Monday, December 31, 2007

Dec 31: Programmed for Laughs!

On this day in 1969, Disney's live-action comedy feature The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes was released. Starring Kurt Russell, Alan Hewitt, Joe Flynn, and Cesar Romero, it was the first in a trilogy of films that used the setting of the fictitious Medfield College.
The film centers on college student Dexter Riley (played by Russell) and a computer that's been donated to the university by the A.J. Arno Company. The donation seems harmless until it is discovered that the company's namesake and founder (played by Romero) is really the head of a gambling ring. The computer given to Medfield is actually filled with illegal data which is put into Riley's head after receiving a huge shock while installing a new part in it. The information and logic capabilities are now in Riley's body!

Click HERE for more December 31 Disney history.
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dec 30: Gallopin' Mickey

On this day in 1928, Disney's black & white Mickey Mouse short The Gallopin' Gaucho was released. Originally a silent film, this day's release featured synchronized sound!
The Gallopin' Gaucho was never released in its silent version due to a lack of interest in its predecessor Plane Crazy. But after Steamboat Willie's success, Disney added sound to Gaucho, making it the third Mickey short to be released (although the second short to be produced).
The Gallopin' Gaucho was a parody of the 1927 live-action feature The Gaucho - starring Douglas Fairbanks. Just like the original film, the events of the Mickey short took place in Argentina. Mickey meets Minnie in a cantina and the two perform a tango. When Pete (a very large cat-like creature) steals Minnie away, Mickey rides to the rescue on an emu.
But what makes this short unique is that Mickey Mouse is seen smoking ... and drinking a beer!

Click HERE for more December 30 Disney history.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dec 29: Born Happy

On this day in 1865, actor Otis Harlan was born in Zanesville, Ohio (located 50 miles east of Columbus). A veteran of vaudeville, live musicals, and early silent movies, Harlan provided the voice for the dwarf Happy in Disney's 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Described as a cherub pop-eyed character actor, he worked in films right up until his passing in January 1940.

Click HERE for more December 29 Disney history.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Dec 28: A Different Race for Petty

On this day in 2005, it was announced that NASCAR veteran Kyle Petty (son of racing legend Richard Petty) would run in the 2006 Walt Disney Marathon.
Kyle (an avid runner) went on to run the marathon on January 8, 2006, to benefit his family's Victory Junction Gang - a charity serving children with chronic medical conditions and serious illnesses.
(Brazilian Adriano Bastos won the 13th annual Disney World event with a time of 2:19:44.)

Click HERE for more December 28 Disney history.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dec 27: Tarzan of the Apes

On this day in 2005, rehearsals for a new Disney Broadway musical called Tarzan began in Brooklyn, New York. Based upon the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Disney production featured the music of Phil Collins. (Collins had originally written 5 songs for the 1999 animated version - and added 9 new songs for this stage version.)
Tarzan went on to officially open at the Richard Rodgers Theater on May 10, 2006 and give some 486 performances before closing in July 2007.

Click HERE for more December 27 Disney history.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Dec 26: Today's Episode

On this day in 1956, the ABC-TV Disneyland series re-aired the episode "Searching For Nature's Mysteries." (The episode originally aired on September 26, 1956.)
The various techniques used for making up-close and detailed nature documentaries were described by narrator (and director) Winston Hibler. Highlights included a foray into a beehive, a visit to an ant colony, and a time-lapse-photography sequence of blossoming plant life.
This episode is included on the DVD The Walt Disney Legacy Collection Volume 4: Nature's Mysteries.

Click HERE for more December 26 Disney history.

Dec 25: Birth of a Screenwriter

On this day in 1924, Rodman Edward "Rod" Serling was born in Syracuse, New York. A screenwriter best known for his live television dramas, Serling created the classic TV series The Twilight Zone.
Although born in Syracuse, he was raised in Binghamton, New York and later served as a U.S. Army paratrooper and demolition specialist during World War II. His military experiences greatly affected his writing (and the rest of his life).
A year after graduating from college, Serling broke into television by writing scripts for such shows as Fireside Theater, Lux Video Theater, and Kraft Television Theater. Although he met with success, he was tired of seeing his scripts censored and decided to create his own show.
In 1959, Serling's The Twilight Zone debuted on CBS-TV. The original series ran for 5 seasons (and remains syndicated to this day). Described as an anthology series, each episode presented its own separate story - often involving characters who face unusual circumstances.
Serling served as head writer, executive producer and host (delivering on and off-screen monologues).
Disney's popular park attraction The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is based upon The Twilight Zone series. A simulated freefall thrill ride, Disney Imagineers supposedly watched every episode of Serling's series at least twice to create the detailed attraction.

Click HERE for more December 25 Disney history.
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Dec 24: Verdi's Musical Drama

On this day in 1871, Aida (an opera in 4 acts) by Giuseppe Verdi was performed for the very first time. It debuted at the Khedivial Opera House (first opened in 1869) in Cairo, Egypt.
Verdi, an Italian romantic composer, was one of the most influential composers of the 19th century. He was commissioned to write the opera for a performance in January 1871, but the premiere was delayed because of the Franco-Prussian War.
Aida met with great success & acclaim in 1871 and even today it appears as number 16 on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America!
Verdi's opera has been adapted for motion pictures and its music has been recorded many times over the years.
The story of Aida (not its music) was even used as the basis for a stage version produced by Disney's Hyperion Theatricals. New music was written for the show (which debuted in 1998) by Elton John and Tim Rice. Because of Disney's success, Aida has become popular among school and community theaters.

Click HERE for more December 24 Disney history.
Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dec 23: "The Mightiest Motion Picture Of Them All!"

On this day in 1954, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a Disney motion picture starring Kirk Douglas, James Mason, and Peter Lorre, was released. It is one of the most well-known adaptations of Jules Verne's classic novel.
Even today, it is considered by many the most mature Disney live-action production - due to its philosophical dialogue. The film was also the first time that major Hollywood stars appeared in a Disney production and the first time Disney shot a film in wide screen Cinemascope. Directed by Richard Fleischer, it was awarded two Oscars: one for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and another for Best Film Editing.

Click HERE for more December 23 Disney history.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dec 22: Passing of a Legend

On this day in 1995, writer, Imagineer & Disney Legend Bill Cottrell passed away in Burbank, California at age 88. Vice President of WDW Enterprises and president of Retlaw Co. (which became Walt Disney Imagineering), Cottrell was one of two employees who Walt originally sent around the U.S. to research amusement parks. Cottrell and Bill Martin visited places like Coney Island and Knott's Berry Farm to gather ideas for Disneyland.
Brother-in-law of Lilliian and Walt Disney, Cottrell's writing credits include Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and The Reluctant Dragon.

Click HERE for more December 22 Disney history.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dec 21: A Thousand Thrills

On this day in 1962, Disney's live-action feature In Search of the Castaways opened in theaters. Based on the novel by French writer Jules Verne, the film was directed by Robert Stevenson.
The film tells the story of a teenage brother and sister (played by Keith Hamshere & Hayley Mills) who are in search of their long-missing father (played by Jack Gwillim). They are aided by an old English Captain, his son, and a French scientist named Professor Jacques Paganel (played by Maurice Chevalier). Their search brings them to South America where they encounter every possible obstacle to their quest - including wild animals, fierce weather, and unfriendly natives!

Click HERE for more December 21 Disney history.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dec 20: Birth of a Mouseketeer

On this day in 1941, Tommy Cole (an original Mouseketeer) was born in Burbank, California. A singer & musician, Cole was one of two non-dancing Mouseketeers to survive the first season cut and become a regular member (mostly due to his great singing voice).
Although born in Burbank, he grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of La Canada. Cole started out playing the accordion in a western swing band. When the ensemble auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club in 1955 - he was the only one selected to join the cast.
As an adult, Cole became an award-winning make-up artist in Hollywood.

Click HERE for more December 20 Disney history.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dec 19: Pollyanna's Originator

On this day in 1868, novelist Eleanor H. Porter was born in Littletown, New Hampshire. Disney fans will recognize her most famous works Pollyanna (1913) and Pollyanna Grows Up (1915). These stories brought Porter international fame as they were later adapted for the theater, television, and the big screen. Disney's 1960 film adaptation starred Hayley Mills in the title role.

Click HERE for more December 19 Disney history.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dec 18: A Journey That Begins Where Everything Else Ends!

On this day in 1979, The Black Hole, a science-fiction movie directed by Gary Nelson for Walt Disney Productions, premiered in London, England.
Referred to as Disney's answer to Star Wars, the film starred Maximilian Schell (as Dr. Hans Reinhardt), Robert Forster (as Captain Dan Holland), Ernest Borgnine (as Harry Booth), Anthony Perkins (as Dr. Alex Durant) and Roddy McDowall (as the voice of V.I.N. CENT the robot).
The Black Hole tells the story of the crew of the spaceship Palomino - who discovers the U.S.S. Cygnus, a lost ship hovering on the edge of an immense black hole. Once aboard, the crew learns that the ship is being run by robots and its only human inhabitant is Dr. Reinhardt - who has been missing for the last 20 years!
The Black Hole premiered 3 days later in U.S. theaters and was nominated for 2 Oscars.

Click HERE for more December 18 Disney history.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dec 17: Good Deed

On this day in 1932, the Disney short Mickey's Good Deed, directed by Burt Gillett, was released.
This cartoon finds Mickey & Pluto as homeless beggar musicians - trying to earn money to help out a poor family of cats on Christmas Eve. When they don't have much luck, Mickey decides to temporarily sell Pluto to a wealthy family. He uses the money to play Santa and surprise the feline family. Meanwhile poor Pluto is being driven crazy by the wealthy family's spoiled brat. In the end, Pluto is set free and reunited with Mickey for a merry Christmas.

Click HERE for more December 17 Disney history.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dec 16: Bluth's Masterpiece

On this day in 1978, Disney's Christmas-themed animated short The Small One was released (along with the re-release of the 1940 Pinocchio) to theaters. Based on the book by Charles Tazewell, The Small One was an experiment for the newer and younger animators - most notably Don Bluth (who directed the short).
It tells the story of a young Judean boy (voiced by Sean Marshall) who must part with his best friend - and old donkey named Small One. Although it makes the boy sad, the animal is sold to a kind man who needs a gentle donkey to carry his pregnant wife Mary to Bethlehem.

Click HERE for more December 16 Disney history.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dec 15: "The Ultimate Star Wars Adventure!"

On this day in 1989, Disney World's version of Star Tours officially opened at the Disney-MGM Park. It was the first attraction to open in the park's new back lot annex area. A simulator ride, it is based on the successful Star Wars franchise of movies (created by George Lucas).
Disney World's version was the third to debut - a Star Tours opened in Disneyland in January 1987 and then in Tokyo Disneyland in July 1989. (A fourth Star Tours later opened in Disneyland Paris in April 1992.) Designed by teams from both Disney and Geroge Lucas, each of the 40-seat flight simulators (the same ones used by the military to train pilots) features a thrilling video to enhance the experience.

Click HERE for more December 15 Disney history.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dec 14: A Holiday Treat

On this day in 1961, Disney's first live-action musical Technicolor feature Babes in Toyland was released.
Babes in Toyland
was originally an operetta composed by Victor Herbert with a libretto by Glen MacDonough. It wove together various characters from Mother Goose nursery rhymes into a musical extravaganza. (You may recall Laurel & Hardy's 1934 big screen version also known as March of the Wooden Soldiers.)
Disney's version (directed by Jack Donohue) had a heavily revised plot, but featured much of Herbert's music with new lyrics. It starred Ray Bolger as Barnaby, Tommy Sands as Tom Piper, Annette Funicello as Mary Contrary, Ed Wynn as Toymaker, and Tommy Kirk as Grumio.
The film's music won a Grammy for Best Soundtrack Album or Recording of Original Cast from Motion Picture or Television.

Click HERE for more December 14 Disney history.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dec 13: You'll beWITCHED ... You'll beDAZZLED!

On this day in 1971, Disney's feature Bedknobs and Broomsticks was generally released in U.S. theaters. A musical mixing live-action and animation, it was based upon the books The Magic Bed Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons and Bonfires and Broomsticks, by Mary Norton.
The film follows an apprentice witch named Eglantine Price (played by Angela Lansbury), three Cockney war orphans, and an illusionist conman (played by David Tomlinson) who travel on a magic bed across war-torn England and beyond, encountering various inhabitants of London, football-playing cartoon animals, and Nazi invaders.
The movie features the song "The Age of Not Believing" written by Robert and Richard Sherman.

Click HERE for more December 13 Disney history.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dec 12: 1717 Disneyland Drive

On this day in 2000, the Disneyland Pacific Hotel reopened as Paradise Pier Hotel. The property was originally known as the Emerald Hotel in 1984 and was later called the Pan Pacific Hotel. Disney purchased it in December 1995 and changed its name to the Disneyland Pacific Hotel. On December 12, 2000, the hotel was reopened as Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel - to complement one of the themed lands in the adjacent Disney's California Adventure Park.

Click HERE for more December 12 Disney history.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dec 11: Bah Humbug

On this day in 1992, The Muppet Christmas Carol, the fourth feature film to star The Muppets was released. Distributed & produced by Walt Disney Pictures, it was based on the classic holiday story by Charles Dickens.
It was also the first Muppet movie in which the story revolved around characters played by human beings - specifically, Ebenezer Scrooge played by veteran actor Michael Caine. The rest of the cast consisted of mostly Muppets - the character of Bob Cratchit was played by Kermit the Frog!
The Muppet Christmas Carol was dedicated to the memory of Jim Henson and Richard Hunt, two original Muppet performers, who died before the film's release.

Click HERE for more December 11 Disney history.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dec 10: Simulation Sickness

On this day in 2003, motion-sickness bags were first placed in the capsules of Epcot's thrill ride Mission: SPACE. It was the first time Disney World (or any theme park in history) made motion-sickness bags available on any of its attractions! Motion sickness is a condition in which a disagreement exists between visually perceived movement and the vestibular system's sense of movement.
Although fans do blow air gently at riders of Mission: SPACE to help avoid motion sickness (and a magnified display in front of each rider simulates a window to space with high-resolution computer-generated imagery) some guests still feel queasy.
In May 2006, Disney began offering a less intense version of Mission: SPACE (called Green Team, or Half-Throttle), where the centrifuge does not spin, thus eliminating the forces of lateral acceleration ... and hopefully the need for motion-sickness bags.

Click HERE for more December 10 history.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Dec 09: House Full of Cats

On this day in 1931, Disney's Christmas-themed short Mickey's Orphans was released. In this 7-minute cartoon, Mickey and Minnie Mouse are celebrating the holiday when a bunch of orphan kittens are left on their doorstep in a basket. Although they are overwhelmed with the felines, Mickey & Minnie attempt to throw them a Christmas party.
Directed by Burt Gillett, the short features the voices of Walt Disney (as Mickey) and Marcellite Garner (as Minnie). It is the first Mickey short to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Click HERE for more December 09 history.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Dec 08: Toon Time

On this day in 1997, Disney announced plans to launch a new 24-hour cable channel called Toon Disney. The network debuted on April 18, 1998 (ironically the same day as Disney Channel's 15th anniversary) and featured mostly older Disney cartoons.
Today Toon Disney features a wide variety of new animated programs and even some live-action shows.

Click HERE for more December 08 Disney history.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dec 07: 24/7

On this day in 1986, The Disney Channel began broadcasting 24 hours a day. When the network first debuted in 1983, it only aired 18 hours a day (from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.). In 1997, the network took on a revamped look and dropped the "The" in its name and simply became Disney Channel.
The network, which is based in Burbank, California, is slated to begin broadcasting in High-definition sometime in early 2008.

Click HERE for more December 07 Disney history.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Dec 06: Birth Dates Galore

December 6 is a popular birth date in Disney history.
-On this day in 1903, Walt's only sister Ruth (the youngest of all the children of Flora & Elias Disney) was born in Chicago, Illinois. She later married Theodore Beecher and lived in Oregon, where she became an expert of organs and organ music.
-In 1915, artist Delmer J. Yoakum was born in St. Joseph, Missouri. He was responsible for painting the Grand Canyon and Primeval World Diorama scenery at Disneyland.
-On this day in 1920, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck was born in Concord, California. Best known for his song "Take Five," he released an album of Disney songs titled Dave Digs Disney in 1957.
-In 1924, actor Wally Cox was born in Detroit, Michigan. Best remembered as the original voice of Underdog, he appeared in the Disney live-action features The Barefoot Executive and The Boatniks.
-On this day in 1953, actor Tom Hulce was born in Whitewater, Wisconsin. Best known for his Academy Award-nominated role of Mozart in Amadeus, Hulce is also the voice of Quasimodo in Disney's animated The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
-In 1977, Mouseketeer Lindsey Alley was born in Lakeland, Florida. She appeared on Disney Channel's The All New Mickey Mouse Club.
Happy Birthday to all.

Click HERE for more December 06 Disney history.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dec 05: Proclamation 5585

On this day in 1986, U.S. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed December 5, 1986 as Walt Disney Recognition Day. Proclamation 5585 was filed with the Office of the Federal Register at 2:08 pm on this day (the anniversary of Walt's birth). It was a fitting tribute, as Reagan (then an actor & a friend of Walt's) had helped co-host Disneyland's grand opening in 1955.
"I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim December 5, 1986, as Walt Disney Recognition Day. I call upon all Americans to recognize this very special day in the spirit in which Walt Disney entertained young and older Americans."

Click HERE for more December 05 Disney history.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dec 04: Blast Off

On this day in 1957, the Disneyland television series aired the one-hour episode "Mars and Beyond." Directed by Ward Kimball and narrated by Paul Frees, it discussed the possibility of life on other planets - especially Mars. It was the third installment of an influential Disney series about space exploration.
Walt Disney himself opened the show with a robot named Garco, who provided a brief overview of the episode. Even ideas from science-fiction authors H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs were brought to life with colorful animation. Pulp science fiction comics of the time were parodied including a segment featuring Kimball's comic tone and a cameo appearance by Donald Duck! Then the episode took a serious tone as it profiled each of the planets in the solar system, from the perspective of what would happen to a human on them. The program wrapped up with what a trip to Mars would entail for a space crew and its vessels.
"Mars and Beyond," and the first two episodes "Man in Space" and "Man in the Moon" were all released on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures - Tomorrowland: Disney in Space and Beyond in 2004.

Click HERE for more December 04 Disney history.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dec 03: Mickey's Fine Flippered Friend

On this day in 1948, a baby seal created happy havoc for Mickey & Pluto in the release of Mickey and the Seal. Directed by Charles A. Nichols, this short finds Mickey at the zoo - where he befriends a baby seal. Mickey unsuspectingly goes home with his new friend ... which makes Pluto jealous!
Nominated for an Oscar, Mickey and the Seal features the voices of Pinto Colvig (as Pluto) and James Macdonald (as Mickey).

Click HERE for more Dec 03 Disney history.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Dec 02: The PURR-fect crime

On this day in 1965, Disney's live-action comedy feature That Darn Cat! was released. Directed by Robert Stevenson, it was based on a book called Undercover Cat. In the film, a mischievous cat, whose collar is evidence of a woman's kidnapping, is used by the FBI to track down a pair of bumbling criminals. Amusingly, the agent they send ... is allergic to cats!
That Darn Cat! starred Hayley Mills (her last role for the studio after six years), Dean Jones, Dorothy Provine, Roddy McDowall, Elsa Lanchester, Frank Gorshin, and Ed Wynn. The title song was written by The Sherman Brothers and sung by Bobby Darin.
A remake of That Darn Cat! was later released by Disney in 1997.

Click HERE for more December 2 Disney history.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Dec 01: Interstate 4

On this day in 1958, construction began on Florida's Interstate 4. Also known as I-4 (currently the lowest-numbered Interstate Highway in the contiguous 48 U.S. states) the road is used by travelers destined for Walt Disney World and other Central Florida tourist sites.
Today the Florida road stretches from Interstate 275 in Tampa to Interstate 95 at Daytona Beach. It maintains a diagonal, northeast-southwest route for its entire length of 134 miles.
I-4 was one of the first Interstate Highways to be constructed in Florida. The first section opened between Plant City and Lakeland in 1959. By 1961, the Lakeland to Orlando segment was completed. The final link of the road was laid out by 1965.

Click HERE for more December 01 Disney history.