When Disney Summers Were Boxoffice Magic
School Out For Summer Magic In 1963
Picture the Disney World in 1963. Not the one in
Then there were ones I missed, for reasons unknown, or at least unremembered. Did Savage Sam represent a loss, especially as Old Yeller was before my time? Skipped also was Summer Magic, a July '63 release to follow paw prints of Savage Sam, which came but scant weeks ahead in June. Fifty-two years is not unreasonable delay toward catch-up with Summer Magic, what with a quite nice DVD that's available, plus HD streaming both at Vudu and Amazon (Amazon's is 4:3, Vudu and the DVD are wide). Again, if you came up in that era, you recall at least a heavy promotion for all that was Disney. Each made big noise via tie-ins and TV saturation. It took almost willful effort to miss them, as was apparent case for me and Summer Magic. Time was a factor --- we had the Disneys, and most anyone's product, for three days tops. A short family trip or even a haircut could snafu attendance. And these lesser live actions didn't come back, not when you could have them in short order from The Wonderful World Of Color (Summer Magic ran there, in two parts, on 12/5 and 12/12, 1965).
Summer Magic looks inexpensive. Word is they made whole of it on the backlot. Attractive mattes supply bucolic background for rural settings. Minor conflict is resolved by song or a selfish character simply deciding not to be selfish anymore (Deborah Walley). A pair of handsome young men from then-familiar television (Peter Brown, James Stacy) provide antiseptic escort for Hayley and chastened Deborah. Summer Magic was directed at teens, especially girls, who were experiencing puberty rites alongside Hayley Mills, who, unlike Annette Funicello, enjoyed major feature stardom (Annette was incidental to some hits, but her big trial balloon, Babes In Toyland, had burst). Posters for Summer Magic focused entirely on Mills, she and others of the cast in modern dress despite Magic taking place in a first quarter of the century.
"Goo" seeps in through endless smiling close-ups and sugar-frosted songs (by the Sherman Brothers), latter tied in with Alcoa Wrap for a record premium, as in buy tinfoil, get the platter. We might assume these are collectible, at least by Disneyphiles who want it all. Summer Magic is full of elements customized to please Walt --- nostalgia for rural past like his own and what was captured (better) in Pollyanna --- was sameness of studio live-action a result of toadying to the boss? There's an oversize sheepdog for comedy's sake that wrecks the house on cue, a device annoying as was case when a sheep did the same thing for (or to) So Dear To My Heart (a problem for which I'd prescribe mutton for dinner). Animals could sometimes work as great a hardship upon viewers as characters in these films, but Disney fell back on the device often enough to make us assume that Walt had appetite for such mayhem (a following year's The Ugly Dachshund would be ultimate expression of pet-in-house excess). For critics that bothered, Summer Magic was as many fish in a barrel, attacks largely pointless as the Disneys were by now on autopilot but for specials like full-length cartoons still done (Sword In The Stone a much-anticipated Christmas '63 release) or following year Mary Poppins (8/64).