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Rumblings at the WDI water cooler

Jim Hill’s been hanging around the water cooler at Walt Disney Imagineering and what he’s heard gets fairly interesting. Will DAK get Lucky? Is “Expedition Everest” due for a rewrite? And is there another WDI layoff in the wings?

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It’s a really interesting time at Walt Disney Imagineering. Plenty of people on edge right now. Which — given all the rumors that have been flying around Flower Street lately — is understandable. All this talk about another round of lay-offs coming in October. Right at the start of Disney’s new fiscal year.

Still, not all the news that is coming out of Glendale these days is totally bleak. Here and there, there are still little glimmers of hope. Small indications that — if the planets align properly — we may soon see some fun new rides and shows at the Disney theme parks.

“What glimmers of hope?” you ask. Okay. How many of you know about Lucky? That walking Audio Animatronic that WDI was field testing in DCA earlier this month?

Well, you may look at that figure and just see a robotic dinosaur. But the Imagineers … they look at Lucky and see a Trojan horse. A way for Walt Disney Imagineering to sneak a number of projects that have stalled out over the past few years back up on their feet. So to speak.

Take — for instance — Beastly Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s long-delayed new “land.” BK has been in a holding pattern ever since DAK initially opened back in April 1998. The idea was that construction of Beastly Kingdom would be held up until WDW’s newest theme park needed some new rides and shows to help out with capacity. But — given that DAK never even came close to meeting its attendance projects — it looked like BK (with its clever mix of mythological-based attractions) was going to be stuck on the Mouse’s back burner for … well, forever.

But then along came Lucky. And the Imagineers — sensing all the creative possibilities that were inherent in this amazing walking AA figure — began to feel pretty lucky themselves.

“So how is Lucky the Dinosaur going to help WDI finally get Beastly Kingdom built?” you query. Patience, Grasshopper. All will be explained shortly.

Now, the suits at Team Disney Burbank got one look at Lucky and said “Cool. A walking dinosaur. Let’s drop that walking AA figure into Dinoland U.S.A. as an extra added attraction at DAK.” But — according to the stories that I’ve been hearing from supposedly in-the-know Imagineers — the guys at WDI are trying to convince Disney’s brass to go another way here.

“What way?” you press. Well, these guys supposedly began talking about how attendance has been steadily eroding for the “Pocahontas and her Forest Friends” show over at Camp MinnieMickey. And that — given that Dinoland U.S.A. just had two new attractions added to that “land” as part of the “Chester & Hester’s Dino-rama!” expansion project — it would probably be smarter in the long run (at least from the guest flow point of view) to place DAK’s new Lucky-based attraction on the other side of the theme park. Balance the new attractions out, so to speak.

“But how would a dinosaur ever fit in over at Camp MinnieMickey?” you stammer. Not to worry. The Imagineers have already allegedly figured this out. They’d just pull down all that faux forest dressing that WDW’s Entertainment Office used to decorate the “Pocahontas” stage area … then turn this part of the outdoor arena into a place where a kindly old wizard might live. A thatched cottage with a small barn attached. You get the idea.

Anyway … several times a day, the wizard would come out of his cottage. (“Who’s the wizard going to be?” you ask. Well, there’s been reportedly been some thought given to using the Merlin character from Disney’s “Sword in the Stone” as the possible host of this new DAK show. Having a live actor put on the long beard and pointed cap.) The show would supposedly start off with the wizard doing various comical magic tricks (which would — of course — key off of practical effects that had been built right into the stage set).

This would go on for five minutes or so. But the real highlight of the show would be when the wizard would ask the audience to help him with some magical incantation. The doors to the barn would dramatically fly open … and a baby dragon (think Lucky, only colored purple with a ridge of scales running down his back) would come strolling out of the barn.

The wizard would then put the dragon through his paces. Have him do all the same tricks that Lucky had been doing during his daily appearances at DCA. The wizard would then select members of the audience to come on down and interact with the walking Audio Animatronic. The dragon would sign autographs. Pose for pictures, etc. You know the drill.

Then — after 20 minutes or so of this — the wizard would announce that it was time for the baby to take his nap. Then this cast member would lead Lucky back into the barn. The doors would close magically behind them … and DAK guests would exit the arena, having really been wowed by their up-close encounter with a walking, grunting, sneezing really-for-real (well … really-for-real seeming) baby dragon.

“And how is that this really humble sounding show going to help WDI resurrect Beastly Kingdom?” you grumble. Well, think of the Lucky/wizard show as WDI’s way of establishing a magical beachhead in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Getting a toehold on this turf.

By getting the “Lucky the Dragon” show installed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Imagineers get some medieval fantasy elements into this theme park. With the hope that — should this new DAK show prove to be a success — that other sword-and-sorcery stuff can soon follow.

Now let me stress here that this is far from a done deal, folks. This show proposal is something that’s still very much in the talking phase at WDI. To my knowledge, this rather intriguing concept has yet to be formally pitched to Imagineering management. Let alone to Eisner and Co. But — that said — a number of folks at Walt Disney Imagineering are said to be very excited about this idea.

“Think about it, Jim,” my WDI insider enthused. “If we can get the ‘Lucky the Dragon’ show up out of the ground over in Camp MinnieMickey, maybe the year after it opens we can get a shop that looks like a medieval tournament tent built right next to the arena. Which we can sell image capture of Lucky to Animal Kingdom’s guests.”

“And — when that store starts making some money — we can then justify adding some additional tent-like buildings to the area. Shops that sell medieval-era eats. Turkey legs. Shish-kabobs. You get the idea.”

“And — should Lucky continue to be a draw with WDW visitors over a couple of years and people keep shopping at that medieval-themed store and buying that medieval-themed food — maybe then we can finally sell Burbank on the idea of building Beastly Kingdom. All this earlier magical/medieval stuff will be our proof of concept. Proving to the suits that a full-blown version of this land could be a real success with the public.”

“Sure, this is the slow-but-steady approach, Jim. Which will probably frustrate all the fantasy fans as well as the coaster freaks. The people who want ‘Dare the Dragon’ to be open yesterday. But — given that absolutely nothing is going on with Beastly Kingdom right now — I’ll take slow-and-steady any day.”

Once again — I have to stress here, folks — that this is far from a done deal. One potentially huge roadblock to this “Lucky the Dragon” project ever becoming a reality is the fact that Camp MinnieMickey is pretty much under the control of WDW’s Entertainment Office. The folks who oversee all of the performers who appear in “Festival of the Lion King” as well as “Pocahontas and her Forest Friends.” Not to mention those cast members who appear in character costume and pose for pictures and sign autographs for the tourists.

So — given that the “Lucky the Dragon” show would probably fall under the jurisdiction of WDI — I can’t imagine that WDW’s Entertainment Department would be all that eager to have the Imagineers take over the “Forest Friends” arena. Lose that piece of turf, so to speak.

But — on the other hand — given that the wizard that would appear as the host of the “Lucky the Dragon” show would probably be a performer that WDW’s Entertainment staffers would have some control over, maybe this wouldn’t actually be as big a stumbling block as I might think.

Whatever ends up happening here (I.E. whether Camp MinnieMickey will have a baby dragon moving in someday soon), JimHillMedia.com will keep you posted on the project.

Another project that we’ll definitely be keeping our eyes on is DAK’s “Expedition Everest.” Which may have to have its previously announced storyline tweaked in the not-so distant future.

What’s the problem with this still-under-construction thrill ride? Well, think about it, kids. DCA’s “Superstar Limo” was originally supposed to be this “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”-like attraction. A ride that took guests on a hair-raising trip through Hollywood, while the paparazzi chased your limo. But then Princess Di was killed in that tragic crash. And suddenly riding in a fast-moving limousine, pretending to be a celebrity as you are pursued by rabid reporters, didn’t seem like such a fun idea anymore.

Okay. So now we have “Expedition Everest.” A thrill ride whose big exciting moment was supposed to have come when the cog railway train that you were riding in suddenly becomes separated from its donkey engine. Which causes that train to start sliding swiftly back down the steep mountainside.

Well, given that Disneyland’s Big Thunder tragedy was supposedly caused when one of the coaster’s faux engines suddenly became separated from its set of cars, there are some folks at WDI who are now suggesting that it might be bad taste for the Walt Disney Company to go forward with this DAK attraction now. At least with all of the thrill ride’s original story points still in place.

What’s supposedly being suggested now as a possible fix for this potentially offensive situation is that “Expedition Everest” should lose its train-separating-from-its-engine element. To just have the whole train suddenly lose power just as it reaches the summit. (Maybe slip off its chain; after all, “EE” is an attraction that’s supposedly set aboard a cog railway.)

Just as with DAK’s “Lucky the Dragon” show idea, this potential story change at “Expedition Everest” is pretty much in the talking phase, people. And — given that this is WDI that we’re talking about here, folks — let’s remember that all stories are subject to change. Quickly. With little or no warning.

That said, I still thought JHM readers might enjoy hearing what’s being talked about these days inside of WDI. A place that’s full of some very creative, extremely nervous people right now.

Your thoughts?

Jim Hill

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.

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. 

Jim Hill

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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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?

Jim Hill

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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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

Jim Hill

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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