Friday, July 31, 2009

July 31: Mickey Finds His Voice

In previous Disney shorts, Mickey Mouse had laughed, cried, grunted, and made all types of noises ... but his first spoken coherent words were uttered in The Karnival Kid, released on this day in 1929.
The Karnival Kid featured Mickey selling hot dogs at a carnival - hence his first words: "Hot dogs!" Ironically it is often reported that Carl Stalling (Disney's first musical director) supplied the voice for Mickey in this particular short - not Walt himself, who originated the voice. (Stalling's Mickey seems to have had a rougher, deeper quality than Walt's.)
One of the many gags featured in this short is one in which Mickey takes off his "ears" and tips his "hat" to a smiling Minnie Mouse - the Shimmy Dancer. Gag writer and illustrator Roy Williams (also known as one of the adults on TV's Mickey Mouse Club) was later inspired by this scene to create the famous Mouse Ears that are today sold in Disney theme parks all over the world.
Also appearing in The Karnival Kid was Clarabelle Cow (one of Minnie's best friends in a cameo) and Kat Nipp (a villainous cat making his third and last appearance).

Click HERE for more July 31 Disney History.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 29: Belle's 5,464th Performance

On this day in 2007, Disney's Broadway musical Beauty and the Beast played its final performance. Ending its successful run on a Sunday at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in New York City, the show had officially debuted on Broadway back in April 1994 at the Palace Theater.
This last performance featured actress Anneliese van der Pol (known to Disney Channel fans from That's So Raven) as Belle. She had first stepped into the role back on April 3, 2007. Returning for the last evening's performance only was Donny Osmond as Gaston. He had first played the role back in September 2006 (for a successful 3 months).
The closing-night cast also included Steve Blanchard as The Beast, David de Vries as Lumiere, Glenn Rainey as Cogsworth, Jeanne Lehmann as Mrs. Potts, Jamie Ross as Maurice, Ann Mandrella as Babette, and Mary Stout as Madame de la Grande Bouche.
Steve Blanchard had first played The Beast in the Toronto Company in 1997 before coming to Broadway to actually play Gaston. When the production moved to the Lunt-Fontanne, he took over the role as The Beast! The "last candle standing," David de Vries had played the role of Lumiere in 4 different companies (in 42 different cities) before coming to Broadway.
Beauty and the Beast, which was based on Disney's 1991 animated film, featured the music of Alan Menken, Howard Shaman, and Tim Rice. The musical ran on Broadway for an amazing 5,464 performances - becoming Broadway's sixth-longest running production. During that time a total of 17 actresses played the role of Belle!
Walt Disney Theatrical Productions' musical had its world premiere at Houston's Theater Under The Stars in November 1993. It then opened on Broadway on April 18, 1994 at the Palace Theatre (located at 1564 Broadway in Manhattan, New York). The show ran there until September 5, 1999 after which the production moved to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (at 205 West 46th Street). Beauty and the Beast began performances at its new home on November 16, 1999. As of 2009 Disney's Little Mermaid is performed at the Lunt-Fontanne.
The success of the Broadway show enabled Disney to bring productions to Los Angeles, Toronto, London, the Netherlands, and dozens of other theaters all over the world. Beauty and the Beast has been performed in 19 different languages!

Click HERE for more July 29 Disney History.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July 28: All the Buzz at Epcot

On this day in 2003, Buzz Aldrin (the second human to step foot on the moon) took the controls aboard Epcot's Mission: Space for the filming of a television segment advertising the new attraction. The spot later aired August 15, 2003 on ABC-TV during the broadcast of the feature film Mission to Mars. August 15 was the same day that the attraction had its first soft opening to the public.
Born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey in 1930, Edward Eugene Aldrin was selected as part of the third group of NASA astronauts in 1963. A United States Air Force pilot, he flew aboard Gemini 12 (with Jim Lovell) in 1966 - the 10th and final manned Gemini flight. In 1969, Aldrin was the Lunar Module pilot aboard the famous Apollo 11 flight. He and fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first to land on the moon.
Buzz, along with fellow veteran astronauts Jim Lovell and Wally Schirra, attended the grand debut of Mission: Space on October 9, 2003. A motion simulator thrill ride, Mission: Space allows guests to experience a futuristic mission to Mars (including the g-force of blast-off).

"Mars is there, waiting to be reached." -Buzz Aldrin

Click HERE for more July 28 Disney history.

