October 31, 2018

The Walking Dead

The years? Circa 1987. The event? A Halloween party at my office. Being I was a bit tired of being seen as the "nice guy", I decided to surprise my friends and go all in as a zombie. Some are the walking dead on the outside, and others are the walking dead on the inside. Time to make some changes if that's the case.  Think of the possible "Before and After".

Before: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 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. 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. 

After: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Jesus Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved.

What makes the difference? Choosing to trust Jesus as the Savior of your soul and the king of your life. Believing He alone is the payment for your sin- those things you've said, done, and thought that displeased God. The very things you may even regret and not get free from! Let Him make that difference in your life and begin a fresh one. You have everything to gain- and only the burden and consequences of sin to lose!

October 30, 2018

Iconic Disney Attractions Park to Park

Imagine you're at Walt Disney World. Ever wonder why the finale, the last room, at Magic Kingdom's It's a Small World is different than the Disneyland original? Here's your answer. From this fairly rare piece of concept art by Imagineer Mary Blair, you can see for yourself that the gifted artist had several concepts for the attraction. Some made them to the 1964 World's Fair version of the beloved attraction, some arrived in California, and others found their incarnation in Florida. 

One of the real joys for a Disney theme park fan is discovering that your old favorite attractions are given fresh designs and brand new approaches from park to park, be it Shanghai Disneyland's incredible take on Pirates of the Caribbean, Disneyland Paris' Phantom Manor, or Tokyo Disney Seas' re-Imagined version of the Tower of Terror. Whenever a fan travels away from his or her home park, they certainly discover that although unique touches abound, It's truly a small Disney World after all!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 29, 2018

In Awe of Jesus

What's a Protestant like me doing listening to a modern day hymn sung by a Catholic? You listen to this (below) and you decide. 

This song written from Mary's point of view about the coming birth of Jesus is striking in its worshipful tone of her Savior. The songwriter and performer,  John Michael Talbot, the founder of The Brothers and Sisters of Charity, sings it with such beauty and a sense of wonder, honoring the Lord Jesus Christ. It's a perfect spirit primer for the season ahead.

"I’ve known John Michael for more years than I’d like to remember. (I’m old).  I’ve spent weeks with him on the road, and seen him deal with all kinds of high pressure situations, both onstage and off. John’s heart has always revealed the love and compassion of Christ.  His music is uniquely his own and has profoundly ministered to tens, if not hundreds of thousands over the years, maybe even millions."
                Barry McGuire - Pop music artist best known for the single, "Eve of Destruction"

October 28, 2018

Notable and Quotable: Michael Bublé

"We took it day by day... We all moved and lived by (Children's Hospital Los Angeles) and we just had the best doctors. God, thank you Jesus Christ."

Michael Bublé, speaking of his son's cancer

Where is Home?

Just a post for my children. A look at places I called him as a child. Only three of many.

My mother and I counted one day, and we lived in 21 different homes by the time I was 18 years old- and only two of those homes in the High School years.

No wonder I know Orange County so well!

October 26, 2018

Indiana Jones in the Disney Parks and More Adventures Coming!

With so much talk on the WDWMagic boards about a mega "E Ticket" ride based Indiana Jones coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios- and coming from some very reliable sources- I thought it was time to take another look at Indy in the Disney parks as well as to share a very personal encounter or two.

I mean, let's be extremely honest about it all- with the brand new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opening up in the late Fall of 2019, this poor little park better have some big plans for the other side of the park! Something big to pull people and spread them out. Folks want and adventure! And nothing in modern history says adventure like Indiana Jones!

When Michael Eisner was made the new CEO of the Walt Disney Company, he knew hits when he saw them. As the former president of Paramount Pictures, it was under his watch that the world got Saturday Night Fever, Grease, and yes, Raiders of the Lost Ark. His keen business sense and his love for the Indy franchise drove him to bring this hero into the Disney world. Where and how would he begin?

Although it would take years of design, planning, and construction for the attractions to open, rides and shows with Indy would bring instant name recognition- and a sign that Disney was very serious about reaching audiences who had previously saw Disney parks as hangouts just for families with kids who loved princesses and animated stories. Even then, Eisner knew the power of Intellectual Properties and how to leverage them.

With the upcoming opening of the new Disney-MGM Studios in 1989, and the hot competition with Universal to see who would open first and have the greatest success, the timing for this decision couldn't have been more perfect.

Indy in The Great Movie Ride. Copyright Disney.

First to completion was an Audio-Animatronics Indiana Jones, appearing in the Great Movie Ride at the brand new park. In what scene would he appear? Nothing less than one of the first film's most iconic! It was a crowd pleaser. This was quickly followed by another attraction in the studio park, the incredible Epic Stunt Spectacular, a 30 minute show highlighting several stunts from the films.

My photo from 1989.

Our first visit to the Studios was during the opening year. The park was small and held very few attractions, but back then it waylaid out well. The Great Movie Ride was the centerpiece of the park (and should still be- even though I'm sure Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway will be great!) Fun, nostalgic, and thrilling, the ride embraced the impact and love of Hollywood films in a way not experienced before. It was the park's Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  

As we left the ride, we just happened to walk on by the Stunt Spectacular building and were asked to come in to experience a pre-opening performance. Of course, the answer was "Yes!" Even with the stopping and starting and minor technical difficulties, the show became a family favorite, and we tried to enjoy it every visit since.

This would not be my only or most memorable experience with Indiana Jones at the parks. During this time, I was employed by AT&T in Denver and was blessed to be chosen to receive a very prestigious national award. 

The scheduled ceremony "just happened" to be held in Newport Beach during Indy's opening weekend. In my mind, this was a blessing from God and not just a coincidence. Since the company was the new attraction's original sponsor, one of our optional activities for the weekend celebration was to go to Disneyland and experience the ride for ourselves. It was that or a round of golf at a nearby resort. As a park fan and a lover of the Indiana Jones' movies, this was one of my quickest and easiest decisions ever.

This limited edition framed print hangs in my home.

Between the expected awards ceremonies and parties, I was free to go to the park that Saturday. Admission was free, but it did not include front-of-the-line privileges. No matter. Enduring a three and a half hour wait for my first ride through the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, the time seemed to go quickly and slowly all at once. 

The exterior queue extended out from Adventureland into the plaza, wrapping around and passing by the entrance to Frontierland. When we still lived in California, I was at the opening of Captain Eo and Star Tours years before, but never had I seen anything like this! People in line couldn't stop talking to their friends and total strangers about how much they wanted to ride. Folks were getting off the ride, talking away excitedly, and turning around to get back in line for another journey! Everything about this day was just amazing, and the new attraction with every effect working, lived up to the hype and surpassed my expectations.

Finally being able to see the temple for the first time, I just couldn't believe what I saw! Master Imagineer Tony Baxter and his team had created a new Imagineering masterpiece. The building and queue fit seemingly effortlessly to an Adventureland I knew so well, as if it had always been there- but I knew better. They worked so hard to make this fit. One of the strengths of Imagineering and the blessing of so little space in the park. The camp set-up enhanced the atmosphere with the newly decorated Jungle Cruise boats sailing by adding to the mystery of the temple.

Snaking through the queue and into the temple (pun intended), we were given a decoder card to translate the ancient language inscripted on the walls. The detail was so lavish throughout that I almost wished I had more time to take it all in.

My time was near! As I got closer to getting in my "troop transport", watching folks return from their adventure and bursting into applause made my heart race with anticipation. Remember, this was before the web was used as a tool to share pictures and concept art and trip reports from the parks. I had heard next to nothing about what was inside but had only seen a promotional picture of the jeeps racing over a rickety bridge passing the fiery cavern. My maiden journey thrilled me to no end- and the rest of our jeep as well. We, too, starting hollaring and clapping as the ride came to an end.

What could have been!

Before I ran back to the line for my second journey, I hopped over to the Disney Gallery and purchased a signed print of the attraction's concept art- which hangs in my office to the is very day. All I did was ride Indy that day, getting in a third trip before I left, as crowds finally started to thin.

Years later, I would discover that the Indy attraction was potentially considered to be an assortment of Indy attractions. (Concept art above.) I was disappointed that this didn't make the cut, but what we did get is still one of my favorite attractions in any park. Needless to say, I absolutely love this attraction- and whenever I make a visit to the original kingdom, it is always on my must-do list. You'd think this would be the end of my Disney/Indy adventures, but you'd be wrong.

The next Indy incarnation was across the globe in France. Visiting Disneyland Paris in October of 1998 was a treat all its own. We had saved and planned to go to California to visit family, but when innaugural flights from Denver to London were sold for $99 each way- less expensive than Denver to Los Angeles, we were able to take our whole family overseas for a very "jolly holiday". (London is a wonderful city- and very kid friendly, by the way. Paris and all of France, too.) We'd seen the opening of EuroDisneyland several years prior, and I was drooling as I watched the telly. Praying God would let me go one day-really, as I just had to get over there and take a first hand look at this amazing park.

Knowing this attraction was a coaster, and having visions of an Indy version of Big Thunder, I expected it to be spectacular. This time, however, I would be sorely disappointed. The hour and a half wait moved very slowly through the camp area, and finally walking up the temple steps, I realized I was seeing folks return to the station very shortly after leaving from it in their ore car. It wasn't long before I realized this was a very cheaply done ride. No special effects at all. Actually, this was my only disappointment in the entire park. The rest of Disneyland Paris mesmerized me. (Read this article: Disneyland Paris: The Theme Park as Art.) The one redeeming factor of this attraction is the great views of the park from the lift hill and before the first drop.

From Paris to Tokyo was the next leap in the park additions. Now, I have not (yet!) been to the Tokyo Disney Resort, but anyone with good vision can see that Tokyo Disney Sea has to be one of the most richly detailed parks ever built. It premiered in late 2001 with Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull, long before the movie of the same name, already awaiting guests. This version of Disneyland's original "troop transport" attraction was filled with enhanced effects, a new storyline, and a south of the border setting in the Lost River Delta section of the park. Another hit. (Next door on the map above is the later addition of Paris' Indy coaster, but in Tokyo, it is not themed to Indy.)

Tokyo Disney Sea's Indy poster.

What's next for Indy at Disney parks? The strong and recurring rumors of another jeep attraction coming to the growing, changing Disney's Hollywood Studios. The Disney suits need to make this happen. In my not always humble opinion, beyond Star Wars, this will be one the attraction on the horizon to truly keep Universal's Harry Potter in check- and the clock is ticking. One thing is certain, if or when Indiana Jones Adventure version 3.0 arrives in Florida, you can be sure it will spread out those crowds and bring in even more guests- me included!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company and all photos except the top copyright Mark Taft.)

October 25, 2018

Karen and Richard in Their Prime

There's much discussion going on at the A&M Corner discussion boards regarding the Carpenters 50th Anniversary next year and the new album Richard Carpenter is producing with London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. (It's supposedly coming this year.) All this got me to thinking about one of my favorite photos of Karen Carpenter

It's about 1974/1975, and Karen and Richard look great! The duo is at the top of their career. The hot selling album The Singles 1969 - 1973 was a worldwide smash, and the Number One Hit Please Mr. Postman soon brought them back to the summit once again. One hit and one sold out tour after another! Could they be stopped? 

The constant touring and recording was something impossible to maintain without a long term detriment to their health. Many writers want to focus on Karen's losing battle with her eating disorder, but they all too quickly forget about the duo's remarkable talent. Maybe the new album will bring the artistry back to the forefront.

October 24, 2018

Keeping Secrets

I've got to confess to someone, and the relative anonymity of the internet may be the best place to do this: I'm keeping secrets. Big ones. Some secrets I may never tell as it comes with promises I won't. Others I promise I'll share in due time, most likely next year in 2019. Some are ones I can't bear to hold onto, but I must. At least for now...

October 20, 2018

Must Read Shanghai Disneyland Trip Report

Longing to see Shanghai Disneyland? So am I- in due time- after I finally get to Tokyo Disney Resort. One of the best and most interesting trip reports to be found is on the WDWMagic discussion boards. Written by traveler / poster "D Hindley", his travels around China and his detailed look at the latest Magic Kingdom make for fascinating reading. Great photos, too! Go here to begin on his Disneyland reporting. Move to earlier pages to read about China. It's an equally compelling read.

(Photograph copyright "D Hindley".)

October 19, 2018

A Colorful House of the Future at Disneyland

Ah, the plastic wonder that was Monsanto's House of the Future. If you look at this image up close, you can see a bit of the castle off to the left, and this should give you an idea of where it was placed. The small sliver of land between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, is most recently the home to Pixie Hollow.

Walt Disney was an innovator in most every area of his life, and his "magical little park", Disneyland, reflected its creator. This piece of concept art is pretty rare. Think about it. Blogs, books, websites and even the Disney Gallery, have only shown photographs of this one of a kind attraction. But the piece above is rarely seen. Here's another artistic look at the home of the future, this one from InvisibleThemePark.com:

From InvisibleThemePark.com

And now the full page magazine article from which it came:

From Expo67Lounge.com

Monsanto was not tossed aside when the house was removed and the New Tomorrowland made it's debut in 1967. It was the sponsor for the much loved, brand new, Adventure Thru Inner Space. The trip through the Mighty Microscope was even more popular than the House of the Future. In shiny new Atommobiles, guests were able to ride two by two through inky darkness while entering the world of a melting snowflake. It was the perfect place for deeper "exploration".

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 18, 2018

When God's Church Does Something Right

Even though I didn't grow up knowing Jesus, I'm now a follower of Him, but I am still pretty hard on the modern day church. All too often, it just doesn't look like what I read about in the New Testament. Sometimes I don't look like the believers in the early church!

But what happens when you see it in action? Take a look at this video as the Senior Pastor of a large church disguises himself as a homeless man and sits by the front doors. Watch all the way to the end.

If this doesn't make you change your mind about who Christians really are- and not what the media tells you they are- then I don't think you're really paying attention. 

New Resort Announced, More Growth, More People

A "Nature inspired" resort will be opening in 2022 at Walt Disney World on the shores of Bay Lake. Except it looks like another fairly generic resort complex. Ugh.

Disney is in the midst of expansion the likes which hasn't been seen since the Golden Era under Michael Eisner when Disney-MGM Studios, Pleasure Island, Grand Floridian Resort, Caribbean Beach Resort and Typhoon Lagoon all came about. 

What Disney built in Paris would be better!

Placing this between the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Campground makes sense from a Disney executive standpoint, but it also ensures more people, more congestion, more traffic. Will there be any nature left? More details here. They could have followed a similar design to what they just opened at Disneyland Paris, but why bother?

Will the parks be able to handle all the crowds? Will new additions like Guardians of the Galaxy and Mickey and Minnie's Runway Train help absorb the masses of people coming for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge? I doubt it. 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Walt Rides the Skyway

A great old photo here! Walt Disney takes a ride on the Skyway- the first rider on a brand new Disneyland transportation system. These multi-colored cars traveled between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland for almost four decades, providing guests with a birds eye view of the park.

Could you see rooftops and backstage areas? Yes. Did it ruin the experience? No way! There was a type of magic seeing it all from above, and as for me, it was an attraction I loved, much like the Railroad and the Peoplemover. Plus, how could you not love going into the Matterhorn and seeing riders on the Bobsled run? 

Each Magic Kingdom that had a skyway has since removed it. (Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, and Tokyo Disneyland). However, next year's grand opening of Walt Disney World's new Skyliner begins a new era. This alternative transportation system will help alleviate the crowded bus system and perhaps even offer a more enticing reason to stay at a connected on property resort than those on the monorail circuit. (Trust me, after seeing the horribly long lines to board the monorail at the iconic Contemporary Resort, we will never stay there. Disgraceful for a deluxe property!)

October 17, 2018

Notable and Quotable: Jonathan Edwards

"Humility tends to prevent an inordinate aspiring to wealth or position- in short, ambitious behavior among people. A humble person is content with such a situation among others as God is pleased to allot him and is not greedy for honor. Nor does he try to appear uppermost and exalted above his neighbors."

                               Jonathan Edwards

October 16, 2018

Disney's Casino Royale is Coming!

Disney's Casino Royale Resort is coming! This beautiful but fairly pedestrian looking high rise is being built on 14 acre Lago Dorado, the former site of Disney's Coronado Springs Resort

With a sparkling interior that came straight out of the Las Vegas playbook, this resort will be the first of many to create that high glitz and glamour of Sin City!

OK, now seriously. You probably know by now that this is the revised look of Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, Disney World's convention location.  Unfortunately at the request / demand of the suits, the once charming out of the way resort is becoming a monster- one complete with the brand new Disney's Skyliner transportation system... and a new price increase to match. Disney's Riviera Resort is next. The generic future of Walt Disney World is just around the corner!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 12, 2018

More Discovery Bay Art- and the Connection to Figment

Steampunk is not dead. Not even at Disney. although this may just be an educated guess. (See the end of the post.) Which leads me to the iconic but never realized Discovery Bay. Maybe I'm a bit obsessed with all the never built attractions designed by those incredible Imagineers. Maybe you are as well! There's a reason. Even though these ideas may be extraordinary, and the Imagineers do what they do extremely well, sometimes, it just doesn't work out. 

It would be easy to decry the current leadership at only building attractions that come from movie box office hits, and you'd be fairly accurate in making that assumption. For theme park fans, unfortunately, that's been going on for quite awhile.

Back in 1974, the highly ambitious film Island at the Top of the World debuted to a collective thud. How did this impact the Imagineers plan for Discovery Bay at Disneyland? Well, this pet project had a major attraction based on the film. 

Disney and dinosaurs have always made a perfect match.
Where are they in the parks?

When the film bombed, it created less of an interest in what would have been a stunningly incredible addition to Disneyland, successfully bridging Frontierland to Fantasyland by adding a late 19th Century Barbary Coast / San Francisco area chock full of attractions. 

The Spark Gap Coaster.

Proposed Coaster Poster.

What kind of attractions, you ask? Besides the chance to dine inside the Nautilus submarine and shop in unique stores, there would be an electric "Spark Gap" coaster.

Fireworks Factory and Discovery Bay's Lighthouse.

A new high tech shooting gallery would have been a fine diversion for guests of all ages. Befitting the Chinatown section of the new steampunk looking area, the Fireworks Factory was sure to be a hit!

Does Professor Marvel and his dragon friend look familiar?

Professor Marvel's Gallery of Illusion.

Guests would also enjoy a classic Disney flume ride to an exciting encounter with dinosaurs, an iconic traditional but mega dark ride via the Hyperion airship through the movie's icy environment, and a fun-house / exhibit type attraction with Professor Marvel and his little dragon friend. Sound familiar?

A different version of the area's map.

Colorized map.

Yes, EPCOT Center's beloved Journey into Imagination- not the newer bastardized versions of the original- had its roots in a never built Disneyland attraction. Figment changed his pigment, but other than that, his look is intact. 

The classic concept art.

As park fans know all too well, this extremely ambitious and stylized Disneyland expansion never materialized, and Discovery Bay never made it past the drawing boards. Along with Western River Expedition for the Florida Magic Kingdom and the unrealized Atlantis Expedition for the first California park, Tony Baxter's Discovery Bay has been relegated to the history books with pieces found particularly in Paris. For now.

With the revived interest in Steampunk as evidenced by The Edison restaurant / bar/ entertainment palace, Disney may one again consider something as elegant and timeless as Discovery Bay.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 11, 2018

Aladdin Poster Released

Disney just released the first poster for the live action Aladdin. It's a great graphic and an interesting choice. Can Will Smith really add anything to the role of Genie, brilliantly played in the animated version by Robin Williams? Time will tell. 

October 10, 2018

A Book of Challenges

Must be a sign I need this more than I know. I'm having difficulty grasping with Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. I just hate the way he challenges me and thew insights he seems to have. But in my heart of hearts, I know his words are true: There is no spiritual maturity until it is accompanied by emotional maturity. Therefore, the challenge is how to move beyond the wounds must we experience. As I read and reflect and pray, I'm finding fresh hope and a dose of God's love and patience. I'm continuing to grow- and I know that's a good thing! 

October 9, 2018

Discovery Bay Envisioned by Harper Goff

As with the iconic but unrealized Western River Expedition at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, there seems to be one and only one attraction that falls in the same legendary category when its come to Disneyland lore: Discovery Bay

Tony Baxter's labor of love never made it into Disneyland, although bits and pieces of it certainly show up in Disneyland Paris' lovely Discoveryland. His concept art can be found all over this blog.

But look at the piece above. It's not Tony's but rather the work of Harper Goff, one of the unsung heroes of Imagineering. His work for Disneyland as well as Epcot's World Showcase is among his most known, but this piece for Discoveryland is quite unknown. The color stying is quite unique and certainly would have made that corner of the park very different from all else around it. 

I'd rather have Discovery Bay than Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge as it would be a better, much stronger complement to the rest of the park, especially New Orleans Square. But that ship has sailed long ago.

(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

First Snow

First snow of the season- Lord, have mercy!

Mystery Travel Destination

Question of the day: "What is this mystery travel destination?" Can anyone tell me where this beautiful place is located? What country and what coastline?

(Photographer unknown.)

October 8, 2018

Animal Kingdom Nahtazu

In the early days of Animal Kingdom, the crowds were certainly underwhelmed with the lack of Disneyesque attractions in the park. The Imagineers under Joe Rohde had done all they could to ensure that guests would not view the gorgeous park as just an expensive zoo. But it didn't work, so Disney  create this commercial to better communicate the heart behind its creation.

The Nahtazu commercial got its point across, but it wasn't until the major investment of Expedition: Everest that guests finally started returning. Now with the opening of Pandora and the must deserved success of Flight of Passage, fears of the park being just another zoo are long gone.

Stay tuned for the upcoming article Part Eight of Disney's Animal Kingdom: A True Life Adventure. This much beloved series- one of the most viewed on the Insights blog - will take a look at the current state of the park and what may lie ahead.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)