In the summer of 1979, I signed on as the film columnist for Heavy Metal, then edited by Ted White. Ted wanted to use an unusual title on the column, something different from the familiar words associated with films and filming. After some thought, I coined the word Flix, which I had never seen in print anywhere. Ted introduced the magazine's new quartet of columns (on music, film, sf, underground comics) in the January 1980 issue.
The column installment below, based on my interview with the Disney artist Nino Carbe (1909-1993), was published in the April 1980 issue. As you'll see if you read it, I chose an enigma-wrapped-in-a-riddle approach with more than a few convoluted Cornell Woolrich-styled twists. As the deadline neared, just when I completed that column, an envelope arrived from Carbe with a color transparency of his beautiful 1944 Little Mermaid painting. (As noted on the DVD of Disney's The Little Mermaid, Disney first began pre-production art on this in the late 1930s.)
I passed the transparency on to John Workman, the Heavy Metal art director. When I received the printed magazine, I was stunned to see that Workman had destroyed Carbe's magnificent painting by chopping it in half and running it on two facing pages. If anyone wanted to clip it, they could not. It could have looked spectacular if displayed large on a single page. Using Photoshop, I've joined the two halves together so it can at last be seen correctly and at a large size.
I once wondered if Disney executives in the 1980s were prompted to locate the long-ago forgotten 1930s project after seeing Carbe's painting in the April 1980 issue of Heavy Metal. The official story is that after The Little Mermaid went into production in 1985, the Disney staff accidentally found Kay Nielsen's visual development materials for the earlier proposed film.
The huge success in 1989 of The Little Mermaid may have saved Disney from going bankrupt. The thought persists that Nino Carbe's Little Mermaid bubbled to the surface just when Disney was sinking. Something to ponder. Note that Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) began when an executive remembered reading the 1940s Classics Illustrated adaptation and brought a copy of the comic book into a meeting.
To see Carbe's paintings, illustrations and costume designs, go to Nino Carbe.
Carbe also did backgrounds for Clair de Lune, the segment which was deleted from Fantasia (1940). It was re-edited and re-scored as the Blue Bayou segment in Make Mine Music (1946). When a workprint of the original Clair de Lune was discovered, it was restored and released as a Disney short subject (1996).