September 30, 2014

Friends and Brothers

One for the books. Two little boys all grown up, now men. But still buddies. Sometimes life is just that good!

Imaging a New Life

What's next? A new job is a necessity. What will it be? Where should I look? The big questions and the little ones blend together to form an uncertain time. Can I imagine a new life? Guess I'll have to... Thank God, my wife is supportive and not scared.

September 29, 2014

A World Gone Crazy

Absolutely crazy.
(Screenshot photo from USA Today)

September 26, 2014

Liberty Square's Haunted Mansion Attraction Poster


This Walt Disney World  Haunted Mansion Attraction Poster is in the original green colors much like the one designed for the first haunted Omnimover ride at Disneyland. It's not the coloring found in the tins celebrating the attraction. Very similar in style and content with the exception of the home itself which is reflective of its placement in Liberty Square. Still one of my favorite Florida attractions.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 25, 2014

Grandpa's Apple Tree

It was many years ago that I planted this apple tree in the northwest corner of our very large back yard. It seemed as if it would be forever until the apples were there waiting to be picked.

Years passed by, and I had gotten busy with so many other things. The apple crop slipped by me. It wasn't all that very often that I remembered to pick them from the tree. They usually were eaten by the local animals and birds which came in for shelter and food.

This year, I remembered. Maybe it was due to the large amount of rain we had and how large the apples became. How many there were! The branches were so heavy with fruit that they almost touched the ground.

I was struck with a great idea- I'd let my (local) grandkids come over and pick off the tree. We gathered up Easter baskets in storage, and I passed them out to each of the boys. The little girls were too little, but our youngest granddaughter loved sitting in the grass watching her brothers and cousin do the work.

As you can tell, the boys loved it. Each went home with a basketful of fruit, even if some had bite marks on them from enjoying a little taste of what was to come. I think we've started a new family tradition!

September 24, 2014

Tokyo Disneyland's Unbuilt Sci-Fi City

Some of you may have missed the gem included in my previous Disney post. You've had enough of Frozen? Well, me too, actually. So, here's the art and text hidden inside of that earlier post, with a few changes in order for it to make sense...

Tokyo Disney Resort is stunning, no doubt, and Tokyo Disneyland is meticulously maintained, yet there are areas that look tired even if well cared for. Why? Well, the older designs duplicated from Florida or Anaheim have run its course, leaving parts of the park to look dated. 

Tomorrowland is the worst of the bunch, and even the Japanese seem to have given up on a land of the future. Regardless of the quality of what has been added, the toons have arrived. Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek may be only the beginning.

Fantasyland is in equally poor shape, strapped with the look of Florida's Magic Kingdom circa 1971, prior to the beautiful to view but substance lacking New Fantasyland. Unfortunately, its a concrete kingdom save for a nice paint job on the castle to differentiate it from the others and a beautiful Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall. Let me be the first to say- Having Dumbo just outside the Haunted Mansion is lazy design work. Word on the street is a New Fantasyland may be one of the things coming with that next big influx of cash.

The suits of the Oriental Land Company clearly understand the park needs upgrades badly to keep it fresh as the one next door. You can rest assured plans are on the table to do exactly that. I do wish they would dust off this project: Sci-Fi City, shown above. 

Imagineer Eddie Sotto, responsible for the beautiful rendition of Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland Paris, turns the land of the future upside down, giving it a retro comic book feel. An amazing land of 40's space heroes and villains.  Space Mountain gets reimagined including a new piece of exterior track. Disneyland's beloved Flying Saucers return in a new form. Plus more. The entire project just gleams with a bright sheen.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 23, 2014

The Voice Loses in the New Season

I love NBC's "The Voice". Yet, the opener for this season lacks in so many ways. 

Blake Shelton and Adam Levine are back, bringing the show its original spark of bromance and wise old sage advice for hopefuls wanting to make it big in the world of music. They each continue to charm contestants, viewers, and each other.

Newcomers to the chairs bring much less than those who came before. Gwen Stefani seems totally lost. Pharrell Williams is monotone and boring, not at all like the recordings he produces. Even the opening musical number, the superstar performance, left me wanting more. Perhaps both coaches will shine in later episodes when they actually get to direct and inspire their team members, but for now, the show suffers compared to its best seasons with Usher and Shakira joining Adam and Blake. Even the singers themselves are less interesting. Perhaps its time to give American Idol another chance.

September 22, 2014

Frozen at Disney Sea..and more

The new home of Elsa and Anna, soon to be in Tokyo.

Aside from the incredible and original Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland, the stunning Cars Land at California Adventure, and all that is to come to Shanghai Disneyland, it does seem as if the Tokyo Disney Resort consistently gets the best attractions to come out of Disney Imagineering. Maybe they will wow fans with all the additions and changes in Central Florida, but that remains to be seen... and hasn't been seen for at Walt Disney World for at least a decade.


The unbelievable Tokyo Disney Sea is proof enough. You can take a glance at videos for Pooh's Hunny Hunt at the first international Magic Kingdom, track down a Journey to the Center of the Earth or check out the Hotel Mira Costa in all its glory to decide for yourself . Tokyo Disney Resort is currently where Disney creativity hits its peak- at least in this century!


Tower of Terror in Tokyo presents a great story even without
the Twilight Zone tie-in.

Everyone in the theme park blogsphere understands cloning popular attractions from one park to another is commonplace. Disney does it. Universal does it. Seems everyone does it. So when it came time to enhance Tokyo Disney Sea with a version of The groundbreaking Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the Imagineers bravely gave the attraction a brand new story with a unique  exterior, spellbinding effects and a clever connection to the rest of the park. (What did the Tokyo budgeteers -a new breed of accountants unfortunately gaining momentum- do? Strap the attraction with the cheaper to built and easier to maintain version, the one found in California and Paris.) Yet, the new story is so good, it almost makes up for the accountants' error in judgment.



Let's look a little deeper. Can Disney Imagineers hit home runs by turning the very popular Pixar movies into headliner attractions? Absolutely- when they are given the funds and freedom to do so! To see these adventures, guests must travel to Tokyo since the American parks are left with smaller, less impressive attractions that what is found overseas. Notice a pattern? Here's Tokyo Disneyland's splashy Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek! Trust me, after viewing this video, you'll look at the Monsters ride at California Adventure in a whole new way.




Turning Pooh into a must see adventure.

But what can the Suits and Imagineers do with an older and less edgy property? Here's a great little video of Pooh's Hunny Hunt from Theme Park Review. Can a cute story without a roller coaster track or even a traditional thrill element be turned into an "E Ticket Plus" by today's crop of Imagineers? The answer is "yes" when a story is matched with great technology and the right finances to do the attraction concept justice. This is a Fantasyland Dark Ride elevated to the next level, even if the entrance design does seem relatively unimpressive. Certainly, its of a different scale than what you'll find in Critter Country at Disneyland.



Tokyo Disneyland in all its variations of quality.

There's the other side of the coin as well. Tokyo Disneyland is meticulously maintained, yet there are areas that look tired even if well cared for. Why? Well, the older designs duplicated from Florida or Anaheim have run its course, leaving parts of the park to look dated. Take a look at the video tour of the kingdom (above). Tomorrowland is the worst of the bunch, and even the Japanese seem to have given up on a land of the future. Regardless of the quality of what has been added, the toons have arrived. 

Fantasyland is in equally poor shape, strapped with the look of Florida's Magic Kingdom circa 1971, prior to the beautiful to view but substance lacking New Fantasyland. Unfortunately, its a concrete kingdom save for a nice paint job on the castle to differentiate it from the others and a beautiful Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall. Let me be the first to say- Having Dumbo just outside the Haunted Mansion is lazy design work. Word on the street is a New Fantasyland may be one of the things coming with that next big influx of cash.

The suits of the Oriental Land Company clearly understand the park needs upgrades badly to keep it fresh as the one next door. You can rest assured plans are on the table to do exactly that. I do wish they would dust off this project: Sci-Fi City. Here's the concept art for the beautiful redo of Tomorrowland:


Never built Sci-Fi City to replace Tomorrowland.

Imagineer Eddie Sotto, responsible for the beautiful rendition of Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland Paris, turns the land of the future upside down, giving it a retro comic book feel. A land of 40s space heroes and villains.  Space Mountain gets reimagined including a new piece of exterior track. Disneyland's beloved Flying Saucers return in a new form. Plus more. The entire project just gleams with a bright sheen.

Disney Sea from the air. Lots of room for Frozen to show up!

The second Tokyo park is not being overlooked. As the suits have chosen to pour billions of dollars into their two parks and the resort at large in the next decade. (Yes, billions). 

Here's Disney Sea from the air. Mermaid Lagoon is at the left top with the park entrance to the right. If the estimated $500 million plans are approved, you can count on Frozen's land of Arendelle to become the next port built. Perhaps it will go right across from the American Waterfront. The South American themed Lost River Delta would separate Ariel's kingdom from Elsa's, giving guests a chance to explore ancient ruins with Indiana Jones in between princess focused attractions.

If the suits in Japan go all in, I can see Imagineers creating an Arendelle that may favorably compare in substance to the Pirate themed land being built in Shanghai Disneyland. Can't you just picture a Norwegian style village on the shore with Elsa's first  magnificent castle (below) forming an entry point to a Frozen adventure or two? 

Princess dining and more inside.

Without a doubt Frozen has joined the Disney canon of classic animated films. It's popular worldwide and absolutely a cultural phenomena in Japan. The guests have embraced Mermaid Lagoon as the first Disney land dedicated to one movie property. They will definitely take the newest addition to heart, especially when the port will contain a state of the art attraction using a brand new technology to tell the story. Add to it a few more smaller scale attractions, unique shopping and dining. Another theme park smash. Conversely, we lucky Americans are getting a cheap Maelstrom remodel in Florida to represent one of Disney's most popular and profitable franchises... and in a park where its does not belong.

For now, I am waiting to be wowed in Florida. It's been almost six years since my last trip to Walt Disney World, and at the rate in which Disney builds new attractions, it will at least be another 5 or so years before I finally book another trip. Maybe I'll go to Tokyo instead. And maybe you should too.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 19, 2014

Disney's Hollywood Studios Tour Closing


The Backlot Studio Tour closes forever on September 27, 2014. If you're going to Disney's Hollywood Studios, say goodbye Catastrophe Canyon, adios to what once was a vibrant look into the backstage areas of filmmaking. 

What is coming next? Will it be an expansion to Pixar Place? The once rumored version of Cars Land and Radiator Springs Racers? Perhaps something brand new. With Star Wars Land on the way, Disney Imagineers have to do something to add attractions while they close other ones. 

Odds are, it will be quick, easy, and cheap. Think Toy Story Land in Paris or Hong Kong. Perhaps we'll be surprised. I'd be open to that.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

Listen to the Land and Keep Frozen Out of It

"Just make believe..."

Any long time fan of the original EPCOT Center will be able to finish the song without even thinking twice. 

I loved the song "Listen to the Land", the Future World pavilion and all it contained. The revolving Land Grille Room was a favorite place for breakfast- a tradition for every trip to Epcot, back when guests didn't have to rush to Soarin' or choose to get a Fast Pass for Test Track over on the other side. 

Please don't misunderstand. Soarin' is a favorite (especially in California Adventure, where it fits perfectly). Test Track is also much loved. (Although I sorely miss World of Motion. It was always "Fun to Be Free"!) There was just something simpler and truly more special about a trip to the World back then. Epcot was a world of exploration and wonder not animated films.

Kitchen Kabaret was cute and informative in the midst of one bad premise. Animatronic Food? It's as bad an idea as fruits and vegetables teaching Bible Stories and bound to be just an unsuccessful.  ;)

Symbiosis was geeky cool, but the centerpiece was Listen to the Land. It still is- and it remains a strong reminder of what Epcot used to be, it's mission and it's purpose.

I wish the Disney suits would still listen to the land.  Frozen does not belong in Norway at World Showcase. The Three Caballeros have no business ruining El Rio del Tiempo. Nor does Martin Short belong in a film about Canada. The lovely once elegant World Showcase countries need to promote their culture not their reference to Disney animated films. In spite of how well the Imagineers can bring us to Arendelle, it is incongruent with the theme and purpose of the park to take us there. It may be a lovely ride with Elsa, Anna, Kristof and of course, Olaf, but the journey belongs at Disney's Hollywood Studios or at the Magic Kingdom.

Ellen Degeneres doesn't fit in Universe of Energy, but I can give her a pass. I can even somewhat forgive the inclusion of Nemo and friends in the Living Seas.  They can be used to entertain and educated if done well; if they do not dominate the pavilion or its purpose. 

Yet it's a whole different story when it comes to cultures of our world. This isn't It's a Small World. Nor should Epcot's World Showcase become that attraction on a larger scale. The nations have unique and interesting histories and mythologies all their own. Disney animated characters are not needed to tell their stories, nor are stars of television and film.

It's a cheap and easy route to go this direction, but it is a wrong move. C'mon Disney suits. Just Listen to the Land. Be Brave and reverse your direction. It's not too late. Don't worry, though. I'll ride the Maelstrom replacement. I may even love it. And, yes, I'll eventually quick arguing for the integrity of the greatest theme park and  Let It Go.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 17, 2014

Whitney Houston Live

November 10, 2014 Arista Records once again mines the Whitney Houston vault. This time, it's a live album. Still mostly greatest hits with an important exception- Whitney's stunning performance on the 1994 American Music Awards. Clive Davis has given us one real gift here. A truly spellbinding medley of the classic I Loves You, Porgy with the Dreamgirls classic And I Tell You I'm Not Going. Toss in an incredible version of her own I Have Nothing from The Bodyguard. 
                     
Check out this medley on YouTube. It will have you buying the song and video on i-tunes. The rest of the album? Possible but not probable.

September 15, 2014

Herb Ryman's Wedway PeopleMover

Imagineer Herb Ryman is best known in the "Disney World" for creating some of the most beautiful pieces of concept art. His work for Disneyland's New Orleans Square among his most loved creations. His art for EPCOT Center is just breathtaking! A quick search on this blog will reward you with some gorgeous pieces!

Herb was also known for his pen and ink sketches. Seemingly without much effort, he could turn out a concept that would surprise and delight. Look at this PeopleMover inspired art for Disneyland's 1967 Tomorrowland. It's a pretty good glimpse as to what was going to open, isn't it? If you look even closer, you'll find the artistic touch that sets his work apart from more modern day Imagineering concepts.  The PeopleMover cars themselves are emblazoned with a stylized "Wedway" on the exterior. A brilliant move that would not come to be but a lovely little touch nonetheless. 

In our current world, in this writer's opinion, Imagineers rely too heavily on their computers to generate the art used to sell or promote an idea. There are exceptions, but it is pretty rare. The human touch full of personality cannot be replaced. Furthermore, the popular trend of incorporating photographs of humans into the art is just lazy as well as ugly. It's art to depict parking lots. Oh for the days where great concepts were envisioned and great artists brought them to life!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 12, 2014

Disneyland Map Autographed by Walt Disney

 What a great find for a Disneyland fan with some cash to burn: A map signed by Walt Disney himself, circa 1963. 
The map itself holds some surprises. Ever ride the Rivers of the World Jungle Boat Cruise? Visited the Mickey Mouse Club Theater? Gone to the Upjohn Pharmacy on Main Street U.S.A.? Well, those destinations are right at your fingertips as you explore the park via this graphic map.

Long time collector and seller Phil Sears has these items and more on his website. Worth a look for some very interesting pieces of Disney memorabilia.

Frozen Is Official

Not a sole is probably surprised, but Olaf and the Frozen cast are on their way to Epcot. Yes, Maelstrom will be taken over, closing in early October.

Tom Staggs announced that the new attraction will debut in Norway,  guessing in 2016.  Did we expect less? No. Did we expect more? Absolutely. This is the new Walt Disney World: Expecting more, delivering less.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 11, 2014

Honor the Heroes of 9/11

Remember this day. Even as we find ourselves on the brink of getting involved more than some of us ever thought. And definitely more than any of us would like.

It was a day of tragedy, but also a day for heroes! When radical Islam extremists decided to attack the United States of America on September 11, 2001, we as a people rallied together afterward. It was the right way to come together, grieve together, and pray together.

Let us remember. Pray for our nation, remembering the sacrifices of those serving,  the loss of family and friends. Let us preserve our freedoms- but do it with wisdom. Let us honor those who gave their lives instead of honoring and defending those who killed others. 

Christians overseas are being slaughtered. Children, infants, women and men alike. And we stand by or so it seems. Did we not learn anything from Hitler and World War II?

What other country in the world would care about the rights of terrorists when fighting a war? We have a right to defend our people, our land, and to come together with those of other nations experiencing the violent and deadly attacks that come against them.

September 10, 2014

Blurred Vision

In 100% honesty here, I cannot see what lies ahead for me. Totally stunned by the impact losing a job has on my mindset. Some days are peaceful, others are sad or filled with the stress of not knowing what is next. At times, I find myself angry- at others, at myself, at God who did allow this. Yet, where else can I go?

Digging myself into reading the Bible, I am in the book of Isaiah (and the Old Testament in general), and I am absorbing the reflections of a prophet who had seen it all. I'm reminded unexpectedly of God's provision and His plan, even when I cannot see what the future holds. In loss and gain, He has been faithful to me! Sometimes, it takes years before I understand. Or I may never, but I know without  doubt He loves me.

My emotions go up and down, the loss feels deep. Thankfully, my wife is supportive without a glitch. The truth remains: I need a job. I need an income, and I need a purpose. Yet, I have my faithful God.

"Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassing never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those who hope in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD."  Lamentations 3:22-26

I yell. I cry. All before my God who knows what I am thinking and feeling before I do. My challenge is to not move too fast and to not say or do anything that would disrupt my relationships. I must choose to believe by walking this season out, that God knows what is best for me. It doesn't mean success in the eyes of man. It may mean a menial job for me. But it does mean that God desires to conform me to look like His Son Jesus. That is the journey of a believer who has totally given his life over to the Creator. It is the price of being a child of God. Time for this man who claims faith to watch it play out- even if my emotions tell me differently.

Animal Kingdom's Quiet Transformation

The wonderful and thoughtful website, Parkeology, has posted an insightful piece on the quiet transformation of Disney's Animal Kingdom. It's well worth a read. Find it here.

(Photograph copyright Parkeology.)

September 9, 2014

WED Imagineering Announces Tomorrowland 1967

At a then staggering cost of $23 Million, WED Imagineering, the design arm of Disneyland, announced the July 2 opening of the New Tomorrowland 1967. 

Only in Disneyland's "World on the Move" could you journey in a submarine, explore the inner workings of a snow flake by going into a microscope, soar to the Moon, and experience transportation systems of tomorrow. 

Tomorrowland 1967 was a huge success. And it came on the heels of New Orleans Square with The Pirates of the Caribbean. Just a couple of years later, Imagineering would debut The Haunted Mansion. It was a great time to be a park fan- back when there were new, major attractions added every two or three years at the most. Back when Disneyland was the cutting edge theme park. In the day when Walt's philosophy guided the investors and company accountants and not the other way around.

(Image from Phil Sears.)

September 8, 2014

California Adventure from Afar

This is the Disney park I want to be at right now. Surprised? So am I. Very, actually.

I love Epcot and Disneyland Paris, but there's something about the new Disney California Adventure that draws me to it. I have been itching to spend a day just exploring all the detail of Buena Vista Street and Cars Land

The image above is a bit deceptive, as I do not quite care for Paradise Pier. It needs so much more, but I will admit that the revamping of the area has increased its appeal compared to the mess it was in 2001. Although it is totally without theme, needs some painting and a new musical score, California Screamin' continues to be of the most enjoyable Disney coasters. A nighttime ride is smooth as glass and provides views and a thrill that is hard to beat.

The new sister park to Disneyland still has gaping holes in quality. The backside of Hollywoodland is mostly an ugly mess.  The backlot area and the half finished theater which houses the truly magical Aladdin show are the worst offenders of any Disney park aside from the horrible Studios park in Paris. Conversely, Grizzly Peak fits perfectly up against the Grand Californian Hotel. The general area leaves much to be desired when it contains just one incomplete raft ride and a children's play area, and it could be so much more with another attraction and a few enhancements to the trails which surround it. Just around the bend, Soarin' Over California really fits at this park, as opposed to its out of theme placement at Epcot. The aviation styled Condor Flats is much too small to be totally immersive. You're barely in the land before you're out of it but a delicious  Bleu Cheese Burger at Taste Pilot's Grill takes the edge off nicely.

I am a Californian at heart and always will be, even though I have lived in Colorado for 25 years. I love the Golden State, both north and south, the lifestyle, its mission inspired architecture, and the weather. This park plays to the strengths of the famous California sunshine. In the Fall season, there is something very relaxing about the quitter pace. It's a great time to enjoy some decent food at the Pacific Wharf area while listening to the Mariachi Divas. For a landlocked Denverite, sitting under an umbrella with a waterside view is pretty rare, making this is as much a pleasure as finding myself at the farthest waterside table at Disneyland's Hungry Bear Restaurant. Knowing Cars Land and Radiator Springs Racers are just around the corner via a magnificent back entrance is only a plus. 


Count me in as one who really enjoys Ariel's Undersea Adventure. Granted, it is not the E Ticket adventure it should have been, but the larger than life Ursula animatronic makes the journey worth the effort. And who doesn't love the music from this classic film?
Hopefully, there are at least one or two classic Disney attractions of this type on the way. Ending the day with World of Color is pretty special. Blasphemy to some, but I prefer it to Fantasmic! Really. 

Disney's California Adventure isn't Disneyland. Not even close. It has a long way to go to be truly as rich in experiences and depth. Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and many other attractions place the original Kingdom above its younger sister, but without any new adventures, its just feeling a bit boring these days. There's lots of space to keep improving California Adventure. I just hope the suits will brush off those plans for "Phase Two" now that the remake is a proven success.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)