Category Archives: Walt Disney

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News from Florida’s Disney World and Florida’s Kip Liles

My family visited Walt Disney World again over the Thanksgiving holiday. I was very impressed this year. While inrecent years I found thatthe formerly unmatched high level of customer service started todescend to the level of average or worse, this year we had nothing but outstanding customer service. Everyone was super friendly and helpful and in good humor. It mayhave helpedthat because the crowds were not so heavybetween Thanksgiving and Christmas, their stress level was lower. I particularly appreciated the cast members who seemed to be over retirement age. They had the magic in them, as if theyhad knownWalt Disney, and had somehow fully embodied his warm, benevolent, humorousspirit. Like Leon Trager whom I mention in my previous post, and like the recently deceased original Disney animators Ollie Johnston and his friend Frank Thomas whom I met at an animation art gallery years ago, the delighted-by-his-job senior citizen cast member who greeted me and answered my questions at the Pop Century Resort was an example of the kind ofperson I want to be likewhen I grow older.

I worked at Disney World in 1989 and I found it easy to be friendly and to enjoy my work and I think my customer service was Disney-worthy (I did well on my evaluation). Butin recent years I’ve seen a cast member at the Boardwalkroll her eyes when informed ofa slippery floorthat needed to be cleaned, and I’ve seen two Disney housekeepers at the elevator bank of the All Star Movies Resort,having a loud argument thatculminated inone punching the other inthe face. This year I saw nothing of the kind.

I also want to especially recommend one particular attraction. Epcot’s Spaceship Earth, which is the giant “golf ball” near the entrance, has been updated in the last year. The new version keeps all of the best qualities of the original, but is actually superior to the old one. It has many new, elaborate scenes and includes a wonderful interactive finale, where each passenger selects aspects of the future he’d like to see, and then sees himself in it. But most important is the overall theme. The new Spaceship Earth, which is sponsored by the excellent technology company Siemens, suggests that we are in the midst of a second Renaissance initiated by the vast opportunities that computers have made possible. The optimism and excitement about the future was a great contrast to the gloomy pessimism of CNN, MSNBC and the major networksand newsmagazines (except for theirrose-coloredreports on socialist Barack Obama,which causeme to expect soon the headline”The Sun Shines Out of His Behind,”apologies toThe Smiths ).

There were many more highlights. The Pixar attractions “Toy Story Mania” and “Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor” (not to mention the amazing “Turtle Talk with Crush” which we skipped this year) are as much fun as, or more funthan, you have already heard.

And this is the first year I have seen the Osborne Family’s Christmas (plus Chanukah) Lights. Talk about exceeding expectations:it is one more example of Disney and their partners at their best. Words cannot adequately convey the experience of seeing the city streets of the backlot lit up in such imaginative ways.

Also,we took side trips to the Wilderness Lodge to see part of Walt’s own model railroad train exhibited, and to the Grand Floridian Resort to see and smell the gingerbread house they have every Christmas season. And everyone, especially my daughter who loves to dance and sing, enjoyed the Hoop De Doo Revue.

We also were able to briefly meet up with Kip Liles and her husband. They are, once again, the kind of people I hope to be like, and the kind of people I want to surround myself with, people who are role models for all Earthlings. If you don’t know who Kip Liles is, she is the Super Foster Parent whom I interviewed on The Zigory Show. That podcast is available at http://zigory.solidvox.com/?p=3.

Update regarding the Kip Liles interview and the Michelle Malkin articlecalled “The Death of Bradley McGee”: Kip has learned from a source that Billy, the brother of Braddie,is alive, still living with his (murderer) mother Sheryl Hardy, and outwardly appears to be okay. However, appearances cannot be trusted and I hopeBilly’s community in Illinois keeps its eyes open. As should we all, for justice’s sake and our own.

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Wall E is Not Walt D–Repeat

I am re-running one of my blog posts from June 30, 2008, because Disney is releasing Wall E on DVD for the Holiday Season. I can think of few films less appropriate for Christmas, the festive, joyful holiday. Here is my review of Wall E withreaders’ comments following:

One of the most important qualities Walt Disney’s movies, television programs, and theme parks imparted to me as a child, and to children everywhere, was a feeling of reassurance. I’m referring to the works of Walt Disney himself when he was alive, and of his studio the first few years after his death.

Even if the story is about things going wrong in one character’s life, it is clear that there is a larger world out there of sensible people and a system and world that makes sense, that there is something called normalcy, and the goal of the characters is to get back to normalcy or better, to improve their lives and live happily ever after.

The Banks family in Mary Poppins is at first somewhat unhappy, but there is hope and magical delight in the world outside, and there is a policeman and there are friendly neighbors who bring runaway children home. The home of (1961’s) 101 Dalmations’ owners is a happy, sane, home, and once the dalmations fight off the bad guys, they return to a state of eccentric yet happy normalcy. The world is expected to be filled with reasonable people who can get along and solve problems.

Even the satirical post-Walt movie The Barefoot Executive indicates that the larger world may be a little silly, but still okay at its core.

To a child, the sense of a system and society that is dependable and rational is extremely important to his feeling secure and optimistic, to his feeling free and motivated to learn and grow and become ambitious within that society.

The new Disney-Pixar movie Wall E is not at all in the spirit of Walt Disney’s movies. The characters of Wall E, Eve and The Captain are Disney-esque and very charming and funny. But the universe they inhabit is the opposite of Walt’s universe.

We are expected to believe and accept that in the future human beings (A) allowed a corporate monopoly to replace the U.S. Constitution (and all other governments) and become a dictator and (B) that no one noticed a problem with garbage disposal until it got so bad, the entire species had to leave the planet. In this dystopian vision of the future, the technology to build extraordinary robots and a spaceship that holds and takes care of the needs of the entire human population exists, but not the technology to get rid of garbage and plant trees or grass. Human beings are intelligent yet immensely moronic simultaneously.

Above all, the problem with this film and the fact that busy parents, or their child care providers, will one day buy the DVD and play it over and over for their children without watching it is the message that the universe makes no sense and the future is dark and adults are incapable of dealing with their problems until long past catastrophe. This is not a reassuring message to children who love life and can’t wait to grow up and flourish. It is harmful.

As my 5-year-old son said, “That’s a Garbage Planet. That’s not Earth. Why are they calling it Earth?” He understands that Earth makes sense. People are rational beings.

I explained it’s a make-believe silly story about Earth in the future where, as my wife said, “people become stupid” and can’t get rid of garbage. I reassured him and his sister that it’s ridiculous and that this is not going to happen in real life.

I received the following comment from Artifex:

Exactly right! For all the visual beauty and charm of Wall-E, the world we’re presented with is complete nonsense. BnL can build a massive spaceship with seemingly inexhaustible energy supply, human level artificial intelligence, what must be near-total recycling of resources (although strangely enough they seem to be ejecting a lot of trash into space – where does all that matter come from?), and the ability to hyperjump into another galaxy (!) in a matter of seconds but they can’t figure out trash disposal? Why doesn’t earth-that-was just fill the Axiom with garbage and hyperjump THAT into another galaxy? Why don’t they use the same recycling technology that must be present on the Axiom to solve the same problems on earth? Completely insane. It’s a shame – I really wanted to love this one.

I received the following comment from Mike:

Great post.

Saw your comment at the Think Progress site; your words were a voice of reason amongst so much vitriol, those words of hate that seem to be only language of left-leaning websites.

(wouldn’t consider myself to be a right-winger, but I sure don’t want to be classified with those who are haters of traditional values)

I’m so glad there are folks such as yourself who teach their children to think for themselves. Not having children myself, it makes me feel better about the future of this country.

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Wall E is not Walt D

One of the most important qualities Walt Disney’s movies,television programs, and theme parks imparted to me as a child, and to children everywhere, was a feeling of reassurance. I’m referring to the works of Walt Disney himself when he was alive, and of his studio the first few years after his death.

Even if the story is about things going wrong in one character’s life, it is clear that there is a larger world out there of sensible people and a system and world that makes sense, that there is something called normalcy, and the goal of the characters is to get back to normalcy or better, to improve their lives and live happily ever after.

The Banks family in Mary Poppins is at first somewhat unhappy, but there is hope and magical delight in the world outside, and there is a policeman and there are friendly neighbors who bring runaway children home. The home of (1961’s)101 Dalmations’ owners is a happy, sane, home, and once the dalmations fight off the bad guys, they return to a state of eccentric yet happy normalcy. The world is expected to be filled with reasonable people who can get along and solve problems.

Even the satirical post-Walt movie The Barefoot Executive indicates that the larger world may be a little silly, but still okay at its core.

To a child, the sense of a system and society that is dependable and rational is extremely important to his feeling secure and optimistic, to his feeling free and motivated to learn and grow and become ambitious within that society.

The new Disney-Pixar movie Wall E is not at all in the spirit of Walt Disney’s movies. The characters of Wall E, Eve and The Captain are Disney-esque and very charming and funny. But the universe they inhabit is the opposite of Walt’s universe.

We are expected to believe and accept that in the future human beings (A) allowed a corporate monopoly to replace the U.S. Constitution (and all other governments) and become a dictator and (B) that no one noticed a problem with garbage disposal until it got so bad, the entire species had to leave the planet. In this dystopian vision of the future, the technology to build extraordinary robots and a spaceship that holds and takes care of the needs of the entire human population exists, but not the technology to get rid of garbage and plant trees or grass. Human beings are intelligent yet immensely moronic simultaneously.

Above all, the problem with this film — and the fact that busy parents, or their child care providers,will one day buy the DVD and play it over and over for their children without watching it —is the message that the universe makes no sense and the future is dark and adults are incapable of dealing with their problems until long past catastrophe. This is not a reassuring message to children who love life and can’t wait to grow up and flourish. It is harmful.

As my 5-year-old son said, “That’s a Garbage Planet. That’s not Earth. Why are they calling it Earth?” He understands that Earth makes sense. People are rational beings.

I explained it’s a make-believe silly story abou tEarth in the future where, as my wife said, “people become stupid” and can’t get rid of garbage. I reassured him and his sister that it’s ridiculous and that this is not going to happen in real life.

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Tony Awards and My Disney Podcast

The important post to read is my previous one on Free Speech Restrained in California. This post is just for a couple of lighter topics.

The Tony Awards are handed out on Sunday June 10. I only saw one Broadway show last year, Mary Poppins, and on that basis I am rooting for Gavin Lee to win a Tony. He played Bert believably and brightly,and he connected with the audience, drawing you in. He also danced in very difficult circumstances (such as inverted).

Jane Carr, the actress who played the cook Mrs. Brill,was also amazing, in being such a vividly real personality.

Ashley Brown, however, the actress playing Mary Poppins, did not act so much as vogue her role. Where Julie Andrews in the movie kept you guessing, “What is her angle? Where is she coming from? What is she really thinking?”, Ashley Brownwas purely superficial, except for a few better moments toward the end. However, she was competent, adequateand professional enoughfor me to say, as Walt Disney is famous for saying to his staff whennot displeased, “That’ll do.”

For more of my opinions on the show Mary Poppins, see myMarch 2007post called “I’m Still Here.”

Speaking of Walt Disney, I just recorded the first episode of my new internet radio show, “Inside Walt’s World.”I discussmy memories from 1989 when I worked as a telephone operator at Walt Disney World.It is now on rotation at the Disney-themed Extinct Attractions Radio station at http://www.live365.com/stations/extinctattractionsor simply at www.extinctattractionsradio.com and it is currently played daily at 1:00 pm. I believe that is Pacific Time, USA.

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I’m Still Here

I haven’t been blogging for awhile but I will be doing so again.

I am taking a TV writing classtaught by aprofessional TV writer, and I will end up with a pilot script by the end of it. It’s loosely based on my first screenplay which I had put aside as needing more thought and improvement. I suddenlyrealized thata TV series format could be perfect for the content of the first half of my feature. Stay tuned for more on that. So far I’m thrilled with the response to my work in the class. Of course it’s “impossible” to sell a pilot but one has to try.

Some of the many topics I have thoughtof blogging about are the Presidential candidates for USA Election 2008 (So far I don’t see any better candidates running or likely to run than Rudy Giuliani, despite hisshortcomings–he understands and knows the facts of history, and I believe hewouldimplement a foreign policy of self-defense; he firmly stood up against Arafat anda Saudi royal in his mayoral career–and I think it’s important that he gets early and consistent support so he has a chance to win), the Broadway show Mary Poppins (I would give it a mixed review; the storyline makes less sense compared to the movie, Mary leaves thehousehold in the middle–that’s not what I came to see–yet Mr. Banks blames her anyway for causing all the trouble, some of the songs have lost their oomph and rhythmicpacing,the orchestra is too small, the wife has become a victim instead of a confident suffragette,and there’san overallpsychotherapy-session feeling,but it has lovely and thrilling moments nonetheless and is very entertaining), and the movie Breach (I liked it–how strange that a man can compartmentalize his knowledge to such an extent, evading the results of his misdeeds, disconnecting his religious beliefs from his actions, etc. Great acting by Chris Cooper, and adequate acting by Ryan Phillippe. The book on Robert Hanssen surveyed his entire career but the film justportrays its last days, an effective choice).

Well, I guess I don’t have to blog on those topics any more. But feel free to reply with comments and I’ll clarify anything too sketchy above.

Meanwhile, I have to get my taxmaterials to my accountant before he gets overburdened by last-minute submissions, and I am trying to get a lot of computer-related technical stuff done (I always procrastinate on that, I’m just not a computer-oriented person although I am glad they were invented).

