Sunday, June 29, 2008

Book Review: Walt's Time by Robert B. Sherman & Richard M. Sherman

Walt's Time - From Before to Beyond by Robert B. Sherman & Richard M. Sherman. 1998, 252 pages.

The Sherman Brothers need little introduction to Disney fans. Prolific composers of music for films and theme park attractions, they have written some of the most memorable songs in Disney history.

This book, which looks at their long career, finally saw the light of day after the Sherman Brothers met Bruce Gordon and Dave Mumford. Just like The Nickel Tour, publishers felt that there was no commercial appeal in this book. Bruce and David had self-published The Nickel Tour and thought that they could do the same with Walt's Time. The Sherman Brothers, after shopping the book around since 1981, had worked with Jeff Kurtti to have a majority of it written. Bruce and Dave met with Jeff and they agreed to self-publish. The Sherman Brothers were thrilled to work with Bruce, David and Jeff.

The book was created to resemble a scrapbook of their career. It starts with their first day on the Disney lot where they land the title song for the Parent Trap while auditioning a song for the Horsemasters. It then launches through the highlights of a majority of their Disney work. The middle section is dedicated to their father, Al and looks at everything that he published and his successes. During the section on their father, they look at their family history and how Al Sherman influenced his children. It is obvious from Walt's Time that the Sherman Brothers were profoundly influenced by their father and Walt Disney. When the brothers speak of either man, the text is filled with love, gratitude and wonder.

The third section details more of their work with the Disney Company, before and after Walt's passing. It also looks at the body of work they have done since leaving the company. Stage productions, theatrical work and animated films make up the bulk of their work in the '70's, 80's and 90's.

The Brothers spend a lot of time discussing their interactions with Walt Disney and how Walt was an amazing and optimistic person. The song There's a Great, Big Beautiful Tomorrow was inspired by Walt Disney. Their proudest moments include It's a Small World and Mary Poppins. They wrote the songs for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang after receiving Walt's blessings to work on the outside project. Albert Broccoli (producer of the Bond movies) also owned the rights to Fleming's children's novel about the car. Broccoli brought the idea to Walt, who declined saying he had too much on his plate and wanted more creative control. After the success of Mary Poppins, Broccoli gathered most of the creative team that had worked on Mary Poppins. The Brothers were also involved with two of the biggest animated films of the 60's as well: The Jungle Book and Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.

Obviously, the Sherman Brothers' influence has been felt greatly in the theme parks. The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room, Magic Highways, Magic Journeys, Makin' Memories, Astuter Computer Review, the Best Time of Your Life and Miracles From Molecules.
Looking at everything the Sherman Brothers have done is a tad bit overwhelming!
Bottom Line: I enjoyed this book and was completely astounded by how prolific the Sherman Brothers actually are. The book is designed beautifully and features awards, personal recollections and photos from every period of their career (just like a scrapbook!). This is book is clearly for music fans, fans of the Sherman Brothers and fans of Disney films from the 1960's.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Geek-End Update, Saturday June 28 2008

My friend Ray is at Walt Disney World this week and he is loading his Flickr account with some great photos. Check 'em out!

A great shot of Wishes! by Ray.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Freeze Frame! Monster's Inc.

At 2719 Hyperion, Jeff posts Freeze Frames! where he shares hidden details in the various animated films and shorts. The details can be hidden characters, tributes to Disney animators or theme park attractions.

While watching Monsters, Inc. the other day, I caught a glimpse of a few coveted attraction posters from Disneyland. Don't tell Jeff that I am stealing his idea!

During one of the final scenes of Monsters, Inc., you get a glimpse of the Astro-Jets poster hanging above the child's bed. Of course, this is a pre-1964 poster. This kid must really be into Vintage Disneyland or his parents kept it for him. Or maybe he found it on Ebay!

In the second shot, as Mike Wazowski is exiting the child's room, you can clearly see a poster for the Sailing Ship Columbia at Disneyland hanging above the bookshelf.

This kid clearly loves Disneyland.

As has been stated fairly often, John Lasseter is a big fan of the theme parks and worked as a Jungle Cruise Skipper at Disneyland. It is nice to see Pixar pay tribute to two amazing Disneyland Attraction posters.

