March 27, 2015

Never Built Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris

Imagineering's Tim Delaney crafted an incredible Discoveryland at the beautiful Disneyland Paris. At opening, the entire place had a Jules Verne theme that drew guests into his amazing world. The vibe was electric- especially at night, when the multitude of neon lights illuminated the area. Just fantastic!

As beautiful as the final execution of the land was, some of the concept art for buildings that were not built is every bit as beautiful. Just look at the piece above, and make sure you click on it to bring it to its full size. 

When you do that, you'll discover a resemblance to some of what was built years later at Hong Kong Disneyland. Naturally, that area was designed with more of a fantasy cartoon version of the future, but many of the elements borrowed from the original art for Paris' futuristic land. 

Much to the delight of this Disneyland Paris fan, the incredible Space Mountain was not duplicated anywhere else. For that matter, many of the elements of the French park are exclusive to Paris. A wise choice, making it absolutely necessary to see the most beautiful Magic Kingdom ever in person.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto Open at Disney's Polynesian Village

First look from the Disney Park's Blog:  Looking good! I'm ready for a drink. Are you?

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 26, 2015

Disneyland 60th Anniversary Poster

Just something for my records: Disneyland's 60th Anniversary poster. Very cool!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 25, 2015

Design Detail: Disney's Hollywood Studios

Today's Design Detail post takes a look at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Now, before you grumble about what a sad state of affairs this park is in, remember, that's not what this series is about...

I won't say much about this photo. When I took it, I already knew it wasn't terrific in its composure. However, when you blow it up and take a close look, you'll find plenty of design flourishes that make the park a treat for the discerning eye.

(Not much in the realm of attractions however. Sorry, I broke my own request. Just couldn't resist!)

Photograph copyright Mark Taft.

March 24, 2015

The Blessing of Friends

The blessing of new friends! What a great thing.

Clearly, as brothers in faith in Jesus Christ, folks who don't know each other can become good friends in a short amount of time! And so is the case here. 

I am so thankful to consider these men my friends- and to be counted as one by them. God is good all the time.

March 23, 2015

Walking Away

I want to quit.

Apparently, I'm like everyone else.  If you look at the numbers, so many people are walking away. Leaving marriages, companies, friendships, churches, their faith etc. Doesn't seem to matter what the core factor at question is, people are generally walking away from it all.

I'm not going to quit.

Yes, I'm tired. Yes, it's hard. Jesus himself described there would be an ongoing battle for those who want to follow God. A battle of flesh against spirit. Thankfully, He promises eternal life for all who would endure until the end.

It's sad though. I see some of my friends' children walking away- and some of them as well! Not all my kids follow Jesus with their whole heart. Some just don't want to press in when things get hard. Some just like the mindset of the world instead and invest little.

The big question: Is the way you're living drawing you closer or farther away to Jesus? Think about it. Standing still is really walking away, little increments at a time.

I won't do it. I want to, but I won't. My heart's desire is to finish my human race well- and right into the arms of a God who loves me.

What about you?

March 21, 2015

Haunted Mansion Tour and Its Ties to Pirates of the Caribbean

Count me in as a fan of old school Disney Imagineering. The first generation of artists really understood what Walt Disney was trying to accomplish at Disneyland. It's that crew of folks like Bob Gurr, Marc Davis, Herb Ryman, Claude Coates and more that really mentored the now retiring greats of our day, including the current torch holder Tony Baxter.

When New Orleans Square debuted at the park in the mid-60's, Imagineering hit its stride with the masterpiece Pirates of the Caribbean. The new land was a beautiful recreation of the famed city, drawing in guests to discover its beautiful ironwork, intricate back alleys, and delightful shops and restaurants. Somehow, just seeing the Mark Twain riverboat round the bend from the cafes seemed so right. So elegant. So Disney.

If Imagineering's stride was hit in 1967, the land itself hits its peak with the opening of The Haunted Mansion in 1969. It remains the cherry on top of a stunning theme park sundae. At once completing the area and further defining its mystery and romance. Being right next door to each other, Pirates and Mansion bring a knockout punch, giving guests an experience unrivaled from any other land in any other Magic Kingdom park.

This video, above, is the absolute best visual presentation to be found. It's fairly recent, as fans of the attraction will know by observing the attic scene, but it's a complete tour with plenty of opportunities to stop the video and discover some secrets.

Art by Eddie Sotto for the unrealized new attraction.

Speaking of secrets and the ties that bind...

My two of my favorite Disneyland attractions: Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion have an additional but not fully realized connection in Walt's park. Imagineer Eddie Sotto had once been involved in some new ideas to tie the two together using historical references to real life pirate Jean Lafitte. (I had forgotten about this but had heard an interview with him on the subject awhile back.)  Go to this post to see a number of photos and the story in full.  In the old days, Walt would have jumped all over this (along with other ideas like creating a dungeon walk through for Sleeping Beauty Castle). The parks were viewed as artwork then, not solely a tool to increase profits and pimp out the latest movies. 

Want more about the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean? Being these are my two favorite park attractions, this blog of more than 1800 posts contains dozens of articles, rare pieces of concept art, photographs, and more. Browse around and check it out!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 20, 2015

Daveland Presents Disneyland 1959

... and what a terrific set of photos Dave has posted for us today!

Daveland is one of the best sites out there when you want a retro inspired look at Disneyland history through the ages. In addition to being a pretty great photographer himself and a real nice guy, Dave DeCaro has a fine collection of photos and slides. 

Check out today's post for a real treat- a 1959 visit to all the lands of Disneyland and a look at the Matterhorn Bobsleds under construction.

(Photograph copyright Davelandblog.)

March 17, 2015

Pathetic and Disgusting

I just get sick to my stomach when I read about charlatans that bilk the unsuspecting faith community in the name of Jesus Christ. Here's another case. A different take on the Joel Osteen prosperity gospel that is such a bastardization of true Christianity.

"Pastor" Creflo Dollar (!) wants his congregation to pitch in and buy him a $65 Million jet. Let that sink in for a minute after you read this article. How many people could be fed and clothed? How many Bibles could be distributed in native languages to folks who have never heard of the Good News of Jesus Christ coming to die to pay the penalty for their sin? How much could be given to support the men and women and children that are trying to survive under regimes that kill them all in the name of their god?

No wonder atheists and humanists look at the church in disgust! But even this does not the away from the truth found only in Jesus Christ.

Want to see true Christianity in action? Read the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life on earth and then read the book of Acts which describes how believers lived after Jesus left the earth to return one day. That is real Christianity lived out. 

Real Christians exists everywhere and walking out the real faith in Christ happens all over the world. Yet it seems too much of the American church has blended the American success story and search for comfort above all with their faith, resulting in a faith that isn't true at all. Just another false gospel.

(Photo copyright Phil Skinner.)

March 14, 2015

Yesterday and Tomorrowland Lead the Walt Disney Company

Who says that imagination is dead at the Walt Disney Company

At the movie houses, Cinderella seems to be on the road to being the latest hit, Tomorrowland is on the way, and more is coming. Like Pirates of the Caribbean before them, great movie concepts are taken from iconic attractions at Disneyland, old animated classics, and then spun into gold. All you have to do is look at the upcoming slate of Disney films to see that looking to the past is the new future for the Company.

Robert Iger leads the way into making the most of what as been done before and what has been brought into the company fold. Marvel, Star Wars, and a little project called Shanghai Disneyland will make the most of what Disney can do, be it via Imagineers or film makers.

True forward looking projects such as Epcot, have taken a back seat to money makers. Disneyland's Tomorrowland looks backwards as do most of the castle park's "Land of the Future". Making a quick buck by exploiting the past is the new marketing focus and a way to grow revenue. It's all about the money.

And visionaries like Walt Disney and his crew like Herb Ryman (who designed the piece of concept art, above), would cry to see what they've done to their company.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 13, 2015

Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad Attraction Poster

Here's a beautiful attraction poster! This one is from Hong Kong Disneyland. The old railroad posters, be they from Disneyland in California, the Magic Kingdom in Florida, Paris or Tokyo, or any of the castle parks, have long been a favorite of mine. Like the others, this one is elegant- very befitting the charm of a century ago.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 12, 2015

Billboard Magazine Ads for Carpenters

Thanks to my friends over at A&M Corner, my chronological album reviews of music by Karen and Richard Carpenter now include a set of ads placed in Billboard magazine. The images can be very stunning, such as the one above, celebrating the release of the Carpenters self-titled album. While these ads announce each new release, they also reveal the clear problem A&M Records executives had in promoting the brother and sister duo. Regardless, they are a fascinating piece of music history for anyone who appreciated the most gifted vocalist of the 20th century and her incredibly talented brother who produced, arranged, and even wrote many of their hits. Just looking at the ads, it's Yesterday Once More.

March 10, 2015

Frozen Fever Poster

While I'm busy doing blog maintenance, here's an interesting little poster for the Frozen Fever animated short. The one everyone knows is part of Disney's reboot of Cinderella.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 9, 2015

New Art for Grizzly Peak Airfield

It's finally here! Concept art for Grizzly Peak Airfield. Disney Imagineering has just released some concept art giving us a preview of changes to come.

Taste Pilot's becomes Smokejumper's Grill, with a new improved menu that is sure to please guests and will most likely retain a few favorites from opening day.

Opening March 20, just a week and a half away, the interior will have shades of the former tenant but will also offer some new touches more in theme with the forest environment.

It's the revamping of Soarin' Over California that has me the most excited however. When it reopens in time for the kickoff of the 60th Anniversary celebration, there will be refreshed visuals and special effects. This classic attraction gets a new exterior and soon enough, a new film as well. Soarin' Over the World / Horizon has to first open at Shanghai Disneyland, but it will make its way to California Adventure

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Super Heroes Do Good Everyday

Chris Pratt and Chris Evans doing a superhero visit to the Seattle Children's Hospital. Doing good for others with nothing to gain should be a goal for everyone. Don't you agree?

March 6, 2015

Disneyland vs. Disney World: A Look at the Parks in 2015

Disneyland versus Disney World again? Sure, it's done all the time by park fans on discussion boards and folks deciding where to take their next Disney vacation. With so much news about the parks in the last few months, taking another look just makes sense.

I'm a huge Disney park fan of decades with lots of visits and photos to prove it. So, I am not here trying to be unfair. For some folks, a Disney vacation is the last thing they would do. Not me. By their actions, the Disney Company itself has forced me to reevaluate where I spend my hard earned cash. And if you've read the blog for awhile, it's generally been elsewhere these days. I am a tough critic to please as I've seen Disneyland and Disney World at their best. Unfortunately, that was then, and this is now. Very, very different times. 

What's the bottom line? At this point in time Disneyland and the expanded resort are worth your travel dollars if you just have to go to Disney this year. Avoid Florida unless you've never been or its just been way too long between visits... or if you're dying to see the Harry Potter attractions at Universal Orlando.

Just taking a closer look at the Florida parks should tell you it's not the right time to go.  Animal Kingdom is a beautiful destination but strange mess of construction walls, broken effects on key attractions like Expedition Everest and the poorly generically named Dinosaur. Avatar won't be open for years. Nor will Rivers of Light evening water show, and even the more recent expansion of Africa will add additional shops and restaurants but not attractions. 

Don't even get me started on the third Walt Disney World park: Disney's Hollywood Studios. "Hot Set"? More like hot mess. Thankfully, that hat is gone, but then, so are a few attractions in a park that has so little to do. Star Wars Land is light years away. An expansion of Toy Story Mania only adds capacity but nothing new. Speaking of new, you can go to see the new Starbucks if that's enough to make you pay for a ticket there.

Epcot. Once my favorite Florida park, it's been a hodgepodge of additions that are more like subtractions. Characters have invaded and continue to do so where they do not belong. More booze, more food. It's the new theme of a once amazing place, a place now on creative life support.

A beautifully redone but somewhat shallow New Fantasyland is worth a visit to see the Magic Kingdom in person. Just not yet. One park addition does not a Walt Disney World vacation make. There is nothing show stopping, compellingly new, that's been built in the World to get me to hop on a plane. Maybe one day, but not now.

As it stands, from a park alone viewpoint, Walt Disney World is three days- one at Magic Kingdom, one at Epcot, and one day split between two half parks. If you go to Florida, take time to visit Universal Orlando and the beaches to fill out your week. Like most anything these days, the natural wonders created by the Almighty God are just as fascinating and beautiful as manmade magic.

Let's go over to the Disneyland Resort in comparison. It's not perfect there either, but it is still a better choice this year for a diehard Disney park fan. 

With the 60th Anniversary celebration coming, guests can get their fill of new parades and shows and a retro, nostalgia fueled day at the park. After all, Walt himself built the place. Notice, again, a trend: There's no new attractions, but at least those that are there- and there are plenty- are generally in working order. 

California Adventure continues its reign as the pretty younger sister that everyone has to see for themselves. A single visit to Cars Land will remind many old timers of the kind of excellent, immersive, attractions and areas that old school Imagineers used to build. Before the age of short attention spans of guests and money grabbing antics of Company leaders more interested in lining their pockets than providing first class entertainment. Remember when Disney led the way in constantly adding to their parks and not Universal?

Even though the offerings are better and with far less construction than in Florida, a visit to the Disneyland Resort remains a two day experience, one for each park. Again, get out of the parks and into the State. Or just get out of the parks altogether. At least for a few years until Disney earns your money again.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 5, 2015

Perspectives on Rwanda, Part 1

Editor's Note: Today I present another letter from my friend who gives up so much to serve the children of Rwanda. She is a single woman of 70 years old who continues to amaze me with her vibrant life for the sake of Jesus and all that matters to Him. Don't ever say you are too old (or too "anything") to be used by God.
All He wants is a willing heart.

It had been two years since I stepped foot in Rwanda when I arrived on September 12, 2014 for a 61/2 week stay.  I had come to experience first-hand the day-to-day “business” of Hearts for the World International (HFTWI), to see the incredible changes that had occurred since I had been there with the HFTWI ministry team in 2012, to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, teach English at Kamate Parent Primary School and see my sponsored children and their families, if possible, to represent HFTWI at the First Generation Vocational School’s 4th graduation of tailoring students and the 1st for beauty school graduates, to begin to learn Kinyarwanda, and for whatever else God and Pastor Stephen had in store. 

This was the longest period of time I would be in Rwanda and I wanted to see how that might figure into the possibility of longer-term missions for me, if that might be the call that God had on my life.  I had traveled solo to Rwanda before, in 2011 for 21/2 weeks to learn much more about orphanages and stayed with Pastor Stephen and his wife, Grace, and their boys at that time.  Once again they graciously opened their home to me for the duration of my visit.

I had a fantastic mountain-top week in Kamate, preaching at the new and thriving church there and teaching three classes of English each day covering every grade at least once.  What a joy to be with the students and to see them thriving, eager to learn, with an expectant “can do” attitude.  I attribute these qualities to a stellar group of teachers and staff, most of whom I had not met previously.  They are professional, competent and committed to their students.  I was very impressed with them and with the head master and assistant head master, who also assume teaching duties.  In the evenings we had unforgettable times of fellowship and I pray we see them all back again this year.  I also had a Kinyarwanda lesson each evening taught by the best Kinyarwanda teacher in the country, who happens to teach our students, too.

The school looks fantastic, all bricked in with windows and doors, newly refurbished walls and floors where needed, ready for a new year.  A new, larger, and more solidly-built latrine also has been added.  Kamate Parent Primary School will now be added to the official map of all schools in Rwanda, too.
It is so heartening to see the effects of student sponsorships, the bread and butter of HFTWI, on students, their families, and the community.  I started sponsoring two children in the same family two years ago, a family without hope living in absolute destitution.  With a little extra help, they are totally changed, love the Lord, have hope for their own and their children’s future. Words cannot do justice to the investment Pastor Stephen and the other pastors and teachers make in these children’s lives.

Kamate’s Needs for 2015.  The government is requiring French be taught again, so new teachers will be needed and at least one additional classroom, as well as added dorm space and renovation of the teachers’ dorms.  There will be an ongoing need for additional sponsors since new students are starting this year and many current students still need sponsors.

My time at Zaza, at the First Generation Vocational School, was rich.  I had an opportunity to address all the graduates on behalf of all of you who comprise HFTWI.  Not only was it graduation time, but a crusade followed the ceremony, with baptism and another crusade the following day.  Many new believers were added to the kingdom and Zaza’s First Generation Church was filled to overflowing on Sunday. There also was a wonderful and fruitful time for meaningful conversation with many of the pastors that were there for the various events.  Evangelist Emmanuel was my interpreter and shepherd, and I developed an even greater love and appreciation for him and his family.

Zaza’s Needs for 2015-2016. Ideally two, but at the minimum one classroom is needed to better accommodate the beauty school and to add a third vocation in the not-too-distant future, most likely brick-making, but welding is on the back burner for a later date.  A few sponsors are still needed for the tailoring class of 2015, for the new class starting this year and graduating in 2016, as well as for the beauty school students.  Just as each tailoring student graduates with a sewing machine, at the minimum, we want to be sure that each beauty school student graduates with the essential tools for his or her vocation. 

Thanks to my church, I was able to bring in 60 solar lights for Kamate families that didn’t yet have them, first aid supplies for the primary and vocational schools, and additional funds to be used for Zaza’s graduation ceremony, which was so special.

Pastor Stephen and his family are amazing people and I appreciate them so much.  It is not easy to have someone from another culture stay in your home for an extended period of time, and they did so much to make my stay as comfortable as they could. I must admit, and they will, too, that I was not always the most pleasant person to have around, as I faced some challenges I had not faced on previous stays and struggled with the fact that I struggled. However, that’s for another newsletter, perhaps.   I thoroughly enjoyed my times with Sedrick, Bush, and Joseph, our talks and walks, our prayer times, and play times.

What is far more important is that Stephen works more than full-time for the Lord as a pastor who mentors many younger pastors and oversees multiple churches, for Chosen Generation Ministries / HFTWI with its myriad parts and responsibilities, and as a husband and father of four sons.  It became very apparent as I traveled with him and through our many conversations that it is humanly impossible to do it all without cost to person(s) and/or projects.  He is exceedingly competent, a remarkable visionary, and at the same time, a humble man and very human.

Pastor Stephen’s Needs for 2015. Ideally, Stephen would benefit greatly by having a project manager or assistant to work with him. At the minimum he needs a very competent secretary to take care of the everyday multiple administrative tasks, to ensure smooth functioning.

It is amazing to see all that God has accomplished through his servants, whose ears are attuned to him and whose hearts are joined with him in providing assistance to those in great need.  In only seven years God has immeasurably changed lives and communities in Rwanda far more abundantly than many of us could have imagined, and all to God’s glory.