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Why For did Disney artists have to paint new panties on Jessica Rabbit?

Jim Hill returns with even more long-winded answers to your Disney related questions. This time around, Jim talks about Jessica Rabbit's panties, the origins of Disneyland's "Fantasmic!" as well as what he's going to talk about on his DCA tour.



BigbyWolf235 writes to ask:

Dear Jim,

Perhaps you can help settle a Disney Urban Legend for me. It seems since the beginning of films there have always been strange rumors as to things that were stuck in the backgrounds of scenes. In THE WIZARD OF OZ there was always the rumor of the Munchkin hanging himself at the end of the Tinman's musical number, in THREE MEN AND A BABY it was the alleged ghost of the boy who dead, in THE LION KING people claim that the dust cloud that Simba stirs when he lies down spells out the word SEX while others say it's really F/X, meaning special effects, and of course in THE LITTLE MERMAID, there's the theory that the priest at the end has an erection instead of his sword hilt sticking out from under his robes.

The rumor in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT is that in the scene where Benny the Cab is escaping through the tunnel with Eddie and Jessica, and he runs over the dip. Eddie and Jessica are thrown from the car, as Jessica spins around, if you freeze frame it correctly, Jessica isn't wearing underwear.

Any idea if this is true? Or just another person giving a great Disney film a hard time?

Dear BigbyWolf235,

You're right. "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" really IS a great Disney movie. (Though, to be fair, I should point out that — due to the somewhat adult nature of certain aspects of this truly entertaining Robert Zemeckis film — that studio executives back in 1988 were extremely reluctant to put the "Walt Disney Pictures" name on "WFRR." Which is why, in the end, that picture was released under the "Touchstone Pictures" banner. Just so the Mouse could distance itself a bit from the rather risqué "Roger Rabbit." Anyway …) Which is why I'm personally looking forward to the March 25th release of the two disc DVD "Vista Series" edition of this movie.

But before all you animation buffs race out to snatch up copies of the new "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" DVD (with the hope that you'll now finally be able to get a good, clear view of a panty-free Jessica Rabbit), I'm afraid that I have some rather sad news for you: Buena Vista Home Entertainment reportedly already had Disney's animators go back in and fix this titillating footage (which — as Bigbywolf235 previously mentioned — occurs fairly late in the film, just as Eddie Valiant and Jessica are flying out of Benny the Cab. Right after the animated taxi hits a patch of Dip in the road and smashes into a telephone pole. As Jessica is tumbling through the air, her dress flies up and … well, you get the idea …) for "Roger Rabbit"'s initial DVD release. Which was 'way back in September 1999.

So now — were you to go frame-by-frame through this particular scene in the original "WFRR" DVD and/or the soon-to-be-released 2-disc "Vista Series" version of the film — you would be able to see quite clearly that Jessica Rabbit is now wearing some nice white undies.

Mind you, I know for a fact that this wasn't always the case. How do I know for sure? Because Gary Wolf, the author of the original "Who Censored Roger Rabbit" (the book that the Zemeckis movie was based on), personally confirmed the bottomless Jessica story for me. As proof, Wolf pulled out his secret stash of individual frame blow-ups from the original theatrical release of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." And one of these frame blow-ups did appear to show Ms. Rabbit sans panties.

And this wasn't the only now-censored image that Gary had is his "WFRR" collection. Among the other frame blow-ups I saw that afternoon were:

Baby Herman — drool dribbling off of his lower lip — taking a lascivious look up the script girl's skirt as he passed between her legs.

This frame blow-up was immediately followed by an image of Baby Herman playfully reaching a hand up the script girl's skirt. As if the diminutive toon is making a grab for her panties.

A topless Betty Boop selling cigarettes at the Ink & Paint Club.

But the one image that Wolf showed me that day that really startled me — the one which (I think) no one else has ever commented about before — is the single frame in the film where Bugs Bunny appears to be flipping the bird to Mickey Mouse.

Which image am I talking about? Okay. Go pull out your old VHS version of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." Now fast forward to the sequence where Eddie Valiant is in Toontown. In particular, the scene where Eddie — in his effort of get away from Gina Hyena — ends up falling off of a kajillion-story-tall apartment building. And — as Valiant plummets toward the ground — Bugs and Mickey suddenly appear on either side of the private dick, sky-diving.

The image that you'll be looking for comes right after Bugs gives Eddie "the spare." Upon opening this package, Valiant discovers what he thought was a parachute is actually a spare tire. The detective then screams as he falls out of the frame, zooming toward the pavement.

As a pay-off for this gag, the camera now quickly cuts back to the Bunny and the Mouse. Who — since their own parachutes have safely opened — are now serenely floating above Toontown. Mickey (ever the sympathetic character) looks down and says "Aw, poor fella." While Bugs (ever the unrepentant trickster) gnaws on a carrot and says "Yeah. Ain't I a stinker?"

Okay. It's the animation of Bug's "Ain't I a stinker?" line that you really want to pay attention to. Note that Bugs has one finger foisted in the air as he daintily chews on that carrot. Now note which finger that actually is.

Now pay particularly close attention to Mickey's expression during this brief bit of animation. As you slowly go frame-by-frame through this scene, you'll eventually find the image where Mickey is looking on — somewhat dumb-foundedly — as Bug brazenly flips him the bird. It actually looks as if the Mouse is thinking: "Hey, did that rabbit actually just give me the finger?"

Given that I've never heard anyone — outside of Gary Wolf — ever mention this "Bugs flips Mickey the bird" gag, (In fact, I just put both "Bugs flips Mickey the bird" and "Bugs gives Mickey the finger" into Google. Neither one of these queries came back with a solid "Roger Rabbit" related hit), I have to assume that this infamous obscene exchange between these two legendary toons will still be plainly visible on the deluxe 2-disc "Vista Series" edition of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

Unless of course, Disney opts to pull another "Rescuers" maneuver here. Remember how — back in January 1999 — Buena Vista Home Entertainment abruptly pulled 3.4 million copies of the VHS version of "The Rescuers" off of store shelves? All because Disney Company officials had just learned that — in four frames of that film — you can actually see an image of a really-for-real topless woman in a window that Orville the albatross flies by.

If Buena Vista Home Entertainment was willing to go to all the time and expense of recalling all those millions of videos just so children wouldn't see a single topless woman … (FYI: This somewhat obscene sight gag had been well known about in animation circles ever since "The Rescuers"'s initial theatrical release 'way back in June of 1977) … one wonders what BVHE is going to do once word gets out about this "Bugs flips Mickey the bird" gag.

So let's see what we all get to see once the 2-disc "Vista Series" version of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" hits stores next month.

Anyway … Now, Jeremy W. writes in to ask:


I'm a great fan of your writing and insights. You've written so much great info about other attractions that I was wondering if you had any interesting stories about Fantasmic! Keep up the great info!


Dear Jeremy,

Well, what I've always found fascinating about "Fantasmic!" is that no one ever seems to remember the real origin of this show. Which was actually the grand opening ceremony for Disneyland's New Fantasyland (which was staged in the park 8 to 10 different times in the latter part of April / early part of May 1983).

Surely at least one of you JHM readers got to attend this truly impressive pageant which was staged in front of and on top of Sleeping Beauty Castle. It featured dozens of singers and dancers. Tons of characters cavorting about. Day-time fireworks. The Royal trumpeters …

But the real highlight of DL's New Fantasyland opening ceremony was when — with a huge puff of colored smoke — Maleficent made her dramatic entrance. "Why wasn't I invited?" the wicked fairy sneered. Because of this perceived slight, Maleficent announced that "I shall deny Fantasyland from all of you forever."

It was at this point in the program that a real-life stand-in for Prince Phillip came riding up to the castle on a white charger. "Be gone, Maleficent," the would-be Prince cried. "It's time to re-open Fantasyland."

With that, Prince Phillip leaped off Sampson (his horse) and began scaling the castle walls. Maleficent — to prove that Disney magic was no match for her awesome power — now began to rise up out of the castle moat. Eventually — thanks to some amazing do-hinky that was hidden away in the folds of this character's voluminous dress — the wicked fairy actually towers over Sleeping Beauty Castle, cackling manically …

Any of this starting to sound kind of familiar to you "Fantasmic!" fans yet?

Anyway … luckily, Prince Phillip is armed with the Sword of Truth. He takes one whack at the oversized witch. With another huge puff of colored smoke (as well as some appropriate musical accompaniment), Maleficent disappears. And New Fantasyland is saved.

Sounds like a pretty neat ceremony, doesn't it? Well, those who saw this elaborate pageant (and the opening ceremonies for Disneyland's New Fantasyland WERE staged a number of times. Once for Disney Studio employees and their families. Once for the staff of WED and their families. Not to mention the separate opening ceremonies that were staged for the Southern Californian press as well as the out-of-town media) said it was a truly impressive show. Some folks even said that they liked the pageant in front of the castle more than they liked New Fantasyland!

Anywho … this overwhelming positive reaction to New Fantasyland's opening ceremony did not go unnoticed by the staff of Disneyland's Entertainment Office. Which got these people thinking: "What if we were to do something like this every day during the summer? Stage an elaborate pageant right in front of and on top of Sleeping Beauty Castle? Wouldn't the guests go ape for something like that?"

So — using New Fantasyland's opening ceremony as their leaping off point — Disneyland's Entertainment Office began exploring the possibilities of this idea. And — given what a huge hit that battle with Maleficent had been — that sequence remained a key component of what became known as "The Castle Show" as it moved through various drafts.

As time (and numerous rewrites) went by, Prince Phillip and Samson eventually rode off into the sunset as they were written out of "The Castle Show." These "Sleeping Beauty" characters were replaced by Mickey Mouse. Who (according to the various drafts of this show that I've seen) was just trying to lead the crowds assembled in front of the Castle through the countdown that lead up to the start of Disneyland's nightly fireworks when Maleficent suddenly burst on the scene and spoiled everyone's fun.

Of course, in order to "plus" this new night-time show that was being proposed for the park, Disneyland's Entertainment staffers thought: "Wouldn't it be cool if Mickey didn't just fight with an over-sized wicked fairy, but actually battled that enormous Maleficent-as-a-dragon creature that we saw toward the end of 'Sleeping Beauty'?"

With this in mind, Disneyland's Entertainment office began exploring what it might actually cost to build a mechanical dragon for Mickey to do battle with. Unfortunately, the enormous AA figure that the Imagineers proposed building was far too expensive.

But — on the heels of the over-sized inflatable characters and costumes that Disneyland had used in its short lived "Flights of Fancy" parade (qhich actually only ran in the park in 1983, as part of Disneyland's summer-long celebration of New Fantasyland's re-opening) — Disneyland Entertainment staffers began toying with the idea of building an inflatable version of the Maleficent-as-a-dragon figure. Something affordable (and hopefully, cheap to maintain) that could rise up, loom over Sleeping Beauty Castle as well as do battle with Mickey.

So sketches were made and models were built. The idea was that Mickey Mouse — who was now the wielding that Sword of Truth that Prince Phillip used to have — would think that he had actually vanquished Maleficent when the towering version of the wicked fairy disappeared in yet another puff of colored smoke. So — as the Mouse strutted about the drawbridge area of Sleeping Beauty Castle, muttering Mickey-isms like "Aw, Shucks" and "Well, that was easy" and "She wasn't so tough" — the gigantic Maleficent-as-a-dragon figure would slowly rise up (as it was being inflated) from deep inside New Fantasyland and eventually loom over Sleeping Beauty Castle.

At this point, Mickey who suddenly take notice of the enormous dragon and — seemingly terrified — run inside Sleeping Beauty Castle. The Maleficent-as-a-dragon figure would then rear back its head, blow a little fire, chuckle evilly, then say "Disneyland is mine! All mine!"

It was then that we'd notice that Mickey — now dressed in his sorcerer costume from the original "Fantasia" — was now up on the roof of the castle. The Maleficent-as-a-dragon was supposed to have noticed Mickey by now too. The enormous creature would then blow a little flame at the Mouse. But Mickey would stand his ground and — pointing an hand at the transformed wicked fairy — would shoot a ball of fireworks right at the creature.

This single burst of "Disney Magic" would supposedly be all that was needed to smite the creature. As the Maleficent-as-a-dragon shrieked with agony and quickly sank out of sight, more of Mickey's character pals would come pouring out of the castle and — through song and dance — celebrate the wicked fairy's defeat.

Of course, the real reason that the Maleficent-as-a-dragon balloon disappeared so quickly was because some behind-the-scenes Disneyland technicians had pulled the plug on this enormous cold-air inflatable. But (hopefully) all those characters singing and dancing in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle would distract the crowd as the Maleficent balloon suddenly sagged and went limp.

But then again, who can keep their eyes on a saggy dragon balloon when Mickey's dancing on top of the castle? And — with every wave of his wand — sending another burst of colorful fireworks rocketing through the skies over the theme park.

Finally, Mickey uses the last of his magic to send an enormous sky rocket right up to the top of the Matterhorn. Only this time, the firework doesn't actually explode. The light at the top of this Disneyland icon seems to twinkle and glow, finally revealing itself to be (you guessed it!) Tinker Bell … and then (finally!) Disneyland's traditional summer night-time fireworks display would get underway.

Sounds like a pretty neat idea for a theme park show, doesn't it? Well, where this gets interesting is that this whole Mickey-battles-an-enormous-inflatable-dragon-on-top-of-Sleeping-Beauty-Castle project got a lot further along the Disneyland production pipeline than you might expect.

"How far?" you ask. Well, past the drawing phase. And well past the miniature model stage.

"What a minute, Jim," I hear you saying. "Are you claiming that Disneyland Entertainment actually went ahead and had a giant inflatable version of the Maleficent-as-a-dragon figure made?"


Not only that, but Disney Entertainment staffers and the Imagineers ran extensive tests with this over-sized inflatable in the mid-to-late 1980s. Both at Imagineering headquarters in Burbank, CA as well as inside Disneyland itself. After the theme park had closed for the night. Long after all of the tourists had gone home.

Those veteran Disneyland employees and Imagineers who actually got to see these after-hours tests as the enormous Maleficent-as-a-dragon inflatable stood behind Sleeping Beauty Castle say it was a most impressive sight.

At first.

The real problem was … this giant inflatable Maleficent-as-a-dragon figure wasn't actually capable of movement. Nor was it able to blow fire. It just stood there behind the castle and looked like … well … like this really cool big giant balloon.

Disneyland Entertainment staffers thought that if they tied ropes to the inflatable's neck and hands, that behind-the-scenes personnel could manipulate those ropes and give DL guests the illusion that the Maleficent-as-a-dragon inflatable actually was capable of movement. That this immense creature really did pose some sort of threat to Mickey Mouse and Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Unfortunately, as the company that built this cold-air inflatable learned what Disneyland's Entertainment department wanted to do, they quickly put DL's staff on notice that this sort of wear-and-tear could result in the Maleficent-as-a-dragon developing a tear. Which could cause the inflatable to leak. Which could bring the entire "Castle Show" to an abrupt end.

Then there were the other problems inherent in Disneyland's "Castle Show" proposal. As in: there really wasn't a whole lot of performance space on top of Sleeping Beauty Castle. By that I mean: one false step and that poor Disneyland "Zoo Crew" cast member who was playing Mickey Mouse could end up tumbling into the moat.

Then there were the logistics issues. EX: In order to make sure that the enormous Maleficent-as-a-dragon balloon was properly positioned and prepared for its sudden appearance in Disneyland's "Castle Show," the public's access to Sleeping Beauty Castle would have to be cut off at least one hour before that show started. And then — what with all the effort involved in deflating the inflatable, then safely packing up the enormous balloon for the next night's performance — the public's access to Disneyland's castle would be severely restricted for a half hour or more after "The Castle Show" concluded.

Then there's the fact that the primo viewing area for Disneyland's "Castle Show" would have been the Hub. The virtual crossroads of the theme park. Which — given the thousands of people who would then stand in this area for hours before the show began, trying to stake out a premium viewing spot — would cause a colossal traffic tie-up at the very heart of the park. Making it damned difficult for other DL guests to get much of anywhere during those busy summer nights.

Which is why Disneyland's Entertainment staff ultimately decided to back away from the idea of doing "The Castle Show." That — as cool as it might have been to see Mickey battling a giant Maleficent-as-a-dragon inflatable high atop Sleeping Beauty Castle — the headaches and logistical problems involved in staging this sort of elaborate pageant at the very center of the park every night during the summer were just too enormous to ignore.

(And more importantly, why should Disneyland's Entertainment staff try to fix what ain't broke? After all, the park's night-time summer-time fireworks show was already wildly popular with guests. So why go to the expense of adding this elaborate prelude to the show when people were already perfect happy with Disneyland's fireworks show as is?)

Anyway … this is ultimately why Disneyland's Entertainment staff finally reluctantly tabled all discussion of doing a show in, on and around the castle in Anaheim.

Of course, this decision didn't necessarily stop the other members of the Disney corporate family from adapting some of the ideas that DL's Entertainment staff had cooked up for their "Castle Show" for use in some of the corporation's other theme parks in the late 1980s / early 1990s. The spin-offs from Disneyland's "Castle Show" include:

Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant at Disneyland Paris was actually built so that the right hand side of this building could be used an extension of the Fantasyland's "Le Theatre du Chateau" stage. Guests who visited that theme park during its first few years of operation fondly recall that oversized storybook which opened to reveal all the three dimensional sets were used in the show. Not to mention the image of Prince Phillip racing up the exterior steps to the castle tower as part of his heroic effort to wake "la Belle au Bois Dormant."

The concept of a giant cold-air inflatable that suddenly loomed up over the rooftop of a Disney theme park building ended up being "borrowed" by the WDW's Entertainment staff for Disney-MGM's "Sorcery in the Sky" night-time fireworks pageant. Please note that "Sorcery" also the part of "The Castle Show" where Mickey — while dressed in his sorcerer outfit from the original "Fantasia" — shoots fireworks out of the tip of his fingers.

As for that enormous Maleficent-as-a-dragon balloon … that too made the trek down to Disney-MGM. Those of you who visited the studio theme park back during its first few weeks of operation back in 1989 may recall seeing this giant inflatable looming up over the backlot area.

What was the Maleficent-as-a-dragon doing at the studio theme park? Well, the Imagineers were hoping that — as you looked up at the giant inflatable — that you wouldn't notice that there really wasn't much else to look at as you rolled on through the backstage portion of Disney-MGM's tram tour.

I (who — back when I was working as a journalist for the U.S. Army — was lucky enough to actually score an invite to the four-day-long press event that the Walt Disney Company held in order to celebrate the grand opening of WDW's third theme park) have some very distinct memories of that over-sized Maleficent-as-a-dragon inflatable. I recall that it stood toward the middle of Mickey Avenue. Right about where the entrance to Disney-MGM's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It!" faux-game show is currently located.

And I just know that I've got a photograph of that thing towering over the backlot. If I'm ever able to unearth that particular photo from that compost heap in the basement that I laughingly refer to as my reference library, I'll be sure to post it here.

And — as for Disneyland's Entertainment staff — well … they may have temporarily given up on the idea of doing a nightly "Castle Show." But that doesn't mean that they were ready to give up on all the great concepts that they'd created for this proposed show. Eventually, someone said "Hey, what if we were to take some of the ideas that we created for 'The Castle Show' and adapted them for use down on the Rivers of America? You know, a waterfront show. Like they do out at Epcot."

And — from that one suggestion — the "Imagination River Show" (AKA "Fantasmic!") was eventually born.

Now you may have noticed that — in a previous paragraph — that I mentioned that Disneyland's Entertainment staff had "temporarily" abandoned the idea of doing a "Castle Show."

"What do you mean by 'temporarily,' Jim?" you ask. Well, perhaps you've heard about Disneyland's plans to paint Sleeping Beauty Castle gold for 2005 (in honor of the park's 50th — AKA Golden — anniversary). In addition to the new paint job, Disneyland's Entertainment Staff is supposedly toying with staging an all-new fireworks show … a night-time spectacular in which the now-golden castle may become a key component of the program.

So what does this mean? More battling mice? Perhaps another inflatable dragon? Well, I'll let you folks know as soon as I hear some more details.

But just remember that — according to W. Shakespeare — "All the world's a stage." And if that's true, then you have to admit that Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland would make one hell of a cool set on which (or around which) to stage an on-going pageant.

And – finally – Gerald F. writes to ask:


Hey, I just learned about these JimHillMedia tours that you're supposed to be giving at Disneyland and DCA next month. Please tell me that it's not too late to get my name on the list for those tours.

Sorry, Gerald. But all 30 slots for my inaugural set of Disneyland tours (which will be held at the Anaheim theme park on Saturday, March 22nd and Sunday, March 23rd) have been filled. If you'd like, I could put your name on a waiting list. But — unless a few people opt to drop out of the tour between now and the middle of March — I can't guarantee that you'll be able to get in on this first go-round.

However, if you'd be interested in signing up for my DCA tour, Gerald … well, that I can do. I still have three spots available for my Sunday morning walking tour which will deal with some of the lesser known aspects of Disney's California Adventure theme park.

Though — truth be told — maybe it's a mistake to call my DCA tour a DCA tour. Why for? Well, because a lot of the stuff that I'll actually be talking that day will involve the Imagineers' original plans for Westcot Center, not to mention how Disney's decisions to pull the plug on the company's "Port Disney / Disney Seas" project in Long Beach, CA as well as its controversial "Disney's America" history theme park in Virginia ultimately affected how Disney's California Adventure turned out. I'll also be discussing Disney's plans for Neptune Gardens, a night-time entertainment district that was supposed to have been built right next to the Disneyland Hotel — a full 15 years before the corporation broke ground for Downtown Disney.

So don't think that — just because you're not actually an enormous fan of Disney's California Adventure theme park — that you should opt to take a pass on my DCA tour, Gerald. DCA is really only going to be part of the story that I tell that day.

Anyway … as I said earlier: I've only got three open slots left on that tour. And when they're gone … well, I guess I could start a wait-list for my DCA tour too. But again. unless some folks suddenly opt to bomb out of that tour, I can't absolutely guarantee that I'll be able to squeeze you in once I get out to Southern California in March.

As for prices … I'm still just charging $25.00 per person per tour. Prices for the tours that I'll probably be holding later this year (I'm currently giving some semi-serious thought to holding a second set of Disneyland and DCA tours in June. Possibly followed by a third set of tours in mid-July, to coincide with the National Fantasy Fan Club's annual convention) will invariably go up. Otherwise, my ex-wife, Michelle Smith (AKA the Fabulous Disney Babe, who also offers her very own Disneyland tour — "The Fabulous Tour: Disneyland Secrets & Stories" — through will kill me.

Okay. Enough with the pseudo-hard sell of my tours … It's late and I'm sure that you're all exhausted from having to read through these marathon-length responses to this week's "Why For" questions. I know that I'm wiped just from having to type up the thing.

Anyway … now that we're all on the other side of the memorial service for the Columbia tragedy as well as Colin Powell's appearance in front of the U.N. Security Council, I'm hoping that you're all now in the mood for something fairly light at the site. Like perhaps me finally getting that long promised, revamped version of "Remembering Light Magic" series underway.

So keep an eye out for that one, folks. Provided "that the Good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise," the first installment will debut on JHM this coming Monday. Or possibly Tuesday.

I'll let you know, okay?

In the meantime, you folks have a great weekend, okay?

I'll talk to you all next week. Til then, take care, okay?


Jim Hill

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

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

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Film & Movies

How Disney’s “Bambi” led to the creation of Smokey Bear



When people talk about Disney’s “Bambi,” the scene that they typically cite as being the one from this 1942 film which then scarred them for life is – of course – the moment in this movie where Bambi’s mother gets shot by hunters.

Which is kind of ironic. Given that – if you watch this animated feature today – you’ll see that a lot of this ruined-my-childhood scene actually happens off-camera. I mean, you hear the rifle shot that takes down Bambi’s Mom. But you don’t actually see that Mama Deer get clipped.

Now for the scariest part of that movie that you actually see on-camera … Hands down, that has to be the forest fire sequence in “Bambi.” As the grown-up Bambi & his bride, Faline, desperately race through those woods, trying to find a path to safety as literally everything around them is ablaze … That sequence is literally nightmare fuel.


Mind you, the artists at Walt Disney Animation Studios had lots of inspiration for the forest fire sequence in “Bambi.” You see, in a typical year, the United States experiences – due to either natural phenomenon like lightning strikes or human carelessness – 100 forest fires. Whereas in 1940 (i.e., the year that Disney Studios began working in earnest of a movie version of Felix Salten’s best-selling movie), America found itself battling a record 360 forest fires.

Which greatly concerned the U.S. Forest Service. But not for the reason you might think.

Protecting the Forest for World War II

I mean, yes. Sure. Officials over in the Agricultural Department (That’s the arm of the U.S. government that manages the Forest Service) were obviously concerned about the impact that this record number of forest fires in 1940 had had on citizens. Not to mention all of the wildlife habitat that was now lost.

But to be honest, what really concerned government officials was those hundreds of thousands of acres of raw timber that had been consumed by these blazes. You see, by 1940, the world was on the cusp of the next world war. A conflict that the U.S. would inevitably  be pulled into. And all that now-lost timber? It could have been used to fuel the U.S. war machine.

So with this in mind (and U.S. government officials now seeing an urgent need to preserve & protect this precious resource) … Which is why – in 1942 (just a few months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor) – the U.S. Forest Service rolls out its first-ever forest fire prevention program.

Which – given that this was the early days of World War II – the slogan that the U.S. Forest Service initially chose for its forest fire prevention program is very in that era’s we’re-all-in-this-together / so-let’s-do-what-we-can-to-help-America’s war-effort esthetic – made a direct appeal to all those folks who were taking part in scrap metal drives: “Forest Defense is National Defense.”

Source: Northwestern

And the poster that the U.S. Forest Service had created to support this campaign? … Well, it was well-meaning as well.  It was done in the WPA style and showed men out in the forest, wielding shovels to ditch a ditch. They were trying to construct a fire break, which would then supposedly slow the forest fire that was directly behind them.

But the downside was … That “Forest Defense is National Defense” slogan – along with that poster which the U.S. Forest Service had created to support their new forest fire prevention program didn’t exactly capture America’s attention.

I mean, it was the War Years after all. A lot was going in the country at that time. But long story short: the U.S. Forest Service’s first attempt at launching a successful forest fire prevention program sank without a trace.

So what do you do in a situation like this? You regroup. You try something different.

Disney & Bambi to the Rescue

And within the U.S. government, the thinking now was “Well, what if we got a celebrity to serve as the spokesman for our new forest fire prevention program? Maybe that would then grab the public’s attention.”

The only problem was … Well, again, these are the War Years. And a lot of that era’s A-listers (people like Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, even Mel Brooks) had already enlisted. So there weren’t really a lot of big-name celebrities to choose from.

But then some enterprising official at the U.S. Forest Service came up with an interesting idea. He supposedly said “Hey, have you seen that new Disney movie? You know, the one with the deer? That movie has a forest fire in it. Maybe we should go talk with Walt Disney? Maybe he has some ideas about how we can better capture the public’s attention when it comes to our new forest fire prevention program?”

And it turns Walt did have an idea. Which was to use this government initiative as a way to cross-promote Disney Studio’s latest full-length animated feature, “Bambi.” Which been first released to theaters in August of 1942.

So Walt had artists at Disney Studio work up a poster that featured the grown-up versions of Bambi the Deer, Thumper the Rabbit & Flower the Skunk. As this trio stood in some tall grasses, they looked imploring out at whoever was standing in front of this poster. Above them was a piece of text that read “Please Mister, Don’t Be Careless.” And below these three cartoon characters was an additional line that read “Prevent Forest Fires. Greater Danger Than Ever!”

Source: USDA

According to folks I’ve spoken with at Disney’s Corporate Archives, this “Bambi” -based promotional campaign for the U.S. Forest Service’s forest fire prevention campaign was a huge success. So much so that – as 1943 drew to a close – this division of the Department of Agriculture reportedly reached out to Walt to see if he’d be willing to let the U.S. Forest Service continue to use these cartoon characters to help raise the public’s awareness of fire safety.

Walt – for reasons known only to Mr. Disney – declined. Some have suggested that — because “Bambi” had actually lost money during its initial theatrical release in North America – that Walt was now looking to put that project behind him. And if there were posters plastered all over the place that then used the “Bambi” characters that then promoted the U.S.’s forest fire prevention efforts … Well, it would then be far harder for Mr. Disney to put this particular animated feature in the rear view mirror.

Introducing Smokey Bear

Long story short: Walt said “No” when it came to reusing the “Bambi” characters to promote the U.S. Forest Service’s forest fire prevention program. But given how successful the previous cartoon-based promotional campaign had been … Well, some enterprising employee at the Department of Agriculture reportedly said “Why don’t we come up with a cartoon character of our own?”

So – for the Summer of 1944 – the U.S. Forest Service (with the help of the Ad Council and the National Association of State Foresters) came up with a character to help promote the prevention of forest fires. And his name is Smokey Bear.

Now a lot of thought had gone into Smokey’s creation. Right from the get-go, it was decided that he would be an American black bear (NOT a brown bear or a grizzly). To make this character seem approachable, Smokey was outfitted with a ranger’s hat. He also wore a pair of blue jeans & carried a bucket.

As for his debut poster, Smokey was depicted as pouring water over a still-smoldering campfire. And below this cartoon character was printed Smokey’s initial catchphrase. Which was “Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires!”

Source: NPR

Which makes me think that this slogan was written by the very advertising executive who wrote “Four out of five dentists recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum.”

Anyway … By the Summer of 1947, Smokey got a brand-new slogan. The one that he uses even today. Which is “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”

The Real Smokey Bear

Now where this gets interesting is – in the Summer of 1950 – there was a terrible forest fire up in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. And over the course of this blaze, a bear cub climbed high up into a tree to try & escape those flames.

Firefighters were finally able to rescue that cub. But he was so badly injured in that fire that he was shipped off to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and nursed back to health. And since this bear really couldn’t be released back in the wild at this point, he was then put on exhibit.

And what does this bear’s keepers decide to call him? You guessed it: Smokey.

Source: USDA

And due to all the news coverage that this orphaned bear got, he eventually became the living symbol of the U.S. Forest Service’s forest fire prevention program. Which then meant that this particular Smokey Bear got hit with a ton of fan mail. So much so that the National Zoo in Washington D.C. wound up with its own Zip Code.

“Smokey the Bear” Hit Song

And on the heels of a really-for-real Smokey Bear taking up residence in our nation’s capital, Steve Nelson & Jack Rollins decide to write a song that shined a spotlight on this fire-fightin’ bruin. Here’s the opening stanza:

With a ranger’s hat and shovel and a pair of dungarees,
You will find him in the forest always sniffin’ at the breeze,
People stop and pay attention when he tells them to beware
Because everybody knows that he’s the fire-preventin’ bear

Believe or not, even with lyrics like these, “Smokey the Bear” briefly topped the Country charts in the Summer of 1950. Thanks to a version of this song that was recorded by Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy.

By the way, it was this song that started all of the confusion in regards to Smokey Bear’s now. You see, Nelson & Rollins – because they need the lyrics of their song to scan properly – opted to call this fire-fightin’-bruin Smokey THE Bear. Rather than Smokey Bear. Which has been this cartoon character’s official name since the U.S. Forest Service first introduced him back in 1944.

“The Ballad of Smokey the Bear”

Further complicating this issue was “The Ballad of Smokey the Bear,” which was a stop-motion animated special that debuted on NBC in late November of 1966. Produced by Rankin-Bass as a follow-up to their hugely popular “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (which premiered on the Peacock Network in December of 1964) … This hour-long TV show also put a “THE” in the middle of Smokey Bear’s name because the folks at Rankin-Bass thought his name sounded better that way.

And speaking of animation … Disney’s “Bambi” made a brief return to the promotional campaign for the U.S. Forest Service’s forest fire prevention program in the late 1980s. This was because the Company’s home entertainment division had decided to release this full-length animated feature on VHS.

What’s kind of interesting, though, is the language used on the “Bambi” poster is a wee different than the language that’s used on Smokey’s poster. It reads “Protect Our Forest Friends. Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.” NOT “Forest Fires.”

Anyway, that’s how Disney’s “Bambi” led to the creation of Smokey Bear. Thanks for bearin’ with me as I clawed my way through this grizzly tale.

Jim Hill

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

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Film & Movies

“Indiana Jones and the Search for Indiana Jones”



News came late last week that NBC was cancelling the “Magnum PI” remake. This series (which obviously took its inspiration from the Tom Selleck show that originally debuted on CBS back in December of 1980 and then went on run on that network for 8 seasons. With its final episode airing on May 8, 1988).

Anyway … Over 30 years later, CBS decided to remake “Magnum.” This version of the action drama debuted on September 24, 2018 and ran for four seasons before then being cancelled. NBC picked up the “Magnum” remake where it ran for one more season before word came down on June 23rd that this action drama was being cancelled yet again.

FYI: The second half of Season 5 of “Magnum” (10 episodes) has yet to air on NBC. It will be interesting to see when that final set of shows / the series finale gets scheduled.

This all comes to mind this week – out ahead of the theatrical release of “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” because … Well, if CBS execs had been a bit more flexible back in 1980, the star of the original version of “Magnum PI” (Tom Selleck) would have played the lead in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Which was released to theaters back on June 12, 1981.

That’s the part of the Indiana Jones story that the folks at Lucasfilm often opt to skim over.

That Harrison Ford wasn’t George Lucas’ first choice to play Doctor Jones.

Auditions for Indiana Jones – Harrison’s Not on the List

Mind you, Steven Spielberg – right from the get-go – had pushed for Ford to play this part. The way I hear it, Lucas showed Spielberg a work-in-progress cut of “The Empire Strikes Back.” And Steven was so taken with Harrison’s performance as Han Solo in that Irwin Kershner film that he immediately began pushing for Ford to be cast as Doctor Jones.

Whereas Mr. Lucas … I mean, it wasn’t that George had anything against Harrison. What with Ford’s performances first in “American Grafitti” and then in “A New Hope,” these two already had a comfortable working relationship.

But that said, Lucas was genuinely leery of … Well, the sort of creative collaboration that Martin Scorcese and Robert DeNiro. Where one actor & one director repeatedly worked together. To George’s way of thinking, that was a risky path to follow. Hitching your wagon to a single star.

Which is why – when auditions got underway for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1979 — Mike Fenton basically brought in every big performer of that era to read for Dr. Jones except Harrison Ford. We’re talking:

  • Steve Martin
  • Chevy Chase
  • Bill Murray
  • Jack Nicholson
  • Peter Coyote
  • Nick Nolte
  • Sam Elliot
  • Tim Matheson
  • and Harry Hamlin

Casting a Comedian for Indiana Jones

Please note that there are a lot of comedians on this list. That’s because – while “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was in development — Spielberg was directed his epic WWII comedy, “1941.” And for a while there, Steve & George were genuinely uncertain about whether the movie that they were about to make would be a sincere valentine to the movie serials of the 1930s & the 1940s or more of a spoof.

It’s worth noting here that three of the more ridiculous set pieces found in “Temple of Doom” …

  • the shoot-out at Club Obi Wan in Shanghai
  • Indy, Willie & Short Round surviving that plane crash by throwing an inflatable life raft out of the cargo hatch
  • and that film’s mine cart chase (which was not only inspired by Disney theme park favorites the Matterhorn Bobsleds & Big Thunder Mountain Railroad but some of the sound effects that you hear in this portion of “Temple of Doom” were actually recorded after hours at Disneyland inside of these very same attractions)

…  all originally supposed to be in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” I’ve actually got a copy of the very first version of the screenplay that Lawrence Kasdan wrote for the first “Indy” movie where all three of these big action set pieces were supposed to be part of the story that “Raiders” told. And I have to tell you that this early iteration of the “Raiders” screenplay really does read more like a spoof of serials than a sincere, loving salute to this specific style of cinema.

Casting Indiana Jones – Jeff or Tom

Anyway … Back now to the casting of the male lead for “Raiders” … After seeing virtually every actor out in LA while looking for just the right performer to portray Indiana Jones, it all came down to two guys:

  • Jeff Bridges
  • and Tom Selleck

Jeff Bridges as Indiana Jones

Mike Fenton was heavily pushing for Jeff Bridges. Having already appeared with Clint Eastwood in 1974’s “Thunderbolt & Lightfoot” (Not to mention that “King Kong” remake from 1976), Bridges was a known quantity. But what Fenton liked especially liked about Bridges when it came to “Raiders” was … Well, at that time, Jeff was just coming off “Heaven’s Gate.”

Mind you, nowadays, because we’ve all now had the luxury of seeing the director’s cut of this Michael Cimino movie, we recognize “Heaven’s Gate” for the cinematic masterpiece that it is. But 40+ years ago, that honestly wasn’t the case. All audiences had to judge this movie by was the severely truncated version that United Artists sent out into theaters. Which – because “Heaven’s Gate” had cost $44 million to make and only sold $3.5 million of tickets – then became the textbook example of Hollywood excess.


Long story short: Given that being associated with “Heaven’s Gate” had somewhat dinged Bridges’ reputation for being a marketable star (i.e., a performer that people would pay good money to see up on the big screen), Jeff was now looking to appear in something highly commercial. And the idea of playing the lead in a film directed by Steven Spielberg (the “Jaws” & “Close Encounter” guy) and produced by George Lucas (Mr. “Star Wars”) was very, very appealing at that time. Bridges was even willing to sign a contract with Spielberg & Lucas that would have then roped him into not only playing Indiana Jones in “Raider of the Lost Ark” but also to appear as this very same character in two yet-to-be-written sequels.

Better yet, because “Heaven’s Gate” had temporarily dimmed Bridges’ star status, Jeff was also willing to sign on to do the first “Indy” film for well below his usual quote. With the understanding that – should “Raiders of the Lost Ark” succeed at the box office – Bridges would then be paid far more to appear in this film’s two sequels.

That seemed like a very solid plan for “Raiders.” Landing a known movie star to play the lead in this action-adventure at a bargain price.

Ah, but standing in Mike Fenton’s way was Marcia Lucas.

Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones

Marcia Lucas, who had seen Tom Selleck’s audition for “Raiders” (And you can see it as well. Just go to Google and type in “Tom Selleck” and “Indiana Jones.” And if you dig around for a bit, you’ll then see a feature that Lucas & Spielberg shot for “Entertainment Tonight” back in 2008 [This story was done in support of the theatrical release of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”]. And as part of this piece, George and Steve share Tom’s original audition for “Raiders.” And what’s genuinely fascinating about this footage is that Selleck’s scene partner is Sean Young. Who – at that time, anyway – was up for the role of Marion Ravenwood) and kept telling her husband, “You should cast this guy. He’s going to be a big star someday.”

And given that George was smart enough to regularly heed Marcia Lucas’ advice (She had made invaluable suggestions when it came to the editing of “American Graffiti” and the original “Star Wars.” Not to downplay George Lucas’ cinematic legacy, but Marcia Lucas was a world-class storyteller in and of her own right), Lucas then reached out to Spielberg and persuaded him that they should cast relative unknown Tom Selleck as Doctor Jones over the already well-known Jeff Bridges.

Now don’t feel too bad for Jeff Bridges. When he lost out on playing the lead in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Jeff then accepted a role in the very next, high profile, sure-to-be-commercial project that came along. Which turned out to be Disney’s very first “TRON” movie. Which was eventually released to theaters on July 9, 1982.

Back to Tom Selleck now … You have to remember that – back then – Selleck was the handsome guy who’d already shot pilots for six different shows that then hadn’t gone to series. Which was why Tom was stuck being the guest star on shows like “The Fall Guy” and “Taxi.” Whereas once word got out around town that Selleck was supposed to play the lead in a project that Spielberg was directed & Lucas was producing … Well, this is when CBS decided that they’d now take the most recent pilot that Tom had shot and then go to series with this show.

That program was – of course – the original “Magnum PI.” And it’s at this point where our story started to get complicated.

“Magnum PI” – Two Out of Three Say “Yes”

Okay. During the first season of a TV show, it’s traditionally the network – rather than the production company (which – in this case – was Glen A. Larson Productions. The company behind the original versions of “Battlestar Galactica” & “Knight Rider”) or the studio where this series is actually being shot (which – in this case – was Universal Television) that has all the power. And in this particular case, the network execs who were pulling all the strings behind-the-scenes worked for CBS.

And when it came to the first season of “Magnum PI,” CBS had a deal with Glen A. Larson Productions and Universal Television which stated that the talent which had been contracted to appear in this new action drama would then be available for the production of at least 13 episodes with an option to shoot an additional 9 episodes (This is known in the industry as the back nine. As in: the last nine holes of a golf course).

Anyway, if you take those initial 13 episodes and then tack on the back nine, you then get 22 episodes total. Which – back in the late 1970s / early 1980s, anyway – was what a full season of a network television show typically consisted of.

Anyway … The contract that Selleck had signed with Glen A. Larson Productions, Universal Television & CBS stated that he had to be available when production of Season One of “Magnum PI” began in March of 1980. More to the point, Tom also had to be available should CBS exercise its option to air 22 episodes of this new series on that television network over the course of “Magnum PI” ‘s first season.  

Which then made things complicated for George Lucas & Steven Spielberg because … Well, in order for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to make its June 12, 1981 release date, that then meant that production of the first “Indy” movie would have to get underway no later than June 23, 1980.

But here’s the thing: Production of Season One of “Magnum PI” was scheduled to run through the first week of July of that same year (1980). So in order for Tom Selleck to play Indiana Jones in “Raiders,” he was going to need to be wrapped on production of “Magnum PI” by June 22, 1980 at the absolute latest.

So Spielberg & Lucas went to Glen A. Larsons Productions and asked if Selleck could please be sprung from his “Magnum PI” contractual obligations by June 22nd. And they said “Yes.” Then Steven & George went to Universal Television and asked executives there for their help  in clearing Tom’s schedule so that he’d then be available to start work on “Raiders.” And they say “Yes” as well.

Spielberg & Lucas now go to CBS. But instead of the quick “Yeses” that they got from officials at Glen A. Larson Productions and Universal Television, it takes those suits at the Tiffany Network weeks before they then decided to say “No, they couldn’t release Tom Selleck early to go work on ‘Raiders’ “ because …

I’ve never really been able to get a straight answer here as to why CBS execs dug in their heels here. Why they flat-out refused to release Selleck early from his “Magnum PI” contractual obligation and allow him to go shoot “Raiders.”

Payback from “The Star Wars Holiday Special” Trash Talk

That said, it is worth noting that “The Star Wars Holiday Special” aired on CBS back in November of 1978. And given that – in the years that followed —  Lucas wasn’t exactly shy when it came to saying how much he hated that two hour-long presentation (Or – for that matter – how George really regretted caving into the requests of CBS execs. Who had insisted that television stars long associated with the Tiffany Network – people like Art Carney, Harvey Korman & Bea Arthur – be given prominent guest starring roles in “The Star Wars Holiday Special”). And I’ve heard whispers over the years that CBS executives preventing Tom Selleck from appearing in “Raiders” could be interpreted as the Tiffany Network getting some payback for what George had said publicly about the “Star Wars Holiday Special.”

Harrison Ford Comes to Rescue “Indiana Jones”

Anyway … It’s now literally just weeks before production of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is supposed to begin and Spielberg & Lucas have just learned that that they’ve lost their film’s star. CBS is flat-out refusing to release Tom Selleck early from his “Magnum PI” contractual obligation. So Steven & George now have to find someone else to play Indy … and fast.

The real irony here is … The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists would go on strike in the Summer of 1980. Which then shut prematurely shut down production of the first season of “Magnum PI.” (As a direct result, the first full season of this action drama to air on CBS only had 18 episodes, rather than the usual 22). And because this job action lasted ‘til October 23rd of that same year … Well, this meant that Tom Selleck would have actually been free to start shooting “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on June 23, 1980 because production of Season One of “Magnum PI” was already shut down by then due to that AFTRA strike.

But no one knew – in May of 1980, anyway – that this job action was going to happen in just a few weeks. All that Steven Spielberg & George Lucas knew was that they now needed a new lead actor for “Raiders.” And circling back on Jeff Bridges was no longer an option. As I mentioned earlier, Jeff had agreed to do “TRON” for Disney. And – in the interim – Bridges gone off to shoot “Cutter’s Way” for MGM / UA.

Credit: EW

So this is where Harrison Ford enters the equation. As he recalls:

In May of 1980, I get a call from George Lucas. Who says ‘I’m messaging a script over to you this morning. As soon as it gets there, I need you to immediately read this script. Then – as soon as you’re done – I need you to call.

So the script arrives and it’s for ‘Raiders.’ I read it and it’s good. So I call George back and say ‘It’s good.’ And he then says ‘Would you be interested in playing Indy?’ I say that it looks like it would be a fun part to play.

George then says ‘ That’s great to hear. Because we start shooting in four weeks. Now I need you to meet with Steven Spielberg today and convince him that you’re the right guy to play Indy.’

Of course, given that Spielberg had been pushing for Ford to pay Indy ever since he had first seen that work-in-progress version of “The Empire Strikes Back” … Well, Harrison’s meeting with Steven was very, very short. And just a few weeks later, Spielberg, Lucas & Ford were all at the Port de la Pallice in La Rochelle. Where – on the very first day of shooting on “Raiders” (which – again – was June 23, 1980)– the scene that was shot was the one where that Nazi sub (the one that Indy had lashed himself to its periscope by using his bullwhip as a rope) was arriving at its secret base.

And all of this happened because Harrison immediately agreed to do “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when the part of Indy was first offered to him in mid-May of 1980.  

Before “Star Wars” was “Star Wars”

So why such a quick yes? Well, you have to remember that “Empire Strikes Back” wouldn’t be released to theaters ‘til May 21, 1980. And no one knew at that time whether this sequel to the original “Star Wars” would do as well at the box office as “A New Hope” had back in 1977 (FYI: “Empire” would eventually sell over $500 million worth of tickets worldwide. Which is roughly two thirds of what the original “Star Wars” earned three years earlier).

More to the point, the four films that Harrison had shot right after “A New Hope” / prior to “Empire Strikes Back” (i.e., “Heroes” AND “Force 10 from Navarone” AND “Hanover Street” AND “The Frisco Kid”) had all under-performed at the box office. So to Ford’s way of thinking, taking on a role that Tom Selleck was no longer available to play – one that had the potential of spawning two sequels – seemed like a very smart thing to do. Especially after three years of cinematic stumbles.

By the way, whenever this topic ever comes up, Harrison Ford is very gracious. He always makes a point of saying that he’s grateful to have gotten this career opportunity. More to the point, that he still feels kind of bad that Tom Selleck never got the chance to play this part.

Tom Selleck After “Indiana Jones”

That said, we shouldn’t feel too bad for Tom Selleck. After all, the original “Magnum PI” proved to be a long running hit for CBS. And in an effort to smooth over any residual bad feelings that may have resulted from Tom being forced to give up “Raiders” back in May of 1980, Selleck was eventually allowed to create his own production company (i.e., T.W.S. Productions, Inc. As in Thomas William Selleck Productions). Which – after the fact – was then cut in on some of those “Magnum PI” -related revenue streams.

More to the point, while “Magnum PI” was on hiatus following its second year in production, Selleck flew off to Yugoslavia. Where he then shot his own Indiana Jones-esque film for theatrical release. Which was called “High Road to China” in the States, but – overseas – was promoted as “Raiders of the End of the World.”

FYI: Warner Bros. released “High Road to China” stateside 40 years ago this year. On March 18, 1983, to be exact. It didn’t do all that great at the box office. $28 million in ticket sales versus $15 million in production costs.

And over the years, there’s even been some talk of finding a way to maybe set things right here. By that I mean: Finally finding a way to officially fold Tom Selleck into the world of Indiana Jones.

Could Tom Selleck Work with Indiana Jones?

The way I hear it, between the time when “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was theatrically released in May of 1989 and when “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” debuted in May of 2008, there were a number of ideas for Indiana Jones sequels tossed around. And from what I’ve been told, there was at least one treatment for a fourth Indiana Jones film written that proposed pairing up Harrison Ford & Tom Selleck. With the idea here being that Selleck was supposed to have played Ford’s brother.

Obviously that film was never made. And – no – I don’t know what state Indiana Jones’ brother was supposed to be named after.

This article is based on research for Looking at Lucasfilm “Episode 80”, published on June 29, 2023. Looking at Lucasfilm is part of the Jim Hill Media Podcast Network.

Jim Hill

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

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Film & Movies

Will “Metro” – that “Cars” Spin-Off Which Disney Developed – Ever Get Made?



Will Metro Ever Get Made?

First came “Cars” in June of 2006.

This Pixar Animation Studios production did so well (Of all the high grossing films released that year, “Cars” was No. 2 at the box office. Only “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” sold more tickets in 2006) that Disney execs asked John Lasseter to develop a sequel.

“Cars 2” came out in June of 2011 and also did quite well at the box office (It took the No. 7 slot in the Top-Ten-for-ticket-sales that year). Which is why Disney then asked Pixar to prep a follow-up film.

“Cars 3” would eventually arrive in theaters in June of 2017. But in the meantime, Disney & Pixar began exploring the idea of expanding this film franchise. Largely because the amount of money that the Mouse was making off of the sales of “Cars” -related merchandise was … To be blunt here, mind boggling.

Don’t believe me? Well, then consider this: In just the first five years that the “Cars” film franchise existed, global retail sales of merchandise related to these Pixar movies approached $10 billion. That’s billion with a “B.”

So is it any wonder that – while Pixar was still trying to get a handle on what “Cars 3” would actually be about – the Mouse (through its DisneyToon Studios arm. Which produced home premieres like those “TinkerBell” movies) began actively looking into ways to expand this lucrative franchise?

“Planes” – The First “Cars” Spin-Off

The first “Cars” spin-off to arrive in the marketplace was “Planes.” This Klay Hall film (which was set in “The World Above Cars”) was released theatrically in August of 2013, with the Blu-ray & DVD version of “Planes” hitting store shelves in November of that same year.

“Planes: Fire and Rescue” followed in the Summer of 2014. And while a “Planes 3” was definitely put in development (At the Disney Animation panel at the 2017 D23 Expo, John Lasseter not only shared a clip from this film. But he also revealed that this project – which, at that time, was entitled “Space” – was slated to be released theatrically in April of 2019) … This animated feature was abruptly cancelled when DisneyToon Studios was shuttered in June of 2018.

But wait. There’s more … In addition to the aborted “Planes 3,”  Disney had other “Cars” spin-offs in the works. One was supposed to be built around boats. While yet another was supposed to have shined a spotlight on trucks.

“Metro” – The World Below Cars

And then there was “Metro.” Which was supposed to have been set in the inner city and focused on what went on in “The World Below Cars.” As in: Down in the subway system.

Just in the past week or so, a few pieces of concept art for “Metro” have surfaced online. Giving us all an intriguing look at what might have been. These preproduction paintings suggest that this “Cars” spin-off would be far grittier than … Say … the sort of adventures that Lightning McQueen & Mater would typically have out in Radiator Springs.

Metro - Cars Spin-Off Movie Poster
Credit: Disney
Metro - Cars Spin-Off Concept Art
Credit: Disney
Metro - Cars Spin-Off Concept Art
Credit: Disney
Metro - Cars Spin-Off Concept Art
Credit: Disney

That said, it’s worth noting here that – just in the past year or so – we’ve seen Disney & Pixar attempt to expand the turf that these two characters could comfortably cover. Take – for example — “Cars on the Road,” that nine-part series which debuted on Disney+ back in September of last year. This collection of animated shorts literally sent Lightning McQueen & Mater off on a road trip.

So who knows?

Given that Bob Iger (at Disney’s quarterly earnings call held earlier this week) revealed that the Company now has sequels in the works for “Frozen,” “Toy Story,” and “Zootopia” … Well, is it really all that far-fetched to think that – at some point further on down the road – Disney & Pixar will put yet another sequel to “Cars” in the works?

One that might send Lightning McQueen & Mater off to explore the gritty inner-city world that we glimpsed in all that concept art for “Metro,” that never-produced “Cars” spin-off.

Time will tell.

Jim Hill

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

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