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Monthly Archives: December 2012

December 21

December 21, 1937 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Premieres at the Carthay Circle Theater

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“Walt Disney, who created these lovable characters, brings to motion pictures a new medium for a greater art. And it looks like a ‘Snow White’ Christmas for all!”

On December 21, 1937, after beginning production in 1934, Walt Disney’s first full-length animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles, California. Many of those who attended had called the film “Walt’s Folly;” many celebrities also attended the premiere, including Shirley Temple, Marlene Dietrich, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Ginger Rogers, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, and Charlie Chaplin. There were even actors in dwarf costumes, and a special appearance by Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and Donald Duck. Life size replicas of the dwarfs’ cottage were created for the event. The film received a standing ovation, and grossed more than $8 million, which was quite a feat at the time, since a movie ticket cost about 10 cents. Snow White was the highest grossing film of all time, until it was surpassed by Gone With the Wind. The film was generally released on February 4th, 1938.

December 20

December 20, 1946 – The Goofy Short Film Double Dribble is Released to Theaters

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“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We’re about to witness the basketball battle of the century.”

On December 20, 1946, the Goofy short film Double Dribble was released to theaters. The players’ names that are announced by the narrator are actually names of Disney animators, such as “Kinney” for animator and director Jack Kinney. The short was directed by Jack Hannah, with story by Bill Berg and Milt Banta.

The day of the big basketball game arrives, with half of the stadium filled to capacity for the home team, University U, while the visitor side (P.U.) has a solitary fan in the seats. The teams hit the court, practicing their free throws before the game. One tiny player on the P.U. team is excited to play, but the much taller players ignore him as the game gets underway. A replay of one of the plays shows that, in slow motion, the players are much more violent than meets the eye. The game continues, with each team scoring left and right, with the U.U. fans overstepping their bounds as they “assist.” The first half ends, with U.U. leading 16 – 12.

The smallest player, Marathu, is the most enthusiastic, although not the best player on either team

The smallest player, Marathu, is the most enthusiastic, although not the best player on either team

In the second half, the P.U. coach nervously watches as his team members are repeatedly called out by fouls. Finally, the last player he can send in is the shortest member of the team, Marathu. With one minute to go, the score is in U.U.’s favor, 35 – 34. Marathu tries to be involved in the game, but he lags behind his taller teammates. Suddenly, he has the ball – only to have it taken away. He retrieves the ball by untying the string to the opposing player’s shorts, revealing the player’s polka dot boxers. Ball in hand, Marathu makes his way to the basket, with the player in boxer shorts chasing after him. As the opposing player trips and falls, he lifts a floorboard, which sends Marathu flying into the air and in through the hoop – and P.U. wins, 36 – 35.

December 19

December 19, 1925 – Songwriter and Disney Legend Robert B. Sherman is Born

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“When I grew up, I wanted to be a writer. Novels and plays. I used to write poetry.”

On December 19, 1925, songwriter and Disney Legend Robert Bernard Sherman was born in New York City, New York. After traveling cross-country for several years, the Sherman family settled down in Beverly Hills, California, where Sherman excelled in school, on the piano and violin, and in painting and creative writing. As a child, he and his brother Richard put on shows for the neighborhood, which Robert wrote and Richard performed. In 1943, Robert got permission from his parents to join the Army at age 17. He was shot in the knee in 1945, and walked with a cane for the rest of his life. He was awarded several awards during his military service, including the Purple Heart.

After his service, Sherman attended Bard College in New York, majoring in English Literature and painting. His father, Tin Pan Alley songwriter Al Sherman, challenged Sherman and his brother to write a song “that some kid would give up his lunch money to buy.” The two took up the challenge, and a partnership was born. Their song, “Gold Can Buy Anything (But Love),” was recorded by Gene Autry, but didn’t make a huge impact. However, they continued to write. In 1958, the two founded Music World Corporation, a music publishing company, and the two had their first Top Ten hit writing a song for Annette Funicello, “Tall Paul.” This song, among the others they wrote for Funicello, caught the attention of Walt Disney, who hired the Sherman Brothers to work at the Walt Disney Studios. Their first assignment was a song for the new Annette Funicello movie, The Horsemasters, entitled “Strummin’ Song.” The two also wrote for the film The Parent Trap, starring Hayley Mills, and in 1964, they wrote their most well known song: “It’s a Small World (After All).”

The Sherman Brothers singing a few songs on an episode of the Walt Disney anthology

The Sherman Brothers singing a few songs on an episode of the Walt Disney anthology

In 1965 they became the first songwriters on contract at the Disney Studios. They had their greatest success with the Mary Poppins’ songs “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious;” Walt’s favorite, “Feed the Birds;” and the Academy Award winner, “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” The two continued to work under Disney until his death in 1966. After this, they worked freelance, still contributing to Disney films, but also on some non-Disney assignments, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Slipper and the Rose, and Charlotte’s Web. In 2002, Sherman moved from Beverly Hills to London, England, where he continued to write and paint; that year he also had an exhibition of his paintings at the Thompsons’ Gallery on Marylebone High Street, London. He published his autobiographical novel, Moose, in 2008. On November 17, 2008, the Sherman Brothers were awarded the National Medal of Arts, and were inducted as a Disney Legend in 1990. On March 5, 2012, Robert Sherman passed away at the age of 86.

December 18

December 18, 1942 – The Donald Duck Short Film Bellboy Donald is Released to Theaters

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“The guest is always right.”

On December 18, 1942, the Donald Duck short film Bellboy Donald was released to theaters. It was directed by Jack King, and stars Clarence Nash as Donald Duck and John McLeish as Pete.

The story opens with Bellboy Donald receiving another lecture on losing his temper with hotel guests from the hotel manager, who threatens to fire Donald if he does it again. The manager gives Donald a pin with the hotel’s motto – the guest is always right – to remind him that his job is at stake.

Shortly after, a guest pulls up to the front of the hotel, and Donald hurries out to serve him. The guest’s son, Junior, immediately begins to torment Donald, but Donald is able to keep his cool, for the time being. As Donald struggles to bring in the bags, Junior comes back to taunt him. Junior drops his banana peel on the walkway, and a bag-laden Donald slips and trips into the hotel.

Junior continues his torment of Donald, including closing the elevator doors on Donald's shirt

Junior continues his torment of Donald, including closing the elevator doors on Donald’s shirt

After the mishap with the bags, and accidentally tearing the customer’s luggage, Donald takes the guests to their rooms on the 80th floor. Junior decides to have fun with the elevator, and Donald, on the way. He closes the door on Donald’s shirt, ripping off the duck’s bellboy uniform. Junior continues to cause trouble for Donald, who sees his motto button once again and tries to play it nice with the boy. When Junior pretends to offer Donald a soda, Donald steps in the elevator, only to have the boy start the elevator, dropping down eighty flights, and leaving Donald caught in the air. Having had enough, Donald loses his temper. He asks the manager if he is fired, and when the manager says yes, Donald gives Junior a spanking.

December 17

December 17, 1961 – The Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color Episode “Backstage Party” Premieres

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“Oh, the party hasn’t started yet. By the way, folks, these are some of the babes from Babes in Toyland.

On December 17, 1961, the episode “Backstage Party” from the Disney anthology series Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color premiered on television. The episode takes viewers backstage at the Disney Studios, to the celebration of the completion of the upcoming feature film Babes in Toyland, starring Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands. The episode was directed by Jack Donohue and Hamilton S. Luske, with teleplay by Larry Clemmons.

The episode begins with the audience at the front gate, receiving directions to Stage Four, where the party is held. Unfortunately, there are many twists and turns on the way there; the audience progresses through a set with lavish homes, an Old West setting, then the set for the Zorro series, and finally finds Stage Four. Walt greets the audience warmly, and brings them inside to see some of the Babes in Toyland sets. He shows a set with an accompanying film scene, and explains how the set was invented to destroy itself. Moving to another set, Walt explains the music of Babes in Toyland, which was based on Victor Herbert’s original operetta from 1903. After a scene with music, a toy soldier directs the audience to where Walt has gone: to the Forest of No Return. Walt then explains how every piece in the forest was made for the film, including all the rocks and trees. A tree lets Walt know it’s time to head to Stage Two for the shooting of the final scene, and Walt brings us along.

On Stage Two, Walt begins to point out all the important people behind the scenes of filming

On Stage Two, Walt begins to point out all the important people behind the scenes of filming

On Stage Two, Walt points out the important people, from the director, to a stagehand in the rafters who is about to retire, to the actors waiting to shoot the scene. They then shoot the gypsy scene from the film, with Walt and the child actors watching. When the scene is shot, the party begins. A giant cake is brought to the set, along with other tables of food. Walt explains that the backstage party is very democratic – everyone celebrates the wrap of the film together. Annette Funicello comes over to Walt and offers him a glass of lemonade. Walt introduces Annette as Mary Quite Contrary, and Tommy Sands, who plays her romantic interest, Tom the Piper’s Son. Walt then asks Annette to play the hostess while he goes to do some chores. Annette introduces us to Ray Bolger (best known as the Scarecrow in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz), and asks him to perform the old soft-shoe dance he’s well known for: Ida. Many members of the cast and crew begin to dance in the background, although Bolger claims that he’s the “only one in the world who can perform the dance.” He introduces his character in the film as the villain, Barnaby, and Annette introduces Henry Calvin and Gene Sheldon, who play Barnaby’s henchmen, Gonzorgo and Roderigo.