Monday, July 27, 2009

July 27: Son of the Mad Hatter

On this day in 1916, character actor Keenan Wynn was born Francis Xavier Aloysius James Jeremiah Keenan Wynn in New York City. The son of comedian Ed Wynn (the voice of the Mad Hatter for Disney's Alice in Wonderland) Keenan became an actor with his dad's encouragement. (Years later it would be Keenan who encouraged his dad to take on dramatic roles.)
Keenan appeared in hundreds of movies and TV shows between 1934 and 1986 (the year he passed). Among his Disney credits - The Absent-Minded Professor & Son of Flubber (as the villainous Alonzo Hawk), Snowball Express (as Martin Ridgeway), Herbie Rides Again (as once again the character of Alonzo Hawk), and The Shaggy D.A. (as John Slade). His dad Ed also appeared with him in Son of Flubber - playing A.J. Allen.
Keenan's non-Disney credits included the classic films Annie Get Your Gun and Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. He also appeared in an epsiode of The Twilight Zone titled "A World of His Own." In 1956 he and his dad appeared together in the Playhouse 90 broadcast of Rod Serling's teleplay "Requiem for a Heavyweight." They were both hailed for their superlative work. Fans of the holiday TV special Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town may recognize Keenan as the voice of Winter Warlock!
He is interred along with his dad at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.

"My billing has always been; 'and' or 'with' or 'including'. That's alright, let the stars take the blame." -Keenan Wynn

Click HERE for more July 27 Disney history.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 26: Music Man Buddy Baker

"I came to Disney to help out for two weeks and I ended up staying 29 years."
Those words were spoken by composer, arranger, conductor & Disney Legend Norman 'Buddy' Baker, who on this day in 2002 passed at the age of 84.
Born in 1918 in Missouri, Baker's love of music started at the age of 4 when he began playing the piano. After earning a degree in music from Southwest Baptist College, he moved to California where he became the musical director for Bob Hope's radio show. (Hope would later host TV's opening of Walt Disney World.) Baker also began arranging for big bands and one of his first successes - "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine" became a hit for the Stan Kenton Orchestra. (Kenton would later perform at Disneyland - as many big bands did - during the 1960s.)
By the early 1950s, Baker was a professor at L.A. City College teaching music. Among his students was Jerry Goldsmith, who would go on to become an award-winning film score composer. (Among Goldsmith's scores ... Disney's Mulan and the park attraction Soarin'.)
In 1953 Baker's friend composer George Bruns asked him to write some music for Disney's television show Davy Crockett and the River Pirates. This began Baker's wonderful career at the House of Mouse where he wrote, conducted, and arranged music for TV, film, and theme parks (Baker was the musical director for EPCOT Center).
Baker's theme park work included:
Adventure Thru Inner Space
American Adventure
America the Beautiful
Carousel of Progress (World Fair 1964)
Country Bear Jamboree
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
Haunted Mansion
If You Had Wings
Impressions de France
It's Fun To Be Free
It's A Small World (additional scoring)
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Kitchen Kabaret
Listen to the Land
Magic Carpet 'Round the World
Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Mexican Pavillon
People Mover
Sindbad's Seven Voyages
Swiss Family Tree House
Universe of Energy
Winnie the Pooh
Wonders of China
World of Motion

Baker's feature film work included:
Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus
Summer Magic

The Misadventures of Merlin Jones

The Monkey's Uncle

Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day

Napoleon and Samantha
(in which he was nominated for an Academy Award)
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too

The Apple Dumpling Gang

No Deposit, No Return

The Shaggy D.A.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Hot Lead and Cold Feet

The Fox and the Hound

After retiring from Disney in 1983, Baker went on to teach at the University of Southern California, coming out of "retirement" briefly to provide music for new attractions at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Tokyo DisneySea.
He was honored as a Disney Legend in 1998 and the following year was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from ASCAP.
It's a pretty safe bet that his
200 plus musical scores (written in a wide range of styles) will be heard by generations of Disney fans for many years to come.

