Here’s an in-depth look at a truly underrated movie. What makes Robin Hood defy the odds?
A quick 2 min. video where I break down how Disney tricks you into seeing something that isn’t there using special optical effects!
I’m trying to do some new things on my YouTube channel to fill in the gaps between my flagship Video Essays…
I figured why not share something I have a passion for: the magic that goes into making our movie dreams a reality! It’s a little more educational then my usual content, but still really fun, so be prepared for that! I don’t know how people will react to shorter educational content like this, but there’s no harm in giving it a try!
It’s DIY technique for creating a lightning effect in your own movie, based on the way the old masters accomplished it! I love the fascinating work that goes on behind-the-scenes of all these famous movies, so I thought that exploring the unique special effects of hand-drawn animation in a bite-size format that makes it easy to understand might be fun! Maybe you’ll even learn how to do it yourself! 🙂
A Special Behind-the-Scenes Look at Disney’s Top Villain Vocalists: Part 2
Were just getting started with Disney Magic Fanatic’s fall festivities! “Spooky Season” is in full swing with our strange dive into the world of voice acting villainy. Last time we took a fascinating look into the iconic performers that brought some of your favorite fiendish felons to life. And this time around we’ve got so much more to cover! With more stars, more memories, and more behind-the-scenes mysteries to uncover, the treasure trove of Disney’s vocal performances runs deep. So, come take a dive with me into the animated aristocracy as we discover the greatest villainous voices in Disney History! PART 2!
9. Dr. Facilier
Three-time Pimetime Emmy-Winner Keith David provides the voice for this nefarious flim-flam voodoo man. In fitting with The Princess and the Frog’s re-imagining of the classic fairy tale in the setting of a 1920’s New Orleans, Dr. Facilier’s voice is smooth as jazz.
It’s Keith David’s history on Broadway, and as a narrator for film and television, that breathes life into the character. There’s charisma and wit in the performance of this twisted magician’s heart, and it comes through in every piece of his devious deeds. And nothing drives this home more than the highly underrated film’s villainous musical number “Friends on the Other Side”. It’s a true showstopper and a showcase for the silver-tongued character’s talent.
8. King Candy
King candy is a very special villain for Disney fans because he’s a living Easter Egg!
Just like PIXAR has a “good luck charm” in the many cameo voices of John Ratzenberger, Disney animation has their own! Alan Tudyk, known for his work in the cult-classic television show Firefly, has had multiple cameos in the “New Golden Age” of Disney Animation, and King Candy was the first where he was cast in a major role! There’s also a rumor going around that Alan based King Candy’s voice on the legendary comedian Ed Wynn, the actor who portrayed the Mad Hatter in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland 60 years earlier.
Tudyk is a phenomenal, classically trained actor known for the control he has over his voice. You might recognize him as The Duke of Weselton from Frozen, or even HeiHei the rooster from Moana! All-in-all Alan Tudyk is a Disney icon.
Eleanor Audley was an icon of a bygone era. Unfortunately, most radio royalty has been forgotten by modern audiences. However, their contributions to the realm of voice, particularly Disney voices, cannot be understated.
Known for her sophisticated, commanding, and often chilling tones, Eleanor provided a vocal presence that few could imitate. Eleanor is also known for portraying Madame Leota in The Haunted Mansion, and Lady Tremaine, the evil stepmother in Cinderella. The latter performance is also phenomenal, but only one villain could make this list. Cold and calculating, while still graceful and educated, Maleficent is one of the most memorable villains in Disney History, and Eleanor’s brilliant performance is a major player in that fact!
6. Captain Hook
Another Radio icon from a bygone era, Hans Conried had a voice like none other. A major player on live stage, and a member of Orson Well’s Mercury Theatre Company, Hans distinguished himself from his peers by his unmatched energy and bold manner. Hans brought a wild exuberance to Peter Pan’s Captain Hook, while simultaneously playing the loud-mouthed George Darling (a strange tradition from the stage play where the same actor would play both characters). His vocal control was simply astounding, switching from high-pitched pirate squeaks, to a rolling British baritone during the same sentence!
5. Judge Frollo
Distinguished stage/voice actor Tony Jay provided the thunderous gravity for Judge Claude Frollo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Recognized by his memorable baritone, Jay had the perfect voice for this wicked authority figure. Known by Disney fans the world over for his cameos in Beauty and the Beast and Treasure Planet, as well as being the successor to George Sanders as the voice for Shere Khan, Tony Jay has quite the impressive repertoire. But it’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame that brings out Tony Jay’s true commanding presence as an actor. Judge Frollo is despicable, but his distinctive vocal tone is unforgettable. In fact, many fans considered this casting choice to be so perfect, that it became known as the defining performance of Jay’s lengthy career.
This vile vizier is a fan-favorite due to a skin-crawling performance by Jonathan Freeman. Freeman, known for his performances on stage (which landed him a nomination for a Tony Award), lends and air of wily wickedness to Jafar, making it a voice that all 90’s kids consider quintessential. However, Freeman’s vocal performance is particularly special for Disney fans because it led to his casting in several Disney Broadway productions. In fact, among the roles of Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast, Grimsby from the Little Mermaid, and Admiral Boom/The Bank Chairman from Mary Poppins, Jonathan is the only cast member from a Disney animated film to reprise his role on Broadway! Now Freeman has both the film and stage versions of Jafar under his belt!
While not exactly the most family-friendly actor, James Woods performance as Hades is a peculiar exception. Often called the most “relatable” Disney villain by fans, Hades is known for his wisecracking sarcasm and wit. It’s the character’s quirky sense of humor, average joe mentality, and short temper that make him memorable to fans around the globe. It’s hard to imagine Hades being voiced by anyone else, which is just fine with Woods because he doesn’t want anyone else to do it! He enjoyed playing the character so much that he apparently told Disney that, if they asked him, he’d play the character again no matter the salary!
Making good on his promise, Woods has pretty much portrayed the character in every single appearance you can possibly imagine. theme parks, videogames, television, sequels…you name it, he’s probably done it! That is some dedication right there!
When it comes to a career, Pat Carroll makes most stars look cheap. Since as far back as the 40’s, Carroll has been wowing audiences on the stage, in television, and at the movies. She’s known particularly for her roles on Broadway, and for a successful tenure during the Golden Age of TV. As of this writing, Pat is still working as an actress…and that means she has over 70 years of experience!
After her turn as Ursula in The Little Mermaid, Pat’s career was never quite the same again. She famously reprises the role over and over, which seems to be a trend for a lot of Disney voice actors during the Renaissance of animation. Many people remember her fondly for her signature deep voice and famous song “Poor Unfortunate Souls”. In fact, Ursula is often quoted as one of the best Disney Villains for these very reasons! There are few Disney vocal performances as iconic as Ursula!
Maybe I’m a little bit biased, but there is no other Disney Villain that has quite the same vocal gravitas as Scar. The Lion King was the quintessential movie for many Disney fans, and although it isn’t my personal favorite, I cannot deny the effect that it had on kids in the 90’s. If we’re being completely honest, he’s going to be at the top of almost every list no matter what aspect of the character we’re ranking. Animation, vocal performance, and even the way the character is written make Scar legendary.
What else is there to say other than that Jeremy Irons is an icon? And in terms of the voices, Jeremy Irons is just as iconic for Scar as James Earl Jones is for Mufasa. Nobody else can play Scar quite the same way, and many have tried. There is no greater example of this than the live-action remake of The Lion King. James Earl Jones reprised his role as Mufasa but, much to the chagrin of Disney fans everywhere, Jeremy did not return as Scar. Disney was surprised to find that their cast was highly criticized, and that the lack of Irons’ vocal presence was one of the reasons for it (along with the presence of certain pop-star). If that isn’t an example of how iconic scar’s voice is to fans, I don’t know what is!
Don’t see your favorite here? Let us know in the comments down below!
A Special Behind-the-Scenes Look at Disney’s Top Villain Vocalists
It’s that time of year again when the leaves start falling from the trees and the aroma of Pumpkin Spice is everywhere, to the joy (or chagrin) of many. It’s also what I like to call ‘spooky season’, and that means that it’s time to get the ball rolling on costumed candy-corn content for those of you who enjoy alliterations with your hot cocoa. During this season, Disney fans everywhere are delving into their own unique brand of October fun. These Disney fall festivities include movies like The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Coco. They also consist of Disney Park offerings like The Haunted Mansion, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. However, there is one Disney Halloween tradition that is wholly unique; the Disney Villains.
I’ve noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve visited this specific Disney brand. And since I’m not really that good at “traditional” Halloween fare because of my strange aversion to the macabre and my dedication to being obnoxiously cheerful, I’ve decided it’s the perfect time to delve into some fascinating topics relating to the Disney fiendish foes…Do I really need an excuse?
For our first “Villains Month” offering, I’m diving deep into some of the greatest vocal performances in Disney history! This is a countdown of The 15 Most Iconic Disney Villainous Voices!
(Note: This list only includes the 57 films of “Disney’s Animated Canon”, and due to the sheer number of Disney Villains, not every iconic voice could be included)
- Queen of Hearts
Her royal red highness from Alice in Wonderland (1951), is a bit more obscure when it comes to vocals. However, she’s earned a place on this list due to a voice that was highly iconic for the time. Radio veteran and accomplished voice-actor Verna Felton, known for her iconic work as Dennis Day’s mother in the Jack Benny program, lent her talents to this short-tempered villainess. The constant cries of “off with their heads” should sound familiar too, because Verna ended up voicing characters in 6 different Disney features: the cruel Elephant Matriarch in Dumbo, The iconic Fairy Godmother from Cinderella, The Queen of Hearts, the antagonistic Aunt Sarah from Lady and the Tramp, the fussy Good Fairy Flora from Sleeping Beauty, and finally another elephant in the Jungle Book! That’s an impressive track record!
- Man in the Bowler Hat
Meet the Robinsons is definitely one of the more obscure Disney movies, and although it has become a cult classic with legions of fans all around the world, it’s not exactly the first place you’d look for something like this. However, Meet the Robinsons is actually a treasure trove for amazing vocal performances! The Man in the Bowler Hat (yes, that’s his actual title), better known as Goob, is on this list because of his hilarious portrayal by Director Stephen J Anderson. Stephen is known for his work as a story artist and writer on films like Tarzan, Zootopia, Frozen, Moana, Winnie the Pooh, Wreck-it Ralph…and the list goes on and on! His ridiculous, over-the-top, and irreverent portrayal of the charismatic, and yet incredibly pathetic, Michael Yagoobian is one of the many reasons why Meet the Robinsons is so fun to watch!
Ratigan is somewhat of an icon for fans of Disney’s “Dark Age” of animation. People who grew up on films like Robin Hood or Aristocats, remember The Great Mouse Detective fondly for it’s unique reimagining of Sherlock Holmes as a mouse called Basil. And of course, every Sherlock Holmes needs his own Moriarity! Ratigan, a criminal genius of a rat, fills this role perfectly and is portrayed wonderfully by one of the most refined and iconic actors of classic cinema: The King of Macabre himself, Vincent Price. The sophistication, menace, and dark humour of Ratigan come through in every line of this unique performance thanks to Vincent’s phenomenal vocal range.
Don’t know who Vincent Price is? There’s actually a big chance that you’ve heard of Vincent Price’s work, even if you don’t recognize his name! Seriously, just take a look at his filmography!
This villain from Tarzan often gets passed over in the grand scheme of things, and that’s a real shame. He’s a well-crafted antagonist, but Disney’s precarious licensing deal with the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate ensures that he stays out of most movie-related products, and thus out of the public eye. Such is the world of copyrighted trademarks, unfortunately. But even if he isn’t an incredibly popular villain, he still deserves a place on this list for his highly entertaining vocal performance.
British actor Brian Blessed, known for his long and illustrious career in film and television, and roles in cult-classic franchises like Flash Gordon, lends his booming sophistication to this heinous hunter. The pleasant bass tones of Brian’s educated vocals lend themselves perfectly to Clayton’s persona of the refined and menacing Englishman.
- Shere Kahn
The Jungle Book was the last animated feature that Walt Disney himself worked on before passing away in 1966. As such, it has earned a place of reverence not just with Disney fans, but also with artists inside the Disney company itself. The movie focused on character above anything else and presented the culmination of Disney’s refinement after 30 years of animating animals. Each character is full of life, authenticity, and fluidity, and each has a distinctive voice that matches their personality perfectly. And the villain is no exception!
Academy Award Winner George Sanders was tasked with bringing the powerful Shere Kahn to life and he did not disappoint! Sanders’ filmography is incredibly extensive, with his most iconic role being The Falcon, and he has played characters ranging from heartless villains, to charming royalty. His resonant vocals gave an air of confident control to Shere Kahn and the performance, along with the sophisticated animation that was paired with it, were quoted as direct inspirations for one of the greatest villains in Disney history; Scar from The Lion King.
There is plenty of irreverent self-aware humor in the The Emporer’s New Groove, so it’s no surprise that the casting wouldn’t be any different. Eartha Kitt was an incredibly accomplished singer and actress who is revered around the world as an icon of civil rights in show business. She used her talents to rise from poverty and oppression into worldwide fame. In her later years, she remained humble and was often known for her ability to find the humor in serious situations. She is also remembered for her willingness to poke fun at her own life.
Known for her beauty and alluring voice, Eartha’s work includes iconic songs like her original holiday hit Santa Baby (yes, that Santa Baby!) and roles like Catwoman in 1966’s Batman television series. So, it’s no surprise that her self-aware role in the Emperor’s New Groove would reference her career. Eartha, who was in her 70’s by the time of the film’s debut, was delighted to learn that Yzma would encapsulate her unique sense of humor. In the film, Yzma is an old woman trying to appear young and beautiful to creepy affect, poking fun at Eartha’s own history as a showbusiness icon.
Most stars wouldn’t be comfortable making fun of themselves, but apparently Eartha loved this self-referential humor so much that she signed on to play the character again for the sequel and the subsequent TV show!
There are more villains to get through on this list, but unfortunately, we’ve run out of time here. But don’t fret! October is a long month, and we have many more fiendish foes to follow! Check out Part 2 here!
Which Villainous voice is your favorite? Let us know in the comments down below!
There’s something incredibly special about Mickey Mouse. Even 90 years after his debut, he’s still making people smile all over the world. But why is Mickey Mouse so special? This is a peculiar question, because I don’t think people ask it very often…or even think about for that matter. For a lot of people, he just is. Today, I think that it’s kind of easy to take this cartoon character for granted and miss the spirit which made him popular in the first place.
