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Monthly Archives: October 2012

October 21

October 21, 1911 – Artist and Disney Legend Mary Blair is Born

“When I think of dreams, like as a kid, I see Mary Blair-like colors…like Cinderella herself, just this innocence and a purity, a sincerity…” – Animator Glen Keane

On October 21, 1911, Mary Robinson Blair was born in McAlester, Oklahoma, with her family moving to San Jose, California when she was seven. Blair’s talents were noticed early, and she was awarded a scholarship to the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. There, she would meet her husband, Lee Blair. She and Lee began to look for work as artists during the height of the Depression, and eventually found work at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s animation studio. Lee eventually found a job at the Disney Studios, and Mary joined him in 1940, with everyone fascinated with Mary’s use of color in her work. Her first pieces of work were preliminary sketches for the feature film Dumbo.

In 1941, Blair and her husband were selected to be a part of a goodwill tour of South America with Walt Disney and his wife, which included several other notable Disney employees, including Frank Thomas (animator), Herb Ryman (layout and camera), Norm Ferguson (producer), and Bill Cottrell (story). The group would do research for a series of feature films that would hopefully offer friendship to South America before they were taken over by Nazi and Fascist influence. Blair’s work during this trip helped to shape her artistic style, and she was named the art supervisor for Saludos Amigos! and The Three Caballeros. One short that clearly shows Blair’s style was The Little House, released in 1952 [see August 8th entry]. The tone of pivotal scenes in the feature films she worked on were conveyed through her use of color in her concept art. Animator Andreas Deja recalled, “Marc Davis once said, ‘Mary Blair could put colors together like nobody else. She was better than Matisse.’”

Walt was always captivated by Blair’s concept art and use of color, and asked her to come back to help create the look of the attraction It’s a Small World

Blair’s color use would be used to style such films as Song of the South, Make Mine Music, Melody Time, So Dear to My Heart, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. She left the studio in 1953, just after Peter Pan, to try other fields of animation, including children’s book illustrations. However, in 1963, Walt Disney asked her to come back to help design the look of a new attraction that would premiere at the 1964 World’s Fair: It’s a Small World. She was also asked to contribute to the design of other exhibits and attractions, including two grand murals, one for Tomorrowland in Disneyland, and one for the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World. Blair passed away on July 26, 1978, and was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1991.

October 20

October 20, 1901 – Composer and Disney Legend Frank Churchill is Born

“I began writing musical scores for these animated cartoons to get away from the cost of using stock music. Being a reader of fables, they furnish most of the ideas which I put to music.” – Frank Churchill

On October 20, 1901, film composer and Disney Legend Frank Churchill was born in Rumford, Maine. A gifted musician from an early age, he had his first professional job at 15, accompanying silent films at a theater in California. Although enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles in pre-med, he dropped out to pursue his passion for music. Churchill joined the Walt Disney Studios in 1930, and eventually scored nearly 65 short films. He is most known for the song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” from the Silly Symphony The Three Little Pigs. The song sold more than three quarters of a million copies.

Churchill was asked to develop the songs for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; he earned an Academy Award nomination for the film’s score, and created the classic songs “Whistle While You Work,” “Heigh-Ho,” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.” He received another two nominations for his work on Dumbo, one for the score, and one for Best Song for “Baby Mine,” co-written with Ned Washington. He would also receive nominations for Bambi, one for score, and one for the song “Love is a Song,” co-written with Larry Morey. Churchill passed away on May 14, 1942 of a self-inflicted gun shot; he was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2001.

October 19

October 19, 2010 – The Hannah Montana Forever Soundtrack is Released Through Walt Disney Records

“I make wishes, I have dreams, and I still want to believe anything can happen in this world for an ordinary girl.”

On October 19, 2010, the fourth and final soundtrack for the Disney Channel original series Hannah Montana was released, titled Hannah Montana Forever. The tracks on the album are all performed by Miley Cyrus, credited to her character Hannah Montana. The album also features duets with Iyaz, Sheryl Crow, and Cyrus’ father, Billy Ray Cyrus. There were two singles released from the album: “Ordinary Girl (released July 6, 2010)” and “I’m Still Good (December 10, 2010).” “Ordinary Girl” peaked at number 91 on the Billboard Charts, and “I’m Still Good” failed to chart. The album as a whole debuted at number 11 on the Billboard 200, the first time a Hannah Montana album missed the top ten. The album gained mixed reviews from critics.

