September 15, 2014

Herb Ryman's Wedway PeopleMover

Imagineer Herb Ryman is best known in the "Disney World" for creating some of the most beautiful pieces of concept art. His work for Disneyland's New Orleans Square among his most loved creations. His art for EPCOT Center is just breathtaking! A quick search on this blog will reward you with some gorgeous pieces!

Herb was also known for his pen and ink sketches. Seemingly without much effort, he could turn out a concept that would surprise and delight. Look at this PeopleMover inspired art for Disneyland's 1967 Tomorrowland. It's a pretty good glimpse as to what was going to open, isn't it? If you look even closer, you'll find the artistic touch that sets his work apart from more modern day Imagineering concepts.  The PeopleMover cars themselves are emblazoned with a stylized "Wedway" on the exterior. A brilliant move that would not come to be but a lovely little touch nonetheless. 

In our current world, in this writer's opinion, Imagineers rely too heavily on their computers to generate the art used to sell or promote an idea. There are exceptions, but it is pretty rare. The human touch full of personality cannot be replaced. Furthermore, the popular trend of incorporating photographs of humans into the art is just lazy as well as ugly. It's art to depict parking lots. Oh for the days where great concepts were envisioned and great artists brought them to life!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 12, 2014

Disneyland Map Autographed by Walt Disney

 What a great find for a Disneyland fan with some cash to burn: A map signed by Walt Disney himself, circa 1963. 
The map itself holds some surprises. Ever ride the Rivers of the World Jungle Boat Cruise? Visited the Mickey Mouse Club Theater? Gone to the Upjohn Pharmacy on Main Street U.S.A.? Well, those destinations are right at your fingertips as you explore the park via this graphic map.

Long time collector and seller Phil Sears has these items and more on his website. Worth a look for some very interesting pieces of Disney memorabilia.

Frozen Is Official

Not a sole is probably surprised, but Olaf and the Frozen cast are on their way to Epcot. Yes, Maelstrom will be taken over, closing in early October.

Tom Staggs announced that the new attraction will debut in Norway,  guessing in 2016.  Did we expect less? No. Did we expect more? Absolutely. This is the new Walt Disney World: Expecting more, delivering less.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 11, 2014

Honor the Heroes of 9/11

Remember this day. Even as we find ourselves on the brink of getting involved more than some of us ever thought. And definitely more than any of us would like.

It was a day of tragedy, but also a day for heroes! When radical Islam extremists decided to attack the United States of America on September 11, 2001, we as a people rallied together afterward. It was the right way to come together, grieve together, and pray together.

Let us remember. Pray for our nation, remembering the sacrifices of those serving,  the loss of family and friends. Let us preserve our freedoms- but do it with wisdom. Let us honor those who gave their lives instead of honoring and defending those who killed others. 

Christians overseas are being slaughtered. Children, infants, women and men alike. And we stand by or so it seems. Did we not learn anything from Hitler and World War II?

What other country in the world would care about the rights of terrorists when fighting a war? We have a right to defend our people, our land, and to come together with those of other nations experiencing the violent and deadly attacks that come against them.

September 10, 2014

Blurred Vision

In 100% honesty here, I cannot see what lies ahead for me. Totally stunned by the impact losing a job has on my mindset. Some days are peaceful, others are sad or filled with the stress of not knowing what is next. At times, I find myself angry- at others, at myself, at God who did allow this. Yet, where else can I go?

Digging myself into reading the Bible, I am in the book of Isaiah (and the Old Testament in general), and I am absorbing the reflections of a prophet who had seen it all. I'm reminded unexpectedly of God's provision and His plan, even when I cannot see what the future holds. In loss and gain, He has been faithful to me! Sometimes, it takes years before I understand. Or I may never, but I know without  doubt He loves me.

My emotions go up and down, the loss feels deep. Thankfully, my wife is supportive without a glitch. The truth remains: I need a job. I need an income, and I need a purpose. Yet, I have my faithful God.

"Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassing never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those who hope in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD."  Lamentations 3:22-26

I yell. I cry. All before my God who knows what I am thinking and feeling before I do. My challenge is to not move too fast and to not say or do anything that would disrupt my relationships. I must choose to believe by walking this season out, that God knows what is best for me. It doesn't mean success in the eyes of man. It may mean a menial job for me. But it does mean that God desires to conform me to look like His Son Jesus. That is the journey of a believer who has totally given his life over to the Creator. It is the price of being a child of God. Time for this man who claims faith to watch it play out- even if my emotions tell me differently.

