The Big Picture in Bank Robberies And Animation Art

The picture above is an actual frame from the surveillance video of the Brick bank robber. (No, he didn’t use a brick to rob a bank; he robbed a bank last month in Brick, New Jersey). A real robbery; an actual picture; if you recognize the gent with the head bandage, contact Brick Detective James Burgess at (732) 262-1120.

Most likely you won’t be able to recognize the man in the photo. He’s far from the camera. And it’s surveillance video, after all.

But let’s suppose, for a moment, that you and I were watching a dramatic TV show. A team of detectives are watching this video.

One of them shouts out, “Stop it right there! That’s our guy! Zoom in on his face!” There’s a clish-clish-clish-clish sound effect as a series of lines travel across the screen, forming smaller and smaller rectangles. The smallest rectangle flashes a few times, then zooms out full, and we see this:

Another character says, “Don’t you see? He was wearing the head bandage to try to cover up that tattoo of a butterfly above his right eye… but the bandage slipped back! Can we get tighter on that?”


The star of the show says, “Bobby, go through all the mug books and pull out every picture of a guy with a butterfly tattooed over his right eye.”

OK. Let’s take a deep breath.

Can I see some hands out there? How many of you own a digital camera? Right. Well, presumably, then, you know something about resolution and image size.

In the real world, when you zoom in the first time, you’d get roughly this:

Looks like Fatty Arbuckle taking a pie. And the second time you enlarge, you get this:

There he is! That’s our man! Bobby, go through all the mug books and pull out every picture of a guy with a mixture of Pantone Cool Gray 8 and Pantone Cool Gray 4 over his right eye!

We’ll return to picture size and resolution in a moment. First, though…

When you add a Sitemeter to your blog, you learn a little about the people who stop by. Sitemeter tells you how many people are looking at your blog right now, and how many have stopped by in the last hour, day, week, month, and year. There’s no “personally identifiable information, ” but you can see where in the world a visitor is, how many pages that visitor looked at, and how long that visitor stayed.

There are always enough one-second visits to keep anyone humble.

The most useful aspect of Sitemeter data is the clickable list of “referring pages.”

This tells you where people were on the web just before they clicked a link to visit you. So when somebody references or recommends your blog elsewhere on the web, you can easily go there to see what, if anything, the referring page had to say.

When you get lucky, and gain a mention and link on a highly trafficked site, like BoingBoing, for example, (and that happened here once) you instantly see why your numbers spiked. The list of referring pages will likely show the BoingBoing link over and over again. This allows you to a) acknowledge and thank the referring blog or web page, and b) work really hard to make sure your next post is halfway decent, to encourage window shoppers surfing by to stay, perhaps even return.

Guess where the vast majority of visitors to this blog find the link that leads them here?

Google Image Search. I never would have guessed it.

Google Image Search accounts for something like 90 to 95% of all Isn’t Life Terrible visitors.

I have a theory about this.

Want to see the theory illustrated? Click on the picture below, then come back.

Since Blogger automatically reduces the size of pictures posted to fit the available blog width, clicking on a picture sometimes takes you to a larger version of that same picture. Not the case with the picture above, though, where WYSIWYG.

Some blogs don’t seem to want you to download and save a picture that’s posted.

Not terribly friendly or welcoming, is it?

Of course, there can be valid financial reasons to do this – if you created and own the pictures and wish to license them, for example.

But on a blog like this one, there’s no reason to “protect” pictures. (And there’s an excellent way around difficult to download pictures, anyway).

As a matter of fact, since we now know that the majority of people come here looking for images, it would be pretty stupid to make access difficult.

I suddenly realized – and I’m sure all the Search Engine Optimization gurus out there know this – that Google Image Search lists the images it finds more or less in size order, with the largest images often on the first page of results.

So that’s why I keep stumbling into results from my own blog when I go looking for images – the simple fact that I usually post pictures full-size here. I was optimizing my search engine visibility and didn’t even know it.

Maybe this blog will run out of space or bandwidth someday, but in the meantime, the pictures here will usually link to larger versions. For example… click on this one.

See? I said we’d return to the topic of resolution.

With access to a large file, you can “re-mix” the picture, reframe it, even grab a small detail, as I did here. You can use it. Not commercially, of course, but who knows, maybe you’ll write the definitive appreciation of Pinocchio someday and need an illustration. You could pull ten different pictures out of this one cel-and-original-background set-up, thanks to its size.

Downside? We didn’t even get to say goodbye to all the people with slow connections – they all left a long time ago.

I would be willing to bet that some blogs I love… like John McElwee’s Greenbriar Picture Shows… link to large, high-resolution images just because… well, just because “why wouldn’t you?” After all, Lee Hartsfeld’s Music You (Probably) Won’t Hear Anywhere Else links to complete music files from shellac and vinyl so obscure that Lee could remove the parenthetical modifier any time he wanted to. (And, speaking parenthetically myself, I’d like to thank both of these gentlemen for the Premio Dardo nominations. Lee correctly points out that the chain-letter aspect of these awards could crash Google, but… it’s the thought that counts.)

Someday, that bank over in Brick will “up” the file size and resolution of their security cameras and those laughable, infinitely zoomable images currently available only on fictional television shows willing to stretch a point (or pixel) will become a tad less absurd.

A few final words after some astonishing, huge, hi-res images of original art from Disney films. Some of the regulars here can probably identify not only the film but also the artist before they click. Probably not for the first one, though…

The final words: please note that all of the non-bank robbery-related pictures in this post came from the listings of Heritage Auction Galleries. They’re all for sale in a upcoming auctions, and all available for viewing in a size and resolution that allows you to savor and appreciate each stroke of the brush and line of the pencil. If you go to Heritage (and you should), turn off the pan and scan feature, click on the picture, and you’ll see the whole enchilada.

Those Heritage people… they get the big picture… they post the big picture… and that may be one reason they get the big bucks.

A fraction of the Heritage inventory, from top to bottom: The Steeple Chase (1934), Truant Officer Donald (1941), Peter Pan (1953 – Mary Blair), Mickey’s Service Station (1935), Sleeping Beauty (1955 – Eyvind Earle), Mickey Plays Papa (1934), Alpine Climbers (1936), Peter Pan (1953 – Mary Blair), Babes In The Woods (1933), Lady And The Tramp (1955, Eyvind Earle).

The final picture immediately above is an actual frame from the surveillance video of the Attempted Woodcarver Break-In. (No, it wasn’t the Woodcarver who was breaking in; there’s a Missing Person Report on file for him and police want to question the “little wooden boy” seen looking in the window). If you recognize the figure at the window or encounter Mister Geppetto, contact Detective G. Tenggren at (610) 566-7767.

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Ten Things Old Toys Teach Us

Melville purposefully distorted and misrepresented
the character of what was, in fact, a truly terrific white whale.

The ultimate “Prairie House” was designed not by Frank,
but his son John.

In 1959, a drive-in theater could show TV reruns and Terrytoons
and still get at least one carload of people to show up.

The 1950’s were not kind to Mickey Rooney.

It took months to correct the confusion created by
The Batman Modeling Team’s
contribution to Urology Awareness Week.

Social skills atrophied quickly
when an obsessive passion for coloring
developed in six-year-old Ted Nugent.

Hitchcock’s main source of income in the 1950’s was UK merchandising.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control estimates
that robots who quit smoking add an
average 14.2 hours of battery life.
Depression-Era “Bankrupt Donald Duck,”
considered “topical toy” in 1932,
might just be poised for a big comeback.

Tragedy has all the elements necessary for “family fun.”

You can’t help but wonder what horrifying board games
might be on store shelves today if The Ideal Toy Corporation
of Hollis, New York were still around.

The Sinking of the Titanic Game featured a
“new 3 piece movable game board”:

Actual Excerpts From the rules:

THE OBJECT of the game is to be the first player to board the RESCUE SHIP – with at least two passengers, two water tokens and two food tokens. The Titanic starts to sink after each player has taken his first turn.

When desired, a player may abandon his current stateroom assignment and proceed by the roll of the dice to a lifeboat. Should an assigned stateroom sink under the water line before the player gets to it, his Passenger Card is returned to the bottom of the deck.

A player forced to move to the lifeboat launching area without a lifeboat loses all his passengers, food & water. A player who leaves the lifeboat launching area without a lifeboat is considered to be “swimming.”

And from the box lid:

You have to be ready to repel your fellow players’ attempts to board your lifeboat and take your food and water. It’s a merciless struggle, especially when the rescue ship heaves into sight – because the first player who reaches it with at least two passengers, two food and two water tokens is the winner. And what about the others? Well, you might say they’ve lost at sea.

And speaking of being repelled…

The New Game Across The Atlantic
“From Liverpool to New York without touching icebergs”
… came out three weeks after the Titanic sunk.

Some things never change.
That’s what old toys teach us.

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More Crappy Disney Vehicles

Some time ago, we turned the ILT spotlight on Donald Duck and his Crappy Cars.

Turns out we spoke too soon – we shouldn’t have held Unca Donald responsible for the crappiness.

Pre-1961, The Disney Studio signed lease agreements with a number of automotive lessors, naming its cartoon stars assignees. At the time, it was possible for multiple lessors to share an interest in one vehicle, which caused endless complications for the hot-tempered Duck, who spent enormous amounts of time in the Lincoln Park DMV office on North Mission Road. Angered by the long waits and redundant paperwork, Duck blamed Governor Pat Brown and became a vocal supporter of Richard Nixon’s losing ‘62 gubernatorial campaign when the former Vice President promised to clean house at the DMV and eliminate the evil of two lessors.

Pluto in his XK 140 Jaguar

The studio seemed to assign vehicles without much forethought – Pluto never learned how to operate the stick shift in his Jaguar and could be heard grinding gears while approaching the studio from 3/4 of a mile away.

Donald Duck’s 1956 Renault Dauphine

Donald Duck complained that his Dauphine was “a rolling advertisement for the Disney Studio.” Adding to his physical discomfort was the car’s target market: swans and giraffes.

Mad Hatter’s Checker Skyview Taxi

Another unfortunate pairing of vehicle to cartoon personality was the taxi given to the easily-distracted Mad Hatter who, while cruising the lot for fares, ran over Spike, the dog that portrayed the title character in Old Yeller, which was only five days away from the completion of production. The film’s ending had to be rewritten.

Mickey Mouse in the Challenger I

Other accidents caused production delays and changes. In the world’s first attempt to break 400 mph, a tire on the Challenger I burst into flames at the Bonneville Salt Flats, ejecting the driver. While makeup and long shots hid much of the damage, it’s possible to see cuts, bruises, and a flash of a partial body cast in the DVD of Wheelchair Mickey.

“Micky” Mouse “Zepplin”

Neal Gabler finally puts a long-whispered rumor to rest in his massive biography of Walt Disney.

Hollywood legend has it that [Walt] Disney made an attempt to “cash in” following the explosion of the Hindenburg by rushing out a metal toy replica featuring a smiling Mickey and Minnie, blissfully unaware of Donald Duck (and his bomb) just behind them. Nearly all of the scale-model zeppelins were quickly removed from store shelves and melted down, but a reference copy in the Disney Archives proves that the product had never been authorized to begin with. The distributor of the counterfeits claimed that the characters depicted were not Disney characters because the names were spelled differently. In later years, Disney installed a scale model zeppelin at his home and gave rides to friends around the neighborhood.

Disney in his backyard zeppelin

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Donald Duck And His Crappy Cars

For all the progress we’ve made, there are still unsolvable challenges:

  • What is the biological basis of consciousness?
  • Can the laws of physics ever be unified?
  • Can no one design a toy car driven by Donald Duck that doesn’t look completely stupid?

Car not cartoonish; large head makes windshield pointless

Impractical wheel-bearing unit load ratio uses singular-row angular-contact ball bearings

Beret-wearing duck strains credulity

Not Disney authorized; Duck seems severely injured from previous rollover

Horizontal steering wheel; Duck still recovering from serious sawmill accident

Insufficient budget/expertise: paint

Duck appears to be bathing in pool of red liquid; Driver unidentified

Macrocephaly, Inexplicable cricket; Duck poised for Isadora Duncan-like death
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Mickey In A Merryweather

This gorgeous, large-format, full-color hardcover book reprints three “classic stories from the 1930s, Walt Disney’s Donald Duck (1935), Walt Disney’s Clock Cleaners (1938), and The Mickey Mouse Fire Brigade (1936).” All three stories are based on cartoons, but some strange liberties and notable revisions are made.

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck was the first book to feature the Duck, who thus appears here in his long-billed incarnation. The original (Whitman #978) was printed on linen, which would seem to indicate it was intended for the youngest possible audience. Inexplicable, then is the one-joke premise: Mickey’s nephews “show Donald the difference between soft and HARD water” by tricking him into diving into a shallow spot.

Walt Disney’s Clock Cleaners was another “linen-like” book designed for kids who could be counted upon to treat it badly. “Scarce in Near Mint, common in lower grades” is Ted Hake’s comment on the linen-like books in The Official Price Guide to Disney Collectibles. Having even less linen-like pages to work with than Walt Disney’s Donald Duck (12 rather than 16), the original story is literally scaled down from the cartoon’s giant clock atop a skyscraper… to a cuckoo clock in an attic.

The third story, The Mickey Mouse Fire Brigade, is very faithful to the Mickey’s Fire Brigade cartoon, and the illustrations are excellent. Just one thing – Mickey’s fire helmet. Designed for a British audience that might not recognize the “backwards-baseball-hat” helmet design usually seen in the U.S., Mickey wears a Merryweather pattern brass fire helmet throughout.

If you read this one to your kids, I suggest giving Mickey a Yorkshire accent. If you need practice, the BBC is willing to help. I was going to give an Amazon link, but they don’t carry the book, show the the wrong cover picture, and spell Mickey “Micky.” Try Barnes and Noble.

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