DVD Review: Walt Before Mickey – A “True” Story

“The true story of a boy whose dreams built a kingdom” is the tag line for this production which seems pretty inspiring. But with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 20% you know this movie isn’t destined to be a classic. Read my DVD review to see why…

dvd-case

Nice concept. Bad execution.

This movie was loosely based on ‘a true story’ as recounted in the book of the same name as the movie, to wit:

original-book

Synopsis: This film is about Walt Disney’s early years. For ten years before the creation of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney struggled with, failed at, and eventually mastered the art and business of animation. Walt Disney worked in a variety of venues and studios, refining what would become known as the Disney style. This film captures the years 1919 – 1928, creating a portrait of the artist from age seventeen to the cusp of his international renown.

Hopefully Timothy S. Susanin did a better job of researching the facts in his book than the movie did! The forward for the book was written by Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s daughter, so you naturally assume the content is legit. Well, the book may have been closer to the truth, but thankfully she wouldn’t have seen this movie (as it was released after her passing) as I’m certain she wouldn’t have approved (even though some sources give her a writing credit). As an example, one scene has Walt eating a sandwich out of a garbage can while obsessing over a mouse he had found in his studio. When the mouse runs away, Walt is depicted as almost having a mental breakdown over its loss. I find that hard to believe! However, the movie does depict Walt’s excessive smoking accurately.

From my negativity, you no doubt have guessed that I don’t like nor appreciate this movie? Please read on for my main reasons why:

The movie starts off well enough with only slight deviations from the truth which are forgivable to achieve a more streamlined plot. But about half way into things the facts become the enemy and artistic license rules the day!

Anyone watching with no knowledge of this time in Walt’s life will come away with entirely the wrong idea about the man, the events, and how they shaped the Walt Disney Company we know today. Although Walt had his bad points, this movie makes him a completely unsympathetic character with very few redeeming qualities. Even his determination to succeed and unwavering optimism is implied to come from others and not himself. And don’t get me started on how Roy is handled.

young-walt

Thomas Ian Nicholas a.k.a. Walt Disney

The production values were good on a television movie level or for direct-to-video release, so kudos to director Khoa Van Le for that much. The acting was fair but the editing was choppy and some details of the plot were poorly relayed making for some confusing moments. Here is the trailer:

Vision Films – 2015 (107 mins.)

About the only thing I can say that is positive about this movie is that the cover art on the DVD packaging is awesome!

Cool Rating: 2/5

DVD Review Summation: The movie had the proper bone structure (basic facts) but entirely the wrong skin (or details) over top.

I will keep this movie in my Disney media collection because I’m a completist but I won’t likely revisit it anytime soon. You can check out the official website here to review their promotional materials or order a copy of the DVD for yourself.

I purchased a copy of this movie for review. No compensation was received.

Easter Egg: Finding Dory Swims with Herbie

Disney/Pixar animators love to add little inside jokes to all of their theatrical releases and Finding Dory is no exception. Each of these inside jokes are called an ‘easter egg’ because you have to really look to find them!

So somewhere near the beginning of the movie and in the end credits of Finding Dory we see a little white Volkswagen who could be no other than the famous Herbie the Love Bug himself. First, we see him with Dory just while she is trying to find someone to help her:

dory-and-herbie

And then we see Herbie being test driven by Hank:

finding-dory-activity-book-001

But how did Herbie get there? If you remember the film Herbie Goes Bananas you’ll recall that Herbie is punished by the Captain of The Sun Princess cruise ship by being made to ‘walk the plank’, or in reality, by being tipped overboard. Re-live the sad moment by watching the video below:

FUN FACT: The car that “walks the plank” in the movie was never recovered from the sea. It was tossed overboard from the SS Cozumel ferry ship. The car is somewhere between La Paz and Baja California. The car thrown overboard was not a proper car and had many wooden parts.

But for the purpose of this easter egg, we’re saying it is actually Herbie himself chillin’ at the bottom of The Big Blue. And although his trademark stripes and number 54 are worn off by years under the sea, he looks like he is still ready for one last drive with Hank:

finding-dory-activity-book-003

So is the initial pass in the night with Dory and this chance meeting between Hank the septapus and Herbie the Love Bug really possible? Would they end up in the same part of the Ocean? Well, consider the following map:

nemo-trip-mapIn Finding Dory, she, along with Marlin and Nemo, once again leave the Great Barrier Reef and would again need to use the East Australian Current (EAC, dude) as a highway. This time they would need to travel across the entire Pacific Ocean to a point just off the North-West tip of Africa where the EAC completes its circle and heads back to Australia. From there, they would have to swim up to California where the Marine Life Institute is located, in a picturesque Bay.

Now in the film, it is claimed that they simply use the California Current to make the entire trip, but this current doesn’t start over near Australia. And… it also flows South, so it would be going the wrong way to carry our characters up to California. But hey, it’s a movie, so lighten up!

As mentioned earlier, the cruise ship The Sun Princess dumped Herbie somewhere between La Paz and Baja California. So Hank and Herbie could definitely end up in the same part of the Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of California.

Hypothesis: Proven! At least in my mind.

1957 Walt Disney’s Fantasia Soundtrack LP

And this is why I still own a record player. Every once in a while I stumble across something truly special. Although Fantasia (released in 1940) was a critical success it was a box office disappointment for Walt Disney. His dream of re-releasing the film with new segments wouldn’t be realized until the far-off year of 2000, and again with critical acclaim but limited box office returns.

These facts in no way diminish this film’s historical and artistic significance! So when I found a mint condition copy of the soundtrack for Fantasia from 1957 I was ecstatic!

fantasia-lp-001

Album cover

Being as this LP was released 17 years after the movie I wondered if it was the original soundtrack or if there was one released earlier. Although Walt did want to release an earlier version, it never happened. So what I have found is the first soundtrack release for the film. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the release history for Fantasia:

Disney considered releasing the film’s soundtrack around the time of the film’s roadshow release, but this idea was not realized. The soundtrack was first released as a mono three LP set and a stereo 8-track tape in sixteen countries by Disneyland and Buena Vista Records in 1957, containing the musical pieces without the narration. A stereo edition LP was issued by Buena Vista Records in 1961. Disney was required to obtain permission from Stokowski, who initially rejected its sale unless the Philadelphia Orchestra Association received a share of the royalties.
The Kostal recording was released on two CDs, two LPs and two audio cassettes by Buena Vista Records, in 1982.
In September 1990, the remastered Stokowski soundtrack was released on CD and audio cassette by Buena Vista Records. In the United States, it debuted the Billboard 200 chart at number 190, its peak position, for the week of November 17, 1990. Two months after its release, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for 500,000 copies sold in the United States. In January 1993, it was certified platinum for sales in excess of one million copies.
For the film’s 75th anniversary, the Stokowski and Kostal recordings were released on two LPs and four CDs as the fifth volume of the Walt Disney Records: The Legacy Collection. The set includes Stokowski’s recording of the deleted Clair de Lune segment, and a recording of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Peter and the Wolf with added narration by Sterling Holloway.

What really stands out about this LP are the notes and artwork. The packaging is basically a 26-page booklet with three vinyl records. Here are the inner pages:

fantasia-lp-015

The above pages outline the goal intended for the recording quality. It is worth a read if you care to enlarge the picture!

fantasia-lp-004

Both Walt and Leopold Stokowski make good arguments for why Fantasia was a worthwhile project. Again, it is worth a read!

fantasia-lp-005

fantasia-lp-006

fantasia-lp-007

fantasia-lp-008

fantasia-lp-009

fantasia-lp-010

fantasia-lp-011

fantasia-lp-012

As you can see, each section of the film has a two-page spread dedicated to it. On the left there is an introduction to the original musical piece followed by a description of how it was handled in the film. On the right is a beautiful piece of concept art from the section in question. I’ll say it again, it is worth enlarging the pictures to give these pages a read!

The final pages contain more of the concept drawings from the film:

fantasia-lp-013     fantasia-lp-014

As noted earlier, this was a Buena Vista Records release. It may never have been released as Stokowski and later his estate tried to block the sale of any Fantasia soundtrack unless monies were shared with Stokowski and the orchestra that played the music. Obviously, things were worked out:

fantasia-lp-016

I was amazed to find that the vinyl records themselves appear unplayed! There is no dust, wear, or scratches. Considering this release is over 60 years old, I consider finding such a pristine copy unprecedented!

This will now be the cornerstone of my Disney record collection.

Top 5 Non-Disney Disney-style Movies

How many times have you been talking about Disney movies and someone says that their favorite is An American Tail? Or when talking live-action movies another friend raves about how well Disney did with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?

You see the problem here, right? Neither of those movies were made by Disney. So why do people think they are? Possibly because they assume if an animated movie is successful, it must have been done by Disney. Or if a live-action classic is still around today and shown on television once a year, it must have been done by Disney.

This is a definite tip-of-the-hat to the reputation of Disney but not something the other competing studios likely appreciate! But it does bring up a good topic for discussion. Which non-Disney movies really should have been, or could have been, released by Disney?

I’m going to focus on live-action movies that have become children’s classics. None of the movies in my Top 5 List will be from Disney, so I will provide the name of the actual studio responsible. For the sake of this exercise, I will assume that Disney has acquired the rights to each movie listed, as that is how it seems to most people anyway:

Acquisition Number Five

Dr. Dolittle: 20th Century Fox (1967)

dr-dolittle

Containing no less than 14 songs and a host of real and puppetry animals this movie has become a children’s classic that most have forgotten. It did poorly in theaters when first released but has gained a cult following of sorts.

Synopsis: The movie follows the adventures of Dr. Dolittle (Rex Harrison) as he transitions from a regular physician to a veterinarian. He is helped in this by a talking parrot who teaches him animal languages, thus enabling him to actually talk with the animals, ‘grunt, squeak, squawk with the animals’! This gets him into trouble with a local magistrate and sentenced to an insane asylum which he quickly escapes from. Now free, he embarks on a quest to find the Great Pink Sea Snail, which he finds near a traveling island. Stuff happens and he finds true love and is able to return to his home.

The highlights of the special effects are the Push-me-Pull-me lama-like creature and the Great Pink Sea Snail, which is huge and actually sails on the ocean!

great-pink-sea-snail

Think of a man doing for animals what Mary Poppins does for children. Now that’s Disney-like!

Acquisition Number Four

The Sound of Music: 20th Century Fox (1965)

sound-of-music

This is a no-brainer as it stars Julie Andrews who also played the part of the very Disney-like Mary Poppins.

Synopsis: Maria is a free-spirited young Austrian woman studying to become a nun. Her love of music and the mountains, her youthful enthusiasm and imagination, and her lack of discipline cause some concern so she is sent off to the villa of retired naval officer Captain Georg von Trapp to be governess to his seven children. They sing many songs (My Favorite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, Climb Ev’ry Mountain) have fun adventures, endure heartache, and eventually fall in love, get married, and then escape from the Nazis by climbing over the mountains. Just your average story!

The facts that it is based on a true story, and is played on television every year, makes this an enduring classic worthy of being considered a Disney movie!

Acquisition Number Three

The Wizard of Oz: MGM (1939)

oz

The oldest movie on this list but perhaps one of the most well-known. There is a whole section devoted to this classic in The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios but I don’t think anyone believes Disney did this one. But he should have! In fact, the Disney Studios did obtain the rights and released Return to Oz in 1985, but Walt was interested in this property much earlier and even planned a live-action movie starring the Mouseketeers.

Synopsis: Dorothy (Judy Garland) lives in Kansas with her family and her dog Toto. A tornado sweeps her off to Oz where she accidentally kills a wicked witch which understandably angers the witch’s sister! The movie plays out as Dorothy meets the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow, and together they save Oz. Short version.

Wicked Witches. Funny side kicks. Flying Monkeys. And the Wizard of Oz. No wonder Walt wanted in on this classic!

