Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Daily Figment 96 - It's Beginning to Look...

Well, Halloween is over.

That means one thing. Time for Christmas!

Both of us Disney Geeks are huge Christmas fans. Actually, we're normal-sized fans, we just really love Christmas. The decorations at my house go up the day after Thanksgiving and take about eight hours of planning and work to get them up.

Why am I talking about Christmas? We thought it was time to discuss the Disney Geek Christmas list. The essential items that you need to have to complete your Disney Geek certification.

The first one is a book that Andy and I both heartily recommend. We feel it is the single most important and accessible work on the Disney Company, the theme parks and the Imagineers available right now. One that you can still purchase at a reasonable price. I gave it to Andy on his birthday this year to start his own imaginerding library. Walt Disney Imagineering: a Behind-the-Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real is the book we are talking about. Concept art, articles on storytelling, posters, maquettes, ride design, signage theory, storytelling through architecture--you name it and it is covered. This is beautiful work that you will absolutely worship.

If you don't get this for yourself, buy it for the Disney Geek you love. Or the one you want to really impress!

I have had my copy for over 10 years and it is still one of my most cherished books.

Book Update Wed

Here is a another juvenile biography: The Story of Walt Disney: Maker of Magical Worlds. My wife got this one included in a lot with other Disney-related books. I still have to decide if I am going to let the boys read it!

Daily Figment - Part Boo! (Extra Special Halloween Edition)

I must admit that I have an affinity for older Disney cartoons, partly for the politically incorrect environment they were made in and partly for the fact that Walt had his hands on them.

In the spirit of Boo, take a minute and watch a cartoon that is played often in our house (George's note--a very creepy house): Mickey Mouse in Haunted House, from 1929, is an example of unrestricted creativity in a time when the country was struggling with the Great Depression. The highlight of the film is the organ scene in the parlor. The Grim Reaper-like figure that teaches Mickey how to rock the pipes is an early visual predecessor to many of the ghouls we know and love today. It's easy to draw a comparison to the Ring Wraiths and Dementors (Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fiends) when watching this scene, albeit this scoundrel is much more compassionate.

Daily Figment 95 - Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

In the spirit of Halloween, we would like to pay tribute to two of the great monster men of film, Ray Harryhausen and Tim Burton.

One of Burton's most recognizable films, The Nightmare Before Christmas, is a stop animation classic he first dreamed up during his tenure as a Disney artist. Garnering an Academy Award nomination for special effects in 1994 (and getting eaten whole by Jurassic Park), the more recent digital 3-D release expands on the wow factor of the original in spades. Now if they could only make the music 3-D....

Burton sites Ray Harryhausen as one of his greatest influences, as do Spielberg and Lucas. Harryhausen was a monster man through and through, creating such classics as Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts.

The skeleton fight scene from Harryhausen's 1963 stop animation goldmine Jason and the Argonauts is mind blowing for the technology available at the time (Think Matrix-1963). Trust on the link and watch the scene. Keep reminding yourself this was done in 1963!

Those of you truly well versed in Monstrology will note the nod to Harryhausen in Monsters Inc. If you don't know what I mean, just ask Googly Bear. Happy Halloween too you and yours. Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to post some pics of Disney Geeks in Training, Lil' Mickey Mouse and Ariel.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Book Update

Disneyland: Dreams Traditions and Transitions is similar to yesterday's book update. It is a large scale, glossy title that was sold mainly as a souvenir guide at Disneyland. It was released in 1995 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Disneyland. I love the souvenir guidebooks and this one is great because it covers more than just the park. It goes into detail about Walt, his legacy and the future of Disneyland. But no spoilers here.

It has a really great chronological spread that details all of the changes (rides, shows, lands, etc.) that have taken place over the past forty years. And some really great pictures!

Haunted Mansion DIY

A shout out to The site was featured as part of a longer Do-It-Yourself article about bringing the Haunted Mansion's secrets to your home.

The DIY Life article is very impressive in its scale. It does cover the differences between the Mansions and goes into detail about the ride itself. The second part of the article discusses how to bring some of the happy haunts home.

Spoiler warning:
if you don't want to know how some of the effects are actually done at the Mansions, don't read the article.

I guess it is time to start planning next year's Halloween decorations!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Daily Figment 94 - 3D

We were finally able to carve out some time to see Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas in Disney Digital 3-D (heh, pun intended).

Whew. This was a movie that was made for 3-D. Granted, it didn't quite pass the eight- and four-year old test. After about fifteen minutes, Connery and Jessica (Disney Geeks in training) thought that their glasses had broken. I know that I will take some flak for this, but there is a reason I have only seen this film three times.

The positives first. It is mind-blowingly beautiful in 3-D and Danny Elfman's soundtrack has some good tunes. What's This and Kidnap the Sandy Claws are the soundtrack's standout songs. The characters are very well developed and you believe in them as characters--not just as stop-animation figures. You empathize with Jack when he discovers Christmas for the first time and you know what Sally is going through with her unrequited love for Jack. And it looks so good in 3-D.

Now for the negatives. The film is way too long and the story drags for most of the film. Cutting out a few of the songs and expanding the final fight with Oogie Boogie would have added a lot. Also, the theme of love completing you should have been woven a little brighter into the plot. You get the idea from Jack and Sally; Dr. Finklestein and his new assistant; and from what is actually missing to make Christmas special; but it just isn't that apparent.

So, don't hate me. I still think you should see the movie, but mainly for the way the film makes the incredible transition into 3-D.

Nightmare has become a cult classic and it does have its merits. If you didn't get to see Meet the Robinsons in 3-D, this is a good film for the experience. Beware, though, the theater may charge you an additional fee for the glasses

Book Update

This is one of my favorite types of Disney related books: the in-house produced PR piece. Mainly sold at the park, Disneyland: The First Quarter Century celebrates the first twenty-five years of Disneyland; from its inception to 1979.

Before the publishing boon of the mid to late 1990's, not many books were available about the theme parks. I have a large collection of these books from Disneyland and Walt Disney World. In their earliest incarnation, they were released to mark special occasions. Now Disney has started releasing them on an annual basis. They are great souvenirs of your trip and often focus on the history of the parks and the current rides. One of the best things about this type of book is that there is great photography--often pictures that only a professional can capture. They are great for daydreaming about your next trip. I suggest you read one and call me in the morning!

Make sure to pick one up on your next vacation.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Daily Figment 93 - The Grande(r) Canyon

Attention to detail is one of the overwhelming pleasures of Disney Parks around the world. There are several spaces at Disney that represent near perfect attempts at subliminal coercion through the use of details. One of my favorite examples of this is the fireplace in the lobby of The Wilderness Lodge. Not only is the fireplace an imposing centerpiece of great scale, it houses one of my favorite lobby facts of all the WDW resorts.

The fireplace took 2 billion years to make.

Well, the fireplace didn't, but the geological model for it did. The fireplace is a representation of the geological stratification of the Grand Canyon. In fact, it's exact! Every layer is represented accurately and for good measure a period faithful fossil is occasionally thrown in.

I can remember the very first time I experienced the lobby (yes, you have to use the word experienced--Disney said so!); my jaw dropped--as did most people's. It is undoubtedly one of the most impressive public spaces that Disney has ever created.

Once's all in the details.

Book Update

This is a nother title for the animation and live-action film fans. It covers films from Steamboat Willie to The Journey of Natty Gann in a chronological fashion. It is by no means complete; in fact, it glosses over many of the animated Mickey shorts and Silly Symphonies, covering Steamboat Willie, the Skeleton Dance, Flowers and Trees, The Band Concert and a few other groundbreaking shorts. Each major animated film is covered in a fairly decent two to three page article with photos, concept art and stills. There are sections on live-action and documentary films. For us theme park junkies, there is a final chapter on the creation of Disneyland.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Geek Links

We offer another shout out to bogging friend Major Pepperidge at Gorilla's Don't Blog. He has given us another post of pictures from Progressland at the 1964-1965 World's Fair. The Major even teases us with the following line: I have a number of slides showing the fabulous G.E. "Progressland" building at the New York World's Fair.

Alright Major...we're waiting!

DSI Chief Investigator Jeff Pepper offers us two posts about the 1964-1965 World's Fair:
Every Disney Geek needs to check these out. This will be part of the final exam!

And don't forget to leave comments--shower them with the Disney Geek love that they deserve!

Friday, October 26, 2007

We Always Hurt the Ones We Love...

In the middle of scanning an image for today's post, I unintentionally pushed down a little too hard on the spine of the book.

I heard a snap. Not what a librarian / bibliophile wants to hear.

As you can see in the picture above, it was a clean break; at least it will be easier to scan images from the book. I wonder what the period of mourning is for a broken spine? We never covered that in Library School. Fortunately, I do have a second copy of the book.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Daily Figment 92 - A Different Kind of World

"It's going to be a world, a new, different kind of world," Walt Disney told the Chicago Tribune. "There's enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine." In the master plan developed in concert with the designers, architects and engineers of WED Enterprises, Walt Disney incor­porated the ideas and philosophies of a lifetime. Because of its size and scope, this Master Plan will take many years to complete. At its ultimate development, it is planned to include:

• a complete "vacationland," encompassing theme resort hotels and camp site accommodations, and featuring a wide variety of land and water recreation facilities;
• within this Vacation Kingdom, a family theme park similar to Disneyland in California;
• an "airport of the future," offering service to private and executive aircraft as well as commercial "commuter" service;
• an industrial park designed to showcase American industry at work;
• the community of Lake Buena Vista--planned to include Motor Inns, a commercial center, garden apartments and a "second home" community;
• a transportation system carrying guests from place to place linking the many attractions of Walt Disney World;
• and an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT)-where Walt Disney envisioned a showplace for communicating and demonstrating imaginative new concepts for the future.

--p. 14, The Story of Walt Disney World - 1973 Commemorative Edition: A Behind the Scenes Visit to the Vacation Kingdom

Looking at the Master Plan (their capitals, not mine), you can see an evolution of the design after Walt's death. The first scan is a stylized reproduction that Walt and the Imagineers first created. Placing the elements, based on the bulleted text above, gives you and idea of the scope and magnitude of the project. The lower section (light green) is obviously the airport. The second section (darker green) is probably the industrial park. The third section doesn't fit the clues that we are given. It doesn't make sense to be the Lake Buena Vista community, but it could be. The fourth section resembles most of the models for Epcot that we have seen (but, then again, the second area resembles Epcot models, too). The fifth section (next to the light green flower) is the vacationland. And yes, it has been noted that the beige spot on the right does look like an embryo.

By the time the second scan was produced in 1968, a lot had changed. Walt had passed away almost two years earlier and the company was still reeling from the loss of their Chief Imagineer. Most of the Phase One plan was geared towards developing the massive canal system, creating the Magic Kingdom, building the first hotels and creating the service access. It is obvious, though, that the Imagineers and Disney Management decided to postpone thinking about Epcot. Even in Walt's plans (and his infamous yearly films), he knew it would take a while to get Epcot started and going. So, they moved forward with creating the vacation kingdom.

The third scan is a close-up of the vacation kingdom area. The plans call for two resorts that were never built. The Asian Resort would have stood where the Grand Floridian is now and the Persian Hotel would have been built close to Tomorrowland with a monorail line going to it. In 1973, the oil crisis put a stop to a lot of travel and Disney felt the hit from the drop in the economy. The plans for the hotels were put on hold. The large square area of earth would stand vacant for more than fifteen years before the Grand Floridian was built. There was a third resort planned, the Venetian, for an area near the Ticket and Transportation Center. Unfortunately, the land would have required massive footings and many of the pilings actually sunk into the swampy land.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Daily Figment 91 - Book Review: A Visit to Disneyland

I can imagine Walt Disney's A Visit to Disneyland being one of the most well-read, cherished and worshipped books in any child's collection in the late 1960's and early 1970's.

I envision late evenings under the covers with a flashlight; the book spread out below you. Lazy Saturday afternoons spent dreaming of visiting Disneyland while going over the pages again and again. Begging mom and dad to take you to see the sights outlined in the pages.

The text is presented in verse form and follows most of the main lands and attractions available in 1965. There are pictures from the park and illustrations by Stan Tusan (and have a very primitive Mary Blair feel). The illustrations show two young children enjoying the park. They are shown in the background visiting the same attractions as we read about them.

The copy I recently acquired even has artwork by one of the previous owners. The verso of the title page has a map of Disneyland drawn as if a child had created it with his or her crayons. My copy has some of the icons filled in: the Matterhorn is orange, Sleeping Beauty's Castle is resplendent in purple and yellow, the foilage is green and the Rocket to the Moon is green and black. I can imagine the care and the excitement of the young artist as they added their own touch and feelings to the map.

Can't you?

Do you have one moment that defines your first Disney Park experience? The one item that made you want to visit? The one that started your longing?

I can remember seeing a viewmaster of the Haunted Mansion when I was about 6 years old. I can remember seeing a shot of the front doors and another of the ballroom scene. From that moment forward, I was smitten and had the images seared into my mind. It would take almost 18 years for me to make my first trip and the Haunted Mansion would be my first Disney ride--ever.

Was it worth the wait? You bet.

Leave adventure and magic behind you.
But please don't shed one single tear.
The way Disneyland's growing
There's no way of knowing
What suprise you'll find next time you're here!

--endpaper,Walt Disney's A Visit to Disneyland

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Daily Figment 90 - Construction

In a world where you can sail for hours and a round trip on the Monorail System is a 5 1/2-mile journey, attention to even the smallest detail has made Walt Disney World a never-ending series of visual pleasures. Just off bustling Main Street in the Magic Kingdom is a quiet courtyard and old-fashioned barber shop at the end of Center Street. Brown used brick, for the decorative serpentine wall bordering Liberty Square, was purchased from buildings being torn down in central Florida. The A-shape roofs of seven "longhouses" and the Great Ceremonial House at the Polynesian Village hotel, are formed of steel that weathers to a rich "rust" color--giving them an appropriate island "tin-roof" effect. "It is the hotels, shops, beaches and other recreational facilities at Walt Disney World," wrote Time Magazine, "that really set the new complex apart .. ,"

--p. 45 The Story of Walt Disney World .

We have two completely different shots of construction at Walt Disney World. The first picture was taken during the construction of Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom. By today's standards, it is a very non-Disney photograph but it does show the general construction that was going on. Also, anyone that knows me is aware that Adventureland and Liberty Square are my two favorite Magic Kingdom lands.

I love the Polynesian construction photos. It is such a contrast to what you see today. This shot even shows the property before the additional four longhouses were built. The change over time, is palpable.

Looking back at what the Disney Company has been able to do over the past 40 years in Florida is quite amazing. Moving dirt, creating canals and building a vacation kingdom--from Florida swamp land.

Images Copyright by The Disney Coproration

Geek Links

Filed under our Gone But Not Forgotten section...

Major Pepperidge at Gorilla's Don't Blog has a post about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Walt Disney World.

And under How Cool is That?

Doombuggies has a few great shots of the Haunted Mansion from overhead. Thanks to Chef Mayhem for finding the shots and posting them.

Fly on over to their sites and share some Disney Geek love with them.

Book Update

Walt Disney: His Life in Pictures by Russel Schroeder came in last week. It contains 178 photos from the Walt Disney Archives surrounded by quotes and biographical information. It is a great look at Walt Disney's life, decade-by-decade, through photographs.

But we won't throw any piece of junk at the public and try to sell 'em. We fight for quality.- Walt Disney, p. 52

Monday, October 22, 2007

Daily Figment 89 - Book Review: Quintessential Disney: a Pop-Up Gallery of Classic Disney Moments

Quintessential Disney: a Pop-Up Gallery of Classic Disney Moments is more than a book; it is a work of art that can be displayed with all of your other collectibles.

The book covers five Walt Disney classic animated films: Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan, Bambi, Pinocchio and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Each page has a fully rendered pop-up scene--usually a very pivotal or memorable scene that we all know and love.

Also on each page is a fold-out essay about the importance and significance of each film.

This is one of those rare mixed-media collectibles that you can flip through and admire the details or you can display an individual scene on a desktop or shelf. I love the book, but I hesitate to recommend it to anyone but completists or to animation fans. If you are a fan of one of the films listed, you will definitely enjoy displaying that particular scene.

Book Update

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs & the Making of the Classic Film arrived last week. It is a 1987 release that commemorates and celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the film. The book's 88 pages contain sketches, artwork, story material and a look at creating the characters. A large portion of the book is dedicated to re-telling the film with stills, lyrics and quotes.

This title is a good choice for animation fans, Snow White fans, or early Disney Studios history buffs.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Daily Figment 88 - Poll Results 02

At least we can agree that California Adventure got something right the first time around. Everybody loves Soarin' as it easily outstripped the other Epcot Center attractions as the poll favorite.

What is the best new Epcot Center attraction?
Nemo and Friends 20% (11 votes)
Soarin' 47% (26 votes)
Mission Space 22% (12 votes)
Gran Fiesta Tour 2% (1 votes)
Test Track 9% (5 votes)

Mission Space and Nemo and Friends held up their own, although Nemo and Friends has spent much time as a source of heated discussion on many forums. This Disney Geek won a Magical Moment as my family was entering The Gran Fiesta Tour. Too bad the prize was a no wait ride on the Tour. Being that there was no line at the time, receiving the Magical Moment allowed several families to scoot ahead of us in the queue.

How magical indeed!

Please check out the new poll and let us know which overseas park you would most like to visit!

Book Update

101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland: An Unauthorized Look At The Little Touches And Inside Jokes by Kevin Yee arrived the other day. This is a great title for the beginning Disney Geek and an especially good read if you are set to visit Disneyland any time soon. The book is divided by area (Fantasyland, Adventueland, etc.) and each page has a thing, a paragraph giving more detail and another paragraph, entitled Furthermore, that gives even more juicy facts, figures and minutiae!

Kevin writes columns over at Mice Age and at the Ultimate Orlando blog.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Book Update

Walt Disney: Young Movie Maker is a juvenile biography (in layman's terms, it is a biography for children) that covers the early part of Walt's life. It stops around World War II. Geared towards kids in first and second grade--it is a great way to share and discuss Walt's younger life. It is also a great way to nurture your own little Disney Geek.