31 July 2008

Think of all the joy you'll find

Inside of Tinker Bell’s Treasures is one of my personal treasures. Most families in the know come to visit for the chance to see and hear Tinker Bell herself. Yet, far above the merchandise where only those who could fly could reach (okay, so you could probably reach it with a ladder as well), are the most delightful childish things and, so it appears, they have been put away. My favorite section of the ceiling is above the image of Michael Darling. After all what would a childhood be, or a Darling’s nursery for that matter, without a pirate or two?

30 July 2008

This gonna' take some time

I know this will be covered in much more detail than I am capable of elsewhere, but the first trailer for the Princess and the Frog was released today. My household, meaning my wife and I, are divided on it, mostly due to the fact that my wife finds the stereotypes purported in the firefly character beneath Disney. My thoughts are that it is nice to see the first trailer, complete with some whimsical romantic humor between the Princess and the Frog, and I am, as always, optimistic about the film.

29 July 2008

In quiet villages

Growing up, I spent a good deal of time at my Nanie’s (grandmother) house. In fact, it is safe to say that I may have spent more time there than I did in my own house. I would spend many a weekend there mowing her yard, watching her old television set, messing around on an old stationary bike, marveling at all of the cool antique knick-knacks she had spread throughout the house, and sitting in her kitchen while she cooked up something extraordinary. As I grew older and moved away, I began to miss those afternoons and weekends, like an invisible piece of twine tugging at my heart.
I should explain that my Nanie was born and raised in southern France, which means that everything from her accent to her cooking to her bric-a-brac were authentically French. This, for the most part, explains my blatant love of World Showcase’s France Pavilion. The spot where I feel most connected to my Nanie is inside the Boulangerie Patisserie where classic Provencal cookware adorns the shelves alongside artwork embellished cutting boards, just like her kitchen always had. These authentic pieces, which could be found in any French kitchen, complete the experience that you are, in fact, wandering through a home in France.

27 July 2008

Timeless works of beauty and majesty

2008’s International Flower and Garden Festival carried on the tradition of highlighting some unconventional garden forms. This year’s Sculpture Garden featured, “works of art on loan from some of Florida’s most prestigious collections.” Let’s take a lazy afternoon stroll and tour the garden’s various pieces and styles.

Gives us all the news

Publishing is nothing new to Disney. In fact, guests of Disney resorts receive a printed news the moment they check-in. Disney’s meticulous eye for details don’t stop at the front gates of a theme park or even in the walkways of a resort, guests staying on property receive a Directory of Services themed to a newspaper publication. While some resorts pull this off better than others, each has a flair all their own. Here are few directories to give you an idea of the various styles, as well as covering coast to coast.
Disneyland Hotel

Port Orleans: French Quarter

Hilton Head Island Resort

26 July 2008

Carpe gag'em

The ACME Gagworks area of Disney-MGM Studios was, to say the least, a gas. Photo ops with cut-out of Roger and Jessica Rabbit cutouts, sight gags galore, the Dipmobile intimidating the Backlot Tour trams, and even a crate or two that came complete with audio effects. However, as time marched ever forward Roger Rabbit and his comrades were seen less in less inside the park, just as they were kept less and less in the minds of the general public. Today very few reminders of the once famous rabbit and company exist. The ton of bricks above resides across from the Studio Catering Co. The two crates below rest on a dock along the Streets of America, serving now as a backdrop to the Power Rangers.

Ten Steps For A Successful Mad Tea Party

Inside the Leicester Square Theatre, in London, Alice in Wonderland premiered today in 1951. This premiere would happen a full two weeks before the feature’s release in the United States.

After seeing Anastasia and Drizella’s guide for Prince snagging, the Mad Hatter and March Hare decided they wanted to share a few tips as well. Presented below are the Ten Steps For A Successful Mad Tea Party, in case you were planning a mad tea party to celebrate Alice in Wonderland’s birthday today, or unbirthday tomorrow:

1. Always have plenty of clean teacups and empty chairs. When your cup is empty, simply move to the next chair.

2. Remember to be invited, or else it’s very rude (indeed!) to sit at the table.

3. Offer unbirthday cakes to anyone who compliments your singing. (And be sure to mind the explosives.)

4. If you haven’t had any tea, you can’t very well take less, but you can always take more.

5. When telling stories always start at the beginning. When you get to the end, stop.

6. If you don’t think you shouldn’t speak.

7. If you don’t care for tea, at least make polite conversation.

8. Never, ever speak of cats when dormice are present.

9. If anything starts to make sense, simply change the subject. Try asking a riddle.

10. If you don’t have time for a cup of tea, your watch is probably two days slow. The best way to fix it is with slabs of butter, two spoons, jam, and lemon. (But not mustard… that would be much to silly.)

Strange and frightening sounds echo

Scattered along the Rivers of America are buoyant markers that inform you of your current location on the river. Sometimes straightforward, like Tree Snag Reef, my favorite notice, Howling Dog Bend, alludes to something else just around the last riverbend. As you come out of the wilderness, the lush greenery gives way to sparse and gangly gardens whose upkeep has been, shall we say, ghastly. These rows of unkempt shrubbery are best viewed from the decks of the Liberty Belle.
Between river warnings and rundown gardens it appears that the otherworldly reach of the grim, grinning ghosts has stretched out beyond its manor into the surrounding countryside of Liberty Square.

24 July 2008

The promise of brighter days

Horizons has meant a lot to many of us out there. It was not just an attraction, though it was many of the readers’ favorite attraction, as I saw time and time again. Horizons inspired whole careers, acted as a pick me up to people who didn’t believe they had a reason to keep moving forward, and housed innumerable memories. As I read about what Horizons meant to all of you, thank you to each and every one of you who opened yourselves up to me by the way, I thought about what Horizons has meant to me as well. The fact that it embodied the multitude of elements available in EPCOT Center’s Future World, the masterful music and narration, and the technologies (both ideological in the story and tangible within the mechanics of the attraction) were continually present in your stories as well as my own, but all of us kept returning to a single thought, the message of hope for all of us and for all of our futures.

This series of articles has been about acknowledging the accomplishments of the Imagineer, George McGinnis, and what he has given to each of us. Now, while I could lecture on all of the various facets that made Horizons a true model of the future, I thought that today I would allow George McGinnis himself to share some memories of his own from his days as Project Show Designer of Horizons. Below are the articles he wrote for Mouse Planet back in 2004. The stories are as relevant today as they were then, and they always bring a smile to my face.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

George McGinnis helped to give us dreams for the future with his work within Tomorrowland and EPCOT Center, to give us adventures for Adventureland and Dinoland U.S.A., and he was even able to provide us with some of the most memorable robots this side of a Black Hole. Today, I hope, is the start of a new day where we give something back to this legend of Disney Imagineering. I hope the committee that selects this year’s group of Disney Legends remembers George McGinnis. But even if they don’t, we will all remember and continue to appreciate his hard work, his vision, and the gifts he gave the world that allow each of us to look to a future BEYOND TODAY.

You make me love you

For those of you who are squeamish at the thought of a grown man embarrassing himself, this may not be the article for you. However, if you think talking about embarrassing and funny vices is something you’re interested in, then this is the article for you. I briefly touched upon my Disney vice during my Meet Our Neighbor segment over at Imaginerding, but today I thought I’d delve a little deeper into my fascination with Pop Princesses.

Normally my musical tastes, apart from Disney park audio and greatest hits, revolve around expertly penned lyrics and a killer bass chord or insane keyboard melody. I have been known to absolutely get lost in the albums of the Smashing Pumpkins, Dishwalla, Ben Folds, Tori Amos, and John Mayer. Yet, Disney in its infinite wisdom of what the musical market wants has occasionally molded a Pop Princess that I cannot deny.

I noticed my first Pop Princess, Hillary Duff, on a transatlantic flight when her Sweet Sixteen played on in-flight radio station every hour or so. Since then I have followed several of the young and talented female stars Disney has put forward. I would, with my head firmly facing the ground, purchase CDs and mutter something about ‘nieces,’ of which I have none, to the sales clerk before shuffling out of the store and jamming the album into my CD player as quickly as I could. Thankfully, I have been spared this mortification in recent history with the ability to purchase the records online with iTunes.

I should pause here and explain that I don’t have any real interest in who the Pop Princesses are, or aren’t, dating or how they became a Disney icon. Though I do, from time to time, get updates from my wife who loves celebrity gossip. They may be adorable young women, but my interest in them is based solely upon their ability to create catchy music that rocks and pops in all the right places and that I must sing out loud in my car (mostly when I’m by myself, mostly).

While I still follow my original Princess, Hillary Duff, the current queen of the Pop Princess throne is Miley Cyrus, who released a new album this week, entitled Breakout, through Hollywood Records. After several listening, and finding a few songs that were created specifically as belt-worthy moments for a lonely drive to work, I must admit the album has my stamp of approval. The fact that Miley is given writing credit on several of the album’s tracks only adds to equation. The Driveway, Fly On The Wall, the Rock Mafia remix of See You Again, Goodbye, Breakout, and Cyrus’ take on Girls Just Wanna Have Fun are currently loaded into my iPod’s driving playlist, and I don’t see them going anywhere anytime soon.

So, if you’re looking for a Pop Princess of your own, your best bet is to pick up Breakout and start singing your heart out!

23 July 2008

Top Ten Tips For Snagging Prince Charming

In The Little Big Book of Disney Cinderella’s angry and envious step-sisters, Anastasia and Drizella have compiled a list of qualities that any Prince Charming is looking for. So, without further ado, I turn you over to the dull duo and their Top Ten Tips For Snagging Prince Charming:
1. Of course, you must be born into nobility (like us), live on a wealthy estate (like us), and have a mother who wants nothing more than to further your interests (like ours).

2. Start the day as any princess would – with breakfast in bed.

3. Take time to engage in the musical arts.

4. Discard old clothing and jewelry in favor of new, more expensive items.

5. Don’t fraternize with household help.

6. Accept ALL invitation to Royal Balls.

7. Wear colors that are fresh and flattering – our personal favorites are Avocado and Eggplant.

8. Take every opportunity to see who’s who in social settings (even if it means butting through crowds).

9. When presenting your feet to royalty for royal shoe fittings, it’s always best to take matters into your own hands.

10. And, most importantly, flaunt your noble status proudly – you’re entitled!

Before you report a yeti

From August through November of 2005 an expedition took place, it was called Mission Himalayas. The Mission Himalayas research team was comprised of members from Walt Disney Imagineering, Conservation International, and Discovery Communications, including Imagineers, documentary filmmakers, botanists, and biologists, and was not only a journey of scientific discovery, but also a mission of cultural comprehension. For more information on the scientific specifics of the venture, I suggest checking up on Conservation International’s Fact Sheet. It was with the mantra that all life deserves respect, compassion, and a place in the world that the Missions Himalayas team was able to look with eyes wide open to the world around them and find not only the connections between the yeti and the people of the Himalayas, but also the connection people have to one another.

When it came to human life and the human experience, no one was left untouched, including Joe Rohde, who stated that, "touching the prayer wheels, hearing the tonal spectrum of animal bells, experiencing a 360-degree view from the mountaintop monastery and seeing how the local people applied color to their homes left a deep impression on us."

The deeper entrenched the members of the Mission Himalayas team became in the world around them, the more they learned. The much sought after stories and legends of the yeti began to provide the creature with a very human attribute, he is a defender. As a protector of the sacred the yeti shares much in common with those on the Mission Himalayas team, specifically the participants from Conservation International. Unbeknownst to the yeti, Conservation International searches for way to recognize and shelter ancient areas through a program called Sacred Lands.

Further into the journey Joe Rohde was also able to meet and talk with Rinpoche, a sacred man who is also known as "the living Buddha." During the course of their discussion asked the living Buddha what he thought the yeti was. Rinpoche responded with that they yeti was, “two things at once. A real animal and an immortal, a deity.”

This exchange reminded me of a similar exchange between Reinhold Messner and the Dalai Lama (found in Reinhold Messner's My Quest for the Yeti), in which the Dalai Lama asked, “Is this chemong such a strange animal?”
“Yes. A bear, and yet more than a bear,” responded Messner.
“Isn’t he like a grizzly bear?”
“That’s what he looks like.”
“And he abducts women?”
“That’s what they say.”
“That corresponds to the yeti legend,” mused the Dalai Lama.
“Do you think that the migiƶ, chemong, and yeti might well be one and the same thing?”

In the end, we have to answer the question of what the yeti is to ourselves. For my part, I believe the team from Mission Himalayas (which returned with a handful of new animal species, sightings of endangered species, and a more enlightened view of the world) found an answer for all of us. The yeti is a part of each of us, for in each of us we find a mystery the outside world cannot explain, a guardian of all that we hold sacred, and, on the rare occasion, the beast that stands up for what we believe in.

22 July 2008

Things get really scrambled in my head

Disney is, in fact, a lifestyle. We see the movies, visit the parks, watch the programs, and raise one another up, it even bleeds into our wardrobes. Disney is not, nonetheless, a life. There must be things, places, people, and experiences beyond Disney that make us who we are, complete with lines that are not blurred or crossed otherwise a passion becomes all-consuming.

These are thoughts I have been dwelling on for a while now, the lines and the things that are acceptable in life away from Disney. I understand that when I wear a shirt with Mickey Mouse on it my preschoolers are going to ask me if I am going to Disney World today (if only). I recognize that not everyone shares my unabashed joy of Disney and that when I bring Disney up in conversation I will receive ‘looks’ from time to time. I even accept that, occasionally, I get asked a trivia question about something related to Disney just so that I can ramble off an answer and people can snicker at me behind my back. What frightens me, however, is that a few weeks ago my wife beat me to the punch.

I have mention before what an amazing woman my wife is when it comes to Disney. She enjoys the trips, some of the music, the films make her laugh and cry at all the right places, and she puts up with my continuous droning and writing as best she can. Aileen also enjoys good food, which is why for our next trip, which begins two months from today, I allowed her to select a majority of the restaurants. This not only was my symbolic ‘thank you’ it also gave her ownership of part of the trip. This time she was not just a tag-along on one of my adventures. But then, then, she began quoting facts and figures for things other than restaurants and even became incensed when listening to a podcast (which shall remain nameless here) and a listener’s email was answer incorrectly. That quiet wrath was quickly turned to me as the words, “I shouldn’t know that,” spilled from her beautiful lips.

It was, in this moment, that I realized somewhere I had jumped over a line I never even knew was there, that separation of life and Disney. It has become a joke around my house now, the ‘I shouldn’t know that’ moments, but my wife has relinquished control of the trip, minus her dining selections (which are all first rate), and I have exercised a little more caution as to when Disney is an acceptable topic in my house. I love that my wife is showing an interest in my interest, but my passion should not be hers. I fell in love with her because she was unique, not because we were destined to become carbon copies of one another.

So, where are these lines, rules, guides that tell us what is acceptable to share with a non-Disney obsessed family member or friend? What stipulations do these guidelines give for trivia etiquette? Is there a time limit that you are allowed to speak on Disney before having to move on to another subject? I don’t have all of the answers, heck, I don’t even have all of the questions, but I do know this one thing: A relationship with Disney is just like any other relationship (father-son, wife-husband, neighbor-neighbor), it takes a lot of work and requires balance.

Remember this the next time you hear some Disney world-shattering news and take off like a bolt into the next room. Was there an invisible line in that doorway that you crossed over?

21 July 2008

Celebrating nature itself

"If my park is about the intrinsic value of nature, and I have to choose between kind of formal, linear, organized, grid-like landscape elements or curvilinear, natural, irregular landscape elements, which am I gonna choose? Irregular. Because formal, straight, linear: not nature. So you choose. And what that leads us to, what it led us to, was a kind of a statement that we could say, ‘Look, when we begin designing, our design is going to be like this. The intrinsic value of nature means that, you know, nature is gonna dominate the whole design, it’s gonna be about natural forms, we’re gonna let natural things take place, we’re going to deliberately make the architecture subordinate to the natural forms, the architecture has to appear to either be celebrating nature itself or it has to appear to be succumbing to nature itself. That way it will be obvious in the very design of the park, when we begin to design, that this is a park about the intrinsic value of nature.’"

Joe Rohde
22 April 2008

Consumer oriented research and development - Part II

Advertising is nothing new to the world of Disney, and they have some of the best advertisements around. Whether it is on a billboard, in print, or on television the images, emotions, and slogans of Disney’s advertisements stick with you long after the advertisement is gone.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago while talking to my wife about an upcoming trip I ran upstairs into a darkened hallway shouting, “I’m too excited to sleep,” recognizable from the television ad below, before colliding into several immovable objects and hurting my legs, head, and pride. This altercation, let’s call it ‘I fought the wall, and the wall won,’ got me think about how Disney knows just the right ways to affect us with their advertisements.

Aside from this advertisement, which even after my injuries is still my favorite Walt Disney World ad, here are a few of the paper ads that I think hit a chord with those who love all things Disney.

20 July 2008

Eggs on a beach

The queue for The Seas with Nemo & Friends gently moves you from a landlubber to a full-fledged fish before boarding your clamobile. In the beach sections of the queue are some great signs, many of which include silhouettes of characters, slogans, and other recognizable details from the film Finding Nemo.

My favorite of all of these references however, is the couple of signs that include the Nautical Exploration & Marine Observation, abbreviated NEMO.