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Title:The Wonderful World of Disney: 40 Years of Television Magic - 1995 ABC Special

Summary (From Paley Center for Media)
One in this series of Disney movies presented under the umbrella title "The Wonderful World of Disney," hosted by Kirstie Alley. This documentary special celebrates the fortieth anniversary of Disney television programming. Michael Eisner, chief executive officer of Disney, introduces the program, and Alley reports from Disneyland in California, explaining how the number of children in America rose considerably in the so-called baby boom after World War II. Billy Joel performs "When You Wish Upon a Star," and various celebrities, including George Foreman, Debbie Allen and Hugh Hefner comment on their early memories of Disney programming. Needing money to build his dream amusement park, Walt Disney teamed up with ABC and created a television show, "Disneyland," airing on Sunday nights and premiering on October 27, 1954, in which he discussed the park's creation, among other things. Walt's nephew Roy E. Disney explains how the program helped to show people that the newly-popular TV was a "genuine form of entertainment," the technology of which is explained by Ludwig Von Drake, Donald Duck's scientist uncle. Walt was displeased with black-and-white, however, and later debuted "The Wonderful World of Color" on September 24, 1961, and Tom Hanks reflects on his memories of the groundbreaking program. Mickey Mouse was the most prominent Disney character, and Hefner notes that Disney was unique for giving his characters distinct personalities. Mickey's popularity led to the creation of "The Mickey Mouse Club" in 1955, a variety show featuring "the kids next door," with whom young viewers could identify.

Ed McMahon comments on Donald Duck, the temperamental "sidekick" to the easygoing Mickey, who later enjoyed his own 1956 special, "A Day in the Life of Donald Duck." Mickey's other pal, Goofy, was inspired by vaudeville comedians, and Michael Richards comments on his physical comedy and "great soul." More characters were added over time, recently including Roger Rabbit, who made his debut by causing mischief at Mickey's sixtieth birthday broadcast. The Disney Company soon turned its attention to American history, with "Davy Crockett," starring Fess Parker, becoming the first TV miniseries. His tough-but-fair character represented the ideal of American hard work and morality, and his signature coonskin cap soon became a hotly-desired accessory. "Zorro," starring Guy Williams, premiered in 1957, and Cheech Marin reflects on the masked hero's memorable style. Other programs featured cowboys and legends like Paul Bunyan, and the title character of 1960's "Pollyanna" represented childhood innocence and optimism, as explained by star Hayley Mills. Debbie Allen directed a 1989 version entitled "Polly," focusing on themes of segregation, and Disney addressed real-life stories related to race with "The Girl Who Spelled Freedom" (1986) and "A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story" (1989).

Alley discusses Walt's desire for a family-oriented theme park, and Disneyland finally opened on July 17, 1955. The event was broadcast live on television, hosted by Art Linkletter with his friends Bob Cummings and Ronald Reagan, though overcrowding and extreme heat made the day something of a fiasco. Walt continued expanding upon his ideas, however, and many installments of his TV show simply featured him talking from his office about their latest projects. Roy notes that Walt was something of a "technology freak," giving rise to the word "animatronics" with his plans for moving, interactive robots and features, as explained by special effects technician Stan Winston. Disney cameramen also went to great lengths to film scenes of nature, capturing images of animals in their natural habitats and narrating their adventures with personalized stories. Roy notes that the banning of DDT and other harmful pesticides came in part because of the Disney shows' depiction of their dangers. Other movies and shows focused on various childhood fantasies, fears and adventures, like "Toby Tyler" (1960), in which a young boy runs off to join the circus, and "Swiss Family Robinson" (1960), in which a family is shipwrecked on an island and builds a home. Walt was also interested in sharing the behind-the-scenes elements of his programs, and "Operation Undersea" detailed the making of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954), which featured many underwater shots and required special technicians and "fish wranglers." More recently, "The Secrets of Toontown" went behind-the-scenes at "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988), featuring commentary by executive producer Steven Spielberg. [...]


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