January 31, 2015

Art for Disneyland's Carnation Gardens

Every once in awhile, I stumble across something in my files that I even forgot I had! Such is the case with this little piece of concept art for Main Street U.S.A.'s now defunct Carnation Plaza Gardens

From the earliest days of my visits to Disneyland, I was used to seeing big name Big Band era stars playing at the Gardens. I even took it for granted, I guess. It was just one of those things Walt Disney and crew did just because. 

Back when the crowds were lower, it was not uncommon to walk the lesser known areas of the park and hear live entertainment. Be it Buddy Rich at the Gardens or an evening in Polynesia at the Tahitian Terrace (those were the days!), evenings were spectaular at the park.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company)

January 30, 2015

Jurassic World's Monster

Could it be? Is it he? My hunch is this may be the genetically designed dinosaur beast whose the monster of this summer's Jurassic World.

The trailer sends chills down my spine! Perhaps Chris Pratt will actually pull off the lead role on his way to Disney's reboot of Indiana Jones.

(Image copyright Universal and Amblin.)

Mouthful of Broken Glass

I had the absolute weirdest dream last night. In my dream, my mouth was full of broken glass. When I asked the Lord about it, I sensed He asked me to deliver a message of warning but also of encouragement. I think the broken glass signifies it won't be received well by all. But in my quiet time I was reminded the oftentimes His words are not. So, here it is, said with love:

"Time is short. Remember the promises you made to me? The things you said you'd do for my sake? Now is the time to step out and move. Do not be satisfied in a life of existing. A life where you control what's around you. It's time to let your love for Me move from your head to your heart to your hands."

That's it. 

If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, I hope it's a blessing to you and a confirmation of something He has been speaking. It's as much a word for me as for any of you. I know He is with me, and that gives me strength and courage!

If it rings true, praise God. If not, forgive me and move on.

January 29, 2015

Nighttime Look for Disneyland's Castle at 60th

With faith, trust, and pixie dust, (OK and some help from Photoshop), here's a nighttime look at Disneyland's castle all decked out in its 60th Anniversary look. It seems a bit more dramatic and celebratory, doesn't it?

The image for California Adventure's Carthay Circle Theater looks even more spectacular as evening progresses. Just amazing what a few clicks of the mouse can do!

(Original Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 28, 2015

No Surprises for Disneyland's 60th

A new castle with diamond stud strings and a fresh paint job.

From a different angle.

 Brand new fireworks show.

Paint the Night parade from Hong Kong Disneyland.

California Adventure's Carthay Circle even gets in on the act. (OK, that was new to me.)

When you add this to the dark ride enhancements coming to Fantasyland, and a few nostalgia fueled items, what do you get? Not much, but the park's will look nice. Tonight's Disneyland 60th announcement is no big deal...we've heard it all- for now. I'm sure during the season, more announcements will be made, but for now, nothing spectacular.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Universal Nabs Star Trek for Theme Parks

Did Universal just beat Disney to the punch? It's the evening of Disney's reveal of what's in store for Disneyland's 60th Anniversary, but the hot rumor is Universal Studios (with Universal Creative waiting in the wings) just landed Star Trek for their theme parks. Regardless of the truth or not, competition is great for theme park lovers. The Disney Imagineers better fire up some incredible plans for Star Wars!

(Art copyright Goddard.)

January 27, 2015

One Day Only Imagineering Special: Space Mountain

Here we go again: I'm telling you lovers of Disney Imagineering concept art- keep your eyes on the official Disney Parks blog if you want to find some rarely seen pieces.

This time its Space Mountain and its 40th anniversary at Walt Disney World.  Posted awhile ago on their blog. 

Two caveats:

#1- Yes, we should be celebrating amazing, groundbreaking new attractions that have been built in recent years. But these exist overseas in the Asian parks or at California Adventure, not in Disney's Florida parks. 

#2- The concept art above is pretty cool, and although its more common than the other two, its a nice clear image here versus the one that showed up in park pictorial souvenirs in the 70s.

