Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Madagascar 2 - Escape 2 Africa

I'm not much of a reviewer - I like most everything I see.

This was a fun movie. It starts off with a flashback to Alex the Lion's childhood, when he is lured off the reserve and captured by poachers. His father catches up to them, and knocks the crate off the truck. Little Alex is rescued, and shipped to the Central Park Zoo, where he becomes the "King of New York".

Picking up where the last movie left off, our friends Alex (voiced by Ben Stiller), Melman (David Schwimmer), Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) and of course Marty (Chris Rock) are preparing to fly home to New York, in an airplane piloted by those inventive, resourceful penguins. Of course, the plane doesn't go as far as it's supposed to, and crash lands in Africa.

There are lots of little gags based on the last movie, and also on other movies as well. It's a cute, funny story, not quite as good as the first movie, but I think that's just because they tend to belabor the traits that make each of these animals funny in the first place, whereas in the first one, they sort of came naturally.

All in all, I and my sons enjoyed it.

Next movie: either Bolt or The Tale Of Despereaux.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Other Blogs

I don't quite know what I want to say here at this blog. I mean, I'm interested in all things Disney, and I'm especially interested in a lot of the stuff talking about the future, and its relationship to EPCOT and to the Tomorrowland sections of the parks. I like to do thought experiments about someday opening my own park, even though I know it's just that - a thought experiment - and it is highly unlikely it will ever go anywhere. I read a lot about Disney-related subjects, and since we'll be down at WDW in January over my birthday, I'm sure I'll come home with another cool book, and maybe will be inspired for a series of entries at that time.

For the time being, however, I'd like to point out a couple of other blogs that are saying things that interest me, with a depth that I'm not likely to achieve in my own entries at this point.

One of my favorites is Passport to Dreams. The blog contains scholarly analyses of tons of minutae at the theme parks, in a manner that is reader-friendly in addition to being informative and insightful.

Another favorite is EPCOT Central, whose author is passionate about that park and its declines over the years. Again, he writes about the perceived shortcomings of the unique theme park that have developed over the years of inattention. Apparently there are quite a few people who don't agree, but the discussions are interesting and fun, if you're interested in this park.

Blue Sky Disney is a frequently updated blog (sometimes two and three times a day) with news and reviews, and opinions, about all things Disney. The author (Honor Hunter) seems to have some inside insights to things at Disney Corporation, and his news and views are always informative.

MiceAge is sort of an online magazine, with regular features and articles posted daily (on weekdays) and a large message board (MiceChat) with tons of interesting discussion. Al Lutz seems to have his finger on the pulse of Disney in California, and Kevin Yee is a Florida WDW critic who has coined the term "Declining by Degrees", and who I truly enjoy reading. (A lot of posters seem to think he is overly negative, but I think it's clear that he loves Disney World and only points out the problems he perceives because he would like to see it get even better.)

Other blogs that I click on each day include Disney and More (hosted by Alain Littaye), Imaginerding, the Main Street Gazette, and FutureProbe (which also discusses Star Trek information). All of them except Disney and More have links just over there to the left on this page. (And I'll be adding Disney and More when I get around to it.)

Sooner or later I'll find my "voice" at this blog, and I'll find something to say that I (if no one else) find interesting. Until then, I'll be checking out all of these blogs and sites daily.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Legoland Schaumburg (IL)

Last summer we went to the relatively new Legoland in the Streets of Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois. We were actually going to a Disney Vacation Club presentation about their new purchasing opportunities and the new stuff coming to Disney parks. (I had this premonition that we were going to win the grand prize of a vacation to WDW...shows you how accurate my premonitions are...)

Anyway, right next to the DVC home in Woodfield Mall was the Legoland, and, since my kids are 8 and 6, they began insisting we go there. They had been good, sitting through that DVC presentation (though there were parts of it they did enjoy), so we obliged. Besides, I was curious as to what it was.

From the outside, it looks pretty small. It does take up two floors, but a lot of it is a Lego store and the ticket taking and waiting area to get in. Once inside, it was bigger than it looked. You enter into a room with a scale model, in Legos, of the city of Chicago. There is also an area where the kids can control some cranes and vehicles. That's sort of a pre-show/waiting area to be admitted into the facility proper.

Once they admit the group you happen to be in, you walk into a pathway filled with full sized Lego creations, people, animals, and fantasy creatures. It's an area that the kids can touch and play on things, but there is not much to it.

When you exit that area, you see some more full sized figures. If I recall correctly, there were Star Wars figures, a Batman figure, and another character - Spiderman? I don't remember too well, though we probably have some photos of the figures.