Acquisition Number Two

Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: Paramount (1971)

wonka

This is one of the best children’s musicals of all time! Forget the Johnny Depp remake and go back to the 1971 Paramount version for a stunning adaption of this wonderful series of books by Roald Dahl. Starring Gene Wilder as Wonka, there is just so much to love about this movie!

Synopsis: Willie Wonka realizes that he can’t care for the chocolate factory by himself forever and so goes about finding a replacement among the children of the world. He issues golden tickets and Charlie gets one. Of all the children tested for the job only Charlie shows the right stuff and wins the day!

A magical factory. Oompa Loompas. And chocolate and candies galore. Add a dash of songs like ‘The Candy Man Can’ and ‘Pure Imagination’ and you have a very Disney-like non-Disney movie! Oh, and Disney did do another Dahl adaption with James and the Giant Peach in 1996.

Extra: Read my review of the Commemorative Edition LIFE magazine about the life and career of Gene Wilder.

Acquisition Number One

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: United Artists (1968)

chitty

Dick Van Dyke without the cockney accent. Music by the Sherman Brothers. A flying car. Wacky characters and villains. This was the follow-up to Mary Poppins that Disney hoped for when the studio did Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Synopsis: The children of Caractacus Potts (Van Dyke) talk him into buying an old race car which he restores to better than new. And to even better than he thought as it turns out it can float on water and fly in the air! Along with love interest Truly Scrumptious and the children, Potts ends up in the far-off kingdom of Vulgaria where they have many adventures. In the end, they return home, and it was all just a story-like dream. Or… was it?

The real standouts in this movie are the music and dance numbers! From the title song to classics like Me Ol’ Bamboo, Toot Sweets, and Hushabye Mountain, Walt’s boys were in fine form!

Conclusion: A good Disney movie has a fantastic storyline, engaging characters, uplifting music, and great special effects. The five movies on this list have all of these things in spades! No wonder many people think they actually are Disney movies.

So why not put aside your Disney Movie Night and have a Non-Disney Disney Movie Night instead?

Jungle Book ’67 vs. Jungle Book ’16

It’s a battle 49 years in the making but the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ has finally arrived! Today we are pitting the 1967 original animated film against its 2016 live-action remake. So we have classic animation vs. CGI and tried-and-true voice actors vs. today’s A-list talents.

jungle-book-title-card

Who will win? To find out we are going to pit these two films head-to-head in five categories. The one who wins the most categories will be the best. The original film will henceforth be referenced as JB-67 and the new movie as JB-16.

~ SPOILER ALERT ~

Although I don’t go into too much detail about the new film, I do mention certain plot points that may ruin things for you if you haven’t seen it yet. You are warned!

CATEGORY ONE

Premise

Random Tiger Attack vs. Shere Khan Murder Plot

baby-mowgli-67     baby-mowgli-16

Both movies stick pretty close to the same plot: Mowgli is abandoned in the jungle, he is raised by wolves, the tiger hates and fears him, his friends end up removing him from danger. Hi-jinks ensue between these events.

JB-67 keeps opens by having Mowgli lost in the jungle after a random tiger attack whereas JB-16 has Sher Khan killing Mowgli’s father and continuing his murderous vendetta against the son. Sher Khan simply hates man in JB-16 and his fear of fire isn’t really the driving force behind the villains actions, which helped to make the reasons for his actions realistic and understandable in the original. In fact, I felt his motivation was a bit unfocused which hurt the new film somewhat.

Also, Mowgli ends up leaving the jungle in JB-67 by going to the Man Village which doesn’t happen in JB-16. For this reason I think the original film had a more rewarding ending.

The winner of this category is JB-67 for delivering a satisfying movie with more heart.

CATEGORY TWO

Characters

Old Interpretation vs. New Interpretation

shere-khan-67     shere-khan-16

JB-67 definitely has a lighter tone than JB-16. It rolls along smoother with more fun and with much more engaging character development. Let’s take a look at the main characters one by one:

Shere Khan – You just can’t beat Sebastian Cabot’s voice work on this character! The tiger in the remake looks like it has the mange.

Bagheera and Baloo – Again the original voice actors did a marvelous job of bringing these characters to life, especially Phil Harris with Baloo! But Bill Murray gave a game performance and I’d have to say that no one else could have pulled the big bear off as well.

Kaa – Swapping genders for certain characters in remakes is all the rage now and I agree with it to add more diversity to the cast. But again, poor Scarlett Johansson had a big voice box to fill in replacing Sterling Holloway!

King Louie – Here Christopher Walkin just didn’t do it for me. Louis Prima knocked this character out of the park in the original. However, I have to say that having Louie be a rare giant orangutan was one of the highlights of the new film!

Most of the other support characters were fine in both films and we’ll cover Mowgli next. So obviously I’m going to award the win in this category to JB-67. The original voice talent was just too perfect for anyone to successfully replace them!

CATEGORY THREE

Mowgli

Bruce Reitherman vs. Neel Sethi

mowgli-67     mowgli-16

All through the remake I just couldn’t warm up to Neel Sethi as Mowgli. I’m not alone in feeling that the original movie was as close to perfection as a Disney movie gets and this was certainly in no small part due to the voice actors! Bruce Reitherman was able to imbue Mowgli with a greater range of wonder, courage, and fear.

I have to award another win to JB-67 for simply outclassing the new talent.

CATEGORY FOUR

Music

Original Versions vs. Remakes

sherman-brothers

The Sherman Brothers. What can you say? I was both glad and worried that the remake kept some of the iconic songs in the movie. Unfortunately it was my disquiet that won out as the new versions played. Because the songs were butchered! Sorry, but it has to be said.

I can’t even bear to talk about it so I’ll just give the win to JB-67 and move on.

CATEGORY FIVE

Effects

Animation vs. Live-action/CGI Hybrid

Both movies are visually pleasing. The animation of JB-67 was basic but immersive while the live-action/CGI effects of JB-16 were done quite well, although some of the animals could have had more realistic movements.

But I think I can finally award a win to JB-16 here! Technology has indeed come a long way since 1967.

RESULTS

Winner: JB-67

I have to admit I am not surprised by the 4-1 outcome in favor of JB-67! I just didn’t have as great a connection with the remake as I did with the original. JB-16 tried hard but just didn’t quiet achieve the emotional level of JB-67.

Remakes are hard to pull off and I really believe, although it did good business and got fair reviews, JB-16 is not a worthy addition to the Disney canon. Do you agree?

Pete’s Dragon ’77 vs. Pete’s Dragon ’16

Which is better? The original or the remake? This question has taken on a new dimension since Disney has started releasing cherished animated features as live-action films. So far we have had Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, and the Jungle Book. I’ll go on record now and say that I liked the original versions better in each case. Soon to be added will be Beauty and the Beast. Will it fare better?

Pete's Dragon

But the effort we are reviewing in this post was a hybrid live-action/animated feature from 1977 called Pete’s Dragon (PD-77). Recently remade in 2016 (PD-16), we are going to pit these two films head-to-head in five categories. The one who wins the most categories will be the best.

~ SPOILER ALERT ~

Although I don’t go into too much detail about the new film, I do mention certain plot points that may ruin things for you if you haven’t seen it yet. You are warned!

CATEGORY ONE

Premise

Runaway vs. Orphan

Both movies have a decent enough premise. In the original adaption Pete is a runaway from an abusive step-family who finds and is protected by a dragon until he finds a new, and loving, foster family. In the remake, Pete is orphaned after a car accident in the woods and is found and protected by a dragon until he is found by a new, and loving, foster family.

Neither premise is realistic. In the original the Gogan family would never have gotten custody of Pete. And in the remake Pete would never have gone missing for 6 years after the crash site was found. Dogs would have been used to find him.

But I must declare a winner so I will award the point to PD-16. The new premise isn’t as outlandish as the first, and it reaches the heart.

CATEGORY TWO

Villain(s)

Dr. Terminus     Gavin

Dr. Terminus vs. Gavin

I’m not even going to include the Gogan family as villains as this would automatically award the win to PD-16. I love PD-77 but their scenes make me cringe! But Dr. Terminus isn’t much better. We have to adjust things a bit as it was more common to have over-the-top villains in early Disney films, but even doing that, I think Gavin was a more realistic danger for Elliot.

I liked how the new film handled Gavin, a jealous brother tired of being in the background of the family business, looking for something to put him on the map. Capturing Elliot was a sure way of doing that! His redemption in the end as he tries to save his brother and Grace at the risk of his own life was satisfying.

So I have to award the point to PD-16.

CATEGORY THREE

Pete

Sean Marshall     Oakes Fegley

Sean Marshall vs. Oakes Fegley

I think Sean did a wonderful job in the first film… until he had to sing! Disney had a habit of hiring child actors based on looks and acting ability and then forcing them to warble a tune. For the time though, Sean did a good job.

Oakes has a very natural way about him. In an aside, I think he did a better job of reinventing the character of Pete than Neel Sethi did with Mowgli. He was able to capture some humor and a lot of heart in his performance.

Again, sounding like a broken record, I have to give the point to PD-16. If only Sean hadn’t of sung!

CATEGORY FOUR

Elliot

Elliot 77     Elliot 16

Cartoon vs. Realistic

Back in 1977 live-action and animation together was a big thing. This was pre-Roger Rabbit and given the technology of the time was a very good job!

Today’s CGI effects are hard to beat and the technicians on PD-16 did a very good job of integrating Elliot into the natural surroundings. But more could have been done to show effect for Elliot’s causes.

I struggle with this one but being as the original Elliot was played almost completely for laughs, whereas the new Elliot has a bit more dimension, again, I have to give the point to PD-16.

CATEGORY FIVE

Effects

Traditional Animation vs. CGI

The original film did a very competent job of integrating the animated Elliot into the real world. I also have to mention how well the effects department handled the damage caused by Elliot when he was invisible and running through the town.

The new film handled the CGI effects well but that is to be expected. Almost every film has CGI elements these days and the art has been all-but perfected.

So finally I can award a point to PD-77 as a tip of the hat to the old-school wizards who created a convincing world with limited technology!

RESULTS

Winner: PD-16

I have to admit I was surprised by the 4-1 outcome! Before starting to write this review I pegged PD-16 with the win by a slim margin as I had fond memories of PD-77. But when I had to closely compare each category, it became apparent that the remake was far better than the original.

It isn’t easy for a remake to surpass its predecessor but I believe PD-16 has done just that! Do you agree? I hope that the upcoming Beauty and the Beast live-action remake will continue this trend.

Magical Blogorail: Disney Movie Night – 1980’s Condorman

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Yellow Loop. Today we are sharing movie night ideas based on Disney movies from the 1980’s.


C O N D O R M A N

Condorman DVD

Condorman? Really? Yup, we’re starting the loop off with an old live-action superhero romp from 1981.

Condorman Movie Poster

Condorman is an all-but forgotten Disney adventure comedy superhero film directed by Charles Jarrott, produced by Walt Disney Productions, and starring Michael Crawford, Barbara Carrera and Oliver Reed. Inspired by Robert Sheckley’s The Game of X, the movie follows comic book illustrator Woodrow Wilkins’ attempts to assist in the defection of a female Soviet KGB agent.

Super Spy  Super Hero

Both Super Spy and Super Hero

With Michael Crawford in the lead role (he of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em fame) one might assume that he would fail miserably at being both! But surprisingly he does quite well, although in many unorthodox ways. Like strapping on a highly improbable glider suit and jumping off of very high places while carrying a woman on his back. Hey, you can’t call yourself ‘Condorman’ without wearing wings and flying!

It doesn’t hurt his chances for success either that he has a deep-pocketed government backing him up and creating all sorts of cool spy gadgets directly from out of his comic books. Like this super car:

Cool Car

Three pursuing Porsche? No problem!