October 18

October 18, 1967 – The 19th Animated Feature Film, The Jungle Book, is Released to Theaters

“As an animator, [The Jungle Book is] probably the greatest film in terms of character development and how characters play against one another. The animators poured their whole heart and soul into every scene in that movie.” – Animator Glen Keane

On October 18, 1967, the 19th animated feature, The Jungle Book, was released to theaters. The film was based on the book of the same name by Rudyard Kipling, and was the last film which Walt Disney supervised; Disney passed away during its production. The movie was also known for the vultures being a caricature of the famous band The Beatles, as Disney wanted them to be in the film, but they turned him down due to scheduling conflicts and John Lennon’s disgust with the idea; the vultures did remain in the film without The Beatles’ involvement. The film was directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, and stars Phil Harris as Baloo, Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera, Bruce Reitherman as Mowgli, Louis Prima as King Louie, George Sanders as Shere Khan, and Sterling Holloway as Kaa.

Storyman Bill Peet was the one that suggested Kipling’s book to Disney as an animated feature, making the point that the company could do more stories with more interesting characters. Although Peet usually ran a one-man show when it came to story, and Disney liked the story sketches he was seeing for Jungle Book, Disney wanted to have more hands-on involvement in the story process after the let-down of Peet’s last project, The Sword in the Stone. The two could not reach an agreement on the film, and Peet left the studio. The story was then given to Larry Clemmons for his first writing on an animated feature film. “…[H]e launched into how he wanted to tell the story,” Richard Sherman recalled. “And he said, ‘But I want it to be fun. I want this to be a fun story; an adventure with fun. No mysterious…none of this heavy stuff…and I want to have a little heart in it, too.’”

The songwriting team of the Sherman Brothers, who were brought in to write the songs for “The Jungle Book” when Walt Disney came in to rewrite the story

The music for the film is considered one of the greatest soundtracks of Disney animation. The first songs written for the film followed Peet’s darker version of the story, and was done by Terry Gilkyson. When the story went through its rewrite, the Sherman Brothers were brought in to write new songs that were more upbeat and help to progress the story. The only song to survive from Terry Gilkyson was the one that would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award: “The Bare Necessities.” One of the songs that the Sherman Brothers had written for Mary Poppins was retooled to be used for the character of Kaa, called “Trust in Me.” The film was scored by George Bruns, who was well known for writing for Davy Crockett.

The story opens with narration from Bagheera, a black panther, who stumbles upon a basket upon a riverbank in India. Inside, he finds a baby; taking pity on the poor orphan child, he places him with a wolf that had recently had cubs. The mother adopts the child, who is named Mowgli, and raises him alongside her litter. Ten years later, the wolves find out that Shere Khan, a Bengal tiger, will be returning to the jungle and killing anyone who dares protect Mowgli. Bagheera offers to take Mowgli to the man village for his own safety, although the boy is determined to stay in the jungle. While the pair rest in a tree for the night, a python named Kaa appears, who attempts to hypnotize the boy and devour him. Luckily, Bagheera wakes up and interrupts Kaa, with Mowgli sending the python flying out of the tree.

Mowgli meets up with the members of Colonel Hathi’s elephant pack, and hopes that by becoming a member, he can remain in the jungle

The next morning, Mowgli attempts to join Colonel Hathi’s elephant pack, but is quickly intercepted by Bagheera. The two get into an argument about Mowgli’s wish to remain in the jungle, which ends with Bagheera leaving Mowgli to fend for himself. As Mowgli wanders the forest, he comes across Baloo, who aims to teach Mowgli how to fight. When he tries to teach the boy how to roar, Bagheera believes the boy to be in trouble and rushes back to help. Baloo shows Mowgli the carefree life of the jungle, which only makes Mowgli more certain that he will never go back to the village. Unfortunately, just as Baloo and Mowgli begin to bond, a gang of monkeys capture Mowgli to take him back to their leader, King Louie, an orangutan.

