Archive for the ‘Blake's Picks’ Category

Blake’s Picks – Top 6 Walt Disney World “Extras”

August 6, 2009

Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Disney goes the extra mile to immerse their guests in a fantasy kingdom where everything contributes to telling stories.

By Blake

Orignally posted August 6, 2009.

Guests visiting Walt Disney World feel like they’ve been transported to some imaginative community far from reality. Not only is this the place where dreams come true, but it’s an immersive experience like none other. Whether guests realize it or not, a variety of components all culminate together to make sure that everyone is in an authentic environment that meets the level of quality that Disney is used to giving.

Sid Cahuenga’s One-of-a-Kind at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a great example of Disney’s attention to detail and theming. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Some of these aspects are fairly simple, such as Cast Members being courteous to guests, while others require a far more intricate amount of detailing and planning out. Here are some of my favorite little perks that make Walt Disney World such a special place, and also help to relieve guests of their “real-world” worries and give them the chance to be immersed in the Disney enchantment.

6.) In-Room WDW Specialty Television Programs

Televisions in the hotel rooms at the Disney resorts have several unique channels that you won’t find back home on your regular TV set. Made especially for Disney resort TVs, a few programs play on a continuous loop and have one main purpose: to give guests a preview for what’s in store for them in the parks by getting them excited for some of the parks’ best attractions. Some channels may show highlights from each park, while another has a countdown of favorite attractions. Other channels have handy tips accentuated by Disney music, as well as weather reports. One channel that used to be featured but (unless something has changed recently) doesn’t play anymore was the classic cartoons channel, which included showings of the Disney cartoon shorts from the 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s.

Since most guests are in their hotel rooms at the beginning and end of each day (sometimes at other points, too), these special TV programs allow a great preview of what’s to come (while you’re watching as you get ready to embark into the parks in the morning), and make as a pleasant look back at your fun day (as you’re unwinding in the evening).

5.) Wake-Up Calls

Another Disney resort perk that I look forward to experiencing in the mornings at WDW is a special wake-up call. If guests let a Cast Member know in the resort lobby, or call a special number on their room phone, they’ll get a wake-up call from a Disney character at the time of their choice. The wake-up call during my last visit had Stitch hollering “No sleeping!,” though the particular message may have changed since then. I advise putting the call on speaker phone once you answer it, so that the entire family will have a chance to listen in on this fun way to start the day.

4.) Transportation

An integral part of immersing guests in another world relies on getting them to and from their destinations in a way that they might not usually experience elsewhere. I’ll admit that riding a bus may be typical, but whisking off on a pleasant ferry ride just to travel a short distance isn’t your everyday carpool. And are there that many other places that you’ve traveled via a gliding monorail?

The monorail in particular is such a Disney way to travel, and even though I’ve never stayed at a resort along its route, I try to go out of my way to at least hop onboard for a quick trip every visit. Being elevated above regular traffic is an experience in itself, but a few other details, including its narration and announcements, make the monorail a memorable classic. Also notice that after each stop the monorail makes, Disney has made an effort to send those that are leaving WDW at that time with some special words of parting, making the monorail a terrific way to end a Disney vacation.

3.) Characters

Something I love about meeting Disney characters is that each of them has their own personality. They each put their own little spin on how they pose for a picture, and each character has a specific autograph style, complete with specialty font that they use to sign their name. Each character implements their own . . . well, character . . . into their meet & greet experiences. Goofy is a little bit clumsy, Stitch is usually very playful, and you can count on the princesses to be all smiles with plenty of patience.

Buzz Lightyear (left) and Woody from the Toy Story movies are some Disney’s many famous characters that guests can meet in the Disney parks. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

2.) Story

No matter where you go in Walt Disney World, almost everything you experience is part of some kind of story. However, unlike in movies and television shows, the Disney theme parks allow the guests to be a part of the stories Disney tells, immersing guests and letting them experience adventures as if they were plopped right into a movie.

This creative prop is a detail that helps tell the story of Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The pre-show area of this attraction is full of goodies like this to look through. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Nearly every Disney attraction or show tells a story. It can sometimes be a stretch to figure out what the plot of a particular ride or atmosphere may be, but most of the time something’s there for guests to decipher. For instance, The Barnstormer in Mickey’s Toontown Fair at the Magic Kingdom isn’t just a small roller coaster. It’s a “flight” being “piloted” by Goofy, who is his usual self and ends up crashing the coaster through his barn.

Typically attractions are grouped in themed “lands,” all pertaining to a particular subject. While each of a land’s attractions may have their own individual story, they also all come together to tell a bigger story involving that land’s purpose. For example, while The Barnstormer does indeed weave its own little backstory, the premise of Toontown (the land where The Barnstormer is located) is that the fair has come to the town where Mickey and Minnie live, and guests are invited to see some of the fair’s highlights.

Look around and smell the flowers – sometimes literally – while you’re in the Disney parks. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

1.) Cast Members

More than any particular “thing” or ride, Disney’s Cast Members truly make Walt Disney World the most magical place on Earth. They continually make an added effort and go the extra mile to make sure their guests are having a good time.

Sometimes the gestures of Cast Members are purely simple, but so genuinely Disney, such as addressing each guest as either a “princess” or “prince,” or wishing you to “Have a magical day!” It’s so simple, but its results are extraordinary. It makes guests feel special, and also reminds them that they really are in a Disney World.

Other Cast Member experiences may involve some of the Cast Members truly going out their way to make a guest’s day especially memorable. This could include tracking down a particular character, selecting a family to be the Grand Marshals of a parade, or something else that the Cast Member goes beyond their call of duty to pursue, just to give guests a magical experience. One particular instance of this happening to my family was when we didn’t answer our wake-up call (but still woke up), and a few minutes later a Cast Member was knocking on our door to make sure we hadn’t overslept. Fortunately we were already awake, but it was very kind for the Cast Member to check in on us.

Cast Members bid gets good-bye as they hold signs that read “See ya real soon!” at the end of a Magic Kingdom day. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Pin trading is an excellent way to interact with Cast Members. Not only are pins fun to collect, but trading with Cast Members gives you the chance to talk to them, hear some of their stories, and makes you feel like you’re sharing a bit of magic of your own.

Whether their tasks are miniscule or humongous, the Disney Cast Members make every day an unforgettable experience in the Disney parks.

Walt Disney World really does seem to take its guests on a journey into a fanciful, inspired dream. Little perks like special television shows and character wake-up calls give guests something exciting to experience right in their hotel room, the unique transportation makes traveling just plain fun, the Disney characters give guests the chance to see their childhood favorites in-person with plenty of personality, guests are continually involved in an ongoing story told through the parks’ attractions, and Cast Members give a level of terrific customer service that makes Walt Disney World what it is – an enchanting realm where worries are forgotten, imaginations are set loose, and families are grown closer together.

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted August 6, 2009. All images belong to Blake’s family.


Blake’s Picks – Top 10 ‘Spongebob’ Episodes

July 17, 2009

Image © Nickelodeon.

Counting down my ten favorite Spongebob adventures to celebrate the sponge’s tenth birthday.

By Blake

Originally posted July 17, 2009.

Nickelodeon is continuing to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Spongebob Squarepants this weekend in a three-day event called The Ultimate Spongebob Sponge Bash. Filled with many new episodes, several countdowns, a showing of The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, and more, the event is being hosted by Patchy the Pirate “president of the Spongebob Squarepants fan club.”

The series premiered on May 1, 1999, with its pilot episode and continued airing its first season on July 17 of that same year. The Sponge Bash event continues the show’s tenth anniversary festivities that began in March, 2009, with a new special, featuring guests Johnny Depp and Davy Jones (yes, from the Monkees).

Here’s a schedule of the highlights for the Sponge Bash:

  • Friday, July 17, 2009 at 8pm Eastern Time – New episode To Squarepants or Not to Squarepants.
  • Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 10am Eastern Time – Viewers’ top ten favorite episodes, as voted for online.
  • Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 8pm Eastern Time – The Spongebob Squarepants Movie.
  • Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 10am Eastern Time – Celebrities pick their favorite episodes.
  • Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 7pm Eastern Time – Ten new Spongebob episodes in a row.

All of the time in-between those highlights will be spent airing other Spongebob episodes.

To help celebrate this milestone decade occasion, I’m counting down my top ten favorite Spongebob Squarepants episodes.

10.) Pizza Delivery

Spongebob and Squidward are sent to deliver a pizza to a customer, and get lost along the way. Spongebob uses “unusual” tactics to guide them in the right direction, which drives Squidward crazy. Being in the first season, this is one of the first episodes where we really see Spongebob push Squidward to his limit. Obviously Squidward is utterly annoyed to be lost with Spongebob, and the results of those feelings are hilarious. Spongebob’s “Krusty Krab Pizza” song also makes the episode memorable, and in my opinion is one of the show’s funniest moments.

9.) Pineapple Fever

Something about Spongebob, Patrick, and Squidward all being trapped together during a thunderstorm is just funny. One of the newer episodes, this one also makes hilarity of Squidward wanting to have some peace and quiet. The beginning is particularly enjoyable, with a few funny bits where Squidward first realizes there’s no escaping staying with Spongebob and Patrick.

From left: Patrick’s house, Squidward’s house, and Spongebob’s house. Image © Nickelodeon.

8.) Texas

First of all, the thought of an air-breathing squirrel living underwater as a result of a special air suit is hilarious from the get-go. Add to that her coming from Texas and being thoroughly annoyed when anyone – like Spongebob and Patrick – insults her home state makes for a very memorable episode. Sandy can’t stand it when her friends start to insult Texas, and what starts out as playful back-and-forth banter turns into an all-out chase scene.

7.) Good Neighbors

All poor Squidward continually wants is a peaceful atmosphere. He’s completely wrong if he thinks that’s what he’s going to get, even on a Sunday, when he’s off work and able to stay at home. Squidward’s idea of a relaxing day turns into another hilarious misadventure when Spongebob and Patrick do their best to be good neighbors, but in the process cause Squidward to go off his rocker.

6.) Band Geeks

Another concept Squidward desires to have is social acceptance, and he often goes the extra mile to appear to be “normal” and to imply that his life has been a successful one. He tries even harder to do this anytime he’s in the presence of Squilliam, his high school rival. When Squidward claims to Squilliam that he has a band (which he doesn’t), he has to hastily get a group together in time for a performance at the Bubble Bowl. The end results include most of the main characters pulling together to help Squidward, and at the same time delivering some of the series’ funniest moments ever (“Is mayonnaise an instrument?”), not to mention the hysterical finale where Spongebob and friends perform “Sweet Victory” excellently (out of nowhere) to a crowd of thousands.

5.) The Spongebob Squarepants Christmas Special/Christmas Who?

This episode includes the first appearance by Patchy the Pirate, “president of the Spongebob Squarepants fan club” and his pet, a puppet parrot named Potty. Both Patchy and Potty are presented in live-action, as opposed to Spongebob’s animated world. In this episode, Patchy reminisces of Spongebob’s first Christmas, when the entire town worked together to create decorations, sing carols, and write letters to Santa. The episode as a whole is OK, but some particular bits are just downright hysterical, including Patchy reading fan mail and the classic “cameo” by Santa Claus at the end.

4.) Survival of the Idiots

This entire story is filled with hilarious little tidbits. Spongebob and Patrick go to visit Sandy in her tree dome to find that she’s hibernating for the winter. Sure enough, Sandy’s asleep and her home is filled with snow. Soon, Spongebob and Patrick can no longer get out of the tree dome and are forced to remain inside it, where they decide to role play as “Dirty Dan” and “Pinhead Larry,” much to the dismay of sleepwalking Sandy. (“Which one of you is the real Dirty Dan?”)

3.) The Camping Episode

Once again, Squidward hopes for some peace and quiet while Spongebob and Patrick are away camping, but is soon disappointed to find out the duo is camping ten feet from Spongebob’s house, right next door to Squidward. Before long, Squidward finds himself camping with them, as well. After singing the classic “Campfire Song Song,” Spongebob warns Squidward against “sea bears,” and the rest is classic Spongebob at its best.

2.) Krusty Krab Training Video

The idea of this episode is that the viewer is a potential employee of the Krusty Krab, the fast-food restaurant where Mr. Krabs, Spongebob, and Squidward work. A narrator guides viewers through a montage of hilarious sequences of typical goings-on at the Krusty Krab, including Plankton attempting to steal the Krabby Patty formula, Patrick trying to place an order, and many more.

The Krusty Krab. Image © Nickelodeon.

1.) Patchy’s Pick/Shanghaied

This episode delivers laughs, laughs, and more laughs. Patchy the Pirate is once again present to share his “pick,” where Spongebob, Patrick, and Squidward all become members of the Flying Dutchman’s pirate crew. Some great dialogue jokes and sight gags are included, and Spongebob and Patrick’s infamous trip to the perfume department is downright funny.

That wraps up my picks for favorite Spongebob Squarepants episodes! You can vote for your own favorites at, and tune in to Nickelodeon on Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 10am Eastern Time to see viewers’ top ten favorites.

Image © Nickelodeon.

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted July 17, 2009. All images © Nickelodeon.

Blake’s Picks – Top 5 Hollywood Studios Attractions

May 17, 2009

The best of Walt Disney World’s third theme park.

By Blake

Originally posted May 16, 2009.

First of all, I’d just like to point out some news about The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which I had originally reported was going to be released on April 28. However, that was apparently a misunderstanding, as the book is now scheduled to be released in July 2010. also experienced some confusion while trying to purchase the book.

So, although that’s not-so-great news, the celebration rolls on here at BlakeOnline to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

If you haven’t yet seen coverage of the festivities from DHS’s 20th anniversary event that occurred on Friday, May 1, 2009, you can check some pictures and videos out at,,, and

Although Walt Disney World’s official happenings for DHS’s birthday lasted one day, I thought it would be suitable to continue to post DHS-themed articles to commemorate the park’s anniversary. The park contains some of the individual best attractions in all of Walt Disney World. From exciting thrills to showstoppers to a hysterical 3-D movie, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is home to several of my Disney favorites.

To share with you some of my DHS favorites and to also celebrate the parks’ 20th anniversary, here’s a list of my top five favorite attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (Note that I have not yet ridden Toy Story Midway Mania! and have not yet seen The American Idol Experience, so those two are not included in this list because I haven’t seen them.)

5. Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream

A tribute to the life and aspirations of Walt Disney, the first part of this attraction is a walk-through, museum-like exhibit, while the next part is a short movie about Walt Disney. A Disney fan could spend a while in the exhibit part, looking at all of the displays, models, pictures, and other various items sprinkled throughout the building.

Guests can see many displays at Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, including (clockwise from top left) the “skeleton” of an Audio-Animatronics figure, a model of a rocket that was formerly in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, the “dancing man” figure, and an Audio-Animatronics tiki bird.

The attraction debuted in 2001, appropriately during the 100 Years of Magic celebration (which was held for Walt Disney’s 100th birthday). One Man’s Dream recently became sponsored by D23, the new official Disney fan club, and now features a new display advertising D23. Also new in One Man’s Dream is a special look at the history of Disney’s Hollywood Studios to celebrate the park’s 20th anniversary (similar to the exhibit that was set up in Epcot for its 25th anniversary).

Although I haven’t experienced One Man’s Dream since 2004, The Complete Walt Disney World by Julie and Mike Neal reports that the attraction doesn’t have a wait most of the day. This means that the attraction is especially beneficial to those having some spare time while waiting for their Fastpass return time for Toy Story Midway Mania!, which is located just down the street, on Pixar Place. (One Man’s Dream is located between Pixar Place and Animation Courtyard.)

4. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

I enjoy most thrill rides, but sometimes I know to stay clear of an attraction if it’s going to give me a headache or cause nausea. If I choose not to ride something, it’s usually because I don’t want to experience negative side effects, not because I’m afraid of the ride itself. But the Tower of Terror just plain creeps me out, even when any side effects aren’t considered. But I love it.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is scarily fun.

When I say the Tower of Terror creeps me out, I mean it creeps me out in a good way. How can creepy be good? In this case, Disney sets the eerie storyline up brilliantly, building up the anticipation of your elevator ascent even before you arrive in the line. Just the sight of the looming Hollywood Tower Hotel (the fictional resort that the attraction is housed in) over Sunset Blvd. sparks hints of curiosity and a bit of fear inside guests. The line, filled with dusty objects and cobwebbed walls, helps set the spooky mood. The preshow room in the “library” tells guests the fictitious story of five people who were in the Tower’s elevator and, as the elevator was struck by lightning, were taken up and down the hotel’s elevator shaft. As guests then enter the second part of the line (which is a dark “boiler room”), suspense builds even more. By the time I’m instructed to stand upon a numbered spot to board the elevator, I’m personally just plain scared. It’s not 100% fear, knowing that it’s just a ride and that everything will be OK, but it’s still fear nonetheless.

Then the real fun starts as the ride begins and guests experience the up-and-down movements of the elevator. The Tower of Terror is one of Disney’s best thrill rides, and probably one of the best story-driven Disney attractions. It does a great job of delivering guests the story upfront and then putting guests into that story. It’s pulled off wonderfully, making the Tower of Terror one of Hollywood Studios’ most popular attractions.

3. Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage

One of the absolute best live productions on Disney property, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage retells the classic Disney animated film magnificently. The Academy-Award winning music accentuated by the sets, characters, and background dancers all culminate together to create an amazing experience.

Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage is one of Walt Disney World’s best shows.

The show is performed in the Theater of the Stars, an outdoor covered venue on Sunset Blvd., just down the street from the Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. The show opened on November 22, 1991, the same day as its film counterpart. Formerly, a popular preshow included four “crew members” “spontaneously” performing songs. The group, called Four For a Dollar, was unfortunately cut from the show in 2008.

The story of Beauty and the Beast is condensed into about 30 minutes for the show, so at times it may feel a bit rushed and some points in the plot may be fuzzy to those who haven’t seen the movie. However, that doesn’t take away from the overall wonderful quality of the production.

As one of Disney’s best animated movies, Beauty and the Beast makes a spectacular transition to the stage. Since the Broadway version of the story is no longer performing, it’s great that guests can still get a chance to see a live adaptation of it after over 17 years of dazzling audiences, making Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage close to the top of my list of DHS must-sees.

2. Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D

My favorite Muppet production of all time (yep, that’s right), this hysterical 3-D movie is classic Muppet humor at its best. From the minute you walk into the line, you know you’ve entered a Muppet community. The detail in the props during the line and preshow is outstanding. Fun little trinkets and items are scattered everywhere, all with their own touch of subtle wit.

Fozzie Bear, Kermit the Frog, and other Muppets deliver plenty of fun in Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D.

Guests are treated to a hilarious pre-show video featuring Sam the Eagle, Gonzo, Rizzo, and other Muppets before heading into the Muppet Theater to view the main show. The 3-D movie features favorite Muppets touring the audience around the Muppet Labs before performing several musical acts, none of which go as planned. The show includes several appearances by Muppets in Audio-Animatronics form, such as Statler and Waldorf, who sit in their balcony seats.

Muppet*Vision 3-D usually has a short line, which makes it a great candidate for an attraction to experience in the afternoon, when the more crowded attractions have long waits. However, lack of crowds at Muppet*Vision 3-D make me a little nervous as to what Disney may think of this situation. If not many people are seeing it, is Disney viewing it as an attraction that needs to be replaced? I certainly hope not. A refurbishment might be nice, but if Disney decided to do away with the show or change the show in some way, many fans would probably be very upset. It does seem ironic that this would have a short line, though, because it seems to be one of the most overall best crowd pleasers in the entire park. It’s definitely one of my favorite Walt Disney World attractions.

1. Fantasmic!
I must say, I had a very hard time choosing between Muppet*Vision 3-D and Fantasmic! as I decided my #1 Hollywood Studios pick. I enjoy both attractions immensely, but when it came down to it, I chose the winner by determining the level of Disney magic that each attraction has. Which one has an extra Disney touch that makes its guests feel that nostalgic, reflective emotion that sums up the entire Disney experience in a moment of realization, movement, and appreciation not only for the show they’re viewing but also for the wonderful family and friends they’re viewing with? Muppet*Vision 3-D has its own wacky sense of Disney wonderment, but when put up against Fantasmic! where that extra Disney mile is concerned, Fantasmic! takes the win for me.
Guests get a peak into Mickey Mouse’s dreams in Fantasmic!

After premiering at Disneyland in 1992, Fantasmic! debuted at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 1998 in a 9,900-seat amphitheater on Sunset Blvd. It tells the story of how Mickey Mouse’s enchanting dream turns to a nightmare as Disney villains take over. Of course, good triumphs over evil in the end, which results in what has to be one of Disney’s best grand finales ever.
The show conveys its story in several different ways, including live performers, water screens (showing video clips), lights, fireworks, floats, and more. Over three dozen Disney characters make appearances, as well.

Those are my picks for the best attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Each of them has their own unique factors that make them one of my favorites. Between them all, they provide five brilliant Disney experiences.

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By Blake; posted May 16, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Blake’s Picks – Top 12 Mickey Cartoons

November 23, 2008
To celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 80th Birthday, I count down my top 12 favorite Mickey shorts.

By Blake

Originally posted November 23, 2008.

First off, just to let you know – I had this article planned out WEEKS in advance. I was going to list my favorite Mickey Mouse cartoons to honor the mouse’s 8 decades of stardom. However, if you saw’s homepage this week, you’ll notice that they did the same. I love LaughingPlace and honestly think it’s one of the best (if not THE best) unofficial Disney site out there these days. They always have the latest Disney news and have everything covered, from movie reviews to park picture updates. So, I’d like to just say now that I did not copy LaughingPlace while writing this article. I had it planned and in mind, knowing that I was going to write it for well over a few weeks now. Besides, this counts down my personal favorite Mickey cartoons, while LP’s countdown focused more on Mickey’s career as a performer.

So, anyway, 80 years ago on November 18, 1928, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse made their public screen debut in Steamboat Willie, the first-ever cartoon with sound, at the Colony Theater (now the Broadway Theater) in New York City. The rest is history.

Mickey has captivated millions of hearts worldwide and I think it’s safe to say that there aren’t many souls on Earth that don’t know who he is. Even though he’s a fictional character, he’s been embraced by the entertainment industry as an actor and cultural icon, bring joy and happiness with his beaming smile and pleasant look every time he appears. His voice is welcoming and his actions are admirable. You can’t help but just well up with joy when you see him, and it’s certainly an accomplishment to still have popularity after 80 years on the silver screen.

So, happy happy birthday Mickey, and here’s the countdown of my top 12 favorite Mickey Mouse cartoons of all time:

12.) Symphony Hour, 1942
Somewhat of a sequel to 1935’s The Band Concert, Symphony Hour still sees Mickey and the gang performing music as an orchestra, though this time Goofy clumsily drops all of their instruments down an elevator shaft just minutes before show time. Their sponsor, Pete, is outraged to hear the tune of their melodies once the band begins their performance with the crushed instruments, though the audience loves it. Here I think a true display of Disney creativity is shown, and it’s also nice to not only see Mickey as a conductor again, but also see Pete’s furious emotions. This is one of the last appearances by Horace Horsecollar and Clara Cluck. Symphony Hour can be found on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume 2.

11.) Alpine Climbers, 1936
When Mickey, Donald, and Pluto go climbing in some snowy mountains, they run into plenty of trouble, including a medicine overdose and an angry mother bird. The cartoon itself isn’t that stellar, but I have fond memories of watching it over and over as it looped around on the classic Disney cartoons channel on the in-room TV at a Walt Disney World resort hotel several years ago. Alpine Climbers is available on the DVDs Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color and Walt Disney’s It’s a Small World of Fun! Volume 3.

10.) The Whoopee Party, 1932
There isn’t really any plot to this story other than Mickey and Minnie throwing a party with a whole bunch of their friends, including Goofy, who was then known as “Dippy Dawg.” All throughout the short, nothing really happens except various characters dancing around the house to a snappy tune. Their happy mood is very infectious, and you can’t help but tapping your toes along to the beat. Because of its pure joyful tone, The Whoopee Party makes my top 12 countdown at #10. The Whoopee Party is available on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White.

9.) On Ice, 1935
Not only does this short always guarantee to get me in the holiday mood around Christmastime, but it’s also one of the few cartoons where we see the “Fab Five” all on an outing together. Although it’s billed as a Mickey Mouse cartoon, Mickey equally shares the screen in this short with Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto. Sometimes in certain situations, such as this one in which the characters are ice skating, the cartoon might not have worked so well if it relied on just one character the entire time, but instead would better please audiences if the time was divided amongst different characters to play off of each other. It works out excellently here, where Mickey teaches Minnie to ice skate, Goofy tries to go fishing in a frozen pond, Donald puts ice skates on an unsuspecting sleeping Pluto, and everything comically comes together in true Disney fashion during the last little bit of time. Similar cartoons that involve the Fab Five all together are Hawaiian Holiday (1937) and Mickey’s Birthday Party (1942) (though Pluto is absent from this one). Mickey’s Birthday Party is available on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume 2, while On Ice and Hawaiian Holiday are both featured on the DVDs Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color and Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites Volume 1: Starring Mickey.

8.) Orphan’s Benefit, 1934 (black & white) and 1941 (color)
The only Mickey Mouse cartoon to my knowledge to be released twice, in different formats and animation styles each time, Orphan’s Benefit is simply hilarious. Although Minnie and Pluto don’t appear, nearly every other Disney character that had been created at that time does. In an effort to put on a show for orphaned children, Mickey and his friends present several variety acts for the kids. Donald sings “Little Boy Blue,” to which the children throw objects at him, causing him to show his true colors and anger problems for the very first time. Goofy and Horace Horsecollar dance a ballet act with Clarabelle Cow, and finally Mickey rounds up the cartoon as he plays piano while Clara Cluck sings her melodious chicken “bwawks.” Again, I like how many different characters are shown at the same time (which was sometimes often in Mickey cartoons, since Mickey wasn’t generally funny by himself), but the real reason for including Orphan’s Benefit in my countdown is Donald getting overly upset when the children ruin his act. It just goes to show that even back in 1934, Disney knew what was funny. The 1934 black-and-white version of Orphan’s Benefit is available on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White, while the 1941 color version is on both Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume 2 and Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites Volume 6: Extreme Music Fun.

7.) Mickey’s Christmas Carol, 1983
The first time Mickey had appeared in a cartoon since 1953’s The Simple Things, this was the short that aroused his return to the screen, if only for a brief period of time, but it was a triumphant comeback nonetheless. Now a distinguished holiday classic and a favorite of mine to watch during Christmastime, Mickey’s Christmas Carol not only sees the return of Mickey, but also of many members of the animated cast that helmed his shorts in the 30’s. Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar are seen for the first time since 1942’s Symphony Hour, Jiminy Cricket (as the Ghost of Christmas Past) since The Mickey Mouse Club, Willie the Giant (as the Ghost of Christmas Present) since 1947’s Mickey and the Beanstalk, and even the Three Little Pigs can be seen as street carolers. Also of significance, this was just the second time that Scrooge McDuck had appeared on screen, even though he had been adored in classic Disney comics for several decades beforehand. Additionally, this was the last time that Clarence “Ducky” Nash, who had voiced Donald since the duck’s debut in 1934, would ever voice the character and it was also the very first time that Wayne Allwine, who still plays Mickey today, would voice the famous mouse. Mickey’s Christmas Carol can be found on the DVDs Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume 2, Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed In at the House of Mouse, and Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites Volume 9: Classic Holiday Stories.

6.) Pluto’s Christmas Tree, 1952
Although this is really more of Pluto, Chip, and Dale’s story than it is Mickey’s, it is indeed labeled as a Mickey Mouse cartoon, and the mouse shows a firm sense of parenthood to Pluto in this short that we often don’t get to see. After all, if your dog had ruined your Christmas tree just to get even with a pair of rascally chipmunks, wouldn’t you get a tad wee bit angry, too? Here, we really get to see some great personality and character clashes with all four aforementioned characters as they contrast with each other that are really a treat to watch. Minnie, Goofy, and Donald even make a cameo at the end, making this the only short (I think) that we ever get to see the “Sensational Seven” all in the same place. Pluto’s Christmas Tree can be found on the DVDs Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume 2, Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed In at the House of Mouse, and Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites Volume 9: Classic Holiday Stories.

5.) Steamboat Willie, 1928
OK, you can’t possibly write a Mickey Mouse cartoon countdown without mentioning the short that started it all, 1928’s Steamboat Willie. Although it was indeed the first Mickey cartoon to be shown to the public, it was actually the third to be made. Both Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho were animated before Willie, but were screened after it because Walt Disney wanted to implement the cartoons with sound. In fact, Steamboat Willie was the first cartoon of all time to make use of sound and it was specifically created to put that new technology to its full potential. Rightfully so, the cartoon has plenty of snappy tunes, from its classic opening Steamboat Willie theme to “Turkey in the Straw.” Also making first appearances in this cartoon are Minnie and Pete, both looking significantly different than they do today.

Mickey certainly isn’t concerned about farmyard animals’ safety in this short – he pulls some baby pigs away from their mother so he can play music with her stomach, he plays the xylophone on a goat’s teeth, and he swings a parrot across a room. It’s certainly not the typical Mickey attitude we might see today.

Even though it’s not one of the most elaborate cartoons story-wise, I couldn’t ignore Steamboat Willie from my countdown all together. It was the first appearance of the world-famous Mickey Mouse, and because of having that bragging right, it’s been publicized probably more than any other Mickey cartoon from that early black-and-white era. Additionally, its music and animation, particularly in the famous opening scene, can’t resist putting a smile on your face. Steamboat Willie is available on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White.

4.) Touchdown Mickey, 1932
As a football fan, this is one of my very favorite Disney cartoons ever and I still find it outstanding that the Disney animators were at the top of their game even back in 1932. Filled with many instances of physical comedy, we see Mickey’s team (the “Manglers”) play against the “Alley Cats.” This is one of the first times we really see Goofy’s true personality (although here his name is still “Dippy Dawg”), as he commentates from the sidelines, well . . . goofily. This is perhaps one of the funniest Mickey cartoons of the 30’s. Touchdown Mickey is available on the Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White DVD.

