Let’s step back in time just a little bit. Some years ago, the artists and writers of Disney’s Publishing Group had a distinguished visitor. It was none other than the great Carl Barks. If you’re a Disney geek you’ll know that Mr. Barks was often referred to as, the good duck artist. The amazing writer-artist entertained generations of kids with the Donald Duck stories that appeared in Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. There are few artists that have influenced me more than Carl Barks.
Surprisingly enough, the talents of Carl Barks managed to reach the upper levels of The Walt Disney Company and this particular year, Mr. Barks was going to be honored as a Disney Legend. Back then, the Disney Legend ceremony was a rather low key affair. It took place on the Disney studio lot with only a handful of guests and studio employees attending. Once we knew Carl Barks was going to become a Disney Legend, this was one event we definitely had to attend.
The afternoon before the ceremony, members of our publishing team persuaded Mr. Barks to stop by our offices then located in a Burbank high rise. At the time, we were engaged in producing a series of Disney comic books. If I recall correctly, there were eight titles being produced each month. We were eager to show our work to a man we all truly admired. After a tour of our facility, Carl Barks agreed to sign a few autographs for members of our staff. We grabbed an available conference room and Carl Barks graciously spent the afternoon signing autographs, sketches and chatting with the artists, writers and editors of Disney Comics. That’s Bill Riling in the photograph with Mr. Barks. And, of course, you’ll recognized the talented Willie Ito in the background. You might also recognize the guy on the right. That’s artist, Phil Ortiz.
The next afternoon, we gathered on the Walt Disney Studio lot to see Carl Barks receive his Disney Legend Award. While most aging guests had to be helped to the stage, Carl Barks, well into his nineties needed no such assistance. When his named was finally announced, the incredible Mr. Barks hopped out of his chair and bounded onstage. As I said, he was a man well into his nineties, but that day you’d never know it.
Finally, that little sketch of Uncle Scrooge was sketched on a table napkin while having dinner at a local Burbank restaurant. I didn’t want to impose, but I couldn’t resist asking Carl for a quick sketch and an autograph. I seldom play the role of fanboy, but on this particular occasion I’m afraid I simply couldn’t help myself.