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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tip Tuesday: Book review - Toy Story Films: An Animated Journey

Toy Story Films - an Animated Journey 

Hey howdy hey!

It's time for another Tip Tuesday and this week, let's shift gears and move to the good ol' Disney library shelf for a little Disney book review.

This week, let's review a new book called The Story Story Films:  An Animated Journey (2012), by Charles Solomon, published by Disney Editions.  This is a pretty large book, measuring 12" by 11.8" with 192 pages chock full of beautiful pictures from all three Toy Story films as well as renderings, concept art, storyboards and some of the back story behind the Toy Story(s). This book was released less than two months ago.  (Full disclosure notice:  Disney sent me a review copy of this book.  The opinions expressed in this post are my own and are not those of the Disney company).

Toy Story Films - an Animated Journey 

If you're a fan of Pixar and/or a fan of the Toy Story films and/or a fan of John Lasseter (he wrote the afterword), you will flat out love this book.  Seriously.

This is a great coffee table book and currently joins a few of my other high quality Disney-related books.  What makes this book special is all the stunning photography.  Sure, there have been books about films before.  What is different here is that the frame captures of images from the three Toy Story films are crisp and clear.  Too often, frame captures are soft and lack definition.  This is primarily due to the nature of film - it's not at the same resolution as print.  So when a frame of film is transferred (and blown up) to the printed page, details tend to get washed out.  Not so with Solomon's book.

But wait, there's more.

Toy Story Films - an Animated Journey 

Throughout the 192 pages are tons of storyboards, renderings and concept art, much of which really helps to tell the back story behind Toy Story.  I won't divulge any of the nuggets here, but I was surprised to read about how the character of Woody was created and what and who inspired John Lasseter in creating Woody.

Which leads me to another key factor of this book.  In many respects, this could also be called The Lasseter Story.  Toy Story is due to the vision and work of John Lasseter and his team.  Solomon helps tell the story of Toy Story through the triumphs and, sometimes, failures of Lasseter and company.  In reading this book, you will discover there was a time when Toy Story almost stopped before it really ever got started (Solomon, 2012).

Toy Story Films - an Animated Journey 

All stories come full circle and Toy Story is no different.  Perhaps one of the most moving scenes (and frightening to some children) in any of the films comes as Woody, Buzz, Jessee, Ham, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and Rex seem destined for a fiery end in Toy Story 3.  In a literal case of deux ex machina (translated: "god from machine") the machine in this instance is the Claw, which, with the help of the Little Green Men, rescues our heroes at the last moment, moving the story to the ultimate ending - where Woody and Andy part ways (the most heartbreaking moment of any Pixar film to date).

The Toy Story Films:  An Animated Journey is a fitting tribute to three films that have defined this new medium of computer-generated animation.  This is one book that should be on your Disney bookshelf.

Amazon ($37.80):

Barnes & Noble ($39.47):

Referenced works:
Solomon, Charles. (2012).  The Toy Story Films:  An Animated Journey. New York:  Disney Editions.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Photo Friday: Skyway to the Past


Time for another Photo Friday!

I friend shared some old photos from a 1999 trip to Walt Disney World today and I just had to share this photo (with her permission).  What struck me the most about this photo was the date:  summer of 1999.  Little did they know that the Skyway would close just a few months later, in Nov. 1999.

I can remember my own journeys on the Skyway during my early trips to Walt Disney World back in the late 1970's.  I particularly remember seeing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea from the air and being amazed at how big it was.

Today hardly a remnant of the Skyway can be seen.  The old launch/landing buildings are effectively gone and you have to look closely for clues where the old pillars were located.

A blast from the past...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tip Tuesday: The Garden Grove Seafood Sensation

Garden Grove restaurant

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I wanted to share my thoughts about the Garden Grove restaurant at the Swan resort.  Located on the main floor, the Garden Grove is comprised mainly of a single circular dining room with a artificial tree in the center.  The decor is light and airy.  Situated around the edge of the circle are buffet stations featuring all sorts of options (dinner only).  During breakfast and lunch hours, the Garden Grove offers a fairly standard menu with traditional breakfast fare and common lunch items.

What makes the Garden Grove so different is that the menu changes greatly during the week when it comes to dinner.  Dinner is served buffet style and the offerings were fairly good.

Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays feature a southern barbecue buffet complete with barbecue chicken, ribs, North Carolina pulled pork, beans and more.

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays feature a Mediterranean menu with pastas, baked fish, sausage and pepper, Beef Bourguignon and more.

For these two menus, adult price is (as of this writing) $29.99 each, kids $13.99.

Fridays, though, appear to be the most popular day of the week.  That's because Fridays mean the it's time for the seafood sensation menu.  My family was able to get an ADR for this Friday buffet, so I will share my thoughts.

First, this buffet is fairy large with snow crab legs, scallops, seafood paella, carving station and more.  If that wasn't enough, each table gets a huge bucket of fried shrimp and calamari.  But wait, there's more.  Each adult gets one half stuffed lobster (yes, half of a whole lobster -- tail, claw and all).  Now the lobsters aren't huge, but it's included in the price ($35.99 for adults, $14.99 for kids).  If a child wants a half stuffed lobster, it will cost an additional $10 per child.

There is so much food available here it's not even funny.  The lobsters may have been stuffed, but so was I.

While overall, I enjoyed the ambience of the restaurant, there were a few areas for improvement.

First, the service for the buffet areas was poor.  It took way too long to replenish many of the seafood offerings, especially the snow crab legs.  When they were finally replenished, they weren't as hot as I'd like.  They were cooked fine, but it appeared that they weren't brought straight out.

Second, the carving station attendant was missing often.  Too many times I was hoping to get a cut of beef or turkey and no one was there.

It very well could be that I happened to dine on an off night.  I'm not sure if these issues are consistent or I just happened to catch a bad day.

These two issues aside, the Garden Grove seafood sensation is a fine alternative to the Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club.  While I still prefer Cape May, it can be difficult to get an ADR there, whereas you might be able to get away with a walkup at the Garden Grove, depending on your time.

Just one more reason why you should keep the Swan and Dolphin in mind when you make your dining plans.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Photo Friday: R2D2's Bad Day

R2D2 has a bad day

Time for another Photo Friday!

I was going through some of my photos from June of this year and I ran across this shot of R2D2's dome from the new Droid Factory at Tatooine Traders.  As I thought about this shot, I noticed that R2 is having a really bad day.  First his head has been pulled off.  Second is main eye is gone and finally he's been blasted!

Poor R2.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tip Tuesday: Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I wanted to wrap up my tips about the new Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.  This week I wanted to help you as you try to collect those cards.  Below is a list of the current cards from Common to Super Rare.  Keep in mind that you get a new set of cards every day you visit the Main Street Fire Station.

Disney has started selling booster card packs at The Emporium and I'm hearing that these booster packs are much more likely to contain one of the Super Rare (lightning bolt) cards.  Packs are running around $12 each and there's a home game version coming soon.  When these booster packs first were released last month, they literally sold out in minutes, so it's possible they may not be available when you look for them.

I'm also hearing, thanks to the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom fan blog, that Disney will begin handing out limited editions of special spell cards associated with special events such as parties, grand openings and releases.  The first of these cards (apparently it will be a special 12-card edition) will start with a Chip and Dale card released during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.  Other possible cards may be released in connection with movie premieres, the opening of the expanded Fantasyland and/or opening of certain attractions/restaurants in new Fantasyland as well as Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

One more thing about cards.  Some may be willing to turn to Ebay to find cards.  I'd be careful purchasing cards on Ebay because it's all to easy to make fakes.  As easy as desktop publishing is these days, making a fake card is pretty easy.  One way to tell if it's more likely a genuine card is to see if it has rounded corners (the Mickey card shown above was a sample image released by Disney, not a scan of an actual card, that's why it has sharp corners).

A good way to store your cards is to use some sort of sports card collectors album.  I use a smaller book that holds four cards per page.  This way you can more easily carry the book in a backpack or bag.  Some use larger binders, which is fine if you are willing to deal with the extra bulk.

One thing's for sure.  Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is a fantastic hit and one that I fully anticipate to expand both in card offerings and in difficulty as it progresses and is updated.

Until next time Sorcerer!

RARE  (marked by a star)
1 Apprentice Mickey’s Broomsticks
2 Belle’s Mountain Blizzard
3 Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blaster
4 Doris’s Bowler Hat Attack
5 EVE’s Laser Blast
6 Fa Mulan’s Dragon Cannon
7 Flynn Rider’s Flying Frying Pan
8 King Triton’s Trident
9 Lythos’s Rock Titan Boulder Throw
10 Maurice’s Wood Chopper
11 Maximus’ Horseshoes
12 Merlin’s Fireball
13 Monstro’s Water Spout
14 Nibs’s Neverland Assault
15 Rapunzel’s Hair Whip
16 Robin Hood’s Magic Arrow
17 Simba’s Roar
18 The Fairy Godmother’s Pumpkin Bash
19 The Giant’s Giant Stomp
20 Tinker Bell’s Pixie Dust
21 Violet’s Force Fields
22 Woody’s Cowboy Lasso

UNCOMMON  (marked by a crescent moon)
23 Aladdin’s Lamp
24 Bolt’s Super Bark
25 Cinderella’s Magic Ribbon
26 Colonel Hathi’s Righteous Stomp
27 Eeyore’s Gloomy Cloud
28 Frozone’s Ice Blast
29 Lightning McQueen’s Ka-Chow
30 Mickey’s Magic Beans
31 Mike’s Grand Entrance
32 Pinocchio’s Sawdust Blast
33 Prince Phillip’s Enchanted Sword
34 Snow White’s Housecleaning
35 The Headless Horseman’s Exploding Jack-O-Lantern
36 The Mad Hatter’s Tea Time
37 The Queen of Hearts’s Card Army
38 The Sugar Plum Fairies’ Dewdrop Spiderweb
39 WALL-E’s Trash Crunch
40 Yen Sid’s Sorcerers Hat

COMMON  (marked by a planet)
41 Aurora’s Rose Petals
42 Baloo’s Coconut Cascade
43 Caballero Donald’s Pinata
44 Dash’s Whirlwind
45 Flower’s Flowers
46 Gopher’s Demolition Dynamite
47 Grumpy’s Pummeling Pickaxe
48 Lumiere’s Candle Blast
49 Mowgli’s Swinging Vine
50 Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
51 Pocahontas’s Colors of the Wind
52 Pongo’s Soot Bucket
53 Prince Naveen’s Army of Frogs
54 Pumbaa’s Odorous Gas
55 Quasimodo’s Bell
56 Rafiki’s Wisdom Stick
57 The Blue Fairy’s Wand Wish
58 The Woozles’ Woozle Nightmare
59 Thumper’s Mighty Thump
60 Tiana’s Hot Sauce

SUPER RARE (Marked with a lightning bolt)
61 Ariel's Bubble Attack
62 Dumbo's Pink Elephant Parade
63 Fin McMissle's Missle Salvo
64 Hercules Tower Topple
65 Jasmine's Magic Carpet Tassles
66 Mama Odie's Magic Charm
67 Merryweather's Stone Spell
68 Mr. Incredible's Power Heave
69 Mushu's Fiery Breath
70 Winnie the Pooh's Honey Bees

Cast Member Power of the Four Keys

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tip Tuesday: My new favorite spot for evening events at the MK

Main Street Electrical Parade 

Welcome to a belated Tip Tuesday (yet again, sigh).

This week, I wanted to share a brief tip about my new favorite spot to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade which also puts you in a great spot to watch Wishes! and the new "Celebrate the Magic" show coming later this fall about which Disney released some conceptual images earlier today.  Disney also announced they are expanding the seating area for Fantasmic! at the Studios.

Anyway, back to the MSEP.  Many people like to stand in the inner portion of the hub facing Cinderella Castle as the Electrical Parade goes by.  I'm a fan of the opposite view.  Stand in the hub looking back down Main Street U.S.A.  You get a great head-on view of the parade and about halfway through, the lights in Town Square will turn back on so you have a wonderful backdrop for the parade.

Once the parade is done, simply turn around and you're ready for Celebrate the Magic and Wishes.  If you want, you can try to move a bit closer to the Partners statue so that it's in the foreground for any pictures you take.

See for yourself - here's video from when I provided a live stream of MSEP and Wishes! back in June.  It's in parts, due to the feed getting bounced a few times.


Main Street Electrical Parade

The Magic, the Memories and You & Wishes!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Photo Friday: Italy's bell tower in Epcot

Bell Tower of Campanile of St. Marks Square

Time for a (late) Photo Friday!

I've often suggested to try to take images from a non-traditional viewpoint and at a non-traditional angle.  This image of the Bell Tower in Epcot's Italy pavilion is just one more example of how you can make a predictable shot something more than it is.

It also helps that the sky was a gorgeous deep blue this day in June 2010.  


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