Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Rare Citrus Treat

The Orange Bird
Illustration by Dan Cunningham, © Disney
Medium: Vector Art in Adobe Illustrator

When Walt Disney World opened in late 1971, the resort could claim many unique featuresmost notably in the categories of size, transportation and recreational offerings compared to the original Disneyland in Anaheim, CA.

Florida Residents and Tourists Could Preview a Detailed Scale Model of the Walt Disney World Resort Prior to the October 1971 Opening
Image © & courtesy of Flickr user BestofWDW

However, much of the content within the theme park was a reflection of those found in Anaheim. The initial plan was for Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom to feature a similar layout to Disneyland, debuting new, different attractions mixed with a selection of shared ones. During construction, time and budget crunches weakened the brew, leaving Florida only a handful of unique attraction offerings.

A Preoccupied Hollywood Legend Debates Original Attractions vs. Clones While Surveying Construction Progress
Image © & courtesy of Flickr user BestofWDW

Over the decades, with the global sprawl of Disney's domestic and international theme parks, a homogenization of elements became de rigueur. This, plus the accumulated experience of customer trends and market research aided a justification for overall consistency with fewer touches proprietary to a single area.

What marketing surveys and polls can't always nail is the nostalgia factor. User-controlled media the likes of fanzines, message boards, podcasts and blogs wield the ability to raise eyebrows and awareness of even the most trend-savvy analysts. It is largely due to the breadth of the internet that some things, deemed worthless, regain their capitalization potential and find their way back into the public consciousness.

 Demographic Surveys Rarely Factor in Kitsch or Nostalgia
Image courtesy of

Those of us who watched television commercials and spent time at Walt Disney World during the 1970s have recently been reunited with a familiar friend. Spring 2012 restored a seemingly simple and largely forgotten icon from the tangerine-hued ether, as the Florida Orange Bird resumed his place behind the Magic Kingdom's Sunshine Tree Terrace snack counter.

Over 25 Years Later, The Orange Bird is Back Where He Belongs
Image courtesy of Eating WDW Blog

Despite the burgeoning homogenization factor, the Orange Bird's restoration signaled an stabilizing modicum of individuality to Walt Disney World. He is one of the only unique icons of the resort's history: a distinct identity that was never copied anywhere else.

Beyond being represented on a sampling of new merchandise, the loveable avian/citrus hybrid adorns a large attraction poster under a main entrance tunnel into the park, and atop the "throwback" marquee, with proper font restored in place of the prior (and rather generic) interim typeface.

A Visual History of The Sunshine Tree Terrace Marquee
© Disney

The cost and effort behind the return of something as unremarkable as a long-discontinued, 40-year old Florida Citrus Commission mascot speaks volumes on the impact of user-based media. Minus the online recognition by those who simply remembered the character fondly, the formal reestablishment of The Orange Bird at Walt Disney World would never have surfaced*.

I won't go into a great deal of background on the character here, as there have been a multitude of resources online over the past few years chronicling the Bird's history and return. The most notable and informative of these you can discover in the following links:

Widen Your World was the first website to provide a solid, well-researched overall history of the character:

Jim Korkis, Disney Historian and author of the excellent The Vault of Walt and Who's Afraid of Song of the South & Other Forbidden Disney Stories, placed his research efforts and eye for detail on the Bird's notoriety with three posts, spanning five years via MousePlanet:

Mr. Korkis has also put up another post at Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research site, with information on the Bird's singular animated short film Foods and Fun: A Nutrition Adventure for Walt Disney Educational Media, produced by Rick Reinert Productions (including a full video of the short):

The eloquent Michael Crawford at Progress City U.S.A. provides further history with a thoughtful essay on the impact of the character's relationship to Walt Disney World during the resort's challenging early years**:

FoxxFurr's Passport to Dreams Old and New covers more in-depth history and provides intelligent insight on the practical character design aspects, and the character's overall aesthetic appeal upon the 2012 return of The Orange Bird:

Over at Miehana, the talented Kevin Kidney briefly recounts his participation in uncovering the hidden location and restoration of the original Orange Bird figurine, and a good look at the improved paint finishing bestowed upon it:

My own early online efforts were on display in 2007, when I created custom desktop wallpaper for Jeff Pepper's exemplary 2719 Hyperion blog:

A Rare AUDIO Citrus Treat

 Magical Memories Magazine #1
The Premiere Issue of Jesse Guiher's Audio Fanzine, Photo © by Dan Cunningham

Nearly a decade ago, I was fortunate enough to purchase a rare gem of the aforementioned user-based media. At that time, a search on the subject of The Orange Bird garnered scant results, save for a few crumbs of information and a heaping teaspoon of items on eBay. One afternoon, I noticed a message board posting with an ad for the premiere issue of Magical Memories Magazine, an audio fanzine consisting of 2 CDs with narrated content about a particular theme park attraction. Here was user-based audio which predated the podcast explosion to come, about a year later. MMM #1 was themed to The Enchanted Tiki Room of Disneyland (Disc 1) and Walt Disney World (Disc 2), with ornate packaging and inserts.

MMM #1 Was a Feast of Visual & Audio Ephemera
Photo © by Dan Cunningham

The 'zine did not feature attraction audio, opting for original content: in-depth history on the mid-century tiki craze, stories and recollections from those who'd worked and maintained The Enchanted Tiki Room on both coasts, an exclusive interview with Disney Legend X. Atencio, and... a thirteen-minute audio history of The Florida Orange Bird.

All this was constructed and offered by a gentleman named Jesse Guiher: an ambitious Oregon-based artist and designer. I contacted Jesse earlier this year, and got a bit of background on the history of his Magical Memories Magazine project (two other issues followed before he ceased production, MMM #2 focused on the Disneyland Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay, and MMM #3 looked at the myriad attractions inspired by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea).
"I only had one other person to help with the 'zine, so it was a long, laborious process to do each issue, as I did everything from interviews to editing to graphic design and art, it was a lot of fun but such a great deal of work that I didn't have time for anything else. [I]ronically, it was the beginnings of success that killed the 'zine: I couldn't fulfill the orders fast enough [or] on time, once they started pouring in on the third issue."
– Jesse Guiher, May 2012
Jesse also very generously gave me permission to post the long out-of-circulation Orange Bird History audio (note: history covers the years 1970–2004) here for everyone to enjoy. All participants on MMM #1 used pseudonyms, with the exception of Jesse himself, who took on the role of host and interviewer throughout the 'zine. The author and narrator of The Orange Bird History audio is known as "Howard"hit the play button to listen right here:

Or download the MP3 HERE

Jesse is currently working on a new kids noir web comic, and you can see samples of his artwork over at TigerTailArtmake sure you tell him thanks for sharing! 
* To be fair, the only other potential factor was a merchandise push of the character in the early 2000s to Japanese consumers (be sure to read the Widen Your World article for details.)
** Crawford's post speaks of the loss of the character: his post was published in November 2011, unknowingly foreshadowing the Bird's return to the Sunshine Tree Terrace in April 2012.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Got Donald Duck Adventures #5? WHICH ONE?

Joe Torcivia's The Issue At Hand Blog featured a fascinating post last week, on the many U.S. versions (11 total) published of a Mickey Mouse comic strip-turned-comic book tale, the well-researched details of which you can (and should) read here: Comic Book Letter of Comment: “Island in the Sky"

Joe Torcivia's The Issue At Hand Blog

I left Joe a comment or two, and mentioned I was working on my own post about the "Jekyll-and-Hyde" era in which the Walt Disney company decided to try out self-publishing their own comic books during the collector's boom of the early 1990s. That article will be featured here in the future
while I'm still doing a bit of research to put that together, I knew there was a particular aspect to the marketing of those books that required some explanation, had one not been around to witness the transitions. I felt it constituted it's own post, to clear up the confusion.

