Monday, December 31, 2007

Souvenirs: Pleasure Island Memories

Souvenir buttons of bygone days.

This collection of buttons dates from the inaugural days of Pleasure Island back in the spring of 1989. While both Comedy Warehouse and Adventurers Club have survived the past two decades, Avigators Supply and the Neon Armadillo have sadly faded into Walt Disney World obscura.

Avigators Supply was easily one of my most favorite shopping experiences in Walt Disney World. A companion store of sorts to the Adventurers Club, it was a very cool aviation themed establishment that was reminiscent of Banana Republic in its pre-Gap days.

A 1990 edition of the Birnbaum guide provided this description of the Neon Armadillo, PI's original country music venue:

"Once a greenhouse for exotic plants collected during Pleasure's endless world travels, the Neon Armadillo now features live country & western music nightly. Southwestern decor is highlighted by a wonderful brass chandelier in the shape of a spur and inlaid wood tabletops decorated in Navajo blanket patterns. In keeping with the Southwestern theme, two fajitas bars offer freshly made chicken, beef, or seafood fajitas. Specialty drinks, beer, and wine are also served."

Sunday, December 30, 2007

How to Hook Up Your Home Theater

If we can go on the assumption that Goofy has some degree of canine genetics in his biology, then the new cartoon How to Hook Up Your Home Theater proves that you can in fact, teach an old dog new tricks.

Currently showing in theaters with National Treasure: Book of Secrets, this new animated vignette is the first in a series of new cartoon short subjects that were commissioned by John Lasseter and Ed Catmull shortly after taking the reins at Walt Disney Feature Animation. It is wonderful marriage of nostalgia to contemporary popular culture, applying the formula from the classic 1940s and 1950s era Goofy "How-To" cartoons to digital age home electronics. It's a fun and very often hilarious combination.

Like its predecessors such as How to Be a Detective, How to Swim or Home Made Home, How to Hook Up Your Home Theater comes out of the gate fast and never slows down until the end credits. It pays immediate homage to the original Sport Goofy films with a direct connection to How to Play Football, by utilizing the original stadium background from that 1944 production and expounding similar pratfall-filled gameplay. But the shorts contemporary sensibilities soon emerge. For, while the mid-20th century everyman clearly loved football, his early 21st century counterpart loves it equally as well but just translated to a mammoth television screen with all the accompanying home theater bells and whistles.

With his ever present off-screen narrator, the Goof explores the world of home entertainment via both sharp witticisms and broad physical comedy. The moment Goofy walks into the Shiny Stuff superstore and subsequently (and hilariously) professes his love for a wall-sized television, you realize that this animation golden age superstar has definitely embraced the modern age. The short pokes fun at numerous home theater conventions, including delivery windows, instruction manuals, tangled cables and universal remotes.

And for the quintessential Disney geek such as myself, there are plenty of hidden details and inside jokes. References can be found to Mickey Mouse, Dopey and even a supporting character from Pinocchio. In addition, quick but distinct homages are paid to both John Lasseter and Walt Disney himself. But especially notable was use of the original early era design styles of both the opening title cards and the end credits. It is both a testament to, and a celebration of, the Disney Studio's legacy of cartoon shorts, of which How to Hook Up Your Home Theater is a most welcome addition.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Snapshot! - Reserving the Bali Bumper Car

If you're a part of that tour group from Ohio, the Bali Bumper Car is awaiting your arrival. This blackboard at Kali River Rapids in Disney's Animal Kingdom is similar to the one at the Jungle Cruise in both style and sense of humor. The board's funniest play on words also pays tribute to a certain bear that calls that area of the world his home.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"The Sounds of Air Blowers and Wind Blowing Upwards"

2719 Hyperion reader Mike Bronstein recently contacted me and to share some of his early Disneyland memories. I was especially excited when Mike described his experiences with the Tomorrowland Flying Saucers attraction.

