Thursday, July 31, 2008

"How About a Nice Firm Handshake?"

It's a fast but very fun sneak peek at the upcoming The Princess and the Frog. Take a look!

Image © Walt Disney Company

Who Lives in the Echo Lake Apartments?

Its time once again for a little theme parkeology, so we are going to head over to an interesting "dig site" at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.

The Echo Lake Apartments are located between the Hollywood & Vine restaurant and the Tune In Lounge in the Echo Lake area of the Studios. According to the mailboxes located just to the right of the building entrance gate, there are ten apartments in the building. The residents listed on the mailboxes are:

Apartment 101: Polk/Olson

Apartment 102: Hamilton/Gray

Apartment 103: Mr and Mrs Kilankowski

Apartment 104: Roberdeau - John Roberdeau Drury

Apartment 105: T. Kirk

Apartment 201: Beyer/Quinn

Apartment 202: Vais

Apartment 203: Dietzel/Benson

Apartment 204: Empero/Zovich

Apartment 205: Mr and Mrs D. Yanchar

It appears that the names listed represent Imagineers who were part of the team that created the Disney-MGM Studios in the late 1980s. We've done some digging and have been able to identify most of those names. Where possible, we have also provided a job title or description for each individual, though it may not have been the one held in 1989 when the Echo Lake Apartments were created.

Apartment 101: John "Robin" Polk (found listed in credits for Expedition Everest); John Olson (Designer and Field Art Director)

Apartment 103: Joe Kilankowski (Senior Architect)

Apartment 104: John Roberdeau Drury (former Design Director)

Apartment 105: T. Kirk - Tim Kirk (Design Director and brother of Steve)

Apartment 201: Steve Beyer (Senior Concept Designer)

Apartment 203: Barbara Dietzel (Was quoted in a 1989 New York Times article about the Prime Time Cafe)

Apartment 204: Tami Empero; John Zovich (WDI engineer, chief engineer of EPCOT)

Apartment 205: Mr and Mrs D. Yanchar - Dave Yanchar (Currently works at WDI on Tokyo Disneyland projects)

The following residents remain unidentified: Hamilton, Gray, Quinn, Vais and Benson.

We welcome any corrections and further identifications. And if by chance you happen to be one of the actual residents of the Echo Lake Apartments, we'd love to hear from you and would be interested in knowing what part you played in the creation of Disney-MGM Studios.

Update: Jeff Kurtti has provided two possible additional identifications. D. De Gray designed graphics for WDI from 1981 to 1984; an artist identified as Lei Vais produced four pieces of work for the then Disney-MGM Studios. Jeff also reviewed my initial list of identifications and helped ID a couple; I was remiss in acknowledgement so -- thanks, Jeff!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Walt Disney Productions - 1973

Thirty-five years ago today, an article appeared in Time Magazine entitled "Disney After Walt is a Family Affair." Here are some interesting excerpts:

But the 50-year-old small-family firm, launched on $40 and the scrawny figure of a four-fingered mouse, has grown to encompass two of the country's major tourist attractions—Disneyland and Disney World; motion-picture-and television-producing Buena Vista studios; WED Enterprises, an engineering and design group that is fondly known as the "imagineers" and is responsible for many of the technological wonders of Disneyland and Disney World; several hotels, a travel service, a record company, a music-publishing corporation and a touring company; toy-manufacturing and merchandising operations; the governments of two legally constituted municipalities within Disney World; and, through Disney endowments, the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Calif.

Only two animated features have been produced since 1966: The Aristocats, already in preparation when Walt Disney died, and Robin Hood, to be released this fall. Disney pictures now tend to be the live-action variety; animation has become prohibitively expensive, and the Disney studio suffers from a shortage of good animators. The average age of the key animation staff is now 55, and energetic recruiting among young artists has not filled the gap. "They're trapped in a cozy formula," complains one disgruntled refugee from the mouse factory. "They're not doing any original work."

Thus far, Walt Disney Productions' belief in its founder's formula—and in what Roy Disney called the "ten-year plan" he left behind —has been enough. The next logical step, says one executive, would be an outdoor recreation facility along the lines of the Mineral King project in California, now suspended because it brought the Disney vision of progress into a head-on collision with conservationists. And always, off in the future, is EPCOT (for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), the perfect city Disney hoped to build adjacent to Disney World, complete with a climatic umbrella to regulate the weather.

Author Ray Bradbury, convinced that only the man who invented Disneyland could organize the urban chaos of Los Angeles, once asked Walt Disney to run for mayor of that city. Disney only smiled. "Why should I want to be mayor," he inquired, "when I'm already king?" The king is not dead; he may live as long as the ten-year plans keep working.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery . . .

I love traditional amusement parks, if only for their always interesting histories and pop culture influences. On a recent trip to Erie, Pennsylvania, I jumped at the opportunity to spend a couple hours strolling through Waldameer Park, a small but still lively traditional park that has been in operation since 1896. My hope was to collect material for my recently debuted pop culture blog Boom Pop! But alas, I was unable to completely escape my Disney muses . . .

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Introducing Boom Pop!

"Do you like anything other than Disney?"

Why yes, as a matter of fact I do . . .

Introducing Boom Pop!

My passion for Disney history and entertainment has been showcased here since September of 2006, but 2719 Hyperion has also in many ways created the perception that my interests are exclusive to the likes of Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney World. In reality, my baby boomer roots have long inspired an interest in 20th century popular culture that extends well beyond the creations of the Walt Disney Company.

The most important rule I established for 2719 Hyperion was to keep it true to its subject--Disney entertainment. Other Disney online journalists and bloggers often extend beyond these boundaries. (A popular and established Disney blog recently published a review of Hellboy II for example.) I must admit, I too have felt similarly inclined at times to take 2719 outside of its original symbolic Hyperion Avenue thematic address. Wouldn't it be cool to do a Freeze Frame! featuring a Looney Tunes cartoon? Discuss World's Fair attractions unrelated to Walt Disney? Celebrate my love for classic Hollywood motion pictures? But such considerations always ended up bumping into that pesky Addressing the Many Worlds of Disney Entertainment mission statement that I attached to my online identity.

Of course, the solution was relatively simple. Thus, Boom Pop! has been born.

Boom Pop! will be in fact very similar to 2719 Hyperion in format and design. It's a comfortable fit for me and I'm a firm believer in the Keep It Simple, Stupid philosophy. Many 2719 Hyperion staples will be reinvented there--Snapshot!, Freeze Frame! and What a Character! just to name a few.

Take a look! As the content for Boom Pop! emerges over the next few weeks, please let me know what you think, either via the comments sections or by direct email. Your feedback is always welcome and very much appreciated.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hey Kids! Comics! Hopefully . . .

I am very excited about the news that emerged out of San Diego this week about the agreement reached between BOOM! Studios and Disney to create a new Disney-Pixar comic book imprint. According to the Diamond Comics online newsletter Scoop:

The comics will feature the new animated classics, the groundbreaking Toy Story series and blockbuster summer hit Finding Nemo, along with Pixar’s newest box office success, Wall*E. Boom! Studios Editor-in-Chief Mark Waid will be writing The Incredibles comic book, with cover art by Darwyn Cooke, writer-artist of DC: The New Frontier. He commented, “Today, American comic books are aimed primarily at an older readership. Comics produced for an upcoming generation of readers are scarce, and Boom! Studios aims to do something about that…There will be comics for kids again!”

I hope the endeavor is successful, but it will certainly be a challenge for BOOM! Studios to engage the coveted younger "tween" demographic. Disney attempted to do so some twenty years ago with its internal Disney Comics imprint and similarly attracted mainstream comic talent such as Marv Wolfman to its editorial staff. The effort was shut down within a few years. Gemstone Comics has in recent years attempted to publish Disney comics featuring the core canon of characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and appeal to both older and younger demographics via both reprinted vintage material and foreign imports primarily from Europe. They too have generally failed to connect with younger readers.

Over the past few decades, comic book publishers have sadly abandoned these younger readers and allowed the 16-25 male demographic to hijack the industry. Even Disney essentially sold out to this marketing dynamic when it licensed properties such as the Haunted Mansion and Gargoyles to SLG, a small independent publisher who produced somewhat off-center interpretations of the material and sold the comics primarily through comic shops and Hot Topic stores.

Accessibility still seems to be the main issue in getting comic books back into the hands of young readers. During the 1950s and 1960s, comic books could be found everywhere and were a staple product of corner drug stores, five-and-dimes and even many grocery stores. In the 1980s, comic book retailing shifted more into a specialty store business that quickly narrowed its audience to the aforementioned young males. The neighborhood comic book shop is generally not a place where families with young children frequent, and even then, most comic book retailers rarely give shelf space to anything other than superhero or goth-based fare.

I applaud Darwyn Cook's energy and enthusiasm in exclaiming "There will be comics for kids again!" However, BOOM! Studios and Disney will most certainly need to somehow reach beyond the current comic book industry distribution status quo to reach those younger and hopefully receptive new readers.

Harriet Burns 1928 - 2008

Born in 1928 just a few months before Mickey Mouse debuted in Steamboat Willie, Harriet Burns would go on to be a pioneer of Disney entertainment in so many ways and on so many levels. She passed away on Friday, July 25, and leaves behind a rich and varied creative legacy.

A Texas native, Burns was educated in art and design before moving to Los Angeles in 1953. She designed sets and props for The Colgate Comedy Hour, interiors for a number of Las Vegas hotels and was integral in the creation of the southern California tourist attraction Santa's Village near Lake Arrowhead.

Burns was hired by the Disney Studios in 1955 as an artist and designer for the then brand new Mickey Mouse Club program. Among her more notable creations for the show was its iconic Mickey Mouse Clubhouse set piece. Jeff Kurtti notes in his upcoming book Walt Disney's Imagineering and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park:

Burns also contributed, along with art director Bruce Bushman and concept designer Roy Williams, to the decidedly modern, graphic styling of the show. At the same time as Walt Disney’s art designs were beginning to be classified in the eyes of the intellectuals as traditional and homogenized, Disney’s designers continued to experiment with bold new stylistic initiatives. “Well, [Walt] wanted a variety. We did wild things for that period; we had various props and backgrounds that were fun and lighthearted. We often used a Steinberg 4 art style. And he dug that. It seemed really amazing because he had a lot of ‘Victorian’ and ‘Main Street’ in his background.”

Burns joined WED shortly thereafter, the first woman to enter the ranks of the early Imagineers. She, along with Wathel Rogers and Fred Joerger, became the nucleus of WED's original model shop. Among her more notable contributions in those early days of Imagineering were the amazing and highly detailed miniature set pieces of Disneyland's Storybook Land attraction. She would go on to work on a wide variety of projects over a career with Disney that would extend past three decades. She contributed notably to other theme park designs including the Matterhorn, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion and the Enchanted Tiki Room. Her skills also helped bring to realization many of the Disney-designed attractions for the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. Burns retired from the Walt Disney Company in 1986. She was honored as a Disney Legend in 2000.

Images © Walt Disney Company

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Adventures in True Life

The great outdoors beckon! Let's spend the next part of our summer vacation on a trip through nature's wonderland.

Explore the 2719 Hyperion Archives:

Desert Living in the Living Desert
The True-Life Winston Hibler
A Different Kind of Disney Adventure

Monday, July 21, 2008

A South of the Border Holiday

For our next vacation jaunt, let's head south of the border for some caballero-inspired fun and festivities.

Explore the 2719 Hyperion Archives:

What a Character! - The Aracuan Bird
Comic Book Caballeros
Snapshot! - Burrito at Panchito's
Las PosadasTaking the Gran Fiesta Tour
Festival de los Mariachis

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Snapshot: Disneyland! - The Gullywhumper

The Mike Fink Keelboats have not navigated the Rivers of America in Disneyland for over a decade. On May 17, 1997, the Gullywhumper tipped over, dunking a boatload of guests. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, but the Gullywhumper was ultimately retired to this remote area of Tom Sawyer Island. The Gullywhumper's sister boat, the Bertha Mae, was sold on eBay in 2001.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Vacation at Brownstone

Summer is the perfect time for a vacation trip to one of our famous and picturesque national parks. How about a tour of Brownstone?

Explore the 2719 Hyperion Archives:

What a Character! - Ranger J. Audubon WoodloreIn the Bag - July 27, 1956
Happy Birthday Humphrey! Well Sort of . . .
Snapshot: Disneyland! - Fire Hazard: Medium
Snapshot! - Bear Crossing

Thursday, July 17, 2008

You Don't Look a Day Over Forty . . .

Explore the 2719 Hyperion Archives:

The Disneyland (Four Color) Birthday Party

On this day, Disneyland's 53rd Birthday, we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of a comic book the celebrated the third birthday of the Happiest Place on Earth.

Walt Disney's Disneyland Birthday Party was a Dell Giant comic book published during the summer of 1958.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vacation Parade

Posts will be relatively light here at 2719 Hyperion for the next two weeks. My family and I will be taking an extended and distinctly non-Disney related vacation that will afford little opportunity for Disney-based discourse. I will try to fill in the spaces with some explorations into the 2719 Hyperion Archives, so continue to check in.

As always, thanks to our many, many loyal readers who continue to provide encouragement and support for our efforts here. It is very much appreciated.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Snapshot! - N.P. 5357

In somewhat striking contrast to the feudal Japanese fortress that houses it is the Tin Toy Stories showcase, located in the Japan pavilion at EPCOT's World Showcase. Standing sentry outside the entrance to the exhibit is N.P. 5357, an oversize recreation of one of the most famous of all tin toy robots. A tin toy Mickey Mouse looks on from the nearby window display.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Adventurers Almanac: Artifact Overload Everywhere!

From Volume 56, Issue No. 8 of the Adventurers Almanac comes this plea in regard to the aesthetics of the Club's entranceway:

A general announcement has been made on behalf of both the Landscaping Committee and the Artifact Committee. To put it simply, these Committees request that Members do not leave artifacts unattended in front of the Club.

Recent visitors to the Club could not help but notice many "new additions" to the Club entrance. There is, evidently, a new custom being practiced by our Members who have items they wish to submit as loans or donations to the Permanent Collection. Upon arrival at the Club, Adventurers appear to be simply leaving the trophies and acquisitions from recent expeditions on the front lawn and front stoop. While some of these are tagged or registered with Club curator, Fletcher Hodges, others are merely stacked, piled, or stuck in the ground. The aesthetic offense being taken by our more staid and traditional members, however, is nothing compared to the real danger created by this random manner of artifact warehousing.

A recent lecture scheduled on "Central African Tribal Feuds" turned into a minor tragedy as a result of our haphazard entry way decor. Lecture Committee chairman, Comdr. (Retired) Alan Glassman, had the near impossible task of calming down our hysterical guest lecturer, a Mishanti tribal chieftain named Oshubu.

Apparently a cluster of spears casually stuck in the front lawn by a thirsty Adventurer in a hurry to visit with Nash, was unknowingly placed in a configuration that symbolized a curse on Oshubu's livestock. Only after protracted apologies, pleas of ignorance, and lengthy financial negotiations was Comdr. Glassman able to convince our Ashanti visitor not to cut off the right thumb of everyone in the Club at that moment (evidently the only way to counteract the curse, according to their traditions). Needless to say, the lecture was canceled as a simple precautionary measure.

The delay and altering of the evenings activities caused further mayhem, however. Dame Mildred had come dressed for the lecture in an authentic Mishanti costume, quite fetchingly fashioned entirely out of porcupine quills. She consumed several chilled adult beverages while waiting for the evenings events and then several more than her usually liberal limit. She caused a great deal of alarm by inadvertently inflicting several nasty puncture wounds upon fellow attendees when the lecture was hastily replaced by a square dance competition.

In order to avoid further complications, we ask that no more artifacts are added to the front of the Club without first obtaining permission from Club curator, Fletcher Hodges.

Special thanks to Wade Sampson for mentioning our Adventurers Almanac series in his recent article at MousePlanet!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Freeze Frame! - Dancing With the Firehouse Five Plus Two

"The roots of the band germinated in the early 1940's when some of us at the Disney Studio used to gather in my office at lunchtime to listen to my records of such jazz legends as King Oliver, Baby Dodds, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong. Since most of our little nucleus of old-time jazz lovers had played various musical instruments back in school, we decided to really get into the spirit of the music by playing along with the records. Then one day the phonograph broke down right in the middle of "Royal Garden Blues." Undaunted, we kept right on playing and found to our amazement that we sounded pretty good all by ourselves!"

-Ward Kimball

The Firehouse Five Plus Two was no mere musical novelty act. Popular with both the general public and jazz music enthusiasts, the group's notoriety extended well beyond their roots at the Disney Studios. In a 1999 article for the Frisco Cricket, writer Hal Smith described the origin of the band's firefighting motif:

With leader Ward Kimball, trombone; Clarke Mallery, clarinet; Frank Thomas, piano; Ed Penner, bass sax and Jim McDonald on drums, the group billed itself as the “Hugageedy 8” and later as the “San Gabriel Valley Blue Blowers.” Eventually they picked up a trumpet man—Johnny Lucas—and a fine banjoist: Harper Goff. The final evolution came about when the Kimballs discussed the idea of taking the band along on a Horseless Carriage Club caravan from Los Angeles to San Diego. The only vehicle Ward Kimball could locate which was large enough to hold the band and old enough to qualify for the caravan was a 1914 American LaFrance fire truck. Keeping with the “fire” motif, Kimball acquired genuine fire helmets and red fireshirts to outfit the band. The newly-outfitted band was rechristened as the “Firehouse Five Plus Two."

Being born out of the Disney Studio, it was only fitting that the Firehouse Five Plus Two find their way into a Disney-produced cartoon. In 1953, they appeared in the Goofy short How to Dance, and were even acknowledged on the short's title card.
Images © Walt Disney Company

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Four Color Vacationland

For many baby boomers such as myself, comic books were a staple of childhood summertimes. Walt Disney's Mickey and Donald in Vacationland, published in 1961, celebrated the fun and joys of summer vacation. The book's title story featured a major character mash-up set in a Wicked Witch-created amusement park called "Vacationland." Featured in the story were Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, Daisy, Uncle Scrooge, Goofy, both sets of nephews, Gyro Gearloose, Grandma Duck, Gladstone, the Wicked Witch, Big Bad Wolf and Captain Hook.

Other stories featured additional odd but inspired teamups. Goofy and Gyro go time traveling; Mickey helps the Seven Dwarfs solve their Diamond Mine Dilemma; and Chip 'n' Dale investigate Brer Rabbit's Bad Habit; Huey, Dewey, Louie and April, May and June help Gepetto test toys. And no Disney Dell Giant would be complete without a ample selection of activity pages. Here are a few fun samples:

Friday, July 04, 2008

Souvenirs: A Star Spangled Celebration

More and more traditional types of souvenirs seem to be fading from view in the many, many retail shops across Walt Disney World. There was a time when you could pretty much purchase a button themed to just about any attraction, resort or special festivity. Here are a few with a distinct Independence Day theme. I purchased them sometime in the late 1980s, early 1990s.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The End of Pleasure Island

. . . as we have known it.

Explore the 2719 Hyperion Archives:

The Leagacy of Merriweather Adam Pleasure
More on Merriweather Adam Pleasure
Souvenirs: Pleasure Island Memories
Tales from the Adventurers Almanac

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Snapshot! - The House of Magic

On the Streets of America in Disney's Hollywood Studios, a somewhat dark and mysterious storefront facade subtlety pays tribute to, what was for nearly two and a half decades, a Main Street institution at the nearby Magic Kingdom theme park. The House of Magic opened with Walt Disney World in October 1971 and was easily one of the most fun and entertaining retail shops on property. It was sadly closed in spring of 1995 as part of an extensive Main Street makeover.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


In a somewhat surprising move, the Pixar short film Presto has been made available for purchase on iTunes while simultaneously playing in theaters with Wall-E.

Images © Disney-Pixar

The Toontown Field Guide: Country Living Issue 34.6

Mickey's Toontown Fair at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World is dense with details and rich with backstory. The area's various attractions and set pieces come together in a central point of connectivity in Minnie's House, by way of large framed covers of the magazine Minnie's Cartoon Country Living. A careful examination of these covers will reveal connections to characters and locations scattered throughout Mickey's Toontown Fair.

Issue 34.6 features Minnie as the "Toon Painter of the Year." This bears a very direct connection to one of the rooms in Minnie's House. The room is an arts and crafts studio and in it are displayed various works of art including paintings and sculptures. It is also the home of Minnie's sewing machine and a prize-winning quilt is displayed nearby. Quite a bit of crockery is displayed in the room, indicating that Minnie also has some skill with a potter's wheel. The view from the room looks out across Toontown Fair to Goofy's Wiseacre Farm. From this vantage point, Minnie must have bore witness to Goofy's cataclysmic plane flight that formed the basis of the backstory to the Barnstormer attraction. She is in the middle of capturing on canvas Goofy's fateful encounter with the farm's water tower.

One less obvious detail from the magazine cover involves the headline "New Toon Diet- ERASE THOSE POUNDS AWAY!" In the hallway just outside of Minnie's kitchen is a small table with a telephone. On the table is a note Minnie has received from Flora, Fauna and Merriweather, the good fairies from Sleeping Beauty. The note reads:

Dear Minnie,

We tried the diet you recommended in your Summer Issue and it works like magic!

Yours Truley,
Flora, Fauna & Merriweather

We will continue to explore the various covers of Minnie's Cartoon Country Living in future installments of the Toontown Field Guide. Stay tooned!