Bobby Bickert
a month ago
Summary of Part One, "The Birth of Mickey", from my cable TV box's guide:

"Recounting the birth of Mickey Mouse, how he began as a pencil sketch and rocketed to lasting fame; the story starts with Walt in his early days in Hollywood when he quickly loses his first successful cartoon character to a powerful middleman."

The History Channel is airing this no less than four times tomorrow night:

10:03 PM to 11:05 PM
11:05 PM to 12:03 AM
1:05 AM to 2:06 AM
3:05 AM to 4:01 AM

Hopefully the History Channel does a better job with this than they did with The Cars That Built the World and at least one episode of The Toys That Built America. The re-enactments in the segments of The Cars That Built the World that were about Volkswagen were a real mess, and a lot was left out. And the hourlong episode of The Toys That Built America that was about Mattel and Hasbro really glossed over the history of the BILD Lili doll that Barbie was based on. (The half-hour The Toys That Built America: Snack Sized Edition that was about Mattel and Hasbro went into a little more detail about the BILD Lili doll. But it called Lili a "lady of the evening", not a prostitute.)

(Also, tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM, the History Channel is airing a two hour long episode of Modern Marvels about Walt Disney World.)
nickramer
a month ago
I'm rather weary about these shows as they don't seem to sometimes have the right people to interview for it. I'm especially worried about that some of those overly critical historians from The American Experience two-part doc will be involved. I get it, Walt wasn't perfect, but neither are they.
Bobby Bickert
a month ago
I'll wait until others have posted their thoughts about the first part of How Disney Built America before I post mine. For now, I wrote down the titles of some of the books that were written by people who were interviewed, since I had never heard of any of them:

Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney's Animations by Mindy Johnson (2017)
The Wisdom of Walt: Leadership Lessons from the Happiest Place on Earth by Jeffrey A. Barnes (2015)
The Disney Book: A Celebration of the World of Disney by Jim Fanning (2015)
The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life by Steven Watts (1998)

EDIT: I looked up all of the books and edited my post to add the full titles and the year that they were originally published. Also, one of them has a "sequel":

Beyond the Wisdom of Walt: Life Lessons from the Most Magical Place on Earth by Jeffrey A. Barnes (2017)
Lee B
a month ago
I haven't posted here in a while, so I'll play.

The show was the exact same format as all of the "The Cars/Food/Megabrands/fill in the blank That Built America" series.

Fluffy, oversimplified versions of stories, with talking head testimonials from a few "legitimate" experts, in this case the authors you mentioned, with the "usual gang of History Channel characters", led by Adam Richman. In the abstract, I like Adam Richman, but it's a little silly to pretend that the guy who rose to fame on the old Man VS. Food show is a walking encyclopedia on every subject that History Channel wants to cover. That being the case, it's pretty clear that the talking head soundbites are prewritten by the production team. There's no way each of the regulars is such a treasure trove of information on so many different subjects, plus, they often describe people in a level of detail that no one could possibly know. ( Silly stuff like "But Joe Blow was a perfectionist, and a workaholic who cared more about inventing things than making friends." Really? Joe Blow died in 1946, never gave an interview and has been all but forgotten to history. How would anyone know this?) It's sort of an eye roll to listen to these people talk about how great and popular Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was, as if they'd ever heard of him before the interview shoot.

The format of this kind of storytelling almost always results in the actions of a group of people being revised down and attributed to the few people the show is highlighting. It's cheap, but everyone who produces this kind of content does that. So these shows are a light and shallow description of actual events, but nothing more.

There's no question that watching these shows doesn't compare to reading actual books on whatever the subject is, in this case the history of the Disney studio.

The only thing that was legitimately crappy to me was the obvious-to-any-actual-animation-fan moment when Adam Richman described Mickey and Donald using a stolen quote from Chuck Jones, about how Bugs Bunny is who we want to be, Daffy is who we are. And I sincerely doubt that Adam Richman pulled that out of the air himself, it's more likely that was written for him or given to him.

