Friday, December 31, 2010

A Four Color Happy New Year

Today's Four Color Friday post will be a brief but very celebratory affair.  For your New Years holiday enjoyment, we welcome in two wonderful comic book covers that date back to the 1940s.  Both are from the Walt Disney's Comics and Stories series.
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories Issue #28
January 1943
Art by Carl Buettner

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories Issue #88
January 1948
Art by Walt Kelly

Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vintage Headlines: But Maybe I'm Dumb?

Here's an interesting slice of irrational newspaper punditry from the mid-1950s.  If you thought media-rooted extremism was unique to the 21st century, think again.  This newspaper column from late December of 1955 clearly reinforces the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Richmond Barbour held the position of director of guidance for the San Diego city schools and wrote a newspaper column entitled Parent's Corner throughout the 1950s.  Though generally sound and rational in his observations and advice, his column on December 30, 1955 took a somewhat wacky turn.  He specifically targeted Walt Disney and the filmmakers of the then just recently released True-Life Adventure, The African Lion.  Here's what he had to say:
Heigh-ho folks. Let's welcome some new experts on children's discipline. They come from an unlikely place, the Disney Studio in Hollywood. What are their qualifications?

It seems they spent  three years watching lions in Africa. That's right. Three years watching lions. The connection between our children's discipline and African lions is obscure to me. But maybe I'm dumb?

Please don't think I am kidding. I've just taken time to read newspaper publicity for that recent Disney lion picture. A reporter quotes the lion-watchers as saying the law in lion families is obey or die. So lion mamas slap their cubs around. Maybe the lions have read modern psychology too. The reporter says that they never are harshly brutal in their punishment. Just knock the little ones across the landscape. Haymaker love taps.

What's the result? Hold on to your hats. There is no juvenile delinquency among the lions in that part of Africa! Isn't that marvelous? The lion-watchers seem to think so. They are quoted as saying that a headstrong lion would be a terrible nuisance to the rest of the lion family. No doubt. No doubt.

If this publicity was intentionally humorous, I'd enjoy it. But it isn't! It is serious. Wallop your kids. Knock 'em spinning. But don't be harshly brutal about it. Punishment is the rule of nature.

Did this publicity appear in your papers? I hope not. Your human instincts regarding the rearing of the human young are sounder than the instincts of lady lions prowling the African veldt.  I agree that Walt Disney has geniuses on his payroll. I'll admit that the lion-watchers are the best animal photographers in the business. But child guidance advice from Walt's lions is too much.

Please, Mr. Disney!
Barbour provides no specific quotations or citations from the publicity material he is referring to.  It was most likely press kit articles that featured veteran wildlife photographers Alfred and Elma Milotte.  Barbour was clearly playing hard and loose with subject and context and then jumps to the bizarre conclusion that Disney is advocating child abuse via his otherwise generally celebrated nature documentary.

Distilling child psychology and disciplinary philosophies from Hollywood press material?

Please Mr. Barbour! 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pixar Postage

The United States Postal Service just announced its 2011 stamp program.  The Disney connection? Pixar characters will be gracing envelopes this coming summer.

According to the USPS:

"The Send a Hello stamps, which go on sale Aug. 19, are a natural outgrowth of the Art of Disney stamp series issued between 2004 and 2008. Originally intended as a series of three annual issuances depicting friendship, celebration, and romance, the Art of Disney stamps proved so popular that the Postal Service expanded the series to include issuances in 2007 and 2008 to celebrate imagination and magic.

Based on that success, the Postal Service was eager to work with the Walt Disney Company again, choosing to explore the Disney*Pixar films, which offer exciting, contemporary characters and strong themes involving family and friends."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Freeze Frame! - Mickey Mouse Tummy Troubles

Our recent Freeze Frames have been focused on Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  We're going to continue to explore that toony world, but take a detour over to Tummy Trouble, the very first Roger Rabbit cartoon, that was released in theaters in 1989 with the feature film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!

Homage is paid in the short to both Mickey Mouse and one of his classic early cartoons.  A very quickly panned background from Baby Herman's hospital room features a wall chart of a mouse's skull, Mickey's pants and shoes, and a picture of the namesake villain from the 1933 cartoon The Mad Doctor.  The bag of money on the scale?  Not quite sure other than to say that Mickey is a very wealthy mouse indeed.

Later, a Mickey-themed mouse-hole can been seen near the elevator doors.

More Tummy Trouble Freeze Frames are on the way.  Stay tooned!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Vintage Snapshot! - Mickey's Automobile

This particular photo, snapped in September of 1988, showcases one of my very favorite Walt Disney World set pieces.  Mickey's car was featured in the original rendition of Mickey's Toontown Fair, aka Mickey's Birthdayland, which had been quickly constructed that year to celebrate the mouse's 60th anniversary.  The design of the vehicle was much more rooted in comics than cartoons, and was likely inspired by Donald Duck's own automobile which was frequently featured in duck stories throughout the 1940s and 1950s.  That's not surprising in that much of Mickey's Birthdayland drew inspiration from comics and was in fact a representation of Duckburg, the comic book home of Donald and Uncle Scrooge among many others.

In the 1986 comic Recalled Wreck, writer-artist Don Rosa created a story that centrally featured Donald's car.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What a Wondrous Time of Year

To all of my readers, family and friends, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of holiday seasons.  I truly appreciate the encouragement and support you provide throughout the year. 

All my best--

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Vintage Headlines: Santa Claus and Walt Disney on the Same Day

Walt Disney's second venture into television was the holiday special The Walt Disney Christmas Show which was broadcast at 3PM on Christmas Day 1951.  It followed by one year Disney's first television program, One Hour in Wonderland that had debuted on Christmas 1950.

Newspaper columnist Bob Foster provided this preview of the show on December 18, 1951:
Television is only a few years old, but already a number of traditions have been founded which make it a bit more enjoyable around Christmas time. One of the most delightful traditions to be set up is the annual appearance of Walt Disney before the television cameras. Because Christmas is basically children's holiday, this year, as last, Walt leaves his studio and produces for television on the "Walt Disney Christmas Show."  And what a show he has lined up for this year. Disney will devote more time to his cartoon characters. There will be the Uncle Remus Tar Baby sequence from "Song of the South." a scene from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and "Bambi," plus previews from Disney's next big feature, "Peter Pan," now in production, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, Goofy and others will, of course, contribute their comedy cavorting. Live talent will include Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried, Bill Thompson, Don Barclay, all of whom have taken part in Disney films. The show, according to advance notices, will open in the convalescent ward of a children's hospital on Christmas morning, with Dr. Miller, played by Don Barclay, entering as Santa Claus. This should be a wonderful afternoon for the kiddies as well as adults, especially for Christmas. Ann and Lyn, our two little "Indians." are already talking about the Disney show and look to Christmas with great expectations. Why not? What more could you want, Santa Claus and Walt Disney on the same day.
Television reporter James Abbe provided this brief review of the show on December 26, 1951:
The Walt Disney Christmas Show on TV yesterday was still entrancing even when the color of the movie production had been lost.  Anything so well done originally as Disney's Bambi, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Uncle Remus, can still get under the skin of young and old alike.  One solid hour of Disney classics went out over 57 stations of the CBS-TV network with Walt Disney himself acting as emcee before a gathering of enthusiastic children.
The program's sponsor, Johnson and Johnson provided $250,000 to produce the special, a figure unprecedented in the medium's then short history.  CBS, embarrassed by not running the 1950 show, quickly lined up the 57 stations that sealed the broadcast agreement with Johnson and Johnson.

The special is notable in that it included an appearance by Bobby Driscoll dressed as Peter Pan, the character he would voice in the 1953 animated feature.

The show itself is generally inaccessible, but curiously it was included on the UK version of the Peter Pan Platinum edition DVD, but not on the comparable US edition.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Legacy of Tron

My regular profession is Christmas-intensive and so it was yesterday before I finally had the opportunity to see Tron: Legacy, and even now I only have time for a brief expression of my thoughts on the film.  The sequel to the nearly three-decades old original Tron is sparking both critical debate and the usual box-office over-analysis.  Like its predecessor, it is being lauded for its dynamic visual style and technical prowess, but just as quickly dismissed (as was the original Tron) for what many call a slight and often incomprehensible story.  I will without shame admit to having been a wide-eyed, arcade game-enthralled youth of the era that spawned the first film.  Tron holds a very special place in my vault of movie memories and I am very happy to say that Tron: Legacy, in my very subjective opinion (that is certainly influenced by history and nostalgia), lives up to the legacy of Tron.  It's a fun and entertaining ride, and has a great deal more substance to it than you might be lead to believe.

The Tron mythology, not unlike the complicated digital science that inspired it, is not always easy to decipher and digest.  Make no mistake, Tron: Legacy is a sequel, and perhaps Disney's effort to market it as more of a standalone entity has done it a disservice.  I would disagree with those who found it lacking in plot and story, but it does owe much to what went before and director Joseph Kosinski chose to spend little time on retro-expository.  Original Tron fans are not left lacking, but its easy to see how more regular viewers could walk away with some pronounced head-scratching.  There has been a subtle but still distinct disconnect between filmmaker and corporate Disney, and the decision to withhold the original film from DVD release has raised many eyebrows (and conspiracy theories as well).  But I do give the corporate execs credit for allowing Kosinski to fashion a somewhat less accessible sequel rather than a complete and more mainstream-friendly re-imagining.

Tron: Legacy is many parts; fantasy, analogy, philosophy.  But one thing it is not is science fiction.  You can hold its setting of the Grid no more credible than Oz, but unfortunately, many individuals have trouble moving past what they consider the silliness of its concept.  I had no problem doing so, and in turn found the film intriguing and thought-provoking, and most certainly dazzling and technically amazing.  Multiple viewings on Blu-Ray DVD will likely inspire me to write a more lengthy and comprehensive discourse in the future, as I am still eager to explore the Tron universe in much more depth and detail.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas at Walt Disney World 1971

Just two months after its opening in October 1971, Walt Disney World launched its very first holiday-themed celebrations.  We thought we would put on our theme parkeologist pith helmets and see what we could uncover about Mickey's very first Christmas in Florida.

On December 12, a newspaper report announced:
"Walt Disney World's first Christmas will be a spirited two-week holiday full of gaiety, tradition, colorful Disney character parades, and commemorative religious pageantry of the season.Yuletide decorations will bring added sparkle to the already fun-filled Magic Kingdom — "decked out" literally for Christmas with a giant tree and hundreds of wreaths of hemlock and holly.  Special daily Holiday Parades (beginning December 20) and two mammoth candlelight processionals are part of the spectacular events scheduled for the holidays.

Florally adorned by poinsettias, snapdragons, petunias and 50,000 pansies, the theme park will feature lights and decorations in each of the Main Street shop windows. And in Town Square, a snowy, 50-foot Christmas tree, especially selected and cut from a forest in Paradise, Mich., will serve as a colorful centerpiece for the festive theme park celebration. More than 1,200 lights and a thousand giant ornaments adorn the tree."
The Holiday Parade was performed twice each day from December 10 through January 2.  According to the newspaper account, the parade included, "marching toy soldiers, dancing reindeer, marching bands, girls playing glockenspiels and 50 famous Disney characters come to life."  And of course Santa Claus as well.

The resort's very first Candlelight Processionals were held on December 18 and 19 at 6pm each evening.  The processional traveled down Main Street to the Cinderella Castle forecourt where the performance took place.  1200 carolers from across the state of Florida made up the choir.  Rock Hudson narrated the Christmas story while Frederick Fennell conducted the orchestra.  The living Christmas tree was made up of boys choirs from Orlando and St. Petersburg.

A New Years Eve party at the Magic Kingdom featured entertainment by Tommy Roe and bandleader Bob Crosby.

The Magic Kingdom was open on Christmas Eve from 9am to 6pm; Christmas Day hours were 10am to 6pm.  Extended hours from 9am to midnight were in effect for the week between Christmas and New Years.  The park remained open until 2am on New Years Eve.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rascals in Plastic: The Classic Pirates of the Caribbean Model Kits

My first encounter with Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean?  It was not on a family vacation to Walt Disney World.  Nor was it on a similar excursion to Disneyland.  I was introduced to those various rascals, scoundrels, villains and knaves in 1973 when I used hard-earned allowance money to purchase plastic model kits based on the now classic theme park attraction.

It all began with a very impressive four-page advertisement that appeared in numerous comic books.

At that point in my life, I'm not sure that I'd even heard of the Disneyland attraction, which at the time was less than a decade old.  What I saw when gazing at these pages were very, very cool models of . . . skeletons.  Yes, for many young kids at that time, monster model kits were a big deal.  Monster model kits involving skeletons?  We were beside ourselves with excitement.

Model maker MPC enhanced the Pirates of the Caribbean kits with the wholly new Zap/Action feature.  According to the ad copy:
Now . . . something never in model kits before.  Zap/Action pirate scenes based on Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean, the most popular attraction in Disneyland.  First you build these exciting and detailed scenes . . . then at the touch of a lever . . . release Zap/Action . . . and the pirates perform a variety of surprise actions!  And the Zap/Action can be reset over and over again!
MPC launched the series with five kits: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Fate of the Mutineers, Dead Man's Raft, Condemned to Chains Forever and Hoist High the Jolly Roger.  Two additional kits were later released: Ghost of the Treasure Guard and Freed in the Nick of Time Ghost of the Treasure Guard however, actually recycled the figures from Dead Men Tell No Tales and Hoist High the Jolly Roger and combined them into a larger scene.  The figure in Hoist High the Jolly Roger was the only one in the series to represent a living human and not a skeletal ghost.

I remember personally owning Dead Men Tell No Tales and Fate of the Mutineers.  Each of the first five kits included a two-page printed insert that provided background on the Disneyland attraction, a history of the Age of Piracy and a suggested layout that would simulate an attraction ride-through.  It is likely that the following paragraph from that insert was the first time I'd ever heard of Pirates of the Caribbean.  Growing up in western Pennsylvania, my friends and I knew little of Disneyland.  Park-centric shows on the Wonderful World of Disney had become almost non-existent by the early 1970s, at least a far as I remembered.

The introductory paragraph from the insert:
The most popular attraction at Disneyland is the Pirates of the Caribbean, an electronic wonder that is years ahead of its time in excitement, imagination and animation.  Here, all the authenticity of the Age of Pirates are combined with the most advanced technology and that special Disney fun touch to provide a sight, sound and action attraction that has thrilled millions.  Now, Pirates of the Caribbean is the basis for an entirely new kind of kit series from MPC . . . a total scene kit series with the added dimension of Zap/Action.  Like Disney, MPC has created the lighter side of the Age of Piracy . . . yet combining it with the authenticity and the proven appeal of action and excitement.
The original five kits:

Dead Men Tell No Tales
Left behind to guard the treasure, this pirate has plenty of life left in him.  He builds up into a great model scene.  But watch out!  One touch of the button and . . . Zap/Action!  His arm swings up and he's got the drop on you.

Fate of the Mutineers
No fate worse than being dumped on a desert island . . . and falling in quicksand!  One maty tries to help the other out, but a touch of the switch and . . . Zap/Action!  The blighter's bones give way!

Dead Man's Raft
Here is a magnificent model scene . . . the remains of a badly battered ship with an old salty seaman behind the wheel.  But one slight peek inside the hatch and Zap/Action!  Up leaps his angry mate, slamming down upon the treasure map.

Condemned to Chains Forever
He tried to skip ship, but skip he will no longer.  A hard hearted scene with alligator and all.  But alligator beware!  A finger's touch and . . . Zap/Action!  Down swings the sword upon the alligator's head!

Hoist High the Jolly Roger
In fantastic detail, Captain Villainy with his peg leg upon the king's ransom, preparing to fight all comers.  And curses!  That's just what happens when . . . Zap/Action!  He swings his arm with sword . .  and woe to the treasure hunters.

The two additional kits:

As noted, Ghost of the Treasure Guard combined two previous kits.

The kits proved very successful and MPC subsequently produced a series of models inspired by another Disneyland attraction, namely the Haunted Mansion.  Those kits also featured Zap/Action!

Re-releases of vintage monster/film/sci-fi kits have been very popular in recent years so it is curious that MPC has never opted to reissue the kits.  Especially considering the incredible popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise.  Maybe the company will reconsider with the impending release next year of On Stranger Tides and rumors of additional sequels.

Very special thanks to Sam McCain of Horror Sanctum Studios who provided the photos of his own Pirates of the Caribbean model kit collection.  Sam is a well known and respected Hollywood makeup effects artist and master mask maker.  You can visit him at

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Outside Addresses: Sexy, Dopey, Nostalgic and Weird

What others were saying this week about the many worlds of Disney entertainment:

"Still, it seems unlikely that the money-strapped Playboy would risk the ire of Disney unless they got some kind of go ahead. The general theory right now is that Disney, a company that used to shuffle any movie even slightly controversial to one of their other wings like Touchstone, is looking for any extra way to market a movie that has been rumored to cost more than $300 million and so decided to just let this slide as long as their name was nowhere near it.  If the pictorial doesn’t vanish and Disney doesn’t make a comment, we might have to assume that to be the case."

Jon Bershad

"In Scandinavian countries, it was once common to bury a fish until it rotted, then dig it up and eat it.  Most Americans would say they'd never do anything so unhygienic. But the Walt Disney Co., possessed of an overstuffed pop-culture pantry, has done something almost as gamy: It's excavated a 28-year-old flop, Tron, and is offering it as a Christmastime delicacy. To be fair, Disney isn't simply reheating leftovers. It's concocted a sequel, with the curious title of Tron: Legacy. ("Legacy," ironically, being a high-tech euphemism for "obsolete.") Everything in the long-delayed follow-up is said to be brand new, except the dopey premise and the likelihood that it'll lose a bundle."
Mark Jenkins

"It's an extremely fun bit of entertainment, with some surprises, loads of nostalgic pandering to the sort of person who saw the original Tron as a kid (such as me), and some interesting commercial notes."

Cory Doctorow
Boing Boing

     "A half-century ago,  well-known Disney theme-park creators Rolly Crump and Claude Coats designed the Museum of the Weird with the idea of spotlighting a parade of ghostly organists, magic carts, talking chairs and other surreal exhibits. Walt Disney wanted to use the museum as an adjunct to the Haunted Mansion, complete with its own restaurant. But the museum was never built, though some of the more ambitious pieces were incorporated into the mansion itself.
     Disney is in discussions for a movie based on the museum with screenwriter Ahmet Zappa, according to a source close to the project. (Zappa, son of Frank, is also developing a movie for Disney that may or may not be inspired by its Enchanted Tiki Room attraction.)
     Under its new leadership, Disney seems to be taking a two-pronged approach to movies. It's getting into business with top-tier filmmakers (add David Fincher and Tim Burton to Del Toro and Favreau) even as it's putting chips down on seemingly as many theme-park attractions as possible, and trying to merchandise more than ever. The net effect: a studio slate that's a strange combination of stubbornly visionary and explicitly marketing-driven."

