Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Soarin Over Disneyland

If you were to ask me what one thing I like the most about Disneyland, you would be waiting a while. The answer would either take several minutes for me to formulate as I expanded and expounded, or we would both be sitting in silence as I hovered in a state of cogitation. In other words, locate a comfortable chair.

If you were to ask me to catalog the iconography of my childhood, however, one of the first items recalled would surely be the Disneyland Skyway.

Please check out the rest of the article on MiceChat! 

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Disney Project Podcast--Episode 3: It's Kind of a Cute Podcast

Keith talks to Jeff Heimbuch (MiceChat, Communicore Weekly) and Disney Legend Rolly Crump about their book "It's Kind of a Cute Story." Jeff talks about what went into creating the book, while Rolly tells us about just some of his amazing experiences working with Walt Disney.

Details on the book can be found here:

This episode is also available on iTunes.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

From Page to Screen: The Evolution of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

On November 17, I attended an event at the Walt Disney Family Museum called From Page to Screen: The Evolution of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. J.B. Kaufman was joined by Lella Smith, creative director of the Walt Disney Animation Research Library. J.B. (author, Disney historian, and brilliant public speaker) is considered by many to be one of the leading experts on Walt Disney’s version of Snow White. For this program, he didn’t disappoint.

Lella started the program off by telling us about the earliest versions of the classic fairy tale. Contrary to popular belief, the Grimm brothers (Jacob and Wilhelm) did not author the original story; rather they recorded several versions of it from all over Europe. In all of the versions there was a vain and evil Queen. In the Grimm version, the evil Queen was Snow White’s jealous mother who plotted to kill her young daughter at the age of seven.

Walt had a particular fondness for this tale, thanks to the memories of his grandmother reading it to him when he was very young. To improve the story, he made several changes. Originally, the prince never laid eyes upon Snow White until she was lying in the glass coffin. Walt knew the prince would have to be introduced much earlier in the story, which allowed for the creation of the magic wishing apple.

"It's a magic, wishing apple"  © Disney

He also knew that Snow White wasn’t going to be seven years old. While never stating her actual age, Walt said that she should be old enough to be married.

Walt Disney was one of the greatest storytellers of all time. He had a brilliant knack for making changes or additions that considerably strengthened the story he was telling. One of the more powerful scenes in Disney’s Snow White was the Queen’s transformation, thanks to Walt’s idea to let the audience see her slowly change from a beautiful woman into a vile old hag. During the dark forest scene, Walt wanted the audience to feel the fear Snow White felt. Knowing how scary some of the scenes were, Walt didn’t want children under eight years old to view the film. Walt’s own daughter, Diane Disney-Miller, admitted she covered her eyes during several scenes when she first saw the movie.

Production cel of poor terrified Snow White  © Disney

Another cool detail Walt specified was to make sure the dwarfs' instruments appeared homemade. That’s why a flute looked more like a fish than it did a flute. The dwarfs lived in the middle of the forest, and didn’t have quick access to a local music store, after all! This exemplifies one of the many details that Walt and his animators took care to add, which put them head and shoulders above their competition (the small rips in the pool table during the Pleasure Island scene of Pinocchio is another wonderful example of this).

Production sketch of Sleepy with his homemade flute  © Disney

Snow White’s heart wasn’t always the organ the Queen wanted the huntsman to retrieve. Body parts varied dramatically by version, one even pinpointing the young girl’s liver as evidence of her demise. Also, there were no forest animals prior to Disney’s version. But they were a brilliant addition, since they could communicate with Snow White, they were able to help the story along.

Lella wrapped up her segment of the program with this wonderful quote from the man himself: "It has always been my hope that our fairy-tale films will result in a desire of viewers to read again the fine, old original tales and enchanting myths on the home bookshelf or school library. Our motion picture productions are designed to augment them, not supplant them." ~ Walt Disney

J.B. Kaufman jumped right in with an astute observation of Snow White’s few detractors. “I think the people who made those criticisms don’t understand the art of making an animated film.” Some people felt that Walt strayed too far from the source material, while J.B. keenly disagreed. “Walt did come closer to the Grimms’ version than many of the versions before him,” he remarked. J.B. then proceeded to educate us about some of the aspects of those earlier versions.

Carl August Gorner did a stage version in 1856, and was the first to give the dwarfs names. They were: Blick, Pick, Knick, Strick, Rick, Dick, and Schick. The names were pretty much their only distinction from one another, with the lone exception of Blick being the “leader.”

The next adaptation came from Marguerite Merington in 1905 as a “Fairytale Play.” She actually adapted Gorner’s version instead of the Grimms’, and kept the dwarfs’ names. Blick was still the leader, but in her version, Schick stood out as sort of a goof. Winthrop Ames’ version came next in 1912, and he even hired Merington to help. Ames also made a few changes of his own. The names of the dwarfs became: Blick, Flick, Glick, Snick, Plick, Whick, and Quee. Quee was sort of the odd man out, and almost never spoke.

In case you were wondering about some of the early dwarf names Disney had in mind for its version, here’s a “short” list: Jumpy, Deafy, Dizzy, Awful, Wheezy, Baldy, Gabby, Nifty, Sniffy, Swifty, Lazy, Puffy, Stuffy, Tubby, Shorty, and Burpy!

Ames billed his production as the first play specifically for children. Because of that, the Queen and the old witch were written as two separate characters. While the Queen was still evil, the old witch was a somewhat comedic character who actually wanted Snow White’s heart for a hair-restoration concoction, as she was completely bald. Actress Marguerite Clark was 29 when she played Princess Snow White for Ames, and reprised the role in 1916 for a film version by Paramount.

Walt saw that film as a young boy in Kansas City. It had a big impact on him, and contributed to his decision to make Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs his first animated feature. J.B. screened clips of the 1916 film for us, and remarked how much different it was than the 1912 play. J.B. was also amazed at just how different it was from Walt’s version, since it had made such an impression on him. One of the funnier scenes we were shown entailed the dwarfs’ first encounter with Snow White, as she slept in their cottage. “What is it?” a title card read. “It’s a girl, I saw one before.”

With that, J.B. ended his portion of the program, and he and Lella held a brief Q&A with the audience. And yes, as usual, I bugged the presenters for a photo.

Lella and me

Hangin' with J.B.

After the program, J.B. stuck around to sign a couple of his latest books: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Art and Creation of Walt Disney’s Classic Animated Film, and The Fairest One of All: The Making of Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the latter of which took J.B. about ten years to complete. To say the man did his research is an understatement.

Thank you Lella Smith and J.B. Kaufman for the great presentation. Lella did a great job, and J.B. was amazing, as usual.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Birth of a Mouse

Walt Disney once said, "Mickey Mouse will be five years old on Sunday. He was born on October 1, 1928. That was the date on which his first picture was started, so we have allowed him to claim this day as his birthday."

While that date obviously didn't last, the film Walt was referring to would play an integral part in deciding Mickey's birthday. Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho were already completed (and test-screened) by October of 1928, which means Walt was in fact talking about Steamboat Willie. The short, inspired by the Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill Jr., debuted on November 18, 1928, at New York's Colony Theatre.

Happy Birthday to both of you -- photo copyright Disney

It wasn't until Mickey Mouse was about to turn 50, however, that it was decided just when he was turning 50.

Read the full article on STORYBOARD:

Happy Birthday, Mickey and Minnie Mouse!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rocket Rods Song and Lyrics

Below are the lyrics and audio from "World of Creativity (Magic Highways of Tomorrow)," the song for the former Disneyland attraction, Rocket Rods. The lyrics may not be 100% accurate, as I had to transcribe them myself. I believe however they are pretty close.

The first 3 minutes of the song are mainly melody, no lyrics (other than a few non lyrical phrases). If you want to skip to the lyrics portion, please click here. However I recommend listening to the whole thing. It’s only four minutes, and it’s adapted from a Sherman Brothers tune, after all!

