January 27, 2018

Adventureland's Big Game Shooting Gallery

Here's a blast from the past. Disneyland had not one but two shooting galleries in the 60s through the early 80s. Really! No, Buzz Lightyear doesn't count...

In 1962, Adventureland added the Big Game Shooting Gallery, and it stayed in operation until the early 80s. The sounds of shots firing into the jungle were just a precursor to the action on the Jungle Cruise nearby.  Just a fun diversion, nothing more. But you'd never find one today- especially at Disney's Animal Kingdom!

January 26, 2018

Attack of the Lava Monster!

Deep in the core of the earth, far beneath the calm surface of the imposing Mount Promethus lies the unexpected- a giant monster beyond imagination. After this Journey to the Center of the Earth, a visit to Tokyo DisneySea will be one you will never forget. 

Boarding the same style vehicles found on Test Track at Epcot and Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure, you're given the rare opportunity to explore an underground world full of glowing plants, crystal caverns, previously undiscovered creatures, and a subterranean sea. It's a peaceful trip until you are considered an invader by the magnificent lava monster, a giant of a beast- and he is not happy you've discovered his home!

This piece of Imagineering concept art gives but a glimpse of what the journey looks like. So popular is the attraction that a version of it was once considered for Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The magnificent lava spewing volcano would have made a terrific complement to the Tree of Life in the center of the park and the peaks of Expedition: Everest off to one side. In its place are the floating mountains of Pandora

As they are fond of saying, good ideas never die at Imagineering. If that's really true, maybe one day a few of these amazing attractions found at the Japanese parks will make there way stateside. In the meantime, we can enjoy them only via YouTube. Check this out, courtesy Attractions 360:

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 25, 2018

Quiet Prayers

When it's time to mentally unplug and focus on Jesus, few discs bring me to this place like Bryan Duncan's classic Quiet Prayers. Beautifully simple and worshipful. 

With a mix of well known songs and new, from the opening When I Turn to You to the closing I Love You With My Life, Bryan and the studio musicians bring me into a tender time of refreshment in the Lord. 

This side of Heaven, I won't get a chance to thank him, so I'll do it now. Thank you, Bryan. God has used your music to sustain me in some difficult times.

January 24, 2018

Disneyland's Wonderland of a Toy Store

Charming! I'm talking about this piece of concept art for one of the first toy stores at Disneyland. Long before one time resort president  Paul Pressler made sure the shops at California Adventure 1.0 were more detailed than the attractions, Walt Disney's Imagineers were tasked with making everything full of rich, colorful, detail. Here's the proof- an old slice of art for a shop in Fantasyland. The style itself gives away the era of which it was produced. Sometimes the old ways are best.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 22, 2018

Wintertime Blues, Men, and Depression

Thanks to men such as Dwayne Johnson, The Rock, discussion about male depression is not as uncommon as it used to be.  Wintertime is a season where its triggered in me, especially post holidays when life goes back to normal, and Spring seems far away. That said, I have a slight understanding of the ups and downs that can accompany the feeling of things not being 100% "right".

Although its less so than in years past, I have been constantly amazed by the general reluctance of the society and sometimes the faith community to discuss this very human condition. Yet, I have read two very interesting pieces in the New Testament where both the great Apostle Paul and even Jesus himself struggled with despair. Here's a quote from Paul written to the church in Corinth.

"We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we even despised of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened what we might not rely on ourselves, but on God,who raises the dead." (II Corinthians 1:8-9)

Jesus' words are even more important here, as He is God in the flesh: In the garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion, he says to Peter, James and John, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." (Matthew 26:38)

How much more direct and descriptive can that be?

Personally speaking, it's taken me years to accept the fluctuations that come in life. I've been trained in the Southern California mindset of "Always sunny and free all the time". But life is not like that- which is why I am also so against the prosperity teachers that can populate the Christian airwaves and bookstores.

How can I manage life's ups and downs when leaning toward depression? A few things I have discovered: One, stay as far away from sin as possible! Instead of looking toward the things that will seem to meet my needs in the moment but ultimately keep me addicted, I will ask for strength to avoid them. Why add to my problems by doing things I know will cause me to be more deeply depressed later? Be it excess food or alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, gambling, the internet, shopping etc, the actions which pacify our pain can also be the very ones that keep us captive instead of free.

Secondly, when my need feels great, when I am sad, or even when I am just craving what I know is ultimately destructive, I am training myself to see that as my clue I need more time with my heavenly father. Time for quiet reflection, prayer, worship, and reading my Bible can bring me back to a peaceful place. I've made the decision that my life belongs to Jesus, so why shouldn't I go right to Him when I know He can and will show tender care for me?

Lastly, I am developing a pattern of choosing to have a thankful heart. I am so blessed by God! Yet, how often do I long for more of everything and not be grateful for my life. It will never be perfect or free from want or conflict, so I might as well be as joyful, thankful and at peace as I can be.

There was a brief season of a few months where I even took  antidepressants on the advice of my doctor. That helped balance me out when I need it. Others need them as a long term part of their lives. If that's you, please consider it. God uses doctors to heal, too! Keep that in consideration if you struggle.

God is faithful as we continue to look to Him for hope and strength. May my disclosure and insights help give you who struggle some ideas about how to live life well in the midst of difficulty.

January 21, 2018

Gearing Up for Sci-Fi Dine in Theater!

Disney's Hollywood Studios is a mess. No one can really deny that as the park continues to build Toy Story Land end especially the long awaited Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

There's so few real attractions- fewer than ever- but something as special as Twilight Zone Tower of Terror still make the place a must see. One of my other favorite must sees is the super original Sci-Fi Dine in Theater! Watch classic space movies from the 50s and 60s while sitting in classic convertible cars and enjoying a milkshake? Yes, please. Absolutely!

Our reservations are months away, but the youngest guests in our group have only a little idea of the fun they'll have eating at this place. The rest of us already know and can't wait to return.

(Photo copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 20, 2018

It's Not Spaceship Earth...

... but it is a pretty cool travel poster nonetheless. I just love these retro / vintage style that looks towards the future. Something like this just belongs at Epcot.

Club Mickey Mouse's Lame Jackson5 Remake

Don't mess with a classic. That's the lesson Disney needs to learn when they attempt to reach a new audience, and Club Mickey Mouse's version of I Want You Back by the Jackson5 falls apart from the very beginning with its whitewashed attempt at soul musical arrangement. The vocalists are not bad, it's just not a great recording. 

Be it the live action remakes still in production, sequels to animated sequels or trying to be hip and edgy (Here's looking at you, California Adventure 1.0), they by and large fall short and do themselves a disservice.

January 19, 2018

Deserted Epcot

Have you ever in your life seen Epcot so empty? I kid you not! These photographs were taken in the afternoon- post lunch when the crowds should be pressing in. But as you can see, it was an easy walk around the park.

These really were not carefully timed photos in order to make a point.

Looking across the lagoon toward the Mexico pavilion, you can see there wasn't a crush of crowds waiting to go in and take a boat ride.

Back to the American Adventure. A walk in the park.

Oh Canada! Your gardens are lovely, full of charm, and peaceful. It's quite eerie to see such empty public spaces in World Showcase.

Future World wasn't any more populated. Strange.

What was the key to all these empty spaces? They were taken by me on a visit on August 23, 2007- a decade ago in a month when everyone was back to school. Perhaps the only time of year the park (doesn't yet) have a festival.

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)

January 16, 2018

A Little Aloha

It's been so cold lately, that I could use a little aloha. So, here's a photograph from our recent getaway to remind me summer is on the way- and to remind me how good God is to give my wife and I such an incredibly blessed time away!

"Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them." (Isaiah 42:10)

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

Aladdin's Proud of Your Boy

Songwriters Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's incredible Proud of your Boy is an amazingly personal and deep character song that was excluded from the original animated version of Aladdin. It was later recorded by Clay Aiken and then even later finally added to the Broadway musical version of the show. Take a look at his heartbreaking plea-

[ALADDIN] (speaking):
I'm going to become somebody. I don't know how exactly, but I am. I have to... somehow

Proud of your boy
I'll make you proud of your boy
Believe me, bad as I've been, Ma
You're in for a pleasant surprise

I've wasted time
I've wasted me
So say I'm slow for my age
A late bloomer
Okay, I agree

That I've been one rotten kid
Some son, some pride and some joy
But I'll get over these lousin' up
Messin' up, screwin' up times

You'll see, Ma, now comes the better part
Someone's gonna make good
Cross his stupid heart
Make good and finally make you
Proud of your boy

Tell me that I've been a louse and loafer
You won't get a fight here, no ma'am
Say I'm a goldbrick, a goof-off, no good
But that couldn't be all that I am

Water flows under the bridge
Let it pass, let it go
There's no good reason that you should believe me
Not yet, I know, but

Someday and soon
I'll make you proud of your boy
Though I can't make myself taller
Or smarter or handsome or wise

I'll do my best, what else can I do?
Since I wasn't born perfect like Dad or you
Mom, I will try to
Try hard to make you

Proud of your boy

Do you relate to these words? I sure do! I was reminded of these words this morning as I was quietly praying, realizing that even my best efforts to please God fall short and how truly deep the impact of sin is in my life. Chasing after so many things to try to fill that gap. These things only bring pain instead as my spirit cries out when the attempt at peace is unsuccessful. But its never impossible to find peace as I sit and wait in His presence. Jesus only "falls short" in the places I do not give him access. When I do release that to him, whatever it is, His peace floods in.

