Friday, December 10, 2010

I want "TRON," dammit!

As many of you know, "TRON: Legacy" is slated to hit theatres next week. That's pretty damn soon. I haven't seen the original in 5 or so years, and (like many of you, I'm sure) I know some folks who are interested in the sequel but haven't seen the original yet. So two days ago, I saunter into my local Best Buy and try to find it. Nothing. This is odd, because I swear I saw copies of it six months ago for ten bucks on the shelves. I try searching for it on their computer: still nothing. The next day, at FYE, I try the same thing, to no avail. I figure, "Whatever, I'm sure it's because all the other "TRON"-lovers and newcomers caught in the hype are buying all the available copies." So I go to Amazon, and fond that a used copy of the movie costs $65. SIXTY-FIVE DOLLARS. "Holy shit," I think to myself. New copies? In the hundreds. What is the deal?

I go to some other retailers and find similar results. The quoted price on Barnes & Nobles' page was $200 (though I thought that was normal for them). So finally, I go to and try finding "TRON". I click the "Buy" link, and am promptly taken back to their main page. This sucks. What the hell happened here?

I start to scour the brain-trust of the internet and find several possible explanations, most of which are based thoroughly in conspiracy theory. They report the same things I've found: high prices online, out of stock everywhere, Netflix doesn't have it, etc. Some have claimed that Disney is withholding the DVD/Blu-Ray for a 2011 release, which makes no sense at all. It's studio nature - nay, policy - to "double dip" a DVD and/or release a Blu-Ray in sync with the sequel/prequel/whatever to that film's theatrical release. So why wait until next year to do it? According to Blue Sky Disney, "Word has it that earlier this summer the original Tron was screened at one of the theme parks and was laughed at by people who had not seen the original film and mocked it for its now-outdated effects and silly attire of leotards and hockey helmets parodied by the infamous 'Tron Guy.' Rumor has it that some Disney execs witnessed their reactions and it made them very, very nervous."

So wait a fucking second: The same company* that decided to bring back "Captain EO" for an extended run in several theme parks doesn't want to put out something that looks dated and slightly corny? I know, I know, Disney's only reason to re-release "TRON" would be to generate more advance hype for the sequel, whereas re-releasing "Captain EO" did nothing (except cash in on someone's death), but seriously. I think the "TRON" marketing machine is past having to worry about crossing the decency line.

I don't really see any reason for Disney to be nervous or worried about how the original film is going to affect ticket sales of the sequel. You've done a fine job promoting the living hell out of "Legacy", and I'm pretty sure anyone unfamiliar with the film's predecessor who planned on seeing it won't have their minds changed this late, or - better yet - won't be turned off by watching the original.

I have doubts that the situation is as dramatic as some people are trying to make it, turning Disney into an Alan Moore-esque government trying to hide the fact that "TRON" ever existed. But keeping it completely off of shelves this close to the sequel's release is, no matter what the reason, a really dumb move. It's an amazing movie, and I would really like to watch it again.

So please, Disney: fucking give us "TRON" back.

*I know, Disney Parks and Disney Home Entertainment are two totally different divisions/entities. But you'd imagine there'd be some sort of cohesion here, right? ....Right?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Things I Love: Illuminations

Every once in a while, it's important to stop being such a cynical ass and take note of the things that still draws me to Disney World year after year. Here's one of the things I love.

It all starts with a drum roll. Not a lame, "snare-drum" roll like what you would hear as the 20th Century Fox logo appears, but an actually powerful, intimidating, pounding of drums. It's almost tribal in it's presentation, yet there's more to it than that. If anything, it's the opening to mankind itself; the savage, exploding drums that signify the chaotic beginning to Earth itself. By the time any comfort sets in towards the echoing beat, a screaming fleet of sparks flow through the sky, and touch down as our story begins.

Not too many night-time shows have stories, but many at Disney parks surprisingly (or, to some, not surprisingly) do. These stories can range from a classic tale of good versus evil, to a more pleasant yarn about fantasies and dreams. Since I first saw it in 2000, "Illuminations: Reflections of Earth" has been the single most powerful nightime show seen in Disney World - not just for it's ability to draw enormous crowds night after night who are as instantly sucked in as you are, but for it's amazing simplicity, special effects, and the grand story it tells by merely using fireworks, music, and a globe.

Image from

The show can have many interpretations, but the one I love is the idea that the entire show represents the journey of human life on Earth. Once those pounding drums commence, signifying the cataclysmic "bang" of our planet's - and humankind's - beginnings, it's a thrilling ten-minute journey through the joys of birth, the love of life, the sorrow of loss, and the will to move on. The tempo and mood of the music reflects this journey in an epic and satisfying way.

I love the music here. Love, love love it. The first time I saw the soundtrack in a gift shop in World Showcase, I picked up a copy and listened to it for ages. To me, it meant so much - and has stuck with me to this day (even as I type this, the music is in my head). If I were to rank my favorite scores from any WDW show out there, this one would be in my all-time top 3. That's how amazing it is in my eyes.

I've never been a big fireworks person, but the way in which the pyrotechnics match so well with the music gives me chills every time I see it. Honest-to-God goosebumps. It's done so perfectly - most especially toward the end, during "We Go On", with the sounds of every instrument playing together in the climactic finale, all in perfect synchronization with what seems like hundreds of lights shooting into the sky and falling to the ground. It's absolutely jaw-dropping.

Effects - wise, the reveal of the giant LCD globe on the water is also incredibly impressive, more so when it opens to reveal the flame (that could represent so much, from the un-extinguishable unity we share to the idea that we must do our part to keep the flame burning forever) in the center.

Never has such a torrent of varying emotions been experienced during one, single nigh-time show. "Illuminations: Reflections of Earth" represents everything EPCOT stands for, and everything we should take from it. To simply call it a "fireworks show" is a tremendous injustice; this is so much more. It's a journey of our shared existence on this Earth and the joys we all can celebrate as one.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You Can Help Change This Site!

Here's the deal --

I want to change the URL of this site from "projectx-anonymouse-toomanyletters.blahblah.blah" to something a little more.....calm. Something that's easy to remember, and simpler. I could use just "Project X" or "Anonymouse", but here's the deal:

"" is a now-defunct blog that was last updated on May 23, 2001. That means if you went back in time to this blog posting, 9/11 wouldn't have happened yet and Mickey Rooney would only be 102. The site was intended to be some sort of secret-special gamer convention news-site thing, and it looks like that worked out really well.

"" is a blog titled "Anonymouse E" run by someone named Emily, who didn't understand the point of remaining anonymous on a blog. The blog has no posts, although "E" also contributed to a blog titled "Diary of a gay boy...," which hasn't been updated since August 14, 2002. If my girlfriend had any say, I could probably make that my blog title.

My options are limited, unless I wanted to make my URL something totally vague and weird-sounding, like "oddsandends" or "deepfriedquixote". So I ask you, team: what should my new URL be? What would roll off the tongue in an easier, more palatable way than ""? Leave your suggestions in the comments, and the winner gets a free coffee mug, or something. I don't know.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Oh, Jesus Christ

Every year (what feels like every 6 weeks) Disney rolls out some harebrained scheme to get more people to go to the parks, and usually they're nothing short of "meh." The harebrained schemes are underwhelming, as if Disney Parks was some kooky sitcom uncle who, in every episode, gets a new idea for a get-rich-quick outfit, and the next 22 minutes are watching nothing but HIJINX. Except here, 22 minutes is about 12 months, and HIJINX are just people face-palming. A few days ago, Disney Parks invited a small group of people (Russian drug czars, I'm told) to New York so they could sit and watch Tom Bergeron - host of "America's Funniest Videos of People Getting Hit in the Balls" - make unfunny jokes about things that have nothing to do with Disney Parks. Speculation was rampant (they were liveblogging the thing, for Christ's sake!), with many people assuming big changes were underway for the parks. Instead, Disney laid down the groundwork for another year of gimmicky bullshit.