PROLOGUE by Cap'n L'Orange*

Cap'n L'Orange Appears Courtesy of 1StopRetroShop
& Speaks Whilst Marinated With BlackBeard Spiced Rum
"Aye, mates: bite off a cork, and settle down on th' bulkhead... 'tis a grand, sweeping yarn of confusin' back and forth, ta hear told. From publisher, to new publisher, back again, to yet another new publisher. Ancient shipping routes be easier to foller, sez I."
– Cap'n L'Orange
He's speaking, of course, of how in the world you can keep track of collecting the comic book Donald Duck Adventures.

GLADSTONE SERIES I (1985 to 1990)

In 1985 the (dormant) U.S. license to publish Walt Disney comic books was granted to Another Rainbow Publishing, to be published under the imprint of Gladstone** comics. After two Disneyland-themed prestige and digest specials, the monthly titles first appeared in July of the following year, consisting of the "core four"  U.S. Disney comic books: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney's Comics and Stories. Each book resumed the issue numbering from the point the prior run ended in 1984 through Western Publishing's Gold Key/Whitman line. So Mickey Mouse #218 (July 1984) published by Whitman, resumed two years later with Mickey Mouse #219 (July 1986), under Gladstone.

Don't Worry, Donald: Soon You'll Understand Exactly
Which Issue of Donald Duck Adventures #5 is Which

It was an outstanding presentation of comic books with both the casual fan and the collector in mind
. The core four started out with Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge title rotating formats from month to month: if Donald Duck had a full-length adventure tale, Uncle Scrooge featured two or three shorter stories, the following month, Donald Duck contained several shorter stories and Uncle Scrooge showcased a book-length adventure. This was the cycle for the first year of Gladstone comic books, and it worked well. By the summer of 1987, DuckTales was set to premiere on worldwide syndicated TV, with much marketing hoopla. Through Gladstone, a new comic book was planned to be released to tie into the show, which, though featuring several new characters, shared much connective tissue with the world of Walt Disney comic books.

DuckTales Was a Partial Impetus for the Genesis of Donald Duck Adventures
©Disney, Image Courtesy of TV Shows on DVD

Since the DuckTales comic focused on the TV animated version of Uncle Scrooge sans Donald Duck, it was decided to give Donald a companion book as well. Not long before the first issues were supposed to hit the stands, a decision was made to add a third new title, delaying the DuckTales comic book (possibly due to brand-new stories featuring Scrooge with the DuckTales cast were not ready to print?), prompting a shift from the format cycle mentioned earlier.

Gladstone's DuckTales #1 Became Uncle Scrooge Adventures #1
©Disney, Image Courtesy of Joakim Gunnarsson's Sekvenskonst Blog

All Gladstone titles would become bi-monthly, allowing each issue of the original Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge titles to contain multiple, shorter stories, giving the longer-form stories a permanent showcase in the two new titles: Uncle Scrooge Adventures and Donald Duck Adventures.

 The Original Donald Duck Adventures #1 (1987)
Published by Gladstone Comics
©Disney, Image Courtesy of

It was around this time that Gladstone had expanded their format offerings, having done away with digest-sized books, and beginning a series of large, square-bound books: the Gladstone Comic Albums. Rotating themes and characters throughout the anthology series, issues #5, #10, #13, #16 and Giant Album #5 were titled Donald Duck Adventures.

Gladstone Comic Album Series #10
Donald Duck Adventures: Ancient Persia (1988)
©Disney, Image Courtesy of

The Gladstone comics were a solid hit, and The Walt Disney Company noticed this, along with all the growing attention the comic book collector's market had been receiving in the past few years. Disney had established and begun grown their own publishing arm, and by late 1989 had informed Another Rainbow/Gladstone they would not renew their license to publish Walt Disney comic books: Disney had decided to publish the comic books themselves.