Today, I wanted to explain what Mickey Mouse means to me. I wanted to talk about why Mickey Mouse is my hero…
As I was growing up, I knew that I loved animation. I was already interested in movies, but there was something unique about the hand-drawn films of Disney’s heyday that captured my attention. There was an intangible charm that set them apart from most of the live-action movies that I had seen. Animation was the playground where anything was possible.
And of course, you couldn’t be a fan of animation without at least hearing the name Mickey Mouse. He was an icon; his face was everywhere.
So, as a small child who didn’t understand how films were made, I think I took Mickey for granted and just assumed that he went with cartoons the same way that peanut butter went with jelly. But as I got older, and began to study the film industry in earnest, I began to realize that Mickey Mouse represented so much more. And in order to understand why, we have to go back to his creation.
The story of Mickey Mouse’s inception is a long one, so I’ll try to keep this recap brief for context. The most important thing about his creation was that Mickey Mouse was born out of desperation. He was created during one of the lowest points in Walt Disney’s life. In fact, Mickey Mouse’s creation was a direct result of Walt Disney losing everything. During the 1920’s, in the early days of his animation career, and before his name would become synonymous with high-quality animation, Walt produced cartoons for established industry leaders. But it was hard work for very little return and Walt was having trouble making ends meet. Still, ever the perfectionist, Walt strove for greatness and a standard of quality that made his competitors balk. But in this season of pushing for the best product possible he may have done too well. first truly successful creation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, was popular enough to run a series that Walt’s Distributor, Charles Mintz, coveted. But Walt Disney poured every cent the company had back into his cartoons to make them better. In addition, he spent as much time and talent as was possible on improving the quality of the animation which slowed production and limited the amount of cartoons that Mintz could cash in on.
Of course, this didn’t sit too well with Mintz’s avarice. Mintz, who still retained the right to distribute Oswald and therefore could make his own cartoons (despite Walt having been the one who created the character) decided that he didn’t want Walt’s quality control. He believed that he could pump out cartoons twice as fast and make double the profits on low-quality animation. He believed Walt to be unnecessary to his own chars and swindled Oswald out from under Disney’s nose. And if that wasn’t enough, Mintz then proceeded to bribe most of Walt Disney’s top animators into leaving him. Effectively, the entire studio, save for a few loyalists who believed in Walt’s standard of quality, abandoned Walt to work on Oswald for Charles Mintz.
Even after working years for what little he had, Walt had lost everything.
Walt Disney, along with his wife Lillian, claimed that on the train ride home from this heartbreaking and potentially career-ending event, he refused to give up hope. No matter how bleak everything looked, Walt was determined to survive. So, with no creative assets to his name, Walt decided to try and create one more character to make new cartoons with. In his desperation, he sketched out a little mouse, and although the design would end up changing significantly thanks to the collaboration of a genius animator named Ub Iwerks (one of the few employees that remained loyal during the Mintz fallout) the spirit of the character was created. Mickey Mouse had been born. And without knowing it, Walt Disney created the most recognizable and popular cartoon character of all time. And he had done it during a time when everyone thought he would fail. That fateful day, Disney proved Mintz wrong. He proved that the Disney touch was crucial to his cartoon character’s success!
The rest is history…and that’s the point.
Mickey’s history, and what it represents, is what is most important about him. What makes Mickey Mouse so special isn’t his popularity, or even his bankability (although he has both in spades), but rather what he meant to Walt Disney himself. For Disney, Mickey Mouse represented perseverance. Mickey was proof that hard work, perseverance, and quality were the keys to success. He represented Disney’s own humble beginnings, and this was something that Walt Disney never forgot.
“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing-that it was all started by a mouse.”
Walt would say this years later, recalling the humble start of his artistic legacy. It remained a lesson for Disney to never forget how he had started out with nothing, and that he had a responsibility to treat whatever he earned with respect. To remember that he was no better than anyone else, and that what he had was a blessing.
Ironically, Mickey Mouse came to eventually represent that very thing; an average, humble, everyday citizen who could do something extraordinary if he put his mind to it. And knowing the history behind it all, there’s no way that this could have been a coincidence. Walt put his very identity into this little mouse, because he had risked everything on him, and as a result Mickey became Walt’s alter ego, literally and figuratively. Walt even voiced Mickey for several years in his classic cartoons; turning Mickey into who Walt Disney wanted to be.
Mickey is special because he reminds us of what it means to persevere; to never give up on your dreams. Without Mickey, Disney would have never found success, and because many consider Disney to be the pioneer of modern animation, the art form itself might not have become the prevalent and memorable industry that we recognize it as today. Mickey changed the way we look at animation and shaped The Disney Company into what it would one-day become.
So, when I look at Mickey Mouse, I cannot help but be full of gratitude for what he’s done for the movies that I love. When I see him, I’m reminded of what animation means to me, and why I love film in the first place. Filmmaking inspires me to live out my dreams and to never give up on them. It pushes me to tell stories that impact the world and invites me to bring a smile to faces everywhere. Mickey Mouse is simply a physical reminder of this love, and for that, I owe him my undying respect.
