Friday, June 29, 2012

Dreaming Disney - Mahna Mahna Tour

The Jungle Cruise
The Between Kids love silly YouTube videos.  I cannot be the only walks into the office to only find kids watching videos of talking animals. 

Sometimes being a good Betweenland parent I'll sit down with them and redirect away from the animal videos to something more my style....Jungle Cruise ridethroughs.

The Mahna Mahna Tour, which has been featured on Tales from the Jungle Crews, is one of our absolute favorites.  It has Muppets, it has references to other Disney attractions, and it has some standard Jungle Cruise puns we all love.

I hope you enjoyed your tour of the rivers of the world as much as the Between Family has! 

Until next time, Mahna Mahna!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mousey Movie Review - Brave

Brave Poster
I admit it, I doubted.  I thought that families would flock to the opening of Disney Pixar’s Brave, but I still did not think that it would beat out the patriotic vampire slaying crowd.  Could I have been more wrong?  Yeah, 13 consecutive number one openings for Pixar!  And domestically and internationally Brave earned $80 million in box office.  Meanwhile Vampire Moments with Mr. Lincoln crawled to $16.5 million, coming in behind two family films.  Pixar, why do I doubt?

The movie itself is solid overall.  The story of Princess Merida and her search to keep her freedom will score high with the family crowd with its message of unifying family strife.  Personally, I enjoyed Brave, but I have to admit it did not crack my Pixar top five.  Of course that is a pretty big chore with Up, Monsters, Inc., and the Toy Story trilogy being pretty tough to unseat.  Visually the movie is impressive, but at this point we come to expect that from a Pixar production.  The Between Kids were divided.  The youngest did not see talking toys or cars and was pretty meh in reaction.  Maybe the movie was too real for his tastes.  The older Between Kid loved it.   But the older kiddo has more refined tastes.  Here are my overall hopefully non-spoiler thoughts on the Mousey Brave.

·    The Captain’s Seat:  Mark Andrews is the director who completed Brave.  For many Andrews may seem like an unknown but his Pixar resume is impressive.  He directed the highly enjoyable short “One Many Band”, was head of story for The Incredibles, story supervisor for Ratatouille, did some storyboarding for Cars and contributed (cough cough) to Pixar’s live action adventure John Carter earning screenplay and second unit director credits.  Andrews may be the next up and coming Pixar director and I am sure that executive producers John Lasseter, Peter Doctor, and Andrew Stanton felt very comfortable with him in the director’s chair.  And I think it’s a bet that paid off.

·    The Princess: Pixar has officially added their princess to the Disney Princess Pantheon.  And her strong willed attitude will probably help her fit in with Belle and Rapunzel.  But they may be shocked to find out that for Merida her solution to life’s problems is not something that can be solved with marriage, but something she is willing to fight for herself.

·     Skin Flick:  There is a ton of nakedness in Brave.  Okay, two scenes with a third hinting at it.  Luckily it is all good-natured innocent man flesh.  But I can remember when the debate around Beauty and the Beast was there too much cleavage!  I would say Pixar has jumped ahead of that debate.

·    The King: Billy Connolly voices Merida’s father King Fergus.  Connolly is perfect as this Scottish monarch and sometimes I forgot that the animated figure is not Connolly’s real image.  Connolly is not new to Disney animation having narrated the 2011 short “The Ballad of Nessie.” 

·     Clear Cool Water:  Pixar is really amazing.  For Finding Nemo they had to learn how to animate water and lots of it.  They did so good that they had to actually cartoon the water up so the audience would not believe it was real.  The water in Brave is so brilliant and realistic I was struck by it.  I felt like I could reach out, fill up a glass and have myself a cool refreshing drink.  Both Brave and Brother Bear have scenes in which a bear or bears fish in a river.  They cannot even be compared because the style in Brave could easily be part of our world.  Okay, I am weird and have heard others mock me when telling them this impression, so you may be ignoring the water in your viewing. 

·    Wooden Toys: In the witch’s shack you have to watch carefully because not every item is a bear amongst her wares.  Pixar fans will be pleased with one of the other items in her collection.  Likewise, listen carefully when the clan leaders arrive at King Fergus’ castle.  Though I did not catch an A113, Pixar has made at least two streaks extend to 13!  (If you found a A113, let us know in the comments.)

·     Magic: Merida wants to change her fate and the mind of her mother.  To do this she turns to magic.  Like my current favorite ABC show Once Upon a Time we get an important theme about magic, it comes with a price.  When Merida talks to the witch about the spell, the witch’s responses give hints that there are no shortcuts without penalty a fact all of us have learned faithfully on Sunday evenings.

Betweenlanders will surely be supporting Brave in the coming months.  Though, it has not broken into my Pixar top five, I am sure that it will be seen several times in the Between Family over the next few years on home video.  And I am sure if given the chance the Between Kid would love to meet Merida alongside her fellow Disney princesses.  But it does not come close to unseating Up in my heart.  But I hear plenty of love for Brave from the Disney community.     

Congratulations Pixar, you have a cowboy, an astronaut and now a princess. 

This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival. Head over there to see more great Disney-related posts and articles.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Mousey Movie Preview - Monsters University

Disney and Pixar have released not one, not two, but four different version of the teaser trailer for Monsters University.  You can see all four slightly different versions here. 

Version #1

Version #2

Version #3

Version #4

I don't know about you, but I can't wait until Summer 2013 for us to get the prequel to Monsters, Inc just based on the fact that I have yet to see a Pixar sequel I did not like.  And I like seeing new Mike and Sully in this trailer.

Are you excited about Monsters University?  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dreaming Disney - Celebrating Roy O. Disney

I was very excited to have issue 24 of Celebrations hit my mailbox this week, with my profile of Roy O. Disney.  Roy O. Disney is one of my favorite figures in Disney history.  He was a man able to set aside his own ego to build the dreams of others.  I became interested in Roy O. Disney when reading Bob Thomas' Walt Disney: An American Original.  The portrait that Thomas paints leads the reader to know more about this man and his life.

The Roy O. Disney article is my first journey into writing for the Disney community.  And my experience with Celebrations has helped me connect to the Disney experience in the middle of Betweenland.  I'm just a guy who likes history with no Disney connections or special access but this experience has shown me you can chase Disney dreams wherever you are! 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dreaming Disney - Communicore Weekly

Communicore Weekly Logo
Well, at least they can claim it’s short!
Communicore Weekly has passed twenty episodes and has made itself a mainstay of my podcast listening week.  Technically it is a vid-cast, but I download the audio only version.  So there are some features such as the “Fantastically Fuzzy Photo” which are lost on me since I only hear them describe the photo instead of watching it.  And I am sure with it being a vid-cast there are other graphics and production that honestly are just lost on me as an audio only consumer.   My thoughts about this podcast are based on the audio presentation alone.
The show is hosted by two nerdy Disney enthusiasts.  George Taylor is the force behind Imaginerding, a go to site for Disney books.  Taylor is one of the inspirations for my own blogging.  If he can post book reviews and I’m reading those books too, why couldn’t I be another voice by reporting on Between Books?  Jeff Heimbuch blogs for MiceChat, like Taylor, and shares Taylor’s love of books and Disney history.  The two have good chemistry, sharing common interests and at humorously times knocking each other down as any guy would do with a good guy friend.
Did I mention Communicore is short!  I am comparing its length typically around ten minutes to a podcast that I am listening to right while writing, one that is topping out at two hours for one topic.  With Communicore you can expect 5 or 6 topics within minutes.  Now I do think there is a place for a longer podcast, and there are plenty of them that I listen to.  But it is nice to have a podcast that can provide a lot of variety quickly.  I feel comfortable starting an episode of Communicore Weekly when I know I only have 20 minutes before my next meeting, where the longer podcasts would not be an option out of fear that I would get involved and then have to leave it behind for hours.  With Communicore I know I am going to get some Disney goodness quickly.
The content itself fits my own personal interests.  George and Jeff like books and history.  And so do I!  Features on the show include “This Day in Disney History” which highlights a historical event, “George’s Book of the Week” which as one expects is a book review, and the “Five Legged Goat” in which the hosts describe a hidden tribute or homage within the parks.  Some of the more unexpected segments include “Bathroom Break” in which the hosts describe some of their favorite Disney bathrooms and “Fantsically Fuzzy Photo” in which viewers/listeners submit their own unfocused photo, well at least I assume they are out of focus.
Along with the regular weekly show they have also released “In the Hot Seat” episodes which feature interviews with authors like Ridley Pearson and Leonard Kinsey.  These episodes are longer than the weekly show and are a nice treat for book lovers. 
I know I have mentioned length a few times.  But I do find it important.  If you have not tried a Disney podcast yet, Communicore Weekly may be a good place to start a new obsession.  The length allows you to not invest a lot of time into sampling a Disney podcast but still provides you a lot of information in that short amount of time.  And as many Disney enthusiasts urge us to slow down in the parks, maybe now I will walk a little slower through the bathrooms.  That won’t be awkward right?      

Friday, June 15, 2012

Oswald Opines - In Defense of Disneyland

My first Disney parks experience was the Walt Disney World Resort.  And from my window Walt Disney World was all I ever needed.  Seriously, everything I needed was just a bus ride away so why would I ever go anywhere else for vacation again?
The Matterhorn and the Lagoon
The Matterhorn and the Lagoon
 Then I rethought things.  Well, Disney rethought things for me.  With the Fantasyland expansion kicking up a few years ago the Between Family made a decision.  We did not want a Magic Kingdom Park that was filled with construction walls.  So, we decided to look elsewhere for a vacation, one somewhere in Betweenland.  We considered Kansas City since we have a lot of friends in the area.  But we wanted a vacation where we could relax and not impose on others.  So we limited our search to Duluth, Minnesota and The Wisconsin Dells. 
Faced with the brochures of two Big D vacation destinations, we chose Disneyland!
It’s a choice we never regretted!
But on our journey to prepare to go somewhere new, I was kind of shocked about the amount of disrespect Disneyland has received from Walt Disney World fans.  It makes me sad, because in many ways Disneyland is better than Walt Disney World.  In fact at this moment I claim Disneyland as my home park (which will probably change the next time I go to Walt Disney World).  Here is why the Disneyland Resort is a superior vacation experience.
·         Walt’s Park: Disneyland may have changed a lot since 1955, but it’s still Walt’s Park.  Even when one watches “Dateline: Disneyland” from opening day you get the general sense that it is the same park we have today.  And you know that Walt helped design a number of the attractions that we see today like Autopia or the original non-punny version of The Jungle Cruise.  For me a big moment when I leave the park is to look up at the lamp in Walt’s old apartment over the Firehouse and remarking to the kids that as long as that light burns the spirit of Walt Disney is still here.  Sometimes I imagine that Walt still walked the streets before the guests arrive, something he never got the chance to do in Orlando.  I have never gotten the sense that Walt Disney was with me in Walt Disney World, but I have always gotten a feeling that a visit to Disneyland was a visit to Walt’s Park. 

·         Walking Distance: At Walt Disney World we assume that it going to take us at least 30 minutes to get from room to park and back again.  Being planners we actually give ourselves an hour in our planning for when to leave for the park.  At Disneyland this is a non-issue.  If staying off property, feel free to stay across the street.  Yes, across the street!  From off-site hotel rooms we have watched fireworks over The Matterhorn, Monorails zooming to their next stop, and guests walking onto Disney property.  When we have stayed on-property I have literary gone from pool, to FASTPASS machine, back to pool.  And there was nothing like the nights we spent with the curtains open looking into Disney California Adventure wondering when Mickey’s Fun Wheel would no longer be illuminated.  One of the Between Kids and I once got soaked on Splash Mountain at the back of the park.  We left the attraction, walked to our room, changed, and were back in the park within 30 minutes from our off-property accommodations.  That is a trick we could have never pulled at Walt Disney World.   
Matterhorn from the Hotel
Matterhorn from the Hotel
·         Walking Distance II:  It really is location, location, location!  One night a few years ago a Between Kid and I finished a night alone in the parks.  We went from Disneyland Park to Downtown Disney to Disney California Adventure and hopped back to Disneyland.  We did this in a few hours time and rode rides that we could find in The Magic Kingdom Park, Disney Hollywood Studios and Epcot if we were in Orlando.  But we had ridden the same rides in Orlando we would have spent at least an hour and half traveling between locations instead of just completing quick walks.

·         Disney California Adventure Park:  Even filled with construction parks DCA is likely my third favorite Disney park!  There I said it.  I have lost all credibility.  But for me DCA has some of my favorite things from Epcot (Soarin’) and Disney Hollywood Studios Park (Toy Story Midway Mania) and enough original attractions (World of Color, California Screamin, Monsters Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue) to make me very happy.  Basically with the addition of Cars Land this summer there is so much awesome I think we seriously have to consider this question with future trips, “Which park first?”
Paradise Pier Before World of Color
Paradise Pier Before World of Color
·         Kid Friendly: The Disneyland Resort is so much easier to get around with kids.  There is no loading and unloading of strollers on buses.  It is easier to get a crabby kid to nap time within10 minutes, and back again when we are happily rested.  Attractions are closer together making it easier for one parent to be riding a E-Ticket while the other parent is taking their shift on a kiddy focused dark ride, I can’t tell you how many times I have waited for Splash Mountain while riding The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh over and over and over again.  Basically when things are closer together it is easier to navigate the needs of a small child.

Yes, Disneyland Resort is my home today.  I really wish someone had told me these things before my first visit to Anaheim.  I love this park and considering a visit to Walt Disney World almost makes me feel dirty.  Seriously, should I be scolded for considering Orlando over Anaheim?  Disney fan, you really have to give Walt’s original theme park a chance. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Walt's Windows - National Geographic 1963

National Geographic Cover
Recently the Between Wife found some fantastic vintage Disney photos on Pinterest.  Clicking into them led to two blog posts at Imagineering Disney which highlighted pictures from the August 1963, issue of National Geographic exploring the life and creations of Walt Disney including Disneyland.  The Between Wife immediately ordered me a copy of this magazine giving a window into 1963 Disney culture.
The magazine itself has three significant peeks inside Walt Disney’s world.  The first is a brief article titled “Walt Disney: Genius of Laughter and Learning” by Melville Bell Grosvenor which speculates on the future legacy of Walt Disney.  The second article by Robert De Roos is a large and richly illustrated article titled “The Magic Worlds of Walt Disney” which outlines the animated, live-action and theme park endeavors of Walt Disney.  Finally, as part of this second article is a multi-page aside titled “Animation: Mickey Mouse explains the art to Mr. G.O. Graphic” using images of Mickey, Goofy, Donald and their friends to explain how Disney creates animated stories.  
Mickey Mouse shows how animated films are made.
Mickey Mouse Shows How Animated Films are Made
“Walt Disney: Genius of Laughter and Learning” is the real centerpiece to the Disney offerings in this magazine.  De Roos profiles Walt Disney’s rise to success from a humble childhood.  He quotes Walt Disney’s older brother Roy O. Disney, “As long as I can remember, Walt has been working (De Roos, 167).”  A picture is painted of a hard working man who has his hands in a number of endeavors simultaneously.  Walt Disney when asked what he actually does comments that he is an executive producer, “sometimes I think of myself as a busy little bee.  I go from one area of the studio to another and gather pollen and sort of stimulate everyone (De Roos, 162).”  And stimulate he does as De Roos explores Disney’s vast projects.
This is National Geographic so one aspect of Disney’s films resonates with this audience, live action nature films.  Nearly nine pages go into depth on the production of the Disney True-Life Adventure series.  Ironically, many of these pages are illustrated with pictures taken from Disneyland not with animals but happy park guests!  The author discusses how these nature films are produced, including sharing a story or two of the crew interfering with the natural consequences of animals in nature.  Overall, the article provides a nice summary of the True-Life Adventure films and their production, including how Disney crafted a story from film taken in the field.
Walt Disney and National Geographic
Walt Disney and His Library of National Geographic
For me it was information about the parks that I found the most interesting.  A pullout map makes mention of a Haunted Mansion, a building on the map but not yet an attraction for years to come.  Walt Disney shows the author plans for the 1964 World’s Fair showing Ford’s Magic Skyway.  The piece I found the most interesting was Disney’s demonstration of an Abraham Lincoln Audio-Animatronic figure slated to be part of a Hall of Presidents inside a new Disneyland attraction One Nation Under God.  Instead as we know that figure became part of the state of Illinois’ World’s Fair attraction, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.  It is exciting to see early WED the original Imagineering workshop, in action.
Pull Out Map
The Pull Out Map
Imagineers work on Abraham Lincoln
WED at Work

It’s not just the articles that give us a window to Disneyland of 1963, it’s also the advertisements.  An ad for Insurance Company of North America features the E.P. Ripley of the Disneyland Railroad.  Another for United Airlines shows how one can travel from Los Angeles to Disneyland by helicopter!  Though unintended, these advertisements give us a glimpse into Walt Disney’s Disneyland.  
United Airlines ad
Catch a Ride to Disneyland?
Insurance Company of North America
Carefree at Disneyland?
And there is foreshadowing in this issue about what was to come much later.  One article “Fluorescent Gems from Davy Jones’ Locker” hints at a future villain in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise and Disney attraction.  Though the reference is ironic, the real foreshadowing comes in the article, “My Life Among Wild Chimpanzees” by Jane Goodall.  The article makes many references and provides photos of a Chimpanzee that she named David Graybeard.  As a tribute to Goodall and her conservation work, David Graybeard was sculpted into the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom three decades later!  Yet another reference is made to a future Disney’s Animal Kingdom attraction in the article “American and Geographic Flags top Everest” foreshadowing the Expedition Everest roller coaster. 
In August 1963, National Geographic had a lot to see and read for Disney enthusiasts.  The pictures themselves without commentary are nothing short of classic.  The articles showing how WED and Walt Disney worked are a glimpse into a time gone by.  Volume 124, No. 2 provides us a window into Walt’s world the way it was, the way it would be, and the way it never was. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mousey Movies - The Great Locomotive Chase

The Great Locomotive Chase
I had heard of 1956’s The Great Locomotive Chase several times as a Disney fan but had never seen it.  Recently I was able to borrow a copy, and I have to say it was really enjoyable.  The story behind The Great Locomotive Chase is the real life American Civil War Andrews Raid in 1862.  Union spy James J. Andrews led a group of Union Army volunteers to damage the railroad line into Chattanooga, Tennessee after stealing a Confederate train.  The men cut telegraph wires and destroyed parts of the railroad line as they moved north, being pursued by confederates in their own trains.  The movie dramatizes this chase as the Confederates attempt to capture the Union heroes.  After the incident, U.S. Army participants in the Andrews Raid were awarded the first Medals of Honor, Andrews was not eligible as a civilian. 
It is easy to see why Walt Disney would have wanted to make this story into a movie.  First, it has trains.  Walt Disney was deeply interested in trains.  Additionally, it had had patriotic themes which would have appealed to Disney.  The overall result is an enjoyable and Mousey movie:

·         King of the Wild Frontier: Disney Legend Fess Parker stars as Andrews in this feature.  Parker made his name, and helped create a national sensation starring as Davy Crockett.  He appeared in one hour long episodes of the ABC Disneyland series in the “Davy Crockett” mini-series. Parker, in the tradition of Disney multi-platform stars, recorded a version of the theme song “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” which put Parker on the 1955 Billboard charts.  A personal favorite Parker moment is watching him dressed as Crockett with co-star Buddy Ebsen on the Dateline: Disneyland program chronicling Disneyland’s opening day. 

·        Trains, Trains, Trains:  Did I mention Walt Disney liked trains?  There is a lot that you can say about Disney and his lifelong love of trains.  But it is probably best to start at the beginning.  Disney’s self-proclaimed hometown of Marceline, Missouri was a railroad town and he grew up around trains.  At age 15, Walt followed the footsteps of his older brother Roy O. Disney and became a news butcher.  What is a news butcher?  A news butcher sold newspapers, candy, cigars, soft drinks and other items to railroad passengers.  Disney worked for a brief time on the Missouri Pacific railroad as a news butcher.  He had the run of the trains he worked and helped establish a lifelong love of trains.  It is only fitting that Walt Disney would produce a movie where trains had a major role in the story.      

·         Master Class:  Disney Legend Ub Iwerks is credited with special processes for the film.  There is honestly too much to say about Iwerks than can be given in a small paragraph.  Iwerks was connected to Walt Disney back to Disney’s days in Kansas City.  Iwerks was a co-worker at the Pesmen-Rubim Art Studio producing advertisements, business partner in the Iwerks-Disney Commercial Company and friend.  Iwerks had relocated to Los Angeles to join the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio and served as the chief animator.  When Disney lost the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Iwerks animated the studios new creation Mickey Mouse, effectively making him a co-creator of everyone’s favorite mouse.  Iwerks left Disney to start his own studio, Iwerks Studios, which was never able to find an audience in the 1930s.  During this time period he turned his interest to filmmaking tools, developing in 1933 a four level mulitplane camera providing depth to animated films.  Iwerks returned in 1940 to Disney employment and began working on special visual effects including his work in The Great Locomotive Chase

·        The Black Hole:  The Great Locomotive Chase has ties to a latter Disney live action film after Walt Disney’s death.  Disney legend Peter Ellenshaw was a matte artist for The Great Locomotive Chase and provided miniature effects for 1979’s The Black Hole.  Slim Pickens in 1956 played Peter Bracken, the engineer operating the train that chases Andrews’ raiders.  In 1979, he voiced the robot Bob, a fan favorite, in The Black Hole.  Trains and space, who would have guessed?            

·        Two Brothers:  One scene in the movie has Andrew’s men sharing a meal with southern hosts who do not realize the raiders are Northern soldiers.  Reflecting real history, this scene makes it clear that the United States during the American Civil War was divided on very personal lines; with not just the North and South being divided, but states, towns and even families.  It immediately took me to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland and the Two Brothers segment, also shown at The American Adventure at Epcot.  This was a difficult time in American history and growing up in Missouri, a state divided during the war, the memory of this tension would have been very real during Disney’s formative years. 

I really enjoyed The Great Locomotive Chase.  Overall I felt it was well acted and produced.  For reasons I still can’t explain it reminded me of another movie I love, The Great Escape.  I believe it was likely the chase scenes and the tension of possible capture that reminded me of this classic film.  It is a fine, but often overlooked, moment in Disney live action history that is well worth a viewing.       

Monday, June 4, 2012

Between Books - Design: Just For Fun

Memories change, fade and play tricks on us.
And sadly sometimes those who spent times with legends pass away without recording their memories.
Over the last several years there has been talk of the passing of the World War Two generation and the loss of their memories and tales.  Some authors and archives made efforts to collect these stories before they could no longer be claimed.  Sadly we are losing another generation of legends.  Only a few of Walt’s Nine Old Men are still with us and there are increasing fewer and fewer Disney Legends who helped Walt Disney build Disneyland.  Who would not have loved a memoir written by Ward Kimball or Marc Davis?  Let’s be honest every Disney fan would enjoy it!  We still have a number of these men and women that we can only call legends available to us and hopefully we will have them for years to come.  And over the next decades I hope we as a Disney community can capture as much of their memory as possible so the Between Kids and their kids can read and hear about what it was like working with Walt Disney, remembering that he was a person and not a company.

Design: Just for Fun
Bob Gurr in Design: Just for Fun recounts his life including how he became an Imagineer, the projects he worked on, and his life after Disney which can hardly be called a retirement.  Gurr outlines his childhood and his difficulties with the traditional educational system, urging parents of problem children that they may be parenting a creative.  He recounts how he joined Imagineering as a young adult, with no college degree, tasked to design Autopia.  Gurr would go on to contribute to a list of classic and beloved Disney attractions including the Main Street Vehicles, the Matterhorn, the Monorail, the Ford Magic Skyway, the Abraham Lincoln figure for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and the Omnimover used in numerous Disney dark rides to just name a few.  Gurr goes in depth into the design of these attractions, including the choices he made, manufacturing, and performance.  After a long career with Disney, Gurr was laid off or quit depending on the story, and started his own design firm with its own impressive list of accomplishments including the Michael Jackson 1984 victory tour, UFO for the 1984 Olympics closing ceremony, the King Kong figure for Universal Studios, and the Treasure Island Pirate Battle show.  The book finishes with Gurr’s comments on design, how to become an Imagineer and what it was like working with Walt Disney.
Gurr provides tons of insight into how Disney designers and himself created.  A reoccurring theme is his use of stock parts.  In building the Monorail for example he did not attempt to create new components if avoidable, but searched through automotive parts catalogs.  By using this method he could ensure parts with service records and could avoid the need for specialized manufacturing.  One does not think stock parts when considering Disney’s attractions, but was an eye opener to realize how much under the hood was off the rack.  Another realization is the discussion of the use of contractors like Arrow Dynamics to build attractions instead of building in house. 
This book is rich with Gurr having a lot to say based on a long and impressive career.  The book consists of short chapters, rarely longer than four to five pages.  Gurr is a designer and clearly not a writer.  The opening chapters on his early life are somewhat choppy.  And there are occasions where Gurr repeats himself.  Once he enters the chapters covering his design projects the text begins to flow more fluidly.  The writing is at times very technical and somewhat above my head.  Math is hard!  You can really tell he enjoyed his projects and loves building things.  The book is very richly illustrated with fantastic photographs of Gurr’s creations and blueprints.  Three are a few instances where the illustrations are distracting, with pictures dividing blocks of text  and the reader seeking to find the continuation of the thought on the other side of the picture. 
This book is quite expensive.  Personally I had to think through very painfully if I would purchase the title.  In the end, I felt like it was something I could only read if I purchased it for myself.  You will not find this title in a public library.  It is extremely limited to 2,000 copies (1,000 red versions autographed and numbered).  Gurr explained in an interview with Moustalgia that he intended for the book to keep its value for collectors.  He argues he is not only selling a memoir but also a collector’s item.  At the time of this posting, there are only blue editions remaining.  
Design: Just for Fun shows the depth of Bob Gurr’s work in themed attractions and provides his memories of working for Disney and others.  Where else can one read of a Disney legend laying underneath the Mad Tea Party to observe its wear patterns?  Gurr is a legend with fantastic stories to share.  Now fans can keep those stories within your Disney library with Design: Just for Fun.
This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival. Head over there to see more great Disney-related posts and articles.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Walt's Windows - Kimball's Engines

People, its people that has always attracted me to history.  Honestly strong and unique personalities have always caught my interest.  So in baseball history, I have always been attracted to Ty Cobb not because I idolized him but because of his strikingly defined personality.   

Luckily as a Disney fan, there are plenty of unique personalities to study.  One of those men that I love to hear stories of and recount to others is Ward Kimball.  Kimball was a unique and intelligent man who seemed to have a number of diverse interests including trains and the society of tomorrow. 
Part of Ward Kimball’s personal backyard transportation collection were fire engines.  These items have been added to the collection of the Los Angeles County Fire Museum.  And their Spring 2012 Newsletter “Fire Warden” profiles Kimball and their place within their collection.  And best of all “Fire Warden” is available as a free downloable PDF that all can enjoy.  

There are two pieces in their collection that Disney fans should be excited about.  The first is Kimball’s 1888 Silsby Steam Pumper.  This piece shows the care that Kimball spent in preserving his collection.  This hand pulled 19th century piece was repainted by Kimball, but only have he used his drawing skill to document its decorations.
1888 Silsby Steam Pumper
1888 Silsby Steam Pumper: Originally Hand Drawn

The second is guaranteed to get any Disney fan excited.  They hold Kimball’s 1916 American LaFrance Fire Engine.  Kimball restored this piece for use by his jazz band, the Firehouse Five - Plus 2.  The Firehouse Five – Plus 2 would play from the hose bed.  The band made up of Disney staff members including another one of Walt’s Nine Old Men Frank Thomas and Harper Goff who created many of the early representations of the park.  The band was popular during the 1950s and had made many public appearances before the opening of Disneyland.  But Disneyland was a location where they preformed often playing on the back of the 1916 fire engine.  
1916 American LaFrance Fire Engine
I highly recommend that you download this issue of “Fire Warden” which takes us back to a day when Disney legends played jazz music for guests from the back of a privately owned fire engine.