July 29, 2016

Guardians of the Galaxy: Not in My (Tower) Backyard

When WDW1974 aka Spirit broke the story about this strange rumor of change happening before anyone else on the net, there were varied reactions to the news. Lovers of everything Marvel seemed to rejoice. Conversely, hard core fans of the absolutely amazing Twilight Zone Tower of Terror reacted as would be expected: disgust, anger, concern. Would the suits really bastardize a beloved Imagineering classic? At least at the beginning, that was the reaction.

Soon enough, camps became divided. Some folks said (and this writer agrees) that the California Adventure version of the iconic attraction is not nearly as good as the original one found at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. Without the "5th Dimension" piece of the show and the more detailed exterior setting, something was definitely lost in translation.

When Imagineer Joe Rohde took the stage at Comic-Con via video, the rumors instantly became fact. Disney truly would force feed park guests Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy in a quickly planned re-imagining of the ride. The attraction would be squeezed into Disneyland's younger sibling, with the concept art above showing the intergalactic "warehouse" extreme makeover. Florida's original, however, would remain untouched. Fans of the California resort were not impressed, and Florida park fans were very relieved.

Pratt and company.

Perhaps in California, the reaction to such a bold move would be lessened if the massive Star Wars Land had not just recently been a very disturbing announcement. For the record, it wasn't that adding this themed land was bad- lovers of the iconic film series had been clamoring for it for years- it's just that the placement of the project uses the remaining available land while it also breaks the more inclusive, larger themes given to the park by Walt Disney himself.

Fast forward a few days from the Comic-Con announcement. Now, there appears to be a new acceptance and even excitement about the change. However, something clearly comes to the forefront. As long as their home Tower doesn't become Mission: Breakout!, folks are applauding the makeover. Among some fans, there's a smug "Not in My Backyard" mentality. It's similar to the folks who champion a center for the "poor (homeless/prisoners/fill-in-the-blank)" but also demand the complex is placed no where near where they happen to live. 

As unfortunate as the change to Tower is in so many ways, there could be a pot of gold at the end of it all. The new Marvel themed land could in fact be quite the game changer for California Adventure in much the same way that Cars Land and Buena Vista Street transformed the red-headed stepchild of a park into the new attractive younger sibling. Contractually, Disney is restricted in what they can build in Walt Disney World when it comes to the world of superheroes. Not so in California.

Should big budgets be unfurled, a well themed land filled with eye-popping new attractions could draw even greater guest numbers than is now seen. When both parks are bursting with guests year round, maybe, just maybe, plans will finally go forward for the third Anaheim theme park. Imagine three stunning parks in the Golden State. The Disneyland Resort would finally give the younger Walt Disney World a run for its money.

Whether or not the superhero theme fits in a park about California is another matter altogether. Fans can and should scream all they want, but the new Disney under Robert Iger simply views the parks as a tool to market the latest and hottest properties acquired by the Company. We fans better get used to that. It's coming for all the parks- and much like the Frozen takeover of Norway's Maelstrom, the Universe of Energy at Epcot is next to go under the knife. Brace yourselves.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 27, 2016

It's a Small World Bonus Items

Sometimes non-Disney geeks don't know what they own. This rare It's A Small World music CD was given to my wife as a handout parting gift - a giveaway item intended to be a very small token of appreciation for attending an event. 

Of course, she brought it home to me. I was surprised by this 2006 disc with its charming illustrations by artist Joey Chou. The music itself is 14 minutes of music beginning with the famous Disneyland clock tower counting off the minutes. Just listening to it brightened a gloomy afternoon, bringing me right back to Fantasyland

Classic art by Imagineering great Mary Blair.

As my own "bonus gift" to you reading this post, above is a piece of rare concept art by the wonderful Imagineer Mary Blair. To my eyes, it looks like a piece created for the 1964 World's Fair version of the Pepsi Cola sponsored attraction. 

Yes, It's A Small World remains one of my favorite attractions. In a world gone crazy, the lyrics and theme remind jaded humans all over that we really are to love and appreciate one another. Something, perhaps, that is not appreciated by the Chinese who laid out the plans for Shanghai Disneyland- being the first Disney Magic Kingdom park not to feature this attraction.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 26, 2016

Cute Boy

Just one of the cutest and nicest boys around! Need I say more?

July 25, 2016

From the Galaxy to South Dakota

Last week was quite the Disney news week! Returning from my not so long absence, I discovered that Disney finally announced the transformation of Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in California Adventure into a Guardians of The Galaxy attraction. The rumor first broke due to the insights of WDWMagic's own WDW1974 aka Spirit. Long before other bloggers claimed it as their own, I might add.

The old rugged cross.

Where was I? South Dakota. It wasn't a vacation, but I was able to take it a few of the sites after our work was done. Beautiful land even though we saw the harshness of it as well... in the middle of 100 degree plus days. 

The coming sunset.

Carhenge. Really.

 Mt. Rushmore. 

After being gone, it was good to come home to my loving wife. And air conditioning...

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)

July 12, 2016

Mourn An Epcot Legacy

This is an absolutely brilliant piece of art, at once depicting what once made Epcot great and what caused its downward spiral. RobidaFlats, the artist found on the WDWMagic Discussion Boards crafted this slice of excellence. Just a look at what is marked on the gravestones tells a story: Journey into Imagination, Horizons, World of Motion, Maelstrom, and Wonders of Life. Truly, with Frozen Ever After replacing Maelstrom and Guardians of the Galaxy rumored for Universe of Energy, what was will never be again.

(Art copyright RobidaFlats.)

July 8, 2016

Broken America

Orlando. Baton Rouge. Dallas. San Bernadino. Aurora. These are just the cities on our country, not even looking outside at the world- and I can't list them all. It goes on and on, and the senseless violence  never seems to end. Today, it hit me hard as I woke up to the news.

Is this the world that cries out for peace but practices hatred and violence? I guess so. 

But who do we go to in our time of need? Who do our prayers reach? As a nation, we have intentionally removed God from as many places as possible. Schools, government, business- and that list goes on and on as well.

Gods' great gift of love to a people He created is Jesus Christ- his son given sacrificially over the death for the payment of sin. All that is evil, God paid the price for on our behalf. We concurrently reject Him and yet cry out for Him to do something when our world is falling apart. 

Are we like the ancient peoples of Israel who rejected Him and instead made false gods out of wood, stone and metal? Absolutely. Is He still waiting for us to truly turn to Him and turn away from our sin? Absolutely? Will our nation do it? Maybe. Will you do it? 
It all starts one person at a time.

Vintage Disneyland Paris Photos from 1998

The year was 1998, and it was our first (and I thought only ever) visit to Disneyland Paris. My wife and I had saved quite a bit of money to take our growing family to go see our relatives in California. Then, in a surprise move by British Airways, they opened up the Denver to London market by announcing $99 one way to London. Of course, we quickly called them, explained the opportunity, and waved "Farewell" to California but "Hello" to London and Paris. 

A newly opened and freshly planted Parisian Storybookland.

It was the adventure of a lifetime for our 8, 12, 13, and 14 year old kids. It was for us as well as we love to travel but had always seen a trip to Europe as something that financially would never happen. Of course, God had different plans. It was going to be very tight financially to do this, but due to a windfall business situation, my Mom and Dad sent us a few thousand dollars as a gift! We were on our way to Europe on Delta, who had matched the fares of the competition.

The classic Discoveryland attraction.

Amazing tales were the order of the trip! I won't go into any details here that matter to folks outside our family, but suffice it to say, for Americans in London and Paris, our ten days flew by with one discovery after another. 

Given we had our kids with us, we kept things very family friendly with a few rules as we planned: One museum a day and/or one church a day when we visited either, as many famous kid-friendly sights (Tower of London, etc.) as possible, and for dear old Dad in particular, a trip to Disneyland. Not that the family minded!

It all went off without too much of a hitch- that is until a huge storm made it very difficult to get across the English Channel to France. Eventually, we did about 3 am in the morning but at the cost of losing our lunch reservation at the cheapest restaurant at the Eiffel Tower by an hour. (Still a splurge, though! We did get to the top of the Tower later in the week, standing in line next to a family from Cuba. What a treat to meet so many people from different parts of the world.)

The three oldest kids got to ride Space Mountain with Dad. 
The youngest was two inches too short, 
so he settled for Autopia with Mom.

As a Disney park freak, I loved absolutely everything about Disneyland Paris! The incredible and unique Le Visionarium was a favorite as well as the dragon in the castle's dungeon, the stunning new Space Mountain, the Nautilus, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and my favorite version of Pirates of the Caribbean. It's an old family joke now that the castle was "boxed up" for repairs, but at the time I was a bit disappointed.

We all returned home happily exhausted. Mom and Dad determined to return to Europe without the kids one day, and we would do so in 2007 to celebrate our 25th anniversary. (Trip report here.) Nor did we realize we would do it again in 2013 and 2014 due to a business trip I needed to take. (Oops- I just realized I never did finish that series on our 2014 trip to Switzerland and the South of France. No Disneyland Paris at all then.) Together, that's meant three trips to Disneyland Paris in three different seasons and in three different decades. God never ceases to amaze me... 

The kids are much older now with families of their own, but they still talk about this trip! As do we with very fond memories and a few laughs.

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)

July 7, 2016

Beach Break!

Long day and long night ahead. Being we just came back from our vacation, I can't take more time off. But that doesn't mean I can't imagine...

July 6, 2016

Look Away

This photo from an ad for a local boxing club caught my eye. This guy really looks like a friend of mine who lives far away. What I like most about this photo is the determined "Don't Screw with Me" look on his face. It's like how I feel this morning. 

July 5, 2016

The Loaded Gun

Gun control at its finest and most appropriate! You just have to love a guy who had the guts to tell it like it is. Everytime I go through a metal detector - and that includes the airport,  Disneyland and Walt Disney World- I want to remember this quote.