To learn more about the Astro-Jets, visit Daveland. He has a lot of vintage Disneyland pictures. Daveland also provided the great image of the Columbia attraction poster.

Don't forget to stop by Dave's blog and leave him some Disney Geek love.

Special thanks to Jeff Pepper for providing the inspriation for this post!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Few, The Proud, The Thankful Redux

This week on the WDW Radio show, Lou and Jeff do a DSI (Disney Scene Investigation) on Spaceship Earth at Epcot. Much like their Horizon and Journey Into Imagination show, Lou and Jeff wax poetic about one of their favorite rides. They cover the four different versions and look at the changes throughout the years.

Back in December 2007 at MouseFest, Andy and I had the opportunity to ride Spaceship Earth in preview mode.

Andy did such a great job with the "essay", that I wanted to share it with some of our newer readers! It is obvious from the Radio Show, that Lou and Jeff are very passionate about Spaceship Earth. When you read the following, you gain a better understanding of why Spaceship Earth is such a favorite here at Imaginerding.

The most formative early image I have of the Disney Parks is of Spaceship Earth (SE) when Epcot Center opened in 1982. Seeing ‘the Epcot ball’ on TV inspired my imagination and watered the seedling that was to become my full grown Disney Geekiness. It comes as no surprise that Spaceship Earth has been a must do attraction over my numerous trips since my first visit in 1996. Of course, Spaceship Earth is currently closed for updates. A new and more modern version of the attraction has been promised. Much to my dismay, the planned soft opening for the lou and improved SE is not until Christmas. I cried a single tear when I realized I would have to do without.

The buzz started when rumors of a sneak preview were circulating around the MouseFesters. Lines starting forming around the wooden barriers surrounding the base of SE and remained all day. The rumors became fact when Jessica from If We Can Dream It told us that they had removed a small section of the barrier and had let people preview the ride for an hour on Thursday night, even though it was not yet finished. A new mission was created: ride the new (and incomplete) Spaceship Earth or I would be forced to nail my feet to the floor in Small World for one year.

George and I hung around SE quite a bit over the next few days and always managed to walk away when the attraction would open. Well, as luck would have it (Luck being our friends Ray and Nancy from Grumpy’s Hollow) on our final night at MouseFest, we were able to swing a double ride on SE 2. Allow me to set the scene…

George and I had given up on riding SE and had decided to meet Lou and Jeff in the Japan pavilion for dinner at Yakitori House. Keep in mind that it doesn’t get much further from SE than this. As I was draining the last drops of a large adult beverage to wash down the huge dinner I had just inhaled, the phone rang. I answered it.

"George, It’s Ray. He says the barriers are down around Spaceship Earth and they are letting people on! They saw it from the monorail. What do you want to do?"

Instinctively, like a Cheetah after prey, George sprang up from his chair and shouted “LET'S RUN!” I gave it a millisecond thought and then followed orders, thinking that if I un-ate on the run to SE, I could blame it on George as a stupid idea to eat and sprint. Unfortunately, the springing from the chair is where the cheetah metaphor dies. Imagine two grown men with recently filled bellies running through the park, hurdling strollers and shedding any remaining dignity they had. Remember the scene from National Lampoon’s Vacation where Chase and Hall race across the parking lot towards the entrance of Wally World? I even think Epcot was piping in Chariot’s of Fire over the park loudspeakers.

From the middle of the U.K. Pavilion, we heard someone shout “George!”. It was Mike Newell from MouseWorld Radio and the WDW Today podcast. We had been talking to him earlier outside the closed gates and he was in the same predicament as us. He had waited days with no success. We slowed down just long enough to see a look on his face that said “WOW!” and he shot us two thumbs up. He knew from our frenetic pace exactly where we were going and the two thumbs up was the proverbial banana and Gatorade you always see marathon runners take from people on the side of the race course. The last half mile was a breeze after the abbreviated but enthusiastic review.

We made it just in time to take five deep breaths, then we were on the ride. A young couple got in the same vehicle as us. We all made jokes about the smell wafting back from the front seat where George and I sat drenched from the mad dash. We all sat in somewhat stunned silence at the improvements WDI made to the story. A more linear story and updated scenes made the ride feel much more complete than version 1.0, even though the new version was only about 85% complete.

