Saturday, February 20, 2010

February 20: Sandy & Disney

Sandy Duncan, a singer, dancer and actress of stage and television known for her cute pixie blond hairdo and perky personality, was born Sandra Kay "Sandy" Duncan on this day in 1946 in Texas.

For you younger readers not familiar with Duncan, she was known for playing the title role in the Broadway production of Peter Pan (a role often played by women and first made famous on stage by Mary Martin in 1954). When the show (not a Disney production) was revived in 1979 on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater (ironically years later the long-time home for Beauty and the Beast), Duncan was chosen for the role of Peter and later nominated for the Best Actress Tony.

During the 1970s, one couldn't watch television without being aware of the multi-talented Duncan. Named "one of the most promising faces of tomorrow" by Time magazine, Duncan starred in the series Funny Girl, had her own variety show simply titled The Sandy Duncan Show, was featured in the ground-breaking mini-series Roots, and guest-starred on various programs (like The Muppet Show).

But Disney fans will know Duncan for her roles in the feature films The Million Dollar Duck and The Cat from Outer Space, and from the television specials Sandy in Disneyland and Christmas in Disneyland. Fans of the animated The Fox and the Hound may not realize it is Duncan voicing the character of Vixey.

The 1971 Disney comedy The Million Dollar Duck centered on the family of a scientist named Albert Dooley (played by Dean Jones) who struggles to pay the bills. Duncan portrayed his wife Katie, who gets a recipe for applesauce wrong and gives it to her husband to take to work for lunch. In a humorous chain reaction, the animals Albert is working with eat up the applesauce. One duck in particular wanders into the radiation lab after enjoying the applesauce and becomes irradiated. When Albert is ordered to get rid of the duck, he takes it home as a pet for his son only to later discover that the duck can lay golden eggs!

Sandy in Disneyland aired on CBS-TV in 1974. Actually shot in the Anaheim park, the program featured musicals numbers and comedic bits all while promoting the great Disney attractions. It featured the all-star lineup of Ernest Borgnine, Ruth Buzzi, Ted Knight, John Davidson, Lorne Greene, Kenny Loggins & Jim Messina, and the Jackson Five!
Two years later in 1976, Duncan hosted the television program Christmas in Disneyland. She was joined by veteran Art Carney and singer Glen Campbell.

In 1978 Duncan portrayed Dr. Elizabeth 'Liz' Bartlett in the 1978 The Cat from Outer Space. When a UFO is stranded on earth, its pilot - a cat with special powers (voiced by Ronnie Schell) - must elude the authorities long enough to repair his spacecraft and return home. The cat gets some help from Dr. Franklin Wilson (played by Ken Berry), his girlfriend Dr. Bartlett and her cat Lucy.

Disney's 1981 animated release The Fox and the Hound featured the voices of Mickey Rooney, Kurt Russell, Pearl Bailey, Jack Albertson, John Fiedler, Paul Winchell, and of course Sandy Duncan. Loosely based on the novel of the same name, it centers on the story of two unlikely friends - a hound dog and a red fox. Duncan voiced a female fox named Vixey.

In 1987 Duncan joined the cast of Valerie's Family, later titled The Hogan Family (when actress Valerie Harper left the series) which lasted until 1991. Since then Duncan has returned to the stage appearing in many shows including a traveling production of The King and I and most recently the lead role in the play Driving Miss Daisy and the classic Tennessee Williams' play The Glass Menagerie.

Happy B-day Miss Duncan!

Jump on over HERE for even more February 20 Disney history.

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