Friday, January 28, 2011

No Lion - This Steiff Story Deserves An Academy Award!

There's no question that a great Steiff find or story is a "mane event" for collectors all over the world.  If that is the case with you... then this posting will be the (very big) cat's meow.  Take a look at this note from Andrew, who writes about recreating a famous movie scene with a few props, including his Steiff studio (lifesized) lion!  He shares:

Andrew's Steiff lion reenacting a scene from "Born Free"
"Hi Steiffgal,

I thought you would like to see a couple of photos of my Steiff studio lion who recently made a very rare trip outside for some photographs in the
"Born Free" style with my 1963 Land Rover. This is only his second trip outside in 41 years!  
The original movie scene from "Born Free"
This lifelong friend has been an important part of my life from practically the beginning.  He appeared in my childhood home on Christmas morning in 1969 when I was four years old.  Needless to say, it gave me quite a shock to find him under the Christmas tree!

My father acquired him from the FAO Schwarz store in New York City.  The lion was accompanied by several small Steiff lions, all male; some were standing and some lying down.  These "smaller" cats have long since wandered off with children and grandchildren. 

For many years my lion had a very rare companion, a Steiff studio okapi which also came from FAO Schwarz. The okapi pre-dated the lion by several years and was in poor condition when I adopted the lion. It was the only Steiff okapi that I have ever seen.

I have attached pictures of George Adamson of 
"Born Free" fame and of my lion and Land Rover. 

Best regards, 

Andrew and Lion"

An "outtake" in the reenactment
And the Academy Award for best supporting actor goes to.... Andrew's lion for sure!  Here we have a stunning example of Steiff's craftsmanship at its finest.   This studio lion is standing, 100 cm, excelsior stuffed, and made from mohair.  Like most studio animals, he has an internal metal skeleton that helps to support his enormous size and weight.  When new, this skeleton could support the weight of an adult man (but don't try this now, as time can loosen the joints and internal integrity).  This lion model was made in 1960, 1966, and 1967 only, so his production timeline dovetails just right with Andrew's history.   A sitting version of this same mohair studio lion was produced in 60, 90, and a whopping 120 cm in the 1953 through 1967 time frame as well.  

Ok, who has heard of an okapi - and in this case, a Steiff studio version?  This most unusual animal looks approximately like a deer from the torso up, and a zebra from the legs down.   Andrew's studio okapi was produced in 120 and 200 cm in 1960 and 1967 only.  This jungle jem is standing, mohair, and gorgeously detailed with hand airbrushing in black and many shades of browns and tans.  This is a rare and spectacular piece indeed. Steiff also produced smaller velvet okapis in 14, 28, and 43 cm from 1958 through 1970.   

A lion steals the scene -again- in "Born Free"
Although Andrew's lion is clearly house trained, he certainly appears to be enjoying his new found freedom and outdoor adventure - much like the four legged stars of the 1966 film, Born Free.  This well known and beloved movie told the story of Joy and George Adamson, a British couple who raised an orphaned lioness named Elsa from cub to adulthood, and then released her into the wilds of Kenya.   The movie was based upon Joy Adamson's 1960 book of the same name. According to the movie review in the New York Times:

"Almost from the opening shot — a vast expanse of corn-colored African plain where lions feed on the carcass of a freshly killed zebra — one knows that Joy Adamson's best-selling book "Born Free" has been entrusted to honest, intelligent filmmakers. Without minimizing the facts of animal life or overly sentimentalizing them, this film casts an enchantment that is just about irresistible."
Clearly moviegoers and critics agreed; the movie and its musical score won numerous accolades, including Academy Awards for Original Music Score and Best Song; Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture, Best Actress, and Best Original Song; and a Grammy Award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture.  Several book and movie sequels followed the success of the hit movie.  The award winning album is pictured here on the left.

Steiffgal's not lion to you when she says Andrew's story really made her day... and hopefully yours as well.

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