Friday, November 28, 2014

Between Books - The Disney Festivals Guide to a Walt Disney World Christmas 2014

The Disney Festivals Guide to a Walt Disney World Christmas 2014 by Ken Bingham describes what a guest could expect during the 2014 holiday season at the Walt Disney World Resort.  Bingham describes all of the resort's Christmas time activities including all four theme parks, Downtown Disney, and the resort hotels.  There are also rumors, mostly Frozen related, as the book was written before the season.  He does provide an analysis of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party for those considering this hard ticket event including tips on how to best manage their time.  But there is still plenty of information for those who do not spend extra for a ticket for this Magic Kingdom party. Bingham explains what to expect at The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, the special storytellers one can find in Epcot, the Candlelight Processional and so much more.  

The Disney Festivals Guide to a Walt Disney World Christmas 2014 is a $2.99 Kindle book.  And at that price it is a title anyone visiting Walt Disney World during the holiday season, not just attending the party, should consider. You might be able to find much of this information elsewhere.  But the simple to search Kindle format allows one to have this information all downloaded to their phone for easy use.  One could easily carry the guide on their phone in the parks allowing for a quick review while making choices in the park.  And by downloading it beforehand one can research how to best spend time before arriving.  For those of us not going to Walt Disney World this year, the book provides an overview of what we are missing. The title is available for borrow on Kindle Unlimited for those who want to sample but not purchase the book.  

If you are going to Walt Disney World this holiday, The Disney Festivals Guide to Walt Disney World Christmas 2014 gives a good overview of events for planning purposes.  For the rest of us we can feel jealous of what we are missing in our real snow covered Betweenland.  And the price is low enough to please all of us as a low-risk purchase!  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Between Books - Main Street Windows

I was in the midst of researching Roy O. Disney and needed details on tributes to Mr. Disney in the parks.  It was Christmas and I had friends visiting the Walt Disney World Resort from Betweenland. At one point at 11 p.m. WDW time I was yelling into a cell phone hoping my friends could hear me over the capacity crowd, "I NEED A PICTURE OF THE DAVIS WINDOW."  Needless to say they could not hear me, could not find the window and only days later even figured out what I was looking for.   In today's world I could have avoided yelling. 

Main Street Windows by Jeff Heimbuch chronicles the visual tributes to Disney employees who have influenced the theme parks through honorific windows located primarily on Main Street U.S.A.. Heimbuch takes his readers through Disneyland, The Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland with a glance at every current window and even a few that have been removed.  Typically on the left hand pages Heimbuch provides the window text and biographies of the honored individuals with the right hand pages showing a picture of the window itself.  For the American parks this pattern if followed with every two pages featuring either one or two windows.  In the non-domestic parks there are less pictures and more windows featured every two pages primarily by text.  Though one discovers there are many more atmosphere only windows outside of the United States.

You ever try to take a good picture of Main Street Windows?  I have.  It is hard!  You think to yourself you can do it, you can get the right angle and the right light and it will happen...with your phone!  Yeah, you are hot mess if you think you can pull it off with a lack of time or equipment because with overhangs, canopies and angles shooting from the ground you are fighting a losing battle.  This for me is the real win of Main Street Windows, a resource with largely readable pictures of the windows.  It is clear that Heimbuch's team of photographers knew their way around a camera and found ways to photograph the windows in their best possible light, literally in some cases.  There are photos were shadows do obscure part of the window, but even the novice (like me) begins to realize the difficulty of photographing the windows and what a good representation of the widows the photos are.

If for some reason cannot read the window, Heimbuch does provide a full transcript of the window's inscription.  And he provides readers context by giving a brief write-up of who the window honors and why they deserved to be recognized on Main Street U.S.A..  As one reads through the biographies it becomes clear that many honored are not the known legends of Disney we can recite off the tip of our tongues.  Instead there are numerous men and women recognized whose names do get thrown around but are honored for providing excellent service to the parks.  The biographies for individuals with windows in multiple parks are largely copies of each other.  

If there is one thing I wish was added it would be an index.  It is easy enough to scan through the book with names in bold and text primarily being printed on the left hand side.  But an index would help speed readers to the window they are seeking in the book.

Main Street Windows by Jeff Heimbuch is the most comprehensive book on Disney's Main Street Windows.  For me it is an important reference, as any Disney writing I do includes me wanting to know about window tributes in the park.  Main Street Windows will be a first reach for me when I start to assemble outlines on Disney parks related projects in the future.

Review Copy Provided by Orchard Hill Press    

Monday, November 17, 2014

Between Books - The Deadliest Cast Member: Season Two

I often judge an episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. by my tension level.  The more tense I am by the end of the episode the more I liked it due to the action and suspense.  So when I received my review copy of the latest installment in the Deadliest Cast Member saga I shot off an email to the author noting my worry he would kill off a character or two like he has done in the earlier offering. Before I even cracked the cover I was worried!

The Deadliest Cast Member: Season Two by Kelly Ryan Johns takes hero Jack Duncan and his partner Kendall Shepherd back to 2005.  Johns walks his readers through the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland, the day in which Duncan lost his wife and became a true national hero when former Soviet spy Nikolai Grusov held the park hostage.  Readers follow Jack throughout his day as he attempts to both protect the park and his family.  And as readers know the price is high since Duncan's life was changed forever this day.  The conspiracy against the park and the Duncan family is more complex than one might believe.  Along with following our heroes, readers also join guests and media being held hostage in the park.  While Jack and Kendall try to protect Disneyland and its guests, two pairs of time travelers also work to impact the final outcome.  One pair, Jack's father Stan and a companion close to the history of the park worry that changing the events of the fateful day could leave a larger scar on the timeline.  And the others, a pair of highly trained operatives from the future use futuristic gadgets and weapons to make a change that could have ramifications for the Duncan family in the far off 2035.

Early in this installment of the franchise the science fiction element is laid out.  While there is an action story being played out in front of us, there are time travellers in the park which are attempting to change or not change the story.  One of these characters is an adult version of one of the kids from the Voyageers' series of books by Johns.  And you do feel like this could be the grown-up character as you watch their personality and determination in action.  The other is one you start to believe has a more complex back story than time traveling criminal, and of course he does!

Really it is Jack and Kendall that I find myself most attracted to when I grab this book.  And this Jack seems more violent and less fatherly than the version that we met in the first installment set in the future.  That Jack is a father who has been raising his kids alone as a widower.  This Jack is freshly out of the military and just now starting a new job at Disneyland.  He literally has no idea who he can can trust other than a close circle that includes Kendall and his father.  He is focused and willing to do everything he can to protect his family and his beloved Disneyland.  Basically you can see this Jack as a earlier version of what we saw in the first volume.  One can see how the Jack we were introduced to grew from this man.  Of course Kendall is Kendall, he is solid, caring, and the best friend one can have.

Overall the book is easy to read and clear.  The story is written as an hourly log of events.  It did take me awhile to get myself into the book, or would that be hours as one reads it.  I was distracted by trying to keep track of who was who and trying to remember who I was introduced to before.  Though even when this was happening I was still able to enjoy the book while reading it at a fast pace.  But by the time I got into the last 40 percent, tension had risen.  I found I could no longer put the book down without being frustrated by my need to end the tension and find out what was happening next.  For a book that should have a set outcome I knew was going to happen, Johns found ways to bring me doubt to my certainty.

Will Jack Duncan return?  Johns makes it clear that is up to the fans and how they receive the story.  I for one hope to see a sequel to The Deadliest Cast Member: Season Two as Johns has some unfinished business for all his characters.  And I would really like to see if Jack Duncan or the man from 2035 is the greatest warrior of all time! 

Oh and yes, look for the post-credit scene Marvel Cinematic Universe fans!

Review Copy Provided By Author

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cap's Comics - Ward Dizzley's 100% True Life Action Adventure Comics Digest Issue ONE

Ward Dizzley's 100% True Life Action Adventure Comics Digest Issue ONE is a very different comic than those that typically show up in the Cap’s Comics section.  But it is likely the first, and maybe the only, largely set in a Disney Theme Park.  In this case the majority of the action in the book takes place in the Walt Disney World Resort.  The fictional editor-in-chief of this comic is Ward Dizzley, a clear parody of Walt Disney.  The humorous nature of the book is underscored by ads for products like “Burning Settler’s Cabin” which is economically priced at a dollar.  The low price shows us we are in a prior era since there is no way you could get a burning cabin for that price today!  But a word to the wise, don’t buy in bulk.  

The main content of the book is three stories.  The first story is a satirical Uncle Remus tale.  The second is a story of two slackers who join up with a pair of ladies in the Walt Disney Resort and hit it off or not.  The third is the story of the meeting of Hoot Gibson and Chief, two Walt Disney World employees who love the resort and learn the secret of exploring backstage.  The art is fun and relaxed and fits the light stories in the comic.

Really this comic has a dedicated audience, the fans of the Mesa Verde Times which documents the adventures of Hoot Gibson and the late Chief backstage at Horizons.  This blog has a very dedicated audience that enjoys their writing style and stories.  And this comic was really made for that loyal audience.  Those who are big fans of satire in the Mad Magazine style would also likely enjoy this comic.  But the comic is not for kids, as it includes mature material.  This is not a fan extension of the Disney Kingdoms comics.  And it is not for super hero comic fans, unless they also like Mesa Verde Times or satire magazines also.   

Ward Dizzley's 100% True Life Action Adventure Comics Digest Issue ONE is a comic that dedicated to a specific Disney fan community.  But it is likely not for everyone.  However, it is an offering in the Kindle Unlimited program.  Therefore, for those wishing to sample without buying there is an affordable option.  

While I could see Rolly Crump giving this comic a big thumbs up, not all of Rolly’s fans may agree. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Between Books - Two Girls and a Mouse Tale

What is it like to apply for, be selected and work in the Disney College Program? This is likely a question that many parents and young adults have? Is it safe? Will the participants become rich? Are they all friends of Mickey Mouse and if not what kinds of jobs can one get? These are questions that Elly and Caroline Collins help answer in their latest book.

Two Girls and Mouse Tale by Elly and Caroline Collins provides an account of their two semesters away from school as members of the Disney College Program. They provide a comprehensive review of the program. This includes the application process, selecting which resort to apply for, and interviewing. Once selected they go into depth on the housing options, packing and the question of bringing a car. Their accounts once they are in Orlando include living in Disney housing (including its pitfalls), special events for Disney College Program participants, educational opportunities and work schedules. Throughout the book they sprinkle the logistics of being in the Disney College Program with dairy like accounts of their own experiences.

Two Girls and a Mouse Tale provides a very personal look at the Disney College Program. The writers provide a lot of good details about the program including how to select jobs on one’s application and the advantages/disadvantages of the two United States’ resorts. And I think they make a pretty strong case for Orlando due to the volume of positions and support systems that Orlando provides. If one is interested in the types of housing Orlando provides, they provide an extensive breakdown of different apartment complexes and what is it like living in Disney housing, hint do not pin anything to the wall. They also provide tales of their own roommate issues, which many in their early 20s can relate to. I am pretty sure I was the bad roommate having turned up the stereo one time (seriously it was like one time)! I personally found it interesting seeing the list of benefits including courses for college credit, special parties and extensive discounts. Overall, I think this is a good resource for someone considering applying to the Disney College Program.

There are a few hiccups for me from a writing side. It can be difficult telling who is writing which section, though they sometimes identify themselves. There are sections that appear to be self quotes, but I am not really sure where they are quoting themselves from. And there are some specific Disney terms, like Basics Walk, that I do not believe every reader will know. These issues would at times take me out of their personal anecdotes, with me generally getting back into the book when they recounted program logistics.

Two Girls and a Mouse Tale is a helpful book for those looking to enter the Disney College Program. It provides firsthand accounts of how to apply, live and work in the program. Parents reading this book will be reassured that the Disney College Program is not a constant party for every cast member. Potential Disney College Program participants will have needed information on how to prepare for their experience. Readers will be better informed and ready to face the Disney College Program ready to hit the ground running, or if they are smart it seems driving.

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Between Books - The Ride Delegate

Sometimes you judge a book by its cover.  When I saw the cover of The Ride Delegate I thought it would be a sweet little memoir.  But I was not sure if it was something I really wanted to read.  The fact that it would be discussing VIP tours would something new.  But really I thought it would be a typical and predictable self-reflection.  Instead I found myself frustrated.  I was frustrated that I had to put the book down to work.  I was frustrated that Annie's guests were not on time.  I was frustrated with guests who thought just because they paid a high fee they could be rude!  I guess somewhere along the way, I found myself pulled into The Ride Delegate and I did not want to put it down.

The Ride Delegate: Memoir of a Walt Disney World VIP Tour Guide by Annie Salisbury details Salisbury's years as a Walt Disney World Resort guide.  She outlines why she chose employment at Walt Disney World and how she worked to be a VIP Tour Guide.  Then she explains what guests can and cannot get in the different types of tour experiences.  Needless to say, it pays to be both rich and famous.  And most importantly Salisbury takes you on her tours both good and bad but generally all memorable.  These tales include the families that treated Salisbury as their oldest child, the sports star who believed he was at Universal, and the possible foreign princess with her enormous entourage.  As any good memoir should, Annie outlines her last day of work and how special guests made her feel royal.

The Ride Delegate is clear and easy to read.  I found it enjoyable and as noted I found myself unexpectedly pulled into the story.   I said that I was at times frustrated, this is a lie.  I was downright angry.  There were a few guest stories that I wanted to look over at the unnamed guest and simply say, "what makes you think you can act this way?  Annie has been nothing but gracious to you and she only wants you to have a memorable vacation.  You are rude and have lost the right to have a tour guide."  With at least one story at the conclusion I wanted to reach out and give Salisbury a high five and a serving of her favorite corn dog nuggets for how she was able to walk with dignity at the end of the tour.  Now I typically do not get this way about people that I have never met.  So I am going to say this is a huge success since I found myself becoming highly sympathetic to her tales.  Seriously, I felt like a good tour was a victory for me and I was not even there.     

It is interesting to read of the benefits of a VIP Tour.  For example, to Salisbury's parking dismay at times, you get a ride to the park of your choice.  And you are not limited to any one park.  Your guide can drive you throughout the resort.  So if you want to ride Space Mountain but have dinner at Epcot, no problem. Your guide can drive you there.  Additionally, for some rides you do not need to wait because if there is a convenient entrance that does not disturb other guests you probably get to skip part of the line.  But if there is no alternative entrance, like it's a small world, you are waiting it out with everyone else unless you are a celebrity.  Tours are limited to ten.  If you add an eleventh you are going to be paying for an additional guide.  Guides can if they chose eat with their guests.  But if either party does not want the guide to join them they can eat tour free.  And Disney pays for the meals of guides, so many corn dog nuggets!  Generally these rules feed into Salisbury's stories.  And once you learn the rules you begin to see the problems that can be coming her way. And then there is the whole issue of stickers, and I am not talking Mickey Mouses.  

The Ride Delegate by Ann Salisbury is a really enjoyable read.  I highly recommend it, if all else fails you should consider the highly affordable Kindle copy.  It is a memoir that keep your attention, gives Disney fans a look into a service we probably will never enjoy, and might even make you consider getting (or not getting) a tour guide during your next Walt Disney World vacation.

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press