June 30, 2020

Don't Stop Believin'

Just read the first few chapters of this 2018 book by Olivia Newton-John. Looks to be a fun little read, a pleasant summer diversion after all the more serious books I've been into!

June 27, 2020

Vintage Submarine Voyage Shot

A nice little photo of Disneyland's iconic Submarine Voyage circa 1959. A journey through "liquid space" was irresistible then, and still irresistible now- even if it's no longer the original attraction story. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage may not be the Imagineers most stunning effort, but at least Tony Baxter and team were able to keep the ride and shimmering lagoon off the chopping block.

(Photographer unknown own.)

June 24, 2020

It's A Small World, Mary Blair, and Venice

Imagineer Mary Blair's distinctive styling for It's A Small World helped to make it an instant classic. Her pieces of concept art could not be any more charming than they are! From the 1964 World's Fair to Hong Kong Disneyland (but not Shanghai Disneyland for political reasons, I'm sure), the beloved attraction remains so after decades upon decades of ridership. I'm not ashamed to say it is one of my favorites- music and all.

This rare piece representing Italy's Venice and her gondoliers is among the sweetest I've seen! And isn't our world in need of some love and peace and brotherhood right now?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 22, 2020

Dine or Ditch: Be Our Guest

The next restaurant to be reviewed in the Dine or Ditch series is one that's sure to raise some heated opinions on both sides. Be Our Guest is a fan favorite and one restaurant that was on the top of my list to experience in 2018. Would it live up to the hype?

The approach is promising.

Regardless of how you feel about it, one of the hottest meal tickets on the Disney property is Be Our Guest in the New Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom. Does this mean it has the best food, the most incredible atmosphere, or stunning entertainment compared to other locations found in the parks or resorts? No, it means that Beauty and the Beast is a much loved film and in all its forms continues to be a big draw throughout the multitude of Disney destinations. 

Behind door number 1? The movie's ballroom.

Having to get up early in the morning to make dining reservations when the central desk opens is not my choice in vacation planning. Yet, there's no way around it if dining in Beast's castle is at the top of your list as it was for mine in 2018 when we traveled with our youngest daughter and her family. Be Our Guest also made the list for our 2019 trip as we were traveling with a different daughter and her family, and they wanted to eat there as well.

The West Wing- dark, mysterious, and full of Disney charm.

The number one rule here to getting the reservation you want or one at all- "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Over and over. It took many attempts to get exactly what we wanted. Unfortunately, with the mess Disney's created by having to book everything in advance, you have to shuffle the importance of getting key Fast Pass attractions with the most coveted dining reservations. This challenge is the most difficult, most maddening, part of a Walt Disney World vacation! Is Be Our Guest worth it? Read on and make your own decision.

Our first visit was truly a magical experience. Our reservations were very late in the evening. In fact, it may have been the last seating time on schedule. Fantasyland was close to empty as parents took their kids home for the night. Even though we had two elementary kids with us, choosing this time was to our advantage. 

If you ask nicely, the cast member may let you in early
to take some photos- even if your reservation
is later in the day.

The approximate twenty minute wait gave us time to explore both the inside and outside of the castle and take some photos. 

We considered the ballroom, but decided to dine in the West Wing as our daughter's family had dined in the ballroom in the past. The atmosphere here is rich and rather private feeling in spite of all the tables. Toss in a thunderstorm outside, a magic rose losing its petals, and a changing portrait of the master of the castle, and it is a stunning environment. Added benefit was how quiet this location was, creating a very relaxing spot to eat. 

Beast in his dinner attire.

Once we were seated, I took the time to explore the other rooms and discovered a dinner only surprise: The servants of the castle introduced the master, who then proceeded to walk through the main areas before settling into a private meeting room so that diners could have an up close and personal character greeting. Be aware, this is something that is not done at any other time of the day. You'll see Gaston in the village, but Beast is only found here.

Our meals were just as wonderful as the surroundings! They began with a glass of sparkling wine and ended with the grey stuff. Yes, it is delicious! Service was attentive but not intrusive, and our staff was very much into providing a memorable experience for us and for the littlest diners without the slightest bit of a mess. (Inside joke.)

Was it expensive? Absolutely! Our dinner for two with "adult" drinks, dessert, tax and tip went far beyond the one hundred dollar mark. (Note this was back when the Disney Dining Plan counted this as one credit, not two.) We had other very memorable meals that trip, but this was hands down my favorite overall. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite animated movie, so the experience was something I did not want to miss. I was not disappointed. Definitely a "Dine".

Our next visit was not so "enchanting"...

Not in the movie, so this room wasn't even on the table as a choice.

By the time we returned a year later, Be Our Guest was two credits for dinner on the Disney Dining Plan. We were on the plan for this trip, but we opted for a lunch reservation instead, making use of a Quick Service credit. Was it a smart choice? Yes and no.

Excitedly, we entered the castle and were ushered past the suits of armor into a room where kiosks were set up to receive our meal orders. It was quick and efficient. If I'm not mistaken, these were placed in the exact same room where Beast sat at exclusive dinnertime character meet and greet. 

This time we ate in the Ballroom. It was difficult to find seating for our large group. The whole restaurant was filled with families. That in itself wasn't a problem as we were a party of seven with three kids. Part of the issue was so many kids - but not ours - were left to run around as they pleased, making it a very noisy and unpleasant experience. The general lack of consideration for others was rather appalling. 

Although the lunch offerings were decent and the food slightly better than average, the service was not very good. More than once, food was brought to our table that wasn't ours. And it was not delivered all together. I'm not sure this was the fault of the harried waitstaff as much as it was the system. We ate our meals and left as quickly as we came. Our daughter and her husband counted Be Our Guest as one of their least favorite experiences on the property... and I had to agree. It was not worth the time or the money. The contrast between first and second visits couldn't have been more stark. We probably won't eat here again unless it's with another family member who has not been there before. 

A Few Tips:
If you must eat here, try to obtain the reservation you want by getting on line early and/or try again up until departure date. If still unsuccessful, keep checking availability on the My Disney Experience App once you arrive on the Walt Disney World property.

If you're a big fan of the movie, eat in the Ballroom or the West Wing. Skip the Music Box room as it is not in the movie, but do take the time to explore each area. 

Wanting the full dinner experience? Use the Disney Dining Plan. Otherwise plan for a very expensive out of pocket meal- much more than it is worth. Choose lunch for a Quick Service credit or pay on your own. It's still expensive, but if you've got to see it for yourself, this is your best option. Take your time to explore the rooms in the castle and do not let anyone rush you- but do be considerate of others.

Dine or Ditch for Be Our Guest?  A very personal choice. If you've never eaten here, it's a "Dine" with some caveats. If you have, it's a "Ditch". Better experiences and food can be found elsewhere on the property with much less stress.

UPDATE: Disney confirmed today that this restaurant will no longer offer breakfast and will now only be table service. Makes the decision to Dine or Ditch even more difficult!

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)

June 20, 2020

Disneyland's Main Street Music Store

Here's a pretty rare piece of concept art for the Music Store on Main Street U.S.A., in Walt Disney's original Disneyland. The care these first era Imagineers took to get all the details just so reveals much about the heart behind the project. They wanted it to feel like guests entered the timeline of a bygone society. For all they knew, this Magic Kingdom would be the only one- and it had to be show-stoppingly great. And it was! Disneyland became an enduring favorite decade after decade. 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 19, 2020

We Need to Talk

A Black man and an Arab meet to discuss racism. What an incredible video- one that makes me as a White male look at things I hadn't considered. Do you fit their profiles or do you fit mine or something different? Regardless, it's time to take an objective look at racism and what is going on in our nation. We need to talk. Yes, we do!

June 17, 2020

Boy and Butterfly

It took about 20 minutes of him sitting perfectly still there- but eventually this butterfly flew to him and landed on his shoulder. I patiently moved in to get a series of photos on my phone. The butterfly sat there still and calm. What a great lesson in life that sometimes waiting and being patient yields the best results!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

June 15, 2020

Flooded Haunted Mansion

With COVID-19 affecting everything, it's just a matter of time before some maintenance lapses would occur at Disneyland or at the Walt Disney World resort. But why or why would Disney executives even be slightly ok with flooding at everyone's favorite, The Haunted Mansion? Well, the answer is when it was considered as a valid concept for the attraction early on in development!

Look at this image capture! You can see that, yes, an expansive boat ride version of the iconic attraction was once considered by the Imagineers! With the incredible success (and high capacity) of the nearby Pirates of the Caribbean, the suits really did consider a spirit filled attraction which culminated in a ride through a manor house filled with water from the bayou. Whether it was expense or the desire for a different ride vehicle or both, we know what eventually won out. But the story is just fascinating! And it's told by the folks at Park Ride History in the excellent video below. Enjoy!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 13, 2020

Broken Disney World and More

Walt Disney World may be reopening soon, but it is not coming without a slew of problems both big and small! And Disneyland is not far behind. For those who are fans of the theme parks, this is a reason to rejoice! We will soon be able to go to our happy place. But hear me- it may be one of only a handful of happy places left!

Ours is a country in turmoil. In addition to COVID-19 and our reactions to how it’s being handled, racial injustices and the violent reactions to that threaten to further divide our country. This includes our churches, which sadly are one of the most segregated communities in our nation. As political leaders and other high profile people of all persuasions forge ahead with their plans, we can look deeper and find other agendas behind their stated words and actions. Some are godly, and some are not. Yet, in the midst of all the strife, these struggles come with great opportunity for the church and for individuals who follow Jesus Christ!

How do we begin to be a positive and Biblically focused change agent?  The first step is to understand what God’s Word says about His family. Two excellent resources to consider are a book by Pastor Miles McPherson, The Third Option- Hope For A Racially Divided Nation; and John Piper’s excellent Did Moses Marry A Black Woman? (Yes, he did, and God was angry with those who disapproved.) McPherson is multiracial and identifies as Black; Piper is White. Both offer a fully Biblical perspective. There are many more resources that are helpful including Ed Stetzer’s incredible Christians in the Age of Outrage, a work which challenges believers to use social media wisely with a goal of God’s purposes behind our words. Understanding is Step One. 

Listening is Step Two. This is not a one way monologue. We must listen to each other, ask honest questions, and offer answers that are rooted in the Scripture. This give and take conversation must include lovingly challenging ideas that are contrary to Biblical truth. We must also keep our anger in check. Nothing will be accomplished if we cannot control our tongues. James 1:19-27 reminds us how we should handle ourselves, ending with “and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” This includes adapting to and justifying a philosophy and a use of words and actions that favor a political or social stance contrary to Biblical truth. 

Earlier this year before the quarantine, Dr. Michael Henderson, a pastor, was the keynote speaker at a conference about racial reconciliation. As first a Christian but also as a Black man, Dr. Henderson shared something powerful that I will paraphrase (and probably butcher). He explained how brothers and sisters of color not only long to be invited to the party, but also to serve there, and then be able to lead and organize the party. Meaning it’s not enough for us as Christians who are White to be inclusive of them in attendance or even church membership. We must also allow our family members of all colors to serve, partner, and lead the church with us. Or even let them lead us. It’s one significant way of showing honor and thinking of others more highly than we think of ourselves. It’s a rich and rewarding opportunity for all of us to learn from each other! Yet how do we bring this mindset into our churches, and in doing so, represent an inclusive and loving God to a world that is conditioned to believe that Christ followers of different colors cannot even worship together, let alone live in unity?

From the beginning of creation, God made it clear that we are all created in his image. Secondly, the Church belongs to God. It’s not ours. We are given stewardship, but it is His Church. We come under His Authority. Thankfully, in the Bible, God gives us a pattern to follow to build a church family that pleases Him. 

After Step One of Understanding and Step Two of Listening, we can move forward into action, Step Three. We can be committed and serve others instead of just seeking our own needs to be met. We can proactively draw others in to work alongside us, building relationship, strengthening unity, and advancing God’s Kingdom. Leaders are called to steward His church and help others grow in using their gifts, but they are also called to develop future pastors, elders, and ministry leaders. It can be hard to share leadership when we are so committed to our work and “know” what has to be done and how to do it! But we must. Sharing and developing new leadership is ultimately an expression of our trust in God, our humility before Him and others, and an agreement to advance the kingdom by letting others struggle and strengthen while they grow. What if Jesus hadn’t given the Twelve and then the Seventy-Two real authority and power? What would our world look like if Barnabas had not embraced Paul as a new convert? (See Acts 9.)  What if Paul hadn’t developed and entrusted other men such as Timothy and Titus? This model is before us for a reason- and it even began in the garden before the Fall of man when Our Perfect God passed on authority to Adam and Eve.  

Just before this well-loved verse, “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord really wants from you: He wants you to carry out justice, to love faithfulness, and to live obediently before your God.” (Micah 6:8), we find these words, “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.” (Micah 4:5). This is our call to a Biblical focus instead of our personal preferences. We must remember we are first citizens of His Kingdom. What we look like and where we call home is farther down the list of descriptors. These will be important truths to remember! 

As we have hard discussions and grow in knowledge and then change how we live, we can grow impatient with each other or impatient with our progress as a church community. Both sides will make mistakes, and the enemy will work against our unity. All of this is a process of conforming into Christlikeness. 

After the events of this year, I believe churches cannot be the same as they were. Jesus’ words in Luke 21 make it pretty clear that we are much closer to the Lord’s return than we were yesterday. We already know our church is committed to Biblical diversity- it’s one of our stated values. We as the Body of Christ are challenged and also comforted by these words in Galatians 3:28- "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." 

Should racial reconciliation be the sole focus of the church? No, we need to be about all aspects of God’s Kingdom, but it is one issue that our nation has now forced to the top of our list. We can turn away from that or we can embrace it as also coming from the hand of the Lord. So, what do we do? Keep pressing in, allowing God to change and form us individually and collectively.

God will continue to make us more like Him as we all go humbly before Him. We all get to be a part of the ongoing process of Christlikeness. I’m excited about the future as God is calling more and more people to Himself, and if we look to Him, He will heal our nation! We are all part of God's mission for us- and what a joy that is!

June 12, 2020

Rarely Seen Peter Pan Flight's Art

When Imagineering (and the Disney suits) decided it was time to give Walt's park a brand New Fantasyland, a few pieces of concept art were created. Of course, pieces were done for the addition of the Pinocchio dark ride- but I was also surprised to discover Peter Pan's Flight was also given a fresh look. This rendering comes from 1983. It's a pretty rare piece!

If you just love Peter Pan's Flight- and who doesn't?- make sure you take a look at my Disney Dark Ride Series mega-post on this attraction. From Disneyland to Shanghai Disneyland, the history, artwork, and photos of this fan favorite make a fascinating read. You can find it here.

June 10, 2020

Making Real Change

Wouldn't you like to have the kind of power and position to make real lasting changes in our world? The opportunity to make a difference that would improve the lives of so many people? Some may say it's impossible- but I say nothing is impossible with God! 

A few weeks ago, followers of Jesus celebrated Pentecost Sunday- The day God empowered the young church at a whole new level to reach a world He loves. (Read all about it in the Bible in the book of Acts Chapter 2.) This was the day, God poured out the Gifts of His Holy Spirit! What are they and how do they fit into the like of a believer?

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit always work in harmony with the Word of God. They never contradict the Bible because the Word of God and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit come from the same source. Additionally, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit work together with God’s Word in fighting our enemy and bringing God’s truth.

Why do we need the Gifts of the Holy Spirit? All you have to do is look around our world, and you’ll see we are in a spiritual battle! It’s clear that hatred, unbridled anger, violence, tongues too quick to speak, and failed plans of men are the markers of our day. 

As his people, we are called to live differently. But when we respond and wage war as the world does, we only show those that do not know Him that we are just like them. So how can we effectively do battle and still draw them to a God who loves them and sent His Son to die on their behalf? Our good and loving and wise God would not send us into a spiritual battle without spiritual weapons! He never wants us to reply on our own strength. He desires we look to Him for everything. When we do, our love for Him grows, and He gets the glory!

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

This battle did not stop during New Testament times. Your daily life is a mission field! You need not be overseas or in another state to be doing God’s work. Until Satan and his demons are thrown into hell’s pit of fire, we’ll be in the battle against his forces (Revelation 20:10). Nor does the Bible limit demonic activity and spiritual warfare to less advanced societies. The world is under Satan’s temporary control until Jesus returns (I John 3:8), and he is doing everything he can to keep people from hearing God’s redemptive message (2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 4:8). The main point is not that demons are everywhere and always involved but instead that we must be aware there’s a battle happening. It’s important we remain prayerful, asking God to show us what we need to do… and then doing it, not just being content with increased understanding.

We desire to reveal God to others, so we must live and act in a way that shows He is in control of us and that our lives are an obedient sacrifice. We cannot live this way without Him! The life of a believer in Jesus without the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in operation is limited in its effectiveness because it is dependent on the strength and strategies of men versus the power and wisdom of God.  Therefore, we bring many gifts to use in His Service- both natural gifts and supernatural gifts are from Him- and we will use all these valuable gifts to bring Him glory. Paul understood this and ministered in this manner (I Corinthians 2:4-5). 

Here are some basic Biblical facts to remember about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

1- God Gives the Gifts as He Chooses 

The Holy Spirit gives the gifts as He chooses (I Corinthians 12:11). Jesus gives gifts (Ephesians 4:11). God gives “Natural gifts”. They are no less “spiritual”. Not all gifts can be used “at will” (ie. Healing, etc.). God specifically designed us in this way as well. If we are faithful to use what gifts He gives us, we will be fruitful in the Kingdom and have much joy.   

2- No One Has All the Gifts 

Walking out a life that’s pleasing to God always involves other people. We are designed to need each other. Beginning in Genesis 1, ministry has always been a team effort. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?  Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?  But earnestly desire the higher gifts.  And I will show you a still more excellent way.” (I Corinthians 12:27-31)  

3- Spiritual Gifts Do Not Equal Spiritual Maturity 

The church in Corinth was one in which the gifts were very active. However, they were also one of the most immature bodies of believers. They constantly dealt with division from within, pride, a reliance on human wisdom, and immorality in how they lived (I Corinthians 3-5). Since we represent God, we are to serve humbly at all times but especially when using the gifts He gives us (Romans 12:3). Some people avoid the Gifts of the Holy Spirit because they can be controversial. The Gospel itself is controversial! As with the teaching gifts, any gift can be misused and God’s truth misrepresented, but every gift remains important for effective ministry and living a life that pleases God. 

4- The Gifts are Given to Build Up the Church 

“Now to each the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7) “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” (I Corinthians 14:12) “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11-15) The use of the gifts must reflect the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22).  

Where are these gifts in the Scripture? Here are the lists of Spiritual Gifts as found in the Bible: 

Romans 12:3-8-  For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,  so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

I Corinthians 7- In context, Paul addresses the gifts of Marriage and of Celibacy.  

I Corinthians 12: 4-11- Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;  and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

I Corinthians 12:28-  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

Ephesians 4:11-13 (roles in the context of gifts)-  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

I Peter 4:7-11 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.  Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:  whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

When every believer uses the gifts God gives- and uses them in the love God gives- the kingdom of God is advanced. Those lost come to know Him and those He loves have a life that is pleasing in his sight. When everyone is actively involved in ministry, actively fighting in the battle, the church is no longer a group of spectators where only the paid professionals fully get to be who God made them to be. Then, the world around you changes more quickly than when you wait for "someone" else to make a difference.

The great Apostle Paul encourages us that we are not lacking in any spiritual gifts as we await Jesus’ return (I Corinthians 1:7). Our enemy delights when we walk in the flesh. Our God delights when we are reliant on Him as we walk our days on this earth.  So go forward in confidence in living out your faith knowing that God’s Holy Spirit is in you and working through you. The changes that come will bless others- and in God's Kingdom have eternal impact!

June 8, 2020

Rarest of All Disneyland Maps

Who doesn't love vintage maps of Disneyland? And the photo above, shows the rarest of them all! Back when planning the park, Imagineer Marvin Davis, with a middle name of "Abbrey", as seen below, created this plot plan for Walt Disney's beloved kingdom. (Just a reminder, you can click on the images for a larger version.)

This incredible vintage "brownline"plan was dated February 14, 1955, reveals previously unknown details of the park. Who would ever have guessed an archery range was once on the table? What about the proposed heliport that was to be constructed right next to Tomorrowland

When this ultra rare map was offered up at an auction house years ago, the starting price was $12,000 USD. A mere bargain for the privileged few- a ransom for us ordinary men.

(Images copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 6, 2020

Crystal Palace Attraction Posters

Although there are many incredible pieces of architecture at Walt Disney World, there is none as beautiful as the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom. The attraction posters for the restaurant are just as charming. The more modern one is above, and the retro/vintage version is below.

At opening, this dining location was not a character meal but instead a no reservations necessary location for a quick bite in a lovely Victorian era setting. In fact, the style and look was based on a structure of the same name built in London for the Great Exhibition of 1851 (what would eventually become the basis for the World's Fair / Expo). 

Here's the Tokyo Disneyland attraction poster for the restaurant.

There's many more attraction posters coming in my Walt Disney World collection, but the gathering of my Tomorrowland artwork can be found here.  (The Disneyland collection is complete at this point in time and on-line.)

Attraction posters are a very popular feature on the blog- and thanks to many people, this site holds the largest collection to be found on the web. Enjoy!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 5, 2020

A Tropical Paradise

Parts of the garden are in full bloom today! The photo does not do it justice, but the hibiscus is just amazing. Brilliant red beyond anything I've seen in quite awhile. And the vibrant purples of those daisies? Equally stunning. The creative heart of God is astounding!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

June 4, 2020

CNN: All Four Officers Charged

It will be very interesting to see how the murder of George Floyd is handled. How will the press handle it all? I'm hoping both the liberal and the conversation press are fair and honest, but as we know, that is not always the case. CNN's story is here

Disney's It Factor

Expedition: Everest has the "it" factor! There's a great story, thrills, an amazing Audio-Animatronic main character (when it is in "A" mode- which hasn't been for years now), and layers upon layers of Imagineering detail due to those infamous research trips from Joe Rohde and team. But what a payoff! Disney's Animal Kingdom was finally on the map and "Natazu" once and for all. Just look at this concept art! Certainly one of my favorite attractions in all of Walt Disney World

What are yours?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Meet Professor Quizzit

Here's a funny man on a family friendly mission! Bringing games galore, science experiments, and more, Professor Quizzit is the wackiest guy to be found! He'll make you laugh and make your kids sit up and take notice of the amazing world in which they live.
Go to ProfessorQuizzit.com and explore the world!

(Art copyright ProfessorQuizzit.com.)

June 3, 2020

A Black Anglican Priest Speaks Out

Esau McCaulley, a Black Anglican Priest and author of the upcoming book "Reading While Black", speaks about racism in America but more importantly, the impact that God's Holy Spirit can have in changing people and drawing them together. His short article for Christianity Today is so powerful, it needs to be shared.
Here's an excerpt:

"This weekend, churches around the globe gathered virtually to celebrate Pentecost, that miraculous moment when tongues of fire descended on the followers of Christ and the gospel was heard in the varied languages of the world. Pentecost is the miracle that follows another miracle (the Ascension), which occurs in the aftermath of a wonder (the Resurrection).

In contrast to Christ’s disciples, we experienced Pentecost this year in the aftermath of a woe, following a trauma, in the context of a tragedy. The protests and riots of Minneapolis (and so many other cities) follow the death of George Floyd, who was choked to death while handcuffed and pleading for his life. For nine minutes, a police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck while the man called for his mother. This occurred in the wake of the killings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. And all this takes place within the wider context of a global pandemic that has killed 100,000 people. It feels more like we are in the middle of an extended Lent rather than the end of Eastertide.

Some will assume that I’m bringing politics into the church. They’ll wonder why I’m not upset about black-on-black crime, or the breakdown of the black family, or abortion, or looting, or whatever topic that helps us avoid looking at the thing itself. That “thing” is the 400-year history of racial trauma and oppression still plaguing blacks in this country.

What do protests, riots, and police brutality have to do with Pentecost and the passage in Acts 2:1–21? Does the death of the Messiah for our sins have anything to do with how we approach the flames of Minneapolis? Does the church have something to say, or will we be discipled by Fox News on the one hand and MSNBC on the other? As our country is divided, what do the words of Scripture mean right now?

There is no other world in which to talk about Jesus than a world in which black men can have their necks stepped on for nine minutes. That is to say: The only way to answer these questions is to look at the words of Scripture with the burning cities as our interpretive backdrop.

Here’s what God’s Word tells us.

First, the gospel brings us together.

Acts 2:1–21 opens with the followers of Jesus gathered in one place. It is amazing to think that at one point in history, all the Christians in the world could fit into one room. Despite what the history books will tell you, Christianity is not some state-sponsored religion of terror created by Constantine to keep the populous in check. It began humbly with a ragtag group of 120 mostly regular folks who had encountered the living God.

Among them were women like Mary, the mother of Jesus, who came from rural peasant stock, and people like Matthew, the former tax collector. The two of them could not be more different. Matthew collaborated with the oppressors of Israel and extorted money from people to line his pockets. Folks like Mary were the victims of such atrocities.

What kind of church has room for both the oppressed and former oppressors? The Christian church. What united that early church? Their shared convictions about Jesus.

What unites us as a church now? What would this unity look like today for the family of George Floyd? What would it mean for us to be together with them? What would it mean to be alongside the black community in the United States, which over the years has experienced kidnapping, slavery, the injustice of the Jim Crow era, and the litany of contemporary sufferings that mark our lives now?

It would mean that, as an act of love, the church says, “It should not have to be this way, and I will spend my life beside yours testifying to the values that the Christian tradition places on your black life.”

The church has the power to make this statement because the same Spirit falls upon everyone in the room. There is not one Holy Spirit that enables women to declare the word of God and another for men. There is not one Spirit that gives words to the rich and others to the poor. There is not one Holy Spirit that allows us to speak to African peoples and another that allows us to speak to Asians or Europeans. The one Spirit sends the one gospel to varied peoples of the earth.

The gospel’s work through the Spirit arises from our common status as image bearers. We are all fallen and in need of God’s grace. Any ideology that functionally or verbally denies that common status is a heresy. And anyone who can’t see that the heresy of racial bias infects some Christians in this land does so in the face of overwhelming facts.

Second, the gospel moves us out...

We the American church have a message for a country and a world on fire: There is a God who loves you and died that you might know him. This love is sufficient to gather the divided peoples of the world, even when all the politicians and philosophers fail. There is a God of justice who sees and acts on behalf of the beleaguered peoples of the world, people like George Floyd. There is a king and kingdom. And he has given us his Spirit to make him known to the ends of the earth."

The full article is here.

Esau McCaulley is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America, an assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, and the author of the forthcoming book Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope (IVP Academic).
This piece was adapted from a sermon preached at Anglican Church of the Redeemer in Greensboro, North Carolina on May 31.
(From Christianity Today.)

June 1, 2020

Top Ten Carpenters Albums - 2020 Edition

Have you ever noticed how your taste changes over the years? Mine sure has! This has happened with foods I like, television shows I watch, movies I love, books and music, and even Disney theme park attractions that I would list as my favorites. 

Today, I'm focusing on a reassessment of my favorite Top Ten albums by Carpenters. That Richard and Karen Carpenter are my favorite duo is one thing that definitely has not changed. But the list of my favorite albums by them has changed over the years. Which ones have moved up or down the list since the last time I did this in 2012?

Compilations, boxed sets, solo, live or Christmas albums are not included.  At the bottom of each album's description and ranking is a link to my original review as well as one for my "Revisited / Fresh Look" reviews done years later. (I'm only finished with those through 1973's Now & Then album.) Here we go...

(11.) “OfferingTicket to Ride”- 1969 album. Varied in style and approach. The disc has a very 60's rock / pop sound, making in an also ran for me. Super ambitious. Karen's voice has flashes of what we've come to expect. The album is much different than their breakout hits and romantic sounds that came in the following decade. Standouts: "Ticket to Ride" (though the definitive reworked version came in 1973), “All of My Life” (featured in The Karen Carpenter Story), "Don't Be Afraid", "Turn Away", “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing”.
Original review here.  Revisited / Fresh Look review here.

 10. “Made in America” – Their 1981 "comeback" album. They were striving for a hit, and it unfortunately shows. Seems stripped of the ambition mentioned above. To be fair, there are some pleasant songs, but it's much too soft. As usual, Karen sounds great, but her voice is generally higher, softer, and too far in the background.  Richard's arrangements rule. Standouts: “Touch Me When We’re Dancing” (their last Top Twenty single), “Strength of a Woman”, "When It's Gone", “Somebody’s Been Lying”. 
Original review here.  

9. “Passage”- Daring 1977 album. Totally unexpected in every way. Bold and sassy. Confident. Each cut is very different than the one before. Standouts: the exceptional “Bwana She No Home”, the underrated single “All You Get From Love is a Love Song”, “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”, “Sweet, Sweet Smile”. Grammy nod for Richard's arrangement on "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft".  
Original review here.  

8. “Now and Then” - Most interesting album layout. Stuffed with hits but mostly oldies from a decade earlier. Great fun but lower ranking given for few original songs. Standouts: “Our Day Will Come”,  the incredible“This Masquerade”, and the Richard Carpenter / John Bettis classic “Yesterday Once More”.
Original review here.  Revisited / Fresh Look review here

7. “A Kind of Hush”- The title track is a guilty favorite to this day, and although the album is beautiful to look at, the songs inside were very out of touch with what was on the radio back in 1976. There are still some absolute gems here. This is also the album I got to discuss for Randy L. Schmidt's Carpenters: An Illustrated Discography book.  Note: When I reach this collection for my "Revisited / Fresh Look" review, I'll share my full interview notes that I submitted to Randy for consideration. Standouts: There's A Kind of Hush (All Over the World)", “Boat to Sail”, “I Need to Be in Love”, “One More Time”, “I Have You”.
Original review here.  

6. “Voice of the Heart”- First posthumous album released just months after her passing. Due to that fact, it's a sad but sentimental favorite. Varied styles affirm their ability to serve any genre well, but beware of the overuse of the chorale. Stunning cover photo of Karen and wistful back cover pic of Richard.  Standouts: my favorite Carpenters song of all time “Ordinary Fool”, “Now”, the instant classic but under appreciated  “Your Baby Doesn’t Love You Anymore”, “Look to Your Dreams”, “At the End of a Song”. 
Original review here. 

5. “Carpenters (aka The Tan album)” – Can't miss album with "For All We Know", "Rainy Days and Mondays" and "Superstar".  Beautiful and melancholy. Does contain the worst of all Carpenters tunes,  “Druscilla Penny”. Standouts: the three single releases plus “Let Me Be the One”, “Hideaway”, “Sometimes”, “Bacharach Medley”. 
Original review here.  Revisited / Fresh Look review here.

4. “Lovelines” - Strongest posthumous release. A mix of four selections from Karen's solo album, previously unreleased songs, and leftover tunes from Made in America- some of which are far better than those placed on that album. Standouts: The "Should have been a single, it's so good" outtake “Kiss Me the Way You Did Last Night”, the Michael Jackson meets Karen “Lovelines”, smooth jazz “If We Try”, a moody remake of Barry Manilow's “Where Do I Go From Here?”, the classic “When I Fall in Love”, “If I Had You”. 
Original review here.  

3. “A Song For You” - Almost a greatest hits album on its own. Great singles like "Top of the World" (original mix) . Standouts: "Road Ode", “Hurting Each Other”, “Goodbye to Love”, "Bless the Beats and Children".
Original review here.  Revisited / Fresh Look review here.

2. “Horizon”- Best visual presentation of Karen and Richard as real people. Ultra polished collection but with real backbone, Elegant, classy, best recorded sound of Karen’s voice ever. A couple of songs too short, but flawless. Perfect for late night FM radio. Standouts: my favorite modern single of the duo, “Only Yesterday”, the definitive version of “Desperado”, Neil Sedaka's dramatic “Solitaire”, “I Can Dream, Can’t I?”, bookends “Aurora/Eventide”, “Love Me For What I Am”. 
Original review here.  

1. “Close to You”- Back to the top of my rankings. The album that  cemented my love affair with Karen's voice. Fresh. Energetic. Brilliant in every way. Standouts: Wedding song “We’ve Only Just Begun”, the could have been third single “Baby It’s You”, "Reason to Believe", “Love is Surrender”, “Maybe It’s You”, "Crescent Noon" “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”, "Another Song". 
Original review here.  Revisited / Fresh Look review here.

Will these stay in this order in another ten years? Stay tuned...