Steven Zeitchik
Los Angeles Times

What have you been saying about Disney entertainment this week?  Let us know! 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Four Color Tinkering with Toy Tinkers

It is neither heartfelt nor sentimental, and it does not convey its holiday theme in gentle, subtle strokes.  The 1949 Donald Duck cartoon Toy Tinkers is Christmas mayhem of the highest order, pitting our favorite mallard against Chip and Dale, who invade the duck's otherwise calm and bright, holiday-trimmed home.  That setting is quickly transformed into something analogous to a world war battlefield.  The antics drew heavily on guns and armaments; so much so that the short was heavily edited when broadcast on the Disney Channel throughout the 1990s.  Likely the most over-the-top sequence in this regard showed a Santa-clad Donald threatening the two chipmunks with a revolver.  Veteran duck director Jack Hannah was known for pushing at the boundaries in Disney cartoons and he certainly did not pull his punches with Toy Tinkers.

And lest you think that it was modern era political-correctness that first put the damper on Toy Tinkers, its premise was actually tinkered with just one year after its initial release when it was adapted into a comic book story that appeared in Walt Disney's Christmas Parade #2, published by Dell.  The story's writing was uncredited but the art was done by well-known Disney comics artist Paul Murray.  The story appeared without a title, providing some distance from its cartoon counterpart.  A 1991 reprint by Disney Comics gave it the title "Christmas Fray;" Gemstone Comics named it "Such a Clatter" when they republished it in 2003.

Though the comics adaptation retains much of the mayhem of Toy Tinkers, the cartoon's "war-esque" tone and set pieces were distinctly minimized or altered, likely at the direction Dell's editorial staff.  The implementation of the comics code may still have been a few years away, but even so, many comic book publishers worked to keep their content suitable for the smaller tykes.  Among the elements not migrated from cartoon to comic:
  • A music box featuring two pistol-dueling gentlemen, albeit with cork-pop revolvers.
  • Dale donning battlefield gear including a World War I-era gas mask.
  • Donald fighting Chip and Dale with a toy Tommy gun during the penultimate artillery battle; in fact Donald does not take up arms whatsoever during that particular sequence in the comic.
  • Donald uses a stick of dynamite against the chipmunks in the cartoon; in the comic it is clearly identified as a "giant firecracker."

The aforementioned cartoon sequence in which Donald holds the two at gunpoint is softened considerably in the comic story.  The gun itself is of a wholly different and less threatening design, and is ultimately revealed to be a water pistol.  The comic also adds a sequence not found in the cartoon:  Chip drops tree ornaments on Donald while flying a model airplane intended as a gift for Huey, Dewey and Louie.

It all very much speaks to the dynamic that cartoon shorts were originally produced for the broadest audience possible and were not always subservient to kid-friendly sensibilities.  But the vast majority of comic books of that era did cater almost exclusively to the younger demographics.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Windows to the Past: Mrs. Claus' Candy Kitchen

This official Walt Disney World publicity photo dates from the late 1970s, and features a float from the annual holiday parade at the Magic Kingdom.  Mrs. Claus can be seen sitting outside of her Candy Kitchen; Chip and Dale accompany her, standing amidst giant candy canes and lollipops.  It appears that cast members were lax in not speaking to the two individuals who had climbed the lamppost for a better view.

Photo courtesy of the Bill Cotter archives.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Vintage Snapshot! - A Roger Rabbit Surprise!

In 1991, Roger Rabbit was still a very big deal, as this Vintage Snapshot demonstrates.  Roger was one of only five Disney characters to rate a massive parade balloon, joining representations of Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and Mickey Mouse in the Walt Disney World 20th Anniversary Surprise Celebration at the Magic Kingdom.  The parade balloons were in fact recycled from the Party-Gras parade that was the centerpiece of Disneyland's 35th Anniversary festivities in 1990.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Consider the Source: She Had Eaten the Heart and Tongue

Editor Note:  In all the films Walt Disney produced during his lifetime, it was generally rare for one to be based on an original story.  Walt drew extensively from outside sources, primarily existing fiction and traditional tales and stories.  In many cases, the resulting "Disney version" has become the popular culture definitive, for better or for worse.  We are launching a new series here at 2719 Hyperion entitled Consider the Source, where we explore these original stories, novels and traditional tales that ultimately evolved into tangible representations of Disney entertainment.  First up, we deal with the Grimm realities of a certain classic fairy tale . . .

There exist numerous variations of the story that forms the basis of Snow White and the Seven DwarfsBella Venezia is an Italian version; Myrsina has roots in Greek folklore, while Nourie Hadig is Armenian in origin and Gold Tree and Silver Tree is a part of Celtic tradition.  Walt Disney drew his inspiration from the most well known version of the tale, Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs, as famously chronicled by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the early 19th century.

Walt remained quite faithful to much of the Grimm rendition. The fundamentals such as the Wicked Queen, the Magic Mirror and the poisoned apple remained in place while he expanded on other elements.  He was much lauded for creating distinct names and personalities for each of the dwarfs, who were generic and unnamed in the original Grimm text.   In their account, the Brothers Grimm chronicled two other failed attempts by the Queen to kill Snow White, first with a tightened corset and then subsequently with a poisoned hair comb.  Walt had considered the comb sequence for the film but ultimately decided that the pace of the story was better served by just the single encounter involving the poisoned apple.

