Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 30: The Greatest American Humorist of His Age

Often regarded as the "Father of American Literature," Samuel Longhorne Clemens (better known by his pen name Mark Twain) was born on this day in 1835. An author and humorist, he is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Twain was immensely popular during his lifetime and his wit and satire was praised by both critics and peers. His legacy lives on today as his namesake continues to multiply.

Admired by Walt Disney (as both a schoolboy and adult), Mark Twain's name, image and works appear throughout Disney theme parks. Click HERE to learn much more about Twain's Disney connection (and to discover more November 30 Disney history).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Novemebr 24: Carlo Collodi

On this day in 1890, Carlo Lorenzini, better known by his pen name Carlo Collodi, was born in what is today Florence, Italy. He is best known for his fairy tale The Adventures of Pinocchio.

Collodi had won fame as early as 1856 with a novel and columns in political newspapers. It wasn't until 1875 that he began writing fairy tales. In 1880 he started writing Storia di un Burratino (The Story of a Marionette) - also called Le awenture di Pinocchio - which was published weekly in the first Italian newspaper for children. The first chapter, published July 1881, was an immediate hit. Two years later in 1883, Collodi's tale was published in book form.

Collodi passed away suddenly ten years later, never knowing the fame and popularity that awaited his little wooden character.

Disney released an animated version in February 1940, and today there is even a Pinocchio Park in Italy!

Experts and critics site Pinocchio for its complex web of moral questions. Collodi's work has an anti-authoritarian tone - showing a contrast between wealth and poverty and distaste for the judicial system. Collodi's Pinocchio is more selfish and aggressive than Disney's little wooden boy.

Click HERE for more November 24 Disney history.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

November 20: Three Against The Wilderness

On this day in 1963, Disney released the live-action feature
The Incredible Journey
Based on a children's book by Sheila Burnford, the film (about a cat and 2 dogs who lose their owners) was narrated by Rex Allen.

Click HERE for more November 20 Disney history.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November 17: "I Am Not A Crook"

On this day in 1973, U.S. President Richard Nixon - defending his record in the ongoing Watergate scandal - told newspaper reporters that he was "not a crook." The historic televised Q & A session took place at Walt Disney World's Contemporary Resort.

By August 1974, Nixon had resigned from the presidency.

Click HERE for much more November 17 Disney history.

Monday, November 15, 2010

November 15: Disney World Project Officially Launched

On this day in 1965, Walt and Roy Disney along with Florida Governor Haydon Burns spoke to the press in the Egyptian Room of the Cherry Plaza Hotel in Orlando, Florida and officially launched the Disney World project.

View a bit of that day's historic conference through the magic of the State Archives of Florida and flickr:

Walt actually visited the Disney World site the following day November 16.

For much more November 15, 1965 visit Florida Memory.

Click HERE for more November 15 Disney history.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 11: What's Walt's Line?

What's My Line was a weekly panel game show that originally ran in the U.S. from 1950 to 1967. The game tasked celebrity panelists in order to determine their occupations. Hosted by John Charles Daly, it was the longest running game show in the history of U.S. prime time network television.

On this day in 1956, Walt Disney himself appeared as a mystery guest ... view it below through the magic of YouTube:

Click HERE for more November 11 Disney history.

Monday, November 8, 2010

November 08: Guess the Actress

On this day in 1872, this actress (known for her roles on the stage and the big screen) was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Her best known part is that of the voice of the Wicked Queen and her alter ego the old hag (who gives a poison apple to Snow White) in Disney's 1937 classic animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Who was she?
Click HERE to find out.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

November 06: Bah! Humbug!

On this day in 2009 Disney released A Christmas Carol in U.S. theaters.

An adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic 1843 story, it was written and directed by Robert Zemeckis and starred Jim Carrey (his first Disney picture) in a multitude of roles.

