Monday, September 28, 2015

Between Books - One Little Spark!

I have used “Mickey’s Ten Commandments” crafted by Marty Sklar quite a few times in my professional career.  It is ten concepts that one can easily apply to a number of creative endeavors, and even if you make widgets you are creating something.  So needless to say a book describing Mickey’s Ten Commandments by their originator had my attention, and my money.

One Little Spark!:Mickey’s Ten Commandments and the Road to Imagineering by Marty Sklar is really two books with one title.  The first book is a summary and explanation of “Mickey’s Ten Commandments”.   Sklar gives each commandment a chapter in which he explains its meaning, provides an good example (which he gives a Mousecar) and a bad example (to which he gives a fictional Goof award) and sprinkles in his own expertise.   All of the examples come from Disney Theme Parks, including those things he believes failed the principles.  The second book is Sklar distilling the wisdom of 75 current and former Imagineers on the skills needed to be an Imagineer including passion, a love of learning and curiosity. 

I do not really want to say this.  But I really wish this was two separate books instead of one.  The content is like Epcot, two very different things pushed together.  Yes, Sklar has proven to be a master of this concept.  But here it really does not play well for me.  It basically does not feel like a mashup that fits together.  Maybe it does not have a transition that works for me since really the whole book could be seen as an Imagineering toolbox.  Or it could be the two very different presentations.  But I found myself obsessing about “Mickey’s Ten Commandments” while not showing interest in the road to Imagineering.  Maybe it is my stage of life, being an professional not bright eyed youngster.  Also I really did not enjoy the block quotes used in the road to Imagineering segment.  I really would have preferred more Sklar and less everyone else. 

If anything I will say that Sklar is honest.  And despite being a Disney Editions book he does not pull punches.  There are attractions which he gives a Goof award to which will shock you.  And despite some of these are classic attractions beloved by millions, he has good points about how they have failed to follow Imagineering’s creative principles.  And one must remember that Sklar was a key developer in some of the “failed” attractions. 

One Little Spark!:Mickey’s Ten Commandments and the Road to Imagineering is a book I will reference throughout the next few years.  And Sklar has given me more background to support my professional use of his principles.  But honestly I would have preferred two smaller books, using more of Sklar’s voice, to quench my thirst on this creative topic.    

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cap's Comics - Figment 2 #1

Blarion Mercurial and his sidekick Figment are back.  After saving London and seemingly disappearing, we catch up with our heroes moments after the shocking ending of Figment.  Can the newly minted Dreamfinder show others the power of imagination, or will rules and doubt crush our heroes' spirits?

John Tyler Christopher Action Figure Cover
As our story opens we are introduced to a young dreamer today who's ambitions are checked by rules.  She hopes to become a student at the Academy Scientifica-Lucidus USA, but it seems this dream is not to be.  Meanwhile, Dreamfinder emerges in our day in front of a familiar building.  This structure houses the new Academy Scientifica-Lucidus which has moved from London to the United States.  Figment and Dreamfinder explore, discover what some believed occurred to them after saving London and meet the staff.  Some of the staff are very familiar while others just have familiar attitudes.  The Academy is attempting to harness a new type of energy to power their many endeavors, and save the school, but Dreamfinder in his fancy Dream Machine offers another potential energy source...imagination!  Can Dreamfinder deliver and have old opinions changed about the power of imagination?

Jim Zub returns to write Figment 2 and it is clear that he enjoys the characters and theme of imagination.  If anything my biggest concern with the writing is a replay of Figment as the Directors in both books seem to share very similar opinions about imagination.  The time has just changed.  The art duties are taken over by Ramon Bachs, who's models are slightly different than the first story arc.  But honestly, it feels like the character models have been updated for a story taking place now instead of in the past.  So the art change feels really appropriate.  There are a number of Disney Easter Eggs, ranging from architecture to the Dream Machine to a mention of Medford.  They grab the Disney fan and challenge you to pay attention for whatever could pop up next.  Additionally, the story which appears to be about the power of imagination definitely has a Disney feel.  

X Atencio Imagineer Variant Cover

I did read this story aloud to the Between Tween and Between Kid.  They loved the story and the return of familiar characters.  And I think they would enjoy seeing Figment return on a regular basis.  Maybe this would be a good opportunity for a reoccurring limited series under the Disney Kingdoms label, helping to keep Dreamfinder and Figment fresh as kids and Disney fans crave their return.

Jim Zub brings us back to the story of Blarion (Dreamfinder) and Figment in Figment 2 #1 "Part One: Living Legends".  And the duo delivers as they evangelize the power of Imagination.  I am hopeful that this second series will be as well written and as praised as the first.  

At the moment, I have no doubts!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Between Books - It's a Crazy Business

It's a Crazy Business: The Goofy Life of a Disney Legend by Pinto Colvig and edited by Todd James Pierce recalls memories of the Disney studio from over 70 years ago.  Colvig, a Disney Legend perhaps not familiar to many of us, worked as a story artist along with being the voice of Pluto.  Colvig in fact made a career for himself as a sound man, voicing not just Pluto but providing a variety of sound effects on radio and theatrical releases. 

Colvig's memoir written in the 1940s recalls a number of Disney and non-Disney events.  He discusses how he came to Hollywood after being a second, or third rate, member of a traveling band.  Colvig actually started as an animator, experimenting with his craft in live-action and even running his own studio briefly.  And he details how he discovered some of the sounds he used in productions and how they were delivered in radio.  Colvig examines the Disney operation from his days including discussions of Disney story meetings and the voice actors that he worked with at the studio.  He finishes with a very personal look into his life, a nervous breakdown that he suffered while working on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, providing the voices of Grumpy, Sleepy and more.  His description of the incident includes him acting out in the office and follows with a detailed discussion of his days in a sanitarium.  

It's a Crazy Business feels very homespun.  Colvig's style is to write to the reader as if a conversation is occurring.  So one feels like you are sitting at times in an intimate room as he tells you about that one time, or let me tell you about this gal I worked with.  It is intimate, friendly, honest and folksy.  And when we say honest, this includes his experiences with visions while coalescing in the sanitarium.  He really pulls nothing back as he tells his story.  It is quirky and funny.  His closing chapters do demonstrate how stressful it was for even animation veterans when making Disney's first feature length cartoon.  Additionally, Colvig does give one a flavor of the Disney studio during the 1930s including the people who worked with him.  

It's a Crazy Business introduces Disney fans to Pinto Colvig, a legend that you likely you did not know beyond trivia.  Nobility and statesman visited the Disney studio just to hear him bark, as Pluto.  And some hoped to be like him, making noises with his half of a trombone.  But in the end Colvig proves himself to be an original that others cannot copy with both his personality and ingenuity.  

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press