When we made it back down to the bottom, Ray called and said they had closed the gates and that was it for the night. The cast member who was assisting guests off of the ride saw by my face that the term “Please exit carefully,” did not apply.

“Do you want to go again?” Euphoria…..

The young couple behind us was quiet and the cast member assumed they were with us, so we all rode again. This time was interesting because the ride was mostly empty and we all talked about the improvements and the weaknesses. Although they were not fellow MouseFesters, it was clear they knew their Disney. We all agreed the new animatronics were a significant improvement and felt the new garage scene was deeply cool. And George finally got his library--it was encouraging to know that instant community spontaneously develops all over the place at Disney.

I won’t bore you with my review of the ride because you know I loved it.

Lou and Jeff, thanks for the weird Japanese treats. I think it gave me some sort of strange ginseng boost that helped me leap that last double stroller.

Ray and Nancy, thanks for the save.

When people talk about their favorite rides and attractions, there is always a sparkle in the eye or a smile in their speech. For me, Spaceship Earth has always been a favorite, but it means so much more to me because of the experience that Andy and I were able to share. And because we such awesome Disney friends that helped make that moment happen!

Learn more about the original attractions at Epcot:
Walt Disney's Epcot Center: Creating the New World of Tomorrow

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Book Review: Window on Main Street: 35 Years of Creating Happiness at Disneyland Park by Van Arsdale France

Window on Main Street: 35 Years of Creating Happiness at Disneyland Park by Van Arsdale France. 1991, 129 Pages.

Van Arsdale France, Disney Legend and member of the pre-opening cast at Disneyland, has a window on Main Street at Disneyland (hence the book title). The window was originally installed above the former Tobacco Shop. Currently, the window is above an empty spot between the Magic Shop and Great American Pastimes. Van was at the opening of Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland. He was responsible for the overall development of the training programs and is considered the Founder and Professor Emeritus of Disney University. As recounted in the book, Van hired Dick Nunis as a gofer back in 1955. Years later, Dick would be the president of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Van returned to the company as Dick's staff assistant (professional term of gofer). Lesson learned? Always be nice to your staff--you never know when they might be your boss! Van passed away in 1999 in California.

Published in 1991, Van recounts his long and storied career with Disney. The work is full of anecdotes that are told chronologically. From meeting Walt the first time to the introduction of Eisner and Wells. The book is presented as a biography but is really more of a collection of anecdotes. As Van states, he had tried to publish this book in the 1970's, only to find himself heavily involved in the opening of Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland.He revisited the idea in 1985. With Dick Nunis' approval and Disneyland's 35th Anniversary approaching, Van dusted off and "...reworked that old, dust-covered book." (p. 6)

Van looks mainly at his story at Disneyland. In the beginning, he was hired to create Disneyland's first employee training session--the very first session was attended by Roy Disney, the Vice President of Bank of America and major executives of Disneyland sponsors. Talk about a tough crowd! Roy approved and thus launched the beginnings of Disney training.

In that first session, Van and Dick created the training, the manual and all visual aids on a shoestring budget. The theme was We'll Create Happiness. The rest of the manual includes the following areas:
  • It All Started With a Mouse
  • The Magic Mirror of Your Smile
  • It's Been My Pleasure
  • We Don't Have "Customers", We Serve "Guests"
  • We are "Hosts" and "Hostesses"
  • There's No Such Thing as a "Dumb Question"
  • Everyone's a V.I.P.
  • The Disneyland Look
  • Disneyland Taboos
  • We Work While Others Play
  • Team Work is Essential
From there, Van recounts the major points in Disneyland's history and his opinion and thoughts on those events. For a two-year period, Van left Disney and worked with C.V. Wood on the Pleasure Island Park in Massachusetts and the Freedomland Park in New York. After the hiatus, Van was rehired by Dick at Disneyland. From there, the Disneyland University was officially begun. It would see many changes throughout the years, but the basic philosophy would remain the same. My favorite parts of the book were the stories about Roy; you get the feeling that Roy truly loved Walt and did everything in his power to make all of Walt's dreams successful. Van never saw himself on the creative side and always felt an affinity for Roy and Dick Nunis. It is obvious that these two men were thought highly by Van.

The book is divided into major chronological sections with small stories presented back-to-back. It is a quick and easy read. At various points, you will find yourself laughing out loud. For me, I found myself wishing to be a part of the early years of Disneyland. Van finishes with a look at the changes and excitement brought by Eisner and Wells.

I would like to thank Van--posthumously. If he hadn't decided to keep his "diary," there would be a lot of lost stories. And this book is a great collection of stories.

Bottom Line: This book is a fun and a great look back at one man's long career with Disney but it isn't for everyone. I would recommend this work for the Disney enthusiast that wants to learn more about what it was like working in the organization and seeing how it grew. The anecdotes are charming and you do get a good sense of how Disney grew and evolved over the years.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Geek-End Update

Don't forget about the Carolina Disney Meet on Saturday, June 28.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Carolina Disney Meet!

Join Jeff Pepper (from 2719 Hyperion), Andrew and me for our first Carolina Disney Meet.

We will be meeting at a theater in High Point on Saturday, June 28 for a matinee showing of Wall-E.

Email me (biblioadonis at yahoo dot com) for more information about the theater and time. We hope to see you there!

We are planning other meets across the state, so drop us a line or leave a comment if you want to attend a future event. I think our next meet is actually going to be in the Raleigh area...

Addendum: Several people have inquired about tickets for the movie. The theater does sell advanced tickets. You will need to purchase your ticket in advance through the theater website. I will forward details upon request.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


There has been quite a bit of bathroom talk in the Disney blog-o-sphere recently.

This reminded me of my favorite bathroom at Walt Disney World since I first saw it in 1994.

MouseFest 2007--The Nerdy Boys Pose (and not by the Porsche).

Three Generations of Taylor men. 2001.

Stacy, the youngest Taylor Brother, at Disneyland version, 1998.

1994. The obsession begins!

And why the Prince bathroom? If you have to ask...

The Flickr badge below links to the Disney Bathroom set:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Geek-End Update, Saturday, June 14, 2008

Book Of The Week: Walt's People, Volume 6 by Didier Ghez

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What's On Your To-Do List?

In Mickey's House at Disneyland, there is a bulletin board with a lot of different messages, memos and lists.

Here's one from the Big Cheese himself about how he starts his day!

It seems as if Mickey does more before 7am than most of us do all day!

I wonder how forgetful Mickey might be if Minnie has to send a memo to remind her favorite mouse about their date this Sunday evening!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Walt's People, Volume 6 is Available Now!

Didier at Disney History has announced that the 6th Volume of his amazing Walt's People series is finally available on Amazon.

I reviewed Volume 1 and I have vols. 2-5 lined up on my shelf. Didier has created such an amazing series with the interviews presented. Animators, directors and Imagineers talk about working with Walt and what it was like to work at the Studios.

Many of the interviewees have passed away and the fact that the interviews were captured for future use is truly wonderful. Researchers will treasure this series for a long time.

Didier sent me the list of interviewers and interviewees. It is a very impressive list!

  • Michael Barrier: Carl Stalling
  • I. Klein: The Disney Studio in the 30s'Some Close-Up Shots of Walt Disney during the Golden Years; Golden Age Animator Vladimir (Bill) Tytla; Walt Disney Took Another Giant Step!
  • Steve Hulett: Wilfred Jackson; Eric Larson; Ward Kimball; Ken Anderson; Ken O'Connor; Claude Coates
  • Robin Allan: Claude Coats
  • Christopher Finch: Frank Thomas; Ollie Johnston; Milt Kahl
  • JB Kaufman: Maurice Rapf
  • Richard Hubler: Lillian Disney; Roy O. Disney; Edna Disney; Sharon Disney; Diane Disney Miller; Ron Miller; Dick Irvine; Marvin Davis; Joe Fowler; Roger Broggie; Frank Reilly
  • Dave Smith: Fred Joerger
  • Jim Korkis: Ken Anderson
  • Frank Reilly: The Walt Disney Comic Strips
  • Jim Davis and Alberto Becattini: Ken Hultgren
  • Wes Sullivan: Bud Hester; Iwao Takamoto
  • Gabe Essoe: Larry Clemmons
  • Christian Renaut: Joe Hale
  • Didier Ghez: Steve Hulett
Big names indeed. Not only the people being interviewed, but the interviewers are some of the biggest names in animation/Disney research. How many do you recognize?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Time, Technology and Toys

