Before he was a Disney Legend, Tony Baxter was a Disney fan. He was just a teen when he landed a job at Disneyland selling ice cream, and later, when he needed a senior project in college, he decided to submit a ride concept for one of his favorite Disney movies: 1964 film Mary Poppins. The result was a ride-through attraction he called "Jolly Holiday."
To start, guests would board horses on mini-carousels reminiscent of the scene inside the chalk drawing. As the ride got underway, the horses would "jump" from the carousel into the rest of the chalk picture, out into the countryside and through the fox hunt. This would all be accomplished by a revolving theater mechanism, similar to the Carousel of Progress. After meeting the famous penguin waiters, a toe-tapping, supercalifragilistic sing-a-long would ensue. Then, a flash of lightning would signal a rainstorm that would "wash" guests out of the painting.
But the fun didn't end there. After the chalk melted away, guests would find themselves on London rooftops with the dancing chimney sweeps. Finally, the big finale: "Let's Go Fly a Kite."
Baxter took the concept book to one of his connections at Disneyland, who presented it to his superiors. Shortly thereafter, the hopeful student got a call to meet with Disney producer Bill Anderson. Though Baxter was convinced they were going to offer him a job, instead, Anderson offered some encouragement and advice on how to get the proper training to move forward with a career at Disney.
Baxter took the tips to heart. "It certainly got me excited that there might be a potential to make a career out of it," he says—and he was right. Baxter joined Disney shortly after graduating from the School of the Arts at Cal State Long Beach, then headed to Florida to help with the construction of Walt Disney World. It was just the beginning of his 47-year career with Disney.
Is it too late for a Mary Poppins ride? According to Baxter, no: “I still look at it and I think, you know, it would be . . . a great ride.”
Check out Baxter's full concept work here:
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Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved characters, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mickey Mouse, who turns 89 years old today. A number of countries—and even U.S. states—have banned the cartoon rodent at one time or another for reasons both big and small.
1. In 1930, Ohio banned a cartoon called “The Shindig” because Clarabelle Cow was shown reading Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn, the premier romance novelist of the time. Check it out (1:05) and let us know if you’re scandalized:
2. With movies on 10-foot screen being a relatively new thing in Romania in 1935, the government decided to ban Mickey Mouse, concerned that children would be terrified of a monstrous rodent.
3. In 1929, a German censor banned a Mickey Mouse short called “The Barnyard Battle.” The reason? An army of cats wearing pickelhauben, the pointed helmets worn by German military in the 19th and 20th centuries: "The wearing of German military helmets by an army of cats which oppose a militia of mice is offensive to national dignity. Permission to exhibit this production in Germany is refused.”
4. The German dislike for Mickey Mouse continued into the mid-'30s, with one German newspaper wondering why such a small and dirty animal would be idolized by children across the world: "Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed ... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.” Mickey was originally banned from Nazi Germany, but eventually the mouse's popularity won out.
5. In 2014, Iran's Organization for Supporting Manufacturers and Consumers announced a ban on school supplies and stationery products featuring “demoralizing images,” including that of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and characters from Toy Story.
6. In 1954, East Germany banned Mickey Mouse comics, claiming that Mickey was an “anti-Red rebel.”
7. In 1937, a Mickey Mouse adventure was so similar to real events in Yugoslavia that the comic strip was banned. State police say the comic strip depicted a “Puritan-like revolt” that was a danger to the “Boy King,” Peter II of Yugoslavia, who was just 14 at the time. A journalist who wrote about the ban was consequently escorted out of the country.
8. Though Mussolini banned many cartoons and American influences from Italy in 1938, Mickey Mouse flew under the radar. It’s been said that Mussolini’s children were such Mickey Mouse fans that they were able to convince him to keep therodent around.
9. Mickey and his friends were banned from the1988 Seoul Olympics in a roundabout way. As they do with many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, Disney had contacted American favorites to win in each event to ask them to say the famous “I’m going to Disneyland!” line if they won. When American swimmer Matt Biondi won the 100-meter freestyle, he dutifully complied with the request. After a complaint from the East Germans, the tape was pulled and given to the International Olympic Committee.
10. In 1993, Mickey was banned from a place he shouldn't have been in the first place: Seattle liquor stores. As a wonderful opening sentence from the Associated Press explained, "Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny and teddy bears have no business selling booze, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has decided." A handful of stores had painted Mickey and other characters as part of a promotion. A Disney VP said Mickey was "a nondrinker."
11. Let's end with another strike against The Shindig (see #1) and Clarabelle’s bulging udder. Less than a year after the Shindig ban, the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America announced that they had received a massive number of complaints about the engorged cow udders in various Mickey Mouse cartoons.
From then on, according to a 1931 article in Time magazine, “Cows in Mickey Mouse ... pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed others. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting with the cow stood still.”
Forty years ago, on November 3, 1977, Pete's Dragon was released in theaters across America. Though it was a box office disappointment at the time, it has since turned into a beloved classic for the generations of audiences who grew up with Pete and Elliott. In honor of its 40th anniversary, check out these brazzle-dazzle facts about the Disney classic.
1. ELLIOTT WAS VOICED BY VETERAN ACTOR CHARLIE CALLAS.
Charlie Callas was a comedian known for his rubbery face long before Jim Carrey was around.
2. IT WAS HELEN REDDY’S FIRST LEADING ROLE IN A FILM.
You’d assume that working with an invisible dragon would be pretty challenging for anyone, let alone someone new to the film industry, but Helen Reddy enjoyed the experience. “I only had one actual scene with the dragon," she explained, "and during rehearsals I worked with a latex model of his head so that I would be familiar with the dimensions during filming.”
3. REDDY’S BALLAD IN THE MOVIE WAS NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR.
Reddy's "Candle on the Water" was nominated for Best Original Song. It lost to “You Light Up My Life.”
4. DON BLUTH SUPERVISED ELLIOTT'S ANIMATION.
The project notoriously called for a lot of overtime hours, and a couple of years after Pete's Dragon was released, animator Don Bluth left Disney. He went on to animate and direct The Secret of NIMH (1982), An American Tail(1986), The Land Before Time (1988), and All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), among others.
5. CALIFORNIA DOUBLED FOR MAINE.
The movie may look like it takes place in Maine, but neither the cast nor crew went anywhere near the Pine Tree State. The landscape scenes were courtesy of Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Canyon Country, California, while the Passamaquoddy town square and wharf area was constructed on the Disney Burbank Studio lot, partly from an old Western set. Even the harbor was constructed on-set.
6. ACTOR SEAN MARSHALL HAD NO FORMAL ACTING BACKGROUND.
Despite this, he beat hundreds of kids who auditioned to play Pete. “I think Disney always went for kind of the natural,” he said.
7. MARSHALL BECAME AN ALL-AMERICAN POLE VAULTER IN COLLEGE.
He partially attributes his athletic success to his role in the film, saying that the training he went through for the part, especially ballet, made him more of an athlete.
8. THE LIGHTHOUSE BEACON COULD BE SEEN FOR MILES.
Nora and Lampie’s lighthouse was equipped with a real lighthouse lens and a wickstand that could create a beacon that was visible for 18 to 24 miles. Constructed on California's Morro Bay, Disney had to obtain permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to actually light the lamp. There were plans to eventually move the lighthouse to Disneyland, but it became too deteriorated.
9. MICKEY ROONEY AND RED BUTTONS DID SOME AD-LIBBING.
The scene where Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons drunkenly walk to the cave to see Elliott turned into a massive ad-lib session, with each comedian trying to outdo the other with pratfalls and slapstick. “The director said, ‘That was fantastic, but we can’t have a 20-minute scene where you two are just walking through the cave. We’ve got to re-shoot it,’” Marshall recalled.
10. IT WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT AT THE BOX OFFICE.
The film only made $18 million in the U.S., which was a real disappointment to Disney. The studio was hoping to experience the same level of success it had had with another movie that mixed live action and animation—Mary Poppins.
11. THE SODIUM VAPOR PROCESS WAS USED TO MIX ANIMATION AND LIVE ACTION SCENES.
Invented by Ub Iwerks, the co-creator of Mickey Mouse, the process involved using a camera with a prism installed that separated the sodium vapor lights from the rest of the color. This projected a yellow light onto the screen behind the actor, which could later be subtracted out, and any background could be added in its place.
12. THERE’S A GOOFY YELL TUCKED AWAY IN THE FILM.
It’s when Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) accidentally sends himself flying via harpoon. Listen for it at 1:13 below.