May 19, 2017

A Pleasant Place

It's only been a vacation in my mind, but I can honestly say, much like Mint Crocodile, I've enjoyed the break from blogging. I'm fresh with plenty of ideas, so let's see what happens and when they come to fruition. Stay tuned. 

May 5, 2017

A Deeper Look at Westcot

Kudos to Robert Niles over at the Theme Park Insider blog and his fairly recent article questioning if Disneyland fans in Anaheim are finally getting their unbuilt Westcot park - the west coast version of EPCOT Center- partially realized in California Adventure's terrific food and culture festivals. Almost immediately, I was brought back to the original grand plans for Anaheim's second Disney park- long before the suits under Michael Eisner (with Robert Iger, by the way) cut the very soul out of the expansion project once the 2 billion dollar amount to build it was realized. Mind you, this was just for the park, and it did not include any hotels or what would become Downtown Disney.

As we all know, in its place, Disney built the much cheaper and ultimately disappointing California Adventure 1.0- a Disney park disaster equivalent to Disney's quick and dirty direct to video animated classic sequels. The park stunk. For me, the first visit anticipation of a new Disney park was ruined by the final product- and I was not alone in that assessment.

Fans knew it stunk, and deep down, I believe suits knew it as well- even if the folks working with them and the Imagineers weren't bold enough to stand up and say so. The hip and edgy contrived sibling was a test tube baby created by sharp marketing folks loaded up with charts, facts, and figures. In other words, it was a heartless disaster playing on the loyalty of Disney fans for a quick buck. (Want to see just how cheap the first version was? Go to my multi-part series here to see the concept art for the original park. It's truly "Bargain Basement Imagineering" at its worst / best. You'll be shocked at what the suits passed off as a Disney quality experience.) As we all know, eventually, the suits under Iger admitted the failure and approved a huge investment to make the park one which was no longer an embarrassment. 

In contrast to the opening day version, I love California Adventure 2.0. The whole Twilight Zone Tower of Terror into Guardians of the Galaxy mishap aside, I see it becoming a pretty wonderful and complete Disney worthy park in another half decade or so. Once the Disney Imagineers continue to add great attractions as well as remove the remnants of what was first created, seen mostly in the Hollywood Land and large parts of Paradise Pier, the park should look terrific and be filled with unique must-see adventures. Yet, along with many other hard core Disney park fans, I've never forgotten the park we should have seen built: Westcot.

Let's now take a look at what would easily have been an instant fan favorite as well as a huge money maker for the company.

This piece highlights all of the planned expansion.
Lots to see, so click on it for the largest size.

In Florida, the Imagineers had "the blessing of size". This clearly was not the case in crowded, congested Southern California, particularly in the area right around Disneyland. The great enduring success of "Walt's park" brought with it lots of cheap motels and services, fast food restaurants, and traffic that overwhelmed the streets. Available land was scooped up by investors as soon as the park was a success, meaning almost immediately. It was land that Disney itself couldn't afford to buy at the time because Walt had gone "all in" on the park project, risking everything on its success just as he had done in the past with Snow White.

When enlarging Disneyland, it speaks to the incredible ingenuity of the Imagineers that they embraced these space restrictions as a design challenge and used it to spark creativity towards a greater goal. This is the exact thinking encouraged by Walt himself. It all makes Disneyland just so charming. The park is full of attractions, shops, and restaurants in layers to be discovered all around by park visitors. 

In Florida, the extra land certainly allowed wider walkways and larger gardens, easing guest flow and making for a much showier presentation, but it also created a park environment where large, iconic buildings almost seem to float relationally disconnected from one other. All that space became a huge plus for a park design as ambitious as EPCOT Center, but in contrast, it became a crutch of sorts, a pretty serious detriment when it came to the overall design and feel of the Magic Kingdom.  

Original site plan model for the Anaheim expansion project.

The site plan map. 
Take notice of the original plan for the lake.

There was no doubt that Disney in California had to expand to accommodate its ever increasing crowds. How do you build an all encompassing Downtown Disney, new hotels, and a brand new theme park with so little room? The blessing of size didn't exist in Anaheim so the key question had to be asked: Could that fairly compact slice of land available for the second EPCOT type park build out actually become an advantage? Clearly, that's up for debate as Westcot was never built, but I would say unequivocally, the answer is yes. As with the expansion to "Walt's park", the tight space limitations for Westcot ultimately demanded a very unique and exciting version of Florida's second Disney theme park.

By necessity, the design of this park would have to be different than its older brother, and it was. Anytime people look backwards, things could be done better. So it was this time as well. The Imagineers had learned from the past as well, listening to feedback given as EPCOT Center had been around a few years. The issues regarding families with young children and those seeking thrill rides would be addressed this time around. Not with a character infusion, however. The whole park would feel fresh and different- and in at least one very significant way that would make today's money hungry suits at Walt Disney Company wish they would have followed through and built it. I won't tell you what that is right now, but trust me, you'll surely recognize it when you read it.

As seen above, this wouldn't be the first time
Disney Imagineers considered a golden hued
Spaceship Earth.

As with EPCOT Center, the Anaheim park would include two segments blended together. Future World would be complete with a new golden version of the iconic Spaceship Earth- here called Spacestation Earth. The new name and color of the icon wouldn't be the only twist from the original. This time, the giant 300 foot sphere would be in the center of a small lake with the international focused World Showcase regions of the park encircling it. 

Not only would this huge building be the centerpiece of the park, it would be seen from all over Orange County- something that didn't occur with Disneyland's larger structures. Aside from the viewing the Matterhorn, no structure could be seen from outside the park. This grand vision for Westcot's icon would become a focal point of a bigger battle with the city of Anaheim, its residents, and the Company all waging war against each other with different opinions and angles on what should and shouldn't be built. In fact, Disney also played the city of Anaheim against the city of Long Beach with its plan for the proposed California version of Tokyo's rightly acclaimed DisneySea park... but that's another story to be told at a different time.

A vision in gold.

Many local residents and Anaheim government officials weren't too thrilled with this design choice as it was viewed by them as the company celebrating and showcasing its dominance over the city and the surrounding neighborhoods. Nightly fireworks were an issue for some already. This would be too much Disney in their face for them to handle.

The residents of the surrounding neighborhood fought against Disney's plans, with the giant golden spherical icon only providing a focal point for the community build its case. The epic and much publicized battle eventually assisted the Walt Disney Company in ditching their more expensive plans- something they were happy to do after overbuilding hotels at Disneyland Paris- to build a different kind, a cheaper kind, of theme park. Note to Anaheim in its current battle against Disney- be careful what you fight for. You may get it.

Westcot's icon would have dominated the skyline, but on the plus side, the glittering, golden sphere would have been an instantly recognizable advertisement for the larger than life new park. In a small effort to address those concerns as well as the growing building costs, the sphere was later replaced by a large spire. Certainly less inspiring and definitely less majestic, the spire was more in line with what both sides truly wanted. Cheap, quick, easy to build. In other words, it reeked of the Sun icon for California Adventure 1.0. (That park once had a spire proposed as well!) But back to the Westcot and the attractions that were supposed to be...

More ideas on how to make this new Spaceship Earth unique.

Naturally, this portion of the park would highlight the future. The prevailing idea here was to build a park that glanced at the future but intentionally would be constructed without shows or attractions that had to be updated to represent an ever-changing world. Again learning from the past, the Imagineers had already discovered how difficult it was keeping tomorrow in Tomorrowland. 

In this new Epcot, there were Future World type pavilions to be found, but the topics were more generic in nature: the Land, Living, and Science, making it easier to present an entertainment focused approach. More difficult topics such as energy and transportation have been left behind in favor of considerably lighter, fantasy-based fare. Some attractions and Future World environments were based on ideas once proposed but discarded for Florida, particularly those of Imagineer Tony Baxter. This included the content of the original glass based towers for The Land. (I've got it somewhere on the blog but can't find it. The man has always proposed great projects! Look at his unbuilt concept art for Fantasyland here.)

Additionally, in stark contrast to what was built in Florida, California's forward looking area would view what was to come through much more whimsical eyes- including those of Figment and Dreamfinder in a newer take on the classic Journey into Imagination. For good measure, the Imagineers would also toss in a shimmering version of Horizons and a fresh presentation of the Wonders of Life. Now looking backward, those beloved signature attractions would be very welcome in California where the Disney theme park fanbase is much stronger- and perhaps even more nostalgic.

Beautiful, golden, and expensive.

"FuturePort" is what the concept art named it.

From the base of the park's centerpiece was Ventureport, guests could explore these attractions and smaller exhibits, but it was also the main departure point into a newly reimagined World Showcase, now known as the Four Corners of the World.

A spire in place of Spaceship Earth.

The nighttime view.

The success of EPCOT Center gave the Imagineers a chance to objectively look at the park from a constantly changing guest dynamic. The original thought in design was that adult park visitors would be the core audience. In World Showcase, guests would be enthralled with the opportunity to explore other cultures through food and drink and travelogue films without the need for Disney character meet and greets or a large number of theme park rides. As Disney looked at the facts, they soon discovered families with younger kids were almost as much a part of the park's guest roster as the Magic Kingdom. This meant kids were more easily bored with watching travelogues than adults and need something else. More rides - including those for children as well as some thrill rides- were part of the order for the new Westcot.

Latin America in World Showcase.

Space restrictions also forced a new look at this portion of the park. Instead of individual countries being represented, now they were clustered together in continents. There's pros and cons to this approach. The pros are fairly easy to describe: more countries can be represented within a smaller space. The cons? It's not as easy to get "lost" in an individual country, feeling the full depth of the place. One of the best aspects of World Showcase in Epcot is the ability immerse deeply in an experience. Getting lost in the streets of Morocco, the hidden nooks of France and Japan or the backwoods of Canada would be much more difficult to accomplish at Westcot. There would always be new cultural icons acting as lures to the next area, but the risk of sensory over saturation would be a concern. 

According to Imagineer Tony Baxter, who once gave a lengthy talk on the project, (look here for the transcript), it was more than a best of recreation of what worked well in Florida. One of the most exciting parts of the Four Corners was a major attraction called The World Cruise. Imagine getting on board a boat at 5 various ports of the world and experiencing a bit of culture, mystery and romance on a 45 (yes, 45!) minute journey on the park's waterways. Along the way in between ports, boats would enter a series of colorful, rich, indoor panoramas talking about the culture and history of the continents explored. Think about the show scenes of Spaceship Earth, the now-defunct World of Motion, mixing in Audio-Animatronic actors depicting historical events and references important to that society. The epic nature of this attraction cannot be overstated. This was Disney Imagineering going above and beyond what they had already accomplished at Walt Disney World.

All of Asia in one easy to access area.

Red Square and Paris next door to each other- only in Westcot- 
or in Putin's dreams.

Kids rides would be cleverly incorporated into the landscape via smaller "B" and "C Ticket" attractions. Travelogues to highlight regions of the world? Of course, those owl make the cut. What about thrill rides for the teens? A roller coaster in the form of a slinking dragon moving through Chinese mountains was on the agenda. Toss in handfuls of smaller exhibits to be explored, numerous and varied artists providing traditional cultural entertainment, smartly designed children's play areas, and a simulator attraction or two, and you get the idea of what the Imagineers planned to fill out the park's roster of major "E Ticket" type attractions. Let's just say this re-Imagined version of World Showcase wouldn't be met by the cries of "There's too few rides, no thrills, and nothing for my kids to do!" There was even talk of an attraction or two based on the three major religions of the world in their own version of the Middle East- complete with a reflective "peace garden". This is something Disney wouldn't have the guts to do now in our politically correct but extremist charged, global neighborhood. 

There was one other discovery to be found at Westcot- one I found delightful once I got past the cash grab aspect - was the ability to stay overnight in the country or region of your choice. Popular buildings posing as landmarks during the day (and blocking out the city of Anaheim just beyond the park) would not just house new attractions, gift shops, and pricy restaurants, they would also be the home to expensive premium hotel rooms, making this the first Disney park to truly allow guests to stay within it. 

I'll close this article with some back and white pieces of rarely seen concept art for the Westcot park created by Conceptual Design Group in Irvine, (now in Trabuco Canyon) California. (One more is at the top of this post.) These tell only part of the Westcot story, but it's a good place to end.

Would the brand new Westcot have been the hit Disney needed in order to successfully expand the Disneyland Resort and keep the cash flow moving? Without a doubt, but Michael Eisner and his suits (including Robert Iger) got cold feet and opted for California Adventure instead. Will fans ever see Westcot on that third plot of land down the street on Harbor Blvd.? Of course not! The Walt Disney Company that created EPCOT Center is gone. At least in the U.S.A., the company is more interested in shoving its latest acquisitions and film characters into the parks, hoping our wallets will thin out as we purchase cheap souvenirs. They've proved what they think by changing the iconic Twilight Zone Tower of Terror into just another attraction to sell their latest film and by placing the incredible looking Star Wars Land in Disneyland versus in the third park where it belongs.

Even though a new version of Epcot was once planned but vetoed by the suits for Disneyland Paris (the concept art is here on the blog somewhere), it could eventually end up in Asia. Particularly at Shanghai Disneyland, where the always present Chinese government could proudly show the world why they are supreme. Again, that's a story for another time and place- just as Westcot as we know it is a piece of history and an opportunity missed.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

May 3, 2017

Two Goofballs

Like father, like son. And a bit like grandpa as well!

May 1, 2017

Observatron Me

Disneyland's Tomorrowland 1998. Supposedly, the new and improved version. Rocket Rods racing high above the ground on an elevated "highway in the sky" (of sorts- it ran on the former Peoplemover track, not the Monorail re: reference I just made) while the "interesting" Observatron presents an evening show against the backdrop of iconic Space Mountain. This was a slice of Imagineer Tony Baxter's vision for a brand new land of the future. 

Naturally, the project was truncated by the suits who doomed it to disaster. By robbing it of funds needed to bank those curves in the track, the Rocket Rods were difficult to maintain, and more importantly, financially impossible to keep running. The Observatron never functioned as planned- nor was it fixed. Problem upon problem. And by placing a retread of Honey, I Shrunk the Audience in the former Captain Eo space along with other budget cutting decisions, the brand new bronze hued Tomorrowland of 1998 became a major disappointment. It was almost as big of a disappointment as the California Adventure park that made its debut a few years later. Almost.

(Thanks to "phruby" on the WDWMagic boards.  Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 27, 2017


Translation: Karen Carpenter at Disneyland. At the Tomorrowland Stage to be specific. She and brother Richard were performing in 1974, while their hit single Please Mr. Postman was number one around the world, just a few months prior to the release of their new disc, Horizon. A mesmerizingly instant classic. Containing Only Yesterday, Solitaire, and the definitive version of the Eagles' classic Desperado, the collection shows off their God-given talents with an entirely new maturity. Yet the album also marks the beginning of the end of their days at the peak of the sales charts.

The Carpenters were beloved in their nearby hometown of Downey, California. As most of her fans know, Karen was a huge fan of Disneyland and Mickey Mouse. The duo was arguably at the top of their game (the World) in this season with a seemingly endless string of hit singles, monster albums and sold out concert tours on every continent. What a gifted duo they were!

(Photographer unknown.)

April 25, 2017

The Milky Way Tour 2017 - Part II

Since my last post (eons apologies), my wife Sue and I (along with our two dogs - Juneau and Sitka) visited the Big Island to check up on our house and enjoy some R & R (of course, this is the one time during the year where we transport the girls with us...and that in itself is one mighty stressful experience).

I had thought of leaving the camera back on Oahu and just spending time around the house and with my family. But Milky Way season being in full swing, it was too much of a temptation for me to resist lugging the DSLR along for the ride. 

One of my goals this year was to photograph the MW at the top of Mauna Kea summit. When I finally made it last year with my trusty old 2000 Toyota 4Runner, I felt I had conquered Mount Everest. I had been there 16 years earlier, but the last attempt was met with mean headaches and acute dizziness, thanks to the thin air. At its peak, Mauna Kea rises 13,800 feet above sea level (from its base on the ocean floor, that measurement jumps to 33,000 ft). Guests are advised to spend at least 30 minutes at the Visitor Center (located at 9,200 ft) before journeying the last 4,600 feet via 4-wheel drive. When I purchased my SUV on Oahu way back at the dawn of time, I opted for 4-wheel option even though it added another $3,000 to the sticker price. Most of my friends thought it was a waste of money since I never went off road. However, in the back of my mind, I thought if I ever moved to the Big Island, I would definitely need 4-wheel capability. And while I never specifically asked the Lord for a home there, He provided one to us in His infinite love and generosity. So, making it to the top in that Toyota was a major validation for me...LOL!

The photo at the top of this post was taken at the Visitor Center as I waited out the 30 minute stop in order to acclimate to the higher altitude. The center was closed by the time I got there (1:30 am), but thankfully Porta-Potties were available. Contained behind the gated fences is the endangered Mauna Kea Silversword plant. Once plentiful on the volcanic mountain slopes, steps are now being taken to protect and preserve this endangered species. I thought the silversword only grew on Haleakala in Maui, but I learned this is a relative of that particular plant. 

After the wait period, I began the drive up the unpaved terrain to the top. I've heard the road is purposely kept inhospitable to discourage people from going up (thereby minimizing foot traffic and decreasing light pollution from car headlights). I must say it does an excellent job. Like a trooper, my 17 year old vehicle plodded through the gravel and dust, but I swear I felt bones rattling in me that I never knew existed. 

About the halfway point, there is a nice, wide area to pull off and park. One is above the clouds and the MW view is already clear and spectacular. What gives this image an added bonus is the orange glow in the distance. Some have wrongly thought it was the sun rising, but it's actually the lava glow from Kilauea Volcano some 40 miles away. The only thing missing was ice along the road, but unfortunately  (or maybe fortunately), it had stopped snowing several weeks back.

After a few miles of this treacherous path, the paved road returns leading you up to the first group of observatories. This is what I reached on my first attempt last winter. The MW was not visible at the time, so I was content shooting here.  On this attempt, I made it to the next level where you could see observatories as well as some satellite dishes. I stopped here and decided to do a few panoramas. 

I was up there for about an hour and the cold and thin air began to take its toll. MW shots require 30 second exposures, and in this type of environment, that can feel like a lifetime. I would set the shot, press the shutter release, and bend down low, gloved hands in pockets, in order to keep warm and save oxygen/energy.

To get to the top, I would have to travel another mile or so of unpaved gravel. At this point, I knew my body had enough and I needed to return to a lower, oxygen rich altitude.

I plan on heading back to the Big Island in July, so hopefully the 3rd time will be the charm in getting to the peak!

Photographs Copyright 2017 by Len Yokoyama

Say It With a Kiss, Amy

Somehow in the busyness of recent times, I forgot to post this sweet little video by Amy Grant. It's a delightful little song with a powerful message: Love is stronger than hate.

Vince Gill and his bride.

Thank you, Amy, for a very timely message!

April 21, 2017

Even More Peter Ellenshaw on Tokyo Disney Sea

Imagineer Peter Ellenshaw has done some amazing concept pieces for Tokyo Disney Sea! I've already shown a few on this blog, but I have some more to show. Here's Lost River Delta from the air. From the beautiful purple blue sky, the temple for Indiana Jones stands above the jungle tree line, drawing brave guests into an exploration never to be forgotten.  The Crystal Skull may have been a relative artistic flop of a movie due to George Lucas and his alien insistence, but the story the Imagineers created for the attraction - long before the movie was even considered - is first class from any angle. You could say that about the entire park, though, couldn't you?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 20, 2017

Night and Day in the South of France

Who am I kidding? I'll probably never get to a full on photo travel report from our last trip to Europe, but I can at least give you a snapshot or two of some stunning places.

Saint-Paul de Vence in the South of France. Beautiful, charming, peaceful, absolutely everything you expect a French village to be. I could not have been more impressed by the whole thing. Certainly one of my favorite stops during our trip to Switzerland and France a few years back. The hillside was full of old stone cottages now converted to also host some shops and restaurants along with homes for the fortunate residents who can afford to live in such a place. But as beautiful as it was during the day...

...the evening light made it all the more lovely. Oh, what a little moonlight can do! 

One of my favorite meals ever was taken at a little place down the street from this photo. Under a huge tree out on the patio, looking across the pedestrian cobblestone path at a small little cafe. Alone with my lovely wife under the stars, it was a night to remember.

There were so many blessings associated with this trip. Free airline tickets were just the beginning of God's goodness to us.

As I've said so many times in the past, there's a great big beautiful world out there besides Disney. Go see it.

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)

April 19, 2017

The Upside of Guardians of the Galaxy at California Adventure

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is one of the modern masterpieces of Disney Imagineering. The storyline mystical, the engineering a marvel (particularly in Florida), the attention to detail incredible- the end result, amazing! The attraction packs them in at Disney's Hollywood Studios. There's less crowds to be found in Paris or Anaheim, but even there, it is still a very popular attraction. 

All this makes Twilight Zone Tower of Terror the perfect Disney classic- to be remade into something else. Really? No, of course not. The move is just the latest and fastest way to bring Marvel based attractions into the Disney theme parks. Starting stateside in California.

Photo from Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix of MousePlanet.

The rebirth of California Adventure clearly captured the hearts and dollars of the picky Disneyland fan, making the second property a solid success. The sparkling, retro based Buena Vista Street sets the perfect stage for new explorations, with its very stunning Red Car Trolley line taking guests from the entrance of the park to the front of an old abandoned Hollywood hotel. 

Imagineer Joe Rohde has been tasked with transforming a beloved attraction into something Marvel worthy and shoe-horning it into a place it truly doesn't belong- just step one toward a full Marvel superhero land in a Golden State themed park. Tarps up and change happening- the old hotel becomes a weird sci-fi warehouse power plant. Good luck, Joe!

In the midst of realizing it is a done deal, and trying to make the best of it, I had an eye opening revelation: Much like the unique and popular version of the ride found in Tokyo Disney Sea, giving California's a Guardians of the Galaxy makeover may be a pretty smart move. Look at Tokyo. Their Shiriki Utundu mesmerizes, bringing a sharp and fresh story to the popular ride mechanism. It fully fits into the area in which its placed. 

These two photos copyright Disney.

Now, that will be a problem for a Guardians attraction as it stands, but rest assured, a full Marvel land is on the way to California (and France, and Tokyo, and Hong Kong, and Shanghai). Can it come soon enough? No- not now that they have made this travesty of a building, a scar on the successful California Adventure remake. But perhaps the plans for the new land are so incredible, so marvelous, so mind-blowing, that when everything is open, the new revised Tower and it's unique story will fit like a superhero glove. Maybe. Here's hoping.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 16, 2017

France Celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus

Within the beautiful Sacre Couer basilica in Paris, France, is a rarely photographed piece of art- a stunning representation of the Risen Christ. Yes, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. Normally in a Catholic church, basilica, or cathedral, the crucified Jesus is shown. The reality is He is Risen- it's not a myth, not a lie, nor is his body to be found in the ground. In fact, Jesus of Nazareth foretold of the event himself In the Book of John, chapter 2:13-25: 

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”  His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”   But the temple he had spoken of was his body.   After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

Incredible- right? Yes, even more so when you read that last line- "for he knew what was in each person".  I can handle Jesus dying on the cross for my sin and being risen from the dead to prove He is the King, the only sacrifice for my sin (and yours!), but it kills me to realize that Jesus knows what's in my heart, what I think, and knows what I do... and still loves me... and He still loves you.

Our world wants to divide sin into categories- but we have all sinned and fall short of what God requires. So the question stands- Who do YOU say Jesus is? Your relationship with Him will determine your future once you pass from this world. There's no other measurement. Is He your Savior, your Lord? Do you believe He rose from the dead after dying for your sin? Will it be Heaven or Hell? Not imaginary theme park lands, both places are real. The way of salvation and the payment for your sin has been made on your behalf, and now the choice it yours and yours alone. Who do you choose? Jesus or your own way.

April 15, 2017

More Star War Land New and Art

Full pre-post confession here: I've watched the newest films as they've become available, but you couldn't call me a Star Wars fan any way you chose to determine it. That said, some of the details the Imagineers spilled today sound very, very promising.

Sounds as if the Imagineers are going to make this new area a fully interactive land, beginning with attractions that track your response and effect how you will experience that sights and sounds and citizens of the new world. The concept art above, shows what they've dreamed up for Disneyland as well as Disney's Hollywood Studios. This 3 minute or so video, below, gives some clues as to what's coming. It sounds enough to make this guy willing to board a Millennium Falcon.

(Art and video copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 14, 2017

New Orleans Square and Tales from Lafitte's Crypt

Disney park fans, have you ever been to the real New Orleans? If so, the blend of charming mansions, lush vegetation, and incredible places to dine, shop, and listen to live music, make it a must see destination. So do the sacred places found in the wide variety of old churches and cathedrals. Of course, any place the sacred is found, the dark side of the spiritual world co-exists with the light. 

Disneyland's New Orleans Square is the epitome of Imagineering brilliance. When the brand new land finally opened at the park in the mid-60's, fans were amazed that theme park designers could create something so authentically charming and accurate, very faithful to the original. Here was a beautiful rendition of the city, calling visitors to explore its alleys and destinations. Watching the Mark Twain riverboat cruise the Rivers of America only added to the atmosphere.  

The masterpiece work still is Pirates of the Caribbean with its swashbuckling journey through grottoes, a burning village, and a bit of the ethereal. The opening of  The Haunted Mansion in 1969 filled out the land's roster, bringing some more obvious spirited fun for guests who dared to venture beyond its front door. Placed close to each other, Pirates and Mansion deliver the very best Imagineering has ever offered. In some ways, no other Magic Kingdom park delivers the Art of Imagineering as does this land. Even Tokyo Disneyland's mini land cannot compare to the original.

Concept Art by Eddie Sotto for the unbuilt original attraction.

It's a credit to the old school Imagineering team that folks like Bob Gurr, Marc Davis, Herb Ryman, Claude Coates continued to look for ways to further deepen the richness of the experiences found at the park. For New Orleans Square, however, it took a next-generation great, Imagineer Eddie Sotto, to come up with another thrilling attraction for an area so limited in acreage. 

These pieces of concept art reveal Eddie's proposal to add a walk through attraction into the crypt of famed Pirate Jean Lafitte. Think of Paris' famed catacombs, and you will not be too far off the mark from was proposed but never built. The mystery and stories of his exploits are still told today. Imagine exploring the creepy tomb with decayed bodies, leading to unknown adventures! 

It had been quite awhile since I thought about this project. There's  an interview with him on the subject. Go to this Imagineering Disney post to see a number of photos and the story in full.  Walt himself would have been thrilled to add this to the park. He always loved bringing some history into his kingdom.  In his day, the parks were viewed as living artwork to be enjoyed by families together, not solely a tool to increase profits and tie into the latest movies for merchandise sales. 

I found this to be the perfect piece for today! Imagine exploring the empty tomb of Jesus the Christ, His crucified body risen back to life to the glory of God the Father. Proving Jesus' own words that He would rise again- fully paying the price for my sin and yours. Owning this as eternal truth deep inside your heart leads to untold adventures of spirit and soul. It was truly a very Good Friday! His story is told to this day all over the world- and in spite of any opposition, it has never been able to be stopped.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 12, 2017

Promises, Promises

Forgive me for a bit of self-indulgence today, but I need to post this to remind me of what Scripture three different people have shared after praying for me during critical periods of my life (2001, 20014, and 2015). This includes my wife, and I love her and trust her ability to hear from God more than anyone.

Isaiah 41:8-10 

“But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    you descendants of Abraham my friend,
 I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;

    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

April 11, 2017

Looking Back at a New Tomorrowland

If you nose around the internet a bit, it seems that Walt Disney World's fairly refreshed Tomorrowland may be in for a bit of an Imagineering remake. New shades of paint are appearing just about everywhere, from the space styled rocks at the entrance to the Carousel of Progress building an it's striking new sign.

The great folks at WDWMagic share in some speculation that so much of the land is due to change, but Space Mountain won't be touched. (You'll have to go there yourself to pick up on the rumors gaining steam.) It may get a new neighbor, but the iconic building will remain. It's a good thing, too! Not only is it one of my favorite attractions in the World, it's one kids of all ages look forward to conquering! I've got tons of Imagineering concept art on it (and a piece on Space Mountains all over the world that may need some updates). Now for some art.

Disney Imagineer Clem Hall was the man responsible for some of the earliest concept paintings of Space Mountain. There's not much known about he guy, but you can see he was a forward thinker and some of his concepts had a profound affect on the design of Florida's Tomorrowland. On the piece above and below, you can see the Grand Prix Raceway to the left, and the Skyway building to the right.

This nighttime look at Space Mountain intrigues me even more- as most dark skied bright light pieces do. In fact, so does nighttime at any Disney park. The lighting designers are incredibly talented, making even the most mundane lands feel special.

Here's one last piece for this post. By an (unknown to me) Imagineer, showing yet another different potential design for the world's first coaster in the dark. I'm partial to the final result however- and I bet many others share that opinion. Hopefully the changes to come honor the genius of the past artists.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 8, 2017

Just Around the Riverbend

Disneyland's Rivers of America and the reimagining of the farthest part of the riverbend is in the midst of its renaissance. This great photo from the always terrific Disney Geek, gives a great up close look of the almost finished product.

Right behind that forest and rock formation is the new Star Wars Land under construction. Looks like the Imagineers have done a pretty good job of maintaining the integrity of the river even if they had to shoehorn Star Wars here instead of in the third Anaheim Disney park where it belonged. 

Here's a slice of the concept art. Looks pretty good with the Mark Twain Steamboat rounding the bend of Tom Sawyer Island. And I've heard there's a hat tip to the original Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland for those riding the Disneyland Railroad

All in all, count me impressed so far. Very different than how they've incorporated Guardians of the Galaxy into Hollywoodland and Buena Vista Street at California Adventure!

(Photograph copyright Disney Geek. Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 7, 2017

The Indiana Jones We Never Saw

With Indiana Jones 5 in production, it's only natural theme park fans would be looking for a refresh of the Indiana Jones Adventure at their local park. Or in the very sad case of the long neglected mess called Disney's Hollywood Studios, where fans are wondering when they will ever get the attraction to complement the park's great but long in the tooth stunt show. 

All this made me think back to this wonderful piece of Herb Ryman  concept art. When Imagineering put Ryman under orders to create a show-stopping rendering to give guests (and the suits, and in the early years of Disneyland, investors for EPCOT Center) a feel for what a project would look like, Herb gave them a masterpiece worthy of any art gallery. Blow this thing up and take a look. Look at those wide open spaces and incredible Asian temples. Marvelous!

The Anaheim park originally had many more textures as part of the Indy invasion, but of course, money and space and time determined a different course of what would finally be built. It could be different elsewhere. The lovely Disneyland Paris was earmarked to receive its own E Ticket worthy Indy ride and not just the bare bones coaster we see now in Adventureland. Isn't this gorgeous park worth a new E Ticket after all those years post the opening of  Space Mountain? Yes- long over due. (Check out the blog for a long list of Indiana Jones concept art for both California and France, and even Japan.) 

With the coming rebirth and rebranding of the Florida studios park, Indy should certainly be a franchise worthy of its own land. Even from just a financial standpoint. Imagine a park with Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Pixar attractions in immersive environments! These are films I want to be a part of- and I'm sure guest attendance and satisfaction would go through the roof. That "blessing of size" in Florida can be put to good use, and an Indiana Jones themed area is worthy of the design challenge it would take to bring it all to the Studios- and Paris- and beyond.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 6, 2017

It's Graduation Time

It's that season again! And I just love the video that celebrates this young man's graduation. Anything can happen when you give things chance!