Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Our First North Carolina Meet!

Live in or near North Carolina?

Have we got an evening planned for you! 

Join us on Saturday, April 10 at 6:00 pm for the first 2719 Hyperion Sweatbox. Meet the people behind Imaginerding, 2719 Hyperion and Progress City, USA!

Jeff, Andrew and I will host a discussion on the Disney Studio history as it pertains to 2719 Hyperion. We are calling it Hyperion 101.

Michael and Jeff Crawford from Progress City, USA will be regaling us with a trip report from their recent visit to Walt Disney World. I believe there will be some interesting photos and discussions about what is right and, uh, not right about the theme parks.

We will also have some fantastic giveaways from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (re: DVDs)!

Head over to the official page at 2719 Hyperion. You can also sign up as a guest for the event on Facebook.

Several other NC bloggers/site owners will be in attendance, as well:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Book Update

    Friday, March 26, 2010

    Geek-End Update, Saturday, March 27, 2010

    Have you been checking out Disney This Week at the Main Street Gazette? Ryan has been compiling a list of great posts you should check out, as well!

    Make sure to check out our first 2719 Hyperion meet! Get a chance to meet your favorite NC bloggers and enjoy lively discussion!

      Wednesday, March 24, 2010

      The Spirit of '76 Is Captured!

      I love old postcards. Especially early Disney postcards This postcard is an example of Disney taking a picture as is for use on the card. No doctoring. No models. Just regular people on vacation.

      Make sure to check out the two young ladies on the left side of the card (one has a yellow-orange shirt). Nice pants!

      Big-Brian (one of our North Carolina Disney people) runs an amazing website: Walt Disney World: A History in Postcards. His site is a lot of fun to look at the history of Walt Disney World.

      Big-Brian left a comment on this post which offers great insight into the postcard:
      Another neat thing about this card is that it shows the old "sons and daughters of Liberty" ceremony, notice that there is a little girl between the Drummer and the flag bearer, presumably on the other side of the flag bearer there is probably a little boy, and there would be a proclamation read and the boy and girl would get a commemorative parchment scroll to take home. Even though the Liberty Square Fife and drum corps no longer exists, this same ceremony is performed, in Epcot, by The Spirit of America Fife and Drum corps.

      Monday, March 22, 2010

      Book Update

      I received a review copy of Project Future by Chad D. Emerson. This books has been receiving fairly good reviews and is about a subject that is dear to most of our hearts: the creation of Walt Disney World.
      My wife found this one and it is a large format book of reproductions from the Disney comics.
      With the addition of these two titles, I am up to 286 books in my Disney collection!

      Sunday, March 21, 2010

      Book Review: Walt in Wonderland by Merritt and Kaufman

      Walt in Wonderland: The Silent Films of Walt Disney by Russel Merritt and J.B. Kaufman. 1994, 176 pages (paperback released in 2000).


      Tommy Tucker's Tooth.




      Before Mickey Mouse, these were the characters and films that represented the Disney name. You might be familiar with some of them and a few of them are only known through production notes, stills and roughed-out sketches. Merritt and Kaufman's book is a historical, critical and very satisfying look at the silent films of Walt Disney. It might sound fairly flat to read an entire book on silent films, but it is engaging and very well-written. Not only will you gain insight into the creativity and themes that developed in the first films, but you will come away with a better understanding of the Company and early animation.

      Russell Merritt, PhD., is currently an Adjunct Professor of Film Studies at UC Berkley. In addition to his writings on the silent films and Silly Symphonies of the Disney Company, he is considered an authority on D.W. Griffith. J. B. Kaufman is an independent film historian who has published extensively on Disney animation.

      This title examines all of the known silent films produced by Walt Disney. Starting with the earliest work in Kansas City (1921) to the beginnings of Mickey Mouse (1928). This is the quintessential look at Walt's silent films and should be in every researcher's library. The authors have created a singular treatise on the evolution of Disney animated films from silence to sound.

      In addition to covering the films, Walt In Wonderland is a fairly in-depth look at the beginnings of Walt Disney Productions. From the Kansas City Film Ad to Laugh-O-Gram Films to the first Disney Brothers' Studio on Kingswell Avenue. There are stills from most of the films and a plethora of historical photos of Disney during his first years in the animation field. Scattered throughout the book are production sketches, scripts and early storyboards.