The Condormobile was a modified Nova Sterling kit car. There are more gadgets, but I’ll let you be surprised when you watch the movie for yourself. On that point it may be hard to find new copies as it is out of production. It was available through the Disney Movie Club at one point (see first picture above) but not now. All is not lost however as you can get copies on eBay ($25 US/$32 CAN and up) or download it like I did from iTunes ($9.99 CAN). And forget about Blu-Ray!

Although Condorman isn’t one of Disney’s most recognized properties, you would expect an accomplished super hero to show up from time to time. And Condorman has done just that:

Infinity Condor Glider          Silly Toy          Vinylmation Figure

From left to right: A Disney Infinity Glider upgrade, a silly toy, and a Vinylmation figure, just to name a few. And of course he had his own three-part comic book adaption from Whitman Comics:

 Condorman Comic Part 1  Condorman Comic Part 2  Condorman Comic Part 3

Pictures from www.mycomicshop.com

But was the movie any good? Here is My Review: This movie plays like one of the made-for-TV movies shown on Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. Not one of the best ones, though, maybe just slightly in the middle! It offers nothing new to the spy genre and is slow in places but still offers up some truly entertaining moments.

For me the best part was watching Michael Crawford act in a semi-serious role. You may best remember him from The Phantom of the Opera but he was a major comedy star long before that. Be sure to check out this posts Fun Fact for more on Crawford.

I would give this movie 3 out of 5 Stars but still recommend it for a family movie night!

Fun Fact: Michael Crawford appeared in Wall-E by means of the video clips Wall-E played in his ‘home’. You can see him singing, dancing, and most importantly, holding hands.

For more ways to beat summer boredom, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Yellow | Disney Movie Night | The 80’s Loop:

Book Review: The Making of King Kong

I love reading anything about the early days of film making, especially the earliest examples of animation, whether they be hand-drawn or stop-motion as in the case of King Kong. So when I came across this old first edition published in 1975 by A. S. Barnes & Co., it didn’t take me long to fork over the purchase price!

King Kong 014

ISBN 0-345-25134-2-395

The book starts off by telling the wild and almost unbelievable film-making escapades of the two men who brought Kong to the screen:  Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. They were known for getting seemingly impossible and oh-so exciting wildlife shots from around the world and putting them into jungle documentaries. These made money and proved a learning ground leading up to Kong.

King Kong 016

The bulk of The Making of King Kong is written in a tell-all format with so many details that it is likely for the true enthusiast more so than the average reader. Although the details of the filming are fascinating, the sheer amount of detail can be daunting and dry to read through at times.

Now a word about the other less hairy star of the film:

King Kong 017

Did you know Fay Wray was a brunette?

Playing a blonde in the film (thanks to a wig) Fay Wray was actually a brunette. She definitely provided the beauty to Kong’s beast! Don’t believe me? Check out the beast below:

King Kong 018

Cooper admires his beast

This behind-the-scenes picture certainly helps one to appreciate the scale of one of the models used to bring Kong to life!

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Hand armature that held Wray

Again, we can see the scale here. There are over 160 making-of photographs throughout the book and they are a real treat to see, as some appear for the first time in this book.

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When you ask for a wake-up call in New York

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Animator Buz Gibson starts Kong up the Empire State Building

There is one Disney reference in the book: “O’Brien appears to have invented the three-dimensional glass-and-miniature settings… This technique was too time-consuming to be popular with producers although O’Brien was able to use it to a lesser extent in several later pictures and Walt Disney did something rather similar without the added solid forms in his celebrated Multiplane cartoons.

Willis H. O’Brien was the Chief Technician on King Kong and appears to be to Cooper-Schoedsack Productions what Ub Iwerks was to Walt Disney Productions. It’s not surprising that techniques invented and experimented with in 1933 would be picked up and ran with by Disney in later years!

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I would give this book a 4 out of 5 Stars for the masses, but a 5 out of 5 Stars for movie geeks and vintage film enthusiasts like me.

Again, the book is amazing in its depth, giving very detailed explanations of early film techniques. But this is also a problem as these very same details can bog the book down and wear out the interest of the casual film fan.

The book concludes with a filmography of sorts detailing the movies released by Cooper-Schoedsack Productions prior to and after King Kong. By reading this section one can gain an even deeper understanding of what led up to this iconic movie, and what it led to after its colossal success.

You can buy this book on  Amazon in both hardcover and paperback editions. Amazon readers/reviewers gave the book a 4.7 Stars out of 5.

Jimmie Dodd Meets Private Snuffy Smith

Welcome to another installment of ‘Where On Earth Did You Find This‘ on Disney Nouns! The blog that seeks to share the most obscure Disney references imaginable.

Case in point:

Jimmie Dodd 1

This is a 1942 American film directed by Edward F. Cline and starring Bud Duncan as Snuffy Smith. It was actually a comic strip made into a movie, and done quite well, I might add.

Synopsis: Inspired by and envious of the $21 a month and free khaki britches and gold buttons of his friend Don Elbie (our man Jimmie Dodd), Snuffy Smith joins the US Army with his dog, Mr. Carson, concealed by an invisibility potion. As fate would have it, his company First Sergeant is Ed Cooper, a former revenuer who had unsuccessfully attempted to locate and destroy Snuffy’s still.

The clever Don Elbie (yup, Jimmie Dodd) has invented a new rangefinder that he hopes to have adopted by the army. General Rosewater hopes to test the new rangefinder in war games with a rival general. A pair of Fifth columnists hope to steal the rangefinder but are defeated by Snuffy’s wife Lowizie, Snuffy’s invisible dog and his hillbilly neighbours.

Sounds sane enough. And here is what the title cards have to say about Jimmie Dodd:

Jimmie Dodd 2  Jimmie Dodd 3

Jimmie Dodd actually cares for the only three tunes in the film:

Times a-Wastin, which is Snuffy Smith’s battle cry, was written by four men but sung by Dodd.

The Yard Bird, which referred to the Smith character once inducted, was written and performed by Dodd.

I Don’t Know What To Do Blues was also written and performed by Dodd.

Now here are some stills of Jimmie Dodd as Don Elbie from the film:

Jimmie Dodd 4     Jimmie Dodd 5     Jimmie Dodd 6

Jimmie Dodd 7     Jimmie Dodd 8     Jimmie Dodd 10

Keep in mind that this film was released in 1942, so it is a full 13 years before Dodd became the leader of the Mouseketeers. But we can see that he was already a musical player and songwriter. It was nice to find him in such a substantial role!

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 Jimmie Dodd (March 28, 1910 – November 10, 1964)

Dodd did many turns in the movies before linking up with Disney, usually uncredited, but Private Snuffy Smith is seldom mentioned.

20,000 Leagues: Deep Sea Treasure Hunt Game

I hate playing board games! But for some unknown reason I love collecting vintage Disney board games. I think it’s because of the beautiful artwork:

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There are many versions of this game produced by Disney as this was a very popular property for the studio. This version is a standard board-playing style made in 1954 by Jaymar Games.

Speaking of the artwork, as usual, some artistic license was taken with the images used. For example, there are two different types of underwater suits depicted on the box cover, when only one style was used in the movie (Editor’s Note: Thanks to a knowledgeable reader, Nautilusnut, we have new information about these suits. Please check the comments to learn of their correct use in the film.) Also, this game is based on finding treasure, when only two characters in the movie sought treasure, and this was only a sub-plot in the original movie.

However, this in no way detracts from the fun of the game!

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Game board label and playing surface

So what is the object of the Deep Sea Treasure Hunt game? Have a look at the official rule sheet from inside the box:

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See a problem?

Again, some license had to be taken to make the game work. The object is to submerge your diver 20,000 leagues (or 60,000 miles) beneath the sea. This is impossible! The maximum depth of the sea is approximately 36,200 miles. So unless the diver is going to dig his way into the ocean floor, he isn’t winning this game!

Getting back to the game in this post, the spinner is quite nice:

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That’s a very colorful Nautilus!

I picked this game up for just $15.00 CAN because it has some damage issues on the box. The rest of the game is in very good condition with all of the parts present.

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I’m red!

I hope you enjoyed this post featuring a vintage Disney game.