Archive for the ‘Bolt’ Category

BlakeOnline Special – BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards 2009 Winners

June 24, 2009

Image © Disney/Pixar.

The winners for the inaugural BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards.

By Blake

Originally posted June 24, 2009.

This year, BlakeOnline is the home of the inaugural BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards! A “Bullseye” has been given to a variety of Disney-related (and some non-Disney-related) productions that I think deserve some extra attention. I chose the “Bullseye” name to keep with the Toy Story theme that began with the new “Buzz” quarterly updates. Hopefully, this will become an annual BlakeOnline event. The Bullseye nominees were announced on June 8, 2009, and the winners are in! How were the winners determined among the nominees? Well, I just chose them. Although it would make sense for Disney fans to choose what they think should win, at this point it was simpler for me to choose the results based on what I’ve observed around the Disney community.

In the future, I plan to give nominations to projects that were released within a one-year time frame (from mid-May to mid-May), but since this is the first year of the Bullseye Awards, I’m gone with an 18-month time frame, from mid-November 2007 through mid-May 2009.

Here are the winners (and runner-ups) for the inaugural BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards!! A * indicates a category that includes (but is not limited to) non-Disney nominees.

Best Movie – Enchanted

This movie has the workings of a true modern Disney classic. Many of the components that have made up previous Disney masterpieces were present, including endearing characters, superb music (provided by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, who earned three Academy-Award nominations), and a subtle focus on animation, even though most of the movie was in a live-action format. The film consisted of an animated heroine named Giselle (played by Amy Adams) being thrust from her home in Andalasia and into the real world. Giselle’s groom-to-be Prince Edward (James Marsden) journeys after her in an effort to return her home, while Giselle is taken in by a flustered man named Robert (Patrick Dempsey). Ultimately the movie’s highest points come as Giselle takes New York by storm as she enchants the city with her charming antics, including breaking out into song and communicating with “woodland” creatures. The film also has a strong emphasis on many Disney references, sure to keep Disney fans paying close attention to detail.

Enchanted wins Best Movie. Image © Disney.

Best Movie Runner-Up – Bolt

Bolt had the feel of a classic Disney animated film. It certainly had taken great care to create its main characters, especially Rhino, the hilarious hamster. Its plot consisted of a dog named Bolt headlining his own TV series, thinking all of his powers from the show are real. This proves to be a problem when he accidentally finds himself in New York, having to trek back home to Hollywood with a sly cat named Mittens and an obsessive fan named Rhino the hamster in tow. Overall I think Bolt was culminated together rather nicely, and hopefully it’s a hint at what’s yet to come from Walt Disney Animation Studios in the coming years.

Best TV Show* – American Idol Season 7

2008’s American Idol contestants possibly revolutionized the competition by adding their own distinctive styles to their performances. With contestants being allowed to use instruments on stage for the first time, the show dramatically changed from looking for the best singer to looking for the best artist – someone who could add their personality into their performances and change up arrangements to better suit them. David Cook achieved this excellently throughout the season, and ended up winning. Cook’s debut self-titled rock album was released in November, and he’s now on tour. In second place was David Archuleta, who has since also released a self-titled album, made appearances on Nickelodeon’s iCarly and Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana, and is now touring with Demi Lovato.

American Idol Season 7 wins Best TV Show. Image © Fox.

Best TV Show Runner-Up* – American Idol Season 8

Again, contestants had to step it up to change their performances and define themselves as artists in another unforgettable season. Kris Allen eventually won.

Best TV Special/Movie* – A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa

I can’t express how ecstatic I was when I found out that the Muppets would be returning to TV for a one-hour Christmas special. Part of an ongoing effort to bring the Muppets back (which is expected to continue with more upcoming projects), A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa debuted on NBC in December, 2008, and delivered a wholeheartedly quality Muppet production filled with heart, hilarity, and even a few delightful new songs (which were written by Paul Williams). The special had Kermit and friends delivering several lost letters to Santa Claus. In true Muppet fashion, everything doesn’t go exactly as planned.

A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa wins Best TV Special/Movie. Image © Disney.

Best TV Special/Movie Runner-Up* – American Idol Season 8 Finale

A real showstopper, this finale had many surprise appearances and amazing performances. Keith Urban, Kiss, Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper, Jason Mraz, David Cook, Queen, and more were among the highlights. Additionally, the season’s top thirteen contestants were all brought back to perform, and the night ended with Kris Allen being named 2009’s American Idol winner.

Best Acting – Amy Amy Adams as Giselle in Enchanted
The naïve, curious, and awed Giselle was played wonderfully by Amy Adams in Enchanted. In the live-action scenes, the movement and rhythm of Adams’ actions conveyed Giselle’s character excellently. In the animated sequences, the deliverance of Giselle’s diction and speech again brought the character to the screen marvelously.

Amy Adams wins Best Acting for her performance as Giselle in Enchanted. Image © Disney.

Best Acting Runner-Up – Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay in High School Musical 3: Senior Year


Already proving from the first two High School Musical movies that she could diversify her roles to become both the kind Maddie in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody as well as the devious Sharpay in HSM, Ashley Tisdale stepped up her game for the third HSM installment to bring an excellent performance. Devious, attention-getting, and clever all describe Sharpay and all were performed superbly by Tisdale, who once again delivered a solid performance.

Best Song – “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted
Written by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz

Enchanted’s lavish production number, “That’s How You Know” had Giselle (played by Amy Adams) gallivanting around Central Park in an effort to bring cheer and happiness to citizens, as well as teach them how they should treat their loved ones. The song is one of the best new Disney tunes in years, and was released on the DisneyMania 6 CD in May, 2008, sung by Demi Lovato.

“That’s How You Know” written by Alan Meken and Stephen Schwartz wins Best Song. Image © Disney.

Best Song Runner-Up – “I Want It All” from High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Written by Matthew Gerrard and Robbie Nevil

Describing the personality of Sharpay Evans (played by Ashley Tisdale) to a tee in one single song, “I Want It All” consists of pretty selfish lyrics when just reading the words, but when watching it performed on screen in High School Musical 3: Senior Year, it does its job quite well to convey the personalities of two of the movie’s main characters and to deliver an important plot point. The lyrics creatively spin dialogue into melodies and suit the Sharpay and Ryan characters wonderfully. The songwriting here is just right.

Best DVD – Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition

Definitely one of my favorite Disney movies ever, Mary Poppins came to DVD again in January, 2009, with most of the wonderful bonus features that were included on 2004’s 40th Anniversary Edition of the film, as well as new supplements going behind the scenes of the Broadway production of Mary Poppins. The movie’s DVD would be magnificent if it contained nothing but the film itself, but the addition of the many DVD bonuses makes it a very satisfying set.

Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition wins Best DVD. Image © Disney.

Best DVD Runner-Up – Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland Secrets, Stories, & Magic

This DVD was released as part of the Walt Disney Treasures series in December, 2007, and includes a truly great new documentary tracing the history of Disneyland and what went into initially creating the park. Bonuses include an entertaining Disney trivia game, a very fascinating presentation (and commentary) of People and Places: Disneyland, U.S.A., several episodes of The Wonderful World of Color, a pleasant art gallery, and more.

