Thursday, January 31, 2013

Between Books - John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood

Book Cover for John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood
I have been a fairly outspoken supporter of Andrew Stantons’ 2012 John Carter. The marketing campaign stole some of my excitement before I saw the film, but the finished product pushed itself into my top five movies of 2012. I am someone who would love a sequel and further exploration of Barsoom. And it is because of the movie that I picked up the original A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs and found myself entranced by a really well developed world in the midst of romantic adventure. I would say due to the film, I am a new convert to Barsoom, and I think there are others like me.

Michael D. Sellers however is part of the pre-movie fan base. For Sellers, awaiting John Carter, was a dream come true where his beloved franchise would finally get its proper due on the big screen. Sellers may have found the final product on the screen satisfactory, but the support given it by Disney was a clear disappointment. For a movie that was budgeted to be a tentpole movie for Disney, the movie was never given the support its $250 million budget should have warranted. The fact that this blockbuster in waiting became either invisible or misunderstood by the potential audience largely led to the label as Disney’s Ishtar.

Sellers in John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood examines the historical development of the film from the Edgar Rice Boroughs decision to write his first short story to the home video release of John Carter. He examines the multiple attempts to bring Barsoom, or Mars, to the big screen including failed efforts by Disney and Paramount. With the Pixar acquisition of Disney just finalized and the John Carter rights being released from Paramount, Carter fan and director Andrew Stanton suggested that Disney studio head Dick Cook pursue the franchise. Cook wishing to please a key member of the Pixar team and a proven director agreed to purchase the rights, despite an earlier Disney failed attempt to develop a Carter film. Stanton, who became a John Carter fan through the 1970s Marvel comics, diligently worked with fellow Carter fans and a supportive producing staff to bring the century old story to a modern audience while staying under the enormous budget. But with the replacement of Cook by Rich Ross, the corporate enthusiasm for Stanton’s first live action release ended. Ross would never give his full support to this project green lighted under the old regime. Ross’ newly hired marketing head, MT Carney, a new voice in movie marketing, was focused on a backlog of projects releasing before John Carter and departmental reorganization. These priorities were placed before the marketing of the potential tentpole film. Additionally, Carney’s research led Disney to remove the phrase “of Mars”, a change that generally meant much of the potential audience was not aware the film was a science-fiction offering. And Disney CEO Bob Iger, while not actively sabotaging the film was interested in acquiring LucasFilm, a desire which could have been hindered by a successful film. The lack of enthusiasm, and marketing, lead the movie to underperformed and be labeled a failure by Disney within ten days of release and before entering the world’s two largest film markets (China and Japan). Sellers finishes his story by discussing a real win for John Carter, being ranked number one in DVD sales upon release. He closes by discussing the possibility of future Carter movies and the circumstances under which a sequel could be made. And Sellers reviews the various personalities in the real life story of John Carter’s failure and identifies their role in the movie’s bust label.

John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood is probably one of the best corporate history titles I have read since Disney War. Sellers does an excellent of job of trying to understand the politics of Disney and why decisions were made. And I think it is fair. For example, as a hardcore Burroughs fan it would be easy for him to paint a picture of Carney that is, well, evil. Many have lambasted her efforts in marketing the film including the decision to remove “of Mars”. Instead Sellers attempts to paint a picture where readers can understand what Carney had to overcome and the competing priorities of her short lived Disney posting. One can understand the pressures and blind spots that Carney was not able to overcome. Still he is honest in showing how the social media campaign failed, and was lacking, for this expert in new media. Additionally, he could have painted Iger as a villain killing the Carter film. Instead, Sellers explains Iger’s acquisition strategy, making it clear why he may have lacked excitement for a film that could have hindered his ability to bring Star Wars fully into the Disney family. Additionally, Sellers deeply analyses the Disney marketing strategy for the film including its poor poor results, especially when compared to The Avengers and The Hunger Games.

