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Monthly Archives: May 2012

May 21

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May 21, 1948 – The Donald Duck Short Film Donald’s Dream Voice Premieres in Theaters

“I can talk…I can talk! I can talk! Oh, boy! I can talk!”

On May 21, 1948, the Donald Duck short Donald’s Dream Voice was released to theaters. It was directed by Jack King, with a story by Roy Williams, and features Clarence Nash as the voice of Donald Duck, Leslie Denison as the suave voice of Donald Duck, and Ruth Clifford as Daisy Duck. The suave voice of Donald is a case of topical humor; he sounds like screen actor Ronald Coleman, who was very popular with audiences of the ’40s.

The short begins with Donald going door to door, peddling brushes. At the first door, the owner of the house tells Donald that he can’t understand him, and demands that he leave, which makes Donald angry, but he lets it dissipate before he knocks on the door of the next house. Unfortunately, the lady of the house hears Donald and slaps him for “using such language in [her] presence.”

Donald is elated at the support that he receives from Daisy

Donald is next seen looking rather defeated at Daisy’s house, but she insists that he not give up, as she has faith in him. She kisses him and encourages him to try again, and Donald excitedly cartwheels out of the house, determined once more to try. Again, much to Donald’s dismay, he is misunderstood and sent packing by the owner of the house. Humiliated and angry, Donald continues to walk the city streets, until he passes a peddler selling “voice pills” for only 10 cents. Donald doesn’t believe it, but is willing to try anything once, so he buys a box.

Donald tries a pill, and instantly, his voice changes to sound like Ronald Coleman. Shocked, he tests it out a bit before bursting into rapturous praise. He begins to rush home to tell Daisy, when he decides to instead go sell his brushes, come home to her as a success, and ask her to marry him – although the pill wears off before he can actually state the last part of his plan. Popping in another pill, he completes the statement.

Donald holding the only pill he managed to save

With his new voice, Donald approaches a house, where the woman who lives there remarks on his fine, forceful voice and she can’t help but buy several brushes. Suddenly, several hands appear waving money, wishing to buy brushes from the duck with the amazing voice. Donald then runs home, popping in another pill as the other one wore off. As he runs, he trips on the sidewalk, and the pills pop out of his pocket and fly into the sewer, save for one that Donald manages to retrieve. With only one left, he decides he has to save it for the moment he proposes to Daisy.

Arriving at Daisy’s house, Donald is ready to ask the question when the pill wears off. Grabbing the last remaining pill, it slips from his hand and bounces down the sidewalk, falling into a sewer hole. A large, thug-like man emerges from the hole, with the pill safely in the top of his hat. Donald follows the man, trying to get the pill, but the man yells at Donald, informing him that he hates people. Donald then tries the approach of grabbing the pill from the man’s hat through a nearby window, but accidentally grabs the man’s nose.

Donald’s last resort when it comes to retrieving his pill

As a last ditch effort, Donald walks by, dressed as a woman, hoping the man will lift his hat in a polite greeting. He does so, and as the pill bounces away, Donald quickly slips down the street and races after the pill as he turns the corner. The pill bounces into a farmyard labeled “no trespassing,” and Donald watches in horror as it slips into a cow’s open mouth. The duck bursts into the fenced in yard and starts screaming at the cow, when the cow, now with the voice of Ronald Coleman, tells him to shut up and that the sign says “no trespassing.” As Donald tries to get the pill back, the cow informs him that he can’t understand a word the duck says, causing Donald to fly into a rage.

May 20

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May 20, 1973 – The Tom Sawyer Island Attraction Opens in Walt Disney World

Image Credit: Official WDW Site

 “Sitting alongside the Rivers of America on the porch of Aunt Polly’s Dockside Inn, sipping on a glass of lemonade, you can soak up a real glimpse of the idyllic world of yesteryear that Mark Twain and Walt Disney loved.”

On May 20, 1973, Tom Sawyer Island opened in Walt Disney World’s Frontierland. The original attraction in Disneyland opened on June 16, 1956; there were a few changes made when the attraction moved to Florida, including the fort being renamed to Fort Sam Clemens. Both islands were located the middle of the Rivers of America on opening day of their respective parks, but the attraction didn’t open until months later.

