Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Mouse Castle Lounge 01-29-2015 - 'Walt Before Mickey' Author Tim Susanin

By Tim Callaway

Walt Before Mickey
Walt Before Mickey
Tim Susanin is an investigative attorney by profession whose curiosity was piqued just over ten years ago on a family vacation to Walt Disney World. He became fascinated with the Florida resort’s namesake and began to wonder how Walt Disney went from a simple midwest upbringing to founding an animation studio that became a worldwide media empire. So, Tim started reading and researching and digging. He soon discovered that while there was plenty written about Walt after Mickey Mouse made him a success, there was very little detailed documentation about the years that led up to that. What happened to Walt after he returned from France in 1919? What did he do until success ultimately found him in 1928?

Tim did extensive research on the period and talked to other authors and historians, even members of the Disney family. The result of his efforts became the book Walt Before Mickey: Disney’s Early Years, 1919-1928. It was published in 2011 and was received well by fans, historians and critics. Today, Walt Before Mickey is about to become a motion picture starring Thomas Ian Nicholas as Walt Disney and Jon Heder as his brother Roy Disney. Tim Susanin is my guest today in The Mouse Castle Lounge.

Listen and subscribe to The Mouse Castle Lounge on iTunesStitcher and SoundCloud.

Disneyland's 60th Anniversary: Is that all there is?

By Tim Callaway

"You used to be much more...'muchier.' You've lost your muchness." -- The Mad Hatter

Disneyland Diamond Celebration
I'm not sure exactly what I wanted from Wednesday night's announcements about Disneyland's 60th birthday celebration, but they definitely needed to be muchier.

Sure, the details of the new fireworks show, nighttime parade and World of Color update sounded intriguing enough, but the fact that enhancements to these shows were pretty much expected left me feeling underwhelmed.

They were missing, as Steve Jobs used to say, "One more thing."

Another 24-hour party to kick off the celebration would've been nice. I know Anthony, my cohort from Inside The Mouse Castle, was hoping for some kind of a Haunted Mansion hatbox ghost announcement (the rumor is back and gaining traction--what's with the mysterious panel across from the bride in the attic these days?). Nicki, who loyally follows us on Facebook, was jonesing for anything to do with 60th anniversary merchandise.

We expect to hear more between now and May 22nd, when the festivities officially kick off, but for now we'll have to be satisfied with these Disneyland Diamond Celebration announcements. Will the celebration be better than what we experienced during the 50th year? We'll see.

Tinker Bell in Paint the Night

Paint the Night - 1.5 million LED lights will illuminate this Main Street Electrical Parade on steroids. With a clear tie-in to Fantasmic!, Mickey Mouse will use his imagination and some pixie dust from Tinker Bell to bring Disney dreams to life. Among those dreams will be familiar characters from Monsters, Inc., Cars, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story and Frozen.

Disneyland Forever Fireworks

Disneyland Forever Fireworks - I really like that Disney Legend Richard Sherman has penned a new song ("Kiss Goodnight") for Disneyland's latest "dazzling fireworks show." I also like that new projection effects on Main Street, U.S.A., it’s a small world, the Rivers of America and the Matterhorn will create unique viewing experiences throughout the park. But will Disneyland Forever touch my heart like Remember...Dreams Come True did during Disneyland's 50th birthday?

Okay, the new projections do look cool.

World of Color – Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney - World of Color has always been a great technical show at Disney California Adventure, but it lacks the heart and engagement of Fantasmic! across the esplanade at Disneyland. Will this nostalgic variation paying tribute to the life and accomplishments of Walt Disney finally make World of Color a show worth seeing again and again?

Sleeping Beauty Castle and Carthay Circle Theatre 60th anniversary concepts.
Both parks will of course be adorned with Diamond Celebration decor (the construction walls have already gone up around Sleeping Beauty Castle to prepare for the transformation), but is that all there is? Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Staggs says there will be more. We hope so. If last night was just the start, then surprise us, Tom. The changes are nice, but they still feel routine. In a year when Disneyland won't have any new attractions opening (and is unlikely to announce any until the D23 Expo in August), the 60th anniversary is going to need to be something much more special.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Inside The Mouse Castle 01-26-2015 - Emma Watson is Belle, 'Strange Magic' is Bad, Disney Cruise Line is Frozen

By Tim Callaway

Emma Watson
In a surprising and pretty exciting casting announcement, we learned today that Emma Watson (Harry Potter and the etc., etc.) will play Belle in the live-action movie version of Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

Okay, I'm excited, but Anthony's a little skeptical.

Still, Emma Watson is going to be Belle!

The film, directed by Bill Condon, will start shooting later this year and likely be released in 2016. And yeah, I get that this is yet another live-action redo of classic Disney animation (see 101 Dalmatians, Cinderella and The Jungle Book), but, dude, Emma Watson is going to be BELLE!

Also in this episode of Inside The Mouse Castle:
  • Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner) is hopping aboard Pirates of the Caribbean 5. The film is currently in pre-production in Australia and is looking at a July 2017 release date.
  • Strange Magic crashed and burned at the box office over the weekend. The Lucasfilm release, with a story by executive producer George Lucas, was skewered by critics and took in a paltry $5.5 million.
  • One story George Lucas won't get credit for is the one for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In a recent interview, Lucas said, "The [stories] that I sold to Disney, they came up to the decision that they didn't really want to do those. So they made up their own."
Anna, Olaf and Elsa join Disney Cruise Line
Anna, Olaf and Elsa want to take you on a sea cruise.
  • Some classic Disney comic books from the past will make a return later this year when IDW Publishing releases a series of Uncle Scrooge, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Walt Disney Comics and Stories titles.
  • It's that time of year. Ticket prices at Disneyland and Walt Disney World are due to increase soon--at least that's what the rumor mill says. Let the emotional outbursts from fans begin!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Lucasfilm's 'Strange Magic' is Beautiful but Boring

By Ron Fleming

Dawn and Marianne in Strange Magic
Dawn and Marianne in Strange Magic.
January is notorious for being a dumping ground for films that major studios just don’t know what to do with. Unless it’s a year-end Oscar-nominated film going from limited to wide release, one can almost surely bet that any new film coming out this month is going to be a turkey.

Being a lover of movies that are so bad they’re good, I took up the challenge of seeing Lucasfilm's new animated jukebox musical, Strange Magic. Tim threw out the suggestion to us here at The Mouse Castle and it was met with the sounds of crickets. I picked up the gauntlet in hopes that my Lucasfilm-loving boyfriend might tag along with me. Hmm. He’d never heard of it and after I sent him a link to view the trailer he flatly told me he had no interest.

I knew then that I was in for a real treat. I hoped for a movie so bad it was good. Instead I got a movie that was so bad it was just bad. That said, the movie has ambition. It just fails in nearly every regard.

Strange Magic is loosely based on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and oh, if it were only a smidgen as enjoyable as that play. The story is by George Lucas with a screenplay credited to three writers: David Berenbaum, Irene Mecchi, and Gary Rydstrom. Did I mention it’s a musical? Well, it is only in the sense that it uses pre-existing pop songs to drive plot and character. It’s a device that seldom works as songs in these kinds of musicals were never meant to serve a purpose different from their original intent--and they don't work effectively here either. The songs are a grab-bag of styles over decades of music used in such a manner as to become an incoherent jumble.

Marianne and Roland in Strange Magic
Marianne and Roland.
The film opens promisingly enough with some rather joyful exposition which sets up Strange Magic's fairy tale world. You see, there’s a land, a land of fairies. One side is bright and happy, the other side dark and forbidding. Oooooh, scary! The Dark Forest is ruled by the Bog King (Alan Cumming) who, years ago, shunned love and now does everything in his power to keep it away from himself and the creatures who inhabit his forest. Bordering the two lands are primroses, which can be made into a magical love potion by the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth) who, for reasons that were explained well after I stopped caring about the film, has been imprisoned by the Bog King.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Fairy Land we meet Princess Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) as she flies through the air on her wedding day singing “Can’t Help Falling in Love." She's looking for the perfect flower to make a boutonniere for Roland, a rather good looking and vain fairy with the voice of a bad Elvis Presley impersonator (Sam Palladio). Things aren't quite what they seem between Marianne and Roland. Turns out he's mackin' on another fairy and only planned to marry Marianne to gain an army and a royal title from her father the King. The wedding is off (gasp!) causing Marianne to turn her back on love while singing Dionne Warwick's "I'll Never Fall in Love Again." Instead of being a poignant moment of love lost, it's laughable.

Dawn and Sunny in Strange Magic
Dawn and Sunny.
At this point I was sure I was in for a real camp-fest, but then we meet Marianne’s sister Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull), another fairy princess who yearns for love, and a plain looking, ordinary elf named Sunny (Elijah Kelley) who just "wants to be noticed." At Roland's request, Sunny goes on a quest for the Sugar Plum Fairy's love potion. With the potion, maybe Dawn will notice and fall in love with Sunny, and maybe Marianne will fall in love with Ro-- Never mind. At the 20 minute mark the film fizzles out entirely and any good will drummed up by the opening montage and the hopes I had of a campy madcap romp evaporated.

And more's the pity because the animation by Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic is stellar. The world presented here, especially in the opening montage, is fully realized in a wide array of creatures, plant life and other exquisite details. The opening flights of Marianne and the Bog King are so immersive and fantastical that I was surprised the film wasn't shot in 3-D. This is a sequence that practically begs for it for all the right reasons. My one complaint about the character animation is in the details of character design. The fairies are based on humans, obviously, and they all have cartoon like triangular heads in the Disney mold--oversized eyes, tiny mouths, etc. Nothing wrong with that. They're cartoon characters after all. But the problem lies in the realistic rendering of skin. Skin tones look natural, some characters even freckled, but it all leads to that uncomfortable Uncanny Valley, that place between real and cartoon, that makes me squirm.

The Bog King in Strange Magic
The Bog King.
Director Gary Rydstrom knows to frame images and move the camera around for maximum effect. For as much as this film went off the rails story-wise I was never bored looking at its visuals. And look at it I did as my brain checked out on a story that anyone with a basic knowledge of storytelling can see coming from miles away regardless of the twists and turns Strange Magic takes.

