Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dreaming Disney Special - A Tale of Two Parks

It's One More Disney Day, and here Between Disney we are covered in a blanket of ice and snow! 

The Disney Parks blog has created this video to help celebrate the 24 hour event in the Disneyland Park and The Magic Kingdom Park.

I think this is a really neat concept.  And the ear hats side by side make me tear up a little bit!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mousey Movies Preview - John Carter

In March 2012, Disney hopes for a new blockbuster franchise with Andrew Stanton’s John Carter.  The movie tells the story of a Civil War veteran transported to Mars, or to the natives, Barsoom.  Carter discovers being born and raised in earth gravity that he has superhuman powers and becomes a renowned warrior amongst the Martians. 
I have paid a lot of attention to this movie release for three reasons.  First, Andrew Stanton from Pixar is leading this effort.  This may be his first “live action” film, though can you really call a film with this much computer generated graphics live action, but other Pixar family members such as Brad Bird have been successful in live action offerings.  And I really want Stanton to succeed.  Second, I missed Pirates of the Caribbean.  I was very late to the party, like second movie on DVD late and with the original movie's run I completely was not part of the party.  So if John Carter is starting something bigger I want to be there.  Third, it has been interesting to watch the reaction to this film.  Some claim this will be a huge Disney flop.  I have to admit sometimes the trailers have been a little flat to me, though I really enjoyed the 3D version.  From those who have seen the movie the reaction has generally been highly positive.  I really wonder though if bad press can beat great word of mouth and hinder this film.  

Though not an official trailer, this fan made trailer has gotten a lot of fans excited for the film's release. 

I think part of the problem is that most moviegoers do not have a lot of background on the John Carter story.  Edgar Rice Burroughs, who also created Tarzan, introduced John Carter in 1912 in the serialized story, “Under the Moon of Mars.”  The story was published in 1917 in novel form as 1917 as A Princess of Mars.  Those dates are correct, yes this movie is based on a story that is a 100 years old.  And I will say for a tale that old, you will find the story to be engaging with interesting conflicts, characters, and cultures.  It was the cultures that shocked me the most as Burroughs carefully crafted his world and its interesting biological and societal rules.  I really recommend reading A Princess of Mars which can be found as a free EBook. 
Disney realized that not everyone is familiar with the stories behind John Carter and its history so they have created this video to help orientate potential audience members.

There have been times that I have questioned my support but I am still being positive about John Carter.  It is based on enjoyable source material and has a director with a proven track record.  I hope other movie goers do the same and perhaps Stanton will have a chance for more Carter movies in the future.  
"This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival. Head over there to see more great Disney-related posts and articles.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Between Books - More Mouse Tales

More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland by David Koenig picks up where his earlier book Mouse Tales left off.  He continues to explore the Disneyland Park and share stories of accidents, deaths, guest and cast member misbehavior and in general provides a look into the aspects of Disneyland that Disney executives would like to keep hidden from the typical guest.  Koenig shares his stories in a land by land tour of the park, linking his collected tales, from past cast members and non-Disney sources, to the attraction or show the incident occurred.  Other topics he details include a deeper look into Disney security, the business of parks and being a cast member.  Koenig laments the late 1990s in which Disney managed invested less in park infrastructure and staffing, to the detriment of the guest experience and safety. 

This book follows the same model as Mouse Tales and like the original is highly enjoyable.  Honestly, I preferred Mouse Tales more when I originally read it, but that was a time when this sort of insider look to me was a somewhat new experience.  I do believe that More Mouse Tales could serve as an enjoyable entry point to Koenig’s writings.  As with the first offering, I found this book helped me have a deeper enjoyment of the parks as it helped me see behind the scenes so I could bore my family members with useless trivia.  Especially interesting to me was Koenig’s discussion of The Jungle Cruise and changes in management and battles over spiel philosophies.  Koenig offers another informative and entertaining book that should find a home in any well rounded Disney library.   

