Saturday Matinee #128: "The Golden Girls - Two Rode Together" (February 18, 1989)
Published June 15, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Trips to Walt Disney World happen every day. Yet each one of them contains special meaning for each and every trip-goer. This may be their first trip or their fiftieth. They may be taking their children, their grandparents, their newly-married spouse. Magic is made through the littlest of actions, whether it be wishing "Happy Birthday" to a fellow guest with a pin, offering to take a family's picture if there's no PhotoPass cast member around, or giving Mickey Mouse a great big hug. During my last trip - in January - I decided to observe other people on their vacations, to see what they do, and how they play in the happiest place on earth. Some of the more memorable moments I shared on Facebook, others, I kept to myself. One thing I noticed, which I didn't think was memorable at all, were the occasional families or groups of friends who would spend a long time in a line, and when they got on the attraction, immediately pulled up their phone. As a result, they were missing the "live" experience in order to have something to put on YouTube later. Not a way to celebrate a theme park, if you ask me.
Watching these guests preserve these experiences through their phones rather than through their minds, I was reminded of one of my favorite episodes of "The Golden Girls." In the fourth season episode "Two Rode Together," Dorothy decides to bring her mother Sophia to Walt Disney World, a place she's wanted to go to for years. Rather than take Sophia into the parks, Dorothy keeps her in the hotel room so they can look through family albums, family slides, and family letters. Sophia goes along with it at first, but gets annoyed and finally leaves. Dorothy finds her in the hotel bar:
(Sophia sits by the piano, addresses the piano man.)
Sophia: "Hey, Sam, what's that you're playing?"
"Sam": Oh, just a little something."
Sophia: "Stop it, you know what I want to hear."
"Sam": No, I don't."
Sophia: "You played it for her, you can play it for me."
"Sam": But I don't think that I should - "
Sophia: "If she can stand it, so can I. Now, play it."
"Sam": Okay, you're the boss. (sings) It's a world of laughter, it's a world of tears. it's a world of hopes, and a world of fears. There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware... it's a small world after all."
Sophia: "Of all the saloons and gin joints in the world, she had to walk into mine."
Dorothy: "Ma, I've been looking everywhere for you. We really need to talk.
(They move to a table.)
Ma, why are you trying so hard to ruin my weekend?"
Sophia: "You don't get it, do you? This weekend could have been a lot of fun until you decided we were going to have quality time."
Dorothy: "Is that so horrible? Ma, all I wanted to do was have us finish unfinished business and say things to each other that we've never said before."
Sophia: "Dorothy, this isn't On Golden Pond."
Dorothy: "I know, Ma."
Sophia: "And you're not Jane Fonda."
Dorothy: "All right, you've made your point!"
Sophia: "Quality time has to come naturally. It happens when you're not thinking about it, like when we're cutting vegetables together, that's quality time."
Dorothy: "I was hoping for something a little more magical than that."
Sophia: "Let me tell you a little story. When I was a kid in Sicily, I loved lightning bugs. I'd stand out in the field and watch them light up the night sky. That was magical, that was spectacular. I tell you, I saw a thousand points of light. It was a kinder, gentler America. I turned to my wife Barbara and I said - "
Dorothy: "Ma, what the hell are you talking about?"
Sophia: "Oh, sorry. I must have lapsed into George Bush's inauguration speech. Where was I?"
Dorothy: "Lightning bugs."
Sophia: "Right. I liked them so much, I'd catch them in glass jars so I could watch them light up whenever I wanted, but they always died."
Dorothy: "I see what you mean. They needed their freedom."
Sophia: "No, they needed their air. I always forgot to punch holes in the lid. The point is it's the same with all magical moments. You can't capture them forever, no matter what Kodak tells you."
Dorothy: "So what you're saying, Ma, is that, like a lightning bug, I put you in a glass jar, and, waiting for you to light up, I nearly suffocated you."
