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  • Jim Hill

    Jeff Calhoun talks about the new & improved Disney "Newsies" before ducking out to work on a "Duck Dynasty" show for Las Vegas

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    So when the good people of Pittsburgh head out for the Benedum Center later this week to catch the North American touring company of Disney "Newsies ," will they be seeing an exact duplicate of the Tony Award-winning show that ran for 2 1/2 years on Broadway? Nope. And you have Thomas Schumacher , the president of the Disney Theatrical Group to thank for that. "Look, no one ever walked out of a theater saying that a show was too short," said Jeff Calhoun , the director of Disney...
  • Jim Hill

    To Hell with Bill Cosby? Disney already did that with "The Devil and Max Devlin"

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    Like a lot of you folks out there, I don't exactly know how to feel about Bill Cosby right now. I mean, the man is a comedy legend. As a kid, I listened constantly to his LPs and memorized many of his classic stand-up routines. But as someone who's been writing about the entertainment industry for over 3 decades now, I have long heard the whispers about Bill's darker side. Which is why when stories began to bubble up about all the women that Cosby had allegedly drugged and then taken...
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    How a droopy diaper and a cute rice cooker helped inspire Baymax's distinctive look and movement in Disney's "Big Hero 6"

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    If you're a new parent and find that there's something strangely familiar with Baymax, the huggable robot star of " Big Hero 6 ," there's a good reason for that. "It took us a while to find just the right walk cycle for Baymax," Zach Parrish -- an Animation Supervisor on "Big Hero 6" -- admitted. "But in the end, we decided to model his walk on a baby with a loaded diaper." Which -- I know -- may sound like an odd choice. But given that this Don...
  • Jim Hill

    Craig McCracken talks about the labor intensive story process behind Disney XD's "Wander Over Yonder"

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    How long does it take a group of grown-ups to come up with a workable storyline for an 11 minute-long cartoon? Would you believe two days? So says Craig McCracken , the talent behind those Emmy-Award winning Cartoon Network series, " The Powerpuff Girls " and " Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends ." Though -- more recently -- Craig has been riding herd on Disney XD 's acclaimed animated adventure, " Wander Over Yonder ." Mind you, this character-driven sci-fi...
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    "Disney During World War II" and "Hope: Entertainer of the Century" showcase two Hollywood legends who did everything they could for the troops

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    As a former servicemember, I have to admit that I'm always intrigued by how various entertainment entities observe Veterans Day. Take -- for example -- PBS . Their way of acknowledging that today is November 11th (i.e., the date that our nation honors all those who have served in both wartime and peacetime) is by airing a two hour-long documentary on the Navy Seals . Meanwhile over at Disney Junior , they're showing a special episode of " Doc McStuffins " called "Training Army...
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    Hollywood creatives and theme park fans appreciate the Universal difference

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    It's often been said that if you build a better mouse trap, the world will beat a path to your door. Harry Potter fans race up the red carpet to be among the first to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley when this new "land" at Universal Studios officially opened to the public on July 8, 2014. Copyright NBCUniversal. All rights reserved Well, when Comcast reported its third quarter results last month, it wasn't a mouse trap that turbo-charged that corporation's...
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    From "Planes" to "Show Boat," "Fernwood 2 Tonight" to "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," Fred Willard looks back on his storied career

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    Ol' Man River, he just keeps rollin' along ... As does Fred Willard . You'd think -- given that this veteran actor / comedian turned 75 back in September -- that Willard would finally begin to slow down at this point. Well, think again. For this Fall has been full of firsts for Fred. Take -- for example -- last month, when Willard made his daytime drama debut on " The Bold and the Beautiful ." Fred appeared in four episodes of this long-running CBS soap opera back in October...
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    "Star Wars Rebels" uses characters & vehicles that were designed for the original trilogy to expand the saga

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    When the powers-that-be at Disney & Lucasfilm decided that they wanted to set " Star Wars Rebels " in that time period between the prequels and the original trilogy, executive producer Dave Filoni knew that this new Disney XD animated series was going to be tough to pull off. "Look, it's one thing to do what we did on ' Star Wars: The Clone Wars .' That animated series was set between ' Attack of the Clones ' and ' Revenge of the Sith .' So we had a...
  • Jim Hill

    Knott's 'Special Ops: Infected' proves that wide open spaces can be just as scary as dark twisty mazes

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    It sounds like an interesting challenge. Staging an authentic-looking zombie apocalypse while -- at the same time -- not scratching up any of Grizzly Creek Lodge's nice new furniture. But that's exactly what Jon Cooke has spent the past five-and-a-half weeks doing. Taking Knott's Berry Farm 's recently refurbished Camp Snoopy and -- using the 45 minutes between when this Buena Park theme park closes for the day and when Halloween Haunt officially opens for the night -- then transforming...
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    On the heels of making his directorial debut on Disney XD's "Lab Rats," Hal Sparks talks about the serious side of making sitcoms

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    Since he's a relatively youthful 45 year-old, it's genuinely hard to think of Hal Sparks as an elder statesman of broadcasting. But then again, given that Sparks booked his first professional TV hosting gig while still in high school (At 18 years of age, Hal was the host of " Treasure Mall ," that short-lived syndicated game show), he's already got over a quarter-of-a-century of in-front-of-the-camera time under his belt. "And I've been in this business long enough...
  • Jim Hill

    Your favorite cartoon characters come back from the dead for Disney Television Animation's "Re-Animated: The Zombie Show"

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    Most companies -- when they're celebrating their 30th anniversary -- would hold a party. Maybe spring for a sheet cake and some punch. Photo by Rick Rowell . Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved But because Disney Television Animation will be commemorating this auspicious occasion next month right after Halloween, they decided to put a ghoulish spin on their 30th anniversary celebration. Which is why all of the talented artists, executives and staffers who work at TVA were invited...
  • Jim Hill

    Nana finally makes it to Never Land in "Battle for the Book!," a primetime "Jake and the Never Land Pirates" special

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    Let's be honest here. You kind of feel bad for Nana whenever you watch Disney's " Peter Pan ." Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved After all, everyone else gets to fly off to Never Land in this 1953 animated feature. But because Mr. Darling had tied this canine caretaker up in the backyard before he and Mrs. Darling then went out for the evening, even though Michael actually sprinkles Nana with pixie dust, she just wind up levitating at the end of her leash. Mind...
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    John Musker and Ron Clements chart an ambitious course for "Moana," Walt Disney Animation Studios' 2016 release

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    They've taken us under the sea with their charming reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen's " The Little Mermaid ." Not to mention soaring through the sky aboard a magic carpet in their wildly comic take on the 1001 Arabian Nights, " Aladdin ." So where will John Musker and Ron Clements be taking moviegoers next? To the South Seas. A remote spot on the map that these two Walt Disney Animation Studios veterans genuinely believe is the perfect setting for "Moana,"...
  • Jim Hill

    How Wilmer Valderrama helped make 'From Dusk Till Dawn' a featured attraction at this year's Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights

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    If you're one of the tens of thousands of people who've already screamed your way through the "From Dusk Till Dawn" maze at this year's Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood and the Universal Orlando Resort ... Well, you have Wilmer Valderrama to thank for those scares. And -- no -- that's not because Wilmer plays a key role in this hit TV series on the El Rey Network . But rather because Valderrama has been a longtime Halloween Horror Nights fan. "Seriously...
  • Jim Hill

    How Comic-Con helped create fans for Disney XD's "Star vs. The Forces of Evil" six months before its first episode airs

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    There's a way that things used to work in the television animation universe. First a new show would go on the air. Then viewers would sample a few episodes and decide if they actually liked a program. If that were the case, then the fan base for this new animated series would slowly build over time. Well, things move a lot faster these days. Take -- for example -- Disney XD's "Star vs. The Forces of Evil." The new animated series doesn't actually go on the air 'til January...
  • Jim Hill

    Pixar's "Lava" uses massive characters & settings to tell sweet little love story

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    The history of Hollywood is littered with stories of short leading men and all the tricks the studios had to use in order to make these diminutive actors seem larger-than-life. But what happens when you have the opposite problem? When your film is built around a performer who's so enormous that it's genuinely hard to fit them in the frame with anyone else? That's the challenge that James Ford Murphy faced with " Lava ," the brand-new short he just wrote & directed for Pixar...
  • Jim Hill

    Disney characters puts the fun in fundraising at annual CHOC "Walk in the Park" event

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    It's the fundraiser that Disney fans happily and willingly get out of bed at 3 a.m. to take part in. The one that people actually schedule their Southern California vacations around, with some participants flying in from as far away as Texas, Illinois and Connecticut. Which event am I talking about? The largest walk for pediatric care in the nation, Children's Hospital of Orange County 's annual "Walk in the Park." Or as this 5K is more fondly known to the thousands who participate...
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    "Big Hero 6" hopes to make a big splash in the Big Apple at this year's New York Comic-Con

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    To hear Don Hall tell this story, it was just weeks after The Walt Disney Company revealed that it would be acquiring Marvel Entertainment for $4.24 billion back in August of 2009 when he first came up with the idea of using a relatively obscure Marvel comic book series as the inspiration for a full-length animated feature. "I grew up loving Marvel comics. So imagine my excitement when those two crazy kids -- Marvel & Disney -- got together," The co-director of " Big Hero 6 "...
  • Jim Hill

    "Downton Abbey" stars help "Doc McStuffins" pay tribute to the "Lady with the Lamp," Florence Nightingale

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    Are you a stateside " Downton Abbey " fan? If so, isn't it just killing you that -- while Season 5 of this acclaimed period drama officially got underway in the U.K. back on September 21st -- here in the States, we actually have to wait 'til January of 2015 before we can then find out what's been going on with the Earl of Grantham & his extended family. Well, if you're just not willing to wait another three months before you can once again hear Mrs. Patmore clattering...
  • Jim Hill

    50th anniversary display of 1964 - 1965 New York World's Fair items was one of the highlights of this year's Big E

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    I don't know about you folks. But weekends here are all about getting away. Even if it's just for a little while. Turning off my laptop & pushing back from my desk. Getting out of the house for even a few hours with the hope that a temporary change of venue might help Nancy & I recharge our batteries. Take -- for example -- last weekend. When we hopped in the car and drove on down to Massachusetts to catch the last day of the Big E. Photo by Jim Hill For those of you who don't...
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    Damon Lindelof's obsession with Peter the Panda leads to a "Lost" -inspired episode of "Phineas and Ferb"

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    Ten years ago this week, the world was first introduced to " Lost ," that Emmy Award-winning series which Jeffrey Lieber , J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof created for ABC that soon became an obsession with television viewers. Each week, million of people would first tune in to watch the continuing adventures of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 and then spend the following day discussing what the hatch, the smoke monster and -- of course -- those polar bears might actually mean. Mind you...
  • Jim Hill

    Nate D. Sanders' auction throws a spotlight on Ray Bradbury's long association with The Walt Disney Company

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    When I dropped by Disneyland earlier this month, I made a point of walking through Frontierland. Not so much to check out the "Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush" game ... Photo by Jim Hill ... which -- I have to admit -- given all the Guests crowded around the telegraph station that afternoon looked wildly popular / like a lot of fun. Photo by Jim Hill No, the reason I was there was to check out the Halloween Tree. But because I was there on September 8th and Disneyland's Halloween...
  • Jim Hill

    It's all the little details that help Universal Orlando deliver the really big scares at Halloween Horror Nights 24

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    You can't spell "scare" without "care." And the fiendish folks behind Universal Orlando 's Halloween Horror Nights clearly understand this. That's why they put a full year of careful thought & planning into the 24th edition of this seasonal scare-fest. Which officially opens to the public tonight at Universal Studios Florida . Copyright 2014 Universal Studios. All rights reserved But given the sheer size & scale of this annual entertainment experience (We're...
  • Jim Hill

    Will this eye-popping CG animation test power up Genndy Tartakovsky's "Popeye" ?

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    Everyone knows that Popeye is " ... strong to the finich 'cuz he eats his spinach." But what was this Sailor Man like before he discovered that those leafy greens gave him amazing strength? And what were Popeye's early days at sea like? And where exactly did he get that anchor-shaped tattoo? That's what Genndy Tartakovsky aims to find out with that feature-length "Popeye" project that he's currently developing for Sony Pictures Animation . Genndy Tartakovsky in...
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    Disney looks to avoid the mistakes that it made with "The Little Mermaid" as it expands its "Frozen" empire

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    25 years ago when "The Little Mermaid" first arrived in theaters, The Walt Disney Company really wasn't ready to capitalize on how successful that hand-drawn animated feature would become. And I mean REALLY not ready. If you dropped by your local Disney Store during the 1989 holiday season looking to purchase some "Little Mermaid" -themed merchandise, you'd have learned that what little had been ordered in advance had long since been sold out. Most likely, the only item...
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