Best Internet Video Series* – Disney Park Characters


These are a range of hilarious videos recorded by various Disneyland and Walt Disney World park guests focusing on the happenings of the Mad Hatter, Alice, Peter Pan, the Tremaines, and other characters throughout the parks. What’s so great about these is that – unlike the other candidates for this Bullseye category – most of them are of real events throughout the Disney parks that weren’t scripted, showing the true enchantment that exists in Disney’s characters and Cast Members. Links: Users Briberry, Disleanne, SkeletonStockings, MadHattress330, forevermeg4u.

Best Internet Video Series Runner-Up* – Muppets.com

Began in February, 2008, this is a collection of official Muppet videos featuring Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Pepe, Rizzo, and even some of the lesser-known characters like Bobo the Bear and Beauregard. The videos have been continuously added to the website since the site’s initial launch, and now contain enough material to provide quite a while of hilarious entertainment. They’re definitely worth checking out.

That wraps up this year’s BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards! Congratulations to all of the winners!

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted June 24, 2009. All images © Disney EXCEPT: Bullseye image © Disney/Pixar; American Idol image © Fox.

DVD Review – “Bolt”

April 4, 2009

The fantastic Bolt comes to DVD with a new short highlighting its release.

By Blake

Originally posted April 4, 2009.

I absolutely love Bolt. The characters are some of the best Disney has developed in years, the sophisticated animation sequences match that of any Pixar production, and the overall appeal of the movie, complete with its engaging plot and winning heart, blended together with a splash of comedy, make it an excellent film.

Bolt’s impact since its initial release in November has been quite the to-do, at least for a Disney animated film in today’s day and age. The line to meet the film’s three main characters at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been consistently long, the movie gained a Golden Globe nomination for Best Song (for “I Thought I Lost You”), Miley Cyrus was nominated a Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie for her role as Penny, and the film was nominated for Best Animated Movie at the Academy-Awards, Golden Globes, Annie Awards, and the Kids’ Choice Awards. And the public absolutely adores Rhino.

The premise of Bolt (about 96 minutes) surrounds the titular dog headlining his own TV show that he thinks is real-life. Naturally, when a cliff-hanger episode of the show leaves his owner, Penny, in the clutches of the bad guy, Bolt heads off on a trek to save her, thinking she’s really been taken away. He then finds himself shipped to New York, where he enlists the help of Mittens – an independent alley cat – and Rhino – a hamster, and Bolt’s biggest fan – to travel back to Hollywood.

Bolt encompasses all areas that a film should contain – it uses its brilliant characters to not only touch the viewer emotionally, but also provide a heap of laughs. Hopefully this is the beginning of a new line of Disney animated classics headed our way. You can read my full review of Bolt here to read more of my thoughts about the film itself, but here I’ll also be reviewing the DVD bonus material.

Bolt Deluxe Edition
Total Approx. Disc Running Time: about 132 minutes (about 2 hours and 12 minutes)
Highlight of Disc: Bolt Feature Film
Highlight Runner-Up: Super Rhino animated short

Like the High School Musical 3: Senior Year DVD, Bolt has come to DVD in two separate editions. The first contains one disc, which includes the feature film and a bonus short. The Deluxe Edition contains two discs – one for the movie, the bonus short, and several other supplemental features and another disc for the digital copy of the movie.

Bonus Features

The only bonus on the standard edition of the film, Super Rhino (about 4 minutes), is an all-new short from Walt Disney Animation Studios. I was very surprised, yet also delightfully pleased, that a new Bolt short was created for its DVD release. The short has the ever-popular crowd favorite Rhino saving Bolt and Penny from the Green-Eyed Man. It includes hints of the original film cleverly throughout, and my only complaint is that it’s not a little longer. Nonetheless, I wasn’t expecting a short in the first place, so the fact that Super Rhino was even created has me happy that the folks at Walt Disney Animation Studios see the potential that Bolt, and more specifically Rhino, has.

All of the other bonus features described from this point are only available on the Deluxe Edition DVD and the Blu-ray release, not the standard DVD edition.

Next, two deleted scenes (about 7 minutes) are shown, and include optional introductions with directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard. The first deleted scene involves two alley dogs confronting Bolt in Las Vegas, while the other has Rhino flowing down a river and calling for Bolt’s help. Had either of them been included, they would have altered the way that some of the pivotal moments in the film would have been portrayed in its final version.

Two bonuses are found under the “Music & More” section. The first is the music video for “I Thought I Lost You” (about 2 minutes), which features clips of Miley Cyrus and John Travolta singing in a recording studio, along with clips from Bolt shown in-between the recording footage. The next bonus is “In Session with John Travolta and Miley Cyrus” (about 1 minute), which includes brief interviews with the two about their feelings towards the song.

The first featurette under the “Backstage Disney” sub-menu is “A New Breed of Directors: The Filmmakers’ Journey” (about 5 minutes). It mainly consists of interviews with the directors of Bolt – Chris Williams and Byron Howard – as well as one from executive producer John Lasseter. Also included are glimpses into the Walt Disney Animation Studios (formerly Walt Disney Feature Animation) building, which is something that I had never gotten a peek into before. Usually we’re toured all around Pixar’s studio, so it was nice to see what the other side of Disney animation’s offices look like and what wacky happenings occur there, including animators rolling in a giant hamster ball through the hallway.

Next is “Act, Speak! The Voices of Bolt (about 10 minutes). It’s a rundown of the main characters’ voices in the film, plus interviews with the voice actors as well as directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard, executive producer John Lasseter, producer Clark Spencer, and character animator Amy Smeed. Highlighted are Miley Cyrus as Penny, John Travolta as Bolt, Susie Essman as Mittens, James Lipton as the TV director, and Mark Walton as Rhino. Here we find out that Walton is a Disney Studio story artist and originally did the voice of Rhino in the early storyboard version of the film, and was soon cast as the permanent voice of the hilarious hamster.

Lastly, there’s “Creating the World of Bolt (about 7 minutes), which is a look at the unique style of the film, which features CGI backgrounds that are meant to look like hand-created paintings. The end result looks beautiful in the film, and here we see interviews with the people that created that look, including art director Paul Felix (who also created Mickey Mouse’s 80th anniversary portrait) and director of look and lighting Adolph Lusinsky. Also discussed are the different techniques and research that was used to create the different types of lighting for each of the locations featured in the film, ranging from New York to Las Vegas.

Concluding the disc are sneak peeks (about 11 minutes). They include previews for Schoolhouse Rock! Earth DVD; Monsters, Inc. Blu-ray; The Black Cauldron Special Edition DVD; the Disney Channel movie Princess Protection Program; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs DVD and Blu-ray; Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure DVD and Blu-ray; the TV channel Disney XD; The Princess and the Frog; Lilo & Stitch Big Wave Edition DVD; Bedtime Stories DVD and Blu-ray; Disney Blu-ray titles; and Disney Movie Rewards. The big surprise here for me was The Black Cauldron being re-released, which I had not heard of until I saw the preview.

Menus

The DVD’s menus have various stills used as backgrounds, except for the main menu, which includes animation of Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino on a train. A transparent grayish rectangle surrounds the remote control’s selection on the screen, making it easy to see what you’re choosing.

Over the past several months, most Disney DVD releases have not included a hardcopy DVD guide to map out the disc(s)’ contents. Additionally, for the most part there is no art or pictures adorning the actual discs, but instead a blank mirror. Both of these are minor adjustments, however, and I guess if something’s got to be cut back, I’d rather it be these than less bonus features.

Wrapping It Up

Bolt is a great combination of classic and enduring characters, breathtaking animation, and a magnificent story that all culminate together to create a wonderful film. Hopefully it’s a sign of what’s to come in the future in Disney animation.


The movie itself is fantastic, though its DVD presentation seems to be less satisfying. This seems especially odd because the film certainly has plenty of fascinating history and background to elaborate on with bonus features, though that history is not shown here. What would have been really cool would be a look at what Bolt was originally supposed to be – American Dog. The basic storyline was supposedly going to be the same as the film’s final version, though several characters and locations were to be completely different. It would have pretty neat to see what the film was initially supposed to be like. Additionally, most of the bonus features that were included seem to be relatively short, as if there was something more to them. An audio commentary would have been welcomed, possibly even with Mark Walton as an in-character Rhino (like the hilarious audio commentary with Rutt and Tuke on the Brother Bear DVD).

However, I do thank whoever decided to create a new short to be included with Bolt’s DVD release, especially since I wasn’t even expecting it to be there in the first place. Super Rhino was definitely the highlight of the bonus features, and I’m very glad that not only a new short was included, but also that it was all about Rhino. Thankfully, Super Rhino is the one bonus feature that’s included on the standard single-disc edition of Bolt, so those who opt out of the Deluxe Edition still get to see it.

Unless you really want a digital copy of the film, I recommend the standard single-disc edition of the DVD. You’ll get the feature film and Super Rhino, which was the best of the included bonuses. Overall, Bolt is the best non-Pixar Disney animated film since Lilo & Stitch and has me anticipating what Disney has up their sleeves next.

How do I rank the Bolt DVD? (Bolded is my choice.)
Brilliant movie + Good bonus features =
  • Aaaah!
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

The Bolt DVD will most likely please: Disney Fans – Dog Owners – Animation Fans – Preschoolers (ages 3-4) – Kids (ages 5-7) – Older Kids (ages 8-10) – Tweens (ages 11-13)

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted April 4, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

BlakeOnline Update – Bolt Your Way to BlakeOnline This Spring

March 8, 2009

A sneak preview of what’s in store of BlakeOnline this spring.

By Blake

Originally posted March 8, 2009.

Hi everyone, I hope everyone has had a happy, healthy, and great start to 2009. I just wanted to check in to give everyone a status report on what you can expect to find here on BlakeOnline in the coming months, and what different happenings will be going on around the website.

First of all, I want to thank everyone for their tremendous support of BlakeOnline. Thank you very much for your positive feedback! Here are just some of the nice compliments sent in:

“wow!”
-Reader HG

“Your website update is so thorough and well written. I’m glad they [Disney] have (finally) figured out what works for them. I think you give a very accurate review of their ups and downs and where they are headed. Great job Blake. Keep it up!”
-Reader Jeff

“Blake! Dude! I love the new look of your web-site! Thanks for all the special updates. When I was little I LIVED for these things, especially Charlie Brown. Quite frankly, it isn’t ‘Christmas’ until I see “CBCS” and the Grinch. I think Shrek the Halls is a pretty good new addition.”
-Reader Amy

The good news is, due to the positive response from readers who benefitted from the “What’s On Tonight” feature that was posted in December, that feature will probably be returning to BlakeOnline this Christmas, as well.

“This is a great report! I left a comment regarding American Idol, but I checked to make sure it would show up when you looked, and it is not there. What should I do after I write my comment in the box?”
-Reader Pat

Here are some instructions for anyone else that is having trouble posting a comment directly to BlakeOnline: After you type your comment, you scroll down and click either “Name/URL” if you’d like to put your name (I wouldn’t put your full one, though, for Internet safety reasons), or you can click anonymous. Then click “publish comment” and you should be all set!

Additionally, by going back and reading through past messages I’ve received concerning the website, it seems that I get the most feedback from my “battle” articles, featuring smack-downs between different characters. Since I haven’t posted any of those in a while, you can expect at least a few battles to be posted soon.

This spring, as I prepare with my family to plan a trip to Walt Disney World, a special focus series will be posted that will center on planning a Disney vacation during these tough economic times. I’ll walk you through every step of making the most of your money by scaling down your budget but still having a magical vacation.

Stay tuned to BlakeOnline.com as it bolts its way into a very exciting spring!

By Blake; posted March 8, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

BlakeOnline Special – Keep Moving Forward in 2009

February 2, 2009

Disney fans have a lot to celebrate about in 2009, including exciting movie releases, deluxe DVD sets, and new theme park entertainment.


By Blake

Originally posted February 1, 2009.

2008 served Mickey Mouse quite well. Although some might say that because of the recessing economy, Disney is plummeting downhill with the rest of the country (which is not true, but we’ll get to that later), it’s actually been quite the opposite in 2008 for the Walt Disney Company. It seems that they’re finally right where they should be in all areas of their company, knowing who to market what to and realizing what works for them and what doesn’t. And now that they know this, we can be assured that plenty more magic will be sprinkled up in 2009.

Movies
2008 was filled with numerous in-theater, live-action family Disney movies that had everyone singing, laughing, crying, and, at one point, had an entire theater full of tween girls having a jam session. In February, Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert hit select theaters for limited showings that proved just how far a simple Disney Channel sitcom had come since becoming a full-blown, beyond-TV franchise. In March, Raven-Symone appeared in her second in-theater Disney movie, College Road Trip, alongside Martin Lawrence and Donny Osmond. It was a delightful comedy that had kids laughing and parents tearing up. In May, the second film in the Narnia series was released, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Just as action-packed and magical as the first, Prince Caspian was quite a treat. In October, Beverly Hills Chihuahua was released. Although I didn’t see it, the film’s initial teaser trailer grabbed the attention of many, and whether or not people liked it, it granted the film a large amount of publicity. Also in October, Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Lucas Grabeel, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, and the rest of the Wildcats made the transition from television sets to the silver screen as the epic High School Musical phenomenon capped off a three-year span of Wildcat mania with the release of High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Proving itself to be much more than an average musical, the film had a broad appeal and contained real Disney magic placed all throughout it. Finally, the Christmas Day release of Bedtime Stories told of Adam Sandler’s nightly tales to his nephews coming to life in the real world.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year was released in theaters last October, concluding the ongoing Wildcat mania.

