Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway Songwriters Interview

It took more than 90 years, but Mickey Mouse finally got a theme-park attraction at the beginning of March 2020. (Ah, the beginning of March 2020, when the Disney theme parks were…y’know, open. It was a simpler time, two whole weeks ago.) Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, currently at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the Walt Disney World Resort (and currently in construction at Disneyland Park, arriving in 2022), takes guests on a wild ride themed to the modern, Flash-animated Mickey Mouse shorts that can be found on Disney XD and Disney+. One of the crucial elements of the new attraction is its linchpin song, “Nothing Can Stop Us Now”. The song’s co-writers, husband-and-wife team Christopher and Elyse Willis, talked to Slashfilm recently via phone about writing for theme parks, working as a married couple, and more.

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White Fang Revisited

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

Walt Disney was famously not a cat person, which is as important to note as the fact that he liked dogs. Think of how cats are portrayed in some of the films released by his animation studio. Think of the sneaky Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp; even if they weren’t racist by literal design, they’re cruel to our heroic Lady and try to destroy the house while pinning the crime on her. Or think of the cat owned by Cinderella’s stepmother. You know, the cat literally named Lucifer. Disney: not a cat person.

Thus, once the era of Disney live-action films dawned, one of the natural types of stories to tell would be between man and his true best friend, the dog. (It’s a heartbreaking movie, but Old Yeller remains one of the most memorable Disney live-action films they ever released.) Even years after Walt Disney died, this basic concept would lead to plenty of live-action films. Just recently, the streaming service Disney+ released another man-and-dog movie, Togo, in which a gruff man living in Alaska learns to embrace a particularly ornery Siberian husky. That film, both in its setting and its depiction of the burgeoning friendship between one man (played by an overqualified lead actor) and one dog, feels like it owes a debt to another such Disney film: the 1991 drama White Fang.

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Stargirl Trailer

Before there was a manic pixie dream girl, there was Stargirl, at least for the young-adult set. The 2000 novel by Jerry Spinelli has finally spawned a live-action adaptation, this time courtesy of Disney+ (and what incredibly perfect timing for them to have a new original film right now). 20 years isn’t that much time in terms of how drastically culture can shift, but when Spinelli wrote the story of a shy teenager who’s brought out of his shell by a mysterious, quirky, charming young woman with plenty of tricks up her sleeve seemingly intended to make him a better person, it felt fresher than such a story can feel after the introduction of the MPDG into pop culture. Stargirl has plenty of charms, and if you’re (like this reviewer) cooped up in your house for a few weeks, you can do a lot worse. But this film had the potential to be a lot more.

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The Incredibles Revisited

(Infinity and Beyond is a regular bi-weekly column documenting the 25-year filmography of Pixar Animation Studios, film by film. In today’s column, writer Josh Spiegel highlights The Incredibles.)

For nearly a decade, Pixar Animation Studios was an island among animation studios. It worked with the Walt Disney Company on having its films distributed and its characters and worlds turned into theme-park and merchandising fodder. But its films were very homegrown in every possible respect. It took until their fourth film, Monsters, Inc., for the studio to have a film not directed or co-directed by John Lasseter. But their first five were all made by people who’d worked at the studio since before the release of Toy Story

Another common thread in those five films is that humans were part of the overall stories being told, but never the main attraction. And the last common thread was that Pixar’s films weren’t driven by a single author; even Lasseter had co-directors, and Toy Story, as excellent a film as it was, had a script credited to a handful of writers. That would all change with Pixar’s sixth feature. It was from the mind of someone who hadn’t started at Pixar, it was written and directed by the same person, and…oh, yes. The Incredibles was a film entirely about humans.

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Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway Ride Through Video

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Walt Disney World releases an updated statement on coronavirus.
  • Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway has opened.
  • Downtown Disney regains one of its flagship beverage locations.
  • And more!

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Justin Morgan Had a Horse

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

Back in October of 2019 (which, if you’re checking your calendar, feels as if it was roughly 9,000 years ago), the Disney+ Twitter account managed to dominate the social-media conversation for a full day thanks to a massive thread of more than 600 tweets, in which they announced each title that would be available to stream on the service’s first day. Most of those titles were plenty exciting to fans of one kind of intellectual property or another. There were plenty of animated features, TV shows, Marvel movies, etc. to whet fans’ appetites. But there were some titles that threw people for a loop because they sure seemed like joke titles.

Maybe the easiest title to mock — or at least one of the easiest — was Justin Morgan Had a Horse. Here was a film that few people seemed to recall or had indeed ever heard of, and with such a simple, declarative phrase as its title, too. For my own part, when I saw some folks mock titles like The Biscuit Eaters or Now You See Him, Now You Don’t, I shook my head at their inability to realize that the 1970s were a weird time for Disney live-action. But even I was fully unfamiliar with Justin Morgan Had a Horse, and I hosted a weekly podcast about all kinds of Disney movies for nearly nine years. The title was one of only a few Disney released  from before I was born that I’d genuinely never recognized, until I Googled and realized why I didn’t know it well: this 90-minute adaptation was a two-part episode of the Walt Disney anthology TV series, not a feature film.

So, for today’s Out of the Disney Vault column, I wanted to answer the obvious question: what the hell is Justin Morgan Had a Horse, and why is it on Disney+?

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The Banker Review

The new based-on-a-true-story drama The Banker inspires a reference to the charming political-fantasy sitcom Parks and Recreation, and its line about something having “the cadence of a joke”. The Banker has the cadence of a movie. It’s 120 minutes long — ah yes, a standard feature-length runtime. Its stars are now best known for their work in franchise fare — OK, they’re taking a break from action movies! And there’s a social conflict at its core, showcasing the destructive capabilities of systemic American racism. Yet there’s something weirdly hollow and dry about this drama. Even if this film had been released as originally scheduled in the 2019 awards season, The Banker would still feel barely like a movie at all.

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indiana jones adventure

As we embark upon a new decade, the concept of what “Disney” is will likely change on a wider scale than ever before. What does Disney mean to you? In the previous century, Disney might have meant family films, animation, or something friendly and comforting. Now, Disney could mean the action-heavy fare of Marvel, or the science-fiction worlds of Avatar or Star Wars, or the irreverent and adult comedy of The Simpsons, or the technologically daring storytelling of Pixar. Disney is as much a repository for a wide and varied group of intellectual properties in 2020, something that seemed next to impossible just a couple decades ago. The shift didn’t start in the Disney theme parks, with an attraction such as Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland. Yet that inclusion to the original Disney theme park, the only park Walt ever walked through, did represent a major step forward for both a theme park and a company in its ever-shifting creative priorities.

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In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Tokyo Disneyland is temporarily closing down.
  • The Jungle Cruise is going under.
  • And more!

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

the secret life of pets off the leash

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • The Secret Life of Pets ride has an opening date.
  • Is Disney’s Hollywood Studios getting another expansion?
  • And more!

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