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


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.

Rare Concept Art for Pinocchio's Village Haus in Disneyland

Stumbled upon this old piece of concept art for Disneyland's Pinocchio Village Haus (now known as the Beauty and the Beast themed Red Rose Taverne). The brand new revitalized Fantasyland of 1983 saw not only the Pinocchio's Daring Journey dark ride but a nice little restaurant off to the side on the pathway to Frontierland. The very charming inn at Disneyland has an older corporate cousin at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. We know bigger isn't always better, but in this case, the Florida location does have a great big scenic window into the load station of It's A Small World. Over in France, it's Au Chalet de la Marionnette at Disneyland Paris. Anyway you see it, the restaurants are infused with Old World charm and a touch of Disney magic.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 1, 2021

Time Passages

Another family member passes away- and this all leaves me with the thought of how quickly life goes. Eternity awaits for all of us...

(Photo copyright Canva.)