May 11, 2021
May 8, 2021
May 7, 2021
May 6, 2021
Today is the National Day of Prayer. Our nation is part of a world gone crazy, a world ravaged by COVID-19, racial strife, political turmoil, the desecration of all things good. There's hatred for those different than us and hatred for Christians. We live in a world where humanism is the order of the day, where groups that are on opposite ends of the political and religious spectrum work together to abolish Christianity from the world scene.
Ironic in that Jesus says boldly- He alone is the only way to God the Father. He is the Truth, and He is the Life. Jesus said no one would get to an eternal life in heaven without believing in Him and that He alone died on the cross for the sins of man and was resurrected to life.
Jesus was that direct and simple- not because He hated people. But because He loved them and wanted to make the way to forgiveness and heaven clear. He's more than a prophet, more than a good man. He alone is God incarnate- God in the flesh. All who oppose Him will be lost for eternity. That includes you. That includes me. Wake up, America! We've lost our way.
Pray today for a fresh start with God- pray for our nation and pray for yourself, won't you? No one should be left out from this opportunity to join a nation in prayer.
May 5, 2021
Although the very charming, dignified, and mysterious El Rio del Tiempo attraction has now been replaced by the escapades of three fowl friends on their Gran Fiesta Tour, the pavilion is still a cause for celebration. Another margarita, anyone? How about we go back in time for a boat ride through Mexican history and and her cultures both ancient and modern instead?
Let's look at a few pieces of concept art and photos of the splendid Mexico pavillion circa opening year.
The boat cruise was designed to be much more grand, closer on the scale of Pirates of the Caribbean in length and immersion. Imagine! However, the budgets were blown and time was short before opening day. Adjustments had to be made, and the signature attraction was truncated. Such is the life of an Imagineer!
Once aboard, our departure onto the river is at once peaceful and mysterious and suspenseful. As we enter a smaller temple, our adventure begins with a dose of Disney magic: Encountering a statue of a high priest who comes to life, dancers soon surround, moving to ancient rhythms. In its original form, this section was the showpiece of the attraction. The history of the indigenous peoples makes for a stunning story- thankfully a depiction of human sacrifices spared- but here, everything was told in an equally artistic and beautiful presentation. From ancient days, we head on.
The doll filled celebration of the Day of the Dead startles in contrast with the flavors of It's a Small World, but it's only a small segment of the ride. The new and colorful style used to tell this potion of the story is almost jarring, but it does keep the guests from getting bored! This is also where the theme song comes to life and gets stuck in your head.
We continue into other regions depicting the Mexico of the Travel Channel: Beaches, parties, and tourist sites. In other words, perpetual Cinco de Mayo. It's a step down from the elegance of what we saw earlier, but it is very playful and thoroughly enjoyable. The music is memorable, and any EPCOT Center lover worth his title as fan can hum the song even while reading this post!
The Imagineers did an excellent job capturing the culture of our friends south of the border. The end result reflected a true labor of love even if doused with a shot of economic reality. It was a beloved attraction that only needed a tune up. However, the suits at Disney were looking for a new way to make a buck once sponsorship had ended, so in came the movie tie-in. This was one of the first steps into turning the park into something that also promoted Disney Intellectual Properties. Done well, Coco would fit in quite easily here.
The past is the past, but what a glorious time it was back at EPCOT Center's opening...
Vaya con Dios (Go with God)!
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company. Photos by Mark Taft aside from the top photo copyright Disney.)
May 4, 2021
The Biblical teachings on living an abundant life are having an impact on me. God has been speaking to me about risk-taking being part of living a faith-filled life. I am trying to figure out how that applies to me. Being obedient to what we know God to be telling is integrity.
The entire Bible is filled with accounts of risk takers for God. In the book of Acts, (Chapter 20:7-12,) Paul is once again used dramatically. While listening to him preach a very lengthy sermon, a young man named Eutychus dozed off around midnight and fell down. Other than embarrassment, this usually wouldn’t be too much of an issue. Except Eutychus was sitting in a window on the third story. His friends pronounce him dead. Paul rushes to the ground, throws his arms around Eutychus and tells everyone present that he is alive- which is now true thanks to God, and to Paul’s obedience. In being so bold, Paul took a great risk that he heard God correctly. Certainly, Paul was a gifted speaker, but imagine how those listening even more so considered the truth of his words after this resurrection! (And like some preachers, Paul then continued talking until daylight!) Point being, Paul’s risk brought God glory. Not only were people more willing to believe, you can bet Paul’s own faith was deepened.
Not every risk brings such spectacular results. What about my hand? Hadn’t I prayed for safety? God was faithful to me. No cut tendons, no nerve damage, no loss of mobility. But no one was raised from the dead, either.
The truth is that sometimes risk brings results we didn’t plan for- tough circumstances or even anger from others. (Overseas missionaries get this all the time!) What did I learn or accomplish? Haven’t a clue. But this I do know: when God leads, I would rather risk then let my fear keep me from obedience. To me, that is the biggest part of living an abundant life-obedience.
What about you? What does risk taking look like in your life? Are you listening or watching for God to challenge you in a new way? What would obedience bring? Don't be mistaken into thinking a comfortable life is a sign of God's presence. No risk means no reward in watching God work.
Can you live with the chance of failure? Can you make that leap of faith? Ask God to lead you and give you the strength to jump. You can be sure the abundant life - with all its bumps and bruises- is what He has waiting for you.
May 3, 2021
May 1, 2021
April 30, 2021
Historians correctly note that the public's response to Disney at the fair was the proving grounds to see if a Disneyland styled park and resort would be a hit should one be built on the East Coast. Of course, we know the results spoke for themselves, as Disney's work on four pavilion's were among the most popular. All setting the stage for Walt Disney World to move from dream to reality.
Unfortunately, for most of the art shown on the Disney blog, there is no artist information made available for any of these pieces. (Imagineer Mary Blair's pieces-below- are instantly recognizable for It's a Small World collection, however!) Regardless, they do make a nice addition to my collection! She was a genius, and her color styling never quite duplicated in any other Small World.
Love it or hate it, It's A Small World was a fan favorite from day one when it made its debut at the fair. The Pepsi show had it all- charm, warmth, and great atmosphere- not to mention the iconic song. I'm particularly fond of the forward looking color scheme in the second piece. Pundits suggest the attraction should be moved or removed. May they never go this route! Part of the Disney park experience is this taste of innocence and friendship. Something so sorely needed in our world.
April 29, 2021
Can this be real? USA Today is known for being a pretty biased news source. Yet, after doing some fact checking on President Biden's speech to Congress, they have determined that there were too many important factual errors about his accomplishments. In fact, many of the things he claimed he did, he actually did not. I'm honestly shocked. It's like expecting Fox News to be fully objective on Donald Trump.
April 28, 2021
April 25, 2021
April 24, 2021
April 23, 2021
April 22, 2021
A brief recap: Would guests find wild animals? That's a given. A proposed African Safari would be the highlight of the opening years. The park was stunning to look at but short on attractions. Countdown to Extinction used the Indiana Jones Adventure layout to take guests into the world of Audio-Animatronic dinosaurs. The beautifully elaborate Beastly Kingdom - land of mythical creatures-never materializes. Attractions planned for Asia, once set for opening day, are built much more modestly than originally planned.
was certainly much larger in scale and more thrilling.
Composite image courtesy marni1971.
Let's pause for a moment. Need to read the first Seven articles before continuing to this installment? Start at here at Part One of my series, The Genesis, Evolution, and Revelation of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Seven parts and counting. Each article shows rare concept art, photographs, and more. Including detailed trip reports. Return to this post for our continuing story.
When we last left off, Expedition Everest was the huge shot in the arm that the park needed. Crowds began to return and stay longer. The beautiful Rivers of Light nighttime show was uneven at best and certainly unreliable, but some guests did choose to stay later than ever. Improved attendance only highlighted an ongoing problem: A three minute thrill attraction on its own did not help fill up a day.
The 2007 agreement with J.K. Rowling to bring her beloved books and movies now made Universal Orlando a force to be reckoned with. Disney's arrogant fumbling of the offer to represent Harry Potter in the theme park world left them reeling. It was time to step up their game as when the new land opened at Islands of Adventure, Universal moved from taking away several hours of a guest's trip into now occupying two days of precious vacation time- and dollars spent elsewhere than The Walt Disney World property. (As first and foremost a long time Disney park fan, thank you Harry Potter for waking up a sleeping giant!)
The major lack of significant investment in the theme parks under the reign of Robert Iger became more apparent each year as crowds continued to leak away to the newly energized Universal Orlando. With bruised egos and an audience to capture afresh, the suits chose partnering with an interesting source of creativity, James Cameron, whose 2009 film, Avatar, was a huge success due to its breathtaking and groundbreaking imagery.
"Does it fit the theme of the park?" This was the question on every fan's mind when the collaboration was announced- including mine. I mean, giant blue aliens coexisting with earthly animals and prehistoric beasts? And what about those floating mountains and otherworldly landscapes? If anyone could put it all together, Disney could, but they would need the best artists they had on it. The Lead Imagineer for Animal Kingdom, the passionate and quirky Joe Rohde, was assigned this very prestigious project. What a great choice he would be to steward it all. Say goodbye to Camp Minnie-Mickey!
The twelve acre expansion was to become the newest park's biggest investment, topping out at just over half a billion dollars. That is without the third planned attraction that was a storytelling thrill ride on land through Pandora. Half a billion for a theme park land. Let that sink in! But as I will tell you in the trip report portion of the article, you can almost see every penny spent. The end result is a land more stunning than the spectacular concept art created to promote it.
for the river journey from Stephan Martiniere.
Looking at Na'vi River Journey from an Imagineering standpoint, I would have appreciated even a few Audio-Animatronic animals and even a hunter or two to bring some depth to it all. The thrills aren't needed. They're inherent in an adventure world something humans do not get to see. The whole thing succeeds as a secondary attraction. It's truly a lovely experience, but you can tell where the budget was cut. Too bad as I love Disney dark rides where boats are the vehicle for the journey.
Due to some time restraints, we had to choose between Rivers of Light and seeing Pandora at night. No contest! If you think this new area is a masterpiece during the daytime, the nighttime visit will make you appreciate the art of Imagineering all over again. All I can say is, it is too bad this park doesn't stay open late regularly. Our second trip on Na'vi was just as beautiful to me as our first. We slowly walked out of the park, taking in all the sights. With the addition, I would now consider the park a 3/4 day experience, and it has nowhere to go but up.
I just love Animal Kingdom! It's Adventureland on steroids!
We made a decision to take our little granddaughter on something she was tall enough for: Kali River Rapids. Smiles all around- even after getting soaked. Or was it because of it?
I'm going to quote my previous trip report because it is so telling: "The Safari was next, and the experience landed with a collective thud. I miss the opening days when drivers from the African continent were present. I miss the days I couldn't see so much chain link fence, and being we rode around noon, we missed seeing most of the animals. An antelope doesn't cut it, but at least the lion was out. Looking back through our photos, none of us had taken one single shot of anything related to the park's centerpiece attraction! Gorilla Falls did not charm the kids either. This visit - our only day in this park- was going downhill quickly. Very, very quickly."
I quickly suggested the winning Festival of the Lion King. The kids reluctantly gave it a shot. We went in, and once the giant character floats and particularly the monkey gymnasts came in, they were infinitely more interested.
So, was Pandora in theme with the rest of the park? Surprisingly, it fit in fairly well. There needs to be more animals to seal the deal. Perhaps there's expansion plans to the area to include a trail or some other ride where we can see those giant banshees in real not "reel" life. But, yes, it fits in beautifully.
Everyone experiences the Disney theme parks in very different ways. We come with thoughts of what a Disney park should be. For me, this lush giant Adventureland is about soaking in all the details and seeing the creative work of the Imagineers. It's a nice change of pace from doing a park one ride after another.
Thanks for reading Part Eight of the series. I'd love to get your feedback and insights on it!