Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Princess and the Blog

The Princess and the Frog was a winner, and for me, was ultimately more satisfying than the Pixar films I've seen recently. It does two things that I think the Pixar movies just can't seem to get right of late:

1. It's fast paced, and It's relatively short at 97 minutes. For a children's movie, this is key for me. I wasn't looking at the time to see when the movie would finally conclude. Cars and Ratatouille were nearly 2 hours long. While Wall-E and Up were close to this length (98 minutes), the dialogue free mini-movies within them made them seem that much longer. Plus, those rascally Pixar films always include a short. These were 97 fun, fast-paced minutes with a toe-tapping soundtrack.

2. It has a clear message that children can relate to and learn from. TP&TF's message: If you work hard, you can achieve your dreams - but don't forget to love along the way. Hey, both kids and adults can actually get into that! This message is repeated throughout the film, is a major part of the songs, and is revealed nicely in the satisfying conclusion. Finally, a theme that's fully realized!

's message: At some point, it's time to let go of your past, or it will start to consume you. How many children or even young adults can apply that to their daily lives?

s message: We have to start conserving and stop wasting, and stop having our lives so automated. It's a good message, for sure, but it's not something that kids can immediately grasp. It's more of a message to adults to interpret for their children.

's message: Uhhh...don't take credit for work a rat actually does? Don't turn your back on your rat brethren? Seriously, what is the message of this movie?

Cars' message: Stop being self-centered and make yourself a little vulnerable by relying on others. Yes! Finally, a Pixar message I can understand. But this one is woven through a movie that's 2 hours long and has no less than 5 major storylines! (1. Winning the big race! 2. Lightning's new friends in Radiator Springs 3. Lightning's love story 4. Hudson hating his past 5. Radiator Springs is a ghost town). It's easy to lose the main message amongst all the stuff that's going on. Plus, I didn't find the characters all that unique or engaging.

Obviously, I loved the movie. The songs were great, the characters were like-able and diverse, and it was funny. The biggest plus for me was the clear message for kids and adults. It's something that's been missing from family movies for a while, and it was nice to see it hop back into our lives.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Let's Hear it for the Toys

On a recent WDW Today episode, the boys (and gal) discussed park icons that weren't official park icons. The most popular one was Tower of Terror, but I think that they missed an important new symbol: the entranceway to Pixar Place.

Toy Story Mania feels like the next generation Disney attraction. It's bright and colorful, interactive, and combines multiple technologies to creative an amazing experience. Most of all - it's the most fun I've had on a Disney attraction in a long time. There's a reason why the lines are ridiculously long at 11:00 AM and stay that way throughout the rest of the day - people love this ride.

I'm hoping this leads to a Hollywood Studios renaissance. The days of it being a working studio are over. Expand Pixar Place to the Backlot Tour and Lights, Motor, Action areas. Develop CarsLand and a Monsters Inc ride. Can the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area and transform it into a Bug's Life place (Hey how about a Wall-E ride in Tomorrowland while we're at it? I mean cause it actually takes place in the future and all). Let Pixar run rampant.

I know that some Disney fans will get upset because classic, pure Disney characters aren't getting the nod in this transformed Studios, but as long as they make the rides as fun as Toy Story Mania, I don't care. The Studios we knew is dead. Long live the Studios!

(photo from

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gran is still bland

I recently went on Gran Fiesta Tour with two of my friends who had never gone on before. One had seen the original River of Time and was commenting to the other about how that first ride was - that if she were Mexican, she would have complained.

Then Fiesta Tour started. Let me tell you, her mouth was agape during the whole ride. I forgot that this ride was supposed to represent a culture - and though I give that fact a minus in the podcast - during this ride, I realized how over-the-top ridiculous every scene is. A quote from my ridemate, "I am offended for all Mexican people."

If this ride was somewhere else - like Toontown, I think it would be okay. Here, though, it's more than a ride because it's representing a place and a people. Thoughts?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Taking Another Expedition on Everest

Ok, ok.  I'm sorry I was such an Everest hater.  Listening back, I've got to say I was way too harsh.  I recently gained a new found love for this attraction after riding it at night... and sitting in the back.  

Most of my hating on this was because of my own scardeyness and nausea.  I'm not much of a thrill ride kinda gal, but I do appreciate this attraction for its detail, theming and for being the new flagship attraction in Animal Kingdom (sorry It's Tough to be a Bug, it seems you have been replaced).  I think riding towards the front of the train car is just a little too intense for me.  While I'll still scream my head off from the back, it is definitely a milder ride from there and I can appreciate the view and the Yeti to their full extent.  The backwards portion really adds to the unique experience of this attraction, and it gives Everest that little something extra special that sets it apart from other mild thrill rides.  

I recently had the opportunity to enjoy Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom during my last trip.  What a difference the night makes.  First of all, the Tree of Life is an amazing sight in the dark and Everest becomes all the more ominous when it is lit up and there is a bit of a chill in the air.  If I could only visit Animal Kingdom at night, I'd be a happy camper.  This whole park has a new life after dark.  It is a bit less bustling and confusing at night, believe it or not.  Hopefully we will be able to see more of these later hours incorporated into the park's schedule if only for attractions like Everest, Dinosaur, and yes, Primeval Whirl, too.  

Everest, I am on your side.  Sorry for doubting you. Scott, you're a nerd for all of your temple love.  

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Muppets With a Vision

Please excuse my raspy writing this week, I think I must have caught something from Melissa.  

Let's face it, Muppet Vision 3D is an oldie, but a goodie.  It became a staple in MGM Studios and remains a staple in what Hollywood Studios has evolved into.  Even though the film itself is dated and weathered, the attraction as a whole remains a classic Studios icon... at least on the left hand side of the park.  

The show is set inside a massive theatre with an orchestra of adorable penguins playing the score.  In the film itself, Kermit the Frog demonstrates the MuppetVision 3D film process in their hi-tech facility.  Since when did the Muppets get into film making anyway?  For some reason, that "facility" contains an ironing board, a remote control pie, and a huge vacuum capable of sucking in a whole screen.  Speaking of sucking, that's when we meet Waldo, "the spirit of 3D".  Man, I hate this guy, and I really don't understand how he managed to escape the vacuum.  The absolute highlight of the entire film is the finale, Sam Eagle's "A Salute to All Nations But Mostly America."  It makes up for any holes that exist in this swiss cheese plot, and those little toy soldiers with their tassel hats are plain fantastic!   At some point in the film, Bean Bunny feels unwanted and runs away.  He subsequently runs into Waldo, the two take off together and we spend much of the rest of the film looking for and validating the Bunny.  Man, I hate that Bunny, too!  

It is a cute movie, and entertaining for kids.  I wonder, though, are kids today still familiar with these Muppet characters?  With Waldo, Imagineers seem to have been trying to create a Figment-like character for The Studios.  They wanted an attraction superstar to catch on and stand out to visitors whether they were familiar with The Muppets or not.  Waldo was going to be the foray into making it a Disney attraction, with a Disney character.  Waldo backfired.  Everyone hates this guy, almost, almost as much as they hate Bean Bunny.  He's just not likable and it, of course, pains me to say that since *spoiler alert* Waldo turns out to be Mickey Mouse in disguise.  What?!  How can you take the perfection that is Mickey Mouse and even stick him in the same room with Waldo?  I think that is a huge misstep in the film since Waldo just ends up grating on everyone's nerves.  And then there's  Bean Bunny.  How did this guy end up the star of the show?  Why are we forced to care so much about an annoying, "cute" bunny?  Perhaps Kermit would have been too much of a spotlight-stealer if he were made the main character but come on, Bean Bunny?  Bad choice number two.

True, the 3D film was slated to be just one part of a whole Muppet-themed land in The Studios, but that did not come to fruition.  There is great theming throughout the attraction and in the surrounding areas in the park, but it would have been awesome to see this on a grander scale.  Maybe a greater Muppet presence in the park would have helped this film out a bit and kept it relevant even today.  The attraction opened in 1991 and the film portion could sure use a few updates.  3D technology itself has improved quite a bit in the parks in the last eighteen years and for someone who has seen this more times than I can count, it's getting kind of old.

This attraction is definitely worth a visit, even if for the queue and pre-show alone.  The queue has a lot of great detail that deserves a really slow walk-through to appreciate it.  The pre-show area is decorated phenomenally and has all of these crates of props with hilarious messages and jokes written on them.  The pre-show film is also pretty genius and should not be skipped over.  I would suggest spending time checking out the queue and pre-show area, and then thinking of the 3D film as a nice added bonus.  

I don't hate this attraction by any means.  In fact, if I miss seeing it during a trip, I feel like my trip is incomplete.  I love the penguins, I love the live character interaction with the film and the audience and the audio animatronics.  I think a lot of things about this attraction are smart and witty and I keep going back.  There is just a lot more that can be done with this attraction and these characters to make it more of a draw over to no man's land where Muppet Vision 3D is situated.  The film is fine, but it could be better, there is room for a little refurbishing here and there.  It is simply time for an update when a traditionalist such as myself has seen the Waldo and Bean Bunny combo one too many times.  Actually, if they just edited out those two, the film would be perfect!   

Monday, October 12, 2009

Episode #17 - Mickey's Philharmagic

On today's episode, we focus on Donald's...I mean Mickey's Philharmagic. Emily digs Disney's terminology, Scott's heartstrings are tugged, and Melissa likes yet another smell.

Episode #16 - Soarin'

Soarin' and bad real estate deals suffer from the same three problems: location, location, and location of fast passes. Scott gets excited about senses, Melissa loves smells (big surprise), and Emily ALMOST gives a point to David Puddy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Episode #15 - MuppetVision 3D

Has anyone out there seen a Bunny? Why there's nothing up there but a Bunny...a BUNNY! This attraction may be old but it still brings the laughs. Emily finds it quotable, Scott LOVES a key, and Melissa still has no voice.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Episode #14 - Bland Fiesta Tour

I'm not going to lie, the switch from "El Rio Del Tiempo" to "The Gran Fiesta Tour" was a big let down for me.  I spent the whole refurb period, fingers crossed, singing that El Rio song (you know the one, it goes "la la la la la la").  Only to have my dreams crushed at first ride once "The Gran Fiesta Tour" finally opened.  Not only was the song missing, but there were not any drastic improvements to the attraction.  It was still largely video screens in rocks, only now those screens also featured the Three Caballeros and some really bad chef acting, note my first "minus" for this podcast.  

Donald Duck, Panchito Pistoles and Jose Carioca appeared in the 1944 full-length animated feature, "The Three Caballeros,"  but, does anyone really know that?  I mean, we know that because we are Disney fans but your average kid has probably never seen the film.  As Scott points out, everyone loves Donald Duck and that's a given, but his two amigos?  Not so much.  I have no qualms with Senor Donald roaming around the streets of Mexico, heck his other Caballeros can be out there too.  That is where they belong, though.  Donald can don his poncho and sombrero, off to the side.  After all, he's not a Mexican duck.  Jose Carioca isn't even a Mexican parrot, he's from Brazil!  If any character should be included in The Tour, let it be Panchito.  After all, he's the only one from Mexico.  Try as they might to add characters to Epcot, this addition seems too forced and irrelevant. Take that, Scott and Melissa!  

There is something to say for the ambiance, though.  The first scene is absolutely breath-taking (Melissa happens to find it voice-taking) with the Mayan temple on your left, and the restaurant on the right.  The faint sound of the Mariachi band, and the faint smell of chips and salsa make it all the better.  It starts off so strong (the ride, not the smell of food), and maybe that is why most of the other scenes are disappointing, they just don't live up to that opening.  The "It's A Small World"-esque scene is also a good one.  It is the Walt Disney World version of Mexico, and it's cute!  This is more of what I expected the attraction to turn into, It's A Small Mexico, and all without the Three Caballeros, sorry muchachos!

Instead, the attraction stayed largely how it was, mostly screens displaying scenes from Mexico.  It's unfortunate that so much about the culture of Mexico is being left out.  I'm not looking for a downer of a history lesson, but a better exploration of the customs and culture of Mexico would be welcomed.  How about a scene about El Dio De Los Muertes?  Or a taste of the music of Mexico?  Or even something about the art of Mexico sponsored by those Animales Fantasticos guys?  

The biggest disappointment is that so much more could have been done.  Instead we are left at the end, with an empty stage and the Three Caballeros.  By the way, I never minded that bead-selling woman all that much.  Melissa hated her though!  It might have something to do with the fact that Melissa is a bead-seller by day and her sales techniques just really couldn't hang.  Personally, I miss that guy at the end who bid the riders, until we meet again.  Until then, we will always be delighted with the beauty of the Mexico that was, El Rio Del Tiempo.  

NOTE:  * I still haven't been able to get a definite answer about bringing alcohol on the boats, my calls to Disney Dining returned no definite answer.  If you have any information, please feel free to post in our new forum!  

We're being heard!

A rumor posted on the wdwmagic forums about the Gran Fiesta Finale:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

the river of time to relax

My feet ache in Disney World. So much so that I wear two pairs of socks everywhere. I wear my sneakers down to nothing in the first day, and by day 3's marathon tour of World Showcase, I have a hard time standing still for too long.

But after I endure and enjoy standing for the Chinese acrobats, and limp my way past the African Outpost, I know that there are 8 minutes of shoe solace ahead - El Rio del Tiempo.

The original ride was perfect for that last stop of the tour. No matter the time of day, the ride took place at night. The breeze and sound of rushing water calmed you as soon as your boat jutted from its dock.

The entire ride was muted; the music and sound effects were not loud, but still gave you a sense of what was happening around you. The scenes did not force images in your line of sight, but rather, let you discover the culture as you slowly floated through.

This ride was not striking, but it fit the theme of the pavilion perfectly. It is nighttime in a small village in Mexico. Patrons shift through the outdoor marketplace, taking time to observe each item and stall. Diners eat by candlelight, overlooking a slow-moving river.

And on that river, in a slow-moving boat, a boy is resting his feet.

link to: El Rio del Tiempo, the original

Episode #14 - Gran Fiesta Tour

The Five Minute Magic crew searches for a musical duck in this episode. We learn that cliff-diving and Pinata Donald are the heart and soul of Mexico, alcoholic drinks may (or may not be) carried aboard, and the fiesta finale isn't so gran. As a special bonus for this episode, Melissa has no voice. Ha, I kid.

Episode #14 - Gran Fiesta Tour