July 31, 2020

Disneyland's "Peter Pan Flight to Neverland"?

Thought I'd end the month of July with a bang...Everyone in the Disney World seems to love Peter Pan's Flight! The iconic dark ride opened at Disneyland in 1955 when the park made its debut. Is it even possible the originally planned name was "Peter Pan Flight to Neverland"? Yes, and here's proof. 

This piece of rare concept art by Imagineer Bill Martin has the name of the attraction front and center. Had the attraction been built in the last decade, the longer name might have stayed as this group of artists and suits seem to have a fondness for long, drawn out, attraction names. 

Want to read a very detailed look at the history of this great ride? Check out all the concept art and history and photos of it's creation- and placement in the parks- in these two blog posts. Different art in each! Number 1 and Number 2.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 30, 2020

Crowds, COVID-19, and Conditions at Epcot

The days of the COVID19 (Coronavirus) pandemic are decidedly hitting Walt Disney World and all the Disney Parks worldwide. According to some sources, guest numbers are so low that the parks may go on a rotation of days during each week they are open. Even at the Magic Kingdom, the most beloved destination of all, is stunning in its empty paths, parade routes, and queues.

Wait! This has been demolished...

Yet, this is not the first time in the history of the Florida resort that the crowds have been non-existent. 

The photos above show Future World around 11:00am... in August of 2009. 

Everywhere I went, each attraction's queue was empty with the exception of Soarin' and Test Track, which was to be expected, of course.

I arrived just at opening time and departed right after Illuminations had concluded its performance. I was easily able to ride every attraction in the park at least once, sometimes more. That included Soarin' twice, Test Track three times, and Gran Fiesta Tour twice. This was without advanced planning of any sort. Incredible!

Very similar to our first visit to EPCOT Center in 1983, crowds were manageable, cast members talkative, and guests relaxed. This made the day feel like a step backward in time. On the downside, the energy level was missing, creating an audience response to the individual attractions that was less than highly enthusiastic.

Things were about the same at the other end of the park. The photos of World Showcase photos were taken between the hours of 2:00pm and 5:00pm. This clearly should have been the peak time for crowds enjoying lunch- a midway point between those doing the rope drop morning and those coming later. Overall nice weather, very small crowds, absolutely no lines, and late closing hours. Heavenly touring- just as the Walt Disney World of old.

Will the Florida parks ever return to the days of bustling crowds, extended hours, and hard to get meal reservations? I hope so, and I hope not.

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)

July 29, 2020

Fantasyland Without It's A Small World

Can you even imagine a Fantasyland without It's A Small World? No, I can't- at least not anymore. And yet, here's a 1965 Disneyland guidebook map showing a big, open area where the attraction now stands. I do see the Motor Boat Cruise, Midget Autopia, and Snow White's Adventures. I also see the Welch's Grape Juice bar and the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship. 

You now have to go to Disneyland Paris to see the pirate ship as the Anaheim original was, very sadly, unintentionally damaged beyond repair during the New Fantasyland makeover of 1983.

I tried to clean this up a bit so things could be more easily seen and read. Varying success, but no matter. Even back then without the voyage around the world, Walt's Fantasyland was full of Disney magic thanks to the great old school Imagineers!

(Copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 27, 2020

Original Art for Dok Ondar's Den of Antiquities at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

Is Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge a success or a disaster? It certainly depends on who you ask and what measurement tools you use, but one thing is certain- There are parts that are excellent and some not so much. One of the early success stories is Dok Ondar's Den of Antiquities. It's chock full of memorabilia you can buy. Or you can spend hours inside the store gazing at everything. Besides, how many stores have an Audio-Animatronic owner inside cooking the books? The shop deserved to de included in both Disneyland's and Disney's Hollywood Studios incarnation. 

This incredible piece of Imagineering concept art is full of the little details that make Disney the best at what it does. What do you see?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company. First found by SWGalaxysEdge @sw_edge.)

July 26, 2020

Sun and Sand

Sunday night daydreaming...

(Photographer unknown.)

July 25, 2020

The Next Addition to World Showcase at Epcot

Could it be this? Is it possible that the suits at Disney, and therefore the Imagineers, bypass Mulan and make this the next in their character based infusion (intrusion) at Epcot? I guess stranger things have happened! But this first look at Raya and the Last Dragon certainly looks appealing. The question is "When will this movie come out?"

And isn't that the thought on movie lovers' minds?

July 24, 2020

Entirely Different Tomorrowland Entrance for Disneyland

Full confession mode: I used to love Disneyland's incredible Tomorrowland. Not so much anymore. Now, it's nice to look at (the Matterhorn Bobsleds against the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage Lagoon), but aside from Space Mountain, I just kind of move on. My favorite era was the 1967 version of the land, fresh with Adventure Thru Inner Space, PeopleMover, and the Carousel of Progress

At opening, Imagineer Herb Ryman created several different pieces of concept art for the entrance to the Land of the Future. The one above was not chosen, but it still has value as a piece representing a Disney History when looking to the future was still in vogue. 

Now that Epcot Center is fully abandoning its origins of a forward thinking Future World, and the castle parks' Tomorrowland has become an excuse for attractions based on animated movies which took place in the future, these renderings provide a look back to what once was. A time when Disneyland was more than just a theme park, when it also highlighted a hopeful future for mankind and a world where we would truly see progress. Unfortunately, as politics and human nature proves, this hopeful future on earth is a thing of the past. We are selfish and broken at our core (this author included), and we need a savior- one to forgive us, set us free from an awful eternity apart from God, and one to give us hope.  Even Walt Disney couldn't create that!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 23, 2020

那些相信的人的新王国 Nàxiē xiāngxìn de rén de xīn wángguó




Duìyú nàxiē xiāngxìn érzi de rén lái shuō, yīgè bǐ díshìní lèyuán gèng hǎo de tiāntáng wángguó:

Yīnwèi zhè jiùshì shàngdì ài shìjiè de fāngshì: Tā gěile tā wéiyī de érzi (biānjí zhù-nà lā ruì sī de yēsū), suǒyǐ suǒyǒu xiāngxìn tā de rén dōu bù huì mièwáng, ér shì yǒngyǒu yǒngshēng. Yīn wéi shàngdì bìng méiyǒu pài tā de ér zǐ chūshì qiǎnzé zhège shìjiè, ér shì yào tōngguò tā zhěngjiù shìjiè."

Zhèxiē huà láizì yuēhàn fúyīn dì sān zhāng zhōng de shèngjīng.

July 22, 2020

Gotta Be the Ocean

A little time on the beach, swimming, sunning, dreaming. It'd be a perfect day in California or Florida - and especially Hawaii- for me. No, I don't surf, but I do like watching folks taking waves. I'm more of a body surfer type, rolling under the crisp clean water, allowing the strength of the ocean to toss me about. There's just something so organic and natural about the beach. A pool just won't do.

(Photographer unknown.)

July 19, 2020

Design Detail: Disneyland Paris' Entrance

Sometimes the tropics, sometimes elsewhere, but today I want to take you to the most beautiful of all Magic Kingdoms, the stunning Disneyland Paris! Once you arrive on the property either by RER train or by auto, you find yourself walking through the Disney Village. Think Downtown Disney or Disney Springs but entirely different in execution. You'd expect to come to the end of the shopping district and see the gates of the Magic Kingdom. No, not at all!  Instead, to your left you find the entrance to Walt Disney Studios Paris. It's rather bland and unappealing.

The entrance to the castle parc is unexpected. Behind this lush French garden with water pond lies the official Disneyland Hotel. You must pass under the entryway before you reach the turnstiles and get into the park. Only when you've done so can you see the Main Street U.S.A. railroad station. It's a masterful reveal and a wonderful design detail! 

Imagineering's genius Eddie Sotto worked under the inspired leadership of  Tony Baxter, creating the perfect version of an elegant French vision of the dreamlike American cities of years gone by. Must be seen to be appreciated. 

(Photograph copyright Hello Disneyland.)

July 18, 2020

Is There Really An "Alien Faith"?

The very odd mail piece arrived, and before I could read the whole thing, I was caught by the phrase "Alien Faith". Thinking "What is this?", I tried to figure it out. 

Was this something from Walt Disney World's Alien Encounter or something more playful, along the lines of Jack Skellington and The Nightmare Before Christmas?

Being a man of faith myself, a follower of Jesus, I was very curious to read the description of this Alien Faith. I photographed the card front and back so you could read it yourself. Tell me what you think.

Is there an alien invasion? Is there really an alien faith? So, so very  interesting in this time and season...

July 17, 2020

Walt Was Right- Happy 65th Birthday Disneyland!

Along with the Disneyland Railroad, I cannot think of an opening day attraction more iconic and tied to the park's history than the Jungle Cruise! There's been many, many, changes to the popular Adventureland attraction over the years, and my photo from approximately 2010 shows yet another version of the ride's entrance.

This colorful photo of Walt Disney himself at the helm is a popular shot, but the one below may be slightly more controversial!

But this was part of Walt, too. Sometimes going against the current thought of the day- and I'm thankful for that! You should be, too! Without his stubborn perseverance, Disneyland itself would never have been built as the "experts" of the day told him an amusement park would never survive with the types of guest experience he wanted to provide. Sometimes, you just gotta go with your gut!

(Top photo copyright Mark Taft. Other photos copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 16, 2020

Man on His Knees

Be a man on your knees. We will all assume that position one day, men and women both, so it's best to get used to it now. Nothing is more pleasing to God than a man who desires to worship Him and give him the honor and glory He deserves. This means living a life that reflects his values. A man who seeks God's heart delights Him! The world wants to bring us to our knees through fear, intimidation, and busyness. The world desires we'd be slaves to living which promises fulfillment but delivers emptiness and pain. God's plan is better. Much better.

God desires relationship- real, open, honest relationship with us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He is drawing you; He is drawing me. How will we respond?

For those already seeking Jesus Christ and the heart of the Father, we are blessed by the words of Apostle Paul:

Therefore we are always full of courage, and we know that as long as we are alive here on earth we are absent from the Lord— for we live by faith, not by sight. Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So then whether we are alive or away, we make it our ambition to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:6-10)

We all must answer to Him at the end of our lives. We will all fall before Him. Jesus of Nazareth, the only true King, God made man, savior of our souls. What will He say to you?

July 15, 2020

An Unexpected Zip A Dee Doo Dah Day

I was on a mission. When we went out to California for my father-in-law's funeral, my oldest daughter and I took to the Orange Circle to look for a very specific item: a classic black and yellow license plate. We looked everywhere, and it was no where to be found.

After we returned home, it was only a couple of months before the lockdown began. As with everyone else, we decided since we had the extra time, we would do some long forgotten (or ignored!) projects that needed completion. The biggest one was the cleaning out of our garage.

As we dug into the several day project, my wife came upon my desired treasure- with a bonus! The entire time I was searching for it, the black and yellow plate was in my home and with a now very desirable Disneyland souvenir attached. A Splash Mountain themed license plate frame! How good of God to provide this small blessing! Proving once again that sometimes the sweetest gifts are found within the walls of your own home. Family who are friends being the best of all!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

July 14, 2020

A Bit of Vintage Paris

Today is Bastille Day, and it's a perfect one to share this beautiful retro inspired poster by Callum Gardiner, "Paris". If you love it, you can find this vintage look poster here. C'est Magnifique!

July 13, 2020

What Epcot's Japan Showcase Needs

It's late at night at Epcot. The nighttime show has ended, and the crowds are thinning out, making it the perfect time for a leisurely stroll. Ever wander into the small hidden gardens and find Katsura Grill? It's a gem! A lovely place for a snack or quiet meal or even just a perfect spot to stop and reflect on life. 

These two photos of Katsura Grill
are official Disney shots.

Although Japan's showcase seems close to perfect with its great dining options and extensive shopping and entertainment, there's so much more that could be done- even going beyond what will be the inevitable Big Hero 6 attraction. Here's a few things- several attractions- that never saw the light of day:

We all know about the cancelled projects like the Mount Fuji bobsled run, Meet the World carousel theater project, and perhaps even the bullet train attraction seen above. 

Imagineering's Joe Warren produced
this piece for Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration
and how it would be celebrated at Epcot.

But have you heard about Collin Campbell's omnimover attraction? In this piece of concept art below, we can see the Imagineers created a visually stunning conclusion to the ride- ready with sponsorship symbols for Japan Airlines (JAL). Eventually, grand ideas gave way to more shopping and dining, but with a different focus than what is already there.

How about something classic and feudal in look? Here's the plan to add an old world shopping district to the existing pavilion: 

This was one of many proposed ideas to spruce up and refresh the World Showcase pavilions for the park's Millennium Celebration. Doesn't this look like something you'd find in the ancient city of Kyoto. The very top photograph of this post shows the real Kyoto, a place I had the opportunity to visit as a very young man. The country is stunning, but this ancient city is the place everyone has to go if they visit Japan!

(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company. Top photo of Kyoto by Oscar Boyd.)

July 12, 2020

Sunday in Austria

Usually my mental traveling on the weekends takes me to gorgeous tropical locations. Today, in the midst of summer heat, my mind goes to the cooler alpine locations. In this case, Hallstatt, Austria. Can't you just hear Maria singing, "The hills are alive..."? 

(Photographer unknown.)

July 10, 2020

Fresh Look at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

The COVID-19 pandemic may be changing the way guests view the parks, and Disneyland itself is not open yet, but that doesn't mean park fans are quiet! The net is buzzing with activity due to the recent reopening of Walt Disney World- even if its currently only for the Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom. 

Back on the West Coast, work is resuming. Splash Mountain Tiana version is a go. It'd take a good amount of work, but it could be great if done correctly. The Princess and the Frog belongs in New Orleans Square and no where else. Even more, perhaps the whole of Critter Country will become a bayou themed area expanded around the Haunted Mansion

Speaking of the beloved spirited attraction,  here's a very interesting piece of concept art for the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. A south elevation view. It's clearly a latter incarnation of the attraction as the exterior is what was built. I have so much art for the mansion in my files that I keep running across something I thought I already shared. Nice problem to have!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 9, 2020

Disney Daydreaming

This summer like no other, I would love to be sailing the high seas with those Pirates of the Caribbean. But where? Shanghai, Paris, Tokyo, Florida? No, in California. 

There's just something so quintessentially Disney about taking the adventure at Disneyland in Walt's original kingdom. An afternoon stroll in New Orleans Square with a stop for a mint julep and some jazz. Dinner at Blue Bayou, and then setting sail for the beloved Audio-Animatronic attraction. A Marc Davis classic- an Imagineering masterpiece. Afterwards, a moonlight cruise aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat. Well, can't do that due to Fantasmic!, but it's a daydream, right?

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 7, 2020

Question Everything Disney Does

The opening of the Disney theme parks is coming up quickly. Walt Disney World will soon be a hub of activity with the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opening first, Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios later in the week. Fans out west at Disneyland (and I guess California Adventure) are not so fortunate. Certainly COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) has changed things! Including the moving forward of those highly debated plans for the character infused transformation of Epcot

The murder of George Floyd has revealed once again the racial reconciliation (and major changes) that needs to happen in our country. Disney has responded by announcing the change of Splash Mountain to an attraction based on Princess and the Frog, a noteworthy and very good, but not quite excellent, animated film. Fans on both sides of this decision are in an uproar. Some are celebrating the removal of a story they feel represents racist America at its worst, while others ask "Are animals racist?" When it comes to anything with Song of the South, seems there's no winning. As for me, as long as most of the Audio-Animatronic characters are saved and the revision is still excellent, I'll be happy. Still, there's no replacing Zip A Dee Doo Dah even if the music of the newer movie is really good.

All this points to a general lack of trust in current leadership, be it Bob Chapek, President Trump, to the World Health Organization. Everyone is suspect. And that is a good thing! We are a money and power hungry world- and our leaders often reflect those values. Therefore, we will disagree with each other when motives are suspect.

Unfortunately, it seems in our country and even around the world that it is no longer appropriate to discuss an issue. Instead the order of the day is to yell, scream, and slander, shouting names and labeling people instead of having civil discussion. Once credible news sources have now given way to inflaming disruption versus helping people to think logically. Why? Because it fuels clicks and viewers. Certainly our current and previous  president fall into this trap of creating further division. And we the people are all the worse because of it!

Are you getting tired of people telling you what to think? Wouldn't you prefer to be given the facts and instead taught how to think? Two very different things! The only real trustworthy source is God himself... and He is not Black or White. Nor is He Red or Blue. Check this out. These words inspired by God Himself were written over two thousand years ago, but they are just as fresh and just as needed today:

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5)

All these words from the great apostle Paul in the New Testament of the Bible remind us to keep our focus on a God that never changes. One whose motives towards us are always for our good. A God whose holy standards are for our benefit and for the benefit of others. In Him alone, we can place our trust. 

The world is shifting proving itself to be falling apart. Will we respond in fear or faith? Will we represent Him or our political beliefs? Will we show loyalty to our color or to the God who created each of us in multiple shades of beautiful? The choice is yours to make. Question everything- especially what's in your own heart.

(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Disney Emails Survey on Hall of Presidents and Mickey's Philharmagic

I wasn't fast enough to think of getting all the screenshots, but I just received a survey from Disney asking my opinions about the Hall of Presidents and Mickey's Philharmagic. As you can see, they are carefully crafted to draw out responses they already want. Most of the descriptions are negatively slanted for Presidents. Get ready for change- again!

July 6, 2020

Karen Carpenter in Happier Days

Karen Carpenter and boyfriend Terry Ellis in happier days. He was the music executive that started Chrysalis Records with friend Chris Wright. Of course, she was the famous and beloved sister half of the world famous Carpenters musical duo. The year? Perhaps 1975 or 1976 as she was definitely thinner than ever but still had that sweet sweet smile on her face. In a perfect world, things would have worked out, and Karen would have avoided that disastrous marriage to Tom Burris. Regardless, it's nice to see a photo where she looks happy.

(Photographer unknown.)

July 4, 2020

A Unique Fourth of July

Am I ashamed of the United States of America? We have taken a lot of punches lately- and deservedly so! We've been exposed for our racism, our consumer mindset, and our division due to political beliefs. No, I'm not ashamed, but I am saddened. We should be so much more than we are.

We have our problems, no doubt. But so do those of every other countries. I've traveled enough of the world and made enough friends to tell you that racism, hatred, pride, selfishness, political division, and more exists everywhere. There's the murdering of innocent children (both inside and outside the womb), genocide, politically motivated famine, persecution and execution of religious minorities, greed, power struggles and more. Man is the same everywhere. Our sin nature guarantees it! We've fallen far from the honor God offers us.

Yet, in the midst of our problems, we too as Americans try to fix ourselves and do better. For that reason, I'm happy to call myself a citizen. My true home, my true citizenship, my first identification, is that of a Christian- but my temporary home is here, and I am blessed. Happy Independence Day, United States of America!

July 3, 2020

The Cool Blues of Cinque Terra

In the long ago and far away category, our trip to Europe in 2007 yielded sweet memories and some equally sweet photographs! We began our trip in Paris, including a visit to Disneyland Paris and the disappointing Walt Disney Studios Paris. We even came upon the French premier of Ratatouille going on across the bank. But then it was on to the real adventure- exploring Europe!

We had scrimped and saved for ten years for this 21 day trip. And it was worth every penny! We had planned to see Italy, Germany, the U.K., France and Wales. Flights were cheap once we got on the continent. (The full trip report with many, many photos is here.)

As we stopped in Cinque Terra, Italy, the day was hot, humid, and sunny and bright. Very hot. The cool blues of the water below called out to me. But what was a guy to do without a swimsuit? Hmm. Thankfully, I remembered I had wisely packed some multi-purpose synthetic trunk style underwear and was in fact wearing them that day. So, I ducked into a nearby cave after watching a few men go into it fully dressed and then come out in their swimwear. 

Once I got past my shyness, I was rewarded! The water was crisp and refreshing! Eventually, I discovered this cluster of small fishing boats, so I grabbed my camera and headed back into the water. What you see is the end result.

After that swim and some time on the beach, we headed way, way, way up the cliffs to a small restaurant and had a late lunch. With a summery salad, a little pasta, and a glass of wine, me and my favorite gal enjoyed a slice of Italy that stays with us to this day!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

July 2, 2020

Give Hong Kong Her Freedom!

Is the world paying attention to what is happening in Hong Kong and the oppression from Mainland China? I certainly hope so! Set Hong Kong free now!

July 1, 2020

Just Love the Logo

Our last visit to Walt Disney Studios Paris was a bust. But it seems as if the Imagineers and the money men are finally giving it some love with fresh ideas. 

The infamous Backlot Tram Tour will be reimagined to a Cars road trip down Route 66. The concept art is ok, but the logo is terrific!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)