Monday, April 15, 2024

Between Books - True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee

Book cover for True Believer showing a profile of an older Stan Lee





I think it’s impossible for a biographer to not develop a bias. As you spend enough time with a figure, the time really needed to chronicle a life, you either come to put them on a pedestal or despise the thought of them. I think that Abraham Riesman came to despise Stan Lee while detailing the Marvel legend’s life. It could have been due to choosing a side in the Marvel creator wars, everyone needs to side with either Stan or Jack right? Or maybe the drama and messiness in the final decades of Lee’s life was too much. But it is clear in with commentary often found in the text, Riesman has little to no admiration for Lee.

True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee by Abraham Riesman is an extremely depressing tale. The biography provides the major steps of the Marvel legend’s life from birth to death to legacy. The story, without summarizing every milestone, is one of creative frustration, professional duplicity, familial strife, and business criminal charge. Lee is portrayed as a man who was an excellent marketer with questionable creative skills. As a man who disliked confrontation, he failed to always share the full story and allowed myths to build up around himself. This trend also allowed unscrupulous people, including family, to surround him and take illegal actions often in his name through Stan Lee Media and POW!, which were both accused of several criminal financial offenses in Lee’s name. Finally, in his final years, Lee was a victim of elder abuse by business partners and his daughter who all saw him as a financial cash cow.

Let me start with Riesman’s writing. It is riveting, engaged, and brings a reader into the sad story. But Reisman also clearly as an anti-Stan bias. This leads to commentary within the text that takes the opportunity to tear down the Marvel editor even when it’s unneeded. There is definitely a view that says Stan Lee was all bad while others, like Jack Kirby, were all right. And while Kirby may have some of the higher road in this story, I think we cannot automatically argue that Lee brought little to Marvel’s greatest creations. I think the clear bias is what leads me at times to question all of the story as fact. For example, in Lee’s senior years, it comes off as Riesman wants Lee to be involved in the illegality done in Lee’s name versus what he claimed which was ignorance. It’s not impossible to believe that Lee has some level of confusion and deniability to these acts due to his age, financial pressures, and series of bad choices of those he put around himself. For me, I can see the Lee was bad story but I can also see the Lee was a senior citizen who made bad choices about those he trusted. Lee the marketer was a manipulator, and I can see Lee being manipulated.

I will also admit I have a bias too. I am generally pro-Lee thanks to early exposure to him in media like Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. I enjoyed his public persona. And I have come to believe that Lee and Kirby were better together than apart. This left me feeling combative at times to the author and definitely made me feel queasy.

Here is for me the real value of Riesman’s book. Stan Lee’s life was not as marvelous as we may want to believe. He was creatively frustrated. He produced less than he wanted to and never felt creatively accepted. While he was in a marriage full of love, it also created financial strains that would always put pressure upon him. Even more sad, his relationship with his own daughter was broken beyond repair. And while in his final years we saw the public smiling Stan at premieres and in videos, he was surrounded by people who really only wished to use his name for their own purposes. It is a life less excelsior than any of us would wish for another human.

True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee by Abraham Riesman is not a happy book. Readers should be warned. It is well-written and interesting but is also clearly anti-Stan. The picture that the reader walks away from is sad, will make you question your heroes and mad about how we can treat each other. In the end, Stan Lee’s life was as real as those he attempted to create in the pages of his comic books. 

 

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Monday, April 8, 2024

Between Books - Disney Parks Presents Pirates of the Caribbean


Book cover to Disney Parks Presents Pirates of the Caribbean with cute pirates on a boat approaching a fort.



I like fun…you like fun. And pirates like to have fun! Shouldn’t kids have fun too?

Disney Parks Presents Pirates of the Caribbean with music by George Bruns, lyrics by Xavier Atencia, and illustrations by Mike Well walk young readers through the classic attraction. The images are homages to the Disneyland Park version, which made me miss it as it’s been years since I have ridden it. Wells’ images are paired with lyrics and lines from the slow-moving boat ride and are generally fun-natured. Overall, it’s a colorful fun romp through the ride.

Wells’ images highlight this book. They are fun and light-hearted. They also do a great job providing a tribute to the attraction. However, I do need to say I think Wells gave Carlos a glow-up! The mayor hasn’t looked so young with flowing hair for years. Also, pirates are stealing actual treasure from the housewives and not food!

I am outspoken! I prefer kids' attraction books that use the actual lines and lyrics. So no complaints here. Yes, it would be tough to create a kid's book that uses all the lines from the cocktail party that is Pirates! The ones here have been carefully chosen and do a great job preparing kids for what’s to come or what they remember from the classic.

I think the most difficult piece at the moment is this book, which provides a tribute to a past version of the attraction is out of print.  I personally could not recommend spending $40 plus on the secondary market to get a copy for a kid! 

 
Disney Parks Presents Pirates of the Caribbean is fun. And despite the fact I don’t know if I can even play the accompanying CD anywhere but in my car, reading through the book led to me singing the theme out loud! And that is nothing but winning. 

 

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Monday, April 1, 2024

Between Books - 3D Disneyland: Like You've Never Seen It Before


Book cover for 3D Disneyland  with the TWA Moonliner rocket in 1950's era Tomorrowland

 

Do kids use Viewfinder's anymore?  For me, growing up in the Midwest they were one of the few ways I could experience faraway places, like Disneyland!  Maybe I could immerse myself in animals long gone, like dinosaurs!  I loved my Viewfinder, and as an adult I recaptured a little of that magic recently.

3D Disneyland" Like You've Never Seen It Before by David A. Bossert shares the stereoscopic, 3D photography, of Disney animator Ted Kierscey.  The photos in Kierscey's personal collection cover two distinct time periods, 1955 to 1958 and 1980.  Additionally, there are some additional photos from Patrick Swinnea that cover more recent years.  The pages follow a simple pattern.  On the left side, the page is largely intentionally left white with a caption taking a small bit of space towards the bottom left of the page.  The right side is 3D photo centered and taking the majority of the page.  The photos, all of Disneyland, flow geographically from Main Street USA to Tomorrowland, with different eras mixed in with each other.  The book is all about the photos and displaying them for easy reading with the enclosed 3D glasses. 

Let's jump back to childhood.  About once a year, one of the local TV stations would have a older monster 3D movie promotion.  They would hand out 3D glasses through gas stations and spread the joy of 3D.  It may have been the poor definition of my TV, but it never worked.  So I was a little worried these fuzzy pics, pre-glasses, would fail for me.  This fear was not false.  The photos work great!  Yes, I had to ensure enough and proper lightening to get my best experience, but the glasses worked wonderfully.  The older photos may not have been as immersive as the newer ones.  But there are quite a few that I felt drew me in and took me to a place, just like the old Viewfinder.

3D Disneyland" Like You've Never Seen It Before by David A. Bossert showcases the stereoscopic photograph collection of Ted Kierscey.  It is a delight, and took me to a place that I love often in eras that I beyond my ability to travel in time in visit.  The read is all about images, and can be quick and breezy.  But I recommend a slow read, in the morning sun, with coffee so you may enjoy every moment and image!

 

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Monday, March 25, 2024

Oswald Opines - Star Wars: The Acolyte First Trailer

 

Post for Star Wars: the Acolyte showing a red lightsaber on a marble backround and the wors "In an Age of LIght A Darkness Rises"

Everyone gets an opinion right, and I find myself with mixed thoughts about Star Wars: The Acolyte.  While I don't want to be negative, I do feel a mix of emotions that makes we worry that this series against other Star Wars' offerings.

 

 

The good stuff!

  • We see red and blue/green lightsabers:  The trailer makes it clear that we are going to get some Jedi/Sith fighting action.  I really think visually that for non-super fans this is really appealing.  Lightsaber battles to me are an iconic image from my childhood, and I think that those who have not read 85 comics and watched 63 cartoons about the High Republic will consider this series despite not walking in with the backstory of Starlight Beacon.  
  • We see a respected action star:  I wasn't fully aware of Carrie-Ann Moss and her casting in the series.  I think this is a win.  Non-Star Wars fans will recognize her and have I think positive feelings about her and see Moss as a trusted action star.  She brings a level of extra validity to this series for me.  So a second win for this series is going to be action packed!
  • It's visual:  I think visuals are the best way to tell a Star Wars tale.  It really needs images to show off all the various species, backgrounds, ships, and whatever lightsaber variant is going to be unleashed.  And the trailer does show a Jedi who will have a very cool variant.   
  • Yoda!:  While we don't see him in the trailer, the books have established that Yoda is a respected Jedi Master during this timeframe!
  • I like Star Wars!:  Seriously, I want and like good new Star Wars. Who is that grown adult who watches Star Wars: The Bad Batch every week?  This guy!

 

The questionable thoughts!

  • Who cares about the High Republic?:  I know that Disney and LucasFilm have unleashed a massive publishing program, but I don't personally feel it has worked well.  I know that as a fan I've at times been interested in earlier Jedi and Sith, but maybe we've been told too much now.  The books have just not worked to sell this period.  I worry that despite this show being years after the books, that non-readers will feel intimidated since they are not aware of backstory that may not be needed.
  • Who's that?:  One of the Jedi featured in the trailer is Vernestra Rwoh.  This Jedi was introduced in books, books I've read.  But I failed to catch this in trailer glimpses.  And while I think Rwoh is interesting in the books, and maybe I can be intrigued what happened in the decades between books and live-action...I just didn't catch her presence or her very cool lightsaber!
  • Do I need to watch that?:  When watching Star Wars: Ahsoka a friend pointed out references to Star Wars: The Young Jedi Adventures.  Now I've not watched this truly kid directed program.  With this being the other show that exists for the High Republic, will some feel like they need to watch an entire cartoon series, for kids, to find this show accessible?

I worry.  I am the only one in the Between House that watched Star Wars: Andor, which is a great show all the way around!  And while Star Wars: The Mandalorian is a must watch under this roof, I've heard some grumbles about how complex the story is getting.  I've also heard this thought stated out loud about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the tapestry that is being woven there.  I'm pretty sure that nothing here will be needed for the future enjoyment of the Star Wars: The Mandalorian & Grogu saga, which is likely where many will put their Star Wars enjoyment at the moment. 

So, here's my newest crazy theory taught to me by James Bond!  I think that the Daniel Craig Bond movies are fine.  But the problem is to fully enjoy the last one, you need to know everything that came before from the first moment he joined the screen.  That's not James Bond.  Bond adventures work best when we get a brief moment of adventure to reintroduce Bond, we get a world-threatening villain, Bond gets his toys, Bond meets a girl, Bond gets captured, and Bond saves the world.  And then the next time we meet, none of that matters!  My hope for Star Wars: The Acolyte is a Bond story.  I want something that is action packed and maybe unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not all connected to the rest of the galaxy far far away! 

I'm not sure that Deadpool will be able to bail Disney out of audience loss if non-super fans are not willing to enjoy a regular Star Wars diet along with me!


Monday, March 18, 2024

Between Books - What Have We Here?

 

Book cover for What Have We Here? with Billy Dee Williams turning to make a blue cape flow up on his back.



I remember falling in love with history as a kid. It was a youth biography about Albert Einstein. It had me on the edge of what seemed like every word! It was the life of someone who was an academic and not as exciting as a biography of a suave debonair hero should be. I just got done reading Billy Dee Williams’ autobiography and I expected that sort of feeling again for someone who truly could be one of the coolest men in Hollywood. Oddly, I found myself thinking about my first biography read, and how I was left with very different feelings. 


What Have We Here?: Portraits of a Life by Billy Dee Williams tells the professional and personal life of the actor who is best known for his portrayal of Lando Calrissian. Born in 1930s New York, Williams was part of a close-knit family of loving parents who found the time in their busy schedules to expose their twin children to the world around them. Young Billy Dee found that he was attracted to artistic pursuits, painting and acting. Thinking that he was going to be a professional portrait painter, he entered art school and further refined his craft. But he could not escape the call of the theater, walking away from painting and taking roles in theater and eventually film and television. He officially made his mark in Hollywood with Lady Sings the Blues and Brian’s Song. His roles and his private life crafted the image of him as a romantic leading man, of any color. After the release of Star Wars, George Lucas was criticized for a lack of diversity, and he cast Williams as the Lando in The Empire Strikes Back. Despite taking on what some would see as a silly sci-fi role, Williams threw himself into creating a character, one who included many of the suave characteristics of the real-life Williams, and was a figure not just defined by race. This role propelled Williams from more than an actor well-known by African-American audiences but by the wider movie-going audience. This opened new roles, endorsements, and opportunities for Williams. It also, put greater scrutiny on his personal life including his wife, children, and girlfriends. He would also reconnect with painting. The autobiography reaches its end as Williams returns to Lando in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Williams does an excellent job of showing his love for his supportive parents, grandmother, sister, and children. These relationships are really the foundation of his life which he sees as well-lived. However, it’s also clear that many of his relationships, and thoughts, are somewhat atypical. For example, his third marriage would likely be defined as open and included a long period where spouses lived separately with Billy Dee living with another woman. This arrangement, and many of his relationships, make me feel like this lifestyle is less exciting than outsiders may believe.

Also a gentleman does not kiss and tell. Billy Dee’s life story is more romantic, dare I say erotic than I expected. I saw a public image that I assumed was more myth than reality. But in his own words, it’s reality. Yet in one sentence wrap up an entire romantic adventure, leaving you with a lot of questions. And I found myself not wanting more detail. But these stories tend to provide more essay than romantic fiction notes.

It is the Star Wars stories that bring in the readers. That was likely my favorite part due to my fandom. I would not say he provides any bombshells in this section. Carrie Fisher was funny and gorgeous! She does come off as the tough princess we want. And it is all about the cape! But these sections to me lack anything that will become clickbait headlines due to their new nature or scandal. 


