Monday, August 31, 2009

Warning: Resale of this Ticket is a Crime!

This is a 1994 Magic Kingdom Club 5 Day World Hopper. This pass allowed you admission and unlimited use of the attractions in the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center and the Disney-MGM Studios. Free use of the transportation was included, as well. With the World Hopper, you were entitled to admission and unlimited enjoyment of Pleasure Island, River Country, Typhoon Lagoon and Discovery Island for seven consecutive days after the first use. Of course, you needed to be a Magic Kingdom Club member to purchase this ticket.

An interesting point to the older World Hoppers was that it recorded your first park visit of the day. This family visited from July 11, 1994 to July 16, 1994. They visited Epcot, Disney-MGM, Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney-MGM on the consecutive days of their vacation. Sort of like a 1994 twitter post about your vacation. Notice the Magic Kingdom Club price: $170.51. That is less than $35.00 a day!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

DVD Review: Adventureland

Adventureland (2009) Theatrical release rated R. DVD Unrated.

Growing up in the '80's, I expected this film to have a lot more punch and life-related humor based largely on the very misleading advertising campaign during the theatrical release. In essence, Adventureland tells the story of a ragtag group of amusement park employees that do their best to survive the summer and each other. Billed as a coming of age story by the creative force of Judd Apatow and Greg Mottola (Superbad), I was expecting more laugh out-loud moments and less a tale of growing up; I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the characters. As a caveat, I would be careful about showing this film to anyone under 18 simply due to the rampant drug use.

The main character, portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, is a recent college grad that needs to make money over the summer to help pay for graduate school. His only option is the local, low-rent amusement park operated by the hopelessly inept (and amazing) Bobby (Bill Hardin) and Paulette (Kristen Wiig). He meets a group of lackluster and bored co-workers and desperately tries to fit in. Kristen Stewart (Twilight) plays his emotionally tortured love interest. At its basic form, Adventureland is a boy meets girl story--with several twists.

Some of my favorite actors portray characters facing all aspects of life changes and issues. Ryan Reynolds is a former hotshot musician that finds himself trapped by his life and his lethargy. His only freedom is seducing the young female workers. Bill Hardin and Kristen Wiig are the married couple that run Adventureland. As altruistic as they are as amusement park owners, they are doing their best to keep up in a world that has left them behind.

I did enjoy the film and I am glad it is in my collection. If you were a young adult in the 1980's or happened to work in a local amusement park, Adventureland will resonate with you and make you think fondly of the good old days. This movie is not for everyone--the humor is scatological at times and the filmmakers try to mix in moments of subtle whimsy. The story never feels heavy handed and the journey that Eisenberg's character takes is very poignant. I do urge you to give Adventureland a try--just don't expect the laugh-a-minute comedy like Superbad.

Featurette: Orientation 2 (Bonus Footage)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Vintage Walt Disney World

A friend of mine let me borrow his Walt Disney World scrapbook to scan some photos of their 1984 trip where they stayed at the Village Marketplace Club Lake Villas (now Saratoga Springs).

I was thrilled to see that the first couple of photographs were from his parents first trip in 1971 or 1972.
Tinkerbell Toy Shop in Fantasyland.

This is the side entrance to The Chapeau. The address is 102.

The former West Street in front of the Greenhouse. (This area was converted as part of the 2001 expansion of the Emporium.)

I believe the last two shots were taken outside of the courtyard that eventually led to the cinema showing the Walt Disney Story. If the photos are pre-1973, then they are in the same courtyard, just no Walt Disney Story, yet. It is to the right of the Gulf Hospitality House (now the Exposition Hall). Before the Walt Disney Story, the Hospitality House was used for dining and hotel reservations.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

DVD Review: Pete's Dragon

Pete's Dragon (High-Flying Edition)1977 (2009 DVD release)

Pete's Dragon was originally released in 1977 and followed the same musical roots as Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks; a Broadway-style musical with a mixture of animation and live-action. Pete's Dragon never received the same approbations as Mary Poppins, but it retains a seminal charm that will engage all generations of viewers.
Pete’s Dragon is an uplifting musical adventure about a spunky young orphan that blends live action and stellar Disney animation. With his only friend Elliot, a tubby, 12-foot tall dragon who can make himself invisible, Pete (Sean Marshall) takes refuge from his abusive adoptive family in the seaside town of Passamaquoddy, Maine. After Elliot’s invisible antics wreak havoc with the residents and Pete gets the blame, Nora (Helen Reedy) is touched by the youngster’s plight and takes him to live with her and her tippling father Lampie (Mickey Rooney) in the Passamaquoddy Point lighthouse. Lampie’s tipsy tales of the boy and his dragon amuse the disbelieving townsfolk, until the local quack, Dr. Terminus, discovers that Elliot is real and hatches a scheme to capture the dragon. An exciting and inspiring story with unforgettable music, including the Academy Award nominated “Candle on the Water,” “There's Room for Everyone” and “Brazzle Dazzle Day,” Pete’s Dragon High Flying Edition will be a perennial favorite with children and parents.

I remember watching the video many years ago and I was looking forward to sharing the sentimental story with my kids. When I watched the DVD with my family, I was glad to see them react positively to the characters and the songs. Our favorite parts always included Doc Terminus and Hoagy as they tried to swindle the inhabitants of Passamaquoddy.

Pete's Dragon is a fun, family movie that everyone will enjoy. One of the more entertaining dance sequences takes place in the local tavern where Lampie tries to warn everyone with the song I Saw a Dragon. His daughter comes in to take him home and ends up joining the song--the ending is a raucous segment where beer barrels end up popping and soaking the tavern in foam. I do wonder if Disney would include a segment like that today!

Of course, most parents will wonder if the song Brazzle Dazzle Day will be as memorable as A Spoonful of Sugar or The Happy Working Song when the kids are helping to clean their rooms!

By today's standards, some people might be turned off by the mixture of animation and live-action. After watching the documentary, Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Disney’s Movie Magic, I was shocked by the effects team at Disney--they were able to recreate a New England fishing town on the Disney backlot in Burbank! There were times when I thought Pete was outside of Passamaquoddy and it was just clever use of matte paintings and animation. The documentary looks at the amazing techniques that Ub Iwerks was able to pioneer throughout his career that led to the mixture of live-action and animation. Every Disney enthusiast needs to watch this documentary.

Also included is the Donald Duck short Lighthouse Keeping. Need I say more than Donald, a crafty seagull and an easily extinguishable light?

The following film clip is from the Disney Family Album section. Ken Anderson, one of Disney's Nine Old Men, designed Eliot and received credit as animation art director. Don Bluth did a majority of the animating.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cruising the Rivers of America

The majestic Admiral Joe Fowler, an authentic steam-powered sternwheeler, sets sail from Liberty Square on a scenic cruise of the frontier "Rivers of America."

This is an amazing shot of the Admiral Joe Fowler on the Rivers of America with the Haunted Mansion in the background. Notice that the canopy has not been installed at the Haunted Mansion to protect the guests from the Florida sun. It affords a much nicer view of the mausoleum entrance and the front of the mansion.

Any good theme parkeologist will be sure to check out the other details in the postcard. The following is a good shot of the planters by the river and what flowers were planted originally.

As the card continues, you can see the fence and the netting on the fence. This is all important, right?

You can learn a lot more about this postcard and the Admiral Joe Fowler by visiting Brian Martsolf's Walt Disney World in Postcards site.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Movie Review: Ponyo

The moment that I finished Spirited Away on DVD in 2003, I was a fan of Hayao Miyazaki. We collected everything we could find on DVD and we were quickly engrossed in My Neighbor Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle, The Cat Returns and Castle in the Sky.

Howl's Moving Castle was the last major release and it wasn't playing anywhere in North Carolina. We decided that we were going to take a family road trip to get to the closest theater for Ponyo. Fortunately, it was playing very close to home.

Seeing a Studio Ghibli film on the big screen is the way to go. Ponyo is a gorgeous, hand-drawn animated film. Set in two different worlds with different styling, you quickly become engrossed in the characters, settings and story. The world above the sea is illustrated in lush water-colors that are awash in light and warmth. The scenes below the sea have their own warmth that is created through the sea life and the wonder they purvey.

This film is being compared to Totoro and I agree that it shares some of the same themes. Miyazaki seems to thrive in an environment where he speaks about nature, the family and humanity. He is a rare artist that understands how beautiful the world can and should be.

I was speaking to a friend about the film and she thought the film was amazing. Her complaint concerned the presentation of the trailers. As expected, they were all future CGI and animated releases. The trailers all paled in comparison to the main feature; Ponyo has a sophistication and beauty that is rarely delivered by modern animation studios. Her thoughts on the Princess and The Frog trailer were dismal--it looks like Disney is presenting a film with crude characterizations that rely on slapstick and by appealing to the lowest common denominator. Her point, and one that I share, is that Disney needs to make a film like Ponyo. It is hard to fathom that Miyazaki can create a work that enchants all ages without a major villain. You have to experience Ponyo to understand.

I urge you to spend the time (and money) to see Ponyo on the big screen. There isn't much I can say about the film without spoiling it--just go and see it!

And don't forget to check out the other Studio Ghibli masterpieces!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Geek-End Update, Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ponyo! Ponyo! Ponyo!

Hat tip to the Ghibli Blog for sharing the links for theaters that are showing Ponyo. It is in a limited theatrical release--make sure to check your area.
Hayao Miyazaki is an amazing filmmaker. His films have innate charm, beauty and sophistication. Spirited Away, released in 2001, is considered his best work and is a great introduction to the Miyazaki films. I always urge a second viewing of Spirited Away to catch all of the nuances in the story and animation. I have friends that cannot stand animated films and they have raved about Spirited Away.

His films are less whimsical than traditional anime and often focus on themes of good versus evil. Strong female characters dominate most of the Studio Ghibli films. Any time you watch a Studio Ghibli release on DVD, John Lasseter introduces the film and he lets you know how excited he is that you are watching the film. Lasseter has professed on many occasions that Miyazaki is one of his heroes.

My other favorites include: Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke and Howl's Moving Castle. Another favorite--and my kid's all-time favorite--is My Neighbor Totoro.

We have never been disappointed with a Miyazaki film and I could never recommend them enough.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I Scream...

In 1969, one of the promotional tie-ins for the grand opening of the Haunted Mansionwas the "I Scream" Sundae provided by Carnation. The sundaes were sold at the Carnation Gardens Plaza and the Carnation Ice Cream Parlor on Main St. In the photo below, you can see the Carnation Plaza Gardens at Disneyland (thanks to Daveland for the picture).

Friday, August 7, 2009

Geek-End Update, Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Exciting Contemporary Resort!

One of my favorite places to visit online is Big-Brian's Walt Disney World: A History in Postcards. Not only is Brian a North Carolina Disney enthusiast, but he has spent a lot of time compiling his amazing site. I ran across a stash of older Walt Disney World postcards and immediately checked Brian's site for more information on them.

You can find information about this card in Chapter Two, Page Four along with some other amazing postcards. Check out the light fixtures. Notice the RV and bus on the right side of the tower?

On the back of the card:
Contemporary Resort
The exciting Contemporary Resort, with a wide range of vacation and recreation activities, is one of the real "wonders" of Walt Disney WOrld. Carrying passengers to many areas of the Vacation Kingdom, sleek Monorail Trains travel directly through the spectacular open-mall lobby of the Towers building.

Photo from Wikipedia--taken in June 2005.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Media Review: Race to Witch Mountain

Race to Witch Mountain (Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Download) 2009. (My review copy of the film contains the Blu-ray, DVD and digital download versions of the movie. We do not own a Blu-Ray player, yet, so this review is of the DVD copy.)

We missed this movie during its theatrical run and I wish that we had seen it on the large screen!

This movie is a perfect action-adventure movie for the entire family. A summertime popcorn film at its best. Explosions, excitement, humor and a little suspense all rolled together to keep you glued to the screen until the final moments. The story unfolds quickly and you do gain empathy for the lead characters. AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig play the teenage extra-terrestrials that are being hunted by a secret government agency. AnnaSophia (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Bridge to Terabithia and Because of Winn-Dixie) plays Sara and Alex (Air Bud: World Pup and The Seeker) is Seth--normal-looking teens with preternatural abilities.. Both teens play their parts exceptionally well. They pull you into the story the same way that Dwayne's character is pulled in.

AnnaSophia and Alex discuss visiting Disneyland with Dwayne Johnson:
Did you get starstruck when you met him for the first time?
Alexander: It was certainly a little nerve-wracking.
AnnaSophia: Especially because Dwayne is huge! The first time I met him was on the day I flew into LA to work on the movie. We did a tour of Disneyland and there were crowds of people coming up to him, but he was so respectful. He acknowledged everybody and he was really gracious.

Did you go on the Disneyland rides with Dwayne?
Alexander: This was the funny thing… Dwayne wouldn’t get on any of the rides! He can tackle a 7-foot guy jumping on him in a wrestling ring, but he won’t go on a ride for 6-year-olds. It was really funny!

Are you saying Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a big wuss?
Alexander: He’s a huge wuss! Oh, wait a minute… No. He’s going to kill me for saying that. It was very funny, though. He didn’t want to go near the rides!
As a caveat, there are explosions, car chases and some serious fisticuffs; Dwayne Johnson plays a very likable character and you understand that he is doing his best to protect the children that fate has thrust into his custody. Carla Gugino plays a discredited university professor that believes we can prove the existence of alien life. She crosses paths with Dwayne and becomes integral to the survival of the extra-terrestrials. There are many cameos and special appearances throughout the film. Make sure to check out the bonus features to find all of them!

Overall, this is a fun movie that the whole family can enjoy together. My boys loved it and have asked to watch it again. Schedule it for your next movie night!

The Blu-ray/DVD/digital download combo is a new product for me. I have purchased the DVD/digital download copy before and we loaded the digital copy onto our laptop for the kids to watch while traveling. With the addition of the Blu-ray, I can see the advantage of purchasing the combo-pack. Not only do we have a hi-def version for the home theater, but we also own a DVD copy that the kids can watch in the car or in their rooms. To me, it is one of the better solutions to the format question.

Both the Blu-ray™ Hi-Def and two-disc DVD editions of Race to Witch Mountain include these exciting bonus features:
  • Deleted Scenes - With commentary by director Andy Fickman
  • Bloopers - Dwayne Johnson and the cast crack up over on-set mistakes.
  • Dylan & Cole Sprouse: Blu-ray™ Is Suite!
  • Learn How To Take Your Favorite Movies On The Go
Exclusive Blu-ray Combo Pack bonus features include:
  • BACKSTAGE DISNEY: Which Mountain? - Director Andy Fickman reveals the film’s hidden references to the original movies, Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain.
  • D-Box - Viewers equipped with a D-BOX™ Integrated Motion System will be able to experience a whole new dimension while watching this movie.