Tag Archives: Walt Disney

I Am Thankful For The Happiest Place On Earth

7 Dec

I have failed you, dear reader. I told you I’d recount my Disney Thanksgiving yesterday, but the day got away from me and…well…that’s the only excuse I’ve got. I’m sorry. And I can’t believe I didn’t post anything yesterday about it being Walt Disney’s birthday! I’m really slipping here… Well, Happy 113th Birthday, Uncle Walt!

As some of you may recall, I recently spent a week at Walt Disney World completely on my own, enjoying the parks on my own schedule, at my own pace and on my own budget. Several people were shocked that I would want to go to an amusement park by myself – especially for a full week – but I had the absolute time of my life. I rode what I wanted, I met the characters I wanted to meet, I ate what I wanted whenever I wanted and I took the time to take photos and soak in the world famous Disney atmosphere and attention to detail. I found myself talking to strangers and laughing and walking around with a smile on my face. It was heaven.

So, when I found out that we had Thanksgiving day off in Los Angeles, I decided to forgo a traditional theatre orphans’ Thanksgiving, which usually consists of 5 or 6 people who haven’t any friends or family nearby getting together and cooking (and is, for the record, always fun and a wonderful way to spend the holiday), to treat myself to a day at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

My mother always asks me, “What exactly do you do there all day?” Obviously she has never been to a Disney park, though not for my lack of trying to get her to one.

Rather than tell you what I did, I’ll just show you. Nothing more exciting than looking at someone’s vacation photos, eh? Enjoy!

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Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

27 Aug
Mary Poppins and me at Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Mary Poppins and me at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Today is the 50th anniversary of the world premiere of “Mary Poppins.” As I’ve written before, “Mary Poppins” is one of my favorite movies in not only the Disney canon, but of all time, so this is an exciting day for me.

Just a few weeks ago, as I was traveling from Pittsburgh back to New York, I got stuck in Chicago when my connecting flight was cancelled. As luck would have it, the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit, presented by D-23, was at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, so I had to go. Imagine my excitement to find that one of the focal points of the exhibit was “Mary Poppins” memorabilia, including the carpet bag and one of Julie Andrews’ costumes from the film. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I had to take a few deep breaths and just bask in the glory of it all.

Happy Anniversary, “Mary Poppins!” Don’t stay away too long.

Julie Andrews' carpet bag from the movie "Mary Poppins."

Julie Andrews’ carpet bag from the movie “Mary Poppins.”

One of Julie Andrews' costumes and Matthew Garber's Pavement Drawing jacket from the movie "Mary Poppins."

One of Julie Andrews’ costumes and Matthew Garber’s Pavement Drawing jacket from the movie “Mary Poppins.”

The "Feed the Birds" snow globe from the movie "Mary Poppins."

The “Feed the Birds” snow globe from the movie “Mary Poppins.”

Nicole Never Bothered Me, Anyway

21 Jan
Elsa, the Snow Queen, in Disney's "Frozen"

Elsa, the Snow Queen, in Disney’s “Frozen”

I wonder how long it will be before people start blaming Walt Disney Pictures for the freakishly cold weather we’ve had across the country this year. I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that these snowstorms and polar vortices have been clearly imagineered  by Disney to help promote “Frozen” and its soundtrack. Heck, the last snowstorm was even named “Hercules,” a Disney feature length animation! It’s no surprise that the storm blowing through the eastern half of the country happened just a few days after “Let It Go,” a Disney anthem unlike any other, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song. In lieu of sending gifts to Academy voters to sway decisions, Disney has sent a full-blown blizzard care of Elsa herself. The cold temperatures are also helping to keep Uncle Walt’s head nice and chilled, as well, until it’s time to thaw him out.

But seriously – I am so excited to watch the success of not only the movie which, according to IMDB.com, has grossed nearly $337 million domestically in less than two months, but also the soundtrack. It has consistently outsold even the Queen Bey herself on iTunes for the last four weeks, and I am so thrilled to hear so many Broadway voices on that album, including Kristen Bell, who I love. Yes, Kristen was on Broadway in the early 2000’s in a short-lived musical called The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in which she played Becky Thatcher before she booked “Veronica Mars” or adorably freaked out over a sloth.

Jonathan Groff, Santino Fontana, Maia Wilson, Alan Tudyk, Josh Gad…all Broadway folks. The songs were written by Robert Lopez, the composer of Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon, and his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez. More Broadway folks. And, of course, Idina Menzel, who basically broke the vocal mold of Disney heroines with this film. There’s some honest-to-goodness screlting going on in this film, and it’s thrilling! I remember sitting in my seat and gasping when I heard her sing, “Tell the guards to open up…the gaaaaaate!” (at 2:48) because I’d never heard singing like that in a Disney film before. Obviously I know how Idina sings – I saw her in Wicked and See What I Wanna See in New York – but I half expected that she would be asked to bring it down a notch for the movie. I’m so glad that she was allowed to do her thing. I like seeing theatre people being recognized for the hard and exceptional work that they do.

And then there’s the song. “Let It Go” has become a sort of cultural phenomenon, spawning thousands of YouTube videos of people screaming their guts out and dozens of Buzzfeed articles featuring foreign language versions of the song, parodies and What If… alternate versions. There’s a reason the song is resonating with so many people, though. It’s a song of self acceptance, self forgiveness and embracing your own uniqueness and seeing where you can go with it. Sung by someone who has been hidden away from the world because she was born different. Locked away out of shame and fear by her parents, the two people who are supposed to love her the most; told to suppress not only what makes her different, but her feelings, as well. And finally, when it all comes out into the open, she realizes that there’s no taking it back and she decides to let go of the shame and fear and be who she really is. I know a lot of people who can relate to that. The sequence is thrilling and cathartic and incredibly moving. I called it as we walked out of the theater that chilly night in Tempe – the Lopezes have won themselves an Oscar. They didn’t win the Golden Globe, unfortunately, but I have high hopes that Oscar night they will win.

As much as I want “Frozen” to do well at the Oscars, I’m still mad about “Saving Mr. Banks” not getting more nominations. Especially Emma Thompson. But I guess I have to let it go.

Did I really just write that?

This video has been trending online today. It’s the “Let It Go” sequence sung in 25 different languages. The Latin American Spanish version is called “Libre Soy,” which means, “I Am Free.” I really love that. Enjoy!

Please See “Saving Mr. Banks”

29 Dec
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Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P.L Travers visit Disneyland in “Saving Mr. Banks.”

I’ve been meaning to write a post about “Saving Mr. Banks” since I saw it a couple of weeks ago at a screening at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. I meant to write about it after I saw it again this past Thursday with my family. But I haven’t. I have not been able to find words that were eloquent and succinct enough to express the deep emotional impact it had on me. So I have given up and I will let someone else do the work for me.

Today I came across this review from Mark Hughes, a contributor at Forbes.com. I believe his review is about as close to everything that I would wish to say about this film as I could have written, but his is more precise and far less rambling. (I wrote a 4-page draft about my feelings regarding the movie. You can thank me later for trashing it).

My personal connection to the film is very different from Mr. Hughes’ – I am lucky enough to still have both of my parents (neither of whom are alcoholics or abusive, for the record) – but the film’s message of self-forgiveness and letting go of the past spoke to me on a very deep level because of my own traumatic experiences. Perhaps someday I will be brave enough to share my childhood trauma here for you, but today is not that day. Not yet. Beside…that’s not the point of this entry. The point is – you really should see this movie.

Cream Of The Crop, Tip Of The Top, It’s Mary Poppins, And There We Stop!

12 Jul

Greetings from Kansas City (still here…) where the temperature has significantly dropped since my last entry. It’s a cool 86° – a full 20° cooler than it was two days ago when we opened the show. I’m still looking forward to temperatures in the 60’s, but I’ll take this for now.

Today while I was trolling Facebook I came across a link for the first trailer to be released for Disney’s upcoming “Saving Mr. Banks.” The film centers around P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) – the author of the Mary Poppins books – and Walt Disney’s (Tom Hanks) struggle to get her to release the rights and to approve the production of the film, which would go on to earn 13 Academy Award nominations and 5 wins, including Best Actress in a Leading Role for Julie Andrews.

“Mary Poppins” is maybe the first movie I remember actually seeing in the theater (or at least it’s the one I’ve been thinking I saw for 30 years). In the late 70’s/early 80’s, we didn’t have VCRs or DVD/BluRay players yet, so we didn’t watch movies at home unless they were on TV. I suppose it’s possible that “Mary Poppins” had been broadcast, but I specifically remember seeing it at the Showcase Cinemas on Bardstown Road in Louisville. The way I remember it, the movie was cut short because of a tornado warning, and we were all sent home to hide in our bathtubs. That’s my first real recollection of going to the movies – a tornado coming through town. It’s a wonder I ever set foot in a movie theater again!

I feel like I must have seen “Mary Poppins” before then, though, because from as far back as I can remember, my family has told me that I was always hopping off the ledge of my grandparent’s fireplace with an umbrella in my hand, claiming to be Mary Poppins. I also liked to pretend I was C3-PO and R2-D2, but I couldn’t tell you the first time I saw “Star Wars,” either.

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“Mousercise” was one of my favorite LPs as a kid.

Back in the day when we had record players, I had a huge collection of albums for a 5-year old. I had all sorts of Disney-related storytelling albums and “Disco Mickey Mouse” and “Mousercise.” I also had Barry Manilow, Olivia Newton-John and I’d borrow my Mom’s Motown records sometimes, too. But I mostly listened to those Disney albums. I knew every word to every song – “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah,” “It’s A Small World,” “When You Wish Upon A Star,” “Lavender Blue (Dilly-Dilly).” When we moved to England, they had something we didn’t have in the States yet – something called Picture Disc. It was a clear album with pictures sandwiched between the two sides, and on the record was the full story and songs of whatever you were listening to – “The Fox and the Hound,” “Lady and the Tramp,” and my favorite – “Mary Poppins.” I would listen to it for hours on end. Even today, when I’m feeling down and need a pick-me-up, “Mary Poppins” is usually my first choice to lift my spirits.

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I knew every word of this “Mary Poppins” Picture Disc LP.

I don’t know what the connection is for me. Perhaps it’s just the nostalgia – maybe it takes me back to being a child again. Maybe it’s Julie Andrews. She can do no wrong in my book. Maybe it’s the magic. Who wouldn’t want to slide up banisters and leap into chalk drawings and have a tea party on the ceiling? What I wouldn’t given even now to just snap my fingers and make my room clean itself. I think it’s a combination of all of those things, I guess. Whatever it is, Mary Poppins – the movie and Mr. Disney’s vision of the character – mean a great deal to me.

A few months ago, our tour was in Costa Mesa, California, just a few miles from Disneyland in Anaheim. My good friends Tom and Anthony live in San Diego and they have annual passes to Disneyland, so I was lucky that they were able to drive up and spend two days with me at the park. It was my first time at Disneyland or California Adventure, though certainly not my first time at a Disney park. I had been to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea when I was in Japan, and back in the mid-80’s, my grandparents took me to Disney World, back when there was only the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. Yeah, I’m old school.

Me with Bianca (of "The Rescuers") at Walt Disney World circa 1984.

Me with Bianca (of “The Rescuers”) at Walt Disney World circa 1984.

While we were in Disneyland, Tom and Anthony – two of the biggest Disnerds I’ve ever met – were talking about the changes they made to the park when the film “Saving Mr. Banks” was being shot on location. Tom pulled up some pictures on his phone and they were was really remarkable. The old character costumes had been pulled out and dusted off, some of the colors had changed, the guests were all dressed in their best early 60‘s clothes (Side note: If people really did wear dresses and long pants to Disneyland, I can’t imagine what Uncle Walt would think about what people wear to the park today), but it was still Disneyland.

When the Broadway production of Mary Poppins opened in 2006, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a press event at the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street, where Poppins was going to move in when The Lion King moved to the Minskoff Theatre. It was a big to-do for industry folks, introduced by the President of Disney Theatricals, Thomas Schumacher. The writers of the new material for the show, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, came out and sang through a couple of the new pieces and then, as a surprise, the surviving composer of the film score, Richard Sherman, was introduced and he sang through a few of the original songs and told one or two short anecdotes about his involvement with the film and the new stage production. Just as we thought the event was ending, a curtain raised up and a full orchestra was onstage playing a suite of music from “Mary Poppins.” It was so beautiful, and I won’t mind admitting that I got a little choked up. On our way out the door, Disney one-upped themselves by giving each of us a Mary Poppins umbrella, complete with a parrot head handle. It was maybe the most amazing piece of merchandising I’ve ever seen. Sadly, I have no idea where that umbrella is now.

As a child, I believed there was magic in that umbrella. Even after 12 years of living in New York, which is enough to make anyone jaded, I still do. Watching Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke – bad Cockney accent and all – dancing through cartoon farmyards still makes me think, “How did they do that?!” “Step In Time” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (or “dociousaliexpiisticfragilcalirupus” backwards (kind of), but that’s going a bit too far, don’t you think?) take me back to a time when I wanted to recreate those numbers step by step on a stage for people to enjoy as much as I did. “Stay Awake” still gives me that melancholy feeling of knowing it’s time to go to bed, even though you don’t want to. And watching Mary Poppins fly off into the sunset always makes me feel a little bit as if she’s leaving me – not the Banks children. What a comfort to know that I can always hit PLAY and there she’ll be again, sitting in that cloud, powdering her nose.

Needless to say, I am very excited about “Saving Mr. Banks.” I’ll be in Costa Mesa again the week it opens. If there’s anything happening at Disneyland to celebrate the premiere, I plan to find a way to be there. Now get off your computer and go fly a kite!

And for those of you who are keeping up: I’m now 93 hours diet soda free. Woohoo!