3.) The Band Concert, 1935
Not only is this the first Mickey Mouse cartoon ever to be released in color, it’s also one of the first to show a certain something about Mickey’s personality: he can get quite annoyed by other people’s shenanigans. The Band Concert is one of my Mickey favorites for its clash of personalities with Mickey and Donald. When Mickey is conducting a concert in a park, featuring Goofy, Clarabelle Cow, and several others, the mouse absolutely cannot stand Donald butting in the band to play along, disrupting the music. However, Mickey shows his persistence by keeping on conducting the orchestra through Donald’s playtime, and even through a treacherous tornado. The Band Concert is available on the Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color DVD.

2.) Camping Out, 1934
Just downright hilarious, this short uses the physical comedy of bees attacking campers to the extreme, making for some belly laughs throughout the entire cartoon. Mickey, Minnie, Horace Horsecollar, and Clarabelle Cow are all camping in the woods and must defend themselves when a vicious troupe of bees rampage their camp. I never get tired of watching Camping Out and enjoy every minute of it. Camping Out is available on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White.

1.) Building a Building, 1933
It’s doesn’t get any better than this, folks. Building a Building is the best of the best, although you’ve probably never even heard of it. In it, Mickey works at a construction site owned by Pete. When Minnie comes by (with a briefly-seen Pluto) to give Mickey a box lunch, Pete wants one of his own and, of course, a rescue mission is pursued by Mickey to save Minnie from Pete. In an awesome little battle sequence, both Mickey and Minnie defend their way against Pete and even exit in a Splash Mountain-type finale. One of the first black-and-white Mickey shorts that I ever saw, Building a Building gave me a great glimpse into Mickey’s past for the first time and exposed me to some of the hilarious gags the Disney animators had up their sleeves at that time in history. It was even parodied in an episode of Nickeloden’s The Fairly OddParents.

I watched Building a Building one time with a group of elementary-age kids who are used to watching Spongebob Squarepants all day, and they all utterly cracked up with joyful laughter when they saw Building a Building. It really gave me a reflective and satisfying feeling to know that something that Walt Disney and his animators had created over seven decades ago could still make children of the 21st century giggle with happiness. That’s what Mickey is all about. And that, I think, would make Walt Disney very proud.

Happy Birthday, Mickey.

By Blake; originally posted November 23, 2008. All images (C) Disney.

Blake’s Picks – Top 12 Disney Animated Heroines

November 17, 2007

In preparation for ‘Enchanted’, let’s take a peek at some of Disney’s most memorable leading ladies.

By Blake
Originally posted November 17, 2007.

The part-animated, part-live-action Disney feature Enchanted is being released this week, and along with it comes a new Disney princess: Giselle. So, in preparation for this highly-anticipated film, I’m counting down the top 12 Disney animated heroines (I say “heroines” because not all of them are true princesses).

12.) Ariel, from 1989’s The Little Mermaid, voiced by Jodi Benson
Ariel is curious, insecure, and in love – the typical aspects of a teenage girl. However, there’s one trait Ariel has that makes her at the bottom of this list: spoiled. Don’t get me wrong, I think The Little Mermaid is a fantastic movie with an intriguing plot and wonderful music, but the main star herself is just downright pathetic. She’s already a royal princess, daughter of King Triton, yet she doesn’t appreciate the perks of a royal life and instead comes across as being bratty when you really analyze her personality. She’s willing to give up all her friends and family just because she has a crush on some guy (not to mention that that guy’s not even the same species as her).


11.) Jasmine, from 1992’s Aladdin, voiced by Linda Larkin (speaking)/Lea Salonga (singing)
Jasmine shares several similarities with Ariel, but has a little more passion in her story than the mermaid’s. She is already a princess, and has all her needs. Though, the law states that she must be married to a prince by her next birthday. Jasmine, however, disagrees with the law and wants love to find her, not be forced upon her. To me, Jasmine seems semi-spoiled, but at least she, unlike Ariel, has a logical reason for feeling trapped.

Princess Jasmine

10.) Bianca, from 1977’s The Rescuers, voiced by Eva Gabor
Probably the littlest-known heroine on this entire list, Bianca is a Hungarian mouse that is a member of the Rescue Aid Society, a group that helps rescue needy children. She proves her bravery as she helps save a kidnapped little girl, Penny, from the clutches of the hideous Madame Medusa and her fiendish pet crocodiles. Bianca seems wealthy, but certainly isn’t haughty because of her riches. And when she has her pick of any dashing male critter to accompany her on the voyage to save Penny, she chooses plucky janitor Bernard.


9.) Jane Porter, from 1999’s TARZAN®, voiced by Minnie Driver
Adventurous and very curious of her surroundings, Jane Porter journeys from England to the jungles of Africa to explore animals. Jane is intelligent, resourceful, and, when you think about it, a lot like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She falls in love with Tarzan, who isn’t your average Prince Charming. Jane, also like Belle, isn’t intimidated by haughty, stuck-up male contenders (only she turns down Clayton, not Gaston 🙂 ).

