Route 66 Revisited

Ah, the Mother Road. Nothing captures the imagination of Mid-Century motoring Americana like Route 66. These illustrations are part of a series inspired by the iconic American highway that stretched more than 2,000 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles and served as a thoroughfare to freedom for families, road warriors and dreamers alike from its opening in 1926 through its heyday in the 1940s through 1960s. Even though the U.S. federal highway system made the road largely obsolete by 1985, history buffs can still get their kicks on portions of the old road that deliver cityscapes, desertcapes and great escapes.

Flat Tire

Drive In

Nothing Says Summer Like a Beach Party

And nothing embodies the spirit of mid-sixties California like a Muscle Beach Party! This 1964 sand-and-surf flick is the second in a seven-movie series produced by American International Pictures starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Directed by William Asher, this film also features the King of the Surf Guitar — Dick Dale — and 13-year-old Little Stevie Wonder appearing for the first time on the big screen. As with all of American International beach moves, the plots are thin but the beauties are buxom, and the music will have you tapping your toes, clapping your hands, and shaking your hips. There’s no better way to say hello to summer than with a Frankie and Annette beach movie!
Muscle Beach Party (1964)

If Little Stevie Wonder on Happy Street can’t make you clap your hands, nobody can!

Even though this song doesn’t show off Dick Dale’s guitar prowess, it’s a fun song. Fortunately he’s still touring in 2014 (we saw him live in April) and is just as good as ever.

Jaunty, Jazzy Jim Flora

Jim Flora was a Mid-century illustrator who created numerous album covers for RCA Victor and Columbia Records as well as 17 popular children’s books. His style relied heavily on distorting dimensional perspectives as well as offering a skewed take (and coloring) on human facial features and other body parts. While some audiences found his work slightly unsettling, we like the jaunty, jazzy, irreverent feeling his fine art evokes.

Sleek and Chic: Mid-Century Desert Jewels

Here are two new original illustrations from my Mid-Century Modern collection. The now-demolished Tiny Naylor’s drive-in restaurant that used to grace the corner of Sunset and La Brea in Hollywood inspired the first design, above. The Googie-style building made customers and passersby feel like they were part of the jet age.

I drew inspiration for the second design from another Googie-style jewel, the still-standing City Center Motel on West Van Buren in Phoenix, designed by William Knight and built in 1959 by Ben Paller. While I can’t vouch for the sleekness or chicness of the motel nowadays, here’s hoping there are enough Mid-Century Modern enthusiasts to keep buildings like this from disappearing.

A 1950s Animation Lover’s Must-Have

Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation is a fantastic hardback book from Amid Amidi — founder of Animation Blast magazine and editor-in-chief of the CartoonBrew blog — presenting rare and classic examples of mid-century modern cartooning. Amidi showcases the art, the artists, the production companies, and the stories behind them that make us long to see all of these trend-setting animations in their entirety. Cartoon Modern is wonderful as a coffee table book and as a reference work, and no matter how many times we have leafed through it before, we can’t help picking it up again. Here is a sampling of the stylish jewels Amidi has included in his book:

Giddyap (1950, UPA)
Woodpecker from Mars (Walter Lantz Productions, 1956)
Pigs is Pigs (Walt Disney Productions, 1954)
Gerald McBoing Boing (UPA, 1951)
Stage Door Magoo (UPA, 1955)
The Matador and the Troubador (UPA, 1956)