Sunday, October 27, 2013

Celebrating 'The Mouse Castle Lounge's' First Anniversary with Pat Carroll

One year ago today, I started this strange podcasting experiment called The Mouse Castle Lounge. It's gone through a lot of twists and turns during the last 12 months: different formats, different lengths, different frequencies (did I really once try to put out an episode every day?!?). I even changed the title for one episode. Thirty-eight shows later, though, I'm happy to see that the Lounge has evolved into a half-hour (give or take a few minutes) interview show full of fascinating people and great conversations. I really should have figured it out sooner. Jeff Kurtti was my first guest on October 27, 2012 and his wonderful knowledge and insight about Disney history should have been my first clue that letting smarter people than I talk about what they know makes for a pretty damn good show.

There would be no Mouse Castle Lounge without an audience, so thank you for taking time to listen. Whether this is your first show or you've managed to slog through all 38 episodes, I'm so very happy you're here. The first round's on me.

I can't think of a better guest to help us celebrate our first anniversary than Pat Carroll, the voice of Ursula in The Little Mermaid. Pat's career reaches back to the early days of television where she worked with greats such as Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Steve Allen and Red Skelton. She's a classically trained actress and comedienne who's won an Emmy and a Grammy for her efforts. She's funny and boisterous and tells the best stories about her entertainment exploits. In part one of our conversation, Pat talks about Ursula and the creative people behind The Little Mermaid who helped her bring her character to life. She also talks about her television career and the perils of riding a motorcycle in Las Vegas.

So, cut off a slice of birthday cake and wash it down with some bubbly. It's time to celebrate in The Mouse Castle Lounge. Enjoy!

Download the episode:

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Related: Tony Baxter's Window and Pat Carroll, Part Two, in the MCL
          Disney Animator Ruben Aquino in 'The Mouse Castle Lounge'

Monday, October 21, 2013

Billy Crystal Talks About Mike Wazowski and 'Monsters University'

On October 29th, Monsters University will be out on Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand (it's already available on Digital HD download). In a Q&A provided by Disney, the voice of Mike Wazowski, comedian Billy Crystal, talks about his return to Monstropolis, working with John Goodman (Sulley) again, and surviving the scariest world of all, social media.

How does it feel to return to the character of Mike Wazowski in Monsters University?
It feels great. I love being this little guy. He’s my favorite character I’ve ever played in anything I have ever done. I don’t know what it is about him, but he’s so infectious to me. I love him.

What excites you most about the return of the monsters of Monsters, Inc.?
One of the great things about this movie is that the kids who went to see the first movie are now college age. When the first movie came out in 2001, John Goodman [who voices Sulley] and I hosted several screenings for kids in New York. All those kids, and kids throughout the world, were 6 or 7 years old back then. They are now the same age that Mike and Sulley are in the movie, so they can look at it in a totally different light. We recently screened the movie for about 400 film students at USC and they went berserk because the movie is about them. They are making the same decisions in their lives that Mike and Sulley are making in the movie.

When it comes to the recording booth for the movie, did you record your voice alongside John Goodman?
We always do that. In the very beginning, I said, “Can John come and work with me in the recording booth?” They said, “Well, we didn’t ask him. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen didn’t do it on Toy Story.” I said to them, “Well, get him in here and see if he’ll do it.” We soon started to work together in there and then great things started to happen.

Why is it better for you to work together in the recording booth?
There were scenes that could not be done unless we were together, like the quiet moments at the lake in Monsters University. They are very powerful scenes, but we weren’t looking at our scripts. We knew our lines and we were able to act very closely together, just like in the movie. I think it really shows.

How would you describe the personality of Mike Wazowski?
Mike loves to be in charge and he is very driven. I understand him completely. He doesn’t take disappointment easily and he’s always hoping for the best. I dig that.

You mention that Mike doesn’t take disappointment easily. When was the last time you felt disappointed?
I’m constantly disappointed. I was disappointed this morning when they said I was going to be working until 5pm! There are constant disappointments in my life. ‘This movie didn’t work well, that didn’t work well; they don’t want to make this, they don’t want to make that…’ There is always something going on, whether it’s in business or in your personal life. Most of the time, your day never really works out the way you want it to work out.

What’s your life motto, Billy?
I got an award at the Geffen Playhouse a while ago, and it was a really lovely night. When I accepted the award, I said to the crowd, “My grandfather said something which was really profound to me. He said, ‘If you hang around a store long enough, soon or later someone is going to give you something.’ So thanks for this!” [Laughs] I don’t know if I have one of those shiny mottos like, ‘Keep your sunny side up!’ Or, ‘Don’t turn your umbrella upside down!’ I just think, ‘Be happy you’re here, and just keep trying to keep yourself happy.’

What’s been your greatest achievement?
Professionally? That I’m still around! This year is turning out to be one of my busiest ever. I’ve had Monsters University and I wrote a book. Plus, I’m going back to Broadway with my one-person show. If there is one thing I loved in particular, it was doing [the play] 700 Sundays on Broadway – as well as all of the tours. That’s why we are going to do it one more time on Broadway.

Let’s step back in time, Billy… What were you like in college?

I was two different guys. At first, I went to school to play baseball – but that didn’t work out, so I transferred home to a junior college where they had a fantastic acting program. That’s where I really went nuts. I was exactly like Mike. I was heavily involved with everything. “Let’s do this, let’s do that!” We built a theater and I got my Actors’ Equity Card – and then I went to film school at NYU.

What did you study at NYU?
To this day, I don’t know why I went to NYU as a directing major. This was nearly 50 years ago and I’ve no idea why I didn’t go as an acting major. I guess I was drawn to directing. I directed various stage projects and I’d made some home movies, so I always liked it.

What was life like at NYU?
As soon as I got there, I went quiet because I was really out of my element. All of the young students were real filmmakers. There was Oliver Stone, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean. Well, Chris was in the acting school but we took film classes together. And my film professor was Martin Scorsese, who was a graduate student not much older than us.

What was Martin Scorsese like back then?
This was 1968 to 1970, and he was an intense guy. He had long hair, a big beard and granny glasses. He was inspirational, but I couldn’t keep up with everything because I was a performer in my heart. Marty was very fluent in movies and he was extremely passionate about them, but I really felt like I wanted to be in front of people. I wanted to be a performer.

You famously hosted The Academy Awards for nine years. Would it be a thrill to host them again? Or would it scare you?
I don’t get scared. My fears are always, ‘Can I be better than I was?’ They haven’t asked me and they probably won’t ask – but if they do, I would listen. However, it’s not something I’m eager to do at this point in my life. As your choices get narrower and your chances to do other things get smaller, I would rather do other things than go back to something I’ve done before.

What scared you when you were younger?
To be honest, I still don’t love the darkness. The unknown has always been a little scary to me. Other than that, my Aunt Sheila was terrifying [when I was a child]. She’d put a napkin to her mouth and she’d say, “You’ve got something on your face, dear.” It would be like, ‘Let me just scratch that off your face; let me sand down your cheek!’

What scares you today?
Those nasty people on Twitter. The people with mean comments. Don’t get me wrong, there are some wonderful people on there – but don’t read any of the people with mean comments.

Are you active on Twitter?
Yes, I am. I do it for publicity reasons. And, every once in a while, if I have something funny to say, I’ll say it on Twitter.

Have people written bad things about you online?
At times, yes. But they do it to everybody. Listen, no one likes to wake up knowing that someone doesn’t like them in the morning, but that’s the way it’s got to be. I don’t answer back. You can’t engage them because you don’t know who they are. It’s a weird world that we have uncovered. There are a lot of anonymous people out there on Twitter and anyone who can press ‘send’ is a potential critic. You get the good and the bad; not everyone is going to like it and I get that – but there is a meanness in some people.

What are your thoughts on the fact that a lot of movie writers and actors are moving to the small screen?
I think the best writing is in television right now. I honestly do. What shows do I like? Elementary is great. Johnny Lee Miller is good. He and Lucy Liu are very good together. I also watch [comedian] Louis C.K. whenever he’s on television, but the best show is The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.

Apart from watching television, how else do you relax?
I love being with the kids. And playing golf is a very nice way to get away from everybody and turn everything off. Sometimes, I might not even play a hole; I’ll just walk. Lately, I’ve also been drawing a little. I’ve been fooling around to see what comes out. And I also write. I can’t say it was hard work to write my latest book because it was very comforting to get on a computer every day. I really enjoyed writing it.

What can you tell us about the new book?
It’s a book about aging. I wrote it when I was approaching 65, which was in March 2013. I thought I would go out on the road and perform the things I wrote about – but then they became more like essays, so it became more of a book than a concert. I gave it to my literary agent and he said, “This is good.” So we sold it as a book, and I just kept going and going. It became a memoir about my 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. It’s very funny, about a man getting older – and it’s called Still Fooling Them. That’s a mantra of mine right before I go out on stage. I really looked forward to working on my computer. Even though it was work, it was very cathartic. I loved it.

'Tinker Bell: An Evolution' in 'The Mouse Castle Lounge'

She's vain, stubborn and prone to jealousy, but she's also magical, intensely loyal and oh so cute. Outside of the Fab Five, Tinker Bell may be Disney's most beloved animated character. Animation historian Mindy Johnson's new book Tinker Bell: An Evolution traces Tink's history from her origins as a jingling beam of light in J.M. Barrie's original stage play Peter Pan to the lengthy and arduous trek that brought her to life at Disney. Mindy is my guest in The Mouse Castle Lounge as we discuss the popular pixie's many iterations over the years and the many artists and performers that contributed to her final look. How did Tink go from being a whimsical sprite named Tippytoe to become an iconic symbol of an entertainment empire with her own line of merchandise? Find out in today's edition of The Mouse Castle Lounge. Enjoy!

Download this episode:

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

Monday, October 14, 2013

'Gravity Falls' Onto DVD

I won't lie. As much as I liked Gravity Falls when it debuted on the Disney Channel in 2012, I began to love it immensely when I met Kristen Schaal (voice of GF's Mabel Pines) at the D23 Expo and she gave me drink recipes.

Hey, my loyalties can be bought for the price of a cocktail. I am not ashamed.

But seriously, this is really fun show.

Gravity Falls finally comes to DVD on Tuesday with Six Strange Tales (the first six episodes of the series actually) and it's a great introduction to the odd folk and creatures of Gravity Falls, the mysterious backwoods Oregon town where 12-year old twins Dipper (Jason Ritter) and Mabel Pines spend the summer with their grumpy charlatan of a great uncle, "Grunkle" Stan (series creator Alex Hirsch).

There are bizarre things to investigate at every turn as ever-curious Dipper and ever-optimistic Mabel unlock the secrets of angry gnomes, giant lake monsters and wax figures come-to-life with the aid of a mysterious journal that may hold the key to even bigger secrets. It's all in good fun with irreverent humor and oddball characters that make Gravity Falls one of the most original animated shows on TV.

The following episodes are included on the DVD:

1 - “Tourist Trapped”
2 - “The Legend of the Gobblewonker”
3 - “Headhunters”
4 - “The Hand That Rocks the Mabel”
5 - “The Inconveniencing”
6 - “Dipper vs. Manliness”

The package also includes a "Mystery Journal 3" booklet containing sketches and clues to the secrets of Gravity Falls, but mostly it's just a lot of illegible scribbles. Hey, they can't give everything away--it's only season one. Just, remember...TRUST NO ONE!

