Sunday, September 30, 2012

They Made the Magic: Paul J Smith

Paul J. Smith was born on October 30, 1906.  His father was a professor at a college in Idaho where he composed some songs for the school.  In 1934, he joined the Disney Studios.  He spent most of his life working for Disney as a composer, writing more than 70 scores.    He worked on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs where he got the first of 8 Oscar nods (he won an Oscar for the score of Pinocchio along with Leigh Harline and Ned Washington).  He retired from Disney in 1962 died at the age of 78 in California, and became a Disney Legend in 1994.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kingdom Hearts

It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since the Disney Kingdom Hearts series began.  The first game was released in 2002.  I love this stained glass that is seen in the games.  In the game Birth By Sleep, there is even an entire level dedicated to the world of Snow White: the Dwarf's Woodlands.  One of the villains? - the Spirit of the Magic Mirror!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Walt Disney Family Museum Snow White Events

November is Snow White month at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco!  The film will show at 11 am, 1:30 pm and 4 pm daily.  The film will continue to show in December at 11 am and 4 pm.  There is a special talk on Saturday November 17 called from Page to Screen for $12 ($10 for members).  You can get tickets here.  Tickets for the Walt Disney Family Museum's Animate the Night Snow White themed events are also available.  At just $10 for the event ($5 for members) they should be a fun event to check out!  Buy tickets here.  There are also several Look Closer events that are free with admission.  For details about each of these events; read below.

Saturday, November 17, 3pm -  From Page to Screen: Join Lella Smith, creative director of the Walt Disney Animation Research Library and exhibition curator with J.B. Kaufman, Disney author and historian, as they retrace the remarkable chain of adaptations that led to the classic Disney animated feature. After the presentation, J.B. will sign copies of his latest book. 

Friday - Sunday, November 23-25, - Look Closer: Snow White -  In conjunction with our first major special exhibition--Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic--join us for a short gallery talk on the art and production of the film.  

Friday, November 30, 7–10pm – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Opening Celebration: Come celebrate the opening weeks of the Museum’s major exhibition Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic. We’ll be serving Poison Appletinis!
Friday, December 21, 7–10pm – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Old Hollywood Red Carpet Premiere: Animate You Night in old Hollywood style with a special 1930s 75th anniversary premiere party for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Join us for a soiree of glitz and glamour.
Friday - Sunday, December 21-23 - Look Closer: Snow White Oscar In conjunction with our first major special exhibition--Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic--join us for a short gallery talk on the art and production of the film.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

They Made the Magic: Tom Codrick

Tom Codrick's 1940 Sketch can be seen at the Walt Disney Family Museum

Tom Codrick was born September 21st, 1901.  Codrick joined Disney in 1932 and was a key layout man for Disney for 35 years working on films from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Jungle Book.  Additionally, he worked on the Wonderful World of Disney.    For a very interesting read, check out this transcript of a layout training course from 1936.  Codrick passed away in 1969 at the age of 67.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Snow White to New York Film Festival

Snow white and the Seven Dwarfs will be shown as part of New York's Film festival September 29th. The film will be introduced by animator Eric Goldberg and will include a viewing of the wonderful short Paperman.  Check out more information on the New York Film Festival on their website.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

They Made the Magic: Norm Ferguson

Know as Fergy by his friends, Norm Ferguson was born on September 2, 1902.  After studying commercial art he worked as a stenographer before leaving to work in animation.  He got a job for Paul Terry's Fables Pictures Inc.  After 9 years he started working for Disney.  In a time when animators averaged 10 to 15 feet a day, Ferguson did 40 feet daily.  His work set a new standard, not only for the speed, but more importantly, for his ability to bring expression and thought to characters.  One of Ferguson's best loved scene (Pluto stuck to fly paper) is credited to be the first time an animator appears to be thinking on screen.During his time at Disney he worked on over 75 shorts.
By 1935 he was moved onto Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs where he worked on the evil witch.  His career continued on feature films and he can be seen in the live action shots of the Walt Disney Studios in the 1941 movie The Reluctant Dragon.
For a really complete biography of Ferguson, check out this article.  Ferguson was named a Disney Legend in 1999.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

They Made the Magic: Marge Champion

Continuing on with the series of people who worked on Snow White, Marge Champion is one who I've talked about before.  Marge is one of the few who are still with us who can say: 'I was there!'

