August 31, 2017

Richard Carpenter at Epcot

The year was 1985, just two years after the death of sister Karen Carpenter and two years before the release of his solo album Time. Here was the talented and gifted Richard Carpenter trying to rebuild his career after the most tragic of circumstances. In potentially the best match possible, Richard chose to perform at Epcot's American Gardens Theater. A classy man playing elegant music in a very nice establishment to probably an adoring crowd.

I was not able to get to the park to see him, but I'm positive his show was worth seeing. I had seen him since Karen's passing. His show was sharp, well designed, and enjoyable. Of course, it only highlighted the fact Karen was gone. 

A&M Records was smart enough to give this man a chance to make a couple of solo albums and let him produce several other artists for the label and its associates. All to good result. I wish he'd do more. Maybe something for the Carpenters 50th Anniversary in 2019.

(Thanks to James and Murray at the wonderful A&M Corner for this photo and for cleaning it up! I'd looked for years for this!)

August 30, 2017

Everyone, Everywhere

That is the Good News message that Jesus Christ came to deliver. He and he alone is the perfect payment for the penalty of death for the sins of us all against a holy and righteous God. No other God and no other religion delivers the goods.

Dr. Erick Schenkel's short but powerful book reminds readers the truth of the original message often lost among contemporary Christianity. And its just not pie in the sky theology- the author and his family lived for many years in Central Asia, enduring real life persecution, almost losing their lives due to an unwarranted attack because they were Christians in a Muslim country. Yes, this actually took place in the 21st Century and not hundreds of years ago. Believers still endure for the sake of the God they love and who loves them (and the peoples that persecute them!)

Pick up the book, and prepare to be moved.

August 28, 2017

Taylor Swift's Sweet Revenge

Look, I've got nothing to prove in this at all. Taylor Swift is back in a big - even if its Nasty (apologies to Janet Jackson)- sort of way. Is her new song, Look What You Made Me Do about Katy Perry? Hard to say. Or is it about her fans who have created this personae? 

Either way, Revenge is not a good thing. As we focus on it, it creates an ongoing bitterness and hatred that ends up defining our character. Oh, the song. It's catchy but certainly not among her best. And I'm not even a fan. What happened to that great songwriter and girl next door? As Taylor herself says, "She's dead." Too bad. " Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord." Romans 12:9. It would certainly do her well to follow this advice. Us, too, for that matter.

August 25, 2017

Five Great Disney Park Articles Plus One

Looking for articles full of deep Disney theme park history, lots on concept art, one part travelogue and one part trip report?  Look no further than the articles below to find some of my favorites from this blog:

Animal Kingdom's True Life Adventure, an eight part series that grows as the park does. Begin here. Travelogue, artwork, and a look at the philosophy that drives its design. Not to be missed.

The history of Disney's Hollywood Studios. 25 years worth of visiting the park has given me some unique perspective. I was there just a week or so after opening day in 1989. There's more to this park than Star Wars, Toy Story Land and any other intellectual property the Disney suits want to shove in it. What they did right, what they did wrong, and a fan's appreciation.  

The Universal Thrills of Space Mountain. Irresistible! Almost every Magic Kingdom styled park has one- and you can bet there's folks at Shanghai Disneyland who wish they did. This is why.

Peter Pan's Flight. Fly away with him here. A beloved attraction for a reason.

Wish Disneyland would never change. The Disneyland Historical Preservation Society may have a place for you on its membership rolls. Is it a museum? Is it a living breathing thing? Something in between? 

(OK, one more. I missed the 50th anniversary but here's a look at Pirates of the Caribbean at 45. )
Looking back on Disneyland over the decades, 
Old Frontierland

August 23, 2017

Big Mystery at the Tahitian Terrace

Unknown mysteries of the long gone but always missed restaurant, the Tahitian Terrace at Disneyland. Here's a small piece of concept art made as big as possible without ruing the resolution. Another Imagineering charmer. If you look closely, you can see a Jungle Cruise boat off to the right. Far off travel just steps away from paradise, yielding treasures unknown and unexplored. Intrigue, suspense, romance and mystery. The biggest mystery to this fan? Why the folks at The Walt Disney Company haven't turned the horribly out of place Aladdin's Oasis back into the elegant tropical high end restaurant it used to be. They are always looking to boost the bottom line. Why not please fans and share holders at the same time?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 22, 2017

The Littlest Orphan

Here's Paws. The littlest orphan ever. He was left off at the local fire department after someone found him laying next to his mother who had been half eaten by a fox or coyote.

Being an animal lover, my daughter and son-in- law decided to bring him home. After a quick vet visit- and weighing in at exactly one pound- 4 week old Paws has found a new beginning and a loving home. By the way, that's a tablespoon on the box next to him. Adorable!

August 21, 2017

Rare Art for Disneyland's Submarine Voyage

Well, here it is! A rare piece of art. Actually, Imagineering concept art for Disneyland's Submarine Voyage. It took a little clean up to bring it back to its original mid-century charm, but the results were worth it. 

You can tell it is an old piece as there's not a Nemo in sight! And you can tell it is not for the Magic Kingdom's classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Walt Disney World's Fantasyland because the subs are not designed in the beautiful steam punk design once found across from Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Nor is it for Tokyo Disney Sea or for Disneyland Paris- each which hold a relatively full size version of the most beautiful vessels. 

One day, I hope to ride the subs for an adventure to Atlantis. I'd happily trade Jules Verne's Captain Nemo for Pixar's Nemo any day!
Watching the solar eclipse today? Imagine- if we are in the full path of the eclipse, we're able to see what the Jews saw when Jesus died on the cross. (Mark 15:32-33)

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 18, 2017

Release the Superheroes!

Any fans of super hero movies?    

I’m a big Captain America fan! He was a hero before he was a superhero! His heart’s desire: do the right thing and serve people by serving a cause bigger than himself! Who is a fan of Star Wars? Star Trek? Indiana Jones? Sherlock HolmesMaybe you have a hero in the sports world or business world?”  Any American Ninja Warrior fans?

Why do we love these heroes?  They are always overcoming an obstacle of some sort! We love the Marvel universe, dc comics, star wars and star trek movies, and athletic competitions because they are exciting and fun- and the good guy eventually wins!

We live vicariously through characters/people that make a difference and move in power. Powerful stories capture our attention. We get a rush watching the good guy win! It’s only a temporary fix, because life goes back to normal. But we can get addicted to this! There lies the danger!

"On the tombstone of America, the inscription will read: they entertained themselves to death." - Leonard Ravenhill    

Let that sink in. This quote above, by the renowned English pastor, applies not only to America as a nation but us as individuals. Christians are susceptible, but according to the Bible, those who don’t know Jesus are imprisoned!

The risk is we can get our adrenalin fix this way- and ignore the truth: 

In real life, we are in a battle for our souls! One with eternal consequences. And Jesus is returning soon! (Microchipping humans? Not a good thing- and right out of Revelation 13 and 14 and 20.)

With its “marvelous” fantasies, the world tries to “copy” what God has already designed. But why accept the counterfeit? The best imitations of God’s reality fall short when compared to the real thing! You’d be right if you expect me to say this:      

Jesus is the ultimate superhero! Only he could accomplish what he did! Conquering death (the last enemy) and paying the price for our sin.

But did you know we are called to be superheroes???? It's not because we are good but because He is good! We have an enemy to fight and captives to free!

Ephesians 2:1-10:    "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 all of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 but because of his great love for us, god, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 and god raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.8 for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of god— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 for we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

God has designed us to be drawn to something greater than ourselves (eternity in mind). God has designed us for adventure because he has designed us for his work. We live in a world that promises freedom but delivers bondage- Isn’t that the great lie?

Setting the captives free is true superhero work!

People are held captives of the enemy. They are not the enemy! See 2 Timothy 2:25-26. Here, Paul is writing this towards the end of his life to Pastor Timothy in Ephesus (Modern Turkey).  About 67AD – just before he was beheaded for his faith in Jesus. Important words here from someone at the end of their life!

"25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that god will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

What’s our lesson here? Whether they are false teachers or non-believers, we must learn to see people as God does! 

Mistakenly, we can view them as the enemy instead of captives of the enemy!A very big difference! We shouldn’t treat captives like enemies! When we do this- the enemy wins- and people Jesus loved and died for are on the road to an eternity without him! 

Are we ready to risk reaching out, building relationships and loving them so we earn the right to speak the truth into their lives? We need love, discernment and wisdom.

Where would you be if someone in the church treated you as the enemy?

Even as believers- we can be in bondage to the ways of the world! Isn't it funny how we can play around with sin, justify it, get as close as we can to it- and before we know it, it has power over us. But we can also be caught thinking like the world. It's very subtle.
Colossians 2:8:    
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

Note: Christians are at risk too- Paul is speaking to the church here!

Fear- that’s not of God!  Racism- that’s not of God either!  Hatred- do I even need to go there? The devil and his demons are at work here too. Not just in 3rd world countries! Anywhere sin is prevalent, the enemy is given an opportunity and moves in power. 

Humanism?  Materialism?  Nationalism? Idolatry? Are these of the kingdom of God? These are demonic strongholds in our world and in the church! Let me ask you- Isn’t the enemy just as successful when he is subtle as when he is obvious?!!!!

The main obstacle for us who are Jesus followers is accepting our mission! 

What is our mission?
I think we can all agree: According to the Apostle Paul, we've been given The ministry of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:14-19)   

"14 for Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 and he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 so from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! 18 all this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

We are compelled by Christ’s love to share the message everywhere we go.

The biggest obstacle is from within us:   Choosing who we will serve
What do I want? What I’ve been told / trained / wanted to do?
What will my family think? What will my friends think?

In our culture, we’ve made a big mistake:
We’ve made our hobbies extreme and our faith sedate!

The believer’s mission issue has always stayed the same: Love your neighbor, proclaim the gospel and go out into the world! Go where he leads you!  Now as then, submission and obedience to the Lord is the issue. Will I fail?  Is it safe?  Since when are these issues that stop us?  

Dietrich Bonheoffer, the famous- German pastor: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” He lived his words. He was tried and hung during World War 2 by the Nazis! 

Romans 12:1-2       
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of god’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to god—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  

In context of the previous chapters, Romans 12 is not about sexual purity- although that is crucial- it’s about sacrificial living for the sake of the kingdom. It’s followed by discussion on spiritual gifts and then persecution and overcoming evil with good.   Do we think like the world by living by our cultural traditions and common sense? Instead let’s live by the commandments given in the word and the leading of his Holy Spirit! Let’s not just read about our Christian heroes, let’s imitate them!

Sure, we can all fall flat on our faces! Every superhero has a weakness or area where they are susceptible:


What’s your Kryptonite? Focus on God and not your weakness! 

"The first thing a pastor or any leader needs to do is to start living a life that terrifies him."
              Erwin McManus, pastor and author

But I would change it to: "The first ANY BELIEVER needs to do is to start living a life that terrifies him."

Be encouraged- Jesus promises abundant life in the midst of this!
Like any superhero, once you choose to accept the mission, the challenges come! Afraid of the challenge? That’s ok- you should be! - but don’t let it stop you- you go out equipped!

Here’s some encouragement- We go out in his power!

Jesus is the only superhero who gives his power to those who follow him.

God gives us his great power for his purposes. It is written in Ephesians 1:15- 22 15:  

"For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the lord Jesus and your love for all god’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the god of our lord Jesus Christ, the glorious father, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." 

What is power given for if it’s not to be used? Paul says as we wait for Jesus to return, we are not lacking in any gift. Without God’s power and his gifts, we will be limited in our effectiveness because we will be dependent on our own human strength and strategy.

The Creator of the Universe has given us his power and his gifts to do his work. An eternally focused and real work that should overshadow the marvelous and creative but imaginary worlds designed by Hollywood. Love is faith in action - We go out in power and in love!

We serve a good God and a loving Father who sends us out ready for the battle!

We’ve got the armor of God as our defense against the work of the enemy- And we’ve got the gifts of the Holy Spirit to advance the kingdom of God, to draw others to Jesus and a life that makes an eternal difference!  

How do we activate God’s power?  It’s not a special magic formula! Look at the Book of Acts 4:8-13:
(Here, Peter and John stand before the authorities.)

"8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “rulers and elders of the people! 9 if we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom god raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” 13 when they saw the courage of peter and john and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus."

Jesus is the source of our power!!
It’s impossible to remain the same person when you draw near to Jesus!
The Holy Spirit doesn’t bypass our brains- but we must discipline ourselves to apply what we read. 
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew the scripture but had no relationship with the author!
As we read and study the Word, do we interact with Jesus, asking him what he wants us to learn and how it applies to our life? 
We have a living relationship with the Eternal God!
His “ministry of presence”, being with us, changes us- your ministry of presence with others changes them. 
Do you ever wonder why Jesus called the twelve first- and then later, the schooled intellectual Paul?    Maybe he wanted to make a statement that god uses all people- beginning with us ordinary folks….  
God chose the foolish things of the world...  (I Corinthians 1:27)

It’s our love for him and our thankfulness for all He’s done that motivates us! We acknowledge the truth we’ve found by joining Him in his work!

Lastly- God goes out before us! This is the best news of all!
Not only does God give us work to do and empowers us to do it,
He also goes before us preparing the way. 

Here are Jesus’ words before He ascends to Heaven days later, in John 16:7-11:

"7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 when he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned."

1-  He will convict the world of sin  2-  He will convict it of righteousness  3-  Judgment is coming
All this is setting the stage in people’s hearts to prepare them to receive the message of the Gospel! The Good News that Jesus died for the sins of the World, offering freedom and eternal life in Heaven for all who would choose to believe in Him.

You are called to be a superhero! The mission is real. 
As Christians, we’re called to set the captives free. We’re sent out in the power of the word and the power of the Holy Spirit!
If you’re led by God, you will never regret stepping out and taking risks as he leads. 

Who will you serve?

His Holy Spirit lives in you (empowering you) and should be controlling how you live.
We must:  
1- Accept our place in life
2- Adjust to our unique design 
3- Understand our mission

Can you hear him speaking and drawing you to his purposes? Are you listening for his voice?  Is it time to release your inner superhero? There’s no age limit! Don’t get your adrenaline fix on the imaginary! 

Be led by the spirit. Don't be a slave to fear. Be willing to share in his sufferings (his will for your life instead of yours). (Romans 8:12-18)

Are you tired? If you have been serving God, if you have been reaching out, if you consider yourself “on mission”, know this: God is pleased. Keep going! The race isn’t over yet!

Or want to step out? Feeling God’s call to you?
Wanting more than what you’ve known?  Know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:58)

Maybe you’ve never come to the place of allowing Jesus to take control of your life and wash away your sin? He’s been calling you and it’s time to respond.

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12) He not only shares his power with us, he shares his victory over death with us- it’s a gift!

Are you ready to release your inner Superhero?
(Art copyright Marvel, Star Wars, etc.)

August 17, 2017

Some Kind of Lonely Clown

Another great birthday gift from my wife was this very sweet and piercing book by author Joel Samberg on the life of Karen Carpenter. Not only will I avoid comparing it to other books on her life, I will also not say much about it. You've actually got to read it for yourself to take a fresh look at Karen, her relationship with family and friends and the music industry. It's well worth your time.

August 16, 2017

Second Day of Firsts- My Miracle Boy Enters Kindergarten

Even though it came a day late, here is another sweet young boy and his first day at school. You might remember an earlier post, years ago actually, when I shared my daughter was pregnant. The doctors knew something wasn't right and did a scan. The child was suffering from Dandy Walker Syndrome and as a result of many complications and factors would be born with at least a quarter of his brain missing. Naturally, they suggested abortion.

My daughter and her husband refused, and instead the entire family began praying. Months later, with just a week or so before delivery, they scanned him again. No change. We all prepared for the baby to be born with special needs, accepting what God had chosen to allow.

Surprise! The day of delivery, our little guy was born 100% normal and healthy! The doctors did more tests and more scans. They confirmed that he was normal in every way. (And of course, he's adorable!) Some on the medical staff rightly and honestly attributed it to God's intervention. Others, of course, decided they must have misdiagnosed. What some people will go through to deny the existence of God! Incredible.

But here he is, 5 years later now in kindergarten. I call him my "Miracle Boy". So proud of him- and so thankful to God!

August 15, 2017

Welcome to Disney's New Half Day Park and Mouse vs. Rat

Why haven't I posted an article about my response to D23 2017? Truly, it's pretty easy to answer- it's a combination of time and not really having much to say until I gave it some further thought. 

In the midst of white supremacy, the ongoing threats by North Korea, microchipping people, additional attacks by ISIS and Radical Islam (which doesn't seem to get called out by anyone's media), what is going on with the Walt Disney Company is, frankly, no where near as important. But it is what you come to this blog for, so here we go.

Am I happy about Shanghai Disneyland's Tron Lightcycles coming to the Magic Kingdom in Florida? Absolutely- even though the concept art looks quickly and poorly done. Should Disney really want to sell it as a first class upgrade to the park, they need to first treat it as such, and great concept art always suggests the value of the project. Cheap looking art also tells a story. See renderings for DCA's Tower of TerrorBugsland, and Animal Kingdom's awful Dinorama for proof. Want further proof? Just look at anything designed for Toy Story Land/Play Land etc. 

Concept art on the quick and on the cheap.

Back to Tron. This is a win, but it better fit into the area pretty well. The Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland might be much more cohesive than that of Disneyland's, but it is still sorely lacking in sparkle and appeal. In fact, I'd say that park as a whole is missing that special something that makes it have the incredible fan base of the Anaheim original. For that matter - as much as I am looking forward to going there next year - the whole of Walt Disney World at large is lacking as well. D23 only highlights that fact by the content of what was shared. Maybe the oft- rumored 50 "enhancements" for the 50th anniversary of the resort will turn into something more.

Now about the Studios. The all new Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway sounds terrific, even if it's screen based and short, but it certainly should not be replacing The Great Movie Ride. It should anchor the Animation section of the park. Or are they letting that piece of the park die as well? 

Let me say that they suits could have let the Great Movie Ride rest for a few days before placing advertisements for the new attraction on the sides of the theater the day after closing the iconic opening day attraction. Talk about disrespect! I guess this is the new method of doing business. And welcome to Disney's New Half Day Park. What is it now, four rides and a handful of long past their prime shows? Even California Adventure had more to offer while that park was being transformed! You can cram all the Star Wars related things in there that you want, but this is just poor planning and at worst more disrespect for their paying customers.

Beautiful art of what I hope enhances 
my favorite World Showcase pavilion.

Epcot. Let's be honest: The writing was on the wall years ago. Did anyone who was even somewhat paying attention think that the character invasion would not be coming to this once great and unique park? Yes, Remy's Ratatouille adventure should be quite fun. But this is interesting: It's Mouse vs. Rat. Both attractions will share the same ride system albeit in two different parks. The suits will make sure both are successful. They have to be as they are the first real additions in years. It's still shocking to me how the suits have let these parks deteriorate by intentional neglect. Coco in Mexico, and Frozen in Norway. But what pray tell is coming to the U.K.?  You can be sure it is not an attraction without a movie tie-in. That just isn't done anymore unless it is in an overseas park. Gotta give them a bit thanks for not killing off Impressions de France, though. At least for now, it's safe.

Star Wars Hotel and Disney Skyliner? Mixed bag at best.

When you blow this up, the size of the art
is great- the concept is not.

On the other side of the U.S., we hard core fans get to look forward to the revamping of Paradise Pier into Pixar land. This is the third incarnation of a bad idea made worse. But I say stick all the Pixar characters into this area, and leave the rest of California Adventure alone unless it is done as excellently as Cars Land. The Runaway Railway could fit in very well at the Pier if they don't transform it all into Pixar. A new spinner is ok if it means Screamin' gets some needed paint and refurbishment and if the ugly 1.0 facades get a reworking. And Disney, (i.e. Chapel), please leave the Fun Wheel alone. If you've got to shove a character on it, I'd rather have Mickey's face than anyone else.  A concession to a poor design and even poorer plans. This park was getting so much better, but I fear new leadership doesn't really get the idea of theme. We all know Marvel is coming. Let's hope it is accomplished with much love and class as Buena Vista Street and not in the style of the original Backlot. 

There you have it, D23 from my view. Comments?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 14, 2017

A Day of Firsts

Even when growing up in this crazy, mixed up world, some things never change. Like first days of First Grade...

... or first days of Kindergarten. I couldn't love these kids any more than I do!

August 13, 2017

Goodbye to An EPCOT Center Original

Goodbye to EPCOT Center's original Dinosaur attraction. In this writer's humble opinion, the original Universe of Energy in Future World had it all.

What a compelling story told in a unique way with an even more interesting ride vehicle! 

Guardians of the Galaxy is on it's way, and nothing short of a miracle could stop this Marvel attraction from being built. When the suits want it, it will arrive. And probably true to form, fans will find a way to love it and try to convince each other that it fits into the original theme of the park. But it does not. 

It does, however, fit into the new theme for the park: a gathering place of all Disney owned characters making a home wherever they see fit. I am not a fan of this change in approach.  Epcot needs help. There's no argument there. But this is not the way.

Ellen's Energy Adventure is gone. She could return once she makes a hit superhero film, but short of that, I wouldn't bank on it. May Epcot rest in peace. 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company. Thanks to ChrisFL on the WDWMagic boards for some of the art.)

WDWMagic Presents The Last Great Movie Ride

Thanks to the wonderful folks at WDWMagic, we have the last Great Movie Ride video presented in a stunning presentation. Wow, just wow. Disney Imagineering doesn't really build old school attractions of this caliber anymore. At least nothing with the amazing number of Audio-Animatronics like this! 

This opening day attraction at the Disney-MGM Studios was an instant classic. As much as I'm excited to see an attraction themed to Mickey Mouse- and it should be great- there's something not right about removing this piece of Imagineering art. The park's centerpiece attraction is akin to Epcot's iconic Spaceship Earth

Enjoy the video, but we aware, nothing is sacred anymore within the corporate halls of The Walt Disney Company when it comes to the parks. Now, sadly, it's all about pushing the latest or biggest moneymaking film that the Studios has to offer. You might scoff, but your favorite attraction- even if it is a classic- could be next.

Thanks WDWMagic for capturing, well, the magic!

August 12, 2017

Aix Marks the Spot

The beautiful French city of Aix is definitely a destination that should be on your bucket list. These photos were taken during our trip to Switzerland and France a few years ago. 

The center of the town holds this beautiful fountain. Certainly a match for anything built in Paris!

Just a short walk past this covered arch, and visitors find themselves in the lovely old market square. The town is worthy of a few hours of exploration.

This certainly isn't a full blown trip report but just a snapshot of a delightful slice of Europe.

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)

August 11, 2017

Design Detail: Toad Hall

In some ways, Imagineer Tom Morris was in a bind. He was given the difficult task by Lead Imagineer Tony Baxter to design a brand new Fantasyland for EuroDisneyland aka Disneyland Paris. How should he go about it? Design a brand new area with a totally new look? Or should he rely on the past? How could he effectively share stories with guest who spoke multiple languages and came from several different countries? This was a much more challenging job than doing the cut and paste Fantasyland that initially opened at Tokyo Disneyland.

Bringing about a shimmering new area for a park built in a city already beautiful beyond belief was tough. Adding to the difficulty was tackling the most iconic of Disney lands. Presented with a challenge none would envy (but most armchair Imagineers would die for), I believe Tom succeeded quite well!

When it came to the adventures of Mr. Toad, Tom chose to turn this classic attraction into a charming restaurant. The exterior may mirror the building found in Anaheim, but the interior is a totally original creation. And the above piece of concept art is pretty nice, wouldn't you say? 

Sprinkled throughout the majestic dining hall are portraits of the owner himself in various sporting gear. This is in addition to one particular piece of art where J. Thaddeus Toad is captured by some very famous artists. (You've got to check out this link to see his amazing changing portrait.) It's quite the place to eat those fish and chips!

But it's more much than what I can show you. If you've ever had a desire to see one overseas Magic Kingdom, I'd bypass all the others and head over to Paris. After finally completing a few years of very extsensive refurbishment, the French park easily outshines those found in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and yes, Shanghai. 

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

August 9, 2017

USA Today: "You will get chipped -- eventually"

USA Today is pretty bold and sometimes pretty accurate as well in reporting or foretelling the future when it comes to technology. Now it's reporting everyone will be chipped within 50 years. Don't believe me? Read it here.

Count me in as one of those "religious advocates" that object to humans receiving a computer chip in their body. Planting microchips under the skin of people screams fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Is this the start of the infamous "Mark of the Beast"written by the Apostle John in Revelation 13: 11-18? I believe so- and so should you.

"The Beast out of the Earth
11 Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 

16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666."

Skip ahead to Revelation 14 to see why this is the wrong choice:

"9 A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, 10 they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” 12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus."

Of course, this type of technology would first be marketed as good. But then, things change, even the best intentioned technology can also be used for evil. Think about it for yourselves...

Now, think about this, the Bible says that in the last days, evil will be called good, and good will be called evil.

If you think that I am full of it or that the Bible is just a dusty old book, that's fine. It's your choice. But it is an eternal wager you are making. I hope you'll choose wisely by choosing Jesus.

When Reality Is Better Than Imagineering Art: Tokyo Disney Sea's Lost River Delta

The Lost River Delta, home to the Indiana Jones Adventure at the incomparable Tokyo DisneySea. Very striking and worthy of a trip across the park to experience one of the greatest Disney attractions ever built... and unlike the original in California, it is one with all of its opening day effects still working.

Up until the newly iconic Pirates of the Caribbean at Shanghai Disneyland, I cannot imagine there being a prouder group of Imagineers in that decade than the ones that worked on the second Tokyo Disney park. The concept art for this land brings an atmosphere of mystery and suspense. But it pales in comparison to the reality.

 The Crystal Skull before the movie gave it a bad name.

As my good friend and fellow blog author Len Yokoyama will soon discover once again, The Tokyo Disneyland Resort is teeming with one of a kind experiences sets in an environment that plays second fiddle to none. The Insights blog will be the place to go for Len's great photos and a very detailed trip report upon his return. You won't want to miss it.

For Lost River Delta, that also means guests can take a ride on the transit steamers around the park or risk some angry responses from Raging Spirits on that roller coaster. It's admittedly an enhanced and better decorated coaster from Disneyland Paris, but it is still quite eye catching. Even when the Tokyo Parks clone, they create the best versions of the former attraction. As was once said about the Land of the Rising Sun: "Japan takes the best the world has to offer and makes it her own."

Let's hope the new Beauty and the Beast area and attractions are also better than the pretty sweet concept art! That should make me finally book my trip!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 8, 2017

Tony Baxter, Tim O'Brien, and a Birthday Surprise

It's often difficult if not impossible to keep up with all the websites, blogs, articles, and books that focus on the Walt Disney Company, it's theme parks, and in particular, Imagineering

While I appreciate all of the Imagineers and their work in the parks, it's no surprise to longtime readers of the Insights blog that I find the work of Tony Baxter to be one of Imagineering's best artists. Be it Journey into Imagination, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure or the whole of the most beautiful Magic Kingdoms, Disneyland Paris, his work and the work of the teams he assembled is practically unparalleled in Disney park history.

Tony and his adorable friend Figment.

Theme park historian and write Tim O'Brien has written one of the most comprehensive looks at Tony's life, work, and impact on the Disney world. "First of the Second Generation of Walt Disney Imagineers" is filled with stories and rare photos. A great read you just can't put down. In fact, I read the entire tome in one sitting, receiving it just days ago as a birthday present from my very thoughtful wife.

Imagine my surprise at turning the pages and seeing Mr. O'Brien quote my blog, referencing a pair of articles, The Great Tony Baxter Debate! (Part One and Part Two) Wow. It's as close to fame as I may ever get- aside from meeting a handful of famous singers and having my kids grow up next to a now known Hollywood actress. 

Thank you, Tim, for a birthday gift I'll never forget.

August 7, 2017

Beware Netflix Users

Take a word of hard earned advice from someone who didn't know better: Netflix mixes porn of all sorts in with their "Romantic Comedy" offerings. My wife and I had viewed a fluff-filled and harmless Hallmark romantic comedy. Looking for another one, we found one that looked interesting and pressed play. 

What immediately came on our screen was hardcore gay porn. I was not amused. Off it went immediately. I don't do porn. If you do or not, it's your choice, but I will tell you it has ruined many lives- and I know that from first hand tales told to me by broken husbands and distraught wives. 

But that's not the point. Just be aware of how Netflix sorts their films. 

Siren's Revenge at Shanghai Disneyland

Shanghai Disneyland may not have the stellar line up of attractions we saw at the opening of Tokyo Disney Sea, but it has atmosphere and lots of it.

This slice on Imagineering concept art highlights Siren's Revenge, the now almost requisite children's playground that Disney suits deem necessary to add to any park. It's a low tech pirate ship full of hands activities sure to keep kids happy in between the long lines for attractions.

Honestly, like all of Treasure Cove, the realized art is actually quite pretty. It's a testament to the skill of the Imagineering team who can take the thinnest of ideas and turn them into something of worth. Hope they can pull the same thing off with the quick expansion of the park using the Toy Story characters!

(Images copyright The Walt Disney Company.)