Monday, June 30, 2014

Between Books - Who's the Leader of the Club?

As I have dove deep into Disney books over the last several years it has become clear that many readers and writers would like to distill what made Walt Disney an effective learner. Typically these books come from the viewpoint of writers starting from an educational or business foundation.  But Jim Korkis has added to the debate using his vast knowledge of Disney history to distill principles found in Walt Disney's historical success.

In Who's the Leader of the Club: Walt Disney's Leadership Lessons historian Jim Korkis presents seven lessons of leadership based on Walt Disney's life.  He starts with brief discussions of who Walt Disney was and what type of leadership he displayed.  He also provides a summary of the differences between a leader and a manager contrasting Walt and Roy O. Disney.  Korkis then includes his seven lessons that include an emphasis on story, a concern with those you lead and most of all integrity.  Following the seven lessons, Korkis discusses aspects of Walt Disney's bad leadership, letting people go, developing other leaders and additional principles that can be seen in Disney's life.  Along with the main text, Korkis has sprinkled into his chapters quotes from Walt Disney, summarys of the principles being examined, and stories that underscore the principle being taught.

Again, I have several Between Books that are Disney business lessons.  But this book really struck a chord with me quickly.  It was Korkis' emphasis of story in the principles that caught my attention as a Disney fan.  But this story is not Immagineering's well crafted fantasy.  No, this story is the story that one creates as a leader and how one leads their life.  Korkis makes it clear that Walt was not the easiest of leaders to work for, but his people remain loyal to him decades after his death.  Much of this has to do with the simple fact that Disney believed what he said and acted with integrity.  He lived a good story.  And for us to be good leaders we must behave in a way consistent with the messages that we distribute to craft our own good narrative.

I really appreciate the fact that Korkis did not present Disney as an infallible leader.  The chapter on Walt Disney's mistakes is honest, frank and reminds us all that even great leaders have blind spots.  For example, Walt spared his praise to his staff.  Yes, he had reasons why he believed he should not easily handout verbal praise.  But as Korkis points out that could lead to resentment.  Korkis does not paint a picture of man who embodied all successful leadership standards.  Instead Korkis show a man who we can mirror in some areas, improve on others and perhaps acknowledge in yet others that we ourselves have problems.

I myself am a people leader, one who uses Walt Disney's example too much in my daily work life.  My team is very familiar with the yes if principle (Korkis, 88).  But sadly for my team Who's the Leader of the Club? has only reinforced my use of story language in my work life, as I will continue to remind those who work with me we have a great story to tell.  And having a great story really worked out well for Walt Disney!  

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press

Friday, June 27, 2014

Dreaming Disney - Stars Wars/Frozen Mashup

Let me just say this, yes there are a lot of Frozen parody videos out there.

But one is why the internet exists!

Go ahead, feel free to play it again!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Between Books - Service with Character

I'm a pretty sure that David Lesjak wrote Service with Character: The Disney Studio
& World War II
for me.  My Master's degree focused on World War II history.  And when I crash my way through Disney books it is often this era my mind wanders towards.  So I am pretty sure that Lesjak wrote this title mostly so I can finally have my curious questions answered.

David Lesjak in Service with Character: The Disney Studio & World War II details the efforts of the Walt Disney Studio in supporting the American, and Allied, war effort.  He provides detailed chapters on the home front, insignia creation, propaganda and training films and contributions to print media.  Along with these chapters that provide a transactional history of the studio's efforts, Lesjak provides a detailed look at the development of the failed Gremlins live-action film and all its complications.  As a companion to the chapters, the authors provides a detailed list of supporting artifacts that can be viewed online.  And he reprints letters and messages of interest in a series of Appendixes.  

Overall I was impressed with Service with Character as a solid historical monograph that has been well researched and written in a clear manner that even non history buffs could read.  The topics did satisfy my interest on a number of topics, like insignia.  I am pleased to now have this volume in my Between Library for easy reference.  My only quibble is around the lists of supporting collectibles for viewing.  I really wish that some of them could have been included as illustrations within the text.  It would likely be cost prohibitive to print images of the numerous items listed.  I am still old school reading print copies.  And it is difficult to reference a website during my prime reading time.  So, reading through the artifacts I was inspired to go look for some of these objects.  At the time of this posting, the website supporting the book with the collectibles is not yet up.  

The book really illuminated this period of Disney history for me.  And the book makes it clear that the Walt Disney Studio was financially pressed during this era, and much of it was due to Walt Disney's own efforts.  Disney legitimately supported the American war effort and his choices lead him to lose money during a time where his film markets were already dwindling.  For example, the short film he made for the Treasury Department The New Spirit further limited his markets by providing a free Disney short to theaters.  Therefore, they did not need to order the newest Disney short to bring in an audience.  And it is remarkable reading the struggles Disney went through to get paid by the U.S. government while being accused of price gouging on a product that was actually cutting into Disney profits.  And the story of Disney's insignia production, which was completed for free and always in demand, was a topic I have wanted to read about for awhile.  As one reads through the chapter one can easily grow to admire the dedication of Henry "Hank" Porter who took the lead on this Disney morale initiative for the armed forces.    

Service with Character is a must own for Walt Disney Studio history fans.  The text does an excellent job outlining a key moment in studio history.  Additionally, World War II history enthusiasts will also enjoy this book, since it shows one company's war efforts.  In many ways, Disney is one example of the many companies who's production was reoriented towards the war and struggled with diminishing profits and dwindling work forces.  

For me, Service with Character has filled a key need in my Between Books library.  I love the detailed accounts of film and insignia production found in the text.  And I cannot help but admire the efforts of Walt Disney and his staff for keeping a studio open while finding their own avenues to support the war effort.  

Review Copy Provided for Review

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mousey Movie Review - Maleficent

With an opening weekend of $69.4 million in the United States, Maleficent, is a hit!  But should this retelling of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty deserve to be?  Maleficent is the strongest of the fairies and the protector of the Moors from the encroachment of man.  She learns about pain and love in this live-action take of a classic.  And really as I look at this Mousey Movie I cannot help but compare it to the animated original: 

  • The Icon: Angelina Jolie is fantastic as Maleficent.  It is a Johnny Depp like performance.  And she does a good job mimicking some of the classic scenes, like the cursing, from the animated movie.  Now it is not a perfect depiction.  Jolie’s Maleficent is too white for me, with her creamy colored skin showing off her fresh lipstick. I would have preferred a green tone to the fairy’s skin.     
  • Murdock: I am a huge fan of Sharlto Copley!  I love his depiction of Murdock in the 2010 A-Team, he does an excellent job channeling the original in a terrific fanboy homage.  And I can remember my introduction to him in District 9, where I kept questioning who this odd guy was.  By the end of the movie I was completely caught in his story.  And I am the guy who defends Elysium because I love his villain Kruger.  Copley’s Stefan has made it so I can never look at King Stefan in the same way again.  He is not quite as creepy as Kruger, but there were parts to Kruger that I could find redeemable.  Though honestly Stefan might be as brutal as Kruger.  I do not know if I feel that way about Stefan.  In reclaiming Maleficent, the cost has been the good name of Stefan.  I do need to add that in my house I am the Copley fan.  And some of the Between Family do not believe that his looks fit the role, with them wanting Stefan to be more traditionally handsome.  And I will admit Stefan does not seem to have the personality found in a character like Kruger or Murdock.  But honestly the writing probably limited one of my favorite current actors.  Or at least I am remaining his apologist.    
  • The Frozen Playbook: I thought we were told that Disney was doing too much girl stuff and not enough stuff for boys.  Because Maleficent really is a movie about strong female characters.  And like in Frozen the male figures are firmly supporting figures.  Now as someone with several young women in his life, I am glad that not everything is male superheroes.  But it feels like Disney has done a better job balancing male and female characters in movies like Captain America: The Winter Soldier than in their fantasy line of animated and live-action films  I definitely felt that Merida and Elsa could relate to Maleficent and would easily enjoy a girls night out together.     
  • Adventures in Babysitting: The kindly fairies are horrible.  Flora, Fauna and Merryweather may be silly but at least you feel like they love Briar Rose.  Knotgrass, Fittle and Thistlewit as presented in Maleficent are narcissistic, selfish, and entirely too self-centered.  There is little to indicate to me that they either love Aurora or like each other.  But worst of all they are incompetent.  Aurora is gone constantly from their protection both day and night and they never seem concerned that their charge is not firmly under their watch.  These fairies should be endearing to the viewer, and there is nothing likable about these magical ladies. 
  • Avatarland: I still do not understand why Disney is paying a fee to build Avatarland.  I guess I might have said that years ago about Star Wars, but I like Star Wars.  But if I am going to say something positive about this movie is that the Moor seems to me to be the type of fantasy environment that would fit in well within Animal Kingdom.  I guess I just wish Disney would take a creation of their own like the Moor and use it instead of paying a license for another company’s fantasy world. 
  • I Know You:  For me the most iconic song from Sleeping Beauty is “Once Upon a Dream” as Briar Rose meets Prince Phillip.  Maleficent mirrors this scene with Aurora and Phillip meeting each other in the forest.  I listened carefully hoping to find a musical homage to this classic.  It would have been perfect but it was nowhere to be heard.  Honestly, Disney owns the music so it is not like they had to free rights up to include the tune in the score.  Instead at the end we get Lana Del Rey’s version of the song in the credits.  And this darker version which I believe is coming from Maleficent’ s perspective failed for me with it seeming to lose the heart of the song.  This is reinforced by the fact that Jolie selected Del Rey to sing the classic, it is the title character’s view.  I think an opportunity was lost and the movie is worse for it. 
  • Amazing Spider-Man:  In the end I may have wanted to like Maleficent but I found myself having to hold this movie to the same standards as Amazing Spider-Man 2, where my general pronouncement is sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.  A good example is when the humans have to face a dragon, they conveniently enough have the tools to fight a dragon.  Have these people ever seen a dragon?  Hey if you are going to burn every spinning wheel, make sure you only do the job 20%!  If you a peasant boy who wants to be king, well let’s have really no explanation to how you can receive the respect of the ennobled.  All I can say is sloppy, sloppy, sloppy!    

In the end I will not be buying on home video this live-action hit.  I do not need to see this film again.  And sadly it has made me less excited about a live-action Cinderella, which I did not know I could be less excited about.  And I kind of feel sad that I am so low on this film!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Between Books - Voyageers: The Great Storyteller

There is power in storytelling.  It is storytelling that has allowed us to maintain our history, shape our values and craft our culture.  Kelly Ryan Johns paints a world, or a Disneyland, where storytelling shapes the physical world.  And when the world's greatest storyteller is absent there are dire consequences.  

In this second Voyageers book offered by Kelly Ryan Johns, Voyageers: The Great Storyteller, the readers see how one man's stories can impact the world.  Walt Disney receives a mysterious call and disappears.  His absence appears to have changed Disneyland, which is now dirty and superficial.   And United States' history is impacted as the the Cold War is still in full swing during present day.  And there are no Mickey Mouse's in Disneyland, instead Oswald the Lucky Rabbit has taken his place.  The Voyageers must travel through time including Disneyland's Opening Day to find Walt Disney and discover what has gone wrong with his greatest storytelling creation.

Storytelling is a constant theme throughout the book, with Walt Disney being the greatest storyteller of all.  We discover that Voyageers Christa and Thomas also have this gift, a super power one might say.  But they are not the only storytellers needed to fix Disneyland.  And I will admit I gave a fanboy laugh as two living legend storytellers entered the scene!  I do think that storytelling is a great theme for a book about Walt Disney and his parks since one really does feel like they have entered a story when passing through the gates.

This second book in the series kept my interest more than the first.  I believe this happened because to me Voyageers: The Great Storyteller often felt like Jack Duncan's book and as a more direct sequel to The Deadliest Cast Member than the first Voyageers book.  Stan Duncan is an important character to the story.  Duncan's children and support staff are mentioned.  Jack is very much in charge of the action as we get to see him rush into action again.  And we get to see character development in his best friend Kendall, an action hero I really like and look forward to seeing how he is used in the Deadliest future books.

Here we go again learning Disney history in a fictional book.  Johns uses Charles Mintz and George Winkler in the story as men who provided obstacles to young Walt.  And you have to applaud Johns' depiction of them as men not bigger than life monsters.  And I was hoping to catch Johns in some historical inaccuracy as he introduces Roger Broggie to the story.  As I read this tail of a son of the original Imagineer I thought surely he is discussing Michael.  I mean seriously I have his book right here.  No, in the end I was shamed with my lack of knowledge of Roger Broggie Jr. and all the things he did for Walt Disney.  And his use in the story filled the needs of the moment, since the problem involved his real world expertise.  

This is a book for kids.  And though Duncan has a greater role in the book it is usually through the eyes of the Voyageers we see the action.  The tale does give a youngster opportunity to consider what courage means, the power of second chances, and love.  And I never thought of the kids being in overly great physical danger with the Prince often accompanying the Voyageer teams on missions.  So despite the fact that all of Disneyland could have been removed from history, I worried less since the Prince was on the scene. 

Voyageers: The Great Storyteller is a science-fiction action story for youngsters, and the young at heart, that love Disney History.  As the kids jump through time however there are other lessons to be learned especially about forgiveness and the power behind a story.  Stories build, and hopefully your stories will build great and wonderful things.

Review Copy Provided By Author For Purposes of Review  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Cap's Comics - Figment #1

I'm not obsessed with Journey into Imagination.  There I said it.  You might think me a lesser Disney fan for saying it but it is true.  I have never and will never see Figment and Dreamfinder in their glory.  I enjoyed the book From Dreamer to Dreamfinder, but I am not really the target Disney fan that Marvel and Disney are trying to reach with Disney Kingdoms second comic offering Figment.

Figment #1 written by Jim Zub with art by Felipe Andrade introduces us to Blarion Mercurial, a young man with some facial hair that we could imagine eventually sprout into Dreamfinder hairy greatness.  Mercurial works for the Academy Scientficia-Lucidus in 1881 London and has been charged with discovering new forms of energy.  He creates the Integrated Mesmonic Converter which makes energy from brain power.  However, his employer doubts his creation and threatens to send him back into the arms of his childhood poverty.  In experimenting with his machine he unlocks his own memories and imagination, re-introducing himself to an old friend!  In the final pages his experiment is interfered with and he begins a journey that looks to shape the young man.

Disney Original Figment Variant Cover

Here just let me say it, I liked it!  Figment was a well-written, beautifully illustrated tale that I felt achieved exactly what it wanted, part one on a heroic adventure of discovery.  I liked the 19th century setting and found the art a good mix.  I have heard many say the previews had a steampunk look.  But I felt like the steampunk aspects, like a owl like helmet, were not forced but were a natural part of the story set in our world.  And even though I am not in fanboy love with Dreamfinder or Figment, I found myself feeling connected to Mercurial.  And I could not help but hear Billy Barty's voice when Figment spoke.  I thought it was a huge success with my only major criticism being a lack of creator credit for Tony Baxter and Steve Kirk.

Tom Morris Imagineer Variant Cover 

What I am really enjoying about this Disney Kingdoms series is the all-ages aspect of a comic.  This line is not bloody and something that I can share with my kids.  And the Between Tween really likes Figment from a past trip to Epcot.  The Tween also came to connect to Mercurial, and I do wonder if we should consider this story canon for the origins of Figment and Dreamfinder.  And the Tween really liked the fact that Mercurial blew some stuff up!

I joke around with my local comic shop guy quite a bit.  So when he saw me put down three issues of something called Figment he began to tease me.  I noted it was Disney, which lead him to fly to the shelves to pull a copy for another regular who buys all Disney!  And he quit teasing me realizing that Figment is a beloved pop culture icon.  He did not realize what he had when the title went out!  Why three?  I was buying two for none comic fans!  I hope Marvel is taking note that some non-regular customers are buying these books.  

The Tween said it all with, "That's it, you can't stop me there."  Figment was really enjoyable and I look forward to next month's installment!  This is the sort of title that makes me realize all the fun that Marvel can have with Disney's characters and not just how much fun Disney will have with Marvel's! 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dreaming Disney - Dole Whip Rides Again!

I recently was surprised when asked by the editor of Celebrations magazine if I would be willing to allow Dole to post my Dole Whip article onto one of their blogs!

Of course I said yes.

So for the first time, you can read my history of Dole Whip online at

And always make sure to enjoy a Dole Whip! 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Goofy Gadgets - Merida and Maleficent Join Disney Infinity 2.0

We already knew that Marvel's greatest heroes would be assembling in Disney Infinity 2.0.  But now we know that they will be joined by Princess Merida and the star of the number one movie in America, Maleficent in the Toy Box.

Are you excited?

Here are my first thoughts.  I like seeing toys themed to them in the Toy Box mode.  But I wish they were included in Play Sets.  Really that is what I want more of after the huge hit the Lone Ranger set was in my home.  Sets are fun for me! 

Is Merida and Hawkeye going to have the same power sets?  She seems to be showing off some martial arts and using her bow in a Hawkeye like fashion?  Can you buy Merida and have her join the Avengers?  Maybe she is the Kate version of Hawkeye?

I am honestly more excited about Marvel.  But I think everyone could have guessed that one!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Between Books - Voyageers: The Multiplaner

Who would not love to live in Disneyland?  And who would not want their childhood to be defined by Disneyland?  Kelly Ryan Johns in The Deadliest Cast Member provided a fictional account of an adult living within the Disneyland Resort.  In Voyageers: The Multiplaner, Johns moves his characters onto Main Street and provides the childhood fantasy of living within the Disneyland Park right there on Main Street U.S.A.. 

In Voyageers: The Multiplaner Kelly Ryan Johns introduces young readers to Christa and Thomas two sibling orphans who have had a rough go since their parents passed away.  The duo are recruited into the Voyageers program, a secret society created by Walt Disney, where the children are trained to be cast members who make magic for guests and correct the wrongs within the park throughout time. The children enter a world where they interact with Disney Legends, many who have passed away in our world, and the Protector himself Jack Duncan from The  Deadliest Cast Member.  The kids are recruited for a time hopping mission that takes them into their past in Disneyland to reclaim Walt Disney's greatest innovation the Multiplaner from a terrorist who has evil plans that go beyond the resort.  Can the kids save the day or will their actions disrupt time itself?

First of foremost this is a book for tweens and teenagers.  It is clear and easy for a teen reader to dive into.  And I think the story is one that a young Disney fan, like the Between Tween, would enjoy.  It is speculative fiction that makes a young Disney fan ask what if.  For an adult it is a nice adventure, but is not as tense or as adult as Johns' earlier work.  Johns really is reaching the audience he intended to.   

Probably one of the most interesting aspects is the fact that this text is part of a shared universe with The Deadliest Cast Member.  Events for Johns' earlier book are referenced.  And though Jack Duncan does not appear often, his presence is felt as the Protector.  And if the kids entered a dangerous situation knowing Duncan's abilities and character does help put a reader slightly at ease when considering the possible fates of the children.  Additionally, this story feels like a continuation of the Duncan story since it mentions items from the end of the earlier book.  It feels like this story includes part of the next steps of Duncan's world since he was not the Protector in his original story.  Though I will admit it did take me some time to re-orient myself into Johns' fantastical universe.

Probably one of the more interesting aspects of this book is the merging of fact and fiction.  Disney Legends interact with the kids, such as Ray Van de Warker.  The use of this character did lead me to do some quick research to confirm that he was both real and discover why he had a Main Street window.  I love how Johns' work leads me to look more deeply into Disneyland history. Van de Warker and other late legends interact with the kids in the very fictional Voyageers realm.  It is a fantastic place, right above our eyes, in the real park.  Though this place does not exist one really does feel like it is the sort of magic that should exist in a Disney park.  And the blending of fact with fiction helps the reader go with Johns in his fictional tale. 

Voyageers: The Multiplaner is a part science-fiction and part magic.  It would be a good reading option, especially in summer, for youth who enjoy Disneyland and Disney history.  In the end it is a fun romp with fantastical elements that helps one believe in the real Magic of Disney.

 Review Copy Provided by Publisher