Thursday, August 31, 2006

ED BENEDICT...So Long, Chum! We'll Miss Ya!!!

sorry for the double post today. i just wanna say something about a swell fella...

for those of you who haven't heard or aren't aware of animation stuff, the world lost a great man this week. i received a call from Amid Amidi ( yesterday filling me in on the news...thanks amid!

Ed Benedict is absolutely one of my top heroes and very thankfully, a teriffic friend. as much as we (in the disneyland blogs) all love the visual candy of Disneyland, Ed was the reason for a great deal of visual candy in animation. i don't like pigeon holing Ed into just Hanna-Barbera for why he is so great but it was probably his most prolific legacy.

if you fancy the clean goodness that is early HB work such as Ruff n Reddy, Huck Hound, Yogi and Boo-Boo, Quick Draw McGraw among others, then you too are a fan of Ed Benedict. my fav however, is his incredible work on the Flintstones. wow, was that stuff great. honestly, as far as cartoons go, first season Flintstones is about as close as you're gonna get to visual nirvana. it's the most charming, enveloping, innovative and expressive design i've ever run across. his work has certainly a big impact on pop culture. iconic to say the least...
i met Ed about 15 years ago through my mentor, John Kricfalusi. John and i met when i was still attending Cal Arts and we hit it off for a bunch of reasons, but none more so than our love of HB cartoons. back in the late 80s, i was in the minority among animation students for loving HB stuff so much. most people were on a Bluth/Disney Little Mermaid kick. the visual heroin that surged in our veins was intense while we marveled Ed's great design work.

John had finally tracked down the elusive Ed B. and eventually invited him over to Spumco while we did the first season of Ren and Stimpy. i peed my panatones for sure when John dragged Ed over to my desk. what a thrill it was meeting this, this....this GOD! wow, not only is Ed a real guy, but he looks like one of his characters! Ed usually had at least seven planes of perspective on his body at any given time...just like his characters!

eventually, Ed and I became close pals and I visited him and his wonderful wife, Alice several times up in Carmel, Ca. each visit was a marathon of theory and appreciative critique of anything under the sun. when i was approached by the folks at Turner Publishing to participate in the creation of the Flinstone Book from the mid nineties, i made sure they gave credit where credit was due. the author and several others from Turner visited Ed a few times and gave him a fitting place in the book.

around that time, Ed, in his late 80's did these fantastic Flinstone drawings for me. man, i don't know about you but there's not many people in their 20s and 30s who can draw that well!

here's a shot (taken by Alice Benedict) of Ed forging one of those drawings on his anvil of art. wot a guy!

anyhow, just wanted to say something about Ed...he was one of the good ones!

here's a few links to other blogs about Ed's work and life. there's a few great interviews by John K. done for the Flintstone laserdisc set that are certainly worth the read. you can see the admiration and fun ribbing John gives that old coot as he squirms away from praise...great stuff!

Ed Benedict/John K Interview

also, here's a short piece on Ed i did for Amid's Animation Blast a few years ago:

"My Pal, Ed"

well, that's it. Ed, it was great to know ya. i sure you're already up there in that great split-level boulder in the sky, figuring out what's wrong with it and letting everybody know it!

cheers, you old curmudgeon!!!!!!
Once Upon A Time, The Disney Company Celebrated Artists!

in the immortal words of that learned scholar, Curly Howard, "Truth is stranger than fiction, Judgy-wudgy!"

yes, i kid you not. the organization that is currently The Disney Company once thought artists were the bees-knees. sure, Walt took official credit for the films and other creative product that the studio churned out, but i honestly believe the oft quoted theory that he did it out of marketing strategy rather than ego. in fact, Walt was one of the first studio producers to lavish some screen credit to his artistic staff on main titles none-the-less.

there are many who complain he didn't do enough. honestly, sit down and zip it. i'd GLADLY take a man-sized can of Walt abuse any day to the types of neglect and underappreciation that goes on in the film biz today.

Walt knew that the public was connected to art. whether they be rednecks fresh off the farm or sophisticates atop some lofty, urbane high-horse, Disney wanted them all to know his films were special because they celebrated art. commercial, yes. middle of the road, absolutely!

Walt Disney was about accessibility. in the animation art world, there are so many that knock Disney because of that. those people will never be happy and search out fault in practically anything. yeah, i love Clampett what? should i hate Walt because of it?

screw you! I LOVE WALT and his middle of the road trajectory!

all i know is, Walt Disney took the theory of accessibility, caressed it to earn the public trust, and lead them on paths they never would have taken on their own. i could go down the list of huge risks such as the concept of feature cartoons, Fantasia, early-QUALITY television, but that's another story...

to me, Disneyland was the ultimate experimental art theory of all time! a three dimensional film that would be totally emmersive. literally, theater in the round!

most of all, it was designed by ARTISTS. not by committee. not by focus groups. and most certainly, not hijacked by people who had no business making creative decisions. Walt had good, sound IDEAS and built a team of artists whom he TRUSTED to run with those sound ideas. many times, these people weren't aware themselves of what they could do. Walt knew.

hey! let's look at this drawing by Herb Ryman. here's a guy who dabbled in animation, fine art and live action studio art direction. yet, he wasn't an environmental theme park least not back in 1953. Walt knew what he was capable of. This Tomorrowland concept rendering is done just like a cartoon layout. in fact, it's even done on punched animation pan paper. this is from 1953.

now, here's an image from Tomorrowland 1956. it's the opposite side of the street but it shows the close, filmic blocking that came directly from a Disney studio artist, as he imagined it. all this without 300 meetings to figure out if they should do it..."does the accountant like it?"..."why are we are giving this big creative choice to a lowly artist?"

Walt was not an artist in the classical sense. however, he was a creative thinker and a fantastic artistic facilitator. he was the ultimate studio general who was well aware of his creative arsenal and absolutely knew what it was capable of.

not only that, he was well aware that letting those great, hand picked artists do their thing would make money for his company and make his own creative dreams come true.

going back the the first pic in this post...Walt really didn't need to have a special "Disney Artist Exhibit" at Disneyland. its sorta redundant. DISNEYLAND was THE DISNEY ARTIST EXHIBIT itself!!!!

to the Walt Disney Company and the rest of the studios in town: harbor your them that they know what they are doing. give creative responsibility to them and try not to second guess it too much. it worked well for Walt. it can for you too!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

SEX! Disneyland-style!

Disneyland was just plain sexy! call it what you will, but the park peddled lots and lots of sex. as unintentional as it may have been, 1950s and 60s Disneyland was a very sexual in its presentation.

wonderlands of corsets and bras, orally fixated whales...hell, even the early park layout had a womb-like nature to its triangular design.

certainly, figures such as the riding-crop weilding Disneyland Tour Hostesses fit into this naughty but nice concept.

perhaps no land best took advantage of this primal theme than Tomorrowland.

just gander at the gleaming, erect rocket as the main symbolic theme. whoa. down boy!

i mean, really...Walt wasn't kidding when he called these visual icons "weenies".

perhaps these two (L) are on their way to Stovall's, Space Age Lodge for a futuristic rendevous?

now check this fine representative of the future (R): accurately dressed for educational purposes only i gather!

all i know is, that's a future i want to live for!

the only thing sexy about the Tomorrowland of today is that it will hopefully be torn out and rented for more hot pin trading stations! YES!!!!! nothing drips sex more than a fully appointed lanyard, baby!

now, here's the ultimate in Tomorrowland electric dreams...The Sub Lagoon Mermaids!!!!! i don't know about you, but i could live with no attraction in the Tomorrowland Lagoon for my $56 if they at least returned the mermaids as temporary place holders.

in fact, Disneyland was so proud of the Sub Mermaids that they returned full time in the late 60's after their brief introduction in 1959. below is a rare news wire photo featuring two of the sexiest half human/half fish creatures i ever saw! not only did they feature real, naked flesh in the sunshine instead of flesh colored leotards, but they wore lacey bras instead of bulky seashells or swim tops! that my friends, was entertainment!!!

the park is so soul-less now, it's hard for me to go anymore. it seems all the fun, all the value and most certainly, all the sex has been completely drained from Walt's wonderland. it's been about four years since i've been there and i really don't miss it. it's probably why i've immersed myself so much in the park's past. all i know is, i ain't gwoin' back until i get some of the old fashioned sales techniques that made the park such a stimulating themed experience.

so, the next time you blow a wad on admission to the current Disneyland, make sure to bring your imagination. you're going to need it to find joy in those bronze colored-empty ride areas and flesh leotarded women.

and when you pass the empty sub lagoon that your admission paid for, be sure to wave towards the coral reef in the distance...the memory of those sexy mermaids is waving back at ya and saying, "wish we were here!"

Monday, August 28, 2006

BACKSTAGE: Disneyland '56!!

well, here we are jaunting down the 5 freeway, one exit away from Disneyland 1956! here, we follow a tour group of either a small town rotary club or secret members of the german american bund...i'm not quite sure. all i know is, as usual in 1950s slides of Disneyland, kids are far outnumbered by adults!

this slide you may have seen thru our pal, Chris Merritt but i never got around to doing picture correction to it. just one of the many reasons why i dreaded starting this blog stuff! it opens a can of worms in a life that already has too many excuses for procrastination!

that said, this image is of the heliport and what must have been an alternate tour bus entrance behind tomorrowland. backstage images such as these are a real treat for Diz fans as they give ya a glimpse into the seedy underworld just outside the berm that makes it all work. if anyone has shots of backstage cast members staging cock fights or tossing dice, now is your chance!

here, our swingers disembark for their happy day...don't they look happy? for those wise guys out there, no, those aren't the grand tetons or the nuclear reactors outside of san diego. sheesh! i'll have you know those melons hold our future!

here's another amazing shot. sure, go ahead! walk all over the loose lumber piles and gardens of rusty nails! we're Walt's Disneyland in the 1950s! lawsuit? what the hell's that? we're all here to have fun!!!

ah, the good ol' days!

Backstage: DISNEYLAND '59

here's a nice shot in volley for the great July 17th opening day parade images we saw on Patrick and Marjor P's over the last couple of weeks.

this is a 'backstage' image of the video cameras setting up for live coverage of the 'Kodak presents Disneyland '59' telecast on June 14th, 1959.

this was considered the second opening of the park as so many new features had been added. Art Linkletter again hosted the show as master of ceremonies as he did in 1955.

things are heating up as the camera crew readies for a sequence at the Mark Twain/Columbia dock queue.

also, here's a pic of a press pass for that day's event...

now here's a request all you disneyland collectors: anyone have a copy of the 90 minute live telecast from that day? we've all seen the 'Gala Day at Disneyland' theatrical film but no one i know has ever seen this footage. even Art Linkletter told me he's never seen it. i asked Dave Smith a few years back and he too said he's not aware of its existence.

i'll bet that show would be every bit as neat to watch as 'Dateline Disneyland'...

c'mon you guys! pony up!!!!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

thanks for the welcome gents!

i hope to make a routine outta this at some point. i'll have to get some tips from you patrick. i'm sure there's a way to build a good pattern.

i really like the theme you guys tend to other words, stay on one subject for a few days. i'll try to start scanning with that in mind. so few of my slides are scanned.

that said, i'm going to post a slide that has absolutely nothing to do with george mcginnis...unless he likes buffalo.

i had dinner last nite at the 'saddle peak lodge' in the topanga canyon/calabassas hills area yesterday. i highly recommend to any disneyland fan as its an old hunting lodge converted to a restaurant. feels VERY frontierland! they specialize in game meats and i had a pile of buffalo which reminded me of this slide!

now, how cool was disneyland? a live buffalo display right in the center of frontierland! think of huge the effect on little davy crockett would-be was to see an actual, live buffalo just a few feet from some actual, live injuns? in the early years, disneyland took great lengths to encapsulate what one would experience in a cross-counrty/roadside america tourist trip for each land.

with this in mind, i'll start searching for rare shots of frontierland which had all kinds of surprises back in the day!

thanks again for the welcome!!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

otay! so it begins! i toss my hat into the burning ring of blog!

what we have here is a testament to one of my favorite Disney designers of all time: George McGinnis!

it goes without saying what tremendous individual talents went into the shaping of Walt Disney's master concept, Disneyland. i'm sucha harcore fan of Walt and his team that i won't even attempt to touch upon that overall appreciation right now.

many of the thoughts found here are my own opinion and are written from that perspective. i absolutely invite everyone to correct my missed facts or misguided thoughts on a given subject. these blog posts are about my impressions of the given subjects and should be taken in editorial context.

for this first entry on my blog, i pulled an image (from an original slide) that showcases what magic can happen when so few are able to design so much: i give you the 1967-1977 Tomorrowland in Disneyland, USA! many were involved in the creation of this white washed, streamlined world of the future yet none had such a creative voice as the master Imagineer, George McGinnis.

this slide showcases the perfect blend of late 1970s Space Mountain with the late 1960s Apollo vision of the Rocket Jets ride. seemless to be sure but there is a common thread between these decade wide counterparts....

Disneyland's 'World of the Future' in 1955 was in many ways, outdated before the ceremonial ground was broken in 1954. this has absolutely no bearing on the wonderful artists and visionaries who designed this promising glimpse into the future, yet 1955-1966 Tomorrowland was in many ways, following the curve of futurist visions before it.

by 1967, a new voice had become paramount at the Glendale , Ca offices of WED Enterprises and that voice was allowed to sing out in absolute clarity. McGinnis was a new generation of Imagineer. one of the many Art Center grads (like Bob Gurr before him) who jumped into the field with fresh ideas and enthusiasm for something that seemed to fade in the post Sputnik area of scientific practicality: STYLE! George McGinnis took industrial design at Disney theme parks away from the freeform approach of tailfins and atomic symbols and steered it in the direction of moderne futurists such Saul Bass, Raymond Loewy, Eero Saarinen and Bob McCall.

this first post is mainly a stab to get my feet wet. as i get caught up in the blogging process, i'll try to add to the string of McGinnis appreciation and move ahead into another of my favorite Disney theme destination projects: 1982-85 EPCOT Center!!!!!
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