So, when I go to a Disney Park and see the statue with Walt Disney holding Mickey’s tiny hand in his, gesturing to a world of imagination, I must thank them both for being brave enough to follow their dreams… and in turn inspiring me to do the same. Mickey Mouse is more than just an iconic face. He’s the representative of a legacy that spans generations, and reminds dreamers everywhere, that they can do anything that they set their minds to. It shows them, like Walt Disney said, that “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Alice in Wonderland (1951)
#1: It Was the Origins of the Disney Studio
Walt Disney started his career in animation at a rather young age by working at the Laugh-O-Grams Studio in 1921. But that job was doomed to fail, because the Kansas City based studio went bankrupt in 1923, leaving Walt Disney without a job. The last film he made for that company, Alice’s Wonderland, never saw a release. The film, loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, followed a live-action girl that ventured into a cartoon world. Walt was very fond of his film, as he had always dreamed of making a full-length film based on Alice and he believed this short to be the first step towards that goal. He used it as a pilot to engage potential distributors into signing him on for a contract and a steady job. Eventually one did; Margaret J. Winkler (distributor of Felix the Cat), contracted Walt for an entire series based on the film. Through this deal, Walt founded his own studio in late 1923 titled Disney Bros. Studios (the ‘Bros.’ part referring to Walt’s lifelong partner and brother, Roy Disney), and today we know this company under its more familiar title…Walt Disney Productions! The studio was literally founded on Alice! And it would have been the subject of Disney’s first Feature-length film, if it hadn’t run into a bit of a problem!
#2: One of the Longest Projects in Disney Animation
As we mentioned above, Alice in Wonderland was considered as the primary candidate for Walt’s first feature-length film. In fact, Walt went so far as to purchase the rights to Sir John Tenniel’s iconic illustrations of Alice. However, the concept was dropped in favor of Snow White for several reasons. The main reason was Walt’s discouragement when Paramount Pictures beat him to the punch in 1933 with their live-action version of Alice. However, Walt never forgot his dream of making his own version of Alice. He revisited the idea in 1938 after Snow White proved to be an enormous success. He even registered the title with the Motion Picture Association of America. But due to creative issues and story problems, especially with adapting the unorthodox ‘nonsense’ of the books into a script, the project slowed down significantly. Then the devastation of WW2 hit, putting both of Disney’s biggest projects at the time (Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan) on hold. Even after the war, Disney had so much trouble adapting the books into a workable plot structure, that production became a virtual nightmare. This led the film to be delayed for another 6 years, until it finally made its big screen debut in 1951.
#3: It Went Through A Lot of Crazy Changes
As you can imagine, 15 years in production caused a lot of changes to the Alice in Wonderland story. An early version, with concepts and story treatments by David Hall and Al Perkins respectively, explored a more surreal approach. However, Walt, despite praising Hall’s brilliant artwork, deemed these concepts as too close to Tenniel’s drawings and called them ‘difficult to animate’. He also thought the tone of Perkins’ treatment was too ‘grotesque and dark’. The next iteration of the story, for which Disney hired the British writer Aldous Huxley, was also a bit off the mark. This version was reportedly very academic in its approach. Apparently, it was too academic, and risked alienating the children who watched. However, a background artist by the name of Mary Blair finally arrived at the tone and look that Walt was searching for; a world full of vibrant colors and unforgettable characters!
(Below are side-by-side comparisons of David Hall’s concepts and Tenniel’s original illustrations for the novels)
#4: The Characters were Just as Fascinating Behind the Scenes
Speaking of characters, Alice has some of the most memorable characters in any Disney film. This was largely due to the voice talent, which was considered the first real all-star cast for a Disney film. In fact, it was the first ever Disney film to include the names of it’s actors as a major part of its marketing, something that wouldn’t happen again until The Jungle Book. The cast included huge stars like comedian Jerry Colonna as the March Hare, British actor Richard Haydn as the Caterpillar, radio veteran Sterling Holloway as the Cheshire Cat, and the famous vaudevillian actor Ed Wynn as the Mad Hatter.
Ed Wynn, a stage master, did most of his best work improvising during the live-action reference filming; so much so, that Walt decided to use the primitive audio of those shoots instead of his pre-recorded work. The result was a brilliant impromptu performance, but with slightly odd-sounding audio. You can even hear a sound technician’s voice during one scene at the 45:50 mark! These voice talents, coupled with genius and unorthodox animation by Disney’s legendary Nine Old Men (with Ward Kimball’s madcap animation being of note in the most famous scenes), created iconic versions of the characters that have become as famous, if not more so, than John Tenniel’s designs.
