Monday, June 3, 2013

The Show Goes Back On

I have but one distinct memory of the Fantasyland Theater: burning my mouth so bad before "Beauty and the Beast" that I had to leave the park. I was young, and I'd like to say I've learned since then, but I just get so eager when presented with hot chocolate.

Since that fateful day in the mid-1990s, a lot has happened to the Fantasyland theater, most of it having little to do with being a theater. For as long as I can remember, it was some princess thing. I never knew exactly, because I never visited. I could say the same thing for Carnation Plaza Gardens in regards to it being an area I used to never visit. Ironically, it's now some princess thing.

Live entertainment that isn't for a demographic that's acutely specific, has returned to the theater that looks like Madonna's cone bra, and it's demographic is much more broad: anyone that likes to be entertained. Now, if you are only entertained by a strong story, go to the indy theater, hippie! Things that have a plot either get cancelled or bomb!

That's why, with its newest show, "Mickey and the Magical Map," Disneyland went light on story and heavy on the classic songs they know we all love so much, we don't care how one transitions from the other. (If you're counting, it took 3 paragraphs for me to get to the point. Didn't it seem like one though?)

Despite having its predecessors scar me both physically and emotionally, "Mickey and the Magical Map" had a lot to live up to. I'd started my morning off by enjoying a fine breakfast at Club 33. For something to make itself stand out in a day that starts out like that is quite a feat. Furthermore, I had risen at 5 AM to get to Anaheim by 7, so by the 12:40 show, I was...fatigued. Coincidentally, a favorite place of mine to nap is in a theater. I've heard the middle parts of Finding Nemo - The Musical at the Animal Kingdom and Disney's Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular at DCA are great. I wouldn't know.

I'm happy to report that I had my foot tapping, my fingers drumming, and my eyes open for the entire show. There was an electric feel to the whole thing that kept even me engaged for all 22 minutes of its run time. The girl screaming about Stitch in front of me also helped keep me away, but in a different way.

"Mickey and the Magical Map's" attempt at a story has Mickey reprising his role as Yensid's apprentice, way back from when the duo last appeared in 1940's Fantasia. Yensid, a poorly animated 3D (bring back the 2D! Oh, wait...) character that appears soley within a gigantic, three-tiered LCD screen, has a magical map with a missing, unpainted spot. Mickey tries to paint that spot, and by doing so, elicits King Louis, Ariel, Rapunzel, Mulan, Pocahontas, Tiana, and various other character to come out and sing their famous songs.

Obviously.

There's some great choreographed dancing, awesome, non-recorded singing, a cool bubble thing and a few awkward sequences where Mickey gets sucked into the map and looks like he's part of a 10-year-olds sub-par flash animation project.

Remember, despite all the negative stuff I just wrote (partly because it's more fun to dish out the disses then the praise), I walked out of the show excited and fulfilled. It has its weaknesses, but when, as a whole, the show entertains its viewers, I don't think its especially important just how it does that. "Mickey and the Magical Map" is energetic enough that you love every minute of the shoe while you're watching it. When it's over, you might be scratching your head a little, but don't over analyze it. I just did that for you.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Most Expensive Breakfast I'll Ever Have

Every Disney fan knows that a huge part of being a Disgeek is competing to be the best in class. From the most extensive pin collection, to collectible art, shirts, ears, Vinylmation, and the thousands of other things the people at merchandising concoct to sell to us, to going to all the international theme parks, to the ultimate: dining at Club 33.



I'm ultra-competitive. I'm the best looking, smartest and most funny Disney guy out there (for the most prolific blog competition, I gave up on that a long time. I know that the last time I posted, it was during a  month that begins with "M", and I'm not talking about this past May. Sorry, four loyal readers [See what I'm saying about the funny thing?!]). Asky anybody. That stranger eating food at the table next to him. Ask him, I don't care if he's mid bite. Ask. He'll tell you.

But I don't collect anything (accept admirers. [He strikes again!]), I'm not the Preston from "Blank Check" (and even if I was, those filmakers had a warped idea of what $1 million could do. And that kid was an idiot for not slapping a couple of more zeros on that bad boy), so I have only been to all of the domestic parks. That means I'm left with only one option to be Captain Disney: go to Club 33, the ultimate destination for Disney fans in looking for some serious bragging rights that don't require crossing an ocean. 

I've been once before when I was the grand old age of 12. If I blogged about it back then, the post would have looked like this: "It was cool," and it would have taken me five minutes to type. Well, ten years later, through the awesome Meetup app and the Disneyland Fan Club group, I was afforded a second chance to both dine, and write a more extensive review of the experience: It was super cool. 

I'm just pulling the chain on your high-tank toilet! You don't have one of those? You must not live at Club 33, because they totally do. Along with some amazing views, a rad elevator that wasn't working, half-built microphones in chandeliers, taxidermied animals, some awesome cast members, and as a whole, the opportunity to make some awesome Vines.

The Club really is just your average fine dining experience (that's not an oxymoron, because I said it isn't). The food was average to above average, the service was the same (and it was a buffet, so most of it was self-serve) and the china and silverware were nice. The only thing that made it extra special was that I was in there and you weren't. Which is something I had a great time reminding those below me from the amazing balconies at Club 33.

We spoke at length with the manager, who's spiel seemed a little rehearsed, and even more with a cast member who seemed to have the authentic, enthusiastic answer to every question we threw at him. It's guys like him, whose name I didn't write down because I was too busy thinking of how to be funny, that keep the Disney customer service reputation alive.

I did not buy any alcohol, because it was $14 I'd rather spend on a souvenir that I wouldn't have to run to the toilet to dispose of an hour after consuming, which I did (buy the souvenir, that is). Maybe next time. Disneyland is still a dry park to this guy.

It's an amazing experience, but what makes it special is that it's a once in a lifetime kind of thing, (or ten years if you're as awesome as me.) It's nothing out of the ordinary as a dining experience. But you feel something extra special because you know that the walls surrounding you are soaked with history, and if they could talk, oh boy, the money that would cost Disney in mechanical costs would be amazing (I'm sure they'd tell some cool stories, too.)

It's kind of like seeing the Grand Canyon. You go, you do it, it's spectacular, and when it's over, it's over, which is usually in about 90 minutes. Just, this trip gets you mad bragging rights. Everyone can go to the Grand Canyon.

If you've got some time, check out these panoramas I took while in Club 33. There are so many awesome details, so zoom in, swipe around and check out every pixel.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Average and Incapable Oz

Disney's "Oz the Great and Powerful" opened with a strong weekend, making upwards of $80 million. That's the important thing, really. Not if it was a quality film or if it stunk, not any of the politics behind it, just if it makes money. A quality film would indeed be a good thing, but a film that makes money is the best thing, or else we might not see any investment in the parks for a while.

As a Disney die-hard, hopefully you enjoyed some aspect of "Oz", because it's going to be around for a while (and it's probably going to be the thing in the parks they invest money in). Disney's strategy is to put tons of money into a select few films that it can then turn into brands and make gazillions off of in synergy, from rides, to toys, to sequels and more. They wanted to do that with "John Carter." It didn't work.


"Oz" didn't break the coveted $100 million mark, but it did have the "best release of 2013," as the headlines say (a title that fits into the category I like to call "the tallest midget awards").

As things go, that which is popular is rarely high in quality (Cars 2). Thus is the case with "Oz." You can feel the attempt to appeal to the masses at every turn with the movie trying to be many things at once. When you try to please everyone, you dissapoint all.

"Oz" has its moments. I audibly laughed just once, but that's pretty good, considering I'm jaded in that department. I saw it in IMAX 3D (so, anyone want to pitch in a couple bucks for my rent this month?), and thought paying the extra for 3D was worth it (not the "IMAX" though. They need to have universal standards on screen size). This movie actually used the 3D to both add depth and pop things out at you like spears and hats and such. Sometimes it was gimicky, but it overall wasn't too distracting.

James Franco, who plays the title chracter, does an OK job, but you can feel that his heart isn't into it. Rachel Weiz as Evanora is OK, until she tries to be dramatic about something, and it doesn't quite come off the right way. Mila Kunis as Theodora is great at the beginning, but then, something happens to her character, and her whole performance would seem corny even on a daytime soap. The witch that truly shines is Michelle Willams as Glinda the Good Witch, who immediately sees through Oz's shenanigans, yet keeps her faith in him. Her performance is engaging and she's pulls off being convincing and cute at the same time.

