October 1, 2015

Pirates, Prophets, and Princesses

It's been good to take a break from posting on the Insights blog and actually, from visiting many websites too. But it is time to return as there is too much news to talk about and much too much going on in the Disney world and our world to ignore.

What have I been doing on my break? Home repair projects, working in the yard, resting, thinking about what's important, what's eternal, serving at church, and taking a bit of time to visit our son and his family. Busy times at work too- and you know in this economy, that's a good thing! I've also been updating the blog, making it easier to find the articles you like and making them easier to read. I've added some things as well. Enough about me and the work of the blog! On to the fun stuff...

You have to love the photo above. It's an untouched screen shot from the incredible WDWMagic site and their equally incredible video of the recently refurbished Pirates of the Caribbean. You can give it a look below.

Video from WDW Magic.

As you can easily tell, when the budgets given are decent and the Imagineers have the right amount of time, the final results can be breathtaking. In all our visits to the Magic Kingdom, I do not recall the attraction looking this good in decades. Really. When I stop and think this through, I must say it is unfortunate that refurbishments seem only to come when attractions seems to be in the absolute very worst state possible. It's a business model that seemed by be embraced by Robert Iger and the Board of Directors for much too long. 

Perhaps as the competition from Universal Orlando continues to increase, the old school methods of keeping things in top shape will return. Guests pay big bucks and invest their precious time to go to Walt Disney World, and they expect and deserve the best show possible. We'll return to the World in a few paragraphs.

Watch at your own risk. More horrifying than the Haunted Mansion.
Video from the Center for Medical Progress.

The real world continues to be a mess. It seems to get worse as time goes by. What a barbaric mindset we've embraced when we find ourselves defending the decision to dissect and sell off body parts of babies both aborted or even killed first on the table! Are our consciences so seared that we do not see a problem with this? There's too much proof to ignore the overwhelming evidence that this is happening. Even my liberal friends who support choice are wondering what the hell happened to common sense and decency. We will be judged by the Lord for such atrocities and calling evil good and good evil. 

On that note, take a look at the world politics around us. From a personal email I received, I can tell you ISIS is going crazy in the Middle East. What did I read from my friend? Christians are being pulled from their homes in small villages. Their children being beheaded in front of their poor terrified parents- who are sometimes left to live with the horror they have just witnessed. 

Once again, this administration turns a blind eye to it all, but our president invites a Muslim kid to the White House who brings a clock that looks like a bomb to school. The school did it's job and according to the safety standards set by the district. No racial profiling here. 

I wonder though- would the kid be given an invitation by the President if he were a Jew? Let's think about it. This president has done more to favorably bring Islam to the forefront of our country than any other. This is all too strange and something to be thought about beyond political preferences. It's ongoing getting worse.

Noble goals. Is there a nasty dark side beneath it all?

Let's take a minute and talk about recent declarations by the United Nations. On September 25th, they set 17 very ambitious goals known as The 2030 Agenda. It includes very nobles aspects like ending world hunger, fixing the climate, and more. Unfortunately, to make this happen, every nation must comply with and adhere to their standards. 

They've even set up a glitzy website and campaign, a star studded plan that includes a video with endorsements by everyone from Jennifer Lopez, Robert Redford, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Bono, Meryl Streep, Stephen Hawking, Daniel Craig, Charlize Theron, and Jennifer Lawrence. Under the leadership of the United Nations, make no mistake- a one world government is on the way. Maybe not today and maybe not in a couple of years, but I think the writing is on the wall. I'm not ready to give up the uniqueness, character, and self-governing of my country to a small group of politicians. Are you?

China- In a stunning piece of rare concept art. 
Click on it for the largest size and look at all the details!

How about all those blood moons? Just science or is something else going on? Coupled with the current state of political affairs in the world and the aligning of major powers intervening in the Middle East, (China in the Mediterranean and Russia in Syria?) all this news reads like something out of the book of Revelation. Or Jesus' warnings to his followers in Matthew 24 and 25. Or in the book of Daniel chapter 12. 

What's coming next? At some point in the future- again maybe not right now but it will come- a  required marking placed on our right hands or forehead so we will be able to buy and sell food and other goods. (See Revelation 13:16-18.) Accepting this signifies our reliance on this one world government versus God- but accepting this also comes at the highest price possible- eternal separation from God and endless torment in Hell. (See Revelation 14:9-11 and Jesus' own words: "Depart from me you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Matthew 25:41 ).

Beautiful Red Square recreation.
Never built along with so many others.

There's good news here- Jesus has come to save those who are lost from being drenched in their sin; those who are willing to give up their lives and turn from their humanistic ways, devoting their life to Him and His Ways- regardless of the cost. Let me ask you- Do you believe Jesus died to pay the price for your sin and that He rose again from the dead? If so, pray and ask Him to take over your life, giving up this one for life eternal to come. As I've told you many, many, times and in many different ways- Jesus said He is The Way, The Truth and The Life. No one comes to God the Father but by Him. (John 14:6). He states it clearly because of His great love for man, not because of his sometimes perceived hatred or bigotry or narrow-mindedness. Everyone- regardless of what they have done- who calls out to Jesus and trusts him will not be put to shame.

Ah, Pandora!

"Can we please go somewhere peaceful?" 
I'm hearing you say. OK, let's talk Pandora! It is becoming a very impressive project. Very, very,  impressive- and this is from someone who was not all that sure he wanted it to be built. Is it true to the original theme? Maybe not. Is it enough to get me to book a trip to Walt Disney World in 2017? Probably not, unless the boat ride is stellar- but I may have been very wrong about this project. It happens from time to time. 

I'd say all of Animal Kingdom is looking pretty darn good, and the future looks very bright. Whether or not Rivers of Light will be great versus "good enough" will be seen soon enough. The test images that have leaked out do look impressive. Regardless, both projects mean the most gorgeous of Florida Disney parks will begin staying open regularly after dark. (It's one giant Adventureland- I love it and write about it constantly! A seven part series on the park can be found here.) Maybe, just maybe, Universal's astounding success with Harry Potter has brought the Mouse roaring back. Time will tell.

What surprises will the boat ride bring?
You know the Imagineers have something up their sleeves.

What a beautiful environment to wander in the evening hours with its lovely lighting! Wouldn't it be great if each of the attractions were refurbished back to their opening day glory before the nighttime safaris begin? Perhaps that's a project on the drawing boards. The new eateries look pretty great though!

All those little projects are certainly bringing detail to the park. Unfortunately, there's still one big and very hairy detail that needs to be addressed. You all know what it is. I don't have to tell you.

Soon to be hiding behind the forests of Frontierland at Disneyland. 

In preparation for Star Wars Land- or whatever they will call it- both coasts are slowly taking the steps necessary to make this a reality, and sooner than later. The most surprising news comes from Disneyland, however. Walt's park is in for some big and perhaps some very controversial changes to bring Star Wars to life in a new way. Those fans of the Disneyland Historical Preservation Society will not be pleased by what the suits and Imagineers are working on... but maybe they should be. Or maybe they have it right.

At Disneyland, major work is beginning in January. The Rivers of America will be forever changed. It will be a shorter ride on the watercraft which ply the river, be it in the Mark Twain Steamboat, the Sailing Ship Columbia or the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes.

Goodbye Tom, Huck, and Becky!

The northernmost piece of Tom Sawyer Island will be transformed into a creative use of existing space, making the most of the 14 acre plans for the expansion. The newest rumor is that access to the island by guests may not be returning at all. If it's true, at least that incredibly ugly stage can disappear from view, and the Disney suits can approve some planting of new trees and shrubs. A bit of a warning and a question here: Carnation Plaza and Gardens went first, then Club 33 as we knew it. After changing the Rivers of America and Tom Sawyer Island, which other iconic attractions will be considered fair game to remove in the years ahead?

The iconic Disneyland Railroad will be rerouted with travelers now rounding the bend by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Should make for some nice photographs as the speeding trains zip past. If the Imagineers do something to add more scenes, it will make the shorter trip more interesting than the previous one. Disneyland has it good, though. There's even less to really see from the railroad in Florida.

At first, I was troubled that Robert Iger and his suits would mess with something Walt personally had a hand in creating.  However, if these changes will 1- Spread out the crowds as guests will now be able to walk all the way around the river, 2- Help keep the river and all its watercraft, and 3- Bring two major E Tickets to an area of the park that is underutilized, it will be well worth it.

In spite of the fact that Star Wars at best belongs in a third park altogether or at the very least, in our out of date and multi-focused Tomorrowland. The public is fickle, and the investors demand the company make as good a use as possible for maximum returns. Especially difficult in Anaheim, where available land is already scarce and diminishing by the year. Guest experience should be improved, and Disneyland will remain the Magic Kingdom styled park for die hard fans. After all, it is chock-full of most major attractions and plenty of charming smaller ones that have Walt's touch all over them. (And Tony Baxter!) There's some slight changes that could improve the guest experience and satisfaction, but that is a topic for a separate post.

Coming to Anaheim.

Apparently, Toontown is spared but the nearby Fantasyland Theater is on its way out. It's a pretty ugly building, but it has brought in some pretty good shows in its time. In place of the theater (once dubbed the "Wonder Bra" theater) and using the available space next door, it is a certain bet that Frozen attractions are on the way. Elsa, Anna, and company are the new superhero princesses of the Disney film library. Let's just hope the plans involve attractions that look more like what is planned for Tokyo Disney Sea rather than the poor man's version set for Norway's Maelstrom redo at Epcot. (Poor Epcot! Left in the dust with plans for all the other Florida parks. How the great have fallen!)

The Disney Company loves synergy and rarely misses a chance to make a buck. Happily, this will guarantee younger guests pull in their obliging parents to Walt's original park for the latest offerings. The mesmerizing one-two punch of Star Wars Land and Frozen will make Disneyland the place to go for decades to come. That's a good thing! It forces the suits to keep adding to the Disneyland Resort. Now about that space formerly occupied by the Motor Boat Cruise...

Once planned for Paris, now headed to Tokyo.
And you thought eating in Beast's castle was the best experience...

To the credit of the Company we love to follow, there's been quite a few major announcements made for our Stateside parks, and there's more on the way, specifically Avengers attractions for California Adventure. (They had to save something for D23 in 2017! And Frozen replacing the brilliant Aladdin performance? It's long overdue.) The real fun will begin when Disney hosts its D23 expo in Japan later this year. Then we can begin comparing plans and complaining about how the Asian parks get the best versions of the attractions Imagineering can dream up. Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, Alice in Wonderland and more. That's not all. Get ready to repeat the process when Shanghai Disneyland opens its doors in the Spring of next year.

Well, that's it for this first post back. Enjoy it, reread it, think about it. Very good to have you along for the ride. See you real soon!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)


Len said...

Welcome back Mark! You've come back with a bang...a post that covers some very timely issues and tons of Disney news. First off, the whole Planned Parenthood crime (and yes, it's a crime) is just the tip of the iceberg to where our country, and the world is headed. I shudder to think what happens when God calls the Holy Spirit off the earth. The good news is that God is in control and has already wrote the finish to this story. And the ending is a happy one for followers of Christ! On the Disney front, I loved your inside info and am excited about most of the changes. The one thing that really doesn't thrill me is Pandora. I thought Avatar was a very average movie...cliche plot with amazing visuals (the 1st Cameron movie to truly disappoint me). I keep remembering that weird sex scene and the general worshiping of nature...making me feel it doesn't belong in a Disney park. Oh well, I'm sure the Imagineers will hit that one out of the park. Again, glad to have you back!

Mark Taft said...

Thanks, Len! I agree with you on all the points you made. Pandora does fit in from the point of DAK focusing on the philosophical nature of the park. I'm sure it will look great, but I can't help but wonder if Beastly Kingdom would have been a better fit long term. I also hope the two main attractions are stellar. Good enough just isn't anymore.