Friday, November 30, 2007

Nov 30: One Man's Presence

On this day in 1835, Samuel Langhorne Clemens - better known as Mark Twain - was born in Missouri. Twain was a writer, lecturer, reporter, humorist, editor, printer, and prospector, and his influence on Walt Disney himself, his parks and his films is immeasurable.
His most noted novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer are obviously responsible for such park attractions as Tom Sawyer Island and the Mark Twain Riverboat (which both originated in Disneyland).
Twain's first attempt at fiction The Prince and the Pauper was adapted by Disney into a 24-minute short film starring Mickey Mouse.
His 1889 novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court was re-adapted into the Disney feature film A Kid in King Arthur's Court and inspired Disney's Unidentified Flying Oddball and The Spaceman and King Arthur.
Even The American Adventure attraction at Epcot features a life-like figure of Twain (along with Ben Franklin).
Perhaps even Walt himself (who was a huge fan of Twain's writing) was thinking of the following Twain quote when first planning Disney World:
"Buy land, they're not making it anymore."

Click HERE for more November 30 Disney history.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nov 29: Anything is Possible

On this day in 2005, Disney announced it was renewing the Disney Channel animated series Kim Possible for a fourth season. Although the show had officially ended production in February 2005, after 3 seasons and 65 episodes, a grassroots operation by dedicated fans changed that. (Disney usually follows a strict 65 episode policy.)
Kim Possible, about a teenage crime fighter who has the task of dealing with worldwide, family, and school issues every day, was created by Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley. Supposedly they created the show in an elevator when McCorkle looked at Schooley and said, "Kim Possible: she can do anything." Schooley then replied, "Her partner is Ron Stoppable: he can't do anything."
The series, which first premiered in June 2002, finally did come to an end on September 7, 2007.

Click HERE for more November 29 Disney history.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nov 28: An American Classic

On this day in 1859, author Washington Irving passed away at age 76 in New York on the eve of the American Civil War. (Ironically Irving was born at the end of the Revolutionary War on April 3, 1783. His parents, Scottish-English immigrants, were great admirers of General George Washington, and named their son after their hero.)
Best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle," Irving was also a prolific essayist, biographer, columnist, and historian.
"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," in which a schoolmaster named Ichabold Crane meets with a headless horseman, was written while he was living in Birmingham, England - although the story is set circa 1790 in the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town, New York. First published in 1820, it is among the earliest American fiction still read today! In fact, Irving has been called the father of the American short story.
Walt Disney Productions brought Irving's famous tale to the big screen in October 1949 with the animated "package" feature The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. The story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman was narrated by the legendary Bing Crosby.
Washington Irving is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery at the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Click HERE for more November 28 Disney history.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nov 27: Find Your Place In The Universe

On this day in 2002, Disney's 42nd animated feature Treasure Planet was released in the U.S. A futuristic twist on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel Treasure Island, Treasure Planet follows restless teen Jim Hawkins (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) on a sci-fi journey across the universe as cabin boy aboard a majestic space galleon.
The overall look of Treasure Planet was based on the art style promoted by illustrators associated with the Brandywine School of Illustration. This style has been described as being the "classic storybook illustration." The animators used a computer animation technique called "Deep Canvas" (alongside the traditionally-drawn characters) in order to achieve a painted image with depth perception. This enabled the crew to place the camera anywhere in the set and maneuver it as they would maneuver a camera for a live-action film!
The film was directed by John Musker and Ron Clements (the team that wrote & directed The Little Mermaid), and featured music by John Rzeznik (of the Goo Goo Dolls).

Click HERE for more November 27 Disney history.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Nov 26: Catch It If You Can!

On this day in 1997, Disney's live-action feature Flubber, starring Robin Williams, Marcia Gay Harden, and Jodi Benson (best known as the voice of Ariel - The Little Mermaid) was released. It was a remake of Disney's 1961 The Absent-Minded Professor.
In this film, Williams plays Philip Brainard a professor at Medfield College who invents a green rubber-like bouncy substance as a new form of energy ... which he calls Flubber. It is eventually used to help the school basketball team win.
There is actually no Medfield College - so the production was partially filmed on the campus of San José State University (in California). It is rumored that Walt Disney himself used to vacation in Medfield, Massachusetts, and used this name in the original film on which Flubber is based.

Click HERE for more November 26 history.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Nov 25: On With The Show!

On this day in 1955, the Mickey Mouse Club Circus opened at Disneyland. The live show was the first major addition to the Anaheim park since its July 1955 debut. The attraction featured the actual Mouseketeers from the television series The Mickey Mouse Club (which had wrapped up in early November).
The Mickey Mouse Club Circus consisted of two 75-minute performances each day. Ted Wayne (whose acrobatic troupe had performed on The Mickey Mouse Club) coordinated the circus along with Hal Adelquist (a long-time Disney employee who had worked in production).
The Circus featured Jimmie Dodd as the Ringmaster, Roy Williams as the Strongman, and Bob Amsberry as Bob-O the Clown.
Unfortunately the show wasn't the success that Walt had hoped it would be, and the attraction closed in January 1956 - mostly due to poor attendance.

Click HERE for more November 25 Disney history.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Nov 24: Happy B-day Carlo

On this day in 1826, Italian author and journalist Carlo Collodi, best known as the creator of Pinocchio, was born Carlo Lorenzini in Florence, Tuscany. The first of 10 children, he was the son of Domenico Lorenzini, a cook, and Angela Orzali, a servant.
Collodi tried his hand at journalism and the theater, but ultimately found success writing children's books, including Racconti delle fate (1875), Giannettino (1876), and Storie allegre (1887). But he is best known for Le avventure di Pinocchio or The Adventures of Pinocchio which first appeared in book form in February 1883.
Children's literature was a new idea in Collodi's time, an innovation in 19th century Italy (and elsewhere). Collodi, who died in 1890, was respected during his lifetime as a talented writer and social commentator, but his fame did not begin to grow until after Pinocchio was translated into English, for the first time in 1892.
Walt Disney brought Pinocchio to the big screen in 1940.

Click HERE for more November 24 Disney history.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Nov 23: No Smoking!

On this day in 1951, Disney released the Goofy short No Smoking featuring the voice of Pinto Colvig. The 6-minute cartoon (directed by Jack Kinney) was another "Goofy the Everyman" shorts of the 1950s.
No Smoking
begins by tracing the brief history of smoking - including how Christopher Columbus brought tobacco to Europe from the Native Americans - and then proceeds into a segment starring Goofy - known as "George" in this cartoon, who tries unsuccessfully to quit smoking. Goofy is seen smoking a cigarette from "Phyllis Morrison," a parody of Phillip Morris (one of the world's largest tobacco companies).
No Smoking, because of its content, was originally banned from TV broadcasts, but it did finally make it to DVD as part of the Walt Disney Treasures line.

Click HERE for more November 23 Disney history.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Nov 22: Farewell Mr. Holloway

On this day in 1992, Disney Legend Sterling Holloway passed away at age 87 in Los Angeles, California. Best known as the original voice of Winnie the Pooh, Holloway's unique voice can also be heard in such classics as Dumbo (as Mr. Stork), Bambi (as the adult Flower), The Three Caballeros (as the narrator of the Antarctic penguin sequence), Make Mine Music (as the narrator of the Peter and the Wolf sequence), Alice in Wonderland (as the Cheshire Cat), and The Jungle Book (as Kaa).
Also known as the voice of the original Cheerios Honey-Nut Bee, Holloway's final voice acting credit
was narrating an episode of TV's Moonlighting.

Click HERE for more November 22 Disney history & Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nov 21: Travels in Time at the Magic Kingdom

On this day in 1994, The Timekeeper attraction opened at Florida's Magic Kingdom. A Circle-Vision 360 film, it had already opened in Disneyland Paris (in 1992) and Tokyo Disneyland (in 1993) before debuting in Disney World's Tomorrowland. Unlike previous Circle-Vision films, it was the first show that featured an actual plot and not just scenes of landscapes, and the first to utilize Audio-Animatronics.
The Timekeeper featured a pre-show where guests were introduced to the inventor of the show "9-Eye" (voiced by actress Rhea Perlman). She was the latest development from The Timekeeper, the zany keeper of the time machine (voiced by comic-actor Robin Williams). Guests then entered the theater, originally known as "Transportarium," to meet up with Jules Verne (author and considered by many to be the father of sci-fi) and begin their 20-minute travel through time.
Unfortunately after being placed on a seasonal schedule in April 2001, The Timekeeper ultimately closed in 2006. By that time its sister attractions in Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland had also closed.

Click Here for more November 21 Disney history.

Nov 20: Horatio Thelonious Ignacious Crustaceous Sebastian

On this day in 1948, actor Samuel E. Wright, best known to Disney fans as the voice of Sebastian the crab in The Little Mermaid (and countless Mermaid spin-offs), is born in Camden, South Carolina. Wright was also the original lead actor for Mufasa in the Broadway version of The Lion King and supplied the voice for Kron in Disney's Dinosaur.

Click HERE for more November 20 Disney history.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Nov 19: Wilbur!

On this day in 1919, actor Alan Young was born Angus Young in Northern England. Best known to TV fans as Wilbur Post on the classic 1960s series Mr. Ed, Young is the voice of Disney's Uncle Scrooge McDuck! He can be heard in such features as Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas, Mickey's Twice Upon A Christmas, and various TV episodes of House of Mouse & Duck Tales. Young also voiced Hiram Flaversham in the animated The Great Mouse Detective and appeared as Dr. Wenger in the live-action The Cat from Outer Space. (Sci-fi fans may recall him for his role in the 1960 feature The Time Machine.)

Click HERE for more November 19 Disney history.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Nov 18: Happy B-day MM

On this day in 1928, Disney's Mickey Mouse short Steamboat Willie was released. It would become the first commercially successful animated cartoon with synchronized sound to attract widespread public notoriety (but not the first ever sound cartoon). The short would also establish November 18 as Mickey Mouse's birthday (according to Disney) even though Steamboat Willie is not the debut of Mickey on the big screen. (Not to confuse matters - but Steamboat is the 3rd Mickey short to ever be produced.)
Written and directed by Walt and Ub Iwerks, the short debuted ahead of the feature Gang War at the Colony Theater in New York City.
In this 7-minute classic, Mickey serves as the pilot of Steamboat Willie under Captain Pete (a longtime Disney villain). He is first seen piloting the steamboat while whistling, suggesting he himself is the captain - to the disgust of Pete who throws Mickey off the bridge and takes over. They soon have to stop for cargo, but almost as soon as they set off again, the as-of-then unnamed Minnie Mouse arrives, too late to board. Mickey manages to pick her up from the river shore, just as she drops her sheet music for the popular folk song "Turkey in the Straw" ... which is eaten by a goat. Mickey and Minnie use the goat's tail as a phonograph, which plays the tune. Mickey also uses various other animals as musical instruments, which disturbs Captain Pete, who puts him back to work. Mickey is reduced to peeling potatoes for the rest of the trip. A parrot attempts to make fun of him, but Mickey uncharacteristically strikes him with a potato, knocking him into the river. The short ends with Mickey laughing at the drowning bird (which is unusual for the fun-loving mouse).
Steamboat Willie has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Click HERE for more November 18 Disney history.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nov 17: Birth of an "Old Man"

On this day in 1907, animator Les Clark the first of Disney's "Nine Old Men" to be hired, was born Leslie James Clark in Ogden, Utah. (Disney's "Nine Old Men" were a core group of animators who created the studio's most famous work.)
Supposedly it all started when Walt Disney complimented a teenage Clark on the lettering he made for the menus on the mirrors of the candy/ice cream shop he worked at. Two years later in 1927, about to graduate from high school, Clark got up the nerve to ask Mr. Disney for a job. "Bring some of your drawings in and let's see what they look like," was Walt's response.
Walt must have liked what he saw because only 4 days after graduating from high school Les began working at Disney's Hyperion studio! Walt warned Clark that "it might just be a temporary job." Well, by the time he retired, Les Clark was a senior animator and director, and the "longest continuously employed member of Walt Disney Productions" - he began with Disney on February 23, 1927 and retired on September 30, 1975!
Clark's large body of work includes early Alice Comedies, Steamboat Willie, The Skeleton Dance, Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, So Dear to My Heart, Cinderella, Peter Pan, and TV's Mickey Mouse Disco.
Les Clark was named a Disney Legend in 1989.

Click HERE for more November 17 Disney history.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Nov 16: Walt & "Mister Disney"

On this day in 1965, Walt Disney and Joe Potter (an engineering and logistical planning genius) visited the Walt Disney World site in Florida. This visit came the day after the big Florida news conference that confirmed Disney was indeed building a vacation kingdom near Orlando.
Potter, who would become known to many as "Mister Disney" for his liaison work between the park and surrounding communities during the 1960s and 1970s, was a retired U.S. Army major general when Walt first recruited him to oversee the early construction of the park. Potter's job was to transform 300 acres of land into the Magic Kingdom - while preserving the area's ecology and beauty. Walt was confident in Potter's ability, as he had served as Governor of the Panama Canal Zone - governing a community of over 40,000 people!
Potter oversaw construction of Disney World's entire infrastructure, including underground sewer, power and water treatment plants that were considered revolutionary at the time. He also developed drainage canals for the entire property, which came to be known as "Joe's ditches."
Ironically Joe Potter passed away in 1988 on December 5 ... the birth date of his famous boss.

Click HERE for more November 16 Disney history.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Nov 15: Hello CAPS!

On this day in 1989, Disney's 28th animated feature The Little Mermaid was released in Los Angeles and New York City. It was the first Disney animated feature in three decades to be based on a classic fairy tale (the last being Sleepy Beauty). The Little Mermaid was also the first animated feature to be produced using the Computer Animation Production System (or CAPS for short). CAPS was a collection of software programs, scanning camera systems, servers, networked computer workstations, and custom desks developed by Disney and Pixar. It was the first digital ink-and-paint system used in animated feature films - designed to replace the expensive process of transferring animated drawings to cels. The very first usage of the CAPS process was Mickey standing on the Epcot Sphere for "The Magical World of Disney" titles. But the system's first feature film use was in The Little Mermaid. Most notably in the final scene, where the main characters depart under a rainbow - the rest of the film used traditional painted cels. (Subsequent films like The Rescuers Down Under used CAPS completely.) In 1992, the team that developed CAPS won an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Scientific and Engineering Award.

Click HERE for more November 15 Disney history.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Nov 14: Making a Spectacle at Disney-MGM

On this day in 2005, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights returned to Disney-MGM Studios in Florida for the 2005 holiday season. A Disney World tradition since 1995, the Spectacle of Lights can be traced back to Little Rock, Arkansas.
The idea was born at the Little Rock home of the Osborne family back in 1986. That year Jennings Osborne, a prominent and successful businessman, strung a simple string of 1,00 red lights at the request of his 6-year-old daughter, nicknamed Breezy. Every Christmas season Jennings strung a few more lights and by 1993 his display grew to 3 million - which could be seen from as far away as 80 miles! Unfortunately for Jennings his neighbors weren't happy with the traffic his spectacle drew.
Soon after his light display was shut down, he was contacted by Disney World to bring his lights to Florida. Since 1995 the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights has become one of Disney-MGM's favorite annual attractions.

For more November 14 Disney history, click HERE.

Nov 13: A King Comes to Broadway

On this day in 1997, Disney's Broadway musical The Lion King (based on the 1994 hit animated feature) had its official debut at the New Amsterdam Theater. Having had its world premiere in Minneapolis in July 1997, the New York City version now performs at Broadway's Minskoff Theater (as of June 2006).
The opening night cast included: Kevin Cahoon as Ed, Max Casella as Timon, Tracy Nicole Chapman as Shenzi, Heather Headley as Nala, Geoff Hoyle as Zazu, Scott Irby-Ranniar as Young Simba, Tsidii Le Loka as Rafiki, Stanley Wayne Mathis as Banzai, Jason Raize as Simba, Tom Alan Robbins as Pumbaa, Kajuana Shuford as Young Nala, John Vickery as Scar, and Samuel E Wright as Mufasa.
The stage version incorporated several changes and additions to the storyline as compared to the animated film. The mandrill Rafiki's gender was changed to a female role, because there wasn't a leading female character in the film. Several new scenes were added, including a conversation between Mufasa and Zazu about whether Mufasa is raising Simba correctly, and a perilous scene where Timon finds himself nearly drowning in a waterfall while Simba feels powerless to help him.
In 1998 The Lion King won a Tony Award for Best Musical and several Drama Desk Awards.

Discover more Disney history for November 13 HERE.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Nov 12: The Firehouse Five Plus Two "Rocks" Disneyland

On this day in 1962, The Firehouse Five Plus Two, a Dixieland jazz band made up of Disney Studio employees and led by animator Ward Kimball, performed at Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe Saloon.
The roots of the group can be traced back to the 1940s when some of the Studio's employees would gather in Kimball's office at lunchtime to listen to jazz records. When it was discovered that many of Walt's animators & writers played musical instruments the idea of a band was born. The group at first consisted of Danny Alguire on cornet, Harper Goff on banjo, Ward Kimball on trombone, Clarke Mallery on clarinet, Monte Mountjoy on drums, Ed Penner on tuba, and Frank Thomas on piano. Originally known as the Huggajeedy Eight, the guys were asked to play parties and dances.
But when the band was asked by the local Horseless Carriage Club to play for its auto tour to San Diego, Kimball quickly found and restored a 1914 fire truck and with the group now uniformed as firemen, changed the name to the Firehouse Five Plus Two. (The "Plus Two" was added so that people who hired the group would know that they were getting seven musicians!) By May 1949 the band was recording its first album (thanks to a Paramount Studio film writer and jazz fan). Throughout the 1950s they played concerts, dances, weddings and even appeared on national TV programs! Eventually other Disney artists such as George Probert, Dick Roberts, Ralph Ball and George Bruns took part in the group as well.
The Firehouse Five Plus Two continued to perform and record their brand of fun and raucous Dixieland until the group's retirement in 1971.

Discover more November 12 Disney history HERE.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Nov 11: The Snow White Deadline

On this day in 1937, the final animation for Disney's first full-length animated feature Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs was completed. Working around-the-clock, Walt and his staff just barely met their deadline of Christmas 1937. After nearly four years of painstaking work, two million drawings and a record shattering $1.5 million budget, Disney's masterpiece was ready for a December 21 unveiling. An adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairytale, Snow White is generally considered to be Disney's most significant achievement.

Discover more November 11 Disney history HERE.
Remember ... in the U.S. November 11 is Veteran's Day.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Nov 10: Disney's First Musical Director

Carl W. Stalling, composer & arranger for cartoons, was born November 10, 1891. Born in Lexington, Missouri, Stalling first started playing piano at age six. Some fifteen years later he found himself conducting his own orchestra & improvising on organ at the Isis Movie Theater in Kansas City. It was at this time he befriended a young Walt Disney who was producing animated comedy shorts in Kansas City. Stalling was hired as Walt's very first musical director and worked on such early Mickey shorts as Plane Crazy and Gallopin' Goucho. He only stayed at Disney for 2 years (which included scoring the Silly Symphonies series). Stalling pioneered the use of "bar sheets" which allowed the musical rhythms to be sketched out simultaneously with the storyboard for the animation! He left Disney and eventually wound up with Warner Bros. where he remained until his retirement in 1958. If you've seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon ... you more than likely have heard the work of Carl Stalling!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Nov 9: On The Record

On this day in 2004, Disney launched a new musical production called On The Record in Cleveland, Ohio. A "jukebox musical," this stage show contained no dialogue - just 4 soloists in a magical recording studio singing 75 years of Disney classics. It featured Ashley Brown (who went on to dazzle Broadway audiences as Belle in Beauty and the Beast and Mary in Mary Poppins) as Kristen. On The Record toured for nine months visiting 24 U.S. cities.

For more November 9 Disney history, click HERE.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Nov 8: Robin Hood and his MERRY MENagerie!

On November 8, 1973 Disney's animated Robin Hood was first released in the U.S. The 21st animated feature, it was the first to begin production after Walt Disney's death (although some elements were taken from an earlier abandoned production). As the film was made during Disney's financial slump, the artists reused footage from previous animated features.

Nov 7: Groovy Marsha!

On this day in 1972 actor Christopher Daniel Barnes was born in Portland, Maine. His best-known Disney role is the voice of Prince Eric in the 1989 animated feature The Little Mermaid (which he reprised in the Square Enix/Disney video game Kingdom Hearts II). Barnes was only 16 years old when he first provided the voice but the producers cast him because his voice sounded much older! He also provided the voice for Cinderella’s Prince Charming in Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time. You may know Barnes as Greg Brady from the Brady Bunch parody movies!

More November 7 Disney History HERE.

Nov 6: Dr Smith Celebrates a B-day

Born on this day in The Bronx, New York in 1914 … stage and character actor Jonathan Harris! Best known as the comic villain Dr. Zachary Smith, in the popular 1960s sci-fi series Lost in Space, Harris supplied the voices of Manny in A Bug’s Life and Geri the Cleaner in Toy Story 2. (Lost in Space also starred Guy Williams - Disney’s Zorro!) Harris also appeared in two 1961 episodes of The Twilight Zone. Harris once said of his characteristic accent: “I’m not British, just affected.”

Click HERE for more November 6 Disney history.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Nov 5: It's "Incredible"

On this day in 2004, the Disney/Pixar animated feature The Incredibles opened in U.S. theaters. Pixar’s sixth feature film (presented by Walt Disney Pictures) centered around a family of superheroes. It was written and directed by Brad Bird, known for directing TV’s The Simpsons and the 1999 animated movie The Iron Giant. (He later went on to direct Ratatouille.) The Incredibles was originally developed as a traditionally-animated movie for Warner Bros., but after Warner shut down its animation division … Bird moved to Pixar and took the story with him!

Discover more Disney history for November 5 HERE.