Saturday, March 31, 2007

Pleased to Meet the Robinsons

I just met the Robinsons. And it was a happy encounter indeed.

While the reviews for Disney’s newest animated feature film have been generally positive, there have been a few (most notably the New York Times), that have taken a decidedly harsher view of Meet the Robinsons.

It really represents a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.

Meet the Robinsons is quirky, frantic at times, and clearly unconventional. It is also fresh and original. It has so many of the qualities that countless critics found missing in the numerous animated features that seemed to be constantly falling out of the sky over the last year. So when the film is described as “. . . surely one of the worst theatrically released animated features issued under the Disney label in quite some time,” such comments bear a note of exaggeration with fair degree of malicious intent.

The film chronicles Lewis, an orphan and scientific genius, and his time traveling adventures with Wilbur Robinson and Wilbur’s eccentric family of the future. The story does not by any means take the form of a smooth and linear narrative. Much of the movie is a disjointed bumpy ride, where the storytelling can sometimes be as off kilter as its cast of characters.

But ultimately that it what Meet the Robinsons is all about--happy, energetic spontaneity, with a very direct emphasis on fun. Director Stephen Anderson took to heart the story’s oft-repeated mantra of “Keep Moving Forward.” At the same time, the film refreshingly does not pander to the current entertainment climate that requires flatulence-based humor and PG-13 innuendos to effectively reach all the target demographics. It is unapologetic in its old fashioned, yet never over the top sentimentality.

And it is a healthy dose of that sentimentality that sneaks up and emotionally wallops you by the film’s conclusion. Personally, I didn’t see it coming. And that is why I ended up truly loving the movie. It surprised me on a level that was wholly and totally unexpected, with a heartfelt finish that reminded me of what Pixar accomplishes so well in just about all of their films. Yet it is not difficult to understand, in our popular culture which has become increasingly cynical and fueled constantly by internet negativity, why many critics and like-minded viewers would reject the Robinsons’ positive and idealistic message.

Enhancing the experience of Meet the Robinsons tremendously was its Disney Digital 3D format. The process was nothing short of amazing. It was my first exposure to the new digital-based process that utilizes circular rather than linear polarization, and in turn results in stronger more vibrant colors and an almost total elimination of “ghost images.”

An added bonus for most, but a near-religious experience for myself, was the presentation of the 1953 Donald Duck short Working for Peanuts. Made originally in 3D at the height of the format’s post-war wave of popularity, it was a joy to see it restored to a big-screen theatrical presentation. While the cartoon had enjoyed a brief run in the late 1980s as the pre-show for the Magic Journeys movie at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, that small scale presentation did not do it justice. Here's hoping that Adventures In Music: Melody, the company's only other theatrical 3D film, will accompany a future Disney Digital 3D release.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Of Mice and Mailboxes

Here's an interesting theme parkeology discovery from Mickey's Toontown Fair at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

When Mickey's Birthdayland opened in 1988, among the embellishments to Mickey's house was a traditional mailbox painted and adorned in a distinct Mickey style. When the area evolved in Toontown Fair a number of years later, the designs and architecture became much more toonier, and the original mailbox made way for a more stylized replacement.

So what did Mickey do with his old mailbox? The next time you walk through the mouse's garage, take a careful look around and you'll soon discover the answer.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

FoxxFur on Audio Animatronics

I was thinking about Audio Animatronics recently and began attempting to collect my thoughts for a potential article and/or commentary here on 2719 Hyperion. I was primarily considering how in recent years there has been a distinct shift by Disney away from large scale audio animatronics-heavy attractions, much in the mold of The Great Movie Ride and early Future World endeavors like Horizons and World of Motion. Focus seems to have shifted to weenie-based, centerpiece AAs like Stitch, the Yeti and the much ballyhooed Jack Sparrow. I have wondered if this represented a dramatic shift away from AA-based attractions and reflected a growing disenchantment of the technology among both theme park guests and Walt Disney Imagineers.

Seeking an additional perspective on the matter, I solicited the input of friend and fellow Disney enthusiast FoxxFur, whose blog Passport to Dreams Old and New, represents in my opinion, some of the best writing on the subject of Disney, formally published or otherwise. She responded with an intelligent, articulate essay on the current state of audio animatronics that made me quickly and humbly set aside any intentions I had of writing a similar piece. Even better, she generously and graciously granted me permission to reprint her statements here.

From FoxxFur:

I'm not sure the public reaction to AAs is negative so much as unpredictable. Disney resisted being postmodern longer than probably anybody, and as a result there were/are an abundance of very earnest, interested, conceptually advanced AA attractions which are, sadly, being told with AAs. The public can't suspend disbelief anymore (I think this is, incidentally, disgusting), so the illusion can never be total anymore - only, in the case of recent figures like Stitch and Captain Jack, slightly mysterious.

Yet attractions that use AAs don't necessarily fail because of this. Although it's often mocked, sit in for a showing of The Hall of Presidents or The American Adventure and then stand right at the theater exit doors and listen to what people have to say. It's invariably positive, and usually mixed with some wonder about the figures. Although these are outliers as powerful presentations which have outlived many of their contemporaries, it's clear that people don't have conceptual limitations as to what an illusion of life can and can't be.

Furthermore, I believe WDI knows that for a certain type of effect, AAs still can't be beaten - their dimensionality requires a certain kind of attention and their scope requires that the sets they inhabit to be of a certain scale and complexity. For creating the right "dream state" / "Disney Magic" for many projects there is still no good substitute. For fantastic creatures - singing bears or whatever - there's still no better way to create the illusion of life. It's for humans that they prove problematic.

In addition, attractions with many figures in complex sets are costly to create and maintain. It's no wonder that WDI is falling back again and again on variations of projections and things to project them on - why build it and require it to work on cue for 18 hours a day, 365 days a year when you can make it work once and then replay that on non-degrading digital in a seamless endless loop?

What they're doing is picking their battles - where will an AA be the only appropriate solution? Guests and WDI are getting tired of the very thing that made AAs so amazing to begin with - that they do the same thing on cue every time. With increased demand for characters and Disney going overdrive to market them dry, WDI has very naturally gone on to try to provide us with "Living Characters" - first as projections, then as figures. Ironically, the actors these robots were meant to replace are now required to operate them.

As far as culturally, AAs are strange creatures. I think the best description of them I've ever heard is in Robin Allan, who describes them as grotesque. There's something creepy about them, especially when they travel into, as Jack Sparrow does, the uncanny valley. Richard Schickel, his his book The Disney Version, launches into an insane attack on Disneyland at the very end of the book where he makes the place out to be a freakish remote controlled biosphere built by a man unable to change the world around him, so he built his own, and especially singles out Mr. Lincoln as an essential affront to God. Although probably not in so sure terms, we react to these devices as being vaguely profane as part of our natural tendency to distrust anything which is so fake it's convincing.

And here's a quote from Network, delivered in that film by a television network executive to a psychotic news anchor, which not only sums up the public's perception of the "Disney Control Phantom", but is creepily close to the 'utopia' of Walt's EPCOT:

"Our children will live, [...] to see that perfect world in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality - one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock - all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused."

Enormous thanks to FoxxFur for making this contribution to 2719 Hyperion. If you are not familiar with Passport to Dreams Old and New, waste no more time and head over there now. Your only disappointment will be when you have exhausted her archive and then find yourself anxiously awaiting the blog’s next post.

Memories of Chester and Hester

If you do a little digging in DinoLand USA at Disney's Animal Kingdom, you can sometimes find more than just dusty old dinosaur bones.

It is amazing the sheer volume of material that adorns the walls (and even ceiling) of Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures, Dinoland's signature souvenir shop. Hidden among these many remnants of paleontology pop culture, the keen eye can spot a couple of tributes to the proprietors of both the store and the nearby Dino-Rama amusement area.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Postcards: Now and Then

A few years ago, Disney World produced a line of merchandise themed to vintage travel and postcard designs. One item in particular that I really enjoyed was a Walt Disney World postcard done in the large-letter style that used to be very popular, especially during the 1940s.

An interesting contrast is this actual postcard from 1941. The card's back caption reads:

Almost in the exact geographical center of the State, Orlando is a fast-growing resort and distributing community. It is here that most of Florida's citrus fruit banking is conducted. In fifteen years the city has tripled in population until it is now a city of 35,000 year-round inhabitants. During the winter months it is host to an additional 35,000 persons from other states. Orlando is known as the "City Beautiful" for its 33 lakes and parks.

According to recent census estimates, the city of Orlando has a population of 213,233. The Greater Orlando area, which includes Lake, Osceola, Orange and Seminole Counties tops out at an estimated 1,933,215 individuals.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Haunted Mansion Supplement

Stephen Worth, Director of the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, very generously passed on scans of a wonderful vintage Disneyland document to post here at 2719 Hyperion. The Haunted Mansion Supplement appears to have been a supplemental publication to the internal newsletter Backstage Disneyland, and was produced to commemorate the 1969 opening of the Haunted Mansion. It is a tongue-in-cheek send-up of WED Enterprises, the company’s theme park design division that would ultimately evolve into Walt Disney Imagineering.

The highlight of the piece is a two-page Mad Magazine-inspired comic strip by William Barry.

Enormous thanks to Steve for sending this on. The online ASIFA Archive is an unbelievable resource of animation history and popular culture. If you haven’t already, check it out. You will be amazed at the sheer volume of content there, and new material is added almost daily.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Creek Indian Territory

Here's a fun piece of artwork from a vintage 1950s Disney comic book. This illustration was featured on the back cover of Dell Four Color Comics #631 from 1955. The subject of the issue was of course Davy Crockett, this time being the adaptation of Davy Crockett Indian Fighter. A photo-illustration of Fess Parker graced book's cover, and the inside front cover provided the following introduction:

Legends of the American frontier are still vigorous and young. The adventurous deeds of our heroic ancestors in this country are a vital portion of American Lore and will live forever in its colorful history. This is a story about one of those valiants whose fame shone brightly on the horizons of our early frontiers. This is a story about Davy Crockett.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Farewell to a Friend

On a recent visit to Epcot’s World Showcase, I discovered in a remote corner of the China retail shops a sentimental reminder of that pavilion’s original CircleVision 360 movie Wonders of China.

Browsing through a selection of small oriental fans, one design in particular caught my eye. It featured the Chinese script and corresponding English translation of the poem Farewell to a Friend, attributed to 8th century poet Li Pai.

First things first. Let's take a look at the description provided by the 1989 Birnbaum Disney World guidebook of the attraction Wonders of China: Land of Beauty, Land of Time. Here is its very detailed synopsis of the film and some background on how it was made:

This 19-minute presentation shows the beauties of a land that few Epcot Center visitors will ever see first hand—and does it so vividly that it's possible to see the film over and over and still not fully absorb all the wonderful sights. The Disney crew was the first Western film group to film certain sites, and their remarkable effort includes such marvels as Beijing's Forbidden City; vast, wide-open Mongolia and its stern-faced tribesmen; the 2,400-year-old Great Wall; the Great Buddha of Leshan, 8 centuries old and dramatically imposing; the muddy Yangtze River and the 3,000-year-old city of Suzhou, whose location on the Grand Canal, which is generally believed to be the largest man-made waterway in the world, encouraged Marco Polo to call it the Venice of the East. There are shots of Shanghai, as well as Hangzhou, where a handful of Chinese are shown doing their morning exercises along the river's edge. Also shown are Huangshan Mountain, wreathed in fog; the Shilin Stone Forest of jagged rock outcroppings in Yunnan Province; Urumqi, whose distance from the sea in Xinjiang Province earned it the title of the most inland city on earth; Lahsa, in Tibet, and its Potala Palace, boasting a thousand rooms and ten times that many altars. Just as fantastic are the Reed Flute Cave and the bizarrely shaped hills of Kweilin above, to say nothing of the very European-looking city of Shanghai. To complete the picture, there are fields of snow and of wheat, high meadows and beaches dotted with tropical palms, harbors and rice terraces, calligraphers, checkers and Ping-Pong players, lightning-fast acrobats, championship horseback riders, camels and a panda bear, glittering ice sculptures, and millions of bicycles.

Almost every step of the way, the film crews were besieged by curious Chinese, even in empty Mongolia. For the Huangshan Mountain sequence, which lasts only seconds, the crew and about three dozen hired laborers had to carry the 600-pound camera uphill for nearly a mile. The Chinese government would not permit Disney cameramen to shoot aerial footage in some areas, so Chinese crews were sent aloft to record the required scenes, first on videotape and later—after approval from the Disney director in charge of the project—on film. You can see for yourself just how well this collaboration worked.

As thorough and extensive as this entry was, I was surprised that it made no mention of what to me was the film’s most charming and entertaining component--that being the character of Li Pai, the well known Chinese poet who alternately hosted and narrated the movie.

Depending on language and translation, this famous poet of the Tang Dynasty is known by numerous names--Li Bai, Li Po, Li Bo and our souvenir fan-inscribed Li Pai. Called the Poet Immortal, Pai is considered one of China’s greatest poets. A Wikipedia entry states he is “best known for the extravagant imagination and striking Taoist imagery in his poetry, as well as for his great love for liquor. He spent much of his life travelling, although in his case it was because his wealth allowed him to, rather than because his poverty forced him. He is said to have drowned in the Yangtze River, having fallen from his boat while drunkenly trying to embrace the reflection of the moon.” The website China notes that “Li Bai had also an air of a swordsman, hermit, Taoist, and adviser. Notions of Confucianism, Taoism, and chivalry were all embodied in his character.”

In Pai’s compelling and colorful life, Disney filmmakers found a way to take Wonders of China beyond the novelty CircleVision travelogues represented by the various America-themed Tomorrowland 360 films and even to some extent by Epcot’s other CircleVision attraction O Canada. The character’s presence unified the film’s otherwise disjointed sequences, and in essence provided the audience with a wise and knowledgeable traveling companion for a journey into the vast landscape of modern China, heretofore largely unknown to most Walt Disney World guests.

Much of Pai’s charm and appeal in Wonders of China can be attributed to the veteran Hollywood actor who portrayed him--Keye Luke. Luke’s film career began in the mid-1930s and continued up until his death in 1991. He is likely best known for his portrayal of “Number One Son” in numerous Charlie Chan adventures, and later in life as the mysterious Chinatown shopkeeper in both Gremlins movies. When Wonders of China was updated and reintroduced as Reflections of China in 2003, the character of Li Pai remained, with a different actor replacing Luke in a number of newly filmed sequences. Some footage of Luke however did remain in the new film, but his original dialogue was dubbed over by his replacement. The mixture of the two actors makes for an odd disconnect in an otherwise excellent presentation, especially for those of us who hold such fond memories of Luke’s original performance.

So appealing in Wonders of China was this character, that, by the time he recited Farewell to a Friend at the film’s conclusion, you did feel you were parting ways with a longtime companion and not a mere acquaintance of nineteen minutes.

This is the place where we must sever . . .
You go thousands of miles my friend once forever . . .
Like the floating clouds we drift apart . . .
The sunset lingers like the feelings of my heart


Monday, March 19, 2007

Snapshot! - Yeti Items and Other Various Sundries

On the road to Mount Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom are various businesses out to claim the tourist dollar. Here are advertisements for a few of them. Not unlike a fine wine, this scene has been aged to perfection by Imagineers, at no point betraying its actual age of less than a few years.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lost Imagineering: Roger Rabbit's Toontown Trolley

Ahh . . . what if?

One of the casualties associated with the Disney Decade was Roger Rabbit's Hollywood, an area that was supposed to have been built at the Disney-MGM Studios in the mid-1990s. The centerpiece attraction was to have been the Toontown Trolley, a next generation simulator ride.

Eustace Lycett - 1914-2006

The New York Times has reported the sad and very belated news of the passing of Disney Studios special effects veteran Eustace Lycett this past November 16. His obituary can be found here.

Lycett began his 43-year career with Disney in 1937, working extensively with Ub Iwerks on the development of the multiplane camera. His film credits included Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Absent Minded Professor, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and an Academy Award for special effects for Mary Poppins.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Signs of the Frontier

It would seem there is more going on in Walt Disney World's Frontierland than just runaway mine trains and singing bears. Beyond the Chinese Laundry I recently discovered, here are signs advertising a couple of events not included in the Magic Kingdom guidebooks.

Dawson's Barbary Coast Saloon promises a wild time--bohemian actors, flamboyant actresses and unrepentant singers performing uninhibited theatricals--what more could any Disney World guest ask for? Really, who's going to want to go to a horse auction after a late night at Dawson's? Oh wait, never mind-- the saloon isn't open on Friday nights. Whew.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Freeze Frame! - Natural Ducks and Mythic Creatures

Is it my imagination or does nobody really talk about Fantasia 2000 anymore?

I loved Disney's millennium-based follow-up to Walt Disney's 1940 crowning achievement. I found it to be a brilliant film, consistently beautiful and in many places awe-inspiring. But not unlike its predecessor, it seems it might take quite a number of years for it to receive the acclaim and appreciation it so richly deserves.

My favorite sequence by far is the Noah's Ark-inspired Pomp and Circumstance, a bittersweet comedy of errors that serves as Donald Duck's counterpoint to Mickey's iconic Sorcerer's Apprentice. And two particular scenes in the story showcase wonderful gags worthy of Freeze Frame status.

First there is Donald's momentary identity crisis when confronted with ducks of a slightly more realistic nature . . .

. . . and then the quick shot of a trio of mythical creatures mocking the proceedings.

Wonderful moments from a great, great movie.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Of Royal Frogs and Golden Hair

It is impossible to navigate through the many worlds of Disney entertainment these days without bumping into some aspect of its overwhelming and very successful Princess franchise. It is therefore almost hard to believe that there hasn’t been a new Disney princess in well over a decade (well, even much longer if you consider it a stretch to include Pocahontas and Mulan as Disney occasionally does).

Now suddenly, two new and distinctly different princesses are looming on the Disney animation horizon. The long in development CGI and Glen Keane-helmed Rapunzel, and the much touted return to traditional animation that is The Frog Princess are both penciled in for likely 2009-2010 releases.

Of the two, it is Rapunzel’s future that seems somewhat tenuous. Jim Hill recently posted an excellent article on his site that chronicles the film’s long and occasionally troubled development. Former WSFA head David Stainton left a lot of problematic baggage behind when given his walking papers last year, reflected most recently by Chris Sanders removal from American Dog. Looking back at a New York Times article from September 2005, it seems that Keane and his Rapunzel project became the center of Stainton’s internal PR campaign for the elimination of 2D animation and subsequent transition to CGI. Ironically, based on buzz and some early conceptual art, it would appear that Keane and his crew are striving for a very “un-CGI” CGI look and feel.

It’s a shame that Keane and Rapunzel landed in the middle of executive mismanagement and the subsequent (and probably necessary) housecleaning initiated by incoming heads Ed Catmull and John Lasseter. According to Jim Hill’s article, the project’s fate will likely be decided this June. Here’s hoping for a positive and beneficial outcome for all those involved.

In stark contrast with Rapunzel’s recent under-the-radar scuttlebutt, Disney is attaching all kinds of bells and whistles to announcements involving The Frog Princess. The recent company shareholders meeting in New Orleans found Randy Newman performing his composition of the film’s opening number, while screens displayed concept art of movie’s young heroine Maddy.

As part of his comments about future WDFA projects, John Lasseter gushed about The Frog Princess:

“The main character of the story, our hero, is named Maddy. And I am very, very proud to announce that she is the very first African American Disney princess. We're really proud and excited about this. This is a fantastic story, this movie is going to be classic Disney, yet you've never seen one like it before.”

Again, the irony. The most famous pioneer of CG animation proudly announcing the return to traditional animation by the very company whose executives had danced on its grave less than two years before. But it is still very exciting news nonetheless.

Thrown into this “princess mix” is the up and coming live-action Enchanted featuring traditional animation, albeit from a third party production house. Its performance will no doubt be looked on as a barometer of sorts for these future potential entries in Disney’s lucrative “royal” franchise.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Charles Ridgway's Wonderful World

Disney pundits across the web seem to be in complete agreement with their praises of Charles Ridgway’s wonderful new book, Spinning Disney’s World: Memories of a Magic Kingdom Press Agent. I as well would like to voice my very, very enthusiast endorsement of this must-read tome for any Disney fan.

An unquestionable Disney Legend with a window on Walt Disney World’s Main Street USA (Ridgway Public Relations - Charles Ridgway Press Agent), Charlie is a forty year veteran of the Walt Disney Company and has literally worked in some capacity for every Disney theme park around the world. He covered the opening of Disneyland in 1955 as a local newspaper reporter, and most recently worked as a consultant to help prepare for the debut of Hong Kong Disneyland. In the time between, he has amassed an amazing collection of stories and anecdotes that fill the pages of Spinning Disney’s World.

Reading Charlie’s stories is akin to spending an evening or two with an old friend. His prose is friendly and conversational, and it feels like you reach the end of the 200+ pages all too quickly. What is exceptional about the book is that Charlie was either present or on the periphery of just about every major development at both Disneyland and Disney World over the course of the last half century.

A great example of this, and one of my favorite passages, is where Charlie describes the nearly overnight, fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants design and construction of Mickey’s Birthdayland in 1988 at Walt Disney World. With the majority of WDI resources tied up with the building of Disney-MGM Studios at the time, creating a way to celebrate Mickey’s 60th birthday fell to a new Michael Eisner/Frank Wells-created marketing task force dubbed MATADORS, of which Charlie was a member. The project literally went from conception to completion in a few short months and on a shoestring budget, but ultimately laid the groundwork for Toontown expansions at Disneyland and Disney World.

Equally entertaining is Charlie's own favorite story of training fifty white Peking ducks to follow Donald Duck down Main Street as part of his 50th Birthday parade in 1984.

In a book where the names of Hollywood stars, political figures and international dignitaries are sprinkled heavily throughout, Charlie remains a down-to-earth, genuine and sincere witness to Disney history. It is refreshing to read a book where there are no axes to grind and the author’s sole purpose is to simply share his happy, positive and always interesting life stories with the reader. In a time of contentious debates and Eisner-bashing, Charlie only has kind words and compliments for his former bosses and company associates. He is as gracious as his book is captivating.

Tomorrowland Public Works

Here is another great graphic element from Walt Disney World's "The Future That Never Was." While an embossed metal version of this logo can be seen on trash cans throughout Tomorrowland, this full color version is usually reserved for refurbishment signs and is seen less frequently. The logo's retro-deco look is reminiscent of commercial art styles from the 1930s and 1940s.

For those who want to "clean up" their desktop," here's a wallpaper featuring the design. Click on the image for a full size 1024 x 768 version.

Monday, March 12, 2007

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today . . .

. . . that I was enjoying one of my most memorable visits to Walt Disney World.

It was a truly great time. It was my first time back since summer of 1982 and was significant to me for a number of reasons. It was my wife Alane's first trip to Disney World, and it marked my first visit to EPCOT Center. It also served to ignite a passion in both of us that has since yet to diminish in any way.

The resort was in the midst of its 15 Years Birthday Celebration, and pictured are just a few of the mementos of that trip that I have long treasured. The one item I value most from the 15 Years celebration I am unfortunately unable to display here. It was the large Walt Disney World-Coca Cola 15th Birthday commemorative pin set. It features 60 different pins, all co-branded with the Coca Cola logo. I purchased it at the Disneyana Shop, which was located in Fantasyland back then, right where the PhilharMagic store currently resides. A very helpful and always pleasant cast member named Jonah worked there then.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The EPCOT Field Guide - Spaceship Earth

Last but certainly not least. The final Future World entry from the EPCOT Field Guide is the park's iconic and most famous attraction: Spaceship Earth. Frequently called the big silver golf by Walt Disney World visitors, the Guide even addresses that common quip by noting that the corresponding golfer would stand 1.2 miles tall.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Donald Duck in Disneyland - 1955

Television was by no means the only medium Walt Disney used to promote Disneyland in the mid to late 1950s. Comic books promoted the Happiest Place on Earth to the baby boom generation with four color adventures set in and themed to the various lands of the Magic Kingdom.

One of the earliest of these publications was the Dell Giant Donald Duck in Disneyland from 1955. This particular comic actually preceded Disneyland’s July 17th opening and the story content actually acknowledges that fact. Donald, Mickey, Goofy, Pluto and other Disney stock comic book stars of the time are given an early sneak preview of the park as Walt’s behest. And the map that Donald displays on the comic’s inside front cover does not quite match up to Disneyland’s ultimate lineup of opening day attractions.

While many of the subsequent Disneyland themed comic books employed the park mainly as a framing sequence for stories themed to the various lands, Donald Duck in Disneyland actually sets most of its stories in the park itself. Mickey Mouse and Gyro Gearloose find themselves on Tomorrowland’s Rocket to the Moon. In Frontierland’s Golden Horseshoe, Grandma Duck relates a story of Davy Crockett. Donald and Daisy board the Congo Queen for a Jungle Cruise. The highlight is a Fantasyland story starring Goofy, Minnie, Pluto and Jiminy Cricket. Their adventure takes them through all the major Fantasyland attractions: Dumbo, Snow White, Mr Toad, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

And wrapping things up is a terrific back cover illustration of the gang flying over the park on Dumbo's back. A very fun piece of Disneyana that likely inspired young readers from over fifty years ago to dream of their first visit to that very magical place.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The EPCOT Field Guide: The Living Seas

Seabase Alpha is now but a memory but it was alive and thriving when the EPCOT Field Guide was published in 1994. One of the questions on the Technology Quiz deals with the Wave Tank--it was one of my favorite exhibits within the base.

And Nemo and Friends weren't the first animated characters to appear within The Living Seas pavilion. Two cartoons were part of the original Seabase Alpha modules: Suited for the Sea and The Animated Atlas of the World.