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Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

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StinkyCat writes to say:

Jim:

Congratulations! You actually got one right! Judging by the story that CBSMarketwatch just did as well as that report that Reuters just ran, it looks like the Walt Disney Company really is making one more run at the Jim Henson Company.

So - Oh great Swami Jim - since you were so on the money about Mickey renewing his pursuit of the Muppets, is there any chance that you could gaze into your crystal ball and find out what this weekend's winning Powerball number might be.

Thanks for the kind words, StinkyCat. Sadly, I don't actually have a crystal ball. Just a lot of friends who work in the industry who regularly toss interesting tidbits my way.

Speaking of which, here's the latest on Disney's bid to acquire the Jim Henson Company:

The Walt Disney Company reportedly officially made its intentions known at virtually the very last minute. (I'm told that the deadline for bidding on the Jim Henson Company is close of business tomorrow.)

Though this is far from a done deal, Disney's PR machine is already reportedly gearing up for the big announcement. There's supposedly been much discussion about where the best place would be to reveal this news: The Burbank lot (which would make it much easier for both Disney's CEO Michael Eisner as well as Henson's CEO Charlie Rivkin to take part in the announcement) or the Disney Studios Paris theme park (which make it much easier for EM.TV and Kirch reps to take part, in addition to giving Disney the chance to announce that several new Muppet-related rides and attractions are already in the works for that troubled theme park).

Sadly, there's been no word as to whether -- once the Mouse actually does acquire the Muppets -- if Disney will be retaining Henson CEO Charlie Rivkin. Which -- given that it was Charlie who personally masterminded this year's amazing Muppet comeback campaign (bringing a dormant franchise roaring back to life. Showing the world just how viable & valuable these classic Henson characters really are) -- would just seems to be a no brainer to me.

Of course, no one ever accused the Mouse of having brains. After all, it was 12 years ago this month that Disney originally let the Henson Company slip through its fingers.

Okay. That's enough editorializing on my part. If I hear anything more about Disney acquiring Henson (or suddenly have an inkling about what that winning Power Ball number might be), I'll be sure to let you know, StinkyCat.

Next, Heather writes to ask:

Do you know anything about the upcoming movie, "The Search for Mickey Mouse?" All I've been able to find out about is on IMDB. Have all of the voice actors listed actually been signed on? And will it be traditional animation or CG?

Sad as this is to say, Heather, (Particularly given that I was one of the very first people to actually write about this project 'way back in June of 2000 over at Aint It Cool News -- back when I was still using my Moo Cow handle whenever I posted pieces at Harry's site), it appears that "The Search of Mickey" is off. At least for the foreseeable future.

What's the problem with this project? Well, I'm told that the folks at Walt Disney Television Animation division just loved the concept behind this project. (I.E. Mickey gets kidnapped. So Minnie hired the world's greatest detective, Basil of Baker Street, to help her track down the missing mouse. Minnie, Basil, Donald, and Goofy then travel the globe in their search for Mickey. And in the process, encounter every animated cartoon character that has ever appeared in a Disney film). Unfortunately, they were just never able to come up with a workable script for the film.

What was the problem? Logistics, really. By that I mean: The writers had to come up a semi-plausible storyline which emotionally engaged audience members that still allow a different set of classic Disney characters to come strolling on screen every two or three minutes. That sort of gimmick is cute for a while. But imagine a 90 minute long film that does nothing but that? Sounds kind of annoying, doesn't it? More of a stunt than a story.

Anyway ... given that "The Search for Mickey" was supposed to be the project that the Walt Disney Company would be using as the centerpiece of its year long celebration of Mickey's 75th birthday (which officially kicks off in January 2003), this proposed film's continuing script problems finally forced Disney to table the project. At least for now. In its place, Disney will be releasing a similar but simpler film: An all-new animated version of "The Three Musketeers" starring Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in the title roles, Minnie as the Princess and Black Pete as the villainous Captain of the Guard.

From what I hear, "The Three Musketeers" will be a perfectly fine film for the Walt Disney Company to release in recognition of Mickey's 75th birthday. Folks who have been working on the project that report that the movie looks great and that it's loaded with charm and heart. (As well as some very odd gags. My personal favorite comes late in thepicture, where Mickey finds himself locked up in the dungeon. The valiant mousekateer ... er ... musketeer has been chained to the wall. And water is pouring into the chamber. So it looks like Mickey is doomed for sure. This is when the Mouse glances over toward the opposite wall of the cell that he's chained up in and notices a white dotted line. Next to the line is a sign that reads: "You must be at least this tall in order to survive this torture." Which I think is an admittedly weird but still funny little riff on all that Disneyland "You must be at least this tall in order to ride the ..." signage.)

So what's going to happen now with "Search for Mickey" (which -- in spite of all the information that's currently on file over at IMDB about which performer recorded what voices for this file -- I still can't get official confirmation from anyone over at Disney as to whether any vocal tracks were ever recorded for this proposed picture)? The project will unfortunately remain on hold 'til some lucky writer figures out how to break the back of the film's story problems.

Of course, this isn't to say that we won't be seeing a movie someday very soon that will feature dozens of classic Disney characters taking part in an epic adventure. Over the past couple of months, I've been hearing a lot of talk about Disney's consumer products division has been actively pushing the folks over at the studio to put a "Kingdom Hearts" movie into development. A live action / CG feature that would supposedly feature many of the worlds and characters seen in the best selling Disney Interactive / SquareSoft game.

The thinking behind a film like this is that a "Kingdom Hearts" movie could be used to introduce new characters and worlds which could be featured in the second or third versions of a "Kingdom Hearts" game. Which (if properly promoted) could give Disney its very own Pokemon like franchise. Which could generate tons of cash for the Mouse as well as SquareSoft.

Of course, what helps Disney's consumer products division is that the studio has already made a "Country Bears" movie (which -- by the way -- just come out on home video and DVD this past Tuesday) as well as having a "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Haunted Mansion" movie in production. "If we can make movies based on theme park attractions, why can't we make a film based on our best selling Playstation 2 game?"

Of course, the problem that's facing Disney now is how to come with a script for a 90 minute long movie that does justice to all the colorful characters and settings one sees while playing "Kingdom Hearts." Which in a way, brings us back to the problems that stalled out production of "The Search for Mickey."

As in: If you don't have a strong story that emotionally involves & engages your audience, you don't really have a movie. So, if Disney's writers can just break the back of all of the story problems involved in making movies out of the "The Search for Mickey" core concept as well as the "Kingdom Hearts" Playstation 2 game, I'm sure that we'll eventually see movies based on both of these properties.

If not, these proposed Disney films will eventually be abandoned. Taking their place on the shelf next to all the other great story ideas that didn't successfully make the transition to the big screen. Projects like "Kingdom of the Sun," "Song of the Sea" and "Silly Hillbillies from Mars." The list goes on and on ...

Next, Eric G. from CA. writes to ask:

Jim:

I've loved your articles ever since I started to read them about a year ago. I look for everything you've done. More marathon things, I love those.

Anyway, my question goes to "Beauty and the Beast." During the "Gaston" song scene, I really remember a part where Lafou tries to spell Gaston's name but fails. I thought this part might be in the DVD, but nothing! Can you tell me if I thought of it?

No, Eric, you're not imagining that you heard a version of "Gaston" that ended that way. That's actually how the song ends on the "Beauty and the Beast" soundtrack. The folks over at Walt Disney Records chose this version of the song for the film's soundtrack -- rather than the song actually plays out in the movie -- because it had a neater, tidier, funnier end. Which obviously made it a better choice as a stand-alone track for the soundtrack.

Mind you, "B & B"'s late lyrist Howard Ashman wrote a couple of dozen different verses for this particular comic song. The movie's directors -- Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale -- chose the ones that they thought were funniest AND the most kid friendly to go into their film.

However once the Broadway bound production of "Beauty and the Beast" was mounted in the fall of 1993, the film's composer Alan Menken was able to unearth some of the other lyrics that Howard had written for "Gaston" and finally get them folded into the song. Gems like:

Who has brains like Gaston?
Entertains like Gaston?
Who can make these endless refrains like Gaston?

If you haven't yet picked up a copy of the original cast album of "Beauty and the Beast: The Broadway Musical," Eric, you might want to consider doing so now. By comparing this recording to the film's soundtracks, you'll notice all of these intriguing little differences between how Ashman and Menken's great songs were performed for the screen and how they were performed on stage. Not to mention that cool expanded version of "Gaston."

Anyway ... finally, Peter Postamus writes to asks:

Jim,

Don't get me wrong. I love all the new stories and all. But where's Part Four of "California Misadventure"? I've been waiting for over a week now for that installment. Don't leave me hanging, bud. When's the next chapter going to run?

That's an excellent question, Peter. I just wish I had an answer for you.

What's the problem? Neither Michelle nor I can find a copy of Part Four of my "California Misadventure" series. You see, the computer that I stored the original version of the text on had its hard drive wiped clean by a virus a few months back. And Michelle -- while she was using the Wayback Machine to snag copies of all of my old MousePlanet stories -- wasn't able to find Part Four of my "California Misadventure" series anywhere on the Web.

Why was Michelle using the Wayback Machine instead of going straight to MP to request copies of all my old articles? Because MousePlanet evidently had some data storage problems a year or so back (I remember Al telling me something about a bad disc writer, or something like that). Which unfortunately means that their entire archive of "View from a Hill" columns was lost during a data transfer.

Which is why I'm now appealing to you folks. I mean, I keep hearing from JHM readers who say things like "I've downloaded every single story that you've ever written, Jim" and/or "I've made copies of every piece that you've posted on the Web, Jim." Well, if that's really the case, then someone somewhere out there has to have a copy of Part Four of that "California Misadventure" series.

If one of you folks could dig that article up, I -- along with a number of other JHM readers -- would be eternally grateful.

So whaddaya say, folks? Would one of you like to perform a Christmas miracle and resurrect a copy of this old MousePlanet story?

Here's hoping you can. In the meantime, you folks have a great weekend, okay?

jrh

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