Monday, February 20, 2012

Goofy Gadgets - Disneyland Adventures

The Between Family may be a little late to the party, but recently we have picked up a copy of Kinect Disneyland Adventures.  And it has led the family to a whole new level of Dreaming Disney as we have experienced a little piece of Disneyland right in our living room.  You can get a full review of the game elsewhere including walk throughs and technical specifications.  Instead I plan to provide you our observations about using the game to connect to the Disney Parks experience.

Take a walk in the park! 
·        You really are navigating through Disneyland.  And the Between Kids love walking    around and trying to go from point A to point B.  They could use the map to jump right to the mini games they want, but they are more satisfied when their character walks there on their own. 
·        The graphics and soundtrack make you feel like you are really at Disneyland from your living room.  The background music is Disneyland background music.  The buildings are Disneyland show buildings.  Kinect Disneyland Adventure is likely the best virtual representation of the Disneyland Park that a family can have in their living room. 
·        The Between Kids love interacting with the park and hugging characters and gathering autographs though we are nowhere near Disneyland. 

Bring on the mini games! 
·         Players do not ride the Disneyland rides per say, but instead plays mini games that have links to the ride.  So on the Matterhorn you ski with Goofy and have a snowball fight with the Yeti.  On Pirates of the Caribbean you battle alligators and seek treasure.  And in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, you experience a completely random set of scenes, sorry that’s the ride.  I mean you float on a balloon gathering coins and honey pots.  Though not the rides themselves they are in the spirit of the rides.
·         The Between Family are not big gamers. But overall these games are easy to play and even the youngest Between Kid can navigate through the games and control the action on the screen.

Move It, Move It!
·         During the winter I worry that the active Between Kids don’t have enough opportunity to work off their excess energy.  And I do not like them sitting stationary in front of a television if we can avoid it.  Instead with this game they are moving moving moving.  They have to reach, grasp, jump, shuffle and move to make the mini games work, making happy Between Parents. 

Not all animation is created equal.
·         Some of the animation in the setup scenes and mini games is really terrific.  Which makes it clear when animated scenes are not, well, that good.  For example the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh scenes just does not compare to well to others.

In or Out?
·         The Between Family is not skilled with the Kinect yet.  So we find it relatively easy to be dropped in and out of the game by the X-Box.  Now one advantage this gives is easy handoffs so members of the family can easily take turns without the game having to be turned off.  But it also means sometimes it is easy to accidently drop yourself out of the game because you did not move enough or stood in the wrong place without knowing it, even if you are an adult.
·         The game assigns players an avatar.  With dropping in and out occurring sometimes it is difficult to realize which avatar you are.  Am I the girl right now?  Am I wearing a hat?  It can get a little confusing.

Oui my back!
·         I have a history of back issues.  Strangely enough I have never had back issues when visiting a Disney Park, I have felt very lucky about this.  Kinect Disneyland Adventures is the first game I ever played with Kinect.  And I strained my back, my first Disney related back issue.  I was trying to walk through the park instead of pointing my character through the park.  This lead to what could only be called a “silly walk.”  So I would suggest game players if it feels weird, you may be doing it wrong!

Despite any negative points here, The Between Family love this game.  It is the perfect game for Disney fans connecting you in an active way to the Disneyland Park in your living room.  It is a whole bunch of awesome.  Every member of the family enjoys playing!  It has brought one of our favorite places virtually into our home and in a way where we can interact with it.   

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mousey Movies Special - Star Tours Origins (ST-45 Project)

I really do love Star Tours the Adventure Continues and it's ability to honor more than one Star Wars film.  I found myself last summer missing the original and thinking it would be nice if Rex could be swapped in on occasion.

Recently I found this YouTube video which ensures that Rex's first flight is not forgotten.

I wish we could see the expressions of the "people" but it's a really nice tribute to the original ride and a fun view on a Sunday morning. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mousey Movies - The Phantom Menace

Star Wars is back.  I’m one of those geeky dads that took the release of Stars Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D as an opportunity to share the experience of Star Wars in the theater with a kid.  The Phantom Menace may not be my favorite of the Star Wars movies.  And it has some plot devices that I may not be able to explain, cough cough metachlorians cough cough.  But I fully accept it as Star Wars, have watched it several times and see its place within the larger story of a galaxy far far away.  And of course all things Star Wars are Mousey to me, even if Disney does not produce or distribute these movies:       
·         3D:  Hands down I believe that some of the best 3D experiences are Disney experiences.  Mickey’s PhilharMagic has ruined me for all other 3D experiences.  The Between Family went and saw Beauty and the Beast in 3D which was a little bit of a letdown as the champagne bottles during “Be Our Guest” did not shoot directly at me with puffs of air hitting my face!  Too much?  So slapping on the 3D glasses always makes me think of Disney experiences.    

·         Naboo:  The planet of Naboo is featured heavily in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.  And Naboo is one of the worlds featured in the 8 sequences in Star Tours: The Adventure Continues.  Naboo is not one of my favorite worlds in the Star Wars saga, but it may be my favorite planet in Star Tours due to the excellent use of 3D in the segment.  I’m back in my Starspeeder 1000 every time we go under the seas of Naboo!          
·         Podracing:  A second segment from Star Tours: The Adventure Continues is Tatooine and podracing.  In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace we do not see any Starspeeders in the race.  But we get another view of the Boota Eve podrace.  The movie allows us to sit in the crowd cheering for little Anakin Skywalker, in the ride we get to be in the race. 

·         A113:  In the final battle on Naboo I swear I saw a Trade Federation battle droid labeled A113 attacking Gungan Jar Jar Binks.  I smiled satisfied I had found an Easter egg from Pixar films and the work of CalArts alumni.  With the high amount computer generated animation in the film I knew I there had to be a connection.  But wait!  I’m sure my initial thoughts and those of some of the Internet is wrong.  The droid is not A113, but 1138 in my opinion.  This is a tribute to Star Wars creator George Lucas’ first film THX 1138 and not an animation classroom.  Here is the photo so you can judge it for yourself. 

A113 or THX 1138?
I was asked, if Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace really is a Mousey Movie?  As I wear my Star Tours t-shirt, playing with my Disney/Star Wars action figures and play catch with my Star Wars baseball bought in Downtown Disney (by you dude), I say you betcha.  I recommend you go see Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D while you can, relive the theatrical experience and share it with a youngling Between Disney. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Walt's Windows Special - Disneyland Canon 1957

Recently a co-worker brought this YouTube video from the Disney History Institute to my attention.

This color video is a great supplement to the viewing of "Disneyland U.S.A" or a replacement those who do not have a copy of the collectors tin DVD.

The ironic thing is that co-worker is not a Disney enthusiast, but still found viewing it to be an enjoyable experience.  It is short and gives us a window to the Disneyland of the past. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Walt's Windows - Disneyland U.S.A.


The “Disneyland U.S.A.” episode of the Disney series People & Places provides a glimpse of an early Disneyland Park, showing us the drastic differences and similarities to what we see today.  The documentary is one segment found on the Walt Disney Treasures – Disneyland – Secrets, Stories and Magic collectors tin DVD. 
This episode was released in December 1956, within 18 months of the opening of Walt’s park.  This film unlike the black and white opening day presentation, “Dateline: Disneyland” is presented in color and Cinemascope.  The film opens declaring of Disneyland that, “Its purpose is enlightenment.  Its product, happiness.”  And happy people, attired in fancy dresses and shirts with ties (not the shorts and tees of our day) is what we see as we tour around the park.
Main Street U.S.A.
·    The shape of Main Street U.S.A. seems familiar to the modern guest and we see the Main Street Vehicles shuttling families down the street to the Hub. 
·    The Omnibus and other familiar vehicles make their way down the street.  But unexpectedly we also see a western stage coach transporting guests. 
·    Additionally when we arrive at the Hub we do not see the familiar Partners Statue, which will not make its appearance for decades to come.
·    The program focuses a lot on this area, and it makes sense as Tony Baxter mentions in the accompanying commentary that at the time Frontierland was 1/3rd of the park.  In one key way Frontierland looks very different. 
·    It is alive, really alive.  There are horses and mules everywhere giving you the impression that you were in the old west.  The number of animals compared with today is staggering as guests ride or are pulled by non-Audio-Animatronic animals! 
·    A big highlight is the town of Rainbow Ridge, which we can still see riding Big Thunder Mountain, and a tour through the extinct Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland that was replaced by the current roller coaster.   

