Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30: "Words are the most powerful drugs used by mankind"

Joseph Rudyard Kipling - English author, poet and journalist - was born on this day in 1865 in Bombay, India (to British parents). Best known for writing The Jungle Book, he ranks among the greatest novelists and authors of the late 19th - early 20th century.

Although born in Bombay, Kipling spent most of his early life in England. Once married he and his wife Carrie moved to Vermont in the United States. A daughter was born in 1892, and it was then that Kipling began writing the 'Mowgli stories' which became The Jungle Book, first published two years later in 1894. A collection of fictional stories about the wilds of India, it was followed by The Second Jungle Book in 1895.

These stories became the basis for Disney's 1967 animated feature The Jungle Book (some 30 years after Rudyard Kipling's death).

Click HERE for much more December 30 Disney history.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 29: And In The End ...

On this day in 1974, it is widely believed that singer-songwriter John Lennon signed the paperwork that officially dissolved The Beatles. What makes this event part of Disney history? Lennon was staying at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World when he scrawled his name on the legal document.
Learn more about Lennon's stay and other December 29 history by clicking HERE.

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27: Times Two

On this day in 1937 and in 1954 Walt Disney appeared on the covers of TIME magazine.

Click HERE for much more December 27 Disney history.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 26: A Very Good Year For a Youthful Scotsman

This is Dave MacPherson and he was born on this day in 1932 in Ithaca, New York.
What's his famous Disney connection?
Click HERE to find out.

Then head on over HERE for more December 26 Disney history.

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 24: Christmas Eve Greetings

On this Christmas Eve in 1972, The Wonderful World of Disney aired the episode "A Present For Donald" on NBC-TV. Originally aired back on December 22, 1954, it is a re-edited version of The Three Caballeros with a holiday theme.

View a portion of it below
through the magic of YouTube:

Click HERE for more December 24 Disney history.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23: America's Slowest Rising Comedian

Fans of classic TV will recognize this actor-comedian for his role of Private Duke Slater on the 1960s Jim Neighbors sitcom Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. In case you don't ... his name is Ronnie Schell and he was born on this day in 1931 in Richmond, California.

Often referring to himself as "America's slowest-rising comic," Schell's Disney credits go back to the 1975 live-action comedy The Strongest Man in the World (in which he played a referee). In the midst of guest appearing on just about every 1970s sitcom, he was also cast in the Disney films Gus, The Shaggy D.A., and The Cat from Outer Space (as both the voice of Jake the cat and a character named Sgt. Duffy). During that decade he also appeared on episodes of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color and starred in the made-for-TV-movie The Mouseketeers at Walt Disney World.

Schell also provided voices for the 1987 DuckTales and the 1997 animated series Recess, and in 2004 appeared on an episode of Disney Channel's Phil of the Future (playing a 75-year-old Phil).

Still active, Schell continues to make use of his gifts as a voice artist on TV, radio, films and commercials.

Click HERE for much more December 23 Disney history.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 21: The Fairest One Of All

On this day in 1937, Disney's very first full-length cel-animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, had its gala premiere at the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles, California.

Based on a German fairy tale first written down by the Brothers Grimm, Snow White was adapted for the screen by storyboard artists Dorothy Ann Blank, Richard Creedon, Merrill De Maris, Otto Englander, Earl Hurd, Dick Rickard, Ted Sears and Webb Smith.

Development of the film can be traced back to 1934 when Walt Disney planned to expand his studio's prestige and revenues by moving into features. Walt had to fight to get the film made, as his brother and business partner Roy (and even Walt's wife Lilian) tried to talk him out of it.

But on this evening in 1937, Snow White debuted to a wildly receptive audience that included such Hollywood stars as Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Shirley Temple, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, and Jack Benny.

RKO Radio Pictures generally released the film the following February 4.

Click HERE for much more December 21 Disney history.

