Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Mouse Castle Lounge 12-18-2014 - 'Universal vs. Disney' Author Sam Gennawey

Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood dressed up for the holidays.
It's come a long way since the 1960s.
There’s no bigger theme park rivalry today than the one going on between Universal Studios and Disney. Just take a look at both company’s resort operations in Orlando where Walt Disney World was the dominant force for nearly 20 years. For the most part it still is, but in 1990 Universal moved into the neighborhood and began an ambitious plan to compete with Disney for Florida tourist dollars. Today, Universal Orlando boasts two theme parks, four onsite hotels and the CityWalk shopping, dining and entertainment complex. In 2010, Universal Orlando introduced the game-changing Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. In 2014, they upped the ante with the opening of Diagon Alley at the Universal Studios theme park.

Harry Potter will make his debut at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2016. The original California park has come a long way since its modest beginnings in the 1960s with a backlot tram tour through a functioning film studio. In those early days Universal didn’t have any ambitions to compete with Disney and purposely positioned itself as the anti-Disney park. Over time, though, ownership changes, management changes, egos and hurt feelings set in motion the competitive rivalry we see today between Universal and Disney. It’s a fascinating story.

Sam Gennawey
Sam Gennawey
Telling that story is author and historian Sam Gennawey. His new book is Universal vs. Disney: The Unofficial Guide to American Theme Parks’ Greatest Rivalry. In it, Sam offers a detailed history of Universal Studios dating back to the silent film era when Carl Laemmle, a German immigrant with a knack for business and showmanship, built a studio not only to make movies, but to share the experience with the public. Just like Sam’s previous two books, Universal vs. Disney is a carefully researched and detailed exploration of theme park planning, business and entertainment—with plenty of palace intrigue. Sam Gennawey is my guest today in The Mouse Castle Lounge.



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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Inside The Mouse Castle 12-15-2014 - Club 33 Meets 21 Royal Street, Oswald's 'Empty Socks' and 'Star Wars' Trading Cards

Le Salon Nouveau at Club 33
Le Salon Nouveau at Club 33.
Is there a new restaurant opening next door to Disneyland's Club 33? Is it just a private dining room? Is it for Club 33 members only? Will it ever be open to the general public. What the hell is the fuss all about?

In the latest Inside The Mouse Castle, Anthony and I take on the growing controversy (that seriously doesn't need to be one) over the announced opening of 21 Royal Street. It's a small dining venue for groups of no more than 16. It's geared for Club 33 members, but Disney hasn't ruled out opening up reservations for non-members at a later date. Time will tell. What we do know is it will be open for business sometime in January or February. Stay tuned. 

Also on today's show:
  • A long lost Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon was discovered in Norway. Empty Socks was the 12th of 26 Oswald shorts released by Walt Disney from 1927 to 1928.
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens trading cards? Sure, why not? Entertainment Weekly gave us a tease from J.J. Abrams identifying who some of the new characters are in the recently released trailer. Will there be an actual set of Episode VII trading cards? We can only hope.
  • At an event sponsored by Variety last week, Bob Iger announced that upcoming theme park attractions based on Star Wars would use the newer movies as their inspiration. I guess that means there no speeder bike races on Endor anytime soon.
  • A new trailer for Pixar's Inside Out has been released. It's good.  I mean really good.

  • Will Spider-Man ever make the crossover into the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Apparently Marvel and Disney have been talking to Sony about it. That's one of the less traumatic revelations to come out of Sony's uber-embarrassing mass hacking. There's still time to work Spidey into Captain America: Civil War. Just sayin'.


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Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Mouse Castle Lounge 12-11-2014 - 'A Mickey Mouse Reader' with Garry Apgar

Mickey Mouse in The Band Concert.
Garry Apgar doesn’t mind if you read the stories in his new book, A Mickey Mouse Reader, out of order. In fact, he encourages it. The book contains 69 articles and essays written about Mickey Mouse over the years, arranged chronologically from the first review of Steamboat Willie in 1928 through his meteoric rise in the 1930s all the way to contemporary musings on Mickey’s current place in pop culture. Jump in wherever you like. As for me, I began at the beginning and read my way through the first half dozen or so stories that marveled as much about the miracle of sound animation as they did about the charming appeal of the mouse himself. After that, I jumped around a bit, picking out articles by recognizable names like John Updike, Jim Korkis, John Canemaker and Walt Disney. What I got out of it—and you will too—is a greater appreciation not only for Mickey Mouse the character, but also a better sense of exactly how popular and influential the plucky little guy really was. We tend to take him for granted these days. He’s an icon whose image adorns millions of tee-shirts, hats and wrist watches. A Mickey Mouse Reader reminds you not only how Mickey Mouse became such a beloved character, but why.

Garry Apgar. Photo by
Rog Sphar.
Garry Apgar has a resume almost as impressive as Mickey Mouse. Garry is a respected author, historian and educator with a PhD in art history from Yale University and a Masters degree in “Lettres Modernes” from the Sorbonne. He’s taught at Brown University, Princeton, the University of Delaware, the Universite de Lyon and Southern Connecticut State University. He’s a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam and a former political cartoonist with the Roanoke Times. A Mickey Mouse Reader is the first of two books Garry has written about the mouse. Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit will be published next year. Garry Apgar is my guest today in The Mouse Castle Lounge. Enjoy!


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