June 22, 2017

A Brand New Fallen Kingdom

Can't wait to see the next installment of the new Jurassic World series! Chris Pratt is absolutely a blast here, playing our Indiana Jones type hero. This poster for Fallen Kingdom sticks with the classic look and focus of those that came before it. Why change what works? Should Universal Orlando Resort bring us a new somewhat twisted adventure to match the film? Sure! Imagine the rush of what can happen when we encounter a world where men think they are God, and it all falls apart.

June 21, 2017

Brazil Comes to Epcot's World Showcase

All I can say about this is "It's about time a new country was added to the line-up of World Showcase!" The country of Brazil is about to be added to Epcot. With D23 just around the corner and the Walt Disney World Resort soon to celebrate its 50th Anniversary, the time is now for something new to be added to "Disney's Food, Wine, Flower, and Anything Else That Will Fit" theme park.

Concept art looks promising. Doesn't it always?

Just when was this announcement made, you might ask. Well, the great folks at WDWMagic - who by the way tend to break the news on just about every Florida park news- subtly dropped the info in the last few days. I won't share what thread, as you'll have to discover it yourself. Others may claim to have the scoop, but trust me, the insiders on their boards really do get the news before others. Make sure you look to the rumor threads if you want to get the latest and most likely to happen news.


Imagineering concept art even looks good in black and white.

Of course, things are always subject to change. But don't dismiss the ridiculous. Guardians of the Galaxy did actually come to California Adventure's Tower of Terror. So expect the unexpected. 

The very top rendering isn't Disney, by the way. It's from an artist known as Jader, and it's up for sale as a benefit to UNICEF. Look here

(Art copyright Jader and The Walt Disney Company.)

June 18, 2017

Hokule'a Returns Home (or Disney's Moana Got It Right)!

Mark asked me a while back to do a review of Disney's Moana since I'm a kama'aina (local resident) born and raised in Hawaii. I wanted to re-watch the movie on blu-ray before writing down my thoughts, but haven't had a chance. But I found a perfect way to tie Moana into an event that occurred this past Saturday, June 17 at approximately 9:45 (Hawaii time).

This milestone was the end of the Hokule'a's voyage around the world. A journey that would last three years and traverse 47,000 nautical miles, reaching 85 ports and 26 nations. Began in May 2014, the homecoming was an emotional and proud moment for the Hawaiian people and its culture.  Hokule'a (Star of Gladness) first set sail in 1976 to the island of Tahiti. At the time, its accomplishment was nothing short of miraculous. The skills and knowledge that enabled the Polynesians to sail to Hawaii had been lost for over 600 years. Herb Kane, a renowned Hawaiian painter, had a dream to rebuild the double-hulled sailing canoe of his ancestors, and this vision began the rediscovery of a lost art.






In 1978, Hokule'a set out on a second voyage to Tahiti, but this journey ended in tragedy. Capsized and in mortal danger, legendary surfer Eddie Aikau decided to paddle out for help in the hopes of rescuing the stranded crew. He never made it back although the crew was eventually rescued. The phrase "Eddie Would Go" became a mantra among the locals, echoing Eddie's sacrifice and willingness to take on the impossible.


In Moana, navigation by the stars is a key component and I love the way Disney incorporated it into the heart of the story. They clearly did their homework and understood the importance of this skill in relation to the Hawaiians. For all the criticism Disney gets when adapting stories from different cultures and races, I never felt they disrespected or tried to "whitewash" Moana to fit western view or perspective. And while it does feel that the local village comes off as a little too perfect at times, the feeling of family, love, and respect are strong aspects of its people. I thought "Lilo and Stitch" did a good job of representing aspects of Hawaii in a genuine manner, but Moana is on a whole different level.

With an arrival time of 10:00 am, my friend and I decided to head out early to the rock wall adjacent to Magic Island in order to get a good vantage point of the canoe's arrival. We got to Waikiki at 4:30 and crossed a long stretch of rocks in the dark, hoping not too fall and hurt ourselves. We arrived to the end to the jetty by 5:30 and hunkered down for the long wait. While testing certain areas of the rocks for the best photo ops, I lost my footing and nearly fell into the ocean. Twice I fell and stopped my fall with the palm of my hand, giving me some nice gashes and cuts. Blood flowed freely from my right knee too. 

When Hokule'a finally docked, most of the discomfort and tiredness disappeared. To see the canoe and its crew come home was more magical than any Disney movie could ever be...



     (All photographs Copyright 2017 by Len Yokoyama)

June 16, 2017

Shanghai Disneyland One Year Later

Can it really be one year? Yes- one year ago today, the first Disney park on the Chinese Mainland sprung up in Shanghai. Among much success (the park itself, and particularly the brand new shiny version of Pirates of the Caribbean), some big failures (crowds are clearly missing from Disneytown and the Lion King Theater), and what's to be seen (Toy Story Land), the resort as a whole looks to have succeeded in mostly being what the Walt Disney Company suits were planning.

The castle and its display of China's strength and power.

Shanghai Disneyland boasts a unique kingdom with its own roster of attractions never before seen- and never to be seen. Truly. Can you imagine the corporate lawyers allowing an attraction such as the ropes courses of Camp Discovery (seen above) to ever find the light of day in the States? Me, neither. Unfortunately. 

The Pirates' Battle for the Sunken Treasure and Tron Light Cycles Power Run are the clear home runs, favorites with locals and many international visitors alike.  Yet there's also the very strange Voyage to the Crystal Grotto. A Fantasyland newbie with its statuary based gardens and a less than stellar final scene, the attraction is unique to the kingdom, but it certainly won't be duplicated. 

Tim Burton- your queen is calling.

Neither will the Tim Burton inspired Alice in Wonderland maze be placed in another kingdom park. That ship has sailed. Thankfully. It may be trendy and edgy, but it wasn't a smart move as the animated  film is still the classic for generations to come. This misstep is  balanced out by Tangled restaurant (but no attraction- yet) and a pretty cool looking enhanced Peter Pan's Flight.  For all the other changes that were made to the design of this park, Fantasyland is still the place where the animated films are celebrated / exploited.

Speaking of films, Mickey's Film Festival has quietly opened around the corner from the end of Mickey Avenue, a pleasant diversion to soak up a small slice of the crowd. Kudos to the Imagineers for providing smaller, charming attractions among the blockbusters. I hope that trend continues as the big ticket items are added. It's attractions such as this that give the original Disneyland and Disneyland Paris much charm. 

Did you really think the Mainland would let Hong Kong
have the best Marvel themed area?

What does the future hold beyond Toy Story and it's quick and easy installation? Not to be outdone by the growing and beautiful little park that could, Hong Kong Disneyland, Marvel is certainly on the way. What that looks like, only few people know, and I'm not privy to that. But it's a sure thing.

One thing the park definitely needs on the Tomorrowland side of the park is a very big reliable-to-operate people eater. Soaring Over the Horizon and Roaring Rapids might be popular, but Rapids breaks down regularly and Soaring has impossibly long lines all day long. Will the park get another new and unique attraction or will the suits and very involved Chinese government opt for a cheaper to build slightly redesigned clone from one of the other parks? Will they cannibalize from Hong Kong or even Japan? It's yet to be seen. 

Regardless of its current success or the choices that are coming, Shanghai Disneyland is a great case study on corporate vision and board room ego, government domination, and sheer Imagineering brilliance under very strange circumstances. Stay tuned.

(Photographs copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 15, 2017

Disneyland Time Machine: Music to My Ears

America the Beautiful. Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland. Adventure Thru Inner Space, America Sings, and more. Much more. What a way to visit vintage Disneyland in your mind! It's one thing to daydream about a visit to the park, but it's another thing entirely if you're adequately prepared. 

And I am. Listening now to the excellent Musical History of Disneyland, the perfect 50th anniversary gift for Disney park fans. Starting with Walt Disney's dedication, the collection takes you through each land of the park, bringing atmospheric music, deluxe attraction soundtracks, and evening and holiday performances and parades. It's a time machine journey that never gets old.

June 14, 2017

New Disneyland Map with Star Wars Land

Here's something we've all been waiting for the Disney Imagineers to give us: a new park map of Disneyland with Star Wars Land included. Well, they haven't done that yet, but here's the next best thing: a fan made made that's pretty darn good. All designed from AbleToArt. If you want to watch it being drawn- and I did- give it a watch here.

June 13, 2017

What's Next for Disneyland Paris

Now that the Walt Disney Company has completed its purchase of Disneyland Paris, it's time to look at what is next for the beautiful but struggling resort. First, let's begin what is not next...

New hotels are not on the way. Not only are the existing properties in various stages of being refurbished, the current visitor trends do not point to a need for any additional rooms. The overbuilding of resorts became the primary reason that the EuroDisney resort struggled in its earliest years. Empty but overpriced rooms were the norm - and still are to some degree. While you will see ongoing improvements to the properties, do not expect any new additions.

The Walt Disney Studios Paris still needs help to bring it increased attendance. Even with the fairly new Ratatouille attraction, the second park on the property remains a blight on the landscape. In place of a full remodel similar to what was accomplished (and sorely needed) at California Adventure, the suits will instead infuse Marvel attractions into the park. The rabid success of Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout in the US park almost entirely assures the same transformation will occur in France. The Twilight Zone will be on its way out. Yes, Rock N Rollercoaster will be rethemed (an easy remodel to be sure), and the minimally landscaped and decorated area will become home to more superheroes. There's no restrictions for the Walt Disney Company is using Marvel in France, so it will come full bore. That has already been announced. This includes Spiderman, Iron Man, Captain America and company. 

Disney Village will see upgrades to keep it fresh, but the general structures and layout will remain. It is clearly not a highlight for visitors, and the place continues to clear out not too much after the parks close. It's difficult to choose night life here when the city of Paris is minutes away!

This leaves the biggest investment and improvements for the most beautiful of all Magic Kingdoms. The question remains, "What will be added?"  More Star Wars in various forms. Perhaps not the large attractions from the US parks (at least not yet), but there will be additional enhancements to play off the popularity of the film series. 

Now that the parc looks better than it has in years, crowds need to be spread out. This means the most likely place for a big expansion is in that huge old empty piece of next adjacent to the great Cowboy Cookout Barbecue in Frontierland. There are well known plans for a version of Splash Mountain, but certainly die hard Disney fans would kill for a brand new version of Imagineer Marc Davis' Western River Expedition. Imagine using some of the amazing technology from Shanghai's Pirates of the Caribbean in another form and theme! Instant home run- and an instant way to keep new folks coming back to a parc that hasn't seen a major expansion since Space Mountain

The other option looks to be in Fantasyland in space originally reserved for Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast expansions. With the international success of the live action film, my money is on Beast. Done right, meaning better than in Florida and with a real "E Ticket" attraction, this is another way to make the French kingdom a fresh must-see. Does this mean it has to be the same as the Tokyo Disneyland attraction? No, it can be different- and just as good.  Frozen is another option that would bring success, but Beast is just so French, that is absolutely belongs here. 

Last thought- don't be misled into thinking or believing the suits and the Imagineers need time to figure out what to do. They have been planning this move for quite awhile. The braintrust behind the Walt Disney Company is determined to turn Paris into a hugely successful moneymaker. Something they should have done with integrity long ago. 

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 12, 2017

Notable and Quotable: Levi Lusko

"On the night she went to heaven, I did for Lenya what a daddy should never have to do.   I reached out and closed my little girl's eyes. What I never expected was that God would use her to open mine."
                                                    Levi Lusko

Have you ever suffered a loss so deep you thought you would never recover? That's the story of Levi Lusko and his wife and family. He watched helplessly as his young daughter died unexpectedly in his arms. How can any of us survive death, betrayal, loss, illness, and more?

Check out his book Through the Eyes of a Lion and watch how one man came to life through death. I'll warn you ahead of time, the quote above is the last line of the book, and it will make you cry.

June 11, 2017

Aloha!

Before you get a chance to see the new post by Len- and it's a great one- take a look at this vintage United Airlines travel poster for Hawaii. It's from the 1940's. It was just so cool I had to share it. Makes me want to take off for the islands. But if I were a betting man, I'd say that's going to be misplaced by a few more business trips. Have a great Sunday!

June 10, 2017

From the Plaza Inn to the Crystal Palace

The Plaza Inn. What an absolutely wonderful place to eat when you want a break from the crowds at Disneyland! The exterior perfectly fits Main Street U.S.A. inside and out, and once inside, it feels far removed from a theme park as can be.

Walt Disney and the early Imagineers knew their audience, always striving to give them the best experience possible. Good enough was not the mantra of the time. Case in point: In 1965, Disneyland was in the middle of an iconic expansion still talked about among fans to this day.  Pirates of the Caribbean was was soon to debut. The Haunted Mansion was not far behind and neither was the great big beautiful New Tomorrowland

Guests visiting Walt's park had an opportunity to purchase a nice little souvenir book filled with concept art of upcoming attractions. The particular book this piece comes from had some rare art as well.  The Plaza Inn was given the Imagineering treatment from the beginning, starting with a rendering to highlight the feel of the place. 

You can almost see the inspiration for Walt Disney World's lovely Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom here. As with many things, Disneyland was the proving ground for what would come in the future. 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

New Music from The Voice's Christina Grimmie

Her music lives on! And how! Check out Christina Grimmie's new album "All is Vanity". There's a powerful message there... and some really good music! 

One of the finalist's on The Voice, she had it all. Even holding her own with coach Adam Levine on "Somebody That I Used To Know". But there's more to her than her voice

Check out her youtube page full of videos and music here.

June 9, 2017

Don't Count Olivia Out Yet

Even though we cannot rightly claim her as our own, Olivia Newton-John definitely falls into the All American Girl category! The recent news of the return of her cancer brings her fans news we never wanted to hear. However, as with many others who have endured this battle, don't count her out yet! I believe she still has many more years of music in her! Just pray, ask and watch. Suffering exists in the world ever since the fall of man back at creation. God doesn't always answer prayer in the way we would like, but He is always Good and always Kind. Hang in there, Olivia! We're praying for you.

June 7, 2017

Do We Hate the Sin That Destroys Us?

This is the question I am wrestling with today. Tonight actually, as I've been up for a couple of hours. 

The very things I am tempted by have the power to bring me to the destruction of myself. It's the same for you as well, isn't it? Don't agree? Just give it some thought, and you will see this is truth. If you cannot see this in yourself yet, then look deeply into the lives of people you know. Then look at yourself once more.

Pride, hate, lust, the need to control, all of it. Anything evil has the power to take us down paths we never wanted to travel- and we risk losing all the good gifts if we go there. That is why God hates sin. It's because of His great love for us that He warns us to stay clear of it. 

But do I hate sin in my life? Or do I just play with it, dabbling in it, thinking it will never conquer me. But then I indulge. It always looks like its worth it until I have to live with the results of my choices. If nothing else, I have to live with the truth that I've blown it. Foolish man that I am. 

Makes me think of Paul's famous discourse in the book of Romans, chapter 7. More thoughts later...