April 30, 2019

New Phantom Manor 2019 Point of View Video

Wanna park inside the newly re-Imagineered Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris? Well, here it is below. Is it as eerily charming as the original or did Tom Fitzgerald and his team ruin it by making it too much like the Disneyland Haunted Mansion?

From Curious Axel.

Melanie on the staircase now.

From ED92.

Until I can see it in person, I will withhold full judgment. But I will say I certainly enjoyed hearing Vincent Price's narration once again, and the music is as compelling as ever! 

Does it still fit within the context of Frontierland, perhaps the most immersive themed land in the most beautiful of Magic Kingdoms? Yes. That said, I do hope the next expansion of the park is led by a returning Tony Baxter. Even though he now only consults for the Walt Disney Company, he remains the ultimate living Imagineer!

Did Tom Fitzgerald set out to ruin the mansion as Tony designed it? Probably not, but there's no denying that good or bad, he could only build his version on what was already created.

Care to engage in the The Great Tony Baxter Debate? Read my articles Part One and Part Two.  Then make up your mind, and let me know what you think. And don't miss the chilling "Conversation with a Dying Man" article below...

Thanks to ED92 and Curious Axel for the videos!

Conversation with a Dying Man

He was no longer able to speak easily, so we kept our conversation going via email. We'd spent a few hours discussing his impending death, what he wanted done with his body (donated to medical science) and exactly what he wanted to say to his wife and son and his grandchildren but couldn't do easily. My job as friend was just to listen. His next message included this, in response to him reading a book I recommended that explained who Jesus is and what He accomplished on the cross:

"I’m also wondering if it’s slow reading because it’s covering ideas in which I already believe, just not outwardly.

Doesn’t belief in Jesus, and what He did for us, and if I believe, I don’t need to “prove” it to anybody.  That’s purely between Him and me?

My response to him was as follows:

"Yes, faith is first personal in that each man has to answer for himself before God at Judgment Day the same question Jesus asked Peter, "Who do you say that I am? (This is found in both Mark 8 and Luke 9 in the New Testament.) The answer will have an impact on your eternal destination. (Heaven or Hell?)

What the Apostle Paul says to the church in Rome applies to your question- " If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

In other words, Do you believe Jesus paid the price for your sin when He died on the cross, and Do you believe He rose from the dead proving He is God in the flesh?

Now, faith is also public. So, looking at the same words from Paul above, "profess" does mean a declaration of what you believe. It's one reason people who get baptized begin with affirmation of who Jesus is to them. Just what I asked you.  

Just as with Jesus' initial followers, the Apostle Paul and other believers in Jesus past and present, your declaration of it is important. 

There is one most important primary reason faith is also public. The last and most important reason is the words of Jesus Himself, that if we acknowledge him before others, he will acknowledge them (as those who love Him) at judgment. If we cannot do that, we are not really His. (Luke 12)."

We all have to answer Jesus' question- the same one He asked Peter. And we will all face death. To think there's no eternity regardless of how we answer would just make us another "foolish mortal".

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 26, 2019

3,000th Post: Disneyland's One Tunnel Main Street Train Station

Today marks 3,000 posts on the Insights blog! My, how time gets by us! So, here's a piece of concept art- one of my favorite things to share with the readers of this blog.

Ah, that beloved entrance under the tunnels of the Main Street U.S.A. station of the railroad! There's nothing like passing under those portals into the fantasy worlds that Walt Disney and his team created. So begins a magical day for every guest who comes to that happy place.

Did you know that it was once considered to be a single tunnel entrance? Yes, Imagineer Marvin Davis envisioned it like that. Here's the concept art. (He also envisioned a different concept for the Haunted Mansion's exterior.) Had his plan been chosen, the iconic Mickey Mouse flower display would not have been in place where it is.  

Thanks to the magic of a little photoshop, you can better see some of the details, especially if you click on it to a larger version:

Honestly, had they chosen this design, it still would have been charming! Perhaps not as intimate as the dual tunnel version which allows fewer people through them at once, but still a nice way to leave our world behind.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 25, 2019

Simply Asia

A photographer friend sent me this photograph from one of his trips overseas. The elegant and peaceful vibe comes from the photographs composition but I'd say, also from its people. I love the contrast between the purple umbrella and the vibrant green wall. Just another reminder that if we look for it, we can find beauty just about anywhere.

(Photograph copyright Scott Laurie Photography.)

April 24, 2019

Superstar Limo Leads the Way

Are you a Disney park fan and puzzled by some of the recent decisions made by the suits? Time to take a deep breath, relax, and laugh. Go ahead and laugh. You see, this wouldn't be the first time boneheaded choices were made. And unfortunately, it will not be the last.

In fact, Disney Imagineering was once forced to design an entire park made of poor decisions: Disney's California Adventure. And the weakest of the weak was the inclusion of Superstar Limo. Imagine a ride so lame that guest satisfaction with the park went up when it was closed.

CEO Michael Eisner made many great decisions in his first decade as far as the parks were concerned. Not so in his second. The demand for a hip and edgy park next to the flagship Disneyland perplexed many and signaled the man had lost his way. Anaheim should have received the elegant WESTCOT, but it was trashed in favor of what became the laughing stock of the theme park industry. (Search this blog for many articles on the California park that should have been.)

For Superstar Limo, Hollywood honchos figured common folk would be fascinated by this attraction with its insiders view of Hollywood. They were not, and the crowds filled both guest services to complain about the park and the entrance gates to Disneyland as a "consolation prize". 

Bad decision were not limited to North America. The Walt Disney Studios Paris was opened on the cheap as well. One more collective thud, especially when placed next to the most gorgeous Magic Kingdom of all. 

While not everything can be Cars Land, Pandora, or Galaxy's Edge, nothing should ever be California Adventure 1.0 or Superstar Limo. On that, most fans can agree.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 23, 2019

Just to Brighten Your Day

Here's a beautiful photo to brighten your day! I cannot remember where I first saw this, so no credit today to the photographer, but this is just a lovely shot of the gardens of the Disneyland Hotel in Paris.

Just beyond the building is the French Magic Kingdom, Disneyland Paris. This was the first time the Disney Imagineers placed a hotel at the entrance to a theme park, but it wouldn't be the last. The Grand Californian opens up to California Adventure, but it is the elegant Mira Costa that sets the standard as it sits alongside the borders of Tokyo Disneysea. Incredible resort and amazing theme park together!

April 22, 2019

50 Years Ago: Richard and Karen Carpenter Sign to A&M Records

It really seems like it was only yesterday that the much beloved duo Carpenters signed to A&M Records, but in fact, it was five decades ago today.  

Sister Karen Carpenter would quickly become world famous for her warm contralto while brother Richard would be recognized for his genius in writing arranging and producing the many hit singles and albums. 

Herb Alpert was very high on the duo, but partner Jerry Moss was not a fan. Eventually he came to appreciate the artistry of the act, and he was certainly happy with all the cash and success they brought to the label. To her fair, time has a way of changing how we view certain people and events.

To this day, over 35 years after her untimely death, Herb speaks fondly of his friend and protege. If rumors are correct, Richard Carpenter is planning something very, very special for fans all over the world. With over 100 million records sold, music lovers from Japan to the U.K. to back home in the U.S.A. are waiting for the next collection of classic Carpenters music.

April 21, 2019

Jesus is Risen Indeed!

Jesus conquered death by raising from the dead! He is Risen indeed! Christians all over the world celebrate this historical fact. And He is returning one day to judge the world and redeem those who believe.

Do you believe? If not, I suggest you read Evidence That Demands A Verdict by Josh McDowell. That is, if you are open minded to think it through and look at facts. Some have not done so and already determined what they believe. But the truth holds up as it always does. Jesus Christ died for the sins of every man, but only some will choose Him. Will you?

April 19, 2019

An Everlasting Love Story

Do you want the kind of love that will last forever? Look no further than to Jesus Christ. But who exactly is Jesus? That's the question we all must answer. Each of us. Believer or not, this question will be asked of us one day. If you don't understand, read ahead and you'll discover the greatest love story ever told.

Today is Good Friday for we who believe and so commemorate the passion of Jesus of Nazareth, meaning his crucifixion on the cross for the sin of mankind... all leading to His Resurrection. 

Think about this: The very measurement of time changed because of this event!
Jesus is controversial- and His story timeless. Magazines still devote cover stories to Him, books continue to be written, songs composed, and films made. Each piece brings to the forefront Jesus' own question to his disciple Peter, and agin, it is one we all must answer: "Who do you say I am?"

Yes, it's true. Just for you and me and the whole earth - from the beginning of time. Jesus chose to lay down his life to redeem us from Hell. The Hell we deserve for our sin. Ever lie? Cheat? Slander? Then, his sacrifice via the cross was just for you. It's a gift that cost him much pain and sorrow. But if you receive this gift of eternal life by choosing and following Him, it's a gift back to Him that will bless him. Yes, something very special.

God is very gracious and loving by making it crystal clear and easy to understand: Jesus Himself says He is the Only Way, the Only Truth, the Only Life and that no one would be able to come to an eternity with God the Father except by receiving Him. (Read the Book of John in the New Testament, Chapter 14). God could have made it difficult to discover, but He did not. It's not from hate or prejudice, it's from love He said what He said and did what He did.

It was His same great love for the people He created- that includes you and me- that caused Him to sacrifice Jesus in our place. And it's His same love that draws you to Him. Can you feel the call to Him in your heart? Does your spirit leap at the sound of His name?
If not, it's time to ask yourself why. 

First comes death on a cross. A brutal and terrifying way to die. Torture like none other. Medically, it's just an awfully painful way to die. (Read about the medical explanation of what this does to a body here.) His radical way to show great love begins with his submission to this kind of death.

But oh, then comes Easter Sunday morning- the Triumph of Jesus over sin and death- for our benefit! Never a victim- always a champion. He accomplished this great mission born from Love- the very mission the Father gave Him. Jesus the triumphant one! Preachers everywhere should remember this! As should the people He gave his life for.

At the end of time, known as the Final Judgment in the Bible, (See the last book of the Bible. It's called "Revelation"), Jesus has returned to earth as the Triumphant King that He is. Mankind, one person at a time, must give an account for how they have lived their life. Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ and have lived to please Him all their days will proceed to an eternal glory free from pain and suffering.

Unfortunately, not all will believe. He gave men free will to choose. To those who have turned away from Jesus, rejected Him even though He was God's gift to pay for our sins, they will be sent to Hell, the place of fire and torment forever. Hell was designed for Satan and his demonic angels, but those that deny Jesus as Messiah (Christ) and follow their own path, end up in that place as well. It's their choice, not God's.

So, Jesus' question remains: Who do you say that I am?

April 18, 2019

A Chill Inducing Photograph

In our home, we cannot wait for television's excellent "The Crown" to return! Claire Foy gives her real bite! And Matt Smith is the perfect casting to play her rogue husband. What a compelling series it is- and what a marvelous leader Queen Elizabeth seems to be. Not perfect, but certainly wise and God-fearing in most circumstances.

Her long standing friendship with Billy Graham was legendary, as seen in this photograph published by People magazine. 

Other members of the monarchy were not so wise. Take a look at this absolutely chilling photograph of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor meeting Adolph Hitler in 1937. More proof that evil has many faces, and a reminder that many people will be deceived as they turn away from the things of God.

April 17, 2019

Notre Dame Will Live Again

My photograph from our 2013 to one of the most beautiful cities on earth...

April 16, 2019

Patiently or Impatiently Waiting

I want to see fruit harvested! When you work hard and plow the land and plant and tend to the crop, you expect there will be benefits.  But I'm impatient for the season in my garden- and for growth in my spiritual life as well. God reminds me to be patient as I wait:

"My blessing is on those people who trust in me, who put their confidence in me. They will be like a tree planted near a stream whose roots spread out toward the water. It has nothing to fear when the heat comes. Its leaves are always green. It has no need to be concerned in a year of drought. It does not stop bearing fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

(Photo from "Experiencing Wine.)

April 15, 2019

Monday Getaway to Disneyland

Don't let rainy days and Mondays get you down! Take off for a day at Disneyland and enjoy the classics while you can! The Jungle Cruise and other classics are waiting for you. This photograph of the classic attraction by Joshua Sudock, the Disneyland Resort Chief Photographer is just what you need to get in the mood. But you'd better hurry quick! Once Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opens up, the park Walt built will be changed forever, and it will be much more difficult to have that casual day there. Whether or not we like it, the park is going the way of Walt Disney World, and in the not too distant future, visitors are going to have to book everything in advance. But trust me, you can be sure that's the way the suits want it.

April 12, 2019

The Haunted Mansion Restaurant?

The Haunted Mansion restaurant? There's rumors of one coming someday to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. It may never happen, but something close did come within reach. At least it was once considered. 

The Haunted Mansion as you've never seen it in 3D. In the Fall 2009 edition of D23 magazine,  a piece of concept art which appeared displayed guests doing down to the infamous banquet hall for a bite. Very up close and personal. Your eyes are not deceiving you.  

That really is an Imagineering concept for the once proposed 3D version. Had it been built,  guests would don the glasses to see things in a very different, eerie light. There's no Omnimover, but instead a vehicle chain would looks very similar to what you would have found in EPCOT Center's Horizons attraction.  

Before Phantom Manor made its ghoulish debut in Disneyland Paris' Frontierland  in 1992, the Disney Imagineers created this long abandoned new twist on an old favorite as an idea for Tokyo Disneyland. The Tokyo Mansion was already very strangely placed in Fantasyland, so why not try a brand new idea for the Japanese park or for Paris? In my opinion, thankfully, smarter heads prevailed. They held off until a fresh concept- a Frontierland based Phantom Manor came into view for the French park. And it's a winner!

Instead of throwing 3D glasses on existing rides and calling them new, I would rather advocate we one day have  a version of the Haunted Mansion where the Doombuggies travel into some new rooms, expanding the attraction length and repeatability using a trackless ride system a la Ratatouille or Tokyo's Beauty and the Beast.

Would Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Manor go 3D eventually? Probably not- it already has it all. Even the videos of the attraction circulating on the web prove it is a unique and worthy experience all its own. First, there's a great and very original story using the trackless free roaming system we've loved from the beginning when from Pooh's Hunny Hunt debuted. And that Danny Elfman music! Certainly Mystic Manor is the attraction that finally placed that poor little under built Chinese park on the Disney fan map. It doesn't need the 3D at all.

For now, it does not look like the incomplete Shanghai Disneyland resort has a ghost filled attraction on its roster. That doesn't mean something won't happen one day. Strange things always do.

(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 11, 2019

Notable and Quotable: Bear Grylls

". . . the other thing I found in the last few years of being at school, was a quiet, but strong Christian faith – and this touched me profoundly, setting up a relationship or faith that has followed me ever since. I am so grateful for this. It has provided me with a real anchor to my life and has been the secret strength to so many great adventures since. But it came to me very simply one day at school, aged only sixteen.

As a young kid, I had always found that a faith in God was so natural. It was a simple comfort to me: unquestioning and personal. But once I went to school and was forced to sit through somewhere in the region of nine hundred dry, Latin-liturgical, chapel services, listening to stereotypical churchy people droning on, I just thought that I had got the whole faith deal wrong.

Maybe God wasn't intimate and personal but was much more like chapel was ... tedious, judgmental, boring and irrelevant. The irony was that if chapel was all of those things, a real faith is the opposite. But somehow, and without much thought, I had thrown the beautiful out with the boring. If church stinks, then faith must do, too. The precious, natural, instinctive faith I had known when I was younger was tossed out with this newly found delusion that because I was growing up, it was time to ‘believe' like a grown-up."

                                          Bear Grylls

April 10, 2019

Eating Up at the California Grill

When it comes to unique experiences that say "I'm in Walt Disney World!" few come as close to being as iconic as a nighttime dinner and fireworks show from the rooftop California Grill

Sure, it's an expensive meal- and just for the view alone of the Magic Kingdom from the observation deck, it is worth every hard earned penny!

The Contemporary Resort itself is spectacular with the monorail running through the 4th floor open lobby. But when I'm up on that deck, outside in the balmy Florida night and watching what's happening on the lagoon and in the park via telescopes, it truly is magical. (Did you know you can actually see the logs dropping down Splash Mountain using them?)

Looking another direction, you can see the Polynesian Village and the Grand Floridian Resort lit up next to the sparkling Seven Seas Lagoon, monorails circling it all. 

All said, a great dinner, adult drinks, high in the sky view of the Magic Kingdom followed by fireworks and a cruise around the monorail makes for one very special, totally unforgettable night! Faster than you can say "Disney Food Blog", I'd pick this place for every Disney World trip- if I could afford it!

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 9, 2019

If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Italy

Ever visit Italy's amazing area known as Cinque Terra? Our good friend Len Yokoyama captured this lovely shot during one of his travels overseas. I loved this shot so much, its my desktop wallpaper. Looking forward to hearing from Len soon, aren't you?

(Photograph copyright Len Yokoyama.)

April 8, 2019

Meet the World in Japan

Time for another attraction poster from the Tokyo Disney Resort. Meet the World was a Carousel of Progress type revolving theater attraction that was also planned to be duplicated at Epcot's Japan World Showcase pavilion. Interestingly, the Imagineers glossed over the nation's involvement in World War II. I'm sure they have also overlooked some sensitive pieces of our nation's history as well, so no offense taken. 

If you're curious to see more of what was planned for Japan in Epcot, take a look at this amazing article full of Imagineering art for attractions built and those left unrealized.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 5, 2019

Alternative Layout for Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure

As with most guests to Disneyland or those visiting Tokyo DisneySea, I am a big fan of the Indiana Jones Adventure. I was actually blessed to be at the opening of the California attraction due to receiving a significant award with my employer at the time, AT&T. 

This blog has been a place to find rare concept art for the attraction, and I now present to you another piece found above. Imagineering's John Stone created this as a look at what could be built at Disneyland's lush Adventureland. There's clearly a coaster, the railroad working its way around the complex, and a big chunk of Jungle Cruise land used to set up the base camp. While impressive when considering the additional attractions that might have been built, his design was ultimately not chosen to represent the  interpretation of a hectic exploration of the iconic film series.

Never fear, though. There's much more art to be found. Art for Disneyland Paris' coaster based adventure as well. Take a look at this, and this and this. And then search around these parts for even more! 

One day soon, I'd expect the suits to agree to build a full on "Indy Land" at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It would certainly add some greenery to a toy and stone focused atmosphere and perhaps even hold some watery elements to it. Stay tuned for more...

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 4, 2019

Food and Family

It's so important to hold onto your family traditions! As with most all cultures, in our house, many times traditions focus around food. 

Christmas Eve dinner is always fondue as it provides very easy preparation ahead of time, giving us ample opportunity to attend a church service before we return home. It's also a great excuse for the family to cozy up together and spend plenty of time talking as we plunge our meat, veggies, and crusty bread into the melting cheese or hot oil. 

We're known as a family that celebrates just about everything: First Day of School, Last Day of School, Snow Days, you name it. (When you have teachers in your family, these are truly celebration days!)

When we celebrate birthdays, the guest of honor always gets to pick the meal of his/her choosing. Including desserts! Cupcakes, to pies to banana pudding have occasionally taken the place of cake.

From the earliest days, we took our kids out for Chinese food for other special occasions  Really good Chinese food and not the neighborhood greasy takeout. Mu Shu Pork remains a favorite for just about all of us. That hoisin sauce is tangy and sweet and the perfect addition to top it off. Whether it is whole fried salt and pepper minnows, spicy vegetables, or something I can't identify, there's nothing I love more than a big dinner feast at my favorite places with family and friends under the Summer sky. (Of course, for Christians, gathering together in Heaven once Jesus returns means one giant, family filled meal after another. Isn't God good?)

What are your family food traditions?

April 3, 2019

Love and Dreams in Paris

Paris, France. City of dreams and of love. And just another chance to reflect on God's goodness to this particular couple. An ongoing goodness in times of pain and hardship as well as in times of peace and calm! Thank you, Jesus, for this woman...

April 2, 2019

She's a (Sleeping) Beauty

Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty was an animated film with many plot holes and a less than compelling hero or heroine. Yet, the artwork associated with the film is certainly gorgeous! It inspired the most beautiful Magic Kingdom castle of all, the Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant at Disneyland Paris. Here's a piece of art by Eyvind Earle, I believe, for the film.  Charming in its color, texture, and restraint, its a nice representation of the intended feel for the film... and the Fantasyland castle it inspired.

April 1, 2019

Dubai Disneyland Surfaces Again

This is not an April Fools joke. Could Dubai Disneyland be back on? Certainly, the theme park oasis in that part of the world needs all the help it can get! Three parks so far and each only receiving less than a million guests in attendance. Something is seriously wrong, no matter how many people promote its excellence. The MOTIONGATE Dubai and Bollywood parks are not the draw they need to be. Six Flags dropped out of the game. Will Disney come to the rescue?

These honest-to-goodness Dubai Disneyland images are just astounding! Why? Favilli Studios, a long time firm where the principals used to be part of Imagineering, was contracted to do the work. If you take a good look at these pieces by enlarging them, you'll notice there's certainly a bit of Star Wars Land present in Tomorrowland as well as a not so subtle inclusion of California Adventure's incredible Cars Land.

Here's the now requisite hotel at the entrance or a series of uber expensive suites in Fantasyland at the castle itself. Perfect for fleecing those well-heeled guests of the Middle East. 

There's also a shiny, brand new version of Main Street U.S.A., and we thought Shanghai Disneyland was the first one to propose a changeout from the old standby "Vintage America" feeling park entrance. Was this another version of Mickey Avenue?

I was the first one to publicize this Dubai Disneyland concept art. But I was personally telephoned by the owners of the studios that produced it and asked to take it down. Apparently this series was created for a potential investment project of which Disney may or may not have been a partner. Now 5 years later, it is all over the internet, so here it is again- a small selection of many, many images I still hold onto.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company / Favilli Studios.)