Category Archives: Animation

Snapshot Sunday: Art of Animation Resort exterior

Snapshot Sunday: Disney's Art of Animation Resort at nighttime
Snapshot Sunday: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort at nighttime – shot with a Sony RX100 II

I love Disney’s Art of Animation Resort in Walt Disney World and took this photo of the exterior at nighttime. I wanted the car in the photo because it shows how huge those pictures are, but the car is dark enough to not draw the eye away from the building. The resort has themed sections and rooms for each of the movies depicted.

I chose an ISO of 800 to preserve the quality with little grain and because nothing was moving I was able to use a low shutter speed of 1/30 with an aperture of 2.8.

Feel free to write or comment if you want any more details about the photos, such as settings I used, etc.

Preview of scenes from Disney’s “Zootopia” coming soon to Disney Parks



Beginning January 21, 2016, you can catch a preview of scenes from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootopia” in sneak peeks at Disney California Adventure Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

At Disney California Adventure Park at Disneyland Resort, the preview will be presented at the Bug’s Life Theater with special in-theater effects. And, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort, you can see this advance preview as part of the One Man’s Dream attraction on Mickey Avenue.

Nick Wild and Officer Judy Hopps at the DMV.
Nick Wild and Officer Judy Hopps at the DMV.


“Zootopia,” which opens in theaters on March 4 in 3D, features a modern mammal metropolis populated by animals, living together in habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown. Enjoy the trailer!

“Before Ever After”: New book is firsthand Disney animation history

Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Walt Disney's Animation Studio cover
Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Walt Disney’s Animation Studio cover

Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Walt Disney’s Animation Studio is reliable FIRSTHAND Disney history. As time marches on, learning about history becomes less reliable. This is certainly true with Disney history. Even a recent PBS documentary about Walt Disney is loaded with inaccuracies. That’s why it’s so exciting when books like Before Ever After are released!

This book, by Don Hahn and Tracey Miller-Zarneke is like a time capsule! In its 440 pages, you’ll find beautiful reproductions of the original carefully transcribed lectures from Walt Disney’s in-house studio art school classes. These transcriptions were distributed to the animation crew of the 1930s.

By reading these, you will see the actual process, from Walt’s initial lengthy memo to Don Graham, stressing the importance of having the studio art classes, to what was spoken at the lectures, by the foremost authorities in the field at the time. You’ll even get to read the questions asked by the students, who ended up being some of the greatest artists in animation history, and the answers they were given.

Before Ever After sample page
Before Ever After sample page
Click to enlarge

When I say this is true Disney history, I don’t mean that lightly. Take this one page alone, from 1938, which was a class given during the production of “Pinocchio.” (You can click on the image to enlarge it.) The instructor is Dave Hand, who had directed “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” He joined the Disney staff in 1930 after working at the Max Fleischer animation studios. In this lecture, Dave points out, “Walt likes the idea of part of a figure going out of the scene. I like it – I think it centralizes the eye.” A student asks, “Aren’t we still afraid to come to very close close-ups? Recently some sketches of Pinocchio, where the face filled the entire screen, were pointed out to me as being bad.” The response is, “The face begins to flatten out when you got to close on it. We are attempting to overcome that now, with a new dye process. But it will be some time before it is perfected.”

Not all classes were given by Disney staff. Ted Cook, for example, was a guest speaker. In the 1920s, he wrote and illustrated the famous syndicated column “Coo-Coo Nest.” At the start of his lecture he candidly told the class, “I feel quite confused and embarrassed tonight because I honestly feel that I should be sitting down and listening to you fellows.” Nevertheless, he offered great insight into humor and storytelling for Disney’s staff.

These lecture have not been seen since they were stored away in the 1940s! By way of these transcriptions, you’ll get a front row seat into the actual training process that made it possible for Disney to create their most classic masterpieces, and what has paved the way for ALL great animation today!

Interview: Blaine Gibson (Disney animation starting in 1939)

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.

Blaine Gibson (left), Blaine Gibson, Shani Wolf, Scott Wolf, Harriet Burns (right)
Blaine Gibson (left), On the Disney Studios lot, Blaine Gibson, Shani Wolf, Scott Wolf, Harriet Burns (right)


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

Sneek peak Disney Cruise Line ‘Tangled: The Musical’ and new Alan Menken song

Video starts at 6:47

Be among the first to experience this incredible show on the Disney Magic, which features brand-new music by Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken, stunning costumes by a Tony Award-winning designer, storybook set designs and more. You’ll even get to hear one of three songs developed exclusively for this show, “When She Returns.”

Click here for more videos and all you need to know about ‘Tangled: The Musical.”

Click here for our exclusive audio interviews with Mandy Moore (Rapunzel) and Zachary Levi (Flynn Rider) by Disney historian, Scott Wolf. 

A scene from Tangled: The Musical aboard the Disney Magic

Everything about ‘Tangled: The Musical’ debuting this month on the Disney Cruise Line

Don’t miss the debut of the live stage show adapted for Disney Cruise Line, exclusively on the Disney Magic – beginning this month.
Don’t miss the debut of the live stage show adapted for Disney Cruise Line, exclusively on the Disney Magic – beginning this month.

I’m really excited for the new Tangled: The Musical show premiering on the Disney Magic this month. Below are some behind-the-scenes secrets and fun facts I think you’ll enjoy!

Tangled: The Musical is a masterpiece of dazzling production numbers and captivating music based on the hit Disney film. Be transported to Rapunzel’s fairytale world as the animated characters from the screen come to life on stage. Sing along with favorite tunes from the film, and delight in brand-new songs created just for this show.

The Characters
The story remains true to the Disney movie with just enough of a twist for a live stage production, reuniting such characters as the spirited yet sweet Rapunzel, handsome bandit Flynn Rider, evil villainess Mother Gothel, and of course, the palace horse Maximus—a steed bent on a personal mission.

The Story
Follow Rapunzel’s journey as she escapes the confines of her tower and the clutches of her evil sham of a mother who conceals the truth about Rapunzel’s royal roots. Rapunzel and Flynn strike up an unlikely friendship and, when an unexpected romance blossoms between the adventurous pair, together they face down ruffians and thugs. But dare they defy Mother Gothel?

Disney Cruise Line assembled an all-star creative team to develop this live stage adaptation of the popular animated film.

Sneak Peak Video by Alan Menken

Three New and Original Songs

Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken and Grammy Award-winning lyricist Glenn Slater—the talented twosome behind the soundtrack for Tangled the Disney feature film—team up again to adapt the score and story for the stage, creating 3 new sure-to-be-hit songs: “Flower of Gold,” “Wanted Man” and “When the Princess Returns.”

If you like the music of Tangled and Beauty and the Beast, check out our exclusive interview with Alan Menken by my husband, Disney historian, Scott Wolf.
And learn about the beginnings of Disney’s Tangled in our exclusive interviews with the movie’s voice stars Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi.

New Songs for Tangled: The Musical

Costumes, Set Design and Puppetry

Pioneering puppetry, intricate costuming and superb set designs transform the stage into a fanciful Bavarian kingdom, immersing audiences in Rapunzel’s magical world!

Master puppet designer Michael Curry elevates the art of puppetry to a whole new level in Maximus the palace horse. Tony Award-winning designer Paloma Young creates a stunning assemblage of costumes in a brilliant use of colors, patterns and textures. And, the sets are a delight—from Rapunzel’s tower and the Snuggly Duckling tavern, to the vibrant village kingdom and a breathtaking night-sky scene lit up with floating lanterns.

Bringing Maximus to Life

New Costumes for Tangled: The Musical

What to look for during the show:

  • Bavarian inspiration: Everything from set designs to costumes to choreography was inspired in some way by the sights, sounds and heritage of early German culture.
  • Flowers: Rapunzel’s story begins with a magical flower, but many more have been “planted” in the show’s design. Look for more than 200 physical flowers—plus dozens of others that have been drawn, painted, carved and sewn—in scenic elements, costumes and even Rapunzel’s hair!
  • Immersive moments: The creative team designed the show to totally immerse you in the story as characters interact with the audience; scenes spill over the stage and lanterns float overhead.
  • The guitar: Legendary composer Alan Menken’s score was inspired by folk rock music, so listen closely to hear undertones of the guitar thread throughout the show. You may even see a character strumming away!
  • Glowing scenic elements: A magical flower, Rapunzel’s hair, floating lanterns, burning candles and glowing murals … There are definitely a lot of bright spots to see in this show!
  • Organic choreography: Choreographer Connor Gallagher developed each dance number to feel natural and folksy, focusing on loose movements, lower centers of gravity and personal touches by each character.
  • Nods to the movie: Of course, this is still the story of Rapunzel’s grand adventure, so you’ll see and hear many of your favorite characters, scenes, songs and quotes

Rehearsals for Tangled: The Musical

Recreating Rapunzel’s World

Click here to view 2016-2017 Itineraries and remember, this musical is only aboard Disney Magic. To book or to get a free quote for your Disney cruise, contact me and I’ll help make your vacation dreams come true!

Interview: Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi (voice actors in Tangled)

Interview with Zachary Levi, voice of Flynn Rider and Mandy Moore, voice of Rapunzel in Disney's Tangled
Interview with Zachary Levi, voice of Flynn Rider and Mandy Moore, voice of Rapunzel in Disney’s Tangled

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


Aladdin appears on Blu-ray

aladdin-diamond-edition-cover[1]I can’t believe it was 23 years ago I first walked into the theater at the Disney Studios to see their upcoming animated feature, “Aladdin”! It promised to be a groundbreaking film, drastically different than any other. Just a few years earlier, “The Little Mermaid” revived Disney animation, proving that the company could still produce the type of animated feature that had worldwide appeal, and it was soon followed by “Beauty and the Beast.” Between the pristine animation and Alan Menken and Tim Rice’s music, Disney animated musicals were once again tops.

With Robin Williams as the voice of the Genie, and being allowed the chance to improvise on the script, it brought a unique zaniness that had not been seen in animated features before. I’m not sure audiences had ever roared with laughter in any full-length animated film as they did with “Aladdin.” In fact, Scott Weinger, the voice of Aladdin told me that at one point during a recording session with Robin, he laughed so much he actually fell out of his seat! Add in another standup comic, Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of parrot, Iago, and you’ve got an hour and a half comedy show!

I remember watching “Aladdin” for the first time, and while I loved it I wondered if it would hold up as a classic many years later, particularly with such modern references such as Robin Williams’ impersonations of Carl Sagan, Arsenio Hall and Rodney Dangerfield. Getting the chance to see the film again, I can assure you it’s as good as when it was first released. I’m not sure younger people will know the aforementioned celebrities, and references to Groucho Marx’s “You Bet Your Life” game show, or the impersonation of Rochester from the Jack Benny show when the Genie sings, “You’re the boss!” in “Friend Like Me.” Besides the lost references, there is enough zaniness and timeless humor to keep audiences of any age in stitches.

Aladdin-0nCarpet-Jasmine_wOver the years, at least for me, when I thought of “Aladdin,” it was the comedy of the Genie that first came to mind. He certain steals the show in the film, but what I forgot was the beautiful love story, the heart, the touching moments so reminiscent of Disney’s best films. It still gets you at the moment that Jasmine realizes that Prince Ali is the vagrant boy she met earlier. The “Whole New World” sequence, with Aladdin and Jasmine soaring around the world on a magic carpet, still give audiences just enough of a break from the hilarity with some necessary tender moments.

In addition to a gorgeous digital transfer of “Aladdin,” this new Diamond Edition release of “Aladdin” has the great bonus features from previous DVD releases and a few new goodies as well. Most notably is “Genie Outtakes,” nearly ten minutes of Robin Williams voice work that didn’t make the final cut. There’s a piece about bringing “Aladdin” to the Broadway stage, and a segment on some of the Easter eggs found in the movie. Scott Weinger, the speaking voice of Aladdin, delves into what went into the creation of the Genie character, and Ron Clements and John Musker, longtime Disney collaborators who wrote and directed “Aladdin.”

So your wishes have been granted, The Diamond Edition Blu-ray of Aladdin doesn’t disappoint!