Friday, 17 March 2017


From the Prayer of St Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

Monday, 20 February 2017


The death occurred last weekend at the age of 84 of veteran American film critic, Richard Schickel. Longtime reviewer of film for Time magazine, he authored numerous books and was an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker.

Over the course of his life, Schickel once estimated that he’d seen around 22,590 movies, the first being Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1938.

It was the name of Disney that first introduced me to the name of Schickel when, in 1968, just two years after Walt's death, he published The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art and Commerce of Walt Disney: a relentlessly harsh analysis of Disney that went very much against the grain of received opinion at the time.

In the UK the book was published under the simpler title, Walt Disney, but with an eye-grabbing dust-wrapper design...


Ethan Mordden in his book, The Hollywood Musical (1982) wrote of The Disney Version that Schickel's "resentment of Disney's wealth and power" stood out "like a soapbox nut's exhortation — horror of horrors, the man was a capitalist."

The book shocked and outraged a great many Disney fans as can be seen from Al Kilgore's brilliantly savage cartoon depicting the assassination of Mickey Mouse to accompany his highly critical review of the book in the September 1968 edition of Film Fan Monthly.

Today, after several decades of Disney hatchet-jobs, Schickel's book now seems comparatively bland, but back in 1968 it was rated as being little short of blasphemy! 

Certainly to the young Disney-devoted Sibley, The Disney Version was a clarion call to arms and for the next three years I worked on a biographical appreciation of Disney aimed at redressing what I saw as the damage done by Schickel's book. 

Entitled Disneydust (from that bibbidi-bobbidi-boo sparkle of magic seen in numerous Disney films) it was never published, although it did get as far as being listed (without the author having a contract!) in a catalogue of a publisher of somewhat dubious repute!

Later, however, some of that work would find its way into various chapters of The Disney Studio Story which I wrote in 1988 with Richard Holliss and the research and writing experience it gave me helped shape and focus my later writing career on many topics – Walt Disney among them.

So, Mr Schickel, may you rest in peace knowing that – whatever we thought about your assault on the Dream Merchant – you helped develop a young writer who was just awaiting that necessary spark of inspiration.

Saturday, 31 December 2016


Wishing you all you wish yourself for 2017

[Photo: David Weeks © 2016]

Thursday, 29 December 2016


Here's an odd-oddity from the Sibley cabinet of curiosities...

It's a pin badge celebrating 'Shore Leave', Episode #15 of the original Star Trek science-fiction television series first broadcast – fifty years ago today – on 29 December 1966.

Repeated on June 8, 1967 'Shore Leave' was scripted by the distinguished science-fiction author, Theodore Sturgeon, and directed by Robert Sparr. 

It is Stardate 3025.3 and the Federation Starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T Kirk, arrives at a planet in the Omicron Delta system. Scans reveal the planet as congenial, and since the crew is exhausted from three months of continuous operations, Kirk announces shore leave for all off-duty personnel.

Not long after beaming down, the landing parties experience strange occurrences. Chief Medical Officer Dr Leonard McCoy sees a large, anthropomorphic White Rabbit hop by in a hurry followed, a moment later, by Alice from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, who asks McCoy if he's seen a rabbit has pass by.

The story was novelized in the first volume of Star Trek stories published by Bantam Books in 1967, adapted from the original scripts by another sci-fi legend, James Blish, whom I fleetingly met when he was for a short time a member of the Lewis Carroll Society and I was its secretary...

Sunday, 25 December 2016


Sometimes, in Venice, it's had to know whether some people are really here or there –– or not...

[Photo: David Weeks]


When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

Nativity, Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, 2015
[Photo: David Weeks]

Saturday, 24 December 2016


Christmas lights in the Venetian equivalent of London's Oxford Street (our favourite restaurant, La Caravella, is on the left)...

Thursday, 15 December 2016

THE DEATH OF INNOCENCE event I am recalling happened fifty years ago today...

I am getting ready for school and, suddenly, my father is calling up the stairs: "Brian, Walt Disney has died..."

Downstairs, I heard the murmuring drone of radio voices as my father – busy brewing early-morning tea – listens, as he does every day, to the BBC’s morning news programme.

I ought, perhaps, to have dashed downstairs to listen to the reports, absorb the details, gather up the tributes. After all, Walt Disney was my hero. A strange idol for a teenage lad, maybe – but that is what he was.

I collected every book, magazine and trivial snippet that I could find about Disney and his studio. I was forever copying pictures of Disney characters in my sketchbooks – in fact my youthful ambition was to be a Disney artist, to animate those fabulous beings that appeared in his films. I longed to be a part of that mystical process that created characters out of ink and paint and then imbued them with a power to move people to laughter or tears; I was obsessed by the man and his movies.

Later that morning, on my way to school, I would buy the daily newspapers and – in a corner of the playground at morning break – pore over the obituaries; but, at the moment of first hearing the news, I had only one response: I sat on the edge of my bed and wept.

For the first time in my young life I experienced that bizarre phenomenon: a feeling of overwhelming grief at the death of someone whom I did not know. Not only had I never met Walt Disney, I had – rather surprisingly – never even written him a fan letter. Yet, I had been bereaved of someone who held a truly unique place in my affections and the loss felt achingly huge.

During the fifty years since that day, I have continued to study and, occasionally, write about the life and work of Walt Disney and, in the process, had the privilege of meeting many of those who knew, loved and (occasionally) loathed the man. Now, once again, I am working on a book about Disney and am realising that I am passing on a torch to those who will come after who will not have the familiarity of having lived when Disney was still known throughout the world as a flesh-and-blood person as opposed to just a corporate name represented by a copyrighted signature.

That knowledge, as much as anything else, is what fires my enthusiasm, because, whilst my experiences and encounters have brought me very close to feeling that I understand much about the personality and character of Walter Elias Disney, I have never been – and never will be – as close to him as I was on that morning when my father called upstairs to tell me the news that Walt Disney had died.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


Now on at Chris Beetles Gallery in London, an exhibition featuring 194 pieces of original art by one of the great modern illustrators available for sale.

JOHN BURNINGHAM: An illustrator for all ages – from 'Avocado Baby' to 'Granpa' exhibits five decades of original illustrations – all filled with a wonderfully sophisticated naivety – from much-loved children's books across five decades.

You can view all the items for sale here.

The exhibition is catalogued in an 88-page publication containing all the items exhibited accompanied by an excellent appreciation of Burningham's work by David Wootton. The catalogue can be ordered here.

Chris Beetles Gallery
8 & 10 Ryder Street
St James's
Telephone: 020 7839 7551

Gallery Opening Times:

Thursday, 24 November 2016


To greet all my American friends (and to amuse those with a taste for the curiosities of past generations) here are some intriguing – often, frankly, bizarre – Thanksgiving greetings from yesteryear...