Posts Tagged ‘Walt Disney’


Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

–Let’s Go Fly a Kite, Richard and Robert Sherman


I thought it might be time start showing some work from my upcoming solo show, From a Distance, that opens July 15 at the West End Gallery in Corning. There are definitely different takes on a variety of themes in this show so deciding which piece should kick off the process was tough. But given the many current events– or should I say disasters?– taking place in this country, I thought the painting here at the top would be a gentle starter.

The idea of flying a kite seems so much more preferable than going into the closet and screaming into the darkness.

The title of this piece is Let’s Go Fly a Kite, borrowed, of course, from the song of that name from the 1964 Walt Disney film, Mary Poppins. It’s a wonderful song that aptly captures the idea of putting aside your problems and releasing yourself to soar with your kite high above and far removed from worldly problems. I hope that is what one gets from this piece, whose image is sized at 10″ by 16″ and framed and matted at 16″ by 22″.

I never saw Mary Poppins as a kid nor did I read the books. I came to both in middle age, actually. But even so, the magic of both remained intact.  a few years back I came across a large single volume that contained all of author  P.L. TraversMary Poppins books and decided that it might be worth reading. I am glad I did. It was funny and touching and engaging on many levels. Just a great read. Made me regret not being interested in them as a kid.

I thought I would share the song here but decided to not show the one from the film. Instead, I am taking the version from another Disney film, Saving Mr. Banks. This film, starring Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, is the story of how Disney wooed the crusty Travers who was dead set against him making her book into a movie. She steadfastly opposed every and any change to her baby and thought the idea of a Disney musical treatment of her story was beyond the pale.

This version comes at a point in the Saving Mr. Banks film where she is near making a decision to withhold the filming rights from Disney. She is called into the work studio of the Sherman Brothers, the legendary songwriting team that wrote  many of the best known Disney tunes along with scores of other songs for other artists. Up to this point, Travers has been disdainful of their work that they have previously presented her for the film and in a final attempt to sway her, they perform the song Let’s Go Fly a Kite for her.

It’s a lovely turning point in the film and a nice version of the song as well. So, for a while at least, put aside thoughts of pandemics, of racial divides, of a treasonous and derelict president and all the other horrors that come as part and parcel of the current apocalypse, and think about the giddy thrill of watching your kite take to the air.

Soar with it for a bit. Or a little longer, if need be.


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dr-seuss-new-years-day-cover-1931I thought that the image from this cover painted by Dr. Seuss for Judge magazine for its first issue of 1931 might fit today’s situation here in the USA, at least in the view of many folks.  It shows a New Year’s reveler waking up to find a creature in his bed.  The prior night–the year before– it had looked pretty good.  Lots of fun and lots of promises of all the things it would do for him. But here in the bright light of the New Year he realizes that the party is over now and he is left with a monster on his hands — and little idea of what to do with it.

What comes next with this strange creature we have found in our bed?

I also thought long and hard about what music I wanted to use for this first Sunday Morning Music of 2017.  I wanted it to be as optimistic as possible given the circumstances of having a strange critter in our bed.  I thought that the first version of Singin’ in the Rain might fit the bill just perfectly.

It was from 1929 and was a number one hit for performer Cliff Edwards, better known as Ukelele Ike, who had a number of hits through the 20’s and 30’s.  While the name Ukelele Ike may not seem familiar in any way I have no doubt you have heard his voice at some point.  He was the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney’s Pinocchio and is the voice of the song When You Wish Upon a Star.

This version is from one of the first musicals from MGM in the talkie era, The Hollywood Revue of 1929.  You most likely know the song from the later and great musical of the same name ( which featured the recently passed Debbie Reynolds) but this is a great version.  It has a forward looking outlook despite the wet and dreary circumstances of the moment.  Just what people would be needing in the years after 1929.

And 2017.

Remember that it’s an old piece of film and try to look past the somewhat crude production values of the time.  It was cutting edge back then.  And it’s still a great piece of film now.

Oh, I also enclosed another Ukelele Ike number from a 1935 film, Starlit Days at the Lido.  It’s an early Technicolor film so it looks worlds different than the first film.  The song is Hang on to Me which is also a great song for the moment.

Enjoy! Take a look then let’s get to work and get that thing out of our bed!

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Eyvind Earle

I  was asked by artist and teacher Dave Higgins to sit in on one of his classes at the local community college last week, to critique an assignment he had given his students.  It was a class that focused on creating digital graphics and animations using primarily Photoshop.  The assignment was to make a graphic based upon one of two subjects.  One choice was to select any sign of the zodiac and the other was based on the term red tree.  For red tree, he gave the students no indication of my work , just the phrase.

