Friday, February 28, 2014

Walt's Windows - Clarence Nash On What's My Line

Walt's Windows - Clarence Nash On What's My Line

When I stumbled on the video of Walt Disney on What's My Line it was recommended that I watch a video of Donald Duck on the same program.  This excerpt from December 12, 1954, honestly had me in stitches.

I honestly cannot think of any video where I have actually seen Clarence "Ducky" Nash at work.  And I loved this, especially since the guests have such a hard time pinning down what Mr. Nash did for a living.  And of course, you have to stay for the end to see him voicing his famous counterpart Donald Duck.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Between Books - More Cute Stories Volume 3: Museum of the Weird

As a Disney fan and a comic book guy, I've been paying a lot of attention lately to the Museum of the Weird.  I have enjoyed the behind the scenes story of this old idea that has been dusted off by Marvel Comics to become Disney Kingdom's Seekers of the Weird.  So when I saw that Rolly Crump had put together one of his oral histories recounting his history with the idea, well I knew I had to hear it since Walt Disney developed the concept after reviewing some Crump designs.

Like the other offerings in this series, More Cute Stories Volume 3: Museum of the Weird is all Rolly all the time.  In this title he provides the story of how the Museum of the Weird was created.  And it all starts with the beloved Haunted Mansion!  He details how Yale Gracey and himself were working on the Mansion attraction and reassigned to work on the World's Fair attractions.  And he discusses how Walt Disney created the Museum of the Weird for concepts that Rolly developed.  But Walt Disney pulled Rolly off the Mansion and assigned him to New Tomorrowland.  By the time this project was completed, Disney had passed away.  And the head of Imagineering Dick Irvine was more interested in the contributions of his own generational peers than the younger Crump.  So Crump was made Disneyland's Art Director and mostly worked with maintenance!  Crump provide listeners with an overview of how the Museum would have been laid out and what his hopes for the Museum's future are now that it has been rediscovered by Marvel.

What really fascinates me in these presentations is Crump's take on people.  Dick Irvine is painted, as in other places, as someone who did not understand this young Imagineer that Disney seemed so interested in.  And Marc Davis, who I have remarked in the past has at times been absent in this series, is seen as someone who also did not understand Crump's work.  Or more importantly, Davis did not understand what Walt Disney saw in Crump's work.  But the person who really stands out in Crump's memory is Walt Disney.  Crump reinforces again and again it is Disney that created the Museum of the Weird, Crump paints himself as only providing concepts.  It is Walt Disney that saw the potential of a full-scale attraction that could be combined with the Haunted Mansion.  As Crump typically does he paints Disney as a hero.  And any Disney fan has to enjoy Crump's discussion of Walt Disney on the set of the Wonderful World of Disney, a showing that Disney handpicked Crump to attend.  

For me one of the best segments was listening to Rolly describe what the Museum of the Weird would look like.  First, it would be a Museum.  The Museum would be designed as a walk through attraction that would designed to meet the guests expectation of what a museum should be.  Second there would be a large rotunda and and a series of hallways.  I will not spoil the whole tour, but one of the first things I did was take out my copy of Disney Kingdom's Seekers of the Weird #1 and compare the Disney Legend's description of the rotunda to what I see in the pages of the comic.  In many ways I fell like they nailed the feel that Disney and Crump were looking to set.  My only real question was the described placement of the gypsy wagon which I felt was improperly placed based on Crump's discussions.  But after looking through several other panels I think they may have hit the proper placement and my imagination may be slightly off kilter. 

This honestly is my favorite of the three volumes.  Since Crump is only discussing one central subject, the discussion flows smoothly and logically.  But best of all, you really feel like Crump is getting on a roll as he talks.  You can imagine this entire disc as one stream of thought.  I found myself getting excited as he told his behind the scenes stories of what could have been. You can really get caught up in his enthusiasm, especially since one can tell he cares for Walt Disney's idea.  Crump is excited and you feel excited!  

I have really enjoyed volume 1 and volume 2 of this oral history series.  But More Cute Stories Volume 3: Museum of the Weird is my favorite to date.  And honestly that enthusiasm is not about the comic.  But really I would enjoy this volume without a comic because Rolly is so enthusiastic about this topic.  The star is Rolly Crump and hearing his voice gain steam as he gets excited about Walt Disney's Museum of the Weird.  As if an attraction can kick-off a movie franchise and Marvel Cinematic Universe movies based on comics are making huge profits for Disney, who knows what the future holds for the Museum of the Weird!      