Click HERE for more July 26 Disney History

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 19: A True Character

Most Disney World fans will recognize these familiar words:
"Hold on to your hat and glasses... this here's the wildest ride in the wilderness!"
It's the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad safety announcement spoken by actor Dal McKennon - and he was born on this day in 1919.
Born Dallas R. McKennon in LaGrande, Oregon, he was a successful actor, comedian, and prolific voice actor whose career spanned radio, TV, and feature films. Imitating sounds since a youngster, McKennon briefly studied drama in school.
His early credits include the voice of Gumby for Art Clokey's television series Gumby, the voice of Archie Andrews for Filmation's Archie series, and the primary voice of Buzz Buzzard in the Woody Woodpecker cartoons. McKennon even created and hosted his own daily children's TV show in the 1950s. He was also the original voices of all 3 Kellogg's Rice Krispies characters - Snap, Crackle, and Pop.
But Disney fans may recognize his voice (and his face) from countless appearances in films and park attractions. His association with Disney started with the 1955 Lady and the Tramp as he showed his versatility voicing 4 different characters: Toughy, Pedro, Professor, and Hyena.
Mckennon also voiced Owl in Sleeping Beauty, had a bit part in Son of Flubber (playing a juror), voiced Fox in Mary Poppins, was the voice of the Bees in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, voiced Bear in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, played a farmer in The Cat from Outer Space, and played 'Saloon Man 1' in the comedy Hot Lead and Cold Feet.
Fans of early Disneyland may remember McKennon as the narrator of the now retired Mine Train thru Nature's Wonderland. Epcot fans know him as the voice of Benjamin Franklin in The American Adventure, an Audio-Animatronics stage show. He can also be heard as the voice of Zeke in The Country Bear Jamboree. Haunted Mansion fans may not realize it is McKennon's voice you hear as the deaf old man who is unable to decipher the mummy muttering through his bandages - "What's that? Louder!"
McKennon was also a major contributor to Disneyland Records. He appeared on numerous recordings over a period of 15 years beginning with the 1957 Stories of Uncle Remus.
Later in life, McKennon also sailed one night a week on board The Queen of the West riverboat (which sailed from Portland, Oregon on 7-day cruises). He provided entertainment telling tales while sporting a white beard, prospector's hat, and overalls. "Dal looked like he had just left a yard sale at the Gabby Hayes estate," explained Jim Coston (a professional banjoist who worked aboard the riverboat with McKennon).
He continued to work well into 2001 voicing the claymation character Gumby (one of his first and best-known voices).
His unique film career also included working with director Alfred Hitchcock (in The Birds) and Elvis Presley (in Clambake). Although easily identifiable on-screen, McKennon had the special ability to bend his voice in endless variations.
He passed away just 5 days short of his 90th birthday in 2009.

Click HERE for more July 19 Disney history.

Friday, July 17, 2009

July 17: Dateline Disneyland

On this day in 1955 Disneyland in Anaheim, California had its grand opening (also known as the International Press Preview). Although invited guests entered the park at 2:00pm, it wasn't until 4:30 that the park was seen by millions on television. Dateline Disneyland (which aired on ABC-TV) was mainly hosted by Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and Ronald Reagan. Shooting a live opening of a theme park had never been done before and Walt Disney himself was understandably a tiny bit anxious (live multi-site broadcasts were unheard of at the time).
Most Disney fans know Walt's famous words - "To all who come to this happy place, welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives fond memories of the past. And here, youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world."

But here are a few quotes that may give you an insight into the sometimes chaotic broadcast on that hot July day:
Art Linkletter - "This is not so much a show, as it is a special event. The rehearsal went about the way you'd expect a rehearsal to go if you were covering three volcanoes all erupting at the same time, and you didn't expect any of them. So, from time to time, if I say, "We take you now by camera to the snapping crocodiles in Adventureland," and instead, somebody pushes the wrong button, and we catch Irene Dunne adjusting her bustle on the Mark Twain, don't be too surprised; it's all in fun, and that's what we're here for."

Walt Disney
: (reading the dedication plaque for Tomorrowland) "A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievements..." (He stops reading suddenly and turns to an off-camera technician) "I thought I got a signal."
The 90-minute black & white broadcast may have been a bit bumpy at times, but it served its purpose ... everyone knew about a place called Disneyland.

To learn more about Disneyland's grand debut click

HERE for more July 17 Disney history.

Happy Anniversary Disneyland!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 11: Off To Disneyland

On this day in 1956, the Barstow family from Wethersfield, Connecticut left for a week-long California vacation. Many families had taken vacations to the West Coast ... but this one had a few unique Disney twists to it.
The 5-member family won the trip when youngest son Danny won a nation wide contest sponsored by the 3M Scotch Tape Company. The prize included airfare, 4 days worth of Disneyland tickets, and hotel accommodations. Like many proud fathers, Robbins Barstow (an ardent amateur filmmaker) filmed the entire week-long adventure (which also included visits to Knotts Berry Farm & Universal Studios). Pieced together into a 30-minute color amateur documentary (complete with narration and cornball jokes), the film was later titled Disneyland Dream.
Fast forward to December 2008 - Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced the names of 25 important motion pictures to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Among the 25 chosen was Barstow's Disneyland Dream! (Robbins had donated the film, along with 11 other titles in the Robbins Barstow 20th Century Family Home Movie Collection.) Chosen for its historical and cultural significance, Disneyland Dream quickly became a must-see video on the internet.
A few weeks later in January 2009, it was announced that comedian/actor & former Disneyland employee Steve Martin had recognized himself in the Barstow's 1956 film. About 20 minutes into the documentary, a young Martin can be seen selling guidebooks just inside Disneyland's entrance!
Little did the Barstow family know that when they left for their memorable vacation on July 11, 1956 ... they would forever become part of Disney history.

(Update: In March 2010, Disneyland Dream was released to DVD!)