Want more Snow White? Visit Filmic Light: A Snow White Sanctum.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19: Happy B-Day Mr Sherman

Most Disney fans can sing the theme park songs "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow," "it's a small world," and "One Little Spark," and be able to hum (at least some) of the film scores to The Parent Trap, Mary Poppins, and The Jungle Book ... all due to the talents of the great songwriting team of Richard and Robert Sherman. And it is on this day in 1925 that big brother Robert Bernard Sherman was born in New York City.

As a youngster, Robert excelled in music, painting and poetry ... all interests that would later serve him well. But before he and his younger brother Richard teamed up to become an award-winning songwriting duo, Robert served in the U.S. Army during World War II. A little known fact that most Disney fans might not know ... in April 1945 Richard led half a squad of men into Dachau concentration camp, the first Allied troops to enter the camp after it had been evacuated by the fleeing German military only hours earlier. An injury to his knee while in battle forced him to later walk with a cane. For his service to his country, he received an amazing collection of honors including two Battle Stars and a Sharpshooter badge.

Robert and his brother began crafting songs in the mid-1950s which led to forming their own publishing company in 1958. That same year they had their first hit with a pop song sung by Annette Funicello called "Tall Paul." The success of that single tune blew open the doors of success when Walt Disney himself hired the brothers as staff songwriters for his studio.

Their long list of Disney film scores include In Search of the Castaways, Summer Magic, The Happiest Millionaire, The Aristocats, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Their success with Disney's 1964 Mary Poppins was repeated when a stage musical about the British nanny opened on Broadway in 2006.

Robert and his brother have won two Academy Awards, a Grammy, and a Theater Museum Award, in addition to being inducted Disney Legends in 1990 and into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. The brothers were also awarded the National Medal of Arts at a 2008 ceremony at the White House.

A lesser known aspect of Robert's life is his interest in painting. In 2002 an exhibition of his work was held for the first time in London, England (the same year he decided to leave California and live in the British capital).

Today a father and grandfather, Robert is still active and most recently was presented with a Window on Main Street at Disneyland. As of 2010, his candid autobiographical novel "Moose" is scheduled for worldwide release.

Click HERE for more December 19 Disney history.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18: "Four score and seven years ago ..."

On this day in 2009 Mr. Lincoln returned to Anaheim in a new Disneyland attraction called "The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln." The previous version (a hydraulic-based audio-animatronic figure) was replaced with an electronic model which improves Lincoln's emotive capabilities.

The new show also features an abridged version of Lincoln's biography, the first two sentences from his Gettysburg Address, and a song titled "Two Brothers." At the end of the show, Lincoln actually stands and performs portions of the speech from the original attraction (which actor Royal Dano -  the original voice of Lincoln - provided).

Walt Disney was always fascinated with President Lincoln - even as a young schoolboy Walt recited the Gettysburg Address to his class. In 1962 Disney was approached about contributing to the 1964 New York World's Fair. This led to Disney's first audio-animatronic human figure - an incredible simulation of the 16th U.S. President! The first Disneyland version opened in July 1965 in honor of the park's 10th anniversary. The show was later updated in the 1970s, 1980s, and in 2001. Great Moments temporarily closed in 2005 for the park's 50th anniversary.

Click HERE for more December 18 Disney history.

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 17: Double Dose of Van Patten

On this day in 1976, two live-action Disney films were released - The Shaggy D.A. and Freaky Friday.

The Shaggy D.A. (a sequel to the 1959 The Shaggy Dog) was generally released to theaters, while Freaky Friday (Disney's very first version of Mary Rodgers' story) premiered in a few select cities. (It was generally released the following January.)

Odd enough that two live-action Disney comedies were released on the same day ... but both films featured actor Dick Van Patten!

Directed by Robert Stevenson (his final film for Disney after 20 years) The Shaggy D.A. starred Dean Jones as Wilby Daniels, an attorney who has a habit of turning into a dog. Dick Van Patten played Raymond, an agent of Wilby's rival.

