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!

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