My guess is this will be as entertaining and informative to the general public as the shows that came before it, but not very impressive to an actual fan of the material being covered.
nickramer
a month ago
To be fair, some of the guest being interviewed are some of Jerry's friends who KNOW animation history. On the other side of the spectrum, Camentia Higglinbotham (the one who "professionally" called Walt's special Snow White Academy Award "crap", among other annoying things in the PBS American Experience 2-part doc on Walt) is unfortunately interviewed (though she hasn't said anything controversial yet) and I was hoping she was not. Why does she keep showing up in Disney history docs?
Bobby Bickert
a month ago
Oversimplification is right. How Disney Built America gave the impression that Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was the first animated cartoon series made by the Disney studio. No mention of Laugh-O-Grams. No mention of Alice Comedies. (And also no mention of Silly Symphonies.) They mentioned that Ub Iwerks left Disney to have his own studio, but there were no clips of Flip the Frog (not even the title card that says "Created And Drawn By Ub Iwerks"), Willie Whopper, or from ComiColor Cartoons.

Walt Disney World used to have an attraction called "The Walt Disney Story" on Main Street USA, though I'm sure it's long-gone. (The last time I went to Walt Disney World was in June 1983.) Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was included, including a clip from "Trolley Troubles". So at least some people found out about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit that way. (But was the name Oswald the Lucky Rabbit really made up by Universal, or did they just pull that out of a hat? I don't remember reading that anywhere, though I haven't read Walt in Wonderland.)

At least they did interview some Disney employees like Tom Sito, though they worked there long after Walt Disney died. But there are still some people alive who actually worked with Walt Disney like Don Bluth, Floyd Norman, Katherine Beaumont and Mary Costa, though they weren't there until the 1950's and later. (But maybe they'll be interviewed for later parts of How Disney Built America. I found out from the Sunday newspaper that there are going to be six parts.) And they could have interviewed Leslie Iwerks about her grandfather.

One thing that baffled me was that towards the beginning, clips from "The Band Concert" and "Mickey's Trailer" were shown in B & W, though they were shown in color later on, along with clips from other color Mickey Mouse cartoons. (That's another thing that was left out, Disney's pioneering use of Technicolor.) Clips from "Poor Cinderella" and "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor" were also shown in B & W. (Though the Fleischer studio was treated with scorn, calling Betty Boop a "sexpot", and saying that Popeye punched people in the face. (But they usually deserved it, except in early entries like "Blow Me Down!" and "Sock-A-Bye, Baby".) Maybe that's why there was no mention of Fleischer's Ko-Ko Song Cartunes. Instead the commonly held assumption that "Steamboat Willie" was the "first sound cartoon" was repeated, even though sound Aesop's Fables came earlier. (Though Walt Disney did not have a high opinion of them.))

I will give them credit for using people who looked sort of like Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks for the recreations. In The Cars That Built the World, Ferdinand Porsche had a full beard. In every photo of him that I've seen, he only has a mustache. Heinz Nordhoff (head of Volkswagen from 1948 until his death in 1968) also had a full beard. He's always clean-shaven in photos and archival film footage that I've seen. (And a bright blue 1951 or 1952 Deluxe (with full chrome trim) Beetle was used to represent a 1930's prototype. That same bright blue Deluxe Beetle was used for all of the recreations, like Ferdinand Porsche's son trying to enter Germany after the war, and being used as the donor car for the first Porsche 356.)

And they did portray Charles Mintz as the backstabber that he was. (Though in addition to Mintz's backstabbing leading to the creation of Mickey Mouse, it also led to Hugh Harman, Rudy Ising, Friz Freleng and other former Disney animators making the first Warner Brothers cartoons, and later (sans Freleng) making cartoons for MGM that were probably the most lavishly-budgeted outside of Disney. It gave the Walter Lantz studio its main character for nearly a decade, until the creation of Andy Panda, then Woody Woodpecker. And after getting stabbed in the back himself, Mintz set up Columbia's cartoon studio, which gave us Scrappy, Fauntleroy Fox and Crawford Crow (including "The Fox and the Grapes", which sort-of was the blueprint for Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the Road Runner).
Bobby Bickert
a month ago
Summary of Part Two, "Dawn of the Animated Blockbuster", from my cable TV box's guide:

"Facing soaring costs, mounting criticism, and a tight deadline, Walt Disney creates the first full-length animated feature film, giving rise to the billion-dollar business of animated feature films."

This episode is airing only twice tomorrow night:

10:03 PM to 11:05 PM
1:05 AM to 2:06 AM
nickramer
a month ago
They better spend only three-to-five minutes to talk about the strike instead of ten minutes.
Bobby Bickert
a month ago
I think I already posted here that there's a book about the Disney strike:

http://www.hamiltonbook.com/the-disney-revolt-the-great-labor-war-of-animations-golden-age-paperbound 

And it turns out that Edward R. Hamilton has one of the books mentioned in Part One of How Disney Built America, though it isn't cheap:

http://www.hamiltonbook.com/the-disney-book-a-celebration-of-the-worlds-of-disney-hardbound 
Bobby Bickert
a month ago
Part Two of How Disney Built America did "backtrack" a little. It opened with Walt Disney on a train from Kansas City to Los Angeles in 1923, carrying a film canister that we know is "Alice's Wonderland". (But still no mention of Laugh-O-Grams.) And they did cover Disney's pioneering use of the three-strip Technicolor process, though they left out Disney acquiring exclusive use of the three-strip Technicolor process for animated cartoons for three years. (And clips from live-action features filmed in the old two-strip Technicolor process were used during the segment about the new three-strip Technicolor process.)

More oversimplification. They did cover Disney animators trying to animate a human more realistically in "The Goddess of Spring", and that it didn't come out that well. (I've heard it described as "wooden" and "waxen".) But they didn't mention three similar-looking characters being given different personalities in "Three Little Pigs" (or the popularity of "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" during the Great Depression). No mention of the animation of speed in "The Tortoise and the Hare". No mention of the multiplane camera being "tried out" in "The Old Mill". No mention of Walt Disney winning the first eight Academy Awards for Best Animated Short Subject, all but one of them for Silly Symphonies. (And the only reason that Disney didn't win the ninth one was because he didn't submit anything that year.) And Goofy seems to be getting the short end of the stick.

They gave the impression that the storyboard was created during the making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But there's a storyboard for "Steamboat Willie", which now belongs to an animation historian, I think Mark Kausler. I remember that he used it to put Ray Pointer in his place on the now-defunct Animation History Forum.

They bashed Fleischer in the first part, but they praised Termite Terrace in the second part. (Though this was the 1930's, before "A Corny Concerto" and "Coal Black And De Sebben Dwarfs".)

It looks like Part Three is going to be about Disneyland. Hopefully they don't skip all of the Disney animated features from 1940 to 1955 (since Part Two ended with the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), Disney blending live action and animation in The Three Caballeros and Song of the South (though they probably won't touch the latter with a ten foot pole), and Disney's early live action features (including hiring Max Fleischer's son to direct 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). And I wonder if they'll cover Disney starting to lose the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Subject to Tom and Jerry, Termite Terrace and UPA?

And did anyone else get a kick out of the drawing of Snow White as a caricature of Greta Garbo?
nickramer
a month ago
The odd part is that the Looney Tunes clips they showed were actually the color redrawns in black and white!
Bobby Bickert
a month ago
That happened with the A & E Biography of Betty Boop, which recently aired on Story TV, which is a spinoff of the History Channel. (Though the clip from "House Cleaning Blues" was the proper B & W version, so they could show the Stereoptical Process.)

Summary of Part Three, "Destination Disneyland", from my cable TV box's guide:

"Walt Disney overcomes obstacles to create the first theme park, where instead of thrill rides, he gives the visitor an immersive journey into a story."

Airtimes:

10:03 PM to 11:05 PM
1:05 AM to 2:06 AM
Bobby Bickert
a month ago
The authors of books about Disneyland were interviewed in Part Three:

Three Years in Wonderland: The Disney Brothers, C. V. Wood and the Making of the Great American Theme Park by Todd James Pierce (2016)

Skipper Stories: True Tales From Disneyland's Jungle Cruise by David John Marley (2016)

He also wrote a "sequel":

More Skipper Stories: True Tales From Disneyland's Jungle Cruise by David John Marley (2018)

And they interviewed an Imagineer who was involved with the creation of Disneyland and thus actually knew Walt Disney, Bob Gurr.
Bobby Bickert
29 days ago
More "backtracking": They showed clips from "Alice's Wonderland" (though still no mention of Laugh-O-Grams) and (briefly) mentioned most of the other pre-war Disney animated features except Fantasia. But no mention of the strike. No mention of the Disney studio's educational films, propaganda films (including Victory Through Air Power and the Oscar-winning "Der Fuhrer's Face") and other wartime contributions, no mention of Disney's early live action films (though like I said, they probably aren't going to touch Song of the South with a ten foot pole), the only early post-war Disney animated features that were mentioned were Peter Pan and (briefly) Cinderella, and no mention of Disney getting clobbered in the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Subject category for nearly a decade by Tom and Jerry, Termite Terrace and UPA.

They gave the impression that Disneyland was Walt Disney's first venture into television. No mention of One Hour in Wonderland or the Christmas special from 1951. (Though I only recently found out about the latter, thanks to Steve Stanchfield.) One thing that I didn't know was that Disneyland was rejected by NBC and CBS, before finally being accepted by "third place ABC", though NBC changed their minds by 1961, and in the early 1980's the prime time Disney program (now called just Walt Disney) moved to CBS. And thanks to Disney's purchase of ABC in recent years, the prime time Disney TV series (which seems to be back to The Wonderful World of Disney) is back where it started in 1954. But no mention of the Davy Crockett movies, which were filmed in color for later theatrical release, or the coonskin cap craze that they spawned.

They mentioned that asphalt was poured on the day before opening day, but left out that women's high heels were getting stuck in the hot asphalt on opening day. They didn't mention that Walt Disney set the prices at Disneyland high enough to keep out the poor people that he had seen at other amusement parks. (Though the prices were more reasonable back in the days of the ticket system, when the admission price didn't cover everything except food, souvenirs, and stuff like stroller rentals and film.) And the clips of the costumed characters at Disneyland were the later costumes, not the originals that were recycled from the Ice Capades.

I'm surprised that they didn't mention the sponsorship of at least some of the attractions at the theme parks. I know that The House of Tomorrow and Adventures in Inner Space (both long-gone) were sponsored by Monsanto. And I'm old enough to remember the sponsorship of some of the attractions at Walt Disney World. Of course there's the GE Carousel of Progress (which Michael Eisner REALLY wanted to get rid of), which was recycled from the 1964 Worlds Fair, as were It's A Small World and Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln (which was expanded into The Hall of Presidents). The Country Bear Jamboree was sponsored by Frito-Lay. If You Had Wings was sponsored by Eastern Airlines. (And it's now a Buzz Lightyear ride because of the demise of the sponsor.) And I think Magic Carpet Ride Around the World (in Circlevision 360, which made me queasy) was sponsored by Monsanto. (Though Disney probably doesn't want people to know about its connections to Monsanto because of Agent Orange and Roundup.) That's all I can remember.

It looks like Part Four is going to be about merchandising. Hopefully they don't skip the rest of the Walt era, though there are still three more parts left. There's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (directed by Max Fleischer's son), the Mickey Mouse Club (including the popularity of Annette Funicello), the Sherman brothers, and Mary Poppins. (And I'd like to see them cover Walt Disney's involvement with the 1964 Worlds Fair. In addition to the three attractions that I already mentioned, there was one that didn't make it to the theme parks. It was about dinosaurs and introduced the Ford Mustang to the world. They were the "vehicles" that visitors rode through the attraction.)

Bobby Bickert
25 days ago
Summary of Part Four, "Now Available in Stores", from my cable TV box's guide:

"Amidst financial troubles, Disney hires an ingenious marketing whiz who helps them figure out how to bring their beloved characters off the screen and into the hands of millions; Mickey becomes the first celebrity face to grace a cereal box and from that moment, the licensing of Disney products becomes a lucrative industry and the gold standard for multimedia corporations all over the world."

Airtimes:

10:03 PM to 11:05 PM
1:05 AM to 2:06 AM

I know that the "ingenious marketing whiz" was Kay Kamen, that the first licensed Disney merchandise was a pencil case with Mickey Mouse on it, and that the cereal was Post Toasties corn flakes (which is no longer made). I remember reading somewhere that the cutouts of Disney characters that were on the backs of the boxes of Post Toasties were the only "toys" that some children had during the Great Depression.

