Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Walt Disney", the creator of "Disneyland" and many animated feature films. From Voice of America.

"Mickey Mouse", the cartoon character
that brought Walt Disney fame.


I'm Shirley Griffith.


And I'm Ray Freeman with the VOA Special English program, PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Every week we tell about a person who was important in the history of the United States. Today, we tell about Walt Disney and the movie company he created.

(MUSIC: "When You Wish Upon a Star)


That was the song "When You Wish Upon a Star." It is from Walt Disney's animated movie "Pinocchio." For many people, it is the song most often linked with Walt Disney and his work. The song is about dreams -- and making dreams come true. That is what the Walt Disney Company tries to do. It produces movies that capture the imagination of children and adults all over the world.


Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket
Millions of people have seen Disney films and television programs. They have made friends with all the Disney heroes: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Snow White, Pinocchio, Peter Pan. Millions more have visited the company's major entertainment parks. There is Disneyland in California. Disney World in Florida. Tokyo Disneyland in Japan. Euro Disney in France.

Probably no other company has pleased so many children. It is not surprising that it has been called a dream factory.



Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois in nineteen-oh-one. His family moved to the state of Missouri. He grew up on a farm there. At the age of sixteen, Disney began to study art in Chicago. Four years later, he joined the Kansas City Film Ad Company. He helped make cartoon advertisements to be shown in movie theaters. Advertisements help sell products.

In nineteen twenty-three, Walt Disney moved to Hollywood, California to join his brother Roy. He wanted to be a movie producer or director. But he failed to find a job. So he decided to make animated movies. In them, drawings are made to move in a lifelike way. We call them cartoons. Disney the artist wanted to bring his pictures to life.


Donald Duck
A cartoon is a series of pictures on film. Each picture is a little different from the one before. Each shows a tiny change in movement. When we see the movie, the pictures seem to be alive. The cartoon people and animals move. They speak with voices recorded by real actors.

Disney opened his first movie company in the back of an office. For several years, he struggled to earn enough money to pay his expenses. He believed that cartoon movies could be as popular as movies made with actors. To do this, he decided he needed a cartoon hero. Help for his idea came from an unexpected place.


Disney worked with Ub Iwerks, another young artist. They often saw mice running in and out of the old building where they worked. So they drew a cartoon mouse. It was not exactly like a real mouse. For one thing, it stood on two legs like a human.

It had big eyes and ears. And it wore white gloves on its hands. The artists called him "Mickey." Earlier filmmakers had found that animals were easier to use in cartoons than people. Mickey Mouse was drawn with a series of circles. He was perfect for animation.

The public first saw Mickey Mouse in a movie called "Steamboat Willie." Walt Disney himself provided the voice for Mickey Mouse. The film was produced in nineteen twenty-eight. It was a huge success.


Mickey Mouse appeared in hundreds of cartoons during the years that followed. He became known all over the world. In Japan, he was called "Miki Kuchi." In Italy, he was "Topolino." In Latin America, he was "Raton Miquelito." Mickey soon was joined by several other cartoon creatures. One was the female mouse called "Minnie." Another was the duck named "Donald," with his sailor clothes and funny voice. And there was the dog called Pluto.


Mickey Mouse cartoons were extremely popular. But Walt Disney wanted to make other kinds of animated movies, too. In the middle nineteen thirties, he was working on his first long movie.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
It was about a lovely young girl, her cruel stepmother, and the handsome prince who saves her. It was "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." "Snow White" was completed in nineteen thirty-seven after three years of work. It was the first full-length animated movie to be produced by a studio. It became one of Hollywood's most successful movies.


Movie experts say Walt Disney was responsible for the development of the art of animation. Disney's artists tried to put life into every drawing. That meant they had to feel all the emotions of the cartoon creatures. Happiness. Sadness. Anger. Fear. The artists looked in a mirror and expressed each emotion. A smile. Tears. A red face. Wide eyes. Then they drew that look on the face of each cartoon creature.


Many movie experts say Disney's art of animation reached its highest point in nineteen forty with the movie "Pinocchio." The story is about a wooden toy that comes to life as a little boy.

Disney's artists drew two-and-one-half million pictures to make "Pinocchio." The artists drew flat pictures. Yet they created a look of space and solid objects. "Pinocchio" was an imaginary world. Yet it looked very real. Disney made other extremely popular animated movies in the nineteen forties and nineteen fifties. They include "Fantasia," "Dumbo," "Bambi," "Cinderella," "Alice in Wonderland," "Peter Pan," "Lady and the Tramp," and "Sleeping Beauty." These movies are still popular today.


In addition to cartoons, Walt Disney produced many movies and television programs with real actors. He also produced movies about wild animals in their natural surroundings. Real or imaginary, all his programs had similar ideas. In most of them, innocence, loyalty and family love were threatened by evil forces. Sad things sometimes happened. But there were always funny incidents and creatures. In the end, good always won over evil. Disney won thirty-two Academy Awards for his movies and for scientific and technical inventions in filmmaking.



In nineteen fifty-five, Walt Disney opened an entertainment park not far from Hollywood, California. He called it "Disneyland." He wanted it to be the happiest place on Earth. Disneyland recreated imaginary places from Disney movies. It also recreated real places -- as Disney imagined them. For example, one area looked like a nineteenth century town in the American West. Another looked like the world of the future.

Disneyland also had exciting rides. Children could fly on an elephant. Or spin in a teacup. Or climb a mountain. Or float on a jungle river. And -- best of all -- children got to meet Mickey Mouse himself. Actors dressed as Mickey and all the Disney cartoon creatures walked around the park shaking hands.


Some critics said Disneyland was just a huge money machine. They said it cost so much money that many families could not go. And they said it did not represent the best of American culture. But most visitors loved it. They came from near and far to see it. Presidents of the United States. Leaders of other countries. And families from around the world.

Disneyland was so successful that Disney developed plans for a second entertainment and educational park to be built in Florida. The project, Walt Disney World, opened in Florida in nineteen seventy-one, after Disney's death.

The man who started it all, Walt Disney, died in nineteen sixty-six. But the company he began continues to help people escape the problems of life through its movies and entertainment parks.



This Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. I'm Shirley Griffith.


And I'm Ray Freeman. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program in Special English on the Voice of America.

Comprehension Check One:

1. Disneyland is __________________ .
a. a movie
b. an entertainment park
c. the home of Walt Disney
d. a motion picture studio

2. In 1923, Walt Disney moved to Hollywood in order to become __________ .
a. an animator of full length cartoons
b. a producer or director
c. a developer of an entertainment park
d. a newspaper reporter

3. Animated filmmakers discovered that it was easier to use _______________ than people.
a. animals
b. scenery
c. real actors
d. animators

4. Mickey Mouse first appeared in a film entitled " ___________________ ".
a. Snow White and The Seven Dwarves
b. Peter Pan
c. Steamboat Willie
d. Sleeping Beauty

5. In 1940, Walt Disney made the critically acclaimed "__________ " the story of a wooden toy that became a real boy.
a. Snow White and The Seven Dwarves
b. Peter Pan
c. Pinocchio
d. Topolino

6. Critics of Disneyland stated that the entertainment park was too ___________ .
a. boring
b. dangerous
c. complicated
d. expensive

7. Walt Disney's films capture the imagination of adults and most of all, ______________ .
a. children
b. film actors
c. critics
d. Hollywood

8. Before Disney moved to Hollywood, he made cartoon film ______________ .
a. features
b. adventures
c. fairy tales
d. advertisements

9. Another name for this article could be "______________ ".
a. "Mickey Mouse's Movies"
b. "Fairy Tales in Animation"
c. "The Story of Walt Disney"
d. "How Dumbo Got Long Ears"

10. This article is mainly about _____________ .
a. a great film animator
b. the history of movies
c. making a park out of cartoons
d. Hollywood's greatest hits

Comprehension Check Two:

Please answer using complete sentences:

1. "When You Wish Upon a Star" was sung in what movie?

2. How did most visitors feel about Disneyland?

3. What is Mickey Mouse's name in Spanish?

4. Which Walt Disney movie has a wicked stepmother in it?

5. Where can your child meet Mickey Mouse?

6. Where was Walt Disney born?

7. When did Disneyland open?

8. What art form did Walt Disney perfect?

9. Which of the following is not a Disney cartoon character:
Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Peter Pan, George Bush, Pinocchio?

10. This article is mainly about:
a: The history of Mickey Mouse.
b: How Dumbo became king of the elephants.
c: A famous inventor of animated motion pictures.
d: The creation of Disneyland.

More Comprehension Questions about Walt Disney

VOA video of the Disney Museum

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Yukon Gold Rush, from Voice of America, Part One


This is Faith Lapidus.


And this is Richard Rael with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS. Today we begin the first of two programs about the discovery of gold. Huge amounts of gold. Enough gold to make a person extremely rich. Our story begins in an area called the Klondike in the Yukon Territory of western Canada. The discovery took place on a warm August day in eighteen ninety-six.



George Carmack and his two Indian friends, Skookum Jim Mason and Dawson Charlie, were working near the edge of a small river in western Canada's Yukon Territory. The area was just across the border from Alaska, which was owned by the United States. The men were using large steel pans to search for gold. They placed dirt and rocks in a pan and then filled it about half way with water. Slowly, they moved the water around in the pan until most of the dirt and water washed away. This left only very small rocks.

This method was a very good way to find small amounts of gold. The three men had often worked like this in an effort to find gold. But they had never been very successful.


The three men moved along the small river as they worked. History does not say which of the three found gold first. But it does say that all three began to find large amounts.

In eighteen ninety-six, gold was selling for about sixteen dollars for twenty-eight grams. The three men knew they were rich after just a few days. They also knew they must go to the government office and claim the land. They had to keep their discovery a secret until they had a legal claim to the land where they had found the gold.


George Carmack, Skookum Jim Mason and Dawson Charlie were the first men to discover a great amount of gold in the Klondike. Before that August day, others had found gold, but never in huge amounts.

The three men had found one of the largest amounts of gold ever discovered lying on the surface of the Earth. The news of this discovery could not be kept secret very long. Other people quickly traveled to the area of the great Klondike River where the three had made the discovery. Some also found huge amounts of gold, enough to make them extremely rich.



On July sixteenth, eighteen ninety-seven, the ship Excelsior came into the American port of San Francisco, California. It carried the first men who had found gold in the Klondike. The next day, the ship Portland landed in Seattle, Washington. It too carried men who had found gold in the Yukon.

Clarence Berry was one of these men. He was a fruit farmer from California. He came off the ship Excelsior in San Francisco with one hundred thirty thousand dollars worth of gold. Niles Anderson came off the ship Portland with one hundred twelve thousand dollars in gold. They were only two men among more than one hundred who left the ships with huge amounts of money.

Photographs taken when the ships landed show thousands of people meeting the two ships. Newspapers printed long stories about the discovery of gold and the rich men who had just returned from the Yukon. The news quickly traveled around the world that gold had been discovered.


To understand the excitement it caused, you must understand the value of that much money at the time. In eighteen ninety-seven, a man with a good job working in New York City was paid about ten dollars each week. To earn the one hundred thirty thousand dollars that Clarence Berry took off the ship, that man would have had to work for two hundred fifty years!

Gold seekers boarding a ship for Skalway
Alaska at Portland, Oregon

People all over the world became excited about the possibility of finding gold. Newspaper stories said it was easy to find the gold. It was just lying on the ground. All you had to do was go to Alaska, and then to the Klondike area of the Yukon Territory of Canada and collect your gold.


The possibility of finding gold caused thousands of people to make plans to travel to Alaska and then to the Klondike area of the Yukon. American and Canadian experts say between twenty and thirty thousand people may have traveled to the gold fields.

These people were called "stampeders." The word "stampede" means a mass movement of frightened animals. In eighteen ninety-seven, the word came to mean the huge groups of people running or stampeding to Alaska and the Klondike.

The people wanted a chance to become rich. The United States was suffering a great economic depression. It had begun in the southern United States as early as eighteen ninety.

By eighteen ninety-seven, thousands of people were out of work. Men who had no jobs decided to use all the money they had left to go to Alaska. Many believed that it would be worth taking a chance to become extremely rich.


Newspapers and magazines began writing stories about traveling to Alaska. Books told what a person would need to be successful at finding gold. Other books explained sure methods of finding gold.

Many of these books told people what they wanted to hear -- that finding gold in the Yukon was easy. Most of the people who wrote the books had no idea at all where the Canadian Yukon Territory was. Many did not know anything about the American territory of Alaska. The people who wrote the books had no idea what was involved. They were only interested in selling books.

Many of the people who would travel to the gold fields had no idea what they would face. They did not know about the extremely cold weather that could kill. Most did not know they would face extremely hard work and terrible living conditions.


Gold seekers climbing Chilkoot Pass
to get to the Yukon Territory

This was not true of the Canadian government. The Canadian government knew how hard it was to live in the western part of the country. The Canadian government quickly approved a law that said each person must bring enough supplies to last for one year. This was about nine hundred kilograms of supplies.

Each person would have to bring food, tools, clothing, and everything else they needed for one year. The reason for this was very simple. There were no stores in the Yukon. There was no place to buy food. The nearest port was more than one thousand kilometers away from where the gold discovery had been made.

There were no railroads. At first, there were no roads that would permit a horse and wagon. The stampeders would have to walk all the way, and transport the supplies by themselves. The price of these supplies quickly increased.



In eighteen ninety-seven, a travel company in the middle western American city of Chicago, Illinois listed the prices of what it cost to travel to Alaska. A ticket to ride the train from Chicago to Seattle, Washington was fifty-one dollars and fifty cents. The company said a ticket on a ship from Seattle to Skagway, Alaska was thirty-five dollars.

Companies across the United States offered to sell all the supplies a gold seeker would need to take to the Klondike. Newspapers and magazines printed long lists of the supplies a stampeder would need. The price for these goods was often extremely high. The trains and the ships would carry these supplies for an additional price.


A young man who had the money to buy the supplies and the necessary tickets to travel to Alaska usually landed at the little port of Skagway. The first shipload of several hundred gold seekers landed at Skagway on July twenty-sixth, eighteen ninety-seven. Many ships quickly followed.

The little town of Skagway soon had thousands of people looking for a place to live, food to eat and directions to where they could find gold. The stampeders were in a hurry. They wanted to quickly travel to the area where they could find gold.

Many wanted to buy the rest of the supplies they would need before they began the trip into Canada. These supplies became extremely valuable. Prices increased even more. Violence and a lack of a police department soon caused problems. People fought over supplies.

The gold seekers quickly learned that life in Alaska would be extremely difficult. And they soon learned they still had more than one thousand kilometers to travel. They learned they would have to carry their supplies over high mountains. Then they would need to build a boat to travel on the Yukon River. They learned the last part of their trip would be the hardest of all. That trip and what the thousands of gold seekers found will be our story next week.



This program was written by Paul Thompson and produced by Mario Ritter. This is Faith Lapidus.


And this is Richard Rael. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program in Special English on the Voice of America.


1. Clarence Berry was a fruit farmer from California. He came off the ship Excelsior in San Francisco in 1897. He had _____________________ .
a: one hundred pounds of strawberries
b: $130,000 worth of gold
c: a map leading to the gold fields of the Yukon
d: cheap drugs purchased in Canada

2. News of the discovery of gold in the Yukon reached people mainly by ________________ .
a: the internet
b: the newspaper
c: word of mouth
d: telegraph

3. Magazines and newspapers generally ___________________ finding gold in the Yukon.
a: overestimated the difficulty of
b: underestimated the difficulty of
c: accurately estimated the difficulty of
d: had an exact understanding about the difficulty of

4. The first man to find gold in the Yukon in 1896 was ___________________ .
a: George Carmack
b: Dawson Charlie
c: Skookum Jim Mason
d: History doesn't say which of three found gold first

5. The Canadian government made a law that gold seekers must carry 900 kilos of supplies on their backs because ___________________________________ .
a: there were no stores in the Yukon
b: there were no railroads
c: there were no roads for a horse or wagon
d: all of the above

6. Once the gold seekers began their trip to in search of gold in the Yukon, they discovered that the most difficult problem was ______________.
a: getting there.
b: having enough supplies
c: the high price of supplies
d: building a boat for the Yukon River

7. A gun shot fired in the middle of a herd of cattle is very likely to cause _______________________ .
a: a stampede
b: an angry herd
c: work stoppage
d: cowboy laughter

8. If you made a good salary in 1897, you made 10 dollars a week. To travel from Chicago by train to Seattle, then by ship to Skagway Alaska, it would cost you _______.
a: a little less than ten weeks of your salary
b: less than three weeks of your salary
c: about a year's salary
d: about 20 weeks of your salary

9. Skookum Jim Mason and Dawson Charlie were _____________________ .
a: never successful at finding gold
b: Indians
c: from Alaska
d: were never very rich

10. The gold seekers in the Yukon were called _____________ because there were many of them and they were anxious to get to the gold fields as quickly as possible.
a: idiots
b: stampeders
c: professionals
d: mining experts

The Yukon Gold Rush, Part Two

Friday, February 12, 2010

Michael Jackson, a biography from Voice of America.


I’m Faith Lapidus.


And I’m Bob Doughty with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell about one of the most famous performers in the world, Michael Jackson. Known as the “King of Pop,” Jackson sold more than seven hundred fifty million albums over his career. Michael Jackson redefined popular culture with his energetic music, dance moves and revolutionary music videos.

But Jackson’s huge success as a performer was not always easy. He was a complex individual with an often troubled private life.

(MUSIC: "Billie Jean")


That was a song that hardly needs an introduction. “Billie Jean” first came out on the nineteen eighty-two hit album “Thriller.” The Guinness World Records lists that record as the best-selling album of all time. Other famous songs on the album include “Thriller,” “Beat It” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.”

The album “Thriller” was as much about moves as it was about music. Michael Jackson brought attention to his body’s movements by wearing a shiny white glove, shortened black pants and white socks. He created dance movements that were electrifying. He could be as hard as a robot, or as smooth as liquid. While doing his famous “moonwalk” step, he seemed to be walking backwards on air.

(MUSIC: "I Want You Back")


Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana in nineteen fifty-eight. He was the seventh of nine children. He was five years old when he began singing with his brothers in a group called the Jackson 5. In nineteen sixty-eight the group signed a recording deal from Motown Records. Michael was eleven years old when they released their first album a year later.

The Jackson 5 became an immediate success. Their music set records. Their first four songs were “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There.” They all reached the number one position in pop music record sales in nineteen seventy.


Michael was the star of the group. He was the lead singer and danced with great energy. His extraordinary skill and presence on stage was remarkable, especially for someone so young. The group made youthful and fun music that was very popular with both African-Americans and white listeners.

In the nineteen seventies, the group changed record companies and shortened their name to the Jacksons. They continued to perform together, although Michael Jackson started to record music on his own as well. His first album performing alone was “Off the Wall,” released in nineteen seventy-nine.

(MUSIC: "Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough")


Three years later, Jackson released “Thriller.” The album was not just the best selling album of all time. It also won eight Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards. And it helped establish the popularity of a new form of entertainment, music videos. The video for the song “Thriller” was important in the history of the music industry. Michael Jackson understood the power of these videos in bringing attention to his music and to his image. He worked hard to make exciting videos with complex stories and dances.


In nineteen eighty-five, Michael Jackson helped write the song “We Are the World.” He recorded it with many other famous performers. The aim of the record was to raise money for starving people in Africa. The project raised millions of dollars with this best selling song.

Michael Jackson’s next album, “Bad,” produced five number one hits, including “The Way You Make Me Feel.”

(MUSIC: "The Way You Make Me Feel")


Michael Jackson was a huge success, but he was also a very troubled man. His behavior and appearance became increasingly strange. He had many operations to change his face.

He acted and spoke in a childlike way. Jackson bought a huge property in California which he called Neverland after the children’s story of Peter Pan. He had amusement park rides, a zoo and a large movie theater built for his home. Michael Jackson also went into major debt. And he suffered from injuries and illness that reportedly led him to take many kinds of pain-killing medicines.


In nineteen ninety-three, a thirteen-year-old boy accused him of sexual abuse. The child molestation case was settled out of court with Jackson reportedly paying the boy millions of dollars. But ten years later, a similar accusation by another boy led to a criminal trial which began in two thousand five. A jury cleared Jackson of all charges. He called the trial the hardest thing he had ever done in his life.

During this time, Michael Jackson kept recording and performing music. His later albums include “Dangerous,” “HIStory” and “Invincible.”

(MUSIC: “Black and White”)


Michael Jackson was briefly married to Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of musician Elvis Presley. He later married a nurse named Deborah Rowe. They had two children, Michael Joseph Jackson and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. The couple divorced in nineteen ninety-nine. Mister Jackson later had a third child, Prince Michael Jackson.


After his two thousand five trial, the singer spent much of his time in Europe and the Middle East. He returned to the United States with the aim of planning what was to be a victorious comeback. Michael Jackson died on June twenty-fifth, two thousand nine of heart failure. He was just days away from launching a series of fifty concerts in London.


Fans around the world mourned his death. Prisoners in a jail in the Philippines danced for him. Fans in Paris, France attended a service at the city’s ancient religious center in his honor. Famous performers around the world told about the influence he had on their work. Michael Jackson left a huge mark on popular culture. His memory will live on in his unforgettable music.

(MUSIC: "Man in the Mirror")


This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Faith Lapidus


And I’m Bob Doughty. You can learn about other famous Americans on our Web site, Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.