Wednesday, November 21, 2007

People and Places - Denmark 1967

One day you're writing a post about a nearly fifty year old Donald Duck cartoon, the next day you have a brand new friend from halfway across the world. Different countries, different languages, different cultures; but despite these many obstacles, we can still connect through our shared passion for Disney entertainment in its many different incarnations.

This new friend that I speak of is Frantz Aschengreen who is a native of Denmark. Our mutual interest in the cartoon Donald and the Wheel initiated our contact, but we soon found common Disney ground in other areas, most notably the comic book works of Carl Barks and Don Rosa. And Frantz relayed to me one particular story from his youth that I felt just needed to be shared with 2719 readers:

I am Danish. I was 10 years old in late 1967, having discovered Walt Disney and Donald Duck a couple of years before. My parents had decided to finance an annual subscription to the weekly Disney publication “Anders And & Co.” (Donald Duck) for my younger brother and myself.

That year and the next had bad news appearing on television almost as regularly as weather bulletins. Every night seemed to bring fresh images of horror and violence. Vietnam, race riots, assassinations, angry protests by kids not all much older than me. I’d watch them with my tutting parents, wondering if the world would go crazy before I got further into my teens.

As a counter weight there would be “Uncle Walt” beaming friendly optimism and adventure on television every Saturday when introducing new incentives in Disneyland and a number of funny cartoons to follow. I became smitten. I loved Uncle Walt and everything he represented - mind you it would still be another year until Neil Armstrong brought a whole new level of adventure into our living rooms! Being a rather enterprising young man then, I pondered for days as to how to get close to the magic world of Disney, which seemed, on the one hand, so alluringly close, but on the other hand so very far away from small-town life in suburban Denmark.

Then I had an idea: I would contact the Disney Studios and inquire if, amongst the Disney artists, there would be anyone with a boy my age who would like a Danish pen pal! This I did – in my schoolboy-English. And then I waited. Christmas 1967 came with the annual “Walt Disney Christmas Show” on 24 December and Jiminy Cricket crooning “When You Wish Upon a Star." But no letter in the mailbox. Wishes do come true, mind you. Lo and behold a letter did arrive. However, not necessarily with the reply I wanted.

I since wondered many times if any of the artists ever learned about my request. Somehow I did not mind the rejection; at least I tried. And Uncle Walt stayed with me in my heart as I grew up and maintained an interest in animation and cartoons – even to the extent of having cartoons of my own published! Not long ago I found the envelope from Disney amongst some old papers. It is still fully intact, complete with the letter (which tells a small story of its own), the promotional mini posters (which did please a 10-year-old boy) and the Uncle Walt postcards which today stand out as uniquely 1960ish in style. All in all a regular “time capsule” from the Walt Disney Studios in 1968!

Thanks to Frantz for sharing with us his memories on what is now the 4oth anniversary of this very special time from his childhood.


Biblioadonis aka George said...

Wonderful post, Jeff!

Thanks for sharing the story with us.

It amazes me when I see how much Disney was a part of children's lives from all over the world.