So Long, Eddie Valiant… (R.I.P. Bob Hoskins 1942-2014)

bob-hoskins-roger-rabbit

“Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” was one of the iconic films of my childhood. It was one of those unexpected movies for me, one that I found myself laughing quite a bit at. While the Disney and other animation references flew fast and furious, the thing that stood out to me even more was the performance of Bob Hoskins. Mr. Hoskins played the straight man, detective Eddie Valiant quite convincingly, yet it took an amazing level of genius to play it so straight with a bunch of ‘toons. Eddie Valiant was quite the Disney (Yes, I know the movie was made under the Touchstone label) anti-hero: Alcoholic, womanizing, and gruff… Yet, when one learned the painful backstory – a ‘toon killed his brother – one began to sympathize and cheer for him to get justice for Roger and the other Toontown citizens! As I grew older and began to appreciate the film making process even more, I grew to appreciate the talent and physical humor it took to play such a character. The following scene still brings the biggest smile to my face as an adult:

Bob Hoskins passed away on April 29th at the age of 71. Along with the role of Eddie Valiant, Hoskins will be remembered for his roles in Hook, Mermaids, Mona Lisa, and many other films. Today we celebrate all of his great performances and say thank you to an outstanding actor. Rest in peace, Mr. Hoskins. And thank you. You will be missed.

Disneynature’s “Bears” – a Review

Note: I realize this review may be a little late, as “Bears” was released into theaters on April 18th. However, with no opportunity to preview before the release day, I still feel the need to share with anyone still deciding whether to see this movie or not.

DisneyNature's "Bears"

DisneyNature’s “Bears”

 

“Disney” and “Nature.” Two things I absolutely love in this world. The beauty of outdoors, and the fun and memories of the premiere entertainment company for many.  Combine the two, and this should be a match made in heaven for this DisNerd, right? Up until now, I’d have to say, sadly, wrong.

Don’t misunderstand me, I think highly of Disney for attempting these beautifully shot wildlife documentaries released annually around Earth Day. The fact that every year they donate proceeds from opening week to conservation funds? Even better. But, unfortunately, I’m a bit of a wimp. I find it difficult to see animals encountering hardship and perhaps even dying when faced with the elements. Yes, Mufasa explained the great circle of life quite well to me, but that doesn’t mean I can stomach seeing it happen. As amazing as Chimpanzee looked to me, the harshness of a chimp being orphaned made the subject matter hard for me to want to watch, even more so with a little one next to me. I know many have loved the movies, and I’m grateful for that – to see Walt Disney’s “True Life Adventure” legacy carried on in some form is something I’m genuinely happy to see. To raise awareness of animals in their natural habitat is wonderful and definitely to be admired; it’s just not something I can always emotionally handle. Apparently, this has been passed down to my child as well – which, given the fact that she’s six, is quite understandable.

So it was with a little trepidation, Mrs. DisNerd and I decided to take the Little DisNerd to see the latest offering, “Bears,” this past weekend. We did our research beforehand, reading plenty of reviews as to the family-friendliness of the new DisneyNature film.

 

Definitely ready to enter the world of Bears!

Definitely ready to enter the world of Bears!

 

I’m pleased to report that not only did we emerge from the film psychologically unscathed, but we also left with smiles on our faces and a love for all things bear.

Set against the backdrop of a gorgeous Alaskan wilderness, “Bears” follows the first year journey of Sky, a mama grizzly, and her two cubs: “mama’s bear” Amber and the mischievous Scout. Emerging from hibernation, they begin their harrowing journey from their mountainous den to the waters far below in search of food – namely salmon – in order to nourish themselves and fatten up for the next years hibernation. Along the way, they face danger in the form of avalanches, wolves, rising tides, and yes, other bears – mainly in the form of two male grizzlies, Mangus (the alpha male) and Chinook (the exiled, haggard, desperate bear). Of course, the biggest danger lies in not finding enough food to fatten up for the coming hibernation season. If Sky can’t get enough food, she may not be nourished enough to provide for Scout and Amber through the next winter. Looking out for two youngsters make a regular journey much more harrowing, as usual spots can become unsafe due to overbearing males or other predators.

This journey is perfectly narrated by actor John C. Reilly, who combines informational narrative with storytelling and humor, namely in his voiceovers that delve into the insights of the curious and adventurous Scout.

