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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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Josh Taylor
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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

Disney History: Walt Disney, The Entrepreneur

Modern Mouse Radio #54: Marvel and Disney

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Keith and Josh are back to chat about superheros and Marvel entertainment. They bring up the brief history and connection with Disney as well as the films that have come out and are coming out. They also delve into comics, heros at the parks, video games, and more!

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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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Modern Mouse Radio #21: Worst Disney Sidekick Characters

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Keith and Josh return to talk news for the beginning of June. New video games and remakes of old video games, operas touring Europe, and lots of park news. FYI, we didn’t cover the bombing at Disneyland because we felt it was something you already saw on the news.

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Top 5: Reasons Once Upon A Time is Deeply Awesome.

My favorite television show, Once Upon a Time, has come to a close on it’s season two on ABC’s Season two came with twists and turns as well as a mixed bag of great and lackluster episodes. Different from it’s first season, this season focused in on the characters that we already know and somehow binding them all together. Don’t get me wrong, there were some new characters and some fabulous guest appearances, but overall this show, which started off in crazyville, took some serious turns this year and ended in a completely different world, figuratively and literally. With all of that said, the show seems to carry a cult following as the show really isn’t deemed for an audience that can just jump right in and get it. The people that have stuck around since the Pilot Episode or those who spend the time backtracking to catch up with everyone else seem to be greatly rewarded because this is a show that has delved deep into it’s roots and it’s story. At times it’s fast paced and heart pounding, other times is slow and developing, but Once Upon A Time overall is what I would call deeply awesome. What makes it deeply awesome? Here are my top 5 reasons.

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5-Story overlaps. Some shows settle on a single story, some have minor themes that get dragged in and out of episodes throughout the series course, but nothing compares to the multidimensional layerings of stories and characters in Once Upon a Time. The writing team truly excels at not showing us that “big reveal” and coming up with moments that tie things together all the time. The even trickier part here is that we are dealing with changes in space and time. Throughout an episode we could find ourselves following how Rumpelstiltskin turns into a dark lord in the fairy tale world past while focusing on how he strives for power and magic in the real world current time. It’s spectacular and I’ve found myself, several times this season, wondering where the writing team was taking me but by the end of the episode I always felt like I got it. Of course, then they would leave me with a cliffhanger and I’d be in anticipation for the following week’s episode.

4-World Jumping. Does anyone remember the science fiction show Sliders? Yeah, Once Upon a Time is kind of like that. At any given time, there are parallel worlds where things we can’t even imagine are going on and where the fairy tales we read about come from. The great thing about Once is that it doesn’t use a wormhole or vortex, but the one thing that fairy tales can give us as a weapon and we can accept: Magic. Magic is what brings us to different worlds, the problem is that magic can only work with the right tools and as Rumpelstiltskin does say, “Magic always comes with a price.” To travel we need the Mad Hatter’s hat, beans from giants, or sorcerers so powerful they can create spells to destroy everyone. It’s a wonderful plot device and a reasoning to keep fans of the show looking for the next magical tool or character on the show.

Dr. Whale

3-Minor Storylines. As much as I like the main cast of Once Upon a Time, I really find myself connecting with the minor storylines and characters of the town. One of my favorite stories from Season 2 involved the reveal of who Dr. Whale was and how he handled himself in Storybrooke, Maine instead of the Gothic world from which he came. He also found a friend in Ruby (better known as Little Red Riding Hood) because of their connections to other worlds and Ruby’s vicious side. Small stories like this really keep the show fresh and exciting.  It adds layers to a town full of people that are very complex, each with their own origin from a different world and each with their own life in the real world. I’m glad these characters are just cookie cutter people in a series that is developed around so many long loved classic characters.

2-Edgy and Dark.  Because most people in the real world know me as “The Disney guy” I get asked by people about Once Upon a Time. Is it any good? Is it just like the movies? Should my kids watch it? Is it for adults? The list keeps going, but the main thing I tell people about Once is that it isn’t the writing team trying to retell the stories in the Disney classic animated films. They take liberties. They change characters. Most importantly, this show is a bit darker and edgier than your typical Disney film. Granted, I think NBC’s Grimm is even darker and delves into horror at times, but Once is that perfect blend of edgy adult entertainment and family storytelling that draws everyone in. Once takes some of the Disney versions of fairy tales and brings them back to their original tellings. You know, the ones where not everyone is so happy and friendly. The Lost Boys look more like evil Druids than cheerful singing raccoon skin wearing boys. This show gets dark and I like that. If you’re an adult that enjoys the Disney versions but might be a bit too “grown up” to watch Snow White over and over again, this show is for you.

Captain Hook

1-The Craziest Family Tree Ever! Seriously, I’ve been watching this show for two seasons now and Henry’s family tree is a mess of a Bonsai tree. As stories are unraveled we see who relates to who and now there are step-grandfather figures from other worlds. Long story short without giving away too much, everyone is tied to each other and along with the liberations I pointed out earlier, you could walk into this show having never seen it before and wonder why The Evil Queen from Snow White and Captain Hook from Peter Pan are somehow related in a giant family tree. It all comes together if you watch the show, but it’s deep roots (tree reference…get it!) are with this family and as time passes with each season, I think we will only see it grow further. Could Henry be related to the Caterpillar from Wonderland? Probably! It doesn’t matter though. I’m interested.

Are you a fan of Once Upon a Time? What draws you to the show? What is your favorite moment from Season 2? Leave your thoughts and comments!

Josh Taylor
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Top 5: Disney Park Attractions That Could Be Television Shows

Recent news broke that there has been a pitch to make a television series based on the famous Disneyland/Magic Kingdom attraction, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Details aren’t really known beyond the initial headline, but we can assume this will likely be a period show about the wild west. Disney has done a decent job with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, however failed to deliver any goods when it came to a Country Bears film or Haunted Mansion film. Will the Big Thunder show be a hit or a miss? We won’t know until it hits the air, if it even makes it to television, but the concept got me thinking about what other park attractions could be potential television series. Here is my list of top 5 Disney park attractions that could become hit television shows.

#5-Liberty Belle Riverboat/Mark Twain Riverboat. I was initially going to give this one to the Sailing Ship Columbia, but we already have our pirate franchise at Disney. Instead I felt that there would be a great drama to be told on a riverboat. If you look back at the turn of the 20th century, lots of money was made as boats travelled up and down the Mississipi river. Gambling, theater shows, and various forms of entertainment took place on the river. Travelling along hte Mississippi was seen as something of an upper class activity while the people who worked on the boats were seen more as a lower class. The interaction between the two classes, various “celebrities” that could come aboard, and the drama that could be strictly held on the boat would make for great television. Seeing a period television show set to the 1890s along the river would be something fun and different that we haven’t seen on the screen.

#4-Kilimanjaro Safaris. Taking the natural landscapes, the broad appeal of animals, and a drama show about the real dangers of animals attacking, poachers, and problems withing the safari workers could make for great television. Would this show last more than one season? Realistically….no. We love seeing animals, but we like seeing them on YouTube in one minute clips, not for 30 minutes to an hour on television, and Africa, despite its mystique and beauty, may be too foreign for American television audiences. However, I’d love to see situations where elephants are running across the landscapes and poachers are being chased by the crew at Kilimanjaro.

#3-Carousel of Progress. The advancement of man is fascinating to me. How far we have come in the past 100 years is amazing. Imagine a day and age without radio, television, computers, airplanes, etc….Now think of how cool it would be to see those inventions when they first came out and how much they really changed society. Could we follow a family over the course of several decades? Absolutely. A single season could play out as several years, highlighting special events in family member’s lives and the celebration of new inventions along the way. The show could be comedic and dramatic all at once. Something similar to the references they make in the Back to the Future trilogy but on a grander, elongated scale.

#2-Star Tours. Star Wars, now owned by Disney as of last month, could make for great television and there have been talks of a television show previously. Keeping with the action/adventure/humor/love story/space saga that is Star Wars, Star Tours the tv show could be a big hit. Because of the broad possibilities and the chance to make every episode a bit more different because the Star Wars universe is so big, this show could last a while and still pack a punch after many seasons. This show could start as a show about the Star Tours company and it’s employess, but could take us to several different planets and on several different adventures per season.

#1-Buena Vista Street. I had a real struggle with my number 1 spot. I wanted to initially give this spot to Main Street USA, but I think the time period that revolves around Buena Vista Street is more exciting to contemporary television audiences. 1920s Hollywood is a special place. It’s partially made up, partially real, and a big mix of everything. This drama television show can show us the glitz and glamour of the golden age of Hollywood, animation, and movie stars and starlets. It can also show us edgier stories like the goverments abolishment of alcohol and the speakeasy bars that sprouted up because of prohibition. We can see the switch from silent films to sound films like in “The Artist” (One of my favorite films of the last few years.) There is such a story to tell here and nobody has even tried to do it on television. It’s a gamble, but I think this concept could work much better than a wild west show about Big Thunder. I would watch it. Would you?

What Disney park attractions would you turn into a television series? What kind of show would it be? Leave your comments below and I look forward to the next Top 5 post.

Josh Taylor
Twitter: @ModernMouseJosh
Email: ModernMouseRadio@yahoo.com

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