Friday, December 27, 2013

Cover Art for DOING DISNEY!


I love it!  Book will be available for purchase very soon.  Going over last copyedits.

Stay tuned for release info!  Thank you for reading, and thanks for checking out the book!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cover Art for DOING DISNEY finalized!

I don't really have anything to say here other than that my talented friend Rich Siegle has completed the cover art for DOING DISNEY:  HOW TO SPEND A WEEK IN DISNEY'S FLORIDA RESORT.  I'll post the final art shortly here for all to see.

I am in the process of making my final pass, copyediting and adding a few bits here and there.  I expect to have it published by the end of November, 2013.  It will be available as a Kindle e-book through Amazon, and I am looking at potentially doing a paper version of both that book and my (currently available) short story collection, 14 DARK WINDOWS.  I may also publish both of them through the Nook store at Barnes and Noble.  But that is a project for later...

I noticed that The View on the Disney-owned ABC channel was filmed at Disneyland, and they did a focus on Carsland.  It does look really cool.  They had an interview with John Lasseter, they talked with Tim Allen (voice of Buzz Lightyear), and had a performance by Disney star Demi Lovato.

Any other Disney news?  Just a reminder that Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry has the special exhibit, "The Treasures of Walt Disney" with lots of cool stuff from the vault.  The exhibit is sponsored by D23.  If you want to check it out, go here.

If you get a chance, please take a look at my latest offering, 14 Dark Windows, on Amazon for Kindle.  It's a collection of short stories, some horror, some milder with supernatural or horrific elements, some just nice stories, available in ebook form for $2.99!  Thank you!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Review: HOLLOW WORLD (from Bamboo Forest Publishing)

Thriller fiction set in Walt Disney World!  Yeah!  And it's from Bamboo Forest Publishing, who brought us Leonard Kinsey's OUR KINGDOM OF DUST and THE DARK SIDE OF DISNEY along with books by Dreamfinder (Ron Schneider) and Rolly Crump!

So I picked this up and read it (along with the three short prequel stories that are published separately, and at a cost of $0.00 (!) under the title HOLLOW WORLD:  ORIGINS) and it grabbed me.  It starts off in Detroit where Detective Charlie Walker is wrapping things up in preparation for a vacation to Walt Disney World with his beautiful wife Meghan and his two precocious daughters, and everything is going smoothly.  But when visiting Epcot Center, Charlie finds his wife talking to a cast member and she seems upset.  But she brushes it off and convinces him to return to the Magic Kingdom, and then to ride the PeopleMover instead of finding a good spot to watch the fireworks.  When the ride breaks down in the darkest area of the track, Charlie finds his wife and daughters have vanished from their ride vehicle!  In their place is a manila envelope with instructions on what he is to do if he ever wants to see them again.

What follows is an exciting story where the cool rational detective is tested by an unknown (to him) adversary and ultimately meets up with a CIA team who is intent upon capturing the bad guy.  It's a story which features great characters, from Charlie and his wife and family, to the five people on
X-Ray Team to the bad guy and his minions.  Fast paced and packed with action, it was a "can't-put-down" book for me.

I think that Nick Pobursky has created an original character in Detective Charlie Walker, one who is more cerebral than most fictional sleuths but capable and believable as an action hero as well.  I can definitely see Walker as the protagonist in many future thrillers.

This is a Disney themed blog, and that's part of why I am posting a review here:  the Disney resort, theme parks and hotels especially, have become sort of an extra character in this story; even though it's a tale that could have been set elsewhere, the Disney setting added a richness to the story that I don't think would have come through in another location.  There are lots of details here about a Disney vacation as many of us experience it.  The story, like Kinsey's OUR KINGDOM OF DUST, is not for kids.  It's a gritty, violent tale that fits with its thriller book brethren, and if you're not a fan of that genre of fiction, it might not be the best choice for you.