We found “Bears” to be adventurous, humorous, educational, and overall, heartwarming. The story of changing priorities and ambitions is one parents can relate to: when you have little ones, it changes the way you do everything when parental instinct kicks in. And kids? Kids will love the adventures of the cubs, as well as learn something. Our little one, who loves playing in character after seeing movies came home wanting to be “Bear friends.” This consisted of calling each other by the names of Sky, Amber and Scout, and consuming lots and lots of imaginary salmon dishes. I would definitely recommend this documentary for the whole family.

On one last note – we saw this opening weekend, and I was saddened to see we were three of nine in a rather huge movie theater. What kept families away? Was it the documentary nature of the film? The possibility that true life may be too graphic for some? The lack of animated characters that kids so love to see on the big screen? Whatever the reason may be, I truly hope more moviegoers give Bears a chance – it’s truly a movie for the whole family. Plus, if you can see it in its opening week (which is through April 24th, 2014), the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund will make a contribution to the National Park Foundation in honor of those who were able to see the movie.

This Earth Day, I encourage everyone to see Disneynature’s “Bears,” tell others about it, and support great movies and features like this in the theaters. Have you seen “Bears?” Do you plan to? Feel free to comment below, or share this review with others, and let’s fill the theaters for this one!

P.S. – Be sure to stay through the credits to see footage of the film crew at work, getting these breathtaking shots at some rather “too close for comfort” distances!

After All…Or, Happy 50th, Small World!

“There’s so much that we share that it’s time we’re aware… It’s a small world after all.”  – Richard and Robert Sherman

 

small world

“it’s a small world” at Disneyland

It’s the ride and song people love to mock and say they hate. It’s the valley of the dolls in the Happiest Place on Earth. It’s the attraction people most fear getting stuck on. So much so, in fact, that many refuse to ride it. It’s the song that has at times been used as a punchline in Disney movies itself.

It’s also the first attraction we took our daughter on when she visited Disneyland for the first time. It’s the ride that I find myself wanting to do at least once every day of my trip. It’s a song that has shaped not just my philosophy on why I love to write about Disney, but thoughts on life itself.

Yes, we have our differences. But we all have hopes and fears, excitements and disappointments. And I believe in lifting each other up, encouraging, and helping others to smile within the darkness we feel at times. We’re human, and need to treat each other accordingly. I feel that in reaching out to our fellow human beings, we’re helping ourselves as much as each other. Be positive. Learn to look past our differences to love each other. We may not agree on things, but perhaps…there’s some common ground. The mountains may divide us; the oceans may separate us. But in this day and age especially, the world is getting smaller and smaller in terms of communicating and reaching our fellow human beings.  When I think of the song in those terms, when I ride a boat through various countries and see smiling, happy children… I believe the world CAN be better.

There’s a video that I love watching to this day of songwriter Richard Sherman, beginning the song as originally intended – as a ballad. It really drives home the lyrics for me, and many times brings a tear to my eye:

This, to me, is the perfect example of the mastery of the Sherman Brothers’ music in score and lyric. As the story goes, the original concept was for the children of each country to sing their own national anthem. However, on a boat ride, the overlapping songs made for a jumbled, Tower of Babel-esque mess. How beautiful and symbolic for these two to come up with a melody and infusion of lyrics that would carry from room to room regardless of the language in which it was delivered!

A couple years back, upon the passing of Robert Sherman, his son (and co-director of “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story”) wrote the following in memoriam of his father:

“From the time the ride opened, it was a tradition for the Bob Sherman family to always go on “It’s a Small World,” every time we visited Disneyland. Dad would be on the boat, but he never took in the ride. He’d watch the children’s faces. Dad studied their awe and wonder and loved that, by the end of the ride, these kids would know the words and be singing along. He’d always tear up.

Dad told me he wished he could just stand at the end of that ride and shake everyone’s hand as they stepped off the boat. He wanted to thank each person for listening, for taking to heart his deceptively simple message of peace and brotherhood….

….It warms my heart to know Dad’s messages of peace and love, brotherhood, charity and humility, hope — and family — are there forever in his and my Uncle’s songs. And I know that somewhere in the world right this very moment, some child is learning and singing out Dad’s lovely words and Dick’s gorgeous melodies — “It’s a Small World” or one of the Sherman Brothers’ thousand other beloved songs. Simple, sing-able and sincere. And these children will, in turn, pass them onto their own. And my Dad is right there with them, smiling through a tear. As I am now.

Dad and his dear, sweet heart and brilliant mind will live on forever. His ride may be over, but when you sing his words, know that Bob Sherman is smiling down on you — and wishing he could shake your hand. —– Thank you.”

Thanks for your words, Jeff. I have no doubt that he is and lives on, not only in this attraction, but in so many other works as well.

I would be remiss in not mentioning others who helped make “it’s a small world” what it is. Wonderful legends such as Mary Blair, Alice Davis, Harriet Burns, Rolly Crump. Their contributions to costuming, architecture and color design helped turn a boat ride in a show building into a beautiful work of art. And of course, the man who dreamed it up and really believed in the message he put forward, Walt Disney himself. Years from now, people will still be making fun of the song. They may still be debating whether Disney characters should have been added to the attraction, whether the outside facade should be colorful or white. Yet, I truly believe that even more people, young and old alike, will continue to ride and be amazed at the artistry and the message the attraction brings. Perhaps they will be able to forget their worries for 15 minutes as they listen to the lyrics, thinking about how wonderful life could be if we all found common ground. Maybe, for at least a moment, they really will realize that it truly IS a small world after all.

Happy birthday, “it’s a small world!” Thanks to all who made it the amazing attraction and song that it has become on a worldwide scale. Here’s to many more happy cruises!

Looking forward to setting sail again!

Looking forward to setting sail again!

 

 

A Bench in the Park

THE Bench. Or at least one of them. There were a few around the carousel at Griffith Park. Photo courtesy Mr. Twitchy

According to Walt, it’s important that we all remember one thing: that it was all started by a mouse. But when it comes to Disneyland, I also can’t help but think…. it was all started by a bench.

As has been repeated over the years, I’m sure by now we all know the story. Walt would occasionally take his daughters on a date to Griffith Park for a day together. As the girls would ride the carousel at the park, Walt would sit and watch, eating popcorn and thinking. Thinking about a park where parents could enjoy themselves as much as their children. Where entire families could have fun instead of someone being relegated to a bench. This bench proved to be a catalyst for Disneyland – a theme park that far exceeded those expectations.

Therefore, it was somewhat both fitting and ironic, when asked by a friend where my favorite spot in Disneyland to just “hang” was, that I responded with “a bench.” But not just any bench. While there are many places to take it easy and rest in the park, there’s one location in my opinion that has the others beat.

Simple, unassuming… and the perfect spot. Photo Courtesy of Mr. Twitchy

While not as exciting as an attraction, nor as appetite satisfying as a restaurant, there’s something incredibly amazing to me about sitting on a bench at the base of Main Street Station, looking out at Main Street toward Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. As one sits on one of these benches, especially later at night, one gets a true feeling of how amazing the park can really be.

Imagine sitting on a bench, listening to turn-of-the-century style music, hearing conversations between cast members and guests, seeing guests hurry into stores to make last minute purchases. Observing other guests as they leave the park for the day with children passed out in strollers. These same little ones who started the day with such energy and excitement are now reliving the adventure in their dreams. While sitting it that spot, you get a whiff of the popcorn from the nearby stand in Town Square, beginning to contemplate giving in and getting your own box. Keep a sharp eye out and you may see a feral cat scurry by amidst all the hustle and bustle, causing you wonder how it feels to be a small feline living in a land of over-sized mice.

If you look further down Main Street, you can see, against a backdrop of a European castle, the outline of a man and a mouse smiling at all the happy guests. At that moment, you turn to look to the fire station and see a light on – indicating that the same man’s spirit lives on…

Yes, that bench is the ultimate “just hang” spot for me. And perhaps that’s the ultimate beauty of Walt’s original Magic Kingdom. With so much to enjoy for the whole family, the benches placed throughout the park give us a view to such an amazing panorama of everything that makes it truly magical.

With that being said, now I ask, dear readers and fellow DisNerds – Do you have a favorite spot to just relax and enjoy within Disneyland or any of Disney’s theme parks for that matter? I’d love to hear from you as well!

On a side note – this weekend (Feb 21st-23rd), Confessions will once again be at Disneyland, including participating in Dapper Day festivites! Make sure you’re following on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for updates and pictures from the park!

Thankful for Walt

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

One of my favorite promotional photos of Walt Disney.

Though there are so many facets of the man’s life worth celebrating, today, we celebrate the man himself. Happy birthday, Walt.

He was a man of humble beginnings. A boy with a paper route. A kid who sold candy on trains. A teenage ambulance driver for the Red Cross. A young man full of ideals and dreams who knew how to work to make it happen. A man who sacrificed much of what he had in order to fulfill said dreams. A man who left this world a better place because he was in it.