Sophia: "Geez, Dorothy, you sure know how to beat a metaphor to death!"
Dorothy: "Ma, I love you!"
Sophia: "I love you, too, pussycat. Just promise me you'll never make me do this for the rest of my life."
Dorothy: "Okay, only if you promise you will live forever."
Sophia: "Okay, I promise."
Dorothy: "How can you make a promise like that?"
Sophia: "Hey, if I don't come through, what are you going to do to me?"
The episode has always been one of my favorites, not just because it's about a trip to Walt Disney World, but also for the wonderfully humorous and poignant dialogue between Dorothy and Sophia. Also, the scene quoted above includes a near-verbatim recreation of one of my favorite scenes from Casablanca, where Sophia plays the "Rick" role (rickroll, hehe...), and the piano player is obviously Sam. Sam, by the way, is played by R&B singer Freddie Jackson, best known for hits like "Rock Me Tonight (For old Times Sake)", "Jam Tonight," and "You Are My Lady." Despite its brevity, his rendition of "it's a small world" in this episode stands out as one of my favorites. I had always wished a longer version existed, although I'm sure if one did, it wouldn't include the audience's anticipation and laughter at the end, which made Jackson's version in the episode even more enjoyable.
However, the reason this scene in particular is one of my favorites is due to what Sophia tells Dorothy. We can't capture every moment forever, which brings us back to the guests I'd seen in parks, whipping out their phones and cameras, rather than enjoying their surroundings. Now, I'm not advocating a complete shun on technology when in the parks. Far from it. I enjoy perusing through trip photos, watching old home movies of WDW trips in my youth, and revisiting old Facebook statuses written during trips. My favorites are the home movies, when my parents would take turns holding the camera and just capture us at random moments in time. But that's all they are: moments. For some reason, people have this crazy need to document every single thing happening nowadays. How do you feel? Make a status on Facebook. Where are you right now? Check in at FourSquare. What are you doing? Take a selfie, filter it, and post on Instagram. Got an opinion? Share it on Twitter. Got a longwinded opinion? Share it on Tumblr. And for what? To relive later?
Some experiences are best left to live in the moment. And this includes time in the theme parks. You're here, why enjoy the majority of it through a lens? It's okay to put the camera down once in awhile. It's okay to stand in line for an hour and sit down on a ride without recording it for posterity. It's okay to just let the PhotoPass cast member do all the work for you when you're having a character meeting. It's okay, I promise. You can still take your own pictures, of course. Plenty of photo ops exist in the parks, along with chances to strike crazy poses. Just... immerse yourself in the park. Let it tell you a story, and remember the good parts.
Also, Sophia did get her wish. By the episode's end, Dorothy takes her to ride Space Mountain. Unfortunately for viewers, we don't get to see it: the show's producers simply used stock footage of the parks. But that's perfectly okay. We can let Dorothy and Sophia have their moment, we don't need it recorded for eternity.
And, of course, this episode of "The Golden Girls" can be found on the Season Four DVD (to be specific, it's on the second disc). The series is also currently in reruns on cable networks Hallmark Channel, TV Land, and Logo TV.
Saturday Matinee #127: "Disney Family Movie Night - Summer in June" (Various)
Published June 8, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
The presentation of a film should hold as much importance for a viewer as the quality of the film itself. For example, would you prefer to watch Lawrence of Arabia on an iPod while sitting in a loud and rowdy commuter bus? Or would you rather be in the darkened theatre, comfortably seated, with a nice box of popcorn and milk buds to munch on? These days, the art of film viewing seems to have taken a backseat to the mobility of it. Gone are the days when a roadshow engagement required booking tickets in advance, dressing up for the evening, and being treated to a true theatrical experience. Now, a studio puts a movie in theatres, which people will flock to, or wait four months to get it on no less than three formats: Blu-Ray for the home theatre, DVD for the laptop, and Digital Copy/UltraViolet/Cloud for on the go.
