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Disney 2009 Record Cover Calendar
Posted on Aug 02 2008 by Greg

They were selling these at the Disney Studio Store -- it's a mini-calendar with images of these classic Disney records:

Selections from Fantasia
Sleeping Beauty
More Jungle Book
Bambi & Thumper (45 rpm)
Lady and the Tramp
Jiminy Cricket's Mouse Club Songs (78 rpm)
Snow White
Alice in Wonderland
Walt Disney's Christmas Concert

Amazon is selling used copies here.

Posted on Jul 29 2008 by Greg
Julie Andrews' new autobiography, Home, is a must-read for anyone who loves Disney, entertainment, England and great family stories. She is a consummate writer -- yes, she is one of the celebrities who writes her own books -- and evokes the mood, settings, and even the smells of her early life, from a dysfunctional but loving family and the last days of British Vaudeville to Broadway stardom and getting the role of Mary Poppins.

I was not aware that two Disney legends crossed paths twice in their careers. Julie Andrews performed in her first big stage variety show with none other than Disneyland Golden Horseshoe fixture Wally Boag. Boag also figures prominently in Steve Martin's autobiography, in which he fondly recalls Disneyland as his haven from an unhappy home life.

Julie's childhood had tough times, but she remained very close to her family over the years despite the bumps in the road. I'm glad she chose to focus in so much detail on her early career in this book, since many of us know little about the theatrical world she came from. Mary Poppins makes an appropriate stopping point since she suggests that her early experience led to her being uniquely qualified to play the part, which had a lot of music hall-style set pieces.

I listened to the book on CD. Hearing Julie Andrews herself spin her tale in a warm, friendly way is a remarkable experience. Some of my friends chose to read the book first. I also bought the book to share with family and friends, and to have on hand for quick reference.

BOOK REVIEW: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles
Posted on Apr 21 2008 by Greg
Just finished reading a swell new book called The Fortune Cookie Chronicles that examines the Chinese food phenomenon in America and a bit internationally.

Ever wonder about those paper boxes with the wire handles or if there were a real General Tso of chicken fame? The answers are here.

It tells the stories of individuals too, from a lady who started delivering food in New York City and began a menu war to a family's dramatic consequences opening a restaurant in a small Georgia town.

It also mentions regional Chinese creations like Szechuan Alligator, which I enjoyed recently in Mandeville, Louisiana. And no, it does not taste like chicken.

Book Review: RUDOLPH, FROSTY AND CAPTAIN KANGAROO: The Musical Life of Hecky Krasnow, Producer of the World's Most Beloved Children's Songs
Posted on Mar 29 2008 by Greg

It's a long title, to be sure, it is so terribly important that more people know who the great Hecky Krasnow is, and what he has made possible, that even those who read the title can get the idea.

He should be a household name, considering that, if not for him, we would never have heard the songs "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," Frosty the Snowman," "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" or one of my favorites, "Suzy Snowflake." He believed in these songs when others did not. He bucked the Columbia brass when they and every other label had no use for Johnny Marks' "Rudolph" song. Even Gene Autry was reluctant. The song made added millions to Autry's bank account, as well as those at Columbia who first rejected it. The only one who did not become rich was Krasnow, who was, like many of us, a corporate worker bee with a wife and children to support.

But as this book makes abundantly clear, Hecky Krasnow was rich in the ways that really count. In an exhaustively detailed account of growing up in a suburban household where Dad often took the kids to work, where the likes of Gene Kelly, Rosemary Clooney, Art Carney, Bob Keeshan, Paul Tripp or Jackie Robinson was doing a children's recording, Judy Gail Krasnow deftly shares her storytelling gifts by providing as many sensory details as possible. You really feel like you're having dinner at the Krasnow's, right down to the tasty roast beef with pan drippings.

The anecdotes run the gamut to the absurdly funny (a party at "Tubby the Tuba" composer George Kleinsinger's Manhattan penthouse, which is a living jungle of wild animals, bugs and shrubberies) to the frightening (personal accounts of racism and a kid's-eye-view of McCarthyism). Either Judy has one astonishing memory or she kept a very copious diary.

When rock & roll and the youth market began to change the face of mass entertainment, the "golden age" of children's records as Krasnow experienced it (with kid discs like "Little Red Monkey" hitting the charts and crossing over into mainstream pop) were fading. (And yes, the success of Disney's venture into recording also crowded out most of the competition -- what can I say?)

Fortunately, Judy Gail Krasnow has created this loving tribute to her father so we can all appreciate his contributions to our lives (that's one of our goals with Mouse Tracks, too -- to draw attention to the unsung heroes). It's also reassuring to learn that this man was such a kind and decent human being. It would have been so disillusioning to find out that the person behind these records really cared about what he was doing and who was listening.

His work may not have made him rich, but we are all the richer for it.

Posted on Mar 19 2008 by Greg

Large format, or coffee table, books are sometimes more about the visuals than the text, but Kirby, King of Comics is one of the exceptions. Written with depth and detail by animation/comic/TV writer/uberblogger Mark Evanier, this lavish, 9x12 tome has as much substance as style.

It tells a life and career story that many of us can identify with, whether we read superhero comics or not. But the story of such an astonishing art and story talent could not be told without substantial illustrations that are its heart and soul, and this book never disappoints on either front.

Whether you're into comics or not, your breath will be taken away by the dynamism of every frame -- not to mention spectacular spreads like the one from "Street Code," in which a dozen or more stories are woven into an eye-popping two page scene.

Perhaps most touching and compelling is the constant struggle Kirby fought for recognition for his substantial role in creating iconic characters that made millionaires of others, balanced with his concern for his family's financial security and his devotion for his unfailingly supportive wife, Roz.

Fortunately the story, as Evanier weaves it, has a happy, somewhat bittersweet ending with a wonderful Fantastic Four excerpt in which The Thing (Kirby's alter ego) sums up a truly universal legacy.

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Mouse Tracks - The Story of Walt Disney Records