Animation Autographs

As part of my goal to clean out the rats-nest I call an office, I discovered an old Film Comment magazine from January 1975. Here’s the cover of that zine.

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At that time I was a Lieutenant JG in the Navy, stationed at the Pentagon… a full year before I knew I’d be working at Disney. But I was a big toon buff even then. This Film Comment issue was devoted to toons, so I snatched it up… primarily because I was going to hear Chuck Jones speak at the Kennedy Center, and I was hoping for an autograph. Long story short, I got Chuck’s signature and carried it with me to California (where I moved the following year to work for Disney). Naturally, I ran into more animation legends in Los Angeles, so I managed to pick up a few more autographs for my magazine. Thought you might like to take a peek. Enjoy.

Here’s Chuck’s signature from 1975. I heard Chuck speak at the Kennedy Center in 1975.

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Working just a few offices from me in the Roy O. Disney building was Willie Ito, who worked on Chuck Jones’ crew. (Willie also worked for Hanna-Barbera, Beanie & Cecil, and Disney feature animation. He even character-designed for WD TV animation in its infancy.) He sat just a couple of offices away from me. (https://www.lambiek.net/artists/i/ito_willy.htm)

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Just down the hall from Willie sat CAL HOWARD  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cal_Howard) who was a Fleischer veteran from the ooooold days. (They even rotoscoped him as the Prince in Gulliver’s Travels.) So one day Cal brings a buddy to the studio, and I hear them talking out in the hallway. And the buddy sounds strangely familiar. It was JACK MERCER – the voice of Popeye!!! Another autograph!

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And of course, when I moved from Walt Disney Music over to TV Animation in 1984, I had the pleasure of working with these two mega-talents. Bill “Bullwinkle” Scott and June “Rocky” Foray. (She called me “dollink”!) I was doing THE GUMMI BEARS then, and Bill Scott played Gruffi Gummi, and June Foray played Grammi Gummi. Here are their signatures.

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Do you think this magazine is worth more than a buck and a half now?  🙂   (Naw, I’d never part with it.)

Jymn

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Backlot Luncheon

I originally wrote this blog on September 18, 2008 on a completely different site – and I thought I had transfered it to wordpress… but I guess not.  So here it is (again?).

DISNEYLAND RECORDS PICNIC

I realize it would take way too much organization to lay all this stuff out properly and logically, so I’m just gonna throw stuff into the blog as I get it.   Today I’m sharing some photos and memories about another National Sales Meeting of the Walt Disney Music Co.  As I mentioned last time, we had a big hit with Mickey Mouse Disco.  Even though our WDW trip was in 1983, MMD was actually released back in 1979.  It sold great.  In fact it was the Best Selling Children’s Album two years running… even though NARM (National Association of Recording Merchandisers) never gave us the award for that honor.  (How do they vote on sales figures??? That’s like voting on the height of the tallest mountain.)

CELEBRATING THREE ALBUMS

Anyway, we didn’t rest on our laurels.  In 1980 we released three terrific albums for kids.  Namely, “Goin’ Quackers,” “Pardners,” and “Yankee Doodle Mickey.”  I’m assuming that the picnic was in 1980 to coincide with the albums’ release.  Naturally, the theme was Western to go along with the “Pardners” album.

The picnic was on the Disney Studios backlot.   In fact we were set up in the backyards of two famous Disney houses.  One was the Victorian House from “The Shaggy Dog” (among countless other shows), and the other was the house from “That Darn Cat.”  It was a barbecue set-up, and all the Music Company employees attended. Afterward, we had some live entertainment.  Willio & Phillio (the backbone of “Goin’ Quackers”) sang a few songs.  In the photo above you can see the Sales Team joining in with kazoos.  (“I’m goin’ quackers <QUACK, QUACK, QUACK> and you can come along!”)  In the semi-circle are (l to r) Sandy Beach, unknown, Eddy Medora (probably), Gary Krisel, Ron Roberg, Bill Rudolph, & Bob Pavlacka.  Also in the crowd are Willio and Phillio (in hats), Vera Wolski (in red), and, yes, that nose on the left side of the photo is me.

Here’s a better picture of the Sales Team.  (l to r)  Ron Roberg, Gary Krisel, Bob Pavlacka, Sandy Beach, ????, Bill Rudolph, and ????.  That’s me and Eddy Medora in front.  The cowboy hats were a gift to all of us from the Mouse.  (Well, the Music Company coffers, actually.)

Here’s a table of merrymakers:  That’s Miriam Aardahl, Phil “Phillio” Baron, Will “Willio” Ryan, Kit Grove, and me.

Anyway, a good time was had by all.

Ah, here are the other two covers to those three albums.

As always, if anyone can fill in the blanks (by identifying people in the photos or whatever), please contact me!

Jymnmnmnmn

Halyx – Part 2

DEVELOPMENT

I don’t remember if Walt Disney Music Company went to Disneyland with the idea – or if it was the other way around.  But the concept was to put a sci-fi rock band on the Tomorrowland stage for summer entertainment. (This was 1981: post “Empire Strikes Back”)   MIKE POST (famed composer and songwriter) was brought in to produce the music.  You’ve gotta remember, Disney Music back then wasn’t the Miley Cyrus/Jonas Brothers/Cheetah Girls company it is today.  We mainly released soundtrack albums from Disney films, story records, and the occassional sing-along type album.  So putting a rock band together was a learning experience for all of us.

Lovely Lora

We posted a notice in Variety or wherever for music performers, and tons of gals showed up for the lead singer role.  Some were good, some weren’t.  Like an American Idol audtion, only twenty years earlier.  The funny thing is that after listening to dozens of singers, we ended up picking the very first girl who walked in – Lora Mumford.  Killer voice.  I remember writing on my audition sheet:  “Great.  Like a punk Snow White.”  (So sad:  We lost Lora a half year ago.)

Black’n’white rough

The band started coming together, and Mike rehearsed them in an empty sound stage at the Studio lot.  We added a bass player, lead guitar-singer, keyboard guy, a back-up singer or two, and a percussionist (who had to be able to do acrobatics – more on that later).  So while Mike and his partner STEVE GEYER (remember “Greatest American Hero”??) gathered music and rehearsed the band, we record company folk started to work on costumes and instruments and such.  

An early name for the group was “Starfire” as you can see from enclosed pictures.  Another name we kicked around was “Strike.”   And I threw “SKWAD” into the mix at one point. (The “SKyler Ward Aid Defense” or something like that).  But nothing stuck.  I don’t remember who came up with it, but “Halyx” was suggested – and we all kinda nodded and said, “Yeah, that sounds outer space-ish.”  And that was that.

Here’s the final color version of the Starfire art, painted by Disney poster artist, Paul Wenzel.

Shazam!

THE WOOKIEE

I’ve already discussed the keyboard player and his light-up keyboard cart.  Today I’m going to mention our “wookiee” character.   Because Halyx was a show band, it had to have a lot of theatrics.   We wanted something with a lot of levels (as they say in theatre), but we had no risers or stands.  So we had to give the performers different heights.  The wookiee (Sorry, I don’t know how else to describe him.  I don’t think we had names for any of the characters, except the percussionist.) was going to be tall, so we had to cast a tall bass player.  Enter ROGER FREELAND.  A likeable guy with a mean bass.  Many of the performers had costumes to endure, but Roger had the toughest.  He was not only on platform shoes (like Boris Karloff in FRANKENSTEIN), but he was covered in fur!  Working under stage lighting.  Hot.  Jungle hot.  Tarzan hot.

I’m sweating just looking at that suit.

I worked a bit with famed Disney makeup man, BOB SCHIFFER on the wookiee’s costume.  (Bob was a nice guy.  He owned a sushi restaurant in Burbank and would send over free apetizers when he saw me.  I also used Halyx as an excuse to go over to the makeup department one day so I could meet my lifelong heartthrob Hayley Mills – who was working on a TV special.  Sigh.)  Bob looked at many different furs, but decided that yak fur (an expensive thing) would be the best.

I mentioned that the Record Company had never put together a rock band, so when it came to conceptual art, we went to the closest art department we could find – the Consumer Products division (comic books, toys, etc.)  And, landagoshen, THEY had never put together a rock band either.  However, they came up with some really fun art.  Here’s a lookiee at the wookiee…..

Nice dreads, dude.

Somebody has posted an online copy of Orange Coast Magazine from Sept. 1981, and Halyx is mentioned in the Calendar of Events section.  Check it out!  Orange Coast Magazine – Google Books

Well, that’s all for today, sports fans.  Look for part 3, coming soon.

Halyx – Part 1

Halyx on Tomorrowland Stage

A strange and obscure bit of Disneyland/ Music Company trivia is a rock band that was formed in the early-80’s.  It was called HALYX and was designed with an outer space feel to: a) fit into the Tomorrowland stage motif, and 2) cash in on the Star Wars craze.  The band was given a typical Mouse-cheesy feel to appeal to a wide audience, but the performers themselves were quite good.  And to raise the group’s sound (above the normal Disneyland band level), composer-producer Mike Post was brought in to produce the music.  (Mike even got them a record contract! – But more about that later.)

