Tag: disney

All About Jiminy Cricket: History and Disney Fan and Collector’s Guide

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. 

Watch more about Ward Kimball HERE.

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 Walt Disney’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’S LEGACY:

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: 

“Waterlogged” Jiminy Cricket embellished giclee by Jim Salvati
The Wishing Star Embellished Giclee by Rodel Gonzalez
Blue Castle Pinocchio and Jiminy Embellished Giclee by Harrison and Peter Ellenshaw
Jiminy original oil on paper by Andrea Alvin

10 Lesser-Known Christmas Cartoon Shorts for the Holidays

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:

“Winter Lights” by Rodel Gonzalez
“Ice is Nice” by Dean Spille
“A Snowy Christmas Carol” by Michelle St. Lauren
“We’re Simply Meant to Be” by Jim Salvati
Letting Go by Amy Mebberson
“Letting Go” by Amy Mebberson
“The Warmth from WIthin” by Rodel

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:

“The Cold of Hoth” by John Alvin

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:

“Samuel’s Candy Canes” by Andrea Alvin

Pixar Pride: The Fine Art of Pixar

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!

“The Pixar Storyline” such as it was when Danny created this great image of movies made by Pixar. Limited edition of 10!

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:

Bové’s The Flavor of Paris, a limited edition giclee on paper, is one of the only official art images from Ratatouille.

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.

Incredibles to the Rescue limited edition by Tim Rogerson

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 Scariest Little Monster” limited edition giclee on canvas by Tim Rogerson

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!

Wall E’s Wish limited edition giclee on canvas by Tom Matousek

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”:

Journey to Paradise Falls limited edition on canvas by Tim Rogerson

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.

The Soul of Music by Jim Salvati is one of the rare images of a Black character created as a Disney Fine Art limited edition.

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.

The History and Art of Disney’s Haunted Mansion

I can’t believe after more than 30 years selling Disney art, this is the first time the art Disney’s Haunted Mansion has become available. It inspired me to write about my favorite Disney attraction.

In the many times I’ve gone to Disney World and Disneyland for work or for fun, the Haunted Mansion has always been a highlight, and I’d even say one of the main reasons we’ve gone to the parks. There was one visit in which Disney Studios had closed the park for us to wander around unimpeded, and we went through the mansion repeatedly at near midnight with only friends surrounding us. Those experiences only enhanced what is a magical experience even after waiting hours to ride it, and I should know. I’ve done that, too. That made me curious. What was the process the famous artistic and engineering geniuses at Disney Imagineering that resulted in a ride that has withstood the test of over 50 years and multiple generations? What secrets does it hold? 

The Haunted Mansions for both Disneyland and Disney World were built at the same time, in 1969. By then, they already knew they’d be opening Disney World, so they made two of every element of the attraction.

The idea for it came before Disneyland, way back when Walt was going to create his park across from Disney Studios. The first illustration that included some version of the attraction was drawn by Disney artist Harper Goff, then Disney assigned Imagineer, director, and animator extraordinaire Ken Anderson to create a story, which he did, based on a dilapidated antebellum manor styled after those in and around New Orleans, which he studied copiously in the process of his designs. His house had swarms of bats, boarded up doors and windows, overgrown with weeds. Walt rejected it, thinking a run-down house inside his park sent the wrong message.  Instead, he suggested as inspiration the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, and Anderson took that and ran with it, writing stories about former residents turned evil ghosts. Two imagineers known as integral to the design and engineering of the attraction, Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey took his stories and brought them to life for the park. The Haunted Mansion was expected to open in 1963, and construction started in 1962, with the exterior finished by 1963. 

It was largely inspired and modeled after a Victorian Era manor called the Shipley-Lydecker House in Baltimore Maryland.

This is a great video about the evolution of the interior and exterior of the Haunted Mansion!

Famed animator and background artist Marc Davis and Claude Coats partnered in the feel of the ride’s interior, with Coats contributing the scarier elements and Davis bringing a comedic and less spooky quality. Plans for an opening stalled first because of the New York World’s Fair, then because of Walt’s death in 1966. After Walt passed, there were a few major changes to the ride. They scrapped an idea for a “Museum of the Weird, which would include a restaurant like the Blue Bayou at the Pirates of the Caribbean. What was once going to be a walk-through attraction became one with what became the famous “Doom Buggies”. 

The Haunted Mansion at finally Disneyland premiered opened with a press event at midnight on August 12th, with an opening for the public later that morning. It was an immediate success. Within a week of opening, Disneyland celebrated its highest single-day attendance. 

One thing that makes the attraction special is the wonderful Ghost Host. Foolish mortals are welcomed to the mansion by a disembodied voice, originally supplied by one of the most famous voices in animation, Paul Frees. Even legendary voice artist Mel Blanc called Frees “The Man of a Thousand Voices”. Not only did Frees have a long and storied career with Disney, he also provided voices for Rocky and Bullwinkle’s Boris Badenov, was featured in nearly every Rankin Bass stop-motion cartoon, he was also the voice of Mr. Granite in The Flintstones, and played both John Lennon and George Harrison in a Beatles cartoon. The Ghost Host is also known as Master Grace, named in tribute to Yale Gracey. 

