Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Waking Sleeping Beauty comes to Philly

I've just returned from a screening of Waking Sleeping Beauty that was held in Philly tonight. I had really been looking forward to this and it did not disappoint. The movie was briefly introduced by Peter Schneider, the producer of the documentary and many other past Disney films. He then stayed around until the end for a Q&A. This was being held at the Prince Music Theatre in Philadelphia. Nice theatre, think older and film festivals.
This was a very good movie. Documentary really. And just as advertised, it was based on the period at the Disney Studio from 1984-1994. The main theme and hearing Peter say it with pride was for him and Don Hahn to create a documentary that had no talking heads. That would be the old people you usually see looking back at a time being discussed in a documentary. None of the video used was made after 1994. There were some new audio talking about that time of course, but the meat of this was all vintage. I'm not going to repeat what's been said, so if you have not yet, please check out the trailer from the movie. Waking Sleeping Beauty Go ahead, click the link, I'll wait. But come back.
The movie actually starts earlier than 1984 in that it talks about the executive moves made at the time. With the hiring of Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg Disney was on their way. What the trailer does not speak about and what I thought really tied this entire movie together was the involvement, business sense and what turned out to be dampening effect that Frank Wells provided. There were three very intense personalities at work at this time. I mentioned Eisner and Katzenberg and add Roy E. also. Each with their ideas of what was in the best interest of the company. Frank seeemed to be there to keep everyone in check. It was truly a big loss when he died. There is a lot of information about this upper branch of management and then there was the video and stories of the animators. Peter mentioned that they got their video from any number of sources. There are some great, funny clips. Up to and including Jeffrey Katzenberg getting mauled by a Lion on stage in Vegas provided by Don Hahn's mom. We go through the history of animation at the time starting with the Black Cauldron and Basil from Baker Street, I mean the Great Mouse Detective. The collaboration of talent for Who Framed Roger Rabbit really started the flow and it did not stop for the next ten years.
This story showed how a group of about 200 people went from working 12 hours a day worrying about being fired and animation dying at the Disney Studio. And then 10 years later a group of about 5000 people working now 16 hours a day trying to keep the fame they had found. Still the trip getting there was anything but dull.
As I mentioned above the movie was followed by a Q&A with Peter Schneider. This was very rewarding because he touched on a number of topics. How Disney might have taken advantage of Tim Burton earlier on better? What did Peter think about Pixar? Could the Princess and the Frog be considered Disney's next Renaissance in animation? Some of the ideas that were discovered using the Gong Show method. And so much more. I had one small issue, though. I would have liked to hear more about the animators than we did. There was a lot of Eisner/Katzenberg/Disney and rightly so, but I can ask , can't I? There were some great clips. I am a big Jerry Orbach fan and they had a clip of Angela Landsbury and him recording for Beauty and the Beast with Howard Ashman. The animators goofing off and discussing ideas were fun to watch also.
Peter did mention that for the cities that did not get a release of this movie, that there is a DVD in the works that would probably be a compilation of this movie along with El Groupo and the Sweatbox and one other Walt Disney Company Documentary. This was truly a great opportunity to learn a little bit more about the company and how it got to where it is today. If you have the chance, see this movie. Click below for Q&A audio.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Discovering Julie Svendsen; Artist and Imagineer

I found this great web site the other night while looking for, I can't remember what. But this was quite a find. I found the site of Julie Svendsen and it really gave me another peice of the large puzzle of Disney History I always refer to. Julie Svendsen is an Imagineer and has quite a collection of work as seen on her site. I had sadly never heard of her before now. She is an artist and designer and her work can be seen around the world. You can catch a sliver of the back of her head in the Walt Disney Imagineering book on page 44 while discussing how to present Figment at Epcot. Her work with the the Disney company was for the parks and it's marketing side with some great toy renderings. One, a cool looking Dug plush from the recent movie Up. Anyway, as I was looking into Julie's career I saw that her parents were both connected to the studios. Julie is daughter of famous Disney artist Julius Svendsen and Disney employee Carol Svendsen. There is quite a story here and I plan to explore this thoroughly. I wanted to pass on Julie's site for now. Her Disney work is incredible and her non-Disney equally so. I am very excited to have found this site and looking foward to learning more. Enjoy her site and check back for what I find.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tech Tweets Mickey at the BetaMouse Podcast