Click HERE for more July 11 Disney History.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 05: A Dream Is A Wish That Mack Makes

On this day in 1912, Songwriter Hall of Famer Mack David was born in New York City. A versatile lyricist and songwriter, David wrote in just about every conceivable style of popular music for film, TV, and Broadway. Whether you're a Disney fan or an avid movie/TV viewer ... you have heard his music.
Originally wanting to become an attorney, David attended Cornell University and then St. John's University Law School. But when his younger brother Hal showed interest in music as well, it was big brother Mack who advised him to take up a more stable career. But Mack failed to follow his own advice, and instead of following a career in law, began writing songs on Tin Pan Alley. (Hal David went on to have great success too as a lyricist writing many hits with songwriter Burt Bacharach.)
(Tin Pan Alley, a collection of New York City-centered music publishers and songwriters who dominated the popular music of the U.S. in the late 19th century and early 20th century, was originally a specific place at West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue.)
In 1945, Mack wrote the words for Duke Ellington's "I'm Just A Lucky So-And-So," and in 1947, had a hit with a novelty tune "Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba," written with Jerry Livingston and Al Hoffman. The writing team of Livingston, Hoffman & David would continue into the 1960s with great success.
In 1948, David moved to Hollywood, where he became active in film and television. His songs were featured in the score for the Disney animated 1950 feature Cinderella, written with Livingston and Hoffman. These songs included "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes", "The Working Song", "So This is Love," and the film's hit song "Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo" (which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1950). For Disney's 1951 feature Alice in Wonderland, the same team wrote "The Unbirthday Song."
The nomination for "Bibbidy Bobbidi Boo" was the first of eight Academy Award nominations David would receive and it catapulted his career. His feature film credits went on to include such classics as "The Hanging Tree" (written with Jerry Livingston from The Hanging Tree), "Bachelor in Paradise (written with the legendary Henry Mancini) from Bachelor in Paradise, and "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (written with Ernest Gold) from the classic comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
But Mack's music wasn't limited to just film, in 1961 the Shirelles had a hit with his song "Baby, It's You", written with Burt Bacharach (his brother's writing partner). "Baby, It's You" was covered a few years later by The Beatles.
Mack teamed up with Livingston throughout the 1960s and together they wrote for many successful television series, including Caspar the Friendly Ghost, 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, Bourbon Street Beat and Surfside 6. Even their theme song “This is It” for 1960's The Bugs Bunny Hour became a hit!
After a long and successful career, Mack David was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1975. Sadly, he passed away on December 30, 1993 at his home in Rancho Mirage, California.

Click HERE for more July 05 Disney History.

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 03: A Famous Oregonian

On this day in 1914, musician George Bruns was born in Sandy, Oregon. A composer of music for film & television, he was nominated for 4 Academy Awards over his lifetime. Although a Disney Legend since 2001 (18 years after his death), his name may only be familiar to some Disney fans ... but his music is most definitely familiar to all Disney fans.
First enrolling at Oregon State Agriculture College in 1932 to study engineering, Bruns spent most of his time on and off campus playing music (he had first learned to play the piano at age six). He played tuba in the ROTC band and string bass in a local popular orchestra. In 1934 he cut short his studies to become a full-time musician. Bruns played around the Northwest with his own swing/jazz band (which included a trumpeter named Doc Severenson - who would later have great success as the musical director for The Tonight Show). Finding the local Oregon music scene limiting, Bruns moved to California in 1950.
Based out of Los Angeles, Bruns began arranging and conducting for Capitol Records and UPA Studios, while still playing live in bands (including one led by Tennessee Ernie Ford). By 1953 Walt Disney was looking for someone to do the music for Sleeping Beauty and Bruns accepted the job. He would stay at Disney for 22 years. As one of three musical directors at Disney, Bruns worked in both TV and film.
His best-known works include "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" & "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)." Bruns' famous Davy Crockett tune (first recorded in 1955 and written for Walt's Disneyland series about the famous frontiersman) was co-written with lyricist Tom W. Blackburn. His Pirate anthem (originally used for the park attraction and later the feature film) was co-written with Xavier Atencio. Bruns also wrote the song "Love" for the animated Robin Hood as well as music for The Jungle Book, The Absent-minded Professor, Babes in Toyland, The Aristocats and Herbie the Love Bug. In his spare time, he also played tuba and trombone for Ward Kimball's Dixieland jazz band The Firehouse Five Plus Two. In all, Bruns contributed to over an amazing 200 motion pictures and television shows (which also included Zorro and Mickey Mouse Club).
He retired in 1975 and moved back to Oregon where he conducted, played, composed, and taught music. He passed away in March 1983.

"Walt was always good to me personally. He pretty much let me go my own way, trusting my own musical sense of what was right." -George Bruns

Click HERE for more July 03 Disney History