While I am grateful for these multiple formats, I sometimes miss the lure of devoting an entire evening to a special night at the movies. Then again, I'm also romanticizing such a practice; my family rarely went to the theatres when we were younger, and if we did, it was a very special occasion or a movie that we collectively wanted to see. That's what made film-going an "event" for me, and not just another way to spend a Saturday night. For this week's Saturday Matinee, and for columns in the future, we're going to recreate a special night at the movies. These special themed nights will help a viewer enjoy Disney's wide range of filmmaking. Much like the theatrical engagements of yore, this evening will consist of a trailer for a film, a couple shorts, and a specially-selected feature film. You can even recreate such an experience at home if you own/rent these shorts and films (provided they are available). For this inaugural edition of "Disney Family Movie Night," let's have a thematic evening devoted to Disney shorts and/or films with a summer setting, and released in June, my favorite month of the year.
Trailer: The Parent Trap (June 21, 1961)
We start off with Disney's lengthy trailer for their 1961 hit The Parent Trap. This trailer runs over four minutes, and generally reveals the entire plot, surprisingly including shots from the ending. However, the lure of this film - as advertised - is for the opportunity to see Hayley Mills not once, but twice! Fresh off her Honorary Oscar win for Pollyanna, Mills plays Sharon and Susan, two young girls separated at birth and reunited at summer camp. They conspire to get their divorced parents back together; it should be no surprise to anyone that they succeed. Disney would remake this film 37 years later, with up-and-coming Lindsay Lohan now playing the dual roles.
Cartoon Short: "Beach Picnic" (June 9, 1939)
After getting primed with a recommendation for a future movie night, now it's time to get ready for our feature presentation. Donald Duck and Pluto are on hand to help viewers get acquainted with the beach scene in their 1939 cartoon "Beach Picnic." Donald has set up his own beachfront picnic, complete with an inflatable sea horse aptly named Seabiscuit. He has trouble trying to mount the rubber floatie, so he decides instead to scare a formerly-napping Pluto. The dog sees Seabiscuit, his curiosity immediately aroused. Unfortunately, Pluto believes it to be real, and attempts to battle with the ever-floating toy. As if that weren't enough, a tribe of ants spy Donald's picnic spread and decide to take it for themselves. Donald and Pluto's attempts to stop the ants only bring them... closer together.
Live-Action Short: "Water Birds" (June 26, 1952)
A two-reel "True-Life Adventure" takes us to various islands in the world, as we examine the lives of several water birds, be it their community behavior, mating rituals, or raising their young. For most Disney fans, they'll recognize the albatross, thanks in part to 1977's The Rescuers. But we also see the lives of cranes, pelicans, and one of my favorites: the sandpiper. They certainly have rhythm! Regular TLA narrator Winston Hibler makes sure to provide thoughtful, educational, and sometimes dryly humorous commentary. Not one of the most engaging of True-Life Adventures, but one that certainly provides a broad vista of scenery, especially as the majority of these birds live on the beach, the perfect summer setting.
Feature Film: Lilo & Stitch (June 21, 2002)
Now it's time for our feature presentation. While the theme of summer had been predominant in the trailer and shorts, the greater theme of companionship also pervades throughout the three. Now, we see summer and companionship literally come together in Disney's 2002 animated hit Lilo & Stitch. Two misfits learn to like each other, forming a bond that creates a new family among the fractured remains of their original. Set against a beautiful Hawaiian landscape, the film makes sure to invite viewers to become part of their family. After all, they are ohana, which means nobody gets left behind.
And with that, our first Disney Family Movie Night has come to a close. The Parent Trap offered a future recommendation of family viewing. "Beach Picnic" shows us two characters that normally don't co-star together sharing the screen. "Water Birds" gives us some educational insight into bird families. And Lilo & Stitch ties it all together by showing how we can embrace our differences, change for the better, and create a family. May you have a happy Disney Family Movie Night.
Saturday Matinee #126: Life Comes to Fantasy (1945 to Present)
Published June 1, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
In March of last year, we took a look at how live-action reference footage helps to inspire animators when they draw the movements of characters for Disney's animated films (Saturday Matinee #62). I dubbed it "Fantasy Comes to Life," as we indeed saw how the fantastical nature of animation had begun with live-action roots. This time, we'll be looking at a slight inversion of that phrase. "Life Comes to Fantasy" won't exactly look at how pre-viz animated sequences help storyboard a live-action performance. Instead, we'll check out four of my favorite moments when a live-action character stepped into that fantastical animated world:
#4: "Wow, really good reception here." (Enchanted, 2007)
Enchanted remains one of the few occurrences in which a live-action character actually becomes animated when they enter the world, and vice versa. The majority of the film saw Giselle leave the cartoon world of Andalasia for the real world of New York City. But by the film's end, it was (spoiler alert) Nancy who ventured into Andalasia. She became a cartoon in the process, albeit one with a working cell phone. I've always loved this moment, simply because it allowed Nancy to finally have her love-at-first-sight, let-me-at-him romance. Throughout the film (and in a vital deleted scene), I always saw that Nancy was secretly yearning for such a life. She needed the dalliance in fantasy, just as Giselle needed the dose of reality. Thus, the animated world is the perfect, happy ending for Nancy. Why haven't we seen Princess Nancy added to the Disney Princess line?
Enchanted is available on both DVD and Blu-Ray.
#3: "Os Quindins de Yay�" (The Three Caballeros, 1945)
As Donald Duck and Joe Carioca arrive in their pop-up book version of Ba�a, they come across Aurora Miranda, walking down a cartoon street. She's carrying quindims (misspelt as quindins) for any passerby to purchase, but Joe and Donald would rather walk along with her through the streets. Unfortunately for them, Aurora Miranda draws a crowd of her own, and they have a grand old time dancing in the town square. This sequence is notable for using rear-projection elements to make it seem like Aurora was standing in the cartoon world with Donald and Joe. Watching the sequence today is still a wonder, especially when we get virtual "multi-plane" shots in which the live actors are actually in front of an animated background, with Donald and Joe in the foreground.
The Three Caballeros is available on DVD.
#2: "Cheers and Candied Apples" (Mary Poppins, 1964)
The entire chalk-picture sequence from Mary Poppins could be listed here, but instead, I decided to pick this little moment with Bert, the kids, and the fox. We're only given a few shots at this angle, but I always loved it as a child. For one thing, the shot shows how both live-action and cartoon elements are used together, rather than exclusively featuring one. Most of the "character in another world" movies give prominence to one world over the other. However, in this shot, we see both sides represented equally. We have the animated background, with an animated character, holding an animated prop. At the same time, we have live-action characters, also holding live-action props, and sitting on a live-action fence. The worlds converge nicely here, showing that animation and live-action can indeed be equals. Plus, I always loved that they gave the fox his own candied apple.
Mary Poppins is available on DVD.
#1: "Everything is Satisfactual with Uncle Remus" (Song of the South, 1946)
For all intents and purposes, Song of the South does not need the live-action photoplay, which makes up the bulk of its running time. In actuality, Disney wanted to make a full-length animated feature based on the Br'er Rabbit tales. Due to the post-war struggles of the studios, he made the decision to instead mix the animated tales with a live-action wraparound story, one which is charming, but ultimately rather dull. The film shines during the animated sequences, with Uncle Remus' entrance into the world being the highlight of the entire film. The effect Disney used as a novelty in 1923 ("Alice in Cartoonland") would be refined by 1945 (The Three Caballeros), and then perfected a year later in this film.
