Thursday, July 11, 2024

Packed with Laughs: Classic Sitcoms on Vacation

by Michael Lyons


Summer vacations are a funny thing. We can plan and plan for a year, and still, it may never be perfect. A lot can go wrong.


Some of television's most famous sitcoms know that very well, and when the characters in those sitcoms have gone on vacation, funny things happen:


I Love Lucy, The California Episodes, 1955


For half the fourth season and part of the fifth season of I Love Lucy, Lucy (Lucille Ball), Ricky (Desi Arnaz), Ethel (Vivian Vance), and Fred (William Frawley) travel cross country from New York to Hollywood, California, as Ricky has been offered a part in a big studio movie.


There episodes focusing on the trials and tribulations of getting to California, including a stop in Tennessee where they meet cousin Ernie (played hysterically by singer Tennessee Ernie Ford).


Then, when they finally arrive in California, there is episode after episode featuring some of Hollywood's biggest stars, including William Holden, John Wayne, and Richard Widmark, playing themselves in some of the classic sitcom's most famous and funniest episodes.


The Odd Couple, Felix, The Calypso Singer, 1971


Oscar (Jack Klugman) books a Caribbean vacation to the island of "Hockaloma" with Nancy (Joan Hotchkis), but when she has to cancel at the last minute, he takes Felix (Tony Randall).


When Nancy is able to come, Oscar pushes Felix aside, and the guilt trip Felix provides Oscar is all of the fun, as is the disastrous location Oscar has booked for his vacation. "Who else would buy a package tour of Devil's Island?!" asks Felix of Oscar.


All ends well, including Felix singing a calypso song in the dilapidated resort that is a true earworm you'll be humming for days after. 


The Brady Bunch, The Hawaii Episodes, 1972


Talk about a classic sitcom's most famous episodes - this three-parter where Mike Brady (Robert Reed) is sent to Hawaii on business and takes the whole bunch with him is one of the best.


While in Hawaii, the Bradys find a tiki idol that brings them bad luck, such as Greg (Barry Williams) wiping out in a surfing contest, a tarantula crawling into the hotel room and onto Peter's (Christopher Knight) bed, and Alice (Ann B. Davis) throwing her hip out while doing the hula.


The boys feel they have to return the idol to a cave to break the spell and encounter a mysterious stranger, played by none other than guest star Vincent Price.


This is oh-so-Hawaiian, oh-so-70s, oh-so-Bradys and oh-so-rewatchable, again and again.


Full House, The House Meets the Mouse, 1993


Never has there been a more innocent, unrealistic, and, yet completely entertaining visit to Walt Disney World.


Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) takes the whole "House" to Disney, and things don't go right, but they're still magical in this multi-part episode. Michelle (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) is dubbed Princess of the Day at Magic Kingdom Park, DJ (Candace Cameron Bure) thinks she sees her boyfriend Steve as Aladdin in the parade at the then Disney-MGM Studios (incidentally, Scott Weinger, who played Steve, was also the voice of Aladdin in Disney's 1992 animated feature) and Jessie (John Stamos) gets to sing "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" in front of Cinderella Castle, after which Danny proposes to Gail (Vicky Larson) as the fireworks fill the sky.


"The House Meets the Mouse" is remembered fondly...make that the generation who grew up with the series. And why not? It's full of such feel-good '90s Disney nostalgia. After watching it, you will immediately want to book your next Walt Disney World Vacation.



Hopefully, these episodes, and others out there, will help you prepare to enjoy your summer vacation this year. And, if all doesn't go as planned, well, as these sitcoms promise, you can always look back and laugh.

Looking for something to read or listen to on your vacation? Check out my articles, podcasts and books at Words From Lyons !






Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Star Spangled Sayings: Perfect July 4th Movie Quotes

 by Michael Lyons

From the gastronomical heights of a grilled hot dog to the "oohs" and "ahhs" of watching fireworks, Independence Day brings with it, through good times and challenging times, moments of reflection, relaxation, and appreciation.

In addition to all the more traditional...well...traditions, movie lovers have certain "go-to" movies for July 4th. Each of them brings memorable, patriotic quotes that are perfect for the day.

Here are some of the familiar and not so familiar that can help with your Fourth festivities:

"Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books...Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't, I can, and my children will."

 - Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

"Be careful, Mr. Dickinson. Those who would give up some of their liberty in order to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety."

 - 1776 (1972)

"You yell barracuda, everyone says, 'Huh? What? You yell shark, and we've got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July."

- Jaws (1975)

"Patriotism swells in the heart of the American bear."

 - The Muppet Movie (1979)

"I want, what they want, and every other guy who came over here and spilled his guts and gave everything he had, wants! For our country to love us, as much as we love it!"

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

"He makes me melt like a popsicle on the Fourth of July."

The Little Rascals (1994)

"Perhaps it's fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom... not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution... but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: "We will not go quietly into the night!" We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!"

 - Independence Day (1996)

"Oh my god! You look like the Fourth of July. Makes me want a hot dog real bad."

 - Legally Blond 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003)

and, of course...

"I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy

A Yankee Doodle do or die

A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam

Born on the Fourth of July!"

 - Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

So many more movies out there - all of them watchable, quotable and perfect for Independence Day.

Wishing everyone a Safe and Happy Fourth of July!

Enjoy more articles, podcasts and my new book, Magic Moments at Words From Lyons !

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Prime Time Patriarchy: Classic Sitcom Episodes About Dad

by Michael Lyons 


Put down that spatula, Dad. It's Father's Day, your day, and our turn to grill for you.

Fathers do so much for us, and in addition to wisdom and love, there's also a lot of laughs.

Sitcoms know that, especially classic sitcoms. And there have been a lot of them that have celebrated dads, each in their own unique, humorous way.

Left to right: Robert Young and Billy Gray in
Father Knows Best. 


"Bud Takes Up the Dance," Father Knows Best,  October 3, 1954

One of the best sitcom dads (just look at the title!).

In this, the debut episode of the series, father Jim Anderson (Robert Young) discovers that his son, Bud (Billy Gray) is nervous about going to a school dance because he can't dance. Jim also finds that Marcia (Susan Whitney), the girl Bud asked to the dance, also can't dance.

What's a father to do? Well, Jim teaches both of them to dance.

Pure innocence, and definitely of another time. However, the show's lack of cynicism and genuine spirit is refreshing and comforting to watch. It's no wonder Robert Young's Jim Anderson is still one of TV's most beloved dads.

Left to right: Florence Henderson, Robert Reed
and Maureen McCormick in The Brady Bunch.

"Father of the Year," The Brady Bunch, Jan 2, 1970

It's a very "Brady Bunch" episode of The Brady Bunch. Marcia (Maureen McCormick) wants to nominate Mr. Brady (Robert Reed) for a local Father of the Year award but wants to keep it a secret and a surprise.

However, to do this, Marcia has to break some household rules, which gets her punished. But, all is forgiven when...


Thanks to Marcia's essay, Mr. Brady is named Father of the Year, which makes a nice statement about blended families. When Dad and daughter reconcile at the end, only a hardened cynic would scoff at this Brady Bunch's earnest sentimentality. 

Left to right: Pamelyn Ferdin, Tony Randall,
James Van Patten and Jack Krugman in
The Odd Couple


"Good Boy, Bad Boy, The Odd Couple, Feb 11, 1972

Felix (Tony Randall) becomes a big brother to a young man at a reform school and believes that these troubled youth should be given a second chance...until one of them asks out his daughter, Edna (Pamelyn Ferdin). Felix has to cloak his hypocrisy.

This leads to some hysterical, overprotective Dad moments and dialogue:

Oscar (Jack Klugman): "Would you feel better if she knew the facts of life?"

Felix: Well, I...I...

Oscar: All right, get Gloria [Felix's ex-wife] to tell her.

Felix: No!

Oscar: Why not?!? Gloria told you! 

Robert Prosky and Kirstie Alley in Cheers.


"Daddy's Little Middle-Aged Girl, Cheers, Dec 10, 1992

Rebecca's (Kirstie Alley) tough-as-nails father, Naval Captain Robert Howe (Robert Prosky), comes to visit. While in Boston, he tells Rebecca that he feels that she has screwed up her life and should move back home. If Rebecca doesn't, he will cut off the allowance he still gives her.

However, there's a very humorous twist...


...Rebecca and her mother are in cahoots to ensure that Rebecca keeps her adult allowance, which Dad relents at the end of an episode that shows we never stop being a parent.

Left to right: Ray Romano, Peter Boyle and
Brad Garrett in Everybody Loves Raymond.


"Frank's Tribute, Everybody Loves Raymond, Feb 8, 1999

Ray (Ray Romano) and his brother Robert (Brad Garrett) are trying to put together a tribute for their father, Frank (Peter Boyle), at his lodge. They attempt to get testimonials from Frank's lodge buddies. The only problem? None of Frank's fellow lodge members like him!

The lengths the brothers have to go to splice together snippets of what the lodge members say to create something positive is hysterical. There's also a touching sequence at the end between Frank and Marie (Doris Roberts).

With this, and every episode, Everybody Loves Raymond reveals what we already know - nobody loves and "gets" our father and family better than we do.


So, like these sitcom episodes teach us, take some time to laugh with and love your dad!

Happy Father's Day!

This summer, check out my website.Words From Lyons for more articles, podcasts and to learn more about my new book, Magic Moments!






Thursday, June 6, 2024

Hot, Hazy & Hollywood, Part Three: Looking Back at the Summer Movie Season of 1984, Forty Years Later

Clockwise: the movie posters for Ghostbusters, Gremlins,
Purple Rain, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.


by Michael Lyons

The 1980s was a "Golden Age" for summer movies. During that decade, some of the most popular movies of all time, many of them involving the names Spielberg and Lucas, were released.

An "epicenter" of sorts for this "Golden Age" was the summer of 1984, when a number of movies were released that were not only blockbusters then but continue to send ripples through our pop culture to this day.

This is the final part of a three-part article that looks at three different and significant summers that changed the movie landscape. All of them happen to be celebrating anniversaries this year. The last two weeks revisited the summer movie seasons of 1994 and 1989. Now, we celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the summer movie season of 1984.

As it did for many years, Memorial Day Weekend kicked off the summer movie season,  and in 1984, it did, and in a big way, too, with a prequel to one of the most popular movies of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom brought back Harrison Ford as the iconic titular character, everyone's favorite adventuring archeologist. Both director Steven Spielberg and creator/producer George Lucas returned as Indy, along with Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) and Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), find themselves trapped in the temple from the title.

Harrison for in Indiana Jones
and the Temple of Doom.

While there, they attempt to free themselves and kidnapped children from an evil cult. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was a tremendous hit and was the biggest opening weekend of the year. In the process, chilled monkey brains and hearts were pulled out of chests in scenes so intense that the MPAA rating system was changed to include a new rating - PG13.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom wasn't the only movie in the summer of 1984 to influence the ratings system, and it wasn't even the only Spielberg movie to impact ratings. Just several weeks later, Gremlins, which Spielberg produced, and Joe Dante directed, contained intense, albeit cartoony, scenes that also led to the PG13 rating.

The story was of a young man named Billy (Zach Galligan) gifted a Mogwai as a Christmas present. The little creature is oh-so-cute, but there are rules, and if they are broken, the little creature turns into a malevolent little monster who winds up getting unleashed on a small town.

Gizmo in Gremlins.

A fusion of Looney Tunes and classic Christmas movies, Gremlins was, and still is, unlike anything ever seen, with creatures and scenes that remain imprinted on our pop culture.

Another stamp on our pop culture, Star Trek, returned to theaters with number III: The Search for Spock, the follow-up to the popular comeback sequel, The Wrath of Kahn. The third film marked Leonard Nimoy's directorial debut, and its solid story and emotion, not to mention box-office success, cleared the way for more movies in the franchise. 

Left to Right: DeForrest Kelly, Walter Koenig,
William Shatner, James Doohan and George Takei
in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Somewhere after Spock and the same day as Gremlins, the summer movie season 1984 was turned upside down, or should I say, slimed, when Ghostbusters opened.  In a summer crowded with big titles and names, no one saw Ivan Reitman's supernatural comedy starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramos, and Ernie Hudson coming. But, the humor and the all-out fun of seeing it in a crowded theater, with everyone laughing so hard they drowned out dialogue on the screen, made Ghostbusters one of the most surprising blockbusters in movie history.

Left to right: Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and
Harold Ramis in Ghostbusters.

The film became a phenomenon. Ghostbusters was everywhere, with radio stations constantly playing Ray Parker, Jr.'s theme song and everyone quoting the oh-so-quotable film. The summer of '84 belonged to Ghostbusters. It became the highest-grossing film of 1984, spawned sequels, and remains as popular today as it was 40 years ago.

Just as music was a part of Ghostbusters' success, music also played a significant part in the success and impact of another film released in the summer of 1984, during the height of the MTV era. Prince's Purple Rain remains the musical for a generation.

Prince in Purple Rain.

The story of "the Kid" (Prince), battling his family's demons and a rival band (led by the hilarious Morris Day), brought with it such legendary songs as "Let's Go Crazy," "When Doves Cry," and the title ballad song.
 Purple Rain is a dynamic example of a movie musical, not just for its time but for any.

The summer of 1984 also brought director Michael Cimino's epic crime saga, Once Upon a Time in America, and director Walter Hill's original Streets of Fire; and there was the outrageous Airplane follow-up, Top Secret!

Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid.

The Karate Kid, with Ralph Machio and Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, taught us to "wax on/wax off," in a story that still lives on today in the streaming series Cobra Kai; Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton tried to make beautiful music together in Rhinestone, and pre-double Oscar winner Tom Hanks starred in Bachelor Party.

Arnold Schwarzenegger returned in Conan the Destroyer; computer effects got a test run by The Last Starfighter; New York got invaded when The Muppets Take Manhattan, and generations got traumatized by The NeverEnding Story.

Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy in
The Muppets Take Manhattan.

It was an excellent week to be a geek when Revenge of the Nerds debuted, and one of the last films of the summer, Red Dawn, which centered on a Soviet invasion of America, was the first film to be rated PG-13.

Forty years ago. What. A. Summer. If you were there for the summer of '84 (as this writer, who graduated high school that summer was and remembers it vividly), you knew it was special.

All of the summers revisited in this three-part series - 1994, 1989, 1984 - reflect a time when anticipation built for movies and excitement overflowed into crowded movie theaters (still and always the best way to see a movie). And, amid the relaxation of poolside, the heat of sand at the beach, the fragrance of suntan lotion, the welcome chill of air conditioning, and the freedom of days without school and work, movies are one more welcome escape during this time of year.

No matter how movies may shift and change, through peaks and valleys, three words will always be magic to movie fans everywhere:

Summer Movie Season!

My new book, Magic Moments: Stories, Lessons and Memories from a Twenty-Year Career at Walt Disney World is now available at Amazon!

For more of my article, podcasts, presentations and products, head over to Words From Lyons !




Thursday, May 30, 2024

Hot, Hazy & Hollywood Part Two: Looking Back at the Summer Movie Season of 1989, 35 Years Later


Clockwise: the posters for Ghostbusters II, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids 
Batman, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. 

by Michael Lyons

Some movies change how we go to the movies. One such movie was released in the summer of 1989.

This is the second part of a three-part article that looks back at three significant summer movie seasons, all celebrating anniversaries this year. Last week was the summer movie season of 1994, thirty years later. This week, it's a time travel back to the summer movie season 1989, as it celebrates 35 years.

In the eighties, summer movie seasons roared through our lives like a never-ending freight train of Fridays that carried one blockbuster movie after another. The summers of the 1980s saw some of the biggest movies of all time, including two of the original Star Wars filmsas well as E.T. and Back to the Future.

The last summer of the '80s was like a grand finale to all of this, bringing mammoth movies that packed theaters and generated pre-release excitement that everyone, even the most casual moviegoer, was talking about.

And it all kicked off, as summer movie seasons used to, on Memorial Day weekend, with the return of that icon of '80s summer movie blockbusters, Indiana Jones.

The collaborative magic of those two box-office wizards, who had both brought a sense of wonder back to movies - George Lucas and Steven Spielberg - coupled with that everlasting movie star - Harrison Ford, had gifted us with Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 and its sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984.

The whip-cracking archeologist soon became a pop culture persona of the highest order and a movie hero on the Mount Rushmore of action movies. With this, it's safe to say that the third installment, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, had been eagerly awaited. The addition of the original James Bond himself, Sean Connery, playing Indy's father in the film, only added to the furor of every film fanatic.

Harrison Ford and Sean Connery in
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Added to this was the news that this would be the last Indiana Jones installment (if we only knew...); it's no wonder that Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade broke the record for the biggest Memorial Day Weekend box office, which it held until The Flintstones in 1994.

However, Indy's box-office record was short-lived, as it was "scared off" by another sequel to another major 80s summer movie, Ghostbusters II, which bowed in theaters less than a month later. 

Director Ivan Reitman's 1984 spirited comedy starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramos, and Ernie Hudson ignited popularity with fans patiently waiting for the Ghostbusters to return.  Return they did, in a sequel that zoomed into theaters like the Echo-1 with its sirens blaring (the ghost in the film's logo was even re-branded in an eye-catching pose with "two" fingers held up).

Left to right: Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, 
Dank Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson in Ghostbusters II

Many viewed the sequel as a disappointment, as it was met with generally negative reviews. So much so that it took twenty-eight years for a "reboot" and thirty-two years for a true sequel (which allowed for another this year and the potential for a new franchise). Despite this, Ghostbusters II blasted all other box-office competition, including Last Crusade, setting another box-office record.

But that record would only stand for a week when the movie mentioned above that changed how we go to the movies was released...


You couldn't escape Batman. That indelible Bat-signal logo, now so iconic, was everywhere you looked. In early 1989, a quick teaser trailer debuted in theaters, with the first glimpse of Michael Keaton (such divisive casting at the time) as Batman, Jack Nicholson (such perfect casting) as Joker, and Tim Burton's take on the mythic comic.

Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson in Batman.

The months, weeks, and days leading up to Batman's bow in theaters became like the countdown to a holiday. Going to a midnight screening on Thursday evening (as this writer did) was like attending a concert. The audience's excitement was palpable.

It became "Batman summer."

Through their promotion, Warner Bros and producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber turned Batman into more than a movie; it was an event! If you missed out on Batman that summer, you felt you were missing out.

And it changed the moviegoing experience. This "event movie" became the model in Hollywood for the next decade, especially when it came to summer movies  (Jurassic ParkThe Lion King, and Independence Day, just to name a few), and it all started with Batman

Summer of '89 was also the summer of surprise hits, and the biggest of these was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Disney returned to its Dean Jones-Fred MacMurray-live-action roots with the story of a scientist (Rick Moranis) who accidentally miniaturizes his kids.

Marcia Strassman and Rick Moranis in
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Even though opening the same day as BatmanHoney, I Shrunk the Kids found its audience, scored big at the box office, and is fondly remembered by the generation who ventured out to theaters to see it that summer.

The films that filled out the line-up alongside these box-office hits were equally impressive films that could have filled a summer themselves. They included the more dramatic, Oscar-season-worthy Dead Poets Society starring Robin Williams; William Shatner's directorial debut with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier; Spike Lee's brilliant and still oh-so-relevant Do The Right Thing.

Spike Lee and Danny Aiello
in Do the Right Thing.

Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, with Joe Pesci in tow, returned for Lethal Weapon 2; things were dead at the beach in Weekend at Bernie’s; Bond was back, in the form of Timothy Dalton in License to Kill; everyone wanted to "have what she's having" with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally.

Danny Glover, Joe Pesci and Mel Gibson
in Lethal Weapon 2.

Ron Howard gathered an all-star cast, including Steve Martin, Diane Wiest, Mary Steenburgen, and Rick Moranis (MVP for summer movie season '89) in Parenthood; Tom Hanks went to the dogs in Turner & Hooch; James Cameron took his first foray into the, then, emerging world of CGI with The Abyss; John Hughes brought us another of his 80s icons with Uncle Buck, starring John Candy; two horror icons returned with A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child and Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.

Left to right: John C. Reilly, Sean Penn,
Don Harvey and Michael J. Fox in Casualties of War.

The summer of 1989 closed out with two powerful dramas - Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn in director Brian De Palma's Casualties of War and the directorial debut of Steven Soderbergh with Sex, Lies and Videotape.

What a summer at the movies, closing out a decade that served as a “golden age” of summer movies. For so many, 1989 was the summer at the movies.  Just looking back on this line-up brings back waves of warm-weather-infused excitement for a nostalgia-laden summer movie season from 35 years ago.

And, there's still one more summer movie season to look at that features many of the stars of summer 1989, along with creatures you shouldn't feed after midnight, a kid learning to wax on and wax off, a rock star from Minneapolis, and more. The summer movie season of 1984...

...which is where we are headed next week for part three of Hot, Hazy, and Hollywood.

My new book, Magic Moments: Stories, Lessons & Memories from a Twenty-Year Career at Walt Disney World is now available at Amazon!

For more of my articles, podcasts and more (including cool T-shirts!) head over to Words From Lyons!


Thursday, May 23, 2024

Hot, Hazy and Hollywood, Part One: Looking back at the 1994 Summer Movie Season, 30 Years Later


Clockwise: the movie posters for Speed, Forrest Gump,
The Lion King and The Flintstones.

by Michael Lyons 


Summer Movie Season.

Those three words ignite such excitement in movie fans. And, in the days before streaming, when we waited eagerly for movies to come to movie theaters and not television screens, the excitement of the summer movie season was, dare I say, greater...and better.

Yes, I dare to say it because it's true.

This will be part one of a three-part article that looks back at three significant summer movie seasons, each one part of a golden age, of sorts, from times when audiences lined up around the block just for the chance to get a ticket to a movie, to an era when movies were treated like events.

Each one of the summer movie seasons to be discussed is celebrating an anniversary this year. We begin here in part one, with the 30th anniversary of the summer movie season of 1994:


You thought "Barbenheimer" was something? Imagine "Barbenheimer" almost every weekend at the box office, particularly during the summer.  That's what movies were like in the 1990s, when movie studio's promotional departments kicked into high gear, hyping their films to the point that they were less like movies and more like events.

This was especially true during the summer of 1994. And, that summer kicked off with a movie whose promotion truly...rocked.  The Flintstones, a long-delayed live-action version of Hanna-Barbera’s popular animated sitcom, landed in theaters for Memorial Day Weekend to start the summer movie season.

However, the hype began an entire summer before, with a specially produced teaser trailer for The Flintstones shown in front of 1993's summer behemoth, Jurassic Park. This made perfect sense since "Steven Spielrock," who was directing Jurassic Park, was also producing The Flintstones.

The cast of the live-action film, The Flintstones.

The Flintstones didn't just arrive in theaters; it landed with the same colossal sound of Fred pounding on the door and yelling, "Wiiiiillllmaaaaa!" You couldn't escape marketing for the film. From endless commercials on TV to toys that redesigned the characters to look more like John Goodman, Rick Moranis, and the rest of the actors in the film, to the "BC-52's" new version of the familiar title song played on top 40 radio stations and McDonald's, re-named "RocDonald's," carrying themed food and Happy Meal toys, The Flintstones got to the point that, as a moviegoer, you felt as if you had to see the movie; otherwise you'd be left out.

All of this swirling Bedrock brew-ha-ha worked, and The Flintstones was the much-anticipated blockbuster that "Univershell" pictures had been hoping for, and it became the sixth highest-grossing film of the year.

Several weeks after The Flintstones came a summer movie that, while not initially an event, soon became one through positive review and word of mouth - Speed.

From an era when a number of movies were attempting to ape the "Die Hard model," Jan de Bont (a cinematographer on a number of movies, including, ironically, Die Hard) made his directing debut with this gripping action movie.

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in Speed.

A bus is rigged by a terrorist (Dennis Hopper) to explode if it goes under 50 miles an hour and hurtles by at the accelerated pace of the bus. Keanu Reeves became an action icon, Sandra Bullock's star was quickly on the rise, and suddenly, Speed became the movie everyone wanted to replicate. 

However, Speed wasn't the biggest movie of the summer. That honor goes to Disney's animated feature, The Lion King. Now iconic and part of our pop-culture lexicon (along with a Broadway musical and CGI re-make), when The Lion King debuted, it rocketed Disney's growth at their studio and the animation renaissance into the stratosphere.

Following The Little MermaidBeauty and the Beast, and AladdinThe Lion King was a wish fulfillment for Walt Disney himself - that animation is another form of storytelling that all ages can embrace.

And The Lion King was embraced, indeed. It was the number-one movie of the year, and for a time, it was the highest-grossing animated film of all time. 

The cast of 1994's The Lion King.

The Lion King's release was at such event status that in the months and weeks before it came out, there was more than buzz around it; there was genuine excitement. Disney even treated it like an event, opening the film at Radio City Musical Hall in New York and the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles as "The Lion King Summer Spectacular," where the film played for ten days before coming to area theaters, along with a stage show featuring the Disney characters.

And don't forget the toys, Burger King promo, TV specials, and Top 40 hit songs that swept throughout the world like winds across the Savanna. 

Then, just several weeks after the King was crowned ruler of the box office, another film came out to steal our pop-culture heart.

Just after the July 4th weekend, an unassuming character with a story that crossed most of our 20th-century history by blending dynamic CGI effects came to theaters.

Forrest Gump, from director Robert Zemeckis, with a career-defining performance from Tom Hanks, not only ignited the box office but also touched our hearts, won every major award, and like so many films during 1994, settled comfortably in our zeitgeist, where it still lives.

Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump.

It was such a close race at the box office over Independence Day weekend that after the weekend was over, Entertainment Weekly had an animated graphic that staged a horse race between the Forrest Gump and Lion King posters.  Forrest won the weekend by a nose.

Jack Palance and Billy Crystal in 
City Slickers II

The summer of '94 also saw a big-screen version of the TV show Maverick, with Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, and James Garner; The Crow, which sadly starred Brandon Lee in his final role; Eddie Murphy back in sequel mode for Beverly Hills Cop III; Billy Crystal in the same mode for City Slickers II: The Search for Curly's Gold, and Jack Nicholson turning into a Wolf. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis
in True Lies.

Long before Yellowstone, Kevin Costner went for western epic with Wyatt Earp; Alec Baldwin was The Shadow; Disney brought live-action fantasy family fare with Angels in the Outfield; John Grisham's bestseller The Client came to the screen, and Arnold Schwarzenegger reunited with James Cameron for True Lies.

Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis in
Natural Born Killers.

We were wowed by computer animation and Jim Carrey in The Mask; Harrison Ford played Jack Ryan in Clear and Present DangerThe Little Rascals returned, and summer closed out with Oliver Stone's devisive Natural Born Killers.  

And so, thirty summers ago in 1994, we flocked to theaters to see mammoth movies and smaller stories in a summer filled with pure popcorn and Oscar hopefuls. It was a time when going to the movie theater was still an event.

That event-fueled experience began five years before, during a summer of adventuring archeologists, spirit chasers, and a dark knight. The summer of 1989...

...which is where we are headed for part two of Hot, Hazy, and Hollywood, next week.

Looking for summer reading? My new book, Magic Moments: Stories, Lessons and Memories from a Twenty-Year Career at Walt Disney World is now available! Click here to purchase! 


 Check back all summer for new articles and podcasts at my website: Words From Lyons!