"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Monday, August 27, 2012

Opening New Doors Because We're Curious

Stage Manager in action
School started back today for my son and the rest of the local kiddies and it got me to thinking along the lines of a "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" post. Obviously I don't get a summer vacation anymore, actually summer is the busy season for me, but that didn't stop me and my family from putting the above quote into action. I think that's my favorite Walt Disney quote of all, it wraps up for me what makes a life fully lived. It's the quote at the top of this blog, if you've noticed, and "Moving Forward" was an early suggestion for the name of this thing. That suggestion, and my introduction to this quote, came from our friend Jen, and so did the invitation to spend our summer opening up our own new doors.

Way back in the spring of this year, Jen decided to stage a production of The Wizard of Oz with our local theatre group, Brunswick Little Theatre. Jen's no stranger to the stage, she's been acting since at least high school and this would be her 8th production as director for BLT. When she told me about her latest project I mentioned to her how I'd always been fascinated by the theatre but couldn't ever imagine getting up on stage in front of an audience. I suppose she took my interest seriously because a few weeks later she asked me to help her out as a stage manager.

Lisa put thing together, it's the Wizard's Chamber!
Set Painting
Well, I was curious and now a new path had opened up to me. It was truly new, too. I didn't know what a stage manager was, for crying out loud. But I learned. I learned A LOT. John and Lisa joined in on the adventure, of course, and together we were led by Jen and the rest of the wonderful Brunswick Little Theatre family down a new and very rewarding path. We managed to insert ourselves into all sorts of things, from set painting and construction to costuming and props to promotion. And that was before we started dress rehearsals. By the time the opening night rolled around, we were well and truly a part of the show. Lisa took charge of the female leads' dressing room, even going so far as to help carry the show straight into the audience at one point. John worked as a sound tech, minding the microphones and learning how to operate the sound board. He did it so well that he ran it himself for the final show in front of the biggest audience of the whole run. I learned through experience that a stage manager does pretty much whatever needs doing. I can't begin to list all I learned or all I did, but I tried to soak up all I could and loved every minute of it.

One of my favorite things, learning to make trees "fly"
I think this summer experience was exactly what Walt meant when he said those words at the top of this post. We took on something entirely new for all of us. We learned and grew and expanded our horizons. We let curiosity lead the way, and our lives are forever better for it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It's About The Memories

I love Pooh, but man do I miss Mr. Toad
I noted on Facebook this morning that one month from today will be the final day of our Disney vacation. I called that fact "bittersweet." I think I made myself misunderstood. I'm not dreading the end of the vacation I've looked forward to for so long. Sure, leaving the magical, totally fantastic and stress-free world of Walt Disney World and re-entering the real world via a drive up a massive eight lane super-highway is always a bit of a shock to the system, but it isn't ever truly sad. I never truly leave Disney, because Disney never truly leaves me. That's what this whole blog is about. I have real and vivid memories of Disney vacations going far back into my childhood, and this trip will be all about building upon them and creating new ones for myself, my wife and especially our son. I won't say I look forward to our vacation being over, but I know how much I'll revel in remembering it and sharing those memories once we return home.

I thought it was a bit of a fun coincidence when I found this article on a blog about the "mortality" of themed amusements like Walt Disney World. The author misses a few of the attractions at Epcot, Horizons specifically, and muses rather philosophic about his idea that attractions like this are "mortal" while so much of our entertainment is becoming "immortal" through the use of recording and electronic archiving. We'll probably always be able to see The Wizard of Oz somehow but once Snow White's Scary Adventures is closed and torn down, it's really and truly gone is his point. I'm not sure if he sees this as a good thing or a bad, but he says this is why he thinks Disney advertising has become focused on "Memories." I have to agree, and I think it's not a bad thing at all.

Selling "memories" is genius. It's good marketing, I mean who doesn't want to have and to give good memories? It's good business, but it's also DOING good. Our family will have a blast at Disney World. We will come home with mementos, pictures, stories and memories to last us a lifetime. No one can ever take those away. They are going to cost us quite a few dollars, but what else could we spend that money on that would last forever? Sure, we will become attached to rides and shows and attractions that are eventually upgraded, changed or completely replaced. But that's all ok. When we are in Fantasyland, you can bet I'll be showing John exactly where the submarines used to be, where the skyride station was and you can be doubly sure I'll be going on and on about Mr. Toad while we ride the Winnie the Pooh ride. Someday John will do the same thing with his children, pointing out where he used to enjoy this or that attraction that has "moved on." That's all part of the fun.

It really is all about the memories. Yes, this time next month we'll be on a busy highway somewhere in Florida headed north. But I don't dread that one bit. We'll be headed toward home where friends await to hear all about our trip, where we'll share our pictures and our stories over dinner and drinks. There will be calls to parents and grandparents. There will be MUCH blogging and re-living. There will be posting pictures on Facebook to brag about how much fun we had. I actually look forward to that part. And soon after we return, our friends will be headed to Disneyland in California and we will live vicariously though them and await their stories and pictures and excitement. It's all part of the magic, a magic that doesn't ever stop just because you aren't in a park.

And then...... well, and then it's time to plan the next trip :-)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Animation Run Amok

Disney sometimes gets criticized for being over-protective of it's intellectual property. The Disney Company holds copyright to many many stories and characters and iconic images, but these are the lifeblood of the company, the source of the magic Walt created all those years ago. I for one am happy to see Mickey remain outside the public domain and inside the embrace of Disney, and this past weekend my son and I found a perfect example of why I feel that way.

We took a Saturday trip to Carolina Beach, an island town just up the coast from our own. Carolina Beach is a bit, ummmm, let's say tackier than Oak Island. They have what they call a "boardwalk," though it hasn't any boards and is really just a two block stretch of bars and tourist trap souvenir shops. One newer attraction on the boardwalk, though, is a small collection of amusement rides, like you'd find at a traveling fair. It was daytime when we visited and they weren't running, but they were somehow even creepier in daylight than they would be at night, I suspect. We saw a dragon-headed roller coaster and a carousel with some truly disturbing animals to ride on. Then there was a fun house. It had a "cute" animated character theme, with a hodgepodge of familiar cartoon friends. Disney was represented by Buzz Lightyear and Tow Mater and Lightning McQueen. The Cars characters weren't too bad. I mean, they were not drawn particularly well, but they weren't horrible.
Mater actually looks ok compared to the rest of the airbrush artwork on this thing. Lightning looks a bit like he's very surprised, but hey, eyes are tricky in art, right?

Buzz Lightyear was another story. I mean wow. Check this out.

What is up here? Is this supposed to be an evil, alternate reality Buzz? John and I wondered what some poor unsuspecting kid would think walking up this with a happy image of Buzz from the Toy Story movies in his head. THIS is why Disney needs to keep a hold of it's copyrights. Please.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Magic In The Mailbox

First off, I've ditched the alphabet thing, it was fun and all but ended up making me less likely to post on my blog, not more.

Pooh Sticks was envisioned by me as a place to celebrate the magic of Disney in everyday life. This here is a perfect example. Last week was a rough one for me, nothing went right, it seemed like a whole week of Mondays. The lovely Lisa was out of town for a conference and so I was single Dad-ing it and feeling terrible about how long work was keeping me out of the house. Thursday I had to leave before dawn while John was still asleep and after a comedy of errors, wasn't able to make it home until after 7 pm. John is perfectly capable of taking care of himself, but he was cooped up in the house all alone for a long time, and I wanted to at least make the kid dinner, even if it was Hamburger helper (I know, can you get more stereotypical?). So I got home feeling pretty guilty and low. I went to the mailbox and found an envelop from Disney and raced inside to open it with John to see what it was.

Inside was Disney Magic. The first thing to drop out were those cool holographic luggage tags. We barely have what could be called by any normal person "luggage." We travel with a hodgepodge of duffle bags and rolling canvas suitcases, but hey, that's our style and we like it. However, we will be finding some way to attach these things to our stuff, because we have them and they are cool. Also included was a booklet of vouchers for various discounts and "freebies." When you make a reservation, all this stuff is listed for you, but I barely remembered what was there. John and I were thrilled to see on the same page coupons for mini-golf (which we have never tried at Disney) and the marinas. Both of these are things we intend to try at Disney this trip and being reminded of it after a long, pretty terrible day was true magic. Gone was the guilt and worry and frustration and replacing it was thoughts of cruising the Seven Seas Lagoons in Sea Sprites (or whatever they call them now) with my boy.

I'll be honest, I really don't even know what all else is in that book. I'm going to page through it and read every word over time, but for now I'm happy to just revel in my cool tags and 15% boat rental discount.

I know it's silly, but a part of me truly believes Walt is up there directing things like this to appear exactly when one truly needs it. I take that back, it's not silly. Believing in magic is never silly, it's necessary for our sanity.