August 31, 2009

Fantasmic Dragon Sighting!

Just a couple of freshly released press photos!

Nice to see that Imagineering can still pull off something incredible. Gives me even more hope for the California Adventure remake and remodel!


Boy, do I ever wish the was the title of Pirates of the Caribbean 4- but it isn't.

It's a true life adventure of another kind. One I am living in and one that is causing me to wrestle with the true meaning of forgiveness. It is painful and lonely process... The details do not matter. Where was doing what is right? Where is loyalty? Where is fairness? And where can I find the strength in my heart to forgive and trust again?

I am not Jesus- far from it- but his encounter with Judas keeps running through my mind. If he can forgive mankind and his executioners on the cross, surely I can forgive, too. Father, give me strength!

August 28, 2009

Standby Request

There's more articles and posts in the works- please standby...

August 26, 2009

Sorry, Whitney

Short and sweet: It's officially the end of the line for my Whitney Houston CD collection.

I've just heard her album in streaming audio on the official website- and it is a major disappointment. While "I Look to You" starts off promisingly with the upbeat "Million Dollar Bill", it is the chorus and production that carries the song. For someone like me who is a fan of her singing, this is very telling. Sadly, it is painfully clear that Whitney has burned out what was once a beautiful voice and now must rely on studio tricks and producers who can maneuver around her voice as opposed to highlighting it.

The production, arrangements, and the studio sparkle are all there, but the poor woman sounds tired and working too hard for a hit. In her own words, "It's Not Right But It's Ok". Her desperate bid to sound contemporary dillutes what made her unique. The ending result is lackluster package.

What should have been a showstopping personal ballad, "A Song for You" instead becomes a mixed genre piece of recording, with Whitney having a very hard time remembering something called melody in the midst of a disco beat. Leon Russell wrote this gorgeous song and after many, many covers, no one yet sings it like Karen Carpenter did 37 years ago!

Heavy marketing and retouched photos will make this disc a sure fire hit, but it isn't deserved. Her best recording days are behind her. Sorry, Whitney. I really am.

August 25, 2009

On and On It Continues

There is a battle going on for your mind, your thoughts, and what you think will have a major impact on your actions. Where does the battle present itself? In ways like this:

When we fail miserably, how do we view ourselves?

What do we choose to think of others?

When we believe we have no value, that there is no hope, that things cannot change.

In conflict, will we run or face it head on, trying to bring things to resolution?

Do we feel abandoned by God or doubt His goodness or His care for us?

And a million things just like these- there is always a battle.

I see this all the time in me as well as in others. When we are passionate people, sometimes our thoughts and feelings have a huge impact on what we choose to do. The choice, the battle, the decision, is to believe that God is in control. What He says about us is true, not our feelings- and then we have to choose humble submission to Him.

Choosing to submit to the truth will result in our growth and moving past a long time stumbling block, pain or unforgiveness which has held us captive.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

From the Book of 2 Corinthians, chapter 10:5

The good thing is Jesus promises us peace in the midst of our lives if we place our trust in Him. The reality is peace can be found no other way. I've tried to find it elsewhere, haven't you?

August 24, 2009

More Than Movies!

Don't let the name fool you- Alain Littaye's new Disney and More Movies blogsite is a gem, chock full of concept art by Disney Imagineers as well as Disney movie information. One of his most recent posts presents this piece of amazing artwork for an unrealized version of Mission: Space at Epcot. Well worth a view or two!
(Artwork copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 21, 2009

Off to University

Just yesterday our youngest child headed off to the dorms for his freshmen year. What an interesting mix of emotions for us: joy because he is such a great young man and starting a new adventure in his life; pride for his job well done; and sadness as we will miss everything he has brought to our home since he was born.

Life continues on, although we already miss him and his playful sense of humor, warmth, and caring. He has a deep passion for what is right and good, rarely confusing them with what others say is healthy when it isn't. He's a young man of service and faith, putting his words into action by taking care of the needy both at home and by being a part of multiple missions trips throughout the years. Others look up to him for good reason as he is kind, gentle, and strong without holding on to stereotypes. I am so proud of him!