Glenn, from Passamaquoddy, was on episode 67 of the WDW Radio Show discussing the new Toy Story Midway Mania attraction with Lou Mongello. When I heard the segment, I thought that Glenn had made some great points about the future of Disney attractions. I asked him to expand on the ideas. He agreed and the following post was born!

When a creative group such as Disney makes changes to one of their properties, we scramble to make sense of it. Why we seek to understand it is something for another discussion. Now, with the addition of TOY STORY MIDWAY MANIA to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, everyone rushes to not only understand and make sense of the thought process, but also to pop as many of Bo Peeps Balloon animals as possible in 30 seconds.

Examining a new attraction solely on its own 4 walls only allows for basic speculation. But with Disney theme parks making an impact on the world for over 53 years, this new attraction is suddenly supported by a long, involved history. For example, back on July 17, 1955 Disneyland opened with many attractions that are long gone. How many of you remember THE ALUMINUM HALL OF FAME?… I’m not making that up.

In 1959, technology and a lot of slide rule math allowed for the creation of the MATTERHORN BOBSELDS. In 1978 The Matterhorn Bobsleds’ saw the introduction of the Yeti. This abominable snowman still remains today to add some “theming” to the thrill attraction. In 2006 across the country in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, EXPEDITION EVEREST opened with another snow covered mountain and a Yeti to spice up the thrills. Over the course of the 47 years between the Matterhorn and Everest attractions, technology made for incredible advances in entertainment that makes the two incomparable. But are there technological ‘steps’ along the way?

When the Disney parks began, it was made up mostly of exotic forms of transport. Visitors would enter Disneyland to ride a train replica, miniature ‘flying’ saucers, keel boats, canoes, and even a mule train. Soon after opening, the Disneyscape was dominated by dark rides done as only Disney animators could imagine them.

Jump forward to 1982 and the grand opening of Epcot Center and we see something different. The 2 minute dark rides have grown into 10-45 minute rides that inform and educate. The technology had changed enough that it felt we were in a new era of attractions, even if they were still “dark rides”. They were larger and often incorporated new advances such as large screen projections. HORIZONS, SAPCESHIP EARTH, WORLD OF MOTION, and JOURNEY INTO IMAGINATION are technologically in a different league then PETER PAN’S FLIGHT, IT’s A SMALL WORLD and SNOW WHITE’S SCARY ADVENTURES…

The parks continued to grow and morph revisiting technologies and trying new things including a strong reliance on interactive films. 3-D technology had been around for decades, but it now allowed for the experience to be much more immersive and it frankly had stronger results. Potentially easier and less expensive to update, the films kicked into full gear with MAGIC JOURNEYS – a surreal experience through a child’s eye view of a frolicking day, mixed with German expressionism… I told you it was surreal. Eventually CAPTAIN EO saved the world from that. Even the Muppets got their feltprints into the act with a more interactive experience.

The next trend seemed to be the ride simulator. A small room built on a rotating gimble timed with a projected film seemed to be safer and much more financially feasible then building a new roller coaster to bring in the crowds. STAR TOURS and BODY WARS began the trend. Attractions like Disneyland’s INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF THE FORBIDDEN EYE or the Animal Kingdom’s COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION took the simulator out of the closed theater and placed it on a moving track within a good old dark ride- with all the technological advances it had coming. This seems to have culminated with California Adventure’s SOARIN’, an even more spectacular reimagining of the interactive film and simulator.

So what does the future hold? Of course, we can only speculate. In this day of personal handheld devices and video games that are strong enough to control a medium sized country, imagineers know it is obvious that they must continue to become more interactive, more immersive. Guests will no longer be bowled over by witnessing an experience from the outside. They must now be the story - which brings us to TOY STORY MIDWAY MANIA.

