Barks: "It was influenced by the old Inca method of laying stone. Yes, there's an article in there about the Indian tribes in the Andes. I got a lot of material out of the Geographic: the way they strung their bridges across canyons, the way the canyons had little paths carved along their sides. The Inca way of fitting stones together without mortar influenced [the half page view of Plain Awful]... a great deal.
I notice that I botched up my perspective a little in drawing that. I should have laid out all these squares down there," he said, poking the panel with his finger for emphasis, "by measuring points instead of from the vanishing point. See how they become diamond shaped toward the bottom of the panel?
When I was drawing it, some neighbour friend dropped in and sat there persistently talking to me, all the time that I was trying to make that big, complicated layout. And I would have to look up and answer, with my thoughts interrupted. There I was, hell-driven to draw that scene! It was just in my system. I wanted to draw it; and there I had this talking neighbor: talk, talk, talk. It's been a problem my whole life: whenever I was up against something on which I had to use my head and do some really deep thinking, somebody would always come along and have to talk about something. Even a stranger will buttonhole me and start talking. I was trying to work out all those complicated perspectives. He just looked at it and kept right on talking."
The perspective problem Barks was referring to can be optically "corrected" if one lays the book flat and views the panel from the bottom of the page at about 15 degrees angle. When Don Rosa made the sequel "Return to Plain Awful" in 1989, he intentionally used the same incorrect perspective in his half page view on Plain Awful, not wanting to presume to correct the error. But the Gladstone editors noticed it and told Rosa to redraw it and straighten it out.
The National Geographic was not the only inspiration for "Lost in the Andes." During the 1983 interview, Barks confirmed that the 1943 cartoon "Saludos Amigos" "had some influence on my choice to do an Inca story. I realized that it was a popular subject and that Disney's would love to have me use that locale. At that time, they were... trying to... get access to show their films in South America. They'd lost the whole European market during the war".
The setting of this story is similar to that of the "Lake Titicaca" sequence of "Saludos Amigos", but in a January 15, 1969 letter to Michael Barrier, Barks wrote that he did not work on that cartoon: "My 'Lost in the Andes' was inspired chiefly by National Geographic articles about the Inca civilizations. Some scenes from Saludos Amigos helped me with costume suggestions and exaggerated scenery. I only saw the picture once in a theatre."
Saki is the pseudonym of English author Hector Hugo Munro, born 1870 in Burma.
Interestingly enough, square eggs were also the theme for an unproduced wartime Disney-cartoon called "The Square World", which preceded Barks' comic by more than five years. In the projected film a machine was to have been used to mold people, animals and objects into square shapes. The Carl Barks Library - Set I shows some survived storyboard sketches and the story of the cartoon (page 1C-658).
In an August 4, 1975 interview by Donald Ault and Thomas Andrae, Ault asked Barks "Where did you get the idea of a square egg?" Barks: "Square eggs have been a joke for more years than I've been on earth. I remember hearing people talking about breeding chickens that would lay square eggs from the time I was a little child."
You are correct that the first piece of Barks art I was able to hold lovingly in my hands and drool over was ""Stranger Than Fiction"." [...] I also remember, that first visit, talking Carl into rifling through his archives to find "the square egg story" (Lost in the Andes) so that I could re-read a favored story from childhood. From my perspective now, I see that only eleven years had passed since publication of the story in 1949 and my first meeting with Barks in 1960. "Childhood," which had seemed so distant to me as a lad of 19, was but a blip on the radar screen of life as I now comprehend it, and the passing of time between when it was produced and when I requested Barks to let me read it, must have seemed brief to him as well, at his age then.