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William Stout & Mickey at 60

William Stout & Mickey at 60

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William Stout is an amazingly nice guy which is not always true for professionals with the skill and experience that has made Stout one of the most respected and envied artists in the world. He has illustrated movie posters, record albums, concepts for television series, films and theme parks and much more.

Today, Stout may be best known for his groundbreaking artwork on dinosaurs and he is internationally recognized as a leading illustrator of prehistoric creatures. Michael Crichton acknowledged Stout's work as an inspiration for his book, "Jurassic Park." In 1993, Universal Cartoon Studios chose William Stout to design the prime time proposed animated series of "Jurassic Park". One of Stout's "hidden treasures" is that in 1984, he wrote and illustrated the children's book, "The Little Blue Brontosaurus" (recipient of the 1984 Children's Choice Award and the basis for Lucas and Spielberg's animated feature "The Land Before Time").

Stout also worked for Walt Disney Imagineering for a year and a half as a conceptualist, designer, producer and planner for Euro Disneyland, Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland and Walt Disney World. After leaving Disney Stout continued themed entertainment conceptual design work, contributing ideas and designs to a host of non-Disney (as well as Disney) projects. In 1995 William Stout became the key character designer for the Walt Disney full length computer animated feature "Dinosaur" (although little of Stout's outstanding work made it into the film). In late 1997/early 1998, Stout completed three late Cretaceous murals and supervised the full-sized dinosaur sculptures for Walt Disney's Animal Kingdom.

He is also known for his outstanding, bargain priced sketchbooks which he sells at convention appearances and which have inspired a host of other artists to create convention sketchbooks. Stout's sketchbooks are available for sale from www.budplant.com and from Stout's own website which features two sketchbooks not available from Bud Plant: the infamous "Mickey at 60, " Volumes I & II.

What is "Mickey at 60"? Stout told interviewer Steve Ringgenberg in 1996 that:

"The first book of 'Mickey at 60' was done the year of Mickey Mouse's 60th birthday, while I was working at Walt Disney Imagineering. It started as office humor. I kept hearing all this Mickey's 60th birthday talk around the offices, and I thought, 'Well, if Mickey were really 60, what would he look like?' And I thought, 'He hasn't done a picture in years. He's probably let himself go. He's living in a little bungalow in Hollywood. Minnie's probably divorced him and is living off her alimony in Miami.'

So, I do this little sort of gross and disgusting version of what Mickey might look like now. And it got a great reaction at work, and so I started to draw these strips and I developed this strange way of working. I would draw a whole page full of Mickey at 60 comic strips and then pass it to my friend Jim Steinmeyer and I would leave the word balloons blank and he would fill in the word balloons. So I never knew what he was going to write, and he never knew what I was going to draw. So, it kept the strip really fresh, and before I knew it, we had enough for a whole book, so I published a book and it sold out in about two or three hours at the San Diego ComicCon... You know, it really is not so much a satire of Mickey Mouse, as it's really, it's a satire of almost every Hollywood movie star I've ever met who's sort of living in his past and...."

Today, Jim Steinmeyer is best known as one of those "invisible men" who designs stage illusions for many of the top magicians like Siegfried and Roy, David Copperfield, Doug Henning, Lance Burton, the Pendragons and even Orson Welles and Harry Blackstone. He has written several books about magic and is the foremost authority on 18th and 19th century stage magic. He is currently developing the magical effects for the upcoming Disney / Cameron Mackintosh stage production of "Mary Poppins" scheduled to open in London later this year.

However in 1987, he worked as a Concept Designer and Consultant/Concept Design for Walt Disney Imagineering. In this capacity he was responsible for overall concepts for rides and attractions, as well as show outlines and scripts. Some of his work can be seen in the Toontown attraction for Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and some of the redesigned Epcot presentations in Orlando, Florida. In 1994 The Land Pavilion, at Epcot, opened with new shows written and produced by Jim. One attraction he worked on which recently closed to make way for a new Epcot attraction was "Food Rocks."

John Arcudi has done a massive, magnificent interview with William Stout for "The Comics Journal" Special Edition Vol. 3 (2003) which is still available for sale at their website including almost three pages of information about the "Mickey at 60" project.

"I was always fascinated by (Robert) Crumb's comics and sketchbook stuff....so I made a promise to myself that I would draw these strips but I wouldn't pencil them. I would just go right to ink. I wouldn't even use rulers for the panel borders. That way it didn't seem like work. It was really liberating to be that free with my line," stated Stout in the interview.

When Stout realized he and Steinmeyer had quite a collection of these "anti-comics", on a whim he xeroxed off 300 signed copies with cardstock covers and sold them for fifteen dollars a piece at the San Diego Comic Con and they sold out in the first two hours. They donated all of the money to the Crippled Children's Society since it didn't seem right to make money from the project because they were already working for Disney. (The few copies of that first issue that Stout put aside he now sells for two hundred and fifty dollars apiece on his website and still donates all the proceeds to charity.)

That first issue was barely twenty-four pages of artwork including covers. It begins with a three page comic book sequence to set up the concept and then each page after that has five strips covering everything from Mickey's agent to his vacation in Las Vegas to his appearance on Johnny Carson. There is even the uncensored version of the "Evolution of a Mouse" poster that in an edited form has appeared elsewhere.

After Stout left Disney, he and Steinmeyer kept in touch and in 1996, they produced a second volume of "Mickey at 60." This second volume is almost twice the size of the first volume with Mickey Mouse running for President. In the introduction, Stout wrote that "The original 'Mickey at 60' book was produced when Stout and Steinmeyer were working for that other mouse, as full-time consultants to Walt Disney Imagineering. There Michael Eisner even requested a copy of 'Mickey at 60' and sent a nice note complimenting the effort. It seems he could appreciate the difference between his three fingered corporate companion and the dyspeptic Hollywood rat who stars in our cartoon strips. We like to think that they're both lovable in their own ways."

The proceeds from this second volume benefits the Clear View School, a school for mentally disturbed children. Harvey Kurtzman began the fundraising program for this school, and his wife Adele now heads that program. This edition was limited to 950 copies and 50 artist's proof copies. Stout stills has copies of this edition that he sells on his website for fifteen dollars!

A five page Mickey's scrapbook featuring Mickey commenting on his photo scrapbook where he is posing with various real and cartoon celebrities again prefaces pages with five strips on each page. Page after page of Mickey doing his taxes, the tax audit, visiting Paris, his trip to the unemployment office, his book tour, his hilarious run for president, and his jury duty.

"At one point," laughed Stout, "Disney takes away his ears. They won't let him wear the ears in public anymore."

Fans of William Stout, Harvey Kurtzman type humor of American icons, or Mickey Mouse and Disney will definitely want to add this limited edition satirical collection to their personal libraries. And while visiting, Stout's website, check out all those other terrific sketchbooks, including one that features his concept art for Disney's "Dinosaur."

 

Would you like to learn even more about William Stout? Perhaps even view some of his amazing paintings and illustrations? Then be sure to check out his most amazing website.

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