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Monthly Archives: January 2015

January 24

January 24, 1906 – Animator, Director, and Disney Legend Wilfred Jackson is Born

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“Jackson was easily the most creative of directors, but he was also the most ‘picky’ and took a lot of kidding about his thoroughness.” – Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston

On January 24, 1906, Wilfred Jackson was born in Chicago, Illinois. After attending the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, he went to the Walt Disney Studios to ask for a job; although not officially hired by the Studio, he washed cels and assisted the animators. Jackson rose quickly through the studio ranks, and shortly after he arrived in the animation department, he created the method of synchronizing sound to the animation for the Mickey Mouse short film Steamboat Willie. It would take rival studios over a year to figure out how the trick was done. Jackson would go on to direct 35 short films, with three winning Academy Awards; he would also help direct segments of animated feature films, including the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment in Fantasia. As Disney entered television, Jackson moved into the new medium, directing 13 episodes of the Walt Disney anthology series. In 1965, Jackson retired from the Disney Studios. He passed away on August 7, 1988. In 1998, Jackson was honored as a Disney Legend in the field of animation.

January 23

January 23, 1942 – The Donald Duck Wartime Propaganda Short Film The New Spirit is Delivered

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“Oh boy! Taxes to beat the Axis!”

On January 23, 1942, the Donald Duck wartime propaganda film The New Spirit was delivered to the Treasury Department under the support of the War Activities Committee. It was directed by Wilfred Jackson and Ben Sharpsteen. This was the first propaganda film for the US Government by the studio since the country’s entry into World War II, and the Treasury Department hoped that Disney could provide a start of the new Revenue Act of 1942 and apply the funds directly to the war effort. The Department paid $40000 for the film, asking for a very short time frame to have the film ready no later than February 15. Although there was concern about using Donald Duck for the short film, Walt had argued that using Donald was similar to MGM using Clark Gable, and Department Secretary Morgenthau agreed. Donald was seen as a cathartic character for most Americans, and his anger and patriotism resonated with a public still reeling from Pearl Harbor.

While Morgenthau was excited about the film, Congress voted to eliminate the $80,000 appropriation the Treasury had submitted to pay for the film and its marketing, as many anti-Roosevelt members thought it was a waste of money and nearly marked Walt as a war profiteer. Fortunately for the studio, The New Spirit resonated with audiences, and was hailed by the media as “an excellent bit of persuasion,” as written by the Chicago Herald-American. A survey was conducted, and 37% of those that had seen the short said it had an effect on how willing they were to pay their taxes, with further members of the audience praising the film and criticizing Congress for its failure to pay the Studio. The New Spirit was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary at the 15th Academy Awards.

Donald is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to win the war

Donald is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to win the war

The song “Yankee Doodle Spirit” is playing on the radio, with Donald dancing to its patriotic rhythm. As he listens to the radio program, Donald quickly readies himself for the threat of war. The radio announcer declares that there is something Donald can do for the war effort, and Donald states he will do anything. When Donald hears that the best thing he can do is pay his income tax, at first he is dismayed. The announcer goes on to say that his income tax is vital to the war effort, as the taxes pay for supplies for the troops to beat the Axis Powers. A new simplified form is presented, which is really all that Donald will need, along with a pen, ink, and a blotter. Donald fills out the form, and finds that he owes $13 for his taxes. He is so excited to pay his taxes that he races across the country to Washington DC to pay them in person. The announcer continues with what the taxes will be used for: factories that will make the ammunition and weapons for the soldiers, planes, and battleships.

January 22

January 22, 1995 – The Documentary Film Frank and Ollie Previews at Sundance

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“In film after film, some of the most sublime performances ever to flow from a pencil were created by two star members of Disney’s original team, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. Their contributions to the legacy of these films is the focus of this fascinating and entertaining portrait.”

On January 22, 1995, the documentary feature film Frank and Ollie had a special preview at the Sundance Film Festival. This was the debut of the film, which would go on to premiere at other national festivals, winning the audience favorite award several times. The film chronicles the careers of and friendship between Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, prolific animators and members of the Nine Old Men of the Walt Disney Studios, and was written and directed by Frank’s son Theodore.