·    In Adventureland we find only one ride, but a ride we love in The Jungle Cruise. 
·    As they tour us down the rivers we see a lot of familiar sites including Schweitzer Falls and hippos with wiggly years.  But as we listen to the skipper spiel, in a costume that matches the stripped canopies of the boat, we hear a serious examination of sites, not jokes about the backside of water.
·    Like Adventureland, Tomorrowland appears sparse. 
·    You can see a lot of the Autopia track as there is little mature vegetation to frame the attraction.  It is humorous to watch well dressed men in ties and formal hats drive the Bob Gurr designed cars.  Cars whose modern equivalents are driven daily by young children. 
·    Fantasyland is the most familiar to the modern guest of the 1956 version of the park.  Snow White, Mr. Toad, Peter Pan, Teacups, Casey Jr. Storybookland, Dumbo are all present as they tour through the area.  They just have different looks after rehabs of the past.   
·    The most obvious extinct attraction is the Skyway to Tommorrowland crossing over the park.  But I have to admit it would be fantastic if another extinct attraction ever returned to one of today’s Fantasylands, The Pirate Ship Restaurant.  That return could eliminate the rule to never eat in Fantasyland.     

“Disneyland U.S.A.” makes me nostalgic for that early Disneyland that I never experienced.  It is a very different place, an outing for people living in a more formal society.  It is clear that the guests are taking this as a day out with fancy dress.  I personally don’t think I have ever seen a guest in a tie, unless they were planning on eating at Club 33, within the parks.  One cannot help but feel good as you watch Walt Disney lead a circus parade down Main Street U.S.A., the architect enjoying his park, his stage, his playground.  Tony Baxter mentions that he has used this program with Walt Disney Imagineering new hires.  It is clear to see why as it shows a living, functioning park that brings joy to its guests.  It shows a snapshot of the past, where the park has been and how it pleased visitors. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mousey Movies - The Emperor's New Groove

Recently it was pointed out to me that I have gaps in my Disney background.  One of these blind spots is I have never seen 2000’s The Emperor’s New Groove.  In this animated feature an unlovable Incan emperor named Kuzco is magically transformed into a llama by his advisor, Yzma, who attempts to steal his throne.  Of course, hijinks then occur.   While I admit this is not one of my favorite Disney movies, there are still plenty of tributes to the House of Mouse:
·     John Goodman: Goodman voices Pacha, the large and lovable peasant who shares in Emperor Kuzco’s adventures during the film.  As we hear Goodman’s voice we can’t help but think of another big lovable Disney character, Sulley from Pixar’s Monster, Inc. and the future Monster University.  Is it possible that Goodman has been typecast?  

·     The Old Man: Kuzco punishes an old man for ruining his groove.  The somewhat frightened voice that responds sounds so so familiar to Disney fans.  It’s because the old man is voiced by the late John Fiedler, the actor who played Piglet in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh productions from 1977 to 2005.  He also had other voice roles in Disney films like Robin Hood, The Fox and the Hound, and The Rescuers.  Is it fair to call him a legend?  I think so!  Along with voice acting Fiedler had a long acting career in both films and television programs including The Shaggy D.A., Fantasy Island, Star Trek, Three’s Company, The Bob Newhart Show, and many many more.         

·     Roller Coaster Transport:  Yzma and her henchman Kronk travel to her lab by roller coaster!  How awesome would it be to travel to your workplace, man cave or craft room via Space Mountain.   

·     Don Hahn: The Emperor’s New Groove shares a producer with Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and other Disney animated films.  Additionally, he directs one of my favorite Disney documentaries, Waking Sleeping Beauty.

·     Patrick Warburton:  Warburton voices Yzma’s henchman Kronk.  And Kronk steals this movie for both adults and kids.  He is innocent, naive, skilled in the kitchen and you can’t help but love him.  When has he played any character that we couldn’t instantly love!  And as I have mentioned before both versions of Soarin hosted by him are one of my favorite rides in the parks.  And I instantly smile and think of his smart flight attendant jacket whenever I hear his voice. 
I will admit it, The Emperor’s New Groove is personally not a Disney animated favorite in the Between house.  This family would rather visit Monstropolis and Sully instead of Pacha.  And Winnie the Pooh classic films rate higher for the Between kids.  But I am glad I have closed this gap in my Disney viewing background and found Mousey connections to some of my favorite Disney films.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dreaming Disney - Tales from the Jungle Crews

I can’t stop listening.
I’ve tried.  I’ve admitted I have a problem.  I’ve walked away from it, but I can’t stop listening.
My newest addiction is the podcast “Tales from the Jungle Crews.” 
Former Jungle Cruise Skipper Kyle interviews other past skips about their experiences with the attraction to create an oral history.  In many ways, Skipper Kyle is building this history for himself as he relives some of the best experiences of his life, but he lets the audience in and I’m thrilled he has.  In this informal and relaxed setting the stories from the Jungle Crews flow naturally as two to three friends having a conversation.  Some of the stories, many, of them may not be Disney Legal approved, but for The Jungle Cruise fan these are the stories we want to hear.  The skippers share their best behind the scenes stories (including some that may get you fired), tales of celebrity encounters, their best non Disney sanctioned spiels and of course their rehire status.  Rehire status may seem like an innocent question, but it often serves as the best story catalyst to get to the answer of no-rehire status.  
This show is so highly addictive.  I won’t be able to look at ducks in the rivers again.  Aerosmith will now forever break me into smiles.  And I’m pretty sure that I will be yelling, “This belongs in a museum!” to entertain myself for months to come.  I have heard ghost stories from the park that I have never heard.  And I love hearing about Jack Lindquist the celebrity.
I do have to give a word of warning.  The former Skips clearly loved working the attraction.  They also were fans of keeping the magic when working for the ride.  And though they attempted to keep most of their questionable activities off stage, sometimes this podcast gets a little blue.  Simply, if you see the Explicit tag on some episodes, believe Skipper Kyle, because the contents will either include profanity or a story that you don’t want to explain to the children. 
I’ve expressed my love of The Jungle Cruise before.  But it’s worse now, I’ve decided that I have missed out on an important life experience.  "Tales from the Jungle Crews" has confirmed my belief that the Skippers are the cast members having the most fun. 
I wonder how my fellow commuters in Betweenland would feel if I started spieling during the morning train ride.  They will be stuck with me for 25 minutes!  I mean they will be entertained for 25 minutes!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dreaming Disney - Google Maps

I was alone in my office.
It was late and the lights were dimmed.
I sat in front of my computer.
The door was closed but suddenly it swung open. I was caught by Mrs. Between Disney surfing images on the Internet.
And what she saw made her grab a seat next to me!
I was on Google Maps looking at images of the Disneyland Resort and our hotel for our future first trip to California.  And what we saw was too engrossing for us to look away.

Disneyland Park from Google Maps
Seriously, Google Maps is a great resource for both planning a visit to a Disney park and dreaming out here Between Disney.
It is really easy to find your favorite Disney park.  All you have to do is type in phrases such as Disneyland, Walt Disney World, The Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, California Adventure, Harry Potter (for select readers only) into the search box and Google Maps takes you to your desired location.  If only it was that easy to travel from Between Disney to the parks! 

A nice use of these maps is to use the satellite images to get a pre-trip lay of the land.  On that famed night, I used the site to determine the distance and route between our hotel and the main gate.  That meant when we arrived we knew in general how we would get to the park.  And though the images are not live I have had fun scrolling though images from the Walt Disney World Resort, asking myself what some of the buildings and areas were backstage?  It's kinda fun to trace out where a dirt road from The Magic Kingdom Park ends. 

A Magic Kingdom Park Backstage Area
How do you use Google Maps out here in Betweenland?