Monday, December 30, 2013

Marvel and I: The Story of a Long-term Misunderstanding, Part Two

When we last left off, it was late 1991. Ryan was in the fourth grade, and Darkwing Duck, which had started airing on The Disney Afternoon and ABC that very same fall, had become his favorite show. However, much to his vexation, a friend and classmate kept boasting (as if it were somehow HIS accomplishment) that some Marvel Comics villain named Thanos had killed off all of the heroes in the Marvel universe (at least according to Ryan's friends) in some allegedly awesome mini-series called The Infinity Gauntlet. Thus, Ryan's friend reasoned, Thanos would be able to kill Darkwing Duck with his pinky finger, if he felt like it.

To begin with, Ryan already didn't care about, and found no appeal in, Marvel Comics. But now, he'd been pushed over the edge, and became an active Marvel detractor.

This growing aversion didn't extend to just Marvel, but to the action-dominated, thriller-oriented arm of the sci-fi genre, across all media. A lot of Ryan's grade school peers who liked X-Men and Spawn (I think of this as the era of the X-Men, Image, and all that I repelled me) also liked the Terminator movies. All of these things seemed gnarled, grizzly, and coldly metallic to Ryan. When a friend would describe the blood and gore in a movie they'd seen over the weekend, Ryan would ask him what was wrong with him and how he could possibly enjoy such fare.

In short, in the early `90's, Ryan was reading these comics:

He was not reading these comics:

(In fact, to Ryan, the above were not even comics -- they were just in the way. A meaningless din.)

But he ESPECIALLY wasn't (no way in Hell; over his dead body) reading THIS (as he considered it at the time) atrocity:

(The Marvel superheroes were in trouble. Didn't they know to call DW?)

At this point (reverting to first person), in my mind, all superhero comics were all lumped together in the "yuck" bin. I thought little more of DC than I did of Marvel. Now, as a longtime DC fan, that's hard to believe. But, it's not such a stretch, considering how that was the era of the bloodletting that transpired in major story arcs like "A Death in the Family" and "The Death of Superman" -- both of which I'd been to some extent exposed to. (How could I not have been, in the case of the latter?) A few years before my unpleasant run-in with Thanos, at a friend's birthday party, as part of a goody bag, I received a copy of a recent issue of Batman that happened to be a part of "Death in the Family". When you're six years old and a couple of years earlier, your favorite show had been Super Friends (via syndicated weekday reruns), a bleak, angst-caked story about Robin being beaten with a crowbar to a bloody pulp just isn't going to work.

Within a few years, I would have come around on DC. I had just become active in fandom, via a certain A.P.A., and Joe Torcivia encouraged me to give DC a chance.The Paul Dini-Bruce Timm animated series also played a role. They weren't cheesy, not "hardcore", but just right. These distillations of the DC characters converted me. Batman and Superman came to have a "feel" much closer to that of Uncle Scrooge than to my conception of the Marvel and Image properties. Batman: The Animated Series had actually only premiered a year later than my friend drove me away from superheroes with Thanos, and, in keeping with that, at first, I found it drab, boring, and depressing. It was actually falling in love with Gargoyles a couple of years later that warmed me up to B:TAS.

But, even with the influences of Torcivia, Dini, and Timm, I might not have ultimately gotten hooked on DC if, in my most formative years, an attachment to the characters hadn't been ingrained into my psyche. Super Friends was one of my earliest favorite shows, remember? Before DuckTales premiered and, at the age of five, I immediately went nuts over it. Before my first Uncle Scrooge comic. I've actually been a DC fan longer than a duck fan! I just forgot that for several years.

But, as I was entering high school and getting more into DC, I was simultaneously and paradoxically moving away from comics and animation. I had never really changed my mind about Marvel; but now, I was indifferent to it.

Next time: The early `00's come along, and I go to college. A couple of movies come out. I see and like them. That makes me say, "I should go read the original comics." Another entire decade later, I get around to it.

-- Ryan

Sunday, December 22, 2013

(Some of) my assorted thoughts on Santa Claus: The Movie (1985; directed by Jeannot Szwarc).

Though my mom broke the bad news to me at the age of 11, in December of 1991, I've always thought that either the centuries-old raw matter of the mythology of Santa Claus had been lost to the superficiality of modern culture, or that the mythology had considerable untapped potential ... or both. So, I've always been curious about Santa Claus: The Movie (which, at the age of four, I was oblivious to the release of), but never gotten around to watching ... until this afternoon.