Marge was born September 2, 1919 in Los Angeles, California.  Her father owned a dance studio and learned at an early age to dance.  She was hired by the Walt Disney Studio as the live action reference model for Snow White.  She later preformed this same task for the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio and the dancing hippos in Fantasia.

Marge was married to animator Art Babbit, but later married Art Champion.  She and Art had a successful dancing career that included film (Showboat among others) and a television show.  She and Champion were married until 1973.  In 1977 she married Boris Sagal (father of Katie), but lost her husband in 1981 in an accident on a set.  After her retirement she worked as a dance instructor in New York City and even appeared in Fame.

Marge has appeared at many events in recent years including TCM's film festival and D23's Detestation D where she has shared her thoughts.  Marge was also the guest on a podcast where you can hear her remembering her work with Disney.  She was named a Disney Legend.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Walt Disney Family Museum D23 Days

The Walt Disney Family Museum and D23 have announced D23 days to coincide with the museum's upcoming Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs exhibit.  The event will happen on two days and features admission to the museum, a welcome presentation, and time in the new exhibit Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic.  Check out the event on the D23 website.  I'm going...Are you?

Destination D: 75 years of Animation: Alan Menken

The final event of Destination D 2012 was an evening with Alan Menken.  Menken was named a Disney Legend in 2001 and holds more Academy Awards than any other living person (8).  In fact, the audience was packed with legends: Dave Smith, Richard Sherman, Bob Gurr, Tony Baxer...

The performance was more like a conversation.  Menken would talk about songs and films and then play short pieces from them.  He played from his work with Disney as well from his work on Broadway and films.  It was an amazing evening and truly a highlight of Destination D!  At one point, Menken joked that he thought Oscars came in pairs - you wrote some songs for a Disney movie and they handed you two Oscars.  He has won Academy Awards in 1990 for Little Mermaid Score and Under the Sea, in 1992 for Beauty and the Beast score, and Beauty and the Beast song, in 1993 for the score for Aladdin, and A Whole New World, and 1996 for Score of Pocahontas and Colors of the Wind.  He also won Golden Globes for Mermaid, Beauty, Aladdin, and Pocahontas.  he has 11 Grammy awards (including Song of the Year for 1993).  This year, 2012, he won a Tony for the score of Newsies. Trivia: Hard Times, High Times from the film version got him a Razzie.

Prince Ali was the song Menken opened with.  We then took a journey through his career.  We heard about his work on God Bless you Mr. Rosewater and then his well known Littl Shop of Horrors.  He played us the "dark side of grease" with a song that wasn't used.

From Little Mermaid we heard Part of your World, Poor Unfortunate Souls, Kiss the Girl, and Under the Sea.

From Beauty and the Beast; Belle, Be Our Guest, Gaston, and Beauty and the Beast. He talked about how they had recorded a pop version and the version for the movie and had mistakenly sent Angelea Landsbury the pop version.  To which she said no.  Once they got her the right version, she did it in one take.  Menken also related that he had given Howard a dub tune to use for Gaston, and it turns out he used it as was; no one could beat up a character like Howard!

Aladdin was next where we heard a song cut from the movie, A Whole New World, and A Friend Like Me.  Originally there wer going for a Fat's walla style Genie.

From Newsies Santa Fe and King of New York.

From Beauty and the Beast's Broadway production: Human Again.

From Pocohantas and Hunchback of Notre Dame: Colors of the Wind, Bells of Notre Dame, and Out There.

We heard music from A Christmas Carol which played for ten years at the Gardens.

When writing for Hercules the orgianl hero was song was to be a ballad, but he threw it out nd wrote Go the distance.  He also played Zero to Hero.

We heard his work on King David.

 At one point there was talk of a prequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Who Discovered Roger Rabbit).  Menken wrote a song for the project called This Only appens in the Movies in a style that was a tribute to the old style musical.

 Home on the Range was quickly discussed "You haven't lived until you've seen a group of animators on horse back" and we hear Patch of Heaven, the Yodel Song, and Will the Sun Ever Shine Again (strongly influenced by the tragedy of September 11th).

From Sinbada's attraction at Tokyo Disney Sea we heard Compass of your Heart.

From Enchanted: True Love's Kiss, Working Song, and How Does She Know.

From the production of Mermaid for the stage Menken played Flounder and Ariel's sister's song.

He played Raise your Voice from Sister Act.

I personally was very happy to hear Menken refer to Tangled as Rapunzel and he played the first version of Rapunzel's song, and everyone has a dream.

 Menken wrote a short song for Captain America.

He talked about the phenomenon that is Newsies and played Katehrin'es Song from new production of Newsies.  We also heard about the new production of Aladdin and the Genie's song about being free.

The evening closed with a tribute to Howard: Proud of Your Boy.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Destination D: 75 years of Animation: Snow White Still Fairest of them All

Okay, here we are, the panel you've been waiting for: Snow White Still the Fairest of them All!  Tim O'Day hosted this panel featuring musicologist and historian Alex Rannie, CEO of Walt Disney Family Museum Gabriella Calicchio, and 93 year old Marge Champion who was the live action model for Snow White.

The panel began with clarfiying that the word soundtrack didn't exist in 1937 so the music was refered to as "the exclusive recordings from the actual sound film." Alex Rannie brought a variety of images of sheet music that Churchill, Harline, Morey and Smith worked on for the film.

 The Silly Song was in fact the third song written for the scene where the dwarfs entertain Snow White.  One version of the song was Never Too Old to Be Young.  There was another song called Lady in the Moon that was written before 1935.  In this song, each dwarf would sing a verse as a different anmal who was in love with the lady in the moon.  The song ends with all the animals realizing the lady in the moon is, in fact, the man in the moon.  Sleepy would have sang as a fish and Dopey a frog. One idea stuck, Sleepy still plays a fish clarient in the final film.  So the song that made it into the film was the Silly Song.   In 1935 there was the first national Hillbilly Championships in LA that inspired the yodeling.  The sound effects team worked on the Grumpy's pipe organ.  In order to get the correct sound, the team used jugs and the largest jug required so muh air, the player would pass out - only Jimmy McDonald would play that one.  At one point the song had a verse sung by Snow White!  The D23 audience was lucky enough to hear the recording session of Snow White's verse.

The Yodel Song

Never to Old
Lady in the Moon
Final Song: The Dwarf's Yodel Song or The Silly Song
(Look at the words in the box: inspired the dance craze "Doin the Dopey")

The next guest introduced was Marge Champion.  This 93 years young woman was gracious enough to come and talk to the D23 audience about her memories of being part of the team that created Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  She was hired as the live action reference model for Snow White.

Marge Champion
 Marge told the story of how she was hired to work for Disney.  Her father owned a dance studio and when Disney went looking for a girl to do live action shots for Snow White, Marge was in the right place at the right time.  She believes she wasn't the first to take on htis role because the bodice of the costume had two rows of hooks and eyes, suggesting that it was fitted for some one else.  (You can see the outfit she word at the Archives exhibit at the Reagan Library).  When asked if Walt was at the audition, she said she was sure he was there, but she didn't see him.
The process from live action, to sketch, to final product

Marge also told of her life growing up: her father would go to Shirley Temple's house to teach her ballet and Marge knew Shirley.  When wanting to be excused from the dinner table, Marge was taught to say: "I've had an elegant sufficency, May I be excused?"

Marge Champion in her costumes
During her time at the studio, Marge would act to Adriana Caselotti's voice recordings.  The animators referred to the girls as Margiana Belchalotti (a mash up of both of their names).  Marge also remembers how the studio needed her to run through the forest for Snow White's frightening escape.  They hung clotheslines and attached ropes that would hit her like branches.  Ham Luske attached some to her dress.  She said it didn't take much acting because she was  terrified!  She though the whole structure would fall down at any minute.

You'd be scared too if animators made you run through ropes hung from cloteslines!
The most interesting thing that Marge remembered was that at one point, animators thought that Snow White's head should be larger than her body as was a popular style of animation in those days (think Betty Boop).  In order to test this, Marge was given a football helmet that was painted with a wig and bow.  She remembered having to wear it and under the hot lights, she became dizzy and almost fainted!

The final panelist shared some of the artwork that will be featured at the Walt Disney Family Museum when the exhibit opens this fall.  They also announced D23 would hold an event in November.  I can't wait to see some of these in person: