Monday, September 26, 2016

Between Books - Brittany Earns Her Ears



Brittany Earns Her Ears: My Secret Walt Disney World Cast Member Diary by Brittany DiCologero is the fifth installment in the "Earning Your Ears" series.  DiCologero follows the basic outline of these journals.  The author discusses why she chose to enter the Disney College Program, the application process, Disney College Program life, and her job as a merchandise cast member in Fall 2014.  She concludes the volume with reflection of her time in the program. 

Again, this volume follows the basic outline of "Earning Your Ears" books.  And this allows a reader to come to understand this specific cast members decision about entering the program and navigating the process.  In this case, I found myself "routing" for Brittany since we are both history majors.  And I believe that if I was a young adult I would likely gravitate towards this volume thanks to our shared academic interests.  I can also see myself gravitating towards this volume since Brittany discusses maintaining and supporting a long distance relationship which would have been close to my own situation at that age.  I can see the value to readers of these types of books if one feels the author is like me.

DiCologero along with the typical topics calls out advantages to program participation.  This includes Disney discounts, typically deeper discounts than found at retail jobs.  Also she participated in educational experiences, giving this history major the most interesting business course she ever completed.  And of course, she calls out the fundamental truth...Animal Kingdom is hot!

Brittany Earns Her Ears is another well-written contribution to understanding and preparing for the Disney College Program.  Like all of these volumes, some will resonate better to others with readers due to experiences and common personality traits.  The series is one that should be examined by all potential College Program participants.    




Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Between Books - Drinking at Disney



As I drink Cherry Pepsi from my Tervis cup and write this review, it seems so empty.  It feels as if my Texas Flag decorated Tervis given to me after being found in a supply closest should hold something with more octane.  And perhaps me and that the cup should be staring longingly at a forbidden bay as I seek a way to convince a cast member to give me and my Tervis entry!

Drinking at Disney: A Tipsy Travel Guide to Walt Disney World’s Bars, Lounges & Glow Cubes by Rhiannon and Drunky provides what is advertised, a description and rating of every bar and cart serving booze in Walt Disney World.  Drunky uses his vast research and knowledge of Disney drinking to provide his readers a location by location summary of drinking on property.  This includes his own creative maps of where to find one’s desired adult drink.  For each bar, lounge, and drink cart Drunky gives information about the menu, a rating of value, location, theme, vibe, and evaluation of the location. Ratings are delivered in terms of how many Tervis tumblers the bar earned, Drunky’s to go cup of choice.  Often Drunky gets things slightly askew ,or just plain wrong, so his editor Rhiannon jumps in to point out his errors on theming, his need to give additional love to pool bars (why) and pointing out drinks that do not end with Lite.  The pages are all vibrantly colored and illustrated making reviews fun, especially since the give and take between Drunky and Rhiannon is amusing.  Though I will admit I jump quickly between whose side I am on.   After the reviews the authors provides more value with pub crawls, strategies for drinking around the world (which are actually good safety thoughts) and lists of some of the best and worst bars in Walt Disney World.

I loved Drinking at Disney.  The read was really fun and the bickering between the author and editor is a great mix of dirty jokes and friend humor that made me feel like I was sitting on a bar stool.  And I think for someone who lives in Betweenland it had a twofold effect.  First, I found myself longing for a new Disney experience type.  Yes, I think in my previous visits to Walt Disney World I have not taken adult beverages enough into account, okay I am pretty much about the Between Kids on my trips.  But it is possible to enjoy some of these experiences without becoming Drunky and still being a responsible parent.  Second, I wish I had this book before my last trip.  Then perhaps I would not have regretted my trip to the Brown Derby Lounge, though we were there for a food item.  I would also not be regretting not hitting up my local pool bar, an actual decent pool bar!  I can also think of non-Disney addicted friends who this book would be a good resource for as they plan out a less child focused trip than I typically plan out.  Yes, I probably would not have left the Between Kid to stake my claim to a stool at Muddy Waters.  But regrets do hurt.

Drinking at Disney: A Tipsy Travel Guide to Walt Disney World’s Bars, Lounges & Glow Cubes is an essential book we never knew we needed.  It is fun and informative.  While I would likely never put the large sized physical edition in a suitcase of backpack, I would study it carefully before future trips back to Walt Disney World.  

Sorry Rhiannon, I love my craft beer.  But sometimes a Bud Lite and Merica does beat Abita! 


Review Copy Provided For Purposes of Review

 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Cap's Comics - Haunted Mansion #2







Haunted Mansion #2 picks up Danny’s story as he attempts to save his grandfather from the villains within the mansion.  Readers meet some instantly likeable characters and get a vision of the villains within the mansion.  And we ask the big question, will the party ever end?

Danny charges into the castle to save his beloved grandfather’s soul.  Danny after entry meets Pickwick at the banquet hall the grand party that is taking place.  Pickwick loves this party and seems at times to forget the peril his soul is in.  And Danny appears to be picking up this attitude, making us worry if Danny will overlook his own quest.  Readers also meet the villains of the mansion.  The Captain, a soul trapped on land, appears to be the big bad that has trapped the souls within the mansion.  But it is Constance that even scares him and leaves the mansion’s denizens headless!  Is Danny now in the Captain’s sight?  Can he evade Constance?  And most of all, where’s Grandpa?

John Tyler Christopher Action Figure Variant


Joshua Williamson makes the story choice that Disney fans need him to.  He makes both the Captain and Constance, two villains filled with canon and head canon references, the villains of his tale.  In many ways he is reconciling the story needs of adult Haunted Mansion fans.  Someone would have been unhappy with either choice.  So he has gone with both.  And while neither side may be entirely happy, well the story is for kids and both villains seem to be serving story purposes.  

Brian Crosby Variant Cover


The real highlight for me is the banquet.  Jorge Coehlo gets to draw a party, one which never ends.  His panels are full of the images that fans expect and require.  And Pickwick at the party is quickly becoming my favorite fun loving though misguided character.  

Disney Parks Variant

Haunted Mansion #2 is a safe story giving readers what they expect if they are also Parks fans.  It has the payoffs you want.   It still also has the ability to touch the heart as I was deeply impacted by Grandpa’s reason for being in the mansion.  And needless to say I am still going forward!     

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Between Books - Amazing Fantastic Incredible



Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee, Peter David and Colleen Doran allows Stan Lee to narrate the story of his life through the literary style he revolutionized… comics.  Lee tells the tale of being a boy who loved to read and lose himself in the adventures of books.  The Lieber home, as Stan Lee was born Stanley Lieber, was one of contrasts as his mother believed Stanley could do and be anything while his father appeared to be constantly searching for success in supporting his family.   Stanley dreamed of growing up to be a writer thanks to his love of reading.  Lieber got his first serious break by becoming an assistant at Timely Comics where he worked with editor Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby.  Eventually publisher Martin Goodman would put Lieber over all comics, with Simon and Kirby leaving the company.  After military service in World War II, Lee would return to comics and find himself a wife in Joan Boocock.  Lee would find himself in the 1960’s dissatisfied with comics and with the encouragement of Joan would attempt to write one more story but in his own style, leading to the creation of The Fantastic Four with Jack Kirby.  His new story was under the name Stan Lee so he could use his real name for real writing.  This success would be followed by others as Lee created heroes with real problems like Spider-Man, the Hulk and even a God with Thor.  From here, Lee would publicize and grow comics and superhero stories, eventually leading to his numerous cinematic cameos.  

I found myself quite surprised with Amazing Fantastic Incredible.  Lee is a very positive and large personality in his public image.  And Lee in the memoir’s narrative is generally positive and large.  And while he does not forget to pat his own back, he also greatly praises the work of others including Jack Kirby who in the text and art is virtually made a saint.  Lee does not pull back from potential disagreements.  Well actually he does.  He notes and discusses disagreements with Kirby, Steve Dikto and even his brother Larry Lieber.  But while he acknowledges them, he neither attacks the other parties nor defends himself.  Again, while Jack Kirby before his death may have held resentment towards Lee for the credit he received publicly versus himself, Lee puts Kirby on a pedestal.  Another example of how he treats uncomfortable topics is the death of his second daughter.  Lee mentions it and then the comic format allows us to understand how the event made him feel.   And really it is interesting to see Lee’s life played out in comics.  It allows the read to be quick yet informative.  The format really worked much better than I thought.  And it was more than a hooray for Stan autobiography.    
 
I would suggest comic fans at least borrow Amazing Fantastic Incredible.  I did borrow as the $30 list price is to rich for my blood for the breezy read one gets.  While the memoir is far from groundbreaking or deep, it is fun and enjoyable.  In the end it is a nice use of the format without too much text and good use of images to help convey emotion and story.  


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Between Books - Bloodline


http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/starwars/images/0/0b/SW_Bloodline_cover.jpg/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/499?cb=20160206211144

I was a big fan of Claudia Gray’s Star Wars: Lost Stars. I was impressed with the character building and Gray’s ability to keep my attention in both the big and small the moments. So seeing that she wrote the latest Princess Leia book, Bloodline, I was pretty excited. But would my excitement linger?

In Bloodline, readers discover Princess Leia’s life between the Battle of Endor and the foundation of the Resistance. Princess Leia Organa is a distinguished and somewhat older member of the New Republic’s Senate. But much like our universe, politics is division. The Senate has been split into two factions; Populists who wish to have local authority make decisions and Centrists who believe in a strong galactic central government. As Leia considers her continued role in this politically tense situation, she agrees to investigate a criminal ring as perhaps one last adventure. Leia, a Populist, is paired with Centrist Senator Ranslom Casterfo who admires the Empire’s efficiency but holds deep anger towards the late Emperor and his henchman Darth Vader. The book follows the relationship of these two different personalities as they attempt to dig deeper into a well-connected criminal underworld that could be a threat to galactic peace. And Leia’s effectiveness and loyalty is questioned as deeply held secrets of her parentage become public.

Let me cut to the chase. I am sad to say I did not enjoy Bloodline. I found that it dragged and failed to keep my interest. Like complaints that many have of the Prequels, this book simply had too much politics. And sadly it was not escapist enough for me since the political nature of the Senate seemed ripped from today’s headlines. Yes, I did enjoy this book linking original trilogy characters to Star Wars: The Force Awakens figures. And I loved the idea of finding out details of both Han Solo’ and Leia’s marriage and Han’s post Rebellion vocation. But these glimpses, regardless of how interesting a new character like Ranslom Casterfo was, just did not keep my general interest.

Star Wars fans will want to read Bloodline as it provides the rest of the story. But to me this is a borrow not a buy book. I kept reading due to the fact it is canon. It does provide more backstory to Princess Leia’s decision to become part of the Resistance and why she was outside of the Senate when the Force awakened. But the story itself is simply not my cup of tea (which they apparently drink in many forms in a Galaxy Far Far Away).


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Between Books - Creativity, Inc.




Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace provides Catmull's insights into management and animation history.  Many readers may assume that Creativity Inc. is either an autobiography or a personal history of Pixar.  And while there are elements of both, the text is really Catmull's reflections on both innovation and management.  Catmull uses history and personal narrative to provide other managers and innovators insight into his own career.  The episodes reflected on include his own early education and steps into animation, the establishment and then sale of Pixar, success under the ownership of Steve Jobs and later its purchase by Disney including expanded roles at Disney.  His review of history includes his relationship with the at times mercurial Jobs, the Pixar Brain Trust and it's function, and how Catmull and John Lasseter transitioned from Pixar to Disney leadership.

Creativity Inc. is a really good book!  Honestly it is something that managers and innovates need on their bookshelf not just Disney fans.  Catmull is largely honest about his mistakes and missteps that Pixar took under his direction.  Not everything Catmull attempted was a success, including attempts to revolutionize production.  And he shows us how a company losing its vision and edge can at falter after early overwhelming success.  

One of the chief themes in Catmull's leadership is candor.  Catmull and John Lasseter require it.  They make it clear what candor is and is not.  And how candor can be squashed by a inappropriate tone.  One of the examples used throughout the book is the famed Pixar Brain Trust.  Catmull describes its rules including that Pixar directors can and do ignore its advice.  And he explains that everyone is able to provide guidance.  These sessions are meant to hone the director's vision and improve the story.  And largely they do help Pixar to make some of the best animated features in the world.  If I was to criticize Catmull for anything it would be that he does not address claims that the candor of these meetings is not as described, with some not always feeling like they are able to share.  Also, I would say that Catmull does ignore some negative elements of Pixar history like the removal of Alvy Ray Smith, a Pixar co-founder.  In short he is not always candid.    

One of the things that I found fascinating is that Catmull made sure with his transition to Disney leadership that he kept the two animation units separate with clear separate structures.  The two would not mix or help each other.  That way they each could retain separate and clear identities, goals and projects.  Additionally, they chose to retain the one Disney animation executive everyone thought Catmull and Lasseter would remove, Andrew Millstein the head of Circle 7 Productions which produced sequels.  An early goal for the new leaders was no more cheap sequels.  Instead they made him general manager of the studio as he caught their vision.  Still there missteps as Catmull and Lasseter worked to overcome Pixar concerns they had lessened their attention on Pixar.  

Creativity Inc. is a great management and innovation book.  I could easily see reading it on a regular basis with using it for occasional innovation advice.  The book helps reinforce, in his own words, Catmull as a leadership and innovation leader.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Cap's Comics - Haunted Mansion #1



For Disney Kingdoms it all started Haunted Mansion adjacent with Disney Kingdoms Seekers of the Weird.  So it is only fitting that we officially go into the mansion with Disney Parks’ and Marvel’s latest installment in the line, The Haunted Mansion.   But will going through the doors live up to expectations for Disney Parks fans.

Disney Parks Variant


Danny seems to be a good kid.  He loves his Grandpa and sending time with him.  But despite their bond they are two different sorts of souls.  Grandpa is an adventurer.  Danny is a coward!  Danny and his Grandpa talked about going into the local Haunted Mansion someday, but a mishap kept Grandpa from entering the mansion in a physical way.  So Danny is shocked when he is summoned by the spirits of the mansion to save them and his grandfather.  Will Danny have the courage to meet and fight for the 999 spirits of the Haunted Mansion?

Brian Crosby Variant

I would say overall that author Joshua Williamson and artist Jorge Coelho provide the reader what they expect.  They offer a story that provides the right visuals to the Disney fan who bought the issue because of the parks connection.  And the story itself is a fine all-ages story, maybe not up to the level of Figment but entertaining for me and the Between Kid.  With the first issue premiering at 66 in the sales chart, it does feel like the title is preforming where a  #1 in this line should be.  I will say story wise with Danny as our main character, other than Dreamfinder this could really be our first boy led story, since the Seeker’s tale was siblings.

Skottie Young Variant

Haunted Mansion #1 led me to want to read more.  And that is really all you can ask from a first issue.  In fact, I am traditionally really hard on first issues but I found this one interesting.  I look forward to Danny’s story and my expectation that he will become braver! 

John Tyler Christopher Action Figure Variant