Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse Statue at Walt Disney World Resort

Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: It’s a Classic Attraction. It’s Turning 50. ‘it’s a small world!’

posted on March 25th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


To some of us, it seems like only yesterday that Walt Disney first opened one of his best-loved ride-through attractions on April 22, 1964. There are others who have never lived in a world without “it’s a small world.” Either way, our lives are all the richer for it. But like many creative miracles, it almost never came to be.

WED Enterprises, as Walt Disney Imagineering was then known (the letters stood for “Walter Elias Disney”), was feverishly working toward a one-year deadline for three World’s Fair attractions: Progressland, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Magic Skyway. When the Pepsi Cola Company asked for a fourth pavilion — encouraged by Hollywood star and Pepsi board member Joan Crawford — Walt agreed, once again, that he and his artists would do the impossible and take on this tremendous challenge.

“Walt enlisted Imagineers Marc Davis for figure design and animation, Alice Davis for the intricate international costuming and Claude Coats for the attraction’s overall layout,” wrote Disney Historian Stacia Martin for the book and compact disc album, “Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair.” All are bonafide Disney Legends in their own right, but many fans agree that it is Mary Blair whose visual style is so dynamically showcased in “it’s a small world.”

If you watch the Los Posadas sequence of Walt Disney’s “The Three Caballeros,” you’ll see what some call the “Mary kids.” Take a look at “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan,” as well as the “Johnny Appleseed” portion of “Melody Time,” and delight in her unmistakable use of color, whimsy and humor. Cherished Little Golden Books with Mary Blair’s illustrations are still in print. Her magical handiwork also towers (literally) in the famous mosaic at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. It’s an endlessly fresh look that has inspired generations of admiring artists.

Walt and Mary Blair

Next time you enjoy this attraction, take note of a couple of cool things. In the finale, the young lady doll wearing glasses is a nod to Mary Blair herself. The entire finale scene is done in white because, according to John Canemaker in “The Art and Flair of Mary Blair,” she considered it the most “festive” of colors.

The artists whose musical style most infuses “it’s a small world” are Disney Legends Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, most recently portrayed in the acclaimed film “Saving Mr. Banks.” Before they were involved, the attraction was called “Children of the World,” featuring a series of national songs sung by children. The problem was that the sounds overlapped each other in a confused cacophony.

Walt and Shermans

Stacia Martin continues: “Richard Sherman remembers that the answer ‘came all of a sudden when we said … all these people grow up to be people and start having big differences and defiances and wars … but in the small world of children, everybody loves each other.’” Pretty heavy stuff, but when you focus on the lyrics, which mention tears, fears and division between the people of the world, this seemingly simple song has profound meaning indeed. The attraction’s name became the name of the song, “it’s a small world.”

Another fun fact: if you didn’t know that the yodeler’s voice was done by singer/actress Roberta Shore (“Mickey Mouse Club,” “The Shaggy Dog“) well, neither did she at first. She told me that, years ago, several Imagineers had hired her to yodel (one of her specialties) for a project they were working on. Then she moved on and forgot about it. Some time later, when she bought the “it’s a small world” record album for her kids, she recognized herself. “I was the yodeler!” she recalled. “I thought, so that’s why they asked me to yodel!” Roberta couldn’t be more pleased and proud to be part of such a classic Disney experience, one that has brightened the lives of countless millions.

Roberta Shore and Annette

“Currently, the sun never sets on the performance of this song playing in “it’s a small world” rides in California, Florida, Paris and Tokyo,” wrote Robert B. Sherman in his book, “Moose: Chapters from My Life.” “In fact, it’s the most translated, most performed song in the world.”

Robert’s book reveals a third verse, written at the request of Disney Legend and Imagineer Tony Baxter for the attraction’s 45th anniversary: “It’s a world of wonder / A world of worth / And in years to come / We’ll know peace on earth / We will open our eyes / And we’ll all realize / It’s a small world after all.”

Cheers to the next 50 years, “it’s a small world!” But why stop there? Cheers to the next 350 years—or more.

  • Share: 

Tagged: , , ,

Filed: Disney History, Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort

Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: Frozen is Now the Coolest Soundtrack on Record!

posted on February 22nd, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Guests have sure been enjoying meeting the sisters from “Frozen” at our parks over the past few months. (Be sure to check out Shawn Slater’s latest blog post for details on when and where you can see them). And something else our guests love about this film is the terrific soundtrack – and if that applies to you, you’ve got to hear about a special version of the soundtrack that’s available for a very limited time.

FST974644

Next Monday through Friday only (February 24-28, 2014), if you pre-order either version of the “Frozen” vinyl album listed below, you’ll have a chance to receive one of just 50 copies that includes a signed poster!

Each day’s set of 50 albums will have different autographs:

  • Monday 2/24/14 – Oscar-nominated songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
  • Tuesday 2/25/14 – Oscar-nominated directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
  • Wednesday 2/26/14 – John Lasseter
  • Thursday 2/27/14 – Composer Christophe Beck
  • Friday 2/28/14 – Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

Choose from two versions of Disney’s “Frozen” limited edition vinyl collectible:

Deluxe Vinyl + Deluxe Digital Album Download
http://www.myplaydirect.com/frozen/deluxe-vinyl-deluxe-digital-album-download/details/29035521
$89.98
Includes an instant download of the deluxe digital album and three 12-inch COLOR vinyl LPs packaged in a stunning double-gatefold, embossed foil jacket with a full-color booklet containing the lyrics and gallery quality images from the film.

Deluxe Vinyl Album
http://www.myplaydirect.com/frozen/deluxe-vinyl/details/29035448
$74.98
Includes three 12-inch color vinyl LPs packaged in a stunning double-gatefold, embossed foil jacket with a full-color booklet containing the lyrics and gallery quality images from the film.

Orders will be fulfilled in April 2014.

“Wait a second, Greg. What are these “vinyl records” upon which you speak so fondly?”

I’ve met young people who have no idea what a “record” is. It’s a round, flat disc with the sound carefully carved into a spiral of grooves. You put a record on a turntable and set it spinning while a tiny needle, attached to a “tone arm,” picks up the groove vibrations and sends them through a sound system to entertain you. Know why we call them “albums?” It’s because early 78-rpm records could only hold about three minutes on each side. An album was literally a book filled with envelopes to store the discs.

12-inch long-playing records or “LP’s” — which could hold about 60 minutes on one 33 1/3-rpm disc — were introduced in 1948. The next year brought vinyl “singles,” 7-inch 45-rpm records that spun upon many an Elvis and Beatles fan’s turntable. Today’s compact discs can hold about 80 minutes of audio. Of course, downloads have a wide range of lengths.

You can still buy brand-new vinyl records — and there are lots of ways to play them. Many of your favorite neighborhood stores and online retailers sell vinyl records. Turntable sales are actually very strong.

Records are remarkable to behold as they spin out their magic. You can look at a record’s surface and SEE the music nestled in the grooves. The grooves pulsate as the needle zooms within them, like a Star Wars X-wing starfighter, careening through narrow canyons to save the galaxy.

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort

Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: Kermit Talks about Disney and the Muppets

posted on February 20th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Kermit is one busy frog right now, with Disney’s “Muppets Most Wanted” premiering on March 21 and a whirlwind of interviews and personal appearances in the next few weeks. But when he heard that we wanted to talk to him about two of his favorite subjects, he dropped everything to talk with us. What a pro!

MKP865344

GREG: Thanks for seeing us on short notice.

KERMIT: I’m already short, it’s the only kind of notice I do. Seriously, it’s a pleasure to be here! I’ve been a big fan of Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks, since we first opened Muppet*Vision 3-D.

GREG: Today marks a landmark point in history: when the Muppets and Walt Disney Studios joined as a family.

KERMIT: Yeah, that was a great day. Mickey and I have known each other for years. (We’re both members of Fictional Talking Animals of Hollywood.) I was so glad when we finally got together!

GREG: Have you and the gang done anything to mark the date?

KERMIT: Well, Miss Piggy went shopping, Fozzie told jokes, Gonzo got shot out of a cannon and, last I looked, Swedish Chef was being chased down Main Street by an angry lobster. Of course, that’s pretty much what the Muppets do everyday. But it’s still a big occasion for us.

GREG: I was so excited when it happened. I think the Walt Disney Studios and the Muppets are a match made in entertainment heaven.

MVD985573

KERMIT: We agree, and we’re so excited to be doing another new movie for Walt Disney Studios. It’s coming to theaters March 21st, it’s called “Muppets Most Wanted,” and it features Miss Piggy, me, Animal and the whole gang – plus Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, and more cameo guest stars than you can shake a stick at. (Please refrain from shaking sticks at the guest stars. It makes them nervous.)

GREG: Kermit, I’m a fan of both Disney and Muppets music. I have all your records and of course, I’m as excited about the “Muppets Most Wanted” soundtrack as I am about the movie.

KERMIT: I’m a huge fan of Disney music, too. It’s such a part of the magic – just like it is with us Muppets. And I’m really thrilled about the music in “Muppets Most Wanted” – all new songs written by Bret McKenzie, who won an Academy Award for best song for “Man or Muppet” from our last movie. (By the way, if you’re reading this Bret, Miss Piggy says she’ll return your Oscar to you, and I quote, “soon.” Good luck with that.)

GREG: Any chance you could get your pals into a recording studio to do an album of Disney songs?

KERMIT: We’d love to! Of course, Miss Piggy wants to do all the Disney Princess songs. And Fozzie is a major fan of “I Love to Laugh” from “Mary Poppins” and “The Bear Necessities” from “The Jungle Book.” And me? Well, I’d be honored to sing just about any song in the Disney songbook. Just show us the recording studio and we’ll be there!

GREG: Are there any movies or TV shows from the Walt Disney Studios that inspired you in your youth?

KERMIT: Well, on TV, I always loved “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color,” especially when the color was green. And at the movies, I grew up loving “Dumbo,” “Bambi,” “Pinocchio,” and more recently “Frozen.” And, naturally, “The Princess and the Frog.

GREG: How about Disney Parks attractions? Of course, we all love Muppet*Vision 3-D, but what are some of your friends’ experiences with attractions?

KERMIT: I guess it’s not fair to say we love them all. But it’s true. Let me see. Well, Miss Piggy loves Sleeping Beauty Castle so much, she tried to sublet it. And Sam Eagle can’t get enough of the Enchanted Tiki Room. (It’s a bird thing.) Fozzie, of course, loves the Jungle Cruise – he always brings a notebook so he can write down those jokes told by the guides. (Funn-ee!)
Gonzo is a big fan of Space Mountain. There’s nothing he likes better than flying through the air in total darkness. And as for me, I’ve loved It’s a Small World ever since I first saw it at the New York World’s Fair. Very catchy tune, too.

GREG: Do you think Walt Disney himself was fond of frogs? What would you say to him if you met him?

KERMIT: Ulp….I’d, uh, probably be speechless. In so many ways, Mr. Disney reminds me of another creative genius who created worlds and imagined wonderful possibilities – Jim Henson. I think I’d tell him Jim was my close friend, and then I know we’d have lots to talk about.

GREG: I can’t wait to see the topiaries of you and the Muppets at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. How did you get Miss Piggy to agree to be depicted in the form of a shrubbery?

KERMIT: She loves it. She loves to be depicted in all media –film, shrubbery, videotape, marble, gold, even chopped liver. If it means being the center of attention, she’s there!

GREG: Speaking of Miss Piggy, are you still dating her, or have you both decided to see other pigs and frogs?

KERMIT: Miss Piggy and I have a complicated relationship – which you can find out more about in “Muppets Most Wanted.” Y’see there’s this frog named Constantine, who looks just like me, but he’s actually the world’s number one criminal and … you should see the movie; it’ll all make sense.

GREG: All of us in the Disney Parks family are thrilled with all of us being part of the same family. What do you see ahead for us in the future?

KERMIT: Well, of course, I’m hoping that we’ll keep doing movies, but I also dream of doing more Muppets attractions, events and appearances in the parks. Topiary is a good start. I hope we can keep going!

GREG: Thanks again for meeting with us, Kermit. My whole family will be in our theater seats when “Muppets Most Wanted” opens next month.

KERMIT: See you there!

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort

Sights & Sounds of Disney Parks: Love is a Song That Never Ends

posted on February 13th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Almost all great relationships have an “original soundtrack.” The two of you have certain songs — even specific parts of songs — that bring you back to the places where you first met, the fun times you had, the tiffs that ended in making up and that “world of laughter and world of tears” that make up a beautiful life together.

Since you’re reading the Disney Parks Blog, there’s a good chance that there might be a Disney song or two on your “soundtrack.” Here’s a quick list of a few tunes that you’ve possibly chosen to make “yours” — or may want to add. Keep in mind that I’m going to leave a lot out, so be sure to add your favorites in the “Comments” section.

DLS88535

Disney’s “Frozen” is still burning up box office records and the music charts — and “Love is an Open Door” is certainly a new favorite love song. I was just listening to the Deluxe 2-Disc Edition of the “Frozen” sound track and this song (among others) is also sung on the demo recording by the Oscar-nominated songwriting couple themselves, Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. They have excellent singing voices!

At select Disney Parks shops, look for Walt Disney Records’ newest collection of great Disney songs: Disney Classics. It’s a 4-disc boxed set that has lots of tunes for couples, including “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin” and “Once Upon a Dream” from “Sleeping Beauty.” I’d also consider these love songs of a sort: “Let’s Get Together” from “The Parent Trap” and “The Ugly Bug Ball” from “Summer Magic” (an offbeat love story in song that was particularly popular in the U.K.). These are all soundtrack and original cast recordings.

DLS88531

The Essential Disney Love Song Collection contains a mix of soundtracks and new renditions of must-have romantic ballads like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “So This is Love” from “Cinderella” and what is probably the quintessential Disney love song from one of the most romantic scenes in movie history: “Bella Notte” from “Lady and the Tramp.”

DLS88534

The perfect album for those elegant evenings of cheese, wine and gossamer-like reminisces about your last Disney Parks visit together is Classically Disney. This is an exquisite array of Disney hits played by a superb string quartet, including “Someday My Prince Will Come” from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Kiss the Girl” from “The Little Mermaid” and even “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” from Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. While this disc is playing, you’ll almost hear Jeeves, your imaginary English butler, ask, “Would you care to partake of another smoked turkey leg, sir?” or “Shall I scoop out several dollops of Dole Whip for you, madam?”

DLS88533

Here’s an album I particularly like because, as a music buff, I love all those great studio vocalists and musicians who have sung and played on the best recordings of all time. Many of the best talents in the music business were selected to perform on Happily Ever After (the CD with Mickey and Minnie on the wedding cake).

And one of them is a hero of mine. When you listen to “Happily Ever After” from “Enchanted” on this album, you’ll be hearing the legendary Ron Dante. A hugely successful producer of Broadway shows and superstar recordings, Ron also sings in hundreds of commercials from “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” for Coca-Cola to Applebee’s and Dr. Pepper. Best of all, he’s the lead singer of The Archies (“Sugar, Sugar”). Ron is a huge Disney fan just like us, he loves Disney Parks, and even performed the hits of The Archies live at Epcot.

DLS88532

Many couples share what they call “our song.” For my wife Suzanne and I, it’s “Love is a Song” from “Bambi.” Sweet and simple, it reaches into the heart the way only great music and lyrics can. We wanted it played at our wedding, but since it was a traditional church ceremony, we asked our clergyman to watch the movie to decide if we could use it. Of course, he loved seeing Bambi again after so many years. Not only did a live tenor sing “Love is a Song” in the ceremony, a soprano sang the “Alleluia” and the organ played the “Processional,” both from “The Sound of Music.”

Anyway, “Love is a Song” is available on the original “Bambi” soundtrack album on iTunes, but there’s also a wonderful instrumental version on a disc available at select Disney Parks locations called Instrumental Impressions (and if you happen to be planning a wedding, you can get the same music on a CD called Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings).

“Like the voice of a heavenly choir, love’s sweet music flows on…”

So, what’s your romantic “soundtrack?”

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort

Sights & Sounds of Disney Parks: Disney’s ‘Frozen Sing-Along’ comes to Downtown Disney

posted on January 29th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


What’s even better than watching a hit Disney animated musical? Being part of the music, magic and fun yourself!

This Friday, January 31, enchanted snowflakes will be bouncing over the words to every song so everyone can join in Disney’s “Frozen Sing-Along.” This special event will take place both at the AMC Downtown Disney 12 Theatres at Disneyland Resort in California, and the AMC Downtown Disney with Dine-In Theatres at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Of course, you may not need the snowflakes or the lyrics yourself, because you and the gang have already memorized the soundtrack album! Chances are you won’t be alone. The songs have a lot of fans. There’s nothing like the shared elation and energy of a joyous group gathered to sing their favorite songs as they experience a great musical on the big screen.

“Naturally, I’m a music guy, so I firmly believe that songs and music are at the heart of Disney just as animation, fantasy and theme parks are as well,” said Chris Montan, President of Walt Disney Music, told us. “And it’s true, when you love a song the way people love a Disney song, the words and music take on a life of their own. They live deep inside us and become part of that ‘great music mix’ inside our heads.”

Chris is referring to what I like to call the “mp-ME player.” It’s the cool part of the brain that acts just like a radio tuner and can play our favorites at will. (Seriously, I’ve got dozens of entire record albums cued up on my mp-ME player for when I’m swimming laps, driving in traffic or just need a quick pick-me-up on a busy day.) I’ve got great new mp-ME’s to upload into my head thanks to “Frozen.”

And “Frozen” isn’t just any animated musical, it’s become the biggest Disney animated film phenom of the century. “Frozen” has just become the highest grossing original animated film in history, and the soundtrack album hit Billboard’s number one spot.

“We always have high hopes for all of our new film music, but ultimately the public decides what to embrace,” said Chris. “But even we were bowled over by the response to “Frozen” — as a musical and as a film. Now kids have even more wonderful songs to grow up with, and grownups have new gems to place alongside their other “Best of Disney” favorites.”

All this musical success couldn’t happen to a nicer couple. Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are relishing the glitz and excitement of having a smash Disney musical feature — and they’re especially glad to share these moments with their two young daughters, Anna and Katie (who add their talents to the film). Plus, in addition to the “Frozen Sing-Along,” there’s serious talk of a Broadway stage production of “Frozen.”

Oh, and then there’s a little thing called the Academy Awards. If you’re like us, you’ll be on the edge of your seat, rooting for the Lopez’s “Let It Go” to win the Oscar for Best Original Song! (Inside joke: Bobby and Kristen like to call their friend Chris “Gandalf’,” because he’s such a mysterious, wandering being of untold wisdom.)

No matter how any of the ol’ awards turn out, the Lopez family, and all of us, are the real winners, rich with the treasure of great new Disney music that will go on to delight generations to come.

Tickets are on sale now for Disney’s “Frozen Sing-Along” at AMC Theatres box offices and at your favorite movie ticket site.

  • Share: 

Tagged: , , ,

Filed: Disneyland Resort, Downtown Disney, Downtown Disney District, Walt Disney World Resort

Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: If I Can runDisney, Chances Are You Can, Too

posted on January 16th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Runners at Walt Disney World Resort

For most of my young life, I had been out of shape. Doctors always recommend proper diet and exercise. I grew up in an “eat this, it will make you feel better” home where exercise was grocery shopping.

But I always wanted to know what fitness was like. I began trying various types of exercise and activities, and though I enjoy quite a few of them, it was running that seemed to work best for me. There isn’t a lot of equipment except shoes. The correct shoes are essential. I asked friends and read a few books about it. Starting with one mile, I worked up very slowly. I had never realized that exercise like this could relieve stress and clear my head.

In about six months I got up the courage to run some 5K races. They’re a little over three miles. Could I think about a marathon? C’mon … who was I kidding? As it turned out, I joined a local running group affiliated with Olympic medalist Jeff Galloway and learned that mere mortals like me could run longer races, even marathons.

Through his books and personal appearances, Jeff dispelled the myths about running:

MYTH: People really shouldn’t run long distances.

JEFF GALLOWAY: According to anthropologists, that is how we survived. The need for running and walking are embedded in our genetics and biomechanics. By gradually going from walking into running — and adding walk breaks — you can adapt, rebuild and become more efficient at any age. The simple training plan of walking breaks during a run greatly reduces body stress and the risk of injury.

MYTH: You need Jack Skellington’s physique to run a race.

JEFF: At the Walt Disney World Marathon and other events around the country, you’ll see every body shape you can imagine. Anyone starting an exercise program MUST check with their physician first and then get the proper training. That’s where run/walk/run comes in. It allows the cardiovascular system to gradually adapt without becoming overstressed.

MYTH: Running is bad for your joints.

JEFF: Neither I nor my orthopedic consultants could find a single study proving that running harms your joints. That applies to everyone, including folks who might not resemble what some might perceive as the typical runner.

MYTH: Running means sprinting until you can’t stand it.

JEFF: That wasn’t even done in the first Olympic marathon in history. At the 1896 Olympic marathon in Athens, all the competitors walked for significant portions.

MYTH: Running through Disney Parks is no big deal.

JEFF: Not only do you see a lot of the main Walt Disney World Resort locations, you also see really interesting, behind-the-scenes glimpses that most never see. Nighttime races offer yet a different kind of magic. It’s like getting a special key to the kingdom.

MYTH: Greg couldn’t be a runner.

ME: It’s been 20 years now since I became a runner. As they say on TV, individual results may vary, but I’ve run 11 full marathons, three triathlons, countless 5Ks, 10kK and half marathons. I even proposed to my wife after running a Walt Disney World Marathon! (She said, “Yes.”)

To see if running is for you, visit runDisney.com/training to get the basics, like training schedules for each race. Then check out the best single guidebook for all runners — Galloway Training Programs. It goes into detail about what to do when preparing for all of the runDisney events, like what to wear, what to eat, etc.

Throughout the year, visit runDisney.com for info on the wide variety of magical events. When you choose one, be sure to mark your calendar for the day registration begins, because they can fill up fast.

Even if you decide that running isn’t your cup of tea, you’re invited to Disney’s Health & Fitness Expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to enjoy exhibits, demonstrations and more. You might even meet Jeff there! Admission to the Expo is free during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

Click here for more information about upcoming runDisney events.

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Walt Disney World Resort

Sights & Sounds of Disney Parks: Disney’s Songwriting Mom & Dad

posted on December 9th, 2013 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Even as it begins to add its magic to your neighborhood theater, Disney’s new animated feature “Frozen” is already getting critical raves and Oscar buzz, particularly for its marvelous new songs.

FCF762524

You’ll be delighted to learn “Frozen’s” songwriters, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, are not only among today’s top Broadway (and now Hollywood) composers, they’re also a doting mom and dad — and huge Disney Parks fans. In addition to “Frozen,” they wrote the songs for the 2011 Disney animated feature, “Winnie the Pooh,” “Finding Nemo—The Musical” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot!

We caught up with Kristen and Bobby just as they were on their way to take their young daughters Anna and Katie (both of whom also can be heard in Frozen) to Disney California Adventure park to see “World of Color — Winter Dreams,” the new holiday edition of the nighttime water spectacular hosted by none other than Olaf, the lovable snowman from “Frozen.”

Greg Ehrbar: “As Disney fans yourselves, it must be surreal to hear your songs on Disney Parks attractions, films and now ‘Frozen.’”

Kristen: What’s funny, and I think helpful, is that we consume more Disney stuff than we create. Bobby keeps buying “Frozen” merchandise and filling our entire studio with all-things “Frozen.” Every day I ask, “Okay, what did you buy today?” and he says something like, “I got the two crowns!”

GREG: “’Finding Nemo—The Musical’ has such great songs. I love listening to the sound track album [available on iTunes]. The songs you both write so well have strong, memorable melodies. They’re very hummable and like the Sherman Brothers’ songs—and I mean this in the best possible way—they’re what folks call earworms, those tunes you can’t get out of your head.”

Robert: “Well, as a songwriter, one of your dreams is that people would be forced to listen to your song for a constant loop all day long! That’s basically what it means to get a song into an attraction, right?” (laughs)

GREG: “I recall that Walt Disney said something to the effect that ‘songs were the things that the people took with them after they left the theater.’”

Kristen: “Chris Montan [President of Walt Disney Music], who’s been doing this kind of thing very successfully for a very long time, was the person we looked to as our guide, both melodically and structurally. We called him ‘Gandalf’ because this was an epic journey. We really had to get that ring of Mordor and we had a very small window of time. Neither of us had ever done this kind of thing before, so we would turn to Chris.”

Robert: “And like Gandalf, he had a number of projects that he was doing at once so we didn’t always have him.”

Kristen: “Right. It was as if he’d have some sort of ‘Balrog’ thing to take care of and would have to be away … but upon his return, he would be ever so much stronger.”

(They both laugh.)

Kristen: “…and so then, we finished the film!”

GREG: “You seem to have very eclectic tastes. The variety of styles in your songs for ‘Frozen’ reflect that.”

Kristen: “Definitely. I would say I have a little more of a foot in the top-40 world than Bobby, but he loves some of the classic pop hits and he’s a huge Billy Joel fan. That’s how he gets the girls. That’s how he got me.”

GREG: “When you take the girls to Disney Parks in Florida and California, what are the must-see attractions for you?”

Kristen: “Well, the Finding Nemo ones, of course!”

Robert: “That was the one that really established us as a family of Disney Park goers. When our daughter was between the ages one-and-a-half to two, she spent pretty much that time at Disney. So we were a tried-and-true Disney family by the end of that. We always try to go to Expedition Everest in Florida, that’s our favorite coaster-type ride.”

Kristen:Star Tours.”

Robert: “Oh, definitely every time, Star Tours.”

Kristen: “And there’s so much great music at Epcot.”

Robert:Soarin’.”

Kristen: “Soarin’ is amazing. And I love the Spaceship Earth music as you head up into space.”

Robert: “We go to ‘it’s a small world’ every time. That’s a song that rings true with us. As songwriters we see it as the happiest song ever, but when you hear Richard Sherman play it softly and soulfully…”

Kristen: “…it’s a prayerful piece.”

Robert: “Yeah, how deep it is. The whole thing is a beautiful experience.”

Kristen: “I was a huge fan of the original Journey Into Imagination song, too.”

Robert: “We love The Enchanted Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean, we love it all.”

Kristen: “Oh, and let me tell you something else, Greg. Just for fun I have an app on my phone that shows the Disneyland ride waiting times. Every once in awhile I’ll be in a meeting or something, and I’ll just go on the app and see that it’s 90 minutes to get on to Radiator Springs Racers, or it’s five minutes for Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train, or – ”

Robert: “– and I’m married to her.”

Kristen: “It does sound corny but it’s true—we remind ourselves everyday to be mindful of being grateful to be in this position.”

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort

From Outer Space to Disney Parks … Meet the Dads from ABC-TV’s ‘The Neighbors’

posted on December 6th, 2013 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


What if, instead of riding into the galaxy on Space Mountain, Star Tours or Mission: SPACE, you had next-door neighbors who came from beyond the stars? That’s the idea behind one of today’s most talked-about TV comedies, “The Neighbors,” airing Friday nights at 8:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. CT on the ABC TV Network.

Last season, the Weaver family moved into a nice little New Jersey subdivision and all the other residents turned out to be from the planet Zabvron. Now in the second season, they’ve become best friends with Zabvronian expatriates Larry Bird, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Reggie Jackson and Dick Butkus (they’ve taken on the names of the Earth’s finest physical specimens).

Of course, in real life, the stars of “The Neighbors” (and their families) travel into the galaxy by visiting either Disneyland park or Walt Disney World Resort. We chatted with the two TV dads: Lenny “Marty Weaver” Venito and Simon “Larry Bird” Templeman just before they were off to a script reading for the next episode.

<aclass=”zoom” title=” ABC-TV’s ‘The Neighbors’”href=”http://parksandresorts.wdpromedia.com/media/disneyparks/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/neighbors.jpg”>JAMI GERTZ, LENNY VENITO,  MAX CHARLES, TIM JO, IAN PATRICK, TOKS OLAGUNDOYE, CLARA MAMET

Greg Ehrbar: Simon, you really are an alien, right?

Simon Templeman: (laughs) Yes, at least to you Americans! I grew up in the UK in Sussex and came out during a show here in Los Angles and in New York. I met my wife (award-winning actress and Anaheim native Rosalind Chao) when she was an international tour guide at Disneyland. She got to wear the short tartan skirt. I wish I had seen her in that plaid skirt.

Greg: I would just love it if “The Neighbors” went to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Maybe your TV wife, Jackie [played by Toks Olangundoye], could wear one of those tour guide outfits.

Simon: She’d fit, that’s for sure! But actually, Rosalind and I got married in Malibu, Calif. and we had the reception to our wedding at the Disneyland Hotel. Twenty-five years ago.

Greg: No kidding! Have you guys ever been to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida?

Lenny Venito: I have. I’m from New York, so that’s our “Disneyland,” so to speak. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., in Bay Ridge. You know what, I love going there with my niece — or with any kids, for that matter — because the look on their faces is something to remember. It’s like living my childhood over again.

Greg: What do you like best at the parks?

Lenny: I love all that stuff. I love roller coasters. I love all the fried dough. Big fan of the fried dough. That is my thing. I like how everything is in the shape of Mickey’s head! You get the waffle that looks like Mickey, you get the chocolate thing that looks like Mickey. All I’m doing is eating Mickey all day long and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Greg: (laughs) And you seem like such a sweet guy, Lenny! Now Simon, when you came to this country, didn’t it seem like another planet?

Simon: Yes, and it seems even more so after that conversation! If I get nervous, I still start coming out with English words and phrases, like the “bonnet and boot.”

Greg: Can you tell us a little bit about what’s coming later in this season?

Lenny: Yes, we’re going to see more about the relationship between Reggie — Larry Bird and Jackie’s son — and Amber, the daughter of Marty and Debbie [Jami Gertz].

Simon: Also, we are trying to get as much music into the show as possible. There are so many great singers in the cast, we are trying to integrate that into the show. Since last season, we have learned that everybody wants to be a Broadway star. [You can download songs from "The Neighbors" on iTunes.]

Lenny: Also, Larry Bird recently got a job at a coffee shop called “Tanner’s Beans.” It’s actually named after the assistant to Dan Fogelman [creator of "The Neighbors" and co-writer of such movie hits as "Tangled" and "Cars"].

Greg: One of things my wife and I like about “The Neighbors” is that, as zany and wacky as the characters can be, none of them are portrayed as stupid.

Simon: I think our alien characters, and I’m sure Toks would agree, just don’t have all the information. It’s not that they’re dumb.

Greg: There is a deft and subtle sweetness to the show. It’s one of the nicest sitcoms of its kind that’s been on television in decades.

Lenny: I think you’re right when you say there aren’t a lot like it anymore. You used to have a lot of those family shows where everyone sits down, the parents and the kids and they each get something out of it. My favorite part is that sweetness, that heartwarming feeling you get from some of our shows. There’s an innocence to the Bird-Kersees as they learn about Earth, and to the Weavers as they grow as a family. We’re at our best when that all comes together.

Simon: Yet that sweetness is not too saccharin because of Dan Fogelman and our writers, who are very adept at balancing both. That’s the thing that first drew me to the series. The humor doesn’t feel mean spirited.

Lenny: All I know is that I love being Marty and if they keep letting me do it, I’m gonna keep doing it.

Greg: In other words the show is like butter, like a whole stick of butter.

Lenny: Like butter!

Greg: In our house it’s appointment TV. We all gather to watch it on Friday nights.

Simon: I love that.

Lenny: Family television, man! Let’s keep it going.

Watch brand-new episodes of The Neighbors” Fridays at 8:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. CT on ABC-TV.

Parents note: The Neighbors is rated TV-PG for language.

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort

Sights & Sounds of Disney Parks: Whoopi Goldberg Shares ‘The View’ of a Candlelight Processional Performance

posted on November 8th, 2013 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Candlelight Processional—the stirring Epcot holiday tradition in which a star narrator performs a reading of the Nativity story accompanied by a 50-piece live orchestra and massed choir—is as magnificent an experience for those on America Gardens Stage as it is for those watching the presentation.

“Whoopi

We got the Candlelight Processional narrator’s perspective from none other than Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner Whoopi Goldberg.

Greg: How do you approach the narration of the Nativity story?

Whoopi: I am respectful of it because it’s a wonderful story. The idea that you can tell this story with these choruses behind you thrills me. I know it’s a story that people love and it’s important to people of faith to hear and so I try to be respectful of it as well but I also want to have a little fun with it.

Greg: Do you let the text and music flow through you? Is every performance a fresh experience?

Whoopi: Sure, you can put it that way. Because you are changing choruses after each performance you have to listen how their air is circulating behind you. You feel differently with different people behind you. I try to feel everything. I love my conductors because it’s always fun. I love people singing those traditional songs and I know lots of people wish that there was more of it—more of that kind of traditional caroling going on.

Greg: Isn’t the narration of the text like music, in a way — the rising and falling of the words, the emphasis and tone?

Whoopi: Well maybe, sometimes. I’m never boring when I read. You can say it’s like jazz but you can never perform it as a jazz piece. It’s a traditional piece. In my hands it’s a little less traditional. There are pieces of music I adore.

Greg: We’re so delighted to have you back for the Candlelight Processional. How does it feel to be part of the holiday experience and tradition of so many people?

Whoopi: I don’t know whether you all are aware of this but you know I alternate with Santa Claus with delivering things. We chronicled it in a film called “Call Me Claus”. I like being part of the holiday tradition because it’s a big part of my life and some of the best memories come from the traditions that I grew up with. I like the magic of it and I think as long as you can give the magic of the holidays to children they will always stay children.

Greg: Congratulations on receiving the Excellence in Media Award from Temple University. How do you feel about awards in general — do you have some that have special meaning to you?

Whoopi: All awards have special meaning to me because it means that somebody thought enough of you to go and buy something and say hey remember us because we’re honoring you we think you did a good job with whatever or being a good person. I like them. I think it’s all right to get awards.

Greg: I’ve heard you’re a big fan of classic animation. The great Billie Holiday also loved watching cartoons. Any Disney faves?

Whoopi: Well I’m a big Peter Pan girl. I love Peter Pan. I like some of the newer stuff as well but I like all of the old Mickey. I like a lot of the Fleischer brothers’ things also. I just like the idea that you can make animation. That you can make inanimate objects talk when you animate them. I love that stuff. Anything Disney does, I’m happy with.

Greg: You’ve always got so many great projects in the works. What would you like our readers to get excited about?

Whoopi: Well I hope that everyone has watched my documentary on HBO called “Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley.” I hope that they all go see “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” which I’m in, and then I hope they all watch Lifetime, where I’m in “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (2014). And I hope they all lobby to get Pixar to put me in one more thing!

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort

Sights & Sounds of Disney Parks: Clang! Clang! Clang! It’s the Trolley with a Special Summer Song

posted on August 14th, 2013 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Every time you visit Disney Parks, you participate in a story with a beginning, middle and end. One of the most delightful of these beginnings is the series of Magic Kingdom Park “welcomes” that start your day of enchantment.

The first “scene” in your story occurs before park opening. You look up at the Main Street, U.S.A., train station and see colorfully costumed Disney cast members performing a song called — what else — “Welcome.” (You can get this song on the “Four Parks, One World” official Walt Disney World Resort CD album, available in select shops.)

Mickey Mouse and his friends, including characters from favorite Disney animated features, ride into the station aboard the Walt Disney World Railroad for a hearty “hello” before you — and they — head off for a day of Magic Kingdom Park fun.

Once you’ve entered Main Street, U.S.A., you can feel the anticipation and excitement as everyone heads toward Cinderella Castle — and the attractions that await them on all sides. But if you linger a little, you might see and hear the next “welcome moment,” an appearance by Dapper Dans, crooning a ditty or two aboard a trolley.

You might decide to shop for a few minutes. At this hour, you can breeze through the Emporium, savoring the pleasant music in the air.

Clang! Clang! Clang! It’s the Main Street Trolley Show at Magic Kingdom Park with a Special Summer Song

At 9:30 a.m., the talented troupe of performers that you saw on the train station, some now toting pic-a-nic baskets, merrily moving down the street on their trolley. The song you hear is — of course — “The Trolley Song,” one of the “Great American Songbook” hits that Judy Garland sang in the movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

The trolley comes to a stop and the dancers leap onto the street. They launch into a special summertime song, “Things Are Gonna Hum This Summer.” The leap, whirl and twirl with such unbridled elation, it’s as if you’ve stepped inside one of those happy, peppy movie musicals from the good ol’ days. The trolley makes two more stops for similar performances in order to delight more Main Street, U.S.A., guests. Such happy peppiness should be shared with as many folks as possible!

As “The Trolley Song” fades away, you’re off to enjoy your Magic Kingdom Park day — maybe with just a little extra spring in your step. You smile in recognition of one of those wonderful little touches that add up to an unmatchable Disney Parks day.

<br/
Look below for more from the “Sight & Sounds at Disney Parks” series:

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort