5 Obscure Disney Park Characters that Fans Can’t Get Enough Of

5 Obscure Disney Park Characters that Fans Can’t Get Enough Of

We all love Disney characters, but did you know that there are some obscure ones that Disney Park fans go particularly crazy for? Ever wondered who that Michael Jackson character is? Or that man with the purple suit at EPCOT? This is the place to be!

If you’re interested in more details about these characters’ history, beyond why they’re so popular among fans of the parks, we will be making separate posts for them in the future! However, today we are simply giving a quick background for each so that you get a basis of why fans love them!

So, without further ado…

Orange Bird:

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This cute little guy was created in a sponsorship deal with the Florida Citrus Commission (FCC). The FCC required that Disney, a company known for its recognizable cartoon characters, would create a mascot to use in the marketing of Florida’s citrus products in return for funding WDW’s version of the Tiki Room (Tropical Serenade). Not wanting to lose a sponsorship from a large and wealthy coalition of Florida citrus growers, Disney jumped on the task. Thus, the Orange Bird was born.

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The character was featured heavily in not only the marketing for the 1971 attraction, but also in several ad campaigns for the FCC up until the late 70’s. The Orange Bird continued to be featured in educational films made for the FCC and in the parks until 1987, when Disney finally stopped working with the FCC. As a result, the character virtually vanished from the parks. However, something about the character resonated in Japan when it showed up in Tokyo Disneyland. In fact, the Japanese were absolutely obsessed with the Orange Bird aesthetic and he experienced a bit of a revival in popularity as a result, which quickly spread to the United States. In 2012, the Orange Bird finally returned to the Magic Kingdom with force and the character became an icon for ‘in-the-know’ nostalgia fans.

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Captain EO:

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In the 80’s Disney commissioned some of Hollywood’s biggest names to make attractions; in hopes of widening Disney’s audience. To this end, they commissioned George Lucas, at the height of his popularity after Star Wars, to make several attractions for Disney. One of these attractions, and the most expensive film ever produced at the time would be directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) and star the one and only Michael Jackson in the title role! This ‘masterpiece’ became the wild musical space-opera known as Captain EO.

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Sadly, reviews for the show were mixed, and the attraction was eventually removed after ten years due to the dwindling crowds. However, 80’s kids never forgot the wild musical space opera that was Captain EO, and when the King of Pop passed away in 2009, the film saw a massive resurgence in popularity; causing Disney to revisit the film as a tribute to Michael. Ever since then, Captain EO has become a Michael Jackson icon…even outside the parks!

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Hatbox Ghost:

The Hatbox Ghost was another resident created for the Haunted Mansion in 1969, but unlike other tenants of the mansion, the Hatbox Ghost had a gimmick that made him special; his ghostly head disappeared from his shoulders and reappeared in the Hatbox that he was holding! The gimmick was a big deal at the time, and so the Hatbox Ghost was featured prominently all over promotional materials for the ride. When the ride opened, fans clambered to see the Hatbox Ghost and others like him. But after just a few short weeks, the Hatbox Ghost mysteriously disappeared! Rumors spread like wildfire about why it was removed, with some people even reporting that he had never been there in the first place!

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But, the character (who really was there for a few weeks, despite what some would say) was simply removed early on because his gimmick did not work as intended. However, the myths and speculation about ‘Hatty’ became so popular and outrageous, that Disney could not pass up such a good PR opportunity. With much fanfare, the Hatbox Ghost was updated with new technology and inserted back into the Disneyland mansion, where he has been resting to this day.

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Oswald:

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Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is a very special character to Disney fans. In fact, his importance in Disney is unparalleled by any other Disney character besides Mickey Mouse himself…and most people don’t even know it!

Believe it or not, Oswald predates Mickey Mouse as Walt Disney’s first fully-fleshed cartoon character! So why haven’t more people heard of him? Well, unfortunately, Walt Disney was swindled out of the rights to the character by his distributor in 1928; along with almost all his staff! Broke, and with no character to his name, Walt desperately searched for a new character that would save him; the result of this despair-ridden brainstorming was none other than Mickey Mouse himself! So, you could say that Oswald was directly responsible for the creation of Mickey Mouse. The lessons Walt learned from that betrayal helped shape the entire company from that day forward.

