Saturday, May 29, 2010

May 29: The Birth of Hope

On this day in 1903, comedian, actor and entertainer Bob Hope was born in London, England (he became a U.S. citizen in 1920). Known for his appearances in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in radio, television, and movies - Hope was most noted for his work with the U.S. Armed Forces and his numerous USO tours.
Although Hope never voiced a Disney animated character or appeared in a Disney feature film ... his career crossed paths with Walt Disney and his company many times.

Here's just one example:

For a more detailed look at Hope's Disney connection (and much more May 29 history) -
just click HERE.

Friday, May 21, 2010

May 21: The Guy Looks Familiar

On this day in 2005 - actor, director & writer Howard Morris passed away at age 85 in Los Angeles, California. Who was Howard Morris? You've heard his voice, seen his face, and probably watched at least one of his directed television programs.

Born in the Bronx, New York in 1919, Morris' first major exposure was on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows (a popular live sketch comedy series in the early days of television). Throughout the 1950s he appeared on such programs as Kraft Television Theatre and The DuPont Show of the Month.

But it was during the 1960s that Morris really found success as a full-time successful actor and director. In 1963, he appeared on an episode of The Twilight Zone titled "I Dream of Genie," and on such popular sitcoms as The Dick Van Dyke Show and Make Room for Daddy.

It was around this same time that he began to get work as a voice actor - in particular on episodes of the animated Beetle Bailey, The Flintstones, The Magilla Gorilla Show, and The Famous Adventures of Mr Magoo. Morris also began to appear on the popular live-action sitcom The Andy Griffith Show, playing the role of Ernest T. Bass - the rock-throwing ignorant mountain man who wreaked comedic havoc on the quiet town of Mayberry. Although he only played the character for 8 episodes ... Ernest became a classic TV character.

In 1966 Morris first voiced a cartoon that went on to become one of his most famous roles ... Pooh's hard-working forest neighbor Gopher in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. The voice of Samuel J. Gopher was distinct as he whistled out his sibilant consonants. Gopher lived in tunnels under the 100 Acre Wood and was always seen with a helmet and toolbox. Morris continued the role for the 1968 Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and later the 1977 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. (Interestingly, Gopher does not appear in A.A. Milne's original Pooh stories.) Voice actor and singer Michael Gough took over the role of Gopher after Morris retired.

Throughout the 1960s, Morris directed episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Hogan's Heroes, and was responsible for the pilot episode of Get Smart (which went on to run for 5 years). His directing also crossed over into commercials - many of them for McDonald's ... in which he also performed the voice of Mayor McCheese!

Morris continued to play small roles in some pretty big pictures such as Disney/Touchstone's 1984 Splash and Mel Brooks' High Anxiety and History of the World, Part 1. He even appeared in the 1998 movie of Ray Bradbury's The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (a Touchstone Pictures release co-produced by Roy E. Disney). Morris played one of two comedic janitors ... along with veteran funnyman Sid Caesar! (Morris' career had come full-circle.)

"That supercilious scoundrel confiscated my honey!" -Gopher

Interested in more May 21 Disney history? Just click HERE.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 20: Allen's Going to WDW!

On this day in 2009, singer Kris Allen shouted "I'm Going to Disney World!" upon being named the newest American Idol on the Nokia Theatre stage in California. The second Idol to ever shout the famous words (David Cook had been the first in 2008), Allen was also the first married contestant to claim the title as well as the sixth winner from the Southern United States.

Although from Arkansas, Allen auditioned for American Idol in Louisville, Kentucky along with his brother (who did not make it to Hollywood). In the early stages of the season, he was actually among the finalists who didn't get much screen time or attention. Yet as the season progressed, Allen became a fan favorite eventually beating out flamboyant Adam Lambert by a small margin of votes.

Allen's post-show tour included a trip to Disney's Hollywood Studios, where a parade was held in his honor on May 29. He also visited The American Idol Experience where he announced that day's winner.

Click HERE for more May 20 Disney history.

Monday, May 17, 2010

May 17: Disney Goes to the World's Fair

On this day in 1965, Disney's Wonderful World of Color aired the episode "Disneyland Goes to the World's Fair."
Walt himself took guests on a tour of his 4 World's Fair exhibits.
Watch a segment here:

Click HERE for more magical May 17 Disney history.

Friday, May 14, 2010

May 14: A Lucas Birthday

On this day in 1944 - film producer, screenwriter, director and founder of Lucasfilm Limited, George Walton Lucas was born in Modesto, California. Best known to Disney fans for his Star Wars and Indian Jones movies which have in turn inspired Disney theme park attractions, Lucas is one of the film industry's most successful independent directors/producers.

What most movie goers may not realize is that his 1977 Star Wars was only his third feature film (the second being a little low-budget film called American Graffiti). Over the two decades after the first Star Wars, Lucas worked extensively as a writer and producer. Although he acted as executive producer for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi ... he did not direct them! The simulator ride Star Tours - which first debuted in Disneyland in 1986 - was based on Lucas' Star Wars franchise. The popularity of the attraction led to versions in Tokyo, Florida, and Paris. So popular is the franchise, that starting in 1997 Disney World began hosting a special event called Star Wars Weekends.

The animation studio Pixar was first founded as the Graphics Group - one third of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm. Lucas sold it to Steve Jobs (of Apple fame) in 1986 - who in turn sold it to Disney in 2006. (In 1979 Graphics Group hired a Dr. Ed Catmull a computer scientist from the New York Institute of Technology to aid in their projects. Today Catmull is president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios.)

A co-producer & co-writer of all the Indian Jones films starting with the 1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lucas' friend Steven Spielberg actually directed it (and all its sequels - Temple of Doom, The Last Crusade, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). In 1989 Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular began wowing audiences in Disney-MGM Studios (today known as Disney's Hollywood Studios). Disneyland's Indiana Jones - The Temple of Forbidden Eye (a dark ride motion simulator) opened in March 1995. Indian Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull opened 6 years later at Tokyo DisneySea.

The Michael Jackson attraction/film Captain EO was directed by Francis Ford Coppola ... but executive produced by George Lucas.

Devoted to timeless storytelling and innovated filmmaking, Lucas has received some of the industry's highest honors including the special Oscar, the Irving G. Thalberg Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Happy B-day Mr. Lucas!

See who else shares his May 14 birthday HERE.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May 13: Up at Cannes

On this day in 2009, the 62nd annual Cannes Film Festival (a 12-day event) kicked off in Cannes, France (a town along the French Riviera).
Disney-Pixar's Up (which would be generally released at the end of May) was the festival's Opening Ceremony film. It marked the first time that an animated film and a 3D film opened at the world's oldest and most prestigious film festival. (It was also the film's world premiere.)
Representing Pixar at the festival was John Lasseter, Up director Pete Docter, co-director & screenwriter Bob Peterson (also the voice of Dug), Jonas Rivera (the film's producer), and Ed Catmull (president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios).
A giant advertising board for Up (pictured above) was on display in front of the Carlton Hotel in Cannes.

For more May 13 Disney history ... just click HERE.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May 12: Goodbye Megastore

On this day in 2009, the 49,000 square-foot Virgin Megastore in Downtown Disney, Florida had its final day of business. Opened since September 15, 1997 as part of Disney World's new West Side, the 11th Virgin Megastore in the U.S. was located between DisneyQuest and the AMC 24 Theatres Complex.
Originally an international chain of record shops, founded by Sir Richard Branson (a flamboyant British entrepreneur) in 1971, the very first Megastore opened in London in 1979. Since then Branson's Virgin label has been splashed across everything from credit cards to airlines, and his Megastores began selling more than just music products. The retailer offered books, magazines, fashion products and in the case of the Downtown Disney location - beverages and snacks at the second floor Coco Moca Café.
Unfortunately in the age of MP3 files, iPods, and video-on-demand, the Virgin Megastore began to lose business and by the end of 2008 had only 5 U.S. locations left. Sadly on March 2, 2009 it was announced that all U.S. Megastores would close.

Click HERE for more mega May 12 Disney history.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

May 06: Not Your Average Joe

On this day in 2005, Disney Legend, artist and writer Joe Grant passed away at his home in California, just 9 days short of his 97th birthday.
Plucked by Walt Disney from The Los Angeles Record (where he was a regularly contributing caricaturist) Grant made his Disney debut as a character designer for the 1933 short Mickey's Gala Premier. This started a career that included creating the Queen for Snow White, co-writing the screenplay (along with Dick Huemer) for Dumbo, and helping with story & character development for Fantasia and Pinocchio. Grant also worked closely with conductor Leopold Stokowski in choosing the music for Fantasia.
Grant left Disney in 1949 to run a ceramics business and a greeting card business. Forty years later in 1989 he received an unexpected request from Walt Disney Feature Animation asking if he would consult on Beauty and the Beast. Grant agreed and as Creative Director at WDFA started a "second career" at Disney that included contributions to The Lion King, Aladdin, Mulan, Fantasia 2000 and Chicken Little. He even provided the tile name for Pixar's Monsters, Inc.

"One thing about Walt (Disney) was that he wasn't that difficult to know. He was a man full of ideas. You have to remember that he was an actor. He realized how important the word "casting" was. He knew the capabilities of everybody and he did a wonderful job of casting every picture that we made. Each person was suited to the particular job that they got." -Joe Grant

Discover more May 06 Disney history HERE.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May 05: Let's Go Soarin'

On this day in 2005, Walt Disney World officially opened the Epcot attraction Soarin' (as part of Disneyland's 50th Anniversary global celebration).
Already a hit for the last 4 years in Disney's California Adventure (but known on the west coast as Soarin' Over California), the Florida version is located in Epcot's The Land. The attraction takes 87 guests at a time on a simulated hang glider tour over the Golden State.
Although the film (running at about 4 minutes and 40 seconds) and music (written by film composer Jerry Goldsmith) are the same in both versions, Epcot's Castmembers wear outfits that resemble flight attendants, whereas DCA Castmembers wear airfield crew outfits. At Epcot, the idea is that guests are taking flight to California as opposed to already being there at DCA.
Whichever version you board, you are sure to soar over such California locations as Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Redwood Creek in Humboldt County, the PGA golf course in La Quinta, and even Disneyland itself!

Soar on over HERE for even more May 05 Disney history.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May 02: Come On In!

On this day in 2006 at Disneyland, a 12-year-old from Colorado named Emmalee Mason became the honorary two-billionth person to visit a Disney theme park!
Amidst a blast of colorful streamers and music, a surprised Emmalee was presented with a giant gold key and a lifetime pass to all 11 Disney theme parks around the world. During the rest of her visit on May 2, she and her family received a private photo session with Mickey Mouse, an exclusive tour of both Anaheim parks, and a ride on the Matterhorn Bobsleds with Mickey. Emmalee also took part in Disneyland's 50th Anniversary parade as Grand Marshal.

"Wow! I'm in shock ... I'm so happy! I am just so surprised ... I didn't think that I would be the 2 billionth guest ... this kind of stuff never happens to me!" -Emmalee Mason

Take an honorary visit of more May 02 Disney history HERE.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May 01: The Opening of Disney-MGM

On this day in 1989, Disney World's 3rd theme park Disney-MGM Studios had its grand debut. Today known as Disney's Hollywood Studios, it was also Disney's 5th park in the world.

Click HERE to travel back to May 01, 1989 and re-live Disney-MGM's premiere.

Then click HERE for much more May 01 Disney history.