Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I took the boys to see this film yesterday, not sure what to expect, but I promise, I won't doubt the Lamp again. I wondered what they'd do with a bunch of automobiles. I wondered how they'd make a story about a rat and food interesting. And I wondered about this one. What could be so good about a crotchety old man who floats his house with helium balloons? I wondered if the previews might show the best parts of the movie.

(I hope that my comments don't spoil any plot bits for anyone who might be reading...then again, what am I worrying about? That would only be an issue if I had readers...)

As usual, my wondering was off base. The folks at Pixar have told a touching story about these characters without hitting you over the head with any of the sentimental stuff. I was touched by the opening sequence where Carl meets Ellie, grows up and finally grows old with her, then loses her, and the loss becomes such a huge hole in his life, a hole that he doesn't want to fill.

But he's forced to fill it, unwillingly, as Russell, the Wilderness Explorer Scout, is carried along for Carl's adventure. Even the big colorful bird (improbably tagged "Kevin" by Russell) and the floppy eared, loyal pooch named Doug help to fill it. In the end, this is a movie about having a family, and Carl finally gets a sort of family to help fill in that big hole that Ellie's loss left him with. I could go into more depth about the ways that this theme is developed, but that isn't really my purpose here. I'm not big into deep analysis.

Suffice it to say that this was a success, and may be the Lamp's best to date.

The short film that preceded the feature was called PARTLY CLOUDY, and it fit right in with UP thematically. My boys love these little shorts; they have the funniest bits of, say, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner with the emotion of a Disney short subject. This one was a worthy addition to the collection of Pixar shorts.

A big thumbs up for UP!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mary Poppins - The Musical

We went to see the Disney/Cameron Mackintosh presentation of Mary Poppins at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theater last week, and it was a resounding hit with all members of my family. My two boys, Disney nuts both, were entranced by the music and the action, and my wife thought it was one of the best musicals she's ever seen.

I have to agree with my family members. It was a triumph! Spectacular scenery and effects, wonderful performers and a familiar story made for a really entertaining afternoon. It features the stars of the Broadway version, Ashley Brown as Poppins herself, and Gavin Lee as Bert. Almost all of the familiar songs from the Disney movie (except "I Love To Laugh") were part of the show, though reworked into the story in slightly different order and to slightly different purposes.

The story itself is different than the one told in the movie. I've not read the P.L. Travers book, so I can't say how closely it follows that story. But as most Disneyphiles know, Walt and Ms. Travers didn't see eye to eye on the version that Disney brought to the screen, and she hated the final product. When she was approached about bringing the story to the stage, she allowed it on the condition that no one from Disney would be involved in the creative process. I don't know how strictly this was interpreted, but it did apparently preclude the Sherman Brothers from writing new songs for the musical (though they were still writing in the nineties when this began to be conceived, according to the Wikipedia article).

Anyway, the story they've come up with is in fact better, deeper, darker, and more emotional than the Disney version. There is more about George Banks' own problems and how they reflect on the Banks household. There is the undercurrent of marital discord, however understated it might be. And there is a more realistic, believable reason for Mr. Banks' concerns about his job at the bank.

The sets were outstanding. The Banks house opens to the audience like a lifesized dollhouse, and the park and the bank sets were really well done. I wondered how they would handle "Jolly Holiday" without animation, but they did it with color, and it was a very effective number.

And when Mary Poppins flies off into the sky, it connects you right back to the beloved movie.

I don't know if we'll get the chance, but I'd love to go see it before it leaves Chicago.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

D23 Magazines and gifts

I thought my membership gift for D23 was the cute little fan they sent with my membership card, which I thought was a nice thing to have but sort of cheap... But today, the real membership gift came - a very nice lithograph of Mickey Mouse, suitable for framing, if one does that sort of thing. (And we might do just that, because my kids love the Mouse...)

Because I was a late joiner, they started me with the summer issue, with Donald Duck on the cover. So I hurried over to my Disney Store, where I was able to obtain a copy of the first issue. I gladly forked over the 16+ dollars for the magazine.

And I read them both. I have to say, I really enjoyed them. Both magazines were packed with details, well written stories, and nice photos. I don't remember the specifics at this time, but perhaps I'll blog about the content in another future entry. (Or the way things have been going lately, maybe I won't...)