October 31, 2014

Art for the Haunted Mansion in 3D

Here's the Haunted Mansion as you've never seen it... and probably never will! In the Fall 2009 edition of D23 magazine, they shared a piece of concept art which displayed guests doing down to the infamous banquet hall. Very up close and personal. Are your eyes deceiving you? Not at all! That really is an Imagineering concept for a proposed 3D version, where guests don the glasses to see things in a very different light. There's no Omnimover, though, so this may be just a movie screen version replacing the ride through attraction.

Before Phantom Manor made its ghoulish debut in Disneyland Paris' Frontierland  in 1992, the Disney Imagineers created this long abandoned new twist on an old favorite as an idea for Tokyo Disneyland. It was already to be oddly placed in Fantasyland, but this idea would have been a stretch. Thankfully, smarter heads prevailed until a fresh concept came about for the French park years later. I would rather have seen them create a version of the ride where the Doombuggies travel into some new rooms, expanding the attraction length. Maybe we'll see this idea take root as a celebration of the Mansion's 50th Anniversary at Disneyland in California. Or perhaps a journey into a new room then? How hard would it be to extend the track and create a new route?

Would Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Manor go 3D eventually? Probably not- it already has it all. There's a great and original story using the trackless freeroaming system from Pooh's Hunny Hunt. It certainly doesn't seem to need the gimmick that 3D tends to be used for. Mystic Manor is the attraction that finally placed the poor little Chinese park on the map. 

Hmmm. I'd like to see the trackless system used for a new trip through the Haunted Mansion as the vehicles freely room into different rooms, making every trip randomly different.

It does not look like Shanghai Disneyland has a spirited attraction on its roster. But something could come their way in the years to come. The mystical always appeals as an attraction. It would be great to see a new version of an old classic come to life. Perhaps an even newer twist on The Tower of Terror?

(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 30, 2014

Tokyo Disney Resort Expansion Plans

Finally, the Oriental Land Company announces what fans have been hoping for and speculators- like me- have been talking about: Frozen goes to Tokyo Disney Sea and a brand New Fantasyland takes shape at Tokyo Disneyland park. (Click on this image above to make it  REALLY big! Thanks to Alain at Disney and More.)

It's an easily moved Small World after all!

First posted over a month ago, I shared my thoughts about a pending expansion, and it seems I was right on the money except for one major unseen element. It's a Small World will be moving to make way for an Alice in Wonderland themed attraction.

The beautiful and elaborate Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall.

The addition of a new Alice attraction (or two) along with the Tea Cups and the lovely Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall makes Tokyo Disneyland the go-to place for fans of the film. And just when we thought Disneyland in California had cornered the market on that classic film! True to form, it will be a beautifully done little section of the park. But what else is coming to Fantasyland? How about a new and improved attraction roster from the Florida Magic Kingdom makeover?

From the film...

... to fully Audio-Animatronic!

Beast's castle, complete with Belle's village and all the trimmings are taking up residence in Japan. Maybe even the abandoned Beauty and the Beast theater show featuring Audio-Animatronics. It was supposed to open in Disneyland Paris with the first expansion. There will be more, and current rumor suggests that perhaps Tangled may even get something more than restrooms!

And now, September 22nd's post... with a few new ideas tossed in:

The new home of Elsa and Anna, soon to be in Tokyo.

Aside from the incredible and original Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland, the stunning Cars Land at California Adventure, and all that is to come to Shanghai Disneyland, it does seem as if the Tokyo Disney Resort consistently gets the best attractions to come out of Disney Imagineering. Maybe they will wow fans with all the additions and changes in Central Florida, but that remains to be seen... and hasn't been seen for at Walt Disney World for at least a decade.

The unbelievable Tokyo DisneySea is proof enough. You can take a glance at videos for Pooh's Hunny Hunt at the first international Magic Kingdom, track down a Journey to the Center of the Earth or check out the Hotel Mira Costa in all its glory to decide for yourself . Tokyo Disney Resort is currently where Disney creativity hits its peak- at least in this century!

Tower of Terror in Tokyo presents a great story even without
the Twilight Zone tie-in.

Everyone in the theme park blogsphere understands cloning popular attractions from one park to another is commonplace. Disney does it. Universal does it. Seems everyone does it. So when it came time to enhance Tokyo DisneySea with a version of The groundbreaking Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the Imagineers bravely gave the attraction a brand new story with a unique  exterior, spellbinding effects and a clever connection to the rest of the park. (What did the Tokyo budgeteers -a new breed of accountants unfortunately gaining momentum- do? Strap the attraction with the cheaper to built and easier to maintain version, the one found in California and Paris.) Yet, the new story is so good, it almost makes up for the accountants' error in judgment.

Let's look a little deeper. Can Disney Imagineers hit home runs by turning the very popular Pixar movies into headliner attractions? Absolutely- when they are given the funds and freedom to do so! To see these adventures, guests must travel to Tokyo since the American parks are left with smaller, less impressive attractions that what is found overseas. Notice a pattern? Here's Tokyo Disneyland's splashy Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek! Trust me, after viewing this video, you'll look at the Monsters ride at California Adventure in a whole new way.

Turning Pooh into a must see adventure.

But what can the Suits and Imagineers do with an older and less edgy property? Here's a great little video of Pooh's Hunny Hunt from Theme Park Review. Can a cute story without a roller coaster track or even a traditional thrill element be turned into an "E Ticket Plus" by today's crop of Imagineers? The answer is "yes" when a story is matched with great technology and the right finances to do the attraction concept justice. This is a Fantasyland Dark Ride elevated to the next level, even if the entrance design does seem relatively unimpressive. Certainly, its of a different scale than what you'll find in Critter Country at Disneyland.

Tokyo Disneyland in all its variations of quality.

There's the other side of the coin as well. Tokyo Disneyland is meticulously maintained, yet there are areas that look tired even if well cared for. Why? Well, the older designs duplicated from Florida or Anaheim have run its course, leaving parts of the park to look dated. Take a look at the video tour of the kingdom (above). Tomorrowland is the worst of the bunch, and even the Japanese seem to have given up on a land of the future. Regardless of the quality of what has been added, the toons have arrived. 

Fantasyland is in equally poor shape, strapped with the look of Florida's Magic Kingdom circa 1971, prior to the beautiful to view but substance lacking New Fantasyland. Unfortunately, its a concrete kingdom save for a nice paint job on the castle to differentiate it from the others and a beautiful Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall. Let me be the first to say- Having Dumbo just outside the Haunted Mansion is lazy design work. Word on the street is a New Fantasyland may be one of the things coming with that next big influx of cash. (And it is, but it will take the removal of Tomorrowland's  Grand Circuit Raceway and the Star Jets to pull it off. Not a big loss.)

The suits of the Oriental Land Company clearly understand the park needs upgrades badly to keep it fresh as the one next door. You can rest assured plans are on the table to do exactly that. I do wish they would dust off this project: Sci-Fi City. Here's the concept art for the beautiful redo of Tomorrowland:

Never built Sci-Fi City to replace Tomorrowland.

Imagineer Eddie Sotto, responsible for the beautiful rendition of Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland Paris, turns the land of the future upside down, giving it a retro comic book feel. A land of 40s space heroes and villains.  Space Mountain gets reimagined including a new piece of exterior track. Disneyland's beloved Flying Saucers return in a new form. Plus more. The entire project just gleams with a bright sheen. Perhaps this project will one day see the light of day in a new expansion.

Disney Sea from the air. Lots of room for Frozen to show up!

The second Tokyo park is not being overlooked. As the suits have chosen to pour billions of dollars into their two parks and the resort at large in the next decade. (Yes, billions). 

Here's DisneySea from the air. Mermaid Lagoon is at the left top with the park entrance to the right. If the estimated $500 million plans are approved, you can count on Frozen's land of Arendelle to become the next port built. Perhaps it will go right across from the American Waterfront. The South American themed Lost River Delta would separate Ariel's kingdom from Elsa's, giving guests a chance to explore ancient ruins with Indiana Jones in between princess focused attractions.

If the suits in Japan go all in, I can see Imagineers creating an Arendelle that may favorably compare in substance to the Pirate themed land being built in Shanghai Disneyland. Can't you just picture a Norwegian style village on the shore with Elsa's first  magnificent castle (below) forming an entry point to a Frozen adventure or two? 

Princess dining and more inside.

Without a doubt Frozen has joined the Disney canon of classic animated films. It's popular worldwide and absolutely a cultural phenomena in Japan. The guests have embraced Mermaid Lagoon as the first Disney land dedicated to one movie property. They will definitely take the newest addition to heart, especially when the port will contain a state of the art attraction using a brand new technology to tell the story. At the estimated cost of $350 Million US, the attraction will be another must-see in a park full of iconic attractions.

Add to it a few more smaller scale attractions, unique shopping and dining. Another theme park smash. Conversely, we lucky Americans are getting a cheap Maelstrom remodel in Florida to represent one of Disney's most popular and profitable franchises... and in a park where its does not belong.

For now, I am waiting to be wowed in Florida. It's been almost six years since my last trip to Walt Disney World, and at the rate in which Disney builds new attractions, it will at least be another 5 or so years before I finally book another trip. Maybe I'll go to Tokyo instead. And maybe you should too.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Happy Birthday Mrs. Incredible

Happy Birthday to my wife! She continues to amaze me- how she juggles being a teacher, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. Not counting all her volunteer hours at school and church. She's incredible!

October 28, 2014

The Purpose of the Local Church

As I mentioned about a week or so ago, I was recently asked to teach at both a Men's Retreat and then a college aged gathering.  There was one other request: to speak at a Sunday Morning worship service. Now, that's not something I do all that often. But I felt compelled, especially when the subject was The Purpose of the Local Church. 

In the city where I live- and actually all through North America it seems- people who choose to identify themselves as Christians, as believers in Jesus Christ, are choosing all to often not to be part of a local church. There are a million and one reasons this happens, but it generally boils down to an issue of not obeying the Bible in this issue. God has an important role for the church to play. Let me elaborate.

If you've been a reader of this blog, you probably remember that my wife and I were blessed to visit Switzerland and France this past summer. (I promise, I really will continue with that series.) We happened to be in Europe during the World Cup. We spent to evenings at a local restaurant/bar on the water in the south of France, eating dinner, enjoying a glass of wine and watching the games. 

I was absolutely mesmerized by the teamwork I saw on the field; the sense of unity, joint purpose, and the joy each player seemed to have getting to participate in this historic event. Later, I started thinking about the role of the church and the commonalities between a church and a soccer (football) team. Indulge me here, will you?

“The Local Church Is God’s Plan to Reach a Dying World”      

 The great Apostle Paul, through the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit, writes a pretty strong argument for our involvement in a community of Christian believers. He writes in the book of Ephesians: 

"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.  Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."
                                                  (Ephesians 3:7-12)

·   The Apostle Paul pretty bold here- and He’s on a mission. “God’s grace was given him through the working of His Power!”

Think about your own life. If you are a follower of Jesus, didn’t God work powerfully in your life in drawing you to Him?  Isn’t He good !?!  Look at how free you are in Christ- especially compared to what you were like before you knew Him.  You have a hope and a future and a purpose.

Paul continues on, reminding us we have an important role to play:

"Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ,  and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.  His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Can you see it here? There's a difference between God's plan for man and man's plan to reach God. In all other faiths, Man must work hard to reach God. In Christianity alone, God, through Jesus Christ, reaches down to man's level. Even to die on a cross to pay the price for our sins. Every other system is based on us working to be good enough.

In His Great Love and Mercy, God decided good works would not be the criteria for Man reaching Him. He determined the Gift of Jesus would be the payment for our sin. It goes against man’s ideas that they have to be good enough and can do it on their own. The only requirement is humbly coming to God through Jesus and accepting that gift, that sacrifice on our behalf.

Now, our good works are the result of us loving God and being loved by Him- two very different things!As His children, we get abundant life in Christ while we are on the Earth- blessings and strength and power in the midst of hardship! It's all part of the mystery, it's all because of the love Jesus has for us.

So what exactly is the role of the local church? Let's begin at the beginning.  Back in the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis, God sets forth some pretty basic and important facts. 
o   We were created for eternal relationship with God
o   We were created for eternal relationship with each other: community

Problems arose when Adam & Eve chose knowledge over relationship with God by eating the forbidden fruit, that rebellion led to a spirit of independence in us. Shame, desire to withdraw from each other; pride and an intentional rejection of God, His heart and His plan was a choice that both Eve and Adam made when they disobeyed. We have to make the same choice... and no choice is a choice. 

Fast forward to the New Testament and Christian church and it's first mention in the Book of Acts, chapter 2. Interestingly, when the Bible wants to address an individual, the word "believer" is used. When its' a gathering of believers, the word "church" is chosen.

We live in a society where we are encouraged to be independent, where will people go when they have a desire to know more about Jesus- especially if they have no contact with believers? They will look for a church!

Let me bring up an interesting thought: If the church isn’t an important tool for God to use, why has the enemy of Jesus worked so hard to destroy it? And in every generation. Hmmm.  (And let me say here, there are false churches all around: all you have to do is watch the Prosperity teachers (like Joel Olsteen) and compare them to what Jesus did and how He lived His life. It was a life of sacrifice and service. He never treated God the Father like the giant Genie in the Sky! But, I got off topic: The church is one of the primary places God has designed for the benefit of His people: for instruction, community, and purpose.

Looking back at verse 11, Paul mentions God's eternal purpose. Eternal Purpose? Yes, more than just knowing Him, God has a plan for everyone who believes in Him. And His eternal purpose is that no one should perish.  (2 Peter 3:9) That's not to guarantee everyone will be saved from Hell.  They won’t- because God honors the choice of each man and woman to accept him and his sacrifice or to reject it. But He does offer way to God. His way, the only Way.

It’s a pretty important message to carry! Honestly, isn't it the most important message we can deliver to people around us? Absolutely! Thankfully, God provides a plan (and gives us the power)!

As believers in Jesus, we have a common purpose, a responsibility, a privilege, as a church to share God's message of love and to bless the people in our community. The beginning of it all comes with delivering the message while we care for those around us. The church must work in unity to pull this task off successfully. 

Paul's humility and his understanding of where he fits is evident all through his writings as he was inspired by God's Holy Spirit, a large portion of the New Testament. Look back at Ephesians 3 again:

"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.  Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."
                                                  (Ephesians 3:7-12)

He accepts his place in the Kingdom of God. By saying this, he is acknowledging each person has their place and a different – not greater or less- role to play. Because the Scriptures teach us that He has given each of us a field to work.  (2 Corinthians 10:13) That role for us is to be found in two places- one inside the church and one outside the church. In fact, we are strategically placed by God where we are for His purposes.

Just think- God has wasted nothing by giving us the life we have. Be it long or short, healthy or not, God has a plan for each of us. He's placed us where we live, with the families  and friends we have and in the workplaces He has chosen for us. Really incredible when you grasp that truth. It means nothing is wasted, and nothing is a mistake.

Speaking of fields, let's go back to that soccer (football) example. Let's look at what great teams do (and great churches!):

Each team has one purpose: To win! How do they do it?

  •        The team belongs to the owner- they play for him
  •        It’s under the leadership of the coaches
  •        Each has a unique position on the team 
  •        Each player brings strengths and weaknesses, playing to strengths, working on weaknesses- no excuses for them!
  •       Each player is chosen for how they will fit with others
  •       They train hard and give 100%
  •       Team members watch out for each other (I Corinthians 10:24)
  •       They may get hurt, but they always get back in game when needed

Most importantly, They do what’s best for the team vs. What’s best for them personally!

There are two major differences between a soccer game and the church, however. First, believers in Jesus Christ know they are playing with eternal consequences in mind. Secondly, unlike a sports team, in the church everyone plays and everyone is needed to play.
    Back to watching the World Cup during our European vacation for a minute. We were in a restaurant with people from all different countries in Europe. There were French, Swiss, Italians, Germans, etc.  It was fascinating to sit there with everyone- not understand a word of what they were saying, but I learned a lot.

When Switzerland played France, you could tell how the audience was divided. When Italy played Costa Rica, everyone became “European”! They were united by their team spirit!

·    We believers are united by God's Holy Spirit. Each player has a unique gifts. Think I Corinthians 12, and Romans 11. These describe God's gifts to individual believers in the church to be used for the common good. They are given as God determines and for His purposes. The short list:
“Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, Gifts of Healing, Miracles, Prophecy, Spiritual Discernment, Tongues and Interpretation, Serving, Encouraging, Giving, Leadership, Mercy ”

We’re all given gifts- and we are all given time, energy, and money to invest into the work of god’s kingdom! And we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the work he has given us!

We are all given Unique Roles as well! And the roles of the leaders of a church are to prepare God’s people for works of service” (Ephesians 4: 11) as an offering of love to God. What we do is a reflection of our love for God. We no longer earn His love, we express His love in us.

At the World Cup, every team had 11 players working hard
According to the rules, they could have begun the match with seven people on a team- but they would do it at a serious disadvantage.  If you’re a believer and not stepping in and participating in the life of your church, you’re leaving it at a disadvantage! This choice means you are making your brothers and sisters weaker.

In our Match, the Enemy’s Great Plan is to Divide and Conquer:
If he can separate us out, divide us, he has a greater chance of destroying us and making us ineffective!
·      Not talking about major theological differences
·      We want to be true to the Word- that’s important
·      I’m talking about being divided out by focusing on what’s best for us, focusing on petty differences, refusing to work together because we’re hurt or don’t get what we want

It was years before I realized this truth:  God will judge me by whether or not I was obedient to what He asked me to do. He doesn’t compare me to Billy Graham or anyone else. The issue is obedience.


It's definitely a challenge to be obedient to God. But let me encourage you with these words. They are found in the book of Hebrews 10:23-25:   

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Let's hold in to the hope we have!  God has already won the war. Our eternal destiny is good because of our love relationship with Jesus. We also have hope for tomorrow, not just eternity, because God is for us!

    Let's work together. Think about what the coaches do when the meet with the team half way through the match: Remind players of the Goal. (God desires all would come to know Him). They encourage and challenge the players.  (Speak the Truth in Love in the Right Time). Be each other's cheerleader! And keep on meeting together.

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.  And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.               1 Thessalonians 5:12-23
Let's end with Jesus’ words:
I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”