Animation, Disney Films, History, Uncategorized

Today in Disney History: The Skeleton Dance

The Skeleton Dance was the first animated short in Disney’s Silly Symphony series, produced in 1929 by Walt Disney and animated by Ub Iwerks. 
The Story

The storyline is simple. After an opening that includes an hooting owl, a howling dog, and screeching black cats (classic spooky characters), four skeletons awake from their graves and begin to dance to classical music in a graveyard. The skeletons play some of the music with makeshift instruments, including a cat as a bass and one of their own as a xylophone. They use each other as pogo sticks and disassemble and reassemble themselves in humorous ways. At the crow of the rooster, they race back into the grave before morning.

The Skeleton Dance is highly regarded in the animation industry. It was named as number 18 in The 50 Greatest Cartoons, a 1994 book by historian Jerry Beck.

Silly Symphony Series

The 75 Silly Symphony shorts were produced from 1929 to 1939, and were each set to classical music. Flowers and Trees, the 29th short in the series, won the first Academy Award for Animated Short Film.

History, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Things We Take For Granted at Walt Disney World

We visited our local amusement park a few weeks ago, and when we ordered a fountain drink, we watched the vendors struggle to find enough ice to fill our cup. This got us thinking, that would never happen at Disney. What else do we take for granted at Walt Disney World?

Cleanliness

Walt Disney Picking Up Trash
Walt Disney picking up trash at Disneyland

Staying clean is an important characteristic of Disney parks that separates them from other parks. Of course, that idea started with Walt. He wanted his parks to be so clean that people would be embarrassed to throw anything on the ground. While that wish hasn’t come true, it is true that Walt Disney World cast members (AKA employees) all pitch in to keep the parks clean. Cast members at all levels, from ride operators, to managers, to executives are required to pick up any trash they see as they walk through the parks. One of the hardest things to clean is gum – so you won’t find any for sale on Disney property.

Trash Cans

Trash Cans Close Arrows Resized
Trash cans all around, helping keep trash off the ground.

To minimize the need to pick up wrappers and waste, trash cans are strategically placed at Disney parks. Walt Disney, after studying guests at other parks (and reportedly seeing how long it took him to finish a hot dog while walking), placed trash cans no more than 30 steps away from any spot to encourage people to throw away their trash instead of dropping it on the ground. While this doesn’t stop all trash from being left where it doesn’t belong, it definitely reduces it. A clean park is one factor in an amazing guest experience.

Camouflage

Disney parks go to great lengths to hide the behind-the-scenes workings. From the utilidoors that keep Magic Kingdom operations “underground,” to scenery that hides the infrastructure, it’s truly an immersive experience. Compare that to most amusement parks where, as you navigate the sections of the park, you can see service vehicles, the fence at the edges of the property, or electrical boxes. Seeing those things isn’t bad, but changes the experience. It’s Disney’s attention to these details that make you feel as if you are in another world.

Friendly Cast Members

IMG_54041
This cast member at Sweet Spells at Hollywood Studios gave our son a free Mickey Mouse cookie!

More times than not you’ll see a friendly face at park gates, restaurants, rides, and more. It’s all part of the experience Disney is trying to create. Cast members go through intensive training and have strict rules around interacting with park guests. At our local park, I wouldn’t say the employees are mean, just indifferent and doing their jobs.

Anything else?

We just returned from our most recent trip to The World, and had a better appreciation for the immersive experience Disney creates. What else do we take for granted at Disney parks?

Disney Films, History

Today in Disney History: Flowers and Trees Released in 1932

 

Flowers and Trees
Flowers and Trees Theatrical Release Poster

Flowers and Trees, released on July 30, 1932, is part of Walt Disney’s Silly Symphony series of cartoon shorts. Set to classical music, the film features flowers, trees, mushrooms, birds, and other living things waking on a lovely spring morning. Two young trees are in love, and a third, older tree is clearly jealous. The older tree starts a fire in anger after losing a fight, but the birds are there to save the day.

 

Flowers and Trees was the first commercially released film to use three-strip Technicolor, which helped propel the film to win the first Academy Award for Animated Short Subjects. Walt Disney would go on to win this category with other short cartoons the next 10 out of 11 years!

There are 75 short animated films in Walt Disney’s Silly Symphony series. Familiar titles include:

  • The Skeleton Dance (1929)
  • The Ugly Duckling (1931)
  • The Three Little Pigs (1933)
  • The Wise Little Hen (1934) – The first appearance of Donald Duck
  • The Tortoise and the Hare (1935)

The Silly Symphony series gave Walt the freedom to experiment with animation, special effects, and story telling. This undoubtedly paved the way for his future success in full-length animated films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was released in 1937.

 

History, Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World

Today in Disney History: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Opens at WDW

On July 29, 1999, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith opened at Disney-MGM Studios – known today as Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A special, invitation-only, party was held and attended by contest winners and members of Aerosmith, who are featured in the ride. You can find Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at the end of Sunset Boulevard next to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

 

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
Exterior of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster featuring a giant guitar

 

The Queue and Launch

As with most Disney attractions, you are immersed in a story. The queue begins with a tour through music memorabilia that leads to Aerosmith’s recording studio. Guests watch the band rehearse until they are interrupted by their band manager, warning them they are going to be late to their show. Steven Tyler objects to leaving the guests behind, and convinces the manager to call a limo and provide back stage passes. She reluctantly agrees and calls for a stretch limo, pauses a moment, then says, “make that a super stretch.”

Doors open to the “parking garage” where, on the other side of a chain-link fence, you can watch the “limos” speeding off to the concert, reaching speeds of 58 mph in less than 2.8 seconds. The excitement builds as it’s your turn to board the limo. As you face the tunnel into the ride, you are reminded to keep your head back (very important!). Steven Tyler counts down, “5, 4, 3, 2” (skipping 1) and you speed off into the ride.

 

Aerosmith Studio
Aerosmith Rehearsing in Their Recording Studio

 

The Ride Experience

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is exclusively an indoor ride, and mostly in the dark. As if you are on a highway at night, you pass neon road signs directing you to the show. The ride features three inversions, a roll over with two inversions, and later, a corkscrew. The ride ends when you reach the VIP parking area for the concert. You head “backstage” which, in true Disney fashion, leads to a gift shop.

Ride facts:

  • Launches guests from 0-58 mph in less than 2.8 seconds.
  • Takes riders through three inversions.
  • Features five “limos” that have their own license plates and sound tracks.
    • 1QKLIMO – “Nine Lives”
    • 2FAST4U – “Sweet Emotion”
    • BUHBYE – “Young Lust, “F.I.N.E.*” and “Love in a Roller Coaster”
      HBTRFFC
      – “Back in the Saddle,” and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)”
    • UGOBABE – “Love in a Roller Coaster” (custom version of “Love in an Elevator”) and “Walk This Way”
  • Is currently sponsored by Hanes.
  • Both Fastpass + and single rider lines available.
  • Test Track at Epcot is the only faster ride at WDW – 65 mph.

 

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is one of my favorite attractions at Walt Disney World. The high-speed launch beats a traditional coaster lift hill any day in my book. The theming is creative and detailed, and the music adds to the excitement. The only change I would make would be for it to be longer. Do you enjoy Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster? What is your favorite ride at Walt Disney World?

Uncategorized

Legendary Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar dies at 83.

marty_sklar
Marty Sklar

Legendary Disney imagineer Marty Sklar has passed away in his Hollywood Hills home, he was 83. Marty was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1934 and was a student at UCLA when he began the 1950s themed newspaper The Disneyland News. He began working at Disneyland full-time upon his graduation and his illustrious career with Disney spanned 54 years. In 1961 he moved from Disneyland to WED Enterprises (later renamed Walt Disney Imagineering) where he worked on numerous attractions for the 1964 World’s Fair. Most notably, he worked on the design for the iconic attractions “The Enchanted Tiki Room” and “It’s A Small World”. For the next ten years, Marty wrote  marketing materials that were used in television, special films, and publications by Walt Disney himself. Former Disneyland International chairman Jim Cora said of Sklar, “He understands the Disney way because he learned it at Walt’s knee. He is the keeper of the keys, the conscience, the Jiminy Cricket for the organization.”

In 1974 Marty became Vice-President of concepts/planning, then vice-president of creative development, executive vice president and then president of Walt Disney Imagineering. It was in this role that he was able to make his lasting mark. He supervised the design of numerous Disney theme-parks, including Epcot Center (now Epcot), Tokyo Disneyland, Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios), Disneyland Paris, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney California Adventure, Tokyo Disney, the Walt Disney Studios Park, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Marty retired as Executive Vice-President and Imagineering Ambassador on July 17, 2009, Disneyland’s 54th birthday. Disney marked the occasion by presenting Sklar with the one of the company’s highest honors, a window on Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland.

When asked about the legacy left behind by Marty Sklar, Walt Disney Chairman of  Parks and Resorts Bob Chapek said, “Marty was the ultimate Disney Imagineer and Cast Member. From his days working as an intern with Walt to just two weeks ago engaging with fans at D23 Expo, Marty left an indelible mark on Disney Parks around the globe and on all of the guests who make memories every day with us, he was one of the few people that was fortunate to attend the opening of every single Disney park in the world, from Anaheim in 1955 to Shanghai just last year. We will dearly miss Marty’s passion, skill and imaginative spark that inspired generations of Cast, Crew and Imagineers.”

Bob Weis was one of those Imagineers. “Marty was one of Walt’s most trusted advisors and helped turn his most ambitious dreams into reality. For us, it’s hard to imagine a world without Marty, because Marty is synonymous with Imagineering,” said Weis, President, Walt Disney Imagineering. “His influence can be seen around the world, in every Disney park, and in the creative and imaginative work of almost every professional in the themed entertainment industry.”

sklar-window
Marty Sklar window, Main Street U.S.A. Disneyland

Marty Sklar’s impact on Disney and his achievements were rewarded with numerous awards and accolades. In 1995 he was awarded a lifetime achievement award from the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2001, Sklar was recognized as a Disney legend. In 2016 he was awarded the Diane Disney Miller Lifetime Achievement Award from the Walt Disney Family Museum. In addition, Sklar was inducted into the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Hall-of-Fame.

Marty is survived by his wife of 60 years, Leah; son Howard and his wife, Katriina Koski-Sklar; grandchildren Gabriel and Hannah; daughter Leslie; and grandchildren Rachel and Jacob.

Marty and Leah were two of the founders of the Ryman Program for Young Artists, a project of Ryman Arts, a nonprofit foundation whose purpose is to teach and mentor “traditional” drawing and painting skills to talented young artists in Southern California. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Marty’s name to Ryman Arts at www.rymanarts.org.

 

 

Hollywood Studios, News, Quick Service, Walt Disney World

Baseline Tap House Opening in New “Grand Avenue” Area at Hollywood Studios

If you’re anything like us here at Word Of Mouse, visits to Disney’s Hollywood Studios typically do not include a whole lot of time spent eating. Although there are some popular table service restaurants, such as 50s Prime Time Cafe, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante (try the flatbread!), and The Hollywood Brown Derby, there are very few choices to grab a quick bite and get back on your way.

That may be about to change. Opening this fall will be a re-imagined area at Hollywood Studios known as Grand Avenue. Grand Avenue will showcase modern-day Los Angeles and will include vintage office buildings and warehouses representing different cultures from around the city.

Opening up in this area (in the building which used to be Writer’s Stop) will be Baseline Tap House. It will specialize in food and drinks from California, including craft ales, lagers, and cider. California wine and specialty cocktails will also be available. There will also be non-alcoholic choices to round out the drink selections.

 

Baseline Taphouse
(C) Disney

If you are coming in hungry then you will not be disappointed. Baseline Tap House will be serving small plates including Bavarian pretzels with beer cheese fondue, and spiced almonds. Also available will be a charcuterie board featuring a selection of California cheeses.

 

Baseline Tap House will open daily at 11 AM although no official opening date has been set.

 

History, News

Today in Disney History: Treasure Island

 

Treasure_Island_(1950_film)_poster
Treasure Island Poster

On July 19, 1950, Walt Disney Productions released Treasure Island, the studio’s first completely live-action film. This pirate tale was based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel of the same name.

 

The film stars Bobby Driscoll as Jim Hawkins, a young boy who is given a treasure map belonging to buccaneer Captain Flint. Jim becomes part of a crew that sets off to follow the map to find the pirate’s lost treasure. Before they can depart, Long John Silver joins the expediton as the ship’s cook and helps hire the crew.

Jim discovers that Long John Silver and the crew, who were actually Captain Flint’s former crew, plan mutiny. Jim warns the captain, who is successfully able to stop the mutiny attempt.

A series of “piratey” events ensue, leading to the revelation that the treasure has been moved to a cave. The cave is found and Long John Silver manages to row away with one of the chests of treasure.

Treasure Island was filmed in England and released in the US on July 19 and in London on July 22. A sequel, not produced by Disney, was released in 1954 and continued the pirate adventures of Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver.

Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series was certainly influenced by Treasure Island. In addition to general pirate lore:

  • Barbossa naming his monkey Jack after his former captain Jack Sparrow.
  • Gibbs sings part of a song from Treasure Island.
  • Barbossa and Long John Silver are both feared as one-legged men.

Treasure Island has been released several times in different formats. Time to find a copy and watch this piece of Disney history!

D23 Expo, News

D23 2017: The Top Questions We Hope Are Answered

Ahead of the 2017 Disney D23 Expo, many rumors swirled around the internet about what will be revealed. Yesterday began with the unveiling of an amazing Star Wars Land model that shows the amazing detail planned for this new land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We also learned more about Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, and Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck It Ralph 2. Today, we expect to get more of the big questions addressed. Here are the top questions we hope are answered this weekend.

D23 Expo

Epcot:

What changes are coming for the Epcot entrance plaza? This area has received little change since opening in 1982, and could definitely use an update. We are hearing the Leave a Legacy sculptures will be moving, which would open up the area and make room for something new and modern.

Will Journey into Imagination with Figment be overhauled with new Inside Out theming? If this one is true, we hope Figment remains in the attraction – he’s one of our favorite characters.

Is a new country being added to World Showcase, and it will be Brazil as the rumors say? The area between Italy and Germany would be the prime space for this new pavilion and Brazil would be the first South American country at Epcot.

Will Guardians of the Galaxy be replacing Ellen’s Energy Adventure? We can only hope! No offense to Ellen and Bill Nye, but this attraction is very outdated and takes up a lot of space in Future World that could be better utilized.

 

Hollywood Studios:

Is The Great Movie Ride going to be replaced with a new attraction based on Mickey Mouse? Mickey definitely deserves his own ride. After all, where would we be without him?

Will Hollywood Studios be getting a new name soon?  This park began a MGM Studios, and got its first name change in 2008. In 2015, CEO Bob Iger confirmed that a name change was in the near future due to all the changes coming to the park. A rumored candidate for the new name is Disney’s Movie Adventure.

 

What Else?

We are sure to hear updates for Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, and beyond the parks. What updates are you looking forward to hearing out of The D23 Expo this year? Follow along with us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for the latest news.

 

Magic Kingdom, News

Disney World 4th of July Fireworks Live Stream

Disney World will live stream its 4th of July fireworks, “Disney’s Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky,” from Magic Kingdom tonight at 8:55. Head on over to the Disney Parks Blog (look for their most recent post) to watch the show if you can’t be there in person. Fireworks will begin at 9:00.
Enjoy!

Disney Springs, News

Farewell to DisneyQuest

Walt Disney was a man who believed in innovating and always moving forward, so it should come as no surprise that changes are always being made around the Walt Disney World Resort. Today, a big and emotional change is happening as we say farewell to DisneyQuest.

DisneyQuest

DQ Animation Academy Donald
Animation Academy Donald Duck

DisneyQuest opened on June 19, 1998 as a part of a large expansion to Downtown Disney West Side. When it opened, DisneyQuest was ahead of its time. Spawning over 100,000 square feet and five floors of electronic games and virtual attractions, there was something for everyone. Guests could paddle down the river on a virtual Jungle Cruise, score big points on the life size pinball game Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam, jump behind the wheel on one of eight linked Daytona USA racing consoles, and learn to draw popular Disney characters at Animation Academy. Guests could even design and experience their very own roller coasters on Cyberspace Mountain, or practice their aim on Buzz Lightyear’s AstroBlasters.

 

AstroBlasters

DQ AstroBlasters Area
Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters

Few Disney attractions hold as many positive memories for my family as Buzz Lightyear’s AstroBlasters. Best described as a cross between bumper cars and dodge ball, players would board their enclosed vehicle, collect asteroids (AKA foam balls), and fire them at other vehicles to disable them. This attraction wasn’t one we would typically put on our list, but all of that changed after our first time playing. AstroBlasters became one of our favorite attractions in all of WDW.

Personally, I love this ride because my daughter loved it and it was something that we could do together, as a team. I was the pilot and she was the very hungry gunner. We didn’t just play, but we were students of the game. We studied the best way to maneuver around the arena, most efficiently fire our asteroids, and even pick out newbies to shoot at. We loved the disappointment on their faces as their vehicle would light up and spin out of control. Occasionally this would result in retaliation, but that was the price of playing. We would spend hours and hours in those ride vehicles, stopping only for the occasional mango-strawberry smoothie, or to take a picture picking Buzz Lightyear’s nose on the rules sign in front of the game.

DQ AstroBlasters Buzz Nose 2
Picking Buzz Lightyear’s Nose

Future

All of these times are just memories now as we are forced to say “so long” to this once iconic place. Unfortunately, years of falling into disrepair, and more technologically advanced attractions going in elsewhere around property, have driven attendance numbers down and have forced DisneyQuest to close its doors for the final time. However, in true Walt Disney fashion, a new attraction is planned for this space on the Disney Springs West Side. Work will begin on a multi-year transformation from DisneyQuest to the NBA Experience. According to the Disney Parks blog, the NBA Experience at Walt Disney World Resort will be, “a one-of-a-kind basketball-themed experience featuring hands-on activities that put guests of all ages right in the middle of NBA game action. There will be immersive NBA video productions and numerous interactive experiences, as well as a restaurant and a retail store.” On the heels of news that Walt Disney World will be the jersey sponsor of the Orlando Magic, this attraction appears to be a perfect fit and will appeal to basketball fans young and old.