Interestingly, the counterpoint unreleased Howard AshmanAlan Menken song is called Humiliate the Boy, a song intended for the evil Jafar, sung when he reveals Aladdin to be just a street rat in disguise. The parallels to Satan and his role in our world can't be missed. He accuses, confuses, and leads astray to our destruction if we follow him. Now and at the end of time, Jesus stands as our defense and as the payment for our sins. There's no humiliation for those who follow Christ. Only temporary pain and struggle as we try to live out our faith in a broken world. Praise God for what He has done because of His great love!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 14, 2018

Geek's Goodbye to Paradise Pier

Paradise Pier gives way to Pixar Pier, and the great Disney Geek site is there to photograph the change. Good or bad, the opening day attraction California Screamin' is transforming into the new-ish Incredicoaster, a forced but probably fun, character overlay. If you want to watch the land change, start your park photographic journey here. And the next chapter is here.

(Photograph copyright The Disney Geek.)

January 13, 2018

Long Ago and Far Away

Just a sweet little family photo from about 25 years ago...

January 12, 2018

When Reality is Better Than Imagineering Art: Tokyo DisneySea's Mermaid Lagoon

Back before its revision, the Disney Parks Blog featured jaw droppingly beautiful concept art not seen by most people outside the halls of Imagineering.  Take a look at this piece from Tokyo Disney Sea! Here's Mermaid Lagoon in all it's splendor. Now, that's how you design an area primarily for children and young families.  (Click on it to see it in the largest size.)   

Although gorgeous, this is nothing compared to what they really built. Here's a photograph to prove it is possible for the  marketeers to deliver what is promised:

Tokyo DisneySea continues to be the summit of what can be  accomplished by Imagineering when Imagineers are supported by the suits and accountants with the appropriate funding. 

Unfortunately, Ariel doesn't have as spectacular a home in California or Florida. Ariel's Undersea Adventure is a "D" Ticket at best, with an "E" Ticket exterior in a prime location, giving guests the expectation of an attraction on par with Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean but delivering an experience that is a hybrid of these with Peter Pan's Flight.

Yes, concept art can be wishful thinking or even intentionally deceiving. When it comes to Tokyo DisneySea, however, brick and mortar is more beautiful than the artistic vision!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 9, 2018

Racist to the Core

"We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population..."

          Margaret Sanger
               Founder of Planned Parenthood

-- in her letter to Dr. Clarence J. Gamble, December 10, 1939.

The full letter is here (- with my screenshots below it):


January 8, 2018

Disney World's Booking Nightmare

So we decided to book a trip to Walt Disney World. It'll be just about ten years since our last trip to the world, although we have been to both Disneyland and Disneyland Paris as days trips during that time. 

I'm starting to rethink the wisdom of that decision.

It's not an issue that I don't want to go- especially with our adorable little traveling companions. The problem is, it is now just a pain in the rear end to plan a trip.

Used to be book the flights, book the room, pay for your tickets for the parks. So easy, so relaxing, making all so easy to do it every few years. Not any more.

Want that special dinner at Be Our Guest? Impossible- even with a fairy godmother. Want a particular resort? Better have back ups ready. Want two rooms next to each other? Forget it. 

Want a laid back experience exploring the parks at your leisure? Maybe in the 70's and early 80's but not anymore. 

We're not headed to the Grand Floridian. Something on the other end of the scale is more our style. Is every dinner going to be a sit down experience? I don't think so. Should I have to book in advance to ride a "C Ticket" boat ride in Animal Kingdom? No. 

We will have a wonderful time! But it won't be because it was easy to do. At least in Florida, those days are long gone. The overall end result will be our next vacation will be a non-Disney one. Again- and the suits still haven't learned anything about why that happens.

January 5, 2018

Rare Great Movie Ride Art

The Great Movie Ride was everything a classic Disney attraction should be! Everything but updated, that is. May it rest in peace. But here's a rare piece of Imagineering concept art for this original Disney Hollywood Studios / Disney-MGM Studios attraction. The clever Imagineers looked to have a bit of fun portraying the bank robbery scene. 

Every visit I rode it, I absolutely loved taking on newcomers. When the tour guide leaves the ride vehicle only to be replaced by the bad guy, I just loved the faces of the guests. They seemed to be shocked that Disney would incorporate something so fresh, cast member reliant, and absolutely unexpected into a big, high tech, E Ticket attraction. In 1989 at park opening, this twist certainly surprised me as well! Of course, the surprise return of the driver later on was just as fun. Those were the best days of the Studios! The future looked bright.

Ever curious about the history of the park? Take a look at my mega article celebrating its 25 years. Grab your coffee - or your whiskey, cowboy- and plan to sit for a spell. It's full of vintage photos I took in 1989, loads of concept art, and a whole story of the park's history. Enjoy!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 4, 2018

Totally Nude Workout

Working out in the nude could be a very exciting experience! A famous gym in New York, Hanson Fitness, is offering work out sessions for all men, all women, and a special class designed for both sexes. But this is certainly nothing new. I always work out naked- and so do you:

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."  (Hebrews 4:13)

Alternative Attraction Poster for Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

Were you ever a fan of the classic Submarine Voyage at Disneyland? I know I was! I was an even bigger fan of Walt Disney World's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Oh, those vintage machines and that beautiful crystal lagoon!

I'm not so hot on the redo bringing Nemo the clownfish into Tomorrowland, but I have to credit Imagineer Tony Baxter with "saving" the lagoon and the underwater attraction. The ride is too cartoon focused (as expected), but it misses a real sense of drama- with a whole slate of video screens that make it a "one and done" attraction for this guest.

So, the ride's a miss unless you're little. I am a big fan, however, of great Disney attraction posters. Here's an alternative Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage attraction poster. It's cute, playful, and a fairly charming piece of art.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 2, 2018

Colorful Alien Encounter Art

Let's start off the New Year with this very colorful version of the proposed Alien Encounter attraction for Disneyland. Lord knows, this dismal land needs some help! Tomorrowland is a shadow of its former glory, hitting its peak in the 1967 incarnation.

Imagine this version of Tomorrowland coming to Disneyland.

The Imagineers had plans to scrap at all in the late 80's and bring guests a version that immersed them into another world, an interplanetary version of the future that wasn't at all reliant on keeping up with trends in science and technology. This move toward science fiction fantasy would have been a good one in place of the cartoon version we now have.

I took this photo of the proposed
Plectu's Intergalactic Revue- 
and it's been all over the world.

The Carousel of Progress would have been transformed once again. This time America Sings, the Marc Davis musical classic, would have given way to Plectu's Intergalactic Revue. In reality, it was probably wise to scrap this idea as Audio-Animatronic musical attractions were losing popularity among the crowds. (More about that in this article. Will they ever make a resurgence? Possibly.)

The original black and white version.

Nonetheless, each area of Tomorrowland would have been rethought, reimagined to provide a better guest experience- and less need for constant updating. It was not a good plan. The next version of the Land of the Future would fall flat.

Copper Space Mountain and all.

The suits held off. Opting for the version of Tomorrowland 1998, a much cheaper and far less successful Discoveryland take on the future, it was a major misstep. Even the great Imagineer Tony Baxter couldn't pull it off with a reduced budget and incredibly short sighted engineering cuts on projects such as the Rocket Rods

What will they do next? It better be good with Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge coming soon, Tomorrowland will look even more out of touch than it does now. What would you suggest if you were in charge?

(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company. Color Alien Encounter art from the Dan Alexander collection.)

January 1, 2018

2018 Starts Off With a Bang!

Happy New Year! Let's begin by taking a look at this beautiful photo from Nine by Nine. I'm going to toss aside "Best of" and "Top Ten" lists this year in favor of something much more wonderful- a bit of wisdom and insight from Oswald Chambers. Enjoy- and see you tomorrow!

Security from Yesterday. “…God requires an account of what is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise when we remember our yesterdays. Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present.

Security for Tomorrow. “…the Lord will go before you….” This is a gracious revelation— that God will send His forces out where we have failed to do so. He will keep watch so that we will not be tripped up again by the same failures, as would undoubtedly happen if He were not our “rear guard.” And God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all the claims against our conscience.

Security for Today. “You shall not go out with haste….” As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight, nor with the quickness of impulsive thoughtlessness. But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ.
Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.
Can't wait to see what is in store for 2018!