Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1948) Max Fleischer Studios & Jam Handy Productions

>> 23 December 2011

The main reason I've fallen off from blogging is that I got a job over a year ago in the animation industry and have been putting in a lot of hours at work. It's been a fantastic adventure so far. But here we are, it's the holidays again, so I thought I'd purvey this little Christmas gem from 1948. It's only 8 minutes long so why don't you pull yerself up with a cup of morning coffee and sit a spell.

While Rankin-Bass gets all the love for their classic 1964 stop motion version of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", the above featured animated short by Max Fleischer Studios was actually the first telling of the original story as written by Robert May in 1939.

May, a 34 year-old copywriter for the Chicago based department store Montgomery Ward's, was assigned to create a property in-house that could be developed into a promotional giveaway intended to boost Ward's 1939 Christmas sales.

At first May pitched his story ideas to his five year-old daughter Barbara and within a week delivered a rough draft of a Christmas story with rhyming couplets modeled after Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas".

Initially Ward's publicity department decided to pass on the story. The feeling was that the imagery of a "red nose" was associated with drunkeness, rendering May's Christmas pitch inappropriate for children.

Denver Gillen, "Rudolph the Red Nosed
Reindeer " by Robert May

It wasn't until Denver Gillen, an illustrator in the company's art department, produced some initial concept drawings that anyone realized how endearing a character like Rudolph could actually be.

Gillen's illustrations were so cute that the publicity department came to the conclusion that there was no way people would think of Rudolph as a drunkard and the story was approved for production.

On September 1, 1939, Montgomery Ward's retail sales department announced the Rudolph book internally to all store managers with the following: “We believe that an exclusive story like this aggressively advertised in our newspaper ads and circulars... can bring every store an incalculable mount of publicity... and, far more important, a tremendous amount of Christmas traffic”.

They were right.

That year 2,365,016 copies of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" were given away. At the time, a production run of a mere 50,000 copies could make a book a best-seller. This overwhelming success garnered the property the “largest first edition yet recorded” by the press.

In 1948, Max Fleischer, acting as Head of the Animation Department for the Detroit-based industrial film company Jam Handy Productions, supervised the first animated adaptation of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". It is this version that is more faithful to May's original story and Gillen's illustrations.  It's worth noting that unlike most Rudolph products, this cartoon has fallen out of copyright, and is now available in the public domain.

Happy Holi-daze, e'erbody!

My Dollar Store Craft: Blue Angel Votive Candle Holder

>> 20 December 2011

Inspired by the fantastic blogs "Dollar Store Crafts" and the Graphics Fairy I present my very own dollar store craft: this charming little votive candle holder featuring a blue angel. I've made a dozen or so of these candle holders as stocking stuffers for my office and now I've been asked to make a special order for my boss's Christmas dinner at home!

Project estimate:
  • Graphics Fairy "Best Little Angel Girl", free
  • Drinking glass, on hand or $1 and up
  • Homemade ModPodge, on hand or $1
  • Votive candles, on hand or $1
  • Wrapping paper, on hand or $1
  • Blue ink pad, on hand or $1
  • Glitter ribbon, on hand or $1
  • Various glues, on hand or $1 
  • Clear nail polish, (optional) on hand or $1
  • Nail polish remover, on hand or $1
  • Cotton balls, on hand or $1
  • Sponge brush, on hand or $1 
  • Xacto Knife or razor, on hand or $1 (for razor)
  • Scissors and paper edgers, on hand
  • Copy paper, on hand 
Now, at a dollar per project item, the price for this candle holder can accumulate quite quickly.  Use what you've got on hand to save on costs. The main things I purchased were the glasses, votive candles, wrapping paper and blue ink pad all sourced from my local Dollar Tree or 99 Cents Only stores. Everything else you see I had on hand but cost either only a dollar (from previous visits to these stores) or was completely free.  Please note: because of the use of sharps (razor or Xacto knife) I don't recommend fabricating this project with children for safety reasons.

  • Start with making homemade ModPodge recipe by mixing 1 part glue (Elmer's is best -- but not the school glue, the regular glue) with 3 parts water. To make it glossy, throw in a bottle of clear nail polish.  Put all ingredients in a jar, twist lid to close and shake 'til well mixed.
  • Pre-cut gift wrapping paper to wrap around the glass. I chose a wedding style gift wrap that was mainly colored white, ivory and gold and then smudged it with a blue ink pad to blend and match the Graphics Fairy "Best Little Angel Girl" subject. It's hard to tell with the golden glow of the candle light in the photo but the wrapping paper background is tinted and mottled with the blue ink. It looks like it was manufactured that way.
  • Coat drinking glass with homemade ModPodge. Decoupage gift wrap around the glass.  Allow to dry but check in occasionally to smooth any paper wrinkles as it dries. 
  • Print out Graphics Fairy "Angel". I cut mine with Fiskars "Torn Paper" Edger scissors (discontinued). Edge with blue ink pad. 
  • Decoupage angel over wrapping paper on the opposite side of the seam. Allow to dry but check in occasionally to smooth any paper wrinkles as it dries. You can smooth by hand or use a brayer if you have one handy.
  • Print out the "Believe" label (or for my boss's Christmas dinner print out guest's names for each table setting) with the PegsannaHMK font available for free from I simply printed it out on regular copy paper and cut with Fiskar's "Majestic" Edger scissors. At this point you can smudge the label to distress or even edge the paper with the blue ink pad however I chose to let it remain white. Next time I would probably edge the paper just a bit with the ink pad to make it pop. Place label onto angel and then decoupage. Allow to dry.
  • After glass is completely dry, carefully trim the top of the glass with Xacto knife or razor blade to remove any paper that's sticking up over the rim.
  • Decoupage entire glass once more to seal. Allow to dry.
  • Once dry, carefully wipe off any remaining laquer (from the nail polish in the homemade ModPodge) that's on the glass (do NOT wipe the decoupaged papers -- just the exposed glass such as the bottom and the inside upper rim) with cotton ball and nail polish remover.  You want to clean up the exposed glass and make it sparkle. It also helps to make the project look clean and professional.
  • Next, apply blue glitter ribbon to the top and bottom edge of glass. Aleene's Original Tacky Glue is the best adhesive for this particular application due to it's "stickiness". That is, it stays put so that the ribbon doesn't slide down the glass as it dries.You could use regular glue but keep an eye on it as the ribbon may spring off or slide so you'll need to press it back on as it dries.
  • Insert votive, light and display!
Happy holidays!

Free Christmas Graphic PNG "Twas the Night Before Christmas" Illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith (1912)

>> 11 December 2011

To download: PC-Right Click / Mac-CTRL Click the image above

Everyone knows the famous words: “‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house . . .” Clement C. Moore’s famous poem entitled "A Visit from St. Nicholas" was written in 1822 and has been a holiday classic ever since. This gorgeous illustration featured above was published in 1912 by artist Jessie Willcox Smith and is considered by many to be the definitive version of the story. It's easy to see why: her wonderful art work captures the holiday spirit of Moore's poem in stunning detail.

A free digital version of this image is available in a transparent PNG file. If you're on a Mac, just CTRL-click the image above. If you're on a PC, simply right click on it.  After the page loads, drag the image to your desktop.

At 72 dpi, this file is best used for web design application including blog buttons, blog banners, and Etsy shop banners.

If you would like to use this file for printing, the recommended standard file size is 300 dpi as 72 dpi is too small a resolution for a quality print.  I have ACEO sized digital collage sheets in 300 dpi available at my Etsy shop.

In case you missed it, I also posted two free digital collage sheets of an 1864 publication of this same beloved Christmas poem available for download here.

Merry Christmas to all!

Free Digital Collage Sheet - "A Visit From St. Nicholas" by Clement C. Moore

>> 10 December 2011

Available now for free download are two 8.5 x 11" digital collage sheets of featuring 12 individual  ACEO/ATC sized illustrations of the classic holiday poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas".  The file downloads in a much high resolution than the placeholder image here.

This edition of the poem originally came as a fold out style pamphlet that was published in 1864 by L. Prang of Boston.  The copy I was working with was very delicate and pretty thrashed but I did my best to clean it up in PhotoShop, however you will notice some tears and aging when you look really close at the high resolution file (not the placeholder images featured here). What I love is that Santa is dressed in a little yellow suit. It's really quite cute! Just click on the images to get the freebie. Enjoy!

Free Digital Collage Sheet - Children's Storybook Illustrations by Virginia Frances Sterrett

>> 02 December 2011

This series of black and white storybook illustrations by Virginia Frances Sterrett. Her first commission came in 1919 from Penn Publishing Company to illustrate the Comptesse de S├ęgur's Old French Fairy Tales. She was only 19 years of age and received $500 for the eight watercolors and 16 pen and ink drawings, with a supplemental $250 for a colored drawing for the cover and ink drawings for the end papers and boards.  I also have some of the color illustrations as high resolution digital printable files in 8.5" x 11" and ATC ACEO sizes in my Etsy shop

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