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Modern Mouse Radio #109: What’s Next for the Muppets?

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Josh is joined by Jordan Duncan, a coordinator at the Museum of Puppetry Arts and a long time Muppets fan. They discuss the recent cancellation of The Muppets on television and ask, “What’s Next for the Muppets?” As Disney grows, it seems like every division continues to be a homerun. Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, and so on, have all found their stride and are major successes for Disney, but The Muppets franchise continues to feel lost without knowing where to really go with it. Is it a nostalgia act? Can it be modern? Is it for adults? Is it for children? We try to answer all of these questions and more!

Be sure to follow Jordan on Twitter (@JordanGhastly) or on Instagram to chat more about Muppets, Jim Henson, or the Puppetry Arts in general.

 

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Modern Mouse News: Zootopias and Moving Superheroes

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Stories Discussed This Week
Superhero Headquarters Closing?
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters Opens
Disney’s Season Price Changes
Animal Kingdom’s Nighttime Lineup
30 New Mall Shops at Disney Springs
Disney Cruise Line Adding Ships
Big Hero 6 Coming Television Series
Zootopia’s Adult Message Strikes Hard


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Modern Mouse Radio #97: The Future of Star Wars

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Josh is joined this week by Richard and Sarah from the Skywalking Through Neverland podcast. They are major fans of everything Star Wars and were able to attend the Hollywood premiere of the film. They have the picture with JJ Abrams to prove it!

Josh poses the question of how the future of Star Wars looks. With a huge push from Disney, with one film release a year and countless opportunities for merchandise, television, books, and comics, will the public tire of the franchise? What is everyone looking forward to with the new resurrection of Star Wars, especially with everyone high on The Force Awakens. What about the expansion into theme parks? Will it draw new audiences to the parks?

Be sure to check out Richard and Sarah do their thing over at SkywalkingThroughNeverland.com and follow them on Twitter.

Give your thoughts on the future of the Star Wars franchise. What do you think will happen? Will it continue to be popular? Will it’s popularity fade? What are you looking forward to from the franchise?

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Disney Film History: The Shaggy Dog

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When I wrote about Tonka, I said it was the end of an era at the Disney studio. Westerns had dominated the live action films of the 1950s for Disney, but as we were about to head into a new decade, a new type of live action film would become the norm at Disney. I’ll call it “gimmick comedy”. The first of these gimmick comedies was The Shaggy Dog.

Walt Disney had become a house hold thanks to television. Thanks to the Disneyland tv show and the Mickey Mouse Club, his success in television was profitable. As he looked to expand into more television, he came across the story “Der Hund von Florenz” by Felix Salten. Salten had already been a name at the studio as they had used one of his other stories, Bambi. “Der Hund von Florenz” or “The Hound of Florence” is about a young boy who wishes to be a dog. Walt found that the adventures the boy could go on as he transformed into a dog would make for a good television series.

A pilot for the new Shaggy Dog series was put into production. Charles Barton, who had directed Spin and Marty episodes of Disneyland, was made the director and many of the children from Mickey Mouse Club, Spin and Marty, and the Hardy Boys were cast into roles. Tommy Kirk, who had also been in Old Yeller, was cast as the transforming boy, Wilby, and Kevin “Moochie” Corcoran of Mickey Mouse Club fame was cast as the little brother. Television regulars Fred McMurray and Jean Hagen filled out the rest of the cast as the boys’ parents.

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This was the first Disney film to be shot completely in black and white. Walt had prided himself on new technologies and breaking barriers in the film industry. Since Snow White, he had made his films in color, but the Shaggy Dog was met with a few faults. In color, the transformation of Wilby from a boy to a dog looked fake. Shooting in black and white hid some of the visual effects. The film, since it was never meant for theaters, was also shot simply instead of using something like Cinemascope or Technirama 70. The tv pilot, which was shot at the low budget of $1 million (Sleeping Beauty cost $6 million.) was then decided that it might fit the big screen.

The mini-series was pushed together into one larger film and was advertised as a new type of film from Disney. The movie was released in March of 1959 and unlike Sleeping Beauty which made it’s theatrical debut two months earlier, became a rousing success. Critics and audiences alike loved the films comedy and style as it resembled a television sitcom but with better production values. The film grossed $9 million in it’s initial run and ushered in the new era of gimmick comedies. Walt was happy with his new film and pushed the studio more toward this style which dominates the 1960s and downplayed animation, which we will see much less of in the coming decade.

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The Shaggy Dog, despite it’s somewhat cheesy premise, went on to become a classic for the Disney company. The film from 1959 still holds up and still holds credibility for younger audiences who aren’t familiar with the vast amount of Disney live action films. The Shaggy Dog would also inspire a sequel, a made for television remake, and a theatrical remake. It would also be an inspiration for other “talking dog” films in the future like Homeward Bound or even the Air Bud series of films. If Davy Crockett defined the 1950s at the Disney studio, you can bet that the Shaggy Dog would build towards defining the 1960s. There will be greater comedy films to talk about in the coming decade but The Shaggy Dog broke open the door for all of those films to be made.

What are your thoughts on The Shaggy Dog? Have you seen it? Do you like it? Do you hate it? Leave a comment and keep the conversation going!

Josh Taylor
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Previous Film: Sleeping Beauty
Next Film: Darby O’Gill and the Little People

Modern Mouse Radio #85: DuckTales and the Disney Afternoon

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Matt Parrish (@Schmadvertising) from Wedway Radio joins the show this week as he and Josh discuss the television cartoon boom starting in the late 1980s and going all through the 1990s. Discussing what led to Disney pushing for more syndicated television shows instead of adding to their lineup on the then premium Disney Channel. The introduction of shows like Gummi Bears brought interest from children to a Disney product on television but the television model was perfected by Disney until their biggest hit, DuckTales.

DuckTales not only started a Disney television renaissance, it started a boom from several studios to produce children’s television that expanded beyond the limits of Saturday morning. Soon we were seeing children’s animated programming everywhere including weekday afternoons and Disney held the market there with it’s television block called “Disney Afternoon”. The block debuted a number of Disney shows including Darkwing Duck, Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, Tale Spin, Good Troop, and many more.

DuckTales also expanded beyond the network television scene with comics, video games, and merchandise. It was a sensation and rivaled any princess movie with a big fan base of not just kids. Now we look back with fondness at Uncle Scrooge, the money bin, that sweet theme song, and what DuckTales really meant to the Disney television renaissance.

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Modern Mouse News: The Muppets and Star Wars Land

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Stories Discussed This Week
Hatbox Ghost Reappears in Disneyland
Disney buys Carousel Inn Near Disneyland
Peter Pan Not Opening Until July at Disneyland
Indiana Jones Bar Coming to Disney Springs
Star Wars Themed Lounge at Hollywood Studios
New Flex Space Theater Coming to Hollywood Studios
Animal Kingdom’s Camel Parade?
Tokyo Disney bringing Frozen to Parks
Avengers has 2nd Best Box Office Opening Ever!
The Muppets Return to TV this Fall
Disney Infinity 3.0 Announced
D23 Expo to have Disneyland Exhibit and Big Arena Shows

 

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Disney History: Walt Disney, The Entrepreneur

Disney History: Walt Disney, The Historian

Disney Film History: Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier

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American legends were nothing new for Walt Disney and his team of film makers. They had dabbled in American folklore with characters like the tales of Johnny Appleseed and Pecos Bill from the 1948 film Melody Time. With the new adventure into television for the Disney company, and with the focus on several lands from the upcoming Disneyland park, using American folklore in the Fronteirland episodes seemed like the perfect fit. Of course the Disney folks had been making True Life Adventure films that wedged perfectly under the umbrella of Frontierland, and would eventually get their own attraction at the Disneyland park, but nothing from Disney’s television show was more captivating than “Frontierland’s” Davy Crockett. Capitalizing on the pop culture phenomenon that was Davy Crockett and his famous hat, Walt Disney released a film version of the original three episodes in May of 1955, just a few months before the opening of Disneyland. Before we reflect on the Davy Crockett film, let’s backtrack to where Crockett fever began.

Tennessee Governor Frank Clements with Walt Disney and Fess Parker (Davy Crockett)

Tennessee Governor Frank Clements with Walt Disney and Fess Parker (Davy Crockett)

To supplement the costs of the building of Walt Disney’s first theme park in Anaheim, he signed a deal with ABC to provide a 1-hour show on Wednesday nights. The show allowed Walt to not only supply money to build his park, but also a great way to advertise his future Disneyland park. The show, Disneyland, premiered on October 27th, 1954 and became a must-see show for families. The show soared to new heights on December 15th, 1954 with a show titled “Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter.” From that point on, the Crockett Craze swept the United States. Coonskip caps were sold everywhere and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” became a number 1 hit on the Billboard charts. Many parodies of the song came out, and toy rifles were in stock at every toy store. Fess Parker, who played Davy Crockett on the show, became one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

The second in the series titled “Davy Crockett Goes to Congress” debuted in late January of 1955 and “Davy Crockett at the Alamo,” the last in the series, debuted in late February 1955. each show more popular than the last, the Disneyland television show became one of the most watched shows on television, but Davy Crockett was only reaching those in the United States. Walt wanted to share his Davy Crockett shows with the world just as he wanted his new park to be shared with everyone in the world, so he decided to adapt the show into a film.

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The original three episodes were condensed into a 93 minute film showcasing the pseudo-true events of Davy Crockett’s life, from his early days as a militia man, to his political career, to his eventual battle in Texas at the Alamo. Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier was released on May 25th, 1955 and despite the film’s episodic television origins, it still managed to to make over $3 million at the Box Office and did just what Walt Disney wanted.

The summer of 1955 saw the world enjoying coonskin caps and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” was translated into other languages. His character had become a worldwide smash and soon, so would his park. Crockett’s run in the Disneyland series wasn’t over, but this film became the crown jewel of the series. Nothing on the Disneyland television show would ever surpass it’s success.

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Previous Film: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Next Film: Lady and the Tramp

Modern Mouse Radio #51: Worst 10 Disney Villains

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Keith and Josh chat about their thoughts on what makes a bad villain and bring you their list of 10 villains that just aren’t good at being bad. This turns out pretty silly so we hope you enjoy the show!

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