January 21

January 21, 2005 – The Animated Series American Dragon: Jake Long Premieres on Disney Channel

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“He’s young, he’s fast, he’s the chosen one.”

On January 21, 2005, the animated series American Dragon: Jake Long premiered on the Disney Channel. The series revolved around character Jake Long, who is secretly from a long line of dragons, and must train to become the American Dragon, defender of all mythical creatures hidden in New York City. It lasted for 52 episodes in two seasons. The series was created by Jeff Goode, and stars Dante Basco as Jake, Keone Young as Lao Shi, John DiMaggio as Fu Dog, Mae Whitman as Rose/Huntsgirl, and Jeff Bennett as Huntsman.

The series’ first episode, “Old School Training,” starts off with an explanation from Lao Shi, Jake’s grandfather, laying out the responsibility Jake has in protecting all the mystical creatures hidden within New York City. Jake needs to master his training, but Jake seems more preoccupied with the cool side of being a dragon rather than honing his skills. Lao Shi tries to get Jake to understand that he must pay attention, when Lao Shi’s companion Fu Dog discovers the tracks of the Huntsman. The Huntsman is out tracking unicorns, and it’s up to Jake to stop him. Jake is worried about going after the Huntsman alone, and while he gets the courage to attack, he messes up. When Jake finally gets his act together, he gets knocked out by the Huntsgirl. Jake is saved by Lao Shi, and Lao Shi announces that they will be upping his training. At school the next day, Jake’s teacher Professor Rotwood starts lecturing his students on dragons but Jake is not paying attention. Rotwood is bitter because his fervor for mythological creatures has made him a laughingstock in the educational community.

Jake bumps into new girl Rose, and it's love at first sight

Jake bumps into new girl Rose, and it’s love at first sight

After class, Jake’s friends Trixie and Spud invite him to skateboard in the park, but Jake heads off to work in his grandfather’s shop. As he leaves, he bumps into a girl, and he is immediately smitten with her. As Jake arrives to training, he is unaware that he is being watched by the Huntsman and Huntsgirl. The training Jake has, however, is less than ideal, with Lao Shi having Jake clean the toilet with his dragon tongue. Jake then has to continue doing more “old school” training, as Lao Shi puts it, but it’s more like chores that Jake doesn’t want to do. He heads home and complains to his mom, wishing that he was just a normal kid, like his dad. His dad is unaware that he’s married into a family of mythical dragons, and his mom won’t tell him. Jake is still upset that he’s got a whole city to protect, but Jake’s mom reassures him that all he needs to do is trust his grandfather. At school the next day, Jake spies the new girl, who is named Rose, and as he starts dreaming about her, he is interrupted by Trixie and Spud. They invite him out again, but Jake has to turn them down and head to his training. Angered by the chores he has to do, Jake decides to ditch training and head off with his friends.

At the shop, Lao Shi is worried as Jake is an hour late, and the Huntsman and Huntsgirl arrive to attack Lao Shi. Lao Shi attacks at first, but is soon captured. Fu Dog manages to escape by flushing himself down the toilet, and goes to look for Jake. In the sewers, he comes across an old friend of his, a one-eyed sewer troll, who helps him get to the East Side. Fu Dog finds Jake, and explains that Lao Shi has been kidnapped. While Fu Dog thinks they should get help, Jake believes he can handle it alone and save his grandfather. Unfortunately, Jake’s antics nearly ruin his father’s dinner with his clients, though his father conveniently misses Jake’s dragon form appearance. Jake arrives and battles the Huntsgirl. As the Huntsman takes over, Lao Shi calls out a few commands from the chores, and Jake realizes that he really was being trained all along. Jake manages to defeat the Huntsman with an unconventional method, and saves his grandfather; he then promises to go to training on time from now on.

January 20

January 20, 2014 – The Computer Animated Series Sheriff Callie’s Wild West Premieres on Disney Junior

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“Hey! I’m Callie, and I’m the sheriff, got my badge here on my vest. I’m ridin’, I’m ropin’, I’m makin’ friends, some say I’m the best in the West!”

On January 20, 2014, the computer animated preschool series Sheriff Callie’s Wild West premiered on Disney Junior with four segments in two episodes. The series had premiered on the Disney Junior app on November 24, 2013, before being broadcast on the cable channel. The series has received positive reviews, and has been renewed for a second season after receiving fantastic ratings. It was developed by George Evelyn, Holly Huckins, and Denis Morella, and stars Mandy Moore as Sheriff Callie, Lucas Grabeel as Deputy Peck, and Jessica DiCiccio as Toby.

The first segment, “Train Bandits,” begins with the train coming down the tracks and scaring the jackrabbits. Callie is on the train with her friends, ready to compete in the Sheriff’s Contest in Junctionville. Governor Gopher is in charge of the trophy, which Callie admires. Everyone is excited to be on the train, and Callie sings a song for the passengers. Afterwards, she and Peck head to the refreshment car for a drink while Toby watches the scenery out the window. While in the car, a shady gang of cowboys locks them in and heads back to steal the valuables from the other passengers. Callie tries to rush after them, and realizes that the only way she can save everyone is to cross across the top of the train. She and Peck narrowly make it through a tunnel, and manage to make it in to find everyone stuck to the wall with tape. Hearing that they stole the trophy, Callie and Peck head out to rescue the trophy and everyone’s valuables. The bandits manage to disengage the train from its passenger cars, and send the passengers down the track with the broken bridge. Callie has to decide whether to save the passengers or capture the bandit, and decides to save the passengers, but warns the bandits that they haven’t seen the last of her. Callie quickly comes up with a plan, and has the passengers run to one side of the car, making them able to cross over one remaining track and her rope. As the train arrives back on the main track, Callie is also able to capture the bandits and save the trophy. At the contest, Callie is awarded the Golden Star Trophy for her bravery.

Callie has to sit the brothers down to see why they're fighting

Callie has to sit the brothers down to see why they’re fighting

The second segment, “A Dirty Dusty Apology,” takes place in a mine, where two pig brothers named Dirty Dan and Dusty have gotten a lot of silver in their day’s work. As they head out, one brother surprises the other with a special soup. The two play in the mud, until Sheriff Callie comes looking for them. Callie tells them that the town desperately needs iron, and the boys readily agree to help. Unfortunately, the two start arguing over which way to go to find the iron in the mine, and the fight to the point where they decide to separate. The two hurry to the hardware stores to get their own supplies, continuing their fight in front of Uncle Bun. Everyone is upset about the fight, and Peck decides to try and straighten things out between them. After they refuse to talk to Peck, Callie ropes them and tries to help them resolve the situation through the song. Unfortunately, the two are stubborn, and head into the mine separately and mine iron. The two end up breaking their hand cart and are sent hurtling through the tracks and down the dirt road. The two manage to apologize before nearly heading off a cliff, but Callie is able to save them from their wild ride. In the end, the two are able to take their iron to town, and head back home.

The third segment, “Horseshoe Peck,” begins with Callie’s lasso practice, and an exploration of everyone’s special talents. Peck feels like he’s not good at anything, but Callie gets the idea to have Peck try a game of horseshoes. Uncle Bun teaches peck how to play, and he’s a natural at horseshoes, finding his sport. He manages to beat everyone in town, and while he first is very humble, Peck’s confidence grows into outright arrogance. He quickly gets a reputation as a bad sport, with no one wanting to play him. Mr. Dillo, on his way away from Peck, runs into Callie, and tells her of Peck’s bad attitude; as more members of the town complain to Callie, she heads over to see him for herself. Upset at Peck’s attitude, Callie challenges Peck to a game of horseshoes. Peck loses his confidence when he has a bad throw, and Callie ends up winning the game. Peck is crushed, and tells Callie to brag and celebrate, but Callie reminds him that the game is supposed to fun itself. Peck then patches up his friendship with Toby, and the two play a friendly game of horseshoes.

Peck and Toby run into trouble when asked to watch Callie's gold nugget

Peck and Toby run into trouble when asked to watch Callie’s gold nugget

The last segment, “Callie’s Golden Nugget,” finds the trio panning for gold in the river, although Peck finds only horseshoes and Toby finds a goldfish. Callie is able to find a gold nugget, and the three hurry to town to trade it for money. As they cross over the bridge, Toby nearly falls through a rotten plank, and Callie has to help the three get over the bridge with her lasso. She decides to use the money from the nugget to fix the bridge. As she gets ready to head to the bank, Farmer Stinky stops by to ask for her help with his cattle. She asks Toby and Peck to watch over her nugget while she helps the farmer, and the pair readily agree through a song. Peck and Toby struggle to find the safest place to hide the nugget, but accidentally lose the nugget. When Callie returns, the Peck lies to her, as he still can’t find it. Peck and Toby head back to the river to find another nugget like Callie’s. Peck manages to find a rock that looks similar, and decides to paint it gold to replace Callie’s missing nugget. Toby is concerned about the lying to Callie, but Peck convinces him that it’s okay. After Callie announces her intention to fix the bridge, the ruse is soon revealed after the rock falls into a bucket of water and the paint washes off. Peck admits the truth, and Callie forgives them. The three search once again for the nugget, and it’s revealed that it was on Callie’s desk, under Peck’s hat, all along. Callie then gets the money to rebuild the bridge, much to the happiness of the residents.

January 19

January 19, 1951 – The Chip ‘n’ Dale Short Film Chicken in the Rough is Released to Theaters

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“Hey, hurry up and come with me – I found something terrific!”

On January 19, 1951, the Chip ‘n’ Dale short film Chicken in the Rough was released to theaters. This was the first short in the short-lived series featuring just the classic duo. It was directed by Jack Hannah, with story by Nick George and Bill Berg.

The short begins on an early morning at a farm, where Chip and Dale quickly are busy collecting acorns. A rooster looks inside the hen house, waking up the sleeping chickens before tending to his hen, whose eggs still aren’t hatching. Poor papa rooster walks around nervously, before being accidentally pelted with acorns when Dale trips in the tree. Chip and Dale hurry to the ground to retrieve their acorns, when Dale ends up inside the hen house. Spotting the eggs, he thinks that walnuts are hidden inside, and goes to fetch Dale. Chip tells him that they’re nothing but eggs and hurries back to his acorns, leaving Dale to pout as he sits on top of an egg. As soon as Dale perches on the egg, the egg hatches, and the chick inside takes to Dale, with Dale taking the chick as his own. Chip has Dale take the chick back, but the chick won’t leave Dale. Dale hides inside the pieces of the egg shell, hoping the chick will imitate him, but the chick sneaks away just as the hen returns and nests. Finding it too hot inside the egg, Dale tries to make his way out, with the hen thinking one of her eggs is hatching. She calls out for the rooster and sprints outside, giving Dale only a few moments to hide back inside the egg. Dale manages to sneak outside in the egg shell, but the ruse is soon up, and Dale has to pretend to be a chick. The rooster tries to force Dale to eat a worm, and both Dale and the worm hide together. Dale convinces the worm to pretend it’s being eaten, but the rooster is too smart for the pair. As the hen rescues Dale from the rooster, Dale realizes that he’s completely trapped, and Chip laughs at him from a tall perch.

January 18

January 18, 1999 – The Disney Channel Original Series So Weird Premieres

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“In the darkness is the light…”

On January 18, 1999, the Disney Channel Original Series So Weird premiered. The series was a departure for the Disney Channel, as it contained darker fare than usual as it explored the supernatural. The story revolved around Fi Phillips, a girl obsessed with tracking the paranormal as she travels with her singer-songwriter mother Molly, her brother Jack, manager Irene Bell, her husband Dave, and their sons Clu and Carey (Clu was a main character in the first season, with Carey taking Clu’s place in the latter two). After two seasons, Fi was written off the show and replaced with character Annie Thelen; this change also brought a lighter overall tone to the series. The series was created by Tom J. Astle, and starred Cara DeLizia as Fi, Mackenzie Phillips as Molly, Patrick Levis as Jack, Erik von Detten as Clu, Belinda Metz as Irene, Dave “Squatch” Ward as Dave, Eric Lively as Carey, and Alexz Johnson as Annie.