January 31, 2012

Tangled Lanterns Hit Small World

All I can say is "It's about time!" Tangled is one great Disney film- and it is long overdue for representation in the parks, worthy of more than just another character meet and greet. This Rapunzel tale should be a dark ride at the very least. For now, making its most famous and beautiful scene as part of Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom show "The Magic, the Memories, and You!" is a good thing. But it's not enough. Don't you agree?

Speaking of dark rides, on Monday, February 6th, I'll debut the first of hopefully many articles about them. The Disney Dark Ride series begins then. We'll start with Peter Pan's Flight. See you real soon!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Real Freedom

Some seasons grieve you, and some seasons bring rejoicing. After being at Calvary Chapel on Sunday, I am reminded of my freedom in Christ regardless of the season. Thank you, Jesus, for paying the price for my sin and setting me free!

January 30, 2012

Notable and Quotable: Francis Chan

"For some reason, we don't think we need the Holy Spirit. We don't expect the Holy Spirit to act. Or if we do, our expectations are often misguided or self-serving. Given our talent set, experience, and education, many of us are fairly capable of living rather successfully (according to the world's standards) without any strength from the Holy Spirit. Even our church growth can happen without Him. Let's be honest: If you combine a charismatic speaker, a talented worship band, and some hip, creative events, people will attend your church. Yet this doesn't mean the Holy Spirit of God is actively working and moving in the lives of the people who are coming. It simply means you have created a space that is appealing enough to draw people in for an hour or two on Sunday."

Francis Chan, in his book Forgotten God

January 28, 2012

Houston, Sparks, and Sparkle

Now here is an interesting pairing. Whitney Houston, the gal with the once golden voice, partners up with American Idol's Jordin Sparks to remake the 1976 film Sparkle that starred Irene Cara. Should be very, very interesting to see if there is any kind of return to greatness from Ms. Houston. Will she really play the hard working maid? Can she hold up to fresh faced and voiced Sparks? And will Sparks sell out her convictions on the big screen? I hope not...

Settling Catan

Why can I not stop playing this game????

January 27, 2012

It's a Beauty in 3D

The allure of 3D films is a contradiction in terms. I much prefer 2D and the old school way of telling the story. However, when I realized Disney was releasing Beauty and the Beast in 3D, I just had to go.

Beauty is my all-time favorite Disney film, with The Little Mermaid right behind it. Like Glen Keane, my heart resonates with the Beast, and I too know the power of Love's transformation. It is such a highly personal film for me, you would think I was involved in its creation.

Knowing Beauty was arriving with a new Disney favorite, a Tangled based short, made a night to see both all the more enticing.

It was a quiet Wednesday night, and we were the only ones in the theater. Not a bad setting for a date- and a chance to view the film as only a true lover of it could.

Yes, go see it for the Tangled mini movie. The whole concept is pretty clever, and it is great fun to see Rapunzel, Eugene, and the rest of the crew back in action. In spite of all the film's charms, nothing can hold a candle- not even Lumiere- to the 3D treat that is Beauty and the Beast.

No, I won't spoil it for you, but I will say by the end of the film you'll be itching to explore Beast's castle and the West Wing in particular at the Magic Kingdom's new Fantasyland. Now, I really cannot wait for it to open...

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

New Carsland and Radiator Springs Racers Image

Radiator Springs Racers looks fantastic, doesn't it? Love the waterfalls and all. Makes me want to rush to California Adventure on the opening day of Cars Land. Let's just hope all the effects stay running and the attraction doesn't turn into another Expedition: Everest at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

The Night Owl Strikes Again

What do you get when you combine a Chipotle burrito, too much Diet Coke, career changes, family news of great importance, and thoughts of how to complete article number one of my long overdue "Disney Dark Ride" series? A 2:00am wake-up call that never goes back to the snooze setting.

January 26, 2012

My Thursday Night Addiction

Just a quick word of thanks to Mint Crocodile and the Magic Eye blog for his weekly photo updates. Being in Colorado, I sure look forward to seeing what I can't see in person. Is it just me or does Cars Land look to be one of the smashes at the Disneyland Resort?

(Photo copyright Mint Crocodile.)

January 25, 2012

And I'm Stuck Home in Denver...

My nephew is in Belize, (while my folks are in the Bahamas), enjoying some sun and sand. I like where I live- even sometimes during winter if it is mild like today- but c'mon, this place looks hard to beat!

January 24, 2012

Disneyland's Summer of 1969

You just have to love Vintage Disneyland Tickets! Blogmaster Tim does an incredibly great job of finding undiscovered gems both from the Walt Disney Company's own artists and Imagineers and from outside sources such as old magazines and newspapers.

Today's post on the site shows one of my favorite things about his blog: old Disneyland guide books and maps. Here, the summer of '69 shines brightly. Go here to see the entire guide. It's enough to make Bryan Adams sing...

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 23, 2012

Imagineering By Heart

Be it Disneyland, Walt Disney World, or any of the international parks such as Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland, Imagineers from the Walt Disney Company put their heart and soul into the work they do.

Above is a terrific piece of concept art by Tony Baxter for the original idea for the Land pavilion at Epcot. It's not what was finally built, but you can sure see the inspiration for the Imagination building in it. (And Tony needs his own site, don't you think?)

I've compiled a list below of some Imagineers' websites, those both past and present. And one of a man who should be: Eric Scales. Click on each one, and you'll be delighted by the discoveries awaiting you. It will whet your appetite for what the guys and gals have planned for Shanghai Disneyland!

January 22, 2012

Needed: One Little Spark

One little spark of inspiration. That may be all that's missing from Epcot these days. It is certainly easy to come up with ideas for restaurant and bar expansion for the countries of World Showcase, but the state of Future World is dismal. And that is up with the lack of new attractions for World Showcase anyway? Corporate sponsorships. Or lack thereof. No excuse in my book. The customer is king... or should be.

Let's whip up a little excitement by giving the paying guests some new adventures with Figment and Dreamfinder. Then, let's turn over the rest of Epcot to Imagineer Tony Baxter. He has a proven track record in creating amazing attractions. The whole place needs someone with a fresh outlook. And no more video screens please.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 20, 2012

Goodbye My Friend

It's almost two weeks now since I learned of the news. One of my oldest and dearest friends passed away unexpectedly. Twenty-nine years is a lot of relationship. I'm still sort of numb as this wasn't something I saw coming.

Tomorrow, I'll be sharing at his memorial service. Below is what I will say. To honor him will be an easy thing. To not see him this side of heaven will not. Thanks for everything, Hal.

We’ve heard from several people about Hal and his history with them. Thank you all for sharing from your heart.

I could add my own memories as well. Hal and his family have been our friends for 29 years, so we have almost 3 decades of relationship to tell stories from.

It’s clear by looking around this room that Hal enjoyed different relationships with different people:

• Father and Husband
• Brother and Friend
• Pastor and Confidant

But Hal is most importantly defined as “Child of God”.

His son has asked that I share Hal’s favorite piece of the Bible. So, I am going to read it.

It’s from the Apostle Paul’s writing to the Christians in Rome.
I’ll begin in Chapter 8, verse 28.

Romans 8:28 – 39
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God is FOR us, make no mistake!
In our world, sometimes Christians only focus on God’s coming judgment, our sin, and an eternity in Hell for all those who reject Him. That’s all true BUT…
But God is FOR us- and that’s a good thing!

And here is the story Hal liked to tell most of all:

In His great Mercy towards us, He sent Jesus Christ to pay the death penalty for our crimes, our sin, those actions and thoughts that break His heart, go against His wishes.

IN OUR PLACE, Jesus paid the price and saved all those who would turn to Him and away from their old lives. On the cross, Jesus paid, our penalty of Eternal Death in Hell. Because of this, we can live for eternity in Heaven with Him.

And that is where Hal is now. In the arms of Jesus Christ. Because Hal chose to embrace Jesus wholeheartedly as His Savior, His King, as God Eternal.

WHO or what could separate Hal from Jesus?
The Scripture here clearly says “No One!”

• Diabetes didn’t separate Hal from Jesus
• Cancer didn’t separate Hal from Jesus
• 911 didn’t separate Hal from Jesus
• Difficulties in Life didn’t separate Hal from Jesus!
• His own Sin didn’t separate Hal from Jesus

In fact, Let Me Remind You- We’re not here because Hal no longer exists! We’re here because Hal is now spending His eternity in Heaven with the God Made Man, the one he loved with all his heart! We’ll miss him here, but we can rejoice!

Let’s reread those last two verses, for these were Hal’s favorite verses in all of the Bible. Verses he clung to in times good and bad:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

It is Hal’s prayer and it is Hal’s heart, that his friends and family would come to trust in Jesus- the only one who we can really trust with our lives.

Thank you for joining us today to celebrate Hal’s life.
You all were precious to him!

January 19, 2012

Heigl Pines for Grey's Anatomy

Reports are coming in that television and movie star Katherine Heigl has asked the producers to return her to the show that made her famous, Grey's Anatomy. Let me go the record as saying, I'm all for it! The original cast was my favorite incarnation of the show. OK, I do like Kevin McKidd's gutsy Owen, but the moving on of so many original characters made for a far lesser show. So, if Katherine can graciously return into the mix, let it be.

Joining the Cult

It's official! I've now joined one of the most beloved "cults" in America. The Insights and Sounds blog is now added to by the power of the MacBookPro. Due to a series of recent events in my personal life, I've lost my PC access, thereby bringing on a needed change. Thanks for to very generous Dad, I am now the proud owner of the Book and officially part of the cult!

January 17, 2012

Questions I'd Really Like Al Lutz to Answer

I know that I'm just one of thousands that look forward to the updates from Al Lutz on MiceAge. Today's unexpected report delighted me in some respects (Starbucks! But I would prefer Caribou Coffee) but also left me with many more questions than were answered.

The report centered on the changes to California Adventure and Ariel's Undersea Adventure (Oh, no! Not the hair!), covered the Matterhorn, and revealed plans for a Disneyland Fun Map at the hotel. Cool, huh? Can't wait to see the map. There was also the expected Mad T Party discussion, Cars Land news, and some hope for the Esplanade.

But here is what I really want to know- Will we finally see animatronics on Grizzly River Rapids? Are the shops in Paradise Pier getting a full makeover to look like the facades of the Games? Will the beautiful and charming Seasons of the Vine ever return to California Adventure? And how about a new in theme queue for California Screamin'?

Of course, I have an equal amount of inquiries about Walt's Original Magic Kingdom- Will we ever see snow effects again on the Matterhorn Bobsleds? What are the front runners for a new E Ticket for Disneyland? Will it be Tron's Light Cycles, something Lone Ranger themed, or an entirely new unheard concept? When will construction commence on the recently announced transformation of the Plaza Gardens?

And here's the biggest question of all- when will we see that long rumored third theme park?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 16, 2012

Disneyland's Main Street Hub Transformation Debate

Seems as if the Disneyland Resort is getting so much love and care these days. By now, everyone that follows the Disney World knows about California Adventure's amazing transformation. The Disneyland Hotel has almost completed its update, bringing a whole new retro 50s meets 70s design aesthetic. Downtown Disney is a constant kaleidoscope, as stores rotate in and out. (I'll miss Island Charters!)

In Walt's original kingdom, changes abound as well. They're not as splashy but perhaps equally significant from historical perspective. Sure, the grand old gal needs some work, but maybe these changes on Main Street U.S.A. are not the places to be looking at just yet.

From this writer's perspective, the newly opened Jolly Holiday Bakery is a mixed bag. I love Mary Poppins from anyway you slice it, and the sequence referenced in the new restaurant's theme is my absolutely favorite piece of the film. In fact, I'm humming along the song in my head as I write! However, its out of time and place in an American small town of 100 or so years ago. On the plus side, the theming involves subtle, very subtle, references to the film or its time frame- and it is certainly a wonderful return to its original intent than a Passport Processing Center. With its gorgeous stained glass accents and delightful weather vane, it's a stunning building, a creative success, and an overall "neutral" in the larger scheme of things.

The jury is still out regarding the changeover from Walt's beloved Carnation Plaza Gardens and its bandstand into a Fantasyland/Tangled inspired performance area and meet and greet. Again, there are pros and cons, but this might be the time the cons are most weighty.

From the Walt Disney Company's perspective, this piece of land represents an under utilized opportunity for effective guest use. Perhaps it is even in keeping with the theme of the plaza. After all, the elegant- stunning actually- Plaza Inn on one end of the street and the Jolly Holiday Bakery on the other, one half of the hub is even divided between Main Street U.S.A. and access points to the various Disney lands. This makes the lovely Gardens primed for appropriate thematic transformation as it becomes part of the Sleeping Beauty Castle complex.

From those of you perhaps belonging to the Disneyland Historical Preservation Society,
(you can read my piece on The Disneyland Historical Preservation Society here), this loss of the look and feel of the area is a major one.

The history of this place sings and swings. If there is any great musical jazz or big band artist of the time of its debut, mid century into the 60s and 70s, they probably played at the place. Google it yourself and find an exhaustive list. It is quite an impressive lineup. Perhaps most importantly, there is no question Walt loved this area, and for that fact alone, die hard fans find it untouchable.

Certainly, as it stands now, the Gardens' days are numbered. I would think winter would be a great time to begin and complete the project, particularly before the relaunch of California Adventure brings many first time westcoasters to the resort. It's only a matter of time before we see the end result and the lengthy debates begin.

Where do you stand on what's happening over there in Walt's Kingdom?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 15, 2012

What's All the Hubbub?

Come back tomorrow, Monday morning for a Disney fan's look at all the changes on Disneyland's Hub. My thoughts on what's behind it, what's good, what's bad, and what's all the fuss about! It's the great Main Street Debate of our time- and your opinion counts. See you Monday!

January 13, 2012

A Mad T Party, You Say?

In the old days, a Mad T Party was a Mad Tea Party! And there was no better place to capture it all than by taking a visit to Disneyland's Fantasyland! Here is a rare rending from Walt Disney Imagineering of the Alice in Wonderland attraction. This nice slice shows a few show scenes and a particularly good look at the innovative ride vehicle.

In a couple of months, California Adventure will host outs own Mad T Party, this time focused on the remake of the film made famous by Johnny Depp. I'm sure it will have its charms, but pretty soon, there may not be any childhood classics left to be remade by he and Tim Burton!

Thanks to this amazing Alice based blog for revealing the image. It's called Vintage Disney Alice, and it is truly worth the look!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 12, 2012

A Taste of Shanghai's Fantasyland

Go ahead. Call me a sucker for old school Imagineering attractions. I particularly love the attractions that were developed by Walt Disney Imagineering in the 1960s. That is not to imply that I dislike or don't enjoy more modern classics like Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Test Track, Soarin' Over California or the Indiana Jones Adventure (which by the way, I would count among the best of the newer ones).

What is it about these classics of the 60s that hold so much appeal? Be it the cheesy but charming It's a Small World or the dark and mysterious Pirates of the Caribbean or the Haunted Mansion, there was a sense of wonder and fully developed atmosphere that was built in an attraction of such length. You could forget you were in a theme park and be in the story. Even with the best thrill rides or video based game attractions, you just get into the story's world before you are just as quickly yanked out.

This perspective is what makes me really excited for what the Company seems to be building in the soon to come Shanghai Disneyland. Think about it. Since I love Pirates, my favorite all-time Disney attraction, shouldn't I just love to explore Jack Sparrow's world on land and on sea? I can really enjoy a cruise on the Black Pearl after I've taken a voyage in the new Pirates attraction and explored the town where his adventures began. Sorry, but even a video screen with 3D cannot compete with these kinds of experiences!

This concept art for Shanghai's cruise in Fantasyland brings up another chance to really immerse guests in the stories of the kingdom. Imagineers of all ages and decades, everyone from Marc Davis to Tony Baxter and beyond, have provided their most compelling work when given a dark ride to design. This should be no exception by a newer generation of artists and writers and engineers. This small taste of what is to come is vague, but it looks like a terrific foundation.

If there is a misstep, it is a huge lost opportunity. There's only one chance for Shanghai to make a good first impression, and too much money at stake to lose when that's lost. It does not take a rocket (Jets) scientist to look backward to California Adventure, Walt Disney Studios Paris, or Hong Kong Disneyland to understand it never pays to not put your best work forward. Or to look at a park like Animal Kingdom and let it falter due to lack of continued work, losing guests and revenue from a whole different perspective.

All I can say is, "Do it right- and please give us some more tasty artwork soon!"

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 9, 2012

Humorous Look at Why Politics and Religion Do Mix

Are you manic for Mitt? Gaga for Gingrich? Or bonkers for Barack? No matter! Here's a fun little chart sent to me (unfortunately with no credit) where you can follow along and discover if you are a person of faith and who if no one you believe in. Religion of no interest? Still click on the graphic for a good laugh!

January 8, 2012

Way to Go Tebow!

Not a football fan naturally, but even I was mesmerized by the Denver Broncos performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tim Tebow, love him or leave him, is shaping up to be quite an exciting reason to watch the sport.

(Photograph by Chris Humphries)

January 6, 2012

Stalled Out

Epcot's Test Track takes a cruise to a very long refurb, closing down until Fall of 2012. Blue Sky Disney has been gone for way too long. The poor little Studios park at Disneyland Paris can't get its Ratatouille attraction in gear, and the billion dollar redo of California Adventure seems to go on and on with its world of walls. What's a guy to do? Wait patiently. I've been stalled myself with a virus eaten machine, too much of a workload, and a mind currently lacking imagination. Maybe it's time for an overhaul...

January 1, 2012

Real Life Peter Pan Flight

This photo by Dan Gilwood of Getty Images captures exactly what I love about London!

Can you just see Tinker Bell and Peter Pan flying over a moonlit sky? It's the kind of thing that makes Disneyland so magical- but in full scale!