Tomorrowland Stage… then.

I was involved with the creation of the band; sitting in on auditions, choosing names, designing costumes, and hobnobbing with my fellow wizards.  Although the band played on the Tomorrowland stage, its creation and production was primarily a Music Company project.  I recently discovered a personal notebook that contained a lot of conceptual artwork, so I scanned all the goodies and will post them here.  First up is a photo of the Tomorrowland stage.  Who remembers this, huh?  It was in front of Space Mountain, with seats and a dance floor.  It was torn out to make way for the Captain Eo theater – which is now the Honey, I Shrunk the Audience show.

Keyboard raw cart

Let’s start with the keyboard player.  One of the most static performers in any band is the keyboard guy, cuz he’s stuck behind a heavy piano or a rack of electronic keyboards.  So we decided to make our player mobile by mounting the various keyboards onto a vehicle.  I remember looking at a lot of different golf carts and industrial carts.  I’m pretty sure the model on the left is the one we decided on.  I remember drawing up a rough sketch of how the keyboard (a Prophet 5, I think) would fit onto this cart and then meeting with a manufacturing company near the Burbank airport.  This company was responsible for creating many of the floats for the Disneyland parades.  They figured out how to make a framework around the cart to accomodate the instruments, then added all the sci-fi glitz, as well.

Early sketch of keyboard cart and costume.

The keyboard player (which was Tom Miller, the husband of Lora Mumford – the lead singer) could now move about the stage like one of the guitar players.  But because Tom had to sit in such a confined space, he had to enter the cart before the show, then stay seated for the duration of the performance.  Besides playing keyboards and driving the cart, Tom also had the unflattering job of wearing a full body “stormtrooper” costume which obscured his face.  He had to look through the visor of his robot helmet to perform.  Weird.  Here is another conceptual sketch for that costume.

Keyboard cart & costume concept sketch

As I remember, Tom also has some bright cart headlights he could flash, and I think a fire extinqhisher that he could blast every so often.  Anyway, it was a nifty little keyboard platform, and I wonder to this day if the dang thing is sitting on the backlot of Disneyland somewhere.

Here’s what the vehicle ultimately looked like.

Publicity photo

Fearsome Foursome

And here’s a picture of Tom in his suit (sans helmet) next to Lora Mumford, Jeanette Clinger, and Bruce Gowdy.  (This was taken by me at a costume fitting.)

Check out this nice post done by the Imaginerding bunch that talks about the band, along with a nice quote from Bambi Moe (from the “Mousetracks” book).  This explains a bit about Halyx’s never-saw-the-light-of-day album.  Imaginerding: Disney books, history, links and more!: Halyx: For Those About to Rock…at Disneyland!

PART 2 COMING SOON!

Disney Music Company Dinner – WDW

[NOTE:  Here is another blog that I did on my Mac website way back when (Sep 10, 2008, to be exact).  So enjoy.]

This is a real quick and dirty posting, cuz I haven’t scanned all the pix and I don’t have all the info at my finger tips.  But here goes.  Back in Sept 1983 the Walt Disney Music Company had experienced a PARTICULARLY good year (thanks to the huge sales of “Mickey Mouse Disco”).  And so the annual sales meeting (which was usually held in our Burbank offices) was transported to Walt Disney World.  All the regional salesmen, the Burbank execs, and me (as record producer) flew to Orlando.  (I’m not sure the Mouse sprung for all our families’ costs, but most of us brought our fams anyway.)

Although the sales meetings ran all day long in a large conference room, we all found plenty of time to visit the theme parks… especially in

the evening when we all ate together.  This restaurant was “Les Chefs de France” in the France section at World Showcase.  We ate and chatted (and sang!) until the wee hours.  So late, in fact, that the Park was closed by the time we were done.  So a bus was sent to “escort” us out.

Lemme take a stab at the folks in the above photo.  Left to right:  Unknown, Virginia Beach, her husband Sandy Beach (our Southeast Sales Rep), Joanne Medora, Mrs. Roberg? (behind Anne’s head), Ron Roberg (Sales Rep), Bill Rudolph (???), Nancy Rahnasto, and standing, Phil Miles (maybe).

Below is a photo showing Gary Krisel (President of WDMusic Co.) chatting with Nancy Rahnasto who’s wearing one of our promotional “Mousercise” album T-shirts. ……………………..(More fotos to come!)