Monday, September 27, 2010

September 27: A Musical Cartoon Feature

On this day in 1947, RKO Radio Pictures released Walt Disney's Fun and Fancy Free. The animated film features two segments: "Bongo," the story of a circus bear cub who runs away, and "Mickey and the Beanstalk," an adaptation of the famous tale Jack and the Beanstalk.

The film opens with Jiminy Cricket (first introduced in Disney's 1940 Pinocchio) singing "I'm a Happy-Go-Lucky Fellow" while setting up a record player to play the story of "Bongo." In the original version of Fun and Fancy Free, singer Dinah Shore narrates "Bongo" - yet in later versions it is Cliff Edwards (the voice of Jiminy Cricket) who tells the story. "Bongo" is based on an original story by Sinclair Lewis (an American novelist and short-story writer) first titled "Little Bear Bongo."

The second segment, "Mickey and the Beanstalk" is narrated by Edgar Bergen (at the time a popular radio ventriloquist) who in live-action sequences tells the story to child actress Luana Patten (who made her debut the previous year in Disney's Song of the South). In this story, Mickey's voice is supplied by both Walt Disney and sound effects genius Jim Macdonald (who would later take over the role of Mickey until 1977). "Mickey and the Beanstalk" also features the voices of Clarence Nash (as Donald Duck) and Pinto Colvig (as Goofy).

The directing animators who worked on Fun and Fancy Free includes such great names in Disney history as Ward Kimball, Les Clark, John Lounsbery, Fred Moore, and Woolie Reitherman.

These two segments aired many times as individual television episodes on Disney's anthology series - but it wasn't until 2000 that Fun and Fancy Free was released in its entirety to VHS and DVD.

Click HERE for much more September 27 Disney history.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 26: Brand New Year

On this day in 2000, Christmas came early when the holiday-themed album Brand New Year by country music trio SHeDAISY was released on Lyric Street Records (at the time part of the Disney Music Group). Made up of sisters; Kristyn, Kelsi, and Kassidy Osborn, the group's name is derived from a Navajo term meaning "my little sister." Although a country act, their sound is a mix of pop, rock and funk featuring stellar vocals and harmonies.

SHeDAISY's s second overall album, Brand New Year is a collection of unique versions of traditional holiday songs as well as new tunes. The renditions of "Deck the Halls" and "Jingle Bells" both charted on the Billboard Country Charts. Produced by Dann Huff (a successful musician & singer-songwriter) Brand New Year also features new compositions by Richard Marx, Sammy Chan, James VanHuessen, Leslie Bricusse, and SHeDAISY sister Kristyn.

First signed to Lyric Street Records in 1999, SHeDAISY even appeared on the Disney Channel series So Weird and the ABC-TV sitcom The Drew Carey Show.

In 2010 it was announced that the group had left Lyric Street Records (which Disney later closed).

Click HERE for more September 26 Disney history.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

September 25: Everything Begins With A Dream

On this day in 2005, Walt Disney Studios premiered its biographical sports film The Greatest Game Ever Played at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California.

Based on the life of Francis Ouimet, an American golfer widely known for winning the 1913 U.S. Open, the film was directed by Bill Paxton. Actor Shia LaBeouf starred as the 20-year-old Ouimet who shocked the golf world by beating British champ Harry Vardon - the most famous pro golfer of his time.

Only his second feature film as a director, Paxton (an actor best known for his roles in Apollo 13 and Twister) attended the premiere with his wife and two children. Also at the premiere was LaBeouf (who first became known for his role in the Disney Channel series Even Stevens), young Josh Flitter (who portrayed Ouimet's 10-year-old caddy), actress Marnie McPhail (who played the wife of Ouimet), and cast members Peyton List and Stephen Marcus.

Attending the debut was also Dick Cook (at the time Disney Studio Chief), Michael Eisner (then CEO of Disney) and such Disney Channel stars as Christy Carlson Romano, Brenda Song, and Ashley Tisdale.

The Greatest Game Ever Played was generally released 5 days later earning over $3 million in its opening weekend.

Click HERE for more September 25 Disney history.

Monday, September 20, 2010

September 20: House of Nutts

On this day in 1989, a new Touchstone sitcom titled The Nutt House debuted on NBC.

The creation of Mel Brooks and Alan Spencer, the comedy was about a once-prestigious New York hotel which had fallen on hard times. (The interior hotel scenes were shot at Disney-MGM.) Starring Cloris Leachman in the dual role of owner Edwina Nutt and Ms. Frick, head of housekeeping, and Harvey Korman as Reginald Tarkington, the hotel manager, The Nutt House was somewhat of a variation on the successful BBC series Fawlty Towers.

A very broad satire, the episode's plots were periodically interrupted by short, funny unrelated gags - much in the style of films like Police Squad and The Naked Gun.

Although The Nutt House had a veteran comedic cast and Brooks at the helm (known for his successful comedy films Blazzing Saddles, The Producers, and Young Frankenstein) the series lasted only 6 episodes before being canceled (although 11 episodes were shot).

Click HERE for more September 20 Disney history.

Friday, September 17, 2010

September 17: Tim the Tool Man

On this day in 1991, a new sitcom called Home Improvement debuted on ABC-TV. Produced by Touchstone Television/Wind Dancer Productions, it starred comedian Tim Allen as Tim Taylor a Detroit family man and host of his own home improvement show called "Tool Time."

Distributed by Buena Vista Television (now Disney-ABC Domestic Television) the series centered on the Taylor family: father Tim, his spouse Jill (Patricia Richardson) and their three sons Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) and Mark (Taran Noah Smith). The comedy also featured Earl Hindman as their neighbor Wilson and Richard Karn as Al Borland, Tim's "Tool Time" co-host.

