Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Took my boys to see this one yesterday.  I enjoyed the other entries in this series (the first more than the second - see my review of that second movie right here) and also have enjoyed the PS2 videogame based on the first movie.  My sons were taken in by the advertising for this third installment and chose it over The Avengers and Men In Black 3.  Personally I might have rather gone to one of those two. 

But after seeing it, I was happy with the experience.  It's a better movie than the second one, I think, with plenty of gags, and with a better love story than the others.  As with many Dreamworks movies, there are plenty of jokes aimed above the kids' heads. 

Chris Rock is really good again as Marty, and Ben Stiller does a good job with the voice of Alex the lion.  The circus angle is fun, with the comparisons to Cirque Du Soleil.  The new characters are fun, too, with the gruff Russian tiger, the silly sea lion, and the sexy cheetah adding a lot to the cast.  The penguins, now stars in their own right, are really funny as well.

So I was glad that we picked this one to see.  Dreamworks is generally good for a nice afternoon of entertainment, and this one is no exception.  If I was rating it I'd probably give it 4 stars. 


Monday, June 25, 2012

Compare and Contrast

It's been interesting, having gone to three distinct amusement/theme parks in the span of about 2 weeks, to note the differing approaches these parks take to satisfying their guests.  At the end of May, we went to Michigan's Adventure, an amusement park with classic thrill rides.  In early June, we went to both Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando, two sets of parks that depend on theming to entertain the customers. 

Michigan's Adventure has moderate thrill rides and almost no theming.  Their marquee ride, Shivering Timbers, is a huge wooden rollercoaster that sort of fits in with the way the park sort of just appears in the middle of the forest.  They have another ride, a whitewater raft experience called Grand Rapids, which of course is the name of a city in Michigan (President Gerald Ford was from there).  Their one and only indoor, sit-down restaurant is called Coaster's.  It's sort of themed like a 50's diner.

Then you go to Disney, and you get story and theming around every corner.  I don't have to talk too much about it on this blog; anyone reading probably knows as much or more about what Disney has to offer than I do.  There are thrills to be found here:  Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Mission: Space, Rock'n'Roller Coaster, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - all are moderate (at least) thrill rides.  But all depend on theming to make them more than just a rollercoaster with inversions, than a drop-ride, than a log flume, than a dark coaster - to make them memorable and repeatable. 

Going over to Universal Studios, we find a few more thrill rides like Hollywood Rip-Rocket, Revenge of the Mummy, and even The Simpsons Ride.  Again, their rides depend on theming to make them memorable.  Each delivers a fairly unique experience.  Their theming uses a certain edginess, a certain hip-ness, that you don't find at Disney, and that a place like Michigan's Adventure doesn't even try to use. The jokes are different - often aimed at adults and older teens.  There's a blog post in there, somewhere, comparing the "feel" of the Universal Studios Resort parks and the Disney parks.  But I don't know if I'm ready to write it. 

I for one don't connect to either Michigan's Adventure, or Universal Studios in the same way I do to Disney.  I did feel that connection over at Islands of Adventure, but that was a year and a half ago, and I think much of it was due to the current-ness of the Harry Potter movies and the timeless feel of Dr. Seuss and some of the other properties they used there. 

Our next trip will likely feature more visits to Universal and maybe even none to a Disney park.  If it happens that way, it will be because of Disney's all-or-nothing pricing policy, where it doesn't make sense to buy a two or three day ticket instead of a 6 or 7 day pass.  Orlando and central Florida have more to offer than Disney, but we have discovered very little of it.  So I'll see if those parks seem to foster more of a connection in the future. 


Disney Books: Walt Disney: An American Original

Whenever I visit Disney, I try to come away with one new book for my collection. I usually buy them in the parks, so my acquisitions tend to be the Disney-approved titles. This trip's book purchase was the Bob Thomas biography. I have his bio of Roy O. Disney, but I had never read this one. I have, however, read the biographies by Gabler and by Barrier, so the material being covered is not really new to me.

Still, I find that Thomas has a lot of anecdotes and information that I didn't read in the other books. At times the fact that he had worked on a project in 1956 called The Art of Animation and on another in 1965 which was a bio of the man for children really showed through, in that he had done four lengthy interviews with Walt himself and numerous interviews with key animators at Disney for those projects.

