Monday, January 30, 2012

Between Books - Jason's Disneyland Almanac

The day I was born the Disneyland Park was open until 1 a.m.  Sadly as an adult visiting for the first time it was only open until midnight.

We have all dreamed about walk-on conditions when visiting a Disney park.  But I don’t think any of us can imagine December 14, 1961.  It was a bit nippy and rained some. But on that Thursday there were only 523 guests in Disneyland.  Let me say that again, 523!

On December 15, 1966, Walt Disney passed away.  On that day only 3,284 guests were present to enjoy his creation.

I know these facts thanks to Jason’s Disneyland Almanac by Jason Schultz and Kevin Yee.  Jason’s Disneyland Almanac collects the opening and closing times, temperature highs and lows, precipitation, and major openings, closings, events, and potential important guests to the Disneyland Resort from it’s opening in 1955 until 2010.  In fact the authors have gathered operating hours for the resort for all but 773 of 20,257 dates.  The real delight of this almanac is the attendance data for dates between July 18, 1955 to December 31, 1966, taken from Roy O. Disney’s Disneyland Attendance Summary.   This historical record provides us with data that Disney executives do not generally make available about the park today.

This book is about the numbers.  There is some narrative and background but not in great amounts. Really it is the numbers that tell readers the story of Disneyland. Especially interesting is the attendance data from the early years of Disneyland Park.  One will be shocked to see days with especially low attendance, closures due to weather and trends that don’t match current Touring Plans Crowd Calendars.  For example, look closely at the attendances for Christmas in early Disneyland and consider equivalents today. Also readers will be surprised to find regular park closures, could we even imagine the parks closing on a regular basis even during today’s “off season?”

I am a big baseball fan.   Amongst baseball fans there are sabermetricians, the fans who use statistics and numbers to dig deeper into the story of the game.  This book is for the Disney sabermetrician, a source that provides the raw data for the examination of park trends.   And even the non-numbers minded enthusiasts, like me, can see trends that help us to better understand the park today.

The data itself and the authors’ methodology in collecting it appears as solid as possible for someone without access to Disney archives and records.  They do admit that there could be errors and mistakes as much data such as closures and park times were gathered from primarily public or second sources. So they warn that errors could be present.  I chuckled as I found one related to my first trip to Disneyland; as the text states that Glow Fest closed on the day I arrived at the Disneyland Resort for the first time, when I know that in the week following the stated closure that I participated in the event twice.  I believe this is due to an extension of Glow Fest; an extension that I believe was not listed in documents that provided the original dates for this party.  Who would have guessed that it was going to be as popular as it was?

On February 19, 2001, Disney’s California Adventure (with the ‘s at the time) was open for two hours later than Disneyland Park.   Shocking? Not really, because an examination of page 262 of Jason’s Disneyland Almanac will help the story unfold.  Numbers sometimes provide their own narratives!

Review Copy Provided for Purposes of Review

Friday, January 27, 2012

Between Books - Mouse Under Glass

David Koenig in Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks tells the story of Disney animated films from Snow White to The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  The book is divided into periods of Disney animation history, with Koenig providing an overview of developments within Disney animation during each period.  Koenig outlines the original source material of each animated feature and describes how each story was transformed during production to the films we know today.  He also includes sections in each chapter on topics that include plot holes, bloopers, audience reaction and how the movie was translated into the parks as rides, shows or landmarks.  Interspersed throughout the book are text boxes that provide additional facts that readers are likely to be interested in such as identifying hidden Mickeys, the comparison between The Lion King and Kimba the White Lion, and a statistical orphan rating (The Orphan-O-Meter) for animated characters. 
I found this book highly informative.  What I really enjoyed was a better understanding of the original stories and how they were updated to make the Disney feature.  Pinocchio, you are a jerk!  Koenig helped me understand how the original Pinocchio stories were a morality play where our favorite puppet misbehaved in ways we would not imagine in a family Disney film.  For example, Pinocchio killed the Talking Cricket with a mallet in one of the original stories. This is just one example of how Koenig’s summary of the original stories gives additional depth to the movies.  And the comparisons between the original tales followed by an analysis of Disney production that helps one understand what is required to take print stories and transform them to the silver screen.  And who doesn’t want to know plot holes and bloopers to amaze (or bore) their friends? 
The biggest negative to this book is that Disney animation moves on while books are a snapshot in time.  This review is based on the 1997 hardcover edition.  Since then Koenig did update the text with a 2001 paperback which is also available as an eBook.  However, that edition also is just a snapshot and concludes with Tarzan in 1999.  Just like one updates apps to get additional content and levels, this is the kind of book that readers may wish could be updated with every new Disney animated feature. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dreaming Disney - Imagination

