Monday, July 25, 2016

Walt's Birthplace!

Flora and Elias Disney
In the late 1800's, Elias Disney and his wife Flora decided to put down roots in Chicago and build a home for their growing family of two sons. The family gained two more boys, Roy on June 24, 1893, Walt on December 5, 1901 and a daughter Ruth on December 6, 1903. Eventually Elias sold the property when the family moved on to Marceline, Missouri.

Dina, Truman and Brent
The property went through various owners and was about to be placed on the chopping block until purchased by Dina Brenadon and Brent Young. This wonderful couple are making it their mission to restore the home to it’s former 1901 appearance and to protect it there after as a historical landmark that will be enjoyed by the public.

Patty and I were invited up to join the festivities surrounding Roy Disney’s birthday and take to part in a “Creativity Days” event at the birthplace of Walt Disney. Dick Van Dyke and his lovely and talented wife Arlene would also be there to liven the celebration so we had to say yes. Todd could invite us to an earthquake and I would probably still say yes, he's that nice of a person.

All we needed was a
blank sidewalk
Since Dick was going to be there, I decided it would be fun to don his movie costume (albeit an enlarged version) as the sidewalk artist from Mary Poppins. Todd liked the idea so Patty and I arrived at Walt’s home early in the morning before anyone was scheduled to show up and got out the chalk. It didn’t take long though before neighborhood folks started gathering to see what we were doing on the sidewalk.

The pose of Mickey I designed was purposely sketched in an elongated perspective to be seen from a child’s view so that when they approached the home, it would appear that Mickey Mouse was actually rising in 3D from the sidewalk. I wanted Mickey to join in with the restoration of his "poppa's" place.

Now I was raised in the deep south and Patty is from the East coast so we're used to humidity but living for decades in Southern California has gotten us both used to what everyone calls, a "dry heat".  To say it was humid is an understatement. (It was so hot in Chicago that weekend that the cows were giving evaporated milk and the chickens were laying hard boiled eggs). I had to be careful not to let my perspiration hit the chalk which made having “Bert’s” scarf a welcome sponge of an accessory to my sidewalk artist wardrobe.

Patty, Truman and Me (Bert's brother Ernie)
We weren't sure we would finish it before the crowds started showing up if we finished it at all. With my Disney animator wife Patty at my side or I should say at my "sidewalk", we both were able to complete it in plenty of time. It was a joy spending time with home owners Dina, Brent and their precocious son Truman who acted as my "supervisor" while I drew Mickey Mouse.

The crowd easily numbered over 1,000 and the smiles on the faces of those young and old made the entire weekend one filled with magic.

Dick soon showed up and the excitement grew as children were called up to place wishing stones they had each painted at the base of the newly planted tree in Walt's front yard.


The assembled group then treated everyone to a rousing chorus of "Let's Go Fly A Kite" as the children held up the kites they had made during the event. Dick's acapella group the Vantastix provided a strong backing to the community sing-a-long.

We were then driven over to the next event on the schedule and that included our meeting up close and personal, our favorite automobile in the world, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." Dick assured me that it gets better milage in the air than on the ground but nevertheless it was a treat to get behind the wheel.

One of our favorite people
Dick Van Dyke.
Later that evening we were entertained further by Dick, Arlene and the amazing acapella group, The Vantastix (which reminds me that yodeling is often a cry for Alp). Patty and I really enjoyed spending time that evening chatting with Dick and Arlene Van Dyke and sharing a few stories. We want to thank everyone who participated and who made this magical weekend possible: Todd, Lance, Dina, Brent, Truman, Dick, Arlene, Rey, Patty and so many others who contributed their time and passion.

Happy Birthday Roy!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Happy Birthday Bill Peet!


Bill's (and mine) layout desk
It’s a particular honor to pay tribute to hands down one of the greatest story men and concept artist ever to work at the Walt Disney Studio, Bill Peet. I met Bill a couple of times when he came to the studio in the 1970s to visit Don Griffith because he certainly wasn’t there to see a gangly little kid like me. However he always made me feel like part of the “gang” when he was around. We would go out to “Sloppos”, which was the nickname we all used for a Mexican Restaurant across from Warners that Don and many of his Disney compatriots used to haunt. It was unfortunately demolished and turned into a parking garage back in the 1980s.

Ironically, I met many of the "old guard" that were no longer working at Disney at restaurants like Sloppos than at the studio. You can bet when any of the Disney "vets" came visiting in the 1970s, they almost certainly made stopping by to say hello to Don Griffith an important stop. He was that kind of wonderful man.

Bill creating more magic

I really enjoyed Bill and his colorful stories about the old days at Disney. He is also one of my biggest influences as to technique. I used to try to emulate his work, never knowing much about the artist who created them until Don shared some of his personal stories of Bill with me.

My love of working in charcoal was due directly to Bill and to a great friend and teacher Ken O’Connor. Don also clued me in about Bill’s vast library of children’s books he not only wrote but illustrated in the same lively style he had used for years at the mouse factory. If you don’t own any Bill Peet books, I suggest you make amends and buy an armload of em. Two of my favorite momentos from the old studio days are a couple of Bill's books personalized for Patty and I as birthday gifts by the master storyteller himself. If I can figure out a way to hang them without breaking the binding one day they'll be framed and up on one of the studio walls next to his other work.

One of Bill's stunning Song of the South story sketches
Eric Larson, one of the 9 old men also shared his appreciation of Bill’s talent by allowing me to study the pastel and charcoal story sketches from "Song of the South" he had framed and hanging directly behind his chair in his office. One time when I dropped in on Eric he even offered in his chuckling voice, “Are you here to see ME Mike, or just look at my etchings?” meaning Bill’s sketches. If you study the little banner I made, you’ll see evidence of the immeasurable talent Bill had and the effect he poured into so many classic Disney films. 

Ready for the pitch!
Bill himself enjoyed the fact that I was using HIS desk while working for Don Griffith in those days. Bill used a story desk in his early days but gravitated to the larger layout model in later years due to the built in cork board and extra shelving. I told him the trouble I had opening the drawers that seemed to be stuck. I pulled and pulled until finally the big one on the lower left flew open. Inside were over a hundred smashed story sketches from Alice to Junglebook. I had torn quite a few of them in the process of getting  it open. When I took a handful of the sketches over in the next room to Don he told me who had drawn them. Over lunch Bill told me the rest of the story. 


He had a falling out of sorts with Walt over some story development ideas on Jungle Book. It wasn’t the first time he had a disagreement with Uncle Walt but unfortunately it would be the last. Bill wasn't the type to mince words and he was in fine form on this day. It happened upstairs in Walt’s favorite sweatbox on the 3rd floor. It was on a Wednesday January 29, 1964. I was surprised Bill remembered the date but when he related that it happened on his birthday of all days it of course made sense. Of course Walt wasn’t the sort to back down to anyone and didn’t have to. Still, for this to happen on his birthday! Not the sort of gift one wants.



The end result was that upon returning to his desk that afternoon in 1964, he was understandably upset and slammed his drawers into the desk which were full to over flowing with his drawings. Apparently those stuffed drawers hadn’t been opened since that fateful day.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking Bill was a hot head, far from it. He was simply an incredibly talented artist who worked extremely hard at his craft and was ready to take up for his solid ideas, even with Walt. Thank goodness for all of us, that passion can be found throughout the great Disney classics for generations to enjoy. Happy Birthday Bill and thanks everything!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

DISNEYLAND Diamond Jubilee Celebrates 60 Years of Dreams!

I'm delighted to have the opportunity to present 3 new designs to honor Disneyland's 60 Anniversary!
Blocking in "Retro Retlaw"
The "crown jewel" of all amusement parks is celebrating its 60th Diamond Anniversary on July 17, 2015 and I was  asked to join a select group of amazing artists to design something to help usher in the sparkling celebration. My three original gems are entitled, "Retro Retlaw", "Road to Dreams" and "60 yEARS!" are of course designed and painted in traditional methods instead of using a computer. The final paintings are all gouache, the very same medium we all used at Disney Studios in the 1930s on Pinocchio up into the 1970s, and the pieces measure around 18" x 24".

Opening Day
You would be hard pressed to find a child or adult who, if they haven't visited the park, has at least  dreamed of doing so. Well I'm one of the millions of lucky kids (of all ages) who dreamed of going to Disneyland and subsequently realized that magical dream coming true, well it came true frequently in fact. And I have to admit, I never get tired of visiting the magic kingdom, especially with folks who are first time or infrequent visitors whereas I can enjoy it again through their eyes. I also just plain enjoy watching people as they enjoy themselves at the "happiest place on Earth!"

First ticket sold!
Disneyland is the ONLY theme park designed and built under the direct supervision of Walt Disney. Maybe that's why it always seemed to have an edge over all the other later parks in some kind of special feeling within its gates. As Walt once recollected during an interview, being the head of a thriving studio kept him very busy and he looked forward to weekends, especially Sundays at Griffith Park Carousel watching his daughters Diane and Sharon reach for the brass ring. Walt wistfully dreamed about a place where parents, children and friends could all enjoy a family experience together as opposed to sitting there waiting for a ride or two to finish.

Disneyland 60th artwork ad
Walt Disney, as he usually did, surrounded himself with people that would help enable his dream to become a reality. Originally it was going to be built in Burbank across the street from the studio but Walt's plans quickly outgrew that tiny corner of real estate. His unbridled imagination eventually stretched to take root across 160 acres of orange groves that was owned owned by no less than 17 different families in the middle of a place no one had ever heard of called Anaheim. (Ana-who? no Anaheim!).


Week after week on Sunday evenings we would see the progress on Walt's TV show entitled what else? "Disneyland" and marvel as the park took shape. As the weeks went on American families grew more excited about this magical kingdom that Walt Disney was creating. The wait was finally over on July 17th 1955, when Disneyland lowered it's drawbridge and opened its doors to the world on live television, spreading happiness and magic for millions ever since. Shown here on the left is the first Disneyland admission ticket and it was purchased by Walt's older brother and important partner of the Disney empire from its beginning, Roy O. Disney,  for $1. Gee, prices have gone up a bit wouldn't you say?

Another playful parody ad for the celebration
The Monsanto House of the Future
For my tribute pieces I decided to pay homage to the "retro style"I seem to have become associated with that harkens back to mid century design aesthetics, so I guess I'm a retro kinda guy these days. Although I can and have worked in a multitude of styles, media and techniques, I felt that to properly pay respect to an event from the 1950s it would be nice to use a style keenly embraced by graphic designers and Madison Avenue firms during that time period. I also created a series of parody ads to humorously help herald the event using, what else? a 1950s magazine ad feel. A couple of them are included here.
Remember the Sky Buckets?

With Walt in charge, the Walt Disney Company was always on the cutting edge with regard to design, and the commercial art side of things from the earliest days of Disneyland's conception was certainly no exception. That contemporary style carried through into maps, tickets, signage, and print advertisement during the first decade of the park. I am a big fan of that now vintage look and in fact used it back in the early 1970s when I was a commercial artist working for an advertising firm not unlike a smaller version of that on the series MAD MEN. We operated out of a tiny two story building so the falling man title sequence from Mad Men opening just wouldn't have had the same impact. These new retro pieces honoring Disneyland's 60th will be unveiled as prints along with the originals at the Anaheim Convention Center during this years D23 EXPO.
Painting Disneyland's 60th Anniversary artwork

I was "bi-desk-al" meaning I worked back and forth on these three pieces at two different desks so while one painting was drying I could scoot over the the other one and keep going. Those of you familiar with my posts know I am the happy owner of the original Walt Disney Studio architect Kem Weber's prototype animation desk and his concept/story desk model that was actually used by a legendary imagineer at WED by the name of Herb Ryman.

My wife, Disney animator Patty Peraza was the first to notice the delightful irony that here I was happily nestled up in my studio, designing poster artwork to celebrate Disneyland's 60th Anniversary... on Disney Legend Herb Ryman's desk!  

Herb Ryman's iconic original concept design for Disneyland
Patty and Whatshisname
For those of you who may not know who Herbie is, well he was a long time artist in the company, and a stunning talent valued by Walt Disney himself. In 1952, Walt had set up an independent company that would concentrate on bringing his dreams of a new kind of amusement park to life. To get a full head of steam with visuals, Walt Disney spoke to Herb Ryman on Spetember 23, 1953 a Wednesday morning and implored him to come to the studio right away for something important.

DISNEYLAND 60th ANNIVERSARY ART
Road to Dreams
For the next few days Walt and Herbie were inseparable as Walt "described" and Herb "inscribed". Monday morning found a worn out Walt and Herb along with a huge ink drawing on thick vellum paper. That drawing was rolled up and taken to New York by Walt's brother Roy to line up some early but important financing for the new Disneyland park.

So here I was decades later using the master's magical desk to compose posters of that wonderful new idea of Walt's, DISNEYLAND! I'm very proud and humbled to have been able to contribute my designs in a small way to help celebrate Disneyland's 60th Diamond Anniversary. I sincerely hope you like them and will stop by and say howdy at D23 and at the Disneyanna Gallery! I won't be alone by any means and in fact I am in good company with a fantastic and talented group of artists and I encourage you to check out their fabulous creations. So Happy Birthday DISNEYLAND and thank you Walt and all those original Imagineers for 60 years of magic at the Happiest Place on Earth!

One of the signings at the Disney Dream Store
UPDATE: We really enjoyed our time at D23 Expo meeting so many wonderful Disney fans from around the world. All of my original paintings sold out within the first five minutes of D23 opening its doors on Friday! On Saturday the Giclees followed with the smaller prints going before they closed the magical doors on Sunday! Patty and I were happily surprised!

By the way, we made our own outfits to celebrate the Diamond Anniversary and as such we made sure they were "dazzling"! The local arts and crafts stores enjoyed our repeated visits to buy more and more sparkling sequins, glass beads and foam sheets. D23 EXPO, my favorite part was spending time chatting with and meeting Disney fans. After all, I'm a Disney fan myself!









Sunday, March 1, 2015

WARD KIMBALL, Genius!

Ward Kimball holding court at his
"Grizzly Flats" next to Chloe
March 4, 1914 gave us one of the most talented, one of the biggest cutups and one of the most beloved artists in the Walt Disney Studio stable- Ward Kimball. Ward was so many things it’s hard to put a label on him- jazz trombonist, fine artist, toy collector, imagineer, train buff, animator… well let’s just use the moniker that Walt Disney himself bestowed on Ward- GENIUS! 

One of Ward's endless model sheet spoofs
As with many of the Disney “old timers” (Now that my dark hair has for some reason gone gray, I'm not sure I like that phrase). I first met Ward at Cal Arts back when I was enrolled in the Disney Animation program back in the mid 1970s.  He made quite an impression on me and others in the brief time he was there but what I noticed was that he really stood out from the other fellows, not just because of his owlish oversized spectacles but his big grin and voice to match it. Ken O'Connor, who was our Basic Drawing and Perspective teacher was a close friend of Ward's and had worked in the Kimball Unit on many of his popular projects at Walt Disney Studio and was able to help set up the visits.

For those who might be unfamiliar with Ward's work he brought to life with his magic pencil many famous delightful Disney characters including Jimminy Cricket, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat and oodles more. He was an inspiring director and was responsible for the Academy Award winning short, "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom" and a series of shows about outer space working with other Dsiney legends like Ken O'Connor that helped Americans understand our "race into space."

I was quite the practical joker at Disney and probably spent too much time planning out gags to play on my co-workers (The soap bubbles incident, re-arranging rest room labels, setting a For Lease sign in front of the studio, etc.) when I suddenly found myself loaned out  to WED. (they did that frequently, I should have developed an inferiority complex). On one of those “loan outs” I was assigned to work on EPCOT with Ward on “World of Motion” with GM as the sponsor. If they thought it would quiet me down management was mistaken because it was more akin to pouring gasoline on a fire. 
Walt and Ward

Ward was patient as I was trying to get my head around the job and he made the time fly by giving some of the “suits” the business, one fellow in particular was an ongoing target for Ward’s humor. The ride was a send up of the history of transportation and with Ward in charge it was a funny one to be sure. I did a few gag sketches on Leonardo Da Vinci attempting flight and quite a few doodles and a pastel for the turn of the century traffic jam. Ward was turning out stunning train sketches that were not only amazing, but the guy wasn't using any reference!

We had a song, "It's Fun to Be Free" written by X Atencio with music by Buddy Baker. Ward would half hum and half sing, "It's Fun to be Me..." while doodling madly at his desk. Unfortunately I can't print his memorable version of the lyrics here. Within our sketches and even the models, Mickey would wind up pounded by a caveman, flattened as a traffic jam victim or tied to a train track with a steam loco on its way. Moments before a presentation there would be a hilarious sign or two added amidst the "official" traffic signs and let me tell ya they wasn’t there to clear up any traffic jam sister!  While adding his hijinks to the process, we still turned out a ton of work, maybe even because of it. Ward just made it a joy rather than a job.

Ward at his desk in the animation
building long before we met
They would usually limit my time on these WED excursions to two to three weeks per project and sure enough one day when I came in Ward told me I had been reassigned to the American Adventure pavilion. I was a bit upset about it but Ward tried to cheer me up and presented me with a cut out cardboard folder rendered like a traveling suitcase covered with his ridiculous made up stickers he had applied including with names including World of Notion, World of Potion, World of Lotion, well you get the idea. 

After a while you realized there
was no one on the other end
I opened that case to find a cel of a funky looking red bird from one of Ward’s Academy Award winning projects,”It’s Tough to Be a Bird”. He dedicated it,” From one bird brain to another! best wishes Mike, Ward Kimball”. I treasure that creepy little "boyd".

I really wish I could have worked with Ward at the animation studio on a feature but at this stage in his career he had moved on and spent most of his time for the company hanging out at at WED although he had just recently produced a show called “The Mouse Factory” in the early 1970s. Sadly that although I would run into Ward a couple of times later on (when they would get the Disney veterans together for photo shoots or publicity interviews at Grizzly Flats ) that brief team up at WED was to be the only time I would have the chance to work with that lovable legendary loonytoon. On a sour note I was ticked off that because of the animation strike I wasn't able to attend the wrap party for the ride. Ward, Dave Michener, Ed Hansen and Dick Lucas did sent me materials like booklets, pins and other souvenirs but it's not the same as being there. Then again I really didn't contribute much to the WOM ride when all is said and done outside of a few charcoal gag drawings and some pastels. It was Ward's baby from start to finish, and what he came up with was entertaining even if the mechanical side of the attraction had a nasty habit of breaking down.

Walt named him a genius so
who am I to argue?
Ward also founded the legendary Dixieland band, “Firehouse Five Plus Two” where he played one outspoken trombone. The reach he had with that elongated instrument among his fellow musicians like Disney animator Frank Thomas and Art Director/Imagineer Harper Goff was hilarious. Fire helmets would accidentally get knocked sideways at times as he would swing around. I want to be clear on something, as silly as he would act up there, he could really play that trombone as good as anyone and they performed a couple of lunchtime concerts for us at the old studio which were unforgettable. That band of his released no fewer than 13 LP records and toured clubs and jazz festivals with Walt's OK, as long as it didn't interfere with the animation production. Being a Naw'lins native and lover of Dixieland jazz, I have two of those records and scratch them up on my record player regularly.

One of Ward's "Art Afterpieces"
He also illustrated a famous series of paintings poking fun at famous masterpieces called “Art Afterpieces” which have been copied by some cheesy artists over recent years who pretended they came up with the idea (ironic ain’t it, copying a copy?). Those copies however never equaled Ward’s brilliance. 

In addition a lot of people don’t realize what a fine artist Ward was which evidenced in his life drawings, stills and paintings. He just rather enjoyed doing more comically inclined cartoon designs over realism. He married his best gal Betty and raised 3 talented kids, Kelly, Johnny and Chloe. I worked with John Kimball over in TVA while doing DuckTales and other series for the mouse. Betty by the way worked in Ink and  Paint in the 1930s and among her contributions to the Disney Studio was to develop the "dry brush" technique used on cels for a soft feathered rendered look used to great effect in "Fantasia". They married in 1936 and Betty left three years later to raise a family and manage the full size backyard train set of Ward's called "Grizzly Flats" which had to be seen to be believed and even then it was unbelievable!

One of the important lessons I learned from Ward was to be a chameleon and don't get pegged with one style. Another important thing he taught me was when I was working on a time machine design for a project. I was hitting a dead end creatively and happened by for a visit. He told me to collect every time machine photo and drawing I could find, pin them all up, ... then do something different! I did just that, and based mine on an Aztec Calendar of stone which when parts were rotated, stone segments rose to seat the time traveller. The other machines that had been designed for films were almost entirely of Victorian design and what we might call Steampunk these days so I opted for something much more ancient. The project was eventually shelved but the time machine design I came up with really impressed everyone at the meeting with its originality. I owe you for that one Ward, thank you!

Happy Birthday to a crazy and wonderful genius, Ward Kimball!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Haunted Mansion's 45th Anniversary!

HAUNTED MANSION 45TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTOR'S ART DISNEYLAND GALLERY MIKE PERAZA
"Welcome Foolish Mortals ... " to a celebration of Disneyland's horribly humorous hair-raising Haunted Mansion. As most of you know, there are multiple versions of this spooktacular attraction at Disney parks around the world with each one celebrating their unique differences from the architecture outside to many of the ride elements inside. The one located at Disneyland is of course the ominous original, opening it's creaky doors to the public on August 9,1969. This year celebrates its 45th year of happy haunting. I was asked to create some eerie original artwork to celebrate this tombstone... I mean milestone, and so I'm unveiling part of my ghostly gouache. Before I get to the painting however, a bit of history of the Haunted Mansion is in order, and for goodness sakes don't you dare pull back on the safety bar, we'll do it for you! Disneyland's Haunted Mansion 45th Anniversary artist Mike Peraza HAUNTED MANSION, 

Harper Goff's early rendition of the attraction
Walt Disney first considered a haunted house attraction in Disneyland two decades before the first shovel was turned to lay the attraction's groundwork. The original sketches by Harper Goff for the structure included drawings for a gothic mansion resembling (at least to me) the one that would be built years later in 1960 for Hitchcock’s Psycho with a graveyard and church sharing the plot.

However when Disneyland lowered its drawbridge and opened its magical castle to the public on July 17, 1955, it did so without the benefit of a spine tingling creepy crypt. In 3 short years however, Walt's never ending park expansion created a new land named “New Orleans Square” (being a native of the "big easy" I certainly like the sound of that) which would provide literally lay the foundation for the spook house in 1962. HAUNTED MANSION 45TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTOR ART

Ken Anderson's original design
Sam McKim's color interpretation
Although early concepts by Ken Anderson portrayed the mansion as an old dilapidated haunted house, Walt Disney thought that might be a grave mistake and wanted it to have a pristine look to match the rest of the park. As numero uno imagineer Walt himself put it, "We'll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside."

It then stood empty for years while the Disney company concentrated on its responsibilities for the 1964 World's Fair. When Walt Disney passed away in 1966, the imagineers were in the midst of planning the new attraction. They were suddenly at a loss of whether to make the attraction scary like Claude Coats had wanted or funny like Marc Davis had planned. Actually "loss" is not accurate when recounting those times.

One of many Marc Davis concepts
The imagineers I talked to, including Marc and Claude themselves (and they o'uta know, ya know ) described the situation a bit like going into battle without a commanding general to coordinate the troops. In the end of course they combined both directions into an eerie entertaining experience that people line up for to this day.

Haunted Mansion 45th Event
Mike Peraza
As many of you may know who have read my blog over the years, two of my mentors: Disney Legends Ward Kimball and Ken O’Connor used to advise me in essence to be a chameleon. In other words, don’t just create in one style or medium but be open to many approaches but try to do each well. In this respect I created my newest piece to celebrate the Haunted Mansion’s 45th in a style I like to refer to as “retro ” and  let me tell you, it was a hoot to work on. I wanted to avoid doing the "stretches" or just limit myself to the "hitch hikers" and hoped to include as much of the ride in the image as possible without getting too complicated. I solved the problem by using a whimsical approach and starting with a simple base composition to build upon. The end result is almost a companion piece to my "Seasons of Magic" painting that was very well received by Disney fans and was subsequently showcased in the Disney Gallery vault for many months.

As my wife Patty put it, It’s an advertising style that was being used when the original attraction opened, so it’s fitting to return to that stylized look to celebrate it 45 years later!" She has so many good ideas and of course if you want a happy life- you keep a happy wife, so I used her suggestionAnd once again I'm also using the medium of choice from the old Disney Studio of the 1930s through the 1960s which is gouache with the original illustration measuring 18 x 24 inches. You can see it within the ad poster to the left. The look was decidedly different from my previous pieces for the Disney Gallery Steampunk Show . Once I had finalized my thumbnails, it was frighteningly fun adding little hidden treasures among the Haunted Mansion many points of interests. Mike Peraza Haunted Mansion 45th Anniversary collector poster. HANTED MANSION

Yale Gracey and "Hat box"
Yale Gracey with chip off the old block
I even included cryptic characters from the ride that were removed from the attraction  like the legendary “Hat box Ghost" although he is making a "spirited" return . Here's a photo of Yale Gracey working on that original problem child that never seemed to come off the way they had hoped. Before he transferred to WED, Yale was a brilliant layout guy for Jack Hannah back in the day doing Donald Duck shorts among many other projects at the old studio. When Jack introduced him to me I had no idea he was an imagineer at that time because the discussion was mainly centered on animation and layout from his work at the old Disney Studio. When he eventually got around to sharing Disneyland stories I was even more blown away by Yale's accomplishments.

