Tyrus Wong, whose watercolors helped define the look of Bambi, died Friday, Dec. 30. He was 106.
Like most animation fans, I first heard of Tyrus Wong via his work on Bambi. Legend has it, that’s the first time Walt Disney heard of him, too!
Okay, so the story goes…
Walt was chomping at the bit to make Bambi, only he was having trouble finding the ‘look’ he wanted for the film. He’d tried ultra-realism, but nixed it. He switched to super cartoony, but again, nope. It was beginning to look like the film would get shelved until late one night, while wandering through his studio, Disney happened upon a small stack of unusual watercolors. They were by a fella named ‘Wong,’ and they were…well, different.
What do I mean by ‘different’? Well, for one thing, these watercolors were tiny. Most of them measured no more than 4″ x 5″. And where the rest of the studio’s painters tried to pack as much detail into each picture as possible, Wong’s paintings were sparse, vague — almost suggestions. Wong would later say, “I tried to keep the thing very, very simple and create the atmosphere, the feeling of the forest.”
It worked. Walt was so impressed with what he saw that the very next day he promoted Wong from his job as an in-betweener (kind of like an animation line cook) to concept artist (think: Michelin rated chef)! Not only that, but Wong’s watercolors came to define the look of Bambi‘s backgrounds, providing the film with its sensitive, poetic and often ethereal mood.
After working at Disney, Wong moved on to Warner Bros. There he provided production art for quite a few live-action classics, including Rebel Without A Cause, The Wild Bunch and Sands of Iwo Jima. He also did freelance commercial work, where his gorgeous watercolor and calligraphic art came to adorn everything from greeting cards to high end pottery.
After retiring, Wong began making kites. Not your typical, four-cornered diamond shaped kites, but HUGE, ornamental, multifaceted kites in the shape of dragons, centipedes, flocks of birds and swarms of butterflys.
Upon first discovering Wong’s work fifteen years ago, I wrote him a number of gushing — and probably pretty embarrassing — fan letters. Wong responded to each and every one of them graciously.
I still have the envelope from his first response, where he drew a small, singing bird in pastels, sitting atop my name. (See above.) Another time, I literally teared up when I opened my mailbox to find a Christmas card that Wong had designed decades earlier. It was a winter scene, featuring a mother deer and her young buck. Inside, Wong not only signed it with his English name, but also embossed it with a red stamp bearing the Chinese characters for his name! Needless to say, I treasure both of these items to this day.
All of this rambling is really just my way of honoring a man whose work has meant so much to so many. I hope he knew how truly appreciated his wonderful work was.
The Orlando City Soccer Club’s new stadium includes a beautiful memorial honoring the victims of the massacre at Pulse. 49 seats are arranged together in a rainbow, each representing one of the victims.
“We put them in Section 12, obviously because we felt that was pertinent — it was June 12 last year when the tragedy happened,” said Phil Rawlins, the team’s founder, while standing before the purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red rows. A stamp in the center of each seat reads #OrlandoUnited.
“So they’re right here in Section 12, they’re right down by the benches. They’ll certainly be seen by everybody inside the stadium, and a very significant reminder of that day,” he said.
The Equal Justice Initiative is building a memorial for lynching victims — and it’s about time.
The Equal Justice Initiative announced on Tuesday that it will build the first-ever national memorial to lynching victims in Montgomery, Alabama. Titled “Memorial to Peace and Justice,” the EJI project will sit on six acres of land that used to be a public housing project in Montgomery.
The structure will include the thousands of lynching victims’ names on concrete columns, which will represent hundreds of U.S. counties where the acts took place. The memorial will also coincide with the opening of a museum.
On a quiet morning 75 years ago today, Imperial Japanese forces attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. More than 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,100 more wounded. Twenty-one ships of the Pacific Fleet were sunk or damaged, including the USS Arizona. Shocked and angered by the attack, the country joined the Allied forces to fight World War II, inspired by the call of “Remember Pearl Harbor.” A moving reminder of the service and sacrifice of those who fought, the USS Arizona Memorial is jointly administered by the U.S. Navy and the National Park Service. Photos from World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument by National Park Service.
With a proud but heavy heart, many will visit the Little Tokyo Historic District of Los Angeles, California, to remember the events that took place 31 years ago today. On January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger and her crew were lost. Ellison Onizuka, the first astronaut of Japanese descent, is memorialized in Little Tokyo alongside his fellow crew. Onizuka carried the pride of his heritage to space, a place where you can not see country borders. Space and science removes these borders, bringing people together, sometimes to mourn, but more often to celebrate adventure, knowledge and life.
While I was in Miami, I came across the Holocaust memorial. It was sad and frightening but beautiful all at the same time. @sixpenceee, not sure if you have seen this before but again creepy and beautiful at the same time.
Deep in the woods of Washington stands this remarkable mausoleum which was erected by Methodist, John S. McMillin, to hold the remains of himself and his family and show what was truly important to him - family. To many, this mausoleum is known as the Afterglow Vista and as you can see, is extremely impressive and beautiful. In the centre of the open air rotunda sits a limestone table surrounded by stone chairs. These chairs act as the headstones of the graves and they contain the ashes of the McMillin family. The empty space at the table was built to represent where the McMillin son would be buried; he turned away from Methodism and is buried elsewhere. The unfinished column symbolises death breaking the column of life. Locals say that when the sun goes down on the warm summer evenings, the light shines through the trees onto the tomb and the McMillin family meet again to enjoy a ghostly dinner in the afterglow.
This Veterans Day, remember to honor all the men and women who have worn the uniform and fought for our freedom. To all who answered their country’s call, we appreciate your sacrifice and thank you for your service. Photo at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall & Memorial Parks in Washington, D.C. by National Park Service.