2009 looks to be another promising year for Walt Disney Pictures, with several very exciting releases coming up. On February 27, the Jonas Brothers move from “special guests” in last year’s Hannah Montana concert movie to being in the center spotlight in Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. Like the Hannah Montana concert movie, the film will be released in select theaters and will take audiences behind the scenes to not only show viewers a Jonas Brothers concert, but also what goes on to put on the show. It will feature guest appearances by the Jonas Brothers’ Camp Rock co-star Demi Lovato, as well as country singer Taylor Swift. On March 13, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (of The Game Plan) will appear alongside Carla Gugino (the Spy Kids’ mother), AnnaSophia Robb (Because of Winn-Dixie, Bridge to Terabithia), and Alexander Ludwig (The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising) in Race to Witch Mountain, a remake of the 1975 Disney classic Escape to Witch Mountain. On April 10, Hannah Montana will follow in the footsteps of Lizzie McGuire to become the second Disney Channel original series to have its own theatrical film when Hannah Montana: The Movie hits the silver screen. An actual movie as opposed to a concert, the film will have Miley stranded in a small town in Tennessee with her family, where she’ll have to permanently choose which side of her double life to officially pursue. The film’s teaser trailer makes it seem epic and on a slightly larger scale than the television series and, if done right, it could end up being something very special for all of those tiny Hannah fans. On April 22 (Earth Day), Disney will somewhat revive its classic True-Life Adventure nature documentary series as it launches its new Disney Nature franchise with the release of the new film Earth. The film will be narrated by James Earl Jones and will tell of three animal families. On July 24, we’ll get to see what happens when Beverly Hills Chihuahua meets Spy Kids when G-Force is released. The movie, which is a Jerry Bruckheimer production, will feature guinea pigs (some of which are voiced by Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz) saving the world. Pirates of the Caribbean’s Bill Nighy (Davy Jones) is also in the film.

The Jonas Brothers come to the big screen for their concert movie, Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, coming to theaters February 27.

Animation
Not only did live-action Disney films hit the silver screen in 2008, but two excellent animated Disney movies were also released, both of which scored “Brilliant” in their BlakeOnline reviews. In June, Pixar’s Wall-E heralded back to the days of silent films with having barely any dialogue and told the heartwarming story of a lonely and abandoned robot, Wall-E, who seized the chance to fall in love when he unknowingly boarded a spaceship. Once again, Pixar performed well with both critics and audiences. In November, Bolt surprised everyone as being possibly the best non-Pixar Disney animated film in years. Its Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature (alongside Wall-E and Kung Fu Panda) only proves that theory even more. (The last non-Pixar Disney animated movie to receive an Oscar nomination was Brother Bear, released in 2003.) Full of richly developed characters and a superlative story, Bolt is a real treasure, and when paired with Wall-E, the two unlikely title heroes perform a vast supply of Pixie Dust to please young and old alike.

In June, Wall-E delighted audiences of all ages with its amazing story and likeable characters.

On the horizon for Disney animation in 2009 are two more new theatrical features a revisit of a classic. On May 29, Pixar takes an elderly man up in the sky as he attaches oodles of balloons to his house in Up, directed by Pete Docter (the same director as Monsters, Inc.). In October, Toy Story will be re-released in select theaters in 3D to promote the forthcoming 2010 new film Toy Story 3. On Christmas Day, Walt Disney Animation Studios will at last return to traditional hand-drawn animation in The Princess and the Frog, a retelling of the classic fairy tale. Set in New Orleans, the movie will feature the voice of Anika Noni Rose as Princess Tiana, the first new Disney Princess since 1998 and the first ever African-American Disney Princess. The movie will be directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, who together also directed The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, and Treasure Planet. The Princess and the Frog will feature original songs and score by Randy Newman. It looks to be a very exciting film indeed. I can’t wait to see the final results come next Christmas.

Tiana, voiced by Anika Noni Rose, is the heroine of the new Disney movie The Princess and the Frog, being released in theaters Christmas Day 2009.

Revitalizing Franchises
2008 also saw the continuation of two major Disney franchises and an expansion in online entertainment. In October, Cars Toons premiered as a series of new short cartoons starring Mater from Cars. The first three shorts debuted on television and continue to air on Disney Channel regularly. A fourth short premiered alongside Bolt a few weeks after Bolt had been released, to entice audiences to see the film again. Cars Toons is the first of many new ways we’ll be seeing the charming characters of Radiator Springs in the next few years. This summer, a new internet game called The World of Cars Online will debut on Disney.com. Following in the footsteps of other Disney games such as Toontown Online, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Pixie Hollow, and the now-closed Virtual Magic Kingdom, the new Cars game will allow players to create their own character, in this case a car, and communicate with other players in races, games, and activities and also talk to other players in real-time. That’s just the beginning of the forthcoming Cars mania. In summer 2011, Cars 2 will premiere on the silver screen, sure to create plenty of hilarious Disney magic as audiences re-acquaint themselves with Lightning McQueen, Mater, and the rest of the Radiator Springs crew. Additionally, in 2012, Cars Land will open at Disney’s California Adventure in as part of a park-wide expansion.

Lightning McQueen and the rest of the Cars characters will return for the World of Cars Online game, Cars 2 in theaters, and Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland.

Another franchise that was revisited in 2008 centered around Jim Henson’s lovable bunch of furry critters, the Muppets. In February of 2008, a Muppets channel was launched as part of the recently-revamped Disney.com and featured hilarious new videos and games, collectively featuring hours of new footage. The idea was to get the Muppets slowly back in the spotlight again in preparation for an upcoming feature film in 2010, and the plan seems to be working out great. In addition to the main Muppets channel on Disney.com, there are also separate pages devoted to Kermit the frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, the great Gonzo, and Pepe the king prawn. An upcoming page will belong to Animal.

The new Muppets channel on Disney.com provides plenty of hilarious new Muppet videos.

TV
Also part of the epic plan to spotlight the Muppets, a new set of TV specials aired in August and October of 2008 called Studio DC: Almost Live! that featured the Muppets and Disney Channel actors and actresses performing musical numbers and comedy routines. Featuring performers like Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, the Cheetah Girls, David Henrie, and more, Studio DC’s main purpose was to introduce the Muppets to a younger audience through people that the viewers already knew well through other Disney Channel shows. Additionally, a new hour-long Christmas special called A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa aired on NBC in December and marked the Muppets’ return to their classic flair and unforgettable wacky style.

Ashley Tisdale was among the Disney Channel performers who appeared with the Muppets in Studio DC: Almost Live!, a series of two new TV specials.

But the Muppets weren’t the only ones that Disney featured on their television networks in 2008. Disney Channel continued to crank out successful movies and shows. Wizards of Waverly Place and Hannah Montana continued to entertain kids and tweens with new seasons. The Emperor’s New School and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody both had their series finales, with the latter also beginning a new spinoff, The Suite Life on Deck. In the new show, Zack, Cody, London, and Mr. Moseby embark on the S.S. Tipton, a new cruise ship that offers a high school at sea and also introduces audiences to Bailey, a new character played by Debby Ryan. Another new Disney Channel original series that was introduced in 2008 was Phineas and Ferb, an animated show that features two tween boys spending their summer break thinking up inventive new activities to do while their pet platypus Perry secretly sneaks off as a spy. Additionally, several new Disney Channel original movies debuted in 2008, including Minutemen featuring Cory in the House’s Jason Dolley, Camp Rock featuring the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato, and The Cheetah Girls One World featuring the returning actresses Kiely Williams, Sabrina Bryan, and Adrienne Bailon and the titular group of girls.

