Friday, December 7, 2012

Playlist: Songs of Christmas (2012 Edition)

The Peanuts Gang Freak It & Kick Off The Holiday Season
Screen Grab from A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Image Courtesy of Peanuts Wiki
It's officially the Holiday season. I know this because:
  1. Each morning I awaken a victim of 40+ e-mail blasts offering me AMAZING HOLIDAY DEALS/DON'T MISS IT!/OFFER ENDS TONIGHT!
  2. Turn a corner in metro NY: Rockettes everywhere. I've seen less pigeons* lately
  3. The Rankin-Bass Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer was on CBS this past Wednesday
Speaking of Rudolph, please refer to the infographic below to alleviate any confusion when viewing 1960s television this holiday season...

Both Appeared on CBS, But Rudolph's "Glasses Elf"
Should Not Be Mistaken For Richard "Mel Cooley" Deacon
Infographic by Dan Cunningham

So, with this year's Summer and Halloween playlists put away for a while, here's another playlist of 9 song suggestions to get in the Christmas spirit. As usual, these are deeper cuts than what you'll hear on the radiouse them to add a bit of variety to your own Holiday-themed playlist.

 Album Art for Christmas 2012 Playlist Suggestions
Christmas musical standards are well-know and forever repeated: particularly recordings from the likes of Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Mariah Carey. Lately, terrestrial radio stations tend to utilize the same 20-odd songs, placed on auto-pilot to be repeated ad nauseam 'til the evening of 12/25, because those songs are considered "reliable."

Reliability might garner a few less people switching stations, but it lacks texture and the fun of anticipation for the listener. Discovery too: plenty of obscure songs that receive less or no play are the most delicious morsels, often leading the listener to go out of their way to discover non-holiday work by the same artist.

Christmas Music Works Best With Variety
Image © and Courtesy of Chef Mom

To further illustrate this, these playlist suggestions provide a good sampling of both contemporary and vintage tracks (and yes, Bing Crosby is represented, albeit with a fun, electronica twist). The high-energy alt rock beats of Relient K start it off, followed by up-tempo jazz from Chet Baker and Vince Guaraldi. Jazz then gets cooled down with Bob Dorough's perspective-tweaking "Blue Christmas" (not the same tune made famous by Elvis Presley)the mood becomes softer and sentimental with She & Him's rendition of "The Christmas Waltz."

 Walt Disney Promotes a mid-1960s Toys For Tots Drive
Image Courtesy of

The most interesting and obscure piece of audio here is probably the "Toys For Tots" theme written by composed by Sammy Fain and Paul Webster, and performed here by Peggy Lee, Nat "King" Cole and Nancy Wilson. The tune is charming, catchy and bright, the message is clear, and the three talented stars are giving their all for the recording originally used as a radio PSA to drum up interest for the annual toy drive. The high-pitched chorus that pipes in could likely be attributed to the initial popularity of Ross Bagdasarian's Chipmunks, or possibly intended to be Walt Disney's own chipmunks Chip n' Dale (equally likely, since the Walt Disney Studio designed the official Toys For Tots logo, and contributed promotional artwork to the charity through the years).

The Original 1948 Toys For Tots Poster
© Toys for Tots Foundation, Image Courtesy of

To this day, Toys for Tots continues to be an official activity of the U.S. Marine Corps., serving as a charitable, non-profit organization. You can find a donation center near you at their website HERE

Image © and Courtesy of Hear The Sounds
Each song listed below is available on and/or iTunes. Beneath the album title of each song are links to the song/album for both stores, where you can listen to audio samples and purchase those that suit your tastes—I don't get a piece of the profits if you make a purchase, the links are included to make things easier. Here we go:

Angels We Have Heard On High

Artist: Relient K
Album: Let It Snow Baby... Let It Reindeer
Amazon  iTunes

Happy Holiday (Beef Wellington Remix)

Artist: Bing Crosby
Album: Christmas Remixed: Holiday Classics Re-Grooved
Amazon  iTunes

Winter Wonderland (78 Take)
Artist: Chet Baker Quartet (Featuring Russ Freeman)
Album: The Chet Baker Quartet With Russ Freeman
Amazon  iTunes

Blue Christmas
Artist: Bob Dorough
Album: (Single)
Amazon  iTunes

The Christmas Waltz

Artist: She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward)
Album: A Very She & Him Christmas
Amazon  iTunes


Artist: The Vince Guaraldi Trio
Album: A Charlie Brown Christmas Original Television Soundtrack Recording
Amazon  iTunes

Christmas Island
Artist: Leon Redbone
Album: Elf Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Amazon  iTunes

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings
Artist: Barenaked Ladies (With Sarah McLachlan)
Album: A Winter's Night 2011
Amazon  iTunes

Toys for Tots

Artist: Nat "King" Cole, Peggy Lee & Nancy Wilson
Album: Ultra-Lounge: Christmas Cocktails (Vol. I)
Amazon  iTunes

If you've been hanging around here, you know when I put together these playlist suggestions, I like to include a link to a free download of a song themed to the subject. This time I'm able to get you to 31 songs, provided by an excellent travel blogger (and Twitter friend) named Carrie Hayward.

It's a great story as to how Carrie came to post the music, but I'll let her blog post explain the inspiration and history behind the songs she compiled, you can check it out and download the music at her site here:

"See You in Disneyland: Silly Reindeer"
Artwork by Dan Cunningham, © The Walt Disney Company
Medium: Vector Art in Adobe Illustrator

* Pigeons are the filthy, scavenging, official birds of Manhattan.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Rare Citrus Treat

The Orange Bird
Illustration by Dan Cunningham, © Disney
Medium: Vector Art in Adobe Illustrator

When Walt Disney World opened in late 1971, the resort could claim many unique featuresmost notably in the categories of size, transportation and recreational offerings compared to the original Disneyland in Anaheim, CA.

Florida Residents and Tourists Could Preview a Detailed Scale Model of the Walt Disney World Resort Prior to the October 1971 Opening
Image © & courtesy of Flickr user BestofWDW

However, much of the content within the theme park was a reflection of those found in Anaheim. The initial plan was for Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom to feature a similar layout to Disneyland, debuting new, different attractions mixed with a selection of shared ones. During construction, time and budget crunches weakened the brew, leaving Florida only a handful of unique attraction offerings.

A Preoccupied Hollywood Legend Debates Original Attractions vs. Clones While Surveying Construction Progress
Image © & courtesy of Flickr user BestofWDW

Over the decades, with the global sprawl of Disney's domestic and international theme parks, a homogenization of elements became de rigueur. This, plus the accumulated experience of customer trends and market research aided a justification for overall consistency with fewer touches proprietary to a single area.

What marketing surveys and polls can't always nail is the nostalgia factor. User-controlled media the likes of fanzines, message boards, podcasts and blogs wield the ability to raise eyebrows and awareness of even the most trend-savvy analysts. It is largely due to the breadth of the internet that some things, deemed worthless, regain their capitalization potential and find their way back into the public consciousness.

 Demographic Surveys Rarely Factor in Kitsch or Nostalgia
Image courtesy of

Those of us who watched television commercials and spent time at Walt Disney World during the 1970s have recently been reunited with a familiar friend. Spring 2012 restored a seemingly simple and largely forgotten icon from the tangerine-hued ether, as the Florida Orange Bird resumed his place behind the Magic Kingdom's Sunshine Tree Terrace snack counter.

Over 25 Years Later, The Orange Bird is Back Where He Belongs
Image courtesy of Eating WDW Blog

Despite the burgeoning homogenization factor, the Orange Bird's restoration signaled an stabilizing modicum of individuality to Walt Disney World. He is one of the only unique icons of the resort's history: a distinct identity that was never copied anywhere else.

Beyond being represented on a sampling of new merchandise, the loveable avian/citrus hybrid adorns a large attraction poster under a main entrance tunnel into the park, and atop the "throwback" marquee, with proper font restored in place of the prior (and rather generic) interim typeface.

A Visual History of The Sunshine Tree Terrace Marquee
© Disney

The cost and effort behind the return of something as unremarkable as a long-discontinued, 40-year old Florida Citrus Commission mascot speaks volumes on the impact of user-based media. Minus the online recognition by those who simply remembered the character fondly, the formal reestablishment of The Orange Bird at Walt Disney World would never have surfaced*.

I won't go into a great deal of background on the character here, as there have been a multitude of resources online over the past few years chronicling the Bird's history and return. The most notable and informative of these you can discover in the following links:

Widen Your World was the first website to provide a solid, well-researched overall history of the character:

Jim Korkis, Disney Historian and author of the excellent The Vault of Walt and Who's Afraid of Song of the South & Other Forbidden Disney Stories, placed his research efforts and eye for detail on the Bird's notoriety with three posts, spanning five years via MousePlanet:

Mr. Korkis has also put up another post at Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research site, with information on the Bird's singular animated short film Foods and Fun: A Nutrition Adventure for Walt Disney Educational Media, produced by Rick Reinert Productions (including a full video of the short):

The eloquent Michael Crawford at Progress City U.S.A. provides further history with a thoughtful essay on the impact of the character's relationship to Walt Disney World during the resort's challenging early years**:

