Posts Tagged ‘Walt Disney’
* Jonathan Lethem
As we shed pump up the PoMo, we might recall that it was on this date in 1928 that Mickey Mouse made his debut. Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks tested their new character in a silent black-and-white animated short called “Plane Crazy,” loosely based on Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight and the furor it occasioned. On that day, the cartoon was screened for distributors… all of whom passed. Later that year, Disney released Mickey’s first sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie– which was, of course, an enormous success. Following two more Mickey vehicles (The Gallopin’ Gaucho, and The Barn Dance), Plane Crazy was tracked and released as a sound cartoon on March 17, 1929.
“I have had UFO experiences, and yet, at the same time, I can easily be convinced that none of it is true”*…
In 1995, as part of the Walt Disney Company Presents series (that was hosted by Michael Eisner, doing his not-very-successful best to channel Walt), Disney aired “Alien Encounters.” A documentary that opens with footage of “an actual spacecraft from another world, piloted by alien intelligence,” and the pronouncement that “intelligent life from distant galaxies is now attempting to make open contact with the human race,” it only aired once.
* Frank Black (AKA Black Francis, of the Pixies)
As we look to the skies, we might spare a thought for Gertrude Stein; she died on this date in 1946. An American ex-pat, Stein was an author, poet, and memoirist (The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas). But she was probably most impactful and is best remembered as a hostess and mentor to a generation of writers (e.g., Hemingway,described her salon in A Moveable Feast) and artists (e.g., Picasso) in Paris, where– “the mother of us all”**– she held court for forty years.
** The Mother of Us All was the title of a Virgil Thomson opera for which Stein wrote the libretto. And while the subject of the opera, Susan B. Anthony, certainly deserves the epithet, so, many have observed, did its author.
The 2010 Census results are in. The headlines: men are living longer; marriage isn’t.
Since the 2000 census, the number of men in the U.S. increased by 9.9 percent. Woman grew 9.5 percent. There are more men than women under the age of 34, because “more boys than girls tend to be born.”
But above age 85, the number of women is double that of men. Female life expectancy is 80.8 years; male, 75.6 years.
Baby boomers are aging: The 45-plus group grew 25.6 percent since 2000, while the under-45 group only increased 1.4 percent. The median national age was 37.2 years, from 35.3 in 2000. Seven states now have a median age of over 40. Maine is oldest, at 42.7; Utah is youngest, at 29.2.
The share of U.S. households with married couples fell to 48.4 percent, down from 51.7 percent in 2000– the first time the number dropped below 50 percent. In 1950, married couples made up 77 percent of households.
As we do our best to age gracefully, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that Walt Disney’s edifying fable “Three Little Pigs” was released. Winner of the 1934 Academy Award for Best Animated Short, “Three Little Pigs” was ranked #11 on the list of 50 Greatest Cartoons, and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
Practical Pig, Fiddler Pig and Fifer Pig sing “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” (source)
George Packer described in the New York Times what happens to the clothes that one drops with charity…
If you’ve ever left a bag of clothes outside the Salvation Army or given to a local church drive, chances are that you’ve dressed an African. All over Africa, people are wearing what Americans once wore and no longer want. Visit the continent and you’ll find faded remnants of secondhand clothing in the strangest of places. The ”Let’s Help Make Philadelphia the Fashion Capital of the World” T-shirt on a Malawian laborer. The white bathrobe on a Liberian rebel boy with his wig and automatic rifle. And the muddy orange sweatshirt on the skeleton of a small child, lying on its side in a Rwandan classroom that has become a genocide memorial. A long chain of charity and commerce binds the world’s richest and poorest people in accidental intimacy. It’s a curious feature of the global age that hardly anyone on either end knows it.
The circumstantially-ironic commentary of the photos is just a bonus…
More wonderful pix– all shot in November, 2010 in Liberia, West Africa, “where former warlords tend rice paddies and American t-shirts are sold in heaps under the hot African sun”– at Mother Jones‘ “Where Do Goodwill Clothes Go?”
