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