FoxxFurr's Passport to Dreams Old and New covers more in-depth history and provides intelligent insight on the practical character design aspects, and the character's overall aesthetic appeal upon the 2012 return of The Orange Bird:

Over at Miehana, the talented Kevin Kidney briefly recounts his participation in uncovering the hidden location and restoration of the original Orange Bird figurine, and a good look at the improved paint finishing bestowed upon it:

My own early online efforts were on display in 2007, when I created custom desktop wallpaper for Jeff Pepper's exemplary 2719 Hyperion blog:

A Rare AUDIO Citrus Treat

 Magical Memories Magazine #1
The Premiere Issue of Jesse Guiher's Audio Fanzine, Photo © by Dan Cunningham

Nearly a decade ago, I was fortunate enough to purchase a rare gem of the aforementioned user-based media. At that time, a search on the subject of The Orange Bird garnered scant results, save for a few crumbs of information and a heaping teaspoon of items on eBay. One afternoon, I noticed a message board posting with an ad for the premiere issue of Magical Memories Magazine, an audio fanzine consisting of 2 CDs with narrated content about a particular theme park attraction. Here was user-based audio which predated the podcast explosion to come, about a year later. MMM #1 was themed to The Enchanted Tiki Room of Disneyland (Disc 1) and Walt Disney World (Disc 2), with ornate packaging and inserts.

MMM #1 Was a Feast of Visual & Audio Ephemera
Photo © by Dan Cunningham

The 'zine did not feature attraction audio, opting for original content: in-depth history on the mid-century tiki craze, stories and recollections from those who'd worked and maintained The Enchanted Tiki Room on both coasts, an exclusive interview with Disney Legend X. Atencio, and... a thirteen-minute audio history of The Florida Orange Bird.

All this was constructed and offered by a gentleman named Jesse Guiher: an ambitious Oregon-based artist and designer. I contacted Jesse earlier this year, and got a bit of background on the history of his Magical Memories Magazine project (two other issues followed before he ceased production, MMM #2 focused on the Disneyland Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay, and MMM #3 looked at the myriad attractions inspired by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea).
"I only had one other person to help with the 'zine, so it was a long, laborious process to do each issue, as I did everything from interviews to editing to graphic design and art, it was a lot of fun but such a great deal of work that I didn't have time for anything else. [I]ronically, it was the beginnings of success that killed the 'zine: I couldn't fulfill the orders fast enough [or] on time, once they started pouring in on the third issue."
– Jesse Guiher, May 2012
Jesse also very generously gave me permission to post the long out-of-circulation Orange Bird History audio (note: history covers the years 1970–2004) here for everyone to enjoy. All participants on MMM #1 used pseudonyms, with the exception of Jesse himself, who took on the role of host and interviewer throughout the 'zine. The author and narrator of The Orange Bird History audio is known as "Howard"hit the play button to listen right here:

Or download the MP3 HERE

Jesse is currently working on a new kids noir web comic, and you can see samples of his artwork over at TigerTailArtmake sure you tell him thanks for sharing! 
* To be fair, the only other potential factor was a merchandise push of the character in the early 2000s to Japanese consumers (be sure to read the Widen Your World article for details.)
** Crawford's post speaks of the loss of the character: his post was published in November 2011, unknowingly foreshadowing the Bird's return to the Sunshine Tree Terrace in April 2012.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Got Donald Duck Adventures #5? WHICH ONE?

Joe Torcivia's The Issue At Hand Blog featured a fascinating post last week, on the many U.S. versions (11 total) published of a Mickey Mouse comic strip-turned-comic book tale, the well-researched details of which you can (and should) read here: Comic Book Letter of Comment: “Island in the Sky"

Joe Torcivia's The Issue At Hand Blog

I left Joe a comment or two, and mentioned I was working on my own post about the "Jekyll-and-Hyde" era in which the Walt Disney company decided to try out self-publishing their own comic books during the collector's boom of the early 1990s. That article will be featured here in the future
while I'm still doing a bit of research to put that together, I knew there was a particular aspect to the marketing of those books that required some explanation, had one not been around to witness the transitions. I felt it constituted it's own post, to clear up the confusion.

PROLOGUE by Cap'n L'Orange*

Cap'n L'Orange Appears Courtesy of 1StopRetroShop
& Speaks Whilst Marinated With BlackBeard Spiced Rum
"Aye, mates: bite off a cork, and settle down on th' bulkhead... 'tis a grand, sweeping yarn of confusin' back and forth, ta hear told. From publisher, to new publisher, back again, to yet another new publisher. Ancient shipping routes be easier to foller, sez I."
– Cap'n L'Orange
He's speaking, of course, of how in the world you can keep track of collecting the comic book Donald Duck Adventures.

GLADSTONE SERIES I (1985 to 1990)

In 1985 the (dormant) U.S. license to publish Walt Disney comic books was granted to Another Rainbow Publishing, to be published under the imprint of Gladstone** comics. After two Disneyland-themed prestige and digest specials, the monthly titles first appeared in July of the following year, consisting of the "core four"  U.S. Disney comic books: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney's Comics and Stories. Each book resumed the issue numbering from the point the prior run ended in 1984 through Western Publishing's Gold Key/Whitman line. So Mickey Mouse #218 (July 1984) published by Whitman, resumed two years later with Mickey Mouse #219 (July 1986), under Gladstone.

Don't Worry, Donald: Soon You'll Understand Exactly
Which Issue of Donald Duck Adventures #5 is Which

It was an outstanding presentation of comic books with both the casual fan and the collector in mind
. The core four started out with Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge title rotating formats from month to month: if Donald Duck had a full-length adventure tale, Uncle Scrooge featured two or three shorter stories, the following month, Donald Duck contained several shorter stories and Uncle Scrooge showcased a book-length adventure. This was the cycle for the first year of Gladstone comic books, and it worked well. By the summer of 1987, DuckTales was set to premiere on worldwide syndicated TV, with much marketing hoopla. Through Gladstone, a new comic book was planned to be released to tie into the show, which, though featuring several new characters, shared much connective tissue with the world of Walt Disney comic books.

DuckTales Was a Partial Impetus for the Genesis of Donald Duck Adventures
©Disney, Image Courtesy of TV Shows on DVD

Since the DuckTales comic focused on the TV animated version of Uncle Scrooge sans Donald Duck, it was decided to give Donald a companion book as well. Not long before the first issues were supposed to hit the stands, a decision was made to add a third new title, delaying the DuckTales comic book (possibly due to brand-new stories featuring Scrooge with the DuckTales cast were not ready to print?), prompting a shift from the format cycle mentioned earlier.

Gladstone's DuckTales #1 Became Uncle Scrooge Adventures #1
©Disney, Image Courtesy of Joakim Gunnarsson's Sekvenskonst Blog

All Gladstone titles would become bi-monthly, allowing each issue of the original Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge titles to contain multiple, shorter stories, giving the longer-form stories a permanent showcase in the two new titles: Uncle Scrooge Adventures and Donald Duck Adventures.

 The Original Donald Duck Adventures #1 (1987)
Published by Gladstone Comics
©Disney, Image Courtesy of

It was around this time that Gladstone had expanded their format offerings, having done away with digest-sized books, and beginning a series of large, square-bound books: the Gladstone Comic Albums. Rotating themes and characters throughout the anthology series, issues #5, #10, #13, #16 and Giant Album #5 were titled Donald Duck Adventures.

Gladstone Comic Album Series #10
Donald Duck Adventures: Ancient Persia (1988)
©Disney, Image Courtesy of

The Gladstone comics were a solid hit, and The Walt Disney Company noticed this, along with all the growing attention the comic book collector's market had been receiving in the past few years. Disney had established and begun grown their own publishing arm, and by late 1989 had informed Another Rainbow/Gladstone they would not renew their license to publish Walt Disney comic books: Disney had decided to publish the comic books themselves.

DISNEY COMICS (1990 to 1993)

Gladstone's Donald Duck Adventures ran from issue #1 to #20, and the final Gladstone comic books were released at the start of 1990. By Spring, the new, Disney-published books debuted under the imprint "Disney Comics," boldly launching eight monthly titles.

* O.K. folks: right here's where you need to start keeping track of things *

With the exception of the long-running Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, all the Disney-published titles reset their issue numbering to #1, for consistency's sake and (more likely) to capitalize on the collector's market. The Mickey Mouse and Goofy books officially added "Adventures" to their titles, justifying the issue #1 designation. BUT Gladstone had already been publishing a Donald Duck Adventures comic in addition to the standard Donald Duck book! In spite of this, Disney Comics chose to start again at issue #1. Disney Comics did the same #1 numbering reset for the DuckTales comic book, which had reached issue #13 by the end of Gladstone's run.

The Reset Donald Duck Adventures #1 (1990)
Published by Disney's Own "Disney Comics" Imprint
©Disney, Image Courtesy of

This is where the confusion for collectors and completists really began!

Halfway through the course of the Disney Comics years (1990-1993) their infamous "implosion" took place, and a new license was granted to Another Rainbow/Gladstone to publish an affordable, prestige format album collection of the entire comic book work of Carl Barks: The Carl Barks Library in Color. The title of the portion reprinting the work from the Donald Duck segment of the collection? The Carl Barks Library of Donald Duck Adventures in Color. This was the signal that soon heralded the liquidation of the self-published Disney Comics line, and a return of the standard comic book license to Gladstone in 1993.

Gladstone's The Carl Barks Library of
Donald Duck Adventures in Color #17 (1995)
©Disney, Image Courtesy of INDUCKS

GLADSTONE – SERIES II (1993 to 1998)

The Disney Comics issues of Donald Duck Adventures ran to issue #38. Gladstone quickly re-launched their core titles in the Summer of 1993. Armed with a re-worked logo and higher-quality white paper, Gladstone resumed their original numbering system of Donald Duck Adventures title with issue #21 (rather than continuing the Disney Comics independent numbering system).

Gladstone Resumed Publication (and Their Numbering System)
With Donald Duck Adventures #21 (1993)
©Disney, Image Courtesy of

This series of books has been come to be known as "Gladstone II" in collector's circles. The Carl Barks Library in Color album series was completed in 1996, and the monthly Gladstone II comics ran until mid-1998, when the publishers decided not to renew their license due to a continually strained relationship with the licensing department at The Walt Disney Company.


The U.S. Walt Disney comic book license laid dormant once more until 2003, when it was negotiated and acquired by high-profile Baltimore comic book distributor Steve Geppi. The "core four" monthly titles returned under the new imprint of Gemstone Publishing. Gemstone's 2003 give-away title for the annual Free Comic Book Day was... what else? Donald Duck Adventures!

 Gemstone's 2003 FREE COMIC BOOK DAY Offering
Donald Duck Adventures: Maharajah Donald
©Disney, Image Courtesy of

The Gemstone line was supplemented by two smaller "take-along" digest-sized books, with a higher page count capable of containing longer stories from overseas creators. The tiles of these "take-along" books : Mickey Mouse Adventures, andyup... Donald Duck Adventures.

Gemstone's Compact "Take-Along" Version
Donald Duck Adventures #14 (2005)
©Disney, Image Courtesy of Library Thing

 During the course of the Gemstone years, several well-done seasonal annuals and one-shots specials were produced, including an interesting notion passed down from the Gladstone days: an anthology series printing a Carl Barks tale, followed by the sequel to that story by Don Rosa. Thus began a series of prestige comics titled The Barks/Rosa Collection. Volume 2 (and the scheduled, but never published) Volume 5 of The Barks/Rosa Collection were sub-titled... all together, now: Donald Duck Adventures

Gemstone's The Barks/Rosa Collection Vol. 2: Donald Duck Adventures 
Donald Duck's Atom Bomb / The Duck Who Fell to Earth (2008)
©Disney, Image Courtesy of

The Barks/Rosa Collection Volume 5 and several other previously announced comics never made it to the printer's press: due
to Geppi's myriad investments, his company faced serious financial problems. By the close of 2008, the Gemstone line of Walt Disney comics quietly disappeared.

Thus ends the saga of Donald Duck Adventures as of late 2012. It becomes clear why collectors may have become misguided their search and/or distinction of which is which, especially since there are multiple issue #1s. But the capper is that there are SIX DIFFERENT instances of Donald Duck Adventures #5 —and we can unofficially count SEVEN, as the unpublished Barks/Rosa Collection Vol. 5 shows up frequently on Internet searches. Click to enlarge and observe:

Six (or Seven) Ways to Enjoy Donald Duck Adventures #5
©Disney, Infographic by Dan Cunningham

Man, it's enough to drive a comic collector/completist to stick his own head in a mylar bag and board it. Hopefully, they find their way here before that goes down.

Epilogue: BOOM and Beyond (Present Day)

BOOM! Studios was the latest publisher to publish under the Walt Disney standard comic book license, but they have spared us a lengthy entry in this post, since they chose NOT to use Donald Duck Adventures as a title during their run, opting for Donald Duck and Friends, Donald Duck Classics, or just plain ol' Donald Duck. BOOM! has since moved forward with other licenses, leaving the future for U.S.Walt Disney comic books wide open.

That day will come... and once they've restored the "core four," I'll bet whomever the next Editor-in-Chief is, they'll peruse the list of options, and swiftly select Donald Duck Adventures as an upcoming title in the newest line-up.

* During the course of writing this, I've become fascinated by the potential of Cap'n L'Orange... he'll very likely show up here again.

**  Another Rainbow named their comics line Gladstone after Donald Duck's first cousin with insufferable good luck: Gladstone Gander.