July 23, 2021

Design Detail: Disney's Shanghai Street in China

China is timeless. The ancient civilization has rapidly been discovered by the West as the internet, easy travel, and massive numbers of movies began to make the once far and exotic commonplace. Almost 40 years ago, Disney Imagineers knew that giving EPCOT Center guests the option to "visit" China would be a guaranteed hit. Not only was the elegant Wonders of China film a rich cultural experience, walking around the World Showcase pavilion allowed visitors to feel immersed in the land. The design detail throughout is incredible! From the carefully copied roof tiles to the duplication of the patterns found in local architecture, this is what differentiates Disney from Six Flags (and what used to differentiate them from Universal). 

This photograph is from Summer of 2007 when my wife blessed me with a solo trip as a special present. Long before Shanghai Disneyland and just shy of two years after Hong Kong Disneyland opened. Being it was toward the end of August in Walt Disney World, the parks were emptier than I'd ever seen them. Those days would be gone for good- until COVID-19 stopped the world.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

July 19, 2021

Lessons from the Battlefield

This Summer at our church, we’ve been blessed with several visits and sermons from our ministry partners all over the world. Local believers in Jesus Christ who put their lives on the line every day in order to walk out what they say they believe. There’s been lots of wisdom and encouragement shared! It was challenging- very challenging, in fact. It caused me to look back on my past and look at my future! 

We as followers of Jesus are subjects of the Heavenly King – Jesus Christ no other- and we are under His Rule and Called to His Purposes. His purposes, not ours. Which means that we are called to live out a different set of priorities than the average human.

The local believers that shared stories look a lot like those who lived as Christians in the 1st Century. This happens wherever people are doing God’s work, and it should be normative for those of us who call ourselves by Jesus' name.

God is clearly on the move in our world! COVID-19 and everything the world has experienced in the last couple of years serve to remind us that we are not in control. But God is! Even in the most difficult places!

According to The London-based “Economist” newspaper/magazine, September 2020- China has 38 million followers of Jesus, up from 22 million a decade ago- and as many as 30-50 million underground believers who know it is not safe to live their faith openly. Bibles are banned; churches are destroyed; religious documents are being hunted down with citizens mandated to turn them in (read here) and more. Christians are severely persecuted!

YET- GOD IS ON THE MOVE IN THEIR WORLD!   

If you're still reading, chances are you identify as a follower of Jesus. Does this make you think twice about why we in America and Western Europe are so ineffective in sharing our faith and yet these persecuted believers are so successful? I mean, they  serve in a difficult part of the world where Jesus is the foreign god. 

These kind of questions lead me to an even bigger one- What can we do to see another great move of God in our own countries? Looking at the Bible, I can easily see it starts here with what I call the Rules of Engagement.

#1 KNOW WHO YOU BELONG TO

The great Apostle Paul wrote an incredible letter to the church in Colossae, a part of Turkey. The Colossian church was essentially a church plant from Apostle Paul’s 3 years in Ephesus. Written while he was in prison, Paul's purpose was to establish that Jesus is God in the flesh and to inspire believers to live as God desires. I think these verses get incrementally harder to live out. Tell me what you think as you read them.

Colossians 2:6-8:  Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Notice verse 6- Walk in Him, Rooted in Him? Does this remind you of Jesus' words in John 15?  Here Jesus is saying He is the vine and we are the branches. IF we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit.  

The fruit of our lives, what comes out of it, displays who we are, what we believe, and what our values and priorities really are. It's not just what we say. What kind of fruit is your life producing? Mine is currently a mixed basket, if I'm being totally honest. But I aspire for different results. Don't you? I'm tired, I'm frustrated, and I'm even a bit stressed, but I am determined to persevere. 

Next comes a more difficult challenge. Be established in the faith.  Read the Bible, know it and understand it, but most importantly, live it out. Stay intimate with Jesus! Knowing the Bible is not the same as living the out God's Word. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for this exact thing. They thought mental ascent was enough. In living like this, they missed the point, and the missed out on a joyous life that God desires for each who follow Him.

Then comes verse 7, another challenge. A big one for me- Abound in thanksgiving! We should be thankful. Very thankful. We should be joyful. As Christians who believe God's Word to be fully true, we should be thankful for the new life we have in Christ and for the eternal life we have in the future. But for most of us, unfortunately, we live in a world that is constantly telling us we do not have enough. I fall prey to this all too often. For me, my eyes can be on this next trip, the next project, the next "fill-in-the blank". And I miss what God is doing and wanting because my eyes are not looking at Him. Then, I forget who I am and what I'm really made for. But it's a downhill slide.

I say it is time we remember who we were before we knew Jesus and what we turned away from. Why? It fires up thankfulness- and it fuels our desire to share with others our good and faithful and loving God who gave his life in exchange for ours, dying for our sin and brokenness and a destiny in Hell separated from God. 

Remembering who we were is good, but walking in who we are in Christ is very important! We're no longer bound by our failures as we've been forgiven. We are victoriously Jesus' and His priorities are ours, setting out true values into place. 

In the book of Galatians, chapter 2:20- Paul says-  

“ I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.””

