Walt Disney and New Orleans

RM-NOLA-Bourbon-Street-SignWalt Disney and New Orleans

I’m fascinated by the connection between Walt Disney and New Orleans.  If you’ve ever had the pleasure of exploring the Big Easy – the draw is undeniable.  A city like no other, New Orleans leaves visitors with the impression of old world charm, mystery, tradition, funky modern influence, and, yes, a bit of seediness woven in here and there.  A unique place, this steamy city on the Mississippi delta made such an impression on Walt Disney, he incorporated her iconic images in Disney parks, resorts and movies.RM-New-Orleans-Balcony RM-NOLA-Zombie's-Cigars RM-NOLA-Voodoo-Shop RM-NOLA-French-Quarter

It’s said that New Orleans was once a contender for the location of Disney World.  If this article is true, it’s amazing to think about what might have been!  We recently had the chance to head south for the weekend to a wedding in New Orleans.  While I’ve been there many times before, this time I tried to look at the city with fresh eyes; tried to picture the streets, the buildings, and the atmosphere as Walt Disney might have seen them so many years ago.  While lots has changed in post-Katrina New Orleans, her heart is the same.  She’s still mysterious and fascinating – much like you’d expect in a neighborhood founded in 1718, yet full of surprises at the same time.RM-NOLA-Street-Scene

Our hotel was just a couple of blocks from the heart of the French Quarter.  It was cloudy and misty, which made it thankfully cooler, but a bit dreary for pictures.  We strolled leisurely along Bourbon Street after lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, the Red Fish Grill.  RM-NOLA-Pat-O'Brian'sTurning right on St. Peter Street, we passed a New Orleans Ghost Tour headquarters, the famous Preservation Hall,  and Pat O’Brian’s pub (home of the famous Hurricane) as we headed to Royal Street.  Once on Royal, we slowly made our way from the touristy voodoo and souvenir shops to the more upscale boutiques full of antiques, estate jewelry, art, and crystal chandeliers.  Street musicians of all types were plentiful and added the perfect soundtrack to our wandering, as special as the city itself.  Browsing incredible (and incredibly priced) treasures of all sorts was both interesting and educational.  All the while, I tried to imagine Walt and Lillian shopping for the furnishings for Disneyland’s Club 33.  It was very easy to do!RM-NOLA-Galatoire's-33

Now let’s look at some of the New Orleans influences that can be found in Disney parks and resorts (photos courtesy of Nick Maglio) – Can you tell me where each of these pictures was taken?RM-Nick's-Photo2 RM-Nick's-Photo4 RM-Nick's-Photo3 RM-Nick's-Photo5 RM-Nick's-Photo1

 

 

 

Top Five Disney Animated Movie Soundtracks

I’m very happy to say that my good Disney friend Andrew Carrieri is back with a great post on one of my favorite ways to add a little Disney to my day – Disney music!  (Andrew can usually be found as a contributing writer at The Mouse For Less and on Twitter @AndrewCfran)

Top Five Disney Animated Movie Soundtracks

Andrew Carrieri

Disney animation is legendary. Through 2014, the company has released fifty-four full length animated movies, which feature classic characters, unforgettable moments, and amazing music. The latter element is the subject of this post. Below, I will list my top five soundtracks among these animated flicks and provide reasons for my choices. You may very well disagree with my selections. If such is the case, don’t just “let it go”! Sound off with your opinions in the comments! After all, there’s plenty of music to go around.

Fifth-best Soundtrack: Oliver and Company (1988). Huey Lewis’s “Once Upon a Time in New York City” and Billy Joel’s “Why Should I Worry?” are two of my favorite Disney songs, in part because of my New York bias. As a Long Islander, I’ll gravitate towards anything that features Joel, one of our top celebrities.

Fourth-best Soundtrack: Hercules (1997). From a depth standpoint, I think Hercules has the most underrated soundtrack in Disney history. With upbeat Gospel music (“The Gospel Truth”), songs of despair (“I Won’t Say I’m in Love”), and one of the most epic numbers in animation history (“Go the Distance”), Hercules’ soundtrack brings it all. Hercules

As a general note, I typically prefer the popular version of Disney songs to the in-film rendition where applicable. Here, I find Michael Bolton’s rendition of “Go the Distance” during the end credits superior to Robert Bart’s performance in the movie proper.