Now, the Bog King is a wonderful creation from start to finish. He’s tall, lean, and resembles an insect somewhere between a grasshopper and a cockroach. He has an iridescent glow through his ruddy browns and Cumming superbly voices him. Cumming knows exactly just what kind of movie he’s in and he injects his lovelorn character with believability, menace, and some real heart. The Bog King is the only character with any real personality at all. Cumming also gets to show off his rock star voice by singing Deep Purple’s “Mistreated.” It’s a camp delight. It was the one moment where the film almost got back on track. Almost.

Marianne and the Bog King face off in Strange Magic
Marianne and the Bog King face off.
Sadly, there isn't much to say for the rest of the cast who gives this crapfest all they have but have been directed to a point of such overblown sincerity that every joke and every song falls horribly flat. There are a lot of good actors here who have been given such poor material that I feel bad for them. It’s a shame too. There’s an interesting story somewhere in this movie. It takes twists and turns and there are loyalties and allegiances that change. It's not uninteresting except that it is. There's not enough back story to justify character’s motivations. I didn't know why I should care about any of these fairies and their love woes. Making it a jukebox musical romp didn't work either. The songs pulled me out of the story instead of into it and made me laugh at the film instead of with it. Those were the only laughs in a film is so desperate for laughs it even swings low for a “gay panic” joke when Sunny the Elf and his friend, whose name I never caught, wind up in a kiss. “That’s disgusting!” says one, “It can’t get worse!” says the other. Ugh.

Surely, the comedy is for the kids in the audience but even they weren't laughing. I was the lone single adult at my 9:30 AM Saturday morning screening. I chose to see Strange Magic then because of the cheap ticket prices before noon (yes, I paid to see this!) and because this particular theater has very comfortable recliner seats. At least my discomfort was comfortable. When the film was over I stood up and noticed that the little girl with the family next to me was dead asleep. The two tots behind me were also curled up taking naps. I’m betting their parents wished they had done the same.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Disney Collectibles Corner: Dishing on Dishes

By Susie Prendergast

I grew up near Disneyland, but it was still a once-a-year trip, maybe twice if we got lucky. So, at the beginning, my collecting was very limited. A stuffed Mickey, a giant swirly lollipop, a plastic wallet, those giant pencils that you could never figure out how to sharpen, a Donald Duck hat with a squeaker in the brim, all random and impulsive kid purchases. I went through a phase in middle and high school where my friends and I would all get matching hats and wear them for the day, our nicknames embroidered on the back. The problem with that collection was that there was not much use for a pirate hat after the day was done and we went back to school, so I ended up with a dusty hat rack and nothing more to show for my money.

When I went to college, I started working, and a new thing happened: the Disney Store opened! Now I had some real money to spend, so I ordered every new movie on VHS in order to collect the lithographs that came with them, and at some point I started collecting Disney watches. Someone gave me a Winnie the Pooh charm bracelet, so I had to go collect each of the charms as they were released too. Then I started to narrow my focus to just Alice in Wonderland stuff. And then suddenly, I had to become a responsible, home-owning adult and parent, and the days of buying whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted came to a screeching halt. I needed a better plan.

I decided on some rules:
  1. Whatever I bought had to be useful. It had to serve a purpose. My house is really small and I don’t have room to display a lot of stuff. 
  2. It had to be unique.
  3. It had to be from the park, because that’s what I love the most, the place itself, but not souvenir stuff. 
  4. It couldn't be part of a series where I was going to have to make myself crazy trying to get all of the pieces. 
One day at an antiques market, I found my answer.

Disneyland Dishes

I stumbled upon some old Disneyland restaurant plates in a stack of some other stuff and I bought them immediately. These aren't super old, but they are pretty neat because they aren't made to be collected, and you kind of have to just find them out in the wild by chance. They are white, with two gold bands and a gold Disneyland “D” in a shield at the top. Most of the plates are back-stamped to show they were made by Homer Laughlin China, the maker of Fiesta Ware. The manufacturing code shows that they were made in 1994, which is a later date than I would have expected. Two were made by Mayer China in 1975. One is marked Syralite and that one is a slightly different shape and size, with a date of 1970. I have several dinner plates, a handful of smaller bread/dessert plates, and an oval platter that is currently listed on eBay for $74.50. So, not too shabby, though I won’t be parting with mine any time soon!

Disneyland Dish Backstamps

I love these plates because they are practical and not precious. They are meant to be sturdy and hold up in an industrial dishwasher, so I can actually use the plates everyday and not have to worry about babying them. It’s fun to cruise eBay every so often and see what pops up, but I don’t have to be obsessive about finding every last piece to complete a set. I do still covet those miniature Olszewski pieces, but that kind of collecting just isn't my style. That said, now that I've gotten down all of my plates and inspected them, I’m sure I’ll be spending a few days hunting around the Internet to see if I can find anything new. I like that I can be a casual armchair collector because this item is very specific and yet kind of obscure at the same time. The pieces aren't incredibly rare or amazing, but the market isn't exactly flooded with them either, so that alone keeps me from having developed an expensive collecting habit. That’s a win-win for me!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Iceberg, Right Ahead! Disney Cruise Line Will Collide With 'Frozen'

By Tim Callaway

Anna, Olaf and Elsa welcome you aboard.
Anna, Olaf and Elsa welcome you aboard.
Before you start rolling your eyes, are you really that surprised that Frozen characters are coming to Disney Cruise Line ships?

I'm surprised it took this long.

Beginning this summer, Anna, Elsa, Olaf and Kristoff will appear on select Disney Magic and Disney Wonder cruises to Europe and Alaska (the Magic has Norwegian itineraries--go figure). Meet and greets will be just a small part of the icy shipboard transformations. Here's the official rundown of daily activities from Disney:
  • Anna’s Chase for the Chocolate scavenger hunt for those who share Anna’s sense of adventure, with a special surprise for finishing the game.
  • Do You Want to Build a Snowman activity where kids take on Elsa’s magical powers to make snow and ice.
  • The Maypole Swirl and Twirl for families to learn a traditional Scandinavian dance spinning and braiding giant ribbons.
  • Frozen themed dining experience, including a menu inspired by traditional Nordic fare and special dishes inspired by the film.
On the Disney Magic, the original stage production of Disney Dreams...An Enchanted Classic in the Walt Disney Theatre will have a new musical segment devoted to Frozen that includes "Let it Go," "For the First Time in Forever" and "In Summer."

The Disney Magic cruises to Norway.
The Disney Magic cruises to Norway.
During seven and nine-night voyages in Norway beginning June 6th, when the Magic docks in Alesund, guests can choose an excursion to explore a storybook village with Anna and Elsa as their guides.

Caribbean cruises have not been excluded either. On itineraries that include a stop at DCL's private island, Castaway Cay, guests will be able to enjoy special Frozen-themed beverages at Olaf's Summertime Freeze bar.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Nominate 'The Mouse Castle' for This Year's Podcast Awards!

By Tim Callaway


The Mouse Castle Lounge and Inside The Mouse Castle podcasts
Okay, gang, we need your help. Please take a few minutes to support Team Mouse Castle.

On April 14th, New Media Expo (NMX) will host the 10th Annual People's Podcast Awards in Las Vegas (my hometown). It's one of the most prestigious awards handed out in online media and we'd really like to be in the running for one.

What am I saying? We'd like to win the damn thing.

Accomplishing this requires a lot of help, because you're doing the nominating. So, yeah, no pressure.

If you've listened to and enjoyed our two podcasts, The Mouse Castle Lounge and Inside The Mouse Castle, we hope you'll nominate them for Podcast Awards. It's very easy to do.

First, visit for the nomination ballot.

Next, please enter The Mouse Castle Lounge in the "People's Choice" and "Cultural/Arts" categories. Enter Inside The Mouse Castle in the "Best Produced" and "Entertainment" categories.

Use as the URL for each nominee.

If there are other podcasts you like in other categories, by all means enter them, but please limit The Mouse Castle podcasts only to the categories I named above. It will improve our chances of being recognized and keep us within the rules.

Finally, enter your name and e-mail address, then click "Submit." You're done.

Nomination ballots are limited to one per person only and must be entered before February 2 6, 2015. If we're fortunate enough to make the final ballot, then you can go crazy with voting. We'll let you know when and how.

Thank you for helping us out. You're awesome!

Nominate The Mouse Castle for a Podcast Award

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Inside The Mouse Castle 01-19-2015 - Trader Sam's, Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend, Oscar Nominations

By Tim Callaway

Jabba's got the right idea. Meet us at Trader Sam's.
We recorded the latest episode of Inside The Mouse Castle at Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel. Drinks were served. Hilarity ensued.

We also learned what falernum is, proving that Inside The Mouse Castle is both entertaining and educational.

But, don't take my word for it. Give a listen as we rate the drinks at Trader Sam's, recap the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend, prepare for a night of Frozen Fun at Disney California Adventure and talk about some of the movies that made the cut (and others that didn't) at last week's Oscar nominations.

And while you're at it, meet some of the new members of Team Mouse Castle. Our friends Susie, Tina and Becky sat in with Anthony and me, and they did such a spectacular job on the show I'm sure you'll be hearing from them again soon. As soon as they sober up.

Finally, a shout out to our friend Caitlin (@cpdevlin on Twitter), who stealthily captured us in action while we were recording this weekend. Thanks, Caitlin!


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Throwback Thursday: C A L I F O R N I A at Disney's California Adventure

By Tim Callaway

In June 2012, Disney California Adventure put the final touches on a massive billion-dollar refurb and expansion that gave birth to Cars Land, Ariel's Undersea Adventure, Silly Symphony Swings and a re-themed entrance modeled after the Pan-Pacific Auditorium. Beyond the entrance sprang the charming 1920s architecture of Buena Vista Street, evoking the sights and sounds Walt Disney himself might have experienced when he first arrived in Hollywood. It was a long overdue upgrade for a theme park built on the cheap and for more than ten years labeled the ugly cousin next door to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Before all the necessary upgrades, though, were the letters in front of the old entrance: C A L I F O R N I A.

I miss them.

The entrance to Disney's California Adventure, January 2007
Pretty as a postcard. The entrance to Disney's California Adventure, January 2007 (click to enlarge).

Don't get me wrong. I love the new and improved Disney California Adventure, but I also loved those 11-foot tall characters welcoming you to Disney's California Adventure. Set against a colorful faux mountain backdrop and a faux Golden Gate Bridge, the look was supposed to resemble a vintage California postcard brought to life. It was an image few people picked up on, especially since you had to stand right in the middle of the esplanade to even get a hint of the concept.

But, the letters themselves were pretty awesome, a popular photo spot especially if your name started with one of the letters.

On a cool, but comfortable evening in January 2007, I wandered across the esplanade just before midnight. It had been a great evening spent with friends and I was taking a long stroll from the Lost Bar at the Disneyland Hotel (itself a candidate for Throwback Thursday one of these days) to the Marriott on Harbor where I was staying. Over my shoulder was a backpack with my camera equipment in it. It was a rare occasion where I also packed a tripod with the intent of shooting some night photos at Disneyland. For the duration of the weekend, I hadn't used it once, but now, alone on the expanse between Disneyland and DCA, CALIFORNIA was practically calling out to me.

So, I set my camera and tripod and went to work. The panorama you see above is a composite of three photos stitched together with photo editing software. It remains one of my favorite pictures taken at the Disneyland Resort.

The CALIFORNIA letters have since left Anaheim, but not the state. In 2012, Disney donated them to the Friends of the California State Fair, a non-profit organization affiliated with Cal Expo in Sacramento. Today, the letters greet visitors at the site of the California State Fair, the Sacramento County Fair and other events on the property. I suspect I should head to Northern California one day and pay them a visit.

I doubt I'll ever get a picture as good as this one, though.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Watch the Oscar Nominations Live on The Mouse Castle

By Tim Callaway

Neil Patrick Harris will
host the Oscars on
February 22nd.
So, who wants to watch the Oscar nominations with me? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the nominees at 5:30 a.m. Pacific on Thursday (yeah, I know that's just hours away). You can catch the live stream right here at The Mouse Castle.

Boyhood, Birdman, Selma, The Theory of Everything and The Grand Budapest Hotel are all expected to garner their fair share of nominations. We'll, of course, be keeping an eye on films with a Disney connection. Big Hero 6 is a shoo-in for an Animated Feature nomination, but will Into the Woods get a Best Picture nod? A number of nominations in technical categories (Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects and Film Editing) could go to the Marvel contingent of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Maleficent, meanwhile, could be recognized for Makeup, Costume Design and Production Design.

Actor Chris Pine (Into the Woods), Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and directors Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) and J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) will make the announcements from the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. In an unusual move by the Academy, the nominations in all 24 awards categories will be announced during the presentation. In past years, the live announcement have only included the major categories.

I can hardly wait. Let's meet for breakfast and Oscars, shall we?

The Mouse Castle Lounge 01-14-2015 - Animator and Disney Legend Glen Keane

By Tim Callaway

"If I can coast, I don't think it's the thing for me." -- Glen Keane

Glen Keane
Glen Keane
Glen Keane still believes he has a lot left to learn as an artist—he’s not quite there yet. I’d argue that him being the animator behind such great Disney characters as Ariel, the Beast, Tarzan, Pocahontas and Ratigan--among many others--would place him on a pretty high pedestal. The man’s a Disney Legend for a reason. But, that's exactly what makes Glen Keane such a great artist. He is never fully satisfied. There’s always a new story to tell, a new technique to embrace, a new technology to learn. It’s that insatiable desire to challenge himself and try new things that at age 60--nearly three years removed from his stellar career at Disney--Glen finds himself nominated for an Annie Award and possibly an Oscar for his beautiful work on the short film Duet, a film that honors hand-drawn animation as much as the cutting edge technology that allowed Glen to tell a charming story about a boy and a girl in a 3-dimensional virtual space.

The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid
Glen always had talent, His father was a successful cartoonist and Glen thrived in that environment as a child. He honed his skills at Cal Arts and blossomed at Disney under the guidance of many of Walt’s Nine Old Men. Glen’s mentors were the likes of Eric Larson, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and Marc Davis. With their help, Glen came to discover that animation isn’t just about technical prowess with a pen or brush, it’s about emotion, sincerity and finding the heart of a character. In Glen’s world, there is no such thing as starting with a blank piece of paper. The character is already there, always. It’s the artist’s job to find out where the character is hiding.

Glen Keane is my guest today in The Mouse Castle Lounge.

Listen and subscribe to The Mouse Castle Lounge on iTunes, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Inside The Mouse Castle 01-12-2015 - The Golden Globe Awards, the Walt Disney World Marathon and Disneyland Measles

By Tim Callaway

Anthony and I took a little post New Year break (Anthony even squeezed in a day trip to Disneyland) and now we're back Inside The MC with a full slate of hugely fascinating stories that will inform, amuse and astound you. We hope you've all been vaccinated.
  • The Golden Globe Awards were handed out Sunday night in Beverly Hills and Disney came up a goose egg as neither Into the Woods nor Big Hero 6 took home any awards. Not that the Mouse was favored in any category, but I digress. The biggest surprise for me was How to Train Your Dragon 2 beat out a strong Animated Feature category that included BH6, The Boxtrolls, The Book of Life and The Lego Movie
Into the Woods
Into the Woods
  • Nominations for the 87th Academy Awards will be announced early Thursday morning. The Mouse Castle will be streaming the announcements live at Watch for the link later this week. In a rare move, the Academy will announce live the nominees in all 24 categories--in past years they've limited it to the major categories only. Actor Chris Pine (Into the Woods), Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and directors Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)  and J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) will make the announcements beginning at 5:30 a.m. Pacific. Which films are you rooting for this year? Boyhood? Birdman? Big Hero 6? Into the Woods
  • The Walt Disney World Marathon had a distinctly Brazilian flavor Sunday as the top four finishers in the men's division hailed from that country and the women's division winner did as well. As for me, I have no aspirations to run a marathon (yet), but I am set to run the Star Wars 5K and 10K races this weekend at Disneyland. 
  • In breaking news, thousands of people did not contract measles at Disneyland at the end of December BECAUSE THEY WERE VACCINATED. In other news, at least 20 people caught the virus because most of them were not. Vaccinate your kids.
Fireworks over Sleeping Beauty Castle
Fireworks over Sleeping Beauty Castle
  • At the parks, Disneyland is offering special discounts in the off-season for Southern California residents; Fantasy in the Sky fireworks have returned to the Happiest Place on Earth; and you can win a trip to Walt Disney World by visiting Also, Disney Vacation Club is selling new timeshares at the Polynesian Village Resort, but what we're most excited about at the Poly is you can now get a Dole Whip at the new Pineapple Lanai quick-serve restaurant. Oh, and a Trader Sam's is opening there soon (we hope it's bigger than the one at the Disneyland Hotel--love the drinks and atmosphere, hate the small size). At Disney's Hollywood Studios, you can catch a sneak preview of Disney's new live-action Cinderella as well as get a gander at the little cinder girl's golden coach used in the film. It opens in U.S. theaters on March 13th.
  • It disturbs us greatly that Michael C. Hall is joining the cast of Pete's Dragon, Disney's reboot of the 1977 film. It's nothing against Hall. We loved him in Dexter and Six Feet Under. What's disturbing is that a Pete's Dragon reboot even exists. 
  • We feel much better that this movie exists:

Monday, January 12, 2015

'Agent Carter' is Marvel's New Smart, Sassy Action Hero

Patty Estes is The Mouse Castle's new smart, sassy blogger. Say hello! -- Tim

By Patty Estes

I'll admit I was worried about Agent Carter. Would it start slow like Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Could Marvel handle a female-driven comic adaptation? Would they botch it? Marvel has a lot riding on the show's success. Peggy Carter will lay the foundation for future female-led comic book adaptations (ironic since it addresses sexism in the workplace). The show will give us insight into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s history and it may play into the continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, establishing origin stories for future characters.

The eight-part series is filling the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. time slot while that show is on winter hiatus. Agent Carter premiered last Tuesday night with two episodes: 1X1: "Now is Not the End" and 1X2: "Bridge and Tunnel." I'm happy to report my worries were for naught. Barely into the first episode it was clear Marvel had delivered not only a fun-filled romp, but a historical drama, spy story and comic book adaption with a kick-ass leading lady who has great style (did you SEE that hat?). I predict Agent Carter costumes will be in heavy rotation at this year's cons.

Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter
It's 1946, World War II is over, Peggy Carter still works for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), but is treated much more as a secretary than the true agent we met in Captain America: The First Avenger. The GI's are coming home and women are being relegated back to working only until they can become wives and mothers. The show opens with a montage showing Peggy’s new morning routine with footage of her action-packed war effort to really push the point. Peggy works on missions covertly while schooling her misogynistic workmates with witty remarks. It works. She’s a hero in heels. She’s always one step ahead of her male counterparts and they only ever ask her for coffee.

The show does not bury the lead. Weapons engineer Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) is accused of selling his “bad babies” – his most dangerous creations – to the highest bidder and Peggy, with the help of Howard’s butler, Edwin Jarvis, sets out to clear his name. Complications ensue when they also must recover the formula used to make nitramene, a dangerous explosive manufactured by whoever or whatever the mysterious "Leviathan" is.

There is a lot to love about Agent Carter. It’s a beautiful period piece with a strong protagonist. Hayley Atwell as Peggy overshadows the majority of her male counterparts, but two stand out from the crowd. Enver Gjokaj plays Agent Daniel Sousa, a man who was injured during the war and who sticks up for Peggy even when she asks him not to. James D'Arcy as Jarvis acts as her sidekick and moral compass while trying to keep her alive and not emotionally shut down.

My only concern with the show is how inept the male SSR agents are portrayed. Peggy is a much stronger heroine when she’s outsmarting equals instead of condescending buffoons. I get it. It's the drawback of a period piece, but let’s hope that Peggy’s accomplishments are shared and she’s appreciated as much by her fellow agents in the SSR as she was during the war.

