Diving Into Disney Past, Present, and Future

Silly Symphony Orch-680There were many ways to approach the enormous D23 Expo 2015
this past weekend in Anaheim, California. If you wanted to see movie stars like
Dwayne Johnson or Johnny Depp or have bragging rights about being the first kid
on your block to preview upcoming Disney films you could join that throng. You
could meet John Lasseter and the brain trust of Pixar discussing their newest
projects and celebrating the 20th anniversary of Toy Story. There were panels and discussions
galore, and autograph signings by artists, animators, and stars of ABC
television series and Disney Channel shows.

As a participant and observer, I had a somewhat different
experience. On Sunday I was privileged to host the world premiere performance
of Disney in Concert: A Silly Symphony
Several thousand fans had the opportunity to enjoy classic
Disney cartoons accompanied by a 32-piece orchestra. It was fun to watch the
musicians synchronize their efforts to the antics of The Skeleton Dance and Three
Little Pigs
, but for my money the most effective selections were The Old Mill and Ugly Duckling, which focused our attention on the serene beauty of
the scores (by Leigh Harline and Alfred Hay Milotte, respectively). The crowd
cheered repeatedly throughout the program, and both conductor Steven Allen Fox
and his talented musicians (drawn from the cream of Los Angeles’ players) were
delighted by the response.

Leonard holding Jimmie Dodd's Mousegetar-680 Disney buffs got a particular kick out of seeing
some of the original hand-made percussion pieces crafted by Walt Disney’s
longtime sound effects genius Jimmy Macdonald, still working after eighty
years. (I’m told that Disney will be making this program available for
orchestras, including an abbreviated version designed for school assemblies.) It’s a tribute to Jonathan Heely, Executive Director of Disney Music Group, and Musical Director Alex Rannie, who prepared the score reconstructions, script and visual supervision, that this event came off as well as it did. I had fun providing the connective thread between each short.

The Mouseketeers-60th Anniversary Celebration

Then, as the convention wound down on Sunday, I had the
chance to participate in the 60th anniversary celebration of The Mickey Mouse Club with many of the
original Mouseketeers. It’s difficult for me to explain why I get so choked up
when I encounter these wonderful people. Like millions of other kids, I watched
The Mickey Mouse Club every day, and
the young, talented Mouseketeers were a big part of my life. I guess my
generation regarded them more as friends than as television personalities.

why I’m never blasé about spending time with Sharon Baird, Bobby Burgess,
Sherry Alberoni, Cubby O’Brien, Darlene Gillespie, Doreen Tracey, Tommy Cole, and
“Spin and Marty,” Tim Considine and David Stollery. Their unofficial den
mother, Lorraine Santoli (author of The
Official Mickey Mouse Club Book
), led a warm round of reminiscences,
punctuated by film clips and even a few live performances by these
still-engaging performers.

Mousecar Award-264

At the end of the program, Becky Cline, Director of the Walt
Disney Archives, asked me to help her officiate in a surprise ceremony. Decades
ago, Walt Disney designed an award he called the Mousecar—after the Oscar—that
he presented, without fanfare or publicity, to colleagues and employees he felt
were especially deserving. When he died in 1966, a number of unengraved
Mousecars went into storage—until now. When Becky discovered these original
pieces, in pristine condition, she realized that this was a unique way to honor
the Mouseketeers with something that came directly from the man who made them
Mouseketeers so many years ago. These are not reproductions or recastings, but
the original Mousecars. Five other original Mouseketeers took the stage to receive this singular recognition: Judy Harriet, Billie Jean Beanblossom, Paul Petersen, Mary Espinosa and Nancy Abbate. An additional one was presented to the Annette
Funicello Foundation for Neurological Research, and others will go to the
families of the late and much-missed Cheryl Holdridge and Don Grady.

As if that weren’t enough, the ebullient Bobby Burgess led
his cohorts in song to make me an honorary Mouseketeer, complete with my own
set of ears.

It was quite a weekend, and I only scratched the surface.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you about some of the products and merchandise that caught
my eye on the exhibition floor.



  1. sargent standall says:

    Where was Karen and Lonnie? Are they dead? They were not even mentioned.

  2. rod owens says:

    Mr. Maltin, You have no idea how much I envy you.The Mouskeketeers were my idols. When I was a kid’ I sang and performed in every school program I could because it made me feel like I was one of them. Congrats to them for th joy the continue to give me everytime I see them Thank you!!

  3. Mouseketeer Lonnie Burr says:

    Although I was excluded from D2 2015, Leonard, I will be getting a Mousecar, too, despite 3 of the 8, after Annie’s passing, of us of 39 Mouseketeers on the series for one season, like Sherry, who lasted the entire filming of the series. Apparently, since NO ONE will tell me why I have been deleted, I must assume that the honesty of my memoir THE ACCIDENTAL MOUSEKETEER(2014) bothered SHERRY, TOMMY and BOBBY much too much, while Cubby, Doreen and just "went along". Karen has emailed me she has no problems with me but no one, including you, mentioned either of us. LONNIE

  4. Chris H says:

    Leonard, I know you are very familiar with the Mouseketeers, however most of us Boomers have not seen them for over half a century <eek!> and don’t necessarily recognize their Mouskadult personas. It would be great to see a list identifying the familiar Mouseketeer names to their "today" faces on the photo. Thanks!

  5. Lee says:

    Ah yes, "The Old Mill". The cartoon that essentially says "Johann Strauss would like to remind you that you can’t fight nature." 🙂

  6. Joe Smith says:

    Leonard, it was great meeting you after the second performance on Saturday. As a kid who grew up watching the Classic Disney shorts on the Disney Channel in the 80s, I had seen The Ugly Duckling countless times. Yet this was the first time I understood the very adult argument the two ducks have when the gosling is discovered. It took watching with an audience in a theater setting to bring out this for me. Such a delight and I thank you for hosting and look forward to catching your TV specials, books and blogs for years to come.

  7. Robert T says:

    Sorry Leonard, but Becky Cline did not discover these Mousecars. They have never been lost, but have been sitting in the Archives warehouse ever since Dave Smith acquired them…probably back in 1970 or 1971. Not only did they not need to be "discovered," Dave and I on several occasions picked one of these Mousecars out of storage whenever Michael Eisner or, later, Bob Iger, wanted to give one to someone special. This went on well into the late 1990s, possible the early 2000s. Becky, in her role as support staff to Dave, has been aware of these Mousecars in storage for probably her whole time in the Archives. So, not "discovered."

    Having said all that….handing these statuettes that legitimately date from Walt’s time to the original Mouseketeers was a wonderful gesture, and I’m glad that it made for a touching moment in the ceremony.

  8. Norm says:

    LM providing the "inner child" for all of us wannabe Mouseketeers…Do I feel older…

  9. Kathy G says:

    Thank you very much for detailing the Mouseketeers segment at the 2015 D23 convention…and definitely appreciate the photo with all those present. CongratZ on becoming an honorary mouseketeer yourself.

Leave a Reply




 photo MALTIN_ON_NOVIES_AD2_zpsboz6pvfm.png



 photo MALTIN_APPEARANCESON_NOVIES_AD_v2_zpscy41sntv.png



October 2017
« Sep