December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013!


There are few years in my life that have been more difficult than the one we are leaving behind. In fact, the last five years have been pretty difficult. In the midst of the pain, immediate family in the hospital, and questions about our future, one thing has been certain: God has been up close and personal.

No one escapes life without sorrow, loss, betrayal and the like. And yet, He cares for us. Jesus Christ knows us, loves us, and stands with us. Adam and Eve's disobedience in the garden set about the disintegration of the world and the blessed life God intended. Yet, even in their sin, God provided a sacrifice to cover it all for those who would believe and turn their lives over to Him.

The perpetual sin of man keeps evil going. I am thankful God Himself forgives my sin and the sin of others- including that of those who have sinned against me. 

The story is not all doom and gloom! 2013 has held some wonderful joys as well- births, new friendships, and the reintroduction of old ones. I saw God's hand at work all through the year. I hope you did, too.

If 2013 was a bad year for you and your family, praise God it's over. If it was a good year, give Him thanks. Regardless, the Creator of the Universe loves you as his own, calling you into a deeper relationship... There's no where I would rather be.

December 30, 2013

Red Pill, Blue Pill: Disney Parks Edition

I had good intentions- really I did! Planning to write a post "Ten Reasons I Love Disney Parks", my mind started to fill with what I find absolutely great about them. But as with most interesting stories, this writer's thoughts turned dark and foreboding. Sort of like walking into the gardens of that beautiful mansion in Disneyland's New Orleans Square, and discovering once you're inside the house, its a bit creepy, and it's too late to turn back.

Rabid park fans like me tend to fall into two camps: Those who can't see much good in what's happening now but love "the Good Old Days" when Walt himself was alive (founders of the Disneyland Historical Preservation Society), and those fans who seem to relish everything Disney Imagineering does today but have  little regard for the history and richness of the past. Sure, there is a fairly rare middle ground, but truth be told, both sides make compelling cases.

In the spirit of the modern movie classic The Matrix, let's consider our options as we look around the Disney World: Are we more red pill folks- where there's a harsh darkly realistic  underbelly to the current situation? Or do we take the blue pill as we look at Disney parks- where everything is hunky dory? 

Red Pill considerations:
  1. Yes, California Adventure is mostly looking pretty terrific these days. Yet beyond that incredible transformation, there are still areas of the park in dire need. Let's not forget Paradise Pier still has too many carny rides and large empty spaces; Hollywoodland is still a backlot; and the transitions between regions in the park are abrupt, ugly, and out of place. For the gorgeous transition into Cars Land from the Wharf, there's still the unfortunate mess into Cars Land from Bug's Land
  2. Disneyland looks tired. Tomorrowland is a mess- and there's no amount of Star Wars theming that will it cohesive, make it sparkle and shine with a common vision. It will remain a mixed bag until the slate is wiped clean. This includes removing the track remnants of my beloved PeopleMover, demolishing buildings and creating something fully fresh.  How can you successfully tie together Buzz Lightyear, Nemo, and Darth Vader? That is just the right side of the park. Problems also are apparent on other parcels as well. Big Thunder Ranch? A waste of the property in a small theme park. Alice in Wonderland? How about Alice in scaffolding land? Unused Motor Boat Cruise space. Goodbye to Carnation Plaza Gardens and the Market House. Traffic jams in space-locked Adventureland. An out of place Aladdin meet and greet where the Tahitian Terrace once stood. That's just the West Coast.
  3. As we move East, things look worse. Much worse, red pill-ers. Empty promises were delivered to the Magic Kingdom when  New Fantasyland arrived half complete. Granted, I have not seen it myself, but I have seen  Ariel's Adventures on the West Coast. A nice D ticket but certainly not an adequate response to the Boy Wizard next door. Disguising queues, restaurants, meet and greets, and restrooms as attractions. Really!? And why did it take some stiff competition from Universal to up the ante anyway? Regardless, the land is filled with eye candy but little real substance. Adventureland is a thematic mess. The older, poorly maintained attractions (like Carousel of Progress) and the newer Stitch/Monsters mess makes this Tomorrowland a  beautiful looking disaster. Mixed bag at this Magic Kingdom at best.
  4. Epcot- What can I say? The longest list of neglected attractions in one half of this enormous place (Energy and the soon to be closed Imagination) and newer botched "enhancements" hit too close to home. Character invasions replace culturally engaging attractions. (Looking at you, Gran Fiesta Tour!) Future World isn't, and World Showcase is so overdue for new countries and attractions, it's now just a pathetic excuse to make money off the hoards of hard partying masses that descend upon the Wine Festival. The most recent- and the most effective- additions are restaurants. What does that say? Enough already.
  5. Disney's Hollywood Studios continues to underwhelm. The attraction roster is either incredible (the original and best version of Twilight Zone Tower of Terror) or dismal (a once glorious but now outdated and falling apart Great Movie Ride). There's not much in between the whole family can enjoy save for some mediocre and tired shows and an incredibly crowded Toy Story Mania.
  6. Disney's Animal Kingdom- Honestly, it's painful to even go here. It was once a crowning jewel in Florida with potential that outpaced all the other parks. Now, its the world of overpriced restaurants (Yak & Yeti), few attractions, and broken effects on those that do exist. Even the exquisite Tree of Life is falling apart, limb by limb. Disney may say its "Natazu" but when the non animal exhibits are left to rot, that's all that's left. 
  7. My Magic Plus. Data mining at an evil park goers should avoid. Who wants to pre-plan an entire vacation at an estimated 2 Billion Dollar price tag- and at the expense of new attractions?

