May 31, 2016

Rare Walt Disney World Hotel Image

Pure and simple: The Walt Disney World Venetian Resort- one of many unbuilt hotels designed by the folks at Imagineering. Back when the theme parks were the reason for a visit, when hotels were built to complement the parks and not the other way around.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

May 27, 2016

Promises, Promises

All this Disney talk about Pirates of the Caribbean and Tron at Shanghai Disneyland,  Frozen at Epcot, Guardians of the Galaxy taking over Tower of Terror, and Star Wars Land vs. Avatar / World of Pandora at the parks. All promising to make the parks places we have to go see. It's enough to make a theme park fan's head explode. I've gotta stop.

Right now, my head is filled with bigger things. As I have been reading my Bible - through the Psalms, actually- God has been reminding me of His promises. Both for all believers and for me through those private words where the Scriptures come alive and speak in a very personal way. There's dates next to those verses and brief descriptions about what was going on at the time I wrote it down. All very powerful reminders of how personal God is! 

There's also that file in my cabinet. The manila folder filled with written messages people have given me over the decades. Words of encouragement from God while they were praying for me. How many have come to pass! 

Lastly, there's one particular spoken word given to me during a time of worship from a man I'd never met. Almost 20 years ago, he spoke to me. My wife and I did not understand it at the time, but a decade later, we saw it come to pass. Just as he said. And it's changed our lives in a good way, even though its been hard to walk it out. Funny, it happened - and it wasn't until almost another 7 or 8 years until we remembered that spoken word. 

God is faithful! If He has given you a promise, He will bring it to pass. Hold onto that!

May 26, 2016

Trio of Coming Attractions

The year was 1959, and it was a very exciting time to be going to Disneyland! Under Walt Disney's leadership - where the guest was thought of in the highest terms possible - the park kept expanding and expanding. By treating the customers well, the park not only grew, but the Company turned great profit.

Three new iconic attractions were to debut that year, attractions that would make that half of the park shine: The Disneyland Monorail system, the Motor Boat Cruise, and the very popular Submarine Voyage. And the best was yet to come.

Just imagine not one but two "E Tickets" coming on line in one park in one year. You'd never see that happening today. What an incredible time to be a Disney park fan!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

May 25, 2016

Never Built Roger Rabbit Attraction

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? In this case, the question is "Who killed off Roger Rabbit?" This all was planned in the early 90's, back in long ago, when Imagineering was arguably at its peak in productivity. 

When Disney's Hollywood Studios was known as Disney-MGM Studios, there were plans afoot for a great simulator attraction based on the smash Disney film. The concept art shown gives us a glimpse of what could have been. 

The hare-brained attraction included in-cabin effects long before Stormrider at Tokyo Disney SeaDumbo flies by as we are in hot pursuit of Bennie the Cab,  and Roger himself makes a lasting impression. Sound like great fun! And certainly a better executed family attraction than what is coming to the Studios in the form of Toy Story Land.

As with many projects, money and politics killed its chances of ever becoming reality. It's really a shame!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

May 24, 2016

#GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend

Take this news for what it is: Gay fans and political groups are approaching Marvel executives and calling out for the very single Captain America to be given a boyfriend. All coming from the same groups that are asking, almost demanding, that Frozen's Elsa be given a girlfriend. 

The answer needs to be "No." Back in the day when things were less open, Stan Lee could have made the Captain intentionally sexually ambiguous, but he did not. Let's stay with the original content and honor those who created him. These fans asking for the boyfriend should be ashamed of themselves for wanting to change a classic piece of comic and film art to suit their political agenda.

Will Disney ever make a gay hero or heroine? I'm sure the time will come, but it certainly is not now for this iconic hero. 

Finding Dory Cross Promotes the Seas with Nemo and Friends

Is it just me or does this screenshot from the trailer for Finding Dory look a lot like the Seas pavilion at Epcot? Two levels, large central tank, and larger wraparound aquarium. Turtle Talk with Crush will see some new characters integrated into the attraction. Could the rest of Seas with Nemo and Friends get some upgrades after the film debuts? It sure would be nice.

Dumb and Dumber

How our great nation has fallen! We have succumbed to this duo as our Presidential candidates? Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the best we can do? (No, Bernie Sanders isn't any better!) I'm not ashamed to be an American- at least when it stood for something. Now, I'm just embarrassed for our nation. God save us!

May 23, 2016

Why My Money's Not Going to Disney This Year

Construction everywhere (in California and Florida) and lame Disney attractions opening in Florida. This is why I am not going to use my heard earned money on a Disney centered vacation this year. 

Star Wars Land is underway. The location in California is just so unfortunate, but I'm sure it will be well done when it debuts in 2018 or so. California Adventure has nothing to offer that cannot wait.

Star Wars Land is also underway at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The beautiful Animal Kingdom is also seeing a surge n additions, with Pandora / Avatar being the new crown jewel. 

The Magic Kingdom is "frozen", but Epcot is getting a misplaced ride in Norway, a quick(?) and dirty re-do of the Maelstrom boat ride. Disney Springs? Beautiful to look at, but it is still a shopping center. 

What's a Disney fan to do? Spend his money elsewhere! It has now been 7 years since I've been to the World. It will be longer before the next visit.

May 21, 2016

New Frozen Meet and Greet Art

Anna and Elsa in Norway's meet and greet. For my records but certainly not high on my list.
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

May 19, 2016

More Than Just Frozen Ever After at Walt Disney World

Frozen Ever After opens soon in Epcot's World Showcase! Elsa, Anna, and friends make their splashy debut in Norway. But that's not all- there's more! 

Like so many of you, I have long resigned myself to the sad fact that Frozen is now taking over the Maelstrom attraction at Norway. Just to recap old ground, I'm not opposed to the film being turned into an attraction at Walt Disney World. It's just in the wrong park. And no, Maelstrom was not an Epcot Center "E Ticket" attraction of old (that designation would belong to Journey into Imagination, World of Motion, and Horizons). What was it? An old attraction that needed a refreshing, not a character infusion. Now that is all settled...

It's clear to this writer that Frozen Ever After just doesn't apply to the ride replacing Maelstrom. In fact, if you look for it, you can find it all over Walt Disney World!

It seems temporary attractions and changes really aren't, broken effects stay that way, and it's now all about guest manipulation versus guest satisfaction and providing the best experience for the travel dollar. Each park suffers from the malady of Frozen Ever After:

The Magic Kingdom- Where to start? Tomorrowland's Carousel of Progress. Stitch should be ditched. No love from Disney suits, but The Hall of Presidents will be getting a forced upgrade due to the Presidential Election. (And both choices are awful!) Adventureland is a disjointed mess, but at least the New Fantasyland feels somewhat fresh from what I can tell. 

Animal Kingdom- This park has probably made the most strides going forward in light of the coming Avatar / Pandora addition. Yet, Dinorama remains a blight on the landscape, Kali River Rapids continues at best to be a waste of an attraction, and the Yeti on Expedition: Everest sadly continues to trip the light fantastic. 

Disney's Hollywood Studios- Aerosmith needs to be booted out of Rock 'N' Rollercoaster. In spite of the still great songs like Walk This Way, Imagineering needs to bring the attraction into the New Century. Over at the Great Movie Ride, new scenes and updated film choices need to be added, but the dancing girls of the opening scenes are still Frozen Ever After. Fantasmic! needs a serious retooling, and in an odd twist of fate, the one attraction that doesn't need an overhaul seems to be in line to get one: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror as it converts into a Guardians of the Galaxy mess. In reality, the whole park is a disaster. You can't give the guests meet and greets and new dining locations to make up for shuttered attractions and construction walls.

Epcot-  My how the once mighty have fallen!  Circle of Life is in the state of rigor mortis, Figment's personality and face lift need an overhaul, but then so does Ellen at Universe of Energy and Martin Short in the Canada film! Ellen looks particularly stuck in the 90's.
That's just Future World! Things are equally bad over at the World Showcase half of the park. Isn't it time for a whole new country to be added to the place? Or at least brand new films for the countries represented? Or even brand new attractions instead of just milking the guests with new places to wine and dine? 

Yes, Walt Disney World is Frozen Ever After- and not in a good way.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

May 18, 2016

Many Moons Ago

Taken a long time ago for my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary, this beautiful shot captures a moment in time not to be repeated. Make sure you take time to hug those you love, and let them hear you say it!

May 17, 2016

From the Top of Mauna Kea


The Big Island, Hawaii, is a place of incredible contrasts. From the gorgeous beaches to the Parker Ranch, the the volcano named Mauna Kea, each area seems as if it was created to be separate worlds from each other!

My good friend Len Yokoyama captured this image from the summit. (Check out his Walt Disney World reports and incredible photos on the blog.) The landscape is a dazzling piece of art from the Creator. Wouldn't you agree?

(Photograph copyright Len Yokoyama.)

May 13, 2016

The Right Decision: Goodbye Castle

Often, the right decisions are the hardest ones. Certainly applies in this case as television's Castle has not been renewed for Season Nine. It's a good thing as the chemistry between lead actors Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic made the show work. 

Cast and crew of Castle.

That's not a jab to downplay the wonderful ensemble cast at all- but the ongoing Castle / Beckett romantic tension gave the series a spark that did not go out even once the two finally married. 

Stana's goodbye note via Instagram.

ABC Television under the leadership of the Walt Disney Company could have done what they have done to other Disney divisions under the leadership of Robert Iger: let the series continue with Stana so they could go on stuffing their pockets with more cash. (Just look at the state of the U.S. Disney parks in Florida.) However, for once, common sense and perhaps the respect of the art won out. Castle would not continue without Stana. Or perhaps Disney had no choice...

Can the suits make the same decision for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and not convert it into a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction? Probably not.

Risking It All

We know Disney took some calculated risks in order to build Shanghai Disneyland. The Imagineers were forced to retool their ideas to fit a Chinese concept and sensibility of what a them park should be. It looks like the end result will be profitable.

A friend passed on this thought to me today, and I am riveted by it.

What about bigger and more important risks?
Listen to this incredible challenge:

May 12, 2016

Initial Thoughts on Shanghai Disneyland

Thanks to terrific sites like Disney and More, the web's been filled with photos and video leaked out of Shanghai Disneyland. And, to be totally honest, I've watched most of the video and looked in detail at the photos. What I've seen is a mixed bag offering.

Let's start with the clear winner: Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure. The new story drives the attraction, and the skeleton to Jack Sparrow in the flesh transition is phenomenal, but it is the combination of filmed segments, detailed sets, and stunning new Audio-Animatronics that pull the whole thing together. From what I can see, Treasure Cove looks fine but suffers from too bright a color palate. 

On the other hand, the massive castle is a bust. The inside might make for a beautiful walk through and really looks lovely, but outside, it's clear the Chinese authorities had something to prove. Clunky, charmless, and without the wow factor of other Magic Kingdom icons. The same can be said for the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto. Prior to entering the basement of the castle, the boats cruise through a garden trough while looking at statues of Disney animated film characters. Boring. And a huge waste of space. The same charmless adjective can be applied to the Tim Burton inspired Alice in Wonderland maze, and unfortunately Peter Pan's Flight- which promised something groundbreaking and delivered little. 

Tomorrowland. Ugh- I had such high hope for this area based on the concept art. Admittedly, Tron's Lightcycles look terrific if somewhat short, and the Jet Packs have potential for a spinner. The interesting piece was looking at the pavement treatment in the land. Seems like it was designed with materials that would be especially easy to replace or hose down should the untrained guests decide to use the walking area as a place to relieve themselves. Perhaps it was just built to deconstruct like so many buildings in the former Soviet Union countries. 

There's not enough footage of Adventure Isle to get a great look, but Mickey Avenue, the alternative to Main Street U.S.A., looks great! The gardens around the castle hub are pleasing- even if it is a bit jarring to see Dumbo and the Carousel on the other side. 

As more photos and video become available, I'll comment. So far, I'd rate Shanghai Disneyland at a "B". Not excellent but with much potential.

May 11, 2016

Decline of the Religious White Male

I'm in the middle of reading this fascinating book, The Next Christendom, by Philip Jenkins. Well written and objective, it removes the hyperbole often associated with the topic of faith in this nation increasingly hostile to it, taking a look at growth in faith  communities the world over. Do you think the average Christian is a older man in North America? You'd be wrong. I won't give the finer points of the information away, but instead, I encourage you to read this for yourself. Historic, Biblical, Christ-centered Christianity is alive and well- just not where you think.

May 6, 2016

Norway Art Post Frozen Ever After

Yes, Maelstrom is long gone. Frozen Ever After is on the way. A very astute reader over at WDWMagic found a new piece of Disney Imagineering concept art which shows World Showcase's lovely Norway pavilion after the Frozen layover is complete. The kind reader did not disclose where it was found, but it's a treat for those of us that enjoy concept art. I've cleaned it up a bit to show more detail. With all the additions, Norway now becomes the pavilion with the largest amount of acreage a park guest can walk. Wouldn't it be nice if other World Showcase pavilions were added to? Without the character invasion, that is!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

May 5, 2016

Always Only You


Every once in awhile, a foreign language film comes along that really grips me. This is one of them. Always (Only You). So worth viewing. Starring Hyo-ju Han and Ji-soeb So as the leads.

Notable and Quotable: Vladimir Lenin


"We must be ready to employ trickery, deceit, law-breaking, withholding and concealing truth... We can and must write in a language which sows among the masses hate, revulsion, and scorn toward those who disagree with us. 

                            Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, 1918

(Sounds like so many special interest groups in American politics, doesn't it?)