Wednesday, February 13, 2013

'Monsters University' and Operatic Walt in The Mouse Castle Lounge

In the latest edition of The Mouse Castle Lounge, we aim for some highbrow culture, but end up reviewing Philip Glass' opera about Walt Disney instead. The Perfect American is a "fictional biography" of Walt that dovetails into a litany of every tired (and debunked) urban legend that ever existed about the man. It's a fever dream fantasy that finds Walt on his deathbed flashing back on a career that, despite having all the trappings of success, has left him bitter and frustrated. He laments that he has lost his humanity, that the Disney name has been subsumed by the corporate empire he's created. We see him mistreat his employees in a sweatshop studio environment, then take credit for their successes. He is racist and anti-Semitic, is obsessed with being cryogenically frozen after his death, and may be having an affair with his nurse, Hazel George (who he creepily refers to as "Snow White). In this surreal scene (one of many surreal scenes), Walt confronts a malfunctioning audio-animatronic Abe Lincoln:

A subtle telling of Walt's story this ain't. To its credit, the show does have a game and talented cast (baritone Christopher Purves is fine as Walt) as well as some clever staging using a series of rotating projection screens, but it's all for naught with a libretto that's hopelessly stuffed with half-truths and outright lies. Stodgy, pretentious and mean-spirited, it's a production not to be enjoyed, but to be endured.

The Perfect American premiered in Madrid last month for a limited engagement and will move to London in June. It's expected to eventually find its way to Los Angeles. You can see it online now (also for a limited time), in its entirety, at (free registration required). Don't say you haven't been warned.

On the Bookshelf

I'm very excited about two new Disney-related books that will be out later this year. The first, Dream It! Do It! (The People, The Places, The Projects): My Half-Century Creating Disney's Magic Kingdoms, is Marty Sklar's long-awaited memoir about his 50+ years working for Disney, much of it spent leading Imagineering. It will be out in August.

The second, The Disneyland That Was, Is, and Never Will Be: A Biography of an American Institution, is the second book by Disney historian Sam Gennawey, who also writes a very informative and entertaining Disney blog at His book will be out in July and is the follow-up to his excellent read, Walt and the Promise of Progress City.

Last year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sam about his first book. Rest assured, I'll be
 reaching out to him again when his new book comes out (jump to the 5:30 mark for my chat with Sam).

For a bit of fun, Disney UK has released a new trailer online for Monsters University, the prequel to Pixar's hit Monsters, Inc.:

Monsters University will be released in the U.S. on June 21.

Hear about all this and more--including a tribute to Disneyland's Tahitian Terrace and soy sauce--this week in The Mouse Castle Lounge. Enjoy!

The Mouse Castle Lounge can also be heard on iTunes and Stitcher.

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