The Flying Saucers opened in August 1961,and while popular, the attraction was not without problems. Randy Bright discussed the Saucers in his book Disneyland: Inside Story:

When the Flying Saucers debuted at Disneyland, the complicated system sputtered its way to operational readiness. Giant fans located underground blew huge amounts of air up through little openings in the Saucer arena. The force of the air lifted the saucers a few inches above the floor, and held them there. Employees were "volunteered" to act as the first test pilots, and as they shifted their weight to the left or right, the saucers started careening crazily across the arena.

Despite the attraction's ongoing maintenance issues, it still was able to impress one young Disneyland guest. Mike relates:

". . . and then the Flying Saucers. This was fantastic. I have never seen anything like this since. It's really hard to explain what they did to pull this one off.

I remember blue--the color of the air baffled area, the sounds of air blowers and wind blowing upwards. White Saucers floating on an air jet with jet sounds all around from the air machine. They would move this rolling gantry across the rectangular area corralling saucers into the loading area. In this part of the 'space' the air baffles were closed and the cars were stationary. You would climb in and hook your waist belt on a protruding metal pin. Then when it was your time, the gantry would move the saucers that were skidding around over on the other side to the edge where the air ducts would close, causing the saucers to stop floating. I remember sitting in a saucer and trying to get it to move. I was a skinny kid and the damn things moved by throwing your weight one direction or another. They had hand holds that helped to control you body, but I just couldn't get them to go the right way!"

According to Randy Bright, ". . . the system that made the saucers fly continued to be a maintenance nightmare. Finally, in 1966, the saucers disappeared, never to be seen again."

Thanks to Mike for generously sharing his memories of Tomorrowland with us, and a big thank you also to Dave from Davelandweb for providing the accompanying photographs.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

And in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth I said.
For hate is strong and mocks the song, of peace on earth goodwill to men.

But hear the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor does he sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.

To all the readers of 2719 Hyperion, my deepest thanks for all the support and encouragement you have given me over the past year. I want to wish you all the happiest of holiday seasons, and a safe and prosperous new year.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Greetings from Winter Summerland!

A little slice of Christmas can be found year round in Walt Disney World at the Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course. The elves have set up camp in their Elfstream trailers in this vacationland of skiing and surfing and fishing and skating. These thirty-six holes of mini golf are a testament to 1950s retro as well as the various Santa Land roadside attractions scattered throughout the USA. Join us for a slightly more unconventional celebration of the holidays!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Snapshot! - Christmas from the 1950s

Bad wallpaper, a red flamingo and "Father Knows Best" on an old black and white television--it all adds up to a Christmas living room straight out of the 1950s. This holiday time capsule comes courtesy of the Tune In Lounge in Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Snapshot! - A Surprise Under the Tree

The scale of the Christmas tree that sits in the center of town square in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is enormous, as is the toy train that encircles it. And not just any toy train at that. This caboose proudly bears the name of the Carolwood Pacific, Walt Disney's famous backyard railroad that he built and maintained during the last two decades of his life.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How the Mice Saved Christmas

Disney's "Studio Mice" that were prevalent in many different types of media during the 1950s, made an interesting Christmas-related appearance in the December 1957 issue of Walt Disney's Magazine. The story "How the Mice Saved Christmas" featured a narrator by the name of Grover Cleveland Mouse whose ancestry related directly to the studio's 1953 cartoon featurette Ben and Me.

Perhaps I should identify myself. I am Grover Cleveland Mouse. My lineage dates all the way back to Amos Mouse. My great-great-greatgrandfather George was Amos' brother, and lived in that small Philadelphia church.

My brothers and I live at the North Pole. Father migrated here many years ago. He read what Horace Greeley wrote about "Go West, Young Man," but he got his directions mixed. Before you could wink twice, he was heading north.

Passing through a small town called Detroit, he gave some advice to a young man named Ford who was working on a horseless carriage. He continued through Michigan, but he was nearsighted—when he crossed the Straits of Mackinac, he thought he was swimming the Mississippi. On reaching Hudson Bay he realized his mistake. It was too late to turn back, so he continued to the North Pole, where he became special advisor to Santa Claus.

The story details the efforts of Grover and his brothers--James Madison, John Adams, Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt--to help a sick Santa Claus complete his rounds on Christmas Eve 1907.

Studio veteran X Atencio had a hand in the illustration (pictured above) that accompanied the story.

Snapshot! - When a Chimney Isn't Handy . . .

. . . the Man with the Bag is forced to find alternate means of holiday-related breaking and entering. In this case, he very appropriately makes use of the fire escape to bring the fire fighters of Engine Company No. 1 their Christmas presents. This particular scene is just around the corner from Pizza Planet and Muppet*Vision at Disney-MGM Studios.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Snapshot! - An Enlightened Snowman

One of the more subtle elements (relatively speaking) of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney-MGM Studios is this Mickey Mouse-themed snowman. He stands in a quieter area of the Streets of America, proudly displaying a stove top hat and a carrot nose and two eyes made out of . . . well, blue shiny lights.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Las Posadas

December 16th marks the beginning of Las Posadas, the holiday tradition celebrated in many Latin American countries. The nine-day celebration symbolizes the search for shelter by Mary and Joseph and culminates on December 24, Noche Buena, meaning "Holy Night."

The story of Las Posadas was featured in one of the Disney Studio's most underrated animated feature films, The Three Caballeros, released in 1944. It is a simple, brief, yet incredibly beautiful sequence told through a series of pastel-styled illustrations conceived by the film's art director, the renowned Mary Blair. The images would distinctly foreshadow Blair's conceptual designs for It's a Small World some twenty years later.

Likely due to its brevity, the Las Posadas sequence remains one of Disney's least recognized Christmas-related efforts. It is a more quiet and sincere segment of an otherwise high energy production, and truly showcases the unique talents of one of Disney's most notable legends.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Snapshot: Disneyland! - Service With a Smile

We remain in Mickey's Toontown for our next Disneyland Snapshot! There's something fishy about those gas pumps at Goofy's Gas, and the occupants bear a striking resemblance to a certain Henry Limpet. The Walt Disney World counterpart to Goofy's Gas is Pete's Garage. Pete's pump trades fish for a restroom key. And let me just say, for a gas station, Pete's has some very clean restrooms.
Disneyland Photos taken by

Friday, December 14, 2007

1950s Christmas Fun

This insert appeared over the table of contents page in the December 1957 issue of Walt Disney's Magazine. Used to promote a subscription premium offer, the artwork of Mickey, Pluto, Huey, Dewie and Louie had actually been recycled from the 1955 studio Christmas card. A television set featuring Donald Duck on the screen was replaced with an official Mickey Mouse phonograph to tie in with the subscription card's offer of a free Mickey Mouse Club record. Instead of Christmas songs, the nephews were originally reading a copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snaphot! - SantaSAURUS

As regular readers here know, Dinoland in Disney's Animal Kingdom is one of our favorite Snapshot! locations. The propensity to "saurus-ize" anything is a distinct visual dynamic of the area, relating to the mischievous antics of the Dino Institute's young and free spirited interns. Chester and Hester make their own contribution to the cause within their Dinosaur Treasures store, giving one of the shop's denizens a happy and wacky holiday makeover.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Disneyland U.S.A.

The latest wave of Disney Treasures DVDs, Disneyland: Secrets, Stories & Magic, The Chronological Donald Volume Three and The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, were released yesterday. I will leave it to others in the Disney online community to do more extended reviews of each of the volumes, especially in regard to their technical specifications and presentations; I would much rather address some of the great items included in these releases more specifically than in just the context of a general review.

While I was certainly anxious to see those early restored Oswald cartoons and also revisit Donald Duck in one of his most celebrated periods, I instead first unwrapped the Disneyland set and immediately went searching for what I consider to be the real gem of the three volumes -- the 1956 People and Places short subject Disneyland U.S.A., restored to its original glorious wide screen Cinemascope presentation.

It is a revelation. I had previously seen a pan-and-scan version of the film about a decade ago on the Disney Channel's overnight Vault Disney programming, and to say that cropped edition did not do the film justice would be a severe understatement. For Disneyland U.S.A.'s wide angle panoramas of the park during its earliest of days are true marvels to behold.

Having never visited Anaheim until 1989, I have always longed to get some type of visual sense of 1950s era Disneyland. It is often very difficult to ascertain size, scale, scope and placement from even the best of photographs, but it is in those areas where Disneyland U.S.A. succeeds so dramatically. The film provides all of these perspectives almost immediately; an opening aerial flyover quickly establishes the geography of the park during those early years. In one continuous shot the camera travels counter-clockwise around the park and provides an amazing visual reference of what once was. It is breathtaking.

Before heading into the park proper, our guide and narrator, the oh-so-easy-to-listen-to Winston Hibler takes us for a quick tour of the nearby Disneyland Hotel. The brief few minutes spent there is still a revealing encapsulation of 1950s culture, from candy stores and beauty salons to shuffleboard courts and poolside fashions.

Upon arriving in Disneyland, we are taken on a leisurely land-by-land tour that alternates between the aforementioned spectacular aerial panoramas and more intimate guest's eye viewpoints. Nearly every corner of the park, no matter how remote, seems to be touched in some way by the camera's eye.

More than anything, viewing the film is most akin to watching a long challenging jigsaw puzzle being assembled before your eyes. Disparate images you may have previously seen in books, photos, other films and on television programs suddenly are brought together in context to form a greater picture of the park as it existed in 1956. One shining example of this is brought to bear through the film's overview of Frontierland. I had long wondered how all the various ride components of Nature's Wonderland coexisted; via bird's eye views and first person perspectives, we see how the mine trains, pack mules, Conestoga wagons and stagecoaches all departed the little town of Rainbow Ridge and navigated the faux-desert landscape. Vignettes in other areas of the park reveal other geographic mappings. In similar fashion, the various vehicle components associated with Storybookland in Fantasyland are also demonstrated.

What is also especially enjoyable is seeing things that were largely innocuous in 1956 that have since become iconic. Guests pay little attention as they walk past many of the now-famous attraction posters displayed near the park entrance. In another scene, a young child clutches her ticket book, which today is considered a collectors item emblematic of not only Disneyland, but to some extent, American popular culture as well.

Disneyland U.S.A. is a vibrant and extremely colorful trip back in time that simply mesmerizes. It is a 42 minute time capsule that you'll likely want to revisit again and again.

And a great compliment to Disneyland U.S.A. are three of my favorite Disney blogs-- Daveland, Gorillas Don't Blog and Stuff from the Park. Their collective collections of vintage Disneyland photographs are Disney Treasures in their own rights. Just remember to come up for air every few hours or so.

Snapshot: Disneyland! - Calling Toontown

For our next Snapshot from Disneyland, Dave brings us a peek of a very toony version of a what is quickly becoming a theme park rarity -- the pay telephone. Fortunately they are still in use (relatively speaking) at Mickey's Toontown.

Photo taken by

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Studio Christmas Cards

Our series featuring many of the Disney Studio Christmas cards was very popular during the holiday season last year. The readership of 2719 Hyperion has grown dramatically since then so we thought it would be a good idea to point out that particular category to those folks who might not have previously checked it out.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Snapshot! - Gingerbread on the Boardwalk

2120 gingerbread pieces; 200 pounds of chocolate; 300 sugar and gum paste flowers; and five hidden Mickeys.

It all equals the Gingerbread House at Disney's Boardwalk, one of Walt Disney World's fun holiday traditions.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Walt's Photo

In my rush to MouseFest, I was only able to post the photo for Walt Disney's birthday on Wednesday. Jim Korkis sent on the following background on that particular image that I selected:
I am sure you realize that the Walt photo you posted yesterday was the last official photo ever taken of Walt Disney. There are actually a couple in the series including one of Mickey waving. In this one, Mickey is pulling on his tie to be "neat and pretty" just like he did on the Mickey Mouse Club television show. I believe that may be Paul Castle under the Mouse head. You will also notice the gloves that Mickey is wearing. Mickey has four fingers and a thumb. This photo (and the others in this series) were staged by veteran Disney publicist Charlie Ridgway. Charlie told me a while ago that he believed the photo shoot was the end of August or early September. Unfortunately about three months later, Walt passed away.

Walt's daughter Diane, when she was interviewed by writer Pete Martin for Walt's biography that was published in the Saturday Evening Post in the 1950s, said that "(Dad's) not sentimental about Christmas. He's more sentimental about family relationships like birthdays... about his own birthday. He feels very sentimental about that and you don't dare slight him or forget because he would be very deeply hurt. If you mention it, he's fairly assured you will remember. But if he thinks that you don't remember, when it has arrived he just feels a little bit slighted."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

December 5, 1901

Happy Birthday Walt Disney!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mars and Beyond - December 4, 1957

Time constraints relating to my trip to MouseFest later this week have prevented me from doing a more extensive post on one my favorite episodes of the Disneyland television program. But I still wanted to at the very least acknowledge that today was in fact the 50th anniversary of perhaps the show's very best Tomorrowland segment, "Mars and Beyond."

The incredible talents of Disney Studio veteran Ward Kimball were distinctly showcased in the program's entertaining mix of history, comedy and scientific speculation. The opening introduction featuring Walt Disney and GARCO the robot truly communicated the era's fun sense of futurism.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Snapshot: Disneyland! - Rancho del Zocalo

I've been wanting to expand our Snapshot! offerings beyond the borders of Walt Disney World for quite some time, so with the able assistance of Dave DeCaro, one of our favorite fellow Disney bloggers, and proprietor of Daveland and Vintage Disneyland at Daveland, we present what we hope will be the first of many posts in our brand new Snapshot Disneyland! category.

First up, Dave shows us some wonderful and very colorful details from Frontierland's Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante.

On a related note, I am looking for volunteers for similar themed Snapshot Paris! and Snapshot Tokyo! features. If you are a regular visitor to either of those resorts and would like to see your photos showcased here at 2719 Hyperion, please contact me at A perusal of our Snapshot! category will give you a general idea of the material we are looking for.

Photo taken by

Sunday, December 02, 2007

One Enchanted Evening

When it comes to Enchanted, I'm just a little bit late to the ball. Holiday travels and a busy work schedule kept me away from the multiplex until this past weekend, but Disney's very loving and incredibly entertaining tribute to its own fairy tale heritage was well worth the wait.

I have to admit that, despite the generally favorable buzz that surrounded Enchanted this past year, it remained relatively low on my radar screen. Though certainly lucrative, Disney's Princess brand of late has not reflected creatively sensibilities so much as marketing opportunities. Despite the film's many glowing reviews, as I entered the theater a small chip of cynicism remained ever present on my shoulder.

It was quickly knocked off.

Enchanted is a whimsical, happy, yet still smart and often rather sophisticated musical comedy. It is a homage to the Walt Disney Studio's long standing dynamic of fairy tale animation, and it makes no apologies for embracing that premise. The very clever transition at the beginning from the Studio's relatively new digitally-enhanced Castle-centric opening fanfare into the movie itself via a very nostalgic storybook introduction (complete with Julie Andrews narration), leaves no doubt that you have entered a Disney-inspired, and equally notable, Disney-celebrated, cinematic environment.

The film's animated segments were produced by James Baxter Animation, whose namesake's resume includes tours-of-duty at both Disney and Dreamworks. The animation remains very true to its forebears such as Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, but injects a healthy dose or two of cartoon-based exaggeration to reflect the story's broader and more comedic approach to the archetypes, settings and themes presented.

Giselle, the movie's fish-out-water heroine and her ever faithful and determined Prince Edward most definitely epitomize Disney-based fairy tale models. Thrust into the reality of present day Manhattan by the evil machinations of Edward's stepmother Narissa, Giselle upends the life of divorce lawyer Robert Phillip and his young daughter Morgan, while awaiting rescue by her fair prince and unknowingly dodging attempts on her life by Narissa's misguided henchman Nathanial.

What emerges is a battle of romantic notions as Giselle's purities of heart and intent collide directly with Robert's cynicism and also his uninspired relationship with his girlfriend Nancy.
Amy Adams is simply a revelation as Giselle, portraying the character's naivety and goofy innocence as much through nuance and body language as through dialog and song. While fellow cast members, especially Patrick Dempsey as Robert and James Marsden as Edward, are equally deserving of accolades, Enchanted is clearly Adams' showcase, and no doubt her name will likely be appearing on numerous ballots this upcoming awards season.
While some have expressed disappointment in the Alan Mencken/Stephen Schwartz musical numbers, I myself found them a refreshing departure from the more Broadway-based stylings of the 1990s Disney storybook productions. The gentler approach taken with the Enchanted numbers reflects the more understated musical qualities of Disney's earlier era fairy tales, most especially Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.
In fact, Enchanted's princess pedigree is more firmly rooted in those golden era classics than their later 20th century counterparts such as Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Giselle's undying optimism and romantic idealism feel more akin to Snow White and Cinderella than to Ariel, Belle or Jasmine. Similar to this year's earlier Meet the Robinsons, the film also has a very heartfelt and emotional resolution set to song. The sequence notably revisits the pop-up storybook design that opened the film, and then allows Disney Legend Julie Andrews to intone the concluding ". . . and they all lived happily ever after."
And much in the way that Meet the Robinsons created a distinct and very emotional connection to the creative philosophies of Walt Disney, Enchanted conveys similarly the very noble themes of love, hope and optimism that Walt attempted to infuse into all his efforts. By respecting those qualities rather than mocking them (as many recent animated films have done), director Kevin Lima has fashioned an experience that will likely become as evergreen as the original entertainment that inspired it.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Goofy Christmas Game

The holiday season is upon us so let's get the festivities started with some Four Color Fun from 1957. A Goofy Christmas Game appeared as one of the activity pages in the Dell comic Christmas in Disneyland. The rules in case you need them:

The night before Christmas, Goofy dreamed he had a visit from Santa's elves and played a game with them on his Christmas tree. This is the game they played, and you and a friend can play it, too, one of you being Goofy and the other taking the part of the elves. You will need a colored button as a marker for Goofy, which you will place on the star in the center, and seventeen white buttons as markers for the elves, to be placed on the ornaments marked E. Goofy and the other player move in turns following the lines, from one ornament to the next, in any direction. Each time Goofy can jump one of the elves, as in checkers, he takes it off the board. So it is up to the elves to try and get Goofy in a position where he cannot jump or move.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

How Does the Show Go On?

I am about as far removed from Broadway as one can get. So in that regard, reading the new book How Does the Show Go on? An Introduction to the Theater by Thomas Schumacher and Jeff Kurtti was both an entertaining and educational experience. Jeff, prolific author and noted Disney historian, has long been an enthusiastic supporter of our efforts here, and was kind enough to share some background on this wonderful new release from Disney Press.

Thomas Schumacher is well known for being a major part of Disney's animation renaissance, serving as president of Walt Disney Feature Animation during the heyday of such efforts as The Lion King, Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He moved on to become president of Disney Theatrical Productions, producing such Broadway fare as Aida, Tarzan, the Tony Award-winning The Lion King and the upcoming The Little Mermaid. The collaboration between Jeff and Tom was born out of a longstanding friendship as Jeff relates, "I have known Tom Schumacher for almost 25 years now. We've been colleagues and collaborators and just plain pals. I love what he does, and I love how smart he is, and how passionate, creative, and clever he is. He is also a fiercely loyal and protective friend, and has often been a lone supportive soul when my life has been at low ebb."

The genesis of the idea for the book came about four years ago, during a conversation the two friends had in a place not very far from Broadway itself.

"On December 26, 2003, we had taken the "A" Train to Harlem to see a show at the Apollo Theatre. We were walking up Lexington Avenue, and Tom asked me if it was hard to write a book. My first response was 'No, but it's like anything, you never know till you try. Why?'"

Tom then indicated to Jeff, "I want to write a book."

While not necessarily surprised by Tom's revelation, Jeff admits that the subject Tom had chosen wasn't exactly what he expected.

"I thought he wanted to do something about Disney's resurgence in animation in the 1980s and 1990s from an eyewitness perspective, or something lofty about adapting a film to stage."

But instead, Tom revealed, "I want the book I wanted when I was eleven. I want something that explains what theatre is all about, and simply, and joyously, so it's not intimidating or snobby."

Jeff's reaction? "When do we start?"

The two worked on and off on the the project for about a year. "Tom is a VERY busy guy," says Jeff, "but between in-person meetings, e-mails, and phone calls, we developed the book concept and hammered an outline of the book together by about the Fall of 2004. Over the following year, I would work back and forth with Tom on every aspect of the book--he would bring up ideas, I would provide responses and raw materials, he would refine, revise, and rewrite so the information was delivered, but with his charming and unique voice."

Similar in design to interactive tomes such as Robert Tieman's Disney Treasures, Disney Keepsakes and Mickey Mouse Treasures, How Does the Show Go On? is a lavishly illustrated yet still very extensive and comprehensive look at the world of theater, using Disney stage productions such as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan and Mary Poppins as the backdrops. That style of publication was clearly their intention as Jeff notes, "We looked at a lot of book styles and designs, and we really liked the recent books that becker&mayer! had done with Robert Tieman, and asked them to join the team. Their designers really stepped up, and have delivered one of the most charming and beautiful designs--it really fits with the tone and feel of the writing. The addition of artifacts and objects within the book was a natural, and they really add to the book's value and personality."

The book's chapters are cleverly but still appropriately labeled "Overture," "Act One," "Act Two" and "Encore." The "Overture" instructs you on the basics. The term "theater" is defined and distinctions are explained in regard to terms such a Broadway, off-Broadway and touring shows. A section that describes styles of theaters notes the importance of placing a production in a theater that best suits it.

"Act One" begins outside the theater, explaining the dynamics of the box office and even provides a diagram of how to read a ticket. To illustrate, facsimiles of a ticket and playbill from The Lion King are incorporated. Readers are then treated to extensive descriptions of all the production personnel, from the director, producers and playwrights to music supervisors, set designers, costumers and even publicists. Another very nice interactive piece is a set of design sketches Julie Taymor did for the "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" number from The Lion King.

"Act Two" literally takes readers backstage and walks them through the creation of a Broadway production, from initial conception right up to opening night. The technical side of the process is given extensive attention, covering all the various nuances of the stage from special effects to lighting to wardrobe. Did you know that there are four different types of curtains? Or that the term "limelight" had it origins in the stage lighting that predated electricity? These are just a couple of the many, many enlightening pieces of information imparted by the authors.

Especially notable is the book's price, just $19.95. "The fact that Tom has worked to keep the cost of the book under twenty dollars is pure genius and absolute commitment to his medium," comments Jeff. "He wants this book in kids' (and grown-ups') hands so that a new generation of kids will be attracted to bringing their talents and enthusiasm to the theatre."

While How Does the Show Go On? may seem to have been generally created to serve a more youthful readership, it is equally deserving of attention by adults as well, something that Jeff agrees with. "That's a great thing about the way Tom has written this book--it's accessible enough for kids, but it's not a "children's book"--adults will find as much to enjoy and inform them as a kid will."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Snapshot! - Jurassic Gas

The decor at Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures in Disney's Animal Kingdom at times pays a subtle tribute to the storyline behind the establishment. Prior to the nearby discovery of prehistoric bones and the subsequent arrival of the Dino Institute, the couple ran a sleepy little gas station on the fringe of civilization. This impromptu design reflects the store's former emphasis on "fossil fueling."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lost Imagineering: The Rhine River Cruise

The show building still exists behind the Germany pavilion in Epcot for what had been planned to be the Rhine River Cruise. The 1982 book Walt Disney's EPCOT provides this brief description of the proposed attraction:

"The future River Ride promises to be as enjoyable as it is informative. An early concept has visitors boarding a "cruise boat" for a simulated ride down the Rhine and other rivers, the trip affording a visual impression in miniature of the cultural heritage of Germany's past and the highlights of its present. Among the detailed models envisioned are scenes in the Black Forest, the Oktoberfest, Heidelberg, the industrial Ruhr Valley . . . the possibilities are limited only by the planners' imaginations."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Freeze Frame! - Bug City is All in the Family

Pixar is famous for inside jokes and this is especially true of the Bug City scene from A Bug's Life. When Flick arrives in the big city in search of warrior bugs, he is literally surrounded by thrown away cartons and containers whose brand names allude to family members of the film's creative team. Most notably, the names of director John Lasseter's five sons, Joey, P.J., Bennett, Sam and Jackson are represented on a soup cup, a soda bottle, a sardine can, a jar lid and a pretzel box respectively. John's wife Nancy has her maiden name Tague displayed on a wine bottle that sits in a corner of the bar.

A Bug's Life is filled with numerous other references, from Pizza Planet to Lost in Space to even the Broadway incarnation of The Lion King. But my particular favorite is the nod to Walt Disney Studios veteran Joe Grant. The Pixar folks salute Grant via the box of Casey Jr. Cookies, manufactured by the J. Grant Bakery. Casey Jr. is the circus train from Dumbo; Joe Grant is credited as one of that film's writers.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Celebrating Birthdayland

Mickey's Birthdayland is certainly one of Walt Disney World's most amazing success stories. Consider Charles Ridgway's analysis from his book Spinning Disney's World:

It was originally planned as a temporary attraction, but Michael soon decided to change the name to Mickey's Starland and make it permanent. It was a prime example of the Eisner-Wells team's ability to seize on a good idea and move fast, allowing talented people to carry it out.

Mickey's Birthdayland probably could not be built today with all the financial analyzers sitting on top of it — certainly not in the same way. That kind of shoot-from-the-hip management, so typical of Michael and Frank at the time, was what made everything fun, exciting and — big surprise — "successful."

This new Magic Kingdom "land" was the centerpiece of Walt Disney World's celebration of Mickey's 60th birthday in 1988, and literally went from concept to debut in just a few short months.

For more pictures of Mickey's Birthdayland and its connection to the comic book stories of Carl Barks, check out our earlier "Welcome to . . . Duckburg?" post here at 2719 Hyperion. And be sure to check the comments section of that particular post for additional background on Birthdayland by its very own original show director Steve Hansen.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Snapshot! - Enjoy Ice Code

Believe it or not, there are even crates in Tomorrowland.

These futuristic cargo carriers carry the Coca Cola brand and can be found near the center of Tomorrowland in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mickey's Lost Thanksgiving

The Disney Studio never released a Thanksgiving-themed cartoon during their classic years, but one in fact was literally on the drawing board at one time. Pilgrim Mickey went through an extended preproduction period beginning in 1938, but was suddenly suspended in the spring of 1939. Charles Solomon's excellent and extensive book The Disney That Never Was provided this brief description of the proposed short's storyline:

"The film was to open with a shot of a settler's cabin; Mickey appears to be wrestling with an Indian Chief in a warbonnet, but he's actually just using a feather duster to illustrate the tale he's telling his nephews. When he goes hunting, he mistakes an Indian's headdress for a turkey's tail and gets captured. Significantly, his nephews rescue him."

Mickey and friends did finally celebrate Thanksgiving some sixty years later on the television show "Mickey's Mouse Works." Mickey, Donald and Goofy go hunting for the holiday bird in a short entitled Turkey Catchers.

Have a safe and very happy Thanksgiving everyone!