Daily Barks 07.05 cataroo.com
The Daily Bark: July 2005
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July 31, 2005
Summer Sale. Have gotten back to putting things on eBay. Got things from dvd sets to animation posters to books to movie memorabilia and anything else that I've come across while cleaning out the spare room. If you want to see what is currently on, click HERE. Of course there is still a variety of things to see on the "buy stuff" link. And while I'm hawking merchandise, might as well mention the nifty cafe press things you can get at 6 Star Danes. Happy hunting.

July 30, 2005
It seems the concept of 'flip flops' is now a constant in our psyche thanks to the world of politics. But one need only look at the world of entertainment to see true flip flops. It is astounding how an actor, director, writer, whatever can create such a wide range of product: from the very good to the astoundingly awful. Take Abbott & Costello. I've been catching up on the dvd sets. These sets contain the first 24 features they made. Like so many talents, the early ones are often the best. The early films are fresh and fast. As the series travels along, they get a bit more repetitive and sluggish. But the amazing thing about this team's films is how they flip flop throughout their career. Now a great Abbott & Costello is really nothing more than fun. But I was surprised to find how often they went from inspired to bomb to bomb to inspired and then back. The writers are often the same, as are the directors. Yet it is amazing films like A&C MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN can be so funny while the next film COMIN' AROUND THE MOUNTAIN is so awful. They can follow up a clever TIMES OF THEIR LIVES with a so-so sequel like BUCK PRIVATES COME HOME. In fact, there are several films that seem totally devoid of laughs and charm. No point here. It is just good to remember that no matter how bad, or how great someone's project can be, the next one can be the opposite.

July 29, 2005
I guess it is a sign of the times that people have so much fear. For example, a number of cities are passing, drafting or have passed legislation to outlaw pitbulls. Most folks only hear about these dogs when they have attacked someone. How can anyone consider outlawing an entire breed based on random incidents? You might as well pass a bill outlawing teenagers and drunk drivers. Both are probably responsible for as many deaths as pitbulls. Of course the fear for dog owners is that this trend will begin spreading to other breeds. For the past few years, we have found a number of repairman who will not enter our home because we have Great Danes. At 5'4", I am no tower of humanity. Yet, even I am not afraid of big dogs. I know to watch for signs, as I would with any creature I just met. I would no more trust a snarling dog as I would a stranger holding a gun. It is sad that the creature once referred to as "man's best friend" has become source of fear... And yet another reason for creating suspicion, fear and divisions among people. When fear finally takes over every aspect of our life, we have truly lost all that is humanity. Perhaps dogs should begin fearing us.

July 28, 2005
Disney's animation studio 'down under', has gone under. The news is all over how Disney has decided to close their animation studio in Australia. This is the studio responsible for some of the better looking direct to video movies, such as LION KING II and LADY AND THE TRAMP II. The studio has a checkered history, and at one time belonged to Hanna Barbera. Some folks have used this as another sign Disney is closing down their standard animation division. Most likely, it is simply a cost cutting measure. After all, they use a variety of overseas studios to produce their many TV shows from KIM POSSIBLE to BRANDY AND MR WHISKERS. Why pay all the overhead to keep a studio of their own? In their video heyday, Disney had several studios including one in Canada. Now Australia joins their list of studios "formerly" Disney. But, again, traditional animation will continue. It will just mean a little less control. And since the quality of an animated production depends as much on the writing (which was not done in Australia, or Canada, or even France), the studio's output will remain fairly consistent. Which is kind of sad. Perhaps they should outsource the writing and do the animation here.

