Carl Fallberg and Lost Disney Booksby Jim Korkis, contributing writer
I recently wrote a column about Disney books (link) and mentioned that, in the days before Print on Demand, some former Disney employees published their own limited edition books. In fact, I know of some people who wrote manuscripts (or notes for memoirs) and never had them published. The Disney Archives has copies of some of these unpublished manuscripts.
My good friend Didier Ghez lists all the Disney books that he knows exists or existed at his site, the Ultimate Disney Book Network (link).
However, even with that lengthy and ever-growing list, there are still some “lost” Disney-related books out there waiting to be found. I know of one that has been recovered and recently edited for publication by my good friend and renowned Disney musicologist Greg Ehrbar that should be appearing later this year. It should provide a richer understanding and perspective of a little documented but important part of the Disney Company when Walt and Roy were alive. Make sure you visit Greg’s blog (link) and, more importantly, add a copy of his outstanding and often forgotten book, Mouse Tracks, to your personal Disney library (link).
Earlier in 2010, a former Disney cast member who worked at the Disney Feature Animation Studios Florida in the 1990s recalled going into the animation library when it was in the trailers at the Disney MGM Studios and reading a copy of an autobiography of big Mooseketeer Roy Williams. He had been trying to track down a copy years later with no success because no one else seemed to recall it.
He remembered the book having a yellow cover with a drawing of Williams on the cover in his Mooseketeer outfit coming out of a door. He also remembered that the stories were pretty funny and very wild, including tales of going on picnics at Griffith Park and getting drunk with the ink and paint girls. Further research revealed that a member of Williams’ family confirmed that such a book existed and wrote that it could be best described as “racy,” but that she did not personally have a copy nor apparently, after extensive searching, did anyone else. (There is a hardcover and a different paperback collection of Williams’ magazine cartoons as well as limited edition book of his poetry.)
So this is a plea to the readers of this column to help out if they have information about this lost book or even better, a copy of it.
Of course some Disney books don’t exist at all. Over the years, many former Disney employees planned to write books and even announced that the book would be coming “soon”.
When Disney legendary animator Bill Tytla died in 1969, his widow announced she would be producing a book titled The Wonderful World of Willy T. Thirty five years later, that manuscript was privately printed in a limited-edition scrapbook of rough notes, sketches and photos titled Disney’s Giant and the Artist’s Model by Adrienne Tytla.
And how many of you have a copy of the Spring 1991 Publishers Group West catalog which was distributed at the American Booksellers Association that announced The Unofficial Guide to the Feature Films of Disney by Jim Korkis and John Cawley? There was even an ISBN number for this 20-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 of us) that would have been guaranteed to get us all sued by the Disney Company. However, the publisher was, to put it politely, an outright crook and when we finally wised up to that fact, we canceled that project (although I notice it still gets listed as "published but out-of-print"). I think I still have the notes and sample chapters somewhere in a box in my storage unit. Visit Cawley’s site (link) where he has posted the contents of two of the animation books we co-wrote that did get published. He is not only a talented writer, performer and producer but one of the smartest guys I have ever known in my life.
Anyway, 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 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 is Carl Fallberg? Thousands upon tens 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 Company) 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 the Seven Dwarfs and is credited as a storyman on Bambi and the "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 DELL/WESTERN/GOLD KEY comics.
His work for those comics included almost every character in the Walter Lantz, Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng and more stable of animated characters. More importantly, he was a prominent contributor to the Disney line of comic books.
Remember those classic Mickey Mouse serials in the back of Walt Disney Comics and Stories (WDCS) illustrated by the great Paul Murry? A number of different artists were tried out for that slot before Murry's first serial was published in WDCS 152, in May 1953. This tale, "The Last Resort" is a milestone in the history of Mickey Mouse not only because it was Murry's first serial comic but because it was also written by Fallberg.
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.
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 many more familiar character names that would fill this page. (I believe the last comic book work that was written by Fallberg was "Goofy the Kid," which appeared in Disney Comics in 1990.)
All of this outstanding work was done despite a chemical imbalance in his brain not diagnosed until the early 1960s. Previously, Fallberg suffered from bouts of depression and alcoholism (although he did eventually swear off drinking in 1967).
In the 1970s, Fallberg wandered back into animation working at Warner Bros. 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 from 1955 that was offered at Disneyland) and the 1976 Mickey and Goofy Explore Energy for Exxon (which he later redesigned to promote Epcot's Universe of Energy attraction).
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 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? Fallberg 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 1950s and 1960s and later Disney's Treasury of Classic Tales (Sunday only from 1976-1980 and 1982-1987), as well as some of Disney's Christmas-oriented strips that appeared in newspapers each year from around 1976-1984.
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 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, Calif., in 1960.
Well, Heimburger House reprinted Fallberg's classic book of turn-of-the-century railroading cartoons and it is still available today and can be ordered from Amazon for $15 (link).
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. I used to write a column 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 Studio.
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:
"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, working on 'Sorcerer's Apprentice' in Fantasia and on Bambi. He also worked as an assistant director on Snow White. He left the studio when World War II broke out and joined a training film unit in the USMC.
“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, he 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.
When you go to Amazon to order a copy of "Fiddletown and Copperopolis," be very careful because under Carl Fallberg, they also list Disney's Men, Women and Mouse as having been published in November 1995, but is currently "out of print."
Despite my writing every year or so to them, Amazon still lists that The Unofficial Guide to the Feature Films of Disney by Jim Korkis and John Cawley was published in July 1991. I only wish it had because I would love reading a copy today and hopefully some eager publisher would want John and I to update it. However, it is just another “phantom book” and it is certainly not helping anyone claiming that it exists.
Tracking down obscure Disney and animation books is tough enough without listing ones that never were.
I am still grumbling that I can’t find anyone who has a copy of the Roy Williams autobiography and I am deeply saddened that Carl Fallberg’s life ended before he finished his book. Maybe this coming year will be the year that both of those things will happen.