06 December 2018

The Holly and the Ivy

Generally when we think of Ichabod Crane, our thoughts jump to a horseman with a flaming pumpkin head and the frantic chase the two had through Sleepy Hollow. That shiver inducing tale is wonderful when Halloween comes to Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom, but what about Christmas? As it turns out there is a reason to consider Ichabod as Christmas rolls around.

Starting with the obvious, a musically inclined sign informs guests that Ichabod offers music and voice lessons in Liberty Square, by appointment only of course. This sign sets up the story that Ichabod’s studio is actually one of three distinct environments that makes up the various rooms of Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, with the other two being for a colonial residence and a woodworker’s shop. Each room has a distinct feel and design to it, whether that feels like a well-worn and loved house that is clearly lived in or a woodcarver’s shop filled with hunks of wood, iron tools, and completed toys that are absolutely charming. When it comes to Ichabod’s music and voice lessons, however, you can definitely tell that music is serious business.

Ichabod’s corner of the shop is filled with instruments and musical notes everywhere you look. From the music stand with a copy of The Fly (no, not that The Fly) and a flute to the framed parchment paper filled with lyrics and notes hanging on the walls, music is all around. It is the framed sheet music that interests us at this joyous time of year. Considering that these pieces of music are framed and hung prominently, it is clear that they are some of Ichabod’s favorite carols to train his students with during Christmas time. The three songs in question are I Saw Three Ships, The Holly and the Ivy, and Joy to the World.

While Joy to the World would have become standard between the time it was first published in the late 1700s and when Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman burst onto the literary scene in 1820, The Holly and the Ivy would have been a more contemporary song having only been distributed since the mid-1810s. I Saw Three Ships is a bit stickier to get a date pinned down, while it wasn’t commonly published until 1833, there have been copies of the music dating back to the 1600s. It appears that Ichabod had a thing for contemporary classics, as well as deeper cuts.

The next time you think that the tales of Sleepy Hollow are best served up at Halloween, remember, that you’re absolutely right. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should complete cast off the memory of Ichabod when the calendar rolls around to the holiday season, he still has a song in his heart, and on his walls, that is worth taking note of.

04 December 2018

Full of Yuletide Cheer

December is here, which means you may be shopping for gifts for the Disney-phile in your life. Sure you have the limited release MagicBand for their stocking, or maybe even a phone call scheduled from Mickey Mouse if they’ve been very good this year and you’re surprising them with a trip. What about for that individual who just can’t get enough history of all things Disney? Lucky for you, there are a couple of volumes that are sure to be a hit this year!

Jeff Kurtti is arguably the name when it comes to Disney history, and he has proven it again and again with each book he publishes. This year he had three volumes that were released: Travels With Walt Disney, From All of Us to All of You: The Disney Christmas Card, and Practically Poppins in Every Way. While I haven’t had the chance to pick up Practically Poppins yet, though it is on my list to read immediately after I catch a screening of Mary Poppins Returns, the other two have already become new classics on my bookshelf.

Travels With Walt Disney was released this spring and chronicles more than just Walt’s vacations. Each section tackles a different period of Walt Disney’s life, a different style of transportation, or a different focus in his life. The book is almost a scrapbook of Disney’s life, filled to the brim with photographs of places and people. Starting with his early life, to his time aboard a train, cruises, and even when he brought the world in his dream, Disneyland, each section includes an itinerary and is expertly navigated by Kurtti’s narrative and vignettes. From Disney’s time in Europe with the Red Cross Ambulance Corp during World War I to the saving grace of recreation with Lily, the impact of travel is not lost on a single page in the entire volume.

It is worth noting that Travels With Walt Disney, while mostly moving through Walt’s life in a linear fashion, does not run precisely in chronological order. For instance, the segment on railroads include comes in just after his formative years before jumping ahead to the 1956 feature film, The Great Locomotive Chase, and then transitioning back to his life in California in the 1930s. The jumps through Walt’s lifespan never seem out of place due to the sections having been deftly tied together. Honestly, it would be more jarring to constantly transition from a train trip, to a cruise, then to an airplane voyage, before back to another boat outing.

From All of Us to All of You: The Disney Christmas Card is the more timely volume and, like many holiday spectacles, it opens with the curtains being pulled back from the middle. In this case, the centerline of the front cover. While an intriguing way to start a book, it sets the stage that this is no ordinary history text. For those who like their Christmas cards more tangible and less printed on the page, you are covered. Scattered throughout the book are 12 envelopes affixed to the pages, each holding a reproduction of a memorable greeting card.

Moving ahead to the text itself, the forward addresses the origins of Christmas Cards before plunging the reader headlong into the history of Disney’s versions of the holiday greeting. Starting with the 1930s and moving to the present day, Kurtti spin through the history of the Disney animation and storytelling come to life in annual cards like a hand-turned zoetrope. If you’re looking for a glimpse of artwork from a specific Disney legend, chances are you can find it in here as everyone from Mary Blair and John Hench to Kevin Kidney can be found in this massive archive of Christmases past.

I have been a fan of Jeff Kurtti’s work from the moments I flipped through the pages of Since the World Began many moons ago, and he continues to impress with each new book he releases. There are always details I’ve never heard before and layers I’ve not considered, even in something as simple as an archival look at Christmas cards. If you’re looking for a book to add to your Christmas list, or trying to find the perfect gift for the bookworm in your life, I cannot recommend Travels With Walt Disney and From All of Us to All of You: The Disney Christmas Card enough.