Disney Books That Never Wereby Jim Korkis, contributing writer
Over the years, one of the greatest frustrations I have had as a Disney fan is trying to track down Disney and animation books that were announced and often advertised as being published and yet further research eventually revealed that they never existed.
In fact, I am the victim of just such a situation.
How many of you might have stumbled across a copy of the Spring 1991 catalog from Publishers Group West which was distributed that year at the American Booksellers Association and announced The Unofficial Guide to the Animated Feature Films of Disney by Jim Korkis and John Cawley? There was even an ISBN number for this 200-page trade paperback which would be "a complete guide to all of the animated features from the Walt Disney Company. Covers the entire behind-the-scenes story for each film, including exclusive interviews and rare illustrations."
The publisher even had a mock-up cover for the book (that he never approved through either John or I before releasing it along with lengthy publicity he never approved through us either) that would have been guaranteed to get us all sued by the Walt Disney Company. John and I were very aware of the thin boundary we had to walk in order to have such a book published. Our plan was to make use of newspaper advertisements as the primary illustrations and to make it extremely clear that the book was neither authorized or approved by Disney and that we had no connection with the company.
When John and I finally wised up after we had already written two books for the publisher and not received a penny, we cancelled that project, although I notice the book still gets listed as "published but out-of-print."
I still, after all these years, get some inquiries whether I have any copies left to sell. I think I may have the notes and sample chapters somewhere in a box in my storage unit but the book was never completely written so it would have been difficult for it to have ever been published.
That's not the only "ghost" Disney book out there.
One of the early Disneyland television shows that was a favorite of audiences was The Story of the Animated Drawing (first shown on November 11, 1955). The show traced the history of animation and even included the pencil test of the "soup eating" scene from the animated classic Snow White.
On the show, Walt Disney casually manipulated a very large book titled The Story of the Animated Drawing and as he paged through it, the film would transition to that particular moment in animation history. No such book existed at the time although there were discussions to have Donald Graham, an art instructor at Disney, put together one. The book was just a mock-up for the show.
It wasn't until 1958 when Walt wanted to publicize the release of Sleeping Beauty that he had author Bob Thomas write a book titled The Art of Animation covering some of the material shown in that phony book.
How many of us waited patiently for John Culhane's book on animation that was announced on the flyleaf of his 1981 book Special Effects in the Movies? Culhane was not just the inspiration for Mr. Snoops in The Rescuers (1977) and Flying John in Fantasia 2000 (2000) but also a respected author on animation, including Walt Disney's Fantasia (1983), Aladdin: The Making of an Animated Film (1992) and Fantasia/2000: Visions of Hope (1999).
I got a chance to talk with him about the book when he visited the Disney Institute and he assured me he had boxes and boxes and boxes of interviews and notes for that animation book and was still planning to write it, but he kept getting sidelined on other projects.
When John died in 2015, his son verified that there were still boxes in the garage with all that unique material, including previously unpublished material about Disney animation.
One of my favorite Disney authors, Jeff Kurtti, was responsible for a book with a small print run titled The Art of the Little Mermaid (1997). Unlike the other "Art of…" Disney books, this one is unique because it is a miniature book measuring roughly 4 inches by 4 inches.
Most of the book is the re-telling of the movie with large color stills and screen captures. However there is about 30 pages of the 192-page book devoted to the making of the film with concept art, interviews with people involved etc. Originally it sold for $11. Amazon currently has it on sale for $100 or more.
Several years ago, I visited the Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar at Disney California Adventure Park and saw a display for the Ariel's Undersea Adventure attraction where they had a full-sized copy of the book with a different cover in a display case. I immediately contacted Jeff to ask about it and he explained it was just a dummy copy made for the display, and the only edition ever published was the miniature one as part of a novelty book series Disney produced at the time. I wonder how many people also saw that same display and then tried to seek out the full-sized copy?
When Disney animator Bill Tytla (who was the key animator on Baby Dumbo, Chernabog and Stromboli among others) died in 1968, his widow announced she would be producing a book titled The Wonderful World of Willy T. that would be coming soon.
Some of that information eventually was used in John Canemaker's outstanding program book for the 1994 Katonah Museum of Art exhibition of Tytla's work since he lists Adrienne Tytla's Disney's Giant, "an unpublished, undated manuscript" as one of his references.
In 2004, Adrienne did self-publish a very limited (less than 1,000 copies) and expensive edition of Disney's Giant and the Artist's Model that is more of a scrapbook than the actual book previously announced. Not officially authorized by Disney, it lacks examples of Tytla's work while at Disney which was the original plan.
However, there is one book that was never published that still breaks my heart today.
At a much earlier American Bookseller Association gathering, a small publishing house, Heimburger House Publishing, was announcing their upcoming list of titles including:
"DISNEY'S MEN, WOMEN AND MOUSE: The Fascinating Story of Walt Disney's Golden Age of Animation at the famed Hyperion Studios in Hollywood by Carl Fallberg
"The Disney Studio was located at 2719 Hyperion Ave. in Hollywood from 1926 to 1940. The Hyperion Studio assumed a legendary aura synonymous with the Golden Age of Animation-a period when the animated cartoon developed into a true art form in a remarkably short time.
"In DISNEY'S MEN, WOMEN AND MOUSE, Carl Fallberg recalls working at the Disney Studios in the 1930s as an assistant director and storyman on Disney's landmark animated features such as SNOW WHITE, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, FANTASIA and BAMBI.
"Included in this illustrated history are personal interviews with men and women who worked for Walt, along with a look at Walt's decision-making capabilities, his personality, creative ability, sincere dedication to his dream, his affection for his employees and a glimpse at what it was like to work for Disney.
"Tentative book length of 200 pages, 8½ x 11."
Who was Carl Fallberg? Hundreds of thousands of people worked for the Disney Company for almost a century, and very few of their names (especially those who worked in the early years of the Disney Studios) are known by the general public.
Carl Robert Fallberg was born in 1915 and joined the Disney Studio in 1935. He was listed as an assistant sequence director (assisting Perce Pearce) on Snow White and is credited as a storyman on Bambi and the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of Fantasia. He left the Disney Studio during World War II and joined the Marines. After the war, he apparently found some work at various animation studios before settling in to the life of a freelance writer turning out tons of work for the DELL/WESTERN/GOLD KEY line of comics.
His work for those comics included almost every character in the Walter Lantz, Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng and more stable of animated characters. More importantly, he was a very important contributor to the Disney line of comic books.
Remember those classic Mickey Mouse multi-part serials in the back of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories illustrated by the great Paul Murry, who had been an assistant to animator Fred Moore? Murry's first serial, The Last Resort written by Fallberg was published in WDCS 152, in May 1953.
Up until 1962, it was Murry and Fallberg who produced almost all of those serials in WDCS for close to a decade. Since, by his own admission, during his career, Murry never wrote a story of his own, it was Fallberg's writing that helped create that universe of mystery and adventure for Mickey Mouse and Goofy that enchanted millions of readers in those back pages of the popular comic book.
The Last Resort was a terrific story where Mickey and Goofy are vacationing at the Whispering Pines Hotel, but soon discover that somebody is trying to scare them away and the story set the pattern for even more wonderful stories. Try to imagine Mickey and Goofy solving a mystery at the Wilderness Lodge.
Fallberg worked for DELL/WESTERN/GOLD KEY from 1952 until 1977 where he wrote Disney stories about The Li'l Bad Wolf, Jiminy Cricket, Ludwig Von Drake, Scrooge McDuck, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and more familiar character names that would fill this page to overflowing. (I believe the last comic book work that was written by Fallberg was "Goofy the Kid" which appeared in Disney Comics in 1990.)
In the 1970s, Fallberg wandered back into animation working at Warner Brothers on The Speedy and Daffy Show and at Hanna-Barbera where he worked on shows like The Three Robonic Stooges, Laff-A-Lympics, and The All New Popeye Hour, among others.
Fallberg also worked on "special" projects like writing Adventure in Disneyland (the Richfield Oil Giveaway comic book from 1955 that was offered at Disneyland) and the 1976 Mickey and Goofy Explore Energy for Exxon comic book.
Did you have a copy of the Sears Winnie the Pooh Coloring Book from 1975? Fallberg wrote and designed that book along with issues of many Disney magazines like Wonderful World of Disney from 1969-1970. Do you have the Whitman Big Little Books from the mid-1960s like Donald Duck and the Luck of the Ducks or Donald Duck and the Fabulous Diamond Fountain? Carl wrote those as well as other books that featured licensed characters from the major animation studios.
In addition, he found time to write for syndicated comic strips, like Bugs Bunny and Roy Rogers in the Fifties and Sixties and later Disney's Treasury of Classic Tales newspaper strip as well as some of the Disney's Christmas oriented strips that appeared in newspapers each year during the holiday season from 1960-1987.
Quite an impressive resume! However, why was Heimburger House publishing his book of memories at the Disney studio since that publishing house did (and still does) print books for railroad fans?
Well, for nearly six years after he got out of the Marines, Fallberg wrote and illustrated a monthly large one panel strip for Railroad Magazine titled Fiddletown and Copperopolis.
"To anyone familiar with the lore of Colorado's 3-foot lines, the feeling persists that within the pages of Fiddletown and Copperopolis lies a disguised pictorial history of those railroads in humorous vein. Narrow gauge railroading represented the zenith of informality in a now-vanished era, a mood the artist has been able to recapture," stated R.H. Kindig, the president of the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club when the book was first published by Hungerford Press of Reseda, California in 1960.