Mowgli is brought to the ancient ruins where King Louie lives, and King Louie promises to help the boy remain in the jungle if Mowgli tells him the secret of how to make fire. Baloo, entranced by the music the monkeys are playing, disguises himself so he can sneak in and take Mowgli away. In the ensuing fight over Mowgli, the ruins fall apart, leaving King Louie without a kingdom. That night, Bagheera convinces Baloo that the best thing for Mowgli is to be taken back to the man village, so he doesn’t get killed by Shere Khan. Baloo is torn with what to do, as he loves Mowgli like he was his own cub. When Baloo tries to explain the situation, Mowgli accuses Baloo of breaking his promise and runs away. Bagheera enlists the help of Colonel Hathi to help find Mowgli before Shere Khan shows up, but Shere Khan is seen eavesdropping and is even more determined to kill the boy.

 

After the fight with Shere Khan, Mowgli gives Baloo a hug, with all being forgiven

As Mowgli wanders the jungle, he runs across Kaa again, who is still hungry. He hypnotizes the boy, but his plans are again interrupted, this time by Shere Khan, and Mowgli escapes. Depressed, he finds a place to sit as a storm fast approaches, and meets a group of vultures who agree to be his friends. Shere Khan finally catches up with Mowgli, scaring the vultures away. Baloo, having finally found the boy, rushes in to save him during the storm, with the vultures returning to create a diversion. When a nearby tree is struck by lightning, Mowgli grabs a flaming branch and ties to it Shere Khan’s tail. The tiger’s only fear is fire, and he flees when he is unable to remove the flaming branch. Baloo and Bagheera still maintain that Mowgli should be taken to the village, but Mowgli remains adamant that he should stay in the jungle. His mind changes, however, when he spies a beautiful girl near the river’s edge. He follows her, helping her carry her water pot. Although Baloo is saddened to lose the boy, Bagheera reminds him that Mowgli will be safe with his own kind, and the two dance off into the sunset together.

October 17

October 17, 1927 – The Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Short Film Great Guns! is Released to Theaters

On October 17, 1927, the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit short film was released to theaters. It was the fourth Oswald cartoon released by Disney.

A newsboy runs down the street, holding up a newspaper with the headline of war. The factories’ whistles and bells sound, and everyone rushes to the recruiting office, including Oswald. He stops in front of his girlfriend’s house, calling to her, and as she comes out, she marvels at how impressive he looks as a soldier. As the trumpets sound, the two share one last kiss before he leaves. The scene soon changes to Oswald kissing a photo of his girl while stuck in a trench, bombs flying everywhere.

Oswald distracts himself from war by kissing the picture of his girlfriend while stuck in a trench

Cannons are shooting from all around, and neither side can get over the walls of the trench. Oswald seems oblivious to all the warfare as he continues to kiss his girlfriend’s picture, which annoys a pilot flying overhead. To get Oswald’s attention, he drops a bomb so that it tears a hole right through the picture. Maddened, Oswald gets in his own plane and chases after the pilot. The two fight in the air before crashing to the ground and continuing their fight with their fists. As Oswald gives the other pilot a good thrashing, he is stopped by a high-ranking officer for the other side, and sheepishly tries to walk away.

The officer chases Oswald, and tries to blow the rabbit up with a cannon – only to find that it is too short range. Thinking quickly, Oswald uses an elephant nearby as a cannon to fire back at the officer. Unfortunately, the elephant is blown to bits, leaving Oswald vulnerable again, but not for long, as he bats back the cannonballs with his ears.  Oswald himself is soon blown to smithereens, but his girlfriend shows up as an army nurse and uses a martini shaker to bring him back to his whole self. Oswald revived, the two share a kiss.

October 16

October 16, 1903 – Animator, Director, and Disney Legend Hamilton Luske is Born

Image credit: Disney Insider

“[Luske]’s expertise was evident, especially to Walt, where it mattered most, and it was thus into his lap Snow White, the most plum of all assignments, fell.” – David Johnson

On October 16, 1903, animator, director, and Disney Legend Hamilton S. Luske was born in Chicago, Illinois. Luske joined the Walt Disney Studios in 1931, and his first assignment was the animation of animals for the Mickey Mouse short The Barnyard Broadcast. He was then moved to more prominent assignments, including Max Hare in the Silly Symphony The Tortoise and the Hare, and Jenny Wren in Who Killed Cock Robin? Luske had no formal art education, but he had enough natural talent to give Walt the confidence to hire him as the supervising animator for what was considered Walt’s Folly: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Luske was responsible for the animation of the title character of Snow White. To animate her properly, the technique of using live-action reference footage was soon adopted. Luske’s believable animation helped to make Snow White a box-office smash.

After the success of Snow White, Luske moved to directing during the World War II period, and continued to direct educational films, including Donald in Mathmagic Land and Donald and the Wheel. He also continued to be involved in the feature films as a sequence director on Fantasia, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, and the animated sequences in Mary Poppins. Luske also moved into television as the associate producer and director for the Disneyland, Walt Disney Presents, and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color series. Luske passed away on February 18, 1968; he was named a Disney Legend in 1999.

October 15

October 15, 1937 – The Mickey Mouse Short Film Clock Cleaners is Released to Theaters

“Hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock…”

On October 15, 1937, the Mickey Mouse short film Clock Cleaners was released to theaters. The short was directed by Ben Sharpsteen, and stars Walt Disney as Mickey Mouse, Clarence Nash as Donald Duck, and Pinto Colvig as Goofy. The short is also notable for being edited; at one point, Donald yells “Says who?” to the spring mocking him, which was misconstrued in the 90s as Donald cursing. However, the Hays Code, adopted in 1930, would not have allowed such language in the first place.

At the top of a high clock tower, the bell rings three o’clock. Mickey is seen on the clock face, standing on the second hand and cleaning the numbers. Inside, Goofy is seen brushing the gears, and Donald grabs a mop to clean the main spring, even though there are several signs telling him to keep off the mainspring. As he cleans the spring, his mop gets caught, and as he pulls it loose, the spring uncoils, trapping Donald inside.

Even while sleeping, the stork is able to outwit Mickey as the mouse tries to throw the stork out of the clock tower

Mickey begins sweeping inside, and hears snoring from nearby gears. He spies a stork asleep in a nest above some gears, and tries to wake it. The stork ignores Mickey, continuing to sleep, and eluding the mouse with every move. The stork then throws Mickey out the window. As this happens, Donald attempts to put the spring back together, only to have it taunt him and knock him into the cogs nearby. Donald is knocked back and forth, and is unable to stop moving his body back and forth after being thrown from the cogs.

Goofy is seen cleaning the bell of the tower, when it strikes four o’clock. He is hit in the head by the mechanical statues that ring the bell, and begins to walk around in a daze. Mickey notices just in time that Goofy is about to fall off the building, and begins to run around after him, preventing him from falling to his doom. Unfortunately, Goofy falls through a missing ring in a ladder, only to be shot back up by a flag pole, sending him and Mickey flying into the clock tower. They land on the main spring, just after Donald finally got it back together, and all three are sent flying into the cogs the Donald was knocked into before, unable to stop their bodies from dancing back and forth from the cog’s motion.

October 14

October 14, 1971 – The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Attraction Opens in Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland

“We are underway and proceeding on a course that will take us on a voyage through liquid space. En route, we will pass below the polar ice cap, and then probe depths seldom seen by man.”

On October 14, 1971, the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction opened in Tomorrowland of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The underwater submarine ride was based on the hit 1954 film, rather than the Disneyland version of the ride, which was based on the nuclear submarines in the news of much of the 1950s. The ride became highly popular, and was one of the biggest and most expensive Disney attractions. The ride, however, was closed on September 5, 1994, and was replaced with Pooh’s Playful Spot in 2005.

October 13

October 13, 2009 – The Compilation The Sherman Brothers Songbook is Released Through Walt Disney Records

Image credit: Amazon

“There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day.”

On October 13, 2009, the compilation album The Sherman Brothers Songbook was released through Walt Disney Records. The two disc collection features 59 important songs from the career of the songwriting duo, from their first track for Annette Funicello (“Tall Paul”) to the song they wrote with Kenny Loggins (“Your Heart Will Lead You Home”). The compilation also includes songs that were not written for the Disney Studios.

October 12

October 12, 2005 – Disney Become the First To License TV Episodes for Download Through Apple’s iTunes Store

Image Credit: The Associated Press

“We’re delighted to be working with Apple to offer fans a new and innovative way to experience our wildly popular shows like Desperate Housewives, Lost, and That’s So Raven. – Robert Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company

 

On October 12, 2005, Apple announced the landmark deal between Disney: episodes from popular ABC shows Desperate Housewives, Lost, and Night Stalker, as well as Disney Channel shows That’s So Raven and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, would be available to purchase from the iTunes store for $1.99 an episode. Pixar short films were also made available for the public to purchase.