The "Let the Memories Begin" campaign is centered around the world's ever-growing need to have literally EVERYTHING shared globally, be it a video of your son's first words, or a picture of a dead hooker new puppy you just adopted. What Disney wants is for you to submit "pictures or videos of never-to-be-forgotten experiences" at the parks, which you can upload to an officially-official website. Then, starting in 2011, Disney will begin taking those pictures and videos and projecting them on Cinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom, or the "it's a small world" building in Anaheim. Sound cute? Maybe if it's your pictures. But let's review the concept here:

-Disney will be projecting images all over iconic, beautiful pieces of Disney history. Some of it looks cool (as you can see), but imagine the first time you ever saw Cinderella Castle lit up at night. Many, many people won't get to experience that feeling because the castle will be almost completely covered up by distracting animations and pictures, like a giant screensaver. Hopefully, TDO will find a way to make it more of a complement than a distraction, but fingers are merely crossed at this point.

-Disney is going to use your face to promote their parks. If you don't have a problem with that, then fine. It's wholly possible that in the coming months, Disney will start putting your family in commercials for Disney World, and to some folks that's slightly overstepping boundaries. Now I know, if you go out of your way to put your pictures/video on this website, you should be willing to accept any usage Disney wants to get out of it. Once you put it on the internet, it's out there forever. Fine. Whatever. Again, some people may be cool with that. Some people may LOVE that. But I'm more interested in other people - bringing me to point 3...

-Who fucking cares about other people's vacations? Honestly? I think about this from my perspective: Let's say I don't want to put my face or pictures or whatever on this website (I really don't), and I go to Magic Kingdom one day (I hope to soon!). I have no interest in seeing other people's mugs plastered all over Cinderella's Castle. I just don't give a fuck. Also, say I DID post a picture of myself to the website, and it was placed on the Castle. Disney has claimed that somewhere around 5000 pictures will be shown daily as part of the campaign - who says they'll all be decently-sized, or projected for a long enough amount of time to appreciate it? No matter what, it's just dumb to think that the vast majority of people will care about other people's memories. I know it sounds vaguely narcissistic, but it's sadly true. I'm assuming a lot of people will either not care about this or simply bypass the photographers that already routinely hound you when you enter the parks, and it's pretty safe to say those chosen folks won't give a rat's ass about some other family's time on Splash Mountain.

"But wait," you may say, "aren't those the same people who look at videos on YouTube all the time of other people's lives? Isn't that a bit backwards?" Not especially, since those videos and images aren't mundane activities the viewers themselves live everyday. Not everyone routinely feeds carrots to baby hedgehogs or gets hit by a car whilst dancing (although if you did, you live an extraordinary life). No one cares about videos of regular people doing the same shit as them. So, then, why should they care about videos or pictures of people doing things they have done that day/ will do the following day?

Oh, Team Disney Orlando, will you EVER learn, you mischievous scamps?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fuffy the Disney Dog to Appear at EPCOT!

I never feel more old than when a new cultural phenomenon sweeps a country and I have to Google it to find out what it is. It's been happening a lot lately; Disney seems to cash in on a hot new thing once every week these days. I don't usually give a shit, though, because most of these things are either super-terrible or super-terrible. Imagine my utter chagrin, then, when I should find out that various Disney theme parks are getting a new walk-around character - "Duffy the Disney Bear." My first thought upon seeing any of these headlines was, "Meh." But that casual indifference slowly evolved into annoyance that I was seeing so much about this damned bear, until all thoughts toward the matter culminated with the shrill shriek of a harpy, screaming, "What the fuck is a Duffy the Disney Bear?" I turned to an old friend - one who knows far more than I ever will - and asked him to put an end to this miserable confusion. "Tell me, Google!" Google turned to me, glass of brandy in one hand, pipe in the other, and smiled. "Dear boy, he's a GOD." My attention was directed to 322,000 results for my query, and I was lucky enough to see that the second one had an answer for me. According to an article in The Orlando Sentinel:

As the story goes, Duffy was made for Mickey Mouse by Minnie Mouse so he wouldn’t be lonely when he set sail on a long sea voyage. Mickey carried the special teddy bear in his duffel bag, which inspired his name. The pair had great adventures and made many wonderful memories on their trip around the world. Duffy is already hugely popular at Tokyo DisneySea, and he’ll arrive at Epcot and Disney California Adventure on Oct. 14 during grand opening ceremonies.

