Last night Jan and I watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney’s classic animation. At the end I applauded, she joined me, just the two of us, sitting on the couch. Now I’m pleased to read that the original audience in 1937 greeted the film with a standing ovation. Yes, very right. (Not that people standing and applauding proves anything, look at what people were standing and applauding for in Germany at the same time: another subject Jan and I have been immersed in for weeks now.)
I paused the DVD a few times, to comment on animation, on Disney, on art … (I’m very pleased to see how much of what I improvised about animation is matched by wikipedia’s version) (And Jan had things to insert too.) Now I want to comment on a few such: Disney, Snow White, art … and pop art. Fer’instance, I’ll say first, that my current estimate of Disney’s worth as an artist is much higher than it was the year before I ratified my falling into the art business by founding PK Fine Arts, Ltd. I was embarrassed to be running a gallery on Madison Avenue which assigned me to host a Walt Disney animation cell show — I sold one to a very popular major network news anchor, Winnie the Pooh, as an engagement present to another very popular news caster, female, his news companion. A bit before that a serious seeming artist stood respectfully before the cells on the gallery wall and seemed to take Disney as seriously as he seemed to take Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Picasso … I kind of shuddered at that: now I’m not at all sure.
Lots to work on, much to expand, but first let me gather some foundation.
It’s now decades I’ve been saying online what I’d said already for other decades: everything we think, everything we think that we think, has roots in theology, in cosmology. When we say that God is good, or bad, or knows everything, or doesn’t know everything, or that there is no God, or that her name is Mildred, we’re talking about ourselves, our universe, who we think we are, where we think we live. Change your stance the tiniest bit — maybe you now concede that the Church doesn’t know shit from Shinola — any more than man does — and a minute later you’re not sure of the infallibility of Milton, or Matisse.
When I was in college I befriended guys who held sacred the same heroes as I did: Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis. A decade passed and one guy thought Miles was invariably great, another guy hadn’t listened to any of the electronic stuff, another guy had listened and thought that Miles had sold out, or was back on the H, or had gotten senile … Other friends made a clear divide between Homer here, and Mozart, and Raphael and Norman Rockwell there, and Edgar Guest, and Rod McKuen. And Walt Disney.
There was also a clear theo-cosmology between sheep and goats, between hand-crafted and mass-produced. Rodin was an artist, Henry Ford was not.
Ford assembly line
a note to stick anywhere once there’s more to this:
Animators don’t use cells any more. Have you ever seen a cell? handled it, framed it, taken it apart? First cell I ever held was framed, from Pooh, in the Circle Gallery that hired me before they gave me the Madison Avenue gallery: it was cute, slick, neat. But then a guy brought me bushels of cells from Star Trek, Archie, from Fat Albert … Cute on the obverse side, yug on the reverse. Well, they were painted by Latino women, no green card, at minimum wage: or less. The retarded kid could have done it: you didn’t even have to color within the lines: the foreman, the process itself, an editor, covered up, concealed the amateurism. Till it was cute, slick, gone in a fraction of a second anyway. The guy wanted me to do for Star Trek what Circle was trying to do for Disney Studios.
But I hadn’t had much stomach for the Disney’s; and once I saw Fat Albert backwards, inside out, naked as it were … I had no stomach at all.
But no: that’s not right. The Ford flywheel isn’t the Model T. The cell, backwards, isn’t the movie. If someone gouged a dried brushstroke from a Van Gogh canvas and showed it to us without identifying the source, would we hail it as great art? as art of any kind?
Disney didn’t invent art, didn’t invent animation, didn’t invent cartoon characters. He worked in a business, an industry: a craft that mixed hand-craft and mass production. He made amazing innovations, developments, improvements on what he found. And a great part of his art, his business art, had to do with whitling something down to the greatest common denominator, his ear to the public flag pole. I’d been hailing people who defied public taste!
Now here’s a rehash of what that serious-seeming artist said to me in my gallery, standing in front of the Poohs: he said (something like): Consider the early Disney feature animations: Snow White, Bambi, Fantasia … Look at the animated cartoons on Saturday morning TV. The current stuff is pared down to the absolute minimum required to pass it off: there’s not one cell to spare. [My linguistics professor in grad school worked for the phone company: they employed him to help determine exactly how much of the signal could be left out of the transmission without rendering the message unintelligible. (Don’t make the development house hurricane proof if you think you can sell it before there’s a hurricane!)]
Look in any Shakespeare play, there’s vastly more information than is needed to keep the audience from open rebellion for three hours. There ‘s more information than scholars have completely mined yet, centuries later!
