Thursday, December 22, 2011

Disney Film: Experiencing TOY STORY (the first) again

Last night, the Disney channel was showing Toy Story in prime time, and when I got home from work, my boys were planted in front of the TV watching intently. I sat down across from my wife at the island in the kitchen, and I noticed that she continually shifted her attention to the action on the screen.

Finally I sat down between the boys and let myself get pulled into the movie again. It is far from my first time watching it, and it is not my kids' first time either. But the film is simply entrancing. It grabs you and you can't not watch!

I came in too close to the end, really. Buzz and Woody were in Sid's room, trying to escape before he awoke. Then there is the scene where the toys break the rules, and then the frantic chase to get onto the moving truck. Finally, the happy ending and the arrival of the puppy.

If I were to relate the story to someone totally unfamiliar with the movie, they'd probably say, "well, that's a nice story" or something like that. But the movie transcends the simplicity of the tale. It becomes something so much more, even today, after seeing Pixar's digital magic worked over and over, and seeing digital special effects that blow your mind! When it came out, the technology to create such a film was new, but Pixar infused it with something more than tech savvy - they gave it heart - the same heart that we see in so many Disney releases.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Disney Film: The Muppets

I took my kids to see The Muppets last Friday night. I wasn't planning to go; the idea of seeing the Muppets wasn't on the top of my wishlist. I don't think of Muppets and think "Christmas must-see".

But I read the blog entry at FutureProbe, where it was given a fairly enthusiastic thumbs-up, and my kids really were pretty excited about seeing it, so we picked that one over Arthur, Hugo and Puss In Boots>.

I'm glad we saw it. It was a lot of fun. Jokes aimed high and low; I found myself laughing at stuff and my kids would look at me like, "what was funny about that?" Several times. On the other hand, they laughed hard at a few things that, well, that just brought a smile to my face, as much for their reaction as to the onscreen joke. (Don't ask me what these were. I don't remember anymore.)

It isn't high concept stuff. It was just a fun little story about trying to save the Muppets Studio from a bad guy. Reminded me a little of The Blues Brothers with the whole "we're getting the band back together", needing to raise money quick through the use of a "show". I wonder if it has anything to do with Frank Oz's involvement in the original Muppets show and with the Blues Brothers movie?

I don't put this up there with the stuff we get from Pixar routinely, or even most of the stuff we've gotten from Disney Animation, but it was a good, fun movie, and I certainly didn't feel like I wasted our money on it! (In other words, it was worth seeing in the theater.)


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blog highlight from 2011...

...for me, at least.

You like to know if someone is reading your entries as a blog writer, at least I do. So comments are always appreciated. When I don't get any comments, I confess I get sort of disillusioned with blogging. Or maybe "disinterested" is a better word.

So for me, the highlight of my blogging for this year came in January! In this post, titled Why Story Is King, I wrote about my new (at the time) purchase of Steve Alcorn's book titled Theme Park Design, specifically a chapter about the use of story in theme parks. And lo and behold, who should comment but Steve Alcorn!

I have to say, it made me feel really good to hear from the author, to know that he read what I wrote, and he even had a little bit of input. It's the kind of thing that keeps me interested. That keeps me writing this blog and not giving up on it.

That, for me, was the highlight of 2011, at least with respect to this blog. (Plenty of other higher-lights in other areas...) Good thing it came early in the year. Who knows what I would have done if it hadn't come? :-)


Friday, November 11, 2011

Disney Vacation: How Long?

A while back I read a post discussing the number of parks, or perhaps the call for a fifth gate, at WDW. It may have been at FutureProbe, or somewhere else. (But I think it was at FutureProbe.) The point was that Disney expanded with the idea of getting visitors to extend their stays from one week to maybe 10 days or two weeks, spending money at the resorts, at the parks, at Disney stores and at Disney restaurants.

If it had worked it would have put a lot of extra money in the Disney coffers. But it didn't. People didn't extend their stays. They just spent less days at a particular park in favor of another park.

But I wonder.

Does this "length of stay" statistic (which I've personally never seen but which I believe is out there somewhere) tell the whole story? I mean, the truth of it is that Americans don't vacation that way. Ten days is probably the longest we go for. Two weeks, maybe, if it's somewhere extraordinary. Perhaps Hawaii or Europe, or an African safari or whatever. But not for a domestic vacation. Probably not to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean either. Ten days is probably the max. More likely most are going to be 7 or 8 nights.

I don't know what the average is for weeks of paid vacation in the United States. I'd guess it's probably around 2 weeks. Maybe 3 weeks. Not too many of us get 5 or 6 weeks off paid each year. So, figure one of those weeks gets spent at Disney for your average Disney-phile. The question becomes then, where are they going to spend the other week? Maybe a resort on a lake. Maybe at a relative's home in Phoenix, or in the Ozarks Mountains in Missouri.

Any way to get them to spend their second week at Disney?

Well, maybe not, if there isn't much "new" to see. You've already gone on Space Mountain, Pirates, Test Track, Everest, Rock'n'Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Haunted Mansion, it's a small world, and Splash Mountain. Multiple times. You even got on Soarin' twice and Toy Story Mania once. So what's to go back for? If it's thrill rides you like, you can go a lot closer to home and not have to pay for lodging and air fare or travel expenses.

Maybe you suggest that people should come back just to "experience the magic". Sit in the parks, take in the ambiance. To this I say, wishful thinking. When you've only got a week or two weeks, many families will choose to do as much as they can during that time frame. Sit on a bench? Fight crowds again? There's no "magic" in the mosh pits that are also known as Disney's park concourses.

To me, the way to make people spend more of their yearly allotment of vacation time at a Disney park would be to make it a better experience. Don't keep raising fees in order to raise revenue. Don't make that steak dinner at Le Cellier two dollars more and/or give the diner less food for the price. Don't give me less services at a hotel but charge me more. Don't give me a less comfortable experience at a park, whether it be more crowds or longer wait times, and charge me more for it. Those are not the ways to win the hearts of potential Disney-philes.

Give me more for my money. Give me a dinner that rivals the best restaurants in the country. Give me more and better attractions. Make my stay at your resorts even more comfortable, more enjoyable. That's how you are going to get me to spend even more time at Disney in a given year.

To me, worrying about whether a guest stays at a resort for 7 or 8 nights, or ten or twelve nights per stay is worrying about the wrong question. The right question is "how can we get our customers to spend even more time on our property in the course of a year?" There is plenty to do in Orlando. Right now, we don't even have to patronize Disney parks or restaurants even if we stay on Disney property. Give us a reason to stay on property. Give us new experiences and enhanced old experiences.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Happy 3rd Birthday to DFR!

Hey, I missed it again. Seems like a yearly thing.

I've been writing this blog for 3 years and one month now. I started it on October 9, 2008, and here it is, November 9, 2011.

Lately I've fallen into a period where I don't have much Disney stuff to write about. But I'm not abandoning the blog - just waiting for Disney topics to force themselves into my conscience again. They will.

Meantime, I've been mostly interested in self-publishing. I love to write, and I've even finished a few projects - one short-ish mystery novel, several short stories and a couple longer pieces in the 10-25K range. I have about four or five other stories on the burner, started, at various lengths, and I keep working on them. Some day I hope to put up links here and other places to a place where one can purchase my fiction, at least in electronic format.

But I've been reading a lot of author blogs, mostly of the independent and self-publishing variety, which provide encouragement and advice. And writing. Just not writing this (or my Chitown Sports Ramblings) blog...


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Samland's book...

I said before that I would post the links to purchase Sam Gennawey's book, Walt and the Promise of Progress City, but I haven't. So here they are now...

The paperback version...

The Kindle version...

Go get it!!!


Monday, October 31, 2011

Time and Effort

I was reading a couple of other blog entries this morning on the Disney blogs that are regular stops for me, and one of them, on The World According To Jack, talked about how he goes about doing a blog entry. I have to admit that I was amazed. It's more like journalism than what I think of as "blogging". He goes into some level of detail about the cameras he uses for his original photography, lenses, video cameras, photo editing software, and word processing software.

Another blog I read, Futureprobe, often makes an offhand comment in the course of the blog about upcoming entries that he is preparing, leading me to believe that the author of that blog puts a lot of time and research into his entries. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Disney bloggers write with this level of dedication.

But it isn't my style here. As my readers (being optimistic here on using the plural) can probably tell, most of my entries are the result of some thought or idea flinging itself into my face and into my consciousness, and if I have an opinion or another take on the idea or whatever, I bang out a blog entry in about 15 or 20 minutes. Sometimes longer if I have to get to a patient. But my total time writing it (first draft is what gets posted, usually) probably averages around that range. For example, it came to me as I was watching the news coverage of Steve Jobs' demise that he was more like Walt Disney than he was like the personages that the news commentators were comparing him to (Albert Einstein? Really?). So I thought about the comparison a bit, and came in to work the next morning, and banged out that blog entry between patients. Probably 10 minutes to write it.

I'm going on about 10 minutes for this one. What do you think? :-)


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs: The Walt Disney of Technology

As everyone probably knows, Steve Jobs passed away yesterday, October 5th, 2011, at the age of 56. He's been battling cancer for at least 10 years, and though I haven't seen anything yet about the exact cause of his death (not because it isn't out there, I just haven't had time to look that much), I'd assume it was cancer-related.

