I was in Barnes & Noble last Monday checking out the cheap DVD section and found something called “200 Classic Cartoons” for $4.99 with 4 discs worth of old cartoons. (The distributor is Mill Creek.) There were enough titles on it that I didn’t have that I either wanted to own or was curious enough about to make it worth $4.99 despite what would surely be a preponderance of poor quality prints and transfers.
News of Annette Funicello’s death after a decades-long battle with multiple sclerosis was announced yesterday. I first knew “Annette,” as she was commonly known, from her tenure on “The Mickey Mouse Club” on TV when I was a child in the late 1950s. However, I didn’t come to appreciate her fully until I was a little older and saw BEACH PARTY when it opened in the Bronx in October 1963 (50 years ago this fall) on a double bill with Roger Corman’s race-car drama, THE YOUNG RACERS. Annette was absolutely beautiful in the film and even though I’d have to count Natalie Wood in WEST SIDE STORY, first seen earlier that year, as my first movie star crush (and the one that directly influenced, consciously or subconsciously, my future choice of mate), I have to say Annette imprinted herself on my consciousness that day as the ideal woman, particularly in the scene where her mirror image sings back to her, “Treat Him Nicely.”
I’ve been reading “The Disney Version,” Richard Schickel’s critical biography of Walt Disney, and after I finished the chapter on SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, which was released 75 years ago this December, I pulled out my DVD copy of the film and watched it. It may be the first time I’ve seen this since I took my daughter to it when it was theatrically re-released in 1987. Before that I’d seen it in two other theatrical re-releases: in 1958, when I was four and 1967, when I took my younger brothers. And I bought the DVD in 2001.
On disc 1 of the Walt Disney Treasures Tomorrowland set, there are three Tomorrowland episodes from the Disneyland TV show: “Man in Space” (1955), “Man and the Moon” (1955), and “Mars and Beyond.” All are documentaries with actual space and rocket scientists contributing on-camera appearances (including former Nazi Wernher Von Braun) and all contain elaborate animated sequences. All were directed by veteran Disney animator Ward Kimball and of course are all introduced by Uncle Walt himself.
While real life space explorations have far surpassed the science depicted in these shows (and probably answered all the questions raised therein), the science fiction aspects remain fascinating and aesthetically beautiful. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen science fiction art this detailed outside of the sf pulp magazine and paperback covers we used to get in the 1950s and ‘60s.
Each of the three shows offers a speculative animated sequence offering then-current ideas of what missions in space, on the moon and on Mars would look like. While the shots are mostly static illustrations, there is some animation showing the movements of craft and astronauts.