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Trio of special events tempt Southern California’s Disneyana fans

Jim Hill talks up the Disney-related panels that will be presented this coming weekend at WonderCon 2010, Christopher Merritt’s “Knott’s Preserved” event as well as the Carolwood Foundation’s private railcar trip along the California coastline

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This coming Saturday (provided – of course – that the Bay State isn’t still under water), I’ll be down in Avon, MA. taking part in the 15th annual Janet McDonald Memorial Walk Against Cancer. This fundraiser is something that my family does every year in order to honor the memory of my late cousin. We walk the 5-mile route that Janet did every day in order to raise
money for the Immunotherapy Research Department at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

But if I had my druthers … I wouldn’t be plodding through puddles in Randolph, MA. I’d be on the other side of the country. In San Francisco, CA. to be specific. Where – from April 2 – 4th – WonderCon 2010 will be filling the Moscone Center South with all sorts of
wonderful Disney-related events & programming.

“What sort of events and programming?,” you ask. Well, let’s start with what’s going on in the Esplanade Ballroom from 3:45 – 4:30 p.m. Where you’ll get to see the April 6th episode of ABC’s hit series,”V” (which has a rather ominous sounding title: “Pound of Flesh”) 4 days ahead of the rest of the country.

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And then – from 4:30 – 5 p.m. – Walt Disney Animation Studios will be presenting a panel about the Art of The Princess and The Frog
in Room 220. The film’s directors – Ron Clements & John Musker — will be on hand. As will be “TPATF” art director Ian Gooding, the movie’s head of effects Marlon West as well as animation legend Eric Goldberg (who was the supervising
animator for Louis, the jazz-playing alligator). As they discuss many of the creative choices & artistic challenges this team faced while they were producing Walt Disney Pictures’ return to hand-drawn animation.

But perhaps one of the more intriguing events at this year’s WonderCon is happening well away from the Moscone Center South. At 1 Market Street in the Embarcadero, to be exact.

“So what’s happening here?,” you query. Well, at 8 p.m. tomorrow night, Alan Bradley will be making an appearance in Justin Herman Plaza. Where this Encom International exec will then be introducing that company’s latest addition to their product library.

Bruce Boxleitner as Encom executive Alan Bradley in “TRON: Legacy.” Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

And what’s so cool about that? Well … Alan Bradley is the name of the character that Bruce Boxleitner played in “TRON.” And Encom is the name of the computer corporation that that 1982 Steve Lisberger film was built around. So what do you want to bet that Friday night’s “press conference” winds up being another cool tease for “TRON: Legacy” ? Just like that “Flynn’s Arcade”
display that Walt Disney Pictures set up off-site at last year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Long story short: If you’re a “TRON” fan, you really, really, REALLY want to be in Justin Herman Plaza tomorrow night at 8 p.m.

Then – on Saturday, April 3rd … Well, that’s when the tough decisions start. For – from 11 a.m. to 12 noon – you can either sit in on a hand-drawn animation demo (where Eric Goldberg will discuss how he came up with the look of his character for “The Princess and the Frog”) in Room 204 & 206 OR catch the premiere screening of that new ABC series, “Happy Town” in the Esplanade Ballroom. (And did I mention that members of that show’s cast
& creative team will be on hand afterward to field questions from the audience?)

Copyright 2010 American Broadcasting Corporation, Inc. All Rights Reserved

If it were me, I’d probably go with the “Happy Town” screening. If only because the panel that follows this in the Esplanade Ballroom is the one WonderCon event that Disneyana fans really don’t want to miss. For – from 12 noon to 1:45 p.m. – Walt Disney Pictures & Disney•Pixar will be screening exclusive footage from some of their films for the Summer of 2010.

And who better to be on hand to introduce footage from “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” than Jerry Bruckheimer, that film’s producer? Or – for that matter – Jake Gyllenhaal
(i.e. the actor who plays the title character in this Walt Disney Pictures release), Mike Newell (the industry vet who directed “The Sands of Time”) and Jordan Mechner (the gentleman who created
the original “Prince of Persia” game)?

Then – once the “Prince of Persia” team has left the Esplanade Ballroom – Bruckheimer will bring the cast & crew of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” up on stage. And among the folks from that film that are expected to be on hand this Saturday afternoon are Nicholas Cage, Jay Baruchel and Teresa Palmer as well as the movie’s director, Jon Turteltaub.

(L to R)  Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel in Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

And if that weren’t already entertaining enough, this Walt Disney Pictures and Disney•Pixar presentation wraps up with Lee Unkrich taking the stage. Where this Pixar veteran will then give WonderCon attendees a sneak peek at “Toy Story 3.”

Now please note that most of the venues at the Moscone Center South have very limited seating. Which is why all of the panels & programming at WonderCon 2010 is done on a first-come, first-served basis. And since these rooms will not be cleared between programs …
Well, if you want to actually have a seat for Saturday’s sure-be-spectacular Walt Disney Pictures and Disney•Pixar presentation, you should really probably plan on attending that 11 a.m. – 12 noon premiere screening of ABC’s “Happy Town.”

What’s that you say? You’re not going to be in San Francisco this coming weekend but you’d still like to attend a cool Disney-related event? Well … Then perhaps you should plan on heading over to Buena Park, CA. on Sunday, April 18th? Where you can then attend the
book release party for Christopher Merritt’s “Knott’s Preserved: From boysenberry to theme park, the history of Knott’s Berry Farm.”

Copyright 2010 Angel City Press. All Rights Reserved

“And what does Knott’s Berry Farm have to do with Disney?,” you ask. Well, as Merritt points out in this handsome 160-page hardcover, if it hadn’t been for Walter Knott and that Chicken Dinner Restaurant that he and his wife Cordelia ran out in Orange County with its Old West street & Ghost Town … Well, one wonders if Walt Disney would have actually picked Anaheim as the perfect place to build The Happiest Place on Earth?

Anyway … To honor the history of Knott’s Berry Farm (as well as explore this theme park’s many connections to The Walt Disney Company), there’ll be a day-long event on Sunday, April 18th to celebrate the release of Chris’ 15-years-in-the-making book.

This event will include tours of the Park’s Grand Avenue & Ghost Town areas led by Orange County Historians Phil Brigandi and Chris Jepsen. And from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, Merritt and his co-author, noted Los Angeles historian & preservationist J. Eric Lynxwiler will be on hand in the Chicken Dinner Restaurant. Where – along with Imagineer Tony Baxter (who wrote
the introduction for this Angel City Press release) – Chris & J. Eric will be happy to autograph your copy of “Knott’s Preserved: From boysenberry to theme park, a history of Knott’s Berry Farm.”

Copyright Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. All Rights Reserved

Then – from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. – attendees will gather at the Bird Cage Theater for a multimedia lecture on the early history of this property. Which will then be followed from 5 – 7 p.m. by a group buffet dinner at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

After this comes the real highlight of the “Knott’s Preserved” event. Where – from 8 – 9:30 p.m. – former Imagineers Rolly Crump, Chris Crump and Eddie Sotto (along with Knott’s veterans Dean Davisson and John Waite) will gather at the Bird Cage Theater for a panel discussion. Where these five will then talk about the many classic KBF rides, shows, attractions and
events that they had a hand in building and/or designing. Among them “Knott’s Bear-y Tales,” “Wacky Soap Box Racers” and the Halloween Haunt.

This promises to be an extra special day for theme park history buffs. But be warned: Space for the “Knott’s Preserved” event is extremely limited. In fact, the last time I checked (on Tuesday of this week) there were only 30 tickets left. And when they’re gone, they’re gone.

Copyright Cedar Fair Entertainment
Company All Rights Reserved

So if you’d like to get on in the fun that’s sure to be had at Knott’s Berry Farm on Sunday, April 18th, you’d better click on this link and then fax in your request for those remaining tickets ASAP.

Of course, if you’re looking for a truly exclusive Disney-related experience, you might want to consider signing up for that once-in-a-lifetime rail trip that the Carolwood Foundation will be holding over the Memorial Day weekend.

This trip starts on Saturday, May 29th. Where a limited number of guests will leave LA’s Union Station aboard a private railcar and then journey up the California coast. And while the views out the window are sure to be spectacular, the on-board entertainment won’t be half bad either. These include presentations by Disney Legend Bob Gurr, noted historian
& author Michael Broggie, animator John Kimball (son of Disney Legend Ward Kimball) as well as Imagineer Ray Spencer (who’s currently riding herd on the Red Car Trolley installation project at Disney’s California Adventure).

Photo courtesy of The Blue Parrot. All Rights Reserved

And did I mention that all the meals that you’ll be served as you ride aboard this historic observation car will be prepared by a private chef and his staff?

But wait! The fun doesn’t stop once your train gets to Oakland. You’ll then be whisked by private motor coach to the Hilton Hotel in Emeryville, CA. Where — following a restful night’s sleep — you’ll then be driven into San Francisco. Where – after a tour of the Walt Disney Family Museum – you’ll then adjourn to the Fantasia Theater. Where you’ll enjoy a rare public screening of “The Great Locomotive Chase,” that 1956 Walt Disney Productions release that stars the late Fess Parker.

After this screening, you’ll then head down to Fisherman’s Wharf for a night of fun, which will be followed by a return trip to the Hilton in Emeryville. Then – come Monday – this private railcar departs Oakland for the return trip to Los Angeles. Where – while you’re once again enjoying that spectacular view – you’ll also have a chance to interact with the event’s guest speakers as well as bid on
some rare collectibles & autographed items.

Copyright The Blue Parrot. All Rights Reserved

Now admittedly the cost of this trip is a bit pricey ($500 per person. Plus your two night hotel stay at the Hilton). But the net proceeds from this event will go to an extremely good cause. You see, the Carolwood Foundation is in the process of acquiring and restoring the original Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad combine car. Which it then plans on displaying at Walt Disney’s
Carolwood Barn in Griffth Park. So if you’d like to help preserve this piece of Disney history – an artifact that Walt not only personally owned, but once declared to be his favorite piece of the Disneyland Railroad – then you should definitely sign up for this trip.

Be warned, though: All reservations for this amazing trip up the California coast aboard a private railcar must be made by April 10th. And given that space is (obviously) limited, you’re encouraged to book your tickets ASAP.

For more information on this unique fundraiser or the Combine project, drop by the Carolwood website.

So there you have it: A trio of special events that are sure to tempt Southern California Disneyana fans now through Memorial Day. Which — come to think about it — is just about when I expect my shoes will finally dry out from plodding through all those puddles during Saturday’s Cancer Walk.

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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