Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas in Disneyland (Once More)

Last night, while freezing my butt off at the annual Disneyland Family Party, I recalled a special holiday screening that I attended at the Disney Studios last year. No, it wasn't BOLT or a preview of a new Pixar treat - It was a rare old chestnut that we like to call CHRISTMAS AT DISNEYLAND.
Yes, from Marty Pasetta & company, the fine folks that brought us the weirdly magical all-star extravaganza SANDY IN DISNEYLAND in 1974 came this 1976 variety special in which Sandy returns to Walt's first magic kingdom - but this time she took the second-banana role to Ed Norton himself, Mr. Art Carney.Originally airing 32 years ago today Dec. 6) this odd gem tells the story of a grumpy grandpa (Carney) whose cute grandkids (Brad Savage, Terri Lynn Wood) drag him, against his will, to Disneyland for Christmas. Which sounds like fun - only Gramps has his knickers in a knot about doing anything that might make the kids happy - turns out he was an abused child (he relates the story of how he was rejected and neglected at Christmastime as a wee lad) who NEVER was given a Christmas present EVER. This depressing and highly unlikely backstory sets up the story of the kids (with the help of tour guide Duncan and special guest star Glen Campbell) trying to prove that everything he thinks is annoying or fake (Christmas, music, Santa, Disneyland, etc.) is enchanting and real. How Grandpa has made it this far in life without having any fun or receiving any gifts is beyond me - but no one seems to question it, so I won't either.Along the way, there's plenty of peppy musical numbers throughout the theme park. We visit Sleeping Beauty's Castle, Critter Country, Fantasyland (the Alice in Wonderland ride is featured, but not identified) and the now-extinct attraction called America Sings. Sandy does a big production number inside of It's A Small World (she sings something about seeing the world through her EYES-should it's be her EYE? Just asking.) and John Davidson, er I mean Glen Campbell dons a Santa suit and jams with The Country Bears. Mr. Carney also plays the dual role of Dr. Wunderbar, a "glad scientist" (my term) who places some sort of magical/technical spell on Grandpa that promises him a big prize for being a non-believer. Or something to that effect. It's a very Sid & Marty Krofft moment. There's a sweet little song that the kids sing with Carney that would be wonderful if young Terri Lynn wasn't so off-key. While she is adorable, one wonders why they didn't cast a cute kid who actually had some vocal chops.
There's also a gaggle of costumed characters cavorting around (though Goofy seems oddly missing) as well as dancing Christmas trees, Reindeer and a big finale that includes a big ice-skating number right down Main Street. The hour is full of that wonderful requisite 1970s corniness, right down to the polyester-clad dancers, the choir with Farah Fawcett inspired hairstyles and Jell-O ads.Overall I enjoyed the show - but it made me sad that shows like this aren't available on dvd for all to see. I'm guessing there's either legal or clearance issues that Disney would rather not deal with, or just plain embarrassment over some of the dated cheese factor that these shows reek of. While not as "magical" as I expected, the show totally put me in the holiday mood, which is a very good thing!


Eduardo Guize said...

Oh so you work for the mouse, too? I did it last year in Paris

Writer said...

I miss the Christmas shows of my youth. :( AND I miss Sandy Duncan!