Monday, April 27, 2015

Between Books - Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney

Who wouldn’t want to learn from a successful Disney parks executive? Seriously don’t we all want to know how they got to the top of their profession while also learning about successful leadership? Lee Cockrell, a former Executive Vice President, Operations for the Walt Disney World resort has collected his leadership advice into a book that is available for anyone seeking to improve their personal leadership.

Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell shares leadership principles taught by the Disney Institute as funneled through Cockerell’s personal experiences in hospitality and as an executive at the Walt Disney World Resort.  Cockerell's chapters are typically 20 pages plus with several sub-points.  Cockerell discusses primarily how to manage effectively by valuing people and their talents, along with working hard.  Really that is Cockerell's secret to being a successful manager.  He gives extensive examples of how he has a manager listened to staff, trained staff and provided opportunity for growth both inside and outside his organizations.  He also details how he personally used practical tools to support his people and be present for them.  In addition, he focuses on the individual manager's need to educate themselves and be a person of character.  Overall, Cockerell does follow in general the same points of the Disney Institute, which puts leadership, employee excellence and guest satisfaction before business results.  One should note that Cockerell's emphasis on people includes the need for employee discipline, and so every solution is not always an instantly happy one.

Cockerell is incredibly honest!  I cannot recollect many business books that include the author admitting that he has been punched by an employee...and more than once.  He shows that the lessons that he has learned and then implemented come from experience and trial and error which has definitely included error.  And in the end really that is what we all as managers have lived.  We all make mistakes and hopefully we have all learned from them, hopefully.  So yes while it is enjoyable to read many of Cockerell's stories in a Disney context.  His stories as a young manager, an unpolished manager, in the hotel industry are honestly even more exciting.  Because they show how Cockerell grew to become the manager that Disney eventually recruited.  Seriously, he tells one story about how he once intimidated a man into the hospital.  He does not tell the story to brag, but you get the sense that the tale helps show how he transferred himself into a manager who made his brand people.

I really enjoyed Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney.  Lee Cockerell helped validate for me part of my own personal brand of leadership, people matter.  And he let me know as the reader that leaders can and do stumble and grow.  I borrowed Created Magic from the library, since I found the price a little high for me for a business book.  But in the near future I fully intend to purchase my own copy so I can start referencing it on a more frequent basis.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cap's Comics - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad #2

Abigail Bullion finds herself trapped in a collapsing Big Thunder gold mine at Rainbow Ridge.  Abigail and the man in the red bandanna attempt to make their escape from the mine, while romantic tension swirls.  In the midst the situation is dangerous, the man in the red-mask shares his belief that the mountain is angry, much like Chandler in the first issue.  Once out of the mine, Abigail finds that some of her father's gold has been stole by a group of red-masked bandits.  The young hero makes an attempt to catch the bandits, with a cliffhanger that leaves the reader questioning Abigail's safety. 

Connecting Variant Cover

I treat Disney Kingdoms as an all-ages affair.  So I read these issues to the Between Kid as my first read and get my first impressions from that experience.  I found myself questioning if the Between Kid's interest was being held in the first act when the story really did turn to a romantic feel.  The Kid stuck to it, which totally surprised me.  In the end, I think it was trains, rifles and horse chases that kept the interest...or maybe the time with Dad.  Big Thunder Mountain Railroad #2 was probably my least favorite Disney Kingdoms issue.  But it was still a good read, and one that kept an young interest.  

Dennis Hopeless continues to grow Abigail as a strong female hero.  She rides horses, she uses physics, and she jumps trains.  But she is still able to find time for romantic awkwardness and ask the obvious questions, "What's with the mask?"  Though I do believe we all knew who the masked man was before the reveal.  Now we just question motive, which I am guessing will be complicated. 

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad #2 is another good offering from Disney Kingdoms.  Hopeless provides a professional grade story while Tigh Walker continues to provide well-matched art.  I am clearly going to stick around for issue #3 as I drink my Disney Kingdoms cool-aid!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Between Books - Walt's People: Volume 10 Talking Disney with the Artists who Knew Him

I honestly cannot say enough how awesome it is as a Disney history fan to have a series like Walt’s People. There are archives and people that I will never have access to in Betweenland. And as a bonus in the series’ 10th volume I feel like I am getting annotated notes to one of my favorite books.

Walt’s People: Volume 10 Talking Disney with the Artists who Knew Him edited by Didier Ghez collects the interviews used by biographer Bob Thomas in his writing of Walt Disney: An American Original. The book opens with an essay discussing Thomas’ book written by Jim Korkis. The essay discusses the quest for an official biography of Walt Disney and the attempts by other authors to fulfill the request. It also highlights the intellectual freedoms Thomas had. The first oral history is Ghez interviewing Thomas about his experiences with Walt Disney and writing the book. The majority of the rest of the volume consists of Thomas’ interviews which include a list of Disney legends including Lillian Disney, Roy O. Disney, Ub Iwerks, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas, Roy E. Disney, Marc Davis, and so many more. Oh, and there is an interview with Walt Disney himself. Additional information includes an essay on Walt Disney’s secretaries which is an interesting read.

I really do feel like this volume is the annotated notes of Thomas’ Walt Disney: An American Original and Building a Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire. There were several moments I thought to myself; hey I have heard this before. And in many cases it is because I have read some of the stories before in Thomas’ books and in their use by other historians and biographers afterwards. However, I really like seeing the original notes and contexts of the interviews that Thomas used. And now, I and others can use them for our own writings even if we never met any of these legends, many of which have passed away.

Walt’s People: Volume 10 Talking Disney with the Artists who Knew Him is likely my favorite volume of the series to date due to the connecting theme. I bought my copy as a Kindle book for under $5. And that may have been the best value of the year based simply on the number of notes in my copy.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cap's Comics - Star Wars Volume 4 #3

"Skywalker Strikes" Part III in Star Wars #3 by Jason Aaron and artist John Cassaday appears to conclude the first arc in the Star Wars return to Marvel.  Honestly, I found myself a little shocked that the first story ended in three issues since Dark Horse took a year to tell their first significant story in their last Star Wars volume. 

The rebels are on the run as they set the power core of the Empire's largest weapons factory to overload and explode.  But it is far from an easy escape.  Luke dodges stormtroopers on a speeder bike.  Han and Leia are on the run from Darth Vader in a AT-AT.  And Chewbecca and C-3PO appear to have been eliminated.  And of course while the Empire is chasing our heroes, we have to ask how will they escape with the freed slaves.  The action climaxes as we wonder if the Rebel plan will succeed.  

Sometimes when watching television or reading comics I get tense.  I have to admit there is some tension let out of the bag in this story.  While well written, it is difficult to picture any of the major characters at risk!  I know they all make it for at least three more movies (and one of those has not even been released yet).  Maybe this story needs a character like Evaan from Star Wars: Princess Leia who can be lost and be meaningful.  Honestly, one of the best aspect of Star Wars: Rebels is the cast are all blank slates that I do not know the fates of.  Here, as much as I enjoyed the story, I really did not feel like there was risk.  Honestly, one of my favorite moments of this issue might have been the hint of what is to come in the next one!  

This issue really does hang on action.  And I like action.  But sometimes if felt like the action was a little clipped.  It seemed as jumpy as a Bourne movie.  Again, I enjoyed this issue very much.  But maybe this should have been a four issue arc and not a three issue story.

As the first arc of Marvel's new Star Wars comes to a close, I am still really excited about the marriage of LucasFilm and Marvel under the Disney umbrella.  Comics is such a great medium for Star Wars content and I do find myself wondering if in the future if I will be reading Star Wars titles instead of superhero titles on a monthly issue basis. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Cap's Comics - Kanan the Last Padawan

The crew of the Ghost is assigned a simple milk run retrieving supplies for refuges on LothalBut the trip takes the crew to Kaller, a planet connected to Kanan's past as Jedi Padawan Caleb Dume.  Writer Greg Weisman and artist Pepe Larraz then take readers back to the days before Order 66 when young Caleb and his Jedi Master Depa Billaba fought to free the Kallerans from oppressive Separatist rule. Between action scenes, Padawan and Master discuss the nature of questions, dissent, attachment and the role of Jedi in the military.  The issue ends as the infamous Order 66, which decimated the Jedi, is given to the Clone Troopers.

Kanan: The Last Padawan was not what I expected.  With a lead character from what is primarily a children's animated program, and with him as a kid, I expected something that was all-ages.  Instead this title really is full of content that is somewhat above the average kid, discussions of attachment and the military obligation.  There was also a lot more talking than I expected.  I probably would not jump up and offer this as an all-ages comic.  Now, I did read it to the Between Kid and the story kept the kiddo's interest.  There are fighty fighty moments to keep the younger reader engaged.  But honestly, I thought much of it above the Between Kid.  I guess I should not have been surprises since the first Kanan story, Star Wars: A New Dawn, was very much a story written for adults.

Weisman provides a strong and deeper than expected story.  With Weisman serving as one of the co-executive producers of season one of Star Wars: Rebels I did expect the comic to share a similar feel with the animated series.  Instead it really feels like what it is, a prequel story.  I do like the fact that he plays up the fact that Caleb Dume is known for his questions, a personality quirk we see also see in Star Wars: A New Dawn.  This story very much in line with that early prose novel.  The art by Larraz feels like Star Wars (which to me is a very high compliment).

Before there was Kanan Jarrus, there was Caleb Dume.  Kanan: The Last Padawan is setting up how the young Jedi student became the rebel we know from DisneyXD.  I have been looking forward to this story.  Though I will admit that I find myself surprised with the first issue as it provided philosophy and character development.  And despite the heady topics in the comic's pages, in Betweenland at least one youngster (and adult) await the next issue.      



Monday, April 6, 2015

Between Books - Sara Earns Her Ears

I have constantly made one request for authors of Disney College Program memoirs.  Please bring me more Dole Whip!  Now Sara takes me straight to the machine! 

Sara Earns Her Ears: My Secret Walt Disney World Cast Member Diary by Sara Lopes provides a Californian's perspective of the Disney College Program in Walt Disney World.  Lopes details her love of Disney and how she prepared and applied for the Disney College Program.  Additionally she walks through her interview process and steps from acceptance to moving cross country.   The author was cast to work at Capt. Cook's at the Polynesian Resort.  And that brought her straight to the Dole Whip machine itself!  Along with work, Lopes details the entertainment experiences available to her such as Goofy's Mystery Tour, a scavenger hunt/trivia event for cast members.  Lopes ends her memoir with a appendix of helpers that includes a study guide for interview questions and a packing list.

In other memoirs it has been clear that social media is a huge support.  In Lopes' memoir this fact is emphasized several times. Lopes shows how to use Facebook, blogging and YouTube to both learn about the program and connect with others.  I was even shocked to see that not only Lopes but other Disney College Program members were active with blogs and videos even during their time in Disney employment.  It is likely these online tools that aided Lopes to pick roommates that largely matched her personality.  Lopes continues this social media participation with her own blog The Disney Den, which has additional information about the Disney College Program experience.     

Like with all good books in this genre, there are plenty of helpful tips to assist the potential Disney College Program member.  First, do not be neutral.  A sure-fire way to not be cast is to be lukewarm to the experience in interview responses.  Another great and helpful tip is if flying do not over pack.  If you are not driving to Florida, you will be forced by the airlines to choose carefully what you bring instead of buying in Orlando.  Third, Lopes describes the process of being deployed, working at a new site, and what a cast member can expect from the experience. 

I am finally a happy boy.  Sara Earns Her Ears is a title with helpful hints and tools for those wishing to get accepted into the Disney College Program.  For someone like me though, it made me crave Dole Whip as Sara ate her first Dole Whip, sold Dole Whip, and championed the awesomeness of Dole Whip.

I guess I need to find a new fatal flaw to complain about!