Billy Dee Williams at the time the book was published is an older gentleman in his mid 80’s. He has lived a life. He was a young man who wanted to be a leading man, but being African-American faced challenges in casting and typecasting. While he does not deal with this issue to the detail he likely could have, he to me, is the archetype of the romantic dashing lead. But the fine gentleman in What Have We Here?: Portraits of a Life generally avoids scandal and perhaps tells a less exciting version of his life than the one he lived. There is so much that could be expanded on in his experiences and worldview that are not.  I sadly, I think that unless you are a big big big Star Wars fan you can likely skip past this title.

 

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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Between Books - The Orange Bird (Little Golden Book)

 

Book cover for The Orange Bird showing the Orange headed Orange Bird flying out of an orange tree.



Citrus Swirl or Dole Whip…make your choice! At least that’s how it always seems to me. I am a Dole Whip type of guy. But I understand the love of Citrus Swirl and how the Orange Bird creates nostalgia for this treat! And the Orange Bird makes a super cute lead for a Little Golden Book!

The Orange Bird written and illustrated by Jason Grandt and Scott Tilley gives the beloved Disney marketing creation of all things oranges a backstory. In Florida, one can find the beloved Sunshine Tree. where the farmer grows the juiciest oranges under the gaze of the Orange Bird. The Orange Bird is a quiet bird with the special ability to provide thought bubbles with images. The Orange Bird works and plays with the farm birds, but the farm cat Clementine wants to chase not play. Can Orange Bird be a superhero and save its friends?

The Orange Bird is cute with a simple story. We all know why a cat chases birds. I do go into these books wondering how one would use the book to connect a youngster to the parks, in this case, Walt Disney World. The opening pages and cute illustrations do a great job of preparing a kiddo to visit Florida. But beyond that, not so much. Kids will not meet Orange Bird in the park, and they won’t visit the Sunshine Tree or the farm. They will get to enjoy a Cirtus Swirl, but that’s about all.

The story itself has a lot of words. And they are big ones. So they may help a young reader to add words like “plump” to their vocabulary. But it also is not a book that an early reader will likely be able to manage on their own. It is a more complex book than I expected from a Little Golden Book. 

The Orange Bird written and illustrated by Jason Grandt and Scott Tilley is a cute little farm story. I did find myself, as a superhero fan, enjoying the twist of an ending. Though as a word of caution, the book has a heavier-than-expected vocabulary that may not be within reach for all early readers.

 

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Monday, February 26, 2024

Between Books - Jungle Cruise (a Little Golden Book)



Book cover for Jungle Cruise a little golden book showing an illustration of Skipper Albert guiding a family in a Jungle Cruise boat through a hippo pool.



I laugh at Jungle Cruise jokes, and so should you…and your kids!

Jungle Cruise a Little Golden Book by Brooke Vitale, illustrated by Paul Conrad and the Disney Storybook Art Team, and designed by Winnie Ho, is a delightful homage and tribute to the world-famous attraction. The book follows a family guided by Skipper Albert on the Amazon Belle through the jungle. Albert spiels as he passes familiar scenes. Conrad and the art team's images are fun and delightful original depictions of show scenes. The book is a true tribute to the ride, with even dock jokes provided to readers.

This book is a delight for Jungle Cruise fans. First and foremost, Vitale adapts traditional Jungle Cruise jokes to a younger audience, and most importantly, the essential jokes are there. And like any good skipper, Vitale makes sure to include the most essential jokes, like the Backside of Water! The team understood the assignment!

The ride featured here is clearly the Magic Kingdom, due to the inclusion of a temple. But the featured boat is Disneyland Park exclusive. In the end, the visuals are definitely Florida, but both coasts are included. Skipper Albert, that can't be important, right? It is if you listen to the radio broadcasts as you travel through the queue.

The book is a time capsule, as the scenes are kid-safe versions of the pre-2021 attraction. Alberta Falls and the Society of Adventurers and Explorers are not present in this edition. But I would argue this is just a good reason to update the Little Golden Book!

Jungle Cruise a Little Golden Book by Brooke Vitale and illustrated by Paul Conrad with the Disney Storybook Art Team, is a delight. When this grown adult says he laughs at Jungle Cruise jokes…well, I chuckled and smiled. I think this is a great introduction to the attraction for the youngster or a way to bring a favorite Disney experience home!

 

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Monday, February 19, 2024

Between Books - MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios

 

Book cover for MCU The Reign of Marvel Studios showing Iron Man flying over the Hollywood hills with a M C U sign replacing the famous Hollywood sign.



I love superheroes!

I love Marvel movies! I loved them before they were cool like broadcast poorly produced Spider-Man movies from the 70s love! And I remember sitting in a theater watching the end credits scene of Iron Man where I saw Nick Fury enter the frame and blow my mind with promises of what could happen next!

And I love history, hence an entire section of this site that is really just an index of books, mostly history. Clearly, MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios was written literally for me!

MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios by Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, and Gavin Edwards is a complete and thorough history of Marvel Studios’ projects before its founding in August 1996 under the guidance of Avi Arad. The book outlines how a scrappy studio with a lot of intellectual property and a mission to sell toys, started mainly by leasing characters to other studios and providing some oversight largely to support toy sales. But with 1996 and the coming of Marvel Studios, Marvel looked to make movies itself. Armed with incomplete ownership of their character roster, leadership with a vision, and taking a big bet on itself, the Studio found near-instant success in 2008’s Iron Man. This movie launched the true beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a massive storytelling endeavor under the watchful eye of Kevin Feige. The book details how Marvel Studios came to be, its sudden successes, the long-form storytelling and, the the more recent critical and financial setbacks that the Studio has seen in the 2020s.

MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios
is deep and wide when it comes to telling the story of Marvel Studios. It is clear writing, despite often detailing complex situations including contracts, legal cases, and personalities. You will not find a more complete one-volume history of Marvel Studios. But that being said, I did often feel like its major accomplishment was bringing together a lot of content in one title and not adding to what fans know about this Disney intellectual properly machine. However, bringing it all together in one read does help refine thoughts on specific themes.

One example that emerges to readers really early is the belief of Marvel Chief Executive Officer Ike Pearlmutter that the purpose of Marvel Studios was to sell toys. Therefore, decisions about the movies supported this belief. This does make sense when you consider that Pearlmutter came from the toy background, not the comics or publishing industries. Therefore, the guidance or interference from Pearlmutter and the Marvel Creative Committee, largely under his influence, looked to support his thoughts on toy sales. And the belief was when you wanted to sell a lot of toys, white male characters sold, not diverse heroes and villains. This drama can seen played out in the characters of Black Widow and Gamora, often hidden in the associated toy lines. This belief would be opposed by Fiege and Disney’s CEO Bob Iger who supported diversity and larger storytelling. While it’s clear that Fiege and Iger found Pearlmutter to be a difficult personality, you can also see how the creative and business beliefs only further pushed this split wider. It is also interesting to watch as the Creative Committee, largely built to act like a Pixar Brain Trust failed to support creativity despite having some talented storytellers included. In the end, the call for toys may have drowned out their voices.

Another emerging theme is how Marvel Studios has strayed from its roots. I don’t mean plausibility, a quality that Jon Favreau sought in the production of Iron Man. Instead they have lost the jazz, the inability for directors, writers, and actors to improv and creatively flex their muscles as productions were in progress. This supported a Fiege principle that the movie mattered more than the whole. But with decades of movies completed and years more in production, the role of Fiege to channel movies and TV to movie together has increased, and play by creative forces now must be limited. Fiege’s role in holding it all together is essential to this endeavor. But it also has the price of limiting creative freedom. Additionally, expensive special effects while visually stunning has blocked the ability to run with a discovered story angle. 


You like superheroes and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Then MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios by Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, and Gavin Edwards is for you. The book is a complete history with many themes for readers to dive into, with me just skimming a few. The book ends in the recent past, with the future of the MCU at a potential crossroads as real-life legal events have led to a requirement to change story plans, economics have changed the movie and television business, and the MCU has had creative missteps, (I found Secret Invasion to be a giant meh). Maybe someday an expanded or revised volume will detail what comes next. But for now, MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios provides fans with a handbook of creative achievement and a record of how we got to this enormous financial and creative success…despite itself! 

 

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Monday, February 12, 2024

Between Books - Figment

 






Here it comes again, Between Disney to bully a children’s book!

And to make it even more likely, it’s about Figment. And Between Disney has only experienced the current and least beloved versions of his attraction! What could go wrong?

Figment written by Jason Grandt and illustrated by Scott Tilley, Nick Balian, and Jason Grandt is the latest Little Golden Book to catch the interest of Disney fans. The basic plot is that Dreamfinder introduces readers to his newest creation Figment. The two heroes then explore the pages of the book to collect ideas to inspire imagination. The two explore art, science, sound, and more to fill the idea bag. The book ends with the gift of an idea from Figment to Dreamfinder, the type of gift that every parent can understand!

I don’t dislike Figment. I don’t love Figment. I do like the idea of Figment and his boostering of imagination. I do love imagination! But I also was never the right age or saw the right version of the attraction to go deep into Figment fandom.

I do like the book. It’s colorful. The illustrations are delightful. And Jason Grandt, being an Imagineer knows how to give Dreamfinder and Figment all the homages they need with references to the Dream Moblie, Dreamport, and other Disney attractions. I am convinced that future readings will uncover new Easter eggs.

Storywise it’s pretty simple. And the team does use Sherman Brother’s lyrics which eliminates my only real worry. And for a kiddo, it does support the idea to be curious and that inspiration for imagination can come from anywhere…and no one can complain about that!

Figment by Jason Grandt and illustrated by Scotty Tilley, Nick Balian, and Jason Grandt completes the assignment. It introduces kids to Dreamfinder and Figment or keeps them connected if the child met them in the park. The Little Golden Book captures the spirit of the attraction with a call to imagine.

Don’t we all need a little imagination? 

 

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Monday, February 5, 2024

Between Books - Disneyland on the Mountain: Walt, the Environmentalists, and the Ski Resort that Never Was


Book cover for Disneyland on the Mountain displaying Walt Disney and Califronia officials looking at plans for Mineral King outside in the natural setting



Mineral King is a project mentioned in every complete Walt Disney biography. It’s also one mentioned throughout books on the development of the Disney parks. But generally, these mentions are glancing, a paragraph or, a few pages. But now we have a complete look at the history of Disney’s failed outdoor recreation area. As one delves deeper, it becomes clear that this story is about more than Walt Disney and his hopes for the Mineral King Valley.

Disneyland on the Mountain: Walt, the Environmentalists, and the Ski Resort that Never Was by Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer provides a detailed history of the Walt Disney Company’s hopes and failed vision for the Mineral King Valley. In 1966, Walt Disney, after extensive research, announced his intention to develop Mineral King as a skiing and outdoor recreation area. Disney, inspired by European ski villages hoped to bring visitors to the valley’s natural beauty through a ski resort that would bring visitors all year long. But others saw his vision as destroying the valley's splendor by bringing in a cheap Disneyland aesthetic to the Sierra Nevada mountains. The book chronicles the regulatory, legal, and public relations challenges that kept the Walt Disney Company from moving forward on its ambitious plans. Immediately creating obstacles was Walt Disney’s death soon after the announcement, and leadership changes within the corporate structure. Mineral King would be added to the Sequoia National Park in the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978, ending any options for extensive land development and putting an end to a project that had fatigued many in the company. The book ends with a discussion of the legacy of the fight over Mineral King, both inside and outside of Disney's corporate history.

Disneyland on the Mountain feels complete and is super dense. This is a true serious well well-researched study of the park. The language used is formal and is more than a fan-written history. The 180 pages are misleading, as each page is packed with facts and reports of the action. Glasgow and Mayer also ensure that their writing goes beyond the perspectives of Walt Disney, Card Walker, and other Disney executives. Instead, they look at the issue from the perspective of Walt Disney employees, Sierra Club officials, Mineral King homeowners, a Supreme Court Justice, and many more. The story is made even more complex through all these perspectives making the tale one much more than a Disney story and infused with unexpected drama. For example, some parties in this tale, saw their opinions change as developments moved forward. The authors are fair to all involved voices, leaving room for readers to make their own conclusions about the benefits of the outcome.

This story does what I love about history, using one story to point out greater societal changes within history. Glasgow and Mayer use this incident to point out the growing voice of women in politics, as key members of the movement against Mineral King development were women who were freed by the standards of the day to not only add their voices but also use their voices in leading this movement. Also, it is a good case study, as the authors show, for the growth of the environmental movement. Mineral King serves as one incident in the growth of advocacy groups, lobbying, and legislation that increased environmental protections.

While this book’s beautiful cover features a picture of Walt Disney at Mineral King, due to his death his memory was more active than the man himself. Readers, much like the participants in the story, are often left asking what was Walt’s intent. So while Walt is not always present, you do ask yourself like those who lived the story, what would Walt do?

For Card Walker, leading Walt Disney Productions, he was left with a charge and moral obligation to honor Walt Disney’s hopes for Mineral King. As a reader, we find that Walker was very concerned with the impact of the struggle on the company’s public image which placed the company as the villain looking to destroy natural wonder. The incident strained the company's image with the state and federal government along with California citizens. And one wonders how the story will be reflected in more recent legal struggles with the state of Florida. I will say one lesson that I took from the story was that for the company this incident passed and is now very much today mostly locked away in the Disney Archives.  

Disneyland on the Mountain: Walt, the Environmentalists, and the Ski Resort that Never Was by Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer expands the story that many Disney fans just see as a paragraph or rare failure in Disney history. However the book goes beyond just telling the story of Mineral King by presenting a case study that demonstrates changing societal norms in American society. 

 

Review Copy Provided by Rowan & Littlefield.

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Thursday, February 1, 2024

Introducing Between Pints

 

A pint of dark Sow Select Dunkle

There have been a lot of changes in Betweenland recently. And it has given me more opportunities to explore theme parks and the beers of Central Florida on a regular basis.  New opportunities is allowing me to launch a new blog, Between Pints, where I will review and catalog beers found near and in Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resorts.

 

You can find the new blog at www.betweenpints.com

And you can follow new posts on Facebook

 

Cheers! 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Between Books - Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago....Volume 5

Cover for Star Wars Onmibus: A Long Time Ago Volume 5 showing a stormtrooper brandishing a blaster with assorted aliens in the background.



Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago...Volume 5 published by Dark Horse captures the final issues of Marvel's original Star Wars comic run, with issues 86 through 107.  But would this final volume capture the same magic of earlier volumes.

Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago....Volume 5 continues to deal with the Rebellion's decisions after the end of the Galactic Civil War.  The Rebellion has become a Republic, and they no longer have the clear cut villains of The Empire.  Instead, the Rebels attempt to create a new galactic government in the face of new violent planetary struggles.  Finally the Republic is forced to come back together to face a new enemy to freedom in their universe, the Nagai.  But the Nagai's history may not seem to be all that it is!

The ending of the Marvel Star Wars comics is mostly helmed by writer Jo Duffy with typically Cynthia Martin providing pencils.  Honestly, this duo somewhat is lacking from me.  I continue to applaud Duffy for her attempt to create a story of what happens to the rebels after victory.  I honestly love much of Duffy's Marvel contributions.  But in the end she is forced to create a new enemy, like other writers, to unite our heroes.  But at times the results seem somewhat comical with the Tofs and Hiromi.  If anything it at times appears and feels cartoony with the Martin pencils.  And maybe that was the point with the title taking on a more kid focused approach, like a Saturday Morning cartoon.  And in the end, I guess comics are for kids...mostly.  And perhaps in an attempt to conclude the story, the final issues at times feel rushed and with plot holes.  And I know it was the 1980s, but there is an attempt to link a female character romantically with her former male abuser that makes my skin crawl.

I do have to say that the opening issue, "The Alderaan Factor" written by Randy Stradley who would go on to be a Dark Horse Star Wars comic legend is fantastic.  The story is emotional and dark, leaving adult readers satisfied with a well-told and thought provoking story!

These Dark Horse editions are well out of publication with Marvel taking publication rights for these stories back and including them in their Epic Collections.  Today a paperbook copy of this collections costs over $200.  That leaves me recommending the Kindle version, unless one is a competitionist!

Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago...Volume 5 is honestly not as strong as earlier contributions to this series.  One at times feels as if writers were struggling to tell a story in a new and unworn path in the post Return of the Jedi galaxy.   One has to applaud the efforts.  But in the end it is easy to see why this series was one that Marvel no longer saw as a key title after over 100 issues.  Perhaps, there were simply too many Zeltrons! 

 

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Monday, January 22, 2024

Between Books - Star Wars: Crimson Climb

 

Audiobook cover showing Qi'ra standing in front of the Crimson Dawn symbol, a red circle half filled



Am I the bad guy in fandom? Star Wars High Republic titles have failed me. It’s left me feeling like I’ve been sitting on my front porch yelling at the kids to get off my Star Wars front yard! For Pete’s sake, I’ve been reading Star Trek books! Can my Grumpy Dwarf attitude ever find relief?

Star Wars: Crimson Climb by E.K. Johnston starts right where the movie Star Wars: Solo ends. Han Solo’s first love Qi’ra has made her move to take the leadership of the criminal organization Crimson Dawn. We enter the immediate moment after, right at the top of the syndicate. What happens next is not the question that Johnston explores! Instead, this book answers a question that we may have had when we watched the movie, how did Qi’ra move from a human scumrat in the White Worms of Correllia, where she met Han, to the right-hand of the leader of a powerful crime family? Star Wars: Crimson Climb moves the readers from Solo’s escape from Correllia and the impact it had on Qi’ra’s standings in the White Worms. From that moment, we follow her as she ages, leaves the White Worms, and matures from the savvy girl to the wise and powerful woman that Han meets again years later. Johnston takes us into Qi’ra’s mind as she navigates the capers and obstacles in her way, and we better understand the character's depth.

I liked it. But why?

I think a big piece of it is simply, it’s well-written. Johnston does a great job of giving us a story with tension, action, internal struggle, and emotional depth. Could this book work outside of the Star Wars galaxy? I think a lot of it could and would. It does help that we already have an introduction to Qi’ra and unanswered questions, but maybe that just allowed for some shortcuts for setup. But honestly, I was tense and stressed, and Johnston even gives us the ending of the book by having the start and end align with Star Wars: Solo and I’ve read comics that go beyond that moment.

I also think that using Qi’ra who moviegoers have already seen as smart and conflicted and tied to one of the big three Star Wars heroes helps a lot. We may never get a sequel to payoff events on the screen for Star Wars: Solo but the movie left us with questions and maybe a desire to know more. Now with Marvel Comics, who have featured an older more powerful Qi’ra, and this book which fills in gaps with the movie, we can find some satisfaction in open questions. Additionally, having seen her and supporting characters and settings on screen, I think it really helps to settle the mind by providing mental images that help tell not distract from the story.

Confession time! The High Republic brought me to a point where I also didn’t read this volume but listened as an audiobook. Narrator Olivia Hack does a wonderful voice of changing voice tone, dialect, and volume to the extent that you sometimes forget it’s unjust one narrator. Additionally, the production includes a soundtrack and audio cues that make this a super enjoyable audio adventure.

Yes, I do like Star Wars, see how I feel about Star Wars: Crimson Climb by E.K. Johnston. It’s a story full of tension, especially emotional, set in the high-paced Star Wars criminal element! I enjoyed the adventure, especially as an audiobook full of audio production elements that supported a solid story. 

 

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Monday, January 8, 2024

Between Books - it's a small world (Disney Press)

 


Coverful book cover from it's a small world book showing cute playful children of the world around a it's a small world facade



Recently I read the Little Golden Books offering honoring the classic it’s a small world. I found myself disappointed, yes I know it’s a kids book! But part of my frustration is because of the existence of the Disney Press book honoring the Sherman Brothers and their attraction masterpiece.

it’s a small world
with words and music by Richard Mr. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman and illustrations by Joey Chou provides a literary tribute to the Disney attraction. The book matches the lyrics of the Sherman Brothers with Chou art that do not provide direct lifts from the attraction scenes but interpretations that match the fun and meaning and the words and sets. The hardcover also comes with a CD which has a copy of the song.

This is a really successful way to bring the attraction to kids and Disney adults. The book relies on the song lyrics, with every line but “it’s a small world” refrains included in the song in the correct order. The scenes are cute and fun, which while not Mary Blair figures do stay in the spirit of fun and play. I do love Chou art, with these easily being prints in a child or adult’s room. I think everyone in the Between house has an item with Chou Disney art. The scenes keep to an order that will help kids learn the pacing of the ride, with really only the last page being Chou’s take on an ending in unity instead of him presenting the white room finale. This version is also from 2011, which can explain the CD inclusion. I mean, do you even know where the CD player is in your home?

This book is colorful, the same as the Little Golden Book. But this is the winner for me. It’s just more expensive being a larger hardcover and out of print. I’d like to say there’s room enough for both versions, but you really need to use some or all of the lyrics to pull off small world packaging for me! 


it’s a small world with words by the Shermans and art by Joey Chou is a fun and cute presentation of it’s a small world. It presents the classic words to the audience in an enjoyable fashion to help kids and adults stay connected to the attraction. 

 

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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Between Books - it's a small world (a Little Golden Book)






I 100 percent get I’m not the target audience for a Little Golden Book. But I am a target audience for media related to it’s a small world! I’m mature like that. Sadly, the Little Golden Book adaptation of the attraction to me fails on so many levels.

it’s a small world by Lauren Clauss, illustrated by Steph Lew, and designed by Winnie Ho introduces kids to the classic Disney attraction. The text tells the story of a group of friends traveling the world, through the attraction, and all the things they see. On each page, children say hello to the reader in their native language. Every page is illustrated with cute adaptations of attraction scenes.

I’ll start with the good. The images are cute. They really are. I can see them decorating a young child’s room, especially if their parents are Disney Adults. It is the Disneyland Park version of the ride as Disney characters like Aladdin, Jasmine, Woody, and Jessie are in the scenes. They are cute.

But the art really can’t get me over the bad. This is an attraction defined by a song written by Disney legends! There is no reference, foreshadowing hint, allusion, introduction, or otherwise direct copy of the words. I have read, and will need to review, other books that do a much better job at introducing the song to kids, by actually, wait for it, using the lyrics! Second, if this book is to introduce the attraction to kids or remind them of it, the scenes are not in the right order. The images jump around in a way that if a kid reads the book over and over again…because kids don’t do that at all…they may be really confused when they ride the attraction for the first time.


it’s a small world, the Little Golden Book edition, fails for me on several levels. I don’t know why the production team ran away or ignored the Sherman Brothers’ lyrics. Maybe that would be too close to other books? Maybe they were instructed to treat the lyrics as words that cannot be named! But if you write a it’s a small world inspired book and never drop a verse, it’s likely going to fail for Disney fans.   

 

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