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A JimHillMedia.com exclusive: Your first look at “Home on the Range”

JimHillMedia scores another exclusive, presenting the first truly in-depth look at Disney Feature Animation’s April 2004 release. Which — based on what lucky reader JC has to say — sounds like one hell of a funny MOOOOO-vie.

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Right now, every other Disney info site out there on the web is talking up “Brother Bear.” Which is understandable, given that this animated feature is opening nationally on November 1st (on October 24th in NYC and LA).

But — here at JimHillMedia.com – we like to do things a little differently. Not do what everyone is doing. So — while I’m sure that we’ll be doing some stories about “Brother Bear” in the not-so-distant future — today, I’d like to talk about the Disney animated film that comes after “BB.” The one that isn’t actually due out in theaters ’til April 2004: “Home on the Range.”

Thanks to Olivier Mouroux at animated-movies.com
for use of this image.

Me personally, I’ve been keeping track of this WDFA project for years now. Of course, back then, this film was called “Sweatin’ Bullets” and/or “Sweating Bullets.” And Mike Gabriel and Mike Giamo were riding herd on the production. And — to be honest — the buzz on this picture wasn’t all that hot.

But then the two Mikes were replaced by Will Finn and John Sanford. And with two new directors calling the shots on this animated western, I began to hear (from WDFA insiders) that things were improving on this production. That the film was constantly getting tighter and funnier. That Will and John were on the job. And that — slowly but surely — they were getting things turned around.

But then came the news that Finn and Sanford had hired Roseanne to provide the voice of Maggie, the lead cow in this animated musical comedy. Which may be the most appropriate piece of animation vocal casting ever. Which was when I knew that “Home on the Range” was really going to be a film to watch out for. That this WDFA production had the potential to become one funny flick.

Happily, it appears that my hunch about “Home on the Range” was correct. How do I know? Well, because I got this great e-mail from a nice guy called JC who lives in Orlando. He wrote to me Friday to say:

(I) just wanted to give you a heads-up about a sneak preview I attended on 10-1 of the completely finished “Home on the Range.” As I was waiting in line to pick up my children from school on Monday, a woman walked by my car and asked if I would like to bring my children to see a new animated movie from Disney that wouldn’t be released until next summer. I immediately knew she was talking about “Home on the Range.” I told her we would love to go, so she gave us a paper and a toll free number to call to RSVP.

We were told to be at Pleasure Island AMC 1 hour before show time which was scheduled at 4:30pm. We arrived at 3:20 and were 84th in line. Seating was limited so we knew we would make it in. We were told that this was a special screening for the Showeast convention and there would be many conventioneers there.

We were let in at 4PM to the theater were almost half the seats were roped off for the invited guests. My kids and I were lucky enough to sit in the “stadium” seats. Before we were let in to the theater, we had to go through security to be checked for recording devices including cell phones with picture capabilities. The theater was completely filled and the show began.

First, let me say I have been following the stories about “Home on the Range” for the past two years and I heard all the discussions concerning the voice talents and story line changes. I really thought we were going to see a “work in progress” film, somewhat akin to “Beauty and the Beast” special edition with a combination of pencil sketches rough drafts and completed animation. Boy was I wrong! This was a complete movie!

Within the first two minutes of the film I knew we were in for a special treat! I won’t go in to great detail about the story line but I can tell you this is going to be a great Disney classic. The animation reminded me of early 1950 Disney work and my son remarked the animals looked like they came right out of “Mary Poppins”! The musical score and songs from Alan Menken are topnotch. The blended computer and traditional animation were seamless.

Both my children said it was one of the funniest movies they had ever seen and I have to agree with them in the context of recent Disney animated pictures. This is definitely the funniest since “Aladdin.” The movie received a huge round of applause at the finish with more than half of the audience waiting to leave until the final credits were through.

I forgot to mention that before the movie began, one of the men in charge of the screening made an announcement that everyone had been searched for recording devices and if anyone saw someone else taping or taking pictures during the movie, they should report them immediately. The organizers walked the aisles continually throughout the movie watching for anyone taking pictures.

I’m not sure if you had heard about the screening but as one of the lucky few to see it, I have to say this is going to be a bonafide hit for Disney. 2-D animation is not dead! 🙂

Gee, I hope you’re right, JC. That — if “Home on the Range” really is as good as you say — 2-D animation at Walt Disney Studios really isn’t dead after all.

Now the above story was great all by itself. But you know me, folks. I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. So I wrote back to JC and — after thanking him profusely for sending along this info to share with JHM readers — asked JC if he could share even more information about “Home on the Range.” Like — perhaps — recounting the film’s plot and/or talking about his favorite characters from the film.

Well, JC rose to the challenge. And just yesterday, he sent along a second e-mail. Which — I have to warn you — contains MASSIVE SPOILERS about “Home on the Range”‘s characters and storyline. So — if you want to walk into your local multiplex next April without knowing what this whole picture is about — NOW would be a really good time to bail out of this article.

I’m serious, people. MASSIVE SPOILERS about Disney’s “Home on the Range” are just a paragraph or so away. If you really don’t want to know what this film is about, head to the exits now. I mean it.

Okay. Still here? Good. ‘Cause you’re going to LOVE to read what JC has to say about “Home on the Range.”

The movie began with a rousing musical number which (I think) is sung by kd Lang. Maggie (a cow voiced by Roseanne) is being led on the back of a wagon to her new farm owned by a kindly widow lady (shades of Widow Tweed in “The Fox and the Hound”). Of course Maggie doesn’t fit in with the existing farm animals because she is loud and brash but this is what makes her so special. She is especially disliked by Mrs. Calloway (another cow voiced by Judi Dench). The third cow, Grace (voiced by Meg Tilly) is ever-so sweet and not-so-smart and immediately likes Maggie.

Maggie’s previous owner has had to auction off his ranch because Alameda Slim has rustled the entire herd. While Maggie is settling in to her new farm, the sheriff arrives with a notice for the widow that the bank is going to foreclose on her ranch (known as Patch of Heaven) if she doesn’t come up with $750. The sheriff’s horse is named Buck (voiced by Cuba Gooding, Jr.) who thinks he is God’s gift to horses. He is one of the best characters of the film.

All seems lost until Maggie remembers there is a state fair coming up and she is going to enter for Best of Show and she decides to head to town. Grace and Mrs. Calloway go along with her. On the way, they pass Maggie’s old farm (which) is being auctioned off to a man named Y. Odel. He is a big man with lots of cash and huge smile. Maggie and the girls continue on their way.

There is a great scene when they arrive into town and unknowingly enter a saloon stage show. This is so fast paced it was hard to watch it all, everything happening at the same time, but all-in-all a great scene.

After they leave the saloon, a huge cloud of dust rises outside of town like a storm coming up fast. The townsfolk begin whispering, “Rico!”, a bounty hunter. He is bringing in a wanted man to the sheriff. When he arrives he requests a fresh horse and Buck, who has dreamed of being Rico’s horse, is chosen for the job. They ride out of town on the lookout for Alameda Slim. That’s where Maggie gets the idea to bring Alameda Slim to justice and win the $750 reward for his capture and save the Widow’s farm.

The next scene introduces Alameda Slim and his unusual way of cattle rustling. He yodels, which hypnotizes the cattle to follow him anywhere. This scene is great! The visuals are reminiscent of “Pink Elephants” from “Dumbo” and “Be our Guest” from “Beauty and the Beast.” My kids loved it! Alameda has the cattle in a secret mountain hiding place with the help of his three idiot nephews.

The girls leave town following Rico’s tracks. Along the way, Rico ditches Buck for a less skittish horse. Buck realizes the girls are still following Rico and tries to confuse them by trampling on the tracks. Discouraged and lost, Mrs. Calloway and Grace decide to head back to the farm after a huge rainstorm. Maggie will go on alone. As they head back they meet Jack, a jack rabbit who helps them regain the trail and they are back on the hunt. They come upon the secret hideout of Alameda which is guarded by a huge buffalo (another great character). Buck is trying to get past the buffalo without luck. The girls walk up as if they had strayed from the heard and are let right in. Buck asks them to help him get in but knowing he tried to get them lost, they won’t help. The girls head in and with the aid of Jack’s cotton tail, they close off their ears so they can’t hear Alameda’s yodeling. Alameda is busy counting the herd so they can board a train.

The next scene is a no holds barred show stopper! I had so many different thoughts and images running through my mind. It turns out to be a hilarious chase scene between the girls and Jack, Alameda Slim, Rico and Buck, and the train. This was “Rollercoaster Rabbit,” “Runaway Brain” and Big Thunder Mountain all rolled into one! I can see the reviews now… “one hell of a ride!”

Needless to say, it all has a happy ending, and we were sad to see it end! The final musical number was a reprise of the title song and tied it all together. It will be very interesting to see if they make any changes after the test previews.

All I can say is I feel very fortunate to have been one of the first to see it.

And I feel very fortunate that JC thought enough of JimHillMedia to send this story along to our site. So that you folks could be among the first to hear the good news about Disney’s “Home on the Range.”

I mean, doesn’t that sound like a great movie? A flat out funny film with some wonderful musical numbers. Who wouldn’t want to see a new Disney animated feature like that?

So kudos to Will Finn and John Sanford as well as the rest of the crew who worked on “Home on the Range.” The people who took a deeply troubled production and turned it into what sounds like one really entertaining movie.

Which is why — come April 2004 — I’ll be leaving my house in the woods to head out for “Home on the Range.”

Now — totally changing the subject here — I have a couple of bits of news that I need to share today:

1) We got a really nice response this past weekend from a lot of people who were interested in taking part in the next round of JHM Disneyland tours (which will be held at the Anaheim Resort on Saturday, November 1st and Sunday, November 2nd).

Just so you know, this is the tentative schedule for these JHM readers events:

Saturday, November 1st
10 a.m. to 12 Noon — 1st Tour of Disneyland
12:30 to 1:30 p.m. — Informal Lunch with Tour Participants
2:00 to 4 p.m. — 2nd Tour of Disneyland
4:30 – 5:30 p.m. — Tour Follow-up Q & A

Sunday, November 2nd
10 a.m. to 12 Noon — 3rd Tour of Disneyland
12:30 to 1:30 p.m. — Informal Lunch with Tour Participants
2:00 to 4 p.m. — 1st Tour of Disney’s California Adventure
4:30 – 5:30 p.m. — Tour Follow-up Q & A

There’s also been some discussion of doing a “JHM Night at the Movies” that Saturday evening. Which basically means that — on November 1st — a group of JHM readers would go over to the Downtown Disneyland AMC to catch a screening of “Brother Bear.” Then — after that — we’d head out to an area restaurant (possibly “Whitewater Snacks” at Disney’s Grand California Resort Hotel) for a nosh … where I’d then share some stories about the making of this particular WDFA production.

So — if you’d be interested in taking part in any of the above events — please drop us a line here at JimHillMedia.com and we’ll put your name on the appropriate list.

2) Next up, I have a special request of your JHM readers who have extensive laser disc collections. I am looking for someone who has a copy of the original version of the “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” laser disc. If anyone out there has a copy of this laser disc that they’d be willing to share, I’d really appreciate hearing from you ASAP.

3) And — speaking of sharing — I just had to share this photograph that Paul N. was nice enough to send along.

Now I know that a lot of the other Disneyana websites out there have had pictures of the “Hollywood Tower Hotel” sign (which went up on DCA’s “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” show building late last week). But how many of those other sites had this picture?

DCA’s Tower of Terror. Click to view image full size.

Which is rather appropriate, don’t you think? Given that this entire attraction is basically a “Guest Drop Off Area.”

Anyway … here’s hoping that today’s article helped you fill your daily minimum requirement for Disney-related information as well as ironic photographs.

Your thoughts?

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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General

Seward Johnson bronzes add a surreal, artistic touch to NYC’s Garment District

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Greetings from NYC. Nancy and I drove down from New
Hampshire yesterday because we'll be checking out
Disney Consumer Products' annual Holiday Showcase later today.

Anyway … After checking into our hotel (i.e., The Paul.
Which is located down in NYC's NoMad district), we decided to grab some dinner.
Which is how we wound up at the Melt Shop.


Photo by Jim Hill

Which is this restaurant that only sells grilled cheese sandwiches.
This comfort food was delicious, but kind of on the heavy side.


Photo by Jim Hill

Which is why — given that it was a beautiful summer night
— we'd then try and walk off our meals. We started our stroll down by the Empire
State Building


Photo by Jim Hill

… and eventually wound up just below Times
Square
(right behind where the Waterford Crystal Times Square New
Year's Eve Ball
is kept).


Photo by Jim Hill

But you know what we discovered en route? Right in the heart
of Manhattan's Garment District
along Broadway between 36th and 41st? This incredibly cool series of life-like
and life-sized sculptures that Seward
Johnson has created
.


Photo by Jim Hill

And — yes — that is Abraham Lincoln (who seems to have
slipped out of WDW's Hall of Presidents when no one was looking and is now
leading tourists around Times Square). These 18 painted
bronze pieces (which were just installed late this past Sunday night / early
Monday morning) range from the surreal to the all-too-real.


Photo by Jim Hill

Some of these pieces look like typical New Yorkers. Like the
business woman planning out her day …


Photo by Jim Hill

… the postman delivering the mail …


Photo by Jim Hill

… the hot dog vendor working at his cart …


Photo by Jim Hill


Photo by Jim Hill

… the street musician playing for tourists …


Photo by Jim Hill

Not to mention the tourists themselves.


Photo by Jim Hill

But right alongside the bronze businessmen …


Photo by Jim Hill

… and the tired grandmother hauling her groceries home …


Photo by Jim Hill

… there were also statues representing people who were
from out-of-town …


Photo by Jim Hill

… or — for that matter — out-of-time.


Photo by Jim Hill

These were the Seward Johnson pieces that genuinely beguiled. Famous impressionist paintings brought to life in three dimensions.


Note the out-of-period water bottle that some tourist left
behind. Photo by Jim Hill 

Some of them so lifelike that you actually had to pause for
a moment (especially as day gave way to night in the city) and say to yourself
"Is that one of the bronzes? Or just someone pretending to be one of these
bronzes?"

Mind you, for those of you who aren't big fans of the
impressionists …


Photo by Jim Hill

… there's also an array of American icons. Among them
Marilyn Monroe …


Photo by Jim Hill

… and that farmer couple from Grant Wood's "American
Gothic."


Photo by Jim Hill

But for those of you who know your NYC history, it's hard to
beat that piece which recreates Alfred Eisenstaedt's famous photograph of V-J Day in Times Square.


Photo by Jim Hill

By the way, a 25-foot-tall version of this particular Seward
Johnson piece ( which — FYI — is entitled "Embracing Peace") will actually
be placed in Times Square for a few days on or around  August 14th to commemorate the 70th
anniversary of Victory Over Japan Day (V-J Day).


Photo by Jim Hill

By the way, if you'd like to check these Seward Johnson bronzes in
person (which — it should be noted — are part of the part of the Garment
District Alliance
's new public art offering) — you'd best schedule a trip to
the City sometime over the next three months. For these pieces will only be on
display now through September 15th. 

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Wondering what you should “Boldly Go” see at the movies next year? The 2015 Licensing Expo offers you some clues

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Greeting from the 2015 Licensing Expo, which is being held
at the Mandalay Bay
Convention Center
in Las
Vegas.


Photo by Jim Hill

I have to admit that I enjoy covering the Licensing Expo.
Mostly becomes it allows bloggers & entertainment writers like myself to
get a peek over the horizon. Scope out some of the major motion pictures &
TV shows that today's vertically integrated entertainment conglomerates
(Remember when these companies used to be called movie studios?) will be
sending our way over the next two years or so.


Photo by Jim Hill

Take — for example — all of "The Secret Life of
Pets
" banners that greeted Expo attendees as they made their way to the
show floor today. I actually got to see some footage from this new Illumination
Entertainment
production (which will hit theaters on July 8, 2016) the last time I was in Vegas. Which
was for CinemaCon back in April. And the five or so minutes of film that I viewed
suggested that "The Secret Life of Pets" will be a really funny
animated feature.


Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, Universal Pictures wanted to make sure that Expo
attendees remembered that there was another Illumination Entertainment production
coming-to-a-theater-near-them before "The Secret Life of Pets" (And
that's "Minions," the "Despicable Me" prequel. Which
premieres at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival next week but
won't be screened stateside 'til July 10th of this year). Which is why they had
three minions who were made entirely out of LEGOS loitering out in the lobby.


Photo by Jim Hill

And Warner Bros. — because they wanted "Batman v
Superman: Dawn of Justice
" to start trending on Twitter today — brought
the Batmobile to Las Vegas.


Photo by Jim Hill

Not to mention full-sized macquettes of Batman, Superman and
Wonder Woman. Just so conventioneers could then see what these DC superheroes
would actually look like in this eagerly anticipated, March 25, 2016 release.


Photo by Jim Hill

That's the thing that can sometimes be a wee bit frustrating
about the Licensing Expo. It's all about delayed gratification. You'll come
around a corner and see this 100 foot-long ad for "The Peanuts Movie"
and think "Hey, that looks great. I want to see that Blue Sky Studios production
right now." It's only then that you notice the fine print and realize that
"The Peanuts Movie" doesn't actually open in theaters 'til November
6th of this year.


Photo by Jim Hill

And fan of Blue Sky's "Ice Age" film franchise are in for an even
longer wait. Given that the latest installment in that top grossing series
doesn't arrive in theaters 'til July
15, 2016.


Photo by Jim Hill

Of course, if you're one of those people who needs immediate
gratification when it comes to your entertainment, there was stuff like that to
be found at this year's Licensing Expo. Take — for example — how the WWE
booth was actually shaped like a wrestling ring. Which — I'm guessing — meant
that if the executives of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. didn't like
the offer that you were making, they were then allowed to toss you out over the
top rope, Royal Rumble-style.


Photo by Jim Hill

I also have to admit that — as a longtime Star Trek fan —
it was cool to see the enormous Starship Enterprise that hung in place over the
CBS booth. Not to mention getting a glimpse of the official Star Trek 50th
Anniversary logo.


Photo by Jim Hill

I was also pleased to see lots of activity in The Jim Henson
Company booth. Which suggests that JHC has actually finally carved out a
post-Muppets identity for itself.


Photo by Jim Hill

Likewise for all of us who were getting a little concerned
about DreamWorks Animation (what with all the layoffs & write-downs &
projects that were put into turnaround or outright cancelled last year), it was
nice to see that booth bustling.


Photo by Jim Hill

Every so often, you'd come across some people who were
promoting a movie that you weren't entirely sure that you actually wanted to
see (EX: "Angry Birds," which Sony Pictures Entertainment / Columbia
Pictures
will be releasing to theaters on May 20, 2016). But then you remembered that Clay Kaytis
who's this hugely talented former Walt Disney Animation Studios animator — is
riding herd on "Angry Birds" with Fergal Reilly. And you'd think
"Well, if Clay's working on 'Angry Birds,' I'm sure this animated feature
will turn out fine."


Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, there were reminders at this year's Licensing Expo
of great animated features that we're never going to get to see now. I still
can't believe — especially after that brilliant proof-of-concept footage
popped up online last year — that Sony execs decided not to go forward
with  production
of Genndy Tartakovsky's
"Popeye" movie.  But that's the
cruel thing about the entertainment business, folks. It will sometime break
your heart.


Photo by Jim Hill

And make no mistake about this. The Licensing Expo is all
about business. That point was clearly driven home at this year's show when —
as you walked through the doors of the Mandalay
Bay Convention Center
— the first thing that you saw was the Hasbros Booth. Which was this gleaming,
sleek two story-tall affair full of people who were negotiating deals &
signing contracts for all of the would-be summer blockbusters that have already
announced release dates for 2019 & beyond.


Photo by Jim Hill

"But what about The Walt Disney Company?," you
ask. "Weren't they represented on the show floor at this year's Licensing
Expo?" Not really, not. I mean, sure. There were a few companies there hyping
Disney-related products. Take — for example — the Disney Wikkeez people.


Photo by Jim Hill

I'm assuming that some Disney Consumer Products exec is
hoping that Wikkeez will eventually become the new Tsum Tsum. But to be blunt,
these little hard plastic figures don't seem to have the same huggable charm
that those stackable plush do. But I've been wrong before. So let's see what
happens with Disney Wikkeez once they start showing up on the shelves of the
Company's North American retail partners.


Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of Disney's retail partners … They were
meeting with Mouse House executives behind closed doors one floor down from the
official show floor for this year's Licensing Expo.


Photo by Jim Hill

And the theme for this year's invitation-only Disney shindig? "Timeless
Stories" involving the Disney, Pixar, Marvel & Lucasfilm brands that
would then appeal to "tomorrow's consumer."


Photo by Jim Hill

And just to sort of hammer home the idea that Disney is no
longer the Company which cornered the market when it comes to little girls
(i.e., its Disney Princess and Disney Fairies franchises), check out this
wall-sized Star Wars-related image that DCP put up just outside of one of its
many private meeting rooms. "See?," this carefully crafted photo
screams. "It isn't just little boys who want to wield the Force. Little
girls also want to grow up and be Lords of the Sith."


Photo by Jim Hill

One final, kind-of-ironic note: According to this banner,
Paramount Pictures will be releasing a movie called "Amusement Park"
to theaters sometime in 2017.  


Photo by Jim Hill

Well, given all the "Blackfish" -related issues
that have been dogged SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment over the past two years, I'm
just hoping that they'll still be in the amusement park business come 2017.

Your thoughts?

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It takes more than three circles to craft a Classic version of Mickey Mouse

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You know what Mickey Mouse looks like, right? Little guy,
big ears?

Truth be told, Disney's corporate symbol has a lot of
different looks. If Mickey's interacting with Guests at Disneyland
Park
(especially this summer, when
the Happiest Place on Earth
is celebrating its 60th anniversary), he looks & dresses like this.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc.
All rights reserved

Or when he's appearing in one of those Emmy Award-winning shorts that Disney
Television Animation has produced (EX: "Bronco Busted," which debuts
on the Disney Channel tonight at 8 p.m. ET / PT), Mickey is drawn in a such a
way that he looks hip, cool, edgy & retro all at the same time.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights
reserved

Looking ahead to 2017 now, when Disney Junior rolls out "Mickey and the
Roadster Racers
," this brand-new animated series will feature a sportier version
of Disney's corporate symbol. One that Mouse House managers hope will persuade
preschool boys to more fully embrace this now 86 year-old character.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

That's what most people don't realize about the Mouse. The
Walt Disney Company deliberately tailors Mickey's look, even his style of
movement, depending on what sort of project / production he's appearing in.

Take — for example — Disney
California Adventure
Park
's "World of Color:
Celebrate!
" Because Disney's main mouse would be co-hosting this new
nighttime lagoon show with ace emcee Neil Patrick Harris, Eric Goldberg really had
to step up Mickey's game. Which is why this master Disney animator created
several minutes of all-new Mouse animation which then showed that Mickey was
just as skilled a showman as Neil was.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc.
All rights reserved

Better yet, let's take a look at what the folks at Avalanche Studios just went
through as they attempted to create a Classic version of Mickey & Minnie.
One that would then allow this popular pair to become part of Disney Infinity
3.0.

"I won't lie to you. We were under a lot of pressure to
get the look of this particular version of Mickey — he's called Red Pants
Mickey around here — just right," said Jeff Bunker, the VP of Art
Development at Avalanche Studios, during a recent phone interview. "When
we brought Sorcerer Mickey into Disney Infinity 1.0 back in January of 2014,
that one was relatively easy because … Well, everyone knows what Mickey Mouse
looked like when he appeared in 'Fantasia.' "


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"But this time around, we were being asked to design
THE Mickey & Minnie," Bunker continued. "And given that these Classic
Disney characters have been around in various different forms for the better
part of the last century … Well, which look was the right look?"

Which is why Jeff and his team at Avalanche Studios began watching hours &
hours of Mickey Mouse shorts. As they tried to get a handle on which look would
work best for these characters in Disney Infinity 3.0.


Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"And we went all the way back to the very start of Mickey's career. We began
with 'Steamboat Willie' and then watched all of those black & white Mickey shorts
that Walt made back in the late 1920s & early 1930s. From there, we
transitioned to his Technicolor shorts. Which is when Mickey went from being
this pie-eyed, really feisty character to more of a well-behaved leading
man," Bunker recalled. "We then finished out our Mouse marathon by
watching all of those new Mickey shorts that Paul Rudish & his team have
been creating for Disney Television Animation. Those cartoons really recapture
a lot of the spirit and wild slapstick fun that Mickey's early, black &
white shorts had."

But given that the specific assignment that Avalanche Studios had been handed
was to create the most appealing looking, likeable version of Mickey Mouse
possible … In the end, Jeff and his team wound up borrowing bits & pieces
from a lot of different versions of the world's most famous mouse. So that
Classic Mickey would then look & move in a way that best fit the sort of
gameplay which people would soon be able to experience with Disney Infinity
3.0.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"That — in a lot of ways — was actually the toughest
part of the Classic Mickey design project. You have to remember that one of the
key creative conceits of  Disney Infinity
is that all the characters which appear in this game are toys," Bunker
stated. "Okay. So they're beautifully detailed, highly stylized toy
versions of beloved Disney, Pixar, Marvel & Lucasfilm characters. But
they're still supposed to be toys. So our Classic versions of Mickey &
Minnie have the same sort of thickness & sturdiness to them that toys have.
So that they'll then be able to fit right in with all of the rest of the
characters that Avalanche Studios had previously designed for Disney Infinity."

And then there was the matter of coming up with just the
right pose for Classic Mickey & Minnie. Which — to hear Jeff tell the
story — involved input from a lot of Disney upper management.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"Everyone within the Company seemed to have an opinion
about how Mickey & Minnie should be posed. More to the point, if you Google
Mickey, you then discover that there are literally thousands of poses out there
for these two. Though — truth be told — a lot of those kind of play off the
way Mickey poses when he's being Disney's corporate symbol," Bunker said.
"But what I was most concerned about was that Mickey's pose had to work
with Minnie's pose. Because we were bringing the Classic versions of these
characters up into Disney Infinity 3.0 at the exact same time. And we wanted to
make sure — especially for those fans who like to put their Disney Infinity
figures on display — that Mickey's pose would then complement Minnie.

Which is why Jeff & the crew at Avalanche Studios
decided — when it came to Classic Mickey & Minnie's pose — that they
should go all the way back to the beginning. Which is why these two Disney icons
are sculpted in such a way that it almost seems as though you're witnessing the
very first time Mickey set eyes on Minnie.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"And what was really great about that was — as soon as
we began showing people within the Company this pose — everyone at Disney
quickly got on board with the idea. I mean, the Classic Mickey that we sculpted
for Disney Infinity 3.0 is clearly a very playful, spunky character. But at the
same time, he's obviously got eyes for Minnie," Bunker concluded. "So
in the end, we were able to come up with Classic versions of these characters
that will work well within the creative confines of Disney Infinity 3.0 but at
the same time please those Disney fans who just collect these figures because
they like the way the Disney Infinity characters look."

So now that this particular design project is over, does
Jeff regret that Mouse House upper management was so hands-on when it came to
making sure that the Classic versions of Mickey & Minnie were specifically
tailored to fit the look & style of gameplay found in Disney Infinity 3.0?


Copyright Lucasfilm / Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"To be blunt, we go through this every time we add a new character to the
game. The folks at Lucasfilm were just as hands-on when we were designing the
versions of Darth Vader and Yoda that will also soon be appearing in Disney
Infinity 3.0," Bunker laughed. "So in the end, if the character's
creators AND the fans are happy, then I'm happy."

This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post's Entertainment page on Tuesday, June 9, 2015

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