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    Broadway's "Aladdin" honors Robin Williams' memory with a sing-along version of "Friend Like Me"

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    When the news of Robin Williams' untimely passing broke on Monday, a question quickly bubbled up within the Broadway community about how to properly pay tribute to this much-beloved performer. You see, while Williams was primarily known for his work in stand-up, television and film, Robin also "trod the boards." He and Steve Martin starred in Mike Nichols' 1988 off-Broadway version of "Waiting for Godot." Williams also staged his own one-man show, "Robin Williams...
  • Jim Hill

    The artists & animators behind Disney's "Aladdin" pay tribute to Robin Williams

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    Robin Williams spent an awful lot of time working at the Mouse House. Few people today remember that Robin's first starring role -- the title character in 1980's "Popeye" -- was actually a Walt Disney Productions / Paramount Pictures co-production. Or that three of Williams' best-reviewed dramatic turns -- Adrian Cronauer in 1987's "Good Morning, Vietnam," John Keating in 1989's "Dead Poets Society" and Sean Maguire in 1997's "Good Will Hunting"...
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    Remembering Robin Williams (1951 - 2014)

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    A man goes to the doctors. "Doctor," he says "Can you help me? Life doesn't seem worth living, and I am shrouded in constant gloom." "My good man," says the doctor, taking a good look at the melancholy face before him, "There is one cure for you. You must go and see Grimaldi the clown." "Sir," replies the patient, "I am Grimaldi the clown." This is the story that immediately came to mind earlier today when I heard about Robin Williams'...
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    Rowlf the Dog, Fozzie Bear and the Swedish Chef spill the beans on what it's really like to be a Muppet

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    For nearly 60 years, the Muppets have been entertaining TV viewers & movie-goers. But what are Kermit & Co. actually like when the cameras are off? I recently got the opportunity to find out. Out ahead of tomorrow's release on " Muppets Most Wanted " on Blu-ray & DVD, the nice folks at Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment offered me a unique opportunity. I could pick any three Muppet characters I liked and then submit questions for them to answer. I'll be honest here...
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    Alastair Fothergill reveals the bare facts about Disneynature's latest documentary, "Bears"

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    For three weeks back in 2012, a team of photographers had their cameras trained on an Alaskan bear den. All with the hope that -- when the mother and her just-born cubs who were inside finally emerged -- that this would then make compelling footage for Disneynature 's very next documentary, " Bears ." And sure enough, when Mama Bear & her brand-new babies finally stepped out of that den, the cinematographers did get some killer shots. The only problem was that "Bears"...
  • Jim Hill

    Jason Ritter says that being a blabbermouth makes working on Disney 's "Gravity Falls" tough

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    Are you ready to go back to the Shack? Jason Ritter certainly is. The Emmy Award-nominated actor who voices Dipper Pines on " Gravity Falls " has been itching to go back to the Mystery Shack ever since the Season One finale of this acclaimed animated series aired a year ago this week on the Disney Channel . Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved "You gotta understand that -- growing up -- I always loved secret codes and secret messages, things that you had to decode...
  • Jim Hill

    Do you wish that Comic-Con could come to you? Then check out D23's touring Fanniversary celebrations

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    Go ahead. Admit it. After hearing about all that cool stuff Comic-Con attendees got to see last week, you're now wishing that you'd gone down to San Diego. But then again, when you factor in what it would have cost to travel to Southern California (Not to mention that all 130,000 badges which were made available for this year's event sold out within 90 minutes back in March), maybe going to Comic-Con isn't really an option for you. Which is why you're probably now wishing that...
  • Jim Hill

    Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet reveals the secret of running a successful amusement park

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    For Matt Ouimet , the President and CEO of Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. , a typical day at the office really is a walk in the park. Matt Ouimet at the May 2013 grand opening of GateKeeper at Cedar Point. Copyright 2014 CFEC. All rights reserved "To be honest, I don't think I'd like this job if I was forced to be cooped up in an office. When you work in the amusement park business, you have to see where things are working and you have to see where they're not," Ouimet admitted...
  • Jim Hill

    Dan Povenmire & Swampy Marsh's New Hope is that they get to make more "Phineas & Ferb Star Wars" specials for the Disney Channel

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    So just how quickly after the Disney - Lucasfilm acquisition was officially announced was tonight's "Phineas & Ferb Star Wars" special put into production? Well, to hear Dan Povenmire & Jeff "Swampy" Marsh tell the story, this affectionate-yet-hilarious show (which airs tonight at 9 p.m., 8 p.m. Central on the Disney Channel) was greenlit mere moments after this $4.06 million deal was revealed to the public back on October 30, 2012. "We were sitting in an audio...
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    How Glenn Casale helped "The Little Mermaid" find her feet after this Disney stage show stumbled on Broadway

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    It took the stage version of Disney's "The Little Mermaid" quite a while to finally find its sea legs. When the original Broadway production opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater back in January of 2008, the critics were not kind. Ben Brantley of the New York Times was particularly vicious, calling "Mermaid" an " ... unfocused spectacle" which saddled its cast with " ... ungainly guess-what-I-am costumes" and then forced them to perform in front of "...
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    Ready to let go of "Let It Go" ? Disney isn't. Mouse has five year plan for "Frozen" franchise

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    You've no doubt already heard about all of the box office records that " Frozen " has broken over the past eight months (With the most recent one being the 16 weeks that this Walt Disney Animation Studios production spent as the No. 1 film in Japan. "Frozen" sold over $240 million worth of tickets in that country before it was finally knocked out of the top spot . Ironically enough by another Disney movie, " Maleficent "). But were you aware of how well the "Frozen"...
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    Disneytoon Studios worked closely with CalFire to make "Planes: Fire & Rescue" as authentic as possible

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    "Do your research." That is the lesson that John Lasseter -- Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney & Pixar Animation Studios -- has repeatedly drilled into the artists that he works with. That before they jump feet-first into developing a brand-new animated feature, these filmmakers must first understand the world that this movie's characters are supposed to occupy. CalFire crew members jump out of a plane as part of a training exercise. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights...
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    Tom Williams, Universal Parks Chairman & CEO, reflects on the Universal Orlando Resort's magical transformation

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    With everyone else looking forward to tomorrow's grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley , it might seem kind of strange that Tom Williams -- the Chairman and CEO of Universal Parks & Resorts -- is using this exact same moment to look backwards. "But you have to understand that I was part of the opening team for Universal Studios Florida . I was here back in 1987 when this was all still snake-filled marshland. And to see what it's become -- Central Florida's...
  • Jim Hill

    Disney hopes that "7D" 's stellar voice cast will make animation fans Happy, not Grumpy

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    So when Disney Television Animation decided to build a show around the Seven Dwarfs, how did they give this new animated series its own identity? Make sure that people wouldn't confuse this program with the classic animated feature that the Dwarfs debuted in back in 1937? Well, DTA did this by giving this new Disney Junior series a somewhat edgy title, " The 7D ." They also gave the Dwarfs a bold new look & different personalities. And then -- to make sure that today's kids...
  • Jim Hill

    So which Hollywood legend was actually responsible for the creation of "it's a small world"? Would you believe Mommy Dearest?

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    I realize that everyone out there in Online-land is already getting ready for the long Fourth of July Weekend. But before you plunge into three straight days of backyard barbeques & fireworks, I wanted to direct your attention to something cool that the Disney History Institute just posted: Project Fair Winds . Jeremy Marx spent the past 8 months putting together a CG version of the Tower of the Four Winds. Which recreates all 52 of the mobiles which decorated that 120 foot-tall, 100 ton structure...
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    "The Beast Within: The Tale of Beauty's Prince" puts a "Wicked"-ly entertaining twist on Disney's "... tale as old as time."

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    So what did you think of "Maleficent" ? This past weekend, that Robert Stromberg film blew through the $200-million-in-domestic-ticket-sales barrier. Which makes this Walt Disney Pictures a blockbuster by modern Hollywood standards. That -- coupled with the $383.7 million that "Maleficent" has earned overseas to date -- means that this reimagining of "Sleeping Beauty" will ultimately be a very profitable enterprise for the Mouse. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All...
  • Jim Hill

    Which Santa do you want to see in the DreamWorks DreamHouse at your local mall this coming holiday season?

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    Well, it's July 1st. And you know what that means. Only 177 shopping days 'til Christmas. Mind you, when you head out to the mall this coming holiday season, you may discover something entirely new. Which is the DreamWorks DreamHouse. "And what is the DreamWorks DreamHouse?," you ask. Well, it's a whole line of business for that Glendale, CA-based animation studios. One that DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg talked up last month during his keynote address at the 2014 Licensing...
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    From skeletal Simpsons to Grumpy Cat, the 2014 Licensing Expo had it all

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    Janet from Another Planet sent me a note this past weekend, saying: I thought you were going to tell us more about what you saw at this year's Licensing Show in Las Vegas. What happened to that article? Photo by Jim Hill Nothing, actually. It just took me a while to wade through the hundreds of photos that I took at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center earlier this month. You gotta understand that the Licensing Expo kind of redefines sensory overload. As soon as you make your way onto the show...
  • Jim Hill

    Are you a "Frozen" fan who just can't get enough Olaf? If so, does Disney Consumer Products have an ice surprise for you

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    All day long, I've been getting e-mails from JHM readers about "Frozen Summer Fun: Live at Disney's Hollywood Studios," which kicks off on July 5th and then runs straight through September 1st. What people most seem to want to know is this really Disney's response to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley (which -- not-so-co-incidentally -- officially opens to the public on July 8th)? Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved Well, while I enjoy a good...
  • Jim Hill

    Minions & zombie princesses invade the Strip as Las Vegas gets ready for the 2014 Licensing Expo

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    Greetings from Las Vegas, where Licensing Expo 2014 officially gets underway later this morning. Photo by Jim Hill As you wandered through the upper floors of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center yesterday, you couldn't help but notice the folks who were hurrying to get the hall ready for today's events. Photo by Jim Hill Either by hanging banners or by using forklifts to carefully put heavy three-dimensional promotional pieces into place. Photo by Jim Hill Mind you, not everyone was willing...
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    Universal Studios Hollywood pushes ahead with construction of West Coast version of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Springfield, U.S.A.

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    I know that stateside Harry Potter fans have been focusing on the upcoming opening of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida ... Copyright Universal Orlando. All rights reserved ... while folks overseas have been counting down the days 'til The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens at Universal Studios Japan . But it's also important to remember that Universal Studios Hollywood will soon be getting its own Wizarding World. And as I toured the Upper Lot yesterday ... Photo by Jim Hill ...
  • Jim Hill

    How Jim Dale turned his 60+ years in show business into 90 minutes of Broadway magic

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    So how do you know Jim Dale ? To be honest, it kind of depends on which decade you grew up in. If you were in the UK back in the 1950s, maybe you were lucky enough to catch Dale's stage debut where -- at the tender age of 17 & a 1/2 -- he became the youngest professional comic to work the English Musical Hall circuit. If you're a child of the Sixties, perhaps you know Jim as the lyricist for "Georgy Girl" (which Rolling Stone -- back in 2002 -- said was No. 36 on that magazine's...
  • Jim Hill

    Seven Dwarfs Mine Train literally puts a new face on the Disney theme park experience

    When it comes to the Walt Disney Parks & Resorts , it's kind of a tradition that good enough isn't really good enough. Case in point: " Pirates of the Caribbean ." When Walt Disney first envisioned bringing buccaneers into his first theme park in the late 1950s, he was thinking more of a walk-through attraction. A place where Disneyland Guests would first descend from street level in New Orleans Square and then stroll past this elaborately-themed dungeon which was to be filled...
  • Jim Hill

    Remembering when Ronald Reagan came to EPCOT Center to see the President's Inaugural Bands Parade

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    After having dealt with those record low temperatures that this past Winter's Polar Vortex whipped up, I have to admit that I am genuinely enjoying this year's belated (but much appreciated) Spring. But that said, I recognize that late 2013 / early 2014 wasn't the only time that things got really, really cold here in the US. One other time that immediately comes to mind is January 21, 1985. Which is when things got so cold in Washington D.C. that then-President Ronald Reagan was forced...
  • Jim Hill

    How is LEGOLAND becoming Florida's new must-see attraction? One brick at a time

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    Back when our grandparents used to visit the Sunshine State, there was always one place that they had to visit. And that was Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida . Started back in 1936 by Dick Pope Sr. and his wife Julie, this 170-acre park quickly became world-famous for its lush botanical gardens & elaborate water skiing shows. But with the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971, the center of gravity for Florida tourism suddenly shifted over to Orlando. And with fewer & fewer folks now...
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