He-Man

One of the toys I played with as a kid was He-Man.  One great memory I have is playing with the He-Man toys with my brother.  He always wanted to be Skeletor, while I was He-Man.  (Isn’t the Geico He-Man commercial great?) What’s really cool is that I was into He-Man, my wife when she was little was into She-Ra.

I have this one friend who is a huge He-Man fan, dude knows everything bout He-Man, even was in a few documentaries regarding him.

Coming soon will be this new line of He-Man Pop figures which look pretty cool.

But first, this, something that I once wore when I was a kid (tough to believe I was ever small enough to wear it)

St. Francis Carnival 040

This is the second wave of He-Man Pop figures.  The beginning of next year we’ll see

Battle armor He-Man

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Battle armor Skeletor

skele

Merman

mer green

The chase figure of Merman in blue, 1 in 6 rarity

mer blue

Evil Lyn

el

Beast Man

be

Orko the Trollan

orko

 

Stratos, leader of the Bird People

stros

The “flocked” version of Moss Man will be at Toys R US

oss

Faker He-Man will be in Target

hee

 

Trapjaw will be in FYE

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Hocus Pocus

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The Disney movie “Hocus Pocus” first got released July 16th, 1993. I had just graduated high school that summer & didn’t see it until it was on video one night when I was house sitting for my aunt. My cousins’ had it so one night I figured, with nothing going on, I’d give it a look see. The idea for the movie itself started out as a bedtime story the producer of the movie, David Kirschner, used to tell his kids, which then became published in an issue of Muppet Magazine & then a feature film.

I found it pretty funny, something that fit in Disney’s resume of being not scary but scary enough for children to enjoy. The Sanderson Sisters each had their own quirky personalities which I think helped make it more Disney friendly. Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson, Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson & Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson. The movie had pretty cool special effects, was funny, & directed by Disney veteran Kenny Ortega.

What I always found interesting though was that they never made a sequel. Once I watched it I thought a Disney Channel TV series would have been a good idea, continuing the adventures of Max, Dani, Allison & the cat Thackery Binx (voiced by voice artist Jason Marsden) as they battled whatever else might be living in their hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, as well as the inevitable return of the Sanderson Sisters for a season finale.

I kind of envisioned it as  Disney’s own version of the popular Nickelodeon series “Are you Afraid of the Dark?” which ran from 1990-2000,  as well as the TV series “Eerie, Indiana”, which ran from 1991-1992 for 19 episodes & starred “Hocus Pocus” actor Omri Katz as Marshall Teller in the series (he played Max in “Hocus Pocus”).

The series for Disney was never obviously made, but I still think it’s a good idea.

“Hocus Pocus” seemed to be forgotten by Disney for the most part with the only showings on the Disney Channel during Halloween. It would be 22 years later before Disney brought them back in 2015 when the Sanderson Sisters were involved in the new show for Mickey’s-Not-So-Scary-Halloween-Party (which is where I proposed to my wife at sunset 16 years ago) in the show called “Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular”. The show proved to be a hit since the Sanderson Sisters look remarkably like the actress who created their roles.  In 2016 the Sanderson Sisters returned to Mickey’s party, this time with their own merchandise.

Today you can walk into any Halloween store & find outfits of the Sanderson Sisters for Halloween.

A few weeks ago it was announced that a new iteration” of “Hocus Pocus” & the Sanderson Sisters is in the works. It will be Executive Produced by David Kirschner, the producer of the original. What they mean by new “iteration” is that this is to be a reboot of the original movie with new characters & an updated story.

The new version, whichever it might be, will be exclusive to the Disney Channel, much like I wished they made a TV series of it back in the 1990’s.

“The Basketball Diaries of a Wimpy Kid”

No, this isn’t the new book by Jeff Kinney in his “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. I just thought it would be a funny title for this blog taking the name of the 1995 movie “The Basketball Diaries” & combining it with “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. (Let me just say I prefer the movies made during the 2010, 2011, & 2012 compared to the most recent 2017 one. Can you say “#that’snotmyrodrick”?”

The title for this blog does have to do with me playing basketball in grammar school & being a nerd, so here’s where the title came from.  I think it’s kind of funny.

There’s no way I resemble a sports guy. Let me just say now I hate sports. Yes, I’ve played some in grammar school, which is where I realized I was no good at them, though this might also have been to other things.

