Friday, October 31, 2008

Geek-End Update

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Book Review: The Disney That Never Was

The Disney That Never Was: The Stories and Art of Five Decades of Unproduced Animation by Charles Solomon. 1995, 214 pp.

Charles Solomon is a well-known name in animation history and criticism circles. H e has authored articles for Rolling Stone, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, the New York Times and many other publications. He is also the author of two other well-known Disney and animation-related titles: Disney Lost and Found: Exploring the Hidden Artwork from Never-Produced Animation and Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation.

The Disney That Never Was takes us into the Animation Archives to see and read about unproduced shorts and feature films. Solomon has collected sketches, storyboards, concept art and the stories behind the artwork. As stated in the title, we follow the history of unproduced films throughout the studio's long and storied past. Solomon divides the book by genre as opposed to strict chronological order. The groupings are logical when looking at the artwork: Mickey, Donald and Goofy; fairy tales; wartime films; Fantasia and its successors; and miscellaneous films.

Reynard from Chanticleer by Marc Davis
I enjoyed this book and found it wistful and exciting. Solomon explains that the unproduced animation and artwork could have been shelved for any number of reasons: perhaps the story wasn't strong enough; there weren't enough artists to complete the pictures; the characters might not have had the appeal; or it never made it past an initial meeting. The Disney Studio has always well-documented their meetings and has preserved almost all stages of artwork from the animated films. In particular, the Disney artists have always found it inspirational--and helpful--to study the original animation from Snow White and other classic films. When you read this title, you can only imagine how different the animation landscape might look if some of these films had been produced. Some cases make you wonder why the animation was halted.

Goofy from How to Be a Commando, artist unknown.
The Disney That Never Was is a reference tool that you will enjoy studying and reading for many years to come. Solomon is able to provide a fantastic look at how the animation process works and how the studio functioned during the animation heyday of the 1930's and 1940's. In some instances, ideas were shelved and used much later or were the inspiration for other projects. The sections on Chanticleer, Don Quixote and Hiawatha were eye opening about the process--animation-wise and politically--that the animation takes on its circuitous path to the big screen or as it is derailed.

Snake-villain from Hootsie the Owl, artist unknown.

Bottom Line: If you are a fan of Disney animation, then you need to own this book! Charles Solomon has raided the Animation Archives, interviewed animators and researched the stories to bring us some of the most exciting information about Disney animated films that were never produced. Although we only gain glimpses of some films--almost like a tease--there is not another resource that tells this many stories about the films we never saw or heard about until this book.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Geek-End Update, Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fromage Homage

Do you happen to know the secret behind the name on a crate in the queue for the Jungle Cruise? What about the license plates on the cars at the Sci-Fi Dine In? Who is Egroeg Sacul and why does it matter?
A good friend contacted me about a new website, called Fromage Homage. She thought it was a wonderful idea and deserved some help and PR. Fromage Homage is a wiki-based fan site (like an encyclopedia) geared towards collecting the details that honor the creators of the theme parks, movies and resorts. In the words of the owner, Daryll:
I’m really interested in all the little homages in parks and movies to real people, places, and things. It’s just amazing to me the depth that it gives the parks and the feeling it imparts. The more of them I hear of, the more I want to hear. I hadn’t really thought about homages to architecture, as in Foxxfur’s article, but that seems to fit right in. It brings to mind a series of articles I saw on MiceAge by Werner Weiss that compared the facades in the Studios to their California inspirations.

I was just thinking it would be great to have a searchable resource for all these references in the park. I only know a few, and documenting them is a lot of work, so I thought it would be good to open it up to everyone.
It runs just like wikipedia; anyone can add, edit and delete information on the various records.
Stop by, check the out the site and register as a user. This could turn out to be a very important tool for Disney enthusiasts and researchers.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Book Review: The Mouse Machine

The Mouse Machine: Disney and Technology by J.P. Telotte. 232 pages, 2008.

The Mouse Machine was a book that I was very excited to start reading. With a lot of books, you have a certain notion of what to expect between the covers; at first, this book disappointed the theme park fan inside me. When I really got my teeth into it, I realized that this is a work geared towards two types of people: Walt Disney (Company) enthusiasts and animation/film buffs. The theme parks are covered, but in the audio-animatronics area, mainly. Most of the work is dedicated to covering the advances that the House of Mouse created or stumbled upon during its sojourn into popular culture.

Obviously, several high points in the Company's history take precedence: sound, color, multi-plane and special effects are all covered in great detail. The book takes a while to get going and I was tempted to put it away several times. I am glad that I continued. After the first several chapters, you get used to the academic style and start to enjoy and think about the concepts. Telotte's intent was to create a work that showed how the technological leaps were not only to heighten the art form, but also acted as a link to technology and popular culture.
The aim of this book is to follow the company's lead in this regard, to offer a selective look at some of those, often-unseen--or unconsidered-- technological supports or developments that, in film, television, and the theme parks, have been crucial to the success of the Walt Disney Company and, at times, also a clue to its limitations.
--pp. 2-3.
Ub Iwerks and Walt garner special focus, but Telotte also looks at the other pioneers in the various film departments. A lot of time is spent in looking at the development of the animated shorts--how they changed the industry technologically and artistically. Telotte does seem to have a fondness, not only for technology, but for popular culture. The other major section of the book concerns the development of special effects for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He also looks at the development and similarities between 20,000 Leagues and The Black Hole. He offer his thoughts on why the first was a success and the latter, a failure. When Telotte discusses the major technological advances of the company, he does hit all of the milestones of the animation and film development. In the chapter on the theme parks, the focus is on a few of the modern attractions, like: Dinosaur, Alien Encounter and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. Most of the seminal theme park attractions are mentioned in passing or as antecedents with nothing more notable than as technological steps. Telotte tries to show the reader how society accepts the technology of the theme park attractions as part of the show instead of just as technology.

The chapter titles give a good impression of where the title takes us:
  1. Sound Fantasy
  2. Minor Hazards: Disney and the Color Adventure
  3. Three Dimensional Animation and the Illusion of Life
  4. A Monstrous Vision: Disney, Science Fiction, and CinemaScope
  5. Disney in Television Land
  6. The "Inhabitable Text" of the Parks
  7. Course Correction: Of Black Holes and Computer Games
  8. "Better than Real": Digital Disney, Pixar, and Beyond
There is much more to the work than I could cover in a review. Telotte advances many thoughts and concepts that lead to more critical thought about the company. Comparing what Telotte has written to the majority of the Disney literature and you find a competent and exciting work--you just need to get used to the writing style. Most works cover just the people and the art, while we see another side of the company through The Mouse Machine.

Bottom Line: This book is for the animation/film and Disney Company enthusiast. The tone is very heady and academic; most theme park-only fans will not find much of interest. Overall, Telotte adds a very solid work to the body of knowledge on the Walt Disney Company. I am glad I have the book and it adds new perspective to how we think about the monumental progress that the Walt Disney Company is known for.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Destination Disney: Travel Questions and Photo Fun!

At the Destination Disney Travel Program at the Eva Perry Library in Apex, NC, we answered a lot of questions about planning a trip to Walt Disney World, Disneyland and the Disney Cruise Line.

The panel included Stephanie from MouseFan Travel, me and Elizabeth from the Eva Perry Library.

I wanted to share the list of questions that we received. Feel free to answer any that you want in the comments section.
  1. Do FastPasses run out? How do I get them and use them?
  2. How long should I schedule to do the Animal Kingdom?
  3. Where do I eat? (Yeah...that question could have taken all night.)
  4. How far in advance do I need to book dining reservations?
  5. What types of character meals are there?
  6. What are the advantages of the dining plans?
  7. What are the busiest times? What do we do when it is busy?
  8. I need info on the best place to stay at Disney with a party of five?
  9. Will my 6 year-old (who loves the Magic Kingdom) like Disneyland?
  10. Does Disney do Trick-or-treating?
  11. We are driving down. How long is the drive and should we break up the drive with a hotel stay?
  12. When do ticket prices go up?
  13. Can you get multiple FastPasses at the same time and using the same card?
  14. What are the Golden and Dream FastPasses?
  15. What are the best guidebooks?
  16. What do you thing of DisneyQuest?
  17. What types of discounts are available?

The audience was stunned into silence by the depth of our knowledge!

I gave away two copies of Fodor's Walt Disney World® with Kids 2009 by Kim Wright Wriley. The copies were generously donated by Random House. Stay tuned to Imaginerding over the next week; I still have two more copies to give away!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lou's Not So Scary WDW Radio Show!

This week, on the WDW Radio Show, Lou Mongello and I discuss Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party held at the Magic Kingdom. Not only do we talk about the free candy, but we discuss events, tips and what to expect and look forward as you plan your visit.

Show 88, October 12, 2008

You can discuss the show on the WDW Trivia forums.

Don't forget that Andy and I will be making another appearance at the Eva Perry Regional Library in Apex, NC, for a table discussion...on planning a Disney trip!

Planning a trip to Disney World can be stressful, confusing, and overwhelming. Even if you've done it several times before! Join Stephanie Hudson from MouseFan Travel and George and Andrew Taylor from on a panel to answer all your planning questions and help make your next trip the most magical ever.

Word is that there will be a few give-a-ways that evening; special surprises from the Imaginerds and MouseFean Travel!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
7:00pm - 8:30pm
Eva Perry Regional Library
2100 Shepherd's Vineyard Drive
Apex, NC
Call 919.387.2100 for more details.

We will see you there, right?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Geek-End Update, Saturday, October 11, 2008

With the posting of this Geek-End Update, we have reached 550 posts at Imaginerding! Thanks for taking this voyage with us. Besides the fame, fortune and dames--you are the reason that Andy and I do this!


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Book Update!

I picked up a few items while at Walt Disney World last week. (The Disneyland Paris book was an eBay purchase and looks completely amazing!)

  • The Disney Bear: A Day at the Magic Kingdom. This book is a theme park exclusive.
The Souvenir Guides are smaller paperback versions that can be bought seperately or in a boxed set. The boxed set is the only way to get Everything Else in the World. They are also theme park exclusives. I added the Amazon links in case people sell used copies.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Meet the Imaginerds!

Andrew and I will be making another appearance at the Eva Perry Regional Library in Apex, NC, for a table discussion...on planning a Disney trip!

Planning a trip to Disney World can be stressful, confusing, and overwhelming. Even if you've done it several times before! Join Stephanie Hudson from MouseFan Travel and George and Andrew Taylor from on a panel to answer all your planning questions and help make your next trip the most magical ever.
Word is that there might be a surprise or two! Maybe some give-a-ways!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
7:00pm - 8:30pm
Eva Perry Regional Library
2100 Shepherd's Vineyard Drive
Apex, NC

Call 919.387.2100 for more details.
We will see you there, right?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Geek-End Update, Monday, October 6, 2008

I tried to keep up with the blogs while I was at Walt Disney World this week, but it was a very daunting task. The crowds were slight (except for Toy Story Mania) but it was still very hot and humid. We did an interesting social experiment and found that adults can live on pancakes, cheeseburgers and french fries. Plus, lots of soda! I had fun live blogging the attractions that we did and I appreciate all of the comments.

Now, on with the show!

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