Monday, April 30, 2012

Between Books - Marvel Masterworks Presents the Avengers

Marvel Masterworks Presents The Avengers
I’m really excited about The Avengers.  I wonder if you noticed!  This is a Disney blockbuster that is easy to get behind, but it should be high quality and successful enough to promise us more.  I have been preparing for The Avengers rewatching the Avenger Initiative movies and watching Ultimate Spider-Man and following Clark Gregg on twitter.  Yeah, I’m pumped.  For my final preparation I decided to go back to the beginning, to visit 1963 when the Avengers assembled for the first time. 
To do this I picked up a copy of Marvel Masterworks Presents The Avengers.  The graphic novel collects the first ten issues of The Avengers from September 1963 to November 1964.  All ten stories are written by the legendary Stan Lee, the creator must have a legendary cameo in this movie.  Mr. Lee provides an introduction to the collection, noting that in the heyday of Marvel’s renaissance in the 1960s they realized that team-ups were profitable, leading to a permanent team-up book in The Avengers.  The first 8 stories are drawn by legend Jack Kirby with the last two being drawn by Don Heck.  Instead of providing an overview of every tale I want to give you my observations from this read and how they may link to The Avengers movie.  I apologize for spoilers, but these tales are nearly 50 years old!  Did Stan Lee even have a mustache back then?:
·         Original Sin:  From The Avengers trailer we know that Thor’s brother Loki is a primary villain this May.  This is so appropriate as it was Loki that originally brought the first Avenger team of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man and Wasp together.  It’s a great throwback to the first story that many fans won’t know about.            

·        What’s in a Name:  Most of us know the alter ego of the Incredible Hulk as Dr. Bruce Banner.  Though some of us may remember Bruce Bixby playing Dr. David Banner on television during our formative years.  Hulk goes by three different names in these original stories.  They use the familiar Dr. Bruce Banner often.  But he is also referred to as Dr. Bob Banner.  Now this one through me since I had not heard it before.  Now technically he is Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, so Bob does pass the sniff test.  But in one instance a friend calls him Dr. Donald Blake.  Now this is an instance where an editor was needed since Dr. Donald Blake as we know from Thor is not Hulk but Thor.  Clearly this was a mistake where an editor failed to pick up on the goof.  But it is right that Hulk struggles with his true identity.  In The Avengers a third actor in three films will be taking on the role.  Mark Ruffalo takes over from Edward Norton who followed Eric Bana as Banner.  The Avengers simply continues 50 years of identity confusion for the green avenger.      

·         Return of the King:  Marvel warns you in the opening pages of issue 4 to treat the edition as a collectors’ item, because it features the return of Captain America and his addition to the Avengers. In 1954, Atlas Comics, which would later become Marvel Comics, cancelled Captain America and Cap’s days of fighting the Axis in Europe was over!  In 1964, Mr. Lee and Mr. Kirby (who had drawn Cap) brought the Boy Scout hero back from the dead and publication limbo as a member of the Avengers.  Of course, it’s not easy to have been gone for such as long time.  Therefore, Steve Rogers has to battle with the demons of such a long time on ice (pun intended).  In one scene he actually has a physical confrontation with his new partner Rick Jones as he attempts to model himself after Cap’s old deceased partner Bucky.  And I expect in The Avengers will see Captain America dealing with being suspended for over 50 years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.         

·         The Weaker Sex:  I am a dad of a girl.  And the female heroes in Marvel Masterworks Presents The Avengers are not the role models I am looking for.  The Wasp is well, shallow.  She cares about looks, commenting constantly on how handsome men are or what they could do to be more attractive.  And she is very concerned with her looks.  And the other females in the first 10 stories are not much better.  Susan Storm from the Fantastic Four in her one frame is too busy to discuss a pressing issue, she has a fashion show to go to.  They are pretty much the opposite of the strong and smart Black Widow I believe we will see in The Avengers.  She may be properly accessorized, but she’s does not seem afraid to get her hands dirty!    

·         The Greatest Enemy:  Throughout these tales the Avengers continually fight a reoccurring opponent, themselves.  Often the Avenger to get piled on by the rest of the team is the Hulk.  Poor Hulk, he wants to be a hero but when you express yourself through smashing you are often misunderstood.  And he is not the only Avenger who gets into a fight with one of his teammates.  Let’s just say if we see Thor and Iron Man getting into a fist fight, or anyone trying to smack down the Hulk from the Avenger team the tradition simply continues. 

·         Silly Rabbit:  Reading an old comic book is an adventure!  Stories were not as tight and slang is used that can lead to an unintended chuckle decades later.  The stories here have points that make 21st century man laugh.  One of my favorites is Captain America’s arch enemy Baron Zemo has had a hood stuck to his head for nearly 20 years after a World War II battle with Cap.  It’s only in his latest struggle that he realizes he may want to search for a solvent, not just revenge, which could actually remove the hood.  He declared he never thought of the idea!  In another scene Wasp uses the phone to call the police.  She’s in her miniature Wasp form not her standard height.  I wonder if she had to scream and sounded squeaky to those on the other end of the line.  Can I be honest, I could use a silly scene or two in the new movie.      

      Marvel Masterworks Presents The Avengers is a great way to get yourself into an Avengers state of mind! In these pages you see the first meeting of the Avengers, the stories that started it all. They are an adventure written and drawn by comic book legends and well worth the read as you prepare for May 4th.   


Friday, April 27, 2012

Dreaming Disney - Ultimate Spider-Man

Ultimate Spider-Man Logo
To say that Disney is being aggressive in marketing May’s The Avengers would be understatement.  Yes, Disney fan, you must go see The Avengers and unlike John Carter the House of Mouse may have already convinced you.
The Disney synergy has begun for The Avengers, making it impossible for Disney fans to ignore the mousey heroes.  Soon we will see the Avenger crew plastered on three collectible covers for D23 Magazine (where was the John Carter cover, or even story) and turning over to Disney XD fans will find Disney preparing our kids for The Avengers with over an hour of Marvel cartoons.  One of them, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes transparently links to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s loftiest project.  But the other Ultimate Spider-Man is sneaking The Avengers into your living room. 
Teenager Peter Parker is the Spectacular Spider-Man.  Peter balances friends, high school, his super cool Aunt May (no crone here) and being a superhero.  Peter is a young superhero and youth means mistakes, as the Amazing Spider-Man lacks experience and mentoring.  So, Nick Fury the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. steps in to offer the mentoring the youngster many need to eventually reach Avenger status and fight alongside of Captain America, Iron Man and others.  Fury promises Parker that he can transform him into Ultimate Spider-Man.  Peter is not the only young hero that S.H.I.E.L.D. is training and they team up Spider-Man with their young stable including Nova, Iron Fist, Luke Cage or Power Man, and White Tiger.  And just for extra fun, Fury decides to send the entire team to attend high school with Pete!
This show is silly, witty, and quirky enough that both kids and adults will enjoy it.  Peter often breaks the fourth wall and shares his thoughts with the audience, thoughts that are not always heroic.  But they usually are funny.  It has a voice cast that delivers and the stories are well written.  In fact the stories are ones that use elements from the Spider-Man mythology that the hard core fan will enjoy while introducing the rookie to these characters and Spider-Man’s rogues gallery for the first time.
 So how does Ultimate Spider-Man tie into The Avengers?  First, the show makes heavy use of Nick Fury, the hero mentor and S.H.I.E.L.D.  And this Nick Fury is stylized after actor Samuel L. Jackson allowing everyone to know the tie-in between the cartoon and the movie.  The tie-in through S.H.I.E.L.D. is so deep that Clark Gregg voices Agent Coulson, who has been assigned as the principal of Peter’s high school so S.H.I.E.L.D. can keep an eye on the young team.  Second, Avengers have guest starred on the show.  The most obvious to date is Iron Man, and a version of Iron Man that is self-destructive and not a great mentor for young heroes.  It’s a version that will make most fans think of Robert Downey Jr.  Finally, Stan Lee is in the house!  Lee voices Stan the janitor, sharing his unsolicited wisdom to the youngsters of Midtown High.  
Ultimate Spider-Man will help you get ready for May 4th when the Avengers Assemble.  But it will also entertain and help your young Disney fan become immersed in Disney’s Marvel properties.  Michael Eisner would be proud of all this synergy!   Well played Disney!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Between Books - The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World Planner: A Complete Organizer, Journal and Keepsake for Your Unforgettable Vacation

The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World Planner Cover
It’s a planner!
It’s a guidebook!
It’s an examination to the little touches that makes The Walt Disney World Resort special!
It’s a grill!
It’s a cooler!
The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World Planner by Susan Veness and Simon Veness is the follow up offering to Susan Veness’ The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World, a Disney fan favorite.  The first book is a land by land review of Imagineering Easter eggs and hidden history throughout the parks of the Walt Disney World Resort.  This new book does have additional “Hidden History” call outs for interested readers, but the bulk of this text falls within the traditional planning guide.  The authors provide a park by park, land by land overview of the Walt Disney World Resort and the planning experience. 
The guide opens with basic planning advice that could improve any trip to Orlando for a guest.  They provide an in-depth description of accommodations within the resort.  The authors then guide readers through each park of the Walt Disney World Resort.  From The Magic Kingdom Park to Disney’s Animal Kingdom they provide a summary of attractions, dining, shopping and special occasions for every park.  But recognizing that the resort is not parks alone, they also extend their summaries into the water parks, resort dining, Downtown Disney and the often unknown attractions within the park.  Throughout the book the authors sprinkle in tips for rookie guests and “Hidden History” providing background or history on aspects of attractions, restaurants or dining.  Each section is accompanied by blank lined pages for guests to journal or take notes of their own trips.  Chapters on each park are accompanied by simple maps (non-cluttered) of the parks.  And working as a planner there are folder pockets with each major park section to store documents or notes to help with your trip.  The book concludes with a selection of color photos, which readers are directed to as they read through the text. 
Overall, this is a very solid and useful guide.  The summaries are helpful, and would give first time guests a good idea of the experience they can anticipate without being completely spoiled.  I had to laugh when discussing the tips with the Between Wife.  I commented to her that the descriptions of Disney’s PhotoPass included all the basics, but I thought rookies needed to know that the photographers will take a picture with your camera.  Her response was, “Do you think you hit a point where you know too much about Disney?”  As always her point was made.  This book isn’t for me, it’s really directed at those first timers.  And with that in mind, the advice and guidance the Vennesses’ offer is very solid and helpful.  I mean, I could argue that Dole Whip isn’t “pineapple-flavored yogurt.”  Dole Whip is non-diary so not yogurt.  But I am a self proclaimed Dole Whip expert and for the first timer who might find Dole Whip in a yogurt shop that is probably a pretty good description. 
Now with the Dole Whip caveat out of the way I still found plenty of Hidden Magic I just did not know in The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World Planner.  I had no idea that some of the pools have opening ceremonies, with the description of the opening of the Fuentes del Morro pool at the Caribbean Beach Resort definitely sounding like an extra special piece of magic.  I was amazed at the tricks that Imagineers have used to make guests think a Nazi swastika is present in the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! while it is not actually there.  There are plenty examples found throughout the text where Between Disney learned something new. 
I was concerned about the physical durability of the book.  It does have a spiral spine with a cover that is bigger than the pages.  I was convinced that with my lifestyle that pages would rip off the spiral rings and that the cover would be beaten up after a few days in a backpack.  So I was mean to the book, in fact I tried to destroy it through normal usage.  I have carried it in my backpack, not a happy place for books for two weeks.  I cram my bag to capacity with books and other items of odd shape.  And being a commuter I bang and bash my bag on my daily journeys.  I knew it would fall apart, not being the first book my bag defeated.  I have been defeated.  No pages have ripped out and the over sized cover seems to have helped the pages from being attacked by the random pens and highlighters floating in my bag.  And the cover is showing slight wear, with the corners bruised with a few slightly upturned.  But it has survived two weeks of book bag living!  Maybe I didn’t torture this book enough. 
So who is Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World Planner for?  First, rookie visitors to the Walt Disney World Resort would find this book really useful.  The text includes all the basics that a first time visitor would need to know.  And the authors with their “Rookie Mistake” additions sprinkled throughout the book clearly targeted this audience.  Additionally I could see recommending this book to friends who have never visited the parks but I know would want details about the attractions that are not obvious.  The “Hidden History” for them would not be overwhelming but still provide enough to whet their curiosity.  Second, this book would serve well for folks looking to save money by not buying a separate planner, guidebook and Imagineering guide.  Here right in one text their basic needs would be met.  It’s not the biggest guidebook, but it is one that serves multiple purposes.  Second, more experienced travelers may find this book interesting as a reference; it is always handy to have a book with important telephone numbers for dining and accommodations in one easy to find location.  Third, fans of The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World will probably jump at this book with over hundred new hidden magic secrets.  I expect that the Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World Planner will find its way into many Between Disney libraries to aid vacation planning.      
Review Copy Provided by Adams Media 

For more on the Hidden Magic Series see Between Books - The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World Trivia.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mousey Movies - Iron Man

Before Disney owned Marvel the cinematic saga that will bring us May’s The Avengers began.  After the credits of 2008’s Iron Man, Samuel L. Jackson took the screen for the first time as Nick Fury Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and let us know that there were other heroes.  And not only were there heroes, but he was working on something called the Avengers Initiative.  Needless to say as a superhero fan I kind of stopped breathing for a few moments in 2008!
Iron Man introduces Marvel superhero Iron Man to the big screen.  It provides the story of how industrialist Tony Stark, played brilliantly by Robert Downey Jr., saved himself from terrorists by creating the Iron Man armor.  A changed man after surviving this attempt on his life, Stark turns away from his trade, weapons, and strikes out to improve the world.  He is challenged professionally and personally by his mentor (or nemesis) Obadiah Stane who wishes to control Stark’s technology for his own benefit.
Now to be honest, before Iron Man I was not a big fan of Tony Stark.  He always lived in the shadows to me of another millionaire superhero, DC’s Bruce Wayne/Batman.  And Stark has a ton of personality flaws that just did not resonate to me.  So as a kid if an X-Men book was laying next to an Iron Man book, X-men always won.  And that is true today with the print version of Iron Man.  But Downey Jr. is brilliant in this film and has crafted my favorite version of Tony Stark.  I have also been one of the rare fans to like Iron Man 2 more than the original.  This has been based on two facts; the sequel is a very Mousey Movie that every Disney fan can enjoy.  And honestly it doesn’t make me have to think as much!  But with The Avengers on its way I am rewatching every movie in the Avengers Initiative, and this pre-Disney influenced flick turns out to have obvious and hidden Mousey Moments:
·        Digital Heroes:  Jeff Bridges plays Obadiah Stane, the film’s villain.  Bridges was already the star of a cult Disney live action flick as Kevin Flynn in 1982’s Tron, and Clu.  He reprised those roles in 2010’s Tron: Legacy playing both hero (Flynn) and villain (Clu 2).  Part of my criticism of the sequel has been Bridges’ portray of Flynn as he seems to be a tech savvy version of The Dude from The Big Lebowski.  So as Stane I feel he is bringing something new to his career resume, a money and power loving evil industrialist, a character I imagine is very different than Bridges’ real personality.  But that is only because I am convinced that Bridges really is The Dude.          

·        Hobby Time:  Walt Disney enjoyed hands on hobbies.  Disney’s love of hobby trains and miniatures helped inspire him to create Disneyland.  He built the Carolwood Pacific Railroad in his background as a 1/8th scale train on a half mile track.  Much of the Carolwood line was built by Walt Disney himself with the help of Legend Roger E. Broggie.  This love of trains led to Walt’s park being encircled by one.  Additionally, Disney collected miniatures and hand built a number of detailed miniatures himself.  At one point he toyed with the idea of putting his miniatures on the road as a traveling exhibit, a predecessor to his interest in theme park attractions.  Tony Stark likes working with his hands too.  Walt Disney may have had his barn, but Tony Stark has a garage full of tools where he can get his hands dirty being creative working on cars and building super powered suits of armor. 

·        House of the Future:  For a decade starting in 1957, visitors to Disneyland could get a glimpse of future living at the Monsanto House of the Future.  Now, I never visited this attraction but in my mind Tony Stark lives in the House of the Future.  He is super rich and has pretty much any effort saving device you can think of in his mansion.  The dude has robots in his garage for heaven’s sake.  The most impressive living innovation is JARVIS (voiced by Paul Bettany), the computer that manages the Stark household.  JARVIS is so invaluable to Stark that he is connected to the Iron Man armor as an onboard artificial intelligence and advisor.     

·        Double Duty:  Jon Favreau directs both Iron Man and Iron Man 2.  And he also appears as Stark’s chauffer/body guard Happy Hogan.  Favreau passed on directing the future Iron Man 3 selecting instead to helm Magic Kingdom a future release that provides Disney fans a Kingdom Keepers or Night at the Museum style after dark in the park adventure.   Favreau has shown himself to be a big Disney fan boy, making me excited that this film will be led by one of us. 

·        Night on the Town: After returning from his kidnapping, Stark makes his first major public appearance at the Disney Concert Hall!  Okay, I about feel over when I heard it.  Stark is hosting his third annual benefit for firefighters at this Los Angeles’ venue.  And honestly its one of my favorite sites in the film for two reason.  First, look for the Stan Lee cameo at the Disney Concert Hall.  Second, Agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D meets Stark for the first time at the fundraiser. 

For me Iron Man was an unexpected Mousey Movie.  I thought I would actually have to force the connections to declare it Mousey.  Instead I found more Disney references and connections that I have even shared here.  And it really makes me happy that the first movie in the Avengers Initiative can stand proudly next to its Mousey sequel.          

Monday, April 16, 2012

Walt's Windows - C.S. Lewis on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

C.S. Lewis

In a January 11, 1939, letter to friend Alfred Kenneth Hamilton Jenkins, Lewis shares his critical thoughts of Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:

But what about Snow-White.  Leaving out the tiresome question of whether it is suitable for children (which I don't know and don't care) I thought it almost inconceivable good and bad - I mean, I don't know one human being could be so good and bad.  The worst thing of all was the vulgarity of the winking dove at the beginning, and the next worst the faces of the dwarfs.  Dwarfs ought to be ugly of course, but not in that way.  And the dwarfs' jazz party was pretty bad.  I supposed it never occurred to the poor boob that you could give them any other kind of music.  But all the terrifying bits were good, and the animals really most moving: the use of shadows (of dwarfs and vultures) was real genius.  What might not have come of it if this man had been educated - or even brought up in a decent society(Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Books, Broadcasts, and the War 1931-1939, 242)?

Lewis found both aspects to admire and abhor in Disney's first animated feature.  The Dwarfs seemed to catch Lewis' special interest.

Not happy with  fun loving dwarfs.  Lewis used dwarfs within his own writings.  Most prominently in the Chronicles of Narnia series.  In 1950's The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Lewis introduces the first dwarf character in his series, Ginarrbrik the servant of the White Witch.  Ginarrbrik is introduced to the story accompanying the White Witch on her sledge,

On the sledge, driving the reindeer, sat a fat dwarf who would have been about three free high if he had been standing.  He was dressed in polar bear's fur and on his head he wore a red hood with a long gold tassel hanging down from its point; his huge beard covered his knees and served him instead of a rug (Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, 123).
Ginarrbrik is not depicted smiling and happy, but at the same time he is not described as ugly or dark.  His overweight appearance and beard could easily have appeared amongst the seven dwarfs.

Ginarrbrik, The Original Grumpy?
Dwarfs also play prominently in 1951's Prince Caspian.  The most prominent Dwarf character who aids the stories heroes is Trumpkin.  Lewis brings Trumpkin into the story in a scene in which he, another Dwarf and a talking badger capture Prince Caspian,

The dwarf who had wanted to kill Caspian was a sour Black Dwarf (that is , his hair and beard were black and and thick and hard like horsehair).  His name was Nikabrik.  The other Dwarf was a Red Dwarf with hair rather like a Fox's and he was called Trumpkin (Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, 346).
Again, neither of these Dwarfs matches the description of Dopey or Doc.  I guess in the end, the desire to murder the title character is probably something that never crossed Happy's or Sneezy's mind.  

In the end, Lewis' Dwarfs and Disney's may have had a lot in common.  First, both were extremely loyal, standing by their friends through adversity.  Second, both prominently featured beards.  And finally, both sets were extremely capable; be it be mining or hand-to-hand combat. And the children in both stories, be it Snow or Lucy, are extremely kind and loving.  

Lewis' assessment of Disney as a man who needed an education was both spot on and somewhat unfair.  Compared to Lewis, the educated Oxford professor, Disney would have been lacking not even having his high school diploma.  But Lewis failed to see the genus of Walt Disney, a man who took a traditional story Lewis would have been familiar with and repackaging it for audiences to enjoy for generations.    

Ironically, the Lewis and Disney legacies would collide in 2005 with the release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe co-produced by Walden Media and Walt Disney Pictures.  It was followed in 2008 with The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.  But this time it was the Disney legacy that was disappointed by the earnings of the franchise and abandoned their support of the Narnia films.  A 2010 followup, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, moved forward without Disney support.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mousey Movies - The Stan Lee Cameo

Stan Lee
Throughout the Avengers Initiative there has been several connective themes that tie the movies together.  First, Samuel L. Jackson has consistently appeared as Nick Fury, the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.  And Clark Gregg has consistently portrayed Agent Coulson.  But another actor has appeared throughout, just not as the same character.  That master thespian has been Stan Lee, who has played a cameo role in almost every movie containing a Marvel character. 
Who is Stan Lee?  In many ways Stan Lee is the Walt Disney of the Marvel universe.  In 1941 a nineteen year old Stan Lee was made Interim Editor of Timely Comics, which would later become Marvel Comics.  His job before this was an assistant who was in charge of making sure the inkwells were filled!  For the next 6 decades Lee served as editor, publisher, writer, and creative force within Marvel Comics.  He co-created characters such as Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, The X-Men, Thor, Iron Man and many more.  During these years he helped transform Marvel from a small publishing firm to a major corporation spread across several media platforms.
Lee has never been afraid to perform to support Marvel properties.  For me I was first introduced to Stan Lee as the narrator of the cartoon Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.  He brought the tales of the web slinger into my home and the homes of other true believers every weekend, and it was wonderful.  If you want to get my attention, add Stan Lee to the mix!
As Marvel expanded into movies he began to make cameo roles.  Some were somewhat anonymous, such as his first cameo as a juror in the TV-movie The Trial of the Incredible Hulk.  Other cameos were established Marvel characters such as postman Willie Lumpkin in Fantastic Four.  Others have honestly been odd, playing celebrities.  One thing is common with every one of these cameos, they make you smile and you fill with pride as you spot Lee’s appearance. 
Now Lee is not Marvel’s John Ratzenberger.  Unlike the Pixar lucky charm, Lee has not appeared in every Marvel film.  For example, Lee is not present in X-Men: First Class due to scheduling issues.  But if Marvel can work it in, Lee will be added to the cast. 
The following are the Stan Lee cameos in the Avengers Initiative to date:
·     Iron Man: Stan Lee appears as Hugh Hefner?  Actually Tony Stark confuses Lee for Hefner, but Lee is playing himself.  Lee as Lee really does make more sense than Lee as Hefner, but this is not the last time he will appear as an elderly celebrity.

·     The Incredible Hulk: Mr. Lee drinks a bad soft drink, one infused with Bruce Banner’s blood.  As expected, Gamma radiated blood will make one ill!  

·     Iron Man 2: Lee appears at the Stark Expo as Larry King!  Yet again Lee shows his versatility playing another celebrity.

·     Thor: I have to admit this is my favorite cameo.  Lee plays a good old boy trying to use his pickup truck to pull Thor’s hammer Mjolnir out of the ground.  Does truck or hammer win?

·     Captain America: The First Avenger: Lee plays a World War II general.  Finally Lee receives a role that is suitable for a man of his stature.
For your viewing pleasure, this montage contains all of Lee’s cameos in major Marvel films including the Avenger movies.

Who do you hope Stan Lee plays in The Avengers?  I am pulling for President of the United States.   After being a general he can only go up!  Whatever role he plays, you can pretty much guarantee that Lee will make his presence known when The Avengers premiers! 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Between Books - Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions & Other Tributes

Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions & Other Tributes by Kevin Yee shows readers the Easter eggs found in the Walt Disney World Resort that honor retired attractions and those that influenced the attractions within the resort.  He takes readers on a tour of the four parks within the resort and even examines tributes in Downtown Disney and the resort hotels.  Most examinations of tributes are less than a page long and many are accompanied by black and white photographs.  Yee also provides a list of those honored with Main Street U.S.A. windows and a list of opening and closing dates for active and closed attractions.  The book finishes with a few pages of non-Disney tributes found within the Universal Orlando Resort.
I have read similar books in the Imagineering Guide series and The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World.  So I was a little amazed to read some new material that I was not familiar with including tributes to Walt Disney and Frank Wells in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, the role toasters had to play with Dinosaur, and even some nods to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride within the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh beyond the two that I have read about several times.  I really did not expect to see anything that I would have classified as new, but these were just a few examples of me being proven wrong.  Additionally, unlike those other books Yee provides readers details that match closely to the parks we have today, with no references to the defunct Mickey’s Toontown Fair which can be found in other similar books.  But if I was to ask for improvement I would have two requests.  First, I would love more content.  This text is around 200 pages with several pages having only a half page of content.  Second, I would like to see color and clearer pictures.  The addition of pictures is a very nice touch.  However, a few of the pictures do not do justice to the content Yee provides due to clarity.  Overall, Walt Disney World Hidden History is easy to read and shows sometimes there is something new under the sun. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mousey Movies - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer

I’m never going to have the strength of Captain America.  I’m never going to have the godlike powers of Thor.  And I am not anywhere close to smart enough to build my own super suit.  But I can clean up well enough to look good in a suit!  So if there is any character I could ever strive to be in The Avengers it would be Agent Phil Coulson played by Clark Gregg.  Coulson is the non-super yet highly capable member of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division or S.H.I.E.L.D.  Coulson is unphased spending his days surrounded by and managing Disney’s mightiest heroes
I am not the only one that thinks we need more Coulson, so does Disney and Marvel.  They have developed a small series of shorts called “Marvel One Shots” that center around Coulson and episodes in the development of the Avengers Initiative.  The absolute best is “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer” which bridges Iron Man 2 and Thor:

Never underestimate a man in a suit! 
The Agent Coulson goodness just won’t end.  Not only will he be included in May’s The Avengers but you can now enjoy a little bit of Coulson at home every week on DisneyXD with Gregg voicing Coulson on Ultimate Spiderman
Avengers Assemble!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dreaming Disney Special - How to Play Baseball

Today is opening day for my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs!  I can officially start today with my claims that we will be better next year!

I love baseball, but for those of you who don't know the game, he is a quick instructional video:
Who ever you cheer for...good luck!  I know I will need it. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Between Books - The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland

The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland provides a visual overview of the Disneyland park at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim California.  Alex Wright the author of The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World also writes this guide.  Wright reviews the concepts and tools of Imagineering.  Wright takes readers through Walt Disney’s beloved theme park from Main Street U.S.A to Tommorrowland.  He provides details to his readers about why and how the Imagineers crafted the stories of the original Disney theme park.  The highlight of the text as with the entire series is pictures with visuals ranging from attraction photos to concept art, including art from legendary Imagineers.  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 pilgrimage to follow Walt Disney’s footsteps. 
By the time I read this volume I was very familiar with this series of books.  I purchased it to prepare for my first ever trip to the Disneyland Resort.  I felt comfortable with the Magic Kingdom Park, but with kids in tow I wanted to have a feel for the lay of the land instead of jumping in with no general park layout in mind.  I also needed to know what rides and attractions were different and the same so I could prepare myself and my kids.  The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland more than fulfilled these goals.  I felt informed when I crossed onto Main Street U.S.A. for the first time and able to tour comfortably.  Like the other volumes in this series, the pictures are stunning.  And living Between Disney it is easy to thumb throw when you need a visual Disney fix.  The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland is another successful offering in this series of field guides.   

For more from the Imagineering Guide series see “Between Books – The Imagineering Field Guide to the Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World” and “Between Books – The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.”