Farewell to a Pineapple Princess

This picture of Annette and Jimmie Dodd was on the back of an LP that I played consistently as a kid. Back then, all I knew was that she was one of the Mousketeers.

There’s not much I can say about the passing of Annette Funicello that hasn’t been said by others. From the grown men that admit she was their first crush to the women who were inspired by her dancing on the Mickey Mouse Club, she touched many. All I can add is, I, along with many others, am saddened by her passing, but rejoicing in the fact that she is no longer struggling with the multiple sclerosis that she bravely battled for so many years.

In our house, the song “Pineapple Princess” (written by the Sherman Brothers) is on our “Disneyfied” playlist and comes up quite frequently. It’s a song that you just can’t help but sing along with and dance around the house to – and my wife and daughter do the same. I’m grateful for fun songs like this, with the “Annette sound,” and the fact that it is enjoyed still today is a testament to both the singer and the songwriters.

I pray she is singing and dancing along again today.

Rest in peace, Annette.

Romance, Disney Style

From Disneyland News: “During True Love Week, a tapestry of romance is woven throughout the resort — from special entertainment and limited-edition Valentine’s merchandise to candlelit dinners for two and new, themed photo locations offering encounters with beloved Disney sweethearts – all for a limited-time only.”

Note from me: Although it’s not “True Love Week” at Disneyland till next week I’m inspired by this one – so expect a few posts covering this subject. After all, if there’s anyone who can cover the subject of romance so wonderfully and beautifully, it’s Disney.

I’ve seen quite a few blogs post a recurring theme on Wednesdays: “Wordless Wednesdays.” The entire idea is to post a picture, or few in lieu of words; to let the photo speak for itself. I realized long ago this format would never work for me. Even if I were to post a picture, I’d have something to say about it. I very rarely remain speechless. However, in the world of Disney, storytelling, and romance, there is still a place for being wordless.

I’m often amazed in our society, that, despite the words we use to tell stories – sometimes crude, harsh, overstated and needlessly repetitive – the best love story I’ve seen in a long time used almost no words at all, and was told in the first ten minutes of Disney/Pixar’s “Up.”

It’s okay if you’re getting misty-eyed just thinking about it. Go ahead – reach for the tissue. No one’s here to judge you.

A story of true devotion through triumph and heartbreak through a lifetime together was just the setup for an amazingly fun and funny movie, but man, what a setup. It shows planning a life together, the sacrifices one takes to make that life happen, helping each other through the bumps in the road, and, showing strength in our weakest moments. The fact that it is told in such a short span so effortlessly is due in no small part to Michael Giacchino’s fabulously scored “Married Life,” repeating the same musical theme with variations in tempo and instrumental beauty. If there is a better way to show a lifelong love in such a short period, I’m sure I haven’t seen it.

Yes, Disney/Pixar was great at covering a lifetime of love near wordlessly, but what about those shorter romantic moments? Disney has that covered as well in its Oscar nominated short, “Paperman.” This one, directed by John Kahrs and scored by Christophe Beck, shows us the possible beginning of a romance and leaves the rest up to us, the viewers. I offer few words on this one; instead, I leave you with the video and one final comment after you’ve watched:

Upon her second viewing the day the video was released on Youtube, my five year old daughter asked me, “”Daddy, did they get married?” I asked her if she thought they did. “I hope so,” she replied, “They just looked so happy together.”

How can one argue with that? Perfect words for a wordless story.

The Golden Entertainer

Courtesy wallyboag.com

Disney’s Press Release: Guests visiting Disney Parks in 2013 will find an extra sprinkling of pixie dust each week with “Limited Time Magic.” At DisneylandResort, those limited-time events include a special tribute to the classic “Golden Horseshoe Revue” beginning Jan. 10. “A Salute to the Golden Horseshoe Review” will play for four weeks, with shows every Thursday through Monday from January 10 through Feb. 4.  Inspired by the world-famous Frontierland show enjoyed by Walt Disney, “A Salute to the Golden Horseshoe Revue” will be an homage to those fun-filled, family-friendly musical variety shows of the past. Hosted by Miss Lily and her Saloon Girls, the show brings together favorite song and dance numbers such as “Hello, Everybody,” “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” “Belly up to the Bar” and “Can-Can.” Guests may reserve a seat at the show by requesting a reservation at the Golden Horseshoe entrance on the date of the selected performance. Tickets for the preferred show time will be issued based on availability.

Hello, dear readers and fellow DisNerds! Few words in this post today, as I have chosen instead to let a legendary performer’s talent speak for itself.

Wally Boag, one of the stars of the Original Golden Horseshoe Revue (Along with Betty Taylor, Donald Novis, and later, Fulton Burley along with many others), was, to say the least, one of a kind. Although I was never blessed to see the man perform at the Horseshoe, I consider myself a fan of his high energy and incredibly funny style. Known for physical comedy (pratfalls, balloon animals, spitting out “teeth” after being decked by Ms. Taylor), his comedy translated well onto record as well, evidenced by the Walt Disney Records release of Slew Foot Sue’s Golden Horseshoe Revue. No matter how many times I listen, I still crack up at his delivery of “When they operated on father, they opened mother’s male.”

To my understanding, in the current tribute running at Disneyland, there is no “Boag-esque” part of the show. This is not a disservice; instead it’s a testimony to how amazing the man was in the roles he played. As well, there is another tribute to the man that has stood the test of time:

Jose, aka Herr Schmidt, who has no hair!

As I stated earlier, instead of going on about my admiration for a performer such as Wally (you can find more information on the performers life and achievements here), I’d let his work speak for itself. Not with a video from the Revue, but instead from an early appearance on the original Mickey Mouse Club. Note how he’s not “Wally Boag from The Golden Horseshoe,” but instead, “Wally Boag, the balloon man from Disneyland.” I know I wouldn’t have minded the honor of my very own Boagaloon!

Thanks for reading, and see you next week with another new “Limited Time Magic” inspired post!

(Shameless plug: Confessions of a DisNerd is now on Pinterest – feel free to follow there as well!)

Disneyland Prep – Counting Down

If you haven’t noticed by now, my family’s a little nuts about Disneyland. Aside from the trip itself, one of our favorite times is the time when it starts getting close enough to have “countdown” activities.

 

4…3…2…1….. Blastoff!!!

 

In the past, we’ve done advent type calendars where the kiddo can put stickers on each day as we creep closer. We’ve had Disney-themed meals from an alfredo pasta resembling  the Countdown Chicken Fusili from Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port to freshly popped popcorn served in Disney souvenir bucket. We play games – the latest being a yard sale find of “The Magic Kingdom” board game. We watch Youtube videos of rides. We listen to music – the “Musical History of Disneyland” 6 CD set is practically memorized around our house!

And of course, there are movies. Videos that range from classic Disney films and shorts to old Disneyland television specials to home movies. After the little one goes to bed, my wife and I may put in something that wouldn’t hold the little girl’s interest, like a documentary or opening day coverage (I know what you’re thinking, but our daughter is four – I’m sure she’ll appreciate it someday!).

As our next vacation is rapidly approaching, I thought over the upcoming days, I’d share Disney related activities we’ve done here on the blog. Whether it be music that catches my ear and inspires me to write about it, movies that I watch that inspire thoughts, or activities that inspire a story I think you might enjoy, I’ll share it here.

I hope you enjoy and have fun reading – if signal permits, maybe I’ll even be able to share pictures from the park once I’m there!

Until then, I ask you, fellow readers: Do you do anything special to countdown the days until your Disney trip? If so, I’d love to hear what you do in the comments below!

Happy Birthday to a Timeless Voice

If I had to choose one song in the Disney library to hear for the rest of my life, it would be Leigh Harline and Ned Washington’s  “When You Wish Upon a Star.” The lyrics are incredibly moving, speaking to the hopeful child in all of us: if you wish it with all your heart, and of course on a star, your dreams can come true. The melody fits perfectly as well – one is soothed in the belief that, for at least the three plus minute duration of the song, everything is going to be wonderful. The songwriters did an amazing job, and “When You Wish…” has been covered by countless musicians, both lyrically and instrumentally.

However, the original version is the one that remains with me. It’s the version that still plays in the walkway to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland. It still makes me slow my pace as I walk through, because I hear that voice, and feel… home.

That voice. Belonging to one man: Cliff “Ukelele Ike” Edwards.

The Man…. The Cricket… The Legend

On this day (June 14th) in 1895, Cliff Edwards was born in Hannibal, Missouri. Before he was known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket, as well as Jim Crow in Dumbo, and his appearances on The Mickey Mouse Club in the 50’s, he was a well known vaudevillian, singer and actor. He was the first person responsible for singing this familiar little tune on the silver screen:

Life, sadly, was not kind to Ike. Despite his resurgence as a voice fixture with Disney, he was also a drinker and drug addict with many financial difficulties, a grim reminder that dreams in the real world didn’t always come true. When he died, penniless and unknown in 1971, his body lay unclaimed for several days; no one knew who he was.

I’m hoping that today, many of you, dear readers, will remember and spread the word of who he was: A man who touched the world with his voice. Although his face may not be recognizable, any time you watch Pinocchio or Dumbo; whenever you think “I’m No Fool” as you cross the street; as you pass under Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, I hope you remember Ukelele Ike.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Edwards. Your life on Earth was not always the easiest, but your voice helped define generations of Disney lovers around the world. For that, we are eternally grateful.

A Thank You Note

Lately, I’ve been looking back, trying to figure out where exactly all of this DisNerdia “clicked” into place for me. I’d been a relative fan of it all my life, loving it as a kid, trying to be “cool” in junior high and not let that love show around the other kids in class. I remember seeing The Little Mermaid shortly after it was released on video, and thinking to myself, “This isn’t bad – for a kid and girl movie.” So what brought me out – what made me truly embrace the nerd within when it came to all things Disney?

Was it a movie?

Was it music?

Was it a person?

As it turns out, it was all of the above, combined into one experience, dating back to my sophmore year of high school. And I wonder if the person involved in this ever realized his actions and words had such a profound effect.

Brian and I were both involved in performing arts in high school, having been in a few shows together and in the same choir class. We knew each other, but in all honesty, that was about it. Then, there was a movie poster that changed everything:

Walt Disney’s Fantasia was going to be released into movie theaters for a limited 50th anniversary run. Last time I had seen Fantasia I was about 8, and, aside from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I remembered little from it. Yet I did want to see it again. Brian put sign ups in the choir room so we could go as a group, and I signed up. As it turned out, not too many people signed up, and it was in question whether the outing would happen. Being 15 years old at the time and having no transportation, I was prepared to not be able to go, but Brian offered me a ride to the other side of town to go see it. I must admit, I felt a little out of place on that car trip, not really knowing anyone all that much on our way across town, feeling a bit like a charity case being taken along for the ride. But it would all be worth it.

Seeing something as innovative and mind blowing as so many of the sequences were on a big screen blew me away. The idea of classical music providing the backdrop for some pretty stunning images (it still amazes me how well early hand-drawn animation has held up over the years) left me pretty speechless. I fell in love with the movie, the accompanying music, and really rekindled my appreciation for the Walt Disney Company as a whole.

The final segment, “Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria,” still amazes me with its contrasts of good and evil, chaos and peace.

In Brian, I found someone who shared this appreciation, someone I could talk about the newest releases and soundtracks to, as well as discuss company history and love of theme parks with. Beyond the realm of Disney, this actually helped me realize it was okay to like things some might consider “kids’ stuff.” It was okay to be my own person, with likes and dislikes apart from others. Brian and I kept contact through the years, even turning up (unbeknownst to each other) to the same group interview for The Disney Store. (For the record, we both ended up with part time jobs there!) We have since remained in touch and continue to be friends, one of our common bonds among many being our appreciation for Disney. It’s been nothing short of amazing to see our daughters have so many interests for things such as Disney movies, music and fields such as Imagineering!

This post stands as my thank you letter. To Walt Disney and Leopold Stokowski for envisioning Fantasia. To the Walt Disney Company for giving it a 50th anniversary theatrical release. And to Brian, for taking pity on a 15 year old kid and giving him a ride to the theater to see said movie. That small act of kindness meant more than you know in my life.

So, dear readers, do you have anyone to thank for your love of Disney? Parents, friends, teachers, relatives…even Walt himself? Take the opportunity to do so, whether by blog post, a note, or a salute to the “Partners” statue in Disneyland as you walk by.

And then…. feel free to pass that love on.

The Sherman Brothers: A Personal Tribute

(Note: Volumes have been spoken and written about the Sherman Brothers, both before and after the passing of Robert Sherman. This is my personal tribute to both brothers and the profound impact they had on my life. For a more comprehensive history, I highly recommend the movie “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story,” directed by (their sons) Jeff and Greg Sherman.)

When I was 16, I went on a choir trip to Disneyland. Before leaving, with a few extra dollars in hand, I made a decision to buy something that would affect me profoundly.

Now, obviously, I knew the music well, so it wasn’t the score that had such a profound effect on me. The last tracks of the CD contained an interview with Richard and Robert Sherman. As they reminisced about the making of the movie and the songs they wrote, Richard would occasionally play at the piano and they would both sing bits from the movie. The first time they started singing their songs, the world of the songwriter really opened up to me.

And I fell in love with the music of The Sherman Brothers.

The interview can be heard here:

Continued here:

Although I had grown up with Disney music since childhood and was aware of their songs, there was something that really clicked.  I found myself paying more and more attention to lyrics of songs, how well they worked within the films. It helped spur my appreciation for the newer works of Menken and Ashman, as well as classic tunes by the likes of Frank Churchill and George Bruns.

In a sense, I suppose you could say my love of Disney music can be attributed to (blamed on?) the Sherman Brothers.

Fast forward to the present. On the morning of March 6th, in the midst of a trip to Disneyland, I woke up to read the news: Robert Sherman had passed away at the age of 86.

Eighty-Six years is an extraordinary life – so many are given so much less – and longetivity and a full life are things to be celebrated. Yet, there was a profound sadness in Robert’s passing. And there was a definite air of bittersweet-ness in the fact that I was at Disneyland when I heard the news of his passing. It allowed my family to pay their respects while riding It’s A Small World. I rode through The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh saluting nothing in general as the music played. I did the silent nod toward the Tiki Room out of respects.

But perhaps the biggest moment came for me from the following story: My four year old daughter had been insistent that we go to Build-a-Bear in Downtown Disney that day; not so she could stuff an animal, but so I could. I told her I didn’t need one. I tried to convince her. Honestly, I didn’t want to spend the money on another plush animal. However, she was adamant, on the verge of tears, telling me that she knew I NEEDED a stuffed friend. Begging that I do it for me, not for her. Then inspiration struck. I agreed to stuff an animal for me, on the terms that I got to pick it out as well as name it. So with her help, I picked it out, stuffed it and named it.

That evening, Sherman the Dog got to pay his own respects in front of the Sherman Brothers’ window on Main Street, USA.

Thank you, Dick and Bob Sherman. Thank you for the music. Thank you for the interview that inspired at least one young Disney fan (and I’m sure there are countless more). Your relationship may not have been the greatest, but in your works…. it was magical.