Disney Holiday Viewing Part 2: Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas

The Movie: Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas

Available on Blu Ray, DVD and all your regular streaming services

I need to start this post by coming clean.  

I have a confession to make.

I consider myself a Muppet super-fan. A ride-or-die man of Muppet history. I think Jim Henson was as much an artistic genius as Walt Disney, and though there are a few Muppet films I haven’t seen (mostly the direct-to-video stuff of the mid 2000’s), the Muppets are in my DNA for better or worse. I grew up with them in all of their various forms. Even though Mr. Henson has been gone for many years now, I’m excited any time a new Muppet project is announced.

I am so much a fan that when I have the occasional Muppet conversation with my friends (yes, this happens) and one of them invariably ends up mentioning Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, I would nod in recognition, possibly adding in an “Oh yeah! It’s so good!” to give the impression that I had seen it, probably multiple times. But dear reader, I was living with a terrible secret. The truth is, I had never seen Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas.  

Ok, only half of the above paragraph is true. I legitimately did lie on at least one occasion about having seen it, but it didn’t really cost me much until this past weekend when I finally paid the $4 to stream the 40th Anniversary Edition of it on my Apple TV.  And let me tell you something: this movie is wonderful!

Originally made as a tv special, it has aired over the decades in a variety of formats, only to be finally restored and digitally remastered for its recent 40th anniversary release. Simply put: no one makes things that look like this anymore.  

Before getting into the story, I just want to talk about how amazing the visuals are for those of us who love the feeling of hand-made media. The sets seem enormous and detailed, the backgrounds are beautifully rendered, the directing is full of long and unbroken shots. The camera moves feel really interesting within the context of a Muppet movie (and this thing was made in 1977!).  The music is great and occasionally hilarious. It’s pretty much everything I could want out of a Muppet movie.

There are no traditional Muppets featured in this special besides Kermit, who gives the film its introduction and comes back for a quick outro. Instead, we get a full cast of new woodland creatures with names like Doc Bullfrog, Melissa Rabbit, Charlie Muskrat and…you get the idea. The character design by Jim Henson’s team is predictably great, but the sets and design are really where this movie shines.  

I was genuinely surprised at how little actual Christmas stuff was in this movie. Since Christmas is right there in the title I expected some recognizable tunes and traditional Christmas themes and decorations – and there aren’t any!  This honestly just adds to my love of it . It’s a “Christmas movie” simply because it celebrates those themes we have come to associate with the Christmas season: selflessness, family, nostalgia, friendship, and giving. It never resorts to having the characters belt out “Jingle Bells” in front of a chimney and stockings. There’s no traditional Christmas imagery at all as far as I can remember. In other words, it’s a Christmas film in feeling only, kind of like It’s a Wonderful Life.

To be honest, I started this review with the mindset that this was a great movie that was worth seeing once. But while writing about all the things I enjoyed about it, I think I convinced myself that it’s truly great. Much like all my favorite Muppet media, it made me upset all over again that Jim Henson passed away at such an early age, and that I wish we had 3 more decades of his work to experience. It takes a truly special person to create something like Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, and though the world only had Mr. Henson for a short time, it is far better for it.

Verdict: New (to me) Christmas Classic

 

 

Add More Mouse saw Mary Poppins Returns!

Our previous post was all about the questions we had about Mary Poppins Returns as we approached its official release. I’ll start my review by saying this: any doubts I may have expressed were for most part relieved. I found this new interpretation of the Mary Poppins character to be totally worth the ticket price, and I left the theater excited for the making-of featurettes that will be on the eventual dvd/blu-ray release. I’m not going to say it was a perfect film but I definitely hope it makes enough at the box office to justify more Mary Poppins films. It may be cheesy to say, but the world needs movies like this right now. Good-natured, well-intentioned, expertly made stories that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Most importantly, we need children’s entertainment that doesn’t talk down to them.

Sidebar. It was quite fun to see some other Disney enthusiasts at my local theater catching a weekday showing at 10:45am. Shout-out to the gentleman wearing the Peter Pan jean jacket and the woman with the Mickey Mouse skirt who seemed to both come solo. Your freak flags were flying high, and I salute them.

This is a film that is acutely aware of the original while also working hard to introduce the audience to a feeling and spirit that seem pretty strange in 2018. It honestly felt a lot like Mary Poppins via The Force Awakens.  

Just as The Force Awakens mirrored the original Star Wars to ease the audience into the story’s new universe, Mary Poppins Returns checks off and updates the main set pieces from the original in fairly direct fashion. In the first film, there’s a huge dance scene with chimney sweeps, and this time you get a huge dance scene with lamplighters. In the first film they enter an animated adventure through chalk drawings in the park, and this time they have one on the surface of a ceramic bowl (!?). It’s pretty obvious when they hit these story points so hard, but the whole thing is so pleasant and fun to experience that I don’t care much about the lack of originality in the storytelling. I’m tickled just to see this kind of filmmaking on the big screen in 2018.

Speaking of that animated scene that takes place on/in a ceramic bowl: wow.  It’s everything I had hoped for in my previous article. The 2-D animation looked great on the 2018 big screen. It was augmented with CGI in the way CGI should always be used in my opinion: as a garnish and not the main course (when possible).  It was terrific, and it made me wish the entire movie was that kind of Roger Rabbit-style visual experience that mixed live action and animation so well. I can’t say enough about the composition of that scene, and if it isn’t nominated for visual effects at the Academy Awards then I’ll shave my cat (I won’t).  

Emily Blunt was great. Based on what I’ve read about the director, Rob Marshall (who also does a great job), I’m guessing that Blunt’s take on the Poppins character may be closer to the way she is portrayed in the original books by P.L. Travers (unread by me).  Marshall has mentioned that he and his team read all the original books before writing the screenplay, and I liked this slightly exasperated and sarcastic version of the title character a lot.

Lin-Manual Miranda, playing Jack the lamplighter, is also predictably good. I never got to see him star in Hamilton but I do love his appearances on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm (NOT suitable for children of all ages). He even gets to do some of his trademark drama-kid musical rapping, for those of you into that sort of thing.  He isn’t given a ton of character arc to work with but he gets some really great song and dance sequences, and isn’t that what we’re buying tickets for anyway?

Oh, and Dick Van Dyke’s appearance?  I won’t spoil it here, but I’m desperate to know if they used CGI in his scene. If not, that dude can still move at 93 years old. Seeing him getting a chance to call back to the original film was the moment I’ll confess to getting a little misty-eyed. How often does a 93-year-old Hollywood legend get to revisit material he started his career with?

I went out of my way not to read any reviews ahead of seeing this myself, though from skimming some of the headlines it seems that some professional critics have taken issue with the quality of the songs on the soundtrack. On the contrary, I thought that most of the songs were perfectly fine, with a few rising nearly to the level of the first film.. I’m planning on giving the soundtrack a few listens over the weekend to see if they stick with me a bit more, but asking any of them to hit you like “Supercalifragilistic…” or “Spoonful of Sugar” after one viewing is pretty unrealistic. The original film had 50 years to get those stuck in our heads!  I was honestly just thrilled that there was a musical aimed at kids that had these kinds of complex and well-done melodies and arrangements.

There has also apparently been some criticism aimed at the idea that the Mary Poppins character is simply a “nanny ex machina,” meaning she exists solely to solve problems without any real logic. This in turn implies lazy or weak screenwriting.

And well…that part is kind of true for both films. There is no logic behind Mary Poppins’ helping of the Banks family.  The entire set-up of both Poppins storylines is: 1) Banks family is in trouble, 2) Mary Poppins comes to help, 3) she is apparently magical for unknown reasons, and 4) they go on adventures and everything works out in the end (spoiler alert).  If you watch these films and can’t get over the fact that Mary’s magic powers are never explained, I get it – but I also think it’s completely ok to watch a movie and accept the story beats on the basis of their ability to entertain and show us things we wouldn’t see otherwise.  As my favorite film reviewer Roger Ebert once said in one of my favorite quotes (I’m paraphrasing): “What’s important is not what a movie is about, but how it is about it.”

Or, as Jack the lamplighter says at one point: “Don’t ask Mary to explain anything to you – she never does.”

I try not to snort the pixie dust too hard before watching a Disney thing for the first time. They’ve made plenty of stuff I don’t like. If there’s one thing I wasn’t thrilled by in this film it was the scene featuring Meryl Streep as Mary’s second cousin. I think I disliked it simply because I just didn’t dig the song during that set piece at all (Turning Turtle).  Obviously if Meryl Streep wants to be in your movie, you find a way to put her in your movie.  I just wish they would have given her a better tune.

So in summary: I think Mary Poppins Returns is well worth seeing in the theater, and I think being surrounded by fellow movie goers is an optimal environment to see it in. The kids in my audience seemed absolutely awestruck during a few scenes. Kudos to Rob Marshall, the director, for pulling off a difficult task, and I’m optimistic that they could pull it off again. And I hope they try.

-Dave

Follow us on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook and let us know how you felt about Mary Poppins Returns!

Mary Poppins Returns: A Few Questions

Mary Poppins is a film and character that has become synonymous with both the Disney Company as well as Walt Disney himself. Per usual, if you’re coming to this blog, I’m going to go ahead and assume you know the gist of this Disney classic. Even people who aren’t Disney obsessives have seen this at some point in their childhoods.  In the off chance that you aren’t familiar, this movie was released in 1964 and stars Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. It contains some fantastic and groundbreaking sequences that combine live action and animation, and it gave us the Disney classic songs A Spoonful of Sugar, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Chim Chim Cher-ee and Feed the Birds. It’s an all-time classic in the Disney canon as well as film musical history in general.  

As we approach the film’s release, I’m super curious about a few of the aspects of the film. Not just regarding the ability to make a movie that feels tonally and stylistically similar to the original in 2018, but also what this film’s success could mean for both animation and the Disney Parks. Pardon me while I indulge in the age-old blogging tradition of writing extensively about a film even though I’ve only seen the trailer. Let’s go!

Style and Tone

Right off the bat, the first thing I’m curious about is how the style of a film like Mary Poppins can work in 2018.The original Mary Poppins, with its mix of live action and animation, seems an odd artifact in today’s entertainment climate: Don’t get me wrong – this can all totally work, and I hope that it does.  I’m just thinking that it will be interesting to see if the things that made the original Mary Poppins special in the 1960’s can cast the same spell on audiences in 2018.  

As for tone – I don’t know what to think about how this film seems to look based on the trailer, and how that will translate to audiences that are familiar with the original. The first Mary Poppins has the kind of bright lighting and vintage film grain that renders it cheery and appropriate for all ages pretty much automatically (as many Disney films from that era seem today).  Just by the era in which it’s being made, this new one can’t help but look smoother and more modern. However, the trailers really give the impression that this film has a vibe that is very indebted to the Harry Potter films – quiet, gloomy, a muted color pallet and a tone that is more than a little foreboding and melancholy. Obviously this can all come together and work great in context, and we all know that movie trailers often misrepresent what the actual film is that they’re advertising. Still, there’s a thin line between Mary Poppins’ shenanigans being charming and creepy, and I’m wondering how this is all going to play out not only for people familiar with the original, but with modern kids in general.

Animation  

As a fan of all things animated, I regularly spend time wondering if hand drawn animation will ever be something that is regularly produced by movie studios again.  Yes, I think about this often. Yes, I am an insane person.

I love hand-drawn (or 2-D animation).  I also love computer animation and I don’t see any reason why both can’t exist if the techniques are done well and fit the story they are trying to tell. It’s just that hand-drawn animation is such an integral part of Disney’s history that it’s hard to believe they don’t even make the stuff anymore.

After Pixar revolutionized animation through creating fully-realized computer animated films, every studio that was producing animation jumped on the bandwagon.  Unfortunately, I think most studios assumed that Pixar’s success was due to how amazing their films looked and not how great their storytelling was (and often still is). I’m sure some percentage of people who saw Toy Story in the theater bought a ticket because they were curious about how it looked, but it succeeded financially because it was a great movie with timeless characters and a fantastic story. Not simply because it was flashy-looking.

I make this judgement based on limited experience. All I know is that my son, who is four and has seen many Disney and Pixar movies, has never once commented on the animation.  To him, Monsters, Inc is to Sword in the Stone is to Cars is to Lady and the Tramp. He loves these movies because of how they move and how they keep his attention and how they make him feel by the end. Yes, this is an anecdotal study done with one child, but that’s my study and I’m sticking to it.

The last hand-drawn animated film Disney produced was The Princess and the Frog, which is a fantastic film, though by the time it came out hand drawn animation had been dormant for so long, it definitely looked dated and retro. Though it wasn’t a box office bomb by any means, it certain wasn’t close to the kind of earner that a Finding Dory is, and that seemed to be the end of hand drawn animation on the big screen.

Until Mary Poppins Returns, that is. Judging by the trailers and the promotional materials Disney has released in advance of the film, there appears to be at least one major sequence that utilizes some pretty complex hand-drawn animation.  If Mary Poppins Returns is wildly successful, could it possibly prove that audiences still like hand-drawn animation?  I have no idea, but I would love for that to happen. Something tells me that if Frozen 2 was hand-drawn, people would still flock to it in droves because they love the characters and songs, and the great animation is a bonus.  

Mary Poppins in the Disney Parks

Though the character of Mary Poppins has been depicted in various Disney Parks over the years through character meet-and-greets and subtle park designs that give a nod to the film, a Mary Poppins ride has only been a rumored coming attraction to various Disney Parks for decades. There have been all kinds of concepts tossed around and never built. One of the best examples is this ride concept created by legendary Imagineer Tony Baxter (click this link for a great video detailing what it would have been like).

Long story short – if Mary Poppins Returns is a massive success, does that mean we’ll finally get a Mary Poppins ride in the Disney Parks?  Anything’s possible…after all, we’re getting a Tron coaster for goodness sakes, which still doesn’t actually seem like it can be a real thing to me (not to mention the fact that it’s scheduled to be built in Tomorrowland and not Hollywood Studios…WHAT?!).  If Disney actually used Tony Baxter’s design for a new Poppins ride, I’m totally on board.

 

As should be obvious, I’m pretty excited to see Mary Poppins Returns next week. I am trying to go in with no expectations but I certainly hope to come away with great things to say about it. I guess we’ll see on December 19th !

See ya real soon!

Dave

Are you planning on seeing Mary Poppins Returns?  Let us know in the comments section here, or follow Add More Mouse on Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest to chat with us after we’ve all seen it!

Disney Holiday Viewing: Beauty and the Beast: Enchanted Christmas

If your household is anything like ours the Christmas season means a ton of holiday movies get watched each and every year.

As Disney-obsessed as we Add More Mousers are, when it comes to the holiday season we’ve never set out to Disnify our holiday viewing. Our annual playlist is already pretty extensive with the Rankin-Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Elf, White Christmas, Love Actually, It’s a Wonderful Life and Die Hard (all the classics). But guess what? We have a Disney blog now, and much like the man-eating plant Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, this blog demands food…er, content.

We have lots of articles planned for December, but as the month progresses I’m going to watch as much Disney Christmas-themed stuff as I can and figure out what should be added to any family’s annual holiday programming and which you can skip. Our posts tend to skew positive because the world-at-large is negative enough, but if any of these movies aren’t worth your time, I’ll let you know. I’m paying for them, after all. At the end, I’ll give you one of the following verdicts: Avoid, Worth a Watch, or New Christmas Classic.

So! Let’s get Christmasy.

First up:  Beauty and The Beast: The Enchanted Christmas

Available on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD at all the usual streaming sites

Note: I can only imagine that making any kind of film, animated or otherwise is an incredible undertaking. I’ve never made a film, so I do not presume to know any better than the filmmakers, but I want to offer my honest opinions on these films, good and bad, and I do not mean to offend anyone connected with making something just because it didn’t connect with me or my family.

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this blog, you are at the very least generally aware of Disney’s 1991 film Beauty and the Beast. If you aren’t, here’s a quick list of reasons why you should be:

  • It was the first animated feature film to be nominated in the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards. Later, when the category was expanded from 5 films to 10, Up and Toy Story 3 were also nominated. 
  • It’s a major part of Walt Disney World Theme Parks. Beauty and the Beast: Live On Stage is a long-running stage show based on the film. An entire restaurant recreates the Beast’s castle ( Named Be Our Guest). There is an interactive attraction called Enchanted Tales With Belle, and more
  • It’s got one of the greatest film scores and soundtracks ever composed, animated or otherwise
  • It’s really good

What I’m getting at is that this is one of the cornerstones of Walt Disney’s Animated Classics, a film that seemed revolutionary in 1991 and continues to be a great film for the whole family. It  features a strong female lead and incredible voice work by Paige O’Hara (Belle), Angela Lansbury (Mrs Potts), Jerry Orbach (Lumiere), and others. This is important context, because clearly if you’re charged with making a sequel to a film with such an enduring legacy, you need to bring the heat.

As proof of what the Beauty and The Beast brand meant in the 90’s, consider this: Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas was released direct to video, and according to Wikipedia it sold 7.6 MILLION VHS COPIES without any major reviews or word of mouth. That’s bonkers.

As the movie started, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of the characters’ voice actors from the first film came back for this one. I honestly couldn’t believe that all of them would return for a direct-to-video sequel, but a quick check on Wikipedia confirmed it. Color me impressed!

There are a few interesting aspects regarding the set-up of this film. First, they decided to make the sequel to a popular film a holiday-themed special. Sort of weird. Imagine if Toy Story 2 was all about Woody trying to give Buzz a great first Christmas. It’s an odd choice to inject a holiday theme into a non-holiday brand…though I suppose Disney has done that fairly recently.

Secondly, if you’ve seen the original film (if you haven’t, SPOILER ALERT FOR A 28-year-old movie), the characters who live in the Beast’s castle all revert to their original human forms at the end of the film. The Enchanted Christmas finds an interesting way to play with the timeline. The movie starts a few months after the original film, as the characters are getting ready for Christmas. The characters  begin to reminisce about the previous year’s Christmas, which prompts a film-length flashback that takes place somewhere in the middle of the last movie.  

I imagine the reason for this was to prevent having to invent a new reason as to why the inhabitants of the house revert back to their inhuman forms for another adventure, but it also robs the film of any kind of actual stakes.  Regardless of what happens, we already know everything is going to work for them because we’ve already started the film months after whatever they’re about to show us.  

This may actually work to a viewing family’s advantage, because…ok, let’s just get it out:

The main villain is a pipe organ named Forte.

The main villain is a musical instrument.  

I know what you’re thinking: “Well that sounds weird.”  You’re right. But it also incredibly horrifying because it looks like this:

Goodness gracious.

Not only is the character design pretty disturbing, the filmmakers decided to animate him solely through computer/digital animation. The rest of the film is hand-drawn, and looks pretty good for a direct-to-video piece of animation. When juxtaposed with the rest of the film, Forte looks totally otherworldly, like he was cut and pasted from an episode of the 90’s film Reboot (look it up).

So this living pipe organ (voiced by Tim Curry, who does his best) hates Belle because she makes the Beast happy. Forte likes it when the Beast is sad because then the beast requests depressing music to soundtrack his sulking, and Forte…loves depressing music? 

So basically the movie is a series of vignettes in which Forte and his lackey Fife (a living piccolo voiced by Pee-Wee Herman himself, Paul Reubens) try to sabotage the burgeoning relationship between Belle and the Beast in order to prevent the curse from being lifted on the house. 

These events all unfold alongside the other storyline in the movie: Beast has apparently banned Christmas, so Belle and her group of animated household objects decorate the castle in secret to convince Beast to give in to the holiday spirit.  And they sing a lot of songs.

The songs aren’t terrible, but when compared to the previous film’s soundtrack that was composed by the legendary Disney songwriting team Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, they can’t help but pale in comparison.

Wrapping up: it’s not terrible, but it is…weird.  Seeing the showdown at the end when Beast literally fights an unmoving pipe organ is so odd it’s almost worth the $11 I paid for this DVD. I didn’t even mention the strange green notes that are somehow concocted by the pipe organ that seem to function as lasers. That part’s weird, too.

Quite honestly, I think my 4-year-old would be totally freaked out by the computer animated Forte. For that reason alone, I won’t be adding this to any kind of regular Christmas viewing schedule.

The verdict: Avoid.

 

Add More Mouse To Your Holiday Season: Advent Calendars!

While we here at Add More Mouse do not advocate for any particular religious beliefs or celebrations, our household celebrates Christmas. Over the past decade it has become a month-long calendar of traditions for us. We visit certain spots for Christmas light viewing, for ice skating (and an annual Christmas hamstring injury), tree festivals, ornament shopping and Santa hangouts.  

In the world of Disney, Christmas celebrations have been integral since the beginning – in fact, Christmas decorations and celebrations have been a fixture of the Disney parks since 1955, the very first year of Disneyland’s existence and the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade has been broadcast on national television every year since 1983.  

(For a fantastic history of Disneyland’s first Christmas, check out this post from the Disney History Institute!)

So what we’re saying is, Christmas and The Mouse go together like eggnog and…whatever eggnog is supposed to be paired with.

One of the holiday traditions I’ve loved since I was a kid has been keeping an Advent Calendar beginning on December 1st.  As an avid Disney freak and a lover of all things Christmas, there is a lot for me to be excited about this year – Disney makes an array of Advent Calendars featuring some pretty great stuff you can collect yourself or share with your kids (and steal back from them when they lose interest, a time-honored parental tradition).  We at Add More Mouse only own one of the following, but if I was allowed to have 15 Advent Calendars hanging from the walls of AMM headquarters, these are the ones for me (but by no means the only ones out there).

Disney Tsum Tsum Advent Calendar

I’m starting off with my favorite: the Plush Tsum Tsum Advent Calendar!

Do you know what a Tsum Tsum is?  Pronounced “soom soom,” they’re stacking toys originally from Japan (their name roughly translates to “stack stack”).  They do two things: 1) they do indeed stack, and 2) they appeal to kids (and me) because they’re super squashy versions of Disney and Pixar characters.  They come in 2 styles: plush and plastic. As a bonus, they’re both well-made and relatively inexpensive to collect. The calendar pictured above is of the plush variety, though they do make a much less expensive one with the plastic figures as well that looks plenty fun (click here to see that one).

Since you’ll be getting 25 stuffed Tsum Tsums with this Advent Calendar, it’s the most expensive one on this list, especially since they seem to have sold out everywhere, so if you want one you’ll have to pay top dollar for it.  Still, if I had the cash this is the one for me. If you feel like gifting one to me, please email me for shipping info.

Disney Socks Advent Calendars

I think one of the reasons why people dig Disney so much is because the iconography is so rich. Not only are the legacy characters like Mickey and Donald embedded into the very fiber of American pop culture for most kids of the world, but now that Marvel, the Muppets and Star Wars all fall under the Disney umbrella, they’ve basically cornered the market on 90% of the entertainment that people like me consumed as kids and still enjoy. Because of the immensity of Disney’s stable of characters now, people can zero in on the ones they feel represent them. One of my favorite things to see at the Disney parks is what characters people choose to wear. Sure, anyone can wear a Mickey shirt, but it takes a certain kind of person to rock some Ursula or Quasimodo gear.

I work in an office and wear business attire most days, so I’ve come to acquire a sock collection that adds some life to my wardrobe.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I get such a kick out of dressing for a meeting and including a pair of Darth Vader socks with a suit and tie.  I think I dig this for two reasons: 1) I love Star Wars, that’s a given, and 2) When I think of Star Wars, I think of all the time I spent with my dad and friends throughout my life enjoying those films and toys together.  A simple Darth Vader face on my socks can trigger one of a million thoughts that make my day go by faster. I think a love of pop culture can say more than just “I like a certain film”. By expressing your appreciation for a given character or storyline you’re telling the world about something that resonates with you.  (I currently own as many thrash metal shirts as I do Disney ones, so if you figure that one out please let me know).

ANYWAY – We are featuring advent calendars with 12 pairs of socks throughout the month of December!  For 2018 they come in a few different styles: Mickey’s 90th Birthday Celebration (technically for women), Princesses (also labeled as for women), Marvel (for men and women), Star Wars (for men and women).  Go get some socks and wear them to work so I’m not the only weirdo doing it please.

Star Wars Lego Advent

When I was a kid, Legos were one of my all-time favorite toys. I had a gigantic bucket that would get dumped out once a week and ruin my parents’ feet for days.  Back then, Lego didn’t have licensing deals with anyone, so when I wanted to make a Lego X-wing fighter I had to cobble one together as best I could, and it took an entire day.

Nowadays Lego has gone all in on nostalgia and licensed everything from Ghostbusters and Back to the Future to Harry Potter and Ninja Turtles. I believe Star Wars may have been their first licensed line, and I like to take a nice leisurely stroll through the Lego aisle at Target and plan for my kids’ eventual collection.

So this is an Advent Calendar with Lego Star Wars figures for each day of the month.  They look extra cool because they’re pretty minimal in design. I would like one. Maybe next year.

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Advent Calendar

This is a great option if you have kids who like Frozen (that was a joke, all kids love Frozen – all of them).  Throughout the month of December you can unlock an entire plastic Frozen playset, which curiously involves eight different Olaf’s hanging out together…so I guess be prepared to make up a story to explain that one.  Maybe he learned to clone himself? Did Elsa make him a bunch of twin brothers for company? 

Incredibles 2 Advent Calendar

And lastly, just in time for the home video release of Incredibles 2 comes an Advent Calendar featuring the whole fam (strangely, Jack-Jack isn’t pictured on the front though it seems like his face is plastered on the actual candy).  Oh yeah, that’s right – this thing is full of candy, and pretty affordable as well (usually under $7). Warning: your kid will not understand why you can’t just open all the days at once and get all the candy.  I mean, technically you can, so do whatever you want! Eat all that candy on December 1st if you feel like it!

The countdown to the winter holidays is on. We hope you’ll keep sharing it with Add More Mouse this year.  See ya real soon!

-Dave

Disney Holiday Giving: 5 Must Haves to Start a Disney Book Collection

One of my favorite things about being a Disney obsessive is the volume of literature written about all aspects regarding the company’s history and the people who have contributed to it. There will never be another person in the entertainment world like Walt Disney. There will also never be another company like Disney was and is, especially in its earliest years. In addition to taking animation farther than it had ever been before, Disney – both the man and the business – were at the forefront and birth of art forms and techniques. This includes documentary and nature filmmaking, the use of color in tv and motion pictures, audio animatronics, theme park design, urban planning…the list goes on.  The great thing for a Disney fanatic is there are shelves of books devoted to each of these topics, but the difficult part for a Disney beginner is finding the books that start from square one, where the reader doesn’t already need to know a lot about Disney history to understand the first page.

If you yourself are new to Disney history and hungry for information, or you’re looking for holiday gifts for someone in the same situation, I’ve picked 5 great books just for you. These are books that really start from ground zero. Books that give the reader a great overview of Walt Disney the man and/or the Disney parks and films. Consider each of these books a diving board that can toss you into the deep end (and let’s face it – if you’re reading this, you’re either in the deep end already or it’s just a matter of time).

At some point I’ll follow-up this post with a few book/gift ideas for people with some Disney knowledge under their belts. For now, I hope this helps to steer you in the right direction for yourself or someone you like enough to buy holiday presents for!  

#1 Walt Disney: An American Original

By Bob Thomas

For someone brand-new to the world of Disney, this is where it all begins.  

There are quite a few biographies of Walt Disney, some of which have come out more recently than when this one was published. I’ve read them all and I’m sure I’ll cover some others later-on for this blog and podcast, but for my money this is my favorite of the bunch. It gives the reader a great synopsis of the upbringing of Walt and his brother Roy, chronicles their early failures in creating animation studios, their multiple near bankruptcies and everything from the creation of Mickey Mouse through the construction of The Magic Kingdom and EPCOT Center. It’s the book that really started me down the Disney rabbit hole and it’s the perfect starting point for everyone dipping their toe in Disney history.

The only knock against this book I’ve heard is it’s the only Walt Disney biography that was authorized by the Disney family and the Disney company, which is why it paints a fairly flattering picture of him as a man and entrepreneur (in other words, some people don’t think they’re getting the full story). However, author Bob Thomas has stated in interviews that he wrote the book he wanted to and never felt pressured to change anything (except for removing the info that Walt’s youngest daughter was adopted – times were different then and it’s been changed back since it was originally published). I read this book before my first adult trip to Walt Disney World and it greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the parks…I’ve since reread it countless times.  

This is the perfect book for someone who is about to go to the Disney parks and wants some reading to help them get psyched for it, or for someone who has been to the parks and wants to know how this whole crazy thing started. Or for anyone interested in learning about a singular personality who helped shaped the entertainment industry (and quite frankly, the world) we have today. Walt is basically The Beatles of the film industry – the world will never have the right conditions for a man to have such a huge and lasting impact on the world in the ways he did.

(Note: I highly recommend the hardcover, unabridged version. The paperback version is drastically shorter, which is not great when you’re hungry for info).

#2: Since The World Began: Walt Disney World – The First 25 Years

By Jeff Kurtti

If you’re new to the world of Disney literature, get used to seeing the name Jeff Kurtti; the guy has written over 30 books covering all aspects of Disney history, from the theme parks to the cruise lines to the individual films.  

Since The World Began is a fantastic book to get for a reader who is interested in learning the nitty-gritty details of how The Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center and Hollywood Studios were thought up, designed and built.  This book is absolutely loaded with great pictures that help illustrate how many of the classic rides in these parks were constructed (my personal favorite is seeing how the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse was built). Mr. Kurtti finds a great balance between describing the technical wizardry inherent in these parks while also connecting them to their place in Disney’s history, both to the man and the films. I simply can’t recommend this one enough.

Note: when this book came out, Animal Kingdom was only in the planning stages…this is actually really cool because it contains a ton of conceptual artwork for what they were planning Animal Kingdom to eventually be – most of which never happened. For the reader whose favorite park is Animal Kingdom this is a great bit of history, but not super enlightening regarding the park we know and love today. The next book on this list will help round it out though.

#3: The Making of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

By Melody Malmberg

If you decide to give the Jeff Kurtti book as a gift, consider giving this one as well. A bonus this one is out of print, so you’ll have to pick up a used version which is SUPER cheap on Amazon!  As you can probably guess from the title, this one is a deep dive into the planning and construction of Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and it’s full of great pictures and info. A great gift for anyone who loves this park. 

#4: Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making MORE Magic Real

By The Imagineers

This book is actually a sequel to an equally wonderful book (Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real), and I highly recommend both as gifts for people looking to learn about the inner workings of the Disney parks. They are both classics, but this second book is an absolutely gorgeous presentation: fold-out pages, transparent blueprint pages that fit over certain attractions to show their complex interiors. It has beautiful photos on every page. It’s come down a bit in price for a brand-new copy as well, which is cool.

You don’t need to read the first Imagineering guide to enjoy the second (I actually read them in reverse order myself). I only recommend the second one here because of just how unbelievably fancy it is – it’s a great present for any Disney lover. It’s also more up-to-date and features great chapters on the newer Disney parks like Disneyland Paris and Tokyo DisneySea.  Worth the price!

#5: The Vault of Walt, Vol. 1

By Jim Korkis

Along with Jeff Kurtti, Jim Korkis deserves to be on the Mount Rushmore of Disney historians.  A former Disney employee, Mr. Korkis has written an unbelievable number of books about all things Disney.  I have a bunch of them and quite honestly they’re all interesting, though some are better for beginners and some are a bit more narrow in their focus and probably better for people with some Disney knowledge under their belts.

Now up to 7 volumes (including a Christmas edition), his Vault of Walt series is perfect for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of all things Disney. The stories are well-told, and the book is perfect for someone who has limited time for reading – each chapter is a self-contained tidbit about either Walt the person or the Disney parks. You can read the chapters out of order and it’s easy to pick up and put down for long periods of time.

Reading about Disney is one my absolute favorite ways to add more mouse to my every day life. Whether I’m on a lunch break at work, in bed before turning in, on the couch when the weather is crummy outside. Disney history books are a great way to fill your time between visits to the parks. Every new book I finish about Walt Disney World makes me more excited to make my next trip armed with more knowledge regarding how special the place is.  

If you’re looking for some added suggestions for the Disney fan in your life, let us know in the comments section or contact us on Facebook!

See ya real soon! – Dave

Are you digging Add More Mouse?  Make sure to visit our Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram pages!

 

Disney+: What We Know and What We Want

Disney has been pretty mum about their impending streaming service ever since announcing it waaaaay back in early August of 2017. Drips and drabs have snuck out every once in a while, and I think most of us Disney freaks sort of assumed this new channel would end up being the home for most things Disney/Marvel/Star Wars and Muppets (and probably a bunch of other properties I’m forgetting that they own).  Here at Add More Mouse, Disney home entertainment is basically the first and foremost way to add some mouse to your house, so we’ve been pretty pumped for this streaming service ever since it was confirmed. Unfortunately, Disney basically went to radio silence on this thing right after they announced it.

Well, as the due date (sometime in late 2019) draws closer we’re starting to get some concrete details regarding what is going to be available on this thing, including what it’s actually called: Disney+. Thanks to a Disney Press Release on November 8th 2018 we have plenty of other details to be excited for as well, so I figure now is a good time to break down what we know we’re getting, as well as things the Add More Mouse household would love (nay, demands!) to see as part of this new Disney endeavor.

What We Know

  • Not one, but TWO separate live action Star Wars tv series. We already knew that John Favreau (Iron Man, The Jungle Book remake) was working on a “wester-nish” Star Wars show called The Mandalorian, but now we know we’re also getting a series featuring the character Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) from the film Rogue One  (which makes it…a prequel to a midquel?) As someone who has loved Star Wars since before they could eat solid food, I’m jazzed for both of these. I personally think Disney has handled the Star Wars universe pretty well since taking it over, though I know some people disagree (they’re wrong).

  • Tom Hiddleston is apparently signed for a Loki tv series…which is interesting since (SPOILER ALERT – SERIOUSLY, THIS IS A SPOILER ALERT FOR AVENGERS INFINITY WAR) Loki seems pretty…incapacitated in the last Avengers film, Avengers: Infinity War. No word on whether this is a prequel or if the ol’ god of mischief faked his death, but color us curious.

  • Monsters, Inc series!  I personally didn’t have high hopes for Monster’s University  and ended up loving it, so I’m excited to give it a shot. It would be amazing to see John Goodman and Billy Crystal come back for this, which seems like a long shot until you consider that all the OG voices came back for both direct-to-tv Toy Story specials (Toy Story of Terror! and Toy Story That Time Forgot). Here’s hoping they can get the band back together for this.

  • More reboots than you can shake a stick at (3 Men and A Baby, High Fidelity, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, High School Musical).  I’m far less interested in reboots and live-action retellings than I am in original content, but hey, whatever Disney, you do you.

  • A NEW MUPPET SHOW?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Look, I agree that the last Muppet’s TV show (ABC’s The Muppets) wasn’t what you would call…great…but I am pretty happy they haven’t given up on this franchise. Kids love Muppets, adults love Muppets, GIVE US MORE MUPPETS.  Much like baseball, bad Muppets is better than no Muppets. If you have not watched the original Muppets Show I strongly suggest you do so, it’s wonderful. Do it now.

Now…

WHAT WE WANT

  • Walt Disney Treasures collections – Back in the early 2000’s Disney put out a great series of now discontinued tin-encased DVD’s called Walt Disney Treasures.  From 2001 to 2009 these box sets present all of the original Oswald, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck cartoons, the Davy Crockett films, Disneyland tv specials, and later shows like Zorro and something called Elfego Baca and the Swamp Fox (look, I’m a Disney expert but I don’t know WHAT this is). While copies of this are not exactly hard to come by online, the asking price from third party sellers can really get up there (as of this writing, someone wants $150 on Amazon for The Complete Goofy– which is only two discs long!).  You can see most of these cartoons in crummy quality on YouTube, but Disney can kill two birds with one stone by making remastered versions available for the masses on Disney+.

  • The original primetime Walt Disney tv shows!  Back in the days when there were only 3 channels to watch at night, Walt Disney was a familiar face to millions of families across the country every week.  Walt hosted quite a few of episodes of the shows Walt Disney’s Disneyland, Walt Disney Presents, and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. Check out Your Host, Walt Disney: TV Memories to get a taste of this. Many of these shows were presentations of Disney movies that were either edited down to a shorter time or broken up into pieces to be shown over multiple nights (with intros and outros done by Walt himself) – most of which are either widely available now or would be covered by re-releasing those Walt Disney Treasures box sets I mentioned above.  However, if you take a look at the episode guides for these shows – there’s a TON of stuff that is either long out of print or never saw a home video release of any kind. Personally, as an amateur Disney historian, I just want all that footage of Walt hosting in one place.

  • Blu-Ray Quality releases of classic films – In its 9 decades of existence as an animation and film studio, The Walt Disney Company has put out a LOT of content. We can imagine it’s a daunting task trying to figure out what to prioritize for special treatment, but this streaming service is a perfect chance to finally get some Blu-Ray quality versions of Disney classics like 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, The Black Hole , The Black Cauldron, Make Mine Music and Melody Time; and those are just scratching the surface!  (If you haven’t seen 20,000 Leagues Under the Seaclick here now and rectify that ASAP!)

  • And finally – The Disney Afternoon tv shows from the 1990’s!  As a child of the 90’s I grew up on these after school and having them all in one place to more easily force upon my own children would be so much more preferable than hunting down all the various box sets for The Gummi Bears Duck Tails,  Darkwing Duck, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, Talespin…even Bonkers and Goof Troop Gargoyles?).  And yes, I am using my children as my reason for wanting these included in Disney+ even though you and I both know I’d be watching these primarily by myself late at night. This is what children are for.

We obviously have some time before this thing comes online – so what do you hope to see included at some point with your Disney+ subscription?  Let us know in the comments.

See ya real soon!!

-Dave

Decorating with Disney For the Holidays

For many people, decorating for the Holidays means unpacking not only boxes of decorations but also boxes of memories and moments in time associated with certain items. In our home many of these decorations have a special Disney moment either from a trip to a park or a special item a family member chose for us. There are some really wonderful Disney items out there this Holiday season and we hope some of the following items can make it into your memories as a special item for you, a gift for a fellow Disney-enthusiast or even give you a chance to create a handmade Disney ornament for your tree or others!

  1. Personalized Mickey Mouse Christmas Ornament. These are super affordable, super cute and come in over 20 colors. A great way to add some simple Mickey magic to any Christmas tree!

2. Mickey Christmas Wreath– Available through Etsy with 5 choices in ribbon color and two sizes, this is a simple, classic Mickey Design 

3. Personalized Disney Christmas Tree Skirt– This is a really special Christmas item for a Disney loving family. Personalize with family name and each individual family member’s initial.

4. Disney Welcome Mat–  Comes in peppermint print and a Mickey Santa silhouette. Such a cute simple pattern to add some Mouse to your entranceway

5. Disney Themed Fleece Blanket– Available in three different sizes from infant to adult, and over 20 different colors. A great way to add a soft and warm Disney item to your decorations, or would be a great gift for a kiddo in your life, or adult!

6. Mickey and Minnie Felt Christmas Ornaments– If you are looking for a fun, simple craft you can complete with your kids (or alone….they are super cute!) this is a great option to add some homemade Disney Magic to your decorations. Also a perfect gift for a Disney loving family member or friend!.

We hope these Disney themed decorating ideas bring you a little more Mouse today and to your Holiday! See ya real soon!

-Kim

Two New Toy Story 4 Trailers?!

Full disclosure: when Disney/Pixar first announced that they were all-in on making Toy Story 4 I was equal parts excited and wary; sequels are always dicey propositions regardless of the property, and for a series I find to be nearly perfect, I didn’t want them going back to the well just to hit the bottom.

That being said, I’ve loved the two direct-to-tv specials that have come out in the past few years (2013’s Halloween season release Toy Story of Terror and 2014’s Christmas-y Toy Story That Time Forgot.  Both were able to deliver the jokes and heart the Toy Story franchise is beloved for, only in bite-sized chunks that my son has made me watch approximately 1,000 times each.  But movies are obviously a lot different than 22-minute shorts made for commercials.

Not to mention that Toy Story 3 has such a wonderful, wistful and perfect ending that it seemed like a perfect way to top that series off.  At the ripe old age of 37 I still can’t watch it around other people without having to pretend I’m having an allergy attack to explain my eyes watering all over my face. I only mention this because in a recent Interview on The Talk, Tim Allen (voice of Buzz Lightyear, I know you know that) was quoted as saying:

“Yes, I gotta resist getting emotional, I don’t want to give it away, but this is an incredibly great story. It is so emotional, it’s so funny, it’s so big,” he said. “The idea they’ve come up with, I’m startled. I couldn’t even get through the last scene.”

Hoo boy.

So without further ado, here are the two Toy Story 4 teaser trailers in the order they were released.

Toy Story 4 comes out June 21st, 2019 which conveniently happens to be smack dab in the middle of peak allergy season for yours truly. 

-Dave

Mickey’s 90th Birthday Roundup

Excuse us if you already know this, but 2018 is our namesake’s 90th birthday!  That’s right – the mouse, the myth, the legend – Mickey – made his first appearance on the silver screen 90 years ago this November.

Just think – Walt Disney’s little black and white drawing of a mouse, created quickly by Walt Disney in 1928 during a cross-country train ride, became an icon that has transcended multiple generations as an instantly recognizable symbol of happy-go-lucky perseverance, can-do spirit, happiness, family-friendly entertainment and occasional mischief making. Even non Disney fans have probably owned more than a few items in their life that carried his face – diapers, toothbrushes, clothing, comic books, lamps, fishing rods – seriously, he has been plastered on everything at some point.

As ever-present Mickey products have been for the past 9 decades, this year is positively nuts when it comes to items bearing our main mouse’s likeness. Disney has gone all out in 2018 with commemorative items for their number one character, including some truly bonkers items that we personally can’t afford, but hey, maybe you can and then we can live vicariously through you.

What follows is a quick breakdown of five 90th birthday commemorative items that caught our eye the past few weeks.

First up: Ok, maybe they don’t classify as action figures since they don’t exactly move. In fact, they’re more like inaction figures since all they do is stand there…but man, they look great!

There are three main few sets that have been popping up all over our area (Northeast Ohio) in places like Target and JCPenney and they’re readily available online.  Interestingly, there’s apparently also a secret 4th set that we’ve seen (and purchased).  We’ll get to that one at the endAbove is the Mickey Mouse 90th Anniversary Metal Figurine 5 Pack stemming from Mickey’s Steamboat Willie cartoon: Mickey, Minnie, Captain (Pegleg) Pete, a cow and a parrot.  Unlike the other sets, these are made from die-cast metal instead of plastic.  Very sturdy and cool.Next up is a set of five Mickey’s stemming from different era’s: Steamboat Willie Mickey is here again, joined by Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey, Clubhouse Mickey, something called “Technicolor Mickey,” and the Mickey from the current shorts being aired on the Disney Channel.  We picked these up and the quality is great.  The plastic isn’t cheap and they look fantastic hanging out in your office, bedroom or wherever else you need to add some mouse to your life.

This set has been the easiest to find in our neck of the woods: a Collectable Deluxe Figure 10 Pack Set that expands upon the previous 5 -piece set we just mentioned. Steamboat Willie seems to be a repeat model here but the other repeats are in different poses at least: Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mick is here, as is Clubhouse and current Mickey. Those are joined by another black-and-white Mickey from the Plane Crazy short (his true first cartoon), pie-eye mickey, comic book mickey, bandleader Mickey and a special all-gold figure. These are the same quality as the 5-piece and if you’re a sucker like me you’ll justify buying the repeats simply because their hands are pointed in different directions.

And then – there’s this 5-piece set.  I saw this in the wild at a local Walgreen’s in Akron, and I can NOT find evidence of its existence anywhere online. They had two sets so I snagged one and took a picture of the other.  The extra weird part is that these contain versions of Mickeys from the previous two-color sets, but they’re all in slightly different poses – you get Sorcerer’s Mickey again, as well as a different Steamboat Willie, Bandleader, current shorts and Clubhouse Mickey. I wish I had a link for ya, but I seriously can’t find these anywhere, even on the Walgreen’s website.  But they’re out there apparently!  If you find them online let us know and we’ll post a link.  Unless they only made 2 in the whole world, in which case maybe I can retire after I put it on eBay.

Now we come to one of the items we here at Add More Mouse cannot  afford but would love to own if we could: Mickey Mouse Through The Years Cuckoo Clock. Yeah, it’s a little pricey, but you get 8 different Mickeys repped here, with a 9th one appearing as the “cuckoo” piece.  Every hour on the hour this thing lights up and plays a piece of the “Mickey Mouse March,” so factor in your tolerance for hearing that tune 24 times a day before you purchase this.

We looked online to find a video of this clock in action and nothing seems to be uploaded yet. Either this is so new no one has had a chance or people are buying it and don’t have the guts to admit it.  Did you buy one?  Email us and tell us what you think (and send a video for us to post!)

Trains have been a crucial aspect of both Walt Disney the man and the parks that bear his name since the very beginning.  Walt was fascinated with trains as a kid and a perimeter train was a part of Disneyland’s plans from the very first moment Walt began imagining it.  Walt famously even had a small-scale train in his backyard (named the Carolwood Pacific) that he would take guests on when they came over. Walt’s train obsession is so well-documented there’s a whole book about it! Click on the the following link for more info about All Aboard: The Wonderful World of Disney Trains.

Lionel is the biggest name in model trains and they’ve been making trains featuring Mickey’s likeness since the 1930’s (when the Mickey and Minnie push car saved Lionel Trains from bankruptcy), so it only makes sense that for Mick’s birthday they would put out a 90th Anniversary Ready to Run Train to celebrate him.

Look – we here at Add More Mouse don’t know a ton about model trains. We know people get very into them, which we applaud wholeheartedly. That said, this set seems to be a good one for beginners in that it has everything someone would need to make it run (it claims to be an “all-in-one” set).  Just like the cuckoo clock featured above, there don’t seem to be any videos online of this thing in action yet, so if you have this let us know how it is and send us a video to feature!

And lastly: Pez.  It’s Pez!

Pez dispensers have a long history of incorporating Disney characters over the past 4 decades (expect regular updates about new Pez sets as they arrive – we’re collectors), and they regularly release collectible sets for various Disney properties, whether it’s Disney Princesses, Star Wars or Mickey and his pals. This PEZ Mickey Twin Pack 90th is not as cool as the set they made for Mickey’s 80th birthday but it’s a simple and straightforward tribute to the mouse of the hour and it’s pretty cheap and easy to display.  It’s also super easy to get a hold of.  And it’s Pez!  Everyone likes Pez!

Thanks for reading our lengthy post about Mickey’s Birthday stuff to spend your money on.The holiday season is officially upon us, so expect an obnoxious level of Disney holiday magic to be splashed across this blog for the next 30 days.

See ya real soon!

ReplyForward