Friday, June 17, 2011

Walt Disney's Surprise Package is a SURPRISE indeed!

While going through a pile of books at a garage sale recently, I ran across a beauty of an oversized book called Walt Disney's Surprise Package.  It wasn't in the best condition, but I noticed some things in it that really "surprised" me.

Details for the edition I am talking about: Walt Disney's Surprise Package, First Printing, Simon and Schuster, 1944 (that's right, 1944!).  Illustrated by Walt Disney Studio.  Stories adapted by H. Marion Palmer (I believe that is Helen Marion Palmer) from originals by Hans Christian Anderson, Lewis Carroll, Kenneth Grahame, Sir James M. Barrie, Joel Chandler Harris (Uncle Remus), "The Walt Disney Studio," English Folk Tales, and Serge Prokofieff. 94 pages!  My edition doesn't have a dust jacket, but I've read that it did have one originally.

The first thing I noticed was the cover...

Walt Disney's Surprise Package (front cover)

Who are those "Disney" characters? Well, let's find out, follow me.  Let's open the front cover... Ooooh, nice and fun endpapers!

Walt Disney's Surprise Package (endpapers)



Now, as I flipped through this book, I noticed familiar stories, but the pictures weren't quite right.  It slowly dawned on me that this book came out BEFORE most of the film adaptations of these stories came out!  This book is filled with the original story ideas and original drawings that would finally become some of Disney's best loved films.  In many ways, it is like a concept art and story book. 

Let's continue our journey to the first story.

The first story in the book is "Through the Picture Frame" (adapted from the Hans Christian Anderson story).  This was also released as a separate book in 1944 by Simon and Schuster adapted by Robert Edmunds, but with the same illustrations as a part of "Walt Disney's Little Library" set of books.  Here is the cover of that edition:

This story deserves its own book (and as you can see, they did just that, but I don't own that version so I can't compare)!  It is almost 20 pages of the Surprise Package book. I am very surprised that Disney never animated this story.  But, if the other stories in this book show us anything, they probably started. 

Now, I am going to give you a full page view of how this book (Walt Disney's Surprise Package) is designed.  If you've had any Golden Book single volume collections, you've probably seen similar layouts (except this book is much larger than most of those, height-wise).  The pictures and text are interspersed.  They co-mingle on the page.  Some pictures are splashed across the width of the book, but most are smaller.  Some are color, and some are black & white. Here's an example:

layout example


Our next selection is "Brer Rabbit en His Satchel Uv Gold."  Now, Song of the South would come out two years after this book.  So, Disney was working on it for sure.  This particular story has two characters that didn't make it into Song of the South: Brer Lion and Brer Wolf.  The illustrations aren't too great, but the story has all the charm of most of the Uncle Remus tales.

Brer Rabbit, Brer Wolf, and Brer Fox


After that is "The Emperor's New Clothes."  From what I've read on the Internet, this was planned as an animated short, but Disney never completed it.  So this story is a great addition to the book, and 10 illustrations are included that all have a great Disney flare to them.


The closest thing I've seen from Disney to this story and illustration style was the Disneyland Record and Book (remember those...see the picture, hear the story, read the book?) called Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes (click the link to see a picture of the cover).  But that book didn't capture the delightful snootiness of the little Emperor in this version. 


Next, "The Little Fir Tree." This is another example of a Disney short that was never made. One source, Wikipedia, lists it as a part of a film that was being worked on called Tales of Hans Christian Andersen which was scheduled to include "The Emperor’s New Clothes" (see above), "The Emperor’s Nightingale," "Through the Picture Frame" (see above), "The Little Fir Tree" (what I am talking about right now), "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," and the "Little Mermaid" (which probably would have been very different then our modern Disney version).  This film was never finished as far as I know.

from "The Little Fir Tree"

You can see the sketch quality in the above picture.  Very much like a storyboard picture.  Plus the bunnies are kind of Thumper-esque (Disney's Bambi film came out two years prior, 1942). CUTE!


NOW.  The next piece is called "Lady."  This story is what would eventually become Lady and the Tramp in 1955 but it is not exactly the same.  Firstly, there is NO Tramp!  *GASP*  The evil Siamese Cats are there though, and they are the villains that would eventually become the rat in the final filmed version. The book lists the original author as "Walt Disney Studio," but future books based on the film usually cite Ward Greene as the original author of the story.  The 6 pictures in this book a very different then the film that would come out over 10 years later.  The picture I am including show how the format really works for this particular set of illustrations.



If you love Lady and the Tramp,  I've heard Disney's Lady and the Tramp: The Sketchbook Series has some excellent stuff in it.  I don't know if the drawings from this book are in there though. Little Golden Books would eventually release a book called Walt Disney's Lady, in 1954, one year before the film.  But it is just adapted by Samuel Armstrong from what the film version was going to be at that point and it is not the same as this original story. The Tramp is in that version, and it also has a different ending which is also rat free (and the whole book is CAT free for that matter, weird!).  It ends with a FIRE!

Yes, I am a Lady and the Tramp fan.  So the new-to-me version of "Lady" in Walt Disney's Surprise Package makes this an awesome book indeed.

"Chicken Little" is next.  The short film of this story came out in 1943 (the year BEFORE this book, and it is available on DVD along with some other great shorts). So, the pictures look exactly like that film including the yo-yo wielding titular character.

Next, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."  This adaption is amazing.  It is filled with awesome Disney illustrations that look nothing like the final 1951 film (7 years after this book).  I don't know if the 30 pictures included in this book have ever made it into another book. If you are an Alice fan, YOU MUST HAVE THIS BOOK!  Look at this example:

Nice, right? The only thing that is the same is Alice's dress (colors and pattern).  The story is almost 20 pages long too. The length tells me that there may be a separate edition of this out there somewhere (like the Walt Disney's Little Library version of Through the Picture Frame).  I haven't seen it, but I am sure it is out there.


Next comes, "The Wind in the Willows" (or the second part of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, as some of us grew up knowing it, ha ha). The illustrations in this story are almost exactly like the final film version (1949, 5 years later!)! Disney had their character design totally down in 1944.  The 11 pictures are crisp and fun. 

Mr. Toad on a wild ride


Next we have, "Peter Pan and the Pirates."  This story was in the sketch stage at Disney studios when this book came out. The film would eventually come out in 1953 (titled Peter Pan, of course).  The 13 illustrations have the overall feel that would eventually become the characters in the final film.
Lost Boys in "Peter Pan and the Pirates"

There is a picture that has Tinkerbell in it, but she is so tiny she just looks like a glowing dragonfly, but if you look at the front cover (top of the page)... Do you see that black haired, angry looking pixie?  There aren't any other pixies in this book!  It could be the original concept of Tink!

Disney was pretty close to their final character concepts at this stage.  Here is Captain Hook and Wendy:


"Peter and the Wolf" comes next. Does that get the music started in your head?  I know it does for me.   The illustrations in this story aren't very close to the final film.  This is surprising since Make Mine Music (which features this short film and some others) would only come out two years later in 1946.  Maybe the stylized illustrations were a conscious choice by the Disney studio for this book, who knows?


I still like the illustrations, they are just... different.


Next comes "The Square World"  based on the story written by "The Walt Disney Studio."  The illustrations for this story are so unlike most Disney productions it is shocking, and they were working on making an animated film of it too.  Sadly, the film was never finished. There are six illustrations in this book.

Obviously, there are some World War II themes going on here! The basic plot is about a being named "The Mighty-Highty-Tighty" who wants everyone in the land to look like him... square. This very short story is stupendous and it is a great allegory for how wrong prejudice and racism are.  Here is one more picture (of racial harmony).
Are those Barbapapa? Nope, they're "The Square World" kids.


Last, but not least, comes "Happy Valley."  This one features Mickey, Donald, and Goofy!

I don't usually keep my cheese in the fruit bowl, but it looks nice.

If that picture is ringing a bell, it might be because this story would eventually be part of the 1947 film Fun and Fancy Free in a section called "Mickey and the Beanstalk."  BUT, this story is different. Mickey trades his cow to the Queen (Minnie Mouse) who gives him the magic beans that will do different things depending on how the moon is.  The beans are planted and the beanstalk carries the house high into the clouds.  Now, let's cut to the end of the story....during the shape shifting of the Giant into a big bunny rabbit.  After he does the rabbit, he makes himself into a super giant, but then while making himself smaller again, he gets too small (and younger).  He becomes so young he forgets the magic words to change himself into anything he wants.  Mickey and friends carry the giant back to their house via piggyback where they fall asleep.  By morning, the beanstalk has shrunk (because the moon was different).  Then they go see the queen and she pardons the giant and she gives him a job as her footman.  Oh, and they use what some consider an un-politically correct term by calling him the oxymoron "midget giant."

Mickey, Minnie, and the not-so-giant giant

And that, readers, is the end of this huge children's story collection.  Goodies galore!  I could have done a blog on each story!

If you look hard enough, you can find this book for a decent price... of course, if you want a pristine first edition, you'll most likely be paying much more.

Here are some links where you can find it on Amazon.com (I list what the original Amazon entry says that makes them different... please read the individual seller's write up for more detail):


Walt Disney's Surprise Package (listing says 1944, 1st edition)

Walt Disney's Surprise Package (listing says 1944, edition unknown)

Walt Disney's Surprise Package (listing says 1945, edition unknown)

Walt Disney's Surprise Package (listing says 1945, 3rd edition)

Walt Disney's Surprise Package (listing says 1946, 4th edition)

Walt Disney's Surprise Package (listing says 1948, edition unknown... it also says 76 pages which is much less then the edition I reviewed, a story or two may be missing... ALSO, one of the used copies under this link is listed as a 1944 first edition with a dust jacket)

Walt Disney's Surprise Package (listing says 1948, edition unknown)


Thank you for your time. Goodnight, sleep tight, and don't let the Zipperump-a-zoos bite!

Cheshire Cat in Walt Disney's Surprise Package

4 comments:

Oonae said...

Thanks! I had this book as a child. This was a nice reminder.

Leslie Wolfe said...

Wonderful description, and your research is enlightening! I've had a copy of this book since childhood that has probably been in my family since my older sister's childhood, who was born in 1942. Mine says Copyright 1944 and 1948. The stories included are Through the Picture Frame from Hans Christian Anderson (17 pages!), Brer Rabbit en His Satchel uv Gold, The Emperor's New Clothes, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Peter and the Wolf, The Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan and the Pirates, Lady, and Happy Valley. There are no square people in this edition. I've always loved this book and I'm 63 years old.

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