Monday, January 31, 2011

Exhibition Hall: Service With Character - Wave II

Our exploration of Disney-designed World War II-era insignia continues in this, our latest 2719 Hyperion Exhibition Hall exhibit.  Service With Character - Wave II: Whimsical Thought and Serious Intent presents forty more emblem designs culled from the pages of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories.  These particular insignia were featured in issues of the comic book published during the early part of 1943.  Included are the corresponding identifications and descriptions that appeared with each design.

Wave II includes a greater representation of established Disney characters.  Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto are all prominently featured, while Jose Carioca, Clara Cluck, the Big Bad Wolf and even a Fantasia broomstick were among other members of the Disney canon drafted into service.

The title of this exhibit is derived from the description for the insigne of the 117th CA GP (AA), affectionately dubbed "Annie Aircraft."  It noted that the design combined "whimsical thought and serious intent."  It seemed an appropriate description for the Disney Studio's overall efforts in providing insignia designs.

Service with Character - Wave II: Whimsical Thought and Serious Intent is currently on display in Exhibit Room 2W2.  Enjoy! 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

 Saturday at the Archives: In the Land of the Peeweegah
Editor's Note:  Our recent exploration of Disney's Little Hiawatha reminded us of the classic Carl Barks comic The Land of the Pygmy Indians, which also owed inspiration to Longfellow's epic poem.  We discussed both Barks' story and Don Rosa's sequel to it in this article from 2007.

In the Land of the Peeweegah
By Jeffrey Pepper
Originally published July 10, 2007

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.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Vintage Snapshots! - The Streets of Birthdayland

We have visited the locales of Mickey's Birthdayland quite a few times here at 2719 Hyperion, most recently showcasing Mickey's automobile in a recent Vintage Snapshot!  These two photographs highlight street signs that identified the various avenues of Birthdayland's Duckburg setting.  Of particular note is Hyperion Boulevard for obvious reasons.  If memory serves, there was also a sign that identified the corner of Barks and Nash, paying homage to comic book legend Carl Barks and longtime Donald Duck voice artist Clarance Nash.

Mickey's Birthdayland was hastily constructed in 1988 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the creation of Mickey Mouse.  It evolved into Mickey's Starland, and then after an extensive reconstruction, into Mickey's Toontown Fair.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Freeze Frame! - Young Jim Hawkins and Stitch

Relating to our recent Retro Review of Treasure Planet, we present this Freeze Frame that shows a certain pint-sized creature in residence at the Benbow Inn.  Lilo and Stitch preceded Treasure Planet into movie theaters by less than six months, but Treasure Planet background artists still manged to sneak in a reference to the furry blue alien near the beginning of the film.  A toy version of Stitch can be seen perched on a shelf  in Jim Hawkins' bedroom.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Retro Review: You're Going to Rattle the Stars, You Are

I just recently revisited Treasure Planet for the first time since its home video release in spring of 2003.  Even though I enjoyed the film very much when it was released in 2002, it faded rather quickly from my memory, no doubt in part due to its lukewarm critical reception and rather disastrous box office returns.  People for the most part, including even the most passionate of Disney fans, simply stopped talking about it.  It even seems that the Walt Disney Company itself has subtlety disowned it.

It deserves better.

Treasure Planet does have its passionate supporters of which I now include myself.  Voyages Extraordinaires author Cory Gross called the film an "unsung Disney classic" and noted, "It proposes a swashbuckling, romantic aesthetic for the Hubble Age that prefigured the popularity of Disney's pirate band and silhouettes them against beautiful novae and nebulae."  You can find Cory's intelligent and very articulate review of Treasure Planet here; he pretty much states all of the things about it that I wish I could have included here in this Retro Review.  Needless to say, I wholly agree with his conjecture that it is perhaps the company's most underrated film since Fantasia.  Similar to Fantasia, Treasure Planet, in concept, design and execution, was most certainly years ahead if its time.

I was drawn back to Treasure Planet, primarily due to my recent fascination with Victorian-Edwardian Scientific Romance and Retro-Futurism.  (Again, a nod to Cory and his Voyages Extraordinaires site, where I have been extensively educated in these matters, and in the nuances and ambiguities of what many people now refer to as "steampunk.")  My Hawkins Strongbox project reflects this passion, and my interest in matters of this regard can be easily traced back to the formative Disney years of my youth.  This was when I had only a passing interest in animation and had yet to experience a theme park, but was drawn like moth to flame to Disney live-action adventure films.  In Search of the Castaways and The Island at the Top of the World are among the Saturday matinee memories that I still cherish to this day, and I have no doubt that those experiences laid the subconscious groundwork for my most recent explorations into these aforementioned genres that encompass almost every known category of entertainment.  (Yes, there is even a steampunk category of music; check out Abney Park for starters.)

Treasure Planet is in my opinion, a creative amalgamation of themes attributed to three of the 19th century's most recognized authors of fantastic fiction: Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.  The connection to Stevenson is of course direct, being based on that author's classic adventure tale, Treasure Island.  From Verne and Burroughs come notions of space travel and otherworldly settings.  Treasure Planet filmmakers John Muskers and Ron Clements (writers-producers-directors) married these notions to some retro-modern technologies and crafted a stunning and often visually complex masterpiece, for which they have never been given enough credit.

One consistent criticism of the film is that it "lacked heart."  I have always found this to be a particularly shallow critical cliche and one all too easy to get away with.  Visually dynamic films frequently fall victim to this conjecture and Treasure Planet proved to be no exception.  The centerpiece of any Treasure Island adaptation is the relationship between the young Jim Hawkins and the always questionable Long John Silver.  Treasure Planet serves well that story element and brings to bear an emotional resonance that culminates with film's final interaction between the two characters.  Silver's journey of redemption rings especially true when he tells Jim with unabashed pride that, "You're going to rattle the stars, you are."

Hopefully in the years to come, Treasure Planet will shed some of the critical and box office baggage it has been forced to burden and move beyond the general apathy that continues to plague it.  It will certainly never receive the top-tier status afforded the likes of Snow White and Beauty and the Beast, but perhaps it will at least be able to rise to a more respectable level within the rankings of Disney animated features.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's a Privilege Just to Be Nominated . . .

Congratulations to director Lee Unkrich and the rest of the Pixar crew; Toy Story 3 scored some very notable Oscar nominations including Best Picture of the year.  It is also competing in the following categories: Adapted Screenplay, Original Song (We Belong Together), Sound Editing and of course, Animated Feature Film.

Other Disney-related nominations:  Alice in Wonderland for Art Direction, Costume Design and Visual Effects; Tron: Legacy for Sound Editing; Tangled for Original Song (I See the Light); and Pixar's Day and Night for Animated Short Film.

The 83rd Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, February 27.

Pana-Vue Slide: Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue

Our latest Pana-Vue Slide takes us across the lake and up the trail to Pioneer Hall at Walt Disney World's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.  Pana-Vue Slide WDW-905A showcases the very talented cast (1970s era) from the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.  An early Birnbaum Guide provided this colorful description of one of Walt Disney World's most popular entertainment venues:
"Sturdy, porch-rimmed Pioneer Hall is best-known Worldwide as the home of the energetic troupe of singing-and-dancing-and-wisecracking entertainers who keep audiences chuckling and grinning and whooping it up for 2 hours, during a procession of barbecued ribs, fried chicken, corn on the cob, strawberry shortcake, and other stomach-stretching viands"

Monday, January 24, 2011

What a Character! - Hiawatha (Little and Otherwise)

Should you ask me,
whence these stories?

It began as a simple eight-minute cartoon and then quietly blossomed into a low key four-color franchise that lasted close to two decades.  The concept would also feature prominently in an ambitious 1950s era slate of proposed animated features, only to fade back into obscurity almost as quickly as it emerged.  This is the legacy of the Disney version of Hiawatha, hero of verse as originated by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Longfellow penned The Song of Hiawatha in the mid-19th century.  He was inspired by Native American legends, mostly from the Ojibwe peoples in and around the upper Great Lakes region.  Ironically, the name Hiawatha was not in fact Ojibwe in origin; it referred to a historical personage associated with the Iroquois.  It was a mistake first made by early 19th century historian and ethnologist Henry Schoolcroft, and then subsequently perpetuated by Longfellow's epic poem.

The Song of Hiawatha has long been the object of parody, almost since its inception in 1855.  Walt Disney brought such parody to the movie screen, but in a more gentle manner with the 1937 Silly Symphony Little Hiawatha.  Disney employed typical Silly Symphony cherub-inspired design to its rendition of a very young Hiawatha, and the cartoon's narrator employed trochaic tetrameter, the same meter used by Longfellow in the original poem.  The cartoon is largely derived from just a few lines of The Song of Hiawatha:
Forth into the forest straightway
All alone walked Hiawatha
Proudly, with his bow and arrows;
And the birds sang round him, o'er him,
"Do not shoot us, Hiawatha!"
Sang the robin, the Opechee,
Sang the bluebird, the Owaissa,
"Do not shoot us, Hiawatha!"

Up the oak-tree, close beside him,
Sprang the squirrel, Adjidaumo,
In and out among the branches,
Coughed and chattered from the oak-tree,
Laughed, and said between his laughing,
"Do not shoot me, Hiawatha!" 

And the rabbit from his pathway
Leaped aside, and at a distance
Sat erect upon his haunches,
Half in fear and half in frolic,
Saying to the little hunter,
"Do not shoot me, Hiawatha!"
It is essentially here where Disney departed from Longfellow.  The more adolescent Hiawatha from the poem goes on to kill the red deer; the cartoon Hiawatha mixes it up with an angry bear and must be rescued by the small forest creatures that his literary counterpart largely ignores.  Longfellow's Hiawatha proudly bears home the fallen red dear with its impressive rack of antlers.  Little Hiawatha, prone to his pants dropping at inopportune moments, beats a hasty retreat from his overly ambitious hunting expedition.

Simultaneous to the development of the original Little Hiawatha cartoon, Walt Kelly and Grace Hunnington prepared an additional Hiawatha Silly Symphony entitled "Minnehaha," whose title character was an innocent and sweet young girl.  An adult Minnehaha was the lover of Hiawatha in the original Longfellow poem.  According to author Charles Solomon, "Kelly and Hunnington considered various adventures for their child characters.  Minnehaha might befriend small animals, spoiling Hiawatha's attempts to hunt them; she might fall into a river trying to rescue a doll and be saved by Hiawatha in a canoe.  Hiawatha might get caught in one of his own animal traps and escape injury by falling into a pile of blankets that Minnehaha had folded."  The proposed short went unrealized.

Although Little Hiawatha would never reappear again on the big screen after 1937, his tenure as an active Disney character was far from over. Beginning on November 10, 1940, Little Hiawatha became the star of the Silly Symphonies Sunday comic strip, distributed by Kings Features Syndicate.  The series was written by Hubie Karp and drawn by Bob Grant.  The strip introduced the character of Minnehaha, which was reportedly based on Walt Kelly's original designs.  The newspaper strips lasted until July 12, 1942 and were later reprinted in the Walt Disney's Comics and Stories comic book in issues #28-35.  In 1944, Minnehaha was the star of her own, albeit brief, series of stories in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories.  The series was entitled Little Minnehaha and consisted of three stories by writer-artist Roger Armstrong.  Little Hiawatha was a very prominent costar.

Little Hiawatha then took a seven year comic book hiatus before reemerging in a new series of stories in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, beginning in 1952.  These six-page stories were created by a variety of writers and artists and remain somewhat controversial due to some obvious ethnic stereotyping.  Gone was the pantomime and poetry of the earlier comic strips, replaced with language brimming with "me" pronouns and -um suffixes ("me want-um," "it look-um pretty awful").  The stories also featured Hiawatha's sister Sunflower and his father Big Chief, who was portrayed in a quite unflattering manner as an overweight and exceptionally lazy buffoon. The series was terminated in 1954 when the page count of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories was reduced from 52 to 36 pages.  Little Hiawatha was then showcased in four issues of Dell Four Color Comics through 1959, but beyond reprints and some one-page gags for Gold Key in the early 1970s, his comic book career essentially came to an end.

But Walt Disney did not in fact completely abandon Longfellow's character in regard to a big screen treatment beyond the original Silly Symphony and its unrealized sequel.  According to Charles Solomon, "The push to develop Hiawatha [as an animated feature] took place shortly after World War II.  A crew of artists led by Dick Kelsey sought to trim and reorganize Longfellow's sprawling 'Indian Edda' into a straight-forward story that could be told in a single film."

An Associated Press newspaper account from  September 12, 1948 discussed a proposed research trip by Kelsey to the Great Lakes Region:
Dick Kelsey, one of Disney chief staff artists will spend six weeks (starting Sept 25) touring the Great Lakes Region sketching and documenting the settings of Longfellow s famous narrative poem. His Itinerary includes Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, the shores of Lake Superior and Michigan, Ann Arbor, Lansing and Detroit across Lake Erie to Buffalo then through Rochester the Finger Lakes district the Mohawk Valley down the Hudson to New York and on to Washington for museum data.  Color camera records will supplement his sketches The finished cartoon likewise will be in color. Kelsey's will be no easy task in this modern era since he insists he will try to recapture both the spirit and the look of Hiawatha's land.  Every remaining forest, prairie, lake and river associated with the Indian legend will be visited by boat, automobile, train, horse or on foot, he declared.  He has arranged to study museum material in Chicago, St Paul, Minneapolis, and Rochester the American Museum of Natural History and the Heye Foundation in New York and the Smithsonian Institute and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington.  At Naples, NY he will confer with Dr. Arthur C. Parker, director emeritus of the Rochester Museum, an authority on American Indian life and lore.
Hiawatha production art by Dick Kelsey.

The project was developed as a very serious interpretation of the story, and it was potentially akin to Fantasia in terms of being somewhat high-brow.  Numerous individuals within the studio expressed strong concerns about the various treatments that were put forward, and according to Solomon, the project was abandoned sometime late in 1949.  However, newspaper accounts from as late as 1951 reported the project was still active.  The New York Times noted on August 26 of that year that:
. . . the animated 'Hiawatha' is coming right along, too.  It was learned that story and camera crews are back from scouring the Great Lakes country.  The hero of Longfellow's poem is to be an Indian superman, "a sort of God-man, very much like Persia's Zoraster," our informant explained.  "There'll be some romance, though, with what's-her-name--Minniehaha."
Had the feature version of Hiawatha come to fruition, it would have certainly marked a stark contrast to that cherubic little character that had emerged from the Silly Symphonies more than a decade before.  "Mighty little Hiawatha" would have finally had the opportunity to grow up.

Special acknowledgments to Charles Solomon and his book The Disney That Never Was as a resource for this article.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday at the Archives: Mount Disney - The Legacy of Walt at Sugar Bowl

Mount Disney: The Legacy of Walt at Sugar Bowl
By Jeffrey Pepper
Originally published March 6, 2008
Expanded for this Saturday at the Archives edition

Editor's Note:  Mount Disney: The Legacy of Walt at Sugar Bowl is easily one of my most favorite posts of everything I have written here at 2719 Hyperion.  Since publishing it in March of 2008, I found some additional resources on the subject and was able to in turn amend and expand the material.  It's a perfect fit for a cold and snowy winter weekend.  Enjoy!

Hide in plain sight.

As a student of Disney history I have come to embrace that particular cliche. Simple and almost always overlooked details in Disney entertainment can often lead to very enjoyable and enlightening journeys of historical discovery. I recently embarked on such a journey after watching the Goofy cartoon The Art of Skiing.

Released in late 1941, The Art of Skiing was the first of Goofy's many sports-related how-to shorts. The cartoon opens with a panoramic sweep of snow covered mountains, eventually focusing in on a rustic ski lodge, within which the Goof is awakening and subsequently preparing for a day on the slopes. A sign identifies the building as the Sugar Bowl Lodge. That identification lasted just a few seconds on the movie screen, but proved a window into a little remembered chapter in the life of Walt Disney.
In the late 1930s, Walt Disney met Austrian skiing champion Hannes Schroll. Walt became acquainted with Schroll while vacationing at Badger Pass where Schroll was the head of the Yosemite Ski School. The two became good friends. In 1938, Schroll and business partners purchased land for the intention of building a ski resort in the east Sierras near Donner's Summit and the small town of Truckee. The land encompassed an area around two mountains--Hemlock Peak and Mount Lincoln. Schroll had sought financial assistance from Disney in purchasing the land as funds from his native Austria had been appropriated in the spring of that year, when Hitler annexed that country. Schroll wired Disney in June seeking help; Walt was unfortunately out of town when the cable arrived and Schroll had to find others to advance the needed funds to secure the land purchase. One year later when Schroll was seeking additional investments to build the resort, he again approached Walt who in turn wrote Schroll a check for $2500, and became one of the initial stockholders of the newly christened Sugar Bowl resort. To honor Walt's support and partnership, Schroll changed the name of Hemlock Peak to Mount Disney.

Among the preeminent enticements that drew skiers to Sugar Bowl in those early years were the chairlift up Mount Disney, the first such lift in California; and the lodge, designed by architect William Wurster and later featured in the Goofy cartoon. A newspaper report from November of 1939 announced:

"The Sugar Bowl, located about 1 1/2 miles from Norden Station, near the Donner Summit, has been developed by a private corporation headed by Hannes Schroll, Olympic ski champion, for use this season as a winter sports area. This year a new upski and a new lodge have been constructed. The new chairlift lifts skiers 1,000 feet vertically to the top of the Sugar Bowl’s rim. The lodge, which will open on December 15, accommodates 40 persons and has 10 double rooms and two dormitories, one for men and one for women. Other features include a lounge, bar, dining hall, lunch counter and rest room facilities."

Newspaper reporter Bob Blake spotted Walt at Sugar Bowl on January 7, 1940.  Blake noted that, "Walt Disney arrived today without Donald Duck and started skiing immediately."

Walt vacationed at Sugar Bowl in early 1941 with wife Lillian and daughter Diane. A photograph survives showing the three with Hannes Schroll at the resort. Of that trip, Diane Disney Miller recalled, "That was a long time ago, and I seem to myself to have been 7. There were twins, boy and girl, who were the children of the manager, that were one year younger than me. I remember that I very much wanted to learn to ski, that the twins--the boy, at least--drove me crazy, and the highlight of the trip was when Hannes took me up the chair lift, with my parents, on Mount Disney and skied down with me on his shoulders."

In their book Skiing With Style, authors Robert Frohlich and S. E. Humphries related how Walt once performed duties beyond just his role of stockholder. According to John Wiley, the resorts first winter sports director, Walt once filled in for a bartender at the lodge's bar. Wiley recalled, "There was no television in those days, so he tended bar almost incognito for about two hours."

Other notable Hollywood personalities found their way to Sugar Bowl as well. Among them were Levi Strauss, King Vidor, Norma Shearer, Errol Flynn, Jean Arthur and Claudette Colbert.  A newspaper account from February of 1941 reported that a director name Ewing Scott had arrived at Sugar Bowl to begin work on a documentary about the history of skiing that was to be produced by Walt Disney.  The project went unrealized.  In spring on 1941, exterior scenes for the MGM film Two Faced Woman were shot at Sugar Bowl. The film starred Greta Garbo and Melvin Douglas, but the two never left their Hollywood studio. Stunt doubles skied in their places for the second unit filming.

The Art of Skiing was produced throughout 1941. It is interesting to note the now famous and trademark "Goofy yell" originated with Hannes Schroll. An accomplished yodeler, Schroll was recruited by Walt to record material for the cartoon. On December 19, 1941, a presentation of The Art of Skiing was held at the Fairmont Hotel in nearby San Francisco as part of the California Ski Association's first annual Skiers Ball. Walt and Lillian attended the event and introduced the cartoon.  One newspaper account described the showing as the film's world premiere, but it had in fact been released to theaters as early as November 12, 1941.

Despite turning away from the sport in later years, Walt remained a part of the resort for some time. He sponsored events such as the Disney Junior Challenge Trophy and the Sugar Bowl Perpetual Goofy Races for children. And the legacy of Walt's involvement with the resort remains apparent. In addition to Mount Disney, there are specific runs named the Disney Nose, the Disney Meadow, the Disney Return and the Donald Duck. A modernized lift replaced the original Disney Chair and is now called the Disney Express.

Walt revisited his interests in winter sports and skiing in the 1960s. He produced the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1960 Winter Olympics held at Squaw Valley, California, and at the time of his death was formulating plans for a ski resort at Mineral King valley near Sequoia National Park, a project ultimately unrealized.

Special thanks to Diane Disney Miller, David Lesjak and also Jennie Bartlett from Sugar Bowl for generously providing assistance in my research efforts.

Art of Skiing Images © Walt Disney Company
Sugar Bowl Images Courtesy of the Sugar Bowl Resort

Friday, January 21, 2011

Found Imagineering: A Mine Train and Storybook Circus

The most interesting new component of the redrawn Walt Disney World Fantasyland plans is certainly the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  This indoor coaster will supplant the Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty venues that were part of the original expansion plans.  According to Disney sources, this new Snow White-themed attraction will, " . . . take you on a rollicking, musical ride into the mine,” and, " . . . feature a first-of-its kind ride system with a train of ride vehicles that swing back and forth as they whisk along the track."

The existing Snow White's Scary Adventures will be no more, replaced with the Princess Fairytale Hall, an elaborate meet-and-greet featuring all the Disney Princesses.  I found this bit of news particularly disappointing.  While I am not in any way opposed to the elimination of the Snow White's Scary Adventures due to its evolution into a wholly new attraction, it is disheartening to learn that it will be replaced with yet another meet-and-greet location instead of a brand new dark ride.  When you consider that Disneyland is overflowing with unique Fantasyland dark rides (Pinocchio, Toad, Alice), what would be so difficult about creating another D-Ticket level attraction in Florida?

Surviving the revisions are the Beauty and the Beast restaurant and attraction venues that were previously announced.  These include the Be Our Guest Restaurant, Gaston's Tavern, Belle's Village and the Enchanted Tales with Belle interactive show.  The Dumbo-centric circus grounds also remain and have been formally named the Storybook Circus.  Details about this area are still somewhat ambiguous, although it has been confirmed that the Barnstormer coaster will be re-themed and feature Goofy as the "Great Goofini."  The existing Toontown Fair tents will be recycled and re-purposed as circus tents and contain, " . . . fun-filled interactive experiences for kids of all ages."  And of course, The Journey of the Little Mermaid, perhaps the project's most high profile attraction, remains in place.

The Fantasyland expansion at Walt Disney World is due for overall completion sometime in 2013.

Lost Imagineering: Fantasyland Lost

Yes, I realize that two Lost Imagineering posts in one week is a bit of a surprise, considering the prolonged hiatus that the category had taken here at 2719 Hyperion.  But the official announcement by Walt Disney World earlier this week concerning the ongoing Fantasyland expansion afforded the opportunity to add four new virtual trading cards to our Lost Imagineering collection.

The initial Fantasyland expansion plans unveiled in 2009 were very girl-centric, heavy on meet-and-greets and a bit lacking in actual ride-based attractions.  While I was very impressed with the scope of the project, I was generally disappointed with its over-reliance on Princesses and Fairies.  I was clearly not alone in those thoughts; gone now are the Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella themed venues as well as the Tinker Bell Pixie Hollow area.
Cinderella's Chateau and the Briar Rose Cottage would have both featured interactive shows and meet-and-greets.  At the Chateau, guests would have observed the Fairy Godmother magically prepare Cinderella for the royal ball; at the cottage, participants would have helped celebrate Briar Rose's birthday with the help of Flora, Fauna and Merryweather.

Another significant casualty of the redrawn plans is Pixie Hollow, an elaborate meet-and-greet venue for Tinker Bell and her fellow Disney Fairies.  It is another indicator that this particular franchise hasn't quite lived up to the company's expectations.  The characters will in fact migrate to another park, although there are conflicting reports as to which one.  The Disney Parks Blog claims that Tink and friends will relocate to Epcot as part of the Flower and Garden Festival.  The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Fairies will land somewhere inside Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Iconography: Floppy Slippers, Red Robe and a Blue Cone Hat

The Walt Disney Company has long and without shame exploited what they identify as Mickey Mouse's greatest role, in ways as widely varied as company logos, merchandise, studio architecture and theme park attractions.  It is not an exaggeration to say that the nine-minute sequence that is The Sorcerer's Apprentice has eclipsed the animated feature that it is a part of.  Fantasia is masterpiece of filmmaking; however, the image of Mickey, in floppy slippers, red robe and iconic moon and star emblazoned blue cone hat, has evolved into a phenomenon of popular culture.

Walt Disney had already purchased the rights to The Sorcerer's Apprentice, composer Paul Dukas's interpretation of Goethe's poem Der Zauberlehrling, prior to a chance meeting in a restaurant with Leopold Stokowski during the fall of 1937.  The two agreed on a collaboration of what was initially conceived as an enhanced and expanded Silly Symphony.  Though at one point Stokowski suggested they create for the title role, "a new personality which represents every one of us," Walt had always envisioned Mickey for the part, and remained firm that he should be the star and centerpiece of the production.

The decision to expand the scope of the project into a full-length feature was more the result of economics than any further creative inspirations.  When Stokowski recorded the score for The Sorcerer's Apprentice in January of 1938, expenditures on the project were already escalating and it was realized that as a two-reel short it would not be able to earn back its production costs, let alone generate a profit.  By rolling the short into a larger feature film, the initial financial investments in The Sorcerer's Apprentice were better protected.  By September of that year, an overall musical program was determined and production of the Concert Feature, or Fantasia, began in earnest.

Recognizing the importance and stature of the picture, animator Fred Moore was assigned the task of visually "upgrading" Mickey Mouse.  Considered the studio's "mouse" expert, he made one very important revision: eliminating Mickey's trademark "pie-eyes" and replacing them with more expressive pupils.  Although they were all seemingly minor changes on the surface, Moore's modifications in fact quantified a dramatic visual benchmark in the evolution of the character.

Author and Disney historian John Culhane made a symbolic but telling observation in his own chronicling of the making of Fantasia:
"Disney had the strongest possible reason for wanting Mickey to be the hero.  He may have dressed him like Dopey, in a long robe and soft slippers, but the Mickey in The Sorcerer's Apprentice is Walt Disney at the time of Fantasia, having risen in just a few years from conducting a few associates in The Band Concert to becoming the dreamer on the mountaintop, conducting the stars."
The image of Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer's Apprentice has evolved into probably the most prominent and prolific of all Disney icons.  To the point where even the costume's various components, most especially Yensid's hat, can stand apart from Mickey, yet remain identifiable and memorable in almost every context in which they are used.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lost Imagineering: Baby Herman's Runaway Baby Buggy Ride

Relating to our recent series of Freeze Frame! posts derived from the Roger Rabbit cartoon Tummy Trouble, we present our newest Lost Imagineering virtual trading card.  Baby Herman's Runaway Baby Buggy Ride was yet another component of the ill-fated Disney Decade, an ambitious slate of theme park projects announced in 1990 by Michael Eisner and Frank Wells, most of which went unrealized.  The ride was inspired by the St. Nowhere hospital setting from Tummy Trouble.  A 1990 Disney Crew publication described an attraction where, " . . . guests zoom through the cartoon sets of Toontown Hospital, fly down stairs, crash through doors and bound over beds."

At the Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World, the ride would have been part of Roger Rabbit's Hollywood, an area located on Sunset Boulevard that would have also included the Toontown Trolley and the Benny the Cab Ride.  At Disneyland, it would have been part of a proposed Hollywoodland that had been projected to open in 1999.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Freeze Frame! - Tummy Trouble Storefronts

Animation background artists are quite adept at hidden gags and most especially self reference.  This holds true for the 1989 Roger Rabbit cartoon Tummy Trouble, but it does take quick reflexes with the pause button to ferret out these split second testimonials.  When the ambulance careens down a city street, it passes the following five storefronts:

Greg's Gym
Kathy's Nails
Rob's Pastry Shop
Karen's Inn
Glenn's Greenery

Here are some educated guesses as to the identities of these Toontown business owners:

Greg's Gym - background artist Greg Drolette

Kathy's Nails - background artist Kathy Altieri

Rob's Pastry Shop - Tummy Trouble director Rob Minkoff

Karen's Inn - layout artist Karen Keller

Glenn's Greenery - no one by the name of Glenn is listed in the film's credits.  This one remains a mystery.  A possible reference to Disney animator Glen Keane despite the variation in spelling?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Vintage Snapshot! - Hollywood Canteen

Vintage popular culture.  Classic Hollywood.  Pure 1940s iconography.  The Hollywood Canteen is all of these and more.  And it was a perfect piece of set dressing for the then brand-new Disney-MGM Studios when this photograph was snapped back in 1989.

The original Hollywood Canteen was located on Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood.  It operated during the war years from 1942 to 1945 and featured free food and entertainment for servicemen and servicewomen.  The Canteen was the brainchild of stars Bette Davis and John Garfield, and they enlisted the entire entertainment industry to donate labor, materials and services to construct and operate the venue.  By the time it closed on Thanksgiving Day 1945, it had served nearly three million military personnel.  In 1944, Warner Bros. released the film Hollywood Canteen which drew inspiration from the actual nightclub.

In a bit of Blue Sky Department imagining, I wish that Disney had taken the Hollywood Canteen beyond just a simple billboard decoration.  A full service Hollywood Canteen restaurant would have been a great addition to the Studios park; it could have featured live entertainment and celebrated via memorabilia and design, Hollywood's many contributions to the war effort.

Friday, January 14, 2011

How to Catch a Cold . . . as Taught by Disney and Kleenex

As I sit here and tap out these words on my keyboard, I have a box of tissues close by.  I am hopefully near the end of a seasonal head cold that has plagued me for the last week or so.  It's a topical subject this time of year and one with a distinct, historical Disney cartoon connection.

In 1951, the Disney Studios produced a ten minute cartoon entitled How to Catch a Cold.  On the surface it was a public service film meant to educate; on a more subtle level it was a commercial for Kleenex tissues, or Kleenex disposable handkerchiefs as they were called back then.  Disney was commissioned by International Cellucotton Products Company (ICPC) to produce the film.  ICPC was a marketing subsidiary of Kimberly-Clark who owned the Kleenex brand.  The company had previously worked with Disney in 1946 on a similar but more specialized animated film, The Story of Menstruation, which became a health class standard for many young girls throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and related specifically to Kimberly-Clark's Kotex brand.  How to Catch a Cold was less sensitive in nature, opting for a more comical approach to its subject matter.  It could almost be considered a slightly more benign cousin to the Goofy cartoon Cold War that was also produced in 1951.

How to Catch a Cold was directed by studio veteran Hamilton Luske and produced on a budget of $150,000.  It featured the character of Common Man, being lectured on cold prevention by an alter ego sprite appropriately named Common Sense.  Most notable to the effort was Bill Thompson who voiced both Common Man and Common Sense.  Thompson was a veteran Disney voice-actor (Ranger Woodlore and numerous film roles) and is probably best known for voicing Droopy at MGM.  Despite its corporate pedigree, Kimberly-Clark did not want the film to appear overly commercialized.  A company marketing executive on the project noted at the time that, "[W]e do not want to load [How to Catch a Cold] with commercials.  I would think that credits at the beginning and at the end of the picture, plus a few shots of cold sufferers taking tissues from the Kleenex package in the picture itself would suffice."

The film was initially distributed to schools and community organizations.  Then in 1952, it became something of a minor pop culture phenomenon when NBC used it as a demonstration vehicle for color television.  In that regard, the short was seen by more 200 million viewers over the course of the next few years.  Despite such dramatic market penetration, Kimberly-Clark never experienced any significant increase in sales or market as a result of the film.  It was updated in 1986 but has since essentially faded into obscurity.  Ephemera dealers however seem to do a brisk trade on a series of posters that were distributed to schools and organizations that screened the film.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lost Imagineering: The Great Muppet Movie Ride

No, it's not a reprint.  This is an honest-to-goodness, brand new Lost Imagineering post.  It has been a long couple of years since we posted our last virtual trading card in the series (Chinatown in January 2009) but we have returned with not one, but two new cards.

Yet another lost dream of the Disney Decade, the Great Muppet Movie Ride was part of a larger Muppet Studios concept set to debut at the Disney-MGM Studios in the mid-1990s.  The attraction would have been a clever and slapstick-filled riff on that park's Great Movie Ride.  Early concept art showcased two proposed scenes, a mad scientist's laboratory inspired by early Hollywood horror films, and a spoof of Disney's own Peter Pan.  Jim Henson was especially excited about evolving his Muppet creations into audio-animatronics; sadly his death and the subsequent collapse of the first proposed Disney-Muppet merger ultimately forced the project's cancellation.

The show building for the attraction would have been built adjacent to the existing Muppet*Vision 3-D theater and the surrounding area would have morphed into a Muppet Studios themed area.  Part of that expansion would have been the Great Gonzo Pandemonium Pizza Parlor, a memento and ephemera-themed restaurant akin to Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Cafe.  Its proposed location later became the Mama Melrose Ristorante Italiano.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Windows to the Past: The PT-9 Mosquito Boat

This particular Window to the Past bears a direct connection to our recently unveiled Service with Character: Disney World War II Insignia exhibit in the 2719 Hyperion Exhibition Hall.  The very first insignia featured in the presentation is that of the Mosquito Fleet and the design is prominently displayed in this Library of Congress archived photograph.

The image dates to before the United States entered the war--June 19, 1940.  The Library of Congress provided the following annotation:
New Mosquito Boat gets a tryout. Washington, D.C., June 19. The PT-9, first of the new 'Mosquito Boats' to be delivered to the U.S. Navy under the President's $15,000,000 experimental small craft program had a preview for the press today. This is the same type of boat that the government is in process of releasing to the British Navy, causing great unrest and indignation in Capitol circles. Eight other boats will be based at the naval operating base, Norfolk, Va., to undergo severe seagoing tests. The squadron will be known as the Mosquito Fleet and the insignia which was designed by Walt Disney consists of a mosquito riding on the top of a high speed torpedo. Shown in the picture is Lieutenant Earl S. Caldwell, USN, Commander of the squadron.
The Mosquito Fleet insignia was the first Disney-designed insignia used by the U.S. military.  According to an article in the May 26, 1941 issue of Life magazine, Caldwell wrote a letter to Walt Disney asking him to design an emblem for the new "Mosquito Fleet."  Within a few days, the studio returned the insignia design that soon graced the PT boats.  The article went on to say that, "As soon as word got around in the Army and Navy as to what Disney had done, the Disney office was bombarded with requests to design insignia for tanks, minesweepers, bombers and fighter planes."

A 1941 article in Readers Digest identified studio veteran Roy Williams as the artist who created the Mosquito Fleet insignia.

The story of the Mosquito Fleet insignia continues today in:
Vintage Headlines: Mosquito Master

Vintage Headlines: Mosquito Master

Relating to today's Window to the Past post is this corresponding Vintage Headline from June 24, 1940.  This Associated Press photograph features Lieutenant Earl S. Caldwell, the Mosquito Fleet commander who was identified in the Library of Congress archived image.  Both photos appear to have been taken at the same press junket on June 19, 1940.

The full text of the photo's caption:
MOSQUITO MASTER--A Disney-drawn mosquito rides a torpedo in the Insignia of the U.S. torpedo squadron dubbed the "mosquito fleet." Lieut. Earl S. Caldwell, commander of squadron, is shown aboard the PT-9, navy torpedo boat.
Walt Disney himself was featured in a subsequent AP photograph published seven months later in February of 1941, that also showcased the Mosquito Fleet Insignia.
That particular photograph ran with headline, "Disney Plays Part in National Defense" and was published with the following caption:
Along with practically every other industry in the country Walt Disney is playing his part in national defense. Prompted by requests for insignias by all branches of Uncle Sam's service, Disney artists are now working on defense orders for Army, Navy and Air Corps insignia. Above Disney, left, shows Lieutenant Claude Pevey the design recently made for the Navy's torpedo boats (inset), known as the "mosquito fleet."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Freeze Frame! - From Pathology to Burbank

Our Freeze Frame! examination of the 1989 Roger Rabbit cartoon Tummy Trouble now returns (quite literally) to the crazy corridors of St. Nowhere hospital in one of the short's most fast and furious gag sequences.  After Roger is strapped to a gurney, he is frantically pushed through a series of swinging doorways on his way to surgery.  In a mere four seconds, he slams past seventeen different sets of doors, each with a separate identification.  The names, in order are:


and finally,
(an obvious nod to the location of the Disney Studios)