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Walt Disney reference in latest Mickey Mouse DVD
Blog, TV
Posted on May 28 2013 by Greg
The nicest thing about the new "Quest for the Crystal Mickey" DVD collection of episodes from "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" is that Disney fans might notice a little nod to Walt himself.

I won't give it away, but I will give a clue that it has something to do with Walt's early career and Mickey's name in the signature episode.

"Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" is a preschooler CG series along the lines of "Blue's Clues" and "Dora the Explorer." Regular cast Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Pluto share a basic storyline with visits from other Disney favorites like Ludwig Von Drake, Chip 'n Dale, Clarabelle Cow and Pete, who serves as a villain or just a misguided soul.

"The Quest for the Crystal Mickey" epsode boasts probably the most intricate of all the plots, but that's okay since kids love the repetition and parents can catch the mild in-jokes (it's not quite as edgy as Sesame Street).

A friendly gadget called Toodles provides objects in each episode that help solve the problem. There's always a mystery tool that is revealed near the end. Kids can follow Mickey and the gang and help them figure things out, also doing some counting, colors, shapes, concepts and things like that.

One of two original songs highlight each episode. There's also a nice soundtrack album on CD or download on amazon and iTunes.

Some may find this a watered-down version of Mickey, but it's a great way for very young children to get to know the characters on an everyday TV basis rather than waiting for the occasional cartoon (as it was in my day).

Mickey Mouse should mean more to kids than just being a corporate icon and theme park greeter. For a long time, that's pretty much what he was, though that's okay for some. Children saw him in merchandise and his basic shape clearly appeals to them. But I like that kids are relating to him as a character, he same way they do to other preschool TV characters.

The overall theme seems to be grand adventures in faraway lands, but each episode was obviously chosen to focus on a different learning skill as well.

Episode 60 (Season 2)
Goofy's Coconutty Monkey
October 5, 2009
Goofy's monkey friend wants to have a party but first everyone helps find the missing coconuts.

Episode 74 (Season 3)
Goofy's Giant Adventure
May 9, 2011
Willie the giant (from the "Mickey and the Beanstalk" segment of the Disney animated feature "Fun and Fancy Free" needs help from the gang in this story.

Episode 75 (Season 3)
Donald of the Desert
May 8, 2010
Donald finds a genie lamp and learns the wisdom of the old phrase, "be careful what you wish for."

Episode 98 (Season 3)
Donald the Genie
October 18, 2010
Donald becomes a genie himself in this story.

Episode 121 (Season 4)
Quest for the Crystal Mickey
March 8, 2013
Pete has stolen the Crystal Mickey in the this episode from the most recent season and its disappearance threatens to make the Clubhouse disappear.

Curious thing about the opening words at Disney's Haunted Mansion...
Blog, TV, Parks
Posted on May 23 2013 by Greg
Through sight and sound and faceless terror
Through endless corridors by trial and error
Ahead a blazing light does burn
And one door leads to the point of return.

These are the opening words at the Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, right?

No, these are the words the Ghost Host (Paul Frees) speaks:

When hinges creak in doorless chambers
And strange and frighening sounds echo through the halls
Whenever candlelights flicker and the air is deathly still
That is the time when ghosts are present
Practicing their terror in ghoulish delight.

What about the other words? They seem so similar.

Dark Shadows fans will immediately recognize the verse as part of the infamous Dream Curse, one of the story arcs in the popular ABC daytime horror/fantasy soap opera. It's not considered one of the best storylines in the series, as it's a pretty cheesy plot (and I really like the show). The dreams are kind of funny rather than terrifying and they begin on Volume 7 of the Dark Shadows Collection DVD series.

The first time viewers heard these words were on April 24, 1968. The Haunted Mansion opened on August 9, 1969. Could the Disney Imagineers been influenced by a hit TV show that a lot of people were watching over a year before the attraction opened?

I couldn't say, but it's pretty interesting, no?

Mcstuffed with a healthy dose of imagination
Blog, TV
Posted on May 08 2013 by Greg
The word "interactive" is tossed around in the entertainment world constantly, as established media faces off with online and other new markets, but Doc McStuffins delivers in a very special way.

