Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March 30: Think Your Family's Weird?

On this day in 2007, the computer-animated Meet the Robinsons was released.
About an orphan named Lewis who dreams of finding a family, it was based on the book A Day with Wilbur Robinson, by William Joyce. As the fusion between Disney and Pixar happened during the early production of the film, Pixar's John Lasseter (who became the chief creative officer for the Walt Disney Company) lent a helping hand.
The voice cast included Jordan Fry as Lewis, Wesley Singerman as Wilbur, Steve Anderson (the film's director) as Bowlerhat Guy - the chief villain, Nicole Sullivan as Franny, Angela Bassett as Mildred, Adam West as Uncle Art, Tom Kenny as Mr Willerstein and Tom Selleck as Cornelius.

Click HERE for more March 30 Disney history.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

March 27: A Little Wonder

On this day in 2007 Meet the Robinsons - a soundtrack for the Disney animated film of the same title - was released. It contained various songs by different artists plus Danny Elfman's score. (The film itself would be released 3 days later.)

The main single, "Little Wonders" written and performed by Rob Thomas (best known as a solo artist and the lead singer of Matchbox Twenty), reached number 58 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song was featured at the end of the film.

The CD's 18 tracks included:
01 - "Another Believer" - Rufus Wainwright
02 - "Little Wonders" - Rob Thomas
03 - "The Future Has Arrived" - The All-American Rejects
04 - "Where is Your Heart At?" - Jamie Cullum
05 - "The Motion Waltz (Emotional Commotion)" - Rufus Wainwright
06 - "Give Me the Simple Life" - Jamie Cullum
07 - "The Prologue" (Score)
08 - "To the Future!" (Score)
09 - "Meeting the Robinsons" (Score)
10 - "The Science Fair" (Score)
11 - "Goob's Story" (Score)
12 - "A Family United" (Score)
13 - "Pop Quiz and the Time Machine Montage" (Score)
14 - "The Evil Plan" (Score)
15 - "Doris Has Her Day" (Score)
16 - "Setting Things Right" (Score)
17 - "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" - They Might Be Giants
18 - "Kids of the Future" - Jonas Brothers

Click HERE for more March 27 Disney history.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March 25: And The Winner Is ...

On this day in 1954, the 1953 Academy Awards were presented at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood and the NBC Century Theatre in New York City. The year's big winner was From Here to Eternity - which nabbed 7 Oscars.

The evening wasn't too shabby for Walt Disney either as the Disney Studio picked up 4 Oscars.

Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom won Best Short Subject - Cartoon. An educational "Adventures in Music" short directed by Ward Kimball & Charles A. Nichols, it was the first animated cartoon to be filmed and released in widescreen CinemaScope.

Bear Country, a "True-Life Adventure," won Best Short Subject - Two Reel. Directed by James Algar, it followed the life of black bears from one winter to another. Bear Country beat out four other shorts in this category ... including Disney's own Ben and Me.

The Alaskan Eskimo was awarded Best Documentary Short Subject. Featuring the cinematography of Alfred and Elma Milotte, it depicted the everyday home life of the families in a typical Eskimo village.

The Living Desert, another "True-Life Adventure," won Best Documentary Feature. To this day a landmark of factual film making, it showed the everyday lives of the animals of the desert of the southwestern United States. Directed and co-written by James Algar, it was the first feature-length film in Disney’s "True-Life Adventures" series.

The 26th Academy Awards was the second national telecast of the Awards show - drawing an estimated 43,000,000 viewers.

Click HERE for much more March 25 Disney history.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 24: Disneyland's Musical Bears

"Howdy folks! Welcome to the one and only, original Country Bear Jamboree, featuring a bit of Americana - our musical heritage of the past!"

