March 29, 2021

Lil Nas X Knows Luke 10:18, but Does He Know Revelation 20:7-15?

The immensely popular Old Town Road artist, Lil Nas X, has a new single out, Montero (Call Me By Your Name), but his biggest media splash is over a limited edition pair of altered Nike shoes by his collaboration with a company named MSCHF. These shoes include a drop of blood in the heel, a reference to Luke 10:18, and are aptly named "Satan's Shoes". Isn't that cute? But it's not a joke.

He may be aware of the Luke passage (which actually speaks of Satan's fall from Heaven), but I'd suggest for him to read Revelation 20. This passage tells of his forthcoming judgment. From the Bible:

"The Defeat of Satan

7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Judgment Before the Great White Throne

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

So, as you read for yourself in all of Revelation, Jesus wins and Satan is eternally defeated. Kind of a perfect message for Easter, don't you think? Jesus- always the victor and never the defeated.

March 26, 2021

Art Surfaces for Disneyland Paris Log Ride

Disneyland Paris' Frontierland is the best incarnation of the land since the original in Anaheim in the early 1960s. But it was going to get even better! How? Imagine riding in a log down a slippery flume! Sounds like Splash Mountain- but it wasn't. The concept art showing that long empty plot of land out in Frontierland really was set aside for a log ride attraction at Disneyland Paris! The Imagineers had plans. Again, the art is unclear on the story, but was it for the beloved and iconic Splash Mountain? The answer is a solid... maybe but probably not. In a park where attention to theme reigned, a more likely scenario is one true to frontier life the wilderness. One without cartoon characters- be it rabbits and foxes, country critters, or silly old bears.

The great big Cowboy Cookout restaurant.
More than enough nearby space to hold a few new epic attractions!

This piece at top is entitled "Trapper's Cabin- Frontierland". Take a closer look, and you'll see passengers floating by on the flume.  The mountain is certainly added for effect, but the environment says classic Frontierland. 

Why was this never built? Financial woes plagued the resort due to overbuilding of the hotels and a decent amount of overages on the castle park itself. That money problem continued when the woefully ugly but legally required Walt Disney Studios Paris came into being. Right financial pal move, wrong end result for sure. That theme park made California Adventure look like Tokyo Disneysea!

So for now, the huge chunk of land in the most beautiful Magic Kingdom of all sits waiting next to the hastily designed kids area. It was once called Pocohontas Indian Village. Now it is the not very imaginatively named "Frontierland Playground". (There's one more never built attraction for Frontierland, a full blown stunt show! Read about it and see the art here.)

(Art and photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 25, 2021

Third Park at Disneyland Resort?

No, it is not WESTCOT, but some people think Disney is planning a third theme park for the Anaheim property. It would be quite the coup if it could be pulled off, but I'm thinking this could be a hoax or at least a ploy to gain new concessions. California Adventure needs so much help as it is. Disneyland is, however, running out of space once Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railroad is built. (Will Tomorrowland ever be brought into the future?) 

The article by the Orange County Register does give it credibility. The plans are real. The project is part a DisneyForward, a new plan for mixed use development over the next few decades. But the city was the victim of bait and switch years back when the elegant Westcot was swapped for a cut-rate Six Flags meets Universal Studios (of olden days) park ie California Adventure. Fool me once...

The Imagineers can dream can't they? But will the suits can stop it in a flash. We shall see. No dates are given, but the additions include loved properties like Frozen and attractions from all over the world that Disney park fans have been longing for.

Check out more about WESTCOT here and here.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 24, 2021

Karen Carpenter Strikes Up the Band!

Karen Carpenter- the woman with the golden voice that the whole world loved- strikes up the band with the opening to their concert at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas circa July 1978. She and brother Richard as Carpenters created magic together. Here's proof-

Starting out with a unique vocal version of George Gershwin's Strike Up the Band, Karen calls on Richard to get the concert going. Then once it begins, the duo and band cut into ABBA's Thank You for the Music, and later a beautiful version of the classic When I Fall in Love. Of course, there's her drum solo, Richard's version of the Star Wars / Close Encounters themes and all the hits.

If you can't see the link above, catch it here before it disappears.

March 23, 2021

Disney Goes Big Brother

Disney has decided to use facial recognition software in a test at Walt Disney World. Sure, it seems innocent enough, but if you take a look at China and their use of it there, this is just opening the door to a growing lack of personal freedoms in our country. Of course, evil is always packaged as good so the masses will accept it. Are we in the US on the road to follow them? Check this out:

Freedom Housean organization focused on preserving freedom for all people, publishes an annual report that ranks each country based on a series of issues.  Their 2020 report shows China near the bottom of the rankings of countries where its citizens and information are free. Traditional news agencies  are controlled by the government. Social media networks and other applications and platforms  are monitored by the government and regularly made unavailable during specific times of the day or altogether inoperable during times of protest and political unrest. Number of children is limited. The ability to travel or purchase freely varies. Facial recognition technology is now in use in China's public transportation and continues to be rolled out with even more applications throughout the country. 

It all begins somewhere. Let's hope Disney abandons this idea.

March 22, 2021

Could This Be the Change to the Haunted Mansion?

What's this? Jack Skellington and friends may have a brand new environment in which to play around should this imagineer have their way! Could it be the mysterious loading area for our doombuggies has an enhancement or two coming? This piece of concept art would certainly suggestion that Disneyland's Haunted Mansion is eventually ripe for something new. Lord knows, the park has been closed long enough to fix some existing problems and provide some new surprises! 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 21, 2021

Hello From Harambe!

How's this for a Sunday morning photograph? Our very friendly visitor during our Kilimanjaro Safaris trek decided to bless us with his profile. As the premier experience at Disney's Animal Kingdom, the journey never fails to impress me- or make me wish I could do the real thing in Africa. But then again, it is experiences like this that make Walt Disney World stand apart from all theme parks.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

March 20, 2021

Baby, Baby

With apologies to Amy Grant and her wonderfully catchy break through pop hit, Baby Baby, this little girl puts my heart in motion. Her sweet little face and gentle personality make her another gift from God! 

March 15, 2021

Original Version of Epcot's Moana Inspired Journey of Water

Now that Epcot's Communicore West is mostly leveled, the next stage for the transformation of Epcot is set to begin. Moana's Journey of Water has its fans and detractors, but most newer and younger Disney Park fans are not aware that a concept very similar was proposed years ago. 

As part of the Imagineer's proposed Project Gemini, Future World would become Discoveryland, and the opening act to the park and the areas around the main pavilions would be enhanced with hundreds of new trees and shrubbery, giving it a rainforest appearance on the west side. You can see the concept art for yourself (above).

Among the surprises, The Little Mermaid would inhabit the Living Seas pavilion instead of Nemo, a roller coaster with outdoor track would inhabit the area, Spaceship Earth would become a rollercoaster called Time Racers, and an autopia ride would find a home next to Test Track. Oh yes, and Communicore West would have survived with some modest changes...

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 14, 2021

Raya and the Last Dragon- A Girl Worth Fighting For?

Raya and the Last Dragon succeeds, but it also fails miserably. The animation is stunning- the strongest element of the film- making the most of the landscapes and cultural art styles of locations such as Thailand and Cambodia. The story is unique as it is based on Southeast Asian folklore, and it has one of the cutest sidekicks ever, an animal-meets-Segway named Tuk-Tuk. Parents, between Raya's buddy and all those colorful dragons, get ready to open your wallets for all that cheaply made plush at the Disney Stores.

In a nod to classic Disney animation, our heroine has only one parent. What is it with Disney and this angle? While Pixar artists seem to struggle with deep troubling emotions as evidenced by their art, Disney animators must not know what to do with a hero or heroine that comes from an alive and kicking two parent traditional family. Tangled is the only recent film that breaks this unfortunate aspect. 

Unfortunately, the content and flow of this beautiful looking piece of art is faulty. Very faulty. The film loses its soul over a plot line that takes much too long to develop to a winning and satisfying finale. By the end of the two hour long presentation, its excessive preachiness, the lack of depth of its characters, and its almost laughable and rushed kumbaya camp fire sing-a-long type conclusion, the viewer loses any lasting connection to its characters and its strengths. So much wasted potential.

Not is all lost, it would still make a wonderful dark ride cruise in a theme park. (Epcot 2.0 could certainly use a new World Showcase pavilion, now that I think about it.)

Raya has great intentions, forging a reminder to love your enemies, (Gee, I think Jesus of Nazareth was the first to speak this truth) but it forgets to tell a great story in a concise manner that holds the viewers interest. That's Storytelling 101. Ultimately, Raya and the Last Dragon is just one more Disney animated movie that's a one and done. If you want an Asian themed animated movie with staying power, Mulan is still the girl worth fighting for.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Storm Watch 2021

From early this morning after a full day of snow yesterday- and it is still going...

March 13, 2021

What New Orleans Square Was Meant to Look Like

When Disneyland premiered New Orleans Square, it was instantly recognized as one of the greatest pieces of Disney Imagineering to date. The opening of Pirates of the Caribbean in 1967 and the Haunted Mansion in 1969 cemented its stature. 

It wasn't the popularity of the attraction that mandated the new queue we see today. It was the addition of FastPass that brought hoards out into the streets, creating the mess it is. 

As seen above, this is the way the area should look. Perhaps with the reopening of Disneyland and FastPass and MaxPass perhaps gone for good, things may revert. Wouldn't that be nice!

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 12, 2021

Notable and Quotable: Timothy Keller

"When we turn good things into ultimate things, when we make them our greatest consolations and loves, they will necessarily disappoint us bitterly."

                         Timothy Keller, author of Hope in Times of Fear

(The full article about his struggle through his cancer diagnosis is here.)

March 11, 2021

The Original Disneyland Pin

Admission Ticket Number One makes a very cool looking pin for the most discriminating of Disneyland fans! It is certainly something that is rather attractive. Don't you agree?

March 8, 2021

EPCOT Center's Never Built Future World Rollercoaster

 If you think Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the first rollercoaster planned for Epcot, think again. That honor actually goes to another Future World pavilion and not a reworking of the classic EPCOT Center attraction Universe of Energy. Any guesses as to what it could be?

Well, you'd be correct if you didn't think it was Test Track! But it was an attraction thought of for the Transportation pavilion, an early predecessor to the World of Motion. Imagineer Clem Hall designed the piece of concept art for that compound in Future World, but it never was built as designed. Fans never saw what could have been until years later. 

Look closely, and you'll see a four looped coaster track off to the back left side of the rendering before it heads back into the main structure. Shades of Tron, I'd say, decades before Shanghai Disneyland's "E Ticket" attraction came to be. 

(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

March 1, 2021

An Unofficial Look at Disney's Hilton Head Resort

Note: Disney may be celebrating 25 years of Hilton Head, but back when we visited, we discovered something quite different than what we expected at a Disney property. Might consider reading this piece before making a commitment...

Last month, thanks to a promotion with our cel phone company and some free hotel space, about a decade ago now, my wife and I were able to get away for a few days to Charleston and Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Being quite aware of the Walt Disney Company's Vacation Club offerings, I was curious to check out their timeshare property at Hilton Head Island, so we spent about an hour stopping to take photos and ask some questions. When we saw the small Bambi and Thumper topiary (actually fake topiary) and the "Year of a Million Dreams" banner, we knew we were at the right place. We checked in at the registration desk upstairs at the main building. It is a very small area with a tiny lobby and slightly larger library/den. Our hostess was nice enough to provide a map to the island and the property, a copy of the latest newsletter, and the offer to explore without being escorted- the nicest surprise of all.

Hilton Head Island is comprised of mostly resort properties with just about every piece of beachfront property developed. Large, well-known companies specialize in providing amenities associated with any luxury resort: golf, tennis, spas, pools, restaurants, shopping. Disney is no exception, although their roster falls short in comparison. Walking the Disney grounds, it became very clear that the property was pleasant and well maintained but not nearly as nice as many of the surrounding resorts.

The biggest difference: although it may not be immediately obvious to a reader of the promotional materials provided, the primary piece of property, the one where the vacation homes are located, is not beachfront or even across the street from it! In fact, although the Disney resort is on (its own) Longview Island in Shelter Cove Harbour, the complex sits in Broad Creek and its marsh.

Sure, it is beautiful to look at with the area's live oaks and pines, but where's the swimming beach? Follow that 1.5 mile bike path between the main lodging area to Disney's Beach House on the sand. The path runs under Highway 287. To be fair, a shuttle service is available, but at Vacation Club pricing, beachfront should be the order of the day.

Replacing the beach for 31 main buildings of accommodations are one medium-sized but well themed pool and a horseshoe pit with a nearby snack bar and small shop. No tennis or golf. I was expecting something as nice as the Wilderness Lodge or at least the Sarasota Springs Resort in Florida. Instead, everything here was very low key with nothing grand to be found.

We did find the usual and expected nice touches of theme, found here particularly in the signage. (Although a sign referencing "Michael and Michael" now seems to poke a bit of fun at Eisner's grand plans with Mr. Ovitz.) The vacation home buildings were very well done. The gardens were nice but not much more than adequate. A bit of character merchandise and a small collection of pins could be purchased in the shop, and Walt Disney World Resort paper cups were used in the snack shops. Cast members were friendly, smiling quite a bit, enjoying conversation with the guests.

After our walk around, we drove to the Beach House and were slightly more impressed. The main house was well appointed in a nautical theme. The outdoor pool was of decent size with a fountain play area sporting a beach ball theme. A small snack shop and a deck side bar rounded out the offerings with promises of a weekly shrimp roast. The sand was before us but mostly hidden by lots of trees affording privacy to members.

We spoke with a vacation club member who, with a slight smile and sigh, told us it was difficult but not impossible to use his vacation club points to get here due to the popularity of Hilton Head, but he much preferred Disney's Vero Beach resort. I can only hope that property is beachfront. I am sure that once word gets out that Disney's Hilton Head Island resort is not on the sand and has no golf or tennis, it will be much easier to book time there.

To sum it up, at least from our visit in 2008, this was one of the first times we were glad not to be "on the property". In a strange way, I was happy to discover that our longtime decision not to purchase was a wise one, leaving our options open for staying at a variety of destinations.  

(Most photos copyright Mark Taft- with a couple of photos copyright The Walt Disney Company.)