Thursday, July 06, 2006

Misc. Catching up

Editor's Note: Forwarded by dweebpal PlanoKevin (for those who haven't already seen this):
Rowling: Two 'Potter' Characters Will Die
LONDON (AP) - Author J.K. Rowling said two characters will die in the last installment of her boy wizard series, and she hinted Harry Potter might not survive either. Editor's Note: I'm sticking my fingers in my ears right now, and I'm NOT taking them out till you promise me that Harry is safe!!!

"I have never been tempted to kill him off before the final because I've always planned seven books, and I want to finish on seven books," Rowling said Monday on TV here.

"I can completely understand, however, the mentality of an author who thinks, 'Well, I'm gonna kill them off because that means there can be no non-author-written sequels. So it will end with me, and after I'm dead and gone they won't be able to bring back the character'."

Rowling declined to commit herself about Harry, saying she doesn't want to receive hate mail. Editor's Note: oh no. THAT doesn't sound good, does it??!! (I mean, who would hate her if Voldiebaby dies?)

"The last book is not finished. But I'm well into it now. I wrote the final chapter in something like 1990, so I've known exactly how the series is going to end," she said. Editor's Note: Half way thru sounds like we WON'T be getting the book next year as people were assuming. At least probably not next SUMMER. (And since we get the fifth MOVIE next July, it might be best, even if she finishes, to wait at least till XMAS. I mean kind of overwhelming all at once, huh?)

Some characters might die, but the blockbuster movie franchise lives on. Warner Bros. Pictures has announced that the fifth installment will be released in U.S. theaters, including Imax screens, on July 13, 2007.

In "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," directed by David Yates, the teenage Harry continues to battle the evil Lord Voldemort (again played by Ralph Fiennes) and his followers. Daniel Radcliffe is returning as the title character, and Emma Watson and Rupert Grint reprise their roles as Hermione and Ron. Oscar-nominated actress Imelda Staunton plays the malicious, frumpy Professor Dolores Umbridge, who tortures Harry. Editor's NOte: Grr......hate her hate her hate her.

In her Monday interview on the "Richard and Judy" show, Rowling said people are sometimes shocked to hear that she wrote the end of book seven before she had a publisher for the first book in the series.

"The final chapter is hidden away, although it's now changed very slightly. One character got a reprieve. But I have to say two die that I didn't intend to die," she said. "A price has to be paid. We are dealing with pure evil here. They don't target extras do they? They go for the main characters. Well, I do." Editor's Note: So the two she is talking about are NEW, previously UnPLANNED deaths? So that wouldn't be counting Voldemort or Harry, cause one of them dying would have been always in the works I would think. Snape should die? I mean, goodie or baddie, he should probably die? Please please PLEASE don't kill Ron, Hermione, or Ginny. And as GameMaster Dave said the other night "ALL WEASLEYS ARE OFF LIMITS"!

Rowling is the richest woman in Britain - wealthier than even the queen - with a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine last year at more than $1 billion.

Whatever she writes next, Rowling is sure of one thing: It won't be as successful as Harry Potter.

"I don't think I'm ever going to have anything like Harry again. You just get one like Harry."
Editor's Note: And not even THAT, usually.

NBC a hero for 'Lipshitz' comedy pilot
NBC is taking a spin with "Cars" writer Dan Fogelman.

As part of its strategy for a year-round development cycle, the network has given the green light to "Lipshitz Saves the World," a comedy project from Fogelman to be produced by NBC Universal Network TV Studio and directed by Chris Koch.

"Lipshitz" centers on Adam Lipshitz, a 17-year-old social outcast who finds out in the most bizarre way that he might be "the one" to save the world. Fogelman describes "Lipshitz" as being in the vein of the "Matrix" movies "if Keanu Reeves wasn't good looking and 'The Matrix' was not a movie but a pilot for NBC." Editor's Note: If the show is as funny as the selling sentence there, it should be very good.

Fogelman penned the script as a spec during one weekend a few months ago, just after he had wrapped work on the Fox comedy pilot "The 12th Man," which he created.

"I decided to sit down and write something different," he said. "I went out on a bender, and 'Lipshitz' was born."

"Lipshitz" features some autobiographical elements, sort of.

McClanahan here! and now with 'Life' role
Emmy winner Rue McClanahan has signed on for a starring role in "Ryan's Life," a new half-hour original series from gay-themed premium network here!

Based on an award-winning short film, the six-episode series centers on a gay teenager coming of age and coming out. McClanahan will play Ryan's grandmother and most trusted confidante, Connie Harris.

She won an Emmy in 1987 for her role on "The Golden Girls." Her other credits include "Hope & Faith," "Touched by an Angel," "All in the Family," "Maude" and the Broadway musical "Wicked."

"Ryan's Life," which is being written by Nick Wauters, who created the short, will debut next year.

Sundance Channel gets Googled
The Sundance Channel has chosen Google Video to make a slate of its feature films and original series available to rent or own through the video download service.

The deal allows consumers to download their choice of 18 of the network's movie titles at $3.99 for a 24-hour rental or $9.99 to own.

Three of the Sundance Channel's original series are available only for purchase starting at $1.99 an episode.

"Google Video is really an extension of Google overall as the organizer of the world's information and we're very interested in providing premium user-generated content," said Jennifer Feikin, director of video and multimedia search partnerships for Google. "We think this is well represented by the Sundance Channel."

Preventing Movie Piracy
Researchers are developing tools to thwart the copying of films in theaters.
By Kate Greene

Thomson’s prototype anti-piracy system inserts extra frames into a movie that contain text or obscure the scene. The frames flicker at a frequency imperceptible to the human eye, but picked up by camcorders, thereby ruining a bootlegged movie. (Credit: Thomson.)

Last month, we ran a story about an experimental device for locating and blocking cameras ("Lights, Camera -- Jamming").

Here we look at another set of technologies aimed at dissuading would-be bootleggers.

The movie industry has a problem. According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Hollywood loses billions of dollars a year on illegally sold copies of movies. The losses are impossible to calculate accurately, of course, since it's unclear how many of the people who download copies over the Internet or pay a few dollars for a pirated DVD would have paid $9 to $20 for a theatre ticket or legal DVD.

Nonetheless, studios and theatre owners are eager to find ways of safeguarding their intellectual property.

Paris-based Thomson Corporation, which provides technology to the entertainment and media industry, is exploring methods for thwarting at least one type of bootlegger: the covert camcorder user. The company's technique involves inserting "artifacts" -- extra frames, flashes of light, or pixelated grid patterns -- into a movie during its digital-processing phase, before it's shipped to theatres. The goal is to mar a camcorder recording without degrading the images moviegoers see, says Jian Zhao, chief technology officer of subsidiary Thomson Content Security in Burbank, CA.

The artifacts exploit the differences in the way a human brain and a camcorder receive images. In the technique that's furthest along, extra frames -- with the words "illegal copy," for instance -- are inserted into the film. These warning words flicker by at a frequency too fast for the human brain to process -- yet they appear in a camcorder recording. Editor's Note: And pay no heed to the 3 people per screening who have SEIZURES from this little strobe effect.

This difference is possible because movies are projected as a series of still shots. Film projectors flash 48 images per second (24 frames are collected each second, but each frame is flashed twice) and high-end digital projectors can flash even more, according to Thomson researchers. The limit for human visual processing is around 45 flashes per second; above that, a flickering image appears continuous. Furthermore, camcorders do not average frames, as eyes and brains do. Instead, they're sampling devices that take a series of snapshots -- collecting many more frames per second than our visual systems. Hence, frames that eyes would miss show up in a camcorder recording -- and are reproduced on a video screen when the recording is played.

Using extra frames to obscure a recording isn't as straightforward as it seems, however, since camcorders could theoretically be set to a sampling frequency low enough that they'd miss the hidden message, says Zhao. That possibility requires counter-countermeasures, such as randomly adjusting the frequency at which the extra frames appear. Camcorders can't yet adjust their sampling frequencies quickly enough to keep up and produce a quality recording. But camcorder technology will continue to evolve, says Zhao, "and thus, we've got to evolve."

In addition to the frame-insertion technique, Thomson is working on incorporating additional sabotaging mechanisms into its system, such as projecting ultraviolet or infrared light onto the screen and washing out camcorder pictures. Aware that the easy counter-measure to this is simply to place a filter over a camcorder's lens, Zhao says their system is being designed to combine many different wavelengths, so that finding the perfect filter would be difficult. Editor's Note: But bootleggers do so LOVE a challenge.

Additionally, the researchers want to take advantage of interference patterns that can be created by overlaying film frames with grids of tiny features that are too small to be resolved by human eyes. Overlaying two of these grids at a certain angle creates a Moiré pattern that a camcorder picks up, but people miss.
An anti-piracy system that included some or all of these techniques could make it prohibitively expensive for bootleggers to keep pace.

By altering the movie itself, says Zhao, their system avoids some of the potential drawbacks of other anti-piracy prototypes. Some systems, for example, position cameras in front of an audience, where they actively hunt for the distinctive reflections given off by CCDs, the light-sensitive chips that capture images in a camcorder, and send beams of light that temporarily disable the chips (see "Lights, Camera -- Jamming"). Thomson's system would be less intrusive, says Zhao. "I would not feel comfortable with a camcorder constantly monitoring the audience," he offers.

Even with the progress in such technologies, however, it could still be years before an anti-piracy system becomes commercially viable, says Zhao. "A lot of people in the studios have some doubt if we can ever have an effective solution," he says. In March, Thomson opened the Burbank Innovation Center to keep Hollywood organizations up to date on its progress and to garner feedback, according to Zhao. Editor's NOte: I don't doubt they can come up with solutions. But the bad guys tend to catch up with anything they come up with. And very quickly. It seems like an ultimately losing battle, doesn't it?

Ultimately, acceptance of such a system will depend on several factors, says Ethan Bush, senior project director at National TeleConsultants, an engineering and design consultancy for the media industry. For one, on-film artifacts must be completely hidden from audiences. For another, the rapid play of words, light, or patterns across a screen cannot have harmful side effects. "We don't want anyone going into epileptic seizures," says Bush. Editor's Note: yeah..... I guess that WOULD be bad...ahem.... Yet, he adds, piracy is "a huge issue" and an effective solution could be worth billions. Editor's Note: Ironic that at the same time theater attendance is dropping and prospective audience members are complaining loudly about slipping quality, there are still so many people trying to STEAL the films. I mean, is it just a random urge to steal, or are the movies not as bad as the whiners would indicate?

A couple of Reviews to help plan your weekend

Editor's Note: And in the 'just-another-service-we-offer' category, a couple of nice reviews for things on my personal must-see list for this weekend. (I just skimmed the Pirates review, since I like to see the films first....)

Pirates: Dead Man's Chest
By Kirk Honeycutt

Bottom line: Once again Johnny Depp shines in this movie series disguised as a theme park ride.

Like the Disneyland ride that inspired the movie series, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" rolls from one envelope-pushing special effects sequence to another with little connective tissue.

The filmmakers seem cheerfully resolved that narrative never get in the way of buccaneer fun.

Cannibals, sword fights, a sea monster, tavern brawls, supernatural sailors and harrowing escapes hit the screen in such bewildering profusion that all sense of purpose is swallowed up in this heady boys' adventure run amok.

There is, in fact, only one purpose: Give Johnny Depp room to perform the Great Lounge Act of the Seven Seas. Editor's Note: GREAT Line!!! Bravo!

Anticipation is huge for the middle film in this projected pirate trilogy, so "Dead Man's Chest" should equal if not surpass the $656 million worldwide gross of 2003's "The Curse of the Black Pearl."

Most of the crew has reunited under the helm of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski, including Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, as the second and third films were shot simultaneously in Caribbean locales.

Depp is less a swashbuckler than a swishbuckler Editor's Note: LOL! Bravo again! as he prances and preens through the movie with a bemused scowl on his face and the devil-may-care attitude of a hero who knows things will turn out well. He is the comic gel that holds the whole enterprise together. The performance is a total delight that somehow combines Bugs Bunny, Peter Pan and Charlie Chaplin.

"Dead Man's Chest" revolves around a blood debt Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) owes to Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), the legendary fiend aboard his ghostly ship, the Flying Dutchman. To escape this fate, Captain Jack must recover a key that will open a buried chest containing his nemesis' still-beating heart.

Others want to seize this chest, however, most particularly the East India Trading Co.'s Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander). He imprisons Will Turner (Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) before their wedding on trumped-up charges so that Will is motivated to beat Captain Jack to the prize. Along the way are encounters with Will's father, Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), who long ago lost his soul to Davy Jones; a blackened-tooth Jamaican soothsayer, Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris); and Mercer (David Schofield), Beckett's informer in ne'er-do-well disguise.

Many characters are unearthly creatures with extreme physiologies -- essentially bloated, decaying, barnacle-encrusted corpses of dead sailors arisen zombielike to terrorize the sea.

Their leader, Davy Jones, is the movie's most amazing creature. His head is that of an octopus whose many tentacles wiggle, glower and reach out ominously as he rages against all living beings. This imagery gets repeated in his pet sea monster, Kraker, a giant version of his head.

Nighy does a great job of getting across his tormented character despite his face being hidden behind special effects. Knightley, who gets lovelier with each picture, makes a stout-hearted heroine, adept at physical action yet demure when need be. Bloom, though, is too much in earnest as if he were playing Errol Flynn rather than a comic version of same.

If one wants to carp about such things, this family adventure has morphed into something decidedly odd, though perhaps it fits the zeitgeist: The film overflows with as much gleeful sadism as a PG-13 rating can contain. Birds pluck eyes from living captives, a father must whip the flesh from his son's back, Captain Jack is prepared for roasting, and the threat of rape clearly looms over Elizabeth as she languishes in prison.

The whole pirate stew is flavored with moral fuzziness. The movie views pirates, who rob and murder on the high seas, as exemplars of fun-loving freedom; the East India Trading Company -- admittedly an imperialistic global corporation but nevertheless one that wants to rid the seas of homicidal criminals -- represents the forces of repression.

This production is a vast, expensive, sprawling affair that never feels out of control thanks to Verbinski's assured direction. Dariusz Wolski's cinematography superbly admires Rich Heinrich's lavish sets, while Hans Zimmer's busy though effective score -- he makes nice use of organ music -- pumps the action.

The film also marks the debut of a snappy new logo for Walt Disney Pictures that gives Sleeping Beauty's Castle a glittering cityscape in which to shine.

Buena Vista Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Credits: Director: Gore Verbinski
Screenwriters: Ted Elliott, Terry Russio
Based on characters created by: Ted Elliott, Terry Russio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Executive producers: Mike Stenson, Chad Oman, Bruce Hendricks, Eric McLeod
Director of photography: Dariusz Wolski
Production designer: Rick Heinrichs
Music: Hans Zimmer
Costume designer: Penny Rose
Editors: Craig Wood, Stephen Rivkin

Captain Jack Sparrow: Johnny Depp
Will Turner: Orlando Bloom
Elizabeth Swann: Keira Knightley
Norrington: Jack Davenport
Davy Jones: Bill Nighy
Gov. Swann: Jonathan Pryce
Pintel: Lee Arenberg
Ragetti: MacKenzie Crook
Lord Beckett: Tom Hollander
Bootstrap Bill: Stellan Skarsgard
Tia Dalma: Naomie Harris
MPAA rating PG-13
Running time -- 151 minutes

By Barry Garron

Bottom line: You'll find a dramatic thrill on this Irish hill.
10-11 p.m. EST Sundays

Jason Isaacs, left, and Jason Clarke are brothers on different sides of the law.

Let's get it out the way right now, the blurb that will be quoted after this review is run: "If you see nothing else this summer, watch 'Brotherhood.' "

While I never consciously try to arrange a review so that quotes can easily be lifted, "Brotherhood" deserves every boost it can get. It's that good. No, it's better. Editor's Note: wow. Of course, these folks also liked "The Sopranos" and "Sex in the City", two shows I had little or no use for, so caveat emptor, I guess.

This new Showtime series has it all: fine acting, superb cinematography, nimble directing and a fascinating world full of ethical ambiguities and constantly shifting moral ground. Editor's Note: Jason Isaacs. Did anyone say anything after "Jason Isaacs"?

Blake Masters, series creator and writer of five of the 11 episodes, including the premiere, doesn't shrink from the dilemma of problems without solutions and compromises without acceptance; he embraces them. What's more, the gray area his characters inhabit is perfectly matched to the muted colors of their environment, the well-worn Irish area of Providence, R.I., known as the Hill.

As the title suggests, "Brotherhood" is about two brothers. The younger sibling, Tommy Caffee (Jason Clarke), is a family man with ideals and a sense of community that helped win him a seat in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. The independence he prizes, ironically, turns out to be his most valuable bartering chip in the scratch-my-back legislative halls.

The older brother, Michael Caffee (Jason Isaacs)Editor's Note: yummy yummy yummy., has been a thug since he was a schoolboy. Fearing for his life, he left the area seven years earlier. In the premiere, he suddenly reappears, ready to resume his stealth ascent to the top of the criminal ladder.

Tommy's wife, Eileen (Annabeth Gish), fears Michael's presence, and with good reason. The seemingly perfect politician's wife, deep down she yearns for escape. Then there's Rose Caffee (Fionnula Flanagan), Tommy and Michael's mother, the neighborhood matriarch whose fierce maternal instinct lets her overlook and excuse anything Michael does. With eyes half shut, she continues to be proud of both her boys.

There are other memorable characters, too, nearly all of them remarkably textured for supporting players and particularly well-cast. Together, they reflect a reality far more complex than is usually seen on TV. It's a reality that speaks to the collision of interests, the dispersal of power and the impossibility of effective compromise. When a series comes along with all that, you owe it to yourself to watch.

Mandalay Television

Executive producers: Blake Masters, Henry Bromell, Elizabeth Guber Stephen
Co-executive producers: Nicole Yorkin, Dawn Prestwich, Phillip Noyce
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writer/creator: Blake Masters
Directors of photography: Ernest holzman, Ron Fortunato
Production designer: Chad Detwiller
Editors: Terry Kelley, Anthony Redman, Neil Travis, Adam Wolfe
Original score: Jeff Rona
Set decorator: Kyra Friedman-Curcio
Casting: Carolyn Pickman, Mele Nagler, Matthew Barry, Nancy Green-Keyes, Pat McCorkle

Michael Caffee: Jason Isaacs
Tommy Caffee: Jason Clarke
Eileen Caffee: Annabeth Gish
Rose Caffee: Fionnula Flanagan
Declan Giggs: Ethan Embry
Pete McGonagle: Stivi Paskoski
Freddie Cork: Kevin Chapman
Mary Rose Caffee: Fiona Erickson
Moe Riley: Billy Smith
Carl: Rob Campbell

Disney Catching up

Learn how the villain of "Pirates2" was unleashed

With Captain Jack Sparrow and crew ready to set sail again on July 7, excitement is running high. The much-beloved "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" left many of us hungry for more - and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" promises just that. Editor's Note: Yay! The movie I've REALLY been waiting for is here at last! (Superman who?) Back for the adventure are the three leads from the first film (Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley), such supporting characters as survived to sail again, and the original director (Gore Verbinski), writers, and most of the technical crew.

Davy and his crew -- each creature took months of painstaking work to create, and the results are unearthly.

But some elements are brand-new - and that includes its villain, Davy Jones. Played by distinguished British actor Bill Nighy, Davy is an awe-inspiring amalgam of human and ... well, not-so-human. Half creature of the sea, he looks like nothing we've seen before onscreen and is truly one of the landmark Disney villains. Editor's Note: Actually, he kinda looks like a Quarren. (You STAR WARS fiends know what I mean, yes?)

How did a nice guy like Bill become a tentacular terror? We spoke to Bill himself and to Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll, who brought the character to life visually.

"It was good fun to play somebody this scary, and somebody this weird-looking," says Bill. Although he did pay a price for the experience: "The only tough part was wearing the embarrassing computer-pajama suit. Lesser men than me would have run from the studio. Particularly when everyone else is dressed very glamorously as pirates, and I have to wear a skullcap with a bubble on the top and white dots all over my face".

He was wearing the "pajama suit" rather than a costume, because what we see of Davy onscreen is entirely computer-generated (known as "CG" in the trade). But John didn't want to simply place a computerized character into the shots - the intention was to show Bill's performance in every detail. So he was outfitted in a motion-capture shoot with dozens of sensors, and acted in the scenes directly with the rest of the cast. When they react, they react to his actual presence; and every move and facial expression we see in Davy was taken from Bill. Editor's Note: From what we've seen on screen in the past, I would bet Nighy's real presence is every bit as scary as the CG Davy Jones. (He tends to play very loopy characters). I can't even imagine all the scenery that got chewed between Nighy and Depp!

"The basic technical approach to doing all the Davy shots was that we had a really superb actor on-set in that role, and it was treated like any other live-action," John explains. "There's no doing the performance later on a motion-capture stage. There are no actors pretending to interact with someone who isn't there. It's shot just like any other live-action, with the intent that we'll shoot Bill Nighy there and he'll own the performance."

Getting there was a painstaking process, requiring months of creative energy and problem-solving. First concept drawings were done showing what the character might look like, then the visual effects team created a maquette - a clay full-size sculpture of Davy's head and shoulders, to allow the artists to visualize his appearance from every angle. Only then did the computers come into play; a 3D scan of Bill Nighy's head and body was done, so the character would fit his proportions. The underlying shape is correct because it's following the shape of his body. This allowed them to take Bill's performance on set and fit the CG character to him exactly. The joint lengths are the same - the ankle-to-knee length is the same on the CG Davy as it is on Bill.

Once the scenes had been filmed, powerful rendering computers were used to turn Bill's performance into Davy - and the result is unearthly. According to Bill, watching Davy onscreen was "a very spooky experience. Nothing quite prepares you for it, because it's a fantastic creature, beautifully achieved. And it's got your voice, and it's extremely weird, actually. It's quite unsettling."

And unsettling is just what John was shooting for. "We were always going for scary! The first scene where we meet him, Gore was very deliberate about 'We've got to light him in a scary way, and he's got scary dialogue.' He said, 'I want kids to have nightmares about this.'" Editor's Note: Oh goodie. We have Depp and Bloom and Knightley, PLUS we get to terrorize small children! Life IS good.

However, Davy isn't just a boogeyman, but a complex and intriguing character. "He's funny at times too, very entertaining. And we did occasionally go for the gross moment. We see him sleeping, and we gave him a bit of a runny nose - the blowhole has some postnasal drip," Editor's Note: Given my post-vacation cold, I can really relate to the whole dripping thing. (TMI?) John laughs. "Okay, it's gross! It was an opportunity we just couldn't let pass."

Although John stresses that many of the visual effects in "Dead Man's Chest" are unlike anything you've ever seen (in addition to Davy and his crew, there's a creature called the Kraken that you've got to see to believe), Bill and John agree that the flavor of the film is pure "Pirates" - no surprise, with so many of the alumni of the first film reunited to create this one.

"It has exactly the same feel. The writers are brilliant, and they've kind of taken it on in a very powerful and appropriate way,' says Bill. "And the performances are brilliant. Johnny is so extraordinary and he's kind of the heart of the movie, I suppose you could say. I think a large part of its appeal has to do with the fact that it's extremely good-hearted. Sort of friendly. I think that's a large part of the first movie's appeal - I can't see how, if you dug the first movie, you wouldn't get a big bang out of the second one!" Editor's Note: You'd better be right, or head's will ROLL!!!

John agrees. "It's faithful to the first one, because it's all the same creative leads. Same director of photography, same camera leads, same writers, same director, same editors. It's very much in the same character as the original. In fact, most of my crew is the same crew I had on the first film!"

It's no small trick to take audiences on a voyage that's unlike anything they've ever seen, but gives them more of what they've loved - but for this crew, it's all part of the adventure. !

Long John Silver might really be a pirate, but what skill does he use to get aboard the schooner Hispaniola?

The buccaneer villain of "Treasure Island' signs on to the Hispaniola's treasure voyage as ship's cook -- and he seems to be a pretty good one!

A classic article from the Disney Family Museum gives us a personal perspective on Walt
These are great times for the Walt Disney Family Museum. Exciting new projects are in the works, and soon to be announced. While we can't spill the beans just yet, we can give you a peek at what makes this "virtual museum" so very special - it offers unparalleled insight into the life and times of Walt Disney, from those who knew him best. Here's a sampling of what makes the museum a place like no other: A classic article from the curators about a momentous train trip Walt took with animator Ward Kimball.

In 1948, Ward Kimball accompanied Walt on what became a legendary train ride to the Railroad Fair in Chicago. During the trip, Walt reminisced about his life, chatted with the engineer in the front cab, and blew the whistle while posing for Ward's 16mm film camera. In an interview in late 1999, Ward talked about this memorable trip.

Ward (far left) and Walt listen to the whistle of Walt's Lilly Belle

"Walt called me up one day and he said, he'd gone down to the nurse, and she said, 'You want to take a vacation, you come down here Saturday and Sunday.' And we had a gag, a rule when he could tell how long you'd been working on a story board by the tint of the story sketches. You'd been working on it too long, it was turning yellow. So he thought about that and he'd read in the paper about this great locomotive fair in Chicago and the nurse said, 'Why don't you go back there with Ward, he runs a train?' And he says, 'Yes, I know.' So he calls me up and he says, 'Hi this is Walt.' And this is early in the morning and I'm just awake and I said, 'Walt who?' and he says, 'Walt Disney for gosh sakes!' And I said, 'Oh well you know I have other people I call Walt.' 'Anyway, how would you like to go back to the Chicago Railroad Fair?' And I was dreaming about that because all the locomotives were brought out of the museums, the De Witt, Clinton and the rest of them that I'd read about and they were all under steam and they'd put railroads on parade.

So we, I said, 'When are we going?' And he says, 'Next Monday.' Whatever it was and that gave me two days to get ready for it. And Lilly Disney and Betty saw us off at the Santa Fe station in Pasadena and we took our seats in our staterooms.

And then we would spend days, he'd go telling the story of his back history and I says, 'Gosh, I wish I had some way to record this thing,' as he told every little turn and twist of how he had Oswald Rabbit and so forth and how he invented Mickey Mouse on the train back from New York.

Walt looking over the shoulder of animator Ward Kimball.

Well, he had this conversation with his wife and said, 'I was thinking of a mouse. I had a little mouse back in Kansas City and he used to come up on the drawing board and we'd feed him things and maybe it should be a mouse.' He'd just lost Oswald Rabbit and a mouse would be good. He wanted to call him Maurice Mouse, something like that. And she said, 'Why don't you just call him Mickey Mouse? That'd sound better.' And that's the way it went. And when he got back one of the directors in the studio in his group, I don't know if it was Wilfred Jackson or one of the other guys, he made a drawing of it for the patent office, that was the first thing he did was make a drawing so that this time he would own it."

Shortly thereafter, Walt and Ward arrived at the Chicago Railroad fair.

"Well, first we did, we rode in the cab and I took movies of that. And Walt was over the edge in the air and it was a diesel, the new style diesel and all the way to Chicago, we'd pass these big steamers pulling freight trains and the engineer said, 'Well when you see a sign out the side that says 'W', you're supposed to blow the whistle.'
And so he got a kick out of blowing the whistle. And when we got to Gallop we decided to go back to the Stateroom and so Walt shook hands with the engineer and the fireman. I was taking pictures, on 16 mm."

We hope you've enjoyed this look at Disney history, and encourage you to explore all the museum has to offer. Keep an eye out in the weeks to come for some real excitement at the Walt Disney Family Museum site!

Let's Jump back in with the EMMY Noms

Editor's Note: Well I'm partway back, Dweebpals! Not ALL the way, since I had a very lovely vacation and am now sort of sad and disoriented to be back. (Not sad to be back to YOU, of course, but to be back to work and day-to-day humdrumming). AND I have a head cold, so quite a few brains have been sent into kleenex in the last few days.

So....patience, padawans. Be PATIENT with your QOTD.

Let's get back to things with the EMMY Noms -----

Canceled Series, Newcomers Among Emmy Nominees
'The Sopranos,' 'House,' '24' in Awards Contention
By Christopher Lisotta
Canceled Series, Newcomers Get Prime Time Emmy Nominations

Series that have left the air and perennial cable performer HBO placed among top recipients of nominations for the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

In the outstanding drama series category, HBO's "The Sopranos," ABC’s medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” Fox's "House" and "24" and NBC's cancelled "The West Wing" garnered nominations. Last year’s winner, ABC's “Lost” didn't get a nod. Editor's Note: "Lost" wasn't nominated. "Medium"? "L&O:SVU"? The EMMYs are like the Ice Skating judging before they fixed the rules. Sheesh.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced the nominations at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood, Calif.

Canceled shows garnered a number of nominations, with Fox scoring recognition for outstanding comedy with “Arrested Development.” Geena Davis received an outstanding actress in a drama nomination for the ABC's “Commander in Chief.” CBS also received a nomination for “Out of Practice,” with an outstanding actress in a comedy nod for multiple Emmy winner Stockard Channing. HBO got a spot in the same category with Lisa Kudrow for her canceled series “The Comeback.”

While “The Sopranos” got a nomination for drama series, previous winners James Gandolfini and Edie Falco were shut out of the acting categories. HBO saw “Six Feet Under” actors Peter Krause and Francis Conroy get nominations for their work on the funeral home drama. Newcomer Kyra Sedgwick received a nomination in the best actress in a drama series category for TNT’s “The Closer,” while last year’s winner, Patricia Arquette of NBC’s “Medium,” was also shut out.

This year the TV Academy for the first time incorporated a panel into its nominating process to help add some variety to its nominations, which in the past have been criticized as recognizing the same shows over and over.

The new nominating procedure produced some unexpected results, said Diane Gordon, author of the subscriber-based TV e-mail The Surf Report.

It’s really schizophrenic--they have a foot planted in the old and they are trying to drag into the new,” Ms. Gordon said. “I’m shocked that ‘Lost’ is virtually absent given that it won last season. I’m surprised none of the actors from ‘Grey’s’ got nominated, when the show got nominated. And the same thing for Hugh Laurie -- ‘House’ got nominated, but he didn’t.” Editor's Note: Yeah. Seems like this new committee made things worse? Still not remotely relevant.

Despite a glut of awards shows and a challenge from the Golden Globes, the Prime Time Emmys remain the most coveted TV awards in terms of industry prestige. Last year’s Emmy telecast on CBS scored a 6.1 rating in adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen Media Research, growing 33 percent from its series low performance in the demographic in 2004.

This year’s nominations follow a tumultuous season for television. The industry was surprised by the January announcement that The WB and UPN were dissolving to form The CW. Both cable networks and broadcasters also have been grappling with how to provide more TV content on the Internet and mobile devices as consumers show growing interest in video games and Web browsing.

An Emmy nomination or win can raise an actor’s profile in Hollywood or help a program struggling in the ratings. Audiences don't always get on board, however, as illustrated by Fox’s comedy “Arrested Development,” which was an Emmys darling but eventually was canceled.

With the retirement of CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond,” there is no returning winner in the outstanding comedy category. Past winners also didn't get nods in the supporting actor and supporting actress in a comedy categories.

Emmy voters will receive DVDs for at-home judging during the week of July 24. Voters have until August 15 to submit their completed ballots.

The nominations announcement comes about a week earlier than usual, reflecting the Emmys’ move by a few weeks to the last weekend in August. Traditionally the Emmys have been held on a Sunday in mid-September. This year’s broadcaster, NBC, begins its Sunday night NFL football coverage in the fall, which set up a potential schedule conflict.

The primetime Emmy Awards will be presented on Sunday, August 27 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. NBC will broadcast the show live at 8 p.m. (ET) on the east coast with a tape delay for the west coast. Late night talk show personality Conan O’Brien is scheduled to host the telecast. Editor's NOte: Party at Drewster's? (If we dont' have rehersal?)

Outstanding Drama Nominees:
“Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC)
“House” (Fox)
“The Sopranos” HBO
“24” (Fox)
“The West Wing” (NBC)

Outstanding Comedy Nominees:
“Arrested Development” “(Fox)
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” (Fox)
“The Office” (NBC)
“Scrubs” (NBC)
“Two and a Half Men” (CBS)