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In 2006, nearly 80 years later, the rights to Oswald were finally bought back by Disney; proudly placing ‘Mickey’s Older Brother’ back in the family where he belonged, much to the joy of longtime Disney fans everywhere!

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Figment And Dreamfinder:

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Arguably the most popular characters on this list, Dreamfinder and Figment may be two separate characters, but true fans know that you cannot really have one without the other! As evidenced by the lackluster response to Figment’s recent solo career, the lovable dragon from our imaginations just isn’t the same without his red-bearded best friend. These guys are the unofficial mascots of EPCOT and are beloved by fans worldwide.

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They were originally introduced as EPCOT’s first walkaround characters, appearing to promote their upcoming ride; Journey into Imagination. When the ride opened in 1983, it was a massive hit, and the imaginative duo became the most popular feature at EPCOT. However, in 1999, Disney made what some fans consider to be the company’s biggest mistake ever. Announcing that Journey into Imagination would close for a simple refurbishment, fans were shocked and appalled to find that Disney would reopen the ride as the completely different, vastly inferior, Journey into Your Imagination instead! They even removed the iconic Dreamfinder and figment from the entire attraction!

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Due to the huge outcry from fans, Disney soon closed the attraction and once again changed it to the now current Journey Into Imagination with Figment; bringing back Figment, but not Dreamfinder. It lessened the outcry a bit, but diehard fans still yearn for the original attraction to return!

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What’s Your Favorite Obscure Character at the Parks?

 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Alice in Wonderland

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Alice in Wonderland

 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Alice in Wonderland (1951)

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#1: It Was the Origins of the Disney Studio

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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 1223, 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!

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#2: One of the Longest Projects in Disney Animation

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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.

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#3: It Went Through A Lot of Crazy Changes

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Mary Blair’s cute artwork

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

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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.

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Jerry Colonna, Ed Wynn, and Kathryn Beaumont recording for  theMad Tea Party

 

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.

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Ed Wynn’s performance directly inspired the animation, as seen here with the spoon gag that appears in the finished film.

#5: Its Music Broke Records

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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!

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What’s your favorite Alice fact?

Disneyland Almost Failed!

Disneyland Almost Failed!

Disneyland Almost Failed!

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On July 17th, 1955, one of Walt Disney’s greatest dreams became a reality. Disneyland opened its gate for the first time, and the world would never be the same! But what if we told you that this dream was very close to dying before it even got off the ground? What if I told you that, without Walt Disney’s seemingly endless perseverance and dedication, Disneyland might have failed?

Some Disney fans are already aware of the fascinating and disastrous day that happened almost 65 years ago, but for those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, we hope that you leave today with greater appreciation for The Happiest Place on Earth and the extreme effort that it took to make it come to life!

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The story begins in the early days of the Disney Studios, when Walt was inspired by visits to amusement parks with his daughters in the 30’s and 40’s; reportedly, he came up with the concept while watching his daughters riding a carousel from a nearby bench. He was frustrated that there weren’t enough experiences at the park that he and his daughters could enjoy together and he made up his mind to one day build a park where kids and grown-ups could play together. Thus, Disneyland was born!

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The development for Disneyland was long and tedious, yet undeniably fascinating. We don’t have the time to cover all that history today; that’s a subject for another time. But the long and short of the ordeal was that Walt Disney’s plans continued to grow…and grow…and grow, until his ambitious dream began to worry the money-men. However, Walt was determined to see the culmination of his dream project no matter what happened. So, Walt continued to fund-raise, promote, invest his own money, and even borrow against his own life insurance to get the project up and running!

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Naysayers surrounded the project. The Disney Board argued that Amusement Parks weren’t their type of business, Roy Disney (Walt’s brother and business partner) warned Walt against the financial ruin it would cause if it failed, and even Amusement Park experts told him that nobody would be interested in a ‘family park’ that (at the time) wouldn’t sell alcohol! Most critics even went so far as to call Disneyland Walt’s worst decision ever, and a foolish idea that was doomed to fail. It seemed that most people thought that Disneyland would never work. In hindsight, we know this to be false, as Disneyland was not only a huge success, but it also reshaped the Theme Park Industry as we know it. However, during its construction it was a legitimate fear that Disneyland would not succeed. Many people were very worried.

Then came Black Sunday.

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Black Sunday was the name that Disney Executives gave Disneyland’s opening day of July 17th, 1955 due to the perceived disaster of the theme park’s debut. The park opened to the public and press with what was, at the time, considered a disaster of epic proportions. First, the opening day was meant to only be open to the media and special invited guests; instead, twice as many people as expected showed up! This was due to a vast number of counterfeit tickets sold to the public, and even a few people climbing the fence and sneaking through gates. In fact, about half of the 28,000 people in attendance that day had entered Disneyland illegally.

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The opening day festivities were broadcast worldwide on ABC, hosted by Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and future President Ronald Reagan! although this seems like an amazing idea, unforeseen broadcasting problems quickly mounted with so many unexpected guests. People tripped over television cables left and right, problems sprang up around technical issues and mistakes, cues were missed, responsibilities were mismanaged, and there was even an improvised ‘skit’ involving Linkletter looking for his lost microphone (he really had misplaced it but tried to hide the fact by making the search an ‘impromptu adventure through Disneyland’).

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In addition, a regional Plumbing Strike forced Disney to chose between water fountains and toilets. Of course, Walt chose the latter for sanitary purposes. However, since Pepsi sponsored the park’s opening, guests mistook the lack of working water fountains as a greedy way to force them into buying soda! Soda and food ran out very quickly due to the demand of so many guests. Parents threw their kids over the shoulders of the crowds to get them on rides faster, and people cut in line (not that the last one has changed all that much). The Mark Twain Riverboat even began to sink when guests continued to force their way on, even after Cast Members told them that the boat had reached peak capacity! There were even the problems resulting from unexpected weather, as the unusually high temperature of 101° Fahrenheit caused the newly poured asphalt to become soft. This led to things like high heels sinking into the sticky substance.

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By the time the park closed for the day, it seemed as if Disneyland had been the failure that everyone had been expecting it to be. If we were there on that day, without the benefit of hindsight, we would have probably said the same thing. To all who heard about it, the day seemed like a nightmarish disaster.

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Today, historians recognize that most of the perceived disaster was due to bad luck, and the park being unprepared for so many people. They now can objectively see that the park was a success with fans from its very first day, despite what it had looked like in the moment, and the second day attendance proved this. the park managed very well on its second try and the insanity of Black Sunday became a legendary false alarm as Disneyland quickly became one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world. Walt Disney’s vision finally became a reality, but not without a few scares along the way!

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If Walt hadn’t stuck with his dream and persevered against all odds, Disneyland might have never existed!

What do you think was the craziest thing to happen on Black Sunday?

 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Peter Pan

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Peter Pan

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Peter Pan (1953)

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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

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early concept

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!

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Darling family concept

#2: Peter Pan Changed Everything

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Peter Pan RKO logo

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.

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the nine!

#3: The Story Was Almost Completely Different

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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.

#4: A Popular Tinker Bell Rumor is Actually Wrong

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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!

#5: Extraordinary Casting

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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!

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Conried also played Hook in live-action reference footage so that Hook even looks and moves like him!

Above are rare photos of Conried in costume!

Enjoy these facts? Let us know in the comments! We want to know; what’s your favorite thing about Peter Pan?