When GH Rothe first showed me her mezzotints, the big ballet pieces she’d worked and worked and worked and worked … That was because no one was buying them! she had nothing but time. When demand maxed her out, the excess information evaporated. Now look at Snow White: the cells, the details, the behaviors and luxuriant. Ford made a couple of Rolls.
OK, now read the history. Disney worked on that movie for years! Disney worked on that movie after his studio had gone broke making it!
You don’t think of Walt as Vincent Van Gogh. He didn’t cut his ear off. But he did put everything into that feature!
Look at Rembrandt oils done before he sold a lot. Look at Rembrandts done while he was a pop star. Look at Rembrandts done after his sales dried up. Work galore, loaded with information. But the effect of all that information is utter simplicity: a form, a face, a couple of faces: utter simplicity.
Jan and I watched Spanglish recently: a Mexican mother gets a better life for herself and her daughter when she hooks up with a successful chef-restauranteur and his sacked-out family. The culture clashes are delicious. Mex Mom bitches that the chef has trespassed when I paid the Mex daughter for sea glass the girl had worked very hard to find, having been bidden, offered money. Chef Points out to Mex Mom, Didn’t you tailor my daughter’s clothes without asking? Weren’t you trespassing?
Well, what would the Chef/Mex pair think of Snow White’s entering the house of the seven dwarfs and sweeping, and tidying and dusting, and washing, scrubbing … cooking … sleeping in their beds?
Note: Disney wouldn’t be Disney, wouldn’t be the American business genius he was, if he had the dwarfs come home after their hard day among the diamonds, see the place remade, and one of them hushes the others, saying, “Man, oh man, I smell pussy!”
I once washed the dishes for a girl who’d invited me home from a party, a week later I was still there, getting fed up with her stack of dirty dishes. I committed this charity for my own comfort, but of course I expected to get hero-credit from her, the slob. I wanted pussy and praise. But no, no, couldn’t fool Alice: she said … First she said, Oh, how nice. But immediately she hedged: Oh, you just did that cause you couldn’t stand the mess.
Yes, yes: look gift horses in the mouth, tip toe around people’s bull shit.
And see also Blues With Half a Past.
Now: I’ll tie myself into this: My stories of the late 1960s were already fantasizing an internet. I founded the Free Learning Exchange in 1970: offered to make cybernetic data bases of public information provided it was volunteered by the individual. The data would be unregulated, the individual unlicensed, there would be no gatekeeper. List resources, match peers, publish feedback. Let the public do its own shopping, sink or swim.
I asked IBM for seed money. After all, look how much computer time they’d sell if the public were regularly shopping by computer. The Director of University Relations told me that his quick take for what I’d need to do a good job, just for NYC, was $20,000,000 per year. (Realize, we were spending, just the US, $50 billion on schools!)
What the public had given me to date was about $80 (while a church organization gave me about $1,500). Add everything up and it wouldn’t pay for more than a couple of months rent, while a dozen volunteers labored long days with me for years!
Meantime the government developed its internet (without un-licensing the schools, the doctors, the lawyers …) giving the illusion that we finally had technological freedom of expression and a free marketplace (while in actuality) information was managed more insidiously than ever). (This internet is another tool of invasion, another social control.)
Billions, trillions have been spent in these forty-three subsequent years. But the public still doesn’t have what I offered! And doesn’t know it doesn’t have it! And there’s no way to calculate what we could have had had I gotten 10% of the right budget. And been able to develop it starting them.
As is, I wasn’t allowed in on the conversation. The Temple crucified Jesus, then acted as though they were still in touch with God!
Remember, I offered to author (supervise the authoring of) good public utility software: years before Microsoft, before Apple … way before the first dating service …
The dating services started up not long after, 1971ish, but their focus was merely one fraction of FLEX’s. Think for a second: I was offering one institution that would have obviated Amazon, Google, Wikipedia, EBay … e-books were implicit: explicitly I talked about digital facsimiles made available by modem.
What might we have if we had listened to Jesus instead of nailing him up?
Scrap to refit another time: Bill Gates wrote Basic. Great. But that was years after I offered a terminal in every neighborhood with a programmer to enter your data: like the librarian helps the kid too young to master the stacks unaided. PCs, once they came to exist, would be great, but vastly less necessary: everyone would already have cybernetic data base access: as resource, author, and consumer!
The parasitic state can’t permit a healthy matrix for liberty, can’t allow their latch on your pocket to loosen.