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The Walt Disney anthology series began in 1954 on ABC to provide funding for Disneyland. Rather than stick to one genre, the series covered a wide gamut of genres. The original Disneyland series was themed around each of the four sections of the Disneyland theme park: "Adventureland" was for the studio's nature documentaries, "Frontierland" was dedicated to dramatizations of US history, "Fantasyland" showcased the Classic Disney Shorts and feature films, and "Tomorrowland" was dedicated to the wonders of science, particularly the then-nascent space program. Walt Disney often promoted upcoming movies and new theme park attractions on this show.In 1961 the series moved to NBC and was broadcast on color for the first time. The series remained on NBC for 20 years before moving for two seasons on CBS in 1981. The series was canned in 1983 as not to provide competition for the new Disney Channel. But in 1986, the series returned to ABC and then to NBC in 1988 before being cancelled again, moving to the Disney Channel in 1990 as an umbrella title for Sunday night movies and specials. After Disney's buyout of ABC, the series returned to television in 1997 as an outlet for Disney movies and specials, as well as miniseries and films from outside studios. In the early 2000s, the series aired periodically, usually in the summer months until being cancelled for good in 2008, making the Disney anthology series the second longest-running primetime show on television.The series aired under many different titles:
Walt Disney Presents (1958-61)
Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (1961-69)
Walt Disney's Wonderful World (in countries where color TV was not yet available)
Animate Inanimate Object / Sentient Vehicle: Both tropes serve as the basis for a 1957 episode called "Adventures in Fantasy", which is devoted to how anything that can be drawn, including inanimate objects, can be given life and personality.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In "How to Relax", a 1957 episode with Goofy, an anatomical chart of Goofy shows how man is a victim of the frenzied tempo of modern living. In the chart Goofy's brain, various words associated with this tempo pop up, including "Taxes", "Bills", "Job" and "Golf Score".
Artistic License – Film Production: Many episodes on the production of Disney movies clearly show them staged and simplified and thus not entirely accurate. This is especially significant with episodes showing the production of animated films. To see this particular trope in action here, take a look at no less than two episodes on the production of Lady and the Tramp, "A Story of Dogs" and "Cavalcade of Songs".
Be Yourself: "An Adventure in Art" (also known as "4 Artists Paint 1 Tree") follows character animator Marc Davis, special effects animator Joshua Meador, color stylist Eyvind Earle, and background artist Walt Peregoy as they each paint pictures of an oak tree. Just as each person specializes in a different field of animation, so too does each one apply different painting techniques and artistic interpretations. Narrator Walt insists that even though none of the men took the same approach, none of them picked an inherently improper one, because they chose to follow their own individual mindsets instead of conforming to another person's style.
This phrase also becomes a mantra in "The Donald Duck Story", such that Walt has a little sign on his desk with it.
Canon Immigrant: Moby Duck, who appeared in Disney comic books, hosted "Pacifically Peeking".
Centrifugal Farce: "Man in Space" has a section on how astronauts would be trained, including being put on a centrifuge. Seeing how far the show predates the actual space program, it's remarkable how far ahead the scientists involved (who were consultants on the episode) were preparing.
Comically Missing the Point: One segment of "Tricks of Our Trade" features actress Helene Stanley dancing ballet to help inspire the animators of the "Dance of the Hours" segment from Fantasia. She overhears them comment on such features as the pudginess of Hyacinth Hippo and the big feet of Madame Upanova the ostrich, and mistakes these comments for insults directed towards her. When she decides to leave early, the animators convince her to stay longer by letting her see their animal drawings, then praising her fashion sense. (Helene's cap and cape in particular inspire the costume of Ben Ali Gator.)
Compilation Movie: Several animated episodes do this, combining older shorts with new footage linking them.
Serials from this show sometimes became re-edited into theatrical pictures, including Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier and Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow (originally "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh").
Crazy-Prepared: In a real-life example, Walt Disney filmed Disneyland and Walt Disney Presents in color, even though ABC only broadcast in black and white at the time. Walt knew that there would a time when television would be in color. Sure enough, within a few years of the show's broadcasting, color television became more common among households, and networks could air the color versions of these episodes when showing reruns of the show.
Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: In "At Home with Donald Duck", Donald tries to celebrate his birthday by showing his nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, some of his cartoons, but they want to watch other Disney characters' cartoons instead. At one point, to compromise, Donald has a coin-flip bet with the boys and picks heads, but Donald tries to cheat by using a coin with heads on both sides. Not only do the nephews not fall for his scheme, but they retaliate by tricking him so that Donald has to run after the coin out of the house. In their uncle's absence, the boys watch a Goofy cartoon.
Heroic BSOD: Goofy in "The Goofy Success Story", when he doesn't win a single Oscar and is almost commits suicide. He snaps out of it when he's assigned to star in "Motor Mania".
Other hosts included Jiminy Cricket ("From All of Us to All of You") and Chip 'n Dale ("The Adventures of Chip 'n Dale").
It's a Wonderful Plot: "Mickey's 60th Birthday" provides a variation: against the warnings of a sorcerer (not Yen Sid) to use other people's magic, Mickey makes off with his sorcerer's hat. The sorcerer in question punishes Mickey for it by casting a spell on him in which no one will ever recognize him until he learns to find his own magic.
Letterbox: The Biopic "The Peter Tchaikovsky Story" boasted to mark the first time movie clips (in this case, scenes from Sleeping Beauty) played on TV in widescreen. However, the clips shown have an aspect ratio of 1.82:1, which means the picture still underwent trimming.note Disney animated Sleeping Beauty in 2.55:1, and movie theaters projected it at either 2.20:1 or 2.35:1.
Limited Animation: Used on the "Tomorrowland" episodes and on some of the later shows. Averted with the "Fantasyland" and Ludwig Von Drake episodes, which have animation on par with the studio's theatrical fare.
The Man Behind the Curtain: In "The Title Makers", stars Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands are interrupted by a godly voice who guides them (and the audience) through scenes from The Parent Trap. The man is revealed to be Walt (although the voice was actually Paul Frees).
This was also the case with original television productions like "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh" and "The Boy From Dead Man's Bayou".
Muppet: This series brought forth two TV specials with The Muppets: The Muppets at Walt Disney World, and The Muppets' Wizard of Oz. Kermit the Frog also made a cameo in Mickey's 50, as did Miss Piggy and Gonzo in Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Celebration.
Polly and Polly: Comin' Home! retell Pollyanna with a mostly-African-American cast. This example also counts as a Setting Update, as the location and time period changed from Vermont in the 1900s to segregated Alabama in The Fifties.
Their 1997 version of Cinderella stars Brandy as Cinderella. Additionally, Whitney Houston plays the fairy godmother, African-American Natalie Desselle plays stepsister Joy, Paolo Montalban, a Filipino actor, plays Prince Christopher, black actress Whoopi Goldberg plays his mother Queen Constantina, and Canadian Victor Garber plays his father King Maxamillian.
Their 1999 remake of Annie had Grace (the social worker who brings Annie to Daddy Warbucks's mansion) be played by Audra McDonald, a black actress - which raises eyebrows at the very end, when Daddy proposes marriage to Grace. (Interracial marriage was not illegal in New York in the 1930s, but it is extremely far-fetched to suppose that such a rich and powerful character would publicly attempt it.)
In The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, African-Americans portray Dorothy (Ashanti), Aunt Em (Queen Latifah), and Uncle Henry (David Allen Grier), a la The Wiz. Plus, in an example more reminiscent of a Species Lift, Toto the dog is made a prawn to allow Pepe to play him.
Real Life Writes the Plot: The basis of "Where Do the Stories Come From?", which suggests that any commonplace occurrences has the potential to be made into cartoon stories.
Roger Rabbit Effect: Walt Disney interacted several times with his cartoon characters in the 1950s (example: a 1956 episode called "A Day In the Life of Donald Duck", which centers on Donald going through a typical day at the Disney studio).
Also, the opening to "The Best of Disney: 50 Years of Magic" with Micheal Eisner.
Series Mascot: Tinker Bell of Peter Pan fame flies past and/or creates fireworks at the beginning of each episode. The sight of her flying in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle became so iconic to Disney fans, that Disney decided to have a Tinker Bell actress "fly" through the air during fireworks shows at the theme parks.
Shockingly Expensive Bill: In "Inside Donald Duck", Donald's temper is cured by Professor Von Drake and he now speaks in a clear British voice. Once Donald gets the psychiatrist bill, he goes back into a squawking rage.
Shout-Out: In Ruby Bridges, one of the times Ruby is taken up to the school has her wearing a white dress, the words "nigger" and "KKK" graffitied on the building, and a thrown tomato hitting the words - all adding up to referencing Norman Rockwell's The Problem We All Live With.
Speculative Documentary: The "Tomorrowland" episodes usually ended with dramatizations of what life in the future would look like. One episode, "Mars and Beyond", had a segment dedicated to the possibility of life on Mars.