Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

If you listen to our podcast regularly, you know we often talk about the Marvel movies and television shows. Last night at around 10:30 our time, which would have been 11:30 PM on the east coast, Marvel dropped some major news (which you can read in its entirety here).

The first part of that news was that Spider-Man, one of Marvel’s most popular characters, would be appearing in one of the upcoming films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although in which movie Spider-Man would appear wasn’t stated, it is widely assumed that his appearance would be in the next Captain America movie, since it has already been announced that the movie would follow the events in the Civil War storyline, which features an important appearance by Spider-Man in the comic books.

Spider-man

That news had been rumored for some time, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise. However, the next part of the announcement was even bigger, more surprising news, at least to me. As part of the press release, it was also announced that after Spider-Man’s appearance in a Marvel Studios movie, the next Spider-Man movie would be produced by Kevin Feige and the Marvel Studios team, along with Amy Pascal, for Sony Pictures. There has been talk for some time that Sony was planning to once again reboot the Spider-Man franchise, so that wasn’t surprising. But having Marvel Studios essentially make the movie for Sony to distribute is a really big deal.

After all, Marvel Studios, under the leadership of Kevin Feige, has a great track record with the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, including the movies featuring Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Avengers. They seem to have the golden touch these days. And who would know better how to make a Marvel movie than the people at Marvel?

If you aren’t aware, long before Disney bought Marvel, and even long before Marvel decided to make their own movies, they gave Sony the rights to the Spider-Man movies. So while Spider-Man and the Avengers characters, along with all of the other Marvel characters, regularly interact in the comic books, they have always been in two separate worlds in the movies. But now, their worlds are coming together, which is a pretty historic moment, considering that the movies are being released by two different companies. Of course, Disney still comes out ahead with its ownership of Marvel. Not as much ahead as if they were releasing the Spider-Man movie themselves, but they pass some of the risk off to others while still reaping some of the expected financial rewards. Also, the press release states that they are exploring ways to use some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe characters in the upcoming Spider-Man movies as well.

The timing of the announcement was interesting for a couple of reasons. First off, why make a major announcement like that when many people have already gone to bed? I have no idea, but I’m sure they had a good reason.

The second interesting timing tidbit is thanks to the inclusion of Amy Pascal as one of the producers. As you may know, it was announced last week that she is stepping down as the chairwoman of Sony Pictures, a move that is largely seen as a response to the recent data breach at Sony. And interestingly, she helped to bring the first Spider-Man movie to Sony Pictures back in 1999, so she and Spider-Man go way back. Plus, she has a nice place to land when leaving her current job. Spider-Man is good for everyone, it seems.

So this is an interesting turn of events for Spider-Man and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Are you looking forward to it? I know I am. Please let us know how you feel, too!

A Review of the Disney Parks Frozen Christmas Celebration

For many, many years now, it has been a family tradition to watch the Disney Christmas parade each year. It started way back when it was just the Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade and when it was broadcast live, way before it grew to the pre-taped show involving both Disneyland and Walt Disney World that it has become now.

This year, the show was called the Disney Parks Frozen Christmas Celebration, trying to cash in on some of the Frozen hype that is still out there a year after the movie was first released. We don’t usually watch the show when it is actually broadcast, and this year was no different. So in the afternoon on Christmas day, the three of us along with my parents sat down to watch what we had recorded.

Here is the short review: We were all disappointed.

If you want the longer review, here it is:

Back in the old days, the focus was mainly on the parade, much like you would watch the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving. Joan Lunden and Regis Philben (or Alan Thicke way back in the early days) would give you a rundown of what you were watching. And then there would be some segments showing what was new in the parks for the upcoming year. Yes, it was a big two hour commercial for Walt Disney World, but it was a very well done commercial, one that would make me want to go back there as soon as possible.

The show has evolved over the years, including the previously mentioned inclusion of the Disneyland Resort and now even throwing in portions from Aulani in Hawaii and a little bit from Castaway Cay in the Bahamas, too. And if that were all that had changed, that would still be good. If it were done well.

But now, the main focus of the show seems to be one musical performance after another by a string of mid-grade musical entertainers, none of whom anyone in my family group that was watching cared anything about. Just one song after another, along with some try-to-make-you-cry segments about three different reunions at the Disney parks.

There were a few mentions here and there of upcoming things, such as Disneyland’s 60th anniversary celebration, but otherwise, there was very little focus on the parks and attractions. Oh yeah, they did show a few parade floats for a few seconds, too. But even with their editing, it still appeared that they brought out a few random floats and parked them to get some film footage, instead of actually showing scenes from the parade.

Yes, I know that “parade” is now nowhere in the title any more, and I’m actually fine if they don’t include any of the parade at all. But perhaps a more accurate title would be “People Singing Christmas Songs and Other Songs at Disney Parks.” Because that is about all that was.

As I mentioned earlier, for its entire run, the main purpose of the Christmas program has been to be a big, long commercial for the Disney parks. To make you want to experience all the fun that they have. To make you want to go there.

And this time, for me, it failed.

Disney on Turner Classic Movies

Last night, December 21, 2014, saw the premier of the Disney programming block on Turner Classic Movies (also known as TCM). Included in last night’s programming were some short cartoons; two episodes of the Disney television show; The Reluctant Dragon; Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier; The Vanishing Prairie; and Third Man on the Mountain. There was also a good bit of discussion about each of the shows with host Ben Mankiewicz and Disney film historian Leonard Maltin.

tcm_carousel

Due to the programming starting while we were at a church activity and running well into the night, I didn’t see the start or the end of it all. But that’s okay, because that is why DVRs were created. Actually, I didn’t set the DVR to record The Reluctant Dragon, because I have that on Blu-Ray now. But after watching what I did watch, I almost wished that I had recorded that one, too, just to make sure I didn’t miss any of Leonard Maltin’s comments about it.

The main thing that I did watch live last night was the end of Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier and the beginning of The Vanishing Prairie. Davy Crockett has always been a favorite of mine, and I like to tell people sometimes that the area where we live in Tennesseewas once represented by Davy Crockett in congress. Although obviously I wasn’t around to vote for him at the time. It was great to see his adventures in high definition. It is amazing how those old movies can still look so good all these years later.

I didn’t stick with The Vanishing Prairie all that long, because it started just before midnight for our local time, but I had forgotten how interesting those old nature documentaries actually were. I’ll have to watch the full show sometime in the near future.

Also, I thought it was interesting that The Disneyland Story, the first of the television episodes shown last night, included the Laughing Place scene from Song of the South. Later on after Davy Crockett, Ben and Leonard explained the context for some of the Native American stereotypes found in that movie. Could this new programming, complete with contextual explanations, mean that Song of the South could be shown in one of the future blocks? That is probably just a dream, but it would certainly be nice.

I am glad that they included Leonard Maltin in this, too. He is obviously a Disney fan as well as a historian, and his comments help the understanding of the casual viewer who may not be as familiar with Disney as some of us are.

TCM hasn’t yet said when the next Disney movies and shows will air or what they will be, but I am already looking forward to seeing what else they have in store for us. It is great to be able to see some of this classic Disney content once again!

New Life for the Great Movie Ride

In recent episodes of Beyond the Berm, we have discussed what the future might hold for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. We have talked about rumors of Cars Land and a Star Wars area, we mentioned the closing of the Backlot Tour and the great amount of land that the closure made available, and we recently talked about the confirmation that the Sorcerer Hat would be coming down in 2015.

Last week, we got another piece of the puzzle, as it was announced that Turner Classic Movies will sponsor the Great Movie Ride, one of the signature attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and that the attraction would even receive some minor upgrades. Those upgrades mainly include a new pre-show movie hosted by TCM personality Robert Osborne  to replace the trailers that had been showing for over 25 years, and also a new film montage at the end of the ride featuring lots of new movie clips that hadn’t been included before. Wouldn’t it be nice if they also wrote a new script for the “drivers” in the attraction? Yes, it would. Maybe they will.

Personally, I am excited about this. And I think one of the things that I am most excited about is that they aren’t talking about major changes to the ride, but instead they will largely leave it as it is, which is nice because it is still a good ride. I am glad they aren’t pulling out some of the classic movies from MGM and other studios to replace them with more contemporary Disney movies. I like that films from other studios are represented, so that it isn’t just the Great Disney Movie Ride.

Chinese Theater

Before the Disney-MGM Studios opened, the attraction that interested me the most from all of the pre-opening publicity was the Great Movie Ride, mainly because it sounded like it would include lots of Audio-Animatronics, a ride, and perhaps some surprises along the way. In short, everything that makes for a good Disney attraction. And when I finally got to ride it just a couple of months after the park opened, I was not disappointed. The Wicked Witch animatronic from The Wizard of Oz was spectacular, as were several of the other figures, although some featured relatively limited animation. The sets and sound effects transported you into the movies that they were meant to represent, instead of just making you feel like you were looking in on something from the outside. And the next generation of the ride system originally used in Epcot’s Universe of Energy was cool, too. Add in to that the fact that there were two different versions of the ride, depending on if you ended up in the western scene or the bank robbery scene, and that made it even better. And real fire, too!

I know the Great Movie Ride may not supply the same thrills found in high speed or high altitude attractions such as the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror that were added later elsewhere in the park, but I still thought it was a vital part of the attraction mix. Except for some of the corny script versions that have been used, I have thought it has held up well over time.

great movie ride poster

Perhaps now with some sprucing up and more visibility, the attraction will once again be one of the centerpieces of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Now we know why the Sorcerer Hat is coming down – so that the Chinese Theater will be visible again. And some of the news outlets have confirmed that the Chinese Theater facade is in fact staying, since we and others have speculated that it might be changed out for something else. That is all good news.

And even better news is that as part of this partnership between TCM and Disney, classic Disney programming will be shown on TCM as well, in a presentation called Treasures from the Disney Vault. Already mentioned are classic movies such as Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Pollyanna, The Three Caballeros, Davy Crockett, and more, including shorts and episodes from the old Disney television show. For those of us who used to enjoy this type of programming when it was on the Disney Channel and lament on what the Disney Channel has now become, this is quite welcome news. Look for the first Treasures from the Disney Vault on December 21, 2014.

To read more about this news, check out the stories from Disney23, the Orlando Sentinel, and the New York Times, which first reported the deal.