Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Freeze Frame! - A Trail Mix-Up Mystery

2719 Hyperion reader Jason Saldivar contacted me after last week's Rollercoaster Rabbit Freeze Frame! to point out another great Roger Rabbit detail, this one in the 1993 cartoon Trail Mix-Up. When Roger goes into a full-blown panic over a very small bug, the green-fumed insecticide he uses carries the brand name "MINK-OFF." This is a clever tribute to Rob Minkoff, the film's co-executive producer. Minkoff also worked as an animator on several Disney features including The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective and The Little Mermaid.

Jason also presented me with a Freeze Frame! mystery of sorts when he pointed out this other very interesting detail also from Trail Mix-Up. During the sawmill sequence, a small wanted poster featuring the picture of young boy flashes past in a real blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment. Just who is this unidentified lad?

I have to admit that up until just moments before putting together this post, I was still stymied. Then recognition suddenly dawned on me. The reference is as equally obscure as its moment in the film.
The character is from the Disney-produced 1992 animated short Off His Rockers. Here's a description of the film from Dave Smith's Disney A-Z:

Special experimental cartoon, making some use of computer animation; released on July 17, 1992. The magical tale of a young boy who has abandoned his faithful rocking horse playmate in favor of the latest video games. Unwilling to be "put out to pasture," the wooden horse uses some inventive and hilarious means to remind his fickle friend of the great times they used to have when his imagination was free to roam. Soon the boy is back in the saddle again as he gallops off into the sunset in search of exciting new adventures.

The connecting thread between Off His Rockers and Trail Mix-Up? Both cartoons were produced at Disney-MGM Studios and both were directed by Barry Cook. Cook would go on to direct Mulan, also produced at the Florida studio.

Off His Rockers was released in theaters with the Disney feature Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, and was subsequently included on the laser disc edition of that same film. It has been by-and-large unseen outside of those two presentations.

Thanks again to Jason for forwarding all this on. And for another fun Freeze Frame! from Trail Mix-Up, check this earlier post from right here at 2719.

Images © Walt Disney Company

Monday, July 30, 2007

Buy n Large

This is very, very cool.

Go to buynlarge.com. Take a look around.

Sure, I'm biased, but who cares. Pixar is amazing.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Goodbye to Toad Hall

The deed to Toad Hall was an extremely important element in The Wind in the Willows segment of the Disney feature film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and this very hidden detail from the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction in Disney’s World’s Magic Kingdom pays homage to its significance. In the geography of the show building, Owl’s house replaced the Toad Hall setting from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and hence, this framed picture of Toad relinquishing his property claim. Nearby, another picture depicts Moley posing with Pooh

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Marty Called--Wants Changes!

2719 Hyperion reader and former Walt Disney World cast member Brent Levy was kind enough to pass on this terrific detail from Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress. Brent is a former Haunted Mansion cast member and College Program alumnus; he is currently the Disney College Program Campus Representative at James Madison University. Brent is also the author of the Daily Dose of Disney Trivia Blog.

What's so special in this scene from the show's final Christmas-themed vignette? Let's take a closer look:
A note tacked to the nearby bulletin board reads "MARTY CALLED--WANTS CHANGES!" The reference is quite obvious to Disney Legend and longtime Imagineer Marty Sklar, who's had a creative hand in every incarnation of the attraction since its debut at the 1964-65 New York Worlds Fair. The note is a very tongue-in-cheek homage to the many changes the attraction has experienced over the course of the last four decades.

Big thanks to Brent for sending this on, and also to Brent's cast member friend who provided the picture. And be sure to head on over to Brent's blog to get your "Daily Dose."

Friday, July 27, 2007

In the Bag - July 27, 1956

Rarely will you see the 1956 Humphrey Bear cartoon In the Bag discussed or even acknowledged in scholarly animation circles. It exists without the presence of a major Disney cartoon star such as Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, and was produced during the late 1950s, when animated short subjects were beginning their slow but steady march to the precipice of near-extinction. Yet this little underrated gem of a film stands as one of the studio's funnier efforts. And its little piece of George Brun's produced music has kept it alive in the memories of countless viewers since it was released on this day some fifty-one years ago.

First you stick a rag, put in the bag, bump bump
Then you bend your back, put it in the sack, bump bump
That's the way it's done, it's a lot of fun, bump bump
Cuttin' capers puttin' papers in the bag

That little ditty has survived in the subconscious minds of so many. Few remember the lyrics beyond the exaggerated "bump bumps" but they can clearly hum the tune and mimic the hip action of Humphrey and his pals. The song became so popular, it inspired a Mickey Mouse Club recording entitled the "Humphrey Hop."In the Bag was the second of only two cartoons to headline the character of Humphrey Bear and costar Ranger J. Audobon Woodlore, both of whom had attained some measures of success in a number of Donald Duck shorts. The short centers on the Ranger's efforts to clean up a litter-strewn Brownstone Park by cleverly tricking the resident bears into "playing a game" that will effectively take care of the mess. Failing that, he bribes them all with a meal of chicken cacciatore. Humphrey is ultimately left "holding the bag" and his efforts to clean up his assigned section are portrayed in a series of gags and pratfalls, and feature a hilarious cameo from another famous bear of 1950s popular culture.

What is especially notable about In the Bag is that it was one of only a few CinemaScope cartoon shorts produced by Disney. It has been only with its inclusion in the Disney Treasures Rarities DVD set that viewers have finally been able to see it in its original widescreen theatrical format.

Director Jack Hannah and his crew very specifically composed In the Bag for CinemaScope, and it's striking to see their results in a presentation that hasn't fallen victim to cropping and pan-and-scan revisions. As the following screen shots illustrate, it is easy to see how Hannah's original designs for the film were severely compromised in subsequent television and home video appearances. In any of these examples, imagine one third of the screen effectively cut away:

Clever, funny and well realized in its cartoon modern style and widescreen presentation, In the Bag stands as one of those off-the-radar productions that still compares favorably to many of the studio's better known and more historically recognized animated shorts.

Images © Walt Disney Company

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Desktop Retro: The Orange Bird

After receiving great acclaim last week from 2719 readers, Dan Cunningham returns this week with an amazing and beautiful desktop design that celebrates another fondly remembered bit of Walt Disney World nostalgia.

The Orange Bird was another prominent icon of the resort's first decade. Just this week, Wade Sampson posted a terrific and very comprehensive article on MousePlanet that details the history of this now relatively little know Disney character. And be sure to check out Foxxfur's fun Orange Bird post over at Passport to Dreams Old and New.

(Above will link to 800x600)



Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Snapshot! - Gadgets and Gizmo's Aplenty

Crazy contraptions and wacky gizmo's are the order of the day at Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney Marketplace. Mickey and Minnie take to the air in one of many flying machines that can be found both inside and outside of the World of Disney store.

Disney Says No to Smoking in Movies

I just received the following press release via email from Disney Corporate Communications. Very interesting news indeed:


BURBANK, Calif., July 25, 2007 -- The Walt Disney Company today made a commitment to U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the House Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee, that it will discourage depictions of cigarette smoking in its films and will place an anti-smoking PSA on DVD's of any future film that does depict smoking. Further, Disney will work with theater owners to encourage the exhibition of an anti-smoking PSA before the theatrical exhibition of any such film.

In a letter sent to Representative Markey today, Disney President and CEO Robert A. Iger said, "The Walt Disney Company shares your concern regarding deaths due to cigarette smoking. We discourage depictions of cigarette smoking in Disney, Touchstone and Miramax films. In particular, we expect that depictions of cigarette smoking in future Disney branded films will be non-existent. In response to your suggestion, our Company will place an anti-smoking PSA on DVD's of any future film that does depict cigarette smoking."

"Disney's decision to take a stand against smoking is groundbreaking and I commend CEO Bob Iger for this important commitment. Now it's time for other media companies to similarly kick the habit and follow Disney?s lead," said Representative Markey.

According to the American Lung Association, cigarette smoking has been identified as the most important source of preventable morbidity and premature mortality worldwide. Smoking-related diseases claim an estimated 438,000 American lives each year and approximately 90 percent of smokers begin smoking before the age of 21.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Addressing Some Frontierland Crates

Imaginneers just love getting clever with crates.

We just recently addressed some of the crates in the Jungle Cruise dock area here at 2719. Fellow Disney blogger Jessica at If You Can Dream It . . . recently deciphered a number of movie-related crates located near Echo Lake in Disney-MGM Studios. Today we head over to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and look into a few "crate mysteries" in Frontierland.

The crates in question are located near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the dock to Tom Sawyer Island. And literature seems to be the common theme shared by all three of them.

Two bear direct connections to nearby Tom Sawyer Island. S. L. Clemmons' Hannibal, Missouri address is authentic. 208 Hill Street is location of Mark Twain's boyhood home.

The crate addressed to Dr. Robinson of St. Petersburg, Missouri is a direct reference to a character in Twain's novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Tom and Huck Finn witness the murder of Robinson at the hands of Injun Joe in one of the story's memorable scenes.

Henry's Horseshoes is possibly a reference to another American writer, Newberry Award winner Marguerite Henry, whose many horse-themed children's novels are frequently referred to as the "horseshoes." Among her more famous books were Misty of Chincoteague, Brighty of the Grand Canyon, and Justin Morgan Had a Horse. Disney produced the movie version of Justin Morgan Had a Horse in 1972.

The 21st century begins October 1, 1982

With October 1st looming ever closer, I thought it was time to get back to our celebration of the 25th Anniversary of EPCOT Center. In doing so, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the pre-opening publicity materials provided throughout 1981 and 1982.

This particular brochure was sent out to members of the Magic Kingdom Club who had booked a vacation and were traveling to Walt Disney World prior to EPCOT's opening. It is an amazing encapsulation of what the Walt Disney Company's vision of EPCOT was, and showcases the park's overriding themes of forward-thinking idealism and international community. I have reprinted the text passages under each image for easier reading.

Travel to the frontiers of imagination and discover the EPCOT Adventure.

EPCOT Center: The newest Wonder of the World
A few miles from the Magic Kingdom — and beyond the boundaries of imagination — Walt Disney's greatest dream is becoming reality. EPCOT Center opens October 1, 1982. A showplace more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center represents the ultimate in Disney-imagineered entertainment. An entertainment experience that will thrill your most "thrillable" sense of all — imagination.

Come ... imagine yourself the EPCOT traveler, exploring the corridors of time and the countries of this world today. Discovering exhilarating new visions of the future and the family of man.

Future World

Travel the corridors of time and discover the future.

Standing 180 feet above the entrance, its reflective surface fired by the Florida sun, EPCOT Center's colossal globe is your gateway to Future World. It is the largest structure of its kind anywhere, a dazzling statement to the extraordinary wonders that await you. Wonders in energy. In communications. In transportation. In the limitless potential of the seas... the land ... and most of all, in the limitless potential of human imagination to chart the course for this, our Spaceship, Earth.

Travel the realms of Future World and discover each of these wonders brought to life through the marvelous wizardry of Disney imagineering. Imagineering pushed to unprecedented heights for shows and adventures never before possible on such a grand scale. For you, an entertainment encounter of the ultimate kind.

Spaceship Earth
Spiral through the vast interior of the EPCOT Center globe aboard Spaceship Earth, presented by the Bell System. You're on a time journey from the dawn of recorded history to the sunrise of another future. Under the starry blackness of the world's largest projection dome, you'll see Earth as few have seen it before — a Spaceship adrift in the midnight sky.

Universe of Energy
The creation of fossil fuel out of the chaos of storms, volcanoes and earthquakes is part of the drama that surrounds you on your voyage through the Universe of Energy, presented by Exxon. Set within a solar-powered building the size of three football fields, this electrifying show will dazzle you with some of the most sophisticated special effects ever developed — putting you in the center of the action on your energy chase to the future.

A kaleidoscope of lights from a futuristic city-scape sets in motion the grand finale of your travels through the Transportation Pavilion, presented by General Motors. The pavilion is large enough to cover all the Magic Kingdom's Main Street, U.S.A., and presents one of the most whimsical "road shows" ever — a tongue-in-cheek adventure past the milestones of man's ever-accelerating mobility.

The Land
In the six-acre Land Pavilion, presented by Kraft, you'll explore Nature in both her wildest and most cultivated states You'll see actual experiments in futuristic farming, like lettuce thriving in outer space, tomatoes growing from ceilings and melons from walls. Plus, you'll enjoy a zany cast of incredible edibles serving up some of the most palatable entertainment this side of the refrigerator.

EPCOT Computer Central
EPCOT Computer Central, presented by Sperry Univac, is one of the many exhibits in Communicore — Future World's global Main Street of ideas and inventions. Here, you'll have a first­hand look at the computer wizardry that helps make Disney imagineering possible.

Journey Into Imagination
Almost castle-like in grandeur, the Imagination Pavilion, presented by Kodak, is the fantasyland of Future World. From the Dreamport, you'll follow Dreamfinder and his delightful sidekick, Figment, into the wondrous worlds; of art, literature, science and technology. In lmageWorks, a fun-packed electronic factory, you'll try your own hand at creative experiments. Then enter the Magic Journeys Theatre for a multi-dimensional motion picture of almost unimaginable scope.

New Horizons
An underwater colony is one of the future habitats highlighting your journey through New Horizons, presented by General Electric, In the Omnimax Theatre, you'll spiral through eight-story-high projections of the macro and micro worlds that form the building blocks of our future. And you'll take a whimsical look backwards at the tomorrows imagined by visionaries of the past.

World Showcase

Travel the countries of the world and discover the family of man.

Imagine in one day... you've breakfasted on tea and biscuits in England... followed the roads leading to Rome. Lunched in a Bavarian Beer Garden during Oktoberfest. Explored the interior marvels of a Mayan pyramid. Crossed the vast expanse of Canada and the Great Wall of China. Relaxed by a clear blue pond in the formal gardens of a Japanese pagoda. Dined in gourmet splendor under a moonlit Eiffel Tower. And watched more than 350 years of American history come to life in one of the most inspiring theatrical experiences ever conceived.

In World Showcase, you will do all this and more. Here, amidst nations standing in friendship beside a broad lagoon, you'll live adventures that only weeks of world travel could surpass. You'll explore shops filled with unusual foreign goods. Dine in restaurants filled with the aroma of authentic foreign foods. And meet the young people of foreign lands, working together in a true family of man.

American Adventure
In the American Adventure, presented by American Express and Coca-Cola, you'll join Ben Franklin and Mark Twain for a soaring historical overview of America and her promising future. Perhaps the most breathtaking show ever presented about "the nation of many nations," the American Adventure is a theatrical production unparalleled in Disney annals — combining large-screen projection, inspiring music and special effects with performances by, the most lifelike AudioAnimatronic figures ever developed.

A giant red Torii proclaims good luck as you pass the massive gateway to the Japan pavilion. Beyond it, an ornate pagoda invites you to explore beautiful Japanese gardens. The towers of an impressive feudal castle loom in the background. And in a large department store presenting the best in Japanese art and industry, you'll enjoy an exciting adventure in Oriental dining prepared at your table by Japanese master chefs.

From a northwest Indian village to a 19th century French chateau and the winding, narrow streets of Quebec City, the remarkable diversity of Canadian cultures and the awesome majesty of the wilderness are captured in Canada pavilion.

United Kingdom
Green lawns, gabled rooftops, shops along cobblestone streets and a charming waterside pub provide a typically "British" setting for the United Kingdom pavilion.

In the China pavilion, you'll be surrounded by Circle Vision 360 presenting spectacular — never before filmed — footage of the dramatic landscapes, architecture and culture of the People's Republic.

Surrounded by picturesque medieval shops filleg with porcelain dolls, cuckoo clocks and hand- carved music boxes, a Bavarian Beer Garden; in the midst of a continuous Oktoberfest celebration is the centerpiece of the Germany pavilion.

Beyond the tall Mayan pyramid of the Mexico pavilion, you'll enter a lakeside pueblo village complete with shops, a restaurant and a grumbling volcano spewing lava in the background. You'll then embark on a boat ride through Mexico's colorful past, discovering along the way the festival and dance of the great Mayan, Toltec and Aztec civilizations.

The flavor and romance of Paris at the turn of the last century come to life in the France pavilion, where your discoveries include the marketplace des Holies, small Parisian shops and a bistro and sidewalk cafe presenting the classic cuisines of three internationally famous French chefs.

A Venetian canal takes you to St. Mark's Square at the Italy pavilion. Handcrafted leather goods, pottery and glass figurines fill the shops. In an exquisite facsimile of the world famous Doge's Palace, you'll find a treasure-trove of fine art, jewelry and crystal, plus a splendid Italian restaurant operated by Alfredo's The Original of Rome.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Freeze Frame! - Rollercoaster Rabbit

The Roger Rabbit 1990 cartoon Rollercoaster Rabbit is classic on many levels, not least of which are a number of moments truly worthy of Freeze Frame status. Within seconds of the short's beginning, there are homages in the form of sideshow attraction posters to two Disney animated classics. While The Little Mermaid reference is pretty direct, the "wooden boy" reference to Pinocchio is not quite as obvious.Moments later, one of Disney's earliest supporting cartoon players makes a quick cameo appearance. Clarabelle Cow is cast as the carnival's resident psychic.

Finally, the cartoon's most clever inside joke is likely the moment when it's makers slyly pointed out their own home turf. When Roger and Baby Herman make their extremely exaggerated descent from the coaster's highest drop, they're heading straight back to central Florida and Disney-MGM Studios, where Rollercoaster Rabbit was created and produced.

Images © Walt Disney Company

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Variety Anticipates Little Mermaid on Broadway

Variety's web site provides some background on the Disney's upcoming stage adaptation of The Little Mermaid. The show will preview in Denver from August 23 to September 9, before heading to New York for its Broadway debut December 9. A solid article that addresses the numerous challenges facing the production, most notable of which is following Beauty and the Beast into the Lunt-Fontanne theatre following its hugely successful 13 year run.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Souvenirs: Hollywood Pennants

I have not been good about maintaining my Souvenirs Department here at 2719 Hyperion, especially considering the sheer volume of Disney theme park memorabilia that adorns my walls and clutters my household. One of my earliest posts from back in the fall featured one of my favorite types of souvenirs, the now largely extinct pennant. Once a mainstay of places like Main Street's Emporium and EPCOT Center's Centorium, the pennant has pretty much all but vanished from Disney theme park shops.

These particular examples date back to 1988 and 1989 and showcase Disney-MGM Studios. In those early days of the park, while the water tower was largely considered to be the Studio's iconic symbol, the graphic of Mickey Mouse holding the clapboard was the image that was featured on the vast majority of merchandise and marketing materials. This went back all the way to much of the park's pre-opening materials including the pennant pictured above.

I would venture to guess that a substantial amount of current guests to Disney-MGM Studios do not bother with the Backlot Tour and Catastrophe Canyon. Yet in those early days before Muppet*Vision 3D, Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Rollercoaster, Catastrophe Canyon was a true headliner attraction, as this particluar pennant reflects.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Doom (and Hopeful Rebirth) of California Adventure

John Frost delivers an excellent assessment on The Disney Blog of why Disney's California Adventure was extremely problematic and essentially doomed from its inception. The desire to court the Asian market was something I had never been aware of:

"But, in order to understand why the second gate has been such a failure you have to understand what its purpose was in the first place. Disney Management wanted to expand Disneyland from a 1-2 day experience to a 3-4 day experience for out of town visitors. They also wanted to recapture a market they had been slowly losing to Las Vegas... the Asian market. These money laden customers used to stop at Disneyland as part of their trip to Las Vegas, but when Las Vegas launched their huge themed hotel expansion, Disneyland lost a little of its uniqueness and became an option instead of a destination."

DCA, and the subsequent missteps of Disney Studios Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland represent a very distinct low point in the history of Disney theme parks. DCA's billion dollar "relaunch" is certainly a hopeful sign, not just for that park, but for all the Walt Disney Company operated theme parks.

Desktop Retro: Walt Disney World

2719 Hyperion reader and graphic designer Dan Cunningham made the very generous offer to share with us a wonderful desktop he designed. Dan transports us back in time to Walt Disney World's first decade with this beautiful, retro-inspired wallpaper. This particular graphic was iconic to anyone who visited the Resort during the 1970s. Big thanks to Dan for allowing us to dress up our screens with a little bit of true Walt Disney World nostalgia.

(Above will link to 800x600)



Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Snapshot! - Trouble on the Frontier

Today's Snapshot! feature comes to us courtesy of friend and fellow blogger Foxxfur from Passport to Dreams Old and New.

I spend too much time looking at details at Disney parks, and if you doubt me, you should see that one time I wrote about those weird fake skylights but that’s a story for another day. Still, you’d think that of all those years of staring down lighting fixtures (the moment I realized that the Keel Boats and the 20K queues shared the same lamp design was a highlight), you’d think I’d bother to actually look at the entrance gate to Frontierland. Nope. One log stockade is more or less like another, right?

No! Look closely! What’s that up top?

Well I’ll be! Looks like there’s gonna be some shootin’ here sometime soon!

This really blew my mind when I first saw it. Is this really just because the shooting gallery is nearby? Perhaps its’ a dry run for Fort Sam Clemens on Tom Sawyer Island? Perhaps a lone holdout pioneer, determined to stop those crazy saloon girls from crossing the Little Mississippi (the tiny creek that flows under the Frontierland-Liberty Square bridge)? The possibilities are endless!

My theory? I like to think its Lee Van Cleef.

…Ok, maybe that was too silly

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

52 Years Young at Heart

"The idea of Disneyland is a simple one. It will be a place for people to find happiness and knowledge. It will be a place for parents and children to share pleasant times in one another's company; a place for teachers and pupils to discover greater ways of understanding and education. Here the older generation can recapture the nostalgia of days gone by, and the younger generation can savor the challenge of the future. Here will be the wonders of Nature and Man for all to see and understand. Disneyland will be based upon and dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and hard facts that have created America. And it will be uniquely equipped to dramatize these dreams and facts and send them forth as a source of courage and inspiration to all the world. Disneyland will be sometimes a fair, an exhibition, a playground, a community center, a museum of living facts, and a showplace of beauty and magic. It will be filled with accomplishments, the joys and hopes of the world we live in. And it will remind us and show us how to make these wonders part of our own lives."

-Walt Disney

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Snapshot! - Paper Just a Little Extra

The Anandapur area of Disney's Animal Kingdom literally overflows with details. The Ekis Hotel offers all the amenities of a luxurious upscale Asian resort. Paper just a little extra.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

We Tow the Stars!

It's been awhile since we featured a desktop design, so here's a bit of fun from Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World.

Posts will be light over the weekend as we head to MagicMeets this Saturday in Harrisburg, PA. I very much look forward to meeting any 2719 readers who will be in attendance. I'll likely be garbed in 2719 Hyperion regalia so please say hi if you see me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Blue Sky Disney: The Success of Failure

If you are not reading Honor Hunter's Blue Sky Disney blog, you are missing out on some of the most insightful commentary currently being written about the Walt Disney Company. His current post, The Success of Failure, carries an insiders' perspective pedigree, but reaches conclusions that run a bit counter to those of other Internet Disney pundits. There are two sides to every coin and Honor provides views of the current happenings in Burbank, Glendale and Emeryville that are both refreshing and encouraging. Take a look if you haven't already.

How to Land on an Aircraft Terrier

When guests zip through the queue area at Goofy's Barnstormer in Mickey's Toontown Fair at Walt Disney World, many fail to notice that Wiseacre Farms is also the home of Fido's Fearless Flight School Fur Cats and Dogs. Members of the school's distinguished faculty include Bold Yeller, Kitty Hawk, Amelia Airdale, Charles Lindcat and Eddie Von Ricken-barker. Don't forget to check the class schedule before boarding your Multiflex Octoplane.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

In the Land of the Peeweegah

Gemstone Publishing has just released the first volume of a new comic book series that features the work of their two most notable and famous comic creators, the legendary Carl Barks, and contemporary Duck scribe Don Rosa. Rosa has always used Bark’s body of Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories as the foundation and inspiration for his own efforts over the past twenty years, often penning direct sequels to many of the Duckman’s epic adventures. Each issue of the ongoing Barks-Rosa Collection will bring an original Barks endeavor and its subsequent Rosa sequel together in one publication.

The just-released first volume pairs Barks’ classic 1957 Uncle Scrooge adventure The Land of Pygmy Indians with Rosa’s 1990 The War of the Wendigo.

While one does not normally associate America’s post-war years with eco-friendly attitudes and conservation-based movements, Carl Barks certainly and not-so-subtlety infused The Land of Pygmy Indians with environmentally-conscious sensibilities. The conflict between industrialization and conservation is encapsulated in Uncle Scrooge, who in the story’s opening panel, rages about Duckburg’s “smog and noise and shoving people,” and expresses his desire to relocate to an unspoiled land free of roads, cities, factories and people. Yet, just a few panels later after Scrooge has purchased a large tract of northern wilderness from Sidewalk Sam the Real Estate Man, Scrooge acknowledges to himself that he is the one responsible for the “chemical gases, smelter smoke and factory fumes” that permeate Duckburg. It touches on the same “we have met the enemy and it is us” supposition that fellow cartoonist and Disney alumnus Walt Kelly brought to his famous Pogo comic strip years later.
This theme continues as Scrooge, accompanied by Donald and the nephews, heads north to survey his newly acquired property. As the group marvels at sapphire blue lakes and beautiful natural vistas, Scrooge finds himself instinctively identifying the region’s untapped resources that are just begging for exploitation.

The Peeweegah Indians emerge from this wilderness and quite rightly question the motivations of the paleduck visitors. Scrooge, despite attempting to repress his crass commercialism, still insists that he is the land’s rightful owner. The Peeweegah chief disputes these claims in an eloquent oration spoken in rhythms inspired by Longfellow’s classic The Song of Hiawatha poem:
By whom was this token given?
By whose hand these written scratches?
Did the sun from high above you
Sell you all these lands and waters?

Did the winds that bend the pine trees?
Did the snows that fall in winter?
Did the rain shower or the lightning
Sign away these forests to you?

Me no believe that such a token
Would be honored by the fishes
By the creatures of the forest
By the birds we call our brothers
In the land of the Peeweegahs!

None could sign away these woodlands,
None could have the right or reason,
But the chiefs of all the brothers
In a powwow with the seasons!
Scrooge is forced to prove his not-so-sincere intentions by the standard trial by fire ritual, in this case besting the King Sturgeon, a giant villainous fish that terrorizes both the peaceful Peeweegahs and the local wildlife as well. Naturally it is Donald, the paleducks’ champion, who ultimately must challenge and bring about the sturgeon’s defeat.

It is no small irony that the sturgeon is vanquished using the very resources that Scrooge so desperately covets. The ever resourceful nephews concoct a pill comprised of the “oxide of strombolium” made of materials Scrooge has been lovingly sifting from the area’s soil. When Scrooge is later made ill and driven back to Duckburg by a drag on a peace pipe laced with the very same elements, that same irony is revisited again. In the tale’s final panels, Scrooge revels in Duckburg’s toxic pollution he initially sought so desperately to escape.

Don Rosa returned Scrooge, Donald and the nephews to the northern wilderness of Canada in The War of the Wendigo, and the environmental concerns of the late 20th century became the focal point of this story still set in Barks’ postwar duck universe. Rosa always made a point of keeping his stories grounded in a 1950s time frame, maintaining consistency with Barks original stories. When the nephews astutely identify “acid rain” at one point in the story, it bears the tone of a newly coined term rather than an established idiom. Let’s face it, when recognizing ecological issues, the Junior Woodchucks were literally decades ahead of their time.

Traveling to Ontario to inspect his paper mills, Scrooge and the boys are drawn into the mystery of the Wendigo, legendary gremlins of the north woods. The Wendigo in fact turn out to be the Peeweegah, who with their animal brethren are sabotaging one of Scrooge’s main mills. The mill is spewing pollutants that are impacting the Peeweegah’s native lands, the same lands Scrooge had vowed to preserve and protect. After the Peeweegah kidnap Scrooge to hold him accountable for his perceived betrayal, the mill’s plant manager, Ravage DeFlora quickly sets in motion a plan to plunder the Great North’s natural resources and spread devastation.

Though the resulting climax involves a large scale revolt on the part of Mother Nature’s normally passive creatures and the destruction of the paper mill, it is once again the Peeweegah chief who provides Scrooge with some much needed wisdom and perspective:

Oh, paleface duck of big wampum,
How you think you got your riches?
Did man put gold in the Yukon
For you to dig out with shovel?

Did man fill you mines with diamonds?
Did man fill your wells with oil?
Did man plant the ancient forests
That turned to coal for your digging?

Scrooge Mac-Duck, you owe your riches
To the Mother Nature spirit!
This day spirit has decided
To take back this tiny portion!
With lessons hopefully learned, Scrooge vows to “install pollution controls in all his factories” and “plant two trees for everyone he cuts.” But it is the words of a Junior Woodchuck in the story’s final panel that reflects a contemporary reality that extends beyond any comic book story:

“Do you think Unca Scrooge will ever learn to appreciate the non-financial profits?”

It is the same question that we in the 21st century must ask when confronting those inconvenient truths similar to the ones Scrooge McDuck encountered in the land of the Peeweegah.
Uncle Scrooge Adventures: The Barks/Rosa Collection Volume 1 is available to order from the popular online booksellers, as well as directly from Gemstone Publishing.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sweeping Up Around the World

For secondary characters who experienced a minimal amount of screen time, these guys are everywhere.

I'm speaking of the enchanted brooms from Fantasia. After doing the post about Fantasia Gardens a few days back, I realized that these guys have popped up in numerous places throughout Walt Disney World. From the garbage cans in Mickey's Toontown Fair (pictured above) to the greenery in front of the Brown Derby in Disney-MGM Studios to their distinct role in Mickey's PhilharMagic, these one-time second bananas are literally sweeping up all over the resort. I'm certain there are quite a few more places I'm not remembering. Send in your broom sightings via the comments section. Let's see how many we can find.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Lost Imagineering: A Happy, Fun American Adventure

An American Adventure not unlike El Rio del Tiempo or It’s a Small World?

Interestingly enough, one of the early ideas for World Showcase’s host pavillion, was a far cry from the elaborate theater presentation that Imagineers ultimately produced.

In an interview a few years prior to his tragic death in 1990, American Adventure show producer and Disney Legend Randy Bright said this about one of the attraction’s abandoned concepts:

“We went through six abject failures before we got to an American Adventure that we all felt comfortable with, which ultimately became what we have today. For example, one designer decided that the American Adventure should be a happy, fun ride-through with audio-animatronic vignettes of characters singing patriotic American songs as you go through”

Concept art featured a more comical Ben Franklin as part of a fireworks display, Paul Bunyan with his blue ox Babe, and an odd scene of a cowboy and Indian shaking hands while a movie camera films in the background.

Most Disney fans are more familiar with the Imagineers’ original intention to have Will Rogers serve as the show’s third host, along side Ben Franklin and Mark Twain, with each one representing a century in the country’s history. Bright told of how they took that idea to a college class consisting of 150 political science students, of which only five knew who Will Rogers was. Rogers was then quickly relegated to a small supporting role. Roughly three hundred other historical figures were considered before they ultimately gave up on the idea of a 20th century host.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Not-So-Magic Wand

I am somewhat incredulous at the notion of people who, in defending the infamous Mickey hand and wand that has adorned Spaceship Earth at Epcot all these recent years, take to task those who were generally in favor of its removal. This tactic, to label those who disliked the structure as crazy, out-of-touch purists is a bit extreme and very much misrepresents many who have articulated sound, rational and educated opinions on the matter.

To begin with, let me just say that I never hated the Wand. It was an eye-catching, festive adornment that enhanced Epcot’s position as the center point of Walt Disney World’s Millennium Celebration. It had a New Years Eve party style to it that directly related to the festivities it represented. I viewed it in the same manner that I viewed the birthday caked-themed Cinderella castle back in 1996—a fun, short term bit of whimsy. Nothing more. Nothing less.

But unlike similar “temporary” redecorations over the years, the Wand remained. There have been mountains of speculation as to why. Marketing strategies, branding and financial issues have all been cited at one time or another. But let’s face it, the decision to keep it there was never the result of creative sensibilities. Outside of a specific marketing strategy such as the Millennium Celebration, would such a structure have ever been seriously considered or executed otherwise?

No, and there is a very good and fundamental reason why, that seems to have gone largely unaddressed in this long and very often contentious debate. While Spaceship Earth is without question the iconic representation of Epcot, it is also an attraction with a very specific theme and purpose. And to create a long term aesthetic that in no way relates, and in many ways runs counter to that theme is just plain bad show.

Here is an excerpt from the 1982 book Walt Disney’s EPCOT that tongue-in-cheek addresses Spaceship Earth’s somewhat familiar nature, but at the same time explains how the overall theme and purpose of the attraction extends beyond its interior:

Now the sphere, 180 feet in diameter, rises some eighteen stories high—a stunning silver ball dominating the landscape for miles around, with little to rival its rotund majesty. Although at first sight it looks like nothing so much as a gargantuan golf ball on the putting green of the gods, it takes on another aspect as we begin to appreciate its purpose—to reproduce the form of our spaceship, the planet Earth.

You see, Spaceship Earth, both as the icon and the attraction, was designed with a very specific aesthetic in mind. It represents Earth, both physically and philosophically. And those representations are an integral part of the message it communicates. An oversize wand and hand would be inappropriate positioned over such attractions as Space Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for clear and obvious reasons. Why is it then acceptable to attach these embellishments to an attraction that is just as equally distinct in theme and purpose?

Because, Epcot just ain’t what it used to be. If you don’t like it, just shut up and leave.

This seems to be the common mantra lately of those who seem intent on characterizing anyone who acknowledges and respects EPCOT’s original guiding principles as irrational, misguided “foamers.” Many of these folk wear their disdain for pre-21st century Epcot like a proud emblem, deeming anything associated with the park that is beyond their frames of reference as irrelevant and unimportant. They consider Epcot’s original themes of futurism, forward-thinking idealism, education and international community passé and old fashioned, yet are at a loss to describe what their current perception of Epcot is or what they believe it is evolving into. So what if it becomes a collection of totally disconnected compartmentalized experiences. As long as each experience is well done and a successful crowd-pleaser, why is there a need for a central, overriding theme. And who needs those annoying underlying missions of education and technological innovation, anyway?

Epcot purists (as they are so frequently labeled) are not opposed to change. In fact, most agree that change is a necessity dictated by the very principals upon which Epcot was conceived. But changes to Epcot should be consistent with the concepts and themes brought forth by the very talented and remarkable individuals who were responsible for its creation in 1982.

Do I think the Wand was somehow emblematic of everything that’s wrong with Epcot? Of course not. It was just simply a marketing gimmick that had overstayed its welcome.