The Disney version also proved much more romantic.  Added was the early scene where Snow White and the Prince first meet, a sequence entirely without basis in the Grimm story.  Walt also added the penultimate awakening kiss which had actually originated in a 1914 silent film version of the story; the Grimms had revived her by simply having the piece of poisoned apple accidentally dislodged from her mouth.

The Grimm brothers being grim indeed, Walt excised two of their harsher and distinctly more graphic story elements.  Wisely removed was the evil queen's intended act of cannibalism.  Upon the huntsman's return from the forest, the Queen consumes what she thinks is the heart and tongue of her step-daughter.  Due to the machinations of the huntsman, she had actually eaten the parts of a wild boar.  Also, the ultimate fate of the Queen varied greatly from page to screen.  In the film, she dramatically falls to her death after a lightning strike.  In the Grimm version, upon attending the wedding of Snow White and her Prince at the very end of the story, she was fitted with a pair of red-hot iron shoes and forced to, ". . . dance in them till she fell down dead."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Outside Addresses: Annies, Oscars--But No Cause for Celebration

What others were saying this week about the many worlds of Disney entertainment:

   "Membership in ASIFA is open to anyone who pays a yearly fee, and nominations are voted by members who have been approved by an ASIFA committee. According to reports, DreamWorks Animation automatically buys a membership for every employee, and may employ as much as 40 percent of the total ASIFA membership.
   "Annies results caused something of a scandal in 2009, when DreamWorks' "Kung Fu Panda" won 10 awards while Pixar's "Wall-E," the eventual Oscar winner and consensus choice for one of the best films of the year, was completely shut out."

Steve Pond
The Wrap
Commenting on Disney/Pixar's disassociation with ASIFA and the Annie Awards

"But even if [Toy Story 3] does win, the directors of animated films have a way to go in attaining top Hollywood status. Unkrich's name does not leap to people's lips the way Christopher Nolan or David Fincher do. The online version of Time's story misspelled Unkrich's name as "Les Unkrich." The print magazine spelled it right, and it was corrected online, but it's evidence of how obscure even the most eminent animation directors are. Unkrich has won three Annie Awards for directing (for Finding Nemo, shared with Andrew Stanton; Monsters, Inc., shared with Pete Docter and David Silverman; and Toy Story 2, shared with Pixar top dog John Lasseter and Ash Brannon). When animation finally wins respect in the best picture category, the next step will be to give these guys their due in best director."

Tom Appelo
The Hollywood Reporter

"It does have a unique flavor or flair that isn't found in a lot of places, (but) it's not like living at Disney World. It's a real town, (with) real issues."

Celebration resident Chris Stellwag
From a CNN news report.

What have you been saying about Disney entertainment this week?  Let us know!

Friday, December 10, 2010

"I Like 'SCOTCH' Brand Cellophane Tape Because . . . "

" . . . it will hopefully win me a free trip to Disneyland!"

That would have been my entry if I had been alive during the spring of 1956 when this contest from 3M was offered to consumers.  Br'er Rabbit was the focal point of the contest advertising which was featured prominently in comic books and also in the comics sections of newspapers on April 8, 1956.  The prize for twenty-five lucky winners:

YOU'LL FLY to Los Angeles with three members of via luxurious TWA Constellation, stay at the exclusive Hampton-Sheraton Hotel. At Disneyland, you'll ride flying elephants, midget cars, pimte ships, "rocket to the moon" . . . see all the wonders of Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Fantasyland. On a Tanner-Gray Line Bus Tour, you'll visit a real movie studio, network TV shows, homes of Hollywood stars. You'll enjoy a whole week of thrills with all regular expenses paid—plus $250 in cash for meals and anything else you like! 

The Barstow family from Wethersfield, Connecticut were winners in this contest, and their home movies compilation, a 30-minute film entitled Disneyland Dream, was added to the National Film Registry in 2008.   I was only able to track down the names of three of the other twenty-four winners: seven-year old Mike Magruder of Beaumont, Texas; eight-year old Kenneth Haydis of Flagstaff, Arizona; and Mrs. George Ripley of Clarion, Iowa. It appears that the winners took their trips in mid-July of that year.  If any of you folks are out there, we'd love to hear a trip report!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Vintage Headlines: Ask Dora

Let's turn our time travel dial back seventy-one years for today's Vintage Headline.  On this date in 1939, the Walt Disney Studios, located at 2719 Hyperion Avenue, made the front page of the Los Angeles Times, thanks to the antics of a gentleman named J. Ridford Worth.  This is his very short and distinctly enigmatic story:

Eluding a deputy Sheriff who had questioned him concerning his possession of a gun, J. Ridford Worth, 39, of 818 N. Angelino Ave., Burbank, yesterday shot himself in the chest in the foyer of Walt Disney Studios, according to police.

