Friday 31 August 2012


One of the items from my Disney collection currently on display at The Cartoon Museum's exhibition Animal Crackers, is a piece of sheet music for a ‘Novelty Fox-trot’ with words by Edward Pola and Music by Franz Vienna, published in London by Keith Prowse in 1933 and entitled...

This is a classic example of early British Disney merchandising which was not subject to the same rigours as were applied to the American products from the studio (and which are now universal); hence the surprising revelation that Mickey and Minnie Mouse had tied the knot – a story seriously at variance with official Disney lore which has always maintained that they are 'just good friends'!

The cover artwork is by Wilfred Haughton, a prolific British artist working for Disney in London who was responsible for much of the artwork in early Disney comics and annuals published in the UK.

The words of the song go like this...

It’s gala day, the day of the year,
The sun will shine, the sky’ll be clear,
The bells will ring, the people will cheer,
For the wedding of Mister Mickey Mouse.

There’ll be ducks and drakes, a waddl’ing goose,
A chimpanzee, the Zoo turn’d loose,
And ‘Peg-Leg’ Pete’s declaring a truce,
For the wedding of Mister Mickey Mouse.
The big brown bear will dance for all the company,
The whole affair will be broadcast by the BBC;
There’ll be fancy hats and fancier clothes,
A kangaroo with pretty pink bows,
And elephants with manicured toes,
At the wedding of Mister Mickey Mouse.

The band will play a one-step and a gavotte,
And then the fox will dance a real fox-trot;
Clarabelle the cow will jump right over the moon,
Then you’ll hear Pluto croon the latest tune.
Preacher man will see the knot is properly tied,
He’ll shake hands with the groom, and kiss the bride;
Then off they’ll go to find their gingerbread house,
Where they’ll be happy as Mister and Missus Mickey Mouse.

And here's what it sounded like as performed in 1933 by Harry Leader's band (not, as it says on the record label, Jay Wilbur)...

Tuesday 28 August 2012


A few years back, my good friend (and frequent comment-leaver on this blog) Sharon Mail put together a great tribute to the late Ian Richardson full of recollections and reflections by friends and colleagues.

We Could Possibly Comment is a delightful remembrance of a wonderful actor and is now available in a revised edition on Kindle at a mere snip for £4.62.

After 15 years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, where Ian was recognised as one of the truly great classical actors of his day, he began a multifaceted career in television: starring in dramas such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Porterhouse Blue, Private Schulz, Gormenghast and playing, to great acclaim, both Sherlock Holmes and (in Murder Rooms) the man credited with being the inspiration for Conan Doyle's character, Dr Joseph Bell.

This book paints a portrait not only of an actor hugely admired and respected as a consummate, highly gifted performer, but also of a generous-hearted man, who was deeply loved and revered by those who worked with him and followed his career during which he left his mark indelibly stamped on so many roles, including the unforgettably monstrous Francis Urquhart in House of Cards...

Numbered among the book's contributors are Sirs Ian McKellen and Peter Hall, Dames Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, John Sessions, Stacy Keach, Joanne Woodward, Brian Blessed and many other actors, writers, producers and directors with whom Richardson worked in his prolific career that ranged from the greatest roles written by the Bard to musical performances as Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady and as the Padre alongside Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren (and, here, between Julie Gregg and Rosalie Crutchley) in the film of Man of La Mancha...

(Apologies if you've seen that clip before on my blog, but it always makes me laugh!)

There is even a contribution from Yours Truly, remembering the only occasion on which I worked with this wonderfully talented performer on what was one of the last jobs before his death: a radio reading of my book, Shadowlands.

In addition to the Kindle edition, there is also a Google eBook.

Sunday 26 August 2012



Saturday 25 August 2012


Following the recent publication of revealing photographs of Prince Harry losing his shirt (and pants) in a game of strip billiards in Las Vegas, we were surprised to discover that the Prince, in an attempt to avoid further embarrassing exposure, was holed up at our favourite summer vacation-spot – Emborios on the Greek island of Kalymnos – and was clearly taking a relaxed view of the the scandal in the popular Artistico taverna. In the absence of the world's paparazzi, His Royal Highness happily posed for David's camera...

Imagine our surprise when, later that evening, a further contingent of the Royal family turned up for an informal get-together with locals and tourists: Will and Kate...

...and the princes' grandparents...

Artistico's resident magical entertainer was especially honoured to be granted an audience: an anouncement of his appointment to the long-defunct post of Royal Jester is now awaited with anticipation...

Wednesday 22 August 2012


Today would have been the 92nd  birthday of RAY BRADBURY...

Twenty-four years ago, I met up with Ray at Disneyland in California, interviewed him (not for the first or last time) and made a radio programme for 'Meridian', the arts show on the BBC World Service of which I was a regular presenter.

Here, as a tribute to my old friend, is an opportunity to spend half-hour in the company of one of the most imaginative storytellers of our – or any – age...


The reader is Blain Fairman and the programme, first broadcast in 1989, was produced by Miriam Newman

Sunday 19 August 2012


Following on from my posting about the new Cartoon Museum exhibition, Animal Crackers...

Literature and pop culture is full of instances of animals masquerading as humans or humans donning animal masks for our entertainment: just think of the creature-gods of Ancient Egypt or the animal-people encountered by Alice in Wonderland and Looking-glass Country...

Or the indefatigable Rupert Bear and his kin...

A contemporary manifestation of this curious obsession is found in the work of Charlotte Cory who has created a unique collection of cartes de visite that present a fantastical vision of social (and zoological) life in the Victorian age.

The conceit of Charlotte's work is to take the often stiff and starchy portrait photographs of early nineteenth century men, women and children, but with their human heads and faces supplanted with photographed likenesses of creatures stuffed and preserved by courtesy of the Victorian taxidermist's art.

The results are, by turn, delightful, dotty and, every now and again, disturbing...

A fantastical new book – a kind of bizarre Victorian photograph album – crammed with several hundred of these these extraordinary images has just been issued by Black Dog Publishing at £19.95 under the title You Animal, You! accompanied by an insightful introduction by A N Wilson. The book reveals the diversity of life in the Charlotte's animal kingdom: animal-people at work – from the groves of academe, to the front-line of the Empire's battlefields – and at play – on the sportsfield, at the theatre, beside the seaside or travelling the world.

Here are few of these remarkable denizens...

Thursday 16 August 2012


As I will not be 'on-line' in Hobbiton-across-the-Water (otherwise known as Loughborough) and unable to send you daily jottings about the goings-on at the Tolkien Society's 'Return of the Ring' celebrations, I am whisking you back ten years to 2002 in order to share with you Fired by the Rings: an hour-long audio celebration of J R R Tolkien's trilogy as it has been variously interpreted over the years by artists, musicians, dramatists and film-makers.

Contributors include: Pauline Bayne, Oz Clarke, Emma Gillson, Wayne G Hammond, John Howe, Rob Inglis, Sir Peter Jackson, Jane Johnson, Alan Lee, Sir Christopher Lee, Roy Marsden, Jane Morgan, Philip Pullman, Christina Scull, Howard Shore and Peter Woodthorpe; with the voices (in performance) of Sir Ian Holm, Sir Michael Hordern, John Le Mesurier, Sir Ian McKellen, Bill Nighy and Elijah Wood.


Tuesday 14 August 2012


I'm getting ready to head off to Loughborough for the Tolkien Society's event The Return of the Ring...

...celebrating 75 years of The Hobbit, at which I have the privileged of being Guest of Honour.

To amuse you while I'm away, here's another collection of vintage travel posters by the brilliant Steve Thomas this time offering trips to Middle-earth...

How can you resist! Dig out the passport and start packing!

Friday 10 August 2012


The other week I was giving a talk to a bunch of American students visiting Britain on a course devoted to Children's Literature. My subject was talking animals in literature (from the serpent in the Garden of Eden to manifestations of Parseltongue in the Harry Potter books) and coincidentally – while I was in the midst of my researches – David and I were looking out items from our collection for a new exhibition at The Cartoon Museum entitled...

Animal Crackers is a celebration of an amazing ark-load of creatures who, across many generations, have been put to work by cartoonists, illustrators and film-makers in the interests of humour and satire.

There are cartoons featuring animals as national types or political groups across several centuries from John Tenniel and David Low (whose Coalition Ass is, surely, ripe for revival!) to today's satirists, Steve Bell and Martin Rowson.

But best of all are those animals simply horsing around or monkeying about for the sheer fun of it or, as in these two cartoons, re-defining the term 'bird brain'...

There are people behaving like animals and animals dressed up like people, as in this example, 'Hare Dressing', by one of Dickens' illustrators, John Leech...

Among the more than 140 exhibits by 60 artists you'll find, cheek by jowl, Korky the Kat...

...and Simon's Cat...

There are perennial favourites like Fred Basset, Rupert Bear, Flook and one of Thelwell's endearingly obstreperous ponies...

There are also a number of rabbits in evidence from this literary imagining (from our collection) by Michael fflokes... the black humour of Andy Riley's Bunny Suicides...

From the nation's comics you'll meet a range of amusing animals from Pip, Squeak and Wilfred (a bizarre vintage menage featuring a dog, a penguin and a rabbit) and, from the Beano, The Three Bears...

And from animated films there's the Pink Panther, Gromit (and Wallace) and assorted Disney folk from Max Hare and Toby Tortoise from the 1934 Silly Symphony, The Tortoise and the Hare... that king of the swingers, The Jungle Book's King Louie...

This wonderfully entertaining exhibition remains on show until 21 October.

The Cartoon Museum
35 Little Russell Street
London WC1A 2HH

Telephone 0207 580 8155

Tuesdays-Saturdays 10:30-17:30
Sunday 12:-17:30 Closed Mondays (including Bank Holidays)

£5.50 Adults; £4.00; Concessions; £3 Students Free to Under-18s
Art Fund Members and Friends of the Cartoon Museum
Children 12 or under must be accompanied by an adult

There are occasional special events arranged to coincide with exhibitions: check the Cartoon Museum website for up-to-date details and how to book.

Finally, these two characters...

...prompt me to let you know that the recent radio programme, The Songs of Milne that features the settings written by H Fraser-Simson for A A Milne's Christopher Robin verses and Hums of Pooh (in which I made an appearance) gets a repeat airing tomorrow (Saturday) on BBC Radio 4 at 13:30.

Image credits:
Penguin and Polar Bear © Royston Roberton
Ian Baker, Readers' Digest  200
'A Nasty Tern' from Ralph Steadman’s Extinct Boids with Ceri Levy (October 2012)
Korky the Cat, James Crighton, Dandy 1949 © D C Thomson & Co Ltd.
Simon's Cat © Simon Tofield
'You Can Talk to Your Horse' © Norman Thelwell
'For Services to Literature' © the estate of Michael ffolkes (Brian Davis)
Bunny Suicides © Andy Riley
The Three Bears (detail), Leo Baxendale, Beano1963 © D C Thomson & Co Ltd
Disney images © The Walt Disney Studio

Wednesday 8 August 2012


I am a bit anxious for Peter Jackson that, in extending his two-film Hobbit into a trilogy, he may need a bit of help filling a few roles on any necessary pick-ups if the original cast members are not available for extended contracts...

My good friend, Ian Smith (aka Irascian) recently uncovered these old photos of he and I trying out Gandalf's cart: it seems that whoever sits in Frodo's seat is magically shrunk to the size of a hobbit – which is obviously a damn sight easier than all those costly special effects!

Mind you, the photo was taken by Richard Taylor (the wizard of Weta Workshop) so everything may not be quite what it seems.

Anyway, if PJ has still got the cart, Ian and I are pretty much ready to roll...

(Incidentally, in case you missed his post, buttons the rabbit is also trying to get in on the act!)

Sunday 5 August 2012


Today, as Sheila kindly reminded me, is...

...whilst I'm not sure this singularly American annual event has followers elsewhere in the world, it obviously provides an opportunity/excuse to show some pictures of men in pants for which, bizarrely, this blog has an unaccountable reputation!

So, here goes – courtesy of the advertising campaign of the aptly-named Balls Underwear brand – beginning with a representative of the nation responsible for giving us National Underwear Day...

And so that Spain, Germany, France and England don't feel left out...

At least we now know how Master Hood (who bears a striking resemblance to Errol Flynn) managed to keep his men so merrie!

And a couple of videos to make you smile...