I've presented these pieces in the order you would experience the actual attraction. Top piece is a rendering of the mountain if it had contained an outdoor section. Look at it closely, and you'll see it. Even better blown up.

Next, riding the rockets with an attractive blonde. (Been there, done that- for 33 years! The benefit of working hard at your marriage and the Lord's grace upon it!)

Bottom piece: Post show mural when it contained RCA's look at the future. You know, when Tomorrowland was actually about the future and not filled with cartoon characters. I remember those days. Do you?

(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Notable and Quotable: Dr. Ben Carson

"The United States of America is still the pinnacle nation in the world today.  It is not, however, the first pinnacle nation to face a decline.  Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Great Britain, France, and Spain all enjoyed their time at the top of the world, so to speak – in many cases, for several hundred years. Then as they decline, they all experience some peculiar similarities: an inordinate emphasis on sports and entertainment, a fixation on the lifestyles of the rich and famous, political corruption, and the loss of a moral compass."

Dr. Ben Carson
Prologue from his book, America the Beautiful
Is he controversial? Absolutely. But there is a good bit of wisdom in these words...

January 23, 2015

Update on Shanghai Disneyland

Leave it to the Chinese to get things done quickly! Courtesy the incredible The Theme Park Guy website, we have a recent photo of Shanghai Disneyland's castle. More to come...

Beautiful Disneyland Paris

Just look at this beautiful piece of artwork by Imagineer Eddie Sotto! It may be of the Main Street U.S.A. Railroad Station and not some splashy E Ticket attraction in the breathtaking Disneyland Paris parc, but it is none the less elegant and refined. With the similarly themed - and pricey - Disneyland Hotel behind it, a slice of the scale and grandeur of the place is within reach. The most amazing aspect of the place? It is consistent in its beauty and detail, one land after another. Easily this park holds the premier version of Frontierland and Tomorrowland (here Discoveryland). As for the centerpiece castle, it is the Belle of them all!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 22, 2015

Father's Wisdom

I asked my Dad one day what he wished he would have known at my age. His response was a good one; one that books- and the Good Book- having been telling us in one form or another for years: "Don't look for what isn't there." Meaning this, be thankful for what you have. Look at how God has blessed you. Be satisfied with that... and keep your heart focused on the things that are important to God.

Thanks, Dad! It was good enough to pass on to others.

January 21, 2015

Canadian's View of America?

Anonymously written and forwarded to me:

Canadian's version of David Letterman's Top 10.
Just makes you want to shake your head in disbelief.

This is Canada's Top Ten List of America's Stupidity.

# 10 Only in America... could politicians talk about the greed of the rich at a $35,000.00 per plate Obama campaign fund-raising event.

# 09 Only in America... could people claim that the government still discriminates against black Americans when they have a black President, a black Attorney General and roughly 20% of the federal workforce is black while only 14% of the population is black, 40+% of all federal entitlements goes to black Americans - 3X the rate that go to whites, 5X the rate that go to Hispanics!

# 08 Only in America... could they have had the two people most responsible for the tax code, Timothy Geithner (the head of the Treasury Department) and Charles Rangel (who once ran the Ways and Means Committee), BOTH turn out to be tax cheats who are in favor of higher taxes.

# 07 Only in America... can they have terrorists kill people in the name of Allah and have the media primarily react by fretting that Muslims might be harmed by the backlash.

# 06 Only in America... would they make people who want to legally become American citizens wait for years in their home countries and pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege, while they discuss letting anyone who sneaks into the country illegally just 'magically' become American citizens. (probably should be number one)

# 05 Only in America... could the people who believe in balancing the budget and sticking by the country's Constitution be called EXTREMISTS.

# 04 Only in America... could you need to present a driver's license to cash a check or buy alcohol, but not to vote.

# 03 Only in America... could people demand the government investigate whether oil companies are gouging the public because the price of gas went up when the return on equity invested in a major U.S. Oil company (Marathon Oil) is less than half of a company making tennis shoes (Nike).

# 02 Only in America... could you collect more tax dollars from the people than any nation in recorded history, still spend a Trillion dollars more than it has per year - for total spending of $7 Million PER MINUTE, and complain that it doesn't have nearly enough money.

# 01 Only in America... could the rich people - who pay 86% of all income taxes - be accused of not paying their "fair share" by people who don't pay any income taxes at all.

What do you think?

January 19, 2015

Garden of the Gods

Living in Colorado, I oftentimes take for granted the places here that absolutely stun me with their beauty. Or I'm so busy with day to day life, that I do not take the time to enjoy what God has placed around me.

Colorado Springs is not my home. It's a bit over a hour away, worse with traffic, but it's always a pleasure to head off to Garden of the Gods for a drive through the surreal landscape.

Just as if it were some movie set for the latest episode of Star Wars, the red stone outcroppings rise majestically from the earth. As with most photographs, these do not do justice to the handiwork of God Almighty. I did leave all three of these incredibly large if you want to click on them for a full scale view. 

The sheer beauty of God's creation is a sight to behold- and it is not alone in purpose in bringing us joy or in telling of God's existence: 

"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." Romans 1:20

The Apostle Paul reminds us here that everything God created reveals Himself to man, so when each man must give an account for his life, he cannot say to Him, "You did not tell me about yourself."  

The beauty of God's creation reveals His existence and His heart to men.  Let me encourage you- look around today, enjoy the beauty in the world in which you live, and thank God for His great gift!

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)

January 17, 2015

The Deconstruction of Condor Flats and Robert Iger's Big Bucks

You gotta hand it to both MouseInfo and Magic Eye! When you need the sites to come through with some great photos, they certainly do. 

Just as with our New Year's resolutions to improve ourselves, be it with health or spiritual resolutions, Disney is jumping in to transform California Adventure's Condor Flats into the Grizzly Peak Airfield.

The exterior transformation of Taste Pilot's Grille and the dismantling of the old mist spewing engine next to Soarin' Over California tell me that Imagineering is doing a serious revamp of the area- much more than new paint and a few new pines trees.

All the work should look fantastic when completed. This does bring up a serious question: Why does the Disneyland Resort seem to do so much better than Walt Disney World when it comes to "plussing" the parks and all around general maintenance? Even California's Frozen offerings are off the charts compared to the abysmal "attractions" offered at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Could it be the suits at the Walt Disney Company think they can fleece the buying public? I guess somebody has to pay for Robert Iger's $46 million dollar salary for 2014! 

(Photographs courtesy MouseInfo and Magic Eye.)

January 16, 2015

Concept Art: Tomorrowland 2055

The year was 1990, and I was strolling Disneyland one afternoon with my young family. We had walked into Tomorrowland to take in the Autopia and let the kiddos try their hands behind the wheel.

Next to the Carousel Theater, once home of the Carousel of Progress and America Sings, was a billboard for a new attraction called Plectu's Intergalactic Revue. For some strange reason, I snapped this photo of the concept art... and held on to it for many years.

When I began the Insights blog, I knew Disney fans would find this piece of unbuilt history of interest. Boy, was I right! Within days of first posting it in March of 2008, my humble photograph showed on on blogs and websites all over the world. And it's still be reposted to this day. Glad I took the photo!

The model for the new Carousel building.
Photographer unknown.

I cannot tell you who did the artwork. I will say, I have enlarged it and attempted to fix some of the elements to be as close to the imagined piece of art I saw it in my mind to be. Click on it to enlarge it.

Much like the two shows before it- expertly designed by Imagineer Marc Davis- Plectu's was to be an Audio-Animatronic comedy musical show and a core but small part of a new alien infested Tomorrowland dubbed Tomorrowland 2055

The less friendly Alien Encounter.

In fact, the Magic Kingdom in Florida's beloved (or reviled) Alien Encounter was also planned for the redesign. (And is it just me, or does the top of the building look much like the centerpiece that replaced the Rockets Jets high in the sky in the 1998 version of the Land of the Future?)

Florida's Tomorrowland changed from this...

...to this.

Disneyland was not so fortunate with their redo in 1998,
when plans for the much more expensive 2055 version were tossed out in favor of this.

One of few pieces of artwork seen for the Plectu characters.

Around this time, Michael Eisner and company took at long, hard look at the attractions that were crowd pleasers, and sad to say, but musical talking bears, tikis, and even Disney characters in robotic form were no longer a big draw. (Expanded history here.) 

Thanks to Mike Cozart from the Tomorrowland67 Lounge for this 2055 piece.

The plans were scrapped. Plectu's became a piece of Disney lore and history, and Tomorrowland stayed as was for almost another full decade as the plans for the 2055 version were shelved.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company. Top photo copyright Mark Taft.)

January 15, 2015

Top Ten Sting

The former Police frontman is an acquired taste. And I find Sting's  brand of pop/rock/jazz/easy listening very appealing. His more elcletic projects, such as The Last Ship, not so much. Nonetheless, after being a listener for several years, it is about time I present my Top Ten list, Police hits not included.

Being playful or is the joke on us?

1- Nothing 'Bout Me (Epilogue) (Single Remix): This bookend song from 1993's Ten Summoner's Tales puts every part of what I enjoy about the musician into play: Clever lyrics, great vocal presence, top musicianship and a jazzy vibe that hides the man's personal life under something so fresh and appealing. The U.S. version of the album is less horn driven and makes use of male background vocalists. The rarer U.K. single is more horn driven with female background vocals, giving the whole song a funkier vibe. It's a bit tongue in cheek and self-effacing, but it's great fun and a kick to sing along with on an afternoon drive. 

Jazz/Rock/Rap perfection.

2- Bring on the Night/When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around: From the 1986 live album of the the same name. Whereas the Police version of the songs are grittier and clearly rock and roll, this far superior eleven plus minute medley swings and rocks at the same time. The jazz rock fusion created an uproar among the hardcore jazz community when saxophonist Branford Marsalis decided to tour with Sting, but the end result justifies the partnership. The song smokes. Even the obligatory audience participation fits perfectly with the apocalyptic party scene. Sting rocks the vocals, Branford's swinging saxophone sizzles (who knew the man could rap?), but the unbelievable keyboard work of the late Kenny Kirkland takes the whole thing to a new level. Love him or hate him, this performance shows the visionary Sting is and how his gut instincts tend to be right when it comes to musical artistry.

Julia Ormond inspires the softer side of Sting.

3- Moonlight:  Another cut from the "Nobody will tell me what to do" department, Sting goes all out as dashing crooner on this 1995 selection from the soundtrack to the movie Sabrina. With Julia Ormond as his muse, he does it so well that you can count me in as one who will buy his Great American Standards disc should he ever choose to release it. 

The gift of a friend.

4- Englishman in New York: I had heard this song but hadn't given it a second thought until a soon-to-be dear Scottish friend brought it to my attention via his CV (resume). Thus, a business interaction began my reintroduction to the singer. From Sting's 1987 album Nothing Like the Sun.

Another disc, another character.

5- Dead Man's Rope: Like much of his deeper work, Sting mixed the spiritual with the natural, the lusty with the demur, telling tales from a variety of character's perspectives. Dead Man's Rope is the title of a gem found on the 2003 Sacred Love CD. Once again, Sting examines the life of the main character:

"A million footsteps, this left foot drags behind my right
But I keep walking, from daybreak til the falling night
And as days turn into weeks and years And years turn into lifetimes
I just keep walking, like I've been walking for a thousand years
Walk away in emptiness, walk away in sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
If you're walking to escape, to escape from your affliction
You'd be walking in a great circle, a circle of addiction
Did you ever wonder what you'd been carrying since the world was black?
You see yourself in a looking glass with a tombstone on your back
Walk away in emptiness, walk away in sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
Walk away in anger, walk away in pain
Walk away from life itself, walk into the rain
All this wandering has led me to this place
Inside the well of my memory,
sweet rain of forgiveness I'm just hanging here in space
Now I'm suspended between my darkest fears and dearest hope
Yes I've been walking, now I'm hanging from a dead man's rope
With Hell below me, and Heaven in the sky above
I've been walking, I've been walking away from Jesus' love
Walk away in emptiness, walk away in sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
Walk away in anger, walk away in pain
Walk away from life itself, walk into the rain
All this wandering has led me to this place
Inside the well of my memory, sweet rain of forgiveness
I'm just hanging here in space
The shadows fall around my bed
When the hand of an angel,
The hand of an angel is reaching down above my head
All this wandering has led me to this place
Inside the well of my memory, sweet rain of forgiveness
Now I'm walking in his grace I'm walking in his footsteps
Walking in his footsteps, Walking in his footsteps
All the days of my life I will walk with you
All the days of my life I will talk with you
All the days of my life I will share with you
All the days of my life I will bear with you
Walk away from emptiness, walk away from sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
Walk away from anger, walk away from pain
Walk away from anguish, walk into the rain"

Sting's character discovers there in freedom and hope found in relationship with Jesus Christ. In exchange for a life of brokenness, hopelessness, and disappointment, He gives peace and victory over death. Just as Christ himself experienced in his death and resurrection.

I have to say, I think Sting missed a great opportunity for a play on words. He should have included this verse from the Apostle Paul:
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (I Corinthians 15:55)

A man in love.

6- Fields of Gold: Unashamedly romantic. Instant classic. Radio staple. Signature song. 1993 was a another banner year for Sting as a solo artist. I can't hear this song without thinking of my wife.

Late night jazz radio perfected.

7- She Walks This Earth (Soberana Rosa):  Sometimes when an artist appears on a tribute or compilation of various artists, the end result can be a piece of throwaway music. Not so here. Sting's tribute to and cover of Brazilian artist Ivan Lins is smart, sexy, and altogether intoxicating. Worth hunting down if you don't own it.

Great video performance.

8- Brand New Day:  Perhaps a bit pedestrian for some fans, but I find this song of romantic plea for a new start encouraging in a world which continues to kick us in the teeth from time to time. It's a reminder to me that regardless of my own shortcomings (and there are many!) that God loves me and gives me a fresh day to start all over.

As the key and title song of his last album from the 90's, Sting decided to pair with a musical legend: Stevie Wonder. The combo works wonderfully, and Stevie's harmonica brings just the right amount of grit and humanity to it all. The music video places Sting as messiah- a very arrogant move- and like the album cover, is not a very good visual presentation of the music found on the disc which earned him two Grammy awards. 

Live and with an orchestra.

9- Every Little Thing She Does is Magic: OK, I said Police numbers were not included, but his solo version of the song is part of his Symphonicities disc of 2010. Often accused of being easy listening, Sting goes for it in that exact genre- with a twist. Even when being accompanied by an orchestra, there's no denying this old Police song is full of... magic. My wife and I were blessed with tickets to his Red Rocks concert for this tour. Incredible show (review here) and one of the few artists she would go see again.

Urban cowboy.

10- This Cowboy Song: An extra song added to his first solo hits collection. You'd think this would be another cut to toss aside, but Cowboy is a fun song with an even more enjoyable video that parodies but honors movies from the Western genre. On his Live in Berlin (Symphonicities) video, Sting and band create a hoedown worthy of the Old West. Urban Cowboy indeed!

So, are you a fan? If so, what are your favorites?

January 14, 2015

Time Stamp

One day, I will look back on this blog and see what my life was like- or my kids will. So, here's a current look at what's going on in my non-Disney world.

  • Very busy with both my jobs! It's good, it's hard- and I'm thankful I get to serve mankind in the love of Jesus and I hope with long lasting results
  • Your Mom is working hard making all this possible. Thank you to my wife!
  • All you kids are doing great- I'm blessed to see so much growth in the Lord and in commitment to Him. He is the One we follow for good reason.
  • I'm waiting for some great new music. January is a very slow time for new releases.
  • God's blessed us with some new furniture thanks to the generosity of my in-laws. After 33 years of hard use hosting Bible Studies, social groups, and just having four kids and a slew of grandchildren, I think its time! ;)
  • All the grandkids are adorable. Keep 'em coming!
  • Thankful to have all four parents in good health.
  • Looking forward to my next trip overseas. Can't come soon enough.
  • The resolutions are a challenge, but I'll get there- at least some of them.
  • Still plugging along with this blog that's a combination travelogue, autobiography and outlet for some creativity. 
  • I couldn't have asked for a richer life- not in money, but in the things that really matter. Thanks, God!

January 13, 2015

Notable and Quotable: Matt Chandler

"Heaven isn't a place for those who are afraid of hell. It's a place for those who love God. There's no such thing as fire insurance. You don't come to God just so you won't go to hell. That's not how it works."

 Pastor Matt Chandler, The Village Church

January 12, 2015

The First Attraction Poster for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln

Direct from the New York World's Fair to Disneyland. The stunning attraction for the State of Illinois came to the Opera House on Main Street U.S.A. 

This attraction poster is a rare one, that's for sure. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln continues to be a crowd favorite. Long before thrills became more and more common, guests that were enamored  with Disneyland's warm sense of patriotism really appreciated Walt's desire to honor one of the greatest American presidents. 

When land became more available in the form of Walt Disney World, the Lincoln show was expanded to include all in the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square. The show itself changed over the years and more men spoke but none so passionately, eloquently, and full of sincerity as the God-fearing Honest Abe. 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 6, 2015

Sneak Peak: DCA's Condor Flats Becomes Grizzly Peak Airfield

It seems as if one of the "gifts" to celebrate the 60th birthday of Disneyland includes even more cosmetic work on its much younger sister, California Adventure

The addition of Cars Land, the revamping of Paradise Pier and the full on cosmetic surgery of the Sun Plaza into Buena Vista Street has made Anaheim's second park finally worthy of the Disney name. She certainly was an unattractive child, but as she's entering her teen years, she's shaping up quite nicely! And there's more to come.

Coming your way soon. Photo from MiceAge.

MiceAge is reporting that DCA's Condor Flats will be melted into the Grizzly Peak area. Newly renamed Grizzly Peak Airfield. This will involve a transformation from the dry desert landscape into the lush greenery of the California forests. The news is nothing new if you've kept your eyes open- and if you have a copy of Jason Surrell's The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at It's Peak. Inside is this piece of concept art that shows it all.  

The newest park map shows Condor Flats closed.
Click on this for a larger image.
From the always excellent Magic Eye website.

Instead of cactus greeting guests coming off Carthay Circle, the pine trees will welcome guests to a mountain top airstrip. Soarin' Over California now sports a fresh mountain look, and everything around it will fit seamlessly into the atmosphere as Grizzly Peak looms in the near distance. Given the work is mostly new landscaping and much paint, the finished product should be done by the Summer season, hopefully at the beginning of it. 

Another slice of DCA 1.0 disappears.

In the old days, as much as I loved the look of the desert airstrip, it was truly an abrupt change to round the bend and find the Grand Californian Resort, then the geysers of the rapids adventure. But that was DCA 1.0, when transitions mattered little, hip and edgy was the order of the day, and the suits felt as if the guests were too dumb to notice the company had delivered an inferior product but charged full fees for it. It certainly was cheap. (Take a look at my multi-part series Bargain Basement Imagineering. This approach created some of the shallowest, themeless attractions ever to be seen at a Disney park.)

With the success of DCA 2.0, a new day has dawned. Here's hoping that Phase Two of the renovation begins as Condor Flats goes away. And what else was in that book, anyway?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)