Blue Pill considerations:

  1. Cars Land aside, Disney proves it can still be the best of the industry. Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Manor is a case in point. Original, innovative, and whimsically engaging, this Asian exclusive may be among the best attractions Imagineering has ever created.
  2. Disney Dreams Paris and World of Color- The same descriptions used above could also apply to the nighttime shows. I've seen these first hand, and the crowd response was phenomenal. Fully justified. 
  3. Tokyo Disney Sea is still the cream of the crop. Sure, the character invasion has started to temper the World Showcase meets Magic Kingdom themed park, but there's a reason that ten years later and counting, Disney park fans all over the world consider this the crowning jewel of Imagineering's work.
  4. Disney Cruise Line. Excellence from bow to stern.
  5. Promising a bright future, The Walt Disney Company insists that planned additions themed to Star Wars and Avatar will propel the company ahead of its competition for years to come. Will reality match the sales pitch? Hard to say, but perhaps the suits have learned from the less than stellar response to the New Fantasyland
You've seen the evidence and probably have data to add of your own. Which pill do you swallow and why?

December 27, 2013

Christmas Buddies

What started as a fun idea turned into a great family photo! My wife and I decided it was time for Grandpa and his three youngest grandsons to share some pajama time. In our family, pajamas for Christmas is a tradition, and the gifts are opened Christmas Eve. Then we all eat treats and play games. The Disney Store provided the perfect pairs: silhouette Mickeys in a deep red background. The photograph a little cherry here, but it worked out perfectly!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

December 26, 2013

An EPCOT Center Souvenir

Way in the recesses of our cupboards, we stumbled upon this little gem from EPCOT Center: a souvenir mug. Perfectly preserved, the silver finish looks elegant and striking even to this day almost 31 years later. I wish the same could be said for the park itself. Sadly, its lost its way, and Walt Disney World is all the worse for it.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

December 23, 2013

New Treasure

Here's a relatively new site, at least to me. Disneyland Paris Treasures pulls gifts from year's past and brings them to the web. Want to see an old parc video or catch a glimpse of Walt Disney Studios Paris at opening? This is the place to go. Love a copy of the original EuroDisneyland map? Find it here. Enjoy!

December 21, 2013

Toon Invasion at Tokyo Disneyland's Tomorrowland


The Oriental Land Company has just announced that Stitch Encounter will replace Michael Jackson's Captain Eo in 2015. This move continues a trend of toons invading the streets of Tomorrowland. In the not so distant past, Monsters Hide and Go Seek arrived and before that Buzz Lightyear. It seems that even the stunningly maintained Tokyo Disney Resort is not immune to a lack of imagination.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 20, 2013

Treat Yourself at Disney and More


Anyone who has read my blog for some time knows that I very much appreciate the hard work of Disney and More's blogmaster and friend Alain Littaye. His cup runneth over with terrific articles. But my favorite of all his series is The Disneyland Paris That Never Was. And here it is in expanded fashion. Please do yourself a favor and go over there- while you're at it, buy his book. As one of my first purchases during my first visit to Paris, it is a treasured tome. Filled with concept art and Imagineering insights. Treat yourself this Christmas!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 19, 2013

London Christmas

Perhaps our next Christmastime travel destination: London. Having visited the City of Lights (Paris) during the season, my wife and I cannot wait to try another location in which to celebrate the birth of The Savior. 

(Photographer unknown.)

December 16, 2013

Christmas Cheer From Disneyland Paris

Christmas travels to a Disney park? It's an absolute must for many Disney park fans... and it was for us when we lived in Southern California. There's just something fantastic about Disneyland at Christmastime. It's now been years since we have lived there, so a trip out doesn't happen as often.

Christmas cheer isn't limited to the US parks. In fact, this photo I took at Disneyland Paris shows the international parks do just as good a job as celebrating the holidays. Main Street U.S.A. shimmers in winter glory and lovely trees abound in shades of sparkling blue. No, it isn't the castle, but the touches of elegance found all through the park remind guests that celebrating Christmas happens all over the world, be it Paris, Orlando, Tokyo, Hong Kong or Anaheim.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

December 15, 2013

Snow Meets Sun Meets Water

In what world does one of my least favorite things (snow) become one of my most favorite things? Walt Disney World, of course! Blizzard Beach mixes metaphors, and the end result is a whole lot of fun. There's not much art to show for this water park, but here's a small piece. A perfect blending for a wintery day.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 14, 2013

Time for a Bath

Adorable or what?
(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

December 13, 2013

20,000 Leagues Poster

As we all know, the New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom covers land previously occupied by the epic adventure, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This Jules Verne novel was interpreted in attraction form more directly in Florida then when it was revealed at Disneyland. The subs were more artistically true to the novel on the East Coast. The attraction artwork by Imagineering and the proposed poster (above) revealed it all in beautiful color. Stunning, but it paled in comparison to the actual "E" Ticket adventure.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 12, 2013

Samland's Rare Space Mountain Art

Sam Gennawey shares some pretty amazing stories over at his blog and at MiceAge. And of course, he presents some incredible pieces of concept art too. Here's one for Walt Disney World and its Space Mountain. Could this image of Tomorrowland's iconic thrill ride be any more enticing?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 11, 2013

Paris Placeholder

Exactly what the title says. Family matters (hospital stays, etc) keep me from posting. Paris in its winter glory. Patience and prayers please.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

December 5, 2013

New Shanghai Disneyland Concept Art

Look at this beautiful new piece of concept art for the castle at Shanghai Disneyland! The combination of water elements and gardens will make for quite the show. Let's just hope the planned attractions contained within are just as special.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Celebrating Walt Disney

A Happy Birthday shout out to the man who made the world a happier place! Mr. Walt Disney himself. There is so much to admire about the man: creativity, ingenuity, and placing a high value on others. And now, my favorite quote from the man himself-
"Think beyond your lifetime if you want to accomplish something truly worthwhile." 

December 4, 2013

Christmas, Colorado, and Santa!

If you happen to be in the Denver area, and need some free photos with Santa...

December 3, 2013

Boys Will Be Boys

And then, they will be men. Fine men. Does a father's heart good!
(Photograph copyright Marisa Bryant Photography.)

December 1, 2013

Carousel of Progress Christmas Concept

You have to wonder about the Disney Parks Blog at times. It feels like an online outlet mall, sometimes something from the Food Network, and all too rarely do they give us something meaty about the actual attractions at their world famous parks. 

Today, however, they surprised me with a piece of concept art from Imagineer Dorothea Redmond- and one for Walt Disney World's classic Carousel of Progress at the Magic Kingdom. It's almost as if someone in charge of the design of the blog is actually of fan of their product instead of just being put in charge of promoting it. Imagine that!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

November 30, 2013

Frozen Treat

Unexpectedly good. Very, very good, in fact. Disney's Frozen holds its own with the classics. The long in coming adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's relatively unknown "The Snow Queen" warms hearts with interesting characters, breathtaking atmosphere, and a storyline that Disney has never worked before. 

The princess siblings Anna and Elsa have a mysterious, and at times, unfortunate bond which causes much difficulties between them. Forming the heart of the film, the characters are richer than you'd expect from Disney. The same can be said for the two suitors. Commoner Kristoff and royal Hans compete for Anna's hand. Which one will she choose? 



The voice actors Kristin Bell (Anna), Idina Menzel (Elsa), and Josh Gad as frosty sidekick Olaf, do a particularly good job with the task at hand.  The music and songs are pretty good too- much more complex at second thought than just ordinary and serviceable. In my mind, the standout number is the comedic "In Summer" by the lovable and charming snowman.



What is a great Disney film without excellence in animation? The animation here almost steals the show. The kingdom of Arendelle is so beautifully created and atmospheric that there should be a travel advisory for Scandinavia at the end of the film. The special effects are stunning- snowy storms, transitions to glistening ice,  and the rebirth of summer to the kingdom are fantastic- among the best Disney animators have ever accomplished. You must see this in the big screen. Do not wait until its inevitable home DVD release. Do buy it when it arrives, but in the meantime, you can click on the above image to see what I mean.

There's not one single standout number a la "Under the Sea" or slice of animation that matches "I See the Light" from Tangled, but instead there is a compelling cohesiveness as each piece part works together to create an absolutely winning combination. Make no mistake- superlatives and promotional material aside, Frozen is a treat for the family.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

November 29, 2013

November 28, 2013

More Than Turkey

It's Thanksgiving Day- and here's my list of what I'm truly thankful for. Of course, in no particular order. If that were the case, I'm thankful most of all for the gift of eternal life that Jesus gives to all who turn over their lives to Him. 

November 27, 2013

One More Minute of Excellence

Do your New Year's plans include a trip to Disneyland Paris? Well, they absolutely should! Why? If you are a park fan, you'll find new versions of old favorites like Space Mountain (shown), Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion (known as Phantom Manor here), and brand new attractions designed to delight. Tony Baxter and his Imagineering team excelled to new heights here!

On this blog, there are many detailed articles and trip reports. Lots of photos! However, I do not think a single photograph that I have taken compares to the one above. It's by Taysikuu from one-more-minute.com Go check it out or the original thread found on MiceChat.

(Photograph copyright One More Minute.)

November 25, 2013

The Voice's One to Beat

James Wolpert showed incredible chops and finesse doing Queen's great Somebody to Love, but it is Jacquie Lee that's the one to beat.    

Her incredible version of the Jackson Five's classic Who's Lovin' You - wow- nothing short of stellar. Sets her apart for The Voice crown.

Making an Appearance at Shanghai Disneyland

Long ago, in a land far away, this piece of concept art was sent to me. It was sent labeled "HKDL", and was probably a piece designed for an unbuilt attraction mixing Countdown to Extinction with a roller coaster along the lines of Animal Kingdom's aborted Excavator. One of many planned for the woeful at opening Hong Kong Disneyland. Given the released attraction list for Shanghai, I think we'll see some of this at Adventure Isle and the Roaring Rapids attraction. Not the coaster, but a watery version of a thrill ride. Time will tell.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

November 23, 2013

While It's Cold in Colorado...

From my wonderful pilot friend who flies in Hawaii, a little gift of warmth and sunshine from the Aloha State! 

November 22, 2013

Shanghai Disneyland's Attraction List


I'm gonna be so bold as to say this: I've just seen the attraction list for Shanghai Disneyland on the great WDWMAGIC site, of course posted by the Spirit. I'm not sure its any better or any worse than what premiered at Hong Kong Disneyland on opening day, but it is a lot better than the mess found at California Adventure or Disney Studios Paris at opening! Further, I think it is a very smart business move to base the attractions on Disney's intellectual properties. It could also yield great results for park fans stateside. If Shanghai brings in the big bucks, the company should be able to cover losses on My Magic+ and start building some terrific attractions once again!

So, thanks once again to a great site- and now I know where to find it on mine as I peruse its contents and think it all through. 


Adventure Isle


(Shop) Adventure Supplies

(Shop) Laughing Monkey Traders
(Shop) Rainbow Frog Trinkets
(Show) Storehouse Stage
(Food) Piranha Bites
(Food) Tribal Table
(Ride) Roaring Rapids
(Ride) Soaring Over the Horizon
(Walk-through) Camp Discovery Challenge Trail
Happy Circle

Fantasyland


(Food) Corner Market

(Food) Merlin's Magic Recipe
(Food) Royal Banquet Hall
(Food) Tangled Tree Tavern
(Food) Troubadour Treats
(Misc Attraction) Enchanted Storybook Castle
(Misc Attraction) Sword in the Stone
(Play Area) Evergreen Playhouse
(Ride) Hunny Pot Spin
(Ride) Peter Pan-s Flight
(Ride) Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
(Ride) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
(Shop) Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
(Shop) Castle Gifts
(Shop) Hundred Acre Goods
(Shop) Mountain Treasures
(Show) Storybook Castle Stage Spectacular
(Walk-through) Alice in Wonderland Maze
(M&G) Storybook Court
Hundred Acre Wood
"Once Upon a Time" Adventure

VILLAGE COMPLEX


(Food) Chip & Dale's Treehouse Treats

(Food) Fairy Godmother's Cupboard
(Food) Picnic Basket
(Food) Pinocchio Village Kitchen
(Food) Timothy's Treats
(M&G) Meet Mickey and Friends
(Operations) First Aid/Baby Care
(Operations) Tip Board
(Ride) Dumbo the Flying Elephant
(Ride) Fantasia Carousel
(Shop) Be Our Guest Boutique
(Shop) Casey Junior Trinket Train (ODV)
(Shop) Melody Time Gifts
(Shop) Mickey and Minnie's Mercantile
(Show) Westside Performance Venue
Carefree Corner
Gardens of Imagination
Gazebos
Melody Gardens
Teahouse of the Wandering Moon
Voyage to the Crystal Grotto

LEFT BLOCK


(Food) Club 33

Avenue M Arcade
Il Paperino
Lucky Express

MAIN ENTRANCE PORTAL


(Operations) Lockers

(Food) Mickey & Pals Market Cafe
(Food) Remy's Patisserie
(Show) PORTAL -- Walt Disney Theatre

RIGHT BLOCK


(Food) Sweethearts Confectionary

(Shop) Whistle Stop Shop

Tomorrowland


Well Spring

Alpha, Beta, Gamma
Arena E
(Show) Arena E Stage

CONCOURSE


(Food) Spiral Snacks

(Food) Stargazer Grill
(Food) The Light Stuff (ODV)
(M&G) Meet & Greet
(Operations) First Aid -- Tomorrowland
(Ride) Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue
(Ride) Jet Packs
(Ride) Tron Lightcycles Power Run
(Shop) Intergalactic Imports
(Show) Stitch Encounter
Power Supply
SUPERBLOCK
TRON COVER

Toy Story Land


(Food) Celebration Cafe

(Food) Toy Box Cafe
(M&G) MEET & GREET
(Ride) Rex's Racers
(Ride) Slinky Dog Spin
(Shop) SHOP
(Show) Woody's Roundup

Treasure Cove


(Food) Pintel & Rigetti's Grub to Grab

(Food) The Snackin' Kracken
(Food) Tortuga Treats
(Ride) Explorer Canoes
(Ride) Pirates of the Caribbean -- Battle for the Sunken Treasure
(Shop) Barbossa's Bounty
(Shop) Doubloon Market
(Show) EASTSIDE PERFORMANCE VENUE
(Show) El Teatro Fandango
(Show) Stunt Theater
Jolly Gypsy
Ocean Song
SPARROW'S NEST
Shipwreck Shore
Siren's Revenge

November 21, 2013

Tokyo Disney Sea Mermaid Lagoon Concept

Every once in awhile, the Disney Parks Blog dishes up a piece of beautiful concept art previously unseen by many outside Imagineering. Like today. Just checking in to see if there's anything of interest, and while the articles were not, the header art certainly was!

Tokyo Disney Sea's beautiful Mermaid Lagoon. There it was in its rendering glory- even more stunning in the large image. You can click on it. Yes, we Disney park fans know TDS is the epitome of what Imagineering can do when given the right vision and elaborate budget. Just as we know what happens when corners are cut in budget, space planning, and vision. (Yes, I'm looking at you Ariel's Undersea Adventure- a "D" Ticket that is enjoyable but had the potential to be a super "E" as in the glory days of Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. Sadly it is not.)

As with many things Disney, the planning art can be deceiving. But in this case, all you have to do is find photos and video of the end result to know Tokyo Disney Sea and its Mermaid Lagoon really deliver what was promised.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

November 16, 2013

Jungle Cruise Rarities

Had to take a bit of a break this morning. Well, I looked at my own blog and realized the last piece was a bit grim from a graphic standpoint. So, while I was investigating previous articles on the great Passport to Dreams Old and New site, I stumbled across this beautiful, and to my eyes unseen, piece of concept art from Imagineer Marc Davis. 

We all know his work:  Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion, Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland, and this, from the Jungle Cruise. Magic Kingdom style. I'd never seen this and am admittedly becoming a bit of a Disney pessimist. Who says wonderful surprise are not in store?

(Art copyright the Walt Disney Company.)

November 14, 2013

Destroying Addictions

Why are we drawn to what destroys us? It seems like friends are going backwards into the very things, the very habits, that Jesus freed them from. It hurts me to watch- and I can fall into it myself too if I'm not careful. "We are as free as we want to be!" I tell myself and others. Cutting, porn, you name it- our addictions can destroy us every time we say yes instead of no. If you need help, find it- please. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." Galatians 5:1.

November 13, 2013

Tired Before It Even Begins

Between major events at work, in my volunteer life, and at home, the next two weeks already exhaust me! Unfortunately, they haven't started yet, but I'm already tired. Trust me, posts will be few.

November 11, 2013

November 8, 2013

Yesterland Introduces Tomorrow at Universal Orlando

One of my favorite sites to visit is Werner Weiss' terrific Yesterland.  On today's post, Werner introduces at look at Disneyland's House of the Future by starting off with a look at Universal Orlando's new and not-quite-open yet Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The styles certainly tie together, with a cool mid-century retro vibe that appeals to me and probably thousands of other folks, too. Here I was thinking my next visit to Orlando would mean a stay at Universal's beautiful Royal Pacific Resort. I just have to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the new Diagon Alley expansion. Hmm, this is making me rethink things a bit... including spending a bit more time at Universal than I thought. No matter, go to Yesterland now. Really.

(Photograph copyright Werner Weiss.)

November 6, 2013

Jingle Cruise All the Way

Must be a Jungle Cruise kind of day! Disney Parks blog just released a poster to promote their Christmas themed Jingle Cruise. Happening at both Disneyland and at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, this should be an enjoyable diversion. Kudos to the suits for trying something new. (See my Jungle Cruise article below.)

(Art copyright The Walt Disney World.)

Heads Are Gonna Roll

By most any measure, at the opening of Disneyland, the crowing achievement on the attraction list was the Jungle River Cruise, the centerpiece of the new park's lushly beautiful AdventurelandWalt Disney was justifiably proud of his Imagineers for this thrill ride through the exotic and dangerous. This beautiful piece of concept art depicts headhunter country. Guests instantly queued for the attraction and have never stopped. It's a long time favorite with corny jokes from skippers with just the right playful, irreverent attitude.

The significance of the attraction goes beyond opening day and its continued popularity. I would venture this attraction and its impact had the most to do with Michael Eisner giving the ok to build Disney's Animal Kingdom. Sure, Michael's competitive nature was also driven by Busch Gardens' success down in Tampa, but I believe it was also the public's love of the attraction- and Joe Rohde's clever tiger in the boardroom stunt- that tipped the scales in favor of a brand new wild animal kingdom.

Today, the newer Jungle Cruise inspired park is not the success the suits hoped it would be. Long story short, the team working with James Cameron on the Pandora / Avatarland project had better make it a huge success- or more heads are gonna roll.

(Art copyright the Walt Disney Company.)


Eyes Still Sparkles

After a day like yesterday, I knew I had to blow off some steam...
So, today, I went out for a little exercise. What should come on my i-pod? An old favorite- Art Garfunkel's remake of the classic "I Only Have Eyes For You". I hadn't heard this sentimental favorite in awhile. My wife and I love this song! It sounded so perfect, so nuanced, no sensual, with its delicate lead vocals, doublemint guitars, and ethereal orchestration. The layers of background vocals (all Artie) just make it a perfect love song for a starlit night with your lover. Beautiful.

November 4, 2013

Goofy's Kitchen- Fun for All Ages!

Who says the Disneyland Hotel's restaurant and character experience Goofy's Kitchen is just for kids? Not me! Here are my wonderful in-laws enjoying the morning with Chip or Dale. (Always get them confused!) Love the Kitchen's Creme Brulee French Toast!

October 30, 2013

Better Every Year!

Happy Birthday to my beautiful, lovely wife! Each year, you are more beautiful, more charming, more and more like Jesus. Thank you for being who you are- and I am a blessed man to have known you, loved you, and been your husband for all these years!

October 28, 2013

Winter Hasn't Started Yet

No, it hasn't begun, but I'm already dreading it. See those hills in the back of the photograph? This was were we lived years ago. Timing of life and changes in my job led us to leaving Southern California and the life we knew. Yes, the mountains of Colorado are beautiful- but this homeboy longs for the ocean, the sounds, the smells, the life- and that may never go away. Eternal Summer!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

October 27, 2013

Waxy Whitney

Whitney Houston's wax likeness hits New York City on loan from Madame Tussaud's in London. From looking at the image above, I'd say it's a pretty incredible representation of the singer, isn't it?
What a tragic ending...

October 25, 2013

Space Mountain Still Rocks the Galaxy

A mountain of an accomplishment! In fact, that is what Space Mountain represents. Imagineer John Hench did an absolutely first class piece of art in the 1960's to get the look of Walt Disney's dream just right. Walt had envisioned a space port for Disneyland where guests could blast off into the darkest regions of the galaxies. It wasn't until the 70s at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom that his dream would become a reality. Now, Disneyland saw its attraction come to life in 1977, but soon enough, it was found all over the world. For a very detailed look at this iconic attraction at every Disney park- and with a ton of concept art, go to this post- and enjoy the ride!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 24, 2013

Farrah Fawcett's Secret Life

The news is surprising and a bit disappointing. As with most men of the time, Farrah Fawcett and her beauty captured my eye when I first saw her on television's Charlie's Angels. Almost instantly, she was the breakout star, the new golden girl, the one with everything. The hair, the smile, the eyes, the sex appeal- she epitomized the glamour of Southern California and Hollywood. Co-stars Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith had their fans (and I was one!), but Farrah's was the star the endured.

Well, yesterday it comes to light that Farrah may have been seeing one of her former boyfriends while still with her longtime lover Ryan O'Neal.  One piece of the dispute between the two men seems to be the multi-million dollar piece of art done of the actress  by legendary Andy Warhol. (Top)


It boils down to money, sex, fame, and what happens to folks when they have it all. I just went to a memorial for a friend yesterday, and it got me to thinking about what kind of legacy I will leave. What about you? What will you be known for? For secrets will be revealed? What stories will be told? How will your life be summed up in the course of an hour long memorial?

October 23, 2013

Captain America on His Way

While Thor looks uninteresting to me, (and the first one was just plain bad), Captain America is more my style. Retro looking, patriotic hero, and it tells of a man full of courage on the inside not just one gifted with supernatural powers. I'm in! 

The next chapter in the Steve Rogers story is The Winter Soldier, an April 2014 release from Marvel / Disney. Playing our hero, Chris Evans knows exactly when to show restraint and when to burst forth. It's the variety and subtlety of human emotion that adds depth to an already interesting storyline. 

Oh yeah, a Marvel themed third park at the Disneyland Resort? Since we're never getting Westcot, bring it on.

October 22, 2013

Man in the Grass

The picture perfect Summer day. Laying in the grass, contemplating life, enjoying the sun. The quiet is mesmerizing, enticing, restful. It goes so quickly, and yet, it lingers on and on in my mind.

"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever."

This verse from the book of Isaiah (chapter 40:6-8) reminds me of how fleeting life is and how eternal God is. I am thankful. In a season of much loss and struggle and disappointment, God never leaves me. His word holds true even when my emotions say otherwise.

October 21, 2013

Dark Roast Italian Style

During my recent trip overseas, I fell in love with this ad for LavAzza Italian Espresso. Taken in Venice- and perhaps during its famous flood season- this ad captures the glamour and elegance of this most unique city. Enticing!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)