Mr. Van Dyke and the Penguins

There’s a special event at Disneyland tomorrow evening. Friends and fans of Dick Van Dyke will gather at the Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland to celebrate a wonderful guy who has brought so much joy and laughter to all of us. I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Van Dyke some years ago on a little musical motion picture called, “Mary Poppins.” It’s rare that a movie can bring so much joy to so many people. And, it appears that audiences continue to enjoy this very special motion picture even today. Actually, those of us who worked on the movie back in the sixties can honestly say we had a ball working on this delightful movie as well.

The fun began early one Monday morning at Stage A on the Walt Disney Studio lot. As you know, the first thing that happens on a musical motion picture is the recording of the songs. Keep in mind that the actors will be performing to a “playback” once the filming begins. That means the tracks are the first order of business. Magic was in the air that Monday back in the early sixties. Although, the old maestro, Walt Disney was not in attendance, pretty much everyone else gathered on Stage A for the initial session. Of course, our wonderful composers, Robert and Richard Sherman were there along with musical director, Irwin Kostal. A full studio orchestra filled the stage, and a jovial Dick Van Dyke stepped through the heavy padded stage door into the recording booth. The large door slammed behind him, providing Mr. Van Dyke the opportunity to show his special brand of physical humor as he reacted to the door slam. As you can imagine, just being in this location was something I’ll never forget. This project was just beginning, but everyone of us knew we were going to be part of something very special.

However, let’s get back to the event this Thursday evening at Disneyland. I had planned to bring along artwork for auction, and my wife, Adrienne reminded me I had not done any penquins from the motion picture “Mary Poppins.” I reminded her that I hadn’t worked on the marvelous sequence where Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews interact with animated penguins. If you remember the scene, you’ll see Mr. Van Dyke performing a cute little dance number with his quartet of waiters. I had worked on the animated scenes with the farm animals and the singing and dancing “Pearlies.” Later, we wrapped things up with an animated fox hunt. It was all great fun, but I never worked on the famous sequence beautifully animated by master animator, Frank Thomas. By the way, that dance sequence was so complicated and involved that we could not shoot our normal pencil tests because the multiple levels of animation overwhelmed our animation cameras. The solution was found by transferring the drawings by Mr. Thomas to sheets of acetate. These animation cels were then photographed under the animation cameras to check out animation and registration with Mr. Van Dyke. It was all very complicated, but it did the job. And, how do I know this, you ask? I actually took those Xerox Frank Thomas drawings home with me once the animation tests were completed. Of course, I have no idea where they are today. Perhaps they’ll turn up in my garage one day.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Take a look at the art work in the photograph down below. Should you plan to attend the stellar Dick Van Dyke event tomorrow evening, one of these can be yours. Hey, it’s all for a good cause. Enjoy.

Okay, I didn't work on the famous penguin dance sequence in Mary Poppins but my wife wanted me to draw a penguin anyway. So, for better or worse, here it is.

Okay, I didn't work on the famous penguin dance sequence in Mary Poppins but my wife wanted me to draw a penguin anyway. So, for better or worse, here it is.