The Tom Sawyer Island is a leisurely walk-around area designed to resemble America in the 19th century from the novels of Mark Twain. Guests can travel to the island using a raft at Tom’s Landing, near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. There are many areas worth exploring on the island, as guests can pretend they are living out the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

May 19

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May 19, 1906 – Birth of Disney Legend, Sound Effects Wizard, and Voice of Mickey Mouse, Jimmy MacDonald

“Jimmy was Walt’s major sound effects man. You name it. All the gags that you hear in the old cartoons, that’s Jimmy. The train in Dumbo, Jimmy. He built these things…he was a genius at it. And [there was] nobody better.” – Wayne Allwine

On May 19, 1908, John James MacDonald was born in Monks Coppenhall, Cheshire, in the United Kingdom. When he was six months old, his family immigrated to the United States. MacDonald loved music, and as an adult, he was a musician on the Dollar Steam Ship Lines, which led to a job at the Disney Studios in 1934 recording music for a Disney film. MacDonald soon became the head of the sound effects department. Wayne Allwine, who worked with MacDonald in the sound effects department, remarked that “…it was as a musician on the recording sessions for the early cartoons that Walt heard Jimmy, saw that he had more gadgets, as he called them, than anybody else in town, and hired him to come in and do his sounds, as he called them, for the cartoons.”

MacDonald (R) with apprentice and replacement for the voice of Mickey Mouse, Wayne Allwine (L)

In 1947, Walt Disney was becoming busier, and his voice was getting hoarse from his smoking, so he asked MacDonald to begin voicing Mickey, which began with the film Fun and Fancy Free. “And Jimmy said, ‘I was down here working one day, and Walt called me into his office and said, ‘Can you do Mickey?’” Allwine explained in an interview with Leonard Maltin. “And Jim said, ‘I don’t know, Walt. I never tried.’ He said, ‘Let’s hear ya.’ And Jimmy did a few lines, and Walt said, ‘That’s fine. From now on, call Jimmy. I’m too busy.’” Allwine described MacDonald’s Mickey: “Jimmy’s Mickey was interesting. Jimmy was a bass. Nice deep voice. And for him to do Mickey, he had to really work at it, and you can hear a texture in Jimmy’s Mickey that you don’t hear in Walt’s.” The only time in MacDonald’s career as Mickey that Walt once again resumed the role was when voicing the intros to the Mickey Mouse Club. MacDonald voiced the character on a regular basis until 1953, which turned into a recurring role until 1977, as he was having a rough job keeping the falsetto as he got older.  His sound effects assistant, Wayne Allwine, was picked as his replacement, and in 1977, MacDonald retired from the Walt Disney studios.

MacDonald passed away in his home at the age of 84 in 1991, and was named as a Disney Legend in 1993. In a rare treat, the Disney Studios had recorded all of the sound effects MacDonald had created, and used them for the television show, House of Mouse; MacDonald’s sound effects legacy continues to last thanks to the preservation efforts of the Foley sessions.

May 18

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May 18, 2004 – The Third Wave of the Walt Disney Treasures is Released

Image Credit: Wikipedia

On May 18, 2004, Disney’s video distribution company, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, released the third wave of the popular Walt Disney Treasures. This set included Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Volume Two; The Chronological Donald; On The Front Lines; and Tomorrow Land. Although this wave was supposed to be released in December, as the other two were, the release had to be delayed to meet the demand of the popularity of the sets. As with the other two waves, the third set was introduced by film critic Leonard Maltin, who also provides commentary for the more politically incorrect works, known as the works “In the Vault.”

Mickey Mouse in Living Color. Image Credit: wikipedia

Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Volume Two is the second of the Mickey Mouse color short collections, and the fourth Mickey Mouse collection in all. The first disc gives the shorts from 1939 to the last Mickey Mouse short film in 1953, with bonus features including The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia, Mickey and the Beanstalk from Fun and Fancy Free, as well as an Easter egg of Walt Disney performing the voice of Mickey for the short Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip. Disc two shows the modern revival of Mickey Mouse, which includes Mickey’s Christmas Carol, The Prince and the Pauper, and Runaway Brain. The bonus features are numerous on this disc, and include an interview with the voices of Mickey and Minnie (Wayne Allwine and Russi Taylor), an interview with Disney animators Mark Henn and Andreas Deja, and clips from the Walt Disney anthology series that use Mickey as an example of animation techniques.

The Chronological Donald. Image credit: wikipedia

The Chronological Donald is the first set of Donald Duck short films, which begins with the Silly Symphony The Wise Little Hen in 1934 on disc one, and ends with the 1941 short Chef Donald on disc two. The disc one bonus features include a clip from the film The Reluctant Dragon, where the voice of Donald, Clarence Nash, is heard performing with Florence Gill, the voice of Clara Cluck. Disc two includes a mini-biography about Clarence Nash, and how his unusual voice inspired the creation of Donald Duck, as well as another clip from The Reluctant Dragon, where Donald is explaining to Robert Benchley how animation comes to life.