Walt wasn’t perfect – to place him on a shrine as such would be foolish and naive. Not every idea he had worked, many risks he took put him in the red, and according to many of his animators and employees, he had a temper that turned him into a “wounded bear.” Nonetheless, he had a drive and an instinct so rare in the world. More often than not, his instinct proved right. Holding back a couple Mickey Mouse cartoons in order to introduce him to the world in sound? Mickey became an overnight sensation. Making a feature length animated movie based on a fairy tale? “Disney’s Folly” was anything but. A theme park in an orange grove in the middle of nowhere? Yes, that one seemed to turn out just fine.

But as stated above, these things didn’t fall in his lap. He had to fight the naysayers tooth and nail: bankers, animators, business analysts, his own brother… But he always saw it through with hard work, big ideas, clever fixes and involvement. There’s an oft attributed to Walt quote that makes its way through different venues – “If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It.” Though this quote was not actually from Walt Disney, (it actually came from Disney Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald), one can see why it could be from him. Only, had Walt said it, it would probably sound something closer to, “If you dream it, follow through. Work hard to make it happen. Follow those dreams into a reality. You CAN do it.”

To me, the man I remember and admire today is the man who had dreams and followed through. He knew people would come to his movies and his parks if he put in the care needed to make it happen. I think today that is sorely missed. Truth be told, as much as we look for “the next Walt,” there will never be another. However, if we use him as an example, perhaps we can keep the spirit and ideals alive.

Thank you for all you did and started, Walt. Thank you for being that example. Happy Birthday, sir.

Thankful For Diane

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

Note #2: I realize Hayden covered this subject quite wonderfully in his article, “So Long, Diane.” I am thankful for his words – I just needed to take the time to write this one out, as I am truly thankful for her legacy, and felt the need to share what she meant to me personally.

Diane Disney Miller, standing in front of one of her greatest contributions to the DIsney legacy: The Walt Disney Family Museum.

Diane Disney Miller, standing in front of one of her greatest contributions to the DIsney legacy: The Walt Disney Family Museum.

Some people touch your life in ways you never truly realize until they’re gone.

Perhaps there was this naivete in the mind of this DisNerd (and many other fans) that you’d be around forever, Diane Disney-Miller. That your voice would be heard by legions of fans worldwide of your father’s legacy. That you would continue to work to preserve the memory of what he built with not just your memories and words, but also driving forward projects such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Walt Disney Family Museum. That you would fight and speak out against the Disney company when something wasn’t right. That you would be the voice of the family for many years to come.

Perhaps it was this fantastic assumption of time standing still that made this news quite a bitter pill to take. However, beyond this, there was the fact of where I heard the news. Much like the day I heard of Robert Sherman’s passing, I was enjoying a family vacation at the Disneyland Resort. Stopping for lunch in Downtown Disney, I checked my phone for anything of interest, only to receive a notification from my friend Hayden on the passing of Diane Disney-Miller. Time really did stand still for a brief instant, and I’m not ashamed to say a few tears welled up in my eyes. I mean, here was this great voice for Disney heritage, and it had been silenced. A void that could never be filled. The one living person who had not a working relationship with Walt, but a life relationship. Someone who inspired Walt to do many of his magnificent “things,” from a theme park in Anaheim to an amazing Disney classic movie called Mary Poppins. This person knew the importance of preserving a legacy and not tarnishing a name. “What would Walt do?” is a dangerous question to be asked, but she was one of the few who could probably answer correctly – at least more than others.

Diane also wrote a wonderful series of articles on her dad for the Saturday Evening Post.

The following morning in DIsneyland, their was a definite air of bittersweet looking out over town square. Amidst Christmas celebrations on the minds of guests, and many oblivious to Diane’s passing, or what she meant to many, the flags stood at half-staff and I was once again reminded of her voice, influence and inspiration. Standing on the platform to the Main Street Station, I glanced to my left, where a light is left on in Walt’s apartment above the fire station, and thought to myself…. She must be having a heck of a carousel ride right now.

Picture taken November 20th, 2013, the morning after Diane’s passing.

Diane, I hope this is true. I hope your dad has left his park bench and your whole family is riding in a row. Thank you so much for all you did to inspire your father as well as preserve his legacy. I will always be thankful.

Thankful For “Keep Moving Forward”

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

Sometimes the right words from the right person can make all the difference.

If there’s one thing in life I need to be mindful of, it’s dwelling on mistakes. If I were to spend too much time thinking of what I did wrong, I wouldn’t be able to see all that’s before me. I believe this is a lesson many of us still need to learn – I’m learning it daily. Perhaps this is why the following quote means so much to me:

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

What an example he set. While we tend to remember the accomplishments, we need to remember that Walt had his share of failure and setbacks. Movies such as Pinocchio and Fantasia, although labeled as classics today, were not considered a success. Disneyland didn’t run smoothly upon opening, and even before it opened, many attractions were scrapped. If he had dwelt on those setbacks, would he have had the time to keep coming up with new ideas? Or, going back to my day one “Thankful For Disney” post, what if he had given up in frustration at losing the Oswald character? To quote an old song, “WHAT? No Mickey Mouse?”

