Sunday, January 31, 2010

January 31: Born Today

On this day in 1937, actress Suzanne Pleshette - star of stage, screen, and television - was born in Brooklyn Heights, New York City. She will always be fondly remembered for her Emmy Award-nominated role of Emily Hartley on the 1970s hit sitcom The Bob Newhart Show. But Disney fans will always remember Pleshette for her appearances in many Disney features.

Her first film for Disney was the 1965 The Ugly Dachshund in which she starred along with Dean Jones. The story of a Great Dane who believes he is a dachshund, the film was a light-hearted comedy directed by Norman Tokar. Pleshette portrayed Fran Garrison husband of Mark (played by Jones) who believes their Great Dane Brutus is a bad influence on her precious champion dachshunds.

Pleshette appeared in two Disney films in 1967 - The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin and Blackbeard's Ghost. Bullwhip Griffin was a fish-out-of-water comedy starring Roddy McDowall, Karl Malden, and Pleshette playing the role Arabella Flagg. The gold rush era western tells the story of a butler from Boston (played by McDowall) who heads west in search of adventure.
The fantasy-comedy Blackbeard's Ghost featured Peter Ustinov as the famous pirate's ghost and Dean Jones as coach Steve Walker. Pleshette portrayed a professor named Jo Anne Baker.

In 1976 Pleshette was featured in the comedy The Shaggy D.A. playing wife to ... you guessed it - Dean Jones! A sequel to the 1959 The Shaggy Dog, the film follows Wilby Daniels (played by Jones) who is now an adult and a successful lawyer ... but can still turn into a dog!

It wasn't until 1998 that Pleshette's Disney credits included an animated feature. That year she provided the voice of Zira (mother of Kovu) for The Lion King II: Simba's Pride. She was nominated for an Annie Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting.

Besides her Disney and Bob Newhart roles, Pleshette's career thrived throughout her life as she appeared in countless feature films, TV films and guest appearances on such sitcoms as 8 Simple Rules ... For Dating My Teenage Daughter and Will & Grace.

Sadly Suzanne Pleshette passed away too soon in early January 2008 - the same year she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (appropriately on the anniversary of her birth).

"I'm an actress and that's why I'm still here. Anybody who has the illusion that you can have a career as long as I have and be a star is kidding themselves." -Suzanne Pleshette

Click HERE for much more January 31 Disney history.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January 26: "I'm Going to Disney!"

The "I'm Going to Disney World!" and "I'm Going to Disneyland!" advertising slogans, used in commercials to advertise Disney theme parks, first began airing in 1987. Originally broadcast following the Super Bowl and featuring an NFL player, the campaign has also included non-sport competitors (such as American Idol winners).
Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner credited his wife with the idea for the campaign. According to his 1998 memoir Work in Progress, during the 1987 opening of Star Tours at Disneyland, he and his wife Jane dined with Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager (who had piloted the first aircraft to fly around the world without stopping or refueling). When Jane asked them what they were going to do next, they simply replied "Well, we're going to Disneyland."
Weeks later Disney launched the series following Super Bowl XXI with a commercial featuring winning New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms (pictured left).

On This Day in Disney History (January 26), three separate examples of these legendary ads were filmed:
1992 - At Super Bowl XXVI, quarterback Mark Riepen of the Washington Redskins shouted "I'm Going to Disney World!" following his team's win over the Buffalo Bills.
1997 - Green Bay Packers kick returner/punt returner Desmond Howard shouted "I'm Going to Disney World!" following his team's Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots.
2003 - At Super Bowl XXXVII both Jon Gruden of Brad Johnson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shouted "We're going to Disneyland!" following their team's victory over the Oakland Raiders.

The phrase has earned iconic status since 1987, being parodied or copied in everything from films and TV shows to interviews. Even Bruce Springsteen in February 2009 shouted "I'm Going to Disneyland!" following his Super Bowl halftime performance!

Click HERE for more January 26 Disney History.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January 20: Happy Birthday Jean-Jacques Perrey

On this day in 1929, Jean-Jacques Perrey was born in France. An electronic music producer and pioneer of the genre, he was one of the first Moog synthesizer musicians.
Although known for his solo albums, Perrey also recorded two albums with German composer Gershon Kingsley (known for writing the first ever electronic pop instrumental song, "Popcorn"). Their second album together titled Kaleidoscope Vibrations: Spotlight on the Moog was released in 1967 on Vanguard Records. One of the fourteen tracks on the album was a song written by the duo called "Baroque Hoedown."
Fast-forward to 1980 ... Jean-Jacques Perrey is visiting Walt Disney World and to his surprise, he hears his "Baroque Hoedown" (re-recorded by Don Dorsey) being used for Disney's Main Street Electric Parade!
Perrey's unique rhythmic samples (originally using magnetic tapes) and quirky synth melodies have influenced generations of musicians, songwriters, and synthesizer/sound programmers and his "Baroque Hoedown" will forever be a part of Disney history.
Happy 81st birthday Mr. Perrey!

March on over HERE for more January 20 Disney history.

Monday, January 18, 2010

January 18: In Honor of Winnie the Pooh Day

On this day in 1882, Alan Alexander Milne was born in Kilburn, London, England. Best known as English author A. A. Milne, he is the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh.
As a youngster Milne attended an independent school run by his father John. One of Milne's teachers was H. G. Wells (years before his great success as a science-fiction author). Milne later attended college where he studied mathematics while writing for and editing a student magazine. Upon graduating he began writing for the popular British humor magazine Punch. One of his published works for the magazine was a collection of poetry for children titled When We Were Very Young.
But Milne would have his greatest success with the creation of a "bear with very little brain" modeled after his own son's stuffed teddy and his fascination with a real bear at the London Zoo. In fact his son Christopher Robin played a great and significant role in these stories as well.
Winnie-the-Pooh was first published in book form in 1926 with a follow-up two years later titled The House at Pooh Corner. Sadly the success of these books became a source of considerable annoyance to both he ... and his son. Pooh overshadowed all of Milne's other novels and poems and as an adult, Christopher Robin had problems coping with his "embarrassing" literary fame.
After Milne's death in 1956, his widow sold the rights to Disney ... and the rest is history.

Oh bother ... click HERE for more January 18 Disney history.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

January 17: In Honor of Mr. Franklin

On this day in 1706 Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts. An important figure in early American history, Franklin was a statesman, inventor, scientist, printer, publisher and the first U.S. Postmaster General. In honor of Mr Franklin, let's take a look at the animated Disney short Ben and Me.
First released through RKO in November 1953 (along with The Living Desert) Ben and Me was adapted from a 1939 children's book written & illustrated by
Robert Lawson. The story reveals the contributions of a mouse named Amos to Franklin's career. Narrated by Amos (voiced by Sterling Holloway), he recalls how he first met and befriended Franklin (voiced by Charles Ruggles) and eventually helped in his publishing, inventions, and political career.
Directed by Hamilton Luske (a long time Disney writer, director & producer) Ben and Me was adapted from Lawson's original tale by Bill Peet along with Winston Hibler, Del Connell, and Ted Sears. Animation was handled by a large group of Disney's finest including Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsberry, Ollie Johnson, and Les Clark.
Amos: My name's Amos, one of the church mice from over on Second Street, and the first thing I'd do is figure a way to heat this place. All your heat's going up the chimney.
Ben Franklin: And what would you propose?
Amos: Put the fire in the middle of the room.
Ben Franklin: Oh, nonsense! You want to burn the place down?
Amos: Make something out of iron to put it in.
Ben Franklin: Say, that might be an idea.
U.S history with a Disney twist, Ben and Me was nominated for an Academy Award.

Click HERE for more January 17 Disney history.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

January 10: Little Mermaid Surfaces on Broadway

On this day in 2008, The Little Mermaid - a stage musical produced by Disney Theatrical - had its grand debut on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (former home of Beauty and the Beast).
Based on Disney's 1989 hit animated feature, The Little Mermaid first had a pre-Broadway run in Colorado in Summer 2007. Broadway previews began in November 2007 and a grand debut was to take place December 6 ... but a Broadway stagehand strike prevented the show from opening until January 10, 2008.
The opening night cast included Sierra Boggess as Ariel (pictured left), Sherie Rene Scott as Ursula, Norm Lewis as King Triton, Sean Palmer as Prince Eric, and Tituss Burgess as Sebastian. The stage musical featured the same songs from the animated version plus new songs written by Alan Menken and Glen Slater.
Audience response was generally positive and the show was nominated for multiple Tony Awards, Drama Desk Awards, an Outer Critics Circle Award and an Emmy. The Little Mermaid went on to give 684 more regular performances before closing in August 2009.
A national tour is scheduled for the fall of 2010.

Swim on over HERE for more January 10 Disney history.

Monday, January 4, 2010

January 04: More Than One of Disney's Top Voices

On this day in 1905, Sterling Holloway - probably best remembered as the original voice of Disney's Winnie the Pooh - was born in Cedartown, Georgia.
Although he had been acting in films since the mid-1920s, Holloway's long list of Disney credits began with the 1941 Dumbo as the voice of Mr. Stork. This was followed by decades of voice work for such features and shorts as:
Bambi (1942) as Adult Flower
The Pelican and the Snipe (1944) as Narrator
The Three Caballeros (1944) as Narrator/Professor Holloway
Make Mine Music (1946) as Narrator for "Peter and the Wolf" segment
Mickey and the Beanstalk (1947) as Narrator
Alice in Wonderland (1951) as Cheshire Cat
Susie the Little Blue Coupe (1957) as Narrator
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966) as Pooh
The Jungle Book (1967) as Kaa
Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968) as Pooh
The Aristocats (1970) as Roquefort
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974) as Pooh
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) as Pooh
He also narrated many children's records for Disney including Uncles Remus Stories and Peter and the Wolf.
But Holloway was more than just one of Disney's top voices - as an actor he played comedic as well as dramatic roles throughout his career. Did you know he appeared 3 times on the 1950s television series The Adventures of Superman (starring George Reeves as the man of steel)? Holloway portrayed an eccentric and absent-minded professor affectionately named Uncle Oscar. He also appeared in 7 episodes of the comedy series The Life of Riley (starring William Bendix), a 1964 episode of The Twilight Zone (pictured above), as well as guests spots on F-Troop, That Girl, The Andy Griffith Show and Gilligan's Island.
His film appearances included Death Valley, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and Thunder and Lightning (his 90th and last feature film).
Holloway was inducted a Disney Legend in 1991, the year before his death at age 87.

(Note - some sources show Sterling's birthday to be January 14.)

Click HERE for much more January 04 Disney history.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

January 03: Disneyland 10th Anniversary

On this day in 1965, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color aired episode 13 (of season 11) in which Walt Disney celebrated the 10th anniversary of his Anaheim park.
This episode was also the first appearance of Julie Reihm (or Miss Disneyland as Walt called her), Disneyland's very first ambassador. Selected personally by Walt, Miss Reihm (pictured left) was to originally be the only ambassador - initially there was no intention of extending the position beyond 1965!
Walt showed Miss Disneyland and the TV audience his plans for It's A Small World (already a proven success at the 1964/65 World's Fair), and a sneak peek at the future plans for the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean attractions. Footage of how Disneyland was built and the famous people who visited the park were also shown.

Please head on over HERE for much more January 03 Disney history.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

January 02: World of Motion Stops Moving

On this day in 1996, World of Motion - an opening day Epcot attraction sponsored by General Motors - closed. Located in a sleek circular structure (a space now occupied by Test Track) World of Motion offered a humorous look at the progression of transportation.
Park guests boarded Omnimover vehicles and traveled through 24 scenes filled with Audio-Animatronic figures and projection effects. The attraction offered a whimsical look at the history of transportation - from the invention of the wheel to the present day and beyond. Gary Owens (disc jockey and voice actor best known from TV's Laugh-In) supplied the narration. World of Motion also had a theme song - "It's Fun to Be Free," written by X Atencio and Buddy Baker.
On this day, Epcot also offered a ceremonial final ride for General Motors executives ... unfortunately World of Motion broke down and everyone had to walk to the exit.

Please click HERE for more January 02 Disney history.

Friday, January 1, 2010

January 01: Disney & The Tournament of Roses

Since 1890, the Tournament of Roses Parade has been a yearly event to showcase Pasadena's mild-weather, beautiful flowers and elaborate floats. In 1902 a college football game was added to enhance the festivities. Nicknamed "The Granddaddy of Them All" the Rose Bowl Game has been a sell-out since 1947 (the year the game was played under an exclusive agreement with the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences).
The Tournament of Roses Parade (also simply known as the Rose Parade) has become America's New Year Celebration - watched by hundreds of thousands of spectators live (as well as millions of television viewers).
Over the years the Walt Disney Company has taken part in the annual New Year parade:
-In 1938, Disney premiered a float featuring Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - the stars of the then newly released animated feature.
-The 66th Tournament of Roses in 1955 featured the very first Disneyland float ... and the Fire House Five Plus Two Dixieland band (made up of Disney Studio employees).
-In 1966, Walt Disney himself served as Grand Marshal of the parade riding along with Mickey Mouse in a white Chrysler Imperial.
-Disneyland presented a special 25th Anniversary pre-parade show for the 92nd Rose Parade in 1980.
-In 2000, Roy E. Disney (Walt's nephew) continued the tradition by serving as the Grand Marshal of the parade.
-In 2004, the Disneyland Resort presented a parade float inspired by the park's newest attraction ... The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror! Named "A Sudden Drop In Pitch," it was the tallest float in Rose Parade history, with a height of nearly 100 feet.
-The following year Mickey Mouse served as Grand Marshal for the 116 Tournament of Roses (helping to kick-off Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration).
-In 2006, the parade was held on January 2nd (a very rainy Monday) in observance of the parade's "never on a Sunday" rule. Disney took part by featuring a float showcasing castles from each of its parks (see photo above).
-In 2007, Disneyland's monorail was featured on a float celebrating the 150th birthday of Anaheim.

Click HERE to learn more and have a Happy New Year!