Throughout my days in Betweenland I have found plenty of high tech ways to connect back to my Disney experiences.  There are apps, video games, DVDs, websites, podcasts, music clips, audio books, and etc., etc. etc. etc.  

The Castle Front
But it took the Between Kids to remind me of one of the best ways to connect to Disney, imagination.  I was doing errands in the house when I heard, “Daddy, come here castle.” The youngest Between Kid had built a castle with blocks; multicolored, cardboard, square blocks.  There were no buttons, no Wi-Fi connections, no plug ins.  It was just a simple block castle and the whole family could clearly see Sleeping Beauty Castle on the playroom floor.  Of course the oldest Between Kid could not be satisfied with a smaller castle, so the two added blocks and soon Cinderella Castle was dominating the playroom.  Of course, a castle has to have residents so they then gathered up every Disney action figure they could find; with Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbarossa dwarfing three stories of the castle and making Sully look short.  They spent hours with this low tech play set, not manufactured and sold in any stories, powered purely by imagination.  A few hours later they built a Carsland expansion!
Jack Sparrow Takes Charge!
We can’t forget the power of imagination.  The Disney parks were built on imagination.  Walt Disney said of his first park, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”  Without imagination we would not have the magic Disney experiences give us.  And Disney noted that imagination sparked his creative endeavors, “I can never stand still. I must explore and experiment. I am never satisfied with my work. I resent the limitations of my own imagination."  Imagination triggers inspiration. You don't get Imagineering without imagination!
Regardless of the toys we have, we have to remember that imagination is the best fuel for dreams Between Disney. To quote Figment, “Imagination, imagination. A dream can be a dream come true, With just that spark in me and you (One Little Spark)."  Go imagine my friends. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Between Books - In Service to the Mouse

Jack Lindquist within In Service to the Mouse: My Unexpected Journey to Becoming Disneyland’s First President shares experiences from his 38 years of marketing and leading Disney parks.  The book chronicles his experiences from the opening day of Disneyland (as a guest), an entry level employee, his various roles marketing Disneyland and eventually being named the first President of Disneyland in 1990.  The book consists of five sections that represent different periods of Lindquist’s Disney career.  Within each division are chapters consisting of two to eight pages focusing around one theme or in some cases one anecdote.   
This memoir shares the tales of a Disney legend and treasure.  Lindquist represents part of a group that remembers Walt Disney the person and helps link the parks and movies under the Disney brand to the man and innovator.  Personally I love reading these sort of memoirs.  As Lindquist notes his time for remembering is getting shorter daily and I love that these stories are being collected so my children and their children may better know Walt Disney the man and the men who helped create the initial magic of Disneyland.  The chapters are short and easy to read.  They benefit from chapter titles and editing that keeps each chapter focused around that title.  In many ways the text is very similar to Charles Ridgeway’s Spinning Disney’s World in the sort of stories told, in fact both men mention each other and have some overlapping memories.  But In Service to the Mouse benefits from better organization.  Lindquist is very honest about successes and failures.  For example he notes his personal belief that a second park needed to be opened in California but adds that Disney’s California Adventure Park was a failure and why.  He also laments bad choices in merchandising and pricing while also adding that while the Michael Eisner and Frank Wells regime repeatedly raised park prices it was due to the undervaluing of Disneyland tickets in the years before they joined the company.
I really enjoyed this memoir.  It provides insight into key historical moments in Disney history while also sharing humorous stories that Lindquist experienced.  Personally I loved Lindquist’s stories around discussions with foreign nations about sponsoring Epcot World Showcase Pavilions filled with misunderstandings and government politics, his interactions with Michael Eisner and Lindquist’s role with acquiring the Anaheim Angels for Disney.  The memoir made me nostalgic for a Disneyland that I never visited, lamenting the loss of the Juniors pricing category as I prepare to pay adult prices for a child on future visits (allow me to step off my soap box now).  Lindquist successfully gives life to a Walt Disney I never met, a Disneyland I never visited and a Mickey Mouse that Lindquist gave over 38 years of his life to serve. 
Postscript:  Typically I would not comment on customer service.  However, I cannot ignore my experience purchasing In Service to the Mouse.  Instead of purchasing the book from or another retailer I chose to buy the book directly from due to the opportunity to buy an autographed copy for my collection at a reasonable price.  I was quite surprised a few hours after ordering to receive an email with a $5 refund.  I was told in the accompanying note that in a few days that they were launching a holiday sale and they were allowing me to purchase the book at the discounted price.  Honestly, I was fully prepared to pay the full price of my original purchase and would not have been angered by seeing a discount a few days later.  But the small refund gave me an example of the type of magic Mr. Lindquist spent 38 years creating. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mousey Movies - Top 5 Disney Movies

Recently I appeared on the Sci-Fi Christian Podcast and discussed my favorite Disney movies with host Matt Anderson. 

The Sci-Fi Christian Podcast discusses spiritual themes in sci-fi and fantasy themed books, movies and tv shows.  It was nominated in the 2011 Podcast Awards. 

You can download the podcast on iTunes or access it from their website

I have to thank Matt for a fun conversation, even though he has never seen my third favorite Disney movie of all time, and it even has a sci-fi theme. 

Dreaming Disney - Skipper Dan

A few years ago a friend who visited the Walt Disney World Resort for the first time with his family.  While he was there on his one day adventure, my wife got a text from him saying he had found my dream job.  He was riding The Jungle Cruise!  And I have to admit that sounds pretty awesome!  I have just enough corn to my personality that I would really enjoy being a skipper even if the guests on my boat did not.  And I personally became interested in all things Jungle Cruise after reading Mouse Tales, because it made me think that the cast members having the most fun are the skippers, even if they just keep going around again and again and again through the never changing jungle.
So it’s only fitting that the king of all musical parody pay tribute to the hapless skippers.  On his 2011 album Alpocalypse, Weird Al Yankovic honors all skippers in the song “Skipper Dan.”

If you are a Disney fan living in Betweenland this is just funny.  Of course the real question is did the combination of satire and truth lead me to give up on The Jungle Cruise dream?
Nope, I’m still Dreaming Disney and hope you are too.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present the backside of water.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dreaming Disney - WDW Today

Years ago I would have to say that I was only a casual Disney fan.  Disney movies were always present and we owned the biggest pile of VHS Disney in our circle of friends.  And I had been to the Walt Disney World not once but twice.  But I really was just your typical easy to manage non-fanatical Disney fan.  Yep I was a pretty normal guy.
Then I decided I needed to up my participation in the planning for a third trip to Walt Disney World.  In that increased participation I moved past and decided to try out a planning podcast or two.  On AllEars I found a reference to a podcast called WDW Today and I have not looked back since.     
What I found was a wealth of information that anyone planning a Walt Disney World vacation would need.  I sampled an episode and then downloaded 20 other topics.  Each episode was around 30 minutes or less, making each easily digestible.  And other than the general Listener Question episodes, typically released on Wednesdays, all episodes had a uniting theme.  So, if you wanted to know about hurricanes, they did it.  Segway tours, it’s in the can.  Perhaps you are interested in cult foods especially Dole Whip, yep they’ve been there.  If you want a detailed report on drinking around the world at Epcot, they have done it not once not twice but three times.  With the show reaching towards 1,000 episodes they have covered tons of topics that would help anyone plan their Walt Disney World vacation including the most experienced planners.
The podcast personalities are a mix of five of the best informed Disney Adjacent fans you are going to find.  Len Testa is one of the co-authors of the Unofficial Guide series of Disney travel guidebooks.  Testa’s opinions are typically either backed by statistics or experience having sampled the majority of accommodations and dining locations for the good book.  In addition, it’s his research that the touring plans found in the good book are based on including Lines the mobile outgrowth of touring plans.  Mike Newell turned his Disney fandom into an online streaming music empire in MouseWorld Radio.  Mike Scopa is a long time Walt Disney World visitor, Walt Disney World fan writer and currently blogs at  Host Matt Hochberg is the only member of the team who is a physically Disney Adjacent panelist, and runs Studios Central a website dedicated to convinced us all the Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the best part in Orlando.  Hochberg admits in episode 971 since moving to Orlando he has only gone two weeks without visiting one of the parks.  Yes, I am jealous.  Finally, but not last, the Fabulous Annette Owens is a Disney focused travel agent.  She adds to the panel years of planning countless Disney vacations.  Together there are not many planning questions this group cannot handle.       
So, I listened in preparation of my Walt Disney World vacation several years ago.  I fully intended to quit listening after I returned.  I in fact dropped several podcasts after our return.  Instead, I found myself still downloading three times a week; Monday, Wednesday, Friday.  WDW Today had become part of my podcast diet.  I could not escape it, living out in Between Disney with no trip planned I still had to know more about the parks.  I needed the common sense and fun the hosts provided.  And I was becoming something I did not expect, a Disney enthusiast.  I find that listening helps me plan non-Disney events since much of the common sense can be applied in other family adventures.  I am a better planner because of WDW Today.  I’m sure I am not the only one living Between Disney who can credit, or blame, WDW Today for helping feed a Disney parks obsession.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

Between Books - Windows on Main Street

Chuck Snyder in Windows on Main Street: Discover the Real Stories of the Talented People Featured n the Windows of Main Street U.S.A. provides his readers the significance behind the “businesses” highlighted on windows on Main Street U.S.A in the Disneyland Park and The Magic Kingdom.  Each display window not only helps give the setting a feeling of a working main street but also honors key contributors to the parks.  Each page generally displays three windows and a short biography for an individual honored in the window.  The text also provides a silhouette map of both Main Street U.S.A.s and an index to the location of every honorary window display. 
This is a useful but short book.  I have used it as a quick resource several times to determine if a Disney contributor has been included in the main street displays.  It is only 25 pages long with index and introduction.  This leaves around 15 pages of windows and biographies, so the text is not exhaustive on all windows.  It really only highlights several windows without digging into all of them.  And for a figure like Marc Davis who has a window in both parks the book only shows his Disneyland window while his Walt Disney World window is very different and shared with other contributors including Claude Coats.  This book is a quick and fun read, but I would love to have a more exhaustive examination of these honors.  However, it does still make a informative yet relatively cost effective memento from the parks. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mousey Movies - Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a Mousey Movie…there I said it.   Was it produced by a Disney studio?  Nope!  Is it based on Disney park or story material?  Nope!   Were the other three installments mousey?  Not really!  Not every Mousey Movie gets produced by the House of Mouse my friends.  Regardless of its origins, this Tom Cruise led Paramount Pictures blockbuster has plenty for Disney fans to enjoy: 
·     Brad Bird: It all starts with director Brad Bird.  Bird is a well established animator and director of animated films.  He both wrote and directed Pixar’s The Incredibles and Ratatouille.  And Ghost Protocol has a fast paced action packed feel that would be very familiar to fans of The Incredibles.  He is clearly someone that Disney fans know and appreciate.  Ghost Protocol is his first live action picture and it’s a success.  Bird identifies with his animation and Pixar past as can be seen in his twitter name @BradBirdA113.  A113 is a classroom at CalArts where many Pixar staff were schooled.  A113 can be found in every Pixar movie as an easter egg.  Bird has also used A113 in non-Disney projects including this one.  A113 is used as both a code name and most strikingly on a prop that dominates the movie screen.  With Bird’s fingerprints this movie has a mousey feel.      
·     Jeremy Renner: Marvel is slowly but surely becoming more and more mousey as this relatively new addition gains prominence with Disney fans.  Renner plays William Brandt an analyst that gets added to Ethan Hunt’s (Cruise) Impossible Mission Force (IMF) Team. Renner also plays Hawkeye in the Marvel movies leading up to The Avengers.  And we have already seen Renner as Hawkeye in Thor, giving us two of the best minutes of that superhero film.  And I’m not even a Hawkeye guy. 
·     Michael Giacchino:  Mr. Giacchino is there nothing you can’t score?  Giacchino also scored Mission: Impossible III.  But for us Disney fans he is the current go to musical guy with The Incredibles, Sky High, Ratatouille, Up, Cars 2 and the future John Carter all within his credits.  That impressive list does not even include his ABC television productions.  And we cannot overlook the Disneyland version of Space Mountain’s score which may be my all-time favorite of his work.
·     J.J. Abrams: I have never watched Lost or Alias but these Abrams’ productions have been hits for ABC.  Abrams directed Mission: Impossible III and was a co-producer on this offering.  Between Brad Bird and Abrams, this staff was very familiar with Giacchino who has frequently collaborated with them.  Between these three creative forces Ghost Protocol really is a mousey party.    
·     Laminar Fountains:  What is it with me and jumping water?  In one scene the IMF attends a party at the home of an Indian telecommunications giant.  What does this rich gentleman decorate with….laminar fountains of course!  It just proves, you can bring a piece of Epcot home with you for the right price.  Or at least build a piece of Epcot.  I wonder what the Between family would think if we added this water feature to the living room!    
·     BMW i8: I’m not a car guy, in fact some of you may be laughing thinking about me as a car guy.  I’m not a Tron guy, and now more of you are laughing.  But the BMW i8, a hybrid concept car, needs to be taken out of Ghost Protocol and dropped into the Tron franchise. 
BMW i8

      As Ethan Hunt drives through the streets of Mumbai in this set of wheels I kept looking for it to be trailed by a light wall.  There needs to be a law that you can only drive the i8 driving a glowing jumpsuit. 
It’s true, not every Mousey Movie comes from the House of Mouse.  Out here in Between Disney we have look everywhere to find our connections back to Disney.  And with a movie like Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol that can be pretty easy to do.   

Monday, January 2, 2012

Between Books – Walt Disney: Creator of Magical Worlds

Walt Disney: Creator of Magical Worlds by Charnan Simon introduces children to the life, work and legacy of Walt Disney.  The book provides a survey of Disney’s life at a child’s reading level.  All of the significant periods of Disney’s creative career are included.  Topics addressed include Disney’s childhood, adolescence the development of the Walt Disney Brothers Studio, animated features, live action productions, television and finally theme parks.  The text is filled with pictures from throughout Walt Disney’s career.  Additionally there are information boxes that provide young readers with basic information about events like World War II.  This biography is part of a series called “Community Builders” which includes biographies on Thomas Jefferson and William Boeing.
As an adult, this book is a very straight forward biography of Walt Disney.  It is written to a reading level appropriate to children with pictures to help connect them to the text.  I was impressed with the scope of the biography including sentences about topics like the studio during World War II and Roy O. Disney’s relationship with his brother.  I was very surprised by the scope of a book that is under 50 pages.  The text is filled with pictures and an adult can read it very quickly.  The only misstep I found is a picture labeled as Walt and Roy, which the “Roy” figure seems to lack the Disney nose and appears to be younger than Walt.  But I was not able to find a copy of the picture online where I could identify if the subject was in fact not Roy O. Disney.
As an adult, I couldn’t be the final word on this book.  I slid my copy over to our junior reviewer.  Overall she enjoyed it.  It was about a fifteen minute read for our reviewer.  It can probably be handled by a young reader from third grade on up, and especially any younger reader in chapter books.  Our reviewer thought the pictures of vintage Disneyland were cool.  And she was shocked that every project that Walt Disney undertook was not a success.  She instantly connected Disney’s life to Meet the Robinsons and yelled out “Keep moving forward!”
Overall Walt Disney: Creator of Magical Worlds is a readable and fact filled biography for kids.  The text is full of pictures and historical context that help kids to better understand Walt Disney’s world.  It provides a good introduction to the historical life of Walt Disney for young readers. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Disney Movie Top 5

Currently I am prepping for my first ever podcast appearance on the Sci-Fi Christian Podcast.

The topic is Top Five Disney movies.  I have been making my own list but I would also love to hear from you.

What are your top five Pixar movies and top five non-Pixar Disney movies including live action.

Thanks for the feedback!  AI will update once it's recorded and posted.