"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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wordless Wednesday....Sidekicks

Check out all the other sidekickery over at Focused On The Magic

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wordless Wednesday...Parades

My favorite for Parades on Wordless Wednesday. Check out Focused On The Magic for more awesome photos

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Middle Movies

For the first time in years, our family was really excited about quite a few movies in 2013. Two of our "must-sees" (and we DID see all of them, even more rare) were Middle Movies, the second of what will be two trilogies---Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. Middle Movies tend to be similiar. As good as many are, and I'm not really picky so I'm not saying they aren't good, they lack the newness of the first one and the finale effect of the last. Empire Strikes Back and The Two Towers were both great, but I'm more likely to watch the first or last of both trilogies when I get the urge for that kind of thing. Catching Fire and Desolation of Smaug were par for the course.

(note of warning: I'm not going to spoil anything here for those who've not seen the movies, because if you read the book, you already know what happens. If you haven't read the book, well, read it. But this may devolve from the happy posting of Pooh Sticks later. I have some serious thoughts about the Hunger Games series and they aren't really unicorns and rainbows stuff. Be forewarned)

The Hobbit movies are really fun, and Desolation of Smaug (I love the title so I'm not going to shorten it. Ever) is a great sequel. It takes the characters from the giant eagles eyrie to Beorn's house, into Mirkwood and spiders' webs and elven dungeons, on to Laketown and finally to the Lonely Mountain where we meet Smaug the Magnificent. It's quite a bit bigger chunk of book then the first movie tackled, but there is still Peter Jackson's sort of made up stuff thrown in. He shows us Gandalf's journey to Dol Guldor, which happened in Tolkien's world even though it wasn't specifically written about. I'm fine with the additions, as a Tolkien geek. As a movie goer, it adds little to the story, but does offer some really cool Gandalf moments, so I'm a fan. The end of this movie makes it, for me though. I am completely taken by Smaug. From the voice acting to the way his magnificent CGI self alternately strides and slithers, he is a really beleivable character. For a dragon. He's not Gollum, largely because he's not at all anthropomorphic, but he seems very real just the same. He is NOT a cartoon, which is what I feared.

But what the Desolation of Smaug was mostly was a lead-in to the third movie. They covered so much ground that aside from the made up wizard bits, the next film will pretty much be The Battle of Five Armies. We'll see Thorin lose himself and succumb to avarice. We'll see Bilbo betray his friends but not really and he knows it. We'll see armies of Dwarves and Men and Elves and Eagles fight a swarm of goblins and orcs and wargs. It will be completely spectacular. And make me likely leave this Desolation of Smaug sitting while I watch it and the first film on DVD.

Catching Fire was an improvement on The Hunger Games, I thought. I loved the first movie, but this one was even better. It caught the feeling of the books, to me at least, in a more complete way. It really follows the book, too. No softening of the edges at all. It's a harsh, stark, largely sad and even exhausting film. That's what shocks me about both these movies and the books they are based upon, they are really very serious and deeply emotionally political. Yes, I mean to say that, emotional and political, because politics at its base is the art of the use of power, and that is some really soul-reaching stuff. These are political stories, as political as Animal Farm or 1984, and yet they are hugely popular with teenagers. I wonder if they get it. Apparently dystopian is all the rage right now, but I wonder if they know how realistic these movies actually are.

I don't mean the sci-fi aspects, of course, I mean the politics. The ends humans will go to to maintain power over their fellow man. The blind acceptance of evil as long as one is personally comfortable. The docile acceptance of the status quo even if it means you live a life of misery. All these themes are real, very real, and can be seen alive and kicking around the world and here at home today. But it's more than the themes that are real, and it has me both anxiously awaiting and dreading the third movie.

The third book of the Hunger Games trilogy really hit me hard because it reminded me of some things gleaned from my father's stories from Vietnam. He isn't a war story teller. Up until about 1986 or 87 he never spoke about it. He wasn't ashamed at all, I don't think, but society tried very hard to make him feel that way and he just didn't bring up his war experience, or even the fact that he'd served as a Marine at all. It's a shame and it still angers me, but I went into it in a positive way here, so I'll leave it at that. But my father did try to teach me some things about the world. I doubt it's the same "global perspective" my friend talks about being raised with, but it's a global perspective just the same. He taught me that everywhere isn't like here. That we are the exception, not the rule, and to judge other country's actions from our perspective is ignorant and wrong. As an example, it was his influence that led me to disdain Phil Donahue when he had groups of Americans and Russians talking to each other on his show to prove that Russia wasn't the Evil Empire and that Ronald Reagan was a crack-pot and a dangerous one at that. What Phil didn't understand was that the world wasn't like us. Yes, the Russian people were great and they were not our enemy, but that was EXACTLY THE REASON the Russian government WAS evil. Russia the government crapped all over the Russian people, killing them and starving them and beating them and freezing them. To NOT fight against the USSR was to insult and mock and disdain the very good people who lived there. By ignoring and excusing evil,  Phil was the enemy of the Russian people, not Ronald Reagan. But I digress.

What people like Phil don't get is that the horrors portrayed in the Hunger Games are so shocking because they are real. In this next movie we will see Peeta brainwashed. This isn't sci-fi, it happens. It happened to the people who helped and worked alongside my father in Vietnam, the people to whom I owe in part my very existence. Re-education camps are standard fair in totalitarian communist regimes. They still are today. But the part of this upcoming movie that I dread/anxiously await is the scene where the parachutes are dropped on the children who think they are gifts and end up being killed by the falling explosive booby traps. Dropped by what they think is their own plane. The reality is no better, they are dropped by the "good guys" for political reasons. See, it's politics and emotion all rolled up in a ball. Children's trust turned to death for political ends. And it happens. Some of the few stories my dad will tell about the war center around an orphanage in the town near where he was based. As an aside, it might be interesting for you to know that the pictures my dad has hanging up in his office from the war are of these orphans and the Marines who spent their spare time playing with and caring for them. Think about THAT before you criticize the US "war machine". The Marines do more good, real, honest good, for real people than every hippie ever born. Anyhow, one of these stories is about the friend of my father's who lost a hand outside this orphanage. See, the Viet Cong knew the Marines played with these kids and didn't want the kids or the people of the town to like the Marines. So they would leave booby-trapped toys outside the orphanage to kill and maim the children. Let that sink in a minute. They booby-trapped toys to kill Vietnamese orphans for political reasons. My father's friend lost a hand taking one of these bombs away from a child. Can you imagine? Yes, you can, because you read it in your fiction and you see it in your movies. But can you do more than imagine? Can you grasp that it's real, and that we can't EVER let it come to that in our safe, happy little world?

I'll cry during that scene. I know it. But I look forward to it just the same, hoping it sinks into some of the kids there to see Jennifer Lawrence and her bow and arrow. I pray it does.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Remembering Camp Minnie Mickey

The first time we visited Animal Kingdom, we simply strolled through Camp Minnie Mickey on our way to Festival of the Lion King. It was, I understood, simply a meet and greet area and our son had no interest at the time in meeting or greeting any of the characters. They kind of freaked him out. This was more than ten years ago and before my love of Disney grew into a fascination with HOW and WHY they did things they way they do in the parks.

Before our second visit to the Animal Kingdom, I had discovered a friend who shared my love of Disney and kind of swamped my knowledge of the place. Jen really enjoyed Camp Minnie Mickey and had created artwork from the area to decorate her home. And I'd never even seen the things she used. I considered myself a Disney guy and here were things I'd completely missed, walked right past, ignored. This would not stand. So you better believe when we returned to Animal Kingdom in 2012, we explored Camp Minnie Mickey with new eyes, and we loved it.

Kinda self-explanatory :-)
Now Camp Minnie Mickey is no more, gone to make way for Avatarland. That's not terrible in the way Mr. Toad's Wild Ride being gone is terrible, but I thought it fitting (even if it IS totally copy-catting Jen) to post my own little photo-tribute.
I love this sign. Duck butts will never NOT be funny
Can you spot the real bird?
The fishing hole charmed me as much as it did my friend :-)

I just love Donald
There are those who believe I favor this guy. Lisa actually does have a photo of me doing just this one Easter not too long ago...
John loves Pluto :-)
I just found this massive stroller corral hilarious. No idea why.
It's all about the Meet-n-Greets
I just HAD to have a photo with Baloo and King Louie

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Moving Forward

As luck would have it, the first post of 2014 is also going to be the 100th post on Pooh Sticks. I have been trying too hard to think of something to write that does the confluence of essentially meaningless numbers justice. I wanted to look back at the past year and forward to the new. I wanted to set a tone. I wanted it to be most of all POSITIVE. Our 2013 saw a lot of difficulties and sadness and I'm ready for a new day. But events overtake that. Bad stuff happens all the time, it doesn't fit neatly into our divisions of time. Already this month tragedy has struck our community and serious health concerns struck a young member of our family, and we aren't two weeks into the new year yet. But this blog is about my happy place, be that Disney itself or the one we make for ourselves here at home by loving and celebrating and doing the things that make us happy together with those we care about. So today on Pooh Sticks we celebrate one of the great additions to my happy place, my family's involvement in community theater, because it just so happens that tonight I officially take the reigns of the Brunswick Little Theatre as president of it's Board of Directors. See, it's topical :-)

The story of our introduction to community theatre can be found in this post about Opening New Doors. Long story short, my friend Jen asked me one day to be her stage manager for the production of Wizard of Oz she was directing. I said "yes", then went home and Googled "stage manager" and began a journey into a world I had known next to nothing about. I can never thank Jen enough for helping open that door. It's really enhanced our lives by giving us a whole new vocabulary, mental and verbal, to use to interpret the world. We don't look at any entertainment, especially live entertainment, the same way. We always enjoyed watching "making of" documentaries and the extras on DVDs, but now we can relate to Peter Jackson's dwarf camp prior to filming The Hobbit because we've seen munchkin camp in Jen's back yard. They are amazingly similar. We watch the rehearsal footage on the Making of The Sound of Music special and can't help but recalling our actors doing all the same things during rehearsals for BLT shows. The perspective simply makes entertainment even more entertaining. Knowledge has a way of doing that, I highly recommend aquiring as much as you can, especially in areas you are now unfamiliar with. Add to that the many opportunities for family involvement that theater offers, and I can not recommend the whole thing enough. We love it.

So now I'm having to put my new-found knowledge to use as president of our theater board. I am still unclear exactly how this happened, it was mostly a matter of being the only guy willing, I guess. I do still feel a bit in over my head, but I'm getting over it. The board work is actually much more my speed than the show work (though I am learning!). I can organize and sell and move a meeting along as well as anyone. I've already achieved a few small victories (in my mind at least) and am more hopeful than wary moving forward. We have what looks to be a very entertaining season ahead of us and I have some very good people working with me on the board, so I think BLT's future looks pretty bright.

As does my own. My family is healthy and happy and loving and safe. I have another summer working as Jen's stage manager (this time on Into The Woods, a show I've actually seen on Broadway) to look forward to. We are planning a return to Disney World in the late fall to check out the Christmas happenings and the New Fantasyland expansion. The economic outlook appears to be helping my work prospects. All in all Moving Forward looks like a very good thing. And I'm dedicated to making it so. I wish you the same.