Those of you old enough to remember the original “Mickey Mouse Club” — and I’m not talking about the lame remake in the late ‘70s with Britney Spears — know that of all the child actors on the weekday show, it was Annette Funicello who became the biggest star. She was certainly my favorite Mouseketeer.
About 22 years ago, when I was working as the TV writer for the Bakersfield newspaper, rumors began to circulate that Funicello and her husband, Glen Holt, were living just outside of town on a horse ranch. I wrote a column saying how big a fan I was and that maybe someday I would run into her at a local store.
It’s always funny how minor characters can become so popular. Ask someone who has seen “Despicable Me” and they will talk more about the Minions than anything else.
In the case of “Oz the Great and Powerful,” the breakout supporting player should have been Finley, the flying monkey voiced by Zack Braff. It’s a cute character. But the supporting player who steals most scenes is the China Girl. She’s the most interesting film character made of porcelain since Chip from “Beauty and the Beast.”
If you are trying to understand where the new feature “Oz the Great and Powerful” comes in the lengthy mythology of the Emerald City, you’ll see when the movie opens March 8 that the events are suppose to have taken place several years before Dorothy Gale was swept away by a tornado as depicted in the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz.”
It’s how a carnival magician became the Wizard, who in Oz is a good witch and who is a bad witch and the background of the flying monkeys.
This gives Disney infinite inspiration and opportunities to continue the epic Star Wars saga. Fans can expect a new feature film, Star Wars Episode 7, in theaters worldwide in 2015. George Lucas will serve as creative consultant on the film and Kathleen Kennedy, the filmmaker George handpicked to lead Star Wars, Indiana Jones and the rest of Lucasfilm into the future will be the executive producer (she’s also joining Disney as president of Lucasfilm). With this many characters to develop and stories to tell, Disney plans to release a new Star Wars feature film every two or three years for the foreseeable future.
This news has triggered a variety of reactions. From the “Star Wars” diehards who think anything past the original trilogy is blasphemous to the Disney junkies who think “Star Wars” could use that magical Disney touch. And, of course, plenty of funny. Here’s a HuffPo gallery of comical tweets.
We welcome your reaction in the comments, while Mike and Kathy debate whether this news is exciting or disheartening for “Star Wars” lovers.
It struck me as being a little odd when director Tim Burton told me that part of his coaching of Atticus Shaffer to find the right voice for his character of Edgar “E” Gore in the animated film “Frankenweenie” was to sound like Peter Lorre.
Peter Lorre? A lot of people remember the talented actor from his TV and film roles from the ’30s to the ’60s. But, Lorre died in 1964, that’s 34 years before Atticus, who you probably know from his role as Brick on “The Middle,” was born. There was a time when every impersonator did Lorre’s voice but that was decades ago.
It seems that as soon as Burton mentioned Lorre, Atticus jumped at the chance to do an impersonation but needed some help.
“During the audition process — that took about a year — they said he’s sort of like the Igor character and so I knew his mannerisms. In the second or third audition, they said if possible, do a Peter Lorre impression. My mom, being the good home school mom that she is, she went off and rented ‘The Maltese Falcon.’ We already had ‘Casablanca’,” Atticus says. “I just sat down and studied his voice and his emotions.”
The 14-year-old Atticus was delighted to get to do the impersonation because although he’s been acting for five years, no role has called for him to use anything but his own voice. This is also the first time Atticus has been a voice in an animated film. He loved the process because the first recording sessions were only a few feet away from the studio where he shots “The Middle” and the rest were done on breaks from shooting the ABC comedy.
For those of you too young to remember Peter Lorre or just want to hear the voice work Atticus did for “Frankenweenie,” the film opens Oct. 5.
People in Bakersfield got quite the shock last week when an unidentified flying object was spotted flying above an air field. Turns out the UFO was a dragon — with a parachute.
Slashfilm reports that the dragon was being tested by Disney, though the reason why is still a mystery. Some are speculating it might have to do with the Avatar land that will be built at Animal Kingdom in Florida, or a new Disneyland that is under construction in Shanghai.
For its part, Disney is keeping mum on the whole thing, admitting only that “it” (they won’t say it’s a dragon) is a project of Walt Disney Imagineering. Witnesses near the air field say that Disney comes to test the dragon every month, and that the contraption can open its mouth and breathe fire.
Personally, I hope the dragon stays closer to home, making an appearance in an Anaheim Disneyland parade, or livening up the flat World of Color show at Disney California Adventure.
What do you think the dragon will be used for (other than terrifying unsuspecting Bakersfield citizens)?
Big day for people who like pre/sequels! The official trailer for the final Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Pt. 2, has been released. Check it out:
Ehh, that’s okay, I guess. I wanted to see something a bit more dramatic, I think — on the personal level. That war-with-the-Volturi thing was never handled that great in the movies. I can’t really remember why they hate the Cullens so much (other than the fact most people do, right?).
What I’m really excited for is this: A prequel to Monsters Inc. titled Monsters University. I looove me some Pixar (mostly — that Brave movie looks like a Disney princess movie masquerading as a Pixar film), so I look forward to more Mike and Sully. Check out the teaser trailer:
So, here’s the thing: If you want to get dressed up in a Tinkerbell costume and make your boyfriend dress as Peter Pan, and parade yourselves around town until your tiny wings fall off, god bless you. If you want to do all that at a Disney property, you are s**t out of luck.
Disney has a policy in place stating that costumed adult guests are not allowed in the parks. Why? Because little kids are kind of dumb, and will run up to hug anything that looks like a familiar character, something most child molesters figured out looong ago. It’s a smart policy, a public safety policy. A policy that protects both Disney and your goofy little offspring.
Try telling that to 15-year-old April Spielman, though. She wanted to be Tinkerbell sooo bad, and Disney World wouldn’t give her what she wanted, so she literally went crying to a news outlet, stamping her tiny, pixie dust-covered feet.
Sigh. I want to feel bad for young April, it’s just … hey, something shiny!
Wilmer Valderrama’s recent guest appearance on “Are You There, Chelsea?” put him in a rare TV position. It meant that he was one of the few actors working in a comedy, drama and animated series at the same time.
Along with the “Chelsea” appearance, Valderrama is in the cast of NBC’s “Awake” and is the voice of Manny in the children’s cartoon series “Handy Manny.”
The “Chelsea” appearance also reunited him with “That ’70s Show” co-star Laura Prepon.
“Laura and Tom Werner gave me a little call, and they said, ‘There’s something really funny for you to do there.’ And I thought it would be fun to be on the same network and stay in the same family. I’ve been very proud of everything everyone in the ”70s Show’ cast has done,” Valderrama says. “We’ve all made some really fun, interesting choices, challenging choices for ourselves and our careers.”
Valderrama’s happy to be on “Awake” because he feels like it’s pushing him as an actor. The series is about a police detective living two lives – one while he’s awake, the other while he sleeps. He doesn’t know which is real.
He liked working on “Chelsea” because it filmed before a studio audience.
“It was fun to relive those little moments with a live audience, but I’m even more excited about this new chapter, specifically being mentored by such incredible cast and being able to have the opportunity to play with a new family. I think that’s also very exciting to me,” Valderrama says. “After doing eight years and 200 episodes of easily the silliest character anybody could ever create, I was very excited to explore the rest of my skills, for lack of better terms.”
Robert Sherman, one half of the Disney songwriting team the Sherman Brothers, has died. He was 86.
If you’ve ever sung a Disney song, chances are it was written by the multi-award-winning Sherman Brothers. Their songs are found in the movies Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Parent Trap, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, as well as non-Disney movies Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Charlotte’s Web.
Their songs also are found at Disneyland — the Sherman Brothers are responsible for “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” and everyone’s favorite get-stuck-in-your-head-for-days anthem “it’s a small world (after all).
Robert Sherman and his brother Richard were the subject of a 2009 documentary titled “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story” which detailed the prolific songwriting duo’s strained relationship. In 2010 the brothers received a window on Main Street at Disneyland — the highest honor bestowed to a cast member.
Condolences to Mr. Sherman’s family, friends and fans. I’ll be playing Walt’s favorite Sherman Brothers song, “Feed the Birds,” in my head as I fall sleep tonight.
MOVIES “Lunafest”: This short film series about women, by women, is being held at 7 p.m. tonight at Fresno State’s Satellite Student Union. This year’s selections range from the whimsical “A Reluctant Bride,” winner of the 2011 Audience Choice Award at the World Of Women Film Festival, to the compelling documentary “I am a Girl!,” which won the 2011 Jury Award for Best Documentary Short at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The guest speaker will be Fresno State graduate Anastasia Malone, whose mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
TELEVISION “Pixie Hollow Games,” 7 p.m. Saturday, Disney Channel: The new animated special follows Tinker Bell and her fellow fairies as they compete in an Olympic-style tournament events. The always positive Chloe is determined to inspire her team to believe in themselves and bring home the championship. The special is fun and has a good message about always doing your best.
DVD “Beginners”: Mike Mills takes love head-on. The writer/director of “Beginners” wades into the complexity and diversity of love with this often touching, often painful story of multiple romances. “Beginners” is the story of budding relationships (between a man and a woman, a man and a man, a man and a dog) and fully mature connections, like that between a father and son. Each has its own complexities, which Mills treats with deep respect. Ewan McGregor is the perfect emotional center from which all these variations on the theme of love can radiate.
You can almost tell a person’s age by their first Disney memory whether it be a film, TV show, stuffed animal or theme park.
Anyone who saw “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in theaters when it was first released has to be in their 80s. If they were at the opening of Disneyland, then they should be in their 60s. Those who say it was “Lion King” are probably in their 20s.
My first Disney memory is “The Mickey Mouse Club” and I’m not talking about that ’80s knockoff with Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. The one I watch featured Annette Funicello and a bunch of other young people.
Most people have such a memory. It seemed like a good time to ask some celebrities to share their first Disney memories while I was at the D23 Expo in Anaheim. Here’s what a few had to say.
Joey Lawrence, “Melissa & Joey”: “My mom and dad took me to Disney World when I was 4 years old. I rode on Space Mountain and I peed my pants. I was sitting in my mother’s lap and my dad was behind us. It hit both my mom and dad.”
Brenda Song, voice of Chloe in “Pixie Hollow Games”: “For me it was ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ That was the first movie I ever saw. I have been in love with Belle since then. She’s my Disney Princess. Not long ago, some friends and I bought costumes to wear to Disneyland. We got to the door and they wouldn’t let us in because you had to be younger than 9 to wear costumes in the park.”
You could make an argument the center of the Disney empire is Disneyland, but for the past three days the focal point was a couple of blocks south. The Anaheim Convention Center became the home to anything and everything to do with the mightiest mouse in the entertainment universe. It might seem like it’s a small world after all until you have walked the convention floor 20-30 times.
Thousands of Disney fans poured into the facility for the D23 Expo. For those of you who don’t live and breathe Disney, the name of the international fan club comes from Walt Disney opening his first studios in 1923.
One person described it as Comic-Con without all the people in costumes, but there were certainly plenty of people dressed up in their favorite Disney gear. And, some of them were children.
The weekend was a chance to find out about what’s going on with the parks, vacation hot spots, television shows, movies and merchandising. There was so much merchandise that even Scrooge McDuck would have needed a loan to take home everything. Dealers had Disney stuff ranging from original art to novels full of Disney facts. Anyone with deep enough pockets could bid on special items such as one of the ships from the Peter Pan ride.
It was also a chance for fans to see some of their favorite Disney celebrities including Dick Van Dyke, Sean Astin and Wilmer Walderrama. Cast members from “Good Luck Charlie,” “So Random!,” “Kickin’ It” and “Shake It Up” also made appearances. Because Disney now owns ABC, Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence met with fans to talk about their ABC Family show “Melissa and Joey.”
If you would like more information on the fan club, go to Disney.com/D23.
Here are a few photos from the three-day event.
Thousands of fans of everything Disney – from rodents to rides – are expected to converge on the Anaheim Convention Center Friday-Sunday for Disney’s D23 Expo. The expo offers access to information and the people behind Disney films, television and theme parks.
The name D23 refers to 1923, the year when Walt Disney opened his studio in Hollywood. It’s the first official club for fans in Disney’s 88-year history.
The three-day event will feature special presentations about Disney, Disney XD, Disney Junior, ABC Family and ABC TV shows plus Disney Studio movies.
Some of the special guests scheduled to attend are Sean Astin, Jason Segel, Wilmer Valderrama, Willem Dafoe, Leigh-Allyn Baker, Miss Piggy, Dave Barry, China Anne McClain, Leo Howard, Coco Jones, Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Jennifer Garner and Sarah Silverman.
Expo attendees will also have access to advance screenings of a new 3D version of “The Lion King” and the upcoming ABC holiday special “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” from Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Tickets are $47 and $37 each day for general admission and $40 and $32 for D23 club members. They are available at disney.go.com.
Anyone who is invested in Disney lore knows about Hidden Mickeys. For those who are unfamiliar, Wiki describes them as “a representation of Mickey Mouse that has been inserted subtly into the design of a ride, attraction, or other location in a Disney theme park or elsewhere on Disney properties.”
Recently, while visiting the restroom of a local restaurant, I came across a Hidden Mickey in some paint drippings on one of the stalls:
So now I want you to guess, in which Fresno establishment does this Hidden Mickey live? It’s a women’s restroom, but guys, I hope you feel free to toss out some guesses, too.
George Reiger is having his Disney tattoos removed. All 2400+ of them.
According to the O.C. Register’sAround Disney blog, Reiger, the self-proclaimed Disney Tattoo Guy, has “2,075 characters, 325 cast members, 59 rides and 13 hidden Mickeys tattooed on his body from head to toe.” He is removing the tattoos because he’s fallen in love and no longer needs the tattoos to make him happy. Reiger has been married six times before, but considering the amount of pain he’s about to go through, this must be the real thing.
After the jump, check out video of Reiger explaining his tattoos to the Register in 2009.
Michael Sheen – star of such films as “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon’ – has had a very busy year as a voice actor. First, there was the White Rabbit in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Next up is the direct-to-video release “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue” where he voices the workaholic Dr. Griffiths.
Although recording the audio for the “Tinker Bell” tale took months of work because the script continued to change, Sheen says voice work’s a great job. It’s far more appealing to him than his first go around with Peter Pan while growing up in Wales.
“When I was 14, my local youth theater did a production of ‘Peter Pan.’ I played one of the Lost Boys – the first twin,” Sheen says.
That wasn’t the hard part. When he wasn’t in a scene, Sheen would rush backstage where he would climb to the top of a tall ladder.
“I had to jump off holding a rope,” Sheen says. “My body weight would bring it down and that would make Peter Pan fly across the stage. I had a very important role.”
Sheen came to that performance not only with enough body weight to send another actor flying but a knowledge of Peter Pan initially through the Disney movie and then the book.