Friday, November 23, 2012

Highjacking Ward Kimball

                                                                                                                          Ward Kimball

Above is a link to an article on Cartoon Brew talking about the difficulty author Amid Amidi is having with Disney not signing off on his book "Full Steam Ahead!", the biography of animator/director Ward Kimball.

There have been other books about the Disney staff that somehow reached print even though the individuals were depicted warts and all, so I don't know why Ward is being scrutinized and sanitized.

I was given a unique opportunity to spent two weeks with Ward and Betty Kimball back in 79.  While there Ward managed to introduce us, (I was with two other workmates), to Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston while they were busily compiling material for their book "The Illusion of Life".  I was struck by the contrast between these gracious soft spoken gentlemen who behaved like loving grandfathers and Ward who wore a head band and implied he smoked weed when we were first introduced.

I was taken aback by much of Wards honesty and surprised by Betty's tolerance of Wards vulgar humor, (Someone had sent him a toy train to 'personalize'.  He said he was going to cut it in half and put a condom in it.)  Now you don't expect that from a Disney artist and truth be told I don't think he saw himself as that.

It's widely known that Walt Disney thought of Ward as a genius.  Ward had established himself as a successful musician and bandleader recording 13 Dixieland albums with his band The Firehouse Five Plus Two, (Frank Thomas played piano), and authored two books.  He was open minded and interested in almost everything including UFOs. 

I came away from my visit with admiration and awe.  Here was a man who deeply enjoyed life and had the confidence and self security to tackle and conquer many disciplines and yet was raw and unpretentious, willing to deflate and cut through social mores and expose the humanity.  I made a vow to try and enjoy life and have as much fun as Ward.

I really want to know what made this man tick and I haven't looked forward to a book like this since "The Illusion of Life" which was a two year wait.  I hope "Full Steam Ahead!" doesn't turn into another multiple years wait.  I've already pre-paid for it when it was first announced.

Update:  Well, Disney has won and Chronicle has killed the book.  Amid assures us the book will be printed but for those who prepaid outside of Amazon, like me, the task will be more complicated.  Personally I won't be prepaying on any books before they hit the stores again.

Monday, November 19, 2012

View-Master Artists

As a boy I always loved the stereoscopic View-Masters that took traditionally drawn animated characters and did a sculptural rendering of them in 3d. This was not always an easy thing to do with many Hanna Barbara figures because they were fairly stylized designs with lots of cheated attributes like both eyes appearing on a profile.  Some how they were able to come up with a happy compromise that was always appealing.

Thanks to the internet I've been able to track down who did these wonderful pieces. Most were done by Florence Thomas and later her successor Joe Liptak, whom I've mentioned before on this blog  

Thomas produced her first reels for View-Master in 1946 --a series of Fairy Tales and Mother Goose rhymes that are still in circulation. According to one source, Thomas "developed special methods of close-up stereo photography and modeling which is now in common use by major motion picture studios" (John Waldsmith, Stereo Views, 1991).

Florence Thomas setting up a scene from The Sword in the Stone.


 One of my faves: Hook and Tink

 A scene from "Robin Hood"

Joe Liptak

I found a pretty good tribute to Florence at the blog Mystery Hoard and you can find it here:

Looking at the size of the candle flame and the scale of what appear to be real feathers in Captain Hooks hat, and the detail on Tinkerbell, it must have been a fairly large setup.  It's pretty obvious now but I never gave it much thought as a kid.  

It seems appropriate that these were clay figurines and done in Portland Oregon just like Will Vintons' Claymation.

UPDATE:  A woman names Linda asked if there were other photos of her relative Florence Thomas.  I was able to find these:


Lori said...

I just found your blog, “View-Master Artists” (dated Nov 19, 2012) this evening and want to kindly inform you that the last 5 “updated” photos you posted is NOT Florence Thomas. Instead, the artist is Martha Armstrong Hand. I personally knew her in the mid 1990’s until her passing in 2004. For your reference, here are a couple of links in tribute to Martha.

Thank you in advance for making the correction.
Lori, August 23, 2020

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I know it's after Halloween but I just couldn't resist doing this caricature of Alfred Hitchcock.

Friday, November 02, 2012

R. Crumb and Genesis

One of the more curious things I've run across is "The Book of Genesis" illustrated by Robert Crumb. An interesting interview by The Paris Review tells us what motivated Crumb and how he spent four years making the book. It also goes into other interesting things about Crumb and the whole article in it's entirety can be found here:

What I found interesting is something Crumb wrote in his Genesis book end commentary.  During his research he found these stories were never buried and then rediscovered later,  that they are the oldest texts in continuous use in Western civilization, and that peoples belief in these stories being the word of God has preserved them for millennia while the stories of the gods and heroes of Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria were buried and forgotten along with these mighty empires.

What I also found compelling is that Crumb had initially wanted to do a comic set up of Genesis but changed his mind and did a very faithful translation with no comedy.  The only thing remotely done in a comic fashion that I found was the depiction of Noah"s sons who bare more than a passing resemblance to the Three Stooges.

I don't know what it means for a subversive underground cartoonist famous for depictions of sexual perversions to do a labor of love like this book.  I doubt if Crumb were having a religious conversion, but all things are possible.  I will close this out with just a portion of the Paris Review article that I also found curious.

Let’s begin with Genesis. Where did this book come from?
Well, the truth is kind of dumb, actually. I did it for the money and I quickly began to regret it. It was an enormous amount of work—four years of work and barely worth it. I was too compulsive about the detail. With comics, you’ve got to develop some kind of shorthand. You can’t make every drawing look like a detailed etching. The average reader actually doesn’t want all that detail, it interferes with the flow of the reading process. But I just can’t help myself—obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Was the act of drawing a God figure a challenge? You have had panels in the past where God is speaking to someone.
Mr. Natural. But I also saw God in a dream in the year 2000.
What did he look like?
He had features almost like Mel Gibson or Charlton Heston, very severe but at the same time sort of anguished looking. And he was warning me about something, very briefly, warning me about this destructive force that was getting stronger, and since He loved Earth or this reality or whatever you want to call it, He was enlisting me to be one of the people to protect this reality from this destructive force. When I was trying to figure out how to draw God I remembered that image, which I could look at only for a split second, it was painful to look at this face, it was so severe and yet so anguished.