Monday, July 21, 2014

Between Books - Disney's Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz

As a people leader both in my professional and personal life I am always looking to hone my skills.  But I prefer to read books that provide lessons with hooks tied to things I care about like for example Disney parks.  And I have been lucky enough to stumble on Between Books that provided leadership and business lessons and used these teachings in my own leadership.  But something I had not stumbled upon yet was a book with lessons found in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz by J. Jeff Kober provides a leadership tour of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Kober walks his readers through the Florida theme park, providing a description of attractions and landmarks and then building out principles that can be applied to leadership.  All of the short chapters start with a physical location within Disney’s Hollywood Studios which is supported with a tale from that location or one of its real life connections.  Many chapters have extra details called out in bold text for the reader to linger on.  And every chapter ends with at least four questions for the reader to reflect on to help one better incorporate the lesson into their own life.

I started this volume thinking I was not going to be learning, just reading.  Instead on page four I went into a discussion of wayfinding, providing visual clues to help users find their way.  And this was following on page five with service netting, putting nets in place to help customers before they can make a mistake.  And I found myself thinking through how and if my own business unit had service nets and which ones we could put in place.  And Kober had not even left the parking lot.  So I was impressed early that I still had much to learn in leadership and business, and Kober could teach it to me.  I am guessing that many readers may be able to escape the parking lot and get into the park before stumbling on new information.  But it impressed me early that Kober was going to provide most readers with new tools for their business life.

Though the stories all start within the park, many leave the park quickly.  However, when Kober’s supporting stories leave Disney’s Hollywood Studios they are tied into the location discussed within the park.  For example, the discussion of Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage is followed by  a discussion that includes the history of Beauty and the Beast stage show and providing dynamic products, for extra details did you know Hugh Jackman played Gaston on stage in Australia?  The chapter on One Man’s Dream discusses success through disappointment and shines the light on Walt Disney’s life to show how perseverance can overcome obstacles.   These Disney ties will keep the attention of Disney fans looking to improve their business acumen.  

I don’t always read business books, but when I do I really really hope they include Disney!  J. Jeff Kober  in Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz provides a context that Disney fans will enjoy to improve their leadership and business skills, much like he did in Lessons from Epcot.  And his highlighting of an under appreciated park helps provide a fresh Disney context from which we can learn from.  

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mousey Movie Preview - Big Hero 6's First Trailer

Disney has released the first trailer for Big Hero 6.  Give it a glance to see if it gets you pumped for this superhero animated release.

Here are my general thoughts.  

First, lately Disney trailers have disappointed me.  And this is true especially for the early ones.  This trailer is okay but it does not make me want to run out and see this now.

Second, the tape gag is funny.  I am just hoping that is not the funnest part of the movie.

Third, as several have pointed out why are they not making it clear this is a Marvel property?

At the moment I am all hands on deck for Guardians of the Galaxy.  The same cannot be said for the live action little brother.  But I am still willing to be won over.  And since it is Disney, Marvel and superheros I would go if it was paint drying for 90 minutes!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Between Books - Space Mountain

I love Disney attractions!

I love comic books!

So yes let us take one of my all-time favorite roller coasters and turn it into a all-ages space comic adventure!

Space Mountain by Bryan Q. Miller and illustrated by Kelley Jones tells the story of two very different kids, Stella Marci and Thomas Ford, who win a trip to travel through time one day into the future with the crew of the Moonliner 7!  Of course anytime you include kids, trouble pops up and their trip changes all of time and makes their world a much different and darker place.  The kids have to find a way to free themselves from Space Mountain and travel through time to free the crew of the Moonliner 7 and restore their timeline.

In general, I enjoyed Space Mountain.  Bryan D. Miller's story is all-ages, so it is not overly complex or gritty but even as an adult you get the feeling that the stakes are high.  I found the kids to be the types of figures you would find in a Disney movie with Stella being brainy and by the book and Thomas being surprising smart but coloring outside the lines.  I feel like this is a story that one could easily hand to a kid, especially one who loves Space Mountain, and let their imagination grow as they see the familiar dome featured prominently on the cover.  However, I do find that I like Figment just a little bit more than this adventure (Between Books have ISBN numbers in general while Cap's Comics are single issues). And the Between Tween gave it a try but did not make it past the first ten pages.  But to be fair, the Between Tween is a hard grader on comics. 

It is easy for the Disney fan to enjoy this story visually.  Jones gives us very familiar images with first and foremost being Space Mountain floating outside a black hole as the base of time travel operations.  And for added fun we even get glimpses of Disneyland Paris' Space Mountain.  Though  I will admit  I do not personally see Space Mountain as a building not a space station so it floating in space threw me at times.  Along with Space Mountain, the main vessel is the Moonliner and it is the Orbitron that makes time travel possible.  And I do swear one building could have come right out of Tron.  And we also get references to Progress City and Tomorrowland to make Disney fanboys cheer.  The only real change I would request is that the Starchaser ships have a more blunt nose to make me think of Space Mountain ride vehicles more often.