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Chuck McCann on The Zigory Show

My latest interview on The Zigory Show was a delight to conduct, andrecommended to youif you have an interest in the entertainment business and especially the history of comedy and the early days of children’s television. My guest was Chuck McCann, and you can hear the interview online at http://zigory.solidvox.com/ right now!

Chuck McCann is a veteran Hollywood comedian and actor, who created many children’s television shows primarily in the New York area in the 1950s and 1960s, where I first encountered him.

I watched him probably from my birth until he went off the air when I was about 6, as he performed with puppets, played The Great Bombo (an inept magician and escape artist), portrayed a large Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, and many other characters.

He was a student and friend ofStan Laureland has often portrayed Oliver Hardy on television.

A highlight of my conversation with Chuck McCann is his commentary about Stan Laurel the man, and the influence of Laurel and Hardy on later comedians.
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He is the voice of numerous cartoon characters including Duckworth on DuckTales and The Thing on The Fantastic Four.

He directed and performed in a feature animated film called The World of Hans Christian Anderson and he played W. C. Fields in the 1982 TV movie biography of Mae West.

He starred in The Projectionist, appeared in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and several Mel Brooks films, and added his spark to numerous TV commercials.

It was a great pleasure to speak with Chuck, and to thank him for being part of my happy childhood memories.

Here is the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) filmography on Chuck McCann: CLICK HERE(over 100 listings!): http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0564841/

My interview with Chuck McCann is at http://zigory.solidvox.com .

(To contact Zigory please email me at zigory@comcast.net )

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My Favorite Halloween Movies (A bit early)

Elizabeth of the Elizabethan Blog asks me for a list of good movies for Halloween. Interesting question. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Some of the following I haven’t seen since childhood or my teen years, but I am fairly certain they are all worthwhile. If you don’t mind intelligently scary films, or humorous ones, as opposed to simple shockers full of gore, here are my Halloween recommendations:

1. “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein” (don’t see one without the other), directed by James Whale with Boris Karloff.Catch a brief glimpse of one of my favorite character actresses, Una O’Connor, as Minnie, in an early scene.

2. “Dracula” directed by Tod Browning with Bela Lugosi.

3. “The Other” by Tom Tryon, directed by Robert Mulligan (recently released on DVD).

4. “Psycho” directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

5. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury (although in the movie they ruined the ending of the novel bydeleting the most important scene–the discussion of how to defeat the villain).

6. “Burn, Witch, Burn” a/k/a “Night of the Eagle” by Fritz Leiber and Richard Matheson.

7. “Bell, Book and Candle”.

8. “The Nanny” with Bette Davis.

9. “The Innocents” with Deborah Kerr.

10. “Two on a Guillotine” with Dean Jones.

11. “The Sixth Sense”

12. TV Special: “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”.

13. “Rebecca” directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

14. “Freaks” directed by Tod Browning, with a cast of real ones, will give you chills.

15. “The Unholy Three” directed by Tod Browning, with Lon Chaney.

16. “The Unknown” directed by Tod Browning, with Lon Chaney. Pointlessly horrifying, but that’s what you want on Halloween, right?

17. “Eraserhead”. To experience a true nightmare as if you are having troubled sleep, no one has captured a bad dream on film as well as David Lynch did with “Eraserhead”. It’s not elevating or enlightening. It’s slow, nonsensical, sometimes boring and awful in many ways, but it gives you the feeling of being asleep and having your worst nightmare ever, if you want that feeling on Halloween.

For a comedic Halloween film,my wife recommends “Arsenic and Old Lace” with Cary Grant, but I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve heard good things about an animated version of Ray Bradbury’s “The Halloween Tree” but I haven’t seen that either. And you can’t go wrong with Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” TV series, most episodes of which I have seen and loved.

Also be sure to visit The Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World or Disneyland if you live nearby.

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I’m a Singer? Achieving Goals.

Last night I auditionedto bea singer in a New Jersey choral group called The Celebration Singers. This is significant because I have never sung in public before (except in a chorus in 8th grade).

Actually, I once did try recording myself singing “Somewhere” from West Side Story at the Karaoke-type recording studio Sound Tracks that used to be at Downtown Disney in Florida’s Walt Disney World. The result was atrocious–which led everyone who heard it to confirm that I cannot sing. But I always suspected that the fact that the Sound Tracks recording engineer played Barbra Streisand’s high-pitched female voice into my headphones while I performed is the reason I couldn’t findthe notesas I tried to sing the song as a deep-voiced male.

