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Why For?

Jim Hill returns with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, Jim reveals who “Captain EO” ‘s original Supreme Leader was supposed to be, talks about why Disney’s animated “Robin Hood” is a bit of a train wreck as well as sharing what he knows about that “Simpsons” simulator ride that Universal Studios once wanted to add to its theme parks.



First up, Frank T. writes in to ask about:

Jim –

I loved today’s story about Eric Idle’s involvement with various projects at Disney. I have one question, though: Who was the actor that Idle replaced in “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience?”


Frank T.

Dear Frank –

You know, I’ve been trying to get an answer to that question myself for about 10 years now. I’ve asked various friends who work at WDI and Theme Park Productions (I.E. The division within Walt Disney Imagineering that actually creates all of the movies that are shown in the theme parks). I’ve even made inquiries of Randal Kleiser, the director of both “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid” and “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience.” But everyone that I’ve spoken with has been ridiculously tight-lipped about this tale.

Of course, were you to look at this situation from Disney’s side of the fence, I’m guessing that you could understand why the Mouse might want to keep mum about this matter. The company certainly doesn’t want to do anything to embarrass the performer who originally signed on to do this 3D film.

After all, sometimes actors will back out of jobs at the very last moment for reasons that they really don’t want publicized. Take – for example – what happened with Shelley Duvall on the production of “Captain EO.”

It was actually the star of “Popeye” and the producer of Showtime’s acclaimed “Faerie Tale Theatre” series that George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola originally hired to play Michael Jackson’s nemesis in this 3D movie, the Supreme Leader. And Duvall was reportedly really excited to be part of the project … Until Shelley found out about all the make-up that she was expected to wear in her role as the film’s villain.

As this character had originally envisioned by Academy Award winning make-up artist Rick Baker, any actress who was going to play the Supreme Leader would be covered from their neck to the top of their head with latex appliances. So that – at the end of the movie, when Captain EO gives the Supreme Leader his “gift” – her transformation from crone to fair maiden would be all the more startling.

Well, as it turns out, Ms. Duvall is terribly claustrophobic. The very idea that her face would be buried under tons of latex for hours at a time was just terrifying to Shelley. I’m told that – as a personal favor to Francis – she did one make-up test. But Duvall found that experience to be so excruciating that — immediately after that – she bailed out of the project.

Mind you, Shelley tried to be as professional as possible about her untimely exit. I’m told that she made apologetic phone calls to everyone involved in the “Captain EO” project. From the two Michaels (I.E. Michael Eisner & Michael Jackson) to Lucas to Coppola. Explaining that she’d still dearly love to be part of Disney’s new 3D film but that she just couldn’t handle the make-up.

Which was why – just days before “Captain EO” was scheduled to begin shooting – Disney’s new 3D movie was suddenly in need of a new Supreme Leader. Thankfully, Francis knew that Angelica Huston was available at the time. So Coppola made a few phones. Which is how the star of “Prizzi’s Honor” would up menacing Michael Jackson.

But you want to know the ironic part of this whole situation? It turns out that Ms. Huston was just like Ms. Duvall. In that Angelica really didn’t like roles that required her to wear an awful lot of facial appliances. (Which – the way I understand it – made the filming of that her 1990 fantasy film, “The Witches,” particularly hellish for this Academy Award winner … Anyway …)

So here was another actress that was balking at playing “Captain EO” ‘s Supreme Leader. At least in the facial make-up that Rick Baker had originally designed. So – rather than recast this role for a second time – Lucas and Coppola just went to Baker and said: “Can we lose the latex and just go with regular paint-on make-up for this character instead?”

Rick reluctantly agreed. Which is why “Captain EO” ‘s Supreme Leader wound up looking the way that she did in the final film. With few facial appliances & just that weird head piece.

Every time I saw that movie when I was at the theme parks, I couldn’t help but think: “You know, if they’d just started off with this sort of make-up treatment for the Supreme Leader, Shelley Duvall could have probably handled this role.”

Though – that said – I wonder if Disney theme park visitors would have found it all that entertaining to see the King of Pop being menaced by Olive Oyl.

Anywho … Next up, B. Baker wrote in to ask about last week’s “Don’t like the way your cartoon is turning out? Hit ‘rewind’ and recast” article:

Re: Your “Voice Replacements” article…

Many years back — before myriad details of Disney works-in-progress were so closely scrutinized in the press (and the ‘net didn’t yet exist) — I used to keep up with upcoming films by reading Variety every week. I would carefully study the trade paper’s “Production Chart,” which listed most every major movie then in production or about to begin shooting. It was sometimes useful to keep an eye on this chart from week to week, because it included a short credits summary for each project — and when creative personnel would change on a film, the paper would accordingly update its listing on the chart. As entertainment journalism was not nearly as mainstream back then, quiet alterations of this chart and a similar one in The Hollywood Reporter were sometimes the only prominent announcements/confirmations of certain cast and other creative changes in pictures-in-progress.

Anyway, when a Disney animated feature landed on the production chart in the ’60s and ’70s, it would, of course, stay there for well over a year. As did ROBIN HOOD. For some months it sat on the chart with the listing looked something like this, if memory serves:

ROBIN HOOD (Disney) ANIM. PROD./DIR.: Wolfgang Reitherman. CAST (voices): Tommy Steele, Phil Harris, Peter Ustinov, Terry-Thomas, Roger Miller, Andy Devine. DISTRIB: BV

[Something like that, anyway.]

Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this.

After what seemed many weeks of production, I scanned the chart one Wednesday to see — well, I didn’t see Tommy Steele. The British song-and-dance guy’s name was missing from the listing for ROBIN HOOD. Brian Bedford, a fine English actor, was now heading the voice cast.

Bedford did a great job, to be sure — but I don’t recall ever reading or hearing about this pretty sudden (and major) casting change anywhere else.

Do you know the scoop — or can you point me somewhere that might have some details about this?


B. Baker

Dear B. Baker –

Ah, yes. “Robin Hood.” One of the more misbegotten movies that Disney Feature Animation ever turned out.

Don’t get me wrong, B. There’s still a lot to like about this 1973 Walt Disney Productions release. But — based on stories that I’ve heard from various WDFA vets who actually worked on this project — “Robin Hood” was a bit of a train wreck. Due almost entirely to constant second-guessing on Woolie Reitherman’s part.

“What was the problem?,” you ask. Well, you have to understand that “Robin Hood” was actually the very first film that Disney Feature Animation produced all on its own following Walt’s death. By that I mean, even “The Aristocats” (which was released in 1970) had at least been given a very tentative greenlight by the Old Mousetro just prior to his death in December 1966.

Whereas “Robin Hood” … This was the very first film that the studio’s animation staff did all without any input from Walt. Which — as you can probably understand — made the animators extremely nervous. Which is why — throughout this film’s production — “Robin Hood” ‘s production staff constantly kept asking themselves “Are we doing the right thing here? What would Walt have done?”

Which was why — on this particular WDFA project — the studio’s motto seemed to be: “When in doubt, play it safe.”

Mind you, “Robin Hood” didn’t start out a safe project. The first animator assigned to the project — Disney Legend Ken Anderson (Who’s credited with coming up with the film’s initial concept as well as its character design) — initially wanted to play fast & loose with this legend. Which is why Ken proposed shifting the story’s setting from the woods of Merrie Old Englande to the swamps of the deep south. So that WDFA could then produce an Americanized animated version of “Robin Hood.” A project that Anderson hoped would recapture some of the fun & the spirit of “Song of the South” ‘s animated sequences in “Song of the South.”

Well, those of you who read this week’s “Rewriting Uncle Remus” article are already aware that — by the early 1970s — execs at Walt Disney Productions were already starting to have some very serious concerns about the studio’s 1946 live action / animated release. So Ken’s proposal to turn “Robin Hood” into “Song of the South Revisited” just wasn’t going to fly.

Which is why — in the end — Reitherman nixed Anderson’s idea, insisting that Disney’s new animated version of “Robin Hood” be just like the live action version of this classic English folk tale that the studio produced back in 1952. As in: This story is set in England.

The studio’s whole “play it safe” philosophy even extended to the actors that WDFA initially hired to do voicework for “Robin Hood.” They deliberately chose Tommy Steele to voice the film’s title role because Walt had so enjoyed watching this Broadway vet work perform on the set of “The Happiest Millionaire.” Likewise, Woolie chose Peter Ustinov to do the voice of Prince John because Disney — during one of his last visits to the studio — had really enjoyed watching this Academy Award winner frolic on the set of “Blackbeard’s Ghost.”

Well, Peter proved to be an inspired choice for “Robin Hood” ‘s villain … Whereas Mr. Steele … Well, my understanding is that – after just a few weeks of recording –  it was determined that this “Happiest Millionaire” star just didn’t have a very heroic sounding voice.

Sure, Tommy could pull off “Robin Hood” ‘s sillier scenes without any problem. Likewise his character’s more romantic moments with Maid Marian seemed to come off fine. But in those parts of the picture where Robin had to sound heroic, inspirational … Steele just came across as rather goofy sounding.

Which was why — in the end — Tommy was quietly let go and Reitherman found another, more heroic-sounding Englishman to do voicework for the film’s title character: veteran stage actor Brian Bedford.

However, given all the time that was wasted on exploring different settings for the film and/or auditioning new actors to voice the film’s title character, “Robin Hood” fell ridiculously behind schedule. So much so that — in order to get this picture out in time to meet its December 1973 release — the staff at WDFA had to recycle animation that had been used in the production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Jungle Book” and “The Aristocats” in order to complete some of the trickier scenes in the picture.

Don’t believe me? Then go pull out your “Robin Hood” DVD. Jump to the chapter that features the “Phony King of England” musical number. Now watch this scene carefully.

If you’ve a good eye or/or have a great memory for Disney animation, you’ll be able to recognize the moments where the folks at WDFA “repurposed” footage from other pictures. Snow White’s dance with the dwarfs. King Louis and Baloo boogie-ing. There’s even bits borrowing from the musical felines from “The Aristocats.”

This all-too-obvious recycling remains a real sore point with some animation professionals. They feel that  the folks who were then-working at WDFA should have created all new animation that actually fit this sequence, rather than borrowing so obviously from the past.

But — to be honest — this practice continued well into the 1990s. Remind me sometime to tell you where — the studio’s 1991release, “Beauty and the Beast” — you can see footage that was repurposed from “Bambi” and “Sleeping Beauty.”

And — finally — Derek S. writes in to ask:

Hey, Jim!

I have a vague memory of hearing a long while back that Universal was pursuing creating a theme park attraction based on The Simpsons–perhaps to do with a bus ride with Otto. Have you ever heard anything about this or am I merely mis-remembering?


Derek S.

Oh, yeah. Universal’s infamous “Simpsons” simulator attraction. The one that was supposed to have taken theme park visitors on a high-speed thrill ride through Springfield with everyone’s favorite stoner — Otto Mans — at the wheel.

But you want to know what would have really been killer about this proposed “Simpson” simulator? It wouldn’t have been plain, old ordinary Springfield that you were riding through as you bumped along inside that school bus. No, this was supposed to be a “Treehouse of Horror” version of Homer’s hometown.

Speaking of Homer … It was America’s favorite boob (Insert your own Lindsay Lohan joke here) who supposedly set this attraction’s story in motion. In the attraction’s pre-show, we learn that — as parents of students at Springfield Elementary — we’ve been assigned to join Miss Krabappel, Principal Skinner and Groundskeeper Willie Homer as chaperones on a tour of the Springfield nuclear power plant.

So — as we tour the plant — we get to interact with Mr. Burns, Smithers, Lenny and Carl  before we finally arrive at Homer’s control console in Sector 7-G. And — of course — as we’re visiting Bart & Lisa’s dad, he accidentally releases a cloud of deadly radiative gas (Insert your own Taco Bell joke here). Which begins to cause various workers at the plant mutate horribly.

Clearly this isn’t a place that we want to be anymore. So Skinner hurries us all back outside to the school bus. Where we learn that the gas has now leaked out of the plant and is now effecting the entire town of Springfield. Shelbyville. This is when the Principal gives Otto the order to drive to straight to Shelbyville.

Mind you, Otto or Principal Skinner or Miss Krabappel doesn’t actually last all that long in the attraction. They’re picked off in gruesome but funny ways by various monsters that we encounter along the way.

Take — for example — Otto’s fate. As we come around a corner, we suddenly encounter a 50-foot version of Marge. Who — after picking up the school bus and shaking it back & forth a few times — swallows the stoner whole.

It’s then that chronic under-achiever — Bart Simpson — comes to our rescue by taking the wheel of the bus. Which is when that the thrills & laughs start coming thick & fast.

This proposed Universal Studios attraction has dozens of great gags. But here’s my absolute favorite:

As we’re zooming through the streets of Springfield, who should pull up beside us in a speeding jeep but action film star Rainier Wolfcastle? Dressed in full “Terminator” regalia (I.E. The leather jacket, the sunglasses, the works), Rainer tells everyone on the bus: “Come with me if you want to live.”

The only problem is — as Rainer is talking with us — he doesn’t see that bridge abutment that’s directly in front of him.  Wolfcastle’s jeep hits the concrete pillar at full speed, then explodes in a ball of flames.

After a short pause, Bart — while still driving the bus — looks over his shoulder and says to the assembled theme park guests: “All in all, it’s probably best that we didn’t go with him.”

Doesn’t this sound like a killer idea for a theme park attraction? So why hasn’t Universal Studios built this “Simpsons” simulator yet? Because — to be honest — doing theme park attractions based into this popular Fox program isn’t really all that high a priority to “Simpsons” executive producer James L. Brooks.

Representatives of Universal Creative reportedly met with James L. three or four years back to get his approval on this project. But while Brooks admitted that this was a really funny idea, one that was very much in the spirit of the show … “The Simpsons” production team had other, more pressing projects. Like keeping this animated sitcom on the air long enough to beat out “Ozzie & Harriet” ‘s old record (I.E. That TV program had a 14 year run on ABC) as well as prepping the “Simpsons” animated feature.

Don’t get me wrong, folks. James L. still likes the idea of Universal putting a “Simpsons” simulator into its theme parks. But only after these other projects are wrapped up. Which is why we may have another couple of years to wait ’til we get to ride in that school bus with Otto & Bart.

Anywho … That’s it for this week, folks. Sorry that this edition of “Why For” was somewhat on the short side. But — you see — I wrote it on the plane while I was flying west to do this coming weekend’s JHM tours of Disneyland.

Speaking of which: Scott Liljenquist tells me that we’ve still got a few open spots on the Saturday morning tour (What’s the matter? You guys just can’t tear yourselves away from watching “Kim Possible” on ABC Kids?). So — if you’d like to join me tomorrow for a rather unique look at the “Happiest Place on Earth” — then I suggest you follow this link.

Even if I don’t see you  in Anaheim on Saturday or Sunday, you folks have a great weekend, okay?


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



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
(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

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

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



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

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
" 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
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
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



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
(especially this summer, when
the Happiest Place on Earth
is celebrating its 60th anniversary), he looks & dresses like this.

Copyright Disney Enterprises,
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

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
's "World of Color:
" 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,
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

"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

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"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.

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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.

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"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?

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"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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