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!

November 25, 2017

Bittersweet Coco

Disney - Pixar's stunning Coco is an incredible work of art from so many perspectives, but it is ultimately a mixed bag for young children and their parents. The characters are rich and emotionally complex. But mostly, they are dead, and this creates some of the most difficult pieces to reconcile as a parent (or grandparent) of young children wanting to see the film.

The Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead, forms the foundation for the events of the movie. The main characters build ofrendas (altars) as part of the lively celebration to invite the spirits of the departed to visit them on the holiday, allowing them to cross over into the land of the living for the celebration. If their photo is not on the family altar, and if they are forgotten, those living on the other side disappear into nothingness.

Miguel, the young boy who is the heart of the film, is a musician at the core of his being. This creates difficulty for he and his family, and it seems only his small street dog Dante- a reference to the famous poem- understands him. The family hates music because a beloved patriarch had deserted them in order to find success and fame. In a town that is alive with music, it's all around Miguel, fanning the flames of his desire. Not for fame, but for the ability to follow his dream and create music he loves.

The animation in his village is gorgeous and true to life. Having spent so many family vacations in rural Baja California when I was a child, I can attest that the artists did their homework in capturing the charm of the small town. The artwork is as vibrant as the music that's played. 

Yet, it's absolutely nothing compared to the imaginary world Miguel encounters when he finds himself in the land of the dead. In this next world, there's an equal energy and color that is very appealing. From an artistic standpoint, the animators did a brilliant job creating a world we would love to explore. There's nothing dark to be found aside from the outskirts of the city. It's a different twist on the afterlife, but it draws on an appealing idea of what we might like it to be. An effective take on the place, playing on the same fascination with the spiritual world that makes Disneyland's enduring Haunted Mansion attraction so appealing.

The story gets high marks for reinforcing the value of family and sacrifice for the greater good. It even wins points for dealing with lack of forgiveness, selfishness, and bitterness. But there's a dark undertone that punctuates the whole morality tale. 

While I certainly do not get my theology from popular films, I certainly can't run away from the spiritual aspects of this film. Nor would I not attend a movie, animated or otherwise, because of themes contradictory to my beliefs. If so, I'd never enter a theater.  That said, because its theology is so central to the story, I can't ignore it either. 

There's a interesting mix of theologies in Coco, ultimately setting aside Biblical truth. (According to Jesus Christ himself, eternity exists for all humans- a place in Heaven or Hell dependent on each individual's acceptance of Him as Lord and Savior or not. See Matthew 5 and 10, and Luke 5 in your Bible.) The newest Pixar flick is interwoven with religious ideas, folklore, and mysticism. (Theologians refer to this as syncretism, the mixing of multiple religious beliefs.) But there's no need for a Savior here because there's no penalty for sin, only an end to eternal life if not remembered by your family. Heady stuff. Even if its true to the Mexican culture, the belief system taught in Coco intertwines some aspects of Roman Catholicism with those of other indigenous thoughts, including the idea of "spirit guides" being with them and guiding them into the netherworld.  

This is not new territory for Disney. The company's television show, Elena of Avalor has already included the supernatural companions. All said, this means younger children need the opportunity to hear from their parents about the individual family's religious beliefs, Christian or otherwise. 

Why is a parental follow-up necessary? Even traditional Disney animated classics are filled with characters and often pagan plot lines that are troublesome when compared to the truths found in Biblical Christianity. It's easier to look at other Disney films that deal with mythology (such as Hercules) with a bit more forgiveness because we as Westerners now doubt anyone in Europe really believes in multiple deities. Even Moana gets a bit of a pass in this department as the Hawaiian culture has a relatively small group of folks who follow the religious part of their culture. Coco is in a different league entirely. Millions of people adhere to the theology being taught alongside the important lessons of love, forgiveness, and the pursuit of dreams.

Back to the film. Act One sets the stage for the story, hitting a high mark. Act Two lags a bit, even getting very, very serious in tone as some of the main characters reveal there are skeletons in their closets, including some very evil deeds. Although at times the music gives viewers the feeling of sweetness and joy, there's very little comic relief in Coco. That alone sets it apart from other Pixar films. Imagine Act One of Up lasting for an entire film. It's that intense, and it's probably the point that younger children would lose interest. Act Three is a fitting conclusion, full of bittersweet moments. Pain, suffering, and disappointment co-mingled with warmth, love, and peace. Much like life itself.

Many critics are hailing Coco as a return to form for Pixar. It is a refreshing change of pace from all the recent sequels as well as something new in the realm of settings and characters. And it is true to the culture, making it an excellent addition to the Mexico pavilion at Epcot. (Particularly if the company continues to force the stable of characters into their parks. Rest in peace El Rio del Tiempo!) However, it does drag in the second act, moving it away from the top tier of Pixar films.

Should you see Coco? The choice is always yours. As an animation fan, it's a solid but imperfect work of art. View it as such. If you're taking children with you, be responsible have have the important spiritual discussions with them after the film. There's certainly plenty to talk about.

(Art copyright Disney - Pixar.)

Southern California Coast

Given that the holiday rush has now officially started, I thought I'd offer this small slice of serenity. A look at the simply beautiful Southern California coastline. I took this shot several years ago while walking the beach, and it has become one of my all time favorites. Enjoy- and may God bless you with peaceful days as you celebrate the birth of the King!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

November 24, 2017

With Love From Japan

We're getting even closer! Just a teaser shot from Japan from our very good friend Len Yokoyama. I cannot wait to see what stories and photos he has to share from all over Japan, including the Tokyo Disney Resort!

(Photograph copyright Len Yokoyama.)

November 23, 2017

Pooh and Piglet Give Thanks

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” 

                            A.A. Milne 

The author sure had the right idea! Even with its darkest moments, life is certainly something to be thankful for. God is so kind and so merciful to us- and He alone is deserving of our thanksgiving.

"Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song." Psalm 95:1-2

May your heart be light and full of joy and thanksgiving on this day!

November 21, 2017

A Preview of the Tokyo Disney Resort

Take a look at these absolutely stunning photos from our good friend Len Yokoyama! The top photo shows the iconic castle at Tokyo Disneyland, and the one immediately below is an equally  gorgeous shot of the world class Tokyo Disney Sea.

Len has spent about two weeks exploring Japan and its theme parks. Upon his return, we'll be hosting his stories and photos to match. Disney was a must do, but so was Universal. Expect some surprises along the way. Coming soon.

(Photographs copyright Len Yokoyama.)

November 20, 2017

World Showcase in a Circle

Brilliant, beautiful EPCOT Center. It's not what it used to be, but even then, it wasn't what it was once intended to be- and here's the proof. I'm talking about the second Disney theme park in Florida, not the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow that was intended when Walt first began to dream. Just imagine a World Showcase as a theme park all its own, with a similarly separated Future World as another park. Yes, that is exactly what the suits and Imagineers had in mind at the beginning of it all. Just make believe there are dozens of national pavilions represented in each slice of this arc of a building, one of two. That particular concept itself has been copied by other Expos and World Fairs as well.

The design of two parks of two separate parks gave way to what we know today. The opportunities were once endless to make EPCOT a minimum of a two day visit. For now, the place is a shell of what it once was and still only a memory of what was once planned. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Marvel is coming and so are more attractions themed to animated adventures such as Coco

Will we ever see anything as future focused as Horizons or as culturally educational and entertaining as Wonders of China? Perhaps not soon, but the thing could come full circle once Disney begins to trust its instincts once more instead of just following the dollar. 

I could give you other photos to show this two park idea as well, but then I'd rob you of the fun of discovering the more than 350 posts on this blog alone that show concept art and more about this incredible Disney World. 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

November 17, 2017

WEDWAY Peoplemover Attraction Poster for Florida

Disney attraction posters. Who doesn't love them? Certainly they are a hit as many people create their own. Some good, some bad, some great (like those created by Greg Maletic). 

Here's an official one created by Disney Imagineering for the Magic Kingdom's beloved and enduring WEDWAY Peoplemover. It's a family favorite. An attraction that's a must do several times on every visit to Walt Disney World's Tomorrowland. Long lost at Disneyland and the envy of fans of classic Walt Disney inspired Imagineering. You know, the era from opening of his magical park in 1955 to his very unfortunate passing approximately ten years later. The era of Pirates of the Caribbean, New Tomorrowland, It's A Small World, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and so much more. 

Folks viewing the Insights blog love my Disneyland Attraction poster series! But until I can get it together and do one for Walt's Florida kingdom, here's a retro look at a great attraction and a pretty good poster as well!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

November 16, 2017

Unseen Karen Carpenter

Given she had short a short life, Karen Carpenter was constantly at the end of a photographer's camera. Here's a photo I had never seen before from Norman Seeff, a man known for his more rock and roll clientele. 

The year was 1981, and she and her brother Richard Carpenter were nearing completion on their new album, Made in America. The beloved duo had not had a non-Christmas album since 1977, so their public seemed to be ready for something new. The disc was better received over in the U.K. and in Japan than it was at home, but the first single Touch Me When We're Dancing was a pretty solid return to the charts, making the Top Twenty for four weeks. 

This photo and others in similar clothing from the session didn't make the cut. But they were used for the 1989 release of Lovelines, coming on the heels of the Karen Carpenter Story. In two years, A&M Records will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Carpenters first release, Offering (later renamed Ticket to Ride). Maybe we'll see more unseen Karen then. And hear more unheard recordings as well. Until then, the new Vinyl Collection presents the major Carpenters releases in album form. A treat for collectors.

(Photograph copyright Norman Seeff.)

November 14, 2017

An Early Promotional Map of EuroDisneyland

Announcing EuroDisneyland! Here's the theme park map from an early promotional brochure. Make sure you enlarge it to get a picture of what the great Imagineering team led by Tony Baxter had in mind. 

There are marked differences between what was initially proposed and what came to fruition years later. Do you see a new route for the railroad? A Roaring 20's themed Main Street U.S.A.? A new elevated transportation system within the park? How about a French version of the famous Jungle Cruise? Yes, it's all there and more. Even with the cuts from the Board and Michael Eisner, it's still the most beautiful Magic Kingdom ever!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

November 13, 2017

As Time Goes By

Happy birthday to our eldest son, now with a family of his own. Time goes by so, so fast- and this Dad couldn't be prouder!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

November 10, 2017

Ahoy Mateys!

Don't let the diminutive size of this piece of Imagineering concept art fool you! The original Disneyland Submarine Voyage was huge on mystery, thrills, mermaids, and fun. 

Tomorrowland premiered this fan favorite attraction in 1959, proving again Walt Disney's words that Disneyland would never be completed. Guests couldn't get enough of this incredible one of a kind experience. 

The voyage through Liquid Space, with or without a little clownfish attached to it, remains thanks to Tony Baxter. It's still something that cannot be experienced in any other Disney park. (Their were plans for something more here, a journey to the lost city of Atlantis- rare concept art here- but the suits opted for the cheaper in the moment character attraction instead.)

The subs were also an opening day attraction at Walt Disney World, but the Magic Kingdom in Florida removed their beautiful 20K Leagues Under the Sea voyage and left it as an Ariel meet and greet - or just left it empty- for years. Eventually the space was filled in and New Fantasyland took hold. The stunning ships were destroyed aside from one found in the Bahamas as a snorkeling prop on Disney's private island for those cruising the beautiful teal waters.

Guests can ride a submarine at Tokyo Disney Sea, but it isn't a real water filled adventure. Dry show sets are made to look real through the power of Imagineering skill. Nearby, the journey with the popular little clownfish is also dry- a simulator attraction that's enhanced by some in cabin effects. It's still not the real thing.

On the other side of the world at Disneyland Paris, the steampunk ship known as the Nautilus is open for exploration, but in reality, the painted concrete vessel of Jules Verne's Captain Nemo goes absolutely nowhere.  

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

November 9, 2017

Elliott Yamin's Time

Just when I'm ready to give up on this guy, I run across a song that is just so good that it gives me hope for his career. Elliott Yamin was my pick for Season Three's American Idol winner. It wasn't to be. But the guy's got talent. Yes, I wish he would record his version of A House is Not a Home, but that's another story. 

Give a listen to the new As Time Goes By. So good! 

If you're in a throwback kind of mood, here's his audition tape for Moody's Mood for Love, a very difficult song sung effortlessly.

November 8, 2017

Party On

Just a bit of a party. But it does have some of the cutest kids at it ever. Don't you think?

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

November 7, 2017

Tokyo's World Bazaar in Living Color

Here's Tokyo Disneyland's incredible World Bazaar in its original design. The concept art is stunning, and the end result just as good. The Disney Imagineers really hit a home run with this. And it was just the beginning with more to come. Tokyo Disney Sea just cemented the resort as being the one fans just have to see.

One more thing - yes, it's 100% true. Yesterday, my good friend and fellow blogger Len Yokoyama took off for a week of fun at the Tokyo Disney Resort. When he returns, expect detailed trip reports from the parks and tons of his amazing photos. The only thing better would be traveling with him!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

November 3, 2017

Kevin Spacey Deserves to Die

Kevin Spacey, star of television's House of Cards, was forced to show his own hand. Allegations from other male actors came into the light about their sexual abuse at the hands of Mr. Spacey. More and more stories come up about him preying on minors as well as adults. Coming out as gay at the same time did not make things any better. His decision to seek help is only the beginning, but he will not be able to run away from the pain he has caused others as well as himself. He has to live with that. So does Harvey Weinstein and a host of others. 

As with many people whose crimes are heinous, Kevin may even contemplate suicide. It's a way out many take, including those cowardly attackers who steal innocent lives in New York, Las Vegas, and way too many other places. Perhaps due to abuse, his victims have thought about it as well.

There's just something even more evil when crimes are committed against children. Straight or gay or in between, pedophiles deserve the deepest parts of Hell as far as I'm concerned.

I remember seeing him in a film years ago and sensing he was a creep. I was right. What Mr. Spacey did to those young men is inexcusable. It's totally evil, but it's also human. Our dire human state is one of intense selfishness and brokenness. The Bible calls it sin- and we are all corrupted by it and the choices we have made.  

God's laws designed because of His love to protect us and protect each other. When you break them, nothing good comes from it, and pain is the result. I'd have to learn the hard way, and so do you. We all do. 

Ever spoken against doing and saying these things but chose to follow through anyway?  If so, welcome to the club called humanity, a club for broken and lost people. A club for hypocrites trying to find their way. And a club for everyone who tries get their needs met in ways that hurt others. We're all in it. 

Let's be honest- just because you know the truth doesn't mean you always choose to live it. I know I don't. And I would bet you don't either. Sometimes we are swept away by desire and do the wrong things. Some of us even make it a regular pattern in our life and try to justify it away. 

Truth is, in God's eyes we are all sinners and deserve death. But by God's goodness and His great Love for us, He chose to send Jesus to earth to die for the sins of all men- so that those who would choose to believe in Him, that he died and rose again, would not be destined to life in Hell forever, but would instead live with Him in Heaven for all eternity. We've got to choose to walk His way and turn around from our evil choices. Is it tough? Damn right it is! But there's no other way. God knew we couldn't pay the price on our own by being perfect, so He sent his Son because of his love- making it clear He is the only way to eternal life in Heaven. 

So, yes, Kevin Spacey deserves to die. So do you, and so do I.  Thank God, Jesus paid the price for our sins. Through Him, we can all have a fresh start. What will Kevin do now that his life is falling apart? You get to make the decision or not to follow Christ and walk life out following him, in spite of your sin, your life, your mistakes. I made mine. Hope and peace and a future was the result of my choice. What is your choice and what will be the result of it?

November 2, 2017

Goodbye California Screamin'- Hello Incredicoaster!

Here's your first look at the new-ish Pixar Pier- the really awful but ultimately unavoidable transformation of the better than it was but still not great Paradise Pier. Just when the park was getting more cohesive, somebody from headquarters forces Imagineering to come up with this. Glad they left the Mickey head.

Screamin' goes goodbye in January, and the Incredicoaster launches in Summer of 2018- just in time for chapter two of the Incredibles story. One of my favorite Pixar movies, but the transformation is unnecessary. At least the coaster will finally be painted.

Hopefully the attractions from A Bug's Land will make it over before the area is destroyed to make room for Marvel

Lastly, I'm glad this is happening in place of the Disneyland Resort "gaining" its own Toy Story Land. That would be much worse.

More transformation information on the Disney Parks blog.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Island Song

One of my prettiest shots from our recent trip. As I was praying today, this verse came into my mind from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament: "Let them give glory to the Lord and proclaim his praise in the islands." It's chapter 42:12 - a not so subtle reminder that all who are created by God should be telling of His Goodness, His Power and His Love. 

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)