Behind the scenes of the books by Robert Tieman
Disney Keepsakes, a follow-up to The Disney Treasures
- Published in 2005
- Available in U.S., U.K., French and
- Produced by becker&mayer!
IN THE BEGINNING - THE SECOND TIME. When I originally wrote
“The Disney Treasures,” there was no thought of doing a sequel. Because of that, I had to concentrate my storytelling on the
obvious and well-known highlights of Walt Disney’s life. Of necessity, this meant skipping over many people’s favorite films
and events. And yes, I heard about it from fans of the first book. “How could you have left out Alice in Wonderland?” “What
about Dumbo?” And most intriguingly, a letter from an aficionado of the 3-D cartoon Adventures in Music: Melody!
was some (very brief) discussion about the second book picking up where “Treasures” left off—with Walt’s death in 1966—and
going forward. But once again, I convinced the powers that be that the Disney fans would be more interested in the early Disney
materials. And so once again, I limited the text, and the removable treasures, to Walt Disney’s lifetime. This was not meant
to slight Walt Disney World and its own legions of fans, but I honestly figured that the more rare (and thus more meaningful)
items would be those older than thirty years. (And who knows? Maybe one day in the future you’ll see a “Disney Treasures”
type book that deals with the last half of the 20th century.)
There was also an idea for the second book to be a one-topic
affair, and naturally, I thought of a book I would’ve called “The Disneyland Treasures.” There are many reasons why this idea
didn’t happen, but primarily I wanted to finish telling Walt’s story, and to fill in the gaps from the first book.
those gaps were easy to identify and take care of, particularly the films: The Reluctant Dragon, Dumbo, Bambi, Make Mine Music,
Melody Time, Ichabod & Mr. Toad, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone, and The Jungle Book.
There were also more stories to tell (and cool facsimiles to reproduce) about Disneyland and, naturally, Mickey Mouse, but
there were some other beloved animated characters that deserved attention like Chip and Dale. And I always feel bad that Minnie
Mouse so frequently gets lost in Mickey’s limelight, so I needed to give her her own chapter.
A couple of the other
chapters were also pretty obvious choices, at least for me. One of the benefits of working in the Archives is that I am exposed
to so many Disney history topics on an almost daily basis. Some of these are truly fascinating, but unfortunately they would
not merit an entire book about them and thus, they frequently get ignored. To rectify that, it was a fairly easy decision
to write about the 1930s Mickey Mouse Clubs, as an example. And as I mentioned above, one chapter was specifically requested
through a fan letter I got from England—the 3-D craze. As I started to write about the one Melody cartoon, I learned about
the virtually unknown 3-D film shot of the Mouseketeers, and then discovered the rare 3-D giveaway comic books.
my, these comic books. What a fantastic facsimile item those would make. The Archives not only has a full set of the comics,
but also several pairs of the original red-and-blue glasses with which to read them. But reproducing them was a whole saga
into itself. The newsprint-type paper the comics had been printed on had yellowed over the years. This naturally changed the
two colors of ink just by itself. But also, the color red is notorious for fading in anything printed, and so it’s vibrancy
was diminished as well (in addition to the problem of the yellowing paper). All these ink color changes meant that the original
colored plastic film in the 3-D glasses no longer matched the illustrations. I even suspect that the colored film had undergone
a color shift, but I can’t prove that. In any case, the book’s producer, becker&mayer!, had their work cut out for them in
finding colored film that would match whatever beefed up colors we could squeeze out of the original comic book covers. The
result isn’t 100% perfect, but pretty darn close, and I was thrilled that we could make this work.
on the radio—was a favorite of mine to research. The Archives has a lot of original material on these rare radio programs,
including full scripts for many of the weekly broadcasts. We also have cassette tapes of several of the shows and they are
a fun record of an entertainment genre gone by. I had wanted to include one or two full-length shows on an audio CD that would
be included in the book, but alas, legal complications prevented me from doing that. (No one could figure out who owned the
copyright to these shows, for example, and then there were music clearance issues, and on and on. In the end, the entire CD
There were also lots of coincidences that I had to confront
during the writing phase. I quickly wrote a chapter on the Disney Good Housekeeping pages when I discovered that an entire
book was nearing completion on the very same topic. And my friend, freelance writer Jim Fanning, came into the Archives to
research an article on the Disney company Christmas cards for “Sketches” magazine within a week of my having completed my
own chapter on them! I guess great minds think alike.
A favorite parade of characters at Disneyland.
VOLUME TWO - OR NOT?. One of the things I also enjoy about
working in the Archives is discovering little-known facets of Disney history. Again, since there isn’t really a good commercial
venue for disseminating this information, I thought it was up to me to write about it. The True-Life Adventures series of
documentary films is fairly well-known—at least among Disney fans “of a certain age” (ahem, me included) who saw them as 16mm
films shown in elementary and junior high school classes on “film days.” But no one I knew had ever heard of the complementary
series, the People & Places films. Even though the information in the films is undoubtedly outdated, the photography is beautiful
and they remain an excellent record of places at a certain point in time. It would be great if Disney’s home video division
released these films as a DVD set, although their appeal would definitely be limited. Maybe someday.
One of the most
common questions people always wonder about is “What would Walt think about what came after him?” And it occurred to me that
the Studio during Walt’s time always had dozens and dozens of story ideas in the pipeline at once, and sometimes projects
would start and stop for decades before finally coming to life. I basically picked three of my favorite “post-Walt” projects
and dug into their histories to discover that Walt did in fact know about the films in some form before he passed away. There
are many more examples, and it just shows how Disney the company had to work through story problems until they found the just
right expression for a certain project.
So, that’s how the second book was researched and written. Unfortunately, the
book ended up with fewer removable ‘treasures’ than the first book. The truth is, as always, it was a matter of economics.
Some of the features ended up being “tipped in” to the spine, rather than being inserted into pockets or other clever enclosures.
Not my first choice, but in the end, most of what I wanted to include got done.
The title of the book, however, was
another matter. During the writing process, it was always going to be “The Disney Treasures, Volume 2.” Simple and declarative—same
format as the first book, same basic story (Walt’s life), but more & different stuff. To my dismay, marketing & sales folks
got involved and they feared that book buyers would see the “Volume 2” on the cover and think to themselves, “I can’t buy
this book because I don’t have volume 1.” I conceded that the salespeople might have a point, but I also pointed out that
maybe that would convince buyers to spring for both volumes at once!
For people who know me, you know that I have an
offbeat sense of humor, and so I suggested a whole bunch of sequel-type titles, each one of which got shot down quicker than
you could say them: “Son of Disney Treasures,” “The Disney Treasures Strikes Back,” and finally, I wanted to call it exactly
what it was—“More Disney Treasures.” A bunch of other titles were brainstormed (by who, I don’t exactly know), and there on
the list was “The Disney Keepsakes,” which I admit here and now, I just hate. To me, a “keepsake” is this precious little
perfumed porcelain or glass thing that your Great Aunt Harriet hands down through the family. But, what can I say? I’m just
the author, and I didn’t really have the final say in the book title. So “The Disney Keepsakes” it is, forevermore. (I got
a small measure of vindication, however, when Carlton, the British publisher, bought the rights for the book in England &
Australia. They too disliked the “Keepsakes” title, and so the British version is entitled “The Disney Experience.” Only a
slight improvement, but at least it’s not “Keepsakes.”)
IN THE END. The two volumes tell Walt’s story from beginning
to end, and I’m proud that they both feature some really incredible pieces from the Archives, including many hand-written
papers from Walt himself. It’s these kinds of things that make working in the Archives so thrilling, and it’s a pleasure to
have been able to share them with the Disney fans.
A very chipmunky experience. . .