Posted on Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 by Peter Sciretta
When Disney opened MGM Studios (now “Disney’s Hollywood Studios”) in Orlando Florida, one of the attractions was The Magic of Disney Animation, a Feature Animation pavilion where park visitors toured four connected experiences which explored the legacy of Disney’s hand-drawn animation. I remember visiting the park shortly after it opened as a kid, and one of the highlights was being able to peer through a window into a room of animators who were hard at work on an animated feature film.
The tour started with a short film entitled “Back to Neverland” which featured Veteran newscaster Walter Cronkite giving comedian/actor Robin Williams a tour through the different stages of hand-drawn animation. The short film was informative, but also very funny, with Williams being turned into an animated character, one of the Lost Boys of Peter Pan. Back to Neverland left the parks in 2004 but /Film reader augustesomers alerted me that the short film is available on YouTube. If you’ve never seen it, its worth a watch.
Back to Neverland was written and directed by Jerry Rees, who was also a writer/director of Disney’s animated feature The Brave Little Toaster.
This award winning short film, combining live action and animation, played in the main theater at Disney/MGM Studios’ Animation Pavilion. Walter Cronkite, in his familiar role of trusted newscaster, set out to reveal the secrets behind Disney animation. Robin, in the role of Disney World tourist, volunteered to help with Walter’s show-and-tell. With a twinkle in his eye, Walter called on his assistant Tinkerbell to transport them to a magical limbo where anything could happen. Step by step, Robin was transformed into an animated character – a Little Lost Boy from the classic film Peter Pan. Robin suddenly found himself facing the notorious Captain Hook. Experiencing everything from utter fear, to total joy, Robin learned that strong and believable emotions have always been at the heart of the Disney animation.
Above is a production photo of “Robin Williams getting ready to fly, as Rees explains the aerodynamics in Neverland.” Rees has more behind the scenes photos from the production of the short film on his website.