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Carl Fallberg and the Lost Disney Book

Carl Fallberg and the Lost Disney Book

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Over the years, one of the greatest frustrations I have had as a Disney fan and animation fan is trying to track down Disney and animation books that were announced and often listed as being published and yet further research eventually revealed that they never existed.

In my files is an excerpt from an interview with animation storyman Bill Danch who claimed that he wrote a book on animation with Dave Fleischer and that Fleischer took full credit for it. It is not listed in Leslie Carbarga's terrific book on the Fleischer studio and G. Michael Dobbs (who almost twenty years ago was supposedly writing a definitive book about the fabulous Fleischers and was listed as "the official biographer") never mentioned it either.

When Disney animator Bill Tytla passed away, his widow announced she would be producing a book entitled THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WILLY T. (I assume some of that information eventually was used in John Canemaker's outstanding program book for the 1994 Katonah Museum of Art exhibition of Tytla's work since he lists Adrienne Tytla's DISNEY GIANT, "an unpublished, undated manuscript" as one of his references.)

How many of us waited patiently for John Culhane's book on animation that was announced on the flyleaf of his 1981 book SPECIAL EFFECTS IN THE MOVIES? Culhane was not just the inspiration for Mr. Snoops in THE RESCUERS and Flying John in FANTASIA 2000 but also a respected author on animation including the book on FANTASIA. I got a chance to talk with John about the book a few years ago and he assured me he had boxes and boxes and boxes of interviews and notes for that animation book but he kept getting sidelined on other projects.

And how many of you have a copy of the Spring 1991 catalog from Publishers Group West which was distributed that year at the American Booksellers Association and announced THE UNOFFICIAL GUIDE TO THE FEATURE FILMS OF DISNEY by Jim Korkis and John Cawley? There was even an ISBN number for this 200 page trade paperback which would be "a complete guide to all of the animated features from the Walt Disney Company. Covers the entire behind-the-scenes story for each film, including exclusive interviews and rare illustrations." The publisher even had a mock-up cover for the book (that he never approved through either John or I) that would have been guaranteed to get us all sued by the Disney Company. However, the publisher was, to put it politely, an outright crook and when John and I finally wised up to that fact, we cancelled that project although I notice it still gets listed as "published but out-of-print." I think I still have the notes and sample chapters somewhere in a box in my storage unit.

Anyway, at a much earlier American Bookseller Association gathering, a small publishing house, Heimburger House Publishing, was announcing their upcoming list of titles including:

The Fascinating Story of Walt Disney's Golden Age of Animation at the famed Hyperion Studios in Hollywood
by Carl Fallberg

The Disney Studio was located at 2719 Hyperion Ave. in Hollywood from 1926 to 1940. The Hyperion Studio assumed a legendary aura synonymous with the Golden Age of Animation-a period when the animated cartoon developed into a true art form in a remarkably short time.

In DISNEY'S MEN, WOMEN AND MOUSE, Carl Fallberg recalls working at the Disney Studios in the 1930s as an assistant director and storyman on Disney's landmark animated features such as SNOW WHITE, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, FANTASIA and BAMBI.

Included in this illustrated history are personal interviews with men and women who worked for Walt, along with a look at Walt's decision-making capabilities, his personality, creative ability, sincere dedication to his dream, his affection for his employees and a glimpse at what it was like to work for Disney.

Tentative book length of 200 pages, 8½ x 11.

Who is Carl Fallberg? Thousands upon tens of thousands of people worked for the Disney Company for almost a century and very few of their names (especially those who worked in the early years of the Disney Company) are known by the general public.

Carl Robert Fallberg was born in 1915 and joined the Disney Studio in 1935. He was listed as an assistant sequence director (assisting Perce Pearce) on SNOW WHITE and is credited as a storyman on BAMBI and the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of FANTASIA. He left the Disney Studio during World War II and joined the Marines. After the war, he apparently found some work at various animation studios before settling in to the life of a freelance writer turning out tons of work for DELL/WESTERN/GOLD KEY comics.

