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Jim Hill returns with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, Jim talks about Roy Disney’s reaction to the Pixar acquisition, gives us some background on Hani El-Masri, offers up some details about the “Discovery Bay” theme park, delivers an update on his unauthorized Disneyland history CD as well as revealing the key role that a veteran Disney animator played in the creation of that classic sci-fi film, “Forbidden Planet”



First up, Tom M. writes in to ask:


I really enjoy all the information you and your staff share. One thing I haven’t heard yet has been Roy Disney’s reaction to the purchase of Pixar and probable changes associated with it. If you have any information could you please share it.


Well, based on the statement that Roy released back on January 25th …

” Animation has always been the heart and soul of the Walt Disney Company and it is wonderful to see Bob Iger and the company embrace that heritage by bringing the outstanding animation talent of the Pixar team back into the fold.

This clearly solidifies the Walt Disney Company’s position as the dominant leader in motion picture animation and we applaud and support Bob Iger’s vision.”

… I’d have to say that Walt’s nephew seems fairly pleased with the way things eventually turned out.

But — that said — I have to wonder how Roy really feels about all this. Given that it’s Disney’s new CEO Bob Iger who’s now getting all the credit. Bob’s the one who’s now being hailed as a hero by both Wall Street as well as Disneyana fans because Iger was the guy who brought Pixar back into the Disney fold.

You see, back during the very height of the “Save Disney” campaign, there were all these rumors flying around that Roy Disney & Stanley Gold had Steve Jobs in their back pocket. Meaning that — once Disney & Gold finally succeeded at ousting then-CEO Michael Eisner — that Roy would then cut some sort of deal with Steve. Giving Jobs whatever he wanted in order to secure the continuation of Disney & Pixar’s co-production deal.

Mind you, none of the parties involved here ever made a public statement to that effect. But — back in the late winter / early spring of 2004 — there were all these whispers about the “understanding” that Roy & Steve supposedly had. More to the point, it always seemed awfully co-incidental that — just eight weeks after Disney & Gold resigned from the company’s board of directors and started complaining loudly about the way Eisner was running the Disney corporation — Steve would suddenly break off Pixar’s negotiations with Disney. Insisting that he too has had enough of Uncle Mikey’s antics.

If things had just gone a little bit differently (I.E. If Eisner had actually stepped down following that 43% “No Confidence” vote that he received back in Philadelphia two years ago today. Rather than opting to tough things out ’til September 30, 2005), I’m guessing that it would have been Roy that we’d now be hailing as the guy who actually brought Pixar back into the Disney fold. Rather than Bob Iger.

Speaking of Walt’s nephew, I’ve had a number of e-mails over the past few months with questions about Roy. You see, what with “Save Disney” ‘s July 2005 settlement with the Walt Disney Company (During which Roy was named as a director emeritus as well as being awarded a consultancy with the corporation), many JHM readers seemed to think that Walt’s nephew should have had a much higher profile within the corporation by now. That Roy should have already been making appearances at Disney film premieres and/or theme park attraction openings. So they’ve been wondering about what actually became of Walt’s nephew.

Well, the way I hear it, it’s not that Roy hasn’t been making any appearances (EX: Back on January 18th, Jerry Beck of reported that he had recently seen Walt’s nephew at a screening of “The Poor Little Match Girl.” Which is one of the pieces that Disney’s animators had originally put together for the now-cancelled “Fantasia 2006”). It’s just that Roy is being very carefully about where and when he makes public appearances these days.

Meaning that A) Walt’s nephew really doesn’t want to do anything right now that might possibly upstage the Mouse House’s new Big Cheese. You see, Roy & Bob are still feeling their way here, folks. Trying to forge some sort of working relationship that would then allow Disney & Iger to get past some of the bad feelings that were built up during the “Save Disney” campaign and B) Roy’s 76-years-old now … And a man of that age (Particularly one who’s a millionaire several times over) is entitled to kick back on occassion & enjoy himself. Rather than getting right back into harness and going straight back to work.

And — yes — I’ve also heard the rumors about Walt’s nephew possibly having some health problems and the role that these may have played in Roy & Stanley’s ultimate decision to shut down the “Save Disney” campaign. But until someone from the Walt Disney Company and/or Shamrock Holdings (I.E. Disney & Gold’s investment firm) is actually willing to go on the record about that subject … I think that we all should probably steer clear of the alleged illness topic.

Anyway, that’s all I know (to date), Tom M., about Roy Disney, what he’s been up to lately and — more importantly — what his thoughts are about the Pixar acquisition. Maybe (if we’re lucky) some other well-informed JHM reader will now come forward with additional information about Walt’s nephew.

Next up, Yuji N. writes in to say:

Jim —

I really loved that cartoon of Marty Sklar that you ran on JHM yesterday. But who the heck is Hani El-Masri?

Yuji N.

Hani El-Masri is an extremely talented artist who started working at Walt Disney Imagineering back in March of 1990. During his five year stint at WDI, Hani helped design projects as wide and varied at Mickey’s Toontown, Tokyo DisneySea and Westcot.

Eventually, Mr. El-Masri left Imagineering’s employ to literally go across the street to work at DreamWorks Animation‘s Glendale campus. Once there, Hani was a visual development artist on films such as “The Prince of Egypt,” “The Road to El Dorado” and “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmarron.”

Mr. El-Marsi eventually left Dreamworks Animation to return to his country of origin, Egypt. Where Hani now makes his living as a highly regarded freelance illustrator, working on assignments that range from consumer products to children’s books to theatrical productions.

That said, Mr. El-Marsi still has a real soft spot when it comes to his days at WDI. And given that it was Marty Sklar himself that used to ask Hani to create all of the farewell cards for departing Imagineers (Among the people that El-Marsi crafted tributes for were Bob Weis, Mickey Steinberg and Maggie Elliot) … It only seemed fitting that Hani would also put together a goodbye card for Marty as well.

Anywho … As a  personal favor to Mr. El-Marsi, I’m now posting a copy of the note that Hani crafted to go along with Marty’s going away card. With the hope that this message finally makes it to Mr. Sklar:

Drawing courtesy of Hani El-Masri


Dear Marty,

This is truly the end of an era. I consider myself lucky not to be anymore at Walt Disney Imagineering without you at the helm.

You can’t imagine (Or maybe you can. After all, you ARE the ultimate Imagineer) the ripple effects of your departure from our beloved Alma Mater. All the way across the globe, I have received quite a stack of e-mails, memos and messages telling me about it. Of course, I was following up on the situation, being myself the ‘de facto’ WDI’sambassador in Egypt.

It’s true I only spent a few years at Imagineering. But if you add to them the years dreaming to be part of it, the amount of friends I made there, the growth of my personal work, the things I learned, the projects I was part of, the designs I left behind, the great people I met and all the wonderful memories, WDI has always been a home to me and a place I’ll always carry in my heart. Rivaled only by my old Jesuit school in Cairo.

During all these years, and even later after I left, you have been an inspiration to me and a father figure away from my dad. I always felt I was welcome to talk to you, as I often did, and knew all the time I could count on your support when, as artists sometimes do, I would depart from the beaten path, wether in artistic creation or personal behavior. My only fear when I left in ’95 was to disappoint you, but I also knew you would understand and, as every good father, let mefollow my star even if it led me away from you.

So, not to break a long tradition (to me anyway), even from my sunny Heliopolis, I had to draw a farewell card for you. You’ll probably get an official one (if they still do this at all) but I’m sure it won’t be quite the same. It’s in fact a cartoon that represents not only my own feelings but also those of scores of old Imagineers who, like me, left their hearts at 1401 Flower Street, when life took their steps to other places.

Well, Marty, maybe now I can really expect you to stop by Cairo, on your way from Paris to Tokyo, on one of your ‘Diplomatic’ missions.

All my best wishes to both Leah and yourself.


Okay. Getting back to our regularly scheduled program here. Tom Morrow next drops by to ask:

Hello Jim

I LOVE your site. I know everybody says that but please trust these words. It’s one of the very few sites where I can read good behind-the-scenes stories about the Disney’s theme parks.

And I have a question… Yesterday I reread your epic tale “California Misadventure” with absolute delight, learning once again how we jumped from an amazing Westcot to a… well, to DCA (Being French keep in mind dear folks that DCA is top notch when compared to our Walt Disney Studios…)

Anyway, I wanted to ask, I read somewhere that in the middle of the 80s a second gate was already in the process: Discovery Bay – THE THEME PARK. Yes, the park, not the proposed expansion north of Big Thunder Mountain. I never heard of this previously, do you have any pieces of information Jim? And why not some juicy concept arts… I think this project would have been as exciting as the Westcot park, don’t you think?

I thank you in advance, you and all the JHM crew !

Au revoir !

Dear Tom —

You know, I’ve only ever seen one piece of concept art for “Discovery Bay: The Theme Park.” And to be honest, the person who had this particular piece of art … really shouldn’t have had that piece of art. Meaning that it was probably stolen right out of WDI’s IRC (I.E. Information Resource Center).

So while I can’t share any imagery with you, Tom, I can give a brief overview as to what “Discovery Bay: The Theme Park” was supposed to have been like. As I understand it, this story dates back to the early 1980s. Back when Michael Eisner had just come on board as Disney’s new CE0 and was quite anxious to turn Anaheim into another Orlando.

Anyway … The key to that happening was that someone had to come up with a workable concept for a second gate for Anaheim. Something that would be similar to Disneyland, compliment the “Happiest Place on Earth.” But — as the same time — feature a different enough assortment of rides, shows and attractions that it wouldn’t just seem like some Disneyland clone.

So here’s Tony Baxter with his “Discovery Bay” project that he couldn’t ever get WED management to greenlight. And here’s Joe Rohde with his “Mythia” project (I.E. Yet another Disneyland expansion that was supposed to be located along the Rivers of America. Approximately where that waterside Indian village is now located ) — which celebrates the creatures of myth (EX: Dragons, unicorns, satyrs, nymphs) … And Joe couldn’t get his project greenlight either.

And then — to add to the mix — Skip Lange had come up with all of these great ideas of “Indiana Jones” -based attractions for Disneyland’s Adventureland. The only problem was that Skip had come up with far more “Indy” -based rides, shows and attractions then would possibly fit into that part of the theme park.

So … Here you had all of these great ideas for new additions to Disneyland that were just languishing at WED. When some brilliant Imagineer came up with the idea of combining all three of these projects into one single property. And that’s how the idea for “Discovery Bay: The Theme Park” came into being.

The basic premise of this particular theme park was that this was where adventure and fantasy had free reign. Where you could fly off in an airship and discover a lost civilization high up in the Arctic, or dive to the depths of the ocean with Captain Nemo and battle a giant squid, or join Indiana Jones as he searched for ancient artifacts in a temple guarded by evil spirits and/or have a far-too-close encounter with a fierce dragon guarding a huge horde of treasure.

Getting back to that piece of concept art, Tom: As I remember it, It showed a mist-covered mountain toward the upper left hand corner of the proposed theme park, a burned-out hulk of a castle toward the center of the property, a Mayan temple rising out of the center of a thick jungle in the lower left hand hand corner of the map. And to the right was this enormous version of Discovery Bay, which hugged the coast of this picturesque harbor.

Admittedly, it was a very impressive looking piece of property. At least in concept art form. But the harsh reality was that “Discovery Bay: The Theme Park” — while it was ambitious — just wasn’t different enough from the “Happiest Place on Earth.” The way Disneyland management supposedly saw it, in order for the DL Resort to become the next WDW (I.E. A place where people would come for a multi-day vacation and stay in an on-property resort, shop in Disney-owned stores and eat in Disney-operated restaurants), Anaheim’s second gate had to be something truly spectacular. Not just more of the same.

At least, that’s what Disneyland management thought back in the 1980s. Which is why the “Discovery Bay: The Theme Park” concept was then tossed aside and the Imagineers eventually went on to design Westcot.

As to why Westcot  never got built … Well, some of that I covered in Part III of my “California Misadventure” series … And as for the rest of that story, I eventually hope to tell that here at JHM. After I finish up my “Remembering Light Magic” series AND my “Star Tours Saga” AND my “Tower of Terror” series …

And speaking of finishing things, Brian F. writes in to say:

So Jim, we’re coming up on the 6 month anniversary of my payment for your Unauthorized History of Disneyland CD – that’s longer than half of Britney Spears’ marriages.

How solid is the latest release date of March 1 (the date my wife and I will be taking our twins to Disneyland for the very first time). Which makes me realize – when I paid for the CD, my kids were 15% younger than today.

They’re not getting any younger, Jim.

Brian —

My apologies. Both to you as well as the now-hundreds of JHM readers who are still patiently waiting for their copy of my unauthorized Disneyland history CD. I wish I could say that I actually made that March 1st deadline … But I didn’t.

You see, in that fine Jim Hill tradition, I’ve been postponing delivering of a finished product because it’s been hard for me to wrap up this story. There’s always more colorful detail that I want to cram into this recording, one more amusing ancedote that I think will add immeasurably to the finished disc.

Of course, all this endless fixing & futzing is making my significant other — the lovely Nancy — absolutely crazy. She’s the one who’s on your side, folks. She’s the one who keeps telling me that “These people ordered your CD months ago, Jim. You can’t keep stringing them along like this. Otherwise, they’re going to hunt you down and shoot you like the dawg you are.”

Which will probably be totally unnecessary at that point. Given that — if I don’t deliver a finished version of my unauthorized Disneyland history CD sometime very soon —  I’m pretty sure that Nancy is going to take matters into her own hands & beat me to death with a baseball bat.

And given that … Well, I don’t want to be beaten to death with a baseball bat (Why For? Because I’m fairly certain that getting beaten to death hurts) … I guess I’d best get started on finally wrapping this thing up.

So Brian (as well as all you other nice folks out there who ordered my CD), if you can just wait another few weeks (I’m currently adding some new material to the disc that touches on the most recent changes at the Walt Disney Company. Marty Sklar’s exit, John Lasseter’s arrival. Events that I think — in the long run — are going to have a huge impact on the Anaheim theme parks), I promise that I’ll finally get these things shipped out next month.

Which means that I’ll no longer have to lie awake at night, wondering if — once I close my eyes — Nancy will quietly slip out of bed, grab a Louisville Slugger, and then …

Speaking of scary stuff in the dark, Kate V. brings us our final “Why For” question for this week. Which touches on that classic MGM sci-fi film, “Forbidden Planet.”


I got into a really discussion on the id creature in forbidden planet. I maintained it was created and credited to two disney illustrators. The others said that the two monsters were distinctly different and not at all alike. I am thinking that the one of the illustrators was “black listed” therefore never recieve credit for the illustation of the monster. Also, I think there was a short bit in the credits of the movie which stated that the Id character was from the Night on Bald Mountain. Is any of this true? Thank you for you time and your energy.

Kate V.

Dear Kate V.

Actually, the way I’ve always heard this story told, only one Disney animator played a key role in the creation of the Id monster for “Forbidden Planet.” And that was veteran special effects animator Joshua Meador.

Meador actually started at the Mouse Factory back in the 1930s, working on Silly Symphonies like “The Old Mill.” However, given the obvious talent that he showed, Joshua quickly made the jump to features. Doing special effects animation on such films as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia.”

By the time the 1950s rolled around, Meador was operating at the very top of his game. Leading his special effects animation team to greater & greater technical heights on pictures like “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan.” So when MGM came a-calling, looking for an animator that could basically do the impossible (I.E. Create a truly memorable movie monster, something that appeared to be huge and powerful, but could only be seen once it tried to breach a force field and/or when it was blasted by ray guns), Walt volunteered Joshua for the job.

Meador really out-did himself with the Id monster for “Forbidden Planet.” Creating a creature that was thought to be so frightening that some state censor boards actually insisted that the Id monster’s attack on United Planets Cruiser C-57D be snipped out of the picture.

As for being blacklisted … If you read the film’s credit, Kate V., you’ll clearly see Joshua Meador’s name  listed among the other visual effects artists who worked on “Forbidden Planet” … So I’m not sure where exactly that blacklisted story came from.

As for the Id monster supposedly being based on Chernabog from “The Night on Bald Mountain” sequence in the original version of “Fantasia” … Nope. I never heard that story either.

Though — speaking of “Forbidden Planet” — I was wondering how many of you “Lost” fans out there have noticed what I’ve noticed. That that black-cloud-of-smoke-monster that wanders around the island seems to make the exact same noise as the Id monster does in “Forbidden Planet.”

Can that be a co-incidence? I mean, is anything actually a co-incidence on “Lost”? I don’t think so.

Anyway … I’ll leave you folks to ponder that question ’til next Monday morning. When I’ll be back with another brand-new pile of Disney-related stories for you.

Til then, you take care, 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.

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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.

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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.' "

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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.

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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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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.

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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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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?

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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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