Archive for March, 2007

Disney Detours – "Dream Along with Mickey" Show Review

March 10, 2007

Walt Disney World’s newewst stage show is pure Disney magic.

by Blake




Originally posted March 9, 2007.


“Ah, phooey! Nobody believes in dreams anymore!” exclaims the ignorant Donald Duck in Walt Disney World’s newest stage production, Dream Along with Mickey. A magical blend of classic characters, a winning soundtrack, and an enchanting story, it’s a hit for any believer of dreams.

Dream Along with Mickey is performed several times daily in the Cinderella Castle forecourt at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom park. This spot has been previously occupied by countless quality Disney stage shows, usually accompanied by the Kids of the Kingdom (the assortment of Disney background dancers) and a live band providing the shows’ music. As time has evolved, the castle shows seem to have less and less quality as they used to.

The most recent castle shows have been Cinderella’s Surprise Celebration and Cinderellabration. As you can plainly see by their titles, Disney has wanted to incorporate their most successful princess into as many theme park productions as possible these days, especially with the current re-issues the original Cinderella and its subsequent sequels becoming available in stores. So lately, the castle shows have been based on marketing, not quality.

Cinderella’s Surprise Celebration, which ran from October 1, 2001 through February 24, 2005 was the first show in a while to subtract the live band, making for a VERY loud pre-recorded soundtrack that could be heard all the way to the Monorail station outside the front of the Magic Kingdom. The show was also the first in quite some time to lack the Kids of the Kingdom (a.k.a. the Disney dancers), resulting in a stage full of two-dozen furry Disney characters taking up all the room.

Cinderellabration, which began previews on March 17, 2005 before a lavish opening premiere on May 5, 2005, ran through September 16, 2006. The show was imported from Tokyo Disneyland as part of The Happiest Celebration on Earth, honoring 50 years of Disney theme parks worldwide. This show did bring back the Kids of the Kingdom, but they were all dressed in either powdered wigs or poofy dresses, so they weren’t entirely back to their original style and flair. The show also made use of the blaring pre-recorded soundtrack.

Cinderellabration didn’t have much of a plot, other than Cinderella inviting various Disney princesses to her “official” royal coronation. It involved no conflict or even one villain. Not even Cinderella’s evil stepmother showed up!

This, finally, brings us to September 30, 2006 when Dream Along with Mickey debut on the Castle Forecourt Stage. The show had no rehearsal previews for guests to see as with Cinderellabration, nor did it have a lavish world premiere. It just “showed up.” (Though I did read a report of guests being able to hear nighttime rehearsals from the Polynesian resort after the Magic Kingdom had closed.) The show opened in conjunction with the kick-off of Disney’s “Year of a Million Dreams,” debuting just one day before the celebration’s official starting date, October 1, 2006.

I saw the show recently, and it surprisingly was much better than I had anticipated.

For one, the Kids of the Kingdom are back in full swing! Instead of powdered wigs and poofy dresses, they’re in snazzy new blue outfits to match the Disney characters’ new Year of a Million Dreams blue clothing. The dancers are as energetic and upbeat as they were in the 90’s.

Another example of liveliness in the show is its soundtrack, part of which (like the Magic Kingdom’s new Disney Dreams Come True Parade) is straight from Tokyo Disneyland (of course the lyrics aren’t in Japanese, though!). The show’s first song, “Join the Party,” is from Tokyo’s 2003 castle show Mickey’s Gift of Dreams. The rest of the show features classic Disney tunes from animated features and a new score.

Dream Along with Mickey follows Mickey and the gang, who are (once again) throwing a party at the castle. However, Donald doesn’t want to participate in the party – he doesn’t believe in dreams! It’s up to Mickey and the gang to prove to Donald that dreams can come true. Several special party guests soon arrive, including Cinderella and classic Disney princesses (and their princes), Peter Pan, and the unwanted Maleficent, the evil witch from Sleeping Beauty. I won’t spoil the entire show for you, but plenty of fun is sprinkled all throughout the production.

I enjoyed the show not only for its energy and story, but also for its choice of characters. It didn’t have too many characters, as in Cinderella’s Surprise Celebration, but it also didn’t have too little, as with the older castle shows that mainly focused on the dancers. Dream Along with Mickey featured only classic characters – characters the were featured in films during Walt Disney’s lifetime. Although I was disappointed not to see Pluto show up, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald were all present, as were the aforementioned princesses and Peter Pan.


The only “character implement” I thought the show was lacking was the villains. Only Captain Hook and Maleficent showed up. I think they could’ve had a more fascinating villain scene, but still used the classic villains that were there during Walt’s lifetime (such as Cruella DeVil, Queen of Hearts, Cinderella’s stepmother, or the queen from Snow White). However, this is only a minor issue – otherwise I liked how the show sticks to characters from Walt Disney’s time.

Of course, the Dream Along with Mickey is not without faults. The music, though enchanting, still blares loudly through the speakers, to be heard all the way down Main Street, U.S.A. While that’s nice if you’re watching the show from a distance, it can get pretty loud if you’re viewing it up-close near the Castle.

Besides the flaws stated above, Dream Along with Mickey is a wonderful combination of a Disney-fied plot, whimsical music, classic characters, and pure Disney magic.

How would I rank Dream Along with Mickey? (Bolded is my choice.)
Utterly repulsive
Blech
Not good
Good
Very good
Brilliant

Dream Along with Mickey will most likely please: Disney Fans – Toddlers (ages 1-2) – Preschoolers (ages 3-4) – Kids (ages 5-8)

By Blake; originally posted on March 9, 2007. All images (C) Disney.

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BlakeOnline Special – Reader’s Character Picks

March 10, 2007

Readers share their favorite Disney characters.

by Blake

Originally posted March 9, 2007.

Earlier, I asked who readers’ favorite Disney characters were. So, here now, are the BlakeOnline Reader’s Character Picks!

Thomas O’Malley from The Aristocats

Coming from an era of lesser-remembered Disney animated films, The Aristocats in none-the-less a charming tale of fancy Paris kittens and their mother that get lost in the wilds of France. Along the way, the kittens and their mother Duchess meet up with Thomas O’Malley, who teaches them how to live on the wild side.

Cool, calm, and laid back, O’Malley loves to just relax and take things pretty easy. Although this is entirely different than the way Duchess is used to living, Thomas O’Malley soon shows her how to see things his way, without worries.

What I found particularly odd about The Aristocats was that the most (for me, at least) humorous and entertaining parts of the movie did not feature cats, but dogs. The hounds Napoleon and Lafayette always earn several laughs from me throughout the film.

Baloo from The Jungle Book

Baloo is the living spirit of “chill.” Not having a care in the world, he proudly protects the “man cub” Mowgli and explores and plays with him around the jungle. Luckily, he had Bagheera the black panther to watch over him and keep him out of trouble! Figuratively, Baloo may be more of a child than Mowgli!

Reader Kenny wrote a poem about why he likes Thomas O’Malley from The Aristocats and Baloo from The Jungle Book:

“I know that you will find this odd
Which characters will get the nod

There were so many,
I didn’t know who
I couldn’t pick one
So I picked two!

The first pick of mine lives in an alley
Not many will not him
He’s C. Thomas O’Malley!

The second one smells and needs some shampoo
But he’s still one of the best
You guessed it – Baloo!

Now here’s where it’s weird
Like plaster of Paris
They’re both played by the same voice – Phil Harris!”

The next entry is part of Pirates Countdown 2007
Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean

Captain Jack seems to be Disney’s #1 most popular character right now, and with good reason. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (released in July 2006) was the #1 highest-grossing Disney film of all time and is only one of the THREE films in history to gross over one billion dollars. You’ll probably find Jack Sparrow in any mall of Wal-Mart you walk into lately – Disney tries to make the most of any character or movie when it’s successful, often overdoing themselves.

Jack Sparrow – sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow – is truly the ultimate villain: cunning, egocentric, clever, haughty, rude, greedy . . . yet we don’t view him as the bad guy. Instead, we view Davy Jones as the main villain. And we should – he’s definitely more powerful and more evil than Jack. But he’s on a different level of a villain. If you really want to get technical, the powdered-wigged generals at Port Royal are the good guys! If the good guys always won in the Pirates movies, the old guys at Port Royal would have Will and Elizabeth put to justice and Jack (permanently) dead.

In the Pirates films, the difference of good and bad is night and day compared to other films (especially Disney films). Jack Sparrow is really a villain, yet everyone is rooting for him (including me). But even now, as we are about to enter the third film in the series this May, the villain level turns on us again in a surprising plot twist.

What did readers say about Captain Jack? Readers Denise, Hunter, and Colton think that “Jack Sparrow is the very best Disney character ever designed.”

That’s quite a statement: and one that I’d gladly agree with.

Minnie Mouse from classic Disney cartoon shorts

Minnie is purely the ideal girlfriend. All for Mickey, she makes picnics, goes on outings, watches Mickey’s pet, bakes, plants, sews, shops, and so much more. Of course, the two wouldn’t want to be to sudden about their relationship – they would be rushing things if they got married after nearly 80 years of dating!

Minnie is loyal to her pals, particularly Daisy Duck. However, Daisy often gets Minnie into so many precarious situations (particularly in the television shows Mickey’s Mouse Works and House of Mouse) that Minnie wonders why she always puts up with Daisy! Daisy proclaims Minnie is her “only friend in the world.” Though, through compassion, mercy, and patience, Minnie always pulls through for Daisy when the duck needs it most.


Reader Lacey wrote an essay about why Minnie is her favorite character:

“‘Why?’ You ask. What’s not to like, she has cute clothes, long eyelashes, wonderful shoes, and a dashingly handsome boyfriend!!!

I would love to have that really cute red dress with the white dots on it. Everyone loves polka dots! And, you know those yellow shoes just set it off. Also, the bow . . . now that is an accessory! Every girl looks good with a bow in her hair.

She also has such a sweet voice, and she is kind to everyone. Now, the world could take a lesson from her. A soft voice and a kind spirit . . . think how much better the world would be if we all tried to be a little more like Minnie Mouse!”

Reader Melissa wrote a creative poem about Minnie:

“She’s got a smile on her face
And a twinkle in her eye
She loves to go shopping
And she dates a real cool guy.

Her name is Minnie Mouse
You can find her at Disney World.
Strutting around Ton Town
She’s quite a swingin‘ girl.

Her kitchen’s got cool gadgets
Her yard has pretty flowers.
She has a lot of friends
She’s the queen of Girl Power.

She’s been in lots of movies
Some would say she’s a star
Maybe you’ve gotten her autograph
Or seen her riding in a car.

I met Minnie one day
And she was very, very nice.
I even saw her ice skate
In a show: Disney on Ice!

Over the years Minnie has changed
But she’s still a real sweet gal
Lovin, laughin, making friends
And Mickey’s still her #1 pal!”

Pluto from the classic Disney cartoon shorts

Pluto may be the most complicated Disney character of them all. Because he doesn’t speak, his movements of face expressions have to clearly define his mood or thoughts. In the 40’s, when Pluto’s collection of shorts were in their “golden age,” animators would put mirrors at their desks to make faces in so they could successfully capture the expressions they wanted Pluto to use!

I’ll compare this subject to the walk-around characters at the Disney parks. Because most of the characters that are there to meet don’t have to capability to speak, it’s necessary to make head and arm movements to capture the characters’ feelings.

It’s the same situation with Pluto. Because he doesn’t speak, he has to move, walk, or look a certain way for the audience to understand how Pluto is feeling or what he’s thinking. He’s purely a dog. Loyal, dependant, protective, and yappy! As for Goofy . . .

Reader John wrote a poem concerning the Pluto/Goofy matter:

Poor Pluto

“Goofy, the dog, acts so crazy
And he’s surely not a scholar.
Things seem just a little hazy,
But he has clothes – you, a collar.

Pluto, on all fours you must walk
Goofy, meanwhile, can walk upright.
You can only bark, but he can talk.
Disney, it just does not seem right!

And, as if these things weren’t enough;
You’ve got no teeth, Goofy has TWO!
It seems to me you have it rough,
But, if it helps, we love you! Goofy, too!”

Peter Pan from Peter Pan

Peter Pan is truly a child in every sense. He loves to play, and takes every chance he gets to have some fun. He barely has any worries, which can sometimes get him into troublesome situations, especially involving pirates.


Reader Denise says, “He truly defines fantasy with a bit of most people’s reality. A little escape to a kid-like, fun filled, action packed, story land is always a dream for me, and many other adults I am sure!”

Well, that wraps up the Reader’s Character Picks! 🙂

By Blake; originally posted March 9, 2007. All images (C) Disney.

DVD Review – ‘Peter Pan’ Platinum Edition

March 9, 2007

by Blake

Originally posted March 9, 2007.

Highlight of Disc: “Walt Disney Reveals ‘Why I Made Peter Pan'”
Highlight Runner-Up: “The Peter Pan That Almost Was”

“There it is . . . second star to the right and straight on until morning.”

Those words describe a place where kids literally never grow up, where pirates pillage, where pixies play, and where enchanting adventure awaits all its visitors – Never Land.

As if you didn’t need reminding, Peter Pan tells the story of a boy, Peter, who has magical abilities to fly and never grow up. With the help of his fairy friend Tinker Bell (whose “dialogue” took six entire days to record from the “silver bell symphony”), Peter helps the Darling children – Wendy, Michael, and John – visit the magical Never Land. Once there, the children encounter the Lost Boys, mermaids, and, of course, a nefarious band of pirates led by the sly Captain Hook and his first mate Mr. Smee.

The digital restoration of the film is amazing and includes crystal-clear picture & sound. I’ve never really noticed the difference between different versions of films once they’re restored as opposed to before they were, but the change is definitely clear here. The color is brighter, the shapes of the characters and sets are sharper, and the overall appearance is simply whimsical.

I was positively thrilled to read the “official” announcement from Disney back in October that Peter Pan was being re-released. This time Pan is getting star treatment, as it enters Disney’s Platinum DVD Collection, promising its share of stellar bonus material.

Pan is the ninth installment in the the Platinum series, which includes some of Disney’s most magical animated masterpieces on 2-disc deluxe DVD’s with a fine supply of supplemental features and in-depth, behind-the-scenes footage. Started in October 2001, the series debuts a new title to its collection the first Tuesday of October every year. Began in March 2005, however, the series would add new titles to the library not only the first Tuesday of October, but also either the first Tuesday in March or the last Tuesday in February (they seem to variate). Other titles in the Platinum Collection include Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aladdin, Bambi, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, and The Little Mermaid.

Peter Pan Platinum Edition’s bonus features include:

Sneak Peek of ‘Tinker Bell’ is an exclusive look (in addition to the regular trailer, which is also included) for the upcoming direct-to-DVD movie Tinker Bell. It offers a commentated look at the movie’s plot, as well as some of its characters (including different fairies aside from Tink). The film will be released sometime in Fall 2008.

The Audio Commentary includes what seems to be several different commentaries all rolled into one, making for a very choppy and not very cohesive experience. Very informative with little to entertain, there are a few little tidbits of facts to learn here and there, but mostly it’s nothing to squeal about.

Lost Song: “Never Land” is an informative three-minute featurette showing the re-creation of this deleted song, originally written in 1940 but just now discovered from the Disney Archives. Here it is presented with new music by Richard Sherman (of Mary Poppins and Epcot fame).

The “Never Land” Music Video is performed by Paige O’Hara, the voice of Belle in Beauty and the Beast. The video features O’Hara in a mock version of the Darling bedroom from the movie, with clips from the film as well as orchestra footage showing in the background. If you close you eyes, you can hear Belle right on the dot!

“The Second Star to the Right” Music Video, performed by the teen group T-Squad, is actually hurtful to the ears. Here, a classic, magical song is totally modernized negatively. The setting for the music video, a hip teen club of sorts, didn’t seem to fit the theme of the song at all and I literally had to fast-forward the music video halfway into it.

Camp Never Land games are an assortment of three different games streamed together into the idea that the player is training to become one of the Lost Boys, Peter Pan’s little group of friends that he plays with. The three games are “Smee’s Sudoku Challenge,” “Tarrrget Practice,” and “Tink’s Fantasy Flight.”

I admire Disney’s idea to add a more interactive and animated game to a DVD (unlike some of their previous efforts), but these particular games had long (make that VERY long) instructions for each individual activity that kids might not be able to sit through, much less understand. I would think after playing the games that older kids would dub the games too childish for them and younger kids who actually enjoy DVD games would find these ones too difficult. So, with that said, what’s the real purpose for these set of activities?

Peter Pan’s Virtual Flight is a trip through the skies of London and Never Land, all in computer animation. There are two options presented to viewers: “Play” and “Loop.” The only differences are that “Play” features quirky (and somewhat annoying) commentary from Peter Pan while “Loop” just features music with no commentary, and plays continuously until you want it to stop. Although this is a unique feature to the DVD, I’d much rather prefer something along the lines of Timon & Pumbaa’s Virtual Safari.

The Making Of ‘Peter Pan’ is a 15-minute left-over feature from the 1998, 45th Anniversary VHS version of Peter Pan. It basically shows the storyboarding process for the movie, as well as a role call for the characters, their voices, and their animators. All of the movie clips shown during this feature are not from the restored version of the film, making for a very scratchy picture.

Walt Disney reveals “Why I Made ‘Peter Pan'” is an informative and exciting feature for any Disney fan – it’s a 7-minute featurette in which Walt Disney tells viewers his reasons about why he chose Peter Pan to be adapted to the screen. The entire feature is a reenactment of a 1953 article written by Walt Disney himself for a since-discontinued magazine. It has an actor portraying Walt Disney’s voice narrating the feature, and shows how Walt was actually cast as Peter in his school play version of the story, and eventually how Disney’s crew adapted it to the screen. This was definitely one of the highlights of the DVD for me!

The ‘Peter Pan’ That Almost Was is another definite highlight in the DVD set and is hosted by Ron Clements and John Musker (the directors of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin). It serves as an insightful view into the Disney Archives to show scenes, songs, and sequences that weren’t used in the final screen version of Peter Pan, including the dog Nana coming to Never Land with the children, John being left behind due to his high intelligence level, and Mrs. Darling capturing Peter’s shadow (instead of Wendy capturing it).

Wrapping It Up

Overall, if you do not already own Walt Disney’s classic retelling of Peter Pan, do yourself a favor and pick it up! The movie itself is simply timeless and, although in this case more bonus features doesn’t necessarily mean better quality in those bonuses, there are certainly a few peaks of interest among them, most especially in the look at why Walt Disney made Peter Pan and the footage of the deleted ideas for the film. These and the dazzling restoration of the movie make it a rather wonderful set.

How do I rank Peter Pan Platinum Edition? (Bolded is my choice.)
Brilliant movie + good bonus features =
Utterly repulsive
Blech
Not good
Good
Very good
Brilliant

Peter Pan Platinum Edition will most likely please: Disney Fans – Preschoolers (ages 3-4) – Kids (ages 5-8) – Older Folks

By Blake; originally posted March 9, 2007. All images (C) Disney.