World of Creativity (Magic Highways of Tomorrow)
Arranged and performed by Steve Bartek
Adapted from the song "Detroit," composed by the Sherman Brothers for the film The Happiest Millionaire

You can hear it hummin', see it comin'
Stretching down across through all the land. 
Rapid transportation, to destinations, every one at your command

Magic Highways of tomorrow, are more than what they seem
Ride your mind's designs; ride a dream

Ride through open spaces, to distant places
Every destination's up to you
Traveling fast as sound, high above the ground
Hear our dreams and ride them too

Magic Highways of tomorrow are much more than what they seem
Ride your mind's designs; ride a dream

The rest of my Rocket Rods article can be read on MiceChat: Keith Liked the Rocket Rods

Friday, November 2, 2012


On Saturday, October 27, I attended an event celebrating the 30th anniversary of the original TRON at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. TRON has long been one of my favorite films, like most fellow geeks of my generation. It was so ahead of its time that the effects still look cool to this day. The event featured not just the screening of the film, but a panel with some of its filmmakers, producers, and even TRON (Bruce Boxleitner) himself!

The event was scheduled to go from 7p to 2a, and I arrived at the infamous Hollywood landmark at about 6:30. There was already a large crowd gathered out front, which consisted of event attendees, curious tourists, and random homeless people. The event’s special guests started to arrive, and posed for the paparazzi on hand.

TRON director Steven Lisberger

The fans who dressed up posed as well, in many cases with the event guests.

Bruce Boxleitner (center) with a few fans

The different panel members regaled us with many wonderful stories prior to the screening. Co-writer Bonnie MacBird spoke with her husband Alan Kay, and explained that not only did she meet Alan thanks to TRON (a successful computer programmer, he was tapped as a consultant for the film), but she named the character of TRON’s user, Alan Bradley, after him. Alan also told us about a cool scene that was planned for the film, but never made it in: TRON finds some humorous material in a “vast cybernetic store,” and did not understand it. So TRON interfaces with his user, and he tries to explain to TRON what a joke is.

I took video of the panel, for those who are interested.

Once director Steven Lisberger wrapped up his presentation, they screened the film. It is always cool getting to see it on the big screen. After the movie everyone headed to the party, which featured MOBIUS8, ALLUXE, and NOSAJ THING. The party itself was decorated with brilliant neon and lasers, allowing us all to feel what it was like to be on the grid.

Interspersed with the partygoers were TRON arcade games...

...and large screens displaying concept art as well as awesome on-set photos.

Original TRON concept art

Bruce Boxleitner practicing some disc throwing moves

Steven Lisberger and Jeff Bridges

Bruce with Cindy Morgan (Yori) lookin' good!

Out in the main hall, we were treated to several displays containing vintage TRON merchandise.

I got this toy as a kid, and still have it actually

The highlight of the night for me came when I got to finally meet one of my favorite filmmakers in person, Jerry Rees. Not only did Jerry work on the original TRON, but he is responsible for a few films that most Disney fans are very familiar with; In-park films such as O Canada featuring Martin Short (Epcot), Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years featuring Steve Martin (Disneyland), and feature films such as The Brave Little Toaster. He also happens to have directed what I consider to be the best in-park film in Disney history, Cinemagique in the Walt Disney Studios Park, Paris. Do not watch it on YouTube. You have to see it in person first. He and I spoke briefly about TRON, but I have to confess we spent most of the time talking about Cinemagique. Sorry, fellow programs.

Keith and Jerry fighting for the users

The party was scheduled to end at 2am, but I could only last till 1. It was a pretty amazing night. I really loved being surrounded by so many fellow TRON fans.

Flynn, two wayward programs, Quorra, Zuse

If the event were local to me, I might have tried to dress up myself. Even still it was a fun environment, and the event coordinators did a good job providing a variety of TRON-related stimulus to satiate a variety of geek palates. I will definitely attend the next one!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Disney Project Podcast--Episode 2: An Evening at the Tahitian Terrace

Keith talks about the Mousetalgia event "An Evening at the Tahitian Terrace" with special guest and Mousetalgia host Dave Breiland. Also included are some audio clips from the event, and as a frequent visitor to the original Tahitian Terrace, Keith shares his thoughts on its past and future.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Evening at the Tahitian Terrace

Like most lifelong Disney fans, there are many experiences that hold special places in my heart. As a huge Tron fan, I remember loving the wall of Tron video games in the Disneyland Starcade. They even had TV screens above them so people could watch you play! Simple things register as well, such as being able to see Disneyland from where your dad parked the car, or riding the escalator to enter the Space Mountain queue.