I wonder if they'll say anything about the first Mickey Mouse doll being created by Bob Clampett's aunt?

Bobby Bickert
19 days ago
I spotted an error in the re-enactments at the very beginning of Part Four. In a scene set in 1936, a movie theater marquee advertised The Egg and I (the movie that introduced Ma and Pa Kettle to the world), which was released in 1947.

Kay Kamen got his due, Post Toasties got mentioned, and so did the coonskin cap craze created by Disney's Davy Crockett movies. And they did mention that Disney's Davy Crockett movies were later released to theaters. (And poor Goofy finally got mentioned in Part Four.) But they didn't mention that Disney not only had the foresight to film the Davy Crockett movies in color, every episode of the prime time Disney TV series was filmed in color for future rebroadcasts. I remember watching episodes from the 1950's ("On Vacation With Mickey and Friends", "The Adventures of Chip & Dale", "From All of Us To All of You") and from the 1960's ("This Is Your Life, Donald Duck", "Kids Is Kids" (with Ludwig Von Drake), "The Ranger of Brownstone") on The Wonderful World of Disney in the 1970's. And they aired on the Disney Channel (under the title Walt Disney Presents) in its early years.

But they didn't mention a man approaching Walt Disney (I think in a hotel lobby) and asking his permission to use Mickey Mouse's likeness on a pencil case, which was the first "licensed" Disney product. And they didn't say anything about the first Mickey Mouse doll being created by the aunt of the man who would later direct "A Corny Concerto" and "Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs" at a rival cartoon studio.

No preview of Part Five. I'm sure that at least one of the remaining two parts will cover the post-Walt years. But I don't know what else will get covered.(It would be nice if Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson got their due, but that probably won't happen.)
nickramer
18 days ago
Actually, the next program will be about The Florida Project aka Walt Disney World.
Bobby Bickert
18 days ago
But not tomorrow. No new episode tomorrow night, just a marathon of the first four episodes from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. (No new episode of The Mega-Brands That Built America either, just a marathon of repeats, including episodes from previous seasons.) That would explain why there was no preview last Sunday night. Hopefully it's just a temporary interruption because of this being Memorial Day weekend, like with Turner Classic Movies.
Bobby Bickert
11 days ago
Summary of Part Five, "Creating A New World", from my cable TV box's guide:

"Against all odds, Disney turns 27,000 acres of muddy Florida swampland into the world's largest and most visited Theme Park."

Airtimes:

10:03 PM to 11:05 PM
1:05 AM to 2:06 AM

I wonder if they'll cover Walt Disney's original vision for EPCOT as a community for people to live in, not as a tourist attraction?
Bobby Bickert
5 days ago
They did cover Walt Disney's original vision of EPCOT as a community for people to live in, which had to take a back burner to the new theme park in Florida because of the cost. They covered Walt Disney's contributions to the 1964 World's Fair, including the attraction that introduced the Ford Mustang to the world (which I had forgotten the name of). It was pretty cool seeing old film footage of the construction of the Contemporary Resort, with pre-assembled rooms being slid into the frame like drawers in a dresser, which I had only seen a photo of in The Art of Walt Disney. It was nice seeing a photo of Walt and Roy Disney with Margie Gay, even though only true fans like the members here know who she is. And there was some of Part Five that was mainly of interest just to me, like mentioning the "Honor-Bilt" build-it-yourself houses that could be ordered from the Sears catalog from 1908 until 1940. (All of the supplies were delivered by train, and leather-bound blueprints were included.) I also liked seeing old film footage of Westinghouse's "Elektro" the robot from the 1939 World's Fair. (This robot was later used in the movie Sex Kittens Go To College (1960), which is occasionally shown on Turner Classic Movies, now named "Thinko".)

One puzzle is why they used a faded, dirty film print to represent The Jetsons. Surely they could have gotten permission to use better film footage from WB?

It looks like the sixth (and final) part is going to be about the Imagineers, not the post-Walt (and Roy) years. Maybe this series is only going to cover what was done while Walt and Roy Disney were alive.

Also, here's a recent addition to the Edward R. Hamilton "Bargain Books" catalog:

http://www.hamiltonbook.com/hidden-history-of-walt-disney-world-paperbound 

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