Disney History

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MAGIC IN THE DETAILS: SCORING FOR BOTH TEAMS by guest author Adam M. Berger

Published February 3, 2015 by jpmdo

The longstanding rivalry between Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, its crosstown competitor a few miles up the road, has become the stuff of legend, with the decades-long battle for tourism supremacy most recently documented by author Sam Gennawey in his enlightening, entertaining, and highly detailed book Universal vs. Disney: The Unofficial Guide to American Theme Parks’ Greatest Rivalry. But through it all, one towering creative figure has managed to play—and score (pun intended)—for both teams. I’m talking, of course, about the prolific film composer and conductor John Williams.

John Williams

Photo by TashTish at en.wikipedia

Mr. Williams’ cinematic career dates back to the late 1950s, with his sometimes uncredited musical contributions to the silver screen including such classic (and occasionally not-so-classic) movies as Some Like It Hot and Gidget. Of course, he is better known for composing and often conducting the scores heard in such blockbuster films as Jaws, all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, and the Harry Potter movies.

Star Wars

 Copyright – Lucasfilm Ltd.

Those are a just a few highlights from the composer’s long and illustrious filmography. (If you’d like to see more, you can find an exhaustive list of John Williams’ credits on the IMDb website.) But perhaps you’ve noticed that all of the movies listed above have also inspired either current or retired theme park attractions at either Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando. Which gives Mr. Williams the rare distinction of being an artist whose works transcend the Disney-Universal rivalry to entertain and engage visitors at both resorts.

At Walt Disney World, Williams’ music adds to the magic of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where it forms the stirring soundtracks of three popular attractions: Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, Jedi Training Academy, and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.

Indiana Jones Spectacular Show

 Photo by Adam Berger

Travel a few miles northeast on Interstate 4 to Universal Orlando Resort, and you’ll be treated to the sound of John Williams’ distinctive movie scores in both of the resort’s theme parks. At Universal Studios Florida, Williams’ music accompanies your ride on E.T. Adventure, and his themes are heard almost continuously as you explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley. But for nearly two decades before Diagon Alley arrived in the park, another familiar John Williams score was heard on that specific patch of real estate, accompanying—and amplifying—the thrills of the now defunct JAWS attraction.

Harry Potter Universal

Copyright – Universal Orlando Resort

Nearby, Williams’ music again sets the mood and underscores the action throughout the Jurassic Park section of Universal’s Islands of Adventure, while the Harry Potter title theme and other music from the series wafts through The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade.

Jurassic Park

Copyright – Universal Orlando Resort

And while certain other artists share dual residency at both Disney and Universal (most prominently director Steven Spielberg, represented by E.T. Adventure and Jurassic Park at the latter and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at the former), John Williams easily takes the prize for having the most extensive presence at both resorts. Which just goes to show you that exceptional talent can, on rare occasions, transcend even the most intense and entrenched competition.

So how aware are you of the music when you’re in the Disney and Universal theme parks? Do you have any favorites? Feel free to chime in using the comments section below.

Every guest a hero

 

Adam M. Berger is a professional attraction show writer and design consultant, and the author of the book Every Guest is a Hero: Disney’s Theme Parks and the Magic of Mythic Storytelling—available in print and e-reader editions from Amazon.com and other fine online booksellers.

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Book Review: Jeff Heimbuch’s Main Street Windows: A Complete Guide to Disney’s Whimsical Tributes by Jennifer Vichko

Published December 1, 2014 by jpmdo

There’s no greater feeling of excitement than when you’re ‘walking right down the middle of Main Street, USA.’  There, after walking under the train station, you’ll get first official sighting of the Castle, catch a sweet smell from the Confectionary wafting through the air and maybe even have to step aside for a Trolley or two.  Some guests like to make a beeline to rides and attractions right after rope drop – which is a great strategy! – however I can’t help but take my time and enjoy all the sights, sounds and smells of the street I wish I lived on!

It’s no surprise that the Walt Disney Company pays attention to little things.  From Hidden Mickeys in the parks and resorts to Easter Eggs in movies, Imagineers and Animators alike truly reward their fans for noticing the tiny details.  One of the lesser known hidden gems for guests at Disney Parks are the cryptic tributes in the advertisements in each of the windows that line Main Street.  I’ve walked up and down this Street many times and was shocked to find out how little I actually knew about this huge honor!

