Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Waking Sleeping Beauty

Could this DVD have been released at a better time?  

Everyone knows that Disney's animated films released in the early 80's tanked at the box office.  The company experiencing a changing of the guard.  The nine old men were retiring, new animators were being hired on, and the people at the top didn't care about animation.

Waking Sleeping Beauty is the story of how Disney went from making films like The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron to the classics like Little Mermaid and Aladdin.  The film is directed and narrated by Don Hahn who was a producer at the time and saw it all go down.

The story takes place from 1984 to 1994 and shows you how Disney went on to make these great films.  the compnay was doing great financially but on the inside though there was a power struggle between Michael Eisner, Jeffery Katzenberg , and Roy Disney.  if you've read Disney War you are familiar with this story.  If you have not read it I highly suggest it.

Disney War is obviously not authorized by Disney and Waking Sleeping Beauty was released by Disney which leads me to believe that Don Hahn could not give us the entire story in the film.  The movies opens with an excited young animator giving a tour of the Animation building.  He and the camera man go into animators offices and introduce them to the camera.  We see a young Tim Burton at his desk drawing and looking very un-enthused. Then the camera man introduces himself "And I'm John Lasseter."  We do not hear about Lasseter or Tim Burton again until Toy Story and Nightmare Before Christmas are being made towards the end of the film.  In my opinion these are two huge stories the film just ignores.  John Lasseter was fired by Disney in the 80's and now he practically runs the place.  Why not dive into that story a little?  I can see Tim Burton not caring to discuss his time at Disney but John Lasseter, how hard is it to find him?

Earlier I said this movie was released at the perfect time, well here's why.  This film stops in 1994, right before Disney was eclipsed by Pixar.  After Lion King was released Disney fell off the wagon again.  Sure some people like Mulan and Hercules but the studio has not had another huge (memorable) hit since 1994...until now. 

Tangled made almost 60 million dollars over the weekend.  Are we at the beginning of another Disney comeback?  Looking at the trailer for the new Winnie the Pooh film i'd say yes, but only time will tell. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Walt and El Grupo

Walt and El Grupo is another movie I tried to have shown in Houston.  Eventually I found a theater showing it and when the day came they cancelled the showing.  So I was not able to watch it until today.

If you plan on watching Walt and El Grupo I would suggest reading South of The Border with Disney first.

If you've read Disney biographies you know that the story Walt's South American trip is usually over shadowed by the studio strike.  Well South of the Border with Disney gives you all the facts about the trip and every South American film the studio made.  On to Walt and El Grupo.

Let me start off by saying that I really enjoyed this film.  The only reason I suggest reading South of the Border with Disney first is because the movie seemed a little short on facts.  Disney's South American trip happened in 1941, since then every member of El Grupo (the artist that went along with him) has passed away.  Luckily their spouses and family members have kept all the letters they sent home during the trip.  

The film was made by Theodore Thomas the son of legendary animator (and member of El Grupo) Frank Thomas.  He did a great job tracking down people that met Walt and El Grupo during their trip. There is not a lot of video footage from the trip shown in the film, instead Thomas found a way to make the still photographs taken at the time come to life.  My favorite part of the film is the comparison shots.  They will show you a picture of Walt taken in 1941 and slowly fade it to the same location now.  It's great to see how the areas have for the most part stayed the same.

Aside from learning more about Walt another reason I wanted to see this film so bad was to learn more about Mary Blair.  Mary Blair's section is short but in my opinion one of the most important parts of the film.  Mary's son shows us how his mother was influenced by the trip.  Before the trip Mary and her husband Lee had almost the exact same style of painting.  It was the South American trip that made Mary Blair the artist she became.  

So like I said if you're a real Disney nerd I'd say read the book and see the movie.  If you are unsure watch the movie first  and if you want to know more than read the book.

If you want to see Goofy smoking a cigarette you can watch the original version of Saludos Amigos in the bonus features.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

DVD Madness!

The mail man was good to me yesterday:

The Boys, Walt and El Grupo, & Waking Sleeping Beauty on DVD

If you are not familiar with these movies you're in luck because I'm going to give you my review of all of them...after I watch them all that is.  I've only had time to watch The Boys so why don't we start there.

Let me start off by saying that Disney does not respect my opinion enough to send me free DVD's, so yeah I bought them on my own.

The Boys is the story of the Sherman Brothers, who have written such fantastic songs as "Feed the Bird's" from Mary Poppins and "Pineapple Princess" for Annette Funicello.  You would think that brothers working together writing hit songs for their entire adult life would have a great friendship, but that is not the case.

The movie was directed by Jeff and Gregory Sherman, the sons of Dick and Bob.  They spoke for the first time in 40 years in 2002 at the opening of the stage version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  At public events the brothers always appeared together for photos but then sat on opposite sides of the theaters, the cousins never knew why.  They decided to make a movie about their famous fathers exploring their history as song writers and what exactly tore them apart.

I do not want to give away the entire story so i'll just tell you to stop reading this and buy the film!  Not only do you hear the story from the Sherman Brothers themselves but the film is full of interviews with other Disney legends like Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.  It's sad to see two guys who claim to have nothing in common tear up when they have to talk about Walt Disney's death.  Watching this film is going to make you want to get out all of your Sherman Brother musicals and watch them all day long, it was a truly touching movie.

My only complaint is with Disney, they should have given this movie a wider release.  I contacted theaters all over Houston and could not get it shown here.  So do yourself a favor and buy this DVD, and while your at it pick up The Sherman Brothers Song Book.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mary Blair's House for Sale!

First Ward Kimball now Mary Blair.

For $725,000 you can own Mary and Lee Blair's old house.

Here's the listing

Friday, November 19, 2010


These pictures are from a 1964 issue of Look Magazine.  The entire magazine was a preview for the 1964 World's Fair.  Since Walt Disney was contributing four attractions to the fair (Small World, Carousel of Progress, Mr. Lincoln, Ford Magic Skyway) there were a few pages dedicated to him.

Whoa is that the silhouette Walfred Hitchsney?

You always hear about the infamous Walt Disney eyebrow.  Looks like this caveman is getting it.

That's probably the best picture of Walt I've ever seen!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Toy Story 3 and The Shining

I really like how Pixar always hides easter eggs in their films.  Toy Story 3 is full of them but today I am just focusing on the references to The Shining.  If you know anything about Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich it's that he loves The Shining.  So here are the three references in the film that I know of.

Check out the license plate on Sid's garbage truck.

and this screen name.

Both are references to room 237, the room Danny is told never to enter in The Shining.

This next one is a little tougher.

Check out the crazy design on the tissue box.

This is not the first time Pixar has used that carpet design either.  Can you find it in the original Toy Story?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hanna Barbera Land: Attractions

Back to my 1985 birthday at Hanna Barbera Land.  Check out the Paddle Boats.

That's me in Quick Draw McGraw and the rest of my gang in Snagglepuss.

It looks like Huckleberry Hound might be waaaay back there.

I would love to know what happened to these Carousel characters.

So we have Yogi, Scooby, Dino, and.....Train Car?

I have one more batch of photos from the birthday bash.  Next up characters in the park!