Copy Provided for Purposes of Review 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cap's Comics - Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird #2

As Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird #2 opens, our heroes Melody and Maxwell have weird problems.  First, their parents have been kidnapped.  And if that is not bad enough their first meeting with mysterious Uncle Roland ends with him losing his legs.  Now Roland mentors the two youngster as they seek the Coffin Clock within the Museum of the Weird.  The two discover that the clock is wanted by the Shadow Society who kidnapped their parents.  And the kids learn that the Museum is the domain of the Wardens, who stored magical items within.  To save their parents the two must find the first ingredient to recovering the clock, a chair with a face!

Cover B Incentive Cover Variant
When the Between Tween read the first issue, the response I got was I am confused.  When the Tween finished the second issue I was told that one should not have to wait a month and every issue should be collected together for one reading.  A day later, I was told that this was the Tween's favorite comic of all time.  I will admit, the fact this story has a young female who plays lacrosse scores a lot of points in the Between House.  And if one of the goals of this series to is get young people to read comics, Disney and Marvel are succeeding by giving us something different that superheroes.

Crosby Imagineer Variant

As a comic fan I am enjoying this story.  In this issue we get into the action and the setup is minimized with much of our background setting complete in the first issue.  The story is horror, but  not so terrifying a young person cannot enjoy it.  You know like a certain mansion!  As a Disney fan I will admit what has impressed me is what Brandon Siefert has built upon the bones of the concept that Walt Disney and Rolly Crump developed.  In this case they provide us an entire mythology about who runs the Museum in the Wardens, its purpose and who are their enemies.  And I will admit this is the sort of mythology that can be used in a (wink wink) future series.

Based on the reaction here in Betweenland this weird concept, a comic built on an unbuilt attraction is working.  And I smile ear to ear upon the news issue #1 is getting a second printing!  Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Between Books - Every Guest Is A Hero

As a kid I grew up loving Star Wars.  George Lucas' creation defined my playtime (with a mix-in of The A-Team).  It was only as an adult that I came to understand the structure behind the Heroes Journey and heard the name Joseph Campbell who was an influence on the movie saga.  And as I became more aware of story, I came to learn that the structure that Campbell presented for an heroic epic was everywhere in both modern and ancient myths.  So I should not have been shocked to discover that storytellers who communicate in dark rides and roller coasters used Campbell's language.  But honestly I was!

Every Guest is a Hero: Disney's Theme Parks and the Magic of Mythic Storytelling by Adam M. Berger describes and outlines how Imagineers have followed Campbell's Hero's Journey within the parks.  "Part I: The Magical Myth Story Tour" provides an overview of Campbell's theories on mythic stories, including the an analysis of the four major movements of separation, descent, ordeal and return and it's component parts like the call to adventure and resurrection for the hero.  Berger also discusses the masks worn by characters within myths including heralds, mentors, and shadows and the impact they typically have on the stories hero.  "Part II: Mything in Action" analyzes ten Disney attractions, explaining how Campbell's model can be seen in the guest's journey.

First let me address the theories of Joseph Campbell.  I am familiar with his name and work but never taken the time to study his writing in depth (though I have name dropped him in order to sound cooler at times).  Berger treats the first half of his book as if his readers are novices to Campbell's writing.  And I think this is a strength.  For me he was able to put Campbell's thoughts into a form I could digest with examples from Disney films, Star Wars and the Disney Parks.  Therefore as someone who is a giant Disney fan, Berger brought me Campbell in a format that was understandable to me.  He used what I was familiar with to help me piece together the mythic structure and theory.  For me this was probably more effective than if I had read Campbell's writings.  I think I learned more because Berger translated the mythologist into my language, Disney.  And the chart on page 19 is an incredibly useful reference tool when exploring the book and thinking about other stories and how they follow the mythic round.

The chapters on the Disney attractions were also very useful to me.  They are not guidebook descriptions, at least none like I have read before.  Instead they are literary criticism of physical moving stories.  So as Berger takes the reader through the attraction he reinforces what he already taught you about Campbell's thoughts and shows you how Imagineers intentionally and accidentally mirrored Campbell's concepts.  At Mission Space, Berger shows you a new role for cast members as they become threshold Guardians directing you to the proper experience.  He takes you on Expedition Everest and asks if the guest or the Yeti is the hero, could you be the villainous shadow?  At The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror the screams of the guests in their ride vehicle call you to adventure, a call many choose to refuse.  And though you do not "die" as a guest at Toy Story Midway Mania, the energized feeling many feel as they walk through the exit serves a restorative function to the visitor.  These insights and many more to the storytelling the guest immerses themselves into provides new life to attractions we know so well, and something for even the most seasoned guest to look for in the future.