Animal Kingdom's Quiet Transformation

The wonderful and thoughtful website, Parkeology, has posted an insightful piece on the quiet transformation of Disney's Animal Kingdom. It's well worth a read. Find it here.

(Photograph copyright Parkeology.)

September 9, 2014

WED Imagineering Announces Tomorrowland 1967

At a then staggering cost of $23 Million, WED Imagineering, the design arm of Disneyland, announced the July 2 opening of the New Tomorrowland 1967. 

Only in Disneyland's "World on the Move" could you journey in a submarine, explore the inner workings of a snow flake by going into a microscope, soar to the Moon, and experience transportation systems of tomorrow. 

Tomorrowland 1967 was a huge success. And it came on the heels of New Orleans Square with The Pirates of the Caribbean. Just a couple of years later, Imagineering would debut The Haunted Mansion. It was a great time to be a park fan- back when there were new, major attractions added every two or three years at the most. Back when Disneyland was the cutting edge theme park. In the day when Walt's philosophy guided the investors and company accountants and not the other way around.

(Image from Phil Sears.)

September 8, 2014

California Adventure from Afar

This is the Disney park I want to be at right now. Surprised? So am I. Very, actually.

I love Epcot and Disneyland Paris, but there's something about the new Disney California Adventure that draws me to it. I have been itching to spend a day just exploring all the detail of Buena Vista Street and Cars Land

The image above is a bit deceptive, as I do not quite care for Paradise Pier. It needs so much more, but I will admit that the revamping of the area has increased its appeal compared to the mess it was in 2001. Although it is totally without theme, needs some painting and a new musical score, California Screamin' continues to be of the most enjoyable Disney coasters. A nighttime ride is smooth as glass and provides views and a thrill that is hard to beat.

The new sister park to Disneyland still has gaping holes in quality. The backside of Hollywoodland is mostly an ugly mess.  The backlot area and the half finished theater which houses the truly magical Aladdin show are the worst offenders of any Disney park aside from the horrible Studios park in Paris. Conversely, Grizzly Peak fits perfectly up against the Grand Californian Hotel. The general area leaves much to be desired when it contains just one incomplete raft ride and a children's play area, and it could be so much more with another attraction and a few enhancements to the trails which surround it. Just around the bend, Soarin' Over California really fits at this park, as opposed to its out of theme placement at Epcot. The aviation styled Condor Flats is much too small to be totally immersive. You're barely in the land before you're out of it but a delicious  Bleu Cheese Burger at Taste Pilot's Grill takes the edge off nicely.

I am a Californian at heart and always will be, even though I have lived in Colorado for 25 years. I love the Golden State, both north and south, the lifestyle, its mission inspired architecture, and the weather. This park plays to the strengths of the famous California sunshine. In the Fall season, there is something very relaxing about the quitter pace. It's a great time to enjoy some decent food at the Pacific Wharf area while listening to the Mariachi Divas. For a landlocked Denverite, sitting under an umbrella with a waterside view is pretty rare, making this is as much a pleasure as finding myself at the farthest waterside table at Disneyland's Hungry Bear Restaurant. Knowing Cars Land and Radiator Springs Racers are just around the corner via a magnificent back entrance is only a plus. 

Count me in as one who really enjoys Ariel's Undersea Adventure. Granted, it is not the E Ticket adventure it should have been, but the larger than life Ursula animatronic makes the journey worth the effort. And who doesn't love the music from this classic film?
Hopefully, there are at least one or two classic Disney attractions of this type on the way. Ending the day with World of Color is pretty special. Blasphemy to some, but I prefer it to Fantasmic! Really. 

Disney's California Adventure isn't Disneyland. Not even close. It has a long way to go to be truly as rich in experiences and depth. Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and many other attractions place the original Kingdom above its younger sister, but without any new adventures, its just feeling a bit boring these days. There's lots of space to keep improving California Adventure. I just hope the suits will brush off those plans for "Phase Two" now that the remake is a proven success.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 6, 2014

Richard and Karen Carpenter at Disneyland 1974

Almost 40 years ago, Richard and Karen Carpenter performed at Disneyland during a special event for, I believe, USC (University of Southern California). 

It was not the only time the duo would be associated with Disney. A few years later, they were filmed for a television segment related to Walt Disney World. If my memory serves me well, Richard was also strongly considering scoring the soundtrack for Disney's film The Rescuers

Famously, there's that video for their smash hit Please Mr. Postman. A worldwide favorite song and the videos shows a buoyant Karen riding Dumbo, walking down Main Street U.S.A. with Mickey Mouse, and taking a ride on the now defunct Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland

 These in concert shots were posted on the A&M Corner discussion boards. Photographer unknown, but what a find after all this time!

 The Tomorrowland stage would be the performance venue for the evening. The band is mostly in the dark for these photos, but it looks like they are all there.

If you're familiar with the history of Karen and Richard, you might know that he and songwriting partner John Bettis once worked at Disneyland. The shot below was taken in 1967.

A few years later, the duo would write Mr. Guder, a popular album track on their breakthrough album Close to You. The name refers to their manager whom they were not fond of at the time. The lyrics were not complimentary. Much like Bette Midler's reassessment of the duo, time mellowed Richard's view of the man. Time does have a way of making us reflect with more clarity.
To close out this post, here's the video for Postman:  

September 5, 2014

Where Frontierland Meets New Orleans Square

This elegant piece of Imagineering art from 1954 highlights one of my favorite aspects of the creation of Disneyland: the slight details and smooth transitions between themed areas and public places. (Please note that I increased the contrast on the piece so that details could be more easily seen.)

Long before New Orleans Square was announced, a decade plus before the Pirates of the Caribbean would drastically change the future of theme park design, the outskirts of Frontierland were designed to trail off with a slight nod to what would come in the mid-sixties. The transition from a full on wilderness fort to fairly lovely restaurant at the end of the arcade is barely noticed by the guests until a look is taken at the whole. Walking through the fortress to the end of the road, guest find the Golden Horseshoe building on the corner, signaling a change in direction both literally and figuratively. The restaurants become more decorative with the addition of balconies, window treatments, and landscaping. 

Years later, a full on recreation of "The Big Easy" would debut at the park. Alas, Walt Disney himself would not live to see the opening of his cutting-edge pirate adventure, but he would be around to dedicate the newest of Disney lands. With its French and Creole architecture, jazz combos, and delicious foods true to the original, New Orleans Square became the epitome of theme park design. Adding the beautiful Haunted Mansion at the end of the decade only cemented its place.

Look again at the piece of art: the horse drawn carriage at the right is at the location where a Disneyland guest would one day cross over from west of the Mississippi into the "Paris" of the Americas. This transition would be absolutely seamless if it weren't for the placement of the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse / Tarzan's Treehouse right next to the original entrance to the pirate attraction. Nonetheless, the art of Disneyland is more than apparent here. The thoughtful work of the original Imagineers proves once again the wisdom of Walt's approach of giving guests much more than they expect. 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 4, 2014

Streisand and Buble Partner to Mixed Results

What began with incredible potential ends up with mixed results. Michael Buble is one of my favorite musical artists. When I'd heard he was teaming with Barbra Streisand on this old Frank Sinatra classic, I had a fair amount of hope for a great number. After all, who didn't love Sinatra's take on It Had to Be You when Billy Crystal realized he did love Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally?

Frank's subtle style worked perfectly. 

That same style works equally well when Ms. Streisand opens up the song. Truly, she hasn't sounded this good in a decade. Michael comes in softly to great effect. It seems a good pairing, right? It is until the song kicks into high gear with horns blaring and subtlety gives way to fanfare, including the now obligatory "I love you Barbra" moment. The song winds down, returning to the gentleness of the opening. 

This Partners-hip had a lot of potential, but it was lost due to a bombastic approach.  

September 3, 2014

Disneyland Paris Influences Disneyland California II

Last week, I shared a piece of concept art that displayed the influence of Disneyland Paris' Discoveryland on the remodel of Disneyland's dated Tomorrowland. Here's the California side of the design equation.

The Imagineering team working on the Anaheim project under the direction of master Imagineer Tony Baxter was tasked by Michael Eisner with a fairly minimal budget (which became the derailment of the short lived Peoplemover replacement Rocket Rods) as well as an odd concept of an "agricultural futuristic" view for the land. When tossed in with attractions with seemingly no connection in theme (Star Wars to the old America Sings / Carousel of Progress),  it seemed to be an impossible task. The Autopia (above) would get a quick remodel of the buildings to fit in as best as possible. The kid favorite would not be on the chopping block for various reasons. 

