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Did you spot all of the in-jokes & Disney references in “Prep and Landing”?

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Did you spot all of the in-jokes & Disney references in “Prep and Landing”?

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Okay. I know. JHM has already done a number of stories on “Disney Prep and Landing,” that new holiday special that Walt Disney Animation Studios produced exclusively for ABC (which – FYI – wound up being the highest rated Christmas special of the 2009 – 2010 season).

The Prep and Landing Title card from Disney's new holiday special
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

But if you’re making plans to watch tonight’s encore presentation (which airs on ABC from 8-8:30 p.m. ET/PT), I thought that you might enjoy knowing where to look in order to catch all of the inside jokes / stuff that “Disney Prep and Landing” co-directors / writers Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton hid in plain sight in this new holiday special.

Stevie Wermers-Skelton and Kevin Deters, co-directors/writers of Disney Prep and Landing
(L to R) Stevie Wermers-Skelton and Kevin Deters, co-directors / writers of “Disney
Prep and Landing.” Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Take – for example – the German Shepherd that surprises Wayne and his old partner Peterson in this holiday special’s prologue. Does that dog look familiar? He should. Given that this CG canine is the title character of “Bolt” with a slightly different paint job.

“Walt Disney Feature Animation was just finishing ‘Bolt’ as we were gearing up production of ‘Prep and Landing.’ So we figured why reinvent the wheel?,” Deters explained. “That said, to make this reuse less obvious, we did change Bolt’s coloring from that of an American Shepherd to a German Shepherd dog. But – beyond that – it’s the same animation rig.”

The Prep and Landing team is discovered by the family dog
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, Bolt isn’t the only Disney dog to make a cameo appearance in “Prep and Landing.” Keep a close eye out for a Goofy-faced nightlight as Wayne & Lanny are putting Timmy back in bed.

“This is an extra special inside gag for Stevie and myself,” Kevin continued. “Given that the image of Goofy’s face that we use on that nightlight in Timmy Terwelp’s bedroom is actually from the poster for ‘How to Hook Up Your Home Theater.’ Which is the short that we co-directed for Disney. Stevie painted that poster herself, by the way.”

Wayne the prep and landing elf is determined to make Timmy's Christmas special
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

As for the next blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Disney reference, keep an eye out for a snow-covered station wagon in “Prep and Landing” ‘s action-packed finale. Did you catch the license plate number as Wayne & Lanny were skiing over that car? If not, it reads “12501 WED.” As in December 5, 1901. Which is Walt Disney’s birthday.

Even the cars in Timmy's neighborhood are covered with snow
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Then – of course – there’s that holiday special that Wayne watches while he’s goofing off at the Terwelps house. Which is “Mickey's Christmas Carol,” the featurette that “Prep and Landing” producer John Lasseter worked on during his first stint at Walt Disney Animation Studios back in the late 1970s / early 1980s.

Wayne watches Mickey's Christmas Carol while he relaxes in the big chair
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Beyond that … Deters & Wermers-Skelton take great pride in is the number of nods to Christmas classics and/or earlier holiday specials that they were able to slip into “Prep and Landing”.

“Timmy Terwelp is obviously our tribute to Tiny Tim from Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol.’, “ Stevie said …

Timmy Terwelp woke up to find Wayne the elf in his TV chair
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

… “And if you look closely at the plant behind Magee’s desk, you’ll see that it’s actually the tree from ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas.’ “

Magee runs the control tower with an iron candy cane
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

In fact, one of the funnier audio / visual gags in “Disney Prep and Landing” comes when Magee pours the dregs from her cup of Yuletide Joe into this flower pot. There’s this brief pause. Then – just like in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” – the needles fall off of that pitiful little Christmas tree with the exact same tinkle-tinkle-tinkle noise.

Another intriguing aspect of this holiday special is the way that Kevin & Stevie chose to handle Santa. Or – as the elves call him – “The Big Guy.”

“Since we’re telling this story from the elves’ point-of-view, Santa Claus really is The Big Guy. Which is why we wanted this character to come across as being large, powerful and somewhat mysterious,” Deters explained.

Which is why – in “Disney Prep and Landing” – you get to see Santa from the waist down …

Santa walks down the runway with his assistant elf
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

… a brief glimpse of his glove and mouth …

Santa gets ready to launch his sleigh with a touch of a button
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

… even the back of his head …

Santa's face is never shown in Disney Prep and Landing
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

… But you never ever get a full-on view of Santa's face.

“That was a deliberate choice on our part,” Kevin continued. “That’s also why we went with veteran character actor Morgan Sheppard as the voice of The Big Guy. He brought sort of a gruffness to this role. Which is why you easily understand why Wayne would be kind of afraid when he dropped by Santa’s office on Christmas Day.”

Speaking of that portion of “Disney Prep and Landing,” if you look closely at what Miss Holly is typing on her typewriter, you’ll see that it’s the lyrics to “Jingle Bells.”

Miss Holly, Santa's elf assistant types the words to Jingle Bells
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Beyond that … The in-jokes go from things that film buffs will appreciate (EX: The code name of Santa’s sleigh? Rosebud) …

Santa's sleigh in Disney Prep and Landing
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

… to gags that only members of the Deters & Wemers-Skelton clans will get. Take – for example – the toy giraffe in Timmy’s bedroom. Which is modeled after a favorite plaything of one of Kevin’s sons.

Wayne and Lanny carry Timmy Terwelp to bed
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Or the name of the side of that container of milk that Wayne uses to make his late-night latte.

Wayne gets on the naughty list by making hot chocolate for himself at Timmy's house
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Or the fact that the Terwelps house (seen in miniature here in the snow globe that Santa presents to Wayne) …

Wayne looks at the snowglobe Santa gave him
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

… is modeled after Kevin’s boyhood home.

I know, I know. It seems like that there’s an awful lot of Deters-related material in “Disney Prep and Landing.” Not to worry, though. Ms. Wermers-Skelton gets in her licks as well with this holiday special.

Take – for example – the elf that revs up the engines on Santa’s sleigh (i.e. Dasher & Dancer). He’s voiced by Stevie.

Dasher and Dancer get revved up for their Christmas Eve flight
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

But of all the in-jokes & tributes that are featured in “Disney Prep and Landing,” I think my favorite is buried down deep in the credits for this Christmas special. Which reads:

“In Loving Memory of WALTER A. FULLER”

Walter A. Fuller
Walter A. Fuller

“And who’s Walter A. Fuller?,” you ask. Not an employee of Walt Disney Feature Animation. But – rather – an air traffic controller at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.

So how did Fuller earn that particular tribute in “Prep and Landing” ? Well, back in the Spring of 2008, while Deters & Wermers-Skeleton were still in the research phase of this new ABC holiday special, they wanted to visit an air traffic control tower. So that the one that Magee worked in at the North Pole would then have an authentic look and feel.

Magee's control tower was based on the Burbank airport control tower
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

As it turns out, Walter was a neighbor of Susie Coffer, who works in Development at WDAS. So Coffer arranged with Fuller to bring Deters, Wermers-Skelton as well as a few other folks from Disney up into the Burbank Tower. Where Walter then proceeded to give this group a tour that they talked about for months afterwards. Which provided all sorts of info, insights, lingo and jargon that they immediately folded into “Prep and Landing.”

Unfortunately, five months after this tower tour, Fuller was one of the 25 people who were killed in that Chatsworth Metrolink crash.

And the crew at Walt Disney Animation Studios … Given that Walter had been so helpful, so generous with his time while they were researching “Prep and Landing,” these writers, artists and animators felt that they had to something to honor the memory of this very special man.

Which explains the credit at the end of this holiday special. As well as this elf who works in the North Pole Tower.

The elf that reports the storm in sector 7 to Magee was based on the Burbank airport controller
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Look familiar?

ABC’s encore presentation of “Disney Prep and Landing” airs tonight from 8-8:30 p.m. ET / PT. Which -- to my way of thinking -- is a perfect way to spend a half hour on Christmas Eve. If you haven't already seen this acclaimed holiday special, be sure and check it out. To quote Lanny: "It's so tinsel."

And speaking of the holidays … If you’re looking to do any last minute Christmas shopping on Amazon.com, could you please do JHM a favor and – before you begin bargain hunting online – click on the above banner?

If you do that … Well, Jim Hill Media then gets a teeny tiny chunk of whatever you spend. Which would be a very nice way to show your appreciation for all the great stories that you’ve read on this site over the past year.

Happy Holidays!

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  • Your story was featured in DisMarks! Here is the link to vote it up and promote it: http://dismarks.com/GeneralDisney/Jim_Hill_Did_you_spot_all_of_the_in_jokes_Disney_references_in_Prep_and_Landing

  • I liked that the ID badges that people at the North Pole were wearing were modeled after Disney's corporate ID badges.

  • I knew I recognized that adorable mug! It's Bolt!

    Although more than just his coat color has been change, his muzzle and ears are different and his legs seems a tad more meager as well. Although he still looks strikingly similar to the handsome titular character from Bolt.

    Does anyone know if this dog makes any more appearances in Prep and Landing? If so, I'm gonna have to get hold of the episodes somehow!

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