Archive for January, 2008

Disney Talk – The Return of Two Disney Classics

January 26, 2008

Two Disney masterpieces are being reintroduced to a new generation with re-releases, theme park attractions, and sequels.

By Blake

Originally posted January 26, 2008.
Often when a Disney film hasn’t been seen in a while, it’s released from the metaphorical “vault” and put on the shelves once again, most of the time with a special edition label. And that’s usually it. Occasionally there’s a new sequel to follow the re-release, if that. However, Disney is about to give two treasured classics the ultimate star treatment by not only re-releasing these films, but also establishing them in the world beyond DVD shelves.

First up is The Little Mermaid. Originally released in 1989, it was the film that launched the second golden age of Disney animation, with masterpieces Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King all following in its footsteps not long after it was released. In 2006, The Little Mermaid was released on a two-disc platinum edition DVD, and we’ve not heard much out of Ariel and the gang since then. Until now. This month, the Broadway musical adaptation of the film officially premiered in New York, performing in the very theatre that Beauty and the Beast held its performances until July 2007. The Broadway show features all of the songs from the movie written by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, as well as ten new songs, written by Menken and a new collaborator, Glenn Slater. And it doesn’t stop there. In August 2008, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, a new prequel showing what happened before the original film, will be released on DVD.

Additionally, in the distant future at Disney’s California Adventure, an all-new attraction, The Little Mermaid: Under the Sea Adventure, will open and will be along the lines of Fantasyland’s dark rides. The neat part is that this attraction was originally developed as an idea for the original Disneyland park in the early 1990’s and was eventually scratched. A behind-the-scenes look at the lost attraction was released as a bonus feature on the 2006 Little Mermaid DVD. And now, what do you know, the lost attraction is actually being green lit.

The next franchise to get a boost is Toy Story. When it was first released in 1995, the original Toy Story was not only the first film to be cranked out of Pixar Animation Studios, but also the world’s first every entirely computer-animated movie. Toy Story 2 was released in 1999 to rave reviews and since then the franchise has been implemented into the Disney parks by examples of parades, an Al’s Toy Barn-themed meet & greet, several Buzz Lightyear rides around the globe, and even a recreation of Pizza Planet at Walt Disney World.

Now, it’s time to gear up for an entire reinvented Toy Story era. In March 2008, the film will be featured in the Block Party Bash Parade at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (which previously performed at Disney’s California Adventure) and in April, Toy Story: The Musical will premiere on the Disney Wonder cruise ship. This summer on both coasts (at Disneyland AND Walt Disney World) an all-new immersive experience attraction will debut starring the Toy Story gang. The new Toy Story Mania ride will feature the Toy Story characters setting up their own midway games and guests have the opportunity to play these games. Toy Story Mania will involve guests wearing 3D glasses to view the virtual Toy Story characters and the virtual midway games. Not only will the new 3D technology be introduced to allow an entire ride set appear virtually, but, since it’s all virtual, the ride can be modified at any given moment.

And then comes Toy Story 3! The new film will be released in theaters 2010. Although the film’s plot hasn’t yet been released, we can definitely count on a worthy plot line now that Pixar is onboard with the project. And, in anticipation of this new sequel, the first two Toy Story films will be re-released theatrically in Disney Digital 3D! Toy Story will be released October 2009, with Toy Story 2 following in February 2010 and, finally, Toy Story 3 in June 2010.*

So, with The Little Mermaid and Toy Story both being revived with stage musicals, exciting new attractions, sequels, parades, re-releases, and more, a new generation will be able to enjoy these classics, while others who remember the films’ original beginnings will be able to relive the magic with 2 ½ years of fast-paced, exciting entertainment.

*At the time this article was written, this schedule was true. However, as of April 2009, both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are set to be re-released in 3D at the same time as a double feature in October 2009 instead of having two separate releases. Toy Story 3 is still scheduled to be released in June 2010.

By Blake; posted January 26, 2008. Little Mermaid images (C) Disney. Toy Story 3 images (C) Disney/Pixar.

DVD Review – Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland Secrets, Stories, & Magic

January 20, 2008
Image © Disney.

A very fascinating installment in the seventh wave of the ‘Walt Disney Treasures’ DVD series will delight Disney fans with trivia, little-known facts, and a plethora of exciting vintage footage and interviews celebrating the original Disney theme park.

By Blake

Originally posted January 20, 2008.

It’s about time!

Disney fans have been waiting for this DVD to arrive for over two years now. Originally supposed to be released in July 2005 in sync with the kickoff of Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration, Disneyland: Secrets, Stories, & Magic wasn’t initially intended for the Walt Disney Treasures series, but instead for a stand-alone, single-disc set. However, after repetitive push-backs and delays, here it lies on shelves under the Walt Disney Treasures label, jam-packed with plenty of fantastic extras and bonus material that we might not have seen if it was released when it was supposed to.

Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland Secrets, Stories, & Magic was originally supposed to be released in 2005 in a case that would have looked like this. Image © Disney.

Thankfully, the set is WELL worth the long wait it went through, and I advise Disney fans to consider this impressive, limited numbered set before it’s gone.

Disc One

Approx. Total Disc Running Time – about 204 minutes (about 3 hours and 24 minutes)
Highlight of Disc – “Disneyland: Secrets, Stories & Magic”
Highlights Runner-Up – Audio Commentary for “People and Places: Disneyland USA”

Disc One Main Feature

Disneyland: Secrets, Stories, & Magic (about 81 minutes) – The main draw of this DVD set is the newly created documentary that tells the Disneyland story through archival footage and interviews with many faces familiar to Disney fans. Among these interviewees are Diane Disney Miller, Roy E. Disney, Julie Andrews, George Lucas, Pete Docter, John Lasseter, Bob Iger, Michael Eisner, Jay Rasulo, and many Imagineers who helped create the park in the 1950’s. The documentary truly is a magical film that starts out with Walt Disney’s dream of creating a place where all members of the family could enjoy themselves and then journeys through the construction of the park, the chaotic opening day, the continuous growth of the park throughout the years, and all the way up to today with the opening of Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage in June 2007.

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is one of the attractions talked about in the new Disneyland documentary. Image © Disney.

Not only is the film a fascinating timeline into Disneyland’s history, but it also provides MANY small tidbits of trivia information that are quite neat, such as that the front of Sleeping Beauty Castle today was originally supposed to be the back (and vice versa); that due to plumbing issues on opening day Walt Disney had to choose between building either bathrooms or water fountains; that there was originally a “lost” ghost in The Haunted Mansion that’s no longer there, yet Disney has no official record of it ever existing; that the finale of Splash Mountain with all the critters dancing was built because the Imagineers had many left over Audio-Animatronics that they didn’t know where to put; and a simulator attraction similar to Star Tours was considered that involved a cowboy chase and was to be put in Frontierland. And that’s just a small sampling of the plethora of fun treats we find out in this truly magical film that captures the true essence of the Disney theme parks.

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, as it looked for the park’s 50th anniversary festivities during the Happiest Celebration on Earth. Image © Disney.

Disc One Bonus Features

Wonderful World of Disneyland Trivia Game (running time varies) – I don’t typically enjoy playing DVD games since there’s not much you can really do with a remote control as your joystick, though this one I actually took a taking to, especially since I’m a Disney fan. The game’s menu is set up like the map of Disneyland, and you select one of the eight lands of the park. After you make your selection, a short overview of the land you chose is played and then a question is asked about the land. If you get the question correct, you move on and get to choose another land yourself. If you get the answer wrong, the game automatically selects your next land choice and you eventually have to go back to the land you missed and answer another question. Once you’ve successfully answered all eight land’s questions, you receive a small virtual prize.

People and Places: Disneyland USA (about 41 minutes for each viewing option, about 123 minutes if all options are played) – A featurette that was theatrically released in 1956 to publicize Disneyland as part of Disney’s People and Places series, this is a nice overview of Disneyland that includes neat aerial views of the park. The featurette can be viewed in three options. First is the original 1956 theatrical version, with a narrator to guide you through the park. The second option is a real treat – an audio commentary of the featurette by Walt Disney Treasures host Leonard Maltin and longtime Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter, who each chime in a good deal of information to give us a backdrop for the time period the film was released and to point out the significant changes the park has gone through since then. The last option is a “Music Version” that plays the featurette with no words or narration, just its score of various instrumental Disney songs.

Disc Two

Approx. total disc running time – about 201 minutes (about 3 hours and 21 minutes)
Highlight of Disc – Building Walt’s Dream: Disneyland Under Construction
Highlight Runner-Up – The Golden Horseshoe Revue

Disc Two Main Features

Operation Disneyland (about 14 minutes) – Originally not intended for the public’s eyes, this is a short bit of footage that was sent to ABC executives in 1955 to give the bosses there a peek into the creation of the daunting task of filming the live Disneyland opening day telecast. (The entire 90-minute broadcast can be seen on the 2001 DVD Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland USA.) The look behind the telecast that we see here is actually pretty fascinating, and it’s especially remarkable to find that construction was still going on in the park while its opening day festivities were being rehearsed.

The Golden Horseshoe Revue (about 49 minutes) – A 1962 episode of The Wonderful World of Color, this is an ENTIRE run-through of the 10,000th performance of the popular Disneyland show “The Golden Horseshoe Revue” that ran for 31 years in the park (and at one time also performed at Walt Disney World in Florida). The show is pure, simple fun. This episode features the Golden Horseshoe’s regular performers Wally Boag and Betty Taylor, as well as celebrity guests Annette Funicello (yes, the same Annette from The Mickey Mouse Club) and Ed Wynn (who played Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins and the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland). The show has a western setting and involves several dance numbers featuring cowboys and Native Americans, as well as some funny comedy routines.

Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair (about 50 minutes) – This episode of The Wonderful World of Color that originally aired in May 1964 deals with Disney’s participation in the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, in which it contributed several attractions, among them It’s a Small World, the Carrousel of Progress, Primeval World and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, all of which later went on to become Disneyland classics. The episode opens with an animated sequence dealing with the history of world fairs in the form of a nearly 10-minute-long song. Then, we’re taken to the Disney Studio to be shown how the 30-foot-tall dinosaurs of Disney’s prehistoric World’s Fair attraction, Primeval World, were built. Then it’s off to test the Audio-Animatronics for the attractions, a technology that was brand spanking new at the time. Finally, we’re taken to the finished product of It’s a Small World and given a complete ride-through of the attraction as seen in the 1964-1965 World’s Fair. Overall this episode provides a fascinating look into some of the backstage magic behind several classic Disney attractions, though some portions of the episode (such as the opening historical sequence and the Small World run-through) drag on a little too long.

Viewers get a peek into Disney’s attractions of the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in several episodes of The Wonderful World of Color. Image © Disney.

Disneyland Around the Seasons (about 50 minutes) – Another episode of The Wonderful World of Color, this recaps the year 1966 at Disneyland with highlights from the openings of attractions such as It’s a Small World, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Primeval World, and New Orleans Square. And, as you can probably tell by the list of those attractions, much of the material in this episode is borrowed from “Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair” and at times gets somewhat repetitive. We’re also shown the gala openings of these attractions after they were imported from the World’s Fair to Disneyland.

The openings of those attractions take up about half of the episode, while the other half is about the Disneyland 1966 “Fantasy on Parade,” the park’s yearly Christmas parade. The real neat aspect of this is that even though no grand floats or quirky dancers are used, the parade still seems to satisfy the enthusiastic crowd. Another really fascinating thing worth mentioning is the look of all the characters – they look totally different than they do today! Pooh even has a honey pot on his head.

Concluding the episode is the Candlelight Processional, an annual Disneyland tradition where large assemblies of church choirs march their way down Main Street and head into Town Square for a lavish pageant featuring music and the telling of the Christmas story.

Disc Two Bonus Features

Building Walt’s Dream: Disneyland Under Construction (about 38 minutes) – During the construction of Disneyland, Walt Disney placed cameras all throughout the park, and the footage from those cameras is presented here to show a sped-up process of the building of Disneyland. The cameras show us footage from several different views in each of the lands of Main Street, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Adventureland. As if that wasn’t fascinating enough, the construction footage is accentuated by a commentary track with Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter, as well as Ed Hobelman and Walter Magnuson. They chime in frequently with many little-known bits of information that are quite a treat to hear (such as that the rocket being erected on screen, which was the main draw of Tomorrowland, wasn’t put up until ten days before the park’s opening).

A fascinating look at the construction of the park is shown in “Building Walt’s Dream: Disneyland Under Construction.” Image © Disney.

Gallery (running time varies) – This is a still-frame gallery with a plethora of concept art, sketches, renderings, paintings, and posters for most of the Disneyland attractions and sets. It really is fascinating to see how much of the Imagineers’ original visions of Disneyland in these art pieces made it into what guests see in the park today.


On each disc, Walt Disney Treasures host Leonard Maltin provides us with a brief introduction to what we’ll be watching and gives us a background on what may have been happening in the Disney community at that time. Each discs’ menus are easy to navigate, and your selection on the screen is shown by either a small icon (disc one) or sparkling stars (disc two). The only issue I had with the menu format was on disc two – the background is a grid of various images, which made it somewhat confusing when picking images to view in the art gallery. At times I couldn’t tell the difference between the background and the art pieces.

The DVD set is a limited release, with 50,000 copies made, and each is presented in a signature Walt Disney Treasures silver tin, with a numbered certificate of authenticity inside the case. Also inserted inside the case are a sketch of Sleeping Beauty Castle by Herb Ryman and a replica of the original Disneyland ticket book. (Initially guests bought a ticket book that included separate tickets for each attraction, labeled from “A” to “E”, with “E” being the most exciting attractions.) I must say the inclusion of the Disneyland ticket book with this DVD was a nice, subtle surprise that I gladly appreciated.

A replica of a Disneyland ticket book is included in the Disneyland Secrets, Stories, and Magic DVD. Image © Disney.

Wrapping It Up

Disneyland: Secrets, Stories, & Magic is definitely one of the better Walt Disney Treasures installments to be released, and delivers a very intriguing look behind the scenes into the history of the happiest place on earth. The newly created documentary is a real treat with plenty of trivia to keep you watching. The People and Places featurette as well as its audio commentary are fascinating and the vintage episodes of The Wonderful World of Color show somewhat of a time capsule into the history of the park and are welcome additions to the set. Bonus features like “Operation Disneyland” and the construction cam show just how much work was put into creating the park. Additionally, the trivia game and the art gallery will surely keep you busy for a while. On top of that, the inclusion of the ticket book only ups the value of this already extraordinary DVD set, and will delight Disney fans for over seven (yup, seven!) entertaining, fun-filled hours of material.

How do I rank Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland Secrets, Stories, & Magic DVD? (Bolded is my choice.)
Brilliant main feature + very good bonus features =
  • Aaah!
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

Walt Disney Treasure: Disneyland Secrets, Stories, & Magic DVD will most likely please: Disney fans – Adults – Older Folks

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By Blake; posted January 20, 2008. All images © Disney.

Disney Talk – Sneak Peek of "High School Musical 3"

January 17, 2008

Some details about the Wildcats’ upcoming big screen adventure have been released.

By Blake

Originally posted January 17, 2008.

I’ll be brief, because there’s really not a lot to say about this topic other than what Disney has JUST released about the upcoming sequel in the ever-popular High School Musical franchise. This time, however, the film will not debut as a Disney Channel Original Movie, but under the Walt Disney Pictures label. Meaning, yes, it will be a THEATRICAL RELEASE. On January 14, 2008, Disney officially announced that the film’s six main stars (including Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, and Monique Coleman) are all signed on for the next round of HSM.

And, according to Disney, the plot will surround Troy and Gabriella getting ready for college and setting up a spring musical. So, as it turns out, we thankfully WON’T be seeing the rumored “Haunted High School Musical” Halloween-themed film that was originally in the works.

And, if the release date isn’t pushed back, the movie will be released theatrically October 24, 2008. If this is true, then that will be one of the biggest weeks for the Walt Disney Company ever. Why? Well, not only will HSM3 be released, but just four days later the highly-anticipated, direct-to-DVD movie Tinker Bell, where the classic Disney fairy finally earns her voice, will be released. Additionally, just a few weeks prior to that, Sleeping Beauty will be released for the first time in five years on DVD, with a hoopla of bonus material to fill up two discs. With Sleeping Beauty, HSM3, and Tinker Bell all consecutively, October 2008 is going to be one month of entertainment that you won’t want to miss.

By Blake; posted January 17, 2008. All images (C) Disney.