Archive by Author | Matt McDaniel

The Evolution of ‘Annie’: From the Page to the Screen


For a 90-year-old, Annie doesn’t look a day over 11.

Inspired by a poem, the character of “Little Orphan Annie” made her debut in a comic strip in 1924, and in the decades since, the unstoppable redhead has been a smash hit on the radio, the Broadway stage, television, and of course, the big screen.

With a new generation gets excited about a fresh reinvention coming to movie theaters this month, take a look back at the most memorable “Annie” incarnations of yesterday (because tomorrow is always a day away).

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In 1885, James Whitcomb Riley published a poem originally entitled “The Elf Child,” based on a girl in his neighborhood who lost her father in the Civil War. He later changed the title to “Little Orphant Allie”  after the girl’s nickname, but a printing error caused it to be published as “Little Orphant Annie” (the extra “t” was intentional, though). Cartoonist Harold Gray borrowed the name when he created his comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” for the New York Daily News in 1924. (The poem also inspired the name of another famous redhead: the Raggedy Ann doll).

little orphan annie (4 color 012) 00 cover 1In the comic, Annie is a resourceful and optimistic 11-year-old who gets taken out of a ramshackle orphanage to live with the kindly and prosperous “Daddy” Warbucks. Originally, Warbucks had a resentful wife who would send Annie back to the orphanage at any opportunity. The strip became a nationally syndicated sensation, and it continued to be published in various forms for 86 years before finally ending in 2010.

The character quickly jumped off the page to other media. In 1930, “Little Orphan Annie” became a hugely popular radio show. As depicted in the movie “A Christmas Story,” young fans would exchange packages of Ovaltine, the show’s sponsor, for items like a secret decoder ring (which would tell you to buy more Ovaltine). There were also two movie versions of the story in the ‘30s, but neither were particularly successful with audiences.

What did prove to be popular, though, was the 1977 Broadway musical simply entitled “Annie.” The play took many liberties with the original source material, eliminating Warbucks’ wife and making President Franklin D. Roosevelt (whom Harold Gray vocally opposed) a heroic character. 13-year-old Andrea McArdle became the youngest ever nominee for the Best Actress Tony award for playing the title character, and she was later replaced by a very young Sarah Jessica Parker. The show ran for nearly six years, spawning national tours, foreign productions, and a multiple Broadway revivals.

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Naturally, a show that successful is bound to be adapted for the movies. Hollywood legend John Huston directed the big-budget production which starred Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, Tim Curry, and Ann Reinking. Aileen Quinn beat out around 8,000 other girls (including a young Drew Barrymore) to win the part of the title role. The movie made some significant changes to the Broadway musical: dropping some songs, adding new ones, and including a more action-packed climax atop a drawbridge.


The movie was a sizable hit, earning two Oscar nominations and becoming the 10th highest-grossing movie of 1982. But the film cost so much to make it wasn’t especially profitable. It had a second life, however, on television and home video, becoming an integral part of childhood for an entire generation. There were two attempts at a sequel to the stage musical, but neither production ever made it to Broadway. A completely different sequel, “Annie: A Royal Adventure,” was made for TV in 1995, and another adaptation of the original musical aired four years later.

Annie-poster-2Now, the most radical reinvention of the character yet is coming to movie theaters. Produced by Will Smith and Jay-Z (who famously sampled the song “It’s the Hard Knock Life”), the new “Annie” transports the story from the Great Depression to the modern day. 11-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis — the youngest person ever nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for 2012’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild” — takes on the title role, alongside costars Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, and Rose Byrne. The updated version also drops several songs and characters from the original show, with several new numbers by Australian singer/songwriter Sia.

The classic 1982 movie “Annie” is available right now on Feeln, and you can try the service for free for one week. Gather your family together and watch it tonight. Bet your bottom dollar everyone in your home will love it.

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Last Chance to Watch: Catch These Movies Before November 1

October 31st is a truly frightening date. Not because of Halloween, but because it’s the last day you can watch some truly great films on Feeln. Here are the movies that are expiring on November 1.

Rated PG-13
Why We’re Feeln It: Loyalty, bravery, and acceptance of others are the themes that run through this beautifully realized Oscar-winning saga.

Rated PG
Why We’re Feeln It: With its kooky characters, quotable dialogue, and unmistakable style, this is a road trip everyone will be happy to take together.

Rated PG-13
Why We’re Feeln It: You don’t have to be a kung-fu fan to be awed by the balletic action scenes or moved by the lushly romantic love stories.


Rated PG-13
Why We’re Feeln It: It’s a fun, high-flying adventure featuring a brave hero, a sniveling villain, and the most charmingly Scottish dragon ever.

Rated PG-13
Why We’re Feeln It: Sometimes laughing through tears is the only way we can find the strength to keep going through our toughest times.

Rated G
Why We’re Feeln It: Truly loving someone or something means doing what is right for them, no matter how hard it is for you.

The Karate Kid II

Rated PG
Why We’re Feeln It: The second round takes Daniel-san and his karate instructor overseas where they experience how destructive old grudges can be.

Rated PG
Why We’re Feeln It: Sally Field won her second Academy Award for this stirring tale of people looking past race and ability to come together as one.

Rated PG
Why We’re Feeln It: Alexandre Dumas’ immortal heroes gallop together again with high-flying action and good-natured laughs.


Rated PG-13
Why We’re Feeln It: With high-energy choreography, award-winning costumes, and entrancing music, it has everything you could want in a dance movie.

Be sure to check back with us on November 1 for a new batch of incredible movies that everyone can watch together.

Are You Feeln Baseball Fever?

On Tuesday, the first pitch will be thrown out for the 2014 World Series, pitting the Kansas City Royals against the San Francisco Giants. Which means you have a full weekend to get pumped up for the Fall Classic. And what better way to get ready than watching great baseball movies, including the definitive documentary series on America’s national pastime?

Here are the top baseball picks streaming on Feeln right now:


For the full story of how baseball became not just a sport but an institution, you have to watch director Ken Burns’ Emmy-winning documentary series that originally aired on PBS. If you start binging now, you can catch the 9 original episodes from 1994, and the two-part sequel, “The Tenth Inning,” released in 2010.


A forgotten chapter in baseball history served as the basis for one of the most-loved movies about the game. In this fictionalized account of the real All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, Tom Hanks plays the washed-out manager of a team of women lead by Geena Davis who step up to the plate during World War II.


Kevin Costner, an actor synonymous with baseball flicks, plays a long-in-the-tooth pitcher on the verge of throwing a perfect game.


Gary Cooper was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for portraying the legendary Lou Gehrig in this classic that was first released just 17 months after the Iron Horse died.


This Feeln Original Short Film tells the true story of the 1950s baseball star whose career with the Brooklyn Dodgers when he was paralyzed in a car accident.

See these and many other big hits on your TV, phone, or tablet anytime you want with Feeln. Sign up for a one-week free trial today.

Leapin’ Lizards! See What’s New on Feeln in October

New This Month on Feeln

It’s officially autumn now, and the days are getting shorter. But that just means you can start up your family movie night earlier. Here is the new batch of handpicked movies now available to stream on Feeln.

Rated PG
A plucky young orphan sings her way out of poverty and into the grizzled heart of a rich industrialist.

Rated PG
Everyone’s favorite bow-tie wearing man-child, Pee-Wee Herman, travels to the Alamo and back searching for his precious bicycle.

Rated PG
The son of a recent widower calls into a radio show, hoping to find love for his dad (Tom Hanks), and he catches the attention of a woman (Meg Ryan) 3,000 miles away.

Rated PG-13
Two brothers – one studious (Craig Sheffer), one rebellious (Brad Pitt0 – grow up fly fishing in the wilds of Depression-era Montana. Contains some language and brief sexual content.

Rated PG-13
A love-struck young man (Charlie Cox) crosses into a forbidden magical land to retrieve a fallen star (Claire Danes) to win the heart of a girl (Sienna Miller). Contains violent scenes and some disturbing images.

Rated PG-13
A talented young writer (Rob Brown) from the wrong side of the tracks finds an unexpected mentor in a reclusive author (Sean Connery). Contains some strong language and sexual references.

Rated PG-13
Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges) is a maverick car designer who decides to buck Detroit and make “the car of the future,” but big business conspires to take him down. Contains strong language.

Rated PG-13
On Christmas Eve 1914 during the thick of World War I, German, French and Scottish soldiers put down their arms for an impromptu truce. Contains strong violence and a brief sexual scene.

Rated PG
Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) returns to Okinawa with his star pupil Daniel (Ralph Macchio) to see his dying father only to discover that his old rival still has an axe to grind.

Rated PG
A couple living deep in the heart of Kenya adopts Elsa, a lion cub, and tries to rehabilitate her for life in the wild.

Watch these great films and many, many more for as low as $3.99 a month when you sign up for Feeln. Start your one week free trial today.

Last Chance: Catch These Great Movies Before They’re Gone

It’s officially the fall season now, and October is right around the corner. So you only have a few days left to catch some great movies on Feeln before they expire at the end of this month to make room for new additions. Here are nine titles you ought to check out before they go.

Rated PG-13
Why We’re Feeln It: Jim Carrey throws his whole body into the role of a dad who needs magical intervention to learn that honesty is the best policy.

Jim Carrey in 'Liar Liar' (Universal Pictures)

Jim Carrey in ‘Liar Liar’ (Universal Pictures)

Rated PG
Why We’re Feeln It: 30 years after it was a box-office smash, the collision of comedy geniuses and special-effects masters is still so funny it’s scary.

Rated PG
Why We’re Feeln It:  Inspired by true events, this unconventional sports story shows that there can be laughter, sisterhood, and even crying in baseball.

Rated PG
Why We’re Feeln It: Changing your perspective can help with understanding those who are different than you.

Rated PG
Why We’re Feeln It: History’s greatest ballplayer teams up with the funniest cartoon characters ever for a “wascally” good time.

Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan in 'Space Jam' (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan in ‘Space Jam’ (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Rated PG-13
Why We’re Feeln It: Two sets of women in two different eras demonstrate how friendship (and Southern cooking) can overcome any hardship.

Rated PG
Why We’re Feeln It: A spy movie for everyone, featuring the fuzziest, most adorable action heroes ever.

Rated PG
Why We’re Feeln It: Some say that winning is the only thing, but how you treat others is the true mark of a champion.

Rated PG-13
Why We’re Feeln It: Captain Picard and shipmates face their fiercest enemy in the most exciting mission of a generation.

Brent Spiner in 'Star Trek VIII: First Contact' (Paramount Pictures)

Brent Spiner in ‘Star Trek VIII: First Contact’ (Paramount Pictures)

To catch these movies before they’re gone, sign up for Feeln now and get your first week free.


If You Liked ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ You’ll Love This ‘Giant’ Movie

Guardians of the Galaxy

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (Photo: Marvel Studios)

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy has gone from a little-known comic book title to a full-fledged global phenomenon. It’s become the highest-grossing movie of the year in the U.S., earning over $300 million and topping more recognizable titles like Captain America and Transformers. And the sequel was announced before the first movie even hit theaters.

It will be three years, though, before the Guardians return to the big screen. That’s a long time to wait to see the next adventure of Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot. But if you’re looking for a movie to tide you over that has a similar mix of sci-fi action, good-hearted humor, and a friendly, deep-voiced colossus, you should check out the beloved animated adventure, The Iron Giant.

The Iron Giant

‘The Iron Giant’ (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)

The Iron Giant tells the story of an isolated boy in 1957 America who befriends a 5-story tall robot who falls to Earth. Little seen during its theatrical release in 1999, the movie found a devoted fan following on home video. It was the first feature film from director Brad Bird, who went on to win two Academy Awards for his Pixar films “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille.” Now recognized as a modern classic, The Iron Giant might seem to have little in common with the comic-book antiheroes of Guardians of the Galaxy, but they do share some defining traits.

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The most obvious connection between The Iron Giant and Guardians is they both feature oversized, soft-hearted creatures from outer space who speak with the deep, rumbling voice of Vin Diesel. Diesel was most known for a small role in Saving Private Ryan when he was picked to play the enormous robot. 15 years later, Diesel is an international superstar thanks to the Fast and Furious franchise, but once again he lent his unmistakable pipes to a kind but powerful alien being, the tree creature called Groot.

Groot and the Giant

Groot and the Giant (Photo: Marvel Studios/Warner Bros. Pictures)

While the Giant may be made of an inorganic material, the character does have a lot in common with the wooden Groot. Both have limited vocabularies, though the Giant is able to say about 50 more words in his movie than Groot. Both have gentle spirits but the capacity to cause massive amounts of destruction. And both become the devoted protector of their much smaller best friend.

Looking to the Stars

A boy goes out into the night and faces an object from another world. Both Iron Giant and Guardians kick off their adventures with that scenario, though their stories go off in wildly different directions. In Giant, young Hogarth Hughes rescues the massive automaton when he gets caught up in power lines, and helps his new friend hide from the authorities. In Guardians, on the other hand, little Peter Quill gets taken away by a band of interstellar bounty hunters and grows up to be the infamous outlaw known as Star Lord.

Star Lord, Hogarth

Peter Quill, aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt) and Hogarth Hughes (Photo: Marvel/Warner Bros.)

Still, the two unlikely heroes are similar in notable ways. Both boys grow up without fathers. Hogarth’s dad is never mentioned, but a photograph of a military pilot hints that he died in the line of duty. And the identity of Peter’s father is still a mystery, but he is definitely not of our world. Hogarth and Peter are fast-talkers who have a habit of getting into trouble, but underneath they have caring hearts and they stand up for the misunderstood and mistreated. And both of them help alien creatures learn the importance of caring for others.

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True Heroism

Whether it’s an enormous robot dodging tanks or a wisecracking raccoon crashing a spaceship, The Iron Giant and Guardians of the Galaxy each have explosive climactic battle scenes. However, in both cases the heroes don’t defeat the villains by being the strongest, or toughest, or most heavily armed. The good guys are ultimately victorious through an act of self-sacrifice.

[SPOILER WARNING: Discussion of the ending of both films follows.]

Both characters voiced by Vin Diesel – the Giant and Groot – ultimately allow themselves to be blown to pieces in order to save their friends. Groot surrounds the other Guardians in a protective shell to cushion the impact of crashing to the ground. And the Giant embraces his inner Superman by flying directly into the path of a nuclear missile. Thankfully, the final scenes of both films show the rebirth of their fallen heroes, with the Giant’s pieces reassembling themselves and a tiny potted Groot shaking his stuff to the Jackson 5.

Dancing Groot

Dancing Groot in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (Marvel Studios)


That’s the true connection between the movies: their emotional cores. Yes, they are expertly made sci-fi adventures with loads of action and laughs. More importantly, they are warm, big-hearted journeys about the importance of friendship and finding the hero inside yourself.

The Iron Giant

The Giant flies towards his destiny (Warner Bros. Pictures)

The Iron Giant is streaming right now on Feeln, and you can try it out for free for one week. Sign up at to watch it and many more thrilling and moving films you whole family can watch together.

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Check Out What’s New on Feeln in September

Ferris Bueller. Jerry Maguire. Danny Zucko. Jean-Luc Picard. Michael Jordan. What do these famous names have in common? You can find them all on Feeln in September.

There are more great movies than ever this month at Feeln. We have hand-selected a gigantic new batch of film favorites for you to choose from to make it a family movie night to remember. From box-office blockbusters to critically acclaimed gems, you’re sure to find something to win over everyone in the house.

Here are the new additions you’ll find on Feeln starting September 1:

  • The Ant Bully
  • Babe
  • Cats & Dogs
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Dragonheart
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • Footloose
  • Free Willy
  • Grease
  • The Iron Giant
  • Jerry Maguire
  • Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
  • Liar, Liar
  • March of the Penguins
  • October Sky
  • Regarding Henry
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer
  • Space Jam
  • Star Trek: First Contact

Watch as many of these huge movies whenever you want on your computer, TV, or mobile device with your Feeln subscription, starting for as low as $3.99 a month. Start your one week free trial now.

5 Things You Never Knew About ‘Men in Black’

Watch 'Men in Black' Now

“Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.” – Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) When Men in Black landed in theaters for the July 4th weekend in 1997, it brought a new sense of cool to the sci-fi comedy genre. From the dark suits and shades to Will Smith’s #1 rap single, the big-budget adventure had a style all its own, and it quickly became a smash hit drawing in audiences of all ages. The original film was so huge it spawned two sequels, an animated TV show, video games, and even a theme park ride. But even 17 years after it became a Hollywood sensation, there are plenty of behind-the-scenes stories that you might not know.

  1. The Original ‘Men’ Were Mean

The movie is based on a little-known comic book series, The Men in Black, created by Lowell Cunningham. Originally, only six issues were published in the early ‘90s, it was about black-suited secret agents who kept the public in the dark about aliens on Earth. But unlike the movie, the agents in the book also dealt with other supernatural beings like werewolves, zombies, and demons. And the characters weren’t nearly as nice, resorting to blatant destruction and even murder to keep their secrets.

  1. Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith Weren’t the First Choices

It’s impossible to imagine anyone other than Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in the lead roles of Agents K and J. Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood was reportedly approached to play K originally, but he turned it down. Eastwood and Jones would later venture into outer space together in 2000’s Space Cowboys. And Chris O’Donnell was originally considered to play Agent J, but he also passed. It was director Barry Sonnefeld’s wife who spotted Smith on an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air who first suggested him for the role.

Original MIB - Eastwood and ODonnell

Original MIB – Eastwood and ODonnell

  1. It Was Much More Complicated

The screenplay had a detailed backstory about two warring alien races who were battling over the missing galaxy that ends up in the hands of the Men in Black. When test audiences watched an early cut, though, they found the multiple aliens confusing. So the filmmakers decided to change it to just one type of alien threatening the planet. Luckily for them, most of the dialogue explaining the story was spoken by aliens, so the filmmakers were able to replace dialogue and rewrite subtitles to simplify everything.



  1. A Last-Minute Change Cost Big Bucks

Originally, the crew filmed an ending where Agent J and the villainous alien bug had more of a philosophical discussion than a big fight. But the filmmakers decided it didn’t live up to the action-packed tone of the rest of the film. So they had to scrap the full-size, robotic alien created by the film’s Oscar-winning makeup designer, Rick Baker, and replace it with a fully computer-generated version at the cost of $4.5 million dollars. They did save money on one effect, though: when J angers the bug by squishing cockroaches, Will Smith was actually stomping on mustard packets.



  1. Steven Spielberg Is an Alien

Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg produced the film, but he also makes a very brief cameo appearance. When Agent K is showing J all of the Earth’s “known aliens” on a view screen, Spielberg shows up as one of the extraterrestrials in disguise. Other famous faces on the screen include Star Wars creator George Lucas, Danny DeVito, Dionne Warwick, Al Roker, designer Isaac Mizrahi, Newt Gingrich, Sylvester Stallone, and the movie’s director, Barry Sonnenfeld.


Today, Men in Black is one of the rare blockbuster hits that is just as entertaining today as when it first hit the big screen, and it has laughs and thrills that can be enjoyed by kids and adults. That’s why it’s a featured film selection at SpiritClips, the only streaming service that handpicks high-quality movies that are appropriate for all ages. You can try out SpiritClips for free for one week, and subscribe for as little as $2.99 a month. See it all at