Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

Top 11 Cities I Want to Visit

March 2, 2020

11. Amsterdam

Firstly, I do not smoke pot but I am open to the idea in a place where it is safe and legal. With that out of the way, I am mostly focused on my love of the artist Vincent Van Gogh. I identify with Van Gogh because of his history of mental illness. I also really love the style of his paintings. Beyond that, Amsterdam is just supposed to a neat place with architecture, art, and culture worth seeing.

10. Cape Town

From my research, Cape Town seems to be the best bang for your buck when it comes to museums dedicated to African art and culture. This is an area that is not explored as much in my country so I would love to go there and see it without it being filtered through the American lens. It also seems like a great city to visit and I would love to experience South Africa firsthand. I do not have a lot of familiarity with African culture except the bits and pieces that flow to our country. I know people who have visited Africa so I know that it is safe and that they have a lot to offer.

9. Moscow

There is so much history tied into this city that it would have been hard not to put it on this list. People are so scared of Russia lately and have been for many decades. Still, it is a country with a unique and interesting history. Russian architecture and art is different from a lot of stuff that I have seen. Mostly, I am interested in exploring the history of the relationship between the USA and Russia (formerly the USSR). The Cold War is such a crazy time in history that I have been fascinated with. I read a book by CIA Agent Antiono Mendez about his time in Moscow both during and after the cold war (among other stories). It is always portrayed as almost another planet so I would want to see what it is actually like.

8. Luxor

I am really talking about one thing above all others and that is the Valley of Kings. The carvings have fascinated me since I first saw photos and drawings. I would love to be in the famous valley and just take it in. There are plenty of other landmarks and plenty of interesting ruins and repositories of history. Egyptian history and mythology have been of interest to me since I was a kid.

7. Las Vegas

The glitz and glamour of Las Vegas is something I have really only seen on television or in movies. The town is legendary for entertainment and I feel like just the atmosphere and design is something that I would love to take in. Each casino is themed like they were created in a weird adult Disney park. I do not really drink or gamble so I would just love to explore. It is also a very distracting city so it would be great to be in a place that I could feel like nobody was paying attention to me. Specifically, I would love to see Penn and Teller operate at the Rio which is where they try out new acts for the first time in front of a crowd.

6. Edinburgh

I definitely have Scottish blood in me and I would love to travel to connect to that. Like many cities on this list, Scotland has structures that are ancient especially compared to what is in the United States. I would love to just stroll around and look at all of the buildings. There are also so many museums in the city. Of particular interest is the Writer’s Museum dedicated to the writers of Scotland but there are so many there. Also, I would go during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which is a legendary event to watch new comedy and obscure acts.

5. Dublin

I have been enamored of Ireland since I embraced my role as a writer. I love writing and Ireland was home to so many soulful writers. I would love to explore that history as much as I could. I also would love to explore Irish and Gaelic mythology. A lot of folklore about fairies comes from Ireland so exploring that firsthand would be great. Dublin seems to be the heart of it all and that is where I want to be. Walk the streets of Dublin and see all of the architecture and poke into museums to see history and art. A lot of people visit Dublin to drink but, as I have said, I don’t really do that.

4. Rome

Again, the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to Roman art and history. There are so many museums and landmarks in Rome that I could spend months there and not be finished exploring. The whole city is just chock full of history that I have been into since I was a preteen. The legendary pantheon of Rome and Greece is something that always comes back into my mind and imagination. I would love to see artifacts in person and in the intended context. I am somewhat interested in structures of the Catholic Church as a lot of it is quite beautiful. However, I would not go to Vatican City because I disagree with their authority and their hold on the world.

3. New Orleans

The Big Easy is the closest thing that the US has to a mythical city, a legendary place where the legends are true. I just want to soak up the culture and history and just be there. Also, I am a fan of the hotter jazz that comes out of New Orleans and I would love to sit and write at some clubs and listen to music. I do not like parties but I would kind of be interested in attending the greatest party in the USA and perhaps the world.

2. Los Angeles

One word: Hollywood. Since I saw my first movie, I was obsessed with visiting Hollywood and seeing as much as I can. I would take every backlot tour that I could. I would visit filming locations and get into as much as possible. Hollywood is just somewhere I want to be. Also, just outside is Disneyland. While I have been to Disney World, I have never been to the original and that is something I would love to experience. So much history started at Disneyland and Disney Studios. It is not possible but I would also love to visit the Magic Castle which is open only to those who are invited and really only to magicians.

1. Tokyo

Japan is just so different from the country that I have grown up in that I want to explore the culture and atmosphere. I consume anime, manga, martial arts films, pro-wrestling, and so much of Japanese culture that I would love to see it for myself. Tokyo is supposed to be an absolutely amazing place. I would love to visit Korakuen Hall, where so many great matches have occurred. The ancient temples and castles are there to be explored. Finally, there are two Disney parks there (Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea). Both of them were created in conjunction with local creative teams to make something that works for tourists and Japanese citizens. Tokyo DisneySea is supposed to be the greatest Disney park in the world.

Media Update 2/27/20

February 27, 2020


Jojo Rabbit

Thor Ragnarok made me absolutely fall in love with Taika Waititi’s style and each thing I see after has cemented my fandom of him. I love his sense of humor that blends so well with really deep thoughts. When I found out that he was planning a movie where a young Hitler youth has Hitler himself as his imaginary friend, I was immediately all in. I knew right away that Waititi would not engage in simple shock humor or milk the gag inappropriately. I was correct. This movie is indeed about a young boy who gets sucked up into the Nazi movement (all his friends are doing it!) during the tail end of Germany’s involvement in World War 2. Roman Griffin Davis is so great as the impressionable yet curious little boy, JoJo. Scarlett Johansen puts forward probably the best performance I have ever seen as Jojo’s hard-working and idealistic mother. Thomasin McKenzie is great as the soft-spoken yet dominant young girl that challenges Jojo. Sam Rockwell is great as a screwup Nazi officer who just seems to be a dumb jock with a secret. Of course, Taika Waititi is excellent as the zany imaginary Adolf, a cross between a wild faery and Hitler himself. The movie is a great story about growing up, learning that the people around you don’t know everything and that you should not follow the crowd. I definitely recommend it.


Frozen 2

The first Frozen was such a revelation of a movie for Disney. Along with Tangled, it really reinvigorated the animation studio and brought it up to the level of Pixar. It added that classic Disney flavor with the technical mastery that Pixar had. When the first trailer was released for the sequel, I was absolutely amazed. It upped the stakes and I knew that they would do great things with the established characters. This movie revisits the memorable characters but dives deeper, letting us know even more about these characters. Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell are so good as Elsa and Anna that I would watch a hundred movies with them in it together. Anna and Elsa are such good characters. Additionally, we get to go deeper with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and Olaf (Josh Gad). They did not get much depth in the first movie but here they get their moments to shine. Sterling K Brown, Jason Ritter, and Rachel Matthews are really good as new characters. This is another franchise that I am absolutely happy if it ends here but I would also love to see what happens next. They opened up so much more of the world that I am fiercely curious to know more and see more. Besides, the new movie had some really great new songs. Into the Unknown is a complete banger of a song that I have been humming for days. I really recommend this one.


Wrinkles the Clown

When I heard about this movie, I thought it was just another documentary about the clown phenomenon from a few years ago. In reality, it is a surprisingly deep look at so much more than that. Primarily, the documentary is about the legend of Wrinkles the Clown. Wrinkles is a creepy old clown who hires himself out to adults to scare their kids straight. Through viral marketing tactics and the power of modern folklore, he was able to create a legend. Kids began to buy into the legend and it became a YouTube thing and then it took off. Then people started to get inspired and the famous clown sightings across the country began. People took it too far but by then it was out of everybody’s control. The documentary covers so much. It covers the legend itself, a crazy story that built over time. It interviews modern folklorists about the spread of new legends (like Charlie Charlie, Bloody Mary, Momo, etc.) It explores how something goes viral. It explores child psychology and how trading physical punishment for severe psychological torture is not the answer. I was expecting there to be more of a horror element but it actually ended up being a fairly wholesome documentary. A lot of the people involved are dreamers and it was actually a bit inspiring. I recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Orville Peck – Queen of the Rodeo

David Bowie – Helden

Rita Ora – Only Want You

Crazy Lixx – “Wild Child

Blanco Brown – The Git Up

Weekly Update
– This week’s theme is “Childhood Trauma”
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 9
– I watched more VODs of AGDQ 2019/2020 and SGDQ 2019
– I watched more Stumptown Season 1
– I watched more Prodigal Son Season 1
– I watched more Bates Motel Season 1
– I watched more Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 3
– I watched more Penn and Teller’s Bullshit Season 1
– I watched more Rizzoli and Isles Season 1
– I watched more Elementary Season 1
– I watched more What We Do In the Shadows Season 1
– I watched more The Witcher Season 1
– I watched more Locke and Key Season 1
– I finished October Faction Season 1

Media Update 2/20/20

February 20, 2020


Locke & Key

Unfortunately, I never read the comics but I have heard they are excellent and now I definitely want to. This show is so good. It is one part mystery, one part horror, one part fantasy, one part drama, and one part comedy. It blends so many genres together into a really interesting show that ends up being a roller coaster of emotions each episode. I also really like the magic of the world that they built. It feels a bit like a story I worked on years ago called The Key (total coincidence) that I faltered on. It follows a family after a tragedy, trying to put their lives back together in their ancestral home. That is when they stumble upon the supernatural and must make sense of a whole new world. The kids are played by Connor Jessup, Emilia Jones, and Jackson Robert Scott and they are instantly likable and I want to know them better and follow their stories. Darby Stanchfield plays the mother and she is just trying to keep it all together. Laysla De Oliveira plays a delightfully fun and snarky villain. I am only a little ways in and I am absolutely hooked. I definitely recommend this show.


Toy Story 4

I was surprised when I woke up on a Monday and heard that this movie had won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. However, now that I have actually watched it, I can see it. Somehow, this franchise actually gets better and better. The previous films’ enormous, all-star voice cast returns and they are all so good. We also get some awesome new additions like Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, and the return of Annie Potts. Tony Hale’s character (Forky) who you may have seen in advertisements seemed like a weird joke but he adds so much life and depth to the movie that I kind of wish he had shown up earlier. Christina Hendricks plays such a good villain and, in the Toy Story tradition, she is not just a blackhearted villain. The movie has such heart and explores even deeper implications to the Toy Story universe. It is such a great way to cap off the franchise if they want to but it also a really good new beginning should they wish to continue. Either way, I feel like I will be content. I definitely recommend this movie.


The Blackcoat’s Daughter

This will be the fifth A24-distributed horror movie that I have seen and I have loved every single one. (Green Room, The Witch, Life After Beth, Hereditary, and this one). Also, fittingly this movie takes place in February. However, the reason why I chose to watch it was Kiernan Shipka who I have grown to love as an actress. The movie is deeply atmospheric and oozing with creepiness. If I had known about this movie, I would have been sure that Shipka could exist in a horror setting before Sabrina premiered. She is so good in this, a quiet but dominating presence. Lucy Boynton is such a delicate flower that I worried for her the whole movie. Emma Roberts is absolutely sinister. James Remar is so kind and peaceful. Lauren Holly is so lost. The movie kind of plays as a mystery. I was so lost through probably the first half until I started to realize what was happening. A24 has such a good ability to pick and distribute atmospheric, slow-burning horror movies that just apply pressure the entire runtime. Director and writer Osgood Perkins did a really good job and it definitely makes me want to see some more of his work. I recommend this movie but it is not for the faint of heart.

Music of the Week:
TOKiMONSTA – Fried for the Night

Elvis Perkins – In the Garden

Squarepusher – Terminal Slam

Beach Bunny – Painkiller

Audrey – Comic Sans

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Left Behind”
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 9
– I watched more VODs of AGDQ 2020
– I watched more Stumptown Season 1
– I watched more Prodigal Son Season 1
– I watched more The Chilling Tales of Sabrina Season 2
– I watched more Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 3
– I watched more Penn and Teller’s Bullshit Season 1
– I watched more Rizzoli and Isles Season 1
– I watched more Elementary Season 1
– I watched more What We Do In the Shadows Season 1

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.


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