- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2007

Getting it right

“At an early point in his career, probably no later than 1930, Walt Disney lost the ability to draw what he wanted his cartoon characters to look like or his animations to do. So he began to act his cartoons out. In story meetings with his growing staff of animators — some of whom he had trained in Los Angeles at his studio on Hyperion Avenue, others whom he’d poached from the great New York studios — Disney would get up, according to Neal Gabler’s new biography, ‘enter his trance, and suddenly transform himself uninhibitedly into Mickey or Donald or an owl or an old hunting dog …’

“Mickey Mouse’s gestures ‘were copied from Walt’s when he performed Mickey at story meetings’; until 1946 Disney also voiced him, in falsetto. In another new Life, Michael Barrier’s The Animated Man, the studio head is seen by animators acting out ‘how a Chinese turtle should dance,’ or doing ‘any of the people in the pictures, valets, anything — he all of a sudden was a valet.’ ”

Mark Grief, writing on “Tinkering,” in the June 7 issue of the London Review of Books

Getting it wrong

“Now, [Ray] Bradbury has decided to make news about the writing of his iconographic work and what he really meant. Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands. …

“Bradbury, a man living in the creative and industrial center of reality TV and one-hour dramas, says it is, in fact, a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature.

“ ’Television gives you the dates of Napoleon, but not who he was,’ Bradbury says, summarizing TV’s content with a single word that he spits out as an epithet: ‘factoids.’ …

“His fear in 1953 that television would kill books has, he says, been partially confirmed by television’s effect on substance in the news. The front page of that day’s L.A. Times reported on the weekend box-office receipts for the third in the Spider-Man series of movies, seeming to prove his point. ‘Useless,’ Bradbury says. ‘They stuff you with so much useless information, you feel full.’ He bristles when others tell him what his stories mean, and once walked out of a class at UCLA where students insisted his book was about government censorship.”

— Amy E. Boyle Johnston, writing on “Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted,” on May 30 at the “L.A. Weekly”

Sign from God?

“Lightning struck the building where the Republican presidential primary debate was being held last night and messed with the sound system, just as Rudy Giuliani was explaining why he dissents from Catholic belief on abortion. They all had a chuckle, the other candidates backing away and Giuliani making a joke.

“ ’Look, for someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a very frightening thing that’s happening right now,’ Giuliani chuckled.

“For those who refuse to see, even a burning bush would not convince. I might have told the story before on the blog about the Unitarian-Universalist minister in my hometown of Canton, Mass., when I was a kid. I remember reading in the newspaper how the atheist minister (those wacky UUs!) laughed off the incident in which a lightning bolt struck his office, hit his bookshelf, burned through the books until it reached the Bible and burned through until reaching the page on which the verse about misleading shepherds and millstones. And he laughed about the coincidence. What else could he do?”

Domenico Bettinelli, writing on “God warns Giuliani,” yesterday at the blog Bettnet.com