Dec 20, 2011

Merry Christmas from a couple of legends

A Christmas card from Ray and Charles Eames
Last night for their season finale, the PBS series American Masters aired a new documentary about the work and lives of Charles and Ray Eames, called "America's most important and influential American designers" in the PBS description--a claim I'd be hard pressed to argue with. Watch the trailer for the film here:

Bob Wirth
There's a brief shot of the two working around what looks for all the world like Ward Kimball's train room, though I'm pretty sure that's just a coincidence of layout and fun functional organization. Who knows. Most famous for their eponymous chair, the couple did much more than that, and if you don't already know them, you should. Everything about this pair seems stimulating.

Also displayed are two other holiday cards that were sent to the couple, from the collection of the Library of Congress:
Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock

Dec 17, 2011

Icons of Animation-another great Fred Moore piece going, going...

Profiles In History's "Icons of Animation" auction is happening right now, 11am PST, Saturday the 17th, so you still have a shot at acquiring the Fred Moore piece pictured above.
[5pm PST: it sold for the low-end estimate of $3,000]

Dec 15, 2011

Christmas in Manhattan, 1934 imagined by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Woody Van Dyke, inspired by Dashiell Hammett and interpreted by Myrna Loy, William Powell and Asta, I give you Christmas morning with the Charles family.

Dec 13, 2011

A Merry Christmas from Disney's in 1955

 This is a repost of one of my earliest entries, shortly after I began this blog in 2005. I think it suits the season and so merits an encore.

This is the front of the Disney Studio's 1955 Christmas card.  It's quite a beautifully done thing; printed on a soft, high-quality paper, it's a large card that opens into a double-spread of the brand-spanking-new Disneyland, with a calendar running down the sides.  I was unable to scan the entire thing, as it's just a bit longer than my scanner is.  Great artwork--I don't know whose...anyone have any ideas?

May your fifty-years-on New Year be merry and bright!

Dec 8, 2011


Although it won't be on shelves for another seven months, last week Amazon put up the cover art and a short description for "The Art Of Brave", which I had the pleasure of authoring. It's going to be quite a beautiful book, one that I only wish could have been twice as long as its 160 pages. I'll write more about it here as publication time draws nearer.

In other Brave-related news, Brenda Chapman began using Twitter and has started a Tumblr blog. There's not much there yet as she only just began it, but it does link to a new, very good two-part interview with Brenda on the site Pixar Portal. Her thoughts on art, work and storytelling are a must-read.

Nov 15, 2011

The Story Man, or Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Heck Allen, Tex Avery's story man, in 1953. He stands outside the MGM animation building. This and many others are from Michael Barrier's indispensable animation history blog .

It's always a little startling to look at color images from periods of history that we're used to seeing in only grey tones, especially scenes and people engaged in ordinary, everyday pursuits. Just about the only color photographs one does see are holiday snaps which are usually not the best quality. So what a pleasure, and how fascinating, to be treated to glimpses of the MGM animation staff taken on 35mm color slide film, by the late, great Ed Benedict.
Ed gave his slides and other photographs to Michael Barrier for inclusion in his book of animation history, "Hollywood Cartoons". They didn't make it in then, but happily can now be enjoyed gratis thanks to Mike's posting them here:
Michael Barrier's unpublished color photographs of Tex Avery's unit, taken by Ed Benedict.
Even in their early-fifties sartorial splendor of coats and ties, color seems to make the subjects younger, livelier, more real than is usually the case(I'm sure posing for their buddy Benedict didn't hurt either). But what really jolted me from out of the past was the portrait of lanky Heck Allen, gagman extraordinaire, pictured above. The only thing that distinguishes him from story guys walking down the hall from me today is the crease in his pants. History repeats itself-in some things, at least.
And here's the man himself, Tex Avery, from that same collection on Barrier's site. Look at that high stack of scripts-or script notes-or annoying memos from Quimby on the desk. And what's in those boxes to his right?

Go, go, go right away and look and read what else Mike's been posting. I promise you, if you have a real interest in animation history-Disney, Warner Bros, golden age comics-you'll be glad you did.  I always am.

Sep 7, 2011

Fred Moore's 100th

 Moore with his wife Virginia and baby daughter in the late 1930s

Robert Fred Moore, animator, was born on this day, September 7, 1911. 100 years on and his influence is still meaningful in the films he worked on, the characters he helped define, and the effortless joy of his draftsmanship. Happy Birthday, Fred!
Edited to add: I wrote this before seeing the wonderful post Andreas Deja wrote to mark this occasion. Andreas is a great admirer of Fred's work and has one of the finest collections of animation art in private hands-including a large selection of Fred's animation work and personal drawing. The prostrate figure below is one I've never seen before (I'm guessing it came to Andreas through his friend and former colleague, Ollie Johnston). Typically lovely. Head to Andreas' blog to see much more of Fred's art: Deja View

Mar 18, 2011

The Fred Moore Expert: Tim Walker's new book and booksigning

James-also known as Tim-Walker holds one of Fred Moore's original, well-worn pencils, along with a photo of Fred advising Ollie Johnston

One of the oldest friends of the Blackwing Diaries is a gentleman I met through our mutual interest in Fred Moore.  I'd heard of him in the 1990s mentioned at Warner Bros as a guy who knew funny timing--as in Bob Clampettesque funny--so I already liked him, but it wasn't until five years ago, after reading an essay about the late, great Moore on these pages, that we met. He immediately offered to share his amazing collection of Fred's drawings, as well as many of his private photographs, with the readers of this blog.  Talk about riches...

I've known quite a few collectors in my time, some with world-class collections that have taken years and a lot of money and effort to acquire, but it's not terribly common to find one with the open-hearted generosity of Tim Walker.

Tim's an animation artist of the old school, and his puckish sketches are all the more remarkable for having been done by completely re-training himself to draw using his left hand after he began to lose the use of his dominant right hand to the Parkinson's disease.

 Parkinson's is a dread scenario for anyone in any walk of life, and for an artist using his hand and arm in his work it's particularly tough, but Tim refused to stop drawing, forcing himself to use his left hand instead.  That's pretty astonishing, and inspiring.
He's collected a sketchbook of his called "Drawings From The Left, or Parkinson's Pictures", and it's filled with his buoyantly rounded, charming drawings. Tonight from 6:30-9 he's having a signing in Studio City.  Highly recommend you drop in, hang out and chat a bit about drawing, cartoons, or maybe about some of the golden age Disney artists Tim's an expert on.  He's a very cool guy.

Mar 10, 2011

Chouinard Art Institute Redux: Dig This

Some time back I posted a page from a vintage Chouinard course pamphlet. Here's one of the covers:

Chouinard's class catalog, circa 1951
Those were the days at Chouinard-even their disposable, flimsy paper class lists sported designs like this. Two of these were inherited by story artist Justin Hunt via his great-uncle, a student of advertising in 1950, and last month he posted them in their entirety-along with a bit of the history attached-on his blog Buttermilk Skies.
Here's another cover:

Justin has excellent taste and a keen eye for vintage books, especially those that contain great drawing; along those lines he's posted loads of excerpts on his blog. Worth the trip.

Random Fred Moore

While on a Google search for Wilfred Jackson I happened upon this image, part of a terrific post of screen grabs Michael Sporn did back in December. Here, from 1951's "Operation Wonderland", is Fred Moore and Johnny Lounsbery. Artfully lit, they're looking offscreen as they go through the promotional motions, drawing the soundstage antics of the actors used for reference on "Alice In Wonderland".

As an aside, Mark Mayerson comments on Michael's blog that this might be the latest picture of Moore he'd ever seen. I think that distinction might actually belong to this shot of Fred with John Sibley taken outside the Burbank animation building, posted here in 2006(from the collection of James Walker).
In any case, it's hard to believe that the man shown here is barely 40 years old. This is the visible toll years of hardcore drinking can take.

Feb 18, 2011

Walt Disney sends his regrets, 1938

click to enlarge

The original of the letter shown here was an item for sale at the bookshop I once worked in, Larry Edmunds in Hollywood (still there, and still well worth a visit). At $400 dollars my 21 year old self couldn't think of buying it, but at least I made a copy. It must have been a quite a soiree for Walt to have been invited; he certainly took some pains to produce an elegant reply.

The woman he's responding to, Carrie Jacobs Bond, was an author of popular songs famous in the first half of the twentieth century. Wikipedia cites her best-known composition as that wedding stalwart "I Love You Truly", but my favorite would be "A Perfect Day".

I happen to know that one because it's beautifully performed in a favorite film of mine, the Mitchell Leisen-directed "Remember The Night"(1940). For an added Disney Studio connection bonus the singer is none other than Sterling Holloway--the voice of Disney's Cheshire Cat, Kaa and Winnie the Pooh: