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M-I-C ... as in "I wish that this microphone would work properly"

M-I-C ... as in "I wish that this microphone would work properly"

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Now THAT'S Dedication...

Shortly after Disneyland opened in 1955, someone found an unpaid bill in a desk drawer amounting to thousands of dollars. When Walt heard about it, he is supposed to have said, “Well, when you do big things, you make big mistakes.“ Here's another example of this phenomenon, from my own experience...

When I was recording the Dreamfinder's voice for EPCOT's Skyleidoscope Lagoon Show, I took the opportunity to goof around with show director Gary Paben, trying different voices and doing bits of other ride narrations. And (as I had hoped) it made an impression ... enough so that I started getting calls to do other voices and park announcements.

Michael Eisner, Bob Hope and Mickey & Minnie escort Disney-MGM's "first family"
down Hollywood Boulevard on May 1, 1989. Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

One job I was honored to get was as Official Announcer for the Grand Opening of Disney-MGM Studios in 1989. All the “Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls ... “ things, and the “Please welcome the Chairman of the Board of the Walt Disney Company, Michael Eisner!” stuff. All of this we pre-recorded, but there was one section that had to be done live "The-Morning-Of."

Dozens of TV & movie stars from Hollywood history have been invited to attend the event and walk across the stage – smiling and waving – during the festivities. They have to be introduced, of course ... But since we won't know until that morning who actually shows up, I have to be there live-and-in-person to announce their names.

The view up Hollywood Boulevard ... Before someone in Marketing decided to 
place a giant hat in front of the Chinese Theater.
Copyright 1989 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Rehearsals for the dedication ceremony start at 4 a.m. in front of the Chinese Theater. I have a long list of celebrity names and at the appropriate moment I run down the list, sounding properly impressed and impressive.

Bob Hope ... Ernest Borgnine ... Don Knotts ... Morey Amsterdam ... Rose Marie ... Stan Freberg ... Regis Philbin ... Richard Dawson ... “

The run-thrus go beautifully, and we are about to lock everything down until show time, when I turn to Mr. Paben and say, “This mike I'm using is going to be live when it comes time for my announcement ... Right?”

“Of course it will,” says Gary. “Why wouldn't it be?”

George Lucas takes part in the opening night motorcade at Disney-MGM Studios.
Copyright 1989 Disney. All Rights Reserved

So I tell him this story ...

On an April morning in 1983, Figment & I are nervously poised to dedicate Kodak's Journey Into Imagination in front of the national press and all the top Disney and Kodak executives. It's a musical spectacular featuring characters from Disney parades and the Dapper Dans and dancers and fireworks and right in the middle of it all -- making our official debut -- Dreamfinder & Figment.

Bette Midler & Kevin Costner take part in a group handprint ceremony as part of
the studio theme park's opening festivities. In the back row is (L to R) Audrey
Hepburn, Cicely Tyson, Betty White and Lauren Bacall.
Copyright 1989 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Our part has a musical track that runs under it on which Figment's dialogue has been prerecorded by the purple dragon's official voice, Billy Barty. Everything's timed so that – just as I invite everyone to join us on the ride -- Figment will interrupt me. Then together we will sing our theme song, "One Little Spark."

I'm delivering my lines – timing them to the prerecorded track -- and at the moment he's supposed to speak up Figment opens his yap and nothing comes out. The music continues under, so I know the track is running. But the lizard just smiles at me while I stand there fishing for something to say.

Then, suddenly, he speaks up! I know immediately that someone in the sound booth had the volume turned down on Figment's voice track and I am mildly perturbed. After the event I inquire as to who the 'someone' had been. They wouldn't tell me that day, and I'm still wondering ...

Ron's good close friend, the Dreamfinder, introduces some EPCOT Center visitors to Figment

“So, “ I told Mr. Paben, ”I just want to know that this mike WILL be live when it's time for me to read this list of names.” Seeing my concern, Gary tells the Stage Manager to make doubly sure my mike is hot at the important moment.

Which, of course, it isn't.

So when Bob Hope starts across the stage I announce “Mister Bob Hope !” ... But no one hears it. I can tell it's not going out over the speakers. But it's not my job to fix it, it's my job to read the list. So the stars keep walking across the stage and I keep reading – to no one in particular.

After a moment Gary Paben leaps into the booth, tells the Stage Manager, “His mike is off!” and tells me, “Start again!”

Bette Midler, Mickey Mouse and Michael Eisner cut the ribbon
for Disney-MGM's backstage tour attraction.
Copyright 1989 Disney. All Rights Reserved

So I announce, “Mister Bob Hope !” as Morey Amsterdam steps onstage. Still no sound. They keep walking across and I keep reading and Gary says, “Fix his mike !” and “Start again !” and I announce “Mister Bob Hope !” as Rose Marie steps onstage and Gary says, “Turn it up !” and “Start again !” and Regis Philbin steps onstage as my voice comes blasting out over the speakers -- “MISTER BOB HOPE!”

Regis shoots me a look of utter disbelief as he steps off stage to the cheers of hundreds of confused Disney Guests. And after the show I tell Gary, “Well, when you do big things ... “

Speaking of big things ... Big things are expected of Ron Schneider's memoirs, "Themes, Dreams & Schemes: 40 Years Behind a Nametag." Which should show up in a bookstore near you sometime in late 2008 / early 2009.

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  • HAHAHAHA, I love that story.

    Mr. Ron Shneider, I did not know you were the voice for Dreamfinder. I never rode the ride, but after seeing old video from friends and cds, I have to say,

    "Imagination! Imagination!..."

    The song is stuck in my head til this day. Thank you.

  • Being a sound tech for more than 20 years, and having done numerous shows, I've been thru this scenario a few more times than I would care to remember, so for me this was somewhat painful to read. These kinds of issues are unfortunately very common in a live show where there is very little advance notice of who will be doing what. But, still, the responsiblity lies on the sound tech to make sure the equipment is working and the mic is qued when the "talent" is supposed to be on.

    I would be real interested to know whether these incidents were just human error and a result of the tech missing the que and not turning the mic on, or if they were technical-related and somewhat unavoidable. Regardless, it's bad show for everybody. However, if I were the director, I don't think I would have had you start over announcing names of people who had already walked on stage.

  • Admit it.  You timed this article just for "May Day" didn't you?

  • Oh, I hear the party that night was *much* more interesting...

  • Ouch! I use to handle sound for our band when I was a kid. Nothing worse than the sound failing when you're doing a show.

    The only answer is, improvise! improvise!

    Funny story, however.

  • Another great article, Ron! Make's me look all the more forward to your memoirs.

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