GOOD MORNING: Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland will undergo a golden transformation between the hours of 10 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. Thursday. That’s when Julie Andrews, worldwide ambassador for the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, will push a button launching the 50th anniversary global celebration of Disneyland. Bob Iger makes the opening remarks followed by Art Linkletter, who was on hand for the opening 50 years ago. Following will be live feeds from the parks in Japan, Hong Kong and Paris (with Gerard Depardieu) and Wayne Brady from Disneyworld in Florida and Kermit the Frog from the Disney cruise ship. Next, Michael Eisner welcomes and intros Andrews. I spoke with Julie about her relationship with Walt which dated back to her stand in “Camelot” on B’way in 1961. He came backstage and offered her the role in “Mary Poppins.” “But I’m pregnant,” she said. “We’ll wait,” Walt told her. And the rest is history. She says, “Who knew this visionary man with pixie dust in his pocket and a sparkle in his eye would change the life of this then 27-year-old forever more.” But she didn’t work for Disney again for 40 years — in “The Princess Diaries.” Julie did an extra on-camera stint for Disney in the two-disc “Mary Poppins” DVD in which she filmed the P.L. Travers short, “The Cat That Looked at a King.” The success of this DVD has resulted in Julie doing a ditto double DVD , this one for Fox on “Sound of Music’s ” 40th anni with a scene to be shot with Christopher Plummer and children … Disneyland’s 50th anni edition DVD “Disneyland: Then, Now and Forever” includes 50 interviews hosted by Julie. Here are a few: Diane, Ron, Roy E. Disney, Eisner, Richard Cook and George Lucas.
WHEN I SPOKE to Max Schell Monday, (about directing “Der Rosenkavalier” for the L.A. Opera), I also asked about his sister Maria. He had been caring for her during her lengthy illness and told me, “I visit her every day — she lives but 50 meters from my house (in Austria).” We reminisced about his “achingly poignant” film portrait of her, “My Sister Maria” (2003), in which he showed the tragedy of her life’s medical history–as well as her artistic triumphs. She died Tuesday and Max wings home for Saturday’s funeral, returning Monday to go on with the opera which bows May 29. Wednesday, Max told me “She is irreplaceable. She was my idol.” He added, “actors don’t die–they are preserved in their films.” I had met Maria in her glory days in Hollywood and, like Gary Cooper and Marlon Brando were, I was bowled over by her soft beauty. … On Sunday, a memorial for writer-producer Paul Henning will be held 1 p.m. at the Writers Guild Theater. He died March 23 at age 93. His credits range from TV’s “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Petticoat Junction” to bigscreeners “Lover Come Back” ( Doris Day and Rock Hudson) and “Bedtime Story (Marlon Brando and David Niven). Film clips will be shown plus reminiscences by Art Linkletter and Paul’s daughter, actress Linda Kaye Henning.
RUPERT MURDOCH is qualified to have joined fellow cast members in the celebration of “The Simpsons'” 350th seg on Fox’s New York Street — Murdoch guestarred in the Jan. 31, 1999 seg, identifying himself as “the billionaire tyrant.” Six segs for the 17th “Simpsons” season are written — by a staff of about 20 writers with two rooms going all the time … Bigscreen action of knights of yore comes to terra firma at –Legoland on May 29. The Carlsbad park will launch a new ride combining the medieval and modern with rides boasting 15-foot long robotic arms … After chairing the dinner for the past 12 years, and working tirelessly to find a cure for MS, Tom and Madeleine Sherak will be honored at this year’s Dinner of Champions Sept. 16 at the Kodak Theater. Also being saluted, with the Dorothy Corwin Spirit of Life award, is Richard Cohen , author of “Blindsided,” his account of his 30-year battle with MS … Air America’s “Al Franken Show” with Franken and Katherine Lanpher heads to Seattle May 9 and on to the Friars Club of BevHills May 13 from 9 a.m. to noon, live on KTLK-AM 1150. An SRO house is expected here … Amy Ephron, on tour with her book “One Sunday Morning” (William Morrow), takes a hiatus from the trek as she and attorney Alan Rader of O’Melveny and Meyers marry June 4 at home in Brentwood … While celebs head out this time of year to speak at commencement exercises, Dawn Wells (“Gilligan’s Island”) has founded her own college, the Idaho Film and Television Institute, accredited by Idaho State University, to train students in film and television crafts. With funding from state and local agencies, Wells bought a building in Driggs, Idaho, to create a state of the art facility She has also formed a separate company called Tri-Power Studios to rent filmmaking facilities up there. Last year, she initiated the Spudfest Film and Music Family in Idaho as a fundraiser for the institute. An expanded version is planned for August.