April 27, 2016

The Tradition Continues: Tokyo Disney Resort Once Again Offers the Best in Disney Theme Park Attractions

Proving once again that the brightest and best in Disney theme park entertainment is now found overseas, the Oriental Land Company released several new Imagineering images detailing their expansion plans for both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. The concept art is stunning!

Explore Beast's castle as never before!

Beauty and the Beast will be the big addition in Fantasyland. Using the popular trackless vehicle technology found in Pooh's Hunny Hunt and Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Manor, guests will be immersed into the world of Belle and Beast as she tries to win his heart. Additional expansion includes Belle's village with Gaston's Tavern and a brand new Fantasyland theater.

Big Hero 6 comes to life in a spinner- 
but it's a start!

Baymax makes his first attraction appearance in Tomorrowland.

Just look at those themed ride vehicles!

A beautiful entrance to what will be a popular addition.

Over in the second park,  the incredible Tokyo DisneySeaSoarin' finally takes flight in the beautiful Mediterranean Harbor. Whether the Frozen planned seaport gets added as originally planned has not been revealed.

Let's just sum up by saying a visit to Japan in 2020 may be worth this traveler's cash.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 26, 2016

SHAG-adelic Star Wars

Not was I was expecting at all from the very talented Josh Agle aka SHAG, but still tons of fun! Let's just hope that when the Force Awakens in the Disney parks, it's a first class experience- even if it is sorely misplaced in Disneyland.

(Art copyright SHAG.)

Just Maybe

Always on the hunt for a new coffee shop for those days I just have to get out of the home office. Could this be it? We shall see.

April 25, 2016

Castle Without Stana

So... ABC plans to kill off Captain / Detective Kate Beckett during the season finale of 2016's epic series Castle. All due to budget cuts? Really! Haven't they made ABC or Robert Iger and board enough money already?

No, I'm not happy. It's the chemistry between the two that makes it work. Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic are the reason it's all so fun and engaging. Will I watch Castle post Stana? Maybe. Will Nathan do the smart thing and leave the show as well? I hope so.

April 22, 2016

The Best Tree of Life Photo Ever

Saved this photo for Earth Day- and the celebration of the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom on the same day in 1998. It's by friend and photographer Len Yokoyama. Beautiful! I left this photo huge so it could be used as a desktop picture. Just click for full size.

Speaking of Animal Kingdom, if you're interested in a multi-part series covering the creation and evolution of the place, go here for Part One. Each article is filled with rare concept art, photos, histories and trip reports.

(Photograph copyright Len Yokoyama.)

April 20, 2016

April 19, 2016

Denver Dining Club

There's been an interesting turn of events in my life, beginning a food revolution of sorts on my weekly schedule. The doors have been opened, and I'm happily walking right through them. 

A new friend wants to meet weekly for lunch, and he wants to explore some new and old favorite restaurants in our city. 

Sounds fun- and fattening. Below are my reviews of our first three meals. I'm far from a foodie, so forgive my lack of proper terms. Enjoy!

Bagel Deli
The first location chosen was my friend's, and he wanted me to check out one of his local favorites. This place rocks the deli world and rightly earned it's place as a treasured spot long before Guy Fieri brought it to the nation's attention on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives

On his recommendation, I started with the Matzo Ball Soup. The liquid part of the soup perfectly complemented the ball which had the slightest taste of vanilla at the end. My main course was an old favorite sandwich: Pastrami. The slices were wonderfully thin and cooked perfectly. The bread was homemade, and the accompanying cole slaw delicious. I can't wait to go back!

Saigon Fusion
For week two, I let him choose again as he had chosen oh so well the week before. If two weeks of winners in a row is any indication, this guy has great taste!

Pho is the house favorite and the order of the day for just about everyone who ate there that afternoon. I chose the meatball and beef version. Surprised by the huge bowl that came my way at a very reasonable price, I dug into the fresh spices, sauces, and vegetables which were added to turn up the heat and flavor. The spring rolls were terrific, but nearly as enjoyable as the conversation that went with it.

Blackbird Public House
Week three meant it was my turn to show my chops. Bordering Wash Park (Washington Park, for you not acquainted with Denver), the Blackbird is a fairly new pub in place of another that was formerly there. My recommendation: The Pub House Burger. 

A nice slab of high quality beef was lightly slathered in a rosemary aoli, cheese of choice, with an incredible topping of candied bacon. Yes, truly candied bacon- the kind the sugar content not only caramelizes the meat but also leaves a small layer of sugar lining on the edge. Mouthwatering! My friend enjoyed it just as much as I did. With a side of crisp fires, it was a great combination. Filling enough I was without hunger pangs for dinner.

So, that's it for the first three meals. I hear Indian is next on our list, and I have yet to have a really good Indian meal...

April 18, 2016

The DaVinci Toad

Take one classic Disney dark ride, throw in an opportunity to cast a new light on it, and add a dash of Imagineering creativity. What do you get?  

Well, when it came time to build the brand new version of Fantasyland for the gorgeous Disneyland Paris, creative lead on the project Imagineer Tony Baxter pulled off an all star team. Tom Morris must have given quite  bit of thought in translating a Disneyland original into a restaurant, but Mr. Toad's Wild Ride was the absolute right vehicle to complete the transition.

Yes, that is the Pirates of the Caribbean fortress
 blended into the Fantasyland scenery. 

Toad Hall would itself remain, becoming a very welcoming pub type environment open for a course of British fish and chips and other delights. 

Inside the elegant doors, if guests waited long enough while exploring the place, they would find a painting of the master in three distinct styles: Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and finally, DaVinci- with the Toad man  transformed into Mona Lisa. All in one portrait that changes every few moments. It takes patience to see them all, but it's worth the wait. Like all of Disneyland Paris, the amount of details are worth looking for.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company. Photo copyright Mark Taft.)

April 15, 2016

Another Tree of Life

Disney's beautiful Animal Kingdom may be the crown jewel of the Florida parks. With Disney's Hollywood Studios a mess, Epcot losing its way, and the Magic Kingdom being reproduced in every Disney resort worldwide, Imagineer Joe Rohde's baby could soon become the very reason people travel to Florida to "do Disney". 

This piece of concept art admittedly took quite a bit of work to make viewing it easier. I found it in very small scale with colors askew, but I thought it was worth the effort to show off a different option of the Tree of Life than what was finally built. Certainly, this version is much less spectacular but still charming.

With the World of Avatar / Pandora and Rivers of Light coming in the next year, it is going to get very busy in this beautiful Oasis. Floating mountains to giant trees to Expedition: Everest, the place is only getting better! Hope the suits are ready...

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 14, 2016

15 Years Ago

A little portrait by a dear photographer friend. A moment in time not lost because of her gift. And what a precious gift it was and continues to be!

(Photograph by Marisa B.)

April 12, 2016

Joey Feek's Gift

Joey+Rory fans will be forever grateful for the music they made together. Perhaps their most memorable pice of music is to be found on the video below, When I'm Gone.

Joey left behind her husband, Rory, and young daughter, Indiana,  on March 4 when she died of cervical cancer at the age of 40. 

Incredible song and video.

The song and video were made in 2012. It is hard to watch knowing their story, but all the more beautiful as it touches on the concept of God's grace to endure without even saying it.

I have to say, this very touching video made me think about my wonderful wife and when the time comes one of us leaves this earth. 

On the main page of their website the day 
after father and daughter returned from the funeral.

The legacy Joey leaves is certain to touch those who knew them either personally or through their music, and this video is their gift to us. The story she tells, however, is God's: Whoever would believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who willingly gave up his life by dying on the cross but then being rose back to life- whoever they are, regardless of how broken and sinful their life has been- will be given the gift of eternal life when this one ends. The ultimate gift that only God could give for the world He loved and created. Is this your gift to receive today?

Cancer couldn't kill their love... or their faith.

Their story is here. And for them, it's only the beginning of a new chapter for all of them. It's at once inspiring, heartbreaking, and full of hope. The hope for this life and the next that believers in Jesus Christ can call their own.

April 11, 2016

Pirates Planned for Hong Kong Disneyland Before Shanghai

Long before Shanghai Disneyland was a glimmer in Robert Iger's mind, Pirates of the Caribbean was actually scheduled to go into Hong Kong Disneyland

If you've been on the blog here awhile, you know I've already posted another piece that shows the proposed Adventureland addition, but here's another. But here it is again, below. And a few more after that!

As with most of Hong Kong Disneyland, the setting for the attractions is some of the most beautiful landscape ever created by God. The natural hills, the sea, and the general sense of lush serenity make the first China park one of the prettiest- even if it is the smallest of all Magic Kingdoms. 

Proposed Pirates ride with Splash Mountain ending attraction
for Hong Kong's Pirate Coast land.

Certainly, once the Chinese government got involved, they determined the Shanghai park would have to eclipse the older sister. They couldn't really let an ex-British colony have the best of the best. What the smaller park did get, however, was a charming version of It's A Small World (which you'll never see in Shanghai) and a state of the art Mystic Manor- the envy of theme park fans worldwide.

Even more Pirate Coast art!

The Imagineers are quite the creative bunch, aren't they? The concepts they come up with and the art they create are often masterpieces all their own. I can only imagine what is left in the vaults for us to discover...

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 8, 2016

Ugly Concept Art from the Parks

Let's be honest here. I love great Imagineering concept art for the Disney parks as much as the next guy, but it's become all too common for the suits to rush through quick and dirty projects into being- and the resulting concept art can be just as ugly.

Animal Kingdom's striking blemish of a land, Dinorama, comes to mind. (I don't care how Joe Rohde tries to convince us its such a good design fit for an otherwise gorgeous park.) So does just about anything from California Adventure at opening. (Even that art for Twilight Zone Tower of Terror shows a kid facing the camera that looks like he's cursing it or saying "What the Heck is this?") The winner in ugly art, however, has to be Walt Disney Studios Paris. Hands down the ugliest of all Disney branded parks past or present. It is very telling that you don't see this kind of crap at Tokyo Disney Sea.

The concept piece above shows off the billboard like entrances for attractions passing themselves off for good design. Imagine paying full price for a park that looks like this. Yet, we do. 

I am so thankful that Universal Orlando upped the stakes by adding Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Otherwise, we'd still be getting garbage like this stateside.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 7, 2016

But How Many More Years of Disco Yeti?

The Disney Parks blog loudly and proudly marks 10 incredible years of Expedition: Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom. It is a thrilling landmark attraction! The Imagineers under Joe Rohde created a masterpiece that finally drew fans to the park. But the questions remain: How many of those years was the centerpiece  Yeti broken? And how many more years will guests have to settle with "Disco Yeti"- the long broken Audio-Animatronic?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

A New Rick Roll

Wish there were a real candidate like this instead of the bozos we have in the lead...

April 6, 2016

The Gap Between Political Correctness and Being Over Sensitive

 Where was the outcry from the politically correct crowd when the top GAP ad appeared years ago? There's certainly one now for the photo below.

Two different girls resting their arm on a friend's head, but one is black, and one is white. Oh, I get it...

This is the same group of people that don't understand why folks should use the restroom of the group they share the same genitalia with. Or the ones who always cry "foul" when they think they are being abused. Political correctness leads to stupidity. Kindness and common sense are never out of season, however.

We've become a nation of cry babies, overgrown little kids who whine when they can't accept the world if it doesn't look like they want it to. Sex issues get preference. Race issues get preference. Those with spiritual convictions do not. Oh, I get it.

(Photographs copyright The GAP.)

Another World

Without a doubt, the opening of Shanghai Disneyland, "China's Disney Park" as it's smartly been referred to, will be an incredible experience that draws Disney theme park fans to a different part of the world. Using the world of Tron, Pirates of the Caribbean, worlds of fantasy, and of dinosaurs and more, guests will be deeply immersed into another world.

Yet, just around the corner in a sense is another world. One where the majority of the earth's population live. It's a rustic, hard life, kind of world. One where folks survive on what they can scrape by with. One of minimal industry and business, mostly an agricultural world, where - shocker- people still kill the animals they raise as a food source. For these children, beef, pork, chicken and lamb, are not found at the local grocery store but instead in their back yard... if they are fortunate enough.

There's a world of poverty out there. Like you, I see it sometimes on the news, but I've also seen it in real life as well. It's totally heartbreaking, but it is also encouraging to realize groups of followers of Jesus like Compassion International are working to ease hunger among children. Won't you join them? Just click here

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company. Photo copyright Mark Taft.)

April 5, 2016


What a great magnet from Harvest Church in Denver! In one quick glance, you can tell this is a community that is trying hard to enourage its members to live as Jesus did. Are you empowered?

April 4, 2016

EPCOT Center Dreams Fill Coffee Table Books

In the long ago, the money men of the Walt Disney Company were focused on continuing Walt's tradition of providing exceptional themed entertainment versus just making a quick buck by shoving their latest intellectual property (i.e. acquisition) into the parks. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Robert Iger and your thoughtless plans for shoving a Guardians of the Galaxy overlay to the terrific, iconic, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Almost makes fans forget how you are shoving Frozen into World Showcase) For decades, satisfying guests from the moment they entered Disney's worlds was the goal. 

The plan when EPCOT was a real community.

Back in the 1970s, when the plans for EPCOT Center morphed from a full-fledged real life community into a theme park, Disney Imagineers created some of the most beautiful pieces of concept art ever designed. Artist and gentleman Herb Ryman was the go to guy for most of these pieces. He was a great choice! His knack for injecting elegance into any Disney project was well known and appreciated. 

New Horizons for you and me. 

Originally thought of as two distinct parks, World Showcase would stand on its own as would Future World. Wiser heads prevailed, and the two were joined together, resulting in the park that eventually premiered in 1982.

World Showcase Courtyard.

In the earliest plans, the original World Showcase offered a World's Fair experience within the a mall-like environment. The top piece of concept art shows how the country of Spain would have been represented. Two particular aspects of this piece are worth pointing out. Did you notice the ceiling? Much of the park would have been indoors, no doubt a concession to Florida's often rainy weather. Secondly, did you happen to see the elevated Peoplemover in the upper left hand corner? The transportation system would have made it easy to navigate around the world by offering several stations at strategically placed locations. 

Underground cutaway view of the transportation hub.

The lack of a solid, friendly, transportation system in the park did become somewhat of a nightmare, low capacity Friendship boats and buses aside. Guest had to walk quite a distance to get from one end of the park to the other. The "blessing of size"seemed to allow EPCOT Center to absorb extremely large crowds and still offer visitors an acceptable level of comfort. 

Another look below street level. 

This was not a problem below ground as the main transportation hub was designed to be incredibly friendly to use as well as highly efficient. As you can see from the pieces of concept art directly above, automobiles, trams, the monorail, and the beautiful WEDWAY Peoplemover all comfortably co-exist on multiple levels, bringing thousands of guests to EPCOT.

Today, the landscape of Walt Disney World is cluttered with tired buses, busy roadways, and frustrated guests spending too much time to get to where they are going. Looks too much like the regular world! Certainly, other means of transportation should be considered and built. Yet that would mean the suits would have to invest in guest comfort at the expense of their inflated bonuses, leaving these cutting edge concepts just fodder for additional coffee table books.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 3, 2016

Another Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary! Due to this year's hectic work schedules, we're not going anywhere special. But even if it isn't Paris, Venice, Nice, London, Switzerland or Hawaii, its always good because its with YOU. I love you, Stephanie, and I am so thankful God has given you to me as my wife. 

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

April 2, 2016

A Morning in Venice

Ah, Venice! Beautiful, frustrating, fascinating, enchanting. There's no place on earth like it- and I am thankful we got to experience it together for a wonderful second honeymoon. 

Whoever took this photo left it HUGE- so it's a perfect computer desktop photo to look at and dream...

April 1, 2016


Here's a lovely little piece of concept art for Tokyo Disneyland's version of the iconic It's A Small World. As you know by now, the Tokyo Disney Resort is one of the most popular on earth. The Japanese Magic Kingdom along with the stunning Tokyo DisneySea frequently earns top marks for Imagineering excellence as chosen by the fans themselves. The high guest numbers also speak to the resort's popularity, as the Tokyo parks are the most visited in all of Disneydom. One day, these may give way to numbers for Shanghai Disneyland, but I wouldn't be so sure they'd be accurate.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)