Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Apr 30: A Sneak Peak Salute

On this final day of April in 1989, The Magical World of Disney aired the episode "The Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park Grand Opening," on NBC the night before the park's actual debut.
The special, which took viewers on a tour of such (now extinct) attractions as Superstar Television and The Monster Sound Show, featured a cast of all-star celebrities. Harry Anderson, George Burns, Walter Cronkite, Jane Fonda, John Forsythe, Estelle Getty, Kate Jackson, Ann Miller, Willie Nelson, Tony Randall, Mickey Rooney, and John Ritter were just some of the stars who appeared.
"The Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park Grand Opening" was nominated for two Emmy Awards ... and later won 1 for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography, mainly due to its musical finale - "Hooray for Hollywood."

Click HERE for more April 30 Disney history.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Apr 29: Something frightening. Something strange. Something different.

On this day in 1983, the Disney live-action feature Something Wicked This Way Comes was released.
Based on a 1962 novel by Ray Bradbury, the movie tells the story of two thirteen-year-old boys who have a harrowing experience with a nightmarish carnival that comes to their hometown.
Directed by Jack Clayton, Bradbury also wrote the screenplay. The film starred Jason Robards (as Charles Holloway - the father of one of the boys), Jonathan Pryce (as the sinister Mr. Dark), and Vidal Peterson & Shawn Carson as the two young teens.
Something Wicked This Way Comes was foreign territory for Disney at the time, as they had never made a dark film like it before. But it was well received by critics and won the 1984 Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film.
In the original version of Epcot's Journey Into Imagination attraction, the words "Something Wicked" are printed on the spine of one of the large books in the literature scene. This is a reference to both the film and an ode to author Ray Bradbury ... who had a helping hand in designing Epcot!

Click HERE for more April 29 Disney history.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Apr 22: "Nahtazu"

On this day in 1998, Disney's Animal Kingdom (Disney World's 4th theme park but Disney's 7th park in the world) had its grand opening. Appropriately debuting on Earth Day, DAK is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums - which means Disney has met and exceeded the standards in education, conservation, and research.
The idea for DAK can be traced back to January 1990 when Imagineering Concept Designer Joe Rhode met with then CEO Michael Eisner about a concept for an animal park/nontraditional zoo. Disney's "Wild Animal Kingdom" project was announced in June 1995 with ground being broken the following August.
The park, which covers 500 acres, is Disney's first to be themed around animal conservation. When it first opened, the park was divided up into sections called Oasis, Safari Village, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Conservation Station, DinoLand USA, and a small portion of Asia.
DAK today is broken up into seven themed areas - Oasis (the entrance area), Discovery Island (the main land previously known as Safari Village), Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Rafiki's Planet Watch (formerly Conservation Station), Asia, and DinoLand USA.
The park's icon, The Tree of Life, is a 145-foot tall artificial tree featuring more than 300 animals hand carved into its trunk.

Happy 10th anniversary DAK ... and happy Earth Day.

Click HERE for more April 22 Disney history.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Apr 20: A Musical Disney Legend

