Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Inside the Mouse Castle with 'Real Steel,' 'The Muppets' and Bill Farmer

A funny thing happened on the way to the robot fight. I discovered a video camera.

If you read my blog or follow my YouTube channel, you know from time to time I dabble in video editing. I've done voice overs for a number of movie and home video reviews during the last year or so, but this week I decided to do something a bit different and step in front of the camera.

It wasn't as painful as I thought it would be.

I call the results "Inside the Mouse Castle" and this week I'm taking a look at the Oscar-nominated (for Best Visual Effects) Real Steel, the home video release of The Muppets, and a special anniversary for the voice of Goofy, Bill Farmer.

This weekend, I'm taking my camera to Disneyland to help my good friends at MiceChat celebrate their seventh anniversary. The highlight of the weekend will be a Saturday breakfast at the ESPN Zone with a host of Disney celebrities including Imagineer Bob Gurr (if it's on wheels at Disneyland, Bob probably designed it), Margaret Kerry (the original live model for Tinker Bell) and Susan Egan (the voice of Meg in Hercules and the original Belle of Beauty and the Beast on Broadway). Whether on video or in print, count on seeing my experiences here on The Mouse Castle very soon.

And since you now know what I look like, if you happen to be at Disneyland this weekend, be sure to keep an eye out for me. I'm partial to Star Tours, the Haunted Mansion and the dirty vodka martini ride at the Cove Bar.

See you real soon.

Disney/Pixar Shut Out of Best Animated Feature Oscar

Cars 2 stalled on Oscar's pit row.
It's no surprise that two great homages to classic cinema, Martin Scorsese's Hugo and the French retro-silent film The Artist, snagged the lion's share of Academy Award nominations today.

But, for Disney and Pixar to get shut out of the Best Animated Feature category? Inconceivable!

In the eleven-year history of the category, only in 2005 did Disney and Pixar both fail to have a film nominated for Best Animated Feature.

Until today.

Neither Cars 2 nor Winnie the Pooh--both underrated films--failed to get Oscar nods. The nominees were:

A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

The surprise nominations were the French feline mystery-adventure A Cat in Paris and the Spanish musical romance Chico & Rita. These are two films I've yet to see--but they've definitely been added to my watch list. Of the three nominees I did see, Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp's Rango is my favorite for its sheer strangeness.

Pixar fared better in the Animated Short Film category, with La Luna receiving a nomination.

The Oscars will be presented in Hollywood on February 26.

The complete Oscar nominations list.


Nominations for the 84th Academy Awards

The 84th Academy Awards will be presented at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood on February 26.

Actor in a Leading Role
Demián Bichir in "A Better Life"
George Clooney in "The Descendants"
Jean Dujardin in "The Artist"
Gary Oldman in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Brad Pitt in "Moneyball"

Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branagh in "My Week with Marilyn"
Jonah Hill in "Moneyball"
Nick Nolte in "Warrior"
Christopher Plummer in "Beginners"
Max von Sydow in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

Actress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close in "Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis in "The Help"
Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
Meryl Streep in "The Iron Lady"
Michelle Williams in "My Week with Marilyn"

Actress in a Supporting Role
Bérénice Bejo in "The Artist"
Jessica Chastain in "The Help"
Melissa McCarthy in "Bridesmaids"
Janet McTeer in "Albert Nobbs"
Octavia Spencer in "The Help"

Animated Feature Film
"A Cat in Paris" Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
"Chico & Rita" Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
"Kung Fu Panda 2" Jennifer Yuh Nelson
"Puss in Boots" Chris Miller
"Rango" Gore Verbinski

Art Direction
"The Artist" Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
"Hugo" Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
"Midnight in Paris" Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
"War Horse" Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales

"The Artist" Guillaume Schiffman
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Jeff Cronenweth
"Hugo" Robert Richardson
"The Tree of Life" Emmanuel Lubezki
"War Horse" Janusz Kaminski

Costume Design
"Anonymous" Lisy Christl
"The Artist" Mark Bridges
"Hugo" Sandy Powell
"Jane Eyre" Michael O'Connor
"W.E." Arianne Phillips

"The Artist" Michel Hazanavicius
"The Descendants" Alexander Payne
"Hugo" Martin Scorsese
"Midnight in Paris" Woody Allen
"The Tree of Life" Terrence Malick

Documentary (Feature)
"Hell and Back Again" Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
"If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front" Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
"Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
"Pina" Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
"Undefeated" TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas

Documentary (Short Subject)
"The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement" Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
"God Is the Bigger Elvis" Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
"Incident in New Baghdad"James Spione
"Saving Face" Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
"The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

Film Editing
"The Artist" Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
"The Descendants" Kevin Tent
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
"Hugo" Thelma Schoonmaker
"Moneyball" Christopher Tellefsen

Foreign Language Film
"Bullhead" Belgium
"Footnote" Israel
"In Darkness" Poland
"Monsieur Lazhar" Canada
"A Separation" Iran

"Albert Nobbs" Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
"The Iron Lady" Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Music (Original Score)
"The Adventures of Tintin" John Williams
"The Artist" Ludovic Bource
"Hugo" Howard Shore
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" Alberto Iglesias
"War Horse" John Williams

Music (Original Song)
"Man or Muppet" from "The Muppets" Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
"Real in Rio" from "Rio" Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown Lyric by Siedah Garrett

Best Picture
"The Artist" Thomas Langmann, Producer
"The Descendants" Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" Scott Rudin, Producer
"The Help" Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
"Hugo" Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
"Midnight in Paris" Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
"Moneyball" Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
"The Tree of Life" Nominees to be determined
"War Horse" Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

Short Film (Animated)
"Dimanche/Sunday" Patrick Doyon
"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
"La Luna" Enrico Casarosa
"A Morning Stroll" Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
"Wild Life" Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

Short Film (Live Action)
"Pentecost" Peter McDonald and Eimear O'Kane
"Raju" Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
"The Shore" Terry George and Oorlagh George
"Time Freak" Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
"Tuba Atlantic" Hallvar Witzø

Sound Editing
"Drive" Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Ren Klyce
"Hugo" Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
"War Horse" Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

Sound Mixing
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
"Hugo" Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
"Moneyball" Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
"War Horse" Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

Visual Effects
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
"Hugo" Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning
"Real Steel" Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
"The Descendants" Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
"Hugo" Screenplay by John Logan
"The Ides of March" Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
"Moneyball" Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" Screenplay by Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan

Writing (Original Screenplay)
"The Artist" Written by Michel Hazanavicius
"Bridesmaids" Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
"Margin Call" Written by J.C. Chandor
"Midnight in Paris" Written by Woody Allen
"A Separation" Written by Asghar Farhadi


Monday, January 23, 2012

Watch the Oscar Nominations Live on The Mouse Castle

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce this year's Oscar nominations tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m. Pacific Time. Watch the nominations live right here at The Mouse Castle.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Look Back at Peggy Lee and 'Lady and the Tramp'

As January 21 marks the anniversary of singer Peggy Lee's death in 2002, we have some very cool pictures of Lee, her songwriting partner Sonny Burke and a number of animators and production people from Disney's Lady and the Tramp. There may be a picture of some guy named Walt too.

Lee was a very popular recording artist, charting hits for over 30 years including "Fever" and "Is That All There Is?" Her success spilled over to motion pictures. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in 1955's Pete Kelly's Blues.

Peggy Lee voiced Peg in
Lady and the Tramp.
With Burke, she co-wrote songs for Lady and the Tramp, including "He's a Tramp," "La La Lu" and "Siamese Cat Song." She also provided the voice for Lady's owner Darling, the pound pup Peg, and the cats Si and Am.

In 1991, Lee successfully sued Disney for royalties related to home video sales. The landmark case opened the door for other voice actors such as Ilene Woods (Cinderella) and Mary Costa (Sleeping Beauty) to file suit against Disney as well.

Lady and the Tramp will be released on Blu-ray for the first time on February 7.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mad T Party to Replace ElecTRONica at Disney California Adventure

OK, I'll admit it. I like the pretty colors. But, I am going to miss ElecTRONica.

Disneyland released concept art for their "all-new nighttime family celebration" based on Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Dubbed the "Mad T Party," it will feature live music, entertainment and games in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section of Disney California Adventure.

It will also have a pretty nifty looking bar:

Mad T Party will open this summer replacing ElecTRONica, which will be phased out in the spring.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Robin Williams at His Best: 'Vietnam' and 'Poets' on Blu-ray

Robin Williams and Betty White
with the "six-foot rat" at the 2009
Disney Legends ceremony
"You try and do special things for your kid. I thought, 'I'll take him to Disneyland. That'll be fun.' Disneyland for a three year old...Mickey Mouse for a three-year old...bullshit! Mickey Mouse to a three-year old is a six-foot f***ing rat!"
--Robin Williams, An Evening at the Met (1986) 

Who would've suspected that 23 years after this stand-up performance at New York's Metropolitan Opera House, Robin Williams would become a Disney Legend?

Disney fans mostly associate Williams with his inspired comedic turn as the voice of the Genie in Aladdin, but his first work for Disney came with the Touchstone Pictures releases Good Morning, Vietnam and Dead Poets Society, both signature films for Williams and both available on Blu-ray starting today.

Williams burst onto the American conscience in 1978, becoming a national sensation playing the oddball alien Mork on TV's Happy Days and later Mork and Mindy. He possessed a rapid-fire, cerebral wit and an alarming gift for improvisation. His stand-up performances in An Evening with Robin Williams (1982) and An Evening at the Met still astound. In the early 1980s, Williams began to stretch himself as an actor with noteworthy starring roles as a struggling writer in The World According to Garp and a Russian defector in Moscow on the Hudson

Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam
His movie breakthrough, though, was as the iconoclastic DJ Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam. This was the ideal role for Williams, one that allowed him to use his improvisational skills to great effect. His hysterical on-air riffs about everything from Nixon to LBJ to Ethel Merman are still a marvel to watch 25 years later. Even though they take up less than 20 minutes of the movie's two hours, they are what you remember most from the film and are primarily what earned Williams his first Academy Award nomination. 

Good Morning, Vietnam is based very loosely on the real-life Adrian Cronauer, who was the first Armed Forces Radio DJ to play rock music and who did teach English as a second language to the Vietnamese. Beyond those two elements, however, very little of Good Morning, Vietnam actually happened. The movie Cronauer is a thorn in the side of his commanding officer Lt. Hauk (Bruno Kirby), an uptight prig who thinks soldiers in the field are best served listening to Ray Conniff, Montovani and Percy Faith instead of James Brown, the Beatles and Motown. Both Hauk and his sergeant major Dickerson (a menacing J.T. Walsh) disapprove of Cronauer's off-the-wall style even as his popularity soars with the troops.

While stationed in Saigon, Cronauer befriends a local girl (Chintara Sukapatana), her brother (Tung Thanh Tran) and a restaurant owner (Cu Ba Nguyen) with a bizarre obsession with Walter Brennan. Against the backdrop of war, they introduce Cronauer to Vietnamese culture, but their friendships are tested following a tragic bombing by the Viet Cong. 

Good Morning, Vietnam is in turns silly, serious and sentimental, but it's Williams manic moments that give the movie its most entertaining lift.

Robin Williams in Dead Poet's Society
Williams dialed the irreverence down considerably to play English teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society. Still, his character is every bit the non-conformist Adrian Cronauer is. At a prestigious--and stodgy--New England boys school, Keating uses unconventional methods to enlighten his students. His mantra is "carpe diem" or "seize the day," an admonition to his students to make their lives extraordinary. It's a philosophy that flies in the face of how his young charges have been brought up, with their destinies to become doctors, lawyers and titans of business already preordained by their families. 

Keating challenges his students to think for themselves and to view the world differently from how others see it. At his direction, they rip out pages from an analytical textbook that reduce the aesthetic importance of poetry to a cold mathematical formula. Keating urges them to stand on top of his desk and appreciate how the classroom looks from a differing perspective. Mostly, he instills in them a love of words and language and encourages them write poetry. Thus, the Dead Poet's Society is secretly born amongst the impressionable boys as they sneak out into the woods together to express themselves (and, as Keating puts it,  to "woo women") beyond the control of the school's stern headmaster (Norman Lloyd).

Williams plays Keating as a man with a passion for creativity who's not afraid to tweak the nose of the Establishment. He keeps his usual shtick to a minimum, staying true to Tom Schulman's literate screenplay and Peter Weir's artful direction. Williams does minimal ad-libbing, but his occasional improvisations do add some funny moments like when Keating demonstrates to his students how Shakespeare would be interpreted differently by Olivier, Brando and John Wayne.

When one of Keating's students, Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), finds the courage to try out for a nearby theater production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in defiance of his bullying father (Kurtwood Smith), it leads to Dead Poets Society's most triumphant--and tragic--moment, a moment where Keating is held accountable for his unorthodox methods in an unfair clash of school politics. 

Williams received his second Oscar nomination for his role in Dead Poets Society and it remains one of his best.

Friday, January 13, 2012

James Bond Reaches 50

Bond girls Kurylenko (l.)
and Murino at CES
With the help of Bond girls Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) and Caterina Murino (Casino Royale), MGM and Twentieth Century Fox announced the release of "Bond 50," a collection of 22 James Bond films on Blu-ray, some for the very first time. The announcement came this week during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Also on hand for the unveiling were past Bond directors John Glen (For Your Eyes OnlyOctopussy and others), Michael Apted (The World is Not Enough) and Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, 2006's Casino Royale).

The boxed set will be available some time in the fall, likely coinciding with the release of Skyfall, the newest Bond flick starring Daniel Craig, Judy Dench and Javier Bardem. Skyfall opens November 29, nearly 50 years to the date after the first Bond film, Dr. No, made its debut.

Completists will quibble that this collection doesn't include every Bond movie--"unofficial" Bond films Never Say Never Again and the 1967 Peter Sellers-Woody Allen spoof Casino Royale will be noticeably absent--but with 22 films and 130 hours of bonus features, it's one impressive Blu-ray set.

"Bond 50" is available to pre-order now on Amazon.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

One More Disney Day...and Night

I've gone open to close at Disneyland many times over the years, but 24 hours straight?  Yeah, I'll take that challenge.

Disney Parks latest promotion, One More Disney Day, gives visitors to Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom in Florida the opportunity to enjoy the parks from 6:00 a.m. on February 29 (Leap Day) to 6:00 a.m. March 1. You can also enter to win a Disney trip or get special deals on off-season vacation packages, but the real appeal is the all-day, all-night marathon. I'll be there. Will you?

Twenty-four hours straight is unique, but extended hours and late-night parties at Disneyland and Walt Disney World are nothing new. Corporate events, Grad Nites and private functions after the regular guests have gone home have been the norm for decades. Last year, like its three film predecessors, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides had its world premiere at Disneyland:

In 1992, Elizabeth Taylor famously rented out Disneyland to celebrate her 60th birthday:

The 1986 premiere of Captain EO, produced by George Lucas, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Michael Jackson, meant another great Disneyland party...and a cheesy television special:

Captain EO was cause for several after-hours celebrations that weekend, like this one for members of the Magic Kingdom Club, Disney's free corporate discount program at the time:

Can you imagine attending an all-night party at Disneyland today and only paying $11.50?

Late night events at Disneyland are often special simply because, well, they're at night. Everything is lit up. Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Matterhorn and the Mark Twain all take on a special glow. The lights twinkle in the trees and sparkle all the way down Main Street. It's quite beautiful. Walt Disney himself understood the special magic his Magic Kingdom had when the sun went down. He explains it here in this clip from "Disneyland After Dark," an episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color that aired on NBC on April 15, 1962.

Some of my fondest memories as a kid were of late nights at Disneyland long after my sister and I wore Mom and Dad out and sent them exhausted back to the hotel. Terry and I ruled the park at night. The Rocket Jets (high atop the PeopleMover station) and the Matterhorn were always required riding. In 1976, a day or two after Christmas, Terry and I rode the last Mine Train of the night together. It would be the last time either of us would steam through Nature's Wonderland and the Rainbow Caverns. The ride would close a week later to eventually be replaced by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Have you ever rode Big Thunder at night? It's pretty cool too.

I haven't even begun to talk about the special nighttime shows and entertainment at Disneyland over the years. I think that'll be another post for another time. Suffice it to say for now, though, there's a reason my two favorite ring tones on my phone are from Fantasmic! and the Main Street Electrical Parade.

So, as the 24-hour Disneyland marathon beckons next month, I expect it be exhilarating, exhausting and fun. I'll be more than ready for it. After all, half of it will be at night.