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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.

Why For?

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First off, Mark F. writes in to ask:

Hi Jim -

First off, I want to say I've been reading your articles since the days of the Dreamfinder ... I was so glad to see you finally get your own site, and I visit almost daily.

With your vast knowledge of Disney, I thought you might have an answer to my question.

Last night, I was watching the "Walt Disney Treasures - Silly Symphony" DVD with a few of my friends. We were watching the Three Little Pigs, and when it came to the part where the wolf comes to the brick house, we noticed that the quality of the animation changed. Suddenly, the colors didn't look as faded as the rest of the film had up until that point. It made us wonder if that portion of the film had somehow been re-animated or edited from the original release. If you want to check it out, it is about six minutes and 26 seconds into the cartoon. We were just wondering if it is coincidental, or was there was something so "politically incorrect" in this film that Disney had to edit it out before it was released on DVD?

If you have any insight, we'd love to know!


Mark F.

Dear Mark:

Congrats to you and your friends for paying such close attention while watching your "Walt Disney Treasures - Silly Symphony" DVD. It's not everyone who catches that quick change in quality in that particular portion of Disney's "The Three Little Pigs."

Yep, there was something definitely different in this sequence in the short. Back when "The Three Little Pigs" originally hit theaters back in May of 1933, there was a different piece of animation in place of the one that you can see there today. You see, the way this gag originally played out was that the Big Bad Wolf came up to Practical Pig's house dressed as a stereotypical Jewish peddler.

Don't believe me? Then follow this link to a web page where some kind soul was nice enough to post some image captures that they took off of the Japanese laser disc version of a "Three Little Pigs" shorts compilation. If you scroll down this page, you'll eventually be able to see the Big Bad Wolf in all his ... well, maybe "glory" isn't really the right word to use in this instance.

Anyway ... as you can see from that image capture, Disney's animators -- when they were putting together this picture back in the early 1930s -- didn't miss a single cliché. Which is why the Big Bad Wolf -- while he's in disguise as a Jewish peddler -- has a large nose as well as a long thick black beard. If you look closely, you can even see that the wolf -- as part of his disguise -- is actually wearing a yarmulka.

Now -- looking back on this particular gag from the oh-so politically correct times that we currently live in -- it might be easy to take offense at this joke. But -- were you to place "The Three Little Pigs" back in the time and culture in which this short was originally created -- you'd realize that Americans were much more tolerant of ethnic humor back then. Which is why "Amos & Andy" and "The Goldbergs" were such huge hits on the radio back then.

Of course, that began to change as the 1940s rolled around. This is just about the time that Walt Disney was reportedly contacted by the Hays Office (Hollywood's once all-powerful arbiter of good taste; during the late 1930s and well into the 1940s, the Hays Office had final say as to whether a film contained objectionable material or not) concerning this "objectionable" moment in "The Three Little Pigs."

Rather than just cutting the Jewish Peddler sequence out of the picture, Walt opted to have his animators rework this scene. Though -- this time around -- Disney made sure that the Big Bad Wolf wear a more socially acceptable disguise.

Now where this gets interesting is that -- just about the same time that Walt was ordering that his animators rework this one short sequence in "The Three Little Pigs" -- Disney's artists are allegedly already hard at work on a redo of the film. This brand new version of the Academy Award winning short -- which would recycle whole sections of animation from the 1933 film -- was done for the National Film Board of Canada. Released in 1941, the retitled film was now called "Thrifty Pig."

And how was "Thrifty Pig" different from "The Three Little Pigs?" Well, this time around, Practical Pig built his sturdy little house out of Canadian War Savings Bonds. And the Big Bad Wolf ... well, in this version of the "Three Little Pigs" story, the wolf is portrayed (I kid you not, folks) as an armband-wearing Nazi!

Kind of kind of ironic, don't you think? That -- just as Disney's animators were getting ready to reanimate certain sections of the original "Three Little Pigs" because the Big-Bad-Wolf-as-a-Jewish-Peddler has been deemed to be offensive -- animators in that same studio were gearing up to animate the Big Bad Wolf as a full-blown Nazi.

Anyway ... if you'd like to see this short ... well ... I know that "Thifty Pig" short is out there. Over the years, I've seen video versions of it for sale at various Disneyana shows. And who knows? Maybe it'll turn up as part of that "The War Years" DVD set that's supposed to hit store shelves sometime this fall. You know, as part of that on-going "Walt Disney Treasures" series?

As for how the Jewish Peddler sequence (which near as I can figure, has officially cut out of that short since 1941) ended up on the Japanese laser disc version of that "Three Little Pigs" compilation ... I don't know what to tell you, folks. Maybe back in the mid-1990s, someone in the Disney film archives accidentally gave the folks at Buena Vista Home Entertainment International the wrong version of "The Three Little Pigs" to dub onto that laser disc.

But then again, given that Japan is one of the only places in the world where you can purchase a video of another Disney animated classic that's been repeatedly accused of being racially insensitive -- "South of the South" -- maybe this wasn't actually an accident. Maybe there are folks at Disney who thought the Jewish Peddler version of the Big Bad Wolf would go over great in the Orient.

I wish I had the definitive answer on this subject for you folks. Does anyone out there have an authoritative explanation as to how this long-hidden-away piece of animation suddenly ended up as part of the Japanese laser disc version of "The Three Little Pigs?" I'm sure that it would make a really great story for JimHillMedia.com ... if we could just get to the bottom of that particular movie mystery.

Next up, DJ writes in to ask:

Hi Jim -

I'm an avid reader of your site and am always amazed that you have answers to some pretty far out questions. Well, in that vein, I'm hoping that you can lend some insight to mine. I have a couple of questions in regards to that "Disney After Dark" show that I recently got in my "Disneyland Treasure" collection. In the show, Walt is seen autographing hats and these appearances seem to be canned. So my questions are:

1. Was Walt really signing and -- if he was -- what happened to all those hats?
2. Why was Walt's appearance taped? There were a lot of big stars on this show, so I'm surprised that Walt wasn't there live.

Keep up the great work!


Dear DJ:

Thanks for the kind words about JimHillMedia.com. As for the show you're asking about, according to my handy-dandy copy of Bill Cotter's "The Wonderful World of Disney Television: A Complete History" (which no serious Disneyana fan should be without, so go pick up a copy today), it was actually called "Disneyland After Dark." And it originally aired as an episode of NBC's "The Wonderful World of Color" 'way back on April 15, 1962.

And you're right about those shots of Walt that are featured in the program being canned, DJ. Those are what used to be called process shots. In order to achieve this illusion ... well, Walt would stand in front of a big yellow screen on a soundstage on the Disney lot while the cameras rolled. He'd then interact with the various actors who'd been hired to portray typical Disneyland guests who just wanted the old Mousetro's autograph.

After those scenes were shot ... well, the special effects wizards at Disney Studio would just take Walt's footage and fold that in with stuff that they'd shot previously of really-for-real guests milling around in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. When these two pieces of film were combined ... Presto Changeo! It would appear as if Walt actually were out in Anaheim being amusingly annoyed by tourists.

As to why Walt himself didn't really make a trip out to the park to take part in the festivities. Well, you have to understand, DJ, that the appearances by Louis Armstrong, the Osmond Brothers, Annette Funicello and Bobby Rydell that are featured in the show actually happened over several different weekends in the Summer and Fall of1961. So trying to arrange to have Walt on hand as each of these sequences were shot would have been a bit of a logistical nightmare.

Not to mention that back in late 1961 / early 1962, Walt Disney was a really busy guy. He had literally dozens of irons in the fire at this point. Lots of ambitious projects like "Mary Poppins" and "The Enchanted Tiki Room" (not to mention the high covert land search for the East Coast version of Disneyland as well as all the shows for the 1964 New York World's Fair) occupying his mind. Eating up all of his free time.

So Walt doing his bit for "Disneyland After Dark" by standing up in front of a process screen may seem like a bit of a cheat now. At least to you and me. But to an executive who was as busy as Walt was back then, doing it that way just must have seemed like the most sensible thing to do.

Now -- as for those hats that Walt autographed, DJ -- I'm betting that the crew that was on the set that day got them. Probably took them home to the wife and kids as souvenirs of an interesting day at the studio. Otherwise ... well, maybe they went back to Wardrobe.

If that's the case ... well, I'm betting that some enterprising Disney employee who works with the folks who do the "Disney Treasures" auctions over at eBay is -- as they read this -- now making plans to scour the studio's wardrobe department. To find out what actually did become of those ridiculous but (since Walt actually evidently autographed these things as part of the show) now highly valuable hats.

So -- if I were you, DJ -- I'd keep an eye on eBay over the next couple of months. It could be that something pretty intriguing could pop up over there over the next few months.

And finally, Maureen E. of Manchester, NH checks in to ask:


Did you ever have any luck finding "The Love Bug" on DVD? The reason I'm asking is that -- on a recent trip to WalMart -- I noticed that they seemed to have literally dozens of copies of that title. Along with tons of the collectors edition of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

So -- if you're still not able to find a copy of "The Love Bug" -- I'd be happy to pick up one for you, Jim, and send it along. Sort of as a "Thank You" present for all the great stories you've shared with me over the past few years.

I'm serious, Jim. Just say the word and I'll go pick up that DVD for you today.

Let me know, okay?


Dear Maureen:

Thanks for your most generous offer. Thanks also to the dozens of other loyal JimHillMedia.com readers who also wrote to me, offering to help me out in my somewhat desperate search for the two disc edition of "The Love Bug" DVD. I am pleased to announce that my search is over. A few weeks back, I was finally able to acquire a copy of "The Love Bug" on DVD.

And you know what? This two disc Collector's Edition of the movie ain't half bad. By that I mean: it's got a lot of intriguing extra features -- like a brief film on "Love Bug" Day at Disneyland (where hundreds of VW owners drove out to Anaheim with their elaborately decorated cars to take part in a parade that rolled straight through the park!) as well as a great making-of documentary. But you know what my favorite feature on this two disc DVD is? The audio commentary that goes with the "Love Bug" movie.

Mind you, this is probably the least organized/professional audio commentary in the history of Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Poor Dean Jones desperately tries to keep the thing on track. But then the late, great Buddy Hackett starts telling these stories that have absolutely nothing to do with "The Love Bug." How -- back in the late 1940s -- Columbia Pictures tried to hire him to replace Curly Howard as a member of the Three Stooges. Who Buddy performed with back in Las Vegas in the day. All these great schmoozy show business anecdotes that really have nothing to do with the movie.

But then Dean Jones (being the good, loyal Disney vet that he is) tries to get Buddy back on track. Talking about the movie that the two of them (and us) are actually watching ... only to have Hackett matter-of-factly say something like "You know, I thought that I did such a bad job as Tennessee Steinmetz that -- after that first test screening in Encino -- I actually went out behind the theater and threw up." Very funny and very real stuff.

And Michelle Lee's comments are a hoot too. Just her story about how she screwed up the film's continuity by forgetting to put her earrings back on for one shot (and more importantly, how mad the Disney Studio execs got at her when they heard about this error) makes the disc worth owning. Not to mention her tales about how David Tomlinson kept cracking everyone else up when his face got stuck in the glove compartment. (Don't ask. It's hard to explain. Just go pick up a copy of the "Love Bug" DVD, watch it ... all will become clear.)

Mind you, if you're a hardcore film historian and really want an audio commentary that tells -- in excruciating detail -- how Disney's "The Love Bug" was actually made, then maybe you won't enjoy this DVD. If -- on the other hand -- you like off-the-cuff sounding show business anecdotes (or have any sort of fondness for Mr. Hackett, who sadly passed away earlier this month), then do yourself a favor and go pick up a copy of the "Love Bug" DVD.

And speaking of serious information ... I almost forgot. This weekend -- Saturday, July 12th and Sunday, July 13th -- there is this amazing "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" event being held at the Anaheim Marriot Suites in Garden Grove, CA. Some truly notable former and current Disney Company employees -- people like Tony Baxter, Tim Kirk, Kevin Kidney and Peter Renaday -- will be turning out to talk about this landmark film as well as the amazing impact it's had on the Disney theme parks.

Here's just a sampling of the various events and seminars that will be presented as part of this two day exhibition:

"Nautilus Berths at the Disney Theme Parks and the Discovery Bay Project" hosted by Tony Baxter.
A "Tokyo DisneySea Overview" presentation as well as a "TDS Mysterious Island" presentation hosted by WDI vet and theme park designer Tim Kirk
A "Sneak Peek at 50th Anniversary 20K Merchandise" with Disney designer Kevin Kidney

All this, plus a tribute to perhaps one of the most colorful characters who ever worked for Walt Disney Imagineering, Tom Scherman.

It promises to be a most memorable weekend. Tickets are $45 for both days of the event. And seats are limited. As I type this, there are only eight seats left open for the "20,000 Leagues Exposition: Imagineering the Secrets of the Nautilus."

So if you want to get in to on the fun, I suggest you get in your car now and drive down to the Anaheim Marriot Suites (which is located at 12015 Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove, CA). The doors open at 9 a.m. on both days, with the festivities continuing 'til at least 5 p.m.

Would that I could be there myself. I'd love to hear what Tony Baxter has to say about Discovery Bay, not to mention Tim Kirk's take on how TDS's "Mysterious Island" section came to be.

Ah well ... there's always next year.

Anyway ... that's it for this extra special bonus weekend edition of "Why For." If you have any addition questions about this weekend's "20K" event, be sure to check out the Chandler's Cove Historical Society's official website.

Beyond that ... you folks have a great weekend, okay?


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