In Freaky Friday, a tale of a mother and daughter whose personalities are switched, Van Patten portrayed Harold Jennings, a realty developer.

A year later Van Patten would be easily recognized for his role of Tom Bradford, the father on the hit television series Eight Is Enough (which ran through 1981). Van Patten was no stranger to Disney comedies, as prior to these two films he had also appeared in Gus, The Strongest Man in the World, and Superdad.

Born in New York in 1928, Van Patten started his career in showbiz as a child actor on Broadway before moving on to to films and television. He is also the author of several bestselling books including "Eighty Is Not Enough."

Click HERE for more December 17 Disney history.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 16: Ironic & Somehow Fitting

"This is really the end of an era for the Disneys, and it's ironic and somehow fitting that it should be at this time of the year ... Walt in 1966, my dad in 1971, my mother in 1984, and now Lily have all gone during the 10 days before Christmas."

Roy E. Disney spoke those words about his aunt, 98-year-old Lillian Bounds Disney, who passed away on this day in 1997. She had suffered a stroke the day before, December 15 ... the 31st anniversary of her husband Walt's passing.

Eerily Roy E. Disney later passed away on this day too ... twelve years later in 2009. Son of Disney Studios co-founder Roy O. Disney, Roy E. lost his battle with stomach cancer at the age of 79. A successful businessman, philanthropist, filmmaker, and award-winning sailor, he played a key role in the revitalization of The Walt Disney Company and Disney's animation legacy.

Click HERE for more December 16 Disney history.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15: We Will Never See His Like Again

"He was an original. Not just an American original, but an original, period. He was a happy accident, one of the happiest this century has experienced. And judging by the way it's behaving, in spite of all Disney tried to tell it about laughter, love, children, puppies, and sunrises, the century hardly deserved him."

Those words were spoken by news journalist Eric Sevareid on the CBS Evening News on this day in 1966 ... the day Walter Elias Disney passed away.

"He probably did more to heal -- or at least soothe -- troubled human spirits than all the psychiatrists in the world. There can’t be many adults in the allegedly civilized parts of the globe who did not inhabit Disney’s mind and imagination for at least for a few hours and feel better for the visitation.
It may be true, as somebody said, that while there is no highbrow in a lowbrow, there is some lowbrow in every highbrow. But what Disney seemed to know was that while there is very little grown-up in every child, there is a lot of child in every grown-up. To a child, this weary world is brand-new, gift wrapped. Disney tried to keep it that way for adults.
By the conventional wisdom, mighty mice, flying elephants, Snow White and Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy and Doc -- all these were fantasy, escapism from reality. It’s a question of whether they are any less real, any more fantastic than intercontinental missiles, poisoned air, defoliated forests, and scrap iron on the moon. This is the age of fantasy, however you look at it, but Disney’s fantasy wasn’t lethal.
People are saying we will never see his like again."

Click HERE for more December 15 Disney history.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14: Pop Goes The Century

On this day in 2003 the first planned phase of Disney's Pop Century Resort at Walt Disney World opened. A "value resort" themed around different decades of American pop culture, it features 10 motel-style buildings.

This first phase, known as the Classic Years, represents the 1950s through the 1990s with huge over-sized icons such as 45 rpm records, a peace symbol, 8-track tape staircases, Mr. Potato Head, and a giant laptop. Located at 1050 Century Drive, Pop Century is adjacent to the Wide World of Sports Complex and near Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Phase Two: the Legendary Years (representing 1900-1940) was to be built across the lake from the Classic Years - with a bridge connecting the two. The addition was never built, although some of the buildings were constructed. In May 2010, Disney announced that the area zoned for the Legendary Years would instead be used for a new resort called Disney's Art of Animation Resort (scheduled to open in 2012).

Click HERE for more December 14 Disney history.

