Monday, February 20, 2017

Between Books - Would You Like Magic with That?

I was a big fan of The Ride Delegate.  So seeing a second Annie Salisbury memoir got me super interested.  Her first book took us to places that the regular people like me cannot consider.  And I hoped this second book focusing on her time as a Plaid in Guest Relations would provide more fun and unique stories.

Would You Like Magic with That?: Working at Walt Disney World Guest Relations by Annie Salisbury starts in a sad place.  Salisbury begins this memoir with her first Disney casting, working DisneyQuest, a site she never wanted and attempted to escape.  Surviving the College Program, Salisbury continued on and was able to briefly move over to the Great Movie Ride.  From this position she was able to use the Disney casting system to get moved to Guest Relations at the Magic Kingdom.  But instead of being posted as a Plaid, she instead was tasked as a Celebrate Greeter, spreading magic in the park for guests without actually being trained into Guest Relations or wearing the famous uniform.  After bartering her way into actual training, Salisbury recounts stories that let her readers understand the roles and politics of Guest Relations, including the threat for many that this casting is temporary and something they could lose forever.

Salisbury helps illustrate several points.  First, College Program members you get what you get.  And Disney may lie to give you hope of other castings.  But really, if one is dissatisfied with what Disney has chosen for them the only real escape option is to leave.  Salisbury also does a nice job of explaining how non College Program cast members can switch positions at Walt Disney World and the extreme efforts and risks one may have to take to move into a desired role.  And most of all, she provides clarify like all offices, Guest Relations has politics and maybe even people meaner than those you work with on a daily basis.

I have quoted Would You Like Magic with That? a few times.  I am currently training staff who help resolve situations.  And I have used the concept of "appropriate" and "obtainable", which Salisbury learned at Guest Relations as a good ruler for for strong problem resolutions.  If something does not meet both of these conditions, in all of our customer relations we should review if it is the solution we select.

I liked Would You Like Magic with That? but still find The Ride Delegate to be my favorite of Salisbury's memoirs.  But this time she did not have the chance to surprise me with the strength of her stories.  But I can now proudly ride the Great Movie Ride knowing that Gangsters are jerks.  And I now know just how bad a situation it takes to get Disney to consider free admission, there will probably be tears.  Because sometimes has to ask Would You Like Magic with That? when circumstances make the day less magical for both cast and guests...even at Walt Disney World!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cap's Comics - Enchanted Tiki Room #2

Enchanted Tiki Room #2 shows us quickly that there is trouble in paradise.  Agnes may no longer wish her dog Alfred can talk, seeing as he has nothing but unfaltering things to say.  Yes, dog is not woman's best friend!  The bird band has members in revolt, and maybe a orange friend can join in?  The Randy Family do something that money cannot buy...hug!  Chip's big debut may have fallen flat.  And Wally, well he's barely in the issue.  And also absent is the island trespasser!  Yep, things are not going well and someone may do something desperate to regain their place on the enchanted tropical island.

Jason Grandt Connecting Cover Variant

Again, this is a funny book.  And adults can enjoy the humor.  I did chuckle as the Randy family, well, touched!  I guess love cannot be bought with money.  It definitely made me laugh and so did the Between Kid.  I also enjoyed the Disney Easter Eggs including a growing presence for the Little Orange Bird.

John Tyler Christopher Action Figure Variant
My biggest worry with the book is there is a lot going on.  It could be too much.  Wally is basically non-existent in the book.  In fact, Wally gets one panel!  Unless I am wrong and she is hiding in the shadows, our cliffhanger new character never shows in the entire issue.  Which makes it frustrating that we have to wait for at least one more issue to get any answers to what her presence is about.  In short the story has to service five if not six story lines and I worry that a mini-series may not do the bulk of them justice.

Ron Lim Variant
Enchanted Tiki Room is keeping me for the laughs.  But I do worry that Jon Adams and Horacio Domingues' story could be too ambitious.  In the end, Fantasy Island was really just about three story lines.  I am just worrying that this comic has 2 stories too many.  But still, I am smiling.  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Between Books - Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel

I really enjoyed Rogue One!  I say that despite the kids sitting behind me whacking my chair over and over again!  But one thing that became clear in the early moments of the story was there was more story to tell between the beats on the back of my chair.  That could especially be seen with Lyra Erso, who had only a few moments in the film as we see her years before the Battle of Yavin.

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno describes how Galen Erso came to be one of the chief engineers of the Death Star.  The novel tells the story of a young brilliant man in love with science and an adventurous nature guide.  A pacifist, Erso focuses his research into Kyber crystals, which power Jedi lightsabers, and how they can be used to harvest vast amounts of energy with the hope of bringing power to economically disadvantaged worlds.  Erso's colleague Orson Krennic serves as an rising power-hungry engineer in the Empire's Advanced Weapons Research department.  Despite his inability to get Erso involved in his ultimate project, he knows that Erso is the key to the weapon for his most ambitious project yet.  Luceno tells a story of manipulation and lies as Krennic plays on Erso's emotions and beliefs to gain his aid.  And the story shows how Erso and his family escaped Krennic's control to be found again on the movie big screen.

Are you looking for a Star Wars book with plenty of action?  Then go read Ahsoka!  This is a book light on action and big on personalities.  The battles here are battles of will as Krennic turns Galen, as Lyra grows weary of Galen's old friend, and as Tarkin and Krennic struggle for control of the Emperor's battle station.  In all of the maneuvering found in the book, the key is the weapon  Without the super laser to fit the scope of the Empire's newest machine of death, it will literally lack the destructive power required to declare it a success.  And Krennic fully puts his career behind the belief that Galen Erso can reluctantly build them the needed weapon.  That is the real story, one of emotions and relationships.  There are rarely blasters, despite a few smugglers including Saw Gerrera, who have to escape some harrowing scrapes.

I will admit, even as a father I did not always connect with Galen Erso.  He is honestly somewhat an unapproachable personality lost in his science.  For me the hero was Lyra Erso as she struggles to hold her marriage together, protect her husband and introduce her daughter Jyn to a bigger physical and spiritual universe.

Many said that reading Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel enhanced the experience of seeing Rogue One in the theater.  Honestly, I can see how it could have made viewers feel better prepared.  I expect the next time I see the movie I will see Lyra Erso in a new light, as a woman who truly fought to protect her family.  But despite the enrichment, I do not believe this book will be for everyone including those looking for a high action science fiction story.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Between Books - Going to Disney California Adventure

I am a big fan of Disney California Adventure.  My third favorite domestic park is not Epcot, sorry fan boys! But it is the second California Gate that takes that honor for me.  So when Shannon Willis Laskey's newest book surprisingly appeared in my mail box, and knowing how much I enjoyed her first offering, her latest guide went to the top of my reading pile.

Going to Disney California Adventure: A Guide for Kids & Kids at Heart by Shannon Willis Laskey brings the fun to Disney trip planning.  Laskey hits the basics that every guide book on the park needs.  She provides history and a tour of the park to prepare readers, especially the youngest ones, for their trip to Disney California Adventure.  But along with the expected descriptions of attractions and in park dining, Laskey gives her readers room to plan their trip and to reflect afterwards.  For example with each attraction, readers can rate their experience and leave a one word review.  Additionally, Laskey provides games.  These games include ideas for killing time in lines with word and memory games, coloring pages, in book activities and more.  The book like her last volume, ends with a journal for capturing memories and autographs making the book not just a guide but a souvenir for what could be a once in a lifetime vacation.

I love this book.  It really is much more than a guidebook, but an experience.  The bountiful and fun images on every page help set a tone that makes vacation planning with a child approachable.  And as an adult, the fun design provides a guide book experience that is beyond bland text and descriptions. I do not want to say it...but I'm going to do it.  The super fun imagery and bright colors are enchanting.  As I sit here and consider what park I go to next, which in Betweenland is a big decision,  I really find myself leaning towards California.  After reading through this book,  how could one not be charmed into wanting to visit again or for the first time.

By buying the book directly from the author the experience is extended.  Laskey provides customers a fan club membership card, a bookmark (which really is twirly), and a sticker.  This is while supplies last.  And while they are just little extras, it helps feel like the fun is brought out of the pages.  

I will say that one of the things I monitor when looking at guide books is how the author handles change.  At the time I received my copy the California version of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror had closed forever. Laskey does include over a page about the extinct attraction.  This inclusion is sure to make many happy as Hollywood Land goes through transition.  The Between Tween loved this Tower, and so it is sure to please at least one fan.  But to go along with the extinct Tower, the text of the second page includes a description of what is to come with Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission BREAKOUT.  It provides a nice mix of what was and what will be.  It is a nice way to transition an attraction out and another one into existence.    

Going to Disney California Adventure is simply fun!  Okay, it is far from simple.  Laskey has provided her readers a well-thought out reading experience and interactive production.  I sincerely hope that she can extend her library to the other U.S. Disney parks.  Because her first two book have been delightful.    

Review Copy Provided by Orchard Hill Press

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Between Books - The Customer Rules

The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service by Lee Cockerell presents the former Disney executive's thoughts on providing excellent customer service.  Cockerell provides 39 separate short chapters that are easy to read and digest for those wanting to know more about superior customer service.  Cockerell's chapters generally focus on relationship building, preparation, and going beyond expectations.  In many ways his guidance aligns with his granddaughter's most basic advice, "Be Nice!"  The book's advice ranges from being prompt, understanding new technology, copying the best services of others and relationship relationship relationship.

Honestly, for listeners of Cockrell's podcast, the tone and even some of the advice is far from shocking.  Cockerell's thoughts really match the guidance he gives on a weekly basis with a focus on relationship and thoughtful service.  But the Customer Rules has an advantage that the podcast lacks, you can easily share the book to someone who may not enjoy podcasts or not be open to Cockerell as a "Mickey Mouse" executive.  Cockerell's advice here is not overly focused on Disney, again allowing the non-fan to buy into the book.  And the chapters are short enough one could easily read them on the commute or in the cough cough bathroom.

I do not think of myself as someone who provides customer service.  But as Cockerell points out it is everyone's job.  And in the midst of reading the book I was challenged with a situation that made me ask what would Lee Cockerell do?  How can I give this person something allowing them to move forward when I need to say no?  Because The Customer Rules is a great reminder that we all provide service to others and the foundation of supporting their needs is relationships.  In the end, we probably should just be nice!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cap's Comics - Enchanted Tiki Room #1

But I want a Jungle Cruise comic!  And an Enchanted Tiki Room comic is most definitely not a Jungle Cruise comic.  So I open these pages not even knowing if this is a tropical vacation I want to take!

Jason Grandt Connecting Cover Variant

Enchanted Tiki Room #1 brings us to the home of the Tiki gods and the famous Tiki Room!  Readers meet a number of visitors to this far off land.  Agnes is a barely known older actress who has a unhealthy love for her dog.  The dog may not be returning that adoration!  The Randy family can solve all problems with money.  Poor Wally just wants to get over his bad breakup on this island vacation.  And Chip the volunteer at the world famous Tiki Room, where the birds sing, just wants to be a star.  It seems that the visitors to this island have a lot of problems, but then so do the citizens.  Could there be relationship trouble among the famous singing macaws?  What lessons will our visitors and readers learn on this vacation?

