Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Mouse Castle Lounge 05-28-2015 - 24 Hours of Disneyland in 40 Minutes

By Tim Callaway

We survived 24 hours at Disneyland!
Anthony and I recapped it earlier this week, but now you can relive Disneyland's 24-hour party with Team Mouse Castle. Throughout the resort's 60th anniversary Diamond Celebration kickoff on Memorial Day weekend, My friends and I recorded as much of the craziness as we could, sharing our thoughts and experiences. Hear us take on the Hatbox Ghost, Harold the Abominable Snowman, parades, fireworks and crowds, crowds, crowds.

What did we think of Disneyland Forever and Paint the Night? Did we get trapped in Disney California Adventure? Who stole my magic on the Mark Twain? It's an incredible day and night of good friends and insane Disney fun in The Mouse Castle Lounge.

Anthony and me making podcast magic at Disneyland.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Inside The Mouse Castle 05-25-2015 - Disneyland's 24-Hour Diamond Celebration Kickoff Party

By Tim Callaway

Anthony and I pulled an all-nighter at Disneyland last weekend. Okay, so I did. Sadly, Anthony had to call it an early night Friday to catch a flight home. He was with me in spirit, though, and we have now sufficiently recovered to discuss it on Inside The Mouse Castle

Disneyland's 24-hour party to celebrate it's diamond anniversary was an event full of massive crowds and some pretty impressive new entertainment. The Paint the Night parade is a visual delight and the Disneyland Forever fireworks, while not quite as perfect as the Remember...Dreams Come True fireworks during Disneyland's 50th, is still a treat, especially with all the new projection effects on Sleeping Beauty Castle, Main Street and the Matterhorn.

Ariel goes under the sea in Paint the Night.
I was there with all my fellow sardines to catch the inaugural 60th anniversary fireworks on a packed Main Street. Here's what it looked like:

One new thing Anthony and I did experience together was seeing the refurbished Matterhorn with its amazing new Harold animatronics. This front seat video doesn't quite do them justice, but it's still a great ride:

But the past week wasn't just about fireworks, crowd control and selfie sticks. We've got a few other things to talk about in today's episode. You know, important stuff like Anthony really wants a pair of Heelys.

And this:
  • The world's biggest Disney Store opened in Shanghai last Wednesday, the first of its kind in China. People lined up as far away as one mile to get a look at princess dresses and plushes. 
George Clooney in Tomorrowland.
  • Tomorrowland premiered in theaters over Memorial Day weekend and won the box office. That's the good news. The bad news is it only took in $41 million domestically, far below the $50 million opening weekend it aspired to. 
  • Reese Witherspoon is attached to produce and star in Tink, a live action take on Disney's favorite pixie.  Just let that sink in for a while.
  • Asa Butterfield has officially been cast--or has not been cast--as the new Spider-Man. Whichever side you choose, you're probably right.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Mouse Castle Lounge 05-25-2015 - Former Disney Animation Story Man Steve Hulett, Part One

By Tim Callaway

For ten years in the 1970s and 80s, Steve Hulett was a story man at Disney Animation, following in the footsteps of his father, longtime Disney artist Ralph Hulett. Steve was with the company during the most unique of times, the period after Walt Disney’s death--when his company was struggling to find its identity--until it came back in a big way under the leadership of Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Frank Wells. It was a time when the old guard of Disney animation, the Nine Old Men, were making way for the new blood of Disney Animation, people like Glen Keane, Don Bluth, John Lasseter and Tim Burton.

In his book, Mouse in Transition: An Insider's Look at Disney Feature Animation, Steve Hulett tells candid tales about his years at Disney where he worked on such films as The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron and The Great Mouse Detective. In addition to recalling the creative work, Steve shares plenty of stories about the office politics and ego clashes that went on behind the scenes. In part one of my conversation with him today, Steve touches on a few of those stories, as well as a memorable encounter with Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney.

Related Story: The Mouse Castle Lounge 06-07-2015 - Former Disney Animation Story Man Steve Hulett, Part Two

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

It's a Great Big Unexceptional 'Tomorrowland'

By Tim Callaway

Casey (Britt Robertson) marvels at flying jetpacks
in Tomorrowland.
With the possible exception of Saving Mr. Banks, there's not a Disney film in recent memory that fans have rooted for more than Brad Bird's Tomorrowland. Even those with the most rudimentary knowledge of Disney history have been struck giddy with the prospect of seeing the 1964-65 New York World's Fair recreated on screen and the unapologetic optimism of Walt Disney captured for the world to see. This is the movie that was destined to take Walt's vision of the future and weave it into a sci-fi flight of fantasy that restores our faith in humanity.

That's a mighty tall order, even for a director as capable as Brad Bird. And despite his most earnest efforts, he doesn't quite pull it off. Tomorrowland has moments of wide-eyed exhilaration and unwavering optimism, but it's also talky, preachy and, by story's end, a bit of a muddle.

Casey (Britt Robertson) is a forward-thinking young woman who refuses to accept that the troubles of modern society like war, terrorism and climate change are totally without solutions. She asks "Why?" and "Why not?" questions of her teachers, who are so entrenched in the doom and gloom of 24-hour news streams that they can't bother to acknowledge Casey's idealistic challenges. Even her father (Tim McGraw), a NASA engineer on the verge of being laid off, thinks his daughter is foolish to try to postpone life's inevitabilities, which Casey attempts to do by sabotaging abandoned launchpads at Cape Canaveral in an effort to sustain her dad's tenuous job security.

Frank (George Clooney) and Casey in Tomorrowland.
Casey's life changes suddenly when she comes into the possession of a pin that magically transports her to Tomorrowland, a futuristic place where all of mankind's best ideas have been brought together. It's a glistening, otherworldly city jam-packed with jetpacks, flying cars and ethnically diverse citizens happily looking forward to the next great adventure. But is it real? And how exactly did Casey get there? Why did she end up with a magic pin? Even more important, after returning to the present day and time, how can she get back to Tomorrowland again?

The answers may lie with two people: Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a mysterious, wiser-than-her-years girl who has a knack for spotting optimistic types like Casey, and Frank (George Clooney), a jaded technical genius who, as a boy, knew the wonders of Tomorrowland but was ultimately betrayed by them. Together, Casey, Athena and Frank embark on an adventure full of teleportation, rocket flights and killer robots--because not everyone wants the trio to find Tomorrowland and fix the future.

George Clooney and Hugh Laurie in Tomorrowland.
Bird, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Damon Lindelof, set out to tell a story that was markedly different from the dystopian sci-fi tales that have become the norm in Hollywood since Blade Runner. The pervasive theme in Tomorrowland is yeah, the world is pretty screwed up, but we really have the power to change that if we just stay positive and work towards a better future. It's a refreshing a point. Early on, Bird revels in showing us how exciting the future can be. Heck, he opens the movie with a flashback to the World's Fair (exquisitely realized) where Walt Disney held court with no less than four attractions. It was a time when the future looked brighter and young Frank (Thomas Robinson) is in the thick of it, showing off a jetpack of his own design. Circumstances will soon lead him to Tomorrowland (who knew there was a secret portal beneath it's a small world?).  After that, for the majority of the film, Bird keeps the action moving at a spirited pace. But, then the movie bogs down in the final twenty minutes as the characters start speechifying about self-fulfilling prophecies and controlling our destinies (to his credit, Hugh Laurie does the best here as a dour scientific-type who has his own secrets about Tomorrowland). We're left with an ending that feels more forced than uplifting and more manipulative than inspiring.

Just as the future isn't what it used to be, Tomorrowland isn't as good as it could have been.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Inside The Mouse Castle 05-18-2015 - 24 Hours of Disneyland and the Coolest Summer Ever at Walt Disney World

By Tim Callaway

Tinker Bell paints the night at Disneyland
Tinker Bell paints the night.
Team Mouse Castle is going to the Disneyland Resort this Friday for 24 hours of Diamond Celebration fun. Want to join us?

I'll be hitting Disneyland and Disney California Adventure from 6:00 a.m. on May 22nd straight through until 6:00 a.m. on May 23rd...or until I have a psychotic episode. I'll have plenty of friends with me as we battle crowds and exhaustion on our way to get a first look at the Paint the Night parade, Disneyland Forever fireworks and the new World of Color show, Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney.

We may even record a podcast episode. Anything is possible.

