Trip Report: Walt’s Birthplace in Chicago, IL

Do you have a Disney Bucket List? So far we’ve managed to visit both North American parks, we’ve taken a Disney cruise, attended a Disney press event (and saw John Lasseter), and now we have been able to add a special item to our list. Walt’s birthplace!

We just visited the birthplace of Walt Disney at 2156 N. Tripp Ave. in Chicago, IL:

Corner of N. Tripp Avenue & E. Palmer Street

It was raining off and on when we pulled up but we made the best of it and even managed to do a couple of live Facebook feeds.

From opposite corner

The outside renovations seem to be done and the sign out front indicates a finish date of December 5th, 2016. According to the official website fundraising is still underway to help with completion of the interior.

Exterior Sign

I took the time to walk around the place, which didn’t take too much time, as the piece of property it’s on is very small.

Side and rear

I noticed the two colors of siding and the different facing material on the rear. I read once that this building has had a few additions over the years. So it is likely that the yellow portion represents the original house built by Elias Disney and the rest representing subsequent renovation efforts.

Garage and small back yard

The city of Chicago tried to designate this property a heritage site but a previous owner blocked the effort. The present owner has worked hard with a dedicated team to make sure that this building will be around for years to come! In their words, the dream is that this property ‘becomes a portal to new approaches in early childhood development and helps to inspire future Walts and Roys.’

    

Front porch detail

So now we can cross another item off our Disney Bucket List. And just to make sure that there is no dispute:

Yup. I was really there!

And so was Karen!

 And now you’ve been there, virtually, too!

Book Review: Flying Cars – The True Story

When you first heard the lyrics “Off we go, into the wild, blue, yonder! Off we go…” you probably weren’t thinking of doing so in flying cars. Standard airplanes are the vehicles of choice for the sky! But that was not always the plan.

Publisher: Clarion Books

ISBN: 978-0-618-98482-4

Type: Hardcover

Pages: 118

Price: $17.99 US

Andrew Glass has put together an interesting chronological listing of flying cars starting from 1901 to the present. He accompanies the facts with little asides about the inventors and the times they lived in, their successes and oft-times spectacular failures.

How could you not want one of these?

Famous people like the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, and famous classical conductor Leopold Stokowski (of Fantasia fame) all followed the progress of the technology with the last two names actually ordering their own flying cars! Unfortunately, the models they ordered were never put into production. In fact, no flying car has ever been put into production.

But that hasn’t stopped inventors from continuing to design and build prototypes right down to our day.

If you can drive, why not fly?

The thing that stood out for me in this book is just how close North America came to having flying cars in every garage. Plans were made to position runways next to major highways so commuters could take off and land right next to their freeway exit. One visionary even claimed that rush hour traffic would be eliminated as more and more motorists took to the skies!

I guess no one envisioned traffic jams in the clouds.

Claims were made that flying one of these babies was as easy as driving your family car. After you learned how to attach and detach the wings and flying controls of course!

I first became aware of flying cars while watching the Disney/Pixar movie Planes which featured a German flying car named Franz Fliegenhosen. He is rendered to be a German 1954 Taylor Aerocar:

Real or ‘invented’ by Pixar?

Below is a picture of an actual Aerocar from 1949 designed by Moulton B. Taylor:

Real. But Pixar gussied it up a bit for the movie

What is the same between this real flying car and the one Pixar ‘invented’ is that the Aerocar was the only flying car to carry its plane components behind it on a trailer, like Franz does in the movie. All other models were designed to leave the fuselage behind at an airstrip.

So there you go. For over 100 years inventors have been working on a way to get your Hyundai airborne. The book is chock full of freaky-tiki examples, including my favorite idea, the flying Ford Pinto (it crashed. The idea was abandoned.)

Review: I would give this book a 5 out of 5 Stars but perhaps only 4 Stars for the average reader. It is basically just a chronological look at flying cars, so if you are not interested in the subject matter, you won’t likely be entertained. However, Glass does find the humor in flying cars, if you can imagine that.

My conclusion after reading the book? I. Want. A. Flying. Car.

Book Review: Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

I was minding my own business (pun intended) while browsing the shelves of my local Chapters book store when I saw a huge poster on the wall advertising Creativity Inc. and I recognized right away that it featured an image from Pixar Studios! Immediately I went on a hunt for the book it was advertising.

Publisher: Random House Canada

Pages: 340

Type: Hardcover

ISBN: 978-0-307-36117-2

Date: 2014

And what a book it was! Most Disney/Pixar fans will pick up just about anything that is related to these companies. This book however may not find its way onto as many home bookshelves as say, The Art of Tangled or The Story of Walt Disney. Why?

Fair warning: You really need to love reading and the inner workings of business to enjoy, or even understand, this book. But that’s not a bad thing! Stick with it and you will learn some fascinating history behind the making of your favorite Pixar films along with some insights into the characters of the men and women who made them.