At Georgia Street Receiving Hospital, where he refused to make a statement, Worth was reported as not in critical condition.

Deputy Sherriff G. H. Weinner said he questioned Worth at the north end of Silver Lake, where the latter was examining a revolver.  Worth jumped into an automobile and sped to the studios at 2719 Hyperion Ave., where his assertedly estranged wife Dora is employed as a secretary.

There, according to Detectives C. M. Pitts and W. L. Chase, who investigated, he shot himself.  Asked why he had done it, he assertedly declared, "Ask Dora."

Worth, according to police, is an unemployed salesman.  Mrs. Worth resides at 508 S. Wilton Place, officers said.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Vintage Snapshot! - The S.S. Donald Duck

As Mickey's Toontown Fair is now literally disappearing from the Walt Disney World landscape, memories of its predecessors, Mickey's Birthdayland and Mickey's Starland, will likely diminish even further.  The temporary nature of Mickey's Birthdayland, constructed very, very quickly in 1988 to celebrate Mickey's 60th birthday, is distinctly reflected in the S.S. Donald Duck.  Imagineers expanded the idea into the much more elaborate Donald's Boat (aka the Miss Daisy) that became one of the more popular set pieces of Toontown Fair.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Windows to the Past: The Ugly Dachshund and the Fur Rondy

Sure, you could look at this picture and assume that a team of sled dogs has arrived in town to see one of their own on the big screen.  A whimsical scenario certainly, but alas not an accurate one.

The location is Anchorage, Alaska.  The time is late February of 1966.  The occasion is the annual Fur Rendezvous, or the Fur Rondy, as it has come to be known in recent years.  The Rondy is a 75-year tradition; it began in 1935 and quickly became an annual celebration of Alaskan history and heritage.  The festival originated at a time of the year when miners and fur trappers would return to Anchorage with their winter yields.  Sled Team 14, seen in the above image, is preparing to line up for the World Championship Sled Dog Race, a Rondy tradition that began in 1946.  Coincidentally, Walt Disney's feature film The Ugly Dachshund is the top-billed attraction at the nearby 4th Avenue Theatre.  The film's original release date was February 2, 1966.

Ah, but the Walt Disney's connection to the 1966 Rondy extended beyond the 4th Avenue Theatre.  Standing at a place of honor on the race's trophy table?  Why none other than Nikki, star of the 1961 Disney feature Nikki, Wild Dog of the North.

Photographs are from the Alaska Digital Archives.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Exhibiton Hall: Peter Pan's Christmas Story

This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the Walt Disney Company's lesser know holiday traditions.  Beginning in 1960, Disney-produced, holiday-themed comic strips were featured in newspapers across the country.  Each strip was launched in late November and typically ran for approximately four weeks before ending on December 24.  The very first of these annual comic strips was Peter Pan's Christmas Story.

The story, consisting of 24 daily strips, featured Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee and also included the Seven Dwarfs.  It was written by Frank Reilly with art by Manuel Gonzales.

For many of us baby boomers, these annual "bonus" comic strips were a very big deal indeed.  We would clip and collect them and ultimately put them in a safe place where we would never find them again.  I stumbled upon the strips recently while conducting some wholly unrelated research and it was like magically unlocking an obscure and completely forgotten childhood memory.

So head on over to the Exhibition Hall and into Exhibit Room 2C where, presented in its entirety, is Peter Pan's Christmas Story.  It was originally distributed by Kings Features Syndication and published from November 28 to December 24, 1960.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Outside Addresses: Oscar Politics, Tron Prospects, Depp on Sparrow

What others were saying this week about the many worlds of Disney entertainment:

"When it comes to best-picture glory, Pixar has gotten the shaft over and over again. But spending millions of dollars buying clever Oscar ads isn’t going to make a difference, although it will surely inspire wonderers to wonder about the whole pay-to-play aspect of the Oscar game. The only way an animated film will win a best picture Oscar is if the academy changes its mind-set about what represents a great film. For now, if you’re Pixar, you’ve earned our eternal cinematic gratitude for making movies that appeal to our childlike sense of wonder, sorrow and delight. But you still haven’t earned the right to be taken seriously by the motion picture academy."

Patrick Goldstein
Los Angeles Times

"With some high-profile holiday movies starting to hit Hollywood's prerelease tracking services, it appears first-weekend prospects for Disney's Tron: Legacy are significantly below where the studio needs to be with its pricey tentpole.  The 3D sci-fi film has been marketed heavily for months en route to its Dec. 17 bow, and many have been suggesting a big opening and leggy theatrical run based on built-in interest from the cult base of its 1982 predecessor. But at this point, tracking suggests Tron: Legacy with as little as $35 million.  Technically a sequel, Tron: Legacy references characters and events from the original Tron in a tale that occurs years later. But its $200 million production heft alone puts the 3D romp squarely in the category of movie reboot -- the first picture cost just $17 million to produce -- and an opening well north of $50 million would seem necessary to put the picture on a path to profitability."

