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!
In the latest Disney Fine Art release, there is a wonderful collection premiered by Heather Edwards, and it’s all VILLAINS! Heather has been creating beautiful fantasy art from the beginning of her career, and became an official Disney artist over a decade ago. Her originals are snapped up before they’re even released, or are done as commissions. Every piece she creates is full of symbolism, often has hidden images, and, of course, hidden Mickeys! I’ll be writing a separate blog specifically speaking to each of her pieces and the symbols, images, and Easter eggs she includes, but first, collectors should get to know her as a person and as an artist, and see her new collection!
I spoke to Heather about her life in art, her inspiration, and her new collection, The Heather Edwards Graphite Collection, which is full of tasty, flamboyant “baddie” characters that don’t get nearly enough attention. Perfect for October and the coming of Halloween!
Leslie of ArtInsights: How did you get your start with Disney?
Heather Edwards: Well, this is a bit of a longish story. First thing’s first, while I loved watching Disney animated films growing up, I never dreamt of being a Disney artist. I was more interested in painting animals and horses and such. It wasn’t until I had been convinced to take my adventure into fantastical art that I stumbled, if you will, into the Disney realm. About ten years into my professional art show career, a gentleman crossed paths with me at my booth at SDCC and asked, rather simply, if I had ever created any Disney related artwork or had been interested in it. I told him, “no.” He then proceeded to ask if I would now be interested in doing so. I told him that I probably was not. (Again, I hadn’t ever dreamt of being a Disney artist and didn’t think it would be something I would be interested in–primarily for the fact that I was envisioning doing the animated versions of the characters. I was focused on employing classical realism in my artwork and those two styles are vastly divergent). The gentleman then proceeded to procure his business card to hand to me, on which it read that he was a marketing rep with Disney and he told me that if I was ever interested that I should give him a call. Lol, if I have a super power, it is the uncanny ability to put my foot in my mouth. Anyway, I took the card and he walked away. As it happens, a very good friend of mine who had watched all of this go down encouraged me to send some sketches to the Disney rep–but only in a style that was entirely my own, which was to bring the characters to life in a way that brought both reality and classical merit. So I did. There was much back and forth over the course of 18 months where things didn’t seem to go anywhere, and then, poof, the emails went silent. I didn’t know what to do. My good friend again advised “just do”. So I painted up Cinderella’s New Day (Cinderella), Elegant Warrior (Mulan), and Her Father’s Daughter (Merida).
Happily, everybody loved them and images of them went viral online after being hung (exactly two years after my first encounter with the Disney rep) at SDCC the year that I finished them. A month later we were hanging the same originals (plus I See the Light – Rapunzel) at the D23 Expo.
That’s where the paintings caught the eye of the folks at Disney Fine Art. A contract was the next step. And the rest is history.
Who are some of your role models as an artist and as a person?
I’m not sure I would say that any artist is particularly a “role model”—albeit I thoroughly admire their work and creativity and that inspires me. As for a role model as a person, I can unequivocally say that a very fine friend of mine by the name of Connie Lane is a star in my mind. She is the epitome of kindness, grace, strength and integrity—everything I am striving to become. Not to mention she was personally an Ambassador to Walt Disney while he was alive. Yeah, then there’s that. 🙂
Who are some of your favorite creators right now that inspire you?
My favorite creators right now are still probably the ones I’ve had for a very long time. I love the styling and sensitivity of the PreRaphaelites of the late 19th century. I also love the vast number of Renaissance artists that were their roots. That being said, however, I am daily delving into modern creative sources in order to find new ways to express my ideas. There has been no one singular artist or one singular style that has grabbed me, per se; I let an image strike me in the moment. I then ask myself why I stopped to look closer at it and if it is something that resonates, I let it “stay.”
I understand that your experiences being raised in and loving nature has had a huge impact on your work as an artist. Can you talk about that a bit?
Absolutely! There are many things my parents taught me growing up, but when it comes to art (and life, I guess!) one of the most impactful things I learned was to be observant and to find beauty in everything. Living a rather sheltered childhood meant that this was focused on my surroundings—and I preferred the out-of-doors. Unlike several of my siblings, during summers off of school, I would wake up as the sun rose to watch the effects the changing light had on and through the blades of grass in the lawn. I would examine the rust on the old metal porch chairs and sleep outside on stormy nights to study the ever-morphing clouds, inhale the moisture in the air and feel the reverberation of thunder. These are just the tiny number of things that I still enjoy doing, and all of it—visual, tactile, audial, etc—has an effect on the way in which I create.