You can get this book here at Amazon:  HOLLOW WORLD

                                                                HOLLOW WORLD: ORIGINS (three free short stories)

If you get a chance, please take a look at my latest offering, 14 Dark Windows, on Amazon for Kindle.  It's a collection of short stories, some horror, some milder with supernatural or horrific elements, some just nice stories, available in ebook form for $2.99!  Thank you!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Movie Review: ENDER'S GAME

I hadn't read ENDER'S GAME in a LOOOONG time.  It wasn't new when I first read the book, but it wasn't terribly old - there were no sequels at that time.  Later came SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD, XENOCIDE, and CHILDREN OF THE MIND, and there were the spin-offs and now there are prequels as well.  Back when I was a conference coordinator/moderator at the Book and Candle Pub on the old Delphi Internet Services, we had Mr. Card as a guest - he still was small enough that he did things like that - but most of our conversations concerned other works of his, like his Alvin Maker series and his Homecoming series.  He was an interesting and insightful guest and I enjoyed interacting with him at the time.  But even back then, 20+ years ago, he was talking about the movie version of ENDER'S GAME.

It was neat to see that my boys, aged 13 and 11, liked the book as much as I did (though I was older when I read it).  And finally there IS a movie!  Cool, huh?  We were finally gonna get to see the "Buggers" and watch Ender go through Battle School.

Overall, it was a very well done movie, in my view.  The story came through loud and clear, not subordinated to the special effects scenes.  I felt there was some depth to this story, with exploration of issues like child abuse in a subtle manner.  The special effects were not crazy good nor were they crazy over-the-top.  They served the story without becoming intrusive.

I love science fiction, and I'd probably go see this one again.  Or get it on DVD or Blu-ray.  For what it's worth, I give it a thumbs up.  Probably grade it out to about a B+ or even an A-.  It was worth the long wait for it to finally appear on the big screen.  I hope it's a big success.

If you get a chance, please take a look at my latest offering, 14 Dark Windows, on Amazon for Kindle.  It's a collection of short stories, some horror, some milder with supernatural or horrific elements, some just nice stories, available in ebook form for $2.99!  Thank you!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Epcot - The world's best indoor theme park!

As any longtime reader of this blog will know, I'm interested in theme park development in general, and have done some studying of the processes that the Disney Company has gone through to develop their parks in the United States (and a little bit in Europe as well), because they are the gold standard, after all.  Way back when, I did a handful of blog posts about what I saw as the "basics" to developing a theme park resort in the northern Midwest, specifically in the Chicagoland area.  And one of my conclusions was that the park would probably have to be completely indoors.

It was suggested that there are examples of indoor theme parks, including the Mall of America in Minnesota (I've never been to it).  And later, Dreamworks announced that they were going to develop an all-indoor theme park in New Jersey, close to New York City.  But I was thinking about it, and I see Epcot as the first, and best, indoor theme park in the world.

Most theme parks in the northern United States are seasonally open.  They run on weekends in the spring and fall, and run at full schedule, every day, over the summer, when kids are out of school.  Weather is obviously the big reason for this, but I would also guess that the lack of more to do around them is part of it.  They do not depend on "tourists" from other states to come visit them; it's more school kids from the area, and so they are busy when kids aren't in school.

But if an attraction was developed that was completely enclosed (like the Mall of America, for example), does it become a tourist destination?  Especially in an area like Chicago, where there are so many other things to recommend travel to it?  (This goes for the New Jersey project of Dreamworks, assuming that this is still on the table at all, being in pretty close proximity to NYC.)

Anyway, getting back to Epcot:  Every attraction there, with the partial exception of Test Track, is indoors.  You only have to go outside to walk between the various pavilions and to reach the World Showcase.  Now I would agree that it would lose something if those pavilions were themselves enclosed.  Part of their attraction is the fact that they showcase the architecture of the countries they represent, and have sort of a "city" feel - like, if you're going to Paris, or Munich, or Naples, perhaps, and wandering around an actual European (or Mexican, or Canadian or North African) city!

Consider if the walkways were enclosed between the pavilions.  You'd have a place that could easily be visited in the middle of winter, without concerns about how much snow was coming down or how many layers of clothing you needed to wear.  You could set Epcot in its current form in the northern U.S., and you'd have a functional theme park.  Enclose the walkways (arcades, like in Disneyland Paris?) and you have an all-weather park! 

I suppose, thinking about it, that most of the parks have a large element of indoor attractions (all the dark rides, the motion simulators, indoor coasters like Rock'n'Roller Coaster and Space Mountain, and most of the shows are enclosed) but Epcot has the general lack of ties to Disney content to be anyone's park, not only Disney.   That, coupled with the fact that you could enjoy almost everything about it even if it was snowing like crazy outdoors, make it a prototypical indoor theme park!


If you get a chance, please take a look at my latest offering, 14 Dark Windows, on Amazon for Kindle.  It's a collection of short stories, some horror, some milder with supernatural or horrific elements, some just nice stories, available in ebook form for $2.99!  Thank you!


Monday, October 28, 2013

The Treasures of Disney exhibit - Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has a special exhibit going on right now:  D23 Presents:  Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives.

We had the chance to see this exhibit yesterday, and it was one of the better exhibits we've experienced at the Museum (and we've been members for several years now).  That might be because we enjoy Disney, and I love the Disney history material.  But we all found it to be quite fun, right up to the "Animation Academy" style class at the end of the exhibit.  They had costumes from Enchanted, Mary Poppins, Pirates of the Caribbean, Alice In Wonderland, and a handful of other films.  They had some interesting props, a bunch of macaques (is that the right word?) of various animation subjects, and other interesting things like the Nautilus model used in the filming of 20000 Leagues Under The Sea.    The theme parks were covered as well.

It presented Walt as a forward-thinking genius who was one step ahead of the curve in the entertainment industry.

I'd actually like to go see it again.  Check out the Museum of Science and Industry's info on the exhibit on their site.


14 Dark Windows published on Amazon!

I am very pleased to announce the publication of my short story collection, 14 DARK WINDOWS, on Amazon for Kindle.  It contains fourteen short stories, not all horror, but most have some horrific or supernatural elements. 

It's priced at $2.99.  Buy it here!  Thank you!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Disney Guidebook coming out...

Yes, I've written a Disney guidebook, which will be released as soon as I finalize the cover.  It will be an e-book, available on Amazon for Kindle, and later hopefully for Nook and through the iBookstore and other outlets.  I'm also hoping to publish a paper version of it, but I think the e-book will be the best way to experience it.

What qualifies me to write a guidebook, you might ask?  Well, we've visited Walt Disney World seven times since our kids were born, each time for 7 or 8 days.  And each time we learned something.  We got our patterns down.  We found places that we return to for dining.  We stayed at resort properties that we really liked, and at least one that we weren't crazy about. 

We visit the resort like a lot of other people in our boat.  We aren't all annual pass holders.  We don't all live close enough to go every week or month, like some folks who write Disney books do.  We get down there every year or every couple of years, spend a week there, and try to make the most of our stay.  When we run into people going to Disney for the first or second time, we seem to usually have some good ideas for them, information that they are happy to have. 

Our experiences are not the be-all-end-all of Disney experiences.  They're OUR experiences.  I thought it would be interesting to put together a "guidebook" from that perspective, not trying to give every last bit of information about every little thing on Disney property.  I didn't do a ton of outside research to write this book.  I mostly relied on my family's experiences and how we've done things over the course of our seven visits.   I talk about how we structure our park visits, how we buy our tickets, how we get the most out of our money when visiting Walt Disney World.  Take all of our advice, some of it, or just a little, but I think if you have young kids and are going to visit Disney every couple of years for a week at a time, you'll find something useful in the book.

Disney's MyMagic+ has come along and perhaps will change a bunch of stuff about how we have to structure our vacations, but for the most part, our observations stand on their own. 

I'll have the cover here and on my Scott Dyson page and on my Scott Dyson Facebook page, and pricing information before it is released.  I hope some of you will download a sample and take a look!  Thanks for reading!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Avatar Land takes a step forward!

It looks as if Disney is proceeding with their Avatar Land expansion of Animal Kingdom. 

The concept art looks good. 

Check out this Disney Parks blog post!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Book Review: OUR KINGDOM OF DUST by Leonard Kinsey

I read The Dark Side of Disney and was impressed with Leonard Kinsey's writing skill. He made everything interesting, even when I wouldn't have necessarily been interested in reading about certain subjects. Even though I didn't think it was for everyone, I enjoyed the book - less as a guidebook to Disney and more as just an entertaining read.

So I was glad to see Our Kingdom Of Dust, a work of fiction centered around Disney World.  And when I finally got around to reading it (I've been busy with some other stuff, as you may have noted from the previous two posts), I found that I truly enjoyed it!  I expected no less.  I already knew that Kinsey could write.  What I didn't know was whether he could write fiction, and the answer to that question was "Yes!"

In this book, a rich but messed up young man decides to move to the Beach Club at Disney World, and he meets up with another messed up guy, who happens to be his limo driver.  The guy has this incredible collection of Disney memorabilia and collectible items, and he finances it by selling the "Dust", which gives users "that Disney Magic" feeling (my quotes, not quoted from the book).

It's a very entertaining story, a quick read, and it focuses on characters I might like to read more about someday.  Not necessarily for Disney "fans", but if you like a good story that is well written, you might want to give it a try.  And if you like stories centered around something Disney, this will work that much better for you.  If you don't want to read anything that doesn't put WDW or Disney Corp. on the highest pedestal, or don't like adult situations and some foul language in your books, do yourself a favor and don't read this.  But if you're not easily offended and you like humor and irreverence, Our Kingdom Of Dust might be for you!

If you get a chance, please take a look at my latest offering, 14 Dark Windows, on Amazon for Kindle.  It's a collection of short stories, some horror, some milder with supernatural or horrific elements, some just nice stories, available in ebook form for $2.99!  Thank you!


Monday, September 16, 2013

4 Short Story collections now up on Amazon!

Here's the links to my two most recent publications:

JACK'O'LANTERN (and THE MOMENT and SARAH'S PUPPY)  $0.99 on Amazon Kindle Store

THE GATEWAY (and AMERICA'S PASTIME and HOT SPOT)  $0.99 on Amazon Kindle Store

The first is really not horror - well, JACK'O'LANTERN is sort of mild horror, but the other two are not - and the second is all horror.

Please check them out if you're interested in some short stories.

Thank you!!!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I've published two short stories on Amazon!

Hi, anyone!

Just a quick note to let it be known that I finally got around to publishing my first two short story pairs. They are currently only available on Amazon. Each is a main story, with a second story paired with it (to add value, hopefully).   They are under the author name "Scott Dyson".  Both sets are in the horror genre.

The first is SOLE OCCUPANT and it is $0.99 on Amazon. It contains the 2400 word main story SOLE OCCUPANT and the short flash fiction piece THE ONLY SOLUTION (~700 words).

The second is ODD MAN OUT and it is also $0.99 on Amazon. It contains the 1600 word main story ODD MAN OUT and a second horror tale, HOUSE AT THE BEND IN THE ROAD (~1800 words).

That's 3100 words (about 14 pages with author note) for the first pair and 3400 words (about 15 pages with short author note) for the second pair.

Take a look at them if you're so inclined. Thank you!!! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Magic Plus...

This new program that Disney Florida is rolling out was a mystery to me.  But after reading FutureProbe's article on the subject, now I'm worried.

Go ahead and read the article, titled The Pixie Dust Detoxification Effect

Is this going to enhance or ruin the Disney vacation experience?  Sounds like the latter...


Monday, August 12, 2013

Off Topic: Chicago bassist passes away

One of my favorite musicians in the Chicago bar band scene was bass player Tom "Pickles" Piekarski.  Besides playing with John Prine, he also played with the Famous Potatoes, Mike Jordan and the Rockamatics, Betsy and the Boneshakers, and finally, The Bad Examples. 

I loved watching him, listening to him, and talking with him between sets and after or before shows.  Pickles always had time and interest in chatting with people. 

Here's the obit from the Chicago Sun-Times:  The Tasty Force of Tom Piekarski


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Midwest Attractions: St. Louis

You know it, you've seen it, the home of the Cardinals, Blues and Rams...the city on the Mississippi, Gateway to the West, all that stuff. 

We took a quick jaunt to visit the city of St. Louis a weekend or so ago, and while there we visited the famous Arch, taking the ride up to the top.  We also visited two caves about an hour west of the city, Meramec Caverns and Onandaga Cave.  We went to a really unique "museum", called the City Museum, which was more of an indoor/outdoor/rooftop urban playground, and we saw the Basilica Cathedral, which is a gorgeous example of Byzantine architecture right here in the Midwestern United States. 

Oh, and we got to see a "Naked Bike Ride".  Which could have been funny, but ended up being more annoying than anything since it made finding parking near the restaurant we were determined to dine at almost impossible.  (Plus, in my view, the folks who were riding naked probably shouldn't have been...)

Last, we stayed at the Union Station Hotel, a Doubletree by Hilton hotel, where a shopping mall and a grand hotel are built into the old railroad station.  Pretty cool all by itself, with a very nice room.

I enjoyed the caves the most, followed by the City Museum.  My kids liked the slides, passageways, catwalks and man-made caves at the City Museum the best. 

I may (or may not, depending on my mood) post in more detail about some of the individual attractions.  It should be noted that there is more to do than just what we did. 


Monday, August 5, 2013


I didn't get to see this movie in the theater, like I'd hoped to do.  But I caught some of it on a flight, and it looked pretty good.  Waiting at home was the DVD (which I had purchased when it came out), and it took until now to finally watch it.

And my initial impression was correct.  This was a really fun movie.  It told a pretty decent, if a little thin, story, describing just how the Wizard of Oz gets to be the Wizard.  It filled in the backstory of the witches.  It paid homage to the original film in several places.  And it was a beautifully filmed movie, with plenty of colorful effects and solid animation.  Performances were good, and I liked all of the actors in their roles.

More importantly, it held my boys' interest better than a lot of movies do when I show them on DVD.  And now they want to see the original film, which prior to now, they've always demurred when offered the opportunity.  So we'll be popping that one in soon.

My sons are REALLY looking forward to seeing PERCY JACKSON:  SEA OF MONSTERS in the theater, maybe even this weekend.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Disney Film: MONSTERS U

Took the boys to see this one a couple of weekends ago, and I (and they) thought it lived up to its billing.  As good as the first?  Not quite.  But pretty darned good, with a fun, interesting story to tell.

And yes, John Ratzenberger does his scene reprising his character of the Yeti, who is a mailroom guy.  Funny, huh?

Pixar doesn't stumble too much on this prequel to MONSTERS INC. 

The short film (the name escapes me) with the umbrella love story was very well done as well. 


Monday, July 8, 2013

The least I can do...

It's been a while since I've posted here.  Not much happening for my family on the Disney front, at least until last month, when we spent a week at Aulani, the DVC resort on Oahu.  I do plan on writing at least one post on that subject, but lately my internet presence has been focused on learning as much as I can about self- or indie-publishing, with the goal of taking that plunge myself as I begin to publish some of the many things I've written over the years. 

Today, while reading the blogs I study with respect to self-publishing and writing, I came across this entry:

David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants—Health Insurance for Writers

David Farland has written many novels and stories in the Star Wars universe.  With the ties to Disney (re: Disney now owning the Star Wars properties), I thought that this tale might be of interest to anyone who might still be reading my blog.  If you haven't looked at the article, it seems the Farland family has mounting medical bills due to no insurance and a terrible accident involving their son.

According to the article, Mr. Farland has been denied coverage because he is a well-controlled diabetic. 

It seems that the moral of the story is to not seek medical care until it is too late for any manageable health conditions because if you are aware of an issue, you WILL be denied or dropped from your insurance.

I know of a situation where two partners were applying for life insurance.  They were in similar situations, around the same age, and if anything, one was in better physical condition than the other.  One had gone through one of those "heartcheck" tests and had been found to have some propensity to heart disease, so he had changed his diet, began an exercise program and was now in the best shape he had been in for years.  The other had never been checked in that manner.  When it came time to get this life insurance (a business thing; they both needed it), the partner who had never gone through the tests but who was a little overweight and more out of shape was offered the policy immediately.  The partner who had been tested and who was taking lifestyle steps to make himself much healthier was not offered coverage immediately, and when he did get the coverage, it was a thousand dollars a year more expensive.  Shortsighted of the insurance companies, perhaps, but it's the way they do business.

My own thoughts on the matter are that you should have a financial plan with savings started as early as possible, the minute you start bringing home a paycheck.  "Pay yourself first" is a good principle, even if it's just 20 dollars every two weeks to start.  It's a habit to get into.  Also, if one person is "not insurable" for any reason, the others in the family should be insured anyway. 

Read over Mr. Farland's article, and donate or buy one of his books if you'd like.  And look at your own situation, and don't let it get the best of you.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thunder Mountain and Walt Disney

We recently returned from a vacation in Sedona, Arizona.  While there, we took a backcountry jeep tour which brought us into gulches and to Native American (Sinagua) ruins nestled in the cliffs behind Sedona. 

On our way out, our guide pointed out several of the red rock bluffs by name, including one called Thunder Mountain.  He then proceeded to mention that Walt Disney actually had a house in Sedona at one time for a few years, and could see Thunder Mountain from his kitchen/dining area.  He said that Sedona's Thunder Mountain didn't really look like the rockwork done on Big Thunder Mountain, but that perhaps it inspired the ride.

I wasn't sure of the timeline, and didn't want to call him out on that.  First, I've never read anywhere that Walt Disney spent significant time in Sedona, though it wouldn't surprise me if he did, considering how beautiful it is there.  Second, I believe Marc Davis did most of the concept art for that ride (I suppose it's possible that Davis spent time in Sedona).  Third, I am thinking that Big Thunder Mountain wasn't conceptualized until well after Walt's death.

Anyone who has any comments or information on this tour guide info, please leave a comment.  Did Walt ever live in Sedona?  Did he have anything to do with the planning of Big Thunder Mountain?  Does Sedona, or any part of Arizona, have anything to do with Walt's inspiration for anything in Disneyland?


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Blog: Theme Park University

I was surfing through my Disney blogs today (I wish some of them updated more regularly) and, on Leonard Kinsey's Dark Side of Disney blog, I noted a link to a new blog from Ron Schneider (Dreamfinder) and Josh Young, titled Theme Park University

It appears to be an interesting look at the creative development behind theme parks in a general, and sometimes specific, sense. 

Of note is a three article (so far) series by Josh Young about the development of the Hard Rock Theme Park in the Myrtle Beach area. 

It actually got me excited about my own ideas about theme park development, some of which I wrote about in a series of blog articles back in December of 2009 and January of 2010.  (You can find them by clicking on the archives over there to the left, selecting those two months and picking and choosing the articles, if you're so inclined.) 

Take a look at the new blog if you find this sort of stuff interesting.  I know I certainly do!


Monday, March 25, 2013

Disney Film - JOHN CARTER

A long time ago (it seems) I wrote a couple posts (edit:  it was only one post, located here) on the theatrical release of John Carter, the big budget Disney SF fantasy adapted from the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel A Princess of Mars.  In the first, if I recall correctly, I commented that it wasn't a movie I had much interest in seeing, nor did my boys.  Our initial reaction was due to the television advertising for the movie.  It just didn't look that good.  It didn't make me want to see it.

In another post (actually, in edits to that first and only post) I suggested that maybe that initial impression was mistaken, since I had read numerous commentaries on blogs stating that it was in fact quite good.  And those reviews were enough to inspire me to buy the Blu-Ray/DVD release when it came out.

But then we never watched it.  Until last Friday night.

We had a rare "boy's night" with me and my sons having the evening to ourselves, and I decided that *I* was going to pick out a movie to watch.  Going through the stack of unviewed movies, I came across John Carter and thought, What better time to watch this one?  It is not one my wife would want to see AT ALL, so it was a perfect time to pop it in and watch.

So the verdict is in.  We all liked it quite a bit!  Was it great?  No, maybe not great.  But it was very good and told a good story (albeit a story that's been covered before) and had very good effects and settings and the acting was decent.  (I noted that the director was Andrew Stanton, I believe...)  I wouldn't mind seeing it again sometime, and I would be interested in seeing a sequel.

I know, because it didn't do well at the box office, that a sequel is very unlikely.  Too bad Disney flubbed the marketing of this movie.  Because they had something pretty good and didn't get the promotion right.


Thursday, February 14, 2013


Who's looking forward to the release of this movie?  It looks good to me, from what I've seen in previews and commercials.  I'm planning on seeing it sometime next month.

As for THE LONE RANGER, I'm not as excited about that one.  The previews and commercials just aren't dragging me in.  Can you say "John Carter" as far as the marketing goes so far with that one?  Maybe it's going to be a great movie, but so far I'm not seeing it.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Golden Globes for Animated Feature!

So Disney had three nominations, out of five possible, for Best Animated Feature last night:
  • Brave
  • Frankenweenie
  • Wreck-it Ralph
A 60% chance of victory!

And lo and behold, they did take hope the Globe trophy - for Brave, which deserved it, far as I could see.  Wreck-it Ralph seemed pretty good, but didn't quite hit the heights that Pixar regularly hits.   I can't speak to the other nominees; these were the only two I saw.  But the others LOOKED like cartoons, while Brave was something a bit more my opinion!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Disney Guide Books

I was reading over some of the handful of Disney guidebooks that I own.  Admittedly I don't own too many - I'm more interested in the art and mechanics behind the development of Disney theme parks (and theme parks in general) than I am in the comprehensive guides to visiting the parks. 

That said, most of the guidebooks I own or have looked at seem to be all things to everyone.  They try to be so comprehensive - they try to present every single detail that is out there about the parks, resorts, and experiences that are available at a Disney resort.  They almost seem like they'd be most useful to someone who visits often, like, say, an annual passholder who doesn't live too far from the parks.

Most of us probably don't vacation like that, however.  We don't have unlimited time to do everything.  We have 7-10 days (probably more like 7-8 days) to cram in as much as we can do.  Once a year if we're "lucky".  Every other year seems more common, in talking to others who vacation to Florida to visit Disney. 

So a template for a shorter, every-other-year visit would seem to be useful.  I would assume that most visitors want to immerse themselves in Disney as much as they can.  After all, Disney makes it far more cost-effective to spend your entire stay on Disney property.  As you probably know, a single day costs around 90 bucks to just get into a park.  A five day ticket brings the average cost down to something around 55 bucks a day.  Make it seven days for 10 dollars more a day, bringing the average cost down to about 41 bucks a day.  Seven days for a family of four is going to be something around $1150.00.  (A bit less if you have kids under 10, which a lot of Disney visitors do, obviously...but still...) 

So you're spending upwards of a grand for just your park admissions.  Want to add the park hopper option?  It adds almost 60 bucks per ticket and allows you to visit more than one park per day.  Is that something that you would use more than once or twice on your trip?  I know we generally don't.  To me, that park hopper option is nice to have, because there might well be a day we're visiting somewhere other than Epcot but we want to dine at Epcot.  Or maybe you want to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours at two parks, one in the morning and one at night. 

We no longer purchase the park hopper option because we feel it is too much money (almost 240 dollars) for the once or twice we might actually use it.  Of course, you have to decide this for yourself, but that's my perspective. 

And that's the sort of perspective that I would like to get out of a guidebook.  Something that might give me a template for a one week visit.  Well, maybe not now - we've been down there something like seven times over the past 8 years, plus a couple of visits to California, and we have our routine down. 

Heck, I think maybe I'll write it! 


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Celebrating Creativity

We spent our New Year's Eve weekend in the big city, looking forward to some good meals, some entertainment and even some shopping.  And all of that was accomplished.  From the minute we got there, however, for some reason I started viewing everything through a "creative" lens, from restaurants to shows to shops to art and merchandise. 

And there was a lot of creativity being exhibited.  How many different ways?  Well, let me try to enumerate:

  • Menu selections at several restaurants
  • The restaurants themselves
  • Art Galleries
  • Unusual shops
  • A performance at a theater
  • A film
  • A street musician
We had lunch/brunch at a restaurant called Perennial Virant one day, which featured a small menu of unusual takes on breakfast items.  Unusual herbs and cheeses filled their egg creations and their sausages.  They try to be very organic, and it shows.  The food was quite good; the atmosphere across from Lincoln Park in Chicago was also quite nice.  

We also had meals at several other restaurants, including the New Orleans-inspired Heaven on Seven, chef Jimmy Bannos' main restaurant.  The decor takes you right to the Big Easy, and the food, consisting of Jimmy's takes on New Orleans classic dishes like etoufee, jambalaya, po-boys and barbecued shrimp, keeps you there.  Though I didn't imbibe, they also feature a selection of New Orleans beers like Abita and Dixie, and of course, their own version of the Hurricane.

One restaurant that really interested me was Foodlife at the Water Tower Place.  It is a "Lettuce Entertain You" restaurant which is really a whole bunch of lunch counters.  They give you a swipe card as you enter and you go around to the various stations, selecting the items you want.  I picked Chinese at the Big Bowl station.  Next to it was a stir-fry station.  There was an American "comfort food" station, a Mexican taco station, a salad station, a pizza station, a pasta get the idea.  You have previously been seated at a table, and after you're done, you present your swipe cards to the cashier on your way out, and he/she scans them and gives you your bill. It struck me as a very creative and enjoyable way to provide you with your meal.

There were two gorgeous galleries in the Bloomingdale's Building on Michigan Avenue.  One featured a lot of glass sculpture priced way above my rank, but the pieces were beautiful.  A second featured paintings by several artists, including Dr. Seuss, and also featured some original Renoirs, Rembrandts, Chagalls, and Picassos.  Obviously also this was way out of my price range.  But it celebrated creativity throughout the centuries, and put current creative efforts in proximity to those of the famous and masters. 

A store at Water Tower Place is called Churrascuro, and it features the works of many local artists and artisans.  I remarked to my wife that some of the works seemed so simple (yet attractive and fun), that anyone could have done them.  (She replied that THAT was why THEY were artists and we aren't.)  Creative use of old broken watches, costume jewelry, and other common items comprised the pieces available for purchase, and some of them were actually in my price range!

Another store in Water Tower Place is a candy store on the 7th floor.  In there they have a "Candy Museum" with memorabilia from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, some dresses made of candy, furniture and other items associated with candy, and artworks dealing with candy.  Oh, and you can buy lots of candy there...including old "vintage" candies like Charleston Chews and Oh Henry! bars. 

Walking on Michigan Avenue, we came across a lot of street musicians, of varying interest.  But one in particular, a clarinet player doing jazz and accompanying his recorded background music, was really excellent, and we had to give him a tip.  I hope he was doing really well because he deserved it. 

We went to see Blue Man Group at their Chicago location at the Briar Street Theater.  Now THERE is an exercise in creativity.  From the percussion performances to the skits and sketches to the multimedia to the audience participation, it is a fun, funny, engaging performance that keeps your eyes glued to the stage and the Blue Men, who, as the name indicates, are totally painted in blue greasepaint (as if there was anyone by now who doesn't know who they are and what they look like). 

Last, we saw a showing of Cirque du Soleil:  Worlds Away, a film that brings a couple of characters from a regular circus (one a spectator, one a performer) through several of the worlds of Cirque Du Soleil.  Very fun and interesting film.  It's a visual feast, and very creative in its storytelling and execution.  The performers are often amazing with their almost-not-human abilities and body control.  Who thinks of this stuff?  Quite ingenious.  And incredibly creative.

So there it is - a three day celebration of creativity in the big city.