Featured Attractions

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Disney Legend #10: Wolfgang Reitherman

Wolfgang Reitherman was another of Disney's "Nine Old Men". He joined the Disney Studios alongside two other Disney Legends- Milt Kahl and Ward Kimball. Together they animated many of Disney's classic cartoons including The Band Concert.

"Woolie" as he was known around the studio, became a reliable director at Disney who worked right up until his untimely death in 1985. Not only did he create memorable characters, but he also provided three sons who were the voices of Christopher Robin, Mowgli and Wart.

Quoted by Disney! Inside The Dream.

It was an honor to be quoted in a book about Walt Disney! Coincidentally it's on a page in which Mr. Disney is standing next to a computer.

“One of the things that I’ve learned from Walt that I use in my everyday work and life is that nothing is impossible. The quote of his that I love the best is, ‘Actually, it’s kind of fun to do the impossible.’ I try to remind myself and others of this every day.”

-Ralph Castaneda

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Disney Legend #9: John Lounsbery

John Lounsbery hadn't set out to become an animator, but there were few places where his artistic skills were welcomed back in 1935, so on the advice of his art teacher he applied for a job and was hired by Walt Disney himself to begin working as an assistant on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Mr. Lounsbery proved adept at animation and quickly began animating on his own, working on Gideon and Foulfellow in Pinocchio.

His work ethic and organizational skills soon found use as Mr. Disney's attention turned to other projects. John was promoted to animation director, a position he held on many movies right up until his untimely death in the 1970's. In fact, he was working on The Rescuers when he passed away from a heart attack.

Mr. Lounsbery's efforts allowed Walt Disney to focus on other projects, like live action films and a little park Mr. Disney was building down in Anaheim.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Disney Legend #8: Eric Larson

Eric Larson was another of Walt's "Nine old men" who were with him from practically the beginning. Working on such classic Disney films as The Three Little Pigs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio, Mr. Larson animated many of the greatest Disney characters.

Mr. Larson's influence was spread after he took a new generation of Disney animators under his wing, teaching them the Disney way of animation. His eager students would go on to work on Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Toy Story and many other newer Disney classics.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Disney Legend #7: Ward Kimball

To call Ward Kimball a character would be an understatement. Mr. Kimball was known throughout Disney as an eccentric prankster with a weird sense of humor. Many people wondered why the straight-laced Walt Disney would keep him around, but the reason was obvious- Mr. Kimball was very talented.

While his most famous character was undoubtedly Jiminy Cricket, Mr. Kimball often found himself animating sequences that other animators were too scared to even try, like the "Three Caballeros" scene in The Three Caballeros. A dazzling burst of frenetic craziness, the scene is still discussed as an innovative moment in animation.

In addition to his artistic skills, Mr. Kimball also played the jazz trombone in the Firehouse Five Plus Four alongside his fellow Disney artists. The group would often play at DISNEYLAND to appreciative guests who never realized that these talented musicians had also created many of the most beloved Disney characters featured elsewhere in the park.

Mr. Kimball's love of trains also influenced the very creation of DISNEYLAND itself. He helped Walt build the backyard train whose existence led to Walt building his Magic Kingdom.

Mr. Kimball passed away in 2002, but his influence lives on in the characters he animated and in the park he helped build. In 2005, Ward got a posthumous honor from DISNEYLAND itself- a new train was placed on the tracks- the Ward Kimball. It was the first train at DISNEYLAND named for a Disney Legend. (The other trains are named after famous railroad executives.) The Ward Kimball is easy to spot- it's the only train with a Disney character painted on it- Mr. Kimball's Jiminy Cricket.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Disney Quote Weekends

"In 1923, Walt Disney arrived in California to follow his dreams....."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

The First Touchstone Film - "Splash"

The very first movie made under the Touchstone Pictures banner was Splash, starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah, undoubtedly making stars of both of them. Contrary to popular belief, the film was actually approved by Walt Disney's son-in-law Ron Miller and not then new Disney CEO Michael Eisner. In fact, many of Mr. Eisner's first successes were merely projects put into place by Ron Miller.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Michael J. Fox's First Movie

Michael J. Fox's first film was 1980's Midnight Madness, released by Walt Disney Pictures. Michael J. Fox's youthful look and age proved to be an asset, since Disney needed someone who looked younger yet was actually old enough to work late.

