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    Huffington Post -- I Remember Papa: Jonathan Winter's Smurfy swan song

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    When it came time to find just the right voice for Papa Smurf, Raja Gosnell and Jordan Kerner were admittedly feeling a little blue. Why For? Because the casting department at Sony Pictures Animation kept coming up short. (L to R) Sony Pictures Digital Production president Bob Osher, director Raja Gosnell and producer Jordan Kerner at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Smurfs 2." Photo by Michael Buckner / Getty Images North America "This was back in early 2010 when we had just begun...
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    Huffington Post -- How Josh Gad almost missed out on the chance to voice Olaf the snowman for Disney "Frozen"

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    To be asked to participate in the first reading of a brand-new Disney animated feature was like a dream come true for Josh Gad. "You have to understand that -- when I was growing up -- I was absolutely obsessed with the animated films of Disney's Second Golden Age," Gad explained during a recent phone interview. "I mean, I recall going to see ' The Little Mermaid ' in theaters no less than 20 times. My poor mother had to send me with various aunts and uncles and nephews...
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    There were lots of tiny tots with their eyes all a-glow at Sesame Place's "A Very Furry Christmas"

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    SuperGrover22 wrote in yesterday with a Why For question: Copyright Ballantine Books. All rights reserved I just finished reading your review of Brian Jay Jones ' " Jim Henson: The Biography ." Can you please explain why Michael Eisner seemed so eager to get his hands on the Sesame Street Muppets? Disney had all of its own characters plus it was about to acquire all of the classic Muppets. Wasn't that enough? Why For did Eisner keep trying to persuade Henson to hand over the Sesame...
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    What role did Great Wolf Lodge play in the development of MagicBands for Walt Disney World?

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    Pauline S. dropped me a note the other day to ask: I've read lots of stories lately about all the testing that's being done at Disney World for MagicBands . And while there's been a lot written online about how everyone's WDW vacation experience will supposedly be changed forever once the entire resort is wired into this system, I have yet to hear anything about where the idea behind MagicBands actually came from. Do you know why Disney decided to implement this system in Orlando...
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    Huffington Post -- This "Little Mermaid" has legs: Disney Legend Jodi Benson looks back on 25 years of voicing the character of Ariel

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    It's often been said that good things come to those who wait. But no one knows that axiom better than voice actor Jodi Benson . Who had to wait a full year after handing in her " Little Mermaid " audition tape before Jodi then learned that she had won the role of a lifetime. The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on the Fall of 1986 "Back in the Fall of 1986, I was appearing in ' Smile ,' a Broadway musical that Howard Ashman had written with Marvin Hamlisch . Given that Howard and...
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    Huffington Post -- Theme entertainment professionals "Go Go" to Orlando for IAAPA's Attractions Expo

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    So how exactly do theme park attractions get created? Well, if you're talking about the rides & shows found at the Disney Parks , those are mostly the work of Walt's fabled Imagineers. Or if you're talking about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which -- even as you read this -- is expanding beyond Islands of Adventure 's borders over into Universal Studios Florida ), that impressive project was shepherded by the small-but-mighty team at Universal Creative . But what about...
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    Remembering Diane Disney Miller (1933 - 2013)

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    If you're looking for someone to thank for two of Walt Disney's greatest triumphs -- Disneyland Park and " Mary Poppins " -- take a moment right now to think about the late Diane Disney Miller . Miller -- who passed away earlier today following complications from a fall -- played a key role in both of these projects. When quizzed about how the Happiest Place on Earth came into being, Walt was quick to share the story of how ... ... Disneyland really began when my two daughters were...
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    Huffington Post -- In honor of Mickey's 85th anniversary, check out this clip from Walt Disney Animation Studios newest short, "Get A Horse!"

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    Even though today is Mickey Mouse's 85th anniversary, this Disney icon looks like he hasn't aged a day. Especially if you watch this classic cartoon character capering in his newest ground-breaking theatrical short, " Get A Horse! " As you can see by the clip which accompanies today's article (which is a special anniversary present that Walt Disney Animation Studios is sharing with JHM & Huffington Post readers), the opening section of "Get A Horse!" deliberately...
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    Jingle Cruise is a bungle in the jungle, thanks -- in large part -- to the way this new holiday overlay has been promoted

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    So where exactly -- in the great holiday scheme of things -- does Disneyland Park 's latest attempt at a seasonal overlay fall? Is the Jingle Cruise that Xmas gift which you've always dreamed of getting or more of an itchy sweater? Changing a single letter makes a really big difference at this Adventureland attraction. Photo by Jim Hill To be blunt, this holiday overlay is kind of a half-baked fruitcake. By that I mean: The creative concept behind the Jingle Cruise itself is sound. And the...
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    Tim Gunn is having a royal ball voicing Baileywick on Disney Junior's hit series, "Sofia the First"

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    Given that Disney Junior 's " Sofia the First " is supposedly set in this fantasy world filled with costumed balls & formal ceremonies, it only made sense that Enchancia's newest princess (who -- prior to her mother marrying King Roland -- had just been a regular kid, the daughter of the kingdom's shoemaker) would really need some help when it came to deciding which gown to wear for what occasion. "And since there was always going to be this aspect of 'Sofia the...
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    "Jim Henson: The Biography" takes you behind-the-scenes during Disney's first attempt to acquire the Muppets

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    So when Jim Henson finally signed the Muppets over to The Walt Disney Company, where exactly did the deal go down? New York City? London? LA? Nope. According to Brian Jay Jones , the author of " Jim Henson: The Biography " ( Ballantine Books , September 2013), this fateful meeting actually happened in Lake Buena Vista, FL. on August 24, 1989. Where ... Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved ... just after dark, Jim and the three Disney chiefs headed to the Portobello Yacht...
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    Marvel Studios' "Thor: The Dark World" is the sort of sequel that you wish Hollywood would serve up more often

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    You'd think that -- given that this Walt Disney Pictures release is built around a beefy Marvel superhero who wields an enormous hammer -- that " Thor: The Dark World " would be muscle-bound and plodding. But looks can be deceiving sometimes. For this sequel to 2011's " Thor " & 2012's " Marvel's The Avengers " is surprisingly light on its feet. Copyright 2013 Marvel. All rights reserved Director Alan Taylor (who's probably best known these days...
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    Winter comes early to NYC as the Times Square Disney Store gets "Frozen" over

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    Employees of the Times Square Disney Store were somewhat surprised when they came into work on Tuesday morning. Overnight, the exterior of this store had taken on an icy blue hue. Photo by Nancy Stadler And who's that just inside the entrance, greeting customers as they walk in off of Times Square ? Photo by Jim Hill Why, it's Olaf , the snowman character from Disney "Frozen." And even though we're still officially three weeks out from when this new Walt Disney Animation Studios...
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    Huffington Post -- How SeaWorld keeps the body clocks of its Antarctic penguins on South Pole Time

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    You know that out-of-sync feeling you have for those first few days after Daylight Savings Time? Where your internal body clock is telling you that it's one time while the light levels outside are telling you that it's an entirely different time? Well, then imagine how tough it must be to be an Antarctic penguin on display in Orlando. Where -- because you're now living in the Northern Hemisphere rather than the Southern -- you're a full six months out-of-sync. And because the light...
  • Jim Hill

    Monday Mouse Watch: How the team behind Disney's "Get A Horse!" uses breakthrough technology to create the look of a 1928 short

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    When a forger is trying to make a document look older than it actually is, they'll sometimes use tea or tobacco to stain the paper that this item is printed on. And when a furniture maker is trying to make a table or a dresser look like an authentic antique, they'll sometimes beat on that item with a length of chain in order to weather the wood. But when it comes to making a brand-new animated shot look as though it had been produced 85 years ago ... Well, no one in Hollywood had ever done...
  • Jim Hill

    Huffington Post -- Halloween never really ends for Brooke Walters, designer of Haunt mazes for Knott's Scary Farm

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    For most people on the planet, Halloween will end at the stroke of midnight tonight. Once the witching hour passes and it's then officially November 1st, the masks come off, the costumes get packed away and those artfully carved pumpkins quickly get tossed in the trash as we then turn our attention to all of the other holidays that loom on the calendar. Mind you, I said "most." If you're someone like Brooke Walters , who designs mazes for Haunt at Knott's Berry Farm , Halloween...
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    "Hocus Pocus" cast & crew return to the Disney lot to reminisce about the making of this Halloween favorite

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    D23 members got a treat (rather than a trick) earlier this month when the Official Disney Fan Club celebrated the 20th anniversary of "Hocus Pocus" by holding two screenings of this Kenny Ortega film on the Burbank lot back on October 19th. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved According to Billy Stanek , D23's web editor, the Studio really went all out for this celebration. Not only digging down deep into the Company's Archives to unearth iconic props & costumes...
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    The Headless Horseman heads on out, expanding his turf beyond Walt Disney World for the 2013 Halloween season

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    You think -- what with all the attention that he's been getting lately -- you'd think that the Headless Horseman would have a bigger head. If he had a head, I mean. Copyright 2013 FOX and its related entities. All rights reserved To explain: Until relatively recently, if you were looking for a cinematic representation of this particular Washington Irving tale, you'd basically have no choice but to default to Disney's 1949 package feature, " The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad...
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    Did Universal Studios Hollywood over-react when it cancelled the remaining "Bill & Ted" shows for this year's Halloween Horror Nights?

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    Here's a tricky question for all you theme park fans out there. Copyright NBCUniversal. All rights reserved If you buy a ticket for an after-hours, hard ticket event like Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights -- which states right on the brochure that you're handed as you come through the turnstiles that " ... this event is recommended for mature audiences only" ... Copyright NBCUniversal. All rights reserved ... and that " ... additional warnings and restrictions are posted...
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    Why does "Cloudy 2" have such a bright future at the box office? Because of all the hard work Sony Pictures Animation staffers put into this production

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    This week in Hollywood, most of the ticket sales-related talk has to do with how well " Gravity " has been holding up (This Alfonso Cuarón film was No. 1 at the domestic box office from the third weekend in a row ) and how quickly " The Fifth Estate " folded. But there is another intriguing ticket sales-related story out there. And it has to do with how long " Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 " has been hanging in there. Copyright Sony Pictures Animation. All...
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    Let S/R Labs help you get all fired up for Halloween with its biannual animation art auction

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    Okay. Halloween is less than 2 weeks away at this point. So do you have any ideas for a costume yet? I didn't think so. Well, when I'm out to make an impression at my sister Andrea's annual Halloween / pumpkin carving party, I always try to think about what scared me as a kid (As opposed to what scares me now as an adult. Which is the Visa bill). Copyright S/R Laboratories. All rights reserved Anyway, luckily the catalog for S/R Laboratories' latest animation art auction (which -...
  • Jim Hill

    Huffington Post -- Mickey, meet Moe: How the Three Stooges influenced Disney's new Emmy Award-winning series of Mickey Mouse shorts

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    For decades now, Mickey Mouse has been the corporate symbol of The Walt Disney Company. Nice, safe and bland. But there are those at the Mouse House who remember when Disney's corporate symbol used to be really funny. To be specific, Eric Coleman -- the senior vice president of Original Series at Disney Television Animation -- and Mike Moon -- who's a creative vice president for that same arm of The Walt Disney Company. And as Eric & Mike looked at those old Mickey Mouse shorts which...
  • Jim Hill

    Countdown to Disney "Frozen" : How one simple suggestion broke the ice on the "Snow Queen" 's decades-long story problems

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    So how long has Walt Disney Animation Studios been trying to bring " The Snow Queen " to the big screen? Would you believe 70 years? Concept painting for the aborted Hans Christian Andersen bio pic that Walt Disney and Samuel Goldwyn once considered collaborating on. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved Yep. As far back as 1943 (Which was when Walt was in discussions with Samuel Goldwyn about their two studios possibly collaborating on a feature-length biography of Hans...
  • Jim Hill

    "Toy Story of TERROR!" brings the fun & the wit of this acclaimed Pixar film trilogy to the small screen

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    Given that -- back when John Lasseter first began toying with the idea of building a movie around the secret life of toys in the late 1980s / early 1990s -- Buzz & Woody's very first adventure was supposed to have been a holiday special , it's kind of fitting that Pixar has finally circled back around to this idea with " Toy Story of TERROR! " (which airs tonight on ABC from 8 - 8:30 p.m. ET / PT). Copyright Disney Pixar. All rights reserved So how does this Halloween-themed...
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    Monday Mouse Watch: Why that AVATAR concept art got unveiled in Japan rather than stateside. And what's in the works for the Disneyland Resort in regards to "Star Wars"

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    It's been a busy couple of days, Disney news-wise. With all sorts of official announcements being made and weird rumors bubbling up. So as a special Columbus Day treat, I thought that it might be fun to dig down into this pile and then offer some additional information about some of the stories that have been swirling around out there. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved First of all, let's talk about that concept art for James Cameron's World of AVATAR that was showcased...
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