Mel Birnkrant Presents:
All of the Art on this site is one of a kind, created by CHARLES PONSTINGL, for the sheer joy of it.
He intended it as loving homage to the Great Comic Artists of former days. 
The images are based upon the work of many, including some that were created by, and are
“Copyright The Walt Disney Company”. The writing and photography is “Copyright Mel Birnkrant”.

Continue to THE ULTIMATE
Return HOME
         Once Charles had recovered from the challenge of “The Commission”, I presented him with another one.  I was a little ashamed of myself for doing it, because it could have turned out to be as crazy complex as the last one.  But, Charles mastered it in an unexpected way.  I wondered, over the course of a year, how large it would be, how many men might be required to carry it in, where I would find the space to put it.  Charles solved all these considerations, wisely, by under sizing. 

This Miniature Masterpiece now hangs beside me, tucked into a place of honor among my all-time favorites.  A carving of the Yellow Kid was long overdue.  It was with him that the whole concept of Comic Characters began.  So, I referred Charles to a number of pages in one of the books we each owned in common, and invited him to take his pick.  He chose perfectly, and surprised me with a decision based, most likely, on the fact that he must have known that, when I was a kid, I lived a year in Paris France, where Eunice and I met.
          Yes, that is the City of Light, as it appeared at the Turn of the Century, stretching out, before you, 4” deep.  Can you detect “La Tour Eiffel”?  The wind is blowing, wooden feathers are flowing, the great  balloon with its tiny passengers, each under 1”, is ascending out of sight.  The Yellow Kid, who is no closer to the viewer, but only looks that way,  is suspended in midair by a hidden rod.
         Here is a "Pogo" panorama that is delightful.  The sun is setting over the "Okefenokee Swamp".  “Albert the Alligator” steps out of his doorway in a tree. “Pogo Possum” and “Churchy” are in a boat that protrudes far beyond the frame, while “Miz Beaver” and “Molester Mole” look on.  “Deacon Mushrat”  chats with “Roogy Batoon”, a pelican  who is peddling snake bite remedy, which is of great interest to “Snavely” an oft inebriated snake, who is prone to biting himself, then, binging on the remedy.  Many of the characters that Walt Kelly created, with help from Charles, have carved their names into the nearby trees.
          The picture frame becomes a window, as "Jiminy Cricket” perches on the roughhewn windowsill to drink in the awesome beauty of Pinocchio’s village as it sleeps in brilliant moonlight.  This sweeping panorama was the opening scene of Walt Disney’s classic movie in 1940.  And the audience was stunned and amazed by the wonders of the Multiplane Camera.  The depth and complexity of this image is both soothing and insane.  Charles has stretched the perception of perspective and the art of woodcarving to a new dimension, while reducing the distance from a tiny Earthbound cricket to the moon to a mere four inches.
          This Mickey Mouse Picnic was one of the four jigsaw puzzles that I gave Charles for inspiration, 30 years ago.  He finally got around to carving it.  It was well worth waiting for.  Charles invented and introduced the ants.  I love when he does stuff like that.  Every article of food is present, and it all looks delicious.
         I enjoy the joyous abandon with which Minnie swings, and the gentle pressure of her hand on one of the wooden ropes.  The deeper one gets into Charles’ carvings, the more one discovers charming subtitles.

          The tree branch that holds the swing aloft grows right out through the frame and back again. The tiny ant who sits on it with a napkin tied around his neck and a teacup in his hand, is having a picnic too.
          This carving was inspired by the beautiful endpapers of “Felix the Cat, Book Two”.  Here Felix walks out of the clouds and down the rainbow into the Land of Mother Goose.  All the characters are there, from Humpty Dumpty to the Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe.  There’s Little Bo Peep (no sheep) and Little Boy Blue.  Little red riding Hood is there too.  Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater, Old Mother Hubbard, and a most impressive giant round out the crowd.
          “It All Started With a Mouse”, and so it did, a mouse, a penknife and a piece of wood.  And here Charles is, thirty-four years later, tracing Mickey’s history, from his caveman days, through all his famous movie roles, to the end of this long panel, where Mickey sheds his clothes, and appears without his signature red pants, yellow gloves and shoes, prepared to meet What, or Who?  Only Charles Ponstingl knows!  Charles really got carried away with this, and was swept up in the newly discovered pleasure of seeing how small he could go.  These minute figures are so fragile one has to hold their breath when they get near.
          I must confess that I have broken many of these carvings, over the years.  Thank God for Crazy Glue!  One only has to touch them, and the thinner pieces break; the thicker ones do too.  I did a lot of damage just cleaning them, and taking these photos.  This makes me appreciate Charles’ skills and dexterity all the more, for, incredibly, he not only carves this delicate wood, without breaking or splitting it, but he has never presented me with a carving throughout all these years, that had, in any way, been glued or repaired.  He carves them, paints them, and assembles them with pegs and screws, and little or no glue, and never breaks a thing!
           From the minute to the majestic!  Charles took that leap without a hint.  He just up and surprised me.  Mickey’s Nightmare was just a pretty good Cartoon.  In it, Mickey dreams he marries Minnie, and they have a lot of babies, who proceed to drive him crazy, and it turns into a Nightmare.  But the Poster for this movie is, by far, the very best one ever.  I’ll never forget, when, 40 years ago, I saw Ward Kimball standing beside one on a TV show, and I went BLEEPIN CRAZY!  Oh that reminds me; there is something mildly amusing I intend to tell you about Tom. I'll add it on below. Meanwhile, it was love, No, better say, obsession, at first sight.  Eventually, I got the poster, a giant image of Mickey, looking Fantastic, with a small army of baby mice, climbing all over his body.  It has hung in the hallway for years.  And now Charles had rendered it in wood!

          Here is a nuance that you might not notice:  One small mouse with a pea shooter is balanced on Mickeys toes.  He has just fired a pea at Mickey that is hitting him on the nose.
         Before I forget: At the last Atlantic City Antique Show I attended, some ten years ago, Tom noticed me, passing his booth, and called out to me, “Hey Birnkrant, do you still want those BLEEPING carvings?  My sister is ready to unload them now!”

I thought as fast as lightening,  Bambi and Goofy?  I had long ago decided I could easily live without them.  They were not my favorite characters to begin with, and considering the masterpieces Charles had filled my house with over the years, I certainly didn’t need to ransome these.  Meanwhile, I could see the dollar signs flashing in Tom’s eyes.  My first impulse was to say, “BLEEP NO!”  Instead, I replied, "No thanks, Tom.  I’m not into those, these days.  Your sister should have sold them to me when I would have paid anything.  I’m afraid she waited too long, and missed the window of opportunity with me.”   I’m told that he still has them, to this day.

And one more morsel:  My good friend Carl Lobel became quite friendly with Tom’s son, who had  become an antique toy dealer too, proving the theory that an acorn does not fall far from the tree.  Carl and all my other friends have kept my collection of Charles carvings a secret all these years.  Nonetheless, I sometimes wondered if anyone had spilled the beans, and Tom ever found out.  Carl related this anecdote to me, indicating that, as of five years ago, Tom still didn’t know.

Carl and Tom's son were conversing, while driving across in PA together, at that time, and the subject of my collection came up. Tom’s son mentioned that his dad had sold me some carvings years before.  Carl bit his tongue and asked mischievously,” What ever happened to the carver?” 

Tom’s son replied,  “Oh, that old BLEEPER died, years ago”.  I passed this information on to Charles with my condolences.  He was amused.