On this day in 2005, Disney Legend & musician Salvatore "Tutti" Camarata passed away in Burbank, California. Originally a trumpet player, he ran Disneyland Records (today known as Walt Disney Records) for nearly 20 years.
Nicknamed "Tutti" by band leader Jimmy Dorsey, Camarata was an instrumentalist, orchestrator, arranger, composer, and record producer.
Born May 11, 1913 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, he attended the Julliard School of Music in New York City and later studied composition at nearby Columbia University. At 21 he began playing with Charlie Barnet's band and then briefly on Bing Crosby's radio show. His big break came when he was offered first-chair trumpet with Jimmy Dorsey's band. Camarat's arrangements for Dorsey was a crucial ingredient in the band's rise to success in 1939.
In the early 1940s, he left Dorsey's band and began playing and arranging for other acts (such as Benny Goodman). In 1944, Camarata was hired as a musical director for Decca Records. He arranged and orchestrated for a number of big name acts including Louis Armstrong and Mary Martin. In 1950, he put together a studio big band - The Commanders - which had success with a series of albums. This led to television work which ultimately brought his name to the attention of Charles Hansen ... an executive working with Walt Disney.
Walt was looking for someone to run a record label that would release soundtracks of movies. Camarata was hired and he moved to southern California to establish and run Disneyland Records. With the popularity of TV's The Mickey Mouse Club, Camarata found himself producing singles by most of the show's stars - namely Annette Funicello. Although Funicello had a thin voice and was not an experienced singer, Camarata patiently experimented with a new echo effect that gave her a rich sound ... and made her a recording star.
Camarata became more than a record maker at Disney, as he played an important role in building up the studio's library of original music. He was responsible for introducing Sterling Holloway (the future voice of Winnie the Pooh) to Walt. Camarata also helped convince Louis Prima and Phil Harris to take part in the animated The Jungle Book. He supervised vocals on Disney's 1963 live-action Summer Magic (starring Hayley Mills). Camarata even worked on the Louis Armstrong album Disney Songs: The Satchmo Way.
During his early years at Disney, Camarata relied on local recording studios to work in. He would often press Walt to invest in his own studio to reduce costs (and to provide a consistent quality of recordings). After Disney rejected the idea (several times) Camarata decided to build his own studio. He bought an old auto repair shop on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and opened Sunset Sound Recorders in 1960. Although Disneyland Records was the studio's primary client at first, Sunset Sound began to attract some of rock'n'roll's biggest names. The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, and even Van Halen became regular customers.
As his studio's success increased, Camarata found it difficult to juggle its demands with those of Disneyland Records - and so in 1972 he left Disney. Today legendary Sunset Sound (now run by Camarata's son) remains a top-notch facility and home to such recording artists as Dixie Chicks, Cheryl Crow, and Jet.

Click HERE for more April 20 Disney history.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Apr 17: And the Oscar goes to ...

On this day in 1961, Bob Hope hosted the Academy Awards, held for the first time outside of Hollywood - at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California.
Disney's Goliath II (about a 6-inch tall elephant) is among those nominated for Best Short Subject, Cartoons - but loses to Munro. Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, Goliath II is narrated by Sterling Holloway.
Although nominated for Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects - Disney's Islands of the Sea loses to Day of the Painter. Islands of the Sea is a beautifully shot documentary about the wildlife on 4 islands - the Galapagos, Guadelupe, Falklands, and an island in the Midway chain.
The Oscar for Best Documentary Feature does go to a Disney picture titled The Horse with the Flying Tail - about a palomino who becomes a champion mount for one of the US equestrian team.
Hayley Mills is given a special Juvenile Award for her performance in Disney's Pollyanna, as a young girl who comes to an embittered town and must confront its attitude with her determination.

Click HERE for more April 17 Disney history.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Apr 15: A New Kind of Magic

On this day in 1962, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color aired episode 26 (of season 8) titled "Disneyland After Dark." Walt Disney himself presented a view of his Anaheim park at night with special musical guests.
The show began with a trip aboard the monorail from the Disneyland Hotel to Tomorrowland. Then Walt made his first appearance on Main Street, ordering popcorn from a vendor. His opening words included:
"Hi there! Y'know this is one of my favorite times of the day here ... just about sundown. I like to be around when the lights come on. It seems like a new kind of magic takes over in Disneyland After Dark."
In Tomorrowland, original Mouseketeer Annette Funicello performed "Dance Annette" and teen idol Bobby Rydell sang "Around the World." Viewers were then shown Frontierland to hear legendary jazz great Louis Armstrong. The Osmond Brothers performed (making their network debut) as well as Bobby Burgess, The Dapper Dans, and The Elliott Brothers Orchestra.
Disneyland looked quaint, homey ... and not as crowded in 1962.

Click HERE for more April 15 Disney history.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Apr 14: Oscar for Pooh

On this day in 1969, Disney's short feature Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day was awarded an Oscar for Best Short Subject, Cartoon at a ceremony held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California. (It was the first Academy Awards to be telecast throughout the world.)
Based on the Pooh books by A. A. Milne, Blustery Day was originally released in December 1968 along with the live-action feature The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit. Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman (one of Walt's "Nine Old Men"), it features the voices of Sterling Holloway (as Pooh), Paul Winchell (as Tigger), John Fiedler (as Piglet), and Jon Walmsley (as Christopher Robin).
Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (the second Disney animated feature based on Milne's characters) was nominated along with the shorts The Magic Pear, La Maison de Jean-Jacques, and Windy Day.

