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Friday, July 31, 2015

Rest in Peace, John Culhane

Disney artist and historian John Culhane has passed away. Mr. Culhane was a huge fan of Disney Animation when he wrote the definitive book about Fantasia. The company soon began using him as both an artist and an author.

As much as he was influenced by Disney Animation, Disney Animation was influenced by him. He served as the model for the dastardly character Mr. Snoops from The Rescuers:

He found his way into (appropriately enough) Fantasia 2000, inspiring the Walter Mitty-esque businessman who imagines a lively life, far removed from his reality of a workaday world.

Mr. Culhane's contributions to the world of animation have been immeasurable. And despite not knowing his name, generations of children will enjoy the works he inspired for decades to come.

The Story of DISNEYLAND: Brotherly Disagreement

Roy Disney was ecstatic. He'd had his doubts about this so-called 'Disneyland' but he had gone along with it because he always looked after his kid brother. It turned out that his brother was right- DISNEYLAND was a huge success.

Thousands of guests were streaming through the gates every day. Over a million in just a few weeks. The world was making its way to see what Walt had built and Roy was seeing dollar signs. Before, the company had lived film to film, eagerly anticipating a film's box office receipts in order to pay for the next one. Roy saw a rosy future with the company finally reaching the stability he long sought.

Guests were arriving in larger numbers than expected and spending more than estimated. Roy figured he'd pay off the park's loans quickly and be banking huge sums of money. His brother Walt had a different plan.

One of the reasons why Walt had accepted some of the lesser theming in certain areas of the park was because he knew that he could eventually improve them in ways both small and large. Initially, Roy budgeted for these improvements. He knew the park would need more shade and guest amenities as demonstrated by the madness of opening day. But surely after these improvements were made, the company could coast on its success. Walt had bigger plans. He believed that the initial investment to get the park open would be a drop in the bucket compared to what needed to come next- constant and consistent expansion and improvements. This, he believed, would be the key to DISNEYLAND's continued success.

With the money rolling in now and Walt fixated on fixing the obvious guest services shortfalls, Roy was content to write smaller checks for now. Besides, sponsors with big pockets who had practically slammed their doors in the Disneys faces before were lining up to become a part of this sensation. It would be awhile before the brothers began butting heads over Walt's spending.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Disney's Gummi Bears

The idea for the Gummi Bears came from then new Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Eager to turnaround the company quickly, Mr. Eisner kept throwing ideas around to see what would stick. After seeing how much his son loved Gummi Bear candies, Eisner brought up the idea of doing a cartoon.

Disney Television Animation put together a show that had nothing to do with the candy, except the shared name. In fact, the characters are shown farming "gummi berries" which were a wholesome fruit with special powers instead of sugary candy. The show was a modest success.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Stan Lee in Daredevil

When Netflix premiered Marvel Daredevil, anxious Marvel fans enjoyed the excitingly dark take on the differently-abled superhero, but they wondered when they'd see the Generalissimo himself- Stan Lee.

Some might have gotten to the end of the very first season thinking that he didn't appear at all. In actuality, he did; just not the way people were used to.

There he is, depicted as a police officer who received an honor of some kind in the background of a police station.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

ABC's Shame

ABC had a burgeoning soap opera empire on its hands with General Hospital, One Life to Live and All My Children. One would think that they'd treat their back catalog of episodes carefully.

However, the network apparently thought that saving money in a foolish way was a better option. Instead of preserving their tapes, ABC erased and reused them. Up until 1978. The first ten years of One Life to Live's existence has literally disappeared.

Luckily, ABC is now owned by The Walt Disney Company, which has shown more care in preserving its history.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Muppet Magazine

In 1983, the Muppets began a magazine of their very own. Published quarterly, the magazine featured elaborate pictorials lampooning the latest 1980's trends.

Spoof targets included films, pop stars and music videos. The magazine sought to be better than the regular kid-themed magazines of the time. It succeeded quite well, running much longer than similar magazines of the time- a six year run.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Disney Quote Weekends

"Some day we'll find it. The rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers and me."

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Story of DISNEYLAND: Up and Running

On television, DISNEYLAND looked like an amazing place with a hugely successful debut. Walt Disney certainly thought so; he had been busy with the television special and didn't see the rough parts of opening day. The crowd that was three times what was anticipated; the food shortages; the sinking concrete. The gathered press witnessed the disaster first hand.

The vast majority of the guests loved the place despite the heat, traffic and lack of food, but more skeptical members of the press wrote about the park's opening being a disaster. Walt Disney quickly enlisted a tactical team to begin resolving the operational issues that presented themselves on opening day. Another team sought to smooth things over with the media, treating them to several booze soaked parties at the DISNEYLAND Hotel.

Miraculously, the crowds kept streaming through the gates, delighting Walt's brother Roy, who was initially against the project. DISNEYLAND had defied the critics and was an instant success. Walt Disney Productions no longer had to struggle to survive between films now that it had a steady income from DISNEYLAND.

The park's immediate survival assured, it was now time to plan for its future. And the Disney Brothers would have very different ideas about how to accomplish that plan.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mrs. Beakley: Scrooge McDuck's Maid

Mrs. Beakley was Uncle Scrooge's maid, who was permitted to live in McDuck Mansion with her granddaughter Webbigail Vanderquack. (A granddaughter who Uncle Scrooge treated like a niece.)

Not well known is Mrs. Beakley's first name- Bettina. By the end of the show's run, Mrs. Beakley is like a member of the family.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Anaheim's Walt Disney Elementary School

One of the first schools named after Walt Disney was opened in Anaheim, California just a few miles northwest of DISNEYLAND.

As you can imagine, Mr. Disney was proud of this honor and lavished the school with special attention. He even declared a school holiday, inviting all of the children to DISNEYLAND.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Characters Don't Age... Or Do They?

A tried and true rule of cartoon characters is that they don't age and often never learn anything. Heck, many of them always seem to wear the same clothes for year after year.

However twenty years ago, Disney challenged this rule in the film A Goofy Movie. Max Goof was Goofy's young son on Goof Troop:

But in A Goofy Movie, Max Goof was aged to become a teenager:

Coincidentally, the next Disney character who would find himself aged got his start the same year that A Goofy Movie premiered- Andy from Toy Story:

By 2009's Toy Story 3, Andy was heading off to college.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Donald Duck Orange Juice

In 1940, a struggling Florida orange juice cooperative approached Walt Disney Productions with a bizarre proposal- they wanted to put Donald Duck on their line of canned, frozen orange juice. 

Donald Duck had never been associated with orange juice in any of his movies or comic books. The company itself had no ties to Florida at the time. The cooperative was promising to provide free product to the troops, however, so an agreement was struck. A legendary product was born.

75 years later, Donald Duck Orange Juice is still a staple of the juice aisle. It has become the longest selling item licensed by The Walt Disney Company, though it is strangely not the official Orange Juice of Disney Theme Parks- that's Minute Maid orange juice.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Disney Quote Weekends

"Look, pet. I've tried to be friendly, but I'm going to marry your father, so you get used to the idea!"

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Story of DISNEYLAND: July 17, 1955

It was the day everyone was waiting for- the grand opening of that bizarro "park" that Walt Disney was building way out in the middle of nowhere. For over a year, the public had literally watched DISNEYLAND sprout up way out in Anaheim, California and on July 17, 1955 the world would finally see what all the fuss was about. Nobody was more excited than the man who had been waiting his entire life to see his dream come true- Walt Disney.

For better or for worse, the park would open and the entire country would finally see what had just been little more than a dream a few years before. Many in Hollywood had doubted that this 'Magic Kingdom' would ever see the light of day. Even if it did open, they reasoned, it would most likely close within six months. Despite his enthusiasm, Mr. Disney still had the chilling thought in his head that nobody would show up and his dream would fail. So you can imagine his relief when he saw this sight at the front gates:

And this:

The public had turned out in droves to see the marvelous DISNEYLAND. Mr. Disney could be forgiven for clowning around with the first children to enter his Magic Kingdom.

Michael Schwartner and Christine Vess were the luckiest kids in the world; they were the first children to enter DISNEYLAND, meeting its King and becoming the first of many to enter its gates.

It is hard to know how proud and excited Mr. Disney was on that day. How does it feel to have your greatest dream come true? Not only was the park finally open, but thousands of guests showed up and fell in love with the place.

One vivid memory that many first day castmembers had was how confused many of the guests were that day. What was this place? Did they have to ride the attractions in the order they were on the map? Did they really get to ride on the boats? While things were chaotic, most of the opening day visitors were ecstatic to be a part of history.

And so was DISNEYLAND's head dreamer. Meanwhile at home, 100 million people watched the spectacle on ABC. It was the highest rated program up until that date. It is even more staggering to consider that Nielsen ratings estimated that nearly every working television in the entire United States was tuned to the live program. Instantly, millions made plans to see the wondrous park in person. Eventually people from every country on the planet would find their way to Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom.

The greatest thing about The Story of DISNEYLAND is that it is still being told every day. And that is just as Mr. Disney planned. He knew and trusted that if he built it, they would come. And they still do 60 years later. That's why our story will continue- to paraphrase Mr. Disney himself, we still have a lot of story to tell.

60 Days of DISNEYLAND: 60 Years Of A Dream That Never Ends

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

-Julie Andrews

"Just imagine- if you were standing right here over 60 years ago, you'd be standing in the middle of an orange grove. One visionary man stood right where you are now, but instead of orange trees, he envisioned a Magic Kingdom. This man's name was Walt Disney. And his dream would be called DISNEYLAND."

“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

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

-Marvin Davis

"I grew up with DISNEYLAND. I can't imagine my world without it. Walt put it best when he said 'DISNEYLAND is a work of love'. And like all happy endings, it will be ours to treasure forever more."

-Neil Patrick Harris

"Walt Disney’s secret was to do things you don’t need, and do them well. And then you realize you needed them all along.”

-Ray Bradbury

"I think that it really explains a lot about Walt. He was a caring man. He cared about people which explains why DISNEYLAND is still a happy place and it will be a happy place for years and years and years to come."

-John Hench

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

-Ralph Castaneda

"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."

"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."

"Anything is possible at DISNEYLAND!"

-Walt Disney

"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

While DISNEYLAND began life as the dream of one man, it quickly grew to become the dream of millions of people around the world. Walt Disney knew that DISNEYLAND would outlive him, and he made sure that it would still retain his positivity and his pursuit of perfection decades after his death. Before Mr. Disney, nobody knew what a theme park was. Now we can't imagine a world without it.

Happy Birthday, DISNEYLAND and thank you Mr. Disney.

"In 1966 the world was saddened hearing of Mr. Disney's death- but it's such a comfort to know his soul lives on together with his dreams and his memory will live forever in my heart."

-Annette Funicello

Thursday, July 16, 2015

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #2: 2005

Fifty years. DISNEYLAND had not only lasted fifty years (49.5 years longer than some people thought it would.) but it was bigger, better and thriving.

Walt Disney's magical little park had grown to become a full fledged resort with three hotels, two theme parks and an entertainment district. It was everything Walt had dreamed and so much more. 

The company threw a gigantic party around the world and at the park itself, of course. 

DISNEYLAND had grown to mean so much to so many and they flocked back to the park to relive the memories. Famous friends lined up to salute the park- Julie Andrews, Steve Martin and Leann Rhimes spoke, performed and sang.

Special, once in a lifetime merchandise was produced that honored the park and provided fans with unique keepsakes.

The park was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The first and only location to receive one.

The world returned to DISNEYLAND and showed its love for a place that had become a worldwide phenomenon, hosting hundreds of millions of happy guests from around the world.