So Duffy The Disney Bear (aptly named because of Mickey's propensity to leave cherished items of goodwill from loved ones in duffel bags) is a smash hit in Tokyo, where people apparently die at his adorable, cotton-stitched feet. It should only make sense that Gym Baggy come stateside this October, presumably only for a few months, seeing as how Mickey's on R&R from doing service, and God knows he has recurring nightmares about killing all those people, which would explain why we may eventually see a lot less Mickey, and a lot more Sacky.

Why should this matter? Why should we care? Because while CERTAIN buildings in EPCOT remain unused due to (presumably) financial reasons, Disney is bringing in a totally unrecognizable face into the parks, spending money on marketing this adorable plush teddy bear in a Stay-Puft outfit to our youth. Get ready, folks - Nuffy the Disney Something-or-other is coming!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

CONFIRMED: Kodak Leaving Imagination Pavilion

So for the last few weeks, filthy little rumor-bugs have been flying around, getting caught in the teeth of the collective subconscious of the Disney message-board community. "Shoo!" they said. "Bah!" The rumors were concerning some recent activity at EPCOT's "Imagination!" pavilion. WDWMagic had reported that Kodak - who has been a sponsor since the pavilion opened in 1982 - had lost some (most?) of their signage around the pavilion, and recently the "Journey Into Your Imagination" post-show (known as the Kodak "What If?" Labs) has seen walls go up, covering most of the area. Similarly, the pavilion's spot on park guidemaps has lost the sponsor's logo. For many, many people - myself included - this was a sure sign that the sponsorship had ended. With no official confirmation from either party (any official word was missing citation), it was hard to postulate what the future held for the pavilion. I wanted to get some confirmation from SOMEONE, so I set out over the last three days in an attempt to get word.

I contacted several folks who work at Kodak, and was met by either answering machines or promises of getting a return call. I finally was able to get in contact with David Lanzillo, Director of Corporate Communications at Eastman Kodak, and asked if the sponsorship was still happening. He promised to see if he could find out, and promptly called me back not too long after. He told me that although he "couldn't get a 100 percent confirmation" from a few people at Kodak who could give a simple "yes" or "no" due to their being on vacation, he was able to confirm from "several emails sent throughout the company that sponsorship of the 'Imagination!' pavilion ended at the end of June." I asked him if there was any chance of that sponsorship being renewed, and I was met with a rather fast "No." Lanzillo did ask that I point out that although he couldn't get in touch with his colleagues, he did urgently request they get in contact with him no matter what concerning the situation.
Now, this brings up several points concerning the future of Future World (and Disney World as a whole). Now that Kodak is out as a sponsor of Imagination!, there are several possible outcomes for this beloved building - some good, some TERRIBLE. Let's take a look:

Outcome #1: A new sponsor takes up Kodak's reigns and leaves the building alone, making sure the building stays well-maintained.

Outcome #2: Nothing happens; Disney keeps the building maintained on its own, a la "Horizons" (although that didn't end too well). Outcome #1 can still happen down the road.

Outcome #3: New sponsor joins, and revamps/redesigns the show building. This can be an overhaul of "JII", the Magic Eye Theatre, or both. This outcome has 2 branching outcomes, seeing as how a sponsor redesigning the show buildings can either keep the same general theme (with Figment), or completely change everything.

Outcome #4: Disney pulls a "Wonders of Life"; puts the building into seasonal mode until it's used primarily for Events.

Now, outcome #4 is highly unlikely right now, seeing that "Captain EO" has just returned to the Magic Eye Theatre, but it is still possible. Speaking to #3, though? Several people on Disney message boards have expressed their wishes for any new sponsorship to leave Figment in the pavilion, and not turn it into a coaster or a churro stand. A few people have responded to these claims, and it's easy to agree with them: An attraction like "JII" doesn't pull in any crowds at all. To be honest, I don't think I've ever seen a line there that went past the loading area, at least not for a few years. So why would a company invest so much money into something that so few people will see? It would, sadly, make a lot of sense for the next company to take up sponsorship at "Imagination!" (if anyone) to turn some part of the pavilion into an E-Ticket attraction. That way, pouring all kinds of money into the pavilion would be somewhat justified.

Now, when it comes to Kodak's sponsorship of the resort as a whole (and it's hard to turn anywhere in WDW without seeing a plug for Kodak), it gets tricky. Is this the end of Kodak as a major sponsor at Disney World as a whole? It's hard to say, and I didn't ask (because I'm a genius). However, in my search for someone to give me official word on Kodak's deal with "Imagination!", I did speak to a gentleman at the Kodak Corporate Line (800-698-3324), who told me after putting me on hold that "Kodak was not accepting requests for or beginning any sponsorships for the rest of the year." When I asked him if this was for financial reasons, or if this was a permanent situation, he simply told me he didn't have access to specifics at the time. So take that however you want - either Kodak is slowly putting brakes on sponsorship deals for the time being, or they're completely pulling out altogether. Either way, it's going to be an interesting few months ahead...

Mr. Lanzillo contacted me again this morning to give me final confirmation that "Yes, Kodak is no longer a sponsor of the 'Imagination!' pavilion at Epcot, and that relationship ended at the end of June. However, we continue to have a relationship with Disney and we're investigating other ways in which to collaborate; we've had a long-term relationship with them, its been a successful partnership, and we continue to look at other ways to collaborate with them." Thanks to Mr. Lanzillo for following up; still not sure what this means for other sponsorships at the Resort, but this is better than nothing.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Problem With Plot Part 2 (or, How I Couldn't Come Up With A Clever Title)

In the last entry, I skimmed upon the topic of plot in Disney attractions. The most important aspect of immersion is what story you have to tell; obviously no one wants to ride a roller coaster based on "Barton Fink". When Disneyland first opened, the rides there weren't rides, they were shows. All of the standards of film making - pacing, action, plot, performances, etc. - were present in these attractions. The concept of sailing into the port of a town under siege by ruthless pirates wouldn't be as exhilarating if none of them were yelling and firing off rounds. The thing that separates Disney from any run-of-the-mill amusement park is the careful attention to detail in the plot.

One of the oldest and most important (to me) aspects of telling these tales is what you see while you're waiting for the actual thing. Most parks (Six Flags, for example) have more of a "cold-open" feel, in that you wait in a line that literally tells you nothing about the experience to come. Contrarily, Disney (among other parks) has a highly detailed pre-show area for nearly every attraction. The queue area is what hooks the audience, immersing them in the world they've just entered. One of the best examples of a pre-show area is "Pirates of the Caribbean". The highly detailed walk through a Spanish prison heightens a mood of foreboding, especially evident through the lighting and sound effects in the distance.

Jumping ahead into the 80's, attractions like "Star Tours" and "Big Thunder Mountain" carry on this tradition, with the former giving a brief video presentation toward the start of the ride. The queue for "Star Tours" is a wet dream for any fan of the series, and it's here where the careful attention to detail and mood make the experience much more memorable. Everything, from the crates passing overhead to the subtle silhouettes flashing on the window, is done to make you genuinely feel like you're no longer in an everyday theme park. "Big Thunder", like "Pirates" or "The Haunted Mansion", utilizes a much subtler method, allowing the guest to discover plot points on their own (while the stretching elevator in "Haunted Mansion" is a little more straightforward, there is much more story to be found in the setpieces themselves).

The 90's brought two of the most popular attractions at Disney World, with some of the most memorable pre-show elements. "Splash Mountain" recreated the home of Br'er Rabbit, tucking away special elements in a fashion that suggests that the designers wanted people to find them, not have them shoved in their face. "Tower of Terror" recreates the lobby/boiler room of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, and even goes so far as to creating a dead-on "Twilight Zone" opener. This show is where a visitor can find some of the greatest executions of atmosphere in a theme park. From the cobwebs on the suitcases to the appropriate look of the freight elevators, you can tell a lot of research and hard work went into this area - and it pays off.

So what's the state of the pre-show now? Let's look at a more recent addition to EPCOT, "Mission: SPACE".

As you can tell from these images (courtesy of, everything here seems a little.... big. And by "big", I mean "fucking huge". There isn't much subtelty here, is there? Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the queue, but it seems like there's a distinct lack of small detail present. Even the clever reference to "Horizons" seems to be up in your face, like it was put there for a 6-year-old to find. The problem is a 6-year-old will have no idea what that means. Also, there are FAR too many pre-shows here. We have the outer area, then the 1st waiting area (with the gravity wheel), then the area where you're waiting to be put in the next waiting area (where you see Mission Control -- the only part of the queue with any sort of nuance), then the area where they show the pre-show film, and then the area where you wait to get in the vehicle itself. That's four separate queue areas. Then we have the post-show, but I'll get to that in a minute.

Another attraction, "Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin" (which, by the way, just recently celebrated eleven years of operation -- eleven!), doesn't give you much to look at while you wait. The atmosphere itself is fairly cold and dark, and it seems as though most of the attention was spent on the giant animatronic Buzz figure standing in your way, spouting 3 different sentences every two minutes.

While the "'Mission: SPACE' Rule of Making Your Pre-Show Huge" effect is indeed becoming more evident, it isn't necessarily a bad thing. Shows like "Midway Mania" certainly make it work; you are a toy's size, after all. There's also no shortage of eye candy to look at while you're in the (never-ending) line.

Subtlety isn't dead, however. There are some shows that effectively allow you to draw your own conclusions about the story. A prime example is "Expedition: Everest", where the pre-show is a carefully detailed replica of a small Asian town, complete with a Yeti Museum. The attention to detail here is almost unparalleled; while you wait in line, you're free to draw your own conclusions as to what this journey is, why you're here, and what could possibly be so bad about the Forbidden Mountain's "guardian". The queue alone makes this worth riding more than once.

Alongside the pre-show element of storytelling, there's also the way the show wraps itself up. Traditionally, the story ends on the actual ride portion, and you're whisked into a gift shop where you can see your onboard photo. There are some attractions that try to add in a little more to that experience, through the post-show. The earliest post-show is found in "The Haunted Mansion", where - after you've walked outside - you can still find visual clues concerning the story of Master Gracey and his lovely ladies. Similarly, there are more tidbits of story exposed after riders disembark on "Dinosaur" (was the Iguanadon in the car with us?), as well as "Mickey's PhilharMagic", and " MuppetVision 3D". Some preshows, however, are a little lazy - or worse, corporate shills. Take "Mission: SPACE", for instance. When you leave your X2 simulator, after a harrowing landing on the surface of Mars, you are given the most underwhelming and anticlimactic post-show imaginable. A solid-white hallway that sometimes never ends (depending on which pod you were in). Add to this a song that sounds suspiciously like something you'd hear over the end credits of "Con Air", and you have the post-show's beginning.

Sound interesting? No? Well, wait 'til you see where the hallway leads! After walking for several minutes (hours?), you are launched into what can easily be perceived as the arcade that the Foot Clan owned in the first "Ninja Turtles" film. There's a giant screen with a group of tourists playing against each other something, and various other pointless space-themed junk. Guess who has their branding slapped all over it? HP!

We also have the post-show to "Test Track", which is like being dropped into the set of a Michael Bay movie. General Motors owns this area, which serves as a show floor for cars we'll either a)never be able to own, or b)never see on the market. More corporate whoring! At least that dreaded OnStar "Dream Chasers" shit isn't there anymore...

I understand that companies put a lot of money into these attractions, and expect to have some sort of profit returned through advertising. However, that doesn't mean that all originality and creativity can be stripped when creating these areas. It not only looks tacky, but it completely shatters the illusion that people have painstakingly worked on to create.

Some may perceive the lack of creativity in pre-shows for more current attractions as a sign that the company is losing faith in their ability to tell stories through these shows, but as long as we have the likes of "Expedition: Everest", maybe we can see that as a sign of pre-shows shifting back into the more detail-driven waiting areas we had years back.

What are your thoughts, humble readers? Do you have a favorite or despised pre-show?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Problem With Plot

One of the things I love most about Disney parks is the fact that elaborate stories are always present in one way or another. Almost everything in the parks has a back story, no matter how much visitors know about the source material. However, in the last few years, story has slowly taken a backseat to interesting and cutting-edge effects, as well as keeping the attention of the audience. Where there used to be attractions with fantastic subplots and enough background story to fill multiple attractions, there are now many elements of the parks that have visitors scratching their heads, wondering just what the fuck happened.

Let's take a brief look at the show I always pick on, "Stitch's Great Escape", which I consider to have some of the worst and laziest show writing in the history of Disney parks. The plot to Flight to the Moon/Mission to Mars was simple: You were going from Earth into outer space. The plot to "Alien Encounter" was a little more complex, but still simple: You were viewing a demonstration of XS-Tech's technology in a live, intergalactic demo. Now, let's get to the "Escape". Where, exactly, are we? Are we in space or on Earth? We must STILL be on Earth, since the show doesn't tell you at any point that you've somehow traversed the galaxy by walking into the preshow lobby. Why does Stitch (who calls himself "Stitch", despite the fact that this is a prequel to the film) go to Florida, if that's where we already are? Surely you can't claim that suspension of disbelief is called for, since Disney World plainly exists - Stitch either goes into Cinderella's Castle or on the Astro Orbiter. Also, since we're recruits for the security program, why are we strapped down for the entirety of the show? What kind of prison keeps the guards locked in their seat while the prisoner is in the room with them?


I get tired of talking about that fucking show so much. Let's try another one.

-One of the things that's always confused me about Mission: SPACE is where, exactly, we are. We're on Earth at the beginning, and I'm pretty sure this is a flight-training program, isn't it? So why are we on Mars at the end? Lieutenant Dan very plainly says "welcome to Mars", right? What the hell is going on?

-DINOSAUR has visitors going back in time to save an Iguanadon from extinction, for....what reason? The character of Seeker tells us that the specific Iguanadon we are to save (he marked it with a tracker, which makes you wonder why he couldn't get it himself) holds "the key to understanding these magnificent creatures." ....What? Wait, huh? Why that one, specifically? Also, I assume that the time travel would have been tested before they allow us to ride, so couldn't this have been done several times in the past? Also, why did we go back to the point in time where the asteroids were literally hitting the planet? Despite the fact that I love this attraction, it still makes no sense.

...The list goes on. Many would complain that these plot problems are easily forgivable, considering that these are theme parks. But just as people pay money to see a film with a coherent plot, some people (like me) enjoy getting the same out of these attractions.

There's an infinite amount of story floating around Disney World, and some of it isn't even told. Take this story found on Wikipedia (but paraphrasing a story told in the Hyperion book "Walt Disney Imagineering") about Blizzard Beach, for example:

"The theme of the park is the "Disney legend" of a freak snowstorm in the area, leading to the construction of Florida's first ski resort. Naturally, the snow didn't last long, leaving behind a collection of waterlogged but snow-less ski jumps and chair lifts. The failed resort was in the process of closing for good when an alligator was seen sliding down a flume and splashing into a pool of water, screaming "Yahoo!" Thus the "ski resort" was reborn as a water park, with the alligator (named "Ice Gator") as mascot."

No one really HAS to know that information, but the Imagineers cooked it up, anyway, just in case people were curious about why there's a blizzard-themed water park in central Florida. The same goes for "Big Thunder Mountain" (from the same source, though this excerpt is missing a bit of story told in the book):

"Some time in the late 1800s, gold was discovered on Big Thunder Mountain in the American Southwest. Overnight, the small mining town [of Tumbleweed] became thriving mining towns. Mining was prosperous and an extensive line of mine trains were set up to transport the ore. Unbeknownst to the settlers, the Mountain was a sacred spot to local Native Americans and was cursed. Before long, the settlers' desecration of the mountain caused...a flash flood, which befell the mines and town and they were abandoned. Some time later, the locomotives were found to be racing around the mountain on their own, without engineers or a crew. The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was founded in the old mining camp to allow tourists to take rides on the possessed trains."

There's no big video that tells you this. There isn't a narration, or anything of the sort. It's just backstory created for the purpose of good storytelling.

While some of the attractions made currently have interesting and creative storylines (I've always thought the Laugh Floor Comedy Club did an ok job with the story), attractions today seem to either eschew plot or throw it together as quickly as possible.

Next time, I'll talk about the art of pre-shows and post-shows, and where they are now. Until next time...

Friday, January 1, 2010

Analysis: "The Princess and the Frog"

Welcome to 2010, everyone! Hello, new and exciting clean slates! So long, trashy "aughts" sunglasses!

Whatever shall we do without them?

So, I promised a review of "A Christmas Carol" a few weeks back, and didn't come through with it, mainly because I didn't have much to say about it other than what'd already been said. I personally didn't like any aspect of it, most especially the motion-capture that makes the film look like a PS3 game.

Anyway, I got to thinking about the fact that I really don't have much to say when it comes to writing critiques like these, because I find that 90 percent of the time what I have to say has been said a million times over. However, "The Princess and the Frog" is a very special film - finally, a break from CGI and 3D! - so I'll try my best to be as original as possible in this piece. Also, I'm going to be speaking under the assumption that all reading have seen the film, so...


So let me just say this - I truly loved it. It's one of the better animated films Disney's released in the past decade (that's right, "Treasure Planet"), and I'm glad it's had the success it's had so far. Also, praise to Jennifer Cody ("Lottie"), who pretty much knocked it out of the park. It's also rare that you have a character like that and NOT have her be a bitch. Just sayin'. Also, I loved the animation. It was absolutely beautiful, especially the "Almost There" sequence. Now that that's out of the way...

1) The film didn't necessarily have any strong emotional ties for me. I didn't really care all too much about any of the characters or their motives. At least in the films of the "Disney Renaissance", I cared about the outcome. Here, I wasn't necessarily aware of the risks. Granted, the characters were likable, but I wasn't too interested in the character arc of Ray the Firefly. I felt no major emotional investment.

2) The film follows too closely to the aforementioned predecessors. There's the recurring theme of the child trying to live up to the expectations of the parent (Ariel and Triton, Belle and Maurice, Simba and Mufasa, Pocahontas Powhatan, Mulan and Fa Zhou, etc.). There's the outspoken young woman who doesn't know the true meaning of ____ until ____. It's all predictable to a degree - which isn't so bad - but despite the mimicking of those great 90's films, it doesn't bring anything new to the table.

3) The side characters were, while funny, almost pointless. Louis the alligator feels too tacked-on, and doesn't really progress the story. At least Ray got them to Mama Odie; Ray couldn't even do that. If the character didn't exist, the film would only have lost some comical moments. Nothing else. Also, I can't see either of those characters being too popular for years to come. This isn't necessarily that important to the overall enjoyment of the film, but it seems like the folks behind it intentionally added characters just for this purpose.

4) The villain was too unoriginal for my tastes. While Keith David did a fantastic job voicing him - and sounded like he had a lot of fun doing it - the character seemed to me to be too much of an amalgamation of other Disney villains. If Jafar and Hades had a black child, this would be the outcome. Even his demise was too similar to that of the "Hercules" heavy. I feel like his motivations were too one-dimensional and lacked complexity.

5) There were only 1 or 2 musical numbers that I had stuck in my head after watching. The film's songs seem to never reach their full potential, almost as if they're stopped short before a big climax. While well-written, there are no show-stopping, "Hakuna Matata"-esque numbers here.

6) Finally, I couldn't really tell what the moral of the story was. Was it "Be yourself"? "See others for who they are"? Or was it "Hard work equals great reward"? There seemed to be so many here that the number of messages numbed me to their importance.

I was honestly expecting this movie to be a minor footnote in the annals of Disney animation, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this film is a genuinely sweet, heartwarming, and funny ( I don't laugh that often in the theatre, but this film had me once or twice) film that fortunately wasn't bogged down in the negative attention or the shadows of it's bigger siblings. It's not perfect, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.