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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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First up, Mark W. writes in to say:

Dear Mr. Hill --

I've just discovered JimHillMedia (Last Saturday's article about your recent run-in with Disneyland Security made me aware of your site). And I have to say that I've been really enjoying digging through your old articles archives. One story that I particularly enjoyed was your recent "Rewind and recast" piece. So I was wondering if you have any other Disney animation-related stories that you could share?

Mark W.

Dear Mark W.

Well, given that yesterday's "Eisner's Orphans" got so many people talking about "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," I guess I could share a few more stories about this 1996 Walt Disney Pictures release.

Take -- for example -- Judge Claude Frollo's horse. That fierce black beast with the red eyes. Ever wonder what that fearsome creature's name might have been? Would you believe ... Snowball?

Okay. I know. That's a pretty goofy name for the villain's steed. But -- to be honest -- that's the whole point, folks. The animators who were working on this Kirk Wise & Gary Trousdale film named Frollo's horse that just because the character's name then became something funny to say in a story session.

Mind you, "Hunchback" 's Snowball wasn't Disney Feature Animation's first Snowball. No sir. Calling the villain's horse this cute & cuddly name was actually a gag that supposedly dates back as least as far as 1991's "Beauty and the Beast." So that horse that Gaston rides (albeit briefly) in the "Kill the Beast" number? He's called Snowball.

And that sleek arabian we see Jafar sitting on toward the start of "Aladdin" (You know? In the scene where the villainous vizzer & Gazeem race off across the desert in search of the Cave of Wonders)? Yep. He's Snowball too.

And Govenor Ratcliffe's steed in "Pocahontas"? Also a Snowball. That wild mongolian horse that Shan Yu rides in "Mulan"? Again a Snowball. Even that winged griffin-thing that pulled Hades' flying chariot in "Hercules" is supposedly called Snowball.

This WDFA running gag kept going (I think) right up until "Kingdom of the Sun." Where one of the llamas that Pacha had in his herd was actually going to be called Snowball. On camera, no less. But when this Roger Allers project suddenly began to have serious story problems ... Well ... Keeping a goofy running gag going didn't seem quite as important as trying to prevent that picture from crashing & burning.

Mind you, I have heard from a few Disney animators that this Snowball gag may actually date back as far as the studio's 1949 release, "The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad." Where the story guys who were working on this picture -- just to be goofy -- supposedly gave the Headless Horseman's horse a cute & cuddly name. But I have yet to get official confirmation on that ..,

But -- to be honest, folks -- animators do this all the time. Give the unnamed supporting characters in the pictures that they're working on goofy but memorable names. Like those unnamed members of the Palace of Justice guard that you see repeatedly in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." Four of them are actually named after members of the Three Stooges -- Moe, Larry, Curly & Shemp -- while two others owe their names to those famous animated magpies, Heckle & Jeckle.

Of course, if you like these sort of stories (I.E. Behind-the-scenes tales about how Disney animated features really came together), then you really gotta find a way to get to the Glendale Central Library on Friday night, April 22nd. For that's when ASIFA-Hollywood will be holding an "Aladdin Reunion."

Trust me, folks. If you're an animation fan, this is not an event you want to miss. Among the folks who have already confirmed that they will be taking part in that evening's panel are "Aladdin" 's directors Ron Clements & John Musker as well as lead animators Andrea Deja, Will Finn and Eric Goldberg. Moderated by Tom Sito, president emeritus of the animation guild, this "Aladdin" reunion promises to a fun & informative evening.

How fun & informative? So fun & informative that I'm actually flying in all the way from New Hampshire to attend this once-in-a-lifetime shin-dig. That's how good I expect the stories to be.

What's that you say? You're stuck on the East Coast and can't make it to Glendale to attend the "Aladdin Reunion." Well, that's okay. Particularly if you live in the Orlando area.

Why for? Because this Sunday morning -- as part of the 2005 Florida Film Festival -- there's going to be another public showing of "Dream On Silly Dreamer." You know? Tony West & Dan Lund's heartfelt little film about the demise of traditional animation at Walt Disney Studios?

Well, this clever documentary is going to be presented at the Enzian Theater this coming Sunday morning at 11 a.m. (Mind you, "Dream On" is paired -- somewhat oddly -- with two other short live action films: Eric Breitenbach's "When Pigs Fly" and Jeff Marks & Adam Elend's "Fighting for Life in the Death Belt." But it's still well worth going out of your way to see)

What's that? You're not going to be in Orlando this coming weekend. Not to worry. There are several other public screenings of "Dream On Silly Dreamer" scheduled over the next four weeks. After its presentation at the Florida Film Festival, Dan & Tony will be taking their labor-of-love to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Where "Dream On" will be screened at the Red Stick International Animation Festival. Which is being held on April 21-23.

Well, I hope that "Dream On Silly Dreamer" is shown fairly early in the Red Stick fest. For Lund & West just learned that their documentary has also been selected to be shown at the Newport Beach Film Festival. Which is being held 'way on the other side of the country (in Newport Beach, CA) at virtually the very same time!

That screening of Dan & Tony's documentary (which will be held at the Orange County Museum of Art on Saturday, April 23rd at 4 p.m.) will actually be the film's West Coast premiere. So it will be interesting to see if any of the folks who actually appear in "Dream On Silly Dreamer" turn out to see how this picture plays on the big screen.

I know that I'll be attending the "Dream On" screening at the Newport Beach Film Festival. I'll be covering the "Aladdin" event on Friday night and the showing of Lund & West's film on Saturday afternoon. Here's hoping that I see some of you folks at either of these two events.

And -- speaking of things that are shown on the big screen -- DirtyDawg wrote in to ask:

Jim --

As a new Disney-MGM cast member, I have to tell you that I've learned quite a bit about the place I work at thanks to your site. Like that "Lights, Motors, Action!" article you ran last week. I never knew that the Imagineers were planning on bringing Disneyland's "Indiana Jones Adventure" to the studio. That would have been so awesome if they'd actually built that ride here.

Anyway, the real reason that I'm writing today is that I was wondering if you could help me win a bet that I've made with a co-worker. He claims that WDI once planned on showing movies out in Disney-MGM's parking lot. I say that this idea sounds screwy. I mean, how is Mickey supposed to make any money off of showing movies out in a theme park's parking lot?

This guy said he'd buy me lunch if I'm right, Jim. So since I'm an hourly employee and would really love a free meal, PLEASE tell me that I'm right.

Thanks for your help. And keep up the good work.

Dirty Dawg

Dear Dirty Dawg --

I hate to break it to you, D.D.. But it looks like you actually owe your pal a free lunch.

As it turns out, 'way back in the mid-1990s, the Imagineers actually were planning on showing movies out in Disney-MGM's parking lot. And this wouldn't be just a one-time event.

No, the plan was to take a seldom-used chunk of the studio's parking lot (To be specific, the northwest corner of the lot. By the back entrance to Disney-MGM. Near Buena Vista Drive) and turn that into a brand new night-time entertainment venue for the park.

"And what was that venue supposed to be?," you query. A recreation of a classic old 1950s drive-in.

                                                                        Copyright 1995 The Walt Disney Company

Ah, it was going to be great, folks. Two huge screens that would have been built at the points of this diamond-shaped piece of property. In the middle, there would have been a projection booth as well as a snackbar loaded with chrome and neon. And each night, the WDW Drive-In would show (what else?) classic Disney films from the 1950s & 1960s.

The best part of this plan is not only would it have allowed turned that seldom-used piece of the Disney-MGM parking lot into a money-maker. But it would have also allowed the studio theme park to pay tribute to another part of the American movie-going experience: a family night out  at the drive-in.

So why didn't this get built? I'm told that AMC executives (I.E. The folks who built that state-of-the-art movie theater right next door to Pleasure Island) weren't all that thrilled with the idea of the Mouse going into the movie business just up the street from their multiplex. They saw the WDW Drive-In as direct competition for their PI facility. Which made the project a violation of the exclusivity deal that AMC had initially cut with the Mouse back in the early 1980s, when they agreed to take part in the Pleasure Island expansion project.

So -- seeing as Disney didn't want to be sued by AMC -- the Imagineers reluctantly tabled their plans for a really-for-real outdoor Drive-In. Here's hoping that someday WDI gets around to reviving this project.

And -- finally -- CrumbBum writes in to say:

       Jim --

       Am I the only one out here who's upset that Disney has decided to cancel "Kim Possible"?


Dear CrumbBum --

No, you're not the only one. I too have to admit that I'm kind of bummed that this witty Disney Channel series has finally come to the end of its run. But I'll say this much: The Mouse has at least allowed Ms. Possible to go out with a little style.

To explain: Tonight at 8 p.m., a special 75-minute-long episode entitled "So the Drama" airs on the Disney Channel. And I'm told that the show's creators -- Bob Schooley & Mark McCorkle -- have used this TV movie to put a fitting cap on their series. To tie up some of KP's loose ends as well as give some of the show's best characters (Including my own personal favorite: The inept super-villain, Dr. Drakken) one last chance to stand in the spotlight.

And -- this being television & all -- just because Disney has officially wrapped production of the "Kim Possible" TV series doesn't mean that KP is actually going away. In fact, this acclaimed show makes its Toon Disney debut later this month.

But I know, I know. That particular piece of news can't be of much comfort to the true "Kim Possible" die-hards like CrumbBum. They want a much more tangible way to cap off their KP viewing experience.

Well, would it help if I told you that -- on Tuesday, May 10th -- Buena Vista Home Entertainment is releasing "So the Drama" on DVD? And -- given that this version of the TV movie is dubbed the "Top Secret Extended Version" -- it will actually feature scenes that will not be shown as part of tonight's airing. And  -- as an extra added bonus -- this DVD will also include a never-before-aired episode of the series.

So take heart, CrumbBum. Your KP viewing experience isn't actually over yet. Not at least until you pick up that "So the Drama" DVD and get to see that unaired episode.

And -- speaking of fun pieces of media -- Jeff Lange wants me to remind you all that we're still taking names of those JHM readers who'd like to be notified when my Disneyland History CD becomes available. So -- if you'd like to be among the first to get your hands on this sure-to-be-fun disc -- please send your name and your e-mail address along to [email protected]

Okay. That's it for this week, folks. I hope you enjoyed the assortment of stories that JHM foisted on you over the past five days and that you'll be back for more come next Monday morning.

Til then, you take care, okay?




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