This is God's view of who we are! When we as believers are baptised, we are publicly proclaiming our own death but also our new life in Jesus alone. Our persecuted family living in places where they pay a high price for their faith already understand this. In their world, choosing to follow Jesus Christ means believing differently than their family and friends, but it also means losing their community. They are rejected for worshiping a different god. What is the result of you living out your faith? For me, it meant losing all of my friends as each one rejected me and my new life. It was painful, but I couldn't go back. Jesus has encountered me, and I was no longer the same. Ask yourself- Is the cross of Christ my foundation for living? 

Now this next verse, verse 8 is a huge challenge! This one is at once so subtle and yet now so overt. Let's reread it:

 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

How can we avoid deceitful human philosophies? I'd say that it's almost impossible! We are bombarded with ads, news stories, the rhetoric of our political parties, humanism, and the simple philosophy of being an American that permeates our life. 

Here's a quote from the American Humanist Association - listen to these taglines:

 “Good Without God” and “ADVOCATING PROGRESSIVE VALUES AND EQUALITY FOR HUMANISTS, ATHEISTS, AND FREETHINKERS” and a further explanation- “Humanism is an approach to life based on reason and our common humanity, recognizing that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone.”

I don’t know about you, but my human nature and experience before Christ was broken, sinful, and hopeless! And I can still fall into that trap. We’re humanists at heart- this goes back to the Garden and being deceived when the man and woman trusted their own thoughts instead of what God said. 

Humanism – relying on mans power and his logic is in fact its own religion. Isn't humanism then syncretism- a fusion of religious thoughts with others that result in beliefs that are unbiblical? Yes. And it's everywhere, including communities of faith.

Humanism is infecting the church! We look more and more like the world. And because of that, we are ineffective in reaching it. There's no contrast to be seen, so why would anyone adapt a new way of living? We no longer can identify sin (other than the current "sin" of political incorrectness), so there's no need of a savior. Swimming in this mire, we're lost, and we don't know it.

Make no mistake, God alone defines goodness. He is the standard by which all else is measured. Jesus himself says no one is good but God alone. (See Luke 18:19.) 

Here's a quick little quiz that can tell you if humanism has infected your life and youth faith. Ready? 

Do I rely on my own wisdom and strength to direct my life?  

Do I “identify”? By my work, my status, my sexuality, my nationality, my political party, or my denomination?  

Has comfort become my idol?

Are my hobbies extreme and time consuming- but my faith low risk?

Do I fit in more easily with the world and its philosophy than with those who make up the church?

Lastly- Do I live my life in a way that no longer requires the empowering of God? 

In other words, am I becoming lukewarm in my faith?

We’re not sold out to our nation! We’re not sold out to a political party! We are not even sold out to a denomination! We are sold out to Jesus Christ! We belong to Him! We were bought with a price (I Cor. 6:20)!

You belong to God or you do not! There's no middle ground. So, the first Rule of Engagement is KNOW WHO YOU BELONG TO.  

The next rule of engagement requires us to see clearly, so put on your top grade binoculars if you will, and look at life a little differently...

# 2- UNDERSTAND GOD’S MISSION, AND ALIGN YOUR PRIORITIES

We are made for His Purposes and for His Glory. Our works will be judged by his guidelines for us. Period.  

We know God desires none would perish- but will we be His voice on the earth and do His work?

The Bible tells us these truths :  

God wins- and so do His People (Rev. 20:10) BUT

The Days are Evil (Ephesians 5:16)

The World is Under Satan’s Temporary Control until Jesus Returns (1 John 5:19)

Our enemy seeks to devour and destroy believers (1 Peter 5:8)

People that don’t know God are captives of the enemy-  (2 Tim 2:24-26)

Satan uses all kinds of tactics to blind people to the message of the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4, Galatians 4:8)

Hell is real, not a fantasy and not something to be mocked or ignored. People are at risk of spending eternity in Hell!  (Rev. 21)

We are called to be faithful and proclaim Him and do the works of God (Matthew 28, Acts 1, John 14:12)

We can forget that God has saved us, and we forget our main mission. However, our enemy the devil does not!  Lives are at stake! This is war- and we are living in enemy occupied territory.

Let's read in the next chapter Colossians 3:1-4 : 

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."

THINK BIGGER! THINK BEYOND YOURSELF! THINK ETERNALLY!

Let’s be honest, here. Life is hard at times, and we all suffer! Yet, if we wait long enough to see things play out, we eventually know our struggles are stories that display God’s faithfulness. We may not know until eternity, but that's God's call not ours. In the midst of life, we can get stuck in our hardships and failures and forget our true calling, our mission from God.

Who doesn't have events in their lives that we wish we could change? We're broken by our choices that disappoint us (and God!) and hurt by the wounds others inflict upon us. In other words, we're all alike in this area. I want to try to hide this from people. Do you?

When we are wanting to look perfect, we lose the opportunities to meet people where they live so we can be encouraging and share about the work Jesus has done and is doing in us. Our hard stories are God's successes. Taking one step back, we can even see that God's character and his truths are made real as we work out faith and walk out our lives. Don't miss the chance to show God's heart by being real. 

Next question- and it's a big one:

HAVE YOU NOTICED THE TEMPORARY THINGS OF LIFE ONLY BRING TEMPORARY SATISFACTION?

(Why do I have to keep learning this lesson over and over and over again?) When we are focused on things other than God, we are living out of an identity that is not ours. God makes us dissatisfied with the temporary so we would learn to focus on the truly important things. The things that will last; the things that will bring us joy that lasts.

Our life is Hidden with Christ, and our priorities should reflect His priorities- Eternal Ones! Know what you're made for- and stay focused. To recap so far- 

# 1- KNOW WHO YOU BELONG TO.       

# 2- UNDERSTAND YOUR MISSION, AND ALIGN YOUR PRIORITIES

and now, 

# 3-  PUT YOUR FAITH IN ACTION, AND PREPARE FOR BATTLE

We know that we are not saved because of what we do (Ephesians 2:9), but we also know that faith without works is dead (James 2).  So what does putting our faith into action look like?

(A little side note here- this is why social justice alone won't save us or fully change the world. Human nature has to be dealt with, and only in turning our lives over to Jesus can we really be free and given a new life. This is what "born again" is referring to. But social justice is a part of what God requires and is an extension of what we as Christians believe.)

Think of Jesus' words to his followers. These same words apply to us today:

If you love me you’ll obey what I command. (John 14:15) 

Streams of living water will flow from our lives (John 7)

Bear much fruit, showing ourselves to be his disciples. John 15:7

When I came to put my faith in Jesus Christ, I knew I was being called into battle. Thankfully, Pastor Greg Laurie (look him up) preached a message that explained my life would no longer be my own. This meant that my life would be different than those who belonged to the world; that I would be exchanging a life of ease for a life of difficulty but of great reward- just like Jesus and the Twelve. I've never forgotten that. What does this all mean?

We can't be victorious without engaging an enemy! By choosing God's ways, we are rejecting the ways of man. From this very definition of faith, we have to be in a battle to be victorious; you have to participate to be declared a winner; you have to engage in order to make a difference. There's no way around it.

All this means you must take a risk.

Makes me think of Indiana Jones!

Let me ask you: WHEN DID CHRISTIANITY BECOME SAFE?

When the work of ministry became a profession for a select few

When faith mingled with politics and was watered down

When we quit advancing faith and just intellectualized it

WHEN THE CHURCH DOESN’T TAKE RISKS, IT RISKS LOOKING JUST LIKE THE WORLD!

AND THEN IT BEGINS TAKING ITS CUES AND COMMANDS FROM IT!

The same truths apply to individual believers in Jesus Christ. Ouch. 

The early church (and the persecuted church of today) grew rapidly and powerfully because they stepped out in faith and trusted God with the results. When they didn't, God made sure they moved on to obedience. (Check out what happened immediately after the execution of Stephen in the New Testament- Acts 7:54- 8:1-3.) God wants a vibrant and sacrificial church that carries His DNA and looks just like Him.  The following quote just kills me: 

The risk-free life is a victory-free life.

It means life-long surrender to the mediocre

and that is the worst of all possible defeats.

Jamie Buckingham, pastor and author, 1932-1992

If you haven't thought about your faith this way, please know it's never too late to change your course. When you do, please realize you will have a target on your back. When brings us to the next point:


EXPECT OPPOSITION. I cannot stress this enough! Choosing to serve Jesus passionately is to invite warfare. Our enemy will hate it, and even our friends who profess faith may not understand it when you decide to go against the culture of our day. Why? Our faithfulness challenges them to have to encounter God and then make their own choices. Oh, the stories I could tell of folks I know who are risking it all to make a difference. But here's the truth:

PASSIVE FAITH IS JUST PHILOSOPHY UNDER THE DISGUISE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS! 

Take a look at Ephesians 6:10-11  

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 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.

The devil is real and demonic activity is not limited to less advanced places or foreign lands. Our enemy will not give up the battle until he is forced to and the end of all things happens. 

The state of our own country should prove that to be a fact. Division, pride, strife, a focus on sex and pleasure, greed, rampant hatred for the things of God. All these things speak to the reality of a spiritual battle for our souls. 

OK, I'm winding it down now, but bear with me...

# 1- KNOW WHO YOU BELONG TO       

# 2- UNDERSTAND YOUR MISSION AND DEFINE WHAT YOU’RE MADE FOR

# 3- PUT YOUR FAITH IN ACTION AND PREPARE FOR BATTLE

Here's the last one, the last Rule of Engagement:

#4 -  USE GOD’S WEAPONS TO DO GOD’S WORK

This one gets a bit controversial because we know not everyone who calls themselves by the namer of Jesus believes His Spiritual Gifts are still available to us today. 

The good news for those of us in the battle is that we do not have to fight this battle in our own strength. Wouldn't that just be another form of humanism? Can you imagine how that grieves God when we refuse to go to Him?

We have the Bible, prayer, the Armor of God and all the Gifts of the Holy Spirit- the natural ones as well as the supernatural ones.  (See Ephesians 6; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12.) When Jesus returns to judge the earth, these gifts will disappear- and not a moment before.

Let me say this as emphatically as possible: A PHYSICAL WAR REQUIRES PHYSICAL WEAPONS. BUT THIS ISN’T A WAR AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD. SO- A SPIRITUAL WAR REQUIRES SPIRITUAL WEAPONS. 

And God provides them. We serve a good Father, a loving God, who prepares us well for battle. He provides spiritual weapons for a spiritual battle. As we use them for His purposes, He gets the glory for the work that is done. (And that is an important question to ask as you see people do what they claim is God's work- "Who is this bringing glory to?")

^^^This world is the fantasy, not the reality.

I love the Marvel movies, but the reality is that these Avengers have nothing on the people of God, the men, women, and children (yes, children!) who love God and are called to His Purposes. We have each other. This battle is not a solo event. It's a team effort.

We can also learn from the past- our mistakes, our victories, and the lessons others have learned as they have stepped out in faith. Both Biblical heroes of old and those who live in our modern world. 

We have the gifts of time, money, and talent. And God has given us places in which we live and work to serve others and a position in which to do so. Nothing goes to waste in His Kingdom. Nothing is left to chance. And nothing and no one is overlooked. That includes YOU.

GOD HAS PUT MORE IN YOU THAN YOU REALIZE, BUT YOU WON’T KNOW IT UNTIL YOU STEP OUT.

If you hold onto the past- good and bad- you will miss out on what God is doing now and what He wants to do. You have to take those steps that require God's power. 

“I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. 

I want people to look at my life 

and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power.” 

Francis Chan, pastor, author, missionary

Let me close with some words from Jesus, words that challenge and inspire us to take action:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”  (John 14:12)

-------

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

NUMBER 1- KNOW WHO YOU BELONG TO       

NUMBER 2- UNDERSTAND YOUR MISSION, AND ADJUST YOUR PRIORITIES

NUMBER 3- PUT YOUR FAITH IN ACTION, AND PREPARE FOR BATTLE

NUMBER 4- USE GOD’S WEAPONS TO DO GOD’S WORK


July 16, 2021

Pirates, Paris, and Perspective

Anyway you view it, the classic attraction Pirates of the Caribbean reigns supreme as the ultimate Disney Imagineering feat. Whether it's the original in Anaheim, the truncated version in Florida at Walt Disney World,  or Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure in Shanghai, the concept compels guests to set sail. Really does anyone leave disappointed. In fact, on my last ride at Disneyland, guests actually applauded and some first time guests exclaimed, "It can't be over!" 

The piece of concept art seen above was first revealed by Martin Smith in one of his excellent tribute videos. It's for Disneyland Paris' version which sits elegantly in Adventureland. The attraction itself may surprise guests used to riding in California or Florida. There's a reordering of scenes, a swordfight, and an explosive ending which reveals Captain Barbosa in his scarier than normal form. Yes, Jack Sparrow has invaded Paris as well, and yet, it all fits. 

Once planned for Hong Kong 
but never built!

It may be just me, but the gorgeous Hong Kong Disneyland may lose a few points by missing this adventure- but what a great job I bet those Imagineers bringing pirates into those waters!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 15, 2021

Chuck

Late to the television game as always seems to be the case in our house. No matter- I'm finding Chuck to be a blast. Zachary Levi is just terrific- perfectly cast as the "Buy More" employee nerd caught up in some life he never wanted but is surprisingly good at. As to be expected, I'm hearing shades of Flynn Rider (from Disney's Tangled) each and every episode- which is one of my favorite animated films. Yvonne Strahovski brings just the right blend of sweetness and fire as his love interest. But it is Adam Baldwin's cool consummate spy John Casey that makes me laugh out loud every episode. Sure, you know from the beginning where the show is headed, but who cares? Chuck is old school fun and worth the endless hours I'll spend watching. This world needs something to laugh about!

July 14, 2021

Gifts of Love

My love, my soul mate, my wife, gave me a brand new turntable for my birthday. (This photo is not it. 😀) However, what she really gave me was a reminder of how much she knows me and loves me! Of course, once we set it up, the first album played had to be Carpenters. No surprise, right?

To hear Karen Carpenter's rich, luxurious voice backed by Richard Carpenter's wonderful arrangements on their album with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was quite an experience. The compact disc is great, but the warmth of vinyl brought out nuances I had not previously heard. I sat in the center of the room, soaking it all in. It really was yesterday once more, and I was 13 all over again.

Then for a change of pace, the epic Off The Wall by Michael Jackson was spun. Hearing Don't Stop Til You Get Enough- wow. The song just feels as modern and fresh as it did when it first came out. Then it was back to the duo and the underrated Lovelines. Such a missed gem in the Carpenters collection. 

All my gifts were special and well thought out. Everyone should be so blessed to have the family God has given me....

July 10, 2021

A Beautiful American Adventure

Leave it to Bioreconstruct on Twitter to get yet another gorgeous photo of my favorite Disney theme park, Epcot. The American Adventure has never looked so beautiful! World Showcase is just lovely in the evening, and I certainly cannot wait to get there once again.


(Photograph copyright Bioreconstruct.)

July 9, 2021

So Many Years Ago

One of my favorite photos of my youngest daughter and I together. Just a precious memory for so many reasons...

July 8, 2021

Hidden Corners of Disneyland Paris

There are so many little hidden gems within Disneyland Paris! Those talented Imagineers filled the lands with walk through experiences and corners to explore that are just off the wide paths to major attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean,  the Jules Verne inspired Space Mountain, a new take on the Haunted Mansion with Phantom Manor, or the most elegant of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attractions. 

It is to their credit that they were able to build a "Best of Disney" castle park and still make the park stunningly unique, charming, and filled with impressive variations of these beloved time-honored attractions. 

In Adventureland, the beautiful Le Passage Enchanté d'Aladdin is very easy to look past and not even notice its existence. But its very worth the effort! Yes, it is a small series of static displays telling the tale of Aladdin, but it is often quiet and unnoticed, leaving guests who do venture into its hallways a chance for a quiet respite and a charming old school Disney attraction- one of the smaller touches that is found lacking in other castle parks like Florida's Magic Kingdom. Of course, that is what you get when you have a park with a hand picked team led by beloved Imagineer Tony Baxter! A park that is also beautiful and so rich in layers of detail and varied experiences, that it stands alone as the most beautiful castle park of all.

Each of the lands in Disneyland Paris has its own version of a smaller walk through attraction and many hidden corners to explore. Fans of Imagineering at its best must visit Paris to get to experience a park that may be on par with Tokyo Disneysea. Yes, it is a worthy companion and an apt comparison. Where are these other gems? That is worth your time to discover each of them!

(Art and photo copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 6, 2021

Disneyland Attraction Posters: The Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Collection

Continuing the series of Disneyland attraction posters, here are three from Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Now admittedly getting highest quality attraction posters of any kind is always an adventure of sorts. But finding new ones for Disneyland's latest major attractions is a challenge. A big challenge- and you won't find them in the Galaxy's Edge itself. That would break the entire theme that you're on a distant and relatively undiscovered planet.

This is the epic attraction!
It's too bad it is so difficult to ride!
What a mistake in engineering...

Taken as a whole, it is not a bad ride.
But compared to the headliner, it falls short.

The Star Wars land is pretty rich and detailed, much like the attraction posters you can see here (and the Black Spire Outpost tourist travel poster which you can purchase on site). There's lots of shops to explore and pay to play upgraded experiences. But there should be so much more in the land! I mean, at least move Star Tours over, right?

As for attraction posters, this is absolutely as good as it gets for both Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run. For now. Keep your eyes open. I know I will. All the other Disneyland attraction posters can be found on the blog. Some are quite hard to find. Enjoy your search!

July 5, 2021

東京ディズニーランドで一日より良い?

城は豪華ではありませんか?それは確かに芸術作品です!東京ディズニーランド・リゾート全体がテーマパークの中の宝石です。東京ディズニーランドで一日を過ごせ!横山レンの写真は美しいが、以下のニュースはさらに壮観です。はい、これが真実です。以下の良いニュースのために読み続けてください。私を信じて、これはオリンピックよりも優れています。


神は世界を愛し、彼は彼を信じる人は誰でも滅びるのではなく、永遠の命を持つべきである、彼の一人息子を与えました。 神は、世界を非難するために、世界に彼の息子を送ったのではなく、世界が彼を通して救われるように。ヨハネ3:16-17 - それはイエスのすべてです。

(写真著作権 横山レン)

July 4, 2021

God Bless America! Land That I Love!

Look at this gorgeous piece of concept art for Liberty Square's unique Concord Bridge. Disneyland has New Orleans Square, perhaps the best of all castle park lands, but I am almost equally impressed by Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square. Its holds the Haunted Mansion and the Hall of Presidents. Imagineering has often done its best work in patriotic themed attractions, respecting our vibrant and varied- but not perfect- history and culture. That said, after traveling to the ends of the earth and its nations almost 25 times, there's no country on the planet as free and as grounded as the US of A. So, God Bless America and shed your grace on thee. We certainly need a refocus!


(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 3, 2021

New Iron Man Coaster Graphics for Walt Disney Studios Paris

Avengers Campus at the second park at Disneyland Paris Resort will take the old Rock n Rollercoaster and turn it into an Iron Man themed attraction. Thanks for a couple of very generous folks, we now have a first look at some interesting concept art.

From a group called "Sequoia Gang" comes these images shared by WDWMagic boards user "montydysquith-navarro". The top image shows the queue for the attraction and what looks like an actual Audio-Animatronic. The image below reveals the 3D rendering of the same area. 

Is it possible that after the choice to use filmed images of Spider-Man / Peter Parker for California Adventure's new WEB Slingers- A Spider-Man Adventure, the Imagineers decided to up their presentation a bit? I mean, let's be real, Walt Disney Studios Paris is a very underwhelming park- at least for now. This could be a step in the right direction. Let's hope so!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 2, 2021

Until Unity

Maybe now more than ever, a unified but diverse church needs to be discovered among our world. Francis Chan, author of one of my favorite books, Crazy Love, has written a new tome, Until Unity. Jesus had a lot to say about wanting a unified church. Should be an interesting read! 

