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"Restless Nights and Disney Afternoons" webinar looks back at the early, early days of Walt Disney Television Animation

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"Restless Nights and Disney Afternoons" webinar looks back at the early, early days of Walt Disney Television Animation

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Okay. Everyone knows how to get to Carnegie Hall (i.e. practice, practice, practice) and/or return from Oz (i.e. click your heels three times and say "There's no place like home").

But when it comes to the entertainment industry ... To be honest, there's no one clear path when it comes to success in Hollywood. Sometimes - if you're looking to make it big on the West Coast -- you have to do something counter-intuitive. Like - say - go to the East Coast.

That's just what Jymn Magon did. The talent behind such Disney Afternoon favorites as DuckTales, TaleSpin, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Goof Troop and Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears actually got his start in the business in one of the least show-bizzy places on the planet. Which was the First Church of Christ, Scientist (AKA The Mother Church) in Boston, MA.

A very young Jymn Magon checks tapes at Disneyland Records
A very young Jymn Magon checks tapes at Disneyland Records

"I used a 16MM camera and did interviews with some of the more interesting members of the congregation," Jymn recalled. "Oddly enough, Alan Young was in charge of the media department at the Mother Church back then. So it was kind of strange that - 15 years or so later -- I'd wind up being his boss. Directing Alan as he did the voice of Scrooge McDuck on DuckTales."

So how did Magon go from the Mother Church to working with Mickey Mouse? Jymn is quick to credit his old college roommate, Gary Krisel. Who was able to parlay a job in marketing at Disneyland into a position at Disneyland Records.

"And once he was on board at Disneyland Records, Gary then made me aware that they were looking for writers. And since I had already written some bits for a comedy radio show that had been syndicated to a few colleges, I had some writing samples and tapes that I could then submit to Disney," Jymn continued. "Which is how I ended up writing Storyteller albums for the Company."

Jymn Magon and Drew Barrymoore celebrate when the
Disneyland Storyteller version of 'E.T.' went gold
Jymn Magon and Drew Barrymoore celebrate when the
Disneyland Storyteller version of "E.T." went gold

Mind you, this was back during the Ron Miller / Card Walker years. Back when Disney was struggling mightily to get out of the creative rut that it found itself in in the 1970s.

"And given that Disneyland Records hadn't really had a huge hit since the 'Mary Poppins' soundtrack was released back in the early 1960s, they were very receptive to ideas for new recordings," Magon said. "Which is why - when disco came in - they allowed us to record that 'Mickey Mouse Disco' album. Which then went triple platinum."

And - of course - it didn't hurt to be the guy who was associated with that huge hit recording when Michael Eisner came in the door in October of 1984 and began to really shake things up at the Mouse House.

Mickey and Minnie disco their way across the cover the Disney Disco album of songs
Copyright 1979 Walt Disney Productions. All rights reserved

"Michael had only been on the Lot for a couple of weeks when he called this big meeting and said 'I want Disney to get into television animation. ' Given that this was a business that Eisner was familiar with (he'd been in charge of children's programming during his days at ABC), this was a project he personally wanted to spearhead. And given that - because of my work with the Storyteller albums - I was familiar with all the voice talent that Disney used back then ... Well, that's why I got invited to take part in that meeting," Jymn explained.

But the only problem was ... Well, The Walt Disney Company had never been in the television animation business before this. So there was no process in place, no set procedures when it came to moving from story ideas to scripts to animation.

"Which admittedly scared a lot of people at the Studio. But me? I realized that - because there was no set process already in place - that meant that we could write our own rulebook. Create our own production procedures," Magon continued.

Walt Disney Television logo
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And that's just what Jymn, Gary and the rest of Walt Disney Television Animation team did. Because they wanted these shows to be top notch, Magon and Krisel went out and hired the very best voice talent they could for "Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears." People like June Foray, Bill Scott, Daws Butler and Chuck McCann.

"When possible, we also always tried to work with the best possible source material," Magon stated. "And I remember - as I was growing up in Michigan - reading all those great Scrooge McDuck comic books. Where Cark Barks would then send Donald and his nephews around the globe on all these amazing adventures. You couldn't ask for better source material for a TV show than that."

Mind you, not every show idea that Jymn pitched to Michael automatically got picked up. Magon remembers really struggling with a new animated series that drew its inspiration from "Miami Vice."


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"We were originally going to call this show 'Metro Mice' and have it be about this mis-matched pair of rodents who solve crimes," Jymn remembered. "And Michael kept saying 'It's not a home run.' Eisner wondered aloud if we couldn't build this show around two already established Disney characters, rather than two anonymous mice. Which is how that show became 'Chip 'n' Dale Rescuer Rangers.' "

Taking advantage of all the opportunities that life throws your way. Listening carefully when your boss is talking. Knowing when to follow procedure and/or when to make a break from the rules of the past. These are the sorts of lessons that Jymn Magon learned during his 25 years in show business.

And now, Magon is looking to share his stories, his insights with industry neophytes as well as animation fans. And you can get in on this fun too by signing up for that series of live web events that Jymn will soon begin holding. The first of which - "Restless Nights and Disney Afternoons: Creating Hit Shows" -will be presented three different times over this coming weekend.


Two big thumbs up for Disney's "TaleSpin"

"My goal here is strike just the right balance between entertainment and education. I'm looking to share some fun inside stories from my days at Disney while - at the same time - give some good practical advice to all those aspiring writers and artists out there who are just getting their careers started," Magon stated.

And this weekend's one-hour-long webinar is just the first of a series. In the weeks and months ahead, Magon plans on rolling out a full slate of web interviews, panel discussions, and workshops. With the real high points of this new online effort being Jymn's "Secrets of Animation Storytelling" class as well as a two-part celebration of the 25th anniversary of "Disney's Adventures of The Gummi Bears" that Magon has planned.

But that's off in the future aways. "Restless Nights and Disney Afternoons," however, gets underway tomorrow. And if you'd like to learn a little bit more about this weekend's webinar, you should click on this link: Or if you'd just prefer to go ahead and sign up for Magon's initial online class, you probably click on this link. Just be aware that there'll be a $10 fee for taking part in this webinar.

 


Jymn Magon poses with the vocal cast of Disney's "TaleSpin"

Either way, please keep in mind that each webinar will include a 10-minute-long Q & A session. Which is when participants will be able to ask Jymn Magon any question they'd like about his 25 year-long career in entertainment. And if you want to hear some genuinely interesting stories, be sure to ask Magon about what it was like to go from crushing on Sally Struthers while he watched "All in the Family" on TV as a kid to then being able to hire this sitcom star to come in and  voice Rebecca Cunningham on "TaleSpin."

Or - better yet - hear about it was like to be in the booth at the end of a "Gummi Bears" recording session. When June Foray asked Jymn if it would be okay if she and Bill Scott recorded a brief piece for an upcoming Rocky & Bullwinkle anniversary show. And as Magon looked on,  Foray & Scott recreated two beloved cartoon characters from his childhood right in front of Jymn.

That's the sort of Hollywood history that you can only get when you talk with an industry vet like Magon. So if you'd like some great practical advice about how to get ahead in Tinseltown and/or are just in the mood to hear some truly terrific inside stories about the early, early days of Walt Disney Television, be sure and sign up for this weekend's "Restless Nights and Disney Afternoons" webinar.

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  • Now this is a Jim Hill Media article.

  • Great article!

    I already knew about the webinars, I will attend the first one.

    Jymn also answered a LOT of questions on my TaleSpin fansite about many different things concerning the Disney Afternoon shows :

    www.animationsource.org/.../&id_film=9&nump=1338

  • I grew up with Disney Afternoons. Duck Tales, Chip n' Dale's Rescue Rangers, and Darkwing Duck were my favorite shows. Great article, Jim!

  • Except Gummi Bears wasn't produced for Disney Afternoon.  It was a Saturday morning cartoon for years before being rerun as part of Disney Afternoon.  I can't believe this fact continues to be omitted from anything related to Disney Afternoon.  Gummi Bears was very much an afterthought, as far as Afternoon is concerned.

  • Toad => That's the same thing for Ducktales and Chip & Dale. TaleSpin was the first new series included for the Disney Afternoon. That doesn't make much difference, most people consider them as the same level of quality and since all were aired during the Disney Afternoon at some point...Well yes, they are all Disney Afternoon shows.

  • steet:  Duck Tales was a daily-running, afternoon cartoon show, all the time it was new.  Gummi Bears wasn't even close to that, while it was new.  Including Gummi Bears in a story about development of Disney Afternoon, including hiring the best voice talent they could get, is hilarious.  Gummi Bears came along before Disney Afternoon was even thought of, and was only used as back-filler in DA's later years.  To imply otherwise is inaccurate in the extreme.

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