domenica 31 ottobre 2010

Disney Artist Bob Baker on Pinocchio

Puppeteer Bob Baker - copyright 2009 Bob Baker
Puppeteer Bob Baker -copyright 2009 Bob Baker

Disney Artist Bob Baker on Pinocchio

Puppeteer Worked on Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Geppetto

Bob Baker, a puppeteer who worked on Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Star Trek: The Original Series, talks about the classic Disney film Pinocchio.

Puppeteer Bob Baker owns the longest-running marionette theatre in Los Angeles. He has also worked on many films, including Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Escape to Witch Mountain, Aardman Animation's Wallace and Gromit shorts "A Close Shave" and "The Wrong Trousers" plus the feature-length The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
That's Bob Baker manipulating Beauregard the animated plant in the 1966 Star Trek episode "The Man Trap."
In this exclusive interview, Bob shares his memories of the classic animated film Pinocchio which comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray on March 10th. Look for a review coming to this space.

When was the first time you saw Pinocchio?
"I saw Pinocchio on its 2nd night at the Carthage Circle Theatre. It didn’t last long there, and then it went to the RKO Pantages Theatre. The next time I saw it was at the Pantages: I stayed there from the time the theatre opened until the time it closed, watching every performance they had of Pinocchio until they asked me to leave. It showed about 8 times that day! (laughs)

What struck you about the movie?

"I think the first opening sequence: the pan down the street, all through the village and under the door and then on to Jiminy Cricket. That was the most exciting pan that I’ve ever seen and I’ve remembered that all through the years. I’ve been the governor of animation for the Motion Picture and Television Academy and I’ve never ever seen that duplicated. And it was all drawn; it wasn’t computerized. I couldn’t get over seeing what I was seeing.
"A lot of that was very new for the animators. For instance, they didn’t know how to draw the inside of a whale. A friend of mine, Bob Jones, had to create the inside of a whale for them. Bob also made the back end of Stromboli’s wagon and they had it on a thing that would move it from side to side because the animators couldn’t seem to draw that.
"And there’s another sequence: if you see Pinocchio in the cage, that was a little tricky thing: they made a cage to go in front of the animation because they couldn’t get the cage the way they wanted it."

You eventually worked at Disney. Which animators did you meet there?

"I knew Josh Meador, Charlie Pesante, Mary Blair: what designs she came up with! Sylvia Holland, who did all of the sprites in Fantasia. She wouldn’t let anyone else draw them: she drew them, she coloured them, she airbrushed them, nobody else could touch them.
Charlie Pesante, he did mountains. Any time there was a sparkle, that was Josh: he did the special effects animation."

Did you meet Milt Kahl? Because I know he did the Monstro the Whale sequences –

Yes, I knew Milt, I knew all of the Nine Old Men . . . I’m terrible with names; they tell me it’s a senior thing! (laughs).
"Ward Kimball told me a lot about working on Pinocchio; he said that cleaning up the character was the hardest thing to do. (In the original story by Carlo Collodi), he was just a nasty little boy.
"Ward said they first made him into a teasey-type character, then he was a little sassy, and then Walt said, 'Let’s just make him a nice little boy who doesn’t know too much about the wide, wide world.'
"Building up Jiminy Cricket's character helped them (in the original story, Jiminy is just a pontificating cricket who Pinocchio kills with a hammer); Ward created him. I gave him a copy of the Jiminy puppet for his toy museum."

Can you tell us more about Ward Kimball?

"I used to go out and ride his train all the time and see his toy collection. In fact, Ward’s son – he and I were at the Television Academy together, he followed me as governor – he used to tell me how his dad used to play with these toys over and over and he didn’t know why he was doing that.
But when Ward got really interested in trains (a hobby he shared with Walt and Ollie Johnston), the toys weren't as important; he still collected them, but he didn’t play with them.
"I'm still in touch with the family. His daughter Kelly worked for me for a year and a half, making puppets for (the 1979 ABC mini-series) The Old Curiosity Shop. I didn't know who she was at first because she had grown up so much!
"Ward was basically a clown. He did (the short) "Noah’s Ark" as a lunchtime project in stop-motion animation, using all these erasers and pencils, stuff that he found in the studio. It was a very clever film, and he did that as a lark. But then Walt saw it and said, “We’re gonna release it.” And they did!" (laughs)

one of Bob Baker's Pinocchio puppets - copyright 2009 Walt Disney Company
one of Bob Baker's Pinocchio puppets - copyright 2009 Walt Disney Company
Bob Baker not only owns the longest ongoing marionette theatre in Los Angeles, but he also worked on several Disney films, including 1971's Bedknobs and BroomsticksEscape to Witch Mountain and Geppetto.
He makes the Disney-authorized puppets of classic characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Jiminy Cricket. These collectible marionettes feature sewing work by Ursula Heinlich – who helped James Galanos make former US First Lady Nancy Reagan's 1981 inaugural gown.
In Part #1 of this exclusive interview, Bob discusses his memories of Pinocchio (coming to DVD on March 10th; review to follow) and some of the Disney animators. In this segment, Bob shares his memories of working for Walt Disney and demonstrates some of his puppets.

