Friday, September 4, 2015

A Fond Goodbye to a Disney Legend

 I know, my site is turning into an obituary column this week. Hopefully, we'll have a much needed break after this devastating wave of tragic losses.  And, hopefully later today, I'll have some fun Force Friday posts for ya. This one though, this is a big one for me.



Dean Jones
(1931-2015)





You should know by now that I'm a huge Disney fan. This extends beyond the animated features, even the really old animated features. Most of my friends probably don't even know who Dean Jones is, since most don't even realize Disney made live-action films before The Pirates of the Caribbean, Santa Clause, and High School Musical came around. Of course, most of my friends these days are in their 20's. I'm single, I play video games, watch cartoons, collect toys, don't have any kids (heck, I've barely had a few dates), so, yeah, I fit in better with folks nearly half my age, ha. And I'm not really trying to make this about me. But then, it sorta is in a way. That's why I am posting it on my page. It's something that affects me. This isn't a generic site that just posts the latest pop culture news.

Someone, a nice enough someone, I'm sure, one of my Instagram followers in fact, really irked me yesterday by commenting one of those "Ugh" kinda comments on my post about Jones' death. It was one of those comments modern people make to make themselves feel like they're doing something to improve society somehow, basically saying, "Why should we give 'celebrity' deaths special notice? People die every day! What about animals being slaughtered daily? Isn't that important?" That's not an exact quote, but it's pretty close. Now, here's the thing about that. First, I love animals, but let's nip that in the bud. I value a human's life more. Sometimes it's pretty close, but I have to have developed a close relationship with that animal. I eat animals daily, and I feel no guilt about it, because animals eat animals daily, and I have canine teeth too. I do not like that animals suffer. I wish chicken grew on trees. I prefer to buy organic and free range products whenever I can afford to. But, why am I even going on about this? It's ridiculous and disrespectful to the deceased. I love animals. They are not as important as people. And I say that as someone who in general does like animals more than people. Make sense of that if you can, but it does make sense to me. And I don't mean it in a weird way. Moving on.

People, yes, every day people, die all the time. I don't know most of them, so I'm not constantly posting about them on Instagram. If a family member of mine died, I would post about it on Instagram maybe, and I think most normal people would understand that. These are people that were part of my life. Sometimes, they were a big part of my life, sometimes not so much. Why do I post some celeb deaths then? These artists, these actors and performers of various sorts, they had an affect on my life. Sometimes, they were so heavily a part of my life it's like they really were family. I think most honest people can understand that. Dean Jones was one of these people for me. 

Dean Jones was one of the Disney golden boys. He starred in a bunch of Disney films from the 60's and 70's. When I grew up with the Disney Channel in the 1980's, back when the Disney Channel was far superior, more mature (well, compared to now) and just MUCH better in every way you can possibly imagine (well, it was a subscription channel back then, which says a lot), Dean Jones movies were played on it constantly. The greatest of these, unquestionably, was The Love Bug. 




I mean, it had the same director as Mary Poppins, the same gorgeous, painted backdrops... The villain was even the dad from Mary Poppins! This film was top of the line Disney, a classic in every sense. Hard to believe a movie about a little Volkswagen bug with a mind of its own could be such a work of art, but it was, and one of the things that made these classic Disney films so amazing was the acting. Dean Jones was among the greats in that department. His friendly but easily agitated, often in over his head every man persona may have typecast him a bit, now that I think about it, but he was fantastic at it. He basically was Disney's comedic straight man, teamed with the likes of living cars, unruly dogs, mischievous cats, olive-picking chimps chimps, pirate ghosts, ducks that laid golden eggs... oh yes, and Buddy Hackett. Jones was often a very similar character, sometimes with varying levels of cocky pride sure to be reigned in, but I'm tellin' ya, he was extremely charismatic and the best at what he did. Walt Disney saw that in him too. 




Now, if you're younger than me, you might only remember Dean Jones as the evil veterinarian from the original Beethoven film. As old as that film is, that was a much older Jones than the one I had grown up watching in Disney films. Jones did a lot of non-Disney films, but I didn't know him from any of that stuff. I know him from awesome family comedies like That Darn Cat...




Blackbeard's Ghost...




Probably my all-time favorite, The Shaggy D.A....




As well as Snowball Express, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, The Ugly Dachshund, Million Dollar Duck and Monkeys, Go Home. He was also in Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit, a Disney film I have yet to see (even though Disney used to play that one too). I don't THINK that one is a comedy. I'll be sure to pick up the DVD as soon as I can. I do highly recommend Blackbeard's Ghost for the upcoming Halloween season as a fun way to honor Jones's memory.

Dean returned to drive Herbie again in 1982 for a very short-lived Love Bug television series that was on YouTube last I checked. He also reprised his Jim Douglas role a final time for a small cameo in the Bruce Campbell starring Love Bug of 1997. It's a really cute and forgotten Herbie sequel made for TV, featuring two cast members from "The Mummy", Herbie's magical origin story, an evil twin Volkswagen, and a very touching moment between old pals Jim and Herbie. The only things that sucked about it were the totally lack of Herbie's theme music (which would have made it amazing, actually) and the fact that it was titled The Love Bug, so everyone was referring to it as a remake. It's a sequel, folks. And I do recommend it.

Oh, and before I forget, check this YouTube video out...



It's a 1982 musical Disney TV special sponsored by Kraft and starring Dean Jones, his original Love Bug love, Michelle Lee, a dreamy Dana Plato (well, I always thought so, and yes, I know about her sad end), Ricky Schroder, and more celebrating Disney World's 10th anniversary! The highlight is a young Michael Keaton, ha. Just so unexpected. It's pretty bad, but if you're a Disney nut like me, it's a fun watch.

Dean Jones was also a star on Broadway and founder of the Christian Rescue Committee, an organization for helping people of various belief systems "escape persecution for their faith". What that's actually about, I don't know, but I do know he was an outspoken Christian since the 70's until his death. I suppose he always reminded me a bit of my own dad due to this and his general sincerity, fatherly voice, and big, friendly grin. Dean Jones passed away from Parkinson's Disease on September 1, 2015. He will be fondly remembered and deeply missed.





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