8th July 2008

Hong Kong It’s a Small World Pop-Music Video

There’s something appealingly deceptive about this commercial for Hong Kong Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” ride. It completely misrepresents the ride as being a high-energy, madcap adventure through the “happiest world on Earth.” Still, I enjoy it.

[via The Disney Blog]

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29th May 2008

Real Life WALL-E Robot

If you know we well, you know I loves me some robots. This is just too cool — a real life robot of the new Pixar character, Wall-E. I’ve not listened to the audio of the clip yet (but I read it’s a bit awkward) but I really love the look of the character as a real life robot.

posted in Animation, Art, Disney, Tech | 1 Comment

17th March 2008

Happy St. Patrick’s Day 2008

I guess it was today? Or yesterday? Or was it Saturday? I’m kinda confused. Here’s some St Patricky goodness of many flavors for y’all to enjoy.

Darby O’Gill meets King Brian — it really warms up when Darby plays the Fox Chase at 4:50

Also check out Darby O’Gill’s Wishing Song

Leprechauns Christmas Gold … Not really for St. Patrick’s Day but every holiday needs dome Rankin/bass.

Also, who wouldn’t love the Swedish Chef, Animal, and Beaker singing Danny Boy? [Tip o' the cap goes to Humu!]

Now I’m off for my traditional Irish meal of Irish O’Garlic sausages and a Shamrock Shake

posted in Disney, Music, Rankin/Bass | Comments Off

5th February 2008

Nick Pitera sings a duet with himself

Every moment red letter.

posted in Disney, Music | Comments Off

2nd February 2008

EPCOT Souvenir Video Circa 1982

Who wouldn’t want to visit EPCOT after seeing this official take-home video?

“Massive. Wedge shaped. Practical.”

Part 1

Part 2

[Via Epcot Central]

posted in Disney, Television | Comments Off

1st July 2007

Canada, You’re a Lifetime Journey for the Traveler.

And you’re a lifeline of wonder on this Planet Earth! Here is Disney World’s O Canada! movie in astounding Circlevision, brought to you by Chreestopher straight from the Canada pavilion at Epcot:

Don’t want to sit through the whole film? Philistine! Alright, here’s what you really want: pure, uncut Canadian idolatry, in glorious musical form:

Press play to hear all about the wondrous bounty that is Canada.

Canada, we salute you!

posted in Disney, Music | 6 Comments

19th May 2007

A Fair(y) Use Tale

This is simply outstanding:

A Fair(y) Use Tale, by Eric Faden

This is a short film, by Eric Faden, illustrating how copyright and fair use work (and more importantly, how they don’t work). What makes it exceptionally clever is that it is completely composed of short snippets of Disney animated films. Not only is Disney notoriously thorough in their defense of their intellectual property (as is their right), they have thrown immense lobbying dollars and efforts into getting the term of copyright extended (which kinda stinks).

It’s interesting to note that the music used in this piece is not from Disney, and has been used with permission. After you’ve viewed this clip, you’ll understand why — the music does not play a role in parody, or in teaching, and would not have fallen under fair use. If the subject of the clip was the fair use specifically of music, then the use of music as illustration could possibly have been supported.

I have this come up all the time, when my website clients ask about using music on their websites. This clip does a better job of explaining it all than I have done in the past (and I learned a bit about fair use while watching it, too). I’m so glad I can now point my clients to this to answer some of their questions about copyright and fair use.

[Via Boing Boing]

posted in Animation, Disney | 2 Comments

5th May 2007

¡Vive El Rio del Tiempo!

My favorite part of Walt Disney World is Epcot’s World Showcase, which houses mini-lands representing eleven different countries, each one themed to the hilt. I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite pavilion, but if someone really pressed me, Mexico would definitely be in the running.

Epcot's Mexico Pavilion
Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion
Mariachi Cobre
Mariachi Cobre

First off, the music is fantastic. I love mariachi music, absolutely nuts for the stuff. Nothing is better on a sunny day, and no other music can so reliably put a smile on my face. The band that plays at Epcot is Mariachi Cobre. It was a surreal moment when I first visited the Mexico pavilion and saw that they play there daily — I have all their albums, and had no idea they were a Disney band. Definitely one of those moments that affirmed my love for Disney.

It’s lit perfectly and romantically — it’s always twilight in the Mexico pavilion. It’s the only pavilion that is completely indoors, which can be awfully nice when it gets too hot in the Florida sun. It’s only a little bit brighter than a Peppermill’s. I am an absolute sucker for a dimly lit public establishment. It’s the best way to make a place feel totally immersive. I don’t exactly feel like I’m in Mexico when I’m inside the Mexico pavilion, but I know I’m somewhere unreal and magical.

The restaurant in the pavilion is the San Angel Inn. In short, it’s a Mexican-themed Blue Bayou. It sits at the back of the pavilion, overlooking an Aztec pyramid, with a volcano rumbling threateningly in the distance. The food isn’t spectacular, but it’s good, and the margaritas are actually great. It’s not my favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World (there’s so much great food to be had there), but it’s worth making time for.

Pyramid and volcano in the distance at San Angel Inn
Pyramid and volcano in the distance at San Angel Inn

Running between the San Angel Inn and that pyramid, just like at the Blue Bayou restaurant in Disneyland, is a water-based dark ride. But no blockbuster films will ever be made in tribute to El Rio del Tiempo.

However, a non-blockbuster film has been made… RU42 has created an 11 minute tribute to this pavilion, including a run-through of El Rio del Tiempo:

The Mexico Pavilion, featuring El Rio del Tiempo, by RU41

El Rio del Tiempo shall forever live in infamy. It was the only ride in all of World Showcase when the pavilion opened in 1982 (Norway’s Maelstrom ride was added in 1988). The true experience of it defies description, but I’m going to try anyhow.

As the ride begins, your boat heads past that pyramid and volcano, and into an ancient temple. For some reason, there are video screens projecting images from a 1982 disco party, with star fields & rainbows, and possibly the Village People. You turn the corner, and now you’re on the It’s a Small Mexico ride, only all the children have killed Mary Blair. Then you’re in modern-day Mexico… I’m sorry, you’re in 1982 Mexico… and you’re visiting a tourism office. There are video scenes of beaches and cliff divers, and a hot tub party. “1982 Hot Tub Party.” Just let that sink in for a little bit, and see if you don’t feel like you could use a shower. From there, it’s El Rio del Tiempo’s most notorious section: the open-air market. You boat is chased — chased — by desperate merchants, begging you to buy their merchandise. Then you head into a room that has Mexico City’s 1982 skyline all lit up on one side, and marionnettes forced to dance eternally in a carousel-like circle. Marionnettes are always a little creepy, but these are full-size human marionnettes, which just exaggerates their soullessness. Fireworks are exploding overhead, just in case you weren’t uncomfortable enough with the scene as it is. And then you see the painting of Mexico that signals you will soon be free.

Hot tub scene at El Rio del Tiempo, by sigsegv
Hot tub scene at El Rio del Tiempo, by sigsegv

El Rio del Tiempo closed recently, and has been updated; it’s now called Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros. This is a wonderful development — Three Caballeros is my favorite Disney film, and a perfect fit. I can’t wait to see the new ride. (PLEASE do not tell me anything you might know about the new ride. I’m trying to remain unspoiled.) While I don’t doubt for a second that they did the right thing in updating this ride, I am a little wistful that I won’t get to ride it again. I kind of loved it.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

posted in Disney | 5 Comments

6th April 2007

Bing Bong Bang, It’s Boomerang!


Just when you think that the Internet holds all the answers, it fails you. My search for information about Boomerang, a ’70s kids’ TV show from my native Seattle, has turned up nearly bupkes.

I did learn something very interesting… I had no idea that Marni, the host of Boomerang, was none other than Marni Nixon.

Nixon is the reason Julie Andrews won her Oscar for Mary Poppins. Well, that’s not fair — that was a well-earned Oscar. (Those who already know this story can skip ahead a couple of paragraphs.) Julie Andrews had starred on Broadway in the hit musical My Fair Lady, and won a Tony award. But when My Fair Lady was turned into a Hollywood film, Julie Andrews was not yet a name movie-goers would recognize, and Warner Brothers cast Audrey Hepburn in what really should have been Julie Andrews’ role. Walt Disney knew better, and cast Andrews that same year in Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins, and Julie Andrews, became a smash sensation.

When the press started to dig a bit, and learned that Audrey Hepburn didn’t actually sing her parts — that the beautiful voice behind “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” was actually Marni Nixon… well, Jack Warner started to look like a fool for having ditched Julie Andrews. In Julie Andrews’ Oscar acceptance speech for Mary Poppins, she thanked “the man who made this all possible… Jack Warner,” which makes me love Julie Andrews even more.

Marni actually has a brief role in Mary Poppins, as one of the animated geese, but didn’t meet Andrews while working on that film. When Nixon and Andrews later worked together on The Sound of Music (Nixon played one of the nuns), Andrews introduced herself with a hearty handshake, and exclaimed “I really love your work!,” probably with a cheeky look in her eye. Marni also was the singing voice for Maria in West Side Story, and she did some vocal work for a Mr. Magoo album, “Magoo in Hi-Fi” and provided “ethereal voice effects” for some Esquivel albums. She was a very, very successful session singer in Hollywood.

I’m still having trouble reconciling the host of Boomerang with this Hollywood figure, but it comes together a bit when I hear the Boomerang theme song again — the song’s not exactly a winner, but it sure brings back memories, and that voice is loverly:

Click play to hear the Boomerang theme song

This still leaves plenty of holes about Boomerang the show, though. I can fill in a little bit more from my own memories: It aired on channel 4, KOMO, which was Seattle’s ABC affiliate. It was filmed during the late ’70s into the early ’80s, and continued on in reruns for a while. Marni’s co-star was a yellow puppet boy, who looked like a cross between Bert from Sesame Street and Terrence from South Park. I can’t remember his name, and I couldn’t find it online. His name was Norbert. (Thanks melberoo!) There’s one episode in particular that I remember, where Marni was hired to do a commercial for some silver polish, but she tries the polish and it doesn’t work very well, and she decides to not do the commercial. It was a lesson about not whoring oneself out, and whenever I’m faced with similar scenarios, I always think of Marni’s frustration with the silver polish. Overall, the show was on the schmaltzy side, and if we’d had the variety of cable back then, I probably would never have watched it.

So anywhere, there you go. That’s all I could find about the Seattle show Boomerang. Maybe someday something more will show up.

posted in Disney, Midcentury, Television | 138 Comments

4th April 2007

Monkeys, Go Home!

Today, I would like to discuss one of the true classics of the Disney live action canon: Monkeys, Go Home! This 1967 film has it all… monkeys* — four of them, and they’re <dramatic echo>SPACE MONKEYS</dramatic echo> … Dean Jones … ’60s protests … Love, Frenchy Style … and as if that weren’t enough (no, stop! no, really!) … Maurice! Chevalier! And! The! Title! Ends! In! An! Exclamation! Point! Can you feel the hilarity?! So zany!!!

*phew* … I’ll take it down a notch or two now, before someone reaches through the screen to throttle me.

Dean Jones puts his chimps to work, in Disney's "Monkeys Go Home!"
Dean Jones puts his chimps to work, in Disney’s "Monkeys Go Home!"

Alright now, where was I? Oh yes. Monkeys, Go Home. I mean, Monkeys, Go Home!. In this delightful, fun for the whole family maybe some of the family film, Dean Jones plays Henry Dussard, an American who has just inherited an olive farm he has never seen, in the south of France. Ooh la la! Being an American, he’s got some nutty ideas about how to turn this olive farm into a profitable venture — by hiring chimps instead of people to work the farm. Luckily, he previously was a chimp trainer for NASA, so he’s got a team of recently-retired space chimps at his disposal. So wacky!

In the '60s, even the chimps were protesting
In the ’60s, even the chimps were protesting

The little French town doesn’t like the idea of having to compete against a chimp-run farm, and they mount an underground resistance against Dussard. The chimps strike back by mounting a protest of their own, fighting for their right to work just as humans do. At the same time, a boozy French broad shows up claiming to be Dussard’s long-lost cousin (and she is truly fabulous, played by Yvonne Constant), staking claim to half of Dussard’s farm, and threatening Dussard’s budding relationship with a barely-legal French tartlet, played by Yvette Mimieux.

Maurice Chevalier, with the French corner of It's a Small World
Maurice Chevalier, with the French corner of It’s a Small World

And just for good measure, Maurice Chevalier plays the town priest, who shows up now and then to impart some heavily-accented wisdom, and sing a song or two.

This is quite possibly the slapstickiest, monkeyest, wacknuttiest of all the Disney films. The hilarity, it ensues. This film… well, it’s sort of the Disney version of the Star Wars Holiday Special. I can’t help but wonder why they’ve released it on DVD, but I’m so glad they did. I kind of love it.

Oh! The music! The music is the best part, and I’m not kidding around here — I would sincerely buy Robert F. Brunner’s soundtrack/score. It’s great ’60s light-quirk-funk-pop stuff.

* Technically, chimps aren’t monkeys, but for the sake of simplicity, today we’ll say they are. It’s Topsy-Turvy day! Shrimp are fish! Tomatoes are vegetables! Mama’s Family was funny!

posted in Disney, Midcentury, Miscellaneous, Space Age | 8 Comments