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Andy Rooney: America's Curmudgeon
by Gary J. Chambers from the Mouse Lounge
November 5, 2011

Andy Rooney was an American original, and not just because his musings on life, were. He would likely say his were merely echoes of thought among many, but were spoken into a camera lens and seen by millions every Sunday night. Andy Rooney

His was an unlikely folksy presence, steeped half in wisdom, half nostalgia, and half stick in the mud… with another half pithily acknowledging that the sum of his parts equaled more than an impossible 150%.

There were no apologies for that, nor were there for his haphazard office backdrop, frumpy wardrobe, or unruly eyebrows. His was a visage made for antiquity that will be remembered through the ages as a curmudgeonly wise proponent of common sense.

Rooney's words were potent and precise, and for my generation, ("X") his was the one segment of "60 Minutes" to which we paid attention. It transcended the immediate problems of the day and spoke to that which mattered most.

Andy Rooney was America's cranky humorist; one foot longing for the past, and the other a reluctant futurist pining for the realization of human potential. Clearly, he did not see that happen, but as he signed off of life there was a glint in his eye implying he knew something we didn't, and it conveyed… someday, we might.

Brian Wilson: In the Key of Disney
Author's rating:
User rating:
Genre Children's
Label Disney Pearl
Released October 24, 2011
Song List
  • You've Got a Friend in Me
  • The Bare Necessities
  • Baby Mine
  • Kiss the Girl
  • Colors of the Wind
  • Can You Feel the Love
  • We Belong Together
  • I Just Can't Wait to Be
  • Stay Awake
  • Heigh-Ho
  • When You Wish Upon a Star
  • A Dream Is a Wish
Album Preview:
Brian Wilson: "In the Key of Disney" Review
by Gary J. Chambers from the Mouse Lounge
October 29, 2011

When the Beach Boys performed in the studio, there was an ineffable quality to the blend of voices that made their sound unique. Far more than the sum of its parts, the band left a trail of hit records and an indelible mark in pop music history.

The artist behind such early Beach Boys classics as, "I'll Get Around" and "Surfin' Safari", to the far more mature and complex, "God Only Knows" is Brian Wilson. In today's music culture, the word, "genius" is overused and has become somewhat diluted. Unfortunate when you consider only the full power of that label aptly describes Brian Wilson's vocal arrangements.

At 69 years-old, Wilson is still at work and with a newly released sophomore effort on the Disney Pearl label, the second of a two record deal he struck in 2009. His first album was a unique experiment, "Brian Wilson Re-imagines Gershwin". This outing he takes on material perhaps more familiar to today's audiences, eleven songs from the Disney catalog on the album, "Brian Wilson: In the Key of Disney".

At first glance this may seem an odd pairing, but after reading the press release last year and giving it some thought, I realized there was great opportunity for these tunes to be re-imagined as well into something uniquely Brian Wilson. This he has certainly accomplished, but the work is uneven and many of the tracks lack the vitality of the original recordings. Brian Wilson

In 2005 Wilson worked integrally with his band, a session group called "The Wonderments" and again collaborated with Van Dyke Parks, lyricist for the long since thought lost, "Smile" album. The completion of that CD and its accompanying DVD, "Beautiful Dreamer" were an enormous success, partly because the public could hear the completion of a record that had nearly passed into myth, but even more so that crack musicians and vocalists were used as Brian's canvass on which the artist could paint his intricate soundscape. The finished product harkened back to the days of an experimental sound that was years ahead of its time and deservedly won Wilson's only Grammy Award.

Drawing from the Disney well, however, appears to have limited Wilson's ability to move beyond his early bubblegum surf pop sensibilities, which while in their time were enormously popular, now seem tired and a bit hackneyed. The arrangements are rife with lots of signature "Oooos" and "Aaaaahs" that support the lead vocal. But when compared to the complex open vowel harmonies on songs like, "The Warmth of the Sun", "A Children's Song" or "In My Room" that stretched the boundaries of what could be accomplished vocally in pop music and paved the way for bands that followed like Steely Dan and Queen, the harmonies on several tracks of this record are bland and uninspired.

Instrumentally the disk is slick and well produced with solid arrangements supporting the vocals, but layering the beach vibe on top of songs like "The Bare Necessities" and "I Just Can't Wait to be King" smothers the energy inherent in the songs themselves. Part of that comes from Wilson's own lackluster, over processed performance. In his live appearances, he sits behind a keyboard with his arms at his sides in front of a bank of monitors feeding him the lyrics of his own material. In that setting the live band invigorates the music regardless of Wilson's invariably heavy, pitchy delivery. Here, auto-tuning only exemplifies the chasm of time that separates the man's former soaring, effortless falsetto, to today's limited vocal range… and the Disney lyrics feel phoned in.

Gratefully a few of the ballads and a jaunty medley do lend themselves far better to Wilson's touch. "Baby Mine" from Dumbo has exquisite background vocals that echo the best of Brian's work of the late 60s and early 70s. "Stay Awake" from Mary Poppins, widely accepted as Walt Disney's favorite song, is positively haunting, with intricate subtle use of harpsichord and vibraphone and a beautiful alto flute solo. The whimsical medley of "Heigh-Ho / Whistle While You Work / Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" is joyful fun. The album finishes with the indestructible, "When You Wish Upon a Star" with tight, interesting vocal harmonies, and drawing upon instruments that evoke the Pinocchio story's Italian origin.

Few could fault the selection of songs which make up "In the Key of Disney", nearly all classics, but downloading the individual standout tracks is the best way to add to your Disney music library.

Song of the South: Subverted American History
by Gary J. Chambers from the Mouse Lounge
October 26, 2011

Blog post accompanies the Mouse Lounge, Season 6, Episode 5. Scheduled release date November 2, 2011.

Unlike most Americans, I am fortunate to have Song of the South in my film library. In Japan, it was released in the early nineties on Laserdisc. Fifteen years ago when I lived in Seattle, I was able to acquire the film from the late great film collector, George Lasitos at Scarecrow Video.

At the time I was in my mid-twenties and had no preconceptions of the film... no agenda. I was just an animation fan interested to see a film that wasn't available in the States. I didn't really understand the rationale behind its lack of availability nor did I question it. Song of the South Movie Poster

When I saw the picture, I was enchanted! The story, performances, animation, and score are stellar. This movie embodies the best qualities of Disney Feature Animation and I place it among my top five recommendations in the Disney pantheon. It is unfortunate that the picture is left to gather dust and cannot be used as a cultural reference for filmmaking in the 40s and to venerate the oral tradition.

To this day I fail to understand why it has become the designated NAACP celluloid scapegoat of the Disney features, nor why CEO Bob Iger dismisses the film as "antiquated" when older pictures are considered classics and worthy of top tier release on home video.

To better understand why I advocate for the film's release to the American public, it's valuable to expose several longstanding myths. Song of the South does not take place during the Civil War, but rather, during reconstruction. Many of the African American characters that populate the film are sharecroppers and clearly Uncle Remus is free to come and go as he pleases. While I'll grant that this was the beginning of great challenge for African Americans in our nation, the story takes place before the egregious Jim Crow laws, which ultimately led to 'separate but equal' facilities throughout the South.

"To truly understand all that is going on within Song of the South, we must begin with a man named Joel Chandler Harris. Born in 1848, Harris grew up during the days of the antebellum South, when slavery was still very much a part of life. He lived on the Turnwold Plantation and spent a great deal of his time with the slaves. One slave in particular, Uncle Bob Capers, told him fantastic stories of anthropomorphic characters. Those stories, along with the unique dialect in which he told them, remained in Harris' mind, until 1876, when he took over a column in the Atlanta Constitution called 'Uncle Si'. It can then be said that the tales Walt Disney would later base his movie upon were created with the innocent intent to publicize and thereby preserve the stories of the slaves through literature." ~ Christian Willis, September 1, 2001. Revised 9/20/01

I agree. Song of the South celebrates not denigrates the black people's oral tradition. Evolved from that generational sharing and the Southern Creole sensibilities in which it was steeped is African American Vernacular English, or as many non linguists colloquially refer to it, ebonics. It dates back to the trans-Atlantic slave trade itself and is a fusion, or "pidgin" of two or more languages, created in order to communicate among themselves and their captors. These pidgins became fully developed creoles in the Americas. Significant numbers of blacks still speak some of these creoles. While some white Americans vilify the black American's use of their "bad" or "lazy" English, among linguists there is no debate, as AAVE, like all dialects, shows consistent internal logic and structure. So, contrary to arguments among the film's detractors the dialect portrayed in the piece is more accurate than "insensitive." Ironically what is far more unrealistic are the Southern California accents of Bobby Dricoll and Luana Patten.

Any stereotyping being committed is by the ignorant who assume that this particular usage of the English language should be construed as unintelligent. As one who lived in New Orleans, I speak from experience that there are of plenty of Caucasians who communicate in a similar manner, nor did I ever find that these 'black speech patterns' were ever inevitably or invariably associated with an inherent level of intelligence.

On the issue of subservience, Dan Hess of the Mouse Guest Presents podcast indicates, "They do bend to the whims of the plantation owners." In actuality, there is only one instance in the picture we see any direct act of servitude towards a white individual, at the beginning of the film when Ned removes the bags from the carriage. In reality, many of the slaves who worked on plantations stayed on during reconstruction. Again, what we see in the film is not unrepresentative of that which should be construed as historically accurate.

Eric King, co-host of Mouse Guest Presents continues, "It may give children those ideas you know, that there are differences between us, which is something that Disney is totally against now. Their movies are all about inclusion and other cultures and things like that." Song of the South does nothing if but exemplify inclusion and exposure to other cultures. Johnny, the young protagonist, is seen hand in hand with Uncle Remus and is repeatedly mesmerized by his stories. Following Song of the South and for many years, Disney sanctioned nothing but gentrification and homogenization in it's film product. At long last these rigid mandates to avoid offense is breaking down with, for example, the introduction of Princess Tiana from the Princess and the Frog.

The actress who plays Tempy is the great Hattie McDaniel. She is best known for playing Mammy in 1939's "Gone with the Wind," a role for which she won an Oscar, the first Academy Award handed out to an African American. While true at one time she was criticized by the NAACP for perpetuating black stereotypes, few today would argue that she didn't also portray a strong female character, regardless of race.

To my mind, fear of a potential backlash from perceived Uncle Tomism is unwarranted. Disney Company CEO, Bob Iger, said that Disney is "…owing to the sensitivity that exists of our culture…" Balderdash! This is a film that needs to be shown and defended, not shuttled off to the archive only to be viewed by Dave Smith (The Disney Company archivist) in a small screening room! We have as a society so succumbed to political correctness and fear of offending anyone that we are purposefully subverting good stories and brain washing the masses that this is the right thing to do. Shall we next burn all copies of 'The Grapes of Wrath' for all of Steinbeck's unfavorable depictions of the dustbowl and economic depression?

Not to release Song of the South is censorship. It is a form of withholding of truth and suppression of film history. What do we fear this picture will teach children? Why should we think for a moment that "Song of the South" is somehow a non-stop road to depravity and intolerance? In a world where children are exposed to murder on television and we allow a growing acceptance of violence, it seems incongruous, and more accurately, hypocritical that we would disallow and discount the significant moral tale that is, "Song of the South."

At its essence this film says to young viewers, "You can't run away from trouble, 'cause there ain't no place that far" and holds at its heart, reverence of family and trustworthy friends.

Other Mouse Lounge Musings

The Mouse Lounge at Disneyland, Day 1
From From the Mouse Lounge   Blog written by: Gary Chambers, Mouse Lounge Host
December 16, 2007

It's difficult to justify going to Disneyland just after having spent five days the previous week in Walt Disney World. It's even more challenging to say "no" when you're going through Disney Park withdrawl and your spouse wants to see Holiday fireworks. And who can blame her. Disney paints with the most glorious holiday colors available on the pallette and has splashed the canvass liberally with magic this year. With a sprinking of pixie dust Sleeping Beauty Castle transforms itself from it's daytime iconic form to a shimmering specatacle of winter wonder.

We drove from Grover Beach on the Central Coast of California down the 101 straight to our hotel in Anaheim. A bit long as the just over three hour trip required nearly four. L.A. traffic even on a Saturday can be unforgiving. We pulled into our hotel (The Hotel Pepper Tree) just long enough to check in and drop off our bags before driving the five minutes or so to the Disneyland parking structure. For those not in the know this a massive multi-story building designed to handle thousands upon thousands of day guest vehicles.

Paradise Pier from the entrance to StorytellerThe first order of business was to eat! Few regulars on the West Coast question that dining outside the theme parks yields better quality at a lower price, even while remaining on property. When truly dining my wife and I always go to the Napa Rose. Manager, Michael Jordan (not that Michael Jordan) and his terrific staff always take good care of us. Tonight though we could not afford a languorous meal as we had attractions to conquer, bands to hear, and fireworks to view! So, off to the Storyteller Cafe, just next door to the Napa Rose in the Grand Californian we went. At the table were Gary, Tricia, Mari, Loreen (Auntie Lo), and Jason (silverjeeper). The latter two in from Colorado for a weekend of fun and Mari down from San Francisco.

New Orleans...well lit! Following dinner Tricia retreated into the Grand Californian bar to study. She's on track for the Master Sommelier exam come February and every minute counts. She would later join us for "Believe in Holiday Magic". For the remaining gruesome foursome Pirates (always and forever) is the first order of business. The attraction was difficult to get to as the park was packed to the rafters with people. If this is the off-season God help any poor schlub here on holiday NEXT weekend!

New Orleans Square is decked out in all its Holiday finery and looks magnificent as ever with Mardi Gras beads reflecting the multi-colored Christmas lights into the streets. Following our trip down the Bayou and into Davy Jones' locker we found ourselves meandering the mock NOLA acloves and snapping pictures.

NOS J, complete with tripod mounted a full scale photographic assault on New Orleans Square as I was satisfied to capture a few useable shots for Mouselounge.com with my cell phone. As much as I love my new gear, it would be nice not to have to hold my breath in order to steady a nighttime shot. And last I checked they don't make tripods for cell phones.

Even the Disneyland Railroad had a three train wait. Once our turn came up Frontierland Station was depositing passengers only as far as Toontown. Fair enough, we wanted to see the lights on the Small World facade anyway. As it was quarter of nine, we disembarked just in time to see the quarter hour show that lights up its a small world. The entire show building is ablaze in lights and animations synchronized to a Christmas score. If this has been done prior to this season, how have I missed it?! This is a true unheralded treasure of Disneyland during the holiday season!

Another view of Sleeping Beauty Castle With "Believe in Holiday Magic" now about ready to begin Tricia met the rest of us on Main Street USA. This is a good vantage point in the original Magic Kingdom as the castle is in full view but the crowd not so tightly packed as it is in the hub. The show was brilliant with some truly spectacular pyrotechnic effects. The show's finale was of course capped with snow falling gently on Main Street USA. I always find it captivating the wide-eyed look of children seeing this sight. Some may have yet to have seen the real thing but on a night like this perhaps their imaginations and curiosity are set free.

The Mouse Lounge at Mousefest, Day 5 & 6
From From the Mouse Lounge   Blog written by: Gary Chambers, Mouse Lounge Host
December 15, 2007

Epcot Christmas Tree My last two days at Mousefest proved to be among the most enjoyable as I was able to wander the parks the way I prefer, unhurried.

With this trip I've finally concluded Epcot is my favorite of the four theme parks. I suppose this is because it's the one park truly steeped in Walt's ideologies. While this incarnation of Epcot is not EPCOT CENTER, nor is it the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow that Walt envisioned, it is still representative of a particular view of society where nations of multi-faceted colors and creeds come together, and technology marries seamlessly into a culture bent on progress. And the bands at Epcot kick ass.

At long last on Sunday December 9th, the day before I was to leave for home I got to ride Spaceship Earth. Granted I yet again waited in line for nearly two hours but this time was rewarded with the experience.

Technically the ride is FAR superior. Teeth rattling though it may be, replacing the track never seemed necessary but plussing the AAs and the ride audio was essential. The attraction has never sounded or looked better. The Pharaoh is still there but he is now a next-gen AA with compliance and his movements are fast and smooth. Even more stunning is the teacher/professor who replaced the Greek thespians. Illuminations He's a bit TOO animated but yet so believable in his emphaticism it comes off nearly human. Watch closely as we move through the 70s tech age. The lab tech on the left may have white hair but you can't miss the pirate face! The latex/poly even has the same darker hue.

The basis for what happens as you descend appears to have germinated from the idea that socially we have the ability to create our own future; that our destiny is written by we ourselves and that which motivates our philosophies and actions. During our ascent the history of communication is less abstract and the wistful one-future-fits-all that Jeremy Irons paints has been jettisoned in lieu of a customized one just for you.

Off Kilter An all new interactive display poses questions like, "When you go on Vacation, do you worry more about your house or your pet" or "Do you prefer to A: Plan or B: Wing it". The personality questions are run through a formula and a rosy future matching your criteria is laid out. The touch screen is absolutely essential for the entire trip down. It's completely interactive though really cheesy. Disney has taken cues from the old UPN style animation (think Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom or a Symposium on Popular Music). It's very two dimensional but to the point where the characters in the video have only one expression, a pasted smile.

My final comment is about the score. WHAT A LETDOWN! There's nothing truly memorable about it though it was supposedly written by Bruce Broughton whose work I respect quite a lot (check out the scores he wrote for Tiny Tunes). What it lacks is that mysterioso quality the original did. Program music for another show.

Off Kilter Considering this is not the final version of the attraction we will see come February I belive Disney is well on the way toward having another hit on their hands. They will have renewed and rejeuvenated a longtime favorite with a tasteful and substantial upgrade sure to please many while alienating scant few.

On Monday my final few hours this trip to Walt Disney World was spent with fan of the show and newfound friend, Kathy Gieger who with me enjoyed seeing a few live acts in World Showcase. We saw the World Showcase Players in England, Matsuriza in Japan, and Off Kilter in Canada. Be on the lookout for another Mouse Lounge Supplemental with the complete set.

The Mouse Lounge at Mousefest, Day 4
From From the Mouse Lounge   Blog written by: Gary Chambers, Mouse Lounge Host
December 9, 2007

The Beach Club at NightSince, as predicted, the nights would be late and the mornings reserved for getting rest, work, or both accomplished, Day 4 began with the All About the Mouse Podcast Beaches and Cream Kitchen Sink Meet. This shot is of the building in which Beaches and Cream is housed as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Since the night before I had, shall we say, a VERY good time, ice cream was not in the offing. But, I had to see for myself the infamous Kitchen Sink. It is every bit as enormous as I had imagined and four of them were brought for the group to share. Twirling lights on the ceiling and a restaurant-wide announcement is made heralding their coming. It was virtually unanimous, they're every bit as delicious as they are massive. Wonder how many calories one would consume if one were foolhardy enough to attempt to eat a Kitchen Sink by oneself.

Next up came the Mega Mouse Meet. Registered offenders such as I were admitted at noon. With schwag bag in hand I made the rounds, pressing flesh (that's shaking HANDS, pdxmickey!) with authors, booksellers, podcasters, and travel agents. Kudos go to Passporter for very thoughtfully putting this room together. Water and light snacks were available for all who attended and there was plenty of space to move around.

The event was less social than it was a Disney fan trade show. Everyone had something to either sell or promote. I realize that this is the point, but I could have done with a bit more of a celebretory atmosphere. The raffle was rapid fire, but for all the technology available, why did poor Dave Marx sounds like he was coming out of a Jack-in-the-Box drive thru speaker? No one could hear him. Didn't win anything and I'd seen all I had wanted, so I retreated to one of the many large tables and attracted a small crowd ready to the same. Jonathan Dichter came by with his wife Amber enthusiastic about their successful Kitchen Sink Meet, as did Tony from Above the Firehouse.

After chatting awhile it was time to move on. From the moment I arrived there was buzz about soft openings at Spaceship Earth, and I wanted to take a shot at it. I understood full well that there were no guarantees regardless of how long I waited. It took a half hour to walk from the Dolphin Resort to Spaceship Earth, but I was grateful for the exercise. I perched myself on a rail outsisde the Kodak shop, joining about a half-dozen faithful.

The line at Spaceship Earth The crowd began to swell after an hour of patiently waiting. Castmembers rotated in and out of the attraction answering the neverending same question, "When is it going to open?" I was impressed by their patience, but it was clear THAT was enough reason to keep the CMs fresh. Security also meandered through from time to time, eyeing the crowd. It also looked as if Imaganeers were coming and going from time to time, though nothing on their person identified them as said...just a hunch.

At the end of hour two, Paul Barrie and crew had joined me. They were on a tight timeline for their ADR and I had already blown off Greg Ehrbar's talk so I could finish what I began. Just as Paul and crew were about to depart a castmember appeared and announced to the crowd, "WE DO NOT KNOW WHEN OR IF SPACESHIP EARTH WILL OPEN. IT MAY NOT OPEN AT ALL TONIGHT". He then went into a brief speech about the crowd being a fire hazzard (he had a point) and suggested we break up and return later. I took his advice, because now I wanted to catch at least the last half of the Mouse Tracks lecture.

With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps I would have stayed as Spaceship Earth did indeed open less than 30 minutes after that announcement. I, on the other hand had joined in on the Greg Ehrbar History of Disney Music lecture back at the Dolphin. Greg is a very engaging speaker and as I came in on the talk it was just as he was going into information where I have holes in my knowledge, Disneyland Records in the sixties. He took us chronologically through Disney Music, including Enchanted and we were privy to a few songs from that film. Following he had a Disney Music quiz. I must have done alright as I walked away with three CDs as prizes. I also swapped business cards with Greg and hope to interview him on a future show. He has an amazing storehouse of knowledge that would be very entertaining to listen to.

Fiesta Time! The DPN Meet was scheduled to begin at seven, so I was a bit early arriving in Mexico for that, but just in time to record a marvelous set of Mariachi Cobre which you'll hear on a future show. That set will tie in very nicely to plans I have to write and talk about the Disney Studio strike back in 1942 and Walt's Goodwill Tour to our neighboring countries in South America. It also gives me the opportunity to provide the background on how Walt used that trip with members of his staff to capture the essence of those countries in the films, Saludos Amigos, and the Three Caballeros. Spaceship Earth at night

After Mariachi Cobre finished I found the DPN crew and our guests congregating just outside the main entrance. With glow sticks in hand and around our necks, en masse we decended on the attraction. Joel and Bob's cameras were rolling as we saw a castmember furiously trying to open up the chains in the queue to accomodate our numbers. Once on board we took the cruise. Small World has nothing on the upbeat spirit of this group! And the Bleepin' Wife even behaved herself!

DPNers had designs on eating and drinking in Mexico but I had promised Lou Mongello I'd join he and Deanna for Illuminations. I met some delightful people there and had a great chat with soon-to-be 17 year-old Adam Roth, webmaster of Dream Finder Forever. Adam was in large part responsible for putting together an Epcot 25th Anniversary and it was a pleasure listening to him recount the story of how he turned a good idea into a very successful meet, meeting Epcot Vice President Jim McPhee and Imagineering Creative Director, Marty Sklar in the process. Adam has I believe a future in Imagineering and I look forward to taking him up on his invitation to work with him on the upcoming Animal Kingdom 10th Anniversary.

Adventurers Club Especially with the holiday themed tag, Illuminations was, as always, spectacular. Though near exhausted I just couldn't pass up an invitation to find out the true meaning of the word, "Kungaloosh.". A group of us caravaned to Pleasure Island and entered the Adventurers Club while the shows were in full swing. So at long last I learned "Kungaloosh" is not just a wonderful fruity alocholic concoction, but like "Aloha," is an Adventurers Club catch phrase which can mean darn near anything! This club is a culture in and of itself with it's own set of rules. To read about it check out this page from Allearsnet.

Adventurers Club We caught the last two shows of the night which included a set by the French Maid, Beulah Belle as well as a holiday-themed Grand Finale in which adventurer, Samantha Sterling successfully managed to embarass twelve audience members, each required to perform one of the days of Christmas. For the rest of my life, pipers piping has an entirely NEW (and not necessarily legal) connotation!

That's the end of Day 4. What's next, check here tomorrow and see what other mischief I got myself into.

The Mouse Lounge at Mousefest, Day 3
From From the Mouse Lounge   Blog written by: Gary Chambers, Mouse Lounge Host
December 8, 2007

Mouseguest Weekly Crew More than anything else what's most important to note is that Mousefest is an exercise in futility trying to keep to a schedule. What I HAD on the docket was:
  • Get Fast Passes at Expeition Everest
  • 7th Annual Kiliminjaro Safari Meet
  • Expedition Everest Adventure
  • Holiday Hoopla Edition: Camp Minnie Mickey
  • Hidden Mickeys in Camp Minnie-Mickey
  • Wild Animal Photo Hunt
...and this was supposed to all be before noon. What I did instead was sleep. Slowly getting onto East Coast time proved difficult and as I write this, nigh on impossible considering how late it is (after 3am).

The MongellosBut the day was FAR from a bust and certainly memorable! While a few guests and podcasters were parade locked, preventing an on time arrival at the Backlot Express, Podfest began on schedule. Lou Mongello hosted the event, an opportunity for fans and podcasters to introduce themselves and for old friends to reunite. Not having been to Mousefest before it was a real pleasure putting faces to all the voices. Sadly, I took no pictures of the event itself but did catch this charming shot of Lou Mongello of WDW Radio and his supportive and beautiful bride, Deanna.

From Podfest a rather large caravan of Mousefesters decended on Muppetvision 3D for "The Muppets Take Mousefest". We filled a good portion of the theater with high spirits. Who cares we knew all the jokes?! We had a great time. Disappointingly, Statler and Waldorf are looking a little tired. Compared to the quick fluid movements of their counterparts in DCA, these two AAs have joint lock.

Steve Barrett From Muppets another contingent met Steve Barrett at Rockin' Roller Coaster for a Hidden Mickeys on Sunset Boulevard tour. Most fascinating was Steve asking us as a group to "vote in" or "vote down" two proposed Hidden Mickeys. The first was in the mural of Aerosmith plastered on the outside wall of Studio G. The tally was a resounding "No".

The second Mickey was an even split. Steve took us near the exit of the Hollywood Tower of Terror where on the floor were three tiles with three clearly defined familiar circles. Half the group thought it was good enough. I and the other half of the group had to say no because the ears and the head were the same size. Hidden Mickeys should be correctly proportioned. Steve elected to put this one up for a vote on his website.

No picture does justice to The Osbourne Family Dancing Lights Spectacular in the backlot of the Disney/MGM Studios, and my cellphone turns them into nothing but a colorful blur. But, in the company of a delightful Mousefester (who out of respect for her privacy shall remain nameless) we sauntered through the area soaking it all in. Disney quiets the street by turning off the falling "snow" and launches into an amazing display of light synchronized perfectly to a popular Christmas tune. When done to the score of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's rockin' arrangement of "Carol of the Bells" it's nothing short of jaw dropping.

You'd think with all this stimulation the night would be over. Far from it. The brave and foolhardy alike transported to Port Orleans Riverside to take in Yee-haw Bob's show. Yehaa Bob Some would say your humble Mouse Lounge host had a GREAT time. Others would say I got plastered. The truth is, both are true. Fear not Dear Readers, I don't drink and drive and I responsibly pocketed my keys and at evenings end was driven to my hotel. That disclaimer aside the whole room was electric for three hours as Bob wowed us with his Boogie/Barrellhouse stylings and sense of humor.

The show is a homage to the great sing-a-longs of yore and Bob has this terrific knack for selecting repertoire which somehow manages to cross generations. Nearly everyone in the audience seemed to know EVERY song! And we're talking everything from Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da to the theme from Sponge Bob Square Pants. Bob keeps things interesting by mixing in an occasional instrumental (The Bumble Boogie and a very abridged Rhapsody in Blue were my favorites) and by being the poster child of the interactive performer, engaging the audience at every turn.

And so ended Day 3 of Mousefest. Next update: Your humble host waits TWO HOURS in line to experience a soft opening of Spaceship Earth, but does he get on? Also, Kitchen Sinks, the Mega Mouse Meet, sunset at the Yacht Club, Greg Ehrbar, the DPN Grand Fiesta, Disney World Trivia Family Reunion, and (last but not least) KUNGALOOSH!!!!

The Mouse Lounge at Mousefest, Day 2
From From the Mouse Lounge   Blog written by: Gary Chambers, Mouse Lounge Host
December 7, 2007

Cinderella Castle Thursday began very late. Still operating on Kaua'i time, I slept until well past noon. I could have forced myself to get up earlier, but if there's anything my nearly 40 year old body has taught me, don't press the immune system. I heard horror stories of some going home last year from Mousefest only to have been sick on the trip or shortly thereafter, so I came into this trip knowing pace was important.

I opted to rest, get some work done, and watch episodes of Heroes until it was time to get ready for MVMCP at the Magic Kingdom. A more relaxing way to start Mousefest I couldn't have have asked for. When it was time to head out, I was geared up: Spectacles, testicles, wallet, watch, keys, cellphone, sunglasses, iRiver, microphone, buttons, room key...got it!

Door to door to the TTC it takes five minutes from the Radisson. Choice. Walked straight up to the ticket counter and picked up a new annual pass. That was a tough one as I had budgeted to buy the Seasonal pass, but that pass does not include parking and doesn't have the discounts on food and merchandise. Parking fees alone can eat you alive so I opted to spend the extra funds and I'm good to go through next year. Total price including tax, $375.

Cinderella Castle No sooner did I have my annual pass and ticket for the night's festivities in hand did the phone ring. It was Work. I spent the better part of the next hour resolving issues while also fielding calls from Joel ., Paul B, and my friends Erik and Raymond on Kaua'i. Arrrggh! Finally on the board monorail I hooked up with Paul, Tairy, Tony (Above the Firehouse), and John Corigliano (Mouse Times) in Town Square. Hugs all around and a bit of chit chat later we agreed to catch the parade starting in Frontierland. We're just ready to head out but where's Gary's cellphone?! Oh, no! Fanny pack? No. Pockets? No. Double-check everything? Yes...no cellphone. Well darn it I was just using it at the TTC! So, it was pretty clear, it fell out of my pocket on the monorail or on the Magic Kingdom side between the monorail and Town Square.

Decision: Send the group off to Frontierland and I'll give Disney a chance to shine. Why not? They did it before last year when a full on sprint to Expedition Everest dislodged my phone from a pocket and they recovered it then. This time it was a brand new $300 PDA so was a bit sick about it. No line inside of City Hall and Martha was kind enough to call the monorail station to see if it had been turned in. Five minutes later she pronounced that one meeting my description was located on a train and was en route to City Hall. "Why don't you enjoy the parade and see me after?" she suggested. Good idea my little OCD brain declares.

Mic at the ready? Here we go! I captured audio of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Parade from the hub. Christmas spirit now in heart I backtracked to City Hall and sure enough, my phone had arrived. Where else in the world can you go where thousands upon thousands of people tread and yet a piece of high dollar property is so easily returned to its owner? Disneyland, maybe?

Cinderella Castle A text message later and Paul, Tairy, and Tony (John had left the group) knew I had retrieved the phone agreed to meet in the hub to watch "Holiday Wishes" fireworks show. To capture the live audio I took up space directly in front of the castle between the two largest speakers flanking the forecourt stage. Not the best spot for viewing but ideal for capping audio. The show was wonderful, as always. I think Auntie Lo and Tricia were particularly appreciative to receive pictures I was sending them during the show so they could by proxy enjoy it alongside me.

I stayed put for "Celebrate The Season" on the forecourt stage. I'm still not used to the articulated mouth and eye movements of the characters but like it just the same. This show is about as 'Cheese Whiz' as they come. Don't get me wrong, there's some good music to be had and some particularly nice vocal harmonies in the score but somehow the kitsch is just a bit overwhelming and it comes off a bit saccharine.

On the backside of the party now we took in Mickey's Philharmagic and the Dark Ride Suite to end the evening in the parks. A bit tired but none the worse for where I dropped off my trio of companions at their respective resort hotels and head back myself to crash...by this time about 2am, a good three hours better than the night before.

Today (Friday) the early risers hit the Animal Kingdom for Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safari. I let my body wake me up which happened shortly after 9am and I'll pace myself so I can enjoy The Studios this afternoon, including Podfest, and the Yehaa Bob show tonight after the parks close. I strongly suspect this will be a trip of late mornings and even later nights.

The Mouse Lounge at Mousefest, Day 1
From from the Mouse Lounge   Blog written by: Gary Chambers, Mouse Lounge Host
December 6, 2007

Uneventful trip cross country from San Luis Obispo. No real hangups anywhere. Upon landing in Orlando all was smooth as silk. My bag was among the first off the aircraft and the shuttle to Thrifty car rental was waiting outside.

I usually rent a car because I prefer to stay off property. I love the bubble, but I like retreating from it when taking an afternoon break. I also like having the option of going to a grocery store or in the case of this evening, Walmart to replace a headset broken in transit. The total cost per day including tax is $17.50. My strategy is always to arrive late at any destination where I'm renting a vehicle. It's more convenient (no 5am security lines) and you can usually score a car upgrade for free. Tonight was no exception. Thrifty was out of all the compact, economy, and mid-size cars. So for the price of a Kia I got a Chrysler mini van.

Priceline booked me into the Radisson Maingate, which from the outside and lobby looks good. However, the room interior was worn and tired, with two double beds and looked like it had been repeatedly rundown by kids, complete with Kool-aid stains on the carpet. The night auditor was very cool however and he re-booked me into a King room with a Sleep Number Bed. Much better. Clearly this room is used more by business travelers as it exhibited NONE of the problems of the first. I'll be comfy for the five days. The room rate including tax is $51 per night via Priceline. Bottom line: Off season sports some amazing deals if you know where to look.

After switching rooms I heard a bit of good fun ruckus around the corner from the registrar and found the bar still inhabited with some young good looking folks. As it was after 1am I asked the barkeep if she had made last call. Yes was the answer. No worries my reply. The gaggle of good time Charlies had other ideas in mind and hollered I come back and bought me a beer one of their group had already ordered. Nice bunch and it was kind of fun to flirt with one of the girls. Although she was really into her cups and there are certain rules about such things.

Editorial response to Discovery News article, "Study: Disney Films, TV Darken Elderly" written by Jennifer Viegas. Published June 11, 2007.   Editorial published June 12, 2007.

Gary J. Chambers responds:
Disney features are not being vilified by this study, but rather releasing data for scholars to interpret. These cartoons carry a great deal of social weight with young people as they are widely regarded as wholesome entertainment, often substituting for actual parenting.

For those responsible parents that do take the time to discuss with their children the thematic devices of a Disney feature, these stereotypes are innocuous. Cartoons are about character and caricature. If all the stereotypical images from these films were somhow removed, we'd find they would be sparsely populated. The stereotypes exist for a reason; they are steeped in real life. When utilized well, they are blown out of proportion to be become lampoonery of own behavior.

Kids are often depicted as snotty nosed brats, old women are cackling hags, older men are bumbling, and coyotes fall off cliffs! It's funny! These characters don't ridicule aging adults or feed into negativity. They allow us to laugh at ourselves and our own shortcomings. If Mad Madam Mim wasn't the conniving, ugly sorceress she is in the film, we would lose much of the comic nuance of the character. She makes us laugh, pure and simple.

With saggy breasts and all, Yzma, the villainess in "The Emporer's New Groove" is hilarious, and ironically portrayed by one of the sexiest women ever to grace an intimate stage. Eartha Kitt, well into her 70s at the time was making young men in the audience absolutely wilt when I saw her in Seattle's Jazz Alley.

But, these villains don't always have to be ugly. The Wicked Queen in Snow White, has features of glamorous film actress Gale Sondergaard. Cruella deVille and Cinderella's step mother's ugliness is largely steeped in the evil they carry, not necessarily their features.

If there's devaluation or a fear of the aged by the young, it may be perpetuated by stereotypes, but really it is the responsibility of the parents to educate their children of the value older adults possess.

Among my fondest memories as a child was listening to the stories my Great Grandfather, well into his 90s when I was in grade school, would tell. My parents encouraged my brother and I to listen. If at first we did it out of obedience, we came back for more and always looked forward to it because when a man gets to be that age, all of it is compelling history. Our elderly are our history, and the young are the future purveyors of that oral tradition.

Editorial response to writer, Kim Mclarin's NPR Commentary: Disney's Frog Princess Published May 22, 2007.   Editorial published June 3, 2007.

Gary J. Chambers responds:
Ms. McLarin makes several valid points. However, much of which she sites as offensive is either woefully out of date, or inaccurate. First; she states that our society, "…in many ways, devalues the beauty of dark skin and kinky hair." How, exactly? I'd really like to know.

In what way does our obsequious overweight white American Society demean black culture any more than it derides itself? How more offensive could anyone, regardless of race or creed, be than the black man is to himself? One need only observe backlash by the progeny of the civil rights movement in current black arts and entertainment for insanely popular examples. I'm of a mind that we have so succumbed to advocating the culture of victim-hood that even if somehow all vestiges of devaluation of black culture were to magically disappear there would still be those that insist it remain.

Our representatives in Congress, the Republican administration, and by proxy, the press insist on referring to Katrina survivors, like me, as "victims". This is a moniker we could choose to accept, or reject. To refer to myself as a victim would absolve me from personal responsibility, and that it is up to…someone else…to take care of me; that I have paid my dues…that I am owed a living. Nonsense! Anymore, to implicate wholesale "society" as "devaluing" any sect of legal participants and residents of this country is merely looking for an excuse to stir the pot.

Ms. McLarin refers to the three hyenas from the Lion King as "jive talking". Well, one of them is nothing but a blathering male, you know, a redneck, one is an Hispanic (Cheech Marin), and the only "jive talker" would be Whoopie Goldberg playing…Whoopie Goldberg!

I concede her point about the song, "What Made the Red Man Red" from Peter Pan. But if just to point out how far we've come in our sensitivity to it's indigenous peoples, it remains relevant in film history.

Ms. McLarin also takes umbrage that the lead character is cast a chamber maid. While perhaps so in the original treatment, that is no longer true.

Two weeks before McMclarin's commentary aired, Disney spokeswoman, Heidi Trotta stated that some of the original release information was incorrect, and confirmed the lead character will no longer be a chamber maid. Trotta stated "Princess Tiana will be a heroine in the great tradition of Disney's rich animated fairy tale legacy, and all other characters and aspects of the story will be treated with the greatest respect and sensitivity." What PR bilge. This "sensitivity" propels my point, that we have become a society of lawsuit weary wussies unable to stomach our own history from which we could and should learn.

Just For Fun
A Disney Podcast Network member recently began the forum thread: "What have Disney films taught you?" Since you're here, then you likely have a fair number of Disney DVDs on the shelf and may very well appreciate my response.   Published June 14, 2007.

What each Disney Animated Feature has taught me (in chronological order):

Snow White: Squirrels make excellent automatic brooms.

Pinocchio: If you have a nose that grows when you lie, use it to your advantage.

Fantasia: Cherubs are never, EVER anatomically correct.

Dumbo: Big ears flap, a single black crow feather doesn't do jack!

Bambi: If your mom tells you to run into the thicket...haul ass.

Saludos Amigos: Drinking in Brazil will make an organ float.

The Three Caballeros: I have never been to Baia, and Donald Duck makes an excellent template for an Indian throw rug.

Make Mine Music: Whales are the only mammal that can sing in three part harmony with itself.

Fun & Fancy Free: Singing harps make excellent bargaining tools. If you're a bear and know how to ride a unicycle, stick with the cushy gig and forget the babes.

Melody Time: Stewing pots make for excellent hats/lightning rods on young Christian men.

Mr. Toad: Never trade real estate for a car.

Cinderella: Midnight is never an arbitrary deadline.

Alice in Wonderland: Playing cards make excellent wickets.

Peter Pan: Neverland is infinitely more fun than late 19th century London.

Lady & the Tramp: If you want to be romantic with a dog, share a meatball.

Sleeping Beauty: Blue fairies are the only ones with their heads screwed on straight.

101 Dalmatians: Never work for someone with a two-tone hair do.

The Sword in the Stone: The words "higgitus-figgitus" kick ass.

Jungle Book: Every animal in the jungle can get down and funky except the stupid panther!

The Aristocats: Native Parisian felines are prissy dorks with no sense of direction.

Robin Hood: Oo-de-lally is a real word.

The Rescuers: The food and beverage service on an albatross sucks.

The Fox & the Hound: If you're a fox and make friends with a hound, you're just asking for trouble.

The Black Cauldron: Never let Jeffrey Katzenberg edit a film, he'll just f*** it up.

The Little Mermaid: Flounders are utterly useless.

Beauty and the Beast: Always let the candelabra order dinner.

Aladdin: In desert countries they cut off your ear if they don't like your face (hey...what can I say...I saw it in theaters!).

The Lion King: Never walk downwind from a warthog, and hyenas are not to be trusted.

Hunchback of Notre Dame: Gargoyles hock one mean loogie.

Hercules: You can be a Grade "A" Nimrod and still make it as an action figure. Just ask Mark Hamill.

Mulan: Eddie Murphy is a better jackass than a dragon.

Tarzan: Rosie O'Donnell is a great ape!

Fantasia 2000: Sixty years is the perfect gestation period for a sequel.

The Emperor's New Groove: Always carefully monitor your baking spinach puffs.

Atlantis: If Leonard Nimoy is in your animated film, it WILL flop.

Lilo and Stitch: "Big Wheels" make for excellent island transportation.

Treasure Planet: Films based on a classic novel...good idea. Films based on a classic novel set in outer space...not so much.

Brother Bear: Moose can't sing.

and last but certainly not least...

Home on the Range: A Dame Commander of the British Empire cannot lend legitimacy to an animated film if she's cast as a cow.

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