On the Front Lines. Image credit: wikipedia

On the Front Lines is a collection of all the propaganda, educational shorts, and films released when the Disney Studios were taken over during World War II. Disc one includes mostly the short films, including the shorts where Donald is drafted into the army. In the vault, there are four films: Der Fuehrer’s Face (a propaganda film where Donald believes he lives in a land occupied by Nazis), Education for Death (a chilling film based on the book by Gregor Ziemer), Reason and Emotion (a humorous look about how people needed to keep their emotions in check during wartime), and Chicken Little (a horrifying update to the children’s story). Disc two is of the film Victory Through Air Power, which Walt Disney created to send a message to the American people that the war could be won through the use of aviation and long-range bombing. This DVD set is the first release of the film since its rerelease in 1944. This disc also includes some training shorts, behind the scenes documentaries of the film Victory Through Air Power, galleries of insignias and posters created during wartime, and an interesting interview with long-time Disney employee John Hench, who recounts his time at the studio after the attack at Pearl Harbor.

Tomorrow Land. Image credit: wikipedia

The last set in this wave is Tomorrow Land, which pulls together episodes from the anthology series about space and the future, with many of these episodes directed by Nine Old Men member Ward Kimball. The first disc has three episodes: Man in Space, Man and the Moon, and Mars and Beyond. The second disc includes Eyes in Outer Space, Our Friend the Atom, and EPCOT, a look at the Florida Project Walt Disney planned, which was to be a Tomorrowland type theme park. Bonus features include interviews with author Ray Bradbury and long-time employee Marty Sklar, as well as an Easter egg of the Sherman Brothers singing “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” with Walt, as the song was featured at the General Electric Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair.

May 17

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May 17, 1950 – Disney Legend and Lyricist Howard Ashman is Born

“Howard is referred to by Roy Disney as another Walt, which shocked me when I was interviewing him, because of all people, why would Roy say this about Howard Ashman? But he was, to us and our generation, he was a Walt Disney type.” – Don Hahn

Howard Elliott Ashman was born on May 17, 1950, in Baltimore, Maryland. An early lover of theater, Ashman joined the Children’s Theater Association at age nine and remained there until he left for college in 1967. Although Ashman loved acting, in college he discovered his love of writing and directing. After school, he became the artistic director of the WPA Theater in New York, and met writing partner Alan Menken while working on a musical adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. The two had a major success with the show Little Shop of Horrors, and Ashman won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics.

David Geffen was key in bringing Ashman and Menken to the Disney Studios. When Ashman came to Disney, he was offered three projects: an adaptation of Tina Turner’s autobiography, a live action version of The Thief of Baghdad (which would later become Aladdin), and The Little Mermaid, which he chose to work on. At the film’s crew meeting, Ashman said, “When I was approached with the opportunity to work for Disney, period, I leapt at the – I said, ‘What about animation? What about working in that department?’ That’s what I really wanted to do.” It was Ashman’s idea to make Sebastian the crab a Jamaican crab, which brought a whole different musical style to Disney animation. Ashman also brought in Jodi Benson as the voice of Ariel. He and Alan Menken won the Academy Award for Best Song for “Under the Sea.”

Ashman and Menken (L) winning the Academy Award for “Under the Sea”

In 1988, Ashman found that he was HIV positive, but continued to work for Disney on Beauty and the Beast. Disney allowed Ashman to work in New York, and he was instrumental in many aspects of the film, from the casting to some of the characterizations. The staff showed the film to the New York press, which responded with great reviews. After the showing, the staff rushed down to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, where they saw Ashman wearing a Beauty and the Beast sweatshirt. Don Hahn recalled, “Before we left I bent over and whispered, ‘Beauty and the Beast is going to be a great success. Who’d have thought it?’ I said. And Howard lit up and whispered, ‘I would have.’”

Howard Ashman died on March 14, 1991, at the age of 40, from complications with AIDS. He never saw the completed film. The Disney animators honored Ashman at the end with a tribute at the end credits: To our friend, Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice, and a beast his soul. We will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman: 1950 – 1991. Ashman was awarded an Academy Award posthumously for the song “Beauty and the Beast.” He was also named as a Disney Legend in 2001.“Howard Ashman was the key to much of our success,” said Peter Schneider. “He was a great storyteller, he knew how to lyrically be funny…[Howard and Alan] really shaped what these movies were to become.”