Click HERE for more April 14 Disney history.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Apr 13: Birth of a Founding Father

On this day in 1743, Thomas Jefferson - the third U.S. President and author of the Declaration of Independence - was born in Virginia. One of the most influential Founding Fathers of the United States, he also served as Secretary of State (under George Washington) and Vice President (under John Adams).
Jefferson was born at Shadwell - what is now Albemarle County, Virginia. His father was a well-to-do land owner and his mother came from one of the first families of Virginia.
Elected to to the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, he was appointed in June 1776 to head a committee in preparing the Declaration of Independence. Although considered the document's primary author, his initial draft was amended by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.
Jefferson served as president for two terms between 1801-1809.
On your next trip to Disney World visit Jefferson and all the U.S. Chief Executives at the Hall of Presidents ... an attraction that offers more than a comfortable seat and air conditioned air.

Click HERE for more April 13 Disney history.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Apr 10: America Sings

On this day in 1988, the Disneyland attraction America Sings ran for the last time. Featuring a cast of Audio-Animatronic animals singing songs from various periods in America's musical history, it was located in the Carousel Theater.
America Sings first opened in 1974 replacing the Carousel of Progress (which had moved to Disney World). It utilized the same rotating theater - although it rotated counter-clockwise (unlike Carousel of Progress which turned clockwise). America Sings was often compared to Disneyland's Country Bear Jamboree, because of its cast of singing animals.
The show was hosted by an American Bald Eagle named Sam (voiced by the legendary Burl Ives) and an owl named Ollie (voiced by Sam Edwards). Similar to the Carousel of Progress, the first and last scenes of America Sings involved the loading and unloading of guests. The other four scenes depicted a particular era, with Sam singing in between acts.
The characters were created by Imagineer Marc Davis and patterned after an animated movie idea which Walt Disney scrapped in the 1960s. Buddy Baker arranged the music for America Sings, which included nostalgic Americana songs such as "Yankee Doodle," "My Old Kentucky Home," "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey," and "A-Tisket A-Tasket."
Supposedly America Sings had to be closed as Disneyland's new Splash Mountain had gone over budget and the characters from America Sings were needed for that attraction. The Carousel Theater would sit empty for ten years ... until finally filled in 1998 with Innoventions (a version of the Epcot attraction).

Click HERE for more April 10 Disney history.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Apr 08: A Buzz in France

On this day in 2006, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast opened to the general public at Disneyland Paris in Discoveryland. (A press event had occurred the night before.) Based on Toy Story 2, this attraction shares the same plot as its predecessors at Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland. (Although as each attraction opened - new technology has enabled guests to better interact.)
In the Disneyland Paris version guests have detachable lasers (attached by a cord). The attraction uses a third-generation Omnimover system, which allows the passengers to determine the swivel of the vehicle with a predetermined range.
Disney World's version is called Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (first opened in October 1998), while Disneyland's version is called Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster. Tokyo Disneyland's and and Hong Kong Disneyland's are both named Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters.

Click HERE for more April 08 Disney history.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Apr 07: Luckiest Boy in the World

On this day in 1957, Parade magazine featured a cover story titled "Luckiest Boy in the World." It was about Disneyland Cast Member Tom Nabbe - the park's first Tom Sawyer.
Tom was just 12-year-old when he began working as a "newsie" for Disneyland - selling The Disneyland News to park guests on Main Street. Eventually Tom himself came up with the idea to be the park's Tom Sawyer. He spent a year pursuing Walt about becoming the star of Tom Sawyer Island.
Walt finally agreed - but under one condition: that Tom keep at least a C average in school. Tom kept up his grades and became Disneyland's Tom Sawyer.
After outgrowing the role, Tom went on to manage different attractions and in 1969 met his wife Janice (who was working in a concession stand). In 1971 he was transfered to the new Disney World where he started as manager of the monorail.
In June 2003, 60-year-old Tom Nabbe retired from his job (which at the time was manager of distribution services at the Florida park). He was the final working member of Club 55 - a group of original Disneyland employees.
Tom Nabbe was inducted a Disney Legend on September 20, 2005 and received a Disney NFFC Disney Legend Award the following year.

Click HERE for more April 07 Disney history.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Apr 06: LOOK

On this day in 1971, the April 6th issue of LOOK magazine (volume 35 number 7) featured a cover shot of Mickey Mouse the "first citizen of Florida." At a mere cost of 35 cents, the over-sized LOOK featured multiple articles about the near completion of Disney World and Florida's booming economy.
The Contents page informed readers:
Mickey Mouse is 42. Hard to believe? He still looks ready for mischievous mousery. You've probably seen dozens of his 100 and some cartoons, shaken his hand at Disneyland in California or even joined the Mouseketeers yourself. Now he's about to be host of the new Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida. There are more than 27,000 acres of it, opening in October. Mickey and his pals, Dumbo, Daisy Duck and the others, will gladly give you a preview. For a start, see page 17.
Page 17 began with the article "Boom! Boom! Boom?" - in which readers were informed that "money is creating new excitement in Florida."
Page 18 featured "Florida: Preview of The New Biggest Show on Earth" complete with color photos (albeit promo shots) of the new Magic Kingdom.
The article "Florida: What Hath Disney Wrought?" began on page 26. Readers were informed that "Walt Disney's decision to drop his billion-dollar Walt Disney World into 27,400 swampy, wooded acres in Central Florida has resulted in some of the wildest statistics in the history of land development."
Page 33 featured the article "Florida: Powder Keg Among The Palms" and told readers that "the sun-soaked funland is about to explode."
Page 38 featured a story titled "Florida: The Kids Play Outside Every Day," about a family originally from Virginia who happily moved to Florida.
A brand-new vacation world was about to take the decade by storm.

Click HERE for more April 06 Disney history.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Apr 05: Kopy Kat

On this day in 1934, Emmy-nominated actor, comedian, and impressionist Frank Gorshin was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Disney fans may recognize him from the 1965 live-action feature That Darn Cat! in which he played Iggy the bank-robber.
His early days as a comedian/impressionist included TV guest spots on The Ed Sullivan Show (his first being the same night The Beatles debuted) and The Steve Allen Show. He also appeared in such feature films as The Bells Are Ringing and Where The Boys Are.
In 1965 Disney released That Darn Cat! starring Hayley Mills, Dean Jones, Dorothy Provine, Roddy McDowall, Elsa Lanchester, and Gorshin. The comedy was nominated for an Edgar, a Golden Laurel, and a WGA Award.
But Gorshin will always be remembered for his role as the Riddler on the 1966-67 television series Batman. All in all he made nine appearances on the series as Batman's enemy and even received an Emmy nomination!
He later received another Emmy nomination for his role of an alien in a 1969 episode of Star Trek tiled "That Will Be Your Last Battlefield." Gorshin's television exposure led to headline status in many Las Vegas showrooms.
In 1970, Gorshin made his Broadway debut in the show Jimmy, in which he played New York Mayer James J. Walker.
In 1972, he starred in ABC-TV's The Kop Kats - in which the cast did impressions of actors and TV stars. Throughout the 1980s and 90s he appeared in countless TV films and guest starred on many series.
His final performance was in a 2005 episode of CBS-TV's CSI: Crime Scene Investigations, which sadly aired two days after Gorshin's death.

Click HERE for more April 05 Disney history.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Apr 04: What A Voice!

On this day in 1932, actress Estelle Harris was born in New York City. Best known to fans of Seinfeld as Mrs. Costanza (George's cranky mom), her unique comical voice can be heard in many Disney TV programs and feature films.
Harris has voiced Lula - the talking sword in Dave the Barbarian, Mama Lipsky in Kim Possible, Mrs. Potato Head in Toy Story 2, Old Lady Bear in Brother Bear, Audrey the Chicken in Home on the Range, Mama Gunda in Tarzan II, Mrs, Turtle in House of Mouse, and Mrs. Boogins in Teacher's Pet. She also plays the role of Muriel on Disney Channel's The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, and has even appeared on an episode of Phil of the Future.

Click HERE for more April 04 Disney history.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Apr 03: A Literary Superstar

On this day in 1783, writer Washington Irving was born in New York City - the same week Manhattan residents learned of the British ceasefire that ended the American Revolution. One of Irving's most famous tales "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" was retold in Disney's The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
Irving's tale was part of an 1820 collection of short stories and essays titled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., written while living in England. "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is set circa 1790 in the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town, New York. It tells the story of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane who is pursued one autumn night by a headless horseman.
Disney's 1949 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was directed by the team of James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, and Jack Kinney. The animated version of Irving's story was paired up with Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. Narrated by Bing Crosby, it featured the animated work of Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, Milt Kahl, and Ward Kimball.
Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. also included another well-known tale ... "Rip Van Winkle."
Irving popularized the nickname "Gotham" for New York City (later used in Batman comics and movies). The southernmost section of Lexington Avenue in New York City is called Irving Place, named so after Irving in 1833.
He is credited as the first American to earn his living solely by his pen.

Click HERE for more April 03 Disney history.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Apr 02: The Moral Storyeller

On this day in 1805, author & poet Hans Christian Andersen was born in Denmark. Best known for his fairy tales (of which there are over 150) Disney fans know his work through the animated adaptations The Little Mermaid and The Little Matchgirl.
Andersen's first collection of fairy tales (published in 1835) broke new ground for Danish literature with his style and use of idiom, irony, and humor. The book was a success, and he followed it with many other volumes.
"The Little Matchgirl," about a girl who dies selling matches on a cold New Year's Eve, was first published in 1845. Disney's Matchgirl got its start back in 2002 due to Roy Disney's intent on including it in a Fantasia sequel - which at the time was called The Music Project. The Little Matchgirl eventually came together as a short (with no dialogue - just music) and debuted at Annecy in France in June 2006. It went on to win Best Film For Children at the 17th Festival of Animated Films.
Andersen's "The Little Mermaid," about a young mermaid willing to give up her life in the sea for the love of a human, was first published in 1837. Disney's 1989 hit The Little Mermaid is based on Andersen's original tale which he first wrote in 1836. So popular is the story that a statue of Little Mermaid has been sitting on a rock in the Copenhagen harbor since 1913!
Andersen's other well-known tales include "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Emperor's New Clothes." His stories have been translated into well over 150 languages.

April 2 is International Children's Book Day.

Click HERE for more April 2 Disney history.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Apr 01: Toe-Tappin Favorites

On this day in 2003, Walt Disney Records released the CD "O Mickey, Where Art Thou?" The album featured movie soundtracks performed in a bluegrass style by such artists as Ronnie Milsap, Collin Raye, Sonya Isaacs, and Elizabeth Cook. (Bluegrass dates back to the 1920s when its creator Bill Monroe named his band The Blue Grass Boys.)
"O Mickey, Where Art Thou?" includes:
Country music singer-songwriter Collin Raye singing "Circle of Life"
"Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" performed by country singer-songwriter Elizabeth Cook
Country rock/pop singer-songwriter Kevin Montgomery singing "You'll Be in My Heart"
Newcomer Caroline Brown singing "Baby Mine"
An instrumental version of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"
"The Bare Necessities" by Country veteran Stonewall Jackson
Sonya Isaacs (of The Isaacs) performing "When She Loved Me"
A duet of "You've Got a Friend in Me" by Amanda Martin & Lyle Goodman
An instrumental version of "Mickey Mouse Club March / The Ballad of Davy Crockett"
Singer-guitarist Robbie Fulks singing "When I See an Elephant Fly"
Veteran Charlie Louvin performing "I Will Go Sailing No More"
and "When You Wish Upon A Star" by country legend Ronnie Milsap

Click HERE for more April 01 Disney history ... no foolin'!