Bienvenue Mr. Barks !
This chronicle of the four days Carl Barks spent in Paris during his famous 1994 European tour was first published in a special issue of the Danish magazine Carl Barks and Co.
Did you know that Picsou, Les Rapetoux, Géo Trouvetou and Miss Tic were "barksian" creations. No, those aren't characters found recently in some lost files by an overactive donaldist, but the French names of Uncle Scrooge, The Beagle Boys, Gyro Gearloose and Magica de Spell. Those names may appear to you, Danish readers, as the strangest on earth, but they do not prevent popularity for our favorite heroes in the native country of Molière.
France is, in fact, the only European country to have created an "Uncle Scrooge Magazine" (Picsou Magazine as we know it) even if Mickey is still more well known and beloved here than the Ducks. But we all are aware of the fact that southern Europe, by tradition, is rather "Mickey-ized" while northern Europe is strongly "Donald-ized". This being mentioned, the arrival of Carl Barks in France was still considered a rather important event and the whole Walt Disney Company decided to join forces to great the Duck Master with a warm "Bienvenue Mr. Barks" ! (Welcome Mr. Barks !)
Thursday July 7, 1994
3 days after the inauguration of Euro Disneyland Paris newest attraction, the Nautilus, the press was back in the park to greet the father of Picsou. Selected journalists were allowed to meet Mr. Barks during the afternoon in the Pinocchio suite, one of the most luxurious of the Disneyland Hotel. The morning had been dedicated to press pictures featuring the Good Artist with Donald and Daisy. Strangely enough Scrooge Mc. Duck wasn't part of the ceremonies. The rumor is that Scrooge has never really been welcomed at Euro Disneyland, since its presence in the park is a symbol some people dislike.
Most journalists who met Carl Barks on that sunny day came out of the suite amazed at the kindness, good health and high spirits of this old genius of a gentle man. During the discussion I enjoyed that afternoon, Carl Barks admitted with a mischievous smile that while he found Euro Disneyland Paris a beautiful and extremely detailed park, there weren't enough Ducks in the shops. "Mickey is everywhere" said he "but where are Magica de Spell, Gyro or Uncle Scrooge ?"
Friday, July 8, 1994
The official ceremonies were a priority on that warm Friday. First, a visit to the American Embassy, where Carl Barks met the American Ambassador in France, officially to settle a visa matter In reality this was more thought of as an official honor due to our favorite artist.
Second, Carl Barks was invited by the Mayor of Paris and his first deputy to Paris City Hall, where he was to receive the most important decoration of the city: La Médaille de Vermeil (The Vermilion Medal). The event was held in one of the beautiful City Hall huge lounges where tapestries added majesty to the place and where a large series of mirrors gave the feeling of grandeur the occasion deserved. Few journalists attended this very private and moving event reserved to high executives of The Company. Barks had the opportunity that morning to enjoy 3 very French traditions: a never ending speech pronounced by the first deputy, an awful translation of the speech and, maybe to compensate, a succulent cocktail in the purest French cooking style.
Saturday, July 9, 1994
The busiest day of all. It started by a signing session held from 9.30 to 11.30 at the Disney Store Champs-Elysées for Disney Store and Euro Disneyland cast members. A hundredth of fans attended the "party" in what has become today the most successful of all the Disney Stores worldwide. Carl Barks autographed his biographies, some brochures presenting his new lithographs, albums of his most famous comics, his new creation for the Disney Dimension series of Disney Art Editions (Scrooge counting his money) and even issues of the old Donald Magazine that was published in France from 1947 to 1953 and ended with issue 313 !
The afternoon was without a doubt the actual climax of Carl Barks stay in Paris. From 3.00 to 6.00 P.M., he inaugurated the 3 day exhibition of 29 of his oil paintings in the Catto Animation Gallery. Most of the French TV stations reported on the event. Carl seated for 3 hours in front of some of his most beautiful and well known paintings to greet his admirers, discuss kindly with them and sign hundredth of books. We experienced a few particularly moving moments when a French craftsman who had been influenced by Barks works during all his life presented the Duck Master with one of his creations (a cat carved in precious stone) or when the editor in chief of Picsou Magazine offered Mr. Barks, with shaking hands, an Uncle Scrooge plaster sculpture made especially for the occasion. The heat in the Gallery was unbearable but as ever Carl Barks kept his quiet smile. Some say that the Disney Magic preserve...
Sunday, July 10, 1994.
After quite a hectic week, one could think Carl would relax, but he did not really do that. He first visited his artistic heirs at The Walt Disney Company Europe's Noisy-le-Grand Creative Center where Ulrich Schröder, head of the artists, welcomed him.
Then he eventually concluded his visit to France where it all started, in the most Magic of all Kingdoms, the one that has "not enough Ducks yet". And there he conducted the Parade as Grand Master,... Grand Duck Master should I say.
And while he sat in front of the firemen car, he probably heard Donald whispering with his quacking French accent: "A bientôt et merci, Mr. Barks !" (See you soon and thank you, Mr. Barks).
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