My verdict? The Rankin-Bass version of Santa Claus' autobiography, the stop-motion television special Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970), remains the superior version of Santa's origin, based on those that I'm familiar with.

The real deal.

The 1985 movie starts out with him Mr. Claus as a benevolent, big-hearted, jovial, er, rounded, beared a in what seems to be medieval northern Europe who just loves to bring toys to kids on Christmas eve. So far, great. Fitting tone-wise and in consideration of the myth's historical roots. But then, he gets caught in a blizzard ... and is rescued by a gaggle of elves (who look and sound like New Yorkers and are dressed in what seem to be costumes for a children's play), who have, as they state, been "waiting for" him, so as to "fulfill the prophecy". And so, suddenly, unexpectedly bestowed upon him are his North Pole home, and adjacent toy factory, sleigh, flying reindeer (who, you know, in wide are live animals but who, jarringly, are weird-proportioned, lazy-eyed puppets), and a plan to fly all across the world on Christmas Eve delivering presents to children. Everything's squarely in place, ready and waiting for him, ready to go. Makes him seem like a doddering old man who stumbled his way into the elusive entity that is blind luck. It's lazy writing, glossing over all the why's and how's. "We're gonna tell you the story of how Santa Claus became Santa Claus ... mehhhhhh, we don't wanna bother to figure out how all that stuff came to be, so it was just already there, okay?"

But at least once the movie gets past its initial "Here, Santa, this is your new home! Here Santa, this is your toy factory! Here, Santa, these are your reindeer!" stage and an actual story (about a rogue elf, a crooked toy industry monopolist who wants to run Santa out of business, a homeless little boy, and the crooked toy industry monopolist's kind-hearted child niece, who befriends the homeless little boy) gets underway, it's not bad. 

And at least one aspect of the movie has brought out the kid in me: despite the obvious green screening/blue screening/whatever it is, to behold Santa guiding his reindeer-driven flying sleigh approach, soar over, zip around, and land on the rooftops of Manhattan is to be mesmerized, thrilled at a base level. After all, I still wish that's what really happened each Christmas.

-- Ryan

Friday, December 20, 2013

From (one of) my bookshel(ves): Donald Duck Comics Digest #3 (Gladstone; cover date March 1987)

Though not Christmas-themed, this issue is winter-themed (as indicated by the cover, below). So, though my timing could be better, it's nonetheless befitting of the season ... especially considering that in my locale, it snowed this past week (causing me to be stuck in slow-moving traffic, thus frustrating me, for the duration of my drive home from work Tuesday ... grrr ...)

The Barks cover is from Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #149 (1953). At a glance, it looks all too stoic and inactive. Then you actually look at it, and so realize the gag and that its rendering is perfect. That's our guy.

(Cover image courtesy, as usual, of the vital boon to humanity that is Inducks.)

Like most of Gladstone's four short-lived digests, these 100 pages are comprised of a dash of Barks and several non-Barks shorts stories and a couple of gags, all originally printed by Western. Their origination spans from the `40's through `70's. Though you might think I'd regret a missed opportunity to present long-form European stories, I appreciate my copies -- they have their own little charm. A variety of material featuring my favorite characters and a heckload of pages -- what's not to like?

Let's address Donald Duck Comics Digest #3's specific contents:

Donald Duck -- "The Titanic Ants!" (Written and drawn by Carl Barks. From Donald Duck #60, 1958.) An anomaly in two regards, neither of which I know the reason for: 1. This was several years after Barks left Donald Duck (first the Four Color issues and then as its own regular title) for Uncle Scrooge. 2. Instead of Barks' (and Western's) standard four-tiers-per-page/rectangular panels format, we're subjected to the three-tiers-per-page/big square panels format. 

It's a one-off for Barks in terms of content, too: it's 20 pages, but not an adventure story. It's Duckburg park setting and the premise -- Donald and the nephews employed as "waiters and clean-up boys", as well as "ant shooters!" (emphasis Barks'), for a snooty high society gathering -- suggests a 10-pager-esque affair. It's easy to imagine Donald trying his best to impress the elites, only to unwittingly cause things to go disastrously downhill. (say, by unwittingly spilling ant poison into the main course, causing everyone to immediately fall ill). Now, it's a deviation of the formula to see the nephews are tasked with the same duties and responsibilities as Donald, he and they by all appearances intending to work as team. Usually, the nephews would not be participants. Donald would be boasting to them that he's going to excel in his performance and endear himself to the well-to-dos, only to have them stand on the sidelines and cringe at his mounting series of failures. But we still might be staying on the expected route: Donald might at any moment resentfully crow that he will outshine the nephews, and a spiteful competition would ensue, resulting in whatever means by which things go wry and chaos breaks loose. 