I have read commentaries and seen news reports suggesting that Jobs is the Einstein of his generation. I don't know. There are different types of genius. Einstein was a genius with physics. He could see through the equations to the extension of our reality that we call "special relativity" today. But I don't really think he was a genius in terms of people skills.

A more apt comparison is probably to the 'raison d'etre' for my and many other blogs, Walt Disney himself. Walt was a genius, not because of his great artistic skills, not because of his intellect in academics, but because of his feel for what people wanted. Walt gave people animated feature films when the prevailing wisdom held that no one would ever go sit through a cartoon of that length. Then he built these things called "theme parks" that the experts felt would never succeed. They did succeed, beyond anyone's wildest expectations, because of Walt's special genius - a gift for knowing what people liked and wanted.

Steve Jobs had this same type of genius. He didn't invent the first Apple computer; according to what I've heard, Steve Wozniak was the one who built it. He didn't invent mp3 players, or cell phones, or tablet computers. But his genius was in recognizing the potential of these devices, and how they would relate to what people actually wanted and needed. He led in shaping the direction of these implements, and others have followed, but Steve Jobs' genius has placed Apple firmly at the forefront of their development, a step ahead of their competitors.

He also exhibited his genius when he saw Pixar for what it could be. George Lucas HAD Pixar in his pocket, but didn't recognize the potential there. Jobs did. Jobs let those boys work in the direction they wanted to go, recognizing the quality of what they were doing, and gave them enough time to succeed beyond their wildest expectations - eventually being bought by Disney and making Steve Jobs one of Disney's largest (if not THE largest) shareholders.

To Steve Jobs, the Walt Disney of Technology and one of those rare folks who are legitimately known as a genius, rest in peace.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Disney Parks: DAK getting an added land...

If the blog reports are true (I've read it in several locations now, including FutureProbe and Voyages Extraordinaires), Disney's Animal Kingdom is adding a whole other land, to be based on the movie Avatar. Reactions appear to be mixed.

The most common objection seems to be that Disney is not trusting enough in its own properties and its Imagineers to come up with something interesting enough to base an entire land on. Instead, they are "copying" off Universal and licensing a franchise to create content for their park. I suppose there is something to this. Not so much the properties part, because, well, what does Disney have as far as film that would fit with an entire land in the Animal Kingdom? I'm not sure; perhaps someone has some ideas. I understand the objection, but I don't know what the content that they already own that they're supposed to use is.

The second part is that the Imagineers could come up with something more engrossing than Avatar. This is a stronger objection, in my view. The Imagineers have proven themselves over and over again. Could they, on their own, have come up with a Beastly Kingdom conceptual overlay, for example, that would work better than Avatar? It's likely they could.

It does seem that Robert Iger likes acquiring properties rather than developing them, so the licensing of Pandora fits in with his modus operandi. Then there's cost. I'd guess that, since this story and theme have been pretty well developed for the film, perhaps it is somewhat cheaper to turn it into a land. Perhaps it's even significantly cheaper. I don't know. But it does take out the beginning stages of development, with all the failed ideas and directions, and sets the Imagineers firmly on their path. And there is no reason that they cannot shine in what they finally conceptualize and develop for the theme park land.

In the end, I don't care. This development addresses some significant problems that Disney has. They need something more at this park, and they need something to add capacity to the parks at the resort, on a whole. A while back I posted an entry wishing for a fifth gate, and in the comments it was suggested that they can't (or won't) maintain what's already there, and that what they really need is to turn DAK and DHS into something closer to a full day park.

This development may just do that for Disney's Animal Kingdom.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Low Season?

I was thinking about the possibility of going back to Disney, probably sometime after the new Fantasyland opens in the Magic Kingdom, and the major negative of a Disney visit are the crowds. Elbowing your way through a crowded concourse in the heat is not that much fun, and waiting in line for as much as an hour or 75 minutes to get on a ride is not the highest, best use of my limited vacation hours in my opinion. If I was someone who had an annual pass and lived close, I might not mind the waits as much; I wouldn't mind experiencing the queues at, say, Toy Story Mania, or Big Thunder Mountain or the Jungle Cruise, or Everest or Mission:Space or Test Track. All good queues, by all accounts. But not the way I want to spend my handful of vacationing hours.

Is there a "low season' anymore at Disney World? I've been to the park at the end of September, a couple times in the middle of October, once over Thanksgiving (last year), once in the middle of January around MLK Day, and once in early June. There were two days I remember light crowds: Thanksgiving Day, and the day after Hurricane Jean struck in 2004 (I think it was). Every other time we've been there, it's been uncomfortably crowded at all the parks.

It was similarly crowded at Universal's Islands of Adventure last November, and it is always very crowded at Six Flags Great America during their limited summer months. The only park I've been to where it really wasn't crowded at all was Michigan's Adventure, on opening weekend of the last two years (Memorial Day weekend). (Later in the summer, when we visited Michigan's Adventure once in the middle of August, it was extremely crowded.) I will suggest that Disney's California Adventure over Easter Break was not as crowded as Disneyland or as any Magic Kingdom park, though it wasn't exactly what I'd call "empty" either, on our two visits to it.

Crowds are not fun. If I want to play in a mosh pit, I'll go to a punk rock concert! I want a modicum of personal space. I want to see a clear path ahead of me not jammed by people from the left of the concourse to the right, all wanting to get to the same somewheres. For me, it's the major negative about a Disney experience. I would hope they can figure out a way to make it less of a negative at some point...


Friday, September 16, 2011

The Opening Sequence...

Sam Gennaway at Samland (too lazy to put this link in, sorry) had a post that caught my interest a short time ago, titled The Magic Kingdom: A Grand Entrance> In it he talks about the approach to the Magic Kingdom from the guest's perspective, and the way that Walt Disney and the Imagineers wanted to control the experience. Sam also talks about the "storyboarding" of the event, as many of the Imagineers came from a film background. So it was no surprise that the experience has parallels to the opening sequences from a film.

I never really thought about the approach to the Magic Kingdom, or to any Disney park, from this exact perspective, but I think it can apply to every park. Think about an opening montage of a film, then compare it to the "framed" view from, say, the monorail coming up on Epcot. You get your wide shot, narrowing in focus as we approach the park, the Sphere getting larger and larger, until finally it disappears out of the shot as we loop around FutureWorld, and again the wide shot shows the American Adventure in the distance, teasing us with the view for a few seconds until we loop back around and exit the monorail. The Sphere looms now, and as we pass through the entryway we have a still shot of the icon. As we walk toward it, it gets larger and larger, until we are in its shadow, and now we're part of the story.

It works for Animal Kingdom, too, as you drive in. You see the huge Tree of Life in the distance (the wide opening shot) then it disappears behind the foliage as you approach the gates. Finally you (the camera) are passing through the lush jungle, animals on either side of you, exploring a bit along the way, until you burst into the clearing, and there it is, a closer "wide" shot, now looking absolutely huge. And you are into the story.

I don't know film terminology, I am not from a film background. Yet I love watching movies, and I find this comparison to be almost inspiring. It's a whole other way of experiencing the park as I approach it.

Filmmakers build excitement and suspense, setting up the entire story through the use of their opening montages; Disney Imagineers do much the same thing. I'm looking forward to visiting in the future, to consider my approaches to the parks in these terms. I'm also going to think about this as I continue to armchair imagineer my own parks...

Thanks, Sam, for a Disney enthusiasm boost.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Louis Prima and The Jungle Book

I don't know what possessed me, but I typed in Louis Prima into Google and found this video:

Louis Prima I Wanna Be Like You

I don't know much about Louis Prima other than that he voiced the King Ape in Jungle Book. This is a short, very interesting clip of Prima doing part of the song, along with some documentary-style narration. Don't know where it comes from originally.

Here's the scene from Jungle Book.

Take a look if you'd like.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Disney Books: Forthcoming Sam Gennawey book

Saw a blog post at Imagineering, then at SamLand's Disney Adventures:

Sam Gennawey is publishing a book called Walt and the Promise of Progress City. The book will be published by Ayefour Publishing, who also published Project Future by Chad Emerson and two other books.

The link on the book refers to the blog post announcing the upcoming release, not a link to Amazon or anywhere that you can buy the book. But I'll post such a link when the book is released and avaliable for purchase. And I'll be buying it.

Sam's website SamLand has many interesting articles, often written from the perpsective of an urban planner. If I was designing a theme park complex, I'd hire Sam. (Fat chance of that, though...)

Check it out if you're so inclined...


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

If I were in charge of Disney...

I'm sure I could find tons of stuff to do. As long as I didn't have to pay attention to the bottom line too much.

But one thing I think I would do if I had any say in the doings of Disney would be to open a DVC resort in the Wisconsin Dells.

The Dells, if you don't know, is billed as the "Waterpark Capital of the World". There is a lot to do there, even if some of it is fairly "cheesy" type stuff. You can take a boat ride on the Wisconsin River and explore the natural dells, which the town takes its name from. You can take a "duck" ride, which is an amphibious craft from WWII that drives on roads and takes a trip down the river, and through Lake Delton also. You can go to see Rick Wilcox's magic show, or Tommy Bartlett's Water Show. You can go to Mt Olympus Water- and Theme Park, or a couple of other water/theme parks. You can visit haunted houses, an upside down White House ('Top Secret'), drive go-karts, play mini-golf, or just hang out at your hotel and play at its water parks. Plus there are some cheesier attractions like Ripley's Believe-it-or-Not, a 4D motion theater, laser tag and Wizard Quest (might not be as cheesy as some of the others).

