Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Our Visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum

On Monday, my wife and I made our every-six-year-visit to the San Francisco area. Some people do stuff annually; so do we. But when it comes to the Bay Area, with its MENTALLY INSANE street setup and overall oddness, it takes me about six years before I can do it all again. Growing up here in the valley, I've grown accustomed to flat terrain, where I can see the horizon at the end of the road. Therefore, I naturally don't like the feeling that I'm driving/walking on a gigantic rippled blanket, on which I'm just certain that no structure is really stable. It just freaks me out. This may rankle some, but thank God above that the 49ers moved their stadium to Santa Clara (Candlestick Park was always a nightmare to escape from).

 But within the Presidio, off of the "blanket," resides the Walt Disney Family Museum. "The what? Wait, why is it in SF and not Southern California--" Don't ask, I honestly can't tell you. It makes zero sense, but hey, it's his family calling the shots, and they decided to install this museum in what is most certainly a large, brick, probably haunted building. The structure is right in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, amidst beautiful landscaping, a great open area where you can feel the cool breeze off of the bay and feel far from the distorted geography of the city. In short, the location doesn't necessarily rhyme, but the tune is still catchy.

 Right off, contrary to what you might have read online, you ARE allowed to take photos, as long as the flash is off. I went in thinking I couldn't, and was so happy to find out that it was cool. Thank goodness for smartphones. However, if you do go to an exhibit in building 122, you'll not be able to photograph anything, which makes sense.

 I've always loved animation, particularly the Warner Bros shorts, which, like most of us my age, I was solidly exposed to during the late 1970s. In contrast, the Disney shorts were not readily available at that time; no Saturday morning tv show, and if you were a church-going family like mine was, you never saw "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday evenings. So I felt a kinship with the work of Jones, McKimson, Freleng and Clampett.

But fast forward many years, to the mid-1990s (no kidding), when I began to date my future wife. Her family were more Disney-oriented, and one of our early adventures had been to Disneyland, I place I'd only been to twice before that point (and even then, it was at the end of my high school years, long after that "magic age" for that kind of thing). These visits to Disneyland became quite frequent, and always being dangerously curious, I began to read about the history of Disney and his animation operation. It was then that I realized what an innovator his studio was, and what a magical merging of the right man and the right artists at the right time it all was. I began to learn about men like Johnston, Thomas, Kahl, and Marc Davis. I realized, as I watched the classic Disney shorts as they became available, that cartoons of theirs that I thought were from the late 1940s, with their clear sound, bright color and overall high quality, were in fact from the mid-1930s! The Warners toons, which I can usually date within a few years just by looking at them, were stunningly primitive (though I still adore them).

Well, it's been about 20 years since I began my education, and so it made all the sense in the world to visit this museum, regardless of its location. I still didn't know what to expect, but when after I entered I knew that I wouldn't regret this trek. The staff were very friendly, the building is very clean, and in true Disney fashion, there was a gift shop with a lot of temptations.

 I was stunned at times. There really were probably a few times that my mouth hung open. I did not expect to see old animation drawings from the dawn of Mickey Mouse's animation career. I certainly did NOT expect to see the earliest known drawing of a finalized Mickey. I saw cel set-ups from such classic shorts as "The Band Concert." And by God... I saw the multiplane camera.

"What?"

I know that for most people the multiplane camera means nothing. But I was genuinely shocked to see it. I had no idea that it had survived; Hollywood is notorious for destroying everything the moment they don't need it anymore. And yet here it was, cutting through two floors. It looked pristine, as if it was ready to work at the drop of a hat. I had read about this huge device in "The Illusion of Life" and other books, and just thinking that it had been used on Pinnochio... it was just weird, you know what I mean? Again, it looked brand new.

Another TOTAL surprise was Walt's Carolwood Pacific miniature train, that he used to ride on through his backyard railroad. I was glad to see that it had been kept and not sold off or trashed. I loved seeing the little seat cushions atop some of the cars.  

PINOCCHIO EXHIBIT
After a few hours, we entered the Pinocchio exhibit in building 122, where I was further astonished. There was original artwork by Gustav Tenngrenn, and actual animation drawings by Ollie Johnston, Woolie Reitherman, Milt Kahl and others. I could hear the familiar voices of animation historian John Canemaker and animator Andreas Deja talking in the background, which was a nice touch (even if you're in another section, away from the display, it's nice to hear their voices).

The one thing that blew me away though, was a tiny side section that featured the maquettes used by the animators for reference. There was a large Monstro maquette, that showed signs of having been handled often, just there on display. I thought of how odd it was to be looking at something that had been in the old Burbank studio in its early days, back during Disney's golden era, pre-strike and war. For some reason, I really was impressed with being near these things.

 I would absolutely recommend going to the Walt Disney Family Museum if you are a fan of animation and its history. Even if you've become a know-it-all like me, you'll discover that there's more to life than knowing-- feeling is a pretty cool part of life, too.

 I would like to share pics from my adventure there...just CLICK HERE!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Patriots and Paints this V-Day...


Like most guys, I tend to draw a blank when it comes to Valentines Day. Of course we love our wives/girlfriends, but that usually NEVER means that we can find the right way ON THE SPOT to show it, like we're expected to do every February 14.

On top of that. Like most guys these days, I'm too am financially restricted, so anything barely interesting is out of the realm of possibilities.  So what to do?

Got money? No.
Got art supplies? Yes.
Got time? Sort of. Not really.
Got a wife who loves the New England Patriots? Yes.
Humph.....

It has been years since the last time I really painted anything "legit," not a goofy sign or something.  I was a little nervous--was this one of those times, when I would try to recapture the spark of about 10 YEARS AGO, and end being glad that I didn't tell anyone that I was painting a portrait of Tim Brady because it ended up sucking so bad because of rust?

Because of severe time constraints, I knew I'd have to use acrylic paint.  You know what they say about acrylics: "the good thing is that they dry fast.  The bad thing is that they dry fast."  It's tough to to blend when the paint is getting stuck a few minutes after applying it!  You pretty much have to have a clear picture in your mind of what you want when you're using acrylics.  It's hard to have good things happen as a surprise to you.

The original image was of him yelling in what looked like sunny skies.   Of course, their home stadium is in Massachusetts, and the playoffs are in January, when it's usually frightfully cold.  So I wintered up his gear a bit, darkened the background and added snowfall via the gold ol' paintbrush splatter effect.  Here and there, I would press my finger on certain "snowflakes" to make them both bigger and translucent, like they were flakes that were much closer to the viewer and thus out of focus.  Faintly in the background, I indicated distant crowds with small blotches of various colors.  And if the guy's yelling, then there needs to be some steam coming out, which was done with greyish white mixed with a glaze from Golden.

Speaking of colors, I had a bit of a challenge, replicating the jersey color.  It turns out to be cobalt blue + cad red deep and a tiny touch of pthalo blue.  I have to say that while it's rough, the jersey is my favorite part, in particular his left shoulder and the ripples on his chest.

The face mask also turned out dimensional, thanks to highlights and softening of the back edge side of his helmet.

I know that Rembrandt isn't quivering in his grave or anything, but still it was a bit of a relief to know that if necessary, I could still paint.

It was also nice to know that I could give my wife a gift that she won't possibly expect.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Studio Build Update: It Is Finished

Well, it was supposed to take me about two weeks.  It ended up taking over two months.  It turns out that it's a lot slower doing something on your own.

Without a doubt, as you would surmise, bringing everything in to the new room was both the best and worst part of the experience.  I had forgotten just how much models don't like to be moved; they also don't like 2 year-old boys, either.  While moving everything over, I had some models on the floor, where my son discovered them.  I thus had a re-modelling project on the table soon afterward.  Star Wars models, it turns out, are pretty doggone fragile!  Stupid podracer!

Anyways, once things settled down, I was able to look at things and realize that SOMEHOW, SOME WAY, I had been able to do this.  After a few years of pondering, I was able to pop it out in a few months of sporadic work, during a rough time with my crummy job, during all kinds of personal obstacles that all seemed to magically appear the moment I began to try to do this.  So I guess in the end the moral of the story is, "If something must be done, then no matter what, DO IT."

So here are some pics, along with some captions to explain the madness!
Here's the view of the "clean side" of the room, where my drawing and reading stuff (along with a plethora of plastic models) resides.  This image is more honest about the lighting in the room than the next pic.  I really lucked out with how the black book cases all perfectly fit within the wall/corner to give a library effect.  I'm still debating whether or not to swap the Star Wars and Star Trek the Motion Picture posters so that it's next to the original crew poster above my drawing table.  I left the floor in its original rough state, to encourage me to do whatever I wanted to without being concerned about "Oops I just spilled (insert liquid name here) all over the carpet/tile/linoleum!."

Because of the shop light above my modelling station, this pic makes it look like the whole room is in a dank inner city basement of an abandoned building.  Nevertheless, this is the "dirty side" of the room, where I'll work on models and paint.  And finally I am able to hang my 1979 Comic Art Convention poster with the neat Curt Swan Superman drawing.

And finally, I can have my "Ships of the Fleet," all parallel parked above my drawing table.  There are 5 Enterprises, a Reliant, a few Klingon cruisers and Bird of Prey, and a Vulcan shuttle.
The corner above my door, my hornet's nest of Star Wars models.  Most of these models were built in the early era of my model building.  As I looked closely at them, I realized how poor they looked.  It's good that they're high up, away from close examination.  Check out C-3PO and his look of alarm.

A plastic monster rally, with a touch of Superfriends, Star Trek, and Star Wars.  You know, all of the good things in life.  I really like how Kirk, Bones, and Spock are placed right beneath the TOS Enterprise, as if it's a character with them, looking in the same direction as they are.

By some miracle, I was able to fit all of this ju- um, I mean stuff into this bookcase.  From my very early King Kong customization to my Cylon Raider salvage job, it's all here, all mashed in.  Even the Ymir is back out and about.

My modeller's corner, where all of the "mad scientist" stuff can go down, under the watchful scanners of Klingon battlecruisers overhead.  I was glad to find a spot for a.) my cutout Yoda, and b.) my Batman/Superman face cutouts.  That Batman poster is pretty cool, huh?  It features images from the old '60s Batman bubblegum cards.  Also, thank goodness, I was able to hang up my Garcia-Lopez Superman door poster, which I've had since high school.  Old and fragile, it still is awesome and goes with me to every new place.

Lastly, I finally have a sane place to paint.  I was able to use the top drawer as a designated pallete, where I'll keep my glass sheet and knives.  It's just the right height for me (and right next to my old school boombox, which is about to die at any minute).
So now you have a sense of geography of the room, henceforth known as the Fortress of Solitude West Coast Part III.  Let the madness begin!  Lots of things are planned for the year ahead, so drop on by every now and then to see what craziness Jeff has gotten himself into!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Tour of the Studio in Progress

And there it is..... the cabinet that almost ripped my arm off.  It barely cleared the ceiling, too.
  Also, let us take a moment to recognize my painting easel, which I handmade from a pile of wood
 pieces that my previous job wanted me to throw away.  I must have been on a real creative buzz at that time,
 to see a dusty woodpile and say to myself, "Hey... I DO need an easel..."
Here's the opposite end of the room.  That's the front door entrance to the left, and that would be
 my TOS crew poster waiting to be hung on the right.  It will hang above my drawing table.
 BTW, the moving of these books was a major undertaking.
Right there, between the edge of the black bookcases and the air conditioner, will go my drawing
 table, with the Star Trek poster right above it.  It's so weird to see something that I've planned fo
r so long now actually happening.
Little details.  The original trim that held the attic door in place was old and nasty.  I replaced it all
, and I got lucky with how the molding aligns perfectly with the frame.  Stuff like this does matter;
 someone like me would spend forever annoyed by how it didn't match up.
Some of my figures getting used to their new digs.  It's neat how these models look so much
 cooler from below, especially Kong.
For now, the location of the Universal monster rally.  Rod Serling looks on in smug approval.
I'm a doctor not an interior decorator!
Another angle of the Monster Rally.  Check out the pic of Jack Pierce.
And lastly, a few things I'd like to hang, one of them being mandatory.  Last year, in anticipation of
 building this room, I made a sign for my studio.  There I was, a guy with a studio sign and no
 studio.  Well, today  it is finally all coming to pass, and it's nice to know that I was able to see
 something through all the way, instead of burning out prematurely and walking away.  Oh, and
 check out that COOL Star Trek:The Motion Picture teaser poster, complete with "Phase Two"-style Enterprise!