Saturday, December 30, 2006

Snapshot! - Coral Caves Beach

The queue area for The Seas With Nemo and Friends at Epcot is one of the real highlights of the attraction. The center sign identifies the area as Coral Caves Beach. Most of the key characters and settings from Finding Nemo are represented in some way on the surrounding signs.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Freeze Frame Followup: Fiddlesticks

My recent post about Mickey’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo in the Fleischer cartoon Bimbo’s Initiation, served to bring attention to Fiddlesticks, Ub Iwerk’s first solo effort after leaving the Disney Studio back in 1930 (thanks to Peter on our comments page, who directed us to where the short is posted on YouTube).
Some time back, Image Entertainment released two volumes of the early Iwerks cartoons. The 58 shorts included are in pristine condition, taken from original negatives. Fiddlesticks is on the first volume, and they make mention of the “Mickey appearance” in the liner notes. I own both these volumes and they are a definite must-have. They are also currently a steal on Amazon at a mere $9.99 each.

Leonard Maltin had this to say about the Mickey clone in Fiddlesticks in his animation history bible Of Mice and Magic:

Flip doesn't speak in FIDDLESTICKS, his first film; he dances on stage for the other forest animals and provides piano accompaniment for a mouse who plays the violin. This mouse bears a definite resemblance to Mickey, particularly with his white shorts and gloves, but the face is less rounded, and the addition of whiskers obscures any direct plagiarism.

I agree with Leonard that it’s the shorts and gloves that bring to mind Mickey. The mouse itself seems to be more directly related to the “stock mice” that appeared in Disney’s silent efforts, most noticeably the Alice comedies.

An interesting side note about Fiddlesticks--it employed a two-color Technicolor process two years ahead of Disney's first color effort.

. . . with Walt Disney's magic touch

So as to not neglect the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, here is some interesting material that especially features General Electric Progessland and its centerpiece attraction, the Carousel of Progress. These ads come from a Guide to the Fair that was a supplement to an issue of the then popular Look Magazine. (Click images for larger versions.)

Here are the descriptions the same Guide provided for the Fair’s Disney-designed attractions:
GENERAL ELECTRIC, B12. From lightning flash to nuclear fusion —man's search for energy. You revolve around a six-section circular stage and see Disney's Carousel of Progress. Audio-animatronic "people" tell story of electricity's contribution to your living. Time Tube carries you to Corridor of Mirrors and viewing terrace to see lightning storm, flames shooting from sun. Look for: First public demonstration of nuclear fusion in giant domed theater; continuous shows.

PEPSI-COLA, B32. You cruise the world in a water-jet boat. Pepsi salutes UNICEF in Disney's It's a Small World. Audio-animatronic figures in native costumes sing and prance. Look for: Special UNICEF pavilion and garden Tower of Four Winds.

ILLINOIS, S9. Enjoy Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. Disney's 10-minute presentation features audio-animatronic Lincoln figure that gestures, talks. Look for: Library of famous Lincoln manuscripts and portraits.

FORD, TI. From the caveman of yesterday to the city dweller oftomorrow. You ride in a Ford convertible through time on Disney's Magic Skyway. See and hear prehistoric animals move around, battle; cavemen create fire, invent wheel. Then, 30 feet above City of Tomorrow, on highway in the sky, you are surrounded by strange spacecraft, see glass buildings. Look for: Futuristic Ford cars—Allegro, Cougar II, Mustang II.

Some More Words of Thanks . . .

Some words of thanks to send out today--

Jenny Lerew mentioned 2719 Hyperion on her wonderful blog The Blackwing Diaries, and said some very nice things about us. Thanks, Jenny!

Chris Foxx also mentioned us on her blog Passport to Dreams Old and New. Chris sent a very nice email that was much appreciated.

John Frost over at the Disney Blog has always been very supportive, and he took it one step further by naming 2719 Hyperion one of top ten Disney blogs of 2006. We can only hope to continue to live up to the honor. Thanks so much John!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mickey and Donald in Buckskin

While I had out my copy of Mickey Mouse in Frontierland for yesterday's Li'l Davy post, I thought I'd do a scan of the issue's really terrific back cover. Some really great artwork was done for the back covers of the Disney Dell Giants, and I really enjoyed this one in particular. It was at the height of the Davy Crockett craze, and no doubt countless adults across America could relate to Mickey's and Donald's exasperation.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What a Character! - Li'l Davy

While the television show Muppet Babies is largely credited for inspiring the reverse-aging of popular cartoon brands that seemed to dominate children’s programming for much of the 1980s and early 1990s, it was not the first franchise to have its characters drink from the fountain of youth. As far back as 1956, Archie Comics spawned Little Archie, featuring pint-sized versions of its teenage cast. But Disney trumped even Archie in this matter when it debuted a character in 1955, who was a youthful version of the Disneyland television program’s then most popular star.

Li’l Davy, however, did not survive long beyond the craze that inspired him.

Davy Crockett-mania swept the nation back in the mid-1950s. Disney premiered the adventures of the frontier hero on its ABC television program in December of 1954, and soon after, just about every child in America was sporting a coonskin cap and carrying a toy replica of Crockett’s famous “old Betsy” rifle.

Comic strip creators Bill Walsh and Floyd Gottfredson jumped on the Crockett bandwagon on June 27, 1955 when they introduced the character of Li’l Davy in that day’s Mickey Mouse newspaper comic. Davy went on to make just over twenty more appearances in Mickey’s daily strip through February of the following year. Joining Davy throughout the run was a buckskinned Jiminy Cricket, who had been appropriately renamed Jiminy Crockett.

Li’l Davy jumped over into regular comic books in spring of 1956 when he appeared in the Dell Giant Mickey Mouse in Frontierland. He costarred with Little Hiawatha, the popular character from the 1937 Silly Symphony, who had been a staple of Disney comics since the late 1930s. In the story, Davy helps Hiawatha and his sister Sunflower rid their village of a troublesome moose, thanks to Davy’s bravado-inspired pratfalls and strangely enough, some ragweed pollen. The story features some terrific art by Disney Studio vet and longtime comic book talent Al Hubbard.

Li’l Davy was featured in seven more Dell Disney comics before disappearing completely from Amercian comics following his appearance in the Dell Giant Daisy Duck and Uncle Scrooge Showboat in 1961. He costarred in those issues with the likes of Mickey, Goofy, Pete and the aforementioned Hiawatha cast. According to the online Disney comics index INDUCKS, he later appeared overseas in an Italian Mickey Mouse comic in 1964, then oddly, much later in a Brazilian comic in 1981, and then again in an Italian publication in 1990.

Purposely cute and full of bluster, Li’l Davy was an entertaining, albeit short-lived member of Disney’s character canon. Though unknown to most folks today, he is still a fun reminder of 1950s era fads and the subsequent popular culture they created.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Freeze Frame: Bimbo's Initiation

Bimbo’s Initiation, released in 1931, is considered by numerous animation historians to be among the best shorts produced by the Fleischer Studio. It ranked 37 in Jerry Beck’s 1994 book The 50 Greatest Cartoons as Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals. Beck provided this synopsis of the cartoon’s story:

It's a strange cartoon. Bimbo falls down a manhole—smack into a surreal fraternity of characters with melted candles on their heads and two-by fours behind their backs. "Wanna be a member?" they ask again and again, and each time Bimbo says no and suffers for it. Bimbo finally meets Betty Boop, who performs an erotic dance and asks him the usual question. Not surprisingly, Bimbo finally says yes.

By now you are probably scrolling up to see if this is still 2719 Hyperion, the blog that addresses Disney entertainment. Yes, it’s still us. So, what exactly are we doing talking about a Fleischer cartoon?

Well, in the opening seconds of Bimbo’s Initiation, the title character inadvertently falls into a manhole as Mr. Beck describes above.

After the manhole cover closes back over, an extremely fast-moving character mischievously secures it with a comically oversize lock. Just who is this mysterious prankster? Take a look:

Yes, it seems that while Mickey was outshining the competition at the box office in the early 1930s, he still found time to sneak into at least one non-Disney produced cartoon and cause trouble. A clever, and for the most part unnoticed gag on the part of Dave Fleischer and his crew.

EPCOT 1939 - Part Eight: A Slightly Smaller Universe of Energy

We're a few weeks overdue, so what do you say we jump in our time machine and venture back to that particular World’s Fair we’ve come to call EPCOT 1939.

The universe of energy was a much smaller entity in 1939. While automobile manufacturers were represented in three major pavilions and dominated the 1939 New York World's Fair transportation zone, oil companies were consolidated to the Petroleum Industry Exhibition and relegated to one building in the Production and Distribution Zone.

Sponsored by eighteen different companies, the Petroleum Exhibit was a generally modest endeavor compared to many of the Fair’s other attractions. The official Guide Book of the New York World’s Fair reflected the exhibit’s lack of flair with the following fairly brief and uninspired description:

Plainly land marked by a towering oil derrick in actual operation, the Building (Voorhees. Walker. Foley & Smith, architects; Gilbert Rohde, designer) fronts on the Avenue of Pioneers. Shaped like an equilateral triangle, the structure rests on four huge oil tanks, its metal walls rising in flaring tiers. Four large murals by William T. Schwarz decorate the inner walls of the Great Hall of Industry, each depicting respectively one phase in the story of Petroleum — Production, Transportation. Research and Refining. Here on a mammoth stage a motion picture in technicolor, its actors three-dimensional puppets, portrays the importance of petroleum in man's daily life. The Petroleum Garden on the roof is featured by an animated map on which miniature oil derricks depict the growth of oil production since 1860. A model of an oil refinery demonstrates the most up-to-date refining methods. Sponsored by fourteen major oil companies, the Exhibit shows how the industry has made possible and contributed to the advance of civilization during the past 80 years.

The subject of energy was pretty much as dry then as it was at EPCOT Center in 1982, and a certain amount of window dressing was required for both to create interesting and entertaining presentations. At EPCOT, animatronic dinosaurs, sprawling theater cars and snappy songs generally countered the Universe of Energy pavilion’s mostly low key films and Exxon sponsored public relations. Lacking the sophistication and flare of late 20th century technology, the Petroleum Exhibit had to settle for a motion picture called Pete Roleum and his Cousins. And what an incredibly weird bunch of characters they were.

Animated oil droplets tell the story of petroleum production in a disjointed and often extremely strange series of vignettes, ending with a chorus line musical number that is both bizarre and more or less incomprehensible. This is partly due to the fact that a person at the exhibit interacted with the film's narrator, and those scripted lines are absent from the film.

What makes Pete Roleum somewhat notable is that the stop-motion puppetry was created by silent filmmaker Charles Bowers. Bowers, largely unknown today, was a pioneer in stop-motion special effects photography during the mid to late 1920s. He was famous at the time for two reel features that incorporated his innovative special effects with the typical slapstick antics that hallmarked the comedies of the day. He faded from the movie business in 1930, only to resurface nearly a decade later, assisting director Joseph Losey in the making of Pete Roleum. Bowers also provided the film’s narration.

It was an odd way of promoting the virtues of energy production back in 1939. But then, here it is the 21st century, and Epcot’s presentation of energy innovations is communicated via the combination of a sitcom star, a kids’ TV program host, and a popular game show. Maybe Pete Roleum and his Cousins weren’t all that strange after all.

"He's Aimed and Ready for Action!"

Both the interior and exterior queue areas for It's Tough to Be a Bug! at Disney's Animal Kingdom have some great posters. The interior posters are parodies of Broadway shows and are pretty difficult to photograph due to crowds and low lighting. The posters outside are easier to manage, and are a bit more stylized with their tree bark textures. The Termite-ator uses his own acid to identify himself. Note that the quote is from "Tim Burr" of the "Hollow Wood Reporter."

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Disney Studios Christmas Cards: 1968

Our series of Christmas cards from the Walt Disney Studios wraps up with this simple message from 1968. A very special thank you to all the readers of 2719 Hyperion for making us a part of your online Disney experience. May you all have a joyous and happy holiday season!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Disney Studios Christmas Cards: 1973

The characters from the animated feature Robin Hood are featured on the Studio Christmas card from 1973. I especially like the wanted poster on the tree with Robin wearing a Santa hat.

Mother Goose Goes Hollywood - December 23, 1938

Classic Disney animation enthusiasts received an early Christmas present this year with the release last week of More Silly Symphonies in the Disney Treasures DVD series. Especially pleasing was the inclusion of a complete and uncut Mother Goose Goes Hollywood, which was released on this day in 1938.

Close to half of this Silly Symphony has remained in the Disney vault for years, due to the extreme caricatures presented of African American entertainers Cab Calloway, Fats Waller and the long controversial Stepin Fetchit. Leonard Maltin is there with the standard Treasures’ introduction provided for shorts with potential content problems. He also provides an excellent audio commentary that identifies all the celebrities featured in the film. Blemishes and all, Mother Goose Goes Hollywood is a revealing window to the popular culture of the late 1930s, and many of the then popular stars of the golden age of Hollywood.

Some of the more well known stars featured in the poster are the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Charles Laughton, Edward G. Robinson, ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy and Katherinie Hepburn.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Disney Studios Christmas Cards: 1962

Okay, this one has Mickey, Donald and Ludwig Von Drake. They're hanging out in Disneyland. It's fun and festive. But the best part? Without a doubt, the horse.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Disney Studios Christmas Cards: 1941

December 1941 wasn't exactly the happiest of times. Mickey and the gang, with the help of Dumbo and Timothy Mouse, attempt to wrap the world up in some holiday cheer.

Some Special Thanks . . .

I just wanted to send out a special thank you to a number of folks who have either contacted me directly or mentioned 2719 Hyperion on their own sites and/or blogs. They have all been very generous with their kind words and encouragement.

Didier Ghez and his incredible Disney History blog. I feel like a real amateur next to Didier . . .

Prolific author Jeff Kurtti whose recently published Disney Dossiers is a real treat. I can’t wait for his upcoming book Walt Disney’s Legends of Imagineering and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park.

John Frost, not for just mentioning 2719 Hyperion on his widely-read The Disney Blog, but for being so gosh-darn complimentary when he does it.

Tony from This Day in Disney History. You have made some of my research oh so much easier!

Jim Hill from Jim Hill Media. I still don’t know how he had the time to contact me in between all those great Scrooge U. articles.

And thanks to all of you who check in everyday and subsequently spread the word. It is very much appreciated!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Disney Studios Christmas Cards: 1967

Okay, this one from 1967 is just a little bit weird. Is Mickey going to cut down the tree? Or has he decided to spare it the hatchet? Or has the deed already been done and he's admiring his handiwork?

Snapshot! - "Where the Stars Stay and Play"

This billboard in Disney-MGM Studios is easily missed when heading down Sunset Boulevard. But it plays an important part in setting up the whole story of the Tower of Terror. Too bad most folks miss it in their rush for short lines and FastPasses.

The text:
Our City's Newest Landmark
The Hollywood Tower Hotel
Featuring Fashionable Dining & Modern Accommodations
"Where The Stars Stay and Play"


Call me sentimental, but being this close to Christmas, I just can't stay away from holiday themed posts. This activity was featured on the back cover of Walt Disney's Merry Christmas, published in 1960.

One of the very cool things about Disney Comics back then were the crossover stories. In this particular issue, Gyro Gearloose starred with the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf in the story "Plans Aplenty." In "The Bewitched Dolls," Daisy Duck's nieces April, May and June appear with Dumbo, Pinocchio and Gepetto and the Wicked Witch. In the comic's final story "Too Few Clues," Chip and Dale cross paths with Doc and again the Wicked Witch. Fun stuff when you're a kid, great nostalgia when you get just a little older.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Disney Studios Christmas Cards: 1977

One of the few Studio cards not to include Mickey and the gang, this holiday greeting from 1977 features Elliott from Pete's Dragon.

Symposium on Popular Songs - December 19, 1962

Symposium on Popular Songs sits in a relatively unvisited corner of Disney animation history. Rarely seen since its release on this date in 1962, it was finally made available last year on the Walt Disney Treasures Disney Rarities DVD set. It’s interesting for a number of reasons and, and it has some especially notable names in its credits.

Disney’s marketing department released this short article as a part of promotional material sent out to theaters:

With $3.88 worth of groceries, a pipe cleaner, a spool of yarn, a box of toothpicks, 500 sheets of colored paper and their whimsical imaginations, Walt Disney artists Bill Justice and X. Atencio created a symposium of comical characters that make "A Symposium on Popular Songs" one of Disney's funniest featurettes.

The star of the Technicolor production, however, is that expert on everything, the man who invented jazz, Professor Ludwig von Drake. Making his motion picture debut, the Professor introduces a brand new cast of "animoted" stars—made of movable paper cutouts—to trace the history of popular music from ragtime to the twist. Whenever possible, "Pops" von Drake steals the spotlight by singing one of the tuneful melodies composed by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman.

Ludwig's modest home is vaguely reminiscent of the Taj Mahal. He greets his guests at his massive double doors and leads them into the parlor. He explains how, when he was a starving musician at the turn of the century, he was in rags. So he invented ragtime. As the Professor sings and plays "The Rutabaga Rag," a group of "animated" oranges, apples, rutabagas, string beans, and other vegetables and fruits dance the ragtime.

Since ragtime was soon worn to shreds, the Professor decided to write a new song about the roaring twenties. He introduces Betty Boopie Doop to sing "Charleston Charlie," and a group of flapper era characters to do the Charleston.

Ludwig's next great song hit came after he had lost all his money in the depression. To cheer everyone he wrote, "Although I Dropped a Hundred Thousand in the Market, Baby, I Found a Million Dollars in Your Smile." To sing it, the Professor introduces Rah, Rah Rudy and his Megaphone Boys.

During the late 1930's and early 1940's, a new type of singer called "crooners" captured the imaginations of the American public. Ludwig brings on Fosby Crooner to sing his love ballad, "I'm Blue For You, Boo-Bo-Bo-Bo-Boo." Fosby makes it easy for the audience to join in by bouncing from word to word as he sings.

While everyone was cutting "Boo-Boo" records, Ludwig was cutting out paper dolls. By "shear" accident, he cut out three talented look-alikes called the Sister Sisters. The girls introduce the Professor's new boogie woogie rhythm with "The Boogie Woogie Bakery Man." During the 1950's, the beat that put American youth back on its feet was Bop. To sing his new bop hit, "Puppy Love is Here to Stay," Ludwig introduces Freddie Babalon and his Babalpnians.

In his Hi-Fi studio—"Dot means Hi-Finance," says the Professor— von Drake brings his "Symposium on Popular Songs" to a swinging climax by singing and twisting to his latest hit, "Rock, Rumble and Roar."

In color by Technicolor, Walt Disney's cartoon featurette, "A Symposium on Popular Songs," was written and styled by Xavier Atencio, directed by Bill Justice, with words and music by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, and arranged and conducted by Tutti Camarata. Animation was by Eric Larson, Cliff Nordberg, Art Stevens, Ward Kimball, Les Clark and Julius Svendsen. Buena Vista releases.

Justice and Atencio previously employed the studio-dubbed “Animotion” stop motion animation process on the 1959 release Noah’s Ark, and in a number of opening title sequences of live action features, most notably The Parent Trap in 1961. Both Noah’s Ark and Symposium earned Oscar nominations. The results of the process in Symposium are both clever and creative, but can be a shock to those expecting traditional hand-drawn, cel-produced Disney animation.

The music and lyrics by the Sherman Brothers are a lot of fun, but sadly have been largely forgotten, even by the Disney company itself. I’ve only come across one song, “Although I Dropped a Hundred Thousand in the Market, Baby, I Found a Million Dollars in Your Smile,” on a CD compilation. Surprisingly, The Sherman Brothers CD that the company released back in 1992, did not include any of the seven numbers from Symposium.

The highlight of Symposium on Popular Songs for me personally is Ludwig Von Drake, as performed by Paul Frees. Von Drake is one of the most underrated of all Disney characters. He is nothing short of hilarious in all of his appearances, of which Symposium is no exception. An especially great example of Frees’ voice and comedic talent with Von Drake is the vintage 1961 vinyl LP Professor Ludwig Von Drake, which has been recently made available for download on iTunes.

Likely one of the reasons Symposium remained locked away, especially in recent years, was a fairly extreme caricature of a Chinese character in the Boogie Woogie Bakery Man sequence. Thankfully, Disney has moved away from the soccer-mom focus group method of marketing its classic animation, and now allows viewers to evaluate these films, and their occasional controversial elements, for themselves.

Treasures Come Just Once a Year, Bringing Cheer . . .

It's a special day that only comes once a year.

And no, it's not Christmas.

It's the day that Disney releases its annual wave of Walt Disney Treasures DVDs. And it just happens to be today. This year we are treated to More Silly Symphonies, Complete Pluto Volume Two, Your Host Walt Disney and the Hardy Boys. And just a mere two weeks after the release of the Complete True-Life Adventure sets in the new Disney Legacy series.

Okay, it's kinda like Christmas . . .

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Disney Studios Christmas Cards: 1939

Pinocchio took center stage on the Studio's 1939 holiday greeting.

Freeze Frame: Mickey's Christmas Carol

While numerous characters from the Disney stable play starring and supporting roles in Mickey's Christmas Carol, there are in fact some interesting cameos scattered throughout the film.

While Mr. Toad and Chip and Dale are quite obvious in the Christmas party scene, there are a few other not so quickly recognized characters in the same sequence.

Grandma Duck and Uncle Waldo Goose are in attendance. Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow dance by quickly, as does Lady Cluck, from Robin Hood.

Also from Robin Hood, Skippy appears with his good buddy Toby Turtle, as Rat and Mole look on.

Two of the Three Little Wolves are chased by a youthful version of Practical Pig.

While Donald is now the companion of Toad's old friend Cyril.

Incredibly, one fab five character was noticably absent from the film. Sadly, Mickey's pal Pluto didn't make the cut.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Disney Studios Christmas Cards: 1936

The vintage 1930s look of the characters is evident in the Studio's Christmas card from 1936. Walt's signature had yet to evolve into the stylized logo that most are familier with today.

Silver Creek, Dynamite and Ol' Georgie MacGregor

Over the years, many colorful characters found their way to the valley of Silver Creek Springs, the fictional home of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort. One such individual, Georgie MacGregor, is especially notable for his contribution to the Lodge’s surrounding landscape and the very nature of Silver Creek itself.

MacGregor, a prospector, arrived in the valley in 1852 seeking his fortune. Silver Creek was named for its mineral deposits that made the water shimmer, but that didn’t deter MacGregor. He was convinced there was a rich silver vein there just waiting to be tapped. The Silver Creek Star newspaper related how Georgie managed to “set up camp” near the Lodge with the help of proprietress Genevieve Moreland:

Even if Ol' Georgie was "a few logs shy of a full load" in the common sense department, he was nevertheless cunning. When he approached the Wilderness Lodge, he presented himself not as a prospector, but as a cook. The frontier, at this time, did not have a surplus of chefs, so such skills were highly valued. The Lodge had become a gathering place for artists, naturalists and others, and Jenny thought Ol' Georgie would be a welcomed addition. She offered Ol' Georgie a room in the Lodge in exchange for his services. He responded, "Now, Miss Jenny, I reckon the best place fer me is yonder, by that thar stream. Thataways I won't bother any of your guests an' I'll be closer to the trout. I kin clean the pans easier thataways, too.

It wasn’t long before Jenny discovered MacGregor’s true intentions. In a surprise visit to his camp, she discovered cooking pans filled with water and silt from the stream, and Ol’ Georgie was shooting trout point blank with his Hawken pistol. Jenny quickly hired a new cook, a former Army sergeant, in hopes of dissuading MacGregor from his hopeless endeavors.

It didn’t work.

The Silver Creek Star related the subsequent sequence of events, and their explosive consequences:

On a supply run to the trading post for cooking utensils and fishing gear, Georgie returned with two crates. He took one to the kitchen and the other he carted off to his cabin. Ol' Georgie was cooking up one last plan to uncover his fortune. The next morning, Ol' Georgie doggedly served breakfast and slipped away quietly to his cabin. The guests were still gathered around the table, discussing how much better the food tasted when all of a sudden, a tremendous explosion shook the very foundation of the Lodge, knocking them to the floor.

After collecting themselves, they scrambled down the stream in a panic. Where the stream once flowed gently over rocks was now a cavernous, smoldering hole, deep in the earth. Ol’
Georgie was no where in sight. His cabin was splintered and roofless. The group stood in silent amazement at the damage around them. A faint voice was heard from above. Ol' Georgie had blown himself twenty feet up a pine tree, black as tar and barely conscious. A box labeled dynamite stood under the tree.

It was the last time Ol" Georgie ever looked for gold or silver. And the cratered pool he blew into the ground serves as one of the fondest recreational pastimes at the Lodge.

At Disney, even the swimming pool has a back story.

Another interesting detail in the vicinity of Silver Creek relates to the Teton Boat and Bike Rental, located near the lake shore. The building is the original cabin that Colonel Ezekiel Moreland built shortly after arriving in the valley for the first time.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Disney Studios Christmas Cards: 1958

King Brian and his fellow leprechauns give Mickey and Donald some help with the holiday trimmings. This Studio card anticipated the June 1959 release of Darby O'Gill and the Little People.

Cedric's Christmas Carol

A short time back, a good friend was doing an extensive housecleaning of his parents’ home and discovered a few things that he thought I might enjoy. Among the items were eight water-stained, near-crumbling pages from the December 1957 issue of McCall’s magazine. They told the story of Walt Disney’s Christmas Carol, a slightly different take on the Dickens’ classic. Its main character was a mouse.

Just not Mickey.
The story opens like this:

It was Christmas Eve, and up in the garret in a cozy corner back of the chimney, ten little mice were gathered round a candlestick, their ears all set to hear a Christmas story.

"Now, quiet as a mouse, everyone," said their father as he opened a very small book with a worn and faded cover and adjusted his tiny spectacles. "It's a very old story,” he said, “and it’s called A Christmas Carol.

In this version, Bob Cratchet has been replaced by the character of Cedric Mouse. Cedric works for Ebenezer Scrooge as a clock and watch repairman in Scrooge’s Clock Shop. Not unlike Bob, Cedric struggles to care for his family on the mere two pence per week wage that Scrooge pays him.

Gone are Jacob Marley and the Christmas ghosts. Instead, Scrooge’s old grandfather clock comes to life and turns himself years ahead to demonstrate to Scrooge the future consequences of his miserly ways.

As you can see, the illustrations that accompanied the story are simply wonderful. Cedric and his fellow mice are clearly distant cousins to both Cinderella’s loyal friends and Amos from Ben and Me. I especially like the story’s final illustration where Cedric and his family all dance around a Christmas tree--made of watch gears!And the last two paragraphs pay sly homage to the story’s original author:

One of the little mice sitting around the candlestick piped up. "Daddy, that sounds very much like a Christmas story I once overheard the people downstairs reading. Their story was by Charles Dickens."

"Dickens?" said the father with a sly little smile. "The dickens you say!" And he snuffed out the candle with his nightcap. "Now off to bed, everyone, quick like a mouse, and a Merry Christmas to all!"

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Disney Studios Christmas Cards: 1950

Mickey and the gang unwrap Alice in Wonderland nearly seven months prior to its summer of 1951 release.

December 15, 1966

"It would take more time than anybody has around the daily news shops to think of the right thing to say about Walt Disney.

He was an original. Not just an American original, but an original. Period. He was a happy accident, one of the happiest this century has experienced. And judging by the way it’s behaving, in spite of all Disney tried to tell it about laughter, love, children, puppies, and sunrises, the century hardly deserved him.

He probably did more to heal - or at least soothe - troubled human spirits than all the psychiatrists in the world. There can’t be many adults in the allegedly civilized parts of the globe who did not inhabit Disney’s mind and imagination for at least for a few hours and feel better for the visitation.

It may be true, as somebody said, that while there is no highbrow in a lowbrow, there is some lowbrow in every highbrow. But what Disney seemed to know was that while there is very little grown-up in every child, there is a lot of child in every grown-up. To a child, this weary world is brand-new, gift wrapped. Disney tried to keep it that way for adults.

"By the conventional wisdom, mighty mice, flying elephants, Snow White and Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy and Doc - all these were fantasy, escapism from reality. It’s a question of whether they are any less real, any more fantastic than intercontinental missiles, poisoned air, defoliated forests, and scrap iron on the moon. This is the age of fantasy, however you look at it, but Disney’s fantasy wasn’t lethal.

People are saying we will never see his like again."

Eric Sevareid
December 15, 1966

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dennis in Walt Disney World (Sort of)

When I was a kid, I couldn't get enough of the Dennis the Menace comic books. I especially loved the giant-size special editions that featured the Mitchell family's numerous vacation trips. They traveled to locations such as Hawaii, California, and Washington D.C., but amazingly, they never ventured to the world's number one vacation destination--Walt Disney World. I decided to create my own little "what if" scenario in the form of a comic book that never existed, but sure would have been cool if it had. Unfortunately, I do not possess the talent to do anything beyond the cover.

The Disney Studios Christmas Cards: 1991

Snow is falling at the Disney corporate headquarters in Burbank in this holiday greeting from 1991.

The Multiflex Octoplane

We haven't done a desktop in a while, so how about a clever set of blueprints straight out of Mickey's Toontown Fair. Take note--this conceptual design involves the cooperation of neighborhood chipmunks (namely Dale), and the emergency escape parachute has been cut for budgetary reasons. Just one of many details from Fido's Fearless Flight School for Cats and Dogs.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Disney Studios Christmas Cards: 1942

The studio Christmas card from 1942 is a real window to the past. Mickey, Donald, Minnie and Pluto are all active in the war effort, while Santa himself promotes Disney's heavily propaganda-themed feature Victory Through Air Power.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Disney Studios Christmas Cards: 1960

Dalmatian puppies impart a holiday message in a unique way in this Studio Christmas card from 1960.

How to Be a Detective - December 12, 1952

It begins with a man being violently thrown from a bridge into the icy cold waters of the river below. It ends with a climactic car chase through both urban and rural landscapes. In between, blackjacks are wielded, bullets fly, mickeys are slipped and violence reigns supreme.

It’s a fast paced, hard boiled eight minutes. And oh, did I mention--it’s a Goofy cartoon.

Released on December 12, 1952, How to Be a Detective is without a doubt, one of the best Goofy cartoons ever produced. An over-the-top send up of Hollywood’s dark crime noir genre, it is as irreverent as it is hilarious.

The Goof is cast as Private Eye Johnny Eyeball, who is paid a fast $100 by a “classy dame” to simply “find Al.” He is quickly confronted by Pete in the role of a homicide detective who tries to warn him off the case. He then finds himself consistently at odds with a “suspicious character” who closely resembles one of the weasels from the Wind in the Willows sequence of Icabod and Mr. Toad. Eyeball finds himself subsequently being drugged, machine gunned, fitted with cement shoes and thrown in the river, dropped down an elevator shaft, and kicked out of the morgue (“Beat it! And don’t come back ‘til you’re ready!”)

Comically violent images abound. Take for instance the window actions near the beginning of the short:It’s enough to send a soccer mom on boycotting and letter-writing rampages. Fears of just such actions pretty much kept How to Be a Detective locked up in the vault until its release on the Disney Treasures Complete Goofy DVD a few years ago.

Crazy criminal activity aside, the short sports some outstanding art direction. There are some top notch backgrounds that really evoke the crime film genre that is the target of the cartoon’s humor--

The opening bridge toss:

The eerie, rundown house on the hill:

And the seedy Al’s Joint saloon:

. . . are just a few great examples.

In the end, the case is of course solved, and more by happenstance than by the efforts of Johnny Eyeball. An all around great cartoon and one of the studio's better efforts from the 1950s.