We stayed at the Great Wolf Lodge. Our room had a simulated 'cabin' in it with bunk beds and a single bed. We also had a queen sized bed with a pull out sleeper. The Lodge has a couple of restaurants, a big arcade, a very nice animatronic display in the lobby where they do "story time" every night, and of course, the water parks, both incoor and outdoor. Then there is the attached three story Magiquest building, where kids can play for their entire visit, for one admission at the beginning of the stay.

As I was sitting there watching my kids enjoy the water parks at our hotel, I couldn't help but think that it would be a great place for DVC to expand to. Right now, we have a slew of DVC resorts in Florida, one in South Carolina, one in California, and one opening very soon (maybe it's open!) in Hawaii. For a midwestern Disney fan, they all have something in common: a plane trip. Oh, I know that lots of Chicagoans drive to Florida routinely, but for many of us, when you have a week off, you want to get there quickly. With Disney, the journey is not part of the attraction. The destination is.

If Disney were to open a DVC resort in that area, I believe we would patronize it quite a bit. We might even buy some points there. It's the type of place we could spend a long weekend at, or even on occasion stay for longer. (Though that might be the limiting factor - I don't think the Dells get a lot of full-week visitors.) The Great Wolf Lodge sells its own time-shares, as do a couple other big resorts (like the Wilderness Lodge). Why couldn't Disney get into the act in this family friendly tourist destination?

If I were Disney, I'd buy one of the existing resorts (there's a Polynesian Village and Water Park, for example), close it for a year, remodel the heck out of it, and turn it into a Disney resort! The Polynesian, for example, could maybe be modeled on Disney's Polynesian Resort at WDW, but with a huge water park, part of which is alreayd there. Then I'd start selling DVC memberships. A lot of midwesterners who don't see a point to buying DVC might change their minds if there was something considerably closer to home besides the WDW, DL and three other DVC resort destinations.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011


It seems when one reads the various blogs about Disney, there is a lot of commentary on two places: EPCOT and Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom or Disneyland. I would say this is probably because these are the areas that inspire - they are perhaps the best examples of the high-level imagineering that goes on when developing a theme park. When you talk to a Disney fan, it seems that often they came by their passion by visiting EPCOT as a child or a teen. Before that, it was probably one of the Tomorrowlands that inspired fans.

I've read a lot of "armchair imagineering" that reimagines the futuristic elements of Disney's park offerings, and it seems a common complaint is that they've become somewhat stale in their treatment of the futuristic themes. Or watered down, often, with attractions that are more for thrills or for character tie-ins than for any link to the future. I've done a bit of armchair imagineering myself back when I started this blog.

Anyway, it got me thinking. The future is about exploring new frontiers. Whether we humans are actually getting anywhere is debatable, but we certainly spend enough imagination thinking about the future. So what are those frontiers now?

Space, of course, remains a major frontier, one we've just barely touched on exploring. EPCOT touches on this frontier with the MISSION: SPACE attraction, and Tomorrowland is supposed to be all about a future where space travel is commonplace. It's a theme that is rich with possibilities. Science fiction writers still use human expansion into space as a major theme for their works.

Less popular, perhaps, but still a mystery to much of humanity, the oceans are another frontier. This environment offers challenges almost as harsh as exploration of space offers, and we know little about some parts of the deep oceans, including what sorts of creatures live there. When I think of the oceans, I always think of James Cameron's movie THE ABYSS. Other movies and books have dealt with the oceans as a frontier for our exploration also, but that's the one that jumps out at me.

A third frontier is the area under our feet. JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH is of course the book and movie that jumps out at me. The world of caves and subterranean environment is a fascinating milieu, and we humans have often looked downward in our expansion efforts. Subways, basements, defensive installations, cave exploration and catacombs and graves are all ways we expand and utilize the underground frontier.

Does anyone have any other frontiers?

Do any of these frontiers excite you more than another?


Thursday, August 4, 2011

WDW - A Unique Place

I was reading the recent blog entry over at The World According To Jack with the sure-to-draw-interest title Should The City Of EPCOT Have Been Built?. It's an interesting question that is sure to bring out opinions, and judging by the fact that there are something like 40 comments (too many for me to read in the limited time I had), it is succeeding.

Jack's position seems to be that he'd rather have what Walt Disney World has become over the years, a vacation mecca with four parks, two water parks, golf courses, other attractions, and tons of really well done resorts. He points out, correctly I think, that if it had been built, we would likely not have the other three parks and many of the other things that make it into a vacation destination. We might well have something more like Disneyland Resort in California, and while that's a really nice place, it isn't a destination by itself.

It made me think: How unique IS WDW? The answer seems to be, pretty darned unique. There really is nothing like it in the world, as far as I know. Universal's Orlando resort is more like DLR in California. No Six Flags or Cedar Fair park aspires to be what WDW has successfully become.

And what it is, is a self contained vacation destination in and of itself. You do not have to leave the grounds for days, if you choose not to. I know, I wrote in my last post that I thought a fifth gate would be a good idea to make the experience better, fresher, newer, and less crowded (perhaps). But we've gone to WDW multiple times in the last 6 or 7 years, and except for the first time when we also had a convention to attend, we've stayed on property for all 7 days of each visit. On our last visit we ventured off the property to go to Universal Studios for two days, and are likely to do so in the future. But we return for sleeping, eating, and relaxing. (Not that we do much relaxing when on our vacations.)

How come it is so unique? Why hasn't anyone else tried to copy the model? Somewhere, where land is relatively cheap, why doesn't a big company buy up a large amount of it and build something on a similar scale? Do they feel there wouldn't be a market for something of that nature? That they couldn't charge enough to cover costs? To be profitable?

The Disney Company is a mega-corporation, with fingers in a lot of pies. Revenue streams in from many sources. But by most accounts, it seems that the parks are always profitable for Disney.

In any case, I for one am glad it is there in the form it is today.


Monday, July 25, 2011

What does Market Research Say about WDW?

I'm asking. I really don't know. Over the years there have been plenty of blog entries discussing the status of WDW. We all know what's there: Four theme parks, two mini-golf courses, a couple of regular golf courses, two good water parks, their Wide World of Sports, the Richard Petty Driving Experience, and a retail center called Downtown Disney. Oh, yeah. And a WHOLE bunch of resort hotels of varying quality (Deluxe to Value Resorts).

I don't know what the occupancy numbers show, but from what I recall, it's pretty high for all the resorts. There are always plenty of people who want to visit the parks or the water parks. Their resorts probably can't house them all. Plenty of them stay nearby in hotels just off the Disney acreage.

Anymore, it seems like there really isn't much of a "slow" season. The parks are always jammed with people. Today, July 25th at 2 pm EDT, Space Mountain has a 55 minute wait, according to my iPhone app. Splash Mountain has a 65 minute wait, and Pirates and Haunted Mansion have only a 30 minute wait. Peter Pan's flight has a 65 minute wait, and BTMR has a 45 minute wait.

Over at Epcot, Soarin' has a 65 minute wait and Test Track has a 45 minute wait. At DHS, Toy Story Mania! has a 75 minute wait, and Star Tours has a 55 minute wait. Rock'n'Roller Coaster has a 65 minute wait, and ToT has a 35 minute wait. At Animal Kingdom, Everest has a 65 minute wait, kali River Rapids has a 70 minute wait. For som reason, the Safari has only a 15 minute wait, but Dinosaur has a 40 minute wait. (So I suppose it's possible that these times aren't totally accurate...)

So could they support a fifth gate? More to the point, would it increase revenues? Well, they CERTAINLY could support a fifth gate with attendance. The question is where do the people come from? Would a fifth park simply remove people from the walkways of the other four parks? Or does it bring in more business and maybe keep people away from the other Orlando attractions?

On our last visit to WDW, we stayed on Disney property for 7 nights. Usually we'd buy a 7 day pass to Disney and spend all of our time at their parks. But last time we bought the five day pass and spent two days over at Universal. We've talked about perhaps visiting Universal again, along with maybe Busch Gardens and/or Sea World. My younger son expressed an interest in going to the Legoland that opened in the vicinity.

Why this apparent willingness to go elsewhere than Disney? Because of a couple things. They've been to Disney a handful of times in the last several years. Not as much as some, but a lot more than most of their friends and classmates. They have ridden everything. They have their favorites, but they've done them enough that they aren't crying to do them again.

The other thing that none of us like is the fact that we always have to fight crowds and stand in long lines to get anywhere, seemingly. The parks are just TOO crowded. Doesn't anyone else feel this way?

So to sum up: Nothing much new at Disney, and too crowded and too much time spent in long lines.

A fifth gate would perhaps help on both of these counts.

Writing only from my own experience, I can assure you (and Disney) that we're likely to visit MORE if there is a fifth gate. And if the crowds are lighter, we'll have a much better time and that will also likely lead to increased time spent at Disney when we're in Orlando. We're DVC members, and so we are sort of roped into staying at DVC properties at least once a year or so. But we don't have to stay on Disney property - there's plenty within a short drive of the area.

I know it's not in the cards; the possibility of Disney spending the money to build a fifth gate is virtually nil at this time, but I for one would be thrilled if they would apply that Disney Imagineering to another really fun attraction at WDW - another full sized theme park.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Disney Film: CARS 2

We made it to the theater to see Cars 2 in 2D over the weekend, and as usual, Pixar produces a winner. Lots of laughs, good plot, and great animation. The scenes from Europe (Paris and Rome) made us want to book our flights to that destination right now!

All of the familiar voices returned, as far as I could tell, to voice their characters again, except, of course, the departed Paul Newman, who voiced Doc Hudson. I was happy to see the way they handled the character - with respect and reverence, almost, and I knew it was an homage to the incredible actor who voiced Doc. Michael Caine was perfect as the British super-spy car Finn McMissile.

I can't say I loved it as much as I loved the original Cars movie, which almost took me by surprise with how good it was. That was back when I was still capable of doubting Pixar, and now I just say "it'll be a good one," when I hear they have a new release coming down the pipe.

It's perhaps a bit of a departure for Pixar as they tackle the classic spy story in their own way, and perhaps this story is a bit more of a Dreamworks-style "ensemble" movie and less a buddy movie than some of their previous outings. Mater takes the lead in this one, with Lightning McQueen being a bit of a supporting character, as so many characters play important parts in the story. Lightning, Finn, Holly and the rest of the gang all are important to Mater's adventure. It's sort of like one of the shorts rather than a typical Pixar movie.

Still, a very enjoyable box office experience.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Whole Month!

I hate to go an entire month without making an entry on the Disney Fan Ramblings blog, yet here it is, June 29, and I have yet to say anything.

Mostly that's simply because I don't have anything to say. Not about Disney, anyway. No trips are planned, no movies were watched, no new books have been read. Many of the blogs I follow haven't had too many updates, and what updates there have been have not inspired me to write my own entries about issues they might be addressing.

My main area of interest in Disney has always been the parks - how they developed them, what makes them special, the history behind them, and their future. Without a trip scheduled, or even in the foreseeable future, it's hard for me to make comments. I don't have a stash of photos to post, nor do I consider myself any sort of expert on all the details. So it's been pretty dry, as far as inspiration for subjects to blog about.

I also love the animated features, and Cars 2 is out, so I'll likely have something to write about soon. We also hope to get to see Kung Fu Panda 2 at some point soon, so I can perhaps write on that one as well. And of course, the next installment of Harry Potter is coming up soon.

Look for a little more in terms of content here in the near future. I am not promising it, but I'm hopeful...


Friday, May 27, 2011

Index Post

Now that the Bulls have lost (see my post at Chitown Sports Ramblings if you're interested in my feelings on that last game) I turn my attentions to the Cubs and maybe a little back to Disney.

Thought I'd put up an "Index" post. I'm not going to include the links, because I don't have time to do all of them, but I'll put up the months and if you want to read my thoughts on the subjects, click the year and month over to the left and click on the post. They're mostly titled pretty clearly.

Disney Books

The Kingdom Keepers 3 - March 2011
Theme Park Design by Steve Alcorn - January 2011
Walt Disney World: Then Now and Forever - December 2010
The Pixar Touch - October 2010
The Imagineering Field Guide/Disney's Hollywood Studios - August 2010
Project Future - July 2010
The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World - June 2010
Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince by Marc Elliot - March 2010
Kingdom Keepers 1 and 2 - November 2009
Team Rodent September 2009
The Mouse That Roared - September 2009
Down And Out In The Magic Kingdomby Cory Doctorow - August 2009

Disney Movies
The Sword In The Stone - May 2011
The Sorcerer's Apprentice - March 2011
Alice In Wonderland - March 2011 (live action version)
Tangled - January 2011
Tron: Legacy - December 2010
Toy Story 2 - October 2010
Toy Story 3 - July 2010
Prince Of Persia - June 2010
The Princess and the Frog - December 2009
Up - June 2009
Pinocchio - May 2009
Bedtime Stories - January 2009
Bolt - December 2008
Presto! - December 2008

Check 'em out if you're so inclined!


Monday, May 23, 2011


I finally got around to watching the animated film, THE SWORD IN THE STONE, yesterday. At 79 minutes, it didn't take an enormous committment of time.

I don't know how Disney film critics and historians view this film, but I'd guess they would see it as a fairly minor addition to the catalog. It was a good, but not great, movie, and was fun to watch. The songs seemed a bit forced and not really all that memorable. The animation was pretty basic but well done.

I believe it's based loosely on T.H. White's The Once And Future King, though they just say "based on the story by T.H. White" in the credits. In this one, Arthur, known as Wart, is a page trying to be a squire in the household of Sir Ector, and he is acting as Ector's son Kay's squire-in-training. Merlin meets up with him, and takes on the task of educating the young boy in something other than polishing boots and caring for armor and weapons. To do this he transforms young Wart into a fish, a bird and a squirrel. I'm not sure what lessons the boy learns from these things in the movie, but presumably it's something about using his head to solve problems.

As anyone who knows the Arthurian legends will recall, Arthur is the one who can remove the sword from the stone, which identifies him as king of England. In this (and, I believe, in T.H. White's) version, Arthur goes with Sir Kay as his squire to a jousting contest set to determine the king of England, and forgets Kay's sword. So he decides to go grab the one from the church courtyard that is set in stone. And of course, he removes it without being aware of the significance, and brings it to Kay.

And then the movie ends pretty abruptly, because once they realize Arthur is the true king of England, the film cuts to him sitting on the throne, an oversized crown on his head, and Merlin reappearing from his trip to Bermuda (in the 20th century) to advise him. The abruptness of the ending seemed very unlike Disney.

I felt like I could see some things that were used in Beauty and the Beast and Tangled foreshadowed in this film. Also perhaps some animation and ideas from other, older Disney films (Fantasia, perhaps?) seem to have been used here as well.

I enjoyed this movie, but wouldn't put it up with the greats of Disney animation.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Where I'd like to be in Disney World

I was just thinking (between patients) of where I might like to be at this moment, and as is often the case, I think of Disney World. So then I started thinking - if I were in Disney World right now, with a Park Hopper ticket so I could go wherever I want to go, where would I choose to be?

My wife mentioned last night that she wouldn't mind being in Epcot's World Showcase, sipping a Riesling purchased in Germany, just browsing the shops without time constraints. No fast passes or dinner reservations to get to. Kids can be with, but they can't be nagging. (Like that'll happen...)

Where would I pick? Would it be at the aforementioned Epcot? If so, where? World Showcase? Or FutureWorld? Would it be at a nice, cool, Animal Kingdom, like it was over Thanksgiving of last year? The Magic Kingdom, where I could get on Pirates, then move right over to Haunted Mansion, then Splash Mountain, then a leisurely ride on the PeopleMover, then back through the same ones again (with no waits, of course).

If I were there right now, I think I'd take being at the Polynesian, sitting by the pool, sipping an exotic drink, and just relaxing with a great view of the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom. Not a park at all. Just a nice, relaxing location.

That sounds best to me.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

What to write about?

I haven't been able to write much here lately - partly because I haven't really had any "Disney" experiences to write about. (I had been hoping that I'd be able to write about the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco after visiting there, but I sorta screwed that up.)

But also I haven't been writing because I had been, in my head at least, planning out this midwestern indoor theme park. Because Disney is so successful at what they've done with theme parks (virtually inventing the art form), I was studying Disney intently while "imagineering" my own ideas.

This passion has sort of fallen by the wayside. Why? Because it's overwhelming! And because after messing with the idea for months, years even, I realize that I can't do it as an individual. (I guess I always realized this, but when push comes to shove - to actually start thinking about the FIRST STEP...) You need an organization behind you.

I read the book THE DISNEY WAY, and you know, it's one of those motivational things that tells you something like "if you can dream it, you can do it." I actually kept going back to that while thinking about it, as if it's actually true. And I suppose in a sense, it is. But you still need the organization.

So I'm thinking on a different tangent now. I'm thinking about the organization. I'm probably too old, but maybe my kids will take up this dream (they talk about it all the time) and I can give them a leg up on our dream. Silly, huh?

Take care, I'll be back when I have a movie or book to review, or have a Disney visit to report on. It won't be terribly long but it won't be tomorrow, either!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

That's what lack of research gets ya...

We were fortunate enough to spend a week (kids' spring break) in San Francisco. Now too most people SF means Lombard Street, Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, Ghiradelli Square, and of course, Alcatraz. But to ne as a Disney fan, it also meant a chance to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio.

I looked it up months ago to see where it was and recall them talking about needing timed tickets for admission, but I thought we'd just get them when we got into town. So, we went about our scheduled activities, with a city tour on Sunday and an Alcatraz tour on Monday, figuring that Tuesday would be the day we'd rent a car and do things in various parts of town, including visiting some neighborhoods and getting some pictures under the Golden Gate Bridge. And drive to the Museum.

You may already see the flaw in my planning. Tuesday, unfortunately, is the only day of the week the place is closed. I never checked with the concierge at our hotel or anyone about it; we simply located it on our maps, then noted its location on the city tour (by Tower Tours bus), and made for it immediately after lunch.

The next day we were leaving the city to see Muir Woods and drive up to Napa, and there simply would not be time to go there.

So I guess a visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum, for me and my family, will have to wait till the next trip to San Francisco. Darn.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Off Topic Stuff

I haven't found much to write about with respect to Disney related thoughts lately. I've had some other stuff on my mind, and found myself drawn to the ideas of self-publishing. I love books, and I love reading and writing, and I've kicked around the notion that perhaps I could start my own small press publishing operation.

With that in mind, and some thoughts about coming up with a different model, I started to research the self-publishing industry and some small presses, and was interested to find out how easy it is to publish your own work these days. Anyone can publish a book for Kindle, iPad, Nook, Sony e-Reader and other platforms by using services like Smashwords, CreateSpace, and Lightning Source. The up-front fees are manageable using these models, and the amount of money that is being generated from some mid-list authors using these models is impressive.

