24 April 2009

The Mouse Hangs High

Scared yet?

No, not by that image to the right—by the nerve-wracking fact that I’ve got a blog.

I mean, my friends know I'm often "drowning in chaos" (as I like to put it), fighting with several freelance deadlines at once. I wrote the book on spreading myself too thin—while I was working on three other books. And now blogging will just take up more time. It makes my skin crawl, dammit.

But Eve and everybody has blog fever, and I'm afraid the peer pressure's got me too. Other fans and researchers have historical oddities to share? After years of comics and cartoon gruntwork, so do I. Ancient recordings? So do I. Snarky opinions? So's your old man.

The great illustrations in this post come from one of the first French Disney publications—and almost certainly the first Mickey Mouse novel ever written. Scribed by Magdeleine du Genestoux and published by Librairie Hachette, Mickey et Minnie (1932) adapted the first few 1930 Mickey Mouse comics continuities to prose... lots of prose. Whole chapters go by without illustrations. But when art does appear, it’s the work of Félix Lorioux (1872-1964), a man who drew the mouse like no other.

Félix Auguste Henri Marie Lorioux—his career covered in more depth elsewhere on the web—was an artist from childhood, toiling with stained glass at a local cathedral before attending a fine art school in Angers, France. Moving to Paris afterward, Lorioux designed clothing and product packaging before finding his niche in children’s books. Lorioux met Walt Disney when the latter toured France as a Red Cross ambulance driver during World War I; in some way, the connection led to Lorioux’s later employment as the first French Disney illustrator.

Nevertheless, Walt was apparently nonplussed by Lorioux’s abstractionist take on Mickey, Minnie, Pegleg Pete, and Sylvester Shyster. As a result, Lorioux would only work on a couple of additional Disney books. But while I can easily see the off-model aspect of Lorioux’ drawings (compare with a couple of their original comics inspirations, also pictured), I am captivated by their raw energy and enthusiasm. Shyster, with his three-day growth and butterfly-infested hat, makes me think of a refugee from a 19th century madhouse.

Want to join me for more of this lunacy? Sure you do. I’ve got plenty more coming on an entirely irregular basis. Be here.


Thad said...

First to comment ever!

I am glad the Crooked Jew made it into your first post. Shalom!

Jerry Beck said...

Go David! Congrats on entering the blogosphere. Your scope of knowledge, your professional style and your point of view ensure this blog will as entertaining as it will be illuminating. I'll be checking in regularly.

Anonymous said...

Good start to your blog. How many Mickey Mouse novels have been published over the years?

Lars Jensen

ramapith said...

If you count the Big Little Books, Lars, then there've been several dozen. Those were still published when I was a kid, and it was very satisfying to read one of those 200+ page monsters all the way through.
What would be more interesting is to learn whether the French novelizations were intended to appeal to adults as well as kids. My knowledge of French isn't at a point where I can tell, but perhaps someone else here can.

Rosenape said...

Nice job, Ramapithecus! And thanks for adding me to the blogroll. I shall reciproape...er...cate, of course.


Jon said...

It's always interesting to see something that you really never thought you'd see. Congratulations on the new blog!

Craig D said...

I remember there was a beer commercial svereal years back that asked, "Why are foreign films so foreign?"

The answer was, "Why ask why?"

Seems applicable here, don'tcha tink?

Joe Torcivia said...

What are the odds of both you and Chuck Munson starting Blogs on the same day?!

Odds Bodkins! The very air abounds with Blogs!

To your first entry, you say: “Nevertheless, Walt was apparently nonplussed by Lorioux’s abstractionist take on Mickey, Minnie, Pegleg Pete, and Sylvester Shyster. As a result, Lorioux would only work on a couple of additional Disney books.”

…And I say, Why? Odd as he was, he was better than Kay Wright and Bob Gregory! Of course, most of their artwork WAS published after Walt’s death!

Good luck, and I’ll be reading… so be sure to update regularly! You don’t want me to get bored and read some right wing Blog, do you?

Chuck Munson said...

David, great to see you have
a Blog, as I stated over on FB. I know you have an incredible wealth of information that this will prove a great vehicle with which to share that. I am impressed by your original artwork title splash. (I'm gonna have to find me out how ta do dat fancy stuff!) I am truly looking forward to future posts. I offer one of my fondest (and now sadly departed) Disney salutes: Kungaloosh!

J.V. (AKA "White Pongo") said...

I didn't know you had a blog until Cartoon Brew posted the link. As to blogs eating up time I find not checking your facts and wild hair-brained assumptions have helped to speed up the process for me! In the meanwhile I look forward to reading this!