By comparing this piece with the one for Discoveryland, it's easy to see where one strongly influenced the other. If you view images of the copper tinged Space Mountain of Disneyland circa 1998 with the beautiful Jules Verne styled one in Paris, the similarities are even more noticeable.

Count me in as one who would like to see a total start over for the Land of the Future. Scrap it all and build new. But if Mickey's Toontown really does become the rumored location for Star Wars Land, two lands themed to outer space (one strongly, one vaguely) may be too much.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 1, 2014

Where Florida's Magic Kingdom Surpasses California's Disneyland

Florida's Magic Kingdom does beat California's Disneyland in three  specific attractions- all found in Tomorrowland and depicted in this piece of Imagineering concept art. 

1- The originally named WEDway Peoplemover leads the way in differentiating itself from all other Lands of the Future. At Walt Disney World, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority is one of my must-do attractions. An all time favorite, the breezy ride around the land provides a great view and a chance to relax as it dashes inside popular destinations. Riding silently along was always a great way to people watch. Unfortunately, the attraction is now just an abandoned, empty track in Anaheim. The gap it leaves means Tomorrowland is no longer a "World on the Move", instead a hodge podge mess of attractions without a unifying element. Further, no other versions exist in any Disney castle park anywhere.

2- Space Mountain is one huge building and wisely placed beyond the railroad that circles the Magic Kingdom. The dual tracks inside are only part of the appeal: It is also one of the many pieces of eye candy seen as you approach the park from the Seven Seas Lagoon or while riding the Monorail. Extra bonus- it looks phenomenal at night when viewed from the terrace of the California Grill over at the Contemporary Resort. The "blessing of size" plays to its strengths in this case.

3- The ability to actually race against other drivers on the Grand Prix Raceway puts Florida ahead of California. Isn't that part of the fun of being in a race car? Besides, driving the California Freeways is no longer something anyone in the state seems to enjoy. 

One extra:

4- The long gone Skyway. Man, I miss this attraction. I absolutely loved gliding over the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea lagoon when in Florida, and through the Matterhorn when in Walt's original kingdom. Whether it was Disney's legal eagles or the budgeteers that succeeded in getting these closed down, either way, it was a clear mistake.  

Even though Florida now contains a few toon attractions in their Tomorrowland, I find it a much more compelling and enjoyable part of the park than what can be found out West. Score one for the younger sibling.

Could there be more areas Florida's park is superior? Stay tuned...

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 31, 2014

God is Good All the Time

Today, I lost one of my two jobs. A job I really loved and worked hard at. God is moving, and something new is coming. What it is, I do not know. I'm nervous, angry, scared, but I do know that He is good all the time. ALL the time. (Really just marking this day for my records.)

August 30, 2014

Japanese Invention Worth a Laugh

Could there be a funnier way to start a long weekend with no work? Take a look at one of the latest inventions coming from Japan. It's sure to impress that girl you're longing after- or make her run away!:

August 29, 2014

Disneyland Paris Influences the Original Magic Kingdom

At Disney Imagineering, no concept ever seems to truly go to waste. The piece of art above is an interesting one indeed. In many ways, it is clearly a look at the Autopia at Disneyland Paris. Nestled within the beautiful, Jules Verne styled Discoveryland, the neon rings glow clearly on the often grey and cloudy skies of Paris.

On the other hand, there are certainly elements of this piece that strongly remind me of Tony Baxter's redesign for Tomorrowland '98 at Disneyland.  That redo, the first one done to Tomorrowland since the epic 1967 version, included the infamous and short-lived Rocket Rods. The California Autopia remained a perennial favorite and was also scheduled for a revamping in look. The Chevron oil sponsored attraction there includes a building that has very similar flourishes in style to what was found on opening day in the Paris park in 1992. 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

August 26, 2014

Nice Change of Pace

Colorado Rockies Faith Day 2014 featured my favorite Christian music recording artist, Jeremy Camp. I was not disappointed! As he led a very large crowd in several worship songs, including three of my favorites (Beautiful One, Give Me Jesus, and Everlasting God), I was overwhelmed. It's not too often you get to have live worship music from the guy who made the actual songs famous. 

One powerful piece was when Jeremy shared about how God brought Him comfort after his wife's death. It was incredibly to hear how God was so personal for him during such a crushing time. 

In the middle of this season that's so painful at best, it was water to my thirsty soul. A very nice change of pace. Thank you Jesus!