Thursday, June 26, 2014

Disney Spotlighting a Community of 'Citizen Kids'

Growing up as a kid, my priorities ran somewhere along the lines of getting good grades, staying a step ahead of neighborhood bullies, and figuring out girls (a challenge that as an adult I still struggle with). One thing I know for certain, I wasn't an aspiring Olympian, the owner of a recycling company, or a veterinarian in training.

These kids are.

The new Disney web series, Citizen Kid, is all about sharing the stories of ordinary kids doing extraordinary things. Prepare to be inspired by the three videos below--a perhaps a little shamed. These kids are making a difference. Are you?

New installments of the 18-episode series will be released on Wednesdays. To see more and maybe share a Citizen Kid story of your own, visit

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Pixar's 'Inside Out' Flows with 'Lava'

We've heard a little bit about Pixar's new film, Inside Out, opening in the U.S. on June 19, 2015. Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up) will direct this whimsical journey into a young girl's mind where all her emotions play out: Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). There's considerable talent attached to this project--and it's an original project, not a sequel. I am seriously excited about this film.

What we haven't heard as much about yet is the short film that will precede Inside Out in theaters. Disney/Pixar has now confirmed it's called Lava, it will be set on a volcanic tropical island, and it will be a "musical love story that takes place over millions of years."

I'm intrigued.

Here's the poster for Lava. Note the erupting volcano. Note the playfully paired up sea and air creatures. This one looks fun.

Lava will be directed by James Ford Murphy and produced by Andrea Warren.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

'Gravity Falls' Returns to Disney Channel August 1st

Dipper and Mabel Pines will be back in the Mystery Shack and I couldn't be happier.

The gleefully offbeat Gravity Falls finally returns for its second season on Disney Channel August 1st at 9 p.m., ET/PT, followed by its debut on Disney XD August 4th.

In season two, insecure, neurotic Dipper (Jason Ritter) and fearless, free-spirited Mabel (Kristen Schaal) delve deeper into the mystery of Journal #3 while their shifty Great Uncle Stan (Alex Hirsch) cooks up some secrets of his own in the basement of the Mystery Shack.

Gravity Falls is promising more more monsters, more magic and some pretty cool guest stars in season two. Both Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille) will make voice appearances.

To get you primed for the new episodes, Disney XD is holding a Gravity Falls marathon July 26-27 from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., ET/PT, featuring every first season show and short. Yes, I will be tuning in.

I'd call Gravity Falls a guilty pleasure, but that suggests there's something wrong with it. It's Disney Channel/XD's best animated series (sorry, Phineas and Ferb) and it'll be great to welcome it back.

'Gravity Falls' Onto DVD
May the Ferb Be With You; 'Phineas and Ferb' to Take On 'Star Wars'

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

'Guardians of the Galaxy' Character Posters and New Trailer

A thief, an assassin, two thugs and a maniac. Check out these great new character posters from Guardians of the Galaxy, opening in the U.S. on August 1st.

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill aka Star-Lord
Zoe Saldana as Gamora
Bradley Cooper as Rocket and
Vin Diesel as Groot
Dave Bautista as Drax
Oh, and just for fun, here's the latest U.K. trailer released today:

Brad Paisley Goes 'All In' for Disney's 'Planes: Fire & Rescue'

Planes, Disney's ugly cousin to Pixar's Cars franchise, will be back in theaters on July 18th with Planes: Fire & Rescue. Dusty Crophopper, the unlikely crop dusting race champion from the first film will return as an even unlikelier member of an elite firefighting team.

Country singer Brad Paisley, no stranger to writing songs for Disney/Pixar films, has crafted two tunes for Planes: Fire & Rescue. All In is his tribute to the courage and dedication of firefighters that also honors members of his family who are firefighters themselves. In the video below, Paisley talks about the song and how he came to write it.

Friday, June 13, 2014

May the Ferb Be With You; 'Phineas and Ferb' to Take On 'Star Wars'

I know what we're going to do today. Chill on the landspeeder.
After last year's cartoon mashup Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, it was only a matter of time before series creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh took on that other recent Disney acquistion.

And lo, Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars was born.

The nerdy-cool half brothers will cross paths with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and a host of other Star Wars characters when the one-hour special airs on Disney Channel Saturday, July 26th at 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. Verified users on WATCH Disney Channel and Disney XD on Demand can catch a first look at the show a week earlier on July 19th.

In Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars, the boys live on Tatooine one moisture farm over from Luke Skywalker. Paralleling Star Wars: Episode IV, they find themselves embroiled in Imperial intrigue and adventure when R2-D2, replete with Death Star plans, inadvertently ends up in their landspeeder. Then, it's up to Phineas and Ferb to return the plans to the Rebel Alliance and save the galaxy.

All the characters you expect from Star Wars will make appearances including Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO, plus the Phineas and Ferb ensemble of Stormtrooper Candace (you are so busted, rebel scum!), pilot Isabella, Evil Dr. Darthenshmirtz (with his new Sith-inator) and, of course, Perry...the Rebelpus?

Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars will be available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Microsoft Xbox and Google Play on July 27th. The special will be part of a Star Wars-themed night of programming on Disney XD on August 4th.

'Gravity Falls' Returns to Disney Channel August 1st

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

'The Lion King' Returns to TV With 'The Lion Guard'

Kion in The Lion Guard
The Lion King is coming back to television on Disney Junior and Disney Channel.

The Lion Guard, a new animated series targeting kids age 2-7, will debut in early 2016. A full-length TV movie of the same name will precede the series in Fall 2015.

The series will follow the adventures of Kion, the second-born cub of Simba and Nala as he sets out to preserve the Pride Lands by organizing a group of diverse animals: a honey badger (who we presume doesn't care), a cheetah, a hippo and an egret. There will be appearances by other Lion King alums including Mufasa (wait, isn't he dead?), Timon, Pumbaa, Rafiki and Zazu. We'll also meet Kion's big sister, Kiara, the future Queen of the Pride Lands.

The Lion Guard is being developed by executive producer Ford Riley and will be directed by Howy Parkins.

This will be the first Lion King-based television series since Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa ran on CBS and in syndication (it was part of The Disney Afternoon) from 1995-1997.

He's working on his roar.

The Making of 'The Lion King'

Reservations at Club 33? Think Again

Dining at Disneyland's exclusive, members-only restaurant, Club 33, has always required one of two things: a boatload of money or connections (preferably both). The boatload of money comes from Club members who have ponied up $25,000 for the right to join and then pay up to $11,000 in annual dues. Most of the rest of us who have been to Club 33 don't go that route. We require connections: know a Club member who likes you and is willing to make a reservation for you. Once upon a time you could book up to 60 days in advance (90 days if the Club member went with you) for the privilege of plunking down $150 for a quiet lunch or dinner in Disneyland's most luxe location. Network with the right people and it was a pretty easy process--and you could make a reservation as often as time and budget allowed.

That's about to change.

In a letter sent to members this week, Club 33 is adjusting its reservations policy to coincide with its reopening on July 18, following a six-month remodel and refurbishment. According to the letter, non-member reservations are going to be harder to come by:
Each Membership will continue to have the opportunity to make dining reservations for unaccompanied guests in Le Grand Salon dining room. To allow for appropriate availability and access for all Members, the following policy for unaccompanied guest reservations will be in effect:
  • For all weekends (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) and the holiday period from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, dining reservations for unaccompanied guests may be requested up to three (3) days in advance.
  • During all other time periods, unaccompanied guest reservations may be requested up to fourteen (14) days in advance.
  • Each Membership may book up to twenty (20) reservations for unaccompanied guests during one calendar year.
So the window for "unaccompanied guests" to book reservations has gotten shorter and there's a ceiling on the total amount of these reservations a member can make. Rumor has it that this policy came about because of members making excessive "unaccompanied guest" reservations, causing the restaurant to sell out, and denying other members the opportunity to book their own reservations.

Makes sense to me. If I was a member and found out I couldn't make a reservation because non-members shut me out, I'd be pissed. For the amount of money members pay, a degree of exclusivity should come with it. Members should always have first crack at booking a table.

First World problems, I know.

I also know I can't wait to see the newly remodeled Club 33 when it reopens. The new Le Salon Nouveau lounge (available to members only and their guests) and a refurbished dining room are quite enticing. I expect it might take me a while before I can get back in there--the place is going to be packed in July and August--but rest assured when I do you'll read all about it in The Mouse Castle, with pictures.

I hope my Club 33 friends keep me in mind. You know, 20 reservations a year is really quite a lot. Right? Right?

