Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ratatouille Premieres In France...

Wee wee...

Pixar premieres "Ratatouille" in Paris, France tonight.

The city that's the location for the film will host the French premiere on the banks of the Seine at Pont Alexandre III, Quai des Champs Elysees.

John Lasseter, supreme ruler of the Glendale Kingdom will attend. Director Brad Bird, CEO Bob Iger and Walt Disney Pictures Chairman Dick Cook will also attend along with a collection of famous chefs. Patton Oswalt won't be attending as he's not in this version. For the French version they ironically had to find someone... well, French. I guess we Americans aren't obnoxious enough, eh?


Old Ducks Just Fade Away...

After more than 30 years writing and drawing "Donald Duck" and "Uncle Scrooge" comic books, Disney Legend Carl Barks retires from creating the books on this day in 1966. Although most fans of the comics don't yet know who draws those wonderful stories, over the next few years a large following begins to build.

Carl Barks didn't realize how influential he was with his Disney tales until well into the late 70's and early 80's. Always the humble man, he reflects back on his stories with surprising modesty.

We will not see another talent like his in Disney comics until the 90's gives us Don Rosa... known affectionately to some fans as "the lost son of Carl Barks"(more on him in a later post).

Friday, June 29, 2007

Make Reservations, The "Ratatouille" Is Delicious...


Nothing else to say, but go...

Go now.

Go see Pixar's "Ratatouille".

It's out...

it's by Brad Bird...

it's great.

It's a feast for animation lovers. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Great Big, Beautiful Tomorrow...

Well, as you can see...

There are two things I want tomorrow. "Ratatouille" opens in theaters and I want to go see it again.

The other is the iPhone.

I want one! I know it's a first generation product and I'll probably wait for the iPhone 2.0 which will have more features, cost less and have better coverage... but I still want one. It really is nice to have the largest share holder of the Walt Disney Company be such a marketing genius, isn't it? Imagine with Steve Jobs on the Board what the future holds for the Mouse?

I can think of a few things, but they'll have to wait for a future post...

Everything "Relative" to Ratatouille...

Tomorrow "Ratatouille" opens. I figured for any fence sitters I'd post the links to some media to check out so as to try and persuade you:

There's the 9 minute clip that shows the incredible heart this film has.

There's the two rough animation tests they did called “Emile’s Workout”.

There's a lot of images from the film you can get if you want to as well.

And then "You Tube" has an official site for the film with a whole lot more videos on it.

Last, but certainly not least is this article on Brad Bird in the Hollywood Reporter which is all about what an amazing genius he is.

Now if this doesn't convince you to go see this movie... please leave your address so Brad Bird can send some goons to beat the living crap out of you! Hehe...

Seriously, go see this movie. It's great.

First Sighting Of The Black Pearl...

On this day in 2003, Michael Eisner and the other Suits from the Team Disney building had the premiere of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl" at Disneyland.

The movie that the executives tried to kill TWICE goes on to make 654 million worldwide... and then they loooooooooved Johnny Depp. Eisner tells the media that there will be no more movies based on theme park rides.

On that note: The first draft of the "Jungle Cruise" script should be turned in to the Suits at the Team Disney building this fall...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pixar's Lucky Charm...

If you're a fan of Pixar then most of you know that one voice is familiar through all eight of their films. With all the success that they've had as an animated studio the one thread that binds them, with the exception of John Lasseter is the actor that has played a part in each film...

John Ratzenberger.

Those of you that have a good knowledge of Pixar's films will remember him as:

Mustafa in "Ratatouille"
Mack in "Cars"
Underminer in "The Incredibles"
Fish School in "Finding Nemo"
The Abominable Snowman in "Monster's Inc."
Hamm the Piggy Bank in "Toy Story 2"
P.T. Flea in "A Bug's Life"
Hamm the Piggy Bank in "Toy Story"

He's Pixar's Lucky Charm, so to speak...

Born in April 6, 1947 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. John spent a good deal of his early life in small roles that most people would not know about. He was in "Gandi" but they dubbed his voice. He was buried alive in "Creepshow" and how many people remember him as a Rebel Soldier in "The Empire Strikes Back" named Major Bren Derlin? He had one line in that iconic film about shutting the shield doors for the night.

It was cut...

He spent many years in England where he became known for his stand-up with the English improvisational troupe "Sal's Meat Market". One day when he was in Los Angeles, John's agent called and told him to go audition for a role on a pilot that takes place in a bar. He went in and the reading didn't go over very well. The Producers of the show thanked him for his time and he started to leave. Right as he was about to walk out of the room he paused, turned around and asked the Producers:

"Do you have a bar know-it-all?"

To which they said: "What?" He told them, every bar he's been in has some person that rambles on like they know everything and then he proceeded to pick up objects around the room and make up ridiculous stories about their origin. The Producers laughed and thanked him for his time. He left thinking that he at least entertained them to make up for the really bad audition. A little while later he got a call. The show he auditioned for had created a part for him based on his "stick", the little routine he performed for them. And thus, Clifford "Cliff" Clavin was born. The show was "Cheers" and the rest is history.

In the early 90's when John Lasseter was looking for distinctive voices to fill the characters of Pixar's first film "Toy Story" he chose John because of his distinctly sounding voice and for the second time, the rest is history. John is a firm believer in Pixar's philosophy. "GM could learn a lot from Pixar's business model." He's been quoted as saying. He still is very close the folks up in Emeryville as his is one of the Pixar softball team. In fact, he had refused to play in "Toy Story 3" when offered the part by Disney unless Pixar was involved.

John is very active in the pro-ecology movement, having founded a company called Eco-Pak, a conservation minded packaging firm. He's still very active in doing voice work and does countless commercials, some even as know-it-all, Cliff Clavin.

John now hosts a series on the "Travel Channel" about things made in the USA called "John Ratzenberger's Made in America".

Oh, and he has a small part in a new "little" movie that comes out next year called "Wall-E"...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Remembering Happy Birthdays...

Today also would be the day that one of Walt's original "Nine Old Men" was born. Wolfgang "Woolie" Reitherman who went on to animate many Disney classics as well as direct several others like "The Sword In The Stone" or had a tremendous influence on a wonderful film like "The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh" came upon this earth on this day in Munich, Germany. Thankfully, his family immigrated to America and settled in California... and we're all the better for it.

Woolie, you are missed...

Summer Reading...

It's summertime and like everyone, I'm doing a little reading on my road trip. If you're a Disney fan like myself and really enjoy finding out more about Disneyland, Imagineering or just plan even a little Disney trivia may I suggest you go over to Mouse Clubhouse. It's a really great website ran by Scott Wolf. There you can read his great collection of interviews that he did with Marc Davis, Dave Smith and several other Disney Legends.

Go have a look, check out the interviews and thank Scott for being kind enough to put all his interviews online for us all to enjoy.

Monday, June 25, 2007

In Memorium: Piglet

Just one day after Paul Wincell passes away, actor John Fiedler, the voice of Piglet passes away at the age of 80. Winnie The Pooh will miss him greatly...

Though shy and timid, he, like his character will live on in the hearts and minds of children the world over.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Will The Princess Be Real?

Just a small note before I head out the door...

At a press junket for Brad Bird's new movie "Ratatouille", IESB's Robert Sanchez tried to find out more about "Princess Of Mars"... particularly if it would be live action or animated?

He got the answer.

It will be both.

Both? Pixar will use live action and animation to bring the chronicles of John Carter to life. So it appears we may see human actors appearing along animated creatures and enviroments. No word yet as to who would be directing it... although sources seem to lean toward Andrew Stanton being the most obvious prospect.

Also of note, Brad Bird confirmed that he was indeed working on 1906 as his next project.

The Journey Is The Reward...

Posting will be light over the next couple of weeks as I'll be off on a road trip seeing as much of this great country as I can, speed limit permitting, of course.

If you see a guy driving along with the sun-roof open and a pair of Mouse-Ears peering out... wave, it may be me! Seriously, I'll post some over this time, but not near as much as I have lately. I'm going to be too busy taking photos and enjoying a much needed break from dealing with certain people that always demand deadlines(you know who you are!).

Updates will resume normally in July...

In Memorium: Tigger

On this day in 2005, Paul Wincell, the voice everyone knows as "Tigger" passes from the earth. He was 82 years old. He made his debut as Tigger in "Winnie The Pooh and the Blustery Day". My favorite of the three shorts that make up the movie "The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh" which won the Oscar in 1968 for Best Animated Short.

He will be remembered.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Blue Sky Alert-America (Anaheim): Tremors...

Remember that movie, "The Lord of the Rings" Where they mentioned One Ring to rule them all? Well it's starting to appear that this Ring wasn't made for the Dark Lord Sauron... but more for the Bright, Optimistic Lord John Lasseter. He's become very powerful... and he's got a lot of friends that add weight to that power. Friends like Steve Jobs, his old employer and the largest single stock holder in the Walt Disney Company. Like his partner Ed Catmull who is like the other side of the coin when it comes to running the animation departments. Like Dick Cook, the head of Walt Disney Pictures, who has tremendous respect for John. And then the main man himself, Bob Iger. He may be Uncle John's boss, but he respects him and has given him a wide degree of latitude when restructuring much of the company.

I'm sure if you're a Disney fan then you've already heard that the parks each have a new master. A very good idea that the powers that be have come up with to "guide" each park and make sure someone is looking out for it. This happened before in DAK with Joe Rohde, but nowhere else in the resorts. Until now.

Tony Baxter is in charge of Disneyland and will be concentrating on maintaining the high quality that has become the norm since Pressler left and Matt Ouimet took over. There are a few projects that he wants to get to work on, but that will be the focus of another update later this year. This update will mainly be on DCA.

Now, Tony may be in charge of Disneyland, but who is in charge of Disney's California Adventure you ask? Those of you that follow Imagineering will recognize his name...

Bob Weis.

Those that don't know his name... shame on you! Bob is a great Imagineer. He left the company several years ago after tiring of having to deal with Eisner and Pressler on so many projects that died of neglect or downright murdered by Eisner and his Polit-Buro style of managing creativity. Bob is the designer of Disney-MGM Studios Paris and NO that is not what is built next to Disneyland Paris right now. Bob's version would have been bigger and much grander than our very own in Orlando. Think of it as a steroid version of what Florida got. The crushing financial disaster that EuroDisney became destroyed any chance of seeing this park come about. The park we got was a small, hodge-podge of decide by committee concoction the Suits came up with. But I digress, Bob also was responsible for the "Disney's America" project that was a labor of love for Eisner until the company made so many political missteps that this park died under the weight of it's own complications. Bob was lured back to WDI with promises of much more control than he'd previously had and Lasseter's pitch apparently worked. It takes a lot to get a man to leave a company he started(Design Island) that still has several projects in development. Now, if I can just get Lasseter to do the same with the Kirks and their Kirk Designs, Inc... then I'd be in Imagineer-Geek heaven! But back to the business at hand. This was an important week at Team Disney Burbank...

The meetings have happened. The proposals have been proposed. Now comes the decision. Oh, what a decision. There are major changes happening in the resort that started it all. The Earthquake has happened and now the tremors begin...


Tremors that will be felt all the way through the Anaheim Resort. "The Happiest Place On Earth" will be even happier...

Well it appears Al was right about the high end of the proposals. Well over a billion for the "high-end" proposal. Almost a billion and a quarter for the top price for this expansion or reboot as some are calling it.

Most likely, it appears that Iger will give a lot of weight to Lasseter's arguments for addressing the flaws of the park. Maybe not all his arguments, but most of them. We probably won't see the high-end, but far more than anyone expected will be allocated to DCA. Much, much more.

And you know what the great news is? I'm just talking about DCA... this has nothing to do with the lovely, new hotels that will be added or any attraction that is currently being built. This budget has NOTHING to do with any of those. All this money will be directed towards totally new attractions and theming. And that's a lot of theming my friends. Amazingly cool theming...

The proposed plans for the park are much more than I could ever have imagined. The designs for Paradise Pier will simply turn that area into a gorgeous detailed Disney theme that draws on the best parts of the past. This will be "the" area to go to in this park. The early "Mictorian" feel of Del Coronado or the Grand Floridian will give you the essence of what to expect. The designs I've seen remind me of the artwork Dan Goozee created for the Plaza Inn section of Disneyland Paris. This will also be the first section done when the "Wonderful World Of Color" water show premieres in 2009.

That's not to say that the rest of DCA won't be getting the layered treatment. Almost everything will get some form of "plussing". And this new plan will not end when DCA celebrates its 10th anniversary. This is a decade long plan. A very well thought out plan. One that includes an incredibly different entrance. One that evokes old Los Angeles, lots of lush trees and greenery. Bye, bye plaza... hello Hollywood! Like walking back into the world Walt encountered during his early years in LA. One might expect to find Clark Gable or the Marx Brothers walking around in front of you. It brings up that kinda feel. Main Street USA will finally have some competition across the Esplanade.

I can truly say that if Lasseter's vision gets approved, and there's a very good chance it will, DCA will be one of the most lavish Disney resorts... transformed from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan within the next decade. These plans are big and bold. There's talk of expanding the park to where it can handle almost as much as the current Disneyland's capacity. There are many in WDI that are on pins and needles just waiting for the approval of these designs so they can get to work on turning this park into a Disney jewel.

Those of you that have been impatient for news should be rewarded very soon. There should be announcements as to the focus of the resorts made public within the next few weeks. That's right... unless Disney gets cold feet about making it public... the news should be going out over the airwaves by end of summer at the latest.

Now as for the rest of the resort. Those stunningly beautiful hotels and that expansion of Downtown Disney? Well that will have to come in an update sometime in late July.

Till next time...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ratatouille World Premiere Tonight...

"Rats! Rats! I keep seeing that rat!" - Chef Skinner

And now the world will start to as well...

The world premiere of "Ratatouille" is tonight at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. If you love Pixar, easily star-struck and are near Hollywood Blvd, go check out the spectacle... most of the films stars will be there.

Patton Oswalt, Janeane Garofalo, Brad Garrett, John Ratzenberger, Lou Romano, Peter Sohn, celebrity chef Thomas Keller, Julius Calahan, Jake Steinfeld, producer Brad Lewis and of course, writer and director, not to mention brilliant, Brad Bird will be there.

The stars start to arrive around 6 and the movie starts at 7. I'm sure all the shows will have coverage of it Monday...

Rescuers Came Today...

On this day in 1977 Walt Disney Production released "The Rescuers". A bright spot in the cloudy sky of 70's Disney animation.

The story of a pair of mice from the Rescue Aid Society who receive a message in a bottle from an imprisoned orphan. Bernard and Miss Bianca go on an adventure into murky swamps to find the little girl held captive by evil, treasure hunters. Bob Newhart's performance as the understated Bernard is a pleasure... especially when matched with Eva Gabor as Miss Bianca an upper-class, socialite mouse. Wolfgang Reithermana (Sword in the Stone, Jungle Book) co-directed this film with John Lounsbery (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh) and it's a real charmer. With a classic Disney villain by the name "Madame Medusa" played superbly by Geraldine Page.

As a note, originally the animators were going to bring back "Cruella de Ville" before deciding to create a totally new villain.

Getting The Word Out...

I guess Disney's trying to get the word out that it's no longer called "Walt Disney Feature Animation". A friend sent me this ad from the Annecy Animation Festival's program. I guess they want everyone calling it "Walt Disney Animation Studios" and to stop using the acronym: WDFA.

Now that you've got the memo... remember it or Ed Catmull will come put some hurt on ya!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Glendale Kingdom's Influence Grows...

This is sort of a follow-up to my "John Lasseter's Glendale Kingdom" article. If you remember I mentioned Uncle John's growing influence within the Walt Disney Company. How he's slowly taking all the creative parts that involve animation and the parks and is consolidating them on the campus in Glendale where he'll have more control over them.

My post about John Lasseter's grip over DisneyToons tightened more on Tuesday. Sharon Morrill stepped down from her position as head of DisneyToons. As one source told me in an e-mail: "Ding dong, the witch is dead". Clearly, there was bad blood between the animators and some of the Suits. But Morrill was not liked by my sources... in fact, some of the words they used to describer her are very "un-Disneylike".

Even Jim Hill is reporting the demise of the Sharon Morrill after 13 years of what one animator described as: "making lots of money while raping it's classic characters". This spells the end of the "cheapquels". From now on Alan Bergman will control DisneyToons with a LOT of influence from Uncle John and Ed Catmull. Maybe we'll start to see this division make a great deal of money without having to pimp the classics.

Bob Iger is clearly showing a great deal of respect for the Creatives. It's so refreshing to have an executive who doesn't have to always BE the spotlight. He understands that if he just gets out of the way... Great things are possible.

Now that's what I call influence.

Stitch Lands, Esmerelda Dances, Roger's Framed & Dorthy Returns...

For some reason June 21st was used to either premiere or release a lot of Walt Disney Films... for instance:

Lilo and Stitch, Walt Disney Pictures 41st animated feature and the last truly great hand drawn film it has made, opens in America in 2002.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the 34th animated film goes into wide release in 1996. The film marks a darker tone in story and is considered by Roy Disney a mistake and shouldn't have been adapted as an animated feature.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit premieres at Radio City Music Hall in New York City in 1988. This combination "LIve Action/Animated" film marks the first time characters from several different companies (Disney, Warner, MGM, Republic and Turner) were seen together. It also is the primary reason Steven Spielberg stops working with the Walt Disney Company after becoming frustrated with Michael Eisner's abrasive personality.

Return to Oz, is released in America in 1985 to lukewarm box office. The film is a combination of several of L. Frank Baum's Oz novels which, coincidentally are all owned by Disney with the exception of "The Wizard Of Oz".

There must be something special about that day... hmmm?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Prince Of Persia: Blue Sky Script Review...

Prince of Persia: The Sands Of Time

Written by Jordan Mechner, revisions by Jeffrey Nachmanoff.

This is the script for the film based on a video game that Jerry Bruckheimer is going to produce with Michael Bay directing.

As many of you will remember if you've read this blog regularly, I posted about the review of the script for POP that "" did a week or so ago.

Imagine my surprise when a copy of said script arrived on my doorstep in a manila envelope marked: "Top Secret"... ok, ok... that's a little bit overly dramatic. Let's just say I have connections that have connections and someone sent me a copy of this. Now for my review of the script:


Really big, wow...

This is going to be an EPIC movie. Think of it as "Gladiator" set in the world of "1001 Arabian Nights" with a little of the time travel from "Back to the Future" thrown in. Michael Bay has the Herculean task of casting, filming and completing this Arabian adventure in less than two years. We should be hearing about casting soon if this one is to meet its release date.

As I said before, I'm not a fan of the game so I don't know how faithfully it was followed. Now...

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the story of Dastan, a twenty-something handsome Prince of a large Persian empire during the 9th century. Dastan is noble and wise for his age. His ambition is to make something of himself so that he may honor his father. In otherwords, he wants glory, not gold. He has three Prince brothers: Farhad and Farhan, two older twins who are politically conniving out for treasure and power and the oldest, wise brother named Tus, the heir to the throne of their father, King Shahraman. And then there is Nizam the Royal Adviser... a very "Jafar-like" role.

Anyway as you know if you've read the "Latino Review" article... the story starts with a huge Persian army and the introduction of Dastan. His intro is very much like Indiana Jones in Raiders where we see him from behind as we focus on the others around him. He's waging a gambling game with some of the warriors. These warriors don't yet know he's a Prince. We're shown in these scenes the character of Dastan and he is no typical pampered prince.

The story establishes there have been a great many battles waged and we see them torturing a prisoner to find out how their enemy is getting weapons. Listening to the pleading screams of the prisoner, Nizam tells the Prince what he interpreted during the interrogation. The ancient city of Alamut has been supplying weapons to the enemy.

A huge battle takes place as the army lays siege to Alamut. This is the part of the story where Latinoreview talked about the Parkour fight, which was a great scene, but from his description I expected more. It's here that we are introduced to the female lead, Princess Tamina, a lovely vision of beauty and intelligence. Think of her as an Arabian Princess Leia. As the city falls she hides as a slave girl. There's a scene with a fight between Dastan and a guard where he(Dastan) accidentally kills the guard and finds a beautiful dagger on him. Tamina sees him with the dagger and takes him for a common thief.

She plots to get the dagger back... why? We don't know but obviously it holds some power... why else would she want it so badly? As they are leaving the city, Tus decides to stay behind and find the hidden weapons that Alamut has been giving to their enemies. The three other brothers head back to greet their father the King and tell him of their victory.

At the King's palace, a grand banquet is being held in his honor. His guest(all male) are gathered in a grand room. It's here that Dastan sees the attractive Tamina, captive and forced to serve food to the gathering. He flirts with her, thinking she is but a beautiiful slave-girl. Dastan brings the King a present, a beautiful robe. Touched, his father tries it on. We can see that the King has a special relationship with his father. Something happens, smoke begins seeping from the robe. The King is starting to feel hot and then screams as the robe attaches itself to the his body, literally burning him to death. Everyone immediately thinks Dastan has killed his father and arrest him. Confused at what has happened, Dastan breaks free and flees. As he's trying to get out of the palace he winds up coming face to face with the slave-girl Tamina again who helps him escape.

Hiding and on the lamb, Dastan plots a way to find out who's responsible for killing his father. It's while with Tamina that Dastan discovers the power of the dagger. It literally bends time and goes backwards, all the while the person holding it notices what's going on. Traveling with a large group of Gypsies that they've hooked up with Dastan and a distrusting Tamina attempt to get back to the city of Alamut. Dastan must confront his brother, clear his name and avenge his father.

We just passed the halfway point... about 80 pages into a 128 page script. The story is quite epic as you've read if you took a look at Latinoreview's synopsis of it. It's a fun read. A grand adventure, I imagine this will be a great summer tent pole for Walt Disney Pictures.

The characters are well rounded and fully dimensional. And although it's nothing we haven't seen before, with the right actors it could be a great film. I pictured Adrian Grenier from "Entourage" as Dastan. He would be perfect casting. If Salma Hayek or Penelope Cruz were about ten years younger either one could play Tamina, but it'll have to go to some new Hollywood actress... how about Rosario Dawson or Aishwarya Rai? I was half worried about a scene with a giant hour glass which is part of the game apparently. It works, I'm curious to see how Bay and Bruckheimer pull this one off. I don't know what revisions have been made to the script I have... Hollywood always likes to have revisions. How else is a Suit going to lay claim to a movie if it's a hit?

All in all a very good read. Although I must admit that I read "The Mummy 3" script last year and enjoyed it much more. Which makes me curious to see what Alfred Gough and Miles Millar are doing with the script for the "Jungle Cruise" movie. But all that said, "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" should be a great popcorn movie. With Bruckheimer at the top of his game and Michael Bay providing direction this could be the start of Disney's next big franchise.

We'll keep a watch on casting announcements and other news...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Disney Moves "Upscale"...

It appears Disney Consumer Products are taking the opportunity of the release of "Ratatouille" to expand into a more upscale market. The Washington Post has an article that talks to Disney Consumer Products Chairman Andy Mooney who waxes on about the strategy for merchandising "Ratatouille":

"Given that so much of the movie is set in a kitchen, it's fairly logical to go from there to a high-end collection,"

Did you like the movie? Well then, how would you like to have food from the restaurant in the movie:

"For the first time, Disney will offer red and white wines to compliment the film's backdrop, a five-star Parisian restaurant, as well as cheese platters, both from Costco Wholesale Corp."

Just like a short while ago Disney ventured into upscale furniture, now they're moving into expensive edibles:

"The upscale marketing push marks a different approach for the company, which for decades made its mark using the mass appeal of family-oriented movies, theme parks and related merchandise."

How do you like that? The Mouse is going to start selling goat cheese... I wonder if they will try to sell us ready to eat frozen dishes of "Ratatouille"? If so, I hope it looks and taste as good as it does in the film.

The New 2007 Model...

Lots of people have noticed it... I know I've seen it. When "Cars" came out last year and only wound up making 462 million that everyone declared it a disappointment. But in the last six months I've noticed more and more "Cars" merchandise. Every time I see a group of kids, I notice one of them having a "Cars" backpack, Lighting McQueen T-Shirt or shoes with the logo. It seems I wasn't just having a hallucination... wondering to myself "Did I like that movie more than I thought?".

Take a look in Variety today for a nice article about the booming market for "Cars" and how it's not just continuing... it's really in demand:

"While many refuse to rank "Cars" as Pixar maven John Lasseter's finest two hours, its merchandising campaign has become a global phenomenon. A year after the motion picture release, a sojourn to a local Toys R Us will reveal collectors -- boys to men -- on the prowl for the new shipment of Mattel-made die-cast miniatures, with the movie's extensive ensemble of characters yielding an endless array of product iterations (Dinaco Blue Chick Hicks, anyone?)."

It's kind of shocked the experts and perhaps Wall Street will now take a second look at this:

"Do you think anybody knew it would have these kinds of continual legs? No way," says the merchandising topper for a rival studio. "I've just been impressed. It's doing this without anything supporting it in the marketplace."

Over a year after the movie was out in theaters, "Cars" is expected to pull in 2 billion dollars for the Mouse this year... that's "Winnie the Pooh" sized numbers there people. Uncle John appears to be having the last laugh on those critics lamenting the disappointment that "Cars" was for Disney.

Money talks and those Wall Street critics are speechless... or perhaps they'll act like Mater and say: "Dat gumb!"

Mouse Traps...

There's an interesting article by Kevin Yee over on Miceage. He speculates about the Location Based Entertainment(LBE), not to be confused with Urban Entertainment Centers(UEC). The UEC are an example of what's currently planned in Japan with it's third gate. This will more closely resemble a theme park combined with a mall and theater setting. The LBE, from what I've been told is more of a hotel with value added entertainment added on. Basically this is Disney's attempt to get some of the vacation money people spend when travelling around the country where there aren't any Disney parks... essentially this is a "Mouse Trap". Jay Rasulo tends to think that if you're not going to go to a Disney resort then they can hopefully get you to stay at one of their hotels with Disney's added benefits. Exactly which cities he's planning for this was up in the air when I last heard... although the obvious candidates were New York, Chicago and a couple properties in other tourist hot spots. The whole thing boils down to money. How much will it cost the Mouse and how much the Mouse is willing to pay...

The article also talks about the MGM name changing drama that is still going on. Unless MGM has done an about face then trust me on this... A NAME CHANGE IS COMING. Now, it may not be Disney-Pixar... but it will be changing. There are contractual obligations here that simply can't be overlooked. Nothing is set in stone, but some of my contacts hinted about a fall announcement(read: October/November). What it would take for MGM to give it's blessing to keeping the name would be more than Disney is willing to give in my opinion. Things are really fluid at the lot in Burbank right now. It's a strange time... but one with positive signs. The "Creatives" actually have more say at Team Disney than they've had in a long time. There are still too many Suits that want their fingers in the pie, but for a change the Creatives are being treated with a little respect.

Time will tell...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Walt Disney "Most Respected" Artist...

The BBC News has an article showing a poll about asking people who is the artist they most respect.

Walt Disney was the "Most Respected" artist among 18-25 year olds, and number four among all ages(Leonardo Da Vinci was number one... who's he? Just kidding.).

The Top Five Art Heroes (18-25) are:

1 Walt Disney
2 Peter Kay
3 Banksy
4 Leonardo da Vinci
5 Bob Marley

The Top Five Art Heroes (all ages) are:

1 Leonardo da Vinci
2 Bob Dylan
3 Andy Warhol
4 Walt Disney
5 Peter Kay

It shows what a lasting impression the "Old Maestro" has made forty years after his passing.

Mythic African White Ape Found In 1999...

Walt Disney Pictures 37th animated feature was released on this day in 1999. The Mouse's retelling of Edgar Rice Burrough's story of a white man raised in Africa by apes does well at the box office, but doesn't equal the earlier "Second Golden Age" films.

I've always enjoyed Disney's interpretation of Tarzan, but felt like it was incomplete. There was something missing from it's story and the film's ending felt rushed. Buy hey, that's me... it's actually one of my best friends favorite Disney films. So to each his own... lets celebrate Disney's Tarzan on its 8th aniversary.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Pirates Keep Finding Treasure...

Having been out 24 days, "POTC: At World's End" has amassed $820,757,000 globally. Of that, $547,000,000 or 66.6 percent of it's box office is overseas gross and $273,757,000 or 33.4 percent is domestic gross. By the time it's been out a month the take should be well over 850 million... not bad for a franchise that Michael Eisner almost killed. Twice.

By contrast, "Spider-Man 3" has taken in a total of $868,223,227... a little less than 50 million dollars more that Pirates. Johnny Depp's film may not overtake the webslinger but it could make it close. I know Jerry Bruckheimer is busy with "Prince Of Persia" and "The Lone Ranger", but there are already Mouse executives that are dropping hints about a fourth film. The good news is Johnny's said if the script is right, he doesn't mind a fourth or a fifth.

Somewhere a Suit wet his pants when he heard that.

Ratatouille: Blue Sky Movie Review...

Brad Bird is a genius.

I know, I know... I've said that before. Many times before I've mentioned how I think he's brilliant. I'm sure the only phrase I've said more on this blog is about how John Lasseter is possessed by the ghost of Walt Disney himself. But it's so true...

Brad Bird is a genius.

This film has everything we expect when we go and see a Pixar film. It's entertaining as hell. It's intelligent, never talking down to the audience. It's beautiful to look at.

Strangely, the movie it reminds me most of, "tonally" at least, isn't a Pixar film. I guess maybe because of the romantic atmosphere and all it reminded me of "Lady and the Tramp". It just has that feel... that lust for life.

I know that Brad took this over when it was deep in development when Jan Pinkava couldn't rap his hands around an acceptable story. They immediately asked Bird to step in and takeover the troubled project so it could still meet the targeted release date. Now under normal circumstances this would have turned out to be a disaster. This is Pixar and they are anything but normal. Bird took over, did a complete rewrite and the production team worked overtime to make up for the story problems.

And in a little more than a week, everyone will be able to see the results of Brad Bird's film for themselves.

Did I like it?

You're kidding, right?

Is it Pixar's best?

No, it's not.

It's a wonderful film though. If you'd ask me to rank Pixar films from favorite to least favorite I'd have to say...

# 1 The Incredibles
# 2 Toy Story 2
# 3 Toy Story
# 4 Finding Nemo/Ratatouille
# 5 A Bug's Life
# 6 Cars
# 7 Monster's Inc.

Now, don't anyone start to rag me because I ranked Monster's Inc. last... it's just the one I liked the least, but a Pixar film at its worst is better than most films at their best.

This film is filled with love and charm in every frame. We know five minutes in that we are going to have a great time. Bird really establishes the film from the get go. You're never bored, you're never not interest in the characters. The Pixar "Brain Trust" can clearly be seen working its magic. They know how to tell a story and Brad Bird knows how to weave a narrative plot-line like few can. The film starts out in the French countryside where Remy(Patton Oswalt) lives with his father, Django(Brian Dennehy) and their brood. We can see right from the beginning that Remy is different from all the other rats. Even his lovable brother, Emile(Peter Sohn) doesn't understand why Remy has to be different. Why he can't just accept a rat's position in life. But it's around Emile that Remy can at least be himself. Talk about his love for food. His desires to do more than rummage through trash for something to eat. After a tragically funny scene the Rats have to leave their home in the country and Remy gets separated from his family during the escape. Remy winds up in Paris after a long journey down a dank, dangerous sewer. It's hear that he finds his true calling. But in a city where food is elevated to an art, a rat is the last thing one thinks of when imagining great cuisine. A rat to food is like oil to water. Bird weaves the tale, putting Remy in a position where he finally has the opportunity he's waited for. Remy through a series of events winds up using the simple minded Linguini(Lou Romano) as his puppet as he sets about creating his cooking masterpieces. The nemesis in this story is the devious, short chef, Skinner(Ian Holm) who we delight in watching as he thinks he's going mad when he keeps seeing rats around his restaurant. I won't go any further into the plot... if you want to know more you need to watch it yourself.

If you're a fan of Pixar, animation or just good filmaking... when it opens on the 29th go and buy a ticket. It's a great way to spend an evening. Most films end and people leave quietly... at Pixar films they applaud... and then they tend to stay quietly. Respecting the credits of these talented people as they scroll up the screen. When the lights came up on the sneak preview I saw, I heard a lady behind me say: "That was worth twice what I paid for it". Her friends laughed and agreed... I couldn't help but think what word of mouth will mean for this film. At work on Monday will she tell everyone about it? If she does, her saying she'd pay twice as much for it will be priceless...


I remember Al Lutz over at Miceage mentioned a big meeting this week where Bob Iger will go over three different design plans that range from 700 million to 1.2 billion. Now, I don't know about those amounts, but he is right about a meeting this week. There have been several gatherings amongst the troops already. The "Big Meeting" is about to happen...

Uncle John and the Imagineers are supposed to present Bob what they think is the best focus for the Disneyland Resort and DCA in particular. From what I've heard, these are all pretty dramatic alterations of what DCA is right now. Once he looks them over he'll make a decision about what mix of the proposals he's willing to move forward with and ask the Board to approve the funding.

So all you people out there that keep whining about "When are they going to do something?"... well, you're about to get your answer. By the beginning of July the Walt Disney Company will be moving forward with a plan. Exactly what that plan is?

We'll know very, very soon.

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day!

Wish someone's dad a HFD everyone. If not your own, your friends, your uncles or even your dads! Wether you're having a traditional barbeque cookout, taking him to lunch, dinner, a nice relaxing game of golf or dare I say it?

Taking them to Disneyland?

Here's the one day we guys get a little respect around the house... who am I kiddin'? Hehehe...

Anyway, go out and show dear ole' dad a good time!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Critics Speak! And Audiences Start To Weigh In...

Even before the sneak preview tonight people are starting to tell us what they think about Brad Bird's latest film, "Ratatouille"...

What are they saying?

""Ratatouille" is delicious. In this satisfying, souffle-light tale of a plucky French rodent with a passion for cooking, the master chefs at Pixar have blended all the right ingredients -- abundant verbal and visual wit, genius slapstick timing, a soupcon of Gallic sophistication -- to produce a warm and irresistible concoction that's sure to appeal to everyone's inner Julia Child." Justin Chang, Variety

"By the end of the film, the audience was literally roaring with delight over the nimble twists the film navigates. I've been to early screenings where the free-ness and the excitement of seeing something early can make a crowd a little more enthusiastic than a film might actually warrant, but in this case I'll give the credit to the film itself. The crowd was applauding before the closing credits even started rolling." The New Cruelty, Ain't It Cool News Fan

"Brad Bird and Pixar Animation Studios are proving to be an unbeatable combination. Bird, the cartoon writer-director with delightfully off-kilter sensibilities, and Pixar, the cutting-edge computer-animation company that places so very much emphasis on character, have their second hit together in "Ratatouille," a follow-up to the universally popular "The Incredibles." Who would think a rat in a restaurant's kitchen would induce anything other than comic slapstick involving knives and cleavers flying in all directions? Yet Bird builds a comic world in which a rat can become a chef and food can take on an almost unbearable sensuality." Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter

"I’m floating around on a Pixar high this week after seeing "Ratatouille" for the first time, and the only bummer about my screening was that there was no trailer for "Wall-E"." Moriarty, Ain't It Cool News

"Everything Brad Bird touches turns to gold, so when Pixar’s Ratatouille faced production troubles Bird was brought in mid-stream to fix it. It worked. Ratatouille continues Pixar’s unbroken string of filmmaking successes" Josh Tyler, Cinema Blend

"I sadly can't tell you how I feel about RATATOUILLE... sniffle... I wish I could... I wish I could share with you the feeling I had watching this __________ ______ Movie!!!" Harry Knowles, Ain't It Cool News

"In my opinion, this film was probably the funniest Pixar film made yet. It had great animation, great voice acting, great creativity, and great everything else!!! This is the first Pixar film that I heard all of the audience laughing throughout the movie. Kids and adults of all ages were in attendance. My dad even said it was the funniest Pixar film yet." Jv Is Tiz, JV Pixar News

"This film is very magical in ways that not only the best of Pixar has brought us, but the best that Disney used to bring us. Great characters, fantastic animation, and a sense of love in creating a unique story for the cinema. The audience ate it up... literally - the ratatouille served upon entering the theater was quite delicious. This is what great family cinema can do... everyone in the theater from age 5 - "who knows" seemed to have a great time." The Brain Machine, Ain't It Cool News Fan

So far, I think people like it. Looks like Pixar has another hit on it's hands. I sure hope Uncle John can do for Disney what he's done this little company in Emeryville.

Interview With The Rat...

Over at Ain't It Cool News there's a really great sit-down interview with "Ratatouille" himself, Patton Oswalt. It's a really fun read about working on the film and Pixar in general. If you're a Pop-Culture Geek you'll really dig it. Word of warning though, it's a saucy interview so if you don't like four letter words that you'll never see in a "G" rated film then be forewarned.

Time On Iger...

There's a nice article over at Time Online that focuses on Bob Iger and his early stewardship of the Walt Disney Company. It's a pretty optimistic piece that rings all the right bells when talking about leadership.

"As his strategic goals are revamping Disney's business, Iger's loose-reins management style is breathing some air into the corporate culture. He abolished the Politburo-like strategic-planning unit that was created and run by Eisner, and encourages senior executives to be more entrepreneurial. Iger tapped Anne Sweeney, who runs Disney's television group, to negotiate the iPod deal with Apple and gave her the autonomy to close it in three days. While the Internet group rebuilt the Disney website, Iger made himself available as a sounding board but left them alone--until the one night when he personally delivered moral support, in the form of two cases of Red Bull. "My role is to create a vision and strategy and then lead people in the direction," Iger says. "But I allow them to get there on their own.""

I've alway believed in the saying: "hire the best people and get out of their way"... Iger is a refreshing breeze compared to the last two decades under Michael Eisner's leadership.

Thanks to "The Disney Blog" for the hat tip.

"Bear"ly Profitable...

On June 16th, 1961, Walt Disney bought the rights to a story about a little stuffed bear and the adventures he had with his human friend Christopher Robbins from the widow of the author, A.A. Milne. Although it was a few years before the company finally came out with it's interpretation, it was definitely worth it. It's rumored that the Mouse takes in over two billion dollars a year from this character in films, television and merchandising. Lawyers have become very rich fighting over the rights to this little fella. Both for and against Disney...

Winnie the Pooh may be a silly ole' bear, but he's a "money churning" silly ole' bear.

Pixar's Wall-E Teaser Up At Apple...

Well the trailer for Pixar's "Wall-E" is up at's Trailers website.


Very "Chaplinesque" if you ask me. I'm sure since it's Pixar the story will be well worth the price of admission.

Go have a look...

Walt Disney Seen With Tramp...

On this day in 1955, Walt Disney Productions premiered "Lady and the Tramp", it's fifteenth animated feature in Chicago. It was the first film Disney made in CinemaScope. A wonderful story filled with heart and romance, it's entertained audiences throughout the world for generations.

The world of eating spaghetti would never be the same...