Wednesday, November 27, 2013

MCL: The Cast of 'Frozen' and Remembering Diane Disney Miller

Anna, Olaf and Kristoff from Frozen
Happy Thanksgiving from The Mouse Castle Lounge!

Frozen opens today and in this week's show we hear from the movie's directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee as well as the voice cast including Kristen Bell (Anna), Idina Menzel (Elsa) and Josh Gad (Olaf).

This is the 53rd feature film from Walt Disney Animation Studios and the latest in a long line of stories about fairy tale princesses (albeit independent, empowered ones). You'd never know this from the movie trailers, though, which have gone out of the way to present Frozen as a comedy action adventure centered around a talking snowman with interchangeable parts. It's misleading and indicative of Disney's own lack of faith in its princess legacy. Does anyone (outside of hardcore Disney fans) have any idea that Frozen is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen? Anyone?

Diane Disney Miller
Disney took a similar approach in promoting 2010's Tangled. Dashing rogue Flynn Ryder, not Rapunzel, was the character getting all the attention in Tangled's first promos. Apparently, trying not to alienate male moviegoers who wouldn't be caught dead at a "princess" movie takes precedent over advertising a film strictly on its own merits. It's this bait and switch marketing approach that makes me skeptical about Frozen despite the good reviews I've seen for it. I'll be catching it this weekend. I'll let you know what I think.

Also in the Lounge today, I pay tribute to the late Diane Disney Miller, Walt's daughter and co-founder of the sublime Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. Diane passed away last week at the age of 79 and her death hit Disney fans everywhere very hard. She was a respected philanthropist, patron of the arts and a lifetime champion of her dad's legacy. She will be greatly missed.

It's all in today's episode of The Mouse Castle Lounge. Enjoy!

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Related: 'Frozen' is Hard to Warm Up To

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Disney Legend Marty Sklar in 'The Mouse Castle Lounge'

Dream It! Do It!
Marty Sklar made a lot of memories during his 50-plus years with the Walt Disney Company, none better than when he was tasked with helping out in Disneyland wherever he could during Black Sunday, the infamous grand opening day in 1955 when the Magic Kingdom was overrun with more people than it could handle. He was there primarily to assist the press covering the event, but when a frantic Fess Parker--Disney's Davy Crockett--rode up to Marty on horseback and said, "Help me get out of here before this horse hurts somebody," Marty had to act quickly to guide Parker and his mount safely to a backstage area.

And that was just during Marty's second month of employment.

There would be plenty of other adventures for Marty. He began his career while still attending UCLA where he was the student editor of the Daily Bruin campus newspaper. He was recruited by Disney to publish The Disneyland News, a souvenir newspaper for park guests. Upon graduation, he joined Disneyland's publicity and marketing departments which started him down the road to WED Enterprises (later Walt Disney Imagineering) where he worked on Disney's show development team for the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. He would spend the rest of his career at WDI, eventually serving as its president and vice chairman.

Along the way, he worked closely with Walt Disney, writing speeches and media presentations for him. In the years following Walt's death, Marty opened all the Walt Disney World theme parks as well as Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland. Marty remains the only Disney employee to be present at every Disney park opening around the world.

Marty's memoir, Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney's Magic Kingdoms is a book full of interesting stories from his fascinating career. Marty rambles at times, jumping suddenly from one anecdote to another, but he still shares important pieces of Disney history from Walt's Disneyland heyday to Michael Eisner's brilliant and frustrating regime. Marty was there for all of it and shares his remembrances generously.

Marty is my guest today in The Mouse Castle Lounge. Enjoy!

Marty Sklar
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

'Saving Mr. Banks,' 'Mary Poppins' and 'Thor' in 'The Mouse Castle Lounge'

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks
We're working the red carpets for The Mouse Castle Lounge this week with coverage of the premieres of Saving Mr. Banks and Thor: The Dark World as well as a special 50th-anniversary screening of Mary Poppins at the TCL (formerly Grauman's) Chinese Theater in Hollywood. It's a star-studded episode with plenty of soundbites from the likes of Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Richard Sherman, Dick Van Dyke, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Anthony Hopkins. I'll even chat with my good friend (and fellow Disney dork) Julie Ringquist, who was at AFI Fest for the Saving Mr. Banks premiere. Does it do justice to the story of Walt Disney and P. L. Travers and the making of Mary Poppins? Julie shares her thoughts. 

I have more red carpet photos that I'll post later, but as I promised in the MCL, here's a look at the incredibly hot Jaimie Alexander, who plays Sif in Thor: The Dark World. Wow!

New Trailer for 'Maleficent' Starring Angelina Jolie

I love this new poster for Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie.

The trailer is even better.

The story of Sleeping Beauty's evil sorceress opens in the U.S. on May 30, 2014.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

'Star Wars: Episode VII' Countdown

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Let the countdown begin. Since I'm on the west coast, I'm using L.A. time. Your actual time may vary.

May the Force be with you!

Update 11/6/14: Added the new The Force Awakens graphic!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Tony Baxter's Window and Pat Carroll, Part Two, in the MCL

Tony Baxter
The Mouse Castle congratulates Imagineer Tony Baxter for receiving his own window on Disneyland's Main Street, U.S.A. The popular Disney Legend, best known for his designs of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain and the Indiana Jones Adventure, was honored in a ceremony Friday at the Happiest Place on Earth.

In The Mouse Castle Lounge today, I've got sound clips from the event featuring Tom Staggs, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and, of course, Tony himself, who talks about his 40-plus years of work at Walt Disney Imagineering and his humble beginnings scooping ice cream on Main Street as an eager-to-learn 17-year old. There were many adventures on Tony's career journey, including stints at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris, but the original Magic Kingdom is where Tony will always be connected, and where he is now immortalized over the Main Street Magic Shop.

Also in the Lounge, I have part two of my conversation with actress/comedienne Pat Carroll. In part one, we talked about her iconic role as the voice of Ursula in The Little Mermaid as well as her work with some of the legends of early television like Sid Caesar, Steve Allen and Danny Thomas. Continuing on that theme, Pat reminisces about the great Red Skelton and talks about her award-winning stage work in roles ranging from Gertrude Stein to Shakespeare's John Falstaff (no, really). It's a delightful chat with a smart and talented woman who's spent over 60 years in show business. Enjoy!

Pat Carroll and me at this year's D23 Expo in Anaheim
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Related: Celebrating 'The Mouse Castle Lounge's' First Anniversary with Pat Carroll