Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
It was twenty years ago in the spring of 1987 that the comic book story “The Son of the Sun” debuted in the pages of Uncle Scrooge #219, and marked the beginning of what has become the illustrious and prolific career of writer/artist Don Rosa. In these past score of years, Don has produced numerous wonderful stories featuring Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and the many other colorful characters of Disney’s “duck universe,” all the while paying homage to, and expanding on, the creative legacy of Disney Legend and original “duck man” Carl Barks.In July of 1986, as soon as the first of
“The Son of the Sun” is an amazing piece of storytelling. Epic in scope and scale, it is a tour de force of fast paced action, clever and often hilarious dialogue, and dynamic, detailed artwork that at times is simply breathtaking in its execution.
Previously established by Carl Barks in a number of his own stories, the contentious rivalry between Scrooge McDuck and his arch adversary Flintheart Glomgold sets the stage for a contest involving the search for the legendary lost treasure of the Incan Empire. Information from the infallible Junior Woodchucks Guidebook points Scrooge, Donald and nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie to the
There is action present that matches anything from an Indiana Jones movie. Spectacular airplane crashes, collapsing ancient rope bridges and a literally earth shattering climax that is both hilarious and stunning at the same time.
And the quest’s final penultimate object, the jewel-laden Eye of Manco Capac:
Peppered throughout the panels are delightful references to previous Barks-chronicled duck adventures. The opening museum sequence is filled with one homage after another to earlier Scrooge adventures, and upon arriving at Lake Titicoocoo later in the story, the group meets a very notable character previously featured in the classic Barks tale “Lost in the Andes,” who goes on to play a very humorous role in the story’s conclusion.
Don’t let the fact that this is a comic book fool you. “The Son of the Sun” is dense in both plot and details. And make no mistake,
Fortunately, “The Son of the Sun” was reprinted a few years ago and is still available from Gemstone Publishing. It can be ordered directly from their website.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
As promised, here is the second Stitch-themed mural from the Merchants of Venus in Walt Disney World's Tomorrowland. The purple experiment looking down from the TTA Station is sporting a set of Mickey Ears, while the small yellow one in the plaza is clutching tightly to its own blue Mickey balloon. Fun stuff.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Some four decades before the contemporary Goofy family dynamic was introduced in the television show Goof Troop and the films A Goofy Movie and An Extremely Goofy Movie, Disney’s dimwitted but always good natured star enjoyed a domestic condition rooted in the early days of the post-war baby boom. While the 1990s gave birth to the character of Max and portrayed the Goof as devoted single father, fifty years earlier, the Goofy cartoons featured prominently the character of George G. Geef, a perennial everyman whose immediate family then included the faceless Mrs. Geef and a very different, but still endearing chip off the old block.
Known in most historical resources as Goofy Junior, the little tyke was referred to simply as Junior throughout his five screen appearances, and was once actually identified as George Junior in 1953’s Father’s Day Off.
Born literally in the 1951 cartoon Fathers Are People, Junior would go on to star in four additional Goofy shorts through 1961. A quintessential postwar archetype, Junior was mischievous, charming and temperamental, keeping his father in a state of almost constant exasperation. The same era had given birth to Dennis the Menace, and Junior was not very far removed from Hank Ketcham’s now iconic creation. The highlight of Fathers Are People is the father-son battle of wills over a roomful of messy toys that George Sr. ultimately and unequivocally loses.
Junior’s most prominent role was in 1952’s Father’s Lion where he continually confounds an irritated mountain lion with fearless innocence and a dime-store pop gun. Patient with his father’s Baron Munchausen-esque storytelling, he is much less a foil than in his other appearances. His low key bravado is a comical contrast to his father’s well-meaning boastfulness.
Junior’s roles are reduced somewhat in both Father’s Day Off and Father’s Weekend. In Father’s Day Off, he is but one of a number of elements that contribute to the fiasco that develops when Geef takes over the household chores for the day. In Father’s Weekend, Junior only comes into the forefront later in the cartoon when his father takes him to the beach and its nearby amusement park. In 1961’s Aquamania, Junior is basically there just to drive the boat in a pratfall-filled water ski race.
Perhaps most distinctive about Junior is that he was not designed to be a miniature version of Goofy, a direction that was eventually taken when the character was reinvented as Max for the Goof Troop television show. With his bright red hair and absence of dog ears, he clearly stood apart from his on-screen father.
Upon becoming a parent of sons, I discovered an entirely new appreciation for these cartoons that featured the antics of G. G. Geef and Junior. Numerous moments in the films reflected some of my own personal experiences. While being firmly grounded in 1950s popular culture, they still retain a measure of timelessness that many contemporary viewers can no doubt still relate to.
Friday, May 25, 2007
One of the most creatively dynamic concepts realized in recent years at Walt Disney World in my opinion is in fact, not a theme park attraction. The Goofy's Candy Co. brand, and its signature store in Downtown Disney are amazing examples of the combined talents of both Walt Disney Imagineering and the Disney Design Group.
Goofy's line of confectionery products can be found all over the Walt Disney World property, but the retail location of the same name is an adventure into all forms of sugar intoxication. While my two kids spent extended moments of indecision deciding on flavors of Goofy Glaciers (among the choices: Goofy's Glacier Green, Gawrshly Berry Blue, and Orange You Happy Orange), I busied myself taking pictures of the establishment's many colorful design elements.
From the fun product brands that adorn the walls--To the various chalkboards that feature formulas and instructions--
To perhaps my favorite design, the Periodic Table of Elements of which Goofonium takes center stage.
Goofy is certainly represented throughout, but most impressively near the main entrance where he takes on a very iced-over demeanor as he hawks the aforementioned Glacier concoctions.
Goofy's Candy Co. has proven to be successful and very popular since its debut in 2005. It has been featured in the Boo to You Parade at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and its products have a presence in nearly every merchandise location on property.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
High above Fantasyland in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, one of Ariel's best friends keeps lookout over the area that bears his name: Scuttle's Landing. Details abound throughout the Magic Kingdom; sometimes you have to arch your neck a little to see them all.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
These very cool design elements featuring Brer Fox and Brer Bear can be found in the exterior queue area of Splash Mountain that winds through a whimsical landscape in the shadow of the Frontierland Train Station. The irony of these characters' prominence in the Magic Kingdom while Song of the South continues to be locked away in the mythical Disney vault continues to be a source of frustration to countless Disney fans. In that sense, these Wanted posters almost take on meaning beyond their simple association with this very popular attraction.
And it will certainly be no small event when Disney Legend Charles Ridgway arrives in the Carolinas in just a little less than two weeks on Tuesday, June 5. Mr. Ridgway will be appearing that evening at 7PM at the Winston-Salem Barnes and Noble. I will be hosting and I look forward to meeting all my fellow Carolina Disney enthusiasts.
Charlie will be discussing his new book Spinning Disney's World, and will make a presentation of photographs from his own personal collection that span his long and colorful career with the Walt Disney Company. Mark your calendars and spread the word! It's going to be a fun night!
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Long in need of refurbishment, El Rio del Tiempo has evolved into a much more colorful, high energy presentation in the form of the Gran Fiesta Tour. Most noticeably gone now are the Aztec references at the beginning and the very weird marionette carousel from the finale. The movie screens have all remained in place and now feature animation that chronicles Jose Carioca and Panchito Pistoles searching for Donald prior to a planned concert. The attraction's mix of set pieces and film projections is a natural fit with the live action-animation mix of the original 1944 feature film. And unlike the all encompassing Seas with Nemo and Friends, Donald, Jose and Panchito do not overpower the entire Mexico pavilion.
While I always found El Rio del Tiempo an enjoyable diversion, it always impressed me as a bizarre amalgamation of other ride concepts. It was an odd mix of If You Had Wings and Small World, with Aztec history, albeit without the trademark human sacrifice, thrown in for good measure. Gran Fiesta ejects that seemingly obligatory history homage and subsequently pulls the other disparate elements together with a more consistent theme and mood. It's a fun ten minutes.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
The wacky antics of MuppetVision 3-D can sometimes extend just beyond the attraction building and its queue area. Mostly obscured on high walls to the right of the building, two oversize planters take on slightly different functions as their contents fall victim to the hot Florida sun.
The largest ice cream sundae at Walt Disney World is not at Beaches and Cream but in fact at Disney-MGM Studios.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
For all its troubled development and decidedly mixed reviews, I have to say that I enjoyed the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor much more than I expected to. Closer to cute and corny than to hip and hilarious, it certainly satisfied the crowd I saw it with. The little kids in the audience seemed to be especially taken with it.
That said, it is still very disappointing in other ways. It is totally disconnected from its Tomorrowland location, and no effort whatsoever was made to make it fit even on an aesthetic level. The queue and preshow areas are sparse, clearly betraying the attraction’s very short creative gestation period. As novel as the whole Living Character Initiative is, the attractions employing this technology are going to need to expand beyond the very simple screen-to-audience interaction that both Laugh Floor and Turtle Talk currently present.
If you can look past its obvious flaws (and likely many will not), it’s a mildly entertaining D-Ticket and a solid child-pleaser.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Along a meandering stream in the Camp Minnie Mickey area of Disney's Animal Kingdom, Goofy finally puts to use (well, sort of) the skills he learned in his 1942 short How to Fish. I really love the details that went into this scene, from the contents of the lunch box to the Goof's bedroll. The holes in his shoes are an especially nice touch and are a specific carryover from his many cartoon appearances.
Monday, May 14, 2007
It appears that another major milestone of the Disney Company is going unrecognized and uncelebrated. Seventy-five years ago this month, Goofy appeared for the first time, albeit in the form of Dippy Dawg, in the 1932 Mickey Mouse cartoon Mickey’s Revue.
Goofy is especially unique among his famous costars in that his performances were not limited to the intellectually-challenged but always good natured personality he came to embody . His range extended to his now famous Sport Goofy and “How To” roles, and then ultimately to the post-war character of Mr. Geef, who was essentially a cartoon counterpart to the likes of television icons Ozzie Nelson and Ward Cleaver.
From the black and white shaggy persona of Dippy Dawg to his upcoming and hopeful return to glory later this year in How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, it is time to celebrate 75 years of Goofy-ness. That’s exactly what we plan on doing here over the next few weeks. There’s a lot of potential ground to cover so stay tuned.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Published on October 23, 1973, the picture had the following caption:
NEW ATTRACTION--Disney engineers, from left, Marty Sklar, Tony Baxter, George McGinnis and John Hench examine a model of Disney World's new Space Mountain ride. The display was part of the first press tour ever offered of production center of Walter Elias Disney Enterprises.
Continuing yesterday's series of Freeze Frames from Aladdin, we highlight some moments that feature references to other notable Disney characters. The Genie is responsible for two of these. He unceremoniously pulls Little Mermaid costar Sebastian out of a cookbook, and uses Pinocchio to illustrate his lack of faith in Aladdin's seemingly sincere commitment to granting the Genie's own freedom.
A bit more difficult to spot is Beast from Beauty and the Beast. His blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameo involves not the Genie but the Sultan. A toy version of the character is among the small trinkets that he amuses himself with just prior to the Prince Ali musical number.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
When Genie morphs into the slightly more recognizable Groucho Marx a few moments later, it borrows heavily from Groucho's famous and hugely popular 1950s game show, You Bet Your Life.
More Aladdin Freeze Frames tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
One of my favorites elements from Mickey's Toontown Fair in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is the very cartoon-esque rendition of a vintage gas pump. The entire scene of Pete's Garage is a clever homage to service stations of yesteryear. Clean restrooms were badges of honor for station operators back in the day and the restroom key was a distinct staple of gas station culture. My personal choice for best-Imagineered restrooms on Disney World property.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
As many readers here already know, the retro-deco designs of Tomorrowland are among my very favorite details in Walt Disney World. And as you can see here, those details extend all the way down to the restroom level.
A simple mailbox is not excluded either. And guests are clearly cautioned--NO INTERPLANETARY DELIVERIES.
Monday, May 07, 2007
And please folks, this post was not meant to re-engage the Epcot character debate. My intention was solely to revisit some earlier EPCOT nostalgia and continue our celebration of EPCOT's 25th.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Most would likely dismiss this Donald Duck comic book as being fairly inconsequential. Typically, if a Duck comic from this time period doesn’t possess a Carl Barks pedigree, it tends to be largely ignored, let alone inspire any kind of discussion.
While adapting the vast majority of the cartoon’s sequences, the comic also added a framing sequence involving Huey, Dewey and Louie and established a narrative with Donald himself being a character, and not just assuming roles within the story. The Spirits of Progress, the father-son duo who are the central narrators of the tale, fully appeared in the comic, going beyond the rot scoped silhouettes they were in the cartoon.
One feature that remained consistent from film to page was the clever rhyming dialog that the Spirits cleverly engage in.
In keeping with the “edu-tainment” nature of both short and comic story, the inside, cover pages and the back cover provided some fun illustrated facts and diagrams.
Friday, May 04, 2007
Over at Passport to Dreams Old and New, Foxxfur has just posted the latest installment of her Selling the Dream series of articles about the various television specials Disney has produced over the years to promote their theme parks. Today's post takes a fascinating look at the 1982 EPCOT Center Grand Opening special hosted by Danny Kaye. The program was a very odd juxtaposition of idealistic pontifications and not-so-subtle advertising, but as Foxxfur ultimately concludes, it represented a significant moment where Disney actually promoted the "thematic and intellectual concerns" of one of its parks.
Great, great information and insight as we've come to expect from Passport to Dreams Old and New.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Solid arguments could be made for any of these and countless others as well. Ever since Jaws and Star Wars were released in the mid-1970s, summer has become the season for high energy popcorn-filled trips to the local multiplexes. But my candidate for a perfect summer movie predates those two films by nearly a decade and a half, and while it was certainly a special effects powerhouse in its day, it is best remembered for its undeniable charm and the engaging performances of its cast.
The screenplay and direction of David Swift mix equal parts melodrama, romance and comedy for very satisfying results. Some reviewers, including Disney scholar Leonard Maltin, felt the film uneven in its comedy and ultimately average, a criticism I personally have to disagree with. However, nearly all critics of the time were universal in their praise of the film’s cast. Accolades were deservedly given to romantic leads Brian Keith and the always beautiful Maureen O’Hara, but the film is also notable for its equaling engaging supporting players; among them Nancy Kulp, Frank DeVol, Una Merkel, Joanna Barnes, Charlie Ruggles, Ruth McDevitt and Leo G. Carroll.
USA Today, both print and online editions, has a very good article on Disney's return to traditonal animation. Featured prominently in the article are both Enchanted and The Frog Princess. Included are comments from John Lasseter, Dick Cook, Leonard Maltin and even Simpsons creator Matt Groenig.
One interesting tidbit--the young heroine's name in The Frog Princess is revealed to be Tiana.