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FIVE NEW DISNEY BOOKS—AND MORE

MICKEY MOUSE: THE ULTIMATE HISTORY by J.B. Kaufman and David Gerstein, edited by Daniel Kothenschulte. (Taschen)

This gigantic tome is hard to lift but easy to love. The authors set out to document all facets of Mickey Mouse’s 90-year career, from 1928 to the age of video games and streaming services. Being perfectionists, they have done a masterful job. There is a film-by-film entry for every one of Mickey’s 122 theatrical shorts accompanied by startlingly rare illustrations: story scripts, thumbnails, layouts, concept art, advertising and publicity campaigns and much, much more. Separate chapters deal with Mickey as king of merchandising, his foray into comic strips and then comic books, all around the globe. The sheer size (11.4×15.6”) and reproduction quality, on heavy coated paper, puts this in a class of its own among other books on MM. We are already indebted to Kaufman and Gerstein for their scholarship, but this may well be their magnum opus. Yes, at $200 it’s quite expensive, but Taschen books offer superior quality to justify that price tag.

WALT DISNEY’S DISNEYLAND by Chris Nichols with Charlene Nichols (Taschen)

Publisher Benedikt Taschen has done it again, commissioning the ultimate book on the genesis and evolution of Walt Disney’s Disneyland park in Anaheim, California. Super-fan Chris Nichols and his wife Charlene were clearly the right people to tackle this daunting assignment, judging by the results. Perhaps their finest achievement is identifying who was responsible for what over the park’s sixty-year history, and finding color photos to show both the creators and their works-in-progress. Rare photos of Walt visiting his own playground with his wife are worth the price of admission alone, but there is so much more here: a “big-picture” perspective of the massive endeavor, covering every nook and cranny—as well as changes that started to occur almost as soon as the place was open. The many illustrations include concept art and behind-the-scenes photos of the Imagineers at work. While others have covered this ground before, this lavish, oversized volume is the Matterhorn of books about Disneyland, towering over the competition; and bound to please longtime fans as well as curious readers who want to know the story of the Happiest Place on Earth.

THE ART OF WALT DISNEY’S MICKEY MOUSE edited by Jessica Ward (Disney Editions)

This book doesn’t pretend to be the last word on the 90-year-old cartoon superstar, but it does provide a straightforward survey of Mickey’s achievements, from his cartoon and TV milestones to his presence in the Disney parks and beyond. The highlight of the book is an  entertaining and free-thinking portfolio of brand-new portraits of Mickey by the staff of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media. These full-page pictures are wildly imaginative and a lot of fun. Some of them deconstruct the character while others see him through a modern prism…yet somehow he remains Mickey, no matter the medium or individual approach. That is a profound testament to his identity.

THE DISNEY CHRISTMAS CARD: FROM ALL OF US TO ALL OF YOU  by Jeff Kurtti (Disney Editions)

With an eye-catching gatefold cover, a tipped-in-envelope featuring a limited-edition card, and 12 more removable cards throughout the text, The Disney Christmas Card is a perfect gift for any Disney fan (even if it’s you, yourself). Author Kurtti, who knows his Disney history as well as anyone on earth, chronicles the history of Walt’s studio cards over the decades. There are entertaining anecdotes and sidebars to match the engaging and ingenious artwork the Disney staff created year after year. You could scarcely do better than go behind the scenes to see how Walt and Company expressed their holiday greetings.


PRACTICALLY POPPINS IN EVERY WAY: A MAGICAL CARPETBAG OF COUNTLESS WONDERS by Jeff Kurtti (Disney Editions)

This handsome hardcover is officially a tie-in book for the new Disney release Mary Poppins Returns, but in truth it is more. Prolific Disneyphile Kurtti has taken the opportunity to profile not only author P.L. Travers but several of the great talents who made the 1964 movie so great. He has also called on a number of fellow Disney experts like Jim Fanning (who discusses a TV adaptation from the 1950s starring Mary Wickes), Greg Ehrbar (whose specialty is soundtrack albums), Disney artwork curator Fox Carney, and Disney scholars Paula Sigman Lowery and Brian Sibley. You’ll also read appreciations of the Sherman Brothers, an interview with Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell, and thoughts from other members of the current film’s creative team, beginning with director Rob Marshall. Practically Poppins goes above and beyond the mandate of a movie tie-in to become a valuable book for any Mary Poppins fan.

…AND A FEW NON-DISNEY BOOKS

ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS; A BIOGRAPHY OF ROCK HUDSON by Mark Griffin (Harper)

I didn’t know much about Roy Fitzgerald, who became world-famous as Rock Hudson, until I read this thorough and thoughtful new book. Griffin has interviewed many of the star’s friends, colleagues, and intimates, but he’s not interested in dishing so much as setting the record straight. Hudson was a handsome hunk who worked hard and was rewarded with long-term stardom. Insiders knew what the public never guessed: that he was a gay man who struggled to live a double life. Griffin goes into detail about the star’s many relationships—some lasting, others fleeting—but never adopts a salacious tone. He is empathetic, and encourages readers to treat this story the same way. It is a life that only could have played out as it did in Hollywood.

SEDUCTION: SEX, LIES AND STARDOM IN HOWARD HUGHES’ HOLLYWOOD by Karina Longworth (Custom House)

The host of the popular podcast “You Must Remember This” turns her gift for research to the subject of Howard Hughes with felicitous results. She provides a modern look at his unique Hollywood career, discussing the films from a “me-too” vantage point and detailing  his controlling ways with the women who found stardom under his aegis to be a strait-jacket. I thought I knew the bullet points of Hughes’ Hollywood years but I learned a lot from Longworth’s savvy survey, especially regarding Billie Dove and Ida Lupino. For anyone who’s never explored the billionaire’s dilettante-ish experiences as a movie producer, this will be a real eye-opener. 

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