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Walt Disney's Secret Tragedy

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Disneyland may be the happiest place on earth, but the man behind it wasn’t. Behind the popular movies, the theme park empire and the Mouse, Walt Disney carried a tragedy with him that he refused to speak about even with his family members.

When Walt was growing up, his parents (that's Walt and his mom in the picture) were far from well off. They struggled to make ends meet, moving many times to pursue better job opportunities and trying to keep food in the mouths of five children.

So when Walt and his brother Roy were finally met with success, the brothers were proud to buy their parents a new home in North Hollywood, not far from Disney Studios. The elder Disneys had only been there a few months when Flora started to complain of headaches and said she felt constantly ill. Suspecting the furnace, Walt sent over a Disney Studios handyman to look into the matter. Whatever the handyman did, it wasn’t enough - one November morning, the housekeeper felt woozy and went to get the Disneys out of the house. Walt’s father, Elias, had collapsed in the hallway; Flora had fallen on the bathroom floor. They were able to revive Elias, but it was too late for Flora. She passed away from asphyxiation on November 26, 1938, at the age of 70.

To add insult to injury, Roy had an inspection done on the faulty furnace. Included in the write up were these particularly awful words: “installation of the furnace showed either a complete lack of knowledge of the requirements of the furnace or a flagrant disregard of these conditions if they were known.”

Walt felt terribly guilty and refused to talk about the matter for the rest of his life - to anyone. Even many years later, when his daughter asked where her grandparents were buried, he wouldn’t discuss it.

Many have speculated that Walt’s guilt over his mother fueled the tragic fates of the mothers in so many of his films, but the fact is, Disney borrowed a lot of his material from fairy tales. Apparently orphans or children with one parent just open up more plot lines.

[Photo via MiceChat]

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
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Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

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