The Wizard of Speed and Time - Mike Jittlov

Toon In: The Wizard Of Speed And Time (1979)

Friends, this Toon In offering is a little different. To say the least. 1979’s The Wizard of Speed and Time is not traditional animation. Nor in fact is it even stop motion, well, not completely. Of course it is in fact all manner of visual tricks that are used to make The Wizard of Speed and Time so absolutely charming.

The titular character of the 1979 short is Mike Jittlov. As well as being the Director, Animator, Special Effects Maestro, and Chief Dreamer.
The Wizard of Speed and Time - Mike Jittlov - 1979

Jittlov got his start in animation in the 70s at UCLA. With many of his short films making it into festivals. After designing his own multiplane animation system he caught the eye of the Walt Disney Studio. Where Mike would appear in the Mickey’s 50th two-hour TV event. Entitled Mouse Mania it features Jittlov as he visits a psychiatrist to discuss his mania of Disney related collectibles.

[Via] Parcset Compaigne

Besides the astounding stop-motion work that Jittlov and his partner Deven Cheregino put into the short. That 1978 short film also is wonderful to watch just because of the amount of vintage Disney merchandise is shown in it. Another thing to keep in mind while watching it, is every single effect was done in-camera.

The Wizard of Speed and Time was introduced on another Disney episode. In this case on an December 1979 airing of Disney’s Wonderful World. For a special episode entitled Major Effects. A documentary of sorts of how films and movies use all sorts of special effects to bring magic to life. By the way the special was released around the same time as The Black Hole!

[Via] Cartoons Intros

This is where I actually was able to first catch The Wizard of Speed and Time. I can also say in all honesty that this was one of those TV specials that made me want to become a filmmaker in the first place. I think after you watch the short film for yourself you will certainly see why I was so captivated by the idea.

[Via] Bevis 29582

Now then, a mere ten years after the short film debuted. Mike was able to produce a feature length film starring his charming special effects Wizard!


While available on VHS as well as Laserdisc…the fact this beautiful film isn’t on Blu-Ray is an absolute crime.

[Via] Night of the Trailers

Watcher In The Woods

Disney Pulled The Watcher In The Woods From Theaters?

As I touched upon with the post about that awesome Black Hole T-Shirt from the other day. The Walt Disney Studios was really trying to go in a different direction with their theatrical films. Not just with 1979’s The Black Hole, but 1980’s The Watcher in the Woods and even 1983’s adaptation of Ray Bradbuy’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.

The Watcher in the Woods was a supernatural/mystery movie directed by John Hough (The Legend of Hell House). It was based off the novel by Florence Engel Randall that first saw print in 1976. At this point it’s pretty evident that the Studio was attempting to capture more of the teenager crowd with their choice of subject matter. I believe the original trailer illustrates that point quite well.

Watch the original Watcher In The Woods trailer

Apparently a week after the film made its debut back on October 24, 1980 the Walt Disney Studio pulled the film from theaters. To be honest I’ve seen various online sources saying this was actually just the test screening. Anyway what we do know is that the audience and the studio were unhappy with the ending. So they put the re-release of Mary Poppins in it’s place while they worked on re-shooting the The Watcher in the Woods. This article from Starlog pretty much states the same thing.

Starlog - The Watcher in the Woods

Legendary effects artist Harrison Ellenshaw (Star Wars, TRON) is credited with coming up with the ending audiences saw when the film was released to theaters again on October 7, 1981. He has even been quoted as saying by the end of it all they had “roughly 152 possible endings”.

In total Disney narrowed it down to three possible endings. The first one that had been planned and shot revealed an alien encounter was behind the “supernatural” goings. Sadly they ran out of time to finish the effects shots as the studio mandated it needed to be released on the 50th anniversary of Bette Davis’ legacy as an actress.

The Watcher in the Woods - Alternate Ending

What the original audiences or test audiences saw was kind of an amalgam of that concept, but leaving Jan to explain what had occurred. Apparently it wasn’t quite clear and most audiences felt it gave no sense of closure. That the film was ended abruptly. Which is of course why it was re-shot. Thankfully this “alternate ending” can be seen below. I’m sure there was supposed to be some effects work leading Jan to look to the sky and the forest, because if not, she just looks like a crazy person. I do think the Alien, the Watcher is pretty awesome looking myself.

Watch the alternated ending to Watcher In The Woods

When it came time to for the version that is more widely known Disney also began to have second thoughts about the mentions of the occult, and not only re-wrote those scenes but re-shot them as well. Which is why the Alien appears in the final release as a shaft of bright light, taking over Jan’s body to reveal that Watcher had accidentally switched places with Karen 30 years earlier.

Even with the re-shoots The Watcher in the Woods didn’t exactly connect with audiences of the day. In total it only earned five million. I can’t locate an online source that reveals how much the Walt Disney Studios spent, but bear in mind that in 1983 Something Wicked This Way Comes cost nineteen million. I think over the years, The Watcher in the Woods has become something of a cult film. Which is kind of nice, but I certainly remember wanting to see the film myself thanks to those wonderful early 1980s promos. You could find them when renting Disney VHS tapes.

Watch the original Watcher In The Woods promo from 1980 (At the 1:42 mark)

TeePublic’s “Good Robot” T-Shirt – Featuring The Black Hole’s V.I.N.CENT!

Lieutenant Charles Pizer: V.I.N.CENT, were you programmed to bug me?
V.I.N.CENT: No, sir, to educate you.

The Walt Disney studios were most definitely attempting to try different types of stories back in 1979 when they released The Black Hole, sort of their answer to the popularity of Star Wars, at least they hoped it would find similar success. Surprisingly it did better than most might think, in that it did make a profit although not as much as the studio had hoped I’m sure. On a budget of twenty million dollars it earned over thirty-five million at the box office when all was said and done.

disneys-black-hole

For myself I caught The Black Hole at the Razorback theater, just another one of those films I hold dear that I saw at that fabled location. My Father took me to see it the weekend that it opened and I think it’s more than fair to say that we were possibly the only people there that were quite blown away by it. It doesn’t hurt the film that it features Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine, Joseph Bottoms and to top it off Maximilian Schell.

But the three characters that my Father and I were most impressed with weren’t even Human. No – our favorite characters included the silent yet menacing and murderous robot of Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Schell) named Maximilian oddly enough. It’s been noted that the script called the red-hued brute Maximilian before Schell was even cast!

Maximilian

Then there was the damaged but still functioning Old B.O.B. (BiO-sanitation Battalion) who was voiced by Slim Pickens.
Old Bob

Finally there was V.I.N.Cent (Vital Information Necessary CENTralized) who was voiced by the legendary Roddy McDowall and hands down my favorite character in the entire film.

Vincent - The Black Hole

Thankfully at the time there were a solid handful of merchandise for The Black Hole, like the Mego line of action figures, a Disney Read-Along record and book, an Alan Dean Foster novelization of the film and more.

Walt Disney - Black Hole LP

But there was not to my knowledge any clothing made available, especially T-Shirts featuring the likes of V.I.N.Cent! Thankfully TeePublic has fixed that issue, courtesy of jswhittington3, with their offering entitled “Good Robot” which also acts as a parody of the production company logo of J.J. Abrams!

T-Shirt Images courtesy of TeePublic.Com

T-Shirt Images courtesy of TeePublic.Com

Hop on over to TeePublic and order your T-Shirt today, that way the next time you visit your favorite arcade you can show that local robotic bully you mean business.

John Carter “White Apes” Extended Scene (Spoilers)


[Via] IMP Awards
Walt Disney Studios released this clip from their upcoming John Carter film, scheduled to hit the Silver Screen on March 9th. I really like what I’m seeing here and I think we are finally seeing a bit of that magic they brought over from the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs novels.

Be warned there are some small SPOILERS in this clip!

Even if for some reason the movie fails to deliver, but from what I’m seeing on early reviews this doesn’t appear to be the case, at the very least it causing reprints of the Burroughs novels. I saw three different reprint versions at my local Barnes and Noble yesterday!