The Suite Life on Deck debuted as a spin-off of the Disney Channel show The Suite of Zack and Cody. Pictured here is the cast (from left): Phill Lewis as Mr. Moseby, Dylan Sprouse as Zack, Brenda Song as London Tipton, Debby Ryan as Bailey, and Cole Sprouse as Cody.

In 2009, there’s plenty more of excitement from Disney Channel, including two new shows: Sonny With a Chance (premiering February 8), about a girl (Demi Lovato) that gets a part on a variety TV show, and Jonas (premiering this May) featuring the Jonas Brothers playing brothers who live as spies. There will also be three new Disney Channel original movies premiering this year: Dadnapped debuts February 16 and tells the story of a group of kids who have to rescue their friend’s father. The cast includes Emily Osment, Jason Earles, and Moises Arias from Hannah Montana, David Henrie from Wizards of Waverly Place, Phill Lewis from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and The Suite Life on Deck, Denzel Whitaker from Nickelodeon’s All That, Jonathan Keltz, and Greg Newbern. The next new Disney Channel movie to debut this year will be Hatching Pete featuring Jason Dolley as a teenager who fills in for his friend played by Mitchel Musso as the school mascot, while Musso’s character receives all the misunderstood attention for the mascot’s energetic personality. Lastly, Princess Protection Program will feature Demi Lovato as a princess trying to fit in the real world with the help of her friend, played by Selena Gomez. To me, this sounds a lot like 2007’s Enchanted.

Not only will Disney Channel continue to produce new material in 2009, but Toon Disney will also have a major revamp in February, when it officially will change its name to Disney XD. Marketed towards boys, the channel will feature original new shows, as well as already-established Disney Channel favorites.

DVD’s
2008 saw the arrival of several anticipated DVD releases. Enchanted and National Treasure: Book of Secrets were released in the spring after their in-theater runs, animated treasures such as The Aristocats and The Sword in the Stone were given re-releases, The Nightmare Before Christmas was given an impressive 2-disc collector’s edition, three new Walt Disney Treasures volumes were released (The Chronological Donald Volume 4, Dr. Syn: Alias the Scarecrow, and The Mickey Mouse Club Presents Annette) on 2-disc sets, and 101 Dalmatians and Sleeping Beauty were given 2-disc platinum releases. Additionally, there were two original direct-to-DVD animated releases: The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning was a prequel to the 1989 Disney classic and Tinker Bell not only gave Tink a voice but also told the story of how the famous Disney fairy got her start in Pixie Hollow, a land deep within Never Land. The film was also the launch of a new Disney Fairies franchise. Lastly, at the end of the year, 2-discs of bonuses were given to Wall-E and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Those two titles along with The Nightmare Before Christmas were the first Disney DVD’s to include a digital copy of their respective films so that viewers can download the movie onto their iPod.

Sleeping Beauty was released on a 2-disc DVD set last October.

2009 looks to be one of the most exciting years for DVD releases in a long time. Just within the next few months, a plethora of very special releases will become available, with more titles coming out next fall. On January 13, four Disney TV movies came to DVD: Gepetto, A Knight in Camelot, Mail to the Chief, and Smart House. On January 27, Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition was released on a 2-disc set that features all of the bonuses from the 40th Anniversary Edition, as well as a new look at the Broadway version of the story. Also on January 27, Corbin Bleu is the voice of the titular animated character in the new live-action film Secret of the Magic Gourd. On February 3, another new direct-to-DVD live-action movie will be released, Space Buddies, the third move in the series of tales about Air Bud’s children. Also on February 3, Oliver & Company will be released on a 20th Anniversary Edition that will include a making-of featurette, a new game, and two Pluto shorts. On February 10, two Disney Channel shows will come to DVD with Wizards of Waverly Place: Supernaturally Stylin’ and Phineas and Ferb: The Daze of Summer. On February 17, the Wildcat mania continues with High School Musical 3: Senior Year, which will be available on both 1- and 2-disc DVD formats, as well as on Blu-ray. Including a digital copy of the film, all releases will include a “cast goodbye” featurette and the 2-disc and Blu-ray releases will include deleted scenes, bloopers, and more. Additionally, the original High School Musical will be released on Blu-ray on February 17. March 3 is all about dogs, with the DVD and Blu-ray releases of Beverly Hills Chihuahua (which feature deleted scenes, an audio commentary, a look at the dogs’ voices, a new short, and more) and the special edition DVD of Air Bud, which includes a commentary of the movie by the Air Buddies, Air Bud’s kids. March 10 will kick off a new DVD series, the Walt Disney Family Classics. Although I’m not sure if this will be an ongoing series or a one-time thing, the first two titles in the series will be Escape to Witch Mountain (just in time for its theatrical re-make) and its sequel Return to Witch Mountain. Both releases will include an audio commentary, new pop-up trivia facts, and more. March 10 is also the release date of the highly anticipated Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition, a great 2-disc set which marks the first time the classic film has been released since 2000. On March 17, the Playhouse Disney show Bunnytown will come to DVD with Bunnytown: Hello Bunnies. March 24 will mark a day of very exciting releases, including Lilo & Stitch “Big Wave” Special Edition, a 2-disc set that includes a special behind-the-scenes documentary. Also on March 24, Bolt will be released on Blu-ray and both 1- and 2-disc DVD formats! I was VERY excited when I found out that Bolt would be getting 2 discs of bonuses, especially since one of those bonuses is a new animated short featuring Rhino. Rounding out the spring DVD calendar are Baby Einstein: World Music and Hannah Montana: Keeping It Real, both on March 31, and My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Tigger, Pooh, and a Musical Too on April 7. Sometime in 2009 (though Disney has not said when), the story of Tinker Bell and her fairy friends will continue in Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, once again a direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray animated production featuring the Disney Fairies. This October, the first animated movie of all time and the film that marked the beginning of Disney feature animation, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, will be released on platinum DVD and Blu-ray.


Lilo & Stitch will be released on a new 2-disc set in March.

Theme Parks
A very significant year for both introducing new attractions as well as taking away others, the Disney theme parks were the subject of many changes in 2008. Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World and Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland both began their multi-year revamps to better change the theme and lineup of their parks and attractions. Hollywood Studios debut the Block Party Bash parade (which was imported from California) and an updated Narnia exhibit which features a look behind-the-scenes of Prince Caspian. California Adventure premiered the new Pixar Play Parade, an energetic parade which features characters from every Pixar film through 2007’s Ratatouille. Both parks premiered a new version of Playhouse Disney Live on Stage, which now features characters and stories from more current Playhouse Disney shows, and High School Musical 3: Senior Year: Right Here, Right Now!, an updated version of the HSM street show that features music from the third film. Both Hollywood Studios and California Adventure also opened Toy Story Mania!, an interactive “E-Ticket” extravaganza that involves its riders into the storyline with favorite Toy Story characters. This February, Hollywood Studios will open the American Idol Experience, a new attraction that will give guests the opportunity to be in the spotlight and go through a pretend American Idol audition. In the forthcoming years at California Adventure, guests will get to see World of Color (a new nighttime water show), a new Cars-themed area of the park that will feature an outstanding new “E-Ticket” attraction, and a new Little Mermaid Fantasyland-like dark ride.









The new ride Toy Story Mania! opened at both Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World and Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland in summer 2008.

Hollywood Studios and California Adventure weren’t the only Disney parks to receive new additions and celebrations in 2008, however. Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrated its 10th anniversary on Earth Day with a special ceremony and presentation. At both the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and at Disneyland, guests got the opportunity to meet Tinker Bell and the other Disney Fairies in a specially-themed meet and greet area called Pixie Hollow.

Walt Disney World and Disneyland guests can now meet (top, from left): Silvermist, Tinker Bell, Iridessa, as well as (bottom, from left): Rosetta and Fawn in new specially-themed meet-and-greet areas.

Although there were some excellent new additions to the parks in 2008, there were also numerous cutbacks that took place, as well. Although the economy isn’t significantly hurting Disney, as a result of the economy, Disney decided to take away some of their live entertainment offerings. The Princess Fantasy Faire at Disneyland closed its show (though the meet and greet still remains), Woody’s Cowboy Camp and the Main Street Family Fun Day Parade no longer perform at the Magic Kingdom, Sounds Dangerous is now a seasonal attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Fantasmic! only performs several nights a week now (instead of the previous nightly performance) at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends has closed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However, the economy’s results on the Disney parks aren’t all negative. Because of the slightly lower attendance, Disney has made some rather nice discounts. On select dates from February 9-April 4 and April 19-June 27, if guests purchase 4 nights at a Walt Disney World resort (with park tickets), they get 3 more nights (again with park tickets) for free. Also, lower attendance means less people in the parks, resulting in shorter ride lines. Now that’s not to say that the parks will be completely empty. Although the recession certainly isn’t helping Disney, Disney’s not in a dire desperate mode. There will still be people in the parks, just on a slightly lower level.

Fantasmic! now does not perform nightly at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Also, as part of the 2009 “What will you celebrate?” promotion, any guest can get into a Disneyland or Walt Disney World park on their birthday for free. Although this particular celebration doesn’t have as many attraction openings in its lineup as previous promotions, there are a few additions to look forward to. On January 23, an updated parade premiered at the Magic Kingdom called the Celebrate Dreams Come True Parade. The third version of the Share a Dream Come True Parade, the parade features classic Disney characters in a dazzling display of Disney magic. Additionally, on January 25, Dream Along with Mickey returned from its almost-three-week-long refurbishment. Apparently some stage work was done to the Castle Forecourt stage. It is unknown at this time if the refurbishment involved any changes to the show itself. Sometime within the next few weeks, the interactive Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure will officially open at Epcot. The attraction involves guests participating in somewhat of a scavenger hunt throughout the different country pavilions of Epcot as they use their “Kimmunicator” to help solve a mission. On February 6, “it’s a small world” will re-open after a lengthy refurbishment at Disneyland and will feature appearances by classic Disney characters in “small world” form. However, these changes have not been made to the Florida version of the ride. On February 14, the aforementioned American Idol Experience will debut at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Sometime in February, the new Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It street party will debut at the Magic Kingdom. In addition to the daily afternoon parade, the new show will feature favorite characters as they invite guests to party with them. A similar, though different, show will debut at Disneyland on March 27 called “Celebrate! A Street Party.” On April 1, the Celebration Roundup and Barbecue will open at Disneyland’s Big Thunder Ranch and will offer celebrations, food, and Disney character appearances. Sometime in April, Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration will premiere in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Featuring interactive celebrating and Stitch, the show will take place on a newly-constructed stage in the middle of Tomorrowland. Additionally, the nearby Galaxy Palace Theater (which hosts school band and dance performances) is closing. It is unknown at this time if Mickey’s Twas the Night Before Christmas show (which normally performs there during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party) will be effected by this change. Lastly, Space Mountain will temporarily close at the Magic Kingdom on April 19 for a long refurbishment. It will reopen in late 2009. It is unknown right now what exactly the changes will include.

The Celebrate Dreams Come True Parade is now performing daily at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida.


Are you 23?

Now here’s the puzzle that has tons of Disney fans scratching their heads. A few weeks ago, Disney launched a new website at www.disney.com/23. If you’ll open the website, you’ll see that words appear on a black screen reading “Are you 23? Find out March 10.” Then Tinker Bell comes and brings a countdown clock to March 10. What does this all mean? Nobody quite seems to know for sure. I don’t have any idea as to what it could be. It definitely is a clever way to disguise whatever it is the website is advertising, and has many Disney fans interested in what this is all about.

The Big Finish
That wraps up what was accomplished by the Walt Disney Company in 2008, as well as what you can expect from them in 2009. There are sure to be plenty unmentioned happenings along the way as well, but the products and events Disney has already announced has me getting excited as to what sort of Disney wonderment we’ll be reflecting about this time next year.

Happy New Year from BlakeOnline and have a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious 2009!

By Blake; posted February 1, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Channel Flippin’ – The WDW Christmas Day Parade 2008 "Drive-Through" Review

December 27, 2008


By Blake

Originally posted December 27, 2008.

OK, so here’s the deal. I’m about to dash out the door in a few minutes and I’ll be unable to post any new articles on here for over a week and I thought the holiday season couldn’t go by without me awarding some compliments to this year’s outstanding Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade. Since I’m short on time and I really need to summarize a lot in this article, instead of calling this a regular review (which it’s not), I’ll dub it a “drive-through” review, since I’m not really taking the time to elaborate (simply because I can’t) and you’re really getting the bare basics of my thoughts.

But ANYWAY, this year’s Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade was once again hosted by Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa from Walt Disney World in Florida and Ryan Seacrest from Disneyland in California. There were a few times when I felt embarrassed for them because of the lines they were saying, but it’s Christmastime so I’ll cut them some slack.

It was a VERY Disney parade this year and it seemed like instead of featuring celebrities with the characters off to the side as with previous years, there was more focus on the characters with the celebrities to the side.

Making their debut in the parade were Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino from Bolt and Prince Caspian from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Giselle from Enchanted even made a quick little appearance, which was certainly welcome since she hasn’t been seen on WDW premises for about a year now.

Since it was the parade’s 25th anniversary, there were archived “flashback” clips from previous years’ parades scattered throughout the show, including performances by Jodi Benson, Kermit the Frog, Amy Grant, and others. These features were clever and appreciated until a 2005 clip of Vanessa Williams was played again and billed as this year’s finale, which made me feel partially jipped because I was hoping for a brand spankin’ new grand finale.

However, it seems that the cash usually spent on the rousing, choir-filled finale was used elsewhere in the parade for several other superb numbers that were very satisfying. One of the highlights that comes to mind for me is the opening number featuring Miley Cyrus singing “Santa Claus in Coming to Town.” Although I’m not a big Miley fan – but I certainly don’t have anything against her – I found her performance to be exceptionally great. It was performed in front of Cinderella Castle and featured appearances by Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Chip, and Dale. Additionally, Miley had a brief jam session with Stitch (dressed as Santa) on the guitar, and then Mickey made his grand parade surprise entrance in true Disney fashion. It was an overall Disney-fied performance that I think worked so well because Miley Cyrus is an all-Disney girl herself and having an out-of-studio performer usually takes away from that Disney experience. It was definitely one of the best of the parade’s opening numbers I’ve seen in a few years. Miley Cyrus shared the stage equally with the characters instead of taking up the entire spotlight and interacted very professionally with them, doing a very good job to bring some Disney flavor to the performance.

Anyone who’s been reading BlakeOnline for a while knows that I’m crazy when it comes to American Idol, and I was very pleased to see this year’s winner David Cook sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on Main Street. Runner-up David Archuleta also appeared, but he served as the viewers’ tour through Disney’s Hollywood Studios rather than singing.

Lastly, the best performance of the parade was undoubtedly the Mary Poppins number on Main Street. Talk about a showstopper!!!!! Being my favorite live-action Disney film, I was delighted that it would be represented in the parade. Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee appeared as Mary Poppins and Bert, respectively, from the Broadway musical and performed “Supercalifragilisticexpiaelidocious” accompanied by 500 (!) dancers. They worked their way from inside the Confectionary and then proceeded outside to fill Main Street from Town Square to the hub! I loved the way the song didn’t all stay contained in one place as it traveled from inside the Main Street shops and then transitioned its way into the Street itself. In that regard it reminded me of the parade’s opening numbers of the 1990’s where hundreds of Disney Cast Members and characters would prance around the entire resort singing Christmas carols.

Not only that, but the Mary Poppins performance also included the background dancers from the Broadway show dressed as Main Street Cast Members, which added an extra bit of Pixie Dust to the already-magical number.

Although ABC will not be re-airing the parade, you can catch clips of it, including the sensational Mary Poppins performance, as well as behind-the-scenes footage (which features the performers rehearsing at 5:00 am) at Disney.com/celebrate, but hurry before they’re taken off the page! I noted last year that I thought the parade was on its way to becoming a real Disney show instead of a celebrity concert, and I think this year’s parade made that statement even clearer.

Merry Christmas!!!!!

By Blake; posted December 27, 2008. All images (C) Disney.

Disney Talk – Disney Wants You to Bolt to the Theater Again

December 10, 2008

Disney wants you to see Bolt a second time to view an all-new Pixar short.

By Blake

Originally posted December 10, 2008.

I’ll admit that I was a tad bit disappointed when I saw Bolt last month. The movie itself wasn’t what let me down – it was actually quite superb – but I was half-thinking that I’d get the pleasure of viewing one of the new Pixar Cars Toons shorts beforehand. Cars is one of my favorite Pixar movies and Pixar has recently begun to create several three-to-four-minute shorts starring Mater. The first three of these new shorts originally aired on Toon Disney last October, and Disney had announced in September that a fourth short was in the works and would be released theatrically. Naturally, I had thought that this meant that the fourth cartoon would appear alongside Bolt when the movie debuted in theaters on November 21. However, I was half-right.

How could I be half-right? Well, I was right to think that the fourth Cars Toons short would appear with Bolt, but wrong to think that it would do so just when Bolt was released. The good news is that audiences will get to see the next Cars Toons short starting this Friday, December 12, 2008. The bad news is that they’ll have to pay to see Bolt a second time to view it. That’s right, beginning on Friday, the new Cars Toons tale will be shown to audiences just before Bolt begins in theaters.


This wouldn’t be the first time Disney has enticed audiences to see their films twice. If you’ll remember back to the late 90’s/early 2000’s, Pixar would release hilarious outtakes for their movies a few weeks after the respective films would be released. They did this for A Bug’s Life; Toy Story 2; and Monsters, Inc. Later the outtakes appeared on the DVD releases of those films, but delaying their release in theaters certainly helped to bring people back for more.

The question is, is seeing a three-minute Cars short going to be enough for you to pay an extra $8+ to go see Bolt? I’d say it depends. While Bolt is a great film and definitely worth seeing twice, I usually don’t end up seeing movies twice in the theater simply because ticket prices are so high these days. The way I see it is if I’m paying that much money to go to the movies, I’d rather see a new movie than see something I’ve already viewed. And, although Bolt is wonderful, I’m content to wait for its DVD release (expected this spring) to see it again. Even though I did enjoy the first few Cars Toons when they aired on TV in October, I’ll wait and see if this fourth short winds up being released on some future Pixar DVD or even airing sometime soon on TV instead of seeing it in the theater.

By Blake; originally posted December 10, 2008. All images (C) Disney.

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Channel Flippin’ – The 82nd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

November 28, 2008

This year packed another impressive parade filled with corporate advertisements and family entertainment.

By Blake

Originally posted November 28, 2008.

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone and by today I’m sure you all feel stuffed, regretful (for your stomach’s sake), satisfied, and – I hope – thankful. With every Thanksgiving comes the celebrity-studded lineup of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year marked the parade’s 82nd run and the 150th anniversary of Macy’s itself. As usual, Today’s anchors hosted the parade, Matt Lauer, Meredith Vierra, and Al Roker.

Although there were plenty of bee-boppin’ teen groups present, today I’ll be highlighting what I thought were the parade’s best points, as well as the Disney factors presented during the show.

While last year’s Mary Poppins performance of “Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious” dazzled the parade’s Broadway hour, this year the cast of The Little Mermaid performed “Under the Sea” in the same grand style. Although Ariel doesn’t sing even a word in the entire song, Sierra Boggess was indeed present to perform the title character, as was Titus Burgess as Sebastian. It was quite a performance, and I must say that those performers must have been COLD, especially Ariel!

After the Broadway performances were over and shortly after the parade officially kicked off, Miley Cyrus performed the song “I Thought I Lost You” from the new Disney animated film Bolt. Although the song is performed as a duet between Cyrus and John Travolta in the film, Travolta was not present during the parade. Miley Cyrus performed the song on a new Bolt float, accompanied by built-in balloons of the characters Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino. While I initially thought that the actual walk-around versions of the characters (like the ones currently at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World) would be present, I suppose the balloons would attract more attention. Nevertheless, it was a nice performance.


The next memorable performance that I recall was the Sesame Street number. Currently in its 39th season (and having been in the Macy’s Parade for 12 years, including this year), the cast of the show (with special guest pianist Lang Lang) performed the song “Songs,” which I remembered from the 1999 TV special Elmopalooza. All of the lovable Sesame Street Muppets were present, including Big Bird, Elmo, Zoey, Ernie, Bert, Oscar, the fairly new Abby Cadabby, and many more.

A little while later came American Idol runner-up David Archuleta, performing his hit single “Crush,” which is featured on his new self-titled debut album. While I was a little puzzled as to why David Cook, the American Idol winner, did not also perform in the parade, I was satisfied to learn later on from a commercial for Christmas in Rockefeller Center that he would be singing on that this Wednesday.