In this new attraction, guests are shrunk down to the size of a toy, challenged to a competition by an interactive Mister Potato head, and thrust into a miniature world filled with addictive video game challenges. The guest is now the story.

We are the story.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Geek-End Update, Saturday, June 7, 2008

Book of the Week: Spinning Disney's World: Memories of a Magic Kingdom Press Agent by Charles Ridgway

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Under Construction

Jason, over at Disneyland Nomenclature sent me a copy of a picture he had taken while Disney's California Adventure was under construction. This particular picture was taken in the Esplanade.

Jason sent it to me after seeing a post I did a few weeks ago.

I really love how it looks like an archaeological dig. You can see a show building and the facade of Disney's California Adventure in the background.

Jason is compiling a Disneyland Encyclopedia at his site. Make sure to head over there and leave him some Disney Geek love!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Attack of the Podcasters!

Join Lou, Glenn and I on the WDW Radio Show this week for a roundtable discussion about attending the upcoming Star Wars Weekends at the Disney Hollywood Studios.

The discussion veers, generally, from planning to Jawa jokes to lightsaber discussions. We also throw in a few hidden Star Wars quotes. See if you can identify them all!

Glenn, George, Lou and discuss the merits bringing your own bodyguards to Star Wars Weekends.

Or...You will not find a more wretched podcast of scum and villainy!

Oh, by the way...send Lou and e-mail and tell him that he should have George (and Glenn) back on the show more often!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Book Review: Walt Disney World, The First Decade

Walt Disney World, The First Decade (1982, 128 p.)

Looking for a fairly inexpensive and photo-filled look at the first 10 years of Walt Disney World?

This book is for you!

A cross between an annual guide, PR piece and corporate history, this is a fascinating look at the first ten years (well, it does cover the construction--closer to the first 15 years) of the Walt Disney World project. As per most titles on the subject, there is general coverage of the Company, Disneyland and the early progress on Walt Disney World. After the introduction, the book takes off on a leisurely, but extensive, look at everything during the first ten years.

The book focuses heavily on the Magic Kingdom and looks at each land in detail--with descriptions and lots of pictures. In-ride photos, photo-ops with celebrities from the 1970's and views of the park make up a majority of the pictures. Trust me, you will open this book many times just to take a virtual trip back to a Magic Kingdom that is no more.

Remember the Greenhouse on Center Street?

The Contemporary and Polynesian Resorts each get about five pages apiece in their coverage; lots of views of the lobbies and guest recreation areas. It is one of the few places to get basic info about the Golf Resort, the Lake Buena Vista Resort Community, the Village Marketplace and it is also one of the few places where you can visit River Country one last time. Fort Wilderness and the Tri-Circle-D Ranch are covered in wonderful detail. The photographs and details available in this book about the Walt Disney World resort are simply astounding.

What is really going to excite the Disney Geek is the behind the scenes information that Disney was so keen to publish before Epcot. Especially when they were trying to show off the new technologies that were promised as a result of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The state of the art reservation center, the Central Energy Plant, the water reclamation center and the environmental planning (canals, ecology and conservation) are all given coverage.

The very last section is a short look at Epcot. Can you spot the missing Pavilion in the picture?

Bottom Line: This is a wonderful read and a must for every Disney Geek. If you were able to visit Walt Disney World before 1985, many of the descriptions and pictures will be a walk down memory lane. If you weren't lucky enough (or born yet) to visit Walt Disney World in the 1970's, then this book will provide many of the details of lost attractions, shops and aspects of WDW that are long gone or have changed. It is a look back a simpler, more relaxed Walt Disney World. From the standpoint of historical documentation (even though it is corporate), this book is a must for any serious scholar of Walt Disney World.

It looks like every copy I had linked to sold out, so I pulled the other Amazon links and added them to the page. Get 'em while they're hot!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What to Get a Geek!

We celebrated Andrew's birthday this weekend. If he asks you, remember, I told you that he is 29.

Last year, I bought him a book and DVD. This year, we raised the stake a little.

Special thanks to Jessica for helping to secure the beautiful print!