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MichaelBarrier.com Exploring the World of Animation and Comic Art

"What's New" Archives: November 2017

 

November 8, 2017:

More Barrier Books

Books in Review (or Not)

 

 

November 8, 2017:

More Barrier Books

Treasury Vol. 3

As I've mentioned before on this site, I'm contributing annotations to a series of books from IDW reprinting the Sunday page Walt Disney's Treasury of Classic Tales. Most of those comics are adaptations of Disney feature films from the '50s and '60s, both animated and (mostly) live action. Two volumes have been published so far, the most recent in September, with a third—the one whose jacket I've reproduced above—scheduled for next March. If you're not familiar with the Treasury page, and with how it fit into the Disney scheme of things way back in the middle of the last century, let me refer you to the following comments from Donald Benson, which he sent to me just after he got his copy of Volume 2:

On my porch from Amazon this morning. Flipped through and read the intros, then perused the artwork. Good stuff all around. Some surprises: Perri, not my idea of an adaptable film, looks impressive. Johnny Tremain joins the movie literally halfway through (the first half, climaxing in the Boston Tea Party, had all the melodrama of Johnny trying to claim his birthright and burning his hand in molten silver). Especially intriguing is how you put the strips in the context of the films and the studio.

The '50s and '60s were when the Disney machine was going full tilt. Even so, by the time I was reading the Classic Tales, the art was literally sketchy and Dean Jones and Dick Van Dyke were indistinguishable from each other. I read it for clues about upcoming movies, the way modern kids study stills and trailers on them thar computers.  

There probably wouldn't be a huge market for it, but I could imagine a coffee table book that followed Disney's development as a synergy juggernaut from the postwar years up until the '60s. The scale and unity of Disney as a cultural presence—the television shows, comics, records, books, cereal prizes, tie-ins, etc., topped off by an actual Land—gave Disney a unique position in the boomer psyche. We grew up with Mickey Mouse Club (already syndicated reruns for me, but with a fresh wave of merchandising and promotion); drooled over Disneyland on TV; and read books and comics that not only sold new films but kept older films alive between re-releases.

Disney synergy was and is often imitated with mixed results. But I don't think you'll ever see it so broadly applied again—even at Disney.While pop culture was trying to hold out against the '60s, Disney even followed us into adolescence. I was too young and geographically removed for "Date Nights at Disneyland," but very aware of grown-up Annette and Hayley Mills.

To this day I'm not sure if I ever saw all of Peter Pan and a few others before adulthood; I know my first complete viewing of Pinocchio was in my late teens. But as a kid I was thoroughly familiar with the stories and characters from an array of Disney products and programs. Disney was a brand like Holiday Inn or McDonald's or Sears. Familiar and safe, with a reliable baseline of quality. (I don't think it's an accident all those outfits were treated with mockery or contempt by a generation rejecting conformity as a virtue.)

I think I've seen mention of four Classic Tales volumes in all; the completist in me is fighting the reader. I may call it a day at Volume 2.

Four volumes is indeed the plan. That will take the series past Mary Poppins and up almost to the end of Walt Disney's life. The Treasury continued for more than twenty years after that, but, despite what amazon.com seems to say on its page for the third volume, I know of no plans to reprint any of those post-Walt pages.

 

Books in Review (or Not)

I realized some time ago that I should save myself trouble by not posting reviews of items that I've purchased with my own money. I get very few comp copies these days, no books from Fantagraphics or Disney Editions, no DVDs or Blu-rays from anybody, except on those rare occasions when I've given the author or publisher some help, and not always then. (Don Hahn asked me to read and comment on the manuscript of Before Ever After, and I did, and I got thanked for my trouble, but I saw the published book only by ordering it through interlibrary loan.)

My shelves are so full that I now buy animation- or comics-related books only on rare occasions, and I feel the urge to review one of them even more rarely. For instance, I've not laid eyes on that gargantuan Disney book from Taschen, much less bought it. Movies are different, and when I write about one here you'll know that I think it's interesting enough for me to have paid for my own ticket. I'll go see Coco in a few weeks, and I'll probably write about it, but that will be it for the rest of the year.

There are always exceptions, of course, and one of them is Warner Home Video's new Porky Pig DVD set, which I paid for in advance. I'm still working my way through it, but I'm sure that by the time I finish I won't be able to resist the urge to write about it, and not just because Warner is recycling (again) a couple of my audio commentaries.

I must add a good word for Bob McLain and his Theme Park Press, a remarkable operation that is putting into print rare and unusual Disney-related material. Some of it is so highly specialized that it is hard to imagine the nature of its audience, except for people (like me) who are always looking for untapped sources for their own writings. But then there are the books from familiar and well-regarded names like Didier Ghez, Jim Korkis, Paul Anderson, and Floyd Norman, and the new editions of worthwhile books that have passed out of print, in some cases decades ago.

The quickest way to survey Bob McLain's offerings is to go to amazon.com and do a search for "Theme Park Press." A lot of titles about the Disney parks will come up, but also books about Disney movies, Disney people, and even Disney comic books. You'll probably find something you can't resist buying.

There are some important books, by Didier Ghez and John Canemaker, that I've really wanted to review, but I'm only now figuring out what I want to say about them. With any luck I'll finally post a review in the next few days.

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