Plus, whenever I tried to compose songs by singing into a tape recorder, I thought I sounded okay. And as a pre-adolescent, I took a mail-order course in ventriloquism, which taught me how to project my voice, and how to speak from my diaphragm, and do vocal warm-ups, all of which relate directly to singing.

Finally, I found that singing Brahms’ Lullabye with my wife to our twins over the last three years has been good practice and that if I tried, I could sing it–and other children’s songs–fairly well.

So, I courageously showed up at this audition. The Celebration Singers includes professional singers who have anumber of serious accomplishments in their resumes. The conductor who auditioned me is an accomplished professional who knows what he’s doing. What was I doing there?

He had me sing back to him what he played on the piano. Then he changed the key, so I sang higher and lower, to see what my range was. Then he asked me to sing an actual song if I knew one. I sang two verses of “Climb Every Mountain” by Rodgers and Hammerstein, a song I remembered word for word, note for note, for some reason, ever since learning it in music class in Fifth Grade (or was it Third Grade?). I had rehearsed it in the car while drivingto the audition, since it’s the only place where Icould bealone andwouldn’t disturb my family or embarrass myself.I wanted to continue and sing the middle part but he stopped me.

He said I had a good ear and seemed surprised that I had never sung before.

This morning I received a telephone call inviting me to join their next rehearsal!

I had no expectation that I could actually pass the audition but I thought, why not try. I drove to the hallafter putting my children to bed,showing upin the last 15 minutes of the audition period. This is how life-changing events take place. It’s always worth trying if you have a desire.

Here is a link to the web site of The Celebration Singers:

http://www.celebration-singers.org

Interestingly, it started out as the company choirof, and funded by,Standard Oil, or Esso (now Exxon). It is now an independentnon-profit organization.

Besides this exciting new adventure, I recently drew some character designs that may be used for an animated version of a bear thatpromotes children’sTV programming at a local stationin Pennsylvania. These kinds of creative endeavors are exactly what I wanted my life to include when I planned to be a Renaissance Man (or at least a multi-talented creative person) during my childhood. It’s true, life gets better as you get older; you get to do what you intended to do, as you keep pursuing your interests over time.Eventually you do achieve your goalsas long as you keep trying. (And smaller arenas can eventually lead to larger ones.)

I’m also proud of my interviews on www.zigory.solidvox.com. I’ve recorded two programs so far. (I would have done more but I have found scheduling times when guests and producer Prodos and Iare all available to be unexpectedly challenging.) Unfortunatelymy music-related interview withM. Zachary Johnson has not yet been put on the site due to a backlog at the Prodosphere, but I expect it to appear soon.

I will apply all this confidence I’m gaining from these achievements to completing my longer and more ambitious writing projects which are still in progress.

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Time In Ayn Rand’s Words/Zigory’s Priorities

Hereare Ayn Rand’s own words about the subject of time, from “Ayn Rand Answers”, edited by Robert Mayhew:

“My view is, in effect, Aristotelian…there is no such thing as independent time or space. The universe is finite, and the concept of time applies to the relationship between entities. Specifically, time is a measurement of motion, which is a change of relationship between entities within the universe. Time cannot exist by itself. It exists only within the universe; it does not apply to the universe as a whole. By ‘universe’ I mean the total of what exists. The universe could have no relationship to anything outside itself: no motion, no change and therefore, no time.”

A couple of thoughts about yesterday’s post: You should know that the situationof cramped apartmentsand the need to have roommates is typical in New York City, unlike some other cities. Also, I forgot to mentionmy move to Florida and back after7 months(because Disney’s salary–and seemingly that of every non-professional job in Florida at the time–was too low to cover expenses).

I don’t regret the priorities I chose over time, and theadventures I’ve had,and now I thoroughly enjoy my new family and home and long-term writing projects (plusthe podcasting and blogging).Parenting and teaching my children, being able to share with them and my wife enjoyment of ahouse and yard in a pleasant park-filled neighborhood,are at the top of my value prioritiesalong with my writing/arts projects. I made the right decision in devoting the time to improving my situation and to searching for the right mate.

Those who start out with parents or uncles able and willing to assist financially do have a great advantage in terms of saving time, but eventually those without such advantages achieve their values as well, in a relatively free society like the United States. But sometimes I imagine how much easier things would be without New York’s rent regulations/controls that effectively keepartificially low-rent spacious apartments off the market (secretly passed along from family member to family member, close friend to closefriend, as if a rare treasure–or keptunused rather than relinquished),and incredibly high taxes that turn decent salaries into poor ones.

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