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Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Tale as Old as Time

I find my journey of discovery takes me along paths in which I find myself immersed in many of the different vehicles used to create the Disney Magic.  Recently, I’ve experienced two new vehicles for what has become a Disney Classic fairytale – Beauty and the Beast.  This classic first appeared in writing in the middle 1700’s in France, and has seen many adaptations in almost all forms of entertainment venues.
Some seventeen years ago, a three year old toddler discovered this tale as old as time in the VHS release of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” which immediately became her favorite.  Not a Saturday went by that this VHS tape was not playing in the VCR, when I awoke.  As a testament to the joy found in this story by that now young woman, three VHS tapes and 4 DVD’s have been used up by their frequent revisiting.  With the advances in 3D technologies, the original Executive Producer – Don Hahn, and his team, reformatted the story for 3D theater viewing.  Being the devotee she is, nothing would do, but a trip to the local movie house to watch this new release.  While I’ve had trepidations about the 3D viewing experience, finding the use of 3D often used to supplant an otherwise weak story and being an eyeglass wearer – the discomfort of wearing a 3D eyewear over my own, I would not be deterred from witnessing my young daughter’s joy of yet another new experience of her favorite story.  I, curiously, found myself enjoying this new rendition of the classic as much as her.  The use of 3D being employed to enhance the original animation art, and not detracting or overpowering it.  It was, in my opinion, an excellent example of what Walt Disney called “plussing.”

Through the generosity and kindness of the Walt Disney Family Museum, I was able to obtain tickets for the Broadway San Jose’s performance of Beauty and the Beast, so I should first thank the Museum for arranging with Broadway SJ to discount tickets for the Museum Friends and followers, and to Broadway San Jose for generously providing the discount.  So…  I thank you, as does my youngest daughter Theresa.  J  This was an experience neither of us will ever forget.

While Theresa was vibrating which excitement from the very moment she learned we would be attending a performance, I approached it with some trepidation.  Given the excellence with which the original animated feature, and its subsequent 3D release, where presented, I was a bit concerned that anyone could reproduce that experience on stage.  I can tell you now, without qualification, those concerns were completely unnecessary.  Through magnificence set designs, unparallel musical arrangement and additions, the incredible talents of the cast and crew and the mastery of storytelling worthy of Walt Disney himself, the magic, mystery, and illusion of Don Hahn’s original production was amazingly captured on the stage at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.  I was myself as enthralled and invested in the story unfolding on stage as my young date.  I also found myself experiencing with almost indescribable joy a chance, much as I did during her first visit to Disneyland, to watch her literally sparkle as her favorite story unfolded before her eyes.  There were almost other young Belles in attendance last night, and it was a joy to watch them enter the theater with such glee and joy in their youthful eyes.  This was again, in my opinion, an excellent example of plussing.

This was a presentation of the Disney magic every bit and wonderful as any I have had the pleasure of experiencing, and I highly recommend witnessing this magic for yourself, should the opportunity present itself.

Thank you all, to everyone who made this experience possible!  And…  Most especially to the man who truly made it all possible – Walt Disney.

Your comments or questions are always welcome.  If you have a correction or something you think I should look at in my research, please feel free to contact me at

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yet Another Legend Passes

It truly saddens me to have to write these articles, but, time marches on and our life on this planet is too short. 

I am saddened to report that Robert Sherman passed away yesterday in London at the age of 86.  While I cannot conceive of anyone who doesn’t know the name Robert Sherman, for those you may not recognize the name; think “it’s a small world” and “Mary Poppins.”  Yes, it is that Robert Sherman, the older brother of song writing duo Walt Disney called “the boys.”  Robert was a musician, songwriter, artist, and novelist, among his many talents, and receiving a breadth of awards for his endeavors.  Not wanting to reiterate the work of others, I will instead direct you to the Robert B. Sherman Wikipedia page, and I recommend a visit to get some prospective of how much this man and his brother – Richard M. Sherman – have influenced your life, possibly without realizing it.  With his brother Richard, Robert wrote so many of the classic Disney songs we have come to cherish over the years.

I have had the honor of meeting Richard Sherman, twice, in the intimate setting of The Walt DisneyFamily Museum, and the joy of listening to his experiences working for Walt Disney and with his older brother.  The first time was during a “Christmas with Walt” presentation, just after the Museum’s opening, and then again for his second visit, during the Disneyland 55th celebration.  I was struck by this man’s warmth, kindest, and humility.  Upon meeting him for the second time he appeared genuinely surprised and pleased that anyone would want to come back to see him again.  I can only imagine, but do so, that meeting Robert would have been a similar experience, and I had hoped that at some point, he might be able to visit with us at the Museum as I truly wanted to meet him.  Well that is on item on bucket list to forever be unfulfilled.

One of my favorite clips on YouTube is where Walt Disney introduces “the boys” singing “It’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” for the 1964 World’s Fair GE Pavilion.  The jumps and heel clicks with the GE logo on the back of their suit-coats as they depart, is one of the first images that comes to my mind when the Sherman Brothers are mentioned.  And, while I normal tear up a bit when Mary Poppins comes to the ‘Bird Lady’ scene, I will never again be able to hear ‘Feed the Birds’ without a tear and fond memory of Robert (and Richard).  During one of the Museum presentations (also on the ‘the boys’ DVD documentary), Richard told one of my favorite stories, and was my realization the Dick and Bob were storytellers like Walt.  When Walt first gave ‘the boys’ a copy of Mary Poppins, they took it back to their offices for a read.  During that reading, they underlined, I believe, 6 chapters that they felt would make the foundation for a good on-scene story.  When they, again, met with Walt to discuss the book, low and behold, Walt’s copy of the book had the same 6 chapters underlined.  Kindred spirits?  I think so.  And of course, there are the many songs ‘the boys’ produce for so many other Disney products.

In 2009, the Walt Disney Company released ‘the boys’, a documentary directed by Jeffrey Sherman and Gregory Sherman about their Fathers.  It is a touching and poignant story of their fathers lives both in and outside the Disney Company.  In it we learn that there was some conflict between the brothers, sometimes heated, as they worked together with their lives so entwined.  I think this conflict arose out a natural sibling rivalry, and the male of the species need to compete.  I wonder, and suspect, that may be something that attracted Walt Disney to these brothers.  From many stories I’ve heard, Walt was known to team up artists with conflicting personalities, as he felt this teaming created better more honest product.  Here was a natural teaming that he could appreciate, and encourage to flourish.  Quite obviously, he wasn’t wrong.

I also know that the Kennedy Center has just lost and magnificent opportunity to honor two men, who have contributed so much entertainment in America and around the world, while they were both still living.  Robert’s other son Robbie initiated a grass roots writing campaign last year to make his Father and Uncle recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, and I happily participated in that campaign writing and letter to add my encouragement that honoring the Sherman Brothers would be a marvelous inclusion, as their contribution to our culture is almost unmatched.  While it will be posthumously for one brother, let’s hope the Kennedy Center committee, responsible of the Honors, sees fit to correct their oversight of last year.

Finally, my heart, thoughts, and condolences go out to the entire Sherman family for your loss.  Robert was a truly magnificent and marvelous man who gave us all so much.  He will be missed, and very deeply by me, and may he Rest in Peace.  I hope it may help in your grief to know that, while he will be missed… Because of his tremendous gift to us, Robert M. Sherman will never be forgotten!

Your comments or questions are always welcome.  If you have a correction or something you think I should look at in my research, please feel free to contact me at

You can find us on Facebook at:  Discovering Disney History on FB