Despite its comparatively wholesome look at college aged students, a few people at Disney thought the film was too racy to trumpet as an official Disney release. In fact, the Disney name was never fully attached to the film until its DVD release in 2004. While a special edition release of the film has been rumored due to it being Michael J. Fox's first film, no such release has officially been announced.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Annette's First Feature Film

Darlene Gillespie was originally seen as the "star" of The Mickey Mouse Club. However the kids of America crowned their own star- Annette Funicello. So Walt Disney rushed to get her into movies- the first of which was The Shaggy Dog alongside Fred MacMurray and Tommy Kirk. It would be the first of many films teaming Annette with Tommy Kirk, who would play her boyfriend in most of them. All three would eventually become Disney Legends- Fred MacMurray in 1987, Annette Funicello in 1992 and Tommy Kirk in 2006.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The First Fully Live Action Walt Disney Productions Film

Walt Disney was known for his animated films, so even when he tried his hand at making live action films there were always animated elements in them. Until 1950's Treasure Island, that is. Walt hadn't set out to make a live action film, but after World War 2, the United Kingdom would not allow foreign companies to send revenue out of the country. The only way Walt Disney Productions could get its millions of pounds of royalties was to produce films inside the country that could be "exported". So Treasure Island went into production.

Walt instantly gained an appreciation for live action and put together a full slate of productions that filmed at locations around the world, though eventually mostly in Burbank at the Disney Studios. The experience gained from dealing with real sets and environments would eventually prove useful in Anaheim during the construction of DISNEYLAND.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The First Feature Filmed in DISNEYLAND

Many studios wanted to film inside DISNEYLAND, but other than official Disney productions, nobody was allowed to film inside Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. That changed in 1962 when Universal Studios was permitted to film inside the park, approved by Walt Disney himself. Starring Tony Curtis and Suzanne Pleshette, the film featured 20 minutes of vintage DISNEYLAND in vivid color.

While the movie takes many liberties (Tony Curtis is shown looking down Main Street from the monorail platform, a total impossibility) it is a glorious look at DISNEYLAND in the time of Walt Disney and remains a marvelous treat for any DISNEYLAND fan. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Disney Quote Weekends

"Oh, I adored Mickey Mouse when I was a child. He was the emblem of happiness and funniness. You went to the movies then, you saw two movies and a short. When Mickey Mouse came on the screen and there was his big head, my sister said she had to hold onto me. I went berserk."

-Maurice Sendak

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Disney Quote Weekends

"Mickey Mouse is always there. He's part of my life. That really is something not everyone can call their claim to fame."

-Annette Funicello

Friday, July 18, 2014

Celebrating Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom: DISNEYLAND- Now and Forever

“Think beyond your lifetime, if you want to do something truly great.”

-Walt Disney

Today, almost 60 years after it first opened, DISNEYLAND remains an inspiration, a magical kingdom that still fulfills its founder's mission of making the world a better place. Many of the first kids who entered its gates are now bringing their great-grandchildren back to a place that has become so much for so many.

“I continue to love Disneyland. A special piece of my heart is here.”

-Bonnie Williams, Opening Day Guest

Bigger and better than ever, DISNEYLAND continues to grow and change; just the way Walt wanted it to. He knew that if he could just get the park open, and operate it as a clean, bright, fun and happy place, that the people would soon embrace it as their own. It would then take on a life of its own and become a magnet for the dreamers of the world, long outliving him.

“Yesterday, a man walked up to me and said, ‘Isn’t it a shame that Walt Disney couldn’t be here to see this?’ and I said, 'He did see this, that’s why it’s here.'"

