Monday, November 17, 2008

Little Golden Book Monday #71

Today's Little Golden Book is Blue Barry Bear Counts From 1 To 20. I picked this one up as I had never seen it before and I liked the artwork of the silly little blue bear on the cover. I also liked the first page illustration of Barry and a cute little rabbit holding some balloons. The little bunny reminded me of a cross between the characters that were on all the Hallmark cards my friends sent me over the past 15 years and one of my favorite Muppet characters, Bean Bunny.
If you check out the small text on the inside front page, this book is copyright 1991, and also has the roman numerals MCMXCII, which I had to look up on Google, and it turns out is 1992, so I guess this book has a copyright of 1991 in North America and 1992 in Rome ;-)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bolt Sneek Peek Preview

Don't let the promo poster scare you away!

My wife, son and I went to a special advanced screening of Bolt tonight. Without doing a full review, let me say we all enjoyed it thoroughly. My wife who almost never laughs at movies laughed throughout the movie and my 3 year old son found plenty of chuckles throughout the movie, including a bunch of times when he was the only one getting a chuckle - mostly when someone was getting hurt! I myself found it to be a greatly engaging story from start to finish and it looked great visually. It is definitely a film both adults and kids will enjoy.
I was pretty surprised at how few people were at the screening, but then, they didn't promote this special prerelease screening that much. Those who were there all seemed to enjoy themselves. And best of all, we didn't have to stand in the incredibly insane lines that were all over the megaplex full of people there to see the new James Bond flick "Quantum of Solace."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Little Golden Book Monday #70

Today's Little Golden Book is Charlie. This copy is the third printing from 1976, with the original printing being 1970.
I found this book in a large pile of Little Golden Books at my local Talize thrift super store. Of the 60 or so books they had on the shelves, this was one of the only few I did not already have, and I was drawn by the illustration of Charlie on the cover. When I flipped it open, I saw the illustration of Charlie standing atop a fire hydrant on the inside front page. As you may or may not know, I produced a KISS fanzine called Firehouse Magazine for 18 years, and in that time I grew a fondness for fire hydrants and firehats. "Carlie" was well worth my 69 cents.
I am a little curious about the small yellow dot on the top right of the front cover. It looks like a good spot for the price, but the dot is pretty small for writing in the price by hand. Anyone know what the dot is for?
The story is about Charlie a cute little city cat who dreams of playing tiger in the grass, but wonders how he can play tiger when he could only find one tuft of grass. Charlie makes his way to a nice spot with trees and grass and flowers, as well as a little pool with moss and ferns around it and a fountain in the middle. Charlie had never seen such a beautiful place. "I could play Tiger there," he said to himself, "Tiger in the tall, cool grass." He then finds Mrs. Twilliger who's hat is blown off her head and high into a tree. Charlie climbs the tree to save Mrs. Twilliger's hat and all the children watching cheer. One of the kids takes the cat home where Charlie is given a nice new cat house and a large yard full of tall grass perfect for playing Tiger in the grass.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pepsi Unveils New Logo & Bottles

I saw this posted on The Fire Wire Blog and found it kind of interesting. Pepsi is redesigning its globe logo. A ’smile’ will characterize brand Pepsi, while a ‘grin’ is used for Diet Pepsi and a ‘laugh’ is used for Pepsi Max.
The company will spend $1.2 billion over three years to change everything about its brands – “How they look, how they’re packaged, how they will be merchandised on the shelves, and how they connect with consumers” - which will be done by the Arnell Group.
I don't know about you, but these new bottles and logos look pretty generic. They remind me of the generic store brands of Coke and Pepsi that my local grocery store carries. The logos always try to look kind of like the original without being a blatant rip off, but somehow always look very 'generic'.
After seeing this on the Fire Wire blog, I surfed over to the Pepsi web site expecting to see a big splash page announcing the "New Look", but found nothing on the site mentioning anything about a change, which leaves me wondering where the Fire Wire blog got this info. Real, or fake... you decide!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Little Golden Book Monday #69

Today, I have another Sleeping Beauty Little Golden Book. This one is from 2008, and is a reprint of the 1997 version with a new cover, which features the logo from the recently released Sleeping Beauty 50th Anniversary DVD and Blu-Ray release.
Speaking of the new release, I have not picked it up, as I own 3 different versions of the VHS and 2003 2 Disc Special Edition DVD, so I really don't feel the need to pony up the cash for yet another version. BUT, I am very curious about one of the special features on the new DVD, which is a Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through & featurette.

Here is some info I found on the Castle Walk-though on

When the Sleeping Beauty castle walk-through "reawakens" after a seven-year slumber, Disneyland visitors will find a faithful re-creation of the original 1950s attraction that blends equal parts retro artistry, low-tech wizardry and ageless curiosity.
While all the characters from the original animated movie are represented — the sleeping beauty Aurora, the valiant Prince Phillip and the three kindly fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather — the castle walk-through really belongs to the wicked Maleficent. More than half the scenes inside the castle belong to the villainess. In fact, we never actually see the castle's namesake princess awake.

Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter, who shepherded the walk-through restoration, understands that the best new Disneyland attraction is an old attraction conceived by Walt Disney himself. Resurrecting the past plays into one of the Anaheim theme park's core assets: nostalgia.

"I still have very strong memories of taking a journey through this castle," said Baxter, Disneyland's chief Imagineer.

The castle walk-through closed shortly after 9/11, in the ensuing weeks when terrorism fears gripped the nation. While no reason was given at the time for the shuttering of the largely unsupervised self-guided tour through the iconic symbol of American pop culture, Disney now admits the tired and dated 1970s remodel of the attraction needed a rest — pun intended. In either case, the walk-through remained closed for the better part of this decade — long enough for the casual visitor to forget it ever existed and far too long for the die-hard fan.

The original castle walk-through opened in 1957, two years after the theme park debuted and two years before the movie premiered. For 20 cents, visitors walked through a labyrinth of staircases, past a series of dioramas that told the story of "Sleeping Beauty" — essentially a life-size three-dimensional pop-up storybook preview of the animated movie.

Each tableau employed a series of smoke-and-mirror illusions — multi-layer scenery, forced perspective views and ghost effects — to create the impression of the detailed and elaborate hand-painted set coming to life.

"They had to use extreme forced perspectives to make these things feel much bigger than they were," Baxter said. "It meant that they were bending depths and using mirrors to trick your eye into thinking you were looking a great distance."

Walt Disney tapped animation artist Eyvind Earle, who would later work on the "Sleeping Beauty" movie, to design the walk-through scenes. Earle teamed with Imagineer Ken Anderson, who turned the walk-through concepts into architectural drawings.

The A-ticket attraction resulted in what Baxter called "the zenith of our artistry," with much of the future "magic" to be found later in the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean taking embryonic form in the castle walk-through.

"That was the first application in Disneyland of some artistically brilliant and technically stunning special effects," Baxter said. Like any work in progress, the 1957 walk-through featured story concepts that never made the movie and omitted crucial scenes that ultimately made the film's final cut.

The climatic battle between Prince Phillip and Maleficent's dragon was nowhere to be found inside the castle. And the penultimate kiss that awoke beauty was inexplicably missing — not to appear until six weeks after the walk-through's opening (at Walt Disney's insistence). Instead, the castle walk-through story ended with a shadowy silhouette of Maleficent that brought children to tears and traffic to an abrupt halt in the narrow stairwells. So much for happy endings. (The spectral antagonist lasted only a few months before disappearing for good.)

Other gags worked much better — with identical bottleneck-inducing results. A series of medieval dungeon doors offered visitors the enticing opportunity of peeking through a keyhole. The clever illusion took your own eye and superimposed it on the faces of imprisoned goons. The mesmerizing effect stopped stooping visitors in their tracks — further backing up queues in the cramped castle. As a result, the popular scene was boarded up within a year. Another early concept — involving visitors walking outside the castle to peer over the turrets and parapets — never made it past the planning stages.

By 1977, the original castle walk-through had run its course and Imagineers ripped out the guts of Earle and Anderson's work to install a version of the story more faithful to the movie. The ill-advised move replaced the hand-painted cutouts with costumed figurines that looked like Barbie dolls. The inferior substitutes didn't hold up well over time.

"In 2001, we took a long, hard look at it and we said, 'Gee, you know, this doesn't live up to what people remember in the movie,' " Baxter said, being as charitable as possible.

With the 50th anniversary of the movie on the horizon, the decision was made in mid-2007 to re-create the walk-through by mapping the 1950s hand-painted scenes onto turn-of-the-millennium computer-generated cutouts.

But after the closure of the walk-through in 2001, layer upon layer of additions — fireworks displays, faux snow-making machines, elaborate Christmas decorations — had chewed up precious real estate inside the castle.

By the time Imagineers stepped back inside the castle in 2007, they found the walk-through in disarray. Like excavators on an archaeological dig, Baxter and company discovered complete sets from the 1957 version still intact behind untouched 1977 scenes. In other places, air conditioning ducts snaked through long-abandoned scenes. They wondered how some sets — 20 feet tall in places — were ever shoe-horned into the castle's tight confines.

Disney archivists tracked down the original 1957 concept art and blueprints, but deciphering the complicated layouts proved daunting — like trying to figure out a half-century-old multi-layered jigsaw puzzle. Only one photo existed of the original walk-though — a thumbnail-sized slide from an old Viewmaster toy.

Over the ensuing 18 months, Baxter and his team set about deciding what to remove, what to leave intact, what to reinstate and what to improve. And how to strike a delicate and seamless balance between the original concept and the new elements.

"We've definitely got everything and then some of what was there before," Baxter said. "I don't think anybody will be disappointed that it's not what they remembered."

The castle walk-through is scheduled to reopen in mid-December 2008 — just in time for the crush of holiday crowds in the park. And, of course, the Christmas promotion of the re-released 50th anniversary "Sleeping Beauty" DVD. The DVD extras include a virtual castle walk-through with explanations by Baxter of how Disney Imagineers created the special effects.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Walt Disney Treasures, Song of the South

On November 11th the 8th wave of Walt Disney Treasures DVDs will be released. I have bought just about all of the previous sets, and have found them to be of great value, with lots of rarely seen material!
This upcoming 8th wave includes 3 sets; The Chronological Donald,
Volume Four, Dr. Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, and Mickey Mouse Club Presents: Annette. I am excited about the Chronological Donald, as I believe that this will complete the Donald Duck shorts, meaning I will have them all once I own this set! The other two sets, I will pass on, as neither sounds very interesting.
Now, if I had my way, there would be a few other sets to take the place of these two sets. For one, I would love to see a Song of the South Treasures set. Disney has held off on releasing this film because of its racial stereotypes. But the Treasures sets would be a perfect way to release the film, as it would be sold more to collectors than to the average family, and they could have Leonard Maltin do one of his spiels before the film. I already have the film as a Japanese laser disc and love the film. I do not have a laser disc player, but had a friend transfer it to VHS for me years ago. A new high quality DVD copy of the film would be great. And I am sure Disney could find some great extras to go along with the film, including some of the old cartoon shorts which have been shelved for years because of their controversial content.
Just for the fun of it, I have created my own Walt Disney Treasures Song of the South DVD tin cover. I don't know about you, but I'd be at my local DVD store on Tuesday morning to buy this!
Here's hoping Disney finally decides to release this long lost Disney gem!