McStuffins doesn't have the "pause and wait for answer" feature of such shows as Dora the Explorer, Blue's Clues and even Disney's Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. The interaction happens when -- hopefully at some time during the day -- the TV is turned off and kids begin to play on their own. Doc McStuffins is such an approachable concept, young girls and boys can let their imaginations take off, just as they see on this show.

The premise is that Doc solves problems, fixes toys and cures plush, as her toys come to life in her imagination. This is the kind of thing that is healthy and addresses the concerns about watching too much TV. Basic health and wellness issues are also woven into the stories.

This DVD, "Time for Your Checkup," contains these four two-segment episodes from the first season:

Episode 3
Tea Party Tantrum / Blast Off!
March 26, 2012

Episode 5
Gulpy, Gulpy Gators! / One Note Wonder
March 28, 2012

Episode 6
Arcade Escapade / Starry, Starry Night
March 29, 2012

Episode 26
Bronto Boo-Boos/Brontosaurus Breath
May 3, 2013

Episode 22 Doctoring the Doc / Hot Pursuit
August 17, 2012

This DVD is the second release, the first being entitled "Friendship is the Best Medicine," containing five two-segment episodes.

Uncovering the truth behind psychedelic color of the '60s
Blog, TV
Posted on May 04 2013 by Greg
Renowned writer Ken Levine and (on Facebook) Jeanine Kasun of recently shared this rare "I Love Lucy" footage. It's one of many bonus features on the I Love Lucy Seasons 7-9 DVD set (which is actually The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, which was actually The Westinghouse Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show.

Several comments arose about whether black and white TV shows were designed for black and white viewing -- even though the sets and costumes were in color when they were shot.

Watching the Lucy footage again, I don't think there's much of a question as to whether the set and costume colors were selected for their look in black and white.

Even though the film is faded, the colors clearly are not created for the studio audience -- just as color programs in the mid-60s are kaleidoscopic to make the most of it -- including tinting Lucille Ball's hair to a specific orange for the cameras and lighting.

How is this for a theory -- did the psycho-delic look of the late 60s evolve from the counterculture, or from the advent of color TV?

Walt Disney changed the name of his show to the Wonderful World of Color in 1961 and moved to NBC, so he would have a color show and NBC/RCA could sell color more TV's. And look at how everyone dresses in one of those musical "Honeymooners" episodes for example.

Were the 60's really about groovin' to Peter Max, or marketing Max Factor?

In a world we pass through every day yet seldom notice...
Blog, Movies
Posted on Apr 23 2013 by Greg
"Life depends on little things we take for granted." This opening title sets the stage for another of those jewels of natural filmmaking in the Disneynature series -- a series that deserves all the attention of tentpole blockbusters but are released quietly on Blu-ray/DVD and perhaps in a few theaters.

The latest is called Wings of Life, a title that barely encompasses the depth of what you experience in this brilliant film, shot in razor-sharp clarity, even when capturing microscopic miracles.

The title implies birds, but the story is about insects and flowers. Narrator Meryl Streep's words are those of the plants, trees and flowers, explaining in first person how they all interact with each other.

"One might imagine that the most important life forms are large or flashy or smart," narrates Streep, "But it is love among the little things that runs the vast machinery of life." How true this is. (read my review of Lincoln for this same concept on a human level, as applied to the muckety-mucks and the folks in the trenches).

From bees to bats, hummingbirds to beetles (Paul is the cute one), the creatures are part of a spectacular spectrum of survival, balance and innate skill.

To me, the stars of the film are butterflies. There is one sequence in which what appears to be milliions of butterflies burst from trees and settle in the grasses. It must be seen to be believed.

None of this is done with CG or special effects, yet it is every bit as astonishing as a megablockbuster movie -- albeit with a soothing, ethereal tone, due in no small part to Streep, whose superb narration comes as no surprise to those of us who love her recording of The Velveteen Rabbit with pianist/composer George Winston.

No extras to speak of, unfortunately, since seeing how this was filmed would be fascinating. No matter, the color and majesty makes Wings of Life like a naturalistic Fantasia.

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