Please give us an idea of a day in your life as a painter, what your process or your daily regimen is as an artist?
No two days are the same for me, honestly. But usually, it’s wake up, feed the cats and dog, take the dog for a walk, put the house in order, pick some weeds, smell some roses… yup, I still take time to observe the sunlight coming through the variegated purple leaves of my canna lilies, et al… make sure that everyone at home has what they need to succeed for the day, and then I head to my studio. You’d think that I would sit right down and get to painting when I get there, but no. There are emails to answer and bills to pay, orders to fulfill and a fire to light under my chair so I get motivated to get to work. When that finally has a chance to happen, I drop into my “zone” and nothing can stop me from painting until all the energy for it has left me for the day. Some days that’s 12 hours. Some days that’s one hour. For me, though, I cannot “surface” paint. I truly have to be in a creative “zone” in order to be successful. This requires a level of mental gymnastics to purge my brain of everything else so that I can focus fully on what’s in front of me. A meditation of sorts. Depending on the day, this can take a while or it can happen almost immediately. But once I’m where I need to be, it is very easy to let the creative juices flow.
How does music play a role in your creative experience? (or does it?) what kinds of songs do you play while painting or what most inspires your muse?
Music (or the lack thereof) is extremely important to my creative experience. I find that with certain creative endeavors, only a certain type of music will do. Music definitely sets a mood and it lends strength to the stories that are being told in my artwork. Generally, I go for instrumentals as I find that lyrics have a tendency to draw me away from my task at hand, and these can range from dramatic classical symphonies to drop-into-the-background game soundtracks. But sometimes, it actually brings more success when I have the opposite, such as alternative rock, jazz, or international music. Other times, if I have anything playing (let alone any noise at all), I am so distracted that I cannot accomplish anything I am trying to do. During those times, I literally meditate the entire time I am painting.
You are a mom with a big family. How do you balance your family with your artistry and how do those experiences feed each other?
Being a mom with a big family has been both a challenge and a blessing. Being able to work a flexible schedule—and up until recently, working from home—definitely helped. But it also made it hard, lol. Trying to paint while you’ve got a pair of identical toddlers crawling and climbing into trouble at any given moment keeps you on your toes (and away from painting)! Traveling for art shows used to be difficult, especially when there were little ones to tote around with me or leave behind with sitters. Now that the kids are grown (the youngest twins are now 16), things run a bit more smoothly. Both my art/career and family have had direct influences on each other, though. Some of my kids have latched onto that creativity and are running with it, and have even made notable money at it. And there is no question that my kids/family have influenced my work—as simply as some of my children being models for me, to full paintings being inspired by experiences I have had individually with them and that we have had as a whole family.
Where did the “DOG and DRAGON” name come from and what is it in reference to?
Before I married my husband now, we both owned and operated separate creative businesses. When we came together, we decided that we wanted something that was “ours”. One night at a Chinese restaurant while waiting for our food to arrive, we chatted over the Chinese zodiacs that they always put on the table as a place setting for diners. We discovered that he was a “dog” and I was a “dragon”. It kind of rolled off the tongue and we thought it sounded cool, so it stuck.
Who is your favorite Disney character? Why?
My favorite Disney character has always been Mulan.
The initial response I get from most people why that might be is usually for the fact that she’s strong and bold and doesn’t need a prince to save her. Absolutely, I agree, one hundred percent. However, it goes far deeper than that for me. Mulan truly resonated with me because I felt very intimately a version of her predicament. I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere. I was confused at who and what I should be and my role in family, community and society. I felt I understood my purpose, but didn’t at the same time. Like her, I have felt, and sometimes still do feel, conflicted about a future that is unknown. Yet, from Mulan I took courage and decided to fight against my fears and the expectations of negative influences around me and make my dreams happen instead—and I always will.
In your non-Disney fantasy art, you use a lot of symbolism. There are symbols in your Disney art, too? Can you give us a few examples?
Hahaha, I can’t seem to help myself when it comes to symbolism in my artwork, whether my Disney or independent work. A couple of examples? In Sewn in His Shadow, (Peter Pan and Wendy) there are symbols of Wendy’s journey and purpose in this painting.
I like to capture transitional moments and here Wendy is contemplating “growing up”, becoming a young woman, and in a way, leaving behind being a child. Amongst all the other visual indications of this, the symbol of it is found in the design of the rug beneath the two figures—of blossoming flowers from buds. In the painting Dig a Little Deeper, (Tiana, from The Princess and the Frog) the symbolism of the dreams of the characters of the film and how they conflict and/or coincide are found in the beignets, Tiana’s father’s copper pot and the background Art Nouveau design work of lily pads. There is, of course, much more to the explanation of that symbolism, but that’s it in a nutshell.
Did the pandemic have an impact on your creativity or your artistic perspective?
The pandemic, in and of itself (whether that be Covid-19 or the shutdown), did not have an impact on either my creativity or my artistic perspective, or furthermore, on the business aspect of creating (although it did shift). I just kept on painting and creating and doing the things I always did—only with a mask on, lol. Although, when I think back on it, in 2019 I had begun to tire of attending so many art shows and had thought to cut several, if not most, from my schedule. But when there weren’t any shows to attend for the next year and a half, I discovered how much I missed connecting with people! On the flip side, some of the unexpected aftermath of the pandemic (which I will refrain from enumerating here), did however have a lasting impact on my art, both in content and in the way I produce.
Let’s talk about your new releases of villains. First, what inspired you to create the series?
To be absolutely honest, what inspired these pieces was a bit of pressure from Disney Fine Art, ha! My new paintings, especially the Disney ones, sell almost immediately after they are completed. Because of that, whenever I end up at Disney shows (like Festival of the Arts in Orlando or D23 in Anaheim) I rarely have something by way of originals to offer to people. I’ve done nine of the Villains in the Graphite Series so far (six are released) and the first three were done for a gallery show. The following six were done a few months later for Festival of the Arts. All of them were done while either in a hotel or on an airplane under the stress of finishing them in time for those shows.
Can you go through and talk about each of these images: What did you seek to capture in each of the characters?
In hopes of not offending any of my audience who adore the Villains, but being entirely honest at the same time, I will state the following. I have never been a fan of putting the Villains as central figures of any of my paintings. The reasons are several, but the main thing is that, while I enjoy watching their characters in film and understand the subtle nuances of any multifaceted character, whether “good” or “bad”, I do not wish to immortalize any such character or glorify their villainy in paint. Perhaps that may seem a little harsh, but it is the way I feel and I always try to go with my gut. In creating the drawings of the Villains for the Graphite Series, instead of “bringing them into this world” as I try to do with my other character paintings, what I sought to capture in each of the characters was their “essence”—to give them life and reality, but stay accurate to their Disney design. With this approach, I believe that I am staying true to my core feelings on the subject and yet can fill a niche that folks have been wanting me to fill for a long time.
What were the challenges or ease of creating them?
I suppose the biggest challenge for creating them was doing them justice while at the same time refraining from overemphasizing their negative aspects. The easy part was the actual work. I spent years and years as a pencil artist, so returning to graphite was like “going home”. I love drawing.
What do you love about each of them?
Life’s Full of Tough Choices (Ursula):
I love Ursula’s tentacles! Of course, I love doing anything wildlife related, so this was pure joy.
A Most Gratifying Day (Maleficent):
I think my favorite thing about this image of Maleficent and Diablo is capturing their contemptuous expressions. Kind of a challenge with a bird.
Everybody’s Got a Weakness (Hades):
Hades’ contemplative frustration combined with the posing, wrinkles and even bloodshot eyes got me on this one. Even Villains struggle.
Friends on the other Side (Facilier):
I really liked the lighting on this one.
I’m Afraid I’ll Have to Destroy You (Mim):
Unlike most of the Villains, I don’t actually think of Madam Mim as a Villain. She’s more mischievous than anything and I think that’s why I like her so much. And she’s funny. And terribly underrepresented.
Let the Games Begin (Queen of Hearts):
With this one, it was fun to take a very simple character design (compared to many of the other Villains) and make her alive and full of complexity.
You can see all Disney art by Heather Edwards HERE.
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!
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: