Monday, January 25, 2016

Between Books - Going to Disneyland: A Guide for Kids & Kids at Heart

Going to Disneyland: A Guide for Kids & Kids at Heart by Shannon Willis Laskey is a Disneyland guide book that is targeted at kids.  Like most Disneyland guides this book goes through the park, land by land, discussing the attractions, shows, dining and atmosphere.  The book provides kids with histories of attractions, fun facts, quizzes, descriptions and much much more.  Games, Imagineer profiles and provide your thoughts cues are all scattered throughout the book.  Additionally the book ends with a journal for kids to write about their own adventures.  The book also provides a summary of the different Disney storylines that one enters in the attractions.  

The synopsis of Going to Disneyland: A Guide for Kids & Kids at Heart is familiar to Disney fans looking for the next great Disneyland guide.  And I have seen a few other guides targeted at kids.   Yet the book still stands out in living color and I do mean color.  Laskey is an illustrator and graphic designer, and this is where the text shines.  Honestly this is where book stands out of the crowd.  The volume is highly colorful with a mix of illustrations and pictures by photographer Dave DeCaro.  It is far from drab.   Laskey melds these images into her guide text to present what could be to a kid "educational facts" in an exciting and engaging manner.   This makes every page different and engaging especially to a younger reader, as one never knows what the next page could offer.  Will there be a quiz or a chance to make note of a favorite attraction?  Will there be a matching game to help one pass the time in lines?  It often feels like the possibilities are endless, making the reading fresh as every page is turned.

Is that a Haunted Mansion coloring page?  Why yes it is!  Going to Disneyland: A Guide for Kids & Kids at Heart is an unexpectedly fun Disneyland guide.  It can provide interactive preparation for a child going to Disneyland, occupy time in the park and help them remind their memories at home.  And the color and images makes the volume pop out in a often crowded guide category.  The Between Kid is sure to have days of fun with this volume!

Review Copy Provided by Orchard Hill Press 


Friday, January 22, 2016

Cap's Comics - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad #5

As the Between Kid and I sat down to read Big Thunder Mountain Railroad #5 we made the following predictions:
  • Someone(s) would fall in love
  • Someone would die
  • Someone would learn their lesson
Of course, we knew we could be wrong...but it was fun guessing!

Every thing is coming to a explosive climax  Barnabas T. Bullion is trapped in the angry mine with Onawa.  Will both of them leave the mountain alive?  What about the trapped miners?  Can Bullion lead this group on a train ride to safety, or will it be the wildest ride in the wilderness?  Meanwhile Willikers has captured the bandit of Abigail Bullion and Chandler.  Can the young lovers escape their captor and help find a way to save Bullion and the miners?  But most of all, can the mountain's rage be stopped?  All these questions are answered as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad races to conclusion!

Dennis Hopeless proves in the final installment of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad that his entire tale is a family based morale story, where bad guys get this punishments and misguided fools learn their lessons.  Kids will likely see the message in the stories conclusion.  And adult Disney fans will be pleased with the artist's addition of Disney Parks Easter eggs in the backgrounds and action.  For me the biggest and most exciting gem of was the full identity of Chandler revealed.  This moment made me hopeful that we could discover more adventures within Disney Kingdoms that are linked to this story.  And perhaps it would be possible to link this story to the tales of Dreamfinder and Figment in a Disney Kingdom's universe. 

Just to show you how we did on our predictions:
  • Someone(s) did fall in love
  • Someone dies
  • Someone learned their lessons...yeah they needed to learn a lot
And overall while Big Thunder Mountain was not my favorite of the Disney Kingdom's series, I still found in the end thrills for the Disney fan.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Between Books - Star Wars: Before the Awakening

Star Wars: Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka provides backstory for the new heroes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  FN-2187 is a skilled stormtrooper cadet who has one attribute holding him back, compassion.  His instructors and Captain Phasma observe and test FN-2187 as he prepares for his first deployment.  Both the trooper and Phasma wonder if the young man will ever be more than an outsider.  Rey is a young scavenger on the planet of Jakku.  Her fortunes appear to change as a storm uncovers an item that could change her life forever.  But what will she do to protect it?  Dameron Poe is a skilled New Republic pilot who has an encounter with the First Order.  With corruption rampant in the New Republic, his frustration leads him to join the Rebellion.  But can the skilled warrior survive his latest mission from General Organa!

The volume is a collection of three short stories.  They are easy to read and Rucka does a good job digging deeper into our new heroes.  For Finn or FN-2187, the reader comes to understand exactly how skilled he is.  And watching how well he performed as a cadet only reinforces what we will in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  It makes his actions very believable.  For Rey, readers come to understand the harsh life she lived.  And of course come to feel even more for her.  With Poe, Rucka uses his Star Wars: Shattered Empire to tie the young pilot to the ideology of the Rebel Alliance.  Poe becomes a true believer and even more of an action star.

Star Wars: Before the Awakening is a fine contribution to the Star Wars literature.  I am glad I read it, and feel like I know these characters even better than those who have not read this canonical volume.  Though one does not need to read it to really understand what we saw on the screen.  But it does allow us to dig deeper into the story.  I personally would recommend borrowing and not buying this volume.  But it should delight its intended young adult audience and a few adults who want more.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Between Books - 40 Year in a Mousetrap

Recently I have been reading a lot of memoirs from those who served for a few years as young adults as Disney cast members.  But some cast members work for years and make Disney a career.  David G. Ackert shares his fun experiences working the Disney front line for decades.  How would his experiences vary from those who worked for a year or less in the park?

In March 1975, young David Ackert was hired on at Walt Disney World.  He would stay until May 2014!  In 40 Years in a Mousetrap: My Walt Disney World Career in Words and Pictures, Ackert outlines how a young man moved from New York to Florida beginning a career at Walt Disney World.  Ackert would start at the Magic Kingdom as a ticket taker, tearing admission tickets to show entry to the park instead of the use of electronic scanning devices.  Later he would move onto the Magic Kingdom and Epcot kennels as he cared for the dogs, cats and other miscellaneous pets of guests in the park.    And finally he relocated to the newly introduced Disney-MGM Studios where he would be a host at both the Great Movie Ride and his final posting of Star Tours.  Along with discussing his responsibilities with these roles he also shares celebrity encounters and off hour activities available to cast members in Orlando. 

I really liked 40 Years in a Mousetrap.  I found Ackert to be very humorous and lighthearted, which made it easy to pick the book back up again between readings.  And being a mature adult, he gives a reflective perspective that other younger memoirs cannot provide in depth.  Ackert did not spend 3 to 9 months in the park with the commentary of how it impacted him.  No, Ackert gave a career to the parks and can reflect on not just how that time changed and built him but also how the resort changed over the years.  A good example is the Disney College Program, since he witnessed the use of it for years he provides an informed outsider’s perspective that some potential candidates should really take into account!

Ackert and the scope of his career really does provide a fresh take in a memoir.  He can discuss what old Orlando was like, including the seedy side.  This is an Orlando I have heard co-workers in Betweenland discuss but Ackert can confirm.  He provides insight into how the original ticket takers worked and managed their workflow.  He takes readers inside the kennels, which I have never seen in other books.  It becomes clear quickly this is a very unique operation.  And while Ackert held a variety of roles, they were all roles that worked directly with guests which makes it clear that one can sustain a career in these roles.  Finally this is really the first book I have read that discusses guest facing cast member retirement including benefits and the fact that Disney gets you a cake.  I will admit when I have read of young adults being stressed out about losing costume pieces I have little moral support since they should be more responsible.  When Ackert does his last check in I find myself tense since he could have lost items he could not even remember in his four decades. 
I found 40 Years in a Mousetrap: My Walt Disney World Career in Words and Pictures really fun and enjoyable.  I would recommend that you read like me on a Kindle device, with a lower price point.  Ackert is fun and informative about his years at Walt Disney World, highly a Walt Disney World that is both foreign and familiar to many readers.  

Friday, January 8, 2016

Cap's Comics - Figment 2 #2

Jim Zub's Figment 2 #2 shows us a Dreamfinder struggling with doubt.  He has been plucked out of his time and all that he knows is now antiquated.  Additionally, he has failed to harness the power of imagination on a very public stage.  But Figment and Fye attempt to pick up their questioning friend.  They hope that a display of the power of imagination to the Academy Scientifica-Lucidus will put Dreamfinder back onto a path of confidence.  The display is not all that is hoped for and a new villain enters the story.  Meanwhile, another dreamer imagines a "Spark"!

Action Figure Variant

Dreamfinder is Captain America!  Dreamfinder is a man out of time and he is frustrated!  He wants to master the technology and learning found in modern times.  He struggles with not being left behind, even if that means turning his back on those tools he is most skilled with.  I think he probably has a list, just like Cap, of modern to-dos.  Dreamfinder wants to know that he can manage to remain intelligent and spry in this world.  It is both painful to watch and something that every adult can understand as we wish to feel confidant and competent in the world we live in.

I do love me some Easter Eggs.  And the Academy has a great one in Ramon Bachs' art.  It is the sort of tribute that gives chills to a Disney fan!

So far, Figment 2 lacks the excitement of Figment.  But to be fair these characters are no longer new.  And there is a dark shadow falling over our heroes.  Maybe a new Spark can conquer doubt!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Between Books - Inside the Disney Marketing Machine

It has become a family tradition to watch the Disney parade on ABC on Christmas day.  During this two hour presentation, viewers see a parade filmed primarily from Walt Disney World on a network owned by Disney with hosts employed by ABC and Disney cable networks which highlights the parks in-between video snippets about Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani, Disney films, and everything else you  can think of made by the mouse.  If Synergy, a much maligned work for marketing integration, had a showcase this parade would be it! 

Inside the Disney Marketing Machine: In the Era of Michael Eisner & Frank Wells by Lorraine Santoli outlines the author’s experiences within Disney marketing and publicity efforts beginning in 1978.  Santoli moved to California planning to be a script writer but finding a very different career in Disney marketing.  She would eventually move into the position of manager of Corporate Synergy and Special Projects.   In this role she would market Disney to Disney!   Santoli would interact with numerous Disney legends including Charlie Ridgeway, Jack Lindquist, Frank Wells and the synergy champion Michael Eisner.  Santoli outlines a number of her projects marketing Disney parks and creating synergy experiences.   Her synergy discussion provides in-depth detail on how she was able to build and support a highly effective synergy machine. 

Overall, I found Inside the Disney Marketing Machine easy to read, enjoyable and helpful.  One of the important lessons that one finds in Santoli’s writing is the power of personal relationships within the workplace.  It is the relationships that she created throughout Disney including those between others that made synergy work.  As a professional, one reads of catered breakfasts and some may think “why do you need to bribe employees to do their job?”  Seriously I have heard this complaint in the last month.  But really Santoli was creating connections which fostered teamwork through networking, the treats were just the tool.  Stronger connections were forged within the company and units were more willing to work with each other.  The second part of her dastardly plan was really information sharing.  Due to the relationships she had created in the diverse company, key champions would give attention to her targeted messages and best of all act on them.  These are key business lessons that we can all learn from; the power of relationship and information.  Most professionals can likely reflect on projects that broke down due to a lack of networking and communication.  And much of that breakdown is often based on when people do no read and act on messages.   

Though as a Cyclone fan I do need to remind everyone that Iowa State University (Go Cyclones!) and the University of Iowa are two very different schools.  Of course, I assume only a minority of readers are ISU alumni who take a certain pride in their school’s unique Disney connection!  But sadly this reviewer had his cardinal and gold socks on when he read her accounting of the Mickey Mouse cornfield.   

Inside the Disney Marketing Machine is an excellent account of the founding of Disney’s highly effective synergy campaign.  Santoli teaches readers how to market within a company and the results of increased integration, cooperation and profits.  Santoli takes us from the ground up as synergy was created from scratch within Disney.  And we can all learn valuable lessons about relationship building from her experience, especially since we can still see synergy’s tremendous results today for Disney.   And of course, Disney fans will love looking at the synergy machine from the inside of the mouse. 

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press