Ed Wynn (C) begins to entertain the various cast and crew members with props

Ed Wynn (C) begins to entertain the various cast and crew members with props

Annette also introduces Ed Wynn, whom she calls “one of the all-time greats of show business.” Wynn entertains the crowd, pulling props from his bag and presenting accompanying jokes. Tommy Kirk (Grumio in the film) presents Wynn with a statue called a “Mousecar,” the Disney version of an Oscar. Annette then introduces Tommy Sands, and many members of the band that are having a jam session on the set. Sands begins to play the bongo drums, much to the amusement of the cast and crew, and sings “Jeepers Creepers.” He introduces Ann Jillian, who serenades the crowd with Henry Calvin. After their song, Annette points out the choreographer, Tommy Mahoney. After a small dance routine, the director Jack Donohue is brought to the middle of the set for a surprise. The whole cast and crew serenade him about the filming experience, then present him with a “jack-in-the-box,” with the model of his own head popping out from the box. The episode ends with one more song about the end of filming.

December 16

December 16, 1952 – WED Enterprises is Founded

“Well, WED is, you might call it my backyard laboratory, my workshop away from work. It served a purpose in that some of the things I was planning, like Disneyland for example…it’s pretty hard for banking minds to go with it…so I had to go ahead on my own and develop it to a point where they could begin to comprehend what I had on my mind.” – Walt Disney

On December 16, 1952, the design and development organization WED Enterprises was founded by Walt Disney (with WED being Walt’s initials). The organization was founded to help create Disneyland. The first three Imagineers (a portmanteau of ‘Imagination’ and ‘Engineer’) working on this project, and first three employees of WED, were Harriet Burns, Fred Joerger, and Wathel Rogers, who had been working on the Disneyland project before the organization was formed. Walt would sell his interest in WED Enterprises to Walt Disney Productions in 1965, with the whole organization moving to Glendale in 1961. In 1986, the organization was renamed Walt Disney Imagineering.

December 15

December 15, 1925 – The Alice Comedy Alice in the Jungle Premieres

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On December 15, 1925, the Alice Comedy Alice in the Jungle premiered in theaters. As of now, it one of the few comedies released on DVD for the public, although the Alice Comedies are now in the public domain. The short was directed and produced by Walt Disney, and stars Virginia Davis as Alice.

The short begins with Alice riding on the back of an elephant, holding a shotgun. Her friend Julius spies something and whistles for a bird, who carries him around to spy on the land from above. The bird becomes annoyed with Julius’ antics and kicks him off right over a pool filled with alligators. Luckily, Julius manages to remain uneaten, but is soon attacked by another alligator on shore, who eats his tail. He does manage to retrieve his tail before heading back to Alice.

The barber thanks Julius profusely for his help in reacquiring a barber pole

The barber thanks Julius profusely for his help in reacquiring a barber pole

Two elephants are running around the jungle, dancing and skipping, before they pull the swimsuits out of their “trunks,” and go for a swim in a nearby pool. One of the two climbs a tree to go for a dive, with the other one draining the pool of its water, so as to play a mean prank on their friend. The scene then moves over to the jungle barber shop, with a hippo eating the barber’s striped pole, thinking it to be a candy cane. The barber breaks down in tears before Julius happens to stumble on the situation. The barber explains to Julius what happened, and Julius, spying a nearby tiger, has a plan. He covers the tiger’s tail in starch and wakes it up. The tiger runs away startles, accidentally knocking off its own tail. The barber is overjoyed when he sees the replacement pole.

Alice is then seen chasing a bear, who keeps hitting her with his slingshot. She follows him into a dark cave, but is soon chased out by a lion. She screams for help, and her cry finds Julius, who comes to her rescue. Although he saves her from one lion, a whole herd of them begin to chase Alice and Julius, with the two making their escape on the back of their elephant.

December 14

December 14, 1935 – The Silly Symphony Broken Toys is Released to Theaters

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“Boy, what a dump to end up in.”

