When I first started working for Walt Disney back in LA ( I had started in London working on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)I began working not on the main lot, but in some converted warehouses five miles away in Glendale. Disney Feature Animation had been moved there in 1984 and stayed until the Robert Stern building, known as the Hat Building, was built in 1995. Disney Imagineering had been headquartered there since the 1960s, the oldest building there called the Maypo building, for Mary Poppins.

click on image to enlarge

During my sojourn there I noticed a curious art-deco tower near one of our buildings. We called it the Casablanca Tower, under the impression that the farewell sequence of the famous Humphrey Bogart film had been shot there. That sequence was shot mostly on a Warner soundstage and the only exterior scene needing an airport-when Nazi Major Strasser arrived and was welcomed by Captain Renault, was actually shot at neighboring Van Nuys airport.

It turns out our antique tower belonged to Los Angeles' original airport- Grand Central Terminal. Build by L.C. Brand, mogul who also created the Brand Library. From 1923 until it was closed in 1959 it was the landing point for the great transcontinental Ford Tri-Motors and the terminal of movie stars, moguls and politicians. Cecil B. Demille, Amelia Earhardt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Clark Gable, Carol Lombard and Will Rogers walked it's tarmack. Howard Hughes took off from there in experimental monoplanes to try to break air speed records. A zeppelin airship called the Spirit of Glendale was once moored there.


Grand Central Airport in 1930, image courtesy of John Underwood and Arcadia Publishing
If you know the area I'm speaking of, Airway Street was the road to the terminal, Grand Central Ave. was the runway. When the airport was closed in 1959 the only remaining facility was a heliport where KTLA's traffic helicopters would refuel. In 1997 this land was used to build Dreamworks.

Amelia Earhardt at the terminal after crossing the country in an Pitcairn AutoGyro-1931

Pat got me this wonderful book recently by John Underwood entitled Grand Central Air Terminal as part of the Spirit of Aviation series of books for Arcadia publishing. www.arcadiapublishing.com, 2006. It is richly illustrated and I reccomend anyone interested in, Hollywood or aviation history to pick one up.

1420 Flower St. entrance now bricked up. In this building Disney animators created Oliver & Company, the Little Mermaid, Mickey's Prince and the Pauper and Aladdin.

The Hart-Dannon Building(named for the previous tenants), where we created the Lion King and Pocahontas.

the Sorbus Building on Flower St, where we planned much of Fantasia 2000 and Dinosaurs.

The old tower terminal next to the building 1400 Airway, where we did parts of Roger Rabbit, Tummy Trouble, and Beauty and the Beast.

One of the truisms you learn when you come to LA is how much of the real magic of the movies is done hidden behind ugly, faceless walls in bland industrial neighborhoods. The glamour is reserved for the screen, studios just need lots of cheap industrial space.

After the success of Lion King, CEO Michael Eisner toured our warehouse studios and commented:" Gee, you guys do such beautiful stuff and I got you in such a dump!" They moved Feature Anim to the Hat Building and the rest, as we say.....is history.

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Birthdays: Solomon -970BC-?, Noah Webster, Dr. Joseph Guillotine, Ian Fleming the creator of James Bond, Jim Thorpe, The Dion Identical Quintuplets 1930, Gladys Knight, Jerry West, Dietrich Fisher-Deiskau, Sandra Locke, T-Bone Walker, John Fogarty

In the US- HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY

For those who are curious why America celebrates Memorial Day in May instead of November 11th like most of Europe and Canada, it is because of our Civil War.
The main Confederate field armies surrendered in early April; it took this long to stop the final hostilities, the final action happening on May 27th. Once the countryside was finally at peace, the U.S. government declared a Day of Remembrance of the fallen. An abolitionist named James Redpath began having black children in South Carolina decorate the graves of fallen union soldiers with flowers. The early name of this holiday was Decoration Day.
In rebel strongholds like Mississippi children decorated the graves of Southern dead but had to be forced at bayonet point to decorate the graves of Yankees.

1941- THE WALT DISNEY STRIKE- Labor pressures had been building in the Magic Kingdom since promises made to artists over the success of Snow White were reneged on and Walt Disney’s lawyer Gunther Lessing encouraged a hard line with his employees. On this day, in defiance of federal law, Walt Disney fired animator Art Babbitt ,the creator of Goofy, and thirteen other cartoonists for demanding a union. Babbitt had emerged as the union movements’ leader. He has studio security officers escort Babbitt off the lot (a custom that still happens today.). That night in an emergency meeting of the Cartoonists Guild, Art’s assistant on Fantasia, Bill Hurtz, made a motion to strike and it is unanimously accepted. Bill Hurtz will later go on to direct award winning cartoons like UPA’s "Unicorn in the Garden" and the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Picket lines go up next day in cartoon animation’s own version of the Civil War.
Walt Disney nearly had a nervous breakdown over the strike and a federal mediator was sent by Washington to arbitrate. In later years, Uncle Walt blamed the studio’s labor ills on Communists. The studio unionized but hard feelings remained down to this very day.

1954- Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder in 3D premiered.

1960- George Zucco, 60, a character actor who specialized in horror movies like Blood from the Mummies Hand, died of fright in a mental hospital in San Gabriel California. He was convinced that H.P. Lovecraft's Great God Cthulu was after him.

1977- As was the practice at the time, after opening in a few select theaters, this day George Lucas film Star Wars went into wide release.

1981- The Bambi Murders- Police hunt Playboy Bunny Bambi Bemenek for shooting her husband’s ex-wife in Milwaukee. She was captured but escaped prison in 1990. Just follow the little stiletto high heel footprints.

1987- A young German student named Matthias Rust rented a small Cessna airplane in Helsinki and flying low to avoid radar, flew into the heart of the Soviet Union. Evading a forest of missiles, jet interceptors and anti-aircraft weapons, he put his plane down smack in the middle of Red Square in the Kremlin. The ensuing furor and humiliation cost many Russian generals their jobs.

1998- After a dinner at the Encino Italian restaurant Buca Di Beppo, Saturday Night Live comedian Phil Hartman was shot to death by his wife Brynne as he slept. She was a heavy drinker and pill user. At 6:00 AM as the LAPD were knocking Brynne turned the gun on herself.

2005- The great London clock Big Ben mysteriously stopped ticking for 45 minutes.


May 27, 2007 sun
May 27th, 2007

Birthdays: James 'Wild Bill' Hickock, Julia Ward Howe, Aemelia Jenks-Bloomer, Dashell Hammett, Vincent Price, Dr. Henry Kissinger, Leopold Goldowsky- the inventor of Kodachrome film, Hubert Horatio Humphrey the Happy Warrior, Herman Wouk, Christopher Lee, Rachael Carson, Harlan Ellison, Joseph Feinnes.

1930- Mr. Richard Drew of Saint Paul Minnesota invented cellophane tape, marketed by the 3M Company under the brand name Scotch. Three years later Drew invented Masking Tape as a way for car manufacturers to paint cars in two tones.

1933- Disney’s cartoon“The Three Little Pigs” premieres, whose song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” becomes a national anthem of recovery from the Depression.

It was also a favorite song of Adolph Hitler. Napoleon liked to whistle' Malbrouk seva'ton Guerre', the French version of 'The Bear Went Over the Mountain'- I'm not sure what Stalin's favorite song was but I know he loved Busby Berkely musicals like 42nd Street and Footlight Parade. Director of the short Burt Gillette left Disney afterwards to run the Van Beuren Studio in New York. After that studio closed he returned to Disney to a diminished career.

1935- The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Franklin Roosevelt’s National Recovery Act (The NRA) program. Roosevelt responds by stacking the court with judges more to his liking. He angrily referred to them as 'The Nine Old Men', a sobriquet Walt Disney would later borrow for his animators.

1937- San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge opens.

1949- Actress Rita Hayworth married Arab playboy Prince Aly Khan.

1961 - 1st black light is sold

1969 - Walt Disney World construction in Orlando begins.

1977-The Sex Pistols release their single God Save the Queen, the Fascist Regime, in time for the Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee year.

1995- Actor Christopher Reeve was left paralyzed from the neck down after falling from his horse in an equestrian event in Charlottesville, Va.


Birthdays: John Churchill the first Duke of Marlborough, Pope Clement VII the Medici Fox-1478, Mary Wollenstonecraft Godwin 1759- early feminist writer and mother of Mary Shelley, Alexander Pushkin, Isadora Duncan, Norma Talmadge, Paul Lukas, John Wesley Hardin the shootist, and it's the 100th anniversary of the birth of Marion Robert Morrison, who we know as John Wayne.

Hee-yah, Pilgrim!

1896- Charles Dow started his stock index named the Dow Jones Index. The first Dow Jones closing is 40.94

1913- Actors Equity formed.

1933- Jimmy Rogers "the Singing Brakeman", considered the father of modern country music, died of tuberculosis at age 31. Shortly before his death he recorded a song about it called "TB Blues".

1960- THE MOULIN ROUGE AGREEMENT- Las Vegas gambling casinos finally integrate. Before this stars like Sammy Davis Jr. and Ella Fitzgerald could headline in the clubs but had to exit via the kitchens and sleep across town in the colored section. Singer Nat King Cole was requested to keep his eyes on his piano keys for fear if he looked up he would seduce young white girls. Frank Sinatra played a big part in pressuring the Vegas 'powers-that-be' i.e. the mob, to change with the times. Marlena Deitrich grabbed Lena Horne by the arm and stormed into a casino bar defying any reaction. None came. The Moulin Rouge was the first completely integrated casino.

1962- The Isley Brothers single “Twist & Shout” released. It was eventually recorded by everyone from the Beatles to Rodney Dangerfield.

1969- John Lennon and Yoko Ono have their "Bed-In for Peace" news conference in New York. One of the most acerbic exchanges was one Lennon had with Lil'Abner cartoonist and conservative curmudgeon Al Capp.


1994- Singer Michael Jackson married Elvis’ daughter Lisa Marie Presley in the Dominican Republic. They keep the wedding a secret for six weeks, then divorce 18 months later.

1995- Looney Tunes director Isadore Friz Freleng died at age 89.


THIRTY YEARS AGO TODAY -GEORGE LUCAS' STAR WARS OPENED IN THEATERS.

In the spring of 1977 I was in New York working as an inbetweener on the animated film The Adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy. I was working on Emery Hawkins Taffy Pit monster with Dan Haskett, Kevin Petrilak, James Wong and Carol Millican among many others. Mike Sporn was our head of cleanup and Eric Goldberg, Jim Logan and Lou Scarborough were among our crew. In those days,New York had comic conventions much like the San Diego comicon, but a bit more modest. And it was a great place to sneak preview upcoming films.

Another Raggedy artist named Lester "Skeets" Pegues went to a comicon screening at the old Commodore Hotel by Grand Central Station. I didn't go because it was showing too late and I had to commute back to Canarsie, Brooklyn. Skeets came in to work the next day raving about this cool new movie called "Star Wars" he said he never saw anything like it. I was unimpressed at first. I had seen Silent Running and Dark Star. No one really made Sci-fi films anymore, certainly nothing as intriging as 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968. I was looking forward to real films like the French Connection II and Revenge of Billy Jack.

I was always the type that stayed away from films with humongous waiting lines. So I resisted the Star War phenomenon for a few more months until I saw it in Hollywood. It had moved from Mann's Chinese across the street to the Hollywood Theater, now called the El Capitan.

Well, I watched the title card move by and listened to the big music score and thought it wasn't that bad. Then the big Imperial Cruiser came overhead and I WAS HOOKED! It was one of the great cathartic moments in cinema. Nothing like it had ever been seen in movies before.

That year it was as if there was only one movie playing in any theater, Star Wars. The mania ran so far ahead of the planning that Christmas kids got Star Wars games under the tree that were an empty box with an IOU in it. It promised to provide a game as soon as they printed more.

You were right Skeets, it was pretty amazing. Happy Birthday Star Wars.
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If you were fast enough, the other day several sites like You Tube posted the trailor for the film THE ENCHANTED by Kevin Lima with animation by James Baxter's group. I managed to see it before Disney Lawyers yanked it.
I don't know what they're worried about, I thought it was great.
Congrads, mon freres!


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Birthdays: Miles Davis, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Josef Broz Tito, Igor Sikorsky, Pontormo, Bennett Cerf, Claude Akins, Leslie Uggams, Bill Bojangles Robinson, Beverly Sills, Anne Heche, Mike Myers the voice of Shrek is 44

1878- Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore premiered at the Savoy in London. “So Stick to your desk and never go to Sea, and You can be the Leader of the Queen’s Naveeee”

1950- Brooklyn Battery Tunnel opened in NYC.

1957- Sid Caesar's Your Show of Show's cancelled after nearly a decade. The show used future star playwrights like Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Neil Simon. The show pioneered the executive strategy of network programmer Pat Weaver to not let the show be owned by an entire sponsor but the network would produce the show and would sell the sponsor commercial time in 30 second chunks. Pat Weaver’s daughter is Sigorney Weaver.

1961- THE SPACE RACE- The United States had been chafing about how far ahead the Soviet Union was in the exploration of space. In an address to Congress this day President John F. Kennedy pledged the wealth and resources of the U.S. to beating Russia to the Moon. "Our pledge is within the next ten years to send a man to the moon and return him safely to Earth… We choose to go to the Moon not because it will be easy but because it is hard!" The Moon landing was achieved in 1969. Today it is acknowledged that without the motivation of the Cold War the conquest of the Moon would have happened much more slowly. In 2004 President Bush made a similar pledge to go to Mars, but not much has happened since.

1965- The Saint Louis Gateway Arch dedicated.

1968- The Rolling Stones release Jumping Jack Flash.

1977- Star Wars opened.

1979- Ridley Scott's sci-fi classic Alien opened.

1980- Evangelist Oral Roberts sees a 900-foot Jesus over his bed.

1986- Hands Across America stunt to help hunger has 7 million people at one time holding hands at noon.

2000- It was revealed that in 1958 US scientists planned to explode an atomic bomb on the moon. There would be no mushroom cloud because that requires an atmosphere, and the flash would only be visible for a few seconds. What the purpose would be other than to scare the BeeJeezus out of the Russkies no one knew. This dumb-ass idea was soon scrapped.


May 24, 2007 thurs
May 24th, 2007

Birthdays: Jean Paul Marat, Queen Victoria, Emmanuel Leutze, Bob Dylan, Walt Whitman, Gary Burghoff, Priscilla Presley, Patti LaBelle, Tommy Chong of Cheech & Chong, Frank Oz, Kristin Scott Thomas

1590- In Rome, construction of the great Dome of Saint Peters Basilica completed.

1830 –The poem "Mary Had A Little Lamb," was written.

1866 - Berkeley, California founded, named for George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne.

1899 - 1st auto repair shop and car garage opens: The Back Bay Cycle and Motor Company of Boston. Where's CLick and Clack?

1929- The Marx Brothers first movie comedy” The Coconuts” premiered.

1950- Married movie star Ingrid Bergman shocked American morality by having an open love affair with neorealist film director Roberto Rosselini. This day they were finally married but the outcry of conservatives about this “Apostle of Degradation” was such that her image needed a makeover, so she played Saint Joan.

1954 - IBM announces vacuum tube "electronic" brain that could perform 10 million operations an hour.

1958 - UP & International News Service merge into United Press International

1989- In Los Angeles, a spectacular fire destroyed the Art-Deco-Moderne all-wood landmark, the Pan Pacific Auditorium.

1991- Tri-Star Pictures 75 million-dollar mega-flop "Hudson Hawk" opened. Star Bruce Willis, whose fee was $17 million, blamed the film’s costs on union filmworkers’ rates being too high. He would return to his car after a day’s shooting to find it covered with animal excrement. The film coming after another flop Bonfire of the Vanities, almost sank his career. Willis next two films, "Death Becomes Her" and 'Pulp Fiction", he did for scale. In 2000 he made a $100,000 dollar donation to the SAG/AFTRA strike fund.


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