October 31, 2019

An Alternate Haunted Mansion

Here's an alternate piece of concept art for the Magic Kingdom's  beautiful Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World... just because.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Magic Kingdom Haunted Mansion Poster and Exclusive Advertisement

To say the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland was an out-of-the-box smash would be an understatement. I was there shortly after opening in 1969, and the line went into the rest of New Orleans Square and beyond. And it was - and still is- worth the wait!

When the suits and the Imagineers were designing the Magic Kingdom, they knew the attraction would be a hit, even if it were placed in Colonial Era Liberty Square instead. They were 100% right!  

The new mansion took its inspiration from the Hudson Valley, which lent itself to a very creepy Sleepy Hollow type exterior as it seemingly sat up on an old cliff abandoned. There was nothing but an air of mystique surrounding it. What a set up to a stunning adventure!

Hurry back!

This advertisement, exclusive to the younger Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom made the rounds to promote the new park.  It was quite effective, ensuring long lines from opening day in 1971. In a new world of both excellent (Pandora) and second class Imagineering (Pixar Pier), The Haunted Mansion remains one of the old schools crowning achievements. 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 30, 2019

Long Ago and Far Away

A couple of favorites for a special day!

Today more than ever before, I love you with all of my heart! Oh how the years go by!

October 29, 2019

Live from Epcot's Food and Wine Festival

How could I be so darned lucky? Everyone knows I love Epcot, and enjoy visiting again and again. Who wouldn't? After all, it's still an amazing place. Future World is still filled with adventures, and World Showcase is still beautiful. But this photo isn't from me. It's a mere 16 degrees here, and one of my best friends is at Epcot's Food and Wine Festival for a company event. He's having a great time. Good for him!

October 28, 2019

The Epcot I Love

This photograph may be THE one that best captures the essence of the EPCOT Center I loved and remember all so well! The suits and Imagineering have their plans, and there's no doubt they will come to pass. Yes, the park needed a refresh, but this pic by biorecontruct   shows the magic the park still has for those who look for it. (Still writing the last part of my September trip report...)

(Photograph copyright Bioreconstruct.

October 27, 2019

Different Kind of Beach Shot

No question here that I absolutely love the tropics! The sand, the surf, the sun. What could be better? Few things! But I have to say, in this gorgeously designed world, God's hand has created some stunning locations that are not bordering an ocean. One of these is found in Switzerland. This older photo of mine from an earlier part of the decade shows Nyon, a town / village about an hour's drive from Geneva. Clear, blue, water, sunny skies, and warm for the country that time of year. Not exact swim weather, but stunning none the less!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

October 24, 2019

Blue Fall

Coffee this morning included being greeted by a very blue hue of the snow in the backyard. It was strangely beautiful- and I really do not like winter. But it makes for a stunning photograph.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

October 22, 2019

Top Ten Things I Miss at California Adventure- In Spite of Its Downward Slide

Yes, Virginia, that little sister park next door to Walt's magnificent Disneyland still holds some great experiences in spite of it recently losing its way. Arguably, Disney California Adventure hit its peak in May of 2015 when the beautiful remake of Condor Flats opened as the Grizzly Peak Airfield. Changes since that time have been a "brand withdrawal" to quote Robert Iger, but there's still fun to be had.

10- The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure: Sure, this is another case of it not being what it could have been, but isn't that the true motto of California Adventure since its opening in 2001? In spite of its strong start, the last minute or two falls flat- but the overall attraction brings some old school family friendly magic due to lovable characters and all that amazing music. And a ride that lasts longer than 2 minutes. One of few in this park's attraction line-up.

9- Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sulley to the Rescue!- In a park known for attractions with lengthy names, this small little dark ride is often overlooked, just about as often as someone still makes fun of the ill-conceived Superstar Limo. Clever details abound here. I'll be sorry to see it go when the new Avengers Campus is complete.

Preview of what's to come.

8- Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout- The jury's out on this one, but it is now a unique as well as a thrilling adventure. The Rocket animatronic is an unexpected surprise, something they did not have to do. Does it feel like more of a screen based attraction than Twilight Zone Tower of Terror? Absolutely, but the images are so crisp, I almost don't mind.

New coaster colors are a distraction from what
once was a San Diego feeling on the Pier.

7- Incredicoaster: Here's a downgrade from California Screamin'- but the ride itself ranks among Disney's smoothest and most enjoyable coasters. The forced storyline- much like Pixar Pier itself- is a bust, but the thrills and the view make it a winner.

6- Mariachi Divas: This Grammy winning group of ladies rocks the  Wharf area with classic, beautiful Mexican music. There are times when I'm watching them under the gorgeous California sun, and I feel as if I am at World Showcase at Epcot and not in the middle of Anaheim. A true gem!

5- Soarin' Around the World: It may be a lesser attraction since it's changed from Soarin' Over California, but it is still breathtaking and worth the time of any guest to the park. Still a must-do for me, each and every trip.

Thrills may be ahead,
but serenity can be found here.

4- Buena Vista Street: Charm, charm, charm. This new entrance area is filled with it. The park as a whole is a richer experience because of it. Hopefully, the suits won't screw it up by shoving new Intellectual Properties where they do not naturally fit. The Imagineers in charge of the project should be proud of how they created an area every bit as warm as Main Street U.S.A. but with an entirely different feel. The Red Car Trolley adds just the right touch to it all! Nice work!

3- The Food Options: I do not frequent the Disney Parks for the food. That said, some of the tastiest options at the entire resort area are to be found here. The park was designed with this in mind when foolish heads thought guests would dine in expensive restaurants while hopefully ignoring all the cheap carnival rides and duplicated attractions from Walt Disney World

Lots to explore!

2- Grizzly River Run: The trees have filled in, making a view of the park from this water thrill ride a beautiful experience day or night. After just riding Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom, let me tell you that California got the better attraction by far. A few Audio-Animatronic characters would make this a true classic.

1- Radiator Springs Racers: A super "E" Ticket and the park's main draw. Imagineer Kevin Rafferty's masterpiece transformed this place into one worth a visit if only to experience the truly beautiful Cars Land. Photos do not do the place justice. You have to see it to believe it. Will the suits ever allow the Imagineers to design and built something for this park that's so "Walt Worthy" ever again? That remains to be seen.

(Top photo by Gregg L. Cooper. All other photos by Mark Taft.)

October 20, 2019

Brotherly Love

For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is God’s will: that you become holy, that you keep away from sexual immorality,  that each of you know how to possess his own body in holiness and honor,  not in lustful passion like the Gentiles who do not know God.  In this matter no one should violate the rights of his brother or take advantage of him, because the Lord is the avenger in all these cases, as we also told you earlier and warned you solemnly.  For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Consequently the one who rejects this is not rejecting human authority but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Now on the topic of brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.  And indeed you are practicing it toward all the brothers and sisters in all of Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, to aspire to lead a quiet life, to attend to your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.  In this way you will live a decent life before outsiders and not be in need.

(Paul's first letter to the Thessalonian church, chapter 4.)

October 19, 2019

Rumor: Disney World's Thai Resort Overlooks Adventureland's Fire Mountain

Imagine if you will that the beautiful Grand Floridian Resort was not there. Imagine instead a Thai influenced resort, complete with stunning gardens, exotic cuisine, and gorgeous views of the Seven Seas Lagoon. Let's keep dreaming.

Nighttime view of the exterior.

During the planning stages of Walt Disney World, this stunning hotel was to become a reality in one of the first planned expansions to the Florida resort. Of course, it never happened. Were the suits skittish on building something so exotic looking on the grounds? Was it cut due to cash flow along with Western River Expedition

Gorgeous place to wine and dine!

As you can see above, the Thai inspired resort even made the cover of the preview souvenir booklet! If you look to the right, you'll notice the model shows the Persian resort in the background, a different Polynesian resort, and a very different take on Space Mountain!

Once planned to be the Magic Kingdom's 3rd mountain.

What would have made this addition of the Asian inspired resort even better? Just imagine if years later the Disney Imagineers had been given the go ahead to build Fire Mountain? Just imagine that view from those resort rooms to Adventureland's very active volcano. Shades of Mount Prometheus at Tokyo Disneysea. It would have been phenomenal! Want more on Fire Mountain? Go here.

Note- Last night (October 18) I read this thread of the WDWMagic forums. Hadn't read it for about a week. An interesting combination of rumors materialized, making this post from yesterday (Friday) a real possibility! Coincidence?

(Art and images copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 17, 2019

Time for a Fresh Look at Shanghai Disneyland

Time for a bit of Disney in Shanghai. If you're like me, Tokyo Disney Resort is the first choice of locations to visit after the Western parks. I've always thought of Shanghai Disneyland as poorly designed and overbearing. Anyway, I could be wrong. Very wrong. What convinced me to reconsider?

Tangled makes its way to China.

A little bit of the Pirates themed land.

Read the detailed report on the Shanghai Disneyland Park here. Trip report and photos by Clyde Birdbrain on the WDWMagic Boards.

October 16, 2019

The Birthday Boy

He is growing up so fast! It seems like only yesterday that he was the tiniest of infants... Happy Birthday!

Sea, Sand, and Japan

Look at the color of that wave! Photographer Pedro Gomes has captured an incredible version of what is happening in Japan on the surfing circuit. Then, here's another photo by Cestari of popular surfer Kanoa Igarashi.

This photo of surfer
Kanoa Igarashi is by Cestari/WSL.

How about this? Check out this fun and funky Quiksilver ad for a real wetsuit. Truly. No joking. In a truly "Only in Japan" photo, take a look at the one below.

Surfing and Mount Fuji! 
Courtesy photographer Tonk43.

With the Fall colors of Colorado in their peak, I just needed a bit of surf and sand to enjoy today. So what if it's in Japan!

October 15, 2019

Imagineering at its Peak

A simple photo of Disneyland Paris' incredible Space Mountain. All of Discoveryland is Imagineering at its peak.

(Photograph copyright Tim Delaney.)

October 13, 2019

Game Day

Well, as you can see, I play this Scrabble type game on my iPad much too often! But here's a screenshot to document my highest scoring word ever. My family will get a kick out of this!

October 12, 2019

The Disneyland Attraction Posters Collection

Until Disneyland officially releases the attraction posters for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, enjoy this on line collection of posters for each of the other lands. These have been a fan favorite for six decades, and it doesn't seem like there's a chance that passion will fade away! Fans create their own as well as loving the ones that are officially designed by the geniuses at Disney Imagineering

Overt the years, I've amassed my own collection of them. There's a couple hanging on my wall (Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsleds and Disneyland Paris' Pirates of the Caribbean) along with my piece of original artwork for the Indiana Jones Adventure that I bought at the landmark attraction's opening. Missing posters for Mickey's Toontown continue to leave a whole in the collection. Maybe that will change when Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway makes its debut in 2022.

Here are links to the blog articles with attraction posters you can find land by land.  I keep saying that one day, I'll get around to doing the same for the other Disney resorts, but for now, please enjoy the ones made for Walt's original Magic Kingdom.

Disneyland Collection
Main Street USA
New Orleans Square
Critter Country

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 11, 2019

Will the Jungle Cruise Movie Affect the Park Attractions?

Take one part Indiana Jones and a classic Disney attraction, The Jungle Cruise, and turn it into a movie. This looks like the best of both worlds! Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt star in what could be a very fun summer blockbuster. The poster is terrific!

The logo is darned cool!

What will happen to the classic Disney attractions if the movie is a smash? You can bet the IP loving suits will ass some changes to the rides just as they eventually did with Pirates of the Caribbean when Johnny Depp turned the ride into a cash printing movie franchise. 

The Jungle Cruise was planned for the Paris park.

Pending the success of the film, especially if it is successful in the  international markets, will pave the way for an Adventureland expansion in Disneyland Paris. As you can see from the early promotional map above, the Jungle Cruise was once intended for the French park. Alongside a glimmering (or should I say grimy?) new Indiana Jones Adventure - also planned- the cruise would pack a powerful punch and bring crowds to a largely neglected area of the park.

The boat bears somewhat of a resemblance...

On the home front, both the Magic Kingdom version and the older, original, Disneyland version could benefit from higher grade Audio-Animatronics as a fresh storyline. It's not as if Walt's park hasn't seen changes made to this ride over the decades. It certainly has! I say if the changes are subtle and fun, adding a new bit of thrill, count me in.

Greg Maletic's beautiful interpretation of an Indy attraction
with a Jungle Cruise sort of flavor.

Are you ready for a new Jungle Cruise?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Amy Grant's Christmas 2019 Tour

Amy Grant's back with old friend Michael W. Smith and guest artist Marc Martel in celebrating the Christmas season! With her many holiday albums, it's clear that Amy loves the season and the Lord Jesus Christ who is the true reason to get together with family and friends. Had tickets for this a couple of years ago, but I gave them up due to a family emergency. One day, I'll see her again. Certainly, one of my favorite artists and one of the nicest folks in the music business!

October 10, 2019

Imagineer Sam McKim Displays the Art of Imagineering

What an elegant piece of concept art this is! Disneyland artist and Imagineer Sam McKim produced many pieces for the park, most notably artwork for Frontierland. Notice the horse drawn buggy in the background on the right side? It's a little bit of one era meeting another. Just like this piece which fits snuggly into New Orleans Square as well as the Old West. 

The iconic attraction Pirates of the Caribbean would open two years later than when this piece was produced back in 1964. The 1960's were a time of great productivity for the folks who worked for Walt and on his park. Some think newer decades have produced greater attractions, but the one-two-three punch of Pirates, Haunted Mansion and a sparkling New Tomorrowland set a pace and standard that hasn't been matched since.

(Note: Make sure you read the attached comment. This reader has some fascinating information about what lies beyond this image as he worked in the park in this area!)

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 9, 2019

I Believe in Yesterday

While enjoying the Lufthansa film festival during a flight for work, I made the decision to watch Yesterday, a fantasy tribute to the Beatles. If you're a lover of the Fab Four or of music in general, this is truly worth your time.

Jack Malik is a hardworking but overlooked performer who discovers that the entire world has no idea who the Beatles are- except him. In a moment of weakness, he decides to further his career by performing their songs and claiming them as his own. As you'd imagine, this catapults him to fame and brings with it a host of problems.

Himesh Patel is perfectly cast with a pleasing voice and engaging presence, and Lily James is every bit as lovely as when she donned Cinderella's slippers. Don't be fooled by the ads- Ed Sheehan plays himself in more than a cameo, showing his fans he really can take himself with a grain of salt- and the film gives him some of the best one liners ever.

Paul McCartney must be pleased with this work of love, and so will you.

October 8, 2019

Design Detail: Aladdin in Morocco

By now, guests that have visited Epcot's World Showcase are well aware that the character invasion is not going to stop anytime soon. That does not mean that it can't be well done. Even a simple meet and greet can be done with some Imagineering flair! Over in the beautiful Morocco pavilion, a simple store front has been converted into a place to meet Aladdin and Jasmine. We walked inside at the invitation of an outdoor greeter, only to find quite a line. But that didn't stop me from noticing this display on the walls. Quite nice, wouldn't you say?

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

October 7, 2019

A Haunted Karen Carpenter

"It's like being haunted. It's the worst thing in the world." Singer  Karen Carpenter, discussing anorexia.

A quote from Ray Coleman's book on the Carpenters, The Untold Story, this quote from Karen stuns us with its bluntness and stark portrayal of living with the deadly disease Anorexia. It wouldn't be too long after speaking to Mr. Coleman that Karen would pass away from this very disease.

At one point she said, "I may not be in control of anything else, but I am in control of my body." 

A beautiful life melting away.

How the world mourned her passing! Oh, the what should of and what could have been! The songs unsung. The life cut short. The joyous adventures unexplored. 

Surprisingly, I discovered a Bible verse that unintentionally applies to her struggle:

"They acted like fools in their rebellious ways, and suffered because of their sins. They lost their appetite for all food, and they drew near the gates of death."  (Psalm 107:17-18)

Karen was just like the rest of us- created in God's image but sinful and in need of a Savior. (Information about her last hours are here.)

I've seen too many friends struggle with all sorts of issues. Me, too. Yours may not be anorexia. Some admit they need help, and get it. Others never do. 

Don't let your life be cut short by not getting help.

Please- if you or someone you know is struggling, get help. Be courageous and lovingly come alongside them and speak truth. You'll never regret that you did.

Thank you, Karen, for your contribution to our world. Please know that you're remembered for much more than your illness.

October 4, 2019

Tokyo Disney Resort Continues It's Standing as the Premier Disney Resort

Tokyo Disneysea is the undeniable champion of Disney fans theme park envy. In the exact same year that this magnificent park opened, the less than stellar (to be kind) Disney's California Adventure made its debut next to Walt's park in Anaheim. The two parks couldn't have been more different. One park was the epitome of Imagineering skill and creativity. The other, well, a stunning example of Disney "budgeteering", full of pride on behalf of the Company leaders who were convinced everyone would come just because it had the Disney name on it. (Sounds a bit like the marketing plan for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, doesn't it?)

Imagineer Phillip Freer painted this beautiful piece of concept art depicting Tokyo's version of the Indiana Jones Adventure. With the lush tropical rain forest and the imposing temple, it's hard to believe the bustling city of Tokyo is right behind it all. With the upcoming Beauty and the Beast and Fantasy Springs additions, the Japanese parks continue to outshine those in the States if not the world. And for very good reason!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 3, 2019

Real Treasure

Just a reminder of the important things in life. It's the people, not the possessions, not the traveling, not the adventures. God gives us people to love and people to love us- ones who should reflect His Heart to a broken world that often refuses to see Him as He is: always loving, always good, and always righteous and holy.

(Photo copyright Scott Laurie Photography.)

October 2, 2019

Hidden France

Credit goes to my wife for finding this truly beautiful photograph! The town of Saint Paul de Vence, in France by photographer Dennis Barloga beautifully captures the magic of a place that seems hundreds of years away from 2019. Certainly one of our favorites places to explore in Europe. Interested in a print? You can order here.

(Photograph copyright Dennis Barloga.)

October 1, 2019

Are You Chosen?

Would you make the cut? In an amazingly creative turn of events, the child sponsorship NGO World Vision is allowing children in need to choose their sponsor family. What a great idea! Want to help a child with food, clothing, medical care and schooling? World Vision of one of several great organizations to choose from. Take a look at this challenging article and see how they are turning sponsorship programs upside down. 

(Photo by Heather Cromartie.)