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Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.
  • Jim Hill

    Halloween Horror Nights to feature "Stranger Things" -inspired mazes at Universal Studios' theme parks in Hollywood, Orlando & Singapore

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    Universal Studios' theme parks are full of strange & wondrous things. State-of-the-art rides, shows & attractions based on super-popular film & television franchises like " Fast & The Furious " and " The Simpsons ." Not to mention fun things to eat & drink like Krusty Burgers , Butterbeer and Voodoo Doughnuts . But will visitors who journey to the Universal Studios parks soon find themselves craving some Eggo frozen waffles ? To be honest, that depends...
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    Remembering David Ogden Stiers (1942 - 2018)

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    David Ogden Stiers was the sort of guy who forced you to step up your game. Just ask Alan Alda. Who had - for the first five years that "M*A*S*H" was on the air - had Larry Linville (who played the weaselly Frank Burns) as Hawkeye Pierce's comic foil. But when Linville opted out of continuing to play this craven character as this Emmy Award-winning series was heading into its sixth season on CBS ... The powers-that-be at 20 th Fox Television division decided to do something different...
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    The "Snow White" that wasn't: Why Disney took a pass on a Joe Papp production that would have had Linda Ronstadt starring as the Fairest in the Land

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    Now through February 7th (in honor of the 80 th anniversary of the general release of the studio's first full-length animated feature), Disney is presenting "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" at the El Capitan Theatre. To help sell tickets to this extremely limited engagement (How limited? Just six days. Then the El Cap tosses The Fairest in the Land out on her fanny to make room for its Throwback Thursday presentation. Which - fittingly enough [given that the opening ceremonies for...
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    Where Disney failed, Studio Ponoc succeeds with its debut animated feature, “Mary and The Witch’s Flower”

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    If things had gone a little different at Walt Disney Animation Studios back in the early 1980s, it wouldn’t have been J.K. Rowling who first introduced the world to the idea of a school that then specialized in teaching wizardry and witchcraft. But rather, it would have been another English author – Mary Stewart – who would have been credited with popularizing this concept. Thanks largely to “The Little Broomstick,” a movie that the Mouse House came within inches of...
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    Looking back at the colorful show business career of original Mouseketeer Doreen Tracey

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    Doreen Tracey - who passed away last Wednesday while being treated for pneumonia at a hospital in Thousand Oaks, CA -- had a complicated relationship with The Walt Disney Company. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved How so? Well, this story that Jennifer Armstrong shared in "Why? Because We Still Like You: An Oral History of the Mickey Mouse Club" (Grand Central Publishing, October 2010) should give you some idea of the challenges that this performer faced in her post...
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    20th Century Fox Home Entertainment commemorates the 70th anniversary of "Miracle on 34th Street" with Christmas ornament sweepstakes

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    If 20 th Century Fox Home Entertainment had actually followed tradition (i.e., that your 50 th anniversary is supposed to be golden, your 60 th anniversary is diamond, etc.), they'd have done something platinum to commemorate the 70 th anniversary of the release of "Miracle on 34 th Street." But instead of platinum, 20 th Century Fox opted to go with helium. As in: Pay tribute to this much-beloved holiday classic by recreating one of the giant balloons that can be seen floating in the...
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    "The Lion King: Twenty Years on Broadway and Around the World" reveals how close this hit show came to not happening

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    "We can't do this. This doesn't work." This is what Michael Eisner - the then-Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company - told Thomas Schumacher, Peter Schneider and Julie Taymor back in August of 1996. That the stage version of Disney's acclaimed animated feature, "The Lion King," which this trio had been developing at that time wasn't even remotely ready for Broadway. Which is why - as Michael Lassell recounts in his terrific new behind-the-scenes book, "The...
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    How "Prep & Landing" prepared Kevin Deters & Stevie Wermers-Skelton for "Olaf's Frozen Adventure," Disney's latest holiday special for ABC

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    When Mouse House managers wanted Christmas to come to Arendelle, they knew exactly who to turn to: Kevin Deters & Stevie Wermers-Skelton. Who are basically Walt Disney Animation Studios' in-house specialists when it comes to holiday specials. After all, Kevin & Stevie are the talented team who rode herd on "Prep & Landing." Which was WDAS' very first foray into creating a Christmas special for television. That 2009 production was so well-received that it not only took...
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    Disney World rings in the holidays with a skillful mix of old favorites and new seasonal attractions

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    Greetings from Orlando. Where Nancy and I are right in the middle of a whirlwind working trip. Things got underway bright & early this past Saturday morning with the kick-off of the first-ever Disney Dish Podcast fan weekend. Organizing by the very nice folks at Storybook Destinations, this three day-long event was full of fun holiday-themed activities like Ugly Christmas sweater contests ... Photo by Nancy Stadler Len Testa and I also recorded our first live-in-front-of-an-audience (at a Disney...
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    Chip 'N' Dale make more mischief with "Nutty Tales" shorts on Disney Channel & Disney Junior

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    Over the month of November, Disney will be spending some serious cheddar on its Big Cheese. But that's all because Mickey Mouse will be celebrating his 89th birthday on November 18th. As part of the lead-up to his big day, Mickey has begun traveling around the globe. Making stops in places like London so that he can then surprise some of his biggest fans (and - of course - share these encounters on Disney's official Mickey Mouse Facebook page). Which is all well & good. But Mickey isn't...
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    Halloween version of California Adventure's "Guardians of the Galaxy" ride really challenged Disney's Imagineers

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    When "Star Tours" originally opened at Disneyland Park back in January of 1987, one of the things that most excited theme park fans about this motion-based simulator is that its ride film could supposedly easily be changed out. Which meant that - once the cabin of the StarSpeeder 3000 had been reprogrammed to move in concert with a new ride film - Guests could then experience a brand-new Star Wars-inspired adventure. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved In fact, according...
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    Jody Dreyer's "Beyond the Castle" reveals how many behind-the-scenes decisions were made at Disney during the Eisner era

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    What makes a Disney Princess? In this post-"Frozen" period, that may seem like a pretty silly / simple-to-answer question. But as Jody Dreyer - the former Vice President of Corporate Synergy at the Walt Disney Company - recounts in "Beyond the Castle" (Zondervan, September 2017), there was a time in the not-too-distant past when Mouse House managers really struggled to come up with an adequate answer to this query. Copyright Zondervan. All rights reserved Mind you, prior to February...
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    As "Baymax Returns" proves, Happy Endings get harder to come by as Walt Disney Animation Studios productions move from the big screen to television

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    Whatever happened to "Happily Ever After" ? It used to be - when a Walt Disney Animation Studios production came to a close - you could count on that story being neatly tied up. With the villain being vanquished and the hero & heroine getting hitched. But now that a number of the more recent WDAS releases are opting to continue their tales (thanks to new animated series that Walt Disney Television is producing), Happy Endings are much harder to come by. Take - for example - poor Pascal...
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    How swinging between stand-up routines led to Lea DeLaria appearing on Broadway as well as voicing Miss Fritter in "Cars 3"

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    When she first started out in stand-up back in 1982, Lea DeLaria - who now proudly describes herself as " ... an actress, singer, comedian and professional lesbian" (though not necessarily in that order) -- could have never imagined the path that her 35 year career in entertainment would follow. Lea's first unexpected turn came back in November of 1998 when she played Hildy in the hit revival of "On the Town." Which was when Ben Brantley of the New York Times declared that...
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    Ernie Sabella shares his 25-year history of voicing Pumbaa the warthog for Disney's "The Lion King"

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    So how exactly did Ernie Sabella wind up with " ... the greatest gig of my life" (i.e., being cast as the voice of Pumbaa the warthog in Disney's "The Lion King") ? To hear this Broadway veteran talk, it was all because Nathan Lane doesn't like to work alone. "In early 1992, Nathan & I had been cast in a revival of 'Guys & Dolls.' He was playing Nathan Detroit. I was playing Harry the Horse," Sabella recalled during a recent sit-down interview...
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    The longish path that "Catch My Breath," Paul Briggs' picture book took to be published by Disney Hyperion

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    How long can you hold your breath? I ask this question because Paul Briggs wound up holding his "Breath" (i.e., "Catch My Breath," that charming picture book which Briggs wrote & illustrated. This is also the 48-page hardcover that Disney Hyperion sent out into stores late last month as the most recent installment of its Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase series) for over five years. "I initially submitted my pitch for a children's book back in early 2012...
  • Jim Hill

    Marvel Animation bets big on shorts as it launches the second season of its Funko-inspired comic match-ups

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    Marvel Entertainment has long been celebrated for its ability to weave these epic-length narratives that can then play out across multiple motion pictures, TV shows and comic books. Copyright Marvel Studios. All rights reserved So if length really plays to this studios' storytelling strength, why then is Marvel Animation headed in the opposite direction? Creating a series of stand-alone, 90-second long shorts that - rather than putting Marvel's super heroes through their usual action-adventure...
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    Matthew Youngberg & Francisco Angones raise the stakes for Scrooge McDuck's family with their DuckTales reboot for Disney XD

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    Back in the early summer of 2015, when Matthew Youngberg & Francisco Angones first met to discuss how they were going to try and reboot DuckTales for Disney XD , the big question that really dogged them was ... Which version of this much-beloved IP were these two actually going to revive? "Both Matt and I have an intense love for the original animated series. But we also understood that the DuckTales characters meant different things to different people," Angones - the co-producer ...
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    How one man's attempt to keep his wife happy led to the production of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"

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    If you were to ask Star Trek fans which was the best film to be based on that much-beloved 1960s television series, "Wrath of Khan" would undoubtedly be their answer. And as to who should get the lion's share of the credit for this 1982 Paramount Pictures release actually being exciting & entertaining (which then made "Star Trek II" a decided improvement over that studio's initial attempt to transfer Kirk & Co. to the big screen, 1979's "Star Trek: The...
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    Remembering X Atencio and the weird career path that took him from being an assistant animator to becoming a Disney Legend

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    "Playful spooks have interrupted our tour. Please remain seated in your ... Doom Buggy." Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.All rights reserved If you've ever been on The Haunted Mansion and heard this message as your ride vehicle temporarily came to a halt, those were the reassuring tones of Disney Legend X Atencio that you were listening to. Who just passed away this past Sunday at the ripe old age of 98. And believe you me, X knew a lot about interrupted journeys. The weird little...
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    "My Golden Ticket" allows Willy Wonka fans to go on a personalized tour of that fabled chocolate factory

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    Ever since "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was first published back in 1964, people have dreamed of visiting the Wonka Works. Make their way past those fabled gates and then ... Well, go for a sail down the chocolate river aboard the Wonkatania. Copyright Wonderbly. All rights reserved Or - better yet - visit some of the rooms at that factory that Roald Dahl mentioned in his text but which readers then never got to explore. I mean, what sort of machinery is actually inside of the Juicing...
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    The Property Brothers take Jonathan and Drew's House Party on the road to promote their new memoir

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    The long Labor Day weekend is traditionally when Americans kick back for a bit. Catch a three day-long breather before these same people then plunge into all of the projects work that they've got planned for the Fall. Drew Scott and Emma Slater, his professional dancing partner for the upcoming season of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." Photo by Craig Sjodin. Copyright A merican Broadcasting Co mpanies, Inc. All rights reserved Well, Drew Scott clearly never got the take-Labor-Day...
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    "SAW" maze at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights will help promote "Jigsaw," the eighth film in this Lionsgate series

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    When it comes to successfully marketing your motion picture, it helps to know where your target audience actually is / will be. Which is why - when Warner Bros. wanted to get comic book fans excited about " Wonder Woman " earlier this year - it worked with over 2,000 comic retailers, bookstores, and libraries around the world to spread the word about this Patty Jenkins film. Likewise when Marvel Studios wanted to make sure that " Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 " would become a...
  • Jim Hill

    Remembering Marty Sklar, the Disney Legend who specialized in making other people's dreams come true

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    If you look around the Web today, you'll see that there are lots of Disney fans who are expressing sorrow at Marty Sklar's untimely passing . But I wonder how many of these folks would ever admit that they were among those who - just two weeks ago today - actually booed this Disney Legend. All because Marty - at the "Disney Pirates of the Caribbean: 50 Years of Swashbuckling Adventures in Disney Parks" panel at this year's D23 EXPO - dared to defend Imagineering's recent...
  • Jim Hill

    The Official Star Trek Convention goes boldly where few cons dare to go by offering its attendees assigned seating

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    Through his various " Star Trek " productions, Gene Roddenberry shared his dream for a far more hopeful future. One where humanity eventually rose above all of its petty squabbling and began to travel to the stars. Gary Berman & Adam Malin had a dream too. An admittedly far more earth-bound one. One where they'd take your typical trip to a comic book convention (which was - and still is, in certain corners of fandom - infamous for its long lines and rough treatment of attendees...
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