Friday, July 28, 2017

Star Wars Forces of Destiny

Disney never ceases to amaze. They are currently running a great new Initiative called, Star Wars Forces of Destiny. This is a new drive to bring to light new inspiring stories from iconic Star Wars characters.  And true to Disney there are so many levels to this announcement.

The first level is the most visual, in fact they grabbed my attention and then led me to find this great new offering from Disney/LucasFilm.  There are 8 shorts on Disney Site that are really very good.  "The Choices we make,the actions we take, moments both big and small shape us into Forces of Destiny." This is the tagline that opens each of the animated shorts.  What follows is 2-3 minutes of pure Star Wars goodness.
Fans will be excited to discover that talent from across Star Wars films and animated TV series reprise their roles for the Forces of Destiny shorts: Daisy Ridley as Rey, Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, Tiya Sircar as Sabine Wren, Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano, John Boyega as Finn, Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata and more.
The shorts are all very well made and are being shown on the Disney Channel and the above link.  Each tells a real quick story that has that Tagline as the core premise.  It's the decisions we make that shape our lives.

Now to the second level of what I think Disney is doing here.  As you can see from the voice talent there are a lot of the female leads mentioned.  This is due to the fact all of these stories available right now are based on Female characters, of which, Star Wars and Disney excels.  Each female character decides and acts on their own with confidence and determination.  This is doubly smart for Disney as they get extra fans looking at Star Wars.  As a big Star Wars fan, I'll watch anything that comes out regardless of the lead.  Give me a Rhodian as the lead and I'd be fine.  But what happens with these great girls/women is that we get a lot of girls and women who might not focused on the Star Wars universe yet.  Extra ticket sales and merchandise $$$ down the road.  Another quick note, no-where on the page or in the trailers, unless I missed it, does anyone address how the lead roles in these shorts are all female.

And now to the Third level of Disney Ingenuity, the toys...and other items.  After doing a little bit more clicking around I found the toys and books and such.  They need to pay for it somehow and making money is one of their goals.  Starting out, the books look great.  Readers for the younger kids, maybe 5-11 years.  And again a change in that they are mainly girl characters again, getting the girls into the Star Wars. Each of the ladies have their own movable action figures.  There are also a number of supporting characters.

This again shows how well the marriage of Lucasfilms and Disney has worked out for the better.  I'm looking forward to whatever comes next!  
May the Force be With You...

PostScript:  When looking this up, be aware the there is a D&D version of a SW games called Star Wars Force AND Destiny.  Cool, but not the same thing.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Dapper Dan's of Disneyland

One of the truly magical and most nostalgic of the entertainment offered at the Magic Kingdom, whether east or west, are the Dapper Dan's.  This is the turn-of -the-century Barbershop Quartet that find their home on Main Street and always gather a crowd when they perform.   They can be found anywhere on Main Street but it looks like in Disneyland, they have a small area set aside for them to perform.  I assume, but the sign was a giveaway.  This is located down Main Street on the left, right past the Coca Cola store in the Corner Café.  Very similar to Casey's Corner of WDW in most respects.  A great place to get a drink or some food and take a break.  Having the Dapper Dan's show up and begin was a greatly appreciated bonus.  During their show they interact with the crowd as they sing a lot of the standard Barbershop songs: 

“Yankee Doodle Dandy”
“Strolling Through the Park”
“Mr. Sandman”
“If You’re Happy and You Know It”
“Zip-a-Dee Doo Dah”
And many more.  Along with the great song library, the Dan's would have a variety of talents in addition to the singing.  A favorite instrument is the Organ Chime.  Think "Mr. Sand Man" as to what those chimes might sound like.  Also, I was surprised with another talent that I had not seen up until our trip to Disneyland.  They Tap Dance!  It was a really fun show! 