July 27, 2005
Over 100 years of animation for lunch! This week I had one of those too-seldom group lunches with comrades from studios past. The group included Russell Calabrese (currently on CAMP LAZLO), Gary Conrad (currently on DANNY PHANTOM), Karl Toerge (currently on WUBBY, WIDGET, AND WALDEN) and Cliff Voorhees (currently on THE GRIM ADVENTURES OF BILLY AND MANDY). Our one connection is that we were all part of the Film Roman studio at some point during the 1980s. Lunch was over an hour spent name dropping (and name kicking), reviewing new films (and debating MADAGASCAR and LEMONY SNICKET), gossip and childhood memories. Conversation swung from what was wrong with studios today, to what was wrong with studios in the old days. Cliff, the veteran of the group, mentioned how he had been on the set of Disney's 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER SEA (barked about earlier this week). Gary and Karl discussed possible new folks for their series of interviews with animation legends. They stated the first batch is now out on DVD. (At one point, they'll need to interview each other.) Russell, a funny guy and originator of the compact disc comic book, talked about classic shorts and timing. Cultural references ran the gamut from LEAVE IT TO BEAVER to TOP CAT to SEINFELD to THAT GIRL to MAN FROM UNCLE to DIRTY HARRY to ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE to SCOOBY DOO to ZORRO to CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY to DOBIE GILLIS to ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES to PUNKY BREWSTER to BONANZA (the animated series). *Whew* It was at least a new topic or reference every 60-seconds. It was more fun than Comic Con International. And after it was all over, I still think MADAGASCAR is a funny film.

July 26, 2005
Had a great lunch today. But more on that tomorrow. ** Did want to mention I put up another batch of photos on the costume character page. You'll find one 'mystery' character dubbed the "pink thing". It is some sort of bear, but I cannot place the series the character is from. Anyone who can, I would appreciate hearing from you. ** And the local Costco has first seasons of MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and BOB NEWHART SHOW for only $18.95 each. Pretty good deal.

July 25, 2005
Another movie ages. Before I go on, I need to say I love old movies. Classics like CASABLANCA and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN are as great now as they were when first released. And silly films from Charlie Chan to Abbott & Costello can still amuse. But every so often I find a film that is not holding up well. The most recent is Disney's 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. When I was growing up in the 60s, I thought this film was very exciting and fun. In the 70s, I saw it as a classic that reflected how good Disney live action films could be. But seeing it last night... It is easy to see why old movies don't always hold up. The characters are either cold or hammy, and sometimes both. The story is generally disjointed with little flow from sequence to sequence. The action scenes, except for supplying more modern filmmakers with inspiration (anyone who can watch Kirk Douglas emerge from the tropical forest onto the beach, followed by dozens of natives, and not see the inspiration for the same scene in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK just doesn't understand "tributes") often come across as silly. In fact, as irony would have it, around a week ago I saw FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON. It is a pointless "adventure" film based on a Jules Verne story and starring Red Buttons. Critics and fans have referred to it as a flat, poorly done carbon copy of Disney's 20,000 LEAGUES with a 2nd rate cast. After 40 years the casts have become equally "unknown" to most audiences. And oddly enough, the films seem very similar. And sadly, both are now pretty flat.

July 24, 2005
Old movies and conspiracy theories. Spending extra hours each night awake on pup duty, I have been watching a lot of old movies. A common mystery plot is a crime gang is running rampant. At the climax, the detective (Charlie Chan, Nick Charles), a smart reporter, or bumbling comics (Abbott & Costello) find the secret ringleader of the gang is the mayor, chief of police or other prominent government official. This secret criminal allowed the gang to run rampant and used his position to confuse police and protect the gang. Suddenly a conspiracy movie plot popped into my head that could be "ripped from today's headlines". After a contested election in a fictional country, a high official calls in powerful friends to help him boost his popularity and dismiss his critics. (An old movie would have used a crime boss, but for this film it is a powerful group of suppliers of energy to the country.) A plan to create an incident backfires when a renegade leader of a band of friends produces a gigantic act of terrorism. The act does give the government a surge in popularity and allows them to pass new laws to benefit the government. However, it also causes a falling out amongst the powerful friends. To keep the friends from revealing the link, the government promises not to locate the renegade group leader. To keep the public distracted, the government starts wars in several small countries. In the end, a clever reporter or security agent discovers the link between the government and the leader of the terrorists. In the innnocent 1930s, 1940s and 1950s the final result would be a toppling of the crooked officials, and a declaration that a clean government would be installed. Since the 1960s, it is as likely the final result could be the crooked officials are able to silence their critics and maintain their power.

