All posts by Scott Wolf

Interview: Don Dorsey (IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth)

Don Dorsey, creative director of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
Don Dorsey, creative director of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

I just posted my interview with Don Dorsey on my Mouse Clubhouse website.  In this conversation, Don, who is a discusses a musician, director, producer, and audio engineer for Disney, discusses secrets of the classic Epcot show IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, for which he was creative director.  CLICK HERE for the interview and more photos

 

 

Interview: Scott Weinger (The voice of Aladdin)

Interview with Scott Weinger
Interview with Scott Weinger

I just posted my interview with Scott Weinger on my Mouse Clubhouse website.  In this conversation, Scott, who is probably best known for his role as Steve Hale on the TV series “Full House,” discusses another of his most famous roles, providing the voice of the title character in Disney’s animated feature, “Aladdin.” CLICK HERE for the interview

 

 

1955 Wheaties ad with Disney’s Seven Dwarfs

Heigh ho! I just love this Wheaties ad from 1955, featuring Disney’s Seven Dwarfs. The large box was just 21 cents. It was a special Disneyland “Light Up” package, which featured full color painted artwork of Walt’s Magic Kingdom on the back of the box! Each box had a perforated hole in the front, and small holes in the back artwork. Consumers were instructed to insert a 7 watt light bulb into the front hole. Then they could watch the lights glisten through the small cutouts in the Disneyland scenes.

1955 ad for Wheaties featuring Disney's Seven Dwarfs
1955 ad for Wheaties featuring Disney’s Seven Dwarfs

 

Jim Henson’s birthday today

Jim Henson and Muppet Kermit the Frog
Jim Henson and Muppet Kermit the Frog

Jim Henson was born on this day in 1936. I believe he is still remembered as the creator of the Muppets, but it shouldn’t be forgotten what an innovator he was. He was using his puppet creations to entertain adults in the early days of television, and in the 1970s, many audience members watched “The Muppet Movie” in awe as his puppets came to life riding bicycles and other activities never before achieved by puppets.

Jim became a hero of mine for many reasons, not just for the wonderful Muppets he created, but mainly because of the stories I’d heard of what a kind and humble person he was, as well as for his appreciation of nature and what the world has to offer. He worked in the same building as I did when I working for Disney, and one of my favorite memories was seeing him in his office, door open, no secretary blocking your way to him. We named our youngest son Henson, in honor of this remarkable person. To give you a little insight into mind of Jim Henson, I thought I’d share this excerpt from a wonderful out-of-print book called  “Jim Henson: The Works.”

The following is excerpted from some notes written by Jim Henson in 1986. He had been asked to contribute some thoughts for a book that was to be called “Courage of Conviction.” The book was never published.

Over the years, I’ve evolved my own set of beliefs and attitudes – as we all have – that I feel works for me. I don’t feel particularly comfortable telling other people how to think or live. There are people who know much more about these things than I do, but here goes…

I believe that life is basically a process of growth – that we go through many lives, choosing those situations and problems that we will learn through.

I believe that we form our own lives, that we create our own reality, and that everything works out for the best. I know I drive some people crazy with what seems to be ridiculous optimism, but it has always worked out for me.


I believe in taking a positive attitude toward the world, toward people, and toward my work. I think I’m here for a purpose. I think it’s likely that we all are, but I’m only sure about myself. I try to tune myself in to whatever it is that I’m supposed to be, and I try to think of myself as a part of all of us – all mankind and all life. I find it’s not easy to keep these lofty thoughts in mind as the day goes by, but it certainly helps me a great deal to start out this way.


I love my work, and because I enjoy it, it doesn’t really feel like work. Thus I spend most of my time working. I like working collaboratively with people. At its best, the film and television world functions creatively this way. I have a terrific group of people who work with me, and I think of the work that we do as “our” work.


I don’t know exactly where ideas come from, but when I’m working well ideas just appear. I’ve heard other people say similar things – so it’s one of the ways I know there’s help and guidance out there. It’s just a matter of our figuring out how to receive the ideas or information that’s there waiting to be heard.


I find that it’s very important for me to stop every now and then and then get recharged and reinspired. The beauty of nature has been one of the great inspirations in my life. Growing up as an artist, I’ve always been in awe of the incredible beauty of every last bit of design in nature. The wonderful color schemes of nature, which always work harmoniously, are particularly dazzling to me. I love to lie in an open field looking up at the sky. One of my happiest moments of inspiration came to me many years ago as I lay on the grass, looking up into the leaves and branches of a big old tree in California. I remember feeling very much a part of everything and everyone.

Working as I do with the movement of puppet creatures, I’m always struck by the feebleness of our efforts to achieve naturalistic movement. Just looking at the incredible movement of a lizard or a bird, or even the smallest insect, can be a very humbling experience.

