Since this is the first blog of the new year, I wanted to ring in 2023 with something interesting and fun, and really tried to think what connected with starting over, new beginnings, turning over a new leaf and all that. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, although I respect them in other folks. My new year, since I’m pagan, is the Winter Solstice. Still, there’s something magical about the turning of the clocks, and the fact that it happens all over the world. So. Let’s say we are ALL in need of a shift, and that we could use some inspiration by way of accountability.
Enter Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio’s official conscience.
THE HISTORY OF JIMINY:
Jiminy Cricket was first introduced as Grillo Parlante in italian novelist Carlo Collodi’s book The Adventures of Pinocchio: Story of a Puppet in 1883. The character appears in the book four times, and in every instance he represents common sense and Pinocchio’s own conscience, although the Italian Jiminy Grillo Parlente, is actually killed by Pinocchio, only to come back as a ghost, and then be resurrected. (!)
For Disney’s 1940 animated feature Pinocchio, Jiminy is given a much bigger role as Pinocchio’s companion, and his official conscience as appointed by the Blue Fairy.
Beyond being anthropomorphized, Jiminy’s design differs significantly from real crickets. Real crickets have very long antennae and have six legs, while Jiminy has four. He was designed to look like a gentleman from the late 19th century, with a top hat and spats. His name is based in what might be defined as the G-rated oath used instead of Jesus Christ, “Jiminy Christmas!”, which dates back to at least 1803!
Jiminy Cricket was designed by character animator and member of the collective known as Disney’s Nine Old Men, Ward Kimball. In addition to Jiminy, Kimball was known for his work on Mickey Mouse, some of the most beloved characters in Alice in Wonderland, including the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum, plus Gus and Jaq and Lucifer the Cat in Cinderella. He was a supervising or directing animator on Fantasia, Dumbo, Fun and Fancy Free, and The Reluctant Dragon, Alice in Wonderland, and Cinderella, and won an Oscar for his work on Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom in 1954, and the 1969 Disney education film It’s Tough to be a Bird.
For those geeky enough to get excited about seeing Ward Kimball on Groucho Marx’s What’s My Line, (like me!) here you go:
THE VOICE OF JIMINY:
As to Jiminy’s voice, the original artist for Jiminy in Pinocchio was Cliff Edwards, who was nicknamed Ukulele Ike. He was one of the most popular singers of the 1920s, and had a song that reached number one on the hit parade, “Singin’ in the Rain”, a song which he introduced. Yes, THAT Singin’ in the Rain:
He was actually one of the first singers to show scat singing on film, as exampled here with Buster Keaton in 1930’s Doughboys.
Edwards contributed Jiminy’s voice for both Pinocchio and Fun and Fancy Free, and sang one of the most popular and enduring songs in the Disney cannon, “When you Wish Upon a Star”, which is now largely considered the studio’s signature song. It was deemed culturally significant and added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2009, and the American Film Institute named it as #7 in the top 100 songs in the history of film.
Edwards had died in poverty in 1971, and when the folks at Disney Studios found out, they paid for his tombstone. They subsequently made Cliff Edwards a Disney Legend, an honored bestowed on him in 2000.
In more recent films, other voice artists were commissioned, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the 2022 live-action adaptation of Pinocchio. In Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, it was Ewan McGregor who did the honors, although in that film, the character is referred to Sebastian.
INCARNATIONS OF JIMINY CRICKET
There are a number of times in which Jiminy has appeared onscreen, which is important for animation art collectors who collect original production cels to bear in mind, because the value of art representing the character varies widely depending on which incarnation you are potentially adding to your collection.
First, Disney’s Jiminy appeared in Pinocchio. Here he is, doing the opening narration of the film after singing his most famous song:
Subsequent to that, he appeared in 1947’s Fun and Fancy Free.
He was represented in Disney TV specials, and the various incarnations of WaltDisney’s Wide World of Color or The Mickey Mouse Club, where he taught kids to spell ENCYCLOPEDIA! Here’s a great example of how Jiminy looks in the cartoons of the 1950s. Note the very thick ink line that outlines his figure:
He also appears in 1983’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Here is a trailer for the cartoon from 1983.
More recently, Jiminy has appeared in the Kingdom Hearts video game, bringing him and his wonderful spirit to the youngest of generations.
IDENTIFYING JIMINY CELS:
All versions of Jiminy look different both onscreen and as art. Cels from Pinocchio and Fun and Fancy Free are mostly on nitrate cellulose, and are hand-inked. The eras are close enough together that you have to watch the cartoon to track down your cel, and that’s something I always recommend, no matter what era the cel you have or are considering for purchase. Cels from Pinocchio and Fun and Fancy Free will be presented as Courvoisier setups, with mats and backgrounds that are either wood veneer or simple hand-prepared backgrounds from the Courvoisier studios.
Of course, videos from The Mickey Mouse Club era are way harder to track down, and sometimes even impossible to find. MMC Jiminy cels will be presented as Disneyland Mat setups, and that means they’ll be cut down, will have small mats, litho backgrounds, and seals on the back. Disneyland Mat setups are almost always stuck to their backgrounds, and often are shown on backgrounds that don’t belong to the shows from which the cels are derived.
Cels of Jiminy from Mickey’s Christmas Carol are definitely problematic, in that most of the cels sold by Disney from that cartoon are laminated, cels of Jiminy included. Laminated cels from the Disney art program are mostly going to deteriorate in a way that makes them look shriveled and bubbly, and restoration doesn’t fix them. It’s a sad fact, but a true one.
Ultimately, if you love Jiminy and can save up for a cel from his most famous film and Disney debut Pinocchio, that would be best, but if you’re looking for the character without spending as much, a Disneyland mat setup would be a lot less money…and of course, you can get interpretive images created by Disney artists right here on this website. (you’ll see interpretive images of him below)
Jiminy remains a beacon for doing good and feeling compassion, as well as letting your conscience be you guide. That expression can’t help but bring images of Pinocchio’s conscience to mind. As Disney characters go, Jiminy is one of the most positive and uplifting. He was the embodiment of “if you can dream it, you can be it” and all that stuff made popular recently by books like “The Secret”. He’s everyone’s cheerleader. When all else fails to pull you out of a funk, try Jiminy singing “When You Wish Upon a Star”. At the very least, it will help.
A big part of Jiminy’s lasting legacy is the classic song, which has been covered repeatedly by a lot of big stars. The latest is Cynthia Erivo, who sang the song as part her role as the Blue Fairy in the recently released live action Pinocchio.
You can find all the Jiminy art available on our site HERE, or contact us if you’re looking for original production cels of the character, but for now, enjoy a few of the interpretive Disney pieces created of Jiminy and his friends in Pinocchio:
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:
This holiday season, many of us are less fearful of getting together with family and friends, even if we still might have to be cautious. That’s great news! It’s certainly been a tough few years, and now it’s time to celebrate the ones we love who are here and healthy, and raise a toast of gratitude.
Still, shopping online sure makes gifting a lot easier, especially for those of us that have folks that are really hard to shop for! Of course we’d love to see you at the gallery, especially for our 30th anniversary celebration on December 11th between 2-5pm in Reston Town Center, but for our distant friends and clients, we’ve put together the 2022 holiday gift guide with a few suggestions to take the struggle and down-the-rabbit-hole searches out of your holiday equation.
Animation and film art is a great gift for just about everyone, as long as they love movies or cartoons, and who doesn’t? It’s a gift you know is special and unique enough that they haven’t bought it for themselves. It’s also highly unlikely they’ll get it from a less inventive, creative giver. The nostalgia of film and animation art creates a feeling of warm memories and happy times. So let’s get to it. Let’s find the perfect art!
Holiday Gift Guide for the Marvel or DC fan in your life:
To see all the Alex Ross Marvel and DC art, click HERE. To see all the superhero one-of-a-kind original production art click HERE.
For the magical dreamer in your life:
The above limited edition by John Alvin of Ariel from The Little Mermaid comes from his estate and his hand-signed. The edition has been sold out for years, and we have only one for sale for $1950. It is gallery wrapped and ready to frame or hang on your wall. Contact the gallery at email@example.com to buy.
The above image is by Disney and Warner Brothers art director Alan Bodner, who also loves all things musical. You can see all his art HERE.
Holiday gift guide for your most esoteric traditionalist:
The above is a great image from the sold out Fantasia limited edition collection. You can see others, as well as all the art available from Fantasia, by going HERE.
The above beautifully framed image is an original concept graphite from Ben and Me. You can see more original concept art HERE, and original production drawings HERE, although we have more, so contact us for even more images.
Holiday gift guide for the Peanuts lover in your life:
There are some great sold out limited editions, original drawings, and original production cels available right now on our website. Find them all on the Peanuts page by clicking on the below image, or HERE.
We have several new key set-ups on the site, and are getting (and selling) new art every day. Check it out!
For the sci-fi and fantasy lover in your life:
These three images are all by John Alvin, and all are signed by the artist. To see everything available by one of the most successful movie campaign artists in film history, go HERE.
Great finds for your feminist friends or family member:
There’s so little approved and official art from Big Hero 6. The above image is a great representation of the film as a whole, but also stands beautifully as an ode to girlpower!
That’s right. Catwoman is the ultimate cat lady, and we love her like that. FYI cat ladies can be really into cats, love their independence, AND be super hot. #CatLadiesAreHot
But of course, you know feminists are comfortable in their own skin and love what they love, so CLICK HERE TO SEE EVERYTHING we have for sale in descending order of addition to our stock.
Gifts for swinger and cool cats:
What’s that you say? You want to bring romance to the holidays? We’ve got you covered.
Also remember we have hundreds of pieces in stock and ready for shipping, and are happy to make suggestions if you’re looking for that extra special gift or trying to match your budget with the best image for your loved one. You can see our curated collection of images ready to ship HERE.
It’s been our pleasure to work with you, frame for you, and find friendship with you for the last 30 years!
ArtInsights has some strange and wonderful connections to the art of Sleeping Beauty, and further, to the artists who were integral to making the Disney classic. This blog will talk about that, and also offer a few great images of Sleeping Beauty art for Disney collectors!
First, take a look at the original trailer from 1959:
In July of 2022, we went to San Diego Comic-Con, producing and moderating a panel with some wonderful animation professionals, two of whom worked on Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Both made a significant contribution to the art of Sleeping Beauty. Jane Baer, who was a special guest of the convention, and was awarded the Ink Pot Award for her contributions to the animation industry, and Floyd Norman, “Disney Legend”, Winsor McCay and Ink Pot Award winner, went to the Art Center in Pasadena together in the 50s. They then wound up at Disney Studios at the same time, working on Sleeping Beauty with some of the most storied, famous artists ever to work at Disney.
Here for the first time, we publish the video of our panel “Legends Talk Animation”, where Jane and Floyd dish about the goings-on during the production.
This panel doesn’t just talk about Sleeping Beauty, it goes into the many other projects that became Disney, Hanna Barbera, and Filmation classics, on which Jane Baer and Floyd Norman had a major impact!
That’s not the only connection we at ArtInsights have with Sleeping Beauty. In 1999, we were fortunate enough to welcome Mary Costa, the voice of Briar Rose, to ArtInsights for an event. People say you should never meet your heroes, lest they fall short. I can’t say I was particularly a fan of hers, or felt one way or the other about her before I met her, but I was a fan of the film. It’s truly beautiful, and represents all the best of Disney animation, in invention and story, and has traveled through time really well, keeping a magical quality that has never faded. Once I met Mary, though, and spent time with her, I learned she was one of the most luminous, positive, joyful, and, I’ll even say, “magical” people, that I’ve ever met.
As someone who was raised Christian and had a bad taste in my mouth from my own experiences, Mary Costa showed me there are open-hearted Christians out there, who truly walk the path of what they believe Jesus did, showing kindness, openheartedness, compassion, and love. While it didn’t bring me back into the fold, she was revelatory. There ARE a lot of “followers of Christ” out there, and she is definitely one of them!
Here was my experience with her, and it is very personal: Our event was planned for Saturday, June 19th, 1999. She was arriving on June 18th. My sister Jane had been killed on December 17th of 1998, and the family had planned to bury her ashes on her birthday, which was June 18th. I called Mary a few days before she was arriving, to let her know why I wouldn’t be picking her up from the airport. Instead of being disappointed or put off, or just getting off the phone, she immediately asked me if it would be helpful for her to come to the event. She said she wanted to be present for our family. She said this as someone who had never met me. I was touched, and taken aback, but thanked her, and told her we’d just see her on the day of the event. We met a few hours before it started. She wanted to say a prayer beforehand, and asked that we all hold hands. I was cynical, and thought, “oh boy…” but she brought my sister Jane up, asked that she be there in spirit, and asked what other religions were represented in the circle. She called upon all the other belief systems, INCLUDING WICCAN(!) and then prayed that we all be blessed, and asked for a positive experience. When my family came, she stopped whatever else she was doing, and spoke to them about my sister. She told my dad she was honored he had come, and meant it. I think they even shed a few tears together, and this was when the gallery was full of people. For Mary, it was all about connection, first and foremost.
Just last night I went down a YouTube rabbit hole of interviews with Mary, and noticed again how well she listened and focused on those around her. It has been her gift a long time!
Once the event was over, we went to dinner together. It was just Mary and me. She had been married to a famous producer in the 50s and 60s, and talked about spending weekends with the rat pack. She shared great stories about Frank, Sammy, and Dean. She also shared, in whispered tones, she had a huge crush on Van Johnson for years. Then we went to see Disney’s Tarzan on the opening night. One of the main characters’ names was Jane, and the character looked like my sister, which we both thought was wonderful. She had lots of opinions about the voice acting and story, and it was all fascinating! What a trip it was to watch a Disney feature with one of the classic voices in Disney animation!
Perhaps some of you have met someone you think of as an “angel on earth”. I’d never really thought of that expression before meeting Mary Costa, and honestly I’ve never met anyone else who I think fits that description, but Mary Costa definitely does. Now when you think of Briar Rose, you can imagine that character being voiced by a truly wonderful person.
My other connection to the art of Sleeping Beauty was more accidental. I was traveling with movie poster artist Steve Chorney to his home outside of Santa Barbara, a place I’d never been. We drove together in his convertible, headed to the place he’d kept some of his classic original movie poster art. When we got there and drove into the driveway, I noticed a huge, gorgeous tree at the house across the street. I remarked to Steve that it looked like one of the trees in Sleeping Beauty. He told me that Sleeping Beauty concept and background artist Eyvind Earle had lived there, and that was where he had been inspired for the trees he drew in his work for Sleeping Beauty. That tree had been his inspiration!
You can see more about Eyvind Earle and his art in this wonderful, classic Disney film, which shows four Disney artists painting a tree. There’s a lot of art of Sleeping Beauty in this film…You should DEFINITELY watch this!:
I should have asked what tree it was, and taken a picture. I did neither. I was too overwhelmed! There, before my eyes, was the tree that we all know from Disney’s classic film! I guess it was one time when my Disney geekiness took over.
How much do you know about the art of Sleeping Beauty, or about the film itself? I’ve talked about it before in an ArtInsights blog from 2015 HERE.
Sleeping Beauty is based on a European fairy tale, the earliest version of which was in the 1300s. The more famous version of it, by Charles Perrault (who also penned Cinderella) was released late in the 1600s as La Belle au Boite Dormant. The Brothers Grimm also offered a version in the 1800s called Little Briar Rose. Of course there have been many versions told since then, including the famous ballet by Tchaikovsky in 1890, which was Disney’s favorite ballet, and one of his favorite pieces of classical music.
The 1959 Disney film was directed by Les Clark, Eric Larson, and Wolfgang Reitherman. The voices, in addition to Mary Costa’s starring role as Briar Rose, were supplied by a number of Disney favorites. Maleficent was voiced by Eleanor Audley, who also voiced Lady Tremaine in Cinderella. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather were voiced, respectively, by Verna Felton (who also played Briar Rose’s mother, Queen Leah, the fairy godmother in Cinderella, and the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland), famed radio actress Barbara Jo Ellen, and Barbara Luddy (who played Lady in Lady and the Tramp and Kanga in Winnie the Pooh).
The art of Sleeping Beauty is unique in Disney history, in that it was a time of great experimentation, and also the last film that was completely hand-inked, so there was a level of meticulousness and specificity that is unparalleled. The hand-inking in Sleeping Beauty was more intricate and complicated than any of Disney film before or since. The drawings of the characters, especially Briar Rose herself (whether by herself or with other characters) were so intricate, the animators sometimes only completed one a day. That’s how much work these characters required! It definitely shows in the art left behind from the film.
Enjoy this great short film about the making of Sleeping Beauty:
Here are some new original pieces of the art of Sleeping Beauty available now at ArtInsights:
You can see all the original art of Sleeping Beauty available for a limited time on the ArtInsights gallery website as well as the limited editions currently available, by going to the art of Sleeping Beauty page HERE.
When I started doing research for this blog, I had no idea the wealth of fun and info Pixar has created for its fans. Sooo much cool stuff! It was a joy to discover. Hang tight and you’ll be able to discover it, too, through this blog!
For many years, we didn’t have access to the fine art of Pixar. For sure, there were a few stunning pieces out there. They were created by folks in visual development who actually worked on the concepts for Pixar movies. There was work by Daniel Arriaga from Up and Brave, and a wonderful piece called “The Pixar Storyline” that they created a deluxe edition of in only 10 images that I loved, especially knowing it was made by someone who had worked on these films!
Then there’s the work of Lorelay Bové, who started at Disney in visual development during Princess and the Frog and then worked her way up to assistant production designer on Encanto. This image from Ratatouille is based on her own visual development for the film:
2007’s Ratatouille, the 8th film produced by Pixar was not only loved by critics, but won over 50 awards, including winning an Oscar for best animated feature, but it was also nominated for best screenplay, music, sound mixing and sound editing Oscars. It was developed by writer/director Jan Pinkava starting in 2000, but was picked up by Brad Bird when Pinkava left Pixar in 2005. Bird and other creatives on the film went to Paris for inspiration, and visited some of the top restaurants in the city. Michael Warch, the sets and layouts department manager, had been a culinary academy trained professional chef before working at Pixar, and helped consult with animators about making the computer generated food look appealing and artistic. The final dish of ratatouille served in the film was created in real life by a famous chef, Thomas Keller, who had allowed Brad Lewis, the producer of the film, to intern in the kitchen of his restaurant. On the less savory and delicious side of the food spectrum, compost piles the rats ate, depicted in the film, were based on photographed images taken by the art department of 15 different kinds of produce in the process of rotting.
Patton Oswalt was hired by Brad Bird to voice the lead character after he heard him doing a comedy routine about food. Bird created a test by using the audio from the routine and putting it together with footage of Remy. Here’s a recording of the (NOT SAFE FOR WORK and FULL OF CURSING) routine to show just how inspired Bird is in his casting:
Here’s Patton talking about the experience of voicing the character. By the way, Patton Oswalt grew up literally 5 miles from ArtInsights, in Sterling, Virginia. In fact, one of my friends remembers him from his brief stint as a wedding DJ. His parents used to come into the gallery from time to time, and they were lovely.
Remember I mentioned how much great stuff has been created by Pixar for the fans? Well here is the first one, from their “Pixar by the Numbers” series:
Now back to the art of Pixar…recently, Disney Fine Art started releasing more images celebrating Pixar films created by their artists, including Tim Rogerson, Stephen Fishwick, Michelle St. Laurent, and Tom Matousek. You can see all the Pixar art available on our gallery page for Pixar, HERE. Of all the recent releases, I particularly love Rogerson’s Incredibles to the Rescue, even though it doesn’t Edna Mode, my favorite character from the movie.
I loved the film so much, especially the Grammy-nominated music by Michael Giacchino. It was his first Pixar score. He went on to get nominated for an Oscar with Ratatouille, and then won for his work on Up. Director Brad Bird was looking for something specific, basically the future as imagined in the 1960s. If you think his score sounds like a James Bond movie, that’s no accident. The first trailer used John Barry’s music from On His Majesty’s Secret Service.
When Brad Bird’s pitch for The Incredibles was accepted by Pixar, he brought many of the artists and creatives from his work on the failed but wonderful The Iron Giant. The Incredibles two Oscars, one for sound editing and the other as best animated feature that year. It also won a whopping 10 Annie Awards, including one that went to Brad Bird for his voice work as Edna Mode! Originally, Bird had hoped Lily Tomlin would voice the character, but she told him she couldn’t possibly do a better job that he was doing.
There’s a great article on the making of on the Disney site, talking about the first in a series of the videos called “Pixar Scenes Explained” on this storied Pixar YouTube page, which is where all that fun I mentioned can be had. It features Director of Photography Patrick Lin and Lead Layout Artist Robert Anderson talking about the film’s finale. You can read all about it HERE.
And that brings us to another super cool and very informational video created by Pixar I want to include in this blog, one that explains rigging specific to The Incredibles. You’ve been wondering what the heck that is for a while, right? Well, digital rigs are ‘the virtual bones, joints, and muscles that allow models to move’. A rigger starts with a 3D model of a character, and figures out how that particular character should move and then creates hundreds of points on that subject where motion can be controlled and manipulated.
I have pretty much loved all the Pixar movies, but Up and Monsters Inc. are two movies I’ll watch whenever they’re on, (even with the sad first minutes of Up). The image below just reminds you of how many great characters were developed for Monsters Inc. I couldn’t pick a favorite (although Randall is right up there).
The first time I saw it, Monsters Inc. just seemed so inventive and original, and even after many viewings, it still does. Here’s a video that explains the importance of story, and how stories get revised to ultimately craft the finished product we love.
Of course Randy Newman won an Oscar for his song “If I Didn’t Have You”, but he was also nominated for his score. He won his only other Oscar for the song “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3. It’s pretty crazy that will all the great scores he’s written, he’s only won for songs! I mean, have you HEARD the score to The Natural? Also, Monsters Inc. was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar that year, but lost to Shrek. That didn’t age well. How often do you watch Shrek vs Monsters Inc.?
For no reason other than I just love it, here’s a video Pixar made as part of their “Pixar Remix” series, relating to Monsters Inc.:
If you’re as big a fan as I am of the movie, you’ll want to go to the Pixar page for Monsters Inc. to see all sorts of other quirky, inspired, artistic making-of information HERE.
Here’s another from their “Pixar Remix” that I love, and I bet you will, too!
Here’s a beautiful image from Disney Fine Art that I think captures the love between Wall E and Eva, and it does so in such an artistic and edgy way, it really compliments the movie and makes a great addition to the art of Pixar. I wish they had more art from this film!
Up is like the most heartwarming movie that could possibly exist for deeply cynical, grumpy people. Who better to capture that aesthetic than Ed Asner, who many of you know I have loved for years, met once, and and wrote about when he passed. In writing the character he plays Carl Fredricksen, writer/director Pete Docter said Asner’s award-winning portrayal of Lou Grant was essential to getting the right balance of kindly older man and unlikeable curmudgeon. Bob Peterson, (who appears in the above video “Story is King”) voiced Doug, and wrote the line “I have just met you, and I love you.” based on what a kid told him when he was a camp counsellor in the 1980s. Here’s another of those “Pixar Scenes Explained” videos, this one of Doug!
Tim Rogerson created an image similar to his Incredibles piece for Up, and I love how he captured the ingratiating and joyful expression that pretty much lives on Doug’s furry face. It really says, “I have just met you, and I love you”:
Pete Docter’s inspiration for Carl was, in part, working with Disney Legends Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and Joe Grant. Grant gave advice on building the story of Up before he passed away in 2005. Docter said, though, that it was Ellie, Carl’s intrepid, optimistic wife that was closer to Grant’s personality. Speaking of Ellie and Carl, here’s a really cool video from the “Pixar by the Numbers” series about Pixar couples:
The newest release of the art of Pixar is my favorite, created by concept artist and surfer extraordinaire, Jim Salvati, inspired by Soul.
I interviewed Soul Art Director Daniel Lopez Muñoz for the Motion Picture Association’s The Credits about working on the film and specifically about the character of Joe, and how he and the animators specifically studied the hands of Black jazz musicians as they played piano to figure out how to draw Joe’s hands when he’s playing. Jon Batiste, who shared an Oscar with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for their combined work on the score, was instrumental in capturing the essence of Joe Gardner as a jazz pianist. The animators examined video footage of Batiste’s hands to see how they his fingers moved on the keys. Batiste is on fire right now, having just won 5 Grammy Awards in 2022! If you don’t know his work outside Soul, I heartily recommend you check it all out on his website HERE.
Lastly, there are two other favorite videos I found while researching Pixar which are part of their “Studio Stories” series. One is about the fact that they actually have a Battle of the Bands on the Pixar campus:
The other is about the costume contest they have every Halloween in which they seem to completely lose their minds:
I only touched on a few films here, obviously. I love Toy Story, too, where it all began! There are Pixar art images from most of their films, and I just didn’t have the time to write about every one of them. We at ArtInsights created a page specific to Pixar art, though, showing all currently available images, and you can see them HERE.
Now that you know how much great content Pixar has out there for fans, have you gone to their YouTube page and subscribed? Because this kind of fan service should be rewarded! If you’ve watched others you loved, let me know in the comments.
If, like me, you’re a diehard fan of all things Peanuts and Charlie Brown animated specials, you’ve seen the 1974’s Emmy-nominated It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown!. When my friends at Bill Melendez Studios found some great art from the special, I thought it might be time to not only feature the art but talk about the history of the cartoon. The image of Snoopy bounding through the grass doing the happy dance and offering painted eggs to all the children of the neighborhood and frolicking with bunnies runs in my head on repeat this time of year.
Of course the origins of Easter are based in the pre-Judeo-Christian pagan worship of the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Oestre. As part of a festival dedicated to the renewal we see at Springtime, eggs, which represented the dawn of Spring, were buried and eaten. As with many other traditions adapted by Christian missionaries, Oestre was celebrated as a way of encouraging conversion. In this case, eggs were symbolic of the renewal through Christ’s resurrection, and new life given through the forgiveness of original sin.
Many pagans and Christians mark the holiday with Easter traditions like egg hunts, fancy hats and dress, and family gatherings for a feast. In Catholicism, that feast means the first time many can eat and drink what they gave up for Lent, which originally included eggs, because dairy products weren’t eaten during Lent. Many give up wine and chocolate (or alcohol and sweets, if you prefer), and Easter is the first time they can indulge in these delights! In the US and Europe, that’s partly why there’s so much chocolate that has made its way into Easter celebrations.
Painted eggs have been traced back over 2500 years, when the ancient Persians painted them for Nowruz, the Persian New Year. In the 12th century, England’s King Edward I gave over 450 eggs painted with gold leaf to his relatives during the Spring season. In 17th century Germany, gifts to children and Easter egg hunts became popular. Queen Victoria popularized the tradition by having egg hunts and filling artificial eggs with candy for the children. The US got into the spirit by having its first Easter egg roll in 1878, during the presidency of Rutherford B Hayes. Interestingly, though the Easter egg roll was meant to be secular, some imbued it with the symbolism of the rock being rolled away from Jesus’ tomb, allowing followers to see he had been resurrected.
Cut to Peanuts and Charles Schulz. As is clear from A Charlie Brown Christmas, Schulz was Christian. His faith and spirituality had a big impact on his work from the beginning. As examined in Stephen J Lind’s book “A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz”, more than 560 of his Peanuts strip contain a spiritual, theological, or religious reference, with 40 that directly mentioned prayer. His first animated special in 1965 explored ‘the true meaning of Christmas’, with Linus famously quoting from the bible, a rarity for a primetime cartoon special. One of the beauties of the Peanuts strip and of its creator is he believed there were many paths to the sacred, including many outside the Christian faith. He also valued joy and kindness, and showed it through is characters and stories, especially those involving Snoopy and Charlie Brown. So it makes sense that in 1968, he introduced another of Snoopy’s alter egos, The Easter Beagle.
His first appearance in the strip was April 14th, 1968, but it wasn’t until April 11th, 1971 that he was called The Easter Beagle:
The strips that made up the story of the Easter Beagle is what they used to construct the 1974 cartoon, which was the 12th Peanuts animated tv special, and the 4th to commemorate a holiday. It was first broadcast on April 9th, 1974.
If you know the special, you know there’s a scene where Snoopy dances, holding the paws with a circle of bunnies. Those bunnies are based on the Snoopy’s favorite (fictional) storybook series, “The Bunny Wunnies”, written by Miss Helen Sweetstory. They were first introduced on July 26th, 1970.
Here he is in the special. No, I haven’t seen any cels of these sweeties in about 20 years, but that doesn’t stop me from loving it onscreen and continuing my search for them!
Notice in the above scene, when he approaches the Bunny Wunnies, he happily shouts, “Hey!” It is one of the only times Snoopy ever speaks in a cartoon.
One of the most joyful sequences in all of animation, here’s Snoopy delivering painted eggs as the Easter Beagle. The music that accompanies him is not by part of the score Vince Guaraldi created for the special. It is the Allegretto from Beethoven’s 7th Symphony in A Major.
We got a small and very wonderful selection of original production cels from It’s the Easter Beagle Charlie Brown to sell from the Bill Melendez Studio. You can find some of them in the above clip! If you love It’s the Easter Beagle Charlie Brown, seek out these images before they sell. You can find them all now on our site for a limited time, at a special Easter price, HERE.
All of this is to say, this time of year is a time of celebration. I’m writing this blog during the Pink Full Moon, which for pagans is a big deal, and also a time of renewal and new life. For Muslims, Ramadan has been going on since April 1st, and will continue through to May. Whether you are pagan, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, a secular humanist, or atheist that just loves Snoopy dancing with bunnies, may you find joy in your weekend safely, and perhaps even with the aid of Snoopy as the Easter Beagle in this timeless Peanuts classic cartoon.
You can watch It’s the Easter Beagle Charlie Brown on Apple TV. While you’re there, check out the new Peanuts special, just released on April 15th, created in commemoration of Earth Month and in time for Earth Day. The cartoon features a charming new song by Ben Folds, part of which you can hear Sally singing in the trailer:
We’re incredibly excited to announce the art of Alan Bodner, which is inspired by mid-century modern design styles, is now available at ArtInsights. The first release will include limited editions featuring classic tv, great Broadway shows, and your favorite musicians from all genres. As you know, we are committed to highlighting artists that actually work in the industry. The art of Alan Bodner fits perfectly with that mandate.
To people in the animation and film industry, Alan Bodner needs no introduction. Fans best know him as the award-winning art director of animation projects as diverse as the Bugs Bunny short Carrotblanca, the cult classic animated feature film The Iron Giant, and Disney’s popular shows Kim Possible, and Tangled: The Series, for which he won a Daytime Emmy Award. Animation insiders, however, know Bodner well. He’s been working in Hollywood since his first gig as a background artist at Filmation. He started in 1979, with The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle. The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids soon followed. He was destined for success.
If kids who grew up in the 80s and 90s were to list their favorite Saturday morning cartoons, no doubt he’s worked on a significant share of them. He lent his talents as background artist to Ghostbusters, She-Ra: Princess of Power, and a slew of Looney Tunes shorts. The wonderfully wacky Daffy Duck shorts Duxorcist, Quackbusters, and The Night of the Loving Duck number among his projects. In the 90s and into the new millennium, he painted backgrounds for Garfield, Rocko’s Modern Life, The Avengers, and Phineas and Ferb, just to name a few. Proving his range and skill with a wide variety of art styles, while developing a look of his own that would be recognizable, Bodner began getting hired as art director. In that position, he could dictate and orchestrate the look and feel of entire projects.
However, it wasn’t his art direction in animation that got him the gig as art director on The Iron Giant. Bodner had been at Warner Bros. Classic Animation, working under legendary background artist Dick Thomas, when storyboard artist Harry Sabin brought his name up to Brad Bird. Though Alan showed the core team his work, he later found out it was his fine art, his abstract paintings and his use of color in them, that inspired Brad Bird to hire him, even though Bodner had never worked in feature films.
Bodner found the experience immensely educational. He says it was through that project that he learned how to create a cohesive and inspired look. He explains, “It wasn’t just about a single painting; I was really learning to understand how to tell a story through color. I think that’s what Brad imparted to me. I watched movies with him and he would point things out to me. It was like I was going through a college course in cinema. I remember taking frames of black and white films and just copying the lighting. A lot of the films were film noir, filled with mood. The challenge with The Iron Giant was to go from a happy place to a very dangerous one with the film’s color.”
Alan continued his ascent to well-known and respected animation art director with Kim Possible in 2002 and 2003, art directing the first season, and laying the groundwork for the show’s visual palette. He went on to both create backgrounds for and art direct on Phineas and Ferb, and art direct the critically acclaimed Tangled series.
Most recently, he’s been art directing a new project on Disney Junior, Mickey Mouse Funhouse. It has been particularly rewarding for Bodner, because he was able to draw on his memories watching The Mickey Mouse Club as a kid when considering the styling and feel of the new show. As he told Jazz Tangcay of Variety, the bold colors used in 1951’s Alice in Wonderland were an inspiration for “Mickey the Brave”, the premiere episode of the series. You can watch Mickey Mouse Funhouse now on cable, or many of your streaming providers through Hulu + Live TV and DirecTV Stream. It’s perfect for little kids, and the colors are joyful and eye-popping.
All this background about Alan’s storied career should make it clear why we’re so exciting to be able to get art representing him for our clients. The artist has a singular style and vision that’s super fun and joyful but also harkens back to the look of the great movie poster artist Saul Bass and other famed mid-century modern masters. He himself says he has been very influenced by the art of Warner Bros. background artist Maurice Noble, and you can see how he’s expanded upon that influence and made it his own.
Alan will continue to create visual worlds for Disney and other studios in the coming years, so it’s exciting to know you can get both original and limited edition art from this award-winning animation insider.
Prices and timing for commissions have not yet been ironed out, but do start thinking about what might groove you. Alan also creates some art in 3D, and those pieces are a sight to behold!
The program is starting with this first release, but there are lots of other wonderful pieces coming soon, all of which you can see on Alan Bodner’s website. That site offers the opportunities to buy other collateral products like phone cases, pillows, shower curtains, and a host of other cool doodads that you’d be buying directly from Alan, so by all means, check all out. Here’s a link to a lot of other images from classic tv, many of which will be turned into limited editions as the program catches wind. Honestly, I can’t wait for the Adams Family piece to premiere! There are lots of other categories, like music and Broadway, but I’m a Little Shop of Horrors fan from way back, so that’s my favorite for sure. His website also has more info about his career and projects. You can explore HIS WEBSITE HERE.
If the above images spark joy in your heart, contact us soon. We have low numbers for these new limiteds right now, and can deliver them quickly, but who knows how fast they’ll go? He’s pretty great, and at the very least the Rat Pack and Fab Five images will blow through and sell out soon!
Lastly, please contact us if you’ve already figured out what you might want as a commission, because we can put you on the waiting list. He still works full time with the studios, and doesn’t have unlimited time to create these beauties!
Soon it will be Thanksgiving. Regardless of the complicated origins of the holiday, because of its focus on gathering with friends and family and showing appreciation and love to one another, it has always been and continues to be one of my favorites. In light of the pandemic, this year in particular it will be a time for giving thanks for the continued safety and support of those we love. That brings us to all the various traditions and celebrations so integral to the holiday. Gathering as a family (and sharing stories, or arguing, or both), eating, watching football, and, of course, watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. This blog is dedicated to the classic TV special, and I’m happy to say, I’ve got some art surprises in store!
But first, I’d like to share my perspective on the holiday, which I’ll warn you is both very personal and a bit of a downer, but I promise I get happy at the end. You can skip the paragraphs between the lines if you’d rather just read about Peanuts, but people ask me all the time why I have such a love of cartoons, and this, as much as anything, explains that.
I have a strong connection to Thanksgiving. It has always been my parents’ favorite holiday, and nearly every year, my stepmother Mary (whom I refer to as my ‘second mother’, given the negative connotation Disney inflicted on the title of stepmom) has invited her sister, her brother and his family, and several close friends to join us. Since my parents recently sold our family farm and moved to a condo in Alexandria, the party will be quite a bit smaller this year, and it will take place at my house. I’ve never cooked a turkey in all my life, but there’s a first time for everything, and it’s my turn this year to make it happen. There’s a reason I want to make sure we actually have a gathering, however small, on the holiday.
The Thanksgiving holiday is complicated and weighted for me by the fact that it was the last time I saw my little sister Jane alive. In 1998, Jane, who was 16 1/2 at the time, died in a car accident a week before Christmas. That day I was actually in the gallery, working with Michael, which was a rarity even then. My dad called and told me she’d been killed. It was early afternoon on December 17th. I remember it was both raining and sunny out. That very short conversation between my dad and I played over in my head about every two minutes for over a year. Suffice it to say the loss of a family member, a sibling, a spouse, or especially a child, is the club nobody wants to join.
The year before, we’d had a huge Thanksgiving, with something like 15 or 18 people. Jane and our sister Coco, who was 14 at the time, drew really cute paper place settings with turkeys and all our names on them. Though 20 years their senior, I was really close to both Jane and Coco, and I remember we all sat down and watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving together, and it brought us a lot of joy that day. It was a cartoon I’d watched many times with them and my dad, who had raised both his older kids, my sister Joëlle and I, and his younger kids, Jane and Coco, on all things Peanuts.
At first, after losing Jane, it was really hard to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, I pretty much hated even having to see other people happy and celebrating. I went at least 10 years not watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Though it’s taken time, over the years I switched from hating the holidays around the anniversary of Jane’s death to embracing the joy and celebration of the time. Jane was a huge fan of both holidays, so I’m glad I could find my way back. Now I watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas, dare I say it, ‘religiously’ every year. I still remember the scenes where Jane and Coco and I, (our other sister Joëlle lived in Hawaii for much of the time Jane and Coco were growing up), would speak the lines or stare at the screen contentedly. I held both of their hands multiple times when we watched these specials together. For the Thanksgiving special, our favorite part was when Snoopy cooks the popcorn, but isn’t that true for everyone?
I’m glad to say the Peanuts tv shows don’t break my heart anymore. They only give me warm memories of great times. I find I am thankful, not just for what I have now, but for the 16 years I had my with my sister Jane. When I watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, I think of her. I even think of her whenever I eat popcorn. That’s the power of Schulz’s strip, characters, and cartoons. They really were and still are a part of our story, and, I think, so so many family stories around the world.
The Emmy Award-winning A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is the 10th primetime animated special created in partnership between Peanuts created Charles Schulz and animation director Bill Melendez. It first aired on November 20th, 1973.
One of the best aspects of the cartoon is the wonderful music. Of Peanuts composer Vince Guaraldi’s early work for the Peanuts animated specials, producer Lee Mendelson said, “There’s no doubt in my mind, that if we hadn’t had that Guaraldi score, we wouldn’t have had the franchise we later enjoyed.” We all enjoy his great music in the Thanksgiving special, but did you know that while the song Little Birdie was of course written by the famed musician, he also sings the song? His singing style in both this song and Joe Cool was inspired by Jack Sheldon, who performed songs for Schoolhouse Rock, which was released around the same time.
Vince had a wonderful voice, actually, that I think was way underutilized. The song Joe Cool was featured in You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown and There’s No Time for Love, Charlie Brown.
In the mid-2000’s, Vince’s son David found master tapes for seven 70s-era Peanuts specials scored by his dad. They included You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown, There’s No Time for Love, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, It’s a Mystery, Charlie Brown, and You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown. Vince was instrumental in remastering these pieces and putting them together into a release called The Lost Cues from the Charlie Brown Television Specials. During Vince Guaraldi’s lifetime, there had been only two Peanuts-related releases, “Jazz Impressions of a Boy Named Charlie Brown” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, so adding these lost cues allowed fans to hear a lot more of his work for the Peanuts animated specials. There are 2 volumes in all of the lost cues, and you can find them on a number of music streamers and on physical media, so you should check them out. It might offer an alternative this holiday season to just playing the Christmas special music!
There’s also a great covers release where B.B. King sings “Joe Cool”, and Joe Williams does “Little Birdie”, (and while I’m at it, I’ll say that Patti Austin does a great cover of “Christmastime is Here” on the release as well!) and you can check that out wherever you listen to music.
Todd Barbee was the voice of Charlie Brown for the Thanksgiving special. He had just turned 10 years old at the time of recording the show. Chuck Barbee, Todd’s dad, was the director of photography for Peanuts producer (and writer of the lyrics for “Christmastime is Here”) Lee Mendelson. Lee mentioned that they were having auditions for Peanuts character voices, so Todd tried out. Barbee started out doing voices of secondary characters, then graduated to Charlie Brown in 1972 on You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown. He always did his recordings alone in the studio, with Bill Melendez helping to guide him through. Explains Barbee, “Bill would always work with us kids in the sound room that had just a podium, a stool, a script, and a big boom mic. Bill would kind of walk us through each scene with his thick Spanish accent and then would leave the room and watch us through the glass with Lee and the sound engineers.” After all these years, Todd is still friends with the voice of Lucy, Robin Kohn.
Many of the artists credited on this tv special worked on lots and lots of Peanuts cartoons, because Bill Melendez made an effort to keep the artists he had on the payroll working as much as possible, and, by all accounts, he was also quite a pleasure to work with. A lot of folks on A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving have long lists of other credits to their names. Bill Littlejohn won the June Foray Award for his contribution to animation. He worked on some great MGM shorts in the 30s and 40s, including some classic Tom and Jerry cartoons. Don Lusk, winner of the Windsor McCay Award at the Annies, worked at Disney on Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, and Sleeping Beauty, leaving to work at other studios after 101 Dalmatians. Bill Melendez Studios was the lucky recipient of all his experience. Al Pabian worked on Looney Tunes and the very first Wile E and Road Runner cartoon, Fast and Furry-ous in 1949, as well as 1953’s Duck Amuck, before joining Melendez at his studio. Sam Jaimes, who directed a number of Peanuts specials, started at Disney with Sleeping Beauty, moved to Hanna Barbera for The Flinstones, and moved to Melendez Studios in the late 60s and worked there for over 20 years. Delightful badass Carole Barnes did animation checking, producing, ink and painting, and concept work, starting at Disney on Sleeping Beauty, then for Tom and Jerry shorts, then for Melendez Studios, where she remained for over 30 years.
Bill Melendez Studios built their own kind of family, which I experienced when I went to a gathering of former employees in person for the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas some years ago. I’ve rarely experienced the kind of warmth I felt while watching the many artists who had worked there over the years visiting with each other.
Whether it’s turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, a tofurky, or the preferred Peanuts spread of toast and margarine, popcorn, pretzel sticks, and jelly beans, Thanksgiving is about family. Whether built or born, by blood or by choice, gathering and being grateful for each other and for the good in our lives is what makes the holiday so special. How nice that we can celebrate with the tradition of watching a Peanuts cartoon together!
Michael and I at ArtInsights wish all of you a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
Right now, I’m giving thanks to the folks at Bill Melendez Studios, who offered up 3 great production cels from the Thanksgiving special for me to offer to collectors and fans of the 1972 classic cartoon:
You can see all the Peanuts art featuring A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving HERE. Folks snapped up all the pieces available for purchase almost immediately, so if you’re looking for original production art from the special, contac the gallery and we’ll see if we can find anything more…
I’ll leave you with a great scene that will prepare you for watching the whole special: Snoopy Chef!
Ed Asner passed away on August 29th at the age of 91, after living a fascinating life with uncompromising integrity, a tenacious curiosity, and, despite exhibiting a gruff, tough guy exterior, an open heart to both loved ones and strangers. Though beloved by Disney fans for his role in Pixar’s 2009 film UP and appreciated by hardcore tv and film fans since the 1950s, many are unaware of his incredibly diverse career as a voice artist for other animated tv and feature films. He was also a staunch and avowed liberal who fought for and won artists’ rights. He’s a personal favorite of mine, and I have followed his career since I was a baby tv and film geek. I even met him, and he lived up to every expectation. (More about that later in the blog.) So today’s blog is a tribute to Ed Asner.
AWARD WINNING WORK
Asner often played the sort of old school father figures a lot of us could relate to: a tough guy with high expectations, an irascible man who had quite a bark, but also a soft side he showed exactly when you needed it. He won two Emmys on two different shows playing a guy who fit that description as Lou Grant, the newsroom boss in Rhoda, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and later, Lou Grant. Over his career, he portrayed characters both good and bad, from Axel Jordache in 1976’s Rich Man, Poor Man and a slave trader Captain Thomas Davies in 1977’s Roots, to, most memorably, Lou Grant, who famously hated Mary Richards’ spunk but always had her back, Santa in 2003’s Christmas cult classic Elf, and the grumpy but surprisingly openhearted widower Carl Fredricksen in UP. He was in so many classic tv shows there are too many to list, but many fans remember the episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Untouchables, Route 66, The Outer Limits, Gunsmoke, The Fugitive, The Wild Wild West, Mission Impossible, and Mod Squad in which he appeared.
Here he talks about his love of the show The Outer Limits, and his disappointment in his episode, “It Crawled from the Woodwork”:
Here is a great video that hits some of the actor’s career highlights shown when he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Washington West Film Festival, which takes place right here in Reston Town Center:
It is impossible to separate Ed Asner from his politics, and he wouldn’t have wanted you to. An old school Democrat through and through, he came from Kansas City, Kansas, where the right vastly outnumbered the left. He also fought in WW2, so he had every right to expect the best from the government that sent him to war. He was a democratic socialist before Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made it cool. In an interview in 2019, he said, “a real Democrat is a euphemism for socialist. I like it. I think Americans were shucked into equating socialism with communism. People have been placed badly by that equation. They’ve screwed themselves. Until they get over that prejudice, our social progress will be slow.”
While working in film and tv, he was also making a name for himself as a trade unionist and political activist fighting for union and labor rights, including during his time as president of the Screen Actors Guild. He was an outspoken critic of former SAG president Ronald Reagan’s support of the right-wing military government in El Salvador and raised money for medical relief in the country. His activism led to CBS cancelling his show Ed Grant in 1982. He also took part in protests opposing the invasion of Iraq, and was instrumental in crafting the petition “Not in Our Name”, a declaration of dissent signed by thousands of people against US military involvement.
When asked why he decided to write the book (which was co-written by Ed Weinberger) he explained, “As a progressive, it’s a story I believe and believe in. If right-wingers truly understood what the Constitution meant they wouldn’t use it as a crutch every time they screw over the poor and the disenfranchised.”
VOICE ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE
Many of you know Asner voiced Carl Fredricksen in UP, but in over 30 years he won awards for lending his talent to dozens of major and minor characters on your favorite cartoons, and worked for nearly every studio. He was Goliath’s mentor Hudson, the founding member of the Manhattan Clan in Gargoyles. For DC, he played Perry White in All-Star Superman, Granny Goodness in Justice League Unlimited, and Roland Daggett in Batman: The Animated Series. For Marvel, he was Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. He was also featured on The Simpson, American Dad, King of the Hill, Family Guy, The Boondocks, and tons of other shows you know and love.
Here’s a great video compilation of his work:
Star Wars is another colossal franchise in which Asner played a part as voice artist. Not only did he play Master Vrook Lamar in the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic video game, he was Jabba the Hutt in the official LucasFilm radio drama of Return of the Jedi, which you can listen to in its entirety here:
Of course to many Carl Fredricksen will always be their favorite Ed Asner role. He talks about that role here:
MEETING A HERO
I was fortunate enough to meet the actor and activist and chat with him for quite a while at D23 a few years ago. I was behind the conference hall waiting to be picked up, and so was Asner. The process of reaching us was convoluted, so it took both our drivers quite a while to get through the maze of checkpoints. I said hello, told him I was a huge fan, and started asking him about his politics and activism. That has always been, to me, one of the most impressive parts of his career. Many artists and performers keep their business and their beliefs separate, but I have always believed those in the limelight should use their platform when they can. Gratefully, I knew his history. He was surprised and pleased with the direction of our conversation, since I think he expected just another delightfully enthusiastic Disney fan. We talked for almost half an hour, and honestly it got pretty deep, including thoughts on death, dignity, integrity and personal responsibility. If I hadn’t already loved him, I would have after that conversation. He reminded me of my dad, who is also big and burly and has never been afraid of deep conversations. When our cars came, we said our goodbyes. His daughter Liza was there, and she’s still my friend on Facebook. She took these great pics of us together:
If you’ve ever wondered if he was a nice guy, I can tell you he really was. For that half hour, especially after signing autographs and talking to fans for hours just beforehand, he couldn’t have faked being nice in the kind of interaction we had. I’ve also heard and read lots of stories since his passing from other folks about what a lovely person he was, whether meeting him for a minute, spending days with him on the road, or as part of a production. I think probably everyone except Charlton Heston was a fan of his!
One of Asner’s last voice projects was for Disney+, on the newly released and incredibly charming Dug Days. Dug Days is a series of 5 shorts from Pixar starring Dug (voiced by animator Bob Peterson, screenwriter and co-director of UP, who also wrote and directed all Dug Days episodes), the lovable dog whose high tech collar translates thought to speech, and his human guardian Carl (Asner). Each episode features a different theme, including Science, Puppies, and of course, Squirrel!. The production took place, in part, during the pandemic, which meant the voice artists had to improvise where they recorded their dialogue. Peterson’s ‘recording studio’ was a spider-infested closet in his house. The fact that Peterson was calling the shots meant that he could add little Easter eggs. Carl and Dug’s new home is #333, the same house number that Peterson’s grandmother lived in back in Ohio. Also look for a reference to Toy Story: 4 in the “Flowers” episode. The Ferris wheel is the same as the one in that feature. As a lover of below the line artists, I love knowing that the camera on one of Carl’s shelves is named after Mark Nielsen, production designer on Dug Days.
The trailer shows you all you need to know about why you should put a little time aside for this new series:
If you love the Genie from the 1992 animated feature Aladdin, Phil from Hercules, Louis from The Princess and the Frog, or enjoyed 1995’s Pocahontas, you love the work of Disney animator Eric Goldberg. He co-directed Pocahontas and was responsible for some of the best character designs in the New Golden Age of Disney. The artist knew he wanted to be an animator by the age of 4, started making flip books at 6, and began making films at 13, after he got a super-8 camera for his bar mitzvah. His most important mentor was Roger Rabbit director Richard Williams, who offered him his first professional job animating on Raggedy Ann and Andy, then invited him to come to London and work at his studio. Goldberg’s diverse illustration and art training at Pratt came in handy working with Williams, whose projects required being well-versed in many artistic styles.
Goldberg was also a fan of caricature artist Al Hirschfeld from childhood, and Hirschfeld’s influence can be seen in his art from the very beginning of his tenure at Disney. It is once again in evidence on his new Disney project, coming soon to Disney+.
ERIC GOLDBERG GIFTS US NEW GOOFY SHORTS
Goldberg is the director of a new series of 3 HAND-DRAWN shorts releasing on DisneyPlus in August, Walt Disney Animation Studios Presents Goofy in How to Stay At Home, featuring ‘everyman’ (or should I say ‘everydog’?) Goofy in “How to Wear a Mask”, “Learning to Cook” and “Binge Watching”. Goldberg pitched the cartoons to Disney execs Jennifer Lee and Clark Spencer in the fall of 2020, and they loved the idea. While he directed all three shorts and was the supervising animator on “How to Wear a Mask”, he enlisted two other longtime colleagues in traditional animation, Mark Henn and Randy Haycock, to act as supervising animators, Henn on Binge Watching and Haycock on Learning to Cook. They’ll play on Disney+ beginning on August 11th. Of course Disney Legend Bill Farmer, who has voiced Goofy since 1987 will bring the character to life with his delightful vocal stylings.
It’s a well-balanced mix of the classic look Goofy had in the ‘How To’ shorts of the 40s and 50s and the more modern style of contemporary animation. There are also some homages to older Disney shorts. In How to Wear a Mask, there’s sampled music from 1942’s How to Play Baseball. In Learning to Cook, Goofy is wearing the outfit he wore in 1942’s MIckey’s Birthday Party, and the new short uses the same score as the classic short. In Binge Watching, the use of squash and stretch, one of the basic building blocks of Disney’s classic traditional 2D animation, is essential to making the humor work and the story hold together.
Can you see Hirschfeld’s influence in the new Goofy shorts? Goldberg himself would say you can see the power of line in all great animation, but specifically in these new cartoons, he wanted a thicker yet crisp line and great flow that would give the character an updated look, but, perhaps not coincidentally, harkens back to the style for which Hirschfeld is so famous.
ALL HAIL HIRSCHFELD
Goldberg has long had a fascination with and was highly influenced by the work of caricaturist and illustrator Al Hirschfeld, whose work he’d followed since high school. Hirschfeld was inspiration for many of the character designs in Aladdin, especially Goldberg’s Genie, which was created with flowing lines, based on the curvilinear drawings for which Hirschfeld was known. Animating Genie was a completely different experience from the norm, in that the film’s directors and co-writers Ron Clemens and John Musker created the character with Robin Williams in mind.
To pitch Robin Williams on doing Aladdin, Goldberg, at the suggestion of Musker and Clements, took some lines from Robin Williams comedy albums and animated Genie to them. One day after he had a few scenes done, Jeffrey Katzenberg walked in with Robin Williams, and they showed him Goldberg’s work. He had animated from the famed Williams routine talking about schizophrenia. He had created a second head for Genie to talk to himself. He made him laugh and it helped persuade Williams to play the character. Much of his scenes were ad-libbed. Goldberg would review his recorded dialogue, then select the best lines and animated the character around them for each scene.
Musker and Clements loved the Hirschfeld-ian design of Genie, so they decided to have all the roles drawn in the same style. Glenn Keane was animating Aladdin, and Goldberg partnered with all the other animators to create a cohesive look in all the characters, making this unified cast. When Hirschfeld saw Aladdin, he gave the team of artists the ultimate compliment and confirmed they were successful by saying, “It all looks like it was drawn with the same hand.”