(Writer's Note: A massive thank-you goes out to Allied Advertising's Zainab Karim, who allowed us more than our alloted time in doing this interview.)

When did you first meet Walt Disney?

"I first met Walt (in 1930) as an 8-year-old boy. I told him how much I loved “The Three Little Pigs” and the other Silly Symphonies, and I wanted to tour the studio. He said, 'Well, write us a letter.'
"So I wrote the letter, and I got one back saying, 'I’m sorry, we can’t let one little boy through. The 3 Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf, Mickey and Minnie are running upstairs and down, singing songs and dancing.'
The next time I met Walt, I was 12 or 14. They had heard about the puppet show I was putting on in my backyard – I had been playing with puppets since I was 8 – so they called me into the studio to ask about how the puppets worked.

"Later on, I was working with Walt on a picture together – I forget what it was called – which would combine puppets and animation. And across the hall was Salvador Dali, who was working on (the short) “Destino.” So we got our film up to where it was storyboarded, and Walt walked in and said, “Guys, put it on the shelf. We’re doing Cinderella.”
"A few years went by and I came back to the studio when I was working for (sci-fi director) George Pal on his Puppetoons. The Disney animators wanted me to show them how to animate stars, and I couldn’t figure out how they didn’t know how to do that because all we did was put a piece of scotch tape over the holes that we drilled in the backdrop, and pull the tape off and on whenever we wanted them to blink! (laughs)
"All that work went into Destination Moon, the Disneyland ride. I did a lot of work at Disneyland. The day before it opened, Walt and I had lunch, and he said, 'Oh God, I hope they come tomorrow!'
"And I said, 'Don’t worry, Walt, they’ll be there.' And whenever Walt’s eyebrow went up, you knew he was really thinking and he said, 'Do you remember the Mickey Mouse puppets that were made in the 1930’s? I can bring them around and maybe you could make some copies.'
"And I said, 'Don’t worry, Walt. I’ve already got my own set.' (laughs). That was how I started making the high-end collectibles for Disney. And he wanted me to put my name on it, which was almost unheard-of at the time."
(Writer's Note: Baker and his assistant Nicole Scott then demonstrated the Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket marionettes dancing to "I've Got No Strings" and "When You Wish Upon a Star".)

Tell us more about the Pinocchio puppet.

"This little boy (shows off a 1' marionette with the serial number 308) is basically a toy. We've done 3 different sizes. The first time Pinocchio was re-released for the public, we made a larger puppet (about 2' high): his arms and legs were carved and his head, shoes and hands were vacuu-formed plastic. He's now selling on Ebay for $10,000!"


"This is our latest model: he can walk, and he can dance. The costume was made by, Ursula Heinlich. She came to us from James Galanos, who made Nancy Reagan's inaugural gown in 1981. Ursula did all the beading, and they had her try on the gown for the fitting, because she was the same size as Nancy. So when Ursula saw the Inauguration on television, she said, 'I had that on before you did!' (everyone laughs)
"Ursula is quite particular about how everything is done. I told her, 'Don't be so particular, Ursula, they're not Galanos gowns!' Oh my God, the top of our shop flew off when I said that! (everyone laughs)
"Because Galanos, when you asked him how much one of his outfits cost, would say, 'You can't afford it.'
"One of the things that helped so much when we designed the puppets was that I not only knew the animators, I knew the people in the colour department. When we made the puppets for the Disney characters, the colours we used exactly matched the original colour chart.
"Disney made his own colours (for the animated films) in the beginning. They still make some of their colours, but they mostly get them from other places now."
scene from Escape to Witch Mountain - copyright 1975 Walt Disney Company
scene from Escape to Witch Mountain - copyright 1975 Walt Disney Company
In Part #2 of this exclusive interview, Bob shared his memories of 'Uncle Walt' and the collectible Pinocchio marionettes he designed for the Walt Disney Company. In this segment, Bob talks about his experiences working on Disney films, and Walt's 'control freak' reputation.
You eventually worked on several Disney films, including Escape to Witch Mountain and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. What was that like?

"I did all the locomotion sequences for Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Then I did Escape to Witch Mountain, the first one, and they handed me a blank piece of paper and all it said was that the boy and girl were going to be in the bedroom and he does some things with his harmonica and they said, ‘Do something.’

"So I worked with the art director, we built the puppet stage, we had the puppets come out and we worked them so that the controls were floating around with no one working them. That sequence got a bit of applause, and they jump-cut it at the end so that the applause wouldn't disturb the picture. Jimmy MacDonald – who did the voice of Mickey Mouse after Walt decided he didn’t want to do it anymore – came up to me afterwards and said, ‘We had a touch of Disney in here today.’

"That was the greatest thing anyone could have ever said to me."

You also worked on the 2000 film Geppetto?

"Yes, I did the puppets sequence in that one. I made a bunch of puppets, and the dance director decided they should all be destroyed. So we had to make 2 or 3 of everything because we had more than one rehearsal. Then they’d say, “Do you have any more like this?” They wanted me to use some of my good puppets, and they told me, ‘Oh we’ll pay to have them repaired.’
"I said, ‘No way!’ Finally, the two big puppets were thrown in barrels and that’s the last I saw of them. I think the producers got them."

Some people have described Walt Disney as a control freak. What were your feelings about working with him?

"Walt was Big Daddy. A lot of the men didn’t like that, but he used to say to them, ‘If you weren’t pushing your pencil here, you’d be digging ditches,’ because it was during the Depression.
"And he took these guys to school, and he saw that they had lunches and money to buy gas. He’d look at their work and critique it and he’d drive them to do more, do more. And a lot of them were offended by this, but if he hadn’t had done it then they wouldn’t have done such a good job.
"He wasn’t demanding: he just wanted a fine product. When you’re putting out your own money on something, you want a lot for it, and you feel that it’s a part of you.
"It’s hard for other people to understand what he was going through: when things weren’t working, when he didn’t get the contracts, or when other people cheated him, and people left him thinking that they were going to get further ahead. And that hurt Walt because Walt depended on them. And he finally got to the point where he decided, ‘Doggone it, I’m going to do it my way.’ And many people were offended although, many times, his way was the right way.
"If Walt got something started and he didn’t like it, throw it out. And a lot of time, people were offended because their work was being thrown away. You could see that in “Trees and Flowers.” They had originally made it black-and-white, but then Walt got the deal to get Technicolor for 5 years before anybody else could have it. So he went back to the studio and said, ‘Put colour in it.’
"I remember when they did "Bumble Boogie" and he was not talking to Josh Meador because Josh hated being in a room by himself. He loved being in the studio where he had other people around him, being creative.
"And Walt used to tour the studio at night and he’d walk in Josh’s room and he’d look at the storyboard and he didn’t like something there, he’d take down the drawing and replace it with something he found in the waste basket and he liked better, so he’d put that up instead."

Puppeteer Bob Baker became a lifelong friend of Walt Disney's after he saw "The Three Little Pigs" as an 8-year-old boy. Later on, he became a puppetry consultant for the studio, and designed the high-end collectible marionettes sold through Disney stores.

In Part #3 of this exclusive interview, Baker talks about working on the puppet sequences for Disney films like Bedknobs and BroomsticksEscape to Witch Mountain and Geppetto. In this final segment, Bob talks about how the working atmosphere at Disney changed after Walt's death, and why people should still run out and see Pinocchio.

S101: After Walt died, how did the atmosphere at the studio change?

Bob Baker: "The kiss of death in the studio was to say, ‘That isn’t the way Walt would’ve done it.’

"One day, while I was working on Bedknobs and Broomsticks, (director) Robert Louis Stevenson took me into the projection booth to show me a bunch of stuff and he would say, ‘I don’t want that to be shown, or that, or that, or even that.’
"I thought ‘That isn’t something Walt would have ever done.’ Walt believed in showing everything in screenings: good, bad or indifferent. From some of the bad things, he got some of his greatest ideas.
"Working on Bedknobs and Broomsticks was a very unhappy experience because, at that point, the studio would pit people against one another. I was pitted against the special effects fellows that actually won the award. I went into the studio the day after they won the 1972 Oscar for Best Visual Effects, to see the producer and congratulate everybody, and those guys all stood with their backs to me. They wouldn’t look at me, or talk to me."
"A lot of people would look at stuff and say, ‘Walt wouldn’t have done it that way’ and of course you couldn’t dig him up and ask him! (laughs) It took about 5 years before they got rid of that little saying, and by then other problems took over."
Say somebody has not seen Pinocchio, but is vaguely interested in it. What would you tell them?
"Pinocchio was the beginning of it all. It’s not done with a computer; it’s all hand-drawn. It’s the same as our puppets: they’re all hand-made. When an animator can make the puppets dance and sing, and they give you tears in your eyes that’s a hell of a job.
"Computers are wonderful, but they’re a whole different medium. You must remember that Pinocchio was made way back in the beginning: it was the 2nd feature-length animated cartoon to ever be released. The colour in this DVD is supposed to be cleaned up. I’m really anxious to see because I know that, at the time I saw it, I was more than excited with all the things that they did with that film. Every time I show it, or look at it, the colour has gotten not as rich as it was but I’m still excited.
"Children will never have seen anything like this before; it’s all hand-drawn by these famous artists. And Disney’s such a great storyteller."
The Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Edition comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray on March 10th

