It has truly been an incredible opportunity for us to be a part of telling the story of such an American icon as Walt Disney. We’ve all grown up with the legend of The Walt Disney Company whether it be through the movies, television, theme parks, stuffed toys and the countless spin off companies today including sports and news.
Some of us who are a little older even grew up watching and seemingly knowing “Uncle Walt” as he appeared on television and sometimes film giving us little life lessons, tours of disney land, interviews etc.
However, most of us had never seen the beginnings of his life. Where did he come from? What was he like? How did he become the legend that we know today?
Walt’s family was from Ireland originally but immigrated to America living in parts of Canada and Chicago. His father was a part of the gold rush before he finally settled on that little farm in Marceline, Missouri. Of course, that only lasted for about four years and then the family picked up and left for Kansas City, where the Walt we know and love got his start. He was fascinated by animation. Of course, life also got in the way at times and his family needed money. So, Walt and Roy took up a paper route at very young ages and began to work early in the morning before school delivering papers and then again after school to right before supper. Often this left Walt dozing off in class due to the sheer exhaustion from having to keep those long hours.
Despite his lack of participation in class due to his busy “extra curricular” schedule, Walt still seemed to foster his love for drawing and kept his sights on his dream. In his teens, Walt’s family moved back to the big city of Chicago where his father had acquired shares in a company there.
While in high school, Walt became the cartoonist for the school newspaper and began taking night classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art. He started to learn the latest techniques. Soon, however, the War came calling and Walt wanted to join, so he dropped out of school at sixteen to join the War. He was, of course, rejected for being underage but he and a friend ended up joining the ambulance corp and were shipped to France for a year.
When he returned, Walt moved back to Kansas City where he began his artistic career. He originally thought he’d become an actor but no one would hire him. He tried driving an ambulance but no one would hire him there either. Thanks to his brother, Roy, Walt was able to get a job at the Pesmen-Ruben studio and the rest, as they say, is history.
After a short stint at Penmen, Walt met Ub Iwerks and they formed a bond that would last right until the day that Walt passed away. This is really where the magic started and where Walt Before Mickey – the film, will take you; inside all of the failures and triumphs, the aches and pains, the love and hardships and eventual history that was to be made; the partnerships, the players and rising against the odds to realize a dream that was a young lifetime in the making.
Walt Before Mickey has had a similar journey.
From just a crazy idea, to gathering the right people, to adding an incredible amount of determination and know how, a lot of love and hard work, this movie made its own journey. A journey that will culminate in the opening on August 14th at AMC Theaters Downtown Disney itself. How fitting. We’ll also be at SilverSpot Cinemas in Coconut Creek and Bow Tie Cinemas up in the NY/NJ area.
I wonder if Walt, all those years back then, knew just how big his dream would become and that we would be telling stories about him all these years later. So many people affected. Such a worldly presence. A man and a company that means so much to so many. Mickey Mouse, Oswald The Rabbit, The Alice Comedy Series, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs… and on and on. Perhaps he knew what he was doing? Perhaps he knew what he was creating?
The exec producers (Armando and Arthur), cast, crew and production team definitely knew how special this opportunity was for all of us. We knew how important it would be to tell the best story possible and just like Walt, do it under financial constraints. Like Walt, we persevered and made it through to the finish line. It’s a feat that we are all extremely proud of.
Now, here’s hoping that all of you will go see it and feel the same way that we do about the film.
“A dream is a wish your heart makes.”
Visit us at www.Kvibe.com/Walt-Before-Mickey, check out the official movie site here to pre-order your DVD copy of the film, and follow Khoa and I as we take you on our continued journey into independent filmmaking.
Don’t forget, next up for us is Brandini – The Film, a story about a young man who sacrifices his family, his friends, his livelihood and love in order to follow his heart. www.Kvibe.com/Brandinifilm
Well, after 18 months of waiting, Walt Before Mickey, finally had it’s premiere festival release at The SkyWay International Film Festival on Friday June 12th. It was a rousing success. The film was extremely well received and we got so much great feedback from industry professionals and theatre goers alike. They couldn’t believe the film that we were able to produce under such a low budget. Yes, indeed! We made a film for $500k and made it look like $7 million.
The only way that you can do that is with a dedicated team and a willingness to work overtime in order to make something work. Well, we had both. We had a dedicated crew who believed in our director, Khoa Le, and production team as well as the special subject matter that we were tackling. Yes, we had a great responsibility to tell a very important story about a very important individual, Walt Disney himself. That’s what made us all work diligently to make sure that we captured every little ounce of that era that we could. I think we did him justice.
Thomas Ian Nicholas did an outstanding job as Walt and there were some very great supporting performances as well. Namely, Jodie Sweetin, who did a great job as Charlotte Disney. Here is an article of our opening night premiere, highlighting her appearance at the Skyway International Film Festival.
We also had plenty of other well known actors in it, like Jon Heder, David Henrie, Hunter Gomez, Taylor Gray, Conor Dubin, Natasha Sherritt, Ayla Kell and, of course, me, Frank Licari as the villain. It was a fantastic cast. Shout out to Executive producers Armando Gutierrez and Arthur Bernstein for having the initial vision to recognize that this story needed to be told and giving us all an opportunity to work on such a great project.
A special shout out to Joe Stone and Jay Weber for doing such a great job in Art Direction and to Beverly Safer for doing an outstanding job on costuming. Amazing talent!
There is so much more excitement to come. Khoa and I are already in the midst of searching for investors for our next project, entitled Brandini. It’s going to be a beautifully inspirational story about music, love, family, determination, hope and passion. We can’t wait to start pre-production.
Don’t forget to visit www.Kvibe.com/walt-before-mickey and www.Kvibe.com/BrandiniFilm for all of the information on our current and future projects, and check out the official Walt Before Mickey site to pre-order your DVD copy of the film..
One of the challenges of casting a piece where you are trying to stay true to “real” people or historical figures is that you have a point of reference on their lives that you must abide by. Not only do you want to be true to their character, personality, background, etc. but you are forced to take into account their physical appearance. Obviously, if you did a film on President Obama, you couldn’t cast Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford to the play the president, regardless of how talented you think they are. You would need someone who resembles him in some way so as not to be forced to suspend disbelief so much so that it affects the integrity of the story.
Well, in Walt Before Mickey, we had this issue on more than one occasion. Not only did we have to match Walt (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Roy (Jon Heder) as brothers whom we’ve seen in pictures thousands of times but we also had to match Walt in three stages of his life. We had to get young male actors who could feasibly be him at 7 years old and at 13 years old. We also had to match other characters in the film to their real life counterparts. This all adds to the authenticity of the picture.
One of our most important things was making sure that Lillian Disney (Kate Katzman), Walt’s wife looked like the real Lillian. Well, our lovely leading lady, Kate, had the most beautiful “Blue” eyes and blonde hair which would not have worked. So, other than the obvious brown haired wig that we could use, we also had to use colored contacts for her and it completely changed her look. It also, by no surprise, was very uncomfortable for her to work with and changed her expression quite a bit.
I know that, sitting with her on set, she complained that it was totally different seeing through the colored contacts and it affected her quite a bit. In the end, she soldiered through and was able to stay true to the character. As an actor, it’s always quite a sight to be see yourself in pictures or on screen, looking totally unlike yourself. However, sometimes it can truly help to be able to not only create the character’s life internally and find their voice but also, with the help of costume, wigs, makeup and accessories transform yourself physically for a role.
Growing up in the acting world, my favorite actors were never the personality actors, the ones who looked and sounded the same in every role but I had much more appreciation for the character actors who weren’t afraid to completely embody another person’s looks forsaking their own good looks and comfort.
In the end, it’s just another piece of the story telling puzzle that adds validity, integrity and truth to the final product.
Don’t forget to come and see Khoa and I and the rest of the Walt Before Mickey family at the Skyway International Film Festival on June 12th-14th in Bradenton Florida; the first official screening of a Khoa Le and Frank Licari collaboration. Although it wasn’t our production and we weren’t the ones in control, it certainly became our baby and we hope to see you all there.
A few milestones were reached this week. Brandini, my latest film, a collaboration with Kvibe Productions, LLC is now complete and our developmental reading went unbelievably. The actors all did a fantastic job and it gave me the opportunity to put the finishing touches upon the 2nd draft. We are now ready for the financing stage and will begin attaching names shortly. Please check out the Facebook page and join us on the journey to making our next film. Our wish list includes Danny Glover and Ariana Grande. Lofty goals indeed but definitely doable.
AND, we just found out that Walt Before Mickey will be premiering in Miami on June 11th! The next day we will be premiering at the Skyway International Film Festival in Bradenton, FL. Obviously, to premiere a film about Walt Disney’s life in Florida makes perfect sense, specifically in an area around Orlando where we not only shot the movie but a place that Walt, indirectly, made famous. It’s going to be a real treat seeing our little film on the big screen for the first time. I will be very interested to see how the public receives it. Obviously, with a film like this, it’s quite a responsibility to get it right. There are so many Disney fans both young and old, American and Foreign that will be looking forward to this. I have always felt a great responsibility to make sure that we make a good film that people can enjoy. I hope that we accomplished that goal. This team worked very hard for this moment and now it’s finally here. Kudos to the executive producers, producing team and all the folks responsible for the post production including our sound/music designers and editors and each and every cast member. Khoa and I couldn’t be happier. We did it!
Visit the official Walt Before Mickey site to pre-order your DVD copy of the film.
So, in filmmaking, it is always said that you want as much “coverage” as possible. To a lay person, what does that mean? Well, it means that you’d like as many angles of the scene you are shooting as you can. Wide Shots, Medium Shots, Close Ups, Two Shots, Single Shots, Establishing shots, Medium Close, etc. As much as you can give a director and an editor, the more they have to work with come editing time. This gives the storytellers, more ways to actually tell the story on film. It keeps it interesting.
Well, when you are working on a “Smaller” budget project, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of shooting for 30, 60, 90 days on a film. No, sometimes, you only get 18-23 days as was the case on Walt Before Mickey. Khoa and I were faced with budget constraints. So, how do you save yourself time when you need to? How do you make sure that your executive producers “i.e. the money guys” are happy? Well, you find ways to do less coverage, thus taking less time, thus spending less money, thus getting the project done in the time allotted.
In the film, you’ll notice that there’s only one scene in the film that is shot with only one camera and one angle. It’s the one above. In this scene, the Disney brothers debate on why the company should be called “Walt Disney” as opposed to the Disney Brothers. Walt argues with Roy, telling him that people call the studio who do they assume is in charge? The older brother, of course. He also states, “they’ve taken the rights to everything else I create (meaning Mintz and The Winklers), at least let me have my name on the films.” Roy relinquishes, and the rest, as they say, is history.
This was the only scene that Khoa decided could be handled with only one angle. In doing so, I believe that Khoa was able to convey a classic show down where no one has the upper hand. The camera doesn’t favor either brother. It also shows them isolated from the others and that brings out the true tone of the scene.
Don’t expect anymore of these types of one shot scenes but when you watch the film, I think you’ll appreciate why this was the only one! Enjoy and to learn more, check out www.Kvibe.com/Walt-Before_Mickey or www.QuiteFranklyShow.com and visit the official Walt Before Mickey site to pre-order a DVD copy of the film.
One of the things that makes our movie look so authentic is the costumes. We had a wonderful costumer for Walt Before Mickey and we had the right location. The other thing that we had was the use of period picture cars. Now, of course, we could have used 10-12 in this picture. I’ll let you figure out how many cars that we actually had.
What I will let you in on, is the BTS story of the picture above. In this scene, Walt lets Edna know that everything is going to be okay with Roy and not to worry about him. Notice the car behind him with the driver who is looking on interested in what is happening. Well, that driver is none other than… no, it’s not some famous baseball player or politician or celebrity performing a cameo role… no, it is, in fact, the actual owner of the car. That car was delivered to set not more than an hour before we started shooting. We had a devil of a time getting picture cars for this shoot. So, we let him be in the film. We put a period coat and hat on him and the rest was his own wardrobe since we didn’t have time to actually fit him for clothes before hand. Luckily, the man (I can’t remember his name) looks the part and no one will ever question it. Khoa and I did everything we could to keep the film looking authentic.
These types of things happen all of the time in independent films especially when you under financial constraints as well as time AND when the driver won’t let anyone else drive his car.
More to come, and to pre-order a DVD copy of the film, visit the official Walt Before Mickey site.