Wednesday, June 26, 2013
The cast of the 1995 Universal Studios film "Babe" found their way into McDonald's Happy Meals in the Summer of 1996. But don't be sad, because they were soft, plush toys!
"Babe" was a surprise smash hit and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. The animals were brought to life by Jim Henson's Creature Shop and Rhythm & Hues Studios.
Babe was voiced by Christine Cavanaugh, who also provided the voice of Chuckie in "Rugrats", Gosalyn in "Darkwing Duck" and Dexter on "Dexter's Laboratory".
The Cow Happy Meal toy allows you to play with your food and eat it, too!
In Europe, a Vache (Cow) does not moo, it says "Sha-zoo!"
Babe avoids becoming dinner by becoming a "Sheep-Pig" with the help of Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) and a sheep named Maa (voiced by Miriam Flynn).
Miriam Flynn is a familiar face in the National Lampoon "Vacation" films as Cousin Catherine (married to Cousin Eddie, played by Randy Quaid).
Babe is taken in by a Border Collie named Fly (voiced by Miriam Margolyes).
Miriam Margolyes played Professor Pomona Sprout in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 2".
Babe's pal, Ferdinand the duck (voiced by Danny Mann, Hector the cat in the "Heathcliff" TV series) acts like a rooster.
Ferdinand's son, Quacky, currently plays the AFLAC duck.
The big villain is Dutchess the cat. She tells Babe that humans eat pigs and ducks because they have no purpose. Meow!
Dutchess was voiced by Russi Taylor, who also provides voices for many famous animated characters (including Minnie Mouse for Disney and Martin Prince on "The Simpsons").
The cute Mice on the farm don't just scurry around and steal food. They sing!
A sequel called "Babe: Pig in the City" was released in 1998, with Elizabeth Daily (Tommy Pickles in "Rugrats" and Dottie in "Pee-wee's Big Adventure") providing the voice for Babe.
In "Babe: Pig in the City", Babe moves to New York City to live in an apartment with writer Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her pet, Hornie the Goat.
Babe was offered the opportunity to be the mascot for the McDonald's McRib Sandwich, but he declined for obvious reasons.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Beauty and the Beast are known for their love of fine French cuisine, but they have also been associated with French Fries found at burger joints all over the world.
When "Beauty and the Beast" debuted in 1991, the film was promoted by Burger King in the United States.
"Beauty and the Beast" was the first Disney Burger King Kids Club toy set.
At the time, fast food promotions typically featured four premiums, with a different toy to collect each week.
Over the years, the number of different toys offered during promotions increased.
Burger King's Belle and Beast are action figures.
Chip is a pull-back mobile figure and Cogsworth is a wind-up toy.
Beauty and the Beast was a big hit for Disney, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Back then, Paula Abdul was really popular (it looks like somehow she is trying to upstage Belle here), and was not known as a former judge on American Idol.
Disney's deal with Burger King was not exclusive. For the video release of "Beauty and the Beast," Pizza Hut sold vinyl puppets of Belle, Beast, Cogsworth and Chip.
Pizza Hut also sold puppets for "The Land Before Time", "Casper" and "Flipper".
Outside of the United States, McDonald's promoted the theatrical release of "Beauty and the Beast." The Happy Meal set is similar to Burger King's toys, though Mrs. Potts was represented instead of Chip.
Many international McDonald's restaurants also sold a set of Beauty and the Beast plush toys.
Tonight, on a very special episode of "Blossom," the Beast gives his enchanted rose to a new dance partner.
Before Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) signed her Relationship Agreement with Sheldon Cooper on "The Big Bang Theory", she had a whirlwind romance with the Beast.
Like Sheldon, the Beast is a big fan of Star Trek.
The Beast joined Patrick Stewart, Pinocchio, Magica De Spell, Darkwing Duck and Jessica Rabbit for a very special Star Trek mission. You know Sheldon Cooper is more jealous of the Beast's Star Trek experience than the Beast's dance with Amy Farrah Fowler.
By 2002, Disney and McDonald's were in the midst of an exclusive, multi-year global promotional partnership. Beauty and the Beast: Special Edition toys could be found in Happy Meals.
Belle loves to balance stacks of books. No wonder the whole town sang about her being odd, right in front of her.
Belle used to be a waitress before she met the Beast.
Belle broke a lot of dishes when she was a waitress. Don't worry, those dishes could not sing or dance.
The Beast guards the enchanted Rose.
An Enchantress cast a spell over the spoiled Prince's Castle, which turned the Prince into a Beast and all the servants (thousands of them, apparently) into forks, spoons, dishes, knives, candles, cups, clocks, sporks and Swiffer Sweepers.
Let's talk about the directions for the McDonald's toys. They are hilarious.
I have this toy and I still don't know what it is supposed to do.
Lumiere wants you to be his guest. He has a song prepared for you.
Lumiere blinks, opens his mouth, and does tricks (like the Featherduster).
Playing with Lumiere is the only time it is OK to play with fire.
At Walt Disney World in Florida, an animated Lumiere stars in the 3D "Mickey's Philharmagic" and in "Enchanted Tales With Belle" in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom.
Mrs. Potts offers you a spot of tea. From inside her head.
Chip, the cracked cup, is the son of Mrs. Potts. Thankfully, when Chip becomes human again, he is not missing a chunk of his head.
Mix your favorite drinks with Mrs. Potts and Chip.
When you pour cold water into Chip, it looks like he shivers. Wouldn't you?
Gaston is the most popular and hairy fellow in town, and he is in love with Belle.
No one shoots like Gaston, or knocks boots like Gaston (so he says).
Belle digs hairy guys, but she also likes it when they look like a cross between a gorilla and a buffalo. Sorry, Gaston!
Visitors to Fantasyland at Walt Disney World in Florida can now dine at Gaston's Tavern (decorated with antlers, of course) and at the Be Our Guest Restaurant. I hear the Grey Stuff is delicious.
It is always snowing at the Beast's Castle, where the food is prepared by kitchen utensils that can dance and sing.
Belle had the idea to install a pick-up "drive-thru" window for those Walt Disney World guests who want to quickly grab and eat some Be Our Guest food and then ride the Mad Tea Party. Simply talk into the mouth of one of the gargoyles outside the Castle to place your order.
Be Our Guest and Gaston's Tavern are so popular that Belle and the Beast want to open a national chain of restaurants. Featured items include Beast's Roast Turducken Feast, Belle's Beauty and the Beet Salad, Lumiere's Flame Broiled Escargot, Cogsworth's Five Minute Eggs, Gaston's Jerk Suckling Pig, Mrs. Potts Long Island Ice Tea, Chip's Chocolate Chip Cookie, and the Hershey's French Kisses Hot Sundae.
The Enchanted Objects will be equal partners in any restaurant venture with Beauty and the Beast, as part of a settlement of their lawsuit against the Beast. This was for years of trauma they suffered from being transformed from humans to knick-knacks (this includes therapy for Chip, who had to spend most of his childhood as a cup).
Monday, June 3, 2013
When I had to read Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame at school way back in 1990, it never crossed my mind that Disney might make the story into an animated movie.
Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" had its world premiere at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana on June 19, 1996. Because New Orleans is French, get it?
I did not go to the premiere. I did find the program for the event at a Disney Outlet Store in Boaz, Alabama.
"The Hunchback of Notre Dame" hit movie theaters across America on June 21, 1996.
So how do you sell such a dark, adult story set in Paris as a fun time for all? Focus on the Mardi Gras-style Feast of Fools!
Disney and Burger King had first joined forces for 1991's "Beauty and the Beast" in the United States.
By 1996, the Burger King marketing machine was firing on all cylinders.
Disney ruled the Burger Kingdom for years, with Burger King Kids Club toys created for "Aladdin" (1992), "The Lion King" (1994), "Pocahontas" (1995) and "Toy Story" (1995).
I have a hunch you'll come back to Burger King at least 8 different times to get all the toys.
Burger King had the best "Hunchback of Notre Dame" fast food promotional toys that I've seen.
Quasimodo was voiced by Tom Hulce, who had starred in "Animal House" and "Parenthood."
Could audiences warm up to such a grotesque character? Yes! Remember Sloth in "The Goonies"?
Disney's Hunchback is well remembered for its goosebump-inducing songs, including "Out There". Tom Hulce also did the singing for Quasimodo, which really brought the character to life on a whole different level.
The cruel, controlling Frollo was voiced by actor Tony Jay.
Tony Jay also provided the voice of Shere Khan the Tiger (in Disney's "TaleSpin" TV series and in "The Jungle Book 2") and Monsieur D'Arque in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." He also played a sculptor in an episode of "The Golden Girls" (which is technically a Disney show, but that is another story).
Frollo is one of the darkest Disney villains ever.
Tony Jay also sang Frollo's song, which is a catchy little ditty about hopes and desires that you can sing around the fireplace.
Esmeralda was voiced by Demi Moore.
I wonder if Ashton Kutcher had this toy.
Esmeralda's pet goat, Djali, is actually based on a character in Victor Hugo's novel.
Demi Moore starred as a dancer in another 1996 movie, but if there were toys associated with that film, you wouldn't find them at Burger King.
Phoebus was voiced by Kevin Kline, known for playing a scoundrel in films like "A Fish Called Wanda."
Phoebus is a bit more rugged looking than typical Disney Princes.
Phoebus broke new ground because he was the first Disney hero to have facial hair.
Thankfully, Kevin Kline gave the film a hero with a refreshing sense of humor.
The Clopin Burger King toy stands out from the rest (but cannot stand up by itself) because it is a cloth doll with vinyl features.
Puppeteer Clopin (voiced by Paul Kandel) is the narrator for the movie, and presents "The Bells of Notre Dame" with a riddle: Who is the monster and who is the man?
Clopin leads the rousing "Topsy Turvy" Feast of Fools song, as well as the dark "Court of Miracles."
Clopin closes the film with a rousing, spine-tingling reprise of "The Bells of Notre Dame."
Hugo was voiced by "Seinfeld" star Jason Alexander (no relation).
Jason Alexander also voiced Abis Mal in Disney's "The Return of Jafar" and Lil' Lightning in "101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure."
Hugo is sort of like a fun, loud, obnoxious frat boy. If someone called him a pig, he couldn't take offense, because he does look like one.
Hugo is known as "the fat, stupid one with the big mouth" according to Laverne.
Laverne was voiced by Mary Wickes, an actress with an animated history.
Mary Wickes was the live action model for "101 Dalmatians" villain Cruella De Vil and starred in the live action 1959 "Dennis the Menace" TV series.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame was the last film for Mary Wickes, as she died during production. Jane Withers provided the voice for Laverne after Wickes passed away.
Originally, the female gargoyle character was going to be younger and played by Cyndi Lauper.
Victor was voiced by Charles Kimbrough (from TV's "Murphy Brown").
The fact that the gargoyles are named "Victor" and "Hugo" is a nice little tribute to Victor Hugo.
Victor Hugo's full name was "Victor Marie Hugo". It is curious that Disney's female gargoyle did not get the name "Marie."
The Gargoyles provided some fantasy creature comic relief fun in a story that was at times rather brutal.
In addition to Kids Club Toys, Burger King sold Hunchback puppets.
It is kind of shocking that a puppet was not made of Clopin. Then the Puppetmaster would become the Puppet, which would be wild.
Most of the Hunchback puppets, like Quasimodo, are large plush finger puppets.
The puppets are incredibly detailed for inexpensive fast food premiums.
Hugo is my favorite because he squirts water.
The water squirting is true to a gargoyle's purpose of directing water away from a building.
The Phoebus puppet has a sword, but it cannot be removed. I'm sure some kids found a way to remove it.
Phoebus has a horse named Achilles (yes, Phoebus says "Achilles, heel!" in the film). I can't help but think that an Achilles puppet would have been incredibly popular.
I remember that the Esmeralda puppet was very difficult to get.
The breakout star of "Hunchback" was Esmeralda. For some time, Esmeralda was part of the famous "Disney Princess" brand.
Outside of the United States, McDonald's promoted Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
There were a few different McDonald's Happy Meal sets in various countries. Some of the more unusual items included a set of tiny viewers at McDonald's in Australia. Take a peek at Esmeralda!
The Hunchback of Notre Dame was the last big Disney film that Burger King promoted in the United States. By the time Hunchback was released on home video, McDonald's and Disney had joined forces for a new multiple year worldwide partnership.
It takes balls to juggle stone statues. Plastic gargoyle juggling balls, that is.
I've always been fascinated by gargoyles, which is one of the big reasons I was so interested in Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Quasimodo did talk to gargoyles in Victor Hugo's novel. Disney just took it a step further, making them big characters that existed in Quasimodo's imagination.
Hunchback's Gargoyles appeared on quite a bit of merchandise when the film debuted.
Like so much movie merchandise in the late 1990s, the Juggling Gargoyles from Hallmark Cards could be found deep-discounted years after the film had been released in theaters.
Disney's Hunchback music, created by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, proved to be popular enough for a musical stage show. Disney's Der Glockner von Notre Dame debuted in Berlin, Germany in 1999.
A direct to video sequel, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame II", was released in 2002. The new movie gave Quasimodo a lovely love interest (sans hunchback) named Madellaine (voiced by Jennifer Love Hewitt).
Say, that could be an idea for a TV series. You know all those shows that have a fat husband and a skinny wife? And you know how ABC's "Once Upon a Time" uses fairy tale characters in a modern day setting? There could be a show called "The Horribly Injured Linebacker Bellringer and the Pretty Majorette of Notre Dame."