August 31, 2020

Monday Morning at Disneyland- in 1961!

It may not have had Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and its unreliable E Ticket, Rise of the Resistance, but to guests in 1961,  Walt's Disneyland was still an unbelievable place! Racing down the slopes of the mighty Matterhorn to a voyage 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Walt's park was filled with breathtaking adventures that were only found in California. Want to try your hand at the Flying Saucers? This was the place. Cruise down dangerous rivers in exotic lands? Yes, ma'am, you could get about a boat for the world famous Jungle Cruise. Ride a Pack Mule, fly off to Neverland, board the Sailing Ship Columbia. It was all here, and the plans were pouring out of Imagineering- and Walt's brain- for years to come. Looking at this map, Liberty Street and Edison Square were on the horizon, providing further tastes of history that early park guests loved. And the best was yet to appear, the Enchanted Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and It's a Small World... a brand New Tomorrowland

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 29, 2020

Sea Dreams

Running away is never a good thing, but a guy can dream, right?

(Photographer unknown.)

August 28, 2020

Plans for Russia at World Showcase

Take a look at this beauty! OK, one day, I should probably finish my mega article on the proposed Russia pavilion for World Showcase at Epcot. But not today. I will, however, share this piece of concept art showing the once planned sled ride through the Russian countryside. No doubt the Imagineers plans were grand and expensive with more than one real attraction, several eateries, plenty of shops, and a variety of cultural entertainment. But what a draw to the park this would have been. It would have been show stopping!

The addition of the Ratatouille ride to France is one I'm looking forward to as it is my favorite Pixar film, but it has always been the shows and attractions based on the history and culture of the people that have made World Showcase a place I can spend days in. Bring on Brazil or India or somewhere else, but please give us more than beloved animated characters and iconic Marvel properties into my favorite Florida park. Dig deeper, strive harder, take risks. In a world where "cancel culture" is taking over, it is time to remember our real history- both good and bad- and celebrate the positive with hope for the future. Isn't that what EPCOT Center was all about?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 27, 2020

Get These Splash Mountain Images Before They Disappear Too!

Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah! Say it loud! So now the music from Splash Mountain is disappearing? Where will the "cancel culture" mindset at Disney strike next? Here are a few attraction posters of Disney's beloved Splash Mountain.  Aside from Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Disneyland has largely remained stagnant of new and great attractions since the Indiana Jones Adventure. This has only strengthened the public's ongoing love affair with the nine minute plus long water flume masterpiece. And the fact it is just darn fun- and without a racist moment in sight!

It was brand new CEO Michael Eisner that realized the parks needed fresh attractions to appeal to the growing teen market- and fast. They had to offer new rides that provided thrills found at other competing amusement parks. 

One for each park!

Imagineer Tony Baxter and his team created the idea for a log flume attraction themed to Song of the South, an old Disney film filled with charm and controversy, but they avoided the link to the past and focused on a new storyline. The faded popularity of the old Tomorrowland show, America Sings, provided the perfect reason to reuse Imagineer Marc Davis' characters and place them in a brand new setting. What a smart move it turned out to be for Eisner to green light the project!

With its charming story, extremely catchy music, repurposed (and therefore cheap) animated characters, this thrilling flume drop, Splash Mountain was a major hit with fans since its first day of operation. The poster above celebrated its grand opening on July 17, 1989. To this day, the attraction continues to draw some of the longest lines at Disneyland for good reason.

Here's the 25th anniversary poster of Splash Mountain!

The Magic Kingdom in Florida and the Disneyland original will be swapped out for a Princess and the Frog makeover. It's not a bad idea- but I ask you- why can't people realize supposed "racist" overtones in the attraction are just not there? Even the origin stories come from African folklore. It's a charming and classic Disney attraction. I'm sure Tiana's adventure will be great too. But sometimes, too much is just too much.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 26, 2020

Depression Wins- For Now

Depression has been a part of my life just about for as long as I can remember. There was one brief period of about six months when that wasn't the case. Instead I was filled with unexpected joy- it began the night I gave my life over to Jesus. When depression returned as it often does, it felt different as it has ever since that night. 

There was an odd mix of peace and hope along with it. That was new! There was even a desire in me to press into it and fight it instead of giving into it. This is a season when the battle is particularly strong. Yet, I know it too will pass. In this world, you will have trouble. I read that somewhere. And I know it. And there is blessing and hope and peace, and yes, even joy, as I press into Jesus Christ. I know that as well- as I have for years.

August 25, 2020

I Love This Photo!

Look at this! I mean look at this! This beautiful blue photograph of Epcot's iconic Spaceship Earth is just one of the prettiest I've seen this season. It's easy to give Disneyland the crown over the Magic Kingdom, but when you compare resorts, it is places like this that make the Walt Disney World resort complex extra special and unique. This photograph is from the Disney Food Blog.

Joy and Friendship from It's A Small World

When WED (now Walt Disney Imagineering) was preparing for the 1964 World's Fair in New York, It's A Small World was the very last one to be added to the roster of Disney attractions, bringing the total to four. Although it was a lot of work to pull off in about a year's time, what a wise decision to say yes to this! 

This lovely boat cruise celebrating friendship is undoubtedly one of the most beloved of theme park attractions. It's charm, warmth, and childlike innocence embraces a message of brotherly love our world so needs. 

Imagineer Colin Campbell's concept art for the proposed finale captures the spirit perfectly! Joy, peace, and friendship among nations. Exactly what was intended from the beginning of time.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 23, 2020

Sunday Morning in Hong Kong Disneyland

Running away to a tropical island sounds pretty great right now! How about taking a raft over to Tarzan's Island at Hong Kong Disneyland? This photograph makes me want to jump on a plane, and if I could, explore their Adventureland in all its glory. This all just seems so remote and unspoiled. Hard to believe looking at this that the majestic city of Hong Kong is not that far away. Disney Imagineering at its best? Maybe not, but things are headed in the right direction. 

With all the recent additions, especially Mystic Point and Grizzly Gulch and their attractions- and a brand new castle- the charm continues to be added layer by layer. Perhaps this little park, and the whole resort, is becoming a real gem in the Disney landscape. Maybe its days of being overshadowed by the other Asian Disney locations is coming to an end.

(Photograph/screenshot from Attractions 360.)

August 22, 2020

Con los Años Que Me Quedan (Brazil 305)

Gloria Estefan's Con los Años Que Me Quedan is one of the most beautiful songs she has ever recorded. I first heard it in 1993 on her Mi Tierra disc. It came with a very atmospheric video that you'd swear came right out of Cuba. Her voice was just lovely and the guitar work stunning. Show-stopping, really. I instantly loved it! I thought I'd never hear it any other way.

Surprise! In 2001, Gloria recut the lead vocal in English (with different lyrics on her  Greatest Hits Volume 2 with a brand new title and story, If We Were Lovers. Just as beautiful and a nice nod to hear English speaking fans. Was that the end of new versions of the song? No!

From 1993.

This year in 2020, she gave us yet another version on the brand new disc, Brazil 305. Still gorgeous with a Bossa Nova flair. Her voice still lovely after decades and instrumentation just as engaging.  Thanks, Gloria, for another surprise with one of my favorite songs!

August 21, 2020

Night to Shine Goes to the Dark Side

Wanna be a hero? Want to make a difference? The sex industry is big money, and people of all ages and backgrounds are bought and sold to provide sexual satisfaction. Not just overseas but in the USA as well. In fact, most customers of this trade come from the States and the West where money is most abundant. Sadly, the metro area in which I live has one of the highest trafficked routes in our country. 

Maybe you don't care about this. Maybe other things are on your heart. If so, that's great! Go and do the things that bless God and support others. But if you haven't figured out what you are for, try watching this short video by Tim Tebow and his wife Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters. Not only is the captain of Night to Shine involved here as well, he's calling others to step up and step out. Bring some hope and light into a dark and evil world.

Three Little Bears

 These three make me smile! With COVID-19 around, schooling options increased but made things more difficult. Making the best of a bad situation is what we have to do.

Distance learning can have its advantages, right? Let's hope so for these cute little guys!

August 19, 2020

Notable and Quotable: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

"Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence."

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Author and Political Prisoner

Highly critical of the Soviet Union and Communism, he paid the price for being outspoken. Even though he died in 2008, I'm sure he'd have a lot to tell us about how our country is moving in the wrong direction with lawlessness and loss of the freedoms God has granted us!

August 17, 2020

Alice in Wonderland's Golden Afternoon at the Magic Kingdom

Back then as now, there were a very talented group of women in Imagineering! The very gifted Nila Clayton painted this beautiful concept art for the Alice in Wonderland scene in the Magic Kingdom's opening day original attraction, the Mickey Mouse Revue. What would this assortment of garden flora sing? All in the Golden Afternoon of course! 

As with all attractions, concept art forms the foundation of what's to come. It's here that the Imagineers begin to formulate a feel for the ride or show and how to communicate what they are working to accomplish. Details are worked out, and artwork becomes sets, props, and Audio-Animatronic characters. Just imagine holding up your art and seeing it come to life! 

The end results of years of work is an attraction that engages guests and uplifts them with an experience unique to Disney. In this case, Nila Clayton's beautiful painting became a charming and beloved segment in the Fantasyland favorite. It's a shame that the show went to Japan! Mickey's Philharmagic is great fun, but there's certainly room for both the old and new in the Magic Kingdom

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 16, 2020

The High Price of Control (Control or Consent? Part One)

So far, I think it's safe to say that the year 2020 will go down in history. It' s a mess! Of course, our places of rest and relaxation, those wonder Disney Parks worldwide, have had problems opening at all (Disneyland), opening and closing (Hong Kong Disneyland) or have opened with a variety of restrictions, limited hours, and lessened experiences and adventures.  COVID-19, racial tensions all over the world (not just in the U.S.A., you know?), and wars, rumors of wars, and tension that is almost unbearable.

For someone like me, a control freak, these are difficult times! I like order, a sense of routine, and I like everything to make sense. At least that's what I say publicly. Honestly- I just like things the way I like them! In my home, in my work, in my life- my plans, my timing, my way! I don’t like others telling me what to do and how to do it- and honestly, you don’t either! 

This season of change, disease, conflict, turmoil, loss of freedoms, is hard to navigate! At times, I’ve been angry, fearful, defiant, frustrated, and even depressed- because I can’t get what I want! I’m more likely to speak and complain than I am to listen and to pray!  Are you like me?

Yet, when I stop and pray, read the Bible, and ask God to show me- and then wait- I catch glimpses of what He is doing! He's not surprised by any of this. And actually  He is in control. I’m blessed to be in His family and watch Him work through us who believe!

The Desire to Control is a core sin issue all the way back to the beginning, and Genesis 3 is wherein all began. Back in the Garden when we meet Adam and Eve, the first couple. As you'll see, the desire for control comes at a very high price. Higher than we ever want to pay!

Here's Genesis 3:1-5, but first a recap. God creates this stunningly beautiful and peaceful world and everything in it. He gives and and woman a great purpose, and He gives them honor, making them to be bearers of His image. There's no brokenness, no shame, no sin, no worries. All the couple has to do is rest, stay in relationship with God and enjoy all He created. Sounds great, right? Yes! Then unfortunately, Satan, the devil, one of the angels God created but who rebelled from Him, comes into the picture to destroy it all.

"1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 

We want to control our circumstances- it's human nature and it goes all the way back to the beginning of time. This part of human history leaves me with some questions-

Was Eve right there in front of the tree when the serpent found her? Some scholars say she was! I doubt the serpent escorted her to the tree!

My bet is he waited until she was there in front of it. Just as God says to Cain (the guy who killed his brother in cold blood) in the next chapter, “Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to (what’s best for) you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)

Then Satan, whose in the garden in the form of the serpent, waited until Eve's curiosity got the best of her- and it did, revealing her heart condition. Eve was fixated on what she couldn’t have instead of being thankful for what she did! Sounds like me. Does it ever sound like you? Always focused on what's missing in our lives. Man, we can have it all, and it can still be never enough. We fall so easily into Satan's trap. He's a lion waiting to pounce! Here's what it looks like.

Satan always waits for an opportune time to approach us. Are you at your weakest? This is when we know we need God, so Satan is not so obvious! He’ll wait until more time has gone on, when you begin to doubt God’s love and goodness. Then, temptation will come. Are you at a point of strength? Satan will wait until you begin to rely on yourself instead of on God. The enemy loves our pride! It makes temptation easier for us to dive right into.

You can be sure that Satan desires to remove our dependency on God by first making us doubt His Love and Goodness. He plays into our anger, fear, frustration and ego, making us think we know better or can do better. He knows God’s word - the Bible- (and even has correct theology!) but he wants to rule and keep others from knowing God's love and forgiveness which is offered to all through Jesus Christ. (See the Book of John in the New Testament, Chapter 3, verses 16 and 17.) Satan always includes a portion of truth in the mix to lead us to sin.

He plays with words to twist their meaning and then manipulates us with them. (People do this all the time. I hate it!) He asks the woman if God said they couldn’t eat of ANY tree in the Garden. Surely, he knew differently, but Satan wanted to make her doubt what she knew she’d heard from God. Once that happens, our desire to control plays right into his hands.

Ultimately, Satan always us offers the lie of getting something that seems good and satisfying to us but without God’s involvement. As if God will not give us all we need!  His approach is not always a direct afront or an easily recognized temptation. That’s usually too obvious! How can you tell? Well, Satan’s way usually offers a shortcut, a quick alternative to get what we want. Just a bit of compromise is all it takes. That white lie? That compromise of integrity? It doesn't take much to move us into that dangerous territory.

As we know, he tried this approach with Adam and Eve and it worked! He tries it with us and it works. Thankfully, he tried it with Jesus and it didn’t work! (Luke 4) Our God and our God alone triumphed over Satan's evil plan.

Satan takes advantage of our God-given free will. He'll try to play right into our control issues and the pride it reveals. Listen now - this is important- Our Enemy's goal is to get us to trade a living active relationship with God in order to gain His qualities. If we can think we will walk in control, knowledge, and power without having to be under God's authority, we are prime candidates to be deceived. 

Back to the Garden. Our human response is no better than Eve's. She tells the serpent we May not touch Tree of Knowledge of good and evil (vs 3). Perhaps with good intentions to 1- communicate the seriousness to the serpent or 2- she really just set that up as an additional boundary to help herself with obedience. If so, not a bad plan- but never is it as good as going right to God for our questions and for strength when tempted…or just trusting Him, believing He knows what’s best for us.

Our lust for power, our pride, our desire to control our lives happens so naturally that we may not even realize we are doing it. Our continual challenge is believing God and trusting Him. Going to Him vs. trusting in someone else's opinion or relying on our own strength- even when it doesn’t make sense to trust God! The truth is, the stronger our desire to live our own way, the deeper pride is anchored in us, weighing us down and pulling us toward eternal destruction.

Let's continue os in Genesis 3, verse 6 and 7:

"6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths."

Eve’s isolated, away from Adam, never calls out to God to check for truth before taking action. Was she trying to control the relationship? Adam never checks in with God either. Was he just wanting to fit in? What was that all about? Eve desires wisdom, so she eats of the forbidden fruit. Her desire for what seems good overrules her obedience to God. She may have had good intentions, but they come with disastrous results because God’s not the center! Our choices can certainly get us in trouble! And our sin never just affects us! Our internal voice : “It’s not fair”, “It’s not enough”, “My way is better” etc. everything around us echoes that. It is the song the world sings.

How many times do we jump into something we think is right for us and justify our choices, when we know deep down we may be disobeying God, hurting someone, or trying to just get what we want because we want it?  We may even fool ourselves and fool others, but we never fool God! Too often, when we get what we've fought for, even if its something good, it is far less satisfying than what God would have given us had we let Him work on our behalf. Do we have the faith to wait and to wait on Him?

Could it be we only trust any authority when we are the one's in charge? Ouch! That hits home for me, and I'm not proud of that! When we do it our way, we get the glory, not God! It may all look good, but it is not what God intended. What God intends for us is always better from an eternal perspective and often from a current one.

Back to Adam and Eve- So now we see the desire to control our circumstances doesn’t work in our favor!  What’s next?

On to Genesis 3, verses 8-13...

"8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Again, there’s a very high price for control – and it takes another form… We Want to Control Our Image! Notice in earlier verses, they sewed fig leaves to cover their nakedness (vs 7), and then Adam blames Eve (vs 12). Now- We have to deal with shame, fear, blame shifting, and a desire to run away from God instead of to Him!

Funny how human nature hasn’t changed at all! If we can’t control our circumstances, we’ll try to control how people see us! It’s not just our politicians, influencers, and activists that do this! It happens in entertainment and sports, in business, in education, in the church, in any group of people. I've fallen into that trap. Have you? It’s just easier on social media now, right? 

Think of how we choose to control our image- the image others have of us:
Always in control if not powerful 
We’re the authority in any circumstance- knowledgeable and wise- and full of false humility
Always happy, always self-reliant 

Image control is a form of manipulation. Ouch again!

The problem trying to control our image is we begin to believe our own press! And it's all a fantasy! Not being honest with ourselves about our sin, our motives, what truly drives us, what scares and worries us, keeping us isolated, lonely, broken, angry, fearful, depressed. Trying to control our image can keep us in bondage. I'd rather walk in freedom.

Ultimately, controlling our image creates a dishonest image, an illusion. It can be one  that drives others away. And if you are a follower in Jesus, it can keep those two don't yet know Him away from God due to our dishonesty.  When we live like those who don't know God, we play right into Satan’s ultimate goal- dividing people from God for eternity!

We may try to control our image, but God knows us intimately! Maybe this is why we’re reluctant to talk to Him? It can be difficult to deal with what is really in us. It’s easier to just read the Bible alone, than it is to read the Bible and take time to listen to the God who wrote it!

Genesis tells us it cost the whole human race a lot because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Verses 14- 23. 

"14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” 17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Certainly dire consequences! (Notice- There’s consequences for sin, but God never curses the Marriage relationship!) Let's keep reading (Finally, there’s hope!):

"20 The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life."

God’s love and faithfulness to us and His devotion to righteousness causes Him to make a sacrifice on our behalf. Something had to die on our behalf.  
  • This sacrifice is a foreshadowing of what Jesus will accomplish on the cross.
  • God restores the honor He created us with. And even now that we’re broken, we still have a place in his family.
  • We get to walk in freedom and forgiveness not in shame. By His blood, we are forgiven and made new!

From the very beginning, God does not treat us as we deserve!
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. “(Psalm 103:10)

So, let me ask you- Who is in Control?

Just like Adam and Eve, we can engage Satan without even realizing it!  
Focusing on what we don’t have / what we cannot do - instead of our blessings
Fixating on Temptation instead of fleeing from it.  
Placing our hope in something or someone other than the Lord
Throwing our weight around, trying to force people and situations to bend to what we think is best.
Believing the image of us that we present to others, being dishonest before God

Pursuing this path of control takes us places we never want to go!    It leads to:  
Loss of integrity- both how we view ourselves and how others see us
Loss of relationship as we force others to bend to what we think is best
Damage to our witness of Jesus to the outside world
Sacrifice of the good God intended
Control reflects Fear that God may not know best or fearthat He has forgotten us!
And Most importantly- We fail God by taking His place in our lives!

But we  can engage God in times like these and escape the trap!
When that temptation comes, acknowledge it and call out to God! (Temptation is not sin! Following through is sin.)
Develop a heart of thankfulness. Begin your day with thanksgiving.
Avoid isolation- get creative!
Keep our hope placed on Him- remember in this world we will have trials and tribulations. People will fail us!
Remain humble before Him- ask God to grow us in humility. 
Check our motives before we act and speak. Put away false humility! Use our words to encourage others, be honest with them, and not manipulate them.

As much as I’m a Control Freak, I also have a desire to please my Lord, seek His Heart, and Be About His purposes! Are you like me too? (Don't miss the last few paragraphs!)

This may or may not be the Final Quarter in the history of the world. But it’s clear that old things have passed away. Whether we like it or not, God is using this new season- and He needs His People to be his ambassadors in a world that is dying- with an eternity in Hell at risk for those who don’t know Him.

The truth is: This season doesn't cause our problems! It just reveals the core sin nature in us, and it comes to the surface!

It's time to start listening to what God says and to put away a life that is displeasing to Him.
Tired of taking control of your life? Tired of running from God who loves you? You may know Him or maybe not, but we all struggle here.
Are you needy and broken by sin- needing freedom and forgiveness?

If you know God and have given your life over to Jesus, maybe its time to do some business with Him. 

If you don't know Him, listen to Jesus' words:

He wasn't being cruel! He was being loving by keeping it simple and direct. He knew other people and our enemy would want to confuse us. Jesus paid the price for your sin and for mine, and He died it our place. But He rose from the crucifixion to prove He is God. Will you trust Him and believe this is so? God is waiting to reveal Himself to you. Ask Him if this is true- and wait and listen for Him. He is calling you home!

August 15, 2020

An Afternoon in Switzerland

The Swiss are famous for many things, but one of the tastiest of all is the cheese that comes from Gruyères. This small little village has it all- charming shops and restaurants, a town square to congregate in, and a beautiful castle to explore high above it all. This photo was taken during our 2014 trip. We so enjoyed our day here, seeing the sights and capping it off with a delightful fondue lunch. 

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

August 14, 2020

Pluto in Tomorrowland

The year was 1992, and due to a generous gift from my father, my sister and I and our families took off for a week long visit to Walt Disney World. With young kids in tow, the Magic Kingdom was our most popular place to play, but this didn't mean we overlooked all the fun at Epcot or Disney-MGM Studios

Still, the classic adventures of the Kingdom won their hearts- but not as much as this surprise visit with everyone's favorite dog, Pluto! Unplanned, unscheduled, and totally a blast! Nowadays, it takes a reservation or waiting in line if you can see a character that is! Yes, sometimes, the old ways are the best!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

August 13, 2020

The Book Club

Some pretty amazing books are sitting on my desk! As I start to dig into Fall reading and wanting to stretch my mind even more so. Of course, as good as all these books are- there's no book quite as amazing as the one God Himself wrote through inspired men! The story of God's love for the people He created- the gift of Jesus Christ for fallen men (that's all of us!), and the final glorious days when Jesus returns to redeem those who are his! It's all there, waiting to be discovered.

August 12, 2020

John T's Cherry Wine is Music Worth Buying

It's not all too often that a new music artist impresses me. But then again, John T's version of Cherry Wine is not your ordinary single. It's live, fresh, and with a vocal that's unique yet engaging. Is it Hozier? Is is Nas? Or Amy Winehouse? No, it's John T!

You can find him in i-tunes under Music > Singer/Songwriter > Traditional Folk > John T.  Check him out- and support some new music.

August 11, 2020

Beautiful Beginnings at Epcot

Could it really be the dawn of a new era? Perhaps. I must say that the sight of this lovely, classic look, EPCOT Center pylon brings me a bit of hope that the Imagineers will honor the past even while they are forced to shove Intellectual Properties down our throats- good fit or not. As my favorite Florida park, this brings hope! It is touches like this- attention to detail- that make Walt Disney World and all the Disney parks what they are. Beautiful beginnings.

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Ready for the Return of Heartland

After being dragged into watching this television show for the first few episodes- I mean, who cares about a girl and a horse?- I found myself really liking the characters and the developing storyline. Shaun Johnston's Jack was instantly relatable, but eventually Amber Marshall and Graham Wardle's Amy and Ty won me over. Just when I thought I'd gotten the hang of it all, in comes Kerry James as Caleb O'Dell, providing the comic relief. Actually, the whole cast brings something to the story! Now, I'm looking forward to the return of the series. Count me in as a (once reluctant) fan!

August 10, 2020

Animal Kingdom's Extinct Dino

When Disney's Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, the Discovery River Boats sent guests on a journey passing by the different themed areas of the new park. Departing from Safari Village, these were similar to the Plaza Swan Boats at the Magic Kingdom. There really wasn't that much to see as it was more for transportation than a real attraction, but it made for a pleasant break on the water in a park that seemed hotter than usual. 

When cruising by an area for the unbuilt and aborted Beastly Kingdom area, there were some cavernous rocks giving the impression of a fire breathing dragon inside. When the boats rounded another bend at Dinoland U.S.A., they encountered this Iguanodon. In its original form, the cruise was unpopular and didn't last much more than 15 months or so. Unfortunately, the dinosaur also became extinct around the same time. 

Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom is a unique and beautiful park with one of the most fascinating stories in Imagineering lore! If you'd like to read more, take a look at this eight part series that tells its story. There's tons of art, vintage photos, trip reports and more. Enjoy!

August 9, 2020

My Favorite Disney Park Photos: A Nighttime Fantasyland

Taken late at night almost two years ago, this beautiful photograph of Disneyland's Fantasyland courtyard is one of my favorite shots from all my years of visiting the Disney parks and resorts. How did I get the shot? Well, it was almost at park closing.  

I was absolutely beat, happily exhausted, after my "two parks and 26 attractions in one day" marathon- including 18 "E" Ticket attractions. (Read what I did and how it did it here.) Moving from It's A Small World to my Fast Pass time for Star Tours with time to spare , I had two options: round the bend around the Matterhorn into Tomorrowland or walk past Storybookland Canal Boats, Alice in Wonderland, and the Mad Tea Party and go to the hub through the castle. I chose the latter. I jumped into Mr. Toad's Wild Ride- which had no wait, but the attraction went down.

Heading toward the castle, I turned the corner and saw the shot you see. (It's one of two I took. You can find the other is in the post about my marathon day.) The carousel music was playing, and there was only one other guest to be found in the area. Just before park closing is a perfect time for a photo!

And there you have it. One of my favorite park photos. The end to a truly magical day.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

August 7, 2020

The Darkest of Disney Rides

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride this is not! It's even much more evil than Walt Disney World's infamous (and missed) Alien Encounter. You think you might know what it is. Not the Haunted Mansion or even the more sinister Phantom Manor. No, it's not even a very, very, dark proposed meet and greet with Chernabog from an unbuilt attraction based on Fantasia. It's even more sinister! (And thanks to Alain Littaye at Disney and More for first showing us the above piece of concept art. May you Rest In Peace, Alain.)

The crown, the title, the clear winner, for the most evil, more terrifying, most certain-to-have-parents-complaining-to-management dark ride goes to Disneyland's the unbuilt Black Cauldron attraction. Hands down. No question.

The unbuilt Black Cauldron boat ride

As you can see, this boat ride into the pits of Hell itself would be terrifying at best. It'd be a perfect attraction for times like these when it's every man for himself, rebellion and destruction abound, and when it's easy to fight, argue, and destroy than it is to peaceably work together, discuss, and even protest. Proverbs 17 tells us "An evil man seeks rebellion". (Hell, itself, is the ultimate destination for the real devil, his demons, and those who choose to reject God's gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. His death on the cross was the payment for my sins and yours- and his resurrection from the dead proves he is who he says he is. God made man. You can read about the end of time and the judgment to come for yourself in chapter 20 of the Bible.) Anyway, I digress. The state of this world has me looking at what's to come, both good and bad, while I pray and ask God to show His mercy to us all.

Anyway... Parkeology has one of the best articles on the Tokyo Disneyland's now defunct Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour, the first ever attraction to feature the Horned King. Go here to read it

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 6, 2020

Neil Sedaka Gives Karen Carpenter Credit

After some bad blood in 2019 that goes all the way back to a 1975 performance with them in Las Vegas,  Neil Sedaka, the singer and the songwriter of the gorgeous Carpenters recording, Solitaire, comes clean, finally giving Karen Carpenter her due in this July 2020 video. 

It is unfortunate that Neil does not seem to mention brother Richard Carpenter- the one who chose, arranged, and produced the song for inclusion on the duo's landmark Horizon album. Their album was released the same year as Neil's The Hungry Years collection. This set included the slow boil ballad version of Breaking Up is Hard to Do- with the strings arranged by none other than, you guessed it, Richard Carpenter.

Not only was Solitaire included on the duo's 1975 album, it was the third single release after Please Mr. Postman and Only Yesterday

Making amends is a good thing! After a much publicized feud, Richard and Karen included an upbeat version of Neil's Breaking Up is Hard to Do on their A Kind of Hush album, the song he performed with Karen and Richard doing the same infamous live tour in Las Vegas. Neil received a pretty nice paycheck by having two songs on two Carpenters albums in print for decades. 

Karen and Neil before the problems began.

Regardless, forgiveness is important. We are released from the bondage of unforgiveness, and everyone gets to move on with their lives. It doesn't mean all goes back to normal. Sometimes, even previously good relationships are not mendable. It just means we are reflecting the heart of God who chooses to forgive us!

Want more articles related to this post?
Here's my in-depth review on Horizon and A Kind of Hush.
And a few earlier articles about Neil and the Carpenters- with some interesting segments you might enjoy. Go here, here, and here.

(Thanks to Rick- An Ordinary Fool from the A&M Corner discussion boards for that last photo!)

August 5, 2020

The 30th Birthday Post

To my youngest son on his 30th birthday-  Just like your siblings, you were adorable and "perfect" as a little kid! Now as a man, you're still funny, smart, surprisingly sweet and tender at times, but you're also strong, grounded, and live a life of purpose. May the next season ahead be one of blessing upon blessing! You are loved.

August 3, 2020

When the Imagineers Were at the Top of Their Craft

The first generation of Walt Disney's Imagineers were the cream of the crop! The dazzling results spoke for the high quality of their art. As they learned under their head master, perfection and the highest appreciation for park guests were their number one concerns.

The Spring 1967 opening of Pirates of the Caribbean capped off the elegance and excitement of New Orleans Square, a faithful but fanciful take on the beloved city. This photograph shows off the original attraction entrance. Perfectly in tune with the rest of the land, its charming and understated building never gave a hint to the exciting and classic attraction found within. The best Disneyland had to offer would be found here in this new land.

Once Fast Pass reared its ugly head decades later, crowds gathered, and the monstrosity of queue lines had to be reconfigured due to its continued popularity. More crowds came with the Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, and Fantastic! and an underwhelming Tomorrowland that did not draw the guest count of earlier years.

What will the suits think of next?

(Photographer unknown.)

August 2, 2020

Hope for a Lonely Day

Experiencing a gnawing sense of isolation and loneliness in the midst of COVID-19? You're not alone! Help is always available. Just ask. It's hard to admit we don't have it together or aren't doing well, but it is the place we must begin.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

These words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 are an encouragement to all who call him Lord, a reminder that we have a god who cares and one who waits for us to come to him with our needs. Peace in the midst of it all is there- even if we do not understand all that is happening.

August 1, 2020

Disney World's Plaza Swan Boats

Expanding the Disney kingdom by building in Florida came as a surprise to many, but it was clear from the official announcement that a Disneyland style theme park would be the main attraction at Walt Disney World on opening day.

The "E Ticket" line up at opening.
Not a thrill ride in sight.

Anticipating a much older audience of visitors than what would be found at California's park, when the Imagineers planned the Magic Kingdom, the thrill attractions were limited to spinners. Back then, Florida was known as a state with a high number of retired folks and not the theme park mecca we know today. The new park was fleshed out with familiar beloved attractions (but not Pirates of the Caribbean), three new Audio-Animatronic shows, and gentle, leisurely experiences sure to appeal to senior aged guests. 

This trend of sublime entertainment continued into the next few years, with one of the most instantly recognizable attractions opening in 1973: The Plaza Swan Boats. 

The iconic Pirates ride in a largely abbreviated form did open in a Caribbean themed area of Adventureland the same year right before Christmas, due to guest complaints at City Hall. Little did guests realize then that  something even more spectacular was planned as its replacement, Western River Expedition and the Thunder Mesa slate of exciting attractions. By insisting on Pirates and getting it, the Frontierland mega complex was axed. Disney geeks long for it to this day. But that's another story. (Some art and articles are found here as a place to start. There's many others on this blog!)

I had my first visit to the World in 1974. My parents, sister, and grandmother joined me for one day in the park. I begged for a second day on my own while they went to Circus World. A good choice and fair trade off on my part!

Now you would think that a teenager visiting the Magic Kingdom after numerous trips to Disneyland would be disappointed by this attraction line-up. Not me. I barely missed the thrills as I was much more interested in what was new and the real thrill of exploring every nook and cranny of the park. There was too much to see that was new for me to spend time focusing on what wasn't there. 

Notice anything new?
Ticket courtesy Big Florida Country.

I spent that second day repeating every new attraction more than once. The Hall of Presidents, and Mickey Mouse Revue couldn't be seen too often! I didn't know if I'd ever see them again. My wanting to absorb every detail of the rides included the "D Ticket" Plaza Swan Boats. 

Walking to the central hub and turning right, it was easy to find the pathway in the gardens between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. A small covered pavilion in front of the dock announced my arrival. 

The 1973 map of Adventureland shows the route of the Swan Boats.

Moving in a clockwise direction, our boats took us first from Main Street U.S.A.  past the Crystal Palace restaurant into Adventureland and around the Swiss Family Treehouse island. In my recollection, the boats were the same size and capacity as those used on the Jungle Cruise

Being on any water in Florida is great- and Disney boat rides of all themes and types are among my favorite attractions. Pirates of the Caribbean and It's a Small World and Mark Twain to Gran Fiesta Tour and Nav'i River Journey to the defunct Discovery River Boats, there's just something about being waterborne that I love. (And it is something missing from both California Adventure and Disney's Hollywood Studios that would add so much charm to these parks!)

Sailing at a level lower than the pathways at the Magic Kingdom gave a whole new perspective to the place. With the Skyway above, the Main Street vehicles at ground level, and the Swan Boats sailing on the lowest level, there were unique views everywhere... and great people watching! (This was even better when the PeopleMover / Tomorrowland Transit Authority arrived.) Moving past the Crystal Palace and into Adventureland brought a sense of the unexpected as jungle noises could be heard and the sounds of tropical music. 

Heading toward Liberty Square, we passed under its entrance bridge as we approached the castle. As I remember, the pace was expectedly slow, the on board narrative was largely uninteresting, but the opportunity to take in the sights and get a taste of different lands made it worth my time. It's these smaller attractions that bring a sense of style to the Disney parks that is not found at Universal or Six Flags.  From there, a short cruise under the castle drawbridge led us back to our starting point.

When it was no longer an entrance to the boats.
First it was gardens, then it was removed completely.
From the All Ears blog.

By my next visit in 1976, I wasn't that interested in riding them again as I was with a friend, and doing so wouldn't have been "cool". Besides- Space Mountain! Oh, the pressures teenagers face! Soon enough, several years later, the beautiful little boats were gone.

To this day, I cannot understand the removal of attractions such as these! In a park that lacks the capacity it needs, every ride counts, every attraction has its purposes. The Plaza Swan Boats brought atmosphere and appeal to a uniquely lovely Main Street U.S.A. and a touch of elegance. It was also an element that differentiated the Florida kingdom from the California one. Each castle park needs these smaller rides to flesh out the roster and add variety and interest. Like the loss of many other classic Walt Disney World attractions, the Plaza Swan Boats is now a distant memory and a part of history. 

(Additional photos from Widen Your World and RetroWDW.)