Winsor McCay

Winsor McCay and Little Nemo

Winsor McCay was an American comic cartoonist and animator. Winsor McCay lived from 1867 to 1934. He can be considered the true father of the cartoons we have watched and loved for over 100 years.

Winsor McCay began illustrating newspapers and magazines in 1898. He began working for the New York Herald in 1903. He first created the comic strips Little Sammy Sneeze and Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend. Then in 1905 Winsor McCay began his most famous comic strip: Little Nemo in Slumberland. This was a fantasy in Art Nouveau style. It wonderfully showcased McCay’s strong graphic sense and mastery of color and linear perspective. Winsor McCay experimented with the formal elements of the comic strip page.  He arranged and sized panels to increase impact and enhance elements of the narrative.

Winsor McCay was an early animation pioneer. Between 1911 and 1921 McCay self-financed and animated ten films. His first foray into animation was taken from his Little Nemo in Slumberland comic strip. James Stuart Blackton and Winsor McCay directed a ten-minute short film based on the comic strip, of which two minutes were animated. The film was first released on April 8, 1911. The first animated effort of McCay, it later achieved the status of an early animated classic. Its on screen title is Winsor McCay, the Famous Cartoonist of the N.Y. Herald and his Moving Comics. It is usually referred to as Little Nemo. This version was named to the National Film Registry in December 2009. The two animated minutes told a story and had known characters. While it is not the first piece of animated film, it can be considered the first real cartoon. This poster seen below is really the very first cartoon movie poster in history.


Winsor McCay produced other cartoons including Gertie the Dinosaur in 1914 and The Sinking of the Lusitania in 1918. He inspired and influenced Walt Disney and most other animators for the next 100 years.

Bald Mountain – Fantasia’s Finest

Bald Mountain – Fantasia’s Finest

Night on Bald Mountain is the eighth segment of Walt Disney’s animated feature Fantasia. Fantasia was released by Walt Disney Productions in 1940. It was a never before seen combination of classical music and animation. The film was divided into eight segments. The most famous one probably is the Sorcerer’s Apprentice starring Mickey Mouse. Many consider the final segment, Night on Bald Mountain, to be the finest one of all.

Actually that last segment was Night on Bald Mountain dissolving into Ave Maria. I think the dazzling imagery combined with ghosts, demons, lost souls and the devil himself was probably a bit much to close the film. The serenity of Ave Maria was needed. But it is Night on Bald Mountain all viewers remember.

At Walpurgis Night (the Witches’ Sabbath), Chernabog, god of evil, emerges from the peak of Bald Mountain (in reality Mount Triglaf, near Kiev in southern Russia) to summon all of his minions. These include ghosts, demons, lost souls, hags and harpies, who dance furiously as he throws them into the mountain’s fiery pit. The spirits dance and fly through the air until driven back by the sound of an Angelus bell as night fades into dawn.


   Demons, ghosts, lost souls, and harpies driven into the fire on Bald Mountain

Chernabog is driven away by the light of the dawn. A chorus is heard singing Ave Maria as we see a line of robed monks. They are walking with lighted torches through a forest and into the ruins of a cathedral. The sequence showcases the animation of Vadimir Tytla and the style of Kay Nielsen. It also includes the longest shot ever produced in the multi-plane camera (in the procession). 

Night on Bald Mountain was an orchestral work by the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky that was completed in June 1867. The work had not been performed in public at the time of the composer’s death in 1881. It was revised by his colleagues and still later by other generations of composers and conductors most notably by Rimsky-Korsakov.

Porky Pig in Africa Squeaks from 1940

Porky Pig was one of the stars of the many cartoons produced by Warner Bros. Studios. Others included Bugs Bunny of course, Daffy Duck, Speedy Gonzalez, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc. was the in house division of Warner Bros. Pictures. It was one of the most successful animation studios in American cartoon history. Warner Bros. Cartoons was most famous for its Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. These were shorts produced for theatrical release. Porky Pig was the star of many of them.

The creative staff members at the studio included the great Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Frank Tashlin, Bob Clampett and Bob McKimson. They are considered major figures in the art and history of animation. The Warners cartoon division was founded in 1933 as Leon Schlesinger Productions. Porky Pig was one of its earliest stars. Leon Schlesinger Productions was an independent company producing cartoons for release by Warner Bros. In 1944, Schlesinger sold the studio to Warner Bros., who continued to operate it as Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc. until 1963. 

Porky Pig was introduced in 1935 by Friz Freleng in the cartoon I Haven’t Got a Hat. Porky appeared in 153 cartoons in the Golden Age of American Animation. One of these cartoons was Africa Squeaks in 1940 done by the fantastic Bob Clampett.

In Africa Squeaks produced by Warner Brothers the narrator introduces the audience to Africa. The journey begins at the heart of Darkest Africa. Porky Pig is leading a group of African people as they sing, carrying items. Then, during their song, they sing “We don’t know where we’re going, but we’re going!”. Meanwhile, a sign says, “Welcome to Africa Lions Club”. Then, Porky and the Africans approach a sour-pussed caricature of Spencer Tracy named Stanley. 

Dr. Livingstone I presume

Porky Pig and Spencer Tracy as Stanley and Livingstone cel inscribed by Leon Schlesinger

The cartoon is the parody of the movie Stanley and Livingstone starring Spencer Tracy and Cedric Hardwicke. The inscription on the cel reads This is an original painting I used in “Looney Tunes” and “Merrie Melodies – Leon Schlesinger. 


Eyvind Earle Disney Concept Art

Eyvind Earle was born in 1916 in New York City. He had a long and distinguished 60 year career as a contemporary artist, author, and illustrator. He had a one man showing in France when he was  14 years old. When he was 21 years old Earle bicycled from Hollywood to New York. He paid for his trip by painting forty two works along the way. He then had many one man shows in New York City. His early work was straight realistic. He studied the work of a variety of different artists. They included Van Gogh, Cezanne, Rockwell, Kent and Georgia O’Keefe. As time went on he developed his own unique dreamy style. Eyvind Earle was most famous for his prints and original watercolor landscapes. His contemporary art is in the permanent collection of many museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Eyvind Earle watercolor concept painting for Sleeping Beauty

In the 1950’s Eyvind Earle worked for Walt Disney Studios. He began his career with Disney as an assistant background painter. In 1953 he created the look for “Toot. Whistle, Plunk and Boom”. This Disney short won the Academy Award and the Cannes Film Festival award. He was then kept busy as color stylist and production designer. He worked on many feature films including Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, and most notably Sleeping Beauty. The  incredible concept art Eyvind Earle did for Sleeping Beauty created the look and style of the entire film. He also painted many of the production backgrounds shot and used in the film. In fact, when Disneyland was built in Anaheim, California he painted the dioramas for Sleeping Beauty’s castle.


See this concept painting by Eyvind Earle of the castle and a sleeping guard

In 1988 at the Annie Awards Show in Glendale the International Animated Film Society gave Eyvind Earle the Winsor McCay award for lifetime achievement.

Carl Barks – The Duckman

Carl Barks storyteller extraordinaire and creator of Donald Duck’s Uncle Scrooge (among others) had a long, illustrious and influential career. Known affectionately by his legion of fans as The Duckman, Barks is especially known for his comic book tales he wrote and drew from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. These stories were such a fantastic combination of action, adventure, treasure hunting and comedy that they have had a lasting effect on everyone who has read them – even on popular culture itself.

Carl Barks took his ducks and his fans from the mountains from “Lost in the Andes” to “The Land Beneath the Ground”. From the interplanetary “Island in the Sky” to the underwater “Secrets of Atlantis” mixing thrills and humor on the way. As a matter of fact, these stories were a direct inspiration for two Carl Barks fans – Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. They have both praised Carl Barks for his inspiration to them. They both collect Carl Barks art. If you enjoyed their movies, especially Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars, you owe a certain amount of gratitude to Carl Barks and his ideas. When you examine many of his stories you will find almost a set of blueprints for certain portions of these films.


CB7                                       CB25


The Land Beneath the Ground by Carl Barks


Taking us from ancient civilizations and their treasures to “Micro-Ducks from Outer Space” Carl Barks introduced us to non threatening, friendly (vegetarian!) aliens in a flying saucer. What a concept!

Carl Barks was born in Merrill, Oregon on March 27, 1901. After freelancing for humor magazines in the early 1930’s he began working for Walt Disney Studios designing gags for Donald Duck cartoons. He also worked on one Mickey Mouse cartoon, Magician Mickey.



Magician Mickey by Carl Barks


This all led to the writing and drawing of the Duck stories for Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories comic books. Carl Barks refined existing Disney characters like Donald and his Nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. He created the inventor Gyro Gearloose, the amazingly lucky Gladstone Gander and villains The Beagle Boys. He founded the happy hamlet of Duckburg, but most importantly Carl Barks created the world’s richest (and toughest and most intrepid) duck, Donald’s Uncle Scrooge McDuck. Uncle Scrooge led the ducks on the aforementioned adventures and more. They traveled to Egyptian tombs for “The Mummy’s Ring”. They looked for and found “The Old Castle’s Secret”. They spent time “In Ancient Persia” and searched for “The Gilded Man”.

In the 1970’s Carl Barks began a series of oil paintings of the ducks, many of which have sold for six figures. But those stories and adventures he took us all on in those comic book stories ensures that the effect and influence he had will always continue.

Mary Blair Concept Art

Mary Blair Concept Art

Mary Blair was born in 1911 in Oklahoma. She began her career as a well received fine art watercolorist, but soon moved to working in the animation industry. Her best work was for Walt Disney Studios. Her concept art was used for cartoons, full length animated features and so much more. Most notably Mary Blair’s work for Alice in Wonderland is considered by many one of her greatest contributions.


And if you go chasing rabbits, and you know you’re going to fall, tell them a hookah smoking caterpillar, is giving you a call……

The Disney attraction “It’s a Small World”, was first designed and built for the Pepsi-Cola pavilion at the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair. It presents animated figures frolicking in miniature settings of many lands. It unified a theme of global peace. Today, there is a Small World attraction at Disneyland (in California), Disneyworld (in Florida), Tokyo Disneyworld, Disneyworld Paris, and at Hong Kong Disneyworld. 

     Pepsi-Cola, in conjunction with the United Nations Children Fund, presented the attraction as a salute to children around the world. The original full name was “It’s a Small World – A Salute to UNICEF”. A special adjoining exhibit extolled the theme that every child in the world has the right to security, good health, and education. 
     When it came to designing this international, child themed attraction, Walt Disney immediately thought of the perfect person to do it, Mary Blair. Walt not only loved her sense of color styling, but he really felt close to her unusual childlike style. Animation historian John Canemaker quotes Disney artist Roland Crump, “The way she (Mary Blair) painted – in a lot of ways she was still a little girl. Walt was like that… You could see he could relate to children – she was the same way.” Animator Marc Davis, who put Mary’s exciting use of color on a par with Matisse, recalled, “Mary Blair brought modern art to Walt in a way that no one else did. He was so excited about her work.” Also, in 1941, Mary Blair was part of a Disney expedition that toured South America for three months. She painted watercolor concepts that so perfectly illustrated the flavor of the Latin American countries, that Disney named her art supervisor on “The Three Caballeros”, and “Saludos Amigos”. This experience and her style made Mary Blair uniquely qualified to be the designer of “It’s a Small World”.


Fantasia Animation Cel of Mickey

Fantasia Animation Cel of Mickey

Fantasia animation cels are one of the most popular animation cels. Many collectors in the hobby feel this way. The most desirable Fantasia animation cel is probably one of Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice preferably with a broom.

Fantasia animation cel of Mick



Click here for more on this animation cel 





Fantasia was produced by Walt Disney and released in 1940. It really broke ground combining animation and classical music. Story direction was by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer. The production supervisor was Ben Sharpsteen. It was the third Disney animated feature film released. The first two were Snow White and Pinocchio. Fantasia consists of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Deems Taylor, also a composer and music critic serves as the film’s Master of Ceremonies. He introduces each segment in live action. Some collectors want a Fantasia animation cel from each of the eight segments.

The first segment is set to Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor. Animated lines, shapes and cloud formations reflect the sound and rhythms of the music. The second is to The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky. A variety of dances are presented with fairies, fish, flowers, mushrooms, and leaves. They include “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”, “Chinese Dance”, “Dance of the Flutes”, “Arabian Dance”, “Russian Dance” and “Waltz of the Flowers”. 

The third segment of the film is set to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas. Mickey Mouse stars as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The Sorcerer is named Yen-Sid; Disney spelled backwards. Mickey casts a spell which goes horribly wrong for him. A Fantasia animation cel of Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice is still the gold standard of any Fantasia animation cel.






Click here to see Mickey on the mountain 






The fourth segment is the Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. A visual history of the Earth’s beginnings is depicted to selected sections of the ballet score. The sequence progresses from the planet’s formation to the first living creatures. This is followed by the reign and extinction of the dinosaurs. The fifth is a jazz jam followed by a humorously stylized demonstration of how sound is rendered on film is shown. Next is Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. A Fantasia animation cel from this segment would be from a mythical ancient Greek world. With centaurs, cupids, fauns and other figures from classical mythology. Of course portrayed to Beethoven’s music. Seventh is Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli. It is presented as a comical animal ballet. Finally the film closes with Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky and Ave Maris by Franz Schubert.

The Sunshine Makers

The Sunshine Makers

The Sunshine Makers is a story of happy gnomes who have the ability to distill sunshine and bottle it in milk bottles, which they deliver around the village. The scenes with the gnomes are in reddish-orange and white. The forest nearby is inhabited by goblins and they are sad. Their scenes are all in blue-and-white. The goblins can’t stand sunshine, because it makes them happy. “They don’t want to be happy. They want to be sad. They’re happy when they’re sad. They’re always feeling bad.” They attack the gnome village, but the gnomes fight back by bombarding the goblins with milk bottles. Soon the goblins are assimilated and everyone is happy. Why milk? Well, the cartoon was “brought to you” by the Borden Milk Company. I don’t believe as is often stated that Borden’s actually commissioned the cartoon, rather that they paid to have the ending added after The Sunshine Makers was completed. This wonderful cartoon was produced by Van Buren Studios and released by RKO pictures in 1935. 



Those gnomes definitely did worship the sunshine; that’s for sure. That worship can be understood in more than one way. Many people interpret the film a bit differently and see it somewhat ahead (sic) of its time. If you’re old enough you might even remember it playing between sets by the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore East in 1969 and 1970. (But if you remember it you probably were not really there.) Those gnomes do look just a bit too much like Jerry Garcia. And I guess that the type of sunshine being bottled and distributed by these little Jerry Garcias were actually milk? Who knows for sure exactly what is was supposed to be? One thing – original animation art from this film is essentially non existent. And it sure is one great cartoon.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – The First One of All

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – The First One of All

Snow_White_1937_posterSnow White & the Seven Dwarfs was the first full length feature animated film released anywhere in the world. Produced by Walt Disney Studios it premiered in December 1937 and was shown in multiple theaters staring in February 1938. Snow White was loved by the public and critics. It is still considered by many to be Walt Disney’s greatest achievement. There are many reasons for this. Snow White’s technical brilliance was overwhelming. The production was four years in the making. Six hundred to seven hundred artists worked on the film. More than two million sketches and paintings were used. All of this was why the film was so adored by all. It was obvious that this was really a masterpiece.

Audiences still love the film and all of the characters. This love for and the look of all of the characters is what drew everyone to the film. Of course the first and most beloved is Snow White herself. She really was the fairest of all. SW at the Well

Each of the Seven Dwarfs had their own look and character. Dopey, Grumpy, Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy and Sneezy all became part of the national consciousness.(Trivia question – Which two dwarfs were voiced by the same person? The answer is Sleepy and Grumpy. They were both voiced by Pinto Colvig. Pinto was also the voice of Goofy in the Disney shorts.) When Snow White is running away from the Evil Queen it is the dwarfs who take her in. She becomes a sort of mother to them all.

As for villains, the Evil Queen and her alter ego the Wicked Witch are two of the scariest of all. They were drawn to instill fear and the artists succeeded.

Evil Queen with Heartbox


Here are two animation cels and one animation drawing of the queen and the witch. You can see the care and detail that went in to the creation of them. Snow White was not released on videotape until 1994. Until then only the lucky few of us able to procure a bootleg copy of the film were able to view it with regularity. After 1994 it sold over fifty million video copies. It was released on DVD in 2001. It remains the first one – and to most the best of all animated films.



Movie Posters – How to Play Football

Movie Posters – How to Play Football

                                     CARTOON MOVIE POSTERS NOT FOR KIDS ONLY

Movie posters that are vintage original release posters are quite rare and collectible. They are also fun to collect and display. One reason is the wonderful graphics. Another reason is that movie posters come in many sizes. A standard lobby card is 11″ X 14″. A window card measures 14″ X 22″. An insert poster is 14″ X 36″. This is a really nice size. They display really well. A pair of insert posters can really frame a wall or bay window on either side. This is an example. It is an original insert movie poster from 101101Dalmatian insert movie poster Dalmatians – 1961. Next is a half sheet poster which is 22″ X 28″. The most desirable posters to most collectors are one sheet movie posters. They measure 27″ X 41″. Often, looking at a great one sheet poster is like gazing through a window into another world. Now we start getting into large sizes. Any of these larger posters are quite impressive when framed and exhibited. A three sheet movie poster measures 41″ X 81″. A six sheet is 81″ X 81″. Finally a twenty four sheet poster is usually used on a billboard. That measures 108″ X 246″. There are even more sizes in between.

Cartoon movie posters are not actually animation art. They were not used in the production of a film. They of course were used to advertise and promote them.

Really vintage movie posters from the 1940’s and earlier can be incredibly rare. For many early films there can be only a only a small handful of movie posters known to exist. Even though there were certainly hundreds or more of many posters produced, for some films there are no known copies.

Goofy Football movie poster


Walt Disney Studios produced a series of “How to” cartoons starring Goofy. Many of them were how to play different sports. How to Play Baseball, How to Swim and How to Ride a Horse are a few. In 1944 Disney released How to Play Football. The poster is quite striking as you can see at the right. This poster has only one known copy.

These movie posters were used at a theater, then folded up and sent to the next theater or just stored away. No one really thought at the time that they were collectible in any way. Anyway, over the years all copies except this one were lost or thrown away. Vintage cartoon movie posters are collectible because they have a natural scarcity. This is true about all objects that are truly collectible. If something is created with the plan to have it be collectible the odds are that it will never truly become collectible. It is the things that attain this natural scarcity kind of by accident that become really collectible.