I don't usually review a podcast so soon after it starts, but I needed to make an exception with this one. The BetaMouse Podcast uploaded its first show on Feb. 3, 2010 so it is still young.  But, I always like to point out, that for a podcast to succeed it must find it’s niche. With Disney podcasts it can take a number of shows before the host(s) are comfortable enough and have decided what their focus will be. Not true with the BetaMouse Podcast. Simple and to the core from show #1, their niche is how all of the new Tech. being released can and will relate to the World of the Mouse. In their words, “Born of a friendfeed discussion, the betamouse podcast covers disney/tech stuff with a crack team of disney geeks. We produce weekly episodes.” Even in their About us statement they mention another great tool out there for online chat, Friendfeed. And here are the Disney Geeks:
The Betamouse Podcast is headed up by Henry. Henry is the Web Developer at, the official site of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (ding!). He is also the developer of the Smart Phone app, Lines. This App is amazing because it not only estimates the line wait times for you for all of the WDW parks, it also lets you keep track of live updates of wait times to boot. Not to mention the key information from‘s Crowd Calendar. It’s a pretty nice tool. The price at this point is just right also…Free. Although I am a member of, so charge away.  In all seriousness, there are two or three trip planning resources that I use and is one of them.  And I can vouch for their crowd calendar.  Along with Henry are Jeff, a life-long Disney World visitor and tech. geek. Nate, a former cast member and co-host of the WEDway Radio podcast is also a life-long WDW visitor with plenty of info to share. Scott is the fourth member of the team. He’s a web developer and will be debuting a web site soon at The last but not least member of the team is Katie. Katie has the DVCLife Blog and shares duties with WDW Today’s Matt at the Disney in My Life photo blog.

The BetaMouse team is without a doubt qualified for the topics that are discussed on this show. Their first seven shows covered topics such as location apps in the parks,  going to Disney with your laptop, Camera Gear, and a great Smartphone Survival Guide.  In this guide, they point out places in the parks where you can recharge your phone.  You'll need to listen for those tid-bits.  But I'll tell you now, there is a prime one in the Magic Kingdom that I would never have thought of.  It's great having this new resource to appreciate and learn from.  I've got an Iphone and plan to load it for bear for a couple of up-coming trips to the world.  Mainly sound-recording and Tweets, but we'll see what I hear about next.  That Foursquare and Gowalla sounded interesting on show #7.  Maybe I'll check them out.

If you have any kind of electronics that you take down to the world, or even not as these are a great group to listen to, check out the BetaMouse Podcast.

PS: Cool logo and very aproppriate opening theme song.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Maz Disney Blog Turns Three this Month!

Happy Blog-day to me. Happy Blog-day to me.
Happy Blog-day you Disney Geek.
Happy blog day tooooooo meeeeeeee.

I had a random thought this afternoon, checked it out and confirmed it. The Maz Disney Blog was started three years ago this month. Woo Hoo!  I was really pumped to see that it’s been three years and almost 20,000 hits. I write to this blog mainly for myself. I don't want to torture my family with my non-stop Disney discussions. So as an outlet for that interest I use this space. And follow about 20 or so Blogs. And listen to the same amount of podcasts. And subscribe to a bunch of message boards…Did I mention Disney Geek?

Well I was curious to see what I posted as my first post so long ago and after the requisite intro post the second post was about seeing a caricature of Walt Disney sitting in the audience of the Circus in Dumbo. I had heard about that on the defunct Mousepod podcast and was so excited to see for myself…and there he was. Walt watching DumboIt was fun watching the movie again and then making the video capture and then finding a picture from a similar time. Then putting it all together to share.  I really like the process.  I am a closet historian and what better topic to explore.
Another thought I had was that after three years I should probably have checked my About Me comments and updated them as to where the blog is today. I was very pleased to find that after a read through that I had NO changes to make. I had actually stayed true to my original idea three years ago. “Welcome to the Maz Disney Blog. I am a fan of all things Disney. With this Disney Themed Blog I will pass on any information that I think is interesting. I listen to many podcasts and look for and return to some of the best Disney Blogs on the internet. Along with my own thoughts and experiences, I will also provide links to articles of interest where ever I may find them. So, Have your Ticket ready…Keep your hands and eyes inside the Blog and enjoy your stay.” And yes, I still get a chuckle out of my last line there. Geek.
Where do I see the blog in three more years? I can only answer this by relating how I think I just recently put a handle on the why. Why such interests in something like the Parks or a Company or a Man? Well let’s not forget that, “ was all started by a Mouse…” that was created by a man. And that man, Walt Disney, is quite possibly one of the most intriguing men of the last century. After reading a number of biographies, stories and interviews, I come away with a man who truly changed the world. He did this by instilling such a work ethic mixed with accomplishment that brought out the best in all who worked with and for him and their final products. True it was not always pleasant, but I get that there was such a feeling of accomplishment and teamwork that I can only hope to experience that at some point in my career.  And there is always something new I did not know. 
So here is to first three and to one more year of being another drop in that bottle of animation ink that is made up of all Disney enthusiasts!  Yeah, yeah, maybe a little corny, but the sentiment is right. 
Thanks for checking out the Maz Disney Blog!