Dean Wesley Smith has a very informative blog which includes plenty of posts on self-publishing. J.A. Konrath is also blogging about his experiences becoming his own publisher. My friend Annetta Ribken also blogs about her experience in getting her collection of short stories published at WordWebbing and has plenty of useful information if you're inclined to do something like this.

I have a novel completed from several years back, and several others in varying stages of production. I also have a handful of fair to middlin' short stories. What I've noticed is that a lot of authors are publishing their short fiction and selling it electronically for $0.99, which to me seems like a lot for a single short story. Annetta Ribken collected her flash fiction short shorts in a book called Not Nice and Other Understatements and sells it for $2.99 through Kindle, or more for a print version at Amazon. So I'm debating whether, and when, I should begin trying to publish my own fiction. It's one thing to be an established author like Konrath or Smith, or even like Tim Pratt or Michael Jasper, and another to be unpublished and trying to break through.

We'll see what happens. In the absence of any Disney stuff that is intriguing me enough to blog about, this entry will have to suffice.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I popped the DVD of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, starring Nicholas Cage and Alfred Molina, in for viewing yesterday. I don't know what I expected. The previews looked good, but sometimes that's the best part of the movie.

I wouldn't say this was in that category, but it was not the greatest movie I ever saw. The plot seemed a little loopy, with a lot of moments that made me go, "Where did THAT come from?" while watching. Not a good sign. To me, it suggests that they either cut out a bunch of stuff that explained these things, or it was just a poorly written script. I suspect that it was the former.

Cage and Molina are very good as the ancient sorcerers who are at odds in the story - Cage's Balthazar wants to keep Morgana, the evil sorceress from the Arthurian legends, bottled up in her Russian nesting doll prison, and Molina's character wants to free her and in the process destroy Balthazar.

The only part brought into this film from the classic Disney animated feature Fantasia was a scene where the apprentice decides to clean up the lab and uses magic to animate brooms and mops and buckets and other cleaning tools, and the objects go crazy, making a huge mess. Balthazar has to step in and make things right. The scene plays well in the movie; if you didn't know it was from Fantasia you'd not feel it to be out of place in this story.

It was sort of like watching Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief with Dave, the college-aged, nerdy apprentice character (played well by Jay Baruchel, except maybe in the Dave-doing-magic scenes) throwing magic around like Percy Jackson using his power over water. In fact, I saw similarities between the two films in content and in quality. Neither was a disaster, but neither was a great film. In my commentary about the Percy Jackson movie, I suggested that perhaps Disney should have done that film, and asked rhetorically what they could have done with it. I guess, with The Sorcerer's Apprentice, we find out the answer to that.

And the answer is: Nothing special.


Monday, March 28, 2011


I finished Ridley Pearson's third book in his Kingdom Keepers series. I have mixed feelings about the book. I liked it for the most part. It held together and was consistent (for the most part). It resolved well. But I can't give it an unequivocally positive review in spite of those things.

For one, it was simply too long. I don't know how to put this other than for a large part of the book, I felt like the plot and the characters were just spinning their wheels, so to speak. The story wasn't really advancing. Was I learning anything new about the characters? About their nemeses? About the plot in general? I didn't feel I was. I wanted something more punchy, more to the point, with less meandering.

It almost seemed like Mr. Pearson had a laundry list of scenes and locations he wanted to make sure he fit into the book, and proceeded to force them all into the story whether they added to it or not. The Epcot settings for this story are a lot of fun, being quite detailed and varied. I understand wanting to get a lot of that detail into the book. Perhaps that's partly what drives readership among Disney fans - the detail they can ascertain, the familiarity they derive from reading those details, much like a search for hidden Mickeys. But it's at the expense of the flow of the story, in my opinion.

Briefly, in this story, Wayne is being held by the Overtakers somewhere, and through Jess's dreams, the Kingdom Keepers figure that "somewhere" is in Epcot. There are many ingenious methods the kids use to try to figure out where he is. Along the way they battle crash test dummies, Vikings from Norway, and Gigabyte, the giant snake. Meanwhile, their method of getting out of the DHI entities and back into their real selves (who are asleep in their own beds) is lost and the kids are all trapped in the "Syndrome", from which their bodies cannot be woken up. Meanwhile, Wayne continues to send cryptic messages through Jess, who, with Amanda, has been turned into a DHI hologram to fully aid in the efforts of the Kingdom Keepers.

I loved the ideas Pearson put forward in the first of this series, but did not like the execution or the ending in that book. I thought the second book corrected all the flaws I found in the first, continuing the story in a satisfying and consistent manner. This third book is consistent, but the story suffers, in my opinion, from a lack of editing and an overabundance of "stuff" happening, making it simply too long and lacking focus. But I'll read the fourth book when it comes out in paperback and hope for a tighter story focus with the same fun ideas and characters.

(Read my thoughts on the last Kingdom Keepers books HERE.)

(Read Imaginerding's review of this book HERE.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reposting old entries: Kosher?

A question to anyone who might be reading. Is it okay for a blogger (me, for example) to post an entry that was written a while ago, but which might not have been read by anyone who is reading today?

The reason I ask is because I had a couple entries from way back when I started this blog, and felt I had some interesting things to say (hence, starting the blog). I didn't have any readers then. I may not have many readers now, but more than back then.

I've since said those things, and am in the process of trying to think up new and interesting things to say about Disney. But I'm not a park historian, I'm not a trivia expert, I don't have a lot of experience with old Disney vs. new Disney, and I don't get to visit the parks enough to have new observations to write about (like someone like Kevin Yee does).

What do you think? Kosher? Or not worth it?


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Disney DVD: Alice In Wonderland - Tim Burton Edition

I'm a bit late to the party on this post - the film has been out for a while, and I've had the BluRay in my stack of stuff to watch for a long time. But I never seem to get to it - there always seems to be something else to watch.

Until yesterday. I had the afternoon to myself, and I used it to finally view Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland on DVD. And I have to say I enjoyed it, though it wasn't the best thing I've ever seen. It has that delightful quirkiness that Burton and Johnny Depp bring to most films. Depp is perfect as the Mad Hatter, and the rest of the cast does a really great job also. The special effects are nice, and add to the excitement of the story. The look of the picture is typical Tim Burton, also - not exactly "dark", but foreboding, if that makes any sense. Think Edward Scissorhands. That's what it reminded me of, cinematographically.

With respect to the story, it's not exactly Lewis Carroll's tale, but is an updated version, a sequel of sorts, with Alice being all grown up and preparing to be betrothed to a rather obnoxious Lord. She's not sure why, but something doesn't feel right, and soon she is led down a rabbit hole once again, where she plunges back to Wonderland. Once there, she is enlisted in the cause to overturn the rule of the Red Queen, played spectacularly and almost unrecognizably by Helena Bonham Carter. The "frabjous day" is approaching, and Alice must decide if she will act or sit back and let things happen for better or worse. (Sorta like a marriage!)

Matt Lucas, who played Thenardier in the Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert that I've been raving about on the pages of this blog and elsewhere, played the twins (Tweedledum and Tweedledee), with his head being put on the CGI bodies of the two "fat boys". Ann Hathaway plays the creepy (to me) White Queen, Alan Rickman gives his voice to the caterpillar Absalom, and Crispin Glover is the Knave of Hearts, with his head being used on a CGI body. And Alice Kingsleigh is played by Mia Wasikowska, who does a good job portraying her innocence and lack of confidence at the beginning and doing a 180 degree turnabout in the end.

I enjoyed the film on many levels, and it is something I want to watch again on BluRay. I think some of the scenes will really "pop" when viewed in the higher definition. Like a lot of Tim Burton's films, there is something a little creepy about the entire production. Not saying this is a big negative, but I'm not sure my kids will "get" it, or get into it at their current age. It's got a lot of hip attitude, but doesn't quite get to greatness, in my opinion.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Scott's Theme Park thoughts

If you were to peruse old posts on this blog, or click on the labels "Indoor Theme Park", "Cold Weather Parks", or maybe "Midwest Attractions" you might notice that it's been sort of a running theme of the blog that I play around with conceptualizing a high quality, year-round theme park in the upper Midwest, specifically in the Chicago area.

I believe that this would be a good location for such a venture, because of the population within driving distance, and because of the accessibility of the area via several means of transportation. There are two major airports in O'Hare and Midway, a proposed (but whether it will ever be build is a different story) third airport near Peotone. Two major highways crisscross here (I80 and I55), and Amtrack trains come through here as well. There is also a lot of land in the area that might be available.

The limiting factor is the weather. For 6 months out of the year, the weather here is unpredictible and not amenable to an outdoor park. The one large local amusement park, Six Flags Great America, is a 6 month outdoor park. There are virtually no other amusement parks in the area. Kiddieland closed, as did Santa's Village. You have to drive to Indiana (Indiana Beach), Michigan (Michigan's Adventure) or the Wisconsin Dells (a whole bunch of stuff) to find other amusement parks.

And there are virtually no "theme" parks. Legoland has an indoor facility in Schaumburg, which features a single dark ride, a 3D theater, a "factory experience", and a couple other things to do...not much for the almost 30 dollar admission price.
Other than that, there really isn't much. We can drive to Indiana to visit the Amish communities where there is themed dining and attractions in the form of an almost museum-like area. We can drive to Iowa, to Amana, where Amish also have tons of wineries, dining establishments and shops. We can drive to the Dells, where we can visit some themed water parks and other attractions. Or over to Michigan, where Nelis' Dutch Village and some other attractions are located in Holland.

