropriate. I think my favorite was the one with the Hex Girls, a fictitious band first featured in Scooby Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost. In the late 90s when the band was introduced, it became a cult favorite for kids first exploring their sexuality, because there’s some androgyny and queerness afoot there, something you didn’t see in cartoons at the time.
I found that sometimes the links I added went bad, depending on who uploaded it in the first place, so I got choosier and more specific about what I included in the blogs. I have also always included some Covid Comfort in my newsletters, which started out weekly at the beginning of the pandemic, and have been shifted to bi-weekly (because the blogs take so much time to research and because I’m often adding a lot of art to the site before each newsletter…)
One of the other things ArtInsights has been doing through the Covid pandemic is incorporating charity connections in much of our sales. Early on, we gave 10% of all sales of anything hero-related to charities helping get PPE and safety support for frontline workers. We also started donating 10% of all sales of Harry Potter art to the National Center for Transgender Equality. That commitment will continue until we have sold all Harry Potter art currently in stock, and we won’t be ordering any more after we sell them through. We feel too strongly about supporting our trans brothers and sister to put any more money into JKR’s pockets, even as we still hold Harry Potter dear to our hearts and always will.
I’m sure you have seen our posts and promos about a partnership with our friend Julie, who makes masks over on Etsy at Joyful Creations by J. For folks who have been able to come by the gallery, you could and still can buy masks at the store, but all the money goes to Julie, who worked at a job that was too dangerous for her, being in a high-risk family, and now makes masks and creates clothing through her Etsy store. We started doing that in March, back when more folks were mask-adverse. (Gratefully most sane folks are wearing them now.)
All these blogs, COVID COMFORT CARTOONS, working with Julie, connecting with charity, having exclusive art you can only get through my gallery and posting about all of it on social media led way way more folks to find us online, which led to more clients and more sales.
Is it more work? Yes. It is way more work. Michael and I have never been afraid of work. If you’re someone who is in small business, especially with ArtInsights, an art gallery that has to make enough money to support a family, you can’t be afraid of hard work and long hours. But I also believe we have been succeeding because I started out the pandemic just wanting to soothe and comfort our friends and clients and anyone else who might find us. I also wanted the gallery’s success to extend to artists and companies we know and love. Never let anyone tell you that doing well and doing good can’t go hand in hand.
What do I think 2021 will bring to ArtInsights? I honestly have no idea. I hope I can find more interesting things to write about that relate to the art we sell and the artists we love and want to support. I know we’ll have a very low profile in terms of the physical gallery until the current virulent and terrifying wave of the virus is quelled. We’ll be focused online, where we can all gather and interact safely. Does it sting a little we are paying so much to be in a nice center when we aren’t many clients? Maybe a bit. But its also lovely that we are in an outside mall, where shoppers feel safer, and lovelier still that we can control our retail environment so that those who ARE high risk feel safe coming for a physical visit. We will be there, masked up, door open for ventilation, pens and door knobs wiped down, just like I’d want it in my favorite stores.
At ArtInsights, we feel incredibly grateful with all the small businesses closing down that we have, so far, found a way to survive. Hopefully our way will continue to keep us open, safe, and stable until we all see better days. With clients like you, we stand a very good chance.
What can you do to help? You can buy some art from our gallery! One of the ways we’ve stayed viable and on the radar of collectors is that we have so much art you can’t get anywhere else. From Bill Silvers artist proofs, to limited edition and original art by John Alvin, to exclusive collections of original art featuring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and friends, we have some special pieces that you won’t see anywhere else.
Please go through our website and find some treasures for you family and/or to liven up the living space you’ll be working in and experiencing for the near future. Click here to see our latest acquisitions.
Thanks to all of you, old clients, new clients, potential clients…you are why we are still here and why we will be here in the future. You are the only reason, really. THANKS.