On this day in 1972, Disneyland revealed its newest attraction ... The Country Bear Jamboree.
Located in Bear Country (the area formerly called the Indian Village but today known as Critter Country) The Country Bear Jamboree was a musical stage show featuring audio-animatronic figures. The figures, mostly bears performing Country music, rose up to the stage on platforms, descended from the ceiling and appeared from behind curtains. There were even audio-animatronic animal heads mounted on the walls who interacted with the characters on stage - thus putting the audience practically in the middle of the action.
Disneyland's Country Bear was actually Disney's second version, as one had opened at Walt Disney World on the park's opening day in 1971. The attraction can be traced back to the 1960s, when Walt himself wanted the bears to appear at Disney's Mineral King Ski Resort. The project was handed over to Imagineers Marc Davis and Al Bertino, who designed the bears to perform in a restaurant show type atmosphere. Mineral King Ski Resort was never built but the idea was transferred to Walt Disney World with music created by Imagineer X Atencio and musical director George Bruns.
Due to the tremendous popularity of the show in WDW, an identical version was added to Disneyland - where it ran until 2001. Today the space is occupied by a different bear starring in a totally different attraction ... The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Head on over HERE for much more March 24 Disney history.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 23: Johnston Teams Up With Moore

On this day in 1936, young animator Ollie Johnston became master animator Fred Moore's assistant at the Disney Studio.
Johnston, who had only been at Disney since January 1935, had worked on just a handful of Mickey Mouse shorts up to this point - such as Mickey's Garden and Mickey's Rival. Fred Moore on the other hand had been at the studio since the early 1930s and had risen to prominence becoming the resident specialist on Mickey.
Johnston (seated in the photo above) went on to become one of "Walt's Nine Old Men" and contributed to such classics as Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Song of the South, and Cinderella. Moore (standing) sadly passed away in 1952 while working on Peter Pan.

"I learned an awful lot working under Fred Moore on Snow White, who was a wonderful influence. He was a wonderful teacher but he was quiet and not a good speaker; almost incoherent at times. But he could show you through drawings; through “squash and stretch.” Everything he did was pleasing. I don’t care where he put the arm or the leg, it was always in the right place. And the body-in-relationship had appeal. And that’s why Walt made him a supervising animator on Snow White; not because he could go around and lecture to people but because they could look at his drawings and he could show them through that." -Ollie Johnston

Click HERE to discover more March 23 Disney history.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March 18: Kimball Bets His Life

On this day in 1954, Disney animator (and one of Walt's "Nine Old Men") Ward Kimball appeared on the Groucho Marx filmed television quiz show You Bet Your Life.
First starting out as a radio show in 1947, You Bet Your Life moved into the young world of television in 1950. Developed by John Guedel around the genius comedy of Groucho Marx (who by this time was no longer making movies with his famous brothers), the show ruled Thursday nights with high ratings.
Contestants (usually a male and a female made up of a celebrity and a studio guest) had to say the "secret word" - revealed to the audience at the show's outset - with Groucho directing humorous conversation to encourage the word to come up. If the contestants said the correct word, a paper-mache duck would drop down and reward them $100 (with the potential of winning up to $2,000 in bonus rounds). Viewers tuned in to see and hear Groucho (a master ad-libber) grill the guests ... the game itself was almost inconsequential.
During the show's run, many established names from entertainment, literature, and sports took part in the quiz show including the creator of Jiminy Cricket - Mr. Ward Kimball, who was quite the character himself!
Ironically Groucho had been caricatured in three different Disney shorts during the 1930s.
Two of these shorts - Mother Goose Goes Hollywood and The Autograph Hound - both featured the animation of Ward Kimball!
Watch a classic piece of TV and Disney history below:

Click HERE for much more March 18 Disney history.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March 14: Birthday Greetings

Born this day in 1948 ... actor, writer, director & comedian Billy Crystal - the voice of
Mike Wazowski in Disney/Pixar's Monsters, Inc.

Click HERE for more March 14 Disney history.