Dapper Dan's of Disneyland Link

Monday, January 16, 2017

Carousel of Progress C.S.I.: The Missing Person Case

Reported Crime:  Missing Person
Location: Magic Kingdom's Carousel of Progress
First Officer on Scene: Tom Morrow

This is a Case I was given by Capt. Capos, that I thought right off, Open and Shut.  There is no way the Disney Imagineers and storytellers could make a mistake in leaving no reference to identify a character in an attraction, but I was oh, so, wrong.  The crime was a missing person, a child no less.  From this point forward we are referring to the victim here as Jane Doe.  According to Officer Morrow, "She was there in one scene and gone in the next.  And for the rest of the show for that matter."  I told Tom to slow down and start from the top.

He glanced down at his pad and began.  "It appears our Jane Doe was seen in the very first scene of the Hit Disney show Carousel of Progress."  He went on, "I'm sure you've seen the show, it's been going on for over 50 years.  It has those four scenes that follow a family through time."  He looked up from his notes, "Here's where it gets odd.  They start out in the first scene with a family of 5 and an older family member.  You know, each scene it's the family and like a grandmother or grandfather or even an uncle.  This time it was the Grandmother, The Father, Mother, Little Girl (our Jane Doe), the Son, James, and the older Daughter, Patricia.  And then as soon as the 5 hours of wash was done...BAM... the little girl is gone.  They never see her again.  She never makes it out of the 1900's"

Morrow continues, "We have a picture of her from a witnesses phone and as you can see all looks normal.  No stress in the house, all seems calm.  There might be an issue with son viewing risqué material over in the parlor, but otherwise, normal."

I asked Officer Morrow why the other children had names yet this little girl has none?  He just laughed, "I've been asking all the witnesses the same question, but no one knows.  All of the members of this show have a name, all except that little girl.  Those futuristic looking cast members that direct people to sit down and stand up have name tags, and even that bum Uncle of theirs, Orville, has a name.  S%*T, even the dog, Rover has a name."  I told Morrow to calm down and watch his language on the job.  He had nothing else so I released him from the scene.  I took a couple more pictures and headed to the lab.

Some things to note, our Jane Doe looks to be dressed properly for 1900 and as they had not developed life-like Animatronics at that time, she has to be a real girl.  After checking many sources including Disney Wiki, Wikipedia, WikiLeaks, (side note, WikiLeaks auto-corrected to the way it looks here.  Can you say it is here to stay?) and a lot of Disney attraction information sites.  The father, mother, son and older daughter appear in all scenes as themselves and not as other families as it was thought early on in the investigation.  So now we are at a great big Nothing and it looks like we have an open case that needs more research.  Could it just be an oversight on the Imagineers side and the girl was just put in there to turn the washer crank?  I hope not.  It seems so cruel.

Do you have any ideas?  Leave any tips below in the comments!  We'll talk reward after I see the tip...

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Gray Tray Lottery at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe

One of the things I really like about WDW is the way they can take the simplest thing and make it great.  This past October we discovered how they can make a mistake magical by doing a thing that we did not have a clue to.  Totally random.
We were eating at Cosmic Rays Starlight Café, this is the place with Sonny Eclipse and his great show.  I ordered my food, don't forget to go on either side of the register, and went up to the counter to wait for it.  Today it was this crazy new creation, pulled-pork on a cheeseburger.  Yeah, that was on the menu and it was great.
So as I'm waiting I can see the tray getting loaded up and then brought over to me.  And at this point it's just a normal everyday tray in my eyes.  I'd have to say I did not even notice it other than to register that I was not carrying the food and drink in my hands.  As I was turning, the Cast Member was holding out a Mickey straw.  You know the type, the plastic straw in the shape of a Mickey head.  Like when you add 70 cents to your drink price at most counter services, you get it.
Well, as it turns out, I had won the Gray Tray Lottery.  Out of the hundreds of brown or blue trays it seems that there is only 1 gray tray.  The customer that gets that tray also gets the lottery prize of one Mickey straw.  Very cool!  It's a small thing but on a hot, long day, it's nice to get that kind of surprise.  I'm thinking probably one of 3 things happened to start this fun play with guests. 
  • Just a mistake in the delivery of new trays when they unpacked them. One the wrong color.
  • Or, a guest just walked one over from another restaurant.  Maybe from the Lunching pad? 
  • Or, the marketing machine is a lot bigger and smarter than we think and this was a directive from upper mgmt. that was determined for $0.00, you have a chance to make a guest smile.
Whichever way it is
May you someday, get the Gray Tray.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Ice Cream Maker and Star Wars...Yes, Star Wars

We were down in the parks in late June and had a great time checking out the Star Wars Launch Bay.  There were so many things to see in there.  Movie props and costumes and awesome artwork.  The detail was out of this world...literally.  Look at what they use for the legs of the Video Game tables.  Yep, that's a Power Droid.
As you walk through to the store area on your left is a screened in "closet" that holds a lot of Knick Knacks from the Star Wars Universe.

As you let your eyes wander over this area you see the head of one of the robots on Star Tours.  Boba Fett's Rocket pack.  A thermal Detonator, C3PO's arm and more.  What I could not make sense of was the white item on the top right shelf.  Tough to see from the above pictures, but look below.

For those children of the 60's and 70's, that item is none other than a handy dandy electric ice cream maker.  I showed the kids and we had a chuckle about the Imagineers trying to slip one past us.  Well, Quinn just sent me a text that shows that the DHS Imagineers are wiser and greater than we can possibly imagine.  I can keep talking, but watch the video below, it explains how great this prop is.
Holy S#*T that is beyond cool.  As you saw, that was Willrow Hood running to get that Ice Cream maker to safety.  Hats off to the Imagineers at DHS and to the story writers at Lucasfilms for creating such a complete backstory for a guy we saw for just 2 seconds in a run-by scen.  Well Done.. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Small Piece of the Puzzle that is Walt Disney: W.W. I

As you might have seen from the blog, I have a large interest in all things Disney.  But the thing that I really live for is finding another piece of the puzzle that made up Walter Elias Disney and everything he created.

This piece of the puzzle was actually discovered by accident as I was heading home from a trip to WDW.  I stopped at my parents in New Bern, NC and their local town's culture center was having a WWI re-enactor demonstration.  Dad and I went to kill the time and it was actually pretty good. 

A few gentlemen were dressed up as soldiers from that era.  There was a lot of equipment on display and a couple of rooms with some great exhibits including a trench set-up. 

Along the walls there were some great posters from the time.  Patriotic and volunteer seeking posters.  One that really stood out for me was this one. 

As most of you that read this blog know, Walt entered WWI as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross because he was too young to enter any of the armed services.  Part of the movie in One Man's Dream in Disney Hollywood Studios has Walt telling this story himself. 

"My Brother had joined the Navy, so I wanted to join him.  well, I was still a year too young, I was 16.  Finally this kid come in to me really excited. He said, 'There's something...there's something just forming here that you and I can get in.'  I said, 'What is it?'  He said, "An ambulance unit.'"
Walt joined the Red Cross and was sent over to France as an Ambulance Driver and arrived just as the war was winding down.
As you can read on the poster they were looking for men over 31 years of age which means to old to fight in the military.  And with Walt's story we can easily believe they would take a couple of 16 year olds to young to fight, especially in that part of the century. 
So this small piece of the Puzzle that was Walt Disney might not have come from a Disney source, but it does add depth to the story of Walt.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Finding the Letter 'Q' at Disney.

I'm going to categorize this post as a Challenge Post.  A relatively new but good friend of mine, Charlotte, challenged me to write about the Letter Q and how it applies to Disney.  Now Charlotte is a great blogger in her own right and must of known this was going to be hard.  Challenge on.

Okay, so Q in Disney.  Well, lets start with Walt Disney World and the Q's we might find there.   I hope this is not cheating but hey, look at that, I just did a post on the Queue lines at WDW.  That's a great Q word and here's a link to that post:

The next Q I came up with in WDW has to be the Quick Service Dining(QSD).  Which, opposed to the Table service is a great, cheaper way to get a meal.  There are some really great themed QSD's in the parks, hotels and Downtown Disney.  My favorites right now are; Epcot: Sunshine Seasons, The Pork Chop and Beet salad are a great combo.  MK: Columbia Harbor House, I always get the Tuna sandwich, but a lobster roll is on the horizon.  DHS: I have no favorite here, look for a post on this down the road.  AK: Flametree Barbecue, they have a great chicken and rib combo and the pulled pork is tasty. DTD: Earl of Sandwich.  This did take a dip in popularity when I saw it's a chain and they have them on the rest stops of the Fl. Turnpike.  For a Hotel QS, I'll go with the Pop Food Court, they have a great selection.

 Moving on we can stay in DTD and walk over to the West Side and go to Disney Quest.  We were there a couple of years ago and had a great time.  Disney Quest is the Arcade, game, ride and family center that was suppose to change the entertainment world.  We're still waiting for the one we were promised in Center City Philly.  Disney Quest is a multi-floor complex that would be so much more awesome if not for the fact that it is within a short bus ride of 4 very fun amusement parks.  That being said it is a very fun place with a lot of good family games and activitiesDisney Quest

The next Q is someone we have all seen if not taken advantage and used their talents.  I am of course referring to the Quick Sketch Artists.  These folks can be found all over the parks.  The one location that I know is a regular for these great artists is in the MK, across the bridge from the Crystal Palace, behind the Christmas Store in that outdoor covered area.  These are great memories to take home form the parks.  We are so glad we had done these when the kids were smaller.  Also, not a sketch, but there are the other artists that use scissors to make the shadow boxes of the kids.  They are pretty Quick.

Now for a stroll through the huge cast party of all of the Disney Characters over the years and who do we have.  Well, Quasimodo jumps right out.  After him we have QuackerJack an insane toy maker bad guy from the Darkwing Duck series.  And then, we have the Queens.  Queen Athena who we found out later was Ariel's deceased mom. Queen Grimhilde which was the name of the Evil Queen in Snow White.  Queen Leah, the mother of Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, and Queen Miranda form Sophie the First.  Queen Mousetoria from the Great Mouse Detective.  A more recent Queen would be Queen Narissa from Enchanted and Queen Clarion the queen of the fairies.  And of course the boil pot of rage the Queen of Hearts.  And of for last...Queen Elsa.

So that's my tour of the Q's of Disney.  Thanks for joining me on this quite quintessential journey of the letter.    What did I miss?  Comment below and let me know!  Stay tuned for the Letter Z.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

WDW Interactive Queue Entertainment; What's next?

As I've mentioned in previous posts, YouTube is your friend.  I was watching a recent video that showed the new Interactive Queue Entertainment updates that were made to the Peter Pan attraction at WDW.

The things they come up with are great and always an improvement on the past.  The shadows are sooooo sharp and you can't really tell the difference of the animation and the guest.  Tinkerbelle in the bedroom is very cool as is the clap, Pixie Dust room.  I can't wait to try those things out.
The Disney Imagineers have been busy with these great side projects that has been going on for a decade or more.  There had to be someone, somewhere in Disney Mgmt. who asked, "How can we improve the Guest's experience in the parks?"  Or better yet, "How to make the guy that just spent a lot of $$$ forget that he is on a long line?"  Either way, the ideas they've come up with have been really good.
To explain further, I'm not talking about pre-show movies like they have in Muppets or Monster Inc., but the activities or entertainment to help you enjoy your Stand-By Line experience.  And, as far as I've determined, there are three main type of these Interactive Queue Experiences(IQE).  The first is the large animatronic kind of distraction.  Buzz Lightyear and Mr. Potato Head are two great examples.  As well as Stitch. 
The second type of IQE's are the physical kinds of activities like the games and the touch-me or better yet, waving activities.  The new things on Peter Pan are a great example of this.  I think the Soarin' Queue might have been the first kind and wow have they come a long way since.  The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train has some great ones.

The third kind of IQE is the general overall look of the attraction kind of queue.  Almost every ride queue at a Disney park has a great overall look.  There is so much detail packed into a regular line area that for 30 years nothing was really needed to be done to improve the line standing situation.  Think of walking through Pirates or Splash Mountain or even the Jungle Cruise's queue.  Those queue's with no electronic help at all are pretty awesome.  Take a look below at us walking through the Splash Mountain line once we go inside.  You totally believe that your moving from our world and going underground and getting ready to enter the world of Briar Fox and all his friends and enemies. 
Same with Pirates.  That fort is one of the most realistic areas on property.  Another thing to note is the music.  Every attraction queue has it's own music.  On second thought, every pathway and restaurant has their own theme music, that's how immersive Disney Imagineers make it.  In my opinion, audio is just as important as visuals in almost every form of entertainment.

The Magic Kingdom in particular is being taken over by these Queue upgrades.  There are now IQE's on Pooh, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, Peter Pan, Seven Dwarfs, Little Mermaid and Dumbo.

The question now, is what's next?  Of the remaining attractions that have extensive lines in the Magic Kingdom, there are 3 really good candidates.  My thinking is that these 3 attractions, Pirates, Splash Mountain, and the Jungle Cruise are the next to get an IQE.  All 3 of them are kind of already set up for it in that they have inside controlled areas. 
 Pirates could be as easy as including some animatronic characters on the Queue.  How about a pirate in a cell?  It would react to people passing by and talk.   Or perhaps windows out to the harbor from the fort as we walk through it showing the approaching pirates.  If the guys playing chess where not on the Fastpass line I'd say animate them.  Seems like a waste if people are speeding by it on fastpass.
The Jungle Cruise has a lot of great things to look at and read while your on line.  But on crowded days when they open up that back area of the line, it can get boring.  The extra line is so long, there's a water fountain at the other end of it before your turn and come back.  Maybe a bank of two way radios where you can listen into conversations between "imagineered" skippers?  Or some of the Under the Sea crab like technology in a form suitable for the Jungle Cruise.  I could also see holographic maps of the Jungle and a electronic version of the deceased remote control boats.  Same kind of screens and controls like Space Mountain, but a jungle course where you can drive boats.  Or imagine the car driving game from Post-show at Test Track but mounted on the wall.
 Splash Mountain is another attraction that has a substantial line that sometimes backs up.  With two distinct areas in this queue, there are a lot of things that can be added to take the guest's mind off the wait.  The outdoor section as you go around the switch backs could have some interactive activities but they must somehow match the really nice landscaping they have back there.  As much as I don't want people to just look down out there, a similar game like the iPad like gem game as they have on the Seven dwarfs queue would work well.  Maybe something like catch the Briar Fox.  Another idea would be to use the trees involving the birds of the story to get people to look around. As you go inside and down into the tunnel to where the logs are docked, the entire left wall can be utilized in an number of different ways.  Touch screens and various other 3D holographic games themed to Splash.  It'll be fun.
So what do you think?  What is the next attraction to get one of these Interactive Queue Entertainment makeovers?  I only discussed the Magic Kingdom in this post and plan on talking about others down the road.   Thanks to WDWNews Today and Ricky at Inside the Magic for some of the YouTube help.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Disney Holiday Blast from the Past

When the holidays come around each year we have many things to look forward to and be thankful  for.    Our families, the colorful decorations, and of course the expected visit from our Jolly old friend, St. Nick.  One of the most dear yearly traditions over the holiday season is watching the over abundance of Holiday themed TV shows.  I have re-arranged many a schedule going back to from when I was 6 years old.  Always making sure I was able to watch "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"  or "The Year Without a Santa" or "Frosty" or "It's a Charlie Brown Christmas" and there are so many more. 

Many of these great shows were released in the 60's and 70's with a lot of wannabe's that are still coming out even today.  What you might not know is that there was a definite precursor to this fun family tradition that goes back to the 1930's.  Walt Disney and Silly Symphonies came out with two great little Christmas themed shorts that really did set the bar for the holiday animation to follow.  "Santa's Workshop" (1932) and "The Night Before Christmas" (1933).

Silly Symphony shorts came about after Walt and his Mickey Mouse short music director thought how well the public would receive great music synched with animation.  With the creation of the Skeleton Dance (1929), they were off.  There were 75 Silly Symphony shorts produced by 1939 and many follow up shorts similar, up through 2000.  One of the things that stands out when you see the title cells is that all of the Silly Symphony are presented by  Mickey Mouse.

"Santa's Workshop" was released in Dec. 1932 and was directed by Wilfred Jackson and runs about 7 minutes.  Of the animators listed some more well-known names stand out;  Les Clark, Norm Ferguson and Fred Moore.  Art Babbit was also was listed and although I know he was an animator, I really only heard his named mentioned as a big organizer when the Disney Studio went union.   It was not the first animated short in color, but it was one of the first.  The Disney company had released their first color short that same year, "Flowers and Trees".
Santa's Workshop starts out as almost everyone's childhood dream of what Santa's North Pole headquarters would look like with the bundles of mail from the kids being delivered.  What's more important to my history degree trained mind is this is how the people of 1932 viewed Santa's workshop.  This becomes apparent pretty quickly as we view Santa's Elves getting the reindeer ready for their flight.  As one Elf is shoveling hay into one stall, another is shoveling Reindeer manure out of another.  As we watch this today we get the giggles from the kid once they figure out what is going on.  A child in 1932 would have overlooked this as the norm and in fact being odd if that did not happen.

As we watch Santa's elves getting ready in the stables along with the reindeer the sled needs a good cleaning.  "The Merry, Merry men of the Midnight Sun", they sing.  Then onto the Who's Good or Bad room where Santa gets to read the various letters from the good and not so good little boys and girls.  Then onto the Toy Factory which is filled with all kinds of wondrous machinery and other goodies.  We could really have used the checkerboard paint a couple of months ago.  
The tour of the factory continues until we catch up to Santa and the perhaps only iffy point of the short.  As Santa is testing dollies, a black faced version of a doll comes down and gives Santa a "Mammy " before stamping herself OK and moving on.  Again, the mindset of the '30's.  I also liked the World War 1 version of the toy tank as opposed to the more popular turret version we are used to seeing as it  had not been invented yet in real life.  The parade into Santa's sack does have a couple stereotypical race moments but I don't think they detract from the effect.  The final scene has Santa waving goodbye to his elves as he guides his sleigh into the sky.  This almost matches the Polar Express in it's Santa departure scene.  As we see Santa and his reindeer fly past the Man in the Moon, we can only wonder how his night is going to go.

Well, Walt was not one to wait long for a sequel and almost to the day one year later, "The Night Before Christmas" (1933) was released.  Wlfred Jackson also directed and the usual list of animators were listed in the credits.  This wonderful short is a little over 8 minutes and picks up where we left off above. 
With the musical version of Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem playing in the background we enter a house of the day.  We follow the lyrics of the song as they describe what we see.  There is not a lot of straying from the script until Santa enters the house. There were some great scenes and some gags certainly stick out.  It appears that Santa is given the job of bringing the Christmas tree and all it's fixin's.  Just as we saw the parade into the bag in "Santa's Workshop", we see the toys on the way out of the bag and to the tree.  None match what was loaded in the first cartoon, but some the new Toy gags are great.  I especially like the way the soldiers are using cannon to put ornaments on the tree.

All the toys and Santa make so much noise that the children all wake up, all 8 of them.  As soon as the toys heard the kids awake, they did the familiar Toy Story scramble to get back into their original positions and boxes.  As the children begin to play with their new toys we see Santa flying off into the distance again and hear the famous line that end that really great poem, "Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night."  Perfect.
If you're looking for something so old that it's new to you and your kids I really recommend these two great Silly Symphony shorts.  You could make these two shorts the opening shorts on your next holiday movie night.  It'll be a fun, holiday, blast from the past.

I want to thank the people over at the Disney Wiki for some of this great information.  Thanks also to Bodolydia over on Facebook.