Sellers as an author is not just analyzing this story but is also part of it. Sellers was a proactive member of the Burroughs fan community who attempted to move the needle in support of the film. He discusses how he built the fan site and edited his own fan trailer, one that Andrew Stanton declared was the only trailer that got the movie. Sellers is realistic about the obstacles that a John Carter film had to overcome and looked to the fan community to help Disney overcome them. For example, the number of Burroughs fans had declined severally and the Barsoom stories were a century old. So it did not have an active fan base as vocal as more recent The Hunger Games to bolster the film and other films such as Star Wars and Avatar had strip-mined the film of key story elements. Sellers as a character in the book had sought to convince Disney and the fan base that the fan community should be actively seeking new members and explaining that John Carter was the inspiration for many popular movies, not a cheap carbon copy of them. Sellers’ attempts were not supported on many sides. While Stanton may have supported his fan trailer, Disney was not interested in seeking inroads with fans. And even the fan community spoke with negative voices expressing concerns about Stanton’s movie and story changes. Some did not see as Sellers predicted that the movie could bring new fans to the Burroughs’ library, like myself.

John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood is a fair, factual and enlightening assessment of what went wrong with the development, marketing and release of John Carter. The book is well written and clear, and has a personal touch as Sellers enters the story describing his own efforts to support a movie sight unseen. Sellers closes with the belief that there could still be life in the Carter franchise, just not with Disney, and for fellow Carter fans I hope he is right. John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood is a tragedy, showing us the blockbuster that could have been and how the efforts, or lack of, made it one of the most ridiculed movies of 2012.

Review Copy Provided by Author

Monday, January 28, 2013

Between Books - Who's Afraid of the Song of the South?

Book cover showing protesters striking a theater playing Song of the South
Jim Korkis provides inside stories in Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South? And Other Forbidden Disney Stories, in the style of his earlier book The Vault of Walt. The book is divided into two main parts. The first 100 pages focuses on the controversial Disney movie The Song of the South. Korkis examines this film in depth including outlines of the screenplay development, casting, music, premiere and of course the controversy that emerged from it. Along with discussing the movie he also delves into other historical aspects of the Brer family, including the Uncle Remus comic strip, the Song of the South song, a biography of author Joel Chandler Harris and the development of the Splash Mountain attraction. The final 150 pages provides a variety of “forbidden” stories that Disney history, especially official history, does not typically cover. These tales include Disney educational films on menstruation and venereal disease, a Mickey Mouse story that includes suicide, the myth of Walt Disney’s last words, Tim Burton’s early tenure with Disney animation, Ward Kimball and his attempts to develop a factually based UFO production, and several more.

The focus on The Song of the South has lead to several discussions around my workplace. The film clearly still captures the interest of the general public, even if they have not seen it. I loved hearing co-workers who would not call themselves Disney fans note that Disney history is a reflection of American history. And Korkis’ writing helps make this point as he discusses the greater background in which The Song of the South was developed, released and the changing opinions of the film as time passed. As Korkis discussed the fact that James Baskett, who played Uncle Remus, would not have been able to attend his own premier due to race laws I was deeply saddened. But it also helps provide context to a greater issue in Southern history and the prevalent racism of the day. Korkis does not whitewash the history of this Disney film. He makes it clear that a major criticism, and a legitimate one, was the inability of the story to firmly establish the setting in the Reconstruction era instead of a pre-Civil War south. Viewers have had difficulties understanding that Uncle Remus and other African Americans on the production were free and not slaves. From my own informal surveys of those who have seen the film, the criticism is valid since 50% of those I polled believed the film was set during the slavery era. I would warn the title however is a little misleading. So, if one is looking for a book that provides in-depth discussion of this topic, they will likely be disappointed that the entire text is not focused on the film. Others who enjoy Korkis’ writing style and his “inside baseball” type tales will likely be satisfied if not thrilled with this format which shares stories from over 60 years of Disney history.

Korkis’ writing is very clear and easy to read. I do think that with the topics he presents, especially in the “forbidden” realm, that it should be noted that Korkis presents his tales with a respectful tone. Honestly, some of these issues, including a pornographic poster and Disney’s educational films, could easily lead to snickers in any boy’s locker room. Instead, Korkis presents these tales in a way where even the silliest reader will not blush or snicker.

Two personalities rise to the top for readers. Walt Disney is linked to many of these stories and of course The Song of the South film. Disney has been criticized for being racist in allowing this film to be released. Instead the picture that Korkis presents is a man who was deeply sensitive to the race issue. He did not move forward with the original script treatment which he saw as highly racist. And he went to extremes to correct the tone of the initial draft. Additionally, he was very supportive of James Baskett, even advocating the actor receive a special Academy Award for his portrayal of Uncle Remus. You must applaud Disney for producing a film that featured a significant African American cast, one in which it would be impossible to edit out those characters for Southern audiences, which was often done for Southern theaters. Second, Ward Kimball and his quirkiness shines. In this case a short essay on UFOs and Kimball was one of my favorite essays. Those familiar with Kimball’s career will find it easy to believe that he was a UFO true believer. And one cannot help but smile as you read of Kimball retelling Wernher von Braun’s tales of the Roswell Crash and trying to get UFO footage from Air Force officers. It just makes it clear that we need the Kimball biography, which will further expand our understanding of this unique creative man!

Jim Korkis in Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South? presents Disney historical issues that are largely “forbidden” or ignored topics. His analysis of The Song of the South is informative and sure to kick off many discussions. His exploration of other topics is serious and helps uncover episodes in Disney history that many readers will not be aware of. Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South? is a successful follow-up to The Vault of Walt, and anyone who enjoyed that original offering will be pleased by this newest book.

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dreaming Disney - Marc Davis Imagineering Master

Marc Davis showing a young lady a dress concept for Sleeping Beauty
Another one of my articles was just posted at WDW News Today.  This newest article, "Marc Davis: Imagineering Legend" came out of my fandom of Marc Davis.  There is so much in the Disney parks and film that I enjoy that he helped design.

I hope you enjoy, and I would love to hear any ideas you might have for articles I could explore.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mousey Movies - Lilo & Stitch

Movie poster showing Stitch encircled by other Disney characthers.
Love him or hate him you still have to admit that Stitch is part of the Mouse Family. The lovable/despicable alien’s merchandise is everywhere and sells! In the Between Family, Stitch is beloved. The Between Tween when younger got into fights with PhotoPass photographers looking to add magic to photos. They wanted a terrified reaction to match up with the inclusion of Stitch in the photos. Why would you act scared when your lovable friend Stitch emerges? That is absurd the young Between Tween would announce. Luckily in 2012 we found a photographer that understood the excitement and encouraged an over the top thrilled reaction. The Tween loves the photos of Stitch happily popping into frame.

In this Mousey feature, Lilo & Stitch, alien criminal Stitch flees to Earth. While trying to hide from his captors he meets and bonds with a young girl named Lilo. Lilo has recently lost her parents and her guardian and older sister struggles with growing up more quickly than one might want. Lilo adopts Stitch as her family pet, in a family where family matters.  this Alan Silverstri scored film is here to stay with all it's Mouseyness:

  • He’s a Tramp: Lilo meets Stitch in an animal rescue shelter. While Stitch pretends to be a dog there are a number of real dogs in the kennel. They should look familiar to Disney fans as they are stylized after the dogs from the kennel in Lady and the Tramp.

  • Stitch: In 2002, Chris Sanders did it all in Lilo & Stitch! Sanders providing the voice, writing the story, designing characters and directing the film. Sanders mark on this franchise is impossible to ignore. Sanders, a CalArts graduate, is linked to several Disney animated classics especially in story in visual development for The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Mulan and Fantasia 2000. He followed up Lilo & Stitch with the sequels Stitch! The Movie and Lilo & Stitch: Stitch Has a Glitch. In 2006 Sanders left Disney employment as rumors swirled that John Lasseter and he had disagreements over the story of the movie that would become Bolt. Reports have downplayed the rift since, especially since Sanders returned and voiced Stitch and Leroy in Leroy and Stitch. Also in 2012 he has participated in D23 fan events, so hopefully some reconciliation has occurred. Sanders has had continued success at Dreamworks with films such as How to Train Your Dragon

  • Postcards from the Edge: At one point Stitch looks through some postcards. One postcard is from Orlando, the location of Stitch’s third home in the Walt Disney World Resort. And another is from San Francisco, home of the Walt Disney Family Museum, which I am desperate to visit!

  • A113: It is very standard for animators who are also alumni of CalArts to hide their former classroom in their movies. In Stitch they really hit us over the head with A113 as every license plate, every single one be it car, gas truck or fire truck is A113.

Ohana means family, a message that the Between Family reminds ourselves of a lot. The Between Tween also likes to remind me that meat on sticks is delicious! I like Lilo & Stitch in the final assessment, though honestly if the Between Kids are rewatching it I tend to look for something else to watch. But based on the number of times I have heard the opening theme when cruising the roads of Betweenland behind my head, Lilo & Stitch continues to be a kid hit.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dreaming Disney - Escape from Casey Jr.

California Screamin' Rollercoaster with evacuated guests
My latest article for WDWNT: The Magazine has gone live.  The tale, "Escape from Casey Jr." recounts the "excitement" of my family being evacuated from the Casey Jr. Circus Train last summer.  I hope you enjoy my attempt to get some humor out of a hot afternoon! 

I should not that WDWNT: The Magazine is changing its format and instead of being a PDF magazine, articles will not be published directly at the WDW News Today website as featured content. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Between Books - Walt Disney's Railroad Story

Book cover showing Walt Disney riding on a minature train.
Let me be honest, Walt Disney’s Railroad Story: The Small-Scale Fascination that Led to a Full-Scale Kingdom by Michael Broggie is one the best Disney history books that I have ever read. It is clear, informative, exhaustive and wonderfully illustrated with photos. If you are able, you should consider adding this volume to your Between Books library.

Michael Broggie, the son of Disney Legend Roger Broggie, masterfully details Walt Disney’s love of trains, their emergence in his life as a hobby, their inspiration for the Disneyland Park, and their presence globally in Disney parks. Detailed is an understatement, with 400 pages of Disney train history and photos. Broggie starts his history with Walt Disney’s boyhood train experiences including selling newspapers and concessions as a news butcher. Broggie then jumps to the 1930’s when the successful Walt Disney sought a new hobby to replace the physically tasking polo to help release his stress. A 1932 visit to the Chicago Railroad Fair with animator Ward Kimball helped reinvigorate Disney’s interest in trains. This inspiration leads to Disney becoming interested in miniature railroading, building an extensive track for his miniature engine Lilly Belle behind his Holmby Hills home in the Los Angeles area. Disney’s backyard became a weekend retreat for family, friends, fellow rail fans and even business contacts. But after an accident with a child, Disney began to question if his backyard setup was ideal and began to look to bigger endeavors. This new challenge would be the Disneyland Park, which had to have a train. Broggie outlines the history of the Disneyland Railroad, originally known as the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad, including the track layout, the construction of the engines and passenger cars, and train stations. Broggie then follows with a history of the railroads of all the Magic Kingdom parks. He also includes brief histories of train inspired attractions such as the Monorail. The book closes with appendices sharing information about the Disney trains including a complete roster of the Disney trains at the time of publication.

For me one of the highlights of the book really was the story of Disney’s Lilly Belle. Broggie’s detail of Walt’s personal train is extensive, detailed and fascinating. One comes to understand how much Walt loved this hobby set with him hand building much of train himself. And one can see the connections to Disneyland as his personal railroad became more ambitious and drew greater attention. One’s heart almost breaks as you read of Disney’s decision to quit operating at home, but it is quickly replaced by excitement as you realize the next step of Walt’s imagination is Disneyland.

Walt Disney is not the only Disney legend highlighted in the text. Ward Kimball is profiled extensively, including a description of his full size railroad in his backyard. Additionally Broggie details the at times rocky relationship with Walt Disney, including over train issues. Ollie Johnston’s full size and miniature collection is also discussed. And of course Broggie’s father Roger who ran the machine shop within Walt Disney learned the skills needed to build the Lilly Belle and who’s watchful eye helped Disney bring his personal engine to life is featured extensively throughout the book.

The text is clear and easy to read. And it is illustrated beautifully with numerous photos. But I will admit I read this book slowly, enjoying it’s content instead of running through it. A true advantage to Broggie as a writer is his personal experiences. When he writes about Walt Disney, he does not write about Disney from a distance. Instead, Broggie was a boy who grew up around Walt Disney as he enjoyed his hobby and visited the Holmby Hills railroad. Many of the text’s pictures are from the Broggie family collection. He writes from experience as he enjoyed Disney’s hobby firsthand.

The only drawback to Walt Disney’s Railroad Story is the price. With the first edition out of print it can be found used well over $100 in the secondary market. The Carolwood Pacific Railroad Society, formed to help preserve Disney’ railroad legacy, currently sells the third edition of the book for $69.95, for those looking to avoid the markup of used editions. It is truly a delightful book that has already inspired in me to start at least one future project and a trip to a local train museum.

Michael Broggie’s Walt Disney’s Railroad Story is one of the finest Disney history books I have read in the last year. It is easy to read, dives deep into an important aspect of Disney history and is enjoyable. I feel like it is one of the real gems in my Between Books library and anyone who has a copy should feel themselves lucky!

Postscript: I have to admit; I really did not think I would ever own a physical copy of Walt Disney’s Railroad Story. But it was through the efforts of a friend of a library a 1,000 miles from my home that I was able to find an affordable copy. Please remember to support your local libraries. You will likely be surprised by the Between Books you can find on their shelves. And if you have the opportunity to support them financially through book sales and other donations, I highly recommend it, as library holdings are a true resource for book fans.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mouse Movie Review - The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Movie poster showing a pair of legs wearing green socks with leaves sticking of the socks.
I really intended to see and review The Odd Life of Timothy Green. But the end of summer got really busy and I never saw the film. So the Between Wife and Tween went off alone to see it and both gave it ringing endorsements. So we bought the film and I recently watched it at home with seven loved ones. And I admit, I think that watching those that I care about enriched my viewing experience.

Cindy and Jim Green, played by Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton, after several attempts and growing debt discover they have no options for helping them have a child of their own. Faced with their certain infertility, they allow themselves one more night to dream of what their child would be like, placing the attributes of their unobtainable child in a box which they bury in their garden. After a freak rain storm, they discover a young boy in their home claiming to be their son Timothy, played by C.J. Adams. The Green’s struggle with becoming instant parents to a unique child, Timothy has leaves growing from his legs, and learn about love in this family focused story:

  • Presented By: I started The Odd Life of Timothy Green in a grumpy mood. And it was the title cards that put me there. Instead of opening with a title card that said Walt Disney Pictures Presents, we got Disney Presents after the castle opening. I am sorry. There is no reason to mess with a brand and legacy started in 1923. The Walt Disney name has translated as family entertainment for decades. I can see not putting Walt Disney Presents in front of a movie like The Avengers. But a movie like The Odd Life of Timothy Green which I think Walt Disney would have approved of, being a wholesome family offering, should have Mr. Disney’s whole name on it. Call me old fashion but if you want to mess with the studio name, roll it back to the Disney Brothers Studio, otherwise there is no other reason in my mind to truncate the Walt Disney name.

  • Man of Steel: So one of the next big non-Mousey superhero movies is the Superman Man of Steel film. In the trailer we see Pa Kent, played by Kevin Costner, struggling with a question about Clark and revealing his uniqueness. Should Clark let someone die to hide who he is? When I see this scene I see a parent reflecting on the consequences of letting the world know the uniqueness of their child. Will he be seen as a freak? Will someone take him away? Will someone try to kill him? The “him” easily could be Superman and Timothy Green. It is very odd that a young boy would be growing leaves. As a parent I feel with Cindy and Jim as they struggle with how to allow Timothy to be himself while still protecting him from a world that can be harsh.  

  • Fake Kids: I have to congratulate Rosemarie DeWitt who plays Cindy’s sister Brenda Best. Brenda is the kind of person that clearly cares about looks and putting out the image of propriety before being well, kind. She makes several comments about Timothy and his at times odd behavior. The delivery of these comments set my opinion that I strongly disliked this character beginning at her first conversation with Cindy where she asks Cindy about her desire to have a “real kid!” I have to admit, there is somewhat a question in the back of the audience’s mind if Timothy is real or something magical and non-human. They are clearly establishing that for Brenda, adoption is a lesser route than typical family planning. I don’t want to spoil Cindy’s perfect reaction and one that I can hear friends with adopted children deliver. Cindy knows that Timothy is her son, even if she skipped the birthing room. Again, I have to congratulate DeWitt, she is able to portray this character that it reminded me that all kids are real ones and deserve a family to call their own!

  • Keep Moving Forward: In my mind, Timothy was around the same age as the Between Tween. But Timothy unlike the Tween, was born into that age and did not have the time to pick up the skills that other children would have had in a lifetime of typical child development. So Timothy is at times awkward! But you have to love his attitude, an attitude that would make Cornelius Robinson proud. Timothy proclaims at times he can only get better! Yes Timothy, keep moving forward!

  • Parental Warning: Often throughout The Odd Life of Timothy Green I assessed and struggled with my parenting choices, in a good way. Both Cindy and Jim struggle with how they want to parent especially in their instant kid scenario. They wish to avoid the mistakes they believe their own parents made. So they compensate, maybe even overcompensate to the opposite ends of what their parents did. And their opposing choices honestly have just as disastrous impact as those they are running from. I think in both cases what was missing was making parental choices that takes into consideration the unique qualities of the child. Sorry about climbing onto a soapbox there. But I think that this shows the serious content you will find in this Mousey Movie.

To be completely honest, I am not sure if The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a buyer. It has a slow pace and is far from an action adventure. No one dressed in black ever comes from a mysterious government agency to take Timothy away. At the same time it is a tearjerker in a good way. And it is a film you can watch with the family especially if you have mature children that are able to understand complex issues. I admit I did not expect a “Walt Disney” production to make me reflect on my parenting choices in the depth that The Odd Life of Timothy Green led me to. I would recommend parents and future parents spend two hours with the Greens, but action fans will likely quickly loss interest.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dreaming Disney - RebelForce Radio

RebelForce Radio logo
After the Disney purchase of LucasFilm I suggested that you check out The ForceCast as a way to become more familiar with Star Wars and for the latest news and rumors as Disney begins to work their new franchises into their future plans.

Recently an announcement on The ForceCast website caught me by surprise:

Growing from the initial desire by Dustin, who manages content here at to have a podcast presence, the ForceCast has dominated Star Wars podcasting since its inception, and we are all very proud of it, from when it was Jason and Pete, to Jason and Jimmy, who stepped up and stepped out incredibly when the need arose, and of their fans, who are some of the biggest Star Wars fans in the world.

The guys are moving on though, to Rebel Force Radio, their own production. I'm sure there will be ample communication on this very soon.

Here at and, we wish them the very best of luck in the new endeavor.

Additionally, the content created to date will still be archived and available, and Jedi Journals from Jay and Chris, will continue to be produced and available.

After watching the trailer, I think that a lot of what I loved about The ForceCast will hold with Jason and Jimmy’s new production, RebelForce Radio.

They will both still be co-hosting and still sharing the chemistry which made their original collaboration enjoyable. Additionally, it sounds like they will continue with some of the segments they used on their old podcast, like “The Billy Dee Quote of the Week”. One concern that I had was would they have the same access to the Star Wars community they had previously? But the announced appearance of Dave Filoni on their first show January 19th shows me that the strong network of Star Wars personalities they have worked with in the past remains in place and we can expect a series of knowledgeable Star Wars guests.

I look forward to hearing Jimmy and Jason’s new production and wish them the best of luck with RebelForce Radio.  Now excuse me I have to go submit a question for Dave Filoni over on their Facebook page.  I wonder if he will spill the beans about the Disney partnership?  

Goofy Gadgets - Disney Infinity

Disney Infinity logo

Before Christmas the Between Kids asked a few times for a Skylanders play set. They had seen this video games/action figure set at a friend’s house and enjoyed it. But I just did not know about the game. And with several Disney themed gifts already planned, Santa simply did not have room in his sack to include Skylanders.

Thank you Santa! I thank you! The Between Kids thank you! Because now we all plan to wait for Disney Infinity being released in June 2013 to enter into this gaming sphere.

Here is the trailer for this upcoming game:

What did you think? The Between Kids have gone through all of their favorite characters asking if they will be part of the game; Stitch, Vanellope von Schweetz, the Mad Hatter, and of course Mickey Mouse! Of course, I cannot answer all of these questions yet! Additionally, I have been asked if allowance can be replaced with new characters, for a game we do not even have yet!

What do you think of Disney Infinity? Are you excited? The Between Family is!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Between Books - In the Shadow of the Matterhorn

Book cover showing fireworks above the Matterhorn at Disneyland.
Before my last vacation to the Disneyland Resort I desperately was looking for a book to help put me into the vacation mindset. I wanted a memoir. But not any memoir, I sought a Disneyland memoir. I wanted it to be by someone who had an affiliation to the park, either as a designer or a cast member. And I wanted it to be fun, perhaps in the Mouse Tales tone. I found some books that I enjoyed for that vacation, but honestly nothing that hit the nail on the head for the exact book I was looking for. I should have looked harder. Because In the Shadow of the Matterhorn: Intimate Stories about Life, Love, and Laughter at Disneyland by David W. Smith was the exact book I was looking for!

Smith spent six years as a part-time cast member. He worked a number of attractions during his tenure including The Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes, the Mike Fink Keel Boats, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Monorail. Smith details to his readers how he was hired on, the training he received and numerous stories of working the attractions. Smith recounts both the humorous experiences with guests, and the horrific ones. As one of a handful of Keel Boat operators he was asked to help search the Rivers of America during the June 4, 1983, Grad Night for a young man who had taken a joy ride with a Disney rubber raft. Sadly, Smith was on hand in the discovery of the body of 18 year old Philip Straughan. Along with tales of staffing attractions, Smith also provides tales of cast member life. These stories include romantic encounters and mostly harmless rebellious actions. But the highlight of these cast member tales are recounts of Smith’s years participating in the famed Disneyland cast member canoe races.

I found Smith’s reading light and easy to read. I cruised through this book and read it with only limited interruptions. To be blunt, I found no reason to end my literary Disneyland adventure in the middle of the Betweenland snows. Smith made it easy for me to join him in the park and share warmer ice free days. Additionally, he made we want to ride the canoes, a ride that I have always planned later in the day when I have found it closed. And he placed me with him on the keel boats and helped me understand this extinct attraction before my day. Smith also helped me understand why for some the Monorail may not be the attraction of choice! The only hiccup for me was referring to the Walt Disney World Resort as Disneyworld later in the book.

I found David W. Smith’s In the Shadow of the Matterhorn fun and enjoyable. Smith is a former cast member who enjoyed his days as a cast member and in his writing conveys his enthusiasm for his memories. Readers who enjoy the writings of David Koening will likely enjoy In the Shadow of the Matterhorn, which includes many of the types of stories one would find in Mouse Tales, just in this case shared by one man and typically not as risqué. I think the best compliment I can give is for a few hours, David W. Smith made me feel like I was at Disneyland and not living in the frozen tundra!

Review Copy Provided by Synergy-Books Publishing, U.S.A. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Goofy Gadgets - Disney Super Speedway

Title for Disney Super Speedway flashing play button

I find a lot of potential in Disney Super Speedway for iOS devices. But in the end, there has been a hiccup for me that I cannot overcome!

Disney Super Speedway is honestly a typical racer game in the Mario Kart, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, Sugar Rush variety, that most would be familiar with. Of course there is a Disney twist. Races are held in stadiums and tracks themed after Disney Channel and Disney XD programs. For example, one can race through the Phineas & Ferb themed Doof’s Tower or the Fish Hooks themed Freshwater High. Additionally, the player races as a character from these television programs, with the default being Phineas. One can purchase with coins earned in races additional characters such as Randy Cunningham, Dipper, Mabel, Agent P, Ferb, and others. Racers can earn coins by hitting them while racing or by reaching achievements, like placing high in a race. These coins can then be used for upgrading your character or racer. Personally, I want to earn enough coins to race as Dipper! After one places in the three races within a level, an additional harder level is made available. The controls are fairly simple, simple enough that every member of the Between Family has had little trouble playing the game. One simply turns the iOS device the direction one wishes to go, and taps the screen to access boosts like rockets and increased speed. A nice addition to the racing functionality is the ability to drift.
Screenshot showing Phineas jumping a ramp.
Screenshot from Disney Super Speedway
I do have a major problem, and it could be limited to just me as the Between Kids have not reported this problem on their devices. My history constantly disappears. So I have completed the entire first level, in fact I have gotten first in all three races. Sadly, I have done this at least four times as it seems after I return from an extended break that my history has been reset. Actually rolled back as it shows I have earned first place in one of the three easy races. Additionally, my earned coins have all disappeared. So I am unable to horde enough coins to buy Dipper! This has led me to loss enthusiasm for this game application as time goes on.

If one is looking for a free iOS racing application and are Disney fans, Disney Super Speedway may be a good option with its Disney theming. Sadly for me I have had a technical glitch that has limited my enjoyment!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Between Books - Seen, Un-Seen Disneyland

One of my critiques of independent publishers of Disney themed books is the pictures. Due to resource limitations these photos can be grainy, often black and white and difficult to interpret. Seen, Un-Seen Disneyland is one of the best efforts that I have seen to date in making Disneyland pictures the star in a non-Disney published book.

Seen, Un-Seen Disneyland: What You See at Disneyland, but Never Really See by Russell D. Flores highlights for readers the visual treasures of the Disneyland Park that guests often overlook. Flores details his own self-discovery of the depth of design within the Disneyland Park triggered by a trash can. From that moment, Flores began to collect pictures of the non-hidden treasures within the park. He presents his findings within his text. Flores takes his readers on a tour that includes extinct ticket booths, trash cans, manhole covers, popcorn carts, and restroom signs amongst others. Flores also provides a light narrative text and notes that provide interesting facts about the featured design elements. Additionally, Flores provides an extensive list of notes and bibliography.

The pictures really are the highlight of the text. With 374 pictures in a lightweight and easy to manage text, Flores has created a great visual reference. There are many items within the book that I have honestly overlooked during my vacations, and several times Flores left me wanting to visit the park to find the item in person. I found it fun to compare different bathroom sign styles, and attempting to guess their in park locations. I can see dropping the book into a backpack and using it as a guide within Disneyland due to its manageable size. For me, I really enjoyed learning more about tributes and reused pieces of extinct attractions especially those I never enjoyed. Additionally, the glossy pages really make the pictures pop off the page. When comparing the pages to other picture-centric books with regular paper stock, the pictures of Seen, Un-Seen Disneyland stand out and are very visually pleasing.

I often flip immediately to the notes and bibliography of new books that enter my Between Books library. I also did that with this book. I was impressed with the depth of the bibliography and saw leads for future readings. But the notes and bibliography show the book’s biggest error, in my opinion. Let me first digress quickly. Once I wrote a multi-chapter project on military history. I kept typing the word solider instead of soldier. I had worked for months on this project, and read over it several times never seeing my error. Others had read it for me! Likewise I believe something similar has happened here, as Kevin Yee’s name has been mistyped as Kevin Lee numerous times. Sadly this is not a one-time error, but every time his name is mentioned, 7 times on page 166 for example. Like my solider, I believe this was a simple error but one that pops out to the reader familiar with Between Books.

Have you ever noticed the details on top of the manhole covers in the Disneyland Park? Do you know what the Viewliner station is currently being used for? Have you found all the survey markers within the park, not just the one near Sleeping Beauty’s castle? If the answer is no, Russell D. Flores in Seen, Un-Seen Disneyland will help you explore the park in a new and interesting way.

Review Copy Provided by Synergy-Books Publishing, U.S.A.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Mousey Movie Preview - 3 Mousey Movies

Over my holiday break I was refreshed and spent a ton of time with the Between Family. One of our outings was to take in Monsters, Inc. in 3D. Honestly we do not take in every Disney 3D release but we really enjoyed seeing this offering again on the big screen and in the 3D format. We hoped, and were right, that the door room scenes would shine.

Part of the enjoyment was seeing three new to us trailers. Some of them had been released earlier.

The first was more of a university advertisement than a trailer, for Monsters University. Oh yes, who doesn’t love good old MU?

This quick commercial made me more excited for this summer release, but it also really made me hope they open up the Monster’s University website up soon for student registrations. The fact that I was wearing my MU baseball cap I got for Christmas helped reinforce my desire for Monster’s University to become more interactive.

The second was a new trailer for The Lone Ranger.

The reaction was a mixed bag in the Between Family. I am convinced that I have a 50/50 chance of seeing it in the theater, but the Between Wife has no interest in this film. We do not watch a lot of Westerns so the only hooks for us are the Disney label and Johnny Depp.

The third was a new trailer for Oz The Great and Powerful.

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about John Franco and his roles. But I believe this trailer only confirmed that we will see this feature in the theater as a family. It really does look beautiful and the visual design alone grabs the viewer’s attention.

Which of these future Mousey Movies are you excited about?