The original design of the Hatbox
Ghost by Collin Campbell
He was a nice guy and is missed to this day by everyone who was fortunate to know him. If you ever wondered if there was a real "Master Gracey", well this is the amazing gentleman who was honored with that title.

 Mike Peraza whimsical take on Hat Box Ghost
By the way, the original design for the "Hat Box Ghost" was by another old friend, Collin Campbell and is included here. Speaking of "Hatty", here is my retro rendition of that ghastly ghost. I have also planted multiple “hidden Mickeys” and other treasures throughout the graphic graveyard so have fun unearthing them. Before you pull down on the safety bar even though we told you not to, come on down to the Disney Gallery and join our spirited celebration of the Haunted Mansion's 45th!

Part of the crowd waiting outside to get in,
while there was just as many inside waiting to get out.
If you're looking to pick up fine art prints signed for you by their apparitional artists celebrating the Haunted Mansion's 45th but worried your walls are too full, let me paraphrase the last line you hear when leaving the Haunted Mansion, "...there's always room for one more." So come on out August Saturday 16, 9:00 AM to the Disneyland Gallery located on Main Street, on the right when you enter the park. I'll be there along with a ghoulish group of extremely talented and terrifying artists just dying to meet you.

UPDATE: The signing event was huge success and sold out of all of my paper prints, canvas prints and the original painting before it was even half over. I had the pleasure of meeting so many incredible folks who came by to pick up a print and then stuck around to talk and share some great times while I signed. Of course that is wonderful news but what is also exciting is that prints are again available at the Disney Gallery for my "Happy Haunts" in both formats and will continue to be offerred for all of the Haunted Mansion fans out there.

#hauntedmansion45th #mikeperaza #disneyfineart #YaleGracey #Disneyland #Disneygallery #Disneyfineart

Monday, July 21, 2014

Amazing Al Dempster

There have been many amazing talents that have worked in the Disney background department and created stunning concept pieces over the years. Of course names like Mary Blair, Eyvind Earle, Claude Coats, Walt Peregoy and others spring to mind but there are others equally deserving of credit due their talented offerings. One that comes to my mind is Al Dempster

He was born July 23, 1911 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. After relocating to Los Angeles he got a job with the Disney Studio in 1939 and when Walt saw his painting skills first hand, he was quickly transferred to the background department. Those skills benefitted the studio on classic like Fantasia, Dumbo, Saludos Amigos, Victory Through Air Power, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music and Song of the South

Bill Justice-pencils, Al Dempster-paint
L-R  Don Griffith, Al Dempster
He left the studio in 1945 but came back in 1952 to create more lovely backgrounds for Walt’s Peter Pan. He stayed on to contribute to Lady and The Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred and One Dalmations, Sword in the Stone, Jungle Book and more. He left a lasting mark when he teamed up with close friend Don Griffith to create the look for all of the Winnie the Pooh featurettes.

Al's take on Johnny Appleseed
At Walt’s personal request, Al translated many of the studio’s films into lavishly illustrated children’s books, usually with pal Bill Justice providing the pencils. He retired from the studio for various reasons but agreed to return to help with The Rescuers in 1973 which is how I met him albeit briefly.

I wasn’t working on that film but was attending the CalArts Art School (the Character Animation Program had not yet been created). Don Duckwall introduced me to Al and the rest of the small background department. His time on Rescuers was not an enjoyable one as there were a few bumps in the road during production and soon the same reasons he had left the studio before reared up again. Since Al had only committed to 6 months or so on that production, when the time was up, he skeedaddled back into retirement and did his own paintings, this time in oil. 
Al creates more magic with Alice

Walt choose Al's version of Jungle Book
Years later I did have a chance to spend more time with Al during our regular Thursday lunches at Sloppos with Don Griffith. I was a huge fan of his work and had a few of his spectacularly illustrated books for Disney. Al eventually signed my books and gave Patty and I a couple of his original oil paintings as a wedding present which we have hanging to this day over the stairway to the upstairs studio. 


So check your old Disney story books. If the illustrations have an extra special feeling of Disney magic like the images here, you may just own an Al Dempster collection. Happy Birthday Al!
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