Hey, gang --
Greetings from Fallbrook, CA.
That's right. Fallbrook. Not Poway, CA. But Fallbrook.
That's where Alice and her grandmother will be staying for the next few days until they fly off to Honolulu, HI. Me? I fly back to New Hampshire on July 4th. After that ... Well, here's hoping that things finally get back to normal around here.
Look, I want to apologize for allowing JHM to go so far off track these past two weeks. But this move ... There's no other way to describe it, folks. It was an absolute nightmare.
By that I mean: We didn't have nearly enough time to get done everything that we're supposed to do. Nor did we have all the help we needed. So - in order to get this job done on deadline - some sacrifices had to be made. Some corners had to be cut.
Plus - when you factor in the time constraints I was dealing with, not to mention all the technological hurdles (Translation: For the past 20 days, I've writing new articles for the site on my ancient Armada, then filing these pieces by using a wheezing dial-up connection) - there was just no way JHM (or I) could maintain its regular schedule.
Which meant that this website had to go without updates for a couple of days. A matter that I know annoyed a great number of JHM's regular readers. Which is something that I genuinely feel terrible about. An unfortunate event that I now sincerely apologize to you for.
Of course, it's not just enough to say that you are sorry. You've got to back up your words with action. Which is why -- starting next week -- this website is instituting some new policies.
"What sort of policies?," you ask. Well - for starters - whenever I travel from now on, JHM's Creative Director - Roy Mitchner - will serve as this site's defacto editor. Which (hopefully) will translate into a steady, uninterrupted stream of content at this website from here on in.
As for the other changes we'll be making at JHM ... Most of those you'll see being rolled out over the next week or two. These changes include a bold new look for this website. Which (we're hoping) will help differentiate JHM from all the other Disneyana sites that are out there.
Mind you, even with all the cosmetic changes that we'll be making here at JHM, you can still count on this website to churn out the same sorts of stories that you've always enjoyed. Long form history pieces that take you behind-the-scenes at the Walt Disney Company. Shorter opinion pieces that give you a different take on current events within the entertainment industry. You know? The usual assortment of crud that you've come to expect at JHM?
Speaking of which ... Rather than bore you to death with even more talk about what JHM is going to do in the not-so-distant future, how's about a taste from a much larger story that I've got in the works right now? The upcoming article where I talk about AISFA-Hollywood's "The Lion King" 10th anniversary panel discussion - which was held at the Glendale Public Library last month.
It was an evening that was filled with amusing anecdotes as well as fascinating behind-the-scenes stories about the production of this landmark motion picture.
"What sorts of stories?," you query. Well ... For example: Would you believe that - just 12 weeks prior to the official release of this Disney classic (The highest grossing traditionally animated film in the history of Hollywood) -- Mouse House execs still thought that they were dealing with a dud?
Strange but true, people. Following a particularly poorly received test screening of "The Lion King" (Which supposedly took place at Glendale's Alex Theater back in March of 1994), most of the picture's production team walked out of the theater wanting to kill themselves. After all, they were the ones who were about to break Disney's winning streak. Which had begun with the critically acclaimed "The Great Mouse Detective," continued with the almost-blockbuster, "The Little Mermaid," proceeded with Best Picture nominee "Beauty and the Beast," which was then followed by worldwide blockbuster "Aladdin."
Now here comes "The Lion King" (Which - to hear Roger Allers described the film - admittedly had a pretty weird sounding premise: "It's a movie about a lion club who gets framed for murder ... Oh, and it's also got songs by Elton John"). A motion picture that virtually no member of WDFA's "A" team (with the exception of Andreas Deja) wanted to work on.
"And why was that?," you query. Because most of Disney's top animators had opted to go work on WDFA's prestige picture, "Pocahontas." The film that many studio insiders saw (because of its romantic story as well as its sweeping score) as the follow-up to "Beauty and the Beast." Translation: "Pocahontas" was going to be the one that set the world on fire. It was going to be the next WDFA project to garner a "Best Picture" nominee.
And then there was "The Lion King" ... With its farting warthogs and goose-stepping hyenas and those all-too-obvious lifts from "Hamlet." Which was why - after that none-too-successful screening at the Alex - the guys who worked on this film throught: "We're just going to get killed when this thing finally hits the big screen and becomes a box office disappointment. We'll all be lucky if we still have jobs once this is all over."
"So what changed?," you ask. "What was the one big thing that WDFA did that saved 'The Lion King' from being a flop?" To be honest, it wasn't any one thing. To hear the folks at that ASIFA event tell the story, it was more a case of lots of little things. Like 10 new gags that they quickly animated & added to the picture (Included the infamous in-joke where Zazu sings "It's a Small World" to Scar). Plus Jeffrey Katzenberg had Hans Zimmer overhaul the score that he had written for the picture.
In the big scheme of things, they were all relatively minor changes. But they clearly made the difference. For - in June of 1994 - when Disney's "The Lion King" finally debuted in theaters nationwide, it played like a house afire. Jeffrey Katzenberg still remembers getting a call from Dick Cook on the Saturday after "The Lion King" opened. When the studio head was told "It earned $11 million."
Initially, Katzenberg was somewhat confused. "That $11 million, Dick? That's what you project the film will make over the entire weekend?" Cook responded "No, Jeffrey. That's what 'The Lion King' during its first day of release. That's just the box office receipts for Friday."
And that's when Katzenberg knew that "The Lion King" was going to be one for the record books. But - right up until that moment - the general consensus at Disney Feature Animation was: "Jeese, I just hope that this film does well enough that I get to keep my job."
You see, folks. It's just like famed screenwriter William Goldman says. In Hollywood, "Nobody knows anything." Here, the entire "Lion King" production team was staring what would eventually become the highest grossing traditionally animated film in the history of Hollywood in the face ... But their key worry - as they were getting this picture ready for release - was: "Please don't this turn out to be an embarrassment."
There's lots more great stories like that to come at JHM ... But first ... I gotta get back home to New Hampshire.
But - in order to do that - I've first got to say "Good-bye" to my daughter, Alice. Who's heading on the 6th to live with her mom, grandmother & grandfather in Hawaii.
Which - in a word - sucks. For me anyway.
I mean, it's tough enough being a divorced daddy when your daughter lives 3000 miles and three time zones away. But - over the past five years - I sort of kind of (Thanks to daily phone calls to Alice as well as frequent trips to the West Coast) made this awkward situation work.
But now Alice is going to be 6000 miles away, not to mention being six time zones out of sync with yours truly. Which is why I fear that I'm not going to play that big a part in my daughter's life from here on. Which - as I said earlier - totally sucks.
Sorry, folks. I don't mean to come across as maudlin here. It's just that - after several days of not getting nearly enough sleep as well as lifting 'way too many over-packed cardboard boxes - I'm kind of exhausted here. Which means that my emotions are probably a lot closer to the surface than they usually are. Which is why probably I'm saying things without thinking.
Give me a few days to recover, gang. I'm sure that I'll eventually get back to being my usual glib, closed-off, upbeat self.
That's it for today, guys. Have a great Fourth of July weekend, okay?