Monday, March 31, 2014

Between Books - 102 Ways to Save Money For and At Walt Disney World

When people find out I am a Disney guy the first question I generally get is how much does it cost to go.  The second question is how can I get a discount.  And as many of you know, a Disney trip is often not one where financial corners are easy to cut.  But podcaster and author Lou Mongello has stepped up to the challenge of educating readers on how to make a Walt Disney World vacation a cost-effective adventure.

102 Ways To Save Money For and At Walt Disney World by Lou Mongello is a guide to saving and spending effectively while on vacation at Walt Disney World.  The book examines the most common trip planning areas from pre-trip preperation, tickets, accommodations, packages, dining (we are talking about Lou Mongello here), shopping and more with detailed tips on saving money.  The chapters are all easy to read in an outline like format for easy reference.  Additionally, the format makes it easy to find specific tips one is looking for quickly.  Along with the money saving tips Mongello provides, he also offers a bonus chapter that lists 40 free things that one can do, get, see, eat and collect in Walt Disney World.  The pages of the text are visually pleasing, with color chapter pages with bold images and color pictures from the resort scattered throughout the book.  

Seasoned Walt Disney World fans are likely to find some of the book's money saving tips as "common knowledge".  And I will admit that I found tips that matched some of my own touring habits, like getting free water instead of pop.  However, there was plently I had not considered or known about like saving dinner on meals by being creative with side dishes.  But I will argue that this book is a nice addition for the seasoned guest's library but it is an even better starting point for the new visitor's trip.  Yes, I had learned some of these lessons through experience.  But how much nicer would it have been to my pocket book if I had someone shared with me these lessons before my first visit!  And I think it helps simplify some of the more frustrating issues such as the Dining Plan.  You, Mongello and me may all have opinions of the Dining Plan but his discussion of the plan is fair and demonstrates clearly who the plan would work best for and for who it will be effective for.  I like this as it will allow the reader to make up their own mind if this add on is for them.

I read the electronic version of the book.  And I feel that this is the version that best serves most readers.  First, Mongello has a library of podcasts and videos that further illustrates and describes the issues he writes on.  So in the electronic version, if a reader wants additional information on a topic they are provided with links to additional mulit-media content to explore.  In a print version of the book the add-ons are effectively lost since it is not just a click away.  Second, the electronic version is the most portable version.  It can be read and accessed while vacationing on one's phone, without taking up valuable backpack space.  And honestly the bonus chapter and topics like dining contain information one would want while touring Walt Disney World.  So for just ease of use, electronic seems the best format for the money.

Lou Mongello makes a bold guarantee.  You will save money!  And if his 102 tips do not effectively save you money he will refund the purchase price of the book.  My guess is that he will not be asked to provide many readers of 102 Ways To Save Money For and At Walt Disney World their money back.  Because if you be a new visitor or an experienced guest, one is likely able to find advice based on real life experience in the parks that will help save a few dollars (if not more) while enjoying Walt Disney World.

And it is really nice that when folks ask me how to save money on their trip I have a title to reference them to instead of writing my own lengthy paragraphs. 

Review Copy Provided by Author 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Dreaming Disney - Honest Trailers: Frozen

Frozen is now out on home video release.  And my guess is most of you have seen it or own it.

So for those of you who have, here is a video by Honest Trailers that will surely give you some laughs and a whole whole different look at the movie!  Enjoy, but warning there is some adult humor.

I hope it gave you the same laugh I got, because sometimes the funniest thing is truth.

Now, go get that song stuck in your head!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Between Books - Life in the Mouse House: Memoir of a Disney Story Artist

I think for most Disney fans, or at least for me, we often idealize working for Disney and Walt Disney himself.  However, as I have told colleagues in the past every work environment has problems and irritations.  Homer Brightman's memoir delves into the workplace at the Disney Studios during his 15 years of service and shows it was not all laughs producing animated shorts and features.

Homer Brightman's Life in the Mouse House details his 15 years of working at Disney as a storyboard artist developing gags and stories for Disney productions.  The book outlines how he came to get his position at Disney in 1935, his try out in animation and his eventual move into storyboarding.  He discusses the office politics of working at Disney, including the rivalries and poor corporate treatment.  Brightman includes his views of the 1941 strike and the outcomes of this labor dispute.  Walt Disney features heavily in Brightman's story as he includes his first story meeting with Disney and numerous interactions over his 15 years at the studio.  The story ends abruptly, with Disney breaking up Brightman's partnership with another story man working on Cinderella and Brightman's obvious frustration with the move.  Editor Dider Ghez then follows the memoir with a chapter on Brightman's post Disney years and a filmography and comicography both written by Alberto Becattini.

Life in the Mouse House is a short book, around 100 pages, that is a brisk and interesting to read.  The Brightman memoir was uncovered by Ghez and he was correct in thinking he had found an unpublished memoir of interest.  For the hardcore Disney fan, Brightman gives a different perspective than those who have penned books giving only praise to Disney, corporate and man.  The Disney Studios are a place that come off as a workplace filled with all the bumps that most of us many expect in our own workplaces.  One does not get the sense that Brightman hated working at Disney, he did stay for 15 years and wrote Disney comics and books as a freelance writer.  But the reader will feel that Brightman is being realistic with a tinge of cynicism.  It is a good reality check, Disney was just a workplace not an utopia during his 15 years.

I do think that the Walt Disney depicted in the book contains plenty of truth.  He is not the Uncle Walt from television.  Brightman does respect his story ability, and felt as if Disney respected him.  But Brightman does detail his failings as a manager who failed to credit staff, withheld praise, and instituted penny pinching policies, and could be both gracious and cruel depending on one's relationship.  I think other books have detailed this Walt, and nothing is a new revelation.  But it is interesting reading this depiction from a man who worked with Disney directly.  The depiction shows a man, not a legend, and it is reassuring to me that Uncle Walt with his warts was like me just a man.  It does need to be noted though that this is Brightman's perspective so he did not always have the full story.  So his resentment about a lack of a bonus for Snow White lacks the insight at the time that Disney was reinvesting into his studio instead of pocketing profits for himself.  So one does have to remember this contains the only story as Brightman saw it. 

My one complaint is code words.  Brightman wrote this book with codes for real names, expect for Disney.  Brightman's family requested the memoir be published with the codes as he wrote them.  Ghez to assist readers has created a key based on context clues and external sources.  And during the first 20 pages I found myself constantly referencing the key and slowing my reading pace.  I can understand the family's desires, but I really wish the Ghez would have been able to publish the book with the real names so I would not feel the need to uncover who each individual was.

I had not planned to discuss price.  But then then got a shocker as I prepared this review.  The Kindle version is only $3.99.  I have paid attention to the prices of Kindle books trying to find discounted and free copies for Between Books.  So I can tell you that there are plenty of $3.99 Disney themed Kindle books that are not very good!  At $3.99 this is a steal.  This is especially true as the Disney history fan would find interest in this offering, but so would the general history reader who is interested in early animation or labor relations.  I did read this text as a physical book, which I enjoyed and expect will be dogeared after future projects. 

Sometimes Disney is just a job.  Homer Brightman worked at Disney for 15 years and clearly enjoyed much of that time.  But he also saw much that upset and frustrated him.  Life in the House of Mouse collects these feelings and makes it clear that life for some is not always better on the other side.

Review Copy Provide by Theme Park Press

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cap's Comics - Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird #3

In Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird #3 the stakes get big.  We discover with the kids Melody and Maxwell Keep that the lives of their parents are not the only thing at stake.  In fact their adventure within the Museum of the Weird has global consequences.  The Coffin Clock that they must seek to get their parents back is more than just a clock.  It is in fact a key to unleashing incredible evil across the face of the Earth.  Which means the duo will find unexpected allies and unintended enemies in their quest to find the Clock.  And Uncle Roland's motivations begin to come into doubt.  And being just kids, the two must decide how badly they want to save their parents if the consequences are beyond their family.

You know, they have done a real nice job giving us an all-ages comic and a scary one.  The mummy like Husks are scary.  And the Mushroom People that the kids are chased by in this story are somewhat creepy.  But none of it is so scary that I would not hand my oldest this comic.  In fact I will tomorrow.  In many ways it is like the Haunted Mansion.  You can safely scared (and I hate scary).  So I do have to applaud what has been done here since it does feel very much like the spirit of Walt Disney in what Brandon Seifert has scripted.

The art does change in this issue.  Filipe Andrade takes over as artist.  And the art change is something one instantly picks up on.  I personally prefer that artists stay consistent in arcs or in this case a mini-series.  But after a few pages I was more worried about the kids than an art change-up.  And the art may have helped set the scary feel with images that are less photo-realistic.

Variant Cover
Really Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird has setup a little quest story.  And after issue three I feel like I know the stakes and the requirements of failing (and possibly succeeding).  And it is the kind of story I feel like I can had the Between Tween without fear.  And the fact that Melody is brandishing a lacrosse stick as a weapon is a bonus (the Between Tween is however completely disgusted with Maxwell and I wonder if this issue will help his stock).  I am enjoying this tale as an all-ages story I can share with a youngster and talk about all month long until the next issue hits the shelves.  And I expect like last month this is exactly what will happen! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Between Books - Walt Disney: American Legends

Charles River Editors is a group that specializes in creating Ebooks for various platforms.  In Walt Disney: American Legends they claim to provide readers an overview of Walt Disney's life in the time of a commute.  But I was left wondering was is this Between Book another rushed and short biography of Walt Disney that allows someone to make a quick buck while being light on content?

Walt Disney: American Legends by Charles River Editors is a brief biography of Walt Disney's life.  The book outlines the major chapters of his life from childhood to death in a book that could easily be read in less than an hour.  The book only covers the life of Walt Disney, and does not focus on more recent developments in the Walt Disney Company.  And being a brief book it typically does not go deep into any subject.

As someone with a history background I have two major problems.  The first is generalizations.  The authors make generalizations at times that have little evidence behind them or are factually incorrect.  For example, the book claims Disney never experienced a full school day in his childhood due to the Kansas City paper route his father owned.  However, this was only one period in Disney's childhood and does not take into account the Marceline or Chicago years.  At another point the book states that Roy O. Disney became Walt Disney's father figure.  I think this would be fine if they stated his male role model or mentor.  But I have never seen anything that showed that Walt Disney saw Roy O. Disney as a father.  I believe this statement misunderstands the Walt/Roy partnership dynamic.  At another point the book says that older bothers Herbert and Raymond were never part of Walt Disney's life after they moved off the Marceline farm, a statement that makes it appear they never had contact again and could be improved by replacing never with seldom.

The second issue is facts.  There are some "facts" that are simply not true.  For example the book states that during World War I Roy O. Disney joined the Army.  He in fact joined the Navy, which is a very different experience from the Army during this conflict.  Some of the missteps factually simply show that the book was likely written by someone who does not have experience with Disney history.  For example, the authors refer to the Walt Disney World Resort as Disneyworld.  And there is some familiarity that I am not comfortable with as the authors insist on referring to Lillian Disney as Lillie for example. 

However with this said, this little volume is not afraid to pull punches and show the flaws in Disney's life.  The book discusses his managerial style and its negative impacts, the potential that he held to discriminatory practices and failings as a husband.  However, these topics in such as small book are really hitting the tip of the iceberg on deeper issues.  And I wish the authors had gone beyond the writings of Neal Gabler to support their views on Disney and race in order to provide themselves broad support for their viewpoint.

Would I have bought this volume for $2.99, I got my Kindle copy for free.  No, I would not.  I did find it to be decently formatted for an EBook and surprisingly readable.  I could see how someone writing a paper on Disney and needing information quick would find this useful with it being more detailed than one would expect from a Wikipedia page.  But in the end, Walt Disney: American Legends is just a taste of a much bigger story.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Between Books - The Vault of Walt Volume 2

I honestly have not followed a lot of Jim Korkis' blog posts.  I am still a print guy, so for me The Vault of Walt was pretty much all new material.  And there were some essays that I still often reflect on when mulling Disney history.  But with the original printing now out of print and the cheapest copies at the time of this posting starting in the mid $50 range, I just cannot recommend that edition.  Now fortunately it does appear that the price has been dropping thanks to the printing of The Revised Vault of Walt.   But the revised edition did not collect all of the original material.  Could a second volume of this series make all of the original content available at an affordable price?

The Vault of Walt Volume 2: More Unofficial, Unauthorized, Uncensored Disney Stories Never Told by Jim Korkis continues in collecting his essays on Disney history.  Like the earlier versions this book is broken into four sections; Walt Disney Stories, Disney Film Stories, Disney Park Stories, and Other Disney Stories.  The essays are not connected and can be read out of order.  Essays printed before include: "Santa Walt", "Blackbeard's Ghost", "Captain Eo", and "Golden Oak Ranch".  New stories range from "Walt and NASA", "Secrets of the Santa Cartoons", "The Birth of the Disneyland Jungle Cruise", and "The Seven Snow Whites" which show the diversity of the included essays.

The Vault of Walt Volume 2 contains 15 new essays.  And honestly some of these essays caught my interest just with their titles matching some of my own personal interests.  I am a huge fan of Roy O. Disney so I enjoyed diving into "Roy O. Disney: The Forgotten Brother Who Built the Magic Kingdom" which does a great job of showing the elder brother's role in getting the Florida resort built.  And "Walt's Chicago" provides background to Walt Disney's relationship with his birthplace.  And of course in the wake of Saving Mr. Banks the essay "Mary Poppins: Walt Disney and P.L. Travers" delves into the story of Disney courting Travers and her opinion of the finished Mary Poppins

The stories themselves are generally short and clear.  They are easy to read and in many cases discuss a piece of Disney history not normally touched on.  It would be an easy book to enjoy on a number of train rides where you stop and start the text over and over again (which may be the way I read this volume).  The majority do read like detailed blogs, and those who have read them before may want more new content.  But I am someone who has only read these tales in the print format.  Yes, in the electronic age I was first exposed to these in a physical form. 

Let's look at the tale of the tape though.  There are two essays in the original volumes that I cannot find reprinted in The Revised Vault of Walt and The Vault of Walt Volume 2.  The  first essay, "Song of the South Premiere" has likely not been reproduced since Korkis now has in print Who's Afraid of the Song of the South which includes a chapter on the premiere.  The second essay, "Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air", is a highly interesting essay on Mickey Mouse in the era of old time radio.  So for half the price of the original volume, you can buy The Revised Vault of Walt and The Vault of Walt Volume 2 and lose one essay with the trade off of 20 new ones.  Or one can buy the two Kindle versions for a fifth of the original's current used price.  So I think it is obvious the Between Books recommendation is to buy the two books instead of tracking down a used copy of the original.

Fans of Jim Korkis will want The Vault of Walt Volume 2 in their collection.  Serious Disney fans will want this volume for the unique content found in its pages.  And those more casual Disney fans can find plenty of enjoyment within.  And best of all, nearly all of the originally printed essays can be purchased for a reasonable price!

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press 


Friday, March 7, 2014

Mousey Movie (TV) Preview - Stars Wars The Clone Wars Season 6

It was last May that I received a letter from LucasFilm stating I should look forward to the future even though Star Wars: The Clone Wars was coming to an end.  We now know the promised future project under Dave Filoni is Star Wars: Rebels

But shockingly, that is not the end of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars story.  With Disney's growing relationship with Netflix, on March 7, 2014 (today), a final 13 episode final season will be shown on Netflix!

Here is the trailer:

What did you think?

These 13 episodes are more than a few pick-ups, this is really a half season of content.  And I love seeing arcs we were hinted about making an airing.  

Personally, I loved this series and I think it is great that it has a streaming home on Netflix.  It makes me feel less pressured to buy all the seasons (I only own one).

I am excited to see them dig deeper into the Force, and the Yoda arc looks fantastic to me.

And I love seeing them exploring Order 66 and the Clones in greater depth.

The biggest question is how many episodes can I get in this weekend?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Between Books - Hollow World: Origins

I really enjoyed Hollow World by Nick Pobursky.  And so when I saw that there was a free EBook prequel on Amazon.Com, I jumped at it since the price was right for what I hoped was good content.  And as one can expect for that price, I was not disappointed.

Hollow World: Origins consists of three short stories.  "X-Ray" by Nick Pobursky shows us Team X-Ray in action before they met Charlie.  "Overboard"  also by Pobursky shows Hollow World's main character in action using his detective skills in a less life-threatening but important situation.  "Vacuous" by Hugh Allison shows the villain's main henchman Jeremy on a mission for Spencer Holloway.

Overall these all three worked for me because I was already familiar with this characters.  Charlie continues to be likable and impressive.  And we get to see his domestic life, which can make many family men feel like Charlie could be their buddy.  And further deepen the stakes when we later she his family kidnapped.  After "Vacuous" I have absolutely no sympathy for Jeremy, who at times seemed misguided to me in Hollow World.  I think if I had read Hollow World: Origins first I would have never attempted to find something redeeming in him.   And it was fun to see Team X-Ray in action.  Though I felt like this was a low risk mission, since I knew who would make the pages of the book.  But I enjoyed seeing the team work together without Charlie.

If you are considering Hollow World but have not taken the plunge yet, Hollow World: Origins is a good opportunity to become familiar with these heroes and villains without a large time or money expense.  And personally, it makes me want to see more of Team X-Ray and Charlie.