Sadly, few will get to experience this moment with Uncle Remus unless they want to do some extra digging. Song of the South hasn't seen a legal U.S. release since 1986, although a few moments from the film have been legally available from Disney on home media. Most prominently, the entire animated sequence involving "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" and Br'er Rabbit's "running away" tale is excerpted in its entirely in the 1950 Disney television special "One Hour in Wonderland." This special is readily available on LaserDisc, DVD, and Blu-Ray with Alice in Wonderland.
Saturday Matinee #125: "Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Firing Line" (July 30, 1942)
Published May 25, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone. While many in America look to this May weekend as the beginning of the summer season, the end of school, or the day when the ole barbecue grill can be lit up, we must first remember that Memorial Day began as a commemoration for soldiers lost in the Civil War. Now, we pay tribute all those who lost their lives serving in our Armed Forces. Of course, that shouldn't stop anyone from busting out that ole barbecue grill. After all, outdoor potlucks have been a traditional way of celebrating Memorial Day since the holiday's inception. Grilling on the barbecue or frying at the stove are mainstays of summer. And, appropriately, frying is the topic of this week's Saturday Matinee. We'll be taking a look at the educational short "Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Firing Line," which showed us just how bacon could help win the war.
Minnie Mouse has just finished frying up some eggs and bacon (in the same pan, no less), but doesn't know what to do with the leftover bacon grease. Its pungent aroma draws the attention of Pluto, who would like for Minnie to pour the waste fat into his bowl of dog bones. Minnie is about to comply when the radio tells her not to. Fats can help win the war! Fats make glycerin, which can be used for explosives. The radio then shoots some fat facts to Minnie and Pluto in order to convince them what to do with the fat. Every year, for example, two billion pounds of waste fat is thrown away. If it were conserved, they could make ten billion rapid-fire cannon shells - which could circle around the earth six times!
"It's a little munitions factory," the radio tells Pluto. "Meat droppings sink Axis warships." Most importantly, saving a pound of waste fat can provide a clip of cartridges for "some boy at the front." We then cut to a shot of a saluting Mickey, who is Minnie and Pluto's boy at the front. Pluto valiantly rejects the bacon fat on his bones, and instead, they pour it into a clean, wide-mouth can. Once a pound has been collected and preserved in the freezer, Pluto takes it to a local butcher who is doing his patriotic duty by collecting fats for the government. Rather than accept money for the fat, Pluto takes wienies, much to the butcher's amusement.
"Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Firing Line" is not meant to be some grand masterpiece of any kind. It was a message, brought to life through Disney's animated characters as they related to the American audience. Watching shorts like these today seem almost strange, but saving waste fat was a common-place occurrence. In my experience, the practice of saving bacon grease in the freezer continues to this day. I obviously wasn't around during the 1940's when such a practice was in its heydey. But after I fry something in a pan, I'll often put the leftover oils and grease into a container, which goes in the freezer. It was something I always saw when I was younger, as my parents would always save bacon grease the same way. I never really knew why they saved it, nor what they did with it once a container was full. Saving the grease obviously was something they grew up with, even though they grew up after the war. Looking back on it now, it's probably a tradition that kept up for so long since they have no reason to doubt it.
This actually harkens back to the well-known "Pot Roast Story." As the story goes, a young woman was making pot roast by cutting off both ends of a roast and sticking it into the pan. Her husband asked her why she cut off the ends, to which the young woman replied that her mother did it that way. But the young woman then began to wonder why the end pieces would be cut, so she called her mother one day to ask. Her mother replied that she learned that from her own mother, the young woman's grandmother. The young woman then called up her grandmother, who simply told her, "the roasts were always bigger than my pot, so I cut the ends to make it fit." An amusing story, but one that shows how a slight change to the norm can become the norm over time. Saving bacon grease is my "pot roast," so to speak.
Of course, saving bacon grease or frying oils won't garner me any money at my butcher's, but it was still a valuable practice in the war years. "Out of the Frying Pan..." served as one way to inform the American audience on the values of changing their norms in order to preserve their way of life. Save the bacon grease now so that when the war is won, things will go back to normal. This is the kind of forward-thinking modus operandi that went into many educational shorts. "Do it now, you'll benefit later." The same treatment can be found in the five-for-four war bond shorts, or the pay-your-taxes shorts. Food, and its uses, were another way to appeal to the audience. Other shorts from the era that focused on how food helps were the aptly-titled "Food Will Win The War" and "The Grain that Built a Hemisphere."
This short also features one of the more evocative images from the Disney wartime era: Soldier Mickey. While Donald Duck was given a series of shorts that showed his military escapades, Mickey Mouse was largely absent from the war scene. He was largely absent from the theatrical scene as well, headlining only three shorts between 1942 and 1943, with no new shorts in 1944 or 1945. This absence became just as real as those of Disney animators who were drafted or signed up. Fortunately, Mickey did make a return, although it wouldn't be until 1946 in "Squatter's Rights."
"Out of the Frying Pan..." can be found in "Walt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines," released in 2004 with a print run of 250,000. However, the short also is in the public domain, and can be found for free on YouTube, or as a download from the Internet Archive.
Saturday Matinee #124, Pedro Week: "Mr. Duck Steps Out" (June 7, 1940)
Published May 18, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Happy Pedro Week! Much like last month's week dedicated to Alex McVetty, this week has been focusing entirely on everyone's favorite Gamer Tuesday writer, Pedro Hernandez! By now, you should know a lot about Pedro. He likes Beauty and the Beast and The Sword in the Stone, and his favorite theme park memory was his day at Animal Kingdom. Given how important and live-changing this theme park trip was, it seemed only appropriate that Saturday Matinee celebrate another character going out for a good time. We take a look at one of Pedro's favorite shorts by stepping out for a date with Daisy in 1940's "Mr. Duck Steps Out."
Donald is getting ready for his date with Daisy. Armed with a box of chocolates and ready to cut a rug, he gest ready to leave. Also prepared and equally eager to have a night on the town are his nephews: Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Donald tricks them into marching back into the closet, which he locks. Donald then continues on his way, unaware that the three have cut a hole in the wall (!) in order to get to Daisy's house. When Donald arrives, the boys are gracious for his gift of chocolates. Naturally, Donald chases after them, but Daisy finally emerges from the kitchen. To save face, Donald says he brought them with him. He then bribes them to leave by giving them money for ice cream.
Now alone, Donald tries to get fresh with Daisy on the couch, only to be interrupted by his nephews once more, now back with the ice cream. Quick-thinking Donald decides instead to ask Daisy to dance the jitterbug with him. They get along well until one of the nephews decides to cut in. Donald sends him back to the couch and continues his dance with Daisy. But now, the boys are all intent on getting a dance with Daisy, be it one at a time or all at once. They sabotage Donald's latest dance with Daisy through popcorn, ultimately using the beat he's popping with random household objects to create a live band. Perhaps now they just want to have fun, rather than dance with Daisy. Daisy doesn't seem to mind, she's having quite a ball. And by the end of the date, everyone's happy. Maybe Donald should bring his nephews out more often.
Donald and his nephews have already battled before, namely in their introductory short, "Donald's Nephews" (1938). However, this would be the first of three shorts from the classic era in which they interact with Daisy. The other two shorts in which all five ducks share screen time are 1941's "The Nifty Nineties" and 1954's "Donald's Diary." In all three appearances, Daisy doesn't seem to mind Donald's nephews; she finds them to be absolutely adorable. Granted, their appearance in "The Nifty Nineties" is little more than a cameo, while "Donald's Diary" rewrites history somewhat and seems to establish that the boys are part of Daisy's family. Thus, we can only look to "Mr. Duck Steps Out" to see how Daisy feels about them. And she obviously holds as much affection for them as she does Donald.