I'm about a third of the way through the book and I'm finding it to be easy reading, holding my interest quite well. I will post a more thorough "review" after I finish.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Poly is still my favorite...

We just concluded a stay at Disney's Polynesian Resort. And it recemented its status as my favorite Disney resort. Now admittedly, we haven't stayed at too many different resorts. But we've walked around a few, and the look of the Polynesian, the amenities, the monorail, the restaurants, the pool...well, I haven't seen anything else that makes me want to stay there more than I want to stay at the Polynesian.

 Since we're DVC members, we probably won't stay there again for a while. We did so this time because we had a whole bunch of points that were going to expire on June 1, so we banked them forward and blew them on an exchange so we could stay at a hotel instead of at a DVC Villa resort (usually Animal Kingdom Lodge for us).

We got a nice room, close to the main building. We took advantage of the pool on two days, spending the morning in the water. We ate at 'Ohana and at Kona Cafe, and also at Capt. Cook's for quick breakfasts on several days. We used the monorail to get to Magic Kingdom and to return from Epcot on our last night there.

All in all, it was a good stay. Beds were comfy, accommodations were roomy, and the Poly was everything we remembered it to be. I almost hope it never becomes a DVC resort, because maybe in a couple years we'll do the same thing and stay there again. It just might be worth the extra points to do so...


Monday, June 18, 2012

Renovation at the Polynesian?

A few weeks ago Kevin Yee wrote a blog post about sight line balloons being spotted at the Polynesian Resort, speculating that perhaps major changes were coming. Well, we were just there for a week, and were told that the Polynesian will begin renovations in November of this year. Apparently the rooms will be redone. Designers have been tweaking the new room look in a couple of rooms in one of the longhouses, though the front desk folks haven't been able to get into those rooms to see what it's all about.

A DVC rep at the hotel says that it is very doubtful that DVC villas will be coming to the Polynesian. Since DVC rooms are being built at the Grand Floridian currently, and Aulani (actually IN Hawaii) is still coming online, he said it would not be happening any time soon.

But the front desk cast member who checked us out suggested that there ARE rumors of DVC villas being incorporated in the Polynesian sooner than later, but so far they're just rumors. Nothing concrete. He had some ideas of his own where they should go. Said that a tower would be unlikely, just due to the design of the resort. That's about all the news I was able to garner about this rumor. Renovations are apparently NOT a rumor, but DVC villas remain just that.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Michigan's Adventure 2012

We made our annual pilgrimage to Muskegon, Michigan, and as usual, the trip included a visit to Michigan's Adventure Amusement Park. 

The park is owned by Cedar Fair, and it was a great weekend to go.  Everyone else must be picnicking or out on their boats, because there were short to no lines.  They have 7 coasters, including Thunder Hawk, which they describe as a two seat version of one of Cedar Point's popular coasters (can't think of the Cedar Point coaster's name), and Shivering Timbers, one of the largest straight line wooden coasters in the country.  (I think they say it's the third largest in the US.) 

It was opening weekend there, and so the park is nice and clean and everything is running.  Sometimes it seemed like there were more employees around the place than guests, but then when you look at the parking lot, you realize that there must be a LOT of people in the wet parts of the park - the water park (included in the admission price) and the Adventure Falls/Grand Rapids section.  Their Grand Rapids raft ride (one of the few that my kids didn't go on) was the only one I saw with a substantial line. 

It's an interesting attraction in that it seems to literally be in the middle of nowhere.  You're driving north of Muskegon on a tree-lined divided highway (US 31) and finally you see a sign for Russell Road and Michigan's Adventure, and so you get off the highway (which seemed already like you were in the middle of a deep woods), and drive a little distance through forested lands, seeing a few ramshackle houses along the road, and then on your right, you see the long wooden trestles of Shivering Timbers and the entrance to the parking lot - also seemingly in the middle of a deep woods.  It comes out of nowhere...almost literally.  I tried to post a satellite view of the location from Google Maps but can't figure out how to do so, so, if you are interested, go here:'s+adventure&ie=UTF-8

I know it gets busier later in the summer, because we've been there in mid-August and the lines for rides are substantial.  This is not a Disney type of park; there aren't any shows and very little cohesive theming.  It's focused on the rides and on the water park.  Still, it's a fun park to visit, and we will likely continue to visit it in the future...