The Art of Joseph Mugnaini

VFX artist artist Ryan Leasher is writing a book about illustrator and animation artist Joseph Mugnaini. His book, Wilderness of the Mind: The Art of Joseph Mugnaini, contains a Forward by Ray Bradbury and is currently set for publication in early 2010 from Art of Fiction.

Mugnaini is best known in animation circles for his work on Icarus Montgolfier Wright, the 1962 animated short produced by Format Films, which received an Academy Award nomination. All the artwork for the film was done by Mugnaini, based on an original story by Ray Bradbury; It was produced by Jules Engel, directed by Osmund Evans with narration by James Whitmore and Ross Martin. The painting above is from the film.

Leasher tells us that he obtained “a lot of materials relating to Icarus. Lee Klynn had a great number of items–including orignal artwork, the shooting dialogue script, etc. We’ve currently slated approximately 50 pages in the book for Icarus artwork – including concept artwork for post-Icarus projects with Format that never materialized..”

Other notable animation projects for Mugnaini were Concept, a pitch film for the Hollywood Museum in 1964, on which he did all the artwork; as with Icarus it was a static art, animated camera affair but with better use of multi-plane cameras; and Room for Heroes, a 1971 Walt Disney educational film about American folk heroes for which Joe did background paintings

Ryan also tells us:

We’ve had unrestricted access to the estate’s archives and, most importantly, to Joe’s journals. What we’ve found is nothing short of amazing. The book will include many pieces from Joe’s journals and give an unparalleled view into Joe’s creative process.

Joe is best know as the illustrator for many of Ray Bradbury’s books, including their first collaboration on Golden Apples of the Sun, the iconic Fahrenheit 451, The October Country, and my personal favorite The Halloween Tree. No previous book has come even close to showing the depth of the collaboration between Joe and Ray Bradbury. We’ve got stunning concept work, including the very first and never-before published Fahrenheit 451 sketches. They were discovered during the research, hidden in a scrapbook in the estate archives, safely tucked away by Joe’s wife Ruth some 45 years ago.

The book will include Joe’s views and teachings on art. Although Joe was best known to many as an artist and illustrator, his greatest impact was as a teacher. His focus on the structure of form has found purchase in animation studies; Walt Stanchfield references Joe’s approach to form and structure in his lecture series.

We’ve spent a lot of time making sure that the reproductions will be as close to the original pieces as possible, with an emphasis on color reproduction. The book will also present many 1:1 reproductions of segments of Joe’s larger pieces so the reader can appreciate and closely examine Joe’s mind-blowing line work.

Sounds like a book we have to have. For updates, check the Wilderness of the Mind website.


  • http://Mrfunsblog Floyd Norman

    I was talking about this film with writer, George Clayton Johnson at the San Diego ComicCon a few months ago. He and Ray Bradbury wrote the screenplay for “Icarus.”

    I also worked with Joe Mugnaini on “Concept” back in the sixties, and I still have some of Joe’s paintings at home. The film was produced and directed by my pal, Jim Fletcher. Magnaini was an awesome artist, and a nice guy.

  • Fred Cline

    For years I only knew of Mugnaini as a teacher and author. I bought his book, “The Hidden Elements of Drawing”, an instructional book about human figure drawing. That was my favorite book about figure drawing (as a young art student) because it showed the relationship of gesture to structure rather than presenting the human figure as a compilation of bones, muscle, and flesh. It was the perfect approach for my not-so-scientific mind.

    I believe the jacket flap on the book described him as an instructor at Otis Art Institute and neglected to mention his involvement in animated film projects. It has only been in the last couple of years that I became aware of his animation work. Thanks for this post.

  • bob kurtz

    Joe Mugnaini was a lover of life. he was full of energy and always had this contagious smile. he ate up life. it was never dull being around joe.
    and of course he was an amazing artist. there is so much i remember
    about the man. and when i do,i have a smile on my face .
    besides drawing trips to baja, i worked with joe and ray bradbury on the “icarus” film. i followed up the storyboard with a production board
    that planned the number of paintings joe would have to execute and
    how to move on the paintings .

    Joe Mugnaini painted amazing images for that film. he painted his heart
    out. but then he knew no other way to work and live.

    thanks for the post because it is nice to think about joe again.

  • http://www.louromano.blogspot.com/ Lou Romano

    Cal Arts has a print of Icarus Montgolfier Wright in its film library. I’ve been wanting to see this film for some time. I’ve watched films at Cal Arts on a flatbed, but last time I checked they stopped doing that. You have to reserve time and pay for a projectionist to screen the film on campus, which would be a great way to see it. However, if anybody knows if the film exists somewhere else (online perhaps?) I’d love to know.

    Thanks for the post and to the folks that shared their memories of Mr. Mugnaini. He’s an inspiration.

  • http://www.theguysperspective.typepad.com THE GUYS

    Now that’s creepy! But that’s the point isn’t it. Brilliant!

  • http://none Mary Beebe Crofts

    I’ve been a Joe fan nearly as long as I’ve been a Ray B fan…the latter being comic book days and the pair since I clung to a battered pb of October Country. My Mom burned my comic books the minute I left for college. Otherwise, she was a great Mom. Anyway, I want a copy of the book the second it’s off the press.
    Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that I can buy Joe M. prints to hang in my livingroom. My kids think I’m crazy, starting a new collection at my age but, it’s my money and my life and Joe M is one of my joys…so there!!!

  • http://none Mary Beebe Crofts

    Here’s another comment…I have print of Joe M’s Halloween Kite hanging over my fireplace, recently purchased. My youngest grand-daughter (6) really studied it…then went to the other 2 Joe M. prints which I hung on another wall and studied them. She said they were really cool and she wanted to draw like that! So Joe now has another fan. I’m giving her a copy of Ray B’s Halloween Tree for her birthday…know she’ll enjoy it, and yes, she WILL be able to READ it!!
    Anxiously awaiting the publication … so far, haven’t heard when it will be. Anybody out there know the answer?