For Fantasia 2000, Eric directed and wrote two traditionally animated sequences, “Rhapsody in Blue” and “The Carnival of the Animals”, aided by and his wife Susan, who took on the role of art director. Rhapsody in Blue, chosen by Goldberg because it’s his favorite piece of classical music, was a complete artistic love letter to both New York and Al Hirschfeld, and the artist actually came onto the short as official artistic consultant. As part of his desire to be true to his hero’s style and aesthetic, Goldberg actually hid Hirschfeld’s daughter Nina’s name, just as the artist himself did in hundreds of drawings, in various locations in the short, like in Duke’s toothpaste tube and Margaret’s collar.
GOLDBERG DISNEY-FIES HIRSCHFELD FOR SHANGHAI DISNEYLAND
When Shanghai Disneyland was being developed and built, Imagineering wanted to build a Brown Derby or Sardi’s style eatery decorated with Hirschfeld style drawings of Disney characters. Dave Bossart, head of special projects at Disney at the time, looked to Goldberg to create the over 200 drawings. They made a book of all the images called “An Animator’s Gallery: Eric Goldberg Draws the Disney Characters, and displayed some of the original drawings in person at D23 in 2015. If you ever go to Shanghai Disneyland, you can see his finished work at Mickey and Pals Market Cafe.
Goldberg himself explained what makes Hirschfeld such a remarkable artist. “Hirschfeld’s poses were always very strong, very clear, very readable. And my favorites of his work are the ones that are very simple. I think those were his favorites as well. He used to say, ‘When I don’t have the time I make a complex, fussy drawing and when I do I make a simple one.’ Because it does take some effort to boil things down to their essence and Hirschfeld was a master at that. It’s just amazing.”
Goldberg got to spend time with his hero when they had become genuine friends. The studio had him out to Disney a year after Aladdin was released. Eric and Susan Goldberg got to take Al and his wife Dolly to Disneyland. Over the years he was able to get to know the artist very well personally, and the man didn’t diminish, but rather enhanced the legend. Eric and Susan requested Hirschfeld to allow them to use his style for a new short, and after some contemplation and time, he gave permission to use any and all characters he’d drawn in his career. Ultimately, Hirschfeld worked as artistic consultant on what became Rhapsody in Blue, which was one of the best sequences in Fantasia 2000.
GOLDBERG, HIRSCHFELD, AND JONES
To allow Goldberg to express his love for the Hirschfeld line, the folks working with Warner Brothers and the Chuck Jones family engaged him to do his treatment on the classic characters of Chuck Jones. They’ve turned them into limited editions signed by Eric Goldberg himself. In each drawing, he has captured not only the characters but the Hirschfeld style. It’s not easy to encapsulate Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, or Marvin Martian and K-9 with such simplicity. We now have all Eric’s Chuck Jones images from the Fine Line series available for purchase on our site.
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 is said often online, or really anywhere where people talk movies, that the movie Hook is beloved by anyone who was a kid when it came out in 1991, while adults were less enthused by the film. Here we are, almost 30 years later, and those kids are now adults, and they are loud and proud about their fandom. There are websites and wiki pages and fan Facebook pages, all celebrating Steven Spielberg’s riff or extenuation of the story of Peter Pan. There’s even a famous, award-winning song by the musician Skrillex called ‘Bangarang’, inspired by the famous battle cry uttered by the Lost Boys.
SHOUTS TO ALL MY LOST BOYS!….
There are so many interesting aspects of the Hook movie that not everyone knows.
So it’s particularly cool that we have Hook movie art! We are so excited to have an exclusive piece of movie history direct from the John Alvin estate, that occupies a unique place in movie history, in that it is both a prop and movie campaign art. There is a map, the original of which is 40 x 60, that was used in the making of the teaser trailer for Steven Spielberg’s Hook. I was talking to John Alvin’s wife about the piece, which we have in his archives. She mentioned, off the cuff, that she had all of the printed versions of the map. They were created on special paper, so that at a particular time during the trailer, the map could catch fire. We have partnered with Andrea to sell these great images, which are also 40 x 60. There are only 6 of them available!
Here is a video of the trailer that uses John Alvin Hook art nearly the entire time, and switches to live action right after the map goes up in flames:
I spoke to Andrea Alvin about the John Alvin Studios working on Hook, and she relayed a few interesting tidbits fans would love to know. John Alvin was hired, initially, to do a treatment as a potential movie poster. He came up with a design of Wendy’s window, with curtains and Wonderland in the distance. He only did one graphite, and one full-color image that was 20 x 30 inches. Eventually, as most people know, the finish was illustrated by Drew Struzan. However, John Alvin also worked on the advance poster for the film, which was just a single hook. The marketing people had created a large image of the hook used by the captain, but the image looked flat. So they sent a large print of it to John, and he “Alvin-ized” it, adding light flairs and reflected light to give it a more dramatic, compelling look.
John Alvin called what he did “the promise of a great experience”, which included creating curiosity in potential viewers, often by using iconic imagery imbued with light to add a mystical, ethereal quality. He certainly did that with this Hook image!
Around the same time, the studio came to John and asked him to create a map that would include Neverland and part of the real world to be used for the entire teaser trailer, and John came up with the now-famous map, meant to look mysterious and centuries old.
He knew the map had to be big, because to use it for the whole trailer, the camera would have to pan across it. He also knew in the trailer it would be burned through. So he made the 40 x 60 map, and they printed copies on special paper that burns easily.
Explains Andrea Alvin, “We had a layout that we had to follow, for what the actual map would be, for example, where Wonderland would be. We had to follow that, and design it to look like an old map on parchment. A lot of the painting was done in thinned-out acrylics, and sponged on, to make it look like parchment. Then he drew the little locations over the top. He had to find a good compass rose to put on it to make it look old and original, so he did copious research in books, because this was before the internet had everything anyone would ever need, and he finally discovered the perfect image. John hand-lettered all the words on the map, too, which was unusual. Nearly no illustrators would do hand-lettering or design their own for their posters, but John did.”
Both John Alvin and his wife Andrea went to the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, where many other famous artists and directors have gone, including Ralph McQuarrie, Syd Mead, Eyvind Earle, Bob Peak, Drew Struzan, Zack Snyder, and Michael Bay. For those focusing in illustration and fine art, taking hand-lettering classes was mandatory. John Alvin had not only a love but an affinity for it, and you can see the expression of his talent on many of his one-sheets, including Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, E.T., Victor/Victoria, Gremlins, Willow, The Princess Bride, and The Phantom of the Paradise, just to name a few.
Andrea Alvin continues, “Most movie poster artists hire a lettering artist and then drop it in. You can’t go buy at typeface that looks like that, and it’s essential to the art and the look of the poster.”
As to how John felt about the movie Hook, Andrea says she remembers he loved it, even though many critics panned it. “To John, it was like a musical without the music. John liked fantasy movies and he loved popcorn movies made to be entertainment. The goal wasn’t to make great art, it was to make a great movie that entertained, and that it did.”
It’s interesting that John felt that way. Originally, Spielberg wanted to make the film as a musical. His interest in the story went all the back to his childhood, and in fact he directed a story based on Peter Pan in school when he was only 11 years old. He had worked on various versions of the story in the early 80s, even considering creating a musical.
At the same time, award-winning composer John Williams and lyricist and composer Leslie Bricusse were working on a Broadway play of Hook, and wrote a number of songs, which could have been used for the movie, since Spielberg had hired Williams as the composer for the film score. Ultimately, there were two songs used in Hook, “When You’re Alone”, which went on to be nominated for an Oscar, and “I Don’t Want to Grow Up”.
The script needed some help, and one of the script doctors hired but uncredited for her work was Carrie Fisher. Here she is talking about being a fixer, and being hilarious, as usual.
Since its release, Hook has remained a favorite to many who saw the film as kids, and has expanded its fandom since then, not least because of all the quirky elements to be enjoyed. There are many star cameos, from George Lucas and Carrie Fisher playing a couple kissing on the bridge at the very beginning of the film, to Jimmy Buffett, David Crosby, and Glenn Close playing pirates, Gwyneth Paltrow playing a young Wendy, and Phil Collins playing a police inspector. Check a few of them out here:
Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Bob Hoskins are all in top form, although for Williams, another film he starred in around that time eclipsed this one, and for good reason. It was the following year, in 1992, that Disney’s Aladdin was released, with Williams as the Genie. The other high-profile cast member was a 24-year-old Julia Roberts, who was badly miscast, and also had a horrible year that led to so much tabloid talk, she had to do an interview only weeks before Hook’s release. To capture a female superstar early in her career who is clearly a novice at damage control, you can read the 1991 interview in Entertainment Weekly HERE.
In 2017, Dante Basco, who played fan favorite Lost Boy Rufio, executive produced an unauthorized short film, “Bangarang: The Hook Prequel”, that was funded through Kickstarter. It’s about how Roofus, a bullied Filipino kid, finds his courage and becomes a Lost Boy. This short is a testament to the power of the Hook fandom. The campaign raised nearly $69,000 when the goal was only $30,000! You can watch it here:
For those who are looking for a really rare, exclusive piece of film history, we can’t think of anything better than a map of the ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ world that comes directly from famed movie poster artist John Alvin’s estate. The art will also come with a certificate from Andrea Alvin designating it as one of 6 pieces that belonged to the Alvin family.
To see Hook, you can go to any major streaming service, or look for listings on your cable schedule. It’s playing repeatedly for free on mine this June, and I’ll be watching it soon. Join me. Maybe we’ll hear each other screaming BANGARANG!
We’ll end by posting part of my interview with John 11 years ago at my gallery. You’ll notice as usual, he’s wearing his iconic red shoes!
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.
Star Wars: Visions was released on its own, and in a deluxe edition with five hand-signed giclees.They include art by Alex Ross, Moebius, Donato Giancola, Daniel Greene, and Jamie Wyeth. The deluxe book also includes 40 extra pages focusing on the artists’ processes, complete with sketches.There were only 500 created.
It sold out immediately, as collectibles of this nature do.We got as many as we could at the time, and of course didn’t open them, that being the privilege of the collector who takes them home.So we never got a close look at the prints. The one copy we still have sits unopened.
The images were curated by J.W. Rinzler, who was the executive editor at Lucasfilm. He is also responsible for New York Times bestsellers The Making of Star Wars and The Making of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones.
George Lucas decided, as an avid collector of both the art used to make and promote the Star Wars films, and fine and illustration art, to go out and find artists he loved in the fine art world to create images relating to his films.This is a great idea, obviously, but here’s a little-known aspect of that project.When an artist creates art relating to Star Wars, they have to, as part of the contract, offer their art to George Lucas as the lowest market price.That is to say, if the artists involved usually work through galleries or agents, Lucas would have to have the right of first refusal for the art before even the galleries or agents had access.This seems perfectly fair for those who usually create art for the franchise.What about those outside the usual Star Wars Universe?
A number or artists used in the book are very famous in the world of contemporary fine art.What a genius move for an art collector to get the lowest possible price for art by these successful artists, while getting them to create unique commissions for him.Win-win? Yes!Indeed there were only a few artists that didn’t sell their pieces for the book to Lucas.As someone who is artist-centric, i’m going to say that’s a solid win for artists everywhere.Now that, years after the release of the book and his acquisition of the art created for it, we know the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be built in Los Angeles, we can look forward to seeing at least some of these originals in person on its walls.
The beauty of this book, ultimately, is the continuing belief by Lucas, and his support of it through the creation is this art, that there should be no distinction between “high” art and “popular” art.This is a notion I’ve been standing behind for the 25 years i’ve had a gallery dedicated to film, animation, and contemporary art.I look forward to seeing the many paintings he bought from John Alvin, as well as his huge collection of art by Norman Rockwell.
AS TO THE BOOK:
Since the release of the book, Moebius has passed away, so getting a signed limited edition by him as part of the set is reason enough to buy the deluxe edition.We’ve not really been promoting that we have a copy, because we certainly don’t want someone to buy the book and break up the limited editions and sell them separately.This is one of those collectibles best reserved for a collector who will know how nice and right it is to keep them together!
There’s a great video about the collection of the artists HERE.
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!
What does 2017 bring for ArtInsights? What can our friends and fans expect? We’re very excited about our plans, and we’d love to tell you a bit about them!
2016, by all accounts, was a pretty iffy year. We, like the rest of the art world, were challenged by the experiences, losses, and surprises we all faced. In the US, many artistic people are concerned about the future in a Trump presidency, even as our right-leaning friends suggest there’s nothing to worry about. We have many wonderful LGBTQ and immigrant clients, so yes, we worry.
With that in mind, we have an amazing new project we will be promoting with Tennessee Loveless. We can’t talk about it, really, but it is spectacular and very exciting. It is political in nature. How does this fit in with a gallery that focuses on animation and film art, you ask? Well….
We are going to split focus starting in 2017. It has been in the works for some time now. As many of you may know, I (Leslie) have been working directly with artists creating and building proprietary projects unique to ArtInsights. Two examples are The Art Outsiders with Tennessee Loveless, and The Image Projects with Jim Salvati. Both projects just seem to be getting better and better, and more known, and we couldn’t be happier about that.
Here is our favorite piece so far from the “Musician’s Image”, a collection of music legends created not from any single picture, but from studying many different pictures and extrapolating a unique image from the collection of them.
Those of you who are artists know how impressive this is. Very few artists can do this, but Jim Salvati excels at just that. We have been slowly building our collection of these images and have some great announcements about the collection we’ll be making very soon. Jim also started the “Sporting Image” with his instant classic representing Arnold Palmer. We’ll be adding to that soon as well. All these are part of a greater plan, and are going somewhere we can’t talk about at present, but those who are interested in commissioning their favorite musician or sports figure should contact me soon so they can get in on our plan, because it’s super cool (as are most things in which Jim takes part!) Of course Jim and I have to approve the image as part of our collection, but there are many very famous and wonderful musicians and athletes not yet spoken for…
Tennessee Loveless continues to get hotter. Not only does he spend much of his “free time” building his collection of interviews and portraits for his personal project “Drag Landscapes”, he also just gets better with each successive Art Outsider portrait. That’s not so say the first few aren’t amazing, they still floor me when I see them. He’s just always changing, always evolving. The latest pieces are just beautiful, especially Marlene Dietrich and Kate Bush (someone who inspired us both in our youth through to today).
He just charges forward, and he has more commissions already committed, as well as our new project that will be unveiled all at once, instead of one at a time. Believe us, they will be more potent that way! Follow us to see the art as it is released and announced, and of course if you are interested in a commission, let us know as soon as possible, especially as more is happening in his and our world together we can’t even talk about that will significantly influence his fame and, by extension, the prices of his originals!
(Marlene Dietrich Art Outsiders by Tennessee Loveless: contact us if interested)
As to the splitting of focus, we will still be representing the best of interpretive and original film and animation art, it just won’t be front and center on our site or our brick and mortar store. Maybe you noticed we changed our name. We are now “ArtInsights Gallery of Film and Contemporary Art. We will have a new website that reflects all the new and awesome work we’ll be offering… and it will be a BETTER, SEARCHABLE site! (HURRAY!) We will also have a dedicated section of our site, and will be happy to build your collections using our 28 years of experience. We just are finding ourselves more and more committed to contemporary art and the artists who are searching for a place to speak their vision. We want to help them speak, and find their audience, in any way we can. We have not only the aforementioned projects,
and are EVER committed to representing and promoting the work of the incomparable and amazing film artist JOHN ALVIN, (who, in 2016, broke all records for the highest price for a piece of film key art with the 396k sale at auction of the E.T. movie poster original!)
but we have new ones in the works we are building in 2017!
We also have a great artist new to ArtInsights we will be promoting in the U.S. who is very successful and popular in his home country of England, Mark Davies. His work will just blow you away.
Our show, which we are actively building as we speak, is a passion of mine and continues to excite me. SO MANY IDEAS! Check out our new limited edition from his last show, all of which have remarques on them.
If you find his work compelling, contact us soon, because his work is going to go up in price really fast! Right now, originals are around $6000 to $7000, and he loves nearly any movie you can imagine. If he doesn’t, i’ll let you know and talk you out of it…you know my favorite movies? He’s creating art from a number of them. How synergistic is that for me, a film critic/art gallery owner? VERY.
Lastly, those who live nearby or come to visit on occasion may have heard Reston Town Center is siting to paid parking as of January of 2017. We have taken proactive action on behalf of our clients and friends. We will validate your parking during the week, but also, since parking is free on the weekends, we’ll be open on both Saturday and Sunday, so we suggest coming to visit us then, because we’ll be making ArtInsights so much fun on the weekends you’ll WANT to come by!
We continue to be honored and touched by the support and loyalty of the clients and friends of ArtInsights. After over 22 years in business, we are so appreciative to those who keep showing up, seeing what’s new, and embracing exciting new art year after year.
We know you could go anywhere. And yet, you show up again and again, take our advice on new artists, and celebrate inventive, creative art we show you, whatever its origin or subject matter. That is beyond cool. It’s why we keep doing what we do. Happy New Year to you all, and thanks for all your support, from Michael and I.
Lots has been happening in the world of the superhero, and now is the perfect time to update fans of superhero art! Have you seen Captain America: Civil War yet? Well, surprisingly timely is the roll-out of the new Alex Ross art collection, and it’s just getting started.We are happy to be part of their team of galleries, and one of only three with the first assortment actually physically in the gallery, so you can get your eyes on the art.
You may be wondering what all the fuss is about, since Alex Ross art has been available to fans since the days of the Warner Brothers stores.Don’t worry, I’m here to explain it to you.
Those of you who have been following the career of Alex Ross, who of late has had exhibits in the likes of the Warhol and Rockwell museums, and has been placed in national museums around the world, know that Ross has been one of the very few comic book and pop culture illustrators to help break that art into the “real art” world.This is actually a big deal, especially for those who believe the work by the creators of comic books deserve artistic recognition like me.
The story behind how Ross and his own team started a new art program is pretty innocuous. Apparently he just wanted control of his own artistic destiny, and they figured now is the time.
The company that first sold his art was Clampett Studio, which is run by people who basically made him famous through his exposure in the Warner Brothers stores. In fact, Clampett Studio, and the artists they represent, should absolutely be on your radar and here’s why: Clampett Studio, which is run by Ruth Clampett, the daughter of famed Warner Brothers animator Bob Clampett, is the one company that sells art of the comic books, cartoons, and film that only sells art created by artists who actually work on the movies.THEY ARE THE ONLY ONE.and what’s more, they support the artists.Once someone works with them, they never look back.If you love the art of Alex Ross, you partially have Ruth Clampett and those who work with her to thank.
As i mentioned, she still has art by Alex Ross available, but those signed by him are selling out fast.We can access and sell you anything on her website, and I urge you to support her artists and collections.Jim Lee is still part of her assortment, for example, as is all the OFFICIAL art of Harry Potter.You can dive into the Alex Ross works available HERE.
For all the assortments on Clampett Studio, go HERE.
So, back to this new Alex Ross collection….they decided to take the reigns back and start their own art program. Normally, Warner Brothers wouldn’t let an artist make a decision like that, but this is Alex Ross. Now that they’ve taken the art program in-house, and with a big splash in Los Vegas with a release of Beatles art, they are forging forward.
The person in charge of their art program is an old friend, and I am absolutely 100% behind her and the Alex Ross Art program, because she always knows how to build a great collection, limit releases, and consider the collector. She is a fan, and a fan who knows the business is the best person in the world to create a lasting collection of art.
Now might be a good time for full disclosure. I haven’t always loved all of Ross’s work.I think some of it looks very frenetic, and too full of color.Yet, somehow, the new work has a calmness, a grace to it, that rises above much of the art i’ve seen before.For example, limiting the color palate in this collection of four images and making them a series that visually complements each other was brilliant.Also, the painting of Wonder Woman is, to my mind, one of the best pieces he’s ever done.The crazy thing is, it’s in an edition of only 50.I assume it’s because they want their first pieces to blow through and succeed with a sell out.YES!
What does all this mean for you?It means great art, well curated, considered, and controlled.The first release was impressive onscreen, but when it came in, I was gobsmacked. ESPECIALLY the Wonder Woman and the Captain America v Iron Man.If you’re in the area, come in and see the art.Also, I forgot to mention there are several pieces that are only $150, and on canvas, representing both DC and Marvel.I am sorely tempted to buy some of it myself!
Lastly, although it’s likely you won’t have access, we WILL be getting some originals by Alex to sell.While you can get art directly from his company, they will be releasing special production graphites that won’t be available through them that you can get from the galleries.Not only is this a great sign they are committed to the galleries, it also means we can get wonderful original art for his fans!
I hope you’ll come by if you live in the area, but if you don’t, I still hope you’ll peruse the art on Clampett Studios, and on our own site created by Alex Ross and buy from us.The museum exhibits coming up and the work he’s doing with both Marvel and DC speak to Ross’s expanding fame and success, and if you love comic books, his work is a great way to bring it into your home and celebrate your love of all things superhero! Also, he is one of the only artists who can create the art of the Beatles. Here’s the piece that’s both a limited edition, and very inexpensive:
In deciding to have a Batman v Superman art show with the official art of DC, several things were at play. As Cinema Siren, the film critic, I am inundated with press info and notes and EPK (electronic press kit) about the upcoming movie, which is being released late March (as many fans know!), but I also have a pretty longstanding history with Zack Snyder, because I interviewed him years ago, went for a nature walk with him, and talked Joseph Campbell, womanpower, and the love of classic movies with him. This was way before he got tapped to do any superhero movies, and I can tell you, whatever you opinion of him as a director, as a guy, he’s pretty down to earth and quite fabulous. So while I have to watch the movie with an unjaundiced and unbiased eye, I can promote the theory of all things Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman all I want, because like they say about parties and crying, it’s my gallery and i’ll pimp DC if I want to!
