Sunday, September 16, 2012

Finding Sunny

In honor of the 3D re-release of Finding Nemo, let’s examine a little tribute to Pixar placed within the film. No, it’s not typical in-house reference to A113 or the Pizza Planet truck. No, it’s not the Buzz Lightyear action figure briefly seen in the dentist office.

Pixar presents a short film before each theatrical release. Early shorts were done to hone creative and technical talent within the Studio. Lately, the shorts are a way to continue character development of established franchises, such as Cars or Toy Story.

The short that premiered prior to Finding Nemo on May 30th 2003 was a much earlier Pixar work titled Knick Knack, created in 1989. It's about the sheltered life of a snow globe snowman. He’s trying to find different ways to escape, caught by the lure of Sunny the mermaid and other tropical delights. 

In the end he does escape - only to find himself back in the snow globe. In Finding Nemo, Sunny makes a cameo in the dentist office fish tank, so sharpen your eye to spot her on the prow of the sunken ship in the tank!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Humphrey the Bear

Disney’s animation heritage isn’t limited to the theme parks of Walt Disney World. Mickey and the other members of the fab five - Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto - are evident throughout the entire resort, if only on guide maps and other signage.

But If you dig a little deeper into the pantheon of Disney’s animation characters, you’ll find a rather obscure creature named Humphrey the Bear. 

He’s a easy-going brown bear who hangs his proverbial hat at Brownstone National Park. He starred in six Disney animated shorts, debuting in 1950. Humphrey’s antics, including his eternal quest for food from park visitors and his nemesis, ranger J. Audubon Woodlore, inspired Yogi Bear.

Although he’s not an instantly recognizable character to Disney fans, he blends in nicely in the cavernous Wilderness Lodge lobby. He can be found on the bottom of a totem pole just outside the ‘mercantile’ store. The brown bear is the official mascot of this amazing resort, and Humphrey gladly stands duty, perhaps waiting for an opportunity to grab a snack from an unsuspecting Guest.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Welcome to Frontierland, Mr. Smith

File this one under ‘extinct.’ One of the cleverest hidden Disney tributes in the Magic Kingdom has, apparently, walked away.

You remember the slapstick scene from Mary Poppins in which Bert and Uncle Albert are oddly floating high in the air, giddily singing “I love to laugh,” as if the lyrics were a combination of nitrous oxide and helium. While Mary Poppins, Jane and Michael watch  from below, they hear hysterical dialog, including this classic exchange:

Mary - “Why, it's the most disgraceful sight I've ever seen, or my name isn't Mary Poppins.”

Bert - “Speakin' o' names, I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith.”

Uncle Albert - “What's the name of his other leg?”

This misplaced modifier causes even more riotous laughter and they continue with their airborne antics.

Disney Imagineers cleverly paid tribute to this scene by placing a wooden leg high on a shelf in the Frontierland train station, along with other lost items. Naturally, the leg is labeled Smith. Sadly, this hidden tribute didn’t survive a recent furbishment of the train station, since I didn’t see it there on my last few visits. But just thinking about it is worth a laugh.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Looking UP for inspiration

Let's return to the silver screen, to find a sweet and endearing hidden Disney tribute. But first, the setup.
Disney Legends Marc and Alice Davis are figurative giants within the Disney community. Marc's sketches and illustrations were brought to life in the iconic attraction Pirates of the Caribbean, and Alice's contributions to the Pirates wardrobes, as well as the multinational dolls in It's a Small World can't be understated. But perhaps more enchanting is their lifelong partnership with each other, and their appetite for travel and living life to its fullest.
Pixar director Pete Docter was seeking inspiration for the UP characters Carl and Ellie Fredricksen. This couple spends a long and rich life together before Carl is widowed, in the twilight of his life. He's not quite sure how to proceed without his life partner. Pete Docter and other Pixar writers and animators interviewed Alice Davis, to capture the spirit of the life she and Marc had together. Alice herself is a widow, following Marc's death in 2000. The interview was conducted in Alice's home and included a tour of Marc's studio. It was there that one of the Pixar animators found inspiration.
In one brief scene, we see Carl coming downstairs in an electric chair. Various photos and artwork hang on the wall. Pay close attention to the rectangular frame on the left, featuring a chirping bird. This was directly inspired by a similar prominent sketch in Marc's studio, honoring his bold and beautiful tropical-inspired illustration “C'ote d'Azur” that singularly captures Marc and Alice's adventurous life together. In one corner of the illustration is a colorful chirping bird.
Look for Alice Davis listed in the Credits of UP –
Dedicated to the real life carl and ellie fredricksens who inspired us to create our own adventure books
Joe Grant Ralph “Papa” Lopez Mike Oznowicz Alice Davis”

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