Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mark Twain

Today would have been Mark Twain's 176th birthday. I have always loved Twain's stories, especially a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Mark Twain wrote stories that touch the heart and inspire the imagination. Disney has made several of Twain's books into movies, including Tom & Huck, A Kid in King Arthur's Court, and the animated Prince and the Pauper.

Happy Birthday, 
Mark Twain!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Movies for Kids, Part 1

I love Christmas movies! I'm afraid I'm rather addicted to them. I have so many favorites anymore, that I start watching them just after Halloween. Some are traditional movies that my family has watched for years. In fact, it's a family tradition to watch Miracle on 34th Street every year during the long Thanksgiving weekend. (And it has to be the old version with Edmund Gwenn and Maureen O'Hara, although we enjoy both the black and white and colorized versions.) In honor of this long standing tradition, I thought I would share some of our favorite holiday films with you. Today, we'll start with great holiday films for kids of any age.

Eloise at Christmastime - The first Christmas that this was on tv, we kept missing the beginning. By the time we finally were able to watch the entire movie, we'd seen parts of it 4-5 times. After seeing it so many times, my grandfather said, "Not that little girl again!" It's one of my favorite memories of him. Eloise is a precocious 6 year old who lives at the Plaza hotel. She's a bit of a trouble maker and match maker who somehow always manages to evade punishment for her adventures. We LOVE Eloise and Julie Andrews as Nanny, too!

Eloise: Little Miss Christmas - Eloise and her friends at the Plaza decide to put on a Christmas Spectacular, but with a review of the hotel coming the day before Christmas, Mr. Salamone may cancel the show. What will Eloise do? A fun, short, animated film, this story of the spunky 6 year old will quickly become a favorite with your kids as well. This movie feature the voice talents of Lynn Redgrave as Nanny and Tim Curry as Mr. Salamone.

Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas - Every fan of the Muppets should own a copy of this movie. Featuring the fantastic talents of the original band of Muppeteers, this story is one that shouldn't be missed. Emmett and his Ma both want to give each other the best Christmas present ever, but with money in short supply, they each decide to enter the town talent contest. Will the risk pay off, or will they both lose it all? Watch this wonderful story to find out.

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas - Featuring three Christmas stories full of love, magic and surprises, this film is sure to delight. In a story reminiscent of O. Henry's Gift of the Magi, Mickey and Minnie remember the year they gave up what they thought was most dear to give gifts to each other. Goofy and Max recall the year Max stopped believing in Santa and the adventure that eventually made him see why belief is important, although a visit from the real Santa always helps. Huey, Dewey, and Louie remember the year they wished for Christmas every day and what it took them to learn what the holiday is really about.

Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas - Featuring four new stories of love and magic. Minnie and Daisy are both a part of the ice skating show. Can they put aside their competition and put on their ice spectacular? Uncle Scrooge warns Huey, Dewey, and Louie that their behavior will keep them off Santa's good list, so they travel to the North Pole to fix the problem. While there, they discover that Christmas is about sharing and caring. Max is bringing home a girl for Christmas, but can he count on Goofy not to embarrass him? Donald just wants to sit at home with his cocoa, but Daisy and his nephews have other ideas. Can Donald find his Christmas spirit before its too late? Finally, Mickey has created what he thinks is the perfect Christmas party, but when Pluto wrecks it and then runs away, he realizes that parties are nothing without your friends.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! - This classic animated tale tells the story of the grumpy old Grinch who lives on Mount Crumpet and his hatred of the Whos who live in Whoville below. As the story goes "Every WHO down in WHOVILLE liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of WHOVILLE did not!" Narrated by the incredible Boris Karloff with a song sung by Thurl Ravenscroft (who also voiced Tony the Tiger as well as one of the singing busts in Disney's Haunted Mansion attractions.")

Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas - George and the Man with the Yellow Hat are preparing to celebrate Christmas. From Christmas trees with chairs in them to tomato snowman, everything is uniquely perfect for the happy pair. There's just one problem, the Man is having trouble understanding George's wishlist and George doesn't know what to get for the man who has everything. It all works out in typical George fashion and even has a few new songs, like "Are you ready?" and "Christmas Monkey".

Original Television Christmas Classics - There are several different versions of this set available. My favorites from them include: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, narrated by the wonderful Burl Ives, Frosty the Snowman narrated by Jimmy Durante, Santa Claus is Coming to Town featuring Fred Astaire & Mickey Rooney, The Cricket on the Hearth, and the Little Drummer Boy. All are wonderful old classics that are fun to watch at Christmas.
Although not generally included, another old classic is Frosty's Winter Wonderland narrated by Andy Griffith. Frosty makes a Missus and hilarity ensues.

The Happy Elf - This wacky story, narrated by Harry Connick, Jr., is the story of Eubie, one of Santa's elves, who is always deliriously happy, much to the annoyance of those around him. When Eubie learns that there is an entire town of children on Santa's naughty list, he sets out to help them find the spirit of Christmas and get back on the nice list. In the process, he helps himself and his friends to achieve their dream of being part of Santa's sleigh team.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, full of family and friends, food and fun. A time to remember and be thankful for all we've been blessed with in this life. 

Heap high the board with plenteous cheer and gather to the feast,
And toast the sturdy Pilgrim band whose courage never ceased.
~Alice W. Brotherton

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Trailer for Brave

Have you seen the latest trailer for Brave? This new film from Disney just looks better and better. I can't wait to see it!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mickey!

Today is Mickey Mouse's 83rd Birthday. From his first appearance in "Steamboat Willie" to his current role in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Mickey has changed over the years, but has only become more popular. Mickey Mouse is  a true American icon who's creation changed the entertainment industry forever. As Walt Disney once said, "I hope we never lose sight of one fact... that this was all started by a Mouse."

Happy Birthday, Mickey! 

And Happy Birthday to my sister, too!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Quote of the Week

"That's what you need: a down-to-earth story that people can associate themselves with." -- Walt Disney

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Talking Mickey at Disney World

Have you heard about the newest character experience at Disney World? Now, when you meet Mickey at the Town Square Theater, he may actually speak to you. And he won't just say the same things to each guest. Mickey asks and answers questions and truly talks with guests young and old. Several videos have been appearing lately of guest speaking with Mickey. While one is an official Disney video, the others are videos taken by surprised guests who experienced this new talking Mickey during this initial testing phase. As you can see from the videos, this new talking Mickey is quite the experience!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Quote of the Week

"It's not just about living forever. It's about living with yourself forever." Captain Teague, Pirates of the Caribbean

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens
One of my favorite holiday stories, either book or movie, is A Christmas Carol. I love the tale of the miserly curmudgeon, Ebeneezer Scrooge, and his unwanted search for redemption. The characters are fantastic, well written and believable and you really feel as if you know them. I read Dickens ultimate Christmas story every year and my Mom and I collect movie versions of the story as well. Bean has watched them pretty much since she was born. One Christmas, after watching the Patrick Stewart version for the millionth time, she ran around saying "I'm the ghost of Christmas NEVER, mwah ha ha ha!" The story of Scrooge has become a favorite Christmas tradition for our family and I look forward to it every year.

Patrick Stewart as Ebeneezer Scrooge
My favorite classic version is the one with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge. Stewart spent several years doing dramatic one-man retellings of the story in New York and Los Angeles. The one-man show is available as a cd and is fantastic. He really gets into the story and does multiple voices and sound effects. I wish I could have seen it live, but I'll settle for listening to it several times a year. The movie is also fantastic, and probably the closest version to Dickens. Another good version is the George C. Scott film, although it takes some liberties with the original. A very old version starring Alister Sim is also available on DVD.

Musical versions are also fantastic. My favorite is Scrooge with Albert Finney. Finney makes a very grumpy Scrooge, but he's a lot of fun to watch. The music is also fantastic and memorable. I especially love the song "Thank You Very Much" and how it changes once Scrooge has learned his lesson. Another great one is A Christmas Carol: The Musical with Kelsey Grammer. This version has a fantastic cast, including: Jane Krakowski, Jason Alexander, and Jennifer Love Hewitt. With music by Alan Menken of Beauty and the Beast fame, this Broadway-style show really shines with Christmas spirit. 

When it comes to children's versions, my favorite is still The Muppet Christmas Carol. I love the Muppets and Michael Caine as Scrooge is fantastic. The Muppet version has my favorite "Ghost of Christmas Present", a large, absent-minded spirit with fascinating hair. The new Disney version starring Jim Carrey in multiple animated roles is also very good. While they have added a bit of adventure to some otherwise simple scenes in the book, it is still a very good retelling of the story. For smaller children, I love Mickey's Christmas Carol. A short, simple story that introduced the miserly Scrooge McDuck, this is a great way to introduce children to the classic tale. Another cartoon version with voices by Simon Callow, Kate Winslet, Nicholas Cage, and Michael Gambon, takes a lot of liberties with the story, but has a poignant song sung by Kate Winslet. A cartoon version featuring Tim Curry, Michael York, Ed Asner, and Whoopie Goldberg as the "Ghost of Christmas Present".
This version is full of catchy, silly songs, and my favorite is the utterly ridiculous  "Santa's Sooty Suit" as sung by Scrooge's nephew Fred. A surprisingly fun children's version is Barbie in a Christmas Carol. With a few Barbie twists, the main character, Eden Starling, is shown how her selfishness hurts those around her. While obvious liberties have been taken with the story, the core lesson of overcoming selfishness and redeeming ones life are still present. For the truly silly, there's even a Scooby-Doo version that is good for a laugh and fun for Scooby lovers. Called "The Nutcracker Scoob", the gang, minus Velma, helps the children of a small orphanage to stop the "Ghost of Christmas Present".

In all, there are a lot of different versions of A Christmas Carol, and many of them are well worth watching. I personally watch at least 6 different ones every Christmas, and I'm always looking for new versions. This year, I plan to read the book to Bean for the very first time. It will take a few weeks as we only read a few pages each night, but it will be well worth it and I can't wait to share Dickens classic story with her as it was originally written.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Jingle Smells Vinylmation

Have you seen the newest Christmas Vinylmations at the Disney Store? They are so cute! And they smell like holiday goodies to boot. I love these new 3" Vinylmations, which double as ornaments. They're $11.95 each and are packaged in display tubes reminiscent of a snow globe. I must say, I want them all!
Gingerbread Man smells like gingerbread
Marshmallow Snowman smells like marshmallows

Chocolate Mickey smells like chocolate

Peppermint Candy Cane smells like peppermint

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Quote of the Week

"I do not like to repeat successes, I like to go on to other things." -- Walt Disney