Thursday, April 29, 2010

April 29: Inside The Castle

On this day in 1957, the official dedication of a new walk-through attraction inside the Sleeping Beauty Castle took place at Disneyland.
An icon of the park since its debut in 1955, internally the castle had been an incomplete shell (except for dozens of feral cats who had made it their home). Walt Disney himself assigned Imagineer Ken Anderson to design something inside the castle that guests could look at. An idea to explain the story of Sleeping Beauty was hatched. Although Disney's film version wasn't complete at the time, Imagineers designed a walk-through diorama containing scenes of the Sleeping Beauty tale.
The official dedication of the walk-through took place on this day in 1957 ... at 3 p.m. with the Disneyland band performing "When You Wish Upon A Star." Along with Walt helping in the ceremony was actress Shirley Temple dressed as a princess. (As a child Temple had been a huge box-office draw and in 1939 presented Walt with the famous Oscar statues for his Snow White feature.) Also in attendance were Temple's 3 children. (They had all stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and had visited the park the day before the dedication.)
After Walt spoke to the gathered crowd about the new walk-through, Temple told the story of Sleeping Beauty and then cut the ribbon to open the attraction.
In 1977 the walk-through was updated to mirror the actual animated feature. Yet in October 2001, the attraction was "closed for refurbishment." It wasn't until November 2008 that the "Sleeping Beauty Walkthrough" once again opened to guests.

Take a walk-through of April 29 Disney history HERE.

Monday, April 26, 2010

April 26: The Brilliance of Eyvind Earle

On this day in 1916, master painter, illustrator, and writer Eyvind Earle was born in New York City. Two years later his family moved to Hollywood, California, and at the young age of 10 Earle began to paint.

By the time he began working at Walt Disney Studios in 1951, his paintings had already been exhibited at such prestigious venues as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. His first assignments at Disney was as a background painter for the short For Whom The Bulls Toil, the feature Melody, and the Academy Award winning short Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom.
Earle graduated to production designer & color stylist, and continued as a background painter for such classic animated features as Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp. Earle also painted the illustrations for "Walt Disney's Peter Pan and Wendy" Little Golden Book,
and designed five murals for the Disneyland theme park.

In the 1960s, Earle left Disney and started his own motion picture animation company where he created animated TV commercials for such clients as Chevrolet Motors, Chrysler Corporation and Kellogg Cereal Company.

In the late 1960s, Earle returned to painting full-time and for the next 35 years his work was featured in traveling exhibitions as well as one-man shows all over the U.S.
In 1998, he was honored at the 26th Annie Awards with the Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement in the art of animation. He passed away just two years later.

Learn more about this remarkable talent HERE.

Click HERE for much more April 26 Disney history.

Friday, April 23, 2010

April 23: America's First Sweetheart

On this day in 1928, Shirley Temple was born in Santa Monica, California. Beginning her screen career at the age of three, she first skyrocketed to fame in 1934 in the feature Bright Eyes. Between 1935-1938 she was the top box-office draw in the U.S.

An Academy Award winner, Shirley Temple's Disney-connections are many.

In February 1939, she presented Walt Disney with one statuette and seven miniature statuettes for his Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, at the 11th Academy Awards.

That same year Temple was caricatured (along with other
Hollywood stars) in the Donald Duck cartoon
The Autograph Hound

In April 1957, Temple (now an adult with children of her own) took part in a re-dedication of Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland.

Later in life Temple sat on the board of directors for some of the largest enterprises ... including The Walt Disney Company (between 1974-1975).

In 2001, The Wonderful World of Disney aired the episode "Child Stars: The Shirley Temple Story."

"When I first met Walt Disney, I remember him being a little shy, but pleasant. I was very pleased to be the one to present him with his unique Academy Award for Snow White. To me Walt will always be a king of a very special magic kingdom of imagination." -Shirley Temple

Click HERE for more April 23 Disney history.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 22: Discover The Magic Of The Place Everyone Calls Home

On this Earth Day in 2004 - Sacred Planet, a documentary by Walt Disney Pictures, was released.
Directed by Jon Long and narrated by veteran actor Robert Redford, the film features amazing shots of natural wonders, nature, and people from all over the world. State of the art camera techniques, including motion controlled time-lapse photography were combined with an eclectic soundtrack of acoustic and world music to create a journey into the mystical sights and sounds of nature. An IMAX film, Sacred Planet takes viewers to such locations as the forests of British Columbia, the snowy glaciers of Alaska, the ancient ruins of Thailand, and the tropical jungles and underwater mysteries of Borneo.

Click HERE for more Earth Day Disney History.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 21: Up, Up & Away

After weeks of soft-openings, the Characters In Flight attraction at WDW had an official opening ceremony on this day in 2009. (Ironically due to heavy winds - no guests were actually able to experience the ride on that particular morning.)
A large tethered helium-filled balloon located in Downtown Disney, West Side (not far from Planet Hollywood), 30 guests at a time can be lifted 400 feet above Buena Vista Lagoon for a breathtaking 360-degree panoramic view. Built by Aerophile (a company headquartered in France), the yellow and red balloon called Aero30 is attached to a round gondola that is 19 feet in diameter. Guests board from a specially designed platform before starting their 6-minute flight. On a clear day ... it is possible to see up to 10 miles away!

Soar on over HERE for much more April 21 Disney history.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 20: Drive-In Dining Sci-Fi Style

On this day in 1991, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant opened at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park (today called Disney's Hollywood Studios). Known for its unique atmosphere, this restaurant's simulated nighttime sky is filled with fiber-optic twinkling stars that look down on guests. Patrons who are lucky enough to dine while seated in chrome "convertibles" face a giant screen showing '50s and '60s sci-fi flicks and cartoons. The license plates of the parked automobiles contain the initials of the Imagineers who designed the restaurant. Located on Commissary Lane, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant serves lunch & dinner.

Click HERE for more April 20 Disney history.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 18: Big Day of B-Days!

Born April 18:
Leopold Stokowski (1882)
Hayley Mills (1946)
James Woods (1947)
Kenny Ortega (1950)
Bruce Gordon (1951)
Rick Moranis (1954)
Jane Leeves (1961)
America Ferrera (1984)

What are their ties to Disney?

Click HERE and find out!

Friday, April 16, 2010

April 16: Walt & Friend

On this day in 1889, the gentleman pictured here with Walt Disney (taken in 1939) was born in London, England. A film star, director and composer, he partly influenced the personality of Walt's greatest creation - Mickey Mouse.
Who was this star of the silent film era and admirer of Walt?


Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 15: Top Secret Mission

On this day in 1964, Disney attorney Robert Price Foster - who had originally served as legal counsel for Disneyland - left New York bound for Florida. Once in Central Florida, he inspected several properties (and later secretly bought land) for a new Disney theme park.
Walt had assigned Foster the responsibility of acquiring land for "Project Future" and to keep Disney's identity a secret, Foster dropped his last name and traveled as Robert Price.
During this particular trip in 1964, Foster stopped at a 12,440-acre parcel near Orlando owned by brothers Jack & William Demetree and partner Bill Jenkins. Their land was desirable as it was located near the new I-4 and Florida Turnpike. The Demetree property would become Disney's primary focus over the next few months (ultimately being purchased - along with other properties - to make up what is today known as Walt Disney World).

Head on over HERE for more April 15 Disney history.

Monday, April 12, 2010

April 12: The Mighty Three

On this day in 1964, Robert Moses, Walt Disney and Henry Ford, Jr. posed for the press as they rode Disney's Magic Skyway at the soon-to-be-open World's Fair in New York City.
Robert Moses was the president of the World's Fair Corporation and the "master builder" of mid-20th century New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County.
Commonly known as "HF2" and "Hank the Deuce", Henry Ford, Jr. was the son of Edsel Ford and grandson of Henry Ford. He was chairman of the board and chief executive officer (CEO) of Ford Motor Company when this photo was taken.
Walt had been in New York City since April 10, to oversee his 4 attractions for the fair - which included this one for the Ford Rotunda.
The World's Fair opened 10 days later on April 22.

Click HERE for more April 12 Disney history.

Friday, April 9, 2010

April 09: Born This Day

On this day in 1954, actor Dennis Quaid was born in Houston, Texas.

Appearing in films since the mid-1970s, his earliest successes include the 1979 Breaking Away and the 1983 The Right Stuff (in which he portrayed real-life astronaut Gordon Cooper).

Quaid's connection with Disney began with the 1988 Touchstone Pictures release D.O.A., in which he portrayed an English Professor who becomes embroiled in a series of murders.

In 1998 he appeared in Walt Disney Pictures' The Parent Trap, a remake of the 1961 Disney classic. He played Nick Parker, the father of identical twins (played by a young Lindsay Lohen).

Disney fans probably know him best for his starring role in the 2001 Walt Disney Pictures release The Rookie. Quaid played real-life teacher & coach-turned-Major League pitcher Jim Morris.
"He (Jim Morris) came over right after I signed on and we were throwing baseballs in the front yard. Myself, I like to meet whoever I am playing. I consider it a resource. Plus, it's his story and I feel if someone was doing my life story, I'd like to try and do him justice." -Dennis Quaid

In 2003, Quaid starred in the Touchstone Pictures thriller Cold Creek Manor. He played the role of Cooper Tilson, the father of a family terrorized by the former owner of the rural estate they bought in foreclosure.

The following year, Quaid starred in The Alamo, a war film (distributed by Touchstone) about the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution. He played historical figure General Sam Houston, the overall commander of the Texan forces.

In 2008, he appeared as Lawrence Wetherhold in the comedy-drama Smart People (distributed by the Disney-owned Miramax Films). The film centers on the life of a widowed professor who finds new love and gets an unexpected visit from his adopted brother.

Also a musician and avid golfer, Dennis Quaid turns 56 today!

Click HERE for more April 09 Disney history.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

April 07: Snowy Peak in Florida?

On this day in 2006, Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain opened in Disney's Animal Kingdom. Often compared to Disneyland's 1959 Matterhorn Bobsleds, Expedition Everest also features a snowy mountain setting and an abominable snowman. (In fact if DAK's mountain was real, it would be ranked fourth on the list of the highest summits in Florida.)

Designed to be a miniature version of Mount Everest, the mountain this roller coaster ride is built on and within is nearly 200-feet tall and occupies a 6.2-acre site in the Asia section of DAK. 

Disney's 18th mountain-themed attraction, Expedition Everest - a thrilling themed roller coaster, had first been announced back in April 2003. On this day in 2006 a grand opening ceremony took place with Disney CEO Bob Iger and theme parks chairman Jay Rasulo.

Everest features the largest and fastest moving robotic creature ... a 25-foot tall, 20,000 lb. yeti! Riders see the "guardian of the mountain" only as quickly darting silhouettes and hear its growl before getting up close and personal. (The story for the attraction is based on a legend that claims that high in the Himalayan Mountains lives an enormous creature that fiercely guards the route to Mount Everest.)

"As the ride goes along and guests get closer to the yeti, the more real he becomes, building excitement and bringing the ride to a climax when they meet faceto-face!" -John Van Oort (principal mechanical engineer for the Show Mechanical Group, Disney Imagineering)

Escape the yeti and click HERE for more April 07 Disney history.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April 06: A LOOK at WDW

On this day in 1971, LOOK magazine featured a cover story on a new Florida theme park that would open later in the year.
A photo of Mickey Mouse - the "First Citizen of Florida" - graced the cover along with the words -
FLORIDA: The sweet life
The Powder keg and
Your first look at
the magical new DISNEY WORLD

Mickey Mouse is 42. Hard to believe? He still looks ready for mischievous mousery. You've probably seen dozens of his 100 and some cartoons, shaken his hand at Disneyland in California or even joined the Mouseketeers yourself. Now, he's about to be host of the new Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida. There are more than 27,000 acres of it, opening in October. Mickey and his pals, Dumbo, Daisy Duck and the others, will gladly give you a preview. For a start, see page 17.

The multiple articles about the Sunshine State and Walt Disney World began on page 17 with the opening text: As usual, money is creating a new excitement in Florida.

Preview Of The New Biggest Show On Earth (on page 18) featured color photos - perhaps staged, as the Magic Kingdom had not officially opened to the public yet - and an 8-page article describing all the attractions.

What Hath Disney Wrought? followed on page 26, reporting that Disney's decision to drop a billion dollars into Central Florida will results in 50,000 jobs and $343 million in taxes.

Look for more April 06 Disney history HERE.

Friday, April 2, 2010

April 02: King of the Fairy Tale

On this day in 1805 - novelist, short story writer and fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen was born in Denmark. During his lifetime he was acclaimed for delighting children worldwide with such stories as The Little Match Girl (1848), The Little Mermaid (1836) and The Ugly Duckling (1844). Those 3 stories in particular were later adapted into animated works by Disney.

Although not the first animated version of Andersen's tale, The Little Match Girl was produced into a short by Walt Disney Feature Animation in 2006. A story about a dying child's hallucinations, Disney's version was originally intended to be a part of a new Fantasia film, but this project was canceled. It was appropriately released as a special feature on the 2006 Platinum Edition DVD of The Little Mermaid. Nominated for an Academy Award for best animated short film, The Little Match Girl was directed by Roger Allers and produced by Don Hahn. In a unique approach for Disney, the story was set to music and told entirely through mime.

The Little Mermaid, perhaps Andersen's best known story, was first published in April 1837. About a young mermaid willing to give up her life in the sea and her identity as a mermaid to gain a human soul and the love of a human prince, it was loosely adapted into an animated musical film by Disney in 1989. A huge box office success, it spawned two sequels The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea and The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning. In January 2008, a stage version of the Disney film opened on Broadway.

Andersen's 1844 The Ugly Duckling was adapted into two Silly Symphony animated shorts by Disney. The first was produced in 1931 in black and white, and the other in 1939 in Technicolor - winning the 1939 Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons). Andersen's The Ugly Duckling tells of a homely little bird born in a barnyard who suffers abuse from his neighbors until, much to his delight (and to the surprise of others), he matures into a graceful swan.
Disney's 1931 version differs significantly to the original tale. Instead of a cygnet (hatched among ducklings), who suffers many hardships before maturing into a beautiful swan, Disney portrayed a duckling (hatched among chicks) who must prove himself a hero before gaining love and acceptance from others. Disney's beautifully animated 1939 color version was actually the final Silly Symphony and was based closer on Andersen's original tale. Legendary Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones once called this version "One of the best short subjects ever made."

Andersen's poetry and stories have been translated into more than 150 languages and are still widely read by both children and adults. Still admired to this day, there is a statue of The Little Mermaid (placed in Andersen's honor) in Copenhagen and statues of Andersen himself in both Central Park, New York, and Solvang, California.

Click HERE for more April 02 Disney history.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 01: A Backwards Encounter

On this day in 2000, Disneyland Paris debuted two attractions - Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril: Backwards! and The Tarzan Encounter.
Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril (French for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), a roller coaster attraction, had first opened in July 1993. Based on the Indiana Jones films, guests are taken on an adventure riding in a mining train through a lost temple. Seeking a new attraction to market for their 2000 season and wanting to bring more interest back to the attraction, Imagineers refitted Indiana so guests experienced the ride ... in reverse! Since guests traveling backwards are unable to "prepare" for drops and sharp curves, the change brought a new dynamic to the popular attraction on this day. (In November 2004, the coaster was returned to the original forward direction.)
The Tarzan Encounter at The Chaparral Theater in Frontierland also debuted on this day. A live stage show, it featured the music (of Phil Collins) from the 1999 Disney animated feature. The 25-minute presentation featured jaw-dropping acrobatics in a realistic jungle setting. Tarzan had a successful run until 2009 when the show was removed for an upcoming new production.

Don't be "fooled" - click HERE for more April 01 Disney history.