December 31, 2017

Celebrate Well!

Happy New Year's Eve! We have much reason to rejoice!

This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."

                            Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

Please celebrate wisely, joyfully, and safely. Look forward with a fresh beginning. It's offered by God when we receive Him. May He Bless Us All in 2018!

(Photograph copyright CNN.)

Hollywood's Dark Kingdom Dominates 2017 News

When USA Today reads like the National Enquirer or the National Sex Offenders Registry, you know its been a bad news year. You'd think we'd only be talking world events and politics, but it was truly the year when Hollywood's evil underside was exposed. 

With Hollywood's penchant for covering it all up for as long as possible, these new stories almost makes you forget Bill Cosby. Let's look at just a few of the famous faces.

With Hillary Clinton in 2012.

Starting with Harvey Weinstein. The guy is just messed up. Royally.

Harvey going all the way to the top.

It seems just about everyone in film and politics, from Washington D.C. to Hollywood and beyond, interacted with him. Actresses were offered much more of him than they may have wanted. Just a look at his potential conquests, and you've got a whole slew of top Hollywood stars.

Always had an idea something was going on.

Next up, Kevin Spacey. Unlike Harvey, his tastes run toward males. But young ones, apparently. Finally coming out as gay (what a shock, he said mockingly), this gifted actor is accused by many men as being another predator. Both here is the U.S. and across the pond. So sad.

A sick little Halloween joke, Bryan?

Kevin's Hollywood party pal Bryan Singer, producer of X-Men, is accused of raping an underaged teen. His all too well known notorious Hollywood escapades have long exposed his taste for young and early teen boys.

Oh no! Not you too, John!

This next one absolutely kills me- Pixar's John Lasseter joins the list of men pressing in for some unwanted sexual excitement. Rumors persist that Disney executives at the top, including Robert Iger, have been quietly paying off victims for years. Money has always been king in Hollywood and in Washington D.C.; we've all seen too many men and women of all persuasions, backgrounds, and beliefs sell out for positions which promise money, power, and the freedom to live without apparent restraint.

Like all of us, they're innocent until proven guilty. Yet regardless of the outcome, eternal judgment awaits, and these guys also have to live with the memory of what they've done. Thankfully, Jesus offers fully payment for their sin and forgiveness for all who would repent. 

Certainly, 2017 will be the year that the criminal activity in Hollywood will be better remembered than the films the studios had made. May 2018 be a better year in so many ways.

December 30, 2017

60 Years of Dreams

Wanted to close out the year on a higher note than tomorrow's post. I just love the look of this Disneyland 60th Anniversary artwork. There's an innocence and joy found in this retro / vintage style. Who knows what next year holds? But thankfully, we know Who does!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Seems Like An Eternity

... but it's worth waiting for. 

December 29, 2017

It's a Family Affair

This was a wonderful family Christmas in so many ways. We were all together, which rarely happens. Our meals together were fun, full of laughter and enjoying each other's company. Of course, Jesus being the reason for our celebration, our time at church for worship on Christmas Eve was sweet. 

We took advantage of the rare opportunity to get some family portraits together. Especially impressed and blessed by Scott Laurie photography.

(Photograph copyright Scott Laurie Photography.)

A Little Peoplemover Behind the Submarine Voyage

Disneyland's Submarine Voyage gets a refresh. Long before the classic Peoplemover bit the dust. When Tomorrowland looked forward instead of drawing its inspiration from the Disney / Pixar animation blockbusters. Just a sweet little photo from World's Fair Photos

December 28, 2017

Believe in Disney Railroad Magic

Just love these very cool Disney Railroad pieces from the 2013 park calendars! One for the Walt Disney World Resort parks and one for Disneyland and California Adventure. I wouldn't say they are as cool as the classic Disney attraction posters, but they do have a charm all their own.

Sorry, but I still can't really think of the Anaheim property as a resort. At least not yet, but that could change with a new hotel and other developments beginning as we speak. Here's to some fun new additions!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 26, 2017

A Beautiful Rough Draft of Tokyo Disney Sea

As we finish up 2017, I wanted to give you something a little special. This rendering is the fourth in a series of work by the great Disney Imagineer Peter Ellenshaw. As would surely be expected looking at the end result, Tokyo Disney Sea concept art is as stunning as the park. The Imagineers were given the proper budget through the Oriental Land Company to do the job well- and my bet is based on the financial return, that decision was never regretted. 

Certainly, there is not a more stunning Asian park to be found. Not Shanghai, not Hong Kong, not the sure to be happening with the Twenty First Century Fox acquisition, the Magic Kingdom in India.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 25, 2017

Silent Nights

In the midst of all the busyness of this Christmas, think about Silent Night. Yes, the old hymn which identifies the true reason for this time of celebration. Sing those words. You know them.

The silence of the night often wakes me up, bringing me to a time of reflection. Many times, it's painful instead of peaceful. I've brought pain to the world through poor choices, and others have brought great pain to me. I pray, offering confession, offering forgiveness, cleansing my soul and bringing rest. God is patient.

Every once in awhile, those silent nights are a time of thanksgiving. God is good, and He happily has blessed me with so much. Not the material things, but the people that make my life rich.

Most of all, my silent nights bring relief in that my sin is no longer counted against me as I belong to Jesus and His Blood pays the price for what I've done. Hope is real- and eternity awaits. 

Maybe you're searching. Maybe you've tried everything else. But it really doesn't work, does it? It's time. Speak to Jesus, and invite Him in to save you from yourself. He will never let you down.

December 24, 2017

Will You Be Home for Christmas?

Oh, how we long to be home for the holidays! Sometimes the road is long and seemingly endless. Sometimes the air travel is impossible due to crowded flights and a lack of vacation time from our busy schedules. But the music we hear this season plays on our heartstrings. I absolutely love the song called Christmas Lullaby by Amy Grant

Found on her "A Christmas to Remember" disc, the gentle and heartfelt lyrics reach each of us with the message of this season:

Are you far away from home
This dark and lonely night
Tell me what best would help
To ease your mind
Someone to give
Direction for this unfamiliar road
Or one who says, "Follow me and
I will lead you home"
How beautiful
How precious
The Savior of old
To love so
The loneliest soul
how gently
how tenderly
He says to one and all,
"Child you can follow Me
And I will lead you home
Trust Me and follow Me
And I will lead you home"
Be near me, Lord Jesus
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray
Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to Heaven
To live with Thee there
Take us to Heaven
To live with Thee there

Take a listen at this beautiful song, and then ask yourself, "Will I be home for Christmas?"

(Lyrics copyright Songwriters: Amy Grant and Chris Eaton)

December 22, 2017

Karen, Richard, and Neil: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

A very rare photo find here. Richard and Karen Carpenter and Neil Sedaka had an infamous falling out in Las Vegas in the Summer of 1975. But it wasn't supposed to end up that way. The duo was headlining the Rivera Hotel in the midst of a highly successful tour after the launch of a major album, Horizon. Fueled by their international #1 Hit, Please Mr. Postman and the modern sounding instant classic Only Yesterday, the Carpenters were set for even more chart topping success. Following their previous five multi-platinum albums and 14 Billboard consecutive smash singles, the tour was destined to successfully follow suit. Karen and Richard had even made the cover of Rolling Stone the previous summer with a surprisingly positive and realistic view of the duo inside. What could go wrong?

Sedaka was their opening act. He began the show and returned later for an oldies segment with the Carpenters as an encore to the entire concert. Just imagine Karen and Neil trading lead vocals on an upbeat Breaking Up is Hard to Do! Photos of the three of them on stage were almost impossible to find- and I've been searching for years- until now.

Found on Facebook by "Newvillefan" on the A&M Corner discussion boards.

With the color corrected by Harry at the Corner.

This had to be an amazing concert combo for a fan during those years. Mr. Sedaka was on his own hot streak, with a resurgence on the radio to his own #1 song Laughter in the Rain as well as the smash recording of Love Will Keep Us Together by the Captain and Tennille

The gorgeous Horizon album. 
Karen never sounded better, 
and Richard's work was never more distinguished. 

Certainly, Solitaire was a core piece of the stunning disc. The Carpenters version of Sedaka's song was one of Karen's most beautiful performances and one of Richard's most powerful arrangements. It had been previously recorded by Andy Williams and then Elvis Presley, but the duo was at the top of their career at this point and couldn't be outdone.  In a lesser known connection, Richard had even arranged the strings on Sedaka's bluesy remake of Breaking Up, the first time he had partnered with another artist since the duo's fame skyrocketed. The timing of the concert tour with Neil was perfect.

Neil and Karen and Richard in happier days.

The falling out came as a result of several issues colliding- Neil breaking touring protocol as well as reports that Richard felt Neil was getting a better response from the audience than he and Karen. The duo's management - who also managed Sedaka at the time- had to also take some blame for not thinking through it all. I'm not sure much was learned from what transpired. The following year, Helen Reddy would be on the bill with Karen and Richard during Memorial Day weekend.

The Billboard ad for the new single.

When you toss creative geniuses together with careers at stake, the outcome is not always a good one. Right or wrong, Sedaka was fired and found himself in the spotlight, portrayed as the victim. For once in their lives, Karen and Richard came out as the bad guys. The press and radio jumped all over the controversy, and Solitaire charted much lower than it would normally have, with Horizon taking the brunt of the backlash as well. A friendship was ruined. The results must have taken a toll on poor Karen, who later needed much bedrest to recover, cancelling an international tour to both Europe and Japan.   

The song was even a single release in Japan.

After a time of rest and refocus, in mid 1976 Richard and Karen returned with a new album, A Kind of Hush. In an all too obvious effort to mend a relationship with Sedaka and heal their broken image and public relations disaster, they included an upbeat and sweet but all too sugary version of his most famous 1960's hit. Breaking Up is Hard to Do indeed. In spite of this generous and profitable (for Sedaka) gesture, the strain between the artists would remain.

Many years later, as a recommendation for the book "Some Kind of Lonely Clown"a book by Joel Samberg about Karen, Neil would write, 

An insightful look at the life of Karen Carpenter, a singing hero of mine. I had the pleasure of opening for the Carpenters in 1975, but it was more exciting that they recorded several of my songs, particularly "Solitaire", which featured a breathtaking Karen vocal accompanied by Richard's magnificent orchestration. Mr. Samberg's book is a worthy tribute to her everlasting legacy as one of the greatest vocalists of all time.

Thankfully, the years have been kind to Karen and Richard since her unfortunate passing. Richard Carpenter is finally recognized as the creative genius he is and sister Karen is now acknowledged all over the world as one of the most gifted vocalists to grace the planet. 

(Photograph by unknown photographer. Thanks to my friends at the A&M Corner!)

December 20, 2017

Jesus, the Refugee

Jesus the refugee. I knew this, and it all made sense, but to see his birth in a fresh light in fresh words was certainly eye opening. Wow! Perhaps this applies to our current political discussion surrounding the plight of refugees and immigrants all over the world. Read this short article for yourself. God does show up in all the wrong places... and I'm so thankful He does go where humans dare not. Such a reflection of God's heart for us as lost and broken people. It's this kind of love and this sacrifice of His Son for my sin which makes Him irresistible. 

(Photograph copyright IStock.)

December 18, 2017

EPCOT Center: Phase Two

Here's one of the last pages from the Open Day Booklet for EPCOT Center in 1982. As you can see, some futures expansion were realized (Horizons, The Living Seas, Morocco) and others are now just fan dreams or realized in different forms. Perhaps Spain is coming, but recent talk seems to favor an attractionless Brazil.

Lagoonside look at World Showcase.
Fresh, not fully grown- and beautiful!

Certainly the park has changed since opening day. Some changes for the worse (El Rio del Tiempo is character-infused, and so is Canada's film- Martin Short IS a character! World of Motion is gone and Journey Into Imagination has been wasted) and some for the better... still thinking, sorry! Still waiting as well!

Cover of the booklet.

The ambitious park in scale and scope is floundering as it tries to find its way. But those who experienced it years ago around opening day will never forget how bright and beautiful a non-character focused Disney park could be. It truly was magical!

(Art and photographs copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 17, 2017

Sunday at Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe

There's something sweet and innocent about Disneyland and its attraction roster at opening. Don't get me wrong- it was very much ahead of its time, but it concurrently represented an America that no longer exists. 

The Golden Horseshoe- one of Walt's favorite opening day attractions.

The forward focused optimism of a sparkling new Tomorrowland stood alongside the nostalgic sweetness of an old fashioned Main Street and the dreams of childhood in Fantasyland.  It was Frontierland, however, that seemed the most authentic and certainly the most patriotic. 

Celebrating how the West was won, it also showcased how the West was fun. Nowhere was this more evident than in the rousing revue found within the Golden Horseshoe

The constantly sold out show quickly became a Disneyland institution as well as a favorite of Walt himself. Betty Taylor, aka Slue Foot Sue, and Wally Boag her comedic sidekick, made quite an entertaining team! 

Here's a color version of that poster behind Walt-
painted right on the brick!

The show remained a beloved one for decades, winning a slew of adoring fans and becoming a family tradition for each visit to the park. Pepsi and Kodak were its main sponsors. 

Promotional poster from Kodak.

A proposed poster concept courtesy "Matterhorn".

The famous Pepsi version.

Now, I'll end this with a nostalgic black and white photo, courtesy OC Attractions:

(Art and photographs copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 16, 2017

Olaf and Coco? Much Ado About Nothing

Can somebody tell me, please. What's all the big fuss about Olaf's Frozen Adventure? It's a charming film, an absolutely sweet piece of Christmas fluff.  (And yes, I'll be the first to say it- this toon may even be the basis of a sweet and easy holiday layover for the boat ride in Norway at Epcot's World Showcase!) 

It's not as if this twenty minute movie diminished the quality of Coco. If anything, sure, it meant staying a little longer in the theater with the kids. That's not a bad thing. In my opinion, it's not a bad thing to teach children patience. 

All said, we'll be buying this when it makes its arrival on DVD.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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!