Jim Henson newspaper clipping 1989
Jim Henson newspaper clipping 1989

At some point in my life I decided, rightly or wrongly, that there are many situations in this life that I can’t do much about – acts of terrorism, feelings of nationalistic prejudice, cold wars, etc. – so what I should do is concentrate on the situations that my energy can affect.

I believe that we can use television and film to be an influence for good; that we can help to shape the thoughts of children and adults in a positive way. As it has turned out, I’m very proud of some of the work we’ve done and I think we can do many more good things.


When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope still is to leave the world a little bit better for having been here.

It’s a wonderful life and I love it.

-Jim Henson

Inside the Disney Marketing Machine – great read!

Inside the Disney Marketing Machine cover
Inside the Disney Marketing Machine cover

Learn about the resurgence of Disney marketing after Walt, from an author who lived it! I first learned about Lorraine Santoli when I was working for Disney in the ’90s, and I’d receive the weekly Corporate Synergy communications. That let us know all the latest happening within the company to see if there were opportunities to work any of it into our own products in our department.

It was such an exciting time at Disney! After Walt passed away in ’66, the company kept going, but not really strong. With a new President, Frank Wells, and CEO, Michael Eisner, the company started to become alive again.

Lorraine’s new book, Inside the Disney Marketing Machine – In the Era of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells, reveals, through exclusive access to top-tier Disney management, how the magic was made in an era of explosive company growth.

Focusing on the “Disney difference,” Inside the Disney Marketing Machine not only details how marketing concepts were derived, executed and sold to consumers at that time (Part One, Marketing Outside the Company), but how corporate priority projects were marketed internally across all Disney business segment boundaries through a never-before-revealed synergy process (Part Two, Marketing Inside the Company).

The story begins when Lorraine arrives at Disney in the late ‘70s (her tenure was from 1978-2000) when the studio that Walt built was in a rut turning out formulaic films mostly targeted to kids. The arrival of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells in 1984 brought revolutionary change to how the company operated and, more importantly, how it marketed its products that were derived from its over fifty diverse business segments from Motion Pictures and Television to Theme Parks, Theatrical Productions, Home Entertainment, Consumer Products and Sports, among others.

(1990) Disney CEO, Michael Eisner and Disney President, Frank Wells
(1990) Disney CEO, Michael Eisner and Disney President, Frank Wells

Eisner and Wells were in fact the first Hollywood executives (only after Walt Disney himself) to aggressively cross-promote from within using synergy in addition to employing traditional marketing strategies. By adding a synergy component to marketing plans across business segments, the root product, whether a film release, theme park event, corporate celebration or other company priority, became more profitable than it would ever have been standing alone. For Eisner and Wells 1 + 1 = 3.

Following the pair’s directives, a corporate synergy program was developed and led by Santoli (under the guidance of a synergy VP). She held that role for a decade, from 1990 to 2000, and managed all internal marketing communications across every business segment of The Walt Disney Company. The process ultimately eradicated the business-binding mentality of silo-based thinking. The successful operation of that Disney synergy process is detailed in this book.

Overall, Inside the Disney Marketing Machine shows you what it was like to reshape a faltering and much-loved company into a media juggernaut. Her humorous anecdotes and stories, along with exclusive contributions from senior Disney management takes readers inside the world’s most powerful marketing machine in a special time when it felt like everything that Michael Eisner and Frank Wells touched, turned to gold.

Check out Lorraine’s book at Amazon, and be sure to visit her website at thesynergyexpert.com

Sherman Brothers with Randy Thornton 1992

Richard and Robert Sherman (right) with Michael Leon, Harold Kleiner and Randy Thornton of Disney Records
Richard and Robert Sherman (right) with Michael Leon, Harold Kleiner and Randy Thornton of Walt Disney Records

I took this photo back in 1992… 23 years ago! My friend, Randy Thornton (pictured in the middle in the photo above), a producer for Walt Disney Records, was producing a new CD exclusively of Sherman Brothers music. Richard and Robert Sherman were called in to help out, and Randy was kind enough to invite me over, too! Those were such great times, and I’m so grateful to Randy for all he did for me! Check back here at our “Mouse Clubhouse” blog for my interviews with Randy, and Richard Sherman as well!  (Be sure to sign up for email updates to be notified when I post the audio of Randy and Richard’s interviews!) Sadly, I never interviewed Bob. He was a good friend, and I just loved spending time with him, but never did a formal interview with him. Luckily, I’ll always have my photos and memories of him.

A historyosaurus about Restaurantosaurus

Restaurantosaurus at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World
Dinosaur-themed Restaurantosaurus at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World

Restaurantosaurus, nestled in DinoLand U.S.A. in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is always good for a laughosaurus and some foodosaurus.

The story goes that DinoLand has a history that dates back to 1947 and the discovery of dinosaur bones by an amateur fossil-hunter. Realizing the importance of the find, the bone-hunter contacted some scientist friends who banded together to purchase the site, which included an old fishing lodge.

The fossil-rich site has since been inhabited by scientists, volunteers and grad students who have left a paper trail around the site of notes, theories, questions and answers about the lives of the vanished creatures.

The old fishing lodge became the dorm and commissary for paleontology students. As you can see in my photos above, the “students” have left their humor around the building, which includes deeming the eatery Restaurantosaurus.

And that’s the story! (Are you disappointed I didn’t say storyosaurus?)

At Restaurantosaurus you can enjoy food such as hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken nuggets, and because Disney’s not living in the stone age, they are offering more healthy options like the spicy black bean burgers and grilled-chicken sandwiches.

The Endosaurus

Want to visit Walt Disney World? Be sure to contact Shani and I’ll help you plan your dream vacation. And be sure to check out the Walt Disney World packages.

The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and Restaurant

A reminder to visit the Snack Bar at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and Restaurant
A reminder to visit the Snack Bar at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and Restaurant
The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios
The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World takes you back to the fabulous 1950s! Drive-In movie theaters were all the rage. You could drive your car in, park, hook a speaker on your car window, and for those that weren’t necking in the back seat, you could enjoy a movie in front of you on the big screen.

From the moment you walk in to the Sci-Fi Dine-In, you’ll remarkably feel like you’ve stepped back in time, under the starry night sky (whether daytime or nighttime!), for some silver screen entertainment of the day.

As you hop in your ‘50s convertible, you’ll be seeing actual 1950s science-fiction-themed footage, with sound coming out of the authentic drive-in portable speakers.

Once you’ve ordered your classic American cuisine, you’ll SHRIEK at the “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman,” BEWARE as “Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster,” and be TERRIFIED by “Robot Monster.”

It was always fun to get a cartoon short accompanying the movie back in the day, and you’ll be treated to classics such as Tex Avery’s “The Cat Who Hated People,” and Tom and Jerry in “Mouse into Space.”

Intermission reminds you to visit the snack bar, with classic animated dancing hot dog, popcorn and beverage cups!

Of course, this is a Disney version of the ol’ drive-in, so you’ll see a few Disney treasures in the mix. Watch for Walt Disney and robot Garco, as Walt discusses the possibility of life on other planets in an introduction from the 1957 “Disneyland” television show, and the zany animated short from that episode in which a scholarly man tries to determine if there is “life on Mars.”

Garco the robot
(above) Walt Disney with Garco as see at the Sci-Fi Dine-In, (below) A clip from a 1954 article, with Garco creator Harvey Chapman, his wife, and son Terry

Incidentally, Garco, was not just a prop for this TV show. Walt Disney was a man of vision and strove for authenticity. So for his robot sidekick for the television episode, he utilized an actual 5’8” 235 pound robot that was built by Harvey Chapman in 1953. He was built out of used aircraft parts and christened “Garco,” for the “Garrett Manufacturing Company” for which he was built. He had vacuum fingers to pick things up, a steel claw to grip, and he could telescope his legs to reach things on higher shelves.

Besides Garco, you might also spot 1967 Disneyland Ambassador Marcia Miner with Mickey Mouse in outer space apparel within the movie clips. This is footage from the grand opening of the new Tomorrowland in Disneyland which debuted the PeopleMover, Adventure Thru Inner Space and the General Electric Carousel of Progress amongst other things. You can listen to my conversation with Marcia here!

So the next time you’re in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, consider eating at a blast to the past, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and Restaurant. It’s out of this world!

Eat in a 1950s convertible at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and Restaurant
While the kids and grandma sit up front, Shani & I enjoy the back seat 🙂

Letterhead for Disneyland’s first fabulous decade

Letterhead for Disneyland's tencennial celebration
Letterhead for Disneyland’s tencennial celebration

If you received a press release 60 years ago from Disneyland about their tenth anniversary celebration, the above is the letterhead you would see.  The “tencennial” celebration saw the premiere of “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” which was still enjoying great success at the New York World’s Fair, the opening of the beautiful Plaza Inn restaurant at the end of Main Street, and at Christmastime, the debut of “Fantasy on Parade.” This was also the year Disneyland’s 50 millionth Guest passed through the gates!

Walt Disney’s biggest frustration that year were costs going up because he didn’t want park admission to be raised, and the fact that he didn’t buy more land surrounding Disneyland. He paid $4,500 an acre, but by 1965, the land was now selling for $8,500 an acre.

Music was in abundance at Disneyland in 1965, with the big name big bands performing led by the legendary leaders including Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Duke Ellington among others. The park also held their folk music Hootenannies, the annual Dixieland at Disneyland, and the Humdingers shows featured popular rock ‘n’ roll of the day.