But especially this guy:

Ed Catmull

We all know about John Lasseter and Steve Jobs and their contributions to Pixar’s success. But there are many more people who have made the company’s continued growth and profit possible. Ed Catmull is among these people. And he is generous in noting the hard work of others!

I can’t say much more about the contents of this book. To quote anything would be to print it so radically out of context that it would be impossible to understand. I think the book needs to be considered as a whole by readers who get the medal for finishing it!

Review: I’d give the book a 4 out of 5 Stars. I think many will find it a tad dry and a bit of a slog to get through. But I also think this is due to the nature of the material, and its primary focus on business, and not due to Catmull’s writing. However, it isn’t a book for every Disney/Pixar fan so I have to lower its mark because of this hampered appeal.

Personally though I’d say ‘buy Creativity Inc.’ because if you’ve ever worked for a company that was abusive to employees and made you wonder where common sense went, you’ll be uplifted to see how Pixar became a company that put people first.

Book Review: This Was Radio by Ronald Lackmann

Isn’t media wonderful? Here I am writing a post for the Internet that I will share on social media about a hardcover book which describes the early days of radio. If I could find a way to throw television in somewhere I’d have every form of media covered!

But rather than do that I will start by showing the publication in question:

11 1/2″ x 14″ Hardcover, 70 Pages

ISBN: 07413-0038-9

I love all-things vintage. And if I can find a Disney tie-in along the way more the better! This publication was published in 2000 by the Great American Audio Corporation. It was written by Ronald Lackmann with an introduction by Leonard Maltin.

The book is divided into 10 chapters which first cover the invention of radio before seguing into the different genres, such as comedy, children’s programming, and talk shows, among others. Chapter 10 provides a brief sum-up of radio’s impact on popular culture.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

If it’s entertainment history, it’s Leonard Maltin

I love the reporting of this man! He has done many introductions for Disney productions and is a well-known champion of entertainment history. He, like myself, feels that the shows of the past should be remembered and studied.

In the early days of radio, two companies were major competitors in setting up networks that crossed the United States. They were:

    

Other smaller companies would join the party and the government would later step in with regulations to balance out the content.

And what was in that content?

Lucille Ball’s first stint as a wife was on radio

Mr. Inka Dinka Doo got his big push on radio

And even dummies made it big!

Another Disney tie-in comes from a famous Disney star. From Chapter One: “As performers realized how many people were “tuned in” to radio broadcasts, entertainers like… vaudeville comedian Ed “The Perfect Fool” Wynn decided they might be able to increase the size of their audiences by performing “on radio” for thousands, instead of a mere hundreds of fans. Wynn was heard on one of the first important, well-publicized aired-live comedy shows… Wynn decided to broadcast on a regular basis, becoming one of radio’s first major stars (with the Ed Wynn Show, later called The Fire Chief).”

But it wasn’t all fun and game shows on radio. News broadcasters soon found that radio was a great way to spread fear and panic, er… I mean informative political and social commentary. Some of what was covered was quite chilling:

From political commentary to the bomb

So if you needed to know it back in the day, you learned of it on radio! Of course, we all know that in time television did come along to overshadow that little talking box in the corner. But it never gave up the fight and is still around today, if only for talk and musical purposes.

But if you’re like me you yearn for the days when The Lone Ranger, gangsters, monsters from outer space, funny comedians, and famous actors all ‘appeared’ over the airwaves!

Review: I’d give this book 4 out of 5 Stars. It is a very comprehensive listing of the programming from the early days of radio with a nice selection of behind-the-scenes photographs. For those not that into radio it will seem a bit like a laundry list of shows with not enough context, but as this book was written for the über fan, that hardly diminishes the books validity.

The book also contains two compact discs with a smattering of old-time radio broadcasts.

Norman Rockwell Paints Huey, Dewey, and Louie

Everyone knows about the Disney tie-in with Norman Rockwell where an artist took-off Rockwell’s Triple Self Portrait by inserting Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in place of Rockwell. If not, here are the two images:

    

But while staying at a friend’s place recently, my wife spotted an actual Disney presence in a Norman Rockwell painting, this time, painted by the Master himself. The piece is called Shuffleton’s Barber Shop and is pictured below:

From the title of this post, no doubt you are expecting to see Huey, Dewey, and Louie visiting the Barber Shop. They are there, but you have to look very carefully to see them.

Zoom in on the bottom left corner, specifically, on the magazine rack where you can see many comic books. Look closer, and you’ll see:

And there they are!

This painting was so popular that Hallmark Movie Channel made it into a film in 2013:

 

So once again it just goes to show that you never know where a Disney reference will pop up! But you do know that when they do, I’ll be there!