April 30, 2010

One Big Disney World

Disney and More, Miceage, Blue Sky Disney- You just cannot read these great blogs without realizing the Walt Disney Company is becoming a global player in a world economy. Most any company trying to keep up its growth is doing the same thing: going with the flow that leads to one big world. Yet, there is a dark side.

It is clear that the actions of each person and those of each country effect others around them. If you've read this blog for long, you know how I feel about treating people well, caring for others, and "being Jesus" to those around you.

There is a clear and strong international movement toward creating a global currency, and the United States needs to refrain from becoming a part of it. (Just think the Euro goes intercontinental, and you get the idea. Something similar is going on in South America as well.) Don't believe me? Check out this website: Single Global Currency.

Or check out this article (below) from US News and World Report. It's as true today as it was when first written a year ago:
Here's one of the problems it creates: When the world goes this direction, a smaller and smaller group of people will be in charge of what happens to the majority of us living on the planet. We all know "money makes the world go round", and this is where it will all begin. Sounds like the Book of Revelation in the Bible.

One money, one government. Whose values will be embraced and whose politics enforced by this type of dictatorship? Do you want someone else deciding what is an acceptable way for you to live? Not me! It's time to wake up.
Global Economy -Yes; Global Currency- Just Say No!
----------------------------------------------

From US News and World Report:
March 25, 2009 10:34 AM ET by James Pethokoukis

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says he is "quite open" to a massive reduction in the economic power and influence of the United States.

O.K, what Geithner actually said earlier today is that he is "quite open" to China's idea of a global currency system linked to the International Monetary Fund's Strategic Drawing Rights. But it might be pretty much the same thing since the whole point of the embryonic idea is to lessen the influence of the dollar. More from Geithner: "As I understand it, it's a proposal designed to increase the use of the IMF's Special Drawing Rights. I am actually quite open to that suggestion ...[though it should bee seen as an] evolutionary building on the current architecture rather than moving us to a global monetary union."

April 29, 2010

Up, Up, and Away

Up, up and away! Not to Disneyland, though.It looks like a trip to the west coast won't happen this year. But I am so spoiled really!
I've been blessed to do much traveling all over the world- and in fact I depart today for a great adventure with my wife. I'll be sharing the details and some photos upon our return. In the meantime, stay posted here at the Insights blog. There's a whole bunch of new articles coming your way while I'm away.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 28, 2010

Featured Attraction?

Sure looks like California Adventure's Cars Land is going up fast!
With the park within two years of premiering the landmark Radiator Springs Racers attraction, the dismal little park that opened in 2001 should be replaced by a gleaming almost new worthy sister to Disneyland.

Any guest to Disney's Hollywood Studios should be familiar with the Sci-Fi Dine In. Sure, it is overpriced, and the food can run from pretty good to fairly bad. But where else can you dine under the stars while sitting in the coolest of convertibles?

The same concept is a natural fit for Cars Land. Especially since there are fewer than 30 of these old classic drive-ins left in America. Such a great match of theme all the while honoring a unique piece of American heritage and history.

So, join me in raising a toast to our friends in Imagineering- and in hope that this cool concept in dining makes its way to our little park in California!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 27, 2010

Our 2010 American Idol

All I can say is, Keep it going, Lee! As the weeks go on, I am more convinced than ever that you are the next American Idol.
Admittedly, Crystal Bowersox has a great voice, but she's absolutely all grit, no warmth or charm. Lee DeWyze doesn't smile much either, yet he comes across as a nice guy, an all American type, a young Bruce Springsteen, a working man's man. Can I say it ever clearer? Here's the 2010 Idol coming your way!

April 26, 2010

Better

Sometimes a song makes such an impact, it resonates in my soul for months on end. Such is "Better than a Hallelujah" recorded by Amy Grant and written by Chapin Hartford and Sarah Hart. The performance and arrangement are perfect, but it is the words that pierce and heal any heart that's ever been troubled. Check it out for yourselves.
_________________________________________


God loves a lullaby
In a mothers tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.
God loves the drunkards cry,
The soldiers plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah.

The woman holding on for life,
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes
The tears of shame for what's been done,
The silence when the words won't come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah
Better than a church bell ringing,
Better than a choir singing out, singing out.


We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

April 22, 2010

Disney's Animal Kingdom: A True Life Adventure (Part Six)


Editor's Note: Today, I continue with Part 6 of the popular series on the creation, evolution and tribulations of Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park. For newer readers, Part One of this popular series begins here. In this segment, we begin with guest reactions to the park and the Walt Disney Company's response to a less than stellar reviews from guests.
------------------------------------------------------

With the addition of Disney's Animal Kingdom to the Walt Disney World slate of diversions, Central Florida was about to be changed once more. Whereas the Disney-MGM Studios took on Universal, this time the Mouse was in a headlock with Tampa's Busch Gardens. Things were bound to get nasty.

The creation of a new Disney theme park means much anticipation from park fans, big advertising budgets, and many dreams of hefty bonuses and rich additions to the Company's bottom line. This time, however, those advertising budgets didn't deliver what was promised. Most visitors, fans, and the Walt Disney Company were not pleased by the end result.

Half-day park at full fare rate. Too few attractions. Not enough shade. Too many theater shows. Lack of classic Disney "E" ticket rides. Just a zoo. These assessments of the park were matched with newer concerns from fans, suggesting the Disney Company had abandoned its core family-friendly, western mindset, main stream audience. Disney's Animal Kingdom boldly touted evolution, heavy handed conservation, New Age concepts and Old World multicultural theologies.

However, it was not the consistent serving of multicultural perspectives and one world spirituality that dissuaded visitors from entering the Animal Kingdom gates. Guests were quick to notice the cleverly disguised shortcomings and limited attractions. This park was high on serious minded topics and execution without enough pure fun to even things out. The balance was achieved at EPCOT Center with clever and light hearted attractions like Journey Into Imagination, but here, its treatment of the human/animal relationship was too heavy handed. Bluntly, guests expected more for their money than what Disney had delivered and quickly left Animal Kingdom early in the day.


The Company had a public relations problem on its hands. As word of mouth decreased interest in the park, Disney responded equally fast that this was a place to be savored, not a rushed experience. Both camps were right to some degree, yet since Disney understood that guests vote with their wallets, plans were immediately made to add attractions and crowd pleasers to the park.

Additions take time, however. The persistent “half-day park” assessment, the early closing time, a lack of Disney quality, Audio-Animatronic attractions, and the misconception that Animal Kingdom was nothing more than a zoo, combined to keep attendance levels lower than the executives in Burbank desired. In fact, by some reports, attendance figures dropped for two to four consecutive years after the park opened. Although short on cash for expansion, new plans were still developed, each with varying degrees of success in acceptance and execution.

The first move from the Company was a poor choice, signaling desperation and lack of funds. Chester and Hester’s Dinorama was added to the prehistoric section of the park, providing additional fun for children but diluting the theme by adding a cheap carnival atmosphere to this elegant setting. A Dumbo-like spinner and a roadside wild mouse coaster took residence aside a land of plywood cutouts, strings of lights and cracked blacktop. Crying foul, park affectionados were disgusted by the blemishing effect on Imagineer Joe Rohde's beautiful gem. More changes came, dumbing down the park.


Countdown to Extinction became the generic Dinosaur, tying itself in name to the newly released Disney film. This was a poor choice, as the film was not the blockbuster hit the company wanted. Now a fairly good attraction was stuck with a forgettable identity. Other smaller name changes made things easier to understand for guests. Character appearances were thrown in around the park. Popular shows were given new indoor theaters to answer the complaint that there was little air conditioning to combat the Florida heat.

In spite of these changes, numbers remained flat at best. Money was still hard to come by, but the company had to protect its investment and guarantee its long term success. Until things could turn around, Disney’s advertising team finally took on some of the misconceptions directly, promoting that Animal Kingdom was “Nahtazu”, stressing the park was more than your neighborhood collection of wildlife.

When a large sum of money for real growth became available, advertising changed its plans again. New brochures for the park pushed the phrase, “Adventure Awaits” when Imagineering finally opened an attraction that single-handedly changed the fortunes of the park.


Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain was just the high profile attraction the park needed. Beautifully in-theme and stunningly executed, this high speed roller coaster appealed to teens and families alike. The climax of the mountain journey was an encounter with the infamous and quite gigantic Yeti- the mountain monster from Nepal! Adrenaline rushing, guests returned right to the queue line immediately after riding. This was one instance where the superb concept art was surpassed by the majestic reality formed from concrete, steel and paint. The park had its first megahit- and the crowds began to appear.

The success of Everest catapulted Animal Kingdom above the Studios in Florida park attendance, but it also created the need for more shows, attractions and eateries to handle the folks now determined to make the park part of their vacation. The park still closer earlier than the other three on the property. There was no nighttime show. Smaller, younger children who could not ride Everest due to height restrictions still needed more to do. Fortunately, a small orange fish named Nemo was the impetus for another blockbuster.


This theater show easily rivaled Festival of the Lion King in scope, execution, and popularity. Along with new music written specifically for the production, the combination of artistry and puppetry guaranteed this musical was now on the must-see list as well.

The park continued to evolve. In Asia, the beautiful and very expensive Yak and Yeti restaurant opened alongside a counter service version to help crowds looking for a meal. Africa's Tusker House, unfortunately, became a character dining location, robbing park guests of one of the best park offerings unless they paid the ransom required to dine there.

In one of the oddest moves ever for a park struggling with things to do, Disney management closed the small animal show themed to Pocahontas, and in its place opened absolutely nothing. Speculation suggested a new attraction on its way. Reality offered nothing of the sort.

OUR JOURNEY CONTINUES- The next visit: almost 10 years later...

Due to a series of unique circumstances, I was able to visit Animal Kingdom three times, twice in 2006/7 and once in 2009. Much had changed since my first experience in 1999.

Interestingly, the first new visit was with some friends who had not previously seen the park. This afforded me the opportunity to view it with new eyes.



The jungle had grown much lusher than before, and this trip's view of the Tree of Life was as stunning as the first. Crowds were thick and wait times were heavier than the park could handle, but this still did not stop guests from departing around 3pm. Expedition Everest was an expected favorite, and multiple rides did not diminish its greatness. Lunch was delicious at the still uncharactered Tusker House, and our early evening snack at Flame Tree Barbecue ended our day at 5pm. We let our teenage sons go back to the hotel pool, while the adults enjoyed a little quiet time at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

The following year's trip was a gift from my wife. Four days in Orlando solo to end my work sabbatical. One day was spent at Coco Beach, one at Epcot, one at the Gulf Coast and one at Animal Kingdom. (I ended with a half day at Islands of Adventure.)

Touring Disney's Animal Kingdom alone was a very unique way to see the park. My inner geek thrilled at the thought of exploring the minute details to my heart's content. The reality was what I thought, but I also missed my wife! (I'd take care of that in 2009!)

Arriving at the park before opening gave me the advantage of immediately riding Expedition Everest, grab a Fastpass for an additional ride later, and journey on Kilimanjaro Safaris all before breakfast. What a way to start the day!

The rest of my time was spent leisurely touring, indulging need to explore every nook and cranny. I finally discovered the famous "hidden path", found some beautiful waterfalls seen on previous trips, and explored the inside of every shop and restaurant. By the end of the day, I had experienced just about every park attraction, including the new Nemo musical.

The last visit was a bit over a year ago- and the overall effect was disappointment. I've detailed this in an earlier post (here), but let me say I saw Disney's Animal Kingdom in an entirely different light. We ate at Yak and Yeti and dropped a bundle to do so. Finding Nemo: the Musical was terrific. I still found Expedition Everest as thrilling as ever, but I also discovered the naysayers were right. There's just not enough to do! Maybe my next visit will be different.
--------------------------------------------
A decade later, Animal Kingdom still bears a strong resemblance to its opening day presentation. There is still an early closing time, too few attractions, few places to eat, and too many theater presentations. It remains a half day park and fourth on my list compared to Epcot, the Magic Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

However lofty the goals for this park were at conception and initial execution, during a decade with mixed results both creative and financial, Disney Imagineers eventually came to their own revelation: the beautiful Animal Kingdom park is primarily a business investment, and it has to be tended to with much care to maintain both its integrity and monetary success. My bet is that Disney never again opens a park with live animals as its focus. The work involved and the intellectual investment is just too high a price for the payoff.

What is next for this marvelous looking but still somewhat lacking park? Only the suits and Imagineers at Disney know.


The success of Harry Potter and his wizards at Universal's Islands of Adventure may be this park's strongest advocate. Competition always brings out the best in Disney, loosening the purse strings and the creative juices. Things seem at a standstill as the Company is unsure of the park's direction, and they are reluctant to throw more money at it until they must.

Should Disney move into reactionary mode, strong contenders for new attractions seem to be an animal area focusing on Australia, although some die-hard fans still desire a version of Beastly Kingdom. My bet is Audio-Animatronic animals win this time. South America is also uncharted territory. Many Disneyphiles are concerned about the infusion of animated characters into the parks, feeling Animal Kingdom is the next to be infected even more by this trend. Time will tell, but the success of Nemo may direct the future.

Regardless of future plans, some things are certain: Disney will continue to compete with its neighbors, Harry Potter or otherwise; Imagineers will design attractions that inspire while Disney executives direct the park’s course based on guest attendance and spending.

Lastly, Disney's Animal Kingdom will continue to connect with many guests. The superb craftsmanship at the park is unrivaled in the States. More importantly, due to man's deep love for animals, a spirit of adventure, and his longing for connection to the Garden where he began, this wonderful, creative place will bring us back again and again.
(Photos copyright Mark Taft.)

April 21, 2010

Disney's Animal Kingdom- Part Six Tomorrow!

The title says it all!

Come back tomorrow, Earth Day, for Part Six of my popular series:
Disney's Animal Kingdom: A True Life Adventure.

If you want to start at the beginning, you can go here for Part One.
See you tomorrow!

April 20, 2010

Engaged!

Congratulations to our wonderful daughter and her equally wonderful husband to be! Time goes by so fast, doesn't it?

Have a Little Compassion

Interested in contributing something positive to our world? There are few things better than making life a lot easier for a child in need. This past Sunday is known as Compassion Sunday, a date where kids from all over the world are highlighted. These kids are in need of sponsorship, care, food, and love.

It's really about providing friendship and practical care. Your monthy support buys food, clothes and healthcare for a child who would otherwise go without. For half the price of a one day ticket to a Disney park, you can make a difference that really matters. Think of it as feeding mouths versus the corporate pocketbook. If you are interested, go here to the Compassion International website. You'll be glad you did!

April 16, 2010

Lost Family Treasures


(With my mother)
Earlier yesterday, my beloved grandmother passed away. She was a 92 year old spitfire! Full of love and generosity, with a way of looking at life that made everyone laugh. Nothing made her more happy and proud than her family, and I think deep down, a night of family penny poker was her perfect way to spend the evening together!

(With my grandfather and my mother as an infant)

How I loved her! I was blessed to be able to spend most of my young life living close by her. In an age where families are mobile and live far apart, I was never more than a 30 minute drive from her home until the time I was 28. Funny, but I never really took it for granted that I had both my grandmothers nearby. My Dad's mom, her best friend, lived with us until I was 13, and I knew this was something special to be cherished.

Summertime meant staying at her house, playing cards on her porch swing, drinking lemonade and eating fresh tomatoes from the garden with a hint of sugar on them. (Christmastime meant there was always a book of Disneyland tickets waiting for me under the tree!)

Music was always playing in her house! Memere and I cooked together and cleaned together. Seemingly, her hands were always covered with flour in those early times, as she loved baking and cooking for her family. I loved her Pork Pies and her beignets. Mostly, we just spent a whole lot of time loving each other, laughing, and enjoying each others' company.

(With her brother, my wonderful uncle!)

My grandmother was a simple minded woman but one of great faith. She had a hard life but somehow always saw God in the middle of it all. As she grew older, she knew Jesus more intimately than she did when she was younger. Memere just treasured him in her heart.

One of my favorite memories was very recent. I had visited her down in Texas, a place that was a relatively new home for her after decades on the east coast, in California, and in Oregon. We were just spending some time talking, and she took me by the hand, slowly leading me into into her bedroom. I assumed she wanted to show me her prized possessions of family photos and albums.

Things got real quiet, so I asked what she was thinking. Pausing to figure out how to share it, she replied "I just don't know what my mission for Jesus is right now." I was instantly humbled and delighted. Here was my 90 year old grandmother being concerned about the things of God's kingdom and how to please her beloved Savior Jesus Christ.

On her 90th birthday, I traveled down to surprise her and share some time. I knew it was running out. She was much slower than usual, much quieter and just spent a lot of time looking around. I knew I needed to get a laugh out of her, so I promised her she and I would go skydiving for her 100th birthday. I figured if she made it that long, I would gladly get beyond my fears and go if she would. We both laughed, but I think deep inside we both knew it would never happen.

(With my other beloved grandmother, Nona, who preceded her in death.)

In between visits, we spoke about every couple of weeks or so. The conversations was generally the same- family, friends, health, and Jesus. But even though the topics rarely changed, I enjoyed every moment of just hearing her strong, loud voice with the predominant French Canadian accent.

Last summer, she survived a heart attack. The doctors and staff called her their "miracle baby." She went through physical therapy, but now a walker was necessary to help her get along. I knew time was getting shorter and shorter. She wanted to go home to be with her Jesus. She was tired and ready. I got to hear her voice last week, but our last few calls meant she started to repeat herself. That was ok by me.

The last time we spoke, it was only me talking. She had fallen, hit her head, and slipped into that quiet place. The nurses said she could hear me but couldn't respond. I was a thousand miles away in Denver, but my Mom held her phone up to my Memere's ear so I could say my goodbyes. Through lots of tears, I thanked her for everything, told her I loved her, and let her know it was ok to go home to Jesus.

Funny how even 50 years is not enough with someone you love. It's gone by so fast. I looked in the mirror and saw my Memere's last parting gift to me. As a young boy, I prayed God would give me her beautiful salt and pepper hair. He has.

I know I'll see her for eternity when it is my time to join her. I'm thankful for the gift of her life and her love. I only have one regret- I just wish we could have kept our skydiving date.

April 15, 2010

Off to Neverland!

Every once in awhile, you stumble across a website that is under development- one that comes along that you just cannot wait for. The Neverland Files is such a site!

Cole Younger's site is filled with concept art from Imagineering- but not just anything. It's stuffed with never built concepts from Disney projects around the world. Descriptions, histories, and galleries full of the stuff we love.

Heard of the Magic Kingdom's long rumored Fire Mountain? See it for yourself- the art is right here. What about the infamous Dick Tracy's Crimestoppers for Disney-MGM Studios? Gotcha here.
Cole has even included my photo of Plectu's Intergalactic Revue, a Disneyland proposed replacement for the Carousel of Progress. I snapped the shot in 1990 of a billboard advertising the soon to arrive attraction!

All said, go check out the site! You can spend hours there- I did!
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 14, 2010

Vince Gill and Amy Grant: Love, Faith, & Music

Real nice interview here from Vince Gill and Amy Grant.


Amy may be Disney's go-to girl for the World of Color evening show at California Adventure, but deep down, she's just a girl from Georgia playing her songs and living her life. The interview is a nice picture of two fine folks.

April 13, 2010

Disney's Kingdom Principles

Do you enjoy a little thought provoking controversy with your dose of Disney movies and parks? If so, this is the Disney book for you!
Following up his best selling book on television's The Simpsons, author Mark I. Pinsky reviews 31 Disney movies (up through Brother Bear) and reveals some of the philosophy, theology and ingenuity behind each one.

Although this book is a fairly new gift from a friend, it has actually been in print from 2004. If you pick it up expecting stories in line with the sexually aroused priest in The Little Mermaid or the gay undertones of Beauty and the Beast's villain Gaston, you're out of luck. Although revealing some downsides to the films when viewed through a Judeo-Christian lens, Pinsky also stresses the upside morals and life lessons inherent in most all of them. Additionally, he goes beyond the expected, venturing into deeper waters of The Walt Disney Company, its corporate culture and its ultimate god: Money.


As a side note, the Disney theme parks are also a subject of discussion but only for a single chapter. Pinsky rightly recognizes a trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World is now a right of passage for most middle class children.

Love it, hate it, or just fascinated by it, The Gospel According to Disney is one interesting read.

April 12, 2010

Now the Real Fun Begins!

With the completion of Paradise Park upon us and World of Color coming within weeks, it looks like the billion dollar transformation of Disney's California Adventure is finally going to get serious.

Up until now, the work has been a mixed bag: the Sun/Fun Wheel is just a small piece of change and its success a matter of personal preference. The Paradise Pier logo instead of the Mickey ears on California Screamin' falls into this category as does the whole Orange Stinger/ Silly Symphony Swings changeover. What comes next, however, changes the game, giving us fans a real glimpse of the suits commitment to Anaheim's second park.

Regardless of the Company's rhetoric, The Little Mermaid's Undersea Adventure had better be the golden "E" ticket they promise. Ariel deserves the recognition- she did save Disney animation after all- and her attraction will be the first major one added since Tower of Terror. It will also be the first all new attraction designed by Imagineering to relaunch the park. If the adventure proves the key to bringing in more guests, the one-two punch of World of Color and the Little Mermaid could signal a new beginning for Disneyland's little sibling.

In between then and the almost guaranteed blockbuster of John Lasseter's beloved Cars Land with its Radiator Springs Racers, a complete makeover of the nondescript park entrance into Buena Vista Street will rid the park of most of its earliest, ugliest beginnings. The elegant shops, restaurants and architecture of Walt's California should create a Disney worthy experience and a reintroduction of the park to guests burned the first time around.

Here's hoping for success. As the Paradise Park walls come down and the real fun begins to take shape, a plan for Phase Two could be just around the corner!
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 9, 2010

Banking on Epcot


Go out and pick up that May 2010 issue of Kiplinger's financial magazine. At the end of the issue, there is a nice interview with Disney Imagineer Joe Tankersley about the creation of The Great Piggy Bank Adventure. The Walt Disney World exhibit Innoventions at Epcot takes a good amount of grief for being a knockoff of the opening day Communicore concept, but in this case, Piggy Bank seems to be a success. By the way, you can play the online version of the game here.

April 8, 2010

Breakfast Delights


If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I love to travel. Every once in awhile, I discover a place that is worth the trip, one that I just cannot get enough of. Snooze is one of these family favorites- and thank God, it's a place that happens to be in my own city.

The hours are limited to a 2pm closing, the wait is always at least an hour, and the place is noisy as can be. When the line is consistently lengthy outside the door, you know a place has to be worth it. And it is!

Their website describes the decor this way:

"One of our favorite pondering moments, attempting just how to explain Snooze: Googie archtecture? We've heard it can remind one of New York, maybe La Jolla, Seattle, Vegas, South Beach or Portland. Then there is the time lapse, part Jetsons, part Happy Days, part Flintstones. And just how do you describe what may be the coolest booths around? A Tilt-O-Whirl, the half-crescent, Pac-Man?"

However cool the surroundings, it's the food that keeps our family coming back. My favorite is the amazing Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes. Cutting into the cake releases a burst of sublime vanilla creme anglais with chunks of caramelized pineapple. (Just typing this is making my mouth water!) If a sweet breakfast is not your thing, there are the usual egg/meat/potato dishes you'd expect, but these concoctions are created with a fresh take in mind and presented with flair.
If your travels take you to Denver, make sure you put Snooze on your must do list. You'll have to plan for it, but this place is worth waking up early for!

April 7, 2010

The Black Hole

All quiet on the Disney theme park front, isn't it? When both Blue Sky Disney and Miceage are lacking news and rumors to report, you know the suits are behind it. Disneyland and Walt Disney World news woefully lacking, aside from the tragic losses for which the Florida park is becoming known. Nothing much to say for Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort or Hong Kong Disneyland either. The news is even stilled regarding Shanghai Disneyland!

Don't worry! Until the next D23 convention, the empty void will soon be filled as World of Color will debut at California Adventure with multiple first hand reports, publicity shots, and tales of those long lines Disney once predicted for the opening of Disneyland's sister park.

April 6, 2010

Practically Perfect in Every Way


Just saw the wonderful Mary Poppins on Saturday night. If you do not want to hear any spoilers, skip the rest of the post, because I'm about to spill some beans!

Let's start backwards: I expected nothing could top Act I as it had most all the popular Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman tunes- Chim Chim Cher-ee, A Spoonful of Sugar, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Feed the Birds, and my favorite Jolly Holiday. I was wrong. Act II was even better!
Here come the spoilers...

When Gavin Lee as Burt begins his Step in Time dancing while hanging upside down from the ceiling of the theater, it stopped the show. The crowd burst into a thunderous roar. A very well deserved roar. The show may be named after our heroine, but Mr. Lee owned the stage every time he was on it. Charming, confident, and warm, his portrayal of our favorite chimney sweep did Dick Van Dyke proud.

As for the rest of the cast, Wales' Caroline Sheen had the night off from the lead, but no worries- Elizabeth Broadhurst's take on Mary Poppins was just right from every angle! Her voice shines and is as close a clone of Julie Andrews' as you could ask. Her mannerisms perfectly captured our beloved nanny, and the chemistry between the two leads was subtly rich and delightful.

As Mr. Banks, Laird Mackintosh had a thankless job but performed terrifically. Blythe Wilson as the Mrs. was every bit his match- and her voice in lovely form. Rounding out the cast, Rachel Izen played the short tempered but loveable Mrs. Brill, providing some great comic relief as needed.

The sets and special effects were stunning, including Mary's final departure high above the audience with umbrella in hand. It signaled the end of the evening, but I hope I get to see more of Gavin Lee and Elizabeth Broadhurst. They are stars in the making!

April 5, 2010

Au Revoir Disney and More!

It's a sad day for Disney fans worldwide. The wonderful Disney and More blog celebrates its third and last anniversary. Alain Littaye is one heck of a nice guy and a great blogger. Thank you, Alain, for everything. We will miss you!

Disney's Hollywood Studios: Time to Retire the "Magic"

In 2001, the Walt Disney Company launched one of their many celebrations: 100 Years of Magic. Focused on the birth of Walt Disney, the Disney-MGM Studios joined the fun by adding the giant sorcerer's hat from the film Fantasia.

The beautifully designed and detailed park was all the worse for it!
Not only does the giant hat still hide the beautiful replica of Grauman's Chinese Theater, it is a stark reminder of the crass commercialization of the entertainment based park. 

Gone are the days of period appropriate memorabilia found throughout the newly named Disney's Hollywood Studios park. Instead of honoring the past and the design efforts of the Imagineers, the new Walt Disney Company chooses to stuff this and all its park locations with High School Musical garbage and Hannah Montana trash and trinkets. This kind of downgrade cheapens the overall experience and misjudges the guests. Elegance and charm are now a thing of the past. Isn't it time to retire this type of "magic"?

(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 2, 2010

Timeless Question

It's Good Friday for we who believe and so commemorate the passion of Jesus of Nazareth.

Just like Mel Gibson's movie masterpiece, Jesus is controversial- and His story timeless. Magazines still devote cover stories to Him, books continue to be written, songs composed, and films made. Each piece brings to the forefront Jesus' own question to his disciple Peter, and it is one we all must answer: "Who do you say I am?"