As you know, I just finished meeting and greeting a lot of you at Disneyland’s 60th Birthday event the Friday before last and doing sculpting demos at the Disneyana Fan Club show and sale the Sunday following. Thanks to all of you who came by to say hello. It was great to meet and chat and get to know you.
Disneyland’s Birthday, the best family reunion in the world.
I had a ton of fun as one of my very dear friends, Tex, has come up with a very cool way to celebrate Disneyland’s Birthday, which has become a tradition ever since the 50th Anniversary. Tex has us all meet near Coke corner and gives us each a few beautiful collectible items he’s created and framed. The hitch is that you have to give them to someone in the park that moves you. No strings attached. Just someone that you see doing something nice or touches you in some way. Then you take their picture.
Below are a couple of the folks that touched me that day.
THE COUNTRY BEARS WRAP-UP: Just One More Thing
While at Disneyland’s 60th Birthday party, a very astute MiceChat reader came to me and asked when I was going to wrap-up my story I started about The Country Bears behind the scenes.
I have to be very honest here and let you all know that I truly thought I had finished it. Ah the price of getting older. I must have had a senior moment, or did I?
So today I’ll highlight and finish some behind the scenes insights about performing on The Country Bears. Then I urge you to watch the film with what I’ve shared in mind as I think it will make the film a lot more interesting.
As I said in the previous articles the Country Bear characters were the result of teamwork between a suit performer and puppeteer, 1 pair per character, connected to each other via a 2-way microphone.
To work the Big Al character it’s true that suit performer, John Alexander (Gorillas in the Mist, Mighty Joe Young, etc.), had to work under a great deal of weight, limiting what we could do with the character. Thus the geisha walk was born.
What I didn’t mention was that the skin of Al’s furry face was very thick in the beginning and as a result the servos kept burning out. Servos are the little motors that when installed, moved the face in a variety of ways helping to create the smiles and mouth movements etc.
John Crizwell, master mechanic, kept refining Big Al’s head trying to make it more flexible so that I could get more expression from it. One day I was working so hard on the programming that the head began to smoke and then caught fire. To insure that this wouldn’t happen while John Alexander was wearing it, John Crizwell and I had to compromise a bit. I asked him to give me working eyebrows, as they really can add expression to the face, especially when you may have to limit the amount of servos you can have in the head. Check it out when you watch the film again.
I also practiced Big Al’s famous song and yodel. I worked very hard to get the song Blood on the Saddle down and the yodel. Many visitors to the set would stand and watch me practice. One famous person that did this and was fascinated by it was country singer Willie Nelson. I even let him have a crack at puppeteering Big Al’s face. He just loved it and he looked about five years old.
The song was filmed but later cut for time. It was the highlight of Big Al’s performance, just like in Disneyland, in my opinion. However, like in any film, production has the final say.
One of the beautiful things about working in a Jim Henson/ Disney film is that you get to work with a lot of cool people like Willie Nelson. The Country Bears was no different. I was able to meet and work with one of my favorite actors, Christopher Walken. I was so excited as I’d loved him in The Dead Zone.
Christopher is playful and loves to cut up. In fact, the scene where he is in the silk shorts and wearing bunny slippers while destroying Country Bear Hall was entirely his idea. He just thought it would be funny.
He walked me to my dressing room after that scene, complimenting team Trixie and Tennessee on our killer song scene he had watched us film the day before. What a picture we made walking in the middle of the night, me in my blacks and Christopher in his slipper and shorts.
In the above trailer there are a lot of folks that are familiar. Take a look at it and really look at how the bears work with the human actors and Visa-Versa.
Other great folks we got to work with were:
- Alex Rocco (Mo Green in The Godfather)
- Queen Latifah (Bartender) in the film
- Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats fame.
- MC Gainey and
- Elton John
One of the most incredible scenes was between Brian Setzer and Tony Prince (suit performer of Zeb Zoober). Brian Setzer plays the owner of the Honey Bar and challenges Zeb to a fiddle contest.
In order to keep this authentic Tony had to learn how to play the fiddle. Then he had to learn the song. Finally he had to perform the whole thing over and over again while in the Zeb Bear suit under hot lights.
Tony like all Jim Henson Suit performers, gives 110% and during the scene ran out of air and just kept going as the battle between Zeb and Brian intensified. When the director said cut, Tony collapsed in a heap. He was fine but spent. When filming you can’t have anything running that’s not part of the scene as it ruins the audio soundtrack. So no air conditioners are allowed to run during filming. They go on immediately after cut is called but is gets awful hot during.
This scene is just unbelievable to watch. When you do, watch how he moves, fiddles and taunts Brian all through the song and remember how hot is can get.
The truth of the matter is that what is often the case with films of this nature or any puppet teamwork type film is that it can be more entertaining to watch us work as a team then to see the actual film itself. In Muppet terms we say, “ the real show is often underneath or behind what you see on camera.”
I hope this helps you to have a peek into the amazing world of practical effects. Computer generated effects aren’t that good if they don’t also incorporate the practical to make the film look real. A film needs that tangible element to make it more believable.
Terri Hardin’s 60th Castle is still available for pre-sale for $295.00 (which includes shipping).
New Limited Edition size – 200 (this is now a smaller edition!)
PLUS – Announcing the Pin Set designs. These pins, the first to be designed by Terri Hardin, are only available during this pre-sale!
When you order the Castle at presale you get the pin set. This is the only way you can get them. They won’t be sold separately.
As promised, here’s some video of me beginning the sculpting journey on the castle piece. I’ll keep them coming so you can see the progress!
For more information about the castle piece and to order, please visit TERRI HARDIN 60th ANNIVERSARY SCULPTURE
If you have questions you can contact me HERE