Space Mountain already has a sequel in the works.  And this is good since the title left some unanswered questions!  Yes, I do plan to grab this next title.  But what I would really like to see is Disney try to sell you this graphic novel as you leave your favorite space port!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dreaming Disney - Leaked Star Wars Episode VII Set Footage (Not)

The Between Wife stumbled on this footage of "leaked" Star Wars Episode VII footage.

Give it a quick minute of your time! 

Okay, clearly not real.  But it imaginative and fun!  And I would rather see fans create something like this than leaking photos to TMZ!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Between Books - Funny Animals and More

Sometimes you think you just cannot learn more.  When you think this you will always be wrong.  Funny Animals and More: From Anime to Zoomorphics is an animation book that has opened my mind to a whole new type of animation.  And as I talked about this book with others I was amazed to discover how many people enjoy this new to me style.

Funny Animals and More: From Anime to Zoomorphics collects the writings of anime, manga and animation expert Fred Patten.  The book presents a number of essays adapted from Patten’s writings at  The book opens with a discussion of history of Japanese anime fandom in the United States.  This is followed by a detailed discussion of several varieties of Japanese anime offerings including summaries of key programs general content.  After the detailed discussion of anime, Patten touches on a number of other animation topics including Walt Disney and racism, the Indian animation industry, the use of Olympic mascots, and anecdotes from Patten’s life.  

The text is based on Patten’s blog posts.  Most of the time one cannot tell that much of the content was presented online in an earlier form.  There are times where mentions of YouTube videos are made where one can assume the original video was included in the post or at least linked.  But this is rarely distracting.  And it shows the advantage of online publishing so readers can immediately access the video references.  The text is mostly clear (I will explain in a moment) and easily accessible to the reader.

Much of the content within this text is completely new to me.  And it has a vocabulary that is clearly second hand to Patten and other anime fans.  I did have to reread a few paragraphs and google a term or two, such as OAV (Original Animation Video).  This did mean that there were pages that my eye did not skip quickly over as I was challenged to better understand the content and a whole new world of animation that I did not know.

And that is where the book really benefits the Disney fan.  It serves as an introduction for many Disney fans to a new type of animation, and do we not generally claim some expertise in this area.  Patten widens your mind.  I had heard of Sailor Moon, but until now I had no idea what the story was.  For me it was the introduction to other anime titles that I found really interesting.  The idea of a space train in Ginga Teusudo Three-Nine (Galaxy Express 999) sounded really interesting to me, and made we wish that it was something I had stumbled on earlier.  And Patten gave me a better understanding to Super-Sentai genre which allowed me to have a real conversation on this subject with a friend for the first time.  What has amazed me the most, since I talk to others about the books I read, is the number of anime fans that exist in my life.  

This is not primarily a Disney book but a specialized animation history focusing on anime.  But there are still at least three references to Disney topics in the book.  One essay includes a discussion of Walt Disney and charges of racism against him.  And there is a review of the history of development of a Reynard the Fox feature where the Disney the company is heavily featured.  And the Reynard essay did leave me asking the question wondering when we will see a Disney version of this animal story. 

Funny Animals and More: From Anime to Zoomorphics by Fred Patten has opened a whole new world to me.  As a comic fan, animation fan and Disney fan I thought I understood the full landscape of animation.  Now after Mr. Patten has introduced me to one aspect that I was blind to, I wonder what else is still out there for me to discover.  

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press

Friday, July 4, 2014

Cap's Comics - Figment #2

Would you like a copy of Figment #2.  If you do, good luck.  Marvel was sold out to retailers before the issue even hit the stands.  At least Figment #1 did not officially sell out until after its release date. Both issues are currently being reprinted, so you do have hope if you did not snag a copy yet.  I personally noticed that a major online retailer sold out before the release date.  I called my local comic shop which always has plenty of everything in stock, and found out they were done to one copy!  So I made the comic book lover step getting myself a pull list for the first time, and at the top is anything from Disney Kingdoms (Disney please take notice). Last month I had picked up copies for non-comics readers.  This month they were on their own!

Blarion Mercurial and Figment are falling.  Mercurial's attempt to turn mental power into reusable energy has instead ripped a hole in reality, and the two are falling, falling, falling.  The pair begin to explore this land that they reached through the power of imagination.  Meanwhile in London, Chairman Illocrant attempts to bring order to Mercurial's Integrated Mesmonic Converter, but something climbs out of the hole that our heroes fell through.  Meanwhile, back in the strange new land Mercurial and Figment make new friends and perhaps enemies.

