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September 20, 2017

Fathom Events: "Lupin The 3rd 'The Castle Of Cagliostro'"

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This month, Fathom Events presented the classic 1979 Japanese animated feature "Lupin the 3rd 'The Castle of Cagliostro.'"

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Lupin III was a long-running manga by the artist Monkey Punch that eventually spawned multiple TV series, feature films (animated and live-action,) TV specials, video games, and musicals. The franchise is entering its 50th anniversary this year, and this first US theatrical screening of "The Castle of Cagliostro" is part of the celebration.

The critically and popularly acclaimed film marked the first directorial outing for animation legend Hayao Miyazaki who also wrote the screenplay and worked on design and storyboarding for it. As part of the Fathom Events extra features, Pixar's John Lasseter taped an interview preceding the movie in which he described the great impact the film had on him in both professional and personal ways.

The main character, Lupin III, is grandson to the famous gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, and has followed in his footsteps as a master thief. Lupin generally works with a team made up of Daisuke Jigen, a crackshot marksman, Goemon Ishikawa, a supremely skilled swordsman, and Fujiko Mine, a fellow thief who is sometimes Lupin's rival, sometimes his friend, and sometimes more. His personal Javert is Inspector Zenigata, who follows him around the globe, determined to bring the thief to justice.

In "Castle of Cagliostro," Lupin and his gang find themselves in the position of attempting to rescue a princess from a forced marriage to a corrupt regent. In the process, they must solve ancient riddles, survive alarming chases both on wheels and in the air, and expose a world-wide counterfeiting scheme.

As is always the case, Miyazaki's work is beautiful with gorgeous backdrops of European countryside framing the slightly more cartoon-y 1970s character animation. Some of the wonderful traits that would become trademarks of his later Studio Ghibli works are seen here: Cynics are revealed to have hidden streaks of nobility; women are strong, competent and clever without having to resort to sex appeal to gain their aims; and young girls are capable of immense acts of courage and kindness which ultimately lead to their own happy endings.

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If you would like to see more of Miyazaki's work on the big screen (and why would you not?) Fathom Events is continuing its Studio Ghibli Fest that started back in June. The next film scheduled is "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" in theaters September 24 and 25, followed by "Spirited Away" in October, and "Howl's Moving Castle" in November. Information and ticketing can be found at the Fathom Events website: https://www.fathomevents.com/series/studio-ghibli-fest






September 19, 2017

Updates to the Disney Wonder

By AllEars Team Member Lee Zimmerman

Sometimes there are just too many activities in the Disney Universe. AllEars had opportunities on the same day to attend a press event at Disneyland Resort for this year's Halloween Time activities and to visit the Disney Wonder while it was in port in San Diego. Laura and I decided it made more sense for me to cover the Wonder event so she didn't have to drive from San Diego to Anaheim late on a Friday afternoon. Besides, I am a former Navy officer, so clearly I am more qualified to talk about what is happening on a cruise ship. :-)

The Disney Wonder has been in Alaska for the summer and now slowly making its way back to its nominal homeport of Galveston, Texas. The ship is sailing out of San Diego for much of September and October doing Halloween on the High Seas cruises to Baja California and the Mexican Riviera.

Disney Wonder

The Wonder was the second ship to join the Disney fleet, entering service in 1999. In September and October of last year it underwent a dry dock period in Spain that made significant changes to the kid’s spaces, the adult entertainment district and converted the Parrot Cay restaurant into Tiana’s Place, in addition to replacing carpet, furniture and other general upkeep. This was my first chance to see the re-imagined ship, so I was excited to go onboard, even if only for a few hours.

For anyone who has been on the re-imagined Disney Magic, the changes to the Wonder will not be a surprise. The ships are very similar with the most noticeable differences being the decorating style (Art Deco on the Magic vs. Art Nouveau on the Wonder) and the theming of the restaurants and adult entertainment venues.

The first interior space on the ship guests see is the three-story Atrium Lobby. There have been some significant changes here - the most visible being that one of the two grand stairways is now gone. That, in combination with moving the atrium lobby statue of Ariel from the center of the entrance to Triton’s to the right side, opens up the space for big events and makes a space for oversize decorations like the large Halloween and Christmas trees. In addition, there is a new carpet design and the large Dale Chihuly chandelier has been replaced by new glass work based on flower in Ariel’s hair. I have to say that the original chandelier was beautiful, but it always looked like it would fall from the ceiling if things ever got rough. The new one is much less intimidating and looks like it opens up the sight lines from the third level of the Atrium. I've put before and after pictures below to show the changes.

Disney Wonder

Disney Wonder

We made a stop in the Walt Disney Theatre - home of the new/exclusive cruise line production of “Frozen - A Musical Spectacular”. We had our own performance of “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People” by Kristoff and Sven and a chance for pictures and questions. Disney does excellent Broadway-class stage shows on the cruise line and I am sure “Frozen” lives up to that reputation.

Disney Wonder

Next we went to one of the most popular areas on the ship…and the one the adults most want to have access to - the Oceaneer Club. This space has been completely reimagined and now includes Andy’s Room, Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and the Marvel Super Hero Academy.

Disney Wonder

Disney Wonder

We got to try out one of the interactive games in the Super Hero Academy - working with the other Avengers to stop an invading force. Our role was to shoot down drones using a motion recognition system that let us stand in front of a big screen video display and use our gestures to fire repulsers (just like Iron Man). Captain America, Spider Man and Black Widow all visit the Super Hero Academy during cruises.

Disney Wonder

Disney Wonder

We then went on deck to get a tour of the three pool areas and other features topside. That is when I realized what was missing - there is no water ride on the Wonder! The newer ships have the AquaDuck and the Magic had the AquaDunk added when it was last in dry dock. The “children’s pool” area of the ship was modified to be similar to the Magic - with Dory’s Reef splash zone, the AquaLab and a bigger Twist ’n’ Spout water slide.

As we moved forward on the pool deck we saw two other changes - the addition of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and the pool deck arcade is gone and is the new home of the Edge “tween” club. Like on the Magic, there are new staterooms where Edge used to be.

The biggest change for me was the Concierge Lounge - The Wonder is unique in that it has a two-story coffee bar (Cove Cafe’) and bar (Outlook Cafe’) in the adult only area that was built to provide additional enclosed viewing space for Alaska cruises. That upper viewing space used to be on both sides of the ship. Now it is just on the port side. The center and starboard sides are the Concierge Lounge, which is entered from the forward stack.There is also a Concierge only sun deck above the Concierge Lounge and Outlook Cafe’. I have not been in either of them (yet), but it looks like the Concierge Lounge on the Wonder is a lot bigger than the one on the Magic. I think this also answers my question on why no water ride on the Wonder.

Disney Wonder

Disney Wonder

We then went down to the adult area which underwent significant changes. The overall area was renamed - from Route 66 to After Hours – and re-themed with the effect being what I would describe as “classier”.

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Disney Wonder

All three of the venues were significantly changed. The three new venues are: The Crown & Fin Pub - styled after a classic British pub (with beer selection to match) that doubles as the sports bar onboard:

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Disney Wonder

Disney Wonder

The Azure night club for dancing and stage shows:

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Disney Wonder

The Cadillac Lounge in what has typically been the quieter bar, though the new car-themed decor is a bit more upbeat. 


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Disney Wonder

Disney Wonder

Azure is technically the most interesting of the venues - the furniture and walls are shades of white providing a backdrop for extensive lighting and projections that can completely change the personality of the room.

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The final space we visited was the restaurant formerly known as Parrot Cay. It has been completely re-styled to become Tiana’s Place based on the Disney animated feature “The Princess and the Frog.”

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Disney Wonder

The decor is from the movie and, unlike any other Disney Cruise Line restaurant, Tiana’s has live entertainment during the meal. There is a small stage at the back of the room and both Tiana and a New Orleans-style jazz band perform.

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The food is New Orleans and southern inspired. On longer cruises, the second dining night in Tiana’s includes a parade including the guests and servers.

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I noticed that they moved server’s stations to the four corners of the room (instead of interspersed with the tables as is normal). That really opened up the space both visually and physically. I asked our server what he thought of that arrangement and he said that it is better for the guests but more work for the servers (longer walks from the stations to the tables).

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We were treated to lunch - which I think was actually dishes off the dinner menu - and everything was great. We also got to enjoy live entertainment from Tiana and the Crawfish Crooners who were very good. My only concern was that the entertainment made it hard to talk with each other at the table. We were sitting right in front of the stage and the restaurant was basically empty, so it might not have been so noticeable during a normal dinner.

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We didn’t go in there, but Animator’s Palate was refreshed with lighting and video displays to host “Drawn to Magic” and “Animation Magic” dinner shows. The third table service restaurant, Triton’s, was unchanged. The primary buffet restaurant is now called Cabanas, as on all the other ships, and was increased in size.

Our final event was to experience a Chocolate Tasting in the Cadillac Lounge. Tasting events - wine, beer, mixed drinks, hard liquor and chocolate (depending on the size of the ship and the length of the cruise) are optional, added cost events typically held on sea days. They are enjoyable, educational and popular enough that they fill up days before they are held. While this is called a chocolate tasting, it also involves sparking wine, red wine, and whiskey…..as well as lots of really good chocolate.

Disney Cruise Line is celebrating Halloween on the High Seas on most voyages aboard the Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, Disney Wonder and Disney Magic from September through October. The Wonder was undergoing the transformation for the first of these Halloween cruises while we were onboard. It was fun to walk through a space later in the day and see that it had changed since we were first there. This extra-spooky celebration features Halloween-themed parties, lively entertainment and elaborate décor, including The Pumpkin Tree, which magically transforms throughout the cruise.

Disney Wonder

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Other special experiences include:
Mickey's Mouse-querade Party, a celebration with games, dancing and lots of candy! Beloved Disney characters, wearing special Halloween costumes just for the occasion, will join guests for this fun-filled costume party. 


Disney Wonder

I have to say that the ship looks great inside and out - not showing her age at all. All the new spaces look great, and the whole ship has been refreshed with new carpet, paint, and soft goods. As a frequent Disney cruiser, it was tough being on the ship as guests were starting to board, and having to leave.

RELATED LINK: Deb and Linda had the opportunity to tour the Disney Wonder back in February of this year and blogged about it.





Halloween Time 2017 at Disney California Adventure

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There's lots of special Halloween treats at Disney California Adventure this Halloween season. I already wrote a blog about the new Haul-O-Ween celebration in Cars Land, but there's other areas in the park that are also celebrating the season.

A huge shadow of Oogie Boogie, the boogeyman from "Nightmare Before Christmas", stands over the entrance to Disney California Adventure. At night he talks to guests, enticing them into the park.

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Buena Vista Street is decorated with bats, Halloween banners, and window displays. According to Imagineers, the bats will multiply as time goes on.

DCA Halloween Time

The Carthay Circle Restaurant is decorated with banners and appears to have bats flying out of its belfry.

DCA Halloween Time

It's involved in a nighttime lighting moment when the bells peal (the first time bells have sounded) and Oogie Boogie unleashes his spell bringing a spooky Halloween atmosphere to Buena Vista Street.

The Disney characters are in costumes for the occasion - costumes that might have been popular in the 1920s. Mickey wears a bat costume and Donald a pumpkin costume.

DCA Halloween Time

Goofy is the "Spirit of Halloween" in a ghostly costume.

DCA Halloween Time

In the plaza outside Elias & Co. is a new 10-foot statue of the Headless Horseman.

DCA Halloween Time

There are special effects at night as the pumpkin head lights up and the horse appears to breathe fire.

In Hollywood Land, each night from 6:00 until park closing, Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! becomes Guardians of the Galaxy - Monsters After Dark. Inside The Fortress, the Guardians have just escaped, and things are a bit, well, chaotic with all of escaped creatures running around. In all of the excitement Groot has been left behind, and Rocket is trying to rescue him - with the help of guests and their very attractive heat signatures...

The blue lights of The Lobby have given way to flashing red warning lights and the Collector's assistant Alpheta appears on the large video screen, attempting to reassure guests that their VIP tour will still continue.

DCA Halloween Time

In the Collector's office, Rocket is using the security system to search for Groot, and he has a plan.

In the Gantry area there are search lights and lots of sound effects.

DCA Halloween Time

Once aboard the Gantry lift, the attraction experience takes place to the new song "Monsters After Dark", written for the attraction by Tyler Bates, composer for the "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies. New visuals of Groot and Rocket, along with a rather intimidating escaped creature, appear during the ride. There's just a single song for this one, rather than the six during the daytime.

I rode the attraction and this new version is so much fun! Certainly enhanced by doing it when it's dark outside. Looking up at The Fortress from the outside there's additional lighting and other special effects at night.

DCA Halloween Time

Fastpasses for Monsters After Dark are available at the regular Fastpass kiosks beginning at 3:00 p.m. They are also available at that time to those with the MaxPass feature via the Disneyland app. Monsters After Dark is scheduled to end on October 31.

But wait, there's even more at Disney California Adventure.

In Paradise Gardens is Plaza de la Familia, a Celebration of Coco and the Everlasting Bonds of Family. The area is inspired by the tradition of Dia de los Muertos, which celebrates loved ones who have passed away. A number of experiences are available including complimentary face painting and a Tree of Life photo opportunity. Guests are also invited to write down a memory and share it on the "Recuerdos de me Familia" wall.

DCA Halloween Time

A Musical Celebration of Coco is performed five times a day in the area just outside the Plaza de la Familia sign. A storyteller relates some of the story of the upcoming film "Coco" and performs several songs from the movie. He is joined by Folklorico dancers, puppeteers, and the Mariachi Divas. It's a very colorful and upbeat show - I enjoyed it. But there's a limited viewing area, so arrive early if you want a spot in front.

DCA Halloween Time

The World of Coco is an exhibit featuring images that depict characters and settings from the movie. There's also an "ofrenda" - a remembrance altar - inspired by the "ofrenda" Miguel builds in the movie.

DCA Halloween Time

The Paradise Garden Grill has a new menu with Mexican items such as Mole Verde con Pollo, Yucatan-inspired Vaporcitos (chicken tamales), Tortitas de Papa con Queso (crispy potato cakes and cheese), and the traditional Pan de Muerto.

DCA Halloween Time

There's also a snack stand offering Elote (street-style corn-on-the-cob), Ensalada de Frutas, and Paletas (frozen fruit bars).

DCA Halloween Time

Plaza de la Familia runs through November 2. Some elements will move to "a bug's land" from November 5-January 7 while the sneak peek of "Coco" is running in the theater there.

DCA Halloween Time






September 18, 2017

It's Haul-O-Ween Time!

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Haul-O-Ween

The Disneyland Resort has been celebrating Halloween Time for a number of years. Most of the focus has been on Disneyland with all of the decor such as the Main Street Pumpkin Festival, and attraction overlays like Haunted Mansion Holiday and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy. There was a small presence in Disney California Adventure for a few years, the last being 2009.

Enter John Lasseter, who wanted to bring a Halloween celebration to Cars Land. Radiator Springs became Radiator Screams, and "Haul-O-Ween" rolled off the production line. (John Lasseter designed these decorations that hang across the streets.)

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It is, in one word, fabulous. Or maybe I mean faBOOlous. Incredible depth of detail. So creative and imaginative with so many fun little touches. I think it's the best new decor Disney has done at the U.S. parks in years. (I haven't seen Pandora yet.)

So how do cars celebrate Haul-O-Ween? I'm so glad you asked. They dress in "car-stumes". Mater is a "van-pire".

Haul-O-Ween

Lightning McQueen is a superhero.

Haul-O-Ween

DJ is a "trunk rocker".

Haul-O-Ween

They go "Trunk-or-Treating".

Haul-O-Ween

They decorate their homes. And just like we have our individual ways of decorating, so do they. At the entrance to town is Scary the Scare-car.

Haul-O-Ween

Mater's Junkyard has been transformed into Mater's Graveyard JamBOOree.

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The baby tractor also wears a car-stume.

Haul-O-Ween

In the queue are lots of tombstones.

Haul-O-Ween

All of the songs are Haul-O-Ween themed. Several are new lyrics to old tunes ("Radiator Rock" is now "Lizzie's Gone Witchy"), but there are two parodies of well-known Halloween songs: "Monster Truck Smash" ("Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett), and "Purple Fender Bender" ("Purple People Eater" by Sheb Wooley). Really clever - they made me laugh.

The Radiator Springs Drive-In is showing some interesting movies.

Haul-O-Ween

Sarge has a Pump-kin patch. You can also see one of the "car-achnids" that has infested Radiator Screams - there are 30 of them.

Haul-O-Ween

The cones of Sally's Cozy Cone Motel have all been decorated with spooky faces.

Haul-O-Ween

Inside the office, Sally has a model of the Brake's Motel made out of candy.

Haul-O-Ween

Lizzie has gone all-out in decorating her curio shop, where she sells "Boo-venirs".

Haul-O-Ween

Haul-O-Ween

In front of the store is an old wrecked car. It's been there a long time - there's a tree growing out of it.

Haul-O-Ween

But apparently it has an undead battery that won't let it "rust in peace." The zombie car lights up and steams occasionally as it tries to get a jump on life. (And no, these are NOT the remains of Stanley!)

A giant spider web covers Flo's V8 Cafe.

Haul-O-Ween

Just outside the entrance to the Cafe is the Spider-Car, which is a PhotoPass photo location. (The car used to be a Toadmobile.)

Haul-O-Ween

Ramone is celebrating Dia de los Muertos at his House of Body Art. Outside is "Sugar", a sugar car decorated like a sugar skull.

Haul-O-Ween

Inside the shop there's an "ofrenda" that celebrates Doc Hudson.

Haul-O-Ween

Luigi and Guido had never celebrated Haul-O-Ween in Italy, but now it's their favorite holiday. They've constructed an orange and black tower of tires outside.

Haul-O-Ween

Luigi sings Haul-O-Ween versions of Italian festival songs in the new holiday version of his attraction "Luigi's Honkin' Haul-O-Ween", such as "Haul-O-Ween Italiano." "The Terror-antella" tells the story of how he and Guido built "Scary the Scare-car", who can be seen at the entrance to Radiator Springs.

Next to Luigi's is the "Horn-O-Plenty". It was originally found on Haul-O-Ween night in 1936. Every year the citizens of Radiator Screams put it on display.

Haul-O-Ween

At night the courthouse seems to come to life. A mad scientist put jumper cables on the windows. :-)

The Cadillac Range has new purple and green lighting at night. It looks appropriately spooky. No changes to Radiator Springs Racers.

Haul-O-Ween

At dusk, when the usual "Sha-Boom" Lighting Moment starts to take place, it's interrupted by supernatural forces, and becomes "Sha-BOO!" instead. The Sheriff's voice then welcomes everyone to Radiator Screams. The background music changes to a new soundtrack of Haul-O-Ween music for the rest of the night.

There is a surprisingly large selection of "Haul-O-Ween"-inspired food and beverage. It's available only in Cars Land.

Fillmore's has Van-pire Mater Bread - sourdough bread with cheese baked on top. I tried this and it's quite good. $8.49.

Haul-O-Ween

Flo's V8 Cafe offers a Car-achnid Pot Pie, Grape Ghoul-ant Shake, and Mini Candy Cone Pie.

Haul-O-Ween

I tried the pot pie, and it was really good. Chicken pot pie with dried cranberries inside in addition to vegetables and chunks of chicken. Nice flaky crust on top. Served with coleslaw for $11.49. I couldn't eat it all.

Haul-O-Ween

There's several items available at the Cozy Cones. The Slow-Burnin' Mac and Cheese is served in a black cone.

Haul-O-Ween

The Spoke-y Cone Macaron is filled with marshmallow buttercream and candy corn.

Haul-O-Ween

Junkyard JamBOOree Mix is flavored popcorn with "nuts and bolts" - green M&M's, candy corn, chocolate covered pretzels, Boston baked beans and so on.

Haul-O-Ween

The cones also have a souvenir spooky traffic cone beverage cup available.

Haul-O-Ween

There's a lot to see in Radiator Screams, and it's really a lot of fun!






September 15, 2017

D23 Expo: All The Rest (Day 3)

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Expo time has come and gone--that once-every-two-year weekend where D23 throws a huge celebration of all things Disney for just you and around 65,000 of your closest friends. I covered some of the major presentations earlier (Animation, Live-Action Studios, Video Games, Day 1, and Day 2) so we're now down to a summation of the rest of what the 2017 D23 Expo had to offer, and some quick thoughts on each.

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[Unattributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

So the last day of D23 Expo started off with another run through on the floor checking out some of the many smaller displays and exhibits.

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The first panel of the day for me was "Celebration of an Animated Classic: 'The Lion King,'" hosted by producer Don Hahn, and co-director Rob Minkoff.

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This was a great discussion of the history of "The Lion King" production, which included cast members Ernie Sabella, Jim Cummings, and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as animators Mark Henn and Tony Bancroft.

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In one segment, Minkoff, Hahn (ably playing an empty 3-gallon water bottle,) and Sabella hilariously recreate Timon's seminal "Hula Song."

The end of the panel included a surprise appearance by the unannounced Goldberg, as well as a huge choral performance of "Circle of Life" which was one of the highlights of the weekend.

While dashing back across the convention center to the next event, I had a chance to stop by the Disney Store booth which was perennially packed with people trying to stock up on limited edition merchandise. I never was able to get in there for shopping purposes, but they did let me take a quick jog around to get a glimpse of stuff I couldn't buy.

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Meanwhile, over at the Disney Music Emporium booth, composer Michael Giacchino was signing any of a number of the soundtracks he's done for a myriad of Disney projects.

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The booth also had out a new Disneyland Records t-shirt, changing it up from the old one they've been selling at conventions since the last Expo.

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At this point, it was time for the big performance of the weekend, "A Whole New World of Alan Menken." This was basically the same as his one-man show he brought to The Segerstrom Center for the Arts last year, slightly condensed and introduced by Zachary (Eugene Fitzherbert from "Tangled") Levi.

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Menken's a great performer and the musical catalog speaks for itself. It was wonderful.

Afterwards, if you sprinted fast enough, you were able to catch the tail end of the also wonderful "Susan Egan: The Belle of Broadway"

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For the First Time in Forever, I finally made it upstairs and into the Stage 28 venue to see "Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai."

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This presentation explored the terrific book "Maps of Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai" with host Jeff Kurtti, Imagineer/Curator Vanessa Hunt, Disney Legend Marty Sklar, and Imagineer Matt McKim--son of Disney theme park cartographer/Legend Sam McKim.

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It was a great look at the many maps created for all the Disney parks, and their value as not only pieces of art, but historical records of the parks' evolution.

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The takeaway was a huge appreciation for the craftsmanship and artistry that went into all the maps through the years, and a regret that they haven't continued doing more of them.

Running down to the last panel of the weekend, I took a quick run by the Marvel Studios booth that had been gradually uncovering different figures as they made announcements about their highly anticipated "Infinity War."

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Finally, the Expo wrapped up with "Legends of Walt Disney Imagineering," hosted by John Stamos and featuring Disney Legends Tony Baxter, Wayne Jackson, and Marty Sklar.

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The group reminisced about the many phenomenally talented men and women who pooled their talents together for so many amazing creations, and even compared their respective action figures.

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Towards the end of the presentation, Imagineering President Bob Weis came out to present Jackson with a miniature replica of Tokyo Disneyland's castle as a gift from the Oriental Land Company.

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While there may not have been any new Imagineering revelations from any of the participants, it was a nice chance to get to hear them speak with obvious respect and affection for all their fellow Imagineers and revisit times gone by.

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It's a cruel thing that we rarely get to know how long a window of opportunity is going to stay open. This ended up being the last photo I ever took of Marty Sklar. I had many opportunities to hear him speak and exchange greetings with him over the years, and if they had been doubled, it wouldn't have been long enough.

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SO, for anyone who's hung in here for this long, here are some parting thoughts on this year's Expo.

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Top Five Things I Thought Went Well:

1) I thought the StagePass set up worked better this time around. Even though the lines were still enormous, I felt like I waited less time for the ones I needed to pick up--whether this was a factor of having more people distributing them or not, I don't know.

2) A lot of quality programming, as usual. Even though it seems as though the number of rooms running panels diminishes every two years, there were still far more presentations I would have liked to see than I could have ever fit in.

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3) Offering two different times to see the Alan Menken concert. Clearly, from past Expos, this was going to be a huge draw, and putting him in the largest venue while giving people two chances to get in to see him was a generous move and a good way to avoid the queue horror of the Dick Van Dyke concert in 2011.

4) Using the official app. This time I thought the app was much more functional and incorporated more information than in previous years, and as someone who's suffered the back pain of lugging around thick convention programs in the past, this is a huge asset. What would be nice for future years would be a way to synchronize your schedule across your phone, iPad, laptop, etc.

5) Having larger venues. Although there were still long, chaotic lines for the big presentations, a lot of the smaller/mid-size ones I attended weren't packed sardine-style as they have been some years which makes for a nicer experience.

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Top Five Things That Could Have Gone Better:

1) Lines are still an issue. While I didn't personally experience waiting in the Hall D23 queue downstairs which periodically sounded like "The Return of the Archons" festival time, I did get to see the lines around the Show Floor which varied wildly from orderly to Hunger Games. I think there needs to be more cast members manning the lines with more consistent information on how to proactively organize all the guests trying to get into something.

2) The Show Floor. This was kind of a surprise to me because usually the floor is so outstanding at Expo. The lack of an Imagineering booth was a big hurt as far as official content, and the Parks and Resorts booth was kind of sparse outside of the one big model. Aside from that, just leaving a big empty space next to the Arena entrance (where the line for it had been previously) meant that no one really had much of a reason to head over to that part of the convention center, so it was easy to miss all the booths in the D23 Emporium section altogether.

3) Hall D23. It's great that they created a huge room so more guests could be in there with the big presentations, but I felt that it was at the expense of actually letting you see the presentations. I'm sure if you were up close it was a great view, but I was generally far enough away that I couldn't make out much looking directly at the stage. For the most part, I was usually between two screens and would try to position myself so I could see at least one of them without having to look through the phone screen of the guy in front of me...and then discover that they were broadcasting the stage feed to the other screen, while the one I was looking at would have a stationary image. The room is just too big for that many chairs to be on a flat level for anyone further back than the first section to see well--a situation that was pointed up every time I watched something in the Arena, which was actually constructed to have decent sight lines. Much like my beef with the Hollywood Bowl, I feel like if you're watching the whole thing on screens anyway, there isn't much difference between seeing it from an overflow room, or in fact, at home on YouTube. Maybe what would work better would be to go back to holding the big presentations in the Arena, and then using Hall D23 for overflow with more screens set up around the room.

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4) Counter-programming. There were so many presentations that it really hurt me to miss: "Marc Davis Goes to WED" with Pete Docter; Don Hahn's "Yesterday's Tomorrow: Disney's Magical Mid-Century;" "Park Stars: Original Characters of the Disney Parks;" "The Power of the Princess" with four original princess voice artists; and so many more. I get that we can't all go to everything but it's still painful.

5) Timing is everything. With so many people and so much good content, it's a shame that everything has to feel so rushed. The first Expo was four days long and programming started around 9 am and sometimes didn't end until 1am the next day. This year had most of the panels starting around 10am all three days, and everything wound up by around 7pm. I feel like adding back that fourth day would be a big improvement, even if only the show floor was open, because at least then people would have a better shot at getting their shopping done, viewing the exhibits, etc.

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For another thing, having Expo right in front of San Diego Comic-Con is just grueling. I understand why it might be easier to coordinate celebrity schedules if they can appear at both conventions the same week, but holy moly it makes for an exhausting and expensive couple of weeks. I hope they space it out in the future, for the preservation of both my life force and my wallet.

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All in all however, as fatiguing and occasionally frustrating as it is, D23 Expo is still the main game in town for the Disney conventioneer. I'm ready for the next one now...right after a short nap.

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September 6, 2017

D23 Expo: All The Rest (Day 2)

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Expo time! That once-every-two-year weekend where D23 throws a huge celebration of all things Disney for just you and around 65,000 of your closest friends. I covered some of the major presentations earlier (Animation, Live-Action Studios, Video Games, and Day 1) so we're now down to a summation of the rest of what the 2017 D23 Expo had to offer, and some quick thoughts on each.

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[Unattributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

So Saturday was a day filled with a lot of the aforementioned panels for me but I did manage to take a quick run around the floor again, trying to pick up some of the booths and exhibits I hadn't seen on day 1.

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Costco exclusive!

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Forward my mail to Tsum Tsum City.

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If you missed the Combine Car at Expo, you can see it at Walt's Barn in Griffith Park, which is a very good trip for any reason.

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For all your Muppet wardrobe needs.

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A coffee bar with Disney latte art. Seems like a good concept for the parks, if they didn't already have Starbucks.

The big D23 Archive pavilion this year was "Walt Disney Archives Presents--A Pirate's Life For Me: Disney's Rascals, Scoundrels And Really Bad Eggs."

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The extensive pavilion displayed pirate-y artifacts from the animated films...

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Live action films...

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Television...

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And park attractions.

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This afternoon was also the day of the announcement-filled Parks and Resorts panel, which Deb Wills ably recapped here:

At the same time, because D23 always tries to hurt me with counterprogramming, the "Once Upon A Time" panel was held in the Arena. Although you couldn't go to both, co-creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and star Colin O'Donoghue could be seen afterwards over in Talent Central providing autographs and photos for lucky guests.

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The final panel of the day was "'A Kiss Goodnight' with Disney Legends Richard Sherman and Floyd Norman." This had the two legends discussing the development and creation of their new book "A Kiss Goodnight" with Wendy Lefkon, editorial director of Disney Editions, and some of the contributing artists and writers. There was even a short Richard Sherman performance at the end, with singer Juliana Hansen!





September 5, 2017

Disneyland Resort Updates from September 1

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, September 1, 2017.


When I arrived at the Disneyland Resort my car said it was 100 degrees in the Mickey and Friends Parking structure.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017
The work on most of the floor of the structure has wrapped up. The new brickwork around the escalator areas.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge construction from the top floor of the parking structure.


The exterior wall facing Disneyland Drive has started to be installed on the far side and lower portion of the Battle Escape Building.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

The Millennium Falcon building.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

New parking rates and policies went into effect at Downtown Disney since my last visit.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

This weekend the Disneyland Half Marathon events took place.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

The finish line from this morning's 5K run which featured the Incredibles.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

The Fantasia Shop at the Disneyland Hotel features Halloween merchandise already.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Stopped by the RunDisney Expo at the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Walked through Downtown Disney to reach the parks, a check of Splitsville Construction.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Walked through World of Disney for some A/C and to check out what was left of the Force Friday II merchandise.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

The area in front of the center doors to World of Disney is Halloween central.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

The Summer of Heroes sign at the entrance to Disney California Adventure is gone and the Halloween sign is starting to be installed.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

At 3:15pm you could get Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses for 2 hours away. I cannot remember the last time I saw that. Usually if there are any they are for after dark by this time. Most days they are long gone though.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017
The poles on the right side of Route 66 in Cars Land are up and ready for Halloween decorations.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Lizzie has decorated for Haul-O-Ween already. The rest of the residents will be in the coming days. HalloweenTime kicks off Sept 15th at the Disneyland Resort.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Out on Paradise Pier, the work has wrapped up on the project to enclose a portion of the Standby queue for Toy Story Midway Mania.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017
Windows featuring the Toy Story Cast fill in the openings.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Inside the fans have been removed. The A/C was working well when I took a look in this afternoon.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Goofy's Sky School is closed for renovation.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Hopefully it includes some repainting.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Gone Hollywood has become a Halloween merchandise location.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Next Stop Disneyland and a trip aboard the Disneyland Railroad. I choose to sit on the left side to see the view from there. Here we are making the left hand turn near the Big Thunder Trail.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017
Still some work to do on the berm. Or maybe the plan is to just give a glimpse into Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. For now you see a construction fence.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

A new Annual Passholder popcorn bucket/refill deal has started for HalloweenTime.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Sandy Claws is decorating the Haunted Mansion. It reopens Sept 15th.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge through the fence on the Big Thunder Trail.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Soundsational making its way through the park.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Space Mountain is closed through the 15th as Ghost Galaxy is installed. A little hard to see but up on the left the speakers are out already.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Radio 70s at Tomorrowland Terrace as the summer concert series draws to an end this week.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

To close out this photo set a couple Fantasmic! pictures.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

The Rivers of America did not ignite tonight.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, September 1, 2017

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.









August 28, 2017

An Early Look at Pixar's "Coco"

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"Coco," Pixar's 19th scheduled animated feature, is currently under production for a release this Fall. As part of an early press day, AllEars.Net was invited to take an advance look at some of the footage and get introduced to some of the places and people of "Coco."

[Non-attributed photos and video are courtesy of Disney.]

Over at Pixar Studios, the atrium of the Steve Jobs Building was decked out in "Coco" decor.

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In the screening room, Director Lee Unkrich, with Producer Darla Anderson and Writer/Co-Director Adrian Molina introduced us to the first 35 minutes of "Coco" and some of the cultural consultants that helped them create a film true to the culture in which it takes place. Unkrich noted that he first pitched the idea for the film back in 2011 and since then has taken multiple research trips to Mexico that inspired "Coco's" themes of family and remembrance...core tenets of Día de Muertos.

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"Coco" is a story about a young boy, Miguel, who finds himself caught between his aspirations to become a great musician like his star idol the late Ernesto de la Cruz, and his music-loathing family. In his desperation, a rash act on Día de Muertos traps him in the Land of the Dead; his only way out is to undertake a journey throughout the fantastical realm with the prospect of acceding to his family's demands if he fails.

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The next day, presentations on the making of "Coco" kicked off with Alonso Martinez (Character/Rigging Artist), Nick Rosario (Directing Animator), and Christian Hoffman (Characters Supervisor) talking about "Pepita and Dante: A Closer Look"

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Two of the non-humanoid characters supporting Miguel and his domineering great-great-grandmother Mamá Imelda are his street dog Dante and her spirit guide Pepita.

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--Dante is a Xoloitzcuintli dog, which is the national dog of Mexico.
--It is an ancient breed of dog, whose name is taken from the Aztec word for "dog."
--They are said to guard homes against evil spirits or intruders, and sometimes have healing powers.
--They are also said to serve as guide dogs for people transitioning from this world to the next.

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--The animators looked at many of Disney's famous dogs such as those from "Lady and the Tramp," and Dug from "Up" to develop Dante's movements.
--His relative hairlessness exposed more anatomy and required animators to pay more attention to his structure and skin wrinkles.
--Dante's almost prehensile tongue was modeled after the tentacles developed for Hank, the octopus in "Finding Dory."
--To give him a little more personality as a beat-up, derpy street dog, he was given patchy skin, a broken ear, a walleye, and a tongue that's always hanging out.

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--In contrast, Pepita is both formidable and imposing whose appearance derives from the Mexican folk art alebrije.

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--Alebrijes are traditionally brightly colored and chimerical--almost dreamlike.
--Different families crafting these may use specific and distinctive patterns on them.
--Making them spirit guides was an addition made by the film's storyline.
--Pepita has a lizard tale, eagle feet and wings, front arms/head of a jaguar, and ram horns.

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--The combination of different animal anatomy made it challenging to develop a believable and natural movement for her.
--On the other hand, developing a fantastical anatomical structure allowed the animators to consider how each structure (such as fingernails) might enhance her expressions and personality.

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Next up was Daniel Arriaga (Character Art Director), Gini Santos (Supervising Animator), Byron Bashforth (Character Shading Lead), Emron Grover (Simulation Technical Director) talking of the work involved "Bringing Skeletons to Life."

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--One of the challenges was creating characters who could express emotion without fleshy structures such as ears, nose, eyes, or lips.
--There was also the issue of how a skeletal structure would fill out or support clothing.
--Another question that had to be addressed was whether skeletons could grow hair, or if they would simulate their appearance in life with wigs, etc.

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--Additionally, skeleton animators had to determine whether the same usual methods of squash and stretch would work when used with rigid, bony structures.
--Hector, a skeleton partner Miguel makes in the Land of the Dead, has a gait based on that of Ratso from "Midnight Cowboy."
--In order to better show the characters' thought processes, animators committed to giving the skeletons eyes and eyelids, as well as lips.
--A new collision system for animating clothing needed to be developed as the bones were too thin and small to utilize the typical method of showing fabric interacting with flesh.
--Cloth-bone fusion was used so that a skeleton's clothes would fill in the gaps where the bones would naturally separate with movement.
--In skeletons like Hector with a lot of exposed bone, the bony structure was simplified with fusion of some bones like the ribs.

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--Shading work in animation involves determining an object's color, texture, and translucency.
--Ultimately the characters had to be relatable as skeletons, but still be appealing enough to not be scary.

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"Coco" opens in theaters November 22, 2017.

RIP Great Movie Ride, Universe of Energy, and Main Street Electrical Parade

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So we took a short break from our everlasting Expo coverage to make a hasty Walt Disney World and Disneyland pilgrimage to say goodbye to a couple of old friends.

Over at Disneyland, the evergreen Main Street Electrical Parade glowed away once again. It's always a little sad to see something that's been around that long leave, but it's also a little hard to get too worked up about it, given that it has come back from the dead more times than Ra's al Ghul.

Between Disneyland, DCA, and the Magic Kingdom, it ran for about 45 years and was periodically replaced by "Light Magic," "Spectromagic," and "Paint the Night," with varying degrees of success. Its final form was shy a few floats that had gone by the wayside with the years, such as the Blue Fairy and the Cigar Indians, but it still commanded pretty respectable crowds even up to the end.

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Although successors such as Tokyo Disneyland's "Dreamlights" are arguably superior in both content and technology, MSEP will always have the cache of being the nighttime parade most guests remember from their childhood (as it's probably older than most of them) and having one of the most distinctive tunes in the Disney catalogue.

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So back at the D23 Expo, many announcements were made about the addition of new rides to some of the parks over in Walt Disney World. What was not announced at the time, was the many closures that would be happening to accommodate those rides. One of the sacrifices was the EPCOT pavilion "Universe of Energy" and its attraction "Ellen's Energy Adventure."

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While the ride itself had gone through some changes, in many ways it had remained true to its original vision of educating people on the topic of the production, utilization, and conservation of energy. Both versions also kept the traveling theater ride system and the trip through the primeval diorama.

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[For a much better review of this ride than I can furnish, I encourage you to re-read Jack Spence's blog on it.]

While the filmed portion was starting to seem a little dated both in appearance (it clearly features Ellen from "The Ellen Show" days, versus the contemporary "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" Ellen) and discourse, and I was never a huge fan of the radio segment ("MAMMALS ARE GETTING HAIRIER!") I think it's a pity they're taking it out instead of updating it. I am a huge fan of long attractions and this one clocked in at around 40 minutes (in air conditioning,) which made waiting for it, if you ever even found a wait for it, a pretty good deal, time-wise. The cars were enormous, so if you had big groups it was easy to get everyone on, and all ages could ride it. More than that, it represented one of the last gasps of the original EPCOT edutainment mission which I've always found so admirably ambitious. It will be replaced with a "Guardians of the Galaxy" attraction.

The real gut-punch of the lot, however, and the main reason for me making a hastily-scheduled trip to Florida in the unbearable heat and humidity of August, was the closure of "The Great Movie Ride."

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The original symbol of the Disney-MGM Studios Park, and what I always considered the flagship attraction there, GMR took guests on a 20 minute trip into the classic film genres utilizing audio-animatronics, live actors, theater cars, screens, and branching storylines.

[Again, for a better, more in-depth look at the attraction, check back at Jack Spence's 2009 blog on it.]

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This had always been one of my favorite attractions at WDW, because it was so unique and so specific to the MGM Studios Park. As a huge classic film buff, I loved all the movies it referenced right down to the trailers they used to play in the pre-show area.

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Even the outside, a detailed replica of the Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, was fantastic and beautiful to me. If you live in Los Angeles, you're used to visiting the real, current-day Hollywood which is frankly something of a dump. It's dirty and crowded and the scent of failed dreams (which oddly closely resembles that of urine) is pervasive there. This version, just like a lot of the rest of MGM Studios, was the sort of clean, friendly, hypersaturated "Hollywood that never was and always will be" that a kid growing up watching MGM musicals would dream about.

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I am a particular fan of musicals, so it was always a joy for me that no less than four archetypal movie musicals were celebrated in the ride: "Footlight Parade," "Singin' in the Rain," "Mary Poppins," and "Wizard of Oz."

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In so many ways, I felt the ride was exceptionally well crafted. The juxtaposition of the different movie genres kept guests' attention engaged, and the constant variation in live performances from the Cowboy or the Gangster made for high re-rideability.

Last trip with The Cowboy. #greatmovieride #disneyhollywoodstudio #GMR #disney #disneyworld #waltdisneyworld #MGMStudios

A post shared by Jeanine / @JustJeanine (@jnyama) on

While I was there, I was able to attend a function where we were able to walk through the attraction after closing, and former Imagineer Brian Collins gave a brief talk about his involvement with the attraction.

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He also gave us copies of character profiles he wrote for the Bandit and Gangster roles which were intended solely for the use of the performers. (Apparently not all read them, as the Bandit one notes "do not try to talk with a strong Western accent. It sounds bad, is very cliche and is, in general, bad show.")

Roughly five hours after that ended, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the D23 event they held the next morning before opening. At this event, Imagineers Gary Landrum and Diego Parras walked attendees through the attraction pointing out different details of the ride and how they related to enhancing each scenario's authenticity and levels of communication.

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Afterwards, we were given a great print of original concept art for the attraction's marquee.

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[At this point, I start ranting. If the gripings of one little person doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world to you, you are free to cut out now, with my blessing.]

In all the rationales people ever gave me for wanting this attraction replaced, I frankly never found any with which I had much sympathy. Most of them end up being:

a) "It's old and needs to be updated." While the ride did suffer from the wear and tear of years and periodically spotty maintenance, I'm not so sure the films depicted in it did need updating. These films were chosen because they were, in fact, Great Movies and I don't think their status really changed with time. Films like "Raiders of the Lost Arc" and "Casablanca" were chosen because they were some of the best of their genres, and they still are. It's not like we stopped reading Shakespeare or Dickens because they've been around awhile and needed to be replaced with something new.

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If you want a comparison between whether updated tech can compete with consummate craftsmanship, take a look at these two clips. One is one of the oldest of the currently used major audio-animatronics, and one is the very newest.

Which one is more arresting? What story is more interesting? Who has a more clearly defined viewpoint, with goals and personality? Can you tell what either one is thinking? How many times would you want to see one, versus the other?

b) "It's not relevant because kids/young adults/no one has heard of these movies anymore." This one is my very favorite. How dull would it be, to only experience things that show you what you already know? What kind of low expectations must you have for humanity, to think that only the completely familiar could be of any interest? Why wouldn't you think that people who haven't seen these films might get interested in them and watch them on their own and thereby increase their personal experiential database? Going back to the whole concept of "edutainment," this ride could serve as the guests' introduction to films and genres they never saw before, and arguably widen their worlds--not a bad function for a theme park attraction.

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At the end of the day, however, although I do feel that objectively GMR was a good and necessary ride for the park, a lot of my nostalgia is subjective as well. For one thing, I associate it quite a bit with my original trips to WDW with people and situations that are no longer repeatable. For another, my actual favorite movie of all time is "Singin' in the Rain," and two of the things I enjoyed most about the MGM Studios park was the raining umbrella back on Streets of America, and the Gene Kelly segment in GMR. They're both gone now, and although I'm sure their replacements ("Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway" for GMR) will be fine, and people will enjoy them immensely, I'll always be a little bit sorry not to see them there.

"Enjoy the rest of your day here at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and I'll see you at the movies: The stuff dreams are made of."





August 21, 2017

Some Disneyland Dining Experiences

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I've tried a few new (to me) items at Disneyland fairly recently - some that I simply haven't tried before, some that are new offerings at established restaurants, and some that are limited time specials.

Flo's V-8 Cafe in Cars Land offers several dishes that feature REAL oven roasted and sliced turkey. I ordered the Kid's Turkey Sandwich meal. It was really good! Lots of moist, flavorful sliced turkey breast on a very tender bun. It was served with baby carrots, a small fruit cup, and a kid's beverage (I had a small bottled water. I was very happy with this, especially for the price of $6.99.

Flo's V-8 Cafe Kids Turkey sandwich

My dining companion ordered the Citrus Turkey Salad. Lots of slices of tender turkey breast along with lettuce, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and dried cranberries with citrus-tarragon dressing. It came with a bread stick, also. It was a very generous serving - she wasn't able to finish it.

Flo's V-8 Cafe Turkey Citrus salad

At Smokejumpers Grill, also in Disney California Adventure, I sampled the adult Chicken Breast Nuggets meal. It comes with choice of zesty slaw or French fries. Nothing exciting or different about it, but it was lots of nice white meat chicken, and was quite tasty. Smokejumpers has a toppings bar with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, etc., so you can build yourself a little salad if you care to - I've certainly done that in the past.

Smokejumpers Grill Chicken Breast Nuggets

While I've been to the Carthay Circle Restaurant a number of times, I'd never eaten at the Carthay Circle Lounge. There are lots of interesting cocktails available there, though we didn't order any of them. (For several of them the bartender uses this device to create a sphere of ice from a large cube of ice. It's pretty "cool" to watch.)

My companion tried the Flatbread, with heirloom tomatoes, pepperoni, mushrooms, roasted garlic, and spinach. Lots of toppings, and it was good, but at $18 it's pricey.

Carthay Circle Lounge flatbread

I was in the mood for dessert, so I ordered the California Rocky Road, a chocolate brownie with marshmallow ice cream, caramel sauce and some crunchy graham-cracker like bits. Very chocolatey and good. And also pricey at $14.

Carthay Circle Lounge California Rocky Road

There are a lot of new menu items in the Hollywood Land area for the Summer of Heroes promotion. Most dining locations have completely new menus, like Schmoozies and the two bar locations. There's even a temporary food booth called Nowhere Eats, with different kinds of tacos and nachos.

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The food truck, Studio Catering Co., also has a new menu, which includes a "Super Hero-Sized Sub" and a "Multiverse Parfait".

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There are also two kinds of falafel pita offerings. The Savory Strength is chickpea fritters with spinach, cucumber-mint slaw, and yogurt sauce. I tried the Promising Future, which is fritters with pickled red cabbage, yellow peppers and charmoula sauce ($8.99). I think the fritters were a little overcooked, but the rest of it was good, and I particularly enjoyed the charmoula sauce. Slightly spicy, but a really good flavor.

Summer of Heroes Falafel Pita

The bar closest to the Backlot Stage is serving hero-themed shave ice, with names like Smash Ice, Spinal Fluid, Ice Reactor, and I am Shave Ice. I tried the Spider Venom, which is flavored with blue raspberry and cherry, and topped with condensed milk. Shave ice is $5; add an extra $2.75 if you want a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Mine was pretty good, but the ice was not packed together tightly (they should've sent them to Hawaii for proper training in handling shave ice). It fell apart quickly and I ended up wearing part of it on my white shirt. Good thing the tie-dye look is in again...

Summer of Heroes Spider Venom shave ice

Award Weiners has a few items like a Galactic Dog and an Angry Little Pudding Cup. I tried the Quiver of Funnel Cake Fries ($5.99). I think they had been sitting around for a while, so they weren't warm, and they were kind of tough - not crisp and crunchy like I expected. At the bottom of the cup were both raspberry sauce and mango coulis, with whipped cream on top. If they had been fresh I think they would have been much better, but as they were I was disappointed in them.

Summer of Heroes Quiver of Funnel Cake fries

Bengal BBQ in Disneyland has undergone a few changes this summer. One most welcome change is that the merchandise shop next to it was turned into a dining area.

Bengal BBQ seating area

In addition to tables and chairs there are standing tables. There are also still a few tables right outside the restaurant.

Bengal BBQ seating area

Some new menu items were also added, and Lee and I sampled all of them. The Specialty Skewer right now is BBQ Pork Belly served on a lettuce leaf with hoisin sauce, pickled carrots, daikon, and cilantro for $5.99. Yummy.

Bengal BBQ Pork Belly skewer

There's also a new Hummus Trio: black bean hummus, red pepper hummus and cilantro hummus served with lettuce, cucumbers, carrot chips, cherry tomatoes and broccoli. I thought it was a nice healthy option for $6.49.

Bengal BBQ Hummus Trio

A Spring Roll ($6.99) is also new on the menu.

Bengal BBQ Spring Roll

Ahi tuna, cilantro, shredded carrots, and cucumber in a rice wrapper. It was served with a dipping sauce. Very refreshing and I really enjoyed it.

Bengal BBQ Spring Roll

Tiger Tails are not a new menu item, but I think this is a new version of them. Essentially a cheese breadstick. In the past I think they were lightly grilled. A sauce with it would have been nice. $3.99.

Bengal BBQ Tiger Tail

The new beverage is a Jungle Julep. No alcohol, but a frozen combination of juices like pineapple, orange, and grape. Pretty sweet, but a little bit of a tang. $4.39.

Bengal BBQ Jungle Julep






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