Fiddletown and Copperopolis were chosen as likely small towns for the rickety 19th century narrow gauge railroad to service and the cartoons show the same detail and love that Ward Kimball used to devote to his classic old time car cartoons.
For nearly 30 years, animation legend Ward Kimball contributed a cartoon page called "Asinine Alley" to the bi-monthly magazine Horseless Carriage Gazette. Fantagraphics reprinted some wonderful examples of them in the first three issues of its 1990 publication GRAPHIC STORY but the vast majority have never been seen since their first publication. The title "Asinine Alley" was Kimball's take-off on "Gasoline Alley" and the one panel cartoons showed the trials and tribulations of early motorists…including one having his car hijacked by a creature from outer space!
Well, Heimburger House reprinted Fallberg's classic book of turn-of-the-century railroading cartoons with the blurb:
"This delightful collection of railroad cartoons by Fallberg of Walt Disney fame is a 144-page, softbound, 9 5/8 x 6 1/4" book illustrating the trials and tribulations of a narrow gauge 'uncommon' carrier. The key word in Fallberg's illustrations is exaggeration."
As much fun as the railroad book is, I was more excited to see a book of memories about Disney's Hyperion Studio. Every ABA, I asked Heimburger House about the book which still listed it as "coming soon" and was assured by the representatives at their table that it was close to completion.
However, unlike Disney fairy tales, this story had a very, very unhappy ending.
I used to write a column about animation for the ASIFA-Hollywood Newsletter, INBETWEENER, and in one of my columns in 1995 I was bemoaning the fact that I was going crazy waiting for this book to be published, because I was very excited to hear stories of the early days of the Disney Studios from someone who actually worked there and was high enough up the food chain to see how things really operated.
I was saddened when the editor of INBETWEENER forwarded me a note sent to the newsletter in regards to that column by Fallberg's daughter, Carla:
"Thank you for your interest in my father, Carl Fallberg's involvement in the art of animation. He was in the Story Department at Disney's. After the war, he worked in various animation studios and eventually ended up working freelance for Disney writing comic books.
"He is now 79 years old and living in a senior board-and-care, unable to take care of his daily duties because he suffers from brain damage due to early alcohol abuse.
"I am just glad that he still has enough of his mind together to sign his name. He had to stop work on his book about the old Disney days because of his disability. Sadly, the right side of his brain, the creative side was affected the most. Keep enjoying the art of animation-old and new-and I will let him read your appreciation."
Apparently, Carl did not suffer much longer. He died May 9, 1996 taking with him many great untold stories. A few years later I heard that Carla Fallberg was looking for a writer with an understanding of Disney history to help put together her father's notes and rough draft chapters into a book that would be a final tribute to her father, but that project apparently never happened. Who knows whatever happened to all that raw research material?
Over the years, I have run into dozens of people who told me they were planning on writing a book about Disney and announced it on their blogs, social media and podcasts.
One of them actually wrote a lengthy book about the creation of Disneyland using interview material from people long since passed away and from his close connections with Imagineers both new and old. He told me earlier this year that although the book is finished, it won't be published. Both he and his publisher decided that there were too many books out there about the creation of Disneyland and even though this had new information and a new perspective, they felt there was just not a market for it.
The other friend was writing a year-by-year history of Disneyland and stopped for a similar reason.
Ron Heminiger, long time Disney executive (and former cast member of the Indian village at Disneyland where his father was the chief), allowed me to interview him under the promise that I would never print any of the information until he wrote his book.
He had boxes of slides, 8mm film, notes, documents, letters and more. When he was pushed out of Walt Disney World, like so many other senior executives, he disappeared somewhere out in the southwest with his memories of early Disneyland and early Walt Disney World. That was now almost 25 years ago.
Writing a book is hard. Getting it published is hard. Marketing it is hard. So many would-be authors never get beyond getting people excited that they are writing a book.
I remember the late Disney Archivist Dave Smith sharing with me his plans to put together a book of the love letters between Walt and his wife Lillian while Walt was in New York working on Steamboat Willie. Not only did these letters show the genuine affection between these two young people separated by an entire continent, but there was a wonderful perspective on the day-to-day struggles getting the cartoon finished and distributed. Disney Editions turned it down because they felt it would only appeal to a niche market.
If all that doesn't make you sad enough, then realize that the Disney Archives has a huge collection of unpublished manuscripts, including the biography of Walt Disney written by Larry Watkin before the Disney Studios decided to use Bob Thomas instead.
Certainly there are a plethora of Disney books that have been published, but I still mourn for some really good ones that never were produced for all of us to enjoy and gain new insight into the many worlds of Disney.