In today's Inside The Mouse Castle, Anthony and I preview Friday's Diamond Celebration at Disneyland and the Coolest Summer Ever kickoff at Walt Disney World. We also take on these magical subjects:
  • Remember Jock Lindsey, Indiana Jones' snake-loving pilot pal in Raiders of the Lost Ark? It appears Jock is getting a bar named after him at Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney. Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar will open sometime this fall. 
  • On the Disney Parks Blog, they also announced these shops and restaurants will be joining the Disney Springs expansion sometime between now and 2016:

    Tommy Bahama
    Lilly Pulitzer
    L’Occitaine en Provence
    Edward Beiner

    Blaze Pizza
    Vivoli Gelateria
    Tea Traders by Joffrey’s Tea
  • I attended a preview screening of Brad Bird's Tomorrowland to benefit the Walt Disney Family Museum last week. My full review is coming, but let's just say that for all of the film's good intentions, it's not as great as it aspires to be.
Disneyland ticket #1 will be on display at the 2015 D23 Expo.
  • This August, sixty years of Disneyland history will be celebrated at the D23 Expo. Disneyland: The Exhibit will contain 12,000 square feet of attraction, parade and entertainment history from the Happiest Place on Earth.
  • Screenwriter Stephany Folsom is working on a script for a different kind of Disney princess movie, The Princess of North Sudan. It's based on a strange true story about an American father who claimed control of a disputed piece of land in North Africa so his young daughter could be a real live princess. We're not sure what to make of this exactly.
By the way, if you're looking for a couple of helpful resources for the Disneyland 24-hour party on Friday, this is where to start:


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Friday, May 15, 2015

The Mouse Castle Lounge 05-15-2015 - Saving Walt's Garage with Bob Bowman

By Tim Callaway

Walt Disney's Garage
Walt Disney's Garage
At the Stanley Ranch Museum and Historical Village in Garden Grove, California, there is a small garage where Walt Disney humbly began what would become his first animation studio in California. How the garage was relocated there from the North Hollywood property once owned by Walt’s Uncle Robert is the subject of Arthur Adler’s book Walt Disney’s Garage of Dreams. It recounts not only the history of the structure, but also Art’s determined efforts--with a group of sometimes unwilling partners--to honor Walt’s legacy and save the garage for Disney enthusiasts everywhere.

Sadly, Arthur Adler, himself a former Disney employee and a lifetime Disney enthusiast, passed away last year at the age of 82, but not before becoming close friends with the retired vice president of merchandising with Walt Disney Attractions, Bob Bowman. Bob spent 25 years at Disney and wrote the Foreward for Art’s book. Bob also contributed a chapter detailing his own experiences with the Mouse. In the Lounge today, Bob talks about his friendship with Art, his own long career with Disney, and the passion of one man to preserve a seminal piece of Disney history. Bob Bowman is my guest today in The Mouse Castle Lounge.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Inside The Mouse Castle 05-11-2015 - The Hatbox Ghost Returns, 'Tomorrowland' Premieres and the D23 Expo Expands

By Tim Callaway

George Clooney, his wife Amal and his niece Mia join
Bob Iger and his wife aboard the Monorail.
Last weekend was crazy busy at the Disneyland Resort. Brad Bird's new movie Tomorrowland had its world premiere at Downtown Disney followed by an after-party at the real Tomorrowland. On hand were the film's stars George Clooney, Britt Robertson and Raffey Cassidy, along with a host of other celebrities.

But wait, the weekend also saw the running of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon as well as the return (finally) of the Hatbox Ghost to the Haunted Mansion. Anthony and I talk about all that (okay, we skipped the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, sorry) plus these other fascinating stories in this week's Inside The Mouse Castle.

  • Now that Brad Bird has just about put Tomorrowland in his past, what's next? We know (and Bird has officially confirmed) that The Incredibles 2 will be his next film project, but could he also be lining up a deal to helm a Star Wars movie?
  • The Avengers 2.5, or as it's also known, Captain America: Civil War, has begun shooting in Atlanta. 
  • Avengers director Joss Whedon closed his Twitter account. Was it because he's too busy, or was the Twitterverse just being too mean to him?
  • Disney's live action Cinderella has passed $500 million in worldwide box office, making it the third highest grossing film of the year so far. Avengers: Age of Ultron (surprise!) leads the pack at close to $1 billion. 
Nick Wilde in Zootopia
Jason Bateman will voice the cunning fox, Nick Wilde, in Zootopia.
  • Disney Animation announced Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin will voice the lead characters in Zootopia. Bateman will be a "scamming fox" named Nick Wilde while Goodwin will voice "optimistic bunny" Judy Hopps. The film will open in the U.S. on March 4, 2016.
  • The big presentations at the D23 Expo will get a bigger venue this year. Traditional popular draws like the Disney Legends Award Ceremony and the Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts presentations will move from the 5,000-seat arena at the Anaheim Convention Center to a new "Hall D23" that can handle 7,500 people. The D23 Expo will be held August 14-16.
  • Disney California Adventure's nighttime dance party, the Mad T Party, returns on May 22nd. Break out your Bedazzler, though, because now it's going to be the Diamond Mad T Party.
The Hatbox Ghost
The Hatbox Ghost

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Mouse Castle Lounge 05-07-2015 - Haunted Mansion Expert Jeff Baham

By Tim Callaway

Hatbox Ghost D23 Expo
A Hatbox Ghost model at the 2013 D23 Expo.
This weekend, the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland will welcome the return of the Hatbox Ghost, a legendary specter of Disney lore that spent a brief period in the Mansion when the attraction first opened in 1969. Alas, the effect of a spirit carting around his head in a hatbox never quite worked right, so it was quickly removed, never to return…until now, over 45 years later. Time, technology and fan demand have now made it possible for the Hatbox Ghost to make a ghastly return and we can hardly wait to see him.

Joining me today to talk about the Hatbox Ghost and the long history of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland is author and historian Jeff Baham. Eighteen years ago, Jeff started the popular Mansion website, which is a treasure trove of Haunted Mansion history and fascinating facts. Jeff has written a book, The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion which is available on Amazon and from Jeff also co-hosts the popular Disney fan podcast Mousestalgia

Forty-five years of Haunted Mansion history with Jeff Baham, my guest today in The Mouse Castle Lounge. Enjoy!

Jeff Baham
Jeff Baham

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Inside The Mouse Castle 05-04-2015 - 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' Review, 'Star Wars' Day and Disneyland's Future Plans

By Tim Callaway

When is a $187.7 million opening weekend for a movie a disappointment? When Avengers: Age of Ultron fails to surpass the $200 million-plus opening of 2012's The Avengers. Still, for Ultron that ain't bad, especially considering it's approaching $500 million in box office outside the U.S.

Okay, those are the dollars. Is the movie any good?

Anthony and I offer up our takes on Avengers: Age of Ultron in this edition of Inside The Mouse Castle. We're both big fans of the film, which succeeds at being darker and deeper than its predecessor, but it still lacks that little something-something to place it in the rarefied air of The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Here's what else is going on in this week's episode:
  • May the Fourth, Revenge of the Fifth, Revenge of the Sixth? Whatever. We've got Star Wars news about new The Force Awakens pics in Vanity Fair. There's also an opening for a new director for one of the upcoming Star Wars standalone films. 
  • Last week, pictures of the upcoming Disney Infinity 3.0 leaked online. Since we recorded the show, it's now confirmed that Star Wars will join the DI universe this fall. The Starter Pack will come with Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano figures. Play Sets for the new edition will include two Star Wars adventures set during the original trilogies with a third one based on The Force Awakens coming out later this year. There will also be an Inside Out Play Set. 
  • Our sources say that Asa Butterfield is in as the new Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's very likely the star of Hugo and Ender's Game will take on the role of the web-slinger in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War.
  • Disneyland will be closing early on select days in May as it prepares for the park's Diamond Celebration kickoff on May 22nd. It will close at 7:30 p.m. on May 6-7, May 11-12 and May 19. On May 21, the park will close at 6:00 p.m. to get ready for the 24-hour party that begins at 6:00 a.m. on May 22. Yes, I will be there to endure the entire 24 hours. I hope you can join me.
  • Disney has purchased the Carousel Inn & Suites, a 131-room hotel on Harbor Boulevard across the street from the Disneyland Resort. We're pretty sure that Disney isn't interested in running a another hotel long-term, so let the speculation begin!
  • A dining test is being conducted at Walt Disney World that could speed up and customize how guests order meals at the resort. Think of it as a FastPass for dining where you can arrange in advance for counter service, table service or grab-and-go. The test is going on right now at the Backlot Express at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Stay tuned.
  • Oriental Land Company has announced expansion plans for Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. A Scandinavian-themed port (think Arendelle) will be added to Tokyo DisneySea while a Fantasyland expansion a'la the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World will add new Beauty and the Beast and Alice in Wonderland areas.
  • Humphrey's Service & Supplies will be just another souvenir shop themed to the new Grizzly Peak Airfield at Disney California Adventure when it opens on May 15th. But dude, it's HUMPHREY'S. Pay attention.



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