Monday, December 21, 2015

A Very Merry Disney Christmas!

This set of Disney character Christmas cards goes back nearly 20 years ago, I believe. They were commissioned by a Disney licensee by the name of G.G. Genal, as I had made the acquaintance of the founder of the company, the charming Gloria Aleff, at a Disneyana convention several years prior, and she was hoping we could work together on a project one day.

If I'm not mistaken, I illustrated these cards about 1995 or 1996, within a couple years after I'd left my job at Walt Disney World in Florida to return to Canada and continue illustrating for Disney in a freelance capacity. They were being created exclusively for sale through the Disney Stores at that time.

My stylistic approach to illustrating Mickey and the other standard Disney characters was primarily based on how they looked in the early 1940s, specifically in the handful of cartoons produced in 1941 and 1942 that were directed by Riley Thomson. The animators in his unit who worked on these included Ward Kimball, Fred Moore, and Walt Kelly, who would soon thereafter leave Disney to go create his famous comic strip character, Pogo Possum. These guys also had a reputation for getting sloshed on their lunch breaks, leading to highly spirited and very funny animation (with incredibly dynamic poses and expressions), with the resulting shorts being nicknamed the "Drunk Mickey" cartoons! It was also in two of these cartoons, Mickey's Birthday Party and Symphony Hour, that Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar enjoyed a brief revival, but would pretty much disappear again from the shorts after this.

The other goal in illustrating these Christmas cards was to capture the warm, cozy feel of the Disney publicity art that had been created by the brilliant Hank Porter, such as his artwork for  the Disney pages in Good Housekeeping Magazine in the early 1940s. I always felt that Porter's art had every bit as much visual appeal as that of the legendary animator, Fred Moore, yet he is largely unknown to the general public. 

All of these were painted using gouache on illustration board, by the way, as this is still my preferred medium even in this age of digitally created art. Frankly, I wouldn't even know how to achieve the same results using Photoshop and, unless one uses a Cintiq, I wouldn't even have the type of control necessary to do it digitally. Besides, I just happen to prefer the look of real paint on board, aesthetically!

Finally, here is the logo featuring Mickey and Minnie that appeared on the back of each of the three illustrated cards. I've enlarged it considerably from its printed dimensions of approximately 1 1/2" in diameter, so it's a bit blurry as a result.

This will likely be my last post before the 25th, so a Merry Christmas to all of my blog readers!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Happy 100th Birthday, Frank Sinatra!

I've written of my admiration for Frank Sinatra many times on The Cartoon Cave. In fact, my very first post when I launched this blog back in June 2007 made reference to his influence on my tastes in entertainment. For me, no other American entertainer better represents the 20th Century. He will always be the ultimate interpreter of The Great American Songbook - that vast catalogue of song standards composed by the likes of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, and many others. And then there was the songwriting team of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, who wrote many of Frank's biggest hits, such as Come Fly With Me, Call Me Irresponsible, and the heartbreakingly beautiful All The Way, one of my favourites. It's incredible to believe that Dec. 12 2015 is the centenary of his birth!

My favourite era of entertainment runs from approximately the early 50s through to the end of the 70s, and so it stands to reason that that's also my favourite period of Frank Sinatra's career. Although I can appreciate his early years as the skinny, big-eared, romantic crooner with the Tommy Dorsey band, that era is not nearly as appealing to me as his swinging bachelor image when he reinvented himself in the 1950s, thanks in no small part to his longtime collaboration with conductor/arrangers, Billy May and Nelson Riddle. With their jazzy musical arrangements and Sinatra's tailored suit, tilted fedora (or Trilby, as pictured), Frank had adopted a devil-may-care persona that epitomized the life of the 1950's young urban male. In the early 90s, that image was revived with the newfound interest among Baby Boomers in what was now called "Lounge Music". Though I was a Sinatra fan long before then, I must admit it felt good to see others starting to rediscover the greatness of that mid-20th Century entertainment.

Frank Sinatra's music career is what fascinates me the most, as I never tire of listening to his voice and styling of a song, making it his own. But I also enjoy Sinatra greatly as an actor, albeit with some reservation on some of his film choices. Whereas in the recording studio Frank was a perfectionist in his craft, the same could not always be said for his film roles. In his first dramatic acting role (that also boosted his flagging career) as the tragic Maggio in From Here To Eternity (1953), Frank showed he had the acting chops that few would have believed he had previously. There was no longer any doubt of that when he followed up in 1955 with his powerful performance as a drug addicted drummer in The Man With The Golden Arm. My favourites, however, would include the wartime escape drama, Von Ryan's Express, the cold war thriller, The Manchurian Candidate, and I must confess, two of his notoriously lightweight Rat Pack escapades, Ocean's 11 and Robin And The 7 Hoods!

It is in that latter film that Frank has his only onscreen musical collaboration with his Rat Pack pallie, Dean Martin. And if that weren't enough fun, they're joined by Bing Crosby, the legendary crooner who set the standard for all who came after, including Frank and Dean. Here's the three of these great entertainers singing "Style" from the aforementioned Robin And The 7 Hoods, a Chicago gangster spin on the Robin Hood legend. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Happy Birthday, Jody Miller!

Today I want to pay tribute to Jody Miller, an incredibly talented singer with an impressive voice, yet who in my opinion is terribly underrated. Although most longtime country fans will know Jody, I suspect that her name may not be that recognized by the general public today. 

Jody Miller arrived on the scene in the early 1960s as a singer of folk and pop songs. She hit it big early in her career when she recorded Queen Of The House, which was called an “answer song” to Roger Miller’s recently released mega-hit, King Of The Road. With Roger’s blessing, the 1965 song featured the same melody but with new lyrics written that gave the female point of view, with the premise of a weary modern housewife who still was thankful for the high points in her otherwise humdrum week. The song really put her on the map, winning Jody a Grammy in the process.

As a result of that hit song, Jody was pegged as a country singer, though she was still keen to explore more diverse types of song, whether country, folk or pop. That probably didn’t sit well with the music industry at the time, as record label execs preferred artists that fit a clearly defined music genre, and Jody wasn’t easy to categorize. She actually was one of the earlier female crossover artists, straddling both pop and country charts, and opening up the door for other similar singers who came along a few years later, such as Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Olivia Newton-John.

Though she put out her share of record albums and did regular concert tours, Jody never really was able to repeat the success of Queen Of The House. I believe the problem was due to the material she chose to record, in that many of her notable songs were those that had already been made famous earlier by other vocalists and groups, such as He’s So Fine, Baby I’m Yours, and Will You Love Me Tomorrow, the last of which had already been recently revived by Linda Ronstadt. Here's the TV appearance of Jody singing He's So Fine, which was used as the basis for my caricature of her:

Though fine songs all, what Jody really needed was a brand new original song she could lay sole claim to and establish as a “Jody Miller” hit. Alas, such a song never really came to be, and so despite her remarkable vocal chops and warm, winning smile, Jody Miller never became the household name that so many of her colleagues had achieved when country music was gaining greater mass popularity throughout the 60s and 70s.

Still, one distinction that Jody can lay claim to is being one of the pioneers in what would later become “music videos”, in that she performed a number of her songs for Scopitones on film, usually featuring a troupe of pretty back-up dancers. Here’s a sample of that, with Jody acting out her big hit, Queen Of The House. I think Jody is incredibly cute, with her all-American good looks, and holds her own among the obvious charms of the girl dancers! Enjoy!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Birthday, Robert Goulet!

Here's a guy I've wanted to caricature for awhile, so when I saw his birthday coming up I figured this was a good opportunity to finally draw the magnificent Robert Goulet! When it comes to male vocalists, my preference has always run toward the crooners and balladeers of the 1950s and early 60s, before rock and roll took a stranglehold on the industry. I like mature male singers with strong, rich baritones, and Robert Goulet was the epitome of that style of singer, with a bold baritone that was practically operatic.

Though born in Massachusetts, Mr. Goulet was of French Canadian heritage, and after the tragic early death of his father when Robert was 13, the family moved to Alberta. He took music and voice lessons and found early success in Toronto. It was also in Toronto that Robert Goulet first hit it big, when he was cast as Sir Lancelot in Lerner and Loewe's Camelot opposite Julie Andrews and Richard Burton, which made its stage debut at Toronto's brand new O'Keefe Centre in 1960.