sabato 9 ottobre 2010


Walt Disney Sleeping Beauty Prince Animation Cel Model features the design of the Prince and the Horse from the 1959 Disney classic feature film, Sleeping Beauty




Peter Pan

sabato 2 ottobre 2010

Make Mine Music

1946_m10_02Make Mine Music is the eighth full-length film of the Disney studios. Released on the 15th of 1946 in the United States, it is the first film released during the post-war years. During almost four years, Disney studios had been requisitioned by the American army to create propaganda cartoon movies as well as others speaking about the friendship between the United States and the Latin America (Saludos AmigosThe Three Caballeros), patriotism was then current ! These various films allowed the studios to continue its activities during the war but engendered only very few profits, European market being totally closed. The solution was to realize low-cost films (PinocchioFantasia or  Bambi had cost a real fortune). And so during still some years the studio only released "package" films. Package films were in fact a series of short films put the one behind the others in order to create a full-length film of one hour and a half. Inaugurated in 1943 with Saludos Amigos, this style continued until 1949 with The Adventures of Ichabod and M. Toad.
Make Mine Music is composed with eleven short films of uneven quality. Some are real jewels: : The Martins and the CoysAll the Cats Join InCasey at the Bat (which will continue in 1954 with, Casey Bats Again), Peter and the WolfJohnny Fedora and Alice BluebonnetThe Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met. On the other hand, other are boring and rather inferior : Blue Bayou (realized as a continuation of Fantasia), Without YouTwo SilhouettesAfter You've Gone. The good short films were more numerous, we can say that this film remains interesting for any animation passionate.
Make Mine Music takes also part of the rare full-length animated films Disney didn't released in DVD in France (as Song of the South). It's a bottom when we know that Disney France set up a number collection which will never be complete (Make Mine Music is the number eight and Song of the Souththe number nine). The reason of this absence is apparently due to a law problem about the French soundtrack of the film, the soundtrack where we could find the voice of Edith Piaf on the short filmJohnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet. The Americans had more luck than us, the film released there but truncated by one of its short films, The Martins and the Coys, considered too violent and making the apology of firearms!







Posté par Cobain59 à 21:08 - Permalien [#]

05 août 2008

Saludos Amigos

r1ta0fui_02Saludos Amigos, the sixth Great Classic of Disney studios released on February 6th, 1943. Its production began in 1941, after the return of a group of artists of the studios of a great journey in South America. The aim of this journey was to promote the American values and to ward off the rise of the Nazi influence in the various countries of the South of the continent.
Time were hard in Disney studios, after the closing of the European market in 1939, a general strike bursts into 1941, most of the employees claimed the bonuses which had been promised to them during the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Instead of satisfying his employees, Disney had then decided to put in construction new studios in Burbank, considering those of Hyperion Avenue too small. The proposition of the American government to send Walt Disney and his team of artists to South America arrived just at the right moment and permit him to go away from the conflict. Among the members who accompanied him we found Lee and Mary Blair, Franck Thomas or Marc Davis. From this journey will be born Saludos Amigos but also The Three Caballeros released in 1945.
Saludos Amigos is particular in several points. First it is the shortest Great Classic ever produced, 46 small minutes! Then it is the only Great Classic where appears Walt Disney himself, playing in the various live scenes incorporated between every animated short film. The time was to do savings, connect several short films between them was the best solution in order to don't to spend too much money. We will call very fast this kind of full-length film:package films. Saludos Amigos is composed of four short films : 

- Lake Titicaca : Donald is playing the role of a lambda tourist who is visiting the surroundings of the famous lake.
- Pedro : We are following the adventures of a small plane crossing The Andes to deliver the mail.- El Gaucho Goofy : Goofy puts himself in the skin of an American Cow Boy who find himself in the Pampa.- Aquarela Do Brasil : Donald meets Jose Carioca, a parrot possessed by samba, who makes Donald taste the pleasures of his country.
Saludos Amigos will be very well received at its release in February 1943, even if someone blamed it for being much less accomplished than the ancient Great Classics. The film will even be a real triumph in South America. It was three times nominated in Oscars ® for the best music, the best sound and the best song (categories in which the animated films of the studio are often going to meet themselves).