So why NOT here? I can't see a good reason. We will fly to Florida or California and spend an entire week at Disney, in an immersive vacation where sometimes we don't ever leave the grounds of the resort. We don't always explore the surrounding area (well, actually *we* do...when we've gone to California we've always made it a point to drive to some of the attractions around the area - as far away as the San Diego Zoo or Hollywood, a bit closer, and seen some oceanfront towns also) so why do we need the beach a hundred miles (or less) away? The weather is great, but a lot of us from around here drive to the Dells to stay at a water park that offers us basically a waterpark. Artificial beach!

Assuming that I'm correct, and this area could support some sort of high quality themed park and resort, then I begin thinking about what it would look like. It wouldn't be Disney, obviously - I'm talking about ME designing this, not borrowing the Imagineers' work. It wouldn't be Universal, or movie themed. Could it be themed to life in the old days? Like the Holland, Michigan theme park, or the Amish communities? Well, yeah, but what about the weather?

I was thinking small at first, a single theme park and a hotel with a water park attached. But after reading Project Future, I decided that there was not enough in that concept to make the park a destination, and I'd need to expand the concept. So my next concept was for three theme parks, two hotels, a huge indoor/outdoor water park, a retail shopping and dining area, and a golf course.

Then I read Building A Better Mouse and thought about the cost of EPCOT in 1982. 1.2 BILLION dollars! Holy cats, that's a lot! And while my concept didn't call for quite the elaborate-ness of EPCOT's attractions, I was thinking of things that were on that order. Ride-throughs and simulators and boats and a coaster or two, with a few ideas where we'd be a bit more original in our presentation. (I'm not an engineer, so I was kinda thinking that if I get my own team of "imagineers" we'd come up with more cool stuff than I'd ever think up on my own...)

Now I'm thinking the whole thing needs to be downsized back to a much smaller initial stage. Back to the single theme "park", if you will, in the sense that Legoland in Schaumburg is a theme park. An enclosed building that can fit enough modestly sized attractions, with a low enough park ticket, to draw people from the area mostly, and hopefully get profitable quickly. Pay off the notes, then proceed with planning the more extravagant resort.

Think it's doable? I'd love to think so. But more likely it will remain a thought experiment, mostly worked out in my own notebooks and occasionally, like today, on the pages of this blog...


Monday, March 14, 2011

Les Miz at the O2 Concert - BluRay

Okay, so I'm nuts about Les Miz. I know it has nothing to do with Disney, but it's just such a powerful story that I keep coming back to it.

I mentioned that, in the same order as Building A Better Mouse and The Kingdom Keepers III - Disney In Shadows I got the BluRay disc of the 25th Anniversary concert of Les Miserables, and I got around to watching some of it recently. I'd just like to point out a couple of standout performances.
  • Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean - he steals the show with his performances of "Bring Him Home", "Who Am I?" and in the encore version of "Bring Him Home" with Colm Wilkinson and two other Valjean players.

  • Samantha Barks as Eponine, who gives it her all in her solo "On My Own"

  • Ramin Karimloo as Enjolras, whose strong voice gave me chills in "Red and Black" and in his parts of "One Day More"

  • Nick Jonas as Marius (yes, Jonas as in Jonas Brothers) for his performance of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. Nick does not have the theatrical voice of his co-performers, not by a long shot, but he stays right on key and puts himself into the role. Much criticism was heaped on Jonas in various reviews of the DVD and of the concert itself, but I felt it was overdone. Yes, he's not as good at Broadway style songs as the others in this and many other productions, but he's not THAT bad. He hits the notes he needs to hit. And he actually does a very good job on the previously mentioned song.

There were other good performances also, such as that of Norm Lewis as Javert and Lea Salonga as Fantine. But he ones listed deserved special mention, I think.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Disney Books: Building A Better Mouse

I finished my read of Steve Alcorn's and David Green's Building A Better Mouse - The Story of the Electronic Imagineers Who Designed Epcot last night. I've mentioned before that I thought it was a little pricey at $19.95 when it clocks in at 130 pages or so. I suppose you can chalk this up to the fact that it's published in limited numbers by ThemePerks Press - I know that doing these sorts of books in this manner results in a higher-than-it-should-be unit price. (I remember having the opportunity to read Tim Pratt's Bone Shop, an urban fantasy novel that he was self publishing, and balking at the price tag of $19.00. I ended up buying it for the Kindle for $5.00. Well worth it at that price!)

Cost notwithstanding, I enjoyed this book quite a lot. It's a series of anecdotes about the construction process of the unique theme park known as EPCOT or EPCOT Center or simply Epcot, whatever you prefer. It focuses a lot on the processes at The American Adventure, where Alcorn seemed to spend most of his time and energy.

We know something of Steve Alcorn's work through his book Theme Park Design; he is an electrical engineer if I read it right. David Green is less familiar to me - his bio on the back cover states that he is the president of Monteverdi Creative, Inc, a company that provides creative and technical design services. It seems David worked as a "wirelister" at EPCOT, though I am not entirely clear on what that is exactly.

It's amazing that these young engineers put forth the effort and the imagination they needed to put forth, all on short and irregular sleep hours and for not much pay. It seems like the engineers certainly enjoyed the perks of the job provided by Disney - merchandise, access to the parks, free lodging that tourists/guests were paying big bucks for. But they had a lot to contend with - not the least of which was union employees who had an interest in dragging out the job as long as possible instead of finishing on time or (God forbid!) early. Plus, the union rules required that union employees do all the wiring, even of sophisticated electronic circuit boards with which many of them had no experience or training. Mistakes were often made. And some of them were perhaps not mistakes but actual malicious actions in order to keep things from working right for whatever reason.

I didn't mean to recap the work, but it's a lot of fun to read and I'm glad I own it, even at the somewhat higher cost. I'd love to take Alcorn's class on Theme Park Design and learn even more about his experiences.

One somewhat depressing side effect of reading the book: the realization of the actual cost of doing a world class theme park. EPCOT was budgeted at 400 million dollars around 1980. It actually cost 1.2 BILLION to build it. Three times the original estimate. What would it cost today to do something like that? Probably 4 billion or so. Maybe more. That's sort of daunting. (Okay, more than "sort of"...) Who possibly could finance something like that? Anyone who could is going to want total control of such a project. There goes my plans! ;-)


Thursday, March 10, 2011

My New Disney Stuff

Okay, I really don't have anything to say about Disney at the moment. But it's been a couple weeks since I updated, so I thought I'd post something...anything.

So I thought I'd post about my new Disney acquisitions. I got to Target before they took Bambi off their sale shelves, and picked up the combo BluRay/DVD of that movie. I have it on VHS but I don't have a VHS player currently. So I bought this 70 minute animated film, and am actually looking forward to watching it on BluRay.

I also ordered some books from Amazon, which came recently. I have started Steve Alcorn's and David Green's Building A Better Mouse: The Story of the Electronic Imagineers Who Designed Epcot. It's a very thin book for what it costs ($19.95) so I'm hoping the content is THAT good. So far I'm enjoying the stories.

I also bought Kingdom Keepers III: Disney in Shadow but my son commandeered that one as soon as I opened the box from Amazon. He's only about a fourth of the way into it, but his review so far is that "it's really good." (I'll withhold my own opinions until after I've read it.)

I also bought Megamind at Target but we haven't viewed that one. Yet. The boys really liked it in the theater.

Tangled will be out soon on DVD and I'm sure I'll add that one to the collection as well.

NEED MORE BOOKS!!! (Like I have time to read the ones I have...)


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Disney Books - the next title

I placed my order with Amazon yesterday. The main thing I was ordering was the Les Miserables BluRay of the 25th anniversary concert at the O2. But since I was ordering, I also bought Building A Better Mouse by Steve Alcorn. (It's got a much longer title, and you can click the link if you want to see it all.)

It was a little pricey at $19.95, but I've heard such good things about it from several online sources that I decided that it would be worth it to me.

I also ordered KingdomKeepers III - Disney in Shadow in paperback, which is a title both I and my kids want to read.

I also got something by Cory Doctorow, a bargain book. I loved his Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom. (I blogged about it a ways back. Not going to go look for the link right now but if you want to read my entry on it, look under Books or Book Reviews on the key words.) I am looking forward to this book, and if I like it, to more books by him.

Currently reading John Scalzi's Zoe's Tale, the last book of a four book series that starts with Old Man's War. Very good reads, all of them. The best SF I've read in a while...

That's all for today! Happy March!


Monday, February 28, 2011

Tap Resort App for iPhone

My kids showed me this free app they had for their iPod Touches, and I downloaded it for my phone.

It's a fun little app, free (as I said), where you get an island, some "money", and a couple of "attractions", and then you buy restaurants, entertainment, lodging, and luxury items, and upgrade the ones you have over time. The tourists come to your island and spend money at your buildings and attractions, and you collect the coins a couple times a day. Then you can spend the coins you earn from your tourists on either new attractions or upgrading old ones. From time to time you get far enough along where you can then buy a new island and start developing it also. The more value you provide for your tourists, the faster the coins roll in.

Would that it worked this way at Disney, right?


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kevin Yee's MiceAge Article - "Billion Dollar Band-Aid?"

I read Kevin Yee's latest article, "Billion Dollar Band-Aid?", on MiceAge and found it to be thought provoking. Kevin Yee, as almost every Disney nut knows, is a blogger and author who focuses on the Florida theme parks, criticizing what he sees to be declines and praising the things they do right. He's got a bunch of books out (I don't have any of them), and he is a very frequent visitor to those parks.

In this latest entry, Kevin talks about the "NextGen" project, at which Disney is throwing a billion dollars. Yes, that's "billion" with a "b". A lot of money. Yee focuses on one part of this project: the technology to allow visitors to "reserve" their shows and rides from home. In essence, you could get a FastPass reservation in a similar manner to the way you make dining reservations now.

Yee is no fan of FastPasses in general; he knows that guests like it, and he also seems to admit that it works. But the reason it works is because a lot of guests don't know how to use it, or choose not to use the feature of their tickets. As it is, the most popular rides "sell out" early in the day anyway. So if you want to ride, say, Space Mountain, and you don't get to the park early enough, you get to stand in the standby queue. This wouldn't be a bad thing, because the queue is almost a show in itself. But because of the FastPasses, the wait times get incredibly high. 90 minute waits are not uncommon, and I don't care how involved you are in the queue, if you've gotta experience it for that long, it starts to get old. I have really only ridden Space Mountain when the wait times were low, or when we have a FastPass. I watch the people in the standby line stare at me and my two little guys as we walk past up to the entrance. Most of them seem to be groups of teens, and I guess they have each other for entertainment. But some older (as in not teenagers) couples look more than a little bored with the wait.

You can read Kevin's article for the specifics of what direction he foresees these changes taking. You can decide which group you fall into, the "ultra-planner", the "mid-level planner", the "non-planner", or the "local". There's numbers in there about how FP's work now, and how they might work under variations of "Advance Fast Pass" reservation systems.

What I found interesting was where Kevin thought that, given a billion dollars and the mandate to drive attendance to the parks, perhaps the best way to do it would be to install a bunch of new attractions! He says that a billion dollars would give you 20 new 50 million dollar attractions. No, this wouldn't be enough for 20 CarsLands or 20 Everests, but it would be enough for a couple of them along with several smaller attractions of varying quality - A through D tickets, so to speak.

As one commenter pointed out, this approach assumes that the whole of the Billion (with a "b"!) dollars going to NextGen stuff is going to FastPass. In truth we don't know what the rest of the money is going for. Certainly for interactive type stuff at the parks, use of mobile devices for things, etc etc etc. But Yee might respond that no matter what, if they were to invest a billion into increasing capacity at all the parks, it would pay off by alleviating crowding, driving repeat visitors, shortening line times, and pulling people away from 'old' E-tickets to visit the newer attractions.

I for one applaud this approach. We visited Disney World in November, and when we got back, my father-in-law asked me what was there that was new to see. I thought about it. The building we stayed in at our hotel was new, and we had some fun exploring around there in the limited time available for it. We saw the Hall of Presidents for the first time, but it wasn't "new", just new to us. I had never seen the Indiana Jones Stunt Show, so that was new to me, though not to my wife and younger son. We had never eaten at the Tequila Bar in the Mexican Pavilion, nor had we eaten at the Brown Derby. So those, too, were new to us. Of all those things in the parks, only the Tequila Bar was actually new to Disney. Nothing else.

Of course, we also visited Universal's Islands of Adventure, and that was all new to us. And the Harry Potter land was new to most everyone, having only been open a few months. But that's not Disney.

We're probably not going to return to WDW or Disneyland for a couple of years. If we do, it's possible that we may not even visit the Disney parks. We never take any time to enjoy our hotel. We've not been anywhere else in Orlando, and we have a lot to experience at Universal. But if they had new attractions for us to visit, we would certainly be more inclined to spend our time at Disney.

I know that the Fantasyland expansion will add a new restaurant, a couple of brand new ride experiences (the Little Mermaid ride and the Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster) and some rethemed older rides. Is that enough? I just don't really know. Maybe it will be enough to entice us to spend a day at the Magic Kingdom. Us and about a million of our closest friends.

But I like the idea of adding new things to experience, and not all of the hotel or restaurant variety. Disney needs to give their guests something new. Not all of them are first time visitors, or even second time visitors. Some of us have been there a whole bunch, and want to experience something new and exciting. And not necessarily on our cell phones.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One more Les Miz - Disney connection

I have one more connection between Disney and Les Miz. British comic actor Matt Lucas performed as the evil innkeeper Thenardier (who also provides comic relief to the otherwise very serious story) in the O2 concert for the 25th anniversary. (He will be playing the role on stage, apparently, in England at the Queen's Theater for a limited run.)

Matt has a Disney connection. From the Facebook Les Miz page:

Matt Lucas is one of Britain’s most successful comic actors and writers. His TV credits include "Come Fly With Me" and the multi award-winning "Little Britain", both for the BBC. His other credits include "Shooting Stars", "Wind in the Willows" and most recently Tim Burton’s film "Alice in Wonderland".

I don't know what role he played in Alice In Wonderland. I have the movie on BluRay but haven't found the time to watch it. But there it is - another connection, however meaningless, between my favorite musical and my favorite company.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Changes over there at the left...

I changed things up a bit on my blog list and my favorite internet spots. On the Blog List, I like to have blogs that are frequently updated. On the Favorite Internet Spots list, I have good blogs and sites but not ones that are necessarily updated routinely.

(The exception to the rule is "Disney and More" which is a great site but for some reason "My Blog List" wouldn't accept it.)

I "demoted" Disneyology and Disney's Folly to the Internet Spot list since they haven't been updated in 3 months. I "promoted" Disney Daddy to "My Blog List" because there are always some neat updates, especially his "Tip Tuesday".

I like to use my own blog as a starting point for my own Disney blog reading. I think I have some really interesting blogs listed there, and I can see what's new at the sites with a glance. I don't have to visit the sites if they haven't updated since my last visit.

The blogs I have listed there are all very interesting and worth your time.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Les Miz - Disney Connections

I've been in my Les Miserables bunker for a few weeks now. Besides seeing the stage production as it swings through Chicago, I've been watching the DVD of the 10th anniversary concert, and PBS showed the 25th anniversary concert on Saturday night.

As I mentioned in the previous post, it's my favorite musical, and as I was watching it, I mentioned to my wife and kids that it has a couple different connections to Disney. First, Cameron Mackintosh produces it, and he is also involved as producer for Disney's Mary Poppins stage musical.

But the Disney crossovers that I was pointing out to my family were two of the female leads in the 10th anniverary DVD. First, the role of Eponine is sung by actress/singer Lea Salonga. Ms. Salonga first came to attention in the title role of Miss Saigon, then went to play the role of Eponine on Broadway. Disney used her to supply the singing voice to Aladdin's Princess Jasmine. Then she also sang the on-screen songs for Fa Mulan in both Mulan and in the straight-to-video release Mulan 2. Her duet with Brad Kane on the song A Whole New World is one of the most powerful songs in Disney animation history, in my opinion.

The other tie-in is actress/singer Judy Kuhn, who voiced the role of Cosette on Broadway and in the 10th anniversary concert. Ms. Kuhn provided the singing voice to Pocahontas in the movies Pocahontas and Pocahontas 2 (also a straight-to-video release). Ms. Kuhn also had a cameo appearance in the recent film Enchanted, where she played a pregnant woman with kids.

Ms. Salonga went on to play the role of Fantine in the later New York production of Les Miserables. Ms. Kuhn replaced Ms. Salonga in that role, and played it until the show closed in 2008.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dearth of Posts...

I haven't felt much like posting here recently - nothing seems to strike my fancy since I read the book by Steve Alcorn (that I blogged about in a couple of recent posts).

Been reading a bit, and not Disney related stuff. I just finished The Big Short by Michael Lewis, which discusses the story behind the subprime mortgage crisis that ended up almost bringing down all of the big financial houses on Wall Street, and would have, had the government not stepped in and guaranteed the losses and purchased all the crappy loans from them. I blogged it about it on my Journalscape blog; if you'd be interested in reading about it, here's the link.

I also read CJ Box's western, Below Zero. In this one, a pair of men, accompanied by a teenaged girl, go on a killing spree across the country, and the pattern of crimes makes no sense. That is, until you know what to look for. Joe Pickett is Box's game warden detective, and is involved because the teenaged girl is texting his daughter, and identifying herself as their adopted daughter April, who they believed was killed in a confrontation between the FBI and a group of survivalists (to which her natural mother belonged). Good mystery. I'm currently reading his next book, titled Nowhere To Run.

I've also been distracted by the opportunity to go see Les Miserables as it swings through Chicago on its 25th anniversary tour with a totally new production. It's my favorite musical (yes, I like it more than Mary Poppins) and I've missed seeing it in recent years. I got piano music of Les Miz songs recently and have been playing the heck out of them, trying to get up to speed. (My sight reading had gotten really bad from years of not doing it but I've been improving as I play along with my kids' piano lessons.) I blogged about the experience at the musical here on my Rambler blog.

Nothing in the world of Disney or theme parks has grabbed me of late. Hopefully it will again, and then my blogging will start again... I know I didn't follow through with my intention to post a photo summary about the Harry Potter ride at Universal, but I just haven't really felt like doing it, and it's getting more distant from my memory as time passes.

Till then, this will have to do.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

D23 Magazine here

On Tuesday, before the great blizzard of 2011 hit the midwest, the mailperson brought me my D23 magazine! She delivered it right to the door, because it was a pretty big box instead of the usual Fed Ex-style envelope. That's because it contained a couple of nice member gifts: A D23 watch, and a D23 luggage tag.

Okay, the luggage tag isn't that great...but for me it's useful because one of our old Disney luggage tags sort of got ruined on our last trip to Florida. So this one will serve nicely as a replacement. But the watch is okay. I'm sure it's not an expensive thing, but it's nicer than your average gift.

I haven't gotten into the magazine yet. Tuesday night was too busy, with kids coming home from school early and then the blizzard hitting. Wednesday was occupied with digging out, and again, not a lot of time for the magazine. (Plus I was reading one of my son's books, something called The Mysterious Benedict Society, a pretty good young adult book.) So I hope to get to it this weekend perhaps. Or perhaps not. There's a little bit of stuff happening this weekend, too.

Let you know when I finally get to it and if there's anything that provokes a blog entry.


Monday, January 31, 2011

THEME PARK DESIGN - Themed Attractions

In Chapter 2 of his book Theme Park Design, Steve Alcorn notes that "theme parks" are only one of the different types of themed attractions. He lists several others:

  • Museums

  • National Park Service Visitor Centers

  • Corporate Communications Centers

  • Broadcast Studio Visitor Tours

  • Themed Shopping Malls

  • Themed Restaurants

We've all probably been to museums and themed restaurants, and probably a Visitors' Center at a national park. I'm not as sure about the others. Would the "Jelly Belly Factory Tour" qualiify as a corporate communications center? It's certainly a type of themed attraction. What about something like the Empire State Building or the CN Tower in Toronto, or the Sears (Willis) Tower or the John Hancock Building in Chicago?

I was trying to come up with other examples of themed attractions in my own experience, because Alcorn mentions after his list that there are many more examples. Slightly later in the book he mentions arcades, and these could be themed, I suppose, though probably relatively few of them are. And casinos, especially those in Vegas, rely heavily on theming. I guess you could characterize them as "adult theme parks", but it's more than that. The fountains at Bellagio, the Volcano at Mirage, and the pirate ship at Treasure Island are all examples of themed entertainment that are designed to draw in people to the core businesses, that is, casinos, hotels and restaurants.

Some places, like Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas, are really attractions in and of themselves. They are incredible examples of over-the-top luxury that become more than just a hotel, a spa, a casino or a restaurant. (I haven't been to Vegas in a few years now so I don't know what other examples of decadence abound there.)

Whole towns probably have become types of themed attractions. Napa and Sonoma Valleys in California are dedicated to wine tasting. Some of the wineries are quite impressive; they probably are more opulent than they need to be for just raising and selling wine. They are part of the whole themed experience. The entire town of Sedona is another example, I think. You've got your red rock, your crystals and vortices channeling spirit energy, your cliff dweller ruins, and your southwestern artist motif going. New Orleans' Bourbon Street is another sort of themed entertainment venue, this one for jazz, booze and partying into the wee hours.

Closer to home, the Wisconsin Dells is another town/area that has basically become one big themed attraction. Everywhere you look there's a waterpark. There are amusement parks, water shows, magic shows, miniature golf, arcades, boat rides, shopping and eateries. The theming is haphazard, but I would guess that the overriding idea is just family fun.

Near the end of the book, Alcorn lists several themed attractions that "worked". Among them are:

  • The Star Trek Experience, The Hilton Las Vegas (closed)

  • Caesar's Magical Empire, Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas (closed>

  • Buccaneer Bay, Treasure Island, Las Vegas (modified)

  • Ka, Cirque Du Soleil, MGM Grand Las Vegas

  • NASA's Space Center Houston, Texas

  • Nauticus, National Maritime Center, Norfolk VA

  • The Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, OH

  • COSI, Columbus, OH

  • Madame Tussaud's, Worldwide

I've mentioned a few others in the course of this article. Anyone want to suggest any others, feel free.

This book goes on my shelf of themed attraction books, right next to the Disney collection! I hope to find more like it.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why Story is King: Steve Alcorn in THEME PARK DESIGN

This is an important idea to Steve Alcorn; important enough that he uses "Why Story Is King" as the first sub-topic in his Chapter 5, titled RIDES, and then as the title of Chapter 9.

With respect to rides, Alcorn talks about his favorite Disney rides: a toss-up beetween "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Haunted Mansion". I've seen it echoed time and time again in blog posts and posts on the MiceAge discussion boards, these are the two rides that "real" Disney fans list as their favorites. Alcorn says that he now understands that what made these rides his favorites was their use of story as their "key ingredient".

Would everyone agree with that? I've seen it mentioned a few times that the reason these rides are timeless and so repeatable is the level of detail in the ride. So perhaps it isn't JUST story. Perhaps it's the combination of story and incredible attention to details. I know I'm still finding stuff in the Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion that is new to me when I ride it. It's a great experience every time I ride it, and I'm not entirely sure that it's all because of the story.

On the other hand, most of the "dark rides" in Fantasyland ARE almost entirely dependent on the story they tell. I don't see the same level of detail on Snow White or on Pooh that I see on Haunted Mansion and Pirates.

In Chapter 9, Alcorn talks about story as a component of Disney's thrill rides like Tower of Terror and Rock'n'Roller Coaster, He compares them to other thrill rides like Knotts Berry Farm's Parachute Drop, and concludes that the Disney rides are better, but almost always much more costly also. He mentions Universal's Earthquake ride, which I've never been on, and he feels that the reason it is less than "completely fulfilling" is because it does NOT have a satisfying story. The riders aren't given a reason for even being ON the subway train.

It was interesting to me that Alcorn feels that The Lord of the Rings would not make a good ride. He states that "rides with more complicated storylines are often best implemented using simulators". I take it that he feels LOTR is just too complicated to make a good attraction.

(I'm not sure he's completely right on that one. I think it would make an incredible "land" ala The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, what with the richness of detail and settings that the films offered to viewers. And I think that parts of the story would translate well to dark rides. The Mines of Moria, where Gandalf battles the Balrog and is lost to the Fellowship, for example, would make a really cool dark ride, if told with animatronics and with video on the level of Spiderman or The Forbidden Journey of Harry Potter. Other scenes would be probably make excellent dark rides or thrill rides. Just my opinion.)

I've seen it suggested in various places that Disney relies too much on the rule that everything has to have a backstory of some sort. They use it instead of making a higher quality ride, if I'm reading the criticisms correctly. But Alcorn seems to say you NEED both - high quality AND a good story, because "Story is King".


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Disney Books: THEME PARK DESIGN by Steve Alcorn

While it's not strictly about Disney, this title from engineer Steve Alcorn has a ton of Disney-related content - stories about development of a handful of attractions at Epcot, especially the American Adventure show. And while this is not strictly a review in the sense that I'm not looking to critically analyze this book and tell my readers (optimistic, I know...)whether it's good or bad and why, I am going to tell you that I really enjoyed it and flew through it.

Others' experience with the subject matter may vary, but what anyone buying or borrowing this title will get is a sometimes very technical look at the processes behind both theme park design and attraction design. Alcorn might lose some readers when he starts talking about digital signal processors (DSP's) and video formats and programmable logic controllers (PLC's) and scripted show controllers and such. The level of detail is perhaps a bit intimidating at times, but it did (for me, at least) reinforce the idea that Alcorn knows what he's talking about.

(I guess that's sort of a review, after all...)

Anyone who's read this blog for a while or read back entries of the blog knows that I'm interested in theme park design from my own angle - conceptualizing and designing an original theme park in my area, near a major northern midwestern city. I'm not a city planner or an architect, not an engineer, not an artist, and I don't have a theater background. In short, I have no reason to think I could ever actually do this, but it remains a dream, and I keep working on it. Knowing this about me, one can maybe understand why a book like this would attract me. I've never come across a whole BOOK on this subject.

I thought it was interesting that Alcorn points out that when he hires, he looks for certain things. Obviously, since his is an engineering firm, he hires engineers, not artists or business people. But he also looks for experience in themed entertainment. He lists some examples of something that might look good is someone who worked at a theme park during the summer, or worked as part of the stage or technical crew for a local theater group, or even playing in a rock band. (I'd qualify on the last one - I've played in a dozen different rock bands over the years.)

Alcorn also talks about "empty theming" in his last chapter. He mentions that he thinks it's crazy for a restaurant to just nail "junk" to the walls and consider this a theme. I thought immediately of TGI Fridays. They do exactly this. This could probably apply to so-called theme parks like Six Flags and many others. They're big amusement parks with very superficial theming at best. Naming a coaster "Batman" then putting up some Batman artifacts or pictures does not make it a "themed" ride.

I also thought it was interesting that he points to the CN Tower in Toronto as the first place for a motion simulator to be used outside of industry or commercial application. I was on that simulator, watching the movie and riding in the motion theater, riding a log down a river and through a sawmill among other experiences. I thought it was interesting, and I also thought that the Ripley's Believe It or Not motion theater in Niagara Falls was interesting, if not all that impressive. It points to the widespread use of these simulators as entertainment, no matter how thin the theming is.

All in all, this was, for me, a very rapid read that inspired and informed me about some of the things I might actually need to consider if my blue sky dreaming was to ever get any closer to reality. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the technical side of developing and running a theme park, and to anyone with aspirations to work in the field of themed entertainment.