June 30, 2011

They've Got the Moves Like Jagger

Another smash hit in a long list of hits, another guilty pleasure from Maroon5.

Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera come together for what could be the catchiest song since Katy Perry's California Gurls. Adam's sinewy voice slides up and down the scales backed by the most tasty ear candy whistling hook ever recorded. Just when you think you've got the bulk of the song and know where its headed, Christina jumps it and adds the grit. Wish there was an alternate version without the admittedly minor four letter word. I won't buy it because of this- until its edited, but I gotta say, the song's terrific.

June 25, 2011

Cars 2: The Mater Movie

Some things are better left alone. The original Cars in 2006 was not one of Pixar's finest moments, but it was a movie with a good amount of heart. The standout piece of the film was actually the creation of Radiator Springs, the fictional town in which our heroes called home. I recall seeing that evening scene when all the neon was lit and exclaiming, "That would make a great new land for a Disney theme park!" Certainly, John Lassetter felt the same way. Cars Land and its premier attraction Radiator Springs Racers will make its debut at Disney California Adventure in 2012.

However, that is what is to be. Between now and then, we have to live with Cars 2. It's not a bad film. It's just an ordinary "B" grade movie, and that is the core problem. As a film that will mostly appeal to elementary school aged boys, the plot lines are a little too thick, with nuances too difficult to understand. Yet, let's be clear: this franchise will move a ton of merchandise. As an adult film, it is a fairly simplistic spy thriller lacking depth of emotion or intellect. Tons of visual appeal saves it from being a turkey.

This is Mater's movie. Whether you love it, like it, or laothe it, will depend on your view of him. Other characters, even Owen Wilson's Lightning McQueen seem to play second fiddle to this country bumpkin tow truck presumed to be American spy. (If you want to see Mr. Wilson in a very good role, have a look at Midnight in Paris- just terrificly cast there.) Michael Caine easily proves to be the best of the bunch as the brave and dashing Finn McMissile. The bad guys include the sadly wasted vocal talents of the always great Joe Mantegna from Criminal Minds.

Pixar is normally known for excellence, but here, Cars 2 falls flat and will go down as their first mediocre effort. Still, go see the film- for the wonderful Toy Story Hawaiian Vacation short played before it. Maybe all this will cause the folks to go back to the drawing board, working harder to earn our dollars again.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 24, 2011

Notable and Quotable: Smith Wigglesworth

"The best thing you can ever have is a great trial. It is your robing time. It is your coming into inheritance...God brings us into the place where difficulties are, where the pressure is...where everything is so difficult that you know that there are no possibilities on the human side. God must do it....great faith is the product of great fights. Great triumphs come out of great trials. Every stumbling block must become a stepping stone, and every opposition must become an opportunity."

Smith Wigglesworth

June 21, 2011

Prison Break

Choosing forgiveness is one of the most difficult things anyone can do. Make no mistake, it is a constant choice. Maybe you are just like me. The slightest hardened thought toward those who have offended me, the least twinge when I remember the past without having hope for a new future, and I find myself thinking I am back at square one in being free. But the truth is, forgiveness is a work from God that takes time. A lot of time.

How can I be free? Certainly, if I only look at the end result, it may utterly and totally impossible to be released from the pain.

I've been thinking about Jesus and his life and earth, the sacrifice of it all, being God in the flesh, choosing to give up heaven in order to redeem man, and what it cost Him to do so: death on a cross. A death without dignity, instead one of shame. One that took the very power of God to accomplish.

His life was filled with seeming contradictions. Accessible to children but strong enough to confront those who offended the name of God by their lives and words and actions. Willing to let a friend die to the scorn and disappointment of the dead man's siblings but powerful enough to raise him from the dead. Bold and blunt as John the Baptist proclaiming repentance to the masses, not always patient with those who followed him. All done by the power of God.

Jesus was willing to change water to the finest of wines to aid in a wedding celebration. (Love that part of Him!) And willing to ask the Father to forgive those who cruficied Him on two wooden logs while these same executioners slandered the very One who laid down his life for them. Again, by the power of God. Interesting that forgiveness was the last thing He did on the cross, and it was probably the hardest.

There it is: it is by the very power of God Himself that we choose forgiveness and let God do his work in us to accomplish it. The process and end result is His work; the obedience to want to forgive, asking Him for strength to walk in it- and be sensitive and honest when we struggle to be free- belongs to us. His work, our obedience. Like all of life, we cannot do it without Him. It's prideful and foolish to think we can, and it's very unwise and ungodly to live in bitterness and hatred but so easy to do.

Help us, help me, Heavenly Father, to rest in your love and to trust in your work to help me to forgive. I want to, but I cannot do it on my own. Set me free from the prison others have created within me by their words and actions and my response to them.

June 17, 2011

A Disneyland Mountain for California Adventure?

In the long, long ago, there once was a mountain planned for Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom. A fanciful mountain, one that would be a predecessor to the might Matterhorn and its thrilling bobsled ride. An attraction also planned for Fantasyland. Though not as spectacular in size or scale, this particular attraction as depicted by Imagineer Clause Coats was designed to look as if it was made of candy.

Rock Candy Mountain would have made quite a sight for sore eyes as Casey Jr. Circus Train would have made its way around. But logistics and a change of direction meant the mountain was never come to be.

An interesting tidbit of information came to light a few years ago that perhaps the mountain would materize in model form at a new candy shop in the new Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure! It would be quite the cool thing to see. but every Disney park fan knows plans change on the go. Maybe, just maybe, the mountain will appear in 2012 when the new entrance land debuts at the park. That would be one sweet treat!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 14, 2011

Disneyland's Secluded Hideaway

Call it the Golden Bear Lodge, the Hungry Bear Restaurant, or something entirely different if you want, but this backwoods dining hall out in Critter Country is one of Disneyland's most beautiful and secluded treats. This lovely piece of concept art covers it pretty well.

Even if I don't actually eat there, I always take a few moments out of my day to go to the farthest table and sit. Enjoying the Mark Twain rounding the bend, an occassional canoe gliding by, and the abundance of wildlife, its always a surprise that this tranquil spot is right in the middle of Orange County, California.
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 9, 2011

All Work and No Play

As Jack Nicholson would say in the classic film The Shining, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!" Sorry for the lack of posts, but I am on my twelfth day straight of work. Getting overloaded, but it is very productive. Thankfully, my wife is busy, too, so we are hanging in there together. Please stay tuned...

June 3, 2011

Disneyland Attraction Posters: The Frontierland Collection

Disneyland's Frontierland has seen so many changes, it is almost impossible to keep track!As one of the original lands in the original kingdom, Frontierland had so much of Walt in it. This was a good thing as Walt Disney was a man who loved the United States of America, appreciated its history, and had respect for the ideals on which it was founded. This deep sense of patriotism permeated the area.

The earliest incarnation may have been politically incorrect in its reference to America's native population, but the presentation of frontier life for both the natives and those who explored beyond the citified country was handled with sincerity, dignity, and honesty.Unlike Golden Dreams, the film presentation found in the all too trendy California Adventure park almost 50 years later, Walt saw no need for making a statement, instead he choose to simply honor those who had gone before him.

First and foremost, Walt was a showman, and he never forgot the main purpose of Disneyland was to entertain and delight his guests- and Frontierland was stuffed with attractions! From the mighty Mark Twain Riverboat to the smaller Mike Fink Keelboats, river travel was highly encouraged. After journeying through the stockade at the entrance, the beautiful Golden Horseshoe Revue reigned as the ultimate expression of frontier frolic. In short, there was something for everyone.

Stagecoach excursions led guests through a carefully planned American West. Frontierland was intentionally designed with both wide open spaces and carefully designed nooks and crannies to explore.

Once Tom Sawyer Island opened the following year, kids of all ages had a totally different way to play. Caves, grottoes, Fort Wilderness, and suspended and floating barrel bridges were among the offerings awaiting kids anxious to burn off some energy in a very unstructured way.

Love it or not, in 2007, pirates invaded the island full force, partially to capture the love of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series starring Johnny Depp. The island was due for some help with many of its elements being closed or having lack of maintenance- but fans did end up with this great poster.

Come a few years later, the area would receive its largest expansion at the debut of the Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland. It was an instant fan favorite. Although the flora and fauna couldn't have been more different, and creatures on display from another continent, this attraction was the American Frontier version of Adventureland's Jungle River Cruise.

The rickety old train ventured through the barren deserts and its paint pots and spouting geysers. When in the lush valleys, the passengers were treated to bears and beavers and other wide life. The carefully planned excursion provided close up views of native animals in realistic and awkward, sometimes funny, situations. Much of the same humor of Imagineer Marc Davis is found here. It was a fine example of the genius of Walt Disney and his Imagineering crew to vary the experiences along the way. 

They did, however, save the best for last, as the ending was an absolutely spectacular journey through the mysterious Rainbow Caverns. Waterfalls of all colors spilled around stalactites and stalagmites- everything punctuated with sounds from an ethereal choir. Magical! (Note: Find the Disneyland 50th Anniversary CD collection for the full narration. Retro fun for everyone!)

Also found in the Wild West were the requisite Shootin' Gallery, the originally named Indian War Canoes, and since 1958, the Sailing Ship Columbia brought yet another way to cruise the Rivers of America. This river was full of activity- a wilderness world on the move!

As I mentioned earlier, Frontierland was always changing. Even the gorgeous Nature's Wonderland gave way to Tony Baxter's thrill ride disguised as a scenic tour, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. (The hard to find poster is above.)

Make no mistake, this attraction is a strikingly beautiful piece of work. It's full of the detail and fun found in groundbreaking attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. It's just unfortunate that there is now no way for guests to tour the beautiful landscapes without the coaster thrills.

More change was soon to come. On the farthest side of Frontierland at the distant bend in the river, the Indian Village celebrated Native American culture and life. Unfortunately, this was also on the cutting block, eventually giving way to the new Bear Country. The Country Bear Jamboree debuted in 1972. It was a fun musical show, but an important piece of Americana and the heart and soul of Disneyland was lost in the transition. As beloved as this show is (in Florida and Tokyo) /was (at Disneyland), the change signaled a move away from historic based attractions to ones which seemed to showcase the latest of technologies and characters just for the sake of being able to do so. Certainly, the Imagineers could have found a way to leave the teepees and tribal dance performances somewhere in a land which celebrates the American frontier!

Since the opening of Big Thunder Mountain, the changes have been few and small- aside from the Pirates Lair addition to Tom Sawyer Island. Overall, I found it to be quite well done and a strangely fitting combination of both Frontierland and New Orleans Square, on whose land the dock actually sits. On the entertainment front, Slue Foot Sue turned over the lease of the Golden Horseshoe to Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. They are good- but something about can can girls and the Old West seems more fitting.

In 1992, Disneyland premiered one it's most loved evening shows: Fantasmic! Since it takes place on the Rivers of America and uses parts of Tom Sawyer Island, it seemed most appropriate to display the attraction poster here.

Change could still be on the way. Walt Disney Pictures has announced their intent to create a film series on the Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto. This could be an excellent opportunity to revamp and retune the unbuilt Walt Disney World attraction, Western River Expedition. It would be a terrific way to bridge the movie and interest a new generation about life in the Wild West. Frontierland could have new life and atmosphere, something it has lacked in its current incarnation. As beloved as Pirates of the Caribbean is for local audiences, I can only image they would wholeheartedly embrace another attraction of this caliber. But could the somewhat stingy accountants at the Walt Disney Company stomach the investment?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 2, 2011

Dear Diary

I'm waiting. It's the big news I'm waiting for, and yet, it seems it is the day to day living that is where the battle is for my soul. 

My deepest desire, Lord Jesus, is to be yours- 100%, no holding back. But the little annoyances, the little frustrations of life are, well. frustrating. They do keep me focused on you for the most part. Maybe. Sometimes, they keep me focused on me. And that isn't a good thing.It is so easy to squander away my day. Get busy with things both of earthly and of eternal value. Before I know it, it ends, and I have forgotten to think the way You think, to see what You see, to do what You do. Help me, oh God, to be more like you. I want to love you more than anyone or anything. That is my prayer. It's also a work that you know I cannot do on my own. I need you to accomplish that for me. Your promises tell me you will, but my flesh tells me I am no better than I was years ago when I first decided to give my life to you.

While running a few days ago, my i-pod came upon a wonderful old song by Deniece Williams. It is called My Soul Desire, and it totally expresses my heart:

Lord, when you placed your hands upon me
I knew that I would never be the same
For in that moment I became your servant
And since that day, I only have one aim

My soul desire is to be used
And empty vessel longing to be filled by You
My soul desire is to serve You Lord
To do your perfect will
To work each day and build
You Kingdom, this is my soul desire.

Lord, I do not seek to claim the glory
I only wish to be under your control
For I know that you alone are worthy
And it's You who placed this longing in my soul

This song has always pierced my heart, and I thank you, Deniece, for writing it with passion and purpose. It's one of many songs that express my heart better than I could.

Lord Jesus, this is my heart. Please do the work. You must as I cannot. But in all this, let me be yours without reservation. Forgive me where I fall short and sin. Amen.

June 1, 2011

Call to the Islands of Adventure

The weather outside is wonderful, signaling it is time for some thrilling theme park adventures! For any park lover, it is the time of year to celebrate a season of fun. Where to go? Where to go?

As much as I would love a quick trip to California to see the revamped Paradise Pier and Ariel's Undersea Adventure, the reality is it won't happen until the Fall at the earliest. There's not too much going on at Walt Disney World. Maybe for the 40th starting October 1, but until then, it is business as usual.

What about Universal Orlando? In some ways, it might just be my first choice this year. Harry Potter and his Forbidden Journey still seems like the E ticket to end all E tickets, and I have never been to the Studios. Could be a blast, but maybe it is just not enough to take my money in 2011. 

Perhaps I need to wait until the following year of two when Disney opens up some things worth seeing.

That said, if Figment made a big splash of a return with Dreamfinder, I'd just have to find the cash pronto!