May 16

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May 16, 1991 – Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3D Opens in Walt Disney World

Image Credit: Official WDW Webpage

“It’s time to play the music! It’s time to light the lights! It’s time to meet the Muppets—in 3D tonight!”

On May 16, 1991, Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3D attraction opened at Disney MGM Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort. Sponsored by Kodak, the attraction takes the characters of the Muppets and takes their hijinks to a new level with 3D. The audience begins with passing through show props and wooden crates, and is entertained with a 12 minute pre-show film hosted by Rizzo, Gonzo, and Fozzie Bear. The show itself is only 17 minutes long, and the theater looks as it did during the heyday of the Muppet Show.

One Muppet of note is Waldo C. Graphic, a computer-generated Muppet that premiered on The Jim Henson Hour in 1989. He was reintroduced in the 3D attraction, having been “created” by Dr. Honeydew and Beaker, and causes the majority of problems for the rest of the Muppet cast throughout the show.

May 15

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May 15, 1937 – The Silly Symphony, Little Hiawatha, is Released to Theaters

“Mighty hunter Hiawatha. Mighty warrior Hiawatha. Mighty chieftain Hiawatha. Mighty Little Hiawatha.”

On May 15, 1937, the Silly Symphony, Little Hiawatha, was released to theaters. The short was directed by Dave Hand, and distributed by United Artists. Walt once had the idea of turning the story into a full-length feature film, but the idea was shelved, as it never developed the way Walt wanted, story-wise.

The short opens with a small Indian boy paddling his canoe down the river as the narrator begins to tell the story of Little Hiawatha, as if reciting a poem. As birds begin to sing around him, Little Hiawatha grabs his bow and arrow, with the intent to shoot, but loses his balance when the canoe passes through a small bit of rapids, and the birds fly away. He pulls his canoe up to a patch of rocks on the shore and gets out of the canoe, searching for his prey, and ends up falling in the river.

Little Hiawatha begins to track a grasshopper

The animals in the forest spot Little Hiawatha’s fall and begin to laugh. Angered, he pulls out his bow and begins to chase the forest creatures, although the end up taunting him and eluding his capture. He then spots some strange tracks on the ground and, with all the animals watching him curiously, he decides to track the creature, although the tracks were made by a grasshopper instead of anything vicious. Little Hiawatha loses the fight with the grasshopper, causing all the animals to laugh once again.

As Little Hiawatha chases the animals once again, he corners a baby bunny, who stands on a stump, frightened, as the boy begins to cheer. As he draws back his bow, the animals of the forest watch with trepidation, unsure if the boy would actually kill the innocent rabbit. Lucky for the rabbit, Little Hiawatha is touched by the bunny’s sadness, and decides to then duel the rabbit, only the rabbit is too afraid to comply. Annoyed, the boy lets the rabbit get away, much to the joy of the animals in the forest. Angry at his failure, Little Hiawatha breaks his bow and arrow and tosses it aside, but then hears all the animals in the forest cheering. As the boy tries to hide with his shame, he spots bear tracks nearby, and decides to track down the bear.

A fawn volunteers his efforts to help Little Hiawatha escape from the bear

As Little Hiawatha is tracking down the bear, a cub crawls out from another side of a boulder, tracking the same tracks. The two run into each other, and flee in fear, but Little Hiawatha turns around to chase the cub, only to run across the mother. He tries to hide from the angry bear, but is almost paralyzed in fear. Three beavers notice that the boy is in trouble and sound out an alarm, causing all the animals in the woods to come to attention. As Little Hiawatha does his best to flee, the animals step in to help as best they can. In the end, Little Hiawatha stopped wishing to hunt the animals, but became their friend instead.

 

May 14

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May 14, 1986 – The Land Grille Room Opens at Epcot

Image Credit: lostepcot.com

On May 14, 1986, The Land Grille Room opened in Epcot’s The Land pavilion. It was originally called The Good Turn Restaurant, which opened on October 1, 1982, and closed in May, 1986. The Land Grille Room closed on October 4, 1993, but was reopened once again in November 15, 1993, as the Garden Grill Restaurant.

The Land Grille Room’s menu featured all-American fare, including full breakfasts, regional American pizzas, sandwiches, steak, poultry, and seafood. All of the menu could be ordered in entrée or sample portions. As with The Good Turn Restaurant, and continuing with the Garden Grill Restaurant, The Land Grille Room was a revolving restaurant that gave guests a chance to observe all of the sights of the “Living with the Land” attraction.

May 13

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May 13, 1992 – Fantasmic! Premieres at Disneyland

Image Credit: Official Disneyland Website

“Welcome to Fantasmic! Tonight, our friend and host Mickey Mouse uses his vivid imagination to create magical imagery for all to enjoy. Nothing is more wonderful than the imagination, for in a moment, you can experience a beautiful fantasy or an exciting adventure. But beware, nothing is more powerful than the imagination, for it can also expand your greatest fears into an overwhelming nightmare.”

On May 13, 1992, the evening show Fantasmic! premiered at Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland. The spectacular show involves water effects and fireworks, with live actors in Disney character costumes acting out the plot of Mickey’s dream. The show has become one of the most popular nighttime events in the park’s history, and has expanded to a show in Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios resort (located in Sunset Boulevard), and Tokyo Disneyland’s Tokyo DisneySea Resort (located at the Mediterranean Harbor).

The story features Mickey Mouse using his imagination to create a wonderful fantasy world, which is soon threatened by Disney villains, including Maleficent and Ursula. Many scenes from classic Disney animation were reworked to be shown on three giant screens made of mist, while some classic characters appear by live-action actors to recreate classic scenes, including the fight between Peter Pan and Captain Hook.

The show has been reworked several times, including creating more accessibility for audience members, as the show’s unexpected popularity ended up causing traffic jams on the shores of the Rivers of America. Guests would line up for hours to get a good spot to see the show. The show is approximately 22 minutes long, and is shown late at night, usually past 9:00pm.

 

May 12

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May 12, 1932 – The Mickey Mouse Short Film Mickey’s Revue is Released to Theaters

On May 12, 1932, the Mickey Mouse short Mickey’s Revue was released to theaters. It was directed by Wilfred Jackson. This short is best known as the first appearance of the character of Dippy Dawg, who would evolve into Goofy; he is recognizable in this short by his peculiar laugh, which was provided by Pinto Colvig.

The first appearance of Dippy Dawg, later known as Goofy, annoying the audience members around him

The short opens in a theater, where the orchestra is in the middle of a song, with Mickey at the helm as the conductor. As the piece reaches a dramatic part, an audience member (Dippy Dawg) loudly cracks open peanuts and eats with his mouth open, to the annoyance of the other members of the audience surrounding him.

The curtain opens, revealing three actors dressed as flowers, and Minnie tied to a rope, floating as she plays the part of a fairy, while Horace Horsecollar holds her from a fishing rod in the rafters. Minnie taps an actor, who stands up, revealing herself to be Clarabelle Cow. On the other side of the stage, Pluto sneaks on, sniffing the dancer. When the dancer pushes him away, he begins to bark until a hook yanks him off the stage. Dippy Dawg begins to laugh loudly from the audience, again annoying all those around him.

Horace demonstrating how he makes his stage snow

Mickey continues to conduct as the cow dancers begin their ballet. A loud crashing noise sounds, as the band members and stage hand Horace create a storm for the piece. The cow ballerinas look around at the “snow,” then begin to ice skate around the stage (although it is revealed to the audience that the “snow” is just soda crackers Horace chews up and spits out across the stage). As the dancers skate offstage, Pluto is seen crawling on stage, hot on their trail, but is quickly retrieved and pulled off stage.

The curtain falls and the audience applauds wildly before the next act begins. Two dogs begin a rather comical tap dance. As it ends, Pluto is once again seen trailing something, only this time he’s on the trail of a bug, until a lasso appears and pulls him away. Dippy Dawg begins to laugh his peculiar laugh again, but this time, the fed-up audience members hit him over the head with a hammer, knocking him out cold. The two main conspirators begin to laugh in the same manner that Dippy Dawg did, much to the surprise of the rest of the peanut gallery.

Mickey and Minnie in their grand performance

The curtain opens again to reveal Mickey in a “one-man-band” kind of show, with Minnie accompanying him on the piano. As they play, a family of kittens that has been living under the stage pops out through holes in the floor and begins to play with the instruments, making it livelier than before. Horace has Pluto tied up in the back while he reads a magazine, and Pluto begins to whine, wishing to explore the stage. Seeing the kittens, he leaps forward, throwing Horace from his chair, and dives onto the stage. Pluto’s chase destroys the set and instruments, but the audience still applauds loudly thinking it was a great show.