On December 14, 1935, the Silly Symphony Broken Toys was released to theaters. The short features caricatures of famous actors of the time, including W.C. Fields, Ned Sparks, and Stepin Fetchit. The short was directed by Ben Sharpsteen.

A wheelbarrow rolls to a shallow area marked with a sign that says, “No Dumping.” A pile of trash, including an old sailor doll with a broken leg falls from the wheelbarrow. The sailor doll quickly reattaches his leg and looks around, seeing other broken-down and old toys in the dump. The toys are depressed that no one wants them, but the sailor doll tells them that he knows of a place where they’d all be welcome. Inspired by his words, the toys decide to fix themselves up, and finally leave the dump.

The sailor toy helps remove excess sawdust from one toy to help fill another

The sailor toy helps remove excess sawdust from one toy to help fill another

As the toys dance around helping each other make their repairs, they use the supplies around them to fix each other: a pencil replaces a toy soldier’s leg, and a stamp covers a hole in a rag doll. One little doll has no eyes, so all of the toys band together to give her a set of lovely blue eyes. The sailor, playing doctor, sews her eyes on, and she is thrilled that she is finally able to see. They all climb out of the dump, and the sailor leads them to a house in the nearby village that is the local orphanage, where they know they will be happy and loved.

December 13

December 13, 1925 – Actor and Disney Legend Dick Van Dyke is Born

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“Well, I thought [Walt Disney] hired me because I was such a great singer and dancer. As it turns out, he had heard me in an interview talking about what was happening to family entertainment. I was decrying the fact that it seemed like no holds were barred anymore in entertainment. … He knew about the “Van Dyke Show,” about our little sitcom, but that’s why he called me in, because I said something he agreed with. And I got the part.”

On December 13, 1925, Richard Wayne Van Dyke was born in West Plans, Missouri, but grew up in Danville, Illinois. At an early age, Van Dyke was inspired to become a comedian after watching the Laurel and Hardy comedies. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps as a radio announcer; he used those skills as a radio DJ in Danville, Illinois. He and his friend Phil Erickson created a pantomime act known as “The Merry Mutes,” that performed in nightclubs across the country. While appearing in Atlanta, Georgia, in the early ’50s, the two did their act on television. In 1959, Van Dyke won his first Broadway role in The Boys Get The Girls. The following year, he landed the lead role in Bye Bye Birdie as Albert Peterson. He not only won a Tony Award for his performance, but he also went on to perform the role in the film version of the musical.

In the 1960s, Van Dyke became well known for his comedic performances in the popular Dick Van Dyke Show. The show brought him to the attention of Walt Disney, who asked Van Dyke to play the role of Bert in the live-action film Mary Poppins. Van Dyke also asked for the role of the chairman of the bank; he played the roles to acclaim, although his British accent has been criticized as one of the worst accents in film history. Nevertheless, the film was a smash hit, making Van Dyke even more of a household name. Also for Disney, Van Dyke starred in Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N and Never A Dull Moment, and guest starred in ABC’s The Golden Girls. He was honored as a Disney Legend in 1998.

December 12

December 12, 1941 – The Educational Short Film 7 Wise Dwarfs is Released

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“Heigh ho, heigh ho, we’re the wisest dwarfs we know!”

On December 12, 1941, the educational short film 7 Wise Dwarfs was released theatrically. The short is a wartime piece commissioned by the Film Board of Canada, in conjunction with the Local War Savings Committee, to educate Canadian audiences about the importance of War Bonds during World War II. It features the dwarfs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, years after their first appearance. In the short, the dwarfs sing about “five-for-four” – the phrase meant that by buying war bonds, there was a long-term return of five dollars for every four invested. The short was directed by Dick Lyford and Ford Beebe.

The short begins with the dwarfs mining for gems, singing “Heigh Ho.” Doc throws gems into bags labeled with the dwarfs’ names, and Dopey places the gems Doc rejects into his own bag. The dwarfs then march from the mine past Ottowa’s Parliament Hall, and suddenly stop at the post office. Doc spots a sign in the window, asking citizens to by more and more war savings certificates. The dwarfs run inside the post office, accidentally closing the door on Dopey. Undeterred, he spies the bank nearby, and decides to cash his gems there in exchange for war bonds.

Even Grumpy comes out of the post office happy as he carries his war bonds

Even Grumpy comes out of the post office happy as he carries his war bonds

The dwarfs are then seen leaving the post office, each one’s arms filled with war bonds. They march home, singing that they’ve done their part to “win the war with five-for-four.” The short then turns into a plea to the audience to lend their savings to help pay for weapons and supplies for the war effort, and asking them to “invest in victory.”