Then you can visit the "attractions" such as they are. There is a dark ride through a medieval sort of scene where all the animatronics are made of Legos. It was not exactly Disney-quality, but it was pretty good. There is a 3D movie about an adventure of a Lego boy who has to go save a princess and fight an evil sorcerer. There is a tour of the Lego "factory", where you get a Lego brick at the end of the show. And there is a hands on area for creating Lego vehicles, much like you'll find at the Lego store in Downtown Disney, with ramps to run them on and bins of parts all over the place. There's a snack bar in the same room with the Lego parts, and of course you exit through the store.

It's a bit pricey for what they have, but the attractions are fairly good (if not Disney) quality.

I've never been to the Legoland in California, but I have to think that this is nothing like it, really....probably hard to compare the two.

The thought came to me that, what if one could create something like this, themed originally, of course, in my area? I think it could be a huge success. It has to be all indoors, obviously, but it is in interesting thought experiment.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Disney's America

Any Disney buff probably knows more than I do about this project - a park near Washington, D.C., located in Virginia that almost came into being in the mid-1990's but then was killed by resistance from locals and historians and such. The resistance was framed as opposition to Disney's potential sullying of historical sites, not to mention problems with Disney's telling of national history. (But one article I saw suggests that what it really was, was a bunch of wealthy influential people not wanting Disney in their back yards.)

There is a lot of concept art in various places on the web: I found a bunch on the blog Disney and More, a discussion hosted by Alain Littaye, a frequent contributor to Mice Age, often on Disneyland Paris subjects. A Google search for Disney America concept art will bring up plenty of choices.

It looked like an exciting park, though it would have been immensely interesting to find out what the Imagineers could have come up with for the "entertainment" part of their "edu-tainment" experience. Would the entertainment experience have differed markedly from what is available at so many other parks around the country?

Also of interest to me is, how would Disney have handled the climate at this park? Could coasters and water rides be an important part of the experience when the climate is somewhat unpredictable? In my searching the internet for articles about this park, I didn't find any that focused on how Disney was going to cope with this challenge. Most of the articles focused on the art, the plans for the park, and the reasons that it didn't come to be.

It seems to me that those challenges would have been hard to meet. Snow removal can be accomplished by mechanical means, and by heated walkways. (I believe that University of Illinois in Chicago uses some form of heated sidewalks to keep them clean in the winter snows. It didn't seem that complicated of a system...) But what about when it is snowing cats and dogs? The rides that are not indoors have to be shut down. Would they have operated the park year-round but shut down some of the attractions seasonally? Do they then charge different admission prices seasonally?

This is a topic I'm somewhat interested in, so I'll probably continue to write about it in the future - hopefully in a little less general sense.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Disney and St. Louis

Before Walt Disney World was built in Florida, it was reported that Disney had an interest in St. Louis as the site of their next development. Walt was, after all, from Missouri, and he was interested in city planning. The idea was to build the park along the Mississippi riverfront, in the area, I believe, that today is home to the entertainment district known as "The Landing".

I'm sure this isn't news to anyone knowledgeable about the history of Disney. But it is interesting to me, in that the company was willing to take the chance on building in, while not exactly the frozen north, a city where the climate is not always favorable to such an attraction. "Imagineering" a cold weather park interests me a great deal. (I may "think out loud" in future entries about the subject...or not...)

Here's links to a couple articles I found:

THE LEDGER - St. Louis Original Home to Disney

"Piece of Shep" blog

Jim Hill Media - Why Western River Went South

St. Louis Construction News and Real Estate - Put on Your Ears

If I find more articles I'll add more links.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

RIP Tony Hillerman, Michael Crichton

Tony Hillerman, author of the Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mysteries set in the Four Corners region of Arizona/New Mexico (Navajo country), passed away on Sunday, November 2, 2008. I'll miss his unique tales of this region and the people there. He inspired me to make a swing through the area several years back, when I was able to check out Canyon De Chelly and some of the other sights in that part of the country. Hillerman was one of my "must read" authors, and leaves a gap in that list now. Maybe I'll find some other author worthy of buying the minute their books come out.

As if that wasn't enough, Michael Crichton passed away on Tuesday, November 4, 2008. Crichton was, of course, the author of such works as Jurassic Park, Congo, Eaters of the Dead, and The Andromeda Strain , to name a few of his works.

The world of genre fiction loses two important contributors.

Monday, November 3, 2008

National Geographic Special Edition

National Geographic has come out with a special edition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the space race. It has a foreword by Ray Bradbury, several good articles by other scientists/scientific writers, and tons of beautiful pictures of the Solar System and beyond.

It shows the promise the space program once held for Americans, and for humanity in general. But it's sad, realize that we accomplished so much so quickly, then just took a step backwards.

Science marches forward, but if humanity doesn't go with it, what is it worth?