This is a guest post from Alan Shapiro, the writer and director of Disney’s 1st Disney Channel Premiere film, Tiger Town. After you read it be sure to check out our companion story on Tiger Town here with more information.
September 8, 2021
“The one constant in America’s past has been baseball. This field, this game, reminds us of all that once was good — and could be again.”
— James Earl Jones, Field of Dreams.
As a kid, baseball and the Detroit Tigers were everything to me. Secretly listening to a day game on my radio in school, collecting trading cards, putting on my little league uniform, playing catch with my dad, to playing catch with my son.
But I wanted to make movies. When I arrived in Hollywood, I knew I had to write something of my own that would entice a financing source. I sat down to produce that mythic “great idea”, but day after day, came up empty. At wits end, I happened upon a quote by Ray Bradbury talking about intuition, muse, coincidence, going with your loves. “Put all your loves together and try to make sense of it.”
The first word to pop into my head was “baseball”. Eventually, I had a screenplay called “Tiger Town”. Disney thought it would be an ideal fit to launch their new venture, The Disney Channel.
The Disney imprimatur gave us instant legitimacy with the Tigers management. In the summer of 1983, we filmed at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The Tiger’s manager, Sparky Anderson, (huge fan) agreed to play the manager.
The Disney Channel’s first original movie launched to glowing reviews and was awarded Best Dramatic Film of 1984 for the cable “ACE” awards (“Academy of Cable Excellence,” the Emmy’s of cable at the time).
Something else happened — the actual Detroit Tigers opened the season’s first 40 games going 35 and 5, and went on to win it all in a fairy tale season. The club gave me eight box seats at first base for the playoffs and series.
Disney embraced Tiger Town because it unabashedly oozed their brand: wholesome family Americana. In addition to selling the video, they ran it on ABC TV on “Disney Sunday Movie.”
Which brings us to today. As streaming becomes the new delivery system for content, fans of Disney+ everywhere deserve access to Tiger Town. They had put up another film of mine, which made Tiger Town’s absence all the more bewildering. Disney+ management need to be reminded that their celebrated first movie made for The Disney Channel sits gathering dust in their vault, waiting to be liberated.
But that will only happen with people power. I need to get folks to write, call, or send smoke signals to get their attention. Bob Chapek runs Disney+. He and his direct underlings need to hear from us fans.
Thank you, Drew, for generously volunteering your help. “If we build it, they will come.”
We encourage you to submit feedback via help.disneyplus.com using their “Request a Title Form.” Please submit requests for Tiger Town AND The Blue Yonder. Let’s help Mr. Shapiro get his films where they belong – on screens in front of a new generation.
Alan studied at New York University film school where his junior year production "Briefly...Brian" was chosen for best student film. It was shown at New York's Museum of Modern Art and on PBS, and helped him raise enough grant money to finance a second short, "Meeting Halfway," later bought by showtime. Warner Bros. provided the balance of a college scholarship and summertime apprenticeship under Ken Russell on Paddy Chayefsky's Altered States.
Over the next few years he wrote Stonybrook for Warner Bros., wrote & directed the award-winning Tiger Town for Disney starring Roy Scheider, produced Disney's The Blue Yonder starring Peter Coyote and Art Carney, and penned the teleplay for NBC's Crossing the Mob with Jason Bateman and Maura Tierney. Shapiro wrote, produced and directed Disney's The Christmas Star with Ed Asner and Fred Gwynne, and soon thereafter caught the eye of Francis Coppola, who produced his writing & directing on Fox's pilot of S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders.
Shapiro wrote and directed the Warner Bros. feature, The Crush, which marked the film debut of his young discovery, Alicia Silverstone. Then wrote and directed the Universal Pictures feature Flipper starring Elijah Wood and Paul Hogan.
He has taught writing & directing at USC School of Cinematic Arts and is an active member of the DGA and WGA.