This was an entry level course but the work was wonderfully creative.  Of course, being a class of mainly 18 and 19 year-olds, there was a fair amount of angst and morbidity expressed in images of death and plenty of blood.  But the work was great.  I could find something of value in each student’s work, something that showed a real spark of imagination and inspiration.  One of the students who has chose red tree had a simple composition of a weeping willow (that weeped blood!) set on a mound.  Very simple but well done.

The color of the mound set against the silhouette of the willow immediately reminded me of the work of Eyvind Earle.  Earle was an artist/illustrator who died in 2000 at age 84.  He was a child prodigy and had his first one man show at age 14 .  He exhibited his work in shows for many years but gained fame through his stylized Christmas cards throught the years and with his time spent working with Walt Disney in the 50’s and 60’s as a background artist.  He was responsible for the look of many of the animated films of that time from Disney, including the classic Sleeping Beauty.  Shown here is some of Earle’s work from that film.

 I came across his work about the time of his death, seeing ads in framing magazines for prints of his highly stylized paintings.  There was something  very familiar and attractive in the work and upon reading his bio I saw the connection between this recognition and his work from having absorbed it in as the settings and backgrounds for many Disney animations I had seen as a kid.  It was very attractive work, very much of the graphic rather than painterly variety.  Strong colors and great and unusual juxtapositions of compositional elements.  Tree limbs extending into the picture like an arm reaching into the center of the image.  Very evocative as well.  It was easy to see how it was so successful in setting the tone for the action that ran across it in the Disney films and how something like it could have subliminally influenced a young student, or me, over the years.

Here’s a short animation that highlights more of Earle’s work.  I believe this is Russian-made so excuse the error in the title as they switched the names around making him Earle Eyvind instead.  I think you’ll feel that same familarity even though you may never had heard the name Eyvind Earle.

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This is the image I was searching for the other day when I was distracted by the portrait of Willie Nelson.  This is a scene from the very early 20th century at the railroad station in Forestport, NY, in the lower part of the Adirondacks.  It’s where my great-grandfather had his logging operations back then and maintained a home as well as a couple of other businesses.

As I’ve read about that area and that time I am struck by the contrast between then and now.  If you drive through the Adirondacks you encounter town after small town, all sleepy little affairs with hardly anyone around except for the seasonal tourists.  Forestport is one of those towns.  But back in the day, Forestport was a buzzing, vibrant town.  It had numerous mills, processing the trees coming from the Adirondack wilderness to supply the lumber to build the growing cities of the northeast.  There were huge numbers of loggers going into the forests every day — my gr-grandfather had 250 lumberjacks working for him at one time.  There were canal workers that transported the lumber with mules and horses down the Black River Canal to the Erie Canal.  There were boat-builders there who built the barges that traveled the canals and carriage builders to make wagons to haul logs and people.  These workers spawned a whole support network that created cheese factories, breweries, retail stores, restaurants and taverns, all employing numbers of other workers.

Everything was local, nearly everything produced nearby.  Ironically, the very canal and later highway system that allowed the town to ship out the resources that allowed it to grow were the beginning of the end, as new products from outside the local area were now easily shipped in on these transportation portals.  Products became more regional then national and most of the products consumed were no longer local in any sense of the word.

As the forests depleted from the voracious cutting, there were fewer and fewer loggers.  Fewer and fewer mills.  The canal was replaced by the railroad at first then the highway so the canal workers and boatbuilders became obsolete.  The newly popular car and truck replaced the local carriage builders.  And with the loss of these workers came the end of the need for the businesses that supplied and supported them.  The cheese factories closed.  The stores and restaurants were boarded up.  Slowly, the town dwindled until all that remained was sleepy little burgh that wouldn’t be recognizable to the residents from that time.

I’m not saying this time or that time was better or that it’s a crying shame that this place no longer is the same.  Things change.  For many reasons.  There are thousands of places like Forestport throughout the northeast and spreading through the midwest of this country, towns that are like little dying planets whose heyday has passed.

The interesting thing for me is that bustling, life-filled world is barely remembered, only existing in a few photos and a few writings.  Makes me wonder how what we view now as the centerpoints of our lives will change and if, a century from now, this time will exist only in memories and images that may be of little interest to the citizens of that time.

Of course, Ted Williams, Walt Disney and I will be there to remind the people then of this time, after they revive us from our cryogenically induced naps.

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