Carl DiOrio
Hollywood Reporter
"We went up there for a day, showed it to their key people, had a nice two-hour roundtable where we told them what we wanted to improve, and they had some suggestions. Little nips, tucks, tweaks. We incorporated some of their ideas into the shoot we did in June and even though it only amounts to a couple minutes of stuff, it's those little adjustments that I think help bring the story to the next level."

Tron: Legacy Director Joseph Kosinski, from an interview on, speaking about screening footage from the film at Pixar Studios 
"Clearly with Mickey Mouse, I mean, the guy is on everyone's paycheck so there are lines you just don't cross. I'm a big believer in pushing things too far and forcing people to pull you back. I put together a folder of Mickey smoking and drinking and abusing farm animals and, you know, shooting em and skewering em. Mickey did a lot of bad stuff back in the day but it doesn't matter that he used to do it. It doesn't matter that he used to do that because I don't even want to do that with Mickey, but I just wanted test where the line was. You'd be surprised at how far they've let me go."

Game designer Warren Spector, discussing his handling of the iconic character in the new Epic Mickey video game
“They couldn’t stand him. They just couldn’t stand him.  I think it was Michael Eisner, the head of Disney at the time, who was quoted as saying, ‘He’s ruining the movie.’... Upper-echelon Disney-ites, going, What’s wrong with him? Is he, you know, like some kind of weird simpleton? Is he drunk? By the way, is he gay?… And so I actually told this woman who was the Disney-ite… ‘But didn’t you know that all my characters are gay?’ Which really made her nervous.”

Johnny Depp, from an interview in Vanity Fair

What have you been saying about Disney entertainment this week?  Let us know!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Vintage Headlines: Ardent Youth Barred

Introducing our newest series here at 2719 Hyperion: Vintage Headlines.  Similar to our popular Windows to the Past series that showcases Disney-related archival photographs, Vintage Headlines will explore and uncover newspaper articles from the past that reveal heretofore largely forgotten Disney history.

It was fifty years ago this week that a young man named Gary Drapala had quite an adventure just outside the Disney Studios in Burbank, California.  This story has it all: a pink stuffed poodle, a self-inflicted injury and even an arm wrestling policeman.  Read on:

BURBANK. Calif. (AP) -With a pink poodle, a pocket-knife and his own red blood, Gary Drapala tried to storm the gates of the Walt Disney Studio to see actress Annette Funicello. Gary, 16, ended up arm-wrestling a policeman, and then telling this teen-age tale of unrequited love.
He left his home in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, N.Y. with a borrowed $100 and a burning desire to see Annette, onetime Mouseketeer on TV. "But I couldn't get past the gate," he said. "So I made a plan."

"I cut myself a little in a washroom of a service station near the studio. Then I went over to see the guard and ask him to give the poodle (a stuffed poodle he'd bought for $5) to Annette.

"I was going to double over, moaning. The guard would see the blood, and I wouldn't leave untilI saw Annette."

Gary gave himself a superficial 6-inch abdominal slash and faced the guard's suspicions glance Wednesday.

"But I lost my nerve." he said.  "I just gave the poodle to him and walked off to the hospital."  But at St. Joseph Hospital, across the street from Disney's, Gary's imagination started working again. Attendants called police when Gary informed them he'd been attacked by a knife-wielding stranger. Then at the police station, Gary became strangely silent. He finally agreed to tell all, though, if one of the officers could defeat him in Indian wrestling.

Juvenile Officer M.O. Daily's ham-sized hand reached across the interrogation table. There was a brief straining of muscles. Then Gary, his knuckles mashed against the mahogany, was talking like the proverbial magpie.

Police asked him what he'd planned to do if the guard had summoned Annette to view his slightly bleeding body, as planned. "I thought I'd fall on the floor and keep muttering her name over and over, "Annette, Annette, Annette. . ."

Then what?

"I suppose I'd have gotten up, given her the poodle, and left. All I wanted was to see her."

The studio said Annette was busy preparing for a personal appearance tour—in New York, of all places—and wouldn't have time to see Gary.

The article was written by Dial Torgerson, a reporter for the Associated Press.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Visit the 2719 Hyperion Exhibition Hall!

The 2719 Hyperion Exhibition Hall is officially open.  Our inaugural exhibit is Disney Dali Destino, featuring material related to Destino, an unrealized animated film collaboration between Walt Disney and famed 20th century surrealist artist Salvador Dali.  Walt Disney ultimately shelved the project, but Disney Animation, lead by Roy E. Disney, completed Destino in 2003.

The film is showcased on the recently released Fantasia-Fantasia 2000 Blu-Ray DVD set. Walt Disney Home Entertainment has generously provided  us with production art, correspondence and photographs relating to the original Destino development process that took place during the late 1940s.