Inside Club 33

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Spider-Man Joins Forces With 'Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes'

The twelve year-old in my brain is still giddy about Disney Infinity 2.0 and the addition of Marvel characters this fall. At E3 today, Disney Interactive announced Spider-Man will join the fray with a new play set that includes the web slinger as a playable character along with Nick Fury, Iron Fist, Nova and Venom. The storyline centers around Spidey's arch-nemesis Green Goblin out to destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. by cloning symbiotes from Venom and unleashing them on Manhattan. Sounds like a party to me.

As your favorite hero, you can battle Green Goblin, Mysterio and their evil minions on the streets, in the air, underground and in laboratories. Along the way, you'll encounter other denizens of the Marvel universe like White Tiger, Black Cat and Luke Cage and use all manner of cool props, weapons and vehicles. Like with all the other Disney Infinity sets, you can also break out in Toy Box mode, creating whatever imaginative worlds strike your fancy, and pull your other Infinity characters into the mix.


Iron Fist
Nick Fury

Monday, June 9, 2014

Oh Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy!

Me and Mr. Duck. Happy Birthday, Donald!
You know, I really intended to do this quietly. I was going to gradually ramp things up and see if you noticed. Then I realized it was all going to start on Donald Duck's 80th birthday.

Donald Duck doesn't do subtle. Never has. Never will.

So, I guess I won't either.

It's a brand new day at The Mouse Castle. I've been puttering along with this blog in its various iterations for over five years. It's been fun playing around with this decidedly mixed bag of news, movie and product reviews, interviews, commentary, and, well, whatever I felt like writing about. But, it's always been a part-time passion for me, a glorified hobby that more times than not took a backseat to my day job, which wasn't even remotely related to Disney. That meant a lot of stories I wanted to write about went unwritten because I simply didn't have the time. I loved blogging, but I was frustrated by what I couldn't get to.

When I launched The Mouse Castle Lounge podcast in October 2012, it was also something I worked on part-time. It was hectic shoehorning interviews and late night editing sessions into an already busy home and career schedule. Make no mistake, though, I loved every minute of it too and I take great pride in knowing I managed to produce over 60 shows on tight time constraints and shared wonderful guests with you like Diane Disney Miller, Don Hahn, Pat Carroll, the Bancroft Brothers and Marty Sklar. But, yeah, there were frustrations. Too many times I felt rushed and not fully prepared to do interviews. Rushing home on an extended lunch hour is not the best way to interview John Canemaker. But, you know something? I interviewed John Canemaker! I must be doing something right.

Which brings us to today, Donald's birthday. This is the duck who beat down Mickey Mouse's "William Tell Overture" with "Turkey in the Straw" on his fife. He's a feisty one, that duck. Right or wrong, he never backs away from a challenge and he can totally rock "Mary Had a Little Lamb" in front of an audience of bratty orphans. So, in honor of Donald Duck's inimitable, irascible style on his 80th birthday, I'm happy to announce that starting today, The Mouse Castle is now a full-time enterprise. I've finally put the workaday grind behind me to devote myself completely to this weird and wonderful corner of Disney fandom. You're stuck with me now, people. Get used to it.

So what does this mean exactly?

It means more news, more reviews, more interviews, more ME! It means more hanging out in the best place around to share your Disney nerdiness...and then joining me for a cocktail or two. It means that after a month-long hiatus, The Mouse Castle Lounge will be back later this month with even more terrific guests.

I could tell you more, but even I haven't figured it all out yet--and that's the most exciting part of all. Stay tuned. I have a few projects going on behind the scenes that I'll reveal when the time comes, but for now, just take a step back inside The Mouse Castle and let's have some fun.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

PBS Looking For People Who Remember the Early Days of Disneyland

Our friends at the Disney History Institute are among the historians consulting with the producers of a new Walt Disney documentary for PBS's American Experience series. Todd Pierce with DHI posted this on Facebook yesterday:
OPPORTUNITY WITH PBS: For the past six months, Paul [Anderson] and I have been working with a PBS production company that is developing a four-hour documentary on the life of Walt Disney. Recently, one of the members of the production team (for Sarah Colt Productions / PBS American Experience) asked if we'd post this notice on our Facebook page. They are looking for (1) people who remember the early Disneyland anthology TV shows, particularly the cultural phenomenon of Davy Crockett and the Mickey Mouse Club and (2) people who went to Disneyland in the 1950s (the earlier the better). They would like to include first hand experiences of people whose childhood was shaped by these two Disney influences. So, basically, you'd need to be at least 60 or 65 years old and have clear memories of the way that the TV shows and/or the park framed your childhood. But for a few people, this will be a fabulous opportunity. The note that Helen asked me to post is below. Good Luck! 
[From Helen Ryan] A documentary filmmaker is producing a four-hour biography about Walt Disney for PBS's history series American Experience. To aid in the research for the project, we are interested in having phone conversations with individuals (specifically, "baby boomers") who visited Disneyland circa 1955-1965 about their recollections of this experience. In addition, we'd like to hear about your childhood memories of watching Disney films (animations and live-action) and Disney TV shows (for example, Davy Crockett and The Mickey Mouse Club) pre-1967. Please contact [e-mail] if you are interested in setting up a phone call or have questions.
I omitted the e-mail address to keep the spammers away. If you remember those glorious early days of Disneyland and Disney on TV, you can find the address on DHI's Facebook page or you can message me at The Mouse Castle.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

'Maleficent' Lacks Evil Appeal

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent
On paper, Maleficent should work. Take one of Disney's most evil and iconic villains, a masterful creation by animation legend Marc Davis, and tell her whole story, a story of betrayal and vengeance outside the confines of Sleeping Beauty. Cast Angelina Jolie in the lead, an Oscar-winning actress with unquestionable screen presence who's expressed admiration for the title character and who, well, kind of looks like her. Bring in first-time director Robert Stromberg, a gifted art director and visual effects guy with two Oscars of his own, then add to the mix screenwriter Linda Woolverton, who has a distinguished Disney pedigree that includes Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. What could possibly go wrong?


Sharlto Copley as King Stefan.
Maleficent is a dark, plodding and joyless exercise in Disney revisionism that, even as it updates the title character for modern audiences, completely abandons what made her such a delightful villain to begin with. The animated Maleficent we were introduced to 55 years ago was dramatic, flamboyant and evil to the core. She was a badass sorceress who could hold a grudge for 16 years and morph into a fire-breathing dragon if you really pissed her off. Today's live action Maleficent isn't evil so much as she's moody, spiteful and victimized. When the douchebag-who-would-be-king Stefan (Sharlto Copley) uses Maleficent's childhood affections for him against her to fuel his relentless ambition, she pays him back years later by putting a curse on his newborn daughter that will take hold when the princess is a teenager. Then, for the rest of the movie, Maleficent has spellcaster's remorse and broods over whether it was a good idea to doom the innocent child--who Maleficent will gradually develop a relationship with--to sleeping death.

I don't want a villain with a conscience. I want evil. Can we have some evil here?

Oh, wait. Maleficent isn't really evil. She's just misunderstood. It's obsessed, power-hungry Stefan who's the evil one. Now I get it.

I don't like it.

Diaval (Sam Riley) in human form with Maleficent.
Maleficent starts out well enough. Our dark heroine is a powerful winged fairy and the de facto protector of a community of peaceful and magical fairy folk. They live on the moors adjacent to a kingdom of greedy and ambitious humans who don't like their neighbors. Conflict is inevitable, which results in a pretty nifty battle scene early on between all the king's men and the creatures of the moors. Under Maleficent's leadership, the mythical beasties beat back the advancing army. Later, when it's time for Maleficent to "bestow a gift" on the newborn Princess Aurora, it plays almost identical to the same scene in Disney's Sleeping Beauty. It's a wonderfully executed homage to the original and Jolie sinks her teeth into it with great relish. Had she been given more moments like this, Maleficent would be a far more buoyant and entertaining film. Instead, Stromberg and Woolverton opt to make the horned sorceress conflicted and introspective, even noble--and suck all the life out of the story. We're meant to like Maleficent for her complexities, but it's clear the filmmakers have forgotten the real appeal of the character has always been how deliciously evil she is.

As the teenage Aurora, Elle Fanning is fine in a role that doesn't give her much to do except smile a lot and be pure of heart. Better is Sam Riley as Maleficent's loyal henchman and spy Diaval, who gets changed from a raven to a human and back again as suits his master.

Maleficent had such potential to build on the legacy of one of Disney's most revered diabolical characters. Instead, it denies us the gleefully unrepentant villain who made us love to hate her in the first place.

Maleficent and a sleepy Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning).
Related Stories: 
'Maleficent' Executive Producer Don Hahn in the MCL
Elle Fanning Visits Disneyland