But, no, Donald and the nephews remain on amicable, cooperative terms for the story's full duration.Things do inevitably go awry, facilitating the inevitable total upsetting and flustering of the top hat-and-coattails-sporting, diamond-adorned picnickers. But Donald's ego is hardly a factor; there's no ultimate down-dressing for his pride, jealousy, greed, spite, etc. This isn't one of Barks' morality plays, and not infused with quiet disgruntlement, as are many of his 10-pagers. Instead, when the going-awry unfolds, Donald and the nephews simply become unnerved and hurriedly try to address and find a way to resolve the problem. This characterization is innocent, and not selfish or scheming, like we'd find them elsewhere. It's implied that they don't want to screw up in front of the elites, but it's not a driving factor. It's more basic and straightforward: they're the straight men against an outlandish occurrence. 

What outlandish occurrence would that be? The picnic is beset upon by an army of lion-sized ants. Donald and the nephews' above-noted camaraderie is, in a sense, befitting of the story's nature: it's one of Barks more bombastic, fantastical, over-the-top outings, not heavy-handed in the least. Though the giant ants are the work of a stock eccentric scientist, there's little to no science woven into the story, and clearly, no history or geography, as in many of the adventure stories. In terms of its pure fancifulness and whimsy, it's something of a kindred spirit with "The Golden Christmas Tree", as aesthetically and contextually different as the two stories may be. (Then again, Barks' later Uncle Scrooge outer space adventures stretch the limits of believability, given aspects like the uncanny fast and user-friendly space ships in "The Luny Lunar Gold Rush" or "The 24-Karat Moon". But, those stories have Barks' exquisite fable-like narratives and/or his keen sense of satire. "Titanic Ants!" is sheer spectacle.) 

Given the B-horror movie trappings, to me this is one of Barks' least appealing stories. However, it's still a satisfying read, owing to its purely Barksian traits: the comical poses and expressions of the panicking high society picnickers; and the characterizations of the overwhelmed Donald-and-nephews, and of Scrooge -- myopic due to his utter fixation on finagling some advantageous business deals, and then caught utterly by surprise (and then in turn, having a nervous breakdown) when the risks he should have perceived come to fruition, jeopardizing the what he thought were surefire investments he'd just made. Barks' Scrooge was volatile. When other Western creators tried their hand at Scrooge, he was benign.

Keeping with this not being one of Barks' disgruntled, cynical stories, the resolution works in both Donald and Scrooge's favor. The story twist that begets the ending's circumstances is clever, ironic, and funny ... unlike the attempted but cloying twist endings of some of the other stories in this issue ...


Two Chip 'n' Dale six-pagers are included, both written by [author unknown] and drawn by Jack Bradbury;  as are two of the (grits teeth) Barks-scripted, Kay Wright-drawn `70's Junior Woodchucks stories. Though one of my biggest heroes Barks may be, those things are like the proverbial suffered root canal operation. Okay, okay, they're not that bad (...okay, okay, not nearly as bad -- now leave me alone about it! ...say, are those root canal things really as bad as they're cracked up to be?) They have their moments of humor ... but, eh, they're just so, I don't know, procedural, or something. And, yes, Kay Wright's banal, uninspired art doesn't help matters. But they do have their moments, like (re: the two in this digest) the brashness of the arrogant golfers in "New Zoo Brews Ado"; the obese Little Chickadee who uses her weight to foil the Woodchucks they're competing in a race against in "Music Hath Charms"; or, in the latter, the aloof Gyro bemoaning that his Pied Piper-evoking electronic rodent-luring musical pipe is hypnotizing and drawing children, not pests, as if that's a common problem.

But there's little way around it: Barks seemed to have phoned these in. See: "New Zoo Brews Ado"'s series of gags built around escaped zoo animals foiling the golfer's attempted drives. Kind of trite and primitive, no? ("New Zoo Brews Ado" is from Huey, Dewey, and Louie Junior Woodchucks -- um, hello, Western, why did you have such a staggering disregard for grammar -- #20, 1972). Or the utterly thin and one-note characterization of Donald in "Music Hath Charms" (HD&LJW #21, 1972 -- consecutive issues; catch that?); he hates that his nephews have so many trophies and awards, and so as to get back at them, doesn't think it that it might cast him in a bad light to muck up a children's race and stranding a bunch of the kids on an island.  (True, in many of Barks' `40's 10-pagers, he never put the gloves on when squaring off with the kids; but in those stories, there was more dynamics in their characterization and interaction. And plus, it was a different time; spanking your kids wasn't a social death sentence and a legal risk.) It isn't even implied that his disdain for the trophies is a symptom of his own feelings of inadequacy. His function in the story is no more, "RAHHHHH, I hate these trophies SO MUCH! I'm gonna GET YOU!!!"

As for the chipmunk stories ... my first instinct was to say that the art is as uninviting as Wright's. Then I remembered that this is Jack Bradbury that we're talking about ... how could it be that I would feel so negatively about his art? A quick glance at the backgrounds and incidental characters reassured me that I found his art here as pleasing as I do anywhere else ... while in any given panel, the title characters register as ugly, while everything else around them is quite fine.

You're probably thinking, "Huh? What's going on here? What's this glaring weird quirk/hang-up of Ryan's?" It's this: for some inexplicable reason, in comparison to the theatrical shorts, Western's Chip and Dale -- no matter the artist -- were off-model. Western seemed to have their own model for the duo, as their appearance was consistent between all of their stories that Western produced ... again, no matter the artist. And, frankly, the Western versions are obtuse and just plain blahhhhhhh in comparison to the official one. Add to that the baby talk dialect that Western designated as standard for the characters, and you have some pretty saccharine, tacky comics. 

Still, these stories are fairly clever and somewhat funny ... I guess. First, in order to withstand "The Cold Winter" (WDC&S #231, 1959), the pair seeks shelter, only to be evicted from every potential site by the occupants who have already claimed it. Finally, when they breach the den of a bear irate at their having awoken him, they appear to be unwanted yet again ... but then, the exhausted bear falls asleep on his feet and collapses to the floor of the cave, trapping them under him. They figure, "Well, hey, we'll be warm here until spring!" Clever, right? Ironic, no? Funny, yes? Yeah. I guess. 

About 40 pages later, "It's Snow Joke" (WDC&S #232, 1959 -- yet again, consecutive issues -- catch it this time?) finds a mischievous Dale getting a rise out of startling other denizens of the forest with snow statues of menacing animals and creatures sculpted impromtu. His first three victims are, in order, Chip, Thumper, and the adult Bambi. (The latter represents considerable thought having been given to continuity.) His fourth (and fated to be final) victim is ... the witch from Snow White, who apparently survived her plunge from that cliff at the end of the movie but when she landed, struck her head on a rock, causing brain damage -- to wit, Alzheimer's. Thus, we find her with no apparent awareness of the fact that she's actually the Queen ( present-day forest where Chip and Dale live, which, going by other stories, is in or adjacent to Duckburg?) and 100% content to wander around in the woods during winter as a disfigured elderly hag. (The preceding represents a considerable, utter lack of thought having been given to continuity.)

Anyway, everyone that Dale gives a start to (what, they couldn't tell that it was snow and inanimate?) chews him out, but he doesn't give a florg and just keeps right on doing it ... until he gets his comeuppance, when the witch animates and menaces him with his greatest achievement, a giant snow sculpture of a dragon. But then he redeems himself by rescuing his friends from the dragon, and pushing a snowball down a hill, which, as the routine goes, quickly amasses more and mor until it's huge ... and then it strikes and buries the witch. Who's left that way, with NO magical resources to free herself, I guess we're to understand. 

Okay, so "Cold Winter" is kind of dumb ... and I guess "Snow Joke" sort of is, too ... but it's kind of weird and random, so it has that going for it, making me kind of like it. What was [writer unknown' thinking? Scaring your friends with snow sculptures? Bambi and Thumper? The witch from Snow White? A dragon snow sculpture come to life? (Okay, that one's not far-fetched, once you have Dale building scary snow sculptures as your m.o. ... but it's a weird, out-of-left-field m.o., nonetheless.) (Actually, now that I think of it, I can picture the Rescue Rangers Dale doing this. That's a fluke: with Western Chip 'n' Dale stories, that isn't by any means typical: Chip-as-straight-man/Dale-as-slacker-and-overgrown-kid hadn't yet been conceived, and wouldn't be until RR went into development.)


I consider the gem of this issue to be "The Firebugs", a Donald Duck backup story from Four Color #300 (1950), the issue that brought to the world Barks' "Big-Top Bedlam". "Firebugs" is the rare Paul Murry-drawn duck story (with inks by Carl Buettner, and the writer being unknown). Visually, it's delectable! His ducks are leaner and drawn with more pronounced curved angles. In a way, they're vaguely Taliaferro-like, but smoother -- though his art was full and detailed, Taliaferro's art had a somewhat rough edge to it. Couple his exquisite character poses with the old-timey, kind of New England-ish setting(I'm from here, and I wouldn't trade our winters for anything) -- replete with the nighttime glow of a fireplace -- setting, and you have 20 pages that, at least to me, are visually delectable.

The basic premise is fairly Barksian: Donald tries to do something that he's convinced he'll excel at, only to complete botch it and make at least a couple of people really mad at him in the process. The rift between him and the nephews established at the story's beginning, spawning Donald's determination to prove them wrong, also rings true of the stories Barks had been turning out for nearly all of the 10 years immediately preceding this. However, the way in which the nephews foil Donald is completely accidental (in fact, they're oblivious to it), leaving one -- or at least me -- with the feeling that they were overlooked as active characters in an active relationship with their uncle. But overall, a pretty damn good story (though it's certainly the art that makes it).

A couple of oddities about this story: 1. Goofy's in it. 2. Goofy's intermittently out-of-character: I don't see him as the type to get caught up in a mob mentality, the kind of grunt that bullheadedly starts chanting at Donald, who'd just won over the mob, "Speech! Speech!" But his slapstick performance in his and Donald's attempts at being firemen goes down just right. 3. Scrooge lives next door to Donald, in the same type of house. 4. Donald's incompetence irks an ornery Scrooge, a relatively decent approximation of their relationship as developed by Barks. Scrooge giddy with glee at the (apparent) sight of Donald's house caught fire? Wow, this Scrooge is COLD. But then, this was only a couple years after Barks first brought Scrooge into the world in "Christmas as Bear Mountain" as a considerably vindictive, borderline sadistic, craven old wretch. Hell, "Only a Poor Old Man" was still two years away! Knowing that, we can't blame the writer (whoever he or she was) for depicting Scrooge as reveling in the prospect of his child, outwardly cherubic three grandnephews burning to death (as you'd think he'd have to know that they'd be in bed at that time of night). The few precedents to date qualified Scrooge as a pretty nasty elderly man.


This respective digest issue winds down with "El Toreador Grandma", a six-page Grandma Duck bit from WDC&S #145 (1952). Gladstone's credits for it read, in full, "Artist unknown", but Inducks that it was written by Don Christensen and drawn by Frank McSavage. I'm sure they know what they're talking about. McSavage's art is lively, articulate, and wholesome -- as good as Paul Murry's "Firebugs" art, really. And, it's genuinely funny. (This brings up the age-old question: does the art quality influence one's perception of the writing? If Kay Wright had drawn this, would its humor be significantly blunted? And if McSavage had drawn the Junior Woodchucks stories reprinted in this issue, would the gags and general humor come off as more inspired and insightful? Didn't Geo kind of touch on this in his Wright-Jippes Woodchucks comparisons?) At each and every story beat, every facial expression and character pose hits JUST the right note. Gus showing the left-behind business card to Grandma so as to bring to her attention that she'd just sold her beloved docile old bull to a bullfight producer plays like an exaggerated-and-ironic moment of realization from a Charlie Chaplin short or an E.C. Segar strip. And speaking of Segar, Grandma's undaunted perseverance (driving all the way to Mexico in pursuit of her bull; entering the ring mid-bullfight and taking over when the matador is incapacitated) and uncanny strength (said matador was incapacitated by her not realizing her own strength while shoving him) evokes Popeye, as well as Jeff Smith's Gran'ma Ben. 


There's also a one-page gag and a half-page gag. They're so-so.

-- Ryan

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Marvel and I: The Story of a Long-term Misunderstanding, Part One

Before the past year and a half or so, I've spent most of my life being Marvel-illiterate. Now, I didn't, at 30, emerge from under a rock, so for most of my life, sure, I've been, each to a different degree, acquainted with Spider-man, the Incredible Hulk, and Captain America: in the case of Spider-man, I knew that his alter ego was Peter Parker and that he struggled with teen angst and his crush on the red-headed Mary Jane; but the Hulk and the Cap were no more to me than mere icons. Case in point: in second grade, myself and a few friends would play Batman every day at recess. One of our ranks urged that, along with the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and the like, someone on the bad guys team should play "the Incredible Hulk". Now, I knew that the Incredible Hulk wasn't a Batman, let alone a DC, character, but I went along with it; some brute muscle seemed to round out our play-acting game's villain super-team.