#5: Its Music Broke Records
Last, but not least, was the fact that Alice in Wonderland still holds the record for the most songs in any Disney film EVER! Not only that, but the film’s memorable songs won the Academy Award for best original score. Due to Walt’s desire to including Carroll’s famous poems and rhymes in the film, without interrupting the story, he opted to turn most of them into songs. Originally, around 30 songs were created for the film, but due to run-time, it was cut to a total of 14 songs in the 75 minutes of the film; that means there was a song almost every 5 minutes!
What’s your favorite Alice fact?
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Peter Pan (1953)
Walt Disney (born 1901) predated the creation of Peter Pan’s play by 3 years. Therefore, he was the perfect age to grow up with the popular play. He was an even better age to be influenced by the subsequent novel which revived the popularity of the show in 1911; being among the thousands of young children who fell in love with story. After seeing it live, he could never forget it, and it even prompted him to play the title character in school.
So, to honor this classic’s 65th Anniversary, and Walt’s love of the story, here’s a list of 5 things you may not know about Peter Pan!
#1: It Was Almost Abandoned
It was no surprise that Walt had always wanted to make a Peter Pan film. In fact, after making Snow White, Walt had originally intended for Peter Pan to be one of his earliest features. He procured the rights as soon as he could afford them and made plans to move into pre-production not long after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was first released.
But fate was not so kind. The rights of Peter Pan were very difficult to obtain because J.M. Barrie had donated them to The Great Ormond Street Hospital in Britain; an act of astounding charity that unknowingly made the rights difficult to license. Eventually, Walt did gain the rights, but it was too late. The U.S. had already been drawn into WW2. The U.S. Government took control of various studios, including Disney, to produce propaganda for the war effort. This brought Peter Pan to a screeching halt. In fact, the project seemed abandoned for good, until Walt managed to get the studio back on track after the war with Cinderella (1950). With the returns from Cinderella, Walt managed to fuel dream projects like Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Sleeping Beauty (1959), and Peter Pan finally made it to the screen after a hectic 15 years in production!
#2: Peter Pan Changed Everything
Peter Pan marked the end of two eras at the Disney Studio. The first was that Peter Pan was the last Disney film in which all of the ‘Nine Old Men’ worked together. The “Nine Old Men’ were the most influential, skilled, and loyal animators at the studio. All of the Nine stayed with the company after Peter Pan, but split up into different projects such as developing Disneyland, or working on live-action films. The second era that Peter Pan ended was that of the ‘third-party distributor’. Peter Pan was the last Disney film to be distributed by a third-party distribution company. In fact, Walt has been working most of his career to accomplish this. He was proud to unveil a brand-new company, Buena Vista Distribution, to the public later that same year! Now he would distribute his own films. This meant that he could finally have 100% control over his product from start to finish. In the past, companies like RKO Radio Productions (the distributor of Peter Pan) would control Disney’s product after it was finished. With Buena Vista, Disney finally had the ability to do what he wanted with his films whether he was finished with them or not.
#3: The Story Was Almost Completely Different
Over the 15 years of its production, the story of the film changed drastically. In one early version of the film, Peter Pan thought that John was too grown-up for Neverland and abandoned him. This would have made one of the main characters of the original Peter Pan story nonexistent in early drafts! In addition to possibly dropping certain characters, there were also dramatic changes to the overall tone of the film. There was an especially dark and more serious version of the film that was storyboarded, targeted more towards teenagers, that Walt promptly shut down for being too scary. And in a final possibility, Nana, the nursemaid dog, was going to accompany the children to Neverland. In fact, the narrative of the story was going to be told from her point of view!
Of course, any one of these possibilities would have made the story completely different from the beloved tale we know! But it’s fascinating to see what direction the Disney artists went before they settled on the right course. It’s always interesting to see what could have been.
There is an popular rumor going about Tinker Bell which has gained quite a bit of notoriety. Legend has it that Tinker Bell was modeled after the famous film star Marilyn Monroe. While this is a very interesting, and naturally compelling theory, it is unfortunately NOT TRUE! The idea of Marilyn being popular enough to influence the design of a Disney character has become so popular that Marc Davis himself (Tinker Bell’s designer and animator) went on record to say that he actually directly based Tinker Bell’s design on model Margaret Kerry. Margaret provided live-action reference for the character and the influence of her distinctive features can be clearly seen in Tinker Bell. Tinker Bell may bear a passing resemblance to Marilyn, but it’s impossible for her to be based on the starlet, since Marilyn didn’t really become famous until AFTER Peter Pan!
Peter Pan has one of the most fascinating voice casts in all of Disney’s history. A star-studded cast, including a few familiar Disney veterans, filled out the ranks. The title role was filled by Bobby Driscoll, a veteran of five Disney films, and a popular teen heartthrob. Surprisingly, he was the first male to play Peter Pan on film ever! In addition to Driscoll, another Disney child star, Kathryn Beaumont, played Wendy Darling a mere two years after appearing as Alice in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Finally, to everyone’s excitement, long-time character actor Bill Thompson (White Rabbit, The Dodo, Scrooge McDuck, etc.) played the lovable Mr. Smee.
But it wasn’t only Disney Luminaries who made up the cast. The great Golden Age starlet Heather Angel (Bulldog Drummond) provided the voice of Mrs. Darling, Television superstar Tom Conway (The Falcon) voiced the narrator, and last but not least, unparalleled Radio King and stage veteran Hans Conried (Orson Welle’s Mercury Theatre Company) turned in the distinctive performance of the hilarious Captain Hook; a fan favorite villain. In fact, Hans’s voice is so comparatively unique, that it’s hard not to notice that he also plays Mr. Darling; continuing a peculiar tradition of the stage performance where the same actor always played both characters!
Enjoy these facts? Let us know in the comments! We want to know; what’s your favorite thing about Peter Pan?
Pixar Saved Disney!
Disney has become synonymous with the art of animation and it’s no wonder as to why. Since 1923, the Walt Disney Company has led the industry in terms of story, art, and technical innovation. In fact, without Disney’s achievements in animation, most historians agree that Disney would not be the successful corporation that it is today. However, that’s not to say that the company hasn’t had their rough patches. In fact, there was a struggle in Disney history that relatively few people are aware of; a struggle that was resolved when Pixar saved Disney!
To explain how this happened, we must go way back to Disney’s Dark Age for context. During Disney’s self-proclaimed ‘Dark Age’ (the 70’s and early 80’s; the years following Walt’s passing), the animation division of the company was going through an artistic rough patch. Disney leadership focused less and less on animation; pushing out films that were cheaper and less artistic than Walt Disney’s original standards. Many animators were dissatisfied with the results of the era. As a result, some of those same animators, under the leadership of a veteran artist named Don Bluth, left and formed their own company; Don Bluth Productions. This was the first time in history that Disney had a real rival for animation; a serious threat that might have ended Disney Animation for good.
Thankfully, many of Disney’s best animators stayed through the tough times and eventually pushed through the Dark Age and into the Renaissance; returning Disney to the days of innovation and art! With the advent of the Renaissance, and Disney’s return to quality over cost, Disney rocketed past Don Bluth Productions and once more secured itself as the top company in animation. However, the success of Don Bluth Productions had unforeseen consequences; it taught film executives that other companies could succeed in the field of animation. Soon, an art form that was almost exclusively dominated by Disney met with many more rivals than it ever had faced before.
From the mid 80’s through the early 2000’s, various other companies rose up to challenge Disney’s dominance in animation, and Disney had to work extra hard to stay ahead of the shifting professional landscape. For the most part, this wasn’t really a problem. Disney’s films were usually far more successful than their rivals, and Disney had their long and storied past to rely upon for support and experience. No one could really contend with Disney on an artistic level in the 80’s or 90’s due to Disney’s acclaimed Renaissance. When they stuck to their roots of quality and innovation, Disney was at the top of their game.
However, it was not to last. After the release of Tarzan in 1999, Disney leadership once more reverted to the strange and dangerous decisions that were made in the Dark Age; effectively ending the Renaissance and beginning a new age called the Experimental Era. While many in the animation department at Disney strove for excellence, they were undermined by corporate leadership. As a result, even though most of the films in this era used bold new techniques and attempted to approach new types of stories, most of the films met with mixed results regarding critics and audiences. With Disney seemingly struggling to stay ahead, rivals swooped in with a vengeance; trying to rise to the top using Disney’s lack of success.
But luckily, Disney would not be beaten so easily. Roy E. Disney (Walt’s nephew) strove to keep Disney animation at the top and managed to overturn the leadership of the company in 2005/2006 and replace it with a new one that would respect animation and make sure that it was always striving to be the best that it could be. This new leadership was…Pixar?
Yes, indeed; Pixar save Disney Animation! Disney had already been partnering with Pixar since the release of Toy Story in 1995, and the company had realized that Pixar had become what Disney Animation wanted to be; a company full of innovation, artistic exploration, and high-quality production. While Disney struggled with their films in the early 2000’s, Pixar had excelled at every single one that they released; appealing to newer audiences and smashing records with their unique stories. Disney started to see that a Pixar partnership was not enough, and that they needed Pixar more than they thought. So, they ended up purchasing the company in 2006. The lesser-known result of this purchase was the leadership shift that accompanied it. With Pixar becoming part of the Disney family, the founders of the young CGI animation studio were unexpectedly co-opted into running Walt Disney Animation; breathing new life into the struggling Disney animation division and filling its offices with younger and fresher artists!
This ensured that the people behind Pixar’s success would also contribute to Walt Disney Animation’s success; giving Disney Animation strong artistic leadership that would respect animation as an art form and secure the historic company in the new millennium. The decision certainly paid off, because as soon as Pixar leadership took the reins of Disney Animation, the company saw a revival…The ‘Disney Revival’ era that we are currently living in today! With the success of Princess and the Frog in 2009, Disney entered a Second Golden Age.
Finally, after the release of 2011’s Winnie the Pooh (the last Disney hand-drawn film) Disney’s started its permanent transition to the more commercially stable format of Computer Animation that was pioneered by Pixar! Without these changes, Disney might have lost its animation division to younger rivals and would have been a very different company than the one we know today. Pixar led Disney animation into an era of financial stability for the company spearheaded by commercially and critically successful films like Zootopia, Frozen, and Tangled; making Pixar the inadvertent savior of the Disney company as we know it today!
What’s your favorite Pixar or Disney animated film since the Revival?
Here’s some fun Disney History for all you fans out there! If you already know this stuff you can check out last week’s post instead! But for the new fans, or those general Disney History buffs, this post is for you! Who knows; Maybe you’ll learn something new!
So, without further ado…
The Golden Age:
The Golden Age of Disney Animation began with the release of Snow White in 1937. The term ‘Golden Age’ doesn’t necessarily refer to the success of these films because, besides Snow White, most of the films in the Golden Age were largely unsuccessful at the time of their release. Most of them only gained “Classic Status” years later. ‘Golden Age’ more accurately refers to the quality and technical achievements of the era’s animation. Walt spent almost every cent he made during this time on the next masterpiece. He focused on making each film better than the last, ushering in visions of great art and innovation. Unfortunately, this ‘Age of Art’ was cut short by the advent of a worldwide war…
The Wartime Era:
Because this era was the result of WWII, a largely uncontrollable event, most critics don’t seem to hold it against Disney. This ‘sub-era’ is marked by a halt in the production of animated features as the studio was literally taken-over by the U.S. Government and co-opted into creating propaganda for America…for very little compensation. During this time, Disney had to rely on ‘package films’ to pay the rent and had almost no time to explore more creative avenues. These package films were often compilations of several short films edited together with new inserts to fill out a feature film run-time. Although many of these films are beloved today by Disney fans, they are generally considered of far less quality than the rest of the Golden Age.
The Silver Age:
Considered by some to be a late extension the Golden Age, the Silver Age is nonetheless separated from the earlier films of the era by the events of WWII. Artistic expression was put on hold during the war. However, with the success of Cinderella, Disney was finally able to revive the innovative works which categorized its early years. This era marks the most prosperous time for the company during Walt’s lifetime, with many films in this era proving to be massive successes that went down in history as Disney Classics. But sadly this era of innovation was not to last. During this time, Disney’s increasingly high standards of innovation started making films incredibly expensive to produce. The cost of production was reaching a critical mass that no Box Office success could overcome. This finally happened in 1959 when Walt Disney reached what he considered the pinnacle of his art form: Sleeping Beauty. It was a Box Office hit, but was still dwarfed by its extravagant production costs. The constant improvement of animation could not be sustained.
Although the films after Sleeping Beauty still met with success, they were far less innovative than earlier endeavors. Animation as an art form began to fade. Eventually the quality of animation came to its lowest point when Walt Disney passed away during production of The Jungle Book. His passing left the company confused and directionless, ushering in a figurative “Dark Age” for animation.
The Bronze Age:
Also referred to as the Dark Age, the Bronze Age of Disney Animation was largely a result of Walt Disney’s passing. Left without a sense of direction or strong leadership, the company entered an era of hits and misses. They seemed to largely fall short of the ‘magic’ that most people associated with Disney. Most of the films in this era, while fondly remembered today, struggled to reach an audience, critical or otherwise. The films in this era did explore some unique and fascinating ideas, but were far less capable of executing them than previous generations. Animation was at a low point, with a focus on films that were cheaper and faster to make, as well as the company shifting its attention to live-action films and theme-parks. during this era they underestimated the vast potential that animated films could have on an audience…That was, until a surprise Box Office hit paved the way for something new…
The Disney Renaissance:
The Great Mouse Detective (from the Bronze Age) made enough money to finance a fairy tale passion project called The Little Mermaid. This film officially launched what most modern audiences consider to be the definitive era for the company in today’s filmmaking landscape: the Disney Renaissance! It is referred to as a ‘Renaissance’ by film critics because of its return to Walt Disney’s ideals of art and innovation, and the company’s success at finally capturing that sense of ‘Disney Magic’ that set them apart from other animation studios. Disney was back as the world’s leading animation studio, churning out hit after hit and charming the world with its beloved characters and stories.
The New Millenium:
The New Millennium, also called the Experimental Era, mostly centered around Disney changing the way they produced their animation and structured their stories. It was a time of exploration which saw much less success than the Renaissance, and focused on new genres of storytelling. These included Sci-Fi Comedies, Irreverent Comedies, Steampunk, and even Time Travel! Not only did Disney try new things with writing and story structure during this era, but they also experimented with new technology. In this era, Disney introduced more Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI), which they had already utilized with their partners at Pixar. This led to Disney making their own full-length CGI animated film: Dinosaur. Not only would this experimentation with technology become the standard at Disney, but it would also spell the beginning of the end for traditional hand-drawn animation in the next era. Despite its shortcomings, many of the films in the Experimental Era would become crucial to the success and reliability of the next age of animation.
The New Golden Age: