Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: For Your Consideration – ‘The Oswalds’

posted on February 25th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


If there were an Oscar for Best Actor in a Disney Parks Leading or Featured Role—let’s call it the “Oswald”—this year’s award would likely go to our own dashing Dennis Marsico, a familiar face to guests as a host of the Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Action Stunt Show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, appearances on numerous TV series and commercials, as well as a chameleonic Streetmosphere actor.

With so much of this year’s biggest Oscar buzz surrounding the silent masterpiece The Artist, we’d like you to laugh along with us and watch Major Dennis, an affectionate tribute from our pals at runDisney that showcases Disney’s Princess Half Marathon.

Our winner for the Best Actress “Oswald” goes to the lovely and talented Sheila Smith-Ward, who co-starred with Dennis in the first two videos in our unabashedly wacky comedy series, Little Timmy Goes to Magic Kingdom and Little Timmy Goes to Epcot, the latter highlighted by Dennis’ intense devotion to Duffy the Disney Bear. Both videos can be seen on the Disneyworld.com news page.

Since we just now made up “the Oswalds,” to whom would you award them? Let’s face it—they might as well have just as much gravitas as do so many other awards, perhaps more so…?

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Ducky and ‘Lady and the Tramp’

posted on February 17th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


The story of Don Williams might as well be a Disney movie.

Ducky Williams Drawing Donald Duck

“Once upon a time, in a place called Springfield, Massachusetts, there was a young lad named Don Williams, who loved Disney Characters and animated films. His grandmother, who also loved cartoons, bestowed upon him the nickname ‘Ducky,’ for she loved cartoons.

Ducky wished upon many stars, in hopes that someday, somehow, he might actually work for The Walt Disney Company. Well, years went by and soon Ducky was a fine young man. But he fell under the enchantment of banking, becoming a Springfield bank vice-president rather than a Disney artist—though he delighted bank patrons with his annual gallery of superbly rendered Disney Characters and scenes.

One day, Ducky decided to break the enchantment and left the bank for Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. But many more years passed as Ducky took jobs in and around the theme parks while pursuing a career in the marketing art department. When his opportunity finally arrived, Ducky was given 90 days to prove himself.

Over thirty years later, Don “Ducky” Williams is the one and only senior character artist at what is now known as Disney’s Yellow Shoes Creative Group. In his remarkable career, he has created thousands of artworks for advertising campaigns, best selling books, online messaging and television programs. And as one of the most beloved Disney Cruise Line onboard presenters, Ducky is sharing his lifelong love of Disney with thousands of fan…all of whom are surely living happily (and Duckily) ever after.”

Ducky Williams’ 'Lady and the Tramp' Artwork in Tony’s Town Square Café in Magic Kingdom Park

Every day, as guests pass through any one of the Walt Disney World Resort road entrance arches, they see Character art created by Don “Ducky” Williams. And at Magic Kingdom Park, Ducky’s artwork adorns the walls (and some windows) of Tony’s Town Square Café. Ducky tells us he had fun creating all the art, but he probably had the most fun doing the painting of that “sssssilly” Beaver with Lady and Tramp.

Ducky Williams’ Artwork in Tony’s Town Square Café in Magic Kingdom Park Ducky Williams’ Artwork in Tony’s Town Square Café in Magic Kingdom Park Ducky Williams’ Artwork in Tony’s Town Square Café in Magic Kingdom Park Ducky Williams’ Artwork in Tony’s Town Square Café in Magic Kingdom Park

So, now when you’re enjoying the new Diamond Edition of Walt Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” on Blu-ray and DVD, you’ll also be watching the same film upon which Ducky himself was inspired—as a youth in 1955, then again decades later, studying scenes to create the Tony’s Town Square Café artwork—and today, finding it as fresh and delightful as ever, in breathtaking high definition on Blu-ray.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Last-Minute Music Downloads from Walt Disney Records

posted on December 23rd, 2011 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Walt Disney’s Babes in Toyland Original Cast Album

Walt Disney’s Babes in Toyland Original Cast Album

What you get: The musical score from Walt Disney’s first live-action musical (also available on DVD) starring Ray Bolger (The Wizard of Oz), Ed Wynn (Mary Poppins) and our own Queen of Walt Disney World Resort, Annette Funicello.

Why it’s cool: It’s a stereo re-creation of the score (not actually the soundtrack as stated on iTunes) with a magnificent overture by Camarata. Listen for Henry Calvin (Sgt. Garcia on Zorro), a young Ann Jillian as Bo-Peep, and a rousing rendition of “March of the Toys,” which accompanied Walt’s vision of the toy soldiers, introduced in the movie and now a Disney Parks parade tradition.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Mickey’s Christmas Carol Storyteller Version

What you get: An album length adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol combining soundtrack elements from the 1983 featurette with songs and dialogue from the original 1974 album – which actually inspired the film.

Why it’s cool: Film, radio and TV star Alan Young (beloved as Wilbur on TV’s “Mister Ed”) wrote and starred on the album. He’s the voice of Uncle Scrooge McDuck (also on DuckTales and in Disney Parks shows), and also voices Mickey! All the female roles are played by the great Janet Waldo, voice of Judy Jetson, Penelope Pitstop and Josie (of Josie and the Pussycats). Goofy is voiced by Walker Edmiston (Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, H.R. Pufnstuf).

Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp

Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp

Why it’s cool: The Christmas song, “Peace On Earth” opens and closes the Walt Disney Pictures animated classic, coming to Diamond Edition Blu-ray and DVD in February. The whole soundtrack album is available for download, as well as the 1962 song album, conducted by Camarata with top Hollywood soloists Robie Lester, Teri York, Bob Grabeau and Marilyn Hooven – who sings “Peace On Earth” in counterpoint with “Silent Night.”

The Night Before Christmas

What you get: The Clement Moore poem set to music by Hollywood vocal director Ken Darby (The Wizard of Oz, Finian’s Rainbow). Look for the versions by Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians or The Harry Simeone Chorale.

Why it’s cool: You may remember this version from the Disney Parks stage show, “Mickey’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” It was introduced on the 1940’s radio sitcom, Fibber McGee and Molly and animated for TV in 1968.

These songs and albums are available for download on selected websites including iTunes and amazon.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: New & Classic Christmas Discs from Walt Disney Records

posted on December 17th, 2011 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Songs and Story: Mickey's Christmas Around the World from Walt Disney Records

Songs and Story: Mickey’s Christmas Around the World

What you get: A classic album-length story in which Mickey and Goofy travel the globe to discover how holidays are celebrated in diverse cultures.

Why it’s cool: Mickey and Goofy sing “From All of Us to All of You,” Their backup music is from the soundtrack of the Disneyland holiday TV episode hosted by Jiminy Cricket, featuring scenes from Disney animated features and short subjects. This was originally released in 1991 on cassette only.

Songs and Story: Ariel's Christmas Under the Sea from Walt Disney Records

Songs and Story: Ariel’s Christmas Under the Sea

What you get: An original story based on the Walt Disney Pictures animated classic The Little Mermaid, this tale takes place before the movie begins with Ariel bringing holidays from the world above to her kingdom – much to the disdain of King Triton.

Why it’s cool: Jodi Benson, Samuel E. Wright and other members of the original film voice cast are here again, along with three songs culled from previous Walt Disney Records releases. Like Mickey’s Christmas Around the World, this story was only available on cassette in the past.

The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas from Walt Disney Records

The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas

What you get: All the songs from the Grammy-winning 2006 album plus two brand-new tracks – one partnering the Muppets with guest star Andrea Bocelli.

Why it’s cool: Where to begin? Miss Piggy swoons the Eartha Kitt classic “Santa Baby” and stresses her chorus line as “The Christmas Queen;“ Swedish Chef dishes out a “Christmas Smorgasbord;” Fozzie takes the stage at the “North Pole Comedy Club;” and Kermit sets a mellow tone for “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Phineas and Ferb Holiday Favorites from Walt Disney Records

Phineas and Ferb Holiday Favorites

What you get: Sixteen festive, funny tunes by the original TV cast from what I think is one of TV’s smartest and most inventive shows – animated or not.

Why it’s cool: This 2010 album showcases the delightful quirks of each character, especially in ensemble songs like “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” There are also songs by Olivia Olson (voice of Vanessa and daughter of series writer Martin Olson); tween pop stars Mitchell Musso and Ashley Tisdale (who voice Jeremy and Candace) and the mythical rock group “Love Handel.”

These CDs are available at selected Disney Parks merchandise locations as well as your favorite stores, online shops and downloads. For information on purchasing select Disney merchandise items, call Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Merchandise Guest Services at 1-877-560-6477 or send an email to 
merchandiseguestservices@disney.go.com.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Park-Exclusive Holiday CDs

posted on December 5th, 2011 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Disney Parks Holiday Medley CD, Featuring Performances from Goofy, Donald, Mickey and Minnie, Dr. Teeth, the Electric Mayhem of The Muppets and More

Disney Parks Holiday Medley

What you get: A collector’s treasury of 19 seasonal songs, carefully chosen by Grammy award-winning producer Ted Kryczko from the Walt Disney Records and Disney Parks music libraries. Songs include: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Goofy, Mickey & Minnie; “White Christmas” by Goofy; “‘Zat You, Santa Claus?” by Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem; and many more.

Why it’s cool: Look who’s on the disc: Goofy, Donald, Mickey and Minnie; Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem of The Muppets; Park performers and orchestras (including some you might hear at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – like the Disney Dickens Christmas Carolers); plus superb studio vocalists performing original tunes created for various Walt Disney Records releases.

Candlelight Processional and Massed Choir Program: The Traditional Story of Christmas in Song and Narration as Presented at Epcot Holiday CD from Disney Parks

Candlelight Processional and Massed Choir Program

The Traditional Story of Christmas in Song and Narration as Presented at Epcot

What you get: The entire Epcot Candlelight Processional production, including the essay, “One Solitary Life,” narrated to perfection by Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad, and magnificent performances of great music conducted by Derric Johnson and John A. Sinclair, including “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Why it’s cool: How wonderful to have such a lovely 50-year Disney tradition, recorded for you to keep and to listen to anytime you want! The orchestra was recorded on “Stage M,” inside the Bing Crosby Building at Paramount Studios in Hollywood – where music from classics like White Christmas, Sunset Boulevard, The Ten Commandments and Star Trek were recorded. The vocals, including the Walt Disney World Resort Cast Choir and members of high school choirs from Apopka, Lake Howell, Dr. Phillips, Lake Mary and Lake Region and additional instrumentation were recorded here in Central Florida.

Walt Disney World Holiday Wishes CD, the Soundtrack from the Holiday Wishes Fireworks Spectacular at Magic Kingdom Park and Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park

Walt Disney World Holiday Wishes

What you get: The soundtrack from the Holiday Wishes fireworks spectacular at Magic Kingdom Park, PLUS the soundtrack from Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.

Why it’s cool: First of all, I love the cover and disc art, conceived by Quynh Kimball of the Disney Design Group. (Do you remember which Disney cartoon ended with that Pluto “stamp gag?”) Second, this is an excellent album for tree trimming or filling out holiday cards, rich in familiar themes, lavishly arranged in that great Disney Parks style. I even like listening to Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade during my runs!

All three of these albums are available exclusively at selected Disney Parks merchandise locations.

For information on purchasing select Disney merchandise items, call Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Merchandise Guest Services at 1-877-560-6477 or send an email to 
merchandiseguestservices@disney.go.com.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: The Fabric of Holiday Storytelling at Epcot

posted on November 25th, 2011 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Seasoned Walt Disney World Resort visitors know that Holiday Storytellers are among the many delightful and inspiring experiences to enjoy during Holidays Around the World at Epcot. What few realize is how much time, talent and craftsmanship is literally woven into their magnificent, authentic costumes. In this sparkling, festive video, Disney historian Jim Korkis, author of The Vault of Walt, takes you behind the scenes into the amazing realm of Disney Creative Costuming.

Special note for Disney buffs: Look for the beloved Disney collectible at Jim’s right. We put it there on purpose. Do you know its historic connection to Disney “storytellers?”

For more from Greg’s “Sights & Sounds” series, check out the posts below:

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Getting ‘Muppety’ with Production Designer Steve Saklad

posted on November 23rd, 2011 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


On Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011, if you hear a loud “CRASH!” followed by riotous laughter, it may be because Disney’s The Muppets has arrived at your neighborhood movie theater. The new comedy spectacular stars Jason Segel, Amy Adams, a “who’s-who” of celebrity cameos – and of course, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie and a gaggle of other madcap Muppets – on a cross-country search reuniting the ol’ gang.

Disney’s The Muppets production designer Steve Saklad (Spider Man 2) told us that the new movie straddles the real world and what he and director James Bobin (writer/director of TV’s Flight of the Conchords) call a world of “Muppety-ness.” “James and I pin-pointed what makes something ‘Muppety;’ it will have have a richer color palette, a sense of period. We really wanted to capture the spirit of the original TV show and the traditions of American comedy.”

Disney’s The Muppets was made for fans, by fans. Thanks to star/co-screenwriter Segel, director Bobin and other Muppetphiles, the movie brims with “inside” jokes and clever references. “James can cite almost every scene in every Muppet TV show and movie, at a moments notice,” said Steve. “The new movie is peppered with Muppet lore from top to bottom.”

As a top Hollywood production designer, Steve appreciates the artistry of Disneyland Resort. “Each new iteration has been an amazing dream come true – New Orleans Square, Tomorrowland – there are so many great ideas that keep coming through.”

Steve’s also blown away by Walt Disney World Resort Theme Parks. “I think if I had to pick one favorite, it would have to be Epcot. The presentation of the different countries is so full of wit, so full of magic. I love the idea of taking the essence of each nation and presenting it in its own ‘space.’ As I walk through those streets, I also feel as if I’m walking on what might be Mary Poppins’ street in the United Kingdom Pavilion or a street from Ratatouille in the France Pavilion. It’s like crossing over into the movie world – a fantasy version of these places.”

And of course, you can cross into the wacky world of The Muppet Show – so lovingly celebrated in Disney’s The Muppets – by experiencing the uniquely immersive Muppet*Vision 3-D attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney California Adventure park.

One of the calmer, more organized production meetings with Disney’s The Muppets cast and staff.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Happy Birthday, Mickey!

posted on November 18th, 2011 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Best wishes to the leader of the club that’s made for you and me! Mickey’s birthday has a long and colorful history of music and celebration. Back in 1937, comic performer Billy Murray (no, not that Bill Murray) and the International Novelty Orchestra recorded “Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party” on 10-inch 78 rpm records made of brittle shellac as breakable at Aunt Marge’s best china.

'Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party' by the International Novelty Orchestra '(Hey Ra-Ra-Ra-) Happy Birthday, Mickey Mouse'

Forty years later, Epcot favorite and legendary Monkee Davy Jones brought his own groove to “(Hey Ra-Ra-Ra-) Happy Birthday, Mickey Mouse.” The was written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschorn, who also wrote the songs for the Disney musical fantasy feature, Pete’s Dragon.

And of course, there was once an entire Mickey’s Birthdayland at Magic Kingdom Park, which in a few months will start to reveal its transformation into New Fantasyland. I’m sure Mickey is as excited to see it all as we are. Mickey, being the self-effacing fellow he is, may have found the whole Birthdayland thing to be a little more fuss over him than he’d prefer – clearly he’d rather make a great big fuss over all his park guests instead!

What’s your favorite Mickey birthday memory? Mine is being a cast member Disney VoluntEAR for Mickey’s 65th, when underprivileged children were invited to enjoy Walt Disney World Resort vacations. I helped host a group of these wonderful kids from Cleveland, Ohio. I’ll never forgotten what fun it was to take them through the parks. I felt kind of like Willy Wonka (without all that nasty blueberry and fizzy lifting drink stuff)!

When we had to say goodbye to the kids, I could hear Tommy Steele singing these classic Sherman Brothers lyrics from The Happiest Millionaire in my head: “We knew we’d never meet again, and yet it’s clear to see / I’d always be a part of them and them a part of me.”

Thanks, Mickey. You’re a pal.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Chilling, Thrilling Disney CD Picks

posted on October 28th, 2011 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


The Haunted Mansion Attraction Soundtrack

The Haunted Mansion Attraction Soundtrack

What you get: A complete soundtrack “ride-through” of The Haunted Mansion attraction that runs over 13 minutes (oooh!); isolated music tracks of Buddy Baker’s groovy graveyard music (my fave), the Graveyard Band and Happy Haunts; never-before-released organ music takes, a fully orchestrated “Phantom Manor Suite” by Joel McNeely that includes “Grim Grinning Ghosts” and more.

Why it’s cool: This is the real thing, starring the original Ghost Host, Paul Frees, the organ music performed by legendary Hollywood theater musician Gaylord Carter, fantastic sound quality and rare tracks, all courtesy of the masterful Walt Disney Records Producer/Historian Randy Thornton.

The Story & Song From The Haunted Mansion

The Story & Song From The Haunted Mansion

What you get: A delightfully campy, vintage Disneyland Records “Storyteller” dramatization that follows “two teenagers coming home from a date” and find themselves in the “living nightmare” of the mysterious mansion, a separate track of “Grim Grinning Ghosts” and an 11-page booklet illustrated by Imagineer Collin Campbell. The CD also allows you to download the magnificent artwork from the book.

Why it’s cool: It features a who’s-who of Hollywood voice actors and singers: Yes, that’s Ron Howard as Mike! Robie Lester (voice of Jessica in the Rankin/Bass special, “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”) plays Karen, Thurl Ravenscroft (voice for one of the graveyard ghost busts) is the narrator; and Peter Renaday (Henry at Country Bear Jamboree) plays the Ghost Host, with an interesting “doubled” effect. It includes fabled details like the raven and the Hatbox Ghost PLUS a bonus track with a condensed attraction soundtrack.

Magic Kingdom Park Event Party Music

Magic Kingdom Park Event Party Music

What you get: The HalloWishes fireworks show soundtrack and Boo to You! Halloween Parade music from Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom Park, plus music from the Disney’s Pirate and Princess Party of days past.

Why it’s cool: Loads of great tunes – from “Pink Elephants on Parade” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls” to “This is Halloween” and “The Skeleton Dance” – are included, plus some sound memories from an event that we can no longer experience except through its wonderful music. There should be more CDs with the excellent music from so many of the fine entertainment offerings throughout Walt Disney World Resort. I’m glad this one exists.

For information on purchasing select Disney merchandise items, call Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Merchandise Guest Services at 1-877-560-6477 or send an email to 
merchandiseguestservices@disney.go.com.

Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House

Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House

What you get: A remastered version of the landmark 1963 Disneyland Records album containing dozens of collected sounds grouped by category, and ten short stories in which a narrator sets up the situation and the sounds take over.

Why it’s cool: This best selling 1963 album is the granddaddy of all creepy sound effects collections, much imitated but never equaled. Laura Olsher (Mrs. Cratchit in Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol) narrates the stories in an ominous manner that is loads of fun to imitate (try it!). Disney Legend Jimmy MacDonald compiled the sound effects, drawing on the vast Disney Studios library. If you know your Disney movies, you’ll recognize the screaming ghouls from Lonesome Ghosts, the hunting dogs from Mary Poppins and much more.

This album can be downloaded on iTunes.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Happy Birthday, Queen Annette!

posted on October 22nd, 2011 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


She was one of the original Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers, the onscreen love of Frankie Avalon in the megahit “Beach Party” movies, the chief proponent of Skippy peanut butter on TV and, of course, the Queen of Walt Disney World Resort plus one of the nicest people ever in show business.

Annette and Walt Disney

Wait a minute though, you might be thinking. What was that thing about Annette being Queen of Walt Disney World Resort? Allow me to make my intricate, airtight case for how America’s Girl Next Door inadvertently helped to build the Vacation Kingdom.

Not long after the Mickey Mouse Club premiered, Annette was getting tons of fan mail. Upon singing “How Will I Know My Love” on the show, the Disney studio was bombarded with fan requests for a recording. The record did so well, songwriters were asked to submit tunes for the fledgling singer.

The Sherman Brothers gave Annette a top ten hit with “Tall Paul.” More Sherman/Annette hits brought then to Walt’s personal attention. This led to their writing songs for The Parent Trap. Richard and Robert Sherman were put on staff and, between numerous songs for TV, films and attractions, they wrote the story-driven score for the Oscar-winning blockbuster, Mary Poppins.

A new company division, “MAPO,” was financed with a chunk of the huge MAry POppins box office revenue. MAPO built Disney attractions and theme parks, including Walt Disney World Resort.

See how it all fits so seamlessly together? It all began with a sweet, unassuming pop culture icon named Annette. That’s my logic, and I’m sticking with it. Am I too emotionally attached to be subjective or am I just strikingly insightful?

’Hawaiianette’

And sure, we just opened Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, in Ko Olina, Hawai`i – but Annette was the “Pineapple Princess” four decades earlier and celebrated it on her album Hawaiiannette (now on iTunes). Hmmm. Did she somehow know? Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch.

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