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.