Friday, March 5, 2010

So Dear To My Heart: Disney Studio's First Live-Action Movie

In one of my last posts I mentioned a movie that was released in 1949 by the Disney Studio titled So Dear to My Heart. I mentioned it because of a quote from Walt Disney, “So Dear to My Heart was especially close to me. Why, that’s the life my brother and I grew up with as kids out in Missouri.” Based on that quote I put this, never before heard of movie, at the top of my must see list. And as luck would have it, a couple weeks ago I was at the library and took a chance, looked and was happy to see that they had it. During the last snow storm I had a chance to watch it and, you know, it was really good. Right from the beginning credits you are put into the relaxed atmosphere of a simpler life with backgrounds of good ole country, Grandma quality, quilts and the turning pages of a very full Scrapbook. This scrapbook becomes an important storytelling tool as we travel through this movie. Jeremiah (Jerry) Kinkaid, played by Bobby Driscoll, is a young boy living in a turn of the century, small town that could have been anywhere in the US at that time. Jerry lives with his Grandma on a farm alone. They are occasionally helped by Uncle Hiram, the towns blacksmith played by Burl Ives. Burl is best know to this generation as the voice of the Snow Man from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. After seeing a prized race horse one day Jerry sets his heart on the un-realistic goal of somehow getting a colt to raise as his very own prized Race horse. His plans change after the birth of a certain black wooled little lamb. His thoughts and his scrapbook go from prized horse to prized sheep. The story revolves around Jerry raising that lamb and his goal of winning a blue ribbon at the County Fair. There is fun and adventure along with some real fearful moments. Jerry’s scrapbook is used to convey lessons as it transforms into animation through-out the film to teach Jerry the important things in life. One of the better of the scenes is based aroundthe song "It's Whatcha do With Whatcha Got". We follow Jerry and his Grandma played by Beulah Bondi, through the summer and then to the County Fair and suffice it to say a classic Disney ending. As I did some research on this film I un-covered a number of unknown, to me, facts that I think are really interesting. This was the first live action movie out of the studios. I had always though it was one of the Richard Todd movies but it was this movie in 1949. After some initial testing with the movie it was found that an all live-action film from the Disney Studio might not be taken seriously, so it was decided to add the animated scenes. Here is a quote from the actual NY Times review of this movie; “Walt Disney's latter-day practice of intruding ‘live action’ into his films, thus displacing in increasing measure his familiar animated images, has worked out something like the donkey which meekly stuck its head in the door. ‘Live action’ has now taken over his latest feature, ‘So Dear to My Heart.’ Except for brief passages in cartoon, which altogether run for twelve minutes, at most, the bulk of this children's fable, now at the Palace, is in straight ‘live action’ style.” Think about how you felt when Disney released The Darryl Hannah/Tom Hanks movie Splash. At the time it was un-heard of for the Disney studios to release a movie with a PG rating. Back then I remember people talking about how Disney had lost it’s values and worse. But they do it all the time now.
One part of the movie stood out to me in that it showed me what it was like in 1903 and how small towns relied on the train for all kinds of things that we take for granted today. There was so much excitement that the train was stopping at an off schedule time. It was as if the circus had come to town. It was close though, that train was carrying Dan Patch a real prize winning horse of that day. But to see the entire town come out for train makes me see a little better the importance and reverence that Walt had always shown for this form of transportation. Another point that stuck out is the un-settling Disney theme throughout a lot of their pictures, no parents. We never find out what happened to Jerry’s parents to have him being raised by his Grandma. Besides that, this is a very fun, touching and down home type of movie. There is a good story, some great action and even a tear or too. The one scene where Jerry goes looking for his lost sheep, he finally takes to heart a lot of what Grandma has been preaching about. Please find time to see this movie. It was based on a novel by Sterling North. I read on the Daveland Blog that the train station set went to Ward Kimball for his backyard scale train set-up. On a sadder note I followed through on Bobby Driscoll's career after this and later Peter Pan and his un-fortunate end. After the recent Corey Haim death it is sad to see that Hollywood does not learn from it's mistakes. Another, funnier note of the time, the NY Times wanted to make sure all of the Loyal Disney Studio animation fans would be ready for the next feature with the final line of their review: “We are happy to say, as a footnote, that Mr. Disney will fully animate his next long film.” The public is slow to change...