January 21, 2017

Saturday at Disney's Animal Kingdom 2003

Welcome to Disney's Animal Kingdom! It's a beautiful afternoon in 2003. The park is alive with excitement since the recent opening of the thrilling Expedition: Everest.

Although the park has changed somewhat since then, there are a few attractions here that are now extinct. The most famous might be the entire section of Camp Minnie-Mickey, a land quickly thrown together before opening when the budget had long been spent. The quiet forest hosted the popular Festival of the Lion King, an attraction that finally moved to Africa where it belonged from the beginning. 

The show Pocahontas and her Forest Friends has also gone away. This animal show has departed along with Tarzan Rocks! It's a very popular opening day attraction, a high energy, acrobatic theater show starring the swinging Lord of the Jungle. 

The boats circling the river have also departed. So has the name Countdown to Extinction from the incredible ride back into the time of the dinosaurs. That attraction has been renamed by the suits who felt the need for a synergistic tie in to Disney's movie Dinosaur. Such imagination!

Regardless of the changes, Imagineer Joe Rohde and team created a beautiful park, one of the most stunning ever built. Very short on attractions but a lovely way to relax. A mega Adventureland come to life!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 20, 2017

Taking a Position of Wait and See

New President of the United States, Donald Trump, delivered the following address immediately after being sworn in. As with every president before and after him, promises were delivered. I'm watching to see if he keeps them. Here are his words:

Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans, and people of the world: thank you.

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people.

Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.

We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.

Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent.

Today's ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.

For too long, a small group in our nation's Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.

Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth.

Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.

Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation's Capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes – starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.

This is your day. This is your celebration.

And this, the United States of America, is your country.

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.

January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.
The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

Everyone is listening to you now.

You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.
Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves.

These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation – and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.

The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.

For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry;
Subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military;
We've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own;
And spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.
We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.

The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.

But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future.

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.

From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.

From this moment on, it's going to be America First.

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.

I will fight for you with every breath in my body – and I will never, ever let you down.

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.

We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.

We will get our people off of welfare and back to work – rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.

We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American.

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones – and unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.

When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

The Bible tells us, "how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity."

We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.
When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.

There should be no fear – we are protected, and we will always be protected.

We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger.

In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.

We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action – constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.

The time for empty talk is over.

Now arrives the hour of action.

Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America.

We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.

A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.

It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.

So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:

You will never be ignored again.

Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams, will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

Together, We Will Make America Strong Again.

We Will Make America Wealthy Again.

We Will Make America Proud Again.

We Will Make America Safe Again.

And, Yes, Together, We Will Make America Great Again. Thank you, God Bless You, And God Bless America.

(Photograph copyright REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA)

January 19, 2017

The Unfinished Disneyland

Being a Disney park fan is a good thing. Being a collector is a good thing. Being both can bring large doses of headaches, frustrations, disappointments, and empty wallets.

Case in point is my Olszewski Main Street Miniature collection. A good friend of mine, who is an avid Disney fan, had first mentioned these exquisitely detailed replicas way back in 2002. She had showed me Sleeping Beauty Castle, and while impressive, it wasn't something I was keen to collect. Fast forward to 2007, and I'm at the Disney Gallery above the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in New Orleans Square. Amazed by the intricacy and craftsmanship of the soon to be released Haunted Mansion, the deal closer for me is three interchangeable diorama scenes where you literally pull out one and swap it for another (Gallery, Ballroom, and Cemetery with Hitchhiking Ghosts). The cost was close to $300.00 so I convinced myself that I would limit it to this one iconic piece only and be happy. No sooner had I formed that delusional thought, when at the corner of my eye, I see a six foot table with a huge plexiglass cover. Disney, flexing its sneaky marketing muscles. has the entire Main Street pieces displayed on a custom platform. Now I could resist purchasing any single Olszewski piece in hand, much like I can turn down whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. But throw 'em all together in a bowl and add chocolate syrup and chopped nuts, well, hasta la vista baby! At that moment I was determined to collect the entire series so I could have my own little Disneyland back in Hawaii.

I had a bit of catching up to do, but with time and patience, I eventually completed all of Mani Street. It helped that Robert Olszewski made it a point to rotate out of stock pieces back into production. With the success of the initial releases, Bob forged on to produce Fantasyland. As with Main Street, collectors could order an exclusive base designed to house the pieces. Popular attractions like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland Tea Cups were issued as special commemorative issues earlier on, so Storybook Land and King Arthur's Carousel were the last two remaining pieces to be produced. Both were complicated and expensive, but crucial to finishing up the land. 

Somewhere about this time, Bob signed a new deal with Disney where they would handle all of the manufacturing, distribution, and sales of his products. I can see why this appealed to him as Olszewski (along with his dearly missed manager Travis Tokumura) did everything from working with the plants in China to helping box items up for shipping. With Disney handling the production/sales end, Bob would be free to work exclusively on the artistic/creative portion. In theory, this makes total sense, yet since the transition, exactly ZERO new pieces have been introduced. Not sure what it means for the health of the line, but each passing day brings me closer to the realization that my Disneyland may forever remain unfinished...

            (Photos copyright Len Yokoyama 2017)

Just One Happy Family

One of the cleverest commercials I've seen in a long, long time! Gotta love the fact that Gwen Stefani is back and replacing the obnoxious Miley Cyrus. Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and Alicia Keys carry on with Carson Daly. Love The Voice's new season crew!

January 18, 2017

Thinking About Sting

Sometimes an artist has just been away too long. It's certainly the case with Sting- and it is not to his advantage. Love the man's voice, songwriting skill and all around talent, but this album does not reflect his best work.  Part of this assessment comes from years of listening to the man both solo and in various groupings where he continued to shine. 

The new disc, his 12th solo album and his first true rock and roll album in an amazing 13 years- yes, 13 years!- isn't a total fail, but it's close.

The opening number, I Can't Stop Thinking About You, is a catchy, frothy, Police worthy tune. Yet, it's downhill from there and rather quickly. One Fine Day is the best of the rest, leaving a collection of mediocre songs to round it out. Cherry pick these couple of cuts from i-tunes and move on.

Perhaps it's time to put on his still excellent Ten Summoner's Tales or even the later Brand New Day disc and remind myself of the good old days. 

January 17, 2017

A Gleaming Golden Spaceship Earth

EPCOT Center! Say it again. It rolls nicely off the tongue. Here's the iconic Spaceship Earth in concept art, gleaming in the midday sun, sitting right at the front of Future World

Guests came into the park by the thousands long before the character invasion of recent years. They couldn't wait to be entertained and educated by Walt's amazing Imagineers- and they were not disappointed. The World of Motion, Universe of Energy, The Land, joined the incredible Journey into Imagination.  

And then there were the charms of World Showcase. Oh, well- what used to be! Perhaps the future will be bright one day.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 16, 2017

MLK: The Right Time

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."
                                                                        Martin Luther King Jr.

As a follower of Jesus, this incredible leader still makes an impact. I believe the only hate we ever saw in him was his hate of injustice. 

 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.  Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.  But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
1 John 2:9-11

Faith deeply rooted in God's love was the driving factor in all he accomplished. That was his legacy. What will be yours?

January 14, 2017

Vog Has Its Uses...

So I decided to head down to Diamond Head late afternoon to try and photograph the sunset. A lot of my photographer friends have been posting amazing images with intense colors shot at both sunrise and sunset. The reason is the volcano on the Big Island is very active, spewing tons of lava into the ocean. It's always amazing to see God's handiwork in action, witnessing the creation of land mass and island expansion. The downside is having to deal with vog...a form of air pollution that occurs when sulfur dioxide and other gases mixed with the oxygen in the air. It can be especially difficult on senior citizens, young children, and people with asthma or allergies. The upside is the incredible colors produced during the sun's entrance and exit. If there are clouds in the sky, it's an added bonus.

It's been a pretty rough week (which I'll cover in a future post), so it was nice to get away and enjoy some quiet solitude. Just me, my camera, and the sunset. Oh yes, there were a few tourists...and a couple of local fishermen...and some nude sunbathers...but otherwise, quiet solitude.

Have a blessed weekend I & S readers!

  (Photo copyright Len Yokoyama 2017)

A Little Fan Help Requested

Ok, Disney theme park fans and historians. Tell me, won't you, is this a legitimate Disney Imagineer designed attraction poster or a piece of excellently done fan art for Tomorrowland's Astro Orbiter attraction? Whichever the case, it certainly captures the excitement of New Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom!

Notable and Quotable: Andy Knuth

"Without God’s presence, the might of His people was nothing more than a mirage in the desert, and without God’s presence our churches will be just the same. They will taunt the lost with life, but never impart it. "
                                        Andy Knuth
pastor of Undone Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado

January 13, 2017

Smelling A Rat(atouille) in Epcot

Here's an interesting tidbit of news that is sure to delight some, dismay others, and one that will certainly be met with all kinds of fan speculation: According to an insider on the great WDWMagic site, a new attraction is being planned at Epcot for the 50th anniversary celebration of Walt Disney World

The good news? It should be an incredible, people pleasing attraction. The winning Disney film property is either Beauty and the Beast or Ratatouille in the France pavilion in World Showcase. Regardless of how loyal EPCOT Center fans feel, the character invasion is taking hold of the park. But let's be honest, this park needs a facelift with new attractions, greater capacity, and a clear focus. Something it hasn't had since the 90's.

The once planned Audio-Animatronic show for Paris. 
Now turned into an exclusive Mystic Manor type attraction for Tokyo Disneyland.

The downside? Seems that the rather weak and undernourished Walt Disney Studios Paris will be losing one of its few original attractions. It's still a dismal little park. More bad news? It also seems Tokyo Disneyland will remain the only home of the greatest Beauty and the Beast attraction ever. Could they place it in the Florida Magic Kingdom and expand the New Fantasyland? Yes, they have the room. Will they do it? Probably not.

This concept art (above) shows an Audio-Animatronics show for Disneyland Paris that was never built, as that style of Disney attraction has sadly gone the way of the dinosaurs. (See article here.)  

Beauty in Tokyo: A vast improvement over Frozen Ever After!

Tokyo's super "E Ticket", perhaps even an "F Ticket" is a castle tour filled with all the best the Disney Imagineers can do. Music, mystery, adventure- and a family friendly people eater to boot. Imagine exploring Beast's Castle along the lines of an excursion through Hong Kong's Mystic Manor or the Haunted Mansion. Cool, huh? You'll just have to go overseas to do it- a disturbing trend of placing groundbreaking, breathtaking attractions in other countries, one that continues on with Shanghai Disneyland

Discarded French attraction concept.

(By the way, if you want to explore all the ways Beauty and the Beast has impacted the Disney world, check out my mega-post here.)

Anyway... Frozen Ever After is bringing in the crowds even if it is a rushed remake of the old Maelstrom attraction in Norway and uses only a slightly altered boat route adding about 30 seconds and one new show scene compared to its predecessor. But suits at Disney have taken notice. And fans that did not experience the great original park are all too happy for more characters to invade- or they are just so desperate for attractions that they have to wait for this one. 

Personally, Ratatouille is my absolute favorite Pixar flick, but I'm rooting for Beauty and the Beast, my favorite classic Disney animated film. The Rat might be a better fit, but who wouldn't love the Tokyo version-  an attraction that will be the envy of the West? Aren't we tired of getting cheaper second rate attractions at Epcot instead of those that are truly world class? I am- and at least from reviews and film I've seen, Remy's adventure in Paris is not as good as it should be. Good? Yes. Great? No.

If the Imagineers and suits expand France as they did Norway, to bring a brand new attraction, I'm ok with that. There should be room at the top right of the pavilion towards the U.K. showcase. However, if they get rid of Impression de France, I will be very angry. I'm not getting my hopes up. The track record for what the suits have done with Epcot lately is not good. That's what really stinks.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 12, 2017

Seeing Double

Due to operator error- let's just call it what it is- you dear readers have been seeing double if you've come to us from the Disney News Central site. The post you want regarding the addition of the Ratatouille attraction to Epcot's France pavilion will appear tomorrow. In the meantime, browse the blog for all the articles you come here for: Insights and Sounds on a variety of topics.

January 11, 2017

What Disney Overlooks in Shanghai

The pursuit of money is a driving force for any business that wants to be successful. That makes total sense. But there is also a solemn responsibility to make sure that people are living in healthy environments and are treated fairly. These type of human rights issues are vitally important. But are they important to Disney?

In a couple of highly credible annual reports, China's human rights violations continue to astound. When the areas of religiously motivated violence in the spheres of society are examined, the home of the newest Disneyland cannot escape being viewed as a source of continual persecution. The country does rank lower than much of the Middle East, Africa, or even a good portion of Asia. China's ranking when it comes to persecution of Christians is Number 39. Sure, it's far below Number 1- that dubious "honor" goes to North Korea. All this according to the World Watch List 2017, from Open Doors an organization which has been monitoring this inhumane activity since 1955.  

A whole new world of accepted persecution.

Keep in mind, most Chinese Christians and their churches are underground, so more comprehensive statistics may be difficult to come by. When you add the unfortunate reality of forced family size restrictions, things are about as rosy in China as the skies of Shanghai. (Top image from Theme Park University.)

Another watch dog group, International Christian Concern, reports there are 215 Million persecuted Christians in the world- one in 12 people on the planet, with new countries being added to the list.

The United States of America has now made that list- as shown in the photo above. See the article here

Definitely what we experience in the States is no where near what is experienced elsewhere in the world. I have personally listened to believers in other countries share first hand stories of beatings, losing family and career, and more, all because they chose to follow Jesus. Persecution in the States just happens differently, and it is growing.

In this country, no sane person with an honest and open mind can be convinced that free speech infringement and limiting public expressions of faith are not a form of persecution in our society. It's happening everywhere. Pastors are being scrutinized for their sermon content, having to turn over their sermons to the local authorities.  It's happened recently in Georgia and a little further back in Texas. 

Look what happened when an LGBTQ bully- the new thought police- went after HGTV's Chip and Joanna Gaines. Thankfully, a writer who identifies as gay- wisely and bravely- came to their defense. (My article here.) Think you won't be the next victim? Think again.

Hefty fines for Christian business owners who cannot in good conscience offer services when their religious beliefs are in conflict with what is requested is another effective method used to force a community to bow to modern thinking. Public bullying seems to be accepted to make Christians submit to an ungodly way of living and thinking. Often this thinking is in direct contrast with how God tells His people to live. Isn't He the One we must first answer to? If you call yourself a Christ follower, the answer should be obvious.

When our current administration refuses persecuted Christians from other countries access into ours but allows many Muslims in, what does that communicate. A good friend of mine traveled overseas to serve both Christian and Muslim refugees, and he heard this first hand. He was in the outlaying countries surrounding this hotbed of activity. The stories he has relayed about this kind of persecution and even within the camps themselves would make you cry with anger and disgust. Man's inhumanity to man. Man's sin nature gone wild. There is no other explanation.

Who will speak up in all this? Which Christians will be brave enough to stand up for what is right in a world gone crazy? Who will support the persecuted worldwide church? (You can go here if you're interested in doing so.)

The current state of our world reminds me of the incredibly famous but tragic poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). With regard to the choice of intellectual German society not speaking out against the Nazi rise to power as they oppressed and exterminated various groups, he wrote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

January 10, 2017

Eating in Mars at Tomorrowland

Any guest to the Disneyland Resort (or any reader of internet sites) understands almost immediately that the last Tomorrowland revamp was poorly done. It's a victim of severe budget cuts from the get go. The ill-executed Rocket Rods should have been a smash, but the suits cut the budget to the point of making it an ongoing operational nightmare. Point being, when the budgeteers slash the funds beyond something reasonable, this makes it impossible for even the most gifted Imagineers- such as Tony Baxter - to turn out an excellent product. (Full confession: I know I'm in the minority, but I thought the copper Space Mountain was beautiful!)

Back to Tomorrowland. The retro / vintage vibe did not age well. Add to this a hodge lodge of attractions disconnected in theme, and it's a real mess. The entire area badly needs a fresh focus and look. Hopefully that is coming once Star Wars Land opens. Here's a piece of concept art for the idea to have guests eat inside the old Mission to Mars building. An entirely different result than what stands there now.

It should have been a better experience than what we find currently. And, may I ask, what is that? Honestly, the existing restaurant with old attraction posters is a not so subtle reminder of the great Tomorrowland revisioning of the late 60's. A fantastic look at the future, an era when the Peoplemover sailed above the land, guests could Adventure Thru Inner Space and spin on a fully functioning and forward-looking Carousel of Progress. Bluntly, this restaurant is a constant reminder to guests of the greatness that came out of Imagineering under Walt's first generation artists... and one that hasn't been seen in Disneyland proper since the Indiana Jones Adventure decades ago.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 9, 2017


Dinner tonight with some very special family!

How to Get to Disneyland in the 1950's

Take a look at this great vintage Disneyland billboard! Beautiful in all its retro glory! The park was an out of the box success, as Walt Disney had spent a year or so promoting it with the money men and the general public. Orange County took on an all new importance as home to Walt's first kingdom, forever changing the landscape and the prices to live there!

The photo comes from this Private Los Angeles Tours post.