Recently, I wondered whether or not Frozen was the only recent animated movie that Disney mattered. It was just kind of a random thought I had really, as I was thinking one day, “y’know, ever since Disney’s bought Marvel and Star Wars and everything, it seems like the only animated movie they focus on is Frozen. I wonder if there’s any correlation to that?” and just sort of made a theory that they were mainly focusing on Frozen because their animated movies were no longer their only big franchise. The original article sparked a conversation about movie merchandise that I would like to follow up on.
I don’t know about you but where I live Frozen, almost 3 years after it came out, is still inescapable. If you go into any store, you’re bound to run into some Frozen merchandise. Not only that but there always seem to be families (and sometimes childless adults) that seem to have some sort of Frozen thing with them (like a backpack or something).
Thirty years ago, the biggest producer in Hollywood teamed with a legendary director, a pop icon and the industry leader in family entertainment to develop the most expensive movie ever made (in terms of cost per minute). In 1986, it didn’t get much bigger than George Lucas, Michael Jackson and Francis Ford Coppola working hand in hand with Disney. They made Captain Eo, a 3-D music video that would show in Disney theme parks for a decade. In 2010, following the death of its star, Captain Eo played a return engagement. Despite questionable quality, Captain Eo endures.
At the time of its debut, Starlog ran an extensive cover story on the new attraction in their quarterly Cinemagic Magazine. If you ever wanted an in depth look at Captain Eo, this is it.
The thing about a Renaissance is that its beginning and ending are only clear in retrospect. In the mid-nineties, Disney animation was exiting a golden age of creative and commercial re-invigoration. But at the time, they had no idea the good times were coming to an end. Buoyed by the critical acclaim of Beauty and the Beast and the record-breaking box office of The Lion King, Disney was eager to outdo itself. With the acrimonious departure of studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg, the studio took on its most ambitious project to date, adapting Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame into a family-friendly summer blockbuster. The July 1996 issue of Starlog included a feature story covering one of Disney’s forgotten animated features.
A few months ago, there was a crazy rumor that the brain trust at Disney had decided to retheme one of its signature theme park attractions, The Tower of Terror. Since its debut in 1994, the ride has tied in to the classic TV show, The Twilight Zone. But in an effort to save a few bucks on an intellectual property Disney doesn’t own as well as promoting a property it does, management was seriously considering ditching the existing theme for Guardians of the Galaxy – the popular Marvel franchise which has nothing whatsoever to do with a haunted hotel.
WDW1974, the insider who posted the original rumor, has provided an update. According to him, Orlando’s tower has been spared. The one in Anaheim may still become the home of a talking tree and gun-totting raccoon. But that’s a West Coast problem. Sorry, Disneylanders. That doesn’t mean Disney has given up on putting Star-Lord and Gamora in Orlando either.
Today’s Disney fans are waiting in anticipation for news on the upcoming Star Wars projects opening in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. In 1987, Starlog Magazine published a two-part article covering the first Star Wars attraction, Star Tours. Star tours opened that year in Anaheim and made its Orlando debut two years later. In 2011, both simulator attractions were upgraded with 3-D and multiple scenes that are shown randomly. Here’s a look at the first time Star Wars came to Disney.
Regular readers know that Daffy and I are regular visitors to Orlando theme parks. We’ve both logged a lot of hours at Walt Disney World and we can both claim to have visited Epcot in its glory days. When Epcot opened in 1982, the general public wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It was a Disney theme park without cartoon characters. The front half of the park had enough of a sci-fi element to it (Ray Bradbury wrote the original script for Spaceship Earth) that Starlog Magazine covered the park in a feature that ran across three issues in 1983. Whether you remember the glory days of Epcot or you wish you had the chance to experience it yourself, welcome to EPCOT Center.
Disney fans are looking forward to the complete reinvention of the Orlando theme park formerly known as Disney-MGM Studios. Exciting developments like a Star Wars-themed land have been announced along with a second area based around Toy Story. These are all long-term projects with no opening dates attached. That’s largely because Disney is still figuring out details themselves.
In this chaotic environment, a rumor has surfaced which fills me with a sense of dread. And not the good kind you get when you anticipate being dropped repeatedly in a haunted elevator shaft.
I wanted my next Disney World article to be a positive story. I really did. The last several Disney World updates I have done have been critical of Disney’s management of the Orlando resort. There have been some managerial shake-ups which should lead to some positive developments down the line. But those are going to take time. The news for 2016 is unfortunately pretty grim. Made worse by events halfway around the world. If you are planning a trip to Disney World this year, expect to pay more than ever for a greatly diminished product.
Fifteen years ago today, Disney opened their second theme park on the West Coast. When Disney’s California Adventure opened its gates, one prominent Imagineer muttered “I liked it better when it was a parking lot.” To see why, check out this clip of Rosie O’Donnell and the cast of The Drew Carrey Show sleepwalking their way through some of the park’s headline attractions.
Due to the nature of this bracket game, the round two match-ups can feel a little random. Perhaps none more so than today’s. What do Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Birdcage have in common? They are both based on French source material. Hunchback obviously is based on Victor Hugo’s famous novel and Birdcage is a remake of the French farce, La Cage aux Folles. And while it may not be immediately apparent, both movies have similar themes. In The Birdcage a gay couple pretends to be straight to help their son fit into his fiancée’s family. In Hunchback, an outsider sings of his desire to be “Out there” which many have interpreted as having a homosexual subtext.
Admittedly a stretch, but you try finding commonalities between these two movies!
Twenty years ago, the world of animation was going through a transitional period. Toy Story, the first-ever feature film animated by computers, had been released the year before. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the controversial head of Disney studios, had been chased out of the company by his former mentor, CEO Michael Eisner. Katzenberg set up shop at Dreamworks where he formed his own animation studio to compete with his former employer. It was a good time to be an animator. Everyone was still chasing the box office success of The Lion King and rival studios were paying big money to poach talent from the Mouse House.
In today’s bracket, we’re taking a look at two slightly dark children’s films released by Disney a year of change.
Did you grow up on Toy Story? If so, you’re childhood is officially over. Or like me, did you see Toy Story as an adult? Guess what. You’re old. Because Toy Story was released twenty years ago! For the last two decades Buzz and Woody have been making us laugh and even tugging at our heartstrings. So it’s time to review the totally awesome facts you need to know about Toy Story.