Before you put that Christmas card in the mail to Grandma, I
want you to pause for a moment and think about the artist who drew the image on
the front of that holiday card. To be specific, WHEN they drew that image.
"My Dad was actually an illustrator for Hallmark Cards. And
I remember that he always got discombobulated because they were always doing
holiday-themed stuff at the wrong time of year," recalled Paul Rudish during a
recent phone interview. "By that I mean: In order to meet Hallmark's production
schedule, Dad would have to be painting Santa Claus in June and then drawing
the Easter Bunny in November."
Well, Paul recently got a taste of what his Dad, Rich Rudish
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Rich actually created Rainbow Brite for Hallmark in 1983. Not
only that, but Paul's Dad then went on to become art director for this
character's full-length animated feature, 1985's "Rainbow Brite and the Star
Stealer") went through with when Rudish rode herd on production of Disney
Television Animation's holiday treat for 2016, "Duck the Halls: A Mickey Mouse
Christmas Special" (which premieres tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET / PT on Disney
Channel, the Disney Channel app as well as Disney Channel VOD).
"I have to admit that it was pretty weird to have Christmas
songs stuck in your head in August," Paul laughed. "To have it be 96 degrees
outside while you're in your office, singing 'It's the Most Wonderful Time of
the Year.' "
So how this super-sized seasonal version of those Emmy
Award-winning "Mickey Mouse" shorts actually come about? Rudish (i.e., the
executive producer & supervising director of this acclaimed series) was
quick to credit the talented team at Disney Television Animation.
"It was Darrick Bachman who actually came up with the
original conceit of Donald opting out of flying south for the winter one year
so that he could then see what Christmas was all about. Along with our
directors Alonso Ramos-Ramirez and Dave Wasson, Darrick & I got in there
and hammered out this story," Paul explained. "But most of the credit really
belongs to Darrick. He's the guy who transformed this story idea from something
you could build a short around to a concept that could then support a
full-sized holiday special."
And - yes - you read that right. "Duck the Halls: A Mickey
Mouse Christmas Special" actually started out life as an idea for a
3-and-a-half minute-long short. But all that changed when Rudish got a call
from Disney's Franchise division.
"Franchise told me - back during the Summer of 2015 -- that
there was a desire for an Christmas special which featured the versions of the Mickey
Mouse characters that we do here at Disney Television Animation," Paul
continued. "When I then told Darrick that we had been tasked by Corporate to
come up with an instant holiday classic, he took his original idea for that 3
minute-long 'Duck the Halls' short and then wrote a very thorough treatment
which turned this story into something that could be told over 22 minutes."
Of course, you can't have a holiday special without
Christmas music. But Rudish wanted some very specific tunes for this toon.
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"When I was growing up, my Mom made me watch those Andy
Williams Christmas specials which always had these very elaborate production
numbers. And I thought that - if the music for 'Duck the Halls' could somehow
recreate that 1950s / 1960s feel - it would really fit well with the style
& tone that we were trying to capture with this Disney Television Animation
holiday special," Paul stated. "Thankfully, our composer Christopher Willis more
than obliged that request. He not only wrote music that had that specific 1960s
flavor, but Chris also pre-wrote all of the main song sequences of this show so
that we could then specifically board to this music."
Rudish also made a point of talking up Jenny Gase-Baker (who
- along with Joseph Holt - served as art director on this holiday special)'s
contribution to "Duck the Halls."
"If you watch this show closely, you'll notice that there
are a lot of quick cuts. Which means that the shot count on 'Duck the Halls' is
really very high. Which meant that the background work on this holiday special
got really intense," Paul said. "But Jenny Baker, she just rolled up her
sleeves and dove in. With the help of our painting team, she put a lot of love
into this show. Which - given how excited Jenny gets about Christmas in general
- really wasn't a surprise."
Speaking of watching "Duck the Halls: A Mickey Mouse Christmas
Special" very closely: If you're a Disney fan, you're definitely going to want
to DVR this holiday show. Not just because of those cameo appearances that
Ludwig Von Drake & Gus Goose make.
But because of those blink-and-you'll-miss-them references to earlier
Walt Disney Productions like 1948's "Melody Time" and 1961's "Babes in
And for the serious film fans out there in the audience ... Well,
when's the last time you saw a holiday special that actually included a nod to
Stanley Kubrick's version of "The Shining" ?
"To be honest, I'm kind of surprised that Disney Corporate
let us keep in some of the things that we slipped into 'Duck the Halls,' "
Rudish admitted. "I guess that they just thought that it was funny."
By the way, this isn't the only holiday special that Disney
Television Animation has in the works which feature the characters from the
"Mickey Mouse" shorts. As this phone interview was drawing to a close, Paul
revealed that they're already hard at work on a Halloween special for Disney
Channel which should debut sometime in October of 2017.
"The whole team enjoyed working on that one. Largely because
it's about Halloween and you can then be sillier & scarier. More to the
point, I think that we learned a lot from working on 'Duck the Halls," Rudish
concluded. "Anyway, that one's in animation right now. Mercury - that's our
animation studio up in Canada - is working on it. And we should see the
animation for this Halloween special start coming back in January."
Halloween? In January? The discombobulation continues at
Disney Television Animation.
FYI: If you miss "Duck the Halls: A Mickey Mouse
Christmas Special" 's debut tonight on Disney Channel, the Disney Channel app
as well as Disney Channel VOD, you can always catch this new holiday special when
it airs on DisneyXD on Monday, December 12 starting at 8 p.m. ET / PT.
This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, December 9, 2016