July 1, 2021

A New Photo of Karen and Richard Carpenter

Author and "Resident Carpenterologist" Chris May from the A&M Corner boards has slyly used this previously unseen photo of Richard and Karen Carpenter as his new avatar. Being a fan of the duo's "A Kind of Hush" album, it caught my eye. Here's the photograph in as large a form as I could get it. Until Chris and coauthor Mike Cidoni Lennox's book "Carpenters- The Musical Legacy" comes out this fall, it may have to hold us over as photos of the beloved duo are becoming more and more scarce. We've been told there are dozens of new photos to see along with a myriad of untold stories about the music from Richard himself. Can't wait to read it!

Speaking of Hush, I was honored to be part of the team that gave input on that album for Randy L. Schmidt's excellent Illustrated Discography

EDIT- Right from Chris May, here is the photo in full size and in highest quality:
        

On my "Revisited/Fresh Look" at all the Carpenters albums one by one, I'm not up to Hush yet. Horizon is next. But Live in Japan is the latest. You can view all of the reviews and the original ones by perusing the list below. Enjoy!

All that is just part of a continuing series about Karen and Richard Carpenter. There are also numerous stand alone articles highlighting different aspects of their career, recordings, and life. 

Below is the list of my initial reviews and then my "Revisited /Fresh Look" reviews a decade later. 

My Initial Reviews of the albums:



June 30, 2021

Tiki Culture Lives on at Disney World's Polynesian Village Resort

Tiki Culture- I love it! Give me views of South Pacific tropical islands with crystal waters, lush fruity drinks, and the sights and sounds of days gone by, and I'm in total relaxation mode. Or give me stuff that delivers the vibe. Are you one who still enjoys the Enchanted Tiki Room? Does Trader Sams float your boat? Join the club!

Few things were more enjoyable during our last Walt Disney World trip than an evening at the Polynesian Village Resort and dinner at the world famous Spirit of Aloha luau. Even the boat ride over from the Magic Kingdom at early dusk was truly magical.

The re-envisioned lobby area was a major step backward, and the Moana makeover seems pleasant but unnecessary. The original just needed a refresh and not a makeover. That said, I am looking forward to a new entrance and monorail station. Yet...

The real Hawaii has charms that Disney's duplication can't match. But when you want a small taste of that island life while at Disney World, head over to the Polynesian. You won't be disappointed!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

June 28, 2021

Rare Concept Art for Disneyland's 1967 Tomorrowland?

It took a visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum to see this piece of concept art! I had never seen this before, which was kind of a surprise as I am just a huge fan of the work created for Disneyland's 1967 re-envisioned Tomorrowland. The best of Disneyland's Land of the Future. Adventure Thru Inner Space? Check. Peoplemover? Check. Carousel of Progress? Check again. What a line up! 

This blog is stuffed with some of Imagineering's best renderings of it all. Say what you will about the newer attractions like Rise of the Resistance. They may be great, but they lack the charm, optimism, and innocence of an era where the future was seen as a great, big, beautiful, tomorrow.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company. Photograph by Mark Taft.)

June 27, 2021

My Son, My Tree Hero

Each year for Fathers Day but really for every occasion, I'm blessed by the thoughtfulness of my kids and the gifts they choose. 

In a break with tradition, my wife bought be a beautiful lantern for me to hang in the branches of one of my trees. I think I'm up to almost 20 lanterns and maybe 2/3 that many trees now in the backyard. With a dash of an Imagineering trained brain, I started this obsession years ago. It is truly magical when the lights go on after dark.

My eldest son is the music lover in the family (just like his Dad), and my gift was a new book about the insiders look at promotion in the music industry and a great album featuring the Sounds of Philadelphia. Loving the vinyl resurgence, aren't you?

Our oldest daughter and her husband signed me up for a year long subscription to MasterClass. (If you want to unexpectedly laugh while you learn, the Gangsta Gardener is hilarious! Who doesn't need a laugh after the events of the last two years. Robert Iger is on, too, talking about leadership.) A super thoughtful gift that will give back all year long. 

Our youngest daughter created an Italian meal in a box, complete with all the items, additional recipes, and a jar of her should-be-world-famous homemade pesto. I won't share her secret ingredient, but what a difference it makes. Unique and traditional flavors worth savoring. She is one of the best cooks I know- and she'll be teaching me some basic Chinese dishes in the weeks to come. 

Last but not least, our youngest son did something I could never do: Dug holes and planted three trees in our monstrous back yard. It took him all day as these maples and elm were pretty big! While I was dead tired after helping, he was just "a little sore". But the guy is buff. He's also a big Harry Potter fan, so we are looking forward to seeing the Universal parks through his eyes when we go to with him to Florida in September. That should be one great trip and trip report!

June 26, 2021

Hello, It's Me

Just like the old photo, there may be a smile on my face, but I'm actually very uninspired. This is probably the reason that my most recent blog posts have been few or short or even to my mind, rather bland.

In other words, it's just like California Adventure's new Avengers Campus! There's few reasons to visit, short on exciting attractions, and overall, so bland compared to what could have been done with such an iconic series of comics, television shows, and movies from the Marvel family. WEB SLINGERS- A Spider-Man Adventure is a new low for what the Disney company is promoting as a major attraction. 

So far, I'm unimpressed by most of the changes I'm seeing in Epcot. The Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are stagnant -and maybe that's a good thing! Imagineering seems to be entering a strange phase under the leadership of Bob Chapek and the effects of COVID-19. But you can only blame that for so long. In other words, Disney is not inspiring many posts when my love of their theme parks is the main reason I am a fan. Even the Star Wars inspired Imagineering book sits on my shelf and is 100% wrapped in plastic. Not even opened. 

Television is rather blah, music seems uninteresting (I'm not listening to much of anything these days), and travel is still mostly of limits.

On the plus side, I'm thrilled about some upcoming nuptials in the family and the promise of the future and all that brings. I'm encouraged in what God is doing in me, happy to see changes and growth in our church, and blessed so much to be able to see friends and family in more relaxed surroundings. I'm watching God draw people to Himself in ways I never thought that would happen.

So, Hello, It's Me. I just wanted to check in. Thanks to Adele for letting me steal her opening lyrics.


June 21, 2021

Before Jurassic Park and Jurassic World

Could Epcot's soon to open Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind take us back to the era of the dinosaurs? The title itself suggests going back in time. It would be a pretty cool nod to the past! When the previous Future World tenant Universe of Energy welcomed guests, after a mesmerizing pre-showthey were carefully placed into bench style theater seats that transformed into a ride to the prehistoric age on a single guide wire. It was quite the surprise when the seating sections broke off and started moving through the attraction. What an engineering feat! Those brilliant Imagineers found ways to delight and educate.

Globally, fans love their dinosaurs! Long before Universal's Jurassic Park area, and even the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World films, the Disney theme parks were full of creatures from eons past. There are far more there than you might imagine. Take a journey into each of the parks and discover where these prehistoric beasts reside. They are taking over the world!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 20, 2021

The Man in the Middle

No, I couldn't be there, but here is the most recent photograph of my father- the man in the middle. Happy Father's Day to my Dad, a man who loves his family and loves His Lord Jesus Christ.
 

June 19, 2021

Luca- A Straightforward Tale of Friendship

A charming tale of the power of friendship- pure and simple bliss from Disney/Pixar as if it were developed during the days of Toy Story. There's no hidden agenda, and no language or characters that would make the most sensitive of parents question whether a preschooler could watch it. There is nothing in Luca even remotely offensive, so relax and enjoy a film meant to put a smile on your face. 

The growing friendship between main character Luca and Alberto is as innocent as the summer season the film portrays. When they meet new friend Giulia, the trio is complete, and the story becomes all the more richer. In a nice twist, our hero has both parents, and neither are remotely close to being repressive or anything but emotionally healthy.

Contrary to what you may have have heard about it being a tale of LGBTQ sensibilities with a growing male to male romance, you have to be actively reading into the story and the main friendships to go that direction. In fact, in an interview with Luca director Enrico Casarosa by Yahoo! Entertainment, he emphatically states, "... it truly goes without saying that we really willfully went for a prepubescent story … this is all about platonic friendships.” 

The landscapes of the town strongly echo the gorgeous region of Cinque Terra, Italy, and the colors of the village, sky, and water, are a feast for the eyes. The whole movie is delightful- It's a breath of fresh air and makes me hopeful for more films like this from the powerhouse in family entertainment. Movies that exist just to entertain without an agenda. Well done, Pixar! Well done!

June 18, 2021

The Disney You Don't See

In the world of Disney Imagineering, what you don't see is often just as gorgeous and compelling as what eventually makes it beyond the drawing boards. This incredible piece of concept art by Tim Delaney for EuroDisney aka Disneyland Paris gives us a glimpse at what the train station could be- something right out of Discoveryland, actually! It's clean slick lines and bell epoque embellishments are the performers fit for a castle park built in a country full or artistic masterpieces. As part of Tony Baxter's creative team for the park's design, Tim instantly "got it", giving the Jules Verne styled Tomorrowland a feel uniquely its own. Even the original Disneyland fell flat in comparison when the suits tried to duplicate its feel for Anaheim without giving it a proper budget and creative direction.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 17, 2021

Moving On

I think I'm "ok". Grief is such a difficult thing to overcome completely, but I am finally moving into the acceptance stage of this process after hitting a short season of denial, a long season of anger, and a brief season of depression. Yet, acceptance does not mean a plan is in place! That's the next part for me. And my wife and I are in the midst of discussing what that should be. 

The gift of time to walk through this process is something only God could give me- and He has. If you know Jesus Christ and have a relationship with him that is real and intimate and personal, you know what I'm talking about. Only in Him is this rest and help and purpose for the future. I may be entering a new season of life, but that does not mean I cannot glorify God and do his work- or enjoy the process of embracing new things and letting go of the old.

What will change? Will this blog even continue? Many things are up for reevaluation, and I'll take it steady and slow without drastic moves unless the Lord directs. "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." Proverbs 19:21.
 

June 14, 2021

Hideaway

Taking a tropical vacation in my mind. Time away is still some time away, but I know its coming- and I couldn't be more thankful to the Lord...

(Photographer unknown.)

June 11, 2021

Port Disney Leads to Tokyo Disneysea Success and California Adventure Failure

And you thought Avengers Campus was lacking in ambition and execution! Take a look at the piece of concept art used to sell Port Disney to the city of Long Beach. Toss in the extravagance of EPCOT Center with a nautical theme, and you get a blockbuster Disney theme park. Or so it seems...

The grand entry.

In actuality, this was a well designed ploy by Michael Eisner to get the city of Anaheim to pony up big cash for what folks thought would be WESTCOT Center. But it was a true bait and switch. 

The second Disneyland Resort theme park would instead be the very underwhelming Disney California Adventure 1.0- a total flop creatively and financially. It would take another billion or so to transform it from the laughing stock of the theme park world to something vaguely resembling a Disney park- if only later to begin reverting to tacky and "hip and edgy".

In the meantime, quietly opening (at least to US Disney park fans) several months later in 2001 would be the grandest of all parks, Tokyo Disneysea in Japan. That park only gets better over time. And it is a consistent money maker from day one. 

You don't believe that California Adventure was once the bastion of what I call Bargain Basement Imagineering? Check out this look at DCA over its 20 year history and my very popular series, and view the concept art that formed the foundation of the park. It makes Spider-Man's WEB Slingers look like a masterpiece!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 10, 2021

Behind the Beauty of Shanghai Disneyland, China Clamps Down Once Again

This beautiful photo from Madness Kingdom shows one side of the lovely and groundbreaking Shanghai Disney Resort in China. With the dazzling Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, the Imagineers certainly proved they can still design epic adventures when given the appropriate space, direction, and budget. But all the dazzles isn't gold!

The country is clamping down once again on freedom of speech and religion. Watchdog China Aid reports new government restrictions and indoctrination requirements begin on September 1, 2021. Take a look at this article. The way things our moving in our country, could we be far behind?

June 7, 2021

THIS is What I Wanted from Disney+

Here's the big announcement directly from the Disney Parks Blog:

Go ‘Behind the Attraction’ in a New Original Series Coming to Disney+ on July 16

A new series is coming to Disney+ on July 16 that gives an exclusive peek ‘behind the curtain’ of the most beloved attractions and destinations at Disney Parks and Resorts around the world, from Jungle Cruise to “it’s a small world” to the Haunted Mansion to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. 

“Behind the Attraction” is a 10-part series narrated by Paget Brewster that  delves into Disney Parks’ rich, amazing history using archival and never-before-seen footage and photographs to unveil how the attractions came to be and how they’ve been refined over the years as new ideas surface and technology evolves.

Hear the unique story behind each Castle at the Parks and learn how Disney Imagineers designed and built them and discover the intricacies of the transportation systems at each park, and how the iconic Disneyland Hotel came to be.

Including rare interviews with Walt Disney, each episode also features exclusive interviews with Disney Legends and dozens of past and present Imagineers, including Bob Weis, Jeanette Lomboy, Kim Irvine, Scott Trowbridge, Tom Fitzgerald, Scot Drake, Carmen Smith, Joe Rohde, and others who divulge insider secrets of the parks and how iconic Disney attractions were brought to life.


June 5, 2021

Welcome to WESTCOT Center!

WESTCOT Center is perhaps the greatest of the abandoned Disney theme park projects. If it sounds like Epcot, it should! Comprising two main areas, it feels like Future World and World Showcase but with a difference. Imagineering added thrill rides, new countries to explore, and new scientific based pavilions. Want a journey through the history of the world on an extended boat cruise where you can jump on and off? You got it! There's more. A lot more! Go here for a deep dive with all the details and concept art you'd ever want. Then you can "thank" Michael Eisner and team for cancelling it and replacing it with California Adventure 1.0!


(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 4, 2021

The Rainbow Promise

Ah, the rainbow! What a wonderful reminder that we are all worthy or love and respect as we are created in God's image. But did you know the rainbow represents a promise? It's the very sign set in the sky by Him to remind men, women, and children, that He will no longer destroy the earth by flooding it. The book of Genesis, chapter 9 tells us all about it. Not only are rainbows beautiful, they bring hope! And God brings new life to us through Jesus Christ. All of us have sinned and fall short of what God intended, but He alone paid the price. It's time to turn toward Him and regain what God intended, isn't it?

June 2, 2021

Avengers Campus Falls Flat

How do you take Marvel, one of the most successful of all movie franchises, and turn it into failure? Open Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure with a slightly improved Toy Story Mania as your main draw.  WEB Slingers- A Spider-Man Adventure should be so much more than it is. But this is Imagineering of the 2020's and certainly not work found under the original first generation or the often equally talented second generation. Shops and restaurants play a big part here where they should take on a supporting role. 

Viewing the Disney Parks Blog live stream of the grand opening, it is easy to see the Imagineers were hamstrung by the budgets and the direction given from the suits, and the enthusiasm for the new land was as manufactured as could be. Until grander plans come to fruition, Avengers Campus will be for die hard fans and little kids used to Saturday morning cartoons. So much potential wasted.