DVD Review: Being Elmo – A Puppeteer’s Journey

A Puppeteer’s Journey

    

This documentary on Kevin Clash, the man behind, or underneath, Elmo, was very interesting. It was done in 2011, just one year before allegations against him would bring about his resignation from Sesame Street. But I don’t want to focus on that, instead, I’ll be restricting my review to the DVD and its contents.

The story of Kevin Clash and his rise to fame as a performer with Jim Henson, the Muppets, and of course, Sesame Street, is one to warm the heart! He came from humble beginnings with just a dream and raw talent to propel himself forward. I’ll let you watch the DVD to learn all of the details.

Perhaps the most poignant moment in the film is Kevin’s recollections of Jim Henson’s last days. They visited Walt Disney World together in 1990 for the TV special The Muppets at Walt Disney World:

And they appeared together again on The Arsenio Hall Show:

One of Jim Henson’s last appearances

Clash speaks of Jim complaining of a sore throat during this broadcast, and just 10 days later, Jim Henson was dead. The DVD shows a moving moment from the funeral which ‘starred’ many of the Muppet performers singing a song in Jim’s honor, including Kevin Clash as Elmo.

Over all, this was a nice documentary, which won 13 awards! I would give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars. For some, the unfortunate allegations against Clash might make this DVD something to avoid, but I see it as a piece of history. It very well chronicles the world of puppeteering and specifically the world of Jim Henson’s Muppets and their performers.

Really, a must-see for any Disney fan.

ABBA the Movie featuring… Mickey Mouse?

As many of my readers know, I have varied tastes. But I’m always on the lookout for that elusive Disney tie-in in whatever I’m watching! And just recently I was watching ABBA – The Movie and found a familiar Disney star waving to the camera.

But before we get to that, here is the aforementioned movie:

I’ve always enjoyed ABBA’s music, so I knew I would enjoy this movie! But the Disney fan in me just couldn’t help but geek out when I saw this:

The Moomba Festival Parade, Melbourne, Australia (1977)

In the movie, ABBA comes out onto the balcony of the Mayor’s office to overlook the parade and the crowds. In an interview segment on the disc, I learned that the vast majority of the people were there, not to see ABBA on the balcony, but because of the parade! OH fame, how fickle thou art!

But Mickey wasn’t the only Disney character to ride past the four Swedes:

Cinderella riding a Fairy Godmother float

Moomba’s musical performers have included international acts such as ABBA, Neil Diamond and AC/DC as well as a number of smaller local acts.

You owe it to yourself to follow the link above to the Wikipedia site about the Moomba Festival. The word ‘Moomba’ is supposed to mean “let’s get together and have fun!” But… it is based on an Aboriginal word that actually (may) mean “Up Your Butt Hole!” Again, follow the link above if you want a good laugh!

Hmmm… it’s hard to believe Mickey Mouse would attend such a festival…

DVD Review: No Ordinary Family – The Complete First Season

I picked this up recently because I liked the concept (superheros are my kryptonite, ha ha) and because it starred Michael Chiklis (who gets super strength and invulnerability) from The Shield and the first two Fantastic Four films.

And it has the Disney/abc tie-in

So here, from Wikipedia, is the rundown on this short-lived series:

No Ordinary Family is an American television series that aired on ABC and CTV in Canada. The one-hour science fiction comedy-drama was produced by ABC Studios for the 2010–11 television season. The series ran from September 28, 2010, to April 5, 2011, on Tuesdays at 8:00 pm ET/PT. The show centers on the Powells, a typical American family living in fictional Pacific Bay, California, whose members gain special powers after their plane crashes in the Amazon, Brazil.

Julie Benz (Mom, who gets super speed), Kay Panabaker (the daughter, who can read minds), and Jimmy Bennett (the son, who becomes super smart) complete the family. Guest stars included Lucy Lawless, Cybill Shepherd, Rick Schroder (remember him?) and Robert Picardo (for all you Star Trek fans) to name but a few.

This was a fun superhero romp in the vain of The Incredibles with writing reminiscent of Heroes and Lost. The characters try to master their new powers while still balancing their somewhat flawed family. With others trying to learn their secret and more super powered humans popping up every day, most of them bad, the Powells have a lot on their plates!

Will they succeed? Will they keep their secrets? Will they save the world? We’ll never know for on May 13, 2011, ABC announced that No Ordinary Family had been cancelled due to low ratings. Although it was fun, it was a mature theme watered down for a family audience, which was likely why it couldn’t find a larger audience.

However, I still give it a 3.5 stars out of 5. The special effects were surprisingly good for a TV show budget and the acting was top-notch. It did have a sitcom feel at times. But without more episodes to watch, it’s hard to say if the premise would have carried into multiple seasons.

Other places you can find the cast:

  • Julie Benz – played Rita Bennett on Dexter (2006–2010), for which she won the 2006 Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress. She is currently starring as Mayor Amanda Rosewater on the Sci fi series Defiance.
  • Kay Panabaker – breakout role came when she starred in Summerland as “Nikki Westerly”, in the 2004–05 season. Also did voice work in Monsters Inc.
  • Jimmy Bennett – He is known for his roles as a child actor in Daddy Day Care, Hostage, Poseidon, Orphan and as young James T. Kirk in the 2009 film Star Trek. He has been nominated for Young Artist Awards five times.
Pirates of the Caribbean

5 Facts about Pirates of the Caribbean that will Impress Your Friends.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean – 5 Facts to Impress Your Friends!

If you are reading this post, chances are that you are already a Disney fan — some of you may even be Disney Addicts!  If that’s the case, the five facts I’ve got for you may not be anything you haven’t heard before, but it may be something that you can use to explain how cool Pirates of the Caribbean is to your friends, co-workers, family, anyone that isn’t as big a Disney fan as you are!  So, without further ado, here are five facts about Pirates of the Caribbean that will impress your friends!

Pirates of the Caribbean

For Pirates fans, there are a lot of great tidbits that do a great job of adding a bit of intrigue to the attraction.  Here are my top five facts that I find fascinating about this great attraction!

  1. When Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971, Pirates of the Caribbean was not one of the original opening day attractions.  The thought was that because Florida was so close to the Caribbean, the Florida residents would not be interested in pirates.  Well, people were amazed that Pirates wasn’t part of the Magic Kingdom, and they petitioned Disney to open it in Florida like it was in California.  Disney listened, and Pirates opened to the general public on December 15, 1973 — exactly 7 years after Walt Disney passed away.
  2. Pirates opened originally at Disneyland, in New Orleans Square.  The attraction was the last one that Walt Disney worked on before he passed away, and it opened 3 months after his passing.  The Disneyland version starts with a slow ride through the Blue Bayou restaurant.  If you are eating there, you can see the boats pass by from your table.  It’s really cool.  Personally, the scene reminds me of the bayou of Louisiana (hence New Orleans Square) scenes from The Princess and the Frog movie.
  3. At the Magic Kingdom, there are two skeletons playing a game of chess in one of the dungeons — you can see them as you walk through the loading queue.  Interestingly, though, the pieces on the chessboard form a stalemate, with no winner possible.  As a result, the two skeletons have been playing the same game of chess since 1973!  This part of the attraction was the brainchild of Marc Davis, one of the Disney Legends and one of Walt’s Nine Old Men.
  4. Back at Disneyland, did you know that there are two drops as part of the attraction, while at the Magic Kingdom, there is only one?
  5. Lastly, did you know that the drop at the Magic Kingdom was done in order to navigate under the Walt Disney World Railroad?

I hope that you have found these facts to be fun and enjoyable!  Leave me a comment and let me know what facts you have to share also.  Thanks, and make it a Disney day everyone!

The African Queen/Jungle Cruise Comparison

The African Queen is a 1951 adventure film adapted from the 1935 novel of the same name by C. S. Forester. The film was directed by John Huston and produced by Sam Spiegel. The screenplay was adapted primarily by James Agee. It was photographed in Technicolor by Jack Cardiff. The film stars Humphrey Bogart (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor – his only Oscar) and Katherine Hepburn.

     Set below includes 8 Still Cards like this one

I just picked up an amazing Commemorative DVD Box Set about the movie:

    

Senitype representing The African Queen (boat) as filmed in the Technicolor Process

You may recognize the style of boat from the above picture? It should remind you of a famous Disney attraction vehicle!

For Disney fans, the most interesting fact about The African Queen film is that it’s reported to have inspired The Jungle Cruise! Actually, there are said to be two sources of inspiration for the attraction, one being the 1955 True-Life Adventure film entitled “The African Lion,” about a pride of lions, and the film The African Queen. Imagineer Harper Goff referenced the African Queen frequently in his ideas; indeed, it appears his designs of the ride vehicles were inspired by the steamer used in the film.

The small steam-boat used in the film to depict the African Queen was built in 1912, in England, for service in Africa. Let’s compare it to its Theme Park counterpart. First, let’s look at the steering:

    

In the movie, Ms. Hepburn steers the boat from the rear using a tiller, but in the attraction, the Skipper uses a wheel in the front of the boat:

     Uniform color seems the same though

At one time the original boat used as The African Queen in the movie was owned by actor Fess Parker, giving us another Disney tie to the movie. In December 2011, plans were announced to restore the boat. Restoration was completed by the following April and the African Queen is apparently now on display as a tourist attraction at Key Largo, Florida. So if true, this would make an awesome side trip for any Disney fan!

One more cool comparison is found in the 5′ long model used for filming in the movie:

    

Any scene in the movie where the boat is filmed in a long shot, and in danger, it is actually this 5′ model. And if you like to play with toy boats, you can get your fix just outside The Jungle Cruise in Walt Disney World:

So both The African Queen and The Jungle Cruise have little models of the boats made, but admittedly, WDW’s versions are smaller!

The boat in the movie is called ‘African Queen’, but the boats in the Jungle Cruise attractions have a variety of names. In Disneyland, the queue and station are themed as the headquarters and boathouse of a River Expedition Company, located in a (presumably British) colony of the 1930s. And I believe the names presently in use are:

  • Amazon Belle
  • Congo Queen (nudge, nudge)
  • Ganges Gal
  • Hondo Hattie
  • Irrawaddy Woman
  • Kissimmee Kate (nudge, nudge a.k.a. Katherine Hepburn?)
  • Nile Princess
  • Orinoco Adventuress
  • Suwannee Lady
  • Ucayali Una (Wheelchair equipped)
  • Yangtze Lotus
  • Zambezi Miss

Names decommissioned in 1997:

  • Magdalena Maiden
  • Mekong Maiden

At Walt Disney World, the Jungle Cruise is set up as a depression-era British outpost on the Amazon river, operated by the fictional company, The Jungle Navigation Co., and their boats are named as follows:

  • Amazon Annie
  • Bomokandi Bertha (Wheelchair lift equipped)
  • Congo Connie
  • Ganges Gertie
  • Irrawaddy Irma
  • Mongala Millie
  • Nile Nellie
  • Orinoco Ida
  • Rutshuru Ruby
  • Sankuru Sadie
  • Senegal Sal
  • Ucyali Lolly
  • Volta Val
  • Wamba Wanda (Wheelchair lift equipped)
  • Zambesi Zelda

Retired boat

  • Kwango Kate (nudge, nudge a.k.a. Katherine Hepburn again?)

Keep in mind these lists are as accurate as I could make them. But now, onto the last bit of Jungle Cruise lore: Is there going to be a live-action movie of the attraction? Let’s read a Disney Press Release:

The Walt Disney Studios is excited to be in development with Mandeville Films and writer Roger S.H. Schulman on a feature film based on the Jungle Cruise, one of the most iconic attractions in Disney theme park history. The film will pair up Tim Allen and Tom Hanks in their first live-action project, after their previous collaborations in the Toy Story trilogy.‬ (Original announcement in 2012, source updated in 2014)

Since this original announcement, talk has died down with no new, er… news. If it does go ahead, it likely will take on a much lighter tone than The African Queen film (set in the first World War) opting instead for comedy, more in line with the Jungle Cruise attraction speils and jokes. And with Tim Allen and Tom Hanks on board (pun intended) that seems logical.

     Reproduction of book by Hepburn

This great little reproduction (the size of the DVD box) was included in The African Queen Commemorative Box Set and chronicles Ms. Hepburn’s adventures while filming the movie. In a nutshell: It… was… Hell. Actually filmed in Africa, the cast and crew had to deal with disease, injury, and a total lack of comforts and amenities. Let’s hope that if Disney does go ahead with a Jungle Cruise film, it will go better for all involved!

So what do you think: Are there enough similarities to justify a connection between The African Queen and The Jungle Cruise?