Jane Porter

8.) Megara, from 1997’s Hercules, voiced by Susan Egan
Megara, often called “Meg”, is confident, tomboyish, and is not fazed at all by the many males who constantly beg for her attention. Meg works for Hades, the leader of the Underworld. When ordered by Hades to attract the attention of muscleman Hercules to lure him to a fatal trap, Meg (after much ambivalence) eventually lets love conquer her contract to Hades and settles down with once-enemy Hercules. To me, Meg is one of the heroines on this list that has gone through the most out of anybody. Poor Cinderella, she has to do chores. Poor Ariel, she can’t have species change. Just look at poor Meg, who (as far as the audience knows) has no parents, and is forced against her will to do the work of Hades, one of the harshest bosses one could ever have.

Megara . . . you can call her “Meg.”

7.) Princess Aurora, from 1959’s Sleeping Beauty, voiced by Mary Costa
Up next are three heroines in harsh and depressing situations, though they each have dreams they wish upon. The first is Aurora, also known as “Briar Rose” and “Sleeping Beauty”, who would be depleted a little more in my list, except Aurora doesn’t actually know she’s a princess until well into her story. Betrothed to a prince, she refuses to marry her suitor because she claims she’s already found someone else. Little does she know that that “someone else” is the one she’s betrothed to! Aurora has had a simple life until her love game enters the scheme of things and, of course, the nasty Maleficent shakes things up by attempting to kill the young maiden.

Princess Aurora dances with Prince Phillip.

6.) Cinderella, from 1950’s Cinderella, voiced by Ilene Woods
Cinderella, probably the most publicized and popular heroine on this list, is forced to do tend to her selfish stepmother and stepsisters. But her truly evil relatives don’t deter from her passion of her dreams. She gets through the day by singing happy melodies with her animal pals. Eventually Cinderella’s wishes are granted true when her Fairy Godmother comes to save the day and send her to the ball, where she experiences the power of her dream and the love of her life. To me, Cinderella is very deserving of her happy ending.


5.) Snow White, from 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, voiced by Adriana Caselotti
The “fairest one of all,” Snow White has a high-pitched voice and, apparent by her name, seriously needs to hop in a tanning bed. Snow White’s evil queen stepmother threatens to kill Snow White, just for the satisfaction of being fairest in the land. In my opinion, the queen seriously needs to get a life if her existence revolves around being prettier than a girl nearly half her age.

Snow White

In all seriousness, though, Snow White really does deserve something nice to happen in her life. Not only does she have to do chores for her stepmother like Cinderella, but her stepmother actually plans to kill her! Snow White longs for her prince to come rescue her from her misery. However, unlucky for Snow White, she has no Fairy Godmother or friendly mice friends to help her.

4.) Mulan, from 1998’s Mulan, voiced by Ming-Na Wen (speaking)/Lea Salonga (singing)
Now we enter 3 heroines who are courageous because they choose to be, not because they are forced to be. The first of these is Mulan, who desperately does not want her father to have to fight in the mandatory war. To resolve the issue, Mulan disguises herself as a male and enters the army, striving to honor her family with every move she makes. To me, Mulan is a very powerful individual who puts others way before herself, and will stop at nothing to please her family’s wishes.


3.) Pocahontas, from 1995’s Pocahontas, voiced by Irene Bedard (speaking)/Judy Kuhn (singing)
Pocahontas is determined to settle the rift between her Native American family and the Englishmen that have suddenly begun to take over the Native Americans’ land. With the help of John Smith, an Englishman, she is able to conquer the disagreements between the two sides by following her heart and listening to the “colors of the wind.” Like Mulan, she puts others before herself, but still follows her personal internal conflicts, as well.


2.) Nala, from 1994’s The Lion King, voiced by Niketa Calame (cub Nala)/Moira Kelly (adult Nala)
Betrothed to prince Simba at birth, Nala goes from a very fun, carefree, “Hakuna Matata” lifestyle to a troublesome and distressing one when the evil Scar forces prince Simba to run away forever. Seeking help after the kingdom is put into misery under Scar’s rule as king, Nala eventually finds the long-lost Simba, and stops at nothing to bring Simba back to restore peace to the kingdom. Nala is dedicated, determined, and heroic, making her #2 on this list.


1.) Belle, from 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, voiced by Paige O’Hara
The ultimate Disney heroine in every sense of the word, Belle dominates all other competitors by a long shot. Not only does her story tell of bravery and courage, but also of true love conquering all. Belle, to me, is really the only princess that truly shows that anyone can be loved. I mean, really: Snow White and Aurora have a soul mate because a random guy smooches them to wake them up, Cinderella gets her prince by having a lucky shoe size, Ariel gets hers by having a species change, and Jasmine gets hers by falling in love with some guy in disguise. Belle falls in love with a hideous beast and, even when all her peers and friends turn against Beast, Belle sticks by his side to the end, breaking the spell on the Beasts’ castle. Wow.

Beast and Belle dance the night away.

So, with this look into some of history’s most endearing Disney animated heroines princesses, we can only hope that someday Princess Giselle will find her place among them. Enchanted is in theatres Wednesday, November 21, 2007.

By Blake; originally posted November 17, 2007. All images (C) Disney.