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”.
CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
In June of 2010, Charles suggested a visit to Mouse Heaven. Absolutely! It was agreed that, this time, there would be no carvings. My bank account was on vacation, badly in need of rest and resuscitation. It would be just a get together to celebrate the 30th Anniversery of the year we met, the year of their first visit here, the year our great friendship began, or so Charles said. As the date grew closer, he couldn’t resist hinting that he did have a small gift he wanted to give me to commemorate the Anniversary. He implied that it was extremely apt and would be meaningful to me. My God, I lay awake at night, wondering what it might be.
I speculated on a thousand things, but never came remotely close to guessing correctly. And Charles was right, the beautiful carving that he gave me that day was indeed meaningful, so much so that it made me cry. It was, as always, a great day. I look forward to seeing Seth. He is a bright funny kid, curious and appreciative of everything. It’s easy to see why Charles and Jean adore him. So do I. He was 8 that summer and more fun than ever. The year before, he’d given me a carving that he made, and he was pleased to see that it was still on display. Charles and I reminisced about a lot of things. Eventually, that exquisite moment came when Charles went out to the car and returned, carrying a carving. Seth, who had helped him make it , displayed it proudly.
Oh, My God! What a heartfelt gift, a gift so potent that words fail me to explain the reasons. In 1984 I had just transitioned from working with Colorforms. My adventures as a toy inventor with the sons of the owner of Colorforms as my partners were beginning. Our first project was called “The Weenies”, and it looked like it was going to succeed. Coleco bought it, and planned for it to be the follow up to the Cabbage Patch Kids.
When the process of creating the Weenies was only half finished, I sent Charles a set of all 12 drawings that showed the characters. This was so early that they weren’t colored yet. To make this tale as short as possible, suffice it to say, the Weenies got kicked out of bed. Coleco chose to do a toy called Sectors, instead. The disappointment was devastating and at the time, heartbreaking. Our hopes had been so high; our spirits fell so low.
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Of course, eventually, we forgot about the Weenies, and I certainly never remembered that I had sent Charles those early drawings. When I mailed the drawings to him, I wrote on one of the sheets, the optimistic thought that maybe one day he would be doing a carving based on Weenies if they managed to succeed. Charles never forgot that, the actual note was pasted to the back of the carving. And here they were! Charles had made them happen! They did not succeed, but he did the carving, anyway, and he did it beautifully! He knew from the copy below the drawings that they lived in a town called Bunville, and, by God, with no more of a hint than that, he Created it! And the colors, he had no idea what they were like, but, nonetheless, he got them right. And so, the Weenies “happened”, after all, thanks to my dear friend Charles Ponstingl! What a generous heartfelt gift, his friendship and the carving, both.
Meanwhile, for a long time before the visit, I had been thinking about asking Charles to do one more commission. There was a piece of art that I adored. It was the only known copy of a 1928 King Features Calendar with an amazing drawing by Louis Biedernamm. It was always a favorite possession, and hung in the most important position in the house, in the hall downstairs above a showcase with a Mickey Mouse Waddle Book inside. Over the 30 years that it had been hanging there, I saw it slowly fade. Yet, I had to leave it there, where I could see it it every day. After all, was I not slowly fading too? So, I let it stay, there in its place of honor.
Before the Ponstingl’s visit, I copied it with the computer and pieced an image of it together, actual size, ahead of time, and sent it home with Charles that lovely special day! He was happy to accept the challenge, as he loved the art as much as I did, and he loved a challenging commission.
The date was June 22, 2010. Twelve days later, returning from a Fourth of July Fireworks display, Charles and Jean were in an automobile accident. Charles’ vehicle was stopped at a red light, standing still, when his friend who was driving the car behind them, somehow, didn’t see Charles’ car or the red light, and continued to drive through the intersection as if they were not there. In other words, he rear-ended them at full speed with no foot on the brake.
This is difficult to write. Jean was injured, but her injuries were of the kind that would heal, over time. On the other hand ,Charles nearly died. His brain was bashed around inside his head... It is a MIRACLE that he survived. He was in a coma and remained on life support for a long time, a long time. Every day was touch and go. Jean never lost hope, well almost never, but there were times Charles’ doctors almost did, times when the prognosis looked grim. Bottom line, today, Charles is very much alive. The angels were on his side. Can you believe, I’m writing this on Christmas Eve? It’s nearly midnight. Time to say, Good Night.