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  • Disney Pirates: The Definitive Collector’s Anthology by Michael Singer Book Review

    Disney Pirates: The Definitive Collector’s Anthology by Michael Singer

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Delving into the high seas of piratical entertainment created by Walt Disney and his enduring company, Disney Pirates: The Definitive Collector’s Anthology charts a course through history and the Mouse House’s lengthy relationship with a pirate’s life and all the adventure with it.  Long before Captain Jack and his precious Black Pearl won the hearts of audiences worldwide, Singer’s expertly researched work delves into Walt Disney’s own boyhood captivation with the scurvy rebels through the works of Robert Louis Stevenson before bringing that same enthusiasm to his own productions.  From Disney’s first live-action feature, an adaptation of Stevenson’s own Treasure Island, to 1960’s beloved family adventure film, Swiss Family Robinson and beyond to the animated classic Peter Pan, populated by a siege of memorable pirates including the one and only Captain Hook, Singer provides excellent insight into the respective efforts and their unique makings.  Also voyaging into lesser remembered works such as 1997’s Beverly Hills Family Robinson, the underrated Treasure Planet to the more contemporary Jake and the Never Land Pirates and ABC’s Once Upon a Time, every Disney effort bearing the sight of the hellions of the seven seas receives their proper due.  

    No stranger to the rum-filled ways of the tide having helmed previous efforts on the making of the Pirates films, Singer sets his sail on the early desires and eventual executions in bringing Disney’s original groundbreaking attraction to Disneyland in 1967.  Through gorgeous concept designs and illustrations, mostly from Disney legend Marc Davis, fans receive firsthand insight into one of the final attractions overseen by Walt himself that continues to dazzle park visitors and keep them coming back for more.  Ahead of the much anticipated fifth installment’s release, Singer naturally takes readers through the history of the box-office smashing franchise with considerable insight into its latest sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, with interviews from countless cast and crew members including, but not limited to, Co-Directors Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg.  Fitted with a humble foreword by Captain Jack himself, Johnny Depp and a gorgeous photo gallery of production stills from Producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s personal collection, Singer’s exceptional effort concludes with a lengthy chapter on Shanghai Disneyland’s impressive Pirate Cove, the first-ever pirate themed land found in a Disney park befit with the expected magical quality and showmanship fans have come to expect but have yet to fully experience until now.  A perfect appetizer for Jack Sparrow’s next cinematic adventure and a wealthy resource for everything pertaining to Disney’s historic ship of sword-wielding misfits, Singer’s latest work lives up to its definitive moniker, giving readers a fine first mate to travel into the horizon with.

    Available now from Disney Editions, Disney Pirates: The Definitive Collector’s Anthology can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember by Steven Clark & Rebecca Cline Book Review

    The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember by Steven Clark & Rebecca Cline

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Returning to 1923 and the formation of Walt and Roy’s Disney Brothers Studio, The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember by Steven Clark and Rebecca Cline guides readers through the remarkable history and evolution of the magic factory that has dazzled audiences since opening its gates seventy-five years ago.  After years of hard work and intense struggle, Walt Disney and his talented artists saw the fruits of their labor pay off with the runaway success of their Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies short subjects as well as worldwide acclaim for the first full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  With the heavily employed studio bursting at the seams, relocation was not only necessary but, essential to contain the endlessly imaginative desires of its leader and all future avenues of creative expansion.  Trekking to a vast and desolate lot space in nearby Burbank, California, Disney would realize his spacious vision in 1940 with the completion of his studio plant containing an animation building with individual housing for the invaluable ink and paint, layout and background departments plus, several soundstages, orchestral recording spaces and much more.  Exploring well-documented events in Disney history including, the arrival of World War II and the animation labor strike of 1941, Clark and Cline’s viewpoint of how studio operations were specifically affected with insight from those who were there offers refreshingly new perspective into such gloomier days.  Through the resounding success of Disney’s Cinderella and their commitment to live-action entertainment with such hits as Mary Poppins and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the historic yearbook of sorts provides readers with incredible behind-the-scenes photography of said productions and details the technical dilemmas capturing the underwater sequences of the Verne adaptation and dimensional trickery utilized by the studio to bring 1959’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People to life.

    Appreciatively exploring the much forgotten but no less, important television productions of classic series including, Zorro and Davy Crockett and, their makings on the beloved backlot, The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember never misses a beat in capturing milestone achievements conducted on the tremendous space to introducing unbeknownst readers to lesser known facts such as Disney’s perfective insistence to incorporate original music for the weekly Zorro, a costly and unprecedented measure in 50s TV making.  From Disneyland’s virtual making and building of attractions, riverboats, models and monorails within the confines of its working studio space, vintage photography of Walt seen with newly painted hippos for Adventureland’s Jungle Cruise and overseeing schematics for the Sailing Ship Columbia that would eventually coast the Rivers of America captures the embodiment of the master dreamer in his element.  Leading up to Walt and Roy’s passings and the evolution of the studio through shakier times, the onsite productions of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Pete’s Dragon and the ahead of its time Tron are given notices before an animation renaissance and new leadership regime would redeem Disney as the world’s leader in family entertainment.  Beautifully showcasing the latest advancements and expansions to the studio through their acquisitions of ABC, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel and Lucasfilm, Clark and Cline’s The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember gives Disney lovers a fascinating guided tour through the rich history of the magical moments and immeasurable productions brought to life on the ever-changing lands that Walt built.

    Available now from Disney Editions, The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.