Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happy Walpurgis Night! (Night on Bald Mountain, 1940)

One piece of animation I love to revisit around Halloween is the Night on Bald Mountain segment of Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940). It has many elements that we associate with Halloween...ghosts and monsters, witches and graveyards...but it depicts a much older ritual that occurs in May, not October.

The setting is a little village at the foot of foreboding Bald Mountain (said to be based on Mount Triglav, in southern Russia).

One night a year, Walpurgis Night, a towering demonic figure awakens at the mountain's peak and calls upon restless spirits, witches and monsters to join him for an unholy celebration.

The winged creature is Chernobog, a figure from Slavonic mythology whose name translates to "black god".

Spirits of those buried in unconsecrated ground rise up out of their graves in a ghastly pilgrimage toward the mountaintop.

Once the spirits have arrived at their master's roost, they materialize into living things, perverse imitations of animal and man, and dance in worship as demonic fire erupts around them.

As Chernobog tires of their ritual, he disposes of his worshipers by immolation.

Meanwhile the sky is maelstrom of ghosts, wraiths, and skeletons, whipped into a frenzy.

When dawn arrives, the festivities end. Chernabog will hibernate in Bald Mountain until next year.

When the 1940 film was rereleased in 1969, the marketing campaign, in keeping with the times, emphasized the films pyschedelic imagery, as evidenced by this one-sheet that resembles a rock concert poster.

It's easy to see how some segments of Bald Mountain would appeal to the late-60s "turned on" generation. Take this colorful kaleidoscope of hellfire, from which female figures and screaming faces are glimpsed. These stills look like they belong on those trippy black-light posters that were popular at the time (and incidentally, didn't exist when the film was created nearly 30 years prior.)

Fantasia has been previously available on DVD and VHS, but is out of print as of this writing.

This post is illustrated with screen-captures of the film, as well as black-and-white storyboard sketches and concept paintings by Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen, who, interestingly, was not a Disney studio artist.

Some information in this post came from the book Walt Disney's Fantasia (1983, John Culhane), also out of print as of this writing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Mostly Ghostly..." interviewed in this month's Rue Morgue

Speaking of giant-size Halloween editions, this month's extra-thick issue of horror-culture magazine Rue Morgue(#94) features an interview with "Dave" (you'll have to get hold of a copy to find out his last name) of the Mostly Ghostly Music Sharing Blaaaggghhh! for an article on vintage kids Halloween records. Scar Stuff also gets a shout-out in the same article.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Table-Top Diorama (House of Mystery, 1973)

From the rear cover of the oversized Halloween edition of House of Mystery (C-23, 1973) comic book, here's a diorama featuring a gargoyle in a graveyard.

Below is a dazzling computer simulation of how the final product might look once its all taped together.

If you're wondering who "Cain", the devilish figure leading the gargoyle on a string is, he's the mascot and host of the House of Mystery. If you don't find him particularly scary, that's because this is a cutified rendition by cartoonist Sergio Aragones (Mad marginals, Groo).

This oversise (10" x 14") special Halloween edition features not only the usual scary stories with their ironic twist endings, but pages of games and activities. Aragones provides the artwork for all the fun activity pages.

Like this "Page 13" fortune-teller, which you use as a dartboard, dropping a pencil from above to receive humorous (and slightly subversive) predictions. Suggestive entries like "This TRIP Will Cost You", "Your Parents Will Find Out the Truth", "Don't Trust Your Steady" and "You Will Be Drafted" (topical!) make it clear the intended audience is older teenagers (or little kids that wanted to feel older!)

Here's another page that might raise parents' eyebrows... a "groovy" game that encourages you to kick and hit your friends, give away your stuff, and generally act like an idiot. I can just imagine the parental interventions this game must have caused. Fun stuff!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Disneyland Record, 1971)

Here's "a magnificent full-color illustrated book and long-playing record" of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (ST-3801, 1971), my favorite spooky Disney short, which was originally part of the 1949 package feature The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and later parted out as its own short under the title The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Another Washington Irving penned story, The Legend of Rip Van Winkle, is also on the album.

Unfortunately the second-hand copy pictured here, while having all its pictures intact, is missing one key element: the record! So while I haven't actually heard this adaptation, the great song that Brom Bones sings at the Halloween party to scare poor Ichabod, "The Headless Horseman", sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, is available for download from I-Tunes.