March 27, 2017

Beauty and the Beast: A Skeptic's View

It's not a perfect remake of a near perfect film, but it is very close to it. Disney's new live action version Beauty and the Beast is easily the most compelling of the remake lot, including the winning adaption of Cinderella. I'm reminded here of Director Bill Condon's comment -"I just thought it was the most beautiful and perfect movie. Why remake something that's perfect?" Good question, and it's one fans should be asking about every Disney animated into live action conversion. Regardless of all the press, I had to see it for myself and make up my own mind.

The film is aimed at teens and older. It's in an entirely different league than the animated classic, much gruffer and grittier with fewer humorous elements. Much more akin to Beastly, the more modern (2011) take on the tale as old as time. It is not for young children. Darker, moodier, more violent, and just plain adult in theme, the emotional complexities of death, war, and disease are not your normal topics for a kid film, yet they are subtle but key elements to this story that are missing from the original.

As a big fan of the original, the differences were very noticeable, and they began with the new narration and opening sequence. Effective but very different, signaling clearly that this is not the  animated film of days gone by. The music reflects this transition as well. The score feels dark, with the arrangements and performances less buoyant and bright. Even the upbeat numbers reveal more than a twinge of desperation under the surface.

In this version, it's less important that these characters can sing well than it was in the animated film, especially one that followed up The Little Mermaid, the film that was the beginning of Disney's animation rebirth. Now, years later, this new story is so powerful and such an accomplishment that it wouldn't have needed to be a musical at all- even though fans of the original would be disappointed. That said, of all the vocal pieces, Dan Stevens' solo, the new Evermore, is unexpected- a simply beautiful standout performance. But more on the music later.

Smart, beautiful, and a stunning voice.

A very fine portrayal of Belle- even without Paige O'Hara's great pipes.

This is a movie where Disney's promotional machine was clearly out of touch with reality in more than a few key points- or at least it became obvious they were attempting to manipulate the potential audience. Let's start with our leads. If you've read this blog, you know I was not a fan of Emma Watson playing the iconic lead character. I saw her as too young, too boyish, and lacking elegance and maturity. Additionally, the entire cast including Ms. Watson herself made it seem as if this Belle was a revelation, when in fact, she was no more of a groundbreaking role model than before. The hype machine made me believe Belle had become strident, domineering, and overbearing. Ugh. 

In reality, her performance was delightfully nuanced and increasingly rich as the film progressed. Watson displayed a convincing vulnerability in all the key spots. This was so necessary to making her Belle lovable. I found her even charming and warm- something I did not expect. You heard it first- her adequate singing aside- I was wrong. She was terrific, winning me over by the time she explored the West Wing. As much as I love Paige O'Hara's voice, I equally appreciate Emma Watson's portrayal of my favorite Disney heroine.  

More of a klutz.

More mature but still unsure any girl could love a beast.

In the animated film, Beast was a fairly one-dimensional character. He's moderately more developed here but still secondary to Belle and Gaston in time allotted on screen. A bit more of Beast's backstory unfolds, and it is to the new film's advantage, particularly when it comes to developing his budding romance with the village girl. 

There are more not so subtle changes. His Beast is a well read adult with a dry sense of humor and more mature, with an overall better understanding of relationships. This must be partially due to the fact he was not restricted to breaking the curse before he reached the age of 21- certainly a concession to Dan Stevens being quite a bit older. One small gripe- I do wish Beast had thought of giving her the library as in the original. It may have displayed some of his growth in truly understanding his woman. Strengths aside, Beast is still full of rage and melancholy, but there's got to be a downside if you're rich, handsome, and have an absolute killer of a castle. Right? 

Much to his credit, Dan Stevens' beautiful performance is intentionally understated, not only strengthening his position as the moody and mysterious leading man but also showing his commitment to the success of the story, allowing others to take center stage for the benefit of all.  

Personal confession time- half way through writing this post, I stopped to watch the animated version while the new release was still fresh in my mind. This only reinforced what I had witnessed: Comparisons to the animated version couldn't be avoided, but from a practical sense, they are two very different movies and need to retreated as such.

Here Gaston is vain, dumb, and evil.

Now he's vain, wounded, and even more evil.

Much has been made of the biggest variation of all- LeFou and his man crush on Gaston. I'll definitely make an observation here, but it's more important to first discuss the character portrayals by the actors. Truly, Luke Evans is Gaston. He now owns the role, and I doubt if anyone else will ever be able to match him in a live action version. 

Long before Frozen, Disney broke new ground in animation by making the story's villain physically appealing. Now, Gaston's character is taken a step further as his background is told during key places in the action. He doesn't illicit sympathy, but we understand a bit more of why he is who he is. While he does not have the strength of singing voice as Richard White from the animated version, Evans more than compensates by bringing greater depth to what could be a stereotyped villain. Even if Evans vocal performance feels lacking in the tavern's opening musical number, he does sound more convincing and relaxed on the reprise of his self-titled song, even more so later when he convinces the townspeople its time to get rid of his competition. Again, this trade off is a small price to pay for such a powerfully stunning  performance.

Gaston's initially charming personality gives way to outright evil, gradually increasing with every scene and culminating in his treatment of Maurice and the murder of Beast. Chilling. Powerful. And perfect for this adult treatment of the fairy tale. Like many folks, Gaston never realizes the depth of his pain and brokenness, unlike Beast who longs for forgiveness and another chance to redeem his life. In this way, Beast tells everyman's story. We all have regrets of choices we've made, and we wish we could go back and change them. We ask ourselves, "What benefit did we reap at that time from the things we are now ashamed of?" And we understand those things result in despair and even death of sorts. Loss of innocence. Loss of trusting in our own way. These very mature themes of redemption come into play here in the film, making good fodder for discussion. (If you want to read about the original thought and creation behind Beast, read the animator's story here.)

I find Josh Gad's portrayal of the loyal sidekick LeFou to be a disservice to gay men. His flamboyant posturing and over the top personality is a gay cliche' at best, a parody, and I find it to be insulting. I've had a few gay friends, and not one fits the stereotype shown here. It is the totally wrong presentation for Hollywood to assert on traditional values America. The film clumsily attempts to let LeFou redeem himself by the end, but the underdeveloped effort falls flat, leaving LeFou to be an even bigger villain of a different sort: a coward. It would have been better for Bill Condon to stand by the original reading of the character.

The "gay moment" has been overplayed by both sides of the media and some of the cast and crew. Honestly, if you blink, it's over. The Liberal side has cheered and championed it all- and they fell right into the marketeers' hands by ensuring they would spend their dollars (and yen and euros etc.) to see the movie. Frankly, they took the bait. There's nothing to be proud of here, and as I have written above, how the character is portrayed is certainly not worth celebrating. Not in the least. He's just as lost as Gaston.

The Conservative side of America has bemoaned LeFou's character and mostly avoided seeing an excellent film worthy of so much praise. In addition, unfortunately, too many sources claimed scenes in the film that never materialized, and some readers took the bait as well. Frankly, this angers me even more. As a Christian, the most we are called to is Truth and Love (Jesus said He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life, and no one comes to God the Father but through Him). Shouldn't believers in the media adhere to a standard of being truthful? Actually, shouldn't all members of the media try to be truthful?

Regardless of the end result, the inclusion of LeFou being gay makes this a film for mature teens and adults. Again, these themes are not for small children who cannot understand the varied and numerous complexities associated with human sexuality, sickness, war and death. Each parent and not the media should be making the choices of when and how to educate their children with the values they hold as the ones responsible for their upbringing.

In watching the animated film immediately after seeing this one, I noticed just how many kid friendly segments were removed from the new version. Before, Chip almost functions as on screen narrator, asking questions of his mother that young viewers would need the answers for to follow the plot and have the characters actions make sense. The earlier film did not avoid LeFou's lifestyle. In fact, it made a slight reference to LeFou's potential sexual desires. Remember him walking down the tavern aisle in that mock wedding to Gaston? He seemed perfectly fine playing the bride. It was subtle, but it was there. All said, the amount of evil, violence, and the mature themes alone make the film anything but a Saturday matinee for the little ones- even if there was no "gay moment". For every other reason but including this one, I wouldn't bring my young children to this film. It's an excellent for an older audience and geared toward them. 

Loyal servants and true friends.

Perhaps my largest disappointment in the film was the minimal use of the very charming secondary characters. I particularly wanted to see more of Kevin Kline. Beyond being almost unnecessary to advancing the story, there were plenty of adult savvy comments made by Cogsworth ("Flowers, chocolates, promises you don't intend to keep") and Lumiere in the original that are missing here. They are not needed due to its already serious tone, but they were missed. I appreciated Mrs. Potts words regarding their commitment to the master and their part in making him who he was- and the chance to do it differently this time. Again, the multi-faceted complexities of adult relationships are in full display here, and that is to be celebrated.

Worthy of and faithful to the original.

Upon hearing of the live action remake of my favorite animated film, I was very curious as to how Disney would handle such iconic musical numbers, especially "Be Our Guest". I am pleased to report that it was delightful and fully worthy of praise for how it was handled. Lively, charming, and faithful to the original without concession to the more serious nature of the rest of the movie. In fact, it was a very needed break, one of the few pieces where humor was injected.  

The gang's all here.

Although darker, far more complex, and certainly less kid-friendly, faithful fans of Disney animated films have nothing to fear here. The studio's remake of this classic is more than admirably handled, a few quibbles aside. Go in with your eyes open, as well as your heart. Go see it, and judge for yourself. You'll find much to like and much to discuss. The new version not only displays the meaning of real beauty, acceptance, and love, it also reveals the unchanging nature of a fallen mankind and a chance for redemption. These eternal truths, which have made the story an enduring classic for generations, are presented in a powerful, beautiful, and creative way. 

Count me in as a converted skeptic. 

(Photographs and art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 24, 2017

Behold the Theme Park Sphere

Love Epcot? Me, too. There's just so much creativity and charm mixed in with all that positive, forward focused thinking. That said, the park's iconic centerpiece, Spaceship Earth, is far from an original thought.

The top photo of Expo 1967- Montreal (from Imagineering Disney) reveals those amazing Disney Imagineers were not the first to recognize and adapt the power and style of the sphere as an icon. Nor would it be the last.

Europa Park, Germany (photographer unknown)

Epcot's landmark sphere was copied almost directly at Europa Park in Germany. Opening in 1989, only a few years after Disney's park, this slightly shorter building houses the Eurosat coaster. Hmm. A coaster fully enclosed in the dark.

Time Racers to replace Spaceship Earth.

Where have we heard that? Oh yes, it was part of the Imagineer's planned redesign for Spaceship Earth, a coaster called Time Racers, back when Future World was to become Discoveryland. As you can see, designers gain inspiration from each other. It really works both ways.

Futurescope, Paris, France (photographer unknown)

Just a few hundred miles west in Paris, another theme park sphere shows up. Futurescope, celebrating the power and influence of film, also uses the mighty sphere to make a powerful statement. No metallic triangles, but just as striking with its smooth exterior. The use of the sphere is not limited to Europe, however.

World Energy Expo 2017, Astana, Kazakhstan

Here's a new sphere in the theme park / exposition landscape. On the other side of the world in Kazakhstan, Central Asia's largest sphere will debut this year as the centerpiece building of the World Energy Expo in Astana. The concept art above appears to present a transparent structure- certainly a first.

1964 World's Fair, New York, USA

Let's close out our brief look at the theme park sphere with three lovely if not fully realized parks. Directly above, the 1964 New York World's Fair's 12 story Unisphere. Any Disney park fan with a small bit of knowledge of the company's history knows this World's Fair hosted a multitude of Disney attractions. Everything from It's A Small World to the Carousel of Progress. With President Lincoln and dinosaurs in between. The success of the Disney attractions paved the way for the decision to build Walt Disney World.

EPCOT Center 1981, Orlando, USA

The next theme park sphere holds a very special place in my heart. Epcot's Spaceship Earth. Not only is it an absolutely stunning piece of architecture, it reminds me of the very first brand new Disney park my wife and I ever toured together. We'd been married just a year when we first visited. And my very first glance of it was from the monorail just shortly before park closing. A beautiful, balmy Florida evening in late March 1983. Our future looked as bright as the park did. (Over time, we have fared much better than the park!)

One last theme park sphere to explore.

Proposed Westcot, Anaheim, USA (unbuilt)

The unbuilt Westcot. This was what Disney promised and never delivered as Anaheim's second park. A grander refreshed version of Epcot for the West Coast. Would have loved it! Instead, we got California Adventure 1.0 to satisfy the massive Disney fan base. (There was even a version of Epcot proposed for France, but that's for another story.) Speaking of Westcot, I'm reminded I still need to finish that story...

(Disney artwork copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 23, 2017

Treasure Trove of Rare Imagineering Art

Note: I ran the piece below a couple of years ago. Now that the official Disney Parks Blog has changed its structure, it's harder to get such great pieces of Imagineering art. Thought I'd repost just for fun. Enjoy while it lasts!

Fans of Imagineering concept art would do well to keep an eye on the official Disney blog. Earlier this week, the blog ran a series of pieces celebrating their participation in the 1964 World's Fair fifty years ago. All the pieces posted today, sans one, are that individual day's website banners. (The above piece is my favorite of the bunch.) I am sure full sized art exists and that these are only slices to fit the web. Not that I mind. I'll take what I can get!

Historians correctly note that the public's response to Disney at the fair was the proving grounds to see if a Disneyland styled park and resort would be a hit should one be built on the East Coast. The results spoke for themselves, as Disney's work on four pavilion's were among the most popular.

EPCOT Center's CenterCore or the 1964 World's Fair?

Ford's "Magic Skyway" was one of the most popular attractions. Guests cruised in automobiles back in time to the world of dinosaurs. If the concept seems much like EPCOT Center's beloved World of Motion, well it is. The Future World attraction, sponsored by General Motors (and with an incredibly good voiceover tour by Gary Owens) used several variations on the same theme. If you look at the concept piece directly above, you may see the inspiration the ending of the attraction as guests cruised into CenterCore, the city of the future.

You can even see some similarities between the entrance to the EPCOT attraction and what was built for the Fair. In each, the cars were shown to guests as a draw into the attraction, moving in a circular path. If something works, there's no need to reinvent the wheel.

Each of these attractions would return from the fair back to Disneyland in one form or another. Magic Skyway was represented as part of the now Grand Canyon /Primeval World diorama (dinorama?)

Unfortunately, for most of the art shown on the Disney blog, there is no artist information made available for any of these pieces. (Imagineer Mary Blair's pieces-below- are instantly recognizable for It's a Small World collectionhowever!) Regardless, they do make a nice addition to my collection!

Love it or hate it, It's A Small World was a fan favorite from day one when it made its debut at the fair. The Pepsi show had it all- charm, warmth, and great atmosphere- not to mention the iconic song. I'm particularly fond of the forward looking color scheme in the second piece.

When it came to designing the attraction for Florida's Magic Kingdom, could it be the Imagineers looked at the piece above as inspiration for the new ending? The carousel and ferris wheel make the perfect setting for a playful conclusion- but not for a theme park.

Third on today's list: Carousel of Progress or Progressland as it was called at the fair. The innovative attraction traveled to California and landed in Tomorrowland in 1967. It was a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow for the extensive re-Imagineering of the Land of the Future.

Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln. The State of Illinois hired Disney to bring this remarkable one man show for visitors from all over the world. After a few problems, he performed perfectly, proving to Imagineering that they could in fact pull off human characters so convincingly. In the last couple of decades, the Disney suits thought about removing Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln more than once- including replacing this patriotic masterpiece with a new home for the Muppets. I'm sure Walt Disney was turning over in his grave! Wiser heads prevailed, and after a strange attempt at renovation, Tony Baxter was given the job to update the show. True to form, he handled it with impeccable style and restraint. 

As I said at the beginning, keep your eyes on the Disney blog. In the meantime, if you want to hear and see more about Disney at the Fair, order the boxed set. It's well worth the money!

Lastly, make sure you come back May 1st as the Insights and Sounds blog celebrates the 25th Anniversary of Disney's Hollywood Studios. I was there opening month, so this post is filled with photos, concept art, and a history of the park- with a few trip reports along the way through in for good measure. It's the longest, largest post I think I've ever written.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Gay Man's View: Beauty Robs Innocence of Kids

"Prime-time network television is geared for an adult audience; one that understands the world we live in. Adults have long lost their innocence. Whether it be sex, drugs or violence, many of us have had our eyes open to the hardships of the world. We lost our innocence when we grew out of adolescence, but do we really want our kids to lose theirs in adolescence?" 

Openly gay attorney Joseph R. Murray 

In this quote from his opinion piece for the Orlando Sentinel, attorney Joseph R. Murray reflects on the logic behind Disney's inclusion of gay characters in Beauty and the Beast- and what it may cost our children. The entire piece is certainly worth a read. 

Note: Again, as I said earlier, the decision of how to educate our children on topics we deem important should be the choice of parents and not the decision of the government and entertainment companies. I plan on seeing the film for myself as my schedule permits.

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 21, 2017

Tale As New As Time: Beauty and the Beast Movie Review

It goes without saying that “Beauty and the Beast” is my all time favorite from the Disney Renaissance era (1989-1999). While Little Mermaid and Aladdin come close, B&B hit every note perfectly, culminating in an emotional and heart warming journey for this viewer. 

While there is a lot of debate over Disney’s decision to adapt their animated classics into live action films, I have been pretty happy with the results (Cinderella, Jungle Book, and Alice in Wonderland comes immediately to mind. The only one that really misses the mark is Maleficent). And while profits and built in audiences are obvious reasons for taking this route, I haven’t felt these new versions to be creatively bankrupt or slave copies to the originals. I would dare say that Cinderella, in particular, brought an emotional heft and range to the characters missing from their predecessors.

Beauty and the Beast, by its very nature (hah), would prove to be more challenging. Not only is it more fresh in the public consciousness (when compared to the other Golden Age adaptations), but the music and story beats have become almost sacred. There’s always that razor thin line between slavish devotion to the source material or swaying so far out that unfamiliarity begins to sour the audience.

I was intrigued with the initial casting of Emma Watson as Belle. There has been criticism of her overall performance as being too flat and limited (her singing is also an issue, but I thought it was passable as I’ve never thought of her as a singer first). While I can see where this negative reaction stems from, I think it’s part of Emma’s overall package as an actress. She's clearly a beautiful and intelligent person, but there is a part of her she privately guards from audiences. I don’t think you’ll ever see Emma bare her soul the way some actors can, leaving it all on the screen. But this is not a knock against her acting, in fact, I think this inaccessible mystery is part of what makes Emma interesting. Her persona is part of nearly every character she portrays (very similar to how I feel about Keanu Reeves. His reputation for being a truly nice guy inhabits his screen roles, even when playing tough guys like John Wick). It took me about a third through the movie before I stopped seeing Emma, and started seeing Belle. By that point, I was sold. And as the movie progressed though the more dramatic beats, I found myself reacting emotionally to the conflicts and heartbreaks (which tells me a movie is firing on all cylinders).

Props to director Bill Condon for knowing when to stay the course and went to chart new trails. The musical sequences would make or break this film, and Condon stays faithful to the animated classic, while staging it in a way that gives the audience a new viewpoint. I thought both Luke Evans (Gaston) and Josh Gad (LeFou) were excellent, and I was especially surprised by Evan’s adept ability to sing and dance (the tavern scene for “Gaston” was a highlight for me, even outdoing “Be Our Guest”).

Where the movie doesn’t quite work for me is in the CGI handling of the secondary characters…Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, and especially Ian McKellen’s Cogsworth. With an actor of his stature and talent, one would think you’d try to utilize his features as much as possible (ala the Wizard of Oz makeup for Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, and Jack Haley). While there are slight resemblances to the actors, these newer versions pale in comparison to their animated counterparts.

Beast, on the other hand, was exceptionally executed. It was never going to be as “lovable” as the cartoon version, but the film makers found just the right sweet spot in making him both dangerous and sympathetic. Dan Stevens, who I’ve never seen before (but am absolutely loving in “Legion”) does an admirable job of conveying the Beast’s inner torment and despair. I love how the movie gave a little more insight into the childhood trauma of both the main characters. The backstory of Belle’s mother is haunting, but the abusive nature of the prince’s father is even sadder.

With a cache of classic tunes from Alan Menkin and the late Howard Asherman already on display, any new song would be at a major disadvantage…sounding out of place, and worse, musically inferior. So it’s almost shocking to me that “Evermore” stands out as the movie’s most poignant musical scene with Stevens hitting it out of the park as someone who realizes the wrongs he’s done in his life (something everyone can easily relate to). It doesn’t hurt that both Menken and Tim Rice are the creative forces behind the music and lyrics.

In my final verdict, this new live version of BATB will never replace the original classic, but instead, will sit proudly beside it as an alternate take on an enchanting tale!

(All photographs copyright 2017 by Len Yokoyama. Sorry these aren't from the movie itself!)

Car Land Before Cars Land

The original Car Land at Disney's California Adventure. The gifted Imagineers were struggling to find concepts to make the park popular.   Look at this piece of concept art. This was never built, but it does look like a lot of fun. That is, of course, until you realize that in a park lacking lots of expansion space, the executed concept would be little more than the Autopia with more lavish settings.

Of course, large projects were proposed and eventually approved, but before all that, budgets weren't healthy, and Bargain Basement Imagineering was the order of the day. Looking at this piece of eye candy, differently now?

God bless John Lasseter, the Pixar genius for putting his career on the line and getting the suits to approve - and upgrade- to Cars Land and its super "E Ticket", Radiator Springs Racers. As the star centerpiece of a newly enhanced park, Disney had one chance to get it right and win back an audience. Mission accomplished, and Racers is still the new must-do on the Anaheim property. It will remain that way until Star Wars Land makes its debut in Walt's park in 2019. 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 17, 2017

A Different Look at Pirates of the Caribbean

Or should I say a different look at the Blue Bayou from the boats that depart on the high seas adventure? This is just a beautiful piece!

Imagineering's Herb Ryman rare look at the Blue Bayou from Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean. As with many of his renderings, this conceptual look at the bayou is filled with subtle as well as vibrant touches. Certainly, it's an expressive piece that captures the romance and drama of the signature New Orleans Square restaurant as well as the opening scenes to Disney's iconic Audio-Animatronics adventure. 

At its opening 50 years ago tomorrow, Pirates of the Caribbean set the new standard for Disney theme park attractions- and in my not always so humble opinion- has yet to be matched or surpassed.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 16, 2017

Why Hacksaw Ridge Matters

I hate war, and I hate war movies. I can't stand the blood and guts, and the hyper macho approach to life. However, between the great work of director Mel Gibson and the riveting performance of relative newcomer Andrew Garfield, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. And you won't be able to either. The film is absolutely bloody as hell- but so is war, therefore it is perfectly fitting that Gibson would not hold back the grimy and gritty realities from the audience. 

Unfortunately, while many other solid movies received significant awards for their work, by and large Hacksaw Ridge was sort of an afterthought. It's too bad. There are many reasons this may have been the most important movie made in recent years. 

The real life hero receiving his medal.

Why? In a world gone crazy, where self and self-fulfillment is the order of the day, this true to life movie is a powerful tale of an incredible soldier, Cpl. Desmond Doss, that sticks to his religious beliefs but does so in the midst of great personal risk to save the lives of 27 men - one at a time- while under enemy fire during World War II. Twenty Seven men. And he rescued them without a gun in his hand. He is the real Captain America! A True Marvel Superhero!

Conviction. Self-Sacrifice. Duty. Honor. Courage. Humility. And yes, faith in the Almighty, All-Powerful, Holy God to whom we will have to give an account of our lives. These are values that are rarely seen on the big screen. And these are the values I want to pass on to the people around me. 

Want to know more about him? Check out this in-depth look that shares even more amazing facts about Mr. Doss.

The Why Behind Nine Years of Insights and Sounds

Unintentionally, I breezed past a significant milestone for the blog. March 7 marked nine years that the Insights and Sounds blog has been around. How time flies!

The concept art above has its origins in a 1990 visit, but the blog itself became a constant thought in my mind in 2005. It was the year of Disneyland's 50th anniversary, and we found ourselves in California during the time. We hadn't planned to be there, but life happens.

I noticed people were purchasing birthday / anniversary souvenirs like crazy. Flying off the shelves as it were. The thought hit- "I have tons of vintage Disneyland stuff. I bet there's folks out there that would love to see it." And so the blog began- and it got more personal and well rounded as time progressed.

So, back to this piece of concept art for an unbuilt Tomorrowland attraction-

The year was 1990, and I was strolling Disneyland one afternoon with my young family. We had walked into Tomorrowland to take in the Autopia and let the kiddos try their hands behind the wheel.

Next to the Carousel Theater, once home of the Carousel of Progress and America Sings, was a billboard for a new attraction called Plectu's Intergalactic Revue. For some strange reason, I snapped this photo of the concept art... and held on to it for many years.

When I began the Insights blog, I knew Disney fans would find this piece of unbuilt history of interest. Boy, was I right! Within days of first posting it in March of 2008, my humble photograph showed on on blogs and websites all over the world. And it's still being  reposted to this day. Glad I took the photo!

The model for the new Carousel building.
Photographer unknown.

I cannot tell you who did the artwork. I will say, I have enlarged it and attempted to fix some of the elements to be as close to the imagined piece of art I saw it in my mind to be. Click on it to enlarge it.

Much like the two shows before it- expertly designed by Imagineer Marc Davis- Plectu's was to be an Audio-Animatronic comedy musical show and a core but small part of a new alien infested Tomorrowland dubbed Tomorrowland 2055

The less friendly Alien Encounter.

In fact, the Magic Kingdom in Florida's beloved (or reviled) Alien Encounter was also planned for the redesign. (Is it just me, or does the top of the building look much like the centerpiece that replaced the Rockets Jets high in the sky in the 1998 version of the Land of the Future?)

Florida's Tomorrowland changed from this... this.

Disneyland was not so fortunate with their redo in 1998,
when plans for the much more expensive 2055 version were tossed out in favor of this.

One of few pieces of artwork seen for the Plectu characters.

Around this time, Michael Eisner and company took at long, hard look at the attractions that were crowd pleasers, and sad to say, but musical talking bears, tikis, and even Disney characters in robotic form were no longer a big draw. (Expanded history here.) 

Thanks to Mike Cozart from the Tomorrowland67 Lounge for this 2055 piece.

The plans were scrapped. Plectu's became a piece of Disney lore and history, and Tomorrowland stayed as was for almost another full decade as the plans for the 2055 version were shelved.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company. Top photo copyright Mark Taft.)