Few memories, however, encapsulate my early years at Disneyland better than dinner at the Tahitian Terrace. Sadly, the Tahitian Terrace shut its doors in spring of 1993 to make way for Aladdin’s Oasis, a dinner show based on the popular animated feature. The Aladdin show was cute, however it failed to capture the charm and certainly the serenity of a tropical paradise. And personally, I grew tired of picking nuts out of my rice. The Oasis only lasted a few years, and was converted into a storytelling venue in 1997. Since then I would occasionally peak my head in and look longingly at what was once my all-time favorite Disney eatery, and hoped that one day my beloved Tahitian Terrace would return.

On Saturday, October 13, 2012, it did just that.

The wonderful folks over at Mousetalgia hosted a “one-night only” event that night called “An Evening at the Tahitian Terrace.” They procured the original venue, and with a little Disney magic, transformed it from its current Arabian theme, to the soft splendor of the South Pacific.

Our lovely greeters/dancers

Tony Baxter enjoying the band

Check-in began just before 6pm, and we all received our lanyards and puka shell necklaces. It was open seating, which meant as soon as you walked in, you picked a table. I opted to sit closer to the stage, not far from where I usually sat when I was a kid. The band was onstage performing tranquil music from the Islands, as the final guests located a place to sit. We were then invited to help ourselves to the buffet, which included such dishes as: Fried Chicken with Coconut Sauce, New York Sirloin, Grilled Mahi Mahi, Polynesian Vegetables, Cantonese Rice, and more. I was mingling with different friends at first, and opted to grab food after the initial rush. There was plenty to go around, which was good since I helped myself to seconds!

Plate #1

The desserts were equally delicious, which consisted of little rum cakes, pineapple upside-down cakes, mini flourless chocolate cakes, and several other small but delicious treats. And what did we wash it all down with? Why Tahitian Terrance Punch, of course! At that point just eating that style of food inside that venue was worth the price of admission. It’s hard to put into words the feeling that comes with experiencing something that you so cherish, and that you’d never thought you’d ever experience again. It was like time travel, without the messy plutonium.

Towards the end of our meal, the entertainment began. Emerging from the cave next to the stage (only this time sans waterfall), groups of dancers came out performing a variety of authentic South Pacific dances, featuring the cultures of Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and more. All of the performances were beautiful, from the grace of the hula, to the fury of the slap dance. Soon it was time for one of my former favorite performances to begin, the flaming knife dance! The host however gave us a heads up just before the performance. “They wouldn’t let us use fire, so please enjoy… the flameless knife dance!” I guess fire safety rules are a little different these days, but the dancer still came out and performed wonderfully. And perhaps one of the coolest moments of the evening was when our host informed us that he was the fire dancer for the Tahitian Terrace for the last seven years before it closed, and his father held that role for seventeen years before him!

Our host - SO cool to find out he used to be the fire dancer

Samoan Slap Dance! 

See the silver part on the edges of the stick? Yeah, normally that's flaming when he does this

Another tradition that I had presumed they wouldn’t forget was bringing unsuspecting audience members onstage. Some of the folks picked included Disney Imagineer Josh Shipley, Mousetalgia hostess Becky Breiland, and Disney Legend Bob Gurr (who opted to give his alias “Roberto” when asked for his name). Each guest brought on stage had their own personal dance instructor, and were given a very brief, very public tutorial on how to shake it, Polynesian style!

The "volunteers"

Go Josh!

Bob Gurr easily won best dance of the night

After the wonderful dancing, both professional and amateur, it was time for the special guest of the evening to speak. Disney Legend Rolly Crump was on hand, and the talented Disney artists Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily interviewed him onstage. Rolly’s impressive resume includes: animator on films like Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty, designer on beloved attractions like the Tiki Room and the Haunted Mansion, creator of the Tower of the Four Winds marquee for It’s a Small World, and project designer for The Land and Wonders of Life pavilions for EPCOT Center.

Jody, Kevin, Rolly

Rolly shared many wonderful stories about his long and amazing Disney career, and due to memory card restraints, I was able to film about 80 percent of it. For those interested, that video can be viewed below.

Rolly’s current project is an autobiography outlining his incredible experiences with the Disney Company, told in his own words and photographs. It’s Kind of a Cute Story, put together by Communicore Weekly co-host (and good friend of The Disney Project) Jeff Heimbuch, is due out within the next two months, with a book tour already scheduled for early 2013. For more information, please check out the book’s official Facebook page.

At the end of the evening, the crew from Mousetalgia took the stage and thanked us all for attending, while it should have been us on stage thanking them for the wonderful event!

Dave, Jeff, Kristen, Becky

Before we were ushered out, I was able to speak with Kevin Kidney and let him know how great his and Jody’s work was. I also asked if he had any spare Moonliners lying around! Alas, he did not. So I settled for a photo with him instead.

Keith, Kevin

Oh, and I thought it would be fun to post a photo of my young self enjoying the original Tahitian Terrace. I know I have more, and when I find them I will post them. In the meantime, please enjoy my horrible early 90s fashion (left), hanging out with three of my cousins.

Don't act like you never owned overall shorts - Circa 1991

HUGE thanks to the team at Mousetalgia for putting this event together. I was surprised to discover I was one of the few people that night that had actually frequented the original Tahitian Terrace. After dinner when a bunch of us were recapping the evening, many of them asked me, “Was tonight just like it was?” With the exception of a few obvious things out of their control (the cave’s faƧade, the “no fire” fire dance), I was happy to say that Mousetalgia and Disney did a magnificent job recreating one of my very favorite Disney memories.

Note to Disney: When asked if any of us wanted the Tahitian Terrace back, everyone in the crowd erupted, including Bob Gurr and Tony Baxter!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2012 Tower of Terror 10 Miler Race Recap

I knew this race was going to be tough before I ever laced up my Sauconys. For one, I didn’t train. Like at all. I ran a total of maybe five miles in the months leading up to the ToT10. I know that’s not necessarily the best blueprint for an enjoyable race, but I had a few reasons. One of them being, it was only ten miles! Yeah, I’ve had smarter moments. I’ll just lean on my other reasons for justification.

Another reason I had predicted difficulty: it was hot. Hot and humid. It may have been the most humid that I’ve ever experienced while in Walt Disney World (or anywhere for that matter). We don’t get much humidity in San Francisco, so my primary exposure comes during my trips to Lake Buena Vista. I wasn’t the only one who noticed the humidity, by the way. Next to Epcot 30, it may have been the most-discussed topic that weekend. So I’m en route to the Studios, amidst maxed-out humidity, and having a (admittedly self-inflicted) whopping five miles of training under my belt. What’s on my mind? Why, “Let’s run a race!” of course.

The last bus departed the Beach Club just before 8pm, so my friends and I arrived with about 2 hours to spare. RunDisney loves getting runners to the race nice and early, so to kill time I met up with a few other friends and snapped some pre-race photos. Many runners were sitting on the ground either relaxing or stretching. And there were more than a few runners in line for the port-a-potties.

Holly, Keith, Stacey


One of the pre-race backdrops for photos

I was set to be in corral A, but my friends were in corral D (even though they shouldn’t have been). I decided to hang back to run with them, because not having trained for the race, I figured I was going to move pretty slowly anyway. Mistake number two.

The race began for corral D, and I literally walked the first mile. A few people maintained a slow jog, but I have such long legs, my walking was keeping with the pace of the runners. I knew I couldn’t handle just walking for long, but it wasn’t until I came to the first mile marker at somewhere around the 17-minute mark that I made the move. I told my friends I had to go, and I began weaving through the throng of people. I swear it feels like all that weaving adds an extra mile or two to your run. As I weaved, I started to notice some of the course decorations.

Some "spooky" Twilight Zone effects

Kinda hard to see, but it's the Shadow Man!

Mile 1 was easy, because of the walking. Miles 2 through 5 were pretty rough. Aside from the weaving, that part of the course takes place along the Osceola Parkway, which means not much to look at and a few overpasses. The course takes you to the Animal Kingdom, but unlike the Wine & Dine, you never enter that park.

Blurry Lion King character

Neither his teeth or his ambition were bared

It wasn’t until mile 5 or 6 that I really got going. Running lanes were starting to open up as we approached the ESPN complex. I had also just gobbled up some GU Chews (which by the way are way better than the inedible paste), so for the first time that night I felt pretty good. Plus that section of the course is nice and flat, and well-lit. Looking back on the race photos, I was pretty happy during this stretch of the run. Now when it comes to spotting the race photographers, my friend Jenn’s ability is the stuff of legend. I must usually be focusing on not dying then, because I typically only notice a handful of them. In the ESPN Complex portion of this race, however, I spotted them all.

The “creepy” Haunted Mansion CM’s from the Boo to You parade made an appearance, so I tried to snap a picture. It came out blurry, but I think that actually adds to the creepiness!

Mile 7 took us up along Victory Way, and back onto Osceola Parkway. By mile 8, my GU Chews had worn off, and I began to miss the smooth, illuminant grounds of the ESPN Complex. The humidity had been an issue for most of the race, but my not-so-secret “trick” was helping. What I do when it’s particularly warm is at every water station down two cups of Powerade, and poor a cup of water or two on either the top of my head or the back of my neck. It’s not for everyone, but it helps me.

You better lose yourself, in the music...

Home stretch time! Right around mile 9, we entered Hollywood Studios. Just like all the parks, this one is pretty at night. I am used to running through this park for Wine & Dine however, so I was a little sad when we made it to the Streets of America and the Osborne lights weren’t glowing. At least there were a lot of people there to cheer us on, and funnily enough that really helps towards the end. I feel like the loudest concentration of spectators was located at the Sorcerer’s hat. I tried to get video of it on my phone, but it didn’t work out. I eventually crossed the finish line, and while tired, I was pretty shocked that I felt as good as I did, considering the weather and my (lack of) training.

As bad as I look in this pic, it's better than my "official"  post-race pic!

After the race we received our Powerade and food boxes, which consisted of crackers, a protein bar, cheese, and a few other items. I ate the crackers and the protein bar, and waited for my friends to text me. As I looked around, I noticed a few runners weren’t feeling very well. One girl was either being sick, or she was yelling at a bush. After receiving a text from my friends, I made my way over to the Indiana Jones Stunt Show, where they were picking up their bag. As soon as I walked in, and realized I had to traverse stairs, I became sad. I was quickly distracted however as I had to dodge the puke from a girl sitting on a nearby bench. All told I had witnessed about four incidents of regurgitation that evening, which was a new record for me. Also at one point inside the bag check area, a man became extremely lightheaded, so my friend Holly (who is a nurse) ran over to make sure he was okay. Thankfully he was, as it turns out he was just a little dehydrated.

There was a planned meet for members of the runDisney Facebook group at 1am, in front of 50’s Prime Time. Only a handful of us made it, so while there, we took advantage of the opportunity and posed for a photo.

runDisney Facebook group in the house!

This was not the worst race I’ve ever had (in terms of difficulty, it would be the Triathlon I ran in 2009 – in terms of heat index, that honor goes to the 2007 Disneyland Half), however overall it was pretty rough. While runDisney did have a decent amount of characters out, much of the course is a little bland. The only reason I ran this race instead of the Wine & Dine Half is because they moved that race to November this year, and I already had the time booked at the Beach Club (not to mention this was Epcot 30 weekend). The humidity certainly didn’t help matters, although you can hardly blame runDisney for that. Overall I think they did a good job with the water stations, characters, post-race party, etc. However I would like to see some slight tweaking to the course in the future. Ten miles is such a weird number, why not just make it a full Half and let us run through Animal Kingdom? Since they labeled this race as the inaugural Tower of Terror 10 miler, I don’t think that’ll happen any time soon. I would run this race again, but I still definitely prefer the Wine & Dine Half.