No, Walt was most definitely a forward thinker. I’m thankful for this, not only because of what it meant to the company we all know and love. Even more, it serves as inspiration for me in my life, and keeps me moving forward as well. So thank you, Walt for great words to remember and live by.

Thankful For You!

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

This may not be the most Disney-centered thankful post, but nonetheless, I’m thankful and this needs to be said.

Today marks post number 100 on Confessions of a DisNerd. A year and a half ago I started this journey as an exercise in not just writing, not just writing about Disney, but writing about Disney in a positive manner. Today, I look back at the blog, feeling proud of what I’ve been able to do so far. Yes, there were times I stumbled through a bit of writer’s block. But I also had enough of a love and appreciation of Disney that I knew inspiration would strike again. As I continue this “Thankful For Disney” series, I  realize there’s so much more I’ve yet to talk about – this gives me inspiration to keep going!

But what gives me even more inspiration to keep going is you, the readers. While I’m not doing Confessions for popularity or notoriety, it still warms my heart to see your “likes,” your shares, your page views and your comments. Seeing readers react and comment with their own stories and thoughts gives one an awesome feeling of community. Knowing there are people out there that are getting something out of the words I write truly means a lot to this blogger.

So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading. I hope you’re all still around for post number 200, and beyond. I love sharing these thoughts with all of you – thanks for coming along on the ride!

Thankful For Donald Duck

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

Sometimes we need to be able to cheer for the underdog. Sometimes, we need to laugh at the underduck.

donald splash

Donald Fauntleroy Duck… What is it that makes me have a soft spot in my heart for you? I know it’s not right to laugh at the pain of others. Often, I feel sorry for you – especially when your nephews are pulling their shenanigans and all you want is a nice relaxing day, or perhaps to step out with Daisy. Yet, your overreactions serve as a cautionary tale for what happens when we lose our tempers or seek revenge. In those moments of defeat, we laugh at your anthropomorphic plight, thankful it’s you and not us.

Maybe it’s your inability to communicate clearly to others? Trying to figure out what you’re trying to say, while frustrating at times, is half the fun. Of course, when even your fellow waterfowl can’t understand you….

Maybe it’s just the boldness of your character. I mean, you never wear pants and it doesn’t bother you a bit!

Unless you lose your shirt…

donald no pants

And let’s not even talk about when you go into the water…

Really? NOW you need swim trunks?

Really? NOW you need swim trunks?

Regardless of clothing choice, speech impediments or anger issues, Donald. I’m thankful for you. You bring laughter into my life and you’re one of my favorite characters. Life just wouldn’t be as fun without you there to quack me up.

Thankful For “When You Wish Upon a Star”

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

Sometimes a song can take you away to another place, or help you believe that dreams come true. I know I’m thankful for songs like these.

There are memorable songs from movies – you know, the songs that you find yourself humming long after the film ended – and then there are songs that transcend movies. Leigh Harline and Ned Washington’s “When You Wish Upon a Star” goes far beyond the film it was written for. This is not in anyway a knock on Pinocchio. No, the movie is among my favorite Disney animated movies – quite possibly my favorite, depending on the day! It’s just that the song itself is so much more. It’s become not only a theme song for the Walt Disney Company in general, but one to dreamers everywhere as well.

Like a bolt out of the blue...

Like a bolt out of the blue…

The notion of wishing upon a star may seem silly, but the idea of dreams coming true? Well, this is something we all long for. Now, in the “real world” we realize we can’t sit back and wait for things to come to us. If Walt had simply wished upon a star without actively pursuing that dream…. well, I don’t think that would have turned out very well. However, the notion of dreams coming true if we have the courage to pursue them (hmmm… now THAT sounds catchy!) is a noble one. Throw in a wish on the evening star as well? Believe in your dreams, and you never know.

Every time my family goes to Disneyland, we always pause underneath Sleeping Beauty’s Castle to here Jiminy Cricket sing his anthem to passers by. Combined with the magical feeling that the park brings, that song means even more there. And I’m certainly thankful for the feeling it brings.

I feel it only fitting to close out this thankful post with the song itself – perhaps my favorite cover of “When You Wish…” Take it away, Pops….