The Actor's Detective

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Remembering Kathryn Joosten

I was sad to hear of the recent untimely death of character actress Kathryn Joosten.

You might not know her name, but she was one of those actors that as soon as you see their face you say "Oh, I know them!" Joosten was best recognized for her performances as Mrs. Landingham, the President's assistant on "The West Wing" and as sassy neighbor Mrs. McClusky on "Desperate Housewives" (a role for which she earned two Emmys.)

For years I've been pointing to Ms. Joosten as a shining star for anyone who feels that they are too old to pursue their dreams, or that opportunity has passed them by. You see, she did not begin her climb to prominence until well into her 50's.

A successful nurse from Chicago, by the 1970's Kathryn Joosten was married and had two children. When her husband left her in the 1980's, she had to struggle to raise her two kids alone. She did this by holding down several jobs.

Unhappy with the situation she was in, inspiration struck, and she decided - at age 42 - to pursue her dream career as an actress. Joosten packed up and moved to Orlando, Florida, where she got a job as a street performer at Walt Disney World. After three years in the Sunshine State, she moved 3,000 miles away to join the legions of hopeful actors seeking work in Hollywood.

Everyone told her that at 56 years old, with barely a whisper of a resume, the odds of building a career in film and television were a million to one or more, but Joosten had faith and a vision of success. Soon, she was booking small roles on television shows and casting directors took notice. Once they discovered her niche, she became an "overnight" sensation in her 60's.

Sadly, cancer ended Joosten's life too early. "Housewives" had ended its run (fittingly, with a dramatic and moving farewell to Mrs. McClusky) just weeks before and she would definitely have had other opportunities to shine. Her legacy has lived on, however, in an unexpected way.

Within hours of her death, social media sites like Facebook began filling with tributes to her, and fans created a page highlighting her amazing road to success, despite the naysayers. (I posted it below) 

Those that had only seen her on TV were made aware of the story behind her accomplishments. Kathryn Joosten now serves as an inspiration for anyone, young or old, reaching for the brass ring. 

Never, ever give up on your dreams!

A celebrity phone call in response to my letter

Jay Leno

I was absolutely stunned when my phone rang and the voice on the other end was none other than the host of NBC's "The Tonight Show", Jay Leno.

I shouldn't say that I was completely surprised, as I've always read that Mr. Leno was one of the nicest guys in the entertainment industry. For him to pick up the phone and have a fifteen minute conversation with someone who just sent him a letter is what astounded me. That's unheard of, and I genuinely appreciate it. (I told him that I will someday return the favor and thank him personally as a guest on his show.) It showed me that writing letters to celebrities really works.

Because I wasn't expecting his call, I didn't have any means of creating an exact transcript of the phone conversation, but here are some highlights of the pearls of wisdom that Mr. Leno had to share with me:

- Work, work, work! (Mr. Leno's work schedule is legendary, as he rarely takes a day off from his show, and also does hundreds of stand up dates throughout the year. His theory is that work is the only way to build up necessary skills and experience that books alone can't convey.)

- Keep yourself grounded in real life, don't get lost in the business. Whether it's hobbies or a family, just have a life outside show business.

- Be yourself! Earn show business type money, but don't live a show business lifestyle by blowing it all on frivolous things.

- If you can be an actor or comedian for seven years without something stopping you, then you can make it in the business. Most people are stopped short by negativity, doubters, addiction, distraction, pessimism, self defeat or other things. Overcome those barriers and you'll do well.

- Never turn down a gig unless it goes against your personal beliefs. Work is work and every experience will bring you further along.

- Always keep your personal feelings and politics out of the discussion when you are performing or hosting. Don't let people know what your true opinions are or you'll lose some of your audience.

I sent him a thank you card as soon as our conversation was over.

A response from a Star Trek legend

Walter Koenig

Most famous for playing Ensign Pavel Chekov on the classic TV series "Star Trek", Walter Koenig is an accomplished actor and author. He sent me a very nice reply to my letter asking him about the ups and downs of a career in show business.  This is what he had to say:

Dear Chris,

Thanks for your note. Obviously, there are no easy answers to building an acting career. If there were I wouldn't have experienced years of unemployment at different stages in my life.

If there is any one thing I can tell you it's to create your own opportunities as much as it is humanly possible. That would involve taking classes for networking as well as growing, audition for every play that comes along and checking out the independent film making scene in New York and surrounding environs. I know there are groups on the West Coast like Filmmakers Alliance which is an acting-writing-directing-producing cooperative. People there get together to work on their own and others low budget projects. Anything from short-shorts to docs and features are made through these kinds of collectives. You meet people, learn how to make your own projects and the films do get seen at festivals, etc.

I'm not sure I have words of encouragement that can be generally applied as a blanket statement. Some things work for some people and some things don't. 

Perseverance, no matter how you manage it, is the primary quality, aside from talent, that you must have. Perhaps knowing that everyone suffers rejection in this business will be somewhat consoling and, then again, perhaps not. My ego is as easily bruised as the next person's and I've suffered feelings of total defeat, feelings that at the time had me on the brink of quitting forever. 

On the other hand, there is some kind of mechanism operating in my brain that allows me to languish in consuming self-pity for a few days and then lets up sufficiently to try again. There is no exercise, ritual or mantra that I use for this to occur. It just happens, so I'm no good at offering a way to others of climbing off the canvas again and again over the course of many years to keep plugging away. You have to find it in yourself.

I believe you are in your forties, so I imagine that by this time you've come up with your own way to deal with vagaries of show business career experiences. I guess the one thing I would suggest, as I have suggested to others, is to always have another means of making a living (like writing a book) not only from the aspect of economic survival but as something which, while supplying you an income, will also support your self-esteem. It's extremely important to keep your confidence up while pursuing your passion and that comes from inner strength.

When things were at their worst for me career wise - which was after the TV series was canceled - I gave myself the regimen of sitting down several hours a day and writing. It brought structure to my life and gave me a goal that I could direct my energies toward. It doesn't have to be writing of course, it can be anything whether it's creative or not that gives you focus and some measure of satisfaction in the process of working at it. It will also, as I mentioned earlier, provide an income.

You might want to check out my autobiography called "Warp Factors, A Neurotics Guide to the Universe." It certainly holds no direct answers but it might give you some comfort knowing that you're not out there alone. It's probably available at for just a few bucks.

That's pretty much all I can offer Chris.

The best of good fortune to you.

Walter Koenig

I sent him a thank you note the next day

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Who is Paul McCartney? Who is Billy Crystal?

Twitter has now become the instant water cooler. It used to be that when you wanted to comment on something happening in pop culture, you had to wait until the next day at work or at school to voice your opinion about it, usually while you were on break with others at the aforementioned water cooler. Now, thanks to social media, the conversation begins seconds after the event itself happens. That's a miraculous thing to be sure, and we are living in amazing times (who would have thought just a few years ago that a phone call would be considered "quaint.") Sometimes, however, that same "post whatever comes to mind at the moment" mentality can lead to trouble and highlight lack of curiosity or knowledge of basic history.

Case in point: two recent major award shows that featured big time stars, legends in their fields, appearing on air for an extended period in a feature role. Immediately Twitter began trending "Who Is Paul McCartney?" (during and after the Grammys on February 12th) and "Who is Billy Crystal?" (during and after the Oscars on February 26th.)
The knee jerk reaction here was to blame "these darn kids today!" and to stereotype a whole generation raised on social media, but they were not the only ones at fault. A lack of curiosity about those that came before us has been the Achilles heel of many people, for as long as humans have been around. (What's the old expression? "Those who don't remember their history are doomed to repeat it.")

How does this apply to actors and performers? When was the last time you studied an old Vaudeville routine? Or listened to Big Band music? How about reading a play from the 1600's not written by a guy named Shakespeare? Those are but three examples, to be sure, but if we are not constantly expanding our horizons by looking back, then we are missing something. To paraphrase yet another old saying "You ride on the shoulders of those who came before you."

If we begin to think that we have invented new ways to act or perform, or that we're coming up with something brand new in business or in life, we are deluding ourselves. We are almost always giving our take or variation on something that is time tested and true. By studying and familiarizing ourselves with the work of those who came before us (and observing and learning from their mistakes) we are making our own performances that much better and improving our skills in the process.

Marlon Brando said many times that he would watch old movies and steal bits and pieces from them, things that he thought worked. He would discard the moments that he felt were false but keep the ones that touched him. People claimed that he revolutionized the business, that he invented something new, but he was quick to point out that he owed his success to all of the actors that came before him, whose performances, even in a small way, enhanced his. Brando also realized that those performers learned from the ones before them, and they learned from the ones before them, etc. etc...

If we break that chain and start to think that we have all the answers and don't need to know about anyone that came before we were born, or that hasn't been in the limelight as much in the past few years, then we fail ourselves.

That's one of the reasons The Actor's Detective is a big advocate of writing letters. Taking the time to compose and mail a letter employs more thought and research than a 140 character tweet does. The relationships that you open with the people you are writing to can lead to some interesting responses, presumably ones that are full of knowledge and insight gathered from that person's own observation and history. You are continuing the chain.

Still, there's no excuse for anyone not to know the relevance of Billy Crystal (who, aside from his contribution to comedy from the 1970's to the present, has also raised millions for charity and is cited as an influence by many of today's best comedians) or of Sir Paul McCartney (OK, Crystal, maybe if you're not a comedy fan, but Paul McCartney???!!! His name is written in history books. Not just music history, but HISTORY period. McCartney's music, with and without the Beatles, will still be played hundreds of years from now, long after the likes of Katy Perry and Justin Bieber have faded in to bubblegum oblivion.)

I caution you, as a performer, please don't fall into that trap. Just because something seems "old timey" doesn't mean it has no relevance to you. Don't dismiss something because you don't know about it. Take a moment to do a little research about a subject before you magnify your lack of knowledge about it to the whole world with a snarky statement on Twitter or Facebook. Be the person that uses the information you've gained by your simple research to give you the edge over others who are either too lazy or too unmotivated to expand their horizons. No matter what your field, seek out the mentors, read the histories of those that came before you. Trust me, you will be a much better business person and more respected for it.

I hope that someday you are successful and famous enough for people to seek out you for advice and counsel (and that nobody posts "Who is this person anyway?" about you.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A legendary voice, and a smart marketer

And now, heeeeeeere's Johnny!"

For generations of Americans that was the familiar sound as they settled into bed at night to watch the Tonight Show before they drifted off to sleep.  The voice behind the call was one of the most memorable in television history. It was that of legendary broadcaster/entertainer Ed McMahon. His story is one that should inspire and motivate you. (It pains me to write this, but I know some of you were born too late to have experienced him in his prime. Trust me, he was a master performer.)

A true renaissance man, McMahon was - at various times in his life - a stand-up comedian, author, actor, game show host, and salesman. (He was also a decorated war veteran, flying 85 missions as a Marine pilot.) It was the persistence and ingenuity he learned as a salesman that helped to launch his career.

Back in the 1940's and 50's, without the benefit of the internet and multiple home shopping channels, McMahon was able to succeed as one of the best "pitchmen" ever (he would put the ShamWow guy to shame.)

The pre-casinos Boardwalk at Atlantic City was McMahon's territory, and he excelled at selling vegetable slicers to passers-by. He made quite a tidy profit. McMahon knew deep in his heart, though, that he had a higher calling and it was to be on camera or in front of a microphone.

Ed McMahon wanted his name to be right at the top of the list for casting directors in Philadelphia and New York, so he diligently researched the names and contact information of those who were producing and directing shows in those early days of television. He sent out hundreds of letters pitching himself as an undiscovered broadcast talent, but he did not leave it at that.

McMahon succeeded where others didn't because he followed up on his initial networking efforts. He would regularly take a morning train from South Jersey to New York City with his pocket full of dimes. When he arrived in Manhattan, he would find the nearest pay telephone booth and methodically proceeded to call those producers he had made a connection with by mail, to remind them that he was in town and available to meet in person. The tenacity paid off.

Within a few years, he was cast as the announcer on a New York based game show called "Who Do You Trust?" along with a skinny, shy kid from Nebraska, Johnny Carson, as the host. Their chemistry was off the charts. When Carson was named host of NBC's "Tonight Show", McMahon joined him. When the show moved to California, so did Ed.

By the 1970's Ed McMahon was as familiar to most Americans as their Uncle who visits on Thanksgiving and brings laughter and joy to the house. (On a personal note, my introduction to Ed McMahon was as host of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC.) For some, Ed McMahon is synonymous with "Star Search," for others it was his often overlooked role as annual co-host of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. Still others recall his spots for American Family Publishers (not their competitors: Publisher's Clearing House, as many people assume.) I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Thanks to his smart marketing efforts, research and determination, Ed McMahon carved out a place for himself as an American pop culture Icon and sits quite firmly in the pantheon of broadcasting greats. Sadly, his golden voice is no longer with us, but you can still use McMahon's story to inspire you to great heights by emulating his letter writing strategy to great success.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Walt Disney's Irish Connections

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, we post this article written by our CEO (Chris Lucas) about Walt Disney's Irish connections and how they had an impact on the pop culture landscape.

Most people don't realize that Walt Disney himself was of Irish ancestry. His forebears came from County Kilkenny. Walt's Great Grandfather, Arundel Disney, moved to Canada in the 1830's.  Walt's Grandfather, Kepple, was actually born in Ireland just before the move.  Later, the Disney clan would move to the Midwestern U.S. to seek their fortune. It was there that Walt was raised with a keen appreciation for his Irish background, which would continue throughout his life. (Take a good look at any photos of Walt, you'll notice that he only wore two pieces of jewlery, his wedding ring on one hand and an Irish Claddagh ring on the other. The "Partners" statue in the Disney parks also feature Walt wearing this tribute to his heritage.)

In addition to a few trips to Ireland in his lifetime (including for the Dublin premiere of "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" in 1959) Walt's career got a boost from some Irishmen.

In 1922, when his animation career was just beginning and he was struggling to make ends meet, Walt got a break (and a much needed infusion of cash) from a Kansas City based Irish dentist named Tom McCrum, who commissioned Disney to make an educational live action/cartoon film called "Tommy Tucker's Tooth." The $500 from that film set Walt on his way. There was even a sequel (1926's "Clara Cleans Her Teeth") made after Walt moved to California.

When Disney wanted to make his groundbreaking move to add sound to his Mickey cartoons in 1928, he needed to find a partner with a sound system that could deliver quality, but with affordable prices. He wound up with Pat Powers, a charming Irish immigrant who was also a con man. At first Powers was an asset to Walt (with pirated technology, no less) but the relationship soured as Powers tried to take more and more control and profit from Disney. Walt learned a lesson from that relationship, that a brogue and a twinkle from business partner don't always make up for bad business practices.

Here now, in no particular order, are ten other Irishmen (and women) who made a big impact on Walt Disney and his company:

J. Patrick O'Malley

What a name to start this list. If ever there were an Irishman, J. Patrick (or "Pat" as he liked to be called) O'Malley was one to the nines.

O'Malley (who was actually born in England, though his family had emigrated there from Ireland and he always referred to himself as Irish) had a flourishing career as a recording artist and music hall performer before he moved to the U.S. to seek his fame on the silver screen in 1935. He was a hit as a nimble comedian with a warm, soft side and and it gained him work  in films like 1943's "Lassie Come Home."

His roles on radio programs led him to Disney, where he gave voice to many classic characters.

O'Malley began at Disney with "The Adventures of Mr. Toad" in 1949, where he played Cyril Proudbottom. His work quadrupled in 1951, when he was cast as four characters in "Alice In Wonderland":  TweedleDum and TweedleDee and the Walrus and the Carpenter. He also worked on "101 Dalmatians" and "Robin Hood", but is probably most noted for his creation of the "stiff upper lip, ever so proper" British military commander Colonel Hathi in 1967's "The Jungle Book."

The versatility of O'Malley kept him working in television well into his 70's. He appeared in over one hundred roles on television, including on the Disney TV series "Swamp Fox" and "Spin and Marty." His last role was on "Taxi" in 1982, shortly before his death.

O'Malley is one of those genial faces that you see on TV and in movies all the time, but can't quite place the name. The next time he pops up on your screen, listen to the voice and you will instantly recognize that distinctive Irish sound that he so memorably loaned to Disney.

Jimmie Dodd

Generations of children (and adults) know the Mickey Mouse Club theme song by heart. Few know the name of the man that actually wrote it, even though he was a big part of the Club itself.

Head Mouseketer Jimmie Dodd was the genial host of the show and a sort of father figure to the young Mouseketeers (and to the Baby Boomers watching at home.) He was also a prolific songwriter.

In addition to the upbeat Mickey Mouse Club March (and the more somber version of it which closed the show, "M-I-C, See Ya real soon...") Dodd composed more than half of the tunes heard on the show. His music, like the show, was both entertaining and educational at the same time. Without Dodd and his "Mousegetar", the show might not have been as successful as it was.

It seemed like Dodd came out of nowhere as his star rose on the Mickey Mouse Club, but he'd actually had a bunch of roles in other movies and TV shows  like "Easter Parade' and "The Adventures of Superman." Bill Justice, one of  Disney's legendary animators, was a tennis partner of Dodd's and recommended him when Walt was looking for a new song. Jimmie came in and sang the song directly for Mr. Disney, who hired him immediately as the host of his new kids TV show.

Dodd, who wrote over 400 songs in his lifetime, stayed with the Mickey Mouse Club for its entire four year run. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years after that at the relatively young age of 54. Everyone who came in contact with him says that he was just as he appeared to be on screen, and that he was one of the nicest men they ever had the pleasure of meeting. Jimmie Dodd was named a Disney Legend in 1992.

Bill Walsh/The McEveety Brothers

No Hollywood history books can be written without prominently mentioning the four Irish-Americans that made Disney live action films as successful as they were in the 1950's, 60's and 70's.

Producer Bill Walsh and the trio of director brothers Bernard, Joe and Vince McEveety shepherded some of Walt's biggest non-animated hits to the screen. They are not as widely known as say Steven Spielberg, George Lucas or James Cameron, but the collective works of Walsh and the McEveetys still rank high on the all-time box office list. 

Bill Walsh began with Disney as a writer for the Mickey Mouse comic strip. Walt asked him to write and produce the first Disney TV special in 1950, called "One Hour In Wonderland." That was followed by work on "Davy Crockett" and "the Mickey Mouse Club." The success of those shows led to a long career for Walsh with Disney as a producer and/or writer for such notable  films as "The Shaggy Dog", "The Absent Minded Professor", "That Darn Cat!" and "The Love Bug", among others.

The three McEveety brothers, from New Rochelle, New York all wound up in Hollywood and all worked for Disney, quite a feat. Their directorial output for the studio reads like a list of fondly remembered films for those who came of age in the 1970's.

The oldest brother, Bernard, began his career at the House of Mouse later than his two younger siblings, but helmed such pics as 1972's "Napoleon & Samantha" and "One Little Indian."

The middle brother, Joe, has the strongest Disney resume of the three. He wrote the scripts for "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" (and its two sequels) "The Apple Dumpling Gang", "Hot Lead and Cold Feet", "No Deposit No Return"  and "The Barefoot Executive." He also worked as an assistant director on numerous Disney films.

Vince McEveety directed many of the films written by his brother that I listed above. He also worked on several of the TV movies for the various Disney shows.

All three brothers were prolific directors, yet not exclusive with Disney. Their work can be seen on countless popular TV shows and movies of the 70's and 80's. Filmmaking became the family business, as now a second generation of the McEveety clan has carved out nice careers as directors, producers and camera operators.

Oh, and if you're wondering why I don't have a picture of all three brothers, I searched and searched but just could not locate one. Strange, considering the amount of work they did for archive happy Disney. The McEveetys are also not included among the official Disney Legends, as Walsh is. Hopefully that omission will be rectified soon.

Fulton Burley

No revue is complete without an Irish tenor and Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe had one of the best in Fulton Burley.

Hailing from Tipperary, it was truly a long way from there to Anaheim for Burley. He started singing in Broadway revues, moved to Hollywood as a contract payer and then had the good fortune of meeting fellow Disney legend Wally Boag. It was Boag who called Burley in 1962  when Fulton was headlining at the Hacienda Hotel in Las Vegas. It turns out that someone in the cast of the Golden Horseshoe Revue was sick and Wally, the star of the show, asked Burley to step in. The rest, as they say, is history.

Boag and Burley would be one of the longest running duos in show business history, as the Golden Horseshoe Revue in Frontierland set the all time record for theatrical performances. Burleys amazing Irish voice was complimented by his impeccable comic timing. He brought down the house several times a day.

Before retiring from Disney in 1987, Burley made one more contribution to the parks. It is his voice you hear as Michael, the Irish parrot in the Enchanted Tiki Room.  No faking there, that brogue is the genuine article.

Kevin Corcoran

The son of a blue collar Irish couple from  Quincy, Massachusetts, Kevin Corcoran used his cherubic features to become one of Disney's biggest child stars.

His first appearance was at the studio was in a short film about a dairy farm. The character's name was Moochie, and it stuck. Corcoran played a kid named Moochie in several different projects, ranging from TV serials to movies.

He also starred in his own feature film, "Toby Tyler" and was a key part of classic Disney films like "Polyanna", "The Absent Minded Professor", "The Shaggy Dog" "Old Yeller" and "Swiss Family Robinson", often partnered with Tommy Kirk.

After retiring from acting, Corcoran remained involved with Disney, working as an assistant director and producer on "SuperDad", "Return To Witch Mountain" and "Pete's Dragon" among others. He always credits Walt Disney with providing a firm foundation for his success and grounded attitude towards the business.

Margaret Kerry

You know Tinker Bell dresses in green, but did you know that she was Irish too? Well, at least the actress that played her is.

Margaret Kerry (real name: Peggy Lynch, still pretty darn Irish) saw an ad placed by the Disney studios back in the late 1940's  for their adaptation of JM Barrie's Peter Pan. The studio was looking for actors  to perform  the roles on a soundstage as reference models for the animators.

Kerry worked out her moves as Tinker Bell in an empty room. Props were provided, as well as large doors and keyholes. If you see her movements in real life and compare them to what actually was drawn in the finished film, they are almost exactly alike.

Though Tinker Bell is mute, Kerry did get to do a voice in the film, that of a mermaid. Contrary to popular opinion, Marilyn Monroe had no bearing on Tinker Bell's look, it's all Kerry, who is just as beautiful and shapely as Monroe. (It was Kerry's idea to have Tinker Bell react negatively when she sees her backside in a mirror, which as become one of Disney's most famous scenes.)

Still active in her 80's, Margaret Kerry is proud of her connection to the classic character. Without her superb acting skills to draw on, Tinker Bell might not have become as enduring and popular.

Joe Flynn

Of all the actors to play flustered authority figures on screen, Joe Flynn was the master.

Best known for his work on TV's "McHale's Navy" (with fellow Disney stalwart - and Irish-American - Tim Conway) Flynn came to Disney late in his career, but made a mark as Dean Higgins, the put upon, often confused head of Medfield College.

Medfield was Disney's stock college (campus scenes were actaully filmed on Disney's studio campus) and had been featured long before Flynn took over. He came to define the face of the college in all three Dexter Riley films. Flynn was a perfect foil for star Kurt Russell, always threatening him with expulsion, yet secretly proud of his schemes. Flynn could do a take of goofy exasperation better than almost anyone.

His Disney filmography also includes "The Love Bug", "Barefoot Executive" and "Million Dollar Duck." He wasn't called Dean Higgins in any of those pictures, but might as well have been, the tics and mannerisms were so close. Flynn's last Disney role was a voice-over one, as the villain's main henchman in 1977's "The Rescuers." Flynn might have had a longer career with Disney, but -sadly - he accidentally drowned in his swimming pool shortly after completing his work on "The Rescuers."

College Deans were never seen in the same light after Joe Flynn got through with them. 

John Musker

Directors of animated films are not often given as much credit as their live action counterparts. This is probably due to the fact that people think animators are responsible for most of the work. In reality, without an expert hand at the helm, you wind up with unorganized dreck and films that are long forgotten.

Luckily for Disney, they have John Musker.

The oldest son of an Irish family from Chicago, Musker was one of the "young turks" who helped to raise Disney animation from its 1970's doldrums and into a new golden age.

He began with Disney as an artist, most notably working on "The Fox and the Hound" and "The Black Cauldron." He toiled alongside his former college classmates like John Lasseter, Tim Burton and Brad Bird. One of the other people he met at the studio was Ron Clements, who began a fruitful collaboration with him as co-directors.

Starting in 1986 with "The Great Mouse Detective", the team of Musker & Clements directed a string of hits with "The Little Mermaid", "Aladdin", and "Hercules." In recent years, they've worked on "Treasure Planet" and "The Princess and The Frog." The latter film helped to prove to the powers that be at Disney that there's still room for traditionally animated films on the production slate.

Musker's next announced  project for Disney will be "Mort", an adaptation of Terry Pratchett's novel about Death's apprentice. It's due in 2013 or 2014.

Nathan Lane

He's only done one major role in a Disney animated classic feature film, but Nathan Lane has made an indelible impression on the company.

Lane is an Irish-American kid from the streets of Jersey City (full disclosure here - I grew up right around the corner from him, and we both went to the same high school, though we graduated years apart.) He was known as Joe Lane, until joining the Actors Equity union, where there was already an actor by that name. He'd played Nathan Detroit in a high school production of "Guys and Dolls" so he adopted the name for himself.

Lane became a go to guy on Broadway and was one of the biggest stars on the Great White Way when Disney came calling in  the early 1990's to ask him to create the role of Timon the meerkat for "The Lion King."

Lane made it his own.

Timon, as originally written, was an antagonist and grumpy, but Lane added a wiseguy Jersey attitude flavored with Catskills and Broadway schtick. Together with fellow Broadway vet Ernie Sabella as Pumba, they were the breakout stars of the most successful animated film to that date. They reprised the role in several direct to video sequels.

Nathan Lane won an Emmy as the voice of  Spot/Scott, the dog who wants to be a little boy in "Disney's Teacher's Pet." In addition, he was the voice of Mr. Tom Morrow at Innoventions in Disneyland.

Whether he does another role for Disney in the future (which hopefully he does) Nathan Lane will more than likely be named a Disney Legend, a well deserved honor.

Glen Keane

Not many people can say that they were born into the cartooning business and that working at Disney was a natural progression. For Glen Keane, that was just the case.

The son of legendary cartoonist Bil Keane, who created "The Family Circus", the long running strip about a large Irish-American family, Glen was the inspiration for the character of "Little Billy", who is still appearing in the strip and delighting readers five decades later.

Keane's father encouraged him to pursue his passion for drawing, and he enrolled at CalArts, the college Walt Disney himself had supported. 

In 1974, Keane left school early to go work for Disney, at a time when the fortunes of the animation department were on the wane. He apprenticed under one of Walt's "Nine Old Men", Ollie Johnston, on "The Rescuers." After that, Keane was asked to animate the title character in "Pete's Dragon."

His design of  Ariel in "The Little Mermaid" helped to set the tone for the new wave of classic Disney characters. Among his other creations are Beast (which he modeled on composites of several different animals), Aladdin, Tarzan and Rapunzel.

Keane is the winner of many awards for his lifetime spent in the arts, and is the author of several childrens books. Not bad for a kid whose drawings inspired his Dad to create the character of an 8 year old budding artist.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Man Behind The Muppet

Who is everyone's favorite furry red monster Muppet?

Unless you've been living on another planet for the last fifteen years, you probably know that the answer is Elmo.

Love him or not love him (OK, that was bad English, but hate is too strong a word to use here) you can't escape his infectious giggle and childlike wonder.

Most people forget, however, that there is indeed a man behind the Muppet. His name is Kevin Clash, and he is a true inspiration to those of us who are trying to advance our careers by being proactive.
Since he was a little boy, Kevin Clash knew his destiny. He wanted to be a puppeteer. He even followed in Jim Henson's footsteps by cutting up one of his parents good coats to make his first puppet.

In  the 1970's, when Clash was still a teenager, he reached out to Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Carrol Spinney (Big Bird) and many other famous puppeteers, all of whom inspired him.

One of the people Clash got in touch with (actually, Kevin's Mom did the detective work, found a phone number and called directly) was a gentle man named Kermit Love. Mr. Love was a collaborator of Henson's and a well respected puppet designer. (I know what you're thinking. No, he was not the namesake of the famous green frog, who came along years before Love met Henson.)

Kermit  Love was so impressed with Clash's determination to succeed and his shrewd dedication to seeking out mentors that he invited the young man to come visit him at his New York City workshop. Clash got on a train from his hometown of Baltimore, met with Kermit Love and it changed his life forever.

After Clash graduated from high school, Love took him under his wing and gave him career advice. The elder man then introduced his protege to Jim Henson and helped him to earn a job as a Muppet performer alongside his heroes. (Did you know that one of Kevin Clash's first big Muppet jobs was as the voice of the baby dinosaur on Henson's classic "Dinosaurs" show on ABC in the early 90's? Listen to him say "I'm the baby!" and you'll hear Elmo.) Clash eventually helped to create the unique character of Elmo and brought him to greater heights than anyone could ever imagine. For a whole generation it's now Elmo (not Ernie, Bert, Cookie, Oscar, Grover or Big Bird) that is the face of Sesame Street.

And it all began with a simple contact strategy, by not being afraid to reach out and to seek mentors.

So the lesson here is to not make excuses or feel bad about lack of work or bookings. Use that downtime positively, like Clash did, to follow those that inspire you and ask them for advice. You never know where it can lead, just ask Elmo (actually, maybe you shouldn't, you'll just get your answer in a high pitched voice and broken syntax.)

To your success!

P.S: If you want to learn more about Kevin Clash and his journey, watch the new documentary "Being Elmo" available now on DVD. Or you can read his memoir,  published in 2010.

If you want to write your own letters, but you're not sure what to say, why not pick up a copy of The Actor's Detective Guide To Writing Show Business Contact Letters, now ON SALE now for just $10.

Click HERE to order your copy.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Lesson From George Clooney

If you were watching Sunday's Academy Awards (and I'm sure you were) you saw one notable face popping up over and over again. George Clooney is Hollywood's "Golden Boy" and though he didn't win another Oscar this year, his place is firmly set in screen lore and he's featured front and center at every major awards show.

Clooney is a throwback to the stars of yesteryear. He's often compared to Cary Grant, Clark Gable or Humphrey Bogart. Suave, sophisticated, smooth, Clooney is a guy that many women want to be with and almost every guy wants to hang out with. He's not just a movie star, but a humanitarian too. He puts his money where his mouth is, going all over the world to use his star power to raise awareness for several causes.

OK, I know that I'm beginning to sound more like the president of the George Clooney fan club than the CEO of The Actor's Detective. I am indeed a great admirer of his, but for more than the usual reasons. I take comfort in the fact that Clooney wasn't just handed all this fame and fortune, he worked for it and earned it the hard way, and the smart way.

The son of a local news anchor in Kentucky, Clooney was also the nephew of popular singer Rosemary Clooney. Her fame was no help to him, however, as she was on the wane when he decide to pursue a career as an actor. Clooney struggled for a long time. After getting a few bit parts in B movies (The sequel to "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" to name one) and a role in the last seasons of "The Facts of Life" he faced the reality that all actors face eventually....

The job of an actor is always looking for their next job.

By 1993 Clooney was in his 30's and desperate to launch his career to a higher level. He decided to be proactive and to take matters into his own hands. A consummate networker and all around nice guy, he used the connections he had made with dozens of P.A's, receptionists, and assistants around town to find out what was coming up in Hollywood, months before everyone else (just like we do on a weekly basis at The Actor's Detective.) He'd heard about a new medical show called "ER", written by author Michael Crichton ("Jurassic Park") and produced by Steven Spielberg and John Wells. Clooney knew that he HAD to read for that show, in particular for the supporting role of Dr. Doug Ross. So he began a letter writing campaign.

The persistence and smart self marketing paid off. Wells, impressed by the tenacity and the directness of the letters, called Clooney in to read, even before the rest of the cast or a director had been hired. As soon as the audition was over, Wells called the other executives and told them the search was over. He had found their Dr. Ross.

The rest, as they say, is history.

"ER" did indeed launch George Clooney into the stratosphere. By the time he left the show after five years, he was already a major film star on his way to Oscar glory. The important thing to note here is that he did not wait for it to come to him, Clooney pursued it with vigor and with a carefully laid out strategy in place.

A valuable lesson indeed. One which - by the way - can apply to anyone seeking a job or looking to increase their network of contacts, in any field.

Do the same and perhaps you too will be the one that the cameras follow on future Oscar nights.

Looking forward to your success!

- Chris Lucas

To begin your strategic marketing campaign, be sure to subscribe to  The Actor's Detective Weekly Newsletter. For more information, click HERE

Also, don't forget about our LEAP DAY/ OSCARS specials....

For a limited time only, we are offering HALF PRICE deals on two of our best products:

The March 2012 Tele-Seminar "Ten Great Ways For Actors To Earn Extra Income" - scheduled to begin in Mid March. Click HERE for info.

and "The Actor's Detective Guide To Writing Show Business Contact Letters" - a great companion to the weekly newsletter. Click HERE to order.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar nominees prove a point

If you've read any issues of The Actor's Detective, you know that we advocate getting ahead in show business by using unconventional thinking and methods.
We've heard the doubting voices say "Write letters directly to the creators of the project and not wait until the casting directors announce it to the world? Nobody does that. It will never work!" Trust us, we know from personal experience that it does.
It's hard to convince people of this without evidence, of course. They want to actually see where someone has succeeded against all odds by bending the rules, especially in show business. Lucky for us, this year's Oscar contest has nine such examples, and they all are nominees for Best Picture. As I write this, the show is underway and many awards have been given out, but the big prize is till up for grabs.
In order of how nonconformist they were, here are the nine Best Picture nominees and how they defied the naysayers:

The Artist:
Imagine this pitch meeting with a Hollywood Studio exec:
Hi, I'd like to make a movie with no big American stars....
and the director is big in France, but not so much here...
The most recognizable faces in the film will have only cameos....
It's a period piece.....
I'm filming it in black and white....
Oh, by the way, did I mention it would be a type of film (silent) that stopped being popular almost 90 years ago???
That sound you hear is the person making the pitch being kicked to the curb.
Incredible as it might seem, "The Artist" not only was produced (thanks to the passion of its director, Michel Hazanivicius) but has gone on to be celebrated internationally and is the odds on favorite to win Best Picture. If it does, it will be only the second silent film to win the top prize (the last, "Wings" was in 1928) and one of the few black and white films since the 1970's to do so. ("Schindler's List" in 1994 was the last one.)
Even the story itself is one of going against the grain and getting ahead by being proactive. Amazing.

The Help

Originally, nobody wanted to publish the book "the Help." The author, Kathryn Stockett, didn't give up. She just kept writing letters until she made a connection. It became a smash hit best seller.
A successful book like that usually starts a bidding war among studios for the rights, but Stockett sold them long before to a childhood friend, Tate Taylor, a talented actor/writer/director. Taylor owned the rights to "The Help" but nobody wanted him to direct the film. Five studios got involved with the film and tried to push him out, indeed they begged him to turn it over to higher profile directors. Tate refused. He stuck to his guns. He even cast a close friend, Octavia Spencer, in the plum role of Minny. Again, the studios urged him to cast a bigger name. Tate was right in his instincts. 
His unconventional thinking led to box office triumph. Not only was the film nominated for Best Picture, Spencer was nominated for - and won, with a standing ovation no less -  Best Supporting Actress. The only crime is that Taylor himself was overlooked for a Best Director nod. The picture didn't direct itself, did it?


Martin Scorcese is a brand name and an iconic director, but even he knew that he was taking a gigantic risk with his film "Hugo." Like "The Artist", it had a bunch of strikes against it. The film was a period piece, set in France, an homage to the early days of film making, with long stretches of silence.
It was also Scorcese's first foray into 3D. He did an amazing job, and proved that even those with long track records can go against the grain.


"Baseball movies NEVER work! They are box office poison. Nobody will go see it. And it's about math and numbers with no car chases or explosions? Forget about it!"
Well, I guess those myths were knocked right out of the park by this crowd pleasing hit.
The Descendants

"George Clooney is a big star. You can't put him in an unglamorous role as a schlubby Dad whose wife cheated on him!"
"Audiences will hate that, nobody will believe it."
Again, taking a chance and proving the doubters wrong.

Tree Of Life

Behold director Terence Malick... a textbook case of not playing by Hollywood's rules and forging your own path ahead. 
He's spent a career not doing what the "other guys" do, and he's had great success. You should follow his lead and "zig" when everyone else is "zagging."
War Horse

Certainly less of a gamble, but Steven Spielberg - like Scorcese - broke from his traditional blockbuster fantasy epics to make a more heartfelt and personal film about the relationship between a boy and his horse. 
This film, based on the book and hit Broadway play, is another one that is set in the early part of the 20th Century, in Europe, with a mostly unknown ensemble and stretches of silence.
 Many never thought it would work, but he pulled it off beautifully.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Despite a cast filled with luminaries like Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, and Max Von Sydow, the films rests squarely on the shoulders of its 9 year old lead. 
Director Stephen Daldry was sent the reels of every established child actor in town, but he defied the odds by casting an untested actor (Thomas Horn) in his first ever film. It worked, and the kid should have a bright future.

Midnight In Paris 

This was the least risky of the group. So Woody Allen made a comedy, his staple, big deal. Despite this, nobody wanted to finance this film because it was a time travel fantasy partially set in the early 20th Century (do you sense a theme this year?) It finally did get made, and Allen was rewarded with the biggest hit in his long career and yet another award for Best Original Screenplay. Key word there? Original. Don't imitate, make your own mark.
So there you have it, nine examples of thinking outside the box, getting ahead by playing angles nobody else sees. Whatever film wins, you can use all of them as proof that you too can get ahead by listening to your own instincts and not following the pack.
Why not go one step further, write to the people involved in each film and ask them directly what inspired them and how they did it. You'll get amazing responses and you'll build your personal network in the process. Write while watching. Heck, if past Oscar telecasts are any indication, even halfway through you still have almost two hours to do it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

For Oscar weekend - Disney's connections to the Academy Awards

Ten Great Disney Moments At The Oscars -  

by Chris Lucas (CEO - The Actor's Detective)

Look in any record book about the Academy Awards and you'll see one name pop up over and over again... Disney.

Whether it's an Oscar personally given to Walt (who holds the record with over 60 nominations, half of those resulting in wins) or to his company (this year alone Disney has 12 nominations, with an almost certain lock on Best Animated Picture) Disney and Oscar have had a great relationship.

Oscar and Mickey Mouse were even born the same year (1928) so there's lots of history between them. The only thing missing for Disney Studios is a Best Picture win. They are still the only major studio left from the "golden days" of the 1920's to remain winless at Best Picture (unless you count the four wins for Miramax, which Disney bought in 1993 and sold just a few years ago.)

Here now are Ten Great Disney Moments at the Oscars.....

Walt's First Oscar Wins
November 1932 

The Academy Awards 5th annual Ceremony was just a small industry gathering at a hotel ballroom when Walt and his wife Lillian attended on November 18, 1932. (Coincidentally, it was also Mickey's birthday.)

A few people listened on the radio at home, and most read about it in film magazines afterwards, but the Oscars didn't get the massive wall to wall coverage and live worldwide broadcast it does today.

It was in that small intimate atmosphere that Walt, a few weeks shy of his 31st birthday, was given his very first Oscar. (Actually, Walt is credited with popularizing the name for the little golden guy. It had officially been called the "Academy's Award" until a librarian at the Academy remarked that it looked like her Uncle Oscar. The nickname was seen as a derogatory one until Walt stood at the podium and referred to his statue proudly as "his little Oscar." After that, the name stuck.)

The Oscar given to Walt that night was an honorary one, for the creation of Mickey Mouse and his contribution to world cinema.  Nevertheless, it was only the second such award ever given. The first honorary Oscar was given to Walt's idol, Charlie Chaplin, in 1929. Chaplin was supposed to present the award to Disney, but got sick the day of the ceremony and couldn't attend.

Disney's animators created  special cartoon for the occasion called "Mickey's Parade of Award Nominees." It was the very first Mickey Mouse cartoon produced in color.

In the short, Mickey leads a marching band, including Minnie, Pluto, Horace Horse Collar and Clarabell Cow (Goofy and Donald hadn't yet been born.) Also in the parade were caricatures of that year's major acting award nominees as the characters they played in their films, including Wallace Beery as "The Champ" and Frederick March as Dr. Jekyll, who changes into Mr. Hyde as the parade moves along. (Both Beery and March would make Oscar history that night by sharing the Best Actor Award.) The parade ends with Pluto holding  sign attached to his tail saying "The End."

You can tell that the cartoon was done quickly, and not up to the usually rigid Disney standards. The background doesn't change at all. It's just the same castle and windmill rotating by over and over gain as the characters pass.

At the conclusion of the short that night (which has been cut from subsequent releases of the cartoon) Mickey appears onscreen to thank the Academy and introduce Walt, saying that he could take it from there.

The cherry on top of the night was that Disney also won his first Oscar in a competitive category. It was the for best cartoon.

"Flowers and Trees" was the 29th Silly Symphony film Walt produced, but it was his first in Technicolor. The use of this new process (which Disney shrewdly locked up for his studio only) was revolutionary and gave new life to a medium that had shown signs of waning. The film community took notice and gave the short its highest honor.

The days of black and white cartoons were quickly coming to an end, and the years of Disney dominance at the Academy Awards were just beginning.      

Disney's Unofficial Anthem Wins Big
February 1941

If there's one thing Walt Disney knew about his audiences, it was that they loved music, especially when it moved the story along and pulled at your heartstrings.

From "Steamboat Willie" in 1928 to "The Three Little Pigs" in 1933 and "Snow White" in 1937, songs (whether instrumental or lyrical) were an integral part of Disney films. That's why it's so surprising that the Academy took over a decade to award Best Song to a number from one of Walt's pictures.

1940's "Pinocchio" is a masterpiece visually, but it's the music that helps seal the deal. The jaunty score that fills the film, written by Disney's in house composers Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, was honored by the Academy, but it was one song that stood out among them all and took the top musical prize at the 13th Annual Oscar Ceremony in 1941.

"When You Wish Upon A Star" is a plaintive song, first heard as Jiminy Cricket (voice of Cliff Edwards) introduces the story. (Trivia note: in the scene where Jiminy is passing a bookshelf as he sings the song, you can see both "Peter Pan" and "Alice In Wonderland" among the books on the shelf. This is a nice in-joke, as those films were still in pre-production by Disney at the time, still a decade away.) It's a tune filled with hopes and dreams, telling about the power of wishes coming true. For audiences in 1940, with the world on fire and rolling headlong into war, it was a soothing  ballad and became an instant hit. The Academy followed with its praise.

Not only did "Pinocchio" win for best song and score (the first Disney film to do so)  it also has the distinction of being the first animated feature film to win Oscars in competitive categories. The songs from "Pinocchio" were so popular that a full soundtrack was released, the first time that had ever been done for a feature film, animated or not. It rose to the top of the charts.

"When You Wish Upon A Star" was recently named #7 on the American Film Institute's list of Top Movie Songs of all time. It has since become the anthem for Disney, heard in TV shows, other Disney productions and at the theme parks. It's certainly lived up to Oscar's billing as Best Song.

The Disney canon produced many other memorable tunes after that 1940 triumph. Unfortunately, Oscar only recognized them twice more for Best Song in the successive 50 years (1947 and 1964.) Even so, "When You Wish Upon A Star" retains its unique position in both motion picture and Disney history.

James Baskett Honored
March 1948

In 1946, Americans were still shaking off the horrors of The Great Depression and World War II. Walt Disney came along with the right tonic to lift their spirits.

"Zip A Dee Doo Dah", the featured track in "Song of the South" was an instant hit. (All but five minutes of that film features songs.) Its lyrics, which speak of of plenty of sunshine and a wonderful day ahead, exuded optimism with every note. For the man who sang it in the film, though, things were not always so happy.

James Baskett studied to be a pharmacist before dropping out of college to pursue a career as an actor, eventually joining the performing company of the legendary dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. 

Baskett made his way to Broadway, where he starred in a revue featuring Louis Armstrong. The reviews were so good, they prompted Baskett to move to Hollywood. He did a few parts in B films, and co-starred on the Amos and Andy Radio Show. It was through that job that he was invited to the Disney Studio to audition for a small voice-over role as one of the butterflies in Disney's live action/animated adaptation of the Uncle Remus stories, written by Joel Chandler Harris.

When Walt Disney met and heard Baskett, he knew he had found his Uncle Remus, a role Baskett hadn't even intended to read for. As a result, James Baskett has the distinct honor of being the very first actor hired to star in a live action Disney film. He certainly rewarded Disney for his faith in him.

Viewed in a 21st Century politically correct light, "Song of the South" can make you wince at times. The film's depiction of Plantation life in the post-Civil War south has images and dialogue that can be seen as demeaning to African-Americans (contrary to popular myth, there are no references to slavery in this film.) Baskett's performance, however, stands out. He does not do anything to dishonor his heritage. In response to his critics, Baskett was quoted in a 1947 Ebony magazine article as saying, "I believe that certain groups are doing more harm to our race in seeking to create dissension than can ever possibly come out of the positive images Mr. Disney shows in this film."

Uncle Remus is a genial character, narrating the animated stories of Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear and  Brer Fox (who basket actually provided the voice for. He spoke so fast as Brer Fox that the animators had trouble synching his words to the cartoons) Remus is the voice of wisdom and the conscience of the film. Many of his lessons and moralistic fables are told in song. "Zip A Dee Doo Dah" was just one of them, but he conveyed just as much emotion and yearning in that one song as Judy Garland had in her rendition of "Over the Rainbow" a few years before in "The Wizard of Oz."

The proof of Baskett's imprint on the collective minds of the public is that 'Zip a Dee Doo Dah" has been covered and recorded by hundreds of artists since, yet it's Baskett's version that endures. People remember him, despite the fact that "Song of the South" has been effectively buried by Disney and hasn't been seen in almost 30 years.

The Academy members felt so strongly about Baskett's performance as Uncle Remus that they didn't even place him in the nominee pool for Best Actor, they just gave him an Oscar outright, which was presented to him by Ingrid Bergman at the 20th Academy Awards Ceremony in 1948.

James Baskett was not only the first actor to win an Oscar for a Disney film, he was also the first African American male to be given one. His co-star in the film, Hattie McDaniel, had the distinction of being the first African American female a few years before with her win for "Gone With The Wind." 
Baskett's Academy Award read: "Given to James Baskett for his able and heartwarming characterization of Uncle Remus, friend and storyteller to the children of the world." The award was somewhat of a redemption for Baskett, as he had to endure one of he saddest points in Disney history just a few years prior to that.

The World Premiere for "Song of The South" was held at the FOX theater in Atlanta Georgia on  November 12, 1946. Everyone from the film was there for the big night. Everyone, that is, except for the film's star.

Baskett would have loved nothing more than to soak in the appreciation and adulation of the crowd seeing his film for the first time. Unfortunately, Atlanta was a segregated city back then, and African Americans - even those who starred in the film itself - were not allowed to mix with whites in movie theater audiences.

I wish I could say that Walt Disney boycotted this shameful treatment and did not go to the premiere. It pains me to say he did not. While records show that Walt debated canceling the premiere due to the racial exclusion policy, the fact that the family of Joel Chandler Harris (who had been outspoken critics of segregation and the Ku Klux Klan) personally invited him to have the premiere in Georgia - where Harris wrote all the Uncle Remus tales - convinced Disney to go. His one mild form of protest was to leave the theater immediately after the film began. He never stayed to see it with the segregated audience.

Baskett's Oscar night glory made up in a small way for his disgraceful treatment in Georgia, and he was generally acknowledged as one of the finer African American actors of his generation. Sadly, James Baskett died of heart failure at the young age of 44, just a few months after winning his Award and never lived to build upon his Disney triumph.

As of this writing, Disney still does not have plans to release "Song of the South" from its vaults. That's a shame, as they have used parts of the film for park attractions (Splash Mountain, Critter Country) the song is one of the most played in the Disney universe, and  the company has put out other racially insensitive cartoons from that period on DVD, with explanations of their context.

Today's audiences should be exposed to this film and be allowed to judge it on their own merits. This would also give them a chance to see Baskett's one and only Disney performance, a powerhouse one which will stand the test of time, as the Academy itself confirmed.   

Walt's Record Setting Night
April 1954

By 1953, Walt Disney had run up an incredible amount of Academy Award nominations. With the exception of one year, Disney had some stake in the races annually since 1932. His trophy case was filling up fast. (He also had the unusual task in 1937 of presenting himself with an Oscar, as he was the one chosen to read the nominees that year.)

Walt  cried onstage when he was given the Irving Thalberg award in 1942 for his production of "Fantasia." The Academy lauded him for the use of Bach, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, despite the fact that the film was Disney's first box office bomb. Through his tears Walt said,  "Maybe I should be getting a medal for bravery instead. We all make mistakes, mine was an honest one. I promise to rededicate myself to my old ideals."

Perhaps the most unique Oscar ever was given to Walt as a special trophy in 1939 to honor the groundbreaking achievement of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." The statue consisted of one actual size Oscar and seven smaller ones ascending a staircase. It was presented to Walt by the biggest child star in Hollywood at the time (and perhaps of all time) Shirley Temple. Her comment to Disney asking him if he was proud of the award prompted him to say "I'm so proud I think I'll bust!"

It was a nice moment, but nothing compared to the armful of real Oscars Walt would hold 15 years later.

The 26th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony was held at the RKO Pantages Theater on March 25, 1954. It marked only the second time that the show was broadcast to a national television audience. (A young comic actress named Betty White hosted car commercials during the breaks.) "From Here To Eternity" was the big winner, taking home 8 prizes including Best Picture (it tied "Gone With The Wind" for most wins ever.) The show had a "Rat Pack" feel to it, as Frank Sinatra won an Oscar and Dean Martin sang "That's Amore" (which was nominated for Best Song.) The evening, however, belonged to Walt Disney.

For the first and only time in Oscar history, one person won four Academy Awards for a quartet of different films.

It was expected, of course, that Disney would win for animated short, which he did for "Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom" , the first cartoon ever made in CinemaScope. It starred the now obscure Disney character Professor Owl in a comical history of musical instruments.

The other three wins came as a direct result of Walt's experimental side.

One of Walt's many risks paid off for him in a big way when he decided, in 1949, to stretch the studio's filmmaking muscles even further by producing a short nature film. "Seal Island" was his first "True Life Adventure" and everyone advised him not to make it. RKO Pictures, the company that distributed Disney's films, said that nobody would go see a half hour film about seals with no humans and no dialogue, save for the narration. 

Walt persisted, and he had a friend run "Seal Island" in a Pasadena theater for a week so that it would qualify for the Oscars. It won Best Live Short that year. Walt wouldn't let this moment pass. He supposedly marched the Oscar down to his brother Roy's office the next day and said, "Here, take this to RKO and bop them on the head with it." 

As a result of his continuing "True Life Adventure" series, Walt was nominated in 1953 for the full length documentary "The Living Desert", the live short  "Bear Country" and the short documentary "The Alaskan Eskimo" (which was actually part of an offshoot of the "True Life" series called "People and Places.") He won all three. 

Holding his record four statues in his hand, Walt told the press that it was wonderful to get the awards and that he should probably now retire from filmmaking.

As we all know, he did not. Walt Disney had one last great triumph left. 

Ub Iwerks Gets His  Due
April 1960

In 1960, an Academy Award was given to a member of Disney's staff that helped to shine a light on someone who was as much a pioneer as Walt, yet had (and still has, unfortunately) barely any name recognition with moviegoers.

One of the fairer criticisms leveled at Walt Disney is the fact that as the head of the studio, with his name front and center on all films, he gained all of the credit while not doing much of the work.

Walt himself agreed with this. He often said that while he worked as hard as anyone else, his job wasn't quite defined. He saw his role as more of a king bee, going from department to department overseeing each aspect of the production and cross-pollinating ideas until they had a fine tuned product to release.

This caused tension in the studio as some of Walt's employees, feeling undervalued and kept in his shadows, eventually left Disney in disgust. One of those men was Walt's oldest friend in the business.

Ub Iwerks and Walt met each other in Kansas City in 1918 as co-workers in an advertising company. They hit it off right away and started a company together called Iwerks-Disney (If they did it the other way, people would confuse them for an optometrists office.) Walt was the flashy showman, and Ub was the talented animator. Walt had his own gifts as an artist, but could not match his partner's output. It was aid that Ub Iwerks could produce 700 drawings in a day, and astounding volume for an animator. When Walt left for other opportunities, their nascent studio folded as Ub wasn't as good as Walt at promoting or selling.

A few years later, when Walt started his studio in California, Ub was one of the first to join his staff. Walt couldn't pay much, so he offered shares in the company in return. They had some success, but when Walt was double crossed by his distributor, who hired away his animation staff, Ub was the only one to remain loyal and stay at Walt's side.

Together Ub and Walt helped to create Mickey Mouse as we know him now. This launched the Disney Studio to greater heights than either could have imagined. The public immediately thought of Walt and Mickey as one, giving little credit to Iwerks, despite the fact that his name was prominent in the titles.

Ub finally had enough and left Disney in 1930. He cashed in his shares (a move that he and his family would come to regret, as his portion of ownership in the Disney Studio would now be worth an incredible fortune) and started his own studio, with characters like Willie the Whopper and Flip the Frog. While talented, Ub didn't have the storytelling gifts that Walt did and his Studio soon went under.

Iwerks returned to Disney in 1940, but in a different capacity. An inveterate tinkerer, Ub was put in charge of research and development for the studio. Disney was always out front with technology, adding such innovations to film like the multi-plane camera. They were now expanding to live action films, so new technologies were needed. Ub Iwerks' blueprints and designs would ensure that Disney remained the gold standard for special effects.

After 20 years of his inventions like the multiheaded optical printer - which allowed animated characters to blend seamlessly on screen with live action, the color traveling matte - which made painted backgrounds more realistic, and novel film developing techniques, Iwerks was rewarded with an Oscar for his talent as a master movie magic technician.

When he walked up to the podium on that night in 1960 to accept his Academy Award, Ub Iwerks - for that moment at least - was the star of the night and shone as brightly as any Disney employee ever had.    

Ub Iwerks won another Oscar shortly after that and then semi-retired from the film business and went to work at the Imagineering Department, using his genius to develop Disney attractions like It's A Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Hall of Presidents.

Without Ub Iwerks leading the way and creating things on screen that did not exist before, there would be no "Star Wars" "Jurassic Park" or "Avatar" today. He is there in spirit every time an Oscar for Technical Skills or Special Effects is given out.

Walt's Greatest Oscar Triumph
April 1965

By 1964, Walt Disney had racked up an impressive amount of Oscar nominations and Awards. He had, by then, found his stride in live action films and his studio was the leader in animation and special effects. Still, he felt that he was never really respected by the industry, and viewed himself as an outsider to the major studio system that ran Tinseltown. 

A Best Picture nomination eluded Walt for years, and he knew he had to do something special to join the club.
Disney put all of the collective talent, knowledge and experience of his staff into one ambitious project, an adaptation of P.L Travers' classic tales of a "practically perfect" British nanny, Mary Poppins. This would be a musical combining live action and animation, with an all star cast of Disney regulars and a few newcomers.

In previous years, Walt might have worried about taking on such a monumental project, but he said that he never did because all he saw around the Studio were smiles, especially from his brother Roy who controlled the purse strings and was notoriously skeptical of Walt's grand visions and designs.

The faith was well placed. "Mary Poppins" was an instant classic. Audiences all over the world went to see it again and again. When it came time for the nominations for the  37th Academy Awards, Walt thought that he would do OK, but he - and the rest of his staff - were astounded by what happened.

"Mary Poppins" earned thirteen Oscar nominations, the most that year and still one of the highest totals ever, including the long sought after Best Picture. Finally, Walt could head to the Oscars with head held high as he competed on the same playing field as his peers. To go with the Best Picture nod, "Poppins" was included in all of the top five categories, with the exception of Best Actor (poor Dick van Dyke, you were robbed.)

Julie Andrews, who played Mary, was Walt's big discovery. He had seen the young English actress on Broadway in "My Fair Lady" and took the chance on her when she was passed over for the lead role in the film adaptation of the play. Mary Poppins was the film debut for Julie Andrews. (Ironically, Audrey Hepburn, who was cast in "My Fair Lady" was denied an Oscar nomination, in large part because it was discovered that she didn't do her own singing in the film.)

For only the third time in history, an actress won the Academy Award for their debut role. Andrews was speechless. She managed to get her first words out, and they were thanks to Walt Disney.

This gave hope to those who thought "Mary Poppins" would add Best Picture to its five other wins (Actress, Special Effects,  Editing, Score, and Song - "Chim Chimeree" written by the Sherman Brothers) It was not meant to be.

"My Fair Lady"  bested "Poppins" by three awards, including the top prize. One of those was for British film veteran Rex Harrison, who won Best Actor. This added to another notable record, as for the first time in Oscar history, all four acting honors went to non-Americans. (the other winners were fellow Brit and Disney favorite Peter Ustinov for "Tokapi" and Greek actress Lila Kedrova for "Zorba".) The feat was matched in 2007.

Walt was, of course, sad that he didn't win Best Picture, but the melancholy was only temporary as he gleefully basted of the five trophies and thirteen nominations. To him, it was validation of a forty year effort to be included among the people shaping the present and future of filmmaking.

Mr. Disney died less than two years after that Oscar night, but he passed away knowing that with "Mary Poppins" he and his studio staff had finally gained the legitimacy they had sought for decades.

Mickey Meets Oscar
April 1978/ 1988

Despite his standing as Walt Disney's most famous cartoon character, and the symbol for the whole company, Mickey Mouse was only responsible for one of Walt's Oscar wins. That came in 1941 for his animated short "Lend A Paw" which featured Pluto as a co-star.

Mickey faded from the silver screen in the 1950's and 60's and was pretty much done as a film star by the 1970's. It was Oscar that helped Mickey make a big comeback, just in time to celebrate the 50th birthday for both of them.

At the 50th Academy Awards Ceremony, held in April 1978, "Star Wars" was a big winner. It didn't nab the top prize, but took home 6 Oscars out of ten nominations. So it was no surprise that the film's robot stars, C3PO and R2D2 were on hand to present a special technical award related to the film. What was a surprise was who took the stage directly after them.

As the orchestra played "The Mickey Mouse Club March", Mickey himself skipped on stage, nodding to Threepio and Artoo as he passed them by. This live costumed version of Mickey, visiting from down the road at Disneyland, was decked out in a tux and the crowd roared with applause as he soaked in the moment. 

After announcing that he was there to give out the Oscar for best animated short (thanks to a live voice-over by his longtime alter ego Jimmy MacDonald) he was joined by diminutive singer/songwriter Paul Williams as a co-presenter. Jodie Foster, who had supposedly lost out on a starring role in "Star Wars" because she was locked into her Disney contract, mysteriously appeared from the wings to remind everybody that it was Mickey's 50th birthday too. Williams, after complimenting Mickey on "Steamboat Willie", cracked that maybe they would get Mickey two more fingers for his big day. The final surreal moment was Mickey reading the list of nominees (including Garry Trudeau's attempt at a "Doonesbury" short film) before Paul Williams opened the envelope. As soon as the winner came on stage, Mickey left.

Mickey would return to Oscar's stage to celebrate his 60th birthday, albeit in a different form. 
When the 60th Academy Awards Ceremony was held in April 1988, it was in the middle of a tense writer's strike that affected the mood of the entire evening. It was a more subdued occasion, and not as celebratory as the one ten years earlier. Midway through the show host Chevy Chase promised a "very special guest." When they returned from commercial break, it was revealed that Mickey Mouse was the mystery presenter and smiles filled the room.

As Chase made his introduction to Mickey, the camera showed the front row of the audience at the Shrine Auditorium, where Minnie, Daisy and Donald Duck were sitting. Donald was characteristically incensed when the build-up to "one of the most beloved cartoon stars of all time" did not lead to him. They then showed clips from Mickey's 60 years, finishing with the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" scene from "Fantasia."

At the conclusion of the clip package, an animated Mickey - still dressed in his Sorcerer outfit - jumped from the screen onto the stage and began talking to the audience. As an homage to "Mary Poppins" and all the other live action/animation films Disney had produced, it was nice to see Mickey interact with the live crowd and host.

Mickey begins to introduce his "distinguished co-presenter" when he is rudely interrupted by Donald, who believes it's him. When Mickey apologizes (always playing the nice guy) and says that they chose a human to help him, Donald gets apoplectic. A hook comes out from the wings and yanks Donald off so Mickey can continue. (Mickey uses his magic powers to zap Donald back to his seat, still grumbling.)

The human presenter in question was Tom Selleck (famous as TV's "Magnum PI" and who had appeared in the previous year's Disney hit "Three Men and a Baby.")  Selleck didn't seem too thrilled at the assignment, but played along gamely. After asking Mickey to change into something more appropriate (which he magically does) Selleck led him to the podium - with almost none of the banter that Williams had with Mickey in 1978 - to read the list of nominees.  When Selleck asks for the envelope, Mickey tells him that he must have left it in the other outfit. Selleck asks him if he still has magic dust, and Mickey makes an envelope appear at the podium.  After three minutes, they are done. Those three minutes, though, represented a lot of work.

It took Disney animators almost a month to create the short segment. The big headache was making it work on stage. In films like "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" and "Pete's Dragon" the animation was matched to live action film that was already shot and processed. For this appearance, Mickey would be interacting live in the moment, something that was rarely done. Nine reels of animation had to be carefully matched by the technicians at the Awards that night to pull off the visual trick. Audience members at the Shrine saw Selleck talking to empty space. Viewers at home saw Mickey. It was nicely done and a fitting tribute to the Mouse that started it all.

Mickey made one more appearance at the Oscars in 2003, for his 75th birthday, presenting the shorts category with actress Jennifer Garner. By this time, computers had refined the live action/animation interaction process and the results were seamless.

Yes, Disney was always good to the Oscars and vice versa. That relationship was severely tested in 1989, however, with what was perhaps the worst Academy Awards ceremony opening number in history.

Oscar Insults Disney
March 1989 

Allan Carr was the consummate Hollywood showman, so he seemed a natural choice to produce an Academy Awards Ceremony. He was given the task for the 61st Oscars in March 1989.

Carr, who favored campy productions, was notable for producing the 1978 hit film "Grease" and the not so successful Village People film "Can't Stop The Music" which derailed Bruce Jenner's acting career (not that it needed much help.) He decided to bring that campiness and pizzazz to the Oscars. It was a phenomenally bad idea.

It started with Carr importing six million tulips to line the outside of the Shrine Auditorium. He also spent a small fortune building a lavish "green room" for his presenters. The worst mistake, however, was casting a Disney icon in a not so flattering light.

Disney's Snow White, who had just marked her 50th Anniversary a few years before, was brought in by Carr to open the show. Rather than utilizing an animated version, he hired an unknown actress named Eileen Bowman to play Snow White and dressed her exactly as Disney had in the 1937 film. Bowman did a nice job capturing Snow's wide eyed innocence, but she was put in a no win situation.

Carr's opening had longtime awards show staple Army Archerd announcing that one of the great Hollywood legends was back, as Snow White entered to applause. She asked Archerd how to get to the theater, and Archerd told her to follow the gold Hollywood stars on the carpet. At this point things started to go off the rails, as the camera panned down to show Snow White wearing Dorothy's ruby red slippers from MGM's "Wizard of Oz" (huh?) She then walked to the front of the auditorium, crooning "I Only have Eyes for You" directly into the faces of luminaries like Tom Hanks, Sigourney Weaver, Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman. To say that these celebrities, who had no idea that she was going to do that, were mortified is an understatement.

If it ended there, that would be enough to make the opening go down in infamy. The ridiculousness continued, though. Snow White leaped to the stage, which was dressed to resemble the old Coconut Grove nightclub. Talk show host Merv Griffin launched into a rendition of his onetime hit "I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" while stars like Roy Rogers and Vincent Price sat on stage with barely a mention or introduction.
At the conclusion of his song, Griffin turned to Snow White and told her that her blind date, actor Rob Lowe, was there. Lowe and Snow  then began singing a sexually suggestive version of "Proud Mary" with lyrics clearly tweaking Disney and its studio. While they sang, the tables, chairs and other parts of the nightclub came to life, thanks to dancers hidden inside, and joined the fun. (Inspiration for "Be Our Guest" perhaps? I'm joking, of course.)  

The conclusion of this weird spectacle was an appearance by actress Lilly Tomlin (who had dressed as Snow White herself in 1980's "9 To 5.") She summed up pretty much what everyone - both at home and in the audience - was thinking by saying that more than a billion people were watching, in many different languages, and were still trying to make sense of what they just saw.

The response to the opening number was almost universally negative.

Disney executive Frank Wells called Allan Carr the next morning demanding an apology for using Snow White's image without permission and for putting her in such a negative context. Carr, who to his dying day insisted that he meant no insult and that the opening was a smash hit, refused to apologize. Wells then threatened to file a lawsuit. Before they could go to court, the Academy publicly apologized to Disney on behalf of Carr and the organization. 

To make matters worse for Carr, an open letter was published in the Hollywood trade papers which called his opening number an undignified embarrassment to the Academy and to the motion picture industry. It was signed by legends like Julie Andrews, Gregory Peck and Paul Newman. Carr was subsequently banned by the Academy from being involved with Oscar shows and his film career was effectively ended.

In actuality, after things settled down, the show was pretty normal. It marked the first time that winners were announced by saying "And the Oscar goes to.." (one of Carr's ideas.) Disney was well represented by "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" which won several awards. The voice of Roger, Charles Fleischer, appeared as a presenter with fellow comedian Robin Williams, who came out dressed as Mickey Mouse. Williams did an almost five minute risque riff on Mickey and Disney, but he didn't catch as much flack from Wells as Carr did because Wells said it was more of a spoof and parody than a disrespectful use of the character.

One other note of interest: Pixar won their very first Oscar that year, for the computer animated short "Tin Toy." John Lasseter, a Disney veteran now back in the fold, accepted the award and predicted big things to come for his company and for the genre. He probably had no idea how far they would go.

The 61st Oscar Ceremony still garners attention whenever lists of "worst Oscar shows" are published. Disney held no grudges against the Academy and the relationship continued as happily as it had been. In fact, Snow White made a second appearance at the Oscars just a few years later. In 1993, she showed up in animated form to present the award for best short subject. She brought the house down with the line "I think I have some experience with short subjects." Sweet redemption indeed.  

Disney Animation Finally Gets To the Top
March 1992 

"Snow White' was a game changer in 1937, the first animated feature film. Walt proved his doubters wrong as the film became the highest grossing film of all time. Still, the Academy just couldn't bring themselves to include a simple cartoon among the list of Best Picture nominees. Walt had to settle for a special award.

This bias against fully animated films lasted over half a century, as classics were ignored simply because they were populated with characters that originated in an artists inkwell rather than with flesh and blood actors. In 1991, Disney released a film that just couldn't be ignored and finally managed to break the Best Picture nomination barrier.

Disney had gotten their animation groove back with 1989's "The Little Mermaid" so it was no surprise that follow up efforts would rise to the same level of quality. When Michael Eisner, Roy Disney and the other people in charge of the studio saw what they had in "Beauty and the Beast", they knew that it deserved special treatment.

In an unprecedented move, the usually secretive Disney animation department allowed the public to see an unfinished version of a film. They entered "Beauty and the Beast" as a work in progress at the New York Film Festival. It was a risky move, as large stretches of the film consisted of  the audio track set to pencil sketches against plain white background. The gamble paid off. When the screening ended, the usually stoic New York film crowd burst into a sustained ten minute standing ovation.

Buoyed by that success, Disney arranged showings at other prestigious venues and festivals. They even had surprise "double features" with showings of the Steve Martin comedy "Father of the Bride."

The film was also unique in that its screenplay was written by a woman, Linda Woolverton. That had never been done with a Disney animated feature. In another first for the studio, they created a marketing campaign targeted specifically at adults and couples. Rather than using the cartoon characters, colorful backgrounds and  and cute sidekicks on their ads as they'd done for 50 years, they chose to utilize a one sheet poster with silhouettes of the main characters backed by an ethereal glow. The tag line said simply "The most beautiful love story ever told." Quite a boast indeed. (Disney did create a more traditional cartoon poster for the film, which was used in later ads.)

It all worked, as "Beauty and the Beast" rang up big box office numbers and critics fell over themselves to praise the film as one of the best of the year. Now the pressure was on, could Disney actually get a nomination for Best Picture?

The answer was yes. When the nominees for Best Picture at the 64th Annual Academy Awards were announced, "Beauty and the Beast" was included in the five. Disney had finally done it. In addition to the Best Picture nomination, the film got five other nods, the most ever for any animated film. It also got three nominations in the Best Song category, thanks to the music of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. (Both feats are still a record, though both "Enchanted" and "The Lion King" did tie the three song one and "Wall-E" tied for most nominations, they all share the record.)

Sadly the ending of the story didn't turn out as they had hoped. Just getting there was an honor, but "Beauty and the Beast" was swept aside in what became a history making night for another film, "Silence of the Lambs", which was only the third film to win all five top prizes (actor, actress, director, screenplay, picture. Jodie Foster, whose film career began at Disney, was named Best Actress.) Disney did win for best song and score.

The odds were long, to be sure, but many thought that Disney did have a shot at Best Picture. Just a few weeks earlier, "Beauty and the Beast" had won top honors at the Golden Globes, which is sometimes seen as a bellwether for the Oscars.

Speculation was rampant that Disney hurt themselves by refusing to follow tradition and send full versions of the film (known as "screeners") to Academy voters. They feared the prospect of bootleg copies of their film being sold on the black market, so Disney sent just a ten minute snippet of highlights from the film. This seemed to imply that Disney thought that voters could not be trusted with a personal copy of the film in their hands. Upset at being treated like pirates, many voters sent angry letters and made calls to Disney. One guy even told them that he thought "Beauty and the Beast" was definitely the best picture of the year, but would give his vote to a studio who did trust him with their film.

It took another 18 years before an animated film was given its due, and it was yet another Disney film, "Up." The big differences between the two are that "Up" (and this year's "Toy Story 3", which also got a Best Picture nomination) was animated by computers, not traditionally hand drawn, and it was included in a list of ten nominees, not the more competitive five, as "Beauty and the Beast" had to deal with.

The Academy added a separate category for Best Animated Feature Film in 2001, which many critics argue will prevent the Academy from ever giving top prize to a cartoon. That remains to be seen, but until that day, "Beauty and the Beast" will still be regarded as the pioneer.   

Disney's Amazing Oscar Streaks
1932 - Present

When "Chim Chimeree" won best song in 1964, the Sherman Brothers were in top form, and Disney films were still box office winners. Nobody could have predicted that Disney was about to hit a huge dry streak.

From 1932 until 1964, with the exception of two years (1940 and 1963) Disney had at least one Oscar nomination. Many of those were for Best Song, though it only resulted in three winners in that particular category.

When Walt died in 1966, the Disney Studio's creativity seemed to go with him and the Academy noticed (Walt's shadow was so large that a few of the Oscars given to the Disney Studio after he died still had his name listed on them as Producer.) Like the Yankees in baseball at that time, a once seemingly unstoppable winner was drifting aimlessly.

The time in the wilderness lasted for 25 years. While there were scattered highlights and nominations, they resulted in few awards.

In 1989, starting with "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" things began to change. The resurrection of the Disney animation department has widely been credited to "The Little Mermaid" and that film started one of the most amazing winning streaks in modern film history.

From 1989 to 2001, Disney lost the Best Song category just four times. Twice it was because there were no nominations in that category for Disney, and once because they were up against "My Heart Will Go On" from the juggernaut that was 1997's "Titanic."

The only other streak in Oscar history that comes close to that also belongs to Disney.

From 1934 to 1940 and also from 1951 to 1956, Disney won the Best Animated Short category. Their only real competition at the time was from MGM's Tom and Jerry, which also built a small winning streak. In all, Disney won 12 out of 22 times it was nominated for animated short. They also won 10 of the first 12 times the award was given. One of Walt's posthumous awards was for 1968's "Winnie The Pooh and the Blustery Day."

In recent years, Pixar has helped Disney add to its records.

"Toy Story" was the first animated film ever to be nominated for a Best Screenplay award. Pixar also had a four year streak of screenplay nominations.

In 2010, "Up" became the first 3D Animated feature film to be nominated for Best Picture.

All of Pixar's films produced since the advent of the Best Animated Picture Award have been nominated, losing only twice ("Monsters Inc." and "Cars") Unfortunately, that streak was broken in 2012, when "Cars 2" became the first Disney/Pixar film not to be nominated for Best Animated Feature. (Though Disney is represented this year, most notably by "Man or Muppet", which has a good chance at winning another Best Song Oscar for them.)

As noted earlier, Walt Disney holds the record for most Oscars won. Second on that list is composer Alan Menken, who has won 14 (out of 28 nominations, the living record holder) all for Disney films. His partner, Howard Ashman, died just before "Beauty and the Beast" came out and holds the record for most posthumous Oscar wins (4.)

As you can see, Disney and Oscar have grown up nicely together. Depending on what happens this weekend at the former Kodak Theater, history might be made for Disney once again. If it doesn't happen, it probably will in the future, as both continue to provide those magic moments that only Hollywood can.

Walt, producer Hal Roach and Laurel & Hardy at the 1932 Oscars