Third-best Soundtrack: Pinocchio (1940). Disney’s second animated feature may not have as many great songs as some of its counterparts, but it gets bonus points for “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which is undoubtedly my favorite song from any Disney movie. I am known to tear up whenever I hear it played, usually at the start of Disney movies with the “Walt Disney Pictures” logo.Pinocchio

Second-best Soundtrack: Aladdin (1992). “A Whole New World” is one of my favorite Disney songs, and the film’s other numbers are anything but shabby. Whereas some movies feature songs that are solid in the moment but otherwise forgettable, Aladdin has a plethora of memorable numbers. “Arabian Nights,” “Friend Like Me,” and “Prince Ali” are extremely enjoyable tunes in their own right.Aladdin

Best Soundtrack: The Lion King (1994). What is the best song in The Lion King? Now, that is an easy question! It is “Circle of Life.” On second thought, it is “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”! Or, maybe it is “Hakuna Matata”? Umm, maybe this question is not so easy after all.The-Lion-King

Suffice to say, in my opinion, The Lion King features the greatest and most complete soundtrack in Disney history. All the songs are catchy, and they bring different vibes to the table. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “The Circle of Life” are beautiful and sentimental, “Hakuna Matata” and “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” are whimsical, and “Be Prepared” is foreboding.

As an aside, while I usually prefer the popular versions of Disney movie songs to the in-film versions, I find the in-film rendition of “The Circle of Life” superior to the Elton John version, which is still excellent. The song provides an exhilarating commencement to the film.

Well, that’s my list! Feel free to share your favorite Disney soundtracks in the comments!

Walt Disney Family Museum in California

Welcome to the weekend and this addition of Saturdays with Nick.  Today we’re going back in time to the summer of 2013 when Nick visited the Walt Disney Family Museum – a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time.  I love One Man’s Dream in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and thought the Treasures from the Disney Archives exhibit in Chicago was incredible, both would pale by comparison, I’m sure, to the museum in California.  Someday I’ll get there!

Walt Disney Family Museum in California

I’m not even sure where to begin to describe the scope of this tribute to a person who has brought joy to countless millions around the world.
While visiting, one word kept popping into my head. Overwhelming.
I visited the Walt Disney Family Museum located in San Francisco within the Presidio on a dreary Monday, arriving a little later than I’d hoped, about 11:15am.

The museums hours are Wednesday to Monday 10am-6pm, with last ticket sales at 4:45pm. Closed Tuesdays, New Year’s Day, Christmas and Thanksgiving.
If you intend to see everything, you can easily spend the entire 8 hours doing so. Indeed, if you are interested in the special exhibits being held as well, you could dedicate 2 days.
Upon entering, you are greeted by the ticket counter and cabinets containing some of the awards and honors Walt received throughout his all too short of a lifetime.

Venice International Film Festival Trofeo d’Arte della Biennale for Snow White, 1938
Honorary Academy Awards for Snow White

There were also pieces of art that hung in his home found here, and furniture from his apartment in Disneyland.
This is where the word overwhelming first popped into my head!
Ticket prices are $20 for Adults, $15 for Seniors and Students with valid ID, and $12 for children.
There are also different levels of Membership. If I was a California resident, or even within a reasonable distance to San Francisco, I would become a member. There are special programs, films, events, exhibitions and talks through the year. There are monthly film screenings, and “Animate Your Night” after hours museum parties!
Overwhelming.
I paid my $20 to enter, and then heard a young man next to me say he was a D23 Member, and received a $5 discount! I turned to the gentleman who gave me my ticket, and said I too was a D23 Member. He was very gracious in refunding my $5! So if you’re a D23 Member, bring your card!
By the time I was done looking at some of Walt’s accomplishments, it was nearly Noon!
I got lunch at the Cafe which is right next to the entrance. I had a tuna sandwich, which was phenomenal, chips, and an even more amazing cookie. It wasn’t cheap, but it was filling and delicious.
I was now ready to enter the Museum!
The first 2 galleries take you through the beginning of the Disney Family and Walt’s life leading up to his arrival in Hollywood in 1923.
You then take an elevator up to continue.

The following galleries on the 2nd floor take you through stages of his career, including his earliest successes and failures, creation of Mickey Mouse, the Silly Symphonies, merchandise, comics, innoventions, inventions…overwhelming.

   The earliest known drawing of Mickey Mouse!
Cel from the first Technicolor cartoon, “Flowers and Trees”.

Throughout are family photos and momentos from the time period represented.

 Walt and Lillian’s Marriage License

It was now coming up on 3pm, and I was only at Snow White which occupies one whole gallery; and I thought “Uh oh, if I keep going at this pace, I’ll be here until Wednesday!”

I needed a breather. So I walked through the rest of the galleries, just to get an overview. This made things worse!
Again, and I cannot stress this enough, if you are a fan of Walt Disney and want to see and read everything, you will need the entire day, if not two, especially if, like me, you spend time chatting with some of the absolutely amazing employees and other visitors for extended periods of time.
You can also spend an inordinate amount of time taking video and photos.
This is all fine and well, but pacing and planning, like visiting a Disney Park, is important.
I wound up skimming through the early animated features section much quicker than I would have liked; but, as I will absolutely be returning in the future, decided I needed to make a sacrifice.
I picked back up in the World War 2 era.

The galleries are so inventively laid out and artistic that you can be caught for extended periods of time just admiring the artistry.

When you come to the long hallway overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, stop and relax a moment. Take in the beauty. Prepare yourself for what is to come.

At the end of this hallway is a bench from Griffith Park where Walt would sit and watch his daughters Diane and Sharon play, which made him think how nice it would be to have a clean park where families could share time together. This started the emotional ball rolling. I sat in it. I burst into tears.

Then you enter a gallery so breathtaking you just need to stop and gawk.

We see Walt’s train, the Carolwood Pacific, the TV era, and the creation of Disneyland.
I was told that the gigantic model of Disneyland represented the years and attractions Walt was personally involved with.
We come to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the many innoventions this brought, and the plans for the Florida Project and Epcot.
Then we come to the inevitable.

No more words need be said. Except maybe one. Overwhelming.

You can find and follow Nick on all his social medias:   Disney Musings Blog / Disney Musings on Twitter / Disney Musings on Instagram / Disney Musings on Facebook

Disney-MGM, Disney’s Hollywood Studios…

DSCN3146May 1st, 1989 was a red letter day for Walt Disney World – Already an actual, working production studio, Disney-MGM Studios, the theme park, opened to the public.  I wasn’t there that day, but managed to make my very first visit to Walt Disney World just a few months later (as a newlywed) in early 1990.  Constantly changing, the studios bears little resemblance today to the park it was originally – and it’s about to change even more.  On this, the Studios’ 26th anniversary, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on some of my favorite things, past and present, about this unique corner of the World.

It was Disney-MGM Studios – then it was Disney’s Hollywood Studios – next it will be ????RM-Gertie

Dino Gertie and Min & Bills Dockside Diner – These fixtures, original to the park, are rumored to be on the chopping block to make room for the future Star Wars Land.  RM-Min&Bill'sIf the predictions are true, and Gertie and Min & Bill’s have to move on, I’ll live over it.  But I’ll miss them every time I visit the park.  I know I will…won’t you? Citizens of Hollywood at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Citizens of Hollywood – I wrote about them in this post, but I really can’t say enough about how much “Streetmosphere” adds to the Studios’ unique charm.  This is absolutely one of those things Disney doesn’t have to do, but we’re so glad they feel the need.  If there ever comes a day when we can no longer find these live, impromptu, amazing character actors roaming the park and treating guests to such a special form of entertainment, that will be a truly dark day for Walt Disney World indeed.  RM-Indiana-Jones

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – Yes, I’ve heard that this attraction’s days may be numbered and the last time I saw the show, it left a lot to be desired (the giant “stone” ball was missing from the routine) – but it’s Indy!  I’ll save you from yet another rant.  You can catch the first one here.  IMG_6923

MuppetVision 3D – I was virtually raised by Muppets, so this area of the park will always be near and dear to my heart.  Oh, I hear the whining about the show needing an update, but at my age, nostalgia is an important component to my Disney vacation happiness and I’ll root for the Muppets to remain unchanged for as long as they can.RM-Maroon-Studios RM-Acme-Bricks

Roger Rabbit – Once so well-represented in the Studios, then virtually obliterated, Roger, Jessica, and the Toons and props from the movie were available for photo ops and tons of fun.  If you look carefully, you can still find evidence of their existence, but nowhere close to the extent that was once there.

Sure, I love Toy Story Midway Mania, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock’n’ Roller Coaster, but my earliest memories of the Studios – the ones I always look back on when I’m there – made up the list.  Honorable mentions to the Hunchback of Notre Dame (A Musical Adventure) stage show (1996-2002) and Four for a Dollar.  The Hunchback show was so much better than the movie and we found it wildly entertaining as we did the a capella singing group Four for a Dollar.

What memories are YOU celebrating today on Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ anniversary?