Here's a salute to my favourite film reviewer and historian, Leonard Maltin. I was lucky enough to meet Leonard way back in 1982 when he was one of the attendees at The Ottawa International Animation Festival. He'd only recently started appearing on the newly created "Entertainment Tonight" (which was so much better in those days), so not many people were as familiar with him as they are today. However, I knew of Leonard Maltin primarily as a noted authority on animated films, through his two books, "The Disney Films" and "Of Mice and Magic". Anyway, I wasn't going to be shy about saying hi, so I went up and started chatting with him. He was such an affable fellow that, since he was going to be around the festival all week, I took the opportunity to do a caricature of him and presented it to him a few days later. He seemed quite genuinely delighted with it and was happy to sign my copies of his two books in return. He also extended an invitation to come visit him if I ever found myself in NYC, which I ended up taking him up on about a year later.
At that time, Leonard and his wife Alice were still living in Manhattan, even though Leonard was having to fly to LA for all of his Entertainment Tonight film reviews. Some time later they would relocate to LA in order to make that task more practical. When I saw him in New York he was in the middle of obtaining a second apartment in his building to set up as an office, as his film and cartoon collection had gotten too big for the one apartment they lived in. He and Alice were very gracious to me and Leonard took great delight in showing me his extensive collection of cartoon memorabilia. After an enjoyable visit, they strolled with me back to where I needed to catch a bus back to my hotel.
What I love best about Leonard is his obvious enthusiasm for movies and, even when he does offer up some criticism he is never mean spirited with it, always balancing out the bad with some good. Back when he wrote "The Disney Films" in 1973, it was long before it was fashionable to write about Disney and there were very few textbooks available on the subject. I think that the only two books on Disney I personally had at that time were his and "The Art of Walt Disney" by Christopher Finch. I found myself referring to his book often, as those were still the years of "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday night TV, and I would read up on any of the live action Disney films that were about to show up on there for extra background on their production. What I didn't know at the time was that Leonard would have been only a young fellow of 23 when that incredible reference book was published!
In recent years, longtime Disney fans have Leonard Maltin to thank for his efforts in launching the "Walt Disney Treasures" series of boxed DVD sets devoted to vintage Disney animation, early television productions and Walt Disney, the man himself. Leonard also hosts these DVDs, providing a lot of historical background and supplemental interviews with legendary artists and performers. I have pretty much all of these sets, and find myself returning to them often to indulge in the warm nostalgia of that wonderful era of real entertainment.
Leonard currently has a website called "Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy" as well as a quarterly publication that showcases vintage films of the early days of Hollywood, his real passion. And since Leonard has been such a loyal friend to animation and Disney over his many years as a film historian, I thought I'd give this new caricature of him an appropriate Disney cartoon-style, sunburst backdrop. By the way, I see from my list of celebrity birthdays that Leonard shares his birthday with Steven Spielberg, which I'm certain makes him happy. But he also shares his birthday with screen legend, Betty Grable, and I'll wager that makes him even happier! Happy Birthday Leonard!