As we appreciate the long reach of the global market, we might recall that it was on this date in 1954 that Walt Disney announced plans for Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Construction was begun on July 21st of that year, and the park opened a year-and-a-day later.
Max Fleischer and his lady love (source)
Max Fleischer and his brother Dave were giants in the history of animation. The most significant competition to Walt Disney in the formative years of the art, they created Betty Boop and Koko the Clown, and brought Bimbo, Popeye, Superman, and Gulliver’s Travels to the screen. Along the way, they invented a number of technologies and techniques that have become essential to the form.
Rotoscope by Max Fleischer, patent drawing from 1914
But possibly the the strangest– and arguably the most wonderful– thing they ever did was this 1923 short film blithely and elegantly explaining the concept of relativity:
TotH to Curiosity Counts.
As we await the animators of our new paradigms, we might wish a minimal(ist) birthday to Philip Glass, award-winning composer and first cousin once removed of (R)D friend and hero Ira Glass; Philip was born on this date in 1937.
Readers will recall earlier visits to Letters of Note (“correspondence deserving of a wider audience”). That wonderful site now has company– and official company at that.
The letter-of-request above*, and tens of thousands of other historically- and politically-interesting documents can now be found at the Online Public Access Prototype of the National Archives.
* One notes that, while the Vice President’s response to Disney was “schedule too tight,” later President Nixon used Disney World as the venue for his “I am not a crook” speech…
[TotH to GMSV]
As we sharpen our quills, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 (months before his Disney World performance) that President Nixon signed the bill authorizing $5.5 million to develop the Space Shuttle program– NASA’s main focus from that point until President Obama’s recent redirection.
Nixon with NASA Administrator James Fletcher and a model of spacecraft-to-come (Source: NASA)
He was “the Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” “the Godfather of Soul”– James Brown. Immensely popular with audiences from the mid-Fifties (when “Please, Please, Please,” above, was a hit), he was a tremendous influence on popular music, with admirers who included jazz greats like Miles Davis, and emulators like Sly and the Family Stone, Booker T & the MGs and “soul shouters” like King Curtis, Edwin Starr, and David Ruffin (of The Temptations). He was a famously-tough task master as a band leader; but it served his musicians well, as their education at his hands laid the foundation for several successful solo careers (e.g., Bobby Byrd, Lyn Collins, Vicki Anderson, Hank Ballard, Bootsy Collins, and Carlos Alomar). And he was the ur-source of Funk (e.g., admirer George Clinton cast Brown alumni Fred Wesley and Bootsy Collins centrally in the seminal Parliament-Funkadelic).
But Brown made what was arguably his most influential contribution with his feet: he was, as anyone who saw him perform can attest, an astonishing dancer. As a child, he’d earned pocket money buck dancing to entertain troops headed to Europe at the outset of WWII. Over the years he made that traditional form uniquely his own– inspiring performers like Michael Jackson and Prince, who modeled their moves on his, and prefiguring the current vogue of dance-centric pop performances.
James Brown died on Christmas Day, 2006. But happily, he left behind a guide to the moves that made him famous. The holiday party season, with its fraught occasions to dance, looms; but there’s no reason to fear, Dear Readers– just watch and learn. Michael Jackson did…
As we trip the light fantastic, we might recall that it was on this date in 1946 (when James Brown was 13 years old) that Walt Disney released Song of the South, a feature film based on the Uncle Remus stories of Joel Chandler Harris, in which live actors frame animated enactments of the adventures of Br’er Rabbit– like the story of “The Tar Baby.” The film won the Best Song Oscar for “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”; but, while the film was re-released theatrically in 1972, 1981, and 1986, and has been released to home video in Europe and Asia, it has never been released to home video in the U.S.— perhaps because Disney executives feel that it might be construed as racist.
James Baskett, who played Uncle Remus, was the first black actor hired by Disney to play a live role. He was unable to attend the film’s premiere in Atlanta, the event hotels there would not have him. (source)