The ruggedly handsome singer went on to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show and did various other TV appearances throughout the 60s and 70s, becoming a popular entertainer in nightclubs and concert halls. Oddly enough, one very strange bit of trivia is that Elvis Presley was not a fan of Goulet, to the point where it is rumoured that when Elvis was home watching TV while Robert Goulet was performing, Elvis got so incensed that he grabbed his gun and shot the screen out! Though apparently Goulet was not the only one that affected Elvis like that, as it's been indicated he blasted a number of TV sets over the years.

In 1992, I had the opportunity to see Robert Goulet on stage in a touring revival production of Camelot when I was living in Florida. By this time, the older Goulet had graduated to the role of King Arthur, but as terrific as he was, I really wish I'd been around to see him in his original role of Lancelot, when he got to perform his signature hit, If Ever I Would Leave You, one of the loveliest songs ever written by Lerner and Loewe.

Sadly, we lost Robert Goulet in 2007 when he died just a month before hitting age 74. He was a terrific talent with such a powerful singing voice. In closing, here is a very sweet clip from a TV special from 2000, My Favourite Broadway, in which the show's hostess, Julie Andrews is reunited with her co-star from Camelot, Robert Goulet as he serenades her with the aforementioned, If Ever I Would Leave You. As this clip testifies, Goulet was still in exceptionally fine voice. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dear Abby...

I've been going through folders of old art and came across this poster I did for Ottawa actress and comedienne, Abby Hagyard, dating back to about 1980 or so. Those of you who were kids in the 80s may remember Abby (with big curly 80's hair) as the Mom character on the Canadian kids' series, "You Can't Do That On Television" (which also introduced a young Alanis Morissette to TV audiences). Coincidentally I've just recently reconnected with Abby through Facebook, so I figure she may get a chuckle out of this!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Happy Birthday, MeduSirena Marina!

Yes, there's life in the old blog yet! My apologies for not having posted much in the last year, but maybe it's time I rectified that situation. (I gotta' spend LESS time on Facebook, dammit!)

Anyway, I want to give a long overdue boost to The Cartoon Cave with a big Happy Birthday to my favourite artistic muse, MeduSirena Marina, The Fire-Eating Mermaid! Yes, I've posted about Marina here before, as I've known her through Facebook for a number of years now, and had the great pleasure of finally meeting this lovely, funny woman in June of 2013, when I took my first trip down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

MeduSirena Marina, the Catch of the Day!

Presenting my caricature to Kika, as MeduSirena, Nai'a, and Kami look on.

Marina is the head mermaid performing at The Wreck Bar in the (recently renamed) B Ocean Hotel, along with her talented "pod" of Aquaticats! Every Friday and Saturday evening these lovely mermaids entertain the hotel guests with an aquatic performance viewed through the bar's portholes. I've seen them in action a couple times now, and they really are a bunch of charmers. I've also been lucky enough to join them back on solid turf after their show, congregating at the nearby Mai-Kai Restaurant for rum drinks in a tropical Tiki atmosphere.

My night at the Mai-Kai with MeduSirena and Aquaticats, Ama, Hina and Kami.

More recently, Marina has developed her own horror hostess character, The MeduSeaHag, a sultry aquatic temptress who will lure you to your soggy doom! This is a brand new caricature of her in this role that I have completed in time for her birthday. Consider it also to be an early Halloween treat for my blog readers! 
Happy Birthday, MeduSirena Marina! I luv ya' lots! 

Beware The MeduSeaHag!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Happy Birthday, James Garner!

James Garner as Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files

Once again I celebrate the birthday of my favourite actor, the wonderful Jim Garner. Sadly though, this year will be the first where this great man is no longer here to be the recipient of the many well wishes from his legion of fans, as he had passed away last summer, July 19 2014. For me, there will never be another actor quite like Jim. He was one of the most likeable personalities in TV and the movies, with a big toothy smile and amiable, easygoing manner.

In past years I've tried to caricature Jim Garner in a variety of his roles, including those from The Great Escape, Support Your Local Sheriff, and his breakout role on TV as Maverick. Still, as much as I enjoy all of his work, the role I keep returning to is his six year run as private detective, Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files. I can watch all of those episodes over and over again and never tire of them. In fact, I watched about four episodes from the 2nd season of The Rockford Files in order to do some new sketches of him before settling on this particular expression.

Jim Garner brought so much happiness and viewing pleasure to so many people over the years, that I intend to keep on celebrating his legacy here on The Cartoon Cave. Happy birthday, Jim - we all miss you!