-Art Linkletter July 17, 2005

Mr. Disney DID see everything that DISNEYLAND has become. He saw that it could be a place where a grandfather would forget about his arthritis and "trick knee" and dance along to a magical parade with his grandchildren; where a little girl could become tongue tied as her favorite Disney princess helps her adjust her sundress; where a tiny baby, seemingly too young to realize where he's at, chooses to give Woody the Cowboy the biggest hug ever; where a properly attired nun can let loose and take a thrilling ride down the slopes of the Matterhorn; where a wide eyed young boy can stare at the buildings in amazement and instantly fall in love with the place after looking at Sleeping Beauty Castle. We could go on, but that would still only scratch the surface of the countless magical moments that happen at DISNEYLAND every day.

“DISNEYLAND proved to me that if you’ve got enough guts and intelligence and drive you can accomplish anything.”

-Marvin Davis

“I do what I do because of Walt Disney- his films and his theme park and his characters and his joy in entertaining.”

-John Lasseter

“The greatest thing about DISNEYLAND is that its magic stays with you forever.”

-Ralph Castaneda

So DISNEYLAND will continue to thrive, to inspire and to grow. Just as Mr. Disney dreamed it.

"DISNEYLAND is something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing- and adding to."

"DISNEYLAND will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world."

"We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun- together."

-Walt Disney

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Celebrating Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom: Happy Birthday, DISNEYLAND!

"Mickey and I started out that first time many, many years ago. We’ve had a lot of our dreams come true. Now we want you to share with us our latest and greatest dream. That’s it right here: DISNEYLAND."

-Walt Disney

"In 1955, an amazing man named Walt Disney dreamt of a Magic Kingdom."

-Julie Andrews

They said it wouldn't last 6 months; that the bizarre "Kiddyland" being built out in Anaheim would be gone and forgotten before the year was through and that its crazy creator would soon find himself in the poorhouse. Mr. Disney had heard it all; and yet he pushed forward. He believed in his biggest, riskiest and most expensive dream ever and knew that once he threw open the doors to his Magic Kingdom that the world would beat a path to its gleaming doors.

There are many stories about when Walt started dreaming about  DISNEYLAND. He says it was when he waited for his daughters to finish riding the Griffith Park carousel. His sister says it was long before that; back in Kansas City there was an amusement park they used to walk past as children but were never allowed to visit. She says he used to slow down and stare longingly past the front gates at the bright lights, colorful facades and exciting rides. She believes he was already dreaming of building his own wonderland, planning out a magical kingdom.

Regardless of where the original idea came from, by the early 1950's, Walt Disney was going full speed ahead to build his dream. He had to convince others that DISNEYLAND would be feasible. One of the biggest skeptics was his brother Roy. But Walt was very convincing and soon scraped together enough money to buy hundreds of acres of orange groves in a sleepy town south of Los Angeles that nobody had ever heard of- Anaheim, California.

Soon land was being cleared. Castles built. Rivers carved.

It was all getting built just as Walt dreamed it- as good as good could be. Imagineers said that Mr. Disney became a kid again on his numerous visits to the construction site; pacing out his plans, poring over blueprints and watching his greatest dream become a reality. The outside critics still called him a fool and predicted his failure, but as he watched his Magic Kingdom take shape around him, he was able to keep the negative thoughts out of his head. He had wished upon a star and his dream was coming true. Right before his very own eyes.

"I was standing next to Mr. Disney at the window, watching the guests come through the gates. When I looked up at him, he had his hands behind his back, a grin from ear to ear, and I could see a lump in his throat and a tear streaming down his cheek. He had realized his dream."

-Sharon Baird

And then the big day arrived....

Walt once confided in a friend that he had a recurring nightmare that began before DISNEYLAND opened and continued through the 60's, possibly for the rest of his life. He found himself running down a deserted Main Street, past abandoned shops and restaurants wondering where everyone was. A mournful cast member would notify Walt that nobody showed up that day; DISNEYLAND was a failure.  To his relief, this is what greeted him on opening day- July 17th, 1955:

"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."

-Walt Disney, July 17, 1955

Before an audience of millions watching on virtually every television in existence at the time, Walt Disney introduced his Magic Kingdom to the world. History was made and the world soon began making its way to Anaheim to see the wonders of Walt Disney's dream come true. 

DISNEYLAND, a place that naysayers believed would be closed within six months will celebrate 60 years of magic next year. It remains a special place, unlike any other in the world; living proof that dreams can and do come true.

"Today, Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom has grown to become the happiest place on earth to millions the world over. A place where anything is possible. Where every dreamer may wish upon a star."

-Julie Andrews

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Celebrating Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom: Pirates of the Caribbean

Walt Disney would often get asked what his favorite DISNEYLAND attraction was. In 1965 it was Pirates of the Caribbean. Pretty much anyone who visited either the park or WED Imagineering during that time would get a tour of the Pirate animatronics, sets and/or the models. It was his pride and joy and he mentioned it constantly. So that must have been his all-time favorite attraction ever, right?

Well, that's a tough question. Many of the people who worked with Walt said that his favorite attraction was always whatever he was working on at the time. He was always looking ahead at the next big project. Had Mr. Disney not passed away in 1966, his favorite attraction would have most likely become The Haunted Mansion, the next big project on the horizon.

Sadly, Mr. Disney never saw the finished Pirates of the Caribbean. During his last visit to his beloved DISNEYLAND, the flume had not been filled with water yet and the animatronics were still being programmed. In order to give their boss a look at how his beloved guests would experience the attraction in their boats, a special dolly was rigged up and Walt was pushed past the now classic show scenes at the same speed the fleet of boats would glide past. He was proud of his newest toy and exhorted his staff to not feel pressured to open the ride until it was ready. It would be the last time Mr. Disney would see his beloved Magic Kingdom.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Celebrating Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom: The Lovely Ladies of the Submarine Lagoon

What Submarine Lagoon located in a Magic Kingdom would be complete without enchanted mermaids perched atop the coral? When the Submarine Voyage opened in 1959 at DISNEYLAND, it was infested with lovely mermaids who frolicked and waved at disbelieving guests who watched from the shores of Tomorrowland.

Hiring living mermaids whose only function was to add to the atmosphere of his Magic Kingdom was a completely Walt thing to do. The park wouldn't make any money off of the display and certainly nobody would travel out to the park just to look at the mermaids, but Walt knew that small details such as these would make his park stand out and thrive. His beloved guests would definitely appreciate the small touches and would certainly tell their friends.

So what happened to the mermaids? Victims of budget cuts or changing times? Nope. As it turns out, DISNEYLAND was a popular spot for Navy sailors visiting Southern California- Navy sailors who often went for long periods of time without seeing any women and were trained to be decent swimmers. Yes, park security was frequently called out to the lagoon to fish eager sailors out of the water and away from the mermaids. This nice extra became a part of history, but as Richard Sherman once said- "That’s why Walt's Magic Kingdom constantly develops and moves because tomorrow there’s even going to be another wonderful thing. And that was his dream to keep it moving, keep it bright, never let it stagnate." As the song Mr. Sherman wrote with his brother said- "There's a great big beautiful tomorrow just a dream away." While this popular feature ended, there were many more waiting to be launched at DISNEYLAND.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Celebrating Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom: The Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship- A 1955 Original

Located at the end of Fantasyland's enchanted courtyard was a special place to eat at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom- a pirate ship themed restaurant serving delicious Chicken of the Sea tuna sandwiches. An enchanted place, to be sure, it quickly became a favorite of many a young DISNEYLAND guest. In 1969, Chicken of the Sea ended its sponsorship and the ship became "Captain Hook's Galley".

The ship remained a Fantasyland landmark until 1982. As part of the major renovation to build the Fantasyland of Walt Disney's original dreams, plans were drawn up to move the ship from its then current location (roughly where the current Dumbo attraction is) to a spot on the other side of the Storybookland Canal boats. Unfortunately, the Imagineers didn't seem to remember that the "ship" was really a building shaped like a ship with a foundation that had been re-inforced with concrete over the years to prevent wood rot. The ship could not be safely moved fast enough to keep the entire Fantasyland project on schedule. Huge cost overruns at Disney World's EPCOT Center meant that a proven money-maker like DISNEYLAND needed to be firing on all cylinders and that its centerpiece land needed to re-open as soon as possible. Sadly, that meant the ship could not be salvaged and it became a part of DISNEYLAND history in 1982. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Disney Quote Weekends: Celebrating Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom

"DISNEYLAND will be a place for California to call home, to bring its guests, to demonstrate its faith in the future."

-Walt Disney

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Disney Quote Weekends: Celebrating Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom

"I think what I want DISNEYLAND to be most of all is a happy place–a place where adults and children can experience together some of the wonders of life, of adventure, and feel better because of it."

-Walt Disney

Friday, July 11, 2014

Monk- Rejected by ABC

One might assume that every television show produced by a division of The Walt Disney Company has an automatic chance at getting picked up by Disney's network ABC. That's not necessarily the case! Take, for example, USA Network's "defective detective" Monk.

Monk was produced by Touchstone Television and was originally presented to ABC as a possible new series. But ABC was riding high with Who Wants to be a Millionaire at the time and wasn't interested in the quirky series. (It also rejected other shows such as CSI and The Sopranos for similar reasons.) When an acquisitions person at USA Network heard of the rejection, the show was brought to the attention of the network's management who were looking for an original series that would help USA stick out from the pack. They believed Monk to be just that show. And it was, well beyond everyone's wildest dreams.

So while the show wasn't airing on ABC, it was being produced by a Disney subsidiary, though the company was not making as much cash as it would have if ABC was airing it. After Who Wants to be a Millionaire imploded, the network was reduced to rubble. They had rejected a slew of programs that were now successfully airing against ABC. The network tried to make a deal they thought USA couldn't refuse; ABC would take new episodes of the show first, then let USA air them for free. An unprecedented deal, but USA didn't take it, leaving ABC with the unenviable task of rebuilding itself. (Something it would do seemingly easily with the introduction of Lost & Desperate Housewives just a few years later.)

The show would eventually go out with a bang, leaving USA Network with the highest ratings of any basic cable series in history.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Ellen Name Change

The breakout Touchstone Television show that made Ellen Degeneres a household name was, of course, These Friends of Mine?!? (If you've read more than one of these this week, you know none of them are what they initially seem by now.)

Yes, the show that made Ellen a star was not originally named after her and was meant to be an ensemble effort. When Ellen stood out from the group, the show became Ellen after the first season. Future reruns of the show's first season were edited and retitled Ellen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Secrets of the Nutt House

You could be forgiven for not remembering The Nutt House. It was a lesser effort that only lasted ten episodes despite being created by Mel Brooks.

Perhaps its biggest problem was that it wasn't necessarily a pure creation. It started life mainly because Disney CEO Michael Eisner saw how much it cost to build the hotel sets for the Bette Midler film Big Business and wanted to re-use them. Mel Brooks did the best he could considering he had to craft a show around a pre-built set rather than the opposite, normal way things are done.

Strangely enough, The Nutt House was a huge success when it aired on the BBC in the U.K.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Rest in Peace, Dickie Jones

Born in Texas in 1927, Richard "Dickie" Jones  was just a regular kid who knew how to perform amazing rope tricks. He caught the eye of a Rodeo impresario who convinced him and his parents that he could be a star in Hollywood. Dickie and his mother moved out to California where he instantly started booking parts in westerns and the Our Gang comedies.

Dickie soon caught the attention of Walt Disney, who was looking for a rambunctious kid to provide the voice for his flawed yet endearing "Little Woodenhead." Dickie filled the bill perfectly and the world soon fell in love with Pinocchio.

Mr. Jones retired from acting in the mid 1960s, choosing to concentrate on other endeavors, but he always had a soft spot for his most famous role, attending Disney conventions and promotional events to speak with thousands of his fans.

Mr. Jones may have passed away, but he will never be forgotten, as future generations of children will certainly enjoy the antics of Geppetto's "Little Woodenhead".

Golden Girls' Disappearing Cook

When The Golden Girls premiered, the four main characters were Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Coco?!?

Yes, the "girls" originally had a gay housekeeper named Coco who would provide outspoken advice whenever they needed it. Sound familiar? That actually sounds like Sophia. Originally Sophia was going to be a recurring character who would peek in occasionally from Shady Pines. The network (and eventually the world) loved her, however, so Coco was out after the pilot and Sophia was in. She took on the role of a sharp tongued confidante and the rest is history.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Empty Nest's Cast Swap

This week we'll take a look at the lesser known stories from Disney's Touchstone Television!

Remember the classic Touchstone Television show Empty Nest? Spunoff from the humongous hit show The Golden Girls, Empty Nest became a juggernaut itself. Of course, the show starred Rita Moreno and Paul Dooley.... Wait a minute, who?

Yes, the original stars of Empty Nest were husband and wife neighbors to the girls. Their pilot episode was used as a 1987 installment of The Golden Girls. NBC wasn't sold on the concept, however, and everyone except for David Leisure was replaced. The new version centered around Richard Mulligan and his nosy daughters and became a mega success.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Disney Quote Weekends

"He is so sophisticated and charming and rich and handsome. He fairly screams Blanche. At least, he will when I am through with him!"

-Blanche Devereaux on The Golden Girls

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Disney Quote Weekends

"Aren't you broads a little old to be trick or treating?"

-Penny Marshall in Hocus Pocus

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The First Mickey Mouse Toy

The first Mickey Mouse toy was this wooden action figure. Originally sold for mere cents in 1930, it can sell for up to $7000 in excellent condition. Even in bad shape, it can sell for $750.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sister Act

In 1991, Disney's Touchstone Pictures had a potentially big project on its hands- Sister Act! Of course such a project required one of Disney's biggest contract stars of that time to appear in it- Bette Midler.

Yes, Bette Midler was the original Delores Van Cartier- a lounge singer who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ms. Midler, for reasons known only to herself, chose to bow out of the film at the last minute and so the studio had to scramble to find someone else. Of course, their second choice was obviously...... Dolly Parton? Unfortunately, Ms. Parton was unable to fit the film into her schedule, so the search continued. Finally they got a yes. The new star of the movie would be Whoopi Goldberg. The film would go on to be a colossal hit, spawning a hit soundtrack, sequel and Broadway musical. Perhaps Ms. Midler grew to regret her decision.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Walt Disney & Cal-Arts

In 1929, Walt Disney was just getting started and he needed some help. Mr. Disney was always thinking of the future and already had feature length animation on his mind, but his staff wasn't quite ready to produce anything approaching a feature film. His staff needed further training, so Mr. Disney approached Madame Nelbert Chouinard to get his staff the training they needed. Madame Chouinard ran an art school and was willing to help the upstart animation studio by deferring payments. It is doubtful that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would have been able to be produced just eight years later had it not been for Madame Chouinard's generosity.

Flashforward to the 1960's. Sick and a victim of an embezzler, Madame Chouinard's school was on shaky ground. Walt never forgot the assistance she provided, so he set about creating a new institution that would be a merger of Madame Chouinard's Institute and the Los Angeles Music Conservatory- a "Caltech of the Arts"- Cal-Arts.

Located in Valencia, CA on land donated by Walt Disney, Cal-Arts quickly grew into one of the most prestigious arts colleges in the world. Its alumni work on virtually every animated film produced in Hollywood today. Famous alumni include Tim Burton, John Lasseter, Dinah Manoff and Arlene Klasky. Certainly, Cal-Arts has fulfilled Walt's vision for producing new leaders in the art world and beyond.