Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dreaming Disney - Between Disney Podcast Special #1

After much encouragement from two friends I have put together the first and perhaps only Between Disney podcast episode!

It can be found at The Comic Book Time Machine and is all about Haunted Mansion books!

In the first every Between Disney Podcast Special, Daniel discusses Haunted Mansion themed books and comics. Daniel breaks down the key strengths in the works of two different Haunted Mansion themed authors. And because its comic book time machine he talks about the Haunted Mansion comic anthology collection.

The titles discussed in their most recent editions are:
• Jason Surrell’s The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic
Jeff Baham’s The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion
Haunted Mansion comic book collection

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Between Books - Cleaning the Kingdom

Can janitors be an interesting topic?

Despite a really horrible one semester one bathroom custodial shift, I am going to say in some circumstances yes!   And seeing a book about Disneyland’s famed custodial cast members is probably one of the most interesting Between Book topics I had seen in some time.  I knew this for sure, it was not going to be your typical guidebook!

Cleaning the Kingdom: Insider Tales of Keeping Walt’s Dream Spotless by Ken Pellman and Lynn Barron provides some custodial history, a layout of how Disneyland was cleaned and personal stories from the men and women in White.  Pellman and Barron spent years in Disneyland’s custodial department from the 1980s to 2000s.  The two former custodians are passionate about what they did and the legacy that the white clothed crew has left in the hearts of guests.  The 400 plus page book is clearly the most exhaustive book ever considered about these cast members.  The authors open with a historical review of Disney’s custodial services including the key cast members who made the Custodial department the legendary unit it became.  The authors then share in great depth their experiences including their typical day, how they cleaned Disneyland and an exhaustive land by land breakdown of the park and the services needed in each area.  Amongst their report of what it was like to be a day custodial employee are personal accounts from themselves and friends about guests, cultural changes, and of course the chapter of the gross which readers are warned may not be for everyone (you will not be surprised to find the worst bodily fluid situations in this chapter).  The two close the book discussing why they left Disneyland and reflecting on how their experiences impact them to this day.  

Let me just start with this simple observation.  I now am noticing dustpans, including one that I recently used, evaluating them on their material make-up and their usefulness.  I am sad to say that I found my most recent sweeping lacking, as I do not believe my plastic pan would have been able to remove gum!  So if asking the question if a book about custodial could be interesting, the fact that I’m thinking about dustpans really answers that question quickly for me. 

Another aspect of the book that really interested me was the short but complete history of Disneyland custodial services.  The history includes the names of important staff and a history of the department.  For me this chapter was a great touch giving a very serious historical view of the department.

As someone who was evacuated once behind stage and seen a packer and recycle sorting, I found it very interesting to read a breakdown of where the custodial areas were and how they were accessed.  And I became very impressed with the hard work and dedication that Disneyland’s janitors historically have worked with.   I liked leaving the book with a better understanding of where does the trash go, what sweeping lines entails, how Indy is treated special and how urine is urine regardless of source.

I do have some critiques.  The authors identify often who is writing, and sometimes to keep my reading flow going I really could have been satisfied with a “we” instead of “Lynn” or “Ken”.  However I assume their podcast fans would not agree with me.  And on occasional the material seemed repetitive.  But that is likely due to the very through nature of the book.  

Cleaning the Kingdom: Insider Talesof Keeping Walt’s Dream Spotless by Ken Pellman and Lynn Barron is a book that Disneyland fans will clean up on.   It feeds into fans who want to know all things Disneyland by showing the dirty side, literally, of the park.   From their observations about in park developments such as wardrobe changes, their personal thoughts about Disney and their detailed explanations of cleaning the park, fans will want this volume with a very different point of view.  

Review Copy Provided by Authors 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Between Books - Katie Earns Her Ears

Katie Earns Her Ears: My Secret Walt Disney World Cast Member Diary by Katie Hudson is the fourth volume in the "Earning Your Ears" series which allows former Disney College Program participants to share their experiences.  In this recounting, Katie a student from Texas spent a fall working at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe.  But for Katie not everything is all work as she attempts to stay connected with her campus back home and make the most out of her limited time in Orlando.  Additionally, Katie's journey includes a tense roommate situation that uncovers how rigid Disney procedures can be for the young people in the program.  

For me what I generally want to know what about these books and their voice is different.  First, Katie is an introvert.  So being on stage all the time can be draining for her, and I am sure other cast members with like personalities.  Katie's story makes it clear you can still get a lot out of the program and be enthusiastic without needing to change who you are.  Second, Katie's social life gives some great ideas for those who want to enjoy everything Orlando has to offer.  In fact, through her experience one can learn how to work in the Disney College Program but still save money at Universal parks.  Third, these experience books often make it clear how regimented living in Disney housing can be with rules and inspections.  Katie's journey includes an incident with her roommates that provides an striking example of why one must follow Disney's requirements to the letter in order to keep from being termed, leaving or being sent away, from the program.

If I was to recommend this volume to any potential Disney College Program participants it would be for those who want the Disney experience but are afraid to put themselves out there because of their introverted nature.  The book is a journal format which is easy to read.  I personally read this book over a period of months with breaks between other books and I was never lost when I returned to the offering.  And I would likely recommend that like me, that one read it in the Kindle format due to the ease of quick note taking and cheaper price.
Katie Earns Her Ears: My Secret Walt Disney World Cast Member Diary by Katie Hudson reminds us that not all Disney fans and Disney College Program participants are outgoing extroverts.  Some of us, including me, are fun-loving introverts.  And those like us can still learn from the Disney College Program experience.  


Monday, October 12, 2015

Between Books - 50 Years in the Mouse House

Over the last few years and I have gotten deeper and deeper into Disney history I have heard the names of Disney's Nine Old Men several times.  But some of them have been obscure to me.  Marc Davis had the benefit of a career that extended into the parks leading us to reflect on his animation years.  And Ward Kimball had a personality that cannot help but fascinate.  For me Eric Larson is one of these legends I had stumbled upon and made an impression of, the teacher, but he was still shadow and not substance to me.  Now I can say I think I understand Larson in a more personal way.

50 Years in the Mouse House: The Lost Memoir of One of Disney's Nine Old Men by Eric Larson edited by Didier Ghez and Joe Campana allows Larson to share about his life and career in his own words with some refection by others.  The text is broken into several short segments by and about Larson which include a biography and background on Larson's lost memoir.  The main features of the book itself include Larson's memoir, once believed lost but uncovered in some of the late legend's papers.  The memoir written in the 1980s discusses his arrival at Disney, the men he worked with, Sleeping Beauty and the studio strike.  This is followed by a collection of Larson's smaller thoughts and quotes on similar topics.  The editors follow the memoir with a reproduction of Larson's notebook from his 1942 trip to Mexico in cooperation with the studio and the Good Neighbors program.  The reproduction includes a transcription of the notebook and copies of the notebook pages including his drawings for the researcher to observe themselves.  Larson's writings end with 14 lectures by Larson on animation.  And finally, another view of Larson is provided by Dan Jeup who was mentored by Larson beginning in his teenage years.

As I said, I feel like I have a much better idea of who Larson is now.  He appears to be a "simple" man in the good sense, being true to himself and consistent in his interactions. Larson was a teacher, one who gave willingly of his time to those younger than himself both in small and large settings.  And he was animator that believed that animation was acting, full of motion and emotion.  Larson taught Disney staff not to draw but to bring living stories to the frame.

I do think this is an important text.  Now, to be fair that does not mean it is always the most readable.  Larson's writing can be somewhat slow at times.  And the segments do not provide a biography that transitions flawlessly.   The lectures are lectures, they are technical and include content that may not naturally catch the interest of the non-professional.  Now that being said, this is a book every Disney animation history and fan needs.  Because, you do get to read Larson in his own words.  You get accounts of Larson in the first person from those who know him.  And finally his animation lectures are a treasure trove of information for those who wish to know about Disney animation philosophy during Larson's time.  This text will serve as a key primary source on Disney animation in a easy to access package.  And the editors have done an excellent job in ensuring readers get plenty of extra content beyond the relatively short lost memoir.

50 Years in the Mouse House: The Lost Memoir of One of Disney's Nine Old Men reveals Eric Larson the man...a Disney legend and a key Disney animation mentor.  By the time one completes the text the reader will feel as if they know Larson the man, mentor and animator.  And the volume will be a must read Between Book for Disney animation researchers. 

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press

Monday, October 5, 2015

Between Books - Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago....Volume 3

Lately I have been super I have treated myself.  I have taken the time to dive into the classic Marvel Star Wars comics found in Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago....Volume 3!

Han Solo has been taken by Boba Fett and is in the clutches of Jabba the Hutt.  But that does not mean that the Rebels can only put their efforts into freeing their companion.  No, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca the Wookie balance attempts to strike against the Empire with finding a safe base of operations for the struggling Rebellion.  The Rebels have to survive Imperial super weapons, organic technology, traitors, love and a unexpected trip to Mars!  And sometimes in flashbacks, Han Solo makes an appearance. 

This volume really focuses on Luke and Leia.  The over two years of comics in Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago....Volume 3 represent a time when Han Solo was frozen in carbonite and unavailable for comic stories since his fate had not resolved on the big screen.  Therefore, Lando stands in for his absent friend as the pilot of the Millennium Falcon and resident rogue.  Though Leia and Luke are not always happy with the relationship.  This leaves the story vacuum to be filled by Leia and Luke.  Leia focuses on leading the rebellion with the occasional longing for her missing love Han.  And Luke is thrown into tons of action as he fights water thieves, has to clear himself for a crime he did not commit, or did he, and not finding as much time as desired to experiment with the power of the Force.  

Did I mention that the Rebels visit Mars?  One of the story arcs uses unused art from John Carter, Warlord of Mars.  The art is very clearly the John Carter and Dejah Thoris character models.  And Tharks are aplenty just with miscolored skin.  But the world of swords and flyers is clearly the Mars of Marvel comics, with Luke and Leia drawn in.  And I have to admit, it is really weird reading a story where Leia is catching the attention of John Carter, I mean Aron Peacegiver, under the watchful eyes of his very Martian but not pigmented red Martian wife!  The two universes are truly matched up and for anyone reading both titles, like listeners of the Comic Book Time Machine, the mash-up is easy to see.

Now a lot of people have trouble with Jaxxon the green rabbit. But Jaxxon had only a limited run in the Marvel comics.  But for me one might begin to wonder if the title has jumped the shark with the Hoojibs of Arbra.  These cute rodent like Rebel allies are clearly wiser than one might think.  And are truly a key ally to the Rebels.  But if the Hoojibs do not take you out of the story, perhaps Luke Skywalker in the gear of a medieval knight jousting may toss you for a loop!  Regardless these stories and comics are still enjoyable for the Star Wars fan,

Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago....Volume 3 though out of print is a treat for the Star Wars fan.  With stories primarily by David Michelinie and art often featuring Marvel legend Walter Simonson, the volume is fun and action packed.  The volume is definitely a treat, despite the occasional story and visual reaches.