And....COCKTAILS FOREVER! (Thanks, Kristen).

Friday, October 11, 2013

'Escape From Tomorrow' in 'The Mouse Castle Lounge'

Escape From Tomorrow is the new independent film Disney doesn't want you to see. Shot on Disney theme park property without Disney's knowledge or consent, the film paints a dark, surreal picture of life behind the pixie dust. It's created quite a stir since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January and today it goes into limited release in theaters nationwide. It will also be available in video-on-demand on iTunes and Amazon.

Sara (Katelynn Rodriguez) watches her dad (Roy Abramsohn) freak out on It's a Small World in Escape From Tomorrow.
In The Mouse Castle Lounge, I talk with Escape From Tomorrow's director Randy Moore about how he secretly made a feature length film at Disneyland and Walt Disney World and what he feels the message of his movie is. Joining Moore are his two stars, Roy Abramsohn and Elena Schuber, who talk about their roles and what it was like to make a film with Disney as the backdrop.

I also share my review of the film. Is it a daring piece of guerrilla film making, or is pulling one over on Disney the only thing it has going for it? Find out in today's edition of The Mouse Castle Lounge. Enjoy!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Remembering Roy E. Disney With Dave Bossert in 'The Mouse Castle Lounge'

Roy E. Disney saved the Walt Disney Company...twice. He was at the center of two memorable boardroom battles in 1984 and in the early 2000s that resulted in new corporate leadership. Both times the company came out better for it.

In The Mouse Castle Lounge today, I chat with longtime Disney animator, director and producer Dave Bossert.  Dave has written a new book about Roy E. Disney that touches on Roy's well-known corporate entanglements, but mostly pays tribute to Roy Disney the man, and tells the stories of the many people--particularly in Disney Animation--who knew, respected and admired him. The book is entitled Remembering Roy E. Disney: Memories and Photos of a Storied Life. It's an insightful look at the man who led the charge to resurrect his father's and uncle's company, and enabled Disney to thrive during what would become the Second Golden Age of Animation.

In our conversation, Dave and I talk about Roy's life and legacy and Dave shares some great stories about a memorable Oscar night and the time he had to lend billionaire Roy Disney a hundred dollars.


(l. to r.) Dave Bossert, artist and story man Joe Grant, and Roy E. Disney celebrate Grant's 95th birthday at the
Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2003.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

'Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel' Giveaway

One of Phineas and Ferb's most clever episodes is out on DVD this week and you can win a free copy from The Mouse Castle.

Worlds collide in Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel when super heroes Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor and the Incredible Hulk visit Danville after Dr. Doofenshmirtz accidentally steals their powers with his latest "-inator." It's up to Phineas and Ferb to help the heroes get their powers back and defeat super villains Red Skull, MODOK, Whiplash and Venom before Danville is destroyed.

The DVD includes Mission Marvel and six other P&F episodes plus one of three randomly packaged Mission Marvel posters:

How to Win Your Copy of Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel

To be entered in the drawing, all you have to do is LIKE our Facebook page at AND JOIN our event at  You must be a U.S. resident to enter. Only one entry per person, please. Winners will be announced on our Facebook page after the entry deadline. Thanks for supporting The Mouse Castle and The Mouse Castle Lounge. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

'Part of Your World,' Ariel's 'I Want' Song

"In almost every musical ever written, there's a place--it's usually about the third song of the evening, sometimes it's the second, sometimes it's the fourth, but it's quite early--and the leading lady usually sits down on something. Sometimes it's a tree stump in Brigadoon, sometimes it's under the pillars of Covent Garden in My Fair Lady or it's a trash can in Little Shop of Horrors. But the leading lady sits down on something and sings about what she wants in life. And the audience falls in love with her and then roots for her to get it for the rest of the night." -- Howard Ashman

Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel, remembers Howard Ashman and making The Little Mermaid.

The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition is available today on Blu-ray Combo Pack.