December 15, 2017

Tale of Three Ships

The waterways at Disney theme parks have always provided a nice respite from the heat. But they also provide some terrific renderings! Here's a nice albeit miniature collection of Disney Imagineering concept art with a nautical focus. Each piece is in a size you'll certainly want to enlarge and save. 

Up at the top: This is an absolutely beautiful piece of concept art celebrating the riverboat at the Magic Kingdom's unique Liberty Square. Look at this detail! The Hall of Presidents sits in the distance as does Cinderella Castle. I love the trio of folks on the riverbank just watching the vessel go by. It's these kind of details that make Disney art so appealing. Much better than some of there newer pieces where people are photoshopped in!

Next up is a look at a long abandoned Disney theme park idea, Disney's America. The patriotic themed park in Virginia was derailed by the locals only to have the land later replaced by strip malls and very commonplace buildings found anywhere in suburbia. The only redeeming factor of the cancellation seems to be the remaining pieces of art. As you can see, this park looks to represent a perhaps more gritty look at our history, but it's not one without celebration. Wouldn't it have been great to watch a fireworks show with a replica Statue of Liberty in the background? What lost opportunities. 

Not all Disney seaworthy vessels are outdoors. Yes, it's Splash Mountain shown here. In one of the largest set pieces ever built, the amazing adventure down the longest and steepest flume ride ever built culminates with a stunning view of the party going on aboard the Zip A Dee Doo Dah Lady. (If I can remember the name correctly.) 

This is just the beginning of your seaworthy adventure. Back on the Rivers of America, there's the canoes, the Tom Sawyer Island Rafts and more. You can add the Columbia Sailing Ship, the Wicked Wench, and of course all of the submarines found in the Stateside Disney parks. (Not to mention the Jungle Cruise boats or those found on the canals of Storybookland.) Of course, once outside North America, there's even more vessels to be found. Am I missing any?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 14, 2017

Announced: Disney Buys Fox Assets

It's happened! Disney just announced its bought assets from Fox Studios for over $52 Billion. This means the House of Mouse now owns the original Star Wars films, Avatar, the Simpsons, and a huge host of classic films. An even bigger powerhouse with Pixar and Marvel already in the family.

Robert Iger will stay until 2021- or a suitable replacement is found. The man will go down in Disney history as acquiring the most expansion collection of properties ever seen. More coming.

December 13, 2017

Broken Man and Falling Plates

Broken and repaired. Do not miss this powerful video, below. If you've been there- and I know I have- you'll want to see this train of thought from an entirely new perspective. It's good for the soul that's aching- the one that's yearning, broken, and ready for a fresh start.

December 12, 2017

Merry Christmas Darling

Yes, you can bet I did a bit of a double take when I saw this plate in one of my local stores. The beloved Christmas classic by Karen and Richard Carpenter, Merry Christmas Darling, had been translated into something tangible and commercial. Did I buy it? No. But it was kind of fun to find something from the duo had made its way into current culture.

(Photo copyright Mark Taft.)

December 10, 2017

Is Indy Going to Hong Kong Disneyland?

All this discussion about Indiana Jones Adventure replacing the generically named Dinosaur at Disney's Animal Kingdom reminds me of this little seen piece of Imagineering concept artThis early concept for the unloved and then very underdeveloped Hong Kong Disneyland park reminds me that good ideas never disappear- and Indy may be just the adventurer to bring in the crowds beyond the most recent expansions, including a bigger castle, a Frozen themed land, and a couple of Marvel attractions thrown in for good measure. 

Back to the map. In this initial version of Hong Kong's park, you'll see the teeny tiny castle is at the back of first Chinese Fantasyland. Keep looking, and you'll discover a slice of a lagoon for an evening show (just to the east side of Main Street), a very big chunk of land reserved for the Indiana Jones Adventure, and much more. 

Will Indy make it to another Asian park beyond Tokyo? My gut instincts say "Yes!", especially when Disney reboots the franchise. Mark my words. I've been wrong before, but I think this is just too tasty to pass up.

Once the second Imagineering book came out, many more people saw art. But did you look that closely when you picked up the book? I did- only if to see if it was the same piece I had in my collection. 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 8, 2017

Disney Skyliner Concept Art

Fresh off the press! Concept art for the Disney Skyliner- art for the cabs and art for the stations at Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and for the Caribbean Beach Resort.

The station at the Studios perfectly matches the entrance turnstiles and their retro-California groove! Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, here we come.

Over at the Caribbean Beach Resort, their station also blends wonderfully to its surroundings. It should be fun to see the villages from the air.

The Epcot station is at the International Gateway. Upon inspection, you'll see it gives a taste of France. Just in preparation for the new attraction based on Ratatouille

The Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts will also have stations, but that concept art has not been shared yet. Stay tuned.

Speaking of toons, the cabins themselves are a bit of inspired fun. I'm sure this will be quite a popular transportation mode once it opens up!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 7, 2017

Too Cool Not to Share

"The work 'Flash Forward' is made of Lego bricks and on display at the press preview of the exhibition 'The Art Of The Brick: DC Super Heroes' by U.S. artist Nathan Sawaya at the Palazzo degli Esami in Trastevere, Rome, Italy" from USA Today.

December 6, 2017

Disney Delayed

The best intentions do not always materialize. Looks like Epcot's Mexico pavilion and its Three Caballeros Audio-Animatronics will have to wait. Aren't the Imagineers turning this attraction into something Coco themed? Most likely, but I'm talking about our planned trip to Walt Disney World next year. Circumstances change and so must our plans. See you next time, Donald!

December 5, 2017

New Disney Entertainment Center

A brand new, sparkling, Disney Urban Entertainment Center. Is this Philadelphia? Chicago? Or just a non-descript city with nowhere particular in mind. The planned expansion of the theme parks in smaller form was part of the 2006 Walt Disney Company annual report. It was hidden among a couple of slices of concept art for Shanghai Disneyland, this little gem was overlooked and perhaps long forgotten about. Anyone know more?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 4, 2017

Some New Karen Carpenter for Christmas

Thanks to our good friends at A&M Corner, particularly Chris May and his friends- we have a nice clean video featuring the voice of Christmas- Karen Carpenter singing live with Britain's Bruce Forsyth. Recorded in 1978 and making its appearance in this pristine form for the first time. White Christmas as you should hear it. You want to go here and watch it all. Thank you, Chris and friends!

Disney Geek and Chris Hemsworth

Are you looking for some great Christmas photos to see the beauty and crowds of Disneyland and California Adventure during the season? The Disney Geek is the place to go! Or maybe you just want some photos of actor Chris Hemsworth reading at the traditional Christmas Candlelight Processional. Again, head on over to the Geek for a great set of photos. Go here- and enjoy!

(Photo copyright The Disney Geek.)

December 1, 2017

Christmas Family Devotional

The period of preparation for Christmas Day has always seemed to us the right time to try new ways of drawing our kids to Jesus.  All too often, they would see us busy with so many preparations such as shopping, decorating, and cooking, in addition to all the parties and gatherings we attend. This can all lead us to impatience, frustration, and a sense of struggle as we try to be sure our kids really understand that all these things only point to a greater event- the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We thought, "How can this change?", so we put together this Family Devotional. And we share it with you in hope that it will be an encouragement to you.

Our goal as parents is to train our children in the ways of the Lord and to see our children own a personal, ongoing, life-changing relationship with God. We go to great lengths, but all our striving may not break through and put a child’s hand in God’s. Knowing Him and His Ways through the Word is very important, and it is by the moving of His Holy Spirit and earnest prayer that God breaks the barriers that exist. As we also teach them the priority of intimate worship and honest prayer,  God moves within their hearts.

During the Christmas season, kids may be drawn to singing His praises. They may even offer up prayers of thanksgiving. Yet prayers of confession are often absent. Softened hearts come through times of confession as their need for Him becomes evident. This devotional emphasizes those three steps of prayer: praise, confession, and thanksgiving. As we train our children, we must rely on God to move on their behalf. If it’s our attitude that we will gain God’s approval through our efforts, we risk religiosity. Our goal is to humbly teach our children to “draw near to the Lord” (James 4:8). All this begins with us modeling it for them.

If you want to use it with your children or children you love, this devotional begins today and concludes at the end of the month. Some suggestions:  

1. Make this doable. Try to commit to a family devotional time, perhaps three times per ten days. Decide on a practical time. Avoid setting yourself up for failure. Adjust it as necessary so they enjoy the time- but also expect some “pushback”.  Remember, it’s about the relationship not the accomplishment. Guard against any discouragement if it doesn’t go as well as you wish, and be sure to guard against pride if it does.

2. Keep this devotional on the dinner table. Explain to your kids why the book is there. Someone is bound to remember.

3. Model praying for your kids. It will be easier for them if they follow your lead. Praise and confession may be vague terms for younger ones. Explain the words. Start simply: “Lord, I praise you for being the God who loves us”, or   “I confess  I was mean to my sister today. Forgive me for hurting her feelings”.

4. Be honest with your family what you are praying for including your own sin and weakness. It models prayer to them as well as keeps you accountable.

5. Try a family worship time. Child friendly songs don’t need to be childlike, they just need easy to understand lyrics. Train your child to express love to God and not just sing songs about Him. Remember, it is about them growing in a real relationship with Our Creator in addition to the importance of understanding theology. After your worship time, explain phrases they may not understand, i.e. what does “Awesome God” mean?

6. If you have older children, allow them to share the responsibility of reading the verses. Leading them to Him is the goal. 

7. As they grow in praise, confession, and thanksgiving, expect them to get excited about  their relationship with our Living God.  This overflow from their heart will lead then to share Him with others. 

December 1 – 10

Time of Praise
Read Psalm 63:1-8 together.
How do we earnestly seek God?
How does God satisfy us?
What does it mean to say God’s right hand upholds me?

Lead the children to pray. An example of their praise might be, “Father, you keep our family safe.  I praise you for being a strong God.” Encourage them to pray from their hearts rather than what they think might please you.

Time of Confession
Read James 5:16 together.
What is the action James is calling for?
What does confession mean?
Can confession be done with only our mouths and not our heart? Why?

Lead the children to pray. An example of confession night be, “Lord, I spoke in a rude way to my mother today. I’m sorry for being disrespectful. Help me to be kind.” Be sure they will clearly say in statement form what they did wrong. This will teach them to be responsible for their own mistakes and point them to their need for Jesus. Encourage your children to pray   for you and other members of the family who are doing this devotional time together.  Think of it as a small group gathering!

Time of Thanksgiving
Read Colossians 3:15-17 together.
How can we keep a thankful attitude?
Do you feel closer to God when you are grateful or when you are grumpy?
Name three things you are thankful for in your life.

Lead children to pray. An example of their thanksgiving may be, “Father, thank you for a Mom and Dad who love me.” Again, encourage them to speak what’s on their hearts rather than words that we long to hear.

December 11 – 20

Time of Praise
Read Psalm 100 together.
What does it mean to know the Lord is God?
How can we enter into His gates and His courts?
Lead children in statements of praise. Remind them that we praise God even when we don’t feel good.

Time of Confession
Read Hebrews 4:12-16 together.
Initiate a discussion so children understand that sin is not always a visible action. It also involves what we say and what we think. We can sin in our hearts with rebellion and defiance as well.

Lead the children to pray with an emphasis on confessing the sins of their hearts, (envy or resentment, etc.), or the sin of knowing what God says to do but not taking action.

Time of Thanksgiving
Read Philippians 4:12-13 together.
Discuss the connection between gratefulness and contentedness.
Talk about the things kids are thankful for that are not material goods. You might have them talk about the traits of their family members and friends for which they are thankful.

Lead children to pray by beginning the prayer time. Keep your prayers simple and easy to understand. Encourage kids to talk to God with whatever is on their hearts. Steer them to thanksgiving with your prayers.

December 21 - 31

Time of Praise
Open the book of Psalms together.
Show your children how often the word “praise” appears.
Lead prayers and statements of praise. It’s ok if they repeat your words. They are learning by your example. 

Time of Confession
Read 1 John 1:9 and Psalms 103:11, 12 together.
Point out that a perfect love like God’s can only truly wipe out our sins so that they are not held against us. This is hard for all of us to believe.

Model a prayer that God builds a humble spirit in them, making them willing to confess their sins, and trains them to look to God as their only true source of forgiveness.

Time of Thanksgiving
Read Psalms136 together.
Encourage your kids to repeat the line “His love endures forever” each time they hear it read. As you do this with them, pray that thanksgiving grows in their hearts.

Lead children to ask God to build a sincere gratefulness in their hearts.


May God bless you this Christmas season with the greatest gift- a strengthened relationships hip with the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who paid the price for your sin by dying on the cross in your place.

(Devotional copyright Mark Taft.)

November 30, 2017

Perhaps Harry Connick Jr.'s Most Important Interview

Besides being a great musician, Harry Connick Jr. seems to be a good man with a solid head on his shoulders. His talk show has featured some incredible guests and some some stirring interviews. This may be one of the most important ones ever.

Take a look at this!

Shanghai's Toy Story Land from the Air

Mainland China's Shanghai Disneyland may be the home to one amazing attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, but as the concept art above proves, it's also prone to building on the fast and cheap. 

Witness Toy Story Land from the air.  Proof that even the most expensive park slides in filler to build more capacity quickly. Lower right attraction is clearly a Mater's Junkyard Jamboree knockoff from California Adventure. Slinky Dog ride from the Paris Studios and Hong Kong Disneyland,  and RC Racers as well. 

Perhaps this all reminds us that one man's discretions (John Lasseter) - and potentially one man's cover up of them (Robert Iger) - won't necessarily always be associated with the Disney-Pixar brand. Movies, theme parks, or otherwise.

The groundbreaking ceremony.

More artwork below:

(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

November 29, 2017

New Disney Park Coming to Japan?

It looks as if those Disney Imagineers may be in the formative stages of developing a third theme park for the Tokyo Disney Resort. Wouldn't that be amazing to have a third world class theme park next to the beautiful Tokyo Disneyland and the incredibly gorgeous Tokyo Disney Sea?  The full article can be found here. Other articles claim its just an expansion, but we will surely know soon enough!

(Photo copyright Len Yokoyama.)

November 28, 2017

Castle's Stana Katic No Longer Absentia

Are you looking for something new and fresh to brighten up your television viewing? The very talented actress Stana Katic debuts in a brand new series, Absentia. With an intriguing plot line and a more than able supporting cast, this may be just the thing to mix it up. I won't tell you more, but I will say, you won't be disappointed.

November 27, 2017

A Darn Good Coach

Believing in giving a "Good Job!" when its due, Jennifer Hudson is a very, very good coach on The Voice. I think she gives Adam Levine and Blake Shelton a serious run for their money. Much like Alicia Keys did. I really don't like how often she seems to bring everything back to her and her career journey, but as far as doing a great job at supporting and developing her team, she's pretty darn good!