Friday, May 13, 2016

Dreaming Disney - Creating Disney Magic

Over the last year or so, Lee Cockerell’s Creating Disney Magic: Lessons in Leadership, Management, and Customer Service podcast has become a Tuesday morning priority for me.  The podcast opens with host Jody Maberry setting up Cockerell, a former Disney executive, to discuss business topics that come from Maberry or even the listening audience.  The topics covered are diverse ranging from leadership to customer service to using data to time management.  In short, if there is a topic that could be useful to a professional working adult it is likely they will talk about it.  for those of us with a whimsical side, Cockerell discusses these items in the very serious Disney business setting  along with his background in hotel management.  Along with these topics, Cockerell provides a very honest appraisal of his own struggles as a leader and as a human being.

Integrity and common sense are really the words that come to mind when I think of Lee Cockerell.  And these qualities make this show essential listening to me.  I find that I not only listen on a weekly basis but also will search the archive for specific work issues that myself and others are facing in the workplace.  And the reason this is a must listen is due to Cockerell.  His answers typically provide an outlook that relies on common sense, being a person of integrity, and treating others fairly.  This is not cut throat business advice, this is advice for people.   He often makes it clear that a leader has to foster development in even poorly performing employees and that caring for people is really a core function of a leader.  The Disney background gives Disney fans a background that helps understanding.  Though honestly I have sent episodes to plenty of non-Disney fanatics and they still found these episodes highly useful.

Creating Disney Magic:Lessons in Leadership, Management, and Customer Service is probably one of my top three podcasts.  It is informative, educational, honest and short.  It attracted me through the door due to my interest in Disney history and business developments.  But I stay due to Cockerell’s reliable professional and personal development life!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Between Books - Black Widow: Forever Red

After reading Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket and Groot Steal the Galaxy and reading a Red Widow short comic story in Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary #1,  I thought another Marvel prose book and another Red Widow story was a combination I wanted nothing to do with.  It seemed like the anti peanut butter and chocolate combination.  And throw in the fact that the newest Marvel prose book was Young Adult fiction, really meant  Black Widow: Forever Red had not chance with me.  But I decided it was my duty to at least borrow the book from the library.  Though I doubted that it would be worth the time needed to read it.  Would my assumptions prove correct?

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl introduces us to Ava Orlova, a Russian girl, saved by Black Widow from Ivan Somodorov, the same monster who trained Natasha Romanoff at the Red Room as a child assassin.  After her rescue where she expected to be bonding with her red headed hero, Ava was dropped off in the United States by Natasha at a S.H.I.E.L.D facility never to hear from her rescuer again, she thought.  Ava runs away and strikes out on her own.  But she is haunted by dreams of a boy and his life.  Ava runs into the dream boy, Alex Manor at a fencing tourney at just the moment Black Widow reenters Ava's life.  But sadly for the teens, Ivan Somodorov is also attempting to recapture Ava and exploit her special relationship with Black Widow.  The international adventure the three charge into reveals secrets about all three heroes as they attempt to stop Somodorov from using his last Red Room experiment from gaining influence on the world's governments.

Here let me cut the suspense.  I really enjoyed Black Widow: Forever Red.  I found the new teen characters to be interesting and I wanted to know more about their backgrounds and struggles.  I understood Ava's resentment at Natasha Romanoff for abandoning her to S.H.I.E.LD., but I also understand why Black Widow kept her distance from a girl who looked like and had a background similar to her.  Alex is sprinkled in as the apparent normal teen pulled into the world of spies and secrets.  But Alex also is more than what he seems.  Finally, Stohl made me suitably tense by placing transcripts of a Line-Of-Duty Death Investigation between chapters.  As a reader I knew someone died, but if it was a hero or villain...well that took time to be revealed.

Additionally, the book is one that Marvel Cinematic Universe fans are likely to enjoy.  The books features Agent Phil Coulson as along with Tony Stark supporting the Black Widow in her investigations.   And the transcripts feel like the Natasha Romanoff from Captain America: Civil War in her tone and attitude.  So even if this book is not part of the MCU, it does lack the logo so its inclusion is not really confirmed to me, it is fully in the spirit of the cinematic offerings. And MCU fans are sure to feel at home in these pages. 

I enjoyed Black Widow: Forever Red as both a book fan and a Marvel fan.  My assumptions were truly turned on their head as I found Ava to be more interesting than her earlier appearance in a short comic story.  And unlike the earlier prose contribution, the story was engaging, full of interesting characters and a very enjoyable read.  Now I just hope that we might see more prose stories from Marvel when before I felt as if they were not needed.  And I would be more than happy if Stohl took a turn at writing the next prose title. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Between Books - Window on Main Street

As I look through my wishlists there have been a few books that have eluded me. Frustration about this often mounts as I read other Between Books which reference these volumes. One such book is Window on Main Street: 35 year of Creating Happiness at Disneyland Park by Van Arsdale France. So it definitely felt magical when a new edition of this book was listed, finally making the book something I could add to my shelves.

Window on Main Street: 35 year of Creating Happiness at Disneyland Park by Van Arsdale France is the Disney Legend’s memoir outlining his years with Disney from before the opening of Disneyland into the 1980s. France details not just his role as a training expert for Disney, being brought into Disney by friend C.V. Wood during park construction. Along with training new staff for Walt Disney’ park, France outlines literally helping to build the road to the park…sometimes with beer. After the departure of C.V. Wood, France would eventually follow his sponsor to new parks. After a few years of being outside of the berm his former employee Dick Nunis would recruit the organizational expert back to Disneyland. Upon his return, he outlines a number of key projects including the creation of Disney University, training cast members after the death of Walt Disney, training for the opening of new parks including Walt Disney World, and fighting to stay out of retirement while working at the Disneyland that he invested so much of his life to.

Theme Park Press is the publisher of this new edition. And it is really a new book in many ways. The publisher did not reprint the book as previously offered, but instead chose to publish the longer original manuscript. And personally I like the idea of being to see more of the late France’s thoughts and observations. So I really like this book and am thrilled it is no longer a dream to own of copy.

One of the biggest takeaways for me was that Van Arsdale France was more than a trainer. Before Disneyland opened along with training he was also serving as a liaison between the Highway Patrol and road construction crews. Sure we have heard stories from cast like Bob Gurr that make it clear that staff did new and different things as the needs of the park demanded it. But I read France’s experiences and see an corporate executive who is training cast, overseeing construction and in some case serving as a publicity director to key groups. It was a big and varied portfolio. To make his career even more varied he took on other jobs including area supervisor, at least temporarily. It was truly a varied Disney career and not as focuses as I believed.

We also get to see his thoughts on other key Disney personalities. I cannot think of many books of inside Disney staff who discuss the key role of C.V. Wood. France was a Wood protégé in many ways and paints a realistic yet favorable picture of a man that Disney history often forgets. Additionally, we get to see much of Dick Nunis, a man that France hired and would eventually hire him. It is clear that France admired Nunis, and anyone who would think to deny it should examine the book’s picture inclusions.

Window on Main Street: 35 year of Creating Happiness at Disneyland Park
by Van Arsdale France is a book I am thrilled to have on my shelf! Disneyland and Disney history fans will find this to be a must have title, especially since they have wanted it for years. And Van Arsdale France and his friendly but honest recollections will not disappoint as he tells of strikes, Yippies and more.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Cap's Comics - Figment 2 #3

All is lost.  The Dreamfinder is gone!  And in his place is the Doubtfinder has taken his body.  Figment goes on the run and finds himself a new dreamer, the formerly introduced Capri, who not only wishes to enter the school made famous by Blair Mercurial but also has a secondary connection.  Capri and Figment attack the Academy Scientifica-Lucidus to face-off against the Doubtfinder, finding a new ally on the way. 

John Tyler Christopher Action Figure Variant
Figment 2 #3 is the passing of the dreaming torch.  Dreamfinder is lost, and a new Dreamfinder is needed.  In this case Capri steps forward giving us a payoff to her earlier introductions.  And this young lady has a spark of adventure  merged with her dreaming.  She is truly a fine heir to Blair Mercurial which is made even better by the fact that she's not giving up on the original dreamer yet!

Jim Zub as writer continues to build the fun of dreaming and captures the spirit of the Dreamfinder character even while passing the torch onto a new hero.  Ramon Bachs includes some great Easter Eggs, including the redecoration of the Academy with some images that will delight Disney animation fans.  

Figment 2 continues to be fun adventurous all-ages adventure.  The use of Capri puts a strong female dreamer into the front of the story, but even young boys can cheer for this hero.  The story, while also being all-ages, is also dark and action-packed.  But one must remember while still in darkness there is hope and perhaps doubt can be overcome! 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Between Books - Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago....Volume 4

I do love me some Star Wars!  I have to thank Disney for buying LucasFilm and reinvigorating the franchise.  And one of my favorite parts of this renewal is taking the time to look back at the Marvel Star Wars material from my childhood.  

Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago....Volume 4 reprints Marvel's original Star Wars issues 68 to 85 and King-Size Annual #3.  The majority of the stories are set between Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.  Luke, Leia and Lando split their time between missions to find Han's frozen body and track down a Rebel agent with important information, could it be about a new super weapon?  The three are continually on the run from bounty hunters, the Empire and aliens a plenty.  But really the stories serve to fill the time between the two movies.  This is followed by the Return of the Jedi adaptation and the return of writer Archie Goodwin and artist Al Williamson.  In the wake of the movie readers witness the Rebels attempting to make efforts to legitimize their new government, Han attempting to make a fortune for himself to win over a certain princess, the "return" of Boba Fett and more.  

I have several thoughts, but my biggest one is I continue to love this material.  

In the pages of the Marvel comic before Return of the Jedi, Leia wears a bikini.  And a young alien has a reaction similar to young Between Disney when he saw it later.  And the fact I got to witness this is a comic, before the movie came out, simply made me snicker like a school boy.  

The highlight is the return of Goodwin and Williamson.  Their combination of art and writing really did create a classic.  And I loved seeing Marvel bringing them back for what was truly a very special event.  I have also come to enjoy the writing of Jo Duffy who wrote the majority of his volume.  Between her work her and Power-Man and Iron Fist, Duffy shows her skill as a writer.  She developed stories that fans wanted to see, like the return of Boba Fett, perhaps before they knew they wanted them.  And you really have to give her credit for taking on what could be seen as two losing battles, filling the time between movies and determining what was next in Star Wars before there was an Expanded Universe.  We really should hear more about this important writer, a women who was writing a male centric comic book in the 1980s!  And while her work is not canon any longer, it is fun and does truly deserve the heading of "Legends".  It is a title I think we should give her also. 

I love the out of print, but still available digitally, Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago...Volume 4.  The stories and art are a piece of my childhood which I love revisiting now as I share new Star Wars with the Between Kids.  I can truly say I enjoyed reading every page of the volume!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Between Books - Disneyland Secrets

My first Between Book was a parks fact book. And I wonder sometimes if this type of book is exhausted within the book market since I have read many of them. Would I be able to find room for another fun fact parks book on my shelf?

Disneyland Secrets by Gavin Doyle is a land by land reading tour than Disneyland.  Doyle takes his readers through each land giving us fun and interesting facts about Disneyland Park.  Each page is basically one themed fact with varying detail that all fits on one page.  The font is big and easy to read which makes it an easy book to read and honestly easy to give to an upper elementary reader.

Honestly, I was taken off guard.  There were several new to me facts that I found on these pages.  These ranged from cash values for paper tickets, the C-3PO at Star Tours - The Adventure Continues, half painted lights, the Kimball family still working the Disneyland Railroad and several more.  These type of facts are the ones that catch my attention.  I find them both interesting because they are in my favorite areas of Disneyland.  And I find them instructive because despite the amount I read on the park I still had not stumbled on yet.

Disneyland Secrets is an easy to read fact book.  Honestly, I can see dropping it into a backpack to help entertain a kid while waiting in lines.  Another easy use in the park would be to get a Kindle version and read from a phone while waiting in lines.  For the new to Disneyland guest there will be plenty to talk about and learn about the park.  For the experience veteran they will be pleased to find new fact nuggets.  In the end, both types of guests should have a good time. 

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Between Books - Everything I Know I Learned from Disney Animated Features

Jim Korkis gives his spin to Disney animation history in Everything I Know I Learned from Disney Animated Feature Films: Advice for Living Happily Every After.  Korkis provides readers with a chapter for all 54 current Disney animated films from Snow White to Big Hero 6.  Every chapter provides the reader with a summary of the movie, five facts and four quotes.  The facts include a number of new to me facts and the quotes tend to be ones that challenge readers in contemplation not just the popular most known lines.  

I am honestly a little disappointed with this offering.  When I saw the title, I thought the book would be an animation companion to Korkis' Who's the Leader of the Club, where life lessons would be strongly connected to each film.  But really the text is closer to a statement on the cover "A Disney Historian FUN FACT Book" as the quotes and facts really are not accompanied by much commentary.  A slight re-titling of the book could help readers to understand the book's contents and value.  The book offers the sort of facts that one has come to expect from Korkis in interviews and articles.  And therefore, the facts are at times truly fun and often engaging.  

Korkis fans will definitely want to pick up a copy of Everything I Know I Learned from Disney Animated Feature Films.  But for most Disney fans or those interested casually in animation history I would recommend a Kindle edition.  The chapters are short, and easy to jump in and out of.  So it can be a filler time read.  But for those wishing to improve or grow by being directly lead through the material, perhaps another book will come in the future from Korkis.

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press