Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

Media Update 12/5/19

December 5, 2019


The Mandalorian

The Star Wars franchise has always had side projects, but it feels like they are getting better and better lately. Two of the most recent side projects are Solo and Rogue One. They successfully mixed Star Wars with a heist film and a war film respectively. The Mandalorian is a weekly television show that feels like it blends Star Wars with a western. The show is set post-Empire and the Mandalorians are scattered to the winds as a people. The show follows a Mandalorian bounty hunter who has a code of honor and is the best of the best. The show feels like something new in a familiar universe. There is plenty of humor but also that core of seriousness that most westerns have. Pedro Pascal does such a great job acting even though his face is always covered by a helmet Boba Fett-style. There are all sorts of enigmatic characters that I am interested to see what they are there for or who continues throughout the show. The only complaint I have is that there are no female main characters so far. I definitely recommend it.


The Great Mouse Detective

I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and this movie is Disney’s take on the story through the filter of original characters who are all Holmes-adjacent. Barrie Ingham is such a delight as Basil of Baker Street, an absent-minded but brilliant mouse detective who loves the thrill of the hunt. Val Bettin plays Dawson, the Watson analog, who is smart but his real strength is his good heart. Susanne Pollatschek is the young girl who is the client and is inquisitive and adds a lot of energy to the movie. Alan Young uses his Scrooge McDuck voice as her father. Candy Candido plays a hilariously stupid thug. Finally, the wonderful Vincent Price plays the Moriarty analog and he is so delightfully wicked. He honestly steals so many scenes just like some of the greatest Disney villains. The movie is a good little mystery but its strength is the likable characters and the goodness at its heart. I recommend it.


The Emperor’s New Groove

This is one that I had heard was way better than it was given credit for. The movie follows an arrogant and selfish emperor played by David Spade who goes on a journey of self-discovery. The movie definitely draws from the same spirit as The Emperor’s New Clothes. Somebody must speak against power when power goes too far. The movie is basically two slapstick buddy comedies in one. First, you have David Spade who must journey with John Goodman in order to survive. Second, you have Eartha Kitt hanging out with Patrick Warburton and opposing our protagonists. Kitt especially steals every single scene she is in. There is a reason why she is considered a legend but she is obviously having a great time in her role as an evil sorceress. The movie felt like a version of the Road pictures starring Hope and Crosby back in the day. I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Mcbaise – She’s a Big Boy

Tessa Violet – Crush

Poppy – Concrete

Te Quemaste – MTZ Manuel Turizo X Anuel AA

Bad Wolves – I’ll Be There

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Disney+” #NotSponsored
– I watched more Brooklyn 99 Season 3
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 7
– I watched more Blindspot Season 2
– I watched more Prodigal Son Season 1
– I watched more Stumptown Season 1
– I watched more Elementary Season 1
– I watched more Carmen Sandiego Season 2
– I watched more The Crown Season 3

Beastly Kingdom

September 21, 2019

The other day, I posted on here and lamented that when Disney’s Animal Kingdom was built, they decided to nix something called Beastly Kingdom. It had been planned as an area of the park dedicated to magical and fictional creatures. I have done a lot of studying recently and I have realized a few things. One, I have more details on what Beastly Kingdom would have been. It was actually two attractions based on good creatures (centered around the unicorn) and evil creatures (centered around a dragon). Two, I found out that Animal Kingdom was created because Michael Eisner was jealous of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. This is disappointed. Anyway, I decided to create my own version of Beastly Kingdom as a ride/attraction. My version is based on the common thread in Disney Parks called The Society of Explorers and Adventurers.

The ride would be set on a river. The boats would float (naturally) but they would also be on hidden tracks under the water similar to The Jungle Cruise and other water rides in Disney parks. The boat would carry up to twenty people and would be sized to be comfortable. The boats would be styled as modern boats with chrome detailing. The boats are also decorated with symbols and drawings meant to mimic runic symbols. Each boat is decorated with a family crest with a large B. The boats are named after famous heroes like Siegfried, Perseus, Pecos Bill, Roland, and others.

The ride begins in the queue which is decorated to be welcoming with a smooth stone building with polished brick floors. Displayed prominently are large portraits. One of them is of two young kids, a girl and boy who are obviously twins. They are Penny and Kyle Beastly. They are proudly standing next to their parents Sadie and Karen Beastly. There is a picture of Aleister Beastly standing with Lord Henry Mystic, Charlton Taboret, Mary Oceaneer, and Dr. Albert Falls. There are portraits of other members of the Beastly family. Passengers are loaded into a small room with a large television screen on one wall. After a short burst of static, it shows Penny and Kyle Beastly in their office. (Really just a scrim with animatronic puppets similar to Henry Mystic behind it). Penny is facing the camera while Kyle is mostly focused on a laptop behind her.

Penny: Hello! My name is Penny Beastly

Kyle: And I’m Kyle Beastly

Penny: Welcome to Beastly Kingdom! Our family has been involved in the care and preservation of magical creatures for a long time. Since the late 1800s. It all started with our great grandfather Aleister Beastly who discovered the remains of a wyvern while on an expedition with the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Many of Aleister’s contemporaries sought magical artifacts.

Kyle: You know, like Lord Mystic and Dr. Jones.

Penny: And others wanted to explore destinations.

Kyle: Like Dr. Falls and Ms. Oceaneer.

Penny: Exactly! But our family was more interested in creatures.

Kyle: Ghosts were taken.

Penny: Right. No ghosts. No thank you. Our family seeks out and protects supernatural creatures. We only relocate them if it is absolutely necessary. The vast majority of creatures are very capable of keeping themselves hidden and safe. We relocate and protect those creatures negatively impacted by humanity.

Kyle: We’re basically a rescue but for really big and dangerous creatures instead of dogs and cats. Most of them are really intelligent too.

Penny: Kyle! Don’t scare our guests! Honestly, we’ve taken every precaution.

Kyle: It’s literally impossible to take every precaution.

Penny: Hush, Kyle! You’re going to be fine. You’re all going to have a great time visiting some fantastic creatures. Now calmly exit the theater and board the rides. Thank you.

Kyle: Good luck.

The monitor shuts off and the doors open leading to the dock where passengers board their boat. The boat starts up and moves to the center of the river before proceeding.

Guide: Welcome to your ride on our little river. The Beastly family artificially created this habitat to accommodate as many creatures as possible. Hopefully, we’ll be lucky and see most of our current residents. While we are in route, please keep your hands, feet, and the rest of your body safely in the boat. Do not engage in flash photography as it upsets some of our residents and there’s plenty of light out don’t you think?

The boat continues on a bit.

Guide: Now I’m going to have to ask you to keep a little quiet in this first section. If you look to our right, you will see a cave where we have an actual dragon. Dragons sleep most of the time and it is a really bad idea to wake them up. Relax, that fire is just how dragons snore.

The riders see a cave with smoke coming out of it and the occasional flare of light from a large flame. The boat glides by peacefully.

Guide: Alright. We’re good. On the left, you will see one of our Bigfoot. Bigfeet? Anyway, they were displaced by deforestation. They are mostly secretive creatures who would never harm a fly. The only reason I can think of that would bring one this close is their fascination with the faeries. Oh, see! He found some pixies. He would never hurt them but it is hard to resist those pretty lights.

In the shade, the riders see a bigfoot approach a large bush and reach out to it. The faeries light up like lightning bugs and fly away in multicolored lights and then vanish. The bigfoot looks out at the boat peacefully.

Guide: On the right, you can see signs of goblin culture. These little guys are our most antisocial residents. I don’t see any goblins around, though, so maybe we’ll get lucky and it will stay that way. Well, I spoke too soon. There they are. Remain calm, you’re perfectly safe. We did lose one boat before we figured out the protection runes but we have it now. Just let them tire themselves out.

The goblins lined up on the bank and some in the trees start throwing rocks which the riders can hear hitting the roof of the boat and can see them landing in the water. Nobody is harmed. The goblins screech at the boat. The guide shrugs and laughs.

Guide: See? All safe.

On the boats left, there is a large waterfall. The guide seems to notice something odd about it. Within the waterfall, huge eyes light up. A large sea serpent pokes its head through as it spots the boat. It dives forward into the water. After a moment, bubbles start coming up behind the boat, trailing it.

Guide: Well, that’s the sea serpent. Relax folks, it gets curious. It cannot harm us but it does look like it’s following us. Let’s see where this goes.

The boat shakes a bit as the serpent bumps it as it moves ahead of the boat. The sea serpent rises from the river in front of the boat and sprays a mist of water at the boat. The guide rotates the wheel and the boat turns sideways on the river and stops. Suddenly, in the chaos, the dragon flies overhead blasting fire and the serpent looks after it and then returns to the water.

Guide: Looks like our friend the sea serpent was scared by our dragon. I’m a little nervous about them both being out and about but the Beastly twins have assured us that we are perfectly safe. Let’s keep going, huh? Everybody alright?

The guide rights the boat and it continues down the river a little bit further. Gradually, beautiful singing can be heard from around the bend.

Guide: Beautiful music, huh? Those are our sirens. It’s rumored that they used to make sailors crash their boats but that’s just silly. We haven’t had any incidents like that here. I think they were just bad sailors.

The boat rounds the bend and there are some sirens sunning themselves on some rocks by the shore. They barely seem to notice the boat. Out of nowhere, a large bird appears in the air. It cries out and lightning comes from it and lands among the sirens. They scatter with a huge splash.

Guide: Looks like the thunderbird is not a big fan of their singing. Oh well. Alright, on the right we need to remain still. We do not want to disturb the gargoyles. They track their prey by movement but mostly stay completely still day and night. I’m sure you’ve even seen some of them in cities.

The boat glides by some rock outcroppings where gargoyles are perched. Their eyes slowly track the boat. Suddenly, a deer appears and then seems to run back the way it came. One of the gargoyles swoops after the deer. The faerie lights are seen again trailing the gargoyle.

Guide: Oh that poor deer! Run! It’s alright, the faeries will protect the poor girl.

The boat rounds the final curve and the riders can see the sea serpent at the shore of the river. Except, it is no longer interested in the boat. It is hissing at the dragon which is now clearly in sight, smoke coming from its nostrils as it calmly glares at the serpent and beyond at the boat.

Guide: That. That kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it? These two just need to get the aggression out of their system. Let’s just slide on past and go home before this gets a little too rowdy, huh? Well, thank you for joining me on this little trip. We got really lucky and saw some of our most awesome residents. The Beastly family gives their regards and wants me to leave you with this final thought. We need to consider our impact on the environment in this world. We not only impact our magical friends here but all of the non-magical creatures all over the planet and we hurt ourselves. We need to do better. Have a good rest of the day and come back soon to check out Beastly Kingdom.

The boat docks and the riders exit to the gift shop.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

September 2, 2019

Disney has created a lot of parks since they launched their first park, Disneyland in California. Eventually, they wanted to follow the lead of quite a few parks around the world and decided to create a park dedicated to animals. Thus Disney’s Animal Kingdom was born and was populated with zoo animals. It was the fourth park built in Orlando and it was dedicated to animal conservation and the natural environment. When they decided to expand the park later, they had a plan for two expansions. They were going to create an attraction called Countdown to Extinction (a dinosaur area) and Beastly Kingdom (a land dedicated to magical creatures). When Disney’s Paris crisis happened, one of the two had to be axed and they decided to stick with dinosaurs.

I still think that this was a complete mistake. Countdown to Extinction was designed as an attraction to teach people about the extinction of the dinosaurs (I mean, obviously). It was later reworked to be themed to the Disney movie Dinosaur which was not as big of a hit as the company expected it to be. It was also opened up two years after Universal Studio’s Jurrasic Park: The Ride which was doing great especially since Spielberg was involved in its creation. The ride is a dark ride full of audio-animatronics. I like dark rides, I am just not as interested in dinosaurs unless there is some cool theming to it.

Beastly Kingdom, on the other hand, was designed as an outdoor river ride much like Jungle Cruise. The trip would have taken people on a trip full of mythical creatures (similar to the earlier Maelstrom). It was actually pretty interesting and some of it was installed but was never fully realized. Some remnants existed for a long time including impaled and roasted knights as part of a dragon attack section. Because of budgeting issues from the fallout of Euro Disney, Beastly Kingdom never came to be. It was unfair and it should not have happened.

Obviously, Disney never wanted to be put in the position of deciding between dinosaurs and dragons. That is a really hard choice unless you are a creationist who believes the two coexisted. Since they did not currently have a dragon movie coming out, they instead picked the DinoLand based on Dinosaur. The thing is, I am not sure I know anybody who saw Dinosaur which I hear has lovely animation. When it came time to expand again, Disney decided to create a land dedicated to Pandora from Avatar. I know Avatar has its fans but at the time Disney did not own the film so it was a weird decision. However, I think it is the kind of direction that they should have gone in the first place.

I believe that the concept of Animal Kingdom was flawed from the start. Disney basically created a high tech zoo but with apparently little experience in maintaining animals. This is a problem that many parks have when they decide to exhibit animals. It leads to a lot of animal injuries and death. This seems kind of pointless to me because there are already zoos which are usually maintained by people who were properly trained in how to care for animals. Animal Kingdom actually had about 31 animal deaths due to animals interacting with other animals or plants they should not have encountered.

I think Disney missed their chance to really do Animal Kingdom right based on their usual recipes. Their mission statement was to teach people about nature and conservation but they are Disneyworld. Disneyworld is devoted to creating real moments in a fake environment. I am not sure why they did not just create fake animatronic animals. The main problem people have with zoos is that you never know if you are going to see the animals in their enclosure because they hide from the sun or the heat. Disney had the opportunity to create animal enclosures or a fake safari through animatronic animal habitats. They could use the opportunity to teach while having more reliable and arguably less complicated subjects.

The park was created in 1998. What came out in 1994? The Lion King. They could have easily done some theming involving The Lion King, using kids’ connection with those characters to teach them about nature and conservation. Of course, that might bring up some unfortunate sociological truths about that movie but it is a thought. There is also The Jungle Book that the park could have been themed on. Of course, the park is starting to trend that way now. They seem to be moving away from focusing on the real animals and instead have attractions based on Lion King, Avatar and A Bug’s Life.

Of course, none of what I said makes Animal Kingdom wrong or bad. It just makes it uninteresting to me. Animal Kingdom is the third most-visited theme park in North America and the sixth most-visited theme park in the world. Obviously, the park has its fans and I cannot call all of those people wrong. They like what they like. My opinion comes from a place of design and a love of fiction. Also, I just really wanted there to be a land of dragons, trolls, and fairies. You know what? I am going to create my own right here just like I created a prison for Disney villains.

Negativity in Shrek

August 26, 2019

(Edited to expand on the Robin Williams story because it is genuinely fascinating)

In talking about Megamind a few weeks ago, I talked briefly about Megamind being free of dated references (and there were some but easily forgivable). It made me think of the references in Shrek and how some of them were a mistake at the time and some of them were probably not mistakes at the moment but definitely are now. While some pop culture references and double entendres have not aged well, I am specifically talking about the call outs. To explain that, I am going to have to give a little bit of history. I am also going to spoil some gags from Shrek but not the whole thing. Be warned. I am not intending this as a takedown of Shrek or Dreamworks, just a bit of a pet peeve that I want to counter with some constructive criticism.

In the early nineties, the four men at the top of Disney were CEO and Chairman Michael Eisner, President Frank Wells, Roy Disney, Jeffrey Katzenberg. They worked together during the so-called Disney Rennaisance which included such animated hits as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Hercules, and Mulan. Katzenberg had been brought along from Paramount by Eisner and was loyal. However, Katzenberg developed an ego and made some bad creative and business decisions.

The big problem was that he pissed off Robin Williams during the making of Aladdin by breaking a promise. It was still fairly early in Robin Williams’ career but he was already a famous stand-up comedian, sitcom star, and movie star. The writers of Aladdin wrote the script with Robin Williams’ fast-paced stand-up routine in mind for the Genie. Robin had dabbled in Disney before. He co-starred with Walter Cronkite in the Back to Neverland attraction for Disney Parks. Katzenberg invited him to consult on a movie called Aladdin that was in development but the script was still unrecognizable from what we all would see later. Eventually, Katzenberg admitted that he wanted Williams to play the Genie. Robin was hesitant as he was already finishing work on Hook and Ferngully and was already signed on to star in Toys.

Katzenberg convinced Robin to sign on to Aladdin. Williams reasoned that doing the movie would give his kids something of his to watch and he would also be participating in the grand Disney tradition. Also, the Genie was not a big part of the movie at that point. Williams agreed to only being paid $75,000 dollars (against his agent’s recommendation). However, such low pay would come with requirements on Disney’s part. Disney was not allowed to use Robin Williams voice to sell merchandise, they were to limit the Genie to 25% or less of signs and posters, and they had to limit the use of his name in marketing. Part of this was because Robin Williams did not want his voice or character to be used to market toys and merchandise to kids. He was about the movie and not the stuff. The second big thing was that he was gearing up to work on Toys and it was a project that was important to him. Toys was directed by Barry Levinson who had directed Robin in Good Morning, Vietnam. Toys had taken fifteen years for Levinson to get off the ground and Robin did not want the marketing for Aladdin to overshadow it.

The agreement was made and Robin squeezed in voice recording sessions and song rehearsals when he was not on set for Hook or Toys. Katzenberg went back on the deal pretty quickly. He authorized a commercial that had Genie shilling Burger King. He authorized commercials using Robin’s voice as Genie. He found sneaky ways around Robin’s rules by obeying the 25% rule but reducing the size of all of the other characters. He put up big bus stop displays of Genie. When Williams saw those displays, he complained that this was a violation of the deal. Katzenberg apologized and told Williams they would all be removed and destroyed. Except, Katzenberg only had the ones in LA destroyed and they remained up all over the country as if Williams would never find out from friends abroad. Williams was pissed. After Aladdin, he swore never to work with Disney again. He later returned but only when Katzenberg was gone and Disney issued a public apology to him.

Katzenberg tried to step over Frank Wells to become Eisner’s second in command. Everybody objected as Eisner had grown close to Wells and Roy Disney did not like the uppity Katzenberg. When Wells died, Katzenberg eagerly awaited his promotion but instead, Eisner took on the role of both CEO and President. Once again, this was something that everybody (but Katzenberg) agreed with and when Roy Disney and Michael Eisner agreed on something, you knew it was important. Katzenberg was instead forced to resign as bitterness between all parties increased. Katzenberg went off and co-founded Dreamworks and basically became in charge of the animation division. He helped create some great movies at a time when Disney was not doing so great in the animation department. He was able to stretch his wings again and do some good work.

Then came Shrek which is definitely a good movie and it is full of fun. However, Katzenberg definitely influenced the script and production design in a toxic way. The first thing he did was make the villain, Lord Farqhuad, into the spitting image of Michael Eisner. Making Eisner into an ineffectual, vain, and short villain just seems petty. He also had references to classic Disney characters having them tortured, imprisoned, or implying that they were morally bankrupt. Some of the references are clever. The appearance of the Magic Mirror is a clever reference and is not really done in a spiteful way. Gepetto selling Pinnochio to Farqhuad comes off as bitter. There are plenty of other little digs and references, some are clever and some fall flat (in my opinion).

The thing is, I may not know the whole story about Katzenberg, Eisner, and Disney. I know that Katzenberg sued Disney and Eisner and that lawsuit got really heated. I just feel like these dated references were the wrong way to go. Katzenberg left Disney and helped create The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado. Both are extremely underrated and beautiful and entertaining movies. Neither references Disney or Eisner. Shrek’s shots at Eisner and Disney feel kind of gross to me. If Eisner really did him wrong, Katzenberg had a much better option in front of him. The best revenge against your enemies is to be successful and leave them completely behind. At its heart, Shrek is a great inversion of fairy tales which went against what Disney was doing at the time. It has insightful, cute, and funny moments. Katzenberg should have just ignored Disney and done his own thing which would have made his work even better.

This feeling is my goal to become more positive in my life. Why take shots at other things and people when you can promote the positivity of the world and your own product. The core of movies like Shrek are positive but negativity clings to the movie which makes me less likely to watch it again. Compare that to Disney’s model when it comes to animated movies. In general, Disney does not reference much out of its own work. Also, by only referencing itself, Disney feeds its fandom and contains their product. That makes the work more theirs and it makes the jokes hit a higher percentage of the time. The only references I can think of that break that rule are either subtle or timeless. (See: The random Chinatown reference in Inside Out). I guess the final point here is to be positive. Release your anger and do your own thing and you will be far healthier and probably more successful.

Yensid Containment Facility

August 19, 2019

(After studying so many dark rides through YouTube, I decided to try my hand at designing my own. This is a ride narrative of sorts and if I could draw well, I would probably provide imagery. The concept for ride combines my love of Disney with my love of the horror genre. I was inspired both by the older Disney dark rides and the haunted houses in Halloween Horror Nights at the Universal parks. However, this is intended to be no scarier than my experience on Snow White’s Adventures.)

Queue Area:

People step into a large cold, concrete room with a queue set up by chrome railings. There are conspicuous security cameras everywhere and accouterments suitable to a high-tech prison. There are wanted posters up for Disney Villains that have not been caught or are missing in action. Madame Mim, Chernabog, The Horned King, Shan Yu, Shere Khan, Yzma, Prince Hans, Turbo, and Frollo among others. Speakers detail various security rules “Please Remain Orderly”, “Please Report Any Magical Items to Security”, “This Yensid Facility Thanks You for Your Patronage”. At the end of the line, castmembers dressed as “security” waive people through magic detectors instead of metal detectors.

Preshow:

Riders sit on benches in a small theater. It is the same concrete as the queue area but somewhat warmer even before the lights dim. A movie starts up and on-screen is the Duke of Weselton (from Frozen).

Duke: Welcome to the Yensid Containment Facility. I am the Duke of Weselton and I have graciously stepped in to act as warden for this facility. As you well know, all of our worlds have been damaged or threatened at one point or another by villains. While our worlds share the core belief that there is good inside of everyone, some individuals refuse to embrace their good side. They fall into the shadows and never return. This facility was built for the capture and containment of those who would threaten our worlds. A place where they can safely go through the process of rehabilitation but cannot hurt those around them.

We here at Yensid strive to do our absolute best to keep the worlds safe from these rapscallions. I made an error of judgment once and helped hurt innocent people but my eyes have been opened to who the true villains are. This building suppresses the magical abilities of some of our more volatile residents. This is why you were searched for any magical items or effects. While we trust our very important visitors, we do not want to take any chances that would result in the villains getting released or you harmed. Otherwise, enjoy the tour and try to remain calm. You are in no danger. Repeat, no danger. Don’t panic.

The doors open and castmembers usher people into the ride vehicles.

The Ride Itself:

The ride takes people down a winding black stone corridor. That corridor is lined with thick, clear plastic panels. Next to each panel is a computer readout that blinks on as the vehicles approach. These readouts display the name of the villain and a specific warning.

The vehicles approach a line of three cells on the left.

Duke: Some of our villains are relatively harmless, mere humans. However, they are still dangerous. Do not underestimate them.

The first cell holds Cruella De Vil with the Warning: “Do not mention dogs”. Cruella sits on her bed, smoking her trademark cigarette. She looks at the riders and cackles and then sighs.

The second cell holds Stromboli with the Warning: “Watch for Strings”. Stromboli sits on the floor of his cell playing with two marionettes and paying no mind to the riders. Several marionettes dangle from the ceiling of his cell. He looks up and glares at the riders.

The third cell holds Gaston with the Warning: “Requires Five Dozen Eggs Per Day”. Gaston grunts as he does chin-ups on a bar from the ceiling of his cell.

Duke: See? Completely harmless.

There is suddenly a large sound from the right as Captain James Hook slams himself up against the glass of his cell with a shout of “Avast!”. He scratches his hook down the surface, making a squeaking sound. He laughs bitterly as he leers at the riders. “No Ticking Clocks Please”

Duke: Of course, some of them are more dangerous than others.

Immediately after that, The Queen of Hearts slams against the glass on the left. She repeatedly pounds her fists against the glass. She shouts “Off With Their Heads!” over and over. “Warning: Violent Temper”

Duke: Unfortunately, we are finding it hard to keep them from making new friends inside. Some people should not be friends.

The next two cells on the left are Doctor Facilier and Mother Gothel. “No Shadows” and “No Flowers”. Facilier extends his hand and his shadow appears in Gothel’s cell and extends a shadowy flower toward her. She touches her chest in surprise and emotion.

Duke: Others are busy making new enemies.

The next two cells on the right hold Scar and Clayton. Clayton sits on his bed and points his hand like a gun at Scar in the next cell. Scar growls and pounces at the wall and growls. Clayton laughs. Warnings: “Killer Lion” and “Great Shot’.

Duke: Now onto the more magical members of our little prison.

The next cell on the left contains The Evil Queen Grimhilde (from Snow White). Warning: “Do Not Take Food From Inmate”. The Queen, stuck in her Old Witch disguise, stares in her magic mirror. She holds a hand mirror limply in her right hand. The mirror signals toward the riders with his eyes. She touches her face and then abruptly turns from her mirror and smashes the hand mirror against the glass. She cackles and shouts “Don’t Turn Away, My Pretties!”

Duke: This place is so strong it can hold a god.

The next cell on the right contains Hades. Warning: “Talks Too Much”. Hades is chained to the floor with a device across his mouth, preventing his speech. As he sees the riders, his flaming hair turns red and he struggles. The chains tremble but do not break. A blast of hot air hits the riders.

Duke: The next two villains kind of defeated themselves but are still dangerous if released.

Two very small cells on the left each hold a single pedestal. They are for Oogie Boogie and Jafar.

A jar of luminescent bugs wriggles and shakes on a pedestal. Warning: “Do Not Open Jar”

An onyx lamp shakes on its pedestal and falls over and the lid opens to reveal Jafar’s angry eye which blinks and then narrows.

Duke: Don’t worry. They’re all under wraps. I’ll get somebody to pick that up.

On the right, Ursula’s tentacles slam against the glass repeatedly as she laughs. She is underwater. “Poor unfortunate souls!” she shouts. Her tentacles pulsate against the glass but it holds. Warning: “Do Not Tap on Glass”

Finally, the last cell on the left holds Maleficent. She stands in the middle of her cell and glares threateningly at the riders. She then raises her hands and starts to transform into a dragon, spewing smoke and green fire into her chamber. Once again, the riders feel the heat. Alarms start to go off.

Duke: Get them out of there! Do something!

The vehicles speed away from the cells and to the exit as riders hear a last echoing roar of a dragon. As they disembark, the Duke appears on a screen.

Duke: Thank you for taking our VIP tour, I assure you I have everything in hand.

The riders exit into, of course, a gift shop where they can buy Yensid Facility apparel and souvenirs.

Talking Kings and Successions

August 12, 2019

Lately, I have been thinking about the Lion King a lot. It is not because of the recently released full CGI version in theaters right now. People are all up in arms about it but I will eventually see it and form my own opinion. Actually, I have been thinking about the original Lion King movie because the music is in regular rotation on my Pandora account. Well, really, it is just two songs. I had the cassette of the soundtrack when I was a kid. The movie came out when I was about ten years old. I played that cassette until it wore out.

The song I listened to the most was “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”. It is by far the most uptempo, fun song musically in the whole movie. The other song I listen to a lot now that I’m older is “Be Prepared”. I’ve felt that I love the villain songs more and more as I have gotten older. I still love both songs but recently I have realized they are kind of the same song from different angles. I will warn you that this post is now going to get a little political but not really specific to our current climate. Although, you can draw your own conclusions. Also, Lion King spoilers.

“I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” is a song sung by young Simba as he plays with Nala. He sings the song mostly as a way to distract his chaperone, Zazu, the King’s advisor so that he and Nala can sneak away to explore the Elephant Graveyard. Zazu and the King have forbidden he go there but he cannot help himself. He sings about how excited he is to become King (leaving out the part where his father needs to die in order for that to happen). He thinks about how he won’t be pushed around anymore when he is in charge. He will be free from responsibility now that nobody will be in charge of him.

This is the short-sighted thinking similar to your average political candidate. Someone who is excited to have the glory of a leadership position but does not think of the burdens. I think this is obvious to most viewers. Simba has no plan on how he will rule as the only monarch in a large area of Africa. He is thinking of freedom and legacy and glory and no responsibility. Zazu and his father continuously try to rein him in. The King’s subjects join in the song but mainly because of fun and because when the prince sings, you join in.

“Be Prepared” is a song sung by Scar, the King’s brother and Simba’s uncle. He is the villain of the movie, heavily inspired by Claudius in Hamlet. The song is a literal command to his secret hyena army. He is telling them of his plan of regicide and succession. As soon as the King is dead, the hyenas need to be ready to protect Scar’s claim to the throne. Scar knows how people think about him and needs the extra muscle to support his new regime.

It is clear that Scar also has no clear plans on ruling the Pridelands. I mean, he certainly has sinister plans but no plans on how to rule efficiently. It is clear that he does not want to burn everything down (even though that is how it ends up). He wants fawning subjects and glory. He wants the easy life of luxury that only a successful monarch gets. When we find him later in the story after he has gotten what he wanted, he has screwed it up and has already descended into madness.

The thing is, at the time that both songs take place, neither Simba or Scar would have made good leaders. Obviously, Mufasa was a great leader and everybody was weirdly happy with his bloody rule as a predator over the Pridelands. However, Mufasa was not an option anymore as Scar and the hyenas had to go and kill him. If Simba stayed in the Pridelands and had been tapped to become King, he would have been out of his depth even with the help of his mother, Zazu, and Rafiki. This was actually explored in Kingdom Hearts 2 showing the events soon after the end of the movie where Simba has a crisis of confidence because he does not have the wisdom to lead. So neither choice was especially good and this is why rulers should not be murdered. As if Julius Caesar had not already taught us that.

Snow White’s (Scary) Adventures

August 5, 2019

Recently, I have been watching shows like Defunctland and Yesterworld and I am starting to branch out from there to like-minded shows. All of these shows delve into the history of theme parks and their rides and attractions. They mostly explore those attractions that have been removed from theme parks. As I explained in my review of Defunctland, they explore things through business decisions, tactical decisions, and creative decisions. All of these decisions effect each other, obviously. It has been endlessly fascinating and has inspired me a lot in my own creative choices. However, it has also served another purpose. It has let me know in great detail that my memory was correct when I was scared by rides.

I have spoken before on a particular nemesis of mine when I was a little child but let us set the scene a little more. There was a time before my brothers when I spent a lot more time taking joint vacations with my mom, my uncle, and my cousin, Brantley. Brantley is the oldest of the cousins on my mom’s side and over time she became a sort of leader when there were eventually six of us. Early on, there were just the two of us though and she and I were fast friends. I remember in particular a visit to New York City together and a visit to Walt Disney World. The visit to the Magic Kingdom (aka the real happiest place on Earth) had a lasting effect on me even though I cannot remember a lot of it now.

Disney parks are an experience as many of the good theme parks are. When you enter, you are entering another world, a self-contained city of pure entertainment. There is so much to do that you could spend a week there and not finish doing absolutely everything. It has always been this other world that I have been interested in and not exactly the actual thrill rides. I do not remember riding Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, or any of the particularly big rides. I know we went on some of the more sedate rides for sure. I vividly remember It’s A Small World and I am strangely not very annoyed by the song now because I was inoculated to it young. I think I almost remember going on the Jungle Cruise which seems like it would be a fun time. Journey Into Imagination is an attraction that has really stuck with me. I remember going on Pirates of the Carribean and getting scared while in line but once the ride started, I was enamored by the fun scenes unfolding in front of me.

When Disney created the Fantasyland section of the park, they wanted to adapt their movies based on popular fairytales. That is why the icons of Disneyland and Disney World are both storybook castles (Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella respectively). They ended up creating a bunch of rides based on Disney animated movies where the riders took the place of the main character of the movie. (Which ended up flooding the park with complaints). When I visited in the early nineties, one of those rides is the focus of this post: Snow White’s Adventure. While on the trip, at some point my mother and my uncle went off to do something. In order to occupy we children, we were put on one of the dark rides. How scary could Snow White be? Well, there is a reason why they changed the name of the ride to The Scary Adventures of Snow White in 1994.

The ride would not be so bad if they had simply followed the movie. Instead, they made it into a straight horror movie. Instead of only showing up once, the Wicked Witch (the Evil Queen in disguise) shows up tons of times. Her animatronic jumps out at the riders over and over, cackling with murderous glee. Among other things, she tries to offer the riders the iconic poison apple, tries to ram them with a minecart, tries to attack them head-on, and finally tries to smash them with a giant boulder. She is more like Wile E. Coyote than the sneaky witch she is in the movie. My little heart could not take it. The relentless witch and the ominous darkness of the ride sent me into full-on panic mode. I ended up covering my eyes and crouching down into the vehicle to make myself as small as possible. If I had even thought of coming back up for air, I swear I heard the witch cackle and call out “Don’t Cover Your Eyes, Sweetie!”

I swear that last part happened even though I cannot find it anywhere on the Internet. In fact, the first results in google are my own blog from a previous claim I made. Still, I have irrefutable and well-researched evidence that proves that the ride was scary. Many people have backed up those words and I have now seen plenty of footage. The witch was relentless and hilariously and needlessly aggressive. I look back and laugh now but I was pee-my-pants scared during that ride. I really believe that it was one of the formative moments that led to me being a fan of the Horror genre. Which is not to say that I was scarred by the experience but maybe somewhat inspired.

I do not blame the Imagineers who made the ride for making it scary. In fact, that was kind of a theme in Fantasyland. The rides there were scarier than the Haunted Mansion ever was. Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan’s Flight were originally also pretty scary. It is alright to scare children a bit. A little darkness shows them about the world in a safe way. I also don’t blame my mother as she had no idea and was there to hug me afterward and assure me that it was going to be alright. I was in the sunshine and everything was safe. At least, safe from the Evil Queen and all the imaginary horrors that would become an obsession later in life.

Media Update 7/11/19

July 11, 2019


Defunctland

I am one of the biggest fans of amusement parks who also does not really like going on rides. I did not like them as a kid and I have shied away from them ever since. However, I am a huge nerd when it comes to the construction and design of amusement park rides, attractions, and haunted houses. Recently, I discovered this YouTube documentary series which charts the rise and fall of amusement park elements and whole parks. It explores the creation and destruction of rides and attractions that range from the nostalgic to the super obscure. The show tackles all of the creative, bureaucratic, and logistical decisions that led to each subject and their demise. For example, the series charts the entire career of Michael Eisner, a household name from my childhood. While the series is largely Disney-based so far, it also covers Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and some more obscure independent parks and attractions. There are also two companion series in the form of DefunctTV and podcasts. The podcasts are often hour-long interviews with people like puppeteers, Imagineers, urban explorers, cultural historians, and many other experts in their fields. DefunctTV is a series of deep dives on now-defunct television shows, usually involving puppets. They are currently telling the entire history of the Jim Henson Company from Sam and Friends currently up to the Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss and everything in between. I definitely recommend this series.


Slasher

I love horror movies and the slasher movie is part of the popularity and longevity of the horror genre by giving the genre a boost in the seventies. This show is a tribute to that subgenre with each season exploring a different story about a costumed serial killer. Each season also has to do with the main characters having to deal with the buried past and what happens when that past comes back to haunt you. I am currently on the first season which concerns The Executioner and it definitely feels like a comfortable tribute to horror. There are elements of The Silence of the Lambs, Scream, Halloween, Sleepaway Camp, and Prom Night. The show definitely has both horror and mystery elements as the main characters try to figure out who the killer is and who will be targeted next. As a horror buff, I do not find the show to be very scary as the jump scares are not frequent. However, there is definitely quite a bit of gore in some of the kills. Not insane amounts but a few so far have surprised me a bit. The show has a great ensemble cast but a special shout out to star Katie McGrath who struggles between playing detective and running from her past believably. I definitely recommend this one too.


Agatha and the Truth of Murder

It took me a long time to do so but recently I finally read some Agatha Christie books and now I see why she is so iconic. While not all of her books are for me, I recognize that she is one of the true giants who helped grow the Mystery genre. A while ago I discovered the famous tale about 11 days that were missing from Agatha Christie’s life. She had apparently blacked out and could not remember where she had been for nearly two weeks. This urban legend has now been proven false by historians. The truth is that Christie checked into a spa for that time while trying to mentally deal with her failing marriage. This movie tells a story trying to fill in those 11 days by sending Christie on a real-life murder case. The story dips into the real reasons behind her disappearance but in a more fanciful, positive way. The movie starts slowly with a lot of nods toward Christie’s early career. I was about ready to give up on the movie but then it kicked into gear and I ended up really liking it. It plays with a lot of Agatha Christie tropes and archetypes but also real-life criminal investigations. Ruth Bradley is a great, spirited Agatha Christie who learns how to turn things around in her darkest hour. I recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Billie Eilish – ilomilo

Logic – 1-800-273-8255 ft. Alessia Cara, Khalid

Blue October – How to Dance in Time

Chloe x Halle – The Kids Are Alright

Ed Sheeran – BLOW (with Chris Stapleton & Bruno Mars)

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Digging Up the Past”
– I watched more Game of Thrones Season 3
– I watched more Arrow Season 7
– I watched more How to Get Away With Murder Season 1
– I watched more Losers Season 1
– I watched more The Flash Season 5
– I finished Legends of Tomorrow Season 4
– I started watching Star Trek: Voyager Season 3
– I started watching Designated Survivor Season 3

Media Update 19.6.6

June 6, 2019


Aladdin (2019)

If you have paid attention to this blog, you will know that I have an intensely personal relationship with the original animated Aladdin. I watched it once on heavy drugs in an ICU and it was one of the main reasons that I became a Robin Williams fan before I was old enough to listen to his standup. I love that movie and because of that, I was intrigued and not dismayed when the live action adaptation was announced. When Will Smith was announced as the Genie, I actually thought it was pretty perfect casting. Nobody was ever going to out-Robin Williams the original so they had to go a different direction. Like the original Genie evolved from Williams’ stand up, this new Genie is very much an extension of Will Smith’s acting. In that regard, he created a likable and different character with the same heart. Mena Massoud’s Aladdin had all the charm of the original and, if possible, was even more animated in my eyes. My favorite part of the new version is Naomi Scott’s Jasmine who was given way more to do in this version and comes out as a better character. The rest of the cast is really good as well. Overall, the movie was definitely not bad and was just a bit different from the original. There were some things added and some things taken away. I definitely recommend it but only if you have an open mind.


The Greatest Showman

When I found out that there was a movie musical coming out starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Effron, and Zendaya, I was immediately interested. On top of that, it was a musical about the genesis of PT Barnum’s Circus. While that story is not actually all sunshine and roses, I was on board for a sanitized version. I love the circus aesthetic (even after working for one) and the poppy music in the trailer sounded good. Hugh Jackman was so, so likable as Barnum and he has such a good singing voice and a smile that is hard to resist. Zendaya had a smaller role than I wanted her to have but she was really good. Effron had a darker role than I expected but he was also really great in his role. Michelle Williams was kind of a surprise with how prominent and good her character was. There was also an ensemble of literal ‘freaks’ many of whom were given great supporting roles. I would say that the movie went on a little long for me but they had to jam a lot of songs into it so I understand. This led to me not really knowing where the movie was going next as the storyline I thought it had was accomplished very early in the movie. Overall, it was a good movie but not as good as I expected it to be. I definitely recommend it, though.


The Accountant

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I thought it looked pretty good. I am a Ben Affleck fan and it looked like a thoughtful action movie. What it turned out to be is part mystery, part crime film, and part action film. It was way more thoughtful than I thought it would be. I should have realized that a movie called The Accountant would have some thought behind it. The movie is about a criminal tracking criminals while also being tracked himself so the movie has layers. Affleck is interesting since he is playing a man on the autistic spectrum who uses savant skills to accomplish all of his goals. JK Simmons plays a hardened Department of the Treasury investigator and is always great. Anna Kendrick plays a dorky normal accountant who balances out Affleck’s flat delivery. Jon Bernthal plays a very charismatic and charming hitman and was kind of my favorite character. Jeffrey Tambor plays Affleck’s mentor briefly. John Lithgow plays a somewhat hardened CEO. I definitely recommend the movie as it was really interesting.

Music of the Week:
Blackbriar – Snow White and Rose Red

Lil Pump – “Be Like Me” ft. Lil Wayne

PUP – Kids

Carly Rae Jepsen – Too Much

Psychedelic Horseshit – We’re Pink Floyd, Bitch

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Lying”
– I watched more Star Trek: Voyager Season 2
– I watched more Tuca and Bertie Season 1
– I watched more Game of Thrones Season 2
– I watched more Arrow Season 7
– I watched more Riverdale Season 3
– I watched more The Flash Season 5
– I watched more Charmed Season 1
– I started watching Supergirl Season 4
– I started watching Legends of Tomorrow Season 4

Zombies (2018)

April 30, 2019

(I just realized that I am starting and ending this month on a Disney musical)

Anyone who actually reads this blog regularly knows that I am a huge fan of Halloween and supernatural-themed fiction. Recently, I was thinking about a post I wrote on this day in 2015 as part of this event. I had talked then about how I did not really care for zombie movies as they were slow and plodding like the monsters that inhabit them. I guess I also felt that fiction about infection and loss of self were not quite my cup of tea. However, I have developed a policy of not dismissing categorizations of entertainment out of hand. I hate when people put down what I like so I owe it to all of the zombie fans out there to keep sampling things to see if I can find something I like. So far, I have actually been successful. Last Halloween I watched Train to Busan and I a couple Halloweens ago I fell in love with the Red Snow franchise and the television show iZombie. Just this year there are two zombie moves coming out that I actually really want to see. One is Little Monsters which is a movie about a kindergartner teacher who has to deal with zombies. The other is The Dead Don’t Die which has an all-star cast and is opening Cannes.

I am also a huge fan of Disney. I grew up reading Disney storybooks, watching Disney movies, and singing along to Disney soundtracks. I was just the right age for the dawn of Disney Channel Original Movies and I ended up watching a lot of them. At some point, I dropped off but when I worked up in New Jersey, I was often furloughed for two months in January and February. I spent a lot of time back in Baltimore and I helped around my mom’s house. This meant that I was alone in the house a lot during the day. I ended up watching a lot of Disney Channel because it was upbeat and it kept my depression at bay. So it was that I ended up watching a lot of musicals on Disney. Yes, I watched the High School Musical series and many others. It is when I discovered a love of pop music. More recently, I have watched the Descendants franchise which was basically made for somebody like me. I do not have cable television anymore but from time to time I do check on the big events to keep up with things. I missed this one but I guess it is time to remedy that.

I really liked the comic book-style opening which gives the exposition (speaking of iZombie). If I have to sit through exposition, I prefer for it to be pretty instead of a wall of text. Since it is Disney, the art direction has a particular look but it feels like this one went even further. Since this is a movie about culture clash, the movie takes the same tactic as Crybaby and makes the two cultures look radically different. Zombies are poor and punk while normal people are straight and clean. The movie actually did feel a bit like a John Waters musical. The acting is very on the nose and straightforward while also being pretty corny. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is also Disney so while the zombies are stated as having eaten brains in the past, they have largely resolved that problem. Also, zombies are no longer rotting and are instead pale with bright green hair. This is good as otherwise there would be human/zombie interaction with zombies having body parts falling off.

The music is pretty good if you like Disney pop music. Modern pop groups and Disney musicals have set a precedent for signing and dancing because they inspire people to try it at home. This is a great thing as it allows fans to get involved. I watched a “Sing Along” version of the movie and it really helped to get into the songs. The movie stars Meg Donnelly as a pretty self-aware young human girl who aspires to be a cheerleader and fit in. It also stars Milo Manheim as a zombie who is kind of dumb but likable. Trevor Tordjman plays one of the villains, an egomaniac male cheerleader who is ruthless. Carla Jefferey plays Donnelly’s best friend and she plays the nerdy, excited best friend so well. Kylie Russell plays Manheim’s best friend and she is the perfect example of a student (zombie) activist. The rest of the cast is great at being funny character actors.

Overall, I thought it was a good movie. It was a lot of goofy fun with poppy, upbeat music, and upbeat acting. People complain about the Disney formula but why fix what is not broken. The movie gives a pretty good message of tolerance which is a good thing to show to young audiences. It also shows that no matter how far we go, there will always be prejudiced people. For a poppy teen movie, it also showed some subtlety in how the “other” are treated. It is a pleasant enough movie with some catchy tunes and some funny acting.

(Written on 4/29/19 – Cutting it Close, huh?)


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