June 14, 2021

Hideaway

Taking a tropical vacation in my mind. Time away is still some time away, but I know its coming- and I couldn't be more thankful to the Lord...

(Photographer unknown.)

June 11, 2021

Port Disney Leads to Tokyo Disneysea Success and California Adventure Failure

And you thought Avengers Campus was lacking in ambition and execution! Take a look at the piece of concept art used to sell Port Disney to the city of Long Beach. Toss in the extravagance of EPCOT Center with a nautical theme, and you get a blockbuster Disney theme park. Or so it seems...

The grand entry.

In actuality, this was a well designed ploy by Michael Eisner to get the city of Anaheim to pony up big cash for what folks thought would be WESTCOT Center. But it was a true bait and switch. 

The second Disneyland Resort theme park would instead be the very underwhelming Disney California Adventure 1.0- a total flop creatively and financially. It would take another billion or so to transform it from the laughing stock of the theme park world to something vaguely resembling a Disney park- if only later to begin reverting to tacky and "hip and edgy".

In the meantime, quietly opening (at least to US Disney park fans) several months later in 2001 would be the grandest of all parks, Tokyo Disneysea in Japan. That park only gets better over time. And it is a consistent money maker from day one. 

You don't believe that California Adventure was once the bastion of what I call Bargain Basement Imagineering? Check out this look at DCA over its 20 year history and my very popular series, and view the concept art that formed the foundation of the park. It makes Spider-Man's WEB Slingers look like a masterpiece!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 10, 2021

Behind the Beauty of Shanghai Disneyland, China Clamps Down Once Again

This beautiful photo from Madness Kingdom shows one side of the lovely and groundbreaking Shanghai Disney Resort in China. With the dazzling Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, the Imagineers certainly proved they can still design epic adventures when given the appropriate space, direction, and budget. But all the dazzles isn't gold!

The country is clamping down once again on freedom of speech and religion. Watchdog China Aid reports new government restrictions and indoctrination requirements begin on September 1, 2021. Take a look at this article. The way things our moving in our country, could we be far behind?

June 7, 2021

THIS is What I Wanted from Disney+

Here's the big announcement directly from the Disney Parks Blog:

Go ‘Behind the Attraction’ in a New Original Series Coming to Disney+ on July 16

A new series is coming to Disney+ on July 16 that gives an exclusive peek ‘behind the curtain’ of the most beloved attractions and destinations at Disney Parks and Resorts around the world, from Jungle Cruise to “it’s a small world” to the Haunted Mansion to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. 

“Behind the Attraction” is a 10-part series narrated by Paget Brewster that  delves into Disney Parks’ rich, amazing history using archival and never-before-seen footage and photographs to unveil how the attractions came to be and how they’ve been refined over the years as new ideas surface and technology evolves.

Hear the unique story behind each Castle at the Parks and learn how Disney Imagineers designed and built them and discover the intricacies of the transportation systems at each park, and how the iconic Disneyland Hotel came to be.

Including rare interviews with Walt Disney, each episode also features exclusive interviews with Disney Legends and dozens of past and present Imagineers, including Bob Weis, Jeanette Lomboy, Kim Irvine, Scott Trowbridge, Tom Fitzgerald, Scot Drake, Carmen Smith, Joe Rohde, and others who divulge insider secrets of the parks and how iconic Disney attractions were brought to life.


June 5, 2021

Welcome to WESTCOT Center!

WESTCOT Center is perhaps the greatest of the abandoned Disney theme park projects. If it sounds like Epcot, it should! Comprising two main areas, it feels like Future World and World Showcase but with a difference. Imagineering added thrill rides, new countries to explore, and new scientific based pavilions. Want a journey through the history of the world on an extended boat cruise where you can jump on and off? You got it! There's more. A lot more! Go here for a deep dive with all the details and concept art you'd ever want. Then you can "thank" Michael Eisner and team for cancelling it and replacing it with California Adventure 1.0!


(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 4, 2021

The Rainbow Promise

Ah, the rainbow! What a wonderful reminder that we are all worthy or love and respect as we are created in God's image. But did you know the rainbow represents a promise? It's the very sign set in the sky by Him to remind men, women, and children, that He will no longer destroy the earth by flooding it. The book of Genesis, chapter 9 tells us all about it. Not only are rainbows beautiful, they bring hope! And God brings new life to us through Jesus Christ. All of us have sinned and fall short of what God intended, but He alone paid the price. It's time to turn toward Him and regain what God intended, isn't it?

June 2, 2021

Avengers Campus Falls Flat

How do you take Marvel, one of the most successful of all movie franchises, and turn it into failure? Open Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure with a slightly improved Toy Story Mania as your main draw.  WEB Slingers- A Spider-Man Adventure should be so much more than it is. But this is Imagineering of the 2020's and certainly not work found under the original first generation or the often equally talented second generation. Shops and restaurants play a big part here where they should take on a supporting role. 

Viewing the Disney Parks Blog live stream of the grand opening, it is easy to see the Imagineers were hamstrung by the budgets and the direction given from the suits, and the enthusiasm for the new land was as manufactured as could be. Until grander plans come to fruition, Avengers Campus will be for die hard fans and little kids used to Saturday morning cartoons. So much potential wasted.

Rare Concept Art for Pinocchio's Village Haus in Disneyland

Stumbled upon this old piece of concept art for Disneyland's Pinocchio Village Haus (now known as the Beauty and the Beast themed Red Rose Taverne). The brand new revitalized Fantasyland of 1983 saw not only the Pinocchio's Daring Journey dark ride but a nice little restaurant off to the side on the pathway to Frontierland. The very charming inn at Disneyland has an older corporate cousin at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. We know bigger isn't always better, but in this case, the Florida location does have a great big scenic window into the load station of It's A Small World. Over in France, it's Au Chalet de la Marionnette at Disneyland Paris. Anyway you see it, the restaurants are infused with Old World charm and a touch of Disney magic.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 1, 2021

Time Passages

Another family member passes away- and this all leaves me with the thought of how quickly life goes. Eternity awaits for all of us...

(Photo copyright Canva.)

May 31, 2021

A Fresh Way to Be Thankful on Memorial Day

Thank you to those who served to maintain our freedoms and gave the ultimate gift of the sacrifice of their lives. These men and women spent their lives so others could live free, following the pattern of Jesus Christ who gave up his life willingly so they all who would know him, love him, and give their lives to him, would live free for eternity.

May 29, 2021

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

My wonderful wife retired from teaching after 25 years. She well deserves these words of blessing from Jesus for her faithfulness! Loving and teaching children is a gift that's hard to act out with grace and gentleness. But she has been called to this as much as any person could be! Well done, dear wife!

May 28, 2021

Expansion for Disneyland Paris

Expansion plans for the world's most beautiful Magic Kingdom? Yes, please! Disneyland Paris has been relatively untouched by the newer and very different group of Imagineers than the ones who designed this gorgeous park. Financial woes have thankfully had a plus side! There's been few alterations to the park. But it is time for something new. Is there space for expansion? Absolutely! Each land holds vast amounts of acreage just waiting for it to happen. By the way, see the yellowish mountain of sorts in the upper left hand corner of Frontierland? Could it be for Splash Mountain? Check this out. You'll see the concept art for something VERY interesting.


(Model copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

May 26, 2021

Richard Carpenter, Chris May, and Mike Cidoni Lennox Go Behind the Music of Carpenters

Richard Carpenter of the beloved Carpenters music group meets with authors Mike Cidoni Lennox (left) and Chris May as they celebrate their collaboration, Carpenters: The Musical Legacy. For the first time, brother Richard tells his stories of the creation of the beloved music and albums that he and sister Karen Carpenter created over the decades. Rumor has it that this book is only the beginning of a series of events and activities focusing on 50+ years of enduring music. Proving once again that songs like Yesterday Once More, Top of the World and Goodbye to Love never really go out of style, fans have been requesting a volume like this for years- one that focuses on the creation of the music the world loves. 

May 24, 2021

Summer Kicks Off!

Finally, Summer arrives! Not officially, but for us, the warmer weather and the ability to sleep at night with the cool but not cold breezes marks the beginning of the season. And this nice little greenhouse project makes a great beginning to time in the garden!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

May 23, 2021

Who Knew the Jungle Cruise Could Look Like This?

This photo shocked me- but in a good way! Take a look at this gorgeous photograph of the Jungle Cruise at Hong Kong Disneyland by user HKDL Fantasy on Twitter. The bright reds, oranges, and yellows of Spring bring an entirely different look to this reimagined classic Adventureland attraction. This little park may be considered by some as the runt of castle parks, but it's huge on charm and getting better as the years go by! A brand new castle, the upcoming Frozen themed land, Mystic Manor and more. A pretty good line-up!

May 21, 2021

Epcot Musings

Why is it that even in its saddest state ever, Epcot, continues to be my favorite Walt Disney World park? It certainly does not have the most iconic and beloved attractions. That crown would easily go to the Magic Kingdom. Nor does it hold the most technologically impressive ones as that winner would have to be Rise of the Resistance and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Lastly, it isn't even the contender for the park with my current Top Two Attractions. That would be Disney's Animal Kingdom for Expedition: Everest and Flight of Passage as the current king of must-see-when-I-visit favorites. So why does Epcot- and not the much better EPCOT Center -continue to fascinate?

Much of what I loved at Florida's second Disney park no longer exists. Reflections of Earth is gone. The epic but long gone adventures of Journey into Imagination, Horizons, and World of Motion now only exist in my imagination, and their replacements are a mere shadow of what originally was purposely and beautifully designed. Those days are gone as is the promised future of many more World Showcase pavilions.

Is help on its way or more pain as the revisioning of the park continues? Love it or not, Imagineer Zach Riddley is certainly keeping us up to date with the tiniest of details. He wants to convince us it's more than his job to bring this park back to a pristine and refreshed state, that it's a personal passion for him. So far, the results are mixed. Yet, the biggest wins are in areas where the park is returning to elements from the past, so maybe we can begin to believe him. We've yet to see the coming future, but I'm trying to be open-minded. I've already said this, and I'll say it again: We are the reason Epcot is changing.

With so much gone, what's left to love? Plenty! Wide open expanses of gardens filled with blooms. Large bodies of water that reflect the morning sun and the evening sunset. The classic and still inspiring Spaceship Earth, the retro--cool Living with the Land boat ride, and a little figment of my imagination. He certainly needs a better attraction, but his sheer presence harkens to what could be.

That's it- potential! I find it in the optimism that abounds in the faces of the hopefully soon to return international citizens that populated the mini-nations of World Showcase. The beauty of the films of France, of China, and yes, even of Canada. The live music, the cultural exhibits, the stunning American Adventure production- one of Disney's most incredible attractions. I find sweetness and humor in the Gran Fiesta Tour, in Frozen Ever After- and soon in Remy's Ratatouille Adventure. These are far from perfect and could be much better, but they counterbalance the tones of the more serious aspects of the park.

It's when the sun begins to set for the day when Epcot comes alive and my appreciation and love for the park truly grows. How can any guest not look at the pavilions of World Showcase lit up against an evening sky and the calming lagoon and not get that sense of elegance and sophistication all around that brings a smile? That leisurely evening stroll with a treat in hand (liquid or otherwise) as the local music plays, the pace relaxes, and the rush to run from attraction to attraction turns into an embrace of the time to take in all the exquisite views that abound. Maybe an attraction, an exhibit or two. Then it's dinner! Choosing a favorite place to sit still, have some warm conversation about the day's events, and some fairly good food (if you choose wisely) is the perfect way to begin the night time touring. For me, the later the dinner the better, as we can walk out through the park and take in all the countries with most all the guests departed for the day. It's quiet and almost sacred in its serenity. I'd choose it over an exhausting day at any other park. 

Can you sense why I love Epcot? Hopefully that continues with all the changes to come. The big blue box annoys me, and the giant metal tacos ruin a once gorgeous view. Shuttered Future World pavilions remain, and construction seems to be everywhere. Yet, I'm not giving up! I'm optimistic that more good changes are coming than bad ones. The optimism is in me- and I remain cautiously open to the park's future. Do you?

(Photograph copyright Zach Riddley and The Walt Disney Company.)