Overall, this is an adventure story.  Our heroes explore and discover.  And the best part is that exploration includes Figment's infectious attitude.  He loves learning.  He loves this new place.  He finds it fascinating as everything is completely new in his short three day life.  How exciting it would be if we could capture some of his spirit.  I am not a Figment fanboy but I am digging him.  With Mercurial, I do not feel like he is Dreamfinder yet.  While Figment is curious, Mercurial is a little afraid.  He seems too conservative, perhaps the Chairman's desire for order is impacting him?  And if I could guess I would say a battle between order and chaos (or imagination) is coming.  And I am already picking my side.

There is a really cool element to this story that things that you cannot see have power and create imagination.  It is imagination that created Figment, and he is very alive.  He is more alive than many of us are!  But another peoples in this strange new land can create also with something that you cannot see but with a skill that most of us have.  Sometimes you do not need material to make matter! 

The Between Tween loves this.  The Tween was attracted to Figment and he was the Tween's in character. The Tween identified with Figment not understanding big words and the spirit of optimism. But best of all  I am reading and discussing a comic with one of my kids.  And it was the Tween who was most nervous that we would not get a copy of this issue!

This is getting crazy, this Jim Zub story has to be sold at Epcot!  It only makes sense.  Kids meet Figment on the ride and get to take his origin home with him.  I am not holding out for a Museum of the Weird addition to the Haunted Mansions after Disney Kingdoms Seekers of the Weird, but this comic and its popularity has to lead to some serious consideration to get Dreamfinder added back to the park.  Kids come, ride, read and then want to come back to meet their heroes.  Now this is a plan I could see happen!

I really hope Disney is storyboarding a sequel, because this is a hit.  And one of Disney's toughest collectibles to get hands on is a comic.  You cannot buy it in the parks.  You might be able to find it in your local comic shop.  Okay I am sure that you can find it on Ebay.  But as a comics and Disney fan this is what I have been waiting for, a Disney comic home run!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Between Books - Who's the Leader of the Club?

As I have dove deep into Disney books over the last several years it has become clear that many readers and writers would like to distill what made Walt Disney an effective learner. Typically these books come from the viewpoint of writers starting from an educational or business foundation.  But Jim Korkis has added to the debate using his vast knowledge of Disney history to distill principles found in Walt Disney's historical success.

In Who's the Leader of the Club: Walt Disney's Leadership Lessons historian Jim Korkis presents seven lessons of leadership based on Walt Disney's life.  He starts with brief discussions of who Walt Disney was and what type of leadership he displayed.  He also provides a summary of the differences between a leader and a manager contrasting Walt and Roy O. Disney.  Korkis then includes his seven lessons that include an emphasis on story, a concern with those you lead and most of all integrity.  Following the seven lessons, Korkis discusses aspects of Walt Disney's bad leadership, letting people go, developing other leaders and additional principles that can be seen in Disney's life.  Along with the main text, Korkis has sprinkled into his chapters quotes from Walt Disney, summarys of the principles being examined, and stories that underscore the principle being taught.

Again, I have several Between Books that are Disney business lessons.  But this book really struck a chord with me quickly.  It was Korkis' emphasis of story in the principles that caught my attention as a Disney fan.  But this story is not Immagineering's well crafted fantasy.  No, this story is the story that one creates as a leader and how one leads their life.  Korkis makes it clear that Walt was not the easiest of leaders to work for, but his people remain loyal to him decades after his death.  Much of this has to do with the simple fact that Disney believed what he said and acted with integrity.  He lived a good story.  And for us to be good leaders we must behave in a way consistent with the messages that we distribute to craft our own good narrative.

I really appreciate the fact that Korkis did not present Disney as an infallible leader.  The chapter on Walt Disney's mistakes is honest, frank and reminds us all that even great leaders have blind spots.  For example, Walt spared his praise to his staff.  Yes, he had reasons why he believed he should not easily handout verbal praise.  But as Korkis points out that could lead to resentment.  Korkis does not paint a picture of man who embodied all successful leadership standards.  Instead Korkis show a man who we can mirror in some areas, improve on others and perhaps acknowledge in yet others that we ourselves have problems.

I myself am a people leader, one who uses Walt Disney's example too much in my daily work life.  My team is very familiar with the yes if principle (Korkis, 88).  But sadly for my team Who's the Leader of the Club? has only reinforced my use of story language in my work life, as I will continue to remind those who work with me we have a great story to tell.  And having a great story really worked out well for Walt Disney!  

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press