Just like in the original film adaptation of the L. Frank Baum novels, the characters that exist in Kansas also inhabit Oz. Glinda is the lost love of Oz from back home and Zach Braff, who plays Oz's under-loved assistant in Kansas, shows up as a flying monkey (sans fangs and bloodlust) in a bellhop uniform, whom Oz learns to love. He provides some comic relief by keeping Oz honest, and didn't bother me much. The other character that goes along the for the journey with Oz and appears in Kansas as a crippled girl who asks Oz to grant her the ability to walk, is the China Girl. She's cute enough for being a completely CG'ed character, but does little to advance the plot beside helping Oz to realize his faults.

The movie is no doubt gorgeous, but some odd casting decisions as well as an uneven script leaves one wanting. Disney put itself in a tough place in terms of critical acceptance, as its predecessor is one of the most beloved films. They did an OK job with this one, with its greatest weakness being uneveness. That's OK though, because they'll get the chance to make it better with the second, third, fourth, fifth and six itterations. Because "Cars 2" and "Pirates 4" were such critical darilings. Right...

The Faire Expansion

Carnation Plaza Gardens is no more. Blasphemy. Fantasyland is in front of the castle. Sacrilege. What was once an iconic red and white tent is now a Pepto Bismal colored atrocity.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

That's what everyone has been saying about Fantasy Faire, the new area at Disneyland where you can have a meet and greet with the princesses or catch a retelling of one of their stories, told with heavy "theatrical" liberties (don't worry, that's a good thing.)

Well, those hipsters who swing (swung) dance can shut it. The new Fantasy Faire is a great addition to Disneyland, and turned an area I never used into something I just might visit every time I'm in the park. I'll go so far as to say I'm in the majority on this one, too.


Fantasy Faire doesn't officially open until March 12, but since I'm awesome (and dropped a ton o' cash on a premium annual pass), I was able to get a sneak preview of the new area that sits between Sleeping Beauty's castle and the entrance of Frontierland.

After getting in line to get a wristband, then getting in line to get into the new area and trying to get off a Vine of Figero (didn't happen), I sat down next to Dusty and Norman from MiceChat (a happy coincidence) and watched the retelling of Rapunzel, a 20-30 minute show put on by Rapunzel, Flyn Ryder, a pianist and two jesters, with the latter two wearing many different hats (and wigs) throughout the performance, playing parts ranging from Mother Gothel to Maximus the horse. It was all in a funny, self-aware way that kept the heart of the story while providing laughs for both young and old. It was a very entertaining show and I cannot wait to see the Beauty and the Beast show they also run in the theater. Way better than swing dancing!

I don't mind much the Pepto Bismal color of the Royal Theater, but I forsee a change coming. If we can whine enough to get Ariel's hair-do changed, we can complain till they change the color scheme to more naturally fit in with the rest of the village.

As for the rest of the village, the theming was spot on. It fit in like it was a part of the 1983 Fantasyland renovation. Disney seems to be all about theming and "guest experience"lately, (New Fantasyland and its one presently operating ride), and with the Fantasy Faire expansion, they don't disappoint (unless you're some crazy person that thinks Walt would have stuck with "tradition" and kept the CGP. I have a book full of quotes that proves you wrong, but hey, logic and proof, they suck sometimes [if you're disappointed by the theater, that's ok with me]).

Clopin's music box, a small box that plays music and rotates through scenes with a hand crank sitting by itself by the entrance to the princesses, is a nice little detail, featuring some familiar characters on the background of its many different, moving layers, and Figaro lazily swiping at the chirping caged bird next to him on a windowsill and fun little details and add to the thoroughness of the new area.

I finished off the experience by grabbing one the the three new twists on food they have, that are literally twists made from bagel dough. You can get strawberry, chocolate or garlic cheddar, and I got the garlic cheddar. It was delicious, and made for a great snack. I also got the apple freeze drink, which is the same thing they serve at the cones at Cars Land. It was still good. Count on long lines for this little cart in the future.

Having gotten my breath stinking to high heaven, I decided it was prime time to visit the princesses. My first stop was Ariel, who dug my shoes and asked if I swam from my hometown in NorCal, then to Cinderella, who also dug my shoes, and pointed out hers were of a similar ilk, and I told her they could have used some lime-colored laces, she said her fairy godmother would be assigned the task. Then onto Aurora, who dug my shirt, because it's blue and had her castle on it. Princess training 101: COMMENT ON THE OUTFIT. Got it?

Overall, I spent nearly two hours in the small area and had a great time. It's a perfect little area that will provide both live entertainment and a nice area for the princesses to call their own. I'll probably never visit them there again, but I know that there are millions of little girls out there who will be completely psyched and it will provide a more Disney-esque experience for them. That's a good thing, as is the whole area.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Extra Ordinary Definition of "Limited"

This past week, Sarah Tully, wrote a blurb about how Captain EO, the attraction more people stand above while waiting in line for Space Mountain than actually go on, will be around for the "foreseeable future."

The "tribute"
The attraction, which originally ran from 1987 to 1997 was reinstated on Feb. 23 after the untimely death of the star of the short film, Michael Jackson, in 2009.

Now it's 2013, no one is really thinking about MJ's death, and yet Captain EO, produced by now-Disney-"owned" George Lucas, still plays daily at Disneyland.

I've mentioned before that the theater that is now showing Captain EO, and before that (and after that) showed "Honey, I Shrunk The Audience" has been an underutilized section of the park for years. To be specific, probably since 1992, five years into the first run of Captain EO.

As someone who goes to the parks on a weekly basis, it's always nice knowing that there are a few attractions you will never have to wait long in line for. It's even better when those attractions happen to be ones you actually want to ride, like The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Storybook Canal boats or every dark ride that isn't Peter Pan's flight. Or, at the Magic Kingdom, my personal favorite no-wait standby, The TTA People Mover (Bring it back, Disneyland!).

Captain EO is not one of these attractions. For starters, the whole concept of a 3D/4D film-as-an-attraction idea is cheap and a bit of a cop out. Their capacity usually stinks, but that detail doesn't even matter, because they rarely fill up to capacity, proving that I'm hardly alone in giving them a thumbs down.

Secondly, when you look up dated in the dictionary, the entry after Taylor Swift (because who has she not dated?) just happens to be Captain EO. The film had to be quite spectacular when it debuted, but then again, a 10 MB thumb drive would have a technological marvel in 1987. Nostalgia for anything from the 80's will never be a thing, and Captain EO proves it. It's clunky, ugly, boring and a little too grimy to appeal to a 2013 (or 2011 or 2010) audience. Just like the decade it's from.



As a whole, Disneyland's Tomorrowland leaves something to be desired in so many ways, and Captain EO, along with Innoventions, Autopia, an empty people mover track, the boring Astro Orbiter, the remnants of an older, more exciting Astro Orbiter, and the gigantic waste of space/capacity nightmare that is the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. The land would, hands down, be the weakest land at The Happiest Place on Earth if it didn't have what are arguably the park's two best attractions in Space Mountain and Star Tours: The Adventure Continues.

So what should be done withe the space that lays underneath the Space Mountain queue? Maybe take the queue of Space Mountain down a floor and make it interactive. Maybe do something with Wreck It Ralph and use a bit of the space that's used for the also under-used Starcade (who wants to play a video game when you're in between Space Mountain and Star Tours?). I don't know though, I'm not an Imagineer, and furthermore, I'm not the guy that says no to every good idea Imagineers have.
It's been nice to see Iger and co. put in a billion across the promenade, but now Disneyland could use a little love and investment, and Tomorrowland would be the best place to start, today.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

OMG It's OMD

This week has been a big one if you're into reading Disney blogs that are closer to the source than me and the rest of the Disnerds that pump out pages of content a second (other people do that. When you do the math, I'm pumping about a page every, oh, two months).

That's because, this week, Disney has fully committed itself to the blogging thing that's been popular, since, I don't know, when was the Amy Adams part in Julie and Julia based? Since then.

But, as Microsoft will tell you when you ask them about the Zune, better late than never.

Around Wednesday, Disney launched Oh My Disney, which closely resembles Buzzfeed in style.

Now, you could go on a rant about how it so closely resembles Buzzfeed that you could say it completely ripped Buzzfeed's style of. You'd have some sort of valid point, sure, but this is a blog that is only about one thing: Disney. Buzzfeed is about everything, so it's not an unholly ripoff. And hey, Buzzfeed just takes Reddit's content and makes it prettier, so nobody's hands are clean. Except maybe Reddit; its hands are just ugly.

If you don't know what Buzzfeed is, 1. That must have been a confusing paragraph you just read through and 2. This one will clear that last one up, and explain how OMD (Disney=acronyms) is a copy of that site. OMD is laid out in a very simple way, much like any other ol' blog. It categorizes its content into five different sections: AWWW, Oh, Snap!, Retro, Silly and Woah, much like on Buzzfeed has content categorized with badges like LOL, omg (a lot like OMD?) wtf? (that last one's a tag, but the question could be asked in regards to the copying) and that kind of thing. The fonts are the same, the simple, clean design are nearly identical, but again, Buzzfeed takes on the whole world with its content, OMD is one thing: Disney.

So far, they're doing that one thing well. Disney has always had a problem being "hip" as the kids might say (So depressing that I'm 22 now and not one of the kids. If you're, like 40, sorry that I'm making you feel even older. I'm not looking forward to getting to your stage, either). Hip is about being "with it," and when your a company where you bleed red tape(and in some ways, is a strength. Nobody has a better brad than Disney, and that's because of the red tape), it's hard to produce things that are of the moment.

With OMD, Disney has finally done something that's hip. The tone of the website is super playful, which is exactly the tone it needs. They write with a sort of clever attitude, and the things they write don't seem like they were done more for PR's sake than the reader's actual enjoyment, like some of their other blogs (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE). So, if anyone that has anything to do with OMD reads this: good job guys (also, I totes want to work for you, so look me up on ROSTR)

You can also check out Disney Insider, Disney Movies and Disney Music blog. I could make this post more intimidating and take the word count to 11 talking about them, or you could just go read them for yourself. Heck, just go look at OMD for yourself. Why'd you waste your time reading this when you could have just gone straight to OMD?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Best Of Many Worlds...And Lands.

Surprise? I was on Facebook today.

Every once in a while, I do actually look at those ads on the sidebar. I like to ensure that the website I spend a better part of my day on (or, probably, life, it'll turn out) stays free. Sometimes, Facebook stalks my information correctly and an ad pops up that actually interests me. Usually, that ad is for something Disney related.

This time, a new app showed up called Disney Parks Shoppes. Normally, any word with a superfluous "e" at the end is an immediate turn-off, but when that word is preceded by "Disney Parks," I make an exception.

I was first struck by the colors. I just finished taking a graphic design class, so now I know about that stuff in a more technical way, or whatever. What I really learned is that when something looks good, it looks good. Look, I just saved you $3,000. Back on point now.

The app, or website, depending on how you access it, is very simple, with a aesthetically pleasing visual navigation, using minimalist inspired icons.

Minimalism seems to the focus with the website, which is a good thing. Less is more when it comes to websites these days, and the people over at Disney know this. The new Disney.com is stripped down and thus has a much better design than the website it replaced.

On the Disney Store website, they've been selling what used to be park-exclusive merchandise, which has been kind of a bummer because it takes away the novelty of only being able to buy something because you were there. Yet it is also cool, and for the opposite reason: if you can't make it to the parks, you can make the parks come to you in a small way.

That's what this new website emphasizes: park merchandise, hence the name.

You're welcome.

The website sells a few things from both the World and the Land, along with seasonal merchandise, shirts that it labels "Facebook First,"for things that have a social media theme to it, and the Dooney and Burke Collection. It also has a weekly trivia question so you hang around the site longer than you should, and a section for merch that you'd buy before hitting up the parks, like Mickey Ears or some luggage.

While shopping, you can compile a wish list and earn badges for different types of accomplishments, similar to things on Foursquare or Get Glue. I got one that was publicly shared for letting the app access my Facebook information and signing up.

The site is essentially just another online storefront for Disney, but the clever people over there embedded some great social elements into it, so it feels more like a hybrid experience, instead of just giving Disney your money. Because why buy something if you can't show it off on your body and on Facebook?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Disney Semester

Guess what? I'm obsessed with Disney.

Did the blog give it away? Or the closet full of t-shirts? Well, the monkey's out of the bottle now.

In my obsession with Disney, I've tried to make it the centerpiece of my life. I worked at Walt Disney World for seven months, I created this blog, and I'm trying to get them to let me make magic full time. If it doesn't happen now, it will.

Going along with that theme, this semester, just about every big project I've had has been about Disney. This has been a running theme of my college career, having started this very blog in my online media class.

My course load has consisted of a media production class, a graphic design class, a class on the future of journalism, a class on business journalism, a photojournalism class, a one-credit class on the FOX company (so not Disney! Oh, but wait) and an advanced online media class.

For almost every one of those classes, I've managed to apply my Disney love for a grade. I have not yet incorporated it into my business journalism class, but there's still an essay to make it happen. I'm a little annoyed with myself that I didn't buy Disney stock for the faux-stock market assignment we had (I already own it in real life, so it didn't seem fitting.)

My Cars Land Magazine Layout
I've managed to make the first two big assignments for my graphic design class Disney centric. The first, a magazine layout, was done on the opening of Cars Land. The second, an info graphic, was done on the prices and popularity of Disney. I don't know what my grade is on the ladder, but I only got four points off out of 200 for the former. Ka-Chow!
My Disney info graphic.

With my online media class, I'm creating an entire website devoted to explaining just what is
it that attracts Disney to what many see as the child's entertainment company that is Disney.

For my media production class, I did a fake podcast on the Disney parks. That didn't go so well. But I got my Disney in! For my photojournalism class, I turned in a picture I took on my recent trip to Disneyland of the new Carthay Circle Theatre.

The Carthay Circle Theatre

With my future of journalism class, I'm turning in this blog, and a composite video I made for the two components of the final. Most of my grade for the class will be decided on things having to do with Mickey Mouse.

Then there's my class on FOX. How'd I do it? Well, I haven't yet. But I am going to write a (fantastic) paper comparing Walt Disney to Rupert Murdoch. My conclusion, I can tell you, is that they're two very different people.

Oh, and this is my senior year, and every credit counts towards graduation. So, you could say with my college career, "It all ended with a mouse."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wrecking Windows, Fixing Films

The best animated movie to have anything to do with Disney this year? "Tinker Bell: Secret of the Wings." I was going to say "Mars Needs Moms," but that came out in 2011.

THAT FIRST PARAGRAPH WAS A JOKE. Don't stop reading because of it. Also, because I'm a 21-year-old male, I didn't see "Tinker Bell: Secret of the Wings," and because I'm a human being with taste, I didn't see "Mars Needs Moms," so I can't actually tell you if those are good or bad. And with that, I will start saying things I actually mean.



I know it might be Brave of me to say this, but 2012 will be known as the year Walt Disney Animation Studios put out a better movie than Pixar did. That's better than 2011, known as the year that I filmed a better movie on my iPhone of me eating a cheeseburger than the movie Pixar studios released.

That's right, "Wreck It Ralph" was by far a better film than Pixar's "Brave," and honestly, it had more of a Pixar feel to it, too. "Brave" was a fairytale with a princess, "Wreck It Ralph" was "Toy Story" set within the world of video games. I think that's all I need to say to back up that argument.

I've always loved "secret world of" films, like "Toy Story" and now "Wreck It Ralph," where part of the premise is exploring what things do when we humans aren't paying attention to them. "Ralph" is by no means as groundbreaking, funny, or as entertaining as "Toy Story," but I dare say it's the best animated Disney film since "Toy Story 3."

These kind of films create a world within a world, using their own sort of slang, taking the familiar and connecting it all together with a little creativity, and a little ingenuity. Instead of feeling things in her "bones," the character Vanellope Vvon Schweetz feels it in her "code" that she's meant to be a racer in the Mario Kart-esque game "Sugar Rush." I love this kind of thing, and "Wreck It Ralph" is full of it.

Brace yourself, it's time for some plot summary: The film focuses on Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly, the villain who wrecks things, so Fix It Felix Jr. can then fix things in the 8-bit arcade game named after Felix. Ralph gets tired of sleeping in a literal dump, and ventures off into two other video games, first a Call of Duty-esque first-person-shooter modern 3D game "Hero's Duty," then to Vanellope's "Sugar Rush." Here, in the land of Sugar Rush, Vanellope, a "glitch" in the game, steals Ralph's medal, and the two become enemies that quickly turn into friends. From there, all that character development and plot stuff happens like in most all movies, except for the Indie ones made by artists who are too hip to use a story arch. If you're reading this blog, you'll probably see the movie anyways, and probably already know all of that stuff you just read, anyways. Moving on...


What made this film so great was a mix of character development, gags, humor, and a nice twist at the end that brings everything together. The characters all have their flaws and their strengths, and we get to see them exhibit all parts of their personality, while enjoying some good jokes, and a dedication the the details of the world of video games that does not waiver in thoroughness throughout. The movie modifies a world we're already familiar with, and exploring it with Ralph, Felix, Venellope and Calhoun, the female commander from "Hero's Duty" voiced by Jane Lynch, is a hilarious, fun and at times emotional journey that amounts to one darn good film.

It's no "Up" or "Finding Nemo," but for a film whose only connection to Pixar is John Lasseter, the chief creative officer at both Pixar and the Walt Disney Animation Studios, it will fool those unaware of the separation between the two companies.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Buying New Galaxies, and Creativity

Unless you live under a rock, only care about real news like Hurricane Sandy, or don't have six news apps that all send you push notifications of breaking news at the same time, than you've probably heard: yesterday, Disney acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion.



My first reaction was: "Neat!"

Lucasfilm and Disney have had a very close relationship ever since Star Tours opened at Disney in 1982. Some of the best Star Wars merch I've ever seen or bought has been at a Disneyland. You can find Jedi Mickeys or Donald Duck made up as Darth Maul at gift shops next to Star Tours. Hollywood Studious annually holds Star Wars Weekends, one of the most popular celebrations of the franchise anywhere. The Jedi Training Academy is a popular show, with walk around characters like Darth Vader and a couple of Storm Troopers making daily appearances.

To Disney dies-hards like myself, there won't be much of a transition from Lucasfilm being an independent company to one owned by one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world.

Some are decrying the deal, accusing Disney of being greedy, and predicting that when Disney makes episodes VI, VII and VII, they will ruin the "Star Wars" film franchise.

These people don't know what they're talking about and are hating on Disney because it's the convenient, typical thing to do. When Disney took over Marvel for a similar price, one of first films to come out of the joint venture, "The Avengers," is arguably the best Marvel film to date, and is inarguably the highest grossing. This was because Disney let acclaimed nerd Joss Whedon take over, gave him creative control and trusted him. I foresee Disney doing a similar thing with the coming "Star Wars" films.

So people, stop whining. You will be proven wrong.

Star Tours at Disneyland. (Photo by Preston Carter
Melbourne-Weaver/Main St. Monitor.)
Though I won't associated myself with those whiners, I do have something to whine about myself. My past co-worker while I was in the Disney College program, Patrick Johnson had this to say about the deal on facebook: "The most recognized entertainment company in the world that neglects to capitalize on their own intellectual property. Le sigh." In an article about reactions to the deal by USA Today, they quoted Former Columbia Pictures marketing exec Peter Sealey as saying: "It seems to me that Disney is bankrupt of new ideas so they've just gone out and made another big buy."

This deal will cement Bob Iger's legacy as "the guy who bought all that other stuff." From Pixar, to Marvel, and now Lucasfilm and Avatar Land, Iger has made it clear he is more interested in buying creativity than creating it in house. Pixar has created some of its worst films since being acquired by Disney, most of which were money grubbing sequels. Avatar Land's E-Ticket attraction is rumored to use the same ride mechanism as Soarin' over California.

What Iger has done with the parks, with New Fantasyand and the re-imagining of Disney California Adventure, has been great, but not exactly innovative.

I think acquiring Lucasfilm, Pixar and Marvel are overall good things for Disney, but I look forward to Iger's 2015 planned retirement and hope that his replacement focuses on creating magic inside the company. Iger is, by far, a better CEO than his predecessor Michael Eisner, but at least Eisner had 10 creative years at the beginning.