Friday, March 12, 2010

March 12: The Last Burnett Episode

On this day in 1958, the Disneyland television series aired the final part of The Saga of Andy Burnett serial with the episode "The Big Council."
Inspired by the historical novels of writer Stewart Edward White, The Saga of Andy Burnett told the adventures of a frontier teenage boy from Kentucky who fled west (to escape his overbearing stepfather) during the early 1800s. Jerome Courtland starred as Andy with a supporting cast featuring Jeff York, Slim Pickens, and Andrew Duggan. The serial (or mini-series) ran for two seasons with a total of six episodes - which came to a conclusion on this day in 1958.
All in all the episodes included:
"Andy's Initiation" (first airing October 2, 1957)
"Andy's First Chore" (October 9, 1957)
"Andy's Love Affair" (October 16, 1957)
"The Land of Enemies" (February 26, 1958)
"White Man's Medicine" (March 5, 1958)
and finally "The Big Council"
The Saga of Andy Burnett was the first of several attempts by Disney to create a live-action property that could match the success of its previous Davy Crockett programs.
As an adult Jerome Courtland continued to work in television, directing and producing such series as The Flying Nun and The Partridge Family, as well as the the Disney films, The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975), Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), Pete's Dragon (1977) and The Devil and Max Devlin (1981).

Click HERE for more March 12 Disney history.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March 09: Touchstone Makes A Splash

On this day in 1984 the feature Splash, the first film produced by Disney's Touchstone Films (today known as Touchstone Pictures) was released. The comedy, about a man who is reunited with a mermaid who saved him from drowning as a boy, was directed by Ron Howard.
The idea for the film had been turned down by numerous studios until The Walt Disney Company (at the time headed by Ron Miller) agreed to produce it. Many big name Hollywood stars were considered for the main role of Allen Bauer, but the part went to a lesser known actor named Tom Hanks. Actress Daryl Hannah played Madison (the mermaid) and John Candy portrayed Allen's brother Freddie. The cast was filled out with such great character actors as Eugene Levy (Candy's SCTV comrade), Dody Goodman, Richard B. Shull and comedian Shecky Greene.
Cameo appearances in Splash included screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (who were later nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay) and Ron Howard's brother Clint Howard and their father Rance Howard!
Some of Splash was filmed on the beach in Gorda Cay in the Bahamas ... today known as Disney's private island Castaway Cay.
The movie was a huge success and helped propel the careers of Howard (as a director) and Hanks (as a leading man).

Dive down in HERE for more March 09 Disney history.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

March 06: A New High In Being Lowdown

On this day in 1981, Buena Vista Pictures released the Disney comedy The Devil and Max Devlin, starring Elliott Gould and Bill Cosby.
Controversial at the time of its release (due to the subject matter and Cosby portraying Satan), The Devil and Max Devlin was also the first Disney film to contain swearing. It was one of the films of the early 1980s that would later influence the creation of Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures (in order for Disney to make films for mature audiences).
Gould played Max Devlin, a shady California landlord who gets killed by a bus and is sent to hell (which appropriately was presented as a corporate business). Devlin meets the Devil's chief henchman Barney Satin (pronounced "Satan") played by funny-man Bill Cosby. Devlin is given a chance to save himself by convincing three other people (a teenage nerd, a young boy and an aspiring singer) to sell their souls in exchange. Devlin returns to Earth (with special powers) and begins his frantic quest. The rest of the film follows a pretty standard and engaging path of redemption for Devlin and his 3 friends. In the end Devlin burns his contract with Satin - setting himself free from the clutches of hell.
Interesting to note ... the film was produced by Jerome Courtland. Fans of the Disneyland mini-series "The Saga of Andy Burnett" (which aired 1957-1958) will remember Courtland as Andy!

Head on down HERE for more March 06 Disney history.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March 03: "Amneris' Letter"

On this day in 1999, CBS-TV aired the special Shania Twain's Winter Break.
Twain, the only female musician to have three albums certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America, was still riding high at the time with her third album Come On Over (which sold 20 million copies in the U.S. alone).
Shania Twain's Winter Break (which was taped at Bayfront Park in Miami, Florida in January 1999) featured special guests Elton John and the Backstreet Boys. Among the songs spotlighted was John's "Amneris' Letter" - co-written with Tim Rice for Disney's stage production of Aida.
Twain chose to sing this tune (with John accompanying her on piano) because she had recently recorded it for Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida, a concept album that predates the main production of the 2000 musical Aida. (The album, featuring an all-star cast of vocalists - including Twain - would be released some 20 days later.)

Click HERE for more March 03 Disney history.