I don’t follow sports. I never know who wins the Stanley Cup, World Series or the Super Bowl.  In fact, I never know when they are.  My least favorite sport would be football, which I never understood, & all the recent protest by the players make me like it even less. But we’re not here for a political debate, so let’s continue.

If I had to pick a sport to like it would be hockey I guess. But, if I could play one sport professionally it would be Quidditch (Hey, I’m a nerd), but not the kind the Muggles play in our world, running around with brooms, but the one where you really do fly on a broom, so until that happens, I guess I’m not joining any teams.

As a child I’ve been to plenty of hockey & basketball games, as well as 2 baseball games. Never been to a football game though.  Baseball I find more interesting in person than on TV, though hockey is cool to watch on TV but even cooler in person.

One thing I never got is fan reactions, especially when two rival team fans nearly get into a fight over this. Sure I can get not liking a team, but to get into a fight over it I feel is too much. I mean, Rich & I never fought over which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek (Star Wars is though).

Other things I don’t get is how sports fans say “we” when discussing their team. I get they really like the team, but do they mean it in the royal sense of the word “we”? I mean, they’re not out there playing with them.  I also don’t get why they get surprised when their team loses. Sure, it’s great to win, but you don’t always do so, some games you just lose, it’s part of the game. But if you tried your best, shouldn’t that be enough? Pissed off coaches I also don’t get, yes I get they expect the best from their players, but if they’re doing their best shouldn’t that be enough? I do get that professional coaches have to answer to their bosses, so perhaps that’s why they get so pissed.

But let’s discuss this on a more lower level, like grammar school level.

I get the concept that sports should teach children sportsmanship. That means, whether you win or lose, you do so gracefully. You do your best. It doesn’t mean being obnoxious when you win, yes you can cheer, sure, because you earned it; just don’t be obnoxious over it.  The same goes with losing. If you lose, don’t be obnoxious that you lost. Honestly, if you do your best that should be all that matters. That should be the ultimate win when you play. Doing your best, because if you did this, then regardless you won.

Of course, there are kids on teams, perhaps your own kid’s team, who don’t get this & are obnoxious. You’ve seen them, they’re the ones screaming at their fellow teammates, “get into the game” or “focus” instead of, “It’s OK, shake it off, good try” if a team member misses a play. No one is perfect, it even happens to the obnoxious player, you can see their pissed & when they’re down by one point & it’s up to them they shoot, miss, & the other team wins.

Some parents are no better at this. Cheering your child on is good, cheering their team on is good too, but when it takes it to the level of obnoxiousness, when they’re hollering out at the game, the coach, the referee, it’s embarrassing, & most likely the ref will throw them out of the game. Parents being obnoxious like this, especially in front of their child, teach them poor sportsmanship.  Like the old TV commercial, “Where did you lean this?”the parent asks.  “You alright? I learned it by watching you.”

Coaches could be no better. I’ve seen some that were so strict it seemed winning was more important than teaching the team how to play the game or to learn sportsmanship. You’ve seen the type; they think  they’re playing for some national team where they’re getting paid millions. Coaches are like mentors, yes they want the best for their teams, but when they’re grammar school level let them enjoy playing, teach them how to play, teach them sportsmanship.

Which brings this to me & my terrible days of sports.

When I was little my mother made me play baseball (hated it), soccer (hated it), basketball (more on that in a minute), & karate (hated it, though I wish I stuck with it since it does teach you how to defend yourself but also discipline). Thankfully after 2 years of baseball she no longer signed me & my sister for it, thankfully she realized how much I hated soccer so she didn’t sign me up after those few years.

Now, in my defense, before you think I’m some Jabba the Hutt lump, the one thing I did take to was playing street hockey, but more so importantly, I got into skateboarding my freshman through senior years of high school. I loved it. Getting my first skateboard was like getting my first car. I wasn’t great, I would never have gotten sponsored or stuff like that, but I wasn’t terrible either. I could do a few things, but for me skateboarding was my way to go somewhere. If I wanted to get comics at the comic shop the next town over, I’d just skateboard there. If I wanted to see my buddy Rich, I’d just skateboard there. For four years I skated everywhere, went through four Powell Peralta Tony Hawk decks & even when I got my driver’s license & eventually my first car, I kept my skateboard in the trunk of my car.

But basketball, well, this was something else.  It was 1987 & I was 12 years old. I’d been best friends with my buddy Rich for three years now & this was the turning point, the 7th grade, where I’d become the full nerd I be here today. Rich never played sports, don’t blame him, & I wish I never did either. Because my days of playing basketball for my Catholic School were hell to me.  Something I truly hated & begged my mother to let me quit.  Here’s what happened.

Let’s start from the beginning. The town my brother, sister & I went to Catholic School in was next door to ours. This town we went to school in had only one Catholic School, the rest were public schools. Every year I remember this big game we called “The Mayor’s Trophy Game” where our school would compete against the same public one. It was this big deal, like the World Series, Stanley Cup & Super Bowl rolled into one. Every kid in school talked bout it. “You going to the Mayor’s Trophy Game?”  “Course.”

The winner would obviously get the Mayor’s Trophy for the year to keep in their school. You’d see all your friends there, kids from the other school; they’d sell soda & snacks. It was pretty cool for us. I honestly don’t remember how many of these my school won or lost. I just remember the big stink over the games.  It seemed cool to play in, like you were some sort of celebrity, but I never played in one. I think by 1987 they either stopped it, I think the games got too “West Side Story” I guess, you know, opposing schools, kids breaking into dance & song about how their school was going to win, kidding, for whatever reason they stopped the games.

In 1987 I was in the seventh grade & was 12 years old. Two of my friend’s father’s coached the basketball teams. Now, let me just say I won’t list their real named for the sake of if they, the guys I knew, ever wound up reading this blog, but really, who DOES read this blog other than my sister? Shit, my own brother doesn’t even read this, do you?  Do you?  I’m talking to you, Big Brother (my brother, not the book).

So friend number 1 will be named Drake, his father Mr. Drake & friend number 2 will be named Grayson, his father Mr. Grayson (nice Batman reference there too). Friend 2, Grayson, is a real athlete. He plays baseball, basketball, football, but he doesn’t have the “Revenge of the Nerds” jock mentality. He’s a real nice, good guy, good friend, one I’ve known ever since we were kids.  Friend number 1, Drake, I know even better, he just plays basketball, is extremely funny & a good guy too. Both of these guys never complained once about my basketball skills, or if they did, I never heard it, so either way, nice.

Off the court Mr. Drake & Mr. Grayson were very nice. Mr. Grayson was rough, loud, a tough construction worker, while Mr. Drake was more calmer person, a gym teacher.  Still, both were always polite to me if I was at their house hanging with their sons or if I ran into them at church or somewhere.

I wasn’t the best player, but I tried. Even so, I was benched. If I did play it was either when we were losing & there was no hope left, so they’d put me in since it didn’t matter, or if two minutes were left of the game they’d throw me in.  I just wanted to play; I just wanted to prove myself. So every practice I did my best, I listened to the coaches, I tried what they said; I passed to fellow team members. I was in 100%, yet while I played during practice games were different.

I still practiced. Free throws, dribbling, passing, lay ups. I tried everything. Sure I was a lousy shot when aiming for the basket, but I tried. Lord, did I try. As we played more games I got less time to play which meant self confidence wise I didn’t have much. When I did play, & if I did get the ball, I freaked & never took a shot for the basket. I’d pass it to another team member.  The worst was if I was fouled & had to take the foul shout. God that was terrible. Everyone staring, waiting for me to shoot.  Never made the points.

My mom came to all my home games, my brother & sister too, I remember once I had the ball & my brother telling me to shoot.  There he was cheering me on, but I passed it instead. I remember my dad coming to one of my home games straight from work on a Saturday. Tired from working on cars, his clothes dirty, he came to see me play.  Me.  I was so thrilled yet so nervous. I wanted to make my dad proud. That is, if I ever got to play.

Practice continued & still I tried my best.  I remember this set of identical twins on the team, the “Fratelli Twins”. They were very much into sports, playing basketball, baseball & football.  Well, one day they were goofing around during practice & Mr. Grayson, tired of dealing with their goofiness, hurled a basketball at one of them.  He slid on his knees & ducked, the ball missing him.  “Shit,” I thought. “If he ever did that to me my dad would beat the shit out of him.” But no basketballs were ever thrown at me, or passed to me for that matter.

While the year continued I began to get frustrated with the no playing. I wanted to quit. I was tired of going to everything but never getting to play. I told my mom I wanted to quit but she wouldn’t let me. So still I went to practices & games & still I never, if ever, played.

Our team had its uniform, I don’t remember what number I was to be honest, but word got out we were going to get team jackets too.  This was cool I thought. Even better, our first name would be embroided in the front while the back would have the name of our school, a basketball & something else which I forget.

By the end of winter we got our coats. It was pretty cool, only the letters on them were peeling off everyone’s coats. Still, I wasn’t being played & I told my mother this.  Why go when they never play me? With the letters peeling off my coat we peeled them off since it looked so ridiculous with them pealing.

For whatever reason my mother wanted me to play one more game but it turned out I didn’t have to. I wore the team coat to school with the missing letters then the weekend came. We had a big game to play that weekend but my dad, knowing how the whole basketball thing upset me, took me to the movies to see “Lethal Weapon”.  My sister went to the game for whatever reason, I guess because it was in our school & her friends went.  Then she heard such bullshit from the coaches talking about me which to this day I’ve never forgotten.

“Where’s the Hobbit?” Mr. Grayson asked. (The Hobbit is of course me, but no, my name isn’t Bilbo & he didn’t actually say “Where’s the Hobbit?” but really used my name.)

Pissed, Mr. Drake, the nicest guy I had ever known said, “Oh, he quit the team & peeled off all the letters from his jacket because he’s mad.”

I remember my sister telling me & my parents this later that night & how pissed my mother got.  Yes, I did quit since they never played me, but the letters peeled off were due to them coming off.

At school Drake & Grayson were still nice to me. If they were ever pissed that I quit they never told me.  We still talked & laughed & were friends. Whenever I saw Mr. Drake or Mr. Grayson I said hello & they said hello & were always nice.

I don’t know, perhaps it was the basketball that turned them into basketball monster coaches.

Rich & I, already best friends since the 4th grade, just became better & better friends, & we became nerdier & nerdier.

So, no, I’m no athlete. I can play catch; in fact my sister bought me my mitt. But as far as sports go, I’m just this nerdy guy who likes his nerdy life & wouldn’t have it any other way. Books, comics, movies, Disney, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings. Yes, that’s me in a Hobbit Hole.

 

New Teen Titans Go Pop

Coming out next year are some cool new Pop’s based off of Cartoon Network’s Teen Titan’s Go.  My favorite character would be Robin, though the way they make him so tense & high strung isn’t really how Dick Grayson is.  Still, he is funny sometimes.

The suit he wears in the show is actually based off of the third Robin, Tim Drake.

So, we got some cool toys coming.  These’re all Robin related.

The first is Nightwing, who Robin, Dick Grayson becomes later on in his life.

nightwing

The next is Robin in disguise as Red X

red x

Next is Robin as Red X without the mask

l red x

Finally there is Robin as Nightwing with baby, Exclusive to Hot Topic

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She didn’t shudder at my paw

I just want to wish my wife a Happy Birthday for this week, but also to let her know just how much I love her & wish her a Happy 15th Wedding anniversary for today.  I know that I’m the luckiest guy in the world that someone so beautiful could love such a nerfy fat hobbit like myself.  The Lord blessed me & continues to do so everyday.

I love you so much.  Thank you for being my wife, thank you for loving me.  Happy anniversary.  I can’t wait to we celebrate 50 years.

mickey minnie

I proposed to her at the Cinderella Wishing Well in Disney World.  I love this little toy they made of the Wishing Well, it always reminds me of the day we got engaged.

cinderella's wishing well

The Rocketeer: The History & Jet Packing around Disney World

Originally I wrote this in a different blog entry.  I did more research then decided I should re-write it with more info.  So, the first blog is still here, while this is the new one.

 

If there’s one thing Disney knows, it’s how to endorse they’re features in their theme parks. On any given day you can find parades, meet & greets, window displays, prop displays, or promotional items featuring their latest venture.

The more popular the feature, the more they do. But, of course, even the ones they think will be successful don’t always wind up so, so the endorsing of the feature might end sooner than they planned. Still, they might leave a few things still there that if you happen to know where to look you’ll find something (like the next time you’re in Disney Hollywood Studios near the Echo Lake section, look up for Detective Eddie Valiant’s office complete with Roger Rabbit cut out in the window shades).

One of my favorite examples of this would be Disney’s The Rocketeer, which at one time was flying around Disney’s M-G-M Studios and now only exists as a few little nods to yester year in the newly themed Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Still, if you do know where to look, you can find references to the rocket packed hero in this park, Epcot and even in Disney Springs.

The Rocketeer is of course based off the 1980’s comic book by Dave Stevens. The very first appearance was in issue one of Mike Grell’s Starslayer by Pacific Comic. This is just an ad for the Rocketeer comic which would premier in issues two and three of Starslayer as a six page filler for the comic. Pacific Comics then released issues three and four of the first mini-series in Pacific Presents (1982-1985). Pacific Comics then closed. Eclipse Comics took over and finished the first mini-series, then released a trade, before closing as well.

Between 1988-1989 two more companies put out the Rocketeer comic, this being the second mini-series. First was Comico, which put out issues one and two of “Cliff’s New York Adventure” before closing. Dark Horse Comics finished the mini-series by putting out the final two issues.

The comic itself has pulp roots; in fact the first mini-series reveals the creator of the rocket pack as none other than Doc Savage, while in the second mini-series The Rocketeer teams up with The Shadow. The comics also have roots in the old movie serials from the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Much from the comics did make it into the movie, like Cliff finding the rocket, his friend Peevy, his girlfriend, the Gee Bee racer, the scene of the Rocketeer saving Malcolm from the plane, the Bulldog Café, a mysterious inventor of the rocket and the character Lothar.

Long before Disney got involved with the Rocketeer, creator Dave Stevens was looking to develop it into a film. One idea was sort of a black and white independent film, low budget, like the old movie serials. The very first time the comic rights were optioned was in 1983 by director Steve Miner. They worked on the script, though they couldn’t come up with one they liked, so by 1985 Miner was out and Stevens teamed up with screenwriter Paul DeMeo and Danny Bilson.

Bilson and DeMeo helped work out the plot, characters and helped keep it true to the time period. When they felt comfortable with what they had they began to pitch it around Hollywood, but every studio turned them down. They saved Disney for last knowing that if they were to work with the studio the creative team wouldn’t really make much money, but the movie would get made, so they pitched it to Disney with the intention of it being released as a Touchstone Pictures release.

Disney’s main reason for getting involved was the possibility of toys (which ironically there were no action figures made with the exception of the rubber bend’em doll, though there was plenty of merchandise). During negotiations Stevens walked away a few times, and it was during one of these times that director Steven Spielberg offered to direct the picture under his Amblin studio if Disney wasn’t interested.

When Disney heard the news, Disney Studio Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg threatened to sue under the terms “implied contract”. Spielberg was in the works with Disney on Roger Rabbit and didn’t want it to create any issues, so he dropped out. (One could only imagine what a Spielberg directed Rocketeer movie would have looked like. Despite Joe Johnston’s excellent work on the film, you can’t help but ponder this.)

Negotiations with Disney continued for at least one more year, but this would not be the only time Disney interfered with the production of the Rocketeer. Slow negotiations were just the tip of the iceberg for what Dave Stevens and Joe Johnston would have to endure when Disney finally green lit the film for production.

Once negotiations were finally complete and Stevens signed over certain rights of the Rocketeer to Disney, Stevens helped the production crew by handing them all his research information he used for the time period which he referenced in the comic book. This consisted of blue prints for plane hangars and bleachers, schematics for building the auto-gyro, reference photos and drawings of the Bulldog Café, field uniforms worn by the air-circus staff, and contacts for vintage planes needed for the movie like the Gee Bee racer.

Stevens would wind up being on set everyday from morning to night from pre-production all the way through post. Disney executives weren’t too thrilled with this, but no doubt this was good for director Joe Johnston when he needed reference.

Disney also had issues with the writing team of Bilson and DeMeo. They worked on the script for five years, constantly revising it per Disney requests. During these five years they were fired, Disney brought in new writers for the screenplay, only for Disney to hate what they did, throw it out, and rehire Bilson and DeMeo. This would happen three times.

Originally the writing team handed Disney a seven page treatment in 1986 as to what the film would be. Disney then had them write and rewrite the script until Disney finally approved the script and green lit the film.

Even more perplexing was when Disney said they didn’t want to set the movie in 1938 but instead in a more modern day era. This idea quickly faded, though CEO Michael Eisner’s dislike of the Rocketeer’s helmet soon became an issue.  He thought it should look something more like an astronaut would wear. This was something director Joe Johnston did not like, feeling it changed much of who the character was and threatened to walk if such changes were made. Despite the helmet being redesigned to stay true to the comic yet to also please the CEO, Eisner continued to say no. With a week left before filming was to begin, Dave Stevens sketched out a design like the comics, hired a sculptor to create a mock version of it that was finally deemed suitable to Eisner.

Casting was another issue. While Johnston wanted to cast an unknown to play the part of Cliff Secord/The Rocketeer, Disney wanted a well known actor. Names such as Kevin Costner, Matthew Modine, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russel, Bill Paxton, Vincent D’Onofrio and even Emilio Estevez auditioned or were close to getting the role. But the one star Disney was banking on, but turned it down, was Johnny Depp.  In the end, the role went to relative unknown Billy Campbell, who looks like the drawings Dave Stevens did of Secord in the comics. This was Campbell’s first feature film.

For the role of Jenny Blake, actresses Sherilyn Fenn, Kelly Preston, Diane Lane & Elizabeth McGovern were considered before Jennifer Connelly got the role.  Actor Lloyd Bridges was offered the role of Peevy but turned it down, Alan Arkin took the role. Jeremy Irons and Charles Dance were offered the role of Neville Sinclair, though the role went to Timothy Dalton. Even more interesting, the role of mob boss Eddie Valentine was offered to Joe Pesci. He too turned it down and the role went to Paul Sorvino. For the role of Lothar, Neville Sinclair’ thug, the role went to actor Tiny Ron. His makeup was created by Rick Baker, based off of 1940’s actor Rondo Hatton, whose facial features were due to acromegally.

Disney set the budget at $25 million with a 76 day shooting schedule, though Joe Johntson, who came from a special effects background from I.L.M., knew this wouldn’t  work. In the end the budget cost $30 million and took 96 days to shoot.

With production set to begin the biggest thing was to get Cliff Secord in the air as both a pilot and the Rocketeer.  For the pilot Campbell actually did go in a plane even though he had a fear of flying in them. Director Joe Johnston asked him if he’d be willing to do this, though the plan was if he said no they could put the plane on a hill, shoot it with the blue sky in the background and he’d never leave the ground.

Campbell, despite his fear, said he’d be willing to go in the actual plane. To do this, a stunt pilot, Craig Hosking, piloted a plane with two cockpits. While Hoskings flew the plan the camera faced Campbell in the second cockpit. The rear of the plane was painted to look like the Gee Bee. Campbell would act like he was piloting the plane.

In order for the Rocketeer to fly this would be completed two different ways. One using special effects and the other practical effects. While this was the early 1990’s and computers were beginning to be the norm for special effects, this was not the case for the Rocketeer (though they were used to help a bit). Terminator 2 had computer effects in the film, created by no other then I.L.M. But for the Rocketeer they went to the tried and true methods of stop motion for the former and a stuntman on strings for the latter.

For the stop motion two 18” tall figures were created which gave them more detail. The puppets consisted of metal “skeletons” with ball joints, hinges & swivels. They also had multiple points of articulation in the hips & chest for mount rods. The clothes for the puppet were designed to include the folds & wrinkles like the ones on the actor & stuntman wore, to keep the puppets as detailed as possible.

The idea for two puppets was that while one was being used the second could be set up while filming the first one.  Besides moving the puppets one frame at a time a motion control cameras helped with things like adding a tilt, pan or roll when needed. Typically, one shot might take between two to six hours to animate.

One great improved scene involving the puppet was when the Rocketeer flies up besides a plane & salutes. The animator suggested that when he does this he accidentally hits the off switch & falls down into a cloud where we’ll see a flash as we figure he restarts the jet pack.  Joe Johnston liked the idea & let them animate it.

Early stop motion shots in the film has the Rocketeer flying a bit out of control to show he was not yet used to the rocket pack, but as the film goes on we’d see him get better which meant the animators would animate the puppets smoother. 2D animators would then hand animate the flames of the jet pack, or include extra flash bursts when close to the camera.

With the combo of the stop motion puppet, motion control cameras & optical effects composited into lice action aerial plates, I.L.M. would achieve believability in the Rocketeer’s flight as well as combining it with the shots of the stuntmen on wires.

For the stuntmen on wires a harness was rigged with two wires in the hips area. The stuntman was then suspended under a helicopter. While the rockets is supposed to make the Rocketeer fly at 300 mph, the filmmakers achieved this with camera speed while filming with the helicopter going 90 mph 120 feet in the sky. The wires had the Rocketeer go about 15 mph, but with all these tricks it looks like 100 mph.  The helmet for the stuntman weight 50 lbs while the pack was shielded to protect the stuntman from the engines heat & he also wore insulated clothes.

For the scenes of the Rocketeer saving Malcolm in Miss Mabel, a 1916 bi-plane, they used a combo of stop motion & a mock up of the plane suspended from a helicopter, though when the Rocketeer falls from the plane an actual stuntman did the stunt, a 100-foot freefall with the parachute hidden in the rocket pack. It took three shots for this scene.

Despite the effort to get the entire screenplay on film, some scenes were never filmed, such as little character scenes, a more daring battle in the South Seas Club (which was cut for financial reasons) or the scene where the Rocketeer saves someone in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.  The scene itself was an exterior one to be filmed in then Disney’s M-G-M Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) which when originally created was a working studio & theme park. Filming was set for two days in January of 1991 where at a Hollywood premier the Rocketeer flies by the theatre. A worker working the spotlight sees him, shines the light on him, only to slip & fall.

The Rocketeer catches him & sets him down only to land in the wet cement.  He then blasts off leaving his prints & blast marks while Sid Grauman writes The Rocketeer in the wet cement. Though the scene was never shot the Rocketeer’s foot prints & blast marks can be found in Disney’s Hollywood studios to the left of the front of their Chinese Theatre. Other scenes that were cut out due to editing were for time. However none of these scenes have ever been released by Disney on the Rocketeer DVD or laser disc.

With production finishing, early sequel talks begun. One would have Cliff as a World War II pilot where he has to become the Rocketeer to fight a Nazi version of him over the skies of Europe.  Even director Joe Johnston had ideas, such as the second film starting with a singed Lothar crawling out of the Hollywood Reservoir at the beginning of the second film.  Disney had signed Billy Campbell for three pictures & Jenifer Connelly for two, so sequels were expected for the series.

The Rocketeer was originally signed to be a trilogy under the Touchstone Picture franchise, however, once signed, Disney Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg pulled a switch & told everyone that the Rocketeer would not be released under Touchstone but under Walt Disney Pictures since Disney needed a live action hit that summer.

On June 19, 1991 Disney released a 22 minute television special titled “Rocketeer: Excitement in the Air” hosted by the Rocketeer star Billy Campbell where they premiered a look at the film.  With a budget of $35 million, The Rocketeer was released on June 21, 1991, premiering at the El Capitan Theatre (this was the first film to premiere there after Disney spent 2 years restoring the theatre). A collectible coupon book was created for the premiere which had five different pieces of colored art work by Dave Stevens (three were of the Rocketeer, one of the Bulldog Café & the other of the Gee Bee) for the street party held in front of the theatre during the premiere.

With the Rocketeer released Walt Disney World was promoting the film in their Disney M-G-M Studios theme park. Each night in the park, during the Sorcery in the Sky fireworks show, the Rocketeer would fly around the Grauman’s Chinese theatre.

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In the Echo Lake section of the park, what was once Lakeside News was converted into “Peevy’s Polar Pipeline”, which sold frozen Coca-Cola drinks, water & snacks. The themeing of this stand is designed to look like Peevy’s work station, but if you look left you’ll see one of the Rocketeer’s helmets on display (this has been confirmed to be one of the stunt helmets) & just below it the Rocketeer’s jet pack. There was also a framed newspaper with the headline of the Rocketeer’s first appearance, a pennant of Bigelow’s Air Circus (on the right side) & on the menu for the stand, the blue prints of the rocket pack were drawn if you looked closely.

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In the Muppet Courtyard where Pizza Rizzo’s is now, was once a Rocketeer Gallery.  Inside were props from the moving including 2 puppets of the Rocketeer, one of Malcolm, as well as the giant Spruce Goose & auto gyro.  There were 5 Rocketeer helmets on display as well as the jet pack, including one used as a prototype, which was based off of the Dave Stevens’ comic (this rocket pack had one rocket instead of two like the one used in the film).

On the Studio Back Lot Tour there were more Rocketeer items to be found. His helmet, rocket pack & even the statue of the broken headed “Lucky Lindy” were all on display in the queue for the ride while on the tour itself you could see the actual façade of the Bulldog Café, Cliff’s Gee Bee & Howard Hughes’ auto gyro. During the tour you’d also drive through a covered area where they explained wardrobe & on a mannequin was the outfit the Rocketeer wore.

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In Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s (formerly Disney’s M-G-M until they went through a name change) Peevy’s Polar Pipeline is still there. So too are the Rocketeer footprints in the cement (dated 6-21-91, the opening day of the film) in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. However, with the Great Movie Ride, which was the ride inside the Chinese Theatre, now closed & a Mickey & Minnie themed ride being put there, the fate of the theatre, as well as the Rocketeer’s footprints is yet to be decided what will happen to them. On opening weekend the Rocketeer brought in $9,600,754 while each additional weekend sales dropped. One major factor was that the Rocketeer had two summer blockbusters to compete with, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, which was released on June 14th, & Terminator 2 Judgment Day, which was released on July 3rd.

Domestically the Rocketeer brought in $46,6704,056. Despite making back what it earned, Disney felt the film did not perform as they expected & soon Rocketeer merchandise was dropped in price & sent out to the mid-west to stores like Pick-N-Save or 99 Cent stores. Most of the items never even made it out to the East or West coast.

The Rocketeer Gallery & the Back Lot Tour might be gone, but despite Disney writing the film off as unsuccessful, the movie found a cult following in video stores.  If only moderately successful in theatres, the Rocketeer was extremely successful with VHS rentals which proved this was a great film & perhaps Disney pulled the plug on the Rocketeer franchise too soon.

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In the Sci-fi Diner there are traces of the Rocketeer. Walk down the left entrance way & you’ll see in a little storage box with plexiglass a copy of the Los Angeles Examiner which says “Who is the Rocketeer?” There’s also a copy of the Los Angeles Times with the headline “Flying Man Saves Pilot” if you look. High on the walls of the diner façade is a Rocketeer jet pack painted to blend in with the scenery. Rumor has it there’s even a South Seas Club menu too. For a time, during the “One Man’s Dream” exhibit, the Rocketeer’s jetpack was on display.

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Over in Epcot you can find a trace of the Rocketeer if you listen closely enough. If you go to the World Fellowship Fountain you can hear James Horner’s score of the film with a piece titled “The Flying Circus” (Horner, who was signed to conduct the score late in post-production had only 2 ½ weeks to score the film which had 100 minutes of music in it, due to test screening & re-edits, even while he was writing the score.)

In Disney Springs if you take a walk into Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar you can find reference to the Rocketeer as well.  Jock is of course known as the pilot for Indiana Jones in the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Looking around the bar you’ll find references to Raiders & Indy; however this is a pilots place,  & if you look close enough you’ll see a Bigelow’s Air Circus banner behind the bar as well as a poster.

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Even in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort there’s a reference to him. In Trader Sam’s Grotto if you look you’ll find a menu for the South Seas Club.

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But the Rocketeer might not be forgotten after all. For the 20th anniversary of the film D23, the official Disney fan club celebrated the Rocketeer at the El Capitan theatre, where the movie first premiered, with a special screening.  Director Joe Johnston, as well as Billy Campbell were there, along with props & wardrobes from the movie. If that wasn’t enough, there was even exclusive merchandise for sale.

Disney even announced a re-boot of sorts of the Rocketeer, which would be set several years after the first one where Cliff Secord is now missing & a young African American woman becomes the Rocketeer.

So perhaps Disney is coming full circle with the property. As for the original, Dave Stevens has said, “…(the)…whole first flight sequence where he rescues Malcolm was right out of the comic, … what Joe did with it was breathtaking. I was so proud! …the overall spirit & sweetness of the series is still there, intact”.

It’s great to see Disney still release new merchandise of the Rocketeer in the parks, & more recently with the likes of Jock Lindsey’s & Trader Sam’s it’s great to see Disney putting in these little Easter Eggs. It’s like finding Hidden Mickey’s.

Here’s to hoping we’ll get more of the Rocketeer in references in the parks in the next few years.