This month on Dispodopolis, we discuss One Hour in Wonderland. One Hour in Wonderland is the first television special produced by the Walt Disney Studios, and it aired on December 25, 1950. I was surprised to see that it premiered on Christmas and had no idea so many people were watching television on Christmas day in 1950. Just like today, almost 70 years later, we are still watching Disney production on Christmas Day.
This show is full of talent from the studios. We see the special effects guru Ub Iwerks, and the writer Bill Walsh come together for the first time to create something new for television. This production would not be possible without the money from the advertisements from Coca-Cola and NBC. The show starts with an opening ad from Coca-Cola featuring Santa and numerous product placements of Coca-Cola throughout the show. This is truly the beginning of the social media frenzy that Disney Studios would use moving forward to promote their movies.
We start our discussion focused on the talent of the time that was used as a narrator to push the story forward. We begin at Edgar Bergen’s house, where he and his puppets are getting ready for the party. Edgar Bergen was a performer that was best known for his ventriloquist act that starred his two characters, Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. Most of his act wouldn’t fly on a family show today, but it was 1950, and a few rude and inappropriate comments by a puppet were overlooked then. I do have to say that the other talent held their own against Charlie McCarthy.
We continue our discussion as we jump in the car with Edgar Bergen and his crew. We head to the party that Kathryn Beaumont is throwing with Walt Disney for Alice in Wonderland. It is a crazy drive over with snotty comments coming from McCarthy and Mortimer while Bergen is giving a brief overview of the story of Alice in Wonderland.
As we reach the party, it is well underway, and Walt Disney is showing off his new present from Santa, the Lilly Belle 1/8 scale steam engine. Kathryn Beaumont and Bobby Driscoll are there also to greet us. Bobby Driscoll and Kathryn Beaumont would shortly be working together as lead voices in Peter Pan. Also in attendance are Sharon and Diane Disney. I don’t think they asked and their presence was probably highly recommended.
The real fun begins when Walt introduces the slave in the magic mirror from Snow White. Each guest gets to pick a scene for the party-goers to view through the magic mirror. Some of the animated scenes we get to see: the Silly Song scene from Snow White; The Clock Cleaners with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy; Uncle Remus from Song of the South; and Bone Trouble with Pluto. Then we have a fantastic performance from the Firehouse Five plus Two. To round out the party night, we get an exclusive sneak peek of the tea party scene from Alice in Wonderland.
When this scene ends, we are magically transported back to Edgar Bergen’s house, and we see Charlie McCarthy at home in bed with the magic mirror in the room. He wants to smash the mirror because Edgar Bergen is going to use it to make sure he is well behaved. He plans on making a deal with the mirror, but instead, he finds out Mortimer Snead is in the mirror and goes to bed instead.
Before we discuss One Hour in Wonderland, we discuss the other two forays into social media television. The two other shows we viewed were The Fred Waring Show that premiered on March 18, 1951, and Operation Wonderland released on June 14, 1951. These are two shows that were widely watched and highly anticipated. I know if I were a kid, I would be waiting to experience them. I’m sure that children’s television shows were few and far between.
The Fred Waring Show is the first look at the original music created for Alice in Wonderland. The musical duo of Bob Hillard and Sammy Fain wrote must of the songs. The song, A Very Merry Un-Birthday, was written by Mack David, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston. The rest of the music was created by the duo of Oliver Wallace and Ted Sears. The music that was performed on the Fred Waring show is available in the form of a vinyl record. At the beginning of the show, Fred Waring gives credit to Mary Blair for the development of the sets and costumes. There is a definite influence by Mary Blair on Disneyland’s Alice in Wonderland ride that appears in the parks in 1958. We also learn how Walt Disney feels about his latest female main character. He shares how she compares to the other two princesses that have appeared in two of his previous movies.
The last show to round up the television social media is Operation Wonderland. It is a nod to the Reluctant Dragon that was released ten years before Alice in Wonderland. There is even a scene in the foley department that was recycled for this show. We start out watching Walt Disney and his guests ride around the studios on his steam train, that he received from Santa on the One Hour in Wonderland show. They have the tracks running right down the middle of the streets of the studio. I’m sure these were removed as soon as the shooting was over.
Walt travels with us via train to the different departments that were used to create the animated feature Alice in Wonderland. We see the animators watching, drawing, and recording live actors to get a feel for the movement of the movie. This is professionally called rotoscoping. We also see the voice talent in the recording booth recording their voices for the film. As a special treat, we watch Walt place some of the cells in front of the background. He takes a few shots for the movie. We leave the studios with Walt waving goodbye to us from his Lilly Belle steam train.
Before we jump into our discussion, we ask ourselves the question, what would be a new idea for a Wonderful World of Disney episode? One Hour in Wonderland was the beginning of the formulaic television show that Walt Disney Studios became famous. We wanted to celebrate that with discussing a new episode that we would like to see and an episode we wish they had produced in the 1950s.
We would love to hear from you and your family. If you have any comments, questions, or fun and fancy-free thoughts for us, email us at email@example.com. Please enjoy our latest podcast, Dispodopolis.
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