Archive | October 2013

Terrible 2’s Reviews: Lost Boys – The Tribe

*Some people may say that most films lose their way by a third sequel, but that isn’t always the case. For every “Wrath of Khan” or “Toy Story 2,” there’s a dozen ‘number 2’ films that were made, that could not uphold the energy and enthusiasm of the first film. This review section, aims to talk about these “Terrible 2’s”*

__________

We all have our guilty pleasure films, and in terms of this, I’d say The Lost Boys fits into that category for me. Joel Schumacher’s 1987 film took the concept of vampires, and spun it into a modern-day story about peer pressure, and family.

After Lucy Emerson (Dianne Wiest) separates from her husband, she moves her sons Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) to the seaside town of Santa Carla, to live with Lucy’s eccentric father (Barnard Hughes). However, when Michael attempts to fit in with a gang of biker boys (led by Kiefer Sutherland) down by the local Boardwalk, he soon finds himself in league with a group of vampires, and finds himself starting to become one.

Director Joel Schumacher can sometimes go over the top in some cases, but there are some great moments in Lost Boys, where he manages to create atmosphere and scenery within the small budget of his production. If there are any big special effects shots, he saves those for certain moments.

That isn’t to say that he ignores the family aspect of the film. The film manages to make us care about its siblings, as well as put a spin on peer pressure, and fitting in after moving to a new town. It was also one of the first films to have both Corey Haim, AND Corey Feldman in the same picture.

For years after the film was made, a small group of people pleaded and begged for more (even though the film wrapped itself up nicely). Rumors ran rampant for many years that the next step up from Lost Boys, were Lost Girls. Talk swirled about scripts being peddled around Hollywood in the 1990’s, and at one point, Joel Schumacher was involved (one has to wonder if the Batman and Robin debacle of 1997 hurt his street-cred enough to have noone take him seriously on that).

In the end, nothing would come of those rumors, and it seemed that another film from the 1980’s would be spared an unnecessary sequel.

Until, 2008.

Given how a number of studios had cashed in on cheaply-made direct-to-video sequels (such as Universal Pictures’ myriad American Pie films), Warner Brothers wanted to get in on some of this action, and launched their DTV division, Warner Premiere.

One script that had made its way to the company’s desks, was titled The Tribe, and involved surfers that were actually werewolves. The script was originally rejected for seeming too close to the story of Lost Boys, but after some thought, it was felt that the script could be altered to becoming a sequel of sorts. And so, the surfing werewolves, became surfing vampires.

And thus, Lost Boys: The Tribe, came to be.

__________

After the death of their parents, brother and sister Chris (Tad Hilgenbrink, on the left) and Nicole (Autumn Reeser, in the center) Emerson, move to the seaside town of Luna Beach, to stay with their eccentric Aunt (Gabrielle Rose, on the right). Chris was once a pro surfer, who dropped out of the competition.

While roaming around town, Chris is surprised to meet another former pro surfer, Shane Powers (Angus Sutherland). He invites Chris to a surf party at his place nearby. Chris eventually goes, after Nicole begs him to take her along. However, once at the party, Shane entices Nicole to drink from a flask. A few hours later, Nicole begins to act strangely.

For those who have seen the original Lost Boys, you might have been thinking to yourself in reading those last paragraphs: “Hey, some of those story beats sound familiar.” And, in a good 85% of the film, that’s because they largely are!

– Broken family moving to a new locale by the ocean

– Crazy older family member providing lodgings

– A head vampire played by a Sutherland (true story: Angus (right) is Kiefer’s (left) little half-brother!)

– Family member falls in with vampire crowd, and tricked into drinking blood

– Frog brother(s) wants to kill new vampires, but is told not to

– Crazy motorcycle stunts

– Nighttime beach party leading to vampire bloodbath

– The song Cry Little Sister is played

Also, to prove that it’s more ‘mature’ than the original film, The Tribe contains plenty of profanity, and some nudity. As well, the level of gore is upped in numerous scenes. I guess that was one thing that we can thank Schumacher for regarding the first film: he worked within his budgetary limits, and made an entertaining film. This one just comes off as a bunch of young punks wanting to act cool and hip. Then again, most sequels tend to have this thought that they need to be bigger and badder than the original.

Tad Hilgenbrink’s character of Chris just seems to be, “there” most of the time. In fact, it was hard for me to focus on him as a character, without constantly thinking, “he looks like James Marsden’s younger brother!”

Autumn Reeser’s Nicole is meant to be the ‘Michael’ of our film, but her line reading and performance didn’t instill me with much hope. Probably the most cringe-worthy moment is when she realizes she’s a half-vampire, after almost biting a guy. She gives an embarrassing shriek/cry, before babblingly telling her brother, “how could I have drank his blood? I’m a vegetarian!”

The film also seems to want to play as ‘dark and mysterious,’ but it soon ends up becoming ridiculous. For example, remember how Chris and Nicole’s last name is Emerson?

Emerson was also the last name of the first film’s family, so that makes us wonder what the deal is with this family in The Tribe. Are they the children of Michael and his girlfriend Star (Jamie Gertz) from the first film, or possibly the children of Sam Emerson, and some other girl? Or…could this film be taking place in an alternate dimension, and this story is to that dimension, what the first Lost Boys is to ours?

Well, I’ll just spill the beans right now: it’s never explained.

Almost any bad sequel has to have at least one returning cast member from the original. Surely, there’s always someone down on their acting luck enough to accept a paycheck…and that honor, falls on Corey Feldman.

The dynamic duo of “The Frog Brothers” has now been reduced to one: Edgar Frog. No longer hanging out in comic book shops, Edgar now is a surfboard shaper, which leads to his becoming involved with Chris and his family problems. It seems that Edgar Frog really MUST have a frog in his throat, as Feldman’s lines all come out in a deep growl. Along with his surfboard work, Edgar is still vampire-obsessed, and still seems to produce vampire/PSA comic-books to those he feels needs to read them.

And speaking of Feldman in another sense, the film poses a most mind-numbing conundrum. When it seems that her niece and nephew may not have plans one evening, Auntie propose a most brilliant alternative:

Some Dunkin Donuts, and a night of watching The Goonies. I kid you not, that is an actual screenshot from this film!

And, it does beg the question: does that mean Corey Feldman also exists in this world, and he also resembles Edgar Frog? Ponder it, won’t you?

The film even had multiple “codas” that were meant to play after a few moments of the end credits.  These would mean nothing, unless you were a die-hard Lost Boys fan.

The coda used for the final cut, featured Edgar Frog meeting someone on a deserted beach at night. It turns out to be Sam Emerson (Corey Haim, above), who we see has become a vampire since the first film (how/why/whuh is never explained). The scene then ends with a few words exchanged between the two, before they both charge at each other…with the scene cutting to black, leaving us to decide who lived, and who died.

On the DVD Extras included with the film, there are two alternate endings that give some hints as to just what (possibly) happened to Edgar’s brother, Alan.

The extra endings from the DVD features, shot with Corey Haim (in black) as human, and vampire.

Both of the extra endings feature Sam coming to Edgar as well. However, they are both cut almost exactly the same, except in one, Haim’s character is a normal human, and in the other, he’s a vampire himself.

In these alternate endings, Sam has come to warn Edgar that his brother Alan is also coming for him. There was apparently something that happened between the two films, that ended up causing Alan to become a vampire, and going away.

During the sequences, we see a modded up Sports Car with darkened windows, streaking down a highway. Inside, we see it’s being driven by the vampiric Alan Frog, with an unnamed woman in the passenger seat. It should be noted that since these scenes of Alan having become a vampire were not included in the final print, that Alan may still be alive somewhere in the film universe, though that’s left to our imaginations.