That is really all I can say for now. Words are not enough, and there is no picture I could post that would accurately represent what is in my heart as I type this...

August 20, 2009

Project 7

Here's a great way to make a positive difference in this world! Regardless of what areas of life you'd like to improve, Caribou Coffee's Project 7 may interest you. Go here and get the scoop!

August 19, 2009

The Joker President?

"After Obama was elected, you had all of these people who basically saw him as the second coming of Christ." says the artist Firas Alkhateeb.

Oh, Lord Jesus, I hope not, but I am afraid he may be right. To pin our hopes on any man is a scary thing. Whoever does will surely be disappointed. There is no one like you!

Notable and Quotable: Galileo Galilei

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them."

Galileo Galilei

August 18, 2009

A D23 Dream Out of Reach

If only I could! If only I could...

Sting's Winter Musings

Former Police frontman Sting, continues to move farther and farther away from his rock and pop roots. "If On a Winter's Night", his newest disc coming October 26, explores themes of the season in a decidely middle-of-the-road kind of way.

Comprised of carols, lullabies, and gentle melodies, this is his unique take on adult contemporary music. I'm sure it will be beautiful and just perfect for a quiet winter's evening by the fire. Yet, since it comes on the heels of his previous collection, "Songs from the Labyrinth", another nonmainstream release, a fan has to wonder, "Can Sting still rock solo?" Here's hoping his next outing involves something accessible to rock radio.

August 17, 2009

Time Lapse Video- California Adventure

The first time lapse video on the transformation of California Adventure is here. Looks pretty cool- and it reminds us of both what was there before and what is to come! Keep going, Imagineers!

Signs of the Times

After our last trip to Walt Disney World in February, I returned with some surprising revelations: Disney's Hollywood Studios was wonderfully themed, and my once beloved Animal Kingdom was actually now at the bottom of my Florida park list.

Most every visit after the opening of the Studios in 1989, left me with the strong impression that the park was just a jumbled mess of structures without reason for placement, thus breaking the beautiful functionality at layout that was initially designed.

Certainly in its purest form, both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot reamined true to their design roots. Disney's Hollywood Studios, however, had fallen prey to lack of a master plan and a true visionary to guide its development and growth.

As I discovered. these facts did not change the park from having an abundance of beautiful detail- if you looked for it. One of the more obvious places was in the signage found everywhere I looked. So, here's part two of my gallery of sign photos.

The small Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost sign (top) effectively captures the nature of the film's excitement. Although somewhat predictable, the play on the compass background, stylized airplane, and iconic logo all come together quite well.

The most imposing and attention grabbing building in the park, The Hollywood Tower Hotel, home of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, has signage high above which quickly identifies the mood of the attraction. Or is it the lightning scarred remains behind it and the sounds of screaming from the inside the long abandoned elevator shaft that give the tower its powerful drawing power?

Just down the way, a giant guitar announces we've reached the G-Force Records studio and Rock and Rollercoaster starring Aerosmith. The less noticed and much smaller sign for the shop around the corner, Rock Around the Shop, is no less effective in capturing our attention.

Not every sign is at eye level or higher. Just outside the shop, a drainage cover in the street also announces the building owned by G-Force, its circular shape mirroring the compact disc- or record, for those of you still familiar with the old school method of playing music.

Herein lies a lesson for us Disney park lovers and those who are newbies to them: Look everywhere for detail! The Imagineers love to place layer upon layer to acheive the ultimate effect in transporting guests from the everyday world. Even in the rightfully criticized California Adventure and Walt Disney Studios Paris, there is detail to be found and signage worth noting-and soon enough, more attactions that are truly Disney quality! Watch for the signs- they are everywhere!

(Photos copyright Mark Taft.)

August 13, 2009

Shuttered Mill in Paris

Upon its opening, EuroDisneyland was instantly the most beautiful Magic Kingdom theme park ever built. (Although I hear the upcoming Shanghai Disneyland is just as unexpectedly unique and spectaular!)

Each land of the park was given the ultimate artist's touch. Frontierland feels like a real western town, Adventureland takes on a blended African/Middle East/Caribbean flavor, and until the toons started their invasion, Discoveryland moves the Tomorrowland concept into something timeless and delightful as it's focus come mostly from Jules Verne. Main Street is equally stunning, particularly from a table at Walt's restaurant!

Fantasyland is the ultimate merging of earlier kingdoms with aspects new and stunning. Just look for photos on the internet, and you'll see Disneyland Paris is the Tokyo DisneySea of Magic Kingdoms. Just look at the gorgeous Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant! But Fantasyland is not without problems...

Long shuttered is the attraction based on an original concept for Disneyland in Anaheim- a ferris wheel of sorts themed to the 1937 Disney film, The Old Mill. It was called Les Piroettes du Vieux Moulin. Once a sweet way to view the area, it now sits mostly as an excuse to hold decorations for Christmas. No matter, it is slightly hidden from view. Yet, it just goes to remind us that when it comes to any Disney park, 100% unity through perfection in design, execution, function and ongoing maintenance is unattainable.

(Art Copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Poetry Man

Just like that beautiful old song Poetry Man by Phoebe Snow (recently redone by Queen Latifah), Travis Prange is a talented young man who draws you in with wit, charm and depth. His first volume "I" is out now and worth the read. You can find his great little book of poetry here.

August 12, 2009

The Land Time (and Budget) Forgot

Right in the middle of Disney's D23 convention plans, I'd like to pose a question: What is to become of the original land of the future?

It's probably common knowledge that the long overdue Star Tours 2.0 is on its way to California's Disneyland, but it is anyone's guess what will happen to a land Walt loved. After the revision of that Star Wars attraction, what will come? Imagineers are tight lipped with leader Tony Baxter hopefully directing a crew from Imagineering to bring this land back to life.

As for right now, Tomorrowland at Walt's park is an unfortunate forced breeding of the old and new, the once cutting edge and the commercial, the fantasy inspired and the future invaded by animated hit movies. Space Mountain meets Finding Nemo meets Innoventions meets R2D2 meets an empty Peoplemover meets Buzz Lightyear. It's a misguided mess of epic proportions.

Yes, California Adventure is getting the budget and revamp it needs to move the park from a long time joke to something worthier of the Disney name. (Same can be said for Hong Kong Disneyland as well.) However, it is time for a real plan to come into clear view.
(Concept art copyright the Walt Disney Company)

August 11, 2009

Dying to Meet You

Say what you will about it, but the latest issue of D23 magazine absolutely rocks with the 40th Anniversary of the Haunted Mansion. There are stories untold- and my favorite- unseen concept art. Think you know all about Anaheim's or Tokyo Disneyland's Haunted Mansion? Think again. I won't post the details, but you have to see it for yourself. Trust me. Pick this issue up before it vanishes.
(Poster art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 10, 2009

Westcot in Depth

The beginnings of a great series on the expansion of the Disneyland resort can found found here thanks to Sam'sLand Disney Adventures. Thanks to the Disney Report. for the heads up. Fascinating stuff! I've never seen this logo, have you?
(Artwork copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Goat to the King

LL Cool J does his thing on Michael Jackson's classic "Billie Jean". Love it, leave it or just don't get it, you can listen to "Billie Jean Dream" at this link at Tribute or publicity stunt? You decide.

Love is the Answer- Barbra Returns

No doubt about it: Mrs. James Brolin still has a beautiful voice. And she returns on September 29 with a new album and a twist. "Love is the Answer" is her first new collection since "Guilty Pleasures in 2005. It's full of jazz standards and classics you'd come to expect.

Now for the twist- whether it was Barbra Streisand's idea as executive producer or someone else's, and this is a great one; with the deluxe two disc package, one features a quartet backing and on the other, a full orchestra accompanies her voice. This is an idea that should be embraced by many artists. (And I only wish Richard and Karen Carpenter would have done this with some of their music. It can still be done- and it would be amazing. What a way to celebrate their 40th anniversary in the music business.)

The song list does not capture many of my favorites in the genre, but there are a few. Gotta say, though, I love the title of the disc. Love is the Answer- and it's only found in God, nowhere else. "Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: Not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (I John 4:7b-10)

August 9, 2009

Newest Face of Anorexia?

Is Victoria Beckham a victim of anorexia? Is the newest American Idol judge in trouble? Look at the photo from USA Today and judge for yourself. Wasn't the loss of Karen Carpenter enough to warn everyone excessive dieting is nothing to play around with? So sad, so sad.
(Photo by USA Today)

August 8, 2009

Bon Appetit!

Now added to my list of good films that love food and family: Julie and Julia.

Nora Ephron's films tend to be too sweet for my taste. I can barely watch You've Got Mail now as my wife still gets into it- but Nora's latest movie is surprisingly filled with sharp dialogue, a simple story done up with a twist, and cinematography of both locale and creation to make a grown man book the next flight to Paris.

Amy Adams is perfectly terrific, but it is Meryl Streep's spot on recreation of Julia Child that keeps the movie grounded. Whatever you think of the famous chef, this portrayal will convince you there was much more to the woman than what she could do in the kitchen. It certainly is a chick flick but not a kid's film. After viewing this creation, I can guarantee you'll never view a particular type of pasta or the chef in the same old way. Two hours well spent.

August 7, 2009

On the 5th Year

Happy 5th Anniversary to my wonderful son and his equally wonderful wife! May God bless you with many decades of years together.

August 6, 2009

In the Eye of the Beholder: Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland

Like most of you, I am on the discussion boards of a few Disney fan sites. Every once in awhile, a poster is also a pretty great photographer. Tom Bricker is one of those rare guys whose articulate on board discussion is only matched by his beautiful snapshots.

Here's his great take on Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom at night, the entrance to Tomorrowland in particular. Not only is it beautiful, it highlights just how much care and thought the Imagineers put into how Tomorrowland would look in the evening as well as during the day. Nice work, everyone involved!
Want more of Tom's great photography? Go here.
(Photography copyright Tom Bricker.)

August 5, 2009

For a Wonderful Son

Happy 19th Birthday, oh youngest child of ours! What a blessing you continue to be to your mother and me. We are very proud of you! Love, Dad.
(Photo copyright Lauren Taft.)

August 4, 2009

New Attraction for Anaheim?

Reading between the lines from an article brought to my attention by The Disney Report, it seems like there is a new attraction brewing for either Disneyland or California Adventure. And it will use the same technology as Toy Story Midway Mania.

Here's the hidden little quote that caught my eye from John Noonan, technical director of show control systems for Walt Disney Imagineering: "We have a new attraction coming in Anaheim that's going to use the same network technology."

My bet: It's California Adventure's Little Mermaid attraction. Imagine the coordination of moving vehicles with screens that change to enhance the show scenes. The "Under the Sea" section of Ariel's Adventure could make wonderful use of this: thousands of fish and sea creatures swirling about you behind audio-animatronics of the main characters.

But, this is only my guess. Maybe we'll hear more at the D23 convention. We can only hope.
(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Frontier Wisdom

During a short trip to San Antonio, Texas, I saw this sign inside a restaurant by the beautiful River Walk. Seems like pretty good advice, "I reckon."
(Photo copyright Mark Taft.)

August 3, 2009

Lovin' It!

One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite artists- and it's now a single. Check out Elliott Yamin's great "Can't Keep On Loving You" from his newest album Fight for Love. Those folks who thought Elliott was a one hit wonder with "Wait for You" will be wonderfully surprised. This man can sing!

August 1, 2009

Top Notch

MouseTimes has an absolutely beautiful photo update today. The photographs of the Pixar Play Parade at California Adventure and Disneyland's Tomorrowland are especially stunning. Go see them now. Really- you'll be impressed!
(Photo copyright MouseTimes.)