Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Cory's Disney in Review 2016

It's that time again, closing out the year with my top fives for 2016! But what to choose from? Some of the things on my list might seem a bit odd, but you've undoubtedly figured out by now that my tastes can skew to the unusual. There is a rhyme and reason to it though, so let's go...

#1: The Jungle Book
If we ignore Maleficent and anything produced by Tim Burton, then Disney is doing really well with their live-action remakes of classic animated films. Last year's Top Five lead off with Cinderella in #1, and this year it is The Jungle Book. Beautifully realized for a film pushing the boundaries of what even qualifies as "live action" anymore, the greatest gift that it gave to the story was providing a genuine emotional heart. Both the original film and the original books just had a series of things happening to man and animal alike. Dwelling on the credo of the wolves provided an emotional heart that paid off very, very well. If Disney can keep it up, then I suspect that next year will be lead off with Beauty and the Beast.

#2: Shanghai Disneyland
Disney's newest theme park came in second place because until China throws off the shackles of dictatorship, I never plan on going there. However, it's full of all sorts of neat things that would be nice to see spread across other Disneylands. I don't even mind the movie-heavy Pirates of the Caribbean, because at least it was custom-built that way instead of just imposing Jack Sparrow on an otherwise perfect attraction. I'm uncertain about Mickey Ave. but I do like the more robust castle, the Tron coaster, expanded Peter Pan's Flight, and Adventure Isle.

Photo: Disney

#2: Disney Parks Present: The Haunted Mansion
I grant that the quiet release of a picture book may seem an odd choice after Shanghai Disneyland, but this is as much a vote of confidence in the series as for the book itself. In 2011, Disney put out a picture book based on It's a Small World, which printed the Sherman Bros. lyrics with art by Joey Chou and a CD of the song. Apparently it did well enough that Disney Parks went ahead, declared an official series of books, and inaugurated it with The Haunted Mansion. Another CD joins the art of James Gilleard and lyrics of X. Atencio. It's a wonderful way to celebrate the music of Disney Parks and a fond way to remember the rides and shows at home. I look forward to the inevitable Pirates of the Caribbean, Enchanted Tiki Room, and Country Bear Jamboree books!

#3: Camp Woodchuck
Can we just accept that I always pick offbeat things? Every time I've been in the US parks and seen anything to do with the Wilderness Explorers, be it in California Adventure or Animal Kingdom, I immediately think "tisk tisk, it really ought to be the Junior Woodchucks." And lo, Japan did provide a Junior Woodchucks based restaurant and meet-and-greet area! It's very well done, with tonnes of references to classic Disney, which is very pleasing, but I also like it for what it means. The Disney company itself seems to have a crisis of identity... An almost profound lack of faith in itself, leading to the imperial acquisition of IP after IP and proceeding to stuff those down everyone's throat. This past year I had a little outburst on one or another of Disney's Facebook pages exclaiming that I'm sick to death of hearing about Marvel and Star Wars. I'm a DISNEY fan dammit, and was one BEFORE they bought up these things. I just want DISNEY news. It was, of course, deleted by the moderators. Tokyo Disney doesn't seem to have this same problem, no doubt owing to the fact that the Oriental Land Company is licencing the Disney brand. They have very real faith in the strength of that brand and a clear apparent idea of what to do with its IP. They have an entire section of Tokyo DisneySea based on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and for several years have been running a Duffy-like merchandise promotion based on the black sheep from So Dear to My Heart. For real! And now there's Camp Woodchuck. Who knows, if the new Ducktales does well, maybe a version of it will come over to North America?

Concept art: Disney

#4: Moana
I was modestly looking forward to Moana, being an aficionado of Tiki and Polynesian culture, largely thanks to Disney. But I've also learned to be reserved in my expectations, especially after the trailers and clips I had seen before the film's debut. To be honest, I didn't think the music and dialogue in those clips was much to look forward to. Nor did "Made by the studio that brought you Wreck-It Ralph", that infamously being the only Disney film I've actually turned off a half-hour in, and having done so while on a plane. Yes, I decided that doing nothing while trapped on an airplane was a better investment of time than finishing Wreck-It Ralph. Thankfully, those songs and clips from Moana worked a lot better in context. It ended up being a decent little film with a Miyazaki-esque vibe to it that was very welcome to see from Disney. As is the case typically, I would rather have seen a movie based on the actual legends of Maui, just like I would have rather seen more straightforward adaptations of The Snow Queen (Frozen) or Reynard the Fox (Zootopia). For what it was, however, it was fine and it was good to see representation of Polynesians in a major Hollywood film.


Dishonourable Mention
Dear Once Upon a Time, exactly what do you think you're doing?! Fans of the ABC television series Once Upon a Time have long had to face up to the fact that Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz only really had a good, solid idea for one season, and have been running on inertia ever since. The first season was phenomenal, and while the second season wasn't as good, it still had some interesting characters and ideas. The show began morphing from a story about defeating the villains to a show about redemption. Season three fell into the silly fad of breaking a season up into two half-seasons, with varying degrees of success. Seasons 3a with Peter Pan and 4a with Frozen were actually pretty good, season 3b with the Wicked Witch of the West (played by the horribly miscast Rebecca Mader) was just awful, and seasons 4b and all of five were mostly victims of missed opportunities that could have benefited from full-season story arcs. Oh yeah, there was an unwatchable and forgettable spin-off series in there as well, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, that only lasted one season.

That brings us to the current mess. The Land of Unread Books Untold Stories plot has been a bust. It hasn't provided anything this season that ought to have been done or couldn't have been done another way. With the Underworld being evacuated at the end of last season, they could have easily brought characters like Lady Tremain or Captain Nemo back to life, maintaining the essential integrity of those episodes. They never should have done the Count of Monte Cristo, which did such a disservice to the character that it outright offended Ashley, who counts the Alexandre Dumas classic as her favourite book. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde could have just as easily, and more sensibly, come from the realm of Gothic Horror that they already established in season two, when they revealed Dr. Whale's identity. I've been dying to see them do more with that realm, from which they could derive Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, Dorian Gray, the Invisible Man, the Mummy, Dr. Moreau, Heathcliff, the list goes on. That would be a heck of a season. I guess we'll always have Penny Dreadful for that, which is an excellent series that knew when to quit.

The worst part of season six, though, is the unending, repetitive drama of the leads. They had a brilliant opportunity mid-season five to explore how Rumpelstiltskin rebuilds his life and redeems himself after being released from the curse of the Dark One. Nope. Nope, he's just the Dark One again, and now we have to deal with interminable drama between him and Belle. Nor do I care about the Charmings anymore. Haven't we really said everything about them that we need to at this point? The separation of the Evil Queen from Regina could be interesting if Regina was at all a different person with her evil part gone, or had any real insights into the nature of good and evil. Poor Captain Hook has now suffered the malady of Badass Decay. Not that the season has been without highlights, but the best part is getting the least attention, being the B-plot with Aladdin and Jasmine. Right now, the most entertaining part of Once Upon a Time is reading Lily Sparks' irreverent reviews.  

For for a writing a depressing rant to end off what is supposed to be a celebratory post, but this one has been brewing for a while, as one might glean from its length. So in the spirit of ending on a high note, I will mention one of the highlights from this season of Once Upon a Time: seeing the Nautilus again. Luckily, it's easier to be flexible with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea than with The Count of Monte Cristo. The latter is a very contextually specific book with a subtlety that can be missed if it's simply treated as a crude revenge story. For 20,000 Leagues, after decades of seeing Nemo and his creations in one movie after another, and speaking as a huge Jules Verne fan, all you really need to get right is the submarine. Thankfully Once Upon a Time chose to stick more or less with Disney's iconic design! Good job guys!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Top Five: Films by Land

December is the time for Top Fives... Last year we took a look at my top five favourite Disney parks and top five favourite attractions in each. This year, I'm doing something a little different. 

Disney's theme parks are, of course, built around their intellectual property. I've argued in the past that there has always been corporate synergy linking the company's film, television, and theme park products. In some cases, the connections are self-evident. Peter Pan's Flight is based on Peter Pan. Other cases may be more subtle.

The following is our list of the Top Five films for the five original lands in Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, and Disneyland Paris. Some of these films will be on the list because of a direct connection to an attraction. Others will be a more nuanced list of films from Disney's catalogue that did more to inspire or reflect the mood or setting of one of the lands. Either way, most of these are films we review in the months leading up to a Disney trip, just to get ourselves in the right mindset.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Walt's Era - Part 9: The Year of Fess Parker (1956)

We have hit something of a milestone with Walt's Era. For the first time in this series, an entry covers a single year and has no animated films. Fantasia was re-released on February 7th, but no new animated films came out in 1956. Of the four feature films that were released, all but one featured Fess Parker, star of Davy Crockett. The outlier was a True-Life Adventure.

A native Texan, Fess came into the Disney fold after Walt spotted his cameo in the classic Science Fiction film Them! He practically leapt off the screen as a pilot driven mad by the sight of gigantic, mutated ants, which appealed to Walt (who had been watching the film to check out lead actor James Arness for the role of Davy Crockett). Fess won the role of his career, and lead Davy Crockett into becoming a household name. Walt saw the makings of a legitimate feature film star, took him off television, and made him the company's #1 lead actor.

Fess Parker at a department store live appearance.

He stayed with the company from 1955 through 1958, when he and Disney had a falling out. In the mean time, he not only became the second most recognizable face of the company and helped to open Disneyland USA, but also had a series of LPs on Disneyland Records. Besides the storyteller and soundtrack albums for his films, he released Yarns and Songs in 1956 and Cowboy and Indian Songs in 1957. His irresistible folksy charm helped shape the company's image during the new Golden Age.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Story of Hina Kuluua

Outside the Enchanted Tiki Room, Hina Kuluua and Tangaroa-Ru work together to shower refreshing rain on the Edenic lanai. The plaque beside her attributes the happiness of the garden to her, for it is her mists that make orchids boom and rainbows shimmer. Her ability to do that, however, does not have so happy a story behind it.

The story of Hina Kuluua is bound with that of her mother, sisters and brothers. The greatest of her brothers is Maui, the same Maui who conquered the sun. Their mother is Hina, and of her sisters, the most relevant in Hina Keahi. The latter Hina is a goddess of fire and it was one of her exploits that led a jealous and haughty Hina Kaluua to her end. Their exploits were centred around the area known today as Rainbow Falls and the city of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. In the native tongue, the river feeding Rainbow Falls is called the "Wailuku," which means "Destroying Waters." As melting snow from the peaks of Mauna Kea and precipitation from the lush woodlands of Mauna Loa rush down to the sea, they whip up into such a torrent that rocks and trees can be pulled from their moorings and sent out to sea. In the airy cave behind the falls, Hina was said to have her home.

Rainbow Falls, Hilo, Hawaii. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

What the New Epcot Needs

At the recent Destination D convention, Disney Parks CEO Bob Chapek confirmed that the beleaguered Epcot would be undergoing the same massive revitalization process enjoyed by California Adventure, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland, and to a certain extent, Animal Kingdom. Imagineers have been instructed to "dream big" in these initial blue sky planning sessions, stating that it would be both "more Disney, timeless, relevant, and family friendly" while at the same time staying true to Epcot's original theme of education. 

Epcot, originally known as EPCOT Center, has long been a trouble spot for Walt Disney World. Designed as a permanent world's fair of culture and technology, it has faced the ongoing struggle to remain abreast of technological developments while suffering managerial ennui. Anyone who has been paying attention to Epcot's status in the last few years might even bristle at the statement that it needs "more Disney" or to be more "relevant" and "family friendly"... Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros may be my favourite current attraction in Epcot, but Frozen Ever After was a controversial addition to Norway and rumours have a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction planned for the future. In the wake of our honeymoon in WDW, we had to admit that we loved World Showcase but found Future World uninspiring to say the least.

Besides the shortsightedness of merely injecting franchises into the park to spike merchandise sales and cross-promote feature films, which is an interior challenge of managerial will, Epcot's biggest external challenge has been the rapid rate of technological advancement since 1982. Most of us go through two or more versions of a smartphone before Imagineering can run a new attraction through the planning and building process. That problem shows no signs of diminishing any time soon, which is why the best course for Epcot may be to circumvent it altogether by slightly altering the theme of Future World. That alteration, if I may be so bold, is to evolve beyond the theme of technological progress to feature scientific discovery in general. 

That slight alteration can expand the subject matter of possible attractions, unshackle them from keeping pace with new technology, and present a more unified theme for the entire park. The new Epcot could move forward as celebration of human accomplishment in the arts and sciences, a testament to the diversity of cultures, histories, and peoples in a multicultural, globalized society and the ongoing improvement of our lives through scientific discovery and technological development. It would present, in an entertaining and picturesque format, a comprehensive story about our "Spaceship Earth," its place in the cosmos, the people who live on it, and the forces shaping our modern world. Epcot could become a place that helps us to better understand quantum mechanics, theoretical astrophysics, and one another. It would be, as I said, a celebration of human diversity, curiousity, and ingenuity. In this respect, it could mirror Animal Kingdom, which already celebrates natural and culture heritage with a wide range of natural and cultural attractions.

Lots of people will come up with specific attraction ideas, and I'm no different.  Personally, I would appreciate a new version of Spaceship Earth that diminishes the Eurocentric, Post-Enlightenment biases of the original to include aspects of traditional Indigenous ways of sharing knowledge, thus presenting a more nuanced view that challenges guests with a broader view of the human story. Mission: Space could stay, but Communicore West could certainly be useful for an exhibit on space exploration with participation from NASA, the Smithsonian, Chinese National Space Administration, Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, Roscosmos, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or whoever. What about a new version of Adventure Thru Inner Space in Communicore East, talking about quantum mechanics? What about replacing the Universe of Energy with a more full-bodied and educational attraction about prehistory, including the creation of the Earth and the development of life, with a segment on the future, climate change, and the importance of allowing Earth's natural cycles to continue unhindered by human activity? How about kicking out Nemo and getting back to SeaBase Alpha? Disneynature seems like a more valid franchise to tie into Epcot than Pixar or Marvel. And what about adding a few more countries to World Showcase, especially non-European ones? I assume a new Journey into Imagination is a given. It's always worth remembering, though, that the idle speculations of us armchair Imagineers has nothing to do with the considerations that actual Imagineers have to make.

Such is my idle speculation, but I would be happy with Imagineers first taking a program in STEAM studies - Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math - and expanding Epcot to that celebration of human diversity, curiousity, and ingenuity in scientific progress and global cultures. That, I think, is more important than any particular widgets, geegaws, or recognizable movie characters, which is the atomistic thinking that got Spaceship Earth a giant wand and Hollywood Studios a giant hat, and got Animal Kingdom stuck with Avatar. It would become, and should become, the fundamental guiding principle of any development in Epcot. For this to turn out well, Epcot needs to have a good, solid, defined purpose and I can't think of a better one than to celebrate the story of humankind and its place in the cosmos.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

100 Disneyland Delights

Last weekend, the excellent Disneyland Dilettante blog celebrated the milestone of 100 posts. If you haven't been reading it, you really should check it out!

To celebrate, the Dilettante herself posted her "100 Disneyland Delights"... The simple things that she loves about visiting the Happiest Place on Earth. After exhorting her readers to give their own (and doing so), it inspired me to account for a full 100 of the little things, the simple things, perhaps the atypical things, that I love so much about Disneyland. These are in no particular order, and some of them might brand me as "THAT GUY! You're that kind of person who does that annoying thing!" but it is my (and partly Ashley's) list nonetheless.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Is Tiki "Cultural Appropriation"?

Short of the annual controversies over what are and are not appropriate Halloween costumes, there are perhaps few better candidates for accusations of "cultural appropriation" than Tiki culture. Today, Tiki is mostly a nostalgic niche interest, as evidenced by Disney's creation of Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar. Tiki bars are becoming increasingly numerous across the world, but have yet to enjoy the same cultural penetration that they did in the mid-century. Rather than an example of a vibrant, vital wind of Tiki blowing through society, Trader Sam's is a deliberate thematic element in their retro-Fifties refit of the Disneyland Hotel. Its thatched roof is only a stone's throw from a replica of the theme park's original sign from 1958. The origins of that mid-century milieu - of Tiki bars, tropical drinks, exotic Jazz, and "Polynesian Pop" - are shrouded in the ambiguities of colonial exploitation, tropical fantasy, artistic inspiration, and tasteless kitsch. Tiki culture grew out of America's relationship with Hawaii and the South Pacific, which was alternately a theatre of imperial occupation and deep cultural fascination. With that in mind, Tiki becomes an interesting laboratory to examine where the line is to be drawn between appropriation, appreciation, and acculturation.

Unlike my previous articles delving into potentially controversial subjects - Feminism and the Disney Princesses and Tropes vs. Men in Disney - where I refrained from tackling the thorny issues of feminist theory in-and-of-itself, the discussion over whether Tiki is cultural appropriation requires an examination of cultural appropriation theory. Much of the question over whether Tiki is appropriate hinges on whether cultural appropriation theory is actually valid.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Before Moana and the Enchanted Tiki Room: the Romance of Hawaii in the Golden Age of Travel

Tiki culture was largely a product of post-World War II leisure society, when soldiers who served in the Pacific returned home to build and benefit from an unparalleled economic boom. With more money and more time off than their parents could have dreamed of, reminiscing of faraway beaches and palm trees, Americans took to the road during ever lengthening vacation days while building oases for themselves at home during the off-season. Advances in transportation could bring them virtually anywhere, whether by America's developing system of highways (and old favourite byways like Route 66) or the flyways of the new Jet Age. With Cuba off-limits, an exotic, tropical destination was placed right on Americans' doorstep when Hawaii joined the Union in 1959. The fad for anything and everything evoking Polynesia, Oceania, even Africa and the Caribbean, exploded like an atom bomb, from Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room to Martin Denny's smooth Jazz to the ubiquitous at-home Tiki bar.

Americans had already been primed by Polynesian exotica for several decades before WWII. The roots of Tiki culture are found deep in the DNA of America's relationship with the Pacific, in the very first "exotic" bars that would become Tiki pioneers, in lavish Hollywood musicals, and in radio programs broadcast from the ballrooms of Hawaii's most glamorous hotels. Even Mickey Mouse took a Hawaiian Holiday in 1937, in Disney's first film distributed by RKO.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Walt's Era - Part 8: Disney's Greatest Year? (1954-1955)

What is Disney's greatest year?

Is it the year that they put out their best work? Their largest volume of work? Drew the biggest profits? Made the most arbitrary and shortsighted IP acquisitions? Is it even possible to measure such a thing as a "greatest year," or is it even necessary?

My own an emphatic answer to that original question is mid-1954 to the end of 1955. I'm measuring years the same way Disneyland does.

What Disney did on the big screen that year was substantive enough, including THE MIGHTIEST MOTION PICTURE OF THEM ALL. This period includes some of my personal favourite Disney films, having begun with The Vanishing Prairie (which I covered in our last installment). What really mattered, though, was what Disney was doing on the small screen and in a former Anaheim orange grove.

Building on the experience of The Reluctant Dragon and One Hour in WonderlandWalt Disney's Disneyland debuted on October 17, 1954. The introductory episode was pitch-perfect, introducing both Disneyland the show and introducing Disneyland the park as a shared conceptual space, tying them both together with Disney's feature films into a complete brand package. Walt makes his advertising pitch very entertaining, and follows it up with a quaint Mickey Mouse retrospective that really imbues him with character even as he is on the cusp of transitioning to full-time corporate icon (much like Walt himself). The remainder of the season is astonishing in its breadth and entertainment value: Alice in WonderlandSo Dear to My Heart, The Three Caballeros, The Wind in the WillowsTreasure Island, two behind-the-scenes advertisements for True-Life Adventure features, multiple veiled "advertainments" for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Lady and the Tramp, two theme park progress reports, Man in Space, From Aesop to Hans Christian Andersen, a Donald Duck anthology, and all three episodes of Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier, all culminating in the opening of Disneyland on July 17, 1955. For sheer entertainment and for hungry fans of Disney company history, this first season is pure gold. It's a shame that it has never been released on home video in its original broadcast version.

Photo: Disney.

On October 3, 1955, Disney took over the airwaves again with the debut of The Mickey Mouse Club. The last Mickey Mouse cartoon was The Simple Things, released in April of 1953. His star had been eclipsed by Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip and Dale. New characters had also emerged, like Humphrey the Bear and Ranger J. Audubon Woodlore, who were introduced by Donald in 1954 and starred in two shorts of their own in 1956. They were so prominent that they also featured in The Mickey Mouse Club's opening fanfare. Mickey was settling nicely into his new role as a mascot. The mouse ears sported by the Mouseketeers would become the must-buy souvenir at Disneyland.

Oh yeah, Disneyland opened too.

There isn't much that I need to say about the opening of Disneyland. By now, people should have known that when Walt Disney set his mind to something, he would tenaciously make it work.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The Story of Aladdin; or, The Wonderful Lamp

Where the story of Aladdin comes from is not known with any great certainty. One of the most popular tales from what are known variously as the One Thousand and One Nights, 1001 Arabian Nights, The Arabian Nights, or The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, it wasn’t included in the collection until a French edition translated by Antoine Galland in 1710. In fact, a number of the most popular and famous stories from One Thousand and One Nights, including Ali Baba and Sindbad, were not part of the original collection.

In its original shape, One Thousand and One Nights is a flexible anthology of Middle Eastern folk tales collected during the Islamic Golden Age. Between the 8th and 13th centuries CE, the Islamic world went through a period of tremendous cultural, scientific, and artistic advancement. This period was fluid, acting, reacting, and interacting with a variety of cultures. The preservation of Greek writings by Eastern Christianity and Christianity’s invention of concepts like the hospital and university helped develop the framework of the Islamic Golden Age, and extensive trade brought knowledge and ideas from the corners of Africa, India, and Asia. Knowledge also worked its way through the Middle East to these regions and to Europe, reintroducing Western Christianity to Greek philosophy. The story of Aladdin reflects this by making Aladdin himself a Chinese man (despite his distinctly Arabian name meaning "nobility of faith" or "faithful" and being specifically identified as a "Mussulman," which is an archaic term for Muslim) and the evil magician from North Africa. In the world of the original teller of the story, whoever that may be, those would have been farthest Western and Eastern reaches of the Earth.

Among the things imported from India and Persia were a group of stories collected and translated into Arabic as The Thousand Nights. This formed the nucleus around which The One Thousand and One Nights accumulated.  The oldest known fragment of the text dates to the 9th century, and the earliest reference to it in another text dates to the 12th. The variable number of stories included in The One Thousand and One Nights were all linked by the framing story of a jilted Sultan who executed his wife for her infidelity. Each evening he would take a new wife, and each morning thereafter have her executed before she could betray him. The last was Scheherazade, who preserved her life by telling the Sultan a fragment of a story each night, leaving him too curious about what happens next to have her executed. After her last story ended on the 1001st night, the Sultan had a change of heart and they both lived on in marital bliss.

The first European translation of The One Thousand and One Nights began in 1704 from the pen of Antoine Galland, a French archaeologist and scholar on the Middle East. Besides translating extant copies of the original story, he took it upon himself to add other folktales he had come across in his journeys. He did not have to travel very far to find the story of Aladdin: according to his own account, he heard it in Paris from a Christian monk visiting from Aleppo, Syria. No known Arabic original of Aladdin's story exists, and scholars are divided over whether it is an authentic Middle Eastern tale or whether Galland made it up. It is known that he adapted his translation to the tastes of the time and the vogue for fairy tales that were increasing in popularity. Later translations by the likes of Sir Richard Burton reintegrated the more questionable and erotic passages excised by Galland. Left in Galland's version were the attitudes towards race prevalent at his time.

The following translation and abbreviation of Galland was by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora Smith for a 1909 edition of The Arabian Nights: Their Best-Known Tales. Acknowledging that "It would be a delightful task to any boy or girl to begin at the beginning and read the first English version of these famous stories, made from the collection of M. Galland, Professor of Arabic in the Royal College of Paris" they are still forced to admit that "We, like many other editors, have shortened the stories here and there, omitting some of the tedious repetitions that crept in from time to time when Arabian story-tellers were adding to the text to suit their purposes."

Even with these edits, the story of Aladdin is still a brisk 31,400 words. I've posted it here in its entirety, so buckle in and keep your hands, arms, feet, and legs inside the carpet at all times...

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The Story of "Trick or Treat"

Everyone knows the story of Halloween: the holiday originated in the misty days of pre-Roman Ireland, with the year-ending festival of Samhain. That final day of the Celtic calendar was a "thin time" when spirits walked the Earth and costumed junior Druids traveled from home to home with lighted turnips, begging for food. The festival was appropriated by the Catholic Church as All Hallow's Eve as a fair or foul attempt to convert the Pagans, and evolved over time into the holiday we know today.

If only any of that were true!

When Walt Disney released the animated short Trick or Treat in 1952, the practice for which it was named was only about 30 years old. In fact, the very first published reference to "trick or treat" was in a Canadian newspaper in 1927. A letter of complaint written to the Washington Post in 1948 stated that "I have lived in some 20 other towns and cities and I never saw nor heard of the begging practice until about 1936... The sooner it becomes obsolete here the better. I don't mind the tiny children who want to show off their costumes, but I resent the impudence of the older children." So not only was it still relatively new when Donald Duck ran afoul of his nephews and Witch Hazel, but it was still a quite controversial thing for Walt to be giving the seal of approval to!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Disney in Concert - Tale as Old as Time

Once again it is that time of year, around Canadian Thanksgiving, when Ashley and I dress up to the nines and attend the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra's performance of Disney in Concert. Last year we skipped it because they decided to go with a live performance of Nightmare Before Christmas (not that I don't like the film, we just weren't feeling it), and the year before was Fantasia - Live in Concert. 2013 was the last time there was a straightforward Disney in Concert, and this was a different line-up than the previous concert to make the rounds of Pops series across Canada and the United States. Symphonic Pops Music has put together a new package of clips and medleys titled Tale as Old as Time.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Walt's Era - Part 7: The New Disney Emerges, Part 3 (1953-1954)

We're in the homestretch now. The last of Disney's co-productions with England's Denham Studios was released in the latter half of 1953, closing out the preliminary era of their first fully live-action films. Inspired by their success, Disney had Stage 3 built at the studios, which was in use through late 1953 and early 1954 to film THE MIGHTIEST MOTION PICTURE OF THEM ALL. A crew was also sent to the Bahamas to do the extensive underwater footage.

Filming 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in Stage 3's water tank. Photo: Disney.

The first feature-length True-Life Adventures was released during this time, followed by my favourite of the entire series. True-Life shorts had run their course and it was time to either expand it or close it down. Disney chose expansion. The weight of pre-movie shorts would be henceforth picked up by People and Places, new live-action shorts, and eventually cannibalized episodes from ABC's Disneyland television series.

Speaking of which, it was also sometime in early 1954 that Disney penned their deal with ABC for funding Disneyland. With funding in place, ground could be broken and work begin.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Rediscovering Atlantis

It was very appropriate, and most likely unknowingly so, that Disney set 2001's Atlantis: The Lost Empire, in 1914. Indeed, in many ways it could not truly have been otherwise: the middle Victorian era saw the beginning of an explosion of interest in the lost continent that would not subside beneath the waves again until the 1960's. In the decade spanning 1895 to 1905, there were no less than 16 fiction novels, standing alongside countless ostensibly non-fiction pseudoscientific and spiritualist explorations, which solidified the Atlantis we know today: not as a holdover of ancient myth, but as an artifact of Victorian cultural anxieties.

Trailer for Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

What Went Wrong with the Hunchback of Notre Dame?

From the beginnings of Hollywood through today, it can truly be said that there has never been a wholly accurate adaptation of Victor Hugo's literary classic, Notre-Dame de Paris. Perhaps this isn't so surprising, for the novel is a signature sprawling historical epic that examines everything from the lives of religious orders to Mediaeval architecture to Parisian class conflict to the very depths of obsession and depravity. At its heart, like Hugo's famed Les Misérables, it is an unflinching look at the brutality of civil society and poverty in the nineteenth century (through the metaphor of the Middle Ages). It is many things, reflecting on gender dynamics, the interplay of Church, State and Society, and the nature of romantic, fraternal and familial love. None of what it says, however, is amenable to the conventions of American filmmaking.

Consider this, the fourth chapter of the eighth book of Notre-Dame de Paris, with its entwined imagery of physical and emotional oppression, beginning with a bit of an architecture lesson. It is the speech of Claude Frollo to Esmeralda, and it is more powerful than any words placed in his mouth in cinema...

Sunday, 11 September 2016

"Disneyland will never be completed"

Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. It is something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing and adding to.
This quote by Walt Disney is one of Disney fandom's most overused, and consequently, misunderstood. Every time a renovation, demolition, or alteration of any sort is announced for Disneyland, Walt Disney rises from his grave, pre-approving whatever modern Disney management does... No matter how shoddy, short-sighted, neglectful, or mediocre it is. And if you have things like that to say about a change? Well, clearly, you just don't like change and aren't a true Disney fan.

This quote has gotten mileage again with the news of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror's forthcoming replacement with a Guardians of the Galaxy ride. I heard it when the Court of Angels was walled off from the plebeian rabble. It was trotted out when Jack Sparrow was added to Pirates of the Caribbean and pirate ships added to Tom Sawyer Island. I'm sure it must have been used when the Country Bear Jamboree was replaced by Winnie the Pooh, when the Swiss Family Robinson was evicted by Tarzan, when Tomorrowland '98 was unveiled, when the Penny Arcade was nearly eviscerated of its penny arcade machines to make room for racks of candy, and when the Submarine Voyage was shut down. "Don't you know, Walt Disney himself loved fussing needlessly with things, changing for the sake of change, and randomly closing attractions that everyone loves?"

To take that famous quote of Walt's as an unconditional pre-approval of every change to the parks is to miss the subtlety of what he actually said. Note that Walt speaks of change in the sense of growth: "never be completed," "continue to grow," something that I can keep developing and adding to." He is speaking of building, not tearing down, and growing, not fussing needlessly. He also places a very strong condition on that growth: "as long as there is imagination left in the world." That is, growth at Disneyland is contingent on creative ideas and doing something that is truly worth doing.

Walt did fuss with Disneyland during his lifetime, but the fussing wasn't needless. Walt had another quote that is relevant here: "Disneyland is like a piece of clay, if there’s something I don’t like, I’m not stuck with it. I can reshape and revamp." When Walt fussed with things, it was because they didn't work or he had something far, far better in mind. 

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Walt's Era - Part 6: The New Disney Emerges, Part 2 (1953)

Big things were brewing behind the scenes as Disney charted out its new course in the Fifties. Most of it worked out quite well for Disney in the end, though it caused back room friction at the time.

Walt Disney Productions bore the name of Walt Disney, but was not synonymous with him as a business unit. In this year, the company's board of directors signed a deal to licence Walt's name for forty years and give him a personal services contract to the tune of $3000/week (which would be pretty good money now let alone in the Fifties). Walt's own company, WED Enterprises would create the attractions for Disneyland which Walt Disney Productions would then purchase. Three board members resigned over the arrangement, and later in the year, a shareholder would sue Walt and WED Enterprises. Nevertheless, plans for Disneyland were proceeding apace. 160 ares of orchard along the Santa Ana Freeway in Anaheim were purchased, ready to be leveled. WED began preliminary design work for the park, including the first full rendering by Herb Ryman, drawn over one weekend with Walt looming over his shoulder.

Significantly for Disney's business operations, Buena Vista Distribution was also incorporated this year. RKO Pictures, with whom Disney had a relationship since 1937, had little faith in the first True-Life Adventures feature film. Not one to let small minds deter him, Walt pushed ahead to take distribution of his films back into his own hands. By contractual necessity, a few more Disney films would be distributed by RKO for the next few years, including a series of now-lost themed anthologies of shorts such as New Year's Jamboree, 4th of July Firecrackers, Fall Varieties, Halloween Hilarities, Thanksgiving Day Mirthquakes, Mickey's Birthday Party, and Christmas Jollities (all 1953).

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

One of my most favourite places on Earth is the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. For more than 800 years it has stood at the centre of Paris - in fact, it marks kilometre 0 for all distance measurements in France - and in the centre of French history. It is an icon of the city and a sublimely beautiful example of the Mediaeval genius for both faith and art. It is also an example of endurance, having survived disaster, desecration, and dilapidation before being restored to its rightful place as a jewel in the crown of Christendom. As the government deliberated on whether or not to tear the venerable cathedral down, a popular novel by Victor Hugo reignited passion for everything about the romance of mediaevalism, patriotism, and religiousity that it represented. Notre-Dame was not only a symbol for the Church but for Romanticism's growing dissatisfaction with the failed promises of modernity. That is also what it represents for me: a living, ancient, enduring emblem of the romance of history, beauty, majesty, and faith.

Notre-Dame figured prominently in my two trips to Paris, once during a brief layover in 2008 when it was one of only three attractions I had time to visit (the others being the Eiffel Tower and Disneyland Paris) and again in 2013 when we passed it nearly every day for two weeks. I lost track of the number of times we stepped inside to offer devotion, but its presence, the weight of its ages and the innumerable people who have passed through it, seeped into my bones. In the words of Sinclair Lewis: "He who has seen one cathedral ten times has seen something; he who has seen ten cathedrals once has seen but little; and he who has spent half an hour in each of a hundred cathedrals has seen nothing at all."

If there was any one building of human construction that I would consider my spiritual home, it would be the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Incredible Journey

Filmed on location in the province of Ontario, Canada, Disney's The Incredible Journey (1963) was the apotheosis of the studio's animal pictures. By 1960 the True-Life Adventures series of documentaries had essentially played itself out, already beginning to evolve into narrative films with 1957's Perri. The mantle was taken up by a series of films about animal hi-jinx narrated by Rex Allen, beginning in 1960 with The Hound That Thought He Was A Raccoon and growing to include The Legend of Lobo (1962), Yellowstone Cubs (1963), Run, Appaloosa, Run (1966) and Charlie the Lonesome Cougar (1967), as well as a number of episodes of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. None have had the lasting regard as The Incredible Journey, which was even remade in 1993 as Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.

As with the overwhelming majority of films during Walt's era, The Incredible Journey adapted a pre-existing work of literature. Written by Scottish-Canadian author Sheila Burnford and published in 1960, the scant 127-page novella won the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award and a number of other accolades, as well as capturing the interest of Disney. Whereas many books must be rigorously pruned in the transition to celluloid, The Incredible Journey's short length and lack of literary refinement allowed it to be adapted almost verbatim.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Walt's Era - Part 5: The New Disney Emerges, Part 1 (1950-1952)

From the crucible of war, Disney reemerged in the Fifties, expanding and innovating on who they were as a company. Cinderella put them back in the animated feature film business, Seal Island was such a success that they began pairing a new True-Life Adventure with each feature release, they created the Wonderland Music Company to handle their own music publication, and Song of the South and So Dear to My Heart primed them to enter the field of live-action feature films. They also pushed forward in another direction that had most film studios running for the hills: television.

On Christmas Day, 1950, Disney celebrated its grand return with One Hour in Wonderland. This pseudo-pilot for the Walt Disney's Disneyland television series to come brought back the paradigm of the Disney "behind the scenes" originated in The Reluctant Dragon, but in a form that audiences didn't have to pay a movie ticket to see. Walt was able to leverage his studio's assets - namely clips from Snow White and Song of the South, a Mickey and a Pluto cartoon, and a song from the Firehouse Five Plus Two - into what was essentially an advertisement for Alice in Wonderland that was entertaining in its own right. In so doing, he subliminally elevated his upcoming film to the same status as two of his biggest film successes. With One Hour in Wonderland, Walt ingeniously figured out how to make this new medium of television work for him, instead of against him. The idea was repeated in 1951 for The Walt Disney Christmas Show, reassembling the cast to promote Peter Pan.

There was also something else brewing behind the real scenes, away from the prying eyes of the public. In late 1952, Walt reassigned some of his most creative staff members into a shadowy new unit dubbed WED Enterprises.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Mr. Toad's Not-So-Wild Ride: Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows

When adapting Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, the demands of wartime animation led Disney to focus on the comic farce that was J. Thaddeus Toad's misadventures with automobiles. But as Christopher Robin Milne once noted, having watched his celebrated father Alan Alexander Milne adapt the story to the theatrical stage, there are really two books jammed into The Wind in the Willows. The one is about Mr. Toad. The other is the serene, sometimes terrifying, and always picturesque lives of the animals along the river.

Illustration by E.H. Shepard.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Requiem for a Tower

We have undoubtedly all heard the news by now: at the San Diego Comic Con, Disney announced that the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure will become a Guardians of the Galaxy ride in 2017.

When the rumours first broke, I immediately shot it down as too ridiculous to take seriously... that Disney would never be so foolish as to take down DCA's best, headlining attraction with its own fanbase and brisk merchandising... but apparently nothing is impossible for Disney. It was also very wise of Disney to confirm these rumours at the SDCC, in the Guardians of the Galaxy panel, and not the D23 Expo. I'll never quite forget the footage from several years ago when the Fantasy Faire was announced at the Expo, and the only applause was for the affirmation that swing dancing would be retained in the bandstand (which ended up being a falsehood). At SDCC, surrounded by Marvel fans, this undoubtedly went over better than it would have at D23. More likely than not, surrounded by Disney fans who love Disney enough to attend an expensive official Disney convention, they would have been booed off the stage.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was not only my favourite attraction in Disney California Adventure, but constituted my only substantive reason for going into that theme park at all. Other attractions are appealing once you are through its gates, and they have done so much to improve the park, but it was the Tower of Terror that made me want to cross the Esplanade to begin with. In fact, no Disney attraction won me over in quite the way that Tower of Terror did.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Cory and Ashley on Confessions of a DisNerd!

If you are not reading the blog Confessions of a DisNerd, you really ought to. After a few different iterations, its author Craig has really hit on a neat idea: profiles of Disney fans. It is Confessions of a DisNerd, after all, so why not have the confessions of Disney nerds?

This week, Ashley and I were the nerds in question! We've shared bits and pieces of our fairy tale story with you here at Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Fantasy, but if you want the full synopsis, head over to Confessions of a DisNerd!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The Wilderness Lodges of Glacier - Part 2

Glacier Park Lodge, built in 1913, was joined by the magnificent Many Glacier Hotel in 1915. It is situated on the picturesque Swiftcurrent Lake, directly opposite the stunning Grinnell Point, named in honour of George Bird Grinnell. Louis Hill, head of Great Northern, deliberately chose the spot for its symmetrical qualities. Many visitors consider this region the true heart of Glacier. From the hotel, trails fan out to the feet of glaciers, to flowering valleys teeming with grizzly bears, and to lakes covered year round with floes of ice.

The hotel itself was built in a style similar to that of Glacier Park Lodge, which was itself inspired by the Forestry Building of the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon. That building featured an interior  colonnade of 48' high logs to architecturally recall the majesty of the Pacific Northwest coastal rainforest. Because no trees of such immensity grow in the vicinity of the Rocky Mountains, Great Northern was forced to import the Douglas Firs necessary to build the lobbies of Glacier Park and Many Glaciers.

Historic photo of the interior of the Forestry Building,
Lewis and Clark Exposition of 1905.

Many Glacier Hotel with Grinnell Point in the background.

Grinnell Point and Swiftcurrent Lake.

The lakefront side of Many Glacier Hotel.

Many Glacier's lobby from below. 

Many Glacier's lobby from above.

Many Glacier's beautifully restored restaurant.

A red jammer bus outside the Many Glacier Hotel.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Wilderness Lodges of Glacier - Part 1

"Far away in northwestern Montana, hidden from view by clustering mountain peaks, lies an unmapped corner—the Crown of the Continent."
These words, penned in 1901 by famed naturalist George Bird Grinnell, introduced the world to the natural majesty of the area known today as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. It is comprised of two national parks in two countries - Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada and Glacier National Park in the United States - linked by their ecosystem, geology, cultural history and scenic beauty.

St. Mary's Lake, Glacier National Park.

Upper Waterton Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Walt's Era - Part 4: Post-War Recovery (1947-1950)

The Second World War ended in 1945, freeing Disney up from the pressures that bogged the company down. Animators returned home from the war, the US military vacated the studios, and global markets opened back up. Nevertheless, these were still trying financial times for Walt and his crew.

Through the remainder of the Forties, Disney opted against trying anything too ambitious. Animators geared back up to doing full feature films by a couple of "package films" consisting of two half-hour shorts, directors continued pushing further into the realm of live-action, and the first True-Life Adventure slipped in, culminating in the company's grand return to fairy tale feature films with Cinderella. Beyond feature films, Donald Duck's star was eclipsing Mickey Mouse: in 1947 alone, only one Mickey short was produced against the eight starring Donald and four starring Pluto. In 1949 and 1950, no Mickey shorts were made at all. Things were pretty even between the two before the war, until it came time for Donald to be enlisted in the army. People could relate to the exaggerated caricature of Donald in a way that they could not relate to the affable Mickey anymore.

Overall, the stage was being set for a new "Golden Age" to emerge in the Fifties. In this batch of films, we see Disney once more trying to find its footing, preparing for great things to come.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Jules Verne: A Literary Pilgrimage - Part 3

As age and infirmity set in, Verne's family left their mansion of 18 years to return again to the townhouse at No. 44 Boulevard Longueville. The last five years of Jules Verne's life, from 1900 to 1905, were spent in this modest dwelling. At 3:10pm on March 24, 1905, Jules Verne passed away from complications due to diabetes. Behind him were left his wife Honorine, son Michel, and some eight to fifteen novels in various states of composition. Verne prided himself on being years ahead of his twice-annual publication schedule.

Towards the end of his life, Verne resumed some of his youthful cynicism and his latest novels betrayed an ever more pessimistic view of the effects of technology and industry on human life. His last years were also beset with tragedy. Honorine became an invalid in 1879, Michel took off to sow his wild oats, he was shot in the leg by a mentally deranged cousin in 1886 and crippled for the rest of his life, both Hetzel and his mother died in 1887, he suffered a facial neuralgia in 1890, and he developed cataracts in 1900 that severely impaired his vision. He also died regretting that he had never curried the favour of the French literary elite. As Sherard reports once again:
It was like the confession of a wasted life, the sigh of an old man of what can never be recalled. It was to me a poignant sorrow to hear him speak thus, and all that I could do was to say, with no unfeigned enthusiasm, that he was to me and millions like me, a great master, the subject of our unqualified admiration and respect, the novelist who delights many of us more than all the novelists that have ever taken pen in hand. But he only shook his gray head and said: "I do not count in French literature."

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Ensuring Your Own Safety at Walt Disney World

In the past weeks, the city of Orlando has suffered a string of horrific tragedies, the last of which was the drowning of Lane Graves by a wild alligator in the Seven Seas Lagoon. This terrible event has raised a lot of questions about the limits of personal and corporate negligence, liability, and how Americans are taught – or not taught – to respect wild nature.

For the family, what has happened has happened, and there is no need to berate or hector them. They are no doubt punishing themselves far more harshly than the howling mobs of the Internet could, and will have to live forever with the choices they made leading up to the tragedy. What I hope with this article is to offer safety tips for readers who have never been to Walt Disney World, or have but never gave these issues much thought.

Disney can only take so much responsibility for safety on their property. There are many contingencies that they simply cannot have any control over. Tourists anywhere must also take active responsibility for their own safety.

There are three simple tips by which guests can ensure their own safety and the safety of their families: obey warnings, use common sense, and take due diligence.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Jules Verne: A Literary Pilgrimage - Part 2

Jules Verne's mansion against the background of modern Amiens.
Photo © Laurent Rousselin – Amiens Métropole
Though born in Nantes in 1828 and living amidst the hustle, bustle and literary-artistic culture of Paris when he wrote his first novels, Verne's association with Amiens began in 1856 when he attended the wedding of a friend. Weddings are often efficacious for spurring new romances, and Verne fell for the sister of the bride, a widow with two daughters named Honorine. The following year the pair were married, but living in Amiens was still a long way off.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Walt's Era - Part 3: The War Years (1942-1946)

War had come to America, and Disney was in the thick of it.

Since 1939, Europe had been at war between the Allied forces lead by the British Empire and the Axis lead by the Nazis. In July of 1941, the Soviet Union was drawn in against the Axis, and on December 7 of the same year, the hand of the United States was forced by a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 8, the American military moved into the Walt Disney Studios, further straining an already beleaguered company.

The loss of European markets right when they were needed to recoup the costs of Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi hurt Disney sorely. Then came the animator's strike of 1941, and finally the military occupying the studio grounds. Everything Walt had managed to build with Mickey Mouse and Snow White looked like it was about to collapse.

Still, there was hope. Before America entered the war, the government sent Walt and 18 artists off to Latin America as part of the Good Neighbor Policy. The goal, as far as the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs was concerned, was to counteract Nazi sympathy in Central and South America by building a healthy, neighbourly exchange with the United States. For Disney, it was an opportunity to get new material for cartoons and to help build the Latin American film market (much needed after Europe's inaccessibility). The result was two of Disney's best films of the Forties, and a string of Latin American-themed shorts.

Walt learning the dances of Argentina.
Disney also secured a contract with the government for 32 propaganda films, which helped chase off the spectre of bankruptcy. These included training films, various Donald Duck and Pluto shorts, and shorts like Education for Death (1943). Animators and artists also did various and sundry odd jobs, like designing logos and mascots for different military units.

Then, shortly after the war, Disney made a bold (but ultimately infamous) experiment in fusing animation with live-action in a film that would become one of its most enduring favourites despite modern controversy.          

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Jules Verne: A Literary Pilgrimage - Part 1

Few Disney live-action films have enjoyed the enduring legacy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Just as Jules Verne's works entered the public domain, Walt Disney took a gamble on fashioning that novel into his studio's first big-budget, Hollywood-made, live-action film. It was a gamble that paid off beyond anyone's wildest expectations. Walt, director Richard Fleischer, and screenwriter Earl Felton used the backdrop of Verne's original story to meditate on the anxieties of the Atomic Age. They captured the fears and hopes of a generation, and did so on a grand scale, with Cinemascope-sized screen, larger-than-life charismatic actors, beautiful underwater photography, and sheer spectacle. In so doing, Walt Disney helped create a new image of Jules Verne… Verne the icon of optimistic futurism.

Walt and Verne, the two optimists. Photo: Disney.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea spawned a whole genre of movies based on Verne's work, including Michael Todd's Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), Ray Harryhausen’s Mysterious Island (1961), and Disney's own In Search of the Castaways (1962). His adventures also translated well into three dimensions. Disneyland opened in 1955 with an exhibit of props from the film, Walt Disney World opened in 1971 with a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarine voyage, Disneyland Paris opened in 1992 with a new version of Tomorrowland based on Verne's work, and Tokyo Disneysea opened in 2001 with Mysterious Island, where guests can embark on an expedition 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or take a Journey to the Center of the Earth. Trader Sam's Grog Grotto in the Polynesian Village Resort includes leftover props from the submarine ride and a Nautilus-themed drink. Verne has also popped up again, as the founder of a secret organization of geniuses in Tomorrowland (2015). 60 years after the film's debut in 1954, Verne's creations are still furnishing material for theme parks the world over.

Concept art for Trader Sam's Grog Grotto. Image: Disney.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Baía in Song: "Na Baixa do Sapateiro" and "Você Já Foi à Bahia?"

One of the most hypnotic sequences of song and animation in Disney's oeuvre is the song Baía from The Three Caballeros. José Carioca, the cigar-chomping Brazilian parrot, asks Donald if he has ever been to the state of Baía. When he answers in the negative, José creates a picture in song of the sleepy region and its capital Salvador. Though our host is clearly from Rio de Janeiro - the term "Carioca" refers to people from there - the romantic image he paints of Baía can create a longing in anyone's heart for languid South American cities of 70 years ago.

The Three Caballeros (1944) and Saludos Amigos (1942), the two films to come out of Walt Disney's goodwill tout of South America, were as much steeped in the popular music of their time as Make Mine Music and Melody Time. All four films dated from the period of Disney's wartime "package" films, which took the route of bundling together an anthology of shorts built around music. They were equal parts heir to Fantasia and the Silly Symphonies shorts. For the two Latin American films, the popular music hailed from Latin America.

The song that Disney turned into Baía was originally written in 1938 as Na Baixa do Sapateiro by Ary Barroso. Translating to English as "In the Shoemaker's Hollow," it tells the story of a humble shoemaker in Salvador who holds out the torch of unrequited love for a dark-haired young lady. The Portuguese lyrics are as follows:
Ai, amor ai, ai
Amor, bobagem que
a gente não explica ai, ai
Prova um bocadinho, oi
Fica envenenando, oi
E pro resto da vida é um tal de sofrer
Ô lará, ô lerê
Ô Bahia, iaiá
Bahia que não me sai do pensamento
Faço o meu lamento, oi
Na desesperança, oi
De encontrar nesse mundo
O amor que eu perdi na Bahia
Vou contar
Na Baixa do Sapateiro
Eu encontrei um dia
A morena mais frajola da Bahia
Pedi um beijo, não deu
Um abraço, sorriu
Pedi a mão, não quis dar
Bahia, terra de felicidade
Morena, ah morena
Eu ando louco de saudade
Meu Senhor do Bonfim
Arranje outra morena
Igualzinha prá mim
Ai Bahia, iaiá 
Ray Gilbert rewrote the song for Disney, altering the lyrics to...
Oh Baía, when twilight is deep in the sky, Baiá
Someone that I long to see, keeps haunting my memory
And so the loneliness deep in my heart calls to you, calls to you! 
Oh Baía, I live in the memory of many dreams ago
When the stars were bright and you were mine alone
My love for you cannot die, though the oceans run dry
Or heaven's call from the sky, now you’re gone! 
Baía, can’t you hear my lonely call?
Morena, make my life complete again!
How I pray for the day when I'll see your smile
And my heart will beat again! 
Oh Baía, when twilight is deep in the sky, Baía
Someone that I long to see, keeps haunting my memory
And so the loneliness deep in my heart calls to you, calls to you!
Oh Baía... 
The alteration served Barroso well. After its release, the song was intended to be used by Carmen Miranda for her film Banana da Terra, but the licencing fees demanded by Barroso proved prohibitive. Disney's deep pockets could easily afford it, and in its rewritten form has been played and covered countless times.

Ary Barroso's original recording of  Na Baixa do Sapateiro

José decides that the pair must see Baía, and launches into a rendition of Você Já Foi à Bahia? Unlike Na Baixa do SapateiroVocê Já Foi à Bahia? was a direct and accurate performance. The title translates to "Have You Ever Been to Baía?" and José's rendition switches freely between Portuguese and English. The original was written by Dorival Caymmi in 1941, being successful on its release and hitting international acclaim after being featured in The Three Caballeros.

Dorival Caymmi's recording of Você Já Foi à Bahia?