Indy 2

Nicola Sturgeon enters a fantasy world

nicola sturgeon 2 by TIMBritain’s first referendum was held on June 6th 1975 to approve or reject the EEC agreement reached 2 years’ earlier by Edward Heath. Clement Attlee said that referendums were “a device for despots and dictators.” In the 1970s, Mrs Thatcher thought Lord Attlee was probably right. Louis Napoleon (Emperor Napoleon III) used 2 referendums just over 12 months to overturn the fragile French Republic in 1851 and confirm his December coup d’état as legal and constitutional. Hitler held 4 referendums in 1933 (to leave the League of Nations),  1934, 1936 and 1938 (they were then banned for 60 years), so did Mussolini in 1934 (ostensibly an election, it was seen as “the second referendum of Fascism”) as did Pinochet in 1980 and Ferdinand Marcos (who used 3) and JR Jayawardene in Sri Lanka who used a referendum to prolong parliament by 6 years. Colonel George Papadopoulos and the Greek Generals seized power using a referendum in 1973 to legitimise their rule. Putting too much trust in Referendums, in other words, is to cosy up with some very disturbing bedfellows. We have just had two referendums in two years. Surely that is enough for now.

Today, when we might have expected the news to be dominated by the final stages of the Brexit bill going back through the Commons, the First Minister of Scotland said she planned to trigger Indy 2.

While I think there is a case to be made for a version of Brexit that recognises the 62% vote for remain in Scotland, and while I think a compromise approach may well give the UK overall some access to the EU, however we pursue Brexit, I also think that now is not the time to be discussing these details. More than that, Nicola Sturgeon demonstrates today that she is prepared to pick and choose which referendums she accepts and which she rejects. Either we accept in principle what is returned in a referendum or we do not hold a referendum at all. I am not a fan of the referendum as a concept-I think it is a very clumsy tool, but we cannot keep rerunning referendums until we get the result we want. Isn’t that what is done in Europe? Isn’t that why we have rejected Europe?

In 2016, Greece voted in a referendum by 61% to 39% to reject the Austerity measures. No one paid any attention. In 2008, Ireland voted against the Lisbon treaty by 53% but it was ratified nonetheless after Ireland held a second referendum (as it also did in 2001 when it rejected the Nice treaty and had to try again). The Lisbon treaty was a replacement for the TCE which was roundly rejected by referendums in France and the netherlands in 2005. Significantly, Lisbon was not the subject of a second French referendum.

As for the actual substance of Indy 2, this is very confused. The first Minister might have a case that the Brexit decision represents a “significant and material” change and chimes in with the SNP manifesto, but the practice of holding another referendum and getting the result she wants is by no means certain. More than that, even if she gained a “Yes” for independence, which is far from certain, there is no guarantee that Scotland would even be allowed to stay in or moreover re-enter the European family as a separatist state. The Spanish, for instance, mindful of their own Catalonian issues, might well be reluctant to reward such displays of independence.

Nicola Sturgeon and Mary Poppins

nicola sturgeon

Here she is sailing into a barnyard inhabited by pig-headed animals and sheep

I think the video below is a copy of the Milt Kahl animation but there is still charm to it and it is interesting to see.

The combination of Nicola and the barnyard scene from Mary Poppins is impossible to ignore.

The original scene in the film was sketched by Don Da Gradi and animated mostly by John Lounsbery and Eric Larson. The pigs in the farmyard are really large sausages with legs. They are absurdly simple and deeply charming.

The design may be simple but the animation is probably the best ever done in the Disney studios, I think. It is fluid, even on 12s and the scenes which suggest beauty with the sun coming through the trees and the butterflies and deer are astonishing. Without this scene, frankly, and the technical advances in process photography/ what we now call “greenscreen”, there would be no “star wars”.

Here is a link to drawings from the fox hunt scene (mostly Milt Kahl):

http://livlily.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/mary-poppins-1964.html

here is a much older page spread from my moleskin. Not the farmyard scene, I know but you can see where I drew inspiration for Nicola’s pose above. Incidentally, it was Julie Andrews who insisted on the turned out feet. Apparently, this was the position in the book illustrations.

julie andrews

Forging a relationship with Scotland

The most brilliant politicians are not those who say what we like to hear, or even what we want to hear. They are the ones who convince us to like what they say, even when we might have been disinclined to do so. I am not in favour of Scottish independence but Nicola Sturgeon is nevertheless one of the most spectacular and dynamic politicians we have ever seen and she is likely to press for a Scottish solution: we cannot leave things as they are. She pretty well embodies a Nation today and floats into 10 Downing street tomorrow morning like some 21st Century incarnation of Mary Poppins-  she carries with her a giant carpet bag of unknown knick-knacks, the threat of referendum, a smile that packs a pretty mean punch, and slogans that say “don’t mess with me”.

For the record, here is my drawing of her.

Mary_Poppins1

I believe that Nicola Sturgeon is someone Mr Cameron must take seriously. I am also convinced that Scotland can teach those of us in England quite alot. The policies of racial and Religious integration, the campaign to promote the cause of refugees are impressive and the approach to education, particularly with respect to the Tier 1 visa campaign and university fees, is something we should notice with respect. I am less convinced by the “Curriculum for excellence” but more on that another time. For now, welcome to Downing street, First Minister! (or rather, the other way round)

Just so you can compare the two, here are some pages from my sketchbook of caricatures of the original Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews-

julie 2 julie andrews

Did Disney have a dark side?

julie andrews

The Dark Prince:

There was a dark side to Disney. There! I have said it. It is hard to imagine when the charm of the man exudes from “Saving Mr Banks” and when every outing of a Disney cartoon reaffirms his near-Divinity, lying just south of Father Christmas and in the company of St Francis of Assisi, the Doctor Doolittle of Paradise. To add to the sense of triumphant hagiography, Disney acquired his own Mother Goddess in the form of Julie Andrews, descending from a cloud to right the wrongs in London and returning there when things, to the echoing strains of that Sherman Brothers’ hymn “Let’s go fly a kite”, are just about right. To cement the deal of course, her name was Mary.

Later on, Mary affirmed her Catholicism, attended a convent and looked after a large family of Austrian refugees. Disney, meanwhile, died and was survived by his wholesome legacy, a global institution to rival the Vatican, and his surrogate son, Mickey Mouse who never aged and, though temped to perform magic to music in “Fantasia”, never did any real wrong. All this looks suspiciously religious!

disney 2

This picture is from “How to be Boss” which you can see here on Youtube:

 

Disney and the Nine old men:

But the dark myths about Disney lurk in the recesses of the Internet and in glorious books like “King Rat” and Marc Eliot’s “Hollywood’s dark prince”. The sins seem to fall into three areas- the first is his alleged anti-semitism, the second, his labour relations and his record as an employer and the third is his interest in surviving death. As a film maker, and moreover, an animator, the way Disney managed his empire is of great significance to me. If he made mistakes, then I would want to avoid them and if he did things right that it makes sense to emulate him. For the most part, I resent the endless stories in what are marketed as serious books about animation going on endlessly about who put the cat in the cupboard. When it comes to animation, it is important to learn the trade from the masters- how to convince an audience that a 2d drawing is alive and more than that, has feelings. So I have little interest in the private lives of the 9 old men. I met one of them some years ago- frankly, I have no recollection which one it was, though I think maybe Marc Davis. He talked endlessly about the Disney theme parks and pooh-poohed the use of cinemascope in “Sleeping Beauty”.

However, the life of Disney represents something different because it was Disney who held together, developed and maybe exploited his various artists to such remarkable and lasting effect. Unlike Richard Williams, Disney was no great Draughtsman, nor indeed a gifted animator, but he had an instinct for story-telling and was clearly ready to listen to and implement advice about marketing. It is the marketing that has made the movies from the appearance of Mickey mouse memorabilia within a year of the release of “Steamboat Willie” to all the party frocks for little girls that accompanied the release of “Frozen”. I remember having a much-loved carpet of “Mary Poppins”. A carpet, note and not a carpet-bag.It was pink, peopled with penguins and a tortoise or two while in the centre, Mary Poppins herself floated in serenity. I also had jigsaw puzzles. Indeed, my father was so frustrated by my devotion to Mary that he twice fired his shotgun out of the bedroom window claiming to have “got the damn woman”. Somehow, I knew that my father, despite the tweed suit, was not quite the crack-shot he claimed to be, and that Mary Poppins would survive as indeed she did. Like the birds, she may have lost a few feathers, but “spit spot” on she flew.

Uncle walt and the myths

Today, people want to believe the worst of their heroes. American articles have appeared in recent years suggesting that Disney was a hard-drinking drug user, an FBI stouge or spy, and even a secret Nazi attending meetings of the American Nazi groups. His public image as attested in “Saving Mr Banks” was avuncular. “Call me Uncle Walt!” Karen Dotrice, the girl from Guernsey who played Jane in “Mary Poppins” certainly did just this and made three films for her beloved uncle. There are endless postings on the internet about what appear to be sexual imagery in the films of the late 80’s renaissance: the 2 frames of nudity in “the Rescuers”, some (intentionally) suggestive stuff in “Roger Rabbit”, the phallic tower on the cover of “Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin”, the Bishop’s apparent arousal, the word sex in the stars in “Lion King” and the suggestion that the relationship between Scar and his brother hints that Jesus and satan were siblings; There is generally an innocent explanation. The animator who drew the Bishop in “the Little Mermaid”, Tom Sito, says that what appears to be naughty is in fact the cleric’s knee: “He’s standing on a box that his long robes cover.” There were complaints that the opening verse in the first song of “Aladdin” was racist and that the “Pocahontas” film covered up her subsequent conversion to Christianity. Perhaps the most impressive of these claims, and one that might stick to Disney himself were it credible, is that in 1937, Donald Duck is supposed to have said “Fuck you” to a clock spring that simply would not stay in place. Frankly, it is possible to read any interpretation into some of the duck rants and I doubt that this expression would have been that common in the mid 30s. The film is on Youtube, so listen to it: I could not locate these words but there was an AFA condemnation registered in 1996: “Disney blasted for using the F word in Donald Duck cartoon”!

The Disney in “Mr Banks” seems to know he is not perfect. When he stubs out a cigarette, he says, “I’d hate to set a bad example for the kids.”

is their any evidence?

Many of the spurious tales come from the Eliot book, “Hollywood’s dark prince”, especially the idea that Disney was a spy, flying to New York to attend left-wing meetings and later to file reports for the FBI. Much of Eliot’s material comes from a disgruntled Disney employee who was barely at the studio for 6 months. Indeed, much of the bile in general comes from the poor handling of a strike in 1941 that lingered on for 4 months. Disney was convinced that communist agents had stirred up trouble with the Screen Cartoonists’ guild. Disney detested the strikers and they him. It is hardly surprising that rumours began. Certainly it is true that Disney was registered as an FBI SAC Contact in 1955 and I suppose in the climate the allegations that he shopped suspected communists to the government may well be true; he was called to testify in 1947 and his testimony is fairly damning but naive: “Well, I think Sorrell is sure tied up with them. If he isn’t a Communist, he sure should be one.” His testimony certainly damaged the careers of some people in the industry and I think he must be held responsible for some of the blacklisting that went on. That he joined an organisation called “the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals” is quite true and this had explicit aims of getting rid of Hollywood’s communists. Some of the members were known anti-semites: Jack warner and Louis B Mayer did not join the organisation because of the anti-semitic bias, but that does not prove Disney was an anti-semite (despite the stereotypes in “three Little Pigs” and “the Opry House”). There seems little truth, equally, in claims that he was a Nazi and some of the war propaganda suggests he was firmly against Hitler though he certainly is recorded by Art Babbitt as meeting Leni Reifenstahl in 1938 She claimed Disney“told her he admired her work”; if he was a racist then he was a man of his time, but any charge that he was an anti-semite seems to be confounded hy his employment of people like Maurice Rapf, who also had a left-wing, probably communist background.

A serious issue

What is perhaps wrong and deeply so is that Disney implied that his workers would get a bonus for what they did on the early features and this never happened. Also, Disney hired women only to ink and paint the animation cels. He paid them a pittance. I have done this work and it is soul-destroying. Any corrections that the painter makes to sloppy animation go unrewarded and unrecognised. But such corrections are essential and part of the expected vigilance of the painter. The detail and discipline of the cel painting during the early Disney period- indeed, until “Sleeping Beauty” is astonishing.

Cryrogenics

There is one myth I have not touched on and that is Disney’s immortality: was he frozen? It always seemed a bit creepy. Would this have been done some time after his death or at some point when his body was still warm? The creepiness continues with stories that it was just his head that was frozen and that his body is kept somewhere under Disneyland for resurrection…It all sounds a bit biblical. But I believe his ashes are buried in Forest lawn memorial park in Glendale and that the story is false and probably dependent on a biography by Robert Mosley in 1986. But there was an initial report about freezing in a French Magazine, “Ici Paris” in 1969.

What can be stated with confidence is that there was secrecy about Disney’s final illness and that his brother was encouraged by Walt to keep everything quiet. This probably explains why the announcement of the death was delayed. Also, after having serious cancer surgery and the removal of his left lung, Disney returned to work in his office for about 10 days prior to his death. His daughter Diane is supposed to have said that her father hated funerals and insisted, “When I’m dead I don’t want a funeral. I want people to remember me alive”. That is a statement that alone might well have given rise to all the cryronic stories. It just depends how you interpret the words!

disney1

There are some Disney pluses, again not all of them belong to the man, but they certainly seem to be in line with his legacy. Top of the list must be the continued brilliance of the marketing department. Then comes the equal opportunities employment of gay people, provision for their partners and the recognition that Michael Eisner notes that “40% of Disney’s 63000 employees are homosexual”. That seems to redress the balance in a way.

No one seems to have noticed Mrs Pankhurst!!

pankhurst page

Bizarrely as David Cameron re-shuffles his cabinet and brings more women into positions of power, no one on the BBC  news has yet noted that today is the birthday of Mrs Pankhurst, she of the “Sister Suffragette” song at the beginning of “Mary Poppins”. This omission seems both rather odd and slightly sad but there we are! Andrea Leadsom is not on the list of women being elevated to high rank in the cabinet. She was being discussed a great deal today by someone from the TIMES: apparently, she has a reputation in the Party as “difficult” and a bit of a rebel. I have met her: one of the oddest things she claimed was that she would never put forward or speak in an early day motion because it was a waste of time and there was never any “resolution”. Sometimes, I think, issues nevertheless have to be aired. It can take years before a resolution is reached and I think I resent this cavalier attitude to the ordinary business of the house.  That said, I note that she has actually either changed her mind or my recollection of our conversation is wrong because she has signed an EDM for renaming the Parliament tower in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee after she signed an EDM proposed by Graham Evans which bemoaned the continued existence of EDM saying they “rarely have any influence on policy… and questions the value for money to the taxpayer”…Of course, she opposed the same sex marriage bill and made a great fuss in the press about her position- I don’t quite understand this bill as, other than nomenclature, it offers little that the civil partnership had not already established, but it seemed to cause so much more friction. I did a cartoon of Ms Leadsom where she stands among others who found the legislation- in her words “unacceptable” – she also added that her constituents found the idea of gay marriage to be “deeply wrong”. In the end, she lacked the guts to actually vote against the Government and simply ran into hiding during the vote. silly lady.

gay marriage

More interesting is Merton’s Elizabeth truss and St Hugh’s Nicky Morgan. Now Mrs Morgan also opposed the same sex legislation, but she managed to vote! I rather liked her comments in the Leicester Mercury and most specifically her “third reason” for voting against the bill. I think in time, this may be of significance –

“There were also three main reasons of my own that I voted against it.

“First, this is a very big social change. There have been plenty of little changes down the years but what’s never been changed is that the fact that marriage is between a man and a woman.

“I think that was one of the issues people, especially those who asked me to vote against, found hardest to accept and it also tied in with my own Christian faith too.

“I totally support civil partnerships and that same-sex relationships are recognised in law. But marriage, to me, is between a man and a woman.

“The second reason is that people have become a bit cynical about consultations about policy changes at national and local government level .

“And in this case, I felt the question was not whether the change should be made, but how it should be made and I think we forgot that step of asking if it should be made.

“And the third reason was legal aspects of the Bill. For instance, if we have gay marriage, should civil partnerships now also be opened up to heterosexual couples too? Or should we just get rid of civil partnerships altogether?

“Also, if same-sex marriages are to be dissolved, will that be different to heterosexual partnerships ending?

“I know there are a lot of worries for people like teachers and others in public sector roles and these are things I still feel need to be ironed out as the Bill goes through Parliament.

“I appreciate that there will be people in my constituency who will be unhappy with how I voted and I wish many of them had contacted me earlier and given me a clearer picture of what people thought.”