John Tyler Christopher Action Figure Variant Cover

Writer Jon Adams gives a plot that will seem familiar to many middle aged readers.  Enchanted Tiki Room feels like a spiritual predecessor to Fantasy Island with temporary guests who all seem to need to learn lessons.  So it is easy to understand for the older reader.  And really if I had to complain it would be I am not sure how the younger reader will react.  The plot is a formula I know.  And there are plenty of "adult" world situations and even jokes.  Honestly, I laughed a ton.  I just worry that this is a story that is too adult.  Though the Between Kid jumped to have me read it and seemed to stay with it.  Artist Horacio Domingues' artwork fits well with the somewhat corny story presented.

Jody Daily Variant Cover

For the hardcore Disney fan there are Easter Eggs to keep you going.  The boys of the Enchanted Tiki Room, a 50 year hit, are not the only Disney birds seen in the tale.  And along with the birds, a key narrative role is given to a Tiki god.  I am a big believer that many of the early Imagineers like Marc Davis would enjoy the current Pacific themed Disney properties, including Moana, and I feel like this story falls into their traditions.

Jason Grandt Orange Bird Variant Cover

Enchanted Tiki Room #1 is not a Jungle Cruise story.  Though it is really funny!  I could easily see a Skipper point out the back side of water to any of the visitors to this far away island.  I just wonder who the last mystery visitor is!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Between Books - Star Wars Poe Dameron: Black Squadron

My impression of comics writer Charles Soule is he is solid.  He writes good stories, but not really what I would call outstanding ones.  Though I have really enjoyed some of his runs, like She-Hulk.  But up until a few weeks ago I would have found him an odd mix for something in the Star Wars galaxy.  Soule's a superhero guy I would have proclaimed.  Then a few weeks ago I introduced myself to his Letter 44 independent title, which is a deep character story based within a science fiction world with a great twist.  So maybe his inclusion in the Marvel Star Wars properties was a better match than I imagined.

Star Wars Poe Dameron: Black Squadron by Charles Soule with art by Phil Noto appears to take pilot Poe Dameron up to the opening of Star Wars The Force Awakens.  General Leia Organa tasks Dameron with keeping vital information away from the First Order, by finding it first.  He is assigned finding Lor San Tekka who has information about the location of the General's missing brother Luke Skywalker.  To complete his task, Dameron recruits his own squadron made up of pilots that are more family than friends including Snap Wexley.  Dameron's search for Lor San Tekka takes his Black Squadron to isolated settlements and intergalactic prisons.  To make his task even more difficult, Dameron is challenged along the way by First Order intelligence officer Agent Terex and a mole within the Resistance relaying information about Black Squadron's objectives!

I really enjoyed Star Wars Poe Dameron: Black Squadron.  I found Soule's story to be solid and often riveting, especially on the prison planet!  And Noto's art is solid with me believing that Dameron, Wexley, L'ulo and others were the Resistance fighters we saw on the big screen.  In many ways this story is great because it gives Dameron and his team more screen time then they got in the movie.  So while readers may feel like they know Wexley from other books, this really gives us an insight to these personalities as we get to watch Dameron for example lead, including pilots much older than him, and scheme in order to achieve his mission.

If I was going to make one complaint I would ask this title be renamed Star Wars Poe Dameron and BB-8. I do love how in literary offerings that Dameron always calls out to BB-8 as Beebee-Ate!  It really feels like a great extension to the films with Dameron drawing out his name.  But again, fan favorite BB-8 is as much of a partner than any member of the squadron.  And while he may give too many thumbs up, he is fun, interesting and always engaging on the screen even if his panels are often only filled with beeps and clicks instead of narrative.  In many ways that is a tribute to Soule and Noto that wordless pages still feel weighty to the story!

I was nervous about Star Wars Poe Dameron: Black Squadron but now I am thrilled to know that more volumes of Poe Dameron's comic adventures are on their way, I had the impression this was a limited series.  I loved getting to see Dameron do more than sit in a cockpit but be a Resistance leader in action.  And Marvel gives Dameron the screen time fans hoped he could have.  For those who read across the entire Marvel library of titles, there are even connections to other titles that help show you the story at another moment!  Honestly, this is another fine contribution to the Marvel Star Wars library.