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 13: Born Today

"I think it's such a shame that Walt didn't live to see computer animation, because he would have had a good time with it. ... In those days it was before the blue screen. They used what was called yellow sulphur lighting -- the screen was yellow, and we worked with that all day, and by the time the day was over you couldn't see anything.
It was just an empty sound stage. And sometimes we didn't even have the music -- we would just dance to a click rhythm. But I think technically it (Mary Poppins) holds up today just as well as anything."

Those words belong to comedian, writer, producer, computer animation enthusiast and Disney Legend Dick Van Dyke, who was born on this day in 1925 in Missouri. He is best known to Disney fans for his role of the chimney sweep Bert and Mr. Dawes Senior, the chairman of the bank in Walt Disney's 1964 musical feature Mary Poppins.

Learn more about Dick Van Dyke's Disney connection (and more December 13 history) by clicking HERE.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 11: "I do not make merry at Christmas"

Gonzo: "Hello! Welcome to the Muppet Christmas Carol! I am here to tell the story."
Rizzo the Rat: "And I am here for the food."

With those words The Muppet Christmas Carol (the fourth feature film to star the Muppets) hit theaters on this day in 1992. A musical comedy retelling of Charles Dickens' classic holiday story, the film was distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.

Directed by Brain Henson (son of Jim Henson - who had passed away in May 1990) The Muppets Christmas Carol starred veteran actor Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge. Narrated by Gonzo the Great as Charles Dickens (voiced by David Goetz) and Rizzo the Rat (voiced by Steven Whitmire), the majority of the cast was comprised of puppets - although it was the first Muppet movie to mainly focus on characters played by humans. British actor Steven Mackintosh portrayed Fred, the nephew of Scrooge, and singer-actress Meredith Braun played Belle, Scrooge's former lover.

Braun also sang "When Love Is Gone" in a scene where she laments the end of her relationship with sour Ebenezer Scrooge - but the song was cut from the original theatrical version. The song was used at the end of the film - although that version featured the vocals of Martina McBride. "When Love Is Gone" was written by legendary songwriter Paul Williams who composed all of the film's songs with Miles Goodman supplying the score.

Despite the humorous spin on Dickens' tale (first published in 1843), it is a fairly close adaptation of the original story. Gonzo even recites many of Dickens' original words!

The film is filled with everyone's favorite Muppets including Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy as Bob's wife Emily, Robin the Frog as Tiny Tim, Statler as Jacob Marley, Waldorf as Robert Marley, and Fozzie Bear as Fozziwig.

Despite being a modest box office success, The Muppet Christmas Carol didn't make much of an impact during its original theatrical release (as it had to contend with the features Home Alone 2 and Disney's Aladdin).

The film was released to VHS the following November and on DVD in 2002.

Click HERE for more December 11 Disney history.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December 08: The Return of George Banks

On this day in 1995, Disney's Touchstone Pictures released the comedy feature Father of the Bride II. A sequel to the 1991 hit Father of the Bride, it once again starred Steve Martin as anxious George Banks, who this time around has to deal with both his daughter and wife being pregnant at the same time!
Returning to their roles from the original film were Diane Keaton (as George's wife Nina), Kimberly Williams (as their daughter Annie), George Newbern (as Annie's husband Bryan), Kieran Culkin (as little brother Matty), and Martin Short (as Franck Eggelhoffer, the wedding/baby shower planner).

Interesting to note: Franck's Bridal Studio at Walt Disney World is named after Short's hilarious and eccentric character.

The film's soundtrack (in release since November 1995) featured a score by Alan Silvestri and vocal performances by Steve Tyrell (most notably on the standard "Give Me the Simple Life"), Etta James, and Fats Domino.

Father of the Bride II was released to DVD in May 2009.

Steve Martin, a playwright, producer, musician, and composer, first gained notoriety as a banjo strumming comedian in the 1970s. As a teen he was employed at Disneyland selling guidebooks and working at Main Street's Magic Shop.

Kimberly Williams went on to co-star in Touchstone's hit sitcom According to Jim (2001-2009). Today she is married to country singer Brad Paisley.

Click HERE for more December 08 Disney history.