(When I was in second grade, being familiar, via pop culture, with both characters but not a follower of either's comics, this would've made perfect sense to me.)

One evening after school, when I enthusiastically updated my parents on how I'd been spending my recess, my dad laughed and informed me, "The Incredible Hulk is a good guy!" Having doubted my friend in the first place, I knew that my dad -- whose foremost reference point was the 1978-82 CBS live-action Incredible Hulk TV series -- was right. But as in my mind it made sense that spindly, craven wretches like the Joker and the Riddler kept a *cough* hulking brute on hand to serve as their "brawn", I held my ground[*], and the makeup of our recest cast went on changed ... until we moved onto, each in its own turn, Ghostbusters, our self-created team of time travelers, and eventually even Darkwing Duck ...

([*] As I would eventually learn, neither my friend nor my dad had it quite right. In the original six-issue run of The Incredible Hulk and his subsequent run in Tales to Astonish, the character [or at least his alter-ego, Bruce "Bob" Banner"] is squarely the protagonist, but not necessarily a hero of any sort; at best, an anti-hero. And in his crossover appearances in issues of the same era of The Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Amazing Spider-man, he was depicted as an outright public menace and, format-wise, the indisputable antagonist of each respective story.)

Ah, Darkwing Duck. My fourth grade coincided with that series' fall 1991-spring 1992 first season, co-run between The Disney Afternoon and ABC's Saturday morning lineup. (No, despite what any Wiki or DVD episode order says, the 13 episodes that premiered in the fall 1991 do not comprise the series' "second season". They were part of the first season ... well, an argument could be made that the episodes that were "previewed" [in full] on The Disney Channel in the spring of 1991 should be considered the first season, and that both the 1991-92 syndicated and ABC episodes together comprise the second season ... but that totally flies in the face of conventional wisdom, so at best, those Disney Channel-"previewed" episodes can collectively be considered, "er, the "pre-first season".) And during those months, Darkwing Duck dominated my life. I was obsessed with it. My best friend and I developed handwritten-and-drawn fliers for our "Darkwing Duck Fan Club", and distributed photocopies of them to every boy in the fourth grade. (Oh, don't get me wrong; at that point, I already had several crushes on girls under my belt, but we figured that our "club" wouldn't appeal to girls. If we were smarter, we would've found a way to entice them into joining us!) 

But then, a friend and classmate started boasting to me that some Marvel villain named Thanos had conquered the world and could easily kick Darkwing's ass. Thus began a longstanding revulsion on my part by any Marvel comics, one which took me nearly 20 years to undo and get to the heart of the matter. (For the record, though, I'm still a DC man, at the end of the day.) And, ironically, my coming-around has been centered on ... Thanos. 

This is not the post that I meant to write tonight ... but it's far better than the one that I did! And so, our story is ... to be continued!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy post-Thanksgiving! And, a Ludwig Von Drake/Wonderful World of Disney treat...

I hope that everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving and extended weekend (if you were lucky enough to, in fact, have Thursday-Sunday off.) I went out with family on Wednesday night, and then stayed at my mom stepfather's house, where the next day's gathering took place. Since Thursday night, I've been home, reading, cleaning and organizing (currently doing laundry), and catching up on sleep.

This episode of The Wonderful World of Disney incorporates the 1957 theatrical short "The Truth About Mother Goose" and the widely-known "Mickey and the Beanstalk" portion of Fun and fancy Free (1947). In animated sequences produced explicitly for this episode, Ludwig Von Drake resumes his host role, with his narration edited over both aforementioned features. It first aired on November 17th, 1963, so it's close enough to a Thanksgiving special presentation, I suppose.

Ludwig is as charming and entertaining as ever, though his on-screen bits are relatively sedentary compared to some of his others -- he's mostly seated, reading to us from an armchair, Masterpiece Theater-style. However, when verbally sparring with his bug friend, Herman,  the jumpy, frazzled Von Drake emerges.

Though the gloomy, stately imagery of the "Truth About mother Ghost" short is markedly different from Von Drake's drab office, they complement each other in that they're both UPA esque. (Though the sketch-like outline inks on Von Drake remind me of Chuck Jones' style from the same era.)The lusher, "rounder" animation and backgrounds -- I suppose the "classic" Disney style; e.g., Snow White, Bambi, etc. --  of "Mickey and the Beanstalk" stands apart, clearly from a different era.

Well, back to work tomorrow. (Sigh.) Have a nice week, everyone.

-- Ryan