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In his new book, Main Street Windows: A Complete Guide to Disney’s Whimsical Tributes, author Jeff Heimbuch takes us on tour of all the Main Street windows of Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland.  Much like Hidden Mickeys, Disney has not produced a full listing of the windows anywhere else in the world so Heimbuch’s gorgeous pictures and descriptions now serve as the official catalog.

Each page features a full-color photograph of a window (or two) and a breakdown of the names featured and meaning behind it.  Though most people are well aware that Disney pays attention to even the smallest of details the fact that almost every window pays tribute to someone that contributed something special to the Disney organization is incredible!

For example, one window in Disneyland has the following advertisement:

Ragin’ Ray’s

River Rafting Expeditions

Experienced Guides since ’55

Ray Van De Warker

Owner Guide

The author goes on to illustrate the meaning behind this particular window, describing the career path of Ray Van De Warker.  He started his tenure at Disney as summer help in 1955 and eventually became head of the Davy Crocket Explorer Canoes where he inadvertently helped start a yearly Disneyland tradition of Racing Around the Rivers of America.  I love the humor behind these tributes and am sure the honorees are incredibly grateful for the acknowledgments.

I can’t even being to think about all the time and effort Heimbuch spent in creating this guide.  From obtaining stunning photographs of each and every window in all of the Magic Kingdom-esque parks to researching the details behind the advertisements, his hard work certainly has not gone unnoticed.  Main Street Windows: A Complete Guide to Disney’s Whimsical Tributes is a great addition to any Disney fan’s library and I can’t wait to take it with me on my next trip to the Magic Kingdom to spot some of my new favorite features of Main Street, USA.

Jennifer Vichko is a lifelong fan of all things Disney and is thrilled to be reliving the magic through the eyes of her one-year-old daughter. She resides in Pennsylvania with her Husband of 6 years where her hobbies include decorating, DIY and planning her family’s next Disney vacation.

Magic in the Details: Raven About the Haunted Mansion By Guest Author Adam Berger

Published October 29, 2014 by jpmdo

MAGIC IN THE DETAILS: RAVEN ABOUT THE HAUNTED MANSION By Guest Author Adam Berger

The Haunted Mansion has always been one of Disney’s most popular attractions. Yet no matter how often you may ride, you’ll probably notice details you missed during your previous visits. That’s because the Disney Imagineers intentionally filled the attraction with far more details than anyone could possibly discern, even after numerous excursions. They knew that this approach would entice guests to experience the Haunted Mansion again and again, appreciating previously unnoticed content each time. And now, with Halloween fast approaching, I’d like to share one of my favorite overlooked elements with you: the Mansion’s sinister raven.

Adam Berger HM

Because of the faint lighting levels inside the Mansion, the raven can be difficult to make out. But if you know where to look, you’ll spot the bird not just once, but FOUR separate times during the ride. Its first appearance occurs in the conservatory, perched atop a wreath next to the casket. The large black bird, with its glowing red eyes, is a suitably ominous presence. The Imagineers even recorded the raven squawking, “Nevermore!” in an audio tribute to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem, “The Raven.” The bird’s voice, provided by actress Eleanor Audley, (the voice of Cinderella’s stepmother and Maleficent), was never used in the ride. Yet Ms. Audley is still heard inside the mansion…as the voice of Madame Leota.

Adam Berger Raven Disney Copy

Copyright – Disney

Speaking of Madame Leota…the raven’s second appearance is in the séance scene, perched on the back of a chair behind Madame Leota’s table. You’ll see the bird a third time in the gnarled branches of a spooky old tree as your Doom Buggy begins its backwards descent into the cemetery scene. You’ll then encounter the raven one last time, perched atop the stone archway as you enter the crypt scene.

At the Magic Kingdom version of the attraction, you’ll also find a fifth raven: a stylized brass figure that adorns the stone pipe organ in the interactive area in front of the Mansion entrance. The front of the organ is inscribed with the name “Ravenscroft”—a not-too-subtle nod to voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft, the deep bass voice of the broken singing headstone in the cemetery scene.

Adam Berger Organ Disney Copy

Copyright – Disney

Obviously the inclusion of the raven in so many locations can’t be a coincidence. Which leaves you with this chilling challenge: to figure out why the Imagineers decided to give it such a prominent role.

One explanation refers back to the Poe connection—the idea that the Imagineers found inspiration in Edgar Allan Poe’s famously unsettling poem. A second possibility suggests that the designers may have been influenced by Maleficent’s raven sidekick in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, the production of which coincided with the early conceptual stages of the Haunted Mansion. Of course, ravens have always had a strong association with the spirit world, predating Poe’s 1845 poem. For example, they are prominent figures in both Norse mythology and in the creation myths of some of the indigenous peoples of America’s Pacific Northwest.

So do you have a favorite Haunted Mansion detail that you only noticed after repeated rides? Feel free to share. But remember one thing: Beware of hitchhiking ghosts!

 

Adam M. Berger is president and senior show writer at Berger Creative Associates, Inc., an Orlando, Florida-based creative writing and consulting firm serving themed attraction and design clients around the world. He is also the author of the book Every Guest is a Hero: Disney’s Theme Parks and the Magic of Mythic Storytelling—available in print and e-reader editions from Amazon.com and other fine online booksellers.

Adam Berger photo

 

Have You Heard About The Disneyana Fan Club?

Published August 31, 2014 by Disneyways.com

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The Disneyana Fan Club is a non-profit organization is dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich legacy of Walt Disney. The goal is to provide Disneyana enthusiasts of all ages from around the world with news, information, and events that enhance your experience with, and love of, all things Disney. If you haven’t joined this club yet – click HERE to check out my post over at Chip and Co to find our more!! In 2013 the World Chapter enjoyed a special presentation from Tom Nabbe – who was hired by Walt Disney himself – to work at Disneyland in it’s early days! Photos below are property of Tom Nabbe. Check out Tom’s full story – and so much more at WaltHiredMe.com

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tomnabbe

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Photos below are property of Krista Joy Enterprises, Inc.

Nabbe

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The Disney Parks Podcast Interviews Original Mouseketeer Lonnie Burr

Published April 9, 2014 by Disneyways.com

We are super excited to bring you The Disney Parks Podcast interview with Lonnie Burr – one of the original Mouseketeers from the Mickey Mouse Club TV show!

lonnieandWalt

Photo Credit
DisneyByMark.com

Lonnie Burr has had an amazing career, and he is not done yet! In addition to Uncle Walt, and Annette Funicello (see Lonnie’s photo with them above) Lonnie has worked with Julia Roberts, Robin Williams (in Hook!), Ginger Rogers, and one my personal favorites – Elvis Presley himself. With years of acting, singing and dancing to Lonnie’s credit – it is very likely you have seen him in many of your favorite TV shows, movies or plays. It has been a tremendous honor for me to get to know Lonnie over email and we are delighted that he has been one of our very special guests on the podcast. Check out Lonnie’s website HERE.

Lonnie’s book “The Accidental Mouseketeer” is now available from Theme Park Press – and you can buy your copy HERE!

lonnie

Want to win a FREE copy? Listen to Tony’s interview with Lonnie HERE – to hear the answer to this question:

During the podcast Lonnie mentioned a question Walt Disney asked him on one occasion, when they saw each other on the studio lot.

What was the question Walt asked Lonnie?

Hint: it is only 5 words.

Send us your answer to Disneyparkspodcast@gmail.com – by April 15th, 2014. We will draw one winner from all the correct answers to win a free printed copy of Lonnie’s new book!  The winner will notified by email and will have 24 hours to respond before we pick another winner.

Video Bonuses!

Check out this awesome video of Lonnie that was created in tribute to him for his 70th birthday!

Here is another fun one from way back in 1975 featuring Lonnie and several other original Mouseketeers!

First Look: Disney’s Next Princess Movie

Published January 23, 2014 by Disneyways.com

Moana

Spoiler alert! We’ve got the inside scoop on Disney’s next Princess. While I am sure none of what you read here has been formally announced by Disney, I feel that my sources are pretty reliable, namely the Huffington Post and some others. The movie is not estimated to release until 2018, and a lot can change between now and then… but I think this is fun information that was too good not to share, and I hope you’ll agree.

First let’s talk story. This highly anticipated Disney princess movie is set to be an epic, or even mythic, adventure set around 2000 years ago. The setting will be across a series of islands in the South Pacific. The lead character, our princess, Moana Waialiki, is the only daughter of a Chief, and she comes from a long line of navigators. She’s a nerd about sea voyaging – so when her family needs her help, she sets off on an epic journey. “Moana” has been described as a “Polynesian musical” and it is said that the animation and music will go along with that theme. Mark Mancina will reportedly serve as the project’s musical composer. Typical of many of Disney’s “magical” movies, some of the other characters supporting Princess Moana are demi-gods and spirits drawn from real mythology.

(Hello again Hercules!)

While the studio doesn’t seem to have settled entirely on the overall look of the animation, Moana is expected to use some new, ambitious techniques. John Musker and Ron Clements, who were the directors of Treasure Planet and The Little Mermaid, are expected to have some pretty cool tricks up their sleeves for this movie. Remember how Paperman tried a new blend of the hand-drawn and the digital?

Here is a refresher in case you’ve forgotten:

Beautiful, isn’t it? I hope we get to see something like that again. The good news is that artists behind Moana have been playing around with similar, yet different, cutting edge software and systems. They are testing how much is ready for application to a full-length feature. Musker has said that “it’s far too early to apply the Paperman hybrid technique to a feature,” stating that the technique still has many complications (including color use) to sort out before it can be used for a full-length film. I think with all this time on their side, they can make it happen though – don’t you?

There’s no evidence of the technique here in the concept art (see below) but it’s still an interesting tease of some of the style, even if it is only in an early development phase. Disney has denied that this concept art is for Moana, however that may not be the case. If you remember, Disney denied that many leaked Frozen concept art pieces were real, but in the end they were released as official. In their defense, it is possible that what Disney meant was that the concept art no longer reflects what the film will look like, as the creators may have overhauled it. Such a situation is common in movie development, especially for movies that will not be out for half a decade. The concept art for Moana that you see below was found on an official Disney artist’s website, under a section where she talks about Moana. Additionally, notice that the concept art has the artist’s signature on it.

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Below is a painting by Paul Gauguin that is said to be serving as an inspiration for Moana.

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We can end here by saying we’re a long way out from Moana, with its release unlikely to happen before 2018. We have lots of time to speculate and dream about what will come of it. The look of the film could change quite a bit in the meantime, and that’s always worth bearing in mind. Regardless, I think Moana is a wonderful concept, and shaping up to be really quite tremendous. Only the next 5 years will tell! In the meantime I am perfectly happy to play my Frozen soundtrack over and over and relish in my new favorite character of all time, Queen Elsa.

What are your thoughts on all this? Please leave me your comments below!

If you enjoyed this post be sure to check out Solving the Mystery Surrounding the Rapunzel Tower in new Fantasyland and our entire collection of World Secrets!

On This Day in Disney History: November 21st

Published November 21, 2013 by Disneyways.com

Nov21

 

1929:
The following snippet appears in this day’s issue of The Film Daily
(a daily Hollywood publication):
Walt Disney, with his “Mickey Mouse” and “Silly Symphonies” series, is paving the way for
a bigger and better year. Grauman’s Chinese, Carthay Circle, Fox Palace, and Criterion
theaters have signed for the product. The Disney boys are making rapid headway with
their creations, adding new sound effects with each cartoon.

1942:
Mouseketeer Ronnie Steiner is born in Canada.
He joined the Mickey Mouse Club in the first season as a dancer.

1955:
The Mickey Mouse Club airs on ABC-TV. Today is Fun With Music Day. Musical numbers include Roy Williams dressed as the “boy at the dike” singing Roy at the Dike and Jimmie Dodd dressed as Tom Sawyer (along with a handful of the Mouseketeers) singing Painting Aunt Polly’s Fence.

2001:
Disney World unveils its holiday lights and decorations with The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights at Disney-MGM Studios.
(Arkansas businessman Jennings Osborne received worldwide attention when he first created the luminous light show for his daughter more than a decade ago.) The glowing bulbs light Residential Street, Washington Square and New York Street in merry holiday displays that include 170 flying angels, two 30-foot-tall carousels, illuminated trees, and 50 lighted Mickey Mouse figures.

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