      There are four main sections covered in the book: the importance of The Cat and Rabbit Years, the Kansas City Period, Alice Comedies and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Each section looks in frank detail at the animation and state of the studio at the time. Often underlined is the importance of certain works in the overall scheme of the Disney creative canon.

      Included is a complete list of all of the silent films made by Walt Disney from 1921 to 1928. Many times, the only information available was from eyewitness testimonies, sketches, summary sheets and the collection of private individuals.
      It is hard to look at Disney's work in silent animation apart from the blinding afterimage of Mickey Mouse, the Silly Symphonies, and Disney's subsequent productions. Inevitably, the associations with Disney, the reinventor of fairy tales and amusement parks, the ubiquitous purveyor of American sweetness and light, affect what we look for when we watch the earliest films. Where did it all come from? Where are the clues that reveal Mickey and Snow White lurking in the wings? Were those bourgeois values always there, lurking below the surface like some Faustian devil, or did they only come later with prosperity and creeping middle age?
      --p. 14.
      Merritt and Kaufman do a fantastic job of answering the questions they pose. You will leave this book with a much greater and deeper appreciation for the strides made by Disney and his collaborators.

      Friday, March 19, 2010

      Geek-End , Saturday, March 20, 2010

      Don't forget to check out the second episode of the Progress City Radio Hour.

      Wednesday, March 17, 2010

      St. Patrick's Day Run

      Long before there were Princess half-marathons, Everest Weekends, Tower of Terror 13Ks, Wine and Dine (and stumble) half-marathons and ten years before the inaugural Disney Marathon, there was the St. Patrick's Day Fun Run!

      We just received the results for the 1984 St. Patrick's Day Fun Run!

      According to the Walt Disney World Eyes & Ears (March 29, 1984) over 70 people participated in the two-mile fun run held at Epcot Center on Saturday, March 17. The winners of the fashion show are presented below:

      • Most Original: Mike Bishop and Pete Krajnak, WED
      • Best Epcot theme: George Gorman, Central Shops
      • Most colorful: Carol Rayhill, MIS
      Congratulations to everyone that participated!

      Tuesday, March 16, 2010

      Review: The Princess and The Frog

      The Princess and The Frog

      Heralded as Disney's return to hand-drawn animation, The Princess and The Frog is a lush and beautiful film. Simply voiced characters, a rousing and toe-tapping soundtrack, and a modern take on a classic animated style help to differentiate this film from the most of the more recent CGI fare. This is a fun movie. This is a movie that you will be happy to add to your personal collection. As it stands, it isn't perfect, though.

      By no means is The Princess and the Frog as enchanting as The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast, but it is the closest to that genre Disney has done in a while. We did see The Princess and The Frog a week after its release in a nearly empty theater. I wondered if the Princess promotion had kept a lot of families with younger boys away. After the screening, my boys weren't too excited about the film. They raved about Raymond the firefly and Louis the alligator--more for the slapstick comedy than anything else. When I received my preview copy, it was almost a week before my kids showed any interest in watching. Whereas, with Ponyo, we have watched it three times.

      I enjoyed the film and my favorite segment was when Tiana was singing to her mother about her dreams for the restaurant. In that scene, the animation becomes very stylistic and is awash in tones of yellow and gold. It is a fantastic scene that most CGI films cannot replicate.

      This is a great family movie; boys and girls will enjoy it, but I think it was still aimed at the young girl demographic. Randy Newman, who must be Disney's court composer, adds a tremendous amount of depth to the film. As an American composer, Randy has his fingers firmly entrenched in Americana and it shows. In my opinion, the film is a fantastic return for Disney. After years of suffering in Pixar's shadow and then acquiring Pixar, Disney needed to dust off the animator's board and show what they can do better than anyone else. Let's hope that they are able to build up momentum and work towards creating a 3rd age of Golden Animation. Everyone loves Pixar's films, but they were all very guy-centric films. Not a princess in sight! Disney does Princesses well and they need to continue. We all know that Disney looks at the bottom line and they will quickly shutter the animation studios if people don't buy this Blu-ray.

      The message that Disney pushes in Princess is a modern take on the age-old Wish Upon a Star; you have to work hard to make your dreams come true. It is still a good message and helps put a modern spin on the classic fairy tales. There is a lot of concern for the portrayal of voodoo in the film. I am not sure how this is any different from the Harry Potter series, the Sword in the Stone, Cinderella, Bedknobs & Broomsticks or Mary Poppins.

      This release is available as a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Download package. As with previous releases, this is a fantastic option for families. When we had friends over this weekend, the kids were able to watch the DVD version in another room. This is a fun movie that the whole family will enjoy. It is a definite purchase--go out and buy this one instead of adding it to your Netflix queue!

      Check out Jeff Pepper's review at 2719 Hyperion.

      Friday, March 12, 2010

      Geek-End Update, Saturday, March 13, 2010

      Don't forget to check out Part One of Foxxfur's post at 2719 Hyperion:
      This is an important series for several reasons. There are very few resources that effectively document the early days of Walt Disney World; the Disney Company revels in Disneyland history and tends to gloss over the changes in Walt Disney World. Visually, Foxxfur has collected many hard-to-find images and she presents an astounding collection of photographs from Disney publication and from family vacations.

        Monday, March 8, 2010

        Minnie's Library

        Minnie's House in Toontown Fair is resplendent with details. I caught these book titles during my last visit.

        • My Fair Mouse
        • A Minnie Course in Geneology
        • On Men and Mice
        • Midsummer Mice Dream
        • The Wonder Ears

        AJ at the fantastic Disney Food Blog has a more in-depth look at Minnie's Kitchen.

        I do have to make a special mention of the cookbooks in Minnie's Kitchen:

          Friday, March 5, 2010

          Geek-End Update, Saturday, March 6, 2010

          Wednesday, March 3, 2010

          A Miyazaki Film Fest!

          With the release of Ponyo on Blu-ray and DVD, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is also releasing Special Edition DVDs of three of Hayao Miyazaki's most adored films.

          After watching Spirited Away for the first time in 2001, my family was hooked on Miyazaki's films. We quickly added My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, Whisper of the Heart and his other films to our personal library. We fell in love with the rich storytelling, the amazing animation and the focus on children and families.

          The three films presented here are Miyazaki's more family-friendly films. Notably absent is Spirited Away; I hope that it gets the Blu-ray treatment very soon. And Howl's Moving Castle.

          All three films represent different styles of storytelling for Miyazaki. My Neighbor Totoro is my favorite of the group and is the more family-focused film.
          Follow the adventures of Satsuki and her four year-old sister Mei when they move into a new home in the countryside. To their delight, they discover that their new neighbor is a mysterious forest spirit called Totoro—who can be seen only through the eyes of a child. Totoro introduces them to extraordinary characters—including a cat that doubles as a bus!—and takes them on an incredible journey.
          This is a movie that everyone in the family will enjoy. It is a touching and sweet film full of charm, curiosity and laughs. You will fall deeply in love with Totoro and wish that you could have adventures with your own forest spirit. Even after repeated viewings, I am still amazed at the brilliance of the filmmakers. There are many scenes in the film that American animation studios would bypass or ignore due to the labor and costs. Miyazaki shines in these areas.

          Kiki's Delivery Service is less whimsical than My Neighbor Totoro, but still works in a world of fantasy.
          Kiki is an enterprising young girl who must follow tradition to become a full-fledged witch. Venturing out with only her black cat, Jiji, Kiki flies off for the adventure of a lifetime. Landing in a far-off city, she sets up a high-flying delivery service and begins a wonderful experience of independence and responsibility as she finds her place in the world.
          Although everyone will enjoy Kiki, I feel like it will be accepted more by tween girls and boys. Miyazaki excels at creating strong female leads and Kiki is no exception. The late Paul Hartman does a wonderful job as the voice of Jiji and adds a lot of depth to the film.

