Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Mouse Castle Lounge 02-26-2015 - Disney Animator James Lopez, Part One

By Tim Callaway

Animator James Lopez
I like James Lopez for a number of reasons, not the least of which is when he was a kid, he was a master of the video game Dragon’s Lair. That was the laserdisc arcade game created by Don Bluth in the early 1980s after Bluth had departed Disney Animation. Dirk the Daring, the evil dragon, Princess Daphne—I loved that game. Anyway, the beauty of if all is that as a young animator, James later worked for Bluth on the 1991 film Rock-a-Doodle. It's a nerd thing.

James attended CalArts and found early success in animation. He would go on to have a lengthy career at Disney. His animation credits include Timon in The Lion King, Wiggins in Pocahontas and Pain in Hercules. He also worked on The Emperor’s New Groove, Home on the Range, The Princess and the Frog and the Oscar-winning short Paperman.

James is a gifted artist who excels in 2D, hand-drawn animation. These days he’s keeping the art alive by animating and directing a personal project, the steampunk adventure Hullabaloo, which he successfully crowd funded last year on Indiegogo. But more on that next week. Today, in part one of our two-part conversation, James and I talk about his early career and how he literally had to learn his craft on the job. James Lopez is my guest today in The Mouse Castle Lounge. Enjoy!

Related: The Mouse Castle Lounge 02-26-2015 - Disney Animator James Lopez, Part Two


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Monday, February 23, 2015

Inside The Mouse Castle 02-23-2015 - The Oscars, Rising Ticket Prices and Walking to Walt Disney World

By Tim Callaway

Big Hero 6
Oscar winner Big Hero 6.
"Once upon a time, there was a freckle-faced little boy who told his mom and his dad that one day he was gonna work at Walt Disney Animation. And they did something amazing. They supported him and they believed him. And from the bottom of his heart, he thanks them."
--Big Hero 6 co-director Don Hall

It was a good night at the Oscars Sunday for Disney Animation. Big Hero 6 was named Best Animated Feature while Feast claimed the statuette for Best Animated Short Film. There were those other films too: Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash. Anthony and I cover it all in today's episode of Inside The Mouse Castle.

We cover a few other things too:
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales has started filming in Australia and we finally know what the story will be about. Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) crosses swords with "deadly ghost pirates" led by an old nemesis (Javier Bardem). Captain Jack's only hope is to obtain the Trident of Poseidon, the key to unlocking all the powers of the sea. POTC 5 will open in the summer of 2017.
Kevin Costner is McFarland, USA
Kevin Costner stars in Disney's inspirational sports film McFarland, USA.
  • Kevin Costner's latest flick for Disney, McFarland, USA, opened to generally favorable reviews and pretty good box office numbers ($11.3 million) over the weekend. One day, Anthony and I might even be talked into watching it.
  • Disneyland and Walt Disney World upped their ticket prices on Sunday. The world did not end.
Lauren Passell wins the 2015 Disney Princess Half Marathon
Lauren Passell wins the Disney Princess Half Marathon.
  • A year ago, Lauren Passell thought she might never run again due to a broken hip. Sunday, she beat a field of over 20,000 runners to win the Disney Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World. 
  • The Cobb family from Houston, Texas, is on a cross-country hike from Disneyland to Walt Disney World to raise money and awareness for cancer treatment and to honor the memory of their daughter, Julia Cobb. In 2013, Julia died of Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, at the age of eight. The family's 4,000-mile journey began on August 4th last year and they are currently just past the halfway point in east Texas. To find out more about the Cobb family and how you can support their cause, visit
  • Last year on Inside The Mouse Castle, we talked about the frivolous lawsuit filed by author Isabella Tanikumi, who claimed Disney stole the idea for their mega-hit Frozen from Tanikumi's autobiographical book Yearnings of the Heart. Last week, U.S. District Judge William Martini granted Disney's request to dismiss the lawsuit. In his ruling, Judge Martini wrote, "The setting, plot and characters have no close similarities. No lay person could find that Disney improperly appropriated from Yearnings of the Heart."

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Mouse Castle Lounge 02-19-2015 - At the 87th Academy Awards

By Tim Callaway

Neil Patrick Harris hosts
the Oscars on Sunday.
We were going to talk to Neil Patrick Harris in this episode of The Mouse Castle Lounge, but we just couldn't make time for him. No, really. Listen to the show. Everything we said is true. Most of it. Okay, some of it. But Neil Patrick Harris was really there. No he wasn't.

What did happen is Team Mouse Castle descended upon Hollywood this week for our annual Oscar preview show. It's the one show each year where we depart from our usual Disney obsessions to indulge in our movie obsessions, sharing our knowledge, insight and lame-ass opinions about who we think will win in the major categories at the Academy Awards. 

This year, I was joined by my good friends Anthony Reynolds, Christi Andersen, Jennifer O'Brien-Chavez and Tina Joplin at Trastavere at Hollywood & Highland. We dined Italian and drank copious amounts of wine just steps away from Hollywood Boulevard where red carpet preparations were underway. We also spent some time on the red carpet itself, where I managed to get in the way of just about everyone who was working there. I am not proud of this.

For those of you playing at home, here are the categories we cover on today's show. Who are your Oscar choices? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Enjoy!

Best Picture
American Sniper
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Best Director
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Best Animated Feature
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Best Actor
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Neil Patrick Harris will host the 87th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood this Sunday. The show will be televised on ABC beginning at 4 p.m. Pacific time. So far as we know, Neil is still waiting to talk to us.

Team Mouse Castle at the Oscars.
(l. to r.) Christi, Tim, Jennifer, Tina and Anthony

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Inside The Mouse Castle 02-16-2015 - Spider-Man Returns to Marvel, Cinderella's Waist Shrinks and Mad T Party Comes Back to DCA

By Tim Callaway

Will Captain America meet
Spider-Man in Civil War?
Spider-Man is finally joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe and we couldn't be happier. Last week, Marvel and Sony announced an agreement to jointly produce films featuring the web-slinger. Sony will retain creative control of the character in a stand-alone film (with more to follow, we're sure) set for release on July 18th, 2017. Marvel, meanwhile, will be able to use Spider-Man in MCU films, which will be critical to the story line in next year's Captain America: Civil War. Anthony and I have the word on how this will affect other upcoming Marvel releases in this week's episode of Inside The Mouse Castle. We also chime in on these tasty tidbits:
  • Big Hero 6 has quietly moved into the third place on the list of Disney's highest grossing animated films in the U.S. It now trails only The Lion King and Frozen in domestic box office.
  • Is Cinderella looking a little too thin around the waistline to be believed? The latest trailer for Disney's new live-action film has people wondering whether, like mice morphing into horses, the little cinder girl's tiny tummy is a CG effect as well (check 1:11 and 1:54 in the video).

  • Will Hermione Granger and Professor Trelawney reunite in Beauty and the Beast? We already know Emma Watson is on board to play Belle, but now Emma Thompson is rumored to be talking with Disney about playing Mrs. Potts in the live-action reboot of the classic animated film. 
  • Will Pixar's "Day of the Dead" movie be the studio's first musical? Songwriter Randy Newman let slip a bit of information that has us thinking this is the case for the Lee Unkrich-directed project.
  • Pete's Dragon has started shooting in New Zealand. Mickey Rooney, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters and Helen Reddy aren't in it. [sigh]
  • We already knew that Frozen was headed to Broadway, but now we've confirmed that the movie's songwriting team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez will be penning additional tunes for the stage adaptation.
  • Star Wars is headed out to sea. In 2016, select Disney Fantasy cruises will feature a Star Wars Day at Sea with character meet and greets and special activities for adults and kids.

  • Arrivederci, Luigi's Flying Tires. The Cars Land attraction in Disney California Adventure closed for good on Monday. We'll miss it, but even we admit it wasn't that great a ride.
  • Freeze the Night will do what nighttime entertainment does in summer: make way for the return of Mad T Party at DCA on May 22nd. Any chance we'll ever get ElecTRONica back? Any chance the Hollywood Land "backlot" will be anything else in the daytime other than cluttered access to Mike & Sulley to the Rescue? Hey, who misses Superstar Limo?

  • The Walt Disney World Speedway along with the Richard Petty Driving Experience is going away. Buh bye.
  • Now open at the Walt Disney Family Museum is Lights! Camera! Glamour! The Photography of George Hurrell. The exhibition runs through June 29th and includes over 50 prints and items from the renowned celebrity photographer and artist.
Walt Disney in 1940. Photograph by George Hurrell.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Inside The Mouse Castle 02-09-2015 - Tom Staggs, Shanghai Disneyland and Trader Sam's Grog Grotto

By Tim Callaway

Another week, another trip to Disneyland.

Anthony and I both paid a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth last week. He zoomed in for a day trip last Wednesday. I joined our friends at MiceChat over the weekend to help celebrate their 10th anniversary.

Inside The Mouse Castle this week, we talk about our trips, why it's kind of cool to fly solo at Disneyland and Anthony's strange fascination with wayward Baymax balloons.

We also touch on these fascinating and thought provoking topics:
  • Business is booming at the Walt Disney Company. They reported record first quarter revenue last week and then announced the promotion of Tom Staggs to chief operating officer, making him the heir apparent to succeed Bob Iger when he retires in 2018. 
  • Our obsession to figure out a way to get to Shanghai Disneyland in 2016 continues, especially after seeing these crazy awesome pics from the resort's upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. 
  • Trader Sam's Grog Grotto will open this spring at Walt Disney World's Polynesian Village Resort. Yeah, we want to get there too.
  • New for Disney Infinity 2.0: Sam Flynn and Quorra from Tron: Legacy. But they're virtual characters only, and only available in the iOS version (for now).

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Mouse Castle Lounge 02-07-2015 - The 'Story of Disneyland' Collection at Van Eaton Galleries With Bob Gurr

By Tim Callaway

Skeleton Animatronic from Pirates of the Caribbean
Skeleton Animatronic from
Pirates of the Caribbean.
How would you like to have an original skeleton animatronic from Pirates of the Caribbean? Or maybe two original dolls from the New York World's Fair version of it's a small world? How about a miniature pot-bellied stove handcrafted by Walt Disney himself? Or a life-size cigar store Indian from Frontierland? If the five-figure price tags these items carry are a bit too rich for your blood, how about any of a thousand vintage Disneyland items ranging from cast member costumes and poster art to all manner of ticket media and shopping bags? It's all on display right now at the Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, California, and will hit the auction block February 28th and March 1st.

The astounding assortment of memorabilia that makes up the Story of Disneyland exhibition was amassed by an anonymous private collector over a thirty-year period. The entire collection is estimated to be worth over one million dollars. I had the opportunity to preview the collection on Friday and was blown away by the sheer scale of it and the amount of Disney history it represented. I saw side panels from original Monorail trains, an atom-mobile miniature from Adventure Thru Inner Space, original costumes worn by Betty Taylor in the Golden Horseshoe Revue, a fully restored tiki bird from Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room complete with animatronics. And art. Tons of art--from concept pieces to costume designs to silk-screened posters. It's really hard to comprehend the scope of this collection, but I'll give it my best shot with a little help from the gallery's namesake, Mike Van Eaton, and a Disney Imagineering legend who had his hand in designing and building a fair share of the attractions represented in the exhibition, Bob Gurr.