In the tradition of 2020/2021, I’ll end this blog with Covid Comfort Clips: Seems like a great idea to show the trailers to 3 great animated features released this year, all of which deserve at the very least to be nominated for an Oscar:
It’s the most wonderful time of the year? Ok, well in 2020, it stands to reason that the end is the most wonderful time, right? Still, even with the challenges and stress of a pandemic, an election, strife, and not nearly enough films watched in theaters to make up for it, we’re finding ways to show our loved ones we care, to share our joy with family and friends, and to find ways to come together, even if it’s via FaceTime, Zoom, or 15 feet away as the 40 degree winds blow. We find a way. And the holidays means it’s time for the ArtInsights Holiday Gift Guide!
The holidays are still coming, and we could all use a little fun and frivolity, and maybe a little help gifting from afar, and this year, folks are searching for that special gift that brings peace, distraction, brings a smile, and says “every little thing is going to be all right”.
For many who follow ArtInsights, the perfect present might come in the form of film and cartoon art, so we’re here to help. We have gifts in a wide variety of price ranges, from your favorite films, featuring your favorite characters. Maybe your dad loves Yoda. Your Mom might be a Potterhead. Your kids might be into Batman or Captain America or Elsa. Whatever it is, we’ve got you.
First up, here is a collection of art ready to ship and in stock to give you ideas and solve the quest to find gifts for folks in your life who are the pickiest, or hardest-to-find-gifts-for, or already-have-everything.
And in your very own galaxy, we have Star Wars art. We’ve got art created by artists who worked on the films, all of which are exclusive or from sold out editions. Click on the image to see all our Star Wars images.
A STAR WARS HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
How about a little Harry Potter? Do you believe in magic? We could all use a little right about now. Let the power of Potter put a spell on the wizards and witches in your life. 10% all sales goes to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
A HARRY POTTER HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
The folks who release all things Charlie Brown and Peanuts have offered us some wonderful pieces this year, and if you and yours love Snoopy, Woodstock and all the Peanuts characters, we have lots of sold out and exclusive art you can only get through ArtInsights. From the Christmas to Halloween to Thanksgiving specials, you’ll find all sort of heartwarming images, and at a variety of prices to fit the budget.
A CHARLIE BROWN AND PEANUTS HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
As you may know, we’ve been working with famed Hanna Barbera character and layout artist Bob Singer. Bob is in his mid-90s, and still quite a hoot. We have some great original art by him for those who love original art of classic animation, including Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, Top Cat, and more.
A HANNA BARBERA HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: Scooby-Doo, Flintstones, Yogi Bear, and more, all by Bob Singer
Did you know November 13th is the 80th anniversary of the release of Fantasia? The evocative beauty of this classic Disney animated feature has yet to be matched or surpassed. We have art that stirs the art and music inside, and many of our available pieces are both well-priced and from sold out limited editions. Once a fan of Fantasia, always a fan of Fantasia!
A FANTASIA HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
There’s always room on the wall for another Alex Ross image. What? You don’t have any? How about your blossoming comic book artist daughter or son, or the partner you always suspect is only pretending not to be a superhero? Check out all our Alex Ross artist’s proofs, exclusives, and pieces from sold out editions. You’re sure to find something for your batcave or fortress of solitude.
A MARVEL AND DC HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: featuring Alex Ross
As ever, we love working with our friend Bill Silvers to offer our clients exclusive Disney and Star Wars limited editions. You can find beautiful images of your favorite Disney princesses, villains, and magical beasts on the Bill Silvers page on our website.
WILLIAM SILVERS DISNEY ART HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
And in case none of that is resonating, maybe just checking out some of our Disney original and limited edition art. We have 101 Dalmatians, Beauty and the Beast, rare original drawings of Mickey Mouse and the Fab Five, and more! SEE IT ALL HERE.
ANDDON’T FORGET YOUR MASK!
Lastly, if you’re looking for stocking stuffers that are both practical and festive, we have partnered with our friend Julie to offer ‘MOVIE MAGIC’ masks, which you can buy directly from her for $12.00 each. There are lots to choose from, including Dr. Who, Wonder Woman, Winnie the Pooh, Nightmare Before Christmas, Star Trek, Snoopy, and so many more.
and if you’re nearby and plan on stopping into the gallery, we have lots of her masks here for you to pick up in person.
We are ArtInsights wish you safety and good health now and into the new year, as well as peace and love shared with family and friends. You are never truly alone. If you find it hard this season, remember to reach out. A little bit of joy and comfort is always just a phone call, a Zoom, or a FaceTime away.
Thanks to you all for your support of our gallery. All the best to you!
As sometimes happens, there’s been a surprise release by the folks at the studio that produces all the Charlie Brown cartoon specials. Even though it precedes Halloween, it’s a celebration of the fan favorite and ultimate mood stabilizer, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Called “Let it Whip, Snoopy”, it captures the opening sequence of the wonderful winter skating scene, and comes with a great storyboard giclee created and signed by Charlie Brown animated specials director and animator Larry Leichliter. Here is the limited edition set:
Here is the trailer for the cartoon, which shows a tiny snippet of the sequence used for the limited edition… (although, let’s be honest, we ALL remember the scene, right?)
In honor of the release of “Crack the Whip, Snoopy!” release, let’s talk a bit about A Charlie Brown Christmas.
First off, of course there would be no Peanuts animated specials at all without Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez. Lee Mendelson was the executive producer of many Peanuts specials, but he started out his association with all things Peanuts by approaching Charles Schulz about making a documentary about him and his Peanuts comic strip. He had just done a doc on Willie Mays called A Man Named Mays:
Charles Schulz, or ‘Sparky’, as his friends called him, had watched and enjoyed it, so they collaborated on the documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown in 1963. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola approached Mendelson about producing an animated Christmas special for tv, and he immediately called Sparky about creating something featuring the Peanuts characters. Schulz suggested using Bill Melendez, who had worked with Sparky creating some Peanuts Ford Motor Company commercials. Networks weren’t interested in the special.
Then, in April of 1965, the Peanuts characters graced the cover of Time magazine, which increased interest in an animated special, and the clock started ticking. Mendelson and Schulz created an outline for a special in less than a day.
They created the first and most classic cartoon in only 6 months, with the script having been whipped together in only a few weeks. and it aired on December 9th, 1965. Schulz built the idea around ‘the meaning of Christmas’, interspersed with scenes of skating, something he did as a child. He also included a substantive scene in which a bible verse is quoted, and though there were a few specials that specifically mentioned Christianity, this was the first animated cartoon to incorporate religion in its plot and structure.
It won both an Emmy and Peabody Award. It got both high ratings and critical acclaim. Lee Mendelson actually wrote the lyrics to the Christmas classic ‘Christmastime is Here’ in only minutes.
It is so fitting that Mendelson wrote such an enduring Christmas classic, as, in a bittersweet endnote, Lee just died on Christmas Day of 2019. I interviewed him about his work a few years ago, and you can watch him talk about all this himself (and watch me all excited talking to him!):
The cartoon was anything but ordinary. They did a lot of ‘outside the box’ decisions as part of it, like hiring voice actors that were children, having no laugh track (Schulz’s idea), and using jazz as the soundtrack. It seems to all make sense now, since we’ve seen it so many times (it has played every year at Christmas since 1965) but at the time everyone thought it would fail miserably.
I talked to Bill Melendez’s son Steve about working on the Christmas special, and he relates how he came up with the scene with Linus sharing the message of Christmas onstage.
Since Larry Leichliter is responsible for the design of the new limited edition as well as the storyboard that accompanies it, I asked him about his love of the Christmas special, and about creating the storyboard.
What makes “A Charlie Brown Christmas” special to you?
Larry: “First of all It’s a Christmas cartoon. Not that I love every Christmas cartoon, but it’s Peanuts, and I’ve always loved Peanuts. What makes it special and have such longevity is not the nostalgia of remembering being a kid and watching this show for the first time, although that’s a wonderful memory. I think for all of us, It’s a story that forever rings true.
I love watching Charlie Brown wrestle with his problem, with the help of his friend Linus. His encounters with the realities of the world and its insensitivity to his plight are tragic and funny and he makes me root for him every time. Then there is Linus, who sticks by him like a true friend. He ultimately always shows him the way to his answer and a release from his problem.”
Who is your favorite character in Peanuts?
“Linus has always been my favorite Peanuts character. The combination of his vulnerability (he is a thumb-sucking, blanket-hugging child, after all) and his knowledge and philosophical beyond-his-years personality is irresistible. He is Charlie Brown’s truest friend. Even Snoopy isn’t as loyal.”
How did you compose the storyboard, and what do you love about creating them? it really captures a moment fans love from the cartoon.
“Thanks! I love showing some of the “behind the scenes” elements of making cartoons. In this case, I couldn’t decide right away just what moment of the skating scene would be ideal for our project, so it was suggested that I might pose out the “crack the whip” sequence in a story board. Then it was just a matter of showing the characters adding onto the chain until they all inevitably fly off. I think it captures not only the nostalgia, but also what is funny and charming about the special as a whole.”
If you want to get a sense of Larry and his great career, you can watch my discussion with him and Sandy Thome, head of art development for all things relating to Charlie Brown animated cartoons. Beyond being incredibly talented, he’s quite shy, and a lovely guy.
We have other Peanuts animation art, and of course, we can always find cels based on what you’re looking for (though, not from the Christmas special, not anymore!) check out what we have right now HERE, and contact us for special requests.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Are you looking for art for the loved one that loves film and art? Or just looking for something unique that will make you a superhero, a princess, a rock star to your family? We are ready for you!
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. In fact, click below for the page with a selection of dozens of pieces below $250!
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. Check out all the Mary Poppins by clicking on the picture!
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, but hey, see all the Aquaman art by clicking
What about the release of the new animated feature on December 14th called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse? Yes, we have art for fans of your friendly neighborhood web spinner.
and of COURSE we have lots of great Marvel images for your superhero-loving loved ones:
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 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.
We also have the latest official images of 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 there is a wonderful, hilarious scene featuring the classic princesses of Disney with their original voices.
Looking for something truly special and rare? You know we are the official representative for the art of John Alvin, and we’ve added a lot of new art from his family’s collection. Want some of the only original Batman art created for a Batman film? Concept art for Revenge of the Jedi? Blade Runner or E.T. art by the man who created the posters for those classic films? Maybe art from Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin? Look no further.
We also have a number of one-of-a-kind pieces that relate to new releases and anniversaries, like The Grinch, which (STARRING BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH!) releases early November. We have an original graphite from the 1966 Chuck Jones cartoon classic.
Also, November marks the 20th anniversary of the Powerpuff Girls. We have one amazing, awesome production cel with all three lead characters.
Are you a fan of the Fantastic Four?
and OH Hey, we have Warner Bros. and Hanna Barbera cartoon art directly from the studio, too! Below is one half of a two-piece set of Wile E and Road Runner.
Click below to see all the art from both studios!
We have so much more. Contact the gallery for all the special pieces we are getting in for the holidays to make your gift giving fun and easy!
Happy Holidays, everyone, from your pals at ArtInsights.
We are thrilled to announce the addition of original and limited edition art by the renowned concept and matte background artist William Silvers to our gallery!
All the art is from Bill’s personal collection, created in an official capacity as Disney and LucasFilm fine artist or was actually part of making a film.
We’re adding all the art as quickly as possible, but please contact us with requests or interest, as there are a number of originals we have not yet listed for sale, and some special images that will not be on our website.
As most of you know by now, we feature artists that actually work inside the industry, so it is a great pleasure to have his work at ArtInsights. He is also a very nice man. He is easy-going, has great integrity, and is committed to ever expanding his talent and skill. Here is Bill’s lengthy and impressive bio:
William Silvers is one of the preeminent concept artists working in the film industry today. Starting his career in New York as an illustrator for ad agencies, William continued to perfect his style and technique. His love of film and his passion for art led him on a path to filmmaking. He has worked with nearly every major studio, and is known for his use of diverse styles and techniques. Passionate and easy-going, William Silvers infuses his love of film and artistic expression in every piece.
In 1995, his film career began at Walt Disney Feature Animation where he adapted his fine art painting skills to the world of filmmaking. He created unforgettable backgrounds for Disney classics such as Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo & Stitch, and Brother Bear.
Eager for new experiences William enjoyed a stint as Associate Art Director for EA Sports-Tiburon. While there he contributed to the development of the award-winning game NCAA Football.
William achieved a personal triumph when his long awaited book Painting Realistic Wildlife in Acrylic was published. The book was a compilation of his beloved Wildlife paintings and it included instructional techniques to teach and inspire young artists.
His collaboration with Disney had bolstered a deep-seated desire to create meaningful work and that drive earned him a coveted stint at Industrial Light & Magic, a division of Lucasfilm Ltd.As a digital matte painter, William created some of the most stunning images for the feature films The Day after Tomorrow and Star Wars Episode III, The Revenge of the Sith.
With his reputation in the Industry growing, William accepted a position at DreamWorks Animation Studios. His work can be seen in How To Train Your Dragon 2, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, The Croods, Rise of the Guardians, Puss In Boots, Kung Fu Panda 2, Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special and Shrek Forever After.
The artist recently concluded his Sony Pictures Imageworks contract as a digital matte painter for the animated comedy adventure film Storks produced by Warner Animation Group.
William also creates new and exciting fine art pieces for Disney Galleries and Lucasfilm Ltd.His art can be found throughout the Disney Theme Parks, and his long relationship with the Walt Disney Company continues to be a consistent theme in his career.
“What began as a foray into film making blossomed into a comprehensive career, the foundation for which was Disney Animation.”
Collectors from around the world have also embraced his personal art, which allows him to expand his artistic vocabulary and express the wide spectrum of styles that continue to bring him joy.
We are also working on a contemporary art project with him, and we’ll bring you news of that as it takes shape.
WELCOME WILLIAM SILVERS, and may the force be with us!
It’s getting down to the last minute for getting Christmas presents and holiday gifts! We thought we’d help the folks out there who are still struggling to find something wonderful, and suggest film art.Disney art and Marvel superhero art, just to name two, make crowd pleasing, inventive gifts for family and friends who love movies.Our experience in the gallery is it can be the sort of art people don’t buy themselves, but love and enjoy, and would be so happy to get as a gift! We have so many visitors who frequent our store and know all about the movies, and come by just to see what’s new.They respect and look up to the artists that are represented here.I’m also so excited when someone close to them comes in and gets them a piece.It’s always so well received!
With that in mind, here are a few pieces that are ready to display and are $150 or under:
How many of my longterm clients know that the mice and birds in Cinderella are some of my all-time favorites? I’m not alone. John Rowe does a great composition of them and the star of the film, Cinderella’s castle…ummm, I mean, Cinderella.
Oh that haughty iris is such a great character. There are so many minor characters that are memorable in Alice in Wonderland. Here are just a few of them, created in a great Disney fine art piece by Michelle St. Laurent:
What a wonderful piece this Dig A Little Deeper is! Heather Theurer has gotten lots of press for her live action reinterpretations of Disney princesses. Here is her version of the first African-American Disney princess:
Did you love Moana? Of course you did. This is one of the best scenes in the whole movie, captured in Disney fine art by Rob Kaz.
You’d be surprised at the number of adult fans this pixie dream girl has. She should be the original “not bad, just drawn that way”, but regardless, many a fan would love to have this sometimes-sweet fairy.
And what about Star Wars: The Last Jedi? You loved it? You hated it? Either way, you’re probably a fan of the saga, and so is that loved-one. Here’s a sold-out Star Wars limited edition of BB8 the Astromech droid by Steve Thomas that no one will argue about. The best of the new Star Wars characters captured in official Star Wars film art!
Maybe that hard-to-buy-for friend or family member is a fan of Marvel. If everyone didn’t love Thor and company before Ragnarok, they do now! We have framed special-release posters from San Diego Comic-Con of both Ragnarok and Black Panther that will be a great gift and tickle their fancy. We also have a sold out Captain America limited edition and a great New Avengers piece…
OMG! You can get Thor, Cap, and Iron Man by Alex Ross for your Marvel-obsessed loved-one! Can there be a better gift? No. The answer is no.
Today, on November 25th, the Disney classic of the new Golden Age of Animation Aladdin turns 25. Who doesn’t love and remember Robin Williams as the Genie?
This “Magic at Your Fingertips” Walt Disney Classics Collection sculpture by Ruben Procopio captures him perfectly. So many artists worked on the film that got and deserved credit…we can look back and point to lead animators like Eric Goldberg, who was in charge of developing the genie, and the co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker, who had Robin Williams in mind and approached him with fingers crossed that he would do it.
The characters of Aladdin and Jasmine have continued to resonate far beyond the release of the film. Aladdin had yet another animation superstar, Glen Keane as supervising animator, who also developed Ariel in The Little Mermaid and Beast from Beauty and the Beast.
Jasmine’s singing voice was provided by Broadway performer Lea Salonga (who was hired based on her work in Miss Saigon) and had female character specialist Mark Henn as lead animator. His influences for her included his own sister and actress Jennifer Connelly.
We remember going to the Sotheby’s auction and the enthusiasm for the work of these animators. Aladdin is one of the wonderful films in which we can really see these 2D animators do their best.
Also, for the Aladdin poster, our friend and consummate movie poster artist John Alvin was tapped to do the entire adult campaign. We have some wonderful examples of his process in the gallery, and not only did John Alvin create the advance, but actually several images used around the world to promote the film.
Disney wanted to see lots of images before they decided which ones to use, so John Alvin had various sizes of fully rendered art. Here is one example:
Check out all our Aladdin art at ArtInsights. Meanwhile, we congratulate all those involved with this classic film and are so glad to know only the animators who build the film, but also some great artists who have done official interpretive art, like John Rowe’s Endless Diamond Sky and Rodel Gonzalez’s Flight Over Agrabah.
Go celebrate Robin Williams and traditional 2D animation today, on Aladdin’s 25th anniversary!
The truth is, it’s very hard to get something surprising, special, and unusual enough to be remembered far beyond the holidays. We’ve always been so happy that ArtInsights, and film, animation, and contemporary art, is one way to make the season brighter. It isn’t just about buying something, is it? If you’re going to offer a gift, It’s knowing those you love well enough, spending the time, being inventive, and really expressing appreciation about them being in your life. That’s what takes a holiday to an even more special place. WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED!
The way people’s eyes light up when they see their favorite characters represented, or the passion they recognize in a portrait of, say, David Bowie, that corresponds with what Bowie’s music has meant to them. Those are frequent occurrences here. There’s no better time than when we hear how a gift of art from our gallery is received.
With that in mind, here are some great options for those searching for that special piece. We have a wide variety of prices and images, so we’ll just post links here, and you can click through and see whole collections. Also, please bear in mind that we have lots of pieces in the gallery that are even less expensive that what we show here on our website, but as we ship internationally, we tend to just keep most pieces under $100 for those calling or stopping by to find that ‘little something’…
Let’s start with this page of things we have framed and in-stock, much of which is hard to get, sold out, or special…it’s by no means exhaustive, but there are some interesting, and beautiful art options HERE.
If you are a fan of Tennessee Loveless (and who isn’t, with the release of his new book on October 31st, 10x10x10, The Art of Tennessee Loveless?!) he will be here Thanksgiving weekend for Drag Friday (happening on Black Friday, obviously!) and we will have new limited editions from The Art Outsiders, of Prince, Grace Jones, and Billie Holiday, as well as new 10x10x10 images that appear in the book. You can see all his work HERE. (you can buy the new book from us or from Amazon.)
THE ART OF DISNEY:
The best art for the holidays for gifting is often from the Treasures on Canvas collection, which can be found HERE:
(we loved this new Moana piece, and quickly got it for the gallery!)
THE ART OF MARVEL:
Alex Ross has done some great images for Marvel this year, and the price range starts at only $75! We have a limited number of images for that price of Captain America and Doctor Strange, as well as a few other well-priced “under the table” images–Call us. For other Marvel art, go HERE.
THE ART OF HARRY POTTER:
We just had a Harry Potter event over Halloween, and were able to get some wonderful, exclusive images to sell. We also have original art used in the making of the films. Of course, as always, all the art is created by artists who actually worked on the films or books. You can find all our Harry Potter art HERE.
Two images have been double signed by Dan Radcliffe and concept artist Jim Salvati, and they can be bought together for $1500, or you can buy just the Golden Snitch image for $750. Only ten exist from this exclusive duo-signed set, and only 2 are left for sale.
THE ART OF DC COMICS:
Timing, timing, timing. If it isn’t the blockbuster hit Wonder Woman, that broke all the records for female directors, it’s The Justice League. DC is all over 2017. Maybe this is the perfect time to get some Wonder Woman or Batman art? Or something will the whole Justice League? A link with lots of great DC art is HERE.
If you live within driving distance, we also have some great hard-to-find framed movie posters, including The Fly, Gremlins, Aliens, and The Black Hole. There are production cels and original drawings here, too, including an original, signed original cel of all three of The Powerpuff Girls together. Between what is in the gallery and what is on our new, (not completely perfect, but getting better all the time) website, we hope shopping with us will be fun and solve the evergreen problem of “let’s get something super cool, but what?”
I’m sure we can find some art here that will make the end of 2017 a bit more memorable and joyful for you and yours!
Best of the holiday season to you all, and hope to hear from you or see you soon!
We at ArtInsights are expanding, contracting, moving, shaking, and all good things. We are in the midst of adding some elements to our brick and mortar store, and at the same time making our website (hopefully) easier to navigate, as well as easier to maneuver when you want to buy!
As many of you know, even thought we are experts and have wonderful relationships with a lot of Disney and film artists, we have starting creating partnerships with contemporary artists that we are very excited about and fills us with pride. After being in business over 25 years, we wanted to add a component to ArtInsights that had social resonance
As I’m writing this, I’m considering what has happened in Las Vegas.A friend lost someone there, and it reaffirmed the desire on my part, as art director, to only add art to the world that has a healing, or contemplative, or politically resonant component. We live in complicated times.Times that require us to come together.Some of us are related to, or connected to, people we don’t understand or agree with.This is the time when, if nothing else, art will bridge that gap.
With that in mind, I want to let all our collectors and fans know we will have both studio art, meaning LucasFilm, Marvel, DC, Disney, and rogue film art like Blade Runner represented, and will be slowly adding our new projects under the heading of contemporary art. We are going to keep them separate, and there will be changes in the physical gallery coming up that will do that as well.We hope you’ll come by and see what we have done when everything is all pulled together, and of course visit between now and then as well!
First thing on the agenda, after the sprucing of our new website, is to get a new door into our gallery to the front of the center, because there is a huge building being constructed across the street.We’ll also have an awning to make us a bit more noticeable.The interior of the gallery will be going through some changes as well, but those will be a bit slower in happening, since we want to construct a few cool elements that will take some design.
Check back often here on the site, and of course you can always give us a call at the gallery if you’re curious about some of the contemporary art projects we’re working on, or you are thinking of adding some contemporary art to any of your environments.We have been are will be doing art consulting, both here and abroad in Europe and Asia.
Thanks so much and we look forward to exciting you with great new images of the best studio and contemporary art for collectors old and new!