It’s been a while since Warner Brothers gave over the rights to selling their DC images to my friend Ruth. She used to work for them directly, helped start up and run the Warner Brothers stores, and then for all the galleries around the world became the one and only source for the official art of DC.
What I’ve always loved about Ruth and Clampett Studio Collections is Ruth has always felt strongly about keeping the artists representing DC, along with any other WB properties she represents, as artists who actually have a hand in the making of the shows and movies. As such, the art of Jim Lee was essential to the collection.
Jim Lee is a Korean American comic book artist, writer, editor, and publisher. He started out his adult career plans with begrudgingly working towards becoming a medical doctor at Princeton, as his family wished, but he had always loved comics. His high school classmates even predicted in his senior yearbook he would found his own comic book company.
During college he took an art class and started reading comics again, and that got him excited enough he committed himself to one year’s try at being a professional comic book artist. When Archie Goodwin of Marvel invited him to work for them, he embarked on a career that led to multiple awards, building an enthusiastic and loyal fanbase, starting his own comic imprint, and ultimately becoming the co-publisher of DC. He is in the Guinness World Records for creating the best-selling comic book of all time.
In my research for writing about Jim Lee, I discovered he has had nine children with his wife Carla. How on Goddess’s green earth does he have any time to do anything? I have to say one of the most impressive things about Jim, given the many balls he has in the air at any given moment, is that when fans are talking to him, they really feel he’s listening and paying attention to them. He’s always been one of the best artists to meet at any con for that reason and because he seems to embody the joy of being an artist in every inch of his being. He is also an inspiration to anyone who wants to be a successful artist, because as an artist he worked his way up to being at the top of one of the biggest comic book companies in the world.
There are some very choice limited editions available signed by Jim Lee in our show. I would never have an exhibit and sale of DC art without his work.
Here are some of my favorites:
BATMAN OVER SAN PROSPERO:
This piece was inspired by the Modena landscape in Italy, a country that is dear to Jim’s heart. He spends time there every year. This image was featured in “Jim Lee Millennium Edition,” a compilation of images from Jim Lee’s career.
This image was used for a cover to the Superman Adventures series. I love Superman. I think you’re either a lover or a hater. I just found out recently that Superman didn’t start out flying. It was only later that they wrote in that he could, even though now it’s one of his most recognizable powers.
There was a great interview with the writer of a book called “Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero” and I learned lots about the character that someone who doesn’t read every comic would find fascinating. I also didn’t know he was originally “The Man of Tomorrow”…so I guess this art comes by its title honestly!
Also, the really great editor at DC who has lots to do with what happens to and with Superman, Mike Carlin, recommends SUPERMAN LIVES, an audio CD. BUY IT THIS SECOND! (and you can buy some of our art as well, but yes. Superman on CD? OH YESSS!)
KISSING THE NIGHT:
This is a great piece to me because when I met and hung out with Jim, he drew me a great little Catwoman, where she is holding a Batman toy and saying MEOW. I thought this piece was super hot, and love the color of it, and the composition. I also love that it’s on t-shirts and mugs and such, and yet it’s actually possible to have a limited edition of it signed by Jim Lee, and they never add any numbers to a sold-out edition, so the fact that it’s $425 and there are only 250 of them is a bit mind boggling to an art gallery geek like me. The image appeared first in the Batman comic “In the Mouth of Madness.”
Last but not least of my favorites, this giclee on canvas has only 100 pieces, and it’s so badass of all the art by Jim Lee i’d want this one. For better or worse, my eyes go immediately to Wonder Woman and stay there. I love that she looks without question that she can hold her own with the other two heroes, although I haven’t read the Trinity series…This piece was the cornerstone of our show, because it so captures the anticipation of the Batman v Superman feature film coming soon to theaters.
While I prefer Wonder Woman from the World War II era, I’ll make an exception for Jim’s work. For more information and the history of Wonder Woman CLICK HERE.
We hope to see you at ArtInsights you soon so we can geek out together about these superheroes, or so you can correct one or all of us about something they did, said, or wore 😉
So…to restore or not to restore…and what does a collector need to ask or look for when considering vintage animation art for purchase? How might the art have been altered or restored?
What to do when a cel is damaged you are considering or gets damaged while on your wall or in your collection?
My opinion on this is that it is absolutely fine to restore cels. However, the world of animation art needs to set parameters of what is acceptable and it is essential as a part of the “industry” to know BEFORE you buy a cel whether it’s been restored already or not.
IN addition to that, backgrounds created for cels need to have very clearly indications that they are created specifically to enhance the set up, and that they are NOT original from Disney. This has recently become quite a problem. When we have a background created for collectors, we have our artists sign the back and the style is about 30 to 40% off from the original style of the actual background, so that it is clearly not from the studio and cannot be passed off as such. (there have been problems with cels that have “hand prepared backgrounds” being passed off as preliminary or original studio backgrounds in recent auctions)
While the collectors I know are perfectly willing to buy art that has been repaired or even needs repairing, there are often cels that are sold from old collections that have little to no paint and are completely repainted. As long as the potential collector is aware of that, no harm done. However, if they are under the impression that the paint is original, that seems disingenuous. Also, ArtInsights often buys art for more money for the very reason that it hasn’t been touched by restorers. There are many dealers and collectors buying art for next to nothing and having that art restored, then selling it for less but without stating the art’s history with restoration.
Also, part of “restoration” or “giving the art more eye appeal” may involved adding cels that are not production to a set up that enhances the image. Now this is not referring to putting together cels that come from different sources, that is perfectly fine. This is referring to opening up eyes that were previously closed…or adding more to a registered cel to complete a cel where the arm, or half a wing, or whatever, is missing… or adding Tramp to Lady, when the cel set up previously only had Lady there, and the Tramp cel has just been manufactured to add “eye appeal”. These are all practices that border on fraud.
It is part of the reason ArtInsights sells less animation now, because we’d rather just follow our own rules without calling attention to what any other dealer may or may not be doing.
As a collector, here are some questions you may want to ask when purchasing art, whether from ArtInsights or from another gallery, dealer, collector, or auction house. While there is no guarantee anyone will be completely transparent, at least you’ll know you’ve asked the right questions… PLEASE REMEMBER to always watch the movie to find the cel therein. If the gallery or company with whom you are transacting has already done it (which they should have) or knows where in the film the image originates, have them tell show you, and/or reaffirm by watching it yourself. There are certainly cels that come from cut scenes, or edited scenes, or are more concept than finished, but whoever you are working with should know that and tell you so.
Has the art been restored in any way?
If so, by whom? If that is considered proprietary information, at least ask whether it has been restored in gouache or acrylic paint.
If restored, was there any line work done? (the ink line is on the surface of the cel and paint is on the back. Even very liberal dealer/collectors believe there should be minimal line work done–i.e. outlines repainted–as part of restoration ….At what point does the art lose all original integrity?
If restored, was the art trimmed and reapplied to another cel? Some believe this effects the value, but this is another argument in the animation art world…because “CEL” refers to the whole piece of plastic, not just the part with the character. When you buy a cel, you are buying the piece of plastic, not just the image of the character.
If the restored cel is a Courvoisier set up, or an Art Corner piece from Disneyland, are those aspects of the restored cel being included with the art being purchased? Make sure the Courvoisier background is original and not fabricated. There are some that were being briefly recreated through a new license with Disney. I don’t think it’s being done now, but check the provenance of the art to know for sure.
If not Courvoisier or Art Corner, and there is a background, is it hand prepared, preliminary, or studio background an original background from the film? (sometimes someone will call a background a studio background because it is FROM the studio, but NOT from the film.
If the art is cracked or there is paint separation, can the provision be that if there is further damage it will be taken care of by the company from which you are purchasing the art?
Whenever possible, ask for an image of the art before restoration. This way you’ll be sure to know what’s been done to it, what might have been added, and reaffirm color was reapplied more or less correctly based on the original. (for example, there are scenes of Lady where she is very dark from part of the movie at night and some dealers have had those repainted to a more palatable color, which is not consistent with the original color used in those scenes. The same goes for Alice’s hair, which is sometimes an odd green color but looks normal onscreen, and almost all of the highlight hair on Peg during “He’s A Tramp”.)
Avoid restored limited editions unless you are buying them for nearly nothing, as well as cels that will be restored that have seeping color in the cel, (like the bright pink of the Cheshire Cat) unless you are willing to have the art trimmed to the outline and reapplied to a new cel.
When considering restoration for art you already own, remember to ask these questions:
How do you want to have the art restored? In gouache means it may get damaged again in the same place and in the same way, but it is being done with the same kind of paint as the original. In acrylic you are restoring it permanently, but it is paint that may not have been used back when the film was being made
How long will the restoration take? Some studios take a LONG time. Like, years. Ask for a due date, and have it written as part of the exchange. If the restoration takes several months longer than that, consider having it returned.
Obviously you’ll want to have an estimate given. Don’t believe there’s only one game in town. By the same token, make sure you have read or heard good references for the restoration studio you are using.
That is all I can think of at the moment, but it may have confused you. This restoration business is rather complicated. It really is a matter, as collector, of deciding what you are comfortable with and knowing what questions to ask and what kinds of restoration you believe acceptable based on the art you’re buying. Certainly if you are buying a piece that has been almost completely repainted, you should expect to pay way less unless it is the rarest of the rare. (and remember the dealers more prone to hard sell will tell you everything is the rarest of the rare. RAREST means things like Chernabog, the Queen from Snow White, and things along those lines…but in those cases, you’d better know where the art you are considering has been since the moment it left the studio…)
I hope this information is elucidating and helpful to those of you who love vintage art, and isn’t too discouraging. To all of us at ArtInsights, we believe you are better off knowing more and being more aware as a collector. If this leans you in the direction of using us to find your art, so much the better. We love creating loyal clients. Even if you never buy from us, at least you’ll go into your own transactions with eyes wide open, and they won’t have been painted that way.
John Alvin Originals CAN BE FOUND AT THEIR OFFICIAL GALLERY HOME!
ArtInsights Animation and Film Art Gallery has exclusive rights to selling all official original art from the estate of John Alvin. If looking for available art through official channels directly from his estate,
We at ArtInsights have been proud to be have known John Alvin and are honored to be connected as the official conduit from artist, through his family, to collector. There is a special interaction inherent to the experience of collecting original art, and we believe when movie lovers can enjoy a piece of art by such a renown artist such as John Alvin from any movie on which he created images, they become part of celebrating the important aspect of film history that campaign art represents. Collecting posters is a wonderful thing, but having a piece of art used in the making of the poster is something those who have begun a collection of such can tell you is a truly joyful experience. John Alvin was a lovely man, humble, warm, and kind, who always had time for his fans and blossoming artists. We miss him and are thrilled The Art of John Alvin will create new fans and increase awareness about him throughout the world.
We hope if you are in the Washington DC area or would like to see a collection of original art by John Alvin you’ll come to our gallery where you can see them in person. Thanks for your interest!
ArtInsights Animation and Film Art Gallery