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Monthly Archives: December 2012

December 31

December 31, 1918 – Actress and Disney Legend Virginia Davis is Born


“One of my favorite pictures was Alice’s Wild West Show. I was always the kid with the curls, but I was really a tomboy, and that picture allowed me to act tough. I took great joy in that.”

On December 31, 1918, actress Virginia Davis was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Starting at the tender age of two, Davis began taking acting and dance lessons, and began starring in advertisements at age three. A young Walt Disney discovered Davis in an advertisement for Warneke’s Bread, and talked Davis’ mother into letting Davis star in a series of short films featuring a live-action girl in a cartoon world. She shot the pilot film, called Alice’s Wonderland. After the Laugh-O-Gram studio failed and Disney moved to Los Angeles, he called the Davis family and convinced them to move to California, and Davis continued to star in the Alice comedies for 13 more films. She did audition for voices in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio, but was not hired.

After her work at Disney, Davis continued to act in films, including Three on a Match and The Harvey Girls. She earned a degree from the New York School of Interior Design, and later had a successful career as a real estate agent. She has continued to make appearances at special Disney events, including Disneyana events at the parks. Davis was honored as a Disney Legend in 1988, being considered Walt’s first star. She passed away at the age of 90 in 2009.

December 30

December 30, 1957 – The Dave Brubeck Quartet Album Dave Digs Disney is Released on LP

Image credit: amazon

Image credit: amazon

“Dave [Brubeck] was ahead of his time tapping into the Disney songbook. Look at how many artists have done the same since.” – Album Producer George Avakian

On December 30, 1957, the jazz album Dave Digs Disney by the Dave Brubeck Quartet was released on LP. Inspired by a family trip to Disneyland, pianist Dave Brubeck and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond began composing jazz variations of classic Disney tunes. The album is notable for being the first time a modern jazz group took Disney songs seriously, and one of the first times a musician devoted an entire album to interpretations of Disney classics. The album has been reissued over the years, to cassette tape, CD, and digital format.

December 29

December 29, 1995 – The Hollywood Pictures Film Mr. Holland’s Opus Has A Limited Release


“Mrs. Jacobs, you tell them that I am teaching music, and that I will use anything from Beethoven to Billie Holiday to rock and roll if I think it’ll help me teach a student to love music.”

On December 29, 1995, the Hollywood Pictures film Mr. Holland’s Opus was released in Los Angeles, to be considered for Academy Award consideration. The film tells the story of Glen Holland over his thirty years of teaching music. The film was shot on location in Portland, Oregon, specifically at Grant High School; the drama teacher at the school brought in many current and former students to be extras in the film. Richard Dreyfuss, playing the lead role of Glen Holland, was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award. The film was written by Patrick Sheane Duncan and directed by Stephen Herek, with music by Michael Kamen. The film stars Richard Dreyfuss as Glen Holland, Glenne Headly as Iris, Jay Thomas as Bill Meister, Olympia Dukakis as Principal Helen Jacobs, and William H. Macy as Gene Wolters.

In 1965, young Glen Holland is seen at the piano composing, hearing the grand sounds of an orchestra in his head and filling the room; he then pretends he is conducing the piece. The next morning, his wife Iris wakes him up for his new job as the music teacher at the newly named John F. Kennedy High School. He has a rather tense meeting with the assistant principle Gene Wolters, then runs into the principal Helen Jacobs as he wanders around the school, lost. After hearing her instructions, he feels a bit overwhelmed, even more so when his first class doesn’t go well, and the orchestra members don’t know how to play. Fortunately, he makes friends with Bill Meister, the P.E. teacher. Holland admits to Meister that he took the teaching job so he could have free time to compose, with Meister telling him that “he can’t remember the last time that was free.”

Although stunned when Iris announces her pregnancy, Holland is able to reassure her that he is excited to become a father

Although stunned when Iris announces her pregnancy, Holland is able to reassure her that he is excited to become a father

Holland continues teaching the orchestra, noticing one clarinet player, Gertrude Lang, having problems playing correctly. He asks her to stay behind, and tells her that they’ll find some extra time to help her improve. Holland still spends his nights composing, but his teaching still puts his kids to sleep. After one particularly disastrous test and a run-in with the principal, he realizes he needs a new approach ­to teaching. After a private session with Gertrude, he hears her crying, and she admits to him that she’s terrible, and just wants to be good at something. She leaves her clarinet behind and flees the room. As he starts venting his frustrations to Iris, she admits to him that she’s pregnant, and is upset that all he can say is, “Wow.” He assures her that he is excited to have a baby, and is inspired to reach to the students through rock ‘n’ roll music. As things begin to look up for Holland, Gertrude returns, telling him that she’s giving up the clarinet. He convinces her to try again, only to have fun with it this time. He finally reaches her, and she plays the clarinet solo at graduation.

To help supplement his income, Holland teaches driver’s education during the summer. One day, Holland speeds to the hospital with his students in the car, getting there just in time to meet his newborn son, whom he and Iris name Coltrain, or Cole for short. Unfortunately, Holland is soon in trouble for teaching rock ‘n’ roll in his class. Vice Principal Wolters is angry that Holland isn’t forced to stop the rock ‘n’ roll curriculum but is pleased that Holland has then been assigned to teach the marching band. Holland’s friend Meister helps Holland with running the marching band, if Holland helps student athlete Louis Russ get a passing grade in orchestra. Russ is assigned to the drums, but needs some extra help in learning how to keep a beat. The marching band marches in a local parade, playing “Louie Louie.” This parade also brings some bad news to Holland: as he doesn’t react to a fire truck siren, they learn that their son Cole is deaf.

Meister helps save the show by using the football team as background dancers, with comical results

Meister helps save the show by using the football team as background dancers, with comical results

The decades roll by, with Holland keeping a distance between himself and his family, deeply hurt that he is unable to teach the joy of music to his own son. Iris is frustrated and angry that she can’t communicate with her own son, and even more upset that Holland doesn’t seem to want to be close with Cole. Graduation arrives at the high school, with Principal Jacobs letting Holland know that she’s retiring, and confides that she’s always considered him her favorite teacher at the school. The decades continue to roll by, until it’s 1980. Wolters, now the principal of the school, is on a mission to cut anything that is artistically inclined. It’s only thanks to Meister that the school musical is saved, with the football team being brought in to dance in the show. He drifts even further away from his family, being tempted to run away to New York City with student Rowena Morgan, not necessarily because he is attracted to her, but more to the idea of writing great music in New York. Ultimately, he decides not to go, but helps Rowena find a place to stay in the city.

Holland is affected by John Lennon’s death, and has another fight with Cole, as he believes Cole wouldn’t know who Lennon is, and Cole believes his father thinks he’s stupid. Realizing that his son is capable of understanding music, Holland tries to find new ways for the deaf students at Cole’s school to “hear” the music, particularly music without words. At a concert for the deaf students, Holland performs a song by John Lennon, dedicating it to his son. In 1995, Holland is still teaching at the high school, and is asked to Wolter’s office. Wolter has finally gotten his way of cutting the arts programs, with Holland being let go. Although he fights this, Holland still loses. He realizes that, at the age of 60, he doesn’t have any other options, and it is too late for him to finish his composition and get it published. As he sits in the empty music room, believing that no one will miss him once he is gone, he hears a car horn outside his window. Holland looks to see Iris and Cole, who help him pack up. They surprise him, however, by taking him to the auditorium, where many of Holland’s former students have gathered to say goodbye to their beloved teacher. The students then perform, with Holland conducting, the symphony he has spent the past 30 years writing.

December 28

December 28, 2011 – Bambi and A Computer Animated Hand are Inducted Into the National Film Registry

Image credit: wikipedia

Image credit: wikipedia

“…culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

On December 28, 2011, the new inductees into the National Film Registry were announced, which included the 1942 Disney animated feature Bambi and one of the earliest examples of computer animation by Ed Catmull (now co-founder of Pixar and President of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios), A Computer Animated Hand. Bambi was recognized not only as one of Walt Disney’s favorites, but also for its “eloquent message of nature conservation.” A Computer Animated Film has been considered revolutionary in combining the science of the computer and the art of animation, showing the potential of both. The film, and Catmull especially, were recognized for working out “the concepts that become the foundation for computer graphics that followed.”

December 27

December 27, 1940 – The Pluto Short Film Pantry Pirate is Released to Theaters


“You let me catch you messin’ around in my kitchen again, and I’m gonna bust all the hide off’n you!”


On December 27, 1940, the Pluto short film Pantry Pirate was released to theaters. The short has been cut when released on television, due the depiction of the cook as a somewhat stereotypical black servant, which was a normal depiction in films of this time period. The short was directed by Clyde Geronimi, and stars Lillian Randolph as the cook.

Pluto is thrown out of a kitchen by the scruff of his neck, with the cook tying him to his doghouse in the backyard. She warns him to stay, and Pluto lets one tear roll down his cheek. Inside, the cook pulls a roast from the oven, with the scent leaking through the screen door and wafting all the way to Pluto. He frees himself from the rope and sneaks into the kitchen once again, his mouth salivating at the thought of the roast.

Pluto traipses about happily in the house, thinking about how he can get the roast that the cook just made

Pluto traipses about happily in the house, thinking about how he can get the roast that the cook just made

Inside the house, Pluto slips on the polished floor, and is almost spotted by the cook. He has an idea to use the ironing board to get close to the roast, but immediately steps back to the wall when the board starts to buckle under his weight. He tentatively tries again, but he still isn’t close enough. Keeping his toes on the board, he is able to reach the handle of the oven, and is finally close enough to reach the roast, when he accidentally falls, pulling the oven door down and ending up in the oven himself. He flies out with a cry, and bumps into a box of soap, spilling its contents into a nearby bucket of water. The soap also fills the air, and Pluto sneezes from the irritation. Each sneeze sends out a stream of bubbles from his mouth. One bubble in particular sticks to his nose, and when he attempts to blow it away, the bubble only increases in size until it explodes.

Trying to return to his main mission of the roast, Pluto stalks his prey, until he sneezes and knocks into a table with china cups. None of the cups break, but the sound is enough to alert the cook, who has been upstairs. After she leaves, Pluto sneaks towards the roast again, this time bringing with him the tablecloth and cups without him noticing. When he does, he sneezes again, sending the cups flying into the air. Thinking he’s done for, he closes his eyes, but the cups neatly stack themselves on his backside, the handles slipping onto his tail. He breathes a sigh of relief, but not for long, as he keeps sneezing. All the cups finally break, with the cook racing downstairs to see what’s going on. As he races to the door, he keeps getting thrown back by his sneezes, but finally makes it outside and pretends he’s been asleep the entire time. The cook is fooled by his act, and Pluto smiles, bubbles still leaking from his mouth.

December 26

December 26, 1941 – The Goofy Short Film The Art of Self Defense is Released to Theaters


“From the earliest dawn of humanity, the cold, unrelenting law of nature has been, and still is, the survival of the fittest.”

On December 26, 1941, the Goofy short film The Art of Self Defense was released to theaters. This was one of the first shorts to show more than one Goofy-designed character in the same scene. The short was directed by Jack Kinney, and stars John McLeish as the narrator.

The short takes us through the history of man defending himself, beginning with the cavemen. Two cavemen are seen beating each other over the head with a hammer and a club. The scene then travels to ancient Egypt, where moving wall paintings show that man has learned to use his hands for combat, particularly poking the other person in the eye. Reaching the middle ages, two knights are seen clad in armor, hitting each other with maces much as the cavemen did with their clubs. Time rushes forward to the Romantic Age, with two men slapping each other with gloves rather daintily. One of the men gets the idea to put his snuff box in his glove, giving his slap a little more “oomph.” The scene then changes to when boxing came into vogue, but these men, as the narrator puts it, “could fight for only seventy-five or eighty rounds.”

Goofy arrives at the boxing gym, ready to learn all the fundamentals of how to defend himself

Goofy arrives at the boxing gym, ready to learn all the fundamentals of how to defend himself

The audience is then brought to the modern era, with Goofy entering a boxing gym. He starts to punch enthusiastically, until the narrator stops him, informing him that they were learn to box properly, with scientific conditioning. They learn how to breathe properly, but as the narrator gets involved with his own commentary, Goofy breathes in (forgetting to breathe out) to the point of floating like a balloon. When he is finally told to exhale, Goofy sails around the gym as all the air is pushed out. Next, Goofy attempts to jump rope, but ends up tangled. He then tries to punch a double-ended bag, only to have the bag knock him out.

Goofy then shadow boxes – literally – ended up knocked out by his own shadow with every punch shown, from jabs, to crosses, to uppercuts. When the narrator points out there is a rule that no boxer shall ever be hit below the belt, Goofy manages to pull his pants and belt above his head, so there is nowhere for his shadow to strike, but the shadow, after kicking Goofy out of his clothes, manages to win just the same. After weeks of conditioning, the night of the fight arrives, and Goofy steps confidently into the ring. His opponent, however, knocks him out with one punch.

December 25

December 25, 1983 – The Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade is Broadcast on Television

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

“Live Christmas Day on ABC!”

On December 25, 1983, the Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade was first broadcast on ABC, and has aired annually since then. The first hosts of the 90 minute special were journalist Joan Lunden and entertainer Mike Douglas (who was also known as the singing voice of Prince Charming in 1950’s Cinderella). The parade was broadcast live from Walt Disney World, and would continue to be a live broadcast until the 90s, when the parade was filmed at least a month beforehand to be ready to broadcast on Christmas Day.