The Lost Land of Disney’s Animal Kingdom

The Lost Land of Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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The Lost Land of Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort has always been one of the most fascinating theme parks in the world. However, Animal Kingdom was originally supposed to be even more fascinating than it already is. It was supposed have three separate types of animals featured in the parks; The animals of today, the animals of days gone by, and the animals of fantasy. Obviously, two of these can be found readily enough across the park, with the acres of live-animal habitats and a whole land devoted to Dinosaurs. But what about the animals of fantasy? It turns out that Imagineers had planned plenty of fantasy in the park, but most of it never came to be. However, one of these scrapped concepts was particularly intriguing; the legendary plans for a realm called Beastly Kingdom.

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Unsurprisingly, Disney had originally planned for mythical creatures to be a larger presence in the park; intending them to be the centerpiece of Animal Kingdom’s first major expansion in the years following its opening. It certainly made sense for Disney, a company associated with myth and fantasy, to play to their strengths. So naturally, a massive amount of concept art and development was directed to the creation of a large and intricately themed land based on humanity’s greatest legends.

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Divided into two opposing sections, the concept for the land called Beastly kingdom was intended to be an immersive world surrounding the creatures of mythology. The ‘Dark Side’, located to the left of the entrance, would showcase more heart-thumping thrills, while the ‘Light Side’ on the right would focus more on family attractions.

The Dark Side opened with a twisted path leading through a dark and brooding forest that exited into a large Stonehenge-styled courtyard. There, guests would enter a medieval village that sat under the looming shadow of a crumbling castle tower. Inside the tower, the first of Beastly Kingdom’s E-Ticket attractions would reside; The Dragon’s Tower!

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Guests entered the decrepit fortress to find a roller-coaster/Dark Ride hybrid that would bring them face to face with a fire-breathing animatronic dragon. The guests would board ‘bats’ that flew on a coaster track in a mission to steal back the gold that had been hoarded by a mighty dragon deep within the bowels of the ancient castle; witnessing a supposedly immersive interior filled with grand halls, battered armor, old swords, and piles of endless gold. It was intended to end in a very close and personal encounter with the dragon itself before guests narrowly escaped certain doom. Located in a sub-section of this land, there was going to be shops and eateries surrounding the lagoon of a giant sea-serpent.

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To the right of the entrance, an entirely different path awaited the young at heart; a land of goodness and light. The ‘Light Side’ of Beastly Kingdom would stand in stark contrast to its darker neighbor, supposedly beginning with a path through peaceful woods that opened onto Olympian architecture and Greek statues of an area called ‘Fantasia Gardens’. Here, a tranquil boat ride for the whole family would take you into the mythical world of Disney’s Fantasia (1940) letting you drift past musical scenes from the film, in a visually fantasy of the Disneyland ‘Small World’ variety.

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But Fantasia Gardens, however cute, was simply meant as secondary experience to compliment Beastly Kingdom’s second E-Ticket attraction; Quest for the Unicorn. This walk-through attraction would allow the guests to go on a journey into their most beautiful dreams. Designed as a maze/interactive adventure attraction, Quest for the Unicorn would allow guests to travel through a hedge labyrinth, and past breathtaking sets designed to transport you into a child’s storybook. While there, guests would attempt to locate hidden statues which gave them clues to make it to the center of the maze. Once guests successfully navigated the steps to the center, they would be rewarded with a beautiful chamber of bubbling pools and glittering caves. And there in the center of it all, would be a beautiful animatronic unicorn.

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All in all, Beastly Kingdom was to be a feat of Imagineering that would require all of their vast skills. So, what happened to this enchanted realm of Unicorns and Dragons?

Sadly, at the time Beastly Kingdom was in development, Disney was not ready to commit to the large sum needed for its construction. Due to unforeseen complications at Disney’s overseas parks, the company was not yet willing to risk so much money on an expansion to a park that was already successful, and thus Beastly Kingdom was put on hold. However, Disney would keep delaying the project due to bad luck, and it never really had the time to take off. However, Joe Rohde, the Imagineer in charge of Beastly Kingdom, would continue to hold onto those concepts even through the tough times; eventually spinning them off into new projects like Expedition Everest.

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But finally, with Director James Cameron’s support, and the acquisition of the rights for a popular movie called Avatar, an elaborate new land would finally have the financial backing that it needed. Joe Rohde took the old ride concepts for Beastly Kingdom, and reworked them into the amazing new land called Pandora: The World of Avatar and subsequently built Avatar Flight of Passage (using concepts from Dragon’s Tower) and Na’vi River Journey (using both Fantasia Gardens and Quest of the Unicorn).

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Sadly, the legendary Beastly Kingdom will probably never be built the way it was originally intended. However, there is now a new world full of mythical creatures and immersive environments that you can visit. Even though it’s not the same as Beastly Kingdom, the spirit of adventure and escapism remains through the talented designs of Imagineers that worked on the original Beastly Kingdom. As for us, we are more than happy to have an alien world filled with floating mountains and otherworldly creatures! Believe us; The World of Avatar is worth it!

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Pixar Saved Disney!

Pixar Saved Disney!

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!

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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.

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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.

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A great film!

 

 

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.

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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.

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a great ‘Experimental Era’ film

 

 

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?

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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!

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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.

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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?

Thor Related to Hercules?!?

Thor Related to Hercules?!?

Thor Related to Hercules?!?

A short, silly post about the Mighty Avenger

As you probably already know, the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War dropped last week and, as a result, we lost our minds in excitement. To prepare for the film’s May release date, we decided to go back over some of our favorite Marvel crossover events and refresh our memories on some of our favorite character’s backstories. This is when we rediscovered something in Marvel canon that we had almost forgotten. Thor is a relative of Hercules! No joke!

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the general reaction we get when we say this!

How do we know this? We recently read the Thor entry to the 80’s version of the Essential Handbook of the Marvel Universe; an encyclopedic series breaking down every Marvel character’s powers, story, and appearance in meticulous detail. In this series, they list the known relatives of every hero in the Marvel universe, and under Thor, it lists his mother as…Gaea?

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a scan to prove it; the info is circled! a more up-to-date version is below!

 

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For those of you who don’t know, Gaea (also spelled as Gaia, Giah, etc.) is a primordial Greek Goddess (a powerful alien being that originates from an alternate dimension in Marvel canon), and is the mother of the Greek Titan Kronos, as well as the grandmother of Zeus! And we are pretty sure that everyone knows who Zeus’s son was… Hercules! Thor has this unique relationship with the extremely powerful Gaea for a specific reason; Marvel wanted Thor to have a reasonable reason for being the most powerful Asgardian besides Odin, and they wanted to connect the Asgardian and Olympian mythologies more closely since they were extra-dimensional beings that existed in the same universe.

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Obviously, in the original myth of Thor, Frigga is Thor’s real mother, and this seems to be the route they’re taking in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (but who knows, maybe Frigga will be revealed to be Thor’s step-mother later). However, Marvel’s version of the Thor story presents us with a fascinating family tree which the original myth does not! We did some checking to make sure that this familial relationship is still canon (after all we were looking at the outdated 80’s version of this encyclopedia for nostalgic reasons) and we confirmed that it remains in the Marvel timeline; at least for now. So, what does this mean for Thor?

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It means that, as of now, Thor is the brother of the Titan Kronos, and the Uncle of Zeus…making him the Great Uncle of Hercules! Now, before you pop-culture fans get too excited, we must specify that the Hercules which Thor’s related to is not the one from Disney’s animated film, but rather a Marvel character that we will show below…

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Marvel’s Hercules

Unfortunately for Disney nuts, this dashes the hopes of there being a definitive Disney/Marvel Universe crossover…unless you count Big Hero 6, or say that Disney’s animated film is just a different interpretation (or point of view) of the same mythology shown in Marvel; perhaps Disney’s Hercules is the human’s legend of Hercules, and not what really happened? After all, humans did accidentally mistake the Asgardians and Olympians for Gods, so it’s possible that they could have exaggerated the myths a little from what really happened. You can take that theory as far as you like, but we just find it fascinating that Thor is related to both the Asgardians and Olympians in Marvel continuity; a Son of Odin and an Uncle of Zeus!

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our reaction to this glimmer of false nerd hope.

There’s even a theory floating around that connects Ariel’s family to Hercules’ through Ariel’s father Triton! It’s not our theory, but we do think it makes perfect sense and has a lot of evidence, so maybe we’ll cover the theory someday if you really want to know about it. But for now, just be satisfied to know that Thor could be a distant relation of Ariel! It’s all such an interconnected family tree that it makes our heads hurt to think about it! Who knows; maybe Disney Animation and Marvel might be connected by more ways than just business/ownership. What do you think Disney should do about this?

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our viewers are our heroes!

 

The Eras of Disney Animation

The Eras of Disney Animation

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:

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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; only gaining “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:

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Because this era was the result of WWII, a largely uncontrollable event, most critics don’t 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 largely compilations of several extended 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 considered of far less quality than the rest of the Golden Age.

The Silver Age:

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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 first 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 this amazing era was not to last. During this time, films became increasingly expensive to make in order to meet Walt’s increasingly high expectations. In 1959 Walt reached what he considered the pinnacle of his art form: Sleeping Beauty. It was a massive Box Office hit, but was somehow still dwarfed by its extravagant production costs. Although the films after Sleeping Beauty still met with success, they were less innovative than earlier endeavors, and eventually the quality of animation came to its lowest point when Walt Disney passed away during production of The Jungle Book. His absence from the company left it directionless and led them into a figurative Dark Age.

The Bronze Age:

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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; largely falling short of the ‘magic’ that most people associate 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:

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The Great Mouse Detective of the Bronze Age made enough money to finance a fairy tale called The Little Mermaid. This 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:

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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; including Sci-Fi Comedies, Irreverent Comedies, Steampunk, and even Time Travel! Not only did Disney experiment with the writing and story structure of their movies in this era, but they also tried new things with the technology of their filmmaking as well. 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. And this was only the beginning, as Disney soon moved from mixing CGI and live-action elements through the computer (like in Dinosaur), to creating almost everything you see on screen from scratch in a digital environment (like in Chicken Little). Not only would this experimentation with technology become the norm at Disney, but it would also spell the beginning of the end for traditional hand-drawn animation in the next era. Without a doubt, many of the films in the Experimental Era would become crucial to the success and reliability of the next age of animation…

The Modern Golden Age:

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Also referred to as the Revival Era, The Second Golden Age is the one we are currently living in. Starting with the critically acclaimed Princess and the Frog, and going straight through to Disney’s latest film Moana, this era is typified by its unprecedented critical and audience approval. Every single film in this era has been critically acclaimed, and while some are more successful than others at the Box Office, they are all highly rated by audiences. This era was also marked by the decline of traditional hand-drawn animation, with Winnie the Pooh as the last of its kind, and saw the company switch exclusively to CGI. Built on the foundation of the Experimental Era’s innovations, and fueled by nostalgia for the Renaissance, the New Golden Age continues to forge a path of unique and engaging storytelling for a new generation.

Anakin’s Not the Chosen One?

Anakin’s Not the Chosen One?

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Anakin’s Not the Chosen One?

[Want more theories? Check This out!]

Recently there’s been some argument among Star Wars fans about one of the central themes in the Star Wars Universe; the concept of the Chosen One. Specifically, there has been some confusion about who the Chosen One really is because of a line in the TV show ‘Star Wars Rebels’. Some say that the Chosen One may be somebody else besides Anakin Skywalker… It might be Luke Skywalker instead! What in the world, crazy… right?!

Fortunately, a definitive answer to this conundrum has been given to us by Disney. They have confirmed that Anakin is still the Chosen One. However, why would fans think that Luke is the Chosen One instead? Is there enough evidence to support that conclusion? That’s what we want to talk about today! Even though the Chosen One is confirmed to be Anakin, we want to analyze this theory and see if it even makes sense!

ANAKIN:

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The prophecy of the Chosen One is very ambiguous. We know that the Chosen One was supposed to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force. There are three separate theories as to what the prophecy means by ‘bringing balance to the Force’. Some people believe that bringing balance to the Force refers to the Sith and Jedi being balanced (I.E. equal in number). Others speculate that ‘balance’ is referring to more of a ‘peace’ in the galaxy through the Force. Then there’s a third group that says that ‘balance’ refers to something in-between the Light and the Dark Side of the Force (Gray Jedi).wallup.net

Regardless of which is the ‘real’ interpretation of ‘balance’, Anakin fulfilled all of them anyways. Anakin accomplished the first interpretation in a roundabout way by turning to the Dark Side. He brought ‘balance’ to the Force by destroying the Jedi until there were only two remaining Jedi to match the two Sith, he accomplished ‘peace’ by ushering in a new era through the defeat of the Empire, and he also accomplished the ‘Gray Jedi’ status by converting between both the Dark and the Light Side. Finally, Anakin completes the first half of the prophecy (destroying the Sith) when he turns back to the Light Side and kills his master to save Luke.

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However, this begs the question; regardless of which ‘balance’ theory is correct, aren’t they all undone? If ‘balance’ is created by making the Sith and Jedi equal in number (two of each), then wouldn’t it be undone when Anakin kills Sidious? Wouldn’t that leave one Jedi and no Sith?

What about the second theory, the one about ‘peace’ in the universe? Wouldn’t the continued conflict with the First Order in ‘The Force Awakens’ make that null and void? If there’s ‘balance’ in the galaxy, why is there still so much conflict? Even the ‘Gray Jedi’ interpretation has the problem of Anakin coming back to the Light Side with his subsequent death. He has no chance to forge a new path between the Light and Dark sides!

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Some people may argue that, once the prophecy is fulfilled, it doesn’t necessarily have to stay fulfilled for long. While this could be true, we also see that Luke may fix these apparent problems permanently. Making him a possible candidate for ‘The Chosen One’ if Disney decides to go that route!

LUKE:

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Most of the confusion over who the Chosen One is stems from a line in the show ‘Star Wars Rebels’ when Obi-Wan himself literally calls Luke the Chosen One. The show’s writers clarified that this is simply Obi-Wan’s perspective. However, if Disney had chosen to make this statement literal, there is a surprising amount of evidence to support this idea.

First of all, one could argue that Luke was the very reason his father destroyed Emperor Sidious in the first place. Making Luke, in a roundabout way, also responsible for destroying the Sith.

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consider Luke’s role in the new films. Luke tries to start a new Jedi Order and fails when Ben Solo falls to the Dark Side under Snoke and becomes Kylo Ren. However, there’s a new hope when Rey comes to Luke in order to learn the ways of the Jedi. This could all potentially combine to fix the first interpretation of the prophecy; the balance between two Dark Side users (Snoke and Kylo), and two Light Side Users (Luke and Rey). Then the ‘destroy the Sith’ part would still be valid because Disney confirmed that Snoke and Kylo aren’t Sith, but something new!

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The second interpretation of galactic ‘peace’ could be fixed if Luke has a major hand in the downfall of the First Order. It looks like he might, if only by training Rey and inspiring her to do it for him, but only time will tell. Finally, the ‘Gray Jedi’ idea might be fixed by Luke as well! In the first trailer for ‘The Last Jedi’ Luke says, “it’s time for the Jedi to end”, it hints that he might be going down the path of a Gray Jedi and forging a new order between the Light and Dark Sides. This line is probably just marketing to spark debate and make fans anxious to see the truth for themselves. It’s most likely pure misdirection to gain publicity, however There’s no denying it’s still a possible explanation that might fix the holes in the third interpretation of the Chosen One prophecy.

In the end, we understand why some fans may be confused about who the Chosen One is. There’s obviously quite a bit of evidence supporting Luke Skywalker as a candidate. Anakin remains the canonical Chosen One for now, but Disney could plausibly change it to Luke if they wanted to do so. With new Star Wars lore becoming canon every day, who knows what the future holds for things like this? To quote Yoda “hard to see, the future is.”

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