Blaine Gibson began his Disney career in animation in 1939, and worked on some of Disney’s early classic features, animated shorts and even military films during World War II. Eventually Blaine began sculpting for Disney, creating the pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean, ghosts in the Haunted Mansion, Abraham Lincoln for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, all the president before Barrack Obama for Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom, Mark Twain and others for the American Adventure in Epcot, and much more. Blaine also sculpted the Partners statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom.
1:11 Blaine Gibson’s start in Disney animation; His first drawing
5:26 Learning that he got a job for Disney while chopping wood in 1939
9:44 At the Disney studio on Hyperion Avenue; Beginning in “traffic”; Listening to the Philadelphia Symphony recording for “Fantasia”; Exploring the Disney Studios
12:35 Getting into production as an in-betweener; Working on his first scene in the Pluto short “Bone Trouble”; Fantasia, Pinocchio and Bambi
14:26 In-betweeners/assistant animators/breakdown men and about the animation process; working for Ken Hultgren on Bambi; Art classes at the Disney Studios, and instructor Rico Lebrun
17:57 Walt’s goals in animation; Believability – not real, but believable
26:56 Sculpting, starting at five years old; The thrill of drawing; Effects animation; World War II films; Becoming assistant to great animator Frank Thomas
After our last post of the new Colortopia exhibit about color at Epcot, I thought it would be fun to post this photo I took of the creative Animator’s Palate aboard the Disney Wonder. It may look like a black and white photo, but it’s not! Completely colorless, this fun restaurant is sure to chase your blues away! It’s representative of the initial artwork of Disney animation, but before your dinner is finished, you just might see some color!
This newspaper clipping is from November 28, 1928, 87 years ago today, the day that Mickey and Minnie Mouse were introduced to public audiences in their film release, “Steamboat Willie.” It’s a marvel to think that sound was new in movies and that color was still a dream away. Although Mickey went on to become Walt Disney’s most famous character, his nemesis, Pete (sometimes known as Pegleg Pete), was a cartoon veteran, having already appeared in Walt’s “Alice” comedy shorts in 1925, which combined live-action and animation.
“Steamboat Willie” is actually a parody, loosely based on Steamboat Bill, Jr., a silent movie starring Buster Keaton which was released that same year. In that film, the good-hearted Willie, similar to Mickey Mouse’s role, is the son of the rough and tumble Steamboat Bill, parodied in Disney’s version by Pete. While Willie’s father wants to teach him how to be a great steamboat captain, Willie is more interested in winning the hand of Kitty King.
The music you hear at the beginning of “Steamboat Willie” is actually a song from 1910 entitled “Steamboat Bill,” which tells the story of a steamboat captain who is given orders to beat the record of another steamboat, the Robert E. Lee.
The first time the world heard Mickey Mouse is when he whistles the chorus to “Steamboat Bill.” For those of you who want to sing along, now you can! Below are the lyrics.
Steamboat Bill, steaming down the Mississippi Steamboat Bill, a mighty man was he Steamboat Bill, steaming down the Mississippi Trying to beat the record of the Robert E. Lee
Royal Dano was born on this day, November 16th, in 1922. An actor who appeared in over 100 movies and television shows, he’s the voice of Abraham Lincoln in “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” at Disneyland, delivering the same speech that was first heard in 1964 at the New York World’s Fair. In the previous decade, Dano appeared on the television series “Omnibus,” in a five-part episode entitled “Mr. Lincoln,” where he portrayed the 16th president.
Before “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” debuted at the fair, the world had never seen a human Audio-Animatronics figure and it even caused some great concern! A newspaper in Illinois wrote, “A controversy boiled today over whether a life-like Abraham Lincoln figure that sits, stands, talks and gestures is dignified and characteristic or ‘grotesque.’” It claimed that someone said, “It’s almost as ghoulish as the idea to play a mock recording of the voices of the four presidents enshrined at Mount Rushmore,” and that another person said, “The next thing they’ll have Mouseketeers giving guided tours of the White House.” It was even suggested it would resemble a carnival sideshow.
Walt Disney went to Illinois defend his presidential creation. According to that same article, Walt said, “He is going to speak to you. His voice is as close as we could get from actual descriptions of this great man. He will appear in a very dignified setting. While seated in a chair before speaking, he will drop his head in thought, a characteristic Lincoln action. When he is introduced he will stand – putting his hands behind his back – as thought deep in thought.”
The article continued that Walt said the presentation would appear to audiences “as life-like as I am standing before you – perhaps more so.” As for the sideshow suggestion, Walt said, “I have more at stake in this than the state of Illinois. I am staking my reputation on this – my integrity, I am not a carnival operator.”
Far from a circus sideshow, or grotesque, Lincoln well-received, and enjoyed a great success at the fair averaging 10,000 visitors a day on weekdays and 15,000 a day on weekends. With the exception of the New York State pavilion it was the best attended feature at the fair. Jack Gladish, who worked for Disney on the creation of the figure, personally told me he would sit in the audience and listen to people debate whether it was actually a mechanical man or an actor. (You can hear this conversation with Jack at http://blog.mouseclubhouse.com/interview-jack-gladish-his-career-walt-disney-disneyland-and-worlds-fair-attractions/
On July 18, 1965, “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” debuted at Disneyland, making it the only attraction to simultaneously appear at both the World’s Fair and Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Today, 61 years later, the Lincoln figure is more technologically advanced than ever, and continues to feature the speech he gave at the New York World’s Fair. The speech is a compilation of several of the president’s addresses, from 1838 to 1864. Although the audio has been digitally restored, it is the same voice that was first heard in 1964, and that detailed research deemed to probably most closely resemble that of Abraham Lincoln, voiced by Royal Dano.
The Golden Horseshoe Revue performed a record-breaking 47,250 performances at Disneyland, and was a staple in Disneyland from its opening until 1986.
Wally Boag (pictured, above, left) originated the role of the traveling salesman who would break up the audience with his antics, and then return later in the show as Pecos Bill. During a song, a fellow cast member would “hit” him and he proceeded to spit out his teeth. In reality, they were beans, and he spit out more beans in each performance than the human mouth has teeth! With each bean, the audience roared more and more!
As the years went on, Disneyland was open seven days a week, not just five, and starting in the 1960s, it was even open after dark! While Wally is best remembered in the role and was certainly the longest running performer of the role, there were a number of others who filled in as the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the Wild West!
Pictured from left to right are Dick Hardwick, Jim Adams and Dana Daniels, all of whom I’ve had the chance to get to know and interview for Mouse Clubhouse, so watch for that audio in the future! For now, I thought it would be fun to catch up with each of these gentlemen and find out what they’re up to now!
Dick Hardwick took over the role of Pecos Bill when Wally left in 1982 and continued with the show until its final performance in 1986. After Disney, Dick continued performing and even won on Star Search in the category of comedy. He toured with the likes of Reba McEntire and Johnny Mathis, and has made multiple tours to entertain the troops in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and the Middle East. Dick recently became a became a coveted “Navy Tail Hooker” having been flown out to, then launched off of the USS Stennis aircraft carrier where he performed somewhere off the coast of Mexico. In 1996, Dick hosted the Fruit of the Loom All-Star CountryFest ’96 to a record-breaking crowd of an estimated 275,000! He also received an Honorary Doctor of Performing Arts from Westfield State University in Massachusetts. Interestingly, Dick started out as a musician in Disneyland, and he continues to have a parallel career in music today. In fact, he received a Grammy Certificate for Best Folk Album for his participation playing the washboard on John Prine’s record, “The Missing Years.” His handprints and signature in cement are on display at the Nashville Music Walk of Fame. In recent years, Dick is still going strong, performing for corporate events, celebrity golf tournaments, conventions, on cruise ships and even at several Disney events.
Dana Daniels performed in the Horseshoe from 1983 to 1986. After the Golden Horseshoe Revue ended, Dana had his own one man show in the Horseshoe, and eventually took that show on the road. His longtime partner in the act, Luigi, continues with him today. Oh, Luigi is a parrot. And a “psychic parrot” at that. Dana has opened for such stars as Ray Romano, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Randy Travis, and Charo. He’s appeared on shows such as Evening at the Improv, CBS Morning Show, The Golden Girls, and Masters of Illusions. His blend of comedy and magic has earned him accolades including Comedy Magician of the Year and two time Stage Magician of the Year from the Academy of Magical Arts. A regular at the famed Magic Castle in Hollywood, California and Warren and Annabelle’s in Maui, Hawaii, Dana most recently joined the cast of The Illusionists 1903, as The Charlatan. The show is the most successful touring magic show in the world, and both Dana and Luigi will be touring from Sydney to Dubai.
Jim Adams began subbing for Wally Boag in the Horseshoe in 1970 and continued with the show until 1982, when he and Wally both left to pursue new projects, including work on an animated movie together. Jim had been working at Disneyland in the Entertainment department when he decided to knock on Wally’s dressing room door, simply wanting to learn how to do the show. He ended up filling in for Wally for the next 12 years. Before leaving Disney, Jim appeared in numerous television productions and commercials, as well as traveling on national tours for Disney. Since then, he has had several educational shows including “Adventures in Reading” and “James and the Professor,” which he has performed across the country and abroad. Today, Jim continues to entertain with his one man show of comedy, ventriloquism and music, and he recently performed for the Disneyland Alumni Club’s 60th anniversary gala.
Jim told me all the cast and crew of the Golden Horseshoe Revue would give him little hints during his days in the show, “Mainly though, it was Wally and Fulton (Burley, Horseshoe co-star) that helped me all the way! They were incredibly generous with their time and efforts! I never would have made it without them!”
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I just posted my interview with Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore on my Mouse Clubhouse website. In two conversations tangled into one as Zach and Mandy discuss their roles as the voices of the animated stars in Disney’s “Tangled.” CLICK HERE for the interview and more photos
I thought you’d prefer a treat rather than a trick on this Halloween day! Here are some costumes from 1955, featuring “all the ‘people’ from Disneyland.” It looks like Mickey Mouse holding some birthday cake for some reason, Tramp of Lady and the Tramp fame, and a masked princess? The Lone Ranger’s girlfriend? Maybe it’s one of the “spooky” costumes mentioned in the ad. If you know, let me know! Have a great Halloween, no matter what you dress up as… even if it’s the Lone Ranger’s girlfriend!
Learn about the amazing career of singer Jay Meyer, who you’ve probably seen as one of the singing busts in the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland, Walt Disney World or the international Disney parks. I’m working on the audio of my interview with Jay and will post it soon. Be sure to sign up for our weekly Email Updates to be alerted when I post it.
Although the Walt Disney World Resort opened on October 1, 1971, featuring the Magic Kingdom, two hotels, lakes, lagoons, golf courses and a campground, that day was not officially the grand opening. When Disneyland in California opened in 1955, things did not run smoothly, to say the least. There are the legendary stories such as the ladies heels sinking into the melting asphalt, and there are the lesser known stories such as when the future President of Disneyland, Jack Lindquist, waited 45 minutes for his young son to return on the Canal Boats of America that ended up being dragged back by workers in high rubber boots. In 1971, the folks at Disney were not going to take any chances in Florida, so although the new resort would open on the 1st, the official grand opening would occur on October 25th, giving them ample time to work out any kinks. On that day, Roy O. Disney delivered the dedication speech, “Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney… and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place… a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn — together.” While the grand opening festivities occurred later in the month, today is indeed a day of historical significance… the 38th anniversary of that magic day when Walt Disney World Ambassador Debby Dane Browne first led guests into the Magic Kingdom, and the first day the public was able to experience a Disney Resort, as it began its journey to become the premiere destination resort in the world.
I’m so excited about something! Back in 1997 I interviewed Marc and Alice Davis. True Disney royalty! The first film Marc got to animate on was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He went on to design such characters as Tinker Bell and Cruella DeVille, and he designed some of the most iconic scenes in the Disney attractions such as the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s a small world, and Jungle Cruise! His wife Alice was a costume designer who worked on small world, Pirates and Carousel of Progress.
The first interview I ever did was with Marc and Alice. I never intended for it to be heard by the public. The tape recorder I used was old and bad quality to begin with, and over the years, the quality of the cassette tape deteriorated to the point that it was so hard to hear.
My friend Don Dorsey is an audio whiz and he cleaned up the interview and so can really hear what they’re saying! Alice talks about how she met Walt Disney and got her job working for him, Marc talks about creating Tinker Bell and a hilarious moment he had with Walt on the Jungle Cruise! I’m so excited to have these interviews preserved in my Mouse Clubhouse library, and I look forward to sharing them with you in the future.
Don himself has a very impressive Disney background, working in audio. He even performed the music for many of the floats for Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade. Don was also the creative director of the great Epcot show, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, and I’ve got a great interview with Don all about it! I’ll also post another interview with Don in the future, where he discusses his early days with Disney and working with another remarkable Disney Legend, Jack Wagner.
I’m so grateful to Don for his work on my Marc and Alice Davis interview!