April 25, 2017

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!


April 5, 2017

Dubai Disneyland to the Rescue

After the collective thus heard world over due to the stunning lack of success of Dubai Parks and Resorts grand opening, could a brand new Dubai Disneyland back be on the table? 

In spite of all the freebie trips offered bloggers as well as traditional news sources, guests have not emerged in large masses to the resort. The earliest reviews were less than favorable. Sources from even kinder folks, such as Theme Park Insider, have returned to the old adage, "If you can't say something nice..." 

Bollywood Parks Dubai might be a fresh concept, but its not drawing in the crowds. Nor is Motiongate Dubai with its less than stellar attraction line-up. Check out on line photos for yourself.  Legoland could be a draw- I mean, who doesn't love the interlocking blocks that have taken over the world?

When a brand new resort discounts this soon after opening, the signs are not good. So, what are the investors to do? Reputations are fragile. A ton of investment is also on the line. Are they desperate enough? If so, well- it's time to call in the clear leader in themed entertainment: Disney.

Coming off a successful launch of Shanghai Disneyland as well as much hype of Avatar / Pandora and the upcoming Stars Wars Land and new additions using Marvel, The Walt Disney Company is in a pretty fine position to negotiate a sweet deal to being a Magic Kingdom to the Middle East. As you can see from the concept art above, Cars Land is a key element as is Star Wars and a whole new take on Main Street U.S.A. 

It wouldn't take too much time to reimagine a whole new world. All it takes is for someone to cry "Uncle"-  as in Walt.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

More Beauty and the Beast Art for Tokyo Disneyland- Video Too!

This just in from the Tokyo Disney Resort- a new release of concept art, models, and a video showing the brand new Beauty and the Beast area of Fantasyland. Not a truncated version like Florida's Magic Kingdom, but a full sized castle with an entirely new and complete experience- an E Ticket worthy attraction. Proving again that the best things come to Disney's overseas parks.

First the video:




Now for some models:

The round area is the Big Hero 6 take on Mater's Junkyard Jamboree.



Saving the best for last, concept art from the Imagineers:

It's the whole package here.
In other words, more than you'll find in Florida.

As a specimen, yes, he's intimidating.

Gaston's Tavern.
No Be Our Guest restaurant- but the full B&tB attraction instead!

Of course there's shopping! After all dear, this is Disney!

The final product.

Looks to be a real Beauty! Coming to Tokyo in 2020!

Where did it all begin? Where else has Disney let Beauty and the Beast shine in the parks? Read it all here.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 4, 2017

Up to the Mountain with Brennley Brown


Let me say it simply: A country star is born with Brennley Brown and her amazing rendition of Kelly Clarkson's lovely Up to the Mountain. Adam Levine said it best: It's a Grammy winning performance. Watch it below.

From the Imagineering Files

A look at California Adventure's hip and edgy restaurant concept for the Hollywood Pictures Backlot. Certainly screams the right era for the 50s and 60s, but it also reminds me of the older Mel's Diner at Universal Studios! Sometimes, you just have to wonder what the suits at the Walt Disney Company were thinking when they put the first version of the park together- besides "cheap"!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 3, 2017

35th Anniversary


Forgive me for a self-indulgent post that is designed mostly for my wife. But our children and grandchildren will enjoy it later. Today is our 35th wedding anniversary, and so in honor of that. I thought I would share a few photos which tell our story.

But first, a story in song for my wife. The beautiful "Perfect" by Ed Sheeran captures what's been in my heart from the very beginning. I haven't been as moved by a song since I was a kid. (Stephanie, this song feels as if I wrote it for you.):

I found a love for me
Darling, just dive right in and follow my lead
Well, I found a girl, beautiful and sweet
Oh, I never knew you were the someone waiting for me
'Cause we were just kids when we fell in love
Not knowing what it was
I will not give you up this time
But darling, just kiss me slow, your heart is all I own
And in your eyes, you're holding mine

Baby, I'm dancing in the dark with you between my arms
Barefoot on the grass, listening to our favourite song
When you said you looked a mess, I whispered underneath my breath
But you heard it, darling, you look perfect tonight

Well I found a woman, stronger than anyone I know
She shares my dreams, I hope that someday I'll share her home
I found a love, to carry more than just my secrets
To carry love, to carry children of our own
We are still kids, but we're so in love
Fighting against all odds
I know we'll be alright this time
Darling, just hold my hand
Be my girl, I'll be your man
I see my future in your eyes

Baby, I'm dancing in the dark, with you between my arms
Barefoot on the grass, listening to our favorite song
When I saw you in that dress, looking so beautiful
I don't deserve this, darling, you look perfect tonight

Baby, I'm dancing in the dark, with you between my arms
Barefoot on the grass, listening to our favorite song
I have faith in what I see
Now I know I have met an angel in person
And she looks perfect
I don't deserve this
You look perfect tonight



We had our photos taken before the wedding, but I remember sneaking away for a few moments just the two of us. How I can see you in my mind like it was yesterday. Just as beautiful as you are today. Little did we know what we were getting into! You married perhaps the world's quirkiest man. Yet, through all the good times and the hard ones, God has been so good to us!


Our first apartment. Country Woods in Brea, California.
Upper level on the right side.

Happy days in that apartment- just you and me.

It may have been exactly on our 1st wedding anniversary that we found out you were pregnant. I know we were in Florida at Disney. This was the role I always knew you were meant to play- Mom. And you did the role of parent way better than I ever did. Still do.

Our first home purchase.
Our eldest son and daughter were born here.
This photo was taken about 20 years after we lived there.
That wall was only a fence into a courtyard, filled with lush shrubs and flowers.

Broke but happy. Two more coming soon.

Life took us away from our parent's homes and lives, but we loved our time in Northern California. It was almost like starting fresh. Little did we know Colorado was on the horizon. Trading the beach for snow? That couldn't have been what I agreed to!

Our first Colorado winter...

...and almost a year later.

(Nope, I'm probably not moving from our house until I have to. So, no photo necessary.)

The world's four best kids.

Career changes galore for me, and you went back to teaching at just the right time. I wouldn't trade these decisions, but I know there's been times when it has been hard on you. Thank you for doing all this with an incredible amount of grace and steadfastness. I know you, and you would all attribute it to being obedient to what God called us to do, but I'm grateful. Certainly, our children have to see you as a role model- and rightly so- but they also have to see two parents who so love Jesus and want to honor Him with their lives. Now, our grandkids get to watch that as well. And I'm thrilled that so many of them have chosen to follow Jesus as well. Even at such a young age, their parents are raising them well!

Lavender fields in France.

One of the absolute delights in our lives has been discovering the world together. Funny, how when my career changed, I thought those days were over, but in reality, we've done more traveling than we ever thought possible. And taken our young family on some pretty great adventures. 

The Mediterranean Sea.

Paris st Christmastime.

Italy for our 25th!

One of our favorite places just calls for a bottle of wine.

Exploring Germany.

Of course, there's been many other places near and far as well as the ones above- and I hope and pray there are many more adventures ahead for us. That "bucket list" is pretty endless. My wanderlust in fairly insatiable. 


Our parents certainly modeled incredible marriages for us.

As our parents celebrate 60 plus years of marriage, my only hope is, should the Lord grant, we'd get to do the same. I've often taken our life together for granted. But I'm finally waking up. Sorry it's taken so long. I love you so- and I am so thankful for who you are and for all of the things we've been able to share. Many more than I can say, and many more that I would never share publicly. I love you more than I may ever say...