Directly following Archuleta was the all-new Buzz Lightyear balloon!!! Toy Story being one of my favorite films of all time, I was very pleased when I found out that Buzz was getting balloon treatment. Buzz was featured in the parade to promote the October 2009 3-D re-release of Toy Story, the February 2010 3-D re-release of Toy Story 2, and the June 2010 debut of Toy Story 3. Buzz will most likely be featured in next year’s parade, as well, to continue that promotion. I had read on Mouse Planet’s WDW Park Update this week that Toy Story director John Lasseter was one of the many “handlers” carrying Buzz along the parade route, though the cameras didn’t show him.


A while later came Miranda Cosgrove, of Drake & Josh and iCarly fame, who performed her song “About You Now.”

Later on came the Kermit the Frog balloon, and even later came the real-life Kermit, performing “I Believe” with some kids from Camp Broadway. Pulling off a touching performance as always, Kermit was wonderful, and left a nice segue into the anticipated arrival of Santa Claus. Kermit was present to promote the all-new Muppets Christmas special A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, which premieres Wednesday, December 17 at 8pm eastern time on NBC. A small trailer for the special was shown during the parade, and it looks like it’s really going to be a hilariously funny adventure for Kermit and the crew.

Capping off the parade as the second-to-last performance before Santa’s arrival was Kristen Chenoweth, Broadway and film celebrity who rode upon the Care Bears float. Although she sang a Christmas song in the parade, she has several connections to Disney. She was in The Wonderful World of Disney’s remake of The Music Man, she performed the Oscar-nominated song “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted this year at the Academy Awards, she currently voices Rosetta the Fairy in the Tinker Bell movies, and she’s reported to be the voice of the title character in the upcoming 2010 Disney animated movie Rapunzel.

The last performance of the parade was Andy Williams, singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” It was quite a fitting way to cap off the parade, and, of course, next came the arrival of Santa Claus!!! Accompanied by Mrs. Claus, Santa seemed extra jolly and was waving to everyone as his sleigh passed by.

This year’s parade was a wonderful way to spend Thanksgiving morning. While I don’t think it’s fair to compare one year’s parade to another since they’re all relatively similar, I did enjoy it thoroughly and it had a little sampling of each of my favorite types of entertainment – Disney animation, American Idol, and the Muppets. If you missed it, then I think it’s your loss, as the parade will most likely not be re-broadcasted. But don’t get down on yourself if you happened to miss the parade – it was simply the beginning of a brilliant season of holiday entertainment to come. We’ve got plenty of Christmas fun to look forward to, including re-airing of classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas, new performances like Christmas in Rockefeller Center and Greatest Holiday Moments, and all-new Christmas specials like Merry Christmas Drake & Josh and A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa. I can’t wait!!! Merry Christmas, everyone!

By Blake; originally posted November 28, 2008. All images (C) Disney.

Silver Screen Review – Bolt

November 26, 2008

Hold your breath – ‘Bolt’ could turn out to be something really special.

By Blake

Originally posted November 26, 2008.

It’s been a pretty rough patch of time for the past few years at Walt Disney Feature Animation, and Bolt is honestly the first time since Lilo & Stitch that I really saw a quality combination of story, characters, and entertainment wrapped up into one superb Disney animated film.

Let’s just take a look at some of the films that have been cranked out of the Studio since 2002: Treasure Planet carried too much prestige and dignity to be well accepted. Brother Bear held plenty of emotional strength but relied too much on individual characters to perform certain jobs – some to carry the story forward, others just for comedic enjoyment – instead of an entertaining combination between the two. I never saw Home on the Range, but based on the fact that I’ve never heard anything about it since its original release, I’ll take it that it wasn’t too good. Chicken Little was a little improvement, though maybe relied too heavily on comedy. Meet the Robinsons was yet again a slight increase towards a more quality production but was just about the opposite of Chicken Little – it had lots of heart, but lacked real comedy and thrust too many characters at the audience at one time, not allowing them to digest each of them before another one was introduced.

For the first all-Disney animated movie to be chiefly created since Disney acquired Pixar in January 2006, Bolt promised plenty of potential to show audiences just what effect the $7.6 billion purchase could do for Disney. Some of the many changes Pixar executives made to Bolt include a director swap, a name change (the film was originally to be called American Dog), some character revises (the cat was initially going to be an eye-patched pirate of sorts), and several other alterations. I certainly am curious to see just how different the movie would have been had these changes not been made, but I think overall the movie works very well as it is now.


The plot focuses on Bolt, a canine Hollywood star who headlines a hit weekly television series. Though there’s just one problem: Bolt doesn’t know he’s on a TV show. Thinking his owner, Penny, is in real danger when her character on the TV show is kidnapped by a villain, Bolt breaks out of the Hollywood set to go find her. Mistakenly, he winds up being shipped to New York, where he’s going to need some big time help – and a hoopla of luck – to find his way back home.


Something that Bolt had that I hadn’t seen in a long time was such a powerful reliance on strong characters. Mainly we only spend time with four chief characters, resulting in each of them getting to be developed extremely well since they don’t have to share the spotlight with anyone else. The title character Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) heralds back to when the delusional Buzz Lightyear thought he was a space ranger, as Bolt gallivants around the country thinking he’s a super dog. Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus – a HUGELY clever move on Disney’s part) is very concerned about her lost dog and will do anything she can to get him back. She also, like Lilo, has a vast photo collection of pictures she’s taken herself of her and Bolt on their many adventures. Mittens (voiced by Susie Essman) is a rogue alley cat who Bolt mistakes for a television villain, and enlists her to help him find Penny. Rhino the hamster (voiced by Mark Walton) is definitely the crowd favorite, and is Bolt’s biggest fan. Having watched Bolt’s show on TV, he’s ecstatic at the opportunity to join the star on his cross-country search to find Penny.


Like I previously stated, each character gets lots of screen time and has plenty of opportunities for the audience to see many different levels of their personalities. Each of them becomes a dynamic character (meaning that they change emotionally) by the time the movie ends and we certainly feel that emotion. Being a dog owner and having lost my dog before, I could feel Penny’s pain as she longed to see Bolt again, and I just felt each character’s emotions in a way that I hadn’t seen in a Disney movie in a long while. Remember when Stitch felt like an ugly duckling that didn’t belong? That’s the kind of power we see here with the characters.

Not only is emotion involved into Bolt, but comedy is also equally taken into account. I don’t know if I’d agree with billing the film as a full comedy as Disney’s currently doing, but it certainly delivered its fair share of laughs. Aimed to mostly please the younger set, I think the jokes came across as successful: there were plenty of high-pitched giggles all throughout the audience. Several particular instances come to mind when thinking of the comedy side of Bolt, but of course I wouldn’t want to ruin any of the surprises for you.

Bolt is certainly something to get excited about. For the first time in six years, a non-Pixar Disney movie has produced a quality, well-rounded entertainment experience. Colorful character personalities wrapped up in an engaging and solid story are balanced beautifully to create a wonderful film. I couldn’t be more ecstatic.

How do I rank Bolt? (Bolded is my choice.)
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

Bolt will most likely please: Disney Fans – Dog Owners – Preschoolers (ages 3-4) – Kids (ages 5-8) – Older Kids (ages 9-10)

By Blake; originally posted November 26, 2008. All images (C) Disney.