The Mouse Factory (1971–1973)
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This sense of aw and loyalty to a Disney Production didn't waiver be it a new movie (LADY AND THE TRAMP, 1955 or DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE, 1959) or a re-release of a Disney Classic (SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARF, 1937 or PINOCCHIO, 1940). We were all there, and in full force!
This long-standing Disney preeminence in the Animated and Live-Action film gave Walt and Company a decided advantage in launching their TV productions. So, that when "Walt Disney's DISNEYLAND"** (1954-90) was set on its premiere, it already had audience, eagerly awaiting whatever Walt served up from "Fantasyland", "Frontierland", "Tomorrowland" and "Adventureland". The show in turn, by its behind the scenes views of say a production of the above mentioned 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, shared background info about film-making and (even more importantly) created the desire of the viewers (us!) to go out and see the movie, and at the Movie Show, yet! This gave Mr. Disney a head $tart the Box Office$!!!!!
Other than "THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB" (1955-59), there was only one other broadcast television series; and that would be today's Special Guest Star, "THE MOUSE FACTORY" (1971-73).
Unlike its siblings, FACTORY was syndicated, rather than being sent out via one of the Networks. Here in Chicagoland, we saw it in that early evening No Man's Land, 'Limbo' slot, after the Evening News, but before (Bow your head and Genuflect, Schultz!) Primetime. It was seen over WMAQ TV, Channel 5, our local NBC station.
Unless you are familiar, you may be asking, "Just what is a 'Mouse Factory', anyway? I mean, don't the Mice propagate okay without any help?" For you folks, inasmuch as you've stuck with us by reading this far, we'll try and explain. Deal, or no?
"THE MOUSE FACTORY" was a series of ½ Hour, family oriented shows. Each episode would have a theme to it. From Baseball to Taxidermy, from Entomology to Thespianism, the subject would be explained and demonstrated. The on camera 'explainer' was provided by the guest EMCEE. Drafted from the huge pool of available ready, willing and able performers from TV Land and the Movies, the various celebs to chair the show on this rotating Host Chair had to be adept at serious instruction and comedy, both. So, we saw the likes of Jim Backus, Kurt Russell, Annette Funicello, Johnny Brown, Harry Morgan, John Astin, Jo Anne Worley, Charles Nelson Reilly, Bill Dana, Ken Barry, Wally Cox, Hank McCune, etc., acting as our liaison and guide to our tour of this Rodent Manufactory.
In a sense, a strong case can be made for classifying TMF as a "Cheater" production. It is, after all constructed with very limited newly filmed action footage added to a potpourri of the finest and most rarely seen film clips from the vast Disney Vault. (The very same one that we used to see having its "Mousecadile twisted to the Right and the Left with a Great Big Smile .."; thus delivering a Mouse Cartoon for You and Me!)
But seriously though, folks; the clips shown were a shear delight to the vision as well as the accompanying 'dialogue' & music from the Animated Films. And, in keeping with the tradition of quality, the various mini-segments included clips from many a Disney Feature Length Animation; well as from short subject "cartoons" dating back to the likes of PLANE NUTS, THE JAZZ FOOL and good, old STEAMBOAT WILLIE. This was a real treat for all Disneyfiles, but it didn't end there.
And where as I can't remember what had been the opening theme, the Disney Company gave us the delightful old Disney tune from the early 1930's as its Signature Song. "Minnie's Yoo-Hoo" was the tune; and it had actually been use as a theme for Mickey Cartoons for a spell. If you've ever heard it, you might've taken a while to adjust to it; but we have found it to be most memorable and infectious, even!
A viewing of the series would be a rewarding for just about any Film Buff or Historian. For it is such a visual History of the rapid development of the animated 'cartoon' from the late 1920's to the middle 1930's. From the most basic of B & W drawings and the very rudimentary of post-synchronization of voice and sound effects, to Technicolor, Multi-plane 3 Dimensional effects and the Stereophonic sound; we see all their development right before our eyes, from the supper table, yet.
NOTE: * Though the Colony was renovated several years back, the theatre portion of the building has been shuttered for some 20 years now. The rest of the Colony Building is in good shape and appears to be rented to capacity; being a mixture of residential apartments with commercial space.
NOTE ** While premiering as "DISNEYLAND", the show had several aliases over the years. After moving from ABC to NBC, which had gone to All-Color, Walt used "THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR"; an arrangement that doubtlessly was a great deal for both Disney and his new-found Network Buddies. (Disney got his Color telecasts; NBC got a boost in selling those RCA TV Sets.) Other names that the show was also known as were: "THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF Disney", "THE MAGICAL WORLD OF Disney" and (my own personal favourite) "WALT Disney PRESENTS".