Not only did the series kick-start Allen's career but the series led to Jonathan Taylor Thomas voicing the role of young Simba in The Lion King. In the first two seasons of Home Improvement, Pamela Anderson played the role of Tim's assistant Lisa. She left to star in another series called Baywatch and actress Debbe Dunning stepped in as Tim's new "Tool Time girl."

Home Improvement became one of the most watched sitcoms of the 1990s, running for 8 seasons. Allen went on to have a successful acting career - supplying the voice for Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear and starring in The Santa Clause series of films.

Click HERE for more September 17 Disney history.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September 16: Man Behind the Myth

On this day in 2001, ABC-TV debuted the much anticipated special Walt: The Man Behind the Myth. The 2-hour documentary, narrated by Dick Van Dyke, aired as part of "The Wonderful World of Disney."

The special, produced by Pantheon Studios in association with The Walt Disney Family Foundation, documents the life and career of Mr. Walt Disney through interviews with people who knew him best. Just about every important event in Walt's life is covered - from his humble upbringing in middle America to his critical success in California. But most importantly Walt: The Man Behind the Myth portrays Walt ... as human.

The feature-length documentary was screened at several film festivals (including the Monte Carlo Film Festival) before airing on ABC-TV.

"The film is not whitewash, but a determined effort to provide a true, real-to-life portrait of my grandfather, in all aspects of his life." -Walter Miller, grandson of Walt Disney

(Released on DVD in 2004, Walt: The Man Behind the Myth now includes bonus material containing more in-depth interviews and home movie clips.)

Click HERE for more September 16 Disney history.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 15: Music For Bugs

On this day in 1998, Disney released A Bug's Life: An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack.
The soundtrack to the Disney/Pixar animated feature A Bug's Life (which wasn't released in theaters until November 1998), featured the music of Randy Newman.

Prior to A Bug's Life, Neman (already a veteran singer-songwriter known for his satirical pop songs) had also written music for the 1995 Toy Story and the 1996 James and the Giant Peach.

The opening track to A Bug's Life album - "The Time of Your Life," written and performed by Newman, is the only song with a vocal in the collection. The remaining 19 cuts are orchestral cues (conducted by Newman himself).

Click HERE for much more September 15 Disney history.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September 14: Muppets Tonight Episode 202

Muppets Tonight, a live-action/puppet television series created by Jim Henson Productions, was a continuation of the original series The Muppet Show (which had debuted back in 1976). This new series also featured the classic Muppets (and some new ones) in fresh skits with multiple guest stars.

Originally broadcast on ABC in 1996, after one season Muppets Tonight moved to the Disney Channel and on this day in 1997, episode 202 debuted with guest star Rick Moranis.

Moranis, a comic actor best known for his work on SCTV and such classic features as Ghostbusters and Little Shop of Horrors, had also starred in Disney's 1989 comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. (Moranis later starred in the sequel Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, the park attraction Honey, I Shrunk the Audience and finally Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves.)

Episode 202 was directed by Brian Henson, son of Muppet creator Jim Henson. New episodes of Muppets Tonight continued until February 1998.

Click HERE for more September 14 Disney history.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11: Patriot Day

"To retreat from any of the principles handed down by our forefathers, who shed their blood for the ideals we still embrace, would be a complete victory for those who would destroy liberty and justice for the individual." -Walt Disney 

Friday, September 3, 2010

September 03: Regis & Kathie Lee Go National

On this day in 1988, a live television morning talk show out of New York City featuring Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford debuted nationally on ABC. Originally known as The Morning Show with Philbin and Cyndy Garvey, the show became known in 1988 as Live with Regis and Kathie Lee and was syndicated by Buena Vista Television (one of Disney's very first talk show productions) on this day.

Today the show is as popular as ever but is now called Live with Regis and Kelly since 2000 (as it now features actress Kelly Ripa - known to fans of ABC-TV's All My Children). The team of Regis and Kelly have gone on to host many of Disney's Christmas Day television parades from Walt Disney World and Philbin was the original host for the U.S. version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Click HERE for more September 03 Disney history.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September 02: Hang On To Them Hats & Glasses

On this day in 1979, Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attraction opened. The very first Big Thunder Mountain to open in any Disney park, the attraction is located in Frontierland on the spot once occupied by Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland (which first opened in 1956).

Designed by Imagineer Tony Baxter and ride design engineer Bill Watkins, the idea originated from work Baxter had done years earlier on a Marc Davis concept called Western River Expedition (originally meant to be built in Disney World's Magic Kingdom).

Big Thunder Mountain features runaway mine trains that twist through desert canyons, creaking mine shafts, and pitch-black bat caverns. "The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness" is still a favorite among park guests.

A Big Thunder Mountain later opened at WDW in November 1980, followed by versions in Tokyo Disneyland in 1987 and finally Disneyland Park in Paris in 1992.

Click HERE for much more September 02 Disney history.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September 01: A Playful Spot at WDW

On this day in 2005, Pooh's Playful Spot (a play area for 2-5 year-olds) opened on the site of the former 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea at Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Located across from Fantasyland's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the Playful Spot featured a large tree which housed Pooh's home for young ones to explore. Themed after the Hundred Acre Wood, it also included spurting fountains of water, crawl-through logs, huge honey pots, and a slide.

Due to the Fantasyland expansion, Pooh's Playful spot closed in April 2010 and the iconic tree from the playground was moved into the queue area of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Click HERE for more September 01 Disney history.