His work for those comics included almost every character in the Walter Lantz, Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng and more stable of animated characters. More importantly, he was a very important contributor to the Disney line of comic books.

Remember those classic MICKEY MOUSE SERIALS in the back of WALT DISNEY COMICS AND STORIES illustrated by the great Paul Murry? A number of different artists were tested before Murry's first serial was published in WDCS 152, in May 1953. This tale, "The Last Resort" is a milestone in the history of Mickey Mouse not only because it was Murry's first serial comic but because it was also written by Carl Fallberg. Up until 1962, it was Murry and Fallberg who produced almost all of those serials in WDCS for close to a decade. Since, by his own admission, during his career Murry never wrote a story of his own, it was Fallberg's writing that helped create that universe of mystery and adventure for Mickey Mouse and Goofy that enchanted millions of readers in those back pages of the popular comic book. "The Last Resort" was a terrific story where Mickey and Goofy are vacationing at the Whispering Pines Hotel, but soon discover that somebody is trying to scare them away and the story set the pattern for even more wonderful stories.

Fallberg worked for DELL/WESTERN/GOLD KEY from 1952 until 1977 where he wrote Disney stories about The Li'l Bad Wolf, Jiminy Cricket, Ludwig Von Drake, Scrooge McDuck, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and more familiar character names that would fill this page to overflowing. (I believe the last comic book work that was written by Fallberg was "Goofy the Kid" which appeared in DISNEY COMICS in 1990.)

In the Seventies, Fallberg wandered back into animation working at Warner Brothers on THE SPEEDY AND DAFFY SHOW and at Hanna-Barbera where he worked on shows like THE THREE ROBONIC STOOGES, LAFF-A-LYMPICS, and THE ALL NEW POPEYE HOUR among others.

Fallberg also worked on "special" projects like writing ADVENTURE IN DISNEYLAND (the Richfield Oil Giveaway from 1955 that was offered at Disneyland) and the 1976 MICKEY AND GOOFY EXPLORE ENERGY for Exxon (which he later redesigned to promote Epcot's UNIVERSE OF ENERGY attraction). Did you have a copy of the Sears WINNIE THE POOH COLORING BOOK from 1975? Fallberg wrote and designed that book along with issues of many Disney Magazines like WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY 1969-1970. Do you have the Whitman Big Little Books from the mid-Sixties like DONALD DUCK AND THE LUCK OF THE DUCKS or DONALD DUCK AND THE FABULOUS DIAMOND FOUNTAIN? Carl wrote those as well as other books that featured licensed characters from the major animation studios.

In addition, he found time to write for syndicated comic strips like BUGS BUNNY and ROY ROGERS in the Fifties and Sixties and later DISNEY'S TREASURY OF CLASSIC TALES (Sunday only from 1976-1980 and 1982-1987) as well as some of the Disney's Christmas oriented strips that appeared in newspapers each year from around 1976-1984.

Quite an impressive resume! However, why was Heimburger House publishing his book of memories at the Disney studio since that publishing house did (and still does) print books for railroad fans?

Well, for nearly six years after he got out of the Marines, Fallberg wrote and illustrated a monthly one panel strip for RAILROAD MAGAZINE entitled FIDDLETOWN AND COPPEROPOLIS. "To anyone familiar with the lore of Colorado's 3-foot lines, the feeling persists that within the pages of FIDDLETOWN AND COPPEROPOLIS lies a disguised pictorial history of those railroads in humorous vein. Narrow gauge railroading represented the zenith of informality in a now-vanished era, a mood the artist has been able to recapture," stated R.H. Kindig, the President of the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club when the book was first published by Hungerford Press of Reseda, California in 1960.

Fiddletown and Copperopolis were chosen as likely small towns for the rickety 19th century narrow gauge railroad to service and the cartoons show the same detail and love that Ward Kimball used to devote to his classic old time car cartoons ("Asinine Alley" which Fantagraphics reprinted some wonderful examples of in the first three issues of its 1990 publication GRAPHIC STORY. The title "Asinine Alley" was Kimball's take-off on "Gasoline Alley" and the cartoons showed the trials and tribulations of early motorists...including one having his car hijacked by a creature from outer space!)

Well, Heimburger House reprinted Carl Fallberg's classic book of turn of the century railroading cartoons and it is still available today and can be ordered from www.amazon.com for fifteen dollars! "This delightful collection of railroad cartoons by Fallberg of Walt Disney fame is a 144-page, softbound, 9 5/8 x 6 1/4" book illustrating the trails and tribulations of a narrow gauge "uncommon" carrier. To anyone familiar with the lore of America's three-foot railroad lines, the feeling persists that within these pages lies a disguised pictorial history of prototype narrow gauge railroads in a very humorous vein. The key word in Fallberg's illustrations is exaggeration," is the recent description of the book from the publisher.

As much fun as the railroad book is, I was more excited to see a book of memories about Disney's Hyperion Studio. Every ABA, I asked Heimburger House about the book which still listed it as "coming soon" and was assured by the representatives at their table that it was close to completion. I used to write a column for the ASIFA-Hollywood Newsletter, INBETWEENER, and in one of my columns in 1995 I was bemoaning the fact that I was going crazy waiting for this book to be published because I was very excited to hear stories of the early days of the Disney Studio.

I was saddened when the editor of INBETWEENER forwarded me a note sent to the newsletter in regards to that column by Fallberg's daughter, Carla: "Thank you for your interest in my father, Carl Fallberg's involvement in the art of animation. He was in the Story Department at Disney's, working on 'Sorcerer's Apprentice' in FANTASIA and on BAMBI. He also worked as an assistant director on SNOW WHITE. He left the studio when World War II broke out and joined a training film unit in the USMC. After the war, he worked in various animation studios and eventually ended up working freelance for Disney writing comic books. He is now 79 years old and living in a senior board-and-care, unable to take care of his daily duties because he suffers from brain damage due to early alcohol abuse. I am just glad that he still has enough of his mind together to sign his name. He had to stop work on his book about the old Disney days because of his disability. Sadly, the right side of his brain, the creative side was affected the most. Keep enjoying the art of animation-old and new-and I will let him read your appreciation."

Apparently, Carl did not suffer much longer. He passed away May 9, 1996 taking with him many great untold stories. A few years later I heard that Carla Fallberg was looking for a writer with an understanding of Disney history to help put together her father's notes and rough draft chapters into a book that would be a final tribute to her father but that project apparently never happened.

When you go to Amazon.com to order a copy of FIDDLETOWN AND COPPEROPOLIS, be very careful because under Carl Fallberg, they also list DISNEY'S MEN, WOMEN AND MOUSE as having been published but is currently "out of print." But for a long while, they also did the same for THE UNOFFICIAL GUIDE TO THE FEATURE FILMS OF DISNEY by Jim Korkis and John Cawley and I only discovered that fact when I relocated to Florida and several people kept writing to me asking if they could buy a copy. Take it from me, after decades of trying to track down obscure Disney and animation books, these two were never published. However, there are some very interesting books on those topics that were published and are equally obscure. I'll try to alert you to some of those in another column.

Until then, I strongly recommend that you visit The Ultimate Disney Books Network handled by Didlier Ghez (the author of an outstanding book on Disneyland Paris which is equally highly recommended). I don't always agree with Didlier's descriptions of Disney books but I applaud and am astonished at his extensive listings of Disney books published and out of print. However, you won't find the Fallberg or Korkis and Cawley book there either!

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  • Carl Robert Fallberg was my great Uncle,my Grandfathers brother. I enjoyed the information you gave about him.I didn't know him well because my Father served in the Air Force ..there we moved a great deal.My Fathers name was also Carl..I thank you for sharing ,I haven't found that much about him before..

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