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Posted on Sep 16 2008 by Greg

"One of the things that was difficult for me in doing this movie is, how do you make the events of the film feel real, especially since they're very much like an animated film and the things we ask of the actors are very much like animated characters?

"And me coming from an animation background, it was all about how do I make it seems like these events really happened in the real world but yet still have an edge of, sort of, fantasy to them and make them feel like they're like maybe they did happen but maybe they didn't happen like it's sort of a fairy tale."

This is a quote from director Kevin Lima, but not from the commentary track on Disney's Enchanted, because that DVD did not contain one. Not even on the Blu-Ray, which might have converted some of us to the new format. Actually, it is from his commentary on the just-reissued 102 Dalmatians, which was Lima's first feature. It's interesting to hear his philosophy and how it carried so beautifully into the later film.

"I think here you sort of see the juxtaposition of what I'm talking about -- the characters are doing the kind of things that animated characters would do -- the way she wipes his mouth, the way he offers the meatball and she kind of makes fun of him a little bit for being so sincere about it. Those are things you would typically only see in an animated film and I thought a lot about whether or not those things would come across in a live-action film where people expect things to seem real."

My humble little review of the 102 Dalmatians DVD reissue is right here.

"Just when you think that you know where you changes."
Posted on Sep 04 2008 by Greg
Above is a quote from the touching Sherman Brothers song, "It Changes," from the second Peanuts theatrical feature, Snoopy, Come Home. Both this film and its predecessor, A Boy Named Charlie Brown had unforgettable effects on me.

I'll never forget entering the huge, dark Miracle theater in Coral Gables, Florida, in 1970 to see the first Peanuts feature. I was late and came in during the rapid-fire split-screen baseball sequence.

It was an incredible thrill to see those characters animated on the large screen, to hear the voices of Peter Robbins and Pamelyn Ferdin, the music of Vince Guaraldi, Rod McKuen and John Scott Trotter -- but most of all, that unmistakable graphic style with which Bill Melendez augmented the gentle simplicity of his comic strips. It was almost too glorious to behold. Plus, the film had loads of innovative experiments: a Fantasia-like Beethoven sequence, Snoopy skating at Rockefeller center one minute and playing hockey with color-treated live action athletes the next, and the credits showing everyone on screen as their names appeared.

Snoopy Come Home conjures its own set of memories, the magnificent Sherman score, the hysterically funny expression Snoopy makes when Clara renames him "Rex," and inclusion of one of my favorite Schulz gags, in which Charlie Brown simply throws a rock into the ocean, Linus tells him it took thousands of years to get on shore, and CB saying, "Everything I do makes me feel guilty."

Such was the creative marriage of two giants -- Schulz and Melendez. Though both are sadly passed now, their legacy will outlast much of today's pop culture flotsam. We are the luckier for living in the same world with them.

Over on Cartoon Brew, someone recalled watching Snoopy films on a toy viewer. It brought back to mind the Christmas of 1975, when my big gift was going to be Kenner's Snoopy Drive-In Movie Theater. Through this rear-projection device and Kenner's hand-crank viewer, people like me could marvel at Melendez's animation studios work in exquisite detail, as there was no home video 'way back when I lived next to the Rubbles.

My mom was apprehensive about getting the Snoopy Drive-In for me as a Christmas gift because of the flack she might have to take from some of our less-than-supportive relatives (I was "too old" for such an item. Ask me if I care, even now.) To her loving credit, she bravely faced their disdain and I was given this wondrous treasure for Christmas.

I still have it and my kids love it. The joy that people like Charles Schulz and Bill Melendez create for others lives forever, long after those relatives are forgotten.

Posted on Aug 28 2008 by Greg
While watching the extras for the new direct to DVD Little Mermaid: Ariel Goes to College (just kidding, couldn't resist) Ariel's Beginning, seeing the great Sam Wright on the extras reminded me that he long before he voiced Sebastian for various Mermaid projects, he also was featured in a Broadway show that should be remembered and perhaps revived called Over Here!

A starring vehicle for the remaining Andrews Sisters, Patty and Maxene, the 1974 show was the first Broadway venture for Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. They really wrote an outstanding score that suggested the musical styles of the 1940s but stood on their own as great songs with that distinctive, somewhat more sophisticated, Sherman touch. If you love "Zuckerman's Famous Pig," you'd love, "Hey, Yvette." If you love "Boogie Woogie Bakery Man," you'd love "The Big Beat" and "Charlie's Place."

And here's the kicker -- John Travolta sings a great song, "Dream Drummin.' Other before-they-were-famous cast members include Treat Williams, Marilu Henner and Ann Reinking, who performed "Charlie's Place" on The Merv Griffin Show once.

Over Here! even won a Tony for Janie Sell, who played a singer who tried to join the sister act but -- get this -- her knowledge of the second verse of "The Star Spangled Banner" exposed her as an overly-trained German spy, since few Americans really know the second verse!

I never saw the show, but I know the album well. In fact, the CD contains alternate version of "Where Did the Good Times Go?" and an extended version of "The Big Beat," so the vinyl album (which was released in the then-revolutionary Quadrophonic Sound) is a little different than the Sony CD reissue or the iTunes download.

Jodi Benson (voice of Ariel) and Sam Wright

Oh, and to get back to Sam Wright, his big song in Over Here! is called, "Don't Shoot the Hooey to Me, Louie."

TWO CENTS from Tim Hollis
Posted on Aug 25 2008 by Greg
I'm glad that, out of all the Disney nostalgia people, you were giving some historical context to the present-day teen sensations rather than simply dismissing them as a waste of time (as the MagicMusic crowd and such seem to do). I've made the remark myself that Miley, Lovato and the rest are simply the latest versions of Annette, Roberta, Hayley and all. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the company still knows how to find the cutest young girls to highlight...

Someone ought to get a copy of MOUSE TRACKS to li'l Miley so she can see that she is carrying on a longstanding tradition with the record division.

Personally, I think the TV shows they build around all those kids are the funniest comedies being done these days. Obviously someone decided to pattern plots and characterizations after the classic sitcoms we all love (maybe it was Richard Correll, who obviously has quite a background in those). That actor Phill Lewis does the best modern-day take on Gale Gordon of anyone I've ever seen, and I've noticed whole segments in all of them lifted directly from the Lucy shows, Abbott & Costello and other sources. Naturally, the target audience wouldn't realize that, but we old coots do, and I think it's great that kids (both the audience and the performers) are being exposed to that type of comedy.

TWO CENTS from Jim Korkis
Posted on Aug 25 2008 by Greg
JIM: I was interested that you compared Miley to the MONKEES which of course, people use as an example of a “manufactured” group done specifically for merchandising, records, etc. rather than a personal vision.  “hey, hey, we’re the monkees…and we’ve got something to say…”  well, no, they didn’t.  I LIKED the Monkees.  (Hated the attempt to revive them and sort of like the movie HEAD even though it is anti-Monkees). So do you see Miley as a manufactured commodity or does she really have something to say?" 

GREG: Miley’s not manufactured but Hannah is. Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork were established musicians before they were cast, too. I do think the synergistic process of marketing Hannah is almost exactly the same as Annette, except that in Annette was marketed as herself and Miley is struggling to have it both ways. Time will tell. It all really goes back to MGM with their stable of young stars (Rooney, Garland, Reed, Sheridan, Taylor, etc.) who toured, acted and did lots of hokey “silce of life” promo films that are just like the High School Musical kids barbecuing with Kenny Ortega.

JIM: It might be interesting for you to compare Miley and how Disney is handling her compared to Annette.  I think there are some similarities.  I never warmed to Miley or Hannah.  She seemed too smart-alecky for me.  Also, it is kind of frightening that she is just celebrating her 16th birthday and it seems she has peaked.  I haven’t quite taken to Selena or Demi but then again I am not the demographic for them either. 

GREG: No matter how big the marketing push is, the public ultimately chooses whether to embrace a performer, based on their mindset in the context of pop culture history. You can’t MAKE a phenomenon every time, just ask Darlene Gillespie, Christy Carlson Romano, Myra, The Party, The Kids from C.A.P.E.R. -- I can go on and on.

JIM: When you mentioned Time Tunnel, I thought you would point out how Dr. Evil co-opted the device for the Austin Powers movie.  Also, you never mentioned whether you would like to go back in time or forward in time and where….

GREG: Too easy where the best records were!

Posted on Aug 17 2008 by Greg
After seeing the Titanic attraction at the Orlando Science Center, I decided to introduce the kids to the classic 1966 Irwin Allen series, The Time Tunnel. The first episode not only introduces and sets up the premise (two scientists, lost in time, finding themselves in historic and/or fictional past and future adventures. The second episode takes place in ---ooooohh -- 1978!!!

Yes, the show had that overwrought, kinda cheesy Irwin Allen style, but it's also got one of the most incredible sets ever created for television or movies: the Time Tunnel itself. I read in TV Guide that it actually extends about 26 feet into another stage, but to see it on screen literally inspires imagination.

And here's a bit of a Disney connection: one of the art directors for the show was three time Oscar winner Jack Martin Smith, who worked on a huge number of notable Hollywood films -- and for Disney, including Pete's Dragon. His son Charles appeared in American Graffiti and Disney's Never Cry Wolf.

You can still see one of Jack Martin Smith paintings, with his signature, on the first floor inside The American Adventure at Epcot.

Time-Life is selling GET SMART SEASON TWO separately
Posted on Aug 07 2008 by Greg
I just went into the Time-Life video website to pre-order The Smothers Brothers Show DVD when I was delighted to find that they are now selling the original GET SMART TV series Season Two on its own. You can now get Seasons One and Two, or the complete series -- but my finances would rather I take it one season at a time.

The Time-Life website versions apparently include the bonus features, while the ones they sell in retail do not -- at least that's the case with Season One, which will soon be in stores without the bonus features. (BTW, be wary the "Get Smart - The Complete Series" DVD set that is also being widely sold - it's the questionable revival version that costarred Andy Dick.)

Posted on Jul 29 2008 by Greg

This is Sharon Baird, Cubby O'Brien and Karen Pendleton of the original Mickey Mouse Club. They were my table neighbors at the Hollywood Collectors Show.

Legendary star Celeste Holm is now 91, and at the show she seemed somewhat distant and perhaps a bit tired. However, when I approached to tell her that my children loved watching Disney's Polly, the TV musical version of Pollyanna in which she played Miss Snow, she lit up with fond recognition.

A few nights later, she had just left the Sleeping Beauty screening at the Academy Theater and was entering a restaurant, so I held the door for her and her companions, singing the first lines from "Hannibal Mo-Zouree" from Tom Sawyer. Could not resist. She was pleased.

The following weekend, the same hotel hosted the Dark Shadows Convention and I said hello to Lara Parker, who played the scary Angeligue....

('way to hold in the gut, Greg!)

...and I finally met in person the lovely Kathryn Leigh Scott, whom I had known through phone and letter (she played Maggie and Josette)...

Jonathan Frid (the original Barnabas Collins) speak and recite. At one point he fell during the presentation, to which there was a horrified gasp from all of us in the audience! He was fine, though, and danced around a bit to reassure the now-cheering crowd.

Someone asked Mr. Frid if he had any comment about the planned Dark Shadows feature and he had no knowledge of Johnny Depp nor any recent film or TV. He said he lives a very quiet life in Canada and seldom goes to movies. The last one he saw was Titanic.

Stan Freberg and SLEEPING BEAUTY
Posted on Jul 20 2008 by Greg
Living 3,000 miles from California, I'm always missing out on cool Disney/cartoon/TV/etc. events (though I did shake hands with TV's Skipper Chuck and Scrubby once in Miami, so there) but as luck would have it, I able to be in LA for the Motion Picture Academy screening of the restored wide screen version of Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty. It's not like I'm some kind of VIP or something -- it only cost five bucks.

The film naturally was impressive. It's the only way to see Sleeping Beauty as it was meant to be seen (there's another screening at Hollywood's El Capitan in a few weeks). I've always thought Princess Aurora resembled Donna Reed, but none of my friends share the opinion, though they nod politely. It was followed by a panel discussion hosted by Leonard Maltin/ Animation giant Andreas Deja showed development art, including a character design clean-up sketch of Aurora by the great Iwao Takamoto, who designed countless characters for Hanna-Barbera -- and Aurora really does have a HB look. Actually much of the entire film seems to have influenced the HB house style of the mid-60s to mid-70s, since so many Disney artists emigrated there.

I can die happy because I was able to give a copy of Mouse Tracks to the one and only Stan Freberg, who was in attendance along with a lot of industry notables. He mentioned  that we had him to thank for the music in Sleeping Beauty because he got musical director George Bruns his job at Disney. He said that George, having composed the uberhit "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," was concerned that he would be remembered only for writing such a big standard, but clearly that was not the case, since he did so much more throughout the next two decades.

The upcoming Sleeping Beauty DVD is reportedly going to have quite a few new bonus features, including a new audio commentary (yabba dabba doo)!

Posted on Jul 14 2008 by Greg
Well, sort of. Sometimes there is a nominal fee. But it's worth it.

If you've never been to the Hollywood Collector's Show, it's kind of like a Disneyana show and sale or a Star Trek convention, or any kind of specialized enthusiast gathering in which a large convention area is filled with tables containing celebtrities, collectibles and fans

At this show, you can walk up to banquet tables and talk to legends like Hugh O'Brian, TV casts from shows like "Here Come the Brides" or "Welcome Back Kotter," or movies like "Grease,' chat a few mintues, get an autograph (for $10-20), special merchandise or a photo (some charge for photos, some don't).

I had the privilege of sitting next to three original Mouseketeers: Karen Pendleton, Cubby O'Brien and Sharon Baird. I also met and/or got autographs from Celeste Holm,  Rod McKuen, Keith "Little Ricky" Thibodeaux, Erin Gray and Brad "voice of Charlie Brown" Kesten. I also met the talented Hanna-Barbera and Warner Brothers artist Scott Awley, who has a fine Partridge Family site.

Jeff Conaway was even there, standing, with Vicki, "the girlfriend."  Several Munchkins attended, along with Margaret O'Brien and many others.

They have these three times a year, so if you're ever in the Burbank area, it's lots of fun.














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