July 23, 2005
Right now there are two animated shows on two different networks that are almost identical. Each features a world where fantasy creatures (trolls, unicorns, etc.) exist in our world, but are hidden. Each features an elder wiseman. Each features a young "chosen one" to handle the fantasy creatures. Each has a talking dog sidekick. The two shows are Disney Channel's AMERICAN DRAGON and Cartoon Network's JUNIPER LEE. When the shows began receiving press, each studio was upset that another studio was using "their" idea. Of course similar ideas appearing at the same time in movies, or TV is nothing new. One year everyone decides to do werewolves, another year alien invasions of earth. Actually both shows seem to bear a strong resemblance to Jackie Chan's animated series. That series from the 1990s featured a wise elder and a young fighter, who is Jackie's niece. The new shows simply make the "neice" the main character and turn Jackie into a talking dog. There are differences between JAKE and JUNIPER. (Gad! Both have "J" names! And Rachel just reminded me that Jackie Chan's niece is Jade.) One is gender. Jake is male. Juniper is female. Another is official position. Jake is a fantasy creature as he can turn into a dragon. Juniper is a guardian ala Buffy. The other big difference is tone. DRAGON is generally a goofy show with the main character always getting into trouble by pushing too fast. Think typical teen super-hero. JUNIPER is more straight and more involved with her personal life. Think Marvel Comics. I will confess, having seen both shows, I enjoy the goofier take. If I had to pick a series of a girl hero with problems, I'd probably go with KIM POSSIBLE. Though she plays as if being an agent is a bother, she seems to have fun doing it. And a big rule in entertainment is that if the characters are having fun, so will the audience.

July 22, 2005
What are family values? This question came to mind during a recent studio competitive screening. (Every month the studio shows episodes of series on other networks to expose us to the competition.) This month they showed PBS's POSTCARDS FROM BUSTER. It is a pretty bland series featuring animated segments of a rabbit (Buster) talking about the people he meets and places he goes. The people and places are real people shot with a video crew. It comes across as sort of a "day in the life of...". The series became newsworthy when one segment had Buster "visit" a couple described as "lesbians". It caused a congressional uproar and several family value groups thought funding to public tv should be cut. The episode I saw had no lesbian couple. It did have two children. The boy was around 11 years old and a semi-professional accordian player in Texas. We learned he lived with his grand parents. Seems the boy's mother re-married and wanted to move away. The children did not want to move, so simply moved in with their grandparents. They don't seem to hear from the mother anymore. The boy travels the Southwest with an elderly gentleman who has played accordian with him since the boy was 7. The music "brings us closer", they say. We also get to visit local restuarants where children under 12 are hard at work. As one child says, his family needs help, so he works there full time. Children who walk away from their parents. Elderly man traveling with young boy. 12-year olds working in sweat kitchens. Maybe those are family values in Texas. All I can say is, two women living together don't sound like they would have any less family values.

July 21, 2005
Pupdate. The new litter is doing fine. The seven pups are growing by peeps and pounds. This group is easily our most active pack. Even before they could walk they were dragging themselves around the whelping box. The house sings with their vocals, which they get from the motor mouth mother. Size, which is mostly large, seems to be coming from father and grandmother. Already full of personality, each little one brings a smile to our faces. Course it is tiring as we take split shifts sleeping, giving each around 3 hours a night. But we try to keep a close eye on them. Mom, on the other hand, has already begun losing interest in being a mother. She is always there when mouths call for meals, but other times she looks longingly to be elsewhere. There is already interest from others to have our kids join their family. We have been fortunate to find excellent, warm families to adopt our pups. (Though we did have one exception, and fortunately they have moved away where we need not confront the issue.) It will be a sad day to see them go. But that day is still weeks away. For tonight and many more nights they are ours to watch over and enjoy. I know there are those who simply cannot understand our concern and love for "just dogs". But those who don't "get it" never will. It is their loss.

July 20, 2005
In the beginning...
I am often amused at what constitutes the 'origin' of something. For example, this past weekend Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY opened in theaters. Burton and Depp continually commented on how they were trying to capture the [darker] tone of Roald Dahl's book. I am amazed at the number of reviews that refer to the film as a "remake" of the 1960s feature WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Guess most folks are more familiar with the movie than the book. If you follow that line of logic, today's film reporters would say Tim Burton's BATMAN was based on the 1960s TV series! On the flip side, Spielberg's WAR OF WORLDS is usually listed as being based on the book by HG Wells. It is later stated that it was also a movie from the 1950s. The company that makes the James Bond films is talking about doing their version of CASINO ROYALE. It is the one book that was produced by a different company. When it comes out, will folks say the new movie is based on the book? The TV show? The movie?

July 19, 2005
Comic Con: San Diego. Not your father's con. This year, more than in the past, it struck me how different the con has become since I attended the first one in 1970. For the first decade, the con was mostly a celebration of comic history for collectors. The dealers room was mostly filled with old comics, pulps, books and such. Bud Plant was one of the few sources for "new" stuff. Attendees went to talk about comics, fill holes in the collection and meet the famous names from the past. The closest you had to "new" celebrities were the fans themselves building reps as historians or entrepeneurs. The 80s brought a new group of independent publishers, but the focus was still on celebrating the classic characters, talents and books. However, this year's comic con was actually more about promotion than celebration. Whereas a film panel 20 years ago would have been about classic films and golden age celebrities (like Buster Crabbe or Kirk Alyn), the panels this year were mostly modern stars hawking their latest product. It was like "Good Morning America: Live!". Perhaps that is why the con is creating less and less interest for me. I don't mind all the tables selling videogames or cards or dice or t-shirts or halloween costumes, or even the ones selling nothing - merely displaying items to promote future sales. I do mind the incredibly shrinking amount of comics and comic history. Back in the 1990s, the con changed its name from the San Diego Comic Con to Comic Con International: San Diego. The idea was to focus more on the con than the location. This way, should the con have to move (like to Anaheim, which was considered several times), the location was less connected to the title. Considering what it has become, perhaps the more appropriate name would have been San Diego Con: Comics. That way, they could simply change what the con was focusing on.

July 18, 2005
Busy at the studio and nightly puppy patrol. No time for computer stuff.

July 17, 2005
Rushed at home, tons of travel and nightly puppy patrol. No time for computer stuff.

July 16, 2005
Back to home chores and puppy patrol.

July 14 & 15, 2005
Comic Con International: San Diego. Was able to squeeze in time on two days to see the con, with evenings back home watching the pups. As usual, the con seemed bigger than last year. There has been a return to booths that are more about promotion than sales. Such booths seemed to disappear at the end of the last century as the dotcom boom, studio monopolization and economy dip seemed to alter corporate plans. Also saw lots and lots more space devoted to game companies - video and card. The trend of fewer and fewer comic dealers also continues. There are probably as many creators promoting their own independent comics as there are dealers selling comics for collectors. Last year's trend to youth-goth comics, the epitamy being 'kinder-goths', has taken a down turn. In its place are equal doses of art deco theme comics (such as Lass Vegas) and 'ugly doll' themes (and by that I mean the many, frankenstein like characters of which 'ugly dolls' is only one of the more recent and better known brand names.) As is often the case with most comics you seem to have to settle for good writing or good art. Also sad to note is the still depressed interest in anthropomorphic (ie 'funny animal') comics. Such comics have always been a small part of the collector world with Disney and Hanna-Barbera titles being the key focus. However for many years it seemed as if younger creators were having fun with the genre. From Fritz the Cat to Cerebus the Aardvark to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Life in Hell, fresh talent enjoyed the freedom of anthro characters. However, since the 1990s, you see few of these popping up. At least the trend seems to be growing in the world of fantasy fiction with series from Redwall to Spellsinger. And of course animation is still a home for such worlds as LION KING and MADAGASCAR. Perhaps someone in comics will try again and get it right... or at least get lucky.

July 13, 2005
Too much work. Too little sleep... around 2 hours worth.

July 12, 2005
As the world of dvds continue to explode, I am disappointed that the extras that make dvds so popular are often so skimpy on animated titles. A live action film or series will get all sorts of interviews, behind the scenes stuff and other fun. The average animated offering will be lucky if it has any background material. Usually one is forced to settle for some trailers and games. True, there are many an animated production in which key talent has passed on. Yet, even when there is a wealth of possibilities, most studios seem to settle for comments from a few animation historians or selected voice talent than the people who were actually responsible for the characters and stories. For example, when WB released the first two seasons of SCOOBY DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? there was little of historical interest. One key dvd site mentioned that the reason given by WB for the eensie extras was lack of material. To that I told the dvd site, pooh! First, a lot of folks who worked on the series are still alive, including one of the producers, one of the designers, several writers and animators. On top of that, there is a variety of previous interviews with Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera discussing the character and their studio. Even more frustrating are some of the Disney dvds. When Disney released their LION KING laserdisc in the late 90s, it had dozens of great extras. When the dvd came out, it featured some of them. My question was, since the extras had already been done, why not put them on the new dvd. When I talk to folks at the studio, they echo these thoughts. Though studios seem to desire hiding away the old talent, perhaps to make the property young and hip, folks who really love animation would prefer hearing from someone who was really there, rather than from students with second hand information and opinions. No matter how many special features keep getting added to live action dvds, it seems animation will continue to be a second class citizen.

July 11, 2005
Dollar DVDs to the Rescue! Lately I have been promoting an idea to help save the life of a variety of animated characters. My idea is, "put them out on dollar dvds!" Too many rights holders of animation are holding back on their properties. The problem is, by holding them back, it just moves them away from the public's eye and memory. Soon, they will be forgotten. My answer is the $1 dvd. Think Mighty Mouse. There are scores of Mighty Mouse cartoons. Viacom could pick a dozen and release them on a $1 dvd. It would be like a 'free sample' of the character. As people bought the dvds and watched them, they would rediscover the animated superstar and want to see more. Then Viacom could put together nice sets at a more profitable price. This recently happend with the Van Beuren Tom and Jerry cartoons of the 1930s. This human duo, sort of a Mutt and Jeff (who remembers them these days?), starred in a score of cartoons that were quite funny, and almost totally forgotten. However, when a selection of their shorts showed up on a $1 dvd, animation fans rediscovered the team and now there are new websites up and a great wave of popularity. If it can happen to Tom and Jerry, it can work for Mighty Mouse and others. (This could even work with forgotten comedy shorts and TV series.) As the guy says in ROBOCOP, "I'd buy that for a dollar!"

July 10, 2005
Puppy pictures are HERE.

The next several weeks will prove to be quite trying. Tending the new family members will require Rachel and I breaking each other for sleep. This means I'll have around one hour a night to get house chores done, answer email, update this page and prep for the next day. I don't expect to do much more than a minor bark (hopefully) every day for the next several weeks. On top of that, this weekend is Comic Con International - San Diego. I hope to be attending the con on Thursday and Friday. I have been attending the San Diego Comic Con (its original name) since before Rachel was born! Finally on Sunday, I hope to swing by Disneyland for their 50th anniversary to get a special edition pin. I actually worked at Disneyland on their 25th anniversary. So much happening. So little time. And with so little sleep. Good thing I stocked up on caffeine pills.

July 9, 2005
The magnificent seven rode into our lives today with the arrival of a new litter. The Chinese year of the Rooster, the Wooden Rooster to be precise. Standard astrology has this group as Cancer, the Crab. This litter is unique in many ways from our history of bringing in new life. Most noted is the noise level. This group is constantly talking. We figure they take after their mother who is a real motor mouth. Keeping these kids safe and happy will be a full time job for several weeks. Hence Rachel and I will be doing split shifts of sleeping. *yawn* Will be a busy, sleepy time for the next few weeks.

July 8, 2005
History or Racism? Recently Mexico released a series of stamps featuring one of the most popular characters in comics. The problem is that, at least for much of the world, the character is a Black character. Critics claim it is a racist caricature utlizing big lips and large eyes. Certainly in today's world, such a design would not even be considered. But when created decades ago, it was not unusual to see such exageration. To deny such designs were used is to deny history. A famous story about Black caricatures occured when Bill Cosby was working on his FAT ALBERT animated series in the 1970s. The studio, not wanting to be considered racist, designed the characters very plain. Like so many characters in that era, the only nod to ethnic differences was the color of paint used on the skin. When Cosby saw these designs he expressed great displeasure. He wanted to know where the exagerated, caricatured characters that inhabited his stories were. In a key meeting he told the studio that he wanted the main character to be grotesquely fat. He wanted the other kids to resemble kids he remembered, warts, big lips, weird eyes and all. The studio followed his guideline and when the series came out, no one made any mention about the designs. Cartooning, and thus animation, is all about caricature and exageration. Whether you are looking at one of the dwarfs in Disney's SNOW WHITE, Warner's Elmer Fudd, or Miyazaki's Yubaba you are looking at exagerated features. It is the caricatured elements that make these characters memorable, and oddly, more believable. Without those elements you might as well use a photograph.

July 7, 2005
Another lesson on the difference a day can make. Yesterday talk was of the Live 8 concert, the G-8 conference and the Olympics going to London. Today it is another day of terror talk. Oddly, the most calm, sensible talk is coming from England. The folks there all seem to be handling the situation with strength and resolve. Over here, we have newspersons and commentators (when you can tell them apart) blathering on about what it all means, and how folks will cope and what we should do. The one thing for certain, our homeland security department was right on the job. Not. I arrived at Los Angeles Union Station this morning around 6:30. This is the hub of the city's commuting with major train, light rail, subway and buslines all coming together. Even though it was almost four hours after the London attack, the Los Angeles station was totally devoid of any security. In fact, it was eerily quiet. Usually there are some uniformed officers checking people for proper tickets on the train. The only nod to the incident was our conductor reminding folks to watch their luggage and to "keep your eyes open for anything suspicious." You would think after four hours someone in Washington, where it was past 9 a.m., would have ordered security to all major hubs. I am not saying such security would have prevented any problems, but it might have calmed the many commuters who were abuzz with fear and concern. It was interesting to catch snippets of the news as the day wore on. Our stations were interviewing Americans all expressing worry about traveling on trains and busses. International news talked to Britains who stated concern, but also stated it would not affect their lives. One Britain even joked about their cliched 'stiff upper lip'. At times like that it is clear the terrorists won't win that battle. Over here, with all our panic attacks, it seems no matter where terrorism strikes too many in the U.S. will respond with fear rather than fearlessness. Oh, by the time I was heading home, there were officers all over the place, including explosive sniffing dogs. If nothing else, having dogs around helps calm most people.

July 6, 2005
Not much to report today, except a lot of unintentionally funny news items in the world of politics. Best is President Bush's statement that other countries should begin moving away from oil and gas as a major fuel source. From demanding we go after every possible drop of oil in the environment in this country to telling other countries to cut back on their consumption. Might have something to do with China trying to buy one of our oil companies.

On the less absurd side, or maybe just differently absurd, I have added over half a dozen new costume character pix/pages. Some include characters I have performed.

July 5, 2005
Another cable network goes for the modern, youth audience. First you have channels like Discovery and Animal Planet dropping nature programs that showed fascinating footage and stories for nonsense series about dragons or imaginary creatures or clowns running around endangering themselves and wildlife. Now Boomerang has begun seeking the young crowd. The network was a final resting place for classic Hanna-Barbera series of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. In fact, it was the only place to see many a classic cartoon from the Warner, H-B and MGM libraries. However this month it has progammed the 1990s Batman and Superman series produced by Warner Brothers. True, the Batman series is now a decade old. That might qualify it for the retro-channel. My fear is that more and more of the WB 90s library, from STATIC SHOCK to FREAKAZOID to HYSTERIA, will crowd out such shows as JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS, JONNY QUEST and TOP CAT. On the bright side, they have begun airing the Pink Panther cartoons. After 40+ years these cartoons can still make me laugh with their inventive sight gags. I just wish they were running the Batman/Superman cartoons when I was at work... and the Pink Panther ones at night. After all, the superhero toons are really just for the comic fans. The Panther cartoons, especially the theatrical ones, offer some pretty sophisticated humor. Heck, you could show some of them during Adult Swim!

July 4, 2005
The fourth of July. The day our forefathers declared independence from a government that did not respect or respond to the people. The day our forefathers declared independence from a religous group that wanted to enforce its beliefs on all citizens. The day our forefathers declared independence from a government that refused to let people speak freely, especially when such speech was critical of the government. The day our forefathers declared independence from a government that resided in a different continent. The day our forefathers declared all were created equal and deserved to be treated the same. Hopefully amongst the picnics, fireworks, TV marathons and blockbuster movies Americans will take a moment to remember what the day really stands for... and those who died to make it a reality.

July 3, 2005
Mary Poppins. The only film produced by Walt that was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Hadn't really sat through it for years, but took a quiet afternoon to watch the new DVD release. After 40 years the film is still a treat, if a bit long. But I must admit to seeing it with a different eye. While I worked at the Disney Archives, I spent many an hour transcribing interviews done with many a folk who worked on the film. The two tales I heard mentioned most were Walt's love of the song "Feed the Birds" and Walt's enamorment with Dick Van Dyke. I remember how easy it was to see ways Walt kept finding spots for Van Dyke's sweep character. But today it was downright astounding to see how Van Dyke seems to have more screen time that Julie Andrews. It seemed the film was constantly showing Van Dyke clowning or dancing with cut away shots to Andrews smiling. The other thing I noticed was the casting. Ahead of its time, Walt "snuck" in a large variety of prominent stars in tiny parts from Elsa Lanchester to Reginal Owen. The practice of such celebrity drop-ins is quite common today. The film also boasts some of Walt's best scenes, notably the final sequence with the father and Bert discussing children followed by the long walk the father takes through streets of London. Long, thoughtful and with a real eye at showing a character (the father) shift his view. Today's films (and audiences) wouldn't want to waste that much time. But it is such bits that makes the film still "practically perfect".

July 2, 2005
The holiday weekend is here. The mountain is filled to the brim with visitors. Stores are mobbed. Roads are crowded. Houses usually dark now have lights on. Years ago I did not think much about it. Beyond the inconvenience of having to hassle with crowds, it was only a few days. However, that changed after the Old Fire caused us to be evacuated for several weeks. Now when I see the hundreds of visitors, I see the cigarettes they toss on the ground. I smell the barbecues they are cooking meat on. And even though the weather is warm, I smell their fireplaces. While it is nice that the holidays give folks time to visit the pleasures I get everyday. I just hope they realize how fragile the environment is. This weekend we have been blessed with cooler than average temperatures, but also more wind than usual. As Smokey the Bear is apt to say, "Only you can prevent forest fires." Truth is, only people can prevent fires. Period. Here's hoping for a happy, safe fourth for the visitors, the regulars, and the forest... which was here before any of us.

July 1, 2005
I finally found a little time to start up my costume character site. Not a lot at the moment, but I hope to have it grow at least every week. As it says, ever since working as a professional character at Disneyland, I have been fascinated by costume characters. When I see them, I not only study the suit, but also the performer. In fact, when I see one that does a great job I try to give the worker a kind word. They don't get a lot. I remember while visiting Universal Studios Florida, the performer doing Bullwinkle was amazing. I went to their guest center and told them I wanted to write a comment about the Bullwinkle performer. The lady behind the desk began to apologize for whatever Bullwinkle may have done. I told her I actually wanted to give a compliment. She looked a bit surprised and then stated they were not used to getting compliments about the characters. Then she told me I might not understand what it took to be a professional costume character. I pulled out my Disneyland ID and some photos of me in suit. She was truly shocked. At this point her supervisor had come into the conversation. He stated I certainly would know good suit work and gave me the comment form. I wrote it out and they thanked me. The supervisor said he would personally take it to Bullwinkle. He then said he knew Bullwinkle would appreciate hearing praise from a "real professional character". I figured it simply meant Universal thought of their characters as second rate to Disney. It was nice, but as a professional 'suit watcher', I have seen good and bad at almost any site characters appear.

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