Friday, December 30, 2011

Dreaming Disney – Once Upon a Time

Have you been watching ABC’s Once Upon a Time?  The Between Family has been since it premiered this fall.  What got our attention was familiar Disney characters in a new light.  And the concept of these fairy tale characters in our world has been an interest to me since I first picked up the comic book series Fables.  In fact, what I really wanted was a live action adaption of Fables and I still secretly (okay very openly) want it.
In Once Upon a Time the Evil Queen curses the kingdom on the day of Snow White’s and Prince Charming’s wedding.  She tells them they will be sent “someplace horrible.”  It is discovered that only their unborn child Emma will be able to break the curse the Queen has placed on them.  The curse strikes on the day of Emma’s birth and she is safely placed within a wardrobe built by Geppetto as the Queen’s curse strikes.  28 years later in our world, a young lady named Emma meets her son Henry who she gave up for adoption 10 years ago.  Henry insists that she is the key to breaking the curse on his hometown of Storybrooke, Maine.  Storybrooke is a town that Henry insists is filled with people who are unknowingly fairy tale characters.  And Henry believes his adopted mother is in fact the Evil Queen.  Henry convinces Emma to stay, to Henry’s mother’s disdain.  Viewers are told the story through action in Storybrooke and flashback to the fairy tale world.  We follow along with Emma as she wonders if Henry is telling the truth or is trying to escape reality.
Anyone familiar with Disney princesses will feel comfortable with this ABC, making it Disney, weekly live action tale.  Snow White and Prince Charming are major characters, with the curse being directed at them and their daughter being the key to destroying the curse.  Additionally, the Evil Queen is the major, though maybe not only, bad guy.  To be honest, we all know that Snow White and Prince Charming should live happily ever after.  The fact that in Storybrooke they are separated creates a tension in their story that does not exist in the classic film.  The Evil Queen is as bad as any Disney fan could hope her to be.  The Huntsman also makes an appearance, telling his back story in one of my favorite episodes to date.  And I have not even mentioned the Magic Mirror.  The producers and writers are clearly relying on Disney tradition in their story from dwarfs named Grumpy to keepsake boxes that take us back to the Walt Disney’s first animated feature.  

Snow White’s tale is not the only tale making up the foundation of the series.  Pinocchio is heavily represented.  Jiminy Cricket is Henry’s therapist Archie Hopper.  Hopper’s best friend is Gepetto.  And I have to say that the Jiminy Cricket flashbacks are highly satisfying and enjoyable.  Archie has a pet Dalmatian named Pongo for fans of The Hundred and One Dalmatians.  The Pongo reference is clearly a tribute to Disney animated features as he is not a traditional fairy tale character.  The Blue Fairy is also seen in fairy tale flashbacks.      
Other Disney characters weave themselves throughout the show.  Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty appears in a flashback and is key to the curse.   Cinderella’s story has been explored in an episode.  Episodes in 2012 promise Belle and the Beast and Aladdin focused stories.  Yes, this is a series that will make Disney fans very happy.
Not all of the foundational tales of this series comes from Disney.  There are non-Disneyfied fairy tales characters like Rumplestiltskin who have major roles.  And it is fun, like with Fables, to see them on our world also.    
Between Disney you find what you can to connect to your Disney experiences.  For the Between Family, Once Upon a Time is a tool that we have added to our arsenal.  Everyone in this family enjoys spending time together as we watch familiar stories emerge in new and interesting ways.  For me the Huntsman centered episode sealed the deal, we are hooked.  And I look forward to seeing if the curse will be lifted and if so how the story will be continued.     