Here is a vid with some early outtakes of his recordings as the Ghost Host:

As to the features of the attraction itself, there’s so much to love. A friend of mine bought the original stretching portraits from the Haunted Mansion a few years ago when Disney was foolish enough to get rid of them and that made me curious about their origin. There are four portraits, including a balding man, an old woman, a brown-haired man, and, my favorite, a tightrope walker. In an early script for the Haunted Mansion, the balding man was an ambassador named Alexander Nitrokoff. The old woman stretches to show her late husband’s bust. The brown-haired man is identified in the comics created in 2005, he and the two men sitting on each others’ shoulders are gamblers called Hobbs, Big Hobbs, and Skinny Hobbs. The tightrope walker has many alias, with Disney cast members calling her Lillian Gracey and the comics dubbing her Daisy de la Cruz. They say she’s a witch who turns men into crocodiles. I LIKE IT! Madame Leota might be the most popular character inside the mansion. She is a psychic medium originally voiced by Eleanor Audley, who voiced both Cinderella’s Lady Tremaine and Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. Her face is based on imagineer Leota Toombs. 

You can see the inspiration for Madame in this picture of Leota Tooms, one of the rare but highly influential female imagineers working inside Disney in the 60s.

Of course one of the best moments on the ride is the ballroom dancers, usually called the Waltzing Dead by fans. There are a total of 12 dancers, 6 women and 6 men, that dance as couples. In the Ghost Gallery, which is a notebook written by cast members at the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion in which they created biographies for all the attractions’ characters, the ballroom dancers are meant to be souls of folks who attended a party at Gracey Manor, only to be cursed by Madame Leota for neglecting her.    

Lastly and perhaps most memorable, the ride features the groundskeeper, his mangy pup, and the hitchhiking ghosts. The groundskeeper is sometimes referred to as The Caretaker, and there’s some question as to whether the shovel he holds is for his grounds work or for a second career grave robbing. In the comics, he is identified as Horace Fusslebottom. 

The hitchhiking ghosts have become a thing of their own legend. They are referred to as Gus (The Prisoner), Ezra (The Skeleton) and Phineas (The Traveler), but those names are believed to have been invented by cast members and subsequently spread by visitors to the attraction. The Ghost Gallery imagines them as three cellmates at the Salem Asylum for the Criminally Insane. 

It was a thrill when I was surprised a few days ago with what felt like, after so many years without any art, an avalanche of interpretive images of The Haunted Mansion was released by Disney Fine Art.

“The Travelers” Disney Haunted Mansion art by Trevor Carlton
“Haunted Mansion” limited edition by Rodel Gonzalez. Note it includes some favorite characters from the attraction and captures the design of the mansion itself!
“A Haunting Moon Rises” Haunted Mansion art by Rodel Gonzalez shows Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy wandering its grounds. Can Pluto read the gravestones?
For folks who like their Haunted Mansion with a splash of Tim Burton, here’s “Welcome to the Haunted Mansion” by Michael Provenza.
In “A Message From Beyond” Haunted Mansion art by Mike Humphries, the artist celebrates Madame Leota and her mystical powers.

Click on any image above to find out more about the art, or you can see all the Haunted Mansion images by going to our Haunted Mansion art page HERE.

I’ll leave you with a wonderful clip from a 1970 Wonderful World of Disney episode in which Kurt Russell guides us through the Haunted Mansion at Disney:

Cartoon Love: Romance in Animation

For my first blog of 2021, I want to talk about cartoon love, love and romance in animation and animation art. Every February, as I look around the gallery, I consider just how much of animation and cartoon shorts are focused on love and romance. To be sure, it’s a strange year to celebrate Valentine’s Day. In 2020, Much of the world wasn’t yet aware of the impending pandemic, so for many it was business as usual. Some couples went out to dinner, some celebrated with gifts or champagne, and friends got together and had a Galentine’s party. My husband and I don’t really celebrate, but last year we did make a good meal and watch horror movies, and I got a ‘secret Valentine’ from my dad, as I have since I was 10 years old.

This year is different. We are all still hunkered down. Most of us aren’t going out to restaurants. We also all need as much joy as we can muster, because we are still apart from some of our favorite people. What we CAN do this year, though, is watch cartoons. We can watch them with our partners, or make Galentine’s an event this year by planning a watch party through Disney+ . There are so many movies and shorts that celebrate love, and the streaming site has pulled together a collection to make us feel a little closer to each other.

About Cartoon love: Some of the best Disney shorts feature iconic couples, like 1938’s Brave Little Tailor and 1940’s Donald Duck Steps Out. Donald Duck Steps Out is one of the cartoons available as part of this Valentine’s Day collection. So is the 1936 classic Mickey’s Rival.

As to feature films, the first that comes to mind is Lady and the Tramp, which is actually listed in AFI’s “100 Years 100 Passions”. How about prince and princess stories like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella? There are also more recent classics like Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast.

There are also movies that show families that love and protect each other, like 101 Dalmatians and The Aristocats, as well as recent hits Finding Nemo, UP, and Wall-E.

Disney themselves has a great video about cartoon love, the top ten romantic moments in movies. I would definitely not put them in this order, but who am I to argue with the House of Mouse?

Let’s suppose that you ARE looking for a gift for your Disney loving loved one. Let me take you through a few we’ve got here at ArtInsights.

Lady and the Tramp Valentine’s Art:

Tim Rogerson’s Bella Notte
Our Paws Together by Michelle St Laurent

How about art from Beauty and the Beast? You can find all Beauty and the Beast art HERE.

And there are so many other images you might love. We’ve pulled together a collection of art called “LOVE IS EVERYWHERE”.

While we’re at it, we might as well add a little “I LOVE YOU. I KNOW.” to the equation. It isn’t animation, but it’s officially Disney, and Princess Leia makes everything better or at least bearable, even isolation.

Whether you are surrounded by family or braving the pandemic alone, these animated friends will help you through until we can be together again.

In honor of the month where we remember love and appreciate those who keep us close, here is the first COVID COMFORT CARTOON of 2021:

2012’s Paperman, a gorgeous and very romantic short that won both an Academy Award and Annie Award for Best Animated Short.

Stay safe out there, and remember, we’re all in this together. Let’s make sure we let those we love know it as often as possible.

Vintage Disney Art from the Vault at ArtInsights

So much awesome Disney history right here!

Premiering live on March 2nd at Mindy Johnson’s Ink and Paint: The Women at Walt Disney’s Animation is a collection of vintage Disney concept and character drawings that will fascinate and excite fans and collectors of Disney art! ArtInsights already has them on-hand, but will be unveiling them at the event, which is from 2-5pm. Come see them in person!

A screen shot very close to the graphite from Canine Caddy, a classic 1941 Mickey Mouse cartoon, in which Mickey is voiced by Walt Disney. Note the touches of color on the drawing, as well as the difference in Mickey’s design between this and 1932’s Mickey’s Good Deed.

We will be showing and selling drawings from Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Dumbo, and some fantastic shorts like Canine Caddy, The Picnic, Mickey’s Elephant, and more!

The above drawing from 1932’s Mickey’s Good Deed (also called Mickey’s Lucky Break) has two pegholes, as was the case in the earliest Mickey cartoons. This is an early example of a cartoon where Mickey’s voice was supplied by Walt Disney, and is one of the most charming Christmas-themed Disney shorts.

This concept art piece of a pegasus baby from Fantasia has an official Walt Disney Productions stamp in the corner, usually used as part of the Courvoisier Galleries releases!

He just gave Yensid back his hat and broom.
He’s had fun being a very bad apprentice!

This wonderful original production drawing of Mickey from Fantasia has a perfect expression of the trouble-making apprentice, and some great notes and extras on it!

A screen cap of the finished sequence a few moments away from the drawing.

See the Sorcerer’s Apprentice section of Fantasia here:

https://video.disney.com/watch/sorcerer-s-apprentice-fantasia-4ea9ebc01a74ea59a5867853

When Mindy does her presentation, she’ll take you through the exciting and historic elements of some of these drawings, like the color key notes on the Geppetto from Pinocchio, the influence of women on the work created for Fantasia, and how the history of women in animation plays an important role in your favorite classic Mickey cartoons from the early 1930s!

This original drawing of the Queen from Snow White is not only exquisite, it also shows the complexity of creating images for animation. Disney envisioned the character as a mix of Lady Macbeth and the Big Bad Wolf. She is the first character to ever speak in a Disney feature film, and the first character to die in one, as well. In this drawing, you can see her reflection in the mirror, a close-up of her face, as well as the drama of her costume. The screen cap next to the drawing shows what was finally put onscreen as part of the film. The notes about the production and scene, as well as the notes near her face are just the sort of special additions fans and aficionados are looking for their collections!

In all the time I’ve been selling and writing about animation, I’ve only seen a handful of graphites from Night on Bald Mountain that I could trace back to the studio. A friend of mine has one of the only cels of Chernabog in existence, and wow is it a beaut! The character was animated by Bill Tytla, who had meant to be inspired by the poses of Bela Lugosi, who had been brought in for visual reference. Instead, he used Night on Bald Mountain director Wilfred Jackson’s shirtless poses to create the images he needed.

Both images from Dumbo have added notes and color as part of their drawings. The film won an Oscar for Best Original Score. For folks who love both Dumbo and Lilo and Stitch, they do have something in common. Both used watercolor backgrounds extensively as part of their artistic aesthetic.

We hope any who are interested in great original art from Walt Disney that carries significant historical significance will contact us about acquiring these lovelies. Remember that these images are subject to availability, so check with us! Meanwhile, we hope to see you this Saturday between 2-5pm!