Episode 1X3: “Time and Tide” airs January 13th on ABC at 9:00/8:00 Central. Below is the official synopsis:
As Agent Carter closes in on Howard Stark’s stolen technology, Peggy’s secret mission could unravel when the SSR arrests Jarvis and a secret is revealed, on Marvel’s Agent Carter.
Marvel’s Agent Carter stars Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter, James D’Arcy as Edwin Jarvis, Chad Michael Murray as Agent Jack Thompson, Enver Gjokaj as Agent Daniel Sousa and Shea Whigham as Chief Roger Dooley.
Guest starring are Lyndsy Fonseca as Angie Martinelli, Kyle Bornheimer as Agent Ray Krzeminski, Meagan Fay as Miriam Fry, Patrick Smith as Agent Wallace, Alexander Carroll as Agent Yauch, Rob Mars as Jerome Zandow, Lesley Boone as Rose, Benita Robledo as Carol, Bridget Regan as Dottie Underwood, Laura Coover as Molly, Tim James as Jimmy, Paul Roache as building manager, Christie Lynn Herring as prostitute and Rick Steadman as automat customer.
“Time & Tide” was written by Andi Bushell and directed by Scott Winant.
FYI, I would totally listen to the Captain America radio play enacted in Agent Carter. I hope someday that it’s a thing!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Disney Research Draws a Line in the Sand with BeachBot

By Tim Callaway

Disney Research BeachBot
Finding BeachBot
I want a BeachBot.

Disney Research and a team of students from ETH Zurich have crafted this nifty little robot that etches large scale drawings in sand. It draws the image via a programmable rake at the rear of the bot. The pins of the rake can be raised and lowered to adjust the width of line. The bot also uses white stakes planted in the ground around the sand canvas as reference points to assist with navigation. An image can be pre-programmed into the bot or it can be operated manually. The bot traverses the sand on soft "balloon wheels" to keep it from making unnecessary impressions in the sand that screw up the picture.

The result: really cool geometric shapes in the sand, and being Disney, Mickey Mouse, Simba and Nemo.

Sign me up. Where can I get one?

I suppose I should move to the beach first.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Mary Poppins and Me

It's a new year and there are some exciting new changes coming to The Mouse Castle! First and foremost, I'd like to introduce some of my friends, a group of talented and enthusiastic new writers who will be sharing their thoughts, insights and Disney memories with you in the coming weeks and months. I'm very happy to have them on board and I think you're going to like them as well. First up is Ron Fleming, who, apropos for Throwback Thursday, has some wonderful recollections of the nanny who's practically perfect in every way. Enjoy! -- Tim

By Ron Fleming

This past Sunday morning I had a movie-going dream come true when I finally got to see the 1964 Walt Disney classic Mary Poppins projected on screen. It played at Film Forum, a fantastic non-profit art/foreign/repertory cinema as part of their Sunday morning Film Forum Jr. program which screens all manner of family classics at cut-rate prices. I don’t mean to sound the shill, but really, if you’re in New York City and love cinema, looking up the programming at Film Forum can be very rewarding.

Mary Poppins has long been my favorite film from the Walt Disney era yet I feel I’d taken it for granted over the years. It’s always been there as a part of my life in one way or another. I’m assuming that you're already familiar with the film so please indulge me as I recollect how this marvelous musical film impacted my life.

When I was little kid in the 1970s, home video didn't quite exist yet and I was exposed early on to this story of the Banks family and their magical nanny through records and books. I first heard the songs on my family’s copy of the film’s soundtrack LP. This version of the album is on the Buena Vista Records label and was a re-release to coincide with the film’s re-release in theaters in 1973. I’m told I was taken to see the movie then but, well, being two years old at the time you could tell me anything and I’d have to take it at face value.

Anyway, I loved listening to the LP when I was a kid and when I was deemed old enough to use my family’s Sears floor console stereo I gave it many spins. I was entranced by Julie Andrews’ gorgeous voice and had never heard any adult use such proper and stern language before. I fell in love. Being a child meant I also gave the LP lots of wear and tear which caused many skips and pops over the years. I remember my sister and I dancing to “Step in Time” on the gold shag carpet in the living room. Ah, the 1970s. Particularly funny to me now is the memory of my mom laughing with--and probably at--us as we would dance. We did all of the dance moves as they were called out but somehow misheard the lyric “Link your elbows!” as “Knees to elbows!” Knees to elbows was a very difficult move to master. It may have been the precursor to popping and locking. We were ahead of the curve, who knew?

My other childhood connection to Mary Poppins was through a book in the Golden Press series The Wonderful Worlds of Walt Disney published in 1965. The first story in the collection titled Stories From Other Lands is Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins (told by Annie North Bedford; suggested by the original stories of P. L. Travers; illustrated by Grace Clarke). The beautiful watercolor illustrations seeped into my young brain as I imagined just what this movie could be. Knowing the songs from the soundtrack LP let my imagination roam free over the illustrations of “Jolly Holiday” and “I Love to Laugh.”

In the early 1980s, before The Disney Channel came along, HBO aired one Disney film per month and it was on HBO that I first got to see Mary Poppins for the first time. My eyes were glued to the TV set for the entire film. Everything about it was even more wonderful than I’d imagined it would be. My whole family watched it that night but they melted away from my consciousness as the film held me in its spell. Here was everything that my ten year old brain comprehended about what Walt Disney films were. There was glorious music, Julie Andrews, beautiful costumes and abundant special effects that were truly special: a nursery that cleaned itself up, a nanny could pull any number of things from her carpetbag and could duet with herself in a mirror, people flew and had tea on ceilings, they jumped into pavement chalk drawings and danced with penguins, and on and on but yet... there was also a remarkable story about two children who respected but yearned for their parents’ love and attention. Even when I was ten years old I got and understood that feeling. In some ways, I craved the same attention from my own parents. Being the youngest of four children with two working parents I often felt lost in the shuffle. I wished for my own Mary Poppins to come in from the sky to teach me valuable lessons the same way I’m sure countless children did.

After viewing the film that night my love for Walt Disney and his films was cemented. Sure, I enjoyed my Disney toys and records (I still own a horribly mistreated copy of the Pete’s Dragon soundtrack LP I received when I was six) and The Wonderful World of Disney was appointment television viewing every Sunday night but this was different. This was real magic. This was the essence of everything that I came to understand, and still like to believe, as “Walt Disney.”

As I grew up into teenage indifference I kept my love for Disney under wraps. It wasn't cool, but I certainly wasn't hip. I always loved Mary Poppins though, I wanted to believe in her. Every now and then I’d listen to that battered LP quietly in my room. When I went away for college I pilfered the family’s VHS copy of the movie as my own.

Flash forward about sixteen years to the Autumn of 2006. In anticipation of the arrival of the Broadway musical version of Mary Poppins I decided to read author P. L. Travers’ books, the basis for the film, and particularly the stage musical, for the first time. For years I’d read about how different they were from the film and how hard Walt had to work to get the rights to the stories and characters from Travers. I read the first two, Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Comes Back and can not recommend them enough. They are dry, wry, dark, and very witty. Mary is stern and narcissistic, almost dismissive of the Banks children. I love Travers’ vision of Mary Poppins! It was fun to discover that the books are episodic. There is no through line of story as each chapter tells its own story of Mary Poppins and the Banks family.

When I saw the musical on Broadway I was skeptical of it. I don’t like seeing shows based on films that are recreations of that experience, I want the adaptation to say something new and to resonate with audiences in the here and now. On the title page of the Playbill under Mary Poppins is the statement, “A Musical Based On the Stories of P. L. Travers and the Walt Disney Film.” Yes. Thank you. It’s very appropriate to list Travers first. I appreciated the show for not only sharpening the focus of the story from the film where Mary Poppins repairs a fractured family, but also that it was true to the episodic nature and characters that P. L. Travers created while also remaining faithful to the spirit of Walt Disney’s musical film. It was a fine line to balance and the two styles of storytelling blended beautifully. I also loved that the show was what an adaptation should be: it’s own thing. I loved the musical. In its final image the Banks family, standing in a pool of light on a dark stage with their backs to the audience as each parent has their hands on the shoulders of their children, watch a star burst across the night sky. That image seared itself into my brain. My eyes swelled with tears. Mine weren’t the only dry eyes in the house either.

I got to a place where for several years into adulthood I would view the film at least once per year. Countless viewings of the film led to comfortable familiarity yet always provided the same magic and escapism. I still loved the movie but didn't necessarily pay attention to it.

In many ways seeing Mary Poppins this past Sunday on screen was revelatory. Sure, I’d seen the sparkling and beautiful digital restoration on the Blu-ray release, which I’m pretty sure was mastered from what was on screen, but that was only part of it. For the first time in years, perhaps since that first viewing on HBO decades ago, I was drawn into the film. Seeing it on screen was like seeing it anew and experiencing it with a nearly sold out audience only enhanced its charms. People of all ages were there, from the elderly to the very young. It was wonderful to be part of it.

Projected large not only did I notice things I hadn't before but the beauty of its art and design took my breath away. For the first time ever, in all of the countless viewings, the film brought tears to my eyes. First was when the camera pans down on the stunning painting of St. Paul’s Cathedral during “Feed the Birds” as the music swells, the second at the matte painting of the stunning vista of London as sunset turns to dusk just before “Step in Time”.

But ultimately, what seeing this film on screen did for me was draw me into its story with a laser like focus. I laughed at the jokes and was enjoying my comfortable familiarity with the film beat by beat but was also struck by it. I noticed how much Jane and Michael longed for their father’s attention, my heart swelled when George, being fired from the bank feels the tuppence in his pocket and realized that money isn't what is important. His family is. When he presented a hastily repaired kite to his children at the end and the family left to be together for the first time in possibly ever I choked up. What was that? This movie has never made me cry. Feel happy, yes, but this time it was happiness through what had been sadness.

The audience members around me must have had a similar experience as people stifled sniffs and wiped tears from their eyes. One man, sitting with his partner and their daughter in front of me, had to remove his glasses to wipe away his tears. When the film was over and the lights came up his family caught my eye again. The two dads gave each other looks and simultaneously took the hands of their little girl into their own.

It just goes to show that a well crafted film becomes a timeless classic when one can identify with it through different stages of life. It gains shading and dimension. It’s nice to be reminded every now and then that the things we love, no matter how much we think we know them, can be new all over again.

“Goodbye, Mary Poppins. Don’t stay away too long.”