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mousey Movies - Bedtime Stories

Christmas 2008 was to be an important moment in the life of the Between Family.  We were not traveling across Between Disney for the first time ever and were going to spending Christmas at home.  As part of my master plan the family was to go see Disney’s new Adam Sandler movie Bedtime Stories.  I was so excited for this family film that I was sure would please almost everyone in the family.  The idea of Adam Sandler’s Skeeter telling his niece and nephew bedtime stories that came to life was something I really wanted to see. 
We got the desired family time in 2008.  We all got so so so sick.  Everyone laid around the house for the entire day watching Disney movies and trying to recover.  And we waited until Bedtime Stories came out on DVD that spring to watch it.  Still because of the 2008 Christmas plan not to be, I will also associate this movie with Christmas. 
Bedtime Stories is very clearly a Sanderly movie (yes, another made up word).  It’s filled with co-stars familiar to anyone who has seen an Adam Sandler movie including Rob Schneider, Allen Covert and Jonathan Loughran.  But it’s also a very Mousey Movie with plenty of Disney references for fans.
·    Skeeter’s niece and nephew’s first exposure to television includes The Suite Life of Zack and Cody on the Disney Channel
·    Skeeter’s first bedtime story portrays him as a knight.  Keri Russell’s character Jill in the story is seen as a Tinker Bell like fairy and an Ariel like mermaid.  In the same tale Guy Pearce’s Sir Butkiss claims he can get admirers tickets to The Lion King.
·    Actress Teresa Palmer pays potential Skeeter love interest Violet Nottingham.  Palmer can also be seen in Disney’s 2010 The Sorcerer’s Apprentice which was inspired by the classic animated film Fantasia.
·    Actress Aisha Taylor plays Donna a former girlfriend from Skeeter’s past and the mayor.  She’s used to being in authority having played Mother Nature in both The Santa Clause 2 and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
·    In one dream sequence, Skeeter and Jill are seen dressed as Prince Charming and Cinderella. 
·    The best Mousey moment involves Skeeter’s space themed bedtime story.  As he fights Guy Pearce’s character in an arena within a Death Star shaped space station a familiar face sits in the crowd.  Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear joins the audience in taking in this pivotal battle.
Image Credit:
For me Bedtime Stories has the feel for Christmas.   You may not agree, but you have to admit that it is also one Mousey Movie!     

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dreaming Disney Special - The Night Before Christmas

May you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays.

Here is Disney's 1933 Silly Symphony "The Night Before Christmas" for you to enjoy from YouTube user CensoredSmiffy.

May you all enjoy this day and tomorrow with family and loved ones.  If you be Disney Adjacent or like us Between Disney!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dreaming Disney - Stormtrooper Snowflakes

I love Disney.
I love the holiday season.
And I love Star Wars.
All three of these topics bring back some of my best childhood memories.  For me at Christmas the toy I usually wanted was Star Wars related.  And thanks to Star Tours and Star Tours 2: The Adventure Continues, Disney and Star Wars will always be linked for me.
The “Matters of Grey” blog has a great way to work Star Wars into your winter holidays with Star Wars Snowflakes.
They offer 10 printable templates that include Yoda, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and more.
I took a crack at Darth Vader to help garnish some Star Wars Christmas cookies I took to work.
In my first attempt, I created a Cyclops.  One co-worker called it a Battlestar Galactica Cylon. 
Part of my problem was my tools.  With scissors only I could not get the cuts I needed.  I tried a second time with a knife, a dull knife.  The results were questionable, but good enough to claim Darth Vader, even though I forgot a few cuts.

A friend made a Stormtrooper. 
Stormtroper Snowflakes
Clearly this was a success, the key was an Exacto knife to get the desired cuts.   If my buddy and I can pull this off so can you!  It’s not like we have mad cutting skills. 
Enjoy your winter holidays Between Disney, and don’t cut yourself!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dreaming Disney - Your Hometown Holiday Touring Plan

The North Pole's Kitchen

Santa's Workshop
Recently the Between Family adventured into Minneapolis for some holiday fun.  We took in the “A Day in the Life of an Elf” display at Macy’s which included a family visit with Santa, followed by a visit to the puppet theater to see “Moose Crossing” a 25 minute show that includes familiar Disney voices in Julie Andrews and Walter Cronkite.  And finally the evening was capped with the Holidazzle holiday parade.  As our night progressed, I looked over at Mrs. Between Disney and said, “our Disney touring skills have come in handy tonight.”  Here are the principles that helped us have a highly successful night.     
·        Have a Plan: Mrs. Between Disney is a planning genius.  She had setup a basic plan for our trip and how we could see everything downtown with the least amount of crying possible (by me).  To be honest, without the plan the evening probably would not have been the pure fun we experienced. 
·        Arrive Early: Previous trips to take in the Macy’s display before the parade ran us into Touring Plans Crowd Calendar like 10s where you can’t see the floor in front of you.  To take care of this problem, we made sure not to attempt to an immediate pre-parade viewing.  Instead we journeyed downtown at a time in the afternoon most would see as too early.  The result, we walked right into the “A Day in the Life of an Elf” display and were able to take it in at a more leisurely pace they we have in the past.  Because we were early when it was time to lineup for the parade we had seats in the front row.
·        Use a Runner: This winter is unusually warm, but watching the Holidazzle parade outside in Minnesota in December still requires coats, hats and gloves.  Instead of carrying our gear with us throughout the day, we left our coats and extra gear in the car until it was needed.  As we got ready to setup for our parade viewing spot I (the Between Family designated runner) grabbed our coats and blankets allowing the rest of the family to finish a quick supper. 
·        Accept Opportunity: Sometimes opportunity knocks and if you have room in your plan, take it.  Our plan gave us time to do other things that we could have never done if we arrived with the rest of the crowd.  By not being in a line with everyone else in Minnesota we could take in the puppet show.  And as we came out the line was short enough for “A Day in the Life of an Elf” that we took the opportunity to walk through again.  As we exited the second time we saw crowds, lines, and switchbacks that would have made Walt Disney World’s Peter Pan’s Flight queue proud. 
·        Prepare the Kids: We wanted fun, not tears.  So we made sure to pack snacks and toys for when we did have to wait.  And it worked like a charm.  In the end we did still buy two light swords from pre-parade vendors.  But they were priced less than similar Disney toys and the effects you can pull off with these swords are pretty awesome. 
·        Family Time is the Best Time: Why do I love Disney parks?  Because it is family time.  So keep in mind while you’re experiencing a Between Disney event to allow what makes your Disney time special invade your moment.
It’s true, the skills you have developed to tour Disney do translate to Between Disney adventures.  This Christmas there will be no Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for my family.  Instead we took in moving elves (sadly with no Sherman Brothers’ theme, song), puppets with familiar voices and phrases, and a lighted parade that included Peter Pan, Aladdin, and Pinocchio.  In the end using what I have learned at Disney helped the night to be a beloved family memory instead of a night of frustration. 
How do you use your Disney touring skills out here Between Disney? 
Santa's Sleigh in the Holidazzle Parade

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dreaming Disney – Fables

Despite the fact I really like childish things, I am an adult.  No really, don’t let the Mickey Mouse watch, the Toy Story t-shirt and the Disneyland hat fool you!  And I really do like gritty stories, where a character might actually die or make choices that do not match my own.  Some of my favorite worlds are grey, like the Christopher Nolan Batman universe.  And let’s be our typical honest and admit that Disney’s worlds are often black and white not Grey.  The good guy is good, the bad guy is bad, and everyone gets happily ever after as long as they do not fall off a cliff.  But sometimes I am not in the mood for that formula.
A little while ago two friends introduced me to a comic book called Fables.  I thought it would be lame.  These friends and I often do not have similar tastes, they are not Disney guys.  But what they sold me on was that one of the main characters was Snow White, a Snow White living in our world.  Gentlemen you have my attention, but I should warn you it won’t last for long!  Instead of being turned off I fell in love with a fantastically crafted story that is filled with familiar characters that I know and love. 
The basic story is that a group of fairy tale characters, or Fables, have fled their homelands in the face of an adversary who conquered their homes.  The Fables live in two places in our world.  First, the human looking Fables live in a small and secretive New York neighborhood.  The non-human looking Fables live at The Farm, a secluded and magically protected area used for hiding three little pigs, dragons and other Fables that cannot fit into our world.  The comic book follows the Fables as they struggle to overthrow the unknown adversary and regain access to their homelands. 
Any Disney fan is going to love this story because the characters are so familiar, but with a twist.  As we enter the story, Snow White is the deputy mayor of Fabletown and is the power behind the throne of Mayor King Cole.  She is a major character in this world as we follow her romance with the Big Bad Wolf, she is divorced from Prince Charming who has also been wed to Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.  Yes, divorced from Prince Charming something we would never find in a Disney tale.  Charming himself is a con man and rascal who treats women badly but shows his heroic stripes during the war for the homelands.  Cinderella and Mowgli serve as spies for Sheriff Bigby Wolf, serving as his eyes around the globe to ensure good Fable behavior.  We find Pinocchio as a frustrated boy locked in eternal youth with adult sized desires.  And both Belle and the Beast rise in importance to key roles within the Fable government.
I really do love this title, and it’s because I am a Disney fanboy.  First, I get to see beloved characters in a different light.  I have to admit I love the concept of Cinderella as a super spy as highlighted in Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love.  Second, I get to learn more about these characters.  I had no idea that in traditional tales Snow White had a sister named Rose Red.  Anytime a character is introduced for the first time I generally scurry off to Google so I can learn the references that author Bill Willingham is using.  Finally, its characters I am familiar with but in adult story lines.  War is a major theme, and the harshness of war is evident throughout the series.  Characters do die, and when they do it is often forever.  Ever after in Fables is not always happy.  And some of the characters such as Jack Horner, highlighted in his own Jack of Fables title, are crass and often unlikeable. 
Even if you are not a comic book fan, I recommend checking out Fables.  Much like Once Upon a Time it offers a new take on our beloved characters.  And the writing for this series if fantastic, and that’s coming from a doubter.  Trust me, once you are introduced to the Big Bad Wolf you’ll have a hard time putting this title down. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Between Books – Mouse Tales

Mouse Tales: A Behind -The-Ears Look at Disneyland by David Koenig provides readers a glimpse behind the magic of the Disneyland Resort.  Koenig uses non-Disney sources including former cast interviews (often anonymous), news articles, police blotters, and legal proceedings to provide an overview of Disneyland topics that would never be included in official Disney presentations.  These topics include cast member experiences, poorly behaving guests, crime and crime prevention, lawsuits against Disney and deaths within the park.  Koenig digs in-depth within these topics and provides context to issues such as why you should not stand up on rides, what happens when a guest or cast member is hurt or dies or property and why Disney has been so successful in fighting lawsuits. 

I really enjoy this book.  And I cannot recommend it enough.  When I read it the first time several years ago it made me want to dig deeper into information about the Disney parks including information that Disney may not wish to promote.  Koenig’s writing is highly entertaining and he helps bring to life information that could only be found in largely dry non-Disney documents and sources.  It is a book you just will not want to put down.  Reading this book sealed the deal for me; I don’t want to work Big Thunder Mountain.  No I want to be a tour guide on the Jungle Cruise.  They just have more fun!  Or at least they used to.  I read this book before I had visited Disneyland for the first time, and because of Koenig’s descriptions of deaths that have occurred involving the Matterhorn and the Mark Twain, I probably approached those rides with a very different view than the average tourist.  Let us just say my kids have been reminded not to stand or else when riding the very safe and fun Matterhorn.  And while I am not a lawyer, Koenig helped me to appreciate how Disneyland has been a target for lawsuits, since surely Disney will settle before trial due to their deep pockets.   And he explains how Disney has successfully fought past frivolous lawsuits while resolving many incidents at which they were at fault outside of the courts. 
Mouse Tales for me is a must have in your Disney library.  It’s fun, informative and highly readable.  Koenig’s book is one that will make you want to know more about Disney parks and will likely lead to your Disney library multiplying even if you live Between Disney.    

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dreaming Disney Special - Man or Muppet Music Video

The official video for "Man or Muppet."


Mousey Movies - Chicken Little

Have you written off Disney’s 2005 Chicken Little?  I had, I found it okay, saw it in the theater and had bought it on DVD years later at a really discounted price.  It was crazy prized, I mean I would pay that just for the Disney Movie Reward points pricing.  Yet it simply was not a film I got excited about though I do love Scrubs’ Zach Braff.  Recently my kids pulled it out and I found myself shocked by all the Disney connections especially amongst the voice talent.
·     From the very opening Chicken Little pays tribute to other Disney movies as the narrator struggles with how to properly open his tale.  In that search that audience gets sound and visual lifts directly out of Lion King.  And he asks if he should use a book to open his story, instantly taking us to princesses and in my mind Sleeping Beauty.
·     Additional video is lifted from Raiders of the Lost Ark and shown at the Oakey Oaks movie theater in full live action glory.  The scene depicts Indiana Jones fleeing from a giant bolder and helps connect Disneyland fans to Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.
·     Talk about a Disney flashback in this voice cast.  Joan Cusack plays Ugly Duckling, Abigail Ducktail Mallard.  I cannot but think of Jessie from the Toy Story franchise every time I heard her provide a line.  Wallace Shawn voices Principal Fetchit, who is slightly less grumpy than his Gilbert Huph from The Incredibles.  Don Knotts voices Mayor Turkey Lurkey.  Amongst his long and distinguished career, I remember his turn in Disney’s live action The Apple Dumpling Gang fondly from my childhood.  But my favorite two voices give me instant smiles.  Patrick Warburton voices an alien cop.  As someone who loves Soarin’ and Soarin’ Over California, among his other contributions, his voice instantly made me check to see if I had stowed my ear hat.  And Batman’s Adam West as the Hollywood version of Chicken Little was a complete surprise and brilliant.  I loved him in Meet the Robinsons but did not realize that he had done other voices for Disney.  Yeah, this voice cast is super Mousey. 
·     Story elements have a very Disney feel to it.  In fact one of the key themes is does Chicken Little’s father trust him, in fact at one point  he yells at him, “You can’t do this!”  Instantly my mind replaced the image of a father chicken with a father clown fish and I wandered mentally to Finding Nemo.  In fact, Chicken Little like Nemo and many Disney princesses comes from a one parent home.
I am still not in love with Chicken Little.  But I am coming to enjoy it more.  In fact I just have to say can you never go wrong with more Patrick Warburton and Steve Zahn.  As Zahn’s Runt of the Little states, “Just leave me some ammo, a little water, some chips if you have them.”  With those ingredients and a Mousey Movie, you have a night of family fun out here Between Disney.        

Monday, December 5, 2011

Between Book - The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World

The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World continues the visual tour of the Walt Disney World parks by the Imagineers.  Alex Wright the author of The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World also writes this guide.  Wright reintroduces, or introduces if your first read in the series, the concepts and tools of Imagineering.  From the Oasis to the Theater in the Wild, Wright walks his readers through the park.  He provides details to his readers about why and how the Imagineers crafted the stories of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  The highlight of the text is pictures, pictures, pictures with visuals ranging from the attraction photos and concept art.  Like others in the series, the book is setup like a guide book, being small and compact and something one can throw into a backpack or small bag on a trip to the Animal Kingdom. 
This was the second Imagineering Guide that I read.  To be honest it was a really odd choice for me as Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the park that I have spent the least amount of time in when visiting Florida.  Like The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World the images throughout this book are top notch.  And the Guide helped me to see behind the heat in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which I have convinced myself is 27 degrees hotter than any other Walt Disney World park on a given day, and to see the masterpiece the Imagineers have created.  If one slows down, opens their eye, looks, listens and smells a guest really is transported out of Florida and to Africa or Asia.  The amount of theming in this park is incredible and simply cannot be ignored, despite all of our sarcastic jokes.  We may complain about DinoLand U.S.A, but if one understands the story of this area we can clearly see the Imagineers vision of this area and the jokes behind it.  In the end, this park is a work of art, and it took the images and details found in this book for me to truly understand what it is.  It makes me want to toss this guide in my backpack and walk a little slower when I next visit this park.   

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mousey Movies - The Muppets

I’m one of those adults like actor writer Jason Segel who grew up with the Muppets.  One of the earliest reports I remember writing for school was an Elementary music report on a musical.  I chose 1979’s The Muppet Movie and with the help of notes on an eight-track cassette, yeah eight-track, I presented my teacher with what I thought musical theater was.  But I also admit, over the years the Muppet movies have fallen flat for me.  Perhaps it was Muppets’ Wizard of Oz, which my kids love, which lead to me personally writing off the Muppets as must see media.  But after seeing The Muppets, all I can say is thank you Jason Segel for helping Disney bring back this franchise to the big screen.  Seriously 13 family members representing 3 generations left the theater all singing “Mahna Mahna” together.  
I think sometimes we forget, even with Muppet*Vision 3D, that the Muppets are owned by Disney:  And like any good Mousey movie, one which pretty much every department of the company promoted, Michael Eisner would be proud of the synergy found in The Muppets:
·     Amy Adams: Amy Adams takes her second spin as the female lead in a Disney movie.  For me her first turn, Giselle in Enchanted, firmly and personally placed her in the princess pantheon forever.  For me her song, “That's How You Know” from Enchanted will always serve as the best example of what a Disney princess would be like in our world that I have ever seen.  It just screams Mouseyness to have a Disney princess in the female lead.
·     Neil Patrick Harris: NPH, is there anything you can’t do?  The Disney California Adventure California Screamin’ barker and Disney fan boy delivers one of the best lines of the movie.  No spoilers here!
·     Alan Arkin: Mr. Arkin playing a tour guide is not only a distinguished actor, but for fans of Disney’s Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, Arkin is also Father-in-Law Christmas. 
·     The Stars of the Small Screen: Whoopi Goldberg (ABC daytime), Selena Gomez (Disney Channel), and Rico Rodriquez (ABC primetime) make a cameo together ensuring that Disney’s ABC properties are sufficiently represented (or marketed) in this hit film.
·     Zach Galifiankis: Well clearly I’m making leaps now arguing that Zach Galifiankis makes The Muppets mousey!  Nope, he stars as the human lead in Disney’s 2009 G-Force.  It may sound corny, but it’s actually a pretty fun movie.  His Hobo Joe in The Muppets seems to fit his other big screen somewhat silly roles more than his very understated Ben from G-Force.  But then you probably need to be understated if you lead a special forces team of rodents!
·     Product Placement:  Let’s face it, films advertise products.  And you can spot advertisements for other Disney productions throughout the movie. Conveniently the two most obvious were released on Blu-ray and DVD when The Muppets was released.  So go get your copy of Winnie the Pooh.  And you can’t escape Mater and Cars 2, with its poster coming into screen over and over and over again.  Finally, I found myself considering an iPad2 after seeing the prominent billboard in the background. Was this a tribute, favor, or paid advertisement by Apple, whose found the later Steve Jobs was Disney’s largest shareholder during production of this movie. 
The Muppets are back.  Kermit, Missy Piggy and the whole game are relevant again.  And I’m hoping this just means more Muppet goodness in the future.  And they want us to know, the Muppets live at the House of Mouse.    

For more Muppet Mouseyness see "Mousey Movies - The Muppets Addendum."