          Castle In the Sky will appeal more to the teens and young boys (and us grown-up boys). Miyazaki has crafted an incredibly beautful world that is dominated by flying machines and would make any steampunk or Victorian-era fan very happy. Castle is far more action-packed than the other films, but it is still an amazing story.
          This high-flying adventure begins when Pazu, an engineer’s apprentice, finds a young girl, Sheeta, floating down from the sky, wearing a glowing pendant. Together, they discover both are searching for a legendary floating castle, Laputa, and vow to unravel the mystery of the luminous crystal around Sheeta’s neck. Their quest won’t be easy, however. There are greedy air pirates, secret government agents and astounding obstacles to keep them from the truth—and from each other.
          Disney has taken the opportunity to re-release these films in order to capitalize on the popularity of Ponyo. I am very glad that they have. These are fantastic animated films and deserve to be seen by Disney and animation fans everywhere.

          Cory at Voyages Extraordinaire had the wonderful opportunity to experience the Studio Ghibli Museum on his recent trip to Japan. He asked me if the Special Editions were worth picking up if you already own the original releases. The extras on each disc are similar. Each one has the Japanese Storyboards and a large collection of shorts detailing the production of the film.I have to admit that I really enjoyed all of the featurettes, especially the interviews with Hayao Miyazaki and director Toshio Suzuki. Being able to hear the words of these talented authors (and read them in English subtitles) was fascinating. It truly gave you a sense that they love their work and that they put their heart and soul into these films. It is especially endearing to hear Miyazaki profess how he created the characters based on children that he knew. I would have like to have seen more, but they are a great introduction to the characters, the films and the world of Ghibli.

          These films are wonderful and need to be in your DVD library. With the addition of Ponyo, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, you have an unbelievable animation collection. My Neighbor Totoro is a frequent request at our house. If only we could find our own stuffed Totoro!

          I do feel like I gush a little too much about the Miyazaki films, but most people do, once they see them. And I urge you to see them!

          Monday, March 1, 2010

          Blu-ray Review: Ponyo

          Ponyo (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) 

          Hayao Miyazaki is one of my favorite modern filmmakers. Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and Castle In the Sky are some of our family's favorite films to watch. (How many of you are singing Totoro right now?)

          We were fortunate enough to see Ponyo in the theaters during its theatrical release in August of last year. In my mini-review, I expressed my main concern about the film:
          ...Disney needs to make a film like Ponyo. It is hard to fathom that Miyazaki can create a work that enchants all ages without a major villain. You have to experience Ponyo to understand.  --http://www.imaginerding.com/2009/08/movie-review-ponyo.html
          At the end of the theatrical screening, my ten-year old leaned into me and proclaimed that Ponyo was awesome. The five-year old thought it was one of the best movies ever. After watching the Blu-ray, my wife thought the work was incredibly charming.

          I was thrilled to receive a preview copy of Ponyo on Blu-ray.

          Ponyo is the re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. The main characters are voiced wonderfully buy Frankie Jonas (Sosuke) and Noah Cyrus (Ponyo). Sosuke discovers a beautiful goldfish trapped in a bottle and names her Ponyo. After getting a taste for human life (and ham), Ponyo decides to risk everything to be with Sosuke. This decision creates an imbalance in nature that must be corrected. Filling out the rest of the voice cast are Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett and Tina Fey. All the actors portray strong characters and their voices lend themselves well to the world created by Miyazaki. And what a beautiful world it is.

          Miyazaki departs from his traditional animation to create a lush and beautiful world that is realized through gorgeous watercolors. This movie was amazing on the big screen and shines on Blu-ray. Most of Miyazaki's films share common threads and Ponyo is no different. There is a strong female character (more wild and primitive), a heroic boy without real superpowers, a cry from the environment and a reverence for family relations and elders.

          During discussions on Ponyo, I always come back to the fact that there is no villain in the entire film. At one point, you sense that a character could become a villain, but he is simply protecting his child. It is an amazing feat that a film has been created that works for everyone that watches it--without violence, entendre or slapstick comedy. The characters are believable and grow over the course of the film. The story is not sacrificed for a laugh--yet there will be plenty of smiles and laughter from the audience. Without resorting to contemporary spins to keep grownups interested.

          This is the type of film that Disney should be creating. John Lasseter, chief creative officer at the Walt Disney Company, is a major fan of the films of Miyazaki and has pushed to bring the films to American audiences. Let's hope that Ponyo helps other Studio Ghibli films find shelf space in our homes.

          Ponyo is a film that all Disney and animation fans should own. Especially the Blu-ray Hi-Definition version; the images pop and colors are presented beautifully.

          You will love this film!