This week, we explore the surprising and significant impact of some lesser-known Disney movies and how they have influenced the Disney theme park experience. We share some insights and perspectives on how these Disney animated and live-action films have contributed to, and in some ways transformed, the magic of the Disney Parks
Explore the vast ocean of Disney films that have not only captured our hearts but also shaped the Disney theme parks we know and love. From the stunning CGI of Tron, the magical allure of Mary Poppins, to the heart-wrenching narrative of Old Yeller, dive in to unravel how these cinematic staples have seeped into the very fabric of Disney’s attractions.
Delve into the transformative impact of less known titles like The Black Cauldron and The Black Hole. Discover how these films, often seen as risky endeavors, spurred pivotal moments in the company’s path, ultimately leading to Disney’s golden era of animated films, the Disney Renaissance.
Learn about Walt Disney’s vision of merging screen magic with tangible experiences, creating a place where families can seamlessly jump into their favorite movies. Realize the significance of films such as Treasure Island, the studio’s first live-action film and a high-stakes gamble that paid off dearly. Also, venture through time with us to revisit the cultural phenomenon and genius merchandising strategy brought about by Disney’s Davy Crockett TV show.
Lou and Kendall provide insightful examinations into how these landmark films catapulted the company further, breaking new grounds in storytelling, audience expansion, technological advancements, and cultural impact.
So Disney enthusiasts, film aficionados, and theme park lovers, sit back and prepare for a magical journey into the world of Disney, where stories meet reality. Join the conversation, share your thoughts and experience the magic of Disney as you’ve never done before.
Don’t miss this deep dive into Disney’s cinematic influences on WDW Radio’s latest podcast episode – Impactful Movies. Tune now to spark the magic inside you!
Thanks to Kendall Foreman for joining me this week. See Kendall’s posts on the WDW Radio blog and her other appearances on the show HERE!
The key moments in this episode are:
- The Ethos of Disney’s True Life Adventure Series
- The series is reflected in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot’s nature-themed attractions.
- Tron’s Influence on Disney’s Approach to Technology
- Tron’s impact on Tomorrowland and the Tron Lightcycle Power Run attraction in Shanghai.
- Examination of Disneyland’s Original Intent
- Walt Disney’s desire for Disneyland to be an immersive experience.
- Disney Parks’ Emphasis on Sustainability
- The Impact and Significance of Specific Disney Movies in Park Theme and Attractions
- Impact of live-action films Treasure Island and The Reluctant Dragon
- Influence of Mary Poppins on MAPO and Disney’s musical legacy
- Impact of Old Yeller on Disney’s handling of serious themes
- Influence of The Black Hole on space-themed attractions
- The Importance of Transparency and Audience Inclusion
- How The Reluctant Dragon set a standard for Disney’s transparency and authenticity
- The Importance of Adapting to Challenges and Navigating Difficult Times
- Symbolism of Herbie the Love Bug and The Black Cauldron in Disney’s resilience
- The Shift in Disney’s Animation and the Birth of the Disney Renaissance
- Impact of The Black Cauldron on Disney’s animation approach
- The Power of Synergy through Davy Crockett TV Show and Merchandise
- The Effect of Disney Movies on Merchandising
- Influence of Davy Crockett on Disneyland’s Frontierland and on Disney’s concept of synergy
- The Worldwide Impact of The Avengers
- Impact on theme parks and other properties globally
- Role in revolutionizing the superhero genre by creating a shared cinematic universe
- The Influence of Less Known Characters such as Guardians of the Galaxy
- The Role of The Black Hole in Broadening Disney’s Film Fan Base
- The Black Hole as a Technological Advance
- Parallels between film and theme park developments
- Changes in Disney’s Film Release Strategy over the Years
- How the success of Pinocchio on VHS led to the creation of the Disney Vault
- Guest Kendall’s Background and Interest in Disney History
- Overview of the Discussion on Milestone and Impactful Movies that Influenced Disney Parks
- Examination of films beyond the obvious classics
- Exploration of how these films impacted technological innovations, storytelling, audience expansion, and cultural impact.
- Examination of the Impact of Lesser-Known Movies on the Disney Parks
- The 1950 live-action film Treasure Island and its impact on Disney Park attractions
- The Intersection of the Work of Notable Disney Artists and Theme Parks
- Contributions of Peter Ellenshaw, a renowned artist, to Treasure Island and Disneyland.
Timestamped summary of this episode:
- [05:04] Disney’s first live action feature, Treasure Island, came about as a result of money earned in the UK that had to be spent there.
- [08:24] Disney’s live-action Treasure Island was a risk that paid off.
- [14:56] Film blurs reality, speaks to viewers, Disney’s magic.
- [19:11] Walt pioneered audio animatronics for Mary Poppins.
- [27:18] Disney’s emotional portrayal of grief broadens appeal.
- [31:29] Warm spot for Disney movies, old vs. new, black cauldron was necessary.
- [40:08] Disney’s Davy Crockett trend influenced pop culture.
- [46:01] Prestige films kept off TV, VHS changed that.
- [50:24] Disney films create enduring fan experiences at parks.
- [55:43] Film industry shifts towards mature content, uncertain future for Disney.
- [01:03:27] Avengers revolutionized superhero genre and cinematic universe.
- [01:08:46] Important film diversifies Disney’s content and attracts new audience. Technologically innovative, parallels theme park advancements.
- [01:10:49] Black Hole: not a huge commercial success, but significant for Disney’s diversification efforts.
- [01:19:29] Disney parks reflect educational and conservation ethos.
- [01:25:21] Enjoyed film discussion, share your thoughts.
- [01:27:42] Linking to show notes. Lesser known films’ influence and suggestions for future episodes. Appreciate Kendall’s input.
Which of the lesser-known Disney films mentioned in this episode (or one of your own) do you believe had the most influential impact on the theme parks and why?
Share your thoughts in the WDW Radio Clubhouse at WDWRadio.com/Clubhouse, or call the voicemail at 407-900-9391 (WDW1) and share your story on the show.
Lou Mongello: When Walt Disney ideated and created Disneyland, he wanted a place where children and their parents could not only have fun together, but I think he wanted them to be able to step through the screen and into these three dimensional animated films, which helped build the studio and the brand and the legacy.
And I think that. In addition to the films that directly inspired and funded attractions in the parks, over time, many other Disney films have influenced and impacted the theme park experience. And beyond the obvious, this week we're going to be exploring the surprising and significant impact of some lesser known Disney films on the development and experience of the Disney parks.
And so I'd like to welcome back, uh, Kendall. Former, Kendall is a writer, an editor, a show contributor and all around amazing fellow Disney nerd who like me loves the intersection of Disney history and the theme parks. So Kendall, welcome back.
Kendall Foreman: Hey, I'm glad to be back. We can celebrate our, I guess we're past our 10 year anniversary of collaboration.
Lou Mongello: really been that long.
Kendall Foreman: Yeah, it's crazy. Yep. Time going on 11.
Lou Mongello: Time, time fly. And it's funny you say that because as I was looking at the list of some of the movies on my list, I'm still in this mindset that the eighties was like 15 years ago. So I was like, wow, when 40, years ago, um, it's interesting.
And thank you not only for coming back for, but for proposing. This topic, as we're sort of celebrating the Disney 100 and, and Tim and I sort of did a, a top 10 look at some milestone moments, you sort of came at, at this with sort of the milestone and impactful movies that influenced the theme parks. And again, we don't talk about this ahead of time, but as right before we were starting to record.
We talked about that these are going to be films beyond the obvious classics, um, diving into how some of these other movies have creatively influenced the Disney parks, I think in some obvious and some subtle ways as well.
Kendall Foreman: Yeah, this is actually an idea I had a couple years ago for a blog post, and it just kind of sat in the back of my mind for the longest time, and the more I thought about it, I'm like, this would be much better as a conversation to get someone else's input.
Lou Mongello: Yeah, and... I didn't realize until we started talking that no movie, so, and talk about being like obscure and connecting the dots, no movie on my list, except maybe one honorable mention, has an attraction in the parks.
Kendall Foreman: Yeah, and I said, I mentioned to you beforehand, a couple of mine do, but the reason why I picked them is not necessarily for
Lou Mongello: that.
Yeah, so I think we're going to talk about how, not just the sort of historical significance of the films in shaping, I think in some parts they help shape, Just cinema as a whole, but also the themed entertainment industry and help to sort of set the stage for, you know, deeper conversation, deeper discussions.
And it's not just, I think, influencing, at least for me, I didn't approach it in terms of just. Influencing attractions and shows, but some broader themes like technological innovations and storytelling and audience expansion and even a little bit of cultural impact as well.
Kendall Foreman: Yeah. I mean, my, my actual degree is in business.
So my mind went to that in most cases is what, you know, how did these films affect the company that exists today?
Lou Mongello: Yeah. And I think this will be really interesting because hopefully. You, our friend who's listening is going to, you know, I want to sort of help provide a new perspective on how films have contributed to the magic of the Disney parks.
And I want you while you're listening to think about your own experiences at, uh, the parks, and then certainly share. Your thoughts and memories and ideas relating to this topic, both in the clubhouse at www. com slash clubhouse or, and, or by calling the voicemail at 407 900 9391. I think this is going to hopefully be a topic that's going to invite even more discussion, not just between you and I, but with.
The, the community and people who are listening as well. Absolutely. So this is your idea, and I'm always going to believe in ladies first, and I'm going to sit back and relax and listen attentively because I'm very, very curious and not just what's on your list, but especially now what you decide to put first.
Kendall Foreman: I, I think I'm going to try to move chronologically, even though one of the ones I'm going to mention later actually came earlier than this one. But the reason I'm mentioning it is for something that happened later on in the company. So I'm going to go back to 1950 to the live action film Treasure Island.
And this was Disney's first live action feature. And it came about in a really interesting way.
Um, they had been doing some of the nature series up to this, but, uh, post war, they had money that they had earned in the United Kingdom, and because of the way the economy was in England at that time, they forced money that was made there to get sales that were going to Uh, sold there in the UK had to be spent there.
So Disney was trying to figure out, what are we gonna do with this money? And Walt considered setting up a whole other studio abroad, but the more they thought about it, it was gonna be too much of an undertaking. Too much to try to train a whole new set of people. So they decided to dive into the world of live action.
And they do that with Treasure Island, the classic novel. Uh, the film starred Bobby Driscoll and Robert Newton. Just an interesting cultural aspect of this film is that Robert Newton was from Dorset, England, and he rolled his R's and that's where History credits him with giving us the R, like the pirate sound, the idea that we all have of what pirates sound like and what they talk like comes from Robert Newton.
And after this, he kind of got typecast. He was in a lot of pirate films and pirate TV shows after that. Um, but I chose this movie because without Treasure Island coming off successfully, without them choosing to make this movie out of a necessity, you don't. potentially have any other live action movies from Disney.
Um, you know, they might have chosen to do one at a later time, and maybe it wouldn't have been as advantageous. Maybe it wouldn't have hit as well with audiences, but because Treasure Island landed the way that it did, you end up with other live action films that go on to inspire various things throughout all of the Disney parks.
Whether that's Crockett or Summer Magic and helping to inspire parts of Main Street, Swiss Family Robinsons, 20, 000 Leagues Under the Sea, Third Man on the Mountain with the Matterhorn. All of these things are a direct result, directly impacted by the fact that Disney chose to venture into live action films.
And then also this film is credited with inspiring Exitensio whenever he decided. To create Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me for Pirates of the Caribbean. Um, and just one other interesting fact for the, from a company standpoint. This was the first film that they hired Peter Ellen Shaw to do a Matt background for.
And, and Peter's work is vitally important on 20, 000 Leagues, Mary Poppins, other Disney films that came later. And then he's also credited with painting the Disneyland map that was featured on the Disneyland TV series every week. So I think that's pretty cool too.
Lou Mongello: So I, I have, I've had an entire, like a smile on my face the entire time and I'm nodding along as you mentioned this because I have Treasure Island on my list.
And I only had it second because I have one chronologically that came before, but I, I was tempted to mention this one first. And like you said, Kendall, not just because it's the first live action film, but this was a huge financial risk for the company as well that fortunately paid off. And I think paved the way.
For more diverse film productions. And if you really want to sort of take that to the nth degree, you know, I think there's a parallel between Walt Disney's very bold move and choice and risk and gamble to create live action Treasure Island and his very bold risk taking move to build Disneyland sort of both ventures into uncharted territories for Walt.
And the company, but I think this goes beyond just this idea of, of venturing beyond animation and adding more to sort of Disney's creative repertoire as it were, because it forced Disney to continue as they always did and, and do innovate on a technological and a creative level, right? They now they have to sort of learn.
The intricacies of live action filmmaking not just like little shorts that they may have done before but you know Location scouting and working with actors in different ways than they had done before. And I think these are lessons that would pay, you know, obviously long term dividends when it came to, you know, creating these immersive environments in the Disney parks.
Uh, obviously it was, uh, Treasure Island was a financial success. And I also think what by them doing this and, and, and I think Treasure Island was a very interesting choice to be the first live action, because I think it showed. And really proved that Disney could diversify its, its film offerings and still attract a very wide audience, right?
It was not just animation. It wasn't just quote unquote, cartoons for kids, which was crucial to continue to generate revenue, especially when they're doing things like developing Disneyland and exploring other new ventures. I think when it comes to specifically tying it to the theme parks, um, You know, this theme of exploration and swashbuckling clearly helps to contribute to and define what Adventureland is in Disneyland.
Like you said, well, Pirates isn't a direct adaptation of Treasure Island. Um, you know, it refer, it, it clearly is, is the influence on many years of pirate themed entertainment. And I think the, the, I think the narrative style of Treasure Island. You can still see that sort of influence in how stories are told in attractions, right?
The emphasis on narrative and character development in theme park attractions, I think goes back to the way it was done in this film. Um, so to call it a, a landmark attraction for Disney in not just the creative exploration and I think expansion, but financial strategy sort of helped lay the groundwork for a lot of success that Disney was going to have.
In movies and in the theme parks to come.
Kendall Foreman: Yeah, definitely. And just from a cost standpoint too, you think about like the amount of time that it was taking them to produce an animated film. You know, anywhere from four to seven years for some of those full length features. And now they have the ability to, to successfully produce a film in a much shorter amount of time.
Lou Mongello: Yeah. Oh good. I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm smiling with that you had it on your list and I'm also smiling 'cause that's why I had, I made sure that I had more than five 'cause I knew it was gonna be some overlap. Um. So the first one on my list, again, if I was sort of going chronologically, um, actually takes place before Treasure Island, and I go back to 1941, and a little film and a little character I like to call Cause that's his name, The Reluctant Dragon.
Um, this was some of the first sort of foray, and Walt had always sort of done this, going back to even, you know, the Alice comedies, but this blending of live action and animation. It was not you know, this runaway monster epic success, but enough so that it allowed, I think, Disney As an individual and as a company to explore different film formats, fast forward into things like treasure Island and help contribute to the financial stability of the company during the second world war.
And I think, I think what this does is the format and the content sort of. Gives insights to the approach that Disney would have in not just filmmaking, but as we're talking about in context, the, the theme park development, right? You sort of talked about this, um, the reluctant dragon was almost like a behind the scenes tour, right?
If you've never seen it before, I'm 99 percent sure it's on Disney plus and it gives. It gives viewers a, um, a tour of the studios that's led by Robert Benchley, and it shows a lot of, of sort of peeking behind the velvet rope, as it were, uh, in terms of the animation process, going from storyboarding to voice recording and animation and how it all sort of comes together and really for the first time, I think, gives So I'm going to give my viewers a look as to how animated films are made.
And I think that sense of transparency, and authenticity, and the educational aspect of the film, not only kind of took the mystery out of the animation process, but I think makes it even more interesting and attractive and fascinating to the public. Right. Sometimes people say, why do I don't want to know how the magic trick is done, but sometimes you do.
You know, we take behind the scenes tours of Walt Disney World because. We don't want to spoil the magic. I think we want to appreciate it even more. And I think what this does is it's sort of like when I thought about this film, Kendall, I thought about this in terms of it's like the first one to sort of like break the fourth wall in terms of blending.
Um, fiction and reality sort of, and literally sort of being acknowledged and spoken to as the viewer, which is really sort of central to the Disney theme park experience, right? The idea of immersing us in a story, giving us a peek behind the scenes, and then Enveloping us into the narrative is, you know, fundamental to what the Disney park experience is.
And if you really want to sort of, you know, extend the connecting of the dots out. I think things like the reluctant dragon can be seen almost like as a precursor to things like. The studio backlot tour at Disney's Hollywood studios, where we could see not just how, not how animated movies are made, but how movies are made.
And I think, I think that's what Walt always wanted. I think Walt wanted people to be able to see how the magic is created, maybe inspire people to want to do that as well. Um, you know, and so we see it in attractions like. The studio backlot tour. We see it in, in, you know, other attractions that have come up.
I think even as simple as, you know, allowing kids, you know, lowering the windows on main street to allow kids to look and see, you know, not how the sausage is made, but how the candy is made and, and this idea of seamlessly blending entertainment and animation and education into a single film product continued on into and continues on in the parks today.
Kendall Foreman: I love this because as you're sitting here, I, first off, I never even gave a thought to The Reluctant Dragon. Um, but as you're talking and I'm sitting here thinking about, yeah, like, that gave you this peek behind the studios and I can't say that that was the first time a studio ever did that, I don't know.
But, the fact that Disney was willing to do that set up a standard that they're, they're willing to do this. So then when it comes time for the Disneyland TV series, it's very easy to, to show people because you've already welcomed America as an audience into your process of what you're doing and. You know, the success of the Disneyland TV show was immensely important for Disneyland.
I mean, not just because they got funding from ABC, but also because you wanted people to come to those parks. And bringing them in and making America feel like they're a part of what you're doing, it, it just ties your audience to you all the closer. Yeah.
Lou Mongello: Yeah, I agree. And I think, I think, um, the Disneyland TV series, I didn't even think about it in that term, but I think you're right.
It, it's... They're, you know, while Walt wanted to keep certain things secret, I think allowing people to sort of see how certain things are done. I think there's an inherent sense of you trust Walt more because he's trusting you with some of these secrets. There's this, there's this relationship that's formed between him and the audience, um, by that extension of trust and allowing you to sort of peek behind the curtain a little bit.
Kendall Foreman: Yeah, I mean, definitely. I think that's how you get to that Uncle Walt persona. Yeah,
Lou Mongello: good. I love this, by the way. I'm
Kendall Foreman: Zoolink. Well, after that one, I'm going to jump ahead to 1964, and I know you said we're going to do things that are more obscure, but I'm, I'm picking What would seem like a very obvious choice, but for a non obvious reason.
Um, I'm choosing Mary Poppins, which grossed, uh, you know, 31 million. It won five Oscars, it's on AFI's list of greatest movie musicals of all time. Like, seems obvious pick to choose this movie. Walt considered it his crowning achievement. They... They use new processes in order to be able to, to film the animated sequences, like, just groundbreaking from every standpoint.
But, the reason why I chose it is for two little things that happen in this movie. One of which is Walt wanted them to use an audio animatronic bird for Mary to sing with in the Spoonful of Sugar scene, and they wanted to figure out a way to do that, which they clearly obviously did when you watch the movie, and that was the first time that people saw an audio animatronic on screen.
It was not the first time that people had the chance to see an audio animatronic because In 1963, the Enchanted Tiki Room opened, and so anyone who had been to Disneyland had had the opportunity to see these in person. But on a mass scale, this is the first time people are seeing that, and chances are there might have been some people sitting in the theater who just thought it was a real bird.
It's very convincing. Um, so that connection is interesting on its own. At the same time that they're, they're Making Mary Poppins, they're also working so hard to develop this new technology that's going to be used in the world's fair, ultimately. But then also what's really important with Mary Poppins is because it made such a significant amount of money up to this point, wed was producing everything within.
Walt Disney, you know, design, enterprise design. And after this, they spun off an organization that was then named MAPO after Mary Poppins, or some people say it stands for manufacturing and production organization. I think they were smart enough to make it stand for both things. Um, But according to Walt Disney Imagineering themselves, they still say that, that that funding from Mary Poppins helped to create a new building and this new kind of organization within WED, where they were able to produce all of the audio animatronic technology.
It was. You know, where the people who really get in there and manufacture these things for the parks that they had, you know, an engineering department, a full factory, an aircraft hangar, eventually like that, you know, they were making massive set pieces and mechanics and things. This is where, you know, Roger Brogy was the head of MAPO.
Um, you know, we all know Roger Brogy is in the Disney legend, Bob Gurr, Disney legend. These are the places where they. built their magic that was immensely important to the Disney parks.
Lou Mongello: So, the perfect film doesn't, Mary Poppins is as close to a perfect film as any that you might put on your list. Mary Poppins, Jaws, there's a few more.
I actually didn't put this on my list. Right. And it's, I almost feel like guilty doing it because I wanted to, but there was other ones that I wanted to get to, because I think you're right. Because it's not just about the financial contributions to the Disney company, and I think the continuing reputation of, of innovation and quality.
The reason why I was going to put it on my list beyond those was. Again, we we've talked about this this blending of live action and animation But I think it's the the musical legacy that mary poppins leaves behind um the music from the sherman brothers supercalifragilisticexpialidocious chim chip Like you could just every one of the songs on that list is is a hit.
Um, I think they're Synonymous with the Disney brand we've obviously seen and heard them in the Disney park. So they're, they're integral to the experience. Um, I think Mary Poppins too, Kendall, even more so than things, maybe even other ones that we've talked about on the list, like, like a treasure Island.
I think Mary Poppins appeal to a broader audience, not just of kids, but I think of kids and adults really sort of. grew the target audience. And I'm going to sort of continue to sort of reflect on the same theme as I go through my list for Disney. And I think this wider appeal of the films. Was also crucial sort of in the design and the appeal and the market, the marketing of Disneyland and the Disney theme parks, because Walt wanted to make sure people understood this wasn't a park for you to take your kids.
This was a place for you and your kids to enjoy it together. Much like you probably did at Mary Poppins.
Kendall Foreman: Yeah, definitely. I mean, and I think Mary Poppins 2, uh, goes along the same lines as, you know, what Walt said about Bambi, when they decided to kill Bambi's mother, that, you know, children can handle and are almost looking for more than what most people were willing to give them.
And Mary Poppins is, A big story with heavy themes to it and, you know, family and, you know, the workaholic dad and, and, you know, these things that maybe to some studios might have seemed like too much for a children's story, but you draw the, the kids in with that animation and, and you draw it. Parents with that heavier story and they meet in the middle.
I mean, I showed my son, Mary Poppins for the first time earlier this year, and I wasn't sure what he would think of it. And he, he loved it. He came away from it and he loved this long movie with this deep story because it, like you said, it reaches this broad audience.
Lou Mongello: You know, it's funny you said that.
Cause I will, I just remembered this and I will instantly confess it without thinking about it first. When I was a kid. There was a scene in Mary Poppins that I didn't like and I didn't and please let like don't turn off your you know Phone or whatever. I say this I didn't like the feed the bird scene
Kendall Foreman: I didn't either when I was a
Lou Mongello: kid.
I used to cry because I felt so bad for her I felt I did I would like I felt so bad for this this poor woman. That was just so Pure of heart and so kind and sweet and gentle, and she was alone and she was like all those things, right? It's heresy now to say that you skip feed the birds, but you know what?
I'm actually gonna go out of order from The one that was going to be next on my list because I think it ties into Something that you talked about and it is a film that has emotional depth And also being successful and I think reflects Disney's ability like Mary Poppins to tackle some, some very serious themes, um, again, which doesn't just broaden the appeal of some of these movies and, and sort of attracting a wide audience.
Do you have any idea what movie I'm referring to? I don't. It's sad. It's Old Yeller, so it's Old Yeller, right, from 1957, which when I was sort of thinking about it, I was like, you know, this really showed Disney's ability and like narrative maturity to handle a very broad range of stories that are serious and sometimes sad and, and You know, maybe things, you know, I don't want to tell you how old yellow ends, but it's not necessarily the feel good movie of the decade for, especially for.
Young kids. So if you haven't seen Old Yeller, it's a story of a, a young boy Travis and, and his, his stray dog, old Yeller in, in post-Civil War, Texas. And there are a lot of mature themes in terms of responsibility and loss and some of the, the very harsh realities of life, not just for. adults, but for kids and, you know, that climax is, is traumatic, you know, um, if you don't want to be spoiled, you know, fast forward for a second, but all the other, you know, gets rabies.
It's been a while.
Kendall Foreman: I think, I think you're
Lou Mongello: safe. You know, and I think. I think Disney was one of the first companies and productions to tackle such emotionally charged subjects, especially for children. And this portrayal of grief and loss is very new for a company who's known for You know, whimsy and escapism and animation and fun and music and all these things.
I think this movie deeply affected viewers, right? So again, does it broaden the appeal of Disney? Because now as a studio and as an audience, you're like, well, wait a minute. Disney is able to talk about some of these things and create productions that are beyond. The fanciful and the whimsical and the magical and, and all of those, those things, um, and allows them and I sort of, I think gives them a little bit of, of grace and encouragement to try different things that will appeal to a wider range of ages and interests.
Um, and I do, I think it's, I think it's a. I think it's a pivotal film in the company's history to sort of grow and adapt beyond even if the established norms of the ones that they were setting for themselves, it allowed them to grow, um, not just in cinema, but I think in terms of what they were going to be able to do in terms of storytelling in the theme parks.
And I think even, even to, you know, in terms of movies. You know, after that, and even still to this day, we get even in the animated films, like we get some very like deep, emotional, complex narrative type of topics that are covered in films and in the parks. And I think that's, I think Old Yeller is, is a big reason and maybe, you know, catalyst for that.
Kendall Foreman: Yeah, that's a really interesting way to look at it that, I mean, I would have, again, you know, it's interesting to see how our list and how they come together because I would have never thought of old yeller, but that's, that's a great point because, you know, Disney has never shied away, you know, 50 year history of Disney world, the history of Disneyland, you know, shied away from the depth of story in their attractions and what they're, you know, they're willing to do, especially, you know, I mean...
They invented the amusement park. So, you know, it's, there's a little bit lack of a comparison there in, in older history, just because places were mostly roller coasters and things like that. But, but yeah, the, the broad story, the, the willingness to. Look at what a child is willing to take in and, and, and understand in an attraction.
Definitely, I think comes from their history of being willing to do that through film.
Lou Mongello: You know, you don't get the making of me if you don't have old yellers.
Again, I think parents coming out of old yeller and coming out of the making of me probably were not necessarily prepared for the questions that they were going to get at the end of both. Very
Kendall Foreman: true. Well, I think I'm going to jump fairly far forward in time, all the way to 1985, and I'm going to be curious to see the look on your face when I say this.
I'm jumping to the Black Cauldron.
Lou Mongello: Oh, I love it! It's on my list.
Kendall Foreman: Really? This is the one of my great minds think alike, or this is one of the first ones that I thought of because, you know, sometimes it takes something really wrong to get to something right. You know, and I, I said that to my husband and he said, well, yeah, sometimes you have to go through the dark ages to get to the Renaissance.
He's like, you can't have the Renaissance without the dark ages. And in those years, post Walt. Passing away, you know, The Jungle Book was a success, the last film he had his hands on, but really, you know, as much as I love movies like The Rescuers and Fox and the Hound, you know, as time has gone on, I, I have a, you know, a warm spot in my heart for those movies.
They were not critically acclaimed when they came out, they did not draw big audiences, and you're hitting a point in, The studio's history where you have that old guard of the nine old men, some of the original animators who worked with Walt, who a lot of them have retired or are very close to retirement age, and Disney is hiring in new animators, and I suggest to anyone who's listening to this, if you have not watched Waking Sleeping Beauty, what are you doing?
As soon as this podcast is over, get on Disney pull it up, it's on there. Fantastic documentary from Don Hahn. Um, about this point in time, I, I won't go into all the details of what went on with those animators, but there was very much a push and pull between that old and new and, and wanting to try new things.
And that all came to a head with the Black Cauldron. Um, and Don even says in that documentary, he has a quote, he says it was a necessary step. I think the studio would have been different without it. It gave us a low point to build off of. It did develop a lot of new people and new skills and galvanize them at a young age to hang in there with the studio.
It, it was a mess. I mean, that movie started development in the 1970s and was not released until 1985. I mean, and Honestly, if I, if I could champion one live action film for Disney to take on, to me, if you're going to make a live action movie, go back and remake something that wasn't that good. This is just a side note soapbox moment for me.
Go back and remake the Black Cauldron as a live action film. I think it could be much better now than what the animated film was. I mean, yeah, you have that, that low point and it, sometimes it takes something really bad for you to look around and say, we need to stop being okay with the status quo. And I think that's what that movie did in combination.
With them, you know, some new leadership that came in at the same time, it really is a turning point that with, without, you know, it could have gone either direction, you know, they could have thrown up their hands and been like, that's it. You know, Michael Eisner and Frank Wells could have come in and said, Nope, animation is done.
Especially because there's actually an interview with Diane Sawyer from back then where she looked at Michael Eisner in the interview and she says, can you afford to make these movies? And Michael Eisner said, No. We can't, but we have to, and you know, this is, this is the company's legacy. And I think, you know, with a few select, you know, of the older animators that were left, some people who learned lessons from this movie, you have Peter Schneider come in as vice president of animation, who's basically like.
We knew we can't do any worse than that, so let's start trying whatever we can try. And it ultimately gets you to the Renaissance films. Which, you know, obviously, hugely impactful for the parks going forward. You know, that series of movies from Little Mermaid to Tarzan. Massively impacted attractions that are within the parks.
Impacted, you know... The fact that they started making money, these started being viable films impacts what they're able to do in the parks throughout the course of the Disney decade. And it, it impacts us as an audience. It brought in, you know, a whole generation of people who, you know, you have all the nineties nostalgia.
Now you have nostalgia for those Renaissance movies. And I think that created a very core fandom amongst Disney. That's very important to them. You know, in not just the film sector, but also the park sector. Yeah. And it gave you a Gurgies, munchies and crunchies for a while.
Lou Mongello: I love it. I love it. I love the reference to the old Walt Disney world.
You know, when I, when I thought about black cauldron, it was like, yeah, you can, you can talk about in terms of the use of CGI and advanced animation techniques and, you know, some of the darker tones and things like that. But you're right. The, the black cauldron is significant because. Not, not because of advanced animation techniques.
It's significant because it underperformed badly. And to say it had mixed critical reception is, is an understatement. And it forces Disney to step back and reevaluate their approach as a whole to what they're doing at animation. Like there's a period of what I have to assume is not just some very difficult reflection, but a lot of recalibration that, like you said, leads to the Disney Renaissance.
It leads to things like, like we don't have Little Mermaid. Without the failure of the black cauldron, uh, you know, 110 percent and I think, I think that, uh, it symbol, I think the black cauldron is as much of a symbol of this transitional period for Disney animation as the renaissance itself, because it bridges.
The gap between those older classics that did so well and this modern Renaissance, and I think it also sort of underscores the importance of taking risk and more importantly, innovating in the process when something doesn't work well, when something doesn't go right. And admitting, you know, admitting that the black hole of the black cauldron.
was not a success and then being able to sort of pivot and do what they need to do to usher in this, this new, you know, Renaissance, the first of many Renaissance's that were to come in animation.
Kendall Foreman: Yeah. I mean, because just from a technological standpoint, like you say, like, you know, the first film was CGI.
It's like, okay, well, we, we tried it. And now we, you know, we can move forward with that. And, and also this is kind of bridging that gap between the Xerox process. And then when they moved to the, you know, the CAPS process of animation, which was a very important transition as well, you know, and you get some young animators in there who were willing to try new things, willing to learn these new things and, and again, on waking sleepy beauty, you see from some of them who are literally like, We got moved out of the studio.
We got moved to a new spot. We didn't know if we were going to have a job the next day, you know, that creates a feeling of desperation. You're willing to, yeah, yeah, I will learn how to do caps. I will learn how to do whatever I need to do in order to keep my job with this company that I've always wanted to have.
Lou Mongello: Yeah. I love that you, um, I really love that you put that on your list because it's, this is not just about. Relatively obscure films, but well, and at first I agree with you this, if I don't love remakes, but if you're going to remake something, this is the one that is primed to be sort of given. It's due, right?
Give it, give this story and give these characters their due. Um. As tempted as I am to go to something that is later on my list. I am going to jump back in time a little bit. And, and there was a little part of me, Kendall, that almost was like, well, I don't need to put this on this list because maybe it is obvious, but I want to keep it on for maybe some of the non obvious reasons.
And I'm going back to the mid 1950s, uh, specifically to one man and the ballot of one Davy Crockett. Um, when you think of Davy Crockett, you're like, wait a minute, Mungel, you're talking about. You're not talking about movies, you're not talking about TV shows. Yes, it was a series of TV films that eventually led to the creation of, uh, sort of the, you know, the Davy Crockett package picture.
And yes, it's not a traditional film per se, but I think it's, it's, it's really important, not because it led to the Davy Crockett Explorer canoes, but more importantly, if we're talking about. The Disney theme parks, I thought of this in context, Kendall, of not just the storytelling of Davy Crockett himself, but the influence of Disney media on merchandising, like, if you go back to the fifties to say that Davy Crockett was a cultural phenomenon is a wild understatement.
Davy Crockett was the Taylor Swift of the fifties. Um, Fess Parker was the, the titular character in. This tv show the ballad of davy crockett, um, where it was iconic, right? It literally was like on the charts like a taylor swift song and the coonskin caps was You know, it was the the item that everybody every kid wanted for Christmas that year and talking about sort of a TV show and in context, sort of a movie that can showcase Disney's ability, not just to sort of create merchandise to sell in the parks, but it created a trend that influenced pop culture as a whole.
Like this very much transcended sort of the Disney fans and the Disney. Theme parks because this unprecedented and unrelenting Demand for davy crockett merchandise including the koonskin haps caps was a strategy that obviously Was going to and continues to be you know, an important one and that's integral to The theme parks, certainly Davy Crockett helps to not just form the foundation, but solidify.
Yes. We need a frontier land in Disneyland. Um, there's this, you know, the, the land that sort of reflects this frontier spirit and the adventure of the Crockett series allowed kids to walk into this land, don their coonskin hat, grab their, I used to, I still have in my garage somewhere. Like they used to sell like these old wooden rifles and old like wood.
This was a, your opportunity as a kid or an adult to be immersed in this frontier setting that you would watch on TV and, and certainly on screen. And, and, you know, again, I'm not even talking about the explorer canoes per se, but you know, Davy Crockett was this, it was a, he was a walk around character in Disneyland too.
I mean, he was sort of. Almost a symbol of Disneyland in terms of, of connecting what you saw on the big and small screen to what you saw in the theme park. Like Davy Crockett was the first one to sort of like, this is where Synergy was born, everybody. This is, this is where Synergy really started to happen.
And I think it's, it is a pivotal point in Disney history because it allows Disney to create this. cultural phenomenon and leverage it across multiple
Kendall Foreman: platforms. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's a reason why Davy Crockett is responsible for, like, how many minutes worth of the Disneyland opening day special.
I mean, that, yeah, you say that about Synergy, like, you, you know, you think it's a big deal when the Mandalorian showed up in Galaxy's Edge. Like, Davy Crockett, yeah, I mean, it's, it's Synergy, it's the original, and I, you know, I don't just say this in jest, it's the original IP, you know, playing a huge role in a park.
I mean, that, that was, Present from the day that Disneyland opened that would, you know, Walt wanted that there because it's, you know, it's what people wanted to see. It's what people were enjoying. It was hugely important to the company at that point in time.
Lou Mongello: Yeah. And you're, I mean, that's a great answer of analogy.
Sort of, he, he was the, you know, the first Mandalorian before there was the Mandalorian. I mean, just like, because it wasn't just about having. The fur characters and the animated characters, it was Davy Crockett. It was Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, right? Tom Navi talks about being, you know, sort of the first Tom Sawyer back in, in Disneyland.
And, and a lot of this happens because of, um, because of, of Davy Crockett. Yeah.
Kendall Foreman: It's interesting that you went that direction with merchandising and, uh, and, and even Davy Crockett plays a role in my, my next choice that I have, which might seem funny when I say that my next pick is Pinocchio. So how are Pinocchio and Davy Crockett related?
So, and again, why, why am I placing Pinocchio here if I'm moving chronologically? Well, I'm actually staying in 1985. Pinocchio came out in 1940. Um, Pinocchio. Immensely important film with regards to the furthering of, of animated movies, which is quite astounding considering it comes right on the heels of Snow White, the first animated film, but, you know.
I've just recently come around to, you know, with having the full slate of Disney movies available to me on Disney I've come around to turning them on and watching them for a whole different purpose than what I watched them for when I was younger. You know, I watched for the way a scene's laid out, for, you know, what looks like a one shot, what...
You know, how did the characters blend with the background and all of that, and the, the multi plane camera usage within some of those initial sequences of Pinocchio is astounding. The backgrounds for Pinocchio are beautiful, and I can watch that movie and appreciate it no matter how creepy I think that story is.
But, because it was released during wartime, it, it was a loss for the company. I mean, Pinocchio did not perform well when it came out, and I'm sure that had to be a major gut punch. You know, to come off of Snow White and then have that happen with Pinocchio. And so, in order to recoup part of that money going forward and to make use of what they had already spent on, it was decided that these animated films would be released every...
You know, seven to 10 years or so to the theater. So Pinocchio was released and re released in 45, 54, 62, 71, 78. And each time, each subsequent release, it made more money. And the initial thought. In the company was these prestige films will not be shown on television because we want to be able to make that additional money off of them by re releasing them to the theater.
So you get to the late 1970s, 1980s with, you know, the new technology of Betamax and the VHS and Disney basically is like, Nope. We want none of that because we don't want people to be able to watch this in their homes. We want them coming to the theater. And not only that, we do not want anyone pirating our movies.
But when Ron Miller was CEO, he really thought that this would be a good opportunity to make money. In a different way. And he suggested, and Crockett comes into play, that perhaps they release a few of the live action titles, some of those combined animated live action titles like Peace Dragon and Davy Crockett and some of the others.
And so those had the opportunity to be released on VHS for. And then a list was made of what was considered the untouchables, you know, we are, we're never going to release these ones on VHS, but even at the time when Ron Miller was done being CEO, right before he left, he started to float the idea of maybe we need to consider releasing one of these untouchable films.
So by the time that. That Michael Eisner and Frank Wells come in, they're saying, Okay, you know, let's, let's take a look. They're going to the board and they're saying, Let's take a look at this. Let's consider some of these. So they release a few of the other animated titles. And Robin Hood was technically on the untouchables list, But they're like, well, you know, okay, we'll let you try that one.
Cause... It didn't make quite as much money in the theater when we released it. You know, we'll see how it goes. So in 1984, that's released for the low, low price in the 80s of 79. 95. Mostly with the thought that just video rental stores would be the ones to purchase the copy. Well, it turns out, you know, it does.
Robinhood does pretty well. And so they're able to convince the board, let's try it. Let's try it with one of our Prestige films. Let's do this with Pinocchio. And so in July of 1985, Pinocchio is released on VHS again at 79. 95. And people buy it. More than just video rental stores buy it. But still at that price point, most American families are priced out of being able to purchase it.
And families are, you know, the families who can't are clamoring because they want to get to watch this movie, want to get to own it in their own home. So that Christmas, they decide, okay, we're going to release it for 29. 95. And that Pinocchio for 29. 95 is the beginning of the Disney Vault. It did so well, and that starts this process of Disney letting some of these movies out every seven years onto VHS.
By the time you get to The Little Mermaid, Because of how well Pinocchio did you get to the little mermaid and that movie is released six months later after it's out in the theater It's released within six months and this is my childhood This is I you know, I could not wait to see what the cover of a VHS tape looked like from Disney I couldn't wait, you know for oh man, you know, oh we get it we get to have it in six months We can have this in our house you know, you'd see the big poster outside of the you know, different places that sold VHS and You know, you might still be thinking, what does this have to do with the Disney parks?
And this might be slightly tangent to that, but I feel like this is how you, this is how Disney birthed the Disney adult. And I know some people look at that, that phrase with disdain. I don't, I consider myself a Disney adult. I am a Disney decade. I am, you know, that birth, the ability for kids to every day, drive their parents crazy, watching Lion King on repeat, that movie is the number one selling VHS of all time, 32 million copies.
Disney holds seven of the top 10 slots of the best selling VHS of all time. I mean, the other three, Titanic, Independence Day, Jurassic Park. I mean, those are, those are enormously big films in the history of cinema for Disney to be able to hold the other seven slots. And I feel like the company saw that as such a risk, but it turned out to be such a reward, not just from the money that they made on VHS, but the fact that.
They were in people's houses every day. You know, creating fans who can sing the songs, who can quote the movies, who now want to go to the parks and enjoy those experiences, not just when they were the little kid in the nineties, but now today, I really do believe that the immense crowds that you see at the parks today are because, you know, in the, in the nineties, it might've been more parents taking their children.
I think now it is families where the parents want to be there as much or more than the kids do.
Lou Mongello: So when you first said Pinocchio, I was like, Oh, so you are going to, to some of that, but I like how you sort of connected. Cause I didn't even think about it in terms of the VHS releases. And then I was thinking back to being in my basement.
We've all, a lot of us probably had it, you know, you had that collection of Disney VHS tapes, like in your faux wood, you know, uh, you know, movie shelf on, on the wall. And it was almost like. You know, it's a, there was your collection, but they were almost like collectibles, right? You want it to have the entire collection of the, what was it?
What was it? The black diamond, the classic, you know, go to your garage and find your black diamond VHS tapes. They're not worth anything. It's okay. Like I thought of when he said Pinocchio, I was like, well, she's right. Because I thought about it in terms of. Some of the, the, the topics I was talking about before, the, the maturity level of, and, and complexity and emotional depth of talking about things like conscience and, and honesty and, and the Pleasure Island scene.
Not just in the film, but in the attraction is that is absolutely frightening. It is the stuff of nightmares like Which I think helped sir, you know, it served its purpose right to a certain degree It almost sort of frightened kids enough to like wait a minute I better not do this bad thing because this is what Might happen.
Um, and then I was like, well, is she going to talk about, you know, when you wish upon a star and, but so I like how you connected the dots in terms of the, the marketing and the merchandising. And again, that, that long term impact that this film from, you know, trying to do the math 80 some odd years ago, uh, it still continues to have.
Kendall Foreman: Yeah, you say that I didn't even, I mean, I didn't even mention Pinocchio having an attraction in Disneyland. Um, yeah, Pinocchio and Mr. Toad teaching our children important moral lessons since 1955. And
Lou Mongello: look, Jiminy Cricket is still like the icon, right? Jiminy Cricket still is a character that resonates with adults and kids alike, you know, for as old as the film and the story are, um, you know, what, what he sort of continues to represent.
And I think. You know, I think sometimes he is sort of that subtle reminder for kids and parents about having that little Conscience that always follows you around so I'm Kendall I'm torn because there's there's two more on my list that I want to get to and I want one is is Um, it's a relatively minor one.
Um, all right, I'll save the other one for last and I will go in, in chronological order. Um, I'm going to go back to 1968, which again, to me is like 20 years ago. And a film that might not be the first thing that you think of when you think of Disney, but whose unexpected financial success really helped the company during a very.
Challenging time in the late sixties that allowed them to continue to invest not just in the movies, but I think in more importantly, for purposes of our conversation, the theme parks, and I am talking about one Herbie, the love bug kind of just like, what is Herbie doing on your list? So if you think about it in the late sixties, the company.
Um, really was having a lot of significant challenges, um, that I think all sort of come together to form this, this very difficult, perfect storm. The company is experiencing financial difficulties, uh, the costs of building and expanding Disneyland. Developing all these new film projects and the initial planning stages of Walt Disney World puts a huge financial burden on the company, like they need a win, like they need a win here, they need a successful film to generate revenue and more importantly, like I think sometimes we forget Disney is a corporation, so you also need to boost or Invigorate or reinvigorate investor confidence as well.
There's also during this time, you know, there's, there's, there's a shift sort of happening in the film industry where audiences are starting to trend more towards mature content and maybe sort of getting away from, you know, the whimsy and the animation and the traditional family oriented films that weren't necessarily.
Aligning with that and you need to do something as they've continued to do in the past, which is create something that's going to attract a broader audience I think most importantly It's the passing of Walt Disney in 1966 is nothing less than a profound shock to the entire company. You've lost your creative visionary.
You've lost your leader. You've lost your driving force behind the brand that leaves not just this monumental gap in leadership. But I think huge uncertainty in terms of what the future direction of the company is going to be, but from both a creative perspective and a business perspective, so Walt has gone, nobody can or wants to try and step into these massive shoes that nobody is going to fit to fill yet still having to figure out how collectively.
They're going to continue this legacy, adapt to these changes that are happening in the entertainment industry. And, oh, by the way, we've also committed to the expansion and the growth of our theme parks. And I think it's, it's, it's an interesting time to sort of look at the company and how the, the company and the parks and the studios all individually and collectively have to.
Continue to evolve, right? So when I talk about Herbie, the love bug, I'm not talking about in terms of, you know, again, no, it's this blend of live action, comedy and fantasy. It's, it's the impact on Disney in terms of the reach. Um, you know, there's the impact on the theme parks is not just, you know, cars can be characters too, you know, like in cars land, but I think it is sort of this, this symbol of creative and inventor of.
Storytelling, but I think I, I looked at it more so as Herbie, which we don't, we don't, when you talk about sort of financial successes of the company, Herbie, the love bug is not the thing that necessarily comes to mind first, but when it was and when it happened and at that time, um, yes, this family friendly entertainment that sort of goes beyond the traditional animation and continues to influence the theme parks, et cetera.
And, um, I think the, the importance is. The company's ability to Get through challenging times to maneuver as they need to And yeah, herbie the love bug is is to a certain degree a symbol of that especially in In this time in the company's just a very difficult time in the company's history
Kendall Foreman: Well, yeah, I mean, you look at that period of time, I mean, even toward the end of Walt's life, you know, some of the animators Evelyn set will say that he kind of had lost his interest in animation and, you know, that transition toward more live action and needing to, you know, have a broad reach of genres there where, you know, Herbie's more of that slapstick comedy and And also, you know, Dean Jones and the whole innumerable amount of movies that he did for Disney at that point in time that helped them get that through that period, that period of transition that was very important leading up to being able to open Walt Disney World.
Lou Mongello: How many, um, do you have any more on your, I've, I've completely, I'm having so much fun. I really have, I'm having so much fun that I've lost track.
Kendall Foreman: I have done four. Okay. So I have one more on my main
Lou Mongello: list. Not that we said it was going to be like a top 10 ish. We sort of use 10 as a, um, so, all right, let's do that.
We will both sort of finish off with one more main one on our list. And then a couple of honorable mentions that I, that I absolutely have to sort of get in.
Kendall Foreman: Okay. I feel like my last one is the one that is. You know, the elephant in the room that you have to address, um, and that would be 2012's The Avengers.
Um, Disney acquires... Marvel for the Lolo price, again, I said that earlier, Lolo price of 4 billion. That was immensely important, that they land the plane on the, on the Avengers. You know, it was important for the MCU going forward, it's important for just Disney as a whole. Because they're at a point in time where...
Animation was just starting to make a comeback, you're just starting to come out of kind of that second Dark Ages that happened after, you know, the end of the Renaissance period ends with Tarzan and you have, you know, the super memorable films like Home on the Range and some others and you're starting to come out of that with Tangled.
Winnie the Pooh, even though it underperformed, is a fantastic animated film, you know, Princess and the Frog, and some of these other ones, but at the same time, live action is showing a little bit of falter, they, you know, had had a great success with the early Pirates of the Caribbean films, but now you're up to Pirates of the Caribbean on Stranger Tides, which underperformed for what You know what it cost and then also the huge loss of John Carter.
Um, So, you know, it's very important for Disney to be able to take on, you know, the, this live action studio and, and help them not from just a storytelling perspective, but, you know, from a marketing perspective to make this a success. And it was interesting because I remember standing. in line somewhere, like a Walmart or something like that, the year after the Avengers came out.
And I overheard someone, you know, talking to the person they were with. They said, well, you know, I can't believe Disney owns Marvel now. And that's just, it's gonna, it's going to be terrible. They're going to ruin it. And I so bad one to turn to him and say, did you, did you see the Avengers? Did you like it?
You know, cause that was Disney too. That was, you know, that was the first film that was done under their purview for the MCU. And. I mean, it made 1. 5 billion on its own, not to mention that, you know, the multiple billions that it has made since then, that has been hugely important for the company as a whole, you know, not to mention just now, the MCU is responsible for how many properties across every single park, the cruise line, you know, the, the Marvel universe, The Disneyland, or the Disney Hotel New York in Disneyland Paris, Marvel Universe, Marvel Fan Fest that takes place in Shanghai, like attractions in every, you know, every major resort across the world as a result of the fact that the Avengers carried through.
It carried through with those characters that people had come to love and, and marshaled in, you know, the next decade worth of films that quite honestly, you know, you hear the word zeitgeist, that's what the MCU was for that entire decade.
Lou Mongello: Yeah, I mean, you know, this was one that was so obvious to put on the list, but I was trying to really sort of not, not sort of almost be on the nose, not, not, not that it shouldn't be on the list, but.
When you think of the Avengers specifically, and, and going back to that time, did nothing short of revolutionize the superhero genre, like there was no, we sort of used the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DCEU, all of the, you know, the Star Wars, Those words didn't exist pre Avengers, where it brought together multiple superheroes from separate franchises, creating this shared cinematic universe, which was revolutionary, obviously been emulated by other studios across the board as well.
And, you know, it not to sort of get on a separate conversation about Marvel, but sort of think about where Marvel was, you know, a number of years before that, when it was, you know, on the verge of bankruptcy and they were just having a fire say to sell their characters, right? Which is why Sony sadly owns.
Spider Man and certainly the, the influence on, on the theme parks too, not just from the financial success, but the, the incorporation of these characters into theme park attractions. And I think for some people, the theme park attractions are an introduction to some characters like guardians of the galaxy is a beloved attraction.
Not by Marvel fans, but by Disney fans who just love the attraction and now all of a sudden are sort of wrapped into this deeper Guardian story and if you're not a comic book nerd Guardians of the Galaxy was like they weren't a b list team of superheroes They were like d list like nobody knew who the Guardians of the Galaxy Was and you probably wouldn't have had it not been for the success of Avengers
Kendall Foreman: Yeah I almost I teetered between the two I really did I teetered between choosing the Avengers and choosing Guardians of the Galaxy Because it is kind of hard to judge which one was more important for the overall success of Marvel going forward Because to me the Avengers was vastly important for the Disney company and that's why I landed on that one I feel like Guardians of the Galaxy was vastly important for Marvel.
It proved that we can mainstream any one of those characters that they pull out. You know, if given the right story and the right people behind that film. Yeah.
Lou Mongello: And I'm happy that you concluded your list with Avengers. Um, which I've probably seen like, I'm not exactly, maybe a hundred times. Like I, I, I still to this day, Avengers.
Holds up. Um, as we'll do a show about the best of the best of the, the Marvel cinematic universe, but I think this one ties in perfectly. To the last one that is on my list dare I say it was the Avengers for a different generation and Just keep listening after I tell you the title of the last film on my list Because it goes by the name of the black hole Kendall just hung up like so I'll steal from Tim Foster and ask you to go with me here The Black Hole was Disney's first PG rated film when it came out in 1979.
It was a very unique endeavor for the company as a whole, for a variety of Kendall's literally sitting back on her couch like with her arms folded like, Okay, Manjula, let me see if you can sell me on The Black Hole. It was Disney's
Kendall Foreman: I'm just listening intently because if I'm being completely honest with listeners, I have never seen The Black Hole.
Lou Mongello: So stop it. We have to have a watch party one night. Okay. I've been saying this on the Wednesday night live show. I'm going to do this. We're going to do a black hole watch party. And then I just, but I want to do it where I can see people's reactions at the very end of the film. And Kendall, when you get to the end of the film, you'll understand why.
This is Disney's first science fiction film. It is the first film to receive a PG rating. It, it is a shift in Disney's approach to filmmaking as a whole. Not to, and it's, it had implications not just for the cinematic output, but I think for the theme parks as well. Look, they're not just entering the science fiction genre here, right?
Obviously riding on the huge coattails of movies like Star Wars. So it shows Disney's, all right, we're going to pivot. We have to explore some of these new genres that we really haven't dipped our toes into the water before. And look, you know, I think we take it for granted now, Kendall, like, you know, Disney in at this time, Disney in 1975 was still Disney.
It was the cartoon company. Yes, they had live action movies, but. They were not making films that were going to be PG rated. So it's a, it's a huge departure just from a pure perception point of view in terms of, well, Disney just makes family friendly movies. Now, what are they doing with this, you know, PG film that is very, very dark.
Uh, it's very, very complex to say the least, but I think it stands as a. An important film because it shows that the studio is once again, ready, willing, and able to diversify the type of content that the studio is producing. So again, they're continuing to broaden their fan base beyond kids, beyond adults, beyond families to maybe a, a segment of the movie going population that Disney was not reaching going back to your Marvel, which is why they acquired Marvel, right.
Attract that certain demographic of you know, teenage to two young boys now this is doing it in the same in terms of Science fiction fans and sort of darker sort of fantasy storytelling fans as well It also again before sort of connected to the movies. It's It's a technologically innovative film in terms of, and yes, you might say, well, the special effects don't hold up in 2023 at in 1979.
They were still very impressive, right? That, that, that, especially for Disney that had not sort of gone into this type of filmmaking before. And I think it sort of was paralleling the advancements that they were making in the theme parks as well, especially in the use of. Special effects and attractions and the use of audio animatronics, I think to, you know, you can watch the black hole film sort of just on its face and the story that is being told, but I think I think Disney was really showing like, Hey, there, there is this contemporary trend that is going on.
That we have to make sure we hop on board with and leverage, not just in films, but in the theme parks as well. Black Hole, not a huge commercial success. I'm not gonna like sugarcoat it at all. But I think it does pave the way, like some of the other films on my list, to allow Disney to diversify their portfolio.
And I think... Because this was sort of, and yes, we did a show, I'll link it in the show notes, we talked about Disney and space years ago, and sort of Walt always being a futurist and things that Disney had done in space, but I think that there is, you can make connections between the black hole and some of the echoes in attractions like Space Mountain and, and some of the narratives even in, in other space themed, uh, attractions and this wonder of space and the thrill of exploration.
Um, so I'm going to plant my flag firm, not very firmly, but firmly enough in, in the black hole in terms of it being, and it might not have been. A financial success. It might not have been a critical success. It's not for everybody. That last scene is super weird and super dark. But it did represent Disney sort of stepping out of their fam.
Very family friendly comfort zone. To, and again, there's, there's sort of, there's a lot we can sort of do an analysis of black hole after you watch it, but there are deeper, um, undertones and, and, you know, I think cultural and time sensitive things that are going on in the black hole that will, that will probably be.
Fly over the head of kids who are watching, but definitely be understandable to Adult and had a great cast like any movie with Ernest Borgnine in it, you know has got to be good Slim Pickens is the voice of Bob Uncredited by the way, Kendall has no idea what I'm talking about.
Kendall Foreman: But no, I know I know those references.
Um, No, I mean without having seen it like I guess I just I do have the question of can you see Kind of some through line potentially through the technology and special effects and maybe even a little bit of content with something like, you know, the ends, the finales of some of the, the original attractions in Epcot, you know, like, is there a potential, you know, with that whole sci fi, you know, or was that just something maybe that was present more at that point in history?
Lou Mongello: When you see the ending of the black hole, you'll understand why I'm laughing at the black hole. I will without a doubt. Is the weirdest, most fascinating, darkest, and downright creepy ending to a Disney movie you will ever see. Ever. Like, across the board. How
Kendall Foreman: does it, how does it rank with, uh, Return to Oz?
Cause right now, that's my top level creepy Disney
Lou Mongello: movie. The ending of the movie, of The Black Hole, and if you're listening, and you have, have seen it before, you're hopefully laughing on your treadmill, walking your dog, or in your car. Because it defies logical, like, the ending of Black Hole is very much subject to interpretation.
It is not a clearly defined ending at all. But it has very, very, very serious, like, Undertones of life and death and heaven and hell and the seven layers of hell like it is it's I don't mean dark in like a black cauldron dark I mean like super dark stuff and there's still a part that I don't understand.
Okay. And I've seen the black hole a number of times and, and I've got like black hole figures in my, in my room. But yeah. So Kendall, you, we, I'm, I promise you, I will announce it on an upcoming Wednesday night live show. We're going to do a group watch of the black hole together. Is it a perfect film?
Absolutely not. Is it a significant film? I think so.
Kendall is both frightened and intrigued all at the same time.
Kendall Foreman: I, I don't, I don't know where to go from there.
Lou Mongello: Go to, uh, go to your honorable mentions and, and you can quickly sort of tap through those.
Kendall Foreman: Rapid Fire, I just have three that I think are fairly, these did not make my top five because they're more obvious than the Avengers.
Um, I, I think you have to go with one, not a Disney film at the time. I think you have to, you know, give credit to A New Hope. And what... Became of that as far as the partnership with George Lucas long before, you know, Disney ever purchases Lucasfilm just the fact that they were willing to partner with someone for IP and content that they did not own and to bring that into the parks, you know that opened the door for you know avatar later Along the same lines, just, you know, that type of partnership and then the obvious extension of when they do finally purchase Lucasfilms and all of the, you know, that exists within the parks with regards to that.
And then also just the fact that they not only, I think a lot of people forget that when they purchase Lucasfilm, they didn't just get Star Wars, you know, they got, they got LucasArts, they got Industrial Light and Magic, they got Skywalker Sound, all of which bring, you know, technological advancements. To the company that they did not have, you know, on the same level prior to that.
Um, I think you also have to consider Cinderella. Just, you know, it helped right the ship at a point in time, um, when Disney was very cash strapped. And it was, you know, the first romantic driven story. You know, we talked a lot today about, you know, the, the themes of these stories and, you know, what types of narratives they told and while there is romance present in Snow White, I think Cinderella is the first one that where that is really the main focus of the whole film that, you know, paves the way for the other Disney princess films, which very clearly have an impact on the parks up through today.
And then last on my honorable mentions, I had the Lion King, um. Just the peak of the Disney renaissance and I would love for, if there's anyone out there listening who can tell me otherwise, um, but as far as I know, and this goes back to when Blake Taylor was still writing for the, the, uh, WDW radio blog, he did a piece on trying to figure out what the most important Disney animated film was.
And he decided that it was the Lion King because it was the only one that simultaneously had representation in all four parks. And I think most people would just automatically assume that, oh, Frozen. Because it just seems to be present everywhere. But, um, he, he and I, neither one of us were ever able to find any time when Frozen Made it through the gates of Animal Kingdom, but the Lion King was able to do that as you know It was such an important property that it has touched every aspect of Disney theme parks and cruise lines resorts Broadway Yes, Broadway.
Lou Mongello: and I'm assuming you're talking about the original animated film not the scene for scene shot for shot live action. Yes
Kendall Foreman: We prefer to pretend that No, I love
Lou Mongello: that and actually It will in some sort of circuitous way tie into I have just two very quick ones on my list And the first and I won't spend too much time on it is the walt disney true life adventure series um, which came out for in its theatrical release, I believe in 1975 if you go back to show 7 30 we talked about the true story of walt disney's true life adventures and what this meant to Walt what it meant to the company, but I think in terms of the theme parks to sort of connect the dots from that Very thorough discussion to hear, you know, the true life adventure series played a huge role in Raising public awareness about wildlife conservation and the environment something that was very important to Walt it was like a lot of things in Disney was not just entertaining but educational as well and I think I think that the ethos of the True Life Adventure series is most directly reflected in obviously in Disney's Animal Kingdom, right?
That this, the combination of a theme park experience with not a zoo, but a zoo, that emphasizes conservation and education much like the series did. I think it helped influence Epcot's nature themed... Attractions, right? Again, focusing on educational environment, living with the land, the seas with Nemo and friends, some of the movies and shows that we've seen in the circle life theater echoes that educational and conservationist themed, um, and, and I think prove that there was interest in nature themed shows and films that we've seen in the parks that give us not just information, but, uh, entertainment as well.
And, uh, If you liked my, if you didn't like my black hole, you might not like this one either. And the, the, the connection to the theme parks is not as on the nose as it might initially seem. Because 1982's Tron, which, it was right in my wheelhouse. I was the right age, I was a computer nerd, I was a video game nerd.
It received... Mixed reception when, when it first debuted, but it was nothing less than groundbreaking in terms of computer generated imagery. This was and represents still probably the, one of the most massive technological leaps that influenced Disney's approach to integrating technology, not in films, but in terms of theme parks and creating these very technologically sophisticated.
Movies as well as attraction. Um, and I think You know, I think looking back on Tron, lo these many years, and I still love Tron, like I still love the original movie and, and the use of CGI and the use of special effects and the impact on Disney's brand. And even, even I think in the theme parks, not just the attraction per se, but the aesthetic and the themes of Trons are obviously reflected in, in how Tomorrowland has evolved and the futuristic themes.
Look, Tron light cycle power run, when I first wrote it in Shanghai was the culmination. You know, I'm going to bring it full circle. Walt wanted Disneyland to be a place where we as kids and adults could step away from the screen and into these movies that we love. We just wanted to be a part of, maybe not Pleasure Island and Pinocchio because it was weird and creepy, but other movies and some of the happy parts.
Every kid that was my age that watched Tron wanted to just And we pretended at home, we pretended on our bicycles, admitted that we were riding a light cycle. And the first time I got on a light cycle in Shanghai, I got a little choked up. I'm like, I've literally waited like my entire adult life to ride on this attraction and from this movie that meant so much to me.
And there wasn't just a hidden Mickey in there. There was a hidden Pac Man in there. It was amazing. But I think there was, there was sort of broader implications for Tron in terms of continuing sort of that legacy. Again, I'm going to bring it back to Walt, this, this visionary approach and exploration of uncharted cinematic territory, right?
So Tron might not have been the best movie. It might not have been, you know, the most well received movie, but it did play a significant role, not just for Disney in terms of. Shaping the film industry and as well as I think to a certain degree, the thematic landscape of some sections of some of the parks and that continuing and evolving narrative of the ever growing Disney storytelling ambitions.
Kendall Foreman: Yeah, I like both of those because, I mean, you think about the conservation aspect within Disney parks as a whole. That, you know, became baked into Disney as a company because of those origins, you know, I mean, you can go back and I mean, now we know that, you know, a lot of what happened in the nature series, not all of it was 100 percent nature, but, but it came from that place of enjoying and learning about the world around us and appreciating it and wanting to protect it.
And that has been a part of, you know, Walt Disney World, especially. You know, since the beginning, whether that's, you know, having recycling cans everywhere, you know, all the way up to having these massive solar farms in order to power, you know, whatever the percentage is up to of those parks now. And I agree with you on Tron too.
Um, I, I got to ride that for the first time earlier this year and I, it really does bring a different feeling of immersion. You know, that idea of, you know, Walt wanting people to get to be a part of that movie. I mean, to me, it's not, I mean, you are fully immersed once you, once you get in that tunnel to get on your light cycle.
But to me, it starts even before that. I mean, it's the second you step under the canopy and, you know, in the queue line, the way the music, it almost creates a tension that feels like you are literally like you're waiting, your number's getting ready to be called to step on the grid, you know. Very, very well done.
Lou Mongello: Yeah, and, and you know, I, first I have to tell you, like, I had so much fun doing this, like, I really, really enjoyed this, and I, and I am sure that as we are wrapping up, you who are listening are probably saying, Mangello, Kendall, how are you possibly leaving this film off your list? One, as long as this was that we only have a limited amount of time and two, I'm absolutely curious and certainly welcome and invite you to share what you thought, what you think we left off the list again, post it in the clubhouse at www.
com slash clubhouse. Call the voicemail at 407 900 9391 or post on social, uh, you know, tag me at Lou Mangello. I would love to have a continuing. Dialogue about this, because I think, you know, kind of as we look at both of our lists and how these films have left indelible marks on not just cinematic history and Disney history, but the theme parks influence everything from attraction design to themes and and character interactions, I think reflects Disney's history.
Willingness to explore new genres and themes and advances and maybe risk taking in their films that is sort of reflected, I think, too, in their approach to innovation and creativity in the theme park as well. I think there's clearly for a lot of these, um, you know, Historical significance and, and cultural impact, um, again, not just in cinema, but in, in the way that, uh, people enjoy and appreciate the parks as well.
Kendall, you are awesome. Um, I absolutely love this. I always enjoy our conversations and, and everything that you bring to, um, the table. I really, really appreciate you, uh, and everything that you not just bring to the show, but that you do. For the blog as well. If somebody wants to connect with you on social or yell at you for how did you possibly miss this?
Where where can they find you as well?
Kendall Foreman: Um, i'm always hanging out in the clubhouse Um, and then also you can find me on twitter at kl underscore foreman
Lou Mongello: and I will link to those obviously in uh, In the show notes, but yeah, I would love to hear we would love to hear from you What especially some of the lesser known films do you feel had an unexpected?
Uh, and long term influence and impact on the parks and, and maybe which ways have you seen that influence when you visit? And, uh, what sort of suggestions do you have that you'd like Kendall and I to cover on future episodes? Uh, I always enjoy this, Kendall. I sincerely appreciate you. Absolutely.
Kendall Foreman: It's always a good time.
Lou Mongello: All right. Now that you're done, you're going to hang up your headset and your microphone. You're going to pop yourself on the couch with your little blanket. Which one of these movies are you going to fire up because you're so inspired after our conversation?
Kendall Foreman: I, I almost did rewatch, um, The Black Cauldron.
It's been so long since I watched it. There's some really fascinating articles out there about that, like on Collider and some others. It's about just how it was, you know, the movie that almost took the studio down. And I just, I, you know, I said that about Waking Sleeping Beauty, I absolutely love that documentary.
It's just, from an art, business, everything standpoint, it's... It's really interesting. I mean, I, I have, I have considered several times watching Black Hole. I just feel like I need to be in the right frame of mind in order
Lou Mongello: to watch that. You absolutely do. And maybe watching it, you know, together as a community might be the best way to do it.
I think Black Cauldron is the one. I think that's probably where I would have gone too. Like it's, and it's a good sort of background movie. You know, if you're sitting on the couch working or you're cleaning the kitchen or you're doing whatever, it's a, it's a movie that you can have on in, uh, the background.
But we'll have to make that a...
Kendall Foreman: I also want to re watch it, because when I was watching that, they said that Jeff Jeffrey Katzenberg went in there and just started cutting it. So there's literally some places during the actual, like, cauldron born section where the music, like, doesn't even match. Because he just started cutting parts of it out because it was too intense.
Lou Mongello: So what Kendall's really looking for is the four hour director's cut of of the Black Cauldron. Yeah.