The two alternate endings dealing with the eventual return of Alan Frog, probably had a lot of people going, “why couldn’t The Tribe have been about that storyline!?”

After all, it does seem odd that for a sequel, we just get a copycatting rehash of the first film.

__________

The Tribe was savaged online by many, and needless to say, there were plenty of morons who were hopeful that a sequel made 20 years after the previous film would be a hit.

Even so, its $5 million budget was quickly made back on the home video market, which led Warner Premiere to consider another Lost Boys film.

This resulted in the 2010 DTV release of Lost Boys: The Thirst. Unlike The Tribe (or the eventual return of Alan Frog outlined in the cut scenes), the story’s focus moves from Chris and Nicole, and features Edgar Frog (now with a girlfriend!?), and Alan Frog (normal, with none of that alternate Tribe ending info). A famous vampire novelist has found out that her brother has been kidnapped by some actual vampires, and requests Edgar’s services to save him. There are plenty of other ridiculous plotpoints, but like I stated a few sentences above, how does someone like Edgar Frog, with that gravelly voice and single-minded determination about killing vampires…actually get a girlfriend!?…oh right, this is the movies.

Yeah, this promotional still from “Lost Boys: The Thirst” looks cool, but be prepared for major disappointment if you venture further inward.

Word is this third film did next-to-nothing to redeem the series after The Tribe. However, the final nail in the coffin, came with the eventual shuttering of the Warner Premiere side of Warner Brothers. Corey Feldman claimed in a few interviews over the last few years, that he and Jamie Newlander were more than willing to do more with the Frog Brothers, but was willing to accept that those characters are finished.

If you have fond memories of The Lost Boys, and don’t want to ruin them, then stay clear of these terrible direct-to-video films. Only Joel Schumacher’s touch could make campy-horror about family and vampires, watchable.

__________

*For the next Terrible Two’s, we peek behind the questionable inner-workings of Hollywood. When it comes time to making a sequel to a big-budget film, what do you do? Spend even more money, and snip apart all those happy endings from the first one*
Advertisements

Exhibit Review: D23 Presents – Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

October 16, 2013, marked two major milestones in regards to Walt Disney, and the company he founded.

One of those events, was the 90th anniversary of the founding of The Walt Disney Company (formerly The Disney Brothers Studio).

The second event, was the official opening of the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives, at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. Originally, this exhibit had just been intended for an exclusive showing at the Ronald Reagan Library in 2012. However, some of the MSI staff were impressed by the presentation, and requested that the archive be brought to the Midwest.

David Mosena, President and CEO of The Museum of Science and Industry, welcomes the first visitors to the Museum’s Treasure of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit, on October 16, 2013. Joining him are Mickey Mouse, and Becky Cline, Director of The Walt Disney Archives

It may seem hard for the average person to believe, but Walt Disney was born in Chicago. As well, the Museum of Science and Industry is housed within a structure built for the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, of which Walt’s Father (Elias Disney) had a hand in some of the Exposition’s construction work.

The house Walt was born in still resides on the northwest side of Chicago, and he took classes at The Art Institute of Chicago in his late teens.

Regarding exhibition theming, the Archives exhibit at the Museum is meant as less of a tribute to The Walt Disney Company, and moreso a testament to Walt Disney, and what he achieved over the course of his life.

Over 300 artifacts are housed within the exhibit, many of them things that we have often seen as pictures, or within a flickering television screen. It is the ability to see these items up close that is one of the highlights of the exhibit.

One that is still mind-boggling to me, was this original telegram Walt sent Roy from St Louis, telling him “Everything is OK.” I had seen reprints of this important piece of Disneyana in Bob Thomas’ Art of Animation book, and at The Walt Disney Family Museum, but this was almost on the same level as seeing an original Monet (yes, I’m that much of a nut to compare a telegram to a Monet).

The telegram was sent during a turning point for Walt: it belied the news to his brother Roy, that he had lost control of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to Universal Pictures, and on the train ride back to California, Walt would develop his next big character: Mickey Mouse.

There is even a small case showing numerous pieces of merchandise related to Oswald, and one showing several of Mickey’s early items. Mickey’s first merchandising image was on a writing tablet (aka a small paper pad), and the exhibit has one in amazing condition. As someone who had read about this item, I was impressed to see it in the collection.

Naturally, the sections dealing with the animation process were the most interesting to me. There are such highlights as an original animator’s work desk, original jars of paint from the now-defunct ink-and-paint department, and sculptural models (aka maquettes) that helped the animators see their characters in 3 dimensions.

Just as magical, though a little less hand-drawn, were the original storybooks that ‘opened’ the films Snow White, Cinderella, & Sleeping Beauty (seen above). There’s some beautiful detail that you might not recall, or never even considered. For example, you wouldn’t realize it from the opening scene of Sleeping Beauty, but that book prop is huge!

However, the centerpiece of the exhibit (and it is at the center!), is a ‘partial’ recreation of Walt’s office. Word was the entire room was sealed up upon Walt’s death (reason: unknown), and was not reopened until 4 years later, when Dave Smith was hired as the company’s first archivest. He was one of the first to enter the office, and catalogued everything that was in the room. The entire layout of Walt’s desk and the mementos on it, are exactly as it was found back in 1970. Word was, photographs were taken of everything as it was, and filled a binder several inches thick!

Much of the information contained within the area was eye-opening to some. One woman who I spoke with, had never heard about animator Ub Iwerks (who was one of Walt’s friends from his Kansas City days, and the main animator on the early Mickey Mouse shorts). She was quick to point out how informative the exhibit was, though it was I who convinced her that Walt Disney’s body was not frozen (seriously, she believed that rumor!).

Speaking of eye-opening, I was intrigued by the following jars of paint (above). It wasn’t so much the color labels, but the notations on the “Art Gallery” tags. The left jar is labelled “her lower body,” and the right jar has “Devil-Eyes” written in. I’m wondering if these color jars are for Sleeping Beauty, as the blue could have been used for the lower portion of Aurora’s blue dress. So…could that mean the “Devil-Eyes” jar could have been used for…Maleficent?

During our tour, we were accompanied by Becky Cline and Nicholas Vega (both are pictured to the left). Becky is the director of The Walt Disney Archives, and Nicholas is the manager of collections and exhibits for the Archives.

Becky was also quick to mention that while there are animation items like concept art and animation cels within the exhibit, those are provided by the company’s Animation Research Library, and not the Archives. The Archive is responsible for collecting items like film props, costumes, merchandise, and even personal effects of Walt’s.

Given that Becky and Nicholas had seen their fair share of archival material over the years, I had to know: was there something missing from the archives that they would love to have?

Probably given the atmosphere (and the eventual golden anniversary next year), both of them cited items from Mary Poppins.

Becky mentioned that while they had several of Mary’s items, the Archives did not have one of the original parrot-head/umbrella props. As for Nicholas, his dream prop was related to Dick Van Dyke’s character of Bert. Strange as it may seem, not a single piece of Van Dyke’s original wardrobe from the film could be located!

Becky also noted that one of the reasons for this, was that the Archives was not officially started until 1970, when Dave Smith was hired. As such, much of the main material from older live-action films like Treasure Island, Old Yeller, and The Parent Trap are gone. However, some items pop up from time to time, like Mary Poppins’ original carpetbag, which was obtained by the Archives a few years ago.

Of course, since the resurgence of the company in the 1980’s, a lot of the current items are preserved. Unlike the large swath of material at the Reagan exhibit, MSI is displaying just a few choice pieces from the films made after Walt’s passing, including several wardrobe pieces from the last 2 decades. While we do have the wardrobes of Captain Jack Sparrow and Enchanted’s Giselle, there is also the original wardrobe of the Rocketeer (complete with jetpack!), and Hocus Pocus‘ Winifred (pictured on the right, complete with book!). And, for you young’uns out there, a Wildcats basketball outfit from High School Musical.

To me, this is where the exhibit ‘peters out.’ The items from Disney beyond Walt’s time feel a little hodge-podge, spread out in a way that doesn’t feel as proper as the Archives’ story on Walt Disney, the man.

There is a large chunk of wall space included to tell about the iPad app Disney Animated, but it just feels like you could have included some concept/production art from animation done over the last 40 years in that space. While digital technology can be exciting, nothing beats some eye-opening originals.

Unlike the Reagan presentation, a learning experience has been folded into the exhibit, with some small activities for children. The end of the exhibit also features an Animation Academy, where you can learn to draw Mickey Mouse.

While it is a fun activity for children, I feel that the Animation Academy at the end, could have been moved to another area outside the exhibit. The space that it occupies, could have been used as a larger display/staging area for the post-Walt period. Maybe even include video testimonials of those who work within the company today, and tell how what they learned from Walt, has pushed them to keep moving forward, as well as honor his legacy.

Speaking of Walt, what I was most pleased to see, was the exhibit showing people that before his successes in animation, Walt was just as ordinary as any of us. One example is the image below, in which Walt (center) is having a scene filmed with his friend and fellow animator Ub Iwerks (left), on the roof of the building where their Kansas City studio was housed.

The ability to show people pictures of Walt as a child and a young man, is a great way to make younger viewers think, “hey, maybe one day I can do something like that!”

As of now, the Archives exhibit is only scheduled to run through May 4, 2014. While this is the first showing of this material outside the state of California, no other venues have been scheduled (so far).

The Museum of Science and Industry has played host to a number of exhibits regarding entertainment-related properties or creators, such as Harry Potter, Jim Henson, & Charles M Schulz, to name a few. What they have put together with Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives, is definitely a home run, and is an attraction that I believe will be a big draw not just for tourists, but local Chicagoans as well (I’m already eager to round up some close friends, and take them through it!). Because of this, I have tried to keep myself from revealing as much about the display pieces as I can. During my time inside the exhibit, I took over 200 images!

It should also be noted that several items may be changed out soon due to their age. According to Becky and Nicholas, Walt’s original telegram to Roy is only set to be on display for a month, before a reproduction will take its place. Even some original posters from the early 1920’s Alice Comedies (a series of live-action/animated shorts done in the mid-20’s), will be swapped out with other posters from the series.

I usually like to close some of my posts with a few choice words. These quotes from CBS Evening News anchor Eric Sevareid (made on the evening after Walt’s death was announced), provide a thoughtful moment (and can be found in the exhibit):

A bust of Walt, sculpted by Gustavo A Fernandez

“He was not just an American original, but an original. Period…”

“He probably did more to heal – or at least soothe – troubled human spirits than all the psychiatrists in the world. There can’t be many adults in the allegedly civilized parts of the globe who did not inhabit Disney’s mind and imagination for at least for a few hours and feel better for the visitation.”

“What Disney seemed to know was that while there is very little grown-up in every child, there is a lot of child in every grown-up. To a child, this weary world is brand-new, gift-wrapped. Disney tried to keep it that way for adults.”

*Special Thanks goes to D23 and The Museum of Science and Industry, for including me in their early event viewing for internet bloggers. It was definitely an exciting day, and a memorable experience.*

Toy Review: Jim Henson

Over the span of Palisades Toys’ 5 years creating figures based on Jim Henson’s Muppet characters, the company would create several incarnations of such famous characters as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, & even Fozzie bear. They would even bring to plastic life, such Muppet Show characters as Uncle Deadly, & the flamboyant Muppephone player, Marvin Suggs.

And then, in 2004, there was Jim Henson.

During the 1970’s, Muppeteers Henson, Frank Oz, & Jerry Nelson, would puppeteer Muppet versions of themselves on several different programs. Though originally nameless, they later took on the first names of their human counterparts.

Of these three, it was the Henson figure that Palisades decided to create. However, they had to use their imagination when it came to one crucial part of the figure: like many of the Muppets, Jim’s figure had never originally been crafted with anything below the waist.

Palisades solved this dilemma, by dressing the figure in blue jeans, with a brown pair of loafers.

The original release of the figure was made available at a 2-day event in Brooklyn, NY, titled Muppets, Music & Magic: Jim Henson’s Legacy. Along with screening classic pieces of film that Henson had worked on, people who had also worked with Jim were also on hand to meet guests.

Once the event was over, the remaining stock was placed on Palisades’ website, which is where I got mine from. The original price for the figure has been lost to time, but I do remember that it wasn’t cheap to get Jim.

Still in the throes of eeking out a living at the time (and paying off student loans), I had observed many of the Muppet figures from afar, but couldn’t justify the funds to sink into fully collecting all the figures (let alone getting involved with getting all those super-exclusve-limited-edition pieces that cost hundreds of dollars!). At the time, I only bought a few of the convention-exclusives, like Adventure Kermit, and Super Beaker. Jim’s figure would be one of my last Palisades figure purchases.

What really stands out about this release, is how much care and attention-to-detail was put into the piece. For example, let’s start with the packaging:

Bringing up memories of the red curtains on The Muppet Show, the box opens up to reveal Jim, and an assortment of accessories.

The inner front of the box also tells about The Jim Henson Legacy, which was created in 1992 by his family and friends, as a way to preserve Jim’s contributions to the world, and share that knowledge through their website, videos, museum exhibitions, and more.

The sides of the box are flanked with images of Jim, with a border of Muppets along the bottom. On the back of the box, a small summary of Jim’s life is written. Along the right side, a credits list tells who worked on this product, as well as a long thank you list, including members of Jim’s family.

After opening the box and going through several twist-ties, Muppet Jim was free. And as expected, the quality of the figure is incredible!

Jim’s face and hands are textured to resemble the cloth that he’s made from. Even more notable is his hair. The sculpting job has numerous layered facets, looking like unkempt hair material. I love the detail on his head of hair, with several strands sticking out.

Just like the Muppet he’s based off of, this figure of Jim comes with a fringed leather jacket. The frayed pieces are actually just sculpted detail, but very well done. There is even sculpted stitching on the collar areas of the jacket!

Jim’s arms feature 4 points of articulation, with an added mid-bicep rotation.

Fringe is also included along three points of the arms. It almost feels like Palisades could have cut corners and not included this. Even though the fringe won’t always line up when one poses the figure, it’s an additional part of the sculpt that is commendable.

The lower body of the figure also sports some nice paint applications, notable on Jim’s blue jeans, that include some white-paint texturing.

Of course, what is a figure without accessories? And, Jim comes with several, both new and old.

Jim comes with several musical instruments, one of them being a tambourine (with little zils that make sound when you shake it!).

And of course, a familiar instrument for Jim’s character: a banjo!

Jim also comes with an old-fashioned  microphone, so that his warbling can be heard by the people in the back. A figure-sized copy of June 1977’s issue of the Muppet Magazine  is also included,showing the Muppet figure of Jim, and smaller images of Frank & Jerry.

The Director’s Chair that comes with Jim, uses the same accesory mold as the one for the Muppet figure release of Clifford (the purple-colored host of the short-lived Muppets Tonight prime-time show). However, this version comes with the familiar Jim Henson signature on the back.

It’s been almost 10 years since I first obtained this figure, and it’s still one that I am still greatly satisfied with. The attention-to-detail and quality of the figure, serve not only as a tribute to a man who made felt puppets emote like never before, but also serves as a tribute to the quality of the now-defunct Palisades Toys.

Just before the company would shutter its doors, it had managed to obtain the rights to make figures based on the Henson-associated properties, of Fraggle Rock, & Sesame Street. Pictures of several of those unreleased figures are floating out in the internet, and it makes one wonder if one day, the company could have made figures to other Henson properties, like Labyrinth, or The Dark Crystal.

This is my favorite way to pose Jim Henson: strumming his banjo, as Kermit (in his Adventure Gear) sits and plays the tambourine. In my mind, I can hear them both singing “Rainbow Connection.” Can you?

Book Review: Building a Company – Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire

Sometimes, it is out of ignorance, that we discover new things.

On September 13th, 2013, I attended a book signing of Dave Bossert’s book, Remembering Roy E Disney – Memories and Photos of a Storied Life. Dave was in attendance, as well as Roy E Disney’s son, Roy Pat Disney.

When it came time for a Q&A with those of us assembled, I asked a few questions, but there was one that I had in particular.

“As much as I’m eager to read what you’ve said about Roy E Disney,” I began, “Has there been any talk about a book about Roy O-”

“There is a book written about my Grandfather,” Roy P quickly responded. “It was written by Bob Thomas.”

Needless to say, I felt like I had gotten egg on my face. After that signing, I made it my mission that following my reading of Mr Bossert’s book on Roy E Disney, I would then read Bob Thomas’ Building a Company – Roy O Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire.

A member of the Associated Press and writer of many things entertainment related, Bob Thomas is no stranger to writing about members of the Disney family, or even The Walt Disney Company. His book Walt Disney: An American Original, is one of the more famous books on Walt (and one I read over 3 times during Elementary school).

Prior to Original, Thomas had written The Art of Animation, one of the few books published in the 50’s and 60’s, that told the world what Disney animation involved. This book would inspire the likes of John Lasseter to seek out a career in animation, and for me, the book served almost the same purpose when it was re-released in the early 1990’s.

Though Walt’s name became synonymous with his company over the years, in the beginning it was originally known as The Disney Brothers Studio. Roy would soon drop out of the company’s title, but his work in the shadows of his younger brother, would often belie just how much he truly did for the company.

His study and work in finance is what he was most known for, and the book gives numerous examples of how he would try to find ways to keep the company afloat, even in the face of Walt’s push for quality (which often resulted in costlier productions).

Much of the book is made up of recollections of people who had worked with Roy O Disney, as well as members of his family. Excerpts from letters that Roy sent to various family members are also included, and provide a nice touch in regards to how he would tell his parents how things were going, or discuss a trip he and his wife Edna took.

Roy (left) and Walt (right) in 1925

Roy (left) and Walt (right) in 1925

In Roy’s role as a big brother (he still called Walt “kid” throughout his life), he ended up almost becoming an unofficial ‘conscience’ to Walt. Whereas Walt was the dreamer, Roy could be considered the realist. In a story relating how Walt was looking for sound equipment to record the soundtrack for Steamboat Willie, Thomas relates how Walt made a deal with a man named Pat Powers. While Walt figured he now had his sound equipment, Roy was incensed that his brother had signed a contract without reading what it entailed (the results of which would lead to Powers causing the defection of the studio’s top animator, Ub Iwerks, a few years later).

Needless to say, Thomas’ book gives many examples of how Roy would keep trying to steer the company to some form of profit, as they faced bankruptcy several times, and several people tried to take advantage of them. While Walt’s cartoons and animated films were often the talk of Tinseltown, they could only provide so much funding. In fact, it would be almost 4 decades later (the company was founded in 1923) before they would reach a point where Roy could even breathe easier.

The book also doesn’t sugarcoat some things. Quotes are taken where people recall profanity used by the brothers (though even the use of such words would surprise some, as they usually were not one to expound such talk). Even talk of family squabbles and arguments is brought to light, including a time in the early 60’s, where Walt and Roy stopped talking to each other for several years.

Chapter 24 has an eye-opening section, telling of the planning of a 1964 annual report on the company. There was talk about referencing several of the company’s film producers, to show that their recent successes could help sustain the company if anything happened to Walt. However, Walt claimed he didn’t want this. In a paragraph summarizing Walt’s comments, I was rather surprised that this bit got published:

“I’ve worked my whole life to create the image of what ‘Walt Disney’ is. It’s not me. I smoke, and I drink, and all the things we don’t want the public to think about. My whole life has been devoted to building up this organization that is represented by the name ‘Walt Disney.'”

That can certainly be said about how Walt has been portrayed over the years. Many people these days probably never knew that Walt was quite an avid smoker.

You may notice that I keep referencing Walt several times, even though the book is about Roy. But, the way that Thomas structures his writing, it soon becomes impossible to talk about one without the other.

The Disney family is summarized as well, from some information about their beginnings, to that of Walt and Roy’s great-grandparents, and their own: Elias and Flora Disney. Even around 360 pages, the book manages to feel knowledgeable about the family, even referencing the sibling’s older brothers Herbert and Raymond, and their younger sister, Ruth.

Family is even mentioned as a factor within the company, regarding its employees. One interesting fact was that the company encouraged husbands and wives to actual travel together on business trips, as it was felt that this would strengthen these relationships, both within the family, and the company’s image as a family entity.

The book also shows in some instances, how Roy often exercised caution when going about some business plans. Walt eagerly wanted to build his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (aka EPCOT). It was already a risky business venture to build Disneyland in 1955, but imagine sinking even more money into the untested idea of a new urban community. Roy then proposed a solution to Walt: build Walt Disney World first, and with the East-coast park generating profits, EPCOT would function as a “phase 2” for the park development.

Roy & Mickey at Walt Disney World’s dedication ceremony

The last three chapters of Thomas’ book are some of the most eye-opening: Roy continuing on his brother’s vision, without his brother. Roy didn’t have the creative chops like Walt did, but he put any thoughts of retirement on the back-burner after Walt’s death, intending to finish the Florida project that his brother had started.

There was even talk that after the passing of Walt, the Florida property should simply be called Disney World. This is outlined in one paragraph on page 316:

“When someone referred to Disney World in a meeting, Roy stopped him. His eyes narrowed behind his glasses, and he said firmly: “I’m only going to say this one more time. I want it called Walt Disney World. Not Disney World, not Disneyland, not anything else. Walt Disney World.””

From 1966-1971, much of Roy’s time and efforts went into this project. Some would sadly say that the hard work took its toll on him, as Roy O Disney passed away 2 1/2 months after Walt Disney World opened to the public.

Bob Thomas’ book is a definitely a hidden treasure of Disney history. While numerous books have been published about Walt Disney, Thomas’ book sheds some light on a relationship that had its ups and downs, but in the end, proves how strong the love of an older brother could be for his own kin.

Reading through Bob’s book, and hearing of how Roy had impacted the company and his brother, I had thought that it sounded eerily similar to the story of a wooden puppet and his insect companion. On page 266 of the book, Roy’s granddaughter Abby seemed to be of the same mind as me:

“I watch Pinocchio over and over again with my kids, and being an English major, maybe I read too much in it. But I see Pinocchio as the perfect parable of Walt and Roy. Jiminy Cricket speaks exactly as I remember Grandpa speaking; he always had this Mid-western, middle-America way of speaking-‘Gee whillikers’ and all that. Jiminy is always letting Pinocchio go off into his creative impulses and then pulling him back at the last minute and getting him on the right course again, then letting him run wild again and pulling him back. “

Abby did wonder if the animators were at all influenced by the brothers. Out of curiosity, Thomas asked Jiminy Cricket’s lead animator Ward Kimball, if Roy served any inspiration at all for the cricket.

The answer was no.