Monday, November 17, 2014

Between Books - The Deadliest Cast Member: Season Two

I often judge an episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. by my tension level.  The more tense I am by the end of the episode the more I liked it due to the action and suspense.  So when I received my review copy of the latest installment in the Deadliest Cast Member saga I shot off an email to the author noting my worry he would kill off a character or two like he has done in the earlier offering. Before I even cracked the cover I was worried!

The Deadliest Cast Member: Season Two by Kelly Ryan Johns takes hero Jack Duncan and his partner Kendall Shepherd back to 2005.  Johns walks his readers through the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland, the day in which Duncan lost his wife and became a true national hero when former Soviet spy Nikolai Grusov held the park hostage.  Readers follow Jack throughout his day as he attempts to both protect the park and his family.  And as readers know the price is high since Duncan's life was changed forever this day.  The conspiracy against the park and the Duncan family is more complex than one might believe.  Along with following our heroes, readers also join guests and media being held hostage in the park.  While Jack and Kendall try to protect Disneyland and its guests, two pairs of time travelers also work to impact the final outcome.  One pair, Jack's father Stan and a companion close to the history of the park worry that changing the events of the fateful day could leave a larger scar on the timeline.  And the others, a pair of highly trained operatives from the future use futuristic gadgets and weapons to make a change that could have ramifications for the Duncan family in the far off 2035.

Early in this installment of the franchise the science fiction element is laid out.  While there is an action story being played out in front of us, there are time travellers in the park which are attempting to change or not change the story.  One of these characters is an adult version of one of the kids from the Voyageers' series of books by Johns.  And you do feel like this could be the grown-up character as you watch their personality and determination in action.  The other is one you start to believe has a more complex back story than time traveling criminal, and of course he does!

Really it is Jack and Kendall that I find myself most attracted to when I grab this book.  And this Jack seems more violent and less fatherly than the version that we met in the first installment set in the future.  That Jack is a father who has been raising his kids alone as a widower.  This Jack is freshly out of the military and just now starting a new job at Disneyland.  He literally has no idea who he can can trust other than a close circle that includes Kendall and his father.  He is focused and willing to do everything he can to protect his family and his beloved Disneyland.  Basically you can see this Jack as a earlier version of what we saw in the first volume.  One can see how the Jack we were introduced to grew from this man.  Of course Kendall is Kendall, he is solid, caring, and the best friend one can have.

Overall the book is easy to read and clear.  The story is written as an hourly log of events.  It did take me awhile to get myself into the book, or would that be hours as one reads it.  I was distracted by trying to keep track of who was who and trying to remember who I was introduced to before.  Though even when this was happening I was still able to enjoy the book while reading it at a fast pace.  But by the time I got into the last 40 percent, tension had risen.  I found I could no longer put the book down without being frustrated by my need to end the tension and find out what was happening next.  For a book that should have a set outcome I knew was going to happen, Johns found ways to bring me doubt to my certainty.

Will Jack Duncan return?  Johns makes it clear that is up to the fans and how they receive the story.  I for one hope to see a sequel to The Deadliest Cast Member: Season Two as Johns has some unfinished business for all his characters.  And I would really like to see if Jack Duncan or the man from 2035 is the greatest warrior of all time! 

Oh and yes, look for the post-credit scene Marvel Cinematic Universe fans!

Review Copy Provided By Author

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cap's Comics - Ward Dizzley's 100% True Life Action Adventure Comics Digest Issue ONE

Ward Dizzley's 100% True Life Action Adventure Comics Digest Issue ONE is a very different comic than those that typically show up in the Cap’s Comics section.  But it is likely the first, and maybe the only, largely set in a Disney Theme Park.  In this case the majority of the action in the book takes place in the Walt Disney World Resort.  The fictional editor-in-chief of this comic is Ward Dizzley, a clear parody of Walt Disney.  The humorous nature of the book is underscored by ads for products like “Burning Settler’s Cabin” which is economically priced at a dollar.  The low price shows us we are in a prior era since there is no way you could get a burning cabin for that price today!  But a word to the wise, don’t buy in bulk.  

The main content of the book is three stories.  The first story is a satirical Uncle Remus tale.  The second is a story of two slackers who join up with a pair of ladies in the Walt Disney Resort and hit it off or not.  The third is the story of the meeting of Hoot Gibson and Chief, two Walt Disney World employees who love the resort and learn the secret of exploring backstage.  The art is fun and relaxed and fits the light stories in the comic.

Really this comic has a dedicated audience, the fans of the Mesa Verde Times which documents the adventures of Hoot Gibson and the late Chief backstage at Horizons.  This blog has a very dedicated audience that enjoys their writing style and stories.  And this comic was really made for that loyal audience.  Those who are big fans of satire in the Mad Magazine style would also likely enjoy this comic.  But the comic is not for kids, as it includes mature material.  This is not a fan extension of the Disney Kingdoms comics.  And it is not for super hero comic fans, unless they also like Mesa Verde Times or satire magazines also.   

Ward Dizzley's 100% True Life Action Adventure Comics Digest Issue ONE is a comic that dedicated to a specific Disney fan community.  But it is likely not for everyone.  However, it is an offering in the Kindle Unlimited program.  Therefore, for those wishing to sample without buying there is an affordable option.  

While I could see Rolly Crump giving this comic a big thumbs up, not all of Rolly’s fans may agree. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Between Books - Two Girls and a Mouse Tale

What is it like to apply for, be selected and work in the Disney College Program? This is likely a question that many parents and young adults have? Is it safe? Will the participants become rich? Are they all friends of Mickey Mouse and if not what kinds of jobs can one get? These are questions that Elly and Caroline Collins help answer in their latest book.

Two Girls and Mouse Tale by Elly and Caroline Collins provides an account of their two semesters away from school as members of the Disney College Program. They provide a comprehensive review of the program. This includes the application process, selecting which resort to apply for, and interviewing. Once selected they go into depth on the housing options, packing and the question of bringing a car. Their accounts once they are in Orlando include living in Disney housing (including its pitfalls), special events for Disney College Program participants, educational opportunities and work schedules. Throughout the book they sprinkle the logistics of being in the Disney College Program with dairy like accounts of their own experiences.

Two Girls and a Mouse Tale provides a very personal look at the Disney College Program. The writers provide a lot of good details about the program including how to select jobs on one’s application and the advantages/disadvantages of the two United States’ resorts. And I think they make a pretty strong case for Orlando due to the volume of positions and support systems that Orlando provides. If one is interested in the types of housing Orlando provides, they provide an extensive breakdown of different apartment complexes and what is it like living in Disney housing, hint do not pin anything to the wall. They also provide tales of their own roommate issues, which many in their early 20s can relate to. I am pretty sure I was the bad roommate having turned up the stereo one time (seriously it was like one time)! I personally found it interesting seeing the list of benefits including courses for college credit, special parties and extensive discounts. Overall, I think this is a good resource for someone considering applying to the Disney College Program.

There are a few hiccups for me from a writing side. It can be difficult telling who is writing which section, though they sometimes identify themselves. There are sections that appear to be self quotes, but I am not really sure where they are quoting themselves from. And there are some specific Disney terms, like Basics Walk, that I do not believe every reader will know. These issues would at times take me out of their personal anecdotes, with me generally getting back into the book when they recounted program logistics.

Two Girls and a Mouse Tale is a helpful book for those looking to enter the Disney College Program. It provides firsthand accounts of how to apply, live and work in the program. Parents reading this book will be reassured that the Disney College Program is not a constant party for every cast member. Potential Disney College Program participants will have needed information on how to prepare for their experience. Readers will be better informed and ready to face the Disney College Program ready to hit the ground running, or if they are smart it seems driving.

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Between Books - The Ride Delegate

Sometimes you judge a book by its cover.  When I saw the cover of The Ride Delegate I thought it would be a sweet little memoir.  But I was not sure if it was something I really wanted to read.  The fact that it would be discussing VIP tours would something new.  But really I thought it would be a typical and predictable self-reflection.  Instead I found myself frustrated.  I was frustrated that I had to put the book down to work.  I was frustrated that Annie's guests were not on time.  I was frustrated with guests who thought just because they paid a high fee they could be rude!  I guess somewhere along the way, I found myself pulled into The Ride Delegate and I did not want to put it down.

The Ride Delegate: Memoir of a Walt Disney World VIP Tour Guide by Annie Salisbury details Salisbury's years as a Walt Disney World Resort guide.  She outlines why she chose employment at Walt Disney World and how she worked to be a VIP Tour Guide.  Then she explains what guests can and cannot get in the different types of tour experiences.  Needless to say, it pays to be both rich and famous.  And most importantly Salisbury takes you on her tours both good and bad but generally all memorable.  These tales include the families that treated Salisbury as their oldest child, the sports star who believed he was at Universal, and the possible foreign princess with her enormous entourage.  As any good memoir should, Annie outlines her last day of work and how special guests made her feel royal.

The Ride Delegate is clear and easy to read.  I found it enjoyable and as noted I found myself unexpectedly pulled into the story.   I said that I was at times frustrated, this is a lie.  I was downright angry.  There were a few guest stories that I wanted to look over at the unnamed guest and simply say, "what makes you think you can act this way?  Annie has been nothing but gracious to you and she only wants you to have a memorable vacation.  You are rude and have lost the right to have a tour guide."  With at least one story at the conclusion I wanted to reach out and give Salisbury a high five and a serving of her favorite corn dog nuggets for how she was able to walk with dignity at the end of the tour.  Now I typically do not get this way about people that I have never met.  So I am going to say this is a huge success since I found myself becoming highly sympathetic to her tales.  Seriously, I felt like a good tour was a victory for me and I was not even there.     

It is interesting to read of the benefits of a VIP Tour.  For example, to Salisbury's parking dismay at times, you get a ride to the park of your choice.  And you are not limited to any one park.  Your guide can drive you throughout the resort.  So if you want to ride Space Mountain but have dinner at Epcot, no problem. Your guide can drive you there.  Additionally, for some rides you do not need to wait because if there is a convenient entrance that does not disturb other guests you probably get to skip part of the line.  But if there is no alternative entrance, like it's a small world, you are waiting it out with everyone else unless you are a celebrity.  Tours are limited to ten.  If you add an eleventh you are going to be paying for an additional guide.  Guides can if they chose eat with their guests.  But if either party does not want the guide to join them they can eat tour free.  And Disney pays for the meals of guides, so many corn dog nuggets!  Generally these rules feed into Salisbury's stories.  And once you learn the rules you begin to see the problems that can be coming her way. And then there is the whole issue of stickers, and I am not talking Mickey Mouses.  

The Ride Delegate by Ann Salisbury is a really enjoyable read.  I highly recommend it, if all else fails you should consider the highly affordable Kindle copy.  It is a memoir that keep your attention, gives Disney fans a look into a service we probably will never enjoy, and might even make you consider getting (or not getting) a tour guide during your next Walt Disney World vacation.

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Mousey Movie Preview - How the Age of Ultron Teaser Should Have Ended!

The How It Should Have Ended Crew have done it again and this time it's just a spoof of a trailer.  But it is a Disney/Marvel film and it is a parody that will make every Disney fan chuckle, or be really creeped out.  I give you "How the Avengers: Age of Ultron Teaser Should have Ended.":

Have you stopped laughing yet?

Well, just remember you have a friend in me here at Between Disney and have a fun Ultron free Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Between Books - Words for Pictures

As I am getting more and more back into comics I have become very interested in how they get made. And I hope to learn lessons, or reinforce lessons, that can be used in my own professional life.

Words For Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels
by Brian Michael Bendis provides an overview of how comics are made, advice on writing and practical advice about working in the comics field. Bendis being an accomplished comic book writer provides a writer’s perspective based on his own experiences. He explains how to pitch a project; both an original story and a work for hire licensed story. He explains what goes into writing a script and how artists, letterers, colorists and editors work together. While Bendis is an author, he spends quite a bit of time discussing how to work with artists, including what they like and do not like in scripts.  And he details how to interact with an editor. To help expand the focus away from just writing, Bendis includes round tables and interviews with artists and editors to provide color to the comic creation experience. A theme that runs throughout the books is collaboration, since unless a creator is doing all phases of production they must work with other creative people. Bendis sets the expectation that everyone must be credited and how to get the most out of the collaborative experience which vary from team to team and project to project. An aspect of the team that Bendis does not ignore is the business side of creativity providing key lessons from his own business failures. The book ends with exercises to help get writers writing. The majority of the book is heavily illustrated, largely with Marvel illustrations, typically with art that links to the process or creators he is discussing on the page.

Words for Pictures is easy to read thanks to clarity, interesting personal experiences and illustrations. The text is broken up with interviews and profiles being interspersed throughout the book. The only thing that I found odd is that the writer FAQ and writing exercise chapter are not illustrated with margins that are stark white. While these plain pages may be a blank slate to motivate writers, for a general interest reader like me the pages seemed stark and different enough from the heavily illustrated pages that it seems like someone just forgot about these pages.

The Marvel illustrations let a Disney fan know early that Bendis has strong ties to the company. One feels like they are reading the inside story from a Disney insider, much like one would with an Imagineer, because Disney owned art is everywhere. A good example of how this enriches the experience for the Marvel fan is Bendis' detailed description of the development of the Spider-Men storyline.  And while it was originated decades before the Disney purchase with Stan Lee there is an interesting discussion of what the Marvel method is and who if anyone likes it.

Words For Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels
by Brian Michael Bendis does a good job of explaining the comics creation process and providing tips and tools for getting into the comics industry. However, for the general public, Bendis does an excellent job of showing the power of collaboration. Being someone who works on teams everyday, it was nice to see that even in my beloved comics collaboration is key. And as a Disney fan, I loved reading how the Marvel arm functions as an artistic endeavor. While this book may not be a Between Book for every Disney fan, for those interested in creativity and Marvel should look at picking up this title.

Review Copy Provided by Publisher 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mousey Movie Preview - Avengers: Age of Ultron Teaser Trailer

During the credits for Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. it was announced that the world premier of the first Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer would be played the following week.  Instead it was leaked 6 days earlier and Disney reacted by providing the full HD version of the trailer online.

My initial reactions are:
  • Ultron is scary and this movie feels darker than the original.
  • Disney fan freak out moment, I hope they keep the ties to a Disney animated classic in the soundtrack and dialogue.
  • I want to see this right now!
  • I loved Disney/Marvel's reaction, Hydra leaked it!

With nearly 30,000,000 views at the time of this posting, I am thinking I am not the only one who wants to see this.