Sunday, December 4, 2016

Pheaturing Phile Alum Jim Korkis

Hey there, welcome to the Phile for a Sunday. It's December already! You know, 2016 doesn't seem so bad if you take enough medications. And boy, do I. Is nothing sacred? Yet another hummus recall issued, this time for Trader Joe's. I don't want to live in fear. I really don't. But when the world starts aggressively recalling hummus, one of my main sources of sustenance (and joy), I start to freak out a little bit. First, they came for our Sabra hummus. Now, they have taken Trader Joe's delicious chickpea schmear away. What is next, our Tribe, our Sabra? The recall, which is specifically for Trader Joe's Mediterranean and White Bean & Basil flavors being sold in 30 states, is due to potential listeria, the same issue affecting Sabra's hummus. I just want to know what the heck people expect me to dip my chips into now? My heart is saying I should keep eating hummus with reckless abandon, but my head is reminding me that I don't like vomiting. Maybe this whole thing is a deserved attack on the white gentrifiers of the world. Maybe I have been on a slippery slope towards basically being a character out of "Portlandia" and this is my wake up call. Just do me a favor and watch where you're dipping.
Nin Com Soup, a shop at the Old Street Tube Station in London, was selling a disgusting smoothie of almond milk, vegan protein, peanut butter, banana, lacuma, maca, and honey. Oh, and it wasn't disgusting just because of the ingredients, but also because it was branded as a "Nutzy" smoothie with a swastika on the label.

Yum! Who wouldn't want to stay hydrated with the Holocaust? The Coalition Against Antisemitism reports that the store manager insisted "that it was an inverted swastika which was a Hindu symbol of health and prosperity, which is indeed right but the swastika was not inverted, and the Hindu sign includes dots within the symbol." Sorry dude (and sorry Hindus), but the image of the swastika hasn't been associated with Hindus to non-Hindus since 1939. It gets worse. When the woman pointed out that "nutzy" sounds a WHOLE LOT like Nazi, "he said it was a play on ‘having the nuts,' meaning ‘having the courage’ and was a pun as the drink contains nuts." Even with that factoid, the manager was not sympathetic. "I told him how offensive that was for certain people. He asked why I would find that so offensive, to which I responded that I lost my family to the Nazi regime and that despite the Hindu use of the symbol, this along with the name of the drink was extremely offensive. He said that London is a free city." Seventy-one years after World War II, the Nazis are invading the Allies with swastikas on smoothies in London and on parks in New York. What's next: the "Auschwitz on Ice!" Figure Skating Spectacular? Ummm...
A Russian reality show has met with outrage after a "staggeringly offensive" performance featured two figure skaters doing their best pirouettes while dressed in concentration camp uniforms. The reality show that featured the performance, "Ice Age," has been described as basically "Dancing with the Stars" on ice, but apparently with less (absolutely zero) input from anyone with a brain at whatever acts as the Russian version of Standards and Practices. As with "Dancing with the Stars," the performers in "Ice Age" are celebrities. In this case, one of the skaters happens to be Olympic skating gold medalist Tatiana Navka. Complicating matters, she's the wife of Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. Navka took to Instagram to defend herself, saying, "Based on one of my favorite movies, Life is Beautiful! Show this movie to your children... Our children need to know and remember that terrible time, which I hope, God willing, they will never know." The children absolutely need to learn about the Holocaust, but probably not like this. It's tough to convey the seriousness of anything "on ice." Things that work on ice: "Lion King," "Reptar," "champagne." The fact that "Holocaust on ice" should not exist, ever, just seems like a given.
One mom found herself in trouble with "the man" while she was food shopping recently. (In this case "the man" is a supermarket security guard.) Zoë Lowdon was picking up some things for dinner in a Waitrose store in the U.K. when she spotted some good deals on champagne and whisky and stopped to snap a couple pictures to send to her husband. Apparently, it is against grocery store law to take photos. Lowdon shared on Facebook that she was reprimanded by a security guard who treated her "the same way you treat thieves." Snapping photos of killer deals or hilarious items you find in the grocery store is FORBIDDEN at Waitrose. Am I wrong in believing that everyone in the entire world takes pictures while they shop? What are you going to outlaw next, Waitrose? PUPPIES?! (Actually, wait. It's probably a good idea to keep puppies out of supermarkets. But you know what I'm trying to say.)
Paris-based researcher Odile Fillod is single-handedly educating the youth of France about the realities of sex and female anatomy with her new creation: the world's first 3D-printed, anatomically correct clitoris. Just look at the craftsmanship on this thing...

Yes, that's what they look like. Most of those parts are inside the body. Don't squirm, this is important. Despite the growing worldwide awareness of sexual health and sex positivity, sex ed classes are generally still in the dark ages (in the U.S., many states still prefer teaching abstinence). In France, that's apparently especially true. A recent report from Haut Conseil à l’Egalité, a government body responsible for gender equality, found that sex ed in public schools still teaches that boys are “focused on genital sexuality”, but girls “attach more importance to love.” Of course, scientists have known for years that boys and girls are both super into genital sexuality. Fillod feels that her creation will help French girls understand their own bodies and overcome the stigmas against female sexuality that they're taught by society/school/advertising/men/women/everyone. As she told "The Guardian," "It’s important that women have a mental image of what is actually happening in their body when they’re stimulated. In understanding the key role of the clitoris, a woman can stop feeling shame, or [that she’s] abnormal if penile-vaginal intercourse doesn’t do the trick for her... given the anatomical data, that is the case for most women." Maybe Fillod's project will also teach boys that penile-vaginal intercourse won't always "do the trick" for women. Wouldn't that be great? Because it really doesn't. Maybe the most revolutionary part of this clitoris model is that it's open-source. Anyone with a 3D printer can print one without having to pay Fillod a single Euro cent. Because of that generous decision, French elementary and middle schools will start using the model as a teaching aid starting in September. The future of the French people is looking bright and orgasm-full. Let's hope the U.S. is fast behind.
Did you see last week that Donald Trump and Mitt Romney went to a fancy French restaurant in New York? If not, here's a pic taken of that meeting...

Trump now has starting to wear a new red baseball cap now he is president-elect.

It has a number on the side like a race car. Hillary Clinton fans, it appears that she is gonna run again in 2020. She even has a new poster ready to go.

Hahahaha. That's so stupid. That's as stupid as...

So, it's cool that all the Christmas ads are coming out right now. Like this one...

No. That isn't me. Ha. Christmas is just over twenty days away so enjoy all the pleasures the season has to offer with these Variety Christmas Fun Pack: 5-Pack of Condoms...

Available from Amazon. And now, from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is...

Top Phive Phascinating Phacts About "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
5. One cut scene featured a despondent Charlie Brown putting a revolver to his head, then sighing and letting it drop.
4. Charlie Brown and the gang were voiced by unknown child actors... and Snoopy's yelps and growls were performed by a young Daniel Day-Lewis.
3. The show's whimsical jazz score owes much to musicians nursing $300-a-day heroin habits.
2. ABC removed the adults' "Wah-wah-wah" voices after they slowed down the audio and discovered they were actually saying, "Suck it, Hanna-Barbera."
And the number one fascinating phact about "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is...
1. Its original ending had Charlie Brown giving in to the commercialization of the holiday... and being much happier about it.

Ha! This is a hard one. If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Alright, it's Sunday and that means it's time to talk football with my good friend Jeff.

Me: Hey, Jeff, welcome back to the Phile. How are you?

Jeff: Good to be back on the Phile. I'm doing okay. Hope you and the family had a great Thanksgiving!

Me: Family? What family? I was by myself. Anyway... Okay, so, I have to say something that is kinda crazy... Colin Kaepernick wore a Fidel Castro t-shirt defending the dictator, Miami residents were furious at the 49ers quarterback losing the Dolphins a day later. Then Castro died the day Kaepernick arrived in Miami and lost to the Dolphins a day later. Hahaha. That's crazy, right?

Jeff: Hahaha, that is kind of crazy. But considering the crazy world we are liiving in these days I'm not really that surprised.

Me: Kiko Alonso, who’s of Cuban decent, sent out this tweet with a photo of the last second hit which he delivered brunt of, captioned, "Vamos Coño!!!" Translating roughly to "C’mon, Pussy!!!."

Me: I think that's pretty funny even though I can't stand Miami... What do you think of that tweet, Jeff?

Jeff: I don't blame Alonso for being pissed. Castro oppressed almost the entire country of Cuba, but Colin feels oppressed here in the states? Kiko Alonso is absolutely right.

Me: I thought this was a funny story... As if being a Browns quarterback didn't make life hard enough... Robert Griffin III's girlfriend said they were robbed during the game against the Giants. Did you hear about that?

Jeff: I didn't hear about that. But if I was a Browns fan I would think I was getting robbed every Sunday. I mean eventually they have to win a game? Right? They couldn't possibly be this bad?

Me: So, what's the story about the NFL might be eliminating Thursday Night Football? They should eliminate that Color Rush shit.

Jeff: From what I read there is no plan to eliminate Thursday night games, but they need to come up with better games. They are doing it where every team gets to play one game on Thursday, but that's not best for business.

Me: So, Jeff, did you hear that Bills are changing their name? I have the new logo here...

Me: I kinda like it. What do you think?

Jeff: Someone is definitely having fun with Photoshop these days!

Me: I don't know what you're talking about... this is real. Haha.

Jeff: Say what you will but the Bills are far from the worst team in the league. But I guess you can only beat up the Bears and Browns so much!

Me: Okay, so, is there any other news that I missed?

Jeff: I honestly don't think there's any big news of the week to cover.

Me: So... Gronk is out for back surgery. He's pretty much done, right?

Jeff: While they are not saying he's done for the year, considering just two weeks ago we said he was out for the year and he only missed a week... it really depends on what kind of back surgery. It could just be a minor one which he could return from.

Me: So, let's talk about last week's picks... the Steelers won on Thursday, the Giants beat the Browns on Sunday so we each got a point there, but how else did we do? You were winning by just two points last week.

Jeff: This week I think something happened that has not happened in the history of our games against each other. We both went 2-0 with our teams winning. So with that I maintain a 2 point lead!

Me: Wow. Fun fact real quick... I never realised the owner of the Giants was married to the owner of the Steelers. Do you know who their daughter is?

Jeff: Are you referring to actresses Rooney and Kate Mara? Yes, I know who they are.

Me: Good job, Jeff. Let's do this week's picks. I say Bengals by 5 and Steelers by 6. Okay, okay, I know they are playing the Giants but I'm thinking if the Steelers do win I still get a point for that game. But then again if the Giants win and I chose another team to win in a different game then I can get two points. Ugh! What do I do? Okay, I will bet against my Giants. Shit! What do you pick, Jeff? 

Jeff: This week I will take Green Bay by 3 and New England by 10.

Me: Okay, I will see you back here next Sunday. Have a good week. Wait... I change my mind on the Steelers winning... no, never mind. Ugh! 

Jeff: Nope! Can't take it back! HAHAHHAHAHAHAHA.

Me: Damn it. See you next week.

"Dancing With the Stars"
"Dancing With the Stars" is an American game show for ex-celebrities who want to get back in the spotlight but are too shy to leak a sex tape.

The 33rd artist to be pheatured in the Phile's Art Gallery is Gene Guilmette. Here's one of his pieces...

Gene will be a guest on the Phile in a few weeks.

Today's pheatured guest is a Phile Alum and author whose latest book "Walt's Words: Quotations of Walt Disney with Sources" is the 53rd book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. Please welcome back to the Phile... Jim Korkis.

Me: Hey there, Jim, welcome back to the Phile. How have you been?

Jim: Well, it is certainly a much different world today from when we last talked. Like most people, I am still adjusting and wondering what is ahead for all of us, including all the changes happening at Disney.

Me: I love having you here talking about Disney and your books. You never get sick of talking about Disney, right?

Jim: I actually do love talking with people who are excited about Disney and there are so many different Disney things to talk about that it is always interesting. Of course, I do have other interests besides Disney and that helps me not get burned out just talking about all things Disney. I recommend to all your readers to find balance in their lives because that will make your time doing Disney things even more special.

Me: Before we talk about your latest book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club let's talk about stuff going on in the company. First of, now that Trump is President we know he's gonna be put in the Hall of Presidents, but do you think they'll just stick him in the back or have him stand and talk?

Jim: A friend joked to me that whoever won the election it would then make the Hall of Presidents for the first time a Disney scary dark ride. I wonder how many readers are old enough to remember the days when Nixon was president and there were Disney guests who went into the attraction just to “boo” at his audio-animatronics figure when he was introduced on stage? There is a fairly standard position on stage for each current president but what will be interesting is that President Trump will be the first president in the attraction not to be made by Disney. In 2012, The Disney Company decided that producing audio-animatronics was no longer cost effective. Garner Holt Productions, which had done some exceptional outside contractor work for Disney, acquired the complete Disney animatronics parts inventory and is now the company that builds all the Disney audio-animatronics as well as doing maintenance and supplying replacement parts. So they will be building President Trump. In addition, Disney Legend Blaine Gibson who sculpted all of the presidents except for Obama (but did consult on the face) passed away on July 5th, 2015 at the age of 97. His protégé, Valerie Edwards, who sculpted Obama was laid off from Disney in 2010 after twenty-one years working for WDI. I guess they could bring her back as an outside contractor for this project but they may have to find someone else. In any case, this audio-animatronics president will literally be unlike every other president up on the stage.

Me: Don't they make the newest President do something?

Jim: Beginning in 1993 with President Bill Clinton, every sitting president has recorded a special short speech in the White House that is used by his electronic doppelganger in the finale of the show. Basically that has just been Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama. I assume they will do the same with Trump and also close the attraction at the end of January to make the necessary adjustments which may take awhile.

Me: At least they don't have Hamilton sing in the show. We can't give them any ideas, right? Hahaha.

Jim: Actually, I like the idea of putting a singing and dancing Alexander Hamilton on the stage to lighten the mood. It would increase attendance as well for all those who couldn’t get a ticket to see Hamilton the musical on Broadway. Lin-Manuel Miranda is going to be starring in the Disney Mary Poppins sequel, teaming up with Alan Menken for new songs for the live action film remake of The Little Mermaid and co-wrote the songs for the new animated feature Moana so he already has a strong relationship with Disney. I can see the new poster for Hall of Presidents with a special sticker proclaiming “NOW with Lin-Manuel Miranda as Hamilton!” He also did music for Rogue One, you know.

Me: No, I didn't. I don't like that. So, what do you think of them replacing Tower of Terror in Disneyland with a Guardians of the Galaxy ride? It makes me want to fly out there as soon as it opens.

Jim: First, the design of the new exterior ruins all the new theming that was done for Buena Vista Street but if they are doing this as the centerpiece for a new Marvel themed section then it makes more sense. Guests are much more interested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe than Hollywood of the 1920s and 1930s. I am the oddball that loves the Hollywood of that era and will also shed a tear when the Hollywood of the 1930s and 1940s at Disney’s Hollywood Studios starts to disappear piece by piece. Second, they really took a big chance that Guardians, which was always a minor Marvel set of characters, would continue to be popular and that the second film would be a big hit as well. Third, I wish Disney would stop trying to “overlay” existing infrastructure and just start fresh. The Rocket Rods would have worked well and consistently (as they do in the attraction at Tokyo Disneyland) if Disney had created a workable track rather than trying to use the old PeopleMover track. It just seems to me they are trying to quickly squeeze the story of the Guardians into the existing location rather than really thinking what would be the best venue. Of course, it is more cost effective this way and that has been Disney’s mantra for quite some time.

Me: Did you hear that have drones in a Christmas show at Disney Springs? What do you think of that?

Jim: I think there may still be some safety and reliability issues with drones so I am glad that they are confining the activity to being over the water. I think it will give show producers some greater variations that they can use. There are limits to what can be done with projections and fireworks so this could be exciting. I have never fully trusted technology whether it is my phone, my computer or anything else. It has a tendency to disappoint when you most need it and we have a tendency to depend too much on it. Right now, I am excited to see what it will look like.

Me: What do you think of Disney Springs? I have only been down there twice since it expanded. It's totally different from Buena Vista Marketplace back in the 70s, isn't it?

Jim: Actually, I am quite surprised at how well it all turned out, even the parking garages. I think it lacks the intimate charm of the original but it is certainly much more consistent in terms of storytelling, bringing all three sections together for the first time. Unfortunately, like Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the pathways are confusing and twisting, obviously meant to keep you in the area and force you to experience the shops and restaurants rather than being more intuitive. It also seems skewed to be much more pricey in all things but, in general, I am pleased with what was done.

Me: Have you seen or heard this movie Walt Before Mickey? It was filmed locally I think, and I wanted to see it but read there was a lot of inaccuracies in it. If you saw it, what did you think?

Jim: Yes, I wrote extensively about the film at this link: The filmmakers had their hearts in the right place but got just about everything very, very wrong. It wasn’t just the case of taking dramatic license or having to combine characters or eliminate certain scenes because of time constraints of a movie. They blatantly ignored even the most common knowledge about the time period, the actual incidents and the people involved. It was supposedly based on an outstanding and well researched book "Walt Before Mickey: Disney’s Early Years 1919-1928" by Tim Susanin but they never followed the accurate information in the book or had Susanin consult which he was eager to do. At the same time they were also competing with another independent film about the life of Walt Disney entitled "As Dreamers Do" which is just as bad and maybe a bit worse in terms of getting things right. I expected that neither film would be completely accurate despite all the resources out there because every film biography stretches things somewhat but neither of these films did even the most basic of homework on the subject. I was at an event where someone in the audience asked if the filmmakers of Walt Before Mickey had contacted me for information since I lived in Florida. Their response was a befuddled “Who’s he?” I just had to smile. I would have been more than happy to help if I had been asked.

Me: Recently on the Phile here I mentioned that they changed the way Jasmine and some of the Princesses looked and people were very unhappy about that. What do you think of it? Why do you think Disney did that?

Jim: Disney does everything to increase revenue. The Disney Princess franchise has become one of the most lucrative franchises for the company producing billions of dollars of revenue since Consumer Products Chairman Andy Mooney first launched it in 2000. The changes in appearances of the princesses are because someone in marketing did a survey and decided that this is the design that will appeal to the most people and sell the most merchandise. It is as simple as that. Princess Aurora wears her red dress (even though in the film she had a blue one as well) so as to be distinctive from Cinderella who wears blue. Belle was designed to be in blue because she was the only one in the village who wore that color and it also echoed the Beast wearing blue so the audience felt the two should be together. In the franchise, she wears her yellow ball gown so she looks different than any other princess. I always felt it was unfair that Pocahontas was a Disney princess because her tribe didn’t have that designation of “Indian Princess;" that was a Plains Indian concept. Yet, Tiger Lily who has always been identified as an Indian princess is not part of the group. Remember when Tinker Bell was a part of the Disney princess franchise before the Disney Fairies franchise was created? It isn’t about consistency or logic or integrity to the animated character and their universe. It’s about money. So if they need to send Snow White to Weight Watchers to fit into a smaller dress, they will do it without hesitation. Too many rich German pastries.

Me: Hahaha. Speaking of changing the characters, remember when Pooh had a huge head and a honey pot on it? With a bee! Do you like that Pooh or the way he looks now?

Jim: I think the character looks much better not balancing a honey pot and a bee on his head and I am sure the “friend” of the character who has to wear the costume feels the same way. I think the new design Pooh costume is more guest friendly especially for small younger children. The costumes change all the time. For awhile the Mad Hatter was a face character. Then he wore a huge rubbery head for several years. Now he is back to being a face character but with prosthetics.

Me: Okay, let's talk about your book "Walt's Words." This is such a cool book, Jim. Disney sells versions of a book similar full of Walt's quotes in the park... there has actually been a few of them. So, what makes your book different?

Jim: I would say the big differences in my book from the two outstanding versions that former Disney Archivist Dave Smith put together (and you should have his "The Quotable Walt Disney" or "Walt Disney: Famous Quotes" book in your Disney book collection) is that I have more quotes (over 800), I cover different categories and most important, I have a citation for each and every quote so you know when Walt said, where and why. Often times, quotes like “If you can dream it, you can do it” are falsely attributed to Walt when in that particular case it was the creation of Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald for Horizons. In my book, you are guaranteed that Walt said it in a speech, on television, in a radio, television or magazine interview or in an article written by Walt during his lifetime.

Me: When they put up construction walls for new stuff to be built or added in the parks they out these signs up with quotes from Walt, and I often wondered if Walt actually said those things. Did he?

Jim: That’s the whole question whether Walt said that or in what context he said it. During my research, I came across many quotes (even a few that the Disney Company said were Walt’s words) that Walt NEVER said. I wrote an entire article about it at this link: Remember that quote: "Somehow I can't believe there are many heights that can't be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C's. They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage and Constancy, and the greatest of these is Confidence. When you believe a thing, believe it all over, implicitly and unquestioningly." It just didn’t sound like Walt but for decades the Disney Company and even Dave Smith told us those words belonged to Walt. Well, I discovered Walt never said it. It was a paragraph by writer Don Eddy in "The American" magazine August 1955 trying to explain Walt’s success and he even mentions going to Walt’s barn at his house to share this with Walt and Walt rejecting it. Walt said the secret was by working.

Me: I do like in the book that he did say, "that it was all started by a mouse." I never knew he actually said that. Disney uses that quote quite often, right?

Jim: While Walt did say that quote and meant it. It was actually written by Jack Spiers for the first Disneyland television show in 1954 but Walt liked it and made it his own.

Me: Is there a famous quote that the company uses but Walt never said it?

Jim: Unfortunately, there are quite a few and some that have been creatively “edited” so they mean something different than what Walt really meant. That famous quote “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality” was a quote that Walt actually said. BUT he was referring to the Guests. He meant that Disneyland was like a movie set and it doesn’t come to life until the actors are on it and the Guests were the actors who made it all real not just some facades. In 1971, Roy O. Disney grabbed the quote and used it to refer to the Cast Members at Walt Disney World to inspire them to make the place a success. He was trying to get an encouraging word from the late Walt to make the dream come true. Today, everyone just assumes that Walt meant the Cast Members. He didn’t.

Me: Do you have a favorite quote of his, Jim?

Jim: There are so many but right now one sticks in my mind: “Happiness is a state of mind. You can be happy or you can be unhappy. It’s just according to the way you look at things. That’s why I’m happy. I’m doing what I want to do.”

Me: I like this quote... "My sister had no feel of music at all. She's very mechanical in her playing. There's just nothing coming out from inside. And I sure had no feeling for it. I mean, I like music but I just had a tin ear." He was very honest talking about his sister in that quote. Walt was a very honest and upfront person, wasn't he?

Jim: Walt was very honest, almost to the point of being blunt. For an episode of the television show they had staged it so he was sitting behind an animation desk looking like he was drawing and then would cut away to the hand of an actual artist drawing. Walt put a stop to that immediately. He had it restaged so you saw the artist doing the drawing and Walt standing next to him and then coming around to talk to the audience.

Me: He also wasn't fond of dirty jokes, which surprised me. Do you think he had a big sense of humor?

Jim: Walt never cared for dirty jokes for over sixty years of his life. He would walk out of the room after lifting his eyebrow to show his displeasure. He just didn’t feel it was appropriate. Someone once told a dirty joke using Mickey Mouse and he was fired almost immediately when Walt heard about it. Walt loved the classic silent comedians like Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd and W.C. Fields among others he specifically mentioned. Walt loved playing pranks when he was younger. Once he dressed up in his mother’s clothes, put on makeup and a wig and called on her as a new neighbor. It took a while for his mother to recognize her own dress. Walt once put an air bladder under his father’s plate of soup and every time his father would try to use his spoon, Walt would press a bulb and the plate would rise and fall due to air pressure. He and his mother just laughed and laughed but his dad never caught on. Walt was not one to tell a joke but he had an attitude and a mischievous look that would get people laughing, especially when he started laughing himself. Animator Bill Justice told me, “An interviewer asked exactly how many people worked at the Disney Studio. Walt paused to think and then replied deadpan, "Oh, about half.”

Me: He used the word "sophisticates" in a few quotes. That's a word that isn't used any more I don't think. Who nowadays is a sophisticate?

Jim: Walt considered those people the artsy, high-falutin’ people who were condescending to the average person. He felt they were the people who were too educated to enjoy common things. Generally, he was referring to critics when he used the term.

Me: I laughed how he would describe Donald as the Duck, and Mickey as the Mouse and Goofy the Goof. I often wondered if he resented those few characters but he seemed to not resent Mickey. He knew Mickey was his bread and butter. How do you think he felt about them?

Jim: He thought of the characters as real, not creations of pen and paper. Of course, he had a special affection for Mickey Mouse, not just because he was the foundation of the Disney empire, but because Mickey especially in the early black-and-white days was an extension of Walt Disney and got to do all the things that Walt had wanted to do as a kid from leading a band, to beating up bullies and more.

Me: He said the Three Little Pigs were in another film but people don't know what it is... I bet you do. What is it?

Jim: The Three Little Pigs (1933) was hugely popular. We are talking even more popular than Frozen. The film cost about $22,000 to make and in its first fifteen months made over $150,000. It stayed in movie theaters for weeks during a time when they changed out the cartoon every single week, sometimes twice a week. There weren’t enough prints so some theaters had to share a copy, running it between each theater every night. One theater manager added beards to the faces on the poster and kept making them longer and longer each week the cartoon played there. There was a flood of merchandise from stationery and playing cards to toothbrush holders, tea sets, radios and even Christmas tree lights among many other things. So, of course, Walt’s distributor and all the theater managers wanted more pigs cartoons because it was bringing in huge attendance. So Walt made three more cartoons using the pigs and the wolf: The Big Bad Wolf (1934), Three Little Wolves (1936) and The Practical Pig (1939). Though actually technically superior to the original, they were not as memorable. So Walt came up with the phrase, “You can’t top pigs with pigs” meaning you can’t repeat something, you have to come up with something different and better. When Snow White was a huge hit everybody wanted individual short cartoons featuring the dwarves and especially Dopey. Walt turned down what would have been easy money because you can’t top dwarves with more dwarves.

Me: He also said he wasn't fond of sequels, but the company likes them now. What do you think of sequels, Jim?

Jim: I always wanted a sequel to The Rocketeer, one of my favorite films. It was supposed to be a trilogy. That was the original plan. Disney recently announced they are doing one… with a young black woman playing the part in an America years before the Civil Rights Movement. Be careful what you wish for. I had wanted a sequel with Bill Campbell and Jennifer Connelly in their prime. Sequels are being made because they make money. It doesn’t make any difference if it damages the franchise or lessens the original if the money comes in. Of course, you want to see the characters again whether it is Tarzan, James Bond or Captain Jack Sparrow but it is important to have the right material and that has not always been the case.

Me: By the way, are you excited for Rogue One?

Jim: Yes, I am a Star Wars fan but not a fanatic. Star Wars is really not science fiction. It is more science fantasy where there are sword fights. I like the idea of these individual films that are not part of another trilogy but exploring other characters and stories.

Me: Reading your book, when he was talking about animals, that he liked using them made me think of movies from back in the day... Aristocats, Robin Hood, Lady and the Tramp, Dumbo, and many more had animals instead of people. Robin Hood could have easily been made with human characters. Why did he use animals in the film? By the way, Robin Hood is my favorite Disney animated movie.

Jim: In those days, it was difficult to animate a believable human figure. It took lots of time and talent. Most animators were not up to the task and could only do a type of exaggerated human or use rotoscoping (where they traced live action) which often made the human figures look stiff and unnatural at times. Walt did make a live action Robin Hood film in England in 1952 that was very popular when it was released (not as popular as the Errol Flynn version though). The animated Robin Hood (1973) came out of another project that Disney was working on called Chanticleer. It featured a crafty fox named Reynard and it was a pet project of Marc Davis and Ken Anderson. Walt suggested that since Reynard was a thief to make the character like Robin Hood to generate some sympathy. No one could get a good grip on the stories or the characters. Some of their character designs ended up in Robin Hood. What people don’t realize is that this animated feature inspired the “furry” movement because the character designs were basically human figures (their arms and legs moved like humans rather than animals) but with animal heads. I was living in Los Angeles when the film came out and I saw it happening that people were making furry costumes because of this film and starting to connect with fellow furries.

Me: Anyway, more recent movies have not had animals, but humans. Why the change? I think I would have liked Frozen better if all the characters were dogs. Hahaha.

Jim: I would not have liked Anna and Elsa as dogs. Technology and training have improved to the point that human characters can now be done fairly easily although not all efforts are successful. There are still plenty of animated films, even Disney films, done with animals like Zootopia (2016). 

Me: I was disappointed by that movie. One of my other favorite quotes in the book was "We are through with caviar (e,g. films like Fantasia). From now on it's mashed potatoes and gravy." First of, that quote made me hungry. Secondly, what did he exactly mean by that? And third, do you think Disney still makes mashed potatoes and gravy films or did they go back to caviar?

Jim: Walt made the comment after the initial failure critically and financially at the box office of Fantasia (1940). Walt felt he had lost touch with his core audience and wanted to make things that were more accessible. When you are pushing the art form, it is easy to get lost. His brother Roy asked why Walt couldn’t just use music that people knew and liked. A recent example was that Pocahontas (1995) had its release date delayed so more time could be spent on this prestige production that was guaranteed to be a huge hit and they rushed out a small B-picture done by the lesser animators called Lion King (1994) that wasn’t really ready because nobody expected much of it other than being a space filler for the “good” picture. You just never know what film an audience is going to fall in love with when it comes out. Lion King just hit all the emotional buttons for people; Pocahontas didn’t. Certainly, the ending didn’t make emotional sense. “I am severely wounded so I can’t stay with you but have to go back to England on a several months journey on a bacteria infested rocking ship…because in real life we didn’t get together.”

Me: Another thing that stuck out about Mickey and I always wondered, he said Mickey and Minnie were married! It makes sense, they both have the same large name. Hahaha. I was surprised he said that though. Is there anything in the book that he said that surprised you?

Jim: Walt felt that Mickey and Minnie were like George Burns and Gracie Allen, or Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone, who were married in real life but on the radio or in the movies would play single people. Walt was a very moral man and wouldn’t have put up with Mickey just dating for decades. The Disney Company insists they are not married because being married is an adult thing to do and Mickey and Minnie are not adults. Walt said a lot of things that surprised me that I didn’t have room to include in the book including standing by Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland and saying “This would be a great place if we could get rid of all the people.” Walt wanted to go out and play in the park but he couldn’t because there were so many people and they were constantly stopping him to talk or do an autograph. He was obviously in one of his cranky moods or what they called “Walt wearing his bear suit." Usually he was like that if his back pain was acting up. In the book itself, I was surprised Walt saying that women bored him. He worked so well with women and got such great ideas from women he employed that it just took me by surprise.

Me: The book had hundreds of more quotes than I thought it would, Jim. How long did it take you to research for the book?

Jim: I actually started collecting Walt quotes and writing articles with them in 1981! For the MousePlanet column, I started writing columns filled with Walt quotes that I was finding in magazines, interviews and more. The big challenge was not having enough quotes (I have enough quotes for a sequel if this book sells well) but trying to choose which quotes to include, whether I could definitely verify the source of the quote, how to properly balance the quotes so I didn’t have an entire book just talking about animation for instance but a good selection of quotes for several different categories and try to select quotes that haven’t appeared over and over and over again all the time.

Me: When and how did you get the idea for it?

Jim: For years, I wanted to have a collection of quotes that Walt actually said and that I could trust so I could use them in articles. I felt it would be valuable for me and other writers to have this type of resource and maybe provide a different perspective of Walt. People are always wanting to put words in Walt’s mouth so hopefully now it might be something he actually said.

Me: I have to mention another book you recently had out... "The Vault of Walt: Volume 5." I love these books! Will there be a "Volume 6"?

Jim: I am working on "Volume 6" but if people want the series to continue, they have to vote with their wallet and buy the other books in the series. I love doing the Vault series and sharing that type of information because it is not available anywhere else.

Me: Anyway, I loved you told the story about Pete's Dragon. My parents took me to the premier of it at Radio City Music Hall and some of the cast were there. I asked my dad if the dragon was gonna be there, and he said it's a cartoon. Hahaha. I have the soundtrack on vinyl somewhere and it's one of my favorite soundtracks and movies. I did not see the remake at all, Jim. Did you? What did you think? 

Jim: If you dad was smarter he would have said, “Of course the dragon is here… but he is invisible…" I have mixed feelings about these Disney live action remakes. They make the company a ton of money so they aren’t going to stop. I love the originals so I always question whether there is a need for a remake and especially ones without all the original iconic songs. For me, the remake of Pete’s Dragon just did not have the same emotional impact as the original.

Me: Were you a fan of the original movie?

Jim: I liked the original but it was not one of my favorites. It had some moments but the whole thing didn’t hold together for me. It definitely needed some editing and a greater focus on the core story but there are so many things that are right about the film. It was the first time I saw actor Jim Dale. I liked the design of Elliot. It certainly had an impact on many people.

Me: So, what book are you working on now that I can pheature on the Phile in the future?

Jim: At the moment I am writing the definitive book on The Gremlins, an unmade Disney animated feature from World War II about the little creatures of the air that sabotaged airplanes. It was based on Roald Dahl’s very first book, even before "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The work on the film inspired Walt to later do Darby O’Gill and the Little People. I had the opportunity to interview Bill Justice who did the character designs for the film and worked closely with Dahl and got some great stories. Many people feel it would have been a terrific Disney film and certainly the story of how it almost got made is fascinating.

Me: You're never out of ideas, are you?

Jim: I have too many ideas and not enough time. I did five books in 2016 and am on track to do four for 2017. As long as people keep buying the books, I will keep writing them and, as I said, I have a lot of different interests besides Disney so I may start bringing a few of those to books as well. Some Disney fans are only interested in the parks or a particular park or animation or merchandise or the comic books or the television shows. I am interested in it all.

Me: Jim, thanks for being back on the Phile. You are truly one of my best guests I ever have here and my readers love your interviews. Is there anything you wanna plug?

Jim: Just make sure to keep visiting to check any of my new titles. I was very happy with a book I had published this year entitled "The Unofficial Disneyland 1955 Companion" and especially the feedback from people still alive who worked at the park that year who loved the book. Everybody writes a Disneyland book so I wanted to do something different and include information that people generally don’t know that I got from personal interviews over the years. I wanted to concentrate on the first year and all the preparation for the opening and I still ended up with some great stuff that I couldn’t include because there was just no more room.

Me: Thanks again, Jim, I'll have you back here real soon.

Jim: I’ll look forward to it. It’s always fun and you ask some of the most interesting questions.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Jeff Trelewicz and of course Jim Korkis. The Phile will be back tomorrow with Alex Lobato, founder of Gateway Comics. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let alligators and snakes bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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