I enjoyed Every Guest is a Hero and I found it both educating and entertaining.  One could call it edutainment!  The writing is clear and detailed.  And I would have no problem recommending it to my friends who are interested in story.  In fact, for the literary types who struggle to understand why I like Disney parks so much this new layer of analysis may help them give the parks a second glance.  And I think Disney fans who want to know about Campbell should start here instead of other Campbell texts.  But I do not think I would recommend this book for everyone.  This is not a guidebook and it is not beach side reading for most.  This is serious literary criticism applied to dark rides and roller coasters.  So it may not be every one's cup of tea.  But for those who enjoy breaking apart Disney stories into fine detail, like Disney fanboys, this is going to be a favorite book.  I can easily see guests using the framework Berger has provided to build their own analysis.

As the title says, Every Guest is a Hero!  We love the adventure we find in the Disney parks, transporting us from the ordinary to the special worlds within the themed lands.  Adam Berger provides us insight on how Imagineers have setup our experiences so they speak to us in a epic mythic way.  And he provides us with a toolbox to dig into Disney attractions on our own and discover that we are the hero.

Review Copy Provided for Purpose of Review    

Friday, February 14, 2014

Walt's Windows - Walt Disney on What's My Line

Walt's Windows - Walt Disney on What's My Line

You really do have to love YouTube!  It is amazing what you stumble upon.  And recently I found this clip of Walt Disney on What's My Line which ran on CBS from 1950 until 1967.

Walt Disney was a guest on November 11, 1967.

It really is worth a watch as he describes his new endeavor called Disneyland!

Honestly, I thought on the first question they had Mr. Disney due to his distinctive voice.  And I loved the fact that when asked about additions, his focus was on the future at Disneyland not what he had already accomplished.  It gives you the sense that he really did see Disneyland as a project that would never be finished.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Between Books - Lessons From Epcot: In Leadership, Business & Life

When the idea of a business book themed around Epcot was mentioned to me, well the first thing I thought is a lot of Disney fans are going to be interested in that!  There are several business books in the Between Books library.  The life of Walt Disney and the training techniques of the Walt Disney Company fill the pages of those books.  But I cannot think of one that has focused on a niche like Epcot, a niche with a loyal and engaged fans.

J. Jeff Kober in Lessons From Epcot: In Leadership, Business & Life provides a principled tour of Epcot.  Kober works his way through the park visiting Innoventions Plaza, Future World East, Future World West, World Showcase East, World Showcase South and World Showcase West in his nearly 150 pages.  Each of these sections is further divided into the attractions or pavilions which fill these areas paired with a lesson which can be applied in business or honestly life.  For example, in World Showcase East Kober takes his readers to the Nine Dragons Restaurant and provides a discussion of bad leaders!  In this case, the discussion focuses on how Disney has been proactive in creating critical behaviors in leaders who may have shown expertise in their prior position and then were promoted with little management experience.  The tours through the Epcot areas are based on information linked to the specific attraction or pavilion, historical facts from beyond the parks linked to the discussed topic, or the history of the Walt Disney Company and Parks.  Kober ends his book with an illustration that shows the importance of one person.

Overall, I found this book clear, easy to read and provided me much to think about.  While Disney fans will likely find Disney facts they are very familiar with they are still likely to be surprised as they go more deeply into topics like the inspiration of The Victoria Gardens in Canada, Art Frohwerk, or Department 510.  The Disney history is very sound with the only misstep being linked to Walt Disney's 1935 trip to Europe,  But it is only recently when books like Disney's Grand Tour have begun to separate fact from myth about this trip.  And many have repeated these once believed stories in other texts, likely serving as sources for this book.  Personally, I believe there is more than enough Disney to keep a Disney fan engaged and thinking.  The color illustrations also help to engage and entertain the reader as they dive into the book.  A problem I have is my team that I lead no longer want to hear about Walt Disney or Disney Parks!  But even in this difficult situation, though I may not use these examples with them directly, the Ask Yourself questions at the end of every section provide plenty of thought for self-reflection and assessment.   

I myself wondered how I could implement Bob Iger's rule that all meetings start on time, especially since the day I read that section I attended a volunteer board meeting which started 15 minutes late.  I really did enjoy the examples of Everything Speaks, especially from the China pavilion since it discussed the park and Chinese culture.  I had recently given a presentation in my own field that used Disney parks as my own example of how elements of a whole add up to one (hopefully) unified message and I love finding and understanding more examples of this concept.  And Kober's discussion of Test Track makes it clear what can happen to companies that are not courageous and change with the times.  These are just a few of the many lessons found throughout Lessons from Epcot's pages.

Lessons from Epcot by J. Jeff Kober provides something that will catch many Disney fans' attention, Epcot front and center.  But beyond the hook Kober provides a clear and well-organized text which many will enjoy.  And once one enters it pages self-reflection is impossible to avoid.  Readers come for Spaceship Earth, but stay as one dwells on courage, time-management, and motivating others.   

Review Copy Provided by Author

Friday, February 7, 2014

Mousey Movie Preview - As Dreamers Do

Mousey Movie Preview - As Dreamers Do

I have been hearing more and more about an Independent movie about the early life of Walt Disney called As Dreamers Do.  Here are the first two trailers so you can see for yourself what the filmmakers are planning.

In interviews that I have heard with the producers they have stated that they basing their story based on what Walt Disney stated in his stories.  And as you can see there is a real mouse throughout the trailers, based on a story which Walt Disney told about having a pet mouse.  And that story may be more myth than reality.  But I am kind of excited about seeing a biography based on how Walt Disney positioned himself...not just the fact.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Between Books - Disney's Grand Tour: Walt and Roy's European Vacation Summer 1935

In the Summer of 1935 the Disney Brothers, Walt and Roy, along with their wives Lillian and Edna traveled to Europe on a two month trip filled with vacation and work.  The trip itself gave Walt a needed rest before he propelled himself into even more ambitious projects.  And the Disney brothers saw first hand the global reach of their products.  When the two returned home they were better connected, better prepared and better rested for the challenges that would come before them as they moved into feature animated films.

Disney's Grand Tour: Walt and Roy's European Vacation Summer 1935 by Didier Ghez outlines the working vacation that the Disneys took which included the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy.  The book describes the general itinerary of the trip, the activities that four key participants took part in and those who they connected with.  As one reads through the pages, the reader finds a business man (Roy) who uses this trip to firmly establish subsidiary offices in Europe.  Additionally, readers see the artist (Walt) who meets with European creatives and collects European art books to grow the studio library at home for future projects.  And the reader joins two couples as they reconnect with each other on a trip that partially served as a second honeymoon and an opportunity for the husbands to reflect with their spouses on their World War I experiences.  Along with the facts of the trip, Ghez also addresses myths about the trip such as Walt Disney receiving a medal from the League of Nations and if the Disney's met Benito Mussolini.  Several photos from the time and some more recent color photos are found throughout the book, showing the reader the Disneys on the trip and the places they went.   

Ghez's writing is clear and easy to read.  Though some may see this as a niche history book, it is really written in a style that any reader can enjoy.  In fact, some could see this as being a travel book as the Disneys explore Europe instead of a historical monograph.  Additionally, the text is well-researched and documented.  The archives he consulted span two continents and numerous languages.  And he was provided access to Edna Disney's diary which serves as arecord of the trip.  Ghez's notes are extensive and informative in themselves, for example studying the note #60 I learned about the career of Disney merchandising guru Kay Kamen's nephew George.  Disney's Grand Tour with it's extensive notes and references really is a mature historical narrative written by a serious and reflective historian.  If I was to complain about anything I would ask Ghez to give the reader a little more.  There are topics, such as a brief discussion on a clock, that I wish there was more material on to fulfill my own curiosity.  Of course, as I have found in my own research, there may simply be no more that can be shared at this time.

I really did enjoy the fact that this book is a story of two couples.  And I do not feel that Roy gets lost behind his more famous younger brother.  This may be due to the one of the main sources being penned by Edna Disney and Roy.  The book makes it clear that Roy was an active participant on this trip who had an agenda bigger than helping his little brother relax.

A six week vacation!  I go to Disneyland for 12 days and people call me crazy!  This was not that atypical during the early 20th century.  I myself researched a British officer who took a 2 month vacation in India.  Basically, this helps to show us that though it was less than 100 years ago, the world was a much bigger place.  It took longer to travel and communicate between large distances.  Therefore, to have a meaningful trip more time was necessary.  It was not like Walt and Roy were checking their smart phones every few minutes!  They were going somewhere that truly was half a world away and took more than a few hours to get there, honestly it took days to just get out of the United States.

With a price tag like $34.95, some readers may be scared off.  I am assuming that Disney book collectors and completests will find this a required book!  But what about the more casual or price conscious reader.  I was surprised to see that the Kindle version of the book is priced at $7.99 at the time of this posting.  Yet again independent publishers prove that content is king and getting it to the reader is part of the mission.  I myself read an electronic copy of the book and had an enjoyable experience.

Disney's Grand Tour by Didier Ghez outlines a key time for Disney creativity.  Walt Disney came back from his six week trip with a better understanding of the world and how they consumed his products.  And, he was able to get some needed rest allowing him to launch forward to new areas and grow his studio even more.  Disney's Grand Tour outlines not just a holiday, but a turning point in Disney history.      

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press