I've always been a huge fan of the Donald vs. His Nephews shorts, and this is a rarity among them, as everything ends up okay for everybody. Donald has a successful date, the nephews had their ice cream earlier, and were even allowed to stick around and play. Happy endings usually aren't common for Donald, he almost always loses in his one-upmanship with whomever he is rivaling, be it the boys, Chip 'n' Dale, Spike the Bee, etc. It's refreshing to see everything work out by the end.
"Mr. Duck Steps Out" was first made available on DVD in a 2004 compilation disc entitled "Mickey and Minnie's Sweetheart Stories." Later that year, it was released in "Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume One." 2006 saw it released a third time, now in "Classic Cartoon Favorites, Volume Ten: Best Pals - Donald and Daisy." All three releases are out of print.
Saturday Matinee #123: "My Heart Was An Island" (December 10, 1960)
Published May 11, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Whenever I want to take an adventure, but simply don't have the time, I often turn to one of my favorite Disney films, Swiss Family Robinson. I've mentioned the film quite a few times here at Saturday Matinee, ranging from my Holiday Celebration Countdown (Saturday Matinee #51) to the 1960 Disney Studio Album (Saturday Matinee #63) to the thematically-related "Sea Salts" (Saturday Matinee #89). I'd say it's time to revisit our favorite shipwrecked island, and what better way than through its theme song? "My Heart Was An Island" may not be as well-known as "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" or "A Dream Is A Wish," but it's one for the ages. The seven lines of lyrics are only heard once in the film, and not even heard in their entirety. As Mother Robinson is putting up her new curtains, her song trails off when the scene shifts back to Ernst discussing some books he's read. However, the full recording of the song is available on the DVD, allowing us to hear Dorothy McGuire's complete take of the song.
My heart was an island on a stormy sea
Till my golden ship of dreams came to me
Filled with the wondrous joys that love brings to light
So when you are lonely, under stormy skies above
Your heart will be an island till you find someone to love
My heart was an island on a stormy sea
Till you found my heart and gave your love to me
The song was written by Terry Gilkyson, a well-known songwriter of the era best remembered by Disney fans for "The Bare Necessities" from 1967's The Jungle Book. Gilkyson actually composed additional songs when the film was in development, but the majority of them were dropped when the Sherman Brothers were later assigned to the project. As the story goes, Walt told Richard and Robert a basic summary of the Kipling classic, but not to read the novel at all. Rather, they would write more songs to go along with Gilkyson's "The Bare Necessities." As high a praise as the song received, Gilkyson's overall contributions to Disney films does seem overshadowed by the Sherman Brothers, who certainly ruled the roost at the studio throughout the 1960's. However, Gilkyson's work is still memorable today. In addition to "The Bare Necessities" now serving as one of the Disney standards, Gilkyson's other work include "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh" from Dr. Syn, Alias The Scarecrow, "Savage Sam and Me" from the Old Yeller sequel Savage Sam, "Thomasina" from The Three Lives of Thomasina, "The Moon-Spiners Song" from The Moon-Spinners, and "Thomas O'Malley Cat" from The AristoCats. And, of course, "My Heart Was An Island" from Swiss Family Robinson.
The song itself is a simple, but effective, melody that occasionally repeats in the film. I'm not entirely sure whether the melody was first developed by composer William Alwyn, then adapted into a song by Gilkyson, or if Gilkyson created the song for Alwyn to sometimes weave throughout the film's score. Either way, we hear its familiar tune at key points in the film, reminding the viewers that of both the frenetic and excited pacing, as well as the heart and love of the family. Within the Disney Songbook, "My Heart Was An Island" likely won't set many hearts afire, and even within the film, it's not as well-known as the oft-played "Swisskapolka." But for me, the song conveys a hopefulness that can get the family through the toughest of times. Its allusions to love and companionship also remind me of one of Hugh Grant's lines from 2002's About A Boy:
Every man is an island. And I stand by that. But clearly some men are part of island chains. Below the surface of the ocean, they're actually connected.
As mentioned earlier, the complete recording of "My Heart Was An Island" is available on the Swiss Family Robinson: Vault Disney Collection DVD. The DVD itself is one of Disney's best, and one I hope gets re-released to Blu-Ray.
Saturday Matinee #122: The Evolution of "Dunk the Mayor" (1965 to 2006)
Published May 4, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Recently, I was talking about the Pirates of the Caribbean film series with some friends. We were a varied bunch: I took yearly trips to Walt Disney World, some of them went every few years, and one of us had never been at all. But one thing we all had vivid memories of was Pirates of the Caribbean. Naturally, we remembered the 2003 film, and its three sequels. But we also remembered the attraction quite well. Not necessarily out of riding it over and over during trips (well, I did), but from the very old "Sing-Along Songs" VHS tapes. The "Heigh-Ho" edition included the attraction's theme song, "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life For Me)" coupled with footage from the attraction itself. For much of my childhood, watching that tape was my way of riding the attraction. Fittingly, it wasn't until Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl hit theatres and DVD in 2003 that I learned just where that footage was originally used.
We have to go back 45 years, to January 21, 1968. Disney Ambassador Marcia Minor was our host for that night's mouthful of an episode: "From the Pirates of the Caribbean to the World of Tomorrow." The hour was dedicated to a behind-the-scenes look at how New Orleans Square, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Tomorrowland were designed and constructed. The highlight of the episode included a ride-through of Pirates of the Caribbean, complete with dialogue and sound effects. Much of the ride-through footage would later see new life in the aforementioned "Sing-Along Songs" edition of the attraction's theme song. And they would serve as inspiration for some shots and moments throughout all four Pirates of the Caribbean films.
Take, for example, the famous "dunk the mayor" scene. While we don't see the full storyboard for this scene, you can catch a glimpse of it when Walt Disney was showing Julie Reihm the maquettes and models for the then-upcoming attraction. This shot, as well as the actual model, were first shown in Disney's "10th Anniversary" episode, from January 3, 1965.
When we return to the 1968 episode, we see some WED Enterprises footage with the Imagineers working on several animatronics. They bring special attention to the "dunk the mayor" scene, showing us the unstripped animatronics in a testing phase. The narrator makes special note that every 20 seconds, the mayor has to be dunked and raised.
Naturally, the next stop is the actual attraction, where we see these animatronics in action. For Disneyland's 50th Anniversary in 2005, the entire attraction went through a major rehab, which included new costumes, an aspect of the scene that has been periodically changed every so often. The following year, 2006, saw the inclusion of Captain Jack Sparrow at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World's attractions. The dunking scene has a whole new context now, rather than pirates demanding to know where the town treasure is buried, they want to know where the town is hiding Captain Jack Sparrow. And to add even more political correction (earlier, pirates were chasing girls, now the headstrong girls chase the pirates), the negligee-holding pirate has a treasure map he doesn't want Captain Jack to find.
Within the Pirates films, we nearly didn't even see the mayor get dunked, as they cut it out of the first film. This scene would have taken place after Captain Jack gets slapped by Scarlett and Giselle, and before he tells Will they must find Gibbs. On the Curse of the Black Pearl DVD, you can see this short piece in the "Deleted Scenes" section. However, the filmmakers found a way to reuse the scene, and digitally edited out Will and Captain Jack when they incorporated this shot into Dead Man's Chest. Now, it precedes Gibbs interviewing pirates for positions on their crew.
All this talk of Pirates of the Caribbean makes me yearn for the latest film, which isn't due for theatres until July 10, 2015. In the meantime, I'll just have a marathon of the first four films, all of which are available on DVD and Blu-Ray. And, of course, I'll have to search through my VHS tapes for the one that started it all for me: Disney's Sing-Along Songs. Ironically, this version does not even feature the "dunk the mayor" scene. But I can always watch that on the DVD and Blu-Ray for Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, as it includes an 18-minute excerpt from the 1968 episode from which the ride-through footage originated.