Family: December 2006 Archives

Walt Kelly, A.D., B. P.*

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As a fan of the comic strip Pogo, I've read many biographical sketches of cartoonist Walt Kelly, but I never remember having read that he wrote and illustrated a comic book series based on the Our Gang shorts. (You might know them better as "The Little Rascals" -- Spanky, Buckwheat, Alfalfa, etc.)

Earlier this year, Fantagraphics published a reissue of Walt Kelly's Our Gang comic books from 1942 and 1943, volume 1 of a planned series. The ALA Booklist blurb has this to say:

Although the Our Gang film series was on its last legs in 1942, Dell Comics launched a comic-book version of it that is more than a footnote to the films because it was written and drawn by Walt Kelly, seven years before he brought Pogo to the newspapers. Ironically, while the films were by then slick and mannered, having lost their low-budget modesty after MGM took over producing them, in Kelly's comics they regained much of their earlier, unaffected charm, thanks to his winsome story lines, homey characterizations, and engaging cartooning.

(*After Disney, Before Pogo. Kelly was one of the animators on Fantasia (1940); the Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony segment, featuring centaurs, putti, Zeus, Bacchus, and other characters from Greek mythology, bears his unmistakable touch. As a two- and three-year-old, my now-10-year-old son watched this segment over and over again, and Iris, who brought forth the rainbow after the storm, was his first imaginary friend. He called her "the rainbow princess.")

Earlier this summer, the Branson, Missouri, Convention and Vistors Bureau asked about a dozen members of the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas (AORBS) to spend a weekend in Branson. They were filmed riding roller coasters at Silver Dollar City and clowning on stage at a number of Branson's theatres. The result is a three-minute promo set to a Beach Boys-like tune.

My dad, who went to his first AORBS convention in Branson earlier in the year, was part of the group brought back for the video. In the video, he's the Santa in the red ballcap and red shirt. (You can see him at the left end of the chorus line at about 1:49, and in the back row on the right when all the Santas call out "Merry Christmas" at the end.)

santadad.JPG This is Dad's second season as a Real Bearded Santa, and he's having a great time. He spent three weekends at Philbrook's Festival of Trees. Here's a proof sheet from his first Saturday there, on the website of photographer Ian B. Danziger. A visit with Santa can be intimidating for little kids, and Dad says that Ian is great at getting kids to relax and smile for the camera. (Dad does a pretty good job of putting kids at ease, himself.)

If you need a right jolly old elf to grace your Tulsa-area Christmas event, give David Bates a call at 230-6258 or e-mail him at He's already starting to field inquiries for the 2007 Christmas season.

UPDATE 11/08/2007: Santa David Bates now has his own website at

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Family category from December 2006.

Family: November 2006 is the previous archive.

Family: February 2007 is the next archive.

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