Bob Gurr, Story of Disneyland, Van Eaton Galleries
Disney Imagineer Bob Gurr with an original
Monorail side panel.
As Bob Gurr will often tell you, "If it moves on wheels at Disneyland, I probably designed it." A man with a lifetime fascination with cars and machinery, Bob joined Disney in the 1950s and took part in designing and building many iconic Disney attractions including the Autopia, the Monorail, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, the Submarine Voyage, Great Moments with Mr Lincoln, and the Omnimover ride systems for Adventure Thru Inner Space and the Haunted Mansion. He spent over 25 years at WED--later Walt Disney Imagineering--and continued to consult with them after leaving the company. In 2004, he was named a Disney Legend. Today, at 83 years old, he still has a lot to say about his career at Disney, especially when you put him in a room chock-filled with Disneyland artifacts.

Bob Gurr and Mike Van Eaton are my guests today in The Mouse Castle Lounge. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

First Look at 'Frozen Fever'

What we learned about Disney's new animated short, Frozen Fever, by looking at the latest production images:

1. Olaf likes cake.

Olaf in Frozen Fever

2. Kristoff and Sven are not that great at making signs.

Happy Birthday, Anna - Frozen Fever

3. Anna is not a morning person.

Anna and Elsa in Frozen Fever

4. Elsa still leaves wispy snowflake trails wherever she goes.

Anna and Elsa in Frozen Fever

5. But, they all make up one big, happy, extended family.

Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf in Frozen Fever

Okay, we do know a bit more about Frozen Fever. The story will be about a birthday celebration for Anna that gets complicated by Elsa catching a cold and having issues with her wintry powers. The original voice cast from the movie will be back: Kristen Bell (Anna), Idina Menzel (Elsa), Jonathan Groff (Kristoff) and Josh Gad (Olaf). 

Frozen's directors, Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee will be back too.

Frozen Fever will open with Cinderella on March 13th. 

Walt Disney World's Peter Pan Gets a Cool New Queue

Peter Pan's Flight at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom has gotten a cool new queue.

No, really. It's air conditioned.

In "testing phase" for a little over two weeks now, the queue has new interactive elements to keep guests occupied during what can often be a long wait for one of the park's most popular rides. 

You can get doused in pixie dust, interact with magical shadows and see Tinker Bell flit about the Darling children's nursery. It's really fun.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Inside The Mouse Castle 02-02-2015 - The Patriots Go to Disneyland, the Annie Awards and Disneyland's Diamond Celebration

By Tim Callaway

Malcolm Butler and Julian Edelman
cruise Main Street with Mickey.
Disneyland and the Super Bowl go together like bacon and eggs, Chip and Dale...

Tim and Anthony.

New England Patriots star players Julian Edelman and Malcolm Butler were feted on Main Street, USA at Disneyland Monday after appearing in the traditional "I'm Going to Disneyland" commercial following Super Bowl XLIX. Edelman caught the touchdown pass that gave the Patriots the lead for good and Butler made the goal line interception against the Seahawks in the closing seconds that secured the win. Edelman and Butler were given a ceremonial ride down Main Street accompanied by Mickey Mouse and were showered with confetti as fans cheered them on.

This was the 48th time the "I'm Going to Disneyland/Walt Disney World" promo has been aired. It has traditionally followed major entertainment and sporting events (especially the Super Bowl) since 1987 when New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms first uttered the famous line following Super Bowl XXI.

Anthony and I talk about the Super Bowl, Disneyland and a few other things in this week's edition of Inside The Mouse Castle.
  • We got a new look at Tomorrowland during the Super Bowl. The sci-fi action-adventure starring George Clooney, Hugh Laurie and Britt Robertson opens May 22nd.

  • Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Chris Evans (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) made a little Super Bowl bet about who was going to win the game. And it really didn't matter who won after all because, in a classy move, both guys have agreed to pay up. Pratt will visit Christopher's Haven, a cancer care center for children in Boston dressed as Star-Lord while Evans will visit Seattle Children's Hospital dressed as Captain America. You guys are awesome!
  • Honoring the best in animation, the Annie Awards were handed out Saturday night in Los Angeles. How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Disney Mickey Mouse were the big winners, but we loved the special award presented to the Walt Disney Family Museum and the tipsy acceptance speech given by Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch.
  • Disneyland announced some of their plans for the upcoming 60th anniversary celebration. New parade...check. New fireworks...check. New World of Color...check. New Hatbox Ghost...wait, what?
Elena of Avalor
  • Disney is introducing a new Latina princess. Elena of Avalor will make her debut on the Disney Junior show Sofia the First in 2016 before spinning off into a series of her own.
  • We love the new Disney coffee mugs that are blowing off the shelves at Starbucks locations at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but a purple mug featuring Epcot's Spaceship Earth and the Monorail has disappeared entirely. We explain why.
  • Want to own a piece of Disneyland history? Van Eaton Galleries in Southern California is auctioning off over 1,000 items from Disneyland's early days. The collection is astounding and includes an original skeleton animatronic from Pirates of the Caribbean, an animatronic bird from Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, a doll from it's a small world, plus all manner of vintage artwork and ticket media. Items will go on display at the gallery on February 7th and the online and live auction will occur on February 28th and March 1st. Get out your credit cards.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Annie Awards: 'How to Train Your Dragon 2,' 'Disney Mickey Mouse' and the Walt Disney Family Museum Honored

By Tim Callaway

Dear ASIFA-Hollywood: Please allow Garfunkel and Oates to host the Annie Awards again, preferably the whole show and not just the first portion of it. The comedy-folk music duo of Riki Lindhome (Garfunkel) and Kate Micucci (Oates) were quirky and funny and rescued a show that started 20 minutes late and experienced wonky teleprompters. Garfunkel: "I want to thank God and my parents for the teleprompter."

How to Train Your Dragon 2
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Saturday night's awards, presented at UCLA's Royce Hall, honored the best in animation and were dominated by How to Train Your Dragon 2. Dreamworks Animation's successful sequel took home six Annie Awards including Best Animated Feature and Outstanding Directing for Dean DeBlois. DeBlois, noting the recent layoff of 500 employees at Dreamworks Animation, said in his acceptance speech, "We've had kind of a tough week at Dreamworks, but I think it's moments like this where we get to celebrate the incredible work that goes into these projects and makes a lot of us look really good."

On the television side, Disney Mickey Mouse also landed six awards including nods for director Aaron Springer and veteran voice actor Bill Farmer. Disney claimed additional awards for their films Feast (Best Animated Short Subject) and Big Hero 6 (Animated Effects) and for the TV series Wander Over Yonder (Character Animation and Character Design) and Gravity Falls (Best Children's Production). Gravity Falls series creator Alex Hirsch was surprised and admittedly inebriated when he accepted his Annie. Brandishing an alcohol flask, he said, "Nothing sobers you up like looking at hundreds of people at once."

Former Disney animator, 101-year old Don Lusk, was a recipient of the Winsor McCay Award. This lifetime achievement award is presented to noteworthy artists for their "career contributions to the art of animation." Lusk spent nearly 30 years at Disney, working on such notable animated films as Pinocchio, Fantasia, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. In the 1960s, he left Disney to work for other studios including Hanna-Barbera.

Ron Miller with the Walt Disney Family Museum
Ron Miller accepts a special Annie Award
for the Walt Disney Family Museum.
Among the highlights of the evening was a Special Achievement Award presented to the Walt Disney Family Museum in recognition of their "unique and significant impact on the art and industry of animation." Disney Legend Richard Sherman and filmmaker Leslie Iwerks presented the award to Ron Miller, husband of the museum's late founder, Diane Disney Miller, and himself the former president and CEO of Walt Disney Productions. Of Diane, Ron Miller said, "She was on a mission: to tell the fascinating and inspiring story of her father, Walt Disney. Through this, she hoped the museum would be a center for inspiration and creativity for present and future generations of animators, artists and innovators. Receiving this special achievement accolade here at the Annie Awards pays testament to the determination, hard work and talent of Diane and our team at the Walt Disney Family Museum."

For the complete list of this year's Annie Award winners and nominees, visit