The film was produced through a process called performance capture, a technique Zemeckis had used in the 2004 The Polar Express and the 2007 Beowulf.

Many members of the cast played more than one role in the film -
Carrey played Ebenezer Scrooge, and all 3 Christmas Ghosts - Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Actress Robin Penn portrayed Belle (Scrooge's fiance) and Fan (Scrooge's sister).
Gary Oldman was both Bob Cratchit and Jacob Marley.
Bob Hoskins portrayed Mr. Fezziwig and Old Joe.

Disney is set to release A Christmas Carol on DVD and Blu-ray on November 16, 2010.

"An exhilarating visual experience!" -film critic Roger Ebert

Click HERE for more November 06 Disney history.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November 03: Free Disneyland Tix for Benny

On this day in 1965, The Jack Benny Hour aired on television. Benny, a comedian known for his timing and dead-pan facial expressions, started out on radio in the 1930s. His television shows (throughout the 1960s) were a foundational influence on the situation comedy genre.

After Benny's regular series ended, he had a string of specials including this one on November 3, 1965. Among the guests on The Jack Benny Hour ... Bob Hope, Elke Sommer, The Beach Boys, and Walt Disney.

Watch Walt take part in a comedy sketch with Benny playing his usual (but always funny) vain, cheap and self-congratulatory character.

Click HERE for more November 03 Disney history.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November 02: The Spruce Goose - Disney Connection

On this day in 1947, a prototype heavy transport aircraft called the Hughes H-1 Hercules made its one and only flight over the waters of Long Beach, California.

Five years earlier the world was at war and famed industrialist and builder of "Liberty" ships Henry Kaiser saw a need for a fleet of giant flying transports that the U.S. could use to safely move troops and materials across the Atlantic. Kaiser approached one of the wealthiest men in the world, Howard Hughes, with his idea. Together they formed the Hughes Kaiser Corporation and obtained an $18,000,000 government contract to build three "flying boats."

Hughes, an oil and business man and movie producer, was also an aeronautical engineer and world-class aviator. His team set about designing a single hull flying boat capable of carrying 750 passengers. Their plans called for eight 3,000 horsepower engines and wings 20 feet longer than a football field! They called the prototype HK-1.

Adhering to the government mandate not to use material critical to the war effort, Hughes had to make the airplane completely out of wood. Because the research and development that went into the seaplane delayed actual construction, Kaiser withdrew from the project leaving Hughes totally in charge. He renamed the plane H-1.

After the war's end in 1945, criticism of the Hughes project  mounted, as he had exceeded the government's funding allowance. Investing $7,000,000 of his own money, Hughes was determined to finish construction and later fly the H-1.

On this day in 1947 a crowd of observers and newsmen gathered to witness a demonstration of the Flying Boat (that critics had now come to call the Spruce Goose). With Hughes behind the controls, the seaplane lifted off the water and flew for little over a mile at an altitude of 70 feet. The short flight proved that the Spruce Goose could really fly!

After that one famous flight, the plane was placed in a custom-built hangar where it remained for 33 years. In 1976, after Hughes' death, his holding company donated the aircraft to the non-profit Aero Club of Southern California - who in turn leased it to the Wrather Corporation, headed by entrepreneur Jack Wrather (who at the time owned the Disneyland Hotel).

Wrather Corporation built a custom dome for the H-1 (near the RMS Queen Mary) and placed the seaplane on exhibit in 1983 on the Long Beach waterfront. After the death of Jack Wrather, Disney purchased his Disneyland Hotel and other holdings ... which included the dome in which the Flying Boat stood.

In March 1990, Disney informed the Aero Club that it wished to discontinue the domed exhibit. The Flying Boat found a new permanent home at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in Oregon.

Interesting to note - in Walt Disney Pictures' 1991 action feature The Rocketeer, the film's hero uses a large-scale model of the famous plane to escape federal agents and Howard Hughes!

Click HERE for much more November 2 Disney history.