Friday, November 2, 2018

Mickey's 50th & The Star Wars Holiday Special - 1978

Mickey Mouse is celebrating his 90th birthday this month! Gee, it seems like only yesterday that he was turning 50!

That year was 1978, and there was plenty of merchandise created to commemorate Mickey's 50th.

There was "The Official Birthday Book"......

A ceramic collector's plate and metal serving tray:

A holiday ornament:

Music Box:


Some of these items were available at Disneyland, as well as other retail locations. However, some were actually exclusive to the park, like this book of matches and pinback button.

Mickey was even featured on the cover of Life Magazine, with a story about animation, inside.

There was also an article about his milestone birthday in the November 11, 1978 issue of TV Guide.

The article (by Maurice Sendak), began by mentioning that a special episode of The Wonderful World of Disney, titled "Mickey's 50," would be airing the following week.

Now, let's take a look at what was airing on television, 40 years ago:

Hollywood was celebrating it's 75th anniversary with a star-studded blowout!

The Wonderful World of Disney was showing The Boatniks, as a part of the show's 25th anniversary that year.

Ode To Billy Joe was airing on TV for the first time. I have never seen that movie. It just always sounded kind of depressing! Fifteen years later, Robbie Benson would provide the voice of "The Beast," in Disney's animated version of Beauty and the Beast.

Family Feud was having one of it's special celebrity editions with the casts of five different soap operas. I never watched daytime soaps, but it's kind of sad to think that out of all of these shows, General Hospital is the only one that is still on the air. I remember my mom watching The Secret Storm and As The World Turns!

On Dallas, the Ewing Family was facing their "worst crisis." This was before J.R. got shot, causing the entire nation to ask the question, "Who Shot J.R.?"

Pearl Bailey was guest starring on The Muppet Show, BEFORE Disney "acquired" them from Jim Henson.

The 1973 Emmy Award-winning special, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, was already an established annual tradition.

Farrah Fawcett was making her second "forced" guest-starring appearance on Charlie's Angels, following the breaking of her contract at the end of season one.

Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore both had popular afternoon talk shows. Mike Douglas had supplied the singing voice for Prince Charming in Disney's Cinderella and Dinah Shore had narrated the "Bongo" segment from Disney's Fun And Fancy Free. Mike Douglas was going to be visiting the set of Battlestar Galactica that week!

The New Mickey Mouse Club had been canceled the year before, but was still being shown in repeats.

The Love Boat and Different Strokes were both having special "Thanksgiving episodes."

And a little trainwreck called the Stars Wars Holiday Special, aired for the first and only time on television. The special is significant for Star Wars fans for several reasons....okay, maybe only one. It marks the first appearance of the character, Boba Fett. We do get to meet Chewbacca's family and we also get to hear Princess Leia sing.....not necessarily good things! The special is jaw-droppingly bad, but in a "you can't take your eyes off of it" kind of way.

The ad on the inside back cover was for the Chevy Chevette, the "Best Selling Small Car In America."

By the way, the artwork on the TV Guide cover was by the artist, Charles Santore. It depicts actor, Ron Liebman, who at the time was co-creator, co-writer and starring in the TV series, "Kaz." He won an Emmy for playing the title role, but unfortunately the show was still canceled after only one season. He would go on to win a Tony Award for playing Roy Cohn in the play, Angels In America. He also had recurring roles in Friends (as Rachel's father) and in The Sopranos (as Dr. Plepler). Here is the cover story article about him:

And here's a link to The Star Wars Holiday Special on YouTube, for anyone that wants to feel REALLY uncomfortable for the next hour and a half!


K. Martinez said...

I used to have that book "Mickey Mouse: Fifty Happy Years" in hardcover, but sold it. I regret it because I haven't been able to find a minty copy since.

That Star Wars Holiday Special spread does it for me. It's my favorite part of your post.

I was a soap fan having watched All My Children, General Hospital, As the World Turns and The Young and the Restless. The only one left that I watch now is The Young and the Restless.

If you had watched The Brady Bunch at 6 PM on November 14, 1978 you would have gotten to see Greg hide his rival school's mascot - a hungry goat. I remember that episode.

I know that face (Ron Leibman). I've seen it guesting on many TV shows back in those days. I remember he used to be married to Linda Lavin from "Alice".

My favorite of the Mickey Mouse memorabilia is the music box. I like the "birthday cake" platform and "birthday cake" the rabbit is holding up for Mickey.

Thanks, TM! I thoroughly enjoyed your post. It's hard to believe Mickey's 90 years old this year.

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, aren't "General Hospital" and "The Young and the Restless" the only daytime soap operas on TV right now?

I remember that episode of "The Brady Bunch" too. It was sad when Greg got caught and had to serve hard time for his thievery.

Yes, Ron Leibman was married to that actress that used to be sad, and used to be shy, but the funniest thing...the saddest part is she never knew why.

My favorite of the Mickey birthday items is also the music box! I remember seeing it back then and wanting it, but I never got it.

I'm glad that you enjoyed this post. Don't forget that Mickey's 90th Birthday Special is on television tonight. I'm sure it's going to be craptacular! ;-)

K. Martinez said...

Maybe she divorced Ron Leibman because
kickin' herself for nothin' was her favorite sport.
She had to take off and start enjoyin' cause life's too short.

There are four soaps still on the air. They are "General Hospital" (ABC), "Days of Our Lives" (NBC), "The Bold and the Beautiful" (CBS) and "The Young and the Restless" (CBS).

Did you ever dine at Soap Opera Bistro in DCA's early days?

If Mickey's 90th gets too bad, I can always come to your blog and watch The Star Wars Holiday Special. ;-)

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, I didn't realize there were still four soaps on the air. I did dine at the Soap Opera Bistro, but just once. I liked it. It was an interesting experience with the servers playing various parts from ABC soaps....or maybe they were just playing unique characters. I don't know for sure since I never watched daytime soaps!

K. Martinez said...

I know that CBS's "The Bold and the Beautiful" is still on the air because that show is very popular in Italy so it pays for itself. Interestingly, that is the only soap set in a real city (Los Angeles) as opposed to a fictitious city like all the others. "The Young and the Restless" is the most popular soap on the air and has been for a long time. As for ABC's "General Hospital" and NBC's Days of Our Lives" perhaps each of those networks wants to have at least one soap on the air. Who knows.

TM!, I should've dined at the Soap Opera Bistro when I had a chance because I knew just about all the characters and settings from the ABC Soaps; "All My Children", "One Life to Live" and "General Hospital". The settings must've been Pine Valley, Llanview and Port Charles respectively. I was thinking the Pine Valley Inn for "All My Children" for sure. I probably would've gotten a kick out of it. I just took it for granted that it would still be there. Oh well! And yes, I heard the "actors/servers" were playing actual characters from the ABC Soaps.

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, so "All My Children" went off the air? I hope Susan Lucci was able to find work afterwards. Wasn't she on that show for 75 years or something very close to that?

Now that I think of it, I do remember one of the areas inside the Soap Opera Bistro being themed to a hospital!

Stefano said...

Thanks, TokyoMagic!, once again a TV Guide has set off all kinds of memories of what I was doing then in all aspects of life. I haven't seen "Ode to Billy Joe" either, but every June 3rd I listen to the Bobbie Gentry song which is a downer, but marvelous: cannot explain the attraction.

Another downer: Hollywood Squares co-panelists Robert Urich and Paul Lynde both died at age 55; on a positive side I saw Urich and his family at Disneyland during Christmas '78, on Main Street near the Magic Shop.

What a difference a few decades make--- Disney now owns the Muppets and Star Wars, and shortly may acquire Great Britain to become the United Magic Kingdom (which joke I recall from around 1978).

A bonanza of Telly Savalas movies on Channel 5! "Lisa and the Devil" is dreamy, freaky, and has Elke Sommer artistically undraped; I have seen 2 previous versions of "Beau Geste", but would give the Savalas one a try because Leslie Halliwell's Film Guide says the star is "rampant".

Here's to the world's most ageless nonagenarian; the recent MM short which accompanied "Frozen" is atrocious, almost a desecration of the little fellow, but the vitality and charm of the early shorts are undiminished. Thanks again for showcasing some of the 5oth commemorations.

Major Pepperidge said...

Gosh, it really is incredible that it is Mickey’s 90th, when I remember his 50th so vividly. I had that “Official Birthday Book”, had the magazine with the cover that you show in your first picture, had that LIFE magazine, and totally remember reading that article about “Growing up with Mickey” by Maurice Sendak. Those were the days of “old Disney”… pre-Eisner, so there was a different feel compared to later celebrations, and yet a warmer feel too, in my opinion. Maybe I was just the right age.

“Leonard Nemoy stars in ‘BAFFLED’”?? I don’t remember that at all. Mike Douglas used to occasionally do cool things on his talk show, like have an entire week with John and Yoko, or a whole week with Forry Ackerman.

I still haven’t seen the Star Wars Holiday Special, but not because I haven’t had the chance. I couldn’t make it through more than about 15 minutes before the chills of embarrassment overwhelmed me. It used to be hard to find, but gosh, now you can just see it on YouTube!

TokyoMagic! said...

Stefano, I also like the song, "Ode to Billy Joe." Is there a significance in listening to it every June 3rd? It's been a while since I've heard that date mentioned within the song?

Wow, I didn't realize that Robert Urich and Paul Lynde were the same age when they died. Robert Urich seemed much younger for some reason. Did you say anything to Robert Urich when you saw him at Disneyland? I guess it's best to just leave celebrities alone in a situation like that. I saw Micky Dolenz and David Carradine at DL in the early eighties, but left both of them alone. However, I saw Fran Drescher there in the nineties, and asked if it would be possible to have her autograph. She was super nice and said yes.

I wonder whatever happened to Elke Sommer?

Ha, ha! United Magic Kingdom. I hadn't heard that one before. But soon Disney will own the entire world. I'm scared.....seriously!

I don't like those new Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts. I've liked some of the nods they do to the past, but the animation is crude and the characters are ugly. For some reason, I get the feeling that was their goal when creating them. Sad.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I agree with you about the feel of those earlier celebrations, for both Mickey and for the park anniversaries. Everything went to hell in a hand basket after Eisner came on board....with the exception maybe of the animation department's output.

I remember when Mike Douglas spent a week in WDW. Space Mountain had just opened and they filmed him riding it. I remember him interviewing Annette Funicello, Adriana Caselotti, Clarence Nash, Scatman Crothers and Sterling Holloway! Unfortunately, Anita Bryant was his co-host all week long! And speaking of Mike Douglas, my family went to see the taping of one of his shows in the late seventies/early eighties, but I couldn't tell you now who his guest stars were for that particular show.

If you are a fan of the very first Star Wars movie (1977)....or even the two that followed, then I think the Star Wars Holiday Special is worth watching at least once....even if just for a laugh. And if you are a fan of Bea Arthur's (which I think you just might be) then it is a must-see for her scene alone! I have noticed that some uploads of the special have been disappearing due to Disney claiming copyright infringement. I wonder if they have any future plans to put it on DVD/Blue-ray? It has never been available, officially. In the past, George Lucas reportedly said if he could buy up every existing copy of it and destroy them, he would.

Stefano said...

TM!, June 3rd is the day that the young woman narrator hears the awful news about Billy Joe. Immediately after listening to the Bobbie Gentry, I put on the Jamies' "Summertime, Summertime" to even things out.

Robert Urich and Company were obviously enjoying their evening at the Magic Kingdom, so my group just glanced politely from some yards away. Your post reawakened this long-sleeping memory. That was nice of Fran Drescher; I wonder what her favorite ride is?

TokyoMagic! said...

Stefano, I just listened to "Ode to Billy Joe" more carefully. The first two words of the song are "June third." Geez, how could I have missed that....pass the biscuits, please.