Hey there, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Thursday. How are you? A lot better than Steve Bannon, I bet, who totally cucked himself. Former White House chief strategist and current blog editor Steve Bannon brought the "Fire and Fury" to the recent book of that name. In the past week since chapters of the book were first released, the Ban man got called crazy by the president, lost his financial backers (aka sugar daddies), and got christened with a nickname by Donald Trump (Sloppy Steve... not his best work), so spent the weekend groveling for forgiveness. Having called Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner's meeting "treasonous" in "Fire and Fury," Bannon said in a statement to Axios that Don Jr. is "both a patriot and a good man." (But nothing about Jared. That beef is still on.) "My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr," he insists. For the people who still have yet to be fired from the White House, this humiliating apology from a man whose whole brand is predicated on being a brilliant, menacing Alpha Bro is too little, too late. Politico says of the reaction to Bannon's 297-word grovel-y apology, "It did nothing to quell Trump’s rage at his former chief strategist or the anger of Bannon’s former West Wing colleagues, according to multiple administration officials, who said the vibe in the president’s circle was that people were unmoved by the statement." Asked whether there is anything Bannon can do at this point to get back in the president's good graces, one White House official said curtly, "Unlikely." With Bannon's image as Trump's "man on the outside" torched, and his financial backers backing out, it looks like famous white supremacist is being written out of the movie he produced.
Another day, another shitty dress code! Meet Ali Chaney, a Texas middle schooler was instructed to change her tee-shirt because it was "too distracting," her mom wrote in a post on Facebook. Sadly, we're all accustomed to girls being told their natural human bodies are "distracting" to boys, resulting in dress code enforcements like no spaghetti straps and no midriff. But in Cheney's case, she wasn't even wearing a tank top or a crop top, but a full coverage tee-shirt. So what was do "distracting" about it? That would have to be the message, which read, "Some people are gay, get over it!" I am on board with that message, Ali! Her school, sadly, was not. Chaney, who is gay according to BuzzFeed News, was called into the principle's office and told that her shirt "did not belong" in school. Watson, who deserves applause for her awesome mothering in the face of very bad schooling, took to Facebook to air her grievances with the school's blatant homophobia. Ugh, poor Ali. "I didn't understand what he meant by 'that,'" the teen told BuzzFeed News. "I don't know if he meant the shirt or openly admitting that you're gay. I just didn't think there'd be a problem. It just felt like I was being discriminated against." As much as it sucks that she was targeted by homophobia IN HER OWN SCHOOL, she has the support and love of her mom, which rocks. And the Internet is definitely on her side as well. Watson's post went viral, with more than 5,000 shares and hundreds of comments lending their support for Ali.
President Trump is not the only one with a knack for coming up with creatively offensive nicknames. Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro had no problem ripping into the president while giving a speech introducing Meryl Streep at the National Board of Review Annual Awards Gala on Tuesday night. In the speech, De Niro calls Trump a "fucking idiot" and a "fucking fool" before revealing the nickname he has privately bestowed upon him... "Jerkoff-in-chief." In the speech, De Niro also summarize Streep's new film, The Post, by saying, "The movie gave us glimpses of President Nixon as delusional, narcissistic, petty, vindictive, nasty and batshit fucking crazy," De Niro said. "Ah, the good old days." Damn, Robby. Tell us how you really feel. So what nickname do you think Trump will gift De Niro in return? Dirty De Niro? Robert De Nir-NO? Terrible Travis Bickle? Who knows, but I will keep our eyes on the president's Twitter account just in case.
Perennial douche James Franco is coming under fire for alleged incidents of sexual misconduct after Franco sported a Time's Up pin at the Golden Globes. Stephen Colbert confronted Franco after actresses Ally Sheedy, Violet Paley, and Sarah Tither-Kaplan tweeted about Franco. Perhaps a year ago Franco could've continued to coast by. But the reckoning is happening and Franco is already the recipient of notable backlash. Franco and his brother Dave were scheduled to discuss their film The Disaster Artist at a TimesTalk event hosted by the "New York Times" yesterday. The "Times" canceled the event in a direct response to the allegations against Franco. The "Times" told "The Hollywood Reporter" in a statement, "The event was intended to be a discussion of the making of the film, The Disaster Artist. Given the controversy surrounding recent allegations, we're no longer comfortable proceeding in that vein." This news and cancellation comes directly after Franco won a Golden Globe for best actor for his work in The Disaster Artist... and refused to let the man he portrayed, Tommy Wiseau, speak. The next best step in this new era is for ensuing award shows like the Oscars to penalize Franco in the wake of these allegations.
Ivanka Trump tweeted praise for Oprah Winfrey's inspiring speech at Sunday night's Golden Globes, but some people felt the sentiment rang false. Her tweet implored people to come together to say "Time's Up" and put an end to sexual harassment, but her own father, President Donald Trump, has a number of allegations of sexual abuse against him.
Twitter immediately jumped on the tweet, with a lot of people simply joking, "Who's going to tell her?" Jonathan Swan, a political reporter for Axios covering Trump, tweeted that there were some "raised eyebrows" in the White House over Ivanka's tweet. There's also the rumor that Ivanka is considering a run for president in the future. Ivanka also apparently followed both Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi on Twitter. This is probably not going to make her father very happy.
Okay, so, if I had a TARDIS I would like to go back to the 30s and I think it'll be fun to see a prototype of the VW Bug. But knowing my luck someone else would be there.
So, I was supposed to Google "overweight cat" and instead I ended up Googling "overweight car" and this is what I discovered.
So, Donald Trump Jr. sure has tweeted some weird shit in his time...
Hmmm... So, I love those Porgs from the new Star Wars movie, but I have seen them before. Then it hit me...
I don't know if you believe in God or not but if he is real some people sure have sure strayed from his light...
Hmmmm. So, this year is the Phile's 12th anniversary and in those years some celebrities have changed. For example... Emma Stone. In 2006 she looked like this...
She was Jonah Hill's love interest. Now in 2018 she's this...
Ryan Gosling's love interest. And yes, I know that pic is nor from this year, but she surely hasn't changed that much since the last Oscars'. Hey, it's Thursday. You know what that means...
Charlie Bell, a former steel worker, smashed the world record for "most amount of maggots moved by the mouth in one hour." Bell reportedly carried two square foot of live maggots in one hour from one container to another using only his mouth. The-35-year-old from Leyton, East London, admitted "It was disgusting." No, shit, Charlie, no shit.
Hahahaha. If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, so it's I don't know what kinda year 2017 was for you but for some people it sucked...
Like for Roy Moore, because he turned Alabama blue. Alleged child molester and confirmed cowboy cosplayer Roy Moore dragged America into the horrid debate of "is child molestation okay?" Thank the Lord... no, not the lord that Moore insists he's a vessel of... that Alabama voters concluded that NO, IT IS NOT. And still, Moore and his horse Sassy have yet to ride off into the sunset, as a week and a half after his loss to Doug Jones, Moore still REFUSEd TO CONCEDE. As if having to be removed from the Alabama state supreme court twice (TWICE!) wasn't a bad enough reputation, Moore will now go down in history as the child molester who helped turn Alabama blue (well, purple) for the first time in decades.
Hey, it's Thursday, so it's time to talk football with my good friend Jeff.
Me: Hey, Jeff, welcome back to the Phile. How are you doing?
Jeff: Always glad to be back here on the Phile. I'm doing okay, We had a Cylcone Bomb storm since the last time we talked so there's a crapload of snow on the ground still, but otherwise things are good. How about yourself?
Me: I feel like shit. Other than that... Well, it's official... Oakland Raiders officially announced Jon Gruden is back as their head coach.Are you surprised? Wonder how long he'll stay.
Jeff: I am rather surprised Gruden went back to the Raiders. He seemed to enjoy himself in the booth, but it's hard to pass up the contract he was offered. He got a 10 year deal which is insane. I doubt he will be there 10 years. Head coaches generally don't last that long.
Me: I thought this was funny... A New Orleans newspaper trolled the Carolina Panthers with a hilarious front page.
Me: As you already know, the Carolina Panthers officially went up for sale. Do you think someone will but them quickly?
Jeff: Hahahahaha, while I think that's funny it's not true. It was a good game, close game. It's not like the Saints dominated Carolina. I think they will get bought rather quickly. Having a marquee player like Cam Newton will certainly help. I mean it's not like they are the 0-16 Browns or anything.
Me: So, what NFL news do you have, Jeff?
Jeff: Speaking of Cam Newton, he was one of 2 QB's to get injured with concussions late in their playoff games the other being Taylor from Buffalo. We saw come coordinators switching jobs, but no head coaching vacancies have been filled. So you know what that means? You still have a chance to be Giants head coach! Antonio Brown practices for the first time since he got injured in Week 15, so he's trying to come back!
Me: I'd love to coach the Giants. Okay, so, how did we do with the last picks? You're still kicking my ass, right?
Jeff: Well, you did go 0-2 last week. I went 1-1. Neither of our teams played so I gained 2 more points on you. My record as it stands is 21-17. You are at 16-22. So yes, I am still kicking your ass.
Me: Shit. Okay, let's pick the Playoffs picks. I say Falcon's by 6 and your Steelers by 6. What do you say?
Jeff: I will reluctantly take New England by 10 and Minnesota by 3.
Me: Okay, Jeff, I will see you back here next Thursday. Have a good week.
Jeff: See you next week!
As unpredictable as Donald Trump's moods may be, a year into his White House stint, the president's routine is pretty predictable. Trump starts his day by rising and shining and getting some positive affirmation from his friends on "Fox and Friends," tweeting out what he learned from television rather than a presidential daily brief. This morning, while tweeting out what he's seen and heard on TV, the very stable genius unwittingly contradicted his own administration's position on the reauthorization of a program that allows the government to conduct foreign surveillance on U.S. soil. He tweeted it out after Fox Friend Andrew Napolitano delivered a statement right to the camera like someone on "The Office." The conspiracy mongering and third person perspective aren't the craziest parts of Trump's tweet... what's wild is that Trump contradicted his own White House's position. The White House put up a pro-mass surveillance statement last night, urging the House to reject an amendment known as "U.S.A. Rights" that would reform the government's ability to spy on Americans. //cdn.someecards.com/posts/dtq-acjxkaelcei-z30NQb.jpg NBC News Somewhere between 7:13 am and 9:14 am, Trump must have gotten the news that he supports FISA reauthorization.
Oopsie! And for something other than nuclear war threats, Trump's flip flop through "Fox and Friends" is having actual consequences. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asked Speaker Paul Ryan to cancel today's vote, because this mishmash is pretty darn confusing. Presidential live-tweeting can certainly have an impact on the world and the legislative process. Now, who wants to go on "Fox and Friends" to directly tell Trump to reauthorize healthcare for nine million children? And now for...
I've bene rewatching one of my favorite shows from the 90s and it made me thing of a few conspiracies that are insane but actually are true. Who doesn’t love Canada? Well, 1960s Canada wasn’t quite the squishy utopia it seems to be today. The Canadian government hired Carleton University professor Frank Robert Wake to create something it maliciously called the “fruit machine,” which they believed could detect and identify gay men. It wasn’t part of some benign effort to understand human sexuality. It was part of a sick bit of McCarthyism with the stated goal of getting all gay men out of the country’s government. More than 400 people lost their jobs, and 9,000 more were kept on a file of “suspects.” The device claimed to work by measuring how much a subject’s pupils dilated after being forced to look at same-sex erotic imagery.
The truth is out there, kids.
Today's pheatured guest is one of my favorite Phile Alum whose book, "Call Me Walt: Everything You Never Knew About Walt Disney" is the 72nd book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. Please welcome back to the Phile... Jim Korkis.
Me: Hey, Jim, welcome back to the Phile. How have you been?
Jim: I can’t believe that 2017 over. That has been an active year for the world and for Disney. It makes me dizzy and not in a good way.
Me: Okay, before we talk of your new book about Walt, let’s talk about Disney as a company. The big Disney news since last time you were here is Disney buying Fox. What do you think of this?
Jim: Disney is certainly gobbling up a lot of things and I hope it doesn't eventually dilute the Disney Brand. As others have mentioned, this merger with Fox will bring back the X-Men and Fantastic Four back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that is a good thing, especially since X-Man Storm is the estranged wife of the Black Panther and the Black Panther film looks to be a big hit so that opens up some story possibilities and also some theme park attraction possibilities. Glad that Disney did NOT get in the merger the Fox News Network umbrella which I think would not match well with the Disney Brand at all. Also, the merger has resulted in Bob Iger extending his term to 2021 rather than jumping ship for his potential political career in 2019. Iger has been a good steward of the Disney Brand although often mysterious through his silence. Does anyone know his favorite Disney character? Or favorite Disney film? I think he saw that Michael Eisner's prominence towards the end of his reign seemed to be a disadvantage.
Me: I can't believe what properties Disney owns now, Jim. It's crazy, right?
Jim: What many people don't realize is that besides the Marvel characters (including Deadpool), Disney also now owns "The Simpsons" and Avatar plus a lot of other franchises including Alien. I wonder if Disney knew this might be happening and that was one of the reasons they got in business with James Cameron and whether they gave Cameron a "heads-up" which is why he came on board. I have no inside information about any of that but it is curious.
Me: The Hall of Presidents opened with Trump's figure finally... did you see it? What do you think of it? I wonder if people are still complaining.
Jim: It opened quietly with no fanfare. Haven't seen it and probably won't later in the year since the prediction of huge crowds this week and next at the Magic Kingdom make it a good place to avoid.
Me: Last time you were here we talked about the rumor of a Star Wars hotel and now it's been officially announced... it's supposed to be a spaceship and be fully immersive. Would you want to stay there? What do you think it'll be like?
Jim: I am sure the resort will be much too expensive for my tiny wallet. My understanding is that they are using the Disney Cruise Line as the model for pricing since it is similar that you are in one area supplying your entertainment and food although I guess unlike the cruise ship you could leave to visit the parks. The suggestion of round-the-clock live entertainment characters is certainly going to make it very pricey. I think Disney also suggested you would have an interactive droid by your bedside. My understanding is that the windows will be HD screens to capture the feeling of being in outer space. I think those may be some sort of combination of live action and animation like the virtual portholes on the interior rooms of the Disney Cruise ships. Disney once considered having at WDW an immersive resort themed to a murder mystery and that concept developed into the Tower of Terror. Basically, it was determined that some of the planned activities at the resort, especially in the middle of the night, would be too intrusive and it was too expensive to have the live actor entertainment twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Me: Also since you were here as well they revealed the name of Star Wars land... Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. What do you think of that name?
Jim: I think they may have selected it so it is out of the way from the familiar planets and cultures so they can create their own stories without being hindered by any existing mythology. Also, it was probably selected to create that sense of “danger” that you are out of the usual safe areas, that you are off the beaten track where “anything can happen." For Walt Disney World, I still don’t understand how they can have Star Tours and then you walk through Grand Avenue before getting to Star Wars Land. Shouldn’t the attraction be in Star Wars Land? It seems to me to be a huge disconnect experience. I guess they will face a similar problem at Disneyland with the attraction being in Tomorrowland and the land being behind Frontierland. I can understand that the cost involved in moving it would be huge and it is so popular that it can’t be just closed down but in terms of storytelling, it is certainly odd to me.
Me: They have a way to work it out. Did you see that Cast Members got to sign a support beam that’ll top out the new land? You won't be able to see it at all but it's cool that the Cast got to do that.
Jim: I think the Disney company often forgets that some of the biggest Disney fans, the people who really keep the pixie dust and magic alive in the parks, are the Disney Cast Members. Being a former Cast Member, I always appreciated when we were allowed to do something out-of-the-ordinary. Doing something like this really helps the Cast become more invested in the park and the project.
Me: So, have you seen Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom yet? Whatcha think?
Jim: I think the immersive detail is wonderful but I think the land itself is much too small and the ride capacity is much too small. I hope there are plans to expand the area soon and I think it has been proven that it doesn’t rely on any familiarity with the actual movie (or its sequels) to appreciate the land. I really wish the river ride was longer. It was beautiful but it was so short, especially after a lengthy wait in the queue line. It is interesting to me to see that they have a “Plan B” if the Shaman breaks down which it will probably do since it is so sophisticated and operates almost constantly. They drop a screen and project an image of the Shaman on it. The more complex the technology as we have seen with the Everest Yeti, the more likely there are to be problems. I also wish that the Banshee ride was accessible to everyone. It seems all theme parks have fallen in love with the latest technology even though some people just can’t handle it. If the Harry Potter attraction at Universal had been made accessible to everyone, the line would have been out the door and down the street. Walt Disney’s philosophy was that every attraction should be accessible to everyone of any age, height, medical condition, size, etc. so that families could enjoy it together.
Me: So, a lot of the Cast I work with and I am sure the public do not like Mickey's new look. I like it actually. Here's what Mickey now looks like...
Me: What is your take on this?
Jim: The Disney company felt that kids today think Mickey Mouse is too old. That’s one of the reasons they no longer make a big deal about celebrating his birthday (even though he will be 90 in 2018) but celebrate “89 years WITH Mickey." I told an executive when all of this started with Mickey’s 75th birthday that “how can you celebrate 75 years WITH Mickey if Mickey isn’t at least 75 years old?” He very condescendingly told me how stupid they thought kids were that they wouldn’t realize that fact. To me, Mickey is timeless and maybe even frozen in time like Sherlock Holmes so doesn’t age. For the new series of Mickey cartoons on the Disney Channel, they cut Mickey Mouse short cartoons from the traditional seven minutes in length to three minutes because they felt children no longer have a longer attention span. They selected a stylized version of Mickey Mouse not only to mimic the latest designs in animation (just check out the other current animation shows) but to suggest the Mickey Mouse of the 1930s when he was an adventurer, a rebel and a little bit rude. That’s one of the reasons to use the pie-eyes that were used during that time period. They even avoided using the official voice of Mickey Mouse, Bret Iwan, because executive producer Paul Rudish said he wanted an “edgier” tone so he brought in Chris Diamantopoulos. Diamantopoulos has had an extensive acting career from portraying Robin Williams, Frank Sinatra and Moe Howard of the Three Stooges to lots of prominent roles in television series. He’s done a lot of voice work for the Warner Brothers superhero cartoons like "Batman Unlimited." Basically, they wanted to get away from Mickey Mouse as a suburban corporate icon and make him “dangerous” and “young." We will see the same version of the character in the new attraction coming to Disney Hollywood Studios.
Me: Alright, let's talk about your latest book "Call Me Walt: Everything You Never Knew About Walt Disney." There's been sooooo many books about Walt, Jim, how is this book different?
Jim: In the first place, it is not another biography. There are dozens of biographies about Walt Disney both in English and multiple foreign languages as well as additional references to his life in countless other books, magazines, newspaper stories and more. Yet all of them define Walt by his accomplishments: Mickey Mouse, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, audio-animatronics, Disneyland and so on. They don’t seem to have any room for Walt as a person, a son, a brother, a husband, father and grandfather. Where did he buy his clothes? What different cars did he drive? Did he also have cats as pets besides dogs? What charities did he donate to without fanfare? Did he believe in God and did he pray every day? What two television game shows did Walt and Lillian love watching in the evening as they ate on trays in front of the TV? What were Walt’s political views? What things did he do with his grandchildren that they still remember vividly fifty years after he died? How much did Walt Disney weigh? How tall was Walt? Who was his ophthalmologist who prescribed reading glasses that Walt never wanted to be photographed wearing? The answers to all those questions and many, many more like them are in the book along with documentation. I never mention Mickey Mouse, Disneyland, audio-animatronics or any of the rest. In addition there are individual chapters for each of his brothers, sister, father and mother, wife and daughters. There is even a chapter where I quote his grandchildren about their personal experiences with him and how he let them suck on the ice that was in his glass of Scotch to get a taste. Plus, I have included twelve chapters debunking the most common myths about Walt like he was frozen or anti-Semitic or was born in Spain and again, I included documentation. However, people will still continue to believe whatever they want to believe but maybe some of this will help.
Me: What made you decide to write a new book about Walt?
Jim: I realized that so many people who actually knew Walt have gotten to that age that they are passing away and can no longer step up and defend Walt from all the false accusations that have cropped up. Just look at all the people that we lost including Marty Sklar who was such an articulate spokesman about Walt. I remember having this discussion with Diane Disney Miller at the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco many years ago where she was upset that Walt was becoming a “thing” to put on merchandise and that new generations had no idea he was a real person. It’s one of the reasons she built the museum, to help people understand Walt as a human being. Fortunately, over the decades I have had the opportunity to interview Imagineers and animators and more who worked closely with Walt so I thought I would share their stories. I make no assumptions in the text. It is all facts with quotes from Walt, those who knew him and reference material that can be trusted. Many Walt biographies try to psychoanalyze what Walt may have been thinking. People who knew him said you could never guess what Walt was thinking. You’d bring him something you were sure he would like and he would rip it apart. I just supply the facts and the readers can make their own assumptions.
Me: Researching it is there anything even you didn't know about him?
Jim: Tons of stuff and I tried to put as much as I could into the book. One of Walt’s favorite pastimes when he went to the mountains to ski was ski-joring [a winter sport where a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog (or dog team) or a motor vehicle] and so that activity might have ended up at the never completed Mineral King ski resort project. Walt still owned shares in the Sugar Bowl ski resort as the time of his death. Diane told me, “I remember going through dad’s dresser drawers one time looking for something. He kept things in them like a collection of matchboxes and soap packages from hotels and I used to find those fascinating. I found a newspaper clipping one time with the headline on it about his mother’s death. He would never talk about her death.”
Me: With a lot of the sexual misconduct allegations that are coming out now in Hollywood if Walt was alive today do you think anybody would accuse him?
Jim: Nope, Walt was clean as a whistle. Never any gossip about him. He never told a dirty joke. He always respected women and in 1939 posted a memo at the studio that read in part, “Attention has been called to the rather gross language being used by some members in the presence of our female employees. It has always been Walt’s hope that the Studio could be a place where girls can be employed without fear of embarrassment or humiliation.” This is decades before the term “sexual harassment” was coined, let alone enforced, and Walt is standing up for women to be treated with respect and not harrassed. Animator Ward Kimball told me, “He didn’t play around like the other studio heads. He had a wife, and that was it. I’d swear that Walt didn’t have broads on the side because it would have taken too much of his time.” I have an entire chapter in the book devoted to Walt’s great respect for all women. It is another of those myths that women could only work in Ink and Paint. Walt had women in positions of authority, let them wear pants to work (something very uncommon in those days) and unlike other animation studios there were female animators, story people and more.
Me: One of the things you talk about in the book is was Walt racist? Was he?
Jim: Walt was not racist in the least even considering the time period when he lived which was casually racist. The foreword to the book is by Disney Legend Floyd Norman who was a black animator who among other things shared, “I personally never saw any racist behavior or words from Walt. When I was there in the 1950s and 1960s, I knew Claude Wilson who was the black janitor at the studio." A janitor is pretty much invisible in that people never pay much attention to him so he was able to overhear uncensored conversations as he was cleaning up. He never heard Walt being racist or others talking about Walt being racist. "He also moonlighted as a bartender at many of Walt’s parties when they were held as Walt’s home in Holmby Hills. This older black gentleman who ran the bar always spoke well of Walt and loved working for him. Since we spoke privately, had there been anything to indicate racism, this old guy would have made his feelings known to me to warn me to be careful. I was always struck by Walt’s openness, fairness and honesty.” Floyd was personally hired by Walt and personally promoted by Walt to a storyman on Jungle Book. Being a storyman was the highest status at the studio. Floyd did share that there were people who were racist who worked at the studio. He was up for a job in layout and didn’t get it because the supervisor felt uncomfortable working with someone who was “colored” but Walt never knew and Floyd ended up with a much better position. Look at the film Disneyland U.S.A. from 1956 and when they show the Autopia, there are two black girls who are happily getting into their own cars. Not all entertainment venues allowed minorities to participate. And it wasn’t just black people, Walt hired Japanese artists during World War II and told one of them if they were asked where they were from they were to respond, “I am an American” because it was nobody’s business but their own. They were lying and saying they were part Chinese, part Korean, etc. All of those stories are in a chapter in the book as well.
Me: I always wondered if Walt had a sense off humor and would laugh at himself... did he?
Jim: Definitely. Walt never told jokes but he had a disarming sense of humor. Animator Bill Justice told me, “I remember when a Canadian radio station interviewer asked him how many people worked at the studio, Walt paused a moment to think and replied with a straight face, ‘Oh, about half.'” Walt took what he did seriously but he never took himself completely seriously. He’d joke when he messed up doing the introductions to his television show and never blamed others. Just take a look at newsreels and such and you see he had a very easy smile and laugh. Again, I have an entire chapter devoted to Walt’s sense of humor.
Me: Why did people call him the Dark Prince of Hollywood, Jim?
Jim: That came from the Marc Elliott book that has been often completely debunked since it was first published but people like to think there is some hidden agenda. Even Walt promoted himself as the “Walt Disney brand” which is almost too perfect so people want to tear into it and find the dark agenda behind it all. Especially this last year we saw people like Bill Cosby who had this goody-goody image but was hiding horrible acts. The only thing I found that Walt hid, and did so poorly, was the tremendous amount of physical pain he was in, especially the last two years of his life. Not just his polo injury but sinuses that had to be drained sometimes twice a week, dental problems that prevented him from sleeping, severe arthritis, and more. I suspect that is was caused him to sometimes lash out and be grumpy at times. Walt was not a saint. He had a terrible temper. People were intimidated by him. He didn’t compliment people to their face. He held grudges. He was impatient. Basically he was human, something that people forget. Basically, the Walt you saw on those introductions to his television show was pretty much the real Walt.
Me: Is there a favorite thing about Walt that you like or something you didn't like about him?
Jim: I definitely did not like his temper or that he made fun of others and thought it was funny. Walt sometimes loved to do practical jokes on the unsuspecting and shy Ub Iwerks. The classic prank around 1927 was when Walt arranged a date with a pretty co-worker named Margaret Metzinger who Ub liked but lacked the courage to engage. He sent Ub in his place who was unaware he would be meeting Margaret. It was an awkward dinner date especially for the often tongue-tied Ub. Walt hid behind some nearby plants in the restaurant and filmed much of it and then ran the film for other artists at the studio making comments. He was completely oblivious to the fact that Ub felt humiliated. Walt just felt it was funny but it was probably things like this that resulted in Iwerks leaving the Disney Studio in 1930. One of my favorite things was discovering how much Walt was interested in lawn bowling both at his home at the Smoke Tree Ranch and also with the Beverly Hills Lawn Bowling Club. While Walt was concentrating on the Florida Project, Mineral King, California Institute of the Arts, Mary Poppins and so much more, he was spending a good deal of his time participating in lawn bowling tournaments with his hand-tooled bowling bag. Even today, there is an annual international lawn bowling tournament that awards a four-foot tall perpetual trophy made of solid Brazilian redwood with imbeds of Walt’s four personal lawn bowls along the base and is topped by a golden foot-high Mickey Mouse figurine. In 1964, Walt participated in the United States Lawn Bowling Championships at Buck Hills Falls, in the Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania with his Beverly Hills team in the U.S. Doubles Tournament. He was excited that he was able to take the team and their spouses there for the competition.
Me: If you ever could go back in time and meet him what would you tell him or ask him?
Jim: I would probably just thank him for his optimism and inspiration. I would want him to know how he made a significant positive difference in my life. My life really is richer for having studied Disney history and trying to understand this very ordinary man who was so extraordinary. If I was given a chance to ask a question it would be hard because I have thousands of questions and the answers to those questions would lead to thousands more.
Me: So, how long did it take you to write this book, Jim? Was it an easy book to put together?
Jim: It was not an easy book to put together. When people ask me how long it takes to write a book, they usually expect an answer like “a couple of years” but my answer is usually “all of my life." I started gathering material about Walt decades ago because I was always interested in him. I would look for little personal anecdotes in newspaper and magazine stories. In fact, when I interviewed people who worked with Walt, one of my questions was always if they had a favorite memory or anecdote about him. Many of those are shared in my book. Fortunately, I got to know Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s oldest daughter, and she was helpful but she died from a tragic accident while she still had so much more she could have contributed.
Me: I have to say I love the cover... who did it? It's pretty funny.
Jim: I love the cover. It was done by a good friend of mine, Dave Bennett, a talented cartoonist and animator who has worked on Disney projects. Dave was a top animator at Rick Reinert Productions doing work on the Captain O.G. Readmore specials like "Jack and the Beanstalk," "O.G. Readmore Meets Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and "Puss In Boots." One of my personal favorites was the half-hour adaptation of the Art Buchwald story of leopards, "The Bollo Caper" where Dave was deeply involved in all aspects. In 1981, Reinert Productions was responsible for animating the educational film Winnie the Pooh Discovers the Seasons for Walt Disney Educational Media. Disney was so impressed with their work that they were given the assignment to produce and animate the next theatrically released Winnie the Pooh animated featurette, Winnie the Pooh and A Day for Eeyore. They also did the only animated film featuring the well loved Orange Bird: Orange Bird: Food and Fun. Dave was involved with all of that. The illustration is based on a black and white cover Dave did for an animation fanzine entitled "Animato! #10" that was published in 1986. I was writing a column of anecdotes about animation for that very same issue. The fanzine had a very, very low distribution and like so many others I loved his cover and felt it deserved a wider audience. So I contacted him, suggested some changes and this updated version is even better than the original.
Me: Floyd Norman wrote the forward to the book like you said... tell the readers who that is, and how did you approach him to write it?
Jim: Floyd Norman is a black animator who worked on the Walt Disney animated features Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone and The Jungle Book as well as various animated short projects at Disney in the late 1950s and early 1960s. After Walt Disney's death in 1966, Floyd left the Disney Studios to work at a variety of different animation studios. Floyd returned to Disney in the early 1970s to work on the Disney animated feature Robin Hood and several projects for Disney Publishing. He contributed creatively as a story artist on films such as Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Mulan, Dinosaur and The Hunchback of Notre Dame among others. He continues to work for the Walt Disney Company as a freelance consultant on various projects. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2007. I first met Floyd when he was working at Hanna-Barbera in the 1980s on things like "The Smurfs." I was writing extensively about animation in those days so I got to interview him about his career in animation. Floyd very graciously wrote the foreword to my book, "Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South?" We’ve kept in touch and originally, Marty Sklar had agreed to write the foreword to "Call Me Walt" but when he passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, I wanted to find someone else who had worked with the Walt that most of us saw on television in the 1950s and 1960s. Fortunately, Floyd was just as upset as I was about the false assumptions that were being made about Walt so he agreed to help out.
Me: Cool. Since you were here you had another book out which I have to mention... "OTHER Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Other Things You Never Knew You Never Knew." I love this one as much as the first one in this series. You talk about the Lone Ranger in Frontierland... tell the readers about that.
Jim: Scattered throughout WDW’s Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn & Café (which is supposed to be like an Old West version of Planet Hollywood with all the memorabilia) are Buffalo Bill’s boots, a giant axe belonging to Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed’s tin pot-hat, Kit Carson’s scouting tools, Davy Crockett’s satchel and powder horn, John Henry’s hammer, Jim Bowie’s famous knife and Slue Foot Sue’s spurs and gloves. One item that sometimes puzzles guests is a display of a black mask and a silver bullet but no identification plaque leading people to ask the famous question, “Who was that Masked Man?” Obviously, the answer is the Lone Ranger and at the time of its installation, Disney did not have the rights to the character. There was a Disney connection with the character. Jack Wrather who owned the Disneyland Hotel also owned the rights to the Lone Ranger and in the early years of Disneyland allowed actor Clayton Moore garbed in his full television costume to visit Disneyland for publicity purposes including riding the Mark Twain steamboat with children. I am glad you love this book because a lot of other people did as well so I have the rough outline for the fourth volume in the series. That should come out in fall 2018.
Me: Also, what is a secret about something in World Showcase?
Jim: Inside the pyramid in the Mexico pavilion is a mixture of Aztec and Mayan elements. The typical marketplace setting is officially called Plaza de Los Amigos, or “Plaza of Friends." During the day would be a time of siesta with limited activity so the interior was themed to be enclosed and suggest nighttime and fiesta to help explain why there are so many people and so much activity. The China pavilion was the location for the music video of the song “Reflection” performed by a then relatively- unknown young girl singer, Christina Aguilera to promote the 1998 Disney animated feature film Mulan. The pavilion is so authentic that animators from Disney Feature Animation Florida often visited and sketched details there for use in the final film.
Me: You talk about the turkey legs that they sell. They are emu legs, Jim! Do you believe that? I saw a box in the tunnel at Epcot once that said "emu legs Ocala, Fl." Turkeys are not that big.
Jim: You know, I used to think that as well. Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" stated, “I can put everyone's mind at rest. It can't be emu. I’ve eaten emu. It's too big, And the meat would be a little more beefy. Emu has the consistency of turkey leg but the flavor of roasted veal. It's got mild beefiness to it and a little more metallic." In general, an emu leg would be about eight times the size of a turkey leg. “People are accustomed to Thanksgiving turkeys, which are female birds, or hens which are traditionally much smaller; the males, called toms, are bigger... up to fifty pounds apiece... and their legs are the ones that Disney serves,” said Keith M. Williams, a vice president at the National Turkey Federation, an industry trade group. Federal law prohibits the use of steroids to make turkeys and their legs meatier. However, farmers are raising larger turkeys because of demand and so the legs are larger as well.
Me: I still say it's emu. Ha! Okay, so, last time you were here I asked you about some Disney urban legends... so I thought I'll ask you again about some that are Walt related. What's this rumor that he was an illegitimate child? Is that true?
Jim: Walt was very legitimate if something of a surprise for Elias and Flora since he was born eight years after their last child, Roy. There is plenty of evidence that he was born December 5th, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois on the second floor of a home that Elias built. There is no birth certificate because it was not required by law in Illinois at the turn of the century, especially for a birth taking place at home without a doctor in attendance. However, there is an official baptism certificate for Walt from St. Paul’s Congregational Church in Chicago on June 8th, 1902. If Walt were illegitimate, it would mean he was adopted and Elias and Flora didn’t have the money to adopt another kid especially trying to feed and clothe three sons. If they did somehow decide to adopt, they would have adopted a girl which is what they really wanted and finally got one shortly after Walt with Ruth.
Me: Was he discharged dishonorably from the army, Jim?
Jim: The easy answer is that Walt could never have been dishonorably discharged, court-martialed or any other negative action taken against him by the U.S. military because Walt never served in any branch of the U.S. military. He was too young to be in the military. He did join a Red Cross Ambulance unit but that was a civilian organization but people mistake it for actual military service. He was not kicked out of the Red Cross Ambulance unit either.
Me: And where and how did this rumor of Walt being in cryonic storage ever start? That's the biggest urban legend of all, right? Is that where Disney On Ice comes from? Hahaha.
Jim: Walt didn’t allow anyone to visit him in the hospital except his immediate family. No one knew how sick he really was and never saw him deteriorating. When he died, it was a private funeral with a handful of family at Forest Lawn on December 16th and the next day his remains were cremated. Even his sister Ruth in Portland was told not to fly down because they feared media would follow her. So, basically, one day Walt just disappeared and the last that many people saw of him he seemed okay. If you were going to cryogenically freeze someone, you would have to do it immediately especially in those earliest of days of the technology. Walt was left in his hospital bed for a couple of hours at St. Joseph’s Hospital across the street from the Disney Studio so the family could arrive and say their “good-byes." The first cryonic suspension took place just a month after Disney’s death. Dr. James Bedford, a 73-year-old psychologist from Glendale, was suspended by Bob Nelson and his cryonics team on January 12th, 1967. Bedford has yet to be revived. So just like many people couldn’t believe that Elvis died at the height of his fame and fortune and supposedly kept seeing him pop up places, people couldn’t accept that Walt was gone especially since in the last moments of his life he was still planning Epcot and other projects. The rumor supposedly started with a smart aleck remark by animator Ward Kimball during an interview for a French magazine in 1969. When I confronted Kimball about it during an interview in 1985, he said, “When Disney fans ask me if it’s true that Walt’s body is kept frozen for future resurrection, I answer that question by pointing out that Walt was always intensely interested in things scientific and he, more than any person I knew, just might have been curious enough to agree to such an experiment. He was cremated really.”
Me: Alright, anything new that you are working on? I am sure you are working on a number of new books.
Jim: I’m always working on several projects at the same time so if I get writer’s block or get stuck, I can jump to another project and clear my mind and then jump back. Right now I am working on a book called "More Secret Stories of Disneyland." The first volume came out early last year and was well received. It was an extremely tough book to write because there are so many books about Disneyland trivia as well as websites, podcasts and more. Everyone thinks they are a Disneyland expert. So I struggled to find stories not in other books or correct the wrong stories everyone repeats or to give some new insight into familiar stories. Thankfully, I have interviewed many of the people who worked on Disneyland so I could use some of that material. This new book is even harder because I have already picked the “low hanging fruit," the stories that were fairly obvious, for the first book and now I have to find almost a hundred more stories in a similar vein. However, I am a fourth of the way done with some interesting surprises. Hopefully, it will be out by the summer of 2018. Writing is hard work. I schedule time every day, including weekends and holidays to write. Some of that stuff eventually gets tossed away or severely edited but eventually I seem to end up with something interesting.
Me: Jim, do you know anything about the Disney records sold at Gulf gas stations in the 60s?
Jim: Gulf was a prominent sponsor of NBCs "The Wonderful World of Disney" throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, offering a series of premiums to encourage kids to have their parents fill up the car at a Gulf service station. Among the goodies were a set of placemats and a series of magazines called "World of Disney," which was largely reused material from previous issues of "Mickey Mouse Club Magazine" and "Walt Disneys Magazine" and lasted five issues. "Walt Disney’s Happiest Songs" was released in 1967 and "Walt Disney’s Merriest Songs" in 1968. Gulf created some commercials, primarily for the weekly Disney television show, promoting the albums. Celebrity names on the album would help grab the attention of grown ups so the records proclaimed such stars as Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Phil Harris from the animation soundtracks but also stars like Mary Martin, Louis Armstrong and Louis Prima who recorded Disney records with “covers” of Disney songs. Every track compiled on these albums was from a concurrently available Disney album so that anyone who liked one song in particular could later purchase the entire album from which it was borrowed for this premium. Gulf was one of the first corporate sponsors of Walt Disney World and used to sponsor the Car Care Center at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom.
Me: Thanks so much for being back on the Phile. Please come back again soon, Jim. Take care. Keep up the good work and I'll have you back on the Phile again soon.
Jim: Thank YOU for allowing me to share some Disney information and to promote my latest book. As I said, I am already working on my next book so I hope to be back soon. I hope your readers enjoy my rambling away. I just get so excited to share this information with others.
Me: Always, Jim. Speak to you soon.
That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guests Jeff Trelewicz and Jim Korkis. The Phile will be back on Sunday with singer Parker Matthews. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.
Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker