September 28, 2012

Epcot at 30: Past, Present, Future

On Monday, Epcot celebrates its 30th birthday. Next week, I'll present a series of articles covering the park in its present and past state and why it can never return to its former glory... and why just maybe it can. Come back Monday- and every day all next week!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 27, 2012

Watered Down

I was thinking this morning that the Gospel message is not nice. It's about death- Jesus choosing to die for us, then him asking us to take up our cross and follow Him, dying to self. I do not want to make the Gospel nice by watering it down so it appeals to everyone. Why do what Jesus didn't?

September 25, 2012

Iron Man or Tron?

What's it gonna be? Tron Light Cycles from Shanghai Disneyland or a brand new Marvel Iron Man based thrill ride? Disneyland's Tomorrowland has long been in need of a revamp. The problem is the place is a thematic mess as it stands now. Nemo, Buzz, Star Wars, and on and on.

Imagineers are hard at work on prepping the spot which will take over Innoventions. An announcement should be forthcoming. Disney has got to make some quick decisions to battle the new Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, and the upcoming 60th anniversary of Walt's original kingdom will give the suits a perfect excuse to say it is not because of Harry. After all, Disney can't admit they are playing catch up.

In a perfect world, both attractions would make its way to California. If a third theme park at the Disneyland Resort is gong to be Marvel themed, give us Tron now, Iron Man later. Regardless, I have a soft spot for Frontierland, and I'm hoping Tony Baxter's new project isn't cut back because of the expense to bring something fresh to Tomorrowland. Gosh, just think. Disneyland may need those new Main Street back alleys after all!

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 24, 2012

Lovin' The Voice

As a long time American Idol fan, I have to say that The Voice hits all the right notes. The nicer than last season Christina Aguilera still annoys me at times, and the talented Mr. Green's antics with the ladies are just creepy, but the constant bickering between bromancers Blake Shelton and Maroon 5's Adam Levine make for interesting television. Ultimately, the main gimmick does not tire out, and the contestants themselves are the real reason for watching. Talented and gutsy. It's competitive reality television at its best.

(Photograph copyright NBC/The Voice.)

September 21, 2012

Rancho del Zocalo Shines

One of my favorite places to eat at Disneyland is the Rancho del Zocalo. The food is pretty good for a theme park, but its the rich environment that makes it a winner in my heart. The lavish attention to detail and Old World charm make me feel millions of miles away from this present time- something Disney parks are known and loved for their ability to do.

When I viewed this evening photo by Paul Hiffmeyer on the official Disney Parks Blog, I knew I needed to capture it for myself. Stunning!

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 20, 2012

Tebow Upsets Critics From Both Sides

Just heard Tim Tebow did a photo shoot for Vogue that will cause a stir. (Not this photo, above, taken years ago and touched up). This newest photo shoot is with renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz. 

You know, people can complain about him all they want- and he's not perfect- but you have to applaud his willingness to be open about his love for Jesus. Too many people who profess Christianity decide to not be open about it where they work. And I don't mean "obnoxious" either, just real about their lives. Time to move on, people.

September 18, 2012

Top Ten Carpenters Albums to Date

Right from the A&M Corner- I couldn't resist. No compilations or Christmas albums included...

(11.)    “Ticket to Ride”-  Adventureous first album.  Standouts: title song, “All of My Life”, “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing”

10.   “Passage”- When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s bad, it’s awful. Standouts: “Bwana She No Home”, the underrated “All You Get From Love is a Love Song”, “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”, “Sweet, Sweet Smile”

9.   “Made in America” – Same as above. Really- At first listen, I despised the “Wedding Song” long before I knew the behind the scenes story. No love for the Broadway style. Standouts “Strength of a Woman”, “Somebody’s Been Lying”, “Touch Me When We’re Dancing”.

8.    “Now & Then” -  Mixed bag. The Oldies did not wear well over time. Standouts: “This Masquerade”, “Yesterday Once More”, “Our Day Will Come”.

7.  “A Song For You” -  Great singles mixed with toss away tracks (“Intermission”, “Crystal Lullaby”, “Piano Picker”) which move it lower in ranking. Standouts: “Hurting Each Other”, “Goodbye to Love”, the title song.

6.   “Voice of the Heart”- Sentimental favorite. Would be ranked higher if not for chorale vocals. Gorgeous photo of Karen.  Very tasteful presentation under the circumstances. Standouts: my favorite Carps song of all time “Ordinary Fool”, “Now”, “Your Baby Doesn’t Love You Anymore”, “Look to Your Dreams” (an exception to the Broadway rule), “Sailing on the Tide”.

5.    “Carpenters” – Warm, by the fireplace music. Would rank higher if not for the barrel bottom “Druscilla Penny”. Standouts: the three single releases plus  “Let Me Be the One”, “Hideaway”, “Sometimes”, “Bacharach Medley”.

4.    “Lovelines” -   Strong and Weak. Standouts: “Lovelines”, “If We Try”, “Where Do I Go From Here?”, “When I Fall in Love”, “Kiss Me the Way You Did Last Night”, “If I Had You”.

3.      “A Kind of Hush”- Best overall package, music and art. Very soft but beautiful. Second place for “Worst Carpenters song: Goofus”. But it comes with the award for “Happiest Personal Memories Associated with an Album”. Standouts: “Boat to Sail”, “I Need to Be in Love”, “One More Time”, “I Have You”, plus the title song is my ultimate guilty pleasure.

2.      “Close to You”- the one that started it all for me.   Still stunning after 40 years.  Standouts: “We’ve Only Just Begun”, “Baby It’s You”, “Love is Surrender”, “Maybe It’s You”, “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”.

1.     “Horizon”- elegant, classy, best recorded sound of Karen’s voice ever.  Standouts: “Only Yesterday”, “Desperado”, “Solitaire”, “I Can Dream, Can’t I?”, “Aurora/Eventide”, “Love Me For What I Am”.

See my individual reviews of each album, starting here.

September 15, 2012

Disney Poster Art Book Worth the Price

The Poster Art of the Disney Parks just arrived at my doorstep. It's a perfect book for a long winter's day when dreaming about the parks is as close as its going to get for this Californian longing for home. 

It's certainly not full of text, although there's some good information to be found in it. It's really all about the art. There's plenty of it in full page glory. If you've a soft spot for the original Disneyland graphics and the classic attractions they represent, you will be very, very pleased. Epcot fans might be a bit disappointed, as will those for the 3rd or 4th Walt Disney World parks. Some on Tokyo (especially on the gorgeous Tokyo DisneySea), many on Paris, a couple on Hong Kong, and absolutely nothing on Shanghai Disneyland

That said, it was to my delight that the posters of California Adventure 2.0 are found here- and even more delightful to find they were designed by the incredibly gifted Greg Maletic. All said, a worthy and beloved addition to my Imagineering collection.

(Art copyright the Walt Disney Company.)

September 12, 2012

Not My Cup of Tea

While certainly not my cup of tea, I am mildly curious to see California Adventure's Mad T Party for myself this fall. I am a fan of the classic Alice in Wonderland movieLove the Disneyland attraction even more!  Not so much a fan of Johnny Depp's and Tim Burton's work on this Lewis Carroll classic. But, as I said, if it is part of the revamp of California Adventure, I may just have to see it for myself. That is if I can tear myself away from Buena Vista Street, Cars Land and Radiator Springs Racers!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 11, 2012

Don't Ever Forget

Cowards come in all shapes and sizes. But today, let's focus on the heroes. Never, never forget their sacrifice to fix a deadly and shameful attack. Need I say more? God bless the United States of America!

September 10, 2012

Poster Art of the Disney Parks in the Mail This Week!

Considering I ordered this book back in April, I think I've been very patient! Poster Art of the Disney Parks looks to be an instant favorite of Disney park fans all over the world! Vanessa Hunt and David Handke have assembled the ultimate collection. Including rejected concepts for attractions posters and posters from Disney parks worldwide.

If you are interested in a sneak peak of sorts, you can view my Disneyland Attraction Posters series beginning here. It's full of various artwork and stories involving the evolution of the park over the years. I start with Main Street U.S.A., and all that's left is Tomorrowland, and I hope to have it finished soon!

(Art copyright the Walt Disney Company.)

September 7, 2012

First Settlers, Now Ticket to Ride

Wow- Ticket to Ride has to be one of the catchiest, most fun, and addictive games since Settlers of Catan! The strategy seems to change with every move. It seems so innocent, so easy- until someone unknowingly blocks your route! Check this game out. It is worth the money. It will be a night of family fun for all ages. The Beatles or Carpenters title song not included...

September 6, 2012

Most Incredible Disney and More Post to Date!

My friend Alain Littaye over at the always excellent Disney and More blog presents one of the most interesting posts ever.  Talking about Disney Imagineering's use of cloning the human form to build Audio-Animatronic characters is absolutely fascinating. But the icing on the cake is the adjacent piece / paragraphs on their potential use of Botanicus Interacticus. Could this be the future of Animal Kingdom's Avatarland? If so, now count me excited. Go over to his post now. Really!

September 5, 2012

It's a Pixar Disney World

It's a scary thought for most die-hard Disney theme park fans, but the truth is the truth. With the raging success of Carsland and Radiator Springs Racers at the revamped Disney California Adventure, more Pixar attractions- and their clones- are on their way. Whether or not this is the end of totally original, non-movie based attractions is yet to be seen. However, get prepared for an invasion.

So, where would Pixar characters and attractions best fit in the parks? Here's this writer's suggestion for where (in Florida) they most make sense.

Disney Animal Kingdom: Given that It's Tough to Be a Bug premiered at this park prior to the opening of the movie its from, it seems very natural that Flik's Fun Fair from California would fit here. 

Since the Imagineers have to come up with a great solution to keep the falling limbs from the Tree of Life from creating death to the guests, there's a natural solution to the problem. Excavate below the tree, creating an underground Fun Fair that is reachable through the various paths around the tree. It's like a bit of King Triton's/Ariel's undersea world at Tokyo Disney Sea. Creative lighting and excellent prop usage could reveal a totally enticing environment with sacrificing the credibility of the theme above ground or use up extra real estate. Of course, the characters from Up could find a natural home here once Animal Kingdom debuts a South American themed land.

Epcot: It's a bit trickier to pull this off in a park that appeals mostly to adults. That said, Imagineering, or should I say those suits involved in cross promotion, have already made substantial moves this direction. Starting with The Lion King characters moving into the Land and most recently with Crush from Finding Nemo debuting at the (Living) Seas, the invasion has already begun- and to much acclaim from guests.

In Future World, Wall-E and The Incredibles could be added without much trouble. Anyone remember SMRT-1? The tiny blue robot with the little boy voice could easily have grown up into a wiser WALL-E. Then I'd add a little pizzaz to the boring Ellen's Energy Adventure, giving Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Nye, and Jamie Lee Curtis the boot. The superhero Parr family could have quite the adventure of their own as they try to save the world and its natural resources... and educate the public along the way.

Naturally, World Showcase and its France representation could be home to Remy's Kitchen Calamity, the all new attraction based on Ratatouille. Its coming to the dreadful Walt Disney Studios Paris, but we all know how the suits love to recover R&D costs by bringing a new attraction to as many parks as possible. The United Kingdom could also host Merida and friends from Brave. This could be a great opportunity for some meet and greet magic a la Belle's Enchanted Tales from the New Fantasyland in Florida's Magic Kingdom

As Pixar movies continue to develop more into the princess territory, Disney could even add entire new countries in order to bring in new stories as they are told. If that is what it takes to get a country added to World Showcase, so be it!

Disney's Hollywood Studios: Here's the "one place for everything else" park. If it is true that Cars' Radiator Springs Racers is coming, it could easily be incorporated into Pixar Place. Just bring in the long designed but previously un-greenlit Monsters Inc Coaster, move the average comedy club from the Magic Kingdom, and a couple of Toy Story based carnival rides from Paris or Hong Kong Disneyland. It won't take much genius to pull this off. The end result will be a kid-friendly park known for thrill rides with height requirements. (And please move the annoying Stitch here while you are at it!)

Magic Kingdom: This is the one park where Pixar characters and stories do not belong. Let Fantasyland exist peacefully as the land of Walt Disney tales. Return Tomorrowland to a vision of the future, and move Aladdin's Carpets to the Studios along the way.All this will help in returning the integrity of the original concept to the park. 

So, there's my suggestions for a Pixar Disney World! What are yours?

(Art copyright Disney/Pixar.)

September 3, 2012

An Unpopular Post

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

                      Jesus, in Matthew 7:13-14

Quite the unpopular words these days! And I find more and more people are walking away from Jesus or compromising the truth just to fit what they would like to believe. Sad. Jesus said this would happen, so we shouldn't be surprised.

Do you have an issue with his words? If you do, take it up with him. I'm confident he'd love to talk to you.