October 20, 2014

Riding Out the Storm at Tokyo Disney Sea

Among fans of Tokyo Disney Sea, there seems to be a debate about the attraction that forms the centerpiece of Port Discovery: the flight simulator attraction, StormRider. Some claim a fondness for this new use of flight simulator technology with in cabin special effects. Others believe it to be a second rate version of Disney's popular Star Tours. One thing is certain however. It has an absolutely terrific attraction poster! And here it is in full color and in great scale and size. Click on it to make it even larger.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 18, 2014

First Dreamfinder, Now Big Thunder Mountain Railroad


Will Big Thunder Mountain Railroad pave the way for a new Journey into Imagination?

Not sure how I feel about Disney attractions being turned into comics. I will say I love that Dreamfinder and Figment are making such a splash. It gives me a bit of hope that a brand new Journey Into Imagination is on the way to Epcot

Regardless of the outcome, the cover of the comic is quite beautiful. And worthy of being saved on your computer.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Puppy Love

How about this bundle of cuteness? These pups belong to my sister and brother-in-law. Each looking for a home. 

October 17, 2014

Rest in Peace, Tim Hauser

With Manhattan Transfer, Tim Hauser created some very memorable pieces of art. I loved Twilight Zone. Enjoy this video- a sheer genius take off on Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

October 15, 2014

The True Purpose of Prayer


 Recently, I was asked to share some insights at a retreat for Men and also later at a study for college aged students. I was surprised that the subject of both gatherings turned to the issue of prayer.

Why do we pray? We want answers from a Living God. We want to pour out of hearts. We want to know someone greater than us cares. Sometimes we just ask for things. But prayer like this is much more than this.

When talking about prayer, we have to start at the beginning…
It all begins with the character of God. In the book of I John, the great disciple of Jesus states, "God is love". (verse 4:16)             

God’s character is the beginning of everything good.              

The problem is with us. If we don't understand who God is and what prayer means to Him, we may be expecting results that God never intended. Then, we can become discouraged, confused, or even embittered.

Of the many characteristics of God, four stand out to me as being worth consideration as we discuss prayer. Let's look at these from a Biblical standpoint.

 1- He is Unchanging.

In the New Testament, James writes in Chapter one, verse 17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

In other words, He is the same God for the starving children in Africa as He is for those of wealthy. Even though we do not understand his ways, and they are never subjective to the understanding of man, God is dependable.  In fact,  He is not fickle nor does His personality alter. If our image of God is dependent on our understanding of Him, our understanding becomes our highest authority, our god, not Him.

 
2- He is All-Knowing   
   
PSALM 147:5   “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.”

God created Man. Nothing we think, do, or say, past, present or future, surprises Him. He knows all things. There's an inherent comfort in that for those of us that love and know Jesus Christ. 

3- He always cares. Our circumstances don't change His love.

Here's a classic piece of scripture that best describes this point:
Romans 8:35-39    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:  “For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
God's love for a fallen, imperfect man is shown best in the sacrifice of His Son on the Cross for sin. That He understands and has seen all the evil men can do, and yet He loves us, it's amazing. In fact, any man who would come to Him, confessing his sins, believing in his heart that Jesus Christ is the perfect payment for sin, will find an eternity in heaven with Him. Hell is no longer his destination, and Satan no longer has a hold on him.
 4- He is Always Good

PSALM 25:8     “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.”

Let me emphasize here. God is always good- even when we do not agree with Him or get what we want. God's goodness and mercy are found all through the Bible, but all of Psalm 136 resonates:"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever!"

Stop and think about the times God has answered your prayers. These stories are important because they are your stories of interactions with our Living God. No one can take these from you, no one can tell you they did not happen. This is part of your history. Just think, the most powerful being ever took time to interact with you. Incredible!

Now, remembering what you just did, let’s look at prayer from God's perspective. A Biblical perspective. There's three main aspects of prayer.

1- Relationship with Him
God desires that we  would know Him and love Him. This goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. After the fall of man, when the forbidden fruit was eaten, God searches for them in the garden. It's not that He didn't know where they were. It's that He wanted them to answer as to why they were hiding from Him; why they no longer desired to know Him and talk with Him. 

An Eternal Relationship. He gives us hope for an eternity with Him. An eternal, loving,  relationship. Never broken unity. No pain, no loss, no doubts. Imagine an eternity of peace, deep love, and joy. This is God's heart for us!

As far as prayer goes, He does answer prayer. For those who put their trust in Him, prayer is a two way dialogue, a by-product of relationship. Not the reason for it. Contrary to what the false teachers of the prosperity gospel would teach, God is no cosmic genie, waiting at our beck and call to give us all we ask. Instead, He is a good and perfect Father, allowing only what is best for us.


                               

2- Transformation
The second reason for prayer is transformation. Not the Michael Jackson type of change, but the kind of change for the better. Every recovering alcoholic understands what I mean here. Ever plead with God to change you? To heal you? To make you different than what you currently are? Well, God has a plan for that kind of transformation. The plan is to make those who believe to look more like Jesus Christ. He desires to clean us up, heal our souls, and to change the course of our lives. It gives us hope and purpose, but it also means God has a plan for us...


 3-   Instruction
He wants to lead us. Our beautiful, living, powerful, good God has a plan for us. He created us and made each of us unique. Because we are made by Him to be unique, He alone knows what will most fulfill us and give us meaningful purpose. The truth is, we only think we do. Yet, until we love and trust in God, we will never discover the truth and instead, be left to search endlessly on our own.

We all want to know if we make a difference. We all want to know we will make an impression in this world before our life is over. (Go see The Fault in Our Stars, by the way.) God's plan is that all people would know and love Him. (Just read the book of Second Peter in the New Testament.) And He desires to uniquely use us for this plan. 

There’s a progression here.  In other words, if we love Him and walk closely with Him, we will: 

·      Encounter the Living God,
·      Be Changed by the Living God,
·      Be Used by the Living God.

And God desires to keep this cycle going! So, from a Biblical perspective, these are the three real purposes of prayer. As you think more deeply about each, you'll realize prayer doesn't always involve getting what we want, what we think is best. Sometimes, oftentimes, it's a very different story. 

To make sense of this fact, it helps to look at the life of Jesus as our model.



This Jesus, the one I love and follow, took on the pain and sins of Man. Once for all time. Even though His life was sinless and ours is not, there's a lot to learn by examining his life. He was, after all, a man of prayer. And what better place to look at his prayer than right before His Crucifixion.

Let's look at the Book of John, chapter 17 verses 1-4, right before Jesus is sent to be crucified.  

"After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.  Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do."
·   This was the most crucial time in Jesus’ ministry. Would He finish well? No one would dare complete this task of crucifixion unless God Himself spoke it and they loved God enough to obey. Jesus’ prayer reveals THE most important aspect of why we pray:

I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”

But back to us. What about the things we pray about?
What happens when we pray and God answers? What happens when our life is impacted by what happens around us and to us?     It usually falls into these categories. 

·      Good things we like 
·      When Bad Things Happen
·      The consequences of our sin
·      The consequences of other’s sin
·       The results of Other people’s sin against us

What happens when we get what we asked for? When there's no answer? When the answer brings us pain? Keep reading!


When We Get What We Ask For
Rejoice and be thankful! God wants us to come to Him when things are good and not just come to Him when things are hard or when we need something. Remember how good He is! Celebrate that- and remember that.

Sometimes getting what we pray for comes with an unexpected side! There can be challenges that come with it. Opportunities to grow, change, and become more like Jesus. 

It's time for us, for me, to move away from an American mindset of Christianity. What I mean is, following Jesus does not mean we will experience success as our culture defines it. We will, however, experience success as how God defines it. And He defines it as obedience. Jesus himself says if we love Him, we will obey what He commands. Doesn't mean we'll get what the world says is a reward.

In the world's eyes, Jesus was a crucified failure. In God's eyes, Jesus completed his mission- to die for the sins of the world, to save all the people that would choose to love Him, serve, Him, and follow Him. The world would say he was a victim of a hate crime. The truth is He was no victim. Jesus was a strong, brave and obedient servant of the God Most High who completed the task set before Him- even if it looked like failure and shame.


What about When We Get No Answer?
Let’s look again at Jesus in the Garden. He knows what’s coming. He is in emotional distress, lonely, troubled. He’s in physical distress as well. His friends are too tired and worried and sad to stay awake and pray with Him. He is ultimately alone. He cries out:

 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  (Luke 22:42 )

The Father doesn’t change the situation, but He was strengthened. In this case, an angel appeared to Him. We may not get an angel, but we may not be asked to die on a cross either! Jesus continues on… to fulfill the Father’s plan.

Practically, when we get no answer, we can follow Jesus' model.
1-Keep Praying,  2- Wait and Watch for God, 3- Do the Last Thing He Told You

When the Answer Brings Pain

Our life's circumstances can come because of our sin, the sin of other people, or other’s sin against us. But, as we have just seen in the example of Jesus at the cross, it can also come because we are obedient to what God has asked. God works in ways and in time that we may never understand. Or it may take years before we can look at our life, look backwards, and then say to ourselves, "Now I understand."
  
What about the times we pray and do not get what we feel we have been promised?

Interestingly, the Bible does not ignore the fact that sometimes we do not get what God has promised. The book of Hebrews in the New Testament speaks of all the great "heroes of the faith". You know, the guys like King David, etc. The guys of Sunday School Bible stories.

Hebrews 11:39: "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised."

All the great heroes of the faith didn’t get what was promised!
We are in good company! Of course, this also brings a challenge to our minds when we do not receive our promised from God. What do we do when we think the promises of God don’t come- when it seems God is contradicting Himself?

Will we rely on our own understanding to bring us peace?
Will we trust Him, knowing His character and love for us?
Will we wait on Him even if it’s hard?


Again, will we trust in God even when it looks as if He is certainly contradicting Himself?

Looking at the topic of prayer from God's perspective always helps us. We can either choose to believe things about God that are not true, or we can believe He is unchanging, all-knowing, that He always cares and that He is always good.

The Complete and Biblical Purpose of Prayer is for Relationship with God, Transformation into the image of Jesus, and for Instruction from Him.

He wants Relationship with Us, Wants to Make us More like Jesus, Wants to Give Us Hope, and Wants to Use Us for His Purposes

· God allows the seasons so he can show his power to us, his wisdom, his goodness. Whether or not we get the answer we want or ever understand, He is still God! This we know: He does love and care for us.

I'll end here with a piece of truth from the book of Romans. (Romans 8:28-30) Through the inspiration of God's Spirit, the Apostle Paul writes:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD FOR HE IS GOOD, HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER!

October 14, 2014

Fun at Anderson Farms

It's not a day at Disneyland, but for some good, old fashioned fun in Denver, Colorado, it's hard to beat Anderson Farms!

This family owned farm has something for everyone. There's the famous corn mazes, acres and acres of mazes ranging from kid friendly beginners' mazes ti ones of great difficulty.


Then, it's time for a ride in a tractor pulled wagon out to 30 acres of pumpkins. And 28 varieties at that! I'd never seen a blue-ish pumpkin before and just had to buy it.

Our youngest daughter, her husband and kids. They make for a pretty sweet photo, don't you think?


Live country music, a kid's play area to beat any other I've seen, a full country market, horse rides, and much more- all for $12 per adult. What a great day- and what a perfect afternoon to get out of town and enjoy the Fall sun!

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)

October 13, 2014

Villains in Vogue: Tokyo Disney's Mystery Tour

Disney villains are always in vogue. At Tokyo Disneyland, there was a tour of Cinderella Castle celebrating the dark side of the animated films: The Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour.

It wasn't quite an opening day attraction, as it debuted in 1986, but it was quite popular with the crowds that wanted to explore the heights and depths of the beautiful structure at the center of the park. In fact, it was the first castle to feature an attraction since the opening of the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk through at the original Disneyland. It's popularity may also have played a part in an expanded series of rooms designed to be explored at Disneyland Paris.

This full color attraction poster gives a pretty good hint as to what's involved. The walking tour is full of mystery as it journeys through the castle. It concludes with a terrifying encounter with the Horned King from The Black Cauldron, Disney's darkest and most sinister animated film to date. Of course, since this is Disney, a guest is chosen to defeat the monarch... to much fanfare from the crowd.

Being Disney in the new century where princesses are king, the Castle Tour was closed in 1986 and a sanitized, friendly princess focused Cinderella's Fairy Tale Hall debuted soon after. 

Make sure to click on this image and blow it up in an incredibly large and beautifully articulated form! (Thanks to my friend, Len, for the gift of the image.)

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 10, 2014

Death of a Vision

It's been about 6 weeks now. I knew it was over, and I knew it was right to end it. It benefitted so many people, and so did its death. I could see it. I just didn't like it.

Creative, Biblical, Focused. Inspired by God, and now, it was as dead as could be. The vision was over. It is time to move on to the next thing God has for me. What it is, I do not know.

And yet, on the day I wrote this, for the first time, I thought the vision could be fulfilled an entirely different way than I ever guessed. Could God Himself be faithful to fulfill a vision by first allowing it to die? Perhaps. Just perhaps.

October 8, 2014

Disney World's Forbidden Attraction


Disney has decided you cannot wait in line for one of it's most popular attractions. Toy Story Mania, at the underdeveloped Disney's Hollywood Studios, tested a Fast Pass only rider system for a few days. Should it be deemed successful, certain attractions will not be allowed to be experienced on a whim. You'd have to book them in advance- and perhaps pay a premium for the right to do so. 

What gives? Well, the new Magic Bands and Fast Pass+ have cost the company an estimated cost of up to $2 BILLION dollars- and the suits need to pay for it. That's enough money for two full revamps of the once loser California Adventure or about four New Fantasylands at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Or the cost of a brand new theme park as was the case with Tokyo Disney Sea.

So, if this works, guests will pay to get into the park and then pay again to ride certain attractions. Greedy, greedy, greedy- and unfortunately, many folks will take the bait as they will not want to be second class citizens in a tragic kingdom.

Webmasters and Bloggers: Please spread this story. It's evil at its core.

Go here for the whole story, written up by Money magazine.

October 3, 2014

New Tomorrowland's Alien Encounter: Showcasing a Terrorizing Future


In the not-so-distant past, Disney suits gave us groundbreaking attractions in Florida. Such is the case with the Tomorrowland redo of 1994. They were experiences for the whole family that did not always rely on roller coaster thrills. Yet, Tomorrowland looked like something straight out of Meet the Robinsons.



It was time to redo the land. There had to be another focus as technology was surpassing what had been built for the 1971 opening of the Magic Kingdom park. What was imagined for the next version was a future fantasy that would not go out of style, something akin to a space port of the future, a world where robots, aliens, and humans all coexisted in a sometimes uncomfortable world.


From the excellent but now defunct Webcot site.
There would be a mix of science fantasy and retro focused attractions. There had to be: Carousel of Progress would still be there, but there would also be a new CircleVision show starring Robin Williams, The Timekeeper, the American version of Paris' Le Visionarium. When you tossed in the continued presence of the Tomorrowland Raceway, the odd mix of attractions had to include this elaborate backstory.


The official Disney photo looks great!

There would be found one unexpected adventure in the plans. ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. Depending on your point of view, this was either one great Walt Disney World attraction or one that never belonged in a Disney park. Count me among the former. Happily. What could the Imagineers do to successfully revamp the old Mission to the Moon / Mission to Mars building? Apparently, something incredible!

My first and only experience with the attraction came at the end of the 20th Century. Arriving at the Magic Kingdom park one early evening, I could not wait to get to the New Tomorrowland. I was not disappointed. The visuals were staggeringly beautiful, especially after dark when the neon lighting appeared. Here was the one stateside Tomorowland I could get excited about after watching the original in California deteriorate before my eyes.



We had just been to Paris the year before, and we absolutely loved every part of the beautiful Disneyland Paris resort. Discoveryland and its Jules Verne retro style was a treat. 

I was curious to see the American version of Le Visionarium. Very glad to have it on our turf. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority was present and accounted for- in my book a staple of great Tomorrowland design. The glowing Space Mountain loomed in the near distance, and our entire family had our eyes on another great journey to outer space. Yet it was this small theater show that I was most looking forward to experiencing.


We approached Alien Encounter with an excitement we didn't expect. It's not too often we get to try out a Disney attraction for the first time. Even rarer to do so for a scary one! I'd heard many stories of families with young children who had left traumatized. Not knowing what to expect, I was still compelled to discover the horrifying truth for myself. My family, including youngest son, was game for it, too. We just couldn't resist!

X-S Tech invited us to "Seize the Future". What a wonderful opportunity to visit this company due to their generosity of hosting an open house. Or was there something more? Wandering inside the building, the more serious, some would say ominous, tone of the attraction was quite a surprise. The upcoming theater experience was only intensified by the eerie music coming from the speakers.

My wife and I gave our kids the big pep talk, particularly preparing our nine years old for a thrill on par with the Haunted Mansion- but a little more "up close and personal". We seated him between both of us and held his hands while his teenage siblings sat on both sides of us. The lights dimmed- and the thrills began.

Sitting in the soon darkened theater, every move of the alien brought shrieks- shrieks of laughter that is. Even our youngest found it great fun. I am not a horror movie fan, especially when it came to slasher flicks, but who ever thought (implied) blood and gore could be so much fun?!? 

As we exited the show, we couldn't stop talking about it. We spent the rest of our evening in a fairly empty Magic Kingdom, hitting the Florida mountain range and a quick trip with the Pirates of the Caribbean. It was a great night under the stars, full of the magic Disney promises.

Expecting Alien Encounter to be around for a long time, we never took another ride. Wish we had as it closed a mere eight years after its premier. Yes, it was a shock for us. Disney, especially in Florida, left its attractions up for years with replacement or rehabilitation. But it was gone, now only to be enjoyed on You Tube.



Wouldn't you know it, the suits at Disney had to revamp it with the now mandatory toon tie in. Above, Stitch, as he ruins a once original and spectacular attraction.



This wonderfully frightful attraction almost came to Disneyland in California as well. Unfortunately, it never arrived.

So, here it is at Walt Disney World via YouTube- scary yourself silly! ExtraTerrorestrial Alien Encounter

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 1, 2014

This Space Mountain Has It All

Anyway you view it, the Space Mountain attraction at Disneyland Paris is the entire package, the absolute best version of the attraction that the Disney Imagineers have ever built. This attraction poster is only a small piece of the thrills that await guests who decide to launch from the Paris space port.

It is not the double tracked high capacity ride found in Florida's Magic Kingdom. It is not the toon-ish looking attraction built at Hong Kong Disneyland, nor the smaller version built for California. 

It is the one and only Jules Verne themed ride. The one with inversions, the one with a spellbinding soundtrack, the one with the incredible exterior that will never be duplicated, the one that fits Discoveryland perfectly, the one that brought guests back to Disneyland Paris and could be said to have saved the Resort.

Mission One easily surpasses Mission Two, but there's no denying the beauty of this attraction as it sits within the most stunning take on Tomorrowland ever designed. Nestled up next to the gorgeous Nautilus sitting in a small lagoon.

This blog has many photographs and pieces of concept art focused on Space Mountain in Discoveryland. But, if you'd like to read an extended piece that showcases Space Mountains all over the world, well, this post has it all: Imagineer concept art, photographs, a history of the attraction and more. 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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!

Imagining 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.)