DISNEY COMICS (1990 to 1993)

Gladstone's Donald Duck Adventures ran from issue #1 to #20, and the final Gladstone comic books were released at the start of 1990. By Spring, the new, Disney-published books debuted under the imprint "Disney Comics," boldly launching eight monthly titles.

* O.K. folks: right here's where you need to start keeping track of things *

With the exception of the long-running Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, all the Disney-published titles reset their issue numbering to #1, for consistency's sake and (more likely) to capitalize on the collector's market. The Mickey Mouse and Goofy books officially added "Adventures" to their titles, justifying the issue #1 designation. BUT Gladstone had already been publishing a Donald Duck Adventures comic in addition to the standard Donald Duck book! In spite of this, Disney Comics chose to start again at issue #1. Disney Comics did the same #1 numbering reset for the DuckTales comic book, which had reached issue #13 by the end of Gladstone's run.

The Reset Donald Duck Adventures #1 (1990)
Published by Disney's Own "Disney Comics" Imprint
©Disney, Image Courtesy of

This is where the confusion for collectors and completists really began!

Halfway through the course of the Disney Comics years (1990-1993) their infamous "implosion" took place, and a new license was granted to Another Rainbow/Gladstone to publish an affordable, prestige format album collection of the entire comic book work of Carl Barks: The Carl Barks Library in Color. The title of the portion reprinting the work from the Donald Duck segment of the collection? The Carl Barks Library of Donald Duck Adventures in Color. This was the signal that soon heralded the liquidation of the self-published Disney Comics line, and a return of the standard comic book license to Gladstone in 1993.

Gladstone's The Carl Barks Library of
Donald Duck Adventures in Color #17 (1995)
©Disney, Image Courtesy of INDUCKS

GLADSTONE – SERIES II (1993 to 1998)

The Disney Comics issues of Donald Duck Adventures ran to issue #38. Gladstone quickly re-launched their core titles in the Summer of 1993. Armed with a re-worked logo and higher-quality white paper, Gladstone resumed their original numbering system of Donald Duck Adventures title with issue #21 (rather than continuing the Disney Comics independent numbering system).

Gladstone Resumed Publication (and Their Numbering System)
With Donald Duck Adventures #21 (1993)
©Disney, Image Courtesy of

This series of books has been come to be known as "Gladstone II" in collector's circles. The Carl Barks Library in Color album series was completed in 1996, and the monthly Gladstone II comics ran until mid-1998, when the publishers decided not to renew their license due to a continually strained relationship with the licensing department at The Walt Disney Company.


The U.S. Walt Disney comic book license laid dormant once more until 2003, when it was negotiated and acquired by high-profile Baltimore comic book distributor Steve Geppi. The "core four" monthly titles returned under the new imprint of Gemstone Publishing. Gemstone's 2003 give-away title for the annual Free Comic Book Day was... what else? Donald Duck Adventures!

 Gemstone's 2003 FREE COMIC BOOK DAY Offering
Donald Duck Adventures: Maharajah Donald
©Disney, Image Courtesy of

The Gemstone line was supplemented by two smaller "take-along" digest-sized books, with a higher page count capable of containing longer stories from overseas creators. The tiles of these "take-along" books : Mickey Mouse Adventures, andyup... Donald Duck Adventures.

Gemstone's Compact "Take-Along" Version
Donald Duck Adventures #14 (2005)
©Disney, Image Courtesy of Library Thing

 During the course of the Gemstone years, several well-done seasonal annuals and one-shots specials were produced, including an interesting notion passed down from the Gladstone days: an anthology series printing a Carl Barks tale, followed by the sequel to that story by Don Rosa. Thus began a series of prestige comics titled The Barks/Rosa Collection. Volume 2 (and the scheduled, but never published) Volume 5 of The Barks/Rosa Collection were sub-titled... all together, now: Donald Duck Adventures

Gemstone's The Barks/Rosa Collection Vol. 2: Donald Duck Adventures 
Donald Duck's Atom Bomb / The Duck Who Fell to Earth (2008)
©Disney, Image Courtesy of

The Barks/Rosa Collection Volume 5 and several other previously announced comics never made it to the printer's press: due
to Geppi's myriad investments, his company faced serious financial problems. By the close of 2008, the Gemstone line of Walt Disney comics quietly disappeared.

Thus ends the saga of Donald Duck Adventures as of late 2012. It becomes clear why collectors may have become misguided their search and/or distinction of which is which, especially since there are multiple issue #1s. But the capper is that there are SIX DIFFERENT instances of Donald Duck Adventures #5 —and we can unofficially count SEVEN, as the unpublished Barks/Rosa Collection Vol. 5 shows up frequently on Internet searches. Click to enlarge and observe:

Six (or Seven) Ways to Enjoy Donald Duck Adventures #5
©Disney, Infographic by Dan Cunningham

Man, it's enough to drive a comic collector/completist to stick his own head in a mylar bag and board it. Hopefully, they find their way here before that goes down.

Epilogue: BOOM and Beyond (Present Day)

BOOM! Studios was the latest publisher to publish under the Walt Disney standard comic book license, but they have spared us a lengthy entry in this post, since they chose NOT to use Donald Duck Adventures as a title during their run, opting for Donald Duck and Friends, Donald Duck Classics, or just plain ol' Donald Duck. BOOM! has since moved forward with other licenses, leaving the future for U.S.Walt Disney comic books wide open.

That day will come... and once they've restored the "core four," I'll bet whomever the next Editor-in-Chief is, they'll peruse the list of options, and swiftly select Donald Duck Adventures as an upcoming title in the newest line-up.

* During the course of writing this, I've become fascinated by the potential of Cap'n L'Orange... he'll very likely show up here again.

**  Another Rainbow named their comics line Gladstone after Donald Duck's first cousin with insufferable good luck: Gladstone Gander.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New Illustration Series: Hanna-Barbera Vignettes

Here begins a new illustration series of square "vignette" illustrations based on the early Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon characters (roughly 19571964). First, a little history on the subject...

During the golden age of theatrical animation, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were teamed up at MGM's animation department, where they created the studio's biggest cartoon stars: Tom & Jerry. From 1940 to 1957, the animated cat & mouse team won over audiences worldwide, and reaped a remarkable SEVEN Academy Awards for Best Animated Short Subject.

1945: Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera Work on Tom & Jerry Character Layouts

By the late 1950s (like most large studios at the time) the short film divisions were deemed less than profitable, leading to the closure of MGM's in-house animation department. This left a resourceful Bill and Joe with the opportunity to plow forth into the infant medium of television animation. Beginning with producing animated TV commercials under their new company name Hanna-Barbera, they sold a package of serialized shorts starring their first original-for-television stars Ruff and Reddy. Many of their creative colleagues from MGM joined the staff, bringing H-B's product a familiar, yet all-new style for a viewing public hungry for content.

 Hanna-Barbera's First Original TV Characters: Ruff and Reddy
©Hanna-Barbera, Image Courtesy of Cartoon Depot /Lewis Galleries

While re-runs of older theatrical short films proved successful for syndicated television "package" programming, the new crop of animated stars from Hanna-Barbera often broke the fourth wall commenting on the fact they were on television, used modern-day lingo, and referenced other TV shows giving the viewer a sense of ownership.

 "Paul Newman's Own" LogoAn Everyday Example of Vignette Artwork
©Newman's Own Inc., Image Courtesy of Food Fashionista Blog

So what's a vignette in terms of art and design? A vignette is commonly used in design and philately (the study of stamps/postal history) as an unusual or unique image framing method. You can also see this method utilized many places besides stamps, such as product packaging, advertising and even greeting cards.

Which brings us to this new series of illustrations, paying tribute to those early H-B productions:

Artwork by Dan Cunningham, ©Hanna-Barbera
Medium: Vector Art in Adobe Illustrator

"Oh, mah dar-lin' Clementi-i-i-ne!" Good ol' Huckleberry Hound was Hanna-Barbera's first official big TV star—when The Huckleberry Hound Show premiered in 1958, it became an immediate hit with kids and adults alike. Sponsored by Kellogg's, the fully-animated show featured opening & closing title sequences, commercials, bumpers and cartoons featuring new made-for-television characters: Huckleberry Hound, Pixie & Dixie & Mr. Jinks, and Yogi Bear.

Huck's laid-back Carolina accent came courtesy of Hanna-Barbera mainstay and voice-over legend Daws Butler. A common misconception is Huckleberry Hound's personality and easy drawl was based on that of Andy Griffith: actually, Daws had used the same voice for Bill and Joe at the MGM animation department for a non-threatening wolf character in shorts like Billy Boy and Three Little Pups. Butler based Huck's voice on a neighbor of his wife's family.

Artwork by Dan Cunningham, ©Hanna-Barbera
Medium: Vector Art in Adobe Illustrator

Equine hero and part-time sheriff, Quick Draw McGraw roamed the wild west righting wrongs. When posing as his heroic alter-ego "El Kabong" Quick Draw donned a Zorro-like outfit, quickly delivering off-key justice by whacking crooks over the head with a guitar, shouting (appropriately enough) "KABONG!"—producing one of Hanna-Barbera's most famous sound effects: a delicious, crunching whack accompanied by a loud guitar twang.

Quick Draw's slow, gangly cowboy drawl was also provided by Daws Butler. Quick Draw McGraw is one of the few Hanna-Barbera characters that was not directly based on a celebrity or real-life personality.

Artwork by Dan Cunningham, ©Hanna-Barbera
Medium: Vector Art in Adobe Illustrator

Diminutive burro Baba Looey was Quick Draw's loyal sidekick, with a name derived from the popular signature song "Babalu" by Desi Arnaz of I Love Lucy fame. Baba Looey's hero worship forever helped get his life-long pal "Queekstraw" out of jams when battling cattle-rustlers, bank robbers or saving damsels in distress. He may be best-known, however, as the impetus for the nickname of Howard Stern's long-suffering radio producer Gary "Baba Booey" Dell'Abate. Baba Looey's high-pitched Latino accent was also provided by Daws Butler.

There will be more to come in this series, and perhaps we'll dig further into H-B stories as we go along. If you're anything like me, and enjoy animation and Hanna-Barbera history, there's a blogger with two sites with some outstanding posts. So seeped in Hanna-Barbera knowledge are they, that BOTH blogs are named after H-B canines (of which there are many*)...

YOWP centers on the theme of what this series of illustrations: fascinating minutiae on the earliest Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons. Detailed notes on the music, creative talent, promotional materials, shows and individual shorts the likes of remain unmatched anywhere else.

TRALFAZ expands the introspection to many different animation studios, both TV and theatrical. If you are interested in the creative personalities and techniques involved in the production of animated productions, this blog is required reading. There's even a bit of cross-pollination with old time radio and Hollywood personalities—after all, many stars lent their voices to animation, or allowed themselves to be caricatured both visually and vocally.

Be sure to go check 'em out, and check back here in the coming weeks for more "smarter than the a-a-aver-age fun."**
* Joe Barbera was notorious for sticking dog characters into the cartoon casts, especially after he learned a particular TV executive was keen on any show featuring dogs. For the record, Yowp is the small white hound featured in 3 different H-B shorts, as a hunting/tracking dog, known for his low, repeating bark of "yowp-yowp-yowp"—perhaps even more obscure, Tralfaz was the original name of the Jetsons family dog bestowed upon him by his wealthy first owner in the 1962 episode Millionaire Astro. Both dogs were voiced by Don Messick, who provided vocals for nearly every Hanna-Barbera dog, including their most famous pooch: Scooby-Doo.
** If you hang around me long enough, it's pretty likely I'll toss out a quick line as a character voiced by Daws Butler, then act like it never happened.