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Disneyland Article
Wonderful World Of Sunday

Steven Orsinelli
December 01, 2010
December 01, 2010
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One of the best nights in the week when I was a boy in the 1960's was Sunday Night. Now you might be thinking, why Sunday? School is the next day right? Yes school was the next day, and yes it's true that it was a dreaded thought. However what made Sunday night an evening to look forward to was Disney's weekly television show "The Wonderful World of Color." It seemed to me that it was always the sweet ending of a usually perfect week-end in my neighborhood. Most all of us kids that lived and played in our block in Garden Grove California, quit whatever skullduggery we were up to early Sunday evening and headed home for a good dinner, shower, and fresh crispy pajama's just out of the dryer. Then it was off to a good spot on the floor in front of the TV set. Our carpet floor was not only the best place to view a favorite TV show for me as a kid, it was very convenient for reaching up to switch channels on our TV set, remember the ones with the loud clunky channel dial?

The television sets we had back then never had a remote, so it was my job to turn the channels for my parents or grandmother who were too lazy to walk from the couch to the TV. So there my sister and I sat, wet hair, squeaky clean, hot and fresh pajamas, and ready for you guess it, "The Wonderful World of Color". The anticipation would mount as we patently waited through the last "Alka-Seltzer" and "Kool Cigarette commercials, the NBC station bird, and various booze commercial spots. I could smell the popcorn cooking from the kitchen. No not in a microwave, see we had the latest and coolest popcorn ever "Jiffy Pop" I would run into the kitchen just in time to see that amazing tinfoil rise! What a site! Careful Ma' please don't burn it!

My grandmother would yell from the living room with her cigarette coated voice, Stevie it's starting! Wham, off I would go flying into the living room skidding to my spot on the floor, God help my sister if she took my spot. How come I can't run like that anymore? By now the Disney show theme music had started, colored animated fireworks were shooting out from behind the castle, and Tinkerbell was using her wand to spread blotches of color around the screen. Man this was amazing to me! That great feeling of viewing something you love, surrounded by family, food, the dog, and a warm southern California night is something I still hold sacred.

Next on the screen were various shots of the world, I think a Holland windmill, the Desert and so on. All backed up by the show's theme song "The World is a Carousel of Color" written by the Sherman Brothers. Next, was the kaleidoscope camera shot, then narration by the ultimate voice talent of "I think" Jack Wagner. Even as a young man, I thought his voice was incredible, deep, rich and ton's of that cool natural compression. He would inform us of what the show was about for the night.

For those of you who never saw "The Wonderful World of Color", it was a TV show hosted by none other than the big guy Walt Disney Himself, it first aired in September 1961 on NBC and ran in color all the way up to 1969. Now I must say that this show and its Sunday night airing was not new to the airwaves. The whole show idea really started back in October 1955 as "the Wonderful World of Disney" and it aired on ABC. The show was aired in black and white. This beginning program featured Walt presenting animated cartoons, some Disney films such as Alice in Wonderland, and later audiences were treated to new programs such as the adventures of Davy Crocket starring Fess Parker and Buddy Epson.

Coonskin hats were all the rage for Americans due to this weekly show and it received incredibly high ratings in its time. Walt also unveiled visions and plans for new rides and exhibits at Disneyland now and again in his cool office set. I used to love looking at the stuff he had in his office, I always wished I could have paused the show to see the figurines and plaques strewn around the place. I heard that Walt needed many takes while filming his portions of the show, he really did not want to be the host, but he was quickly embraced by the viewing public and became part of us, and America, quickly finding a place in our hearts and minds.

Walt always being the visionary, wanted the program to air in color someday, problems with ABC due to the network not wanting to sell its stake in the theme park, and because NBC had color, he made the move to NBC. The show was renamed "The Wonderful World of Color" showing the public the impact that color television made in viewing Disney animation and features on television.

Popcorn devoured, "Goofy Grape Kool-Aid" drank, and my episode of the night was fast coming to its closing montage. Jack Wagner was telling us that part-two of this week's show would resume the following week and to tune in (I hated that part) I wanted to see it all now! My Mother was started her normal nagging of getting to bed because of school the next day, and I went off to bed to dream of working for Disney someday. I'll never forget, one of those Sunday episodes was about two friends that made movies with their little super 8 camera, this show so impressed me that I went out to a pawn shop and found and an old film camera of my own. I put it on layaway, and worked and saved my money for months until I could afford to bring it home and make my own films. This led to my film career and teaching job I have today. Even my childhood pal Eric Swenson, who makes his living today as a "DP"(Director of Photography) in many popular films happened in part because of our experience with that camera, a childhood vision made possible by that Disney program.

The show went on in various forms over the years, in the 1980's it moved to CBS and was named simply "Walt Disney" then in the 1990s and 2000s it became "the Wonderful World of Disney" I still loved the 1960's show, maybe because it was my time to be a kid, but really I think it was because I liked the format, some cartoons, live action features, some nature, science, and theme park info. The later shows mostly just presented full features, and previews for new Disney films to be released. The final show aired on Christmas Eve 2008 on ABC.

Either way the show had a heck of a long run-time, it was the second longest running primetime series in the USA. The first was the Hallmark Hall of Fame program. I am not sure why the Disney Channel has not revived this show either in re-runs or as a new venture. It makes me sad that the directors of the Disney channel cater to their young audience through the use of the 1970's style Sit-Com complete with that horrible laugh track, such as "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody".

Looking back on early Disney TV shows there was more creativity and programs that played to a higher intelligence for their young viewing audience, either in historical content, or at least better entertainment. Shows such as Zorro, Daniel Boone, Johnny Tremain, Disney Animation or even theme park programs such as "Disney After Dark" and the talent of the cast in the original Mickey Mouse Club are sorely missed in today's programming. If I was in charge over there in Disney programming I would create shows for not only children, but the ever present (Adult) Disney fan. I mean come on, who do they think buys all those tickets, annual passes, and churros anyhow!

Even Disney radio sounds like it is directed for screaming 4 year olds. My son who is 12 just cannot handle it, even my students here at school hate the thought of having to listen to that station. I think there is always a place for change in content and creation of new Disney Television and Radio shows. Disney executives could probably show me graphs that would fill an air craft carrier about their demographic, however they have to realize a big part of their success is, and always will be, keeping one or even two feet in the past. Hey we all know Disney is amazing, most everything they do is most always done to perfection, either way I guess it's all about opinion, and this was mine. I just love reminiscing about the old days, and those most incredible "Wonderful World of Color" Sunday nights.
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