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100 Illustrators that all Illustrators should know: #59

Frank Frazetta (1928-2010)

Country: USA

Famous for: Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars, Tarzan, Sword and Sorcery, Fantasy and Science-Fiction illustration, Comics, Paperback Novel covers, LP covers

Influenced: William Stout, Dave Stevens, Jeff Jones, Bernie Wrightson, Michael Kaluta, Barry Windsor-Smith, Capcom, Nintendo, John Buscema, Mark Schultz, Ken Kelly, Boris Vallejo, Justin Sweet, Brad Rigney, Richard Corben, Mike Mignola, Roy Krenkel, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, Shane Glines, John Kricfalusi, Arthur Suydam, Paul Bonner, Simon Bisley, Claire Wendling, Bruce Timm, Frank Miller, Frank Cho, Adam Hughes, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Robert Rodriguez, Guillermo Del Toro, Alan Lee, John Howe, the Hildebrandt Brothers, Joe Jusko, Marc Silvestri, Michael Whelan, Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Comic art (and the genres themselves) as a whole, Illustration as a whole

Influenced by: Howard Pyle, Gustave Doré, Franklin Booth, Willy Pogany, Zedenek Burian, Wally Wood, Roy Krenkel, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, J. Allen St. John, Norman Lindsey, Heinrich Kley, N.C. Wyeth, Hal Foster, Frederic Remington

Born Frazzetta (he would later remove one ‘Z’) in 1928 in Brooklyn, Frank Frazetta was a renowned American illustrator of Science Fiction, Fantasy and comics. Encouraged in his art-making from an early age by his grandmother, Frank was what many may consider a child prodigy, and attended the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts at the young age of 8; a place Frazetta says he learned more from his friends there as opposed to his professor, Michel Falanga. Frazetta broke into the comics industry at age 16, inking interior pages of humor and gag comics in the mid and early 40s, later working in genres such as western, fantasy, mystery and horror. By the early 1950s, Frank started working for EC comics, among other publications, often collaborating with friends and mentors such as Roy Krenkel and Al Williamson. In 1964, Frazetta would create one of his breakout illustrations; a caricature of Beatles member, Ringo Starr for an ad in Mad Magazine. This illustration caught the eye of United Artists, and was approached for several movie posters during this time. However, his most iconic paintings were done for another big market of the time; Paperback novel covers. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, Frazetta painted a slew of masterpiece covers for stories such as Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars and Tarzan, the likes of which revitalized the entire fantasy genre of illustration and storytelling. During this time, he’d also contribute to Warren’s publications such as Eerie, Creepy, Blazing Combat and Vampirella. Some of his iconic pieces, The Death Dealer, Dark Kingdom, and The Brain were repurposed for album covers in the late 70s for bands such as Molly Hatchet and Nazareth. In the early 80s, Frazetta also collaborated with experimental and underground animator Ralph Bakshi for an animated feature called Fire and Ice. Frazetta was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1995, the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1999, The Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1998, and was named Spectrum Fantastic Art’s first Grand Master in 1995.

Besides Rockwell, Frazetta is among the most prolific and iconic illustrators to ever live and is perhaps the most widely cited specific artist influence in the entire illustration and comic industry. He reinvented the entire fantasy art scene and became an inspiration for newcomers to break into the field and has left an unmistakable mark on pop culture as a whole as a result, influencing properties such as Star Wars to the Legend of Zelda and everything in between. Frazetta passed away at the age of 82 at his home in Florida and his works have been since purchased by collectors or reside in the Frazetta Museum in East Stroudsburg, PA, of which I highly recommend a visit. 

10

The Jungle Book

136 in x of animated feature film history
Release: Oct. 18th, 1967
Country: USA
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman

“The Jungle Book was inspired by the 1894 book of the same name by English author Rudyard Kipling. Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, it was the last film to be produced by Walt Disney, who died during its production. The plot follows Mowgli, a feral child raised in the Indian jungle by wolves, as his friends Bagheera the panther and Baloo the bear try to convince him to leave the jungle before the evil tiger Shere Khan arrives.

After The Sword in the Stone was released, storyman Bill Peet claimed to Walt Disney that ‘we [the animation department] can do more interesting animal characters’ and suggested that Kipling’s The Jungle Book could be used for the studio’s next film. Disney agreed and Peet created an original treatment, with little supervision, as he had done with One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Sword in the Stone. However, after the disappointing reaction to The Sword in the Stone, Walt Disney decided to become more involved in the story than he had been with the past two films, with his nephew Roy E. Disney saying that ‘[he] certainly influenced everything about it. (…) With Jungle Book, he obviously got hooked on the jungle and the characters that lived there.’

Peet decided to follow closely the dramatic, dark, and sinister tone of Kipling’s book, which is about the struggles between animals and man. However, the film’s writers decided to make the story more straightforward, as the novel is very episodic, with Mowgli going back and forth from the jungle to the Man-Village, and Peet felt that Mowgli returning to the Man-Village should be the ending for the film. Some plot points were taken from Kipling’s 1895 novel The Second Jungle Book. 

Disney was not pleased with how the story was turning out, as he felt it was too dark for family viewing and insisted on script changes. Peet refused, and after a long argument, Peet left the Disney studio in January 1964. Disney then assigned Larry Clemmons as his new writer and one of the four story men for the film, giving Clemmons a copy of Kipling’s book, and telling him: ‘The first thing I want you to do is not to read it.’ Clemmons still looked at the novel, and thought it was too disjointed and without continuity, needing adaptations to fit a film script. Although much of Bill Peet’s work was discarded, the personalities of the characters remained in the final film.

Many familiar voices inspired the animators in their creation of the characters and helped them shape their personalities. This use of familiar voices for key characters was a rarity in Disney’s past films. The staff was shocked to hear that a wise cracking comedian, Phil Harris was going to be in a Kipling film. Disney suggested Harris after meeting him at a party. Harris improvised most of his lines, as he considered the scripted lines ‘didn’t feel natural’. After Harris was cast, Disneyland Records president Jimmy Johnson suggested Disney to get Louis Prima as King Louie, as he ‘felt that Louis would be great as foil’. Walt also cast other prominent actors such as George Sanders as Shere Khan and Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera.

David Bailey was originally cast as Mowgli, but his voice changed during production, leading Bailey to not fit the ‘young innocence of Mowgli’s character’ at which the producers were aiming. Thus director Wolfgang Reitherman cast his son Bruce, who had just voiced Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. The animators shot footage of Bruce as a guide for the character’s performance.

The characterization of the orangutan King Louie has frequently been cited (including by Anthony Edward Schiappa, Susan Miller, and Greg Rode) as a racial stereotype, especially given the political and civil rights climates in America during the time this film was released. Initially, the producers considered famous jazz musician Louis Armstrong for the role, but to avoid the likely controversy that would result from casting a black person to voice an ape, they instead chose Italian-American musician Louis Prima.

Longtime Disney collaborator Terry Gilkyson was brought in to write the songs for the film. Gilkyson delivered several complete songs which were faithful in tone to Rudyard Kipling’s novel, but Walt Disney felt that his efforts were too dark. The Sherman Brothers were brought in to do a complete rewrite, on the condition that they not read Kipling’s book. The only piece of Gilkyson’s work which survived to the final film was his upbeat tune ‘The Bare Necessities’, which was liked by the rest of the film crew. Walt Disney asked the Shermans to ‘find scary places and write fun songs’ for their compositions, and frequently brought them to storyline sessions.

In the original book, the vultures are grim and evil characters who feast on the dead. Disney lightened it up by having the vultures bearing a physical and vocal resemblance to The Beatles, including the signature mop-top haircut. It was also planned to have the members of the band to both voice the characters and sing their song, ‘That’s What Friends Are For’. However, the Beatles member John Lennon’s refusal to work on animated films in that period led to the idea being discarded. The casting of the vultures still brought a British Invasion musician, Chad Stuart of the duo Chad & Jeremy.

The Jungle Book was released in October 1967, just 10 months after Walt’s death. Produced on a budget of $4 million, the film was a massive success, finishing 1967 as the fourth highest-grossing movie of the year. The Jungle Book received positive reviews upon release, undoubtedly influenced by a nostalgic reaction to the death of Disney. Life magazine referred to it as “the best thing of its kind since Dumbo, another short, bright, unscary and blessedly uncultivated cartoon.’ The song ‘The Bare Necessities’ was nominated for Best Song at the 40th Academy Awards, losing to ‘Talk to the Animals’ from Doctor Dolittle. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Gregory Peck lobbied extensively for this film to be nominated for Best Picture, but was unsuccessful.

According to Elsie Kipling Baimbridge, Rudyard Kipling’s daughter, ‘Mowgli’ is pronounced ‘MAU-glee’ (first syllable rhymes with cow), not ‘MOH-glee’ (first syllable rhymes with go). She reportedly never forgave Walt Disney for the gaffe.

After a studio screening of the finished film Walt Disney’s personal nurse Hazel George came up to animator Ollie Johnston with tears in her eyes and told him that the final shot where Bagheera and Baloo walk off into the sunset was perfect and that it was ‘just the way that Walt had gone out.’”

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FIRST POSTED: 5/15/17

The Switchedonpop podcast this week discussed SOTT, its songwriting craft and a discussion of fandom.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/switched-on-pop/id934552872?mt=2#episodeGuid=6ebf49da-4de1-11e6-b67c-ff8fc19ab713

Pretty cool. They talked about the apocalyptic